So I could go on at length about this hatchet job about me in Tablet, but there’s really not much point: almost nothing that John-Paul Pagano writes has anything to do with what I actually believe or what I’ve actually argued. The essay is simply one misrepresentation after another, a string of deliberate misreadings and strawman arguments that don’t accurately reflect what I think about anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia, and who is actually most threatened in modern day Europe. Pagano does not bother to quote or cite month-old posts in which I expand in great detail on the relationship between anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia, about as clear and direct a failure of intellectual honesty as I can imagine. A brief perusal of Pagano’s work demonstrates that he is a professional accuser of anti-Semitism, someone whose life as a writer appears to have little direction other than to serially accuse others of anti-Semitism or near anti-Semitism or quasi-anti-Semitism, typically for the crime of criticizing Israel and its violent, racist occupation of Palestine. He is also the kind of person to refer to someone like Rania Khalek, an experienced and respected journalist, as a “sidekick,” in the process of insisting that Max Blumenthal must be sick and that his criticisms of Israel amount, of course, to a libel.
Tablet, for its part, has increasingly degenerated into a site devoted to little else but apologetics for Israel and punishment for those who dare to criticize it, such as Spencer Ackerman’s notorious “but I’m a progressive!” bit of conversation-policing, which helpfully came packaged with a cartoon Hitler to let you know just what level he was operating on. The website has published some good stuff, but as the world increasingly recognizes that Israel’s conduct in the occupied territories violates our most basic concepts of human and democratic writes, Tablet has grown angrier, more shrill, and ever-ready to lob the accusation of anti-Semitism to silence dissent. Indeed, part of the evidence that BDS and the larger campaign for justice in Palestine is working lies in the increasingly transparent attempts by Israel’s defenders to equate criticism of the country with anti-Semitism and in doing so silence debate. I am not so easily silenced, myself.
There is no alternative scenario in which Pagano finds some other conclusion than that my skepticism towards Conor Friedersdorf’s or Jeffrey Goldberg’s reporting on anti-Semitism in Europe is itself anti-Semitic. Check out his website; it amounts to little else than that accusation. So why would I bother to respond at length? At least in being accused of playing in the world of anti-Semitism by Pagano, I find myself in good company.
The difference between my academic scribblings and Pagano’s, of course, is that Pagano’s have teeth: accusations of anti-Semitism, or proximity to anti-Semitism, after all, can cost people their jobs. Accusations of Islamaphobia never do. People publish critiques of the very idea of Islamaphobia on a daily basis; it is not only risk-free to deny that Isamaphobia is happening in any individual instance but that Islamaphobia exists at all, in perfectly mainstream publications. In contrast, questioning any individual accusation of anti-Semitism is enough to be rendered ipso facto an anti-Semite. This in and of itself tells you what you need to know about the difference between how Muslims and Jews are perceived: the former do not even earn the right to hypothetical protection from bigotry. There is no risk to being perceived as Islamaphobic, in this culture, in this country, and profound professional risk in even appearing to be too closely associated with criticism of Israel. That’s reality.
Now, will Alan Jacobs, or Friedersdorf, or others who have undertaken the proscribed flagellation of me for questioning The Atlantic‘s constant neoconservatism and Islamaphobia, stand up and cheer for Pagano? Do they recognize a distinction in the way that Islamaphobia and anti-Semitism are discussed in the national media? Does it occur to them that, were someone to write about Judaism the way that Graeme Wood writes about Islam, that person would find their professional life very swiftly destroyed? I don’t know; I’m not sure if they care. But I care. I care that our professional media has every incentive to minimize its interest in a worldwide campaign of violence against Muslims, or the expression of that campaign in anti-Muslim bigotry, while treating the call for responsible evidence in reporting on anti-Semitism as itself inherently anti-Semitic. If you would like to call treating Muslim life as being of equal inherent value to that of all other groups “the deBoer Tendency,” you have my blessing. I wear it with pride.