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September 20, 2005



That's interesting.

I've seen that a few times having very heated arguments with people of Jewish ancestry in NY about Israel. It's always been incredible to me how many of them don't support Israel wholeheartedly...

But now I often see this in other cases as well with people hating their own background, family, ancestors, etc., maybe it's a phrase everyone goes through and some never grow out of...

I'm glad you did...


It's always been incredible to me how many of them don't support Israel wholeheartedly...

Excuse me? Incredible why? If I read him correctly, Hugo's confusion of the Israeli government with Jews in general (in Israel or anywhere else) is one of the shameful things he's gotten over in the course of growing up. Why should it surprise you that other people avoid embracing that confusion in the first place? American Jews are entitled to support Israel's policies as whole- or half-heartedly as they damn well please - as are Israelis. A sensible recognition of this fact is as far from self-hatred as it is possible to get.


Agreed, sophonisba. Israel is, for almost everyone of Jewish ancestry or identity, a subject of concern. But it is dangerous to suggest that one's religious faith or one's ethnic heritage ought to be a predictor of one's political beliefs. I have Jewish friends who support Israeli policy without conditions; others are highly critical of a nation they believe has betrayed its democratic and egalitarian roots. It is unacceptable to suggest that one's political beliefs stem solely, or even largely, from one's background.

It is unacceptable to suggest that one's political beliefs stem solely, or even largely, from one's background.

Yup. This non-Jew supports Israel 1000%.


Well said, XRLQ.


There is a difference between not wholeheartedely supporting Israel and being a anti-semite. My beloved former fiance, who is Jewish, intensely dislikes Zionism and is deeply troubled by some of the actions taken by the Israeli government. That doesn't make him a self-hating Jew. One can love and support one's one people while still criticising them when they behave badly (in my own case I do this with the Scots all the time, particularly in regards to our national problem with alcohol). In fact, if one truly loves either a person or a country one has a moral responsibility to hold that person or country accountable for their actions.
Israel vs Palestine is a complicated issue, and it's not as simple as just "supporting" one side or the other. In this case, as in many tribal conflicts, both sides have blood on their hands.

Al Barger

Perhaps a bit of comedy might lighten the mood. "Cuckoldable Jews"

If anything, I might be accused of being a bit philosemitic. So, you could perhaps consider this bit to be something of a love letter to Ariel Sharon.

Jonathan Dresner

I'm not sure I could have told you who Simon Wiesenthal was before I began teaching Western Civ and copied the book orders of my senior colleague: Sunflower is a challenging work, to say the least, on the subject of forgiveness... my only regret is that I don't have any more opportunities to assign it, really.

Here, one last time in honor of Wiesenthal: if you're reading this, and you haven't read it, do so. There will be no quiz, only a reckoning in your soul.




This non-Jew supports Israel 1000%.

Um. Even Israelis usually top out around 100%. Every nation has flaws.

It occurs to me that there might be some confusion between 'supporting Israel's right to exist' and 'supporting all of Israel's govermental action,' maybe? I never bother to assert the former because I take it as a given that everyone except anti-Semites agrees that Israel has as much right to exist as any other nation. It's worrisome to think that anyone might take non-support of Israel to mean opposition to its statehood. But maybe nobody does take it that way? I really have no idea, but I figure it's better to look stupid than to be misinterpreted.


because I take it as a given that everyone except anti-Semites agrees that Israel has as much right to exist as any other nation.

I'm Jewish, and I'm not sure that I do. Or at least, I don't know that I think Israel has a right to exist in its current form. I just have real problems with ethnic nationalism. I don't think that nations should exist to be the homelands of particular ethnic groups, and I don't think that citizenship laws should favor people based on blood. It bothers me to no end that anti-Zionists sometimes act as if Israel made up this unfortunate form of nationalism just to be evil or colonialist or perverse: it was clearly a reaction to ethnic nationalist movements that excluded Jews from European nations. If Jews were going to be declared permanent foreigners every place they lived, one solution was to create a nation where they would belong. But even though I think this is pretty understandable, I'm not very happy that the "Jewish state" is the current standard-bearer for a bunch of 19th century ideas that were ultimately destructive and particularly lethal for Jews.

I know that's easy for me to say, since I've had American citizenship from birth. I might feel differently if I lived in a place where anti-semitism was more of a day-to-day problem. And I'm trying to be a little less self-righteous about Israel, since we're talking about my theories and other people's lives.

Other than that, Hugo, I'm not sure what to say to your post. I guess I'm a little curious about what you think is behind your penchant for revealing personal details that portray you in the worst possible light. And how, exactly, do you expect Jewish readers to react to the fact that you hated us when you were 15?


Somehow, my radical left-wing politics did not exclude a most unattractive sympathy for certain aging veterans of the Third Reich.

The human heart, in its natural and pure state, is large and strong enough to hold boundless compassion for both victims and survivors of the Holocaust, on the one hand, and "certain aging veterans of the Third Reich," on the other.

