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.

Unfollow, Pt. II

A homeowner fed up with a string of neighborhood burglaries kills a negro who may or may not have been minding his own business, and somehow it’s a mandatory “national conversation.” We’ve seen this show before. Cui bono?

That would be the oligarchs playing an underclass against tax cattle, to separate 60% (and declining) of the population from its most basic survival instincts. It’s MLK meets MK-ultra. But what I mean by this is not that “survival” requires fear of black people. On the contrary. Fear is what this country’s owners are pushing. It’s the instincts that conduce toward liberty and dignity that they’re scheming to deprive us of. They’re just using black people to do it:

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As discussed previously, last month Michiganders fed up with absolute government power stormed the statehouse in Lansing toting ARs. They didn’t really do anything, but State legislators boohooed on Twitter anyway, and the intelligentsia piled on. Over a week after the protest dissipated, the State Rep. pictured above, a Democrat who advocates citizen disarmament, strode into work with an armed (civilian) escort to protect her from “protesters bearing white supremacist symbols.”

The anti-lockdown protests at Lansing began on April 15. Protesters entered the capitol building on April 30. All told, this story was national news for three weeks. You would think that if just one of those protesters was “bearing white supremacist symbols,” the media would’ve found a way to have a field day with it well in advance of May 8, when this slander first surfaced in The Hill. Yet they didn’t. So where did it come from? The Hill attributes it to a local Michigan paper, which claims to have sourced it from video evidence posted by Rep. Anthony to her Facebook page—which contains no such video. And this smear surfaced just three days after a similar one fizzled. The moral of the story is that if you’re white, and armed, and opposed to absolute government power, you’re a Nazi—period. Human dignity is criminalized, starting in the media.

But that’s just the long-term angle. In the short-term, the point is to distract from these corona-powers that are instigating the protests, exactly as the killing of Trayvon Martin was employed to redirect almost immediately after the suppression of Occupy Wall Street (which had apparently outlived its usefulness.) Last week, when reporters asked the masked gunmen guarding that Dallas salon their names they replied, “Duncan Lemp.” See what I’m saying? To the criminal conspiracy that runs this country, Ahmaud Aubrey was a godsend.

However, that homeboy lay dead for over two months before he made the New York Times suggests that nationally, this isn’t news—it’s expertly timed propaganda. Maybe the DA’s initial decision not to indict the McMichaels was baksheesh between good ol’ boys, and maybe it wasn’t. But does similar partiality not go on where blacks are in charge? I don’t want to discount the possibility that the McMichaels are racists or belligerent people who unfairly targeted an innocent man. But how many innocent black victims of white firearms ownership would that make—this week, this month, this year? #JoggingWhileBlack is no more (and definitely much, much less) of a thing than jogging while white is, especially in major metro areas. So just talking about this kind of Bonfire of the Vanities media event with even a modicum of reverence inevitably concedes something to the suspicion it’s meant to cast upon white people who don’t outsource their safety to the government—i.e., “yes, we have impure thoughts, conversations need to be had, inquests need to be made.” Sorry, no. I am not setting foot in that confessional, whose purpose is to stymie the kind of dissent we just saw in Michigan.

The current controlled-libertarian talking point is that McMichael the elder is an ex-cop, so fuck him. I’m not a cop sycophant, but the McMichaels were private persons, acting in a private capacity. If they really did have him on video committing prior break-ins, then they didn’t go to Ahmaud Arbrey, he came to them. What’s more libertarian than protecting your own neighborhood? “But they called white privilege 911!” How’s that working out for them? You’ll notice it’s not a Citizens’ Counsel clamoring for capital charges here—it’s the intelligentsia. If we’re going to oppose overbearing police power, we ought to be consistent.

But the policy-making class doesn’t actually oppose police power. They are the police. The media, academia, the legal and STEM professions, have considerable power to determine what laws you live under. It’s a closed club, and only a modicum of the process takes place democratically. Essentially, this is the class that is sponsoring BLM, for whom BLM is making itself a rationale. If all they wanted was to hamstring the police in accordance with the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment, I’d be all for them, but what they want is citizen disarmament. They want to empower (with hate crimes statutes) the very prosecutors they’re denouncing. They want the government to have more and more power to control the lives of strangers. They aren’t anti-police. They are the fucking police.

