City of Joyful Dread

I caught a fever, a holy fire

Category: Zionism & Orientalism

Books I read in 2016

Louie bar review.jpg

LAW
Devil in the Grove, Gilbert King
W.E.B. DuBois, who had left the [NAACP] organization in 1934, was nevertheless around the office enough to observe [Thurgood] Marshall’s “unbuttoned office manners to be outlandishly bad.”  It was a charge the lawyer could not deny.  Victories were celebrated, often on Friday afternoons, when Marshall would pull a bottle of whiskey from his desk drawer and proceed to hold court.  Imitating judges, opposing counsel, or dim Uncle Tom witnesses, he’d punctuate his tales from the civil rights battlefront with one of his famous deadpan grins or bawdy punch lines.  He relished racial humor, like the story about the slave who stole a turkey from his master, then ate the whole bird—and just as the master was about to deliver a whipping, the slave pleaded, “You shouldn’t beat me, massuh.  You got less turkey, but you sure got more nigger.”
“He could tell some pretty off-color jokes which would be, if they were told by someone else, embarrassing,” recalled Mildred Roxborough, who began a long career with the NAACP as a secretary in the early 1950s.  “But you would find yourself responding to them because of the way in which he told them.”
In an office where the work was hard, usually depressing, and often tragic, Marshall was inclined to using sophomoric or gallows humor to alleviate tension.  One associate recalled an occasion when Marshall, tin the course of doing research, came across a story in a nineteenth-century newspaper about a black man who’d been doing railroad construction in the Midwest and had fallen into a ditch.  The absurdity of the headline gripped Marshall, who kept reading it aloud from his desk, over and over, as if it summed up the black man’s condition then, and now: “Nigger in a Pit…Nigger in a Pit…Nigger in a Pit…”

The Judge and the Historian, Carlo Ginzburg
For me, and for many others, the notions of ‘proof’ and ‘truth’ are, rather, integral parts of the historian’s profession.  This does not mean, of course, that nonexistent phenomena or falsified documents are of little historical importance—Bloch and Lefebvre taught us the opposite long ago.  Still, any analysis of representations cannot overlook the principle of reality.  The nonexistence of the bands of brigands renders more significant (because more profound and revealing) the fear that spread among the French peasants in the summer of 1789.  A historian has the right to detect a problem where a judge might find an ‘absence of grounds for proceedings’.  This is a major divergence which, however, presupposes an element that links, rather than divides, historians and judges: the use of proof.  The professions of both historians and judges rest upon the possibility of proving, according to given rules, that x did y, where x may equally well indicate the protagonist (perhaps nameless) of a historic event or the subject of a penal proceeding; and y an action of any sort.
Obtaining proof, however, is not always possible; and even when it is, the result will always be measurable in terms of probability (perhaps 99.9 per cent), not absolute certainty.  Here, a further divergence arises: one of the many that mark—beyond the initial similarities mentioned above—the profound distinction between historians and judges.  Let me try to explain it as we move forward.  At that point, the implications—and the limitations—will emerge in that intriguing analogy suggested by Luigi Ferrajoli: ‘A trial is, so to speak, the only case of “historiographic experimentation”—in a trial the sources are forced to interact de vivo, not only because they are heard directly, but also because they are forced to confront one another, subjected to cross-examination and prompted to produce, as in a psychodrama, the adjudicated event.

Philadelphia Freedom: Memoir of a Civil Rights Lawyer, David Kairys
I noticed how easy it was to see the value judgments in every line and phrase of an opinion [Greer v. Spock (1976)] that announced my defeat, compared to how uncritically a winning opinion can seem obvious and valueless.  Something hit me clearly that day that had been brewing for some time.  Legal opinions are written in a style that emphasizes objectivity and requires results.  But there is broad, though usually hidden, discretion, choices made based on values nowhere specified or required in the law.
What struck me that I hadn’t heard or thought of before was the regularity of value judgments in legal decision making.  It wasn’t unusual to find criticism of particular decisions or judges for applying values.  That was considered wrong, a deviation from what is normal and right.  But maybe values were always involved, although all legal decisions have a theme that emphatically rejects values or discretion: the law made me do it.  It reminded me of something I’d heard comedian Flip Wilson say.  He had a routine delivered in a woman’s dress called “The devil made me buy this dress.”  She excused her misdeeds with “the devil made me do it.”  No other explanation or justification was offered or necessary.”

