Adam Geffen

Adam Geffen
Ferndale, Michigan, US
May 31
I keep fine company, thank you.
I'm a science and computer geek (B.S. Computer Science, University of Michigan), a law geek (J.D., with honors, Wayne State University), and a history and philosophy geek (history grad student at Wayne where Professor Sandra VanBurkleo is my adviser). For my day job I'm a software engineer for a global telecommunications company. I'm an alumni of Agree Outpost Camp (July 1990) where I cemented my love for backcountry wilderness. My academic interests: philosophy of law, tort law, contract law, U.S. legal history, U.S. constitutional history, English legal history, political theory, the history of political thought, and the history of ideas. I like to think about justice, ethics, knowledge production, truth, equality, and liberty. (When I have the answer I'll let you know.) Other interests: Reading (duh); hiking, camping, and backpacking, target shooting. For a while I studied Tai Chi and Kung Fu at the Ann Arbor Asian Martial Arts Studio.


Editor’s Pick
MAY 20, 2008 1:07AM

I'm an anti-anti-zionist

Rate: 3 Flag
[The title of this post borrows from an essay by the late Ellen Willis, "Is There Still a Jewish Question? Why I'm an Anti-Anti-Zionist."  That essay is available in PDF form here. You should read it. You can find other selections of her writing on her NYU faculty page here.]

I think Le Castor is simply wrong when she writes: "Imagine a Lebanese-American saying the same thing vis-a-vis Lebanon, or a Mexican-American saying the same thing about Mexico. Questions of true allegiance would be immediate."  In classes and among friends I have heard people discuss particular election outcomes in the U.S. vis-a-vis Iran, Korea, Japan, and Mexico.  None of them had their allegiance questioned.  Moreover, historically Jews did, and to this day do, have their allegiance questioned.  Most recently Jews were accused of distorting U.S. foreign policy through the "Israel Lobby", as if it could be taken for granted that the foreign policy choices of the authors making the distortion allegations were correct while those produced by the "Israel Lobby" were the distortions. See and and

I think designated_knitter's point is important: that many other political boundary changes have occurred between 1945 and now, that many other conflicts have occurred during the last fifty odd years with more casualties than the Israeli-Arab conflict, that "the political self-interest of Jewish Americans is hardly unique."  Yet, Israel is held up (particularly on the left) as a human rights violating bogeyman.  To me this is a double standard driven by anti-semitism.  As Willis writes, "But it's impossible not to notice how the runaway inflation of Israel's villainy aligns with ingrained cultural fantasies about the iniquity and power of Jews; or how the traditional pariah status of Jews has been replicated by a Jewish pariah state. And the special fury and vitriol that greet any attempt to bring up this subject in left circles further suggests that more is at stake here than an ordinary political dispute—just as more is at stake in the Israel-Palestine clash than an ordinary border dispute."

Israel is important for so many American Jews because they know how fragile the position of Jewry can be.  It could happen again.  Israel cannot be understood apart from the Holocaust.  Though I'm only 32 it certainly affects my feelings about Israel.

Rabbi Roth, who taught me Hebrew as well as Jewish laws and customs for my Bar Mitzvah, was a holocaust survivor.  When he was 18 the Nazi's sent him, along with his parents and six siblings, to Auschwitz.  He was the only survivor.  I'd been to Holocaust museums. I'd seen Shoah.  But black and white pictures and extraordinarily long documentary films can be abstracted and decontextualized. It is more difficult with a person across a desk from you.

I was studying with Rabbi Roth in the summer and his office in the shul would get quite warm. He would roll up his sleeves.  As long as I live I'll never forget the numbers tattooed on his arm.  The numbers, his arm, his body made the Holocaust real for me in a way nothing had before.  Evil created those faded-to-purple numbers on Rabbi Roth's arm and they were just three feet from me.  The reality of its horror settled onto my then twelve year old mind for the first time.

Heavy stuff, I know, but I wanted to elucidate an important part of why I think of Israel prominently when I consider how to vote.  Now, go read Ellen Willis, she is much more eloquent than I and she speaks my mind on this issue in more detail.

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" Yet, Israel is held up (particularly on the left) as a human rights violating bogeyman. To me this is a double standard driven by anti-semitism. "

Oh boy, here we go!
Ah, JD -- we've spent so much time arguing about sexism vs racism with this primary season, it seems only fair to add another "-ism" play. And I would say anti-semitism is more than qualified.

Women treated like property with no political rights and paid 50 cents on the dollar for the same work and repeatedly demeaned in the name of male entertainment, humor, and marketing. Bad.

African Americans enslaved for generations and then made targets of violence for generations more by white men in sheets. Really Bad.

An entire race of people who were actively targeted for extermination? In my book: Game, Set, Match!

Kind of makes the other "-isms" pale in comparison, doesn't it! Makes me pretty grateful that all I have to worry about is my measely 60 cents on the dollar!
I think the early line does not favor producing a solution to "the Palestinian problem" or an answer to "the Jewish question" here at OpenSalon. From my experience of observing and participating in the debate in other forums and contexts, interested parties have yet to agree on acceptable definitions of terms, a handicap that puts solutions and answers at a finish line quite a bit further on up the road.

Part of the problem is that none of the participants can take to the arena with clean hands. My personal feeling is that the notion of exceptionalism ought to be rejected on all sides, as should all vows of destruction. That and maybe start each round of discussion by playing "Give Peace a Chance."
Re: Israel being a human rights violating bogeyman -- are you saying that Israel is not a human rights violator with respect to the West Bank & the Gaza Strip?
I hesitated to comment on this post; it gets my back up. First of all, I don't have one anti-semitic bone in my body; I just don't and I find it insulting that, just because we don't see eye to eye about Israel, you would imply that. Secondly, no one is questioning the pure evil behind the holocaust; that would be absurd. Third, the Jewish people do deserve a homeland, no argument on that point. I think your "Jewish pariah state" is an exaggeration other than in the Middle East shared with the Arabs. In the mainstream, it is certainly not looked upon as a pariah state here or in Europe.

My point, and I think LeCastor's as well, though I cannot speak for her, is that the Palestinian people deserve a homeland, too. They live as second class citizens. Any human rights advocate of any ethnicity or race or religion can see that. By giving them their own state, the area can begin to heal, learn to accept one another, and move on. Sure, fringe elements and radical Islamists will still exist but, if you think back to Waco, the KKK, and the Idaho militias, we've got some of our very own here. Lucky, huh?
I feel like the problem is that Zionists create a false dichotomy: either (1) you're totally supportive of Israel, you don't criticize its actions, etc., or (2) you're questioning Israel's right to exist, and also an anti-Semite.

Wtf is that?! That's not a dialogue, that's the same as either (1) you wear a flag pin and never criticize America, or (2) you hate America.

Now, if you're saying that violating Palestinians' human rights, violating the laws of war, and international law are all necessarily part of Israel continuing to exist, you've got a big problem on your hands that requires some introspection on your part.

PS And please, don't call me an anti-Semite. I'm a Jew and I've got a boatload of Jew cred.
Adam, I see that you are in law school. May I suggest a course in Laws of War or International Humanitarian Law?
pretend_farmer: I wasn't trying to imply that your anti-semitic. If that is how it reads the fault is entirely mine for poor phrasing. Please forgive me for the confusion. I was trying to place myself in agreement with the comment you made on Le Castor's post.
Le Castor: First, I didn't call you anti-Semitic. I wrote that I think your wrong about Jews not having their allegiance questioned. That doesn't make you anti-Semitic.
Le Castor, you spelled anti-Semite with a capital "S," which gives you boatloads of cred not just in the Jewish immigrant arena, but you show your educational smarts! I'm still not sure what you were thinking about that lap dance. LOL!
Le Castor: You write, "are you saying that Israel is not a human rights violator with respect to the West Bank & the Gaza Strip?"

No. I'm saying that many regimes are human rights violators yet Israel gets special treatment. Are the British Academics talking of boycotting U.S. universities for our human rights violations? No. China? No. France? No. Why are the British Academics only pushing to boycott Israel?
Well, Adam, you did write this: " Yet, Israel is held up (particularly on the left) as a human rights violating bogeyman. To me this is a double standard driven by anti-semitism. "

I think Israel violated human rights for real (not as a bogeyman) -- and it seems according to your logic, that is driven by anti-Semitism. Yet, I really don't think that I'm an anti-Semite, being a Jew and all.
Thanks, JD. As for the lapdance, I'm just a multifaceted woman lol, who loves Simone de Beauvoir AND The Bachelor.
"No. I'm saying that many regimes are human rights violators yet Israel gets special treatment. Are the British Academics talking of boycotting U.S. universities for our human rights violations? No. China? No. France? No. Why are the British Academics only pushing to boycott Israel?"

I mean, perhaps those British Academics are anti-Semitic, but even if they are, that does not mean that everyone who criticizes Israel for human rights violations is an anti-Semite. And btw, i think it's ridiculous of you to say that no one cares about the US's human rights violations -- Gitmo/CIA black sites is like the biggest scandal in the world right now, and China has been criticized for years. In fact, human rights violations might become the central issue at the Olympics this summer.

The US resoundly and routinely criticized for human rights violations in IRaq, a country it occupies, and for which it is therefore responsible.
To be clear I support: a two state solution; a return to the 1967 boarders, removal (or abandonment) of all settlements, the sharing of Jerusalem, and a right of return for dispossessed Palestinians. If I were made "dictator of Israel" tomorrow I would implement all of the above asap and then I would publicly and officially apologize to the Palestinians and beg forgiveness.

