Commentary Magazine


Contentions

A Ludicrous Follow-Up to Last Night’s Mess (with Update)

The tempest in a teapot continues. Chemi Shalev of Haaretz has a post up about my bad night last night in which he says I said “students at Swarthmore College deserve to be spat upon.” This is false, and he should correct it. I was talking about the Swarthmore Hillel’s announcement it would host anti-Zionist as well as Zionist speakers. What I said was that if you advocate anti-Zionism you are calling for the destruction of the homeland of my family. You are free to do so, and I am free to revile you and spit upon you. Like I said, I had a bad night, and this bit of hysterical rhetoric was not my finest verbal improvisation. The clear sense of the Swarthmore Hillel story was that the anti-Zionist speakers Hillel would sponsor would be creatures like the author of the year’s most disgusting book, not “Swarthmore students”—all of whom should continue to walk the paths of their gorgeous arboretum campus, comforted in the knowledge they are safe and will remain dry.

UPDATE: Shalev tells me on Twitter that he has what I said on tape, which was that if Swarthmore Hillel hosts anti-Zionists “it will deserve to be condemned, it will deserve to be spat upon.” This actually makes my point even stronger—I did not, in fact, say that any person should be “spat upon,” only that the organization should be. Given that an organization cannot be spat upon, the flourish here, though admittedly stupid and in bad taste, was clearly and entirely rhetorical. Here is the totality of what I said, as transcribed by Shalev: 

“I believe that the notion that a Jewish organization should host a speaker or a group that explicitly defines itself as anti-Zionist, which is to say believes in the non-existence of the Jewish state, is a group that deserves to be considered not only anti-Israel but anti-Jewish and ultimately anti-Semitic, as the fundamental fact of Jewish existence in our time in part is the existence of the Jewish state. Wishing for its non-existence is like wishing for the forcible repatriation of 6 million people, 7 million people it’s a horror show, it’s an infamy, it’s a political outrage. And Swarthmore Hillel…is free to do so. And it will deserve to be condemned, it will deserve to be spat upon, it will deserve to have whatever monies have been contributed to it to be removed.”

I mentioned my family at a different point. So my bad. And his bad for saying I said people should be spat upon. Aside from that, I wouldn’t change a word of what I said, though.