How Does This Affect the Jews?

UPDATE: October 12, 5:00 pm. It has been pointed out to me that my statement that support for Israel has been a constant of post WWII American foreign policy is not correct. President Truman recognized Israel upon its formation, but relations between Israel and the US were distinctly chilly through most of the fifties and early sixties. This only changed in the late sixties, as a response to the warm relations between Syria, Egypt and the Soviet Union. The strong support of the US for Israel has far more to do with American interests in the region than it does with the influence of the Israel lobby.

Well, it seems Richard Dawkins managed to say something really stupid:

In an interview with the Guardian, he said: “When you think about how fantastically successful the Jewish lobby has been, though, in fact, they are less numerous I am told – religious Jews anyway – than atheists and [yet they] more or less monopolise American foreign policy as far as many people can see. So if atheists could achieve a small fraction of that influence, the world would be a better place.”

Oh, Richard. Why, why, why did you have to go and say that?


I’m afraid this analogy is stupid on so many levels. The locution “Jewish lobby” (as opposed to “Israel lobby”) is a favorite of anti-semites, of course. This point was made at length by both Orac and John Wilkins, so I won’t belabor it here. As it happens, for reasons I’ll describe later in this post, this particular conflation doesn’t bother me so much, despite its use by various latter-day Nazis.

But I’m afraid Dawkins’ quote is the gift that keeps on giving. I was not aware that anyone was claiming Jews have monopolized American foreign policy generally. I thought the claim was simply that Jews have undue influence over our policy towards the Middle East, and towards Israel in particular.

Dawkins wonders how this lobby has managed to attain so much power. Well, there is the fact that most American politicians since 1948 have not really needed much persuading to be supportive of Israel. After all, it is one tiny island of democracy and freedom in an ocean of failed, corrupt, despotic states. What red-blooded American wouldn’t want to support them? Then there is the fact that Israel receives a lot of support from Christian groups, and not just from Jews, and that it has a clearly defined issue on which to focus, as opposed to atheists, who do not.

There is a lot more to criticize, but other people enjoy bashing Dawkins more than I do, so I will leave them to have at it. Mainly, I wanted to comment on a point made by Wilkins. He writes:

I seem to have a number of Jewish friends, but I am rarely aware of it. I wish I could claim some moral high ground here, but I am usually unaware of the personal and ethnic properties of all my friends: gays, bigots, etc., until they say something. And those who are Jewish who I know are equally blind to my Anglo-Irish heritage. I suppose they, too, sometimes wake up with the realisation that “Hey. One of my best friends is a WASP”, but then again they may not.

John, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but your Jewish friends are keenly aware of your Anglo-Irish heritage. Well, they are aware that you are not Jewish anyway, and they were aware of it within a few minutes of meeting you. You see, it is part of our training as little kid Jews to develop a finely-honed Jewdar that alerts us to the presence of any chosen people within a one mile radius. When a Jew walks into the room, I am instantly aware that our local numbers have grown, and I seek immediately for ways of using this fact to the advantage of the Jewish community generally.

Many years ago I saw Mel Brooks being interviewed on Bob Costas’ late night chat show. This was one of the rare shows where guests were actually allowed to speak at length without getting cut off. Brooks was telling the story of making Blazing Saddles. He and everyone else involved with the film thought they had made a very funny movie. But they also knew that some would find it offensive, and in particular the studio brass was likely to object to more than a few scenes. A special screening was arranged for prominent people at the studio. Brooks told the story roughly as follows,“So there we were, thirty studio bigshots and one Jew. For thirty minutes there was stony silence. Not a single laugh. Not even a smile. Just a lot of uncomfortable squirming. I was panic-stricken. I’ve never been that wrong about a question of comedy before. Then a friend of mine walked in. Ah, now there were two Jews. I started to feel better.”

Of course, much of Brooks’ career was (and continues to be) based on Jewish humor, which might explain why he told the story in that way. But I suspect that every Jew watching knew what he was talking about. It comes naturally when you find yourself in a cultural minority virtually everywhere you go. As one of my Hebrew school teachers so frequently reminded us, “They really are different, you know.” Do I need to spell out who “they”are?

Even as a kid I was aware of this. My circle of acquaintances was neatly divided into my Jewish friends and my non-Jewish friends. Not because there was any important difference between the two, of course. But simply because I had certain shared experiences with my Jewish friends (going to Hebrew school, celebrating Jewish holidays, putting up with well-meaning goyim who just couldn’t comprehend not celebrating Christmas) that I did not have with my non-Jewish friends. I still get a chuckle when I think of how my friends responded to my Bar Mitzvah. The Saturday morning service was a miserable, three-hour affair that went from 9:00 to noon. Most of my part of the service took place from 10:00-11:00. I patiently explained to my non-Jewish friends that it was perfectly appropriate to walk in just before 10:00, that plenty of people would be doing that, that no one would look at them funny, that it was not even slightly awkward to do so, and that they would be bored out of their minds if they had to sit through the entire service. My Jewish friends, of course, did not need to be told this.

So what happened? On the big day I showed up at the synagogue around 8:30. A good chunk of my non-Jewish friends were already hanging around, worried about being late. They had not taken me seriously when I said it was fine to walk in after the service started. (You should have seen their reaction when I tried to explain about the part of the service where they were to throw candy at me. At that point they were certain I had lost my mind). My Jewish friends walked in, en masse, at 9:59.

Make casual references to Jewish standard time, the characteristics of Jewish mothers, or to the question asked in the title of this post, and I suspect most gentiles will see grotesque, anti-Semitic stereotypes. (And when a non-Jew uses those expressions that’s exactly what they are). Most Jews, by contrast, will think of their grandparents. Not long ago I saw a production of Fiddler on the Roof. My favorite moment occurred when Tevye asks Golde if she loves him. Her answer gets to me every time:

(Tevye)
But my father and my mother
Said we’d learn to love each other
And now I’m asking, Golde
Do you love me?

(Golde)
I’m your wife

(Tevye)
I know…
But do you love me?

(Golde)
Do I love him?
For twenty-five years I’ve lived with him
Fought with him, starved with him
Twenty-five years my bed is his
If that’s not love, what is?

(Tevye)
Then you love me?

(Golde)
I suppose I do

(Tevye)
And I suppose I love you too

(Both)
It doesn’t change a thing
But even so
After twenty-five years
It’s nice to know

It is hard for me to imagine my grandfather asking such a question, but if he ever did that’s exactly how my grandmother would have answered. In virtually every scene I was seeing familiar faces and attitudes. Not because I actually know any nineteenth-century Russian Jews, of course. But because Jews are Jews, and we recognize each other.

When you get right down to it, I love being Jewish. I love the fact that for all my mordant atheism I am not even one wit less Jewish than the most orthodox rabbi. There are no good Jews or bad Jews or lapsed Jews or anything Jews. There are just Jews, and that is all. I love the fact that a rabbi derives his authority not from any perceived personal relationship with God (an idea that Jews the world over regard as absurd, obscene and arrogant) but rather from his education and his years of study of all things Jewish. You respect a rabbi on Jewish questions for the same reason you trust a scientist to talk about science; they know more about it then you do. And if for all that you find yourself disagreeing with the rabbi, it is perfectly acceptable to say so. Preferably with vehemence. I love the fact that Jews not only do not prostletyze, but we positively discourage conversion. Not because we’re overly concerned with whether the person really means it, as is sometimes implied, or because we fear they might be converting just to please the in-laws. But because there is an implied world-weary question at the base of every Jew’s existence that goes something like, “What do you want to be Jewish for?”

I love the part of the Passover seder where we express dismay that our freedom from bondage came at the cost of so many Egyptian lives by dipping our fingers into our wine glasses and lessening our pleasure by leaving ten drops of wine on the plate (one for each of the plagues). This process is followed by the equally satisfying ritual of licking the excess wine off our fingers with a loud smack of the lips, as if to make clear that, let’s face it, we’re not really sorry that those farkatke Egyptian taskmasters got what was coming to them. (Those ten drops of wine, incidentally, often get soaked up by some later food item and consumed. Symbolism is good, but tasty wine is better.)

I love the fact that we celebrate our winter holiday not by raping the local forest and decorating a giant weed (a bit of insanity only to be expected of a religion that gets suckered in by every phony-baloney so-called “testament” that comes down the pike), but by lighting a few candles, reciting two quick blessings (remembering to add the sheheheyanu on the first day), and eating chocolate coins. Far more civilized.

I love knowing that the proper condiment for a sandwich is not mayonnaise, a vile concoction whose sole legitimate purpose is providing the mortar for holding together a tuna salad sandwich, but mustard. And not just any mustard. Not that neon yellow glow-in-the-dark soulless French’s crap or that vinegar with yellow food coloring put out by Heinz. I’m talking about a proper deli mustard. The kind with brown specks that comes in a small metal container whose lid flips up with gentle pressure from your thumb and has a small groove in it so that it rests flat even when there is a serving spoon stuck in the mustard. The kind that has a dish of sour pickles, pickled tomatoes, and cherry peppers next to it, so that the smell of salt, vinegar and spices mixes seductively with the big pile of fatty meat on the plate in front of you, and that also has a few half-sour pickles that you must never eat, unless you want everyone around you to know that you are a weak-willed gentile pussy. And I love the fact that every Jew reading this knows the emotions I am describing right now, while most of you non-Jews think that I’m off my meds.

(Actually, that reminds me of a story. A Christian friend of mine in graduate school used to keep the raw materials for making sandwiches in the refrigerator in the student lounge. One day I noticed that he was putting mustard on his sandwich and I commended him for his choice. “I didn’t think Christians did that,” I said. He smiled and replied, “Well, you guys aren’t wrong about everything.”)

It’s not all good news, of course. Did God really make a covenant with us whereby we agreed to live by certain implausible laws in return for being given the land of Israel? Of course not. That idea is silly. But for all of the dubious claims of the Torah, the fact remains that Judaism is almost exclusively focused on this world and not the next. We don’t talk much about souls, or the afterlife, or our personal walk with God. Instead we talk about following the law, being part of the community, and getting non-Jews to leave us alone. I like that.

Which brings me back to Israel. Intellectually I understand that being Jewish is not synonymous with support for Israel, that a person’s religion or heritage should not be used to prejudge their political views and all of that. I understand that the term “Jewish lobby” is used by bigots and holocaust deniers to make people fearful of Jews. I get it. I really do.

But emotionally I think that Jewish and pro-Israeli really ought to be synonymous. The unquestioned support for Israel has been a constant of post WWII American foreign policy, and that is precisely as it should be. As far as I am concerned we can empty the treasury and air drop blocks of cash all over Israel. Not because we should blindly support every action taken by the Israeli government. They have done any number of bone-headed things over the years, especially under Likud governments. It could hardly be otherwise in any government that must constantly kow-tow to religious extremists, which Judaism has just as surely as every other religion.

No, support for Israel simply recognizes that they deserve a lot of slack in light of their relatively muted reaction to unbelievable provocation over the years. It recognizes that they alone in the region built up a thriving democracy and a flourishing country, from nothing, in the space of a few decades, surrounded by enemies who have not shown the slightest interest in living in peace with them, and who routinely express their desire to push them into the sea. Sorry, but I find it difficult to see the other side when suicide bombers are blowing up civilians in pizza parlors.

So let the bigots conflate Jewish with pro-Israel. Let them be fearful of Jewish power and let them worry about what we’re capable of when we are sufficiently provoked. That’s just as it should be.

Comments

  1. #1 SLC
    October 11, 2007

    Is Prof. Rosenhouse going to comment on the latest nuttiness from Ms. (Mr.) Ann Coulter?

    http://scienceblogs.com/mikethemadbiologist/2007/10/ann_coulter_calls_for_the_spir.php#more

  2. #2 Sven DiMilo
    October 11, 2007

    Thanks, I really enjoyed reading this.
    Just a few tangential reactions:
    1) You don’t have to be Jewish to know good mustard. Or good deli in general.
    2) About that tune from Fiddler: I strongly recommend tracking down Cannonball Adderly’s version.
    3) “Relatively muted” is in the eye of the beholder.

