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During the recent Gaza war a woman in Jewish Argentina held up a sign declaring "soy Judia, no maten en mi nombre' (I'm a Jewess don't kill my name"). What was she talking about? How could her name be killed by a war in a far off country? What she meant is that she truly believed that her name, as a "good Jew" good be 'murdered' by the behavior of Israel. Can anyone imagine a Muslim protesting in such a manner because of the outlandish behavior of other Muslims. No. Her response is uniquely Jewish and points to two types of Judaisms, the one of the self hate, the one that imagines what a "Jew" is and the other of people who are Jewish.
Four recent articles, in quick succession, made me ponder Karl Marx's old maxim that "money" is the God of the Jews. If in Marx's time he saw Jews who god was money perhaps in today's world there are some Jews whose god is that of self hate. Or perhaps what Marx misunderstood and what is understandable today is that there are in fact two Judaisms, one of Jews and the other of 'the Jews'. One of people who are actually Jewish and actually practice a religion called Judaism and another of people who talk about "being Jewish" and what it means to "be Jewish" and what "Jews should do." Consider the Jewish woman from Argentina who, during the war in Gaza, held a placard around her body that said "End the genocide in Gaza...don't murder my name." What she meant was her name as a "Jew." But was she a Jew or a "Jew". Which tribe did she belong to?
Lets consider four articles. Adina Hoffman's biography of an Israei-Arab named Mohamed Taha entitled My Happiness bears no relation to Happiness: a Poets life in the Palestinians Century. Could anyone but a Jew create something as arrogant as a 'Palestinian century'. Even the Palestinians, who think of little besides themselves and their 'struggle' and 'suffering', don't believe they should have a whole century devoted to them. But Hoffman can conceive of such a thing. She can't conceive of a "Jewish century" but a Palestinian one. She and Joel S. Migdal and Baruch Kimmerling, the two authors of The Palestinians, a seminal work on the history of those people whose century it was, a book written by Jews about a people, the Palestinians, they imagined and created. Then there is Joel Kovel, author of Overcoming Zionism or Norman Finkelsteins book on the Holocaust Industry or Avraham Burg's book on how the "Jews manipulate" the Holocaust.
But let's move on from those people. There is the story of the Jewish American protestors in Jerusalem protesting the Museum of Tolerance, claiming it is built on a Muslim graveyard. They are joined by the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal arm of the Reform movement in Israel (this legal organization's website claims to be about helping Israelis but isn't even in Hebrew). That's right, reform Judaism has backed Muslims who claim a museum built by the Simon Wiesenthal center is built on a graveyard, which it is not. But the Hartman institute, another Jewish organization in Jerusalem, goes further, claiming the "most important" cause of Jews should be "Arab minority rights in Israel." And where was the field trip of Jewish charities from the U.S two years ago in Israel? Umm al Fahm, an Arab town, where they also declared that the "rights of Arabs in Israel" is one of their "central goals." Such is the aim of the New Israel Fund, a Jewish charity which works to funnel money only to Arab and primarily Muslim causes in Israel.
But moving on let's consider something else. There is the hosting of the play "Seven Jewish Children" at the Washington Jewish Communist Center where one viewer said that the audience felt its "guts had been torn out". They listened to this play which speaks of a wealthy Israel composed entirely of lily white Holocaust survivors relaxing at their pools built atop some Palestinians home. J Street, an American Jewish lobbying organization, has even supported the play. Would any group in the world except Jews support a play in which they are accused of being victims of Nazism who become blood thirsty Nazis themselves?
But that is joined today with an editorial by Alex Sinclair entitled 'This Seder night, spill some wine for Gaza's dead'. And like those Jews who claim the central theme of their religion is 'Tikkun Olam' or 'fixing the entire world' this person claims that the main message of Passover is to "commemorates the tragedy that befell the Egyptians. As we recount the ten plagues that decimated Egyptian society, we spill a drop of wine for each plague, to remind us of the Egyptian blood that was spilt. The act of spilling the wine compels us to retain our humanity when we might understandably forget it... we are commanded to feel sad at the loss of human life amongst our enemies... This segment of the Seder, teaching generations of Jews that Schadenfreude is the most un-Jewish of emotions, is one of Judaism's finest hours... To my mind, when we consider recent events in Gaza, we have no option but to transform the spilling of the wine from ancient ritual to contemporary commentary... But the spilling of wine for Gazan life may help save our own humanity. Recent revelations about soldiers' T-shirt slogans that show utter contempt for Palestinian life show just how far we have to go to re-educate ourselves... and spill a drop of wine to mourn the Palestinian blood that we have spilled in order to keep ourselves free. Our humanity and our Judaism demand nothing less" For her Judaism's central message is the Palestinians.
