Saturday, February 20, 2010

Manufacturing Basterds

"If you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? why, revenge. The villany you teach me I will execute; and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction. "

This is the threatening Jewish image manufactured by Shakespeare which real, flesh and blood Jews have had to live down for four centuries now. It reveals much more the medieval Christian paranoia and guilt than it reflects any real Jewish ambitions. But the worry is there, in every Jew, lest he or she be caught fantasizing about revenge.

Simply Jews provided the link to this critique of Purim, in which there is a report of the much agonizing that the story of Purim inflicts upon some intellectuals:

"Yet in recent years Purim has come under criticism from some Jewish thinkers in large measure because of the bloodiness of the triumph at its conclusion (the Jews kill 75,000 Persians in a single day). Elliott Horowitz of Israel’s Bar-Ilan University devoted his
Reckless Rites: Purim and the Legacy of Jewish Violence to the questionable claim that Purim has long been the occasion for outbreaks of Jewish animosity and even violence toward Christians. Horowitz based this bizarre thesis largely on the fact that Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of 29 Arabs in Hebron in 1994 occurred on Purim. In his review of the book for Commentary (June 2006), Hillel Halkin pointed out that the incidences of Jewish violence against non-Jews through the centuries are extraordinarily few in number and that the connection between them and Purim is more than tenuous."

Considering that the story of Purim, as it has come down to us, has only the one source, and considering the sparsity of cross references from other historical documents, I was wondering why said intellectuals are so much disturbed by its unverifiable details and the satisfaction that many Jews may derive from the fantasy that sometime in the nether past they managed to triumph over their would-be exterminators and turn the tables on them.

So there is that word "fantasy" and the idea of revenge by Jews. What do you know. Isn't it a universally acknowledged taboo for Jews to feel outrage for their millennial-long suffering and near-extinction? Aren't they supposed to have evolved into a nobler species of humanity, a super- humanity which exists nowhere else but should exist in Israel? Jews not only must be held accountable to a much higher standard of behavior, they must also be accountable for some secret longing for revenge as it is told in one of the Bible's several fairy tale narrative of near extermination and eventual redemption.

Now where did I last see those three words, "Jews", "Fantasy" and "revenge" on the same page? Where did I encounter this pathological Jewish anxiety about maintaining scrupulously clean appearances?

Let me give you a hint: the name of the redeeming Jewess in that fairy-tale is "Shoshana".

And she is the saviouress of Jews and assissinator of Hamans in this Megileh.

I have written about the modern Purim spiel here.

And what a spiel* these stare, either the Purim story or Tarantino's fantastic adventure in the la la land of alternative history.

*A spiel is a play, a game, a high-flown talk or speech, aimed at luring and entertaining an audience.


At 4:48 PM EST, Anonymous Mark @ Israel said...

Shakespeare is just poetic enough to sensationalise Jewish image. Anyhow if such is true, one can point out that history seems to be very cruel to the Jews. They too have reasons to live such imagery.


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