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Liel Leibovitz wants to excommunicate most American Jews, beginning with Beinart

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Liel Leibovitz published an article in Tablet Friday (Dear Social Justice Warriors: Your Religion is Progressivism, not Judaism). It’s a nasty, sneering piece of work. He wants–had he only such powers–to excommunicate Jews working for social justice from the tribe.

Leibovitz is upset with Peter Beinart for suggesting that the organized Jewish community should take a stand against the burkini ban and against anti-Muslim bashing in general. Leibovitz refuses to name Beinart, derisively calling him “the columnist” and linking to his article in Haaretz. Leibovitz likewise sneers at Jewish social justice activists for Black Lives Matter and Jewish activists opposed to Israel’s now 50 year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Religious liberty and social justice are not Jewish values, implies Leibovitz. Jews should attend to their theology, and theology has nothing to do with social justice: “Wrestling with the bond that ties us to the Creator is hard,” says Leibovitz,  “preaching some gauzy nicety about embracing the Other is not.” Our social democratic values correspond at best in a tangential way to those of Judaism, he claims. Craving social justice is a mood, not a belief system, says Leibovitz.


“That which is hateful to you, do not unto another, that is Torah; the rest is commentary, now go study!” That is the famous adage attributed to the first century rabbi Hillel. It has given rise to a long tradition of Tikkun Olam (healing the world through justice) in rabbinic Judaism. But that is not Judaism, no that is not Judaism at all, says Leibovitz:

It’s time we ended this farce. Those of us who find little use for Judaism except as a stage on which to perform the pageantry of progressivism should kindly take a bow and leave for other precincts that better suit their interests. They do the rest of us no favors by sticking around and insisting that we contort our beliefs to mean nothing more than whatever political agenda happens to be fashionable at the moment. …. But all of us who remain should … refrain from arguing that this engagement (with Judaism) somehow gives us the authority to make claims on anything but the faith itself; and to have the intellectual and moral decency to realize that while political and theological questions sometimes converge, they are never, at their essence, the same questions. As Jews, there’s really nothing else we ought to do.

Oy.  If religious liberty and social justice are not values we can find in Judaism, then what’s left, and why should we bother? Arbitrary dietary laws? Arcane prohibitions on conjugal relations? Rules about the slaughter of animals in a temple 2000 years gone?

Ethnicity is what’s left, says Leibovitz; and that special feeling of being God’s chosen people; and Jewish law. “Whether you consider the Jews followers of a faith, members of a nation, or both,” says Leibovitz, “you can hardly ignore the historical and doctrinal truth that they became whatever they may now be one day long ago at the foothills of a mountain far away, when they accepted the strange burden of becoming God’s chosen children.”

But no. Jews did not become what they are today one day long ago at the foot of Mt. Sinai. As Leon Wieseltier said in his essay Against Identity in the New Republic (1994), quoting Hawthorne: “Let us thank God for having given us such ancestors; and let each successive generation thank Him, not less fervently, for being one step removed from them in the march of ages.” Time marches on. Our values change.

According to a comprehensive 2013 Pew study, 62 percent of American Jews believe being Jewish is more about culture and ancestry than religion. Nearly half of American Jews are intermarried. More than half don’t believe in God. Yet they continue to engage with Judaism. They continue to engage with Judaism through synagogues, through education, through study programs, through museums, through music, through social service groups, through engagement with Israel (both pro and con), and yes, through working for social justice and equality: Tikkun Olam. Fifty-six percent of American Jews in the Pew study, when asked “What does it mean to be Jewish?” answered working for social justice and equality. Only 19 percent felt that observing Jewish law was important.

Leibovitz says Judaism is all about observing Jewish law, and not about social justice. He succumbs to the lure of identity and the lure of wholeness. But, as Wieseltier noted in his essay, Jews are not one thing, they are many things. There is room for Chabad and room for atheists. And American Jews are not just Jews. They are Americans. They hold constitutional values of liberty, equality, fairness, and justice. They bring those values to their Judaism. They are children not only of European Jewry, but they are also children of the Enlightenment and ofHaskala. They are the product of our American universities and hold values and world views absorbed there. They are professionals and bring with them the values and ideals of their professions. They have connections to French, German, Austrian, Spanish, Polish as well as Israeli cultures. They, like all Americans, are many things.

The American achievement, said Wieseltier, is not a multicultural society: it is the multi-cultural individual. The multicultural individual is what tribalists like Leibovitz fear, Wieseltier suggested. They want to be one thing; but we are not one thing.

Leibovitz harkens back to the reactionaries of the counter-Enlightenment. Social justice and Enlightenment values are not universal, they don’t fit comfortably in Judaism says Leibovitz.  J.G. Herder (1744-1803) shared that view. He too denied universal values. He regarded the nation as the basic unit of humanity. The identity of an individual is dependent on his culture, and Herder strongly affirmed the right of each people to determine its own path and worth. We must  understand each culture on its own terms and as an organic unity, he said. That’s what Leibovitz is doing in his thinking about Judaism.

Herder claimed the nation (or Volk) is what provides the most basic and original horizon for understanding and interpreting the world, and that it is only insofar as we belong to a particular people that we can begin to make sense of our life. That’s what Leibovitz says about the Jewish “nation.” To be exiled or alienated from one’s people can be spiritually disastrous, suggested Herder, for an individual is nothing without the community that has nurtured him or her and from which the individual takes all his bearings.

But what is the relevant community? What does “all bearings” mean?

Leibovitz is channelling Herder and the Spanish Inquisition when he tells Peter Beinart, Jews for Black Lives Matter, and Jews working for justice in Palestine that they should all get lost. He wants to keep Judaism pure for those concerned with Jewish law (theology). He has no room in his Judaism for atheists. He has no room for Peter Beinart. He wants to excommunicate most American Jews.

