Tag Archives: jewish identity

stephen_steinlight_2004

Stephen Steinlight on Jewish Power and Interests

Stephen Steinlight writes about the interests of jews vis-a-vis Americans, Whites, and non-jews in general in Bridging America Project, AJC: Global Jewish Advocacy, October 2001.

Preface: Challenging A Crumbling Consensus

In a rare experiment in candid public discourse about America’s changing demography, American Jewry needs to toss reticence and evasion to the winds, stop censoring ourselves for fear of offending the entirely imaginary arbiters of civic virtue, and bluntly and publicly pose the same questions we anxiously ponder in private.

But we should ask the hard questions no matter what, recognizing that only straight talk will get us anywhere. We cannot consider the inevitable consequences of current trends � not least among them diminished Jewish political power � with detachment. Our present privilege, success, and power do not inure us from the effect of historical processes, and history has not come to an end, even in America.

Abandoning the Field to Nativism and Xenophobia

Not far down the list of awful consequences, our unspoken acquiescence leaves the anti-determinist camp, with some notable exceptions (such as the thoughtful and moderate Center for Immigration Studies), largely in the hands of classic anti-immigrant, xenophobic, and racist nativist forces. The white “Christian” supremacists who have historically opposed either all immigration or all non-European immigration (Europeans being defined as Nordic or Anglo-Saxon), a position re-asserted by Peter Brimelow, must not be permitted to play a prominent role in the debate over the way America responds to unprecedented demographic change.

Posing the Sphinx Questions

What are some of those large vexing questions we would prefer not to speak aloud? Let’s throw out a few and see how many sleepers we can awaken. The big one for starters: is the emerging new multicultural American nation good for the Jews? Will a country in which enormous demographic and cultural change, fueled by unceasing large-scale non-European immigration, remain one in which Jewish life will continue to flourish as nowhere else in the history of the Diaspora? In an America in which people of color form the plurality, as has already happened in California, most with little or no historical experience with or knowledge of Jews, will Jewish sensitivities continue to enjoy extraordinarily high levels of deference and will Jewish interests continue to receive special protection? Does it matter that the majority non-European immigrants have no historical experience of the Holocaust or knowledge of the persecution of Jews over the ages and see Jews only as the most privileged and powerful of white Americans?

Facing Up to the Gradual Demise of Jewish Political Power

Not that it is the case that our disproportionate political power (pound for pound the greatest of any ethnic/cultural group in America) will erode all at once, or even quickly.

It is also true that Jewish economic influence and power are disproportionately concentrated in Hollywood, television, and in the news industry, theoretically a boon in terms of the formation of favorable public images of Jews and sensitizing the American people to issues of concern to Jews.

Supporting Immigration by Reducing Its Scale

It is also, frankly, in our own best interest to continue to support generous immigration. The day may come when the forces of anti-Semitic persecution will arise once more in the lands of the former Soviet Union or in countries of Eastern Europe and Jews will once again need a safe haven in the United States. The Jewish community requires this fail-safe. We will always be in support of immigration; the question is whether it should be open-ended or not? The question is what constitutes the smartest approach to supporting immigration?

Immigration Policy and Identity Politics

Our current policies encourage the balkanization that results from identity politics and the politics of grievance.

Jews and Identity Politics

We Jews need to be especially sensitive to the multinational model this crowd (many of them Jewish) is promoting. Why? Because one person’s “celebration” of his own diversity, foreign ties, and the maintenance of cultural and religious traditions that set him apart is another’s balkanizing identity politics. We are not immune from the reality of multiple identities or the charge of divided loyalties, a classic staple of anti-Semitism, and we must recognize that our own patterns are easily assailed, and we need to find ways of defending them more effectively as the debate goes on.

