Category Archives: Yiddishkeit

Crypto-fascist, Crypto-Jew Pt. 1

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Bro I wish

I.

When I was eighteen, I beat up a white power skinhead. My late-adolescent self-seeking had taken a schlocky, Daniel Deronda kind of turn, so any opportunity to defend Jewish honor I felt I had to take, no matter how contrived. I guess I fancied myself a little like the Jewboy in Porky’s. 

Anyway, as I was standing with a gaggle of crust punks one weekday afternoon on a downtown corner across from the bus station, a sinewy little guy with a shorn pate and narrow mustache strolled up in boots, braces, beater and bomber, drew one of my punker compadres aside and transacted a drug deal inconspicuously. Then he started back on his way—that is, until I shoved him, hard, from behind. On that day I decided I would simply refuse to accept that neo-Nazis should make themselves visible.

He turned around to face me, breathing through his open mouth, his incisors streaked a scummy, bacterial yellow. He had grimy pores and crusted-over scabs, his fingers were nicotine stained and filthy under the nails. There were little SS lighting bolt runes tattooed on one side of his neck, an iron cross on the other.

I stepped forward and poked him in the chest. Fear flashed momentarily across his eyes but he steadied his gaze, grinning as he reached into his beater and flipped out a brass swastika on a long, thin chain around his neck. That was when I hauled off.

I managed to land a solid several thumps upside his noggin as he flailed, until suddenly he surged into me at chest level, Hail Mary-like—head down, forearms up blocking. He managed to back me up a few steps, grabbing me by the shirt collar as he poked his little radish head up to bite me, square on the nose. The shock of this lent him the further momentum to bare down and take me tumbling to the pavement, back first. I almost rolled him but he bore down hard again, straddling my chest as he tried to strangle me. He overplayed his hand, though: as he wound back to clock me point blank, I availed myself of the empty space between my sternum and his groin, gripped him square in the nether region with one hand and up under an armpit with the other, then pulled him sideways into my chest and flipped him square on his back.

I mounted, I grounded, I pounded. Quite often the toughness of recidivist scumbags has more to do with the capacity to absorb a beating than to mete one out. He struggled, quivering with desperate futility, like a live fish held down for gutting.

Then suddenly I heard a crisp “snap!” I thought the sound was his nose breaking, which it was. Although I didn’t feel the pain immediately, it would also turn out to be the distal metacarpals on my mean right shattering in several places each. The pain settled in a second later, as I looked down and noticed that my opponent, though conscious, had given up, and was bleeding profusely from his nose and mouth.

Just then, someone yelled “cops!”

I looked up to see two peace officers, a man and a woman, sprinting towards us down the sidewalk some fifty yards off. I hopped up, bolted and rounded the nearest corner. Within two blocks I’d completely lost my pursuers and cut through the parking lot of a gated condo complex to a corner hamburger shack on the other side that had a pay phone booth in its back parking lot, out of view of the street. My dad was just getting off work and I called him for a ride.

II.

Awhile after that, once my broken hand had mended, I saw a member of the same local clique of white power skinheads strolling past me on the same downtown block. He was wearing a trucker hat on which he’d stenciled an iconic punk-rock anti-fascist symbol….

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Only $12.99 on Angry, Young & Poor LMFAO

….only in his rendition, the stick figure was trashing a Star of David, not a swastika. I was so shocked by this meager display of literacy that I doubted what I had seen until he was well out of sight, but twenty minutes later he came back in the opposite direction with a slice of pizza in one hand.

As he passed by I snorted, ‘Nice hat.’ He turned to see who’d paid him the compliment and I mean-mugged him like I intended to do him harm. He froze, gazing back indecisively, whereupon I decked him in the face with my skateboard, an act I hadn’t planned nor even anticipated from myself. His pizza slice went flying as he dropped, hard, straight back. As soon as he hit the pavement he began seizing violently. I found out later that I had actually cracked his eye socket.

If you go out of your way to seriously insult strangers, you should probably be better prepared for a backlash than this guy was. But then, if you set out to harm everyone who says stuff you don’t like, you’d better know your limits a little better than I knew mine. I’d been reading a lot about the Irgun and Murder, Inc., but imitating them didn’t feel so good. I had beaten people with fists before, but this was the first time I used a weapon. In an instant I had become a more brutal creature than I realized I was, or ever had been. Frozen in shock, staring down at my victim, I experienced the disembodying sensation of a strong compassionate impulse concurrent with the realization that I had now forfeited my right to feel it. When I reemerged into linear time I heard shouting, and glanced up just soon enough to outrun bus station security.

I was less than six months out of high school then, and while I was heavily into pot and earning C grades at the local community college on my Jew-doctor daddy’s dime, my best friend Max (a goy, if you must know, and a profoundly goyische one, at that) was getting heavily into meth. He used to flop at a mutual friend’s apartment, where a female roommate was dating one of the skinheads, who also happened to be meth retailers. They would party there too, and crash on weekend nights. Word got back to me from Max that the White Power crew was looking for me and that their leader, a hardened ex-con by the nom de guerre of ‘Panther,’ had vowed to handle me personally. I didn’t know what Panther looked like, but he sounded fearsome.

III.

At that time I was also running a moderately lucrative sideline in pot (re-upping weekly by the quarter-pound), and one of my occasional customers was a six-and-a-half foot homeless high-yellow, also an ex-con, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Lawrence Fishburne—pockmarks and all—and went by a nom de guerre of his own, ‘The Reverend.’

In some visceral, sub-conscious nether region I understood perfectly well how predatory and aggressive the poor can be—must be, oftentimes—and I certainly recognized all the ways this tends to manifest among blacks. But at that age the psychic patina of racial pathos and Pavlovian guilt-inculcation at the hands nearly two decades’ worth of Hollywood movies and civics lessons prevented me from metabolizing this information to the full benefit of my survival instincts. If defending Jewish honor was a legacy passion project, evasion of actual danger was a work in progress.

Perhaps intentionally, The Reverend dressed a lot like Morpheus from The Matrix, in a ratty trench coat over an unwashed hoodie, with greasy cargo pants and army boots. His hustle was fortune telling for racially solicitous post-pinko granolas at a card table he used to set up in front of a health food store on the downtown strip, with a purple velvet table cloth where he’d lay out crystals for sale. Obsequious in characteristically downtrodden-black fashion, with that opportunistic malice lurking plainly underneath, The Reverend used to call me ‘Young Buck,’ and I showed my appreciation for his backhanded flattery by over-weighing his twomp sacks by a half-gram. Sometimes I’d smoke a joint with him just to be friendly. I was listening to a lot of rap music at that age.

One day as I was making my rounds on the downtown strip, I passed by The Reverend’s tarot table when he hailed me. I was carrying a bag of fruits and vegetables I’d just purchased from the health food store. He asked if I had any bud for sale, and slid a twenty spot onto the table. I snapped up the bill, slid my backpack down one arm and fished out a half-eighth (about half a gram more than I normally charged twenty for). But The Reverend gave a pensive, dissatisfied grimace and deadpanned, ‘Now why you tryin’ ta short me, homie?’ My balls dropped a bit as it dawned on me exactly what The Reverend took me for—ironically, this Morpheus-lookalike kind of redpilled me that day. As I returned the weed to my backpack and tossed his twenty-spot back onto the table I told him, “Go fuck your mother you shitty fuckin’ nigger.” It was the first (and second to last) time in my life I availed myself of that epithet in the second person.

Well that must not’ve made The Reverend’s day, because no sooner had I made my way half a block up from where he sat than I heard someone murmur, “The fuck you say to me?” and when I looked back over my shoulder, there was The Reverend in hot pursuit. I turned, snarling to face him and he stopped about three feet shy of me.

The Reverend was fairly big. He probably could have fucked me up; he probably could have fucked me. A crowd gathered ’round as we stared each other down, but this didn’t register immediately. All that was going through my head was that fight-or-flight electric slow-mo, and while (relative to his size) I might not have had the ablest fight in me, there was no flight. On that day—in spite of the stifling, kumbaya college-town atmosphere and the gaping hipsters and granolas gathered ’round to spectate—I simply refused to accept that I owed a predatory hustler anything but flagrant contempt.

The Reverend looked around at the assembled throng and decided to go for a half-measure: kicking around the back of my shins in big circular motions, trying to trip me. I jumped, took a step back, and grabbed an apple out of the grocery bag I had dangling from my wrist. My side-hand curve went ‘thwap!’ upside The Reverend’s head and dropped to the sidewalk broken open, dripping juice; then I hurled another, and another, each one landing with a ‘thwap!’ as we danced around in circles like a folk jig, him still trying to trip me, until I was out of apples.

Realizing, I suppose, that this spectacle was liable to cost him business, after a minute or so The Reverend stopped, hung his head sullenly, and skulked back to his tarot table to pack up his things. As I moved on up the strip, the atmosphere around me seemed to inflate with a laden tingling of shame. Had anyone heard me say nigger? Would word get around? Would I now be labelled a racist?

In just a few short months, The Reverend had made himself such a figure in town that at one point, about a month prior, he officiated a well-attended, interactive ‘white privilege’ self-flagellation demo organized by some intrepid sociology students at the university campus. But after our confrontation I never saw him in town again.

Bu the day of our confrontation, as I tender-hoofed my way up the strip and away from the scene, the strangest thing happened. A lousy, shirtless, sunburned little man with a shorn pate, wearing blue jeans, combat boots and braces came straggling along behind me. When he caught up he blurted out, breathless, ‘Are you having trouble with that nigger?’ Unsure of his intentions and leery of being judged by any proximate third-parties who might’ve seen what just happened, I replied ‘Hey man, that’s some pretty strong language right there.’ But when I glanced over I noticed that he was covered from torso to neck in Nazi tattoos. This dude intended to lend me moral support on the grounds of white solidarity. ‘Man, I hate that fuckin’ nigger. Just out here preyin’ on dumb fucks in this town. You don’t have to take that shit.’