LGBT*
Stone Butch Blues, Leslie Feinberg
Bold shook Duffy’s hand.  “Do you think we’re gonna win?”
Duffy smiled and nodded.  “Yeah.  But it’ll take a fight.  We got strong people in each department.  If we had more like Jess, we’d win it hands down.  I trust Jess.  She’s proved she’s for the union 100 percent.”
Everything happened in slow motion.  When I heard Duffy say she I turned in horror, my jaw dropped.  Frankie slapped her forehead with her palm and shook her head.  The guys looked from Duffy to me and back again.  I stormed out of the VFW post and headed for my motorcycle.
“Jess, wait!” I heard Duffy shouting.  He caught up to me and grabbed my arm.
I yanked it away.  “Thanks a lot, Duffy.”  Seeing tears in his eyes made it worse.
“I’m so sorry, Jess.  It just jumped out.  I didn’t mean it.”
I shrugged.  “It doesn’t matter what you meant to do.  I’m out of this job now.”
He shook his head.  “We’ll work it out, Jess.  You could stay.  I’ll talk to the guys.”
I laughed bitterly.  “You don’t get it, do you?  Which bathroom you think I’m going to use on Monday, Duffy?”
Duffy put his hand on my arm.  I glared at him.  “Jess, I’d never do anything to hurt you.  You know that.”
I pushed his hand off my arm.  “Well, you did.”  I turned and walked away.

Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, Samuel Delany
….desire is never “outside all social constraint.”  Desire may be outside one set of constraints or another; but social constraints are what engender desire; and, one way or another, even at its most apparently catastrophic, they contour desire’s expression.

Mishima: A Biography, John Nathan
In 1946 and 1947 eight hundred thousand repatriated troops from His Majesty’s Imperial Army poured into Tokyo alone.  These unhappy men were received coldly: the city couldn’t bear to be reminded of the war.  Many were maimed and became beggars on the streets in tattered military uniforms.  Those of able body found they were discriminated against when they sought employment and had to join the gangs which ran the black market.  On every Tokyo street corner hoods with belly bands and American pennies in their ears “peddled” food and clothing (shoes were not manufactured domestically until 1948; an American pair cost $60 in a store, $5 on the street), toilet paper (the government ration was twelve sheets a week per family), and whiskey.  It was a time not only of domestic hardship and social mayhem but profound humiliation.  The Japanese diet was so low in sugar that a whiff of the tinfoil wrapping from a stick of chewing gum was enough to cause dizziness: a few sticks of gum tossed into the street from a jeep were sufficient to create a small riot.  In many neighborhoods GIs, including blacks (who struck fear into the hearts of most Japanese), were “shacked up” with local girls won over by stockings and lipstick, known as “onlys” and recognizable in the streets by their cosmetic attempts to look as “western”—heavy rouge and lipstick, blowzy clothes—as possible.  Speakers at train stations blared American boogie-woogie.
In every respect it was a nightmarish time, and the writing of the period is dark and sorely wounded.  But however grim the reality appeared and was, the young writers of the Postwar School shared with the critic Ara the unshakable conviction that life was precious and to be affirmed.
[…]
For Yukio Mishima, the surrender was no reprieve but a sentence to life.  In August 1944 he had written “The murderer,” meaning the artist, “had less use for recovery than for any illness.  He disdained passion directed toward recovery.”  These lines expressed many things for him, but in essence they meant that for the young artist, death was more beautiful and more precious than life.  It was not that he wanted to die in any conventional sense: when he was finally confronted with death as a reality in 1944 he ran from it as fast as his legs would carry him.  But he was captive to a romantic longing for death as an esthetic ideal which originated in his erotic nature, his very sexual identity.  And changes in external reality could neither release him from his longing nor alter its nature: the emperor had announced Japan’s surrender, but death remained his “life’s aim.”

Before Night Falls, Reinaldo Arenas
I think that the sexual revolution in Cuba actually came about as a result of the existing sexual repression.  Perhaps as a protest against the regime, homosexuality began to flourish with ever-increasing defiance.  Moreover, since the dictatorship was considered evil, anything it proscribed was seen in a positive light by the nonconformists, who in the sixties were already in the majority.  I honestly believe that the concentration camps for homosexuals, and the police officers disguised as willing young men to entrap and arrest homosexuals, actually resulted in the promotion of homosexual activities.
In Cuba gays were not confined to a specific area of a club or beach.  Everybody mingled and there was no division that would place the homosexual on the defensive.  This has been lost in more advanced societies, where the homosexual has had to become a sort of sexual recluse and separate himself from the supposedly nonhomosexual society, which undoubtedly also excludes him.  Since such divisions did not exist in Cuba, the interesting aspect of homosexuality there was that you did not have to be a homosexual to have a relationship with a man; a man could have intercourse with another man as an ordinary act.  In the same way, a real gay who liked another gay could easily go out and live with him.  But the gay who liked real macho men could also find one who wanted to live or be friends with him, without in any way interfering with the heterosexual life of that man.  It was not the norm for one queer to go to bed with another queer; “she” would look for a man to fuck “her” who would feel as much pleasure as the homosexual being fucked.
Homosexual militancy has gained considerable rights for free-world gays.  But what has been lost is the wonderful feeling of meeting heterosexual or bisexual men who would get pleasure from possessing another man and who would not, in turn, have to be possessed.
The ideal in any sexual relationship is finding one’s opposite; and therefore the homosexual world is now something sinister and desolate; we almost never get what we most desire.

* mostly just G and T

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MARXISM
Why Marx Was Right, Terry Eagleton

ISRAEL
I Pity the Poor Immigrant, Zachary Lazar
She was a cocktail waitress.  Businessmen, scotch and gin, some stale pastries in a glass case, no music in the background.  One night, after Meyer had left Israel, the journalist Uri Dan came in with a group from the embassies, and he half stood and pointed at each of them with his cigarette, relaying their orders, not seeing her.  Of course, he could not have known who she was.  Of course, she was nobody.  She bent at the knees, serving, back straight, focused on the glasses, the table.  The inventedness of Israel as a country seemed completely transparent at such moments, everything too new to be convincing, but she realized that this was a refugee’s thinking.  The real problem was that she had never gotten used to the newness, had never taken her position in the country seriously enough.

Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt

Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, Max Blumenthal
According to a March 2011 Ynet-Gesher poll of 504 Israeli adults, 48 percent of Israelis supported settler violence in retaliation to Palestinian or Israeli government actions, with only 33 percent stating their belief that settler violence was “never justified.”  While a vast majority of Orthodox and religious nationalist respondents expressed strong support for settler attacks, 36 percent of secular Israelis did as well—a remarkably high number for a population that lives primarily inside the Green Line.
…Dov Lior, the chief rabbi of Hebron, has cheered on the murder of anyone, Jew or non-Jew, who appeared to interfere with the redemptive cause of Greater Israel.  At the funeral for Baruch Goldstein, Lior extolled the mass killer as “a righteous man” who was “holier than all the martyrs of the Holocaust.”  Thanks in part to Lior’s efforts, a shrine to Goldstein stands inside the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, where Lior presides over the yeshiva.  At the same time, Lior pronounced Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin a moser (a Jew who snitches to the goyim) and a rodef (a traitor worthy of elimination), helping establish the religious justification for Yigal Amir, one of Lior’s admirers, to assassinate him.
Lior’s penchant for overheated, fascistic tirades has not diminished with age.  He has warned Jewish women not to allow in vitro fertilization with the sperm of non-Jews, claiming that “gentile sperm leads to barbaric offspring,” described Arabs as “evil camel riders” and said captive Palestinian militants could be used as subjects for live human experiments.  The short, gray-bearded rabbi has even held forth on the evils of “boogie woogie,” declaring that rock and roll “expresses people’s animalistic and lower urges.”  He added, “Something that belongs to the rhythms of kushim [Negroes] does not belong in our world.”

VIETNAM WAR & THE SIXTIES
Bringing the War Home: The Weather Underground The Red Army Faction, & Revolutionary Violence in the 60s & 70s, Jeremy Varon
Marcuse’s notion of the “Great Refusal” offers additional perspective on Weatherman’s transgressions.  Convinced that “administered societies” quickly neutralized or assimilated all forms of local resistance, Marcuse counseled the rejection of “the whole.” Yet neither Marcuse nor the New Left had any fixed sense of when one was being authentically radical, rejecting the system in its totality, truly subverting the mainstream.  The escalation in militancy over the course of the 1960s was, in part, an experiment with new and more provocative forms of refusal.  The Weathermen appeared intent on being the opposite of everything they felt the dominant culture valued.  Years later, Roth described Weatherman’s core message at Flint: “We spit on all your values, on all your sensibilities.”  Stern conveyed the intensity and narcissistic quality of the group’s “refusal” in the threat made at Flint that “there would be no peace in America as long as one Weatherman was left standing.”
From a deconstructive perspective, Weatherman’s “refusal” seems a rather crude strategy of reversal.  In opposing chaos to order, destruction to the status quo, the Weathermen simply inverted the hierarchies within a binary structure, leaving the structure intact.  In a Marcusean vocabulary, the Weathermen practiced a nondialectical form of negation that naïvely equated transgression with transcendence.  Marcuse defined negation, most broadly, as the refusal to accept the rationality and necessity of the given.  But according to Marcuse, truly dialectic negation also had to contain a moment of affirmation—a vision, however prefigurative and itself negated by prevailing “reality,” of liberated utopian possibilities.  Marcuse developed this view mostly with respect to aesthetics, but his aesthetic theory provides useful analogies for politics.  To Marcuse, emancipator art must express, through its commitment to form, a beauty that testifies against and transcends the contradictions, ugliness, or even the obscenity of the established order.  He therefore praised certain works of “high” bourgeois art and some of the creativity of the counterculture, such as Bob Dylan’s more soulful songs, for pointing toward a transcendent realm.  (As if in agreement, the folksinger Phil Ochs penned the line, “In such an ugly time, the true protest is beauty.”)[…] Beyond a critique of art, Marcuse offers a model of failed resistance as the repetition or mirroring of the very tendencies the resistance seeks to oppose.  Flint, as Weatherman’s own grisly theater, conformed to this model, insofar as it failed within the terms of Marcuse’s analysis to truly shock and gloried in a destructiveness the Weathermen presumably sought to overcome.

Dispatches, Michael Herr
We talked while we ate.  Mayhew told me about his father, who “got greased in Korea,” and about his mother, who worked in a department store in Kansas City.  Then he started to tell about Day Tripper, who got his name because he was afraid of the night–not the dark, but the night–and who didn’t mind who knew it.  There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do during daylight, but if there was any way at all to fix it he liked to be deep in his bunker by nightfall.  He was always volunteering for the more dangerous daylight patrols, just to make sure he got in by dusk.  (This was before daylight patrols, in fact almost all patrols around Khe Sanh, were discontinued.)  There were a lot of white guys, especially junior officers trying to be cool, who were always coming on to Day Tripper about his hometown, calling it Dodge City or Motown and laughing.  (“Why they think somethin’s special about Detroit?” he said.  “Ain’t nothin’ special, ain’t nothin’ so funny, neither.”)  He was a big bad spade gone wrong somehow, and no matter how mean he tried to look something constantly gentle showed.  He told me he knew guys from Detroit who were taking mortars back, breaking them down so that each one could get a piece into his duffel and then reassembling them when they got together back on the block.  “You see that four-oh-deuce?” he said.  “Now that’ll take out a police station for you.  I don’t need all that hassle.  But maybe nex’ year I gonna need it.”

 
POLITICS
Republican Gomorrah, Max Blumenthal
Charles Colson joined the chorus of Alito defenders with an unusual revision of civil rights history.  Colson, who once burned a cross on the lawn of a black law partner in what he later described as a “prank,” and who exploited resentment of forced school desegregation to win ethnic white votes for Richard Nixon, declared in a January 2006 radio commentary that Martin Luther King was “a great conservative.  Were he alive today, I believe he would be in the vanguard of the pro-life movement and would be supporting Judge Alito.”  Colson’s logic, remarkable as it was, was actually part of a premeditated Christian Right effort to link Alito to the legacy of King.  This campaign culminated when Tony Perkins convened Justice Sunday III at a black church in inner-city Philadelphia.
The event featured a strange cast, beginning with Bishop Wellington Boone, an African American church leader and spokesman for the evangelical men’s group known as the Promise Keepers.  Perkins had recruited Boone to lend his rally a bold splash of color; however, the bishop had lost any credibility he might have enjoyed in the black community years before when he wrote, in his book Breaking Through, “We need to boldly affirm Uncle Tom.  The black community needs to stop criticizing Uncle Tom.  Uncle Tom is a role model.”  In the same tract, Boone declared, “I believe that slavery, and the understanding of it when you see it God’s way, was redemptive.”

Regulating the Poor, Francis Fox Piven & Richard Cloward

OTHER NOVELS 
Open City, Teju Cole
But do you think you could live in Mecca or Medina?  What happens to individual liberty in those places? If you moved to the central cities of Islamic faith, what would become of your cigarettes and your Chimay?
Mecca and Medina are special cases.  Yes, I could live in the Holy Land.  I would see it as a paysage moralisé.  There’s a spiritual energy in the topography, through which one can endure the physical limitations.  I am drinking this now—he gestured to the bottle of beer—and I know that this is a choice I have made, and the consequence of this choice is that the wine of paradise will not be available to me.  I am sure you know what Paul de Man says about insight and blindness.  His theory has to do with an insight that can actually obscure other things, that can be a blindness.  And the reverse, also, how what seems blind can open up possibilities.  When I think about the insight that is a form of blindness, I think of rationality, of rationalism, which is blind to God and to the things that God can offer human beings.  This is the failure of the Enlightenment.

American Hunger, Richard Wright

Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammett
I walked streets hunting for her, half the streets in the United States, Gay Street and Mount Royal Avenue in Baltimore, Colfax Avenue in Denver, Aetna Road and St. Clair Avenue in Cleveland, McKinney Avenue in Dallas, Lemartine and Cornell and Amory Streets in Boston, Berry Boulevard in Louisville, Lexington Avenue in New York, until I came to Victoria Street in Jacksonville, where I heard her voice again, though I still could not see her.

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In Amona

Amona.jpg

return somewhere you’ve never been
like from a dream you’ve never had
surrounded by the world you left
an outpost of tomorrow’s time

where days are numbered, means reverse
Exodus outnumbered 700 score
a reconstructed temple mount
the occupier counts

outnumbered outlaws colonize
recovered memories of others
in Amona caravans canonize
razor-wire pilgrims

Photo courtesy of Yair Aronshtam. Available via Wikimedia Commons.

On Keith Ellison

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1. I tend to agree with Chomskythat opponents of the Israel Lobby both overrate it and underrate the power of US imperialism.  In other words, that the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis(i.e. the Israel Lobby forces the US to commit bad policy against its own interests) leaves the US government untouched on its high pinnacle of nobility, “Wilsonian idealism,” etc., merely in the grip of an all-powerful force that it cannot escape.  More broadly, in the words of Bill WeinbergThe problem with too many who are immersed in the Palestine issue is that they are so awed by Israel’s Washington political machinery that they lose sight of the inevitable and over-arching context for this privileged position within the beltway elite: US imperialism. (I would add Christian Zionism to that, as either a subcategory or its own category, especially as support for Israel becomes less debatable for Republicans than for Democrats.)
 
2. Is this necessarilyanti-Semitic?  Of course not, which doesn’t mean that it’s neveranti-Semitic either.  Despite popular myth, it’s not difficult to separate anti-Semites from anti-Zionists.  Élise Hendrick provides an excellent overview of who’s who in her 2015 takedown of Counterpunch.  Clearly, obsession with the Lobby (what Hendrick refers to as “Lobby fetishism”) is less anti-Zionist than it is anti-Semitic, if only by association.
 
3. Much of the current Ellison controversy is manufactured, meaning not only that he’s called anti-Semitic for past comments but that those past comments are deliberately taken (occasionally ridiculously) out of context, as Glenn Greenwaldand J.J. Goldberg, among others, have noted:

Some of the evidence against him is downright hilarious. One video clip from 2007 was posted to my Facebook page by an irate reader, as evidence that Ellison blames “Jews” for the 9/11 attacks. It’s circulating around the web with explanations that you can hear audience member saying, “Jews benefited from 9/11,” and Ellison replying, “Well, I mean, you and I both know.”

Except that’s not what’s on the video. For context, Ellison is likening the 9/11 attacks to the Reichstag fire, the 1933 burning of the German Parliament that was used by the Nazis as an excuse to crack down on leftists and consolidate their power. In post-9/11 America, Ellison says, bigots used the attacks to justify a crackdown on “religious minorities.”

At this point, someone off-camera can be heard saying, “But who benefited from 9/11?” Ellison replies, “Well, I mean, you and I both know.” The questioner then answers his own question: “Yeah, Bush.” “Who,” not “Jew.” (Cue the Woody Allen routine.)

4. Ellison isn’t an anti-Semite, and it’s (willfully) wrong to suggest that he is.  But it’s also wrong to celebrate the Ellison controversyon the basis that pro-Israel organizations are turning on one another. And we’re finally going to have an honest conversation about the power of the Israel lobby[.]  Desires to accelerate the contradictionsof neoliberalism lead nowhere at best, to Presidents Trump and Bush at worst.  Why should the contradictions of pro- and anti-Lobby fetishism lead somewhere better for the Democrats, when the Republicans have no contradictions, or for Palestinians, whose rights in Israel (or anywhere else) always become collateral to the Lobby’s rights in America in these arguments?

Robert Kuttner is more realistic:

The battle over a new, more progressive and effective leader for the Democrats is degenerating into a bitter fight over loyalty, score-settling, and the power of the Israel lobby.

The Democrats have enough problems. They hardly need this donnybrook, much less a DNC elected in a narrow and bitter factional win. Ellison is a great guy, but this may not be his moment.

I have no objections to Ellison.  I agree with Kuttner that [h]is blueprint for party activism reads like a progressive organizer’s dreamBut if someone equally progressive ends up becoming the DNC Chair, I won’t automatically think the Democrats sold out.  On the other hand, if the Democratic future needs to look like Tim Kaine, that’s a problem, with all due respect to Tim Kaine.  As always, it depends.

5. The irony, of course, isn’t merely that the Party of Bannon has no contradictions on Israel (just ask Ambassador HuckabeeChristian Zionist) or that the most well-known Jewish organizations and fellow travelers denouncing Ellison (AIPAC, the Zionist Organization of America, Alan Dershowitz, David Horowitz) defendedBannon to varyingdegrees, but that Ellison’s opinions on Israel are so conventional.
 
Goldberg:

[H]e is a Muslim peacenik. Since entering politics, he has consistently spoken out in favor of the two-state solution, by which he means Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security. 

The Daily Beast:

[Ellison has] made statement after statement defending Israel. “The world needs a secure Israel.” (2010) “Every country has a right to defend itself.” (2009)

Ellison himself:

“I have long supported a two-state solution and a democratic and secure state for the Jewish people, with a democratic and viable Palestinian state side-by-side in peace and dignity,” Ellison said, in an emailed statement. “I don’t believe boycotting, divesting and sanctioning Israel helps us achieve that goal.”

The two-state solution (which is dead, if it ever really existed, and which wouldn’t remedy legal discrimination within Israel’s current or future borders nor would it promote pluralism or a right to return).  The right to defend itself (a truism, but also a euphemism for disproportionate force).  Opposition to BDS (a nonviolent movement whose demands are ending the occupation, full citizenship rights for Palestinians i.e. pluralism, and the right to return).  Far from being the keffiyah-wearing, bomb-throwing radical his rightwing opponents have projected, Ellison is one Democrat among 187 in Congress.

True, maybe that’s the power of the Lobby talking, but maybe it’s just politics.

Photo courtesy of Congressman Keith Ellison.  Available at Wikimedia Commons.

 

Ayelet Shaked

Enough with the oblique references. This is a war.
Words have meanings. This is a war.

pioneers & defenders,
we made deserts BOOM BOOM
BOOM BOOM BOOM
BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM
BOOM BOOM BOOM
BOOM BOOM BOOM
BOOM BOOM
BOOM BOOM
BOOM
BOOM BOOM BOOM
BOOM

BOOM

Further reading: “Netanyahu appoints Ayelet Shaked—who called for genocide of Palestinians—as Justice Minister in new government”

plus ça change (על אחת כמה וכמה, קל וחומר)

The usual Jewish attitude towards the Arabs is one of contemptuous superiority. Our driver northward was a Jew who had fled from the Nazi advance into Hungary but that did not save him from racist habits. When I suggested that we give a boy a lift, he refused, saying the boy was an Arab. When I asked what was the difference, he said Arabs smelled bad. I said that is what anti-Semites said of us Jews in the outside world but this made no impression. His attitude, it is painful to report, is typical…Thousands of Arabs do the menial tasks of Tel Aviv. They find it as hard to obtain decent lodgings as Negroes do in America and for the same reasons; many “pass” as Jews to circumvent prejudice. In Haifa I visited the only secondary school attended by both Jews and Arabs but even there the classes turned out to be separate. The State of Israel has done much in a material way for the Arabs but the sense of humiliation outweighs any improvement. The spectacle fills one with despair. For if Jews, after all their experience of suffering, prove no better once in the majority than the rest of mankind, what hope for a world as torn apart as ours is by tribalism and hate?
–I.F. Stone, “The Racist Challenge in Israel,” June 1, 1964, from In a Time of Torment (Vintage Books, 1968)

Frantz Fanon on Naftali Frankel, Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Muhammad Abu Khdeir

“From the moment that the native has chosen the methods of counter-violence, police reprisals automatically call forth reprisals on the side of the nationalists. However, the results are not equivalent, for machine-gunning from airplanes and bombardments from the fleet go far beyond in horror and magnitude any answer the natives can make. This recurring terror de-mystifies once and for all the most estranged members of the colonized race. They find out on the spot that all the piles of speeches on the equality of human beings do not hide the commonplace fact that the seven Frenchman killed or wounded at the Col de Sakamody kindles the indignation of all civilized consciences, whereas the sack of the douars of Guergour and of the dechras of Djerah and the massacre of whole populations–which had merely called forth the Sakamody ambush as a reprisal–all of this is of not the slightest importance.”
–from “Concerning Violence” in The Wretched of the Earth

Only, where are the piles of speeches on the equality of human beings here?

Chomsky and Fanon

Or, why the Israelis aren’t classical colonial settlers, or, why the Palestinians are worse off than black South Africans under apartheid who were worse off than Algerians under French rule.

Within Israel, discrimination against non-Jews is severe; the land laws are just the most extreme example. But it is not South African–style apartheid. In the occupied territories, the situation is far worse than it was in South Africa, where the white nationalists needed the black population: it was the country’s workforce, and as grotesque as the bantustans were, the nationalist government devoted resources to sustaining and seeking international recognition for them. In sharp contrast, Israel wants to rid itself of the Palestinian burden. The road ahead is not toward South Africa, as commonly alleged, but toward something much worse.
–Noam Chomsky, “On Israel-Palestine and BDS”

After a phase of accumulation of capital, capitalism has today come to modify its conception of the profit-earning capacity of a commercial enterprise. The colonies have become a market. The colonial population is a customer who is ready to buy goods; consequently, if the garrison has to be perpetually reinforced, if buying and selling slackens off, that is to say if manufactured and finished goods can no longer be exported there is clear proof that the solution of military force must be set aside. A blind domination founded on slavery is not economically speaking worthwhile for the bourgeoisie of the mother country. The monopolistic group within this bourgeoisie does not support a government whose policy is solely that of the sword. What the factory-owners and finance magnates of the mother country expect from their government is not that it should decimate the colonial peoples, but that it should safeguard with the help of economic conventions their own “legitimate interests.”
–from Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (trans. Constance Farrington)

But what about Sodastream?

Bedouin

Negev

we lay on damaged stars
beneath impure heavens

unwelcome wanderers

conquerors of the Negev

ironized, lionized, Zionized
with the old mythology

“a land without a people
for a people without a land”

but don’t wake the baby

don’t break the baby

(the baby doesn’t exist)

on the radio the Teutonic nomad swears
I’ll be your mirror,
reflect what you are

but I don’t recognize your face
in mine

Photo courtesy of http://maryloudriedger2.wordpress.com/tag/negev-desert/.

How the Jews became white

After World War II, a new consensus emerged in the United States and Europe that Jews had to be integrated posthumously into white Europeanness, and that the horror of the Jewish holocaust was essentially a horror at the murder of white Europeans. Since the 1960s, Hollywood films about the holocaust began to depict Jewish victims of Nazism as white Christian-looking, middle class, educated and talented people not unlike contemporary European and American Christians who should and would identify with them. Presumably if the films were to depict the poor religious Jews of Eastern Europe (and most East European Jews who were killed by the Nazis were poor and many were religious), contemporary white Christians would not find commonality with them. Hence, the post-holocaust European Christian horror at the genocide of European Jews was not based on the horror of slaughtering people in the millions who were different from European Christians, but rather a horror at the murder of millions of people who were the same as European Christians. This explains why in a country like the United States, which had nothing to do with the slaughter of European Jews, there exists upwards of 40 holocaust memorials and a major museum for the murdered Jews of Europe, but not one for the holocaust of Native Americans or African Americans for which the US is responsible.

Aimé Césaire understood this process very well. In his famous speech on colonialism, he affirmed that the retrospective view of European Christians about Nazism is that

it is barbarism, but the supreme barbarism, the crowning barbarism that sums up all the daily barbarisms; that it is Nazism, yes, but that before [Europeans] were its victims, they were its accomplices; and they tolerated that Nazism before it was inflicted on them, that they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimised it, because, until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples; that they have cultivated that Nazism, that they are responsible for it, and that before engulfing the whole of Western, Christian civilisation in its reddened waters, it oozes, seeps, and trickles from every crack.

That for Césaire the Nazi wars and holocaust were European colonialism turned inwards is true enough. But since the rehabilitation of Nazism’s victims as white people, Europe and its American accomplice would continue their Nazi policy of visiting horrors on non-white people around the world, on Korea, on Vietnam and Indochina, on Algeria, on Indonesia, on Central and South America, on Central and Southern Africa, on Palestine, on Iran, and on Iraq and Afghanistan.

The rehabilitation of European Jews after WWII was a crucial part of US Cold War propaganda. As American social scientists and ideologues developed the theory of “totalitarianism”, which posited Soviet Communism and Nazism as essentially the same type of regime, European Jews, as victims of one totalitarian regime, became part of the atrocity exhibition that American and West European propaganda claimed was like the atrocities that the Soviet regime was allegedly committing in the pre- and post-War periods. That Israel would jump on the bandwagon by accusing the Soviets of anti-Semitism for their refusal to allow Soviet Jewish citizens to self-expel and leave to Israel was part of the propaganda.

–from “The last of the Semites” by Joseph Massad

On Jews and anxiety

Shockingly, Daniel Smith’s recent New York Times Opinionator column “Do the Jews Own Anxiety?” manages not to mention the word “Holocaust” (or “Shoah”) once, although it does include a quote from Portnoy’s Complaint about “Diaspora Jews…who had gone by the millions to the gas chambers” as well as obliquely referencing the blood libel. Even more surprising than Smith’s welcome unwillingness to deploy the Holocaust as a heuristic device is the other missing word: “modernity,” or “modernism.”

Smith blames both Jews, whom he alleges have propagated the “figure of the Neurotic Jew—our hysterical clown,” and anti-Semitism, which has forced Jews to live in the world as “object[s] of a widespread psychotic rage,” for defining Jews as anxious and anxiety as Jewish. But he offers only narrow twentieth century examples of neurotic Jews (Tevye, Portnoy, Barton Fink, and Woody Allen), all of whom were created or existed in the most welcoming country in the world towards Jews (Israel excluded of course)—missing the mark on both counts, if we’re meant to believe that Jewish anxiety is both ahistorical/transnational and a defense mechanism to blind, irrational hatred.

On the other hand, anxiety and Jews are both the sine quibus non of modernity– see for example Kafka, “degenerate art,” Walter Benjamin, “Howl,” or the young Alvy Singer worried that the universe is expanding— as a condition. Modernity or modernism is defined by wild cultural and formal experimentation, radical “isms” (e.g. surrealism, Dadaism, existentialism) and manifestos, the unconscious, fragmentation and rootlessness, ambiguity, irony and parody, and a breakdown between “high” and “low” cultures, and developed concurrently and in response to mass industrialization, urbanization, scientific progress, and war—exactly what creates and embodies anxiety. Jews therefore aren’t anxious because they’re Jews, they’re anxious because, as walking twentieth century zeitgeists, they’re the paradigmatic modernists, canaries in the coal mines of the assembly line, two world wars, and the atomic bomb. The universe is indeed expanding.

Of course, modernism also embodies not merely the “Wandering Jew,” a figure dissimilar in its doomed resolution to the neurotic, uncomfortably comfortable American Jew, but also the Jewish apostate, who is rejected by the majority culture because he was born a Jew but is also rejected by Judaism because of his refusal of Jewish orthodoxy. The late Marxist Isaac Deutscher referred to this apostatic figure as the “non-Jewish Jew,” meaning not a Jew assimilated to the majority culture but the opposite, namely Jews who go beyond the boundaries of both Judaism and the majority culture in order to “rise in thought above their societies, above their nations, above their times and generations, and to strike out mentally into wide new horizons and far into the future.” Examples of such “non-Jewish Jews” include Spinoza, Heine, Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Trotsky, and Freud, all of whom belong to the quintessentially Jewish tradition of “Jewish heretic[s] who transcend Jewry”—none of whom (well, minus Freud, who of course most embodies the twentieth century among this list) was known for being neurotic or anxious.

Deutscher, writing in 1954, was concerned that the Jewish revolutionary tradition would be destroyed by a growing enthusiasm for Israel and the new orthodoxy of the nation-state. As a Marxist, he understood nationalism to be antithetical to “the message of universal human emancipation” that represented the ultimate “moral and political heritage” of the “genius of the Jews.” The Six Day War would occur thirteen years later, the first intifada twenty years after that, the construction of the West Bank “security fence” fifteen years after that. Who can now argue that Deutscher was wrong? Does the non-Jewish Jew even exist anymore, or has he/she simply become the non-Zionist Jew (a.k.a. the Self-Hating Jew to his/her enemies, culturally orthodox if not religiously Orthodox Jews): Norman Finkelstein, Ilan Pappe, Lenni Brenner and other resolute nonconformers? Sadly, the message of universal human emancipation now requires too much defense against Zionist orthodoxy to worry much about Jewish orthodoxy, let alone anyone else’s.

In his essay, Smith observes that the “soul of the Jewish religion” is “endless, mind-numbing exegesis,” a “willingness to question, discuss, scrutinize, interpret, dissect and argue over every last niggling aspect of human existence,” but expresses concern that overfocusing on these positive stereotypes as a counter to other negative stereotypes can only lead to a “current of self-flattery.” Smith needn’t worry, or, perhaps, he should be worrying even more. He’s obviously never tried to talk about Israel with a Zionist.