Monologue of the Estranged
From January 21, 2007, but relevant for Purim: the article Jewish Like Me, by Jesse Rosenfeld, where he explains how Zionism and the state of Israel lost grace in his eyes, and his path to being yet another Jew whose words customarily end up on enemy propaganda channels as justification for murdering Jews (G-d forbid). I quote and comment.
Like most kids growing up Jewish, I loved Israel. I identified with the country and saw my Jewish identity expressed in it.
That is the paradisaical prelude, before Israel’s “fall into sin” in his eyes “because of its policies toward the Palestinians”. Our sages say: “Any love that is dependent upon a thing, when the thing becomes void, the love becomes void; any love that is not dependent on a thing never becomes void”. For my part, I have harbored constant frustration with the leaders of the state of Israel ever since their failure to do something about the Kassam rockets after August 2005 (the expulsion of all the Jews of Gaza), but that doesn’t mean I don’t love the state of Israel anymore.
Maybe it was because I found inspiration in an Israeli culture that seemed to focus on youth. I liked how David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, referred to the “New Israeli Jew”—strong, committed and independent—as opposed to the idea of a “European Jew”—weak, emasculated, and dependent. […]
So you decided to go back to being a “weak, emasculated and dependent” “European Jew”. Great decision…
[…] Or maybe I wanted to identify with something other than tedious family gatherings in Toronto complete with a grandmother who pinched my cheeks.
I see where the problem begins. It begins with thousands upon thousands of Jewish children, spiritually orphaned but with no Mordechai to foster them.
Either way, as a short, underweight early teen looking to find a form of community and feeling of empowerment, Israel and its image provided me with a feeling of masculinity. The Israeli myth allowed me to reject the stuffiness of North American Jewish culture while keeping a sense of an imagined community that was still accepted, and even encouraged, by my family and community.
Not much to dispute here: supporting Israel, let alone living in it, requires a measure of manhood that many ease-softened people have forgotten all about. And, when reminded of it, recoil in dread and snuggle back under their cozy safety-blankets. But dhimmitude can carry you only so far: the Islamic enemy is here on your shores, the shores of Europe and America, the lightning-rod of Israel no longer effective in shielding you from it.
As I explored this more, I began to realize that Zionism was synonymous with a violent colonization and occupation of another people.
I addressed this point so many times on my blog that I must resist doing so again, for fear of sounding like a parrot. Let me, then, embark on a thought-experiment instead. Granting the assumption that the state of Israel was built upon acts of “violent colonization and occupation of another people”, my question is this: what do you suggest be done about it?
There are many—and increasing in number every day—on the Left who say this “sinful birth” of the state of Israel is good enough grounds for termination (G-d forbid). I wonder, however, if they would say a child born of rape should be killed. A point to ponder…
Continues under the heading, “A Zionist upbringing”:
I visited my Israeli family in Haifa, in northern Israel, when I was 11. Seeing the highly militarized, but incredibly energetic and fraternal connection between the Israeli Jews, inspired me. […]
We would actually do without all that. But here is a graphic from Atlas Shrugs that summarizes neatly why it is necessary:
Of course the reaction from the moonbats and post-Zionists will be, “Oh, stop that mentality of being under siege!” But reasons why we should stop that mentality, in the face of all evidence past and present, are not forthcoming.
[…] Meeting my large extended family, I felt an immediate and deep connection with them. Because of their love of Israel and their embodiment of what I saw as the New Jew, I felt tied to the state. […]
I take it now they aren’t part of your family anymore? Is it not grand, to be able to say of family members you don’t like, “They aren’t my family”, and *poof*, away they go? But it doesn’t work that way—not in the microcosm of your own family, and not in the macrocosm of your nation.
My family was part of the second wave of colonizers that arrived in the British Mandate of Palestine after World War I. They actively participated in the conquest of Palestinian land […]
It is a good thing for you that they had not believed as you do, that the land was not theirs, or you would not be alive. There were many such among European Jewry at the time. They did their utmost to repudiate any claims of Jewish nationalism, lest accusations of dual loyalty be leveled against them. That helped them naught when the Nazis checked their family trees and, upon that basis, not caring about anything else, sent them to the camps.