  3. #3 Mason
    October 11, 2007

    0k, Jason you have gone off of your meds. You went from Richard Dawkins (who I think has been misunderstood on this one) to Mel Brooks to Fiddler on the Roof to various wanderings about what it means to be Jewish. I see no coherent thread. For what it’s worth, I live in Oklahoma which has more than it’s share of anti-semites, anti-black, anti-gay, and anti-everydamnthings. I suffer these fools constantly. Please believe that I am not an anti-semite trying to down you, in fact I like your blog very much.

  4. #4 John Farrell
    October 11, 2007

    No, support for Israel simply recognizes that they deserve a lot of slack in light of their relatively muted reaction to unbelievable provocation over the years. It recognizes that they alone in the region built up a thriving democracy and a flourishing country, from nothing, in the space of a few decades, surrounded by enemies who have not shown the slightest interest in living in peace with them, and who routinely express their desire to push them into the sea. Sorry, but I find it difficult to see the other side when suicide bombers are blowing up civilians in pizza parlors.

    Beautifully written.

    On Jewish humor:

    When I was in College, one of the jokes my Jewish friends loved to tell was the old chestnut about what’s the difference between an Italian grandmother and a Jewish grandmother. The Italian ones says “If you don’t eat that I’ll kill you,” while the Jewish one says “If you don’t eat that I’ll kill myself.”

    Being Irish with parents who went through the Depression, it used to crack me up, because the obvious response to that was, yeah, and an Irish grandmother would just say, “If you’re don’t eat that, I will. Melodrama be damned.”
    :)

  5. #5 John Farrell
    October 11, 2007

    P.S., I can’t resist this one. Why do the Irish and the Jews tend to die of heart attacks? The Irish because they drink too much; the Jews because they don’t drink enough.
    ;)

    (okay, I’ll stop now…)

  6. #6 Joshua Zelinsky
    October 11, 2007

    “When a Jew walks into the room, I am instantly aware that our local numbers have grown, and I seek immediately for ways of using this fact to the advantage of the Jewish community generally.” – I would hope that this is a joke, but I’m not sure it is. This displays a worrying if understandable degree of ethnocentrism(not sure that’s the right word given the whole question of Who is a Jew). Furthermore, I know a number of people who are Jewish who would certainly not trigger this response in you when they walked in the room (google for “Beta Israel” or “Falasha”).

    Also, as to the comment that you divided your friends into Jewish and non-Jewish, I don’t think I did that, although I suspect some people do. I think one reason I didn’t emphasize that in the same way you did is that I had a substantial number of Jewish friends who didn’t have the cultural knowledge that you and I take for granted.

    Finally, a ritualistic point: Some halachic authorities frown on licking the finger used to remove the wine on Pesach, and mopping up the wine with other food is similarly frowned upon since we really do want to take the Egyptian suffering seriously.

    I have to say it isn’t clear to me what this essay has to do with Dawkins point by and large although it is an interesting essya.

  7. #7 Jeff
    October 11, 2007

    John –

    You obviously have not been to an Orthodox Passover Seder.

  8. #8 Blake Stacey
    October 11, 2007

    I love knowing that the proper condiment for a sandwich is not mayonnaise, a vile concoction whose sole legitimate purpose is providing the mortar for holding together in a tuna salad sandwich, but mustard.

    I won’t even give mayonnaise that much credit. It’s vile enough to cancel out the goodness of tuna.

  9. #9 Blake Stacey
    October 11, 2007

    I would much rather agree with people about sandwich condiments than argue about Zionism. Intermediate between those two is the debate which prompted this post. In the hope that we don’t have to retread the same territory all over again, I’ll propose an exercise. Rewrite the following passage so that it no longer exhibits a foot-in-mouth character:

    To be effective, all we have to be is recognizable to legislators as a big enough minority. Atheists are more numerous than religious Jews, yet they wield a tiny fraction of the political power, apparently because they have never got their act together in the way the Jewish lobby so brilliantly has: the famous ‘herding cats’ problem again.

    When we’re agreed on that, let’s drop Prof. Dawkins a quick note saying that he could have expressed himself better. Who knows? He might even be able to learn from constructive criticism.

  10. #10 Tyler DiPietro
    October 11, 2007

    That was really long-winded, and I don’t understand it. Is it like code informing your Jewish peers that you guys are gonna orchestrate another 9/11 or something?

  11. #11 Adam
    October 11, 2007

    I was in a board meeting and an orthodox Jew from New York said, “I don’t like to argue, but–” I interrupted, “–What do you mean you don’t like arguing? You’re a New York City Jew, aren’t you?” He said, “What’s it to ya!”

    A generally serious individual, he then continued with a non sequitur joke: There were two Jewish kids walking down the street when they noticed two black kids walking behind them. The first Jewish kid whispered to the second, “We better run! There are two of them, and we have only us!”

  12. #12 Robert O'Brien
    October 11, 2007

    The pro-Israel lobby influences our foreign policy more than I like. I think we should support Israel in general because it is the only pro-Western democracy in the region, but we should not support the Israeli government in its errors and when it comes to military conflict, Israel can take care of itself just fine.

  13. #13 J. G. "Li'l Tiger" Fellow
    October 11, 2007

    I do influence foreign policy, but I like to restrict my efforts to getting CAFTA passed.

  14. #14 Divalent
    October 11, 2007

    “support for Israel simply recognizes that they deserve a lot of slack in light of their relatively muted reaction to unbelievable provocation over the years.”

    While I understand the group pride angle of your post, I would suggest that Israel’s reactions are calculated to be what is in their best interest at the time (taking into account everything, including US political and economic support). The old testament is full of the chosen people acting in all ways, including quite savagely brutal. That ability is a part of human nature, and has been practiced by *ALL* peoples for millions of years.

    The seeming forbearance of the Israelis is not evidence that they, or anyone else, has escape that part of our nature. There are better reasons to support Israel, ones that are not based (as this one is) on wishful thinking.

  15. #15 John Farrell
    October 11, 2007

    Jeff,
    John –
    You obviously have not been to an Orthodox Passover Seder.

    True. The one I did attend in college at Winthrop House was not Orthodox.

    (dammit)

  16. #16 coturnix
    October 11, 2007
  17. #17 Jason Rosenhouse
    October 11, 2007

    Jeff and John-

    Now, now. Everyone knows that in a proper seder you say the kiddush four times, and that’s usually Manischevitz wine, which is on the order of 12 proof.

    Drink more than that, and you end up like Elimelech. And, yes, I know that song is about Purim, not Passover, but the lesson stands:

    When the drum starts “tweedle-tweeting,” and the fiddle, it is beating,
    The piper gaily fiddles “fiddle-dee.”
    And your head it starts a-whirling, like a grogger that is twirling,
    Then they’re playing Elimelech’s melody.

    Oh, it happened in Gilhofen, just from drinking thrice too often,
    And there’s only one thing more that must be said:
    At your Purim celebration use a little moderation,
    Or you’ll wind up with a grogger for a head!

  18. #18 Kevin
    October 11, 2007

    so then you take the cheese and you put mayonaise on it.

    then you say a prayer of thanks to god.

    then you open up the window and throw it out..

    no but seriously. mayonaise is fine for some applications.

    ham and swiss on rye with dijon mustard and mayo. a BLT with mayo on the side.

  19. #19 Mike the Mad Biologist
    October 11, 2007

    Jason,

    that was brilliant! I’m still laughing. And you’re absolutely right about the mayo.

  20. #20 John S. Wilkins
    October 12, 2007

    Okay, so my Jewish friends have registered that I am not Jewish. None of them have ever thought to mention that fact. Some of them have commented on my lack of dress style, though.

    One did invite me to Temple, though, when I was in New York. I passed, largely because any religious ceremonies, no matter how perfunctory, make me uncomfortable. I should have gone, just to experience it.

  21. #21 D
    October 12, 2007

    “they alone in the region built up a thriving democracy and a flourishing country, from nothing, in the space of a few decades”

    Would you care to rephrase? That there wasn’t nothing there when Israel was formed is kind of the sticking point for many, self included.

  22. #22 csrster
    October 12, 2007

    All this talk of Jewish mothers and Irish mothers brings to mind my auntie Ray, who is both. I recall one occasion when she introduced a sentence with the words “I’m not one to interfere, but …”. I don’t think she ever got any further as the entire company, including herself collapsed in fits of laughter. That tells you something about us. That this happened at my father’s shiva tells you more.

