Mostly about antisemitism, other racisms, Buddhism, and perhaps sometimes football. When I was in high school, I found that Ignatius literally meant "not ignoble," and it struck me just how pompous such a double negative can be. I'd rather remind myself that I, unlike the popes, am fallible. Even when I'm wearing my pope-hat. Yes, I have a pope-hat.
When invective like that is directed at people who are mostly Jewish, because they support Israel (which they do largely because they are Jewish and understand Israel as important to securing their own rights in the world), it hardly matters that the term used is "Jew Faggot." Could be "Zionist scum" or whatever - it's antisemitism.
Also, note at the end of the post:
This tells me that Jews cannot rely on the Gentile world for safety and justice - there just aren't very many people who give a damn about the Jews. But you already knew that, didn't you?
The debate between supporters and critics of Israel is typically couched in the same grammar: Either the Jewish state is acting defensibly, in its own self-interest, or it is not. Thus Tom Segev writes in Ha’aretz that while the latest assault on Hamas military and political infrastructure is morally justified, it represents a strategic blunder. A major fallacy ensues from this one-sided premise, which is that Israel is the sole stimulus for Hamas response, and therefore it alone bears the responsibility for the undeniable misery in Gaza.
I admit to using this grammar, though I will not admit to laying responsibility entirely with Israel. I think I use that grammar because I identify with Israel, and I'm talking about the choices I would make were I more than merely identified with them. (But I hadn't noticed that.)
But even if this is the reason, not because we infantalize the Palestinians to render them incapable of moral action or because we internalize a myth of superordinate Jewish power (both mistakes, however, seem common), are we focusing on Jews in a strange way? Recently, Deborah Lipstadt wrote:
I must admit when people first began to try to recover their property, bank accounts, and artwork I was a bit discomforted. It was wrong of me to feel that way but I admit to it. As all the attention was focused on material goods it seemed that the tragic loss of life was being overshadowed by the loss of property.
[On some level I had internalized antisemitic charges and was responding to that. But more of that on another occasion.]
One day -- I don't remember what brought about the change -- I recognized I was dead wrong.
Heck, this belonged to those families, why shouldn't they get it back? There's nothing wrong and everything right with their saying: this is mine. It was stolen from me and I want it.
The idea of Zionism was to make Jews normal. Normal people make tragic mistakes, driven by circumstances sometimes partially in their control.
But, also, an interesting nugget from the post that was news to me (despite being, apparently, much remarked-upon):
A much remarked-upon fact of the last 72 hours is that Israel’s ultra-left-wing party Meretz has endorsed Operation Cast Lead, a development that should concern partisans of both sides.
In the mid-'60s, critic Judith Crist quipped, "[A] screenwriter, with a revolutionary glint in his eye was telling me the other day he's going all-the-way original; he's writing a World War II movie with bad Nazis."
Really, there aren't that many Holocaust movies, when you consider how big an event it was in world history and how many people it touched. This year, however, there are a bunch out for the holidays. (Valkyrie came out Christmas day.) But perhaps people are starting to notice how absurd these films tend to be. (Via)
Freedman moved to Israel to join the Israeli left, so that that his criticism of Israel could be more effective, in the form of a vote. Though I believe he remains a committed Zionist, his criticism has generally been severe and often crossed some lines for me. He writes at Comment is Free:
For all that I regularly sound off about almost every facet of the Israeli occupation and the government's policies towards the Palestinians, I struggle to see what option Israel's leaders had, other than to take the kind of action that they took this weekend.
Of course I also fail to really see what lasting good this option promises -NPR is now reporting Israeli officials saying they've cut Hamas's ability to launch attacks by 50%, but I wonder how long it will take Hamas to rebuild that capacity- but Freedman is right.
Also, evidence has been mounting that the casualties in Gaza have been almost entirely, somewhere around 80%, members of Hamas's military wing. I've heard similar numbers from several sources now. I doubt any army has ever been that good at preventing civilian deaths, and I doubt such a ratio could easily fail a test of proportionality. There will be further stages of the invasion. I hope they will continue to avoid civilian deaths.
