Category Archives: Yiddishkeit

Deconstructing Zionism, Pt. III

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choose wisely

(Part I here, Part II here)

I just got finished watching the second installment of Mouthy Buddha’s Pedogate series. Almost as soon as I shared it on Twitter, my account was suspended. The video will surely soon be taken off YouTube, but it’s already up on BitChute. In case you think this stuff can’t shock you, what Buddha manages to uncover is novel, even for those of us who followed Pizzagate closely and had already heard of Jeffstein Eprey ten years ago.

Buddha is a savvy videographer who is very good about sticking to facts and leaving viewers to their own conclusions. It’s a wise course, as the slightest hint of conjecture would only provide grist for the mill of powerful detractors. But the spectrum of inferences that can be drawn from this information by any reasonable person is exceedingly narrow. Essentially, there is a monstrous conspiracy at the highest levels of institutional life on this planet, and its insiders are able to get away with blood-curdling ritualistic crimes.

One of the institutional settings that is rife with these horrors is Hollywood, and we all know who runs Hollywood. It was always obvious, moreover, that Jeffstein Eprey was an Israeli asset. It’s obvious as well that Israel has moles high in America’s most sensitive institutions, private and public. It would be very hard to imagine that these people have the interests of Americans in mind—it would be very hard to imagine that their purpose in the United States is benign whatsoever. (Believe me, I’ve tried.) And in general it’s obvious that Jews are vastly overrepresented among the most debauched ruling class in the history of the human race—Les Wexner, Ed Buck, the Pritzkers, the Bronfman heiresses of NXIVM sex cult fame, etc., etc., etc. These are some of the same people who backed Epstein, and who back organized Jewish communal life at every level. For example, Hollywood potentate Arnon Milchan, a “former” Mossad man, is a close associate and sponsor of Netanyahu. What are the chances that he (and Netanyahu) don’t know exactly what lies at the bottom of the murky depths Mouthy Buddha is plumbing in his videos? What are the chances he isn’t complicit in them?

I know what the Jewish response to this may be: that spiritual darkness and realpolitik are not exclusive to Jews. Neither, in the grand scheme, is the proportion of Jews involved in any of this stuff very large. That’s correct. I’ve made these arguments myself and they certainly have their place. But a decent human being who uncovers institutional rot opposes or at least divests himself from it. Of course not every offshore bank account and weird coven in the Marin headlands is orchestrated by the Sanhedrin. But the rot we’re talking about here is at the heart of Jewish leadership, and thus at the heart of the Jewish community. Where is the condemnation, from any quarter of organized Jewry? There is none. It’s not even a controversy—you have to leave the reservation if you even want to acknowledge it.

If you are Jewish, does this not give you pause? Do you seriously suppose that if you go around identifying as Jewish, you are not identifying with precisely these phenomena? Be serious. Human groups are qualitatively different from each other. Jews may be a fractious bunch, but they are simply more beleaguered—and thus, more closely tied to their leadership—than, say, Russians or Americans. The scope of their group interests is proportionate to a heightened sense of threat. So, in the same way that (say) the overthrow of the Nicaraguan government by the United Fruit Company has something fundamental to do with what America is, worming into foreign halls of power has something fundamental to do with what Judaism is. This is reflected in the Bible (e.g., Joseph, Esther) and so much of subsequent Jewish history that it doesn’t need enumerating. Put simply, Jeffstein Eprey is not a new development.

One windy winter night in Tel Aviv, well over a decade ago and about a year before I entered the Israeli army, I was befriended by a mysterious stranger, an IDF special forces veteran who was four or five years older than me, and vastly more worldly and self-confident. Like me, he was from an Anglophone country, half-Jewish on his father’s side, well-built, and phenotypically Aryan—aside from a pair of deep-set brown eyes. Over the course of a year, we spent weekends together, mostly in bars and nightclubs. I would later find out that he is the scion of an oligarchic dynasty in his country of origin, but I didn’t know it at the time—though I did notice that money was no object to him. He had a sports car, designer clothes, and an apartment in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Israel. In retrospect, some elements of his backstory didn’t add up, but he was in superb shape and it was more than plausible he’d had an elite designation in the IDF. At times (usually after a few drinks, but not too many) he would ask me oddly morbid “hypothetical” questions—things like, could I murder an innocent child if it was absolutely necessary to complete an undercover mission undetected? My answer to these questions was invariably no, and he would counter with forceful, well-considered arguments to the effect that there’s no point in even joining the army in the first place if I’m not willing to do whatever it takes for the country.

Are you comfortable with this, ya’yahud? With supporting a cause for which such things must be done? Of which Jeffrey Epstein was an operative? I am not asking you to own these things personally. Rather, I’m asking you to think seriously about the cause you profess to believe in, just like my former friend—who was clearly sizing me up for recruitment into something other than just the IDF—was asking me to be serious about it.

Of course, injustice may always be necessary to further power. I don’t say that the Jews belong nowhere, or that our national project ought to be dismantled or abandoned just because politics is nasty business. The issue for me is whether power is being accumulated in pursuit of a vision, a higher ideal. A commonwealth should promote truth, beauty, excellence, justice, and vigor for their own sakes in its people. That is how a people becomes a “light unto the Nations.” But for Israel, there is no higher ideal than to outlive our persecutors—to exist and accumulate power in endless insecurity which we ascribe to some social disease or malevolent spirit that can never be examined dispassionately.

The problem is that Judaism is an unhappy culture that operates out of constant reaction to past slights, necessitating a clandestine orientation to the outside world that is by turns vindictive and pathetic. That is why Israel (with its vast technological talent) has become the Prussia of global liberalism—a spearhead, exempt from this system’s normative decorum (as all traditional pariahs are nowadays.) Zionism once promised a “new Jewish man” unencumbered by this messy psychology. It was a good idea while it lasted.

Deconstructing Zionism, Pt. II

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that’s not real Zionism

(Part I here, Part III here)

People who mind their own business have the right to be left alone. The same is true with groups of people. Does Israel mind its own business? Well, what does that even mean?

