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Dec 13, 2023Liked by John Ganz

Re: Surely, there’s an argument to be made that what the Israel Defense Forces is doing now is quite bad for the Jews: the way they are conducting the war is stirring up an enormous degree of rancor.

I live in Sunset Park Brooklyn where the giant menorah was recently stolen and vandalized from the park from which our neighborhood is named. My neighborhood is very vocally pro-Palestine. Many protests and signs and things of that nature. Which is totally fine (aside from stealing the menorah). We live in a pluralist society. I live among Zionists and anti-Zionists. Jews and gentiles. I happen to be Jewish but not particularly religious. So the most we ever do is light the candles for hannukah and little things like that. We don’t even go to temple for high holidays (not that they make it easy if you were on the fence on attending). But I got to tell you, when I put that menorah in the window, for like the first time ever, I felt a little unsafe as a Jew, as if I’d be inviting a rock to be thrown thru the window with my “careless gesture” or “symbolism”. And I very much blame Israel for this. I couldn’t design a mechanism to increase animus towards Jews more effectively than what Israel is doing right now. A PR campaign with the messaging “The Jews killed all these people so they can feel safe”. Those Abu Gharib esque photos of men being humiliated. People in my neighborhood see those same photos and are angry about them. Rightfully but will they think that I support that? That I agree with it? That it’s being done on my behalf?

Sorry for the tangent as your post is really more about the megan McCain and Ritchie Torres (as well as those who are similarly misguided on the left) of the world but your line I quoted above really rang true to me.

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Dec 13, 2023·edited Dec 14, 2023

Surely you know that long before Israel Jews have been blamed for the activity of their corelgionists. That’s kind of like, the whole thing of antisemitism. The blame has to lie with the people doing antisemitism rather than the “Jews doing the bad things.”The latter is really quite despicable. I’m quite sure you wouldn’t tell liberal Jews to stop advocating for racial justice and immigration rights because Nazis get mad about it.

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"Der Angriff had a medal struck to commemorate the voyage of a Nazi and a Jew to Palestine, a medal with the Swastika on one side and the Star of David on the other."

Well, that was my first jaw-drop of the day. Thanks for the exercise!

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Harlan Crow will be bidding his entire fortune on that little nugget of memorabilia.

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Visceral disgust

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"Visceral disgust".

Harsh but fair -- Harlan Crow has the same effect on me, too.

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In general people who are used to universalist ideologies really have trouble understanding nationalism, and a lot of Western societies pretty much only have universalist ones. Christianity and Islam are proselytising religions that are meant to embrace everyone, but also American founding ideology, international human rights doctrine, even various atheist moral theories such as utilitarianism all contain the assumption that whatever the right answer, the answer is the same for everyone. Nationalism just doesn't work that way.

I noticed this most with Western pundits talking about Russia. There was an assumption that people fought for Russia because it's better, and if only we could convince them America is better they'd switch sides. But logic doesn't work like that. For a nationalist, you're Russian whether you like it or not, but that's your side and that's who you fight for. As everyone should. Each people should be within its own nation, and if tolerated elsewhere, relegated to a subordinate status. There's an interesting phenomenon of people like Kim Philby or some of the RT journalists being surprised they don't get more respect in Russia. Of course you don't, you're traitors, you should be fighting for your side! An enemy who fights for his side is doing the right thing, even if he's fighting against you. In a universalist paradigm if two are fighting one must somehow be wrong.

Hence as you point out, for a nationalist Jews could never be moral people because they did not have a land to fight for, and Israel gives them the opportunity to do so. Here they're an insiduous foreign force, there they're the righteous defenders of their home and the Palestinians fulfil the other role, presumably all based on some underlying racial hierarchy. For someone like me who hates nationalism in all its forms and generally is inclined to universalist thinking, it's hard to wrap my head around.

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Dec 13, 2023·edited Dec 13, 2023

Very interesting, thank you. I never thought about it in these terms but the Israeli struggle really does seem to dramatize a rationale for severe nationalist attitudes.

I think in keeping with this, there is also a sense among American Christians that the holy land will be more accessible and secure for Christians if its managed by Jews rather than Muslims. Fig-leaved crusading.

Among the hard fundamentalist crowd, which is substantial, there is also end times prophecy, 2nd coming of Jesus, that many would like to fulfill and make come true. The Bible indicates that a final struggle will occur in Israel, the Jews would be victorious and all the world will learn about God from the Jewish people. Much of this crowd apparently sees Donald Trump as a means to usher the great conflict along, despite his obvious moral failings. ‘A blunt tool of God’ or whatever…and these amoral goons are more than happy to indulge that thinking with the right rhetoric and policy. It is often not so noticeable if you are not also tuned into it, but imo, is much of the reason of Trump’s strange appeal among Evangelicals

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Hey John, you don't get to the interesting question in my mind — how Israel as the guarantor of Jewish safety was uncontroversial in Biden's lifetime (in the days of "one is too many", survivors still living in DP camps and driven out of post-Holocaust Poland, the "smell of pogrom" in the air in Russia in the '50s and '70s, the flight of Mizrahi Jews), and is now mostly sentimental precisely because Israel has absorbed so many Jews unwanted elsewhere.