[…] and the establishment of exclusively Jewish institutions, like the agricultural collectives that barred non-Jews from participating.
“We are here in Asia because they didn’t want us in Europe, and we play international sports as a European state because the Asians didn’t want us as part of them”, said right-wing columnist Uri Elitzur once. You figure out what it means to your words above.
Talking with my older relatives, I was inspired by their stories of the early Israel and the community it formed.
Those stories—combined with the joy of being in the presence of a family that recounted stories of Israel’s wonders one minute and jumped up to dance energetically the next—mythologized the idea of the young fighting state that expressed what I believed was the epitome of a community that had found its strength.
Those are the stories I heard from my relatives too. They seemed so far, far away… How angry I was, on being stuck in this far-flung province in the Middle East, all because of the accident of my birth.
For if this is all a natural world, then we have a right to rebel against such accidents of birth, and then we are all set to regard the whole thing as a mistake. Thus we reach the state where even the leaders of the state say such shocking things as, “We are tired of winning” (none other than Olmert said that).
Of all the attempts to form an alternative Jewish identity to the religious one, Secular Zionism has been the most successful—over 100 years of success, no mean achievement, meriting it the condemnation of the otherwise mild-mannered Chabad master, Yosef Yitzchak Schneorson. And yet, here we see that even that attempt has run its course, gone the way of all the others: hitting a brick wall. It was sustained on the memories of Jews who had grown up at religious homes, and then one more generation, but no more; and it was geared to eventual peaceful life in the homeland, while that looks more elusive now than ever. Secular Zionism was powerful, even glorious; but it has now run out of steam, and post-Zionism is the result. Rabbi Kook zt"l was absolutely right: the holiness of the land would end up forcing the Secular Zionists to go back to religion.
At the same time, both my parents were committed activists against apartheid in South Africa and my father was a labour historian, so from an early age the important values of anti-racism and socialism were impressed on me.
But apparently the important values of critical thinking were not. Had they been impressed upon the writer, he would not have brought the slick Marxist package under which the “Palestinians” marketed themselves hook, line and sinker. Also, of history, his writing shows a gaping hole in it: the Middle Ages, the age which has not died in all the world, and in fact is more lively than ever before. “Religious war” is a phrase to which Marxists react by performing the Ostrich Maneuver.
Despite my ethno-nationalist connection with Israel and a fervent belief in Zionism, the Israeli army, and the policies of the Jewish State, I didn’t feel any contradiction between my Zionist identity and my commitment to social justice. I believed that Israel was the state of social justice. The country’s successive labour governments, strong Jewish unions, and a history of kibbutzim seemed to confirm it.
“Social justice”, the mantra of the Left, the more extreme the more sounded. “Social justice” according to Marx (on the Far Left) or according to common sense, to intuition, to personal feelings.
I may be going off a tangent here, but this got me asking: What do you know about justice, social or otherwise? What can you state on those matters as a dictum, as a decree, when all you have is your personal opinion or the personal opinion of someone else?
The unbelievers say the Divine Command Theory of Morality is a poor basis for it because it rests upon nothing but obedience of power. That is a caricature, but let us consider their alternative: they say, “One should do good because it is good”. Yet what is good? Granted, if it were universally agreed, by all human beings, that such and such was good, then there might be merit in thinking it better to do it because of internal acceptance rather than external obedience; but since there is no universally agreed “good” upon which the debate can hinge, the alternative to Divine Command is exposed as being no alternative at all.
I believe in obedience toward the Source of All Justice. I consider this the most rational of all bases of morality. The Marxist needs to convince me of the rationality of deriving my morality from the opinion of a man just like me.
Back to the text:
I didn’t see Zionism’s violent colonization and historic displacement of Palestinians as similar to other colonial projects based on white settler domination.