  23. #23 Richard Wein
    October 12, 2007

    For what it’s worth, Jason, I don’t recognise much of your experience of feeling Jewish, probably because I’ve never been really immersed in Jewish culture. I did have a Bar Mitzvah, but it was in a Liberal-Progressive synagogue, where people were expected to stay from beginning to end of the service. It was shorter, and much of it in English, so not quite so boring. In fact, for my gentile friends attending my Bar Mitzvah, it probably didn’t feel that much different from going to church!

    I don’t think I feel any special affinity as a Jew towards Israel. While I can sympathize with Zionists wanting a homeland for Jews, especially after the Holocaust, I believe it was wrong to create the state of Israel. However, now that it’s a well-established nation state, it has a right to exist. On the other hand, it has no right to hold any territory beyond its 1967 borders except for as long as that is vital to its national security. I would like to see an Israeli government recognise the Palestinian right to a state on the whole of the West Bank and Gaza Strip (except for some minor exchanges of territory to be agreed on an equitable basis), immediately begin the dismantlement of settlements, and announce that a full withdrawal will occur as soon as security conditions permit.

  24. #24 HP
    October 12, 2007

    I’ve always considered Jews to be people and Israel to be a modern nation-state. It seems to be a distinctly minority point of view.

    You could argue that mine is a privileged view, and there’s some truth in that. But it’s not a view shared by most members of the privileged class I was born to.

  25. #25 Caledonian
    October 12, 2007

    Make casual references to Jewish standard time, the characteristics of Jewish mothers, or to the question asked in the title of this post, and I suspect most gentiles will see grotesque, anti-Semitic stereotypes. (And when a non-Jew uses those expressions that’s exactly what they are).

    But when Jews use them, they bring to mind loved ones and cherished cultural practices?

    Here we have a prime example of a fundamental flaw in human cognitive architecture: the double standard.

  26. #26 other bill
    October 12, 2007

    Jewish standard Time? Is that like Irish time (in America)?

  27. #27 Caledonian
    October 12, 2007

    And here we have another example of the same:

    But emotionally I think that Jewish and pro-Israeli really ought to be synonymous.

    So let the bigots conflate Jewish with pro-Israel.

    When the tribal-allegiance modules of the brain activate, all others turn off.

  28. #28 Caledonian
    October 12, 2007

    Is this thread a satire, one that I simply didn’t notice? Is it all tongue-in-cheek?

  29. #29 SLC
    October 12, 2007

    Re Richard Wein

    Mr. Wein, like may other commentors on this and other blogs, is seriously in error in describing the 1967 lines as borders. They are not borders because they were never approved by either Israel or the adjoining countries. They are cease fire lines which marked the position of the various armies after the 1949 War of Independence ended. The final borders are subject to negotiations, assuming that one can find anybody on the Arab side who can both negotiate and enforce a final solution.

  30. #30 Adam
    October 12, 2007

    You telling me Israel doesn’t have true borders?

  31. #31 adam
    October 12, 2007

    I looked up the borders issue. Here’s a discussion.
    http://www.volokh.com/posts/1141088766.shtml

  32. #32 Jason Rosenhouse
    October 12, 2007

    John Wilkins-

    I know what you mean about religious ceremonies. Attending Friday night and Saturday morning Shabbat services was a requirement of our Hebrew school. Gosh, it’s hard to imagine why I’m hotsile to religion today! Passover seders are the exception. In my experience they are really more of a big party than a religious ceremony.

    Richard Wein-

    Actually, one criticism that I was anticipating in posting this piece was that I wasn’t so much describing Jewish culture generally, but New York Jewish culture specifically.

    And I know what you mean about Israel. On the one hand, I hate the idea of countries defining their national identities by religion. But on the other, I feel a kinship with other Jews, and when I compare the behavior of the Israeli government to the behavior of any of the other countries in the region, I find there is simply no comparison.

    Caledonian-

    Yes, it is a double standard. But double standards are sometimes appropriate.