For Jews, it is at best hypocritical, and, worse, an example of an utter lack of self-awareness, not to recognize that we are up to our necks in this problem. This has been especially true once we were sufficiently accepted in the United States to feel confident enough to go public with our own identity politics. But this newfound confidence carries its own costs; people are observing us closely, and what they see in our behavior is not always distinct from what we loudly decry in others. One has to be amused, even amazed, when colleagues in the organized Jewish world wring their hands about black nationalism, Afrocentrism, or with cultural separatism in general � without considering Jewish behavioral parallels. Where has our vaunted Jewish self-awareness flown?

I’ll confess it, at least: like thousands of other typical Jewish kids of my generation, I was reared as a Jewish nationalist, even a quasi-separatist. Every summer for two months for 10 formative years during my childhood and adolescence I attended Jewish summer camp. There, each morning, I saluted a foreign flag, dressed in a uniform reflecting its colors, sang a foreign national anthem, learned a foreign language, learned foreign folk songs and dances, and was taught that Israel was the true homeland. Emigration to Israel was considered the highest virtue, and, like many other Jewish teens of my generation, I spent two summers working in Israel on a collective farm while I contemplated that possibility. More tacitly and subconsciously, I was taught the superiority of my people to the gentiles who had oppressed us. We were taught to view non-Jews as untrustworthy outsiders, people from whom sudden gusts of hatred might be anticipated, people less sensitive, intelligent, and moral than ourselves. We were also taught that the lesson of our dark history is that we could rely on no one.

I am of course simplifying a complex process of ethnic and religious identity formation; there was also a powerful counterbalancing universalistic moral component that inculcated a belief in social justice for all people and a special identification with the struggle for Negro civil rights. And it is no exaggeration to add that in some respects, of course, a substantial subset of secular Jews were historically Europe’s cosmopolitans par excellence, particularly during the high noon of bourgeois culture in Central Europe. That sense of commitment to universalistic values and egalitarian ideals was and remains so strong that in reliable survey research conducted over the years, Jews regularly identify “belief in social justice” as the second most important factor in their Jewish identity; it is trumped only by a “sense of peoplehood.” It also explains the long Jewish involvement in and flirtation with Marxism. But it is fair to say that Jewish universalistic tendencies and tribalism have always existed in an uneasy dialectic. We are at once the most open of peoples and one second to none in intensity of national feeling. Having made this important distinction, it must be admitted that the essence of the process of my nationalist training was to inculcate the belief that the primary division in the world was between “us” and “them.”

I say all this merely to remind us that we cannot pretend we are only part of the solution when we are also part of the problem; we have no less difficult a balancing act between group loyalty and a wider sense of belonging to America. That America has largely tolerated this dual loyalty � we get a free pass, I suspect, largely over Christian guilt about the Holocaust � makes it no less a reality.

At the very least, as the debate over multinational identity rises, I hope the Jewish community will have the good sense not to argue in favor of dual citizenship and other such arrangements. I would also advocate that those who possess dual citizenship to relinquish it in order not to cloud the issue and to serve the best interests of the American Jewish community and of American national unity. The recent case of the Israeli teenager who committed a murder in suburban Maryland (his victim was a young Latino) and fled to Israel, where he was permitted to remain despite attempts at extradition by U.S. prosecutors, with considerable congressional support, must never be repeated. That incident inflicted serious damage on Israel’s good name, and it shapes the public’s perception of Jews as people in a special category with additional rights who have a safe haven where they can escape the reach of American justice.

Dr. Stephen Steinlight was for more than five years Director of National Affairs (domestic policy) at the American Jewish Committee. For the past two and a half years he has been a Senior Fellow at AJC.

It is a long piece and there is much more, but that is enough for the following analysis.

Steinlight acknowledges that jews have enormous power. He is both a representative and spokesman of that power, which he wants jews to retain and even increase. To accomplish this he believes jews should advocate more openly and loudly, be more self-aware and self-concerned, strengthen their identity and engage more actively in identity politics, and continue to create and maintain “safe havens” for themselves. He says this even as he pathologizes and demonizes others, especially Whites, for thinking or doing anything similar, or for that matter objecting in any fashion to jews doing any of this.

