October 05, 2002

JAY FITZGERALD reports many interesting Harvard-related developments, including resistance to Larry Summers' initiative against anti-Semitism and a report on a speech by Cornel West continuing to whine about Summers' insistence that he do actual work.

He also links to this oped by Charles Jacobs of the American Anti-Slavery Group on why Israel gets criticized in ways other countries do not:

It is hard to explain why victims of slavery and slaughter are virtually ignored by American progressives. How can it be that there is no storm of indignation at Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, which, though they rushed to Jenin to investigate false reports of Jews massacring Arabs, care so much less about Arab-occupied Juba, South Sudan's black capital? How can it be that they have not raised the roof about Khartoum's black slaves? Neither has there been a concerted effort by the press to pressure American administrations to intervene. Nor has the socialist left spoken of liberating the slaves or protecting black villages from pogroms, even though Wall Street helps bankroll Khartoum's oil business, which finances the slaughter.

What is this silence about? Surely it is not because we don't care about blacks. Progressives champion oppressed black peoples daily. My hypothesis is this: to predict what the human rights community (and the media) focus on, look not at the oppressed; look instead at the party seen as the oppressor. Imagine the media coverage and the rights groups' reaction if it were ''whites'' enslaving blacks in Sudan. Having the ''right'' oppressor would change everything.

Alternatively, imagine the ''wrong'' oppressor: Suppose that Arabs, not Jews, shot Palestinians in revolt. In 1970 (''Black September''), Jordan murdered tens of thousands of Palestinians in two days, yet we saw no divestment campaigns, and we wouldn't today. This selectivity (at least in the United States, does not come from the hatred of Jews. It is '' a human rights complex '' - and is not hard to understand. The human rights community, composed mostly of compassionate white people, feels a special duty to protest evil done by those who are like ''us.''

I don't know. Still sounds racist to me, both in its definition of who qualifies as a moral actor, and its disproportionate effect on non-whites. He's right about this part, though:

The biggest victims of this complex are not the Jews who are obsessively criticized but the victims of genocide, enslavement, religious persecution, and ethnic cleansing who are murderously ignored: the Christian slaves of Sudan, the Muslim slaves of Mauritania, the Tibetans, the Kurds, the Christians in Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt.

Seeking expiation instead of universal justice means ignoring the sufferings of these victims of non-Western aggression and making relatively more of the suffering of those caught in confrontation with people like ''us.'' If the Israelis are being ''profiled'' because they are like ''us,'' the slaves of Sudan are ignored because their masters' behavior has nothing to do with us.


UPDATE: Rand Simberg offers another reason why the left's divestment efforts are so one-sided.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The Jacobs piece has led Telford Work to post some thoughts on the Marxist roots of "progressive" thought about oppression, and the inadequacies thereof.