Clearly, someone who is gravely threatened by another has the right to concern himself with that other party’s affairs, up to the point that doing so is liable to end the threat. But if someone is merely disliked by another—disdained, avoided, boycotted, denounced in purely subjective terms, or in objective ones that do not rise to the level of falsehood—then to concern oneself with that other party’s affairs goes far beyond just minding one’s own business.

Is Israel gravely threatened by anyone? Sure—we all know who. Does Israel limit itself to defending against those parties? Of course not. Through surrogates abroad (many of them billionaires, CEOs and the like) as well as directly through its agents, Israel is deeply involved in the domestic affairs not only of hostile nations but of numerous friendly ones. Through campaign finance, media coordination, and even blackmail and defamation of individual political opponents, Israel meddles in these countries’ democratic processes and violates the rights of citizens there to speak, associate, and politically organize. It has succeeded in placing anti-boycott laws on the books in two dozen U.S. states that impose unconstitutional conditions on government contractors. Its military tech complex is hitched to the U.S. deep state in ways that give Israel access to the sensitive data of millions of Americans. The Israeli army even maintains a troll unit dedicated to policing online content around the world. And just this month, Israel revoked a broadcasting license from a Christian TV station for violating its restrictions on proselytizing.

From all this activity, a picture emerges. Rather than just addressing grave threats, Israel opposes itself around the world to dislike of Israel. It literally opposes the right of individuals to dislike it, to vocally condemn its policies, and to refrain from doing business with it. And the Israeli government feels that Judaism is so fragile, and compares so unfavorably with competing faiths, that inside Israel those faiths must be censored, and Israeli Jews shielded from their ideas.

An Arab proverb has it that, “Where there is concession, there is strength.” Miserliness is a sign of insecurity. Like a man, a people that is mature and self-confident does not need to concern itself with the opinions of others. Like a man, a people with a clean conscience can withstand being reviled. A regime with honest motives can withstand criticism. But for some odd reason, 21st-century Israel increasingly cannot.

It is often said by Zionists that no real distinction exists between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. This is quite correct. Historian Tony Judt once called Israel “the country that wouldn’t grow up,” but the problem he identified is not limited to Zionism or Israel. For an ethnic Jew to marry out, attend a wedding in a church, or even flip through the New Testament out of curiosity, is something fraught with jaundice and shame. Religious Judaism takes the same attitude toward classical (Greco-Roman) learning.

A creed that imposes mandatory blind spots like these and enforces them with guilt over supposed betrayal of the dead is unworthy of free men, instead producing gangsters, avengers, and fanatical agnostics. It venerates the crypt at the crippling expense of the living. It is an overbearing parent from whom we never quite individuate. As Epictetus said, “It is the act of an uninstructed person to reproach others for his own misfortunes.” The stalking wolf of anti-Semitism, of Amalek, is our own shadow, which Zionist instruction has amplified rather than diminished, despite its promises of a “new Jewish man” and a “nation like all other nations,” propositions that have been conveniently shelved in favor of more breast beating, more Holocaust, more tattling to daddy America, and zero moral responsibility for the situation the country perennially finds itself in. Even the Israeli left takes cover by blaming the problem, essentially, on toxic masculinity, and on religion, as if coveting Arab cisterns was a religion.

In 17th-century Ukraine, Jewish men disinclined to study Talmud used to run away from the shtetl, accept baptism, and join the Cossack hordes. I don’t blame them for choosing freedom and adventure over compulsive routine, and passively awaiting redemption. That is what Zionism once represented. Yet today, the Jew, and the Jewish Israeli, is every bit the specially protected creature his forbear was in medieval Europe, unable to shake off the dust of centuries, and subjected to occasional massacres as a matter of course.

Where once the relationship of hofjude to crown was the thread by which the community’s safety swung, today the country is utterly dependent on billionaire surrogates abroad for political representation, defense procurement and market exposure. And what exactly is being marketed? Software and biomedical gadgetry, i.e., magic, not unlike the Golem, Shylock’s ducats, or the “Jews of Amsterdam” in One Hundred Years of Solitude. In short, Zionism has changed nothing fundamental about the Jewish position in the world, other than making us into fearful little policemen of Arabs—who retain all the initiative in the relationship because they have nothing left to lose, i.e., freedom. Regimes come and go, but the hofjude is forever. Independence—freedom—continually eludes us. Apparently, we don’t want it.

Like a man, there comes a time in the life of any ideology or regime when potentialities are null, and what you see is what you get. What we see with Zionism is a regime that cannot sustain itself without subjecting a foreign civilian population to permanent martial law. We see a government that feels the need to nudge its neighbors into permanent civil wars. We see constant, unending tension, recrimination, hostility and strife. We see a culture obsessed with victimhood, “remembrance,” and death. We see an ideology that must suppress criticism, that cannot abide any measure of dislike because its conscience is not clean—deep down, it understands that its orientation to the outside world is clandestine. Maybe these things are the fault of everyone except the Jews. Certainly that is what the Zionist movement now believes. But you’d have to be brainwashed to believe it.

 

Deconstructing Zionism, Pt. I

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if you will it, it is no dream

(Part II here, Part III here)

The Jews are probably the most hated group of people on the planet, and (to paraphrase Henry Kissinger) any people that is so widely hated must be doing something wrong. Now, I don’t think that Kissinger’s view here is necessarily correct. Jesus was hated in his time, and so was Socrates. But whether we’re right or wrong to be hated, there is much to be said for how one deals with being hated; and I think that a great deal of the rightness or wrongness of being hated can be measured there. So how do the Jews deal with being hated?

We demand acceptance. We castigate others as immoral for not liking us, and feel deeply entitled as victims to validation and moral support. This is what Zionism and liberalism have in common. There can be no greater accomplishment for Israel than to simply be acknowledged as existing, by Chad or Honduras or some Egyptian TV presenter. This is absolutely pathetic. North Korea has more self-respect.

When the Arabs bury their war dead, they own their choices by saying that the fallen died on account of Islam. When Israelis bury our war dead, we say the exact same thing. The Arabs take the initiative; we just keep having things happen to us. The Arabs have martyrs; we have victims—and victims are always on the defensive. When the French lost Alsace and Lorraine, they resolved to “remember it always and speak of it never.” In contrast, it is doubtful that Israel can ever shut up even just for a moment about all its massacres and humiliations, which it fetishizes (including in a week-long national festival each year) and nurses its children on. It’s disgusting.

Of course there are many trends and factions within Zionism, and many different personality types in Israel. But as with my prior essay series on Judaism, the question is, what is the general tendency? For a long time, I badly wanted Zionism to be something virile, and it’s undeniable that there are many very tough and even heroic Israelis. But Zionism’s most representative personality is not Joseph Trumpeldor or Imi Lichtenfeld. It’s Jared Kushner. He may not be the most powerful Jew in America, but he’s the best exemplar of how Jewish power in America functions. And Jewish power in America is more fundamental to Zionism than anything that goes on in Israel.

For awhile now, the conventional wisdom has been that Israel is a jackbooted anachronism in a liberalizing world. This was my view for a long time, but I was wrong. In fact, the opposite is true: it would be more accurate to say that Israel is to the liberal world order what Prussia once was to reaction. Whether you believe that it’s the U.S. pressing Israel into service or the Jews controlling America (or something in between) the result is the same: Israel is a major arm of the U.S. military-industrial-scientific complex, which is essentially the largest criminal enterprise in the history of the planet. America is the empire of science, of finance, of data and behaviorism and glitter that’s not gold. It is “the land of the pariah” (in Evola’s apt phrasing) and the Jews will always be kingpin pariahs. Just like in Once Upon a Time in America, you can become Secretary of the Treasury, but the shtetl will always be haunting you.

So Zionism is not the least bit at odds with liberalism. The goal of liberalism is to advance “progress” across a theoretically limitless field of human backwardness. The goal of Zionism is to secure the existence of the Jewish people against a theoretically limitless field of outside hostility, of “prejudice” and “hate” that knows no reference to the Jewish side of these relationships. It’s the SPLC state. Like the enemies of Hamlet or Big Brother, these ideologies’ adversaries are everywhere and nowhere at once. Efforts to ferret them out and crush them must constantly be redoubled. Thus, the fundamental premise of each is that might makes right. And like liberalism, which functions in machiavellian fashion as its adherents go around preaching human rights, Zionism asserts in the same breath both that Israel has a non-contingent moral “right to exist,” and that its contingent, amoral strength is its ultimate justification.

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make up your mind dude

This narrative tension will never be resolved. At bottom, Israel is interested in no principle higher than the Jews’ brute physical survival. Things just keep happening to us, and the moral onus is always on others.

Deconstructing Judaism, Pt. VI

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 priorities

(Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V)

“As the last of my race, I must wither alone, And delight but in days I have witness’d before”                         —Byron

In 1951 my Grandpa took his wife and kids to visit Israel. My Dad and Uncle were seven and five. When they deplaned at Lod airfield (now Ben Gurion International airport), they were amazed to see Israeli soldiers. It seems strange to us in 2020, but in 1951, Jewish soldiers defending an independent Jewish homeland was almost unimaginable. For those two little kids, it was a miracle, a piece of wistful lore come mind-bogglingly to life.

Fifty-six years later, in 2007, as I was nearing completion of my training in the Israeli army, I got off base one weekend for leave. On the way home, I had to catch a connector from Ber Sheva to Tel Aviv. I was 20 years old, callow, arrogant, and caffeinated, but as I strolled around the Ber Sheva bus station in uniform, full of myself, with a dramatic rap song on my headphones and an M4 carbine over my shoulder, my eye caught sight of a jolly, hapless little man with Down syndrome off in the distance, making his way through the crowd.

A sudden wave of tenderness and pity washed over me. I had finally been caught, by the universe—or caught myself—in a years-long act of stupidity and egomania. How many soldiers, how many ideologues, are motivated by a grim understanding of our fragility and the mundane, unglamorous responsibilities it imposes? And how many, on the other hand, are motivated by vindictive sadism and vainglory?

When two years prior I sat beside my grandma on the couch in her nursing home and told her I wanted to join the Israeli army, she sneered and replied, “You want to be a soldier? It’s so goyish.” But when I returned to America years later and once again took my place beside her on the couch, she would tell the other nursing home inmates that this was her grandson, “The one who was in Israel, defending the little Jews.” Dayenu, Grandma. If only.

A previous post of mine, about the psychology of fascism, found disfavor with a Jewish reader, because it mentioned the Kahanist movement as an exception to the rule that anti-semitism is fascism’s sine qua non. After posting the essay to Twitter, I ended up going back and forth with a West Bank settler who believes that Kahanism is the only logical conclusion of Judaism. In his view, the highest possible principle and prerogative of life and the known universe is to ensure that future generations of Jews are committed to Judaism and to Israel. These are admirable means, but they aren’t ends. A religion is not an end in itself. Not even tradition is an end in itself, and a nation certainly isn’t—not even a goy-kadosh u’mamlekhet kohanim. A national ego is not a god. God is bigger than that. God is bigger than Judaism.

Deconstructing Judaism, Pt. V

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am I missing something?

(Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IVPart VI)

“Seen from the outside, Israel still comports itself like an adolescent: consumed by a brittle confidence in its own uniqueness; certain that no one ‘understands’ it and everyone is ‘against’ it; full of wounded self-esteem, quick to take offense and quick to give it. Like many adolescents Israel is convinced—and makes a point of aggressively and repeatedly asserting—that it can do as it wishes, that its actions carry no consequences and that it is immortal.”  —Tony Judt, Ha’aretz (2006)

I.

In order to know whether a given culture or system of thought is good or bad, we must evaluate it critically. However, we cannot critically evaluate anything effectively unless we determine what its fundamentals are, and what we have identified here as the sine qua non of Judaism is the conviction that the Jewish people are congenitally more special, intelligent, persevering and misunderstood than all other peoples, with a special destiny to be vindicated before the rest of mankind. However, the inductive reasons we’ve offered may not be entirely accurate. So, let’s test this thesis against some possible alternatives, and see whether we can arrive at deductive reasons instead:

(1) The essence of Judaism is some kind of religious belief or set of beliefs.

This may be true of Judaism in a strict religious sense, but what we’ve termed “Judaism” here encompasses a basic belief held in common by the vast majority of Jews, which of course includes liberals, atheists and many others besides orthodox believers. And it is central to religious Judaism too.

(2) The essence of Judaism is the belief that one’s culture and people, i.e., the Jews, are good, and worthy of preservation.

While this is certainly not objectionable, and is indeed intrinsic to Judaism, it is more rudimentary than essential, and it begs the question of what, exactly, is being preserved, apart from the physical existence of the Jews. Some other cultures value honor more than life, whereas Judaism obviously prioritizes life, i.e., group survival, above all values. This is the ethos Israeli soldiers die defending, and the Israeli public views their deaths not so much as heroic acquiescence to duty and fate in the normal course of struggling for the good; but more as the ripping of unripe fruit from the national tree by an insatiable, perennial, irrational enemy. Esav soné et Ya’akov. In every generation they rise up to kill us. C’est la vie, woe is me. This is a profoundly disempowering worldview.

(3) The essence of Judaism is some bedrock idea about God, man, truth, beauty, and the nature of the universe.

Again: this is true, at most, only of religious Judaism, not Jewishness as a culture and a mentality. In the latter sense, the fundamental idea of Judaism is, rather, about the role of the Jews relative to “the nations.” We have phrased it as follows: that the Jews are congenitally more special, intelligent, persevering and misunderstood than all other peoples, with a special destiny to be vindicated before the rest of mankind. In the face of so many irreligious factions and trends in Jewishness, religiosity alone cannot supplant our thesis.

(4) The essence of Judaism is a system of ethics.

Though ethics is a component of Judaism, it may be a stretch to say that Judaism’s ethical requirements are essential. For example, derech eretz can be termed essentially Jewish only in the religious sense, and halakha is a system of laws, not ethics.

However, in the modern era, flagrant violation of both derech eretz and halakha, not only as a matter of personal foibles but as a matter of personal identity, is no bar to a Jewish identity affirmed (or at least not denied) by the broader Jewish culture. For example, comedienne Sarah Silverman, pornographer Al Goldstein, and New York LGBT synagogue Beit Simchat Torah would horrify the Hasmoneans, or the sages of Pirke Avot. Yet Goldstein identified strongly as Jewish, as does Silverman, and Beit Simchat Torah is literally a synagogue, with a frum rabbi. The demographically beleaguered State of Israel would grant citizenship to every one of its genetically dead-end members, with a three-year tax holiday, free healthcare, and $15K in cash assistance immediately upon arrival, regardless of need, simply because they meet its definition of “Jewish.” Should they wish to become parents with a gay partner—a hillul hashem if ever there was one—the Jewish State will go to great lengths to ensure that they can.

(5) The essence of Judaism is tikun olam.

While orthodox Judaism indeed views the performance of mitzvot as inherently leading toward a “healed world” (tikun olam), this is perhaps more quantitative than qualitative. In any case, for most modern Jews, tikun olam actually functions as a half-assed secular substitute for strict religious observance. In this sense it is really just moral law derived by fiat of Jewish genius as a necessary corrective to the intellectually deficient “nations.” It can also be conceptualized as simply “being a good person,” but that is equally arbitrary, and has no necessary connection to Judaism in particular.

II.

Supposing we were to ignore every liberal or secular Jewish trend and faction. Does our thesis still apply to orthodox Judaism? In other words, is it a necessary, fundamental assumption of orthodox Judaism that the Jews are congenitally more special, intelligent, persevering and misunderstood than all other peoples, with a special destiny to be vindicated before the rest of mankind?

It is.

Pure orthodox belief and practice is much more ascetic, more internal, than any kind of Zionism, or secularism, or liberal denomination—the point is to garner one’s reward in heaven. And yet, whether you look at proselytizing sects like Chabad and the Breslovers; or public rabbis like Mantis Freidman and Shmuely Boteach; or haredi enclaves like Beis Yoel or Mea She’arim; or the West Bank settlements of Israel’s national religious camp; the exact same foundational conceit we have formulated as our thesis, and identified with secular Jewish trends, is pervasive. There’s no way around it: Judaism has a fundamental priority that’s distinct from simple fidelity to God. You can’t have Jewishness or Judaism without it. Belief in God does not require it. Yet without belief in God, Jewishness persists.

Deconstructing Judaism, Pt. IV

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Assyrians, Donny

(Part I, Part II, Part IIIPart V, Part VI)

One October almost a decade ago, I was enrolled for the fall semester in my California hometown community college when an Israeli army pal flew in to visit. He spoke almost no English, and it was a great opportunity to translate and see my native country through alien eyes. The morning he arrived, I showed him around San Francisco. It was during the Jewish high holidays, and I had taken the week off school. Our plan was to drive to South Lake Tahoe the next morning.

Toward mid-afternoon we came to the Palace of the Legion of Honor (when I show you San Francisco, I do it right.) The museum is on a hill sloping sharply down from the plateau of a cliffside that looks north across the Golden Gate toward Marin. The bottom floor is partially subterranean, but white-walled, high-ceilinged and well lit. As you exit east-to-west along the south side, there’s a long hallway leading past the gift shop and the cafeteria. My friend and I slowed to peruse the contents of the glass cases along the south wall, when a number of ancient Assyrian artifacts caught our eyes.

“Assyrians!” my friend exclaimed.

“Those bastards!” I chimed in.