Steinlight’s critique is a call to action for his fellow jews, who in his mind aren’t working smart or hard enough in pursuit of their own collective best interests. His thoughts, on the surface riddled with contradiction and hypocrisy, only appear that way to those who will not see how they are rooted in the ruthless pursuit of answers to a single burning question: What is best for the jews?

Furthermore, and more to the point for those of us who aren’t jews, Steinlight sees the best interests of others as, at best, in conflict with, and at worse, as a threat to the interests of jews. Us and our interests are trifles, of no consequence whatsoever except to the extent we can be co-opted, manipulated or otherwise exploited as he and his tribe see fit.

the_jewish_narrative

How Anti-Whiteness is at the Heart of Jewish Identity

The flip side of sweeping explanations that overlook the jews are the ones that are all about them. Where the jew-blind explanations are primarily for the non-jews, to keep us busy thinking about anything but jewish influence and power, the jew-centric explanations, which we’ll examine here, reflect how jews see the world and explain it to each other.

These jew-centric explanations of the world present a surreal, uncompromisingly one-sided view in favor of jews – how they’ve continually been wronged by others, most especially Europeans. This sick anti-White narrative is today the prevailing narrative in media, academia and politics. It comes from the jews.

New History: How Anti-Judaism Is at the Heart of Western Culture, by Adam Kirsh, Tablet Magazine, 13 Feb 2013:

The title of David Nirenberg’s new book, Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition, uses a term pointedly different from the one we are used to. The hatred and oppression of Jews has been known since the late 19th century as anti-Semitism—a label, it is worth remembering, originally worn with pride by German Jew-haters. What is the difference, then, between anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism? The answer, as it unfolds in Nirenberg’s scholarly tour de force, could be summarized this way: Anti-Semitism needs actual Jews to persecute; anti-Judaism can flourish perfectly well without them, since its target is not a group of people but an idea.

Nirenberg’s thesis is that this idea of Judaism, which bears only a passing resemblance to Judaism as practiced and lived by Jews, has been at the very center of Western civilization since the beginning. From Ptolemaic Egypt to early Christianity, from the Catholic Middle Ages to the Protestant Reformation, from the Enlightenment to fascism, whenever the West has wanted to define everything it is not—when it wants to put a name to its deepest fears and aversions—Judaism has been the name that came most easily to hand. “Anti-Judaism,” Nirenberg summarizes, “should not be understood as some archaic or irrational closet in the vast edifices of Western thought. It was rather one of the basic tools with which that edifice was constructed.”

This is a pretty depressing conclusion, especially for Jews destined to live inside that edifice; but the intellectual journey Nirenberg takes to get there is exhilarating. Each chapter of “Anti-Judaism” is devoted to an era in Western history and the particular kinds of anti-Judaism it fostered. Few if any of these moments are new discoveries; indeed, Nirenberg’s whole argument is that certain types of anti-Judaism are so central to Western culture that we take them for granted. What Nirenberg has done is to connect these varieties of anti-Judaism into a convincing narrative, working with original sources to draw out the full implications of seminal anti-Jewish writings.

The main reason why Judaism, and therefore anti-Judaism, have been so central to Western culture is, of course, Christianity. But Nirenberg’s first chapter shows that some persistent anti-Jewish tropes predate Jesus by hundreds of years. The Greek historian Hecataeus of Abdera, writing around 320 BCE, recorded an Egyptian tradition that inverts the familiar Exodus story. In this version, the Hebrews did not escape from Egypt but were expelled as an undesirable element, “strangers dwelling in their midst and practicing different rites.” These exiles settled in Judea under the leadership of Moses, who instituted for them “an unsocial and intolerant mode of life.” Already, Nirenberg observes, we can detect “what would become a fundamental concept of anti-Judaism—Jewish misanthropy.” This element was emphasized by a somewhat later writer, an Egyptian priest named Manetho, who described the Exodus as the revolt of an impious group of “lepers and other unclean people.”