That leads me to the conclusion that there are two Judaisms. There is one Judaism centered around wealthy Reform Jews and other leftist Jews that centers around Palestinians and 'saving the world'. This is the Judaism of the 'cause', the Judaism of the endless complaining about obscure minorities and the Judaism that endlessly tells us that the "Jews suffered so now we Jews must be the beacon of hope in the world, Jews must sound the alarm...its is the duty of Jews to be a moral..." This is the Judaism of extremism, the Jews who led Bolshevism, the Jews who led the riots in 1968 in France, the Jews who compare everything they hate to Hitler and Nazism, an accusation that usually ends with their fellow Jews being described this way. This is the Judaism of Judah Leib Magnes, American head of the Hebrew University in the 1940s, who agreed to stymie Jewish immigration to Palestine in the 1930s in order to bolster the Arab support for his Brit-Shalom movement, his Judaism that would have condemned the European Jews to Hitler's grasp so he could have his 'bi-national state'. This is the Judaism of 'don't kill my name' of Tony Judt, German-Jewish European writer, who complains that the existence of Israel causes anti-semitism which might harm him and that therefore Israel must be ended so he can resume his position as 'the Jew' in Europe, the classic other. This is the Judaism of Hannah Arnedt who blamed the Jews for 'collaborating' with Nazism but called the Nazis 'banal'. This is the Judaism of those, such as Martin Buber, who whined and hemmed and hawed about the 'morality' of killing Eichman.
Then there is the actual Judaism. The Judaism of curses and of sanctifying God's name (Kiddush HaShem). Lets recall this Judaism. In this Judaism the Talmud teaches that "if one comes to kill you, rise up [in the night], and kill him first [before he wakes]." Religious scholars go further however; "Even where the assailant does not directly threaten one's life, as with a burglar or armed robber, he may be killed in self-defense, where it may be assumed that he will kill if provoked. The Torah says, "if a burglar is caught in the act of breaking in, and is struck and killed, it is not considered an act of murder" (Exodus 22:1). We derive all cases of self-defense from this case.
Consider some others cases of this Judaism; "Just as one may kill in self-defense, so it is required to kill one who is pursuing or attacking another with murderous intent. Of course, if it is possible, one must save the person being pursued by injuring the attacker. Only when this cannot be done must we have no pity and kill the attacker. Similarly, any assailant who might kill when provoked, such as a burglar or armed robber, must be killed by any passer-by to save the victim. We are taught that rape is equivalent to murder. Therefore, if one is attacking a woman with the intent of raping her, he may be killed to save her as long as he has not completed the act. Regarding a woman being sexually attacked, the Torah states, "Only the rapist shall be put to death... Since he attacked the betrothed girl in the field, even if she had cried out, there would have been no one to come to her aid" (Deut. 22:25, 27), which implies that if a rescuer is present, he may use any means to save her, even if it means killing the attacker. One may similarly save a man from homosexual attack. An informer who denounces a fellow Jew to the government to be killed, imprisoned, or even fined is likened to an assailant, since being arrested can be a dangerous and traumatic experience."
There are people who try to pretend to be members of both these Jewish peoples. This includes the Neturei Karta and people like Rabbi Michael Lerner who edits Tikkun magazine and is an outspoken leftist American critic of Israel. He writes that "The climate of hostility toward dissenters in the Jewish world has risen to new levels of verbal abuse. Tikkun is the only nationally distributed Jewish magazine to challenge the assumptions of the occupation, to urge dismantling of the settlements in the West Bank and to insist that Israel must acknowledge some (not total) responsibility for Palestinian refugees. Just as we in the anti-Vietnam War movement of the 1960s saw our opposition as flowing from the highest values of American democracy, so we in the Jewish peace movement insist that it is Jewish values that lead us to insist that every human being is created in the image of God and that the brutality done to the Palestinian people is as much a tragedy as the brutality being done by Palestinian terrorists to Israelis." But Lerner is rational, his belief that Judaism must be harnessed to all sorts of secular causes, such as opposing the Vietnam war, and that there is some connection between Judaism and what is done to the "Palestinian people" clearly paint him as a member of the former movement of the 'not in my name' Jews.
Marx asked; "What is the object of the Jew's worship in this world? Usury. What is his worldly god? Money. . . What is the foundation of the Jew in this world? Practical necessity, private advantage. . . . The bill of exchange is the Jew's real God. His God is the illusory bill of exchange." A lot of Jews throughout Europe liked this Marxism. Millions perhaps embraced it from 1900 to 1968. Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kameniev, Rosa Luxemburg, Danny the Red. True some embraced it as a reaction to a conservative European society that rejected their membership in the nation and Communism offered them a road to assimilation and acceptance. But they loved this anti-semitic movement nonetheless. Winston Churchill understood this problem in his article 'Zionism versus Bolshevism: a struggle for the soul of the Jewish people' published on February 8th, 1920 in the Illustrated Sunday Herald.