‘I don’t know if you wanna take my part, bro. I’m Jewish.’

‘Well…..’ He paused. ‘I don’t have anything against Jews. I just have a problem with certain Zionists.’ I was taken aback, not at the note of acceptance but at the vocabulary, and not because it was impressive, but because it existed at all.

‘Name’s Panther.’ He extended a hand and we shook. Panther was small enough I could’ve picked him up and tossed him in a trash compactor. ‘Stay out of trouble, brother. Just look at me’—he was pretty haggard—‘it ain’t worth it.’ And off he went into the evening.

Herzog to Amona residents: Zionism is not a land grab….

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“‘To build a home and plant a tree’ I told ’em, LMFAO.”

…..per the Times of Israel.

Pardon me while I die laughing. Zionism, not a land grab! Life is a land grab, I could see excepting pacifism or Buddhism or beta-male hipster bisexuality, but Zionism? Herzog could’ve logically said, “Grab this, not that, grab strategically.” He could’ve said “Grab ’em by the pussy” with greater dispassion, because the basis of leftism is wishful thinking, which is why the Netanyahu administration is starting to look like Putin in terms of longevity in office.

In the same vein, during the Q&A at white nationalist Richard Spencer’s recent talk on the Texas A&M campus, the local Hillel’s young rabbi roused himself:

You’re here preaching a message of radical exclusion. My tradition teaches a message of radical inclusion and love. Will you sit down and learn Torah with me, and learn love?

Radical inclusion! Perhaps King Solomon should’ve divided the baby, so as to’ve been radically inclusive of both broads? Spencer handily eviscerated this low-hanging fruit:

Do you really want radical inclusion into the State of Israel? Maybe all of the Middle East could move into Tel Aviv or Jerusalem…. Look, the Jews exist precisely because they did not practice inclusion [and] I respect that about you.

But if we cannot respect ourselves enough to look in the mirror, how can we expect our adversaries to respect us enough to stop stabbing us for sport under the anatomically ill-proportioned nose of the world’s fourth most powerful army? Liberal Judaism is a masochistic sickness. I’ve yet to encounter a mindset more autonomically empty behind the eyes. Its practitioners mask their real aims from themselves, and the Arabs know it. I hear they’re accepting Levantine asylees in Stuttgart this year, if land grabbing’s not your thing.

Game of Cronies

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I think I just became a Hamas supporter

Whatever else you might say about him, Shimon Peres was devoid of intellectual substance. He began his career essentially as an arms-procurement agent for Ben Gurion, the very caricature of the Yid swindler, and ended it as a sort of Yoda to the plutocracy, jetting around in his dotage, dispensing schlock Hallmark wisdom to the planetary managerial class. I’m not saying he lacked actual wisdom (if shrewdness can be called wisdom)—no no, he possessed that in ample reserve, but it was strictly machiavellian. What Peres embodies isn’t so much the thwarted Jewish longing for tranquility (he lived a life of luxury), but the much-decried Jewish mastery of having our cake and eating it, too.

Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon pursued Arafat to death’s very edge, first in a Beirut bunker and later in his besieged Ramallah compound, and they did it with such maniacal abandon that first Ronald Reagan and, later, George W. Bush (each man a mass murderer of Arabs in his own right) constrained them to yield. Arafat was actually a great admirer of his adversaries’ wanton single-mindedness, and was known to have devoured Begin’s memoirs and applied their lessons to his struggle. But you know what they say about swatting at a fly with a hammer. Or a Sbarro with a nail bomb, or a UN school with a bunker-buster.

The thought of the world’s tech, financial, artistic and political elite turning Mother Mary-like for counsel to a Newark mafia don is inconceivable. Yet like Arafat, Shimon Peres was a consummate gangster whose every word about peace was mendacious, and in the end he took Arafat to school, hard, with a kind of rope-a-dope strategy intended to appease the so-called international community’s insistence on peace-seeking while at the same time reducing the Palestinians—whose  political prospects today are little better than they were in 1949— under hopelessly absolute despotism, by hook and by crook.

And like icing on the cake, not only did Peres live to see the literal demise of his old frenemy, he lived to see that once formidable nuisance reduce himself to the role of supplicant on American television, a kind of Palestinian Al Sharpton, a grievance pimp doing penance before American Jewish Senators and media mandarins, swearing up and down that he had reformed. My family spent the 1990s wondering why Peres didn’t seem to mind that Arafat was lying, but now we know why. This long con, and not the bullshit knighthood or the bullshit Nobel or the photo-ops in Hollywood and Palo Alto, is the best evidence of Peres’ profundity, longevity and achievement. For better or for worse, this hot-air liberal paragon’s legacy is one of utter ruthlessness.

As the last surviving political father of his country, Peres was correct to credit himself some for the glimmer of all he surveyed: the start-ups, biotech, aerospace, the relative political liberty, the robust bursa. Yet in Israel tonight, while Shimon Peres lies interred on Mount Herzl, hapless women who came seeking refuge from the blight of the former Warsaw Pact are selling their bodies beneath the glinting skyscrapers. Mafia thuggery is winked at by police. Jewish children are going to bed hungry in towns that manufacturing deserted, Arab ones in towns that the army and the never-ending ‘resistance’ have decimated, and social services that can be had by Jewish immigrants years before they’re asked to pay so much as a gruza in VAT are denied to impoverished Arab villagers, or provided in unequal quality and proportion to taxpaying ones. And relative to its size and economic scale, Israel is far and away the world’s number one exporter of death, of weapons’ systems and expertise, without which its GNP would compare favorably only to Albania’s.

None of this will be forgotten or forgiven. Damocles’ sword hangs over that land, and patriotism is slowly giving way to fragmentation of the same traumatized pragmatism that midwifed the Zionist dream into reality on the heels of terrified, fleeing natives. Peres was but one man who, of course, could never have been arraigned individually for all these grim realities (unlike, say, an octogenarian former enlisted-man who spent three months manning a guard tower at Treblinka). All the same, you’d be well-advised to shop around before taking a brand ambassador’s word.

The Examined Life: Robin Williams Edition

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Quit bein’ so goddamned serious

“You’re just depressed.” But am I wrong?

“You’re overthinking things.” Really? Where’s the limit and who sets it?

“That’s just the way things are, you’re gonna have to get used to it.” am used to it. Is that not a reason to discern, to describe, to investigate? How long are we to maintain one opinion, or none? 

Don’t worry. We’re all here; we all care. We’re all… watching. You’ll get things right, no doubt. After all, there’s just one fix.

You have to be assertive, self-assured, domineering (more spur, more riding crop, more moxy!)

See?

more tactful, sensitive, empathetic (more courteous, more caring, more moral). Nowadays the other man’s sensitivities can be myriad, you know, and you’ve got to anticipate everything.

So while you may not realize it, it isn’t questions you have, it’s a health issue. It’s not your fault. Lots of others have been where you are and come through productive, and carefree. I myself get paid to make these pronouncements.

So productivity is the end-goal of health? Of existence? Productive of what, exactly? And if it doesn’t matter, then why do my feelings? Wherefore uniformity in the things one ought or ought not to care about? Who decides? Do they have a mailing address? IS ANYBODY LISTENING?!?

One God, no Masters

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Don’t ever stop throwing punches

But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me. (Luke 19:27)

But the rest of the world they confront with a contempt reserved for enemies.                                   (Tacitus, Histories 5:2-5)

‘Tis the season of Mars retrograde reactionary chic. I have only one horse in this manger and he most assuredly is not the messiah.

Many an archetype has been cast in legend or approximated by a given personage in history, but it’s rare for an archetype to be embodied in an entire nation. The inimical distinction between Judaism or the Semitic spirit, on the one hand, and the Aryan or aristocratic spirit on the other, is a long-established cliché. Nietzsche called it master versus slave morality; Spengler described the Western as opposed to the Magian cultures. The Church once ascribed the insurrectionary personality of Barabbas to Judaism itself, instead prescribing meekness (or torture, as needed). Along with Shakespeare before them, mid-century continental fascists noted a certain lawyerly, pharisaical cunning, as opposed to Teutonic forthrightness; and Evola juxtaposed the emphasis on penitence and mortification inherent in Levantine spirituality with the high-caste self-possession he identified in the Indo-Aryan tradition.

But just how far are Judaism and yiddishkeit removed from the world of Tradition as Evola conceived it? How distinct is Jewish history from that of the West? Are the Jews merely the bearers of a fossilized culture, as Arnold Toynbee suggested? Or are we vectors of modernity (as both anti- and philo-semites have so often claimed)?

If it’s the latter, this would be a sort of revenge of the nerds: the bourgeoisie, particularly usurers (which is to say, particularly Jews) are the villains in any good critique of modernity. But trade is older than Judaism—so is banking—and one can always invoke the Florentines, the conquistadors, the Protestant ethic and so on. So the worm devouring a cadaverous West must be revolution: bolshevism, relativism, abortionism, negromancy, Yid pimps in guise of head shrinkers and persecuted artistes…..

Well, no one will deny that the Jews are a clever bunch, given to smarting disdainfully under every kind of regime—behavior that can’t be all that incidental to the biblical narrative of slave revolt. I’ll buy the theory that yiddishkeit has a lot to do with contrarianism (“a stiff-necked people”). But long experience assures me it isn’t trained in any particular direction, though of course among Jews some tendencies are more popular than others.