A Hamas spokesman appearing on the BBC on the first day of the offensive explained that the Palestinian people had the right to defend itself, having lived under occupation these past sixty years. Let’s ignore for the moment the fact that Israel withdrew all its settlements and all its soldiers from Gaza in 2005. Though you really have to ignore that to understand how the Gazans have been struggling against “occupation”. Instead, let’s focus on how long the occupation has been going on. From June 1967 until today, the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, plus residents of the Golan Heights and earlier on, Sinai, lived under Israeli occupation.
But that’s forty-one years. Not sixty years. Sixty years means that the “occupation” refers to the existence of Israel itself. Even under ferocious aerial bombardment, the Hamas regime tottering, its leaders still think that the very existence of Israel is the problem.
But the better bit is this:
Soon they will run out of the well-worn analogies to Hitler, and then what? Will someone compare what Israel is doing to other mass slaughters?
Let’s see – an effective one might be to compare it to that much larger massacre of Muslims, the one that took place back in 1982. Ten thousand dead, maybe double that number.
I’m referring to Hafez al-Assad’s slaughter of his Muslim Brotherhood opponents in Hama. You will be forgiven if you thought I was referring to something Israel did in Lebanon.
No, the Left will probably not use Hama in its slogans. It would cause confusion to carry banners reading “No More Hamas!” That might be misunderstood.
Gershom Gorenberg writes about tragedy. Along with some necessary criticism of Israel, I appreciate the inclusion of this paragraph:
Outside of the hammer, actually, Hamas did have some delicate tools in its tool chest. It could, for instance, have proposed indirect negotiations aimed at a two-state solution.That would have caught Israel’s leaders totally off guard, and undermined the political rationale for the siege. I guess that no one in the Gaza leadership considered this for 10 seconds.
Israel claimed that Hamas wasn’t keeping the agreement. That was true.
It's nice to see somebody who isn't a right-wing Zionist acknowledging that. Hamas didn't stop mortar fire. They didn't (as would be the responsibility of any government claiming legitimacy) stop others from sending rockets. Yet he still frames this within a larger narrative of rising burn injuries during the siege, which I find touching.
In the UK, the editorialists at the Independent wonder whether "counterproductive" rather than "disproportionate" is the better term to deploy in considering, say, a possible ground assault on Gaza: "There are, in any case, problems with the notion of proportionality in situations such as these. No state can be expected to tolerate rockets being launched at its civilians."
Something about proportionality, is that, while it's absolutely central to just war theory, it's ridiculously vague. Ten billion to one is a proportion. So is one tablespoon [butter] to one tablespoon [flour].
Pacifism might be a reasonable alternative. Personally, while I believe in peacefulness and even a radical peacefulness, I'm not a pacifist. But, also, when I look around at the people talking about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, I see far too few serious pacifists. So I'll only deal with just war theory here.
What is really meant by proportionality is "in reasonable proportion" What is meant by reasonable is often put off for later discussion. Surely, the word proportional has always implied something different from symmetrical or equal. Though those would qualify as types of proportionality, there's a reason people don't use those terms. There is no rule in just war theory that all violence must intend to result in a draw. So what defines reasonableness? Reasonable to accomplish a desirable end, I would argue. Reasonable to prevent future attacks. In the short term, medium term, or long term? What if efficacy is measured differently on different timescales? The question always leads to more unanswerable questions.
There is a lot of confusion being put about by those who hate Israel with regard to the question of proportionality. These people make reference to just war theory, of which they have not the slightest understanding. According to some formulations of this theory, military action does indeed have to be proportionate, proportionate to military or political objectives.
There are times when even the most moderate of voices has to take sides. This is not one of those times. It's amazing just how many bloggers I respect have pissed me off today. And some people I don't know have pissed me off more than that.
Someone I don't know, somewhere I won't say, writes:
The family memories of the Holocaust (and the pogroms before that) pain me greatly.
Bull-fucking-shit. These things fucking don't pain you in the least except that it's incovenient for your Jews-are-evil stories. Otherwise, you wouldn't be retelling the same fucked up propaganda about scheming Jews who manipulated history. "Infiltration operations"? WTF?!
