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The conversion of Joel Kovel (Part 2)

Israel/Palestine
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Joel Kovel, 8/22/2012

Last week we ran the first half of an interview with Joel Kovel, radical scholar and author of Overcoming Zionism and The Enemy of Nature, about his conversion to Christianity. Born Jewish in Brooklyn 76 years ago, Kovel was baptized last Easter, at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Harlem. I learned about Kovel’s conversion in July and sought an interview because of his stature in the anti-Zionist community. The first part of the interview concerned Kovel’s childhood, youth, and adult struggles with Jewish professional and religious life. Part I ended with the first question here, which I repeat for continuity’s sake. The conversation began on August 22 at Kovel’s Upper West Side apartment; it concludes with a followup interview by phone.

What about seeking your spiritual nourishment inside Judaism?

I didn’t seek for it in Jewish life. It was foreclosed really. It seems like I thought these things through a lot. But I didn’t really. To use a crude metaphor, in some ways a religion is like a key that opens a lock, and we’re the lock, and I had in effect said to myself, that lock cannot be opened by the key of Judaism. But somehow that was not the case in terms of the successor religion, which was launched by two Jews, Jesus and Paul, who never knew each other. For some reason that was different.

You had too much bitterness about Judaism? 

It wasn’t just the bitterness that drove me away, but the desuetude. I was angry about it. I never got over that, particularly as the anger got fueled by what I was seeing in the state of Israel. And at Einstein [College of Medicine], it was very heavily Jewish and the dean would go down to Palm Beach and come back with a sack of money. Of course that would have been just as lousy if it was Notre Dame, and the dean was going to see rich Catholics, but I was Jewish. And I believe that if I were raised in a Christian home, I could very well not be a Christian. So I was spared that experience.

It was such a slow process, deferred by the long years of medical and psychiatric training, and keeping the family going, and then learning about Marx, who is not obviously immediately a spiritual person.

But in 1980 I had a big spiritual turning point. It occurred in two ways. I was very involved in the anti-nuclear movement, working with the War Resisters League, and I was on their board and national executive committee, and there was this sensational news that some Christian priests had broken into the King of Prussia nuclear plant and poured their blood on the nose cone. Of course it was the Berrigan brothers and Sister [Elizabeth] McAlister. That had an electric effect on me. I went to some meetings and I saw the Berrigans. I thought, There’s something different about the way they’re approaching this. At this point I was a very committed revolutionary without knowing how to go about it. I never joined any party. And I thought, There was something missing in all that.

And then the big turning point, I now had a part-time job at the New School, and one of the students had been to Nicaragua, and she said I would really like it down there, there’s something spiritual down there. So I set it up to go down there, and in November 1983 I got there. During the Sandinista years. And this was to a greater extent than any other social revolution, one carried out by priests, particularly Jesuits. So I went down, and I was appalled by the poverty and the threat level. The US was seriously thinking of bombing Nicaragua. This was right after Grenada. So I’m wandering around, wandering into meetings, seeing priests. Like Uriel Molina, Argentinian by way of Spain, in the liberation church. I still remember the mural behind him, there was Jesus as a campesino and people were singing, And my Spanish wasn’t good, but I didn’t need to know the language, the language of the spirit was coming to me, I was moved.

So now it’s coming together. The stuff that happened to me in college, a calling of some sort, and now Jesus, who didn’t articulate with my life in any way. But now it was articulating with my life. These elements of faith are not outside one’s political practices. They give them integrality and wholeness.

And there were other Jesuits down there. Peter Marchetti, from Wisconsin, was one I became friends with. I went out into the countryside with them. I realize the thing that was drawing me to them was the spirit. But it was also something I was led to compare to my secular leftist friends, whether it was the high powered Marxist intellectuals at Telos magazine or Stanley Diamond’s Marxist anthropology shop at the New School or the War Resisters League. I saw there was no joy about them. They were hardworking, they had a good sense of humor, but also a bitter sense of resignation. And we’re talking now 30 years on and I’ve had a thousand experiences since then, and I can tell you that it’s the same again and again, and there are reasons for it. These religious people– they were smiling and happy all the time. Not simpleminded, because they were dealing with the worst sorts of things. But if you read Matthew 25, that encounter with Christ, we do this for the least of you–

It’s a famous passage. I love books but I also love bibles. [grabbing a bible from his shelf]

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

The whole thing always grabs me. [Kovel tears up]  I start crying. There are endless passages like that. You see how I feel it. Well as soon as you get that feeling, you’re there.

The other thing is, every one of us that’s a leftist, with very few exceptions–we’re fearful. We’re afraid of the cops, afraid of the corporations, the authorities. Well, a common admonition in the New Testament is, Be not afraid, because I am with you. So you have that presence with you, and you’re not afraid. You’re not happy as a pig. You’re happy because you’re in the thick of the universal. I saw that in Nicaragua. I took communion at Casa Jesuitica. I made four trips and on one of them, we’re sitting around with the Jesuits. “Let’s have communion.” I said, “No no, oh no.” But they told me to stay, and we passed the bread and the wine. So I said, Well, ok, I’ll do it. It was the first time I did it. And it came around a table, there was no hierarchy. It was Ok– Ok. So I took communion. Then I said alright, I have to go home, I had to walk a half a mile to the place I was staying. And I was walking– I suddenly had a sense of I wasn’t walking anymore, I was floating through the air. Well how did that happen?

I stayed with a Christian-based community in Managua, in 1986, and I wrote a little book, In Nicaragua, to support that revolution.

And at the height of this, I thought, This is moving me, why shouldn’t I convert? This was 1985, 27 years ago. And it was definitely on my mind, ’83 ’84 ’85 ’86, I had all of these experiences. And again I want to emphasize they were consonant and enriched and enhanced by their being politically committed people, revolutionary.

Again, I thought the revolutionaries I knew were missing something. And if you read the Gospels, they are a revolutionary document. Jesus, whatever he was, I thought, I need to contend with that, because he was the first person to articulate a communist vision within class society. I was incredibly moved that way. And also incredibly frustrated in Nicaragua. Worn down,  it was brutally hot, and seeing a lot of misery. And finally I said, I can’t convert. Why can’t I convert? All these people are Catholics. By that time, my friends from Monthly Review, Paul Sweezy and Harvey Magdoff, knew I was interested, and they gave me stuff on the Vatican and Vatican politics. They supported me. Sweezy himself was a wonderful man…  He gave me something on the Vatican and the hierarchy and John Paul 2. I started studying the Catholic Church, and wrote a piece called the Vatican strikes back, in 1985.

And this made me realize, I can’t possibly convert to enter into an institution like this that’s ruled over by such awful people. In fact John Paul 2 was brought aboard to crush liberation theology. So typically, I wrote about it. I wrote a long monograph about this, 25,000 words, The theocracy of John Paul 2. And I had seen enough. I wasn’t going to convert. It was a male hierarchy.

Now later on I found Episcopals and Methodists, and lots of other movement people down there. So it wasn’t just that I couldn’t submit to the damn hierarchy. This church also had such a vicious record against the Jews. I was saying this as someone who had stopped being a Jew, but never stopped caring about what had happened over time. They exiled us and worse. And finally I said to myself, Joel you don’t really believe all that. I’m moved by it but I can’t say that I do believe it. I have to wait and see, I said, and so I backed away and got involved with a lot of other stuff.

But I read everything I could about religion, I was fascinated. And a book came out of it. History and Spirit.  I’m proud of that book, though it was a dreadful failure. Beacon press did a lousy job publishing it. But I remember, in that book, it was Joel Kovel undertaking his first hostile critiques of the state of Israel. A lot of the book was written during the First Intifada, and it affected me greatly.

It’s actually a very good book. It was the introduction to my philosophy of life and spirit. And I had a very long definition of the word spirit, because it can mean many different things. Force and being in the spirit. The question of the truth. And sex, it has to do with. And the spirit opposed to flesh. An expression of the deity, which I called ultimate being. But the book was incomplete, because I couldn’t consummate it, so to speak. The marriage was not consummated. So again it lay there for years while I developed myself on the subject of ecology, capitalism, nature and socialism. Eventually I wrote The Enemy of Nature, which was subtitled, “The end of capitalism or the end of the world?”

And throughout this period I was becoming a dissident from academic consensus. I should say that I was kicked out of my academic job in ’85, patently on political grounds, and then went to Nicaragua one last time.

But I set my spiritual development aside to build up this other theme. And I didn’t quite know what to do until 2006, when I met a man named James White at St. Mary’s around the corner from here. We’re right here between the Manhattan school of music, St. Mary’s, Riverside church—which is humongous—and Union Theological Seminary, where Dietrich Bonhoeffer studied.

The people at St. Mary’s invited me there to speak on racism. I made friends. Then in 2009 when Bard got rid of me– I have the distinction of having been forced out of two prestigious academic jobs, plus having my book banned, I hit the trifecta—well when I left Bard, it was good riddance, and then again maybe there is something to divine providence, because in the whole city of New York, I have an apartment here, an 8 minute walk from St Mary’s Church. After settling in here, I went in and had a meeting with Earl Kooperkamp, who is a truly magnificent human being, my memoir will be dedicated to him and my grandson Desmond. He became my spiritual adviser. Thus it became different from when I was on my own and thinking about these things.

So I’m well into my 70s now, and I thought, you can’t keep putting this decision off forever. I’m the same me, I want to keep on, and keep going, I’m always taking risks. I just love this church. It’s that kind of Matthew 25 church, it’s full of broken down people, and also has intellectuals and authors, it’s black and white and Latino and women clergy. It’s what I think a true Christian church should be, and once I started going, I would go as often as I can, about 30 to 40 times a year. I really like it. At first I thought I’d force myself to go, thinking of the little boy who went to Hebrew school. I thought, even if I’m in a bad mood, I’ll go there and just sort of sit there. But after a while it will just sort of grab me, at some point I’m usually in tears. At some point in the service, I can’t explain that, I can give you lots of thoughts about it, but it’s just an existential given. The question of Why did I become a Christian– how could I not? It’s who I am. For some reason I don’t pretend to grasp, this spirit force inhabits me. It calls me. There are some wonderful thoughts about this in Bonhoeffer’s book, The Cost of Discipleship. [reaching for the book] Jesus– he’s this figure, and he’s by the lake–

It’s like this– if I look over a lot of decisions I have made, like whether to go to a prayer group, I didn’t want to go, I’m lying awake at night. I don’t want to go. Well, he wants you to go. It wants you to go. Alright–I’ll hear a soft voice. It happens to me a lot. Now that I’ve been doing it for 2-1/2 years, it is just really built into me, and it’s funny I never thought I would like going to a church, because I can see through all that stuff. But every time I go, some sort of adventure happens.

Earl and I had these meetings and at some point the question of being baptized was raised. He said, It has to be public, I can’t do that in my office. As long as you’re able to get around, it has to be public. That was a tough decision, because Earl had to move on to a different parish, and I thought about it and thought about it, and he waited, and I thought, Let’s do it. So I was baptized on Easter Sunday, April 8. I have interesting photos of it, you can see the intensity.

Did other people see you?

Oh, a lot of people came. Even my brother from Boston. Which moved me a lot, because we’ve had our differences over the years.

Has anyone been critical of your choice?

Yes. One criticism was passed on to me, a friend said, I don’t know why you’re submitting yourself to a higher power, you don’t know how to respect the Jewish heritage enough. I forgive him. See, I’m not a particularly good Christian but I’m working on it! The truth is, I have a lot of problems with the choice I’ve made. And I’ll have these problems as long as I live because there’s no easy path through the human condition. But the baptism was a fork in the road, and I’ll be going more in that direction now.

Are you happy about it?

I am happier. Very much. No question about it. Of course that little Desmond also makes me very happy [calling out to his his grandson, who is too shy to come in the room].

How was your wife about it?

DeeDee was very supportive, but she stands apart from it, because she grew up in the Unitarian church. And that would be the case with others who were socialized as Christian or Unitarian in circumstances that were not very inspiring. I had the advantage of approaching it with a full life already. It entered into my being and mixed and enhanced my being. One thing for sure is it doesn’t compromise my political views. Because those views have to be included in an ontology that is a theology. I wouldn’t have any notion of God that didn’t have at its foundation emancipation of man from his chains and his delusions, including Zionism.

I’ll be 76 on Monday [August 27], and I feel great. Maybe I have 10 years left. Well, there’s so much I want to write. I want to write this memoir. Then I want to write a sequel to Overcoming Zionism, but it would be about my predicament, that this path I’m taking is actually one offered to Jews, and still is, but that it has a different weight after 2000 years. What Jesus was doing was going among Galilee and Jerusalem, and telling them that their religions had run aground, that it was not opening up the fabric of existence enough for them, and that they had to abandon their tribalism. And Jesus and Paul never knew each other, but Paul wrote his Epistles before the Gospels and Paul founded the ideology, and that’s what he says too. There’s a famous passage in Galatians. [grabbing the book] I love reading this stuff. Galatians is very short, I might miss it.