But envy, defiance and cyclical decay of the social order are universal. At bottom, what really differentiates the Jews is just smugness. We don’t believe your fables, we must be smarter. Some people would rather feel smart than be liked, in our case it was a two-thousand year investment. You don’t bash your brow against so many successive empires unless you value your distinctness above all else, as intellectual superiority.

But how does this factor into the erosion of Tradition and the onset of modernity? According to Nietzsche,

the Jews achieved that miracle of inversion of values thanks to which life on earth has for a couple millennia acquired a new and dangerous fascination–their prophets fused ‘rich’, ‘godless’, ‘evil’, ‘violent’, ‘sensual’ into one and were the first to coin the word ‘world’ as a term of infamy. It is this inversion of values (with which is involved the employment of the word for ‘poor’ as a synonym for ‘holy’ and ‘friend’) that the significance of the Jewish people resides: with them there begins the slave revolt in morals.

But something here smacks of reverse victimology, the stereotype of the ruined old noble. I mean, you got taken by slaves? I wouldn’t complain too loud about that if I was you. As Voltaire said, a sucker plays himself:

We hold the Jews in horror, and we insist that all which has been written by them, and collected by us, bears the stamp of Divinity. There never was so palpable a contradiction.

Indeed. But how is that Harold Abraham’s problem? Just because I wrote the tune you imbibe to doesn’t make me an alcoholic. In fact, in their assurance of God’s favor and the worthiness of their existence as a nation the Jews inflicted more damage on the Roman military than the efforts of any subjugant race outside of Teutoburg Forest, and they accomplished this well after the bulk of the defeats that Nietzsche credits with providing the impetus for their inversion of values. It would seem this is as much a race of fanatics (as Voltaire asserted) as it is of intriguers.

Besides, as a neo-platonic manifestation, isn’t kabbalism commensurate in some degree with Tradition? And how could so heady a brew of values-inversion as the Hebrew scriptures have informed the Traditional world of medieval Europe so prominently? It’s as riddled with pagan archetypes and saints as it is with sly Jacobs and Josephs. So my questions aren’t just rhetorical yiddish contrarianism.

Evola concurs with Nietzsche that the Jewish spirit contributes to subverting Tradition, but while Nietzsche savages priestliness, Evola provides it a place in his system. The mechanism of the Jewish enzyme upon the Aryan substrate has always been conceptualized without regard to these inconsistencies. The Jews are always the unmoved mover at the center of the critique of modernity. It seems anyone can find an enemy in the Jews. It simply cannot be that we’ve been working against all these disparate parties simultaneous.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the Jewish animus against x, y or z invoked to explain history. But I’ve seen and experienced the telepathy that prevails between Jews, and while it produces feelings of solidarity, oftentimes it also makes for an extent of visceral contempt that never directs itself at outsiders. The hatreds I’ve felt in my life for individual gentiles pale beside the hatreds I’ve harbored toward individual fellow Jews. When your racial origins are the source of (private) rapturous self-regard and (public) awkwardness and execration, a certain disassociation must take place. So the peculiarities of Judaism are incidental to what makes yiddishkeit an irritant or a deleterious factor in the long trajectory of civilization. The cause, the common quality that Jewish tendencies spring from is solipsism, not political allegiances or theological meanderings; those are mere effects.

And yet…. can you have so many diverse accusers without being guilty of something? Jews are Jews, one way or another there’s a peculiarity to their relationship with gentiles and it’s always similar themes recurring, right? As for Nietzsche’s inversion: Isaiah, Yeshua, Marx, Freud…. You can’t weather two millennia of ass-whoopin’ without a certain inversion of values, and the Jews are master publicists. (Mark Twain explaining the Jew-gentile dynamic with a dollar sign certainly appears unlettered by comparison.) But that means, attendant to the Jews’ ethnogenesis and the earliest redaction of their national myths, there had to’ve been values to invert. Is anything left of them? I think any culturally literate person can name a handful of badass Jews.

Nietzsche’s formula:

Originally, and above all in the time of the monarchy, Israel maintained the right attitude of things, which is to say, the natural attitude. Its Jahveh was an expression of its consciousness of power, its joy in itself, its hopes for itself: to him the Jews looked for victory and salvation and through him they expected nature to give them whatever was necessary to their existence—above all, rain. Jahveh is the god of Israel, and consequently the god of justice: this is the logic of every race that has power in its hands and a good conscience in the use of it.

In other words, there’s master Judaism and there’s slave Judaism, and whichever one your forebears selected out of that freaky Byzantine bazaar that Better Call Saul counseled them to order take-out from, it wasn’t the Jews who choose for them. Unmoved mover, indeed.

Herein lies the wishful but not unfounded reading of Nietzsche that so animated the Nazis: to suppose that the superior man is being thwarted by the rabble, by your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…. But degeneracy is pervasive, and if modernity’s critics are to be believed, it’s glacial. A thousand-year reich is a thousand year reich, even if all that’ll remain from it is “the asphalt road and a thousand lost golf balls,” as Eliot put it. So notable aspirant Nietzscheans were hopelessly bourgeois, cartoonishly apoplectic, sexually grasping cripples—not unlike today’s disaffected alt-right Winklevoss-twin product of self-esteem parenting and grad school. That’s not to deny that Zuckerberg’s a Yid creep, but if the archetype of cowardice belongs so squarely at the foot of Zion then it’s a red herring.

Of course I’m not limiting my derision here to brownshirts: “This plant grows most beautifully nowadays among anarchists and anti-Semites….” But the affinity of Jews to degeneracy differs little from anyone else’s slouch toward Bethlehem: the 19th century movements to liberalize Judaism, dominant among diaspora Jews to this day, the replacement of ritually significant mitzvot with empty compulsion or else with selective, self-serving tikkun olam, and the deep Jewish involvement in revolution all entail the general disdain for true freedom and virility with progressively less reverence for Tradition, the anchor without the heavenward aspiration, the center that cannot hold.

The death of God has not precipitated the retirement of the priests, who today are but sophists, obliged to market themselves unbeholden to clan, untethered by rite, by responsa, or by any non-contingent concept of truth. Trendy, sanctimonious, without filial devotion or the self-effacement inherent in a genuine ancestor cult, the vestigial Semitic spirit lacks the self-possession of that rare slave whose superior attributes justify his defiance and render his liberation not just inevitable, but ineffable; as opposed to a futile exercise in redistribution of privileges. And the contingency of Zionism reveals itself in the valorization of victimhood—without which Israel is unable to rationalize itself—that permeates Hebrew-language media, and the sheer vulgar refusal of all moral responsibility that characterizes American pro-Israel discourse whether right, left or in-between. What this all amounts to is not an inversion of certain values but a final betrayal of all of them: disdain for others’ strength, impunity when wielding our own.

So while the reactionary late-comer thinks he discerns a straight line connecting Exodus to Bethlehem, Bethlehem to Bolshevism and breakdown, Exodus is not a precedent, not all slaves are created equal, and nothing is new under the sun. Those once-and-future commissars, impresarios, blasphemers, proponents of revelry, turning to new gods, slouching toward Bethlehem, are as old as Baal, and rootless indeed. The remaining function, then, of Tradition, of both primordial Judaism and primordial Christianity (the only true kinds of each) is not tikkun olam but sridut olam, keeping the pilot light on through this darkest of winters, which so many self-declared JewsChristians and humanists have midwifed.

Waiting for the Millennium

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Stop or I’ll shoot

Part 1 here

‘But I didn’t tell you this beautiful story to show you what it means to me or how it relates to my life; I told it to point out that it’s forgotten,’ said Blue……’Once upon a time, people knew it by heart—from Tabriz to Istanbul, from Bosnia to Trabzon—and when they recalled it they found the meaning in their lives.’ —Orhan Pamuk, Snow

‘Then think what would happen to them if they were released from their bonds and cured of their delusions.’ —Socrates in Plato’s Republic

Man is wolf to man: self-flattery! Wolves conclude their quarrels.

Apropos of crying wolves, surely the Israelis have a few suggestions for securing the Brussels metro. And just what’re the odds of getting disemboweled on Hebrew public transit? Apples and oranges, pal. How dare you claim to know Israel’s suffering? At least now, perhaps, Europeans will finally realize that if you’ve seen one terrorist, you’ve seen them all. In the words of Theodore Herzl, ‘If you repeat a lie often enough, it is no dream.’

And repeated often enough it doubtless has been, though the lie is not what’s written, but what’s read. Have you ever walked backwards into a cave, blindfolded? A tabloid Golem straight out of Misfits lyrics and Bourne films is grinding to dust mosaics, pottery shards and catacombs, the last evidence of the monotheistic epoch. Before long, the death of God won’t even be a rumor.

But for the time being, the world’s dirty bomb preparedness capital and ham-handed jihad early-detection consultancy persists in carrying out a police action whose age and meaning are unknown, a contest of demented wits, the viscera of scripture, a final flash of recollection on the road to oblivion. It should be prolonged indefinitely.

Above ground, in the neon lights and traffic jams, violence is a “public health issue.” Feelings are a “public health issue”—they should be treated with mass surveillance. Intransigent monotheism is all that stands between the meadow and the paving crew, and when swords are finally beaten to plowshares all that remains will be to clear the slums and make way for Olympic village.