The world, since organizing itself into nation states, still fucking can't find a way to make space for Jews. If assimilation or multiculturalism ever had a chance, that ended when political power was tied to nation-states. So take your "one-state solution" back to Hitler-just-went-too-far-land.
Somewhere else, someone I usually agree with writes:
[Israel] should also strive to kill as many political and military leaders as it can.
I doubt -I hope- in a different state of mind he'd include that word "political." Frankly, I'm not in favor of any call for killing "as many" anything. But more than that, though politicians are tied into military decisions, if people aren't military targets they just aren't military targets.
And someone else, I can't repeat what was said too closely because that person will probably read this. But it's right up there with "Those Shylock Jews are all racists." How can you claim to be for inclusive politics when the title of your post is (paraphrased) "They're just not like me." How can you repeat that Christian slur of vengeful Jews, when you know that's a Christian interpretation of Judaism.
This is not a time for taking sides. This is a time for profound humility, for admitting that we can't solve this ourselves. There's no way in hell I can support the Israeli attack on Gaza. What can it possibly accomplish? But I can't bring myself to condemn Israel more strongly than that. There are a million asymmetries here. One is that Israel is more powerful and bears a greater burden of restraint.
But another is that Israel does a far better job of living up to that burden. It doesn't work here to say you're against the rockets coming from Gaza only when someone accuses you of being one-sided. Sorry, that's not remotely a pro-peace position.
And if you think this is a simple story of oppressors and oppressed, you haven't been paying attention.
A curious article at HNN. I suppose this is just one of many ways to misuse history, but the gratuitous swipes at Arafat are enjoyable.
There is no indication that Arafat actually knew the term “Canaan” had been archaeologically verified but apparently in this instance, unlike with the Solomonic Temple, Arafat was willing to accept the biblical account as accurate.
Lately, I've been thinking about camp as a subversive strategy employed by Jews and how this might have figured into Borscht Belt and more recent Jewish comedy. When it comes to Queer Theory, people are very receptive to the idea of camp as subversive, but I don't think anyone has even considered Jewish camp -- though there's tons of it. (I guess this goes back to 'how queer are Jews?') So that was on my mind as I was watching Sarah Silverman's Jesus is Magic while the Korean side of my family (to be) was deciding what Chinese food to order for Christmas. So naturally I googled "Sarah Silverman Joan Rivers." This is perfect:
And there, in a gloriously vulgar nutshell, is Rivers’ stage persona—which she has perfected in recent years, not as a big-wheel celebrity, but rather as a stand-up comedian, improbably reborn, playing to a strange New York cult of Jews and queens. She is dirty, greedy, tacky and acerbic, uttering words and beliefs that we are instructed to abandon long before old age. Most extraordinary is Rivers’ knee-jerk nihilism—her eagerness to pull down her daughter’s pants for money and a laugh. And does anything else in life matter? To Joan, the cartoon embodiment of yenta callousness, the answer is a defiant no. The only question is which reward she values more.
I really couldn't ask for better than "a cult of Jews and queens" to prod me further. Though there's a lot to plumb in that article, there's also something worth highlighting about comedy as comedians see it, worth considering when it comes to Silverman. There's plenty of criticism of this view, much of it cogent, but it is the view I expect most comedians have of their art.
The comic’s Manhattan performances deviate from her road act, which is geared toward larger audiences and is thus more structured. “They’re paying more, and it’s a concert thing,” Rivers says, “so I give them easier stuff. They don’t have to decide, ‘Can I laugh at this?’ Whereas at the Cutting Room, it’s all about making decisions.”
For the comedian, and this is probably true of camp as well (though I can't say I'm terribly familiar with Camp Theory or even fond of most camp), the audience is an active participant, deciding what their values are as they decide what to laugh at. In this way, our unspoken assumptions become apparent and can be critiqued in a way that's not possible otherwise. For the Jewish comedian, the use of Yiddish archetypes like the Yenta or the schlemiel and schlimazl at the center of Seinfeld, serve particularly to ground and invite that criticism.
