The Jews, Reloaded

Barnett, T.P.M. (2006). Israeli nationalism v. globalism. Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog. December 31, 2006. Available online:

My post which criticized Tom Barnett’s attack on Israel now is just one response amongst many. Jimmy Carter’s intellectual dishonesty is well known, but now Tom Barnett says that such is not important:

Carter’s argument needs to be dealt with head on, not seemingly discredited on the basis of factual errors and interpretations.

Dr. Barnett doesn’t rehash “identity” (whatever he means by that), but now is concerned with the concept of race:

In the end, Israel’s biggest long-term problem is that its nationalism is race-specific in a globalizing world where such state-sponsored “affirmative action” comes off as hopelessly discriminatory, whether you’re talking Muslims in Tel Aviv or Paris or Los Angeles.

The central claim in the above sentence is that Israel is a Racist State.

Very lefty, and very wrong. Israel is a “Jewish State,” certainly, but what does this mean? A race is a genetically related breeding population, of which “Jews” are not. There are historical breeding populations, such as the Cohenim, who make a disproportionate percentage of Israel’s population, but then the Cohanim make up a disproportionate percentage of America’s population, as well.

The “Jewish” in “Jewish State” refers to membership in a recognized a hybrid patrilineal/matrilineal tribe, and membership is not effected by skin color, skull formations, height, degree of genetic relatedness, etc. Barnett would be accurate to say that Israel is a patriotic state, but then so is America. Barnett would be accurate to say that Israel is a tribal state, but then are the Indian Reservations he describes as “prosaic.”

Still, Barnett’s post was good to read before I begin the Spring 2007 semester. One of the classes I am taking, Genetic Development, features a discussion on Leftist interpretations on race (see my four part series on the subject: 1, 2, 3, 4). Clearly, that brand of pseudo-racialist mumbo-jumbo has spread beyond the halls of psychology departments to infect even top-notch globalization pundits.

2 thoughts on “The Jews, Reloaded”

  1. Dan,

    Glad to see that you, also, can be too-clever-by-half. Happens to the best minds of any generation. You have clipped off Barnett's post; here's another statement:

    “By asking the Middle East to integrate itself truly with globalization, we commit them to ending such religious/racial discriminations in their countries.”

    So his quibbling over the religious 'tribalism' (or call it what you will) and racial discrimination was made obvious in his post.

    It is curious that many nationalist Israelis can fly into a rage or a better-than-thou stance with use of the word, 'antisemitic!!' — and it has always seemed to me that the significant movers in Israel (some of whom may be in one of various minorities) are quite willing to consider non-semitic Jews as adopted into the race.

    So when you take your customary route of defining to death whatever terms you need for your argument — “A race is a genetically related breeding population, of which “Jews” are not. There are historical breeding populations…[etc.]” — I think you miss the point. Racialism, racism, etc., are not genetic features so much as cognitive frameworks, and as such are not bound by the neat biological or ivory-tower sociological lines you would use for your argument. The reason there are terms like “the American race” and “the German race” and so forth is this: people who are racists are not often scientists or geneticists or accomplished sociologists. This does not mean they are not racist, nor does it mean that the elevation of their own 'race' above others must be something other than racism simply because no genetic proof for the existence of their privileged 'race' can be found.

  2. Curtis,

    Thank you for your comment. I think I agree with you, that if Barnett had added other terms to this statement (going from race and religion to country and tribe definitions of the in-group) his words become accurate.

    But he didn't and they aren't. Tom sacrificed accuracy for emotional charge. In other to accuse Israel of racism (which is emotional and bad) he had to stretch the definition to encompass prosiac behaviors (tribalism and patriotism) that few people even consider bad — and many consider the bedrock of citizenship.

    Additionally, whiel in one part he talks about religious and racial discrimination, in others he centers on Israel supposed racism. The claim of racism is still there, no matter how the post is read.

    Further, Barnett is /still/ wrong on the religious discimination charge.

    Consider if Barnett is referring to discrimination with regards to the Law of Return. An Atheist Jew is still a “Jew” as considered by Israel for the purposes of the Law of Return, a Christian Jew is still a “Jew” for the purposes of the Law of Return, a Muslim Jew is still a “Jew” for the purposes of the Law of Return. So his statement is emotionally charged but inaccurate.