Still, I believe the particular emphasis that Israel receives is often motivated by anti-semitism.
Le Castor: "I think Israel violated human rights for real (not as a bogeyman) -- and it seems according to your logic, that is driven by anti-Semitism. Yet, I really don't think that I'm an anti-Semite, being a Jew and all."

Let me try to rephrase. Israel commits human rights violations and is criticized for them. Fine. But Israel isn't just criticized for human rights violations. It is seen as "The Problem." As Ellen Willis writes, "leftists tend to single out Israel as The Problem that must be solved. That tropism is most pronounced among those for whom the project of a Jewish state is inherently imperialist, or an offense to universalist humanism, or both. (A young professor of brilliant intellect and anarchist inclinations, whose development I've followed since graduate school: 'Why don't the Israelis just leave? Walk away from the state?' and in the same conversation, 'Israel is the biggest problem I have as a Jew.') But it is also widespread, if often unconscious, among people who have no ideological objection to the Jewish state as such, including Jews who care deeply about the fate of Israel and are appalled by government policies they deem not only inhumane but suicidal. I've received countless impassioned e-mails emphasizing how imperative it is to show there are Jews who disagree with the Jewish establishment, who oppose Sharon. There is no comparable urgency to show that Jews on the left as well as the right condemn suicide bombing as a war crime, a horrifying product of totalitarian religious brainwashing, and a way to ensure there is no peace. At most I hear, 'Suicide bombing is a terrible thing, but...' But: if Israel would just shape up and do the right thing, there would be peace. Would that it were so."
Can the topic become "..what special securities could we - the world community (UN) - offer Israel and Jews worldwide, to lay down their arms, free the Palestinians, and obtain final security in doing that?"
No Madame Bitch. I don't think you're anti-semite, but real Jews don't talk about Jew "creds". So you're a poseur and a fool. And Israel has punished soldiers that have gone beyond the law. And the double standard that is applied to Israel with respect to war crimes is laughable.

Sure give me any *credible* evidence. Even Goldstone stated there was no evidence presented that would stand up in court, hence no cases were made to the Hague. Now Goldstone has basically backtracked almost entirely on the Goldstone report. It seems interviewing Gazans on Gaza TV seen by Hamas viewers was not exactly the best way to get to the facts after all.

So yeah, where are those war crimes evidences? Palmer report? Nope.

Lebanon, Nope.

However, every rocket launched from Gaza into Israel is a war crime. EVERY LAST ONE.

Got that Madame Bitch? EVERY LAST ONE.

The NATO air war over Serbia killed 2000 Serb civillians. An air war against a country that did not attack NATO. Where are the war crime trials? Surely, 2000 civies can't be killed without the perpetration of a war crime? Can they?

Sri Lanka killed 20,000 Tamils in a fortnight. Where are the war crime trials?

So we have a couple of glaring cases of war crimes, on a scale far greater than anything Israel is accused of, and no hint of a war crimes trial to be.

You should change your screenname to "Madam Joke"
Dwight, first the Pals need to free themselves.

It is difficult to name any governmenst more oppressive and corrupt than Hamas and Fatah.

As a homework assignment Dwight. Find out how many Pal journalists are rotting in Pal prisons. Compare that to anywhere else. I admit, that its nowhere near as bad as Turkey or China. But they give those places a run for the money.

Its not Israel that limits Pal's freedom of Speech.
Some of us have lost Jewish friends because we support J Street or Jewish Voice For Peace. We know what it is to lose friends and be misjudged simply because we are critical of Israeli policy. Israel is NOT the "Promised Land." America is the promised land.

My family is from Eastern Europe, from a country roughly the size of Israel. If I were to advocate for an amount of US foreign aid to be given to that country, on terms equivalent to those governing US aid to Israel, people would think I were daft or disloyal to the US.

If I were to advocate that the US should be ethnically and religiously homogeneous (say, caucasian and Christian), people would think I was a bigot and an idiot. Why should I think that any country, including Israel, should be ethnically and religiously homogeneous -- that homogeneity is in and of itself a preferred value? I don't, of course, but that should not make me a bigot, either.

No one has yet explained to me how my country's interests are best served by virtually unlimited support of Israel. To merely question this is to expose myself to vitriol, scorn and slander as an "anti-Semite" and a "Nazi." Why bother, then? Because of blowback; because Americans die for my country's virtually unlimited support of Israel; because it is political poison to even have a meaningful discussion of this. So much for "free speech" when intelligent discourse exposes one to censorship and retaliation.

The discussion is overdue and needed. I find it disgusting that Americans cannot have this discussion, that I am attacked by people who have great sympathy for Israel, who have religious, ethnic and family ties to Israel but have never been to Israel (as I have). These people seem to have a fierce loyalty to Israel which transcends any loyalty to the US, or any tolerance of difference of opinion on Israel by any other American.

These absolute stifling attitudes are becoming tiresome and are provoking exactly the kind of unconstructive criticism which they were always intended to stifle. Yet that is the natural response when constructive criticism is demonized and slandered.