“White settler domination”. Remember, every time you see that sentence in the context of Zionism, that it requires its writer to totally ignore the fact that more than half the Jews of Israel today are non-whites. See, most chances are when you walk in an Israeli street, the Jews you encounter will have the same skin color as the Arabs. Yes, Secular Zionism was birthed in Europe, but early on it was taken up, by collaboration if not by actual ideological consonance, by Jews from the Islamic lands. The influx of those Jews in the 1950’s put the end to the “white settler” libel, as well as to its other racist (note how the Left perpetuates racism!) counterparts such as the Khazaria Hypothesis.
Instead, I believed that the Israeli Defense Forces were not only “defending Jews” but also “defending social justice and socialism.” I viewed Israel and its values as similar to the struggles against oppression, and, I have to admit, held a racist view of “the Arabs” as trying to destroy the “equality” that Israel was creating.
So Mr. Rosenfeld had always viewed things through the lens of socialism and the class struggle. His change of mind, then, was a change in particulars, not in the general view. Another point underlining the post-Zionist crisis of today.
I now skip to under the heading, “Applying history”:
My abandonment of Zionism began when I was about 15. […] most likely it had to do with my growing inability to ignore the reality of Israel’s violent repression of Palestinians and a growing interest in Marxist theory.
The order should be inverted: “…a growing interest in Marxist theory and my growing inability to ignore the reality of Israel’s violent repression of Palestinians”. Support of the “Palestinians” follows from the Marxist worldview. Whoever is strong enough in his Jewish identity, which is inherently opposed to the rootless cosmopolitanism of Marxism, does not come to support the “Palestinians”.
During the 1996–99 right wing Likud government, I found it impossible to support the Israeli government. It seemed to me that the embodiment of the Israeli right was the barrier to peace. At that time, I still thought that the Labour party was the bearer of peace and strongly believed that socialist Zionism was liberatory. Therefore, I couldn’t understand why the Labour party would act as apologists for the actions of the Likud government and not show more of an affinity with the Palestinians. I wasn’t able to grapple with the way the so-called Israeli left would do little about the increasingly violent attacks on Palestinians that seemed to be destroying the “peace process,” while uniting behind the military.
Possibly the suicide terrorist attacks on buses within the 1949 Armistice borders of Israel in those years meant some people, even on the Israeli Left, had a hard time being totally on the side of the “Palestinians”. As with the Kassam rockets on Sderot today. Or the destruction of the greenhouses. Or the turning of synagogues into military bases. Or the plan to rename settlement sites after famous Islamic battles and Arab cities. Reason after reason given to us by the “Palestinians” not to trust them. What you saw in the years 1996–9 was just the beginning. But instead of reaching the right conclusions, you have only hardened your heart.
I was having a harder time seeing liberation in, or even identifying with, the idea of being a New Israeli Jew. I began to question how I could actively deceive myself about the news and began to notice the unwillingness of my family and Jewish community to address my concerns, as well as their own racism toward Palestinian and Arab people.
Did you ever think of starting to undeceive yourself about the news? Did you ever consider the possibility that news channels like CNN, BBC and Haaretz are to be taken with more than a few grains of salt? Not every news report peddled as “objective” is really such; the way to relative freedom from bias is to read as many sources as possible, and to check, check, check each item from them.
I remember family members often combining false dichotomies about “good and bad Arabs” with completely uncritical support for the Israel’s actions. There was fierce condemnation from my family and the community for even doubting Israel’s actions. I would often face responses like “Israel can only be criticized by those that live there,” parodying explanations given by white South Africans for apartheid.
Ah, the days when Zionists had the guts to stand up to Zionism and defend it from its critics… the days when it was not yet the norm to be aback by accusations of McCarthyism after calling off the post-Zionists for wreaking their great damage to the state of Israel. We will need to recapture Rosenfeld’s family’s and community’s old spirit if we are to survive.
I began to feel as though my Jewish affiliation with Israel contradicted the lessons the Jewish people should have learned from a history of oppression.
