The Contentious Centrist
"Civilization is not self-supporting. It is artificial. If you are not prepared to concern yourself with the upholding of civilization -- you are done." (Ortega y Gasset)
Saturday, July 26, 2014
About Nina Paley's artistic attempt to mock Jewish history in Israel:
Comment awaiting moderation:
As with any work of art the vid is selective and aims at appealing to the emotions and common prejudices of those who will find it a “good” piece of art. (I don’t).
ALWAYS be suspicious of any work that makes you feel very comfortable in your own choices.
This particular artifact fails in many ways but I will point out one glaring fault: It assumes that there were no Jews in Palestine before European Jews began to arrive there. This is wrong on two counts: First, European Jews had been immigrating to the land of Israel for centuries, in greater or lesser numbers. Second, Sephardic Jews had been inhabiting the land since they became subjects of the Ottomans (1492). The talented artist ignores and/or erases this historical record. The question is why? Is it because she wants to enforce a perverted narrative that is not historically correct? I think not. It is more likely that she suffers from the malady of Orientalism, so brilliantly diagnosed by Edward Said. That is, “a pervasive Western tradition, both academic and artistic, of prejudiced outsider interpretations of the East” in which the Sephardic Jews of Ottoman Palestine simply disappear from the record of a Euro-centric view of the Middle East. Thus, pfft, entire Sephardic communities in Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed, Jaffa, Haifa, etc become invisible. The only Jews that matter in this vid are the European Jews.
Tsk. Tsk. Remember that what you do to other people’s history can be done to your preferred people’s history.
What makes "assimilated"* Jews turn against their own people?
It is my position that anybody is free to re-shape their own identity in the best way that makes them happy. This does not diminish my interest in understanding by what process or under what compulsion, a Jewish person would prefer to attach themselves to a majority that reviles Jews, for one reason or another, imaginary, malevolent or virtuous. In this I find Hannah Arendt's analysis very persuasive, as displayed in this excerpt:
"In the minds of the privileged Jews such measures taken by the state appeared to be the workings of a sort of heavenly tribunal, by whom the virtuous - who had more than a certain income - were rewarded with human rights, and the unworthy - living in mass concentration in the eastern provinces - were punished as pariahs. Since that time it has become a mark of assimilated Jews to be unable to distinguish between friend and enemy, between compliment and insult, and to feel flattered when an antisemite assures them that he does not mean them, that they, are exceptions - exceptional Jews. The events of recent years have proved that the "excepted Jew" is more the Jew than the exception; no Jew feels quite happy any more about being assured that he is an exception. "
*"assimilated" is the term used by Arendt. I would not use this term.
"Israel is allowed to defend itself!'
is a joke.
Those who preface anything they have to say about Israel's actions know it and employ it as a joke. And do not flinch from their own absurdity. It has become very satisfying and emotionally-rewarding, to defend Palestinians these days. It makes it possible, in a convoluted way, to defend terrorism as well as suggest that victims of terror can really not defend themselves against that. And when those victims are Jews, it is even more gratifying because Jews are supposed to know how to die and are expected to do so elegantly, with grace, like saints.
Jews who do not act like saints provoke a great anger from decent people. Jews who insist that to kill is better than to be killed are presented by good people as murderous. The Holocaust, whether you acknowledge it or not, set up the standard for Jewish moral choices. Jews who do not conform to this standard are then not good Jews and not good people.
How else to interpret a right for self-defense that cannot be practiced?
Here is a fairy-tale to help those who cannot understand ...
And an addendum:
Some people make the case that Israel's right to defend itself is vitiated by the fact that Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza.
Random example of such a case (made by someone with an advance legal training):
ns argument is just a cop-out diverting attention from the blockade of Gaza that Israel (and Egypt) imposed after Hamas was voted to power in 2007. Israel's motivation was more or less explicitly to punish the people for voting the wrong way. Launching a massive ground attack while closing the border is certainly a memorable lesson to anybody who is watching.
Anna was raped by her former husband after she moved out of their home years ago. He used to stalk her, corner her and violate her repeatedly. Because they were not formally divorced, the police was reluctant to arrest him on the grounds that it was just a "domestic quarrel". Finally, Anna decided to go to court and ask for a restraining order for her rapist husband. The court acknowledged her right to defend herself and granted her this legal request.
So her rapist husband became ingenious and creative in continuing to harass her in any way he could, threatening her, kidnapping her son, every once in a while infiltrating into her home. In one of those stealthy visits he killed her dog, on another he destroyed her furniture. And, growing bolder, he entered her home while she was sleeping and proceeded to rape and beat her. Anna managed to ward him off long enough to reach for a gun and shoot him dead.
The police took her in for questioning, undecided as to how to treat this case. But her neighbors and friends, condemned her. Of course, they said with a smirk, she had a right to defend herself but ... did she have to kill him? What was he doing, after all? Insisting on his rights as a husband. She took that restraining order against him. She shouldn't have. It made him angry, miserable. What about his rights? She should have been more attentive to his needs rather than act in this selfish way. But of course, she had a right to defend herself. Except she didn't, really. It was her fault for punishing him in the first place.
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Sayed Kashua is immigrating to the US.
This article in the Guardian does not explain how a decision to take a sabbatical could so easily become an immigration. I'm sad to hear this for Israel's sake, but I'm sadder still for his sake. Because he does not seem to understand that he is still going to be a minority in America. Electronic Intifada is already signaling that he will be a welcome addition to their anti-Zionist arsenal. He will not be able to resist the lure and he will be marginalized and coarsened, his great talent in the service of a political cause.
In Israel he reached the heights of his profession, the admiration of the multitudes. Literary awards, his own TV show, a new Israeli film based on his novel just been released. Israeli society needs talented, successful, visible and vocal Arab-Israelis like him, to internalize the notion that Israeli Jews need not fear Arab-Israelis. The Arabophobia he points to in his article as the reason for his decision is really the last gasps of a tiny radical minority. When you are losing, you become evermore noisy and threatening. It's a law of nature. The smaller the base, the greater the fanaticism.
I wish him well. But I do not relish the thought of him becoming a tool for the pro-Palestinian crowds' propaganda. We'll see how he navigates those waters.
Russian writer Alexander Herzen once observed
"I do say...that exile, not undertaken with any definite object,, but forced upon men by the triumph of the opposing party, checks development and draws men away from the activities of life into the domain of fantasy,...Leaving their native land with concealed anger, with the continual thought of going back to it once more on the morrow, men do not move forwards but are continually thrown back upon the past...All émigrés, cut off from the living environment to which they have belonged, shut their eyes to avoid seeing bitter truths, and grow more and more acclimatized to a closed, fanatic circle consisting of inert memories and hopes that can never be realized."
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Peter Beinart's New Norm for Gauging Jewish Humanism:
Peter Beinart has been pontificating to Israelis and ("hawkish" American Jews) about showing concern for the 500 Palestinians whose death was carefully engineered by their Hamas leaders to be blamed on Israel's military strikes.
What's he saying? Why should Israelis recite the names of Palestinian victims, many of whom are Hamas operatives and combatants? Has he gone on record demanding that Americans recite to themselves the names of the many innocent Afghans, Pakistanis, Iraqis who were killed by US armed forces during war? Is it some sort of a new standard for one's humanism that he is trying to impose on Jews and none other except Jews? A new method by which to shame them? There is a certain megalomaniac pathology at work here.
"I've noticed that the people enthusiastically supporting this war rarely link to the names of Palestinian dead, even when their deaths are reported by reputable news agencies in stories that contain no overt political spin. When forced to talk about the Palestinian dead, hawks insist that Hamas and only Hamas bears culpability for their deaths. But if they really believe that, they should be broadcasting the names of the Palestinian dead--all the better to show how wicked Hamas is. And yet they almost never do. Which makes me suspect that although they want to believe that Hamas bears sole responsibility, they fear they might not be able to sustain that claim if forced to look hard at the circumstances in which Palestinians have died, and at the names and faces of the people torn limb from limb. I think that fear is well-founded. Which is why I hope the people who support this war--many of whom I know from personal experience are decent and well-meaning--will use their social media platforms to publicize the names of the Palestinian as well as Israeli dead. If they truly believe Israel had no choice, they should have no hesitation."