But like Herder, and his successors on the European radical right, Leibovitz is wrong, wrong, wrong. American Jews are many things. And there is room in Judaism for all of them. Even for Liel Leibovitz.

An appeal to Tikkun Olam and looking to Judaism for inspiration for social justice is somehow inauthentic, suggests Leibovitz. But authenticity, Wieseltier reminds us, is a paltry standard by which to appraise an idea, or a work of art, or a politics. Authenticity, he said, is a a measure of provenance, and provenance has nothing to do with substance. Jewish law or theology may be ours, and still be false. A piece of art may be ours and still be ugly. A politics may be ours and still be evil.

Authenticity is reactionary, said Wieseltier. It is the idolatry of origins. Tikkun Olam and the inspiration to work for social justice should be celebrated, not least because these values are made from what was given.  Such values are derived not only from the theology itself; they draw on broader traditions, including our Enlightenment values and our American values. Our values are richer for it, and not any less Jewish.

This post first appeared on Roland Nikles’s site on Saturday August 27.

Roland Nikles

Roland Nikles is a Bay Area writer and attorney. He blogs here: And you can follow him on twitter @RolandNikles

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79 Responses

  1. Raphael on August 28, 2016, 12:14 pm

    The problem is American Jews are a tribal people i.e., no Individualization of perspectives. Having that Individualization mindset automatically excommunicates the American Jew from the tribe; because they do not think as a group of people.

    They would have to give up power; political power; stop voting things like that. I don’t think it is their DNA to start such a radical change to the group mentality illustrated by groups like AIPAC, in the 21st century.

    In fact, American Jews should embrace the prophetic history of the ancient Israelites; make Aliyah (immigration to Israel)..then move back to the US.

    Too really have a productive voice for humanitarian, or enlightened values; they need to unlearn what they believe it is to be a Jew, Israelite or Hebrew.

    • amigo on August 28, 2016, 2:22 pm

      “The problem is American Jews are a tribal people “.Raphael

      Damn right they are.They are of the American Tribe .

      “They would have to give up power; political power “.

      Not sure the Rogue nation would support that suggestion. All that money heading Israel,s way because American Jews use their political power to ensure the cash keeps on coming and coming and coming .

      “In fact, American Jews should embrace the prophetic history of the ancient Israelites”

      Did the ancient Israelites mention the Holocaust or the pending destruction , (self imposed by the tribe) of so called Israel , sans borders.Did they prophesize the arrival of a raving lunatic , Netandyahu who would lead Israel once again , (this time it,s fact )into the desert of isolation and and be shunned by all those other tribes who will never again allow a Jewish state because they used this one to commit crimes against humanity.

      Serious question Raphael, do you really believe all that codswollop that you read in the good book.

      Seek help –soon.

      • inbound39 on August 29, 2016, 5:27 am

        Your second to last paragraph spells out clearly what Israel is facing due to the rise of the Right under Netanyahu and when ALL Jews start realising that then Israel will get less and less support and justice will be able to be met out to the likes of Netanyahu and ALL his ilk.They are living on borrowed time currently and their panic building more settlements is proof they know the end is coming.

    • mcohen. on August 28, 2016, 5:01 pm


      agree.l.liebovitz is spot on.i have been reading his articles for some time and he makes sense.

      not welcome at ben gurion they will have to make do with a selfie in a burkini next to the statue of liberty.

      one man’s social justice is another man’s prison

      • Mooser on August 28, 2016, 6:55 pm

        “not welcome at ben gurion they will have to make do with a selfie in a burkini next to the statue of liberty.”

        And would you like to run the numbers on which Jews prefer? Oh, and where are you posting from, Jerusalem?

        That’s where a you guys screw up. You keep on imagining you have some kind of power over Jews. You don’t.

  2. Froggy on August 28, 2016, 12:26 pm

    What a wonderful piece!

  3. Mooser on August 28, 2016, 2:02 pm

    “Liel Leibovitz published an article in Tablet Friday (Dear Social Justice Warriors: Your Religion is Progressivism, not Judaism). It’s a nasty, sneering piece of work. He wants–had he only such powers–to excommunicate Jews working for social justice from the tribe.”

    What a noble man, willing to excuse others, let the innocent go, and be the scapegoat. I salute his efforts.

    But I hope the big secret behind all this, that a religion grows more numerous and influential and secure, by excluding people and ideas, doesn’t get out.

    • echinococcus on August 28, 2016, 4:51 pm

      No big secret, Mooser. Judaism, as per Ancient Testament, is reserved to a certain number of tribes from the Judaean hills, who have a racial covenant with their tribal god Yahweh, only survivor of the plural Elohim, who can beat the other tribes’ and nations’ gods. Plus “adopted” wives of their warriors boasting of genocide, plus perhaps male slaves –and that’s it.
      Anything else being of much later accretion, it’s somewhat fun to watch all these unauthorized Germano-Slavico-Turkics and Caspians and Berbers and Arabs and Iberians playing the guardians of the original racial purity. Serves them well for their racism.

      • Mooser on August 28, 2016, 7:21 pm

        “only survivor of the plural Elohim, who can beat the other tribes’ and nations’ gods.”

        I think you might be talking about later interpretations of those earlier things, in the light of later debacles.

        See Mircea Eliade “A History of Religious Ideas” Vol. 2 , Chapter 25 “The Ordeals of Judaism: From the Apocalypse to Exaltation of the Torah”

        He doesn’t pull any punches. There it all is. Let’s just take the sub-chapter headings at the end of the chapter on Judaism ( my comments in parentheses):

        201. “From despair to a new theodicy”
        (Uh-oh, don’t mess around with your theodicy when you are in despair, everybody knows that, but would they listen? Noooo!)
        202. “The first apocalypses: Daniel and First Enoch ”
        (Yup, plural, there’s plenty apocalypse to go around.)
        203. “The only hope: The end of the world”
        (Of course, naturally, always look on the bright side. And it’s not our fault, well sorta!)
        204. “Reaction of the Pharisees: Glorification of the Torah”
        (Bet you didn’t see that one coming!! Why, who’d a ever thunk it? What a brilliant and farseeing move, to ban all syncretic fabrics.)

      • echinococcus on August 28, 2016, 11:25 pm


        “Later interpretations”? I don’t think so –it’s only based on language and a minimum of general anthropowhatchamacallit.

        As for making me read Éliade, no way Josay, even though I love his chapter naming. Above my pay grade, and you have no idea how low I’m paid. You do that, digest it and spit the two-word summaries for our general enlightenment, thank you.
        Just a single word of warning: apocalypse is common-or-garden uncovering. Like burkini ban enforcement.

      • Mooser on August 29, 2016, 2:53 pm

        ” I love his chappter naming –

        In Vol. 3 he puts it all together, and goes for the jugular. And you could read it in the original French, which I can’t parley-vous.

      • Mooser on August 30, 2016, 3:54 pm

        “Later interpretations”? I don’t think so –”

        He says even the anti-Hellenists were obviously influenced by Hellenism! And worse, in Vol. 1 he has the nerve to say… wait, lemme go get it. Okay (pant, pant, had to run upstairs and back) , dig this, in “Religion under the Judges”:

        “Even in the first centuries of conquest and colonization, we note a Canaanite influence that is profound and takes many forms. Indeed, the ritual system, the sacred sites and sanctuaries are taken over from the Canaanites; the priestly class is organized after Canaanite models, finally even the prophets who will soon react against the supremacy of the priests and against syncretism with the fertility cults, are also the product of a Canaanite influence.”
        “the Yahwism that they (prophets) proclaim has already assimilated the most creative elements of Canaanite religion
        and culture

        Canaanite? I mean WTF?, Not that there’s anything wrong with Canaanites, I guess, but still, just saying. They told me it was an exclusive Designer creation, not a syncretic-fabric, Canaanite knock-off. And this was while we were conquering them!

      • Mooser on August 30, 2016, 5:52 pm

        It’s outrageous. If Judaism was a car, the owner’s manual would specify a pure syncretic oil. With absurdly short oil-change intervals, too. And weak Baal joints.

      • echinococcus on August 30, 2016, 7:38 pm

        You caught me unawares wit the Baal joint, Mooser. Good thing it was cold coffee, not too cold.
        Good job with the Éliade, so the Canaanites are still syncreting after having been genocided down to their geese and asses, eh? Not bad.

      • Mooser on August 31, 2016, 12:13 pm

        “Not bad.”

        And I’ll lay five-to-twelve that a lot of those ancient Israelites got pretty hooked on pure Canaanite sugar

  4. John Douglas on August 28, 2016, 2:37 pm

    The worst idea in human history: Three babies in the neonatal room. Baby A is a girl and so should not be allowed to a career.. Baby B is dark skinned with ancestors from Africa and so has no right to live in my neighborhood. Baby C has parents named Goldberg and Weinstein and so should support Israel. The idea is essentialism, that people are born with differential rights and obligations. It is the source of humanity’s cruelest atrocities. It’s falsehood is the core of the European enlightenment, of equality under law and rules of acceptable behavior, and has been political dynamite after being articulated by Locke and Jefferson.

    • echinococcus on August 28, 2016, 5:36 pm

      Excellent point, very ably made, John Douglas.
      But it’s even worse than that:
      Baby C has parents named Goldberg and Weinstein and so is unable to wash away an invisible mark supposed to lock him forever in a tribal solidarity prison.

      Note that this KKK-like idea is common to both the crazy Tablet author and to his target, Beinart.
      There is worse: this same idea is shared and defended by the author of the post, too.

    • Stogumber on August 28, 2016, 9:28 pm

      The idea is not that babies are born with different rights and obligations. The idea is that babies are born with different loyalties and with different expectations, directed at them. If you are the father of baby A you feel a particular loyalty to baby A (and of course you hope that baby A will develop a particular loyalty to you, even if this can perhaps not be expected from John Douglas).

      By the way, neither Locke nor Jefferson wanted to eliminate all different human communities. That was an exclusive reinterpretation of enlightenment enforced by the French Jacobines and their Bolshevist followers – the idea was basically that all humans must be soldiers for the government and as good soldiers are not allowed to form any personal preferences and loyalties. And in France as well as in Russia the elimination of all different expectations, loyalties and communities required a really high level of repression.

      • Jon66 on August 28, 2016, 9:59 pm


        Stogumber has it right. Every baby has the same rights, but we have differing obligations. I owe an obligation to my cousin that I don’t owe to some random woman. That’s not a bad idea. The social OB.igations we have are an essential part of what makes us human.

      • echinococcus on August 28, 2016, 10:11 pm

        The idea is not that babies are born with different rights and obligations. The idea is that babies are born with different loyalties and with different expectations, directed at them

        What unfathomably deep thinking, eh, John de Stogumber? Being born with different rights and obligations is not the same thing, now, from the expectations of others “directed at them”. Would you be a believer in intrinsical rights and obligations… even Rosenberg didn’t go that far.
        So essentially gray is not a mixture of black and white but of white and black.

        In one thing you are absolutely right: tribalist obscurantism is definitely condemned by the French revolution people, the Bolsheviks, not to mention other revolutionaries, the Rights of Man, the US Constitution (before the Jacobins) etc. Not to mention the general drift of all national and international law, with a couple exceptions like Saudi or the Zionist entity etc.

        If you think the switcheroo to confuse tribalism with ethnic or cultural communities etc. will work, think again. You know perfectly well it has nothing to do with “personal preferences and loyalties” but a Mafiosio corruption of equality before the law and the equal opportunity principle. Not to mention recruiting foreign soldiers and propagandists from birth.

        In fact, if tribal loyalty were such an aboveboard and generally condoned thing, corruption would be officially recognized as our supreme social good (even worse than present US laws, including lobbying rules.) Unfortunately, we aren’t far away from that in the US.

      • echinococcus on August 28, 2016, 11:04 pm


        Spoken like a true Zionist and a true fake-nationalist. I wouldn’t expect any less from the likes of you.

        Just signaling that with your preferential outlook on the rights of man-and-woman, you shouldn’t in principle have ever received a license to practice medicine and surgery: those convictions are against the Hippocratic oath, believe it or not.

      • eljay on August 29, 2016, 7:46 am

        || Jon66: … Every baby has the same rights, but we have differing obligations. I owe an obligation to my cousin that I don’t owe to some random woman. … ||

        If your cousin has done nothing for you but some random woman has, your sense of obligation is misplaced. There’s no reason for a cousin to be entitled to a preferential obligation simply because s/he is a cousin.

      • RoHa on August 29, 2016, 4:45 pm

        “The idea is that babies are born with different loyalties and with different expectations, directed at them.”

        And there is a fine example of a misleading comma. The comma separates the “directed at them” from the “loyalties and expectations”, and so gives the impression that the babies are born holding the loyalties and expectations. Yet what is really meant is that the loyalties and expectations are held by the parents.

      • Jon66 on August 29, 2016, 6:54 pm


        Have you read the Hippocratic oath? Did you take it? If so, did you mean it when when you swore by Apollo? When you promised not to give a pessary to induce an abortion? Did you swear not to pick up a knife to help a patient even to cut for a stone? The Hippocratic oath is antiquated and irrelevant to modern medicine.

        In my personal life, i feel that I have a stronger obligation to my kin than to random others even if my kin haven’t ever done anything for me. I think that’s basic human nature.

      • John Douglas on August 29, 2016, 7:31 pm

        Sorry, Stogumber. I don’t understand your points. Eliminate all human communities?

        John66, Shared blood cannot generate obligations. Eljay is right about that. A grown adult has no obligation to an elderly Father who deserted his family. Tying blood to moral obligation is a recipe for a incalculable injustice. A mother has obligations to her child based not on blood but on the mother’s decision to bring the child into existence. An adopting mother’s decision to adopt creates the same obligations. All this is the one of the few interpretations of “All people are created equal.” that makes sense.

      • Mooser on August 29, 2016, 7:40 pm

        “In my personal life, i feel that I have a stronger obligation to my kin than to random others even if my kin haven’t ever done anything for me.”

        “Jon66” when you’ve got 200 million “kin” that’s the only attitude to take! Screw everybody else, what can they possibly do to hurt 200 million Jews?

      • echinococcus on August 29, 2016, 10:54 pm

        John Douglas,

        Tying blood to moral obligation is a recipe for incalculable injustice

        Thank you for the appropriate wording.
        You described, in one, tribalism –Zionist or non, the stone-age inhuman abomination that we still cannot get rid of.

      • echinococcus on August 29, 2016, 11:09 pm


        I’ll insist that you have no business practicing medicine if you show any preferment for your kith and kin over any stranger. That is precisely what medicine is not.

        Equality of treatment, to any human, is the irreducible core of the Hippocratic oath.
        And yes, I did take it, in its original, as was then the custom where I studied.

        Surely “The Hippocratic oath is antiquated and irrelevant to modern medicine” for today’s US medical mafia to which you belong, “modern medicine” consisting in today’s for-profit misery-profiteering that has made human life a merchandise in the US more than in any civilized nation.

        Not to mention the Zionist entity where you are too yellow to live, where medical personnel murders the wounded in plain sight by official orders. Where pregnant women are left to die at control posts in the middle of their own land, with your knowing complicity (perhaps even active participation?)

        Besides, swearing to Apollo is a welcome, refreshing moment as opposed to the stifling obscurantist superstition all around us.

      • RoHa on August 30, 2016, 4:27 am

        No harm in swearing to do good things, and no harm in swearing that to Apollo. He’s a pretty good God, as they go. I don’t recall him drowning nearly everyone or encouraging mass slaughter.

        (He encourages philosophy, science, and music, as well as medicine, so it should be no surprise to you that I think highly of him.)

      • Jon66 on August 30, 2016, 8:26 am

        “Shared blood cannot generate obligations. Eljay is right about that. “See more at:

        In the US, shared blood does generate obligations. The father of a child is responsible for support even if he took all reasonable steps not to create a baby and had the explicit intent of not doing so.

        In general, as social animals, we have networks of bonds that weaken with distance and lack of commonality. If you choose not to feel an obligation to your cousins you have never met that’s fine. I choose to obligate myself. If you choose to equally obligate yourself to help the poor of your neighborhood and the poor of India, that’s fine. But even if you dislike your family, most people feel an obligation to them that they don’t have to strangers.

        Lack of objectivity is why physicians do not usually treat family members. That doesn’t make doctors “bad”, it makes them human. Being pro-choice, I couldn’t take the Hippocratic oath. I couldn’t swear by something antithetical to my beliefs, but my pro-life classmates had no issue.

      • echinococcus on August 30, 2016, 9:20 am

        Looks like John66 is undeterred in pretending to be cognitively impaired, unable to make the difference
        between essential (obligation to be impartial between stranger and kin) and irrelevant (physically harming, life-threatening practices of old times interpreted as a nonsense ideological issue of today’s US obscurantists),
        between related and unrelated (nepotism and corruption interpreted as being the same as legal obligations among first-degree relatives.)
        The worst of it is, this cannot be given the charitable interpretation, ie that the mental impairment is real.

      • Jon66 on August 30, 2016, 9:50 am


        Read the oath. You swear not to aid in an abortion. You swear not to perform surgery. You swear to fee-split with your mentor. You swear to consider the family of your teacher “as my own brothers”. You swear to teach only others who have taken this oath. There are good things as well, but it is full of things we now consider bad. It had its place, but is a historical document. Not one for modern medicine. BTW, I think it’s fine to swear by Apollo if you believe in Apollo.

      • Raphael on August 30, 2016, 10:17 am


        As a half Jew that became a Israeli; I was never a member of the American Jewish tribe because my mother is not Jewish.

        Any tribal loyalties I had with American Jews and myself, were voluntary agreements; not written in Jewish law. It seems to me that Judaism is a religion; and not a religion that some Jews don’t have much faith in. For example, my father was born from a Orthodox Jewish tribe, when his relatives came over around 1906.

        But, he then in the Americanization process married in the Reform synagogue his third wife; after the divorce of my mother. But he was not a member of the synagogue, which according to the staff of the synagogue when I spoke to them was rare too be married, by the rabbi without a membership.

        My father was a agnostic, or atheist Jew.

        But my father lived in a Jewish tribal neighborhood; as my grandfather did; and as his grandfather, and then his grandfather did in the Old Country of Ukraine. In fact when I lived with him; he knew at least a hundred Jews; but the word religion never came up from my father, or from any of his friends or associates. Probably, because a majority of them had a new religion; the golden calf as there icon.

        But, when I moved to Israel as a citizen; one of the things the taxi driver told me when he was driving me to my apartment from the airport, was something like the Jews are all brothers. The differences in American Judaism , and Israel Judaism is like the differences between day and night.

        The only way for American Jews to change the policy between the Arabs and Jews is to make Aliyah (immigration) and live in both countries the US and Israel. The BDS is failed movement, everything today is made in China, and in a global economy, it is impossible to boycott even if they wanted too.

        It, ironically, is a simple process to become a citizen of Israel for a American Jew… if a Jew has at least one grandparent or has a letter from a rabbi on the approved list of rabbis saying that they are Jewish. The government even pays around a $5000 grant in to live there. American Jews that are liberal minded, or atheist/agnostic socialist minded could look at it as a type of Birthright trip vacation, as well.

      • Jon66 on August 30, 2016, 12:31 pm

        “between related and unrelated (nepotism and corruption interpreted as being the same as legal obligations among first-degree relatives.) – See more at:

        I don’t remember endorsing nepotism and corruption. I do believe that if I get a phone call from some distant relative who asks for help I have an obligation that I don’t necessarily have to a stranger. It’s perfectly fine for you to feel differently, but that doesn’t make me corrupt. You have to distinguish between personal and professional/societal obligations. In other words, Apollo has a greater obligation to Heracles, as half brothers, than he does to Achilles. But I would expect Zeus to recuse himself himself if he had to judge either because of the family ties.

      • Mooser on August 30, 2016, 2:34 pm

        “in swearing that to Apollo.”

        Like this: “I swear by the Apollo and by all the Gods of Tamla that I never thought I would see a Jew argue that loving your relatives more gives you the right even the obligation, to kill and dispossess others, as opposed to simply not sending non-relatives a Hanukkah card.”
        But of course, when there’s 200 million of us, it’s screw everyone else. It’s like the craziest equivalency-Hasbara ever.

      • echinococcus on August 30, 2016, 3:15 pm

        Just as predicted.
        The whiniest of our house Zionists insisting like an embedded tick, once more, that he’s too thick to get that it was never about what he is insisting in deviating to.
        And he will insist to the death, trying to deviate all discourse to his nonsense.

      • echinococcus on August 30, 2016, 3:25 pm


        I suppose it’s them Chanukkah cards, which only find their way to cousins, that do the trick. That 2% of the general population that gets a substantial representation in all high-level, strategic or plum positions is all brothers and sisters and mom and pop. And first-degree cousins, I swear. I’ve known them all personally all my life.

      • Mooser on August 30, 2016, 4:04 pm

        “and mom and pop. And first-degree cousins,”

        You’ll find them all at Rose’s Candy Store. Dial “M”.

  5. Citizen on August 28, 2016, 3:48 pm

    Carl Schmitt argued that a people would develop laws appropriate to its “blood and soil” because authenticity required loyalty to the Volk over abstract universals

  6. Helena Cobban on August 28, 2016, 3:50 pm

    Not clear why anyone should give a toss what this sad-sack Liel person has to say? Is he famous or powerful or something? Why should anyone care?

    • John O on August 28, 2016, 4:10 pm

      Per-zackly. I had to look him up on Wikipedia to find out who on earth he is.

    • echinococcus on August 28, 2016, 4:55 pm

      The reason for not caring is that this is an intra-Zionist, interracist spat.
      Otherwise, yes, the guy is plenty powerful.

    • RoHa on August 28, 2016, 7:45 pm

      It does not matter whether he is famous or powerful. The important issue is whether what he says is interesting and worth thinking about. Is it true and not trivial?

  7. RoHa on August 28, 2016, 7:28 pm

    This Leibovitz person has no moral sense.

    If “real” Judaism is at odds with universal moral values, then one is morally obliged to give up “real” Judaism. Of course, this does not mean that one is obliged to give up other forms of Judaism, but nor is there an obligation to follow any sort of Judaism.

    “Ethnicity is what’s left, says Leibovitz; and that special feeling of being God’s chosen people; and Jewish law.”

    Forget about common humanity, and enjoy that feeling!

    ” Jews did not become what they are today one day long ago at the foot of Mt. Sinai. ”

    That’s a relief. I was beginning to think that Mooser was a lot older that me.

    • echinococcus on August 28, 2016, 11:13 pm


      If “real” Judaism is at odds with universal moral values, then one is morally obliged to give up “real” Judaism.

      Thereby showing that you adopt as a universal the Jacobin-and-Bolshevik view (as described by “Stogumber”.) Wouldn’t that depend, first, by what you mean by “is” –pardon, “moral”? What if “moral” is, in the definition of the Tribe, “what is good for the Jews”?

      • Mooser on August 29, 2016, 7:54 pm

        “What if “moral” is, in the definition of the Tribe, “what is good for the Jews”?

        Ah,not so fast,buster, it’s a little more complicated, there’s a catch (Catch 18). Since Israel (the Jews) are essential in the coming of the Messiah, and all the rest of it, what’s good for Israel is good for the world, umm, before it gets really bad for the world.
        If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s an eschatology. Who needs it? A whole cloth of syncretic fabrics.

      • RoHa on August 30, 2016, 12:45 pm

        Echinococcus, I keep trying to respond to your question, but every response I make gets cut. I don’t know why.

      • echinococcus on August 30, 2016, 3:44 pm


        Thanks for the heads-up. In that case, I should be somewhat worried myself by the fact that I was allowed to ask the question.

      • Mooser on August 30, 2016, 4:55 pm

        ” I keep trying to respond to your question, but every response I make gets cut.”

        Ouch! Getting circumscribed over and over is no fun.

    • eljay on August 29, 2016, 7:51 am

      || RoHa: … That’s a relief. I was beginning to think that Mooser was a lot older that me. ||


  8. Stogumber on August 28, 2016, 9:06 pm

    I think that this Herder-bashing is uneducated. There’s no reason to depict Herder as “counter-enlightenment”. Herder was convinced that nationality and humanity were not mutually exclusive. And Herder had definite followers among German “Jews” (the Lazarus-Steinthal group which defined the “Wissenschaft des Judentums”).

    Of course there were other people who left the German as well as the Jewish community in order to become “cosmopolitans” (i.e. to have better access to the international markets for science, technology and capital). That’s fine with me. If they want to leave, let them leave.
    But cosmopolitanism means that you leave your community. Thus you can’t make a useful contribution to your community, how it shall be defined etc. And of course every community is defined by similarities, mostly either in ancestry or in worldview. (The simple reason is that communities are built on mutual trust, and you don’t trust every person to the same degree.) Thus no community is defined by dissimilarities.
    Wieseltier seems to be rather confused about all this, but was he really inclined to eliminate Jewish “identity”? I doubt it.

    • echinococcus on August 28, 2016, 10:32 pm

      How nice, the deep thinker flies to protect Herder, the originator of modern racism, the Prussian settler-colonialist whose self-important blowings on “national character” and so on were married to the incipient romantic German nationalism and used successfully by the fathers of both Zionism and Nazism.

      That wasn’t really my point, as we have people much better acquainted with philosophy here. The enormity I wanted to point out is that being cosmopolitan does not in any way involve abandoning one’s cultural or associational “communities”. Being a citizen of the world means trying to assess everything according to the same ethical scales, instead of the nationality or religion of the actor or victim. It does not mean that you are expelled from your communities of, say, English-speakers, Swahili-speakers and French- speakers and your chess club.

  9. eljay on August 28, 2016, 9:25 pm

    It’s all about the religion: Mr. Leibovitz appears to have a lot in common with fundamentalist Muslims. But I suppose that if he were to find himself their prisoner, he’d be begging desperately for them to be in the mood for social justice.

    • echinococcus on August 28, 2016, 10:36 pm

      Fundamentalist or not, Muslims don’t hold you responsible for your accident of birth.

    • Yakov Hirsch on August 28, 2016, 11:26 pm

      I’m stoned and this is a rant.
      Mr. Leibovitz probably doesn’t even believe in God. But he does believe in Gods chosen people. Mr. Leibovitz religion is the Jewish people. Mr. Leibovitz is a PR agent for the Jewish people. Which he is a very very very proud member of. And in defense of the “Jewish people” Mr. Leibovitz will debase himself, will show himself to have zero personal integrity and will try to do just about anything in destroying the enemies of the Jewish people. Because so much of his identity is as a member of this greatest people ever. And thus people like Liebovitz are always defending THEMSELVES when defending Israeli behavior. They feel themselves accused when Israel is accused. The religion of these people is that the Jews are the CHOSEN people. Jews are always doing the right thing or at least almost always. Its that Jews are so so so so so so special and they love nothing better than spending all their time talking about it, to those willing or even those unwilling to listen. Their whole experience in life if searching for evidence to show how so special the Jewish people are= how so special they themselves are. That’s how tribal, and even child like, these people are, who have so much influence in our culture . That’s why the most ignorant liars, bullshitters; defamors, starting with Netanyahu himself; quite literally the most immoral people you can possibly have the misfortune of ever meeting; can still preen so much, talk about “moral clarity” so much, while lacking any personal ethics. Because they are speaking as PR agents of what they think is the most moral people in the history of the world. Their whole existence from cradle til grave is one big celebration of being members of the JEWISH PEOPLE. Thats why theyre so emotional and hysterical when you criticize Israel. Because that’s the land of the most moral people. When you accuse Israel of something, Dershowitz experiences it as you’re accusing him of something. He experiences it as you’re attacking him. And Golberg, Rubin, Leibovitz,Dershowitz, Stephens, Boteach, etal. religion, is the “JEWISH PEOPLE.” And at the end of the day, these ethnocentrics, are all tendentious tribal thugs with pens. AND THEIR ARGUMENTS ARE NEVER TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY. They have cost the world so much energy treating them as if they were serious people, and their arguments are serious. Every anti semitism controversy, is just these ethnocentrics acting like SJW on steroids when it comes to Jews, when it comes to how sensitive they are themselves. But history has given these antediluvians a way to avoid seeing their pathetic state. Because there has been a lot of Jew hatred in history it has allowed them to use “antisemitism”
      which now means NOTHING more than letting any ethical person know which side they want to be on. I know i will want to be on the side of the “antisemites” rather than the accusers almost every time. I don’t know why people need so much evidence that they are not swayed by reason or logic. Look at this ADL tweet This is really what goes on in their head.
      “BDS is a modern version of an irrational hatred of the Jewish people.”
      And there you have it.

      • Yakov Hirsch on August 28, 2016, 11:50 pm

        “Because there has been a lot of Jew hatred in history it has allowed them to use “antisemitism”
        I want to clarify that its more than just “use.” The culture has so pampered the ethnocentrics and their tribal delusions that Jeffrey Goldberg actually experiences “anti semitism” when Andrew Sullivan criticizes Netanyahu!

      • Raphael on August 29, 2016, 12:17 am

        Perhaps, it is even worse; when they feel all nervous; about the “Jewish people” debates…perhaps they are more interested in defending a slogan called the “Jewish people” then, actually, even caring about other living human beings.

      • mcohen. on August 31, 2016, 4:35 am

        yakough hirsh says…..there he has it

        now now son.don’t bogart that joint my friend…..pass it along to me.

        you must be mightily pissed that the jews can cry “antisemitism” and it actually has an effect in countering attacks

        because before 1948.before israel if the jews cried “antisemitism” they were more than likely attacked even more.

        see the difference.

        bds is an attack on is an attack on jews regardless of the reasons it is called for.

        it still is a negative.

        a postive would be to sell all your belongings and donate it to a palestinian charity
        to travel to israel and create jobs for palestinians
        to create educational institutions
        to teach people to build things

        does yakough get it

      • eljay on August 31, 2016, 9:29 am

        || mcohen.: … bds is an attack on is an attack on jews regardless of the reasons it is called for. ||

        To Zio-supremacists, Jews are a prop, an excuse, a justification for evil, cannon-fodder. Why do you Zio-supremacists hate Jews so much?!

      • MHughes976 on August 31, 2016, 10:37 am

        I agree that BDS is an attack, at least a rebuke, directed mainly, though maybe not solely, against people who are in fact Jewish. But unless the idea that people who are Jewish may do wrong, or may be rebuked for the wrong they do, is unacceptable in all circumstances there may be good reason for an attack so directed, meaning that we do not have a reason for out of hand rejection of it.

      • eljay on August 31, 2016, 10:52 am

        || MHughes976: … unless the idea that people who are Jewish may do wrong, or may be rebuked for the wrong they do, is unacceptable in all circumstances there may be good reason for an attack so directed … ||

        Yup. Zio-supremacists like mcohen. argue from the position that Jews are entitled to do unto others acts of injustice and immorality they would not have others do unto them. And since they’re always right to do wrong, they should never be held accountable for their actions.

      • Mooser on August 31, 2016, 12:42 pm

        “yakough hirsh says…”

        Gosh, I get the feeling I’m hearing a soul struggling for self-expression. “mcohen” is finally going to actualize!. And validate himself! Oy it makes me all famischt.

        “a postive would be…”

        For American Jews to cry “Horowitz” and slip in like Flynn and take direct action against aspects of the Zionist entity. Happy now, “mcohen”?

  10. Stogumber on August 28, 2016, 9:41 pm

    By the way, that damned Herder, says Wieseltier, “strongly affirmed the right of each people to determine its own path and worth”.

    As did, for example, Woodrow Wilson.

    Wieseltier as an imperialist of course finds this disgusting. But what about you all here? You really think, with Wieseltier, that Palestinians must never have a “right to determine their own path and worth”?

  11. Stogumber on August 28, 2016, 10:14 pm

    Last not least. The Herder-bashing is wrong, the bashing of Leibowitz is laughable. From all we see he’s a nice guy, lots of masculine vibe, strong sense of loyalty, the sort of man we don’t expect to be utterly sharp or bright but we would chose to back us up in a fight. His arguments against social justice warriorism are over the edge, but no more so than the counter-arguments of Roland Nikles.

  12. yourstruly on August 29, 2016, 1:36 am

    The just person always side with the slave, never with the slave-owner. Re: Palestine/Israel the Palestinians are the slaves, since it’s their land that’s been forcefully taken from them by Jewish settlers, confiscating another people’s land being an act of enslavement. It is for this reason that many of us American Jews are participating in the movement for justice in Palestine, a movement made up of people from a diversity of nationalities, religions and political persuasions. For us the fact that co-religionists claim to be colonizing Palestine on behalf of all Jews, compels us to participate in this liberation movement. The history of our people, of all people informs us that until the last chain is broken, none of us will be free.

  13. wondering jew on August 29, 2016, 2:09 am

    Abraham son of Terach, is best known for almost sacrificing his son, but the text sings his highest praises in the context of teaching his family to do justice ( which the narration tells us, right before Abe bargains with God for the sake of the people of sodom). Clearly the text values justice and kindness and the artificial denial of the important role of kindness in the torah seems a trifle too pat.

    Although liebovitz emphasizes the giving of the torah, I would emphasize the content of the torah, specifically monotheism and shabbat. It is possible to be an atheistic jew, but it seems to be a passing phase. Some politician once pointed out to someone who touted a plan, arguing because long term gain outweighed short term pain, by saying, “People live in the short term.” And it applies here too. Humans , each of us as individuals, are a passing phase. So any jew who wrestles with belief in God (let alone a revelation, especially one as specific as Sinai) is wrestling as a human being and conceivably as a jew with the question of belief.