And the logical conclusion: our old friend, “The Jews are the modern Nazis”. Fortified, of course, with the obligatory nod to yiddishkeit, blithely ignoring the fact that “Rise up early to kill the one who stands up to kill you” (in other words: pre-emptive war if need be) is part and parcel of Jewish tradition and experience.
Continues under the heading, “Add a dash of Marx”:
During my mid teens, Marxism made a big impression on me. I had joined a small socialist organization in Toronto and was fully involved in the global justice movement. Neo-colonization and neo-liberalism were the buzzwords for me at the time and the idea that The Revolution was just around the corner captivated me.
“The Revolution”. Um… what can I say…? It would be best to quote G-d: “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man [etc.]” (Leviticus 19:32)
Day By Day cartoon for February 19, 2007. To quote Jack Langer: “A man could make a fortune selling Geritol to these people.”
I began to look into Israeli history and many of my new comrades, themselves Jews opposed to Zionism, would engage in discussions about Zionism and its links to colonization and imperialism. By looking into the process of the Zionist conquest of Palestine and the establishment of militias that would violently defend these conquests, I saw similarities between the creation of Israel and other colonial states. I began to see the similarities in the myths I held about Israeli peace and justice, and the myths that other settler colonies would create about themselves in order to justify their attacks on indigenous populations.
A question to the prospective student of Comparative Colonialism™: France is to the French colonials in Algeria as X is to the Jewish colonials in Palestine—please fill the blank. The answer always promises to be very revealing.
Zionism began to disgust me. I was furious that a Jewish movement could completely neglect the obvious historical lessons of our displacement in Europe, and our experience of internal colonization at the hands of empires to maintain their own power. I was enraged that a Jewish movement could take the tools of our oppression and apply them to another people, in collaboration with European empires.
The one obvious historical lesson of our displacement in Europe that you, Mr. Rosenfeld, studiously ignore, is that the Jewish people cannot depend on the mercies of their non-Jewish hosts. They need to be in their homeland, and they need to be armed, in order to defend themselves. Your naïvist view of the world contrasts with the reality, especially in the Middle East, of there being an either-or state of rulers or ruled. The state of Israel has been as enlightened a ruler as possible in this bloody region; more enlightened than that would mean a Second Holocaust, G-d forbid.
My Jewish last name and identity became a weapon I used against the Zionist justification of Israeli legitimacy and the actions of the state of Israel. If Zionists could spin Jewish history, I could use my socially assumed Jewish identity to strike back.
Most succinctly, that is why the anti-Zionist Jew is the greatest threat to the existence of the state of Israel and its Jewish inhabitants. Their words are recited in the Islamic media channels as gospel truth, and sounded again and again in the sermons of Muslim imams as support to the Islamic eschatological duty of murdering the Jews (G-d forbid). As with Yeshayahu Leibowitz’s (long may he rot in hell) “Judeo-Nazi” appellation, and as with Professor Toaff’s misguided and horrendously mistimed publication of a book “confirming” the Passover blood libel, those people fail to stop to weigh the consequences of their actions. A hundred wise men cannot get out the stone that a single stupid man has thrown into the well.
I became an active anti-Zionist and Palestinian solidarity activist, going to weekly demonstrations in front of the Israeli consulate and arguing in my high school classes about the daily violent Israeli repression of Palestinian demands for self-determination.
The “Palestinians” will reward you well for that, they will. As rich a reward as Dr. Yueh received from Baron Harkonnen for betraying Duke Leto Atreides, I can assure you.
As the Israeli repression of the Second Intifada intensified, with the Army routinely using live ammunition against Palestinian youths throwing stones, […]
An intifada, or uprising, complete with the use of violence, including the stones you mention. Peaceful, non-violent, Gandhian resistance, fitting for a song by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
Did I tell you how much I loved those flower children? Those kumbaya-singing Peace Hippies?
The reaction I faced from my family and community was harsh and vitriolic at times. I recall being compared by family members to the Jewish police force in the Warsaw Ghetto that forced Jews onto the trains to Auschwitz. I was repeatedly called a self-hating Jew, while being scolded as a traitor to my people and history. As terrible as this was, it had the opposite effect than the intended one. Instead of keeping me in line, it showed me just how stifling ethno-nationalist identity is and how colonial ethno-nationalism maintains its support by commanding family and community loyalties to the state.
