Nation states, particularly those afflicted with the unbearable burden of representative democracy, are by their very nature grotesque, perverse, inhuman, and immoral institutions.i That’s what it is. So can Israel really be any different ?
Ask most any Jewish or right-wing Christian what they think of that despotic “democracy” and just as surely as they’ll tell you that the sky is blue, they’ll tell you that Israel is the “bastion of civility” and “beacon of democracy” in the Middle East ; as if being the world’s tallest midget, as measured by cubic metres of shrubberyii and the number of political parties in the most fractured political morass anywhere on Earth,iii was worthy of our collective deference. As if being a Jew (or, the case of the xtians, a wannabe) meant that you must ipso facto support Eretz Israel because how else could it be in this best of all possible worlds, which is really to say that your grandparents and great-grandparentsiv died for this Utopian vision of reclaiming Jerusalem from the mongrels, and therefore denouncing this vision is tantamount to pissing on their graves. But had my grandparents been Nazis or Soviets or (whisper it) Americans, wouldn’t I be justified in criticising those unholy institutions even if my forefathers supported them ? You’d better believe it.
So that’s what we’re here to do today : to cleave Judaism – even if it’s but a heretical cvasi-Spinozist branch – from Zionism. To assist in this endeavour, let’s call up Sam Kriss to the bema.v First, from Why zionism is antisemitism :
The Israeli army claims that it operates on a principle of the utmost respect for human life, and does everything possible to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties. If, for the sake of argument, we take them at their word here, the picture it reveals is horrifying: Israel loves and cherishes the Palestinians, it will do anything to protect them, but at the same time it’s willing to sacrifice hundreds of Palestinian lives in the hopes of killing just one Jew.
Imagine if any other country operated like this. There’s a word for this kind of behaviour: it’s antisemitism.
Of course, there’s nothing particularly odd or unusual about antisemitism. Hell, no one’s more antisemitic than Jews themselves ! So that the combined forces of self-loathing and nation state chicanery should produce a beast of such unwieldly and ungodly proportions is hardly surprising. That it’s survived this long is a testament to a) it’s internal resolve and b) the efficacy of its ability to enact the internalisation of said same resolve in the hearts and minds of people who’ve never been to Israel and may never go.vi The marketing might and public relations prowess of Israel is second to none, to the point where being anti-zionist is craftily conflated as antisemitism, which is bad because Hitler, y’know.
There’s a constantly repeated line, that anti-zionism is just a veiled form of antisemitism – but if you look at it closely, it becomes something highly unpleasant: if an insult to Israel is an insult to all Jews, then it follows that we’re all united, borg-like, behind the Jewish state, and that we’re all complicit in whatever it does.
As is typical of nation states, you can usually tell what sort of atrocity they’re committing by what they pretend to stand against. Fighting terror ? You’re a terrorist. Fighting drugs ? You’re a drug-pusher. Fighting bullying ? You’re a bully. Fighting anti-semitism ? You’re an anti-semite ! It’s a useful heuristic, this.
What does it mean to be a Jew? Over the centuries, Jews in every corner of the world have led any number of different modes of life; there’s very little to unite the Jewish experience beyond the Tanakh (some Jewish communities split before the composition of the Talmud) and the fact of being in exile. From Sinai to Babylon to Persia to Brooklyn, we’ve spent far more of our history pining after the Land of Israel than actually living in it. Throughout, this loss has been felt as a critical gap between how things are and how things ought to be, a recognition that things have gone wrong; this is why Jewish thought has always tended towards the Utopian. This is why Jews practice circumcision: there’s something missing. This is why the Torah begins with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, beit, a square missing one of its sides. This is why Kabbalah envisages a God that isn’t almighty and all-powerful, but fractured, broken and weak, a God that must be repaired. This is why Jews are commanded to dedicate themselves to tikkum olam, the healing of the earth.
That being in exile – being the wandering jew – is an adaptive trait rather than some sort of fault to be repaired was aptly demonstrated by the Shoah. With this in mind, one wonders how much longer other successful adaptations – be it inequality,vii patriarchy,viii or aristocracyix – will be contested by man in the name of Progress before he accepts that nature is what nature does ? The answer is : indefinitely. For man, having triumphed over nature, must turn his powers inward upon himself, torturing his own existence out of abject necessity ; for life without an enemy, life without suffering, and life without adversity simply isn’t worth the bother.
And with such Utopian ideals and naive “purposes” as tikkun olam, is it any wonder that Judaism is matriarchal ? Or are such “coincidences” too sexualist for your liking ?
Jews have lived on every continent, for hundreds of years, but zionism arose in 19th-century Europe. This is because zionism is not, in terms of its ideological content, a particularly Jewish project, but a European one. This was a period when national groups within the great multi-ethnic empires – Russia, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman caliphate – were increasingly agitating for self-determination along strict ethnic lines, while at the same time other European states were brutally capturing and colonising areas of land elsewhere on the globe. Early zionism, with its demand for a Jewish national homeland outside of Europe, wasn’t much more than a combination of these two tendencies. Zionism was simultaneously a hypostatisation of Jewish difference, and assimilation by other means. The Jews would finally become just like any other respectable European people: we would colonise like them, ethnically cleanse like them, and set up a perfect imitation of the despotic European ethnic state in the Middle East. This is how we got to where we are today, with Jews messing around with tank battalions, repressive state infrastructures, the systematic dispossession of a colonised population, and other such fundamentally goyische inventions.
Not that European or goyische implementations are inherently wrong, it’s just that those having been derived outside of Ancient Greece leave so much to be desired. Still, Europe’s Jews, seeing every other people being granted or by dint of force taking their own plot of terra firma, and being broadly speaking materialistic if only for lack of after-life, wanted a chunk of land to call home. So here we are : watching Jews bray (and pray) to the golden calves of statedomx and guilting non-Israelis, like the stereotypical Jewish mother, into supporting the monstrosity. How drôle !
Now, to Kriss’ other seminal work on the subject, Sympathy for the antisemites :
With the realisation of the Zionist project, Jews have finally succeeded in destroying ourselves. Israelis aren’t Jewish; all this messing about with states and armies and the systematic dispossession of other people is, in the end, something fundamentally very goyische. 1948 marks at once the culmination of Jewish universalism – finally we have a state, just like every other nation – and its extinction – finally we have a state, just like every other nation.
For all its crimes, perhaps the most startling thing about the State of Israel is just how boring it is. We’ve made the desert bloom, and now palm trees scar the Negev with their strict regimented grids. The settlements are as blandly pleasant as American suburbs, but they’ve been fully and murderously weaponised. For a country founded by the inheritors of one of the world’s oldest literary traditions, it’s astounding how few decent writers Israel has. Amos Oz is no Franz Kafka. AB Yehoshua is no Bruno Schulz. Meanwhile, across barbed wine and concrete walls, the Palestinian refugee camps are full of poets.
On one hand, culture is war, and imposing your culture on those beneath you is the only way to ensure your continued survival… and theirs, for it’s only through oppression that culture may exist. On the other hand, fighting wars with American fighter jets isn’t a fight for Judaism, it’s fighting for Europe and its slightly more retarded colonial descendants. It’s nothing less than a Utopian perversion and a misconstruction of the meaning of independence to imagine that a people adapted to literature, finance, and amor fati are suddenly going to be front-line soldiers with olive-skinned tans and amat bellum dispositions.
For all of Israel’s technological innovations,xi for all of its history,xii for all the beauty of its beaches and its women,xiii for all of its culinary delights,xiv it’s still a nation state, it’s still evil, and it’s still not the Land of the Jewish people.
There can be no such thing.
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- If nation states weren’t so wretched, if they weren’t so abhorrent and reprehensible, with the larger ones disproportionately more so than the smaller ones on a power law, how do you suppose it is that there are THREE TIMES as many states on the planet as there were after the Second World War ? How do you suppose it is that we’re nearing ever-closer to decentralised city states ? Hm ?↩
HEAD KNIGHT: Firstly, you must find… another shrubbery!
ARTHUR: Not another shrubbery!
HEAD KNIGHT: Then, when you have found the shrubbery, you must place it here beside this shrubbery, only slightly higher so you get a two-level effect with a little path running down the middle.
RANDOM: A path! A path! Nee!
HEAD KNIGHT: Then, when you have found the shrubbery, you must cut down the mightiest tree in the forest… with… a herring!
Shrubbery : the holy grail indeed. ↩
- Excepting, perhaps, Italy.↩
- I’m not sure that there was ever a greater supporter of the Land of Israel than my great-grandmother, née Fanica Schmetterling, who died at home at age 102 in the satisfied knowledge that Jews finally had their retribution and finally had a home. And this wasn’t dementia talking, the woman spoke 9 languages and was clear as a bell until her dying breath.
On a related and relevant genealogical note : of Fanica’s 5 children and countless other relatives who left Romania in the 50’s and 60’s, her little nuclear family was the only one to come to Canada ; the rest went to Israel. Lucky me.↩
- Sam Kriss is a blogger I recently stumbled across after watching the newest Bond flick, Spectre. While Kriss seemed to enjoy the film more than I did, which I found plat beyond reproach, his analysis was of a depth rarely seen and thoroughly relished. Kriss duly impressed me with his review, no small feat these days, so I must share at least one bit from his take :
Bond’s shark-sprint for the truth falls apart into a messy and ever-widening entropic spiral. Postmodernism posed a far more serious threat to MI6 than Soviet spies ever could. Bond’s response was sloppy. At the start of the Daniel Craig era, the franchise put away most of Pierce Brosnan’s silliness for a lot of dark and gritty po-faced nonsense; the resulting films were basically terrible. In Skyfall, it reacted with a kind of watered-down postmodernism of its own, a plot barely held together by its spider’s-web network of smug self-references. Spectre – by far the best Bond film in recent decades – was at this point probably inevitable. Orbis non sufficit: the world is not enough. The villain in Casino Royale was only a puppet of the villain in Quantum of Solace, who was only a puppet of the villain in Skyfall, who was only a puppet of the villain in Spectre: you can only take this kind of thing so far before the evil grows beyond one lonely planet’s capacity, and plunges into outer space. With his metanarrative collapsing around him, James Bond escaped into a new one, a lair where Pynchon or Powers couldn’t find him. He escaped into HP Lovecraft.
- Goodness knows the zionists did their damnedest at Habonim Dror’s Machaneh Miriam, to the extent that it took me a very long while to understand that zionism and judaism weren’t synonyms, a nuance that was conveniently glazed over at the time, as to this day.↩
- Because men need what to strive for.↩
- Because no one wants to live in a world populated by little girls.↩
- Because some men are better fit to rule and discern than others.↩
- The Gatekeepers (2012), directed by Dror Moreh, is a look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the perspective of six ex-Shin Bet Directors, and is highly recommended watching. Review here, trailer here, French dubbed version here, subtitle-less Hebrew version here.
It’s a useful reminder that states don’t work without some form of criminality, not even Jewish states.↩
- Remember Better Place ? It tried the swappable electric battery thing, but failed. I drove this one back in 2011. It wasn’t a bad steer :
- Jerusalem, also 2011 :
- Tel Aviv, 2011 :
- There is no falafel like the Jaffa Gate falafel, which was just to the left around the corner here, past the Volvo S80 limos (!) and the “no one could’ve predicted” money changer :