Thursday, January 31, 2008

Breaking: Israel not a part of Scandinavia

Orientalism is about the West oppressing the East, prolonging colonialist violence--just ask the late Edward Said. True supporters of Western civilization are supporters of Israel and vice versa.

While you're unlikely to hear both the above remarks from the same person, there is a certain consensus that Israel is of the West. I've had my doubts, and these doubts were confirmed when I read fashion writer Amy Odell's account of her Birthright Israel trip.

The Birthright cheesiness is off-putting, there's no way around it. As Odell notes, and as I've also mentioned, the Mega-Event (like Shmuley Boteach) is an example of lowest-common-denominator Christianity getting injected into Judaism to make it all more festive. And, also like Boteach, the Mega-Event does what it can to ensure that all hip and/or intelligent Jews abandon ship.

But what Odell dislikes is not Birthright, but Israel. She says of an Israeli singer at the Mega-Event, "I can’t say I enjoy his Hebrew wailing." Granted this was probably not the best musician Israel has to offer, but it soon becomes clear where Odell's post is going. When she writes, "We dance and mingle with aggressive, swarthy Jews for as long as we can bear," you have to tell yourself that she is Jewish, so of course this isn't racist. You have to avoid imagining how the remark would look if "blacks" or "Arabs" were in its place, because... right.

Odell seems to think the point of Birthright is to encourage Diaspora Jews to move to Israel. While I wouldn't object if that were the case, it's not. The point is to be more involved in one's own Diaspora Jewish community. But in any case, here are Odell's reasons for not moving to Israel:

I certainly don’t feel like this is my homeland. And I certainly don’t feel like I want to move here. In fact I feel no connection to this place at all. I feel more connected to London, simply because I so loved drinking Guinness at picnic tables at 11:30 a.m., and cheap shopping during July sale season. Israel doesn’t have beer or shopping like that, and it looks decrepit and third worldish.

Israel does have beer and shopping (scroll down for evidence), but in a sense, point taken. Israel is not London. The men are hairier, the food spicier. One could almost say there's something exotic and Oriental about the place.


Withywindle said...

The paleocons don't think Israel is part of the West either. Samuel Huntington's map in The Clash of Civilizations is obscure, since Israel is too small to appear distinctly, but he seems to omit it from the Western Civ chunk. It's just a little ol' civilization of its own, to be left to fight its own battles.

But "the West" is of course a euphemism meant to turn "Christendom" into something broader--not least to include Jews in various Christian countries, but, possibly-perhaps, also to include Israel. Is Israel part of the West? If it's not, why bother to use the term at all?

Glenn said...

the true purpose of birthright israel is to encourage young jews to hook up with other young jews. . .it is basically a singles trip.


Phoebe said...

Glenn: No!

Anonymous said...

Samuel Huntington is not a paleocon.

Huntington was alwasy amused when people accused him of this - He pointed out that he supported his neighbor, John Kerry, for President.

Anonymous said...

Odell likes Guiness. Odell (O'Dell) should have noticed that Israel is loaded with Irish bars.

Israel is very diverse in superficial appearance of its people - You can find any group of people to make whatever point you want to make.

Tel Aviv is a booming tech town and it looks like any other city in most respects.

There is something faux-contrarian about her comments.

O'Dell Blarney.

schMaltzLover said...

She's British. For them, the wogs begin at Calais, and it's entirely uncertain if France is part of the West.