Joan Cocks , in “Individuality, Nationality, and the Jewish Question Social Research, Winter, 1999 , explains the moral complexity an "exceptional Jew" is faced with. She takes Isaiah Berlin’s special darling status in the terms that Arendt set forth:
“Arendt provides a Proustian account of French salon society, which found exceptional Jews magnetic and the mass of Jews obnoxious. Berlin repeatedly represents England as a liberal and tolerant society in which Jews could feel themselves equal to all other citizens. Nevertheless, the realities of English anti-Semitism should make us wonder … Berlin resembles the assimilating Jews he describes in "Jewish Slavery and Emancipation," who for survival's sake had "to make themselves familiar with the habits and modes of behaviour" of Gentile society, to "get this right" and "not miscalculate." … The figure of the exceptional Jew as Arendt analyses it would help explain Berlin’s remark, so incongruous with his long and happy existence at the pinnacle of English society, that Marilyn Berger reports in her New York Times obituary for him. "Of course assimilation might be a quite good thing, but it doesn't work. Never has worked, never will. There isn't a Jew in the world known to me who somewhere inside him does not have a tiny drop of uneasiness vis-à-vis them, the majority among whom they live ... one has to behave particularly well ... [or] they won't like us." When.. "it was suggested to him that he was surely the exception ... he had an immediate response: 'Nevertheless, I'm not an Englishman, and if I behave badly...'" Arendt might have phrased the point somewhat differently: "I'm not an Englishman but an exceptional Jew, and that is precisely one reason why they salute me. But if I act like an ordinary Jew..."
There is a great deal of bitter insight in these attempts to understand and describe how some Jews try to manage and negotiate their Jewishness in a world which has become fed-up with and unsympathetic to, Jewish history. Unfortunately, with such baggage, carried by both the purveyors of “antizionism”, as well as their intended and unintended, audiences there is so much pain and noise interfering that even if there is a kernel of useful value in what they preach, it gets lost in the ruckus.
The "proud Jew and Zionist" business that Beinart resorts to is quite pathetic and self-defeating.
"When I go to Israel--and see a vibrant, incredibly creative, Jewish civilization built less than a century after our people came so close to extermination--I am literally moved to tears. I am a Zionist in a very simple, almost childlike, way. As a Jew, I consider Israel a miracle for our people. But I also know that in our history, Jews have won sovereignty before, and lost it because of moral corruption. And I see controlling millions of people who lack basic rights for almost 50 years as moral corruption. I have seen it up close in the West Bank. I have seen what it has done to Palestinian friends of mine. And that fills me with as much anger and sadness as Israel's existence fills me with joy. I don't want our joy, our rebirth to be built on the suffering and humiliation of others. I want us to have our state--to revel in it, and for Palestinians to have theirs as well. I'm not naive enough to think that will entirely end this conflict. But it will provide some measure of justice to both us and them. For me, that will be Israel's greatest triumph. And it will ensure that this precious gift handed us by previous generations--at such a terrible cost--endures for our children."Such is the discomfiture perfectly described once by Leon Wieseltier, (Beinart's old colleague in the New Republic) speaking of another self-styled "proud Jew": "I detect the scars of dinners and conferences". It's the same dismay at being associated with a despised country and an insecure parvenu people (American Jewry, which Beinart is attempting to "re-educate" into being better Jews, or Americans, or Zionists, who knows? ) that Arendt detected in prominent German Jews, when they needed to put as much distance as they could between their own elegance and German-worthiness and the squalor and poverty of alien Polish Shtetl Jews who were part of their Germany.
Sunday, July 06, 2014
their haughty marginalization by certain parts of the Squeaky Clean Left. I'm just saying, you know, how impressed I am by her concern for the Mizrahi Jew mistaken for an Arab.