Well, about a week later I was in World Civ class (Honors World Civ, if you must know.) The instructor, a well-liked, Jesuit-educated old historian with a wry sense of humor, who knew about my Israeli army sojourn, was lecturing about the Bronze Age Levant. When he came to the Assyrian sacking of Jerusalem in 701 BC, he paused, lowered his glasses down his nose a bit, and cast me a mischievous glance. “I don’t want to inflame any tension here,” he quipped. “I know Sam’s still mad at the Assyrians.” What could I say? He’d busted me.

My old father is a small-town doctor, raised as one of a few dozen Jews at a time when the town was overwhelmingly WASP. He’s totally irreligious and apolitical. Yet, not long ago, he told me about a Lutheran minister who’d been in to see him as a patient. “I asked the guy why Martin Luther didn’t like the Jews,” he told me. Awkward. What kind of madhouse would the world be if everyone had memories this long?

As it turns out, we have some idea. Yoav Shamir’s 2009 documentary, Defamation, examines official Jewry’s exploitation of anti-semitism for political gain. Andy Nowicki reviewed the film for the original Alternative Right:

[T]he most powerful segment of the film involves a group of Israeli teenagers who are flown to Auschwitz on a field trip. The kids are familiar adolescent characters: rowdy, rambunctious, immature, emotional, prone to gossip and mischief, at times sweetly wide-eyed in their innocence. They are both annoying and likable simultaneously, as teenagers can be. In any case, this group is in no mood to have their consciousness raised during their exciting trip together: much to the consternation of their adult chaperones, they just want to have fun. 

Over the course of the trip, however, these kids are repeatedly bludgeoned with the message: You are Jews and the world hates you; you must in turn hate and fear the world if you hope to survive! Their faces are pushed into the gruesome tales of the events that took place in the notorious camp, and at night their handlers tell them stories of how the present-day country of Poland is still rife with neo-Nazi violence. A harmless comment to some members of the group uttered by an old Polish man is interpreted as viciously anti-Semitic; Shamir tries to correct their misconception, but to no avail; they have been instructed how to perceive reality, and won’t be dissuaded.

The kids, being hedonistic at heart, do manage to put up some resistance to the relentless stream of emotionally compelling propaganda being pumped into their ears, but they can only hold out for so long. Near the end of the trip, a lovely young Jewess breaks down and tells Shamir that it has finally happened: she has learned to “hate” her enemies; the implication is clear that she has come to view the Palestinians and Arabs as cut from the same cloth as the Nazis. 

This scene has a viscerally searing quality, similar in feel to Orwell’s account of his hero Winston Smith succumbing to the horrific manipulations of the Ministry of Love and learning to embrace the pernicious ruling ideology of Oceania. The corruption of innocence portrayed here is simply breathtaking, and heartbreaking to behold.

Who can fail to detect the empathy in Nowicki’s recounting of this little incident? I know all about these stories. I was nursed on precisely this kind of pathos and spite throughout my childhood. The problem is that, because I am half-Jewish, this fear and loathing that Judaism traffics in is directed, in part, against a part of myself.

But the Zionist premise that the Palestinians are cut from the same cloth as the Nazis is factually correct, if only in the sense that Palestinians today are the most active in opposing the Jews. One prevalent anti-Jewish trope is that Judaism is a negative identity, based solely on intransigent rejection of Christ, or Muhammad, or assimilation. Anyone who has glanced at a sidur, or at Pirke Avot, knows this to be patently false. But there is something to it, in the sense that having a belief, a culture, and an identity that so many powers and principalities have tried so hard for so long to eradicate makes you defensive as a matter of character.

Accordingly, the perspective of this series is one that will be difficult for many Jews to accept or even follow. I’ve tried to raise a mirror to Judaism—not just to the frummies, or the liberals, or the Zionists, but to Judaism and Jewishness fundamentally, and what I see reflected back is not entirely flattering. As Nowicki puts it, channelling the filmmaker, Shamir,

[his] argument seems to be that indulging in paranoid delusion about the coming of a new Holocaust simply isn’t a good way for Jews, or anyone, to live. Hating those one takes to be one’s enemies and constantly fearing the worst from them may in fact be a self-fulfilling prophecy, bringing out the worst in everyone, oneself and one’s enemies alike. If Jews want to thrive and inspire goodwill from others, Shamir appears to be saying, they should eschew such a spurious mindset, and not dwell so much on bad things that were done to them in the past.

But what kind of Judaism would this be? It’s scarcely even conceivable.

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Deconstructing Judaism, Pt. III

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wisdom is a woman

(Part I, Part IIPart IV, Part V, Part VI)

Leo Strauss, in his noted 1962 lecture, “Why We Remain Jews,” remarked that the purpose of the Jews is to prove that there’s no salvation.

Have you ever received unsolicited advice from an embittered elder about why some ambition or endeavor of yours is futile, “don’t get your hopes up,” “don’t quit your day job,” etc.? That’s exactly what Strauss was saying. Our religion has proven disappointing, so yours must be as well. You’re just too stupid to realize it.

Not long ago, TED-talk charlatan—I mean, “public intellectual”—Douglas Rushkoff expanded on Strauss’s concept:

The thing that makes Judaism dangerous to everybody, to every race, to every nation, to every idea, is that we smash things that aren’t true, we don’t believe in the boundaries of nation-state, we don’t believe in the ideas of these individual gods that protect individual groups of people; these are all artificial constructions and Judaism really teaches us how to see that. In a sense our detractors have us right, in that we are a corrosive force, we’re breaking down the false gods of all nations and all people because they’re not real and that’s very upsetting to people.

We are nihilists, Lebowski. We suck all the enchantment out of the world and replace it with data. Leaving aside Rushkoff’s gibbering self-flattery and falsehood (Judaism “doesn’t believe in nation states” or in “gods who protect individual groups of people“?), the question arises whether, from this perspective, there is anything Jews do believe?

