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Sundown: Guess Who’s Coming to New York

Plus Shmuley meets Benedict, J Street meets Europe, and more

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• Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has applied for a U.S. visa. He wants to attend a non-proliferation meeting next Monday in New York City. [Laura Rozen]

• An author speculates that the Obama administration’s recent charm offensive toward Israel was in part prompted by polls showing that the strong Jewish support the president enjoyed when he was elected is under threat. [Ynet]

• A list of the ten richest Israelis (they’re all billionaires). Number one, Sir Sammy Ofer, is worth $4 billion. [Israeli 21c]

• Rabbi Shmuley Boteach describes his meeting with the Pope today. He was joined by much of his family, as well as AIPAC Chairman David Victor. [Shmuley.com/Vos Iz Neias?]

• JCall, a new European group modeled after the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” J Street, is circulating a petition that criticizes Israel’s policies and defends its right to exist. [JTA]

• Tony Judt has a superb mini-essay, affecting and, yes, provocative, on why he considers himself a Jew. [NYRB]

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Oh, Marc, Marc, Marc, this essay of Judt’s is repulsive in all the ways Judt himself is repulsive. Let’s start with his rage-ridden contempt for American Jews, caricaturing them as a group with no other connection to Judaism other than a gross fear of a resurgence of past antisemitism, and a liturgy that sanctifies the image of the non-Jews as dangerous.

How exactly does he know this? Because he offers us a couple of cartoons of the typical benighted American Jew whose knowledge of and connection to his faith begins and ends with Hitler. For a man who purports to be a historian, its an astonishing act of projection–of reprehensible traits onto the group as a whole, and then a drawing of conclusions based not on observed experience but based on his own prejudices. Has he really studied American Jews, taken polls, interviewed them? No, no, no; he’s simply decided he doesn’t like them, and then sets them up as a straw man for him to knock down with a few withering remarks. It is just astonishingly solipsistic; he never penetrates beyond his own preconceived notions of American Jewry. I don’t even believe he’s cherry-picked a few ignoramuses to stand for all American Jews. I think he’s fabricated them entirely. Do they really stand for us, or for every Jew he’s ever met?

Judt’s beliefs are in fact on display. He condemns this pantomime of religion that is Judaism, going so far as to suggest it would have just disappeared without Hitler. Of course he wraps up that sentiment up in a very circumscribe mannerism; it would have “fallen into deliquescence.” So Judaism has nothing going for it, intrinsically, as a religion.

American Jews are also, “not particularly well informed about Jewish culture or history; they are blithely ignorant of Yiddish or Hebrew and rarely attend religious ceremonies.” And we engage in “unctuous performance of ritual and selective departure from established traditions”. Given his scorn for those traditions, that would have deliquesced without Hitler, is that departure a bad thing? He condemns us for parochialism, then condemns us for abandoning parochialism. Having it both ways is characteristic of the true antisemite; get out of Europe, go to Israel, get out of Israel, go to Europe, abandon your identity or else you’re a traitor, don’t abandon your identity and pretend you’re one of us to subvert us from within, etc… It’s truly telling about what is in Judt’s heart. The malignity comes first, the justification afterward, no matter how self-contradictory that justification is.

He then, in a few semi-coherent sentences, defines his own version of Judaism, which involves some kind of self-questioning as a debt to the past and future. Because, of course, Jews aren’t self-questioning by nature, and don’t ponder more profound questions about universal justice. We simply use our religion as a source of boosterism for Israel.

By way of rebuttal, can’t we just cite our history as one of the pillars of universal liberalism in the United States of America? As being among the fiercest fighters for justice for all, irrespective of ethnic background or religion? What is Tony Judt possibly thinking and talking about? He alludes to the unattractive self-regard of American Jews, and yet seems entirely ignorant of American Jewish history, from the Rabbis who helped found the NAACP to the overwhelming majority of us who voted for Obama in higher numbers, as an overall percentage of the group, than any other ethnic group excepting African-Americans. His history of American Jewry is just as much a phantasm as his caricatures of individual Jews. It is mind-boggling that anyone could subscribe to this non-sense, without having drunk deep from a very poisoned chalice.

The greatest irony of the piece is that he indulges the very act that he condemns us for–the citation of the tragic Jewish past as a justification for our beliefs. At the beginning and the end, he tells us of a family member murdered in the Holocaust, demonstrating his bona fides as a critic of Jews (Jews, mind, not Israel, he makes no bones about this) by alluding to his family history. He can hate Jews–and what else is this essay but an exercise in hatred of Jews, for our empty religion that ought to have died with assimilation in Europe, for our contemporary ignorance and chauvinism, and for our lack of political engagement, all of which traits are patently at variance with the facts and truth of American Jewry–because he had a relative who was murdered in the Holocaust. How is this rationalization of beliefs any different from those he condemns?

The motives for this corrosive spite for Jews are something best probed elsewhere, but suffice to say that this is a shallow man, who is not terribly introspective, and does not look outward either. He constructs a make-believe, hook-nosed, self-obsessed Jew to do what he excoriates other for, i.e., as a compensatory act for his own disgusting antisemitism.

By way of an addendum, one of the reasons Tony Judt remains so ignorant, and insulting about, Jewish political engagement in the U.S. is because for him there is only one political issue, namely, Israel. And in this way, he and his ilk are one of principal reasons that oppression festers all over the world, unremarked on. The nations of the world fixate on Israel as a bogeyman, exorcizing all of their demons, and responsibility, and guilt, and in this way exempt themselves from ameliorating suffering in their own backyards. Never mind what occurs in Latin America, or Africa, or Asia, or other nations of the Mideast. It is only Israel that is guilty. We all know this, of course, but his pomposity blinds himself to the reality of it.

The question is why is Mr Judt so popular among the intellectual left? The answer: because this is the kind of Jew they like; an Ashkenazi New York intellectual who is politically correct and who doesn’t have to deal with the real world. The fact that he pushes a one-state solution shows Judt’s complete ignorance of the situation and the experience of 1 million Arab-Jews who were ethnically cleansed and who have no intention of letting any Arabs ruling over them again.
Isralis, who defend themselves and who are a polyglot culture consisting not only of intellectual Ashkenazim but also (ugh) Spheradim are despised by these same Leftist intellectuals (many of whom are themselves Jewish).

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Sundown: Guess Who’s Coming to New York

Plus Shmuley meets Benedict, J Street meets Europe, and more

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