The individual whose e-mail prompted me to post “History Lessons” From Idiots sent me a response and encouraged me to post it, so I will. I intend to retire the issue for a time, because it bothers my wife when I talk about it. She grew up Orthodox Jewish and has an expired Israeli passport, and is sick of talking about the issue, and me writing about it inevitable leads to me bringing it up in conversation. It’s not that she disagrees with me, she just married a non-Jew in no small part because she wants nothing to do with her Jewish past. She can clarify if she wants, but it’s my impression she sees the situation in a similar fashion as I do, in that Palestinians are being mistreated by Israelis.
Anyway, I think the only thing you need to know up front to catch up on these e-mails is that the person who wrote to me is an atheist of Jewish heritage and lives in Israel… and took a sort of sick glee in pointing out it was disputed settlement territory. Reading the “History Lessons” From Idiots post might help, but is not necessary.
Thanks for the encouragement though I don’t really care enough about that any more to try and work around blogger’s hidden restrictions on comment length. I’ve been away from my inbox this week so I’m receiving your response a bit late. Yesterday I was amused to read your response (“history lessons from idiots”). I particularly liked the part where you refer to Israel itself as an anti-semitic plot by the west. Ha! I bet that isn’t so far off from the truth, at least as intentions go.
You seem to have taken particular offense to my characterization of you as an anti-semite. It’s a charged word, but one that I suspect may be altogether fair in your case. For sure yours is a more sophisticated brand of anti-semitism. One that feels the need to rationalize the hate. Maybe you don’t buy into crude conspiracy theories such as the Jewish conspiracy to Rule The World, but you cherry pick facts that support your bias while discarding the rest. It’s confirmation bias gone wild, and I suspect the seed of that is good old fashioned Christian anti-semitism. Perhaps something that was planted in your mind before you could build up any defenses against it. Before you completely rejected the other baggage that came with religion. Something that lingers as a subconscious impulse, which your rational mind serves but can not master.
Or maybe not. I can’t truly see into your mind. Maybe I shouldn’t attribute to malice what can equally be attributed to incompetence. Then again, you’re so passionately black and white about a situation that is so full of subtