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We are All Jews Now

by Simon Jones

Dissident Voice

April 30, 2003

 

Critics of Israeli policies against the Palestinians run the danger of accusations of anti-Semitism. But Zionism, the 19th c movement to create a Jewish state in Palestine, is no longer strictly a Jewish cause. Indeed some of the most ardent supporters of the Jewish state, Israel, are not even Jewish, and there are many brave Jews who disapprove of Israel's atrocities. These atrocities, I would argue, are the main source of anti-Semitism today. By perpetrating them, Israel and the Zionists actually encourage anti-Semitism, by reinforcing the identification in peoples' minds of Jews and Zionism. Fearing the epithet of 'anti-Semite' we tolerate what can only be called crimes against humanity committed in the name of Israel, and abet that very anti-Semitism we condemn.

 

Of course no one should hate Jews as a people (the only race is the human race). But a deeper consideration of the matter will lead us to the realization that it is not only the Wolfowitzes and Bushes, the Jewish and non-Jewish Zionists alike, who are the problem, but our own inculcated Judaic culture.

 

Modern civilization itself arose from Judaism. Its great legacies include monotheism, the written alphabet and the sacredness of the written word [1], and the restless cultural and social alienation at the root of our philosophy of progress and behind the logic of capitalism. For the essence of Judaism is alienation. Alienation from one's homeland and in tandem with this - from oneself and nature.

 

The wandering, usurious Jew is perhaps the most compelling and unsettling archetype ingrained in the modern human psyche. Who is immune from the sinister image of Shylock, with his pointed beard, crafty shifting eyes, bent on revenge against a world that is in essence his enemy? Christianity and Islam forbid charging interest, except in the case of your enemy (Deut. 23:19: "From him exact usury whom it would not be a crime to kill.). Hence, the despised Jew became moneylender by default.

 

But by the same token, Deuteronomy allows the Jew to 'exact usury' from the Gentile (his enemy). This encapsulates the Jewish mentality: a racially identified religious belief (unlike Christianity and Islam) identifying the world as its - the 'chosen' people's - enemy. Cast out of Israel, fated to wander in exile, comforted only by 'the Word', the Jew was forced to fashion his mentality in the ruthless forge of hatred and despair. Nature itself became 'the other', to be conquered and exploited. All non-Jews became the enemy, to be both feared and exploited.

 

As globalization took hold on the world from the 15th century on, with the emphasis on rationalism, technology, trade and conquest, the attitude towards usury, and consequently, Jews, began to change. Instead of being despised, they became more and more the model for western civilization. The nations most open to Jews - Holland and England - were the first to develop banking, establish central banks and expand their commercial empires. As Jews integrated into society, their character traits, forged over a long and difficult history, took hold - patience, steadfast devotion to learning and work, and more subtly, acceptance and even love of usury, accumulation of capital (not flagrant displays of wealth, as the feudal rich indulged in), and the co-requisite treatment of the outside world (both people and nature) as 'the enemy', to be exploited. The Western world became Jewish, as Marx put it, and adopted the Jewish idea of success.

 

America, as the tabula rasa, became the new 'homeland' of the Jews, who emigrated there in large numbers. As the genocide against the American native peoples proceeded apace (the first great genocide of modern history) and the world slave trade expanded (the second great genocide), the Jews prospered, despite the residual racial discrimination which they experienced. Ironically, those Gentiles in control, were already effectively Jews in their lifestyle and thinking. As America grew and prospered, in the embrace of the Judaic formula for success, the greatest of the new business and cultural establishments - New York and later Hollywood - attracted an astonishingly high percentage of Jews. Like it or not, Jewish figures prospered in what can only be described as a Jewish cultural milieu. Why is this surprising? After all, we are all Jews now.

 

It only took the third great genocide (this time against the Jews themselves) to put the Jewish question squarely on the world's agenda. The sympathy it prompted gave the Zionists (a 19th century movement which arose in response to the ascendancy of the Jewish idea at the center of world 'civilization') their opportunity to incarnate their sacred goal of re-establishing a state of Israel. The Torah indeed talks of the 'promised land' for the 'chosen people', i.e., a future reconciliation, an overcoming of their age-old alienation, here on earth. But David Abrams argues in The Spell of the Sensuous that this promise is not of a physical establishment of a homeland for the Jews, but a spiritual reconciliation of all humankind.

 

We must overcome our fundamental alienation from nature and a world of enmity and exploitation, a process which the Jews themselves began, and which, as we embraced it (knowingly or unknowingly), has led to our present social and environmental crisis. Thus it is not a question of Zionism per se being evil, but of the 'misplaced concreteness' of present-day Zionism - identifying the 'promised land' with a physical (vs spiritual ) location, just as the 'chosen people' are mistakenly identified racially as 'Jews' (vs the entire human race). There is only one 'promised land' (our planet Earth) and only one human 'race' (humankind)!

 

Consider the present crisis in America and the rise of anti-Americanism worldwide. "The US has become a Jewish state in more ways than one. It has the same security checks, the same holocaust museums, the same poverty for many and riches for a few as Israel. The similarity is felt by its friend and foe alike. David Quinn wrote in the Sunday Times, that the feel of Irish intellectuals' rejection of American policies is 'so strong, so palpable, so irrational [sic], that it reminded me of nothing so much as anti-Semitism. Americans are like the Jews in having become the scapegoats of choice for half the planet. The Jews were accused of controlling the world's finances; so is the United States. The Jews were accused of promoting decadence through their control of culture and the arts. So is the United States. The Jews were accused of putting their power to a range of nefarious uses. So is the United States. Given America's power and wealth, and the strength of its Jewish lobby, in the Middle East it has been simplicity itself to mix anti-American with age-old anti-Semitism to produce a truly poisonous brew." [2]

 

So what is the way out of our civilization's dead end?

 

First, if the 1500 years of human history where the Jew was both despised and the moneylender of last resort is proof of anything, it is that there seems to be a role for chrematistics (charging interest), then considered a dangerous and sinful practice in human civilization, only it must be very strictly circumscribed. Rational management of economic resources requires rational tools. But they are tools in the hands of humans, not magic wands which, like the sorcerer's apprentice found out, can take on a will of their own and create havoc. They must be based on spirituality, small-scale communal values, and incorporate human activity within the context of the larger natural world (vs the reverse today).

 

Secondly, and similarly, though there are no evil peoples, ALL empires become malignant when unchecked. The American spirit of entrepreneurship, self-reliance, and local self government is indeed worthy of emulation. Likewise, if harnessed, the incredible cultural and scientific richness of Israeli society could transform the Middle East in a benign way. But every empire if left unchecked becomes malignant, and we must devote our energies to reining in the Judeo-American empire before it destroys us all. The Soviet empire killed and exiled millions in the drive to demolish the old order, producing uniformity and environmental decay just as deadly as its American antagonists. Unchecked, the Nazis unleashed the most horrible war on the world and killed millions of Slavs and Jews. "Now, the Judeo-American forces have been unhinged by the completeness of their victories in 1945 and in 1991. They understand it as a license to drive the world to perdition." [3]

 

Finally, the tragic mistake of creating of Israel as a racially-based country must be confronted. The best solution would be to refound a Palestinian state where Jews and the native Arabs live in equality, in harmony with nature and without racial discrimination, not so much a physical homeland for the Jews, but a recognition of the spiritual reconciliation of all humankind, and a transcendence of the false category of 'race' and the equally false separateness of humankind and nature.

 

However, this is an imperfect world. What is essential is that Israel return (kicking and screaming by a post-Bush president if necessary) to a genuine peace process - no tricks and mirrors. Once the perverse mentality of present-day Zionism is rejected, and Israel takes even one step towards sanity, normality, and fairness, I am convinced that a tidal wave of relief will sweep across the Middle East, bringing in its wake the beginnings of true democracy. But social justice is the cornerstone of this process.

 

Einstein, a Zionist we can all admire, argued in his dying moments that peaceful coexistence between Arabs and Jews was a prerequisite to healthy development of a Jewish home in Palestine. "The attitude we adopt toward the Arab minority will provide the real test of our moral standards as a people." [4]

 

Simon Jones is a Canadian freelance journalist living in Uzbekistan. He writes for Peace Magazine (Toronto) and has published pieces in Counterpunch and YellowTimes.org. He can be contacted at sj958@yahoo.com

 

NOTES

 

[1] David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous (1997)

 

[2] Israel Shamir, A Yiddishe Medina, 2003

 

[3] op.cit.

 

[4] Einstein to Zvi Lurie of the Jewish Agency in Israel 1955

 

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