Brewer, thank you for posting Israel Shamir's eloquent reply to Wiesel.
Marc Ellis, I have great respect for you, but this isn't a cheer-leading commentary. It's more a "confessional-commandment" reflection on how I read and re-read your challenging essay above as a sort of "liturgy of commitment and inclusion on the personal and collective level."
There's so much you write that shows great sympathy for Palestinians, yet it seems your affection for an insider rabbinical-paternal role in writing tends at times to muddy the clarity of your political analysis. I appreciate the need a spiritual counselor has for indirection at times, but this literate temple here, mondoweiss.net, isn't literally just Weiss's world or a one-windowed room for intratribal philosophizing... Finkelstein's The Holocaust Industry made that clear long ago, as have many of the articles, op-eds and essays here, and even more importantly the diverse, at times brilliantly fiery comments (thanks in large part to facilitation and encouragement by Annie, a presence and voice sorely missed in recent weeks/months).
"I never pursued Elie Wiesel like some other Jews who felt that his memory of the Holocaust deflected, even buried, the complicity of Israel and the Jewish establishment in America in the injustice done to the Palestinian people." I thought, okay, how did YOU decide to "pursue" him? Did you consider, for instance, how much of what he claimed since "Night" as "memory" might be fiction?
Then you added: "Over the years, I studied and wrote about Wiesel in a respectful and critical way.....I will never forget a prominent liberal rabbi complaining that Wiesel was cashing in on the Holocaust. When he ended his stinging indictment – “There’s no business, like Shoah business” – he expected from me a sign of solidarity. I cringed and walked away."
"cringed and walked away" from what? I thought, there you go again, with that (play-it-safe-with-certain-audiences) rabbinical ambivalence. Which devil are you advocating for at this point?
When you touched the heart of your essay, "a reflection by Wiesel’s son, Elisha, in the Forward on the first Rosh Hashanah since his father’s passing last year," I relaxed, Okay, maybe now Marc is getting somewhere clear and straight.
But you spun about: "Again respect is due. Each one of us has a right to remember his or her father in the way we need to." "the way we need to"? We're not talking about private lives here, but about a very major public figure, my friend. What's the rabbi doing here? Weaving a web of comfort for some one he imagines needs comforting? Pontius Pilate, maybe (to mix religious metaphors)? I mean ELIE WIESEL, to borrow from Trump's lexicon, was HYUUGE!
"Elisha calls for the recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Nowhere are Palestinians mentioned. Or Israel’s settlement polices in Jerusalem and the West Bank. On Gaza, Elisha is silent." You are pushing him. This is good. "The call among some of Israel’s political and religious leaders to further diminish Palestinian life are likewise unmentioned. As is the need for Jews to listen to Jews of Conscience in solidarity with Palestinians."
"SOME" of Israel's political and religious leaders"???? I wonder why you didn't write more unequivocally, openly challenging the notion of a state having rights at all. (A state is a massive institutional abstraction dominated by the most domineering of human agents, what Jacques Ranciere has brilliantly clarified as the POLICE operatives of an aesthetic regime.) Or at a minimum you might have ventured declaring that no state "has a right to exist" as an ethno-exclusive regime, especially one that disenfranchises a fifth of its residents while parasitically colonizing its neighbors whenever the opportunity arises - largely thanks to that 69-year-old state's leaders running a regime with leaders (and Founders) who since Herzl's The Jewish State have been infiltrating every European state (including the Euro-colonial states of the Western hemisphere) with an agenda bent on using those states (they're mere gentiles after all, and former persecutors to boot) to finance, arm and even wage Israel's overt and covert wars on its neighbors to soften them up for future colonization.
"Respect is due" false memories? Like the 1996 Zionist blueprints Wiesel seemed to have no objection to for today's Western/Israeli-devastation of North Africa and the Middle East, i.e., the Project for a New American Century and A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm (drawn up, btw, on Clinton's watch)?
