July 29th, 2005

Peretz’s “J’accuse”

Via Dean Esmay, here’s a thought-provoking Martin Peretz article from last week’s issue of The New Republic (no subscription necessary in this case).

Peretz’s “J’accuse” is directed towards the support by the hierarchy of the Presbyterian and Episcopalian churches of their nihilistic darlings, the Palestinians. Although some in these particular churches have a history of fellow-traveling with other murderous ideologies such as Communism, Peretz rightly points out that, at least at the beginning, it was possible to be a well-meaning useful idiot and believe the ideals of Communism without seeing where it would lead. But he also rightly points out that it’s hard to see how one can ignore the fact that the Palestinians currently demonstrate:

a stagnant class structure, unproductive economic habits, an uncurious and increasingly reactionary culture, deeply cruel relationships between the sexes and toward gays, no notion of an independent judiciary, and a primitive religious mentality that gains prestige in society even as it emphasizes the promise of sexual rewards in paradise for martyrs — a crude myth that has served successfully as an incentive for suicide bombings not only in Israel but also in Iraq and throughout the Arab world. And no real challenge to any of these backward actualities has arisen in all of the turmoil the movement has sown.

Hardly the stuff to which the “progressive” UN-loving pacifists in the Presbyterian and Episcopalian churches ought to be drawn. So, why are they? Peretz’s conclusion is that they are reacting against something rather than towards something, and the “something” they are reacting against is Israel, through the time-honored tradition of anti-Semitism–not overt this time, but covert.

I agree that anti-Semitism is probably part of what drives them (whether they know it or not) to focus rather obsessively on the Palestinian cause, while many other far more worthwhile causes are ignored.

But I also disagree with Peretz; I don’t think anti-Semitism is their main motivation at all. I think that Peretz’s background on the left may be blinding him to the fact that becoming a Palestinian booster is voguish on the left as a whole. I don’t think it’s possible to ignore the effects of trendiness, propaganda, and above all the idea of Palestinians as impoverished third-world victims vs. the imperialist and Western Jews of Israel. Forgot the reality–for example, the number of impoverished Jewish emigrants in Israel from Arab countries themselves–the triumph of what in my previous post was referred to as “imagology” is a huge part of this belief system.

Years ago, Yeats famously wrote in “Among School Children”: Both nuns and mothers worship images. I think the Presbyterian and Episcopalian leaders are hardly immune to another sort of image-worship, that of the political, and I think that’s what is operating here far more powerfully than the latent anti-Semitism that is probably part of the mix.

20 Responses to “Peretz’s “J’accuse””

  1. Anonymous Says:

    The Missing Myth is a good concept, but I think their is a more appropriate myth structure for this situation.

    The noble prince vs. the bandits…

    The marshal vs. the gunslingers…

    It is the myth of the Exalted Human vs. the horde of near subhumans which is a fair description of Israel vs. terrorists who use retarded children as bombs.

    Eric R. Ashley

  2. David Says:

    Here’s a hypothesis: traditional anti-Semitites hated Jews because they were *different* from the surrounding society. Today’s Israel-haters despise Israel precisely because it *exemplifies* the core values of the Western world–education, science, technology, democracy, economic growth, etc. Attacking Israel is a way to attack their own societies, which they dislike on multiple levels.

    In the various “divestiture” movements, I suspect that residual anti-Semitism of the old sort is merging with the new prejudice sketched out above.

  3. Paul Says:

    There are times when well-meaning people and/or groups make a deal with the devil and reap the whirl wind. Anti-Semitism is endemic in the Arab world. One need only consult the history books, but it exists in the West in more subtle guises.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    “Muslim extremists”

    Thanks, maryatexitzero, for making the distinction between Muslim and Muslim extremist.

  5. Judith Says:

    “There is also the real issue of racism. Jews have maintained their identity thru marriage exclusion; probably also their genetic intelligence advantages.”

    Tom you keep pushing this stuff all over the blogosphere.

    Judaism isn’t a race. It’s a people, a nation, like the United States is a nation. You become a citizen of the US, you take an oath to join the American people. You become a Jew, you explicitly join the Jewish people (which includes a religion).

    If Jews marry other Jews and raise Jewish children, then Judaism can continue. Many Jews marry gentiles who convert, or agree to raise the children Jewish. That works too. As a practicing Jew, it matters to me that this beautiful sophisticated earthy meaningful way of life continue. It matters to me that I live somewhere where enough Jews want to make a minyan every morning, and stay up all night studying on erev Shavuot, and populate a few Daf Yomi classes.

    That’s not “racism.” You want to become a Jew, no one is stopping you. In all the Jewish communities I know of, year-long intensive conversion classes are oversubscribed. You know as well as I do there are Black Jews, Chinese Jews, Latino Jews . . . so cut the crap.

  6. Tom Grey Says:

    I think you are right that anti-Semitism is not the main motivation — it is anti-capitialist success.
    (See Bush hate, Jew hate, Success hate)

    It is related to thinking Unreal Perfection is the actual alternative.

    In Israel’s case, there is the problem of its founding, AFTER WW II, which was not peaceful nor completely just. Of course, while huge numbers might agree this founding isn’t perfectly just, it’s unlikely that there would be agreement on what “justice” WOULD be.

    Allowing the zionists to continue buying up land? NOT allowing them to? Who owns the land, why?

    There is also the real issue of racism. Jews have maintained their identity thru marriage exclusion; probably also their genetic intelligence advantages. (A VERY high proportion of Jewish men have Abraham’s Y chromosome.)

    Finally, there is the support for the underdog. I say there is a
    Missing Myth. There is no Good Strong King against weak evil bad guys.
    Good king but weak.
    Strong king but not so good.

    (We don’t see Aragorn’s post-war opposition, for instance.)

    Almost all myths involve the greater virtue of the underdog.

  7. Goesh Says:

    I wonder how the Jordanians feel about the palestinians these 30 some years after the expulsion of the PLO from Jordan? I’ve read that as many as 70,000 palestinians were killed in the expulsion and I’ve read 40,000 were killed. Hmmm – This sort of makes the IDF kill ratio of palestinians pale in comparison I would say, wouldn’t you? It’s funny this is never talked about yet Israel is soundly and consistenly condemned. I wonder just how many UN resolutions of condemnation of Israel have come up for vote only to be defeated by the US? And isn’t it odd how arabs always vote in unison for said condemnation? You would think that at least on a rare occasion, some arab nation would dissent. Wouldn’t that at least fall into the realm of probability? I am dumbfounded over the fact that many educated people do not read al qur’an given the nature of the times we are struggling in. It is rife and ripe with Jew hatred! It is unbelievable! So there sits little Israel, surrounded and outnumbered by about 52-1 and it gets invaded any number of times, yet educated people take the side of the arab invaders. No wonder muslim terrorists have been able to thrive. 80+ homicide bombings of Israeli civilians and educated people take the side of the palestinians. How utterly shameful and repugnant. Never again. Kahane Chai.

  8. maryatexitzero Says:

    The fantasied wish of the churches is that if they give up the Jewish state, the haters will allow them to live in peace. This involves identification with the aggressor, denial (of their own fears and their own disowned anti-Semetism), the narcissism of small differences, and multiple other defensive maneuvers.

    This is also the most plausible explanation for the blame-the-victim “peace” activists worldwide. When the United States was attacked by terrorism, our foreign policy was to blame. When Theo Van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim extremist in the Netherlands, blame the victim pacifists were quick to point out Van Gogh’s abrasive personality and the Dutch inability to assimilate immigrants. When Muslim extremists burn down girls’ schools and behead Buddhists in Thailand, these pacifists blame the Thai government.

    The doves vs. hawks issue is the same in the animal world. According to biologist Konrad Lorenz, doves, those great symbols of peace are actually nasty and aggressive towards each other. When they are stressed even slightly one will often peck another dove’s eyes out, or even peck the fellow bird to death. Chickens do the same thing.

    But predatory birds are “less easily provoked, and indeed are normally careful not to harm members of their group. In his 1948 book “Man Meets Dog,” Lorenz describes purposely and repeatedly putting his wide-open eye right up against his pet raven’s big sharp beak to see what would happen; the poor raven kept carefully moving his beak away and eventually became visibly disturbed when Lorenz kept at it.”

  9. Anonymous Says:

    “nihilistic darlings”
    “murderous ideologies”
    “the most murderous people on the planet”

    Just a few gems of some of the most over the top anti-Arab propaganda I’ve seen lately! I find it ironic that, in your attempt to point out Anti-Semitism, you let loose with anti-Arab vitriol.

  10. ShrinkWrapped Says:

    A porovocative post, neo, but I think there is another aspect to this that may be at work. The Palestinians are part of the dysfunctional, autocratic, fascistic world of the Arab Middle East which is now seeing its latest incarnation in Islamic fundamentalism. They have targeted Israel for many years, under many different rationalized covers, but all having their roots in anti-Semetic hatred. Lest we forget, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in 1940, allied himself with Hitler. The Palestinians, and much of the greater Arab world, has never tolerated or accepted the existence of an independent Jewish state in their midst.
    The Presbyterian and Episcopalian churches have allied themselves with traditional Jew-haters. But, they are not overtly, perhaps not even consciously, anti-Semetic. However, they are frightened. The Islamic fascists have declared that the Presbyterian and Episcopalian churches are targets, just as the Jews are. The fantasied wish of the churches is that if they give up the Jewish state, the haters will allow them to live in peace. This involves identification with the aggressor, denial (of their own fears and their own disowned anti-Semetism), the narcissism of small differences, and multiple other defensive maneuvers.
    Hoping to be spared the hatred of the most murderous peoples on the planet, they are ready to feed the Jews to the crocodile in the hopes they will be eaten last.

  11. Bookworm Says:

    Great post. Linking, linking….

  12. roman Says:

    m.g.’s point that the little state of Israel is being singled out from all the other countries of the world is powerful. I can think of many other countries besides the ones mentioned that have “issues”. The divinvestment move is looking more and more like anti-Semitism. Scary due to the fact its a large organization like the Church of England. Lets hope and pray that wiser heads prevail.

  13. hope Says:

    Seems the Disciples of Christ and the United Church of Christ have just called upon Israel to dismantle its security barriers around the West Bank. Another must read from Martin Peretz in The New Republic.

    Don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or do an Annie Hall “la-di-da, la-di-da.”

  14. m.g. Says:

    Just found an online petition you may like to sign: A Call to the Anglican Church to Refuse to Divest from Israel.

    Two quotes from the petition:

    “As Harvard University President Lawrence Summers said with regard to another effort to promote divestment from Israel, such actions ‘are anti-Semitic in their effect, if not their intent.’”

    ”The Catholic Church has officially stated: We oppose anti-Semitism in any way and form, including anti-Zionism that has become of late a manifestation of anti-Semitism.”

  15. m.g. Says:

    From a petition condeming the Presbyterian Church’s vote for divestment:

    “The Presbyterian Church’s divestment resolution is anti-Semitic because NO OTHER nation is being singled out for divestment, not even those whose violations of human rights are truly egregious.

    Only the moral blindness of Jew-hatred could lead the Church to compare Israel’s multi-racial democracy to apartheid South Africa. Only anti-Semitism could lead the Church to condemn democratic Israel, while not voting divestment from Saudi Arabia, where women have virtually no rights and non-Muslims are not even permitted to enter the country without special permission, from Sudan, where race-based genocide is occurring even as we speak, from Iran, where Bahai are murdered for their faith, or from the many other countries where human rights are violated as a matter of routine.”

    Good points all, and they apply as well to the decision to disinvest taken by the Anglican Church.

  16. Gene Says:

    I have to support neo-neo on this one. I’m having a hard time imagining that level of real antisemitism among Episcopalians and Presbyterians. I think back to my high school days, when Patty Hearst was kidnapped and helped out in some bank robberies. Later there was a widespread opinion that her story, i.e., that she had been brainwashed into participating in those actions, was bogus, that she was just trying to get out of taking responsibility for her actions; she must have really sympathised with the SLA. Then the Jonestown mass suicide occurred. I remember one pundit making a good point: that this group of hundreds, with few or no dissenters, had been brainwashed into committing suicide. How could we witness something like that, and at the same time argue that Patty Hearst COULD NOT have been brainwashed?

    I never underestimate the power of incitement (it explains a lot of the insanity that exists Palestinian culture), nor do I like to underestimate the power of groupthink. I think we see it every day, and I think it is very powerful.

  17. Goesh Says:

    Howie, thanks for the news, though given the lame-duck status of the Bush Administration, two views can be taken that don’t portend the demise of the GOP: 1.) stem cell research is not a priority issue with mainstream America. Cheap oil, being able to buy some merchandise at Wal-Mart instead of only fondling it and security from terrorism remain more prominent concnerns, 2.) There obviously is money to be made here and what good Republican would not be interested in generating income for the nation at large? Wait! Hold it! Stem cell research could produce military clones and drones that could colonize the world thus allowing America to keep all the oil to ourselves! Now I know where you’re coming from. Bush has been just too dumb to realize the potential here. If clones could die in foreign wars of the Republican oil conquest, the ratings would never take a hit. Thanks for exposing yet another hideous conspiracy on the part of conservatives. I got a crsip $50 says Karl you-know- who is behind this one too! Atta’ boy, Howie!!

  18. hooey Says:

    Progressive Change is coming. The latest in a continuing line of RepublIca’nt defections is none other than W. H. Frist MD, the Senat Majority Leader (P’ton, Calss of ’74). Read more…

  19. Goesh Says:

    There is an undercurrent of anti-Israel/Jew ideology associated with any group of non-Arabs that supports the palestininans. You aptly point out the failure of such folk to even consider much less address the horrific reality of the palestinians. MSW will not even give a bite of news to the way the palestinians deal with those suspected of collaberating with the Isrealis. Summary trials by hamas or others of such ilk are followed by execution and mutilating the bodies in public. I have seen pictures, one of which a showed a body being drug behind a car down a street, another of a victim hung up while a man was cutting the body with a knife. I have nothing but contempt for the bastards, excuse the language please. They openly advocate and teach their children that Israel does not have the right to exist, they have carried out I don’t know how many homicide bombings against Israeli civilians, they recruit children for their nefarious activities, they do not hesitate to hide among civilians when engaging IDF in fire fights, they supported saddam hussein and gladly took his money when homicide bombers detonated in buses, cafes, pizza parlors, ice cream parlors, night clubs and they danced in the streets after 9/11. If there was ever a group that deserved the full and violenct wrath of civilized society, it is the palestinian terrorists and their supporters. Not that it matters, but I am not a Jew, just an American ally of Israel, the only real friend the US has in the middle east. I find it disgusting that Bush’s war against terrorism never involved the palestinians.

  20. m.g. Says:

    I disagree with your statement, neo-neocon, that anti-Semitism is not the main motivation here. I think Peretz is right on the money when he says “The clerics and the lay leaders on this indefensible crusade are so fixated on Palestine because their obsession, which can be buttressed by various Christian sources and traditions, is really with the Jews. A close look at this morbid passion makes one realize that its roots include an ancient hostility for the House of Israel, an ugly survival of a hoary intolerance into some of the allegedly enlightened precincts of modern Christendom.”

    Remember: This was the Archbishop of Canterbury voting for disinvestment from Israel, not simply a fashionable leftist group. The Church of England may lean left in many ways, but only something much more than “trendiness” could cause it to take such a leap away from fact and into, in Peretz’s words, “the role of ‘useful idiots,’ this time for Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the other irredentist and murderous factions of the Palestinian polity.”

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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