Rhetoric and Anti-Semitism

Academic Questions 17 (2):22-32 (2004)
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Given that charges of anti-Semitism, racism, and the like continue to be potent weapons of moral and intellectual critique in our culture, it is important that we work toward a clear understanding about just what sorts of conduct and circumstances constitute these moral offenses. In particular, can criticism of a state (such as Israel), or other social or political institution or organization (such as the NAACP), ever amount to anti-Semitism, racism, or other bigotry against the people represented by or associated with it, even if no explicit denigration of them occurs? That a renowned scholar of rhetoric and philosophy takes up the challenge of answering such a question would seem to be cause for optimism, but the recent attempt by Judith Butler turns out to be subverted by faulty logic and blatant misreading. As a result, it obfuscates the issue, and wrongly suggests that expressive acts cannot be blameworthy on grounds of bigotry if they are not intentionally designed to serve such purposes.
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