If you have any idea how difficult it is for a homicide defendant to mount a successful self-defense case, I want you to go ahead and multiply it by this:

“People keep saying, ‘We need to have a conversation about race’,” Morrison told the Daily Telegraph. “This is the conversation. I want to see a cop shoot a white unarmed teenager in the back.” She added: “And I want to see a white man convicted for raping a black woman. Then when you ask me, ‘Is it over?’, I will say yes.”

This breathtaking vindictiveness was excreted by a Nobel-laureate—and it is bottomless, because there are plenty of examples of the things she’s talking about, from the Duke lacrosse incident to Daniel Shaver and Duncan Lemp. If white privilege is to not notice or care about strangers, black privilege is to openly, unashamedly, unappeasably wish them ill. Never mind the fact that per capita, more whites than blacks are shot by police every year in the United States, or that the ratio of black-to-white perpetrators of interracial rape is more than 1000:1. What’s interesting here is what Morrison inadvertently revealed about herself, which is that her highest conceivable aspiration is equality in hell. We see this with blacks who are millionaires, world class athletes, professors emeritus, senators and presidents. As Sartre once said of the Jewish cabinet minister, “he is at once an Excellency, and an untouchable.” Half-baked communism is their only will to power. And when Rep. Sarah Anthony votes to disarm those people who showed up to “protect” her, they’ll blame the white man for that, too.

(On to Part III…. here)

Unfollow, Pt. I

Today America, and the world, have never been less free. Yet, in a way, we’ve never been freer—this COVID lockdown is putting things right into perspective. For instance:

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“A queen practicing self-care.” Do we have monarchy in America? You know…. crowns? Coronas? According to Wikipedia:

The Mulford Act was a 1967 California bill that repealed a law allowing public carrying of loaded firearms. Named after Republican assemblyman Don Mulford, and signed into law by then governor Ronald Reagan, the bill was crafted in response to members of the Black Panther Party who were lawfully conducting armed patrols of Oakland neighborhoods, in what would later be termed copwatching. They garnered national attention after Black Panthers members, bearing arms, marched upon the California State Capitol to protest the bill.

Of course, that’s not what’s going on, above, in that screenshot from the Instagram of one Lenard Larry McKelvey (who is not only royal, but divine.) Rather—in case you’ve been living elsewhere in the solar system—this Michigan legislator is being escorted into the statehouse by armed men because she fears for her life from “armed protesters marauding through the state capitol demanding an end to the coronavirus lockdown.” Here is a snapshot of just a few of these rapscallions:

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Just how were they able to get away with it? Why, the color of their skin, of course:

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One way of testing this hypothesis (don’t tell Mehdi Hasan) would be to look at a control group, like (say) the one in Sacramento that same week. Same demands, same politics, same podunk demographic, but the Californians didn’t even get into the statehouse. They got zip ties from stormtroopers, while their counterparts in Michigan got a field trip.

How to explain this disparity? I’ll tell you how. Common sense gun reform:

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That picture is from the campaign website of Michigan State Rep. Sarah Anthony, the same Rep. Sarah Anthony being escorted by gunmen in the Instagram screenshot above. You see, not unlike assemblyman Don Mulford, Rep. Anthony supports common sense gun reform like they have in California. What would the Black Panthers make of this—from an African queen, no less? Well…. Perhaps they’d think the same thing the NRA thought of the Mulford Act. Playing superficial factions against one another is how the system creates psychological distance so you can go on supporting it. “NRA: Stand and Fight.” Unless you might have to fight the Black Panthers, and then—quick! Outsource that shit to the police, and the FBI, and the National Guard.

Fear is the ultimate slave master. That, and stupidity. For instance, a few weeks back, Gov. Greg Abbot issued an emergency quarantine order that shuttered Texas businesses. One Dallas salon owner, Shelley Luther, decided to defy Gov. Abbot’s order and keep food on the tables of her stylists’ families. She reopened, and before long, Texas authorities arrested her. Texans were outraged by this. Conservatives are mad about it. Ms. Luther and her attorney are mad about it. But do you know who they’re mad at? Not Gov. Abbott. No. They’re mad at some little metro court judge for enforcing the governor’s order:

That right there’s the Tuck. You can’t cuck the Tuck, unless it’s a Republican governor throwing you out of work and onto the dole. In that case, the Tuck will find someone else to blame. That’s how this scam works. If you were a witness at Deputy Tucker’s county jail lineup, he’d have you cover one eye.

My mother’s neighbor is a German who is quite elderly. Regarding coronavirus—the lockdown and the fear and the mass, compulsive rule following—he said, “This is how it began.” It put me in mind of a quote I’m fond of:

An assault on the inviolability, on the sacredness of the home, would have been impossible in old Iceland in the way it was carried out in 1933, among a million inhabitants of Berlin, as a purely administrative measure. A laudable exception deserves mention here, that of a young social democrat who shot down half a dozen so-called auxiliary policemen at the entrance of his apartment. He still partook of the substance of the old Germanic freedom, which his enemies only celebrated in theory…. Naturally, he did not get this from his party’s manifesto….

That’s Ernst Jünger in The Forest Passage. What does he mean by “the substance of the old Germanic freedom”? What is freedom? How does one find it? And what’s standing in the way?

On to Part II….

A shopping excursion

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this weimerican life

I keep having these dreams where I can’t get out of the room. Some grim dinner party or shabby hotel cafeteria where I’m exposed somehow to a whole room of faces I can’t quite make out. Where I’m stuck with someone from my past or present who wants something I can’t give, or knows something I’d rather they didn’t. Sometimes I’m able to escape, but then can’t seem to find my way out of the building—the trap just expands, until at some point I’m hit by the dread realization that no matter what they look like, each person I encounter is exactly the same on the inside.

Sometimes it’s a labyrinthine airport, incredibly futuristic, where I keep following bad directions or encountering incomprehensible bureaucratic obstacles requiring me to traipse back and forth between ticket counters and security checkpoints and terminals. I can never seem to make my flight, yet it’s always imminent, and panic builds until finally I wake up grinding my teeth and repeating incomprehensible nonsense to myself in a low whisper until well after I’ve had my coffee, like I got high the night before and it still hasn’t worn off.

Other times I’ve committed a crime of passion. As I begin to realize what I’ve done, my surroundings become dim, narrow, subterranean. Acquaintances and passersby all take on a uniform, alien quality. I feel I have to hide from them as I go about planning how to cover my tracks, but I can’t get out of public and they keep questioning me and I keep piling lie upon lie until I’m all out of lies and no longer believe myself.

Lana wanted to have a date—clothes shopping at the mall. It’s not how I would choose to spend a couple hours away from the kids, and she knows it. The clock slows; my blood congeals. I’d resist, but I’ve got to buy my next reprieve. We’re living on borrowed time, so why not live on a little more borrowed money?

On the way, we discuss what to buy. What the kids may like. Then a hopeful note underlying the subject of job prospects turns to debts, bills. Once that subject is wandered into, we fall silent. Her phone comes out of her purse. Like having to eat a failed attempt at some new recipe, I’ve ruined our afternoon, but still have to see it through.

The unspoken tension ratchets up as we near the mall. I fight traffic on the proximate boulevards and join a rotating queue of drivers, presumably all grimacing and overweight, as we circulate the packed rows of parking spaces, now stopping as some optimistic rube slams his breaks behind a pair of glowing tail lights, now proceeding again, now stopping, all in a row—trapped together, but unknown to one another. Some ham-faced slob in a ginormous pickup nearly backs into us as he jerkingly vacates a parking spot without looking over his disgusting shoulder. Honking, shouting, shaking his fist, he ejaculates his soul’s phonetically memorized plaque and drives off in a cloud of diesel exhaust. In my grey-green, calcified heart I blame Lana, realizing all this could’ve been avoided. She feels it, and lowers her face into the refuge of the pillar of blue light emanating from her stupid smartphone, which may be the only thing keeping us married.

