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Yuppie Intifada

By Aaron Cress

HAVE YOU EVER seen the blog It explains why white liberals like things such as awareness, diversity, the Prius and yoga. Perhaps this is beyond its purview, but doesn't tell the whole story, so I added a few items it neglects to name: maximum police protection, no questions asked; political homogeneity; self-aggrandizing hand-wringing in the name of the wretched of the earth and as little contact with them as possible. This month, UCSC and the Resource Center for Nonviolence (RCNV) hosted a talk by shylock-hustler buster and avowed Hizbollah supporter Norman Finkelstein. What could possibly be more important for Santa Cruzans than doing our part to soothe tensions in the Holy Land by speaking "truth" to Israeli power?

Where to begin? Median home price in Santa Cruz is over a half-million dollars while annual per capita income is about $25,000. Over 50 percent of households are renter-occupied and many longterm residents can't afford to hold a fixed stake in the community. Our city fatherpersons are smug, patronizing instructors paying lip service to inclusiveness while imposing themselves on all who don't fit their vision of New Athens. "First, they came for the homeless" with a plethora of selectively enforceable ordinances regulating sitting, standing, smoking and sleeping. Next they came for the thrifty, banning plastic grocery bags despite their practicality (free saran-wrap, garbage liners). I guess proponents of the ban have money for their own costly, disposable plastic products but are thoughtful enough to legislate values to others. At least suffocation no longer requires plastic—each year the electorate is composed of more UC students whose capricious votes outweigh the rest of us, bolstering city cooperation with the very bureaucracy that punks them with fee hikes and guts the Humanities Department, mocking their futile protests. At least we're still on the cutting edge of young, righteous subversion—right?

It's a dull blade: as a recent article in Time Out New York puts it, "What distinguishes the zombie hipsters at-large today from the 'white Negroes' Norman Mailer described in the 1950s is a lack of menace. September 11 left hordes of twentysomethings whispering, 'We would be safe.'" So what remains from the salad days of dissent?

Two weeks ago, RCNV's Scott Kennedy penned a column for the Bullhorn titled "Finkelstein Returns." In the first paragraph, he acknowledges that Finkelstein is abrasive and offensive to Jews. In the very next paragraph, he rehashes post-9/11 Muslim-baiting as if to rationalize abrasive Jew-baiting. Token Israeli participation in RCNV events aside, their track record is solidly anti-Zionist and Dr. Finkelstein's work, while not entirely without merit, tends to be deeply offensive to his fellow Jews, the majority of whom who support Zionism while debating its aims, results and future. Despite Kennedy's high claims for RCNV's even-handedness, his actions only serve to disenfranchise such Jews from public discourse in Santa Cruz so that he can re-educate those who are intrigued by this issue but have little prior familiarity with it and RCNV's bias. Such glib, incessant focus on Israel only keeps us away from the mirror: under Obama, the PATRIOT Act is being renewed and posse comitatus remains dead and buried (meaning: more paramilitary and undercover cops). In fact, most Bush-era policies are continuing right on schedule. We have plenty on our plate without RCNV packaging dark insinuations of perfidious Zionist (Jewish) influence in the language of peace and justice, for in a town geared toward rich know-it-alls there can be little solidarity—just easy, trendy outlets for impotent indignation. You might call it: stuff white people like.

Aaron Cress, a standup comedian, served in the Israeli army.

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