Well, how different is Rushkoff’s thesis from ours? Is he not agreeing that Judaism entails being congenitally more special, intelligent, persevering and misunderstood than all other peoples, with a special destiny to be vindicated? Of course, as a good progressive, he might not say that this is “congenital,” but if it isn’t, then we don’t have Judaism, we just have neoliberalism and granola.

But this is quite odd. On the one hand, we have Judaism, the ancient religion: insular, xenophobic, theistical. On the other, we have “Judaism”: liberal, cosmopolitan, atheistic. The rabbis aren’t excommunicating the iconoclasts, and the Zionists approve of both sides. All agree that Jewishness makes us more special, intelligent, persevering and misunderstood than all other peoples, with a special destiny to be vindicated.

What’s going on here?

Deconstructing Judaism, Pt. II

(Part IPart III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI)

Judaism is a lyrical trove. It embodies mournful steadfastness, defiant pluck, and impervious amour propre. But it is also an agonized victimology. Even the historical premise of Judaism, i.e., faith in an immanent, moral God, is quite secondary to how Judaism actually functions, its role in the world, and the way its adherents construct meaning.

First things first: this is not going to be an apologia for anti-semitism. I am not seeking compromise between disparate worldviews. I am not going to argue that sometimes it’s okay to hate Jews. None of that interests me. Rather, I am interested in how Judaism actually functions, its role in the world, and the way its constituents construct meaning—whether, in light of this, its many disparate tendencies and factions can be shown to have something fundamental in common, and whether that something is worthwhile.   

I won’t belabor the build-up. In my fairly large experience of the subject, Judaism’s basic narrative structure is that the Jews are the elect of God or of history—congenitally more special, intelligent, persevering and misunderstood than all other peoples, with a special destiny to be vindicated before the rest of mankind, either (1) religiously, in a coming messianic age; (2) historically, over the linear course of history, or (3) in daily life and society, as sagely sorts with a penchant for overcoming long odds. Every (yes, every) disparate form of Jewish identity, whether secular, religious, Zionist, leftist, etc., is characterized by this basic narrative structure. Even Jewish self-hatred just turns it all inside out. I know Jews who are adamant in their apostasy and anti-Zionism, who ostentatiously adopt eastern mysticism or Catholicism or Palestinianism. On the surface this appears to be alienation or self-loathing, but you’ll notice that these types never truly walk away from Jewish identity. In fact they’re more likely than regular Jews to be fulminating and kvetching and referring back all the time to their unresolved identity. Like a psych major’s daddy issues, such petulance is actually the worst form of Jewish conceit. Self-righteous, detached from all loyalty, it wears Judaism like a skin.

That is not my intention here at all. On the contrary—Jewish ethnicity is not a lifestyle choice. We are born to be what we are, but it is possible to be proud of being Jewish while also viewing Jewishness critically, and what I mean by this is not some trans-affirming Peter Beinart peacenik bullshit with a feminist haggadahNo. I’m talking about accepting Jewishness for what it is, warts and all. You cannot take pride in something you do not know. Yes, the reality of human psychology is that any enduring group identity will involve mythos, conceit, xenophobia, perhaps inferiority complex. But has any people taken this as far as the Jews?

Mark Twain didn’t think so:

The Egyptians, the Babylonians and the Persians rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greeks and Romans followed and made a vast noise, and they were gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, and have vanished. The Jew saw them all, survived them all, and is now what he always was… All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains.

What Twain has given us is a photo negative of the thesis I’ve put forward here. But while it speaks to certain virtues, e.g., steadfastness and faith, it is also a testimony to the sustaining power of piss and vinegar, because so much of Jewish collective memory is an accounting of wrongs done to us by others. In daily life we rightly avoid those who tend to snivel and castigate fortune. A great deal of Jewish pride since emancipation has been based around living down stereotypes, but if the stereotypes have no basis, then what could there possibly be to live down?

Allow me to explain….

Deconstructing Judaism, Pt. I

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the final solution?

(Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI)

One of the worst clichés in anti-semitic circles is that the Jews won’t tolerate criticism. Why should Jews accept being criticized qua Jews? No other group accepts this—certainly not those most “critical of Jews”, i.e., Muslims and (with respect to white people) the alt-right.

Readers may know me as a Zionist. This is an oversimplification. I am half-Jewish on my father’s side and was raised Jewish. But Judaism is not about about religion or identity for me. It’s just a memento mori.

The second intifada was raging when I got out of high school. Every several weeks there were murdered Jewish schoolchildren and elderly on the front page of the newspapers. Restless, romantic, full of deontological conviction, I decided to drop out of college and join the Israeli army. Obviously, I am not anti-Zionist. But I am not primarily a Zionist, either. In other words, Jewish identity is not my primary conceptual frame. If it were, I’d be poorer, spiritually and intellectually, which is why Israelis sometimes seem to me like poor relations—smug, stingy, and provincial. For an awful lot of them, Jewish identity is an ultimate end—a kind of idol—whereas for me, Zionism is quite contingent. If a vital Israeli interest contributes to making my life in America (or humanity as a whole) less free, then I am dead set against it. There is no cause worth losing your soul.

If this was the 1920s, I might not be Zionist at all, but Israel is a fait accompli. I’ve defended Jews from neo-Nazis not because neo-Nazis are entirely wrong about Jews, but because they’re stupid and monomaniacal. I’ve defended Israel from the pro-Palestine crowd not because Israel is innocent or unobnoxious, but because Palestine is not a human rights cause—it’s a medieval Islamic one. That’s not entirely a bad thing, but I think leftists in the West should be honest about it. Zionism is Israel’s only alternative to sharia, which any non-Muslim people is entitled to avoid.