  33. #33 Richard Wein
    October 12, 2007

    Re the Volokh discussion… The legalistic arguments are interesting, but verge on counting how many angels will fit on the head of a pin. The important considerations are ethical and practical. What sort of settlement would be (a) fair and (b) produce a lasting peace?

  34. #34 MartinC
    October 12, 2007

    “But double standards are sometimes appropriate.”
    No, they are not.
    You cannot claim to be argueing from a rationalistic position if you allow irrational points that fit in with your own stand yet discount all points countering your argument.

  35. #35 Marc L.
    October 12, 2007

    Jason said: “Yes, it is a double standard. But double standards are sometimes appropriate”.

    Are they?

    - Christian: I think atheists should be deprived of their right to vote as they are not Christians.
    - Atheist: How about Jews? They are not Christians…
    - Christian: No, but they still believe in Yahveh.
    - Atheist: Isn’t that a double standard?
    - Christian: Yes, it is a double standard. But double standards are sometimes appropriate.

    Sometimes, analogies help.

  36. #36 Caledonian
    October 12, 2007

    Yes, it is a double standard. But double standards are sometimes appropriate.

    No, they’re not.

    I will grant you that context matters. But if I showed you a video of someone using these stereotypes in conversation, and there weren’t any obvious visual cues that indicated they were Jewish in either an ethnic or religious sense, your statements would seem to suggest that the content of the conversation wouldn’t be enough to determine whether that usage was offensive or acceptable. Is that what you’re saying?

    I have been told by people from other countries that elsewhere in the world, Americans are viewed as arrogant, insensitive, oblivious, and rude, and sadly enough Americans on vacation behave in ways consistent with this stereotype that this view is justifiable.

    Perhaps expressed views like those in your post, and behavior consistent with such views, is at least partially responsible for the prejudice Jews have historically faced? Because quite frankly, the most generous way I can characterize your comments is “raving lunacy”. You’ve just demonstrated the traits and positions anti-Jewish bigots accuse Jews in general of possessing while you condemn the bigots for making the claim, and in the process you’ve used gross fallacies and have actually defended the application of a double standard.

    Maybe you should step back and take a breather before posting further on the subject? What you say – and how you say it – is going to permanently affect the perception of your objectivity and willingness to reach conclusions through reason instead of emotion and prejudice. I don’t think you’re doing yourself any favors by posting while – I presume – incensed beyond rational thought.

  37. #37 SLC
    October 12, 2007

    Re Richard Wein

    Mr. Wein has moved the goal posts. His original comment referred to Israels’ borders. He has been shown to be ignorant of the facts. Now he talks about achieving a just an lasting peace. Everybody is in favor of a just an lasting peace. Unfortunately, the two sides (referring to Israel and the Palestinians and excluding Syria for this discussion) are unable to agree on the parameters of a just and lasting peace. The current authority over the Gaza Strip, namely the Hamas party, claims that there is no border between the Palestinian territories and Israel; that all of Palestine belongs to the Palestinian Arabs and that the Government of Israel should go out of business. The current authority over the West Bank, the Fatah party, purports to claim that the border between the Palestinian territories and Israel is the 1949 cease fire line but they also insist that Palestinians living in refugee camps be resettled in Israel, tantamount to insisting that the Government of Israel go out of business. Since the Government of Israel has no intention of going out of business, we are at an impasse which can only be resolved when the Palestinians cease and desist from their resettlement demand.

  38. #38 Collin
    October 12, 2007

    Life is lived by double standards. We as humans apply varying standards to everything. I’d much more readily forgive a friend for some transgression than I would a stranger for doing the same thing. Completely rational, no, but I know that’s what would happen. Humans aren’t rational…and that’s not a bad thing. Life would come to a stand still if everything and every decision proceeded along rational lines. The problem comes when completely irrational behavior completely takes over. Looks like another double standard.

  39. #39 Caledonian
    October 12, 2007

    Humans aren’t rational…and that’s not a bad thing.

    Yes, it is.

    But more to the point, being irrational is a bad thing.

  40. #40 John Farrell
    October 13, 2007

    But more to the point, being irrational is a bad thing.

    Having no sense of humor is, too.

  41. #41 Caledonian
    October 14, 2007

    What part of this thread’s post engages the sense of humor?