What's the meaning of "the need for Jews to listen to Jews of Conscience"? As if Jews who are NOT "in solidarity with Palestinians" are incapable of, or are entitled to exemption from, listening to non-Jews when it comes to the human rights of non-Jews? I know that's not what you meant, but it's hard at times to "read" you when it feels like you start to walk into a room but then back out of it before you've finished painting the picture you had in your head.
And you say: "Elisha moves on to more apolitical issues:," and quote his poetic notions of a father generous toward others -- hardly an "apolitical" set of images, given Wiesel was bereft of kindness to the people whose land he dishonestly, or delusionally, claimed for Jews.
Marc, you call "Elisha’s remembrance of his father tragic." It was certainly tragic his father took pride in ethnic cleansing of Palestine by European Jews who deceitfully call themselves "Israel" -- as if taking that name for their terror-manufactured state of '48 made them holier than any of the post-Enlightenment nation-states attempting to develop genuine social democracies in the modern era.
A double irony claiming "Israel" as a divine-secular political identity, when history shows the people called Israel in an ancient holy book comprised an ancient tribe of polygamist warlords and their slaves and subordinates -- not much more brutal and supremacist, in fact, than many Yankee/Southern Bible-thumping Christian elitists today who are all too happy to absolve nationalist Jews of accountability to the rest of the living human race if it will bring on "the Second Coming."
When Elisha earns characterization as "tragic" (as opposed to simply, or stubbornly, ill-informed) it will be when he stops worshipping an abstraction of a man whose example of manliness for his son involved letting his own humanity lie dormant within him because he preferred parroting Judaic scriptural phrases while lording it over an "other" tribe (of Palestinians, including Christians and Jews as well as Muslims and agnostics) whose homeland he and his supremacist ilk coveted and stole (and continue stealing) through killing, torture and lies, in blithe violation of key commandments of (supposedly) his scriptural God.
"Honor thy father and thy mother," btw, doesn't mean say nice things about them so people regard you as a good obedient son. Or maybe it does? Did? Long, long ago ........ only way for the prince to win the crown. But a crown to what kingdom?
At Harvard's Kennedy School of Government a few years ago Ilan Pappe and others spoke on Israel's colonial apartheid regime of domination in Palestine, but in the morning they always spoke of the Zionist invader colonialists as "settlers" and their illegal colonial instant-towns as "settlements." Just so, our author, like 99 percent of writers in solidarity with Palestinians, unconsciously cede the rhetorical turf of this "conflict" to the Zionists. For instance, in the second paragraph, our author tells us:
"We visited the homes of two Palestinian families whose houses abut the settlements and whose rooftops are hemmed in by grilles and barbed wire against the stones thrown by settlers and the likelihood that their homes will be invaded and stolen—as happened only this summer to one Palestinian family who had the misfortune to live in a house too close to the interface with settler fanatics."
Sure, probably everybody attending that event already knew these were "colonial settlers" and "colonialist fanatics" -- unless they didn't, which many Jews, Christians and others do not, having swallowed the lie that this is a religious conflict that has gone on since the beginning of time.
At Harvard I asked folks to consider the word "settle" and its pacific connotations, of which I am sure American and Zionist historiographers are well aware, which is why they use it to whitewash the nature of the vicious regime of colonial invasion and its pretenses of civility and a holy mission (in this regard, the Israeli Zionists are a sort of Mini-Me version of "the American experiment of Manifest Destiny". We allies of Palestinians, especially in the USA, are trying to reach more American voters, taxpayers, foreign-policy funders, so, strategically, we should make damned sure they know from the starting gate what sort of regime we are discussing.
So, just before lunch,
I asked the presenters at Harvard to please use the word "colonial" as adjective to clarify the type of "settlements" to which they referred in their presentations. Yes, we in the know and active for Palestinians KNOW this already, but if we wish to educate those who DON'T, we have to use the language that's real, that clarifies the nature of the Israeli imperial, colonial ethno-supremacist regime.
I was delighted that, after the lunch break, everybody did just that. The words "colonial" and "colonizers" were liberally peppered through later talks. I even started seeing more writings explicitly speaking of "colonial-settler" states, etc.