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

The second book I’m planning is kind of about that. The necessity is that you have to understand a lot of literature, a lot of books on the subject, scholarship, and the political economy of first century Palestine. It was a classical colonial situation. Pompey invaded it in 63 BCE and destroyed the Temple. Then the Romans put up a quisling, a compliant Jew, Herod, and paid him handsomely, and gave him the right to tax, and he built—well, like Brecht said, Who built the great wall of China? The laborers—but Herod made the decision to build the Second Temple, that was built by a goddamned quisling, using forced labor, and it became the site of commerce and banking. And look at what was happening to the countryside: enclosure of the commons, taxation, class structure. Sure, the Jews didn’t kill Jesus, but the Jewish hierarchy saw to it that he was eliminated. Not because it was Jewish but because it was a hierarchy that made a Satanic compact with empire. And that’s not very far off from where we are, when you have a Jewish hierarchy deeply embedded in empire. Obviously it’s fantastically different: the average Jew then was an indentured peasant, now the average Jew is quite comfortable. But the hierarchy makes a nice comparison to the Jewish neocons, the stewards of our empire, and the Sadducees, and the rabbinate, and the lower pharisees, and the rabble.  Well, here comes this guy from the bottom of society. And of course the thing that really did it for him–he knocked over the money tables in the temple. You can’t have god and mammon together. Well, see what many Jews are doing today, what kind of deep compromise in the soul is taking place. It’s very hard and I don’t want to make any blanket judgment, because there are splendid human beings with Jewish identities out there who are fighting this. I am saying that there is a kind of existential decision before Jews which all too few and all too few inside established synagogues are willing and able to confront: what has been their complicity in empire in order to preserve their tribalism?

I can get in a lot of trouble for this book, but I’m too old to be worried about it.

Have you read Norman Gottwald, The Tribes of Yahweh? The point he makes– these hill people in Canaan fighting the little kingdoms there, they developed this notion of a god, Yahweh, a singular god, and it was very serviceable when they were hill people, and it came into the flowering of Jewish monotheism. But I will never accept the notion that a god of such grandeur and power will be for any particular subset of humanity. And to cling to that belief is the doom of the Jewish spirit.

Do you see a Jewish conversation happening now about chosenness?

I don’t think many think about it. Maybe they do. There are a lot of very intelligent people. But I’ve seen all too little evidence of questioning– that there can be such a God of such grandeur for one people.

The Old Testament is full of fantastic stuff. Deuteronomy, Judges, so much is about preludes to the state of Israel. The Shema, right at the center of Judaism, equivalent to the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught, Hear o Israel, the Lord is one. One thing that sticks in my mind– Deuteronomy 6. If you follow it, you can go to these other societies, you can kill the other people and it’s right there, and it’s outrageous.

 When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery…. you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors, thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said.

This is what follows the Shema: it is the narrative of a people which has been recapitulated so much in the collective conscious and unconsciousness of Jews, and they’ve not come to grips with it, and Israel is the result.

Part of your identity at Yale was Jews are smarter. You believed that.

Yes. I have to recollect all those things. We used to say, it’s MOTs, we’re MOTs. Members of the tribe at Yale. We had this group, the John Dewey Society, progressives, and you didn’t have to be Jewish, but many were, and Tom Cohen said we should call this the Don Jewey Society. These weren’t ordinary Jews. Andre Schiffrin [the publisher], my very close friend, was very, very secular. He was with Norman Thomas. And Richard Posner.

He’s a rightwing judge, right?

Very eminent, yes. On the circuit court. He’s a libertarian but he’s not so bad actually. He’s critical of Israel. He was one of us.

But what about the belief we have more intelligence than others?

I think it’s a lot of crap. I think the Jewish culture is very strong and it may very well select for certain mental tendencies, which have survival values. But so what? What’s the good of it? Is that what God is there for, to give out points and gold stars? What have you done with the gifts from God ?– that is the question.

But how was that belief in Jewish superiority broken down in you?

By the transvaluation brought about by Jesus, that the last shall be first and so forth. By not believing that worldly things really mattered that much. So what!

You had prestige and cared about it.

I worked to get it and I tried to use it to help people. But yes, it was hard up to the point that I discovered Jesus and then it became very easy. I don’t measure the worth of a person by IQ, and I believe whatever marginal advantages are conveyed that way are greatly offset by the lack of the conditions that other children are afforded in this society. We know very well that the human brain is maybe the most amazing entity in the universe, and that we use far less of it than we have… and so yes it fits into a certain pattern that enables a certain facility with numbers or things of that sort. But the weight of the cultural side is vastly greater than the weight of the genetic side, and it doesn’t begin to compare with what everyone is capable of in a society that is fully realized.

You took your intelligence very seriously at Yale.

Sure I perceive that a lot: There was once a time, when I dabbled in thoughts of that kind and was preoccupied with being a great success. I thank the lord that I was given a good mind, and I’m sure that there are people smarter than me, but so what? The question is so much larger than that. What does means this petty seduction of success mean, when life is about our expansion into the universe, and if we don’t have that sense of that expansiveness into the universe, which believe me no people is granted access to by virtue of being members of a tribe. So much of that sediments into racism. If we take that view, then we’re not fulfilling our responsibility to life on earth, which is the key thing to us now. Look, we’re facing our extinction. We’re facing the annihilation of our proud civilizations. I’m on high ground herein this neighborhood,so we won’t be flooded. But many people will lose their lands to climate change.

And you don’t know the pain I have, that this child– what have we laid out for him? And he has that spark, that spark that can’t be quantified into IQ or technical skills, it’s spirit. If you don’t bring people together around that, you betray everything that life offers us.

Tell me about your spiritual practice– and is it a Christian one?

It’s not easy to change what you do, but it’s relatively easier to change what you do than what you think and what you feel. ‘What you do’ would have to include reaching out to others and making a serious effort to reexamine your life and the history of things, so therefore it would include what you read and include groups that you join, likeminded people, and within that there can be changes and should be changes in one’s thinking and this can get integrated at a more and more developed perspective.

I most definitely am not saying that, ‘I found the answer in Jesus.’ I don’t understand that really. I hope I live long enough to understand it a little bit better. But I don’t think I’ll ever understand it completely.

I don’t think you’re supposed to understand it completely. I think there’s lots in this world, as powerful as our minds are, that we’re never going to get. And we should have a very great humility on that score. And we should try to do correct practice and develop certain rules of how to think about things…

One thing that I haven’t solved at all is, How do I speak to people about this big change in my own life in such a way that I don’t appear patronizing to them, that I don’t appear that I’m exhorting them, or I’m laying a trip on them. So I don’t want to come across as a Jesus freak who found the true path. And yet I feel it to be at least a true path if not the true path. And I know that something really important happened to me, and that it’s happened to many millions of people. You know, if you look at it over time, for some reason that I do not yet fathom, that figure who some say doesn’t even exist named Jesus has had more influence over human existence than any other human being. My friend and guide Earl Kooperkamp says well, that’s when God became man. And I say OK. I’d like to carry that forth. But I have trouble doing that, because we live in such spiritually confused and barren times that I still feel diffident. I told you at the beginning that I have the temperament of an Old Testament prophet. Well I do in a way. But I don’t have the nerve of an Old Testament prophet. Though some people think I have a lot of nerve!

If someone were to say, I accept this spiritual challenge, I want to change my behavior, and ultimately change my feeling, but I want to do it Jewishly, I don’t want to alienate myself from this tradition that helped form me—I mean, I’m not trying to blackmail you for your own choices, but–

Sure. I understand that. It was oddly easier for me because I had a traumatic episode in my youth that effectively severed many ties and left me to forge a different way of faith.

You would honor that?

Of course, if it’s conscientiously carried out.

You think it’s possible.

I think it’s possible, but I think you’re entering a situation which is very difficult.

Because of chosenness.

Yes, the idea of the covenant, and everything that’s been done around it. But I think actually the Zionist part has a kind of ironic upside in that it provides Jews with a great many openings for putting that damn tribalism behind them.

Right. Going to Palestine, and meeting these people.

Really doing it and putting your life on the line. You know, this is the choice that needs to be made. That’s the doing part, and the thinking and the feeling parts will follow along from that. It’s really there, but it’s really difficult–

And it’s ours.

It’s really difficult, because even at the end you can’t say I’m really proud to be Jewish. How can you be proud to be Jewish considering what’s happened in Israel? I don’t understand that. I think there’s a huge mourning process ahead for righteous Jews especially in those countries where empire has enabled Zionism. You can have Yom Kippur every night of the year. That’s a specialty within the Jewish faith– well let’s make it real by serious practice–  I mean there are serious transgressions to overcome.  Serious transgressions. And you’re not excused by saying you’ve been kicked around so much, or suffered the Holocaust. You honor the Holocaust by creating a world in which Holocaust-like circumstances do not arise, and we know that we’re having one now in the eastern Mediterranean.

Followup conversation, September 6.

You say your views are extreme. I wouldn’t be so engaged with you if I were not also a tormented spirit, but isn’t calling your ideas extreme an admission that you will fail to convince others of them?  

Well– a good question. There’s something inside me that always pushes on beyond what is given, I don’t think that’s necessarily a good way of being or a rational way of being, it is just mine. In everyday personal life I’m given to compromise, and sometimes I get fierce in attitude but usually I’m rather mildmannered. However my thoughts and by extension what I want to write, always wants to push on to what’s not there, even if at times I’m seen as quixotic or unrealistic or in any case extreme.

To give you an example, as soon as I arrived at the notion of climate change being driven by carbon injected into the atmosphere, this meant you must have a transformation of the capitalist system. It has to be stopped, it cannot expand forever. I’d like to be proven wrong, but on this point I never have been proven wrong. The idea that the natural system can heal itself exposed to such a force—that’s  something that defies the logic of the matter.

In matters pertaining to Israel and the Jewish state, from the time that I began to engage my full self with these questions, it didn’t take very long before I saw that what was generally being called the two-state solution was temporizing and an attempt to block the critique that the only possible solution that would work would be the one-state solution. And when I’m in a gathering of any sort on this subject, I always find myself on the far end of the question, and it’s certainly the case that my views are extreme views. They’re not violent views. But I’m explicitly for the dissolution of the Zionist state. And I’m struck by how few people get the idea that a state is only a social contract, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with bringing a state to its end, and replacing it with a better form of society. But it makes people very very anxious, this idea of the Jewish state coming to an end, it brings up fears of the Holocaust that are completely unwarranted under the circumstances. I think it’s driven by latent assertions of Jewish power, it’s not driven by reason and logic. So I try to apply logic to all these things, though I’m very passionate about my emotions…

Abolitionists were extreme in the 1850s.

Yes. I would have been an abolitionist for sure. The figure of John Brown was problematic, but he’s a man who excites enormous admiration on my part. He was magnificent.

He believed in using violence against slavery; and he ended slavery.

Not singlehandedly. But I think, if I were the way I am now—and young enough– back in 1936 I would have gone off to fight with the Lincoln brigades.

People are going to read this, read your ideas about chosenness and tribalism, and say, these are traditional arguments from a self-hating Jew.

You know Phil, that’s a question that is logically and practically on the level– have you stopped beating your wife? I think the time is long overdue where we refuse to accept questions of this kind as legitimate modes of getting at the truth or correcting deviant behavior. They’re preposterous. They’re patently used in order to inhibit people’s justifiable anger and outrage at what is taking place in what was Palestine once, and it’s basically– these are very crude arguments, they’re a form of guilt-tripping. So I don’t accept the legitimacy of that kind of discourse.

In any event it’s meaningless. What exactly does self hatred mean? I don’t know what that means. I don’t hate myself. I am angry at myself sometimes. I have a very tough conscience. I also have a judgment that the state of Israel is deeply wrong. It doesn’t have to do with the fact that I hate myself as a Jew. Also, it is empirically the case that self hatred is a phenomenon that is rather common among Jewish people because of the complexities of Jewish life, and people who want to defend Zionism from rational critique and political pressure and change, resort to this kind of existential phenomenon within the Jewish experience that has been written about for many many years, and that has a lot to do with the peculiarities of being Jewish. Which for sure exist. Although I am very much aware that we are not superior as a race or entity of any kind, we certainly are our own kind of people. But one of the things that inhibits Jewish people is a considerable degree of guilt, which is to say self hatred in the collective psychology. And if the defender of Zionism wants to project this self hatred on to the critic of Zionism–I also think that in some ways, it’s very complex, but Zionism is a kind of negation of that guilt. Instead of hating oneself as Jews, let’s aggrandize ourselves as Jews. You’ll find that  in the history of Zionism. One of the most common themes that they were writing about, Herzl and the early Zionists, was how awful the Jews were; and the way we can stop being so awful is to have our own state. That’s an arguable position, and certainly 100 years on we can look at how terribly it’s turned out. But they were trying to externalize and eliminate or overcome that historical current of self loathing that marked the Jewish experience in Europe, in the diaspora.