There’s a story about Yitzhak Rabin, that during his initial tenure as prime minister (in the late 1970s), the possibility was being explored of courting Lebanese allies to counter the PLO who, at that time, were based in Lebanon. Arrangements were made for the godfather of the Maronite Phalange to meet the Israeli high command aboard a submarine. When his yacht arrived and he was brought onboard, he spent the entirety of the forty-five minute meeting huffing and puffing about how it was beneath the dignity of an Arab to collude with Israelis. Rabin weathered this abuse magnanimously, and 11,000 casualties later Israel was forced out of Beirut by the first Reagan administration, within a hair’s breadth of Arafat’s jugular. If Begin had been premier that early, the alliance would never have been struck, and if Rabin had been re-elected rather than losing his seat to Begin it never would’ve resulted in such loss of life as it did. But there’s cool-headedness and there’s soft-headedness. If the European far-right was prepared to do to its prime ministers what the Israeli right eventually did to Rabin, there’d be no pederast mohammedan orcs prowling Munich, Milan and Manchester.

Like Rhodesians and former Soviets, Israelis’ attunedness to the dogshit facts of life once lent them an edgy mystique in an affluent world, one that now exceeds cartoonishness. The question is not whether to act, but wherefore. Like an obsessed plaintiff oblivious to counter arguments, Israeli concerns long ago ceased concerning others, and woe betide he who forgets that where there is concession, there is strength

Not long ago, a pair of young Arab men from a West Bank town slipped into Israel armed with knives and pistols, boarded a Jerusalem bus, and began attacking passengers indiscriminately. In addition to the attackers (shot by security forces), three Israelis were killed, among them a child and an octogenarian pensioner, who died of bleeding from lacerations to (among other places) the face and neck, “for men forget more easily the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony.” Perhaps future incidents of this kind could be avoided if only Levantine schoolchildren were made to memorize the lyrics of “The Gambler” in appropriate translation?

But, “then also pretexts for seizing property are never wanting, and one who begins to live by rapine will always find some reason for taking the goods of others.” So as part of its policy of collective punishment, the Occupation determined to demolish the home of one attacker’s elderly parents. (See also, Aesop re: precautions ex post facto.)

The father, standing in the rubble of his former home, then gave an interview to a CIA, er…. American news agency. He said that his son was a perfectly ordinary youth, that the acts his son committed on that bus were a natural, equitable response to the humiliating rigors of the Occupation, and that this policy whereby his home had been demolished would only provoke further attacks (from other perfectly ordinary youths, I suppose. “It belongs to human nature to hate those you have injured.”) Well I’m sorry, sir: unless you have more sons, you can’t threaten anyone with acts that have already been committed.

I once stood guard on a Hebron rooftop when my commanding officer, making his rounds, came by to check on me. As we gazed out over the town, he pointed out the shoddy construction materials and various rubble heaps that passed for structures, remarking to the effect that our Arab adversaries are primitives—just look at how they live; clearly people of that caliber cannot be reasoned with. Well, I no more believe that Israelis ought to try and reason with Palestinians than I would advise the Palestinians to try and reason with the Israelis. I don’t give a shit (God grant me the serenity….) What I do dislike, however, is cant, and I replied to the officer that maybe these Arabs simply lack access to the kinds of construction materials that we have over in Tel Aviv. This elicited a look as if I’d just committed treason. I got in trouble on several educational excursions for appealing to Occam in this manner. Though I’ll admit in retrospect that the unseemly high incidence of spousal ass-rape and literal slave trafficking in Arab cities where construction materials are abundant would’ve been a devastating rejoinder to my argument, none such was forthcoming, and an army where exercising one’s brain is taken for want of esprit de corps is going to find its returns diminishing, regardless of how piss-poor a recruit (and thinker) yours truly may’ve been.

Take, for example, the recent, much publicized shooting of an incapacitated Palestinian would-be assailant by an on-scene IDF medic; a clear-cut act of second-degree murder and a pointless one, besides (the “victim” would’ve expired before he reached the ER.) But these things happen, and should no more be taken as condemnation of the culture that produces them than any other random act of violence that’s totally part of a pattern. Rather, our interests in the case are legal, and epistemic: in the face of overwhelming public sympathy for this abjectly chickenshit act, the military prosecution is charging the perpetrator with manslaughter only. And the slaying is convulsing Israel for the woeful following reasons: (1) because the existence of video evidence captured by a Palestinian stringer for a left-wing NGO has given the public the impression that the decision to prosecute was influenced by enemies of the country, as if that’s relevant even if it’s true; and (2) because the perpetrator has not been released home to await trial. Yet neither has he been remanded: he’s being held on his battalion’s permanent duty station—the same punishment, as I recall from IDF service, for arriving a moment late to mess hall formation. You still get chocolate milk. Yet this kid-gloved approach only seems to bother enemies of the country. Can we analogize this reasoning to that of other times and places? Without getting hamstrung by matters of degree, I think of course we can.

Second verse, same as the first: one Zuher Bahlul, an Arab, putatively equal citizen of Israel and prominent Hebrew-language sportscaster now standing for parliament on the ballot of the Jewish center-left, reacted to the case by commenting publicly that Palestinian assailants who target not civilians but military positions—as the “victim” in this case had done before being incapacitated by the soldiers he so inadvisably attempted to stab—are not terrorists, strictly speaking. The outrage at this that ensued among Israeli Jews extended through the top of Mr. Bahlul’s own party and all the way up to the Office of the Prime Minister, who took to Facebook to issue a condemnation of the comments. Believe me, you’ll never hear an Israeli schoolchild chiming “words can never hurt me.”

But unless you believe indefinite military rule ought never to be resisted (a misapprehension that would even be deleterious to the defense impulses of the military rulers), and that your own troops are no better than toddlers in terms of vulnerability (maybe that’s why they gave us chocolate milk), Mr. Bahlul’s assertion is self-evident. To not limit the definition of a terrorist to one who targets civilians is to deprive the word of all meaning, as the Israelis have been doing for decades now in trying to transmit its synonymity to ‘Arab’ beyond just the Hebrew language. (Maybe that’s why there’s so much counter-intuitive sympathy in Israel for Syrian refugees making their way to Europe). But there’s something perverse about what Arabs think, say and feel being tantamount to a security concern—if you don’t forcibly live beside them you won’t have that problem. But as it stands, everyday political speech (and not only incitement to violence) has long been regularly prosecuted by the Israeli civil administration for the occupied territories, and the curricula of Arab schools inside Israel has long been tightly regulated by Education Ministry censors and surveillance, to the extent that even certain common-knowledge historical events that are taught to Israeli pupils may not be mentioned to Arab ones, who have to learn them at home from relatives whose views may not conform to Education Ministry standards, to say the least. Sticks and stones may break my bones….

But if our little Jewish Sparta is a scaffolding built on a foundation of little-man syndrome, how does the little man relate to a lug? Obsequiously. So, just last month, an American MBA student on a school-sponsored tour of Tel Aviv start-ups was injured in a stabbing attack by a Palestinian assailant on the Tel Aviv waterfront, only to die later in an Israeli hospital of the wounds he’d sustained. It just so happens that this particular American was a Gentile, West Point graduate and recently discharged member of US Army Special Forces. Other than the obvious fact that he wasn’t boycotting, no one in Israel bothered to ascertain his thinking about issues related to the conflict, or the extent of his sympathies with either side, before local memorial ceremonies were arranged by the Israelis, with military honors, as though the man had fallen in uniform, or otherwise under a flag. Local politicians and media outlets issued announcements obliquely expressing—in guise of condolence—the assumption that the slaying confirms the identical nature of the two countries’ geostrategic interests. It goes without saying that if the hapless young gentleman had been inadvertently run over by a settler in a Peugot bent on murdering Palestinians at a checkpoint, his US veteran status would’ve been downplayed or ignored by the Israeli media and government. A waste of human life is bad enough, why waste an opportunity to gain from it politically?

But so what? Aren’t public lying and institutional mendacity endemic the world over? Well, but let’s not lie to ourselves. Self defense is a dish best served cold. 

If Zionism comes down to the simple question of whether the state of Israel should persist, then I’m a Zionist, even though I concur that the state was founded on ethnic cleansing and maintains itself on acts of impunity; sometimes you’ve gotta steal a loaf of bread to feed your family. What I won’t countenance is the consistent denial of all responsibility for one’s predicament, the ceaseless castigation of fortune, or the prosecution of political speech by (for example) sending an armored brigade to arrest a dim-witted beautician over comments she posted on Facebook supportive of jihadi attacks on Israeli civilians. Donkey punch her? Pun intended. Send in APCs? That’s some fag shit right there.

Send a salami

to your boy in the army

I’ll cum quick if you promise to respect my authority

Fatherland Über Alles

Say goodnight to the bad guy

Say goodnight to the bad guy

“Military cemeteries in every corner of the world are silent testimony to the failure of national leaders to sanctify human life.” (Yitzhak Rabin)

The light in his heart blinded his sight; the longing for peace deafened his ears. And there’s something depressingly totalitarian in the notion that the sanctification of human life is the responsibility of the men in charge (=”national leaders”). A business like that could get real selective.

But since everywhere it already is and always has been, when it comes to Number One the only explanations for laxity are hubris, subterfuge or infirmity. And when it comes to the country Rabin led, you’re either for it, against it, or indifferent. There’s no moderate position that means anything.

To wit,

If Israel were to relinquish the West Bank, 80 per cent of its population and most of its industry would be within range of light artillery, mortars and even rifles positioned on the high ground of the Samarian and Judean ridges. These ridges cannot be effectively demilitarized or adequately inspected….

and

Those… who claim that modern military technology has made obsolete the need for… critical terrain…. are simply spouting ignorance. As weapons of war become more sophisticated these factors assume a greater and not a lesser importance…

Air defence radar situated on the [West Bank] affords the Israeli Air Force approximately 15 minutes’ warning time in the event of… air attack. Without these installations, the IAF would only have about four minutes in which to scramble its fighters…

[Furthermore,] no amount of electronic gadgetry could possibly substitute for control of… in-place defences against… guerrilla forces infiltrating across torturous borders. Between 1949 and 1967 the IDF devoted much of its resources against [such] infiltration. That these efforts were essentially not successful is clearly attested by the large number of Jews killed and wounded and property damage sustained during this period.

