Saturday, October 6, 2007

Website Banning Petition in Progress

A few hours ago my girlfriend received a note forwarded from her mother's friend, asking her to sign a petition to remove "" from the Google search engine. The note tells people, correctly, that comes up very high on the search engine if you type "jew." It was the second entry, after the Wikipedia entry. (A website has a high ranking on the google pages if a lot of people visit it through the google keyword searches or if a lot of other sites link to it, which the google engine can figure out by crawling through the web and finding the urls on other pages.)

The message says the site is anti-Semitic and tells recipients that if 500,000 people sign a petition requesting its removal from the search engine, Google will oblige. (The petition itself states Google will do this with a mere 50,000 signatures.)

I find it hard to believe that Google will in fact remove a site from its search regardless of the number of people who request this. If it does, this is a well-kept secret in the normally transparent Google operation, as its not mentioned in any of the means for removing site content. Hard to prove a negative, so I have a query into the Google Press Center about this.

The emailed message does raise an interesting question, and it's not about whether google should remove the site. (Of course not. That's a no-brainer for anyone who doesn't want their viewing habits controlled by the preferences of 50,000 or 500,000 people with too much time on their hands, though not enough time to realize that their messages are going to send people to the site and further bolster its ranking.)

The intriguing question is why would be the second site listed when "jew" is entered? Moreover, what does it mean that other entries on the first google page for "jew" are actually much more pernicious than JewWatch, including "The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem," a 1920 anti-Semitic screed by Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford car company. That site also includes links to the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and other creepy sites.

I tried typing in "Christian," "Muslim" to see if something similar occurred, but it didn't. One reason is probably that Christians comprise 33% of the world's population and about 20% are Muslim. Jews are fewer than one half of one per cent of the world's population. Assuming that people who are members of a group are more favorably disposed to that group than those who are not, chances are that in absolute numbers, a lot more people are not-Jews than not-Christian or not-Muslim. If ten percent of Jews are not favorably disposed to Muslims and Christians, that's about 138,000 potential anti-Muslim or anti-Muslim website viewers. If 10 percent of Muslims (120 million) and 10 percent of Christians (198 million) hate Jews, that's 318 million people, more than enough for a robust Google ranking.

The sites that appear if you type "jew" are not just anti-Zionist or "anti-Israel Lobby" sites, to use the less charged language of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. These are sites that denounce people as Jews, and not just those who favor Israel.

The obvious reason for the sites' popularity is that a ton of people fear and hate Jews. However this is not a reason but another question. Why? What's going on with the hypothetical ten percent driving these rankings, people markedly singling out Jews and not other minority groups for international approbation? While it's true that hatred is more likely toward a religion other than one's own, the first pages of Google hits for "Confucian" or "Zoroastrians"--religions with fewer adherents than Judaism--display no links to hate-filled websites.

I don't think the answer is the one that B'nai B'rith has in mind but rather, that it lies in Israel's own policies that conflate Jewishness with Israeliness and hence encourage those who oppose Israel to oppose Jews. When I was living in Istanbul and a Turkish sect supporting Al Qaeda blew up nearby synagogues in 2003 and killed 29 Jewish Turks while they were worshiping, Israel arrived to assist with the removal of corpses and the investigation. Much to the country's dismay, the bodies were buried with Israeli and not Turkish flags. Perhaps this was the decision of the families, or of the Turkish government to show their solidarity and appreciation of Israeli aid. But this decision to collapse dying for being Jewish with the celebration of Israel was not made by the folks running JewWatch or other anti-Semitic sites.

Indeed Israel puts itself forward as a Jewish state. It allows anyone who can prove Jewish descent to become a citizen and denies this to anyone not already in its borders, including those who have been removed by force. It is therefore not all that surprising that Jews and not just the Israel lobby would be held responsible for the crimes committed by and in the name of Israel. Indeed to do otherwise, which has been demanded of outsiders since Israel's founding, is to expect a high if not absurd level of sophistication. During World War Two the United States government interned its own citizens if they happened to be Japanese. If Franklin Delano Roosevelt, married to a great civil rights leader, could conflate nationality with ethnicity, then it seems unsurprising that folks with far less cosmopolitan aspirations would do the same.

This does not mean that FDR was correct in assessing the loyalty of his citizens. The confusion reflects that nationality creates ethnicity: Ireland makes possible "the Irish," Korea "the Koreans," and so forth. Before Judaism was Judaism, the Israelites were a nation, one that God told Abraham he would choose for covenant. (Jews were named such much later, by the Romans after the largest tribe in Judea.) Yes, anti-Semitism existed before the modern state of Israel. Long before that. But it did not exist before Israel the patrilineal nation of descent, the one following from the lineage of Abraham before becoming matrilineal after the destruction of the Second Temple. In both cases, belonging to the Jewish or Israeli nation is largely a matter of descent and kinship, just like all other nations, a mark of belonging and therefore of exclusion as well.

If Jews want to stop being targeted in the fight against Israel, then Israel needs to forsake its status as a Jewish nation, and join all other countries in opening their borders. The best way to make sure JewWatch goes away, is to remove the Muslim Watch at the Israeli borders.


Rafi said...

"When I was living in Istanbul and a Turkish sect supporting Al Qaeda blew up nearby synagogues in 2003 and killed 29 Jewish Turks while they were worshiping,"

Turkish Jews, you mean.

As a descendant of Jews who lived in Turkey, I assure you that we don't regard themselves as "Turks", whether we live in or outside of Turkey. There are indeed Jews who are Turkish citizens, but they don't regard themselves as "Turks" and are not regarded as such by their fellow Turkish citizens.

There are "Turkish Jews" (members of the Jewish ethnic and religious minority in Turkey), just as there are "Turkish Kurds", "Turkish Greeks" and "Turkish Armenians", but not "Kurdish Turks", "Greek Turks" or "Armenian Turks".

Additionally, in the 2003 Istanbul synagogue bombings, only about 6 members of the Jewish community were killed, nearly 60 Turks were killed, however.

In 1986, many more Turkish Jews were killed in the attacks on Neve Salm synagogue.

Rafi said...

"If Jews want to stop being targeted in the fight against Israel, then Israel needs to forsake its status as a Jewish nation, and join all other countries in opening their borders."

With your logic, Tibetan and Uighur nationalists could be justified in attacking overseas Han Chinese in their ethnic enclaves and businesses, for as long as China continues to maintain a distinct Han Chinese identity. China must forsake its status as a Chinese nation.

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