It also ties into anti-Semitism. Do you know Daniel Barenboim? The great musician, he was born in Argentina, and is a citizen of Israel. He has said, What is anti-Semitism? Anti-semitism is hating Jews more than is necessary. You can see you’re dealing with a profound theme about Jewish existence, negated by Zionist aggrandizement, and this has to be overcome by finding one’s being and identity in humanity as a whole and in the universe. As the one god demands. As a truly monotheist god would demand. Not finding it in a moral or intellectual or economic or whatever kind of power of the Jewish people, but finding it in the end with an identification with the universe.

An identification with the universe?

No that would be a delusion, to think you are the universe. Rather, experiencing one’s being as universal.

More on self-hatred. We know what an Uncle Tom is, we wouldn’t deny the meaning of the Uncle Tom figure. Well I once saw Mortimer Adler, a convert to Christianity who was embarrassed by his Jewishness he said in his own memoirs, and he seemed to me to have converted in part out of social aspiration. And here he was lecturing on the Nicene Creed and the hypostasis of Jesus and I found him a ridiculous figure.

I think it’s a quite cogent observation. I never saw Mortimer Adler, but a certain number of Jews switch to Christianity because of their shame or their desire to belong or to be accepted by a society whose dominant religion is Christianity. Many many Jews have done that. I don’t think it’s self hatred, but a sense of weakness and exclusion and desire to fit in and be a part of the majority and all the privileges that come with that. It’s a very real motive.

Empirically there are certain people who could be classified as self-hating Jews. Most certainly that’s not me. During part of my life, I became very critical and very rejecting of Jewishness, I didn’t respond to Judaism in a positive way, but I didn’t hide my Jewishness. After the incident with my aunt, I felt I didn’t want any part of it, but it wasn’t because I wasn’t belonging or fitting into our society; there was something about being Jewish that I was rejecting on its own grounds, as an internal critique, of tribalism. It wasn’t that Jews were excluded and in order to get included you have to stop being a Jew. That was never in my thoughts. There was something really seriously wrong with these people who want to use their tribalism to gain economic and social power and foster an apartheid state in former Palestine.

Are you Jewish?

Ha ha. [laughing] That’s a question. Well it depends, like Clinton said, on what the definition of is is. I was born of Jewish parents. I grew up with the idea of the Jewish lineage that I belonged to. I came to reject at many levels the religious ideology; and I think I found something, which was the subject of a world transforming event in the first century of the Common Era, namely Jesus and his claim that Jews have to become a universal people– that’s my Jesus, and inasmuch as I reject the tribalism of the Jews, I can’t consider myself Jewish.

I know I have been given a Jewish identity by birth and early upbringing. But I refuse to say that a person must be limited by what he has been made to believe from his birth on. Which is not to say that I reject all of the traditions. I have serious problems with the Old Testament to be sure, but there is much about it that I find magnificent and deeply meaningful. I think the Jewish people have made tremendous contributions under awful, awful conditions over many centuries, and they’ve also made mistakes, and they’ve been distorted by those conditions. So that we see in the Talmud, giving over the power to the rabbinate; that was a mistake.

It’s complicated. It’s completely impossible for me to say I have nothing to do with Judaism. In fact I think about it a great deal. But I think about it as something I have to a significant degree moved beyond.

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About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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118 Responses

  1. Shmuel
    Shmuel
    September 12, 2012, 11:20 am

    People are going to read this, read your ideas about chosenness and tribalism, and say, these are traditional arguments from a self-hating Jew.

    Maybe, but unlike Kovel, I don’t think that “self hatred is a phenomenon that is rather common among Jewish people” (“empirically” or otherwise).

    The impression that I do get from this instalment of the interview is that Kovel’s understanding of Judaism is extremely superficial. I don’t believe that one should “explore one’s own heritage first”, and if Kovel’s limited and subjective experience of Judaism was a turn-off, I see no particular reason he should have looked any further, just because he happened to have been born into a Jewish family. But he generalises and compares and theorises and extrapolates, with little real basis. I did something similar when I left Jewish Orthodoxy, but I was 21 and me. He is 75 and Joel Kovel. Very disappointing.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      September 12, 2012, 1:13 pm

      “self hatred is a phenomenon that is rather common among Jewish people”

      This is so confusing, Shmuel. Of course, I hate myself. I mean, do you really think I’m the kind of person who would like me? Well, don’t want to shock you, pal, but I have slightly higher standards than that! But I never really considered that it might be because I’m Jewish. Do you think the two are connected?

      As far as Kovel goes, he shouldn’t have bothered. His auricles will give him away, every time.

      • pabelmont
        pabelmont
        September 12, 2012, 4:44 pm

        “Do you know Daniel Barenboim? The great musician, he was born in Argentina, and is a citizen of Israel. He has said, What is anti-Semitism? Anti-semitism is hating Jews more than is necessary.”

        (Love it!)

        How much hating Jews is necessary? Which Jews, anyway! AIPAC? And, Mooser, sorry, I cannot find it in me to hate you. But, you know, go ahead, and hate yorself. Different strokes …

      • notatall
        notatall
        September 14, 2012, 6:00 am

        “Anti-semitism is hating Jews more than is necessary.”

        I first heard that quip many years ago, not attributed to Barenboim, but as a wry comment made privately among friends who were neither anti-Semites nor “self-hating Jews” and who were reflecting on the role of Jews as a group and on the more general question of responsibility for the crimes of governments. This is the first time I have seen it in print. It contains a germ of wisdom. To deny the link between American Jews and the Israel Lobby, which exercises an independent influence on U.S. Middle East policies, would be silly. To hold them especially accountable for the Vietnam War or Native American Genocide or the Irish Potato Famine would be anti-Semitism.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        September 19, 2012, 5:15 pm

        “Mooser, sorry, I cannot find it in me to hate you.”

        Well, I was all set to get mad over this, and let you have it, but then I took a breath, and realised “he doesn’t even know me, no wonder he feels like that”.
        It’s never easy to get other people to regard you the way you regard yourself. It takes work, and time. But I believe in myself, and persevere!

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      September 12, 2012, 1:14 pm

      “He is 75 and Joel Kovel. Very disappointing.”

      To you, perhaps, but you know, he might like it. After all, we can’t all be Krauss.

    • wondering jew
      wondering jew
      September 12, 2012, 5:33 pm

      I’m glad Shmuel responded immediately and stated his disappointment, for his word is accepted here, as a rule.

      I would add that Kovel is not only superficial regarding Judaism, but also superficial regarding Jesus. To state that Jesus’s essence was his opposition to Jewish tribalism is a flimsy assertion. You mean those Jerusalem disciples of Jesus who continued to circumcise, unlike Paul who was willing to toss the Torah on the ash heap, you mean that James and the Jerusalem Christians happened to miss the point somewhere and only Paul of Tarsus and Joel Kovel of Yale caught Jesus’s essence?! I don’t think so. Jesus’s essence can be found in the content of the Sermon on the Mount, rules of life that apply universally. But nowhere in that sermon did he say: “Jews, give up your tribalism!” He said, Keep the Torah down to the last jot and tittle. One can reject Jewish tribalism, but to attribute it to Jesus (as presented in the synoptic gospels) is just plain fiction.

      • W.Jones
        W.Jones
        September 12, 2012, 11:01 pm

        Yonah,

        The full extent of Jesus’ difference with what was typically referred to as “Law”(Torah) is something I am unsure of. And it seems to me you are leading to an interesting issue. Certainly Jesus disregarded “Oral Torah”- rabbinical laws outside the Bible- as he criticized parts of it for hypocrisy. And again he intervened and stopped the stoning of a prostitute and physically touched “unclean” people, which seem to go against certain Old Testament laws or “advice” if narrowly construed at least- but I would be glad to learn the OT didn’t say to do these things. One of the first and main things in Christianity was John the Baptist’s once-for-all water immersion, which seems to differ alot from the repeated washings in Judaism. I doubt those washings were continued by Jacob’s “group” if there was such a group, but it’s possible.

        Further, the division between Paul and the other apostles is not really so clear after all as you propose- if it really exists. Peter would fall into the latter, yet he had a vision that God allows Christians to eat any kind of food, unlike the OT food rules. And when it comes to Paul I doubt he tossed Torah on the ash heap either, because Acts records that Paul himself was a pharisee who circumcised Timothy.

        So admittedly you are getting at a topic about ritual observance that I’m uncertain about, but I think there is hardly such a clear division between Paul on one hand, and Jesus and Jacob on the other, as you suggest either.

      • W.Jones
        W.Jones
        September 12, 2012, 11:15 pm

        As for Jesus, universalism, and abandoning tribalism this is an interesting topic too, and the record is not so clear as you suggest. Jesus said that God would take the kingdom from one nationality and give it to another people. One ancient writing (Josephus I think) refers to Christians as a “tribe” or a “people.” So it suggests to me the “kingdom” of “God’s people” was shifting from an earthly nationality to another “people”- Christians. This is what Peter refers to when he writes in 1 Peter 2: “you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people”.

        In another case Jesus said that the rabbis were mistaken in being complacent based on Abrahamic descent because God could make rocks sons of Abraham too. This reminds me of St Paul’s idea that non-Jews became sons of Abraham by being adopted into Christianity. It also reminds me of calling Christianity an “Abrahamic” religion.

        In any case, the early Christian community did agree on universalism to at least one extent- the council of Jerusalem described in Acts decided that non-Jews didn’t need circumcision because non-Jewish Christians were saved too. With Christianity salvation and the blessings of David clearly became open to all regardless of being Jewish or gentile, circumcized or not.

        This in turn goes against the idea that God’s blessing for the Land is still for one nationality only- but that’s a story for another evening.

        Good night.

      • MHughes976
        MHughes976
        September 13, 2012, 9:26 am

        I wouldn’t put too much weight on Josephus’ ‘tribe’ – it can’t mean more than ‘collection of people’. That passage is the ‘Flavian testimony’ to the existence of Jesus and is widely suspected of being a Christian interpolation.
        Paul is the earliest witness to Christianity and the Gospels are later interpretations of Jesus’ life and teaching, reflecting the trauma of the Fall of Jerusalem and the parting of the ways between Christians and Jews. ‘They have put us out of the synagogue!’
        I would suggest that both logically and chronologically this parting has several stages and complications and even now is not quite complete. Judaism of the Herodian Temple period always expected ‘many nations to be added to Yahweh’ (Zech.2) at the end and there were many ways of interpreting this expectation. The Christians eventually decided that the main moment or at least the main opportunity had come with the crucifixion and this was a scandal to many Jews.

      • Ranjit Suresh
        Ranjit Suresh
        September 13, 2012, 12:50 am

        Yonah – I follow your comments. And they all seem to be encapsulated by the simple refrain: my people are special. We are unique before God, and nobody shall take that away from us.

        That’s fine. Honestly, if you want to remain so archaically tribal-minded, fine.

        The problem emerges when people with tribal loyalties like your own happen to be comprise the political and economic elite of a society comprised of people outside the tribe. Then it becomes an issue of civil rights. Then it becomes a matter of you denying civil rights and indeed basic humanity to people outside your anachronistic community.

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew
        September 13, 2012, 4:24 pm

        Ranjit – I don’t follow your comments, but you are jumping to a conclusion regarding my comments.
        Tribalism has its pluses and its minuses. I wonder how Judaism would have developed if the history of the last two thousand years had been different. Judaism contains both tribalism and universalism and the proportion we witness today is a result of history rather than reflecting the essence of Judaism. Paul reports that the Pharisees of his day sought out converts and searching for converts reflects a universalistic bias. The ceasing to search for converts was certainly a reflection of history rather than an innate inclination.

        God is above time and the Hebrew Bible has stood the test of time and referring to my community as anachronistic displays arrogance.

      • W.Jones
        W.Jones
        September 13, 2012, 6:35 pm

        Hey Yonah,

        I replied to your comments to me above. My guess is that the proportion of tribalism probably does reflect in part the traditions of Judaism. When you equate your religion with your ethnicity it seems less likely one would want to act outside the ethnicity. The focus is primarily on the redemption and blessing of those who are already part of the ethnicity.

        I think the pharisees sought converts like you said, but Jesus criticized them that they were so happy about a single convert but then loaded people down with so many [mindless?] oral rules like repetitive handwashing that it hurt people’s faith. But with Christianity a non-Jew could become part of the Christian community without accepting all those rules. Thus, unlike with a pharisee conversion the person could become Christian without becoming ritually Jewish, which made things easier.

        But I do think you are making good points, and that there is some truth in what you say: naturally the start of state repression of conversion would make it even less likely.

        Finally, I doubt your view that “referring to my community as anachronistic displays arrogance.” It can be remembered firstly that many Marxists and leftists in general see religion as anachronistic. Although I don’t agree with them, I have a hard time with the fact that since people are living better now (thank God), they seem to have less religious dedication, which affects Christianity and Judaism.