These are the expert analyses of disinterested military professionals, known to US policymakers since 1967. There’s an obvious inference to be made from them: that the moment Israel accepts a two-state solution, its viability, i.e., the lives of its people, becomes wholly dependent on feckless outside brokerage. How well has that worked out for other US collaborators? For the Jews? Consequently, Israel negotiates only in bad faith; it relinquishes territory only under immense outside pressure.

And so today, a lower-grade, more intractable intifada is upon us, the latest stage in an unresolved 1948 real estate dispute turned bitterly personal. Though Big Brother’s take on the matter rings unmistakably millenarian, machiavellian dispassion is still the best approach to it.

The standard premises run as follows: (1) The Jews are the aggressors whose bad behavior (“the occupation”) provokes these recurrent flare-ups. Redress this bad behavior and the problem solves itself. (2) The Arabs are the aggressors whose bad behavior (“terrorism”) provokes these recurrent flare-ups. Redress this bad behavior and the problem solves itself. (3) Each side has fair claims and unreasonable demands. Empower the reasonable people on each side (“civil society”), disempower the recalcitrants (the electorates), and the problem solves itself.

But all three run into each other, because nobody who has any real power is willing to endorse either of the first two (otherwise the matter would be settled), and the third can be modified to suit the purposes of any of the myriad stakeholders who appear to have real power.

A recent example, this one dressed up in IDF fatigues, appears this month in the Atlantic from the pen of one Jeffery Goldberg—like me, an American of Hebrewish provenance who as a youth served in the Israeli army only to return to the US with his tail between his legs.

Over the years, most of Goldberg’s journalistic efforts have been exerted (with preciously thin impartiality) on behalf of der judenstaat. But as a DC correspondent, a credentialed establishment man, he is innately straight-jacketed by the millenarian paradigm.

Because today this consensus so heavily emphasizes The Occupation and the Despair(TM), Goldberg wants the morally immaculate Atlantic demographic informed that in addition to its anti-colonial aspect, Palestinian nationalism is replete with dehumanization of The Other, based on decades of misapprehending (because Israel was conceived in peace and dedicated to the proposition that peace peace peace) but nonetheless egregiously insensitive sectarian chauvinism that handily predates the Jewish state in all its inadvertent excesses.

Shocking, no? Now that Goldberg has blown this thing open, will the Palestinians’ blood-curdling judenhaas cost them any street-cred? Of course not: the Jews are Franco to Orwell’s Catalonia here, haven’t you read the playbill? Only NPR granolas still think they see Israel anywhere near the progressive fold, and only glorified bloggers like the Atlantic house neocon believe that a death threat is exactly that, when The International Community(TM) is adamant it’s just a cry for help.

The Serbs were laboring under the same unwary naïveté when they went out to battle the unrepentant sons of ustashi and the traveling remnants of Charlie Wilson’s jihad, only to have The Rule of Law(TM) rain bombs on their children and old people. The slightly more sophisticated Goldberg understands that the Frantz Fannon approach to Levantine affairs is sold out, he just hasn’t figured out that there’s no return policy. Ever the sectarian partisan, ever the lamenting liberal, if he wants to keep selling himself as a moderate and conceiving of himself one of the good guys, then neither of his two conflicted faces may blurt out what they’d like, even when they’ve just said it. So he wraps up with this:

There will not be peace between Israelis and Palestinians so long as parties on both sides of the conflict continue to deny the national and religious rights of the other.

Aw, truly. And horses will not fly until they sprout wings. “Parties on both sides of the conflict”=the other guy. What we have here is The People’s Court, Uncle Sam presiding.

Thus the real hangup—of Arab, Jew and Earnest Liberal alike—reveals itself, and it isn’t tribe or talisman. For when we deploy the debate-stopping language of Rights, we whitewash our innate imperatives as creatures, not only to train up a tree in the way it should grow, but to fuck, suck, eat and shit.

Clearly, the Palestine Arabs were there first, minding their own business. They say they have the right to Palestine, to be its sole proprietors and never have this status challenged by covetous interlopers (their leaders sing different, but it’s a show tune). As rights go, this one is self-evident, devolving to the Palestinians in accordance with the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.

The only problem is that God doesn’t seem to give a shit. Neither does He seem too terribly anxious to hear we Zionists’ case regarding our putative right to pluck a fig and dig a latrine free from the capricious imperium of crescent and cross, because every time we set to digging, something explodes, and the Supreme Judge of the World admonishes us to exercise restraint. Perhaps it’s God’s silent stinkers alighting this tinderbox year after year, ha-Shem’s way of weeping over our rights and their apparent illusoriness. Though I’m disinclined to blame human foibles on the Creator, I don’t know. I’m not a theologian.

What I can declare self-evident is that the promulgation of sacred liberties, of rights, never seems to involve their simple extension, but their usurpation. It’s the greatest pretext ever devised, not for ceding power but for seizing it.

Al Pacino said it best as Tony Montana, but he may as well have been speaking for Israel:

What you lookin’ at? You all a bunch of fuckin’ assholes. You know why? You don’t have the guts to be what you wanna be. You need people like me. You need people like me so you can point your fuckin’ fingers and say, “That’s the bad guy.” So… what that make you? Good? You’re not good. You just know how to hide, how to lie….

In the moral lexicon of the Milennium, Israel is a sectarian anachronism, rooted in ethnic cleansing; a gangster state that espouses no principle higher than self-interest, its own and no one else’s.

Not bad for the most neurotic people on the planet!

A year or two back I saw an illustrative exchange on Meet the Press between Andrea Mitchell and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer. Mitchell played a clip of Israeli border guards kicking the crap out of a supine Arab youth, then primly asked the ambassador, “What do you say to those who cherish Israel, but who see it as potentially losing its soul?” Its soul? You’re looking at it, lady. Were they not beating the kid hard enough?

Zionism is anachronistic not because it misreads the fundamentals of the human condition, but because it’s an expression of the emancipated, secular Jew’s yearning to be respected by a virile Aryan who’s going extinct, whose own enfeebled descendants disdain him. Not for any lack of democratic spirit, Zionism is a characteristically vindictive early-twentieth century totalitarian movement that somehow slipped under the radar of the postwar, its contours visible in Israel’s counter-modern racial insularity, its mid-20th century youth-brigade collectivism preserved into the 21st, its Soviet-style tenements, ubiquitous war memorials and winking toleration of extra-legal impunity, evidenced by the fixated recurrence in Israeli film of vigilantist themes.

Pursuit of the bourgeois good life is already eroding all of these tendencies, and Judaism will continue reverting to an exilic creed, clung to at high cost by a neurotic few, rather than the unitarianism it has become in the US and the facile vote for self-preservation it represents in the modern democracy of Israel (the 20th century’s totalitarian movements tended to enjoy majority support). But when this brittle triumph of the “if you will it” finally erodes and washes into the sea, something fascinating will have been lost: a most passionate manifestation of collective man at his best, and his worst, simultaneous.

Israel’s detractors accuse it of being the tip of the Western spear in the Third World’s hide, while Israel-apologists imagine it’s a forward outpost of democracy in Kipling’s orient. But the tide of democracy tends to wash over such outposts (Algeria, Rhodesia), and the whole “Who’s got your six?” gag rings tinny when Uncle Sam’s already got the Confederacy pullin’ fireguard for Pride. The difference between Israel and the West whose back it thinks it has is the difference between Futurism and Flashbacks; between New Soviet Man and 90s Man. Between cowboy morality and midnight cowboy morality, the Milennium and the God of the Copybook Headings.

Look, I’m as tormented by hypertrophied self-awareness as Franz Kafka, as sexually maladjusted as Alan Ginsburg, as gullible as Vassily Grossman, as conflicted in my affinities as Hannah Arendt. And White City Bauhaus is just the bee’s knees. But Israel without reaction (Josef Trumeldor), fascism (Vladimir Jabotinsky), pugilism (Imi Lichtenfeld) and gangsterism (Bugsy Siegel) is no Israel at all.

Of course there’s something deeply romantic about all these shades of grey, but there comes a time to put aside childish things. And the Jewish deficiencies Israel was intended to exorcise—the clannish solipsism, the conniving, the ruthless mercantilism, the sniveling refusal to bear calamity without castigating fortune—though counterbalanced by a robust militarism, these tendencies are rife among Israelis, and after five decades of police action frozen on autopilot, that now bureaucratized militarism has overtaken the gangster volatility and iconoclasm of early 20th century Zionism, until nearly all that’s left is conformity, and spite.

The same deterioration is taking place among the Arabs, who’ve gone from devout tribes of incorrigible bandits to effete, mealy-mouthed holy-rollers, hogging the airwaves with their tiresome identity crises and felching oversees lucre for their hair-trigger bloodfeuding.

Yet despite our smug superiority, throughout the past century of Arab-Jewish reprisals, from time to time a visceral disconcertion tends to arise among Jews over everything the backward old Levant (our patrimony, which will only and forever be defined by the Arabs no matter how long we persist there, just as their religion will forever be defined by us, no matter how mad our impudence drives them) has to recommend it that Christendom never did and modernity never will. There’s an odd familiarity to the Arabs that transcends the present enmity.

