Randy's Corner Deli Library

21 December 2006

Iran's unlikely Jewish allies.

Iran's unlikely Jewish allies.
Common Cause
by Yossi Klein Halevi
Only at TNR Online
Post date: 12.20.06

The American press generally viewed last week's Holocaust-denial conference in Teheran--when 67 "researchers" from 30 countries came to "express their views freely" about the Holocaust--as a vulgar outrage. Yet, for all the revulsion, it hardly did justice to what the event represents--namely, the formal emergence of an alliance between Islamists and neo-Nazis. Until now, that alliance has been largely expressed through anti-Israel demonstrations in European cities, where Islamists and neo-Nazis chant the same slogans backing Hamas and Hezbollah. Now, in officially backing far-right Holocaust deniers, the Iranian regime has given new meaning to the term "Islamofascism."

But there is a third component to the Islamofascist alliance: anti-Zionist Jews. The half-dozen members of Neturei Karta--the tiny ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionist movement--who attended the conference understood its real significance: not so much to deny the existence of the Holocaust as to deny the right of Israel to exist. If the Zionists invented the Holocaust, then Zionism itself is history's greatest lie. And, in promoting the notion that the Jewish state is based on fraud, Neturei Karta is not alone; although none were in attendance, far more influential secular Jewish anti-Zionists in the Western press and in academia are also complicit--however unintentionally--in helping this Islamofascist alliance.

Neturei Karta, whose leaders have endorsed Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis, bases its opposition to Israel's existence on theological grounds--specifically, a Talmudic passage that explains how God forced upon the exiled Jews three vows, including the vow not to reclaim the land of Israel against the will of the nations. Neturei Karta believes that Zionism violated that vow. The group's Orthodox opponents counter by noting that, beginning with Theodore Herzl, Zionism sought and eventually received international support, culminating in the U.N. vote to create a Jewish state.

But that obscure theological argument hardly explains Neturei Karta's hatred of Israel--a hatred so pathological that its members make common cause with those who exonerate the murderers of their families. Indeed, beyond theology lies a deeper loathing. In declaring an end to the exile, Zionism has threatened the very essence of Neturei Karta's Jewish identity, which is to sanctify and perpetuate the ghetto. Neturei Karta is like the prisoner who dreads freedom and comes to see his cell as an extension of his being. Other oppressed peoples have produced their version of Neturei Karta--collaborators with their enemies who embrace victimhood. Few, though, have adopted Neturei Karta's extreme conclusion of sanctifying their people's damnation.

In its infatuation with victimhood, Neturei Karta reveals something essential about the psychology of Jewish anti-Zionism generally, including secular-Jewish anti-Zionism. Though they hardly share Neturei Karta's passion for the Jewish ghetto, secularist Jews who oppose Zionists do share the group's rage against Zionism for depriving the Jews of the status of victim.

For nearly 2000 years, Jews in the West not only suffered as victims but were stigmatized for being victims. For the pre-Vatican II Church, the miserable condition of the Jew in exile was proof that God's love had been transferred from the "old Israel" to the "new Israel"; the very fact that Jews were persecuted confirmed the rightness of their persecution. For the Western theoreticians of racial anti-Semitism, Jewish weakness was seen as a genetic flaw that impeded humanity's ability to cope in the jungle of life.

Now, though, the West celebrates the victim as hero. Ironically, then, just as Jews in the West would finally begin to benefit from the status of victimhood, Zionism--with its contempt for victimization and its insistence on self-defense--has denied them that privileged status.

Most Diaspora Jews are probably still grateful to Israel for saving the Jews in the era just after the Holocaust from the despair of excess victimhood. And most Jews instinctively understand that the assault on Israel's legitimacy by parts of the international community vindicates Zionism's insistence that the Jews need a state to protect themselves.

Yet, for some secular anti-Zionists, the status of victim and outcast remains a last source of Jewish identity. And so, just as Neturei Karta cannot forgive Israel for undermining the legitimacy of the Jewish ghetto, so secular anti-Zionist Jews cannot forgive Israel for depriving them of their victimhood. For those anti-Zionists, Israel itself is a kind of Holocaust denier--denying Jews the belated benefits of victimization.

Most anti-Zionist Jews are no doubt appalled by Holocaust denial. (One possible Jewish exception is Noam Chomsky, who not only supported French Holocaust-denier Robert Faurisson's freedom of speech but also absolved him of anti-Semitism.) Even so, the goal of anti-Zionism and of Holocaust-denial is the same: to deny the right of Israel to exist. Having helped transform the question of Israel's existence into a legitimate topic of debate among Western intellectuals, the secular anti-Zionists have proven to be a far more formidable ally of the Islamofascists than the ghetto buffoons of Neturei Karta.

Yossi Klein Halevi is a foreign correspondent for The New Republic and senior fellow of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.

20 December 2006

The Sons of Our Fathers, Part I

The world descends into the infernal reaches. Craziness abounds. Lunacy rules the rulers. Everywhere I look on the ashen faces of those who scat about even doing the mundane, without feeling, without passion. What has the idiocy taken from our lives? The only things that seem to make sense are those things which are without thought or undue consideration -- jazz music, impulses to scream, the like. Love for our children. This is an age for monkeys and politicians perverted in their senses of right and wrong, who they are serving and why. Does Dan Rather matter? Or is he just the canary in the uranium mine? Singing songs that we already know? FEMA pays some dolt $25,000 a month to store 10,000 trailers while people in the Gulf sleep in the street. Could we have braved an attack on our shores by an enemy that held evil intent? We survived but one --it destroyed 3,000 lives and triggered a war on a verb. A method. Damn the consequences. Does it take nuclear holocaust for us to come to our senses? As the time passes so fleetingly, all we can do is try to survive in the best way that we know how, to spread love to those that want and need it. To try to be happy for the newborns awakening to 2007 in just a few days. Perhaps that generation can figure this out. Mine, the last one to know the stories first hand of war, degradation, Holocaust with a capital "H", has been utterly shamed into an existence of acquisition and battles with the mental health profession, not that we are winning, mind you. We are the sons of our fathers who could tell us what was wrong but never how to soothe ourselves as we try to overcome the world that they left behind for us. Go forth, they said. Work hard. Save your money. Pay your taxes. Be good Americans. Remember the Litvaks from Marienpol who lied, scrounged and did whatever it took to break free to get to the place they could at least not feel a target pasted on their souls. And now, it is us. Targets everywhere on our souls with incoming fire from every direction. What to do first? Help ourselves, while the world goes backward? Reading Pynchon, whose insane worlds seem too real? Where the Chums of Chance are running the White House? Who are directing this so-called "war on terror"? There are plenty of questions and the answers seem mysteries that not even Tom Friedman can solve. Accepting the minimum leaves emptiness in the soul. I know it isn't enough. I want peace. I want excellence in my life. Surrounded by the chatter of souls who have no clue what they want except to sell advertising is stifling to the striving that we were taught to yearn. It is an invidious sickness that pervades even conceptions of our naked selves.

Try as we might, bricks stare us in the face like a ghost of the head freshly fallen from the guillotine in the Place de la Concorde. Where have you taken us, you Republicans? It was nice to think "liberté, fraternité, égalité", but the self has seemed to rule all. Or is that "oil". Do they really "know their niggers" in the South? (Living in Atlanta for three years exposes one to different modus operandi than I was used to hearing and seeing in Chicago, the city of broad shoulders of my birth.) Or is it Jim Crow modernized, pasteurized and homogenized for popular consumption? The black man is deemed to have a chip on his shoulder if he squeaks the wrong way. Do we let that slide and just avoid their business like we do catching someone picking their nose in traffic? Quick. Look the other way. It'll be over soon. We think. We are alone in our thoughts. Or so we imagine. Just don't look. It's not there.

How to put importance on what we do daily while the suffering of others stares out from dead eyes and empty lost souls whose lives have seemingly failed to reboot? It's pretty meaningless when bloated black bodies are left on overpasses in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Perhaps the French would like to rework the deal for the Purchase we made some time ago. They understand what it is like to have to rebuild from disaster, to have their land invaded three times in less than 75 years, losing a generation of its youngest in the Great War, in the tiny space of four years. Is it a wonder that there was an inclination just to agree with the Germans and just get back to la vie Française? But it is today a different world, but a disaster no doubt. It is a disaster of attention. It is a collective case of attention deficit disorder, swayed by the least, the base, the ordinary. Damn the consequences, for they are shielded from the collective conscience by cries of phony patriotism and chest-beating. As if putting an American flag on the car makes one a patriot. We suck up bullshit (thank you Harry Steinberg) as if it was mother's milk. As long as our collective minds are distracted from the real, the purposeful, we will be taken with the phony war cries from the baby boomer leader and the rest of his Chums who would rather don flight suits and declare everything OK than be true to the American soul that Jefferson and Madison used to speak and write so eloquently of. Their words seem so hollow, so faded antique, sepia in their quaint phraseology. So what would our fathers say to us, here and now? I can hear the voice of my father, he of Staff Sgt. Shiner who used to say to me the weirdness of "the best days of my life: three squares, a place to eat, sleep, buddies, booze and broads. No worries, man." Peace of mind. As a 12 year old focused on all that was new in '72, who could absorb the importance of understanding the meaning in not worrying? Not me. And now to realize that they let us go to explore the world without any other guidance other than "lawyer, doctor, accountant". "Go and make me proud, don't disappoint." I learn the wisdom of the warm arms of the peace of the life in the military so long as there weren't Japanese sneaking into your tent on a hot jungle night where all you could hear were the giant beetles loving each other and the sweat dripping from your fingertips, attached as they were, my uncle Jack said, to his Tommy gun, ready under the cot to blast Tojo's finest into their bushido paradise. He had it right, he did. I had a 50/50 shot of getting it right: "go to law school or get into the tavern business: you get 'em comin' and goin'." Beautiful business, that. Anesthesia for the soul. Anesthesia for the mind. What great advice that was. The great uncle said to the functionally fatherless. Again, not to be appreciated until I realized one day that my youth had gone through my fingers, digging as I was for the longest time to find the answers in the dirt I willingly, gladly, bathed in. It's all so tiresome at times, but hope is there, despite the lunacy and the need for public anesthesia. Sheep, we. Give me a place to sleep. I want to fall into the warm arms of the one. The love. To give all that I can. This son of a father can only give. He writhes, twisting a dance of the fire that burns inside for what is love, what is right. Squeezing his intestines at the idiots who are without conscience, without an appreciation of consequence. We, the sons of our fathers.