        But putting that left-secular objection aside, it seems to me the Old Testament is anachronistic in important ways. For example, in it we read of instructions to perform trial-by-poison on women who break laws about the Temple, and we read approval of mass slaughter of non-Israelites, which is very troubling, not to mention Moses killing someone for carrying sticks on Saturday. One of the best ways I’ve found to deal with these passages without throwing them on the “ash heap” as you call it is to say that they are simply anachronistic. Although perhaps these bad passages served some practical purpose in their time, they seem to have had a bad and very tragic side, which we need not continue to follow in our time as they appear to instruct.

        Another way perhaps to deal with them is to try to make some “interpretive” ways to deal with them like Jesus did when he stepped in to protect a prostitute from OT-style stoning.

        On a sidenote, “Hebrew Bible” seems too vague a term when what you mean is Tanakh. After all, the Tanakh has important parts in Aramaic, not to mention there are ancient Judaic books in Hebrew outside the Tanakh.

      • Shmuel
        Shmuel
        September 14, 2012, 2:56 am

        it seems to me the Old Testament is anachronistic in important ways.

        Maimonides, in Guide for the Perplexed (III.32) recognises this fact, without renouncing the divine origin of the Law. He explains that the precepts are intended to convey truths – about God and the universe – and to “remove injustice”, and not values in and of themselves. They are thus necessarily attuned to the stages of human development, with the ultimate purpose of enabling man to attain wisdom (III.54).

        The chief object of the Law, as has been shown by us, is the teaching of truths; to which the truth of the creatio ex nihilo belongs. It is known that the object of the law of Sabbath is to confirm and to establish this principle, as we have shown in this treatise (Part. II. chap. xxxi.). In addition to the teaching of truths the Law aims at the removal of injustice from mankind. We have thus proved that the first laws do not refer to burnt-offering and sacrifice, which are of secondary importance. The same idea which is contained in the above passage from Jeremiah is also expressed in the Psalms, where the people are rebuked that they ignore the chief object, and make no distinction between chief and subsidiary lessons. The Psalmist says: “Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify against thee: I am God, even thy God. I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices or thy burnt-offerings, they have been continually before me. I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he-goats out of thy folds” (Ps. l. 29). Wherever this subject is mentioned, this is its meaning. Consider it well, and reflect on it.
        — Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, III.32

        With regard to the “trial by poison” for a woman suspected of adultery (sotah), Maimonides viewed its de facto abolition (like other practices associated with the Temple cult) as an element of human progress.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        September 14, 2012, 6:55 am

        Come now, Shmuel, that passage reads like nothing but a very smart man defending something he knows is bunk because he hasn’t the bravery to call it for what it is.

      • Shmuel
        Shmuel
        September 14, 2012, 7:19 am

        that passage reads like nothing but a very smart man defending something he knows is bunk because he hasn’t the bravery to call it for what it is.

        Pretty good for a 12th-century theist, wouldn’t you say?

        My point to W. Jones was that there is recognition of anachronism and change within the religious tradition itself. Naturally, the boundaries of theological discourse also change over time (from Moses [Maimonides] to Moses [Mendelssohn], for example – both clear products of their respective, progressive intellectual milieus).

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        September 14, 2012, 10:34 am

        Oh, yes, I understand that. Many, if not most religious traditions shed doctrines and ideas which are incompatable with the changing ideas of socieities, in order to remain relevant; often by creative rereading of clear language so that the result fits what is acceptable in society, even if the plain texts must be warped or ignored in the process. Those religions which don’t contain such flexibility simply vanish as societies change. But the problem, as I see it, is in saying that this process evidences some inherent progressivism in the religion, itself. It’s not. Rather, it’s the fact that some progressive thinkers are very clever and persuasive in describing blue as a shade of red when they prefer blue but still value red.

      • Shmuel
        Shmuel
        September 14, 2012, 11:13 am

        … often by creative rereading of clear language so that the result fits what is acceptable in society, even if the plain texts must be warped or ignored in the process.

        You see that as something negative and irrational. I find it positive, rational, and sometimes beautiful.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        September 14, 2012, 12:29 pm

        I think I primarily find it sad. Because people who have this drive to believe all this religious stuff are so blatently fooling themselves. What parts of the Jewish faith which are seen by some as being rock-solid, non-negotiable parts will, in a few hundred years (if not sooner), be cast aside (in all but name) by everyone in that faith. “No,” they will say, “all of the anti-women passages were merely meant to be figurative or literary explications of truth and not to be taken as precepts for anyone’s actions.” And they will go on continuing to protect and ever shrinking core — thinking that what remains is the essence of someting big and important until one day, that, too, melts away. How much time, how many lives are wasted defending supposedly timeless, eternal truths that will one day will be cast aside with no more concern than the average Jewish person pays to burnt offerings.

        The problem, as I see it is this for many people who are “believers,” there will be parts of their faith that they don’t agree with, but they will feel they must make themselves believe or agree with or follow. No everyone is strong enough to say, “I don’t care what my holy book says, that’s wrong or nonsense or stupid or evil.” They will say, I guess God wants it, and do it, even if it against thier nature. There is a signfiicant cost in that, in mental health and wellbeing.

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew
        September 14, 2012, 5:47 pm

        W Jones- Tanach is a better term than Hebrew Bible, but many people aren’t familiar with it. Many Jews try to avoid the term Old Testament because of its “replaced by the New” implication.

        The Tanach contains many troubling passages. Joshua and many of the laws of Moses do not fit into my definition of “Do not do unto others…” To call regulations of animal sacrifice “anachronistic” is appropriate. To call laws of war that kill women and children is worse than anachronistic. Those who endorse every law written in the Torah or every act written in the Prophets (was it Elisha who sicced a bear on some kids who made fun of him?) reduce themselves in my estimation. The fact that such a blanket acceptance of laws and acts usually accompanies Jewish families who will help the continuity cause whereas “pick and choose” attitudes are less likely to maintain continuity poses a dilemma. (My inadequate answer: More oxygen to the Jewish part of the people and more Jewish literacy to the rationalist part of the people. )

        So a keen eye looking at Tanach would find plenty to criticize. Yet this corpus of books (insufficient as it is to describe the wholeness of being Jewish, which would include the prayer book, the Talmud and Midrash, and yes the history) remains an enormous part of western culture. I have not read enough to “know” more than its popularity. It is better known than anything else. The story of Jesus and his passion without the Tanach as introduction might make sense to some, but wouldn’t have made sense to Jesus. And the recounting of the stories of the Tanach by Mohammad pale in the retelling and the Quran is closer to certain books of the Tanach- Deuteronomy and Proverbs come to mind, than it is to the story elements of the Tanach or to the Psalms or wisdom books.) So I would stack the Tanach as a first step to gaining wisdom about the literate culture of this world before any other set of books. (Shakespeare comes to mind.) To accept it whole is deeply problematic. But those who keep the language alive and the study of it in its (nearest to) original alive are not a mere anachronism. They are the carriers of a tradition of a set of books that form either the largest building block or alternatively the largest stumbling block to building a knowledge of culture that might help us with our future.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        September 18, 2012, 1:20 pm

        “So I would stack the Tanach as a first step to gaining wisdom about the literate culture of this world before any other set of books.”

        What nonsense. The Tanach contain some of the most horrible writing in the history of the written word (and not just moral evil, but bad writing.)

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew
        September 18, 2012, 10:23 pm

        Woody Tanaka- I assume you read it in the original. Not.

        But literate people in the western world will have read translations of Genesis, Exodus, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, Isaiah, Job (the stories of Samson in Judges, the story of David in Samuel, Jeremiah’s dissent from the establishment of his day) if they have read the Tanach. And which grouping of books would you put up against those? These books are basic to western culture.

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        September 19, 2012, 7:43 am

        @ Woody Tanaka

        Maybe it was just bad or inadequate translation? The Old Testament was first translated into English in the 1380’s AD by John Wycliffe. He translated the Latin translation from the original languages. I don’t know if it’s true, but, e.g., I’ve read that the word “jew” does not appear in early versions/translations. If so, one can only wonder what would make of the more original, e.g., Greek, Arabic versions. Fast forward, the Scoville foot-noted version used by Evangelical Christians today…

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        September 19, 2012, 9:57 am

        “Woody Tanaka- I assume you read it in the original. Not.”

        I don’t have to; it’s crap in English. If it’s non-crap in any other language, then that’s great, but it doesn’t help your point, because few people have read it other than in translation.

        “But literate people in the western world will have read translations of Genesis, Exodus, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, Isaiah, Job (the stories of Samson in Judges, the story of David in Samuel, Jeremiah’s dissent from the establishment of his day) if they have read the Tanach.”

        Actually, virtually every literate person in the Western world who have read these books have read them as English versions of the Old Testament. But, again, the fact that people would have read it does not support your thesis that reading these evil stories is necessary to gaining (especially in the 21st Century) wisdom about literate culture of the world. I think knowledge of these books is necessary to understand basic themes and references in literature in a historical context, but that’s nothing to do with wisdom. Expecting moral wisdom of any kind to come from immoral repugnant books like Genesis, Exodus, Deuterotomy, etc., is a fool’s game. In fact, the world would be a much more moral place if those books (and all that flowed from them) had been lost at the dawn of time.

        (I will take a moment here to note that I am reading your assertion, especially the inclusion of the world “wisdom” to denote, in essence, “moral judgment.” If you are merely saying that a literate person will have familiarity with these books, as he would the works of e.g., Shakespeare, Chaucer, Melville, etc., in becoming a fully literate person, then I would only say that such familiarity would have to include all of the Christian bible. But by including “wisdom,” I read you making a moral claim. If you are not, then please clarify that point.)

        “These books are basic to western culture”

        Only in so far as they are part of the Christian Bible. The New Testament is really the portion that is basic to western culture.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        September 19, 2012, 5:18 pm

        “My point to W. Jones was that there is recognition of anachronism and change within the religious tradition itself.”

        Yup, right you are, Shmuel. How else do you think we got Zionism?

      • Shmuel
        Shmuel
        September 20, 2012, 1:05 am

        How else do you think we got Zionism?

        And here I was thinking that it emerged fully formed from one of Moses’ horns.

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew
        September 20, 2012, 8:39 pm

        Woody Tanaka- I used the term “wisdom books” to refer to Ecclesiastes, Job and Proverbs. Specifically the first two are great books. I think Harold Bloom used the term “wisdom books” to refer to those three.

        Maybe the popularity of the Bible which I am referring to is too low for you to consider. Mention Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden- what book is that from? If it starts raining hard, how often do you hear, “there’s a man over there gathering his animals two by two”, what book is that from? David and Goliath? Samson and Delilah? Tower of Babel? Psalm 23? These aren’t part of western culture?! Of course they are.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        September 20, 2012, 9:43 pm

        yonah,
        That wasn’t the use of “wisdom” I was referring to. I was referring to this passage: “So I would stack the Tanach as a first step to gaining wisdom about the literate culture of this world before any other set of books. ”

        Further, Job is a horrible book. What the god character does to this poor guy is awful. Its as bad as the parts of these books YHWH tortures both the fool Abraham and his child or the part where YHWH drowns all the world’s babies, infants and children. How do you harmonize these evil acts with the claim that there is wisdom in these books, when they are somehow supposed to make one worship this same YHWH who is doing all this despicable murder?

        “These aren’t part of western culture?! Of course they are.”

        My point is that they are not part of western culture because of their inclusion in the Tanakh but by their adoption into the Christian religion and Christian scripture. Had it not been for that, they would the eqivalent in the West of stories about Krishna or Ahuru Mazda.

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew
        September 20, 2012, 10:42 pm

        Woody- Job is a horrible book and life contains horror and therefore it is useful to read this horrible book. The punch line of Job, “I am God and don’t question me,” is not terribly helpful. What is helpful is Job himself, succumbing finally to the urge, and I would say need and positive need to question God. That God listens to the devil and tests Job, does not give us a positive aspect of God. But in fact the world is filled with suffering and many today have concluded therefore God doesn’t exist (or an all powerful God does not exist) the history of this conclusion can begin with Job. Job is an important book and wrestling with God should include a look at the book of Job.

        God’s actions in Exodus are not my main lessons from Exodus. Exodus is about the struggle for freedom. The fact that God punishes Pharoah and Egypt might lower your estimation of the Exodus concept of God, but what impresses me is the insight into the nature of Pharoah and the nature of the slaves (wanting to return to the sure meals of Egypt even if it includes slavery).

        There are many levels to study these books. I suppose someone raised with a jaundiced eye only sees them as negative. I see their danger (taken literally and taking God killing innocents as a positive thing) but there is much wisdom to be garnered, if one continues to reread them from varying perspectives throughout one’s life.

        As far as if Jesus had not been a Jew and Paul had not succeeded in starting a successful religion and Constantine had not decided to adopt Christianity, then the Tanach would be minor, is almost like saying, if my mother had never given birth to me she would have been a stranger. In fact Jesus was a Jew and the early church was an offshoot of Judaism and though many have tried to divorce Judaism from Christianity for various motives, so your “if only”, might be interesting as fiction, but in fact western history brought the Tanach with it and thus David and Goliath, Samson and the Garden of Eden are famous rather than obscure.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        September 21, 2012, 10:19 am

        Yonah,
        Job suffered not because the world is cruel, but because YHWH is cruel. The only wisdom one can properly gain from that is that one should reject YHWH worship and reject those who do so. (In reality, Job is merely the Jewish version of a common meme in religions, by providing an excuse or jusification for retaining faith [and all the really bad things that go with it] when the mark realizes that the religion provides none of the benefits it claims will come from worshiping whatever thing is central to the religion. In such a situation, the reasonable and rational man would reject the religioun as self-evident nonsense [or self-evidently false, at any rate], so those religions which provide a jusification for doing the unreasonable and irrational thing — retaining faith in those situations — are more likely to continue. [I think Christianity has the best of these “good tricks” with the promise of post-death reward. Talk about never having to show your work…])

        “God’s actions in Exodus are not my main lessons from Exodus.”

        How could it not be? YHWH continuously hardens Pharoah’s heart for no other plausable reason other than to continue to mete out cruel and capricous terror and death on innocent people, in the context of a book-long plea for people to engage in YHWH worship.

        “Exodus is about the struggle for freedom.”

        Is it? Did the Israelites, after their captivity, create a polity where all people were to enjoy freedom? No. What followed was YHWH-ordered genocide, smashing of children’s heads against rocks by the YHWH followers, sex slavery, rape, murder, land theft and the destruction of tribe after tribe. All for the “glory” of YHWH. And in the polity that the children of Exodus’s “story of freedom” built included… you guessed it… slavery. So how is this a book about freedom??? Sounds to me this is a story about ethnocentric supremacy. After all, Moses didn’t say for the Pharoah to let all the slaves go. Only the Israelites. (Apparently YHWH, in his “story of freedom” didn’t give a shit about the freedom of non-Israelite slaves.)

        “There are many levels to study these books.”

        You’re not talking about study, and you’re sure not talking about wisdom. You’re talking about apoligetics and self-delusion in the service of the cause of YHWH worship.

        “I suppose someone raised with a jaundiced eye only sees them as negative.”

        LOL. Quite the opposite. I think it takes a fair amount of self-delusion to see them as anything but negative.

        “As far as if Jesus had not been a Jew and Paul had not succeeded in starting a successful religion and Constantine had not decided to adopt Christianity, then the Tanach would be minor…”

        That’s not my point. My point is this: David and Goliath, Samson and the Garden of Eden are famous not because they are in the Tanakh, but because they are in the Old Testament. Do you understand the difference implicit in that?

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew
        September 21, 2012, 3:46 pm

        Woody- Fred Nitchy’s Zarathustra proposes that in the search for truth or how to live one must go through changes. He says, one begins as a camel, progresses to a lion and then must change into a child or baby. Thus at first one carries the load, bears the burden of the past of the texts of the past, like a camel bears the load. Then one must tear down these assumptions, fight against these texts, break the tablets and then one must then emerge with the always beginning, never tired, always curious ways of a child or baby.

        I began accepting the text of the Tanach as given and then tore apart that bearing of the burden. I have not emerged into a true beginning from scratch with a totally blank page, nor is that a literally realistic option. But I relate to the Tanach from a different perspective.

        There are those who relate to Job and Exodus as literally as you do. They are fundamentalist Orthodox Jews who emphasize only the aspects that you do “God’s test of Job” “God hardening Pharoah’s heart” and unlike you who sees these things as abominable, they see these things as great or essential to understand the nature of God. But I feel that those aspects of Job and Exodus deserve, if not to be torn as prey, like a lion would do, at least deserve heavy scrutiny. But the nature of Pharoah, the nature of slaves, the nature of Job, the nature of those who called themselves Job’s friends, are all lessons that I feel are valuable even after the lion has gone to work on those aspects of the story that the fundamentalists and you consider their essence.
        Maybe you have a different history towards Tanach and therefore never experienced camel and only lion and therefore you never developed any connection to these books and therefore learn nothing from them. You are probably fortunate to not bear that burden and I’m sure there are other burdens that you have borne and let loose the lion on those. Or maybe you started from scratch and never bore any burden. I don’t know you, so I don’t know. I can only say from the perspective of someone who bore that burden that the end result of camel, lion and then attempt to look anew, I have an appreciation for the lessons of Exodus and Job, even if they differ from the fundamentalist view.

        I think there is sufficient substance in Tanach and in the monotheistic tradition of Judaism that it could never have remained a family affair, a book of only the tribe. I think it was inevitable that it would find a wider audience. Jesus, Paul and the success of Christianity and also Muhammad and the success of Islam ensured that the Tanach did not remain a private affair. Because the circumstance of this wider audience involved labeling the book as the superceded Old Testament, does not negate the fact that as a set of books the Old Testament makes the New Testament and Quran look like very thin books in comparison. I think Tanach beats New Testament and Quran by a wide margin in terms of substance. Even if one rejects the wrathful God or the chosen people or the law. even if one accepts “faith supercedes law” or “final prophecy supercedes all that came before”, a clear eyed look at the weight, the substance of the three books, i feel one must tip one’s cap to the Tanach even if you insist on calling it the Old T.

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        September 22, 2012, 1:43 pm

        @ yonah fredman, ” Fred Nitchy” might say you never really finished making your baby spirit, the final third spirit, that maybe yours is a wounded camel. As you may know, he wrote much on Jews and Christians, slave religion in biblical context, and self-overcoming regardless of religion in the age of Bismark.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        September 23, 2012, 10:38 am

        yonah,

        what you are talking about here isn’t about obtaining wisdom, but to correct for deficits which were imposed upon you.

        I don’t take those books literally, I take them seriously. I understand that their only function is to further the cause of YHWH worship. While it is possible to view into those texts lessons which you find valuable, if you look hard enough you will see that those lessons were with you all along and you brought them with you, probably because you are still under the delusion or of the opinion that the books MUST have some value to them. I say to you this: what wisdom you wish to have you probably already have, but simply have not accepted it or uncovered it. If these books are your tool for uncovering it, then that is a silver lining. But it doesn’t change the very darkness of the cloud.

        As for the other, I disagree with your assessment of the inevitability of the spread of these books. Their adoption by both the Christians and the Muslims were contingent upon things other than the inherent value of those books. I would say that the continuation of them in those societies was wholly contingent.

        Finally, I am not surprised at your view of the relative value of the books, given your history. I’m know that a Christian or Muslim would view them differently that the substance of the Tanakh has value solely because, to the Christian, it is a preface to the coming of Jesus Christ and the Tanakh’s sole value is in the manner in which it serves to preface Jesus; and to the Muslim, its value is in manner it constitutes a previous, albeit corrupted, version of the Quran.

  2. Krauss
    Krauss
    September 12, 2012, 11:37 am

    Part 2 was much better than part 1.

    I, too, have struggled with the concept of Chosenness. I know all the counter-arguments but neither is actually very cogent or, more important, morally persuasive.

    Chosen means, at a fundamental level, to be better. There is no way around it. Even if you take the most patronizing interpretation, that Jews are chosen to care for and protect the world it still implies that those protected are inherently and by nature inferior and cannot do as much as Jews can.

    Part of the beauty of Christianity is it’s universalism. True, it is lousy when it comes to keeping lineage but that is missing the point: there’s no ethnocentrism in Christinianity like there is in Judaism.

    A second point, which I wrote about in an earlier thread about Daniel Gordis is that what we now call secular Jewry or Reform/’Conservative’/Reconstructionist etc is actually an amalgation between the Western Enlightenment and Judaism.

    You see the same struggle in Israel’s declaration of independence. It states clearly that Israel should provide equally and without discrimination to all of Israel’s citizens but it also calls for an explicitly Jewish state. Two inherently contradicting concepts.

    At some point the non-Jewish part, if it is left without discrimination, could become the majority. And what then?

    All these themes are interwoven within Judaism. One the one hand you have the liberal ethics, and on the other you have the communal commandments, liberal principles be damned.

    Christianity does not have this inherent tension, since it all flows from religion and asks you specifically to overlook your own ethnicity, class, gender and culture and embrace your brother- not just generally, but completely.

    Still, Judaism isn’t universalist in it’s principles. It’s a religion for a people so it nonetheless fits a Jew in some ways that Christianity cannot and will never do.
    And yes, I’m speaking from an entirely Jewish perspective here.

    Judaism is also more pragmatic, because the world is, at times, set ablaze.
    And Christianity’s pacifism to a fault can sometimes be disastrous.

    Nonetheless, to a neutral observer, who is not tethered to any religion, I think a strong case can be made that Judaism isn’t the most liberal religion out there and in fact may not be that close to the top. (I’d personally vote for Buddhism)
    That doesn’t mean that an individual can’t lead a very morally righteous life following the tenets of Judaism, but that is another issue.

    For all these reasons, I view Judaism more as a cultural artefact which is rich and can be drawn upon through all walks of life, but I am an atheist at heart and I also view the more ethnocentric characteristics of Judaism as central opponents to my more liberal values – who necessarily have to be secular in their nature. It is better to delineate them that way, and seperate them to avoid the hypocrisy.

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      September 14, 2012, 10:40 am

      “I, too, have struggled with the concept of Chosenness”

      I don’t find the idea of “chosenness” very difficult a concept. The religion arose in a backwater, contested like a rag between a number of other empires. The religion couldn’t say that the YHWH worshipers would be powerful or mighty, because they weren’t. So, instead, they merely said they were “special.” The rest is commentary and justification.

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      September 22, 2012, 2:13 pm

      @ Krauss

      Your comment mirrors my own conclusions on its subject. (I differ only in that I’m not an atheist, but more an agnostic by default. I’m not prepared to believe there is no first cause, whatever it’s nature, although it defies logic and science. Both Judaism and Christianity depict an anthropomorphic God, even though the human attributes assigned by each religion to the character G-d/God differ as presented. And it’s hard not to think of the Freudian clinical term “projection.”)

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        September 22, 2012, 2:29 pm

        Also, I’m not as sure as Marx was, and Phil Maher is, that religion is a net negative in human history; the good it has done via little individual people of faith is not so much a part of history books. And, at any rate, it’s clear secular ideologies have also done much bad by those acting in their name–just look at the modern age.

        Finally, there is not an ounce of humility or humbleness in the concept of being chosen, special, or exceptional. The story of Jesus sets the example, as does the Buddha. The Jewish and Christian (and Muslim?) Establishment over the centuries have not been so, nor are they now. If anything, it seems in these religions, it’s not their leaders that save, but those faithful little folks who actually carry out the best values of their religion.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        September 22, 2012, 2:51 pm

        “And, at any rate, it’s clear secular ideologies have also done much bad by those acting in their name–just look at the modern age.”

        Yeah, a reduction in intermingling of science and state; you don’t have children indoctrinated into religion against their will or their parent’s will; woman are saddled with vile patriarchal restrictions based on fairy tales; homosexuals have rights… geez, those secular ideologies are horrible…

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        September 22, 2012, 2:48 pm

        “I’m not prepared to believe there is no first cause, whatever it’s nature, although it defies logic and science”

        What defies logic and science, a proposed first cause, your unwililngness to believe in the non-necessity of a first cause or the non-necessity of a first cause?

      • ColinWright
        ColinWright
        September 22, 2012, 4:07 pm

        Woody Tanaka says: “What defies logic and science, a proposed first cause, your unwililngness to believe in the non-necessity of a first cause or the non-necessity of a first cause?”

        As I understand it, modern physics implies a first cause, in the form of the big bang. After all, before that — well, was there even a before? Was there time? Whatever there was doesn’t appear to have occupied any space.

        Now, of course anthropomorphizing that first cause, or even assigning it a consciousness, would be another matter — but the theory is that there was a first cause.

        So contrary to what both you and citizen say, his refusal to disbelieve in a first cause does not defy science at least, but is in accord with it.

        Speaking for myself, I sometimes suspect that we are so geared to the concept of having a beginning and an end that we are unable to conceive of anything not having these attributes, and so keep constructing a universe in which these are universal attributes, and this applies to our science as well.

        However, having a beginning and an end may not be universal attributes. Personally, I find the thought of the universe having some sort of ultimate beginning at least as inconceivable as the thought of it always having been there.

        The awful truth may be that not only do we not understand, but that we may never be able to understand. Some appear to label that lack of understanding ‘God’ — but that seems to me to be an unwarranted assumption.

        Maybe we just don’t get it, and never will.

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        September 23, 2012, 6:22 am

        @ Woody Tanaka
        Good question. I should have been clearer. I like Colin Wright’s responsive comment on this subject.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        September 23, 2012, 8:38 am

        Well, the problem with that response is that it falsely asserts that there was a first cause. That is not necessarily so. Science has not made a determination as to what came before the big bang, and some scientists believe that there was a universe of some kind prior to it, and our universe is the most recent iteration.

        But more to the point, even if the universe started with the big bang it’s no certain that there was a first cause. Subatomic particles are — ever second — coming into existence spontaneously, and without any cause. (That’s how black holes “evaporate.”) So it’s neither beyond logic nor science to believe that the entire universe was not caused by anything.

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        September 23, 2012, 8:52 pm

        That’s OK. Whatever. Like I said initially, I’m agnostic by default. I will add, as to any sort of God or First Cause.

  3. clenchner
    clenchner
    September 12, 2012, 12:16 pm

    His inclusion of the need for spirituality is very important. I’m glad he found it. For me, the Jewish stuff works and I was born with it, but there’s a closeness to any person with some sincere religious faith that doesn’t come into play when it’s just politics.
    and
    There’s something about the modern era, with people choosing religions they were not born into, and sometimes going back again that is enriching and important. It’s hard for many Jews not to attach fear to this process, but we are getting as good as we give. The margins of faith traditions where there’s a lot of touching and mixing are the most exciting spiritual places these days.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      September 12, 2012, 1:18 pm

      “The margins of faith traditions where there’s a lot of touching and mixing are the most exciting spiritual places these days.”

      Well, keep the age-of-consent laws firmly in mind (and make sure you know them, they can be confusing and contradictory) and remember, it doesn’t take a well-regulated malitia to defend a woman’s honor, just one guy with a pistol or a knife.

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      September 12, 2012, 1:19 pm

      “For me, the Jewish stuff works and I was born with it,”

      Wrong. You were born as ignorant of all this stuff as the rest of us. You were indoctrinated with this stuff at a young age. There’s a big difference.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        September 19, 2012, 5:21 pm

        “For me, the Jewish stuff works and I was born with it,”

        Hey, so was I, but about six days later they held a bris and that was the end of that!

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        September 22, 2012, 2:40 pm

        @ Mooser
        In your fond dreams. Not to worry, they say ignorance is bliss.

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        September 22, 2012, 2:46 pm

        @ Woody Tanaka
        Good catch! Important catch. There’s a reason why Judaism has always stressed the importance of maternal Jewish roots to Jewish identity, although now we have house hubbys too, and women being the hunters, and adjustments are being made accordingly; it’s the same reason as the Jesuits had, and why Pol Pot killed all the teachers, and why Education content is fought over in US public schools, and why some folks choose to home school, something the Amish have done for a long time. Also, it’s why Hitler took over the education of the German youth.

  4. W.Jones
    W.Jones
    September 12, 2012, 12:36 pm

    Thanks for the interview. I found his experiences related to Latin America to be very inspiring, and I’m sorry he was expelled from the University apparently for his writings opposing the state system in the Holy Land.

    He mentioned that Herzl thought having their own state in the Holy Land would get rid of dislike of Jews. In fact though Native Americans are stateless, and I doubt there is hatred of them in America today. Meanwhile, although there was long a dislike of blacks related to slavery in the US, my impression is that in the US Jews as a group are typically related to as other non-WASP groups.

    And in fact Kovel is right that this idea turned out bad. US abuses cause dislike of the US, Germany’s actions in WWII caused alot of dislike of Germans, and if anti-Semitism really has grown in Muslim countries it also seems related to foreign policy issues.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      September 12, 2012, 1:21 pm

      “Meanwhile, although there was long a dislike of blacks related to slavery in the US”

      Yes, we couldn’t help but hate them for coming over here and doing all that hard work for no wages. But, as you very perceptively point out, Jones, it’s all their own fault. If only the Africans had chosen death before subservience, how we would love them now, and look up to them.

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        September 22, 2012, 3:06 pm

        @ Mooser
        Yeah, and the Jewish Israelis and their 5th column here in USA would like nothing better than their home baseball team in Israel be called the Tel Aviv Indians, er, I mean Tel Aviv Palestinians. Imagine the iconic logo on their caps: the wild head of a native noble savage grinning.

  5. Mooser
    Mooser
    September 12, 2012, 12:41 pm

    “I, too, have struggled with the concept of Chosenness. I know all the counter-arguments but neither is actually very cogent or, more important, morally persuasive.”

    Yes, Krauss, all those counter-arguments don’t mean squat when that Askenazi +15IQ is singing Krauss uber Alles in your brain, and blathering out of your comments. There’s just no denying it.

    I myself am convinced the Jews are indeed the chosen people, myself as much as any one of them. It was explained to me, by a very wise Rabbi, thus:

    Me: Rabbi, they tell me we are “the chosen people”. What do you think?
    Rabbi: Chosen, you say? The Jews are “chosen”? You bet they are, boychik! Chosen to suffer!

    He then went into a bunch of stuff about gladiator movies, Turkish prisons, and seeing grown men naked, but I didn’t hang around. How many revelations can a guy take in one day?

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      September 12, 2012, 1:53 pm

      @ Mooser

      Himmler made a now famous speech (in Pozin, if memory serves) t0 his gathered SS officers wherein he told them they were chosen for the hard stuff that had to be done, chosen to suffer mute, for the betterment of the world. So, they were told they were both victims and perps. The means justifies the ends, and the elite, chosen by Providence (as Hitler said, and after all the SS was born as his body guard), just had to bear the heavy cross that was their destiny.

      • LeaNder
        LeaNder
        September 12, 2012, 5:05 pm

        @Citizen

        bad taste. You mean suffering from having kill so many and watch them die? You can’t resist to twist the Nazis in, can you?

        Are you alluding to this passage of the Posen speech?

        I also want to refer here very frankly to a very difficult matter. We can now very openly talk about this among ourselves, and yet we will never discuss this publicly. Just as we did not hesitate on June 30, 1934, to perform our duty as ordered and put comrades who had failed up against the wall and execute them, we also never spoke about it, nor will we ever speak about it. Let us thank God that we had within us enough self-evidence fortitude never to discuss it among us, and we never talked about it. Every one of us was horrified, and yet every one clearly understood that we would do it next time, when the order is given and when it becomes necessary.

        I am now referring to the evacuation of the Jews, to the extermination of the Jewish people. This is something that is easily said: “The Jewish people will be exterminated,” says every Party member, “this is very obvious, it is in our program — elimination of the Jews, extermination, will do.” And then they turn up, the brave 80 million Germans, and each one has his decent Jew. It is of course obvious that the others are pigs, but this particular one is a splendid Jew. But of all those who talk this way, none had observed it, none had endured it. Most of you here know what it means when 100 corpses lie next to each other, when 500 lie there or when 1,000 are lined up. To have endured this and at the same time to have remained a decent person — with exceptions due to human weaknesses — had made us tough. This is an honor roll in our history which has never been and never will be put in writing, because we know how difficult it would be for us if we will had Jews as secret saboteurs, agitators and rabble rousers in every city, what with the bombings, with the burden and with the hardships of the war. If the Jews were still part of the German nation, we would most likely arrive now at the state we were at in 1916/17.

      • MRW
        MRW
        September 13, 2012, 4:08 am

        The official Nuremberg trial translation of that Himmler speech excerpt is here. (Source: Document 1919-PS, Nuremberg Trial)
        http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/holoprelude/posen.html

        Your quote (you don’t say where you got it from) is inaccurate in key wording and nuance. The official translation does not say what you quoted, LeaNder.

        BTW, to extirpate does not mean to exterminate. It means to remove.

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        September 13, 2012, 6:35 am

        @LeaNder
        RE: “bad taste. You mean suffering from having kill so many and watch them die? You can’t resist to twist the Nazis in, can you?”

        Sorry, my comment was not discussing your supper, soup, or breakfast. And one does not need to twist on a slippery slope. Also, and this is relevant too, please tell MRW and the rest of us where you got your translation of Himmler’s speech.

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        September 13, 2012, 6:45 am

        ausrotten
        may be interpreted either way in English
        other than the speech context, maybe also depends on regional usage in Germany?

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        September 19, 2012, 5:23 pm

        “The means justifies the ends…”

        If you say so, but a person could get into trouble thinking that way.

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        September 23, 2012, 6:29 am

        @ Mooser
        I don’t think so, but Himmler obviously did. He got into trouble for it, much belatedly.

    • G. Seauton
      G. Seauton
      September 14, 2012, 2:25 am

      “Yes, Krauss, all those counter-arguments don’t mean squat when that Askenazi +15IQ is singing….”

      What — Ashkenazi IQ is +15? Hmm, seems kind of low. I’m guessing you’re not Ashkenazi, Mooser. I’m sure your IQ is higher than that.

      Though I guess it could be worse. At least it’s a positive number, not negative.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        September 19, 2012, 5:30 pm

        “I’m guessing you’re not Ashkenazi, Mooser. I’m sure your IQ is higher than that.”

        I tested about about 90 to maybe 95 if I got a couple a meth pills before the test.
        And, hic, I never ashked a Nazi nothin…hic..well, except to fix my watch. It only ticked, but they haff vays of makink them tock! I’ll have another hickory dacquari, doc!

      • annie
        annie
        September 19, 2012, 6:04 pm

        you’re on fire today mooser!

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        September 19, 2012, 6:14 pm

        “you’re on fire today mooser!”

        You don’t know me that well. For me, 35mg. oxycodone is just kindling.

        Amazing that cleaning and polishing the 5 teeth I have left could hurt so much when the local wears off.

      • MRW
        MRW
        September 19, 2012, 6:35 pm

        I’ll have another hickory dacquari, doc!

        I guess I’m easy to amuse; this time to tears.

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      September 22, 2012, 3:14 pm

      @ Mooser
      The good Rabbi was “just being real,” mah man! Every Jew hung right up there on the cross, all bleeding, and with that thorn beanie on his head. I’m gonna talk to Bernie Madoff about your jokes, Mooser. He might be able to convince lots of folks every Jew is King Of The Jews. That’s better than a Pope. We don’t need no hierarchy, brother! Ask Al Quaida, you know, that terrorist crew the US made up from what was leftover of Bin Laden, the CIA terrorist operative against the reds?

  6. Citizen
    Citizen
    September 12, 2012, 12:51 pm

    Very interesting. Now I have to go back and read Kovel’s Part 1.

    “What you do for the least one, you do for me.”

    To actually realize, know in your deepest heart, that, no matter in how many ways you are objectively (by academia, by erudition, by money you made, what you own, even by your physical appearance) tested superior to X, you are no better than X. You have more in common with X than not.

    A God worthy of being human, is that Jesus? Take the story of him kicking out the moneychangers from the temple, of washing the prostitute’s foot, the Sermon On The Mount.

    This is not such a bad social construct, is it? To the Establishment Jews of his time and place, Jesus was a defector. To the Catholic Church Establishment, Luther was a defector. The Koran treats Jesus as a purely human prophet; perhaps military and/or political power is not an attribute of God, nor is a biblical character dictating by force what is best for you. The successor religion grew as confused as the original, and the Koran followed both with even more confusion. I don’t think you have to believe Jesus ever existed to see his touching wisdom. You just have to be or become aware of your own flaws, be as alert to them as you are to your neighbor’s.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      September 19, 2012, 5:34 pm

      “Take the story… of washing the prostitute’s foot”

      Yes, that was inspiring. They always charge me extra when I wanna do that.

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        September 22, 2012, 3:16 pm

        @ Mooser
        So, they know you always want a little extra, and charge you accordingly?
        Did you think your antlers would deceive them?

  7. tokyobk
    tokyobk
    September 12, 2012, 1:17 pm

    Thanks for part two.

    As I said in part one, I am glad Mr. Kovel has found a home. I also am moved by the passages he cites and his church sounds like an amazing place that practices what it preaches.

    I am afraid the problem is this is a conversation between two people, whatever their other admirable qualities, don’t really know all that much about Judaism. (Not that Kovel needs to to find greater inspiration in Christianity, or Phil needs to to find these issues fascinating and publish them here).

    As one example: “People are going to read this, read your ideas about chosenness and tribalism, and say, these are traditional arguments from a self-hating Jew” means neither knows that these are in fact traditional arguments within Judaism. The nature of chosen-ness and peoplehood etc.. are as old as the Torah and Talmud with much dissent that continues today across the spectrum of the faith. What does it mean to be Jewish is a perennial Jewish question. PS a number of classic Jewish jokes are on this theme as well.

    I am not sure why Kovel finds such offense in a university dean fundraising for that university. (did he mean fundraising for Israel?) The administrator where his professorship was not renewed said that it was because of a lack of funding which Kovel misinterpreted as a political revenge. I don’t know who is right, but if Kovel does not understand or disdains that colleges need to one up with wads of cash from rich old people than perhaps that story is true.

    Krauss, your distinctions are semantic not structural. Christianity asks you to embrace your brothers and sisters in Christ and through Christ and that creates a community which however much erases many distinctions, also creates a new and fundamental one. It is universalist only if you accept a Christian worldview, and believe that Chritianity is a norm to which all other faiths function as a particular.

    I believe at its core Christianity teaches humanism, but in the history of Christianity, a few hundred million people were tortured, massacred and enslaved on precisely the grounds of the distinction you believe is not there (or is not relevant since it is not strictly ethnic. Though whiteness and Christianity were conflated for a few hundred important years of much human destruction. Not trying to be rude but your idea of Christianity seems historically incoherent and no one can deny that in this country, Christianity was absolutely tribal. Kovel has joined what was until very recently the dominant tribe, Nor is Judaism and ethnic group, however much this may be perceived as true by some Ashkenazim and most non-Jews.

    In any clase, best wishes to Kovel and may he be inscribed in whatever book he wishes to claim as his own.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      September 19, 2012, 5:39 pm

      “I am afraid the problem is this is a conversation between two people, whatever their other admirable qualities, don’t really know all that much about Judaism.”

      And the proof of that is very easy to see! Why, when Kovel and Wiess were 21, physically fit, and willling to pay their own way, the IDF rejected them as volunteers under 475.2(part D) “doesn’t know enough about Judaism.”

      Ah, but that’s the way the world is, I guess. You’re either a Jew who doesn’t know enough about Judaism (or whatever you know is wrong) or you a Jew who knows all about Judaism, and is just nice enough to instruct us backsliders.

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        September 22, 2012, 3:23 pm

        @ Mooser
        So what does this have to do with the price of gas at the pump? Turns out, A LOT! You will see this shortly, when it jumps to $7 bucks as result of Obama and Mittens vying for big Zionist bucks to see who can buy more TV ads to squeeze their way into the next term POTUS seat. Iran is just a means to an end.

    • Walker
      Walker
      September 20, 2012, 8:42 am

      While Christians do constitute a community, there is nothing in the teachings of Christ that enjoin a Christian to treat someone differently because of their faith. The two-tier morality found in Judaism is not found in Christianity.

  8. MHughes976
    MHughes976
    September 12, 2012, 1:17 pm

    Kovel refers to Gottwald’s 1979 interpretation of Joshua etc. as the record of a social revolution rather than of a conquest, very much a minority ‘Marxist’ view, though presumably reflecting/reflected in the way that some Zionists thought that making Palestine Jewish was justified as an essential step towards making the world socialist. He now appeals to Matthew’s ‘Sheep and Goats’ parable, which tells Christians, like him and me, that in the faces of our social inferiors we should see the face of our Lord himself. A powerful passage making a powerful moral point but not quite revolutionary, as Kovel claims, since it accepts, I think, that society will remain ordered around social inequality. The realignment of Kovel’s thought seems quite complex!

    • W.Jones
      W.Jones
      September 12, 2012, 2:38 pm

      Hughes wrote:
      “not quite revolutionary, as Kovel claims, since it accepts, I think, that society will remain ordered around social inequality.”
      Democratic revolution sees power in disenfranchised masses of common people, and it revolts against authoritarianism. Does this mean society should remain ordered around disenfranchisement?

      Prophetic passages about the Messiah have a similar idea where he who stumbles will be like David and the poor of the sheep will recognize their shepherd. (Zechariah 11-12) It is belief in righteousness empowerment of the poor, as I understand it. But it need not be the poor achieving a top down earthly power for themselves either. Christianity sees Him as both king and servant at the same time.

      • MHughes976
        MHughes976
        September 13, 2012, 8:54 am

        I wonder if your ancestors and mine, WJ, were conversing on the same Welsh hillside a few centuries ago.
        If you said (as some scriptures might encourage) ‘God save the King: let him reign with justice’ you would be calling for justice but not for democracy. By contrast with monarchy democracy, as you say, is the spreading of power to the whole demos, which (I would say) means that no disfranchisement is envisaged.
        If you envisage a society where, as in the Sheep and Goats story, some become naked and hungry but are rapidly helped by others more fortunate then riches are not spread equally. The call is for strong concern and active compassion but not, rightly or wrongly, for equality.
        I assure you I’m not purporting to interpret the whole of NT morality or politics.

      • W.Jones
        W.Jones
        September 13, 2012, 12:24 pm

        “If you envisage a society where, as in the Sheep and Goats story, some become naked and hungry but are rapidly helped by others more fortunate then riches are not spread equally. The call is for strong concern and active compassion but not, rightly or wrongly, for equality.”
        I am confused. Why would some people become naked and hungry in a Christian society?
        I think the sheep and goats story is about the last judgment, which doesn’t seem to necessarily happen on a material plane.

      • MHughes976
        MHughes976
        September 13, 2012, 4:28 pm

        Well surely the story envisages that some people will be naked and hungry, otherwise the good Sheep would not have been able to help them and the bad Goats would not have had a moral challenge to fail. This may be the judgement at the end of the world but judgement is passed on the events of this world. The Beale and Carson ‘Commentary on NT Use of OT’ connects the imagery with Isaiah 58/7. There’s always that Jewish background!

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        September 19, 2012, 5:44 pm

        “I think the sheep and goats story is about the last judgment, which doesn’t seem to necessarily happen on a material plane.”

        Are you nuts? After the last judgement, they demanded restitution, and took awl my material stuff, and I didn’t even have a plane.

  9. Stephen Shenfield
    Stephen Shenfield
    September 12, 2012, 5:02 pm

    Jesus (or the literary construct that goes by that name) expressed sympathy for the poor. They are more likely to go to heaven than the rich. But he also said: “The poor are always with us.” He never questioned the division into poor and rich, slave and free. To regard him as a communist is stretching things a bit. This is not to deny that he was a progressive figure for his time. His sayings are often beautiful, moving and inspiring. But after another two millennia of experience and in light of all the knowledge of modern science, surely we humans are now capable of moving beyond him?

    • W.Jones
      W.Jones
      September 12, 2012, 10:42 pm

      Stephen,

      What were you getting at when you wrote:

      Jesus… expressed sympathy for the poor. “The poor are always with us.”

      Perhaps you take away that Jesus was saying that’s the way things should be and we can’t do better?

      It often helps to consider the context. Jesus also said “blessed are the poor in spirit.” The general idea seems to be that since bad things are part of the world even if you give everyone a bank account with equal wealth, someone will still be having a hard time with something, like an illness. Obviously he did not mean we should be resigned to this and do nothing, because he told a rich person once to give everything he had to the poor. And it seems that in line with Judaic apocalyptic thinking, in the times of worldwide redemption, no one would even say “I am sick” (Isaiah 51). So he was just talking about the state of the universe before redemption, as understand it. After all, in heaven people wouldn’t be poor it seems, so “always with you” is relative.

      Anyway the context of the verse was that someone- I think Judas- said that instead of a woman putting anointing oil on Jesus’ feet soon before his suffering, she should have given it to the poor. Interestingly, this is the only time Christ- whose title means anointed- is described as being physically “anointed” and it suggests that he was “anointed” for his passion and resurrection.

      Jesus’ response was that “the poor you will always have with you (in this present state)- but you will not always have me with you in this form”. It’s like saying that if your brother is in the hospital and will die soon it is worth visiting him because time is calling, even if you could do something else you might normally consider better.

      Take care.

    • ColinWright
      ColinWright
      September 14, 2012, 3:17 am

      Stephen says: “…esus (or the literary construct that goes by that name) expressed sympathy for the poor. They are more likely to go to heaven than the rich. But he also said: “The poor are always with us.” He never questioned the division into poor and rich, slave and free…”

      He also told the rich man he would have to give away all his possessions if he wanted to be saved — sounds pretty Red to me.

      Parenthetically, on Jesus not questioning the institution of slavery, I’ve read that not one writer in the ancient world ever did — or at least, not one in the Roman empire. Naturally, it was usually desirable to be freed oneself — but no one ever seems to have considered the possibility that all slaves could be freed. It just never came up, supposedly.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      September 19, 2012, 6:18 pm

      “But after another two millennia of experience and in light of all the knowledge of modern science, surely we humans are now capable of moving beyond him?”

      Hey, who needs Jesus when you’ve got atom bombs, bioweapons, high explosives and hi-tech means of delivery.
      Jesus? Bible verses? ‘We don’t need no stinkin’ verses!’ We can make our own apocalypse! And viagra takes care of the second coming, or so I’ve heard.

  10. Keith
    Keith
    September 12, 2012, 6:09 pm

    “But it was also something I was led to compare to my secular leftist friends, whether it was the high powered Marxist intellectuals at Telos magazine or Stanley Diamond’s Marxist anthropology shop at the New School or the War Resisters League. I saw there was no joy about them. They were hardworking, they had a good sense of humor, but also a bitter sense of resignation.”

    Perhaps the “bitter sense of resignation” comes from realizing that your secular religion worships a false god. What is it about Marxism that so appeals to secular Jews?

    Happiness, apparently, is coming to the realization that a traditional religion deals in the metaphysical, hence, is non-falsifiable. I am sure that there are other benefits as well.

    Final thought: I think that it would be interesting to have a roundtable discussion involving Joel Kovel, Marc Ellis, Beryl Satter, and Gilad Atzmon, with Phil Weiss moderating.

    • American
      American
      September 19, 2012, 4:19 pm

      “Final thought: I think that it would be interesting to have a roundtable discussion involving Joel Kovel, Marc Ellis, Beryl Satter, and Gilad Atzmon, with Phil Weiss moderating.”…Keith

      Indeed…that would be interesting.

  11. Elisabeth
    Elisabeth
    September 13, 2012, 1:32 pm

    I am always a bit surprised when I see liberal member of some religion or other convert. In my idea liberal Muslims, Christians and Jews have more in common with each other than with their orthodox (let alone fundamentalist) sisters and brothers.
    There are branches of Islam that I could easily embrace, while there are branches of Christianty (the slot where I belong) that are abhorrent to me.
    But then, Kovel was not a religious Jew at all. He gave up on Judaism at such an early age that he never studied it seriously, and never gave it the chance to touch him in the way that Christianity later did.
    I think that usually it is better to explore your own tradition (or different branches of it) first, as I find that it is easier to separate the genuine from the bullshit in your own tradition than in an alien one. But that said, I think that Kovel made an excellent choice in the kind of Christianity that he decided to embrace.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      September 19, 2012, 5:08 pm

      “I think that usually it is better to explore your own tradition (or different branches of it) first, as I find that it is easier to separate the genuine from the bullshit in your own tradition than in an alien one.”

      What a stupid waste of time, and what a dumb chance to take. Traditions should be rejected out of hand, and kept at arm’s length or longer until they prove they have something to offer. Besides, that’s more fun. It’s always funny to see your parents struggling with whether to disinherit you or not. I mean, it’s serve you right, but do they really want people seeing you wandering around town in rags and homeless?

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        September 19, 2012, 6:23 pm

        I think that usually it is better to explore your own tradition (or different branches of it) first, as I find that it is easier to separate the genuine from the bullshit in your own tradition than in an alien one”

        You are so right, I did that, and the first thing they told me (and of course, it’s true, I recognised that) is “Never convert or even study another religion, or you’ll burn, baby, burn.” Gosh, when I think of how close I came to destruction, I’m glad I followed your advice, Elisabeth.

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        September 23, 2012, 6:44 am

        @ Mooser
        So, bypass the camel, get a lion in your tank ASAP, speed straight to the baby mode?

  12. Nevada Ned
    Nevada Ned
    September 15, 2012, 2:35 am

    The Kovel piece is a reminder that the political impact of religion is ambiguous: while Pat Robertson and his rival televangelists are political conservatives, there are also radical leftwing Christians. Kovel was impressed by the Sandinistas and similar followers of Liberation Theology.

    I used to be fond of the interpretation of the historical Jesus as a leftwinger. “Jesus was the first socialist”, etc. However, there is a major problem with that position: Jesus never denounced the condition of slavery. So, while the record of the historical Jesus is a fragmentary record, I no longer think of the historical Jesus as a revolutionary. Too bad!

    Finally, the Bible has some truly awful passages in it. Check out the
    skepticsannotatedbible.com for some samples.

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      September 23, 2012, 6:51 am

      @ Nevada Ned
      Well, the construct Jesus did physically kick the moneychangers out of the temple. Does that make him a reformer, rather than a revolutionary?

  13. ColinWright
    ColinWright
    September 15, 2012, 8:32 pm

    Nevada Ned: “…However, there is a major problem with that position: Jesus never denounced the condition of slavery…”

    Well, Lenin never denounced gravity. He doesn’t fail to be a revolutionary on that score.

    It genuinely never seems to have occurred to anyone in Jesus’ time that slavery could be dispensed with. It was just a given.

  14. notatall
    notatall
    September 16, 2012, 1:51 pm

    Have you forgotten Spartacus, almost a century before the date commonly given for Jesus’s crucifixion? It has been suggested that Spartacus was influenced by the Essenes, a communist cult that may have contributed something to what we think we know about the teachings of the person commonly known as Jesus.

  15. ColinWright
    ColinWright
    September 18, 2012, 3:05 am

    notatall says: “Have you forgotten Spartacus, almost a century before the date commonly given for Jesus’s crucifixion?”

    Sure, people thought they themselves should be free. But that everyone, in principle, should be free is just not an idea that seems to have clearly occurred to anyone.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      September 19, 2012, 5:48 pm

      “Have you forgotten Spartacus”

      I found it very forgetable, but I generally don’t like movies. See, when I’m entertained, time seems to go faster, and the men in my family don’t live very long.