    Sabbath is the primary Jewish ritual. Passover is only once a year, but sabbath is once a week, and if you are disciplined enough and innovative enough and creative enough and can succeed in keeping the sabbath, you have made a giant stride in the direction of ritual judaism and I am not surprised to hear disdain towards ritual, certainly in reaction to liebovitz ‘s denial of “love of neighbor” one can expect the retaliatory denial of “love god” and the disdain of ritual, but the sabbath is the ritual core of judaism.

    • rosross on August 30, 2016, 2:13 am

      Judaism has problems with non-practising members just like any other religion in an age of secularism. And given the problems religion has created and the misery it has caused, and still continues to cause because of its intolerant and elitist nature, in this case, particularly for the innocent Palestinians, perhaps more non-practising members is actually a plus.

      Many of the most fanatical, rabid and murderous settlers in Occupied Palestine are American Jews. The world does not need more of that.

      • echinococcus on August 30, 2016, 9:52 am


        The folks who brought us the invasion, the major wars, the Nakba, the partition, the first 35 years of genocidal practice, etc. were not religious at all. What you call “non-practicing Jews”, i.e. blood-based pure racist ideologues with no personal ties to Judaism (=”non-practicing” as you call them), have no difference at all from the ones in charge now who pretend to Jewish.

        The practice is the same. The aims are the same. In fact, the old school ones now call themselves Zionist Bloc.
        They are more dangerous as there is absolutely no difference in practice except one:
        The Jewish new leaders openly reject negotiation or discussion of a two-state absurdity, triggering the loss of international support.
        The secular-racist old school ones propose to cover up the exact same practice by endless talk of negotiation to Kingdom Come.
        So, having more of the irreligious racists –who are just as un-Jewish as I am– is not an improvement.

  14. Qualtrough on August 29, 2016, 2:29 am

    Why does someone who loves Israel and the idea of Israel so much choose to spend the majority of his life abroad despite having been born in Israel? He’s telling everyone how great Israel is, but living there is apparently not for him. What explains this phenomena, which is far from rare?

    • Qualtrough on August 29, 2016, 11:38 am

      Just answered my own question after consulting his Wiki bio:

      Leibovitz was born in Israel to Iris and Rony Leibovitz. His father, born into a wealthy family, became known in Israel as the “Motorcycle Bandit” who robbed 21 banks and served 8 years in prison during his son’s childhood. Leibovitz visited his father weekly while he was in prison, and his family suffered financially after his father’s incarceration. When he was about 9 he became very interested in the United States, particularly after visiting relatives there.

      That’s a good reason. I would be interested in getting as far from that embarrassment as I could.

      • Stogumber on August 30, 2016, 5:05 am

        Makes the guy even more simpatico. And isn’t it always the “marginal man” who is the best defender of his tribe against its despisers?

  15. Talkback on August 29, 2016, 1:07 pm

    Hillel was NOT talking about Nonjews and he didn’t say “another”.

  16. rosross on August 30, 2016, 2:04 am

    If Judaism had never been invented there would be no Jews. Just as no Christianity, no Christians; no Islam, no Muslims; no Hinduism, no Hindus.

    There are only Jews in the world because of the religion of Judaism of which they are members. One can be a non -practising Jew just as one can be a non-practising Christian or Muslim, but one remains a member of the religion if they use the religious label.

    Many Jews drop the religion or convert to another and are no longer Jewish. There may certainly be cultural flavours for American Jews as opposed to Ethiopian Jews, but the label, Jew, clarifies they remain members of the religion of Judaism.

    Otherwise, why bother? My ancestors dropped Judaism, amongst half a dozen other religions and so I grew up with no religious label. Those relatives whose ancestors did not drop the religions grew up as Jews, Lutherans, Baptists, Catholics, Anglicans, Greek Orthodox etc.

    I suspect he is trying to make non-practising American Jews feel guilty and become practising, i.e. more Jewish, where the religion comes before the nationality.

  17. Stogumber on August 30, 2016, 5:19 am

    I don’t want to teach, but I do warn you. Don’t buy into this Wieseltier thinking. Wieseltier relies on a post-Jewish movement which tried to make psychology their ersatz religion (partly identical with the Frankfort School).
    But psychology as religion is unerrantly a racist religion, a religion which sorts people into “good” and “bad” personalities.

    There are people who are “multi-cultural personalities” by natural development, e.g. as offspring of parents with different cultural background. Nothing to say against them.
    But it is quite normal if one wants to be “whole”. It’s part of humans’ pursuit to happiness. And in any case you work through the cultural traditions you have inherited, leave some, develop some, making your worldview more consistent.
    And other people are mono-cultural by ancestry and don’t suffer from it. We have to accept all of them as they are.
    Sorting people into good “multi-cultural personalities” and bad “persons who want to be a whole” is as racist as possible.

    • echinococcus on August 30, 2016, 9:37 am


      “Warn” yourself only –against your own fellow tribal caveman Weasel-Tier. You brought him up on your own; no one around seems interested in the fine detail of your incestuous relations among defenders of tribal loyalty.

  18. Stogumber on August 31, 2016, 1:25 pm

    I thought that we were debating the article above, by Roland Nikles, who expressively relies on Wieseltier’s article “Against Identity” (1994) (or parts of it) in order to confute Leibovitz.

    • echinococcus on August 31, 2016, 7:56 pm

      Oh, he is “confuting” Leibovitz? By confirming his tribal worldview? With which you and Weasel-tier seem to agree?

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