We have to control the language of this literal "civil war" which the Lawfare advocates of the Israeli Department of Hasbarah to date have proved more successful than we in their offensive strategizing. We have to make the public discourse reverberate with our language, not theirs.
echinococcus: "There’s no need to do as if a boycott limited to the post-1967 occupation area were the default!"
Well, apparently there is. Consider how many years already Phil Weiss et al have been battling to open the minds of fellow Jewish Americans alone! Not to mention the rest of us, many still swooning over Paul Newman's baby blues, and many others regurgitating misquotes of MLK on Israel as an anti-colonialist struggle.
What many tend to forget, in discussing the settler-colonialist regime of Euro-American Jewish Supremacy (thank you, btw, to Alison Weir, for her brilliant and pithy Against Our Better Judgment - she got beat up so bad because she's NOT Jewish and she exposed what so many of us missed about the depth of Zionist penetration in the politics and ethos of 20th-c America!), is the indisputable fact that the "state of Israel" wouldn't exist, literally, nor would it have evolved world-class universities much less achieved cutting-edge science-and-technology status, if not for the wealth-funneling, media-dominating, dual-citizen American, British and French white-identified Jews for whom Israel is a hothouse plant they cultivate as a sort of elitist home away from home.
Most Zionists (Jewish ethno-nationalists) prefer to live outside Israel and have cultivated an elaborate guilt/shame-denial mindset that enables them to croon operatic about Holocaust victims their Hero Ben-Gurion was happy to see fall into the flames of Hitler's slave camps rather than have all Europe's Jews escape persecution by emigrating to countries other than Palestine.
"Liberal Zionism" is an oxymoron, like "humanitarian slave-trader."
So, the battle we outside Palestine/Israel must engage is with the woodwork of our own local city halls and statehouses, already so infested with the intel-termites of Zionist rhetoric that our elected officials are blithely selling off their own as well as our First Amendment rights.
We need an offensive strategy, and must stop getting knocked back on our heels by AIPAC sucker punches like the anti-BDS bills sweeping across the country.
Otherwise, we might as well sew a giant blue six-pointed star across the stars and stripes and call it a day, relegating Palestinian political prisoners inside Israel's mini-Gulag to the disposability our white forebears, North and South, gladly devised to Ben Carson's "African immigrants" to these shores.
"calling into question Jewish religious tenets is reckless, immature and blatantly discriminatory"
- yes, that is exactly what Netanyahu is being portrayed (accurately!) as having done, and it is what the so-called Jews of the Knesset do every time they pass a law that legalizes their theft, kidnapping, torture and murder of Palestinian civilians.
The cartoon, far from "calling into question" the values of the Ten Commandments, calls into question the hypocrisy of colonial-ethnosupremacist state agents wrapping themselves in the purportedly "innocent" cloak of Judaism while perpetrating the crimes of thugs and tyrants.
It seems pretty obvious that the cartoon respects Judaism and chastises hypocritical politicians who disingenuously pose as agents of the Divine. It basically says, to officials of the so-called "Jewish state" who apparently can't read their own scriptures and understand their meaning, why don't you (Knesset and Netanyahu) practice the faith you claim to be members of, or else stop claiming to be Jews? I actually can't recall where it says in the scriptures that politicians can ever represent God.
The prophets in fact reminded "the children of God" (aka the people calling themselves, or referred to, in their inherited (or adopted) scriptures as "Israel") they are literally exiles, deservedly, and must be as long as they keep breaking their covenant to keep God's commandments. There's nowhere any biblical promise of a literal territorial kingdom like the racist European and American Zionists would have us believe. Even being welcomed back into God's Grace has nothing to do with ownership of land, and everything to do with how you treat your neighbor, especially those less fortunate..
The prophets certainly chastised politicians for such pretensions back in the day, if I recall..... But maybe I'm mistaken, blinded by a tangle of grey hair.
Yes, MRW, thank You.
