“As a Jew” explained

This is cross posted at Simply Jews by SlingshotKiller



The term “asaJew” is a marker of identity politics. It says that I, the speaker, have some special authority to say what I’m going to say because of my identity. Usually identity politics is adopted by people who claim to speak for their collectivity. The “asaJew” says that non-Jews should pay special attention because they are raising an issue which is more easily seen from a Jewish point of view. So an “asa Jew” might say that Jews are able to sense or sniff antisemitism when a non-Jew might have been unaware. Jews might be sensitive to certain attitudes, figures of speech, images, to which a non-Jew might not be.

Jewish anti-Zionists give their identity politics a strange twist. Instead of claiming to represent the opinion of most of their fellow Jews, they mobilize their identity “asaJew” in order to give their oppositional view more legitimacy. They are saying to non-Jews that this or that might seem to them as though it was Antisemitic, but I, the Jew, am happy to reassure you that it isn’t.

But if the thing which the anti-Zionist asa Jew is trying to inoculate against is a thing which most Jews do find troublesome, then they employ another little twist. They claim that their Jewish identity is authentic in some way that most Jews’ identities are inauthentic. So the anti-Zionist “asaJew” may be in a tiny minority but she is claiming that she, nevertheless, is the real Jew. The ethical Jew. The critical Jew. The anti-nationalist Jew. The courageous Jew. The far-sighted Jew. And the other Jews, the herd, are actually not such real Jews; their Jewishness has been subverted by Zionism and Islamophobia and a secular unconcern with Jewish ethics.

There are two possible critiques of the “asaJew” rhetoric. One is the critique of identity politics in general, which says that you should just say what you think to be true, you should present evidence and argument, and hope that people listening will be persuaded by that – those who do this prefer to leave the claims to particular identity-based authority behind.

The other possibility is that somebody might accept that Jews in general, or Jewish communal bodies, for example, might speak with some added legitimacy. This might come from either their particular standpoint or from their claims to represent the collective. So you might think that these ways of speaking “asaJew” are more legitimate than that of the anti-Zionist Jew.

The anti-zionist Jew says “asaJew” in order to turn opinion against the majority of her fellow Jews. She wants to say that because she doesn’t find something to be antisemitic, for example, and she is a Jew, and she speaks as a Jew, then they should accept that it isn’t antisemitic. Because if a Jew says something isn’t antisemitic then it can’t be. Right?

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