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In defense of liberty

Richard Silverstein needs to reassess his definition of bigotry and racism

When addressing contentions that run counter to such normative values as justice, morality, and truth, I believe it is my academic professional duty to analyze the details of the argument in question and illustrate to my audience why such contentions are sub-par, nefarious, and worthy of reproach.

Admittedly, it is difficult to analyze such pieces from a purely academic standpoint when invectives are hurled at me personally — not in a spirit of academic debate, but rather, to malign and denigrate my personal character. Indeed, I am tempted to speak out in an equally hostile tone against those who would attack me in a pejorative manner. However I will attempt to refrain from doing so here as it is my moral duty to be civil both to my enemies and to my friends, and because I do not believe it to be fitting to stoop down to the level of disrespectful persons. It is in that spirit of civility that I write this piece.

On February 22, a gentleman by the name of Richard Silverstein took considerable issue with an article I wrote in the The Times of Israel about the contentions of one Judith Butler, professor at the University of California, Berkley. I find Butler’s analysis regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict lamentably disagreeable.

Silverstein did not point out any possible faulty premises in my column. He did not question the evidence I presented. He did not find I was lacking in my analysis. Instead, to illustrate his (ahem) intellectual prowess, he shared a Facebook status linking to my column and in his commentary, wrote: “They finally did it: found a Negro Zionist: Uncle Tom is dancin’ for joy!”


His intention is obvious: I am an African-American, and Silverstein believes that all African-Americans are monolithic. Indeed, he believes that because of my skin color, I must think, act, and behave in the certain way — a manner in which he perceives black people to be. Like the old white masters in the antebellum American South, Silverstein believes that he and his ilk alone can be the bearers of opinions which must be held by African-Americans. To think for oneself, to formulate an opinion independent of his consent — well now, this is unacceptable. The consequence is a verbal lashing on social media; an attack on my character because of my skin color, and because, I am, as he puts it, “a Negro,” who does not feel the need to make her analysis contingent upon his approbation.

Moreover, I am a Zionist. I am unabashedly pro-Israel, and a proponent of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in their ancestral homeland. Silverstein is not a Zionist, and because I disagree with him — like the old slave masters who believed that their view of the world was superior to and should be foisted upon the negro slaves — he contends that I am an “Uncle Tom” (a derogatory term meaning “house slave,” or one who is subservient and servile to white masters.).

I am certain that Silverstein does not comprehend the irony. After all, white supremacists tend to possess an astounding propensity for cognitive dissonance. It isn’t evident to Silverstein that to assert that a human being must, by virtue of her skin color, behave in a certain manner, is itself prejudicial and bigoted. Silverstein is judging me on the color of my skin, not on the content of my character, or rather, the content of my treatise.

In subsequent tweets, Silverstein also bashed me because of my faith. I am a Christian, and Silverstein accuses me of believing in some bizarre conspiracy to bring about the return of Christ by issuing in an Armageddon of epic proportions. He does not believe my advocacy of Jewish civil rights could possibly be genuine. Rather it must be evidence of a global plot to initiate a new era of civilization.

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Moreover, he contends that I must be getting exploited by the evil “Israel lobby” which of course consists of every pro-Israel organization on the face of the earth that disagrees with him. So let’s make a list: I am black, and therefore innately foolish, while incapable of coming to conclusions using my own intellectual capabilities; I am a Christian, and therefore innately genocidal while paradoxically desiring to bring about a utopian post-world society in the process.

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Silverstein is thus racist against blacks and bigoted against Christians.

To be fair, this isn’t that surprising. Silverstein has a track record of being morally dysfunctional. Like most intellectually lazy simpletons, Silverstein is utterly incapable of rendering sound judgment based on anything remotely related to empirical thought. To attempt to make up for his woeful incompetence, he hashes out terse slogans and fatuous ideas indicative of his deficiency in basic normative values.

For example he writes in his blog, “To call Hamas ‘Nazi-like’ is akin to promoting the views of ‘rightist ideologues’ … .” That’s right: To suggest that Hamas (which calls for the death of world Jewry and teaches children to “slaughter” Jews and to have them “erased from our land”) — is analogous to Hitler (who already implemented what Hamas desires) this is farfetched? Unbelievable. Fanciful. Say it ain’t so — and of course proof of the infiltration of “right-wing” influences.

Meanwhile he states that Israel (where Arabs have more rights than in any other country in the Middle East) is “more like Nazi Germany.” The nation-state that makes it a point to extend rights to all minorities in its midst — this state is akin to oppressors guilty of genocide. Thus Silverstein baits and switches. He says one thing but means another. He calls himself progressive while advocating for a governmental organization that murders its own people; he claims to be a proponent of human rights while demonizing a nation-state that strives to achieve that very endeavor.

Silverstein inverts terms, making them devoid of any meaning, all the while having the temerity to believe his musings are erudite, when in point of fact they are ludicrous, and contributory to the cause of mass homicide. That such obscene characters are given license to spew nonsense in prominent newspapers like The Guardian, I find lamentable.

Nevertheless, I do believe it is my civil duty to educate my pseudo-journalistic counterparts whenever I have the opportunity. Perhaps there is still a shred of decency possessed by Silverstein that has not been corrupted by his otherwise ubiquitous bigotry. I offer to him and his ilk a little history lesson, the knowledge of which, I hope will be put to good use in the future:

On November 10, 1975, The UN General Assembly endorsed the bigoted proposition that the exercise of Jewish civil rights were a form of racism. Silverstein may be familiar with this. (Indeed, he may revel in it.) Resolution 3379 marked a tragic day in the struggle for human rights as a collective body of nations voted to deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination in their historical homeland. But what Silverstein may not know is that the next day —  on November 11, 1975 — 125,000 African-Americans and Jews marched through the streets of Brooklyn proclaiming unequivocally that THEY TOO WERE ZIONISTS. That was a proud day in the fight for liberty and freedom.

The participants displayed signs with the messages: “ZIONISM IS LOVE.” And indeed it is; “AN ANTI-ZIONIST IS AN ANTI-SEMITE.” And indeed, he or she is. After civil rights leader Bayard Rustin had given his speech, he ended by singing, “Go Down Moses,” to which the crowd replied with a triumphant, “LET MY PEOPLE GO!”

This is the creed that I seek to promulgate both now, and forever. The Jewish people are free — and they of right ought to be free. No journalist, academic, professor, statesman, student, or governmental organization can ever take that right away. It is the spirit of that day which resides in me. It is the song that they sung that I will never cease to sing. And I will work to ensure that that song comes to reside throughout all the earth, eternally.

About the Author
Chloé Simone Valdary is an expert in Israel-Engagement in the millennial space. As a Tikvah Fellow at the Wall Street Journal, she developed a blueprint on the topic of Israel advocacy on campus -- namely what works, what doesn't, and how to make it better.