If you haven't heard Diwon's The Beat Guide to Yiddish mixtape, download it for free! It's as disjointed as any Jewish identity -pomo collage the way it's supposed to be- perfect for a Yiddish EP by a guy who markets himself as "That Yemenite kid."
Went to my local, lefty bookstore yesterday. Mostly I was looking for something on camp. Shockingly, since the bookstore specializes in Feminism and Queer studies, there wasn't anything in particular. But I also have other interests...
In the section on Israel/Palestine -there's an entire shelf devoted to the Zapatistas, so it isn't the only shelf so specific- there was Alexander Cockburn, Norman Finkelstein, Michael Neumann, and on and on. No Gilad Atzmon or Israel Shamir, but there's no lack of antisemitism. There was this, which I very nearly bought, and other books that looked to be quite sane. I didn't see Gershom Gorenberg's Accidental Empire, but I'd seen it before in that store.
In the section on race and racism, the only book related to antisemitism was that pamphlet by Jewish Voice for Peace. Based just on the pamphlet itself, it strikes me as far too tepid to be of any use; but looking at JVP's website Muzzlewatch, it may be far worse than that. In actual implementation, JVP's stance not only lacks any conviction that antisemitism is a serious problem, but attacks those who would fight antisemitism. To argue against antisemitism is reframed as muzzling Israel's critics. I find the rationale, in opposition to the advice offered by oppression theories, to be indistinguishable from far right claims of Jewish hypnorays invading white homes through the Jewish media.
If someone entered the bookstore looking for information on antisemitism, they'd probably walk away thinking that anti-antisemitism is a right-wing politics. However, since I was primarily looking for something else, I stumbled upon Not Your Father's Antisemitism. Under the broadly labeled section on "Cultural Studies." I don't know why it was there (although a pencil marking inside the cover shows this was intentional). Nice of them to carry it, I suppose, but is it really asking so much to put it in a section that makes sense? Jews aren't specifically a race and antisemitism isn't always racial, so maybe not under "race and racism." And antisemitism is certainly an important piece but certainly not the same as the Israel/Palestine conflict. But are Jews so queer that we can't even find a place to shelve books on antisemitism where someone could find them? Are we that hard to classify?
For those with modest knowledge, I'd recommend this radio program, which plays every year on WNYC. It's about an hour.
Along the way, it discusses how the meaning of Hanukkah has changed over the years. Though I'm no religious scholar, this is something quite beautiful that seems unique to Judaism. Jewish ritual often seems to record such changes in meaning, self-conscious of itself as an interpretive system.
the core of his work, the artist has said, is always the same theme -- how children get through the day, how they cope with emotional isolation. Sendak's work is characterized by a constant push and pull between horror and beauty, and marked by his ever-present urge to find a way to deal with the Holocaust, to acknowledge those "wild things" which, ultimately, remain untamed
One of those minor questions that bugs you for years until finally you look it up: Was the Kinks' "Sunny Afternoon" a response to the Beatles' "Taxman"? No, apparently not. The Kinks' track was released as a single on Jun 3rd, 1966. "Taxman" wasn't released as a single, so it didn't come out until a month later, with the Aug 5 release of Revolver. Awful close, but it seems more likely that there was something in the air. In my search, however, I've discovered that one reviewer is an idiot:
While ”Sunny Afternoon” appeared a breezy tune on the surface, it belied a scathing indictment of a brutal tax system that in itself would become a favorite preoccupation of English musicians, such as George Harrison’s ”Taxman” of the same period and would help drive The Rolling Stones into tax exile a few years later. To a sarcastically fluffy acoustic guitar and a lazily descending riff Davies defiantly kicks back to enjoy the fine summer weather while his fortune crumbles around him...
It's an elementary mistake to confuse the speaker of a song or poem for the author. "Sunny Afternoon" is a breezy tune on the surface that contains a scathing indictment... of wealthy people like George Harrison who would complain that their taxes were oppressive.