  42. #42 A Canadian Reader
    October 14, 2007

    No, you have not described the New York Jewish experience. This Toronto-born Jewish girl from an absolutely secular family laughed all the way through your post…which her non-Jewish husband found for her (thanks Hon!).

    I won’t argue the Israeli thing. It would spoil the joy I got from your post.

  43. #43 Jason Rosenhouse
    October 15, 2007

    Sorry you didn’t like the stuff about Israel, but I’m glad you enjoyed the post otherwise.

  44. #44 Ruth
    October 15, 2007

    “But emotionally I think that Jewish and pro-Israeli really ought to be synonymous.”

    You do realise that this is exactly the same as ‘my country; right or wrong’ patriotism, don’t you?

    Do you actually mean that all Jews ought to support Isreal even when Israel is in the wrong? Or is it simply that you are blind to the possibility that Israel could ever BE in the wrong?

    Do either of these positions sound remotely rational?

  45. #45 Chen (From Israel)
    October 15, 2007

    While I would agree that Israel might be wrong at times on several issues (indeed, I did not vote for the current administration and I disagree with much of its actions), not supporting Israel in general will probably result in the destruction of it which means the loss of millions of lives and the loss of the only democracy in the middle east. Israel shares most of its values with the US and nearly all of its population know English bestestly (a joke :P).
    The sad truth is that Israel was founded to find a safe place for jews after the holocaust so we will no longer be prosecuted. We are now the only advanced peace-seeking democractic western society in the middle east. Would you really want us to be swept away to allow more tyranny in the area?
    We are the living proof that even in this area people can be free of tyranny, live in peace, practice science, art, culture, have civil rights, advanced medical care and all of that without natural resources – relying mostly on our wits.
    I would rather see ourselves as a positive effect – an example for the countries around us may they all be as advanced, prosper and live in peace with us.

    Jason, how about making a lecture in Israel sometimes? I promise to come.

    Chen

  46. #46 Caledonian
    October 15, 2007

    Do you actually mean that all Jews ought to support Isreal even when Israel is in the wrong? Or is it simply that you are blind to the possibility that Israel could ever BE in the wrong?

    The implication seems to be that, because Israel is an inherently Jewish state, it needs to be supported no matter what.

    This is just as damning as condemning Israel merely because it’s Jewish, but people don’t seem to be concerned about that.

  47. #47 Chen (From Israel)
    October 15, 2007

    It is obvious why Jews should support Israel – Because it’s the only place in the world where we are not a threatened minority and we can govern ourselves and not be afraid of another holocaust.
    If others should support Israel because it’s jewish? I don’t think so.

    (It should be noted that I’m an atheist. I am, however, all too aware that others will consider me [and other like me] jewish and that for itself puts us in danger)

  48. #48 Caledonian
    October 15, 2007

    Because it’s the only place in the world where we are not a threatened minority and we can govern ourselves and not be afraid of another holocaust.

    Where you can govern yourselves? As opposed to what, governing as part of a population that includes non-Jews?

    As for not being afraid of another holocaust, that’s just foolish. Israel is right in the middle of lots of Arab states. Bringing lots of Jews together in one place doesn’t make them safer, it makes them an easy target.

  49. #49 Collin
    August 28, 2011

    Jason, I used to think that way about Israel too. But now I realize that the Pro-Israel Lobby is actually the product of many years of insidious propaganda from Christian syncretics.

    There is something unique about Israel, exemplified by the Seruv, a plebiscite agreed to by some units of the Israeli Army to retreat to the UN mandated borders, in violation of the Israeli government’s conquest mission. These troops are not deserting. They are still fighting for their country in action, even as they defy it in strategy, deferring to a more justified purpose. I can’t imagine this happening in any other country. Why this makes me proud of Israel is not something I can express, but I hope you feel it also.

    There is no natural prophesy of Israel’s manifest-destiny. But there is a very real artificial prophesy engineered by Christian militias worldwide, which seeks to dramatize their armageddon by herding us into Israel and killing us all. We must not let that happen.

    Home is where you hang your tallis.

    And don’t trust the so-called Sanhedrin. I strongly suspect they’re not real Rabbis.

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