There's an argument to be made that Israel is now mostly the guarantor of Jewish safety for its Jewish inhabitants, although that's a fraught question and is subject to interpretation ... but the circumstances of the past still have psychological, if not practical weight, and should be acknowledged in this argument over Israel's existence that we still seem to be having in our political spaces.

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author

Well, sorry, but I've talked about that elsewhere

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Gotcha. Have a link?

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I've always subscribed to John's "cadet whiteness" explanation for right-wing support of Israel. But our press seems to reject it, preferring the Book of Revelation. They don't understand that right-wing American Christianity uses the Bible to retcon their beliefs, not to form them. It's mostly masculinism and racism with those guys: masculinism first.

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By coincidence I was listening to Shane Burley's interview on IGD's This is America pod (https://itsgoingdown.org/this-is-america-191/) like the day before Biden came out with this gem (about Israel being the guarantee of safety for Jews worldwide). Shane made pretty much the same point as you - that in the cold light of day, this is just counter-factual. As he said "I don't look and Israel and think 'now there's a tremendously safe group of Jews'" (or words to that effect). Worth a listen imho

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I think a version of von Mildenstein’s antisemitic Zionism is still alive and well. On the one hand, the romance of heroic Israeli nation building, the shared purpose, the internationalism, the foundation story based on common suffering, the righteous revenge. On the other hand, the Jew as the wily, untrustworthy and ruthless opportunist who shows no mercy - and the two perspectives hiccuplessly very often co-exist in the same people. In a strange way, it also enables celebrating the Jew as both the besieged and abandoned martyr standing tall on Masada and, at the same time, cheering on something like Custer as he swept down on the sleeping village at the Washita River.

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Provocative and interesting as always. You are right about liberal Zionists, who can (and do) "tolerate a certain degree of settler-colonialism." This tolerance is precisely the question, however, in both North America and Israel.

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I more or less agree with this post, but I always have a problem with the argument that "Israel is the most dangerous place for Jews". It's true, but only if you start counting from 1946. With the global rise of the far-right it could be (thankfully very unlikely but possible) that the post-Holocaust period of Jewish safety will be looked back on as short historical aberration.

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Interesting! I had several thoughts while reading it, I personally believe jew people to be special people because they’re connected to my favor prophet moses, Moses already had to leave Egypt and migrate to distant place.From birth, the prophet was followed by acts of God that led Moses to become the savior of the enslaved Hebrew nation. This time Jews went to Israel through white man idea, and they went to promised land, they act and behave as white man and won’t accept the rights of Palestinian population. But people like John can’t become victims of antisemitism because of this. Israel behavior became risk factor for all Jews. Let’s add to this story the chronic hate that Muslims have against jews people. I know something about it because I’m Muslim. Something has to change in this story, there’s urgent need of plan B because the hate against jews it’s increasing. I personally believe people of moses deserve peace in promised land. I pray for this.

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Dec 13, 2023·edited Dec 13, 2023

What the American idea and the Marxist idea have in common (in theory even where both may fail in practice) is a resolutely universalist humanism, and man do you get into trouble fast the second you leave a firm grounding in universalist humanism.

(There's certainly a universalist humanism strain in Christianity too, though I'm not really educated enough on other religious traditions to opine on whether it's unique to Christianity. Recognizing common humanity seems like the whole point of religion, but alas frequently goes astray.)

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I'd say the both Christianity and Islam have universalist aspirations, but that's about hoping to convert everybody, which is far from a humanist outlook. On a personal note, I encountered multiple examples of personal anti-semitism, all of it as it happens business-class anti-semitism from the early 'seventies through the mid-'eighties. A few dozen anecdotes does not a theory make, but behind the various remarks directed my way, there was likely a whole lot of stuff of the same kind I was not seeing.

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Don’t dress up Christianity - it was the one eschatological cult that happened to survive in a period where everyone was as nuts as they are today. Check out I, Claudius to put your views of something noble about organized Christianity in context.

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Curious for your take on the Bret Stephens' NYT piece defining anti-Semitism. While I disagreed with much of what he wrote (it was bad), it feels like he has his finger on the pulse of how our politicians and decisionmakers are thinking on the issue.

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Three things that still need addressing:

- that you and most of your readers are sufficiently devoted to “book learning” outside of scripture to be outside the scope of being described as religious in the way the average person would understand it. We’re walking away from Omelas...

- that so much of this topic has to do with not just relatively well-adjusted people of faith, but an extremist minority of end times prophecy (where’s Freud these days, anyway? #deathdrive #jung) that continues to move conservatism towards fascism via cumulative radicalization (h/t Paul Campos of Lawyers, Guns & Money for the term)

- that it’s complete bullshit to play the religion/ethnicity debate when it comes to Zionism when Jewish identity politics is still about forming an exclusive club at odds with the ideologies other commenters mention giving them warm and fuzzies about human rights. The reality of my experience as a Gentile is akin to watching a public spanking of a child by his parent while her grandparent watches approvingly. See https://jewishcurrents.org/progressive-zionists-choose-a-side

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