A Brief Comment on Loose Language

On May 4, 2015, in blog posts, by admin

A Brief Comment on Loose Language

by Lawrence Davidson


One of the problems with confrontational struggles is that they attract all types. Hopefully there is a core of sane folks on one side or the other, but it seems inevitable that you also get a wide variety of, well, less-than-clear thinkers. These latter often include folks who just love to generalize beyond what is evidentially called for. Sometimes such people are well meaning but just careless in their use their language, sometimes their attitude is more insidious.

As the struggle for Palestinian rights goes on, lots of these overgeneralizations and outright mischaracterizations are showing up. From the Zionists we get terms such as “self-hating Jews,” implying the ridiculous notion that those Jews who oppose Israel really oppose themselves. On the other side of the conflict we get people who carelessly use the term “the Jews” as if all Jews form a collective that thinks and acts in one way – and that way is often implied to be criminal. One set of overgeneralizers is as bad as the other. However, I am particularly concerned with the generalizers used those opposing the Zionists, because that is the side I am on, and I am Jewish. So, I find these people to be really bad news.

For instance, I recently received an e-mail complaining of “spinmeisters” using disinformation to mislead people. This is, of course, a well-recognized career line. But then the author of this missive comes out with the following: “Jews and a few other groups have long been recognized for having raised this sort of thing to a fine art.”

Uh-oh. Bad news. The world’s peoples are not broken down this way. The e-mail writer might as well have said that all Americans hate Arabs, or before the fall of the Soviet Union, all Russians were communists, or all Muslims are anti-Semites. Such generalizations are factually wrong and dangerously misleading.

Worse yet, when people make the particular non-factual statements about “the Jews,” they are following a Zionist line. After all, besides this sort of generalizer, who else is out there claiming that all genuine Jews think and act one way? The Zionists of course.

What the writer in question should have said is that there are active elements within the Zionist movement who readily use disinformation to their advantage. Zionists, not Jews! They are not the same grouping. Keep in mind the truism that “not all Jews are Zionists and not all Zionists are Jews.” After all, who is helping to lead the way in the West against Israeli oppression? In that montage there is a high number activists who are Jewish.

Let’s get this straight: there is no such thing as “the Jews” or any other people, who collectively adhere to just one worldview. Each religion and nationality has multiple sub-groups with a variety of points of view. The largest one of these is almost always folks who are apolitical and just trying to get by with life. When you overgeneralize the many into one thing only, you wipe out the inherent complexities of social life and movements. History teaches us, over and over again, that this is a dangerous thing to do. So, don’t do it!

 

(1 May 2015)

 

1 Response » to “A Brief Comment on Loose Language”

  1. atheo says:

    It’s too bad that people feel such a strong need to defend primitive racist ideologies.

    At some point organized religion must be called out, and while in the west it is now politically correct to finger Islam, Islam is not even close to the top of the list.

    Whether those that choose to self identify with supremacist ideology while loudly presenting themselves as defenders of Palestinians are indeed serving justice or simply offering cover for their own tribe is an open question which is in sore need of exploration.

    Just because one is raised as a Christian, Jew, or what have you, and even though one may have a communal attachment with adherents, as adults we are responsible if we choose to adhere to tribal supremacist ideology. If the problem is in the scripture, it will fester until the scripture is rejected.

    Food for thought:

    https://nahidaexiledpalestinian.wordpress.com/2014/12/07/is-torah-jewish-or-is-it-zionist/

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