I’m watching Harvard Law’s Randall Kennedy discussing his new book “Sellout.” He describes the epithet as an intellectually dishonest rhetorical move in which one’s foe is stripped of all status and whose arguments no longer need be considered. Contra his colleague Stephen Carter, Kennedy affirms the necessity of the category of sellout. The crime of traitor was written into the Constitution, Kennedy mentions, and every group will struggle to define the boundaries and goals of membership. However, Kennedy states that he cannot label any current prominent African American as such. In his speech he doesn’t give examples of whom he would identify.

This reminds me of last year’s explosive Rosenfeld report “Progressive” Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism (published by the American Jewish Committee) that categorized a number of Jewish critics of Israeli policy as anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic. Is this report simply an elaborate smear to delegitimate foes? Or is there a real fear of sellouts in Jewish communal affairs?


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