If we build on Marx's perception, in his essay "On the Jewish Question," that the supposedly secular State in Christian society is deeply Christian, we can begin to understand what Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz has dubbed "Christianism." .... Kaye/Kantrowitz says "In the U.S., Christian, like white, is an unmarked category in need of marking. Christianness, a majority, dominant culture, is not only about religious practice and belief, any more than Jewishness is. As racism names the system that normalizes, honors and rewards whiteness, we need a word for what normalizes, honors and rewards Christianity," an invisible, taken-for-granted system of domination that affects Muslims and other non-Christians as well as Jews (and, one might add, atheists and other secular people regardless of origin).
This is where most non-Zionist anti-antisemitism today seems to get bogged down, though. They can't actually acknowledge the degree to which Jews are sidelined by the dominant culture, because, it seems to me, they can't understand how some Jews, Jews for whom Jewishness apart from Judaism is an important part of our identity, relate to a secular Christianist society.
Sometimes in discussions with Jews who are less solidly pro-Israel (but neither completely stupid about antisemitism nor uninterested in a Jewish identity), I find they emphasize a view that Jewishness is "a lot more than Israel." This is, of course, true; but it's typically a non-sequitor, as it doesn't address anything in particular about Israel or Zionism, the topics at hand when such pronouncements are made. Such Jews only ever seem to me to emphasize religious aspects, failing to really articulate anything about what Jewishness is apart from Judaism. It's as if all secularism were equivalent, and secular Jews were merely transitioning from Jewish to secular. In doing so they minimize my Jewishness, othering Jews like me. My identity, then, isn't complicated and intersectional, but interstitial and queer. Jewishness is not only about religious practice and belief, any more than Christianness is.
There are basically two approaches to choose from within American culture: multiculturalism or assimilation. For Jews, we've failed miserably at both. Assimilation (public secularism, though not as radical as in France) has meant denying Jewishness and closeting ourselves. Thanks to Julie for the following video. As is written at Heeb
The effect of the clip strangely exposes the rhythms and timing of Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld’s writing as straight-up Jewish humor.
But people other than Jews often don't realize quite how Jewish Seinfeld can be (as many straight people never realized how gay Hollywood could be).
Multicultural approaches to Judaism amount to pushing Hannukah albums. Yeah, I'm sure I'm going to buy Songs in the Key of Hanukkah. Y-Love, Yasmin Levy, Idan Raichel, produced by Erran Baron Cohen. Sounds pretty awesome as a album.
And perhaps an important response to this, sad but true, feeling:
But, even though Hannukah isn't that important in Judaism, it was the only Jewish holiday I grew up with any knowledge of. It's the only Jewish holiday most Americans have any idea of. Perhaps the only one they've heard of. Pushing Hannukah albums inflates the importance of the holiday because of a coincidence of calendars. It's entirely about being embedded in a Christianist society.
A YNet article provides a good example for explaining Richard Silverstein's dilemma, in which he finds himself challenged by the task of recognizing antisemites, even when they murder Jews.
Mashaei, currently in Mecca for the hajj pilgrimage, met with Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir and told him, "The corrupt and criminal Zionist regime is harming not only the Arab and Islamic world, but humanity in its entirety."
Mashaei, currently cultural heritage and tourism organization chief of Iran, caused a commotion recently when he said during a tourism convention that "no nation in the world is our enemy. Iran is currently a friend of the people of the US and Israel."
Some people, including Rahim Mashaei, I'm sure, will read a passage like this and argue that there's no antisemitism. A friend even of the people of Israel! But anyone who says any such thing is ignorant of the tropes and history of antisemitism. This year-old article by Jeffrey Goldberg (via; though I have to say I'm perplexed that the current bug up his ass is protecting Christians from the War Against Christmas) addresses the same sort of ignorance from Mearsheimer and Walt:
A Judeocentric view of history is one that regards the Jews as the center of the story, and therefore the key to it. Judeocentrism is a singlecause theory of history, and as such it is, almost by definition, a conspiracy theory. Moreover, Judeocentrism comes in positive forms and negative forms. The positive form of Judeocentrism is philo-Semitism, the negative form is antiSemitism. (There are philo-Semites who regard the Jews as the inventors of modernity, and there are anti-Semites who do the same; but the idea that Spinoza, Freud, and Einstein are responsible for us is as foolish as the idea that their ideas are judische Wissenschaft.) In both its positive and negative forms, Judeocentrism is always a mistake. Human events are not so neatly explained.