So I don’t disparage the Palestinians as terrorists or any other empty epithet. Obviously their more conspicuous tactics (indiscriminate stabbings, shootings and bombings of civilian targets) are rather chickenshit, and my hypothesis would be that this has as much to do with inchoate rage of irrelevant etiology as it does with any tactical desperation born of power asymmetry. But it is also provoked, not by Israel’s putative brutality but by the acrid scent of that congenital Jewish tendency, at this late date unvanquished by Zionist instruction, to panic and duck for shelter.

As far as any possible moral dimension to how an adversary plays the field in a zero-sum contest, it isn’t worth my time and isn’t mine to look into. As for the many US Jews who couldn’t care less about Judaism and the welfare of Israel: that’s their prerogative. They’re no more useless to Israel than my sentiments are, and they don’t owe allegiance to their co-ethnics if they don’t feel any. A true blue Jewish state, with traffic jams and lawsuits and punk kids, kind of takes the piss out of tribal comradery anyway, and to the extent I hew to the ancient faith I do so for personal reasons, as a source of strength, and a form of oriental ancestor worship. If that strikes you as arcane or narrow-minded, well, there’s no accounting for taste. But lean forward too far and you might end up taking a dick (like this poor, dumb bastard—in the words of Milan Kundera, “He wanted the Kingdom of Heaven”). The only reason to sacrifice a thousand-odd women and children on the rancid alter of pretend International Norms(TM) every decade is to avoid the Serbia treatment. Which either tells you who isn’t really running things, or is a piss-poor commentary on the value of intra-ethnic solidarity in the aftermath of the 20th century.

Maimonides is purported to’ve said, “The messiah will come, though he may tarry.” Well, let that sanctimonious cocksucker drag his feet. It’s still more interesting down here without Him.

Acute Jew

sic semper tyrannis

sic semper tyrannis

I.

May I recommend the Israeli author Etgar Keret? His work has been widely translated from the Hebrew and he writes occasional columns in the New Yorker and the Guardian. He stands accused by certain reviewers of solipsism and misogyny, but the first is outweighed by likability and the second is guilt-ridden enough to temper its vulgarity. With punk succinctness he lays down an incredulous exasperation, twinkling through lurking shades of methodical mental illness and characteristically abusive Jewish impudence. We see these same psychic fistulae in other artists whose work cannot be fully understood without reference to yiddishkeit—Babel, Kafka, Seinfeld. The Jews have the same relationship with senility as the Catholics have with epilepsy. Half Jews like Vladimir Visotsky and JD Salinger belong in a slightly different category—the mold is broken, the hybrid vigor overwhelming. “Justice, justice you shall pursue”….. St. Paul was driven by this madness, as were Freud and Trotsky and Lenny Bruce—mold-breakers, if not half-breeds. Not counting plagiarism (which those last four were richly guilty of), their scruples precluded the kind of emotional opportunism one encounters all over Keret’s Israel. Either way, it’s easy to see why these people are difficult to live with; we can barely live with ourselves. Borderline Personality Disorder might just as accurately be labelled Acute Jew.

What is interesting to observe about Keret, though, isn’t this characteristic Jewishness, but that it seems to subsist without much reference to Gentile influence. To understand Kafka, you have to understand pre-war mitteleuropa; to understand Babel, you need some sense of the Russian arch. You cannot appreciate Seinfeld without first appreciating America. But Keret presents entirely as a product of Jewish civilization—Yitzhak Ben-Tzvi would be proud, if uncomprehending. He plays entirely on effects that went indissoluble in exile, reemerging in the Levant one fine day to resume their invidious solipsism as if the intervening centuries were nothing but an aberration.

This is an awkward thing to behold. You meet bourgeois, well-travelled Israelis, and the most they can tell you about modern Europe is its orientation toward Jews and Israel, or the skiing, or the prices (especially the prices). The most they can tell you about Americans is that we tend to overpay unreflectively, that we haven’t any good, fresh bread, that we act nice but we’re just pretending. The most they can tell you about Kafka or Einstein is that they were Yidden. They smart at any notion that breaches the nationalist programing they received in primary school. It isn’t that they disagree; they can’t fathom such things. They’re in step with the most liberal current ideas about sexuality, abreast of the very latest technology. They insist that their country is on the front line of the West and of modernity in a benighted corner of the globe with a rich, Western heritage that only they, through hard luck and gumption, are suited to defend. Yet with the exception of a handful of times and places in the Western experience where Jews were heavily involved, their upbringing has utterly de-emphasized nearly every benchmark that otherwise lends commonality to the identities and intellectual traditions of the West across dozens of other cultures and languages.

Of course, Keret is of above-average worldliness, which is why I referenced him. The hucksters and harpies who populate his pages make the mundane maddening to an extent no other Israeli writer has achieved. His fiction bears traces of Chekhov’s influence, and it entirely lacks the deadening mimicry of America that one so often finds along the bourgeois cutting edge of other highly modern, marginally Western societies. But the overwhelming sense one gets from his work is the reemergence of an ancient cast of misanthropes who’ve nothing but flagrant disregard for all the rich commotion that has been taking place, aboveground, without them.

And yet, what makes this separatism remarkable is not so much its longevity, but the packing of bags it entailed. The Nazis and the Fascists were just like any other penny-ante pack of bandits whose meagre vocabularies tended to over-deploy the word respect. Vladimir Putin has this in common with your run-of-the-mill, twentysomething male Wal-Martian. The Zionists are little better, but at least they took their ball and went home. Where communism, progressivism and Christianity propose to alter the world for the benefit of various handicapped classes, where other romantic nationalisms proposed to redraw the lines around various peoples, Zionism proposed to redraw the Jew himself.

Anyone who has had their brush with Israeli culture knows this effort has been hit-or-miss. Of course, through Israel, Jews have demonstrated martial prowess, but perhaps all this proves is that the cobwebs needed brushing aside. Animals and men go mad in cages; a long enough litany of military setbacks will turn even a Yule Brenner into a Peter Lorre. Where various empires furnished the bars, the Sages made up the gilding. Modernity did away with both, but it couldn’t digest man’s tendency for tribalism. And while early 20th-century Zionism fixated on altering the Jew, under inescapable American tutelage Zionism today makes its most stringent and irrational demands of the Arab; not only does it invade his home, it demands his acceptance. This is pure insanity—the manic optimism and febrile entitlement of Democratic Man, held up by airport security off somewhere in literal East Jesus.

II.

Contrast this schizoid opportunism with Catholicism and Islam, religions that share a strong emphasis on man’s intrinsic capacity for reason, which each claims to satisfy perfectly. Though I doubt these claims, I agree that a person’s full, healthy development depends on the opportunity to discern reason from faith, and weigh the two against one another.

A sweet, dim-witted old Adventist once told me something I liked. She told me, “You are the priest of your family.” In Judaism, the nearest approximation of this and other dissenter sects of Christianity is Karaism, whose practitioners are required to draw their own conclusions from scripture (within specified guidelines), rather than defer to experts.

Though an orthodox Rabbinic (i.e., not a Karaite) Jew, my grandfather conducted himself as though he was the priest of our family. He taught my brother, cousin and I (paternal half-breeds, all, and therefore not Jewish under Rabbinic law) basic Hebrew liturgy and scripture, as well as a smattering of Mishnah, and started officiating his own holy day services at home with a small circle of friends and family when he came into conflict with the local rabbi. He was our last direct link in an unbroken chain of tradition.

Now I am married to an Orthodox Christian. To our marriage she brought along a sweet, gregarious and fair-minded little boy, the product of a previous marriage to a fellow Russian. Our son’s original father was disdainful of religiosity and my wife, a non-practicing believer, opted not to have him baptized. But I understand it as my duty to furnish my children with faith against which to weigh reason—a method for counting the stars, so-to-speak.

Judaism is nothing if not the self-styling of a racial caste, and to transmit it to my unmistakeably Slavic older son would be to paint over a zebra’s stripes and mark him as a permanent outsider. So with his and my wife’s agreement I had him baptized by the nearest Russian Orthodox priest.

Though the humble little church and the manner of worship conducted within it was beautiful and uplifting, the process of getting our son baptized was somewhat uncomfortable—as a matter of course our family’s religious backgrounds were inquired about beforehand, and although I was welcomed in (which I wouldn’t have been in Russia), there was a palpable discomfort at my presence from the deacon and the arthritic old pater, who made it plain he didn’t want me around once he ascertained that I myself was not interested in converting. At one Sunday service we attended, the elderly deacon, Hungarian-born as it happens, informed me that as a child in the 1930s his parents worked in the Rome office of some German company or other, and that along with a handful of SS-officer embassy attachés, they used to host a Jewish business contact and his wife. He said this just goes to show that my background is a trifling thing because, as Christ teaches, people aren’t so different.

Well that just doesn’t make things very interesting, and of course I beg to differ. I recently bought two children’s bibles for my sons, one Christian (The Golden Book Children’s Bible) the other Jewish (The Book of Adam to Moses). The Christian one leaves out almost all the jealous, avaricious intrigues of the Old Testament. Its Queen of Sheeba is a chaste diplomat (and white!). It omits the Song of Songs (always a source of adolescent wood in the shul pews), and its Proverbs has nothing to say about the advisability of joining a gang, of committing a robbery, or of going whoring. Its illustrations are bright and cheery. In contrast, though it uses ambiguous language, its Jewish counterpart omits none of the original’s salacious and morally disturbing details. Its illustrations are black, white, a bit abstract and dissonant.

Dissonance, for most people, is exasperating, and Judaism is as exasperating as the Jews. The first in a trifecta of characteristically Western theodicies that sacralize mankind’s aspirations against nature’s starkness, it fails to follow through and build upon those ideals, neither with the kind of comfort food Christianity holds out, nor the unambiguous finality of Islam. It contains laws, and hidden meanings, but no ready logic, and no real bedtime stories.