Not long ago, I published a piece over on Affirmative Right, basically a polemic against the widespread alt-media view that Zionism is uniquely pernicious in U.S. politics. My argument was that America has always been ethnically and politically fractious, and activism on behalf of narrow interests is normal. A wignat reader seized on this, commenting that I was “deconstructing” (white) American identity, and declaring that I would never deconstruct Jewish or Israeli identity in this manner. Well, he was more than a little bit wrong. Over a year ago, I published a five-part critical deconstruction of Jewish identity (under the asinine title, “Make Judaism Great Again”—the Wayback Machine has my back) but it was windy, and lacked a tidy conclusion. In the aftermath of subsequent anti-semitic shootings, I removed it, intending to refine it and republish it later.

Well, later is now. Stay tuned.

 

Achtung Juden

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What ideology unites Antifa and 4Chan, manosphere he-thots and intersectional harpies, tradcaths and neopagans, wignats and hoteps, Dugin and Zizek, peacenik granolas and international arms dealers?

“Well it’s your own damn fault if you’re so hated!” By those clowns? Really? A man with no enemies is a man with no character, and these enemies are not sending their best. Like the Jersey City shooting earlier this month, last night’s machete attack on an ultra-orthodox Hanukkah party in upstate New York appears to have been carried out by a lumpen African-American under the influence of YouTube Wakanda theology.

Now, I’m half-Jewish, and basically a modern, secular person—I have about as much in common with Hasidic Jews as I do with the Denisovans. So it’s as strange to see people who are so different from me being attacked for what little we have in common, as it is startling to see how different the backgrounds of the perpetrators tend to be.

You may recall, for instance, last year’s events at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. No, not the Purim party. I’m talking about the sabbath service where a lonely old wignat truck driver with an AR mistook the place for a range and did target practice on a dozen or so nursing home inmates in wheel chairs. Update: they didn’t survive. You may also recall the following April, when a homeschooled sperg male nurse took out a Federal Reserve banker at a shul in San Diego, wounding the rabbi in the process, along with an eight-year old girl who runs the porn industry. The perp there seems not to have had any imaginary friends, though he did have the next best thing, i.e., 8Chan anons.

Then there was the 2014 Kansas City JCC shooting, also perpetrated by a wignat, who killed a kid and two adults, all of them gingerbread-baking white Methodists in RealTree camo and ugly Christmas sweaters. At least the 2012 shooter in Toulouse (that’s France, for all you Victor Hugo fans) managed to hit actual members of the tribe, killing three toddlers and wounding five others at a synagogue daycare. Oh, and how about the 2009 DC Holocaust Museum shooting? That one took out a married black father of three, which is not as rare as a unicorn, but should probably require a permit or something. Then there was the Seattle JCC kindergarten shooting in 2006, and the El Al ticket counter shooting in LAX a year or so prior. Oh, and who could forget the 1999 JCC shooting in LA? A real classic, which took the lives of four children, a secretary, and the mailman.

Why do these things keep happening? I’m sure some anthropomorphic little Eric Cartman somewhere would love to fill me in. Yes, the Jews have their fair share of perverts, plutocrats, embezzlers and corrupt politicians. But these pogroms never seem to target those Jews—or any pervs, plutocrats, embezzlers, politicians, etc. So the question is not what the Jews have done to deserve these atrocities. Because if that was the question, they wouldn’t really be atrocities, would they? “Well they’re not, teehee.” Yeah, tell me more about elite pedophile rings there, guy who supports kindergarten shootings.

The reason these things keep happening is because Jews don’t prevent it. And so the real question is, what is to be done to prevent it?

I don’t intend the question as a “silence is violence” callout. Silence can be complicity in the unconscionable, but a lot of unconscionable shit goes on every day, and no one owes it to anyone else to think or feel anything. The solution, then, depends on the Jews. Do we want to live, or don’t we? It’s that simple.

I know that’s sounds trite. I only ask because lots of Jews don’t want to. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying that Hitler or Chemelnitsky is coming. Believe it or not—in spite of all these attacks—that’s not the problem. I’m also not talking about Jews who are estranged from their heritage, either. No. I’m talking about Jews who make fellow traveling with some form of anti-semitism a literal component of Judaism, and of yiddishkeit.

Sound far-fetched? These types are quite vocal, and they’re the tip of a huge psychological iceberg. On the left stand the anti-Zionists, who should be irrelevant—clammy, furtive little figures like Philip Weiss, Norman Finkelstein, Israel Shamir, and Gilad Atzmon, who make entire careers and identities out of shame, discomfort and denunciation of an identity they could easily just walk away from instead. Proof that mainstream liberal Judaism essentially fellow-travels with this pathology is the recent, wholesale renunciation of Zionism by Jewish Voice for Peace—whose board members include Tony Kushner, Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein. (It was 1941 when Jabotinsky declared “all those who regard [peace with the Palestinians] as a condition sine qua non for Zionism may as well say ‘non’ and withdraw from Zionism.” Better 78 years late than never, I suppose.) Liberal Zionists like Jeremy Ben Ami and Peter Beinart are actually worse, because they’re pushing from within for the Zionist movement to reflect JVP’s attitudes. Of the Palestinian factions they imagine they’d like to conciliate, each one, including the internationally recognized PLO, has a completely undisavowed and remarkably recent history of deadly attacks on Israeli women, children and elderly. But then, no one in J-Street has to actually live with those consequences (unless J-Street is working with frummies from Monsey I don’t know about.)

As bad as all this is, there’s something far more patently offensive to the intellect about the left anti-Zionists’ mirror image on the right, among the burgeoning ranks of sycophantic, alt-right adjacent Jews desperately flailing to live down every absurd libel and stereotype as if it applied to them personally. (At least having no pride or self-esteem whatsoever suits leftists.) Tech entrepreneur Ron Unz, for example, runs the largest aggregator of anti-Jewish content on the web, where he publishes his own rambling, scarcely readable essays that reprise familial and childhood resentments at great length before eventually getting around to the ostensible topic, which is always how bad his own people are. Self-help charlatan Mike Cernovich similarly grovels for acceptance from Twitter Nazis. Classics professor Paul Gottfried pathetically fawns all over pseudoscientist Kevin MacDonald (and is shocked, shocked to find that liberal journalists associate him with alt-right leaders he actually associates with.) Eccentric inventor Henry Makow writes gushing blurbs for latter-day clerical fascist E. Michael Jones’s self-published screeds; and blog posts with titles like “Anti-Semitism is Legitimate Self Defense.” Would he like somebody to murder him, or what?

