Some thoughts, after the fact, about Jewish Fashion Week
1. I think mod-e-boteh meant well. This doesn’t mean they were in any way qualified to try to do what they were doing, or that they responded in any way well once they were called out over the anti-Semitic qualities the whole thing began to take on, but I don’t think they had any malign intent.
2. I’m not so sure about the anonymous asker who started the whole wretched mess that followed. What I do know is that both that anonymous person and mod-eh-boteh fell effortlessly into a particular pattern of anti-Semitic behavior that’s pretty common to this website in general, and a lot of progressive circles outside of it. They both prioritized what they saw as the urgency of clarifying their political attitude toward the state of Israel over any concern for Jewish culture or Jewish survival.
3. Which is a little more of an issue when you’re hosting a whole week of posts about Jewish culture.
4. Mod-e-boteh’s attempts to clarify what they meant didn’t go well. They made it clear they would not ‘tolerate’ magen david kaffiyehs (designed by an American Jew, and I’ve never seen an Israeli in one) or appropriation of Palestinian clothing (I’m still recovering from the confident assertion that went round Tumblr that A-WA’s Balochi dresses were just that). The fact that this, rather than a Moroccan Israeli bride’s dress, or an Israeli Chasid’s bekishe, or an Ethiopian Israeli fashion designer’s use of traditional embroidery patterns was what mod-e-boteh assumed Israeli folk fashion must look like speaks volumes.
5. When it was pointed out that there are many Jewish cultures that now mostly survive through Israeli descendants, they didn’t deal with that really well.
6. They clarified that they were focusing on ‘the diaspora’—and they did—to the extent that a huge percentage of what was posted was vintage photographs from decimated or destroyed Jewish communities.
7. Also, Hedy Lamarr.
8. Look, your guess is as good as mine.
9. Also they blocked me. And a lot of other people.
10. The thing about ‘Palestinian Jews’ was particularly choice. I’m not going to get into the various odd ways this term is used by people who don’t seem to understand what they mean by it. I just appreciated the way a Jew in Jerusalem was legitimate to be shown in his Shabbat clothes right up to May 14, 1948, but no later. As long as his potential agency in the creation of Israel is carefully ignored.
11. Look, this is what happens when Israel is attributed this kind of hyperbolic evil and importance by so many people. Dealing with Jewish realities, and Jewish history becomes potentially offensive. It’s easier, and safer to glorify the pretty folkways of dead Jews than to grapple with the living ones. It’s easier to post photographs of the hundred Jews remaining in Yemen than to deal with the fact that nearly all Yemeni Jews these days are Israelis.
12. There was no particular reason for this to be political. I wouldn’t expect a series of posts about Chinese fashion to carefully delineate the blogger’s exact stance on China’s occupation of Tibet, treatment of religious and ethnic minorities within China, massive overuse of the death penalty, imperialist meddling in Africa…and neither would anyone else. Because it would be understood that this was about culture, and about Chinese people, not a glorification of China’s political existence.
13. This distinction is explicitly made impossible when speaking of Israel and of Jews. The only way to handle it is to vanish, or euphemize, forty percent of the world’s Jews.