Monday, August 28, 2006

The Fatal Embrace, Revisited

While chatting several years ago with my good friend Bob Unger -- a talented and passionate man blessed with weapons-grade wit and a total lack of inhibitions in dealing with ignorant people – the conversation turned, as it often does for us, to the subject of Judaism.

An Orthodox Jew from Great Neck, New York, Bob is often given to expressing opinions of Reformed and Liberal Jews that I simply cannot repeat, and find occasionally difficult to listen to. (Imagine a wittier Michael Savage in a really bad mood, and you'll get some sense of what I'm trying to describe.) As I said, he's a passionate and uninhibited guy. In any case, Bob was well into the second stanza of his harangue when I tentatively dipped my toe into the topic.

“If I can be permitted to venture a poorly informed opinion,” I began, “which is the only kind I can offer on the subject, it seems to me that the basic problem is that too many Jewish people define their identity with reference to Seinfeld, rather than to Sinai.”

“Yes! That's it exactly!” Bob replied.

Knowing that by doing so I am slam-dancing where Angels fear to tread, I'd like to expand on that insight – such as it is – by offering the following exercise in defining two kinds of Judaism, as well as Zionism:

Religious (Torah) Judaism
is based on the worship of God.

Cultural Judaism is the worship of a collective – the Jewish people, corporately.

Zionism is the worship of a state.

The second category is where we would locate Seinfeld-defined Jewish people. The third category, unfortunately, has almost entirely subsumed the first two. And therein lies the real mortal danger to Jews, and to many millions of other innocent people, since the worship of the state in any form always involves blood sacrifices – and the worship of the particular State of Israel may exact a blood tax the likes of which we've never seen.

What about the first category?

Although most religious Jews are Zionists or at least favorably inclined toward the movement, there are a few, even today, who reject the premises on which the modern State of Israel was built. One example is Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, an Orthodox Jew who lives in Jerusalem, as have his ancestors for eleven generations.

Yehuda, whose surname means, roughly, “silken gold,” is founder and head of Zaka, a nonprofit group of Orthodox volunteers who collect and care for the bodies – even the most fragmentary remains – of those killed in terror bombings, as well as car bombings and other tragedies. This gruesome and dangerous task is considered a mitzvah, a good deed mandated by the scriptures.

When Israel's hi-tech bubble burst earlier this decade at about the same time the most recent Palestinian Intifada began, Zaka's work became “one of Israel's few growth industries,” wryly commented Richard Ben Cramer in his compulsively readable book How Israel Lost. What makes this all the more remarkable is the fact that Meshi-Zahav, like many others in Zaka, are haredim (“the fearful ones”) – pious Jews who regard the modern, secular, socialist state of Israel to be an abomination before God.

Yehuda's ancestors didn't need to be gathered to Jerusalem; they returned to the city many generations ago “not as Zionists – they came before the Zionists – simply as Jews,” notes Cramer. Yehuda grew up in an Orthodox neighborhood “as a Jew, not an Israeli,” surrounded by devout people who “would have nothing to do with the Godless little Denmark or Sweden that Labour Zionism seemed to be creating in this place that should have been (and was in God's eyes) holy. In fact, Meshi came of age as an enemy of the state.”

As do all decent people everywhere, of course.

Yehuda regards the much-contested Holy Land as the divinely appointed inheritance of Jews, perhaps because, unlike retail-store clerics like John Hagee and his ilk (I call them “Men of the Polyester,” rather than “Men of the Cloth”), Yehuda has read and understands the contingent nature of the promises found in Deuteronomy 11 and elsewhere.

“If things don't change here, I don't need the land,” Yehuda points out. “I can be a Jew anywhere. We had a contract with God years ago, that this land belongs to Jews. Then, we started to break the rules. That's why the Palestinian is taking over now.”
Many commentators insist that Israel's current predicament is an outgrowth of the acquisition of the Territories in 1967. Yehuda disagrees.

“The problem isn't '67. It was 1948. That is when we turned away from the law of the Torah, and tried to replace it with the laws of a state. The people of Israel got the Torah in Sinai without one centimeter of land.... Three thousand years ago, we got those laws – and now, instead, we are depending on one hundred and twenty Knesset members. Some of them are following Torah, some of them are not. Some of them are Russians, and we don't even know if they're Jews – so what can you expect?”

That last comment is, to say the least, provocative, especially in light of the efforts by “Rev.” Hagee and his associates to promote Russian immigration to Israel, whether or not the new arrivals are religious Jews, or Jews in any sense honest people would recognize. This is helping to build and strengthen the Israeli state, certainly, but it is also helping to fortify that nation's large, brutal, sophisticated, and expanding network of criminal syndicates – a subject that will be dealt with here in (hopefully) adequate depth some other time.

The influx of immigrants from the Former Soviet Union is changing the character of Israel, to be sure, but Yehuda's key point is that the state was never what he would consider to be truly Jewish to begin with. My above-mentioned friend Bob Unger once made the same point to me in characteristically memorable fashion: “Suppose that after America's War for Independence, our first president had been Benedict Arnold. That's pretty much what's happened to Israel.”

Cramer points out, as if by way of elaborating on Unger's point, that “Orthodox Judaism, the rabbis and yeshivas, were Zionism's first enemy.” This is because most of the founders of Israel “were atheists (or damn near – you could call them, perhaps, pugnacious secularists) who didn't want their modern utopia muddled up with any rabbinic mumbo jumbo.”

Theodor Herzl himself, Cramer continues, “wrote of the future homeland as a nation where the rabbis would be confined to their synagogues,” and in the decades leading up to the founding of Israel “Zionist agitators weren't calling for a Jewish State, but a `Hebrew State' (so their movement would never be confused with religion).” And the Israeli Declaration of Statehood pointedly contained “a promise to be faithful to the charter of the UN” but the document's only reference to God – a line about “faith in Almighty God” found in the last paragraph of the draft -- “was rewritten by the Provisional Council of State to the acceptably vague compromise -- `trust in the Rock of Israel.'”

Yes, “the Rock of Israel” is among the Bible's names for the God of Abraham. However, in context and practice, the expression was meant by Israel's founders to be the State itself – and that meaning is certainly shared by most of Israel's contemporary partisans.

It is difficult to overstate the contempt for religious Jews that animated many of Israel's founders. A vignette in Amos Elon's 1971 book The Israelis: Founders and Sons describes the annual ritual followed by one group of Zionist pioneers: Each year on Yom Kippur, the holiest date in the Jewish calendar, during which religious Jews (and even those Jews who are the equivalent of Christmas-Easter churchgoers) fast, this group of obnoxious socialists would gorge themselves on ham sandwiches, a repast that in their case could be construed as cannibalism.

Regrettably, it is that strain of Zionism – contempt for Judaism as an expression of duty to God, coupled with fanatical worship of the State – that defines Israel today, and dictates the priorities of its supporters. And the State's priorities are all bound up in prolonging the tragedy of the Occupation, which provides a perpetual emergency on which the State has grown obese.

Not surprisingly, the most brutal element of the Israeli State's apparatus of coercion – which is being used against both Palestinians and religious Jewish settlers – has recruited heavily from recent immigrants from Russia and the Former Soviet Union. According to a study conducted by Israel's Minister of Diaspora Affairs, two-thirds of the most recent arrivals in Israel were not Jewish.

Writes Cramer, describing a neighborhood familiar from his annual visits to Israel: “My market in Tel Aviv was half Russian stalls and stores, with hams hanging over the counter, and signs (some in Russian only) decorated with dancing pigs.” The Russians brought in (once again, with the financial assistance from John Hagee and similar paragons of piety) to boost the Israeli population “quickly earned a reputation as the most brutal badass checkpoint soldiers available.... [Y]ou could sum up the matter [thus]: It didn't matter if the Russians were Jews – because the mission of Israel had changed again – from the rescue of the Jewish people, to the rescue of the Jewish's state's occupation.”

It is always and ever thus: Wherever the State exists, it will eventually re-order society's priorities to make its own preservation the central organizing principle. In the case of Israel, the tragedy is compounded by the fact that the Israeli State is literally destroying Jewish identity as it was understood for millennia – that of a group of people “living apart” under God's law.

Dissident Israeli investigative journalist Barry Chamish
has reached that conclusion. Asked by his friends why he's promoting non-service in the IDF, Chamish unabashedly writes that the “Israeli establishment, finally, must be felled.” That establishment, he points out, is the direct descendant of Israel's anti-Judaic founders, who “cooperated in the deaths of millions of European Jews to get their dream state. Lately, they bemired the state in still another war during which twice as many of the Israeli dead proportionately were the religious of Yesha, still too blind and patriotic to understand that they died for their very worst enemies” -- that is, the secular leftist Establishment running the Israeli State.

With only the slightest of modifications, Chamish's description applies equally well to America's Religious Right, as well.

Although I don't know if Chamish has read The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State by Professor Benjamin Ginsberg of Johns Hopkins University, his conclusions certainly resonate with Ginsberg's findings, to wit: It is statism – not Christianity – that lies at the root of historic anti-Semitism.

In previous eras, Ginsberg explains, Jews were socially marginalized people whose status led them "to seek the protection of the state.” Indeed, under the malign influence of Spinoza and others of his kidney, an explicitly statist variety of pseudo-Judaism was developed that defined the State as both pater (father) and soter (savior). Accordingly, he continues: “Over the past several centuries ... Jews have played a major role in the strengthening of existing states and in efforts to supplant established regimes with new ones." In many states, he continues, "Jews were crucial in building and staffing institutions of extraction, coercion, administration, and mobilization.... [T]hese relationships between Jews and the state have been the chief catalysts for organized anti-Semitism."

Digested into simple terms, Ginsberg’s compelling thesis is that time and again, Jews have sought to build state power in order to protect themselves from persecution – only to engender the hostility of those whose prosperity and liberties suffer at the hands of the state. And time and again, the state turned its wrath on the same Jewish advisers and agents that had worked so diligently to expand its powers.

Despite this utterly predictable outcome, Ginsberg observes, "Jews often continued to look to the state for protection even when it was the state itself that was the source of their problems." He cites one particularly tragic example of this "fatal embrace" at work: "[T]o the very end many German Jews could not believe that the German state would fail to protect them from the excesses of Nazi fanatics.”

As the Bush regime, acting under the influence of a group of Trotskyite fanatics bent on global revolution, prepares to expand its Middle East war to Syria and Iran, we can see a horrifying new variation on this “Fatal Embrace.” The US and Israel are involved in a sick and bizarre relationship of mutual exploitation, each using the other as a proxy, and both being controlled by a rootless, globalist elite that cares not at all for the best interests of anyone – American, Israeli, or Arab.

The Israeli campaign in Lebanon was intended as a preliminary round of a war against Iran. It went very badly, and will probably result in the removal of the Omert government (witness the suddenly “discovered” scandal now being used to undermine his image and reputation) and its replacement with a government more suitable to the war agenda.

In the process, those Jews who have relied on the Israeli State to protect them are being set up for what could be the mother of all pogroms. Professor Stephen Zunes of the University of San Francisco describes the relevant factors, and runs the math for us:

“One of the more unsettling aspects of the broad support in Washington for the use of Israel as U.S. proxy in the Middle East is how closely it corresponds to historic anti-Semitism. In past centuries, the ruling elite of European countries would, in return for granting limited religious and cultural autonomy, established certain individuals in the Jewish community as the visible agents of the oppressive social order, such as tax collectors and moneylenders. When the population threatened to rise up against the ruling elite, the rulers could then blame the Jews, channeling the wrath of an exploited people against convenient scapegoats. The resulting pogroms and waves of repression took place throughout the Jewish Diaspora.
Zionists hoped to break this cycle by creating a Jewish nation-state where Jews would no longer be dependent on the ruling elite of a given country. The tragic irony is that, by using Israel to wage proxy war to promote U.S. hegemony in the region, this cycle is being perpetuated on a global scale. This latest orgy of American-inspired Israeli violence has led to a dangerous upsurge in anti-Semitism in the Middle East and throughout the world.”

The Bush administration's unique twist on this scenario – which is right out of Ginsberg's analysis of the “Fatal Embrace” -- is to demand a heavily-armed, fully empowered UN “peace force” in Lebanon, supposedly for the protection of both Lebanon and Israel.

Were I of a certain Dispensationalist cast of mind, I might conclude that by helping create the conditions for all nations to gather against Israel, George W. Bush may be auditioning for the role of Anti-Christ.

Not being of that inclination, I'll settle for saying that this is merely a horrifyingly bad idea, one that will almost certainly end in tears, horror, and bloodshed.

But such are the inscrutable ways of the divine State.


Ann said...

Thanks for your piece. I feel better informed.

Unknown said...

I just found about about this blog today; for two weeks I assumed you were just on vacation from Birch Blog. Now I have to catch up on what I missed. I appreciate that comments are allowed here.

Like Ann, I feel better informed by this post. It provides substance to my own thoughts of this tragic situation.

dixiedog said...

I agree that abstract statism is pure totalitarianism, but after that long admittedly concise argument opposing abstract statism, whether Jewish-centric or otherwise, the substance and meat of the matter of dealing with statism in practical terms is still scarce therein. What, pray tell, do you think the Jews in the state (sigh) of Israel are to do? Simply leave? Stay? Give up? Fight (oh yeah, that would be for the state)? What?

Since the world at large has embraced statism or is embracing it; Jews simply have more experience at it and have been statist-minded for centuries for precisely the reasons you gave in your argument. So, what's so surprising that they are continuing the status quo, but to the Jewish state rather than a Gentile state? With that in mind, why is it more radical, terrible, and evil for Jewish statists in Israel to act in accordance with that mindset, but not a big deal, terrible, or wrong for anyone elsewhere in the world to act thusly? Again, the cosmopolitan mindset is today overwhelmingly statist.

Indeed, the state of Israel was formed in 1948 by the godless statists collectively gathered in the U.N. Jewish atheists were the main catalyst agitating it into fruition. And the impetus for pointing this out conclusively would be? A new hitherto unknown revelation? I suppose it should mean that it wasn't meant to be or wasn't part of God's overall plan to gather them out of the nations and bring them back to their land through whatever means He pleased, in this case, the reformation of the state of Israel? God accomplishes his purposes through the works of the wicked as well as the saints. It's just that the saints do it willingly and knowingly and the wicked do not. Nevertheless, the wicked (whether Jew or Gentile) in the end can and inevitably will in some manner accomplish His ultimate purpose to further His grand plan among the nations, if not His personal will for their individual lives.

I'll freely admit that I'm not an intellectual Hercules by any measure, as I don't hide under the cloak of a Plato by presenting in "broken record" fashion other folks' written intellectual appetizers, such as "As Plato [or insert your fav philosopher here] said..." Not that I necessarily don't ever do this, since after all the sages of yore provide many timeless and wise beatitudes and maxims. I rather like to look at situations in distilled raw logic and reason to think of a given situation or scenario for myself to determine what my view of it will be; tempered, of course, with God's Word.

And just to be unquestionably clear, it wasn't your disdain for Hagee that peaked by curiosity, since Hagee is too charismatic and, to be polite, too loud and alarmist in a most unhealthy way for my tastes. It was, instead, your mention of Dispensationalism and your disinclination towards that view that did.

As for me, I'm not an adherent of Preterism.

I think this might very well be the number one issue that's dividing the church at large today that contributes greatly to it having almost zero impact in the Old and New world anymore. As for the Third World, however, it's another matter altogether, a raging fire in fact.

It's an unfortunate reality today, and as evidenced by observing the panoramic landscape, not really in any way unexpected or unusual.

William N. Grigg said...

Thanks to everyone for contributing your comments! I really appreciate it!

Brother Dixiedog --

There's nothing exceptionally wrong or immoral about the fact that Jewish Israeli statists to act on their infirm assumptions.

I do think, however, that there is something tragically ironic in the fact that the State supposedly created to preserve the Jews threatens to do what their historic enemies -- from Haman to Hitler -- failed to do: Destroy their identity as a discrete people defined by a covenant with God.

And I think Jews who look to the Israeli state for protection they've placed themselves in a uniquely self-defeating position, since 1) the historic experience of Jews should be enough to convince them that the State is their mortal enemy; and 2) this particular State is run by people who have redundantly shown that they is no betrayal of which they're not capable.

What should they do? I think that first of all, Israel needs to establish itself as a "normal" country, which it CANNOT do until it is no longer a client state of Washington. I'm convinced that our entanglement in the region has Sugar Daddy and Big Brother not only impedes any progress toward peace, but is actually intended to prevent it.

As to my views of Dispensationalism -- I'm not a Preterist, either. My views are still not fully formed on the subject, and as I admitted in my introductory post, I've got a lot to learn about practically everything.

I do find it peculiar that many good and decent people look on the squalid, UN-created socialist monstrosity called Israel and profess to believe that THIS was what the prophets, saints, and martyrs of the ages prayed for -- and that Christians have a duty, transcending their allegiance to our country, to uphold the interests of that state.

I don't exaggerate: I'm aware of Christian congregations in Indiana (I've visited a few) where congregants pledge allegiance to the Israeli flag, and sing "Hatikva." And Hagee has taken to wearing a Jewish prayer shawl and insists that the question we will have to answer on Judgment Day is: What did you do for the Jews (and, presumably, for the State of Israel)?

One reason I highlighted the case of Yehuda Meshi-Zahav is to underscore the fact that Jews have been living in the Holy Land for generations; they were gathering, one of a family, two of a city, as it were, before the socialist pretenders who created the modern State of Israel got into the act (Herzl and his successors originally weren't interested in Palestine, as it happens).

Yehuda is of the opinion that his inheritance as a Jew depends on his relationship with God, not his subservience to a state. I sure wish that perspective were contagious.

dixiedog said...

Thanks Will for your response.

I think that first of all, Israel needs to establish itself as a "normal" country, which it CANNOT do until it is no longer a client state of Washington. I'm convinced that our entanglement in the region has Sugar Daddy and Big Brother not only impedes any progress toward peace, but is actually intended to prevent it.

I agree, and I think America needs to halt the subsidies and foreign aid. Yes, I believe that Washington (as well as the European) elitists thrive on the continuation of the conflict. Your response clarified to a large degree your overall points made in the post.

Even so, the fact is that the Muslim world, and increasingly the West as well, desires that Israel not exist. After all, the Word says Jerusalem would be a cup of trembling and a burdensome stone to the nations and, voilĂ , so it is.

On the matter of Dispensationalism, as I mentioned, you simply peaked my curiosity. Thanks for your response on this particular especially.

dixiedog said...

As someone who IS a Preterist, I would like to go on record as saying that having a preteristic understanding of New Testament eschatology does not correlate to being anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic.

I understand, dr roberts. It was not my intent to imply anti-Semitism in any way, if you thought as much, simply that I did not adhere to the doctrine (in terms of prophesies being fulfilled already by 70 A.D. rather than with Jews themselves) and that it contrasts with dispensationalism, nothing more.

However, many who are preterists are also adherents of replacement theology (Israel replaced by the Church under the new covenant) and that doctrine in particular, on the other hand, I could never accept.

Thankfully, doctrinal variations on the subject of prophecy is not critical in terms of ones salvation so we all can manage those differences without distorting the salvation message itself.

In any event, I suspected that by mentioning it it would bring forth a reponse thereto ;).

dixiedog said...

After all, the Word says Jerusalem would be a cup of trembling and a burdensome stone to the nations and, voilĂ , so it is.

Just a side note to the above, it's interesting that Jerusalem was of no interest to Muslims prior to the '67 war when Israel captured it, forget the oft-heard claim today of it being the "third holiest" site in Islam.

RonL said...

Mr. Grigg,

You are misinformed about Zionism.
The recreation of a Jewish state is something that religious Jews pray for thrice daily.
Some of the early Zionists were religious Jews. I suggest that you look up Religious Zionism.

(As an aside, there is a third camp, Revisionist Zionists, the followers of Jabotinski.
The Socialists were never a majority and are not now even Zionists.)

The head of Zaka does not call for the end of Israel. In fact, he recently caused quite a stir, when he beat up the Rabbi who went over the Iranian Holocaust Denial conference.

Anonymous said...

"I'll freely admit that I'm not an intellectual Hercules by any measure, as I don't hide under the cloak of a Plato..."

Dixiedog, I think you're a poet. You sound like you've been reading Coleridge all night, or one of those old English writers who referred to myth.

Re the original post: I read a library copy of Ginsburg's _Jews and the State_ but I don't have a copy now. From memory, he seemed to accurately predict the Bush administration -- Jews got into power and pushed the system to heavily favor particular interests -- such as David H. Brooks and his shoddy manufacturing. If Ginsburg's pattern repeats, the resulting crash will not be pleasant.

It's an interesting post -- I still need to go back and follow the links. Thanks.