If "compassion" for some of the most hated human beings ever to walk the face of the earth--people like Adolf Eichmann (whose kidnapping was doubtless illegal and state-sponsored thuggery)--is mere ideology, left-wing or otherwise, then it's not worth much and is probably harmful because of the divisions it causes.

Alternatively, compassion for such people can be genuine. It arises in the heart from the simple act of observing another person's suffering clearly. Compassion is a quite normal response to suffering. Often, we don't experience compassion for someone like Herr Eichmann because we classify them as the "other," wholly distinct from ourselves. We hold ourselves up as some sort of paragons of virtue and declare, ever so self-righteously, "I, myself, would never, ever do anything like he did."

Yet, the truth of the matter is not quite so simple. If we had been born into Eichmann's family, at the same time he was, and subjected to exactly the same influences and experiences as he was, do you really, honestly think we would somehow have acted differently?

I realize it's outrageous to ask such a question, but that's precisely the point. I ask this to help us all wake up--and stay awake--from our often dreamy, sleepy way of viewing the world. "There, but for the grace of God, go I" may be a cliche, but it sums up nicely how I view the matter.

There's no need to take my word for any of this, though. You can certainly verify it in your own experience, and I invite you to do that. Pay careful attention to how it feels when you experience compassion for some people who are in pain, but not for others. Notice how that discriminatory mindset touches you, makes you feel. Observe which feels more harmonious: experiencing compassion for all people who suffer or experiencing compassion for just the "right" people, and withholding it from others.

Jesus taught about this in the Sermon on the Mount. He said:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Matthew 5:43-48 (KJV)

Compassion is different from forgiveness. I would say that it is none of my business to forgive an individual who has not directly hurt or offended me, but has done so to others.

Also, one can support Israel and still consider that many of its policies are counterproductive, unjust, and just plain stupid. After all, I am American, I support America, but also loudly proclaim that many of its policies are counterproductive, unjust, and just plain stupid. Now maybe the right-wing demagogues on radio and FOX TV might call me unAmerican, but - tough shit! - that doesn't alter the fact that I think that a concerned critic can be MORE PATRIOTIC than some O'Reilly/Limbaugh/Tom DeLay type blowhard.


But, but, but -- there were and are reasons for being critical of Wiesenthal and his crusade that have nothing to do with anti-Semitism. By focusing so much attention on the hunt for a handful of elderly Nazis, Wiesenthal helped perpetuate the notion that the Nazi disaster had its origins in the extreme evil of a few individuals. It is obviously more comforting to blame the Holocaust on a small clutch of bad apples than to ask how it was that a mass population was brought to collude in the genocide. It's more comforting to think in terms of individual responsibility than of underlying cultural and economic forces. But the fact is, demonizing a Mengele or an Eichmann doesn't get us any closer to understanding what happened at Auschwitz than demonizing Lynndie England gets us to understanding Abu Ghraib.

Jonathan Dresner

Demonizing doesn't bring us closer to understanding. But justice brings us closer to... well, justice.

Wiesenthal wasn't, mostly, going after "celebrity" Nazis, but the soldiers and guards and officers -- good Germans, all -- whose atrocities are the ones which challenge our understanding of human nature, society and just order.


"It's worrisome to think that anyone might take non-support of Israel to mean opposition to its statehood."

NYMOM said: Israel is a small state surrounded by far larger enemies...It's survival, thus far, is nothing short of a miracle which we cannot assume will continue forever, so of course not supporting Israel could ultimately mean an end to it's existence...

That should be obvious when you see the lengths its enemies are willing to go...

Iran alone could one day finish them off with a few well-aimed nuclear/biological missiles...

They were LUCKY actually that during the first Gulf War IRAQ actually HAD no nuclear or biological weapons as they were lobbing scud missiles on over on Israel like there was no tomorrow...A small country like Israel could be destroy quite easily and fairly quickly in this manner...it wouldn't even take a full-scale invasion.


I'd see, hypothetically, your leftist phase as a case of identification with the agressor. As Kunhelt-Leddin (?sp) points out in "Leftism: from Marx.. to Marcuse," the basic posture of leftism might be described as 'identitatarian.' Everyone, as it turns out except those in the 'vanguard,' has to be the same, e.g. trivially wear Mao suits. For Hitler, Aryan anti-Semite. Hitler was thus the heir to the French revolution. Everything was permitted, and the royalists were to be killed. In looking at your ancestors, you, rather than have their fate, wanted to survive. You avoided fear and psychological paralysis by identifying with the aggressor, and you intuited that this was to be a leftist (as Hitler) without formal confirmation that that would be the correct identification for this purpose.

When you saw Simon Wisenthal and his calm in the face of implied threat and the respect of high Germans, you realized that this identification was unnecssary for your survival and dropped it. I suppose you would have looked for aged German veterans for the double motive of seeing that you were accepted as one of them and seeing them, similarly to your psychological state, as potential victims.

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