Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Jewish People?

There's really no pleasing some people: "The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD) has asked for the immediate withdrawal of a book that schools use as an HSC text, which it says contains anti-Semitic slurs." (School textbook 'fuels anti-Semitism', Anna Patty, Sydney Morning Herald, 28/10/09)

The book, Cambridge Studies of Religion Stage 6, apparently contains the following 'offending' sentence: "Much modern conflict in the world is related to the reactions of other groups to the Jewish people." According to the JBOD, "this statement has the potential to incite racial hatred because it 'directly blames Jews for the existence of much of the conflict in the world'."

I would have thought that the JBOD Zionists would at least derive some satisfaction from the fact that the author has referred not to Jews, but to the Jewish people, a key tenet of political Zionism if ever there was one. Prior to the existence of political Zionism, things were relatively simple: a Jew was just that, a follower of Judaism, one of the three Abrahamic faiths. Zionism, however, has muddied the waters by inventing an ethnographic entity it calls the Jewish people.

My guess is that the textbook's author really means political Zionism, as in 'Much conflict in the world is related to the reactions of other groups to Zionism'. Even better (because more precise) would be: 'Much conflict in the Middle East today stems from the dispossession of the Palestinian people by a colonial-settler movement known as Zionism, which established a Jewish state in the land of Palestine predicated on their expulsion and occupation'. But then, given Zionism's habit of conflating Judaism, the faith, and Zionism, the political ideology (and therefore Jews and Zionists), one can perhaps understand the author's confusion. The point should also be made that by conflating Judaism and Zionism, Zionists expose Jews qua Jews, wherever they happen to be living and whatever their position on Israel, to unwarranted suspicion (and even possible attack) arising out of Israeli behaviour. [See my 17/5/09 post Sheridan in Love 4]

Given the constant reiteration by Zionists of the term the Jewish people (not to mention the Jewish state), and their constant blurring, in the minds of the general public, of the simple distinction between Jews and Judaism on the one hand and Zionists and Israel on the other, it often falls to those Jews who refuse to allow the state of Israel to speak and act in their name to assert this crucial distinction. One such was the great anti-Zionist Moshe Menuhin who unequivocally condemned the corrupting effect of political Zionism (or 'Jewish' nationalism as he calls it) on Judaism. The following passage is taken from the introduction to his 1965 classic, The Decadence of Judaism in Our Time:

"For two generations now, the din emitted by oppressed, frustrated and despondent Jewish leadership, which first emanated from the tortured ghettos of Czarist Russia, Poland and Hapsburg Vienna, has gathered momentum and spread epidemically throughout the pathetic, amorphous and unsophisticated Jewish world. It has declared that the Jews of the world, wherever they may be and no matter what their legal citizenship and nationality, form one transnational ethnic and political entity. With the advent of the state of Israel, this 'entity' has graduated into an 'internationally recognized Jewish nation', whose sovereign state and homeland is Israel. All this in spite of a two-thousand-year-old history of Judaism testifying to its overwhelming evolutionary development along spiritual, universal and nonpolitical lines; in spite of the radical and vital changes in the soul of civilised man everywhere after two world wars; in spite of the new advanced conception of free individual citizenship, of equal privilieges and obligations in a new fully integrated and harmonious civilised human community. To stultify, brainwash and inoculate the amorphous body of world Jewry with the virus of secular, rampant 'Jewish' political nationalism, Jewish education for Aliyah ('ingathering of the exiles' through immigration into Israel) under the pretense of spiritual and religious immunity or liberty has been instituted everywhere. This, in turn, has been undoing the normal and natural processes of the integration and evolution of the Jew into the new order of universalism and brotherhood. Cultural isolation, hiding behind the much abused expression 'cultural pluralism', has been self-segregating the Jew from the Gentile in America, England, France and elsewhere in the free world, to prepare him for Aliyah. 'Let the Book give place to the Sword, and the Prophet to the fair beast!" is how the great Hebrew writer and philosopher Ahad Ha-'Am... characterised 'Jewish' political nationalism (political Zionism) from the very beginning, when he attacked Dr. Theodor Herzl, the father and founder of political Zionism. Today, in our new one-world, pretexts for action based on Blood, Soil, Manifest Destiny, Redemption, Gloire and Grandeur, the Chosen People and the White Man's Burden are well recognized and fully rejected, with a sense of shame and compunction, by intelligent and awakened Europeans. Nevertheless, persistent, stagnant, decadent and anachronistic 'Jewish' nationalism still preaches, now more than ever, these time-worn and degenerate ideas of 'collective Sacro Egoismo', as Professor Martin Buber calls them. In its own way, it has already brought much misery to a million uprooted innocent Palestinian Arabs who were exiled from their homes and homeland, and to hundreds of thousands of uprooted Jews, particularly in the Arab lands. Advancing, evolving, universal and spiritual Judaism, which was the core of the Judeo-Christian code of ethics, is now becoming the tool, the handmaiden, of 'Jewish' nationalism, so that the ethical injunctions Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not covet have been transformed into the unethical, primitive and tribalistic 'Covenant of the Chosen People' and 'Israel First'. So much so, that Israelis regard themselves today as Israelis only, an elite, and not, God forbid, as Jews, who in their eyes are a lower breed of humans, traitors to the sacred cause of 'Jewish' nationalism unless they emigrate to the 'sacred-secular Jewish Homeland'." (pp xii-xiii)

Now wouldn't that give the JBOD something to chew on?

No comments: