Friday, April 10, 2009

On Yaacov Lozowick on Paula Fredriksen

Lozowick quotes a small part of Fredriksen that's really illuminating. It's a short post, but I'll shorten the quote so you have some impetus to go there:
Further, all Jewish texts, beginning with Genesis, include warts-and-all presentations of some of their Jewish characters. In this sense, the gospels [if understood as Jewish sectarianism - ME] are no more intrinsically "anti-Jewish" than is the Bible itself. But again like the Bible itself, the gospels, once they drifted out of their communities of origin into a wider gentile world, were read as a standing indictment and perpetual condemnation of Jews and Judaism as such, rather than as a narrative exhortation to change from the wrong kind of Judaism to the right kind of Judaism (that is, to the author's kind of Judaism). Jewish sectarian rhetoric, shorn of its native context, eventually becomes anti-Jewish rhetoric.
And Lozowick responds (in part):
I think you can reasonably say that's a constant dynamic of Jew-hatred from the 2nd century until the Danny Zamir episode of last month, and it's not going to change anytime soon. Jews argue among themselves loudly and stridently, while their haters listen in, indifferent to any context, and choose the choicest quotations with which to damn the Jews.
I'll add in the obvious: that a lot of anti-Zionist discourse is far more blatant than the Zamir matter (which includes a lot of necessary criticism of the Gaza war with a lot of support among Jews in and outside Israel). A lot of it involves promoting Jews who are completely marginal in the Jewish community to become the face of the anti-Zionist movement.

Try to find a set pictures of an anti-Israel rally from New York or San Francisco or London at Indymedia that doesn't prominently feature pictures of Natura Karta. (I haven't checked, but I think anyone looking would get my point.) For anyone who doesn't know, they're basically fundamentalists who see the Holocaust as God's punishment for the sins of Jews disagreeing with their extremist views on religion. They're perfectly willing to commit genocide to bring about the state of Israel - they just don't think I am moral enough to do it yet.

They're somewhat larger, at maybe 5,000 members, but they're pretty much the Westboro Baptist Church of the Jewish community. Despite their having attended Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust Denial conference, I wouldn't say NK are antisemitic -- any more than Fred Phelps is anti-Christian. Hateful and despicable, but just not in quite that way.

On the other hand, a gentile who repeated NK's line that the Holocaust was God's punishment for my sins... That person's definitely an antisemite. When a gentile uses that line, the context is stripped, and the same line becomes blatantly antisemitic. Yet anti-Zionists constantly imply NK's line by saying, "It's not antisemitic if I'm quoting a Jew," as they put up pictures of NK protesters on Indymedia. I've even had gentiles suggest that they're better Jews than I am (because they wear funny hats and look exotic).

But let's leave that aside for the moment. Let's drop the fact that a lot of anti-Zionist rhetoric (not all, but plenty) includes classically antisemitic tropes like the charge of a Jewish conspiracy. Let's ignore for a moment the question of whether the the watered-down conspiracy theory of the Israel Lobby is antisemitic. There's still something that ought to be troubling about gentiles promoting marginal Jewish voices. That in and of itself is an act of asserting power over Jews, declaring which Jewish voices are valid and acceptable -- backed, of course, by a long history of violence to secure that power.

Usually there's either (1) an assertion that "anti-Zionism is not antisemitism" that blows over the fact that some of it is blatantly so or (2) a focus on the specific rhetoric that might include classically antisemitic tropes like that of Jewish conspiracy. But the mode of discourse is also meaningful - it has to take Jews more seriously.

And I gotta get me that Fredriksen book.


Rebecca said...

Another person marginal to the Jewish community who has been promoted in this way is Marc Ellis - basically supported by left-wing Catholics like Rosemary Reuther (who seems to have forgotten everything she ever knew about Christian anti-Judaism when she discovered a victim she liked better - the Palestinians). He's been published by Orbis Press but not by any Jewish publishers. I confronted him once many years ago at a religion conference and asked him what Jewish community his theology was coming out of. He couldn't answer me.

Matt said...

People have the right to marginal views. Some of those views might be pretty nasty - but it's the promotion from outside the Jewish community that's the issue. I guess this is what some Jews see as "stifling," but what should more properly be seen as disinterest.

I didn't realize Ellis had been published mainly by a Catholic press?