The racists attacked a mizrahi (Arab Jew) taxi driver, mistaking him for an Arab. He kept telling them he's Jewish until they backed off
— Elizabeth Tsurkov (@Elizrael) July 6, 2014
And still on the same subject. Gal Ochovsky, on his television show, conducted a terrible racist interview with Ronen Shoval from “Im Tirtzu”.** “You are such an Ashkenazi , he told him “with blue eyes”. And that really is wrong that this young man with his Aryan looks should behave like the barbarians and the Feiglins. In the mind of the enlightened Ochovsky in order to be a dangerous racist you need to be dark skinned, dark-eyed. Though, in fact, Feiglin has blue eyes, too. This won’t do any good. Ochovsky has solid opinions about blond blue-eyed people. For him they are über alles and that was just for starters. There was no interview there, only an unleashed fulmination, cringing support for and self-ingratiating to Bakri, the great actor, and analogizing “Im Tirtzu” to McCarthyism and the benighted thirties. So said the man who loves the Aryan look.The problem does not spring from Ochovsky’s opinions. The problem is his shallowness. It was Bakri who called for a boycott against Israeli culture, and not just at the Paris Festival. Is there a chance that Ochovsky would turn Bakri into a Nazi or a McCarthyite? Not bloody likely. Ochovsky was one of those who aligned himself with the boycotting of Hall of Culture at Ariel. So there. He is for boycotts but will tag as Nazis ("The thirties”) those who call for boycotting Bakri.It is all right for Ochovsky to have his own television program in which he sprays his agenda. Freedom of Speech and all that. How come, though, that there is not a similar television program which promotes the antithesis to Ochovsky?"
To quote a well known Jewish rabbi: He who is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone.
Just saying, like.
Consider Palestinian hatred of Israel (and 50+% of Jews) in the light of a story told by Reinhard Heydrich to Adolf
Eichmann and Rudolf Lange in "Conspiracy":
He told me a story about a man he had known all his life, a boyhood friend. This man hated his father. Loved his mother fiercely. His mother was devoted to him, but his father used to beat him, demeaned him, disinherited him. Anyway, this friend grew to manhood and was still in his thirties when the mother died. The mother, who had nurtured and protected him, died. The man stood at her grave as they lowered the coffin and tried to cry, but no tears came.
The man’s father lived to a very extended old age and withered away and died when the son was in his fifties. At the father’s funeral, much to the son’s surprise, he could not control his tears. Wailing, sobbing….he was apparently inconsolable. Utterly lost. That was the story Kritzinger told me.
The man had been driven his whole life by hatred of his father. When his mother died, that was a loss, but when his father died and the hate had lost its object, the man’s life was completely empty.
Palestinian identity IS hatred of Israel. It's not a self-sustaining identity as it thrives only on fantasies of destruction and revenge.
Prof. Abu Khalil is a great supporter of Palestinian nationalism. He is much admired by many of the more educated Palestinians and supporters of Palestinians. His view is a fairly accurate representation of the kind of hatred Kritzinger's story explains. It's an hatred that is a core of identity. Everything a person is rides on that core. It explains why Palestinians (and by extension most Arabs) cannot deal with the very idea of Jewish suffering, that they celebrate murder of Jews and beatify mass-terrorists. Their response to horrors inflicted on Israelis is compatible with the type of pure hatred epitomized in the son's relationship to his father. Cultural ethos is always an enactment of a worldview, a philosophy, a way of defining oneself.
Hatred and violence are partners in the same way. Hatred is the worldview. Violence is the ethos. Therefore, the ideal extends towards destruction, more destruction, and nihilism. The celebrations of mass-murder are only a manifestation of the constitutive hatred that forms Palestinian identity.
Reduce the hatred, and you augment civilization. But only Palestinians can do that for themselves. They have to decide what they are going to be when they grow up. Make no mistake about it, nothing, not even the annihilation of Israel, is ever going to satisfy this unappeasable hatred and its need to feed itself. It's a bottomless pit. And only Palestinians can climb out of this pit.
said it before and I'll say it again: Humans tend to opt for the
lower, baser, primitive instincts of our nature. Humans also learn
things by observation and imitation. When faced with an enemy
whose ethos preaches, supports and glorifies no-holds-barred hatred and violence some humans will respond in kind.
It is a law of nature.
To prevent this, we have created civilization. But "Civilization is not self-supporting. It is artificial. If you are not prepared to concern yourself with the upholding of civilization -- you are done." (Ortega y Gasset).
This is what happened with these murderers. They gave in to the most primitive of rage. What I would like to know is what is their relationship with civilization and how come they grew so wild that they could even come together, think together, plot and carry out such a horror.
More important I want to know who is truly responsible for turning these persons into murdering monsters. Who is the inciter? Who told them this can be done and that it is right?