In the inflamed universe of negative Judeocentrism, there is a sliding scale of obsession. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, seems at times to view the world entirely through the prism of a Jewish conspiracy, and he regularly breaks new ground in the field of state-supported Holocaust denial. In Cairo, the activities of Jews, Israeli and otherwise, are a continual source of worry. Many of the monarchs in the Gulf countries, by contrast, will sometimes exploit anti-Jewish feeling for political reasons, but they do not seem to be personally obsessed by Jews. They are too worldly for that. In Europe, too, one finds great variations in the expression of Judeocentrism. There are still traces of Holocaust-induced philo-Semitism in places like Germany; but there are also figures such as Clare Short, the former British cabinet minister, who recently blamed Israel for global warming.
Yes, if you blame Israel or Zionism for global warming, that's definitely antisemitism! Regardless of subtle distinctions or carefully chosen terms (I'm reminded of why Chris Rock stopped doing that bit when he heard white people citing it) this is exactly a judeocentric explanation. Understanding this, we can see quite clearly that Mashaei holds precisely to an absolutely typical antisemitic world-view, despite his imagining that he can distinguish between Jews and Zionists. Such a distinction is no better than Wilhelm Marr's imagining that he could distinguish between Jews and 'Semites,' when he proudly declared himself one of the very first antisemites. For anyone not familiar with the history that preceded the Holocaust, Judenhass (German for "Jew-hatred") was widely discredited, but a superficial choice of words rehabilitated it.
But the biggest problem with Silverstein isn't that he's wrong. It's that he imagines his role here to be explaining antisemitism to Jews - as if we haven't the ability to understand it.
In fact, some of them can scarcely bring themselves to put a Jewish character on the screen. Valkyrie, for example, is based on the true story of Colonel von Stauffenberg and the plot to assassinate Hitler, which means the exciting foreground of the movie can be filled with German staff officers, while the victims of genocide linger in the rear as a kind of atmospheric effect. This is convenient for the director, Bryan Singer, whose 1998 Apt Pupil delved into the awful fascination that Nazism exerts on young minds, the better to fascinate an audience with the exact same thrills. I predict Valkyrie will offer you even spiffier uniforms, louder commands, bigger guns, and (with the presence of Black Book’s Carice van Houten) maybe a little sex. The action should be everything you’d want from the maker of X-Men.
So, like Sophie's Choice and Schindler's List. Of course, Anne Frank was about a Jew, but deracinated and distant from the genocide -conveniently for a Hollywood insistent on happy endings- during the writing of the Diary.
From The Holocaust in American Film by Judith E. Doneson:
Now, Meyer Levin's major complaint about the play throuout the years had been that it ignored the Jewish content of Anne's book, a very apparent Jewishness, as in this passage:
Who has inflicted this upon up? Who has made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now? It is God that has made us as we are, but it will be God, too, who will raise us up again. If we bear all this suffering and if there are still Jews left, when it is over, then Jews, instead of being doomed, will be held up as an example. Who knows, it might even be our religion from which the world and all people learn good, and for that reason only do we have to suffer now.
Levin quite rightly viewed this as a central idea of the Diary. And his anger was justified when in the final version of the play, Anne's words had been changed to read: "We're not the only people that've had to suffer There've always been people that've had to...Sometimes one race...Sometimes another...and yet..."
I doubt antisemitism has ever been as simple as a dominant view of Jews as subhuman. Certainly, it hasn't been that simple for a long time. Even in pre-Nazi Germany, the dominant view was intolerant of Jew-hatred. But anti-antisemitism has always been blunted, so that Jew-hatred was able to reinvent itself as antisemitism. So it's important to me to ask -though I know there are many stories to tell about WWII besides the Jewish one- how the hell can we talk about antisemitism while we keep backgrounding Jews in the retelling of the Shoah? Or giving Oscars to Roberto Benigni.
I'm sure it's just coincidence that these films are out for Oscar season, which happens to concur with the annual aural assault of Christian dominance. But looking at that poster, above, I'm not sure I could really tell Life is Beautiful from Home Alone at the video store.