One looks for sanity in this febrile atmosphere of ADHD Twitter discourse, of anomie and atomization and dementia, and sees the Jewish civil society commentariat, the ADL, the Atlantic, etc., exuding precisely the fear and panic that the high school bully mentality of anti-semitism veritably lives to elicit. When has official Jewry in America ever prevented an attack on Jews here? When they aren’t pushing constitutionally dubious legislation that makes us look ugly and stupid, their solution to everything is “education”: more words, factoids, arguments, and admonishments against wrongthink; to explain ourselves for the umpteenth time to a balkanized and stupefied public irremediably leery of smug expertise.

In Russia, in 1911, Jabotinsky had a prescient sense of this:

Now they have raised a rumpus over ritual murder, and once again we have taken on the role of prisoners on trial: we press our hands to our hearts, with quivering fingers we leaf through old stacks of supporting documents that no one is interested in, and we swear right and left that we do not consume this drink, that never has a drop of it passed our lips, may the Lord smite me on the spot. . . How much longer will this go on? Tell me, my friends, are you not tired by now of this rigmarole? Isn’t it high time, in response to all of these accusations, rebukes, suspicions, smears, and denunciations—both present and future—to fold our arms over our chests and loudly, clearly, coldly, and calmly put forth the only argument which this public can understand: why don’t you all go to hell?

Who are we, to make excuses to them; who are they to interrogate us? What is the purpose of this mock trial over an entire people where the verdict is known in advance? Our habit of constantly and zealously answering to any rabble has already done us a lot of harm and will do much more. The situation that has been created as a result tragically confirms a well known saying: ‘Qui s’excuse s’accuse.’ We ourselves have acquainted our neighbors with the thought that for every embezzling Jew it is possible to drag the entire ancient people to answer. . . Every accusation causes among us such a commotion that people unwittingly think, ‘Why are they so afraid of everything? Apparently their conscience is not clear.’ Exactly because we are ready at every minute to stand at attention, there develops among others an inescapable view about us, as of some specific thievish tribe. We think that our constant readiness to undergo a search without hesitation and to turn out our pockets will eventually convince mankind of our nobility; look what gentlemen we are—we do not have anything to hide!

This is a terrible mistake. The real gentlemen are those who will not allow anyone for any reason to search their apartment, their pockets or their soul. Only a person under surveillance is ready for a search at every moment. This is the only one inevitable conclusion from our maniac reaction to every reproach—to accept responsibility as a people for every action of a Jew, and to make excuses in front of everybody including hell knows who. I consider this system to be false to its very root.

Old Jabotinsky could’ve saved Franz Kafka a lot of time and ink. But even the State of Israel cannot help us if this remains our mentality—not over there, where it can scarcely protect its own citizens from this kind of attack, and damn sure not here in America. Its leaders are busy fighting corruption charges, and casting belatedly and superfluously about for 1940s anti-semitism; it sends its condolences, as peremptory as any American politician’s. If the body count approaches a dozen, you may get an Israeli cabinet minister at your memorial service. Mazal tov.

So do you want to live, or don’t you? The state of our solidarity, of our situational awareness, of our rectal fortitude, is as sorry as it was in 1932. But though I may have as little in common with Jersey City frummies as I do with a Denisovan, though these things may happen thousands of miles away, every one of these attacks is an attack on my soul. Zionism is as much about spiritual exigencies as it is about practical ones. For over a thousand years, our ancestors were forbidden to own land, enter an honest trade, testify in court, ride a horse, or carry a weapon for self-defense. We were a “protected” class. A crime against us was a property crime. That is why the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was so important: not because it prevented any great proportion of the crimes committed against us by the Germans, but because it vindicated our dignity as human beings. The Israeli army exists as much to defend Israeli territory, lives, and infrastructure, as it does in order for you to know unequivocally that you are a free and equal human being.

I got into a debate not long ago with a couple of law school friends, about a Texas law requiring public contractors to sign a pledge not to boycott Israel. Though not Jewish, my friends are mainstream, pro-Israel conservatives. They defended the law, on the premise that a government contract is not a right; and I opposed it, on free speech grounds. In the course of our conversation, I ranted a bit about lobbyists, about Jewish pushiness and Israeli arrogance and how some principles (e.g., free speech) are higher than my ethnic affinities. I see now that this was a mistake—not because of the facts, but because of my motives. I wasn’t just defending free speech: I was obliquely defending Jews, by melodramatically trying to demonstrate that my loyalties are not conflicted. But my friends didn’t have any doubts about that.

So it doesn’t matter if this or that Jew is a bad person. Are you? Or are you worthy to hold your head up and live? Because if you aren’t, there’s always alt-right Twitter, or left anti-Zionism, or banging on the office doors of senators and police commissioners demanding indifferent protection. Just know that if you seek to validate and defend yourself in this manner, your work will never be done, because you will have handed all your power over to others, when they didn’t even ask for it. Almost no issue in public discourse needs to be about Jews in any fundamental way—not even, e.g., U.S. military aid to Israel, or the phenomenon of anti-semitic shootings. Rather, you need to fundamentally be about yourself, before you can be for others. And an attack on Jews is an attack on you.

So never denounce your own kind. Never second-guess a friend, or an enemy. Fold your arms over your chest, like Jabotinsky said. Be clear, cold, and calm. Don’t panic. Be stationary, be stoic. Exude utter contempt. That’s number one.

Number two is, be prepared to physically defend yourself, and your loved ones. Over the same weekend as the Monsey attack, a gunman stormed a church in rural Texas, and was immediately shot down by a parishioner before he was able to kill anyone else. QED: if Jews weren’t such soft targets, these attacks wouldn’t be happening.

It’s that simple.