Wednesday, August 02, 2006

L'antisemitisme est un humanisme

At this point there's no excuse to stay put rather than go to Israel. Not only does America have its own bad-for-the-Jews moments, but now it's a trillion degrees out here in NYC. I don't typically blog about the weather, but it's remarkable when the subway platform in the summer seems at least relatively shady. Tonight, I did the unthinkable and ate in my bedroom. For whatever reason, eating in either a bedroom or a subway offends my delicate sensibilities, but not as much as does eating in a non-airconditioned room.

But back to the Jews.

When I drink, I do at least one of the following: speak French, speak Hebrew, speak a mixture of the two, discuss (in English) my academic interests with people who might care but probably don't but in any case I'm not inhibited enough to bother trying to read them, I just assume everyone finds 19th century French Jews fascinating. It used to be, alcohol made me discuss my blog, blogging in general, and how very wonderful I find the Internet. Before that, the subject of choice was my column in the school paper, the school paper in general, and... this should give you an idea. An idea of why, while I've generally been happy with my social life, random, drunken hookups have never played much of a role.
Mel Gibson, on the other hand, has a different response to spirits. Rather than explain just what it is about Theodor Herzl he finds so intriguing, or grab the nearest hottie or not-so-hottie, he goes off on a Jew-hating rant, which includes the bizarre concern that Malibu police officers are members of the tribe.

Christopher Hitchens, a man who ought to know about such things, remarks, "One does not abruptly decide, between the first and second vodka, or the ticks of the indicator of velocity, that the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion are valid after all."

Does drinking merely amplify whatever you thought while sober? Is there veritas in vino? That's always been my assumption, along with what would frighten me about the more serious mind-altering substances--it's one thing to kill a few brain cells, but another to warp the way you think about things in general.

But that's not what interests me about the Mel Gibson story. What's amazing about it is how it highlights the tension between the idea that Jews cry "anti-Semitism" and thus stifle free speech at the slightest perceived insult, and the remarkable refusal of many these days to admit that anything anyone does actually fits the definition of anti-Semitism.

When Ilan Halimi was tortured and killed by a gang in France, the leader made it clear that Halimi was targeted because he was a Jew, but not because this gang hated Jews, but because Jews are supposed to have money. Many argued that this was not in fact anti-Semitism, because where's the Jew-hatred there? It was just an honest miscalculation, as if someone picked the only black kid for their basketball team in a high school gym class, only to find out that he was frightened of the ball.

When Walt and Mearsheimer used academic jargon to make Mel Gibson's point, about the Jews being behind all the wars, this was not anti-Semitism, but scholarly analysis, courageous scholarship, at that.

And now, Mel Gibson, poor soul, has a disease. He's an alcoholic. While liquor can make otherwise moderate drinkers belligerent, an alcoholic surely experiences something different, say, a need to speak words he himself doesn't have any control over or even believe.

But enough of this already. Anti-Semitism is real, and cannot be fought if it is not understood. All manner of people--Herzl included, and anyone walking through Bloomingdales against their will--have felt inklings of anti-Semitism. Every Jew relieved to be told he doesn't "look" or "seem" Jewish, every non-Jew relieved that a new Jewish co-worker has a Christmas tree, these folks are all, in some sense, anti-Semitic. But these are the symptoms, or at any rate not the driving force. That remains classic anti-Semitism, the belief that no matter what evidence otherwise, Jews have it better, and thus deserve to be punished. In the strange world we live in, the only anti-Semitism not called just that is that which is the most forceful.


Anonymous said...

"Rather than ... grab the nearest hottie or not-so-hottie..."

There are photos all over the interwebs of the evening's drinking which show Mel doing much grabbing of hotties and not-so-hotties.

"he goes off on a Jew-hating rant, which includes the bizarre concern that Malibu police officers are members of the tribe."

Not so bizarre, considering that the arresting officer was, indeed, Jewish.

Whatever the drinks may have done to Gibson's driving ability, I'd say his Jew-dar was completely unimpaired.

" very wonderful I find the Internet."

One of the wonderful things about the interwebs is the ability to do easy cursory research on a topic before writing about it. With cursory research, you could have not only known the details of Mel's Wild Ride, but you could have also figured out how Walt and Mearsheimer might be somehow different from Mel Gibson.

Anonymous said...

Gibson is simply a low life, antisemitic drunkard. He gets pulled over for drunk driving and exceeding the speed limit and whose fault is it? Obviously the Jews! His lawyers/publicist have informed him that he best make amends or his bankability will approach that of O.J.

Anonymous said...

I think the more relevant question isn't whether antisemitism still exists (obviously it does, and Mel Gibson is hardly the worst threat), but the extent to which antisemitism and antizionism are related. Interestingly, the viewpoints of Muslim extremists and radical Zionists often seem quite similar; both have a tendency to identify being Jewish with supporting Israel, right or (more usually) wrong.

David Schraub said...

Spot on, Phoebe.

Stellar post.