Telling people the truth is no guarantee of their acceptance of it. I for one do not delude myself that any anti-Zionist reading my blog will automatically, magically be converted to my worldview. But once people have been told the truth, they stand condemned, and the messenger is absolved from bearing their sin. We must tell the truth; once we have done this duty of ours, all the rest will truly be left to G-d alone.
Continues under the heading, “Reclaiming Jewish identity”:
My rediscovery of a vivid feeling of Jewish identity didn’t come from theoretical exploration as much as it did from an encounter with violently aggressive anti-Semitism.
And another sign of the crisis of modern Jewish education: the young Jews of today (like me before I got religion) have no positive Jewish heritage, only the negative fact of being hated by the world. Is “all the world hates us” something you can live by? Is it something to wake up for every morning? No wonder they stray to such ends of craziness.
The author proceeds to tell how he and his Marxist friends organized a rally against racism following “the post-9/11 backlash against Muslim Arabs and non-white people”. He tells of his encounter with Neo-Nazis:
It was at this point that I became acutely aware of my Jewish identity and the neo-Nazi’s recognition of me as a Jew (I don’t look very goy). I realized that, as a Jew, I was a target of white supremacy. In light of the police’s coercion against our resistance to racism, I saw that the state was no defence to racism (anti-Semitism included).
Not to deny Rosenfeld’s experience, but how typical his highlight is among Jewish Leftists: the misconception that Jew-hatred afflicts a constant set of people. But the truth is that the Neo-Nazis are the meager leftovers of a past age (as indeed are the problems of colonialism and racism themselves) while the torch of Jew-hatred has now been passed to the same Far Left he regards himself part of. Most troubling here to think of is the rude awakening that lies in store for Mr. Rosenfeld and his like.
I began to revisit Jewish history and radical Jewish thought as well, reading anti-colonial theorists like Frantz Fanon. At this time I was moving away from Marxism and into anarchist thought, growing increasingly critical of the state as an institution. I found inspiration in Jewish anarchists like Emma Goldman, as well as movements for Jewish liberation against imperialism, especially in the Tsarist context.
So how well did the Jews fare in the Russia they had “liberated from Tsarism”? As I recall, that champion of human liberties (liberty from having to eat, liberty from breathing, and so on), Stalin, was about to do a Holocaust of sorts of his own on the Jews of the Soviet Union, but died before he could do that; and after that, the Soviet Union became the center of anti-Jewish propaganda worldwide, until eclipsed only recently by the Muslim world in that regard.
Jesse, you did talk about learning from history…
Continues under the heading, “Kicking it with the Bund”:
When I arrived at McGill, I became enthralled with the Bund, a radical socialist Jewish movement that, instead of arguing for Zionism, urged Jews to fight for self-determination where they lived and struggle against imperialism.
They did not win that fight. The author himself admits as much:
The Bund was one of the main resistance forces to the Nazis in the Warsaw ghetto uprising […]
They could be alive today, if… if they had emigrated to British Mandatory Palestine while it was still possible. They would, of course, have been “colonialist oppressors of the indigenous people” that way. It’s a choice to make: be an angel, a slaughtered sheep in the sight of all people, in death, or be a devil in the eyes of a world that cannot stand seeing you fight for your life.
As for the Bundist Jews’ “fight for self-determination”, we now know only too well that it takes far more than the mild attempts they made. Today, we know it takes violence, threats and instilling a climate of fear, as the Muslims do now. The world has been so drenched with all those “fights for self-determination”, from every tiny interest group, everyone employing the most malicious means they can think of, but the Muslims excelling above them all, that the world is on the brink again. Thank you very much, Karl Marx.