    Consider if Barnett is referring to discrimination with regards to military service. Ultra-Orthodox Jews are not subject to the draft, so his statement has a leg to stand on here. The draft exemption was enacted by a heavily atheist/secular government in the hopes that such Ultraorthodoxy would die off naturally in a Jewish State. But note that the vast majority of the Jewish population is subject, so referring to pro-Jew discrimination would be deceptive. (For that matter, we may as well say that “white America is a racist state,” on the grounds of affirmative action. But I don't think Tom would say this.)

    If Barnett thinks “racism” extends to a tribalist society that extends beyond religious and skin-color lines, let him say so.

    To sum it up: while Barnett jumps between racism and racism/religionism in his post, neither is accurate. He choose a cheap emotional shot over a substantive criticism. Too bad.

  3. [Once again, tdaxp is not allowing the full posting of this comment. I hit 'Send' and am sent directly to the front page of tdaxp. So I'm breaking this comment into parts.]

    PT. 1:

    I think Barnett could have been more careful in writing the post — but also that his own customary habit of writing with a kind of stream-of-consciousness may have let rise to the surface his own generalization (peculiar bias), and that that's the part you see. Taking Barnett at his word will sometimes mean missing the manner of his delivery, even if that manner ought to be considered in tandem with the message being delivered!

  4. Pt. 2:

    But the general point of my own comment was this:

    I do not believe it is logical to confront a charge of racism by saying that no biologically-determined race exists for those supposed racists!

    What matters most is whether those supposed racists have a cognitive understanding of their own and other 'races' (which may have no actual biological basis.)

  5. Pt. 3:

    If you remember our discussion on PC concerning 'Interesting Stuff' about genetic variation [1], you may remember my own hesitancy about labeling groups on the basis of a few shared genetic features. Similar to those thoughts, I think that expanding this type of discussion beyond a quibbling over racial, religious, cultural, etc. identity groups ought to mean getting past those designations and looking at the cognitive basis of such frictional inter-group relations, which means concerning ourselves with a kind of consilient base reality of such frictions. I.e., rather than worrying about races, religious enclaves, culturally coherent tribes, etc., perhaps we really only need to look at the much more loosely used term, People. So it's Our People vs Those People, and these are ever only the identities formed in our own minds, regardless of biological realities or any other realities behind those supposedly coherent and homogeneous groups.

    More often than not, no definitive biological realities of such groupings must exist for the formation of a cognitive understanding of Peoples, nor any other real homogeneity. [Consider 'umma', which does not have to actually address a reality but is more like a fantasy reality, a generalization based perhaps on the belief that some definitive commonality is shared EQUALLY by the members of that group.]

  6. Curtis,

    I submitted a help ticket describing your problem, and giving a link to this thread, to blogspirit.

    I agree that the most likely explanation for Tom's comment (and the one I hope is true) is that he didn't think it through before posting.

    Likewise, I agree that if one believes there is a strong genetic similarity one can be racist against a non-racial group… but does that mean that Tom believes that Israel is an Ashkenazi-Supremacist State? Or that he believes that black, oriental, mediterranean, and white Jews form one race?

    Further, I agree that the concept of in-group and out-group matters more than whatever traits we are defining groups with. Groupishness is an evolved behavior, but racism is just an application of groupishness. As such it is easily erased. [1]

    So wow, I agree a lot… Thanks for the great comment(s)! 🙂


  7. “but does that mean that Tom believes that Israel is an Ashkenazi-Supremacist State? Or that he believes that black, oriental, mediterranean, and white Jews form one race?”

    Well it seems like you are now calling Tom a racist!

    I think maybe it's this: He thinks that the Jews of Israel — or at least the movers and shakers in Israel — are the ones who believe in a Jewish race.

  8. “Well it seems like you are now calling Tom a racist!”

    I don't think so, but thanks for warning me my ambiguous language. The first option (that perhaps Israel is an Ashkenazi Supremacist State) is a charge I've heard before, based on allegations of discrimination against sephardic (“Mediterranean” or “Arab” Jews). The second option (that perhaps there is indeed a race which corresponds to Israel's conception of “Jew”) is a factual question, but one I believe that does not have support. I'm sure there are both racists and non-racists on both sides of the two questions, though I certainly didn't mean (and don't believe) that Dr. Barnett is a racist.

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