As he will do throughout the book, Nirenberg describes these anti-Jewish texts not in a spirit of outrage or condemnation, but rather of inquiry. The question they raise is not whether the ancient Israelites were “really” lepers, but rather, why later Egyptian writers claimed they were. What sort of intellectual work did anti-Judaism perform in this particular culture? To answer the question, Nirenberg examines the deep history of Egypt, showing how ruptures caused by foreign invasion and religious innovation came to be associated with the Jews. Then he discusses the politics of Hellenistic Egypt, in which a large Jewish population was sandwiched uneasily between the Greek elite and the Egyptian masses. In a pattern that would be often repeated, this middle position left the Jews open to hostility from both sides, which would erupt into frequent riots and massacres. In the long term, Nirenberg writes, “the characteristics of misanthropy, impiety, lawlessness, and universal enmity that ancient Egypt assigned to Moses and his people would remain available to later millennia: a tradition made venerable by antiquity, to be forgotten, rediscovered, and put to new uses by later generations of apologists and historians.”

This “exhilirating intellectual journey”, presented as a “new history”, is really just the same old tired promotion of the same old jew-excusing apologia, replete with persistent jewish tropes:

  • That the defining feature of non-jews, and specifically “the West”, i.e. Whites, is “anti-jewism”.

  • That jews are powerless, innocent victims.

  • That non-jews try to invert and otherwise manipulate history.

These are actually just variations on the most common jewish trope of all: The problem is not the jews, it’s anyone and everyone else!

Jews are not unaware that there are other points of view. They simply do not compare to their own. Rather than denying the idea that, “the Hebrews did not escape from Egypt but were expelled as an undesirable element”, they invert and thereby co-opt it. Taken together with the hundreds of conflicts and expulsions since, the moral of the jewish narrative is that everyone else is the undesirable element, the “lepers”.

With the rise of Catholic polities in the Middle Ages, anti-Judaism took on a less theological, more material cast. In countries like England, France, and Germany, the Jews held a unique legal status as the king’s “servants” or “slaves,” which put them outside the usual chain of feudal relationships. This allowed Jews to play a much-needed but widely loathed role in finance and taxation, while also demonstrating the unique power of the monarch. The claim of the Capet dynasty to be kings of France, Nirenberg shows, rested in part on their claim to control the status of the Jews, a royal prerogative and a lucrative one: King after king plundered “his” Jews when in need of cash. At the same time, being the public face of royal power left the Jews exposed to the hatred of the people at large. Riots against Jews and ritual murder accusations became popular ways of demonstrating dissatisfaction with the government. When medieval subjects wanted to protest against their rulers, they would often accuse the king of being in league with the Jews, or even a Jew himself.

The common thread in Anti-Judaism is that such accusations of Jewishness have little to do with actual Jews. They are a product of a Gentile discourse, in which Christians argue with other Christians by accusing them of Judaism. The same principle holds true in Nirenberg’s fascinating later chapters. When Martin Luther rebelled against Catholicism, he attacked the church’s “legalistic understanding of God’s justice” as Jewish: “In this sense the Roman church had become more ‘Jewish’ than the Jews.” When the Puritan revolutionaries in the English Civil War thought about the ideal constitution for the state, they looked to the ancient Israelite commonwealth as described in Judges and Kings.

Surprisingly, Nirenberg shows, the decline of religion in Europe and the rise of the Enlightenment did little to change the rhetoric of anti-Judaism. Voltaire, Kant, and Hegel all used Judaism as a figure for what they wanted to overcome—superstition, legalistic morality, the dead past. Finally, in a brief concluding chapter on the 19th century and after, Nirenberg shows how Marx recapitulated ancient anti-Jewish tropes when he conceived of communist revolution as “the emancipation of mankind from Judaism”—that is, from money and commerce and social alienation.

Religion, no religion, kings, no kings – the common thread is jews somehow managing to get special status and privileges. The jewish narrative explains this by imagining ubiquitous “anti-jews” who only imagine jews exist. Unsurprisingly, the “exhilirating intellectual journey” concludes by imagining Marx not as part and parcel of a quintessentially jewish revolutionary tradition but as an “anti-jew”.

Not until the very end of Anti-Judaism does he touch, obliquely, on the question of what this ancient intellectual tradition means for Jews today. But as he suggests, the genealogy that connects contemporary anti-Zionism with traditional anti-Judaism is clear: “We live in an age in which millions of people are exposed daily to some variant of the argument that the challenges of the world they live in are best explained in terms of ‘Israel.’ ” For all the progress the world has made since the Holocaust in thinking rationally about Jews and Judaism, the story Nirenberg has to tell is not over. Anyone who wants to understand the challenges of thinking and living as a Jew in a non-Jewish culture should read Anti-Judaism.

More important, let’s touch on what this all means for Whites today. We live in an age in which millions of Whites are exposed to, and to a terrifying extent, have accepted the jewish narrative – a viewpoint utterly hostile to themselves.

Whoever did whatever to whom in the past, today it is jews who police the mainstream media and public political discourse and fill it with terms like “anti-semitism”, “Israel” and “Holocaust”. These terms reflect their obsession with themselves and their best interests, which includes imposing their way of seeing the world, their self-obsessions, onto everyone else.

Reinforcing this point, a “related content” link on the article above takes the reader to an older article from October 2011, Ron Rosenbaum Confronts ‘The End of the Holocaust’:

Alvin Rosenfeld is a brave man, and his new work is courageous. The book is called The End of the Holocaust, and it is not reluctant to take on the unexamined pieties that have grown up around the slaughter, and the sentimentalization that threatens to smother it in meretricious uplift.

The real “end of the Holocaust,” he argues, is the transformation of it into a lesson about the “triumph of the human spirit” or some such affirmation. Rosenfeld, the founder and former director of the Jewish studies program at Indiana University, which has made itself a major center of Jewish publishing and learning, is a mainstream scholar who has seen the flaw in mainstream Holocaust discourse. He has made it his mission to rescue the Holocaust from the Faustian bargain Jews have made with history and memory, the Faustian bargain that results when we trade the specifics of memory, the Jewishness of the Holocaust, and the Jew-hatred that gave it its rationale and identity, for the weepy universalism of such phrases as “the long record of man’s inhumanity to man.”

The impulse to find the silver lining is relentless, though. Suffering and grief must be transformed into affirmation, and the bleak irrecoverable fate of the victims must be given a redemptive aspect for those of us alive. In fact it’s an insult to the dead to rob their graves to make ourselves feel better. One recent manifestation Rosenfeld has shrewdly noticed is the way there has been a subtle shift in the popular representation of the Holocaust—a shift in the attention once given to the murdered victims to comparatively uplifting stories of survivors, of the “righteous gentiles,” of the scarce “rescuers,” and the even scarcer “avengers,” e.g., Quentin Tarantino’s fake-glorious fictional crew.

Rosenfeld is not afraid to contend with the fact that, as he writes, “with new atrocities filling the news each day and only so much sympathy to go around, there are people who simply do not want to hear any more about the Jews and their sorrows. There are other dead to be buried, they say.” The sad, deplorable, but, he says, “unavoidable” consequence of what may be the necessary limits of human sympathy is that “the more successfully [the Holocaust] enters the cultural mainstream, the more commonplace it becomes. A less taxing version of a tragic history begins to emerge, still full of suffering, to be sure, but a suffering relieved of many of its weightiest moral and intellectual demands and, consequently easier to be … normalized.”

Normalized? The Holocaust as one more instance in the long chronicle of “man’s inhumanity to man”? Rosenfeld’s book offers a welcome contrarian take on the trend. Yes, we’ve had enough, as Rosenfeld points out, of museums that cumulatively obscure memory in a fog of well-meaning but misleading inspirational brotherhood-of-man rhetoric.

Here, stripped of the usual misleading brotherhood-of-man rhetoric, is an even more specific and virulent example of jewish self-obsession. Rosenbaum and Rosenfeld see sympathy, everyone’s sympathy, as something the jews alone deserve.