And, silamcuz: Your saying, "I believe most of the older comments in MW contained highly problematic sentiments that are not in line with the true narrative of the conflict, and therefore presented themselves as a liability to the site owners and its patrons." implies that Phil and Adam intentionally decided to censor the many voices of readers whose presence in this virtual public square are indispensable to Phil and Adam's journalistic careers. It seems unlikely, to say the least. If anything, the content of the comments -- even the trolling snidenesses -- lend inestimable value and weight to this site.
Phil and Adam, please investigate this unfortunate (and hopefully temporary) kidnapping of the majority of mondoweiss's inhabitants. It's a skill which you have shown yourself capable of exercising astutely and swiftly when it matters to you how well-informed the people can and should be.
Well, the people need your prowess now more than ever in this matter of the Comments section (the bulk) of all your posts since you started this site.
I, for one, have returned again and again to mondoweiss.net -- and I told complete strangers to visit it for the first time -- much more because of the amazing diversity of voices and the humor, wit, and tenacity of educative pyrotechnics to be found in the Comments section than because of the specific content of the "articles", op-eds, or formal posts themselves.
Please, please, please, do due diligence.
If you do, you will be restoring mondoweiss.net to the greatness and credibility, dignity and honor as a Voice for the Voiceless that it achieved during the 2014 Israeli massacres in Gaza -- before the comments started getting censored or "disappeared."
Phil, Adam: Wake up.
Somebody with ill intent, somebody you overlooked, is likely behind this virtual walling off of critical historiography. Don't forget: The Zionists "never miss an opportunity to exploit an opportunity." They have had over a half-century head-start on the rest of us in their geostrategic offensive of conquering Palestine for Jews and only Jews.
(The Holocaust[..], which they diligently exploited during the entirety of Hitler's 12-year Reich, as Edwin Black, Tom Segev, Ilan Pappe, even Zionist historian Benny Morris and others have documented. Ben-Gurion, remember, preferred seeing half the Jews of Europe perish and the other half colonize Palestine than have all the Jews escape Nazi clutches by emigrating to countries other than Palestine....)
Please don't underestimate the profoundly liberatory powers of all that juicy information, and fast-talk/thinking-on-their-feet ideas and archival sources we all were able to tap into thanks to your visitors, that motley crew of various winter soldiers for truth and justice you welcomed hospitably into this widening political space.
It is a library waiting to be turned into at least one book, if not a series. It's your call, guys. Do the right thing. Thank You.
"Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians." -Nelson Mandela
Several companion pieces to read spring to mind. First perhaps, due to recency, is James Wood's fine review in The New Yorker, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/09/28/the-art-of-witness . Another very interesting book that leans heavily on Primo Levi's ethical sensibility and visionary witness is Professor of French and Comparative Literatures at SUNY, Stony Brook, Robert Harvey in his slim yet extremely dense book (www.continuumbooks.com), Witnessness: Beckett, Dante, Levi and the Foundations of Responsibility. And readers should know of Emmanuel Levinas' work, which feminists have aptly taken to task for its patriarchalist limitations, but which is well worth study. A fine intro is the anthology, Addressing Levins, edited by Eric Sean Nelson, Antje Kapust, and Kent Still.
Sadly Elie Wiesel's narrow ideological frame, pathetically impoverished in moral/ethical terms, reminds me of Ernest Becker's The Structure of Evil and The Denial of Death, in which we come to understand how most of what constitutes the mind of a mediocre character is what Freud called "trash." Something akin to what Jesus spoke of when cautioning his disciples about the difference between the letter of the Law and the spirit of the Law. If you (Jews and non-Jews interested in really living the Love Jesus spoke of incarnating in all our relations) haven't greater understanding of the Commandments than the scribes, who embraced the letter without the spirit, you risk the fires of Gehenna, that smoldering garbage pit on the southeast corner of Jerusalem... Ironically, Israel's leaders don't even remember the letter, much less care about any spirit of any law, except in its capacity to magnify their material power over "others".