The Coen brothers deal with this omission in their updated Book of Job, A Serious Man. In this film, a decent family-man is hamstrung by egregious, unearned misfortune. At the end of his rope, he consults with a series of feckless, indifferent rabbis, only to be told kitschy allegories and peppered with unactionable platitudes. A meticulously fair (read: neurotic) man who expects the world to at least be fair at bottom, he seeks solace from his faith as his misfortunes multiply unabated.

As it happens, there’s an astute review of this film at the pseudo-highbrow white supremacist web journal, Counter-Currents, whose editors are big into Savitra Devi and the Hidden Hitler (or something). Its design gives the feel of a Rothschild coven; one gets the sense they aren’t big fans of George Orwell. Most of the pieces they publish are written in the style and at the level of a college admissions essay, but they’ve also got a good many editorial gems and some excellent crib notes on modern European heavyweights like Heidegger. Among the gems is this Serious Man review, by one Trevor Lynch. Check it out; it’s brisk reading, I promise.

Anyhow, the reviewer concludes from A Serious Man that the Coen Brothers are confirming his revulsion of Jews, by breaking their congenital mold to lambast Judaism’s hollow, compulsive high-hattedness. It apparently never occurs to him that this is not apostasy so much as self-criticism, and though he pinpoints Judaism’s stultifying verbosity and solipsism, he cannot concede that so thorough and ineluctable a capacity for self-criticism is a virtue, nor that it’s indicative of how large a measure of the insights that Jews like the Coens bring to modern storytelling arises from their grappling with the conceits and deficiencies of character peculiar to our kind. But if Judaism, as the reviewer maintains the Coens are saying, offers “no meat and no marrow for the serious man”, perhaps protagonist Larry Gopnik’s mistake is that he takes Judaism, along with everything else, so goddamned seriously. The goy’s teeth (you’ll have to see the film) represent absurdity, which the rabbi and the dentist greet with apprehension but ultimately wave off with a characteristically Jewish shrug, while Larry Gopnik allows himself to nearly be driven insane by it. Not-so-subtleties like these are as lost on the hapless Professor Gopnik as they are on vindictive and equally serious ideologues like Trevor Lynch.

But far from exemplifying a strictly Jewish penchant for platitude, Job is just the Jewish take on a universal theme. The Coens aren’t recapitulating it, as our Aryan brother presumes. They’re augmenting it out of a peculiarly Jewish inventory. This is the yiddishkeit that’s so despised over at Counter Currents, and it will always elude their steely knives. But no religion, no philosophy, no manner of thought or line of inquiry is going to be more or less adequate than any other when it comes to the really big mysteries. Or, its relative adequacy is going to depend in turn upon the deductions of the source and each recipient’s own proclivities, rather than the peculiar merits of the ethnicity it emerges from. True, relative to other faiths Judaism tends to exacerbate the tensions the great mysteries provoke, rather than ameliorating them. But for Job and A Serious Man, the message (the reviewer’s “meat and marrow”) is real straightforward: suck it up, and lighten up, respectively. If the good Saxons at Counter Currents prefer Marcus Aurelius, that’s up to them, but don’t go barking up my Jew tree if the message doesn’t tickle your pickle. Like Rabbi Marshak, I’m thinking. That Judaism is replete with nonsense goes without saying, but Job isn’t it.

Christianity and Islam may not offer entirely satisfying answers either, but in attempting to, they stop the proverbial buck. In contrast, by positing a chosen caste, Judaism demands a measure of self-confidence that Christianity eschews, and Islam overdoes. And while the Hebrew God’s anthrocentricity innervates millennial Western theodicy, in His capriciousness He remains an Eastern God of Nature, the nature of the political animal in the anthropocine epoch. Western politics have their genesis as much along the colonnades of Athens as they do in the tent camps of recriminating Bedouins. In a democracy, we’re all elders of Chelm. Not even by putting words into God’s mouth have the Christians and the Muslims succeeded in stemming man’s internecine cat-scratching, not within families and not between nations. Not for wont of ventriloquy, the Jews have long been rending and gnashing at His silence. Neurotic? Hell yes. But don’t count it out. Buck-stopping imperial religions can run from this dissonance, but they can’t hide.

Nazi Hussein

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“I and the public know/What all schoolchildren learn…..”*

In an absolute sense, you never really know what’s true. In the case of second hand stories, you can only relate what you’ve been told.

The year was 2005. I had an eight hour layover in Amsterdam. It was sometime in that cleft between dawn and the start of business hours on a frigid weekday in late winter, and if you’re getting high at that hour it can only be for one of two reasons: because you have a serious drug problem and have been up all night awaiting your chance to smoke, or because you’re a tourist in friggin’ Amsterdam and this just happens to be the time of day your plane landed. Although on that particular day the latter reason was certainly true of me, I was getting high for the former reason.

After a forty-five minute stroll past shuttered storefronts, I happened upon a coffee shop that was open and operating. Beside a squat, bald, mustachioed Turk with greasy facial moles who apparently ran it, the place was empty of customers except for two guys having a conversation in Arabic, whom I sat down next to at the bar.

The one nearest me, on my right, was late-middle aged, stocky but dapper and a tad swarthy, with piercing green eyes, a bulbous nose and a five o’clock shadow. He wore a dark blue trench coat and grey slacks, polished black leather shoes and a felt fedora, and assessed me guardedly as I pulled out the stool to his left and goofily nodded my unmistakably American amiability. To his right sat a tall, gangly youth with a long, acned face and wavy, greased black hair, wearing skinny jeans, Adidas, and a beige turtle-neck. This younger Arab was adamant about something, intent on his interlocutor and bantering at length a mere inch or two from the right side of the latter’s face. Periodically this older gentleman, staring straight ahead, would indifferently muster a monosyllabic reply before taking a hit off the little green plastic house-bong that stood between them, filthier than a store-sock and giving off little whisps of stale smoke from its top-hole. When the old Arab exhaled, the Turk, stationary behind the bar and leaning against the back wall in front of us with his hands in his pockets, would grimace conspicuously, give a passive-aggressive grunt of objection and slowly, begrudgingly turn his head away from the oncoming cloud.

I paid the harried little Turk for a gram of hashish and set to mixing half of it with the contents of a Winston light, with all the ritualistic lighter-flicking and foil-oragami that entails. Enamored as I was at that age with the contrast Levantine hospitality posed to the American wariness and insincerity I had known all my life, when my mixture was complete I gestured in the direction of the bong and, when the old Arab handed it to me, packet the bowl and passed it back to him. His face registered surprise without breaking the exasperated pallor the younger man’s ranting seemed to have induced, and he lit up, inhaled and passed the bong back to me.

I packed another bowl and offered it to the younger man, who gestured refusal without a let-up in his Arabic banter. So I lit up, and as I exhaled it the older man, in unaccented American, asked “Where you from, kid?”

“From California. I’ve got a layover on my way to Tel Aviv.” That last bit of information was superfluous and intentionally provocative. I have no major objection to the basic Arab view of Israel, at least not on strictly logical grounds. If I was Arab, I’d share it. My objection to that viewpoint, such as it is, is mostly an accident of birth, and I figured that relations with an Arab who isn’t entirely determined to not get along with me are liable, ironically, to be all the more fraternal on that account.

The older man snorted an amused and oddly satisfied chuckle and glanced snidely at his compatriot, frozen of a sudden as though he’d just been slapped in the face.

“Where you guys from?”

“Palestine!” bellowed the youth, also in unaccented American, with a force he perhaps hadn’t anticipated from himself.

“He’s from Los Angeles” the older man, now in better control of his amusement, corrected him. Not being in on the joke, I was starting to feel rather like the object of some conspiratorial roast.

“Oh cool, I’m from Santa Cruz! What do you do in LA?”

The younger man glared at me with unselfconscious hostility. The older one continued, “His family owns some kind of bodega in the hood down there.”

“What brings you to Amsterdam?” I asked the youth.

“I’m on my way to Kuwait” he sullenly replied.

“What’s going on in Kuwait?”

“My uncle owns a business.”

“I see. And is this man your uncle?” I was still concealing my provocations beneath that insoluble veneer of American obliviousness. The older gent let slip a snort that broke into a chuckle.

“No, no, no, we just met in here and this kid” (he pointed with a jerk of his thumb) “started talkin’ Arab at me. I’m from Michigan. Name’s Nazee, nice to meet you.” He extended a hand.

“Likewise; Aaron” I said as we shook hands. His handshake was not lithe but firm and smothering, more midwestern than middle eastern.

“What brings you to Amsterdam?”

“Well, I’m moving to Israel to enlist in the Israeli army.” The younger man’s jaw and brow dropped an inch apiece as if he hadn’t figured his day could get any worse.

“You’re from Santa Cruz and you want to move to the middle east?” asked Nazee. “Why in the hell would you wanna go and do a thing like that?”

“Well, I think it’s a beautiful place.”

“That’s certainly true. But what are you going there to do? I mean, why join the Israeli army? Are you Jewish? Are your parents Israeli?”

“Well, my parents are both American. I’m half-Jewish. A couple years back I lived over there for a few months, and since then I just haven’t been able to think about anything except going back. So I figure, if I learn the language and enlist in the army, that would make me a part of the place. I wouldn’t just be a tourist. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an ideologue. I’ve got nothing against you people, and I can imagine how you must view an American joining the Israeli army. But I figure once I’ve become a real part of the country, I’ll stay out there and pursue peace in my own way, as a journalist and an author. So I dropped out of college and I’m on my way.”