What we haven’t had enough of is a careful consideration of the implications of the Holocaust for the nature of human nature. As George Steiner told me (for my book, Explaining Hitler), “the Holocaust removed the re-insurance from human hope”—the psychic safety net we imagine marked the absolute depth of human nature. The Holocaust tore through that net heading for hell. Human nature could be—at the promptings of a charismatic and evil demagogue, religious hate, and so-called “scientific racism”—even worse than we imagined. No one wants to hear that. We want to hear uplifting stories about that nice Mr. Schindler. We want affirmations!

And the fact that it was not just one man but an entire continent that enthusiastically pitched in or stood by while 6 million were murdered: Doesn’t that call for us to spend a little time re-thinking what we still reverently speak of as “European civilization”? Or to investigate the roots of that European hatred? How much weight do the Holocaust museums give to the two millennia of Christian Jew-hatred, murderous pogroms, blood libels, and other degradations? Or do they prefer to focus on “righteous gentiles” in order to avoid offending their gentile hosts?

And for all their “reaching out” and “teachable moments,” how much do the Holocaust museums and Holocaust curricula connect the hatred of the recent past with contemporary exterminationist Jew-hatred, the vast numbers of people who deny the first, but hunger for a second, Holocaust? It’s a threat some fear even to contemplate—the potential destruction of the 5 million Jews of Israel with a single well-placed nuclear blast—a nightmarish but not unforseeable possibility to which Rosenfeld is unafraid to devote the final section of his book.

Rosenbaum, a perpetually offended professional jew, thinks the problem with jews is that they aren’t self-obsessed and offensive enough. The threat, as he sees it, is “human nature”, which is just another way of saying everyone and anyone else.

Rosenbaum goes on and on in this vein, expressing his contempt for “the non-jewish majority” because, in his opinion, they don’t care enough about the jews.

Consider the Faustian bargain that Holocaust museums in America have so often made with the non-Jewish majority: The survivors and eyewitnesses of the Holocaust are dying, and the only way to get Americans to care about the destruction of the Jews, the only way we will get a (nearly) front row seat on the National Mall in Washington for our Holocaust museum, is by convincing Americans that the Holocaust can be a “teachable moment” in America’s uplifting struggle against intolerance. Rosenfeld calls this bargain “the Americanization of the Holocaust,” and even though he’s on the executive committee of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum he’s not happy about the tendency.

In discussing, for instance, the Los Angeles-based Museum of Tolerance (the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Holocaust museum), he says that “by situating the Holocaust within a historical framework that includes such quintessentially American experiences as the Los Angeles riots and the struggle for black civil rights, both of which are prominently illustrated, the Museum of Tolerance relativizes the catastrophe brought on by Naziism in a radical way. America’s social problems, for all their gravity, are not genocidal in character and simply do not resemble the persecution and systematic slaughter of European Jews during World War II.” It’s a critique I first saw articulated by Jonathan Rosen in a 1993 New York Times op-ed called “The Misguided Holocaust Museum” back when the museum on the Mall was first opening. At first I was surprised, but then I was persuaded, at least to a certain extent, by Rosen’s impassioned dissent from the conventional wisdom.

And of course there is the difficult question of how one compares such tragedies. Why not a Cambodian genocide museum? In what ways are the Cambodian, the Armenian, and the Rwandan genocides similar and different from the Nazi genocide? If the Rodney King riots do not deserve being placed on the same plane shouldn’t the casualties of slavery in America, an institution that killed the bodies and murdered the souls of those who survived, count just as much?

There’s an argument that it’s a politically savvy heuristic strategy to unite with other sufferers against the murderous haters rather than set our suffering apart. And Jews have a strong record of concern for the sufferings of others. Solidarity! But Rosenfeld is on a mission not to allow the differences of the identity of the Jewish victims to disappear, and he is both a moral thinker and an astute cultural critic.

Rosenbaum’s argument: Hey jews, you’re letting everyone forget that it’s all about the jews.