Skipping a little, including a whole paragraph of postmodern gobbledygook:
I immediately saw the connection between the Jewish experience of oppression and domination and Zionist theory. Opting out of oppression through the use of colonization, thus aiding European imperialism, Zionist Jews were able to assume a colonizer’s identity and experience increased privilege. By allying themselves with imperialism and engaging in the colonial conquest of land, the Zionists played on the colonizer’s terms by advocating that Jews leave Europe for colonial conquest elsewhere.
From the dictum of 19th-century Reform Jews in Germany, “Germany is Israel and Berlin is Jerusalem”, to this statement, “the Zionists played on the colonizer’s terms by advocating that Jews leave Europe for colonial conquest elsewhere”, runs a straight line: the abandonment of G-d’s promises. It can begin from very small things, such as dropping the prayers for the restoration of Temple sacrifices from the three daily Jewish prayers, but its end is this, the thought that the Land of Israel is not ours. That is why Secular Zionism found favor with G-d despite being carried out by unbelieving, unobservant Jews: it was, in its own way but truly so nonetheless, faithful to G-d’s promise that the Jewish people would return to sovereignty on the land He has given them. The survival of the Jews is dependent on believing G-d’s promises; on believing that none of His 613 mitzvot will ever be void. This is the life-blood of the Jewish nation.
My Jewish identity comes from understanding that this is not the path to our liberation and that the tools of anti-Semitism are wrapped up in the tools that we are using to “liberate” ourselves.
“My Jewish identity comes from understanding that this is not […]” Ah, yes. But what is? Does your Jewish identity not come from any understanding that such and such is so? Unless that is the case, then it is not an identity. Not just not a Jewish identity—not any identity.
My Jewish identity comes from recognizing my people’s historic oppression and their natural affinity with those who now face similar exploitation and denigration.
The Torah has many values that coincide with humanist conceptions, but Judaism as a whole is not a precursor of Marxism (there are in here shades of replacement theology). The more humanistic parts of the Torah are as important as all the rest, but they are not an excuse to ignore those commands of G-d that you don’t like.
My Jewish identity comes from an understanding that freedom is not an ethno-nationalist state in my name but a destruction of the forces that are responsible for our historic oppression and the continued oppression of people around the world.
No, ridding the world of all evil is G-d’s to do, not ours. Our only task is proclaim Him King by doing as He commands in the Torah. Any doctrine that aims to end all evil in the world by human means, whether it be Marxism or Islam, is a usurper of G-d’s sovereignty.
What our history, the radical Jewish theorists, and Fanon showed me was that we cannot find liberation in the allies of our oppressors. We must embrace our history in the context of global history and not forget its lessons. To be Jewish is to embrace our culture, embrace our history, and resist.
Very good. I look forward to see you joining the global resistance against Islamic fascistic neo-colonialist imperialism. Seriously. Think about it.
The main text and response ends here. Just two things to wrap it all up:
First, following from my post The Re-1947 Document, from February 15, here is a link to a dialogue between As’ad Ghanem, one the authors of that seditious document, and Professor Asher Susser of Tel-Aviv University. Here:
Read it all, it’s very interesting. I find especially noteworthy the intelligent and hard questions Prof. Susser asks Ghanem, and how Ghanem weasels out of every one of them. If this were visual, you could say, “You know Ghanem is lying because his lips are moving”.
Finally, because I can’t do without a reference to Daily Kos, here’s a snippet from the comments on the diary In speech to AIPAC, Obama blames Bush for Iran mess.
Commenter “Chgo Jim” said (responding to a quote from Obama), titled, “Hilarious”:
"But in the end," he added, "we also know that we should never seek to dictate what is best for the Israelis and their security interests
As if the reality isn't the opposite.
He's right about the idiocy in Iraq ultimately benefiting Iran, though.
13 approving ratings for that post as of my taking the screenshot. Commenter “Pumpkinlove”, a Jew on Daily Kos who’s increasingly showing the strain of seeing it turn to a platform for Jew-haters, replied, titled, “I can’t believe people uprated this”:
The idea that Israel controls the U.S. government is b***s*** and frankly quite backwards. (Expletive edited. —ZY)
Think about it.