We might quote liberally from this for he says something important. He noted that "some people like Jews and some do not; but no thoughtful man can doubt the fact that they are beyond all question the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has ever appeared in the world... The conflict between good and evil which proceeds unceasingly in the breast of man nowhere reaches such an intensity as in the Jewish race.... this same astounding race may at the present time be in the actual process of producing another system of morals and philosophy, as malevolent as Christianity was benevolent, which, if not arrested, would shatter irretrievably all that Christianity has rendered possible.... In a people of peculiar genius like the Jews, contrasts are more vivid, the extremes are more widely separated, the resulting consequences are more decisive. [There are three types of Jews;] First there are the Jews who, dwelling in every country throughout the world, identify themselves with that country, enter into its national life... In violent opposition to all this sphere of Jewish effort rise the schemes of the International Jews. The adherents of this sinister confederacy are mostly men reared up among the unhappy populations of countries where Jews are persecuted on account of their race. Most, if not all, of them have forsaken the faith of their forefathers, and divorced from their minds all spiritual hopes of the next world... this world-wide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilization and for the reconstitution of society on the basis of arrested development, of envious malevolence, and impossible equality, has been steadily growing... There is no need to exaggerate the part played in the creation of Bolshevism and in the actual bringing about of the Russian Revolution, by these international and for the most part atheistical Jews... Zionism offers the third sphere to the political conceptions of the Jewish race. In violent contrast to international communism, it presents to the Jew a national idea of a commanding character... The struggle which is now beginning between the Zionist and Bolshevik Jews is little less than a struggle for the soul of the Jewish people." Churchill furthermore argued that the "National Jews should come forward on every occasion, as many of them in England have already done, and take a prominent part in every measure for combating the Bolshevik conspiracy."
This 'struggle for the soul' of the Jews brings to mind Yoram Hazony's The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel's Soul. The use by Churchill of the word 'International Jews' may bring to mind Henry Ford's International Jew, widely regarded as a re-statement of the Elders of Zion. So how do we understand this? How do we understand Marx's 'God of the Jews' and the struggle for the soul of Jews found in Hazony and Churchill? How do we understand the problem of the 'not in my name' Jews and the 'Tikkun Olam' Jews who want to subjugate the religion so that the central duty of Jews is always t save starving African children but not care about their own Jewish brethren. How can one reconcile the Jews at the Washington Jewish Community Center having heir 'guts torn out' by the 'Seven Jewish Children' play and the Jews who create Palestinian history and create even a 'Palestinian century'? How can we understand the two Judaism's we are confronted with just as Churchill was confronted with what he described as three Judaisms?
Perhaps there have always been more than one "Jews". The Jews of the imagination who the gentiles imagined and the real Jews. But what is extraordinary is that today's split in the Jewish people is primarily between a Jew imagined by some who call themselves Jews and the Jews who are just Jews. The God of the former is self-hatred at the same time as it is radical in its self-obsession, its idea that the Jews must 'fix the world'. Who would place such a burden on one people? What kind of person, upon seeing some far off country bombing some other country, wears a placard on the street saying 'don't kill my name'? Could anyone imagine a Muslim doing something so ridiculous? No.
There are two Jewish peoples. There are the Jews, not always pleasant but at least honest, who do things that are not necessarily "Jewish" but preserve something of their Judaism. These are the Jews who see the Holocaust as primarily a crime against the Jews. Then there are the Jews who speak a lot about doing things that are "Jewish" and defining every cause as a 'duty' of Jews and who ceaselessly heap scorn and hate on other Jews because they believe those Jews reflect badly on them. These are the people whose god is the exile and the minority status of the other and the people who really believe their "name" can be murdered. What name? The name of human rights and gay rights and rights for all sorts of obscure peoples, the cause, the endless causes of the bourgouise with too much time on their hands?
Too bad for them. I prefer the Judaism of "if one comes to kill you, rise up [in the night], and kill him first [before he wakes]." This is described as a positive commandment. This is in direct contrast to other Jews who respond to what they see as a "killing of their name" by rising up with their ugly faces and their unkempt, unwashed hair, their droopy flaccid bodies and their scarves and dirty baggy unflattering clothing and hold placards on streets.
This article appeared
April 7, 2000 on the Terra Incognita website. It is archived at
Seth J. Frantzman is a graduate student in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, living in Jerusalem. Contact him at email@example.com and visit his website: http://journalterraincognita.blogspot.com
This article appeared
April 7, 2000 on the Terra Incognita website. It is archived at
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