Thursday, November 27, 2014

Religion or Race?

In arguing against the tendency of Islamophobes to claim that because Islam is a religion they can't, therefore, be considered racists, Australia's Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, unfortunately puts his foot in it with this:

"The distinction between race and religion is a complex one... the two can overlap. For example, we consider anti-Semitism to involve a form of racism, even though Jewishness involves a religious identity. This is because Jewishness also has an ethnic character; Jews consider themselves to be a people."  (Distinction between religion and race should not make bigotry respectable, Sydney Morning Herald, 21/11/14)

Jewishness has an ethnic character?

Says who?  

Jews consider themselves to be a people.

Which Jews?

The truth is that anti-Semites invariably consider Jews to be 'a people', as do political Zionists. To the extent that both believe in biology as the key determinant of a person's identity, and discriminate against others on that basis, both exhibit racism.

As Shlomo Sand explains:

"The State of Israel defines me as a Jew, not because I express myself in a Jewish language, hum Jewish songs, eat Jewish food, write Jewish books or carry out any Jewish activity. I am classified as a Jew because this state, after having researched my origins, has decided that I was born of a Jewish mother, herself Jewish because my grandmother was likewise, thanks to (or because of) my great-grandmother, and so on through the chain of generations until the dawn of time. If chance should have had it that only my father was considered a Jew, while in the eyes of Israeli law my mother was 'non-Jewish', I would have been registered as an Austrian..." (How I Stopped Being a Jew, 2014, p 2)

And where does this biological determinist nonsense lead? Shlomo Sand again:

"There is a close link between the identification of Jews as an ethnos or eternal race-people, and the politics of Israel towards those of its citizens who are viewed as non-Jews, as well as towards immigrant workers from distant lands and, clearly, towards its neighbours, deprived of rights and subject for nearly 50 years to a regime of occupation. It is hard to deny a glaring reality: the development of an essentialist, non-religious identity encourages the perpetuation of ethnocentric, racist or quasi-racist positions, both in Israel and abroad." (p 7)

As for Islamophobes, scratch one and you'll invariably find an Arabophobe underneath.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

true true true! Sadly, in my experience, Islamophobes, far from being rational, sensible people concerned about rampant Muslim immigration, are usually very unpleasant people, the kind who think the only good Ay-rab is a dead one.