Thursday, April 10, 2008

Aah, the government!

My post below has earned me an accusation of paranoia, which I think merits a post, not another comment, to address. (Aaah, the government! I kid, I kid.)

So let me explain. "Israel's destruction" can mean a number of things, not just the country getting bombed into physical non-existence. It could also mean that the idea of Israel as a Jewish state is deemed too passé, anachronistic, or offensive to delicate Western sensibilities that a one-state solution is seen as the only possible way to turn Israel into a socially acceptable country. There are many critiques of the very idea of a Jewish state calling themselves 'critiques of Israeli policy.' Which is why we, the 'paranoiacs' as you'd have it, respond with such vigor to certain types of critiques.

As for the rather harsh charge of paranoia, of assuming anyone with something less than praiseworthy to say about Israel wills its destruction, let me just point out that I have, on this blog , criticized Israeli policy. Specifically, the question of marriage in Israel, and the bizarre lengths one must go to to prove that one is sufficiently Jewish. And I absolutely think this particular failing is connected to Israel's existence as a Jewish state. Any exclusionary system is bound to wind up excluding itself, if not out of existence, then into a messy situation. The other example I know best, but still not that well, is postcolonial Algeria. If understood incorrectly, a Jewish state will end up excluding not only Palestinians and secular Jews, but also Orthodox Jews whose rabbis don't have a letter of recommendation from the right rebbe. In other words, they had a country and no one showed up.

So while I do, to reiterate, think Israel should remain a Jewish state, I don't think rabbinic law--let alone rabbinic law as interpreted by a select set of rabbis--is an optimal way to maintain one. The problem, as with any new country, is that Israel does not have a centuries-old history. It still seems new and artificial to have a day off on Saturday and not Sunday, to see signs, newspapers, and fashion magazines written in Hebrew. And this is what I think a Jewish state should mean, Hebrew letters and Saturdays off. The way that America and most of Europe are historically Christian, Israel should be historically Jewish. There should be one country in the world, however small, where being a Jew does not mean being in the minority. But it's hard to figure out how that could be accomplished without exclusionary measures of any kind. Especially since Israel is losing popularity as a place to live even among Jewish Israelis. So, despite my hardline paranoia, I'm afraid I see no easy answers.


schMaltzLover said...

Phoebe -- Jane Kramer's article was not about a one-state solution (at least, that's what the summary indicates). Neither was Daniel's comment. What are you responding to here?

Anonymous said...

Never once in any of my writing have I proposed the dissolution of Israel as a Jewish state. I have certainly explored various proposed "fates" for Israel in order to instigate lively discussion on the subject. I have pushed those around me to confront the question of what we, the Jews of now, shall make of our collective fate (if only to see that my generation give such matters thought). But I have never actively promoted any resolution to "the Jewish question" other than generally identifying our need to fix a broken Israel and a broken Jewish people.

My "critiques of Israeli policy" have never been based upon an assimilationist tendency to appease Western norms at all. They are an expression of my conception of how a Jewish person, and by extension a Jewish nation, should conduct themselves. In that, my positions are the embodiment of my Jewish identity -- one that is just as legitimate, "properly contextualized," and authentic as any other.

Seeing as how you're a person that ardently defends the Jewish nation's right to self-determination, I'm amiss in understanding what appears to be your denial of the Jewish individual's right to the same. I fear you take all Jews who reject the Zionist party line for fools incapable of properly interpreting their heritage and who are therefore unfit to contribute to Jewish communal dialogue and collective decision making. This, however, would make you no different from those in academia who you accuse of requiring a pro-Palestinian litmus test.

Yet should you resist the urge to caricaturize me, and accept that my positions are as conceivably well-thought out, refined, and self-evident as your own; if you can extend to me the same patience, tolerance, acceptance and forgiveness you would hope to receive...

I would be happy to engage with you in a thoughtful discussion as to how we might go about balancing the necessity for a Jewish state with the necessity of upholding fundamental human and civil rights.

Phoebe said...


I can't say I've read the whole of your writing, but this is especially because your blogger profile was unavailable after your first comment, so I was not sure where your blogged.

I don't believe I've "caricaturized" you, but rather, that you did this to me, when saying any "Zionist" is by definition paranoid. Look, we all think those with opposing views are wrong, or else we'd share those views. But I have been civil in all of this, even responding to your comment with a post. A post, by the way, in which I responded to your bizarre accusation that "No matter what the substance of a person's position is, through the Zionist lens, if it's critical of Israel or Zionism, it's a call for the destruction of Israel and the extermination of the Jewish people." No, I'm afraid, that's not how it works. (Nor do I think a call for a one-state solution, even, would be a call for the destruction of the Jewish people, depending on the motivation for such a demand. Not that *you* want a one-state solution, but I'm offering this as an extreme anti-Zionist-mainstream position.)

Of course there are knee-jerk types on all sides. The New Yorker article offered up the knee-jerks of the pro-Israel side. My initial post was about the challenge of offering up a non-knee-jerk pro-Israel response to the article, when so many are primed to believe that *any* pro-Israel argument is a paranoid reflex. And, all the more so having seen the response that post got, I still stand by it.

Anonymous said...

"caricaturized?" Is that even a word? Hold on, before you go running to, let me tell you. The answer is no. The correct term is "caricatured." Daniel's "critique," as it were, relies to a great extent on notions of individuality that are at odds with fundamental, i.e., not made up, Jewish values. Not that Judaism does not contain a notion of individual responsibility, but the conduct of the collective and the conduct of the individual are not held to the same standards.

Anonymous said...

what's your point? that i make up words and make up jewish values?

if you think judaism rejects individualism, or an individual holding the greater community accountable for that which he knows in himself to be the community's failures, i suspect it's you who doesn't understand fundamental jewish values.

see rebbe nachman's commentaries on ezekiel 33 in likutei moharan ("avraham avienu saw himself as the only man in the world"), rav kook's commentaries on "the exaltation of our innate sense of what is right" and likewise the talmudic passages regarding one's obligation to give tokhakha "to the whole world."

Anonymous said...

Making up words would be acceptable. You used the word "caricaturized" because you thought it actually existed. This is why formal education is helpful. Similarly, your exaltation of the individual, and its justification with a few cherry picked references, is as egregious an example of a woefully inadequate grounding in Torah study as one can find. Simply put daniel, you're wrong. Dead wrong. Judaism is impossible without shared values and community. There is a role in there for individual responsibility, but it has to be balanced out with communal values and cohesion.