The mall is filled with wretched refuse and flooded via loudspeaker with the vacant crooning of some new ethnically ambiguous slag of the month. Huge families of eggplant shaped Mexicans block our progress as they amble along at a snail’s pace, shoulder-to-shoulder across the width of the walkways, stuffing their faces as they go, from carafes of nachos, fries and mega-sized slushies all teetering precariously atop the canopies and cupholders of baby strollers occupied for some strange reason by five, six and seven-year olds. I nearly trip over a morbidly obese preteen in ankle shorts and a Nike shirt that reads, “Skilled in Every Position” when the family’s uppity little garden-gnome patriarch casts a threatening glance, holding up his cartoonishly oversized pant-waist with one hand like he’s somewhere on a prison yard.

Lana peruses the racks of a store. We stand in the massive checkout line with her items. A couple of shameless, mercenary orientals are in front, delaying everybody’s day to interminability, yapping scarcely comprehensible harangues at indifferent teenage cashiers in an attempt to find some grift in a system that permits no haggling otherwise.

Some ghastly, freckled, androgynous high-yellow in a denim vest and fedora is staring out of a wall-length advertisement with a quote emblazoned along his misshapen flank: “sometimes, you just gotta do you.” Somewhere in an oak-paneled office high in a glass tower some shrewd hypnotist wants you to think of these pontoon-lipped vacancies like a quotable Confucius or St. Matthew. It seems with each passing day that being white and remotely genteel in America is more and more like being a ruined old noble in a Chekhov play. We’re living through this long night, and we can’t bring ourselves to turn the lights out, but we’ve had too much time to ruminate and it isn’t getting us anywhere.

Lest you find all this bigoted—which it is—allow me the caveat that I consider these plague rats the real Americans. Their ready, unreflecting belief in magic, their vulgar fixation on commerce and utter abandonment of traditional scruples in the hubbub and banal, intermittent terror of this strange new land—as new to me today as it was to them last week—make them far worthier to be called Americans than all the brokeback whites longing for cowboy chivalry as they use their bottom incisors to greedily scrape the Dorito dust of this neurasthenic consumerist birdcage off the tips of their fat, diabetic fingers.

We pass the food court, the metastasis of sickening flesh in sweat pants with little cups of frozen sugar and cardboard palettes overflowing with cheap sauces. Then we make our way into another one of the undifferentiated neon storefronts so Lana can look for jeans. Somewhere over the rainbow, beyond every sales display and stack of merchandise lies the smoke-shrouded neo-Dickensian charnel house it all emanates from, the ant-farms and blood-sausage of Christmas present, and corrugated metal dwellings stacked along alleys strewn with plastic rubbish, flowing with human excrement, and interminable fields of shipping crates transiting ports. It’s only mid-July, but in my head I hear jingle bells. I start to wonder whether we’ll ever get away from this, whether we’ll ever be self-sufficient and free, or will we always just be employees and consumers and patients, avatars and reflections, bar-coded replicants, objects to whom all meaning in life is provided, administered, and presented like food to a capricious toddler. The wax paper burger wrapper wafting along the ground that fifteen hundred people just stepped over, the cigarette butts floating in the urinal, the fluorescent lights overhead, the LED screens in our palms, the model on the wall poster like a whore in a red-light district window, her snide smile doubtless masking every private misery, and the thousand hidden thoughts or inarticulate nagging doubts between hand-holding couples with lowered expectations, their acne, their cankles, their flat feet, fat asses, and venal cravings—the yawning gap between what you own and what you owe, and the sense of resignation to a trap so thorough we dream what it feeds us and conceptualize nature itself like a kind of unknowable death.

This is the cross. These are the nails.

“I’m so fat.” She’s in front of the mirror in the narrow corridor across from her changing room.

The worst part of marriage is the lying. Falling in love is this perfect kind of exposure that relieves you of everything you thought you needed to hide, and you reciprocate this to your lover and she accepts it with tender ecstacy and you’re free and she’s free and the world is light and song. But marriage builds lie upon lie, just in order to function. There are never enough sorries. There are never enough I love you’s.

“You look great, babe.” And she does.

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….