  16. Polly
    Polly
    September 18, 2012, 5:31 pm

    Inspiring post.
    I never imagined someone’s description of their own journey which ultimately winds up with them “signing up” could possibly hold my interest. And in fact if I hadn’t seen some of his lectures on online I doubt I’d have even bothered to read this.
    I love his willingness to put what he doesn’t completely understand and can’t reconcile right alongside that which he does – a quality Phil possesses also.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      September 19, 2012, 6:25 pm

      “I love his willingness to put what he doesn’t completely understand and can’t reconcile right alongside that which he does – a quality Phil possesses also.”

      ROTFL! Another words, you’re saying they can’t think?

  17. annie
    annie
    September 19, 2012, 11:36 am

    i don’t have time to read all the comments. i’ve come back here many times. i have taken many notes each time. this is a fantastic interview. thank you phil, really amazing.

  18. seafoid
    seafoid
    September 19, 2012, 12:10 pm

    Joel Kovel is interesting but the conversion to christianity will turn off a lot of Jews and I can’t blame them.

    • annie
      annie
      September 19, 2012, 2:09 pm

      oh that goes without saying seafoid. but i can blame them. it’s stupid to get hung upon what religion another decides to follow. the interview was interesting.

      here is an example of what i found interesting:

      People are going to read this, read your ideas about chosenness and tribalism, and say, these are traditional arguments from a self-hating Jew.

      You know Phil, that’s a question that is logically and practically on the level– have you stopped beating your wife? I think the time is long overdue where we refuse to accept questions of this kind as legitimate modes of getting at the truth or correcting deviant behavior. They’re preposterous. They’re patently used in order to inhibit people’s justifiable anger and outrage at what is taking place in what was Palestine once, and it’s basically– these are very crude arguments, they’re a form of guilt-tripping. So I don’t accept the legitimacy of that kind of discourse.

      In any event it’s meaningless. What exactly does self hatred mean? I don’t know what that means. I don’t hate myself. I am angry at myself sometimes. I have a very tough conscience. I also have a judgment that the state of Israel is deeply wrong. It doesn’t have to do with the fact that I hate myself as a Jew. Also, it is empirically the case that self hatred is a phenomenon that is rather common among Jewish people because of the complexities of Jewish life, and people who want to defend Zionism from rational critique and political pressure and change, resort to this kind of existential phenomenon within the Jewish experience that has been written about for many many years, and that has a lot to do with the peculiarities of being Jewish. Which for sure exist. Although I am very much aware that we are not superior as a race or entity of any kind, we certainly are our own kind of people. But one of the things that inhibits Jewish people is a considerable degree of guilt, which is to say self hatred in the collective psychology. And if the defender of Zionism wants to project this self hatred on to the critic of Zionism–I also think that in some ways, it’s very complex, but Zionism is a kind of negation of that guilt. Instead of hating oneself as Jews, let’s aggrandize ourselves as Jews. You’ll find that in the history of Zionism.

      just very interesting. and i was mentioning yesterday (can’t remember which thread) i wasn’t raised with any concept of ‘self hatred’ and had not really encountered the accusation of self hatred used in arguments until i/p blogging. i do consider it a learned cultural thing.

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        September 19, 2012, 2:39 pm

        “It’s very complex.”
        I think I’ve heard that diversionary tactic before.
        I mean, are such statements to make us think of the difference between, say making a boiler-maker and making an exotic mixed drink with fruit and an umbrella on top? While it’s true you only need two liquids to make the first drink, it does not take a lot of extra effort to do the list of things to make the latter.

        BTW, I’ve known lots of people raised Roman Catholic who think they are the guilt-trip kings and queens.

        Then we have the AMISH, for example.

        And every Woody Allen devotee.

        And “neurotic” is not even an acceptable usage in the shrink field anymore, is it?

        And all those teen movies and tv sit coms with the simple blonde guy, usually a jock type, and the little nerd, who gets the girl in the end.

        “peculiar”?

        Like a hair growing out of the nose of a baby, or what?

      • annie
        annie
        September 19, 2012, 4:16 pm

        ok, let’s listen to it one more time (sans the ‘it’s complex’):

        I am very much aware that we are not superior as a race or entity of any kind…. But one of the things that inhibits Jewish people is a considerable degree of guilt, which is to say self hatred in the collective psychology. if the defender of Zionism wants to project this self hatred on to the critic of Zionism– Zionism is a kind of negation of that guilt. Instead of hating oneself as Jews, let’s aggrandize ourselves as Jews. You’ll find that in the history of Zionism.

        so what he is saying is “Zionism is a kind of negation of that guilt.” (iow as i read it the ‘need’ for zionism is used to wipe away culpability for ethnic cleansing)

        and then he says “defender of Zionism wants to project this self hatred on to the critic of Zionism” and we hear that all the time here on these threads, all the time, endlessly. in fact yonah is trying this line of argument downthread right now.

        then he says “Instead of hating oneself as Jews, let’s aggrandize ourselves as Jews.” (he’s not suggesting that, he’s saying that’s what zionists do)…which ties into what he says at the beginning: ” I am very much aware that we are not superior as a race or entity of any kind” (he is not a zionist, therefore he does not need to ‘ aggrandize himself’ or cling to zionism to justify or wash away jewish culpability for the crime).

        he’s not saying the conflict is complex, he’s saying the way zionism is used to juxtapose ones guilt is psychologically complex. and i think it probably is.

      • American
        American
        September 19, 2012, 4:45 pm

        I find Kovel fasinating! excellent interview.

        But on the theory of Jewish ‘self hate’ arising from guilt and Zionism as some kind of negation that guilt, whatever the guilt is about, Kovel doesn ‘t say…I dont see it that way.
        To me, as a outside observer, zionism is the answer to some kind of deep seated feeling of inferiority among Jews— maybe caused by their differentness and separation from others, and thereby others avoidance of and rejection of Jews leading to a feeling of inferiority..
        Zionism is militant and supremacist and dominating….the exact opposite of, and antidote to feelings of inferiority…not a antidote to guilt.
        It’s also possible that feelings of insecurity which goes with feelings of inferiority drew Jews to zionism…but…that doesn’t explain the “militant appeal’ in zionism the fervent Jewish zionist find in it…..militant not exactly implying anything peaceful or resolved or safe security wise…at least not to rational people.

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        September 23, 2012, 6:55 am

        @ Annie
        Yeah, that’s why the shrinks call it “guilt complex.”

    • annie
      annie
      September 19, 2012, 2:15 pm

      and this:

      But I’m explicitly for the dissolution of the Zionist state. And I’m struck by how few people get the idea that a state is only a social contract, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with bringing a state to its end, and replacing it with a better form of society. But it makes people very very anxious, this idea of the Jewish state coming to an end, it brings up fears of the Holocaust that are completely unwarranted under the circumstances. I think it’s driven by latent assertions of Jewish power, it’s not driven by reason and logic.

      it’s irrelevant to me if he’s speaking as a christian or a jew. he’s fascinating to listen to.

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew
        September 19, 2012, 3:55 pm

        Annie- maybe your quote from Kovel is out of context, but if not it shows how his head is up in the clouds. It makes people very very anxious to end the social contract of Zionism because of a reason and that is the hatred of Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims for Zionists, Israelis and Jews.

        Are Copts scared of the new order in Egypt? Are Alawites scared of a new order in Syria? Did millions flee Iraq sectarian bombings? Is Jewish fear of Islamic/Arab hegemony in Palestine totally irrational? No. It is very rational.

        He may be fascinating, but he is in the clouds and totally unrelated to reality. (“Fascinating”, “in the clouds”, “unrelated to reality”, why there’s a good basis to start a religion right there.)

      • annie
        annie
        September 19, 2012, 4:00 pm

        It makes people very very anxious to end the social contract of Zionism because of a reason and that is the hatred of Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims for Zionists, Israelis and Jews.

        because of a reason and that is the hatred? yeah, i find accusations of hatred in ones ideological adversaries as being nothing other than a cheap rhetorical crutch.

        just linked to this speech at Australia’s National Press Club last night. i recommend you listen to it.

        http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-09-19/national-press-club-ilan-pappe/4270182

      • annie
        annie
        September 19, 2012, 4:04 pm

        and another thing yonah, the point of what he is saying there is that the dissolution of a social contract is not the same as the ‘destruction’ of a place or a people. it doesn’t have to do with death.

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew
        September 19, 2012, 4:19 pm

        Annie- Did millions flee sectarian bombings in Iraq? Are the Allawites scared of a post Assad regime? Are Copts pleased with the Muslim Brotherhood in charge of Egypt? Your picking on the word “hatred” is besides the point. the point is that the chances of violence in the aftermath of Zionism are quite relevant and to focus on my use of the word “hatred” is to avoid the point I was making.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        September 19, 2012, 4:56 pm

        ” why there’s a good basis to start a religion right there.”

        Well, look which Jew is wondering! Good thing those settlers and Ultra-Orthodox never mix up their religion and politics. People could get hurt that way.
        And of course, you can’t accuse them of being up in the clouds, no, they know what matters.

      • ColinWright
        ColinWright
        September 19, 2012, 5:01 pm

        yonah fredman says: “… Is Jewish fear of Islamic/Arab hegemony in Palestine totally irrational? No. It is very rational…”

        But that fear is ultimately a product of the morally untenable position of oppressor the Jews have put themselves into in Palestine. It is not the fear of the Copt in Egypt or the minority in Iraq. It is the fear of the colon in French Algeria or the German settler in Poland.

        …and as with the fear of the French colon or the German settler, that fear is not a justification for Israel, but an argument that the whole proposition in which they are involved is unjust at the core and should be abandoned.

      • American
        American
        September 19, 2012, 5:02 pm

        yonah fredman says:

        Annie- maybe your quote from Kovel is out of context, but if not it shows how his head is up in the clouds. It makes people very very anxious to end the social contract of Zionism because of a reason and that is the hatred of Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims for Zionists, Israelis and Jews.”

        Answer this question….did you (Jewish Israelis) or did you not, put yourselves in the position of being hated by your own actions?
        You did.
        And no bullshit about the ‘ancient and eternal hatred’….you are currently hated, to whatever degree, for what you did and are doing.
        Israel’s free ride as innocent victims is rapidily coming to an end.
        So either quit doing what you’re doing or quit whinning and accept the consquences.

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew
        September 19, 2012, 8:10 pm

        American- Have I ever written “ancient and eternal hatred”? I’ll save you the time, the answer is no.

        Yes, there is greater “validity” to the hatred or violence that the Zionists face from the Palestinians than there is from the Shiites against the Sunnis (Iraq) or the Muslims against the Copts or the Sunni against the Alawites. But firstly the violence the Jews will/would face from the Palestinians is not the only violence faced by minorities in the region and secondly even if the violence against the Zionists is more valid than the other violence, it is still not the irrational thinking that the genius Joel Kovel would have us believe from his statement.

      • annie
        annie
        September 23, 2012, 9:31 am

        Are Copts scared of the new order in Egypt? Are Alawites scared of a new order in Syria? Did millions flee Iraq sectarian bombings? Is Jewish fear of Islamic/Arab hegemony in Palestine totally irrational? No. It is very rational.

        were iraqis scared of the US invading to change their regime? of course, but that didn’t stop israeli leaders from advocating it. he isn’t advocating an invasion of israel so i am not going to defend what he said as if he did. what he said was ” it brings up fears of the Holocaust” which implies a dissolution of the zionist regime is tantamount to genocide, it simply isn’t. you ask “Is Jewish fear of Islamic/Arab hegemony in Palestine totally irrational? No.”, it’s no more irrational than palestinian fear of jewish hegemony and i don’t see you claiming that is tantamount to genocide or instigated because of a reason and that is the hatred of zionists, israelis and jews for Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims.

        besides, i think you are completely missing the point. granting palestinians equal rights is not tantamount to genociding jews. period.

      • American
        American
        September 19, 2012, 4:47 pm

        He’s also exactly right in that.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        September 19, 2012, 5:03 pm

        “But I’m explicitly for the dissolution of the Zionist state.”

        The “dissolution” of the Zionist state? You mean they’ll just all down Uzi’s and dissolve? Maybe from guilt, or anxiety induced by constant intellectual attacks in Mondoweiss?

        You know what, I just realised something! Zionism is, indeed, very close to ending. I’d be willing to wager that as soon as the “others” are out of the way, Israel itself will announce “the end of Zionism”. And if anybody taxes them with questions like, “what happened to the Palestinians” they’ll just say ‘the Zionists did it, but we ain’t them no more. Can’t blame us!’

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        September 23, 2012, 7:01 am

        @ Annie
        I think the Zionists would say to you, “Yeah, Annie, completely unwarranted under the circumstances–like in civilized, educated Germany before the rise of Hitler?”
        Then you’d have to show all the reasons why those times (that bred Hitler, so to say) are no longer with us, not sufficiently analogous–and, the Zionist hole card: never will be (again, old wine in new bottles).

      • annie
        annie
        September 23, 2012, 9:32 am

        i have no idea what you are talking about citizen.

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