“Well, I agree that nobody really needs college to make it.” A silent moment passed and the youth recovered from his disbelief and resumed ranting in Arabic. I took another bong hit. Pretty soon they got up, and Nazee said, “My pal and I are going to grab a bite if you wanna come.”

A bit surprised, I threw on my huge backpack and set off with them.

We meandered through the red light district and along the canals for about half an hour, occasionally passing a joint between us. Very little was spoken to me in English. Finally we came to an Arab restaurant where we sat and ordered. As their conversation continued, I got the feeling I was the butt of some joke unbeknown to me. When the food came, I dug in with my hands. “He eats like an Arab!” Nazee exclaimed. The conversation switched to English for awhile. At length we paid our tabs—separately, like good Americans—and got up to accompany the young Palestinian to the train station. As Nazee and I were leaving the platform we’d seen him off from, I said blankly, “Well, he was a nice guy.”

“No he wasn’t. He was making fun of you the whole time.”

“Well, I can understand his resentment. I shouldn’t have said anything about Israel.”

“Look, kid. I got two boys your age, that kid’s age. You’re all a bunch of fucking retards. You’re going to Israel, right?”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t mean I can’t respect other people’s feelings.”

“Respect away. But you wanna go work for Sharon and Peres? That’s no joke. Those guys are fucking gangsters, man. Gangsters. Not movie actors, not mixed up kids with silly tattoos. Mass murderers. And you’re softer than rotting fruit. You can’t think the way you do in the place where you’re going.”

Laden with that whole post-9/11 constellation of enemy-of-my-enemy stereotypes, I was still confused about something. “I thought you and that guy were friends.”

“Fuck that guy. What’s the problem with being friendly and just speaking English? All three of us speak fluent English, but he spoke Arab the entire time just to exclude you from the conversation.

“Fucking Arabs, man. They’re always trying to implicate one another in some little pissing contest. You’re suspect unless you’re pledging loyalty over and over. They need Israel though, ’cause they all hate each other. And Israel needs them, ’cause the minute there’s peace you people will be at each other’s throats. How much can a Russian and an Ethiopian really have in common, anyhow?

“That kid’s parents made good in the States”, he continued. “He’s going to make good money living in Kuwait on a US passport. People like him want all the benefits of being American, but they hate America. I live in Michigan, yeah? There’re a lot of Arabs over there. Most of them hate Americans. Not just George Bush; their neighbors, too. Fuck that. I didn’t go to America to just hunker down with my kind.

“I came to America from Syria almost thirty years ago. I was nineteen years old. Back then they took you to the army right out of high school. Still do, as a matter of fact. It was the mid-seventies and there had just been this God-awful war against Israel. I didn’t know a thing about politics, I just couldn’t see the point of dying for the asshole that was in charge over there. So I took a bus to Jordan and found my way to the US embassy. I swept floors at a bakery, slept on the street and just waited in line at the embassy for hours, every day I could get down there, for about nine months.

“By some miracle I finally got in to see this woman, I didn’t know who she was, her title, or what gave her authority to decide my case, but she asked me why didn’t I wanna go back to Syria, and I told her straight up that I didn’t wanna get drafted. She asked what I wanted to do in the US, and I couldn’t tell her, and she looks me right in the eye, something about her voice and the way she’s facing me kinda changes, and she says—I’ll never forget it—she asked me if it mattered to me to marry Muslim, or if I could marry a Christian or a Jewish or a Chinese girl, and I said through the interpreter, I said, lady, I don’t give a rat’s ass, I’ll marry who I love. And she stamped my passport right there.

“I didn’t speak a word of English. I spent three years cleaning toilets and flippin’ burgers by the beach in Miami, almost didn’t eat anything except hamburgers in all that time. But I learned English. Over the years I spoke Arabic with my parents and sisters by phone, but it got harder and harder. The truth is I haven’t really spoken Arabic in thirty years. I don’t know if you noticed that kid was doing most of the talking. I can’t speak much Arabic anymore. It’s too emotional for me.

“I been back to Syria a few times though. I’m considered a deserter, so I gotta fly through Amman, cross overland and pay a shitload of money. I can’t fly straight in or they’ll arrest me at the airport. I paid $10,000 the last time. One time, there was some kind of disturbance at the airport in Jordan, and our flight just circled and circled above Amman for like, half an hour. Finally, the captain got on the intercom and said we may just have to land in Damascus. I almost shit myself, ’cause they would’ve cut my balls off if I showed up at the airport in Damascus. But we ended up landing in Amman.

“My kids don’t have that problem. When they were old enough, I sent them to see their grandparents and cousins. They can just fly right in on US passports. But the police followed them everywhere. Fucking everywhere. That’s why I don’t understand this ghetto mentality a lot of the Arabs around Detroit have, ’cause they don’t have to put up with that over there.”

“But that’s not true!” I interrupted. “What about the PATRIOT Act and all the domestic surveillance of Muslim-Americans?”

“Look man, I got a welding business. Sheet metal fabrication. I work with my sons. All the contractors around town, we all know each other. On 9/11 I was in this lunch spot we all go, and a bunch of these guys were at the counter, they came in without noticing that I was already there at a corner table with my back turned. The World Trade Center was on the TV above the lunch counter for like, the five-thousandth time that day, and they all started talking about the fuckin’ ragheads and how we need to bomb ’em to smithereens.

“Then one of these guys pipes up, he says, ‘Wait a minute, what about Nazee? He’s Arab, ain’t he?’ And someone else says, ‘Yeah, but he’s not like that.’ And they all kinda quieted down after that, maybe they felt like they went too far with what they’d been saying. That’s just the way people are. The PATRIOT Act ain’t about Arabs. Arabs are an excuse, like the Jews used to be. You think they’re just gonna spy on Arabs now? They’re gonna fuck everyone. What you gotta be worried about is not getting fucked! But racism? Racism’s older than prostitution. Get over it. You can hate people’s guts and still get along with ’em if you’re willing to try. Most of the Arab immigrants in my neck of the woods don’t try though, they stick to themselves. They’re hostile. But they want all the benefits. Like that Turkish guy in the coffee shop giving us dirty looks every time we blew smoke. For christsake, asshole—you sell weed for a living!

“Look at this fuckin’ Arab over here” he whispered, jerking his head rightward to indicate a snowy-haired man some meters away, walking along an adjacent canal with a hijab-clad younger woman by his side. “You think they put those grocery bags on their women because they think it’s wrong for a man to stare at girls? Hell no. It’s because they’re busy looking at everyone else’s girls. They come to a place like this so they can do that. Guy probably brought his daughter to the fuckin’ Netherlands and then put a bag over her head and forced her to marry a stranger or a cousin just because the guy’s from the same country. Well stay the fuck over there if all you’re interested in is the old country.

“You got these mass murderers like Sharon—same story. He’d have fit right in at the KGB. It don’t matter for some people what to believe, as long as they can get their little hard-on. You know what they want? Approval. Behind that tough guy stance, they’re only doing what other people let them get away with. They want to be admired, be remembered. Same reason the pharaohs built those pyramids, man. It’s in our DNA to want to leave a legacy, to shape the future, especially for men. So we come up with all these bullshit rules about what’s best for other people, and pretty soon even a mass murderer thinks he’s doing everybody a favor.

“Look, I think it’s stupid for you to go fight with people who ain’t done you any wrong, but you gotta figure that out yourself. Maybe you got a point, a good reason. I can’t know. Maybe, if I’da been born in the states, I’d have gone the opposite direction. I mean, I’m not much smarter than you. But at some point you gotta worry about yourself and stop implicating the whole damn world in your bullshit, stop trying to make the whole world’s bullshit your own. It’s just a matter of making that choice yourself, or being forced to by circumstances.

“You know how easy it is to get along with people? Look, I’ll prove it. My name’s Nazee, right? Nazee Hussein. This is my business card.” He reached into his coat pocket and handed me a little white rectangle of tagboard with blue letters on it that read, “Nazi Hussein and Sons. Sheet metal fabrication.”

“You spell your name Nazi?”

“I spell it like it sounds. Politics aren’t my department.” In his fedora and trenchcoat, the Bogie quote was well played.

We continued in silence for a few minutes and eventually stepped into a little souvenir shop where there was a big glass display case full of iron-on flag patches for backpackers. The clerk sneered as Nazi reached in and took out the little Israeli flag and handed it to me. I looked at the clerk and pointed to the Palestine flag, and she started to reach for it, but Nazi laid a hand gently on her forearm to stop her. “What in the hell do you think you’re doing?” he asked me.

“I want to wear both flags to show that I’m open-minded, that I want peace, that we can all get along. Like you said!”

“You walk into the Tel Aviv airport with a Palestine flag on you and they’re gonna tear open your ass. Think, man! You gotta firm up. We all want peace, but that’s not where you’re going. You want people to be reasonable, but what’s reasonable to a guy who had the good fortune to grow up in the states is different than what’s reasonable for an Israeli kid working airport security who grew up his whole life with his neighbors wanting to kill him. If you wanna be with your people, then be with your people. America’s the opposite direction.”

I paid for my Israeli flag patch, handed Nazi a couple safety pins and turned my back to him while he pinned it on my Jansport. Then we walked back to the train station together and stood on the platform smoking a joint. When the train to the airport came I gave Nazi Hussein a big hug, stepped onboard, and made my way to Israel.

I can’t say that I really strongly countenance or object to any of Nazi’s criticisms of his people—I’ve just never walked in his shoes. But his words have been kicking around my head for over a decade now. They were there when I was living in Israel, when I served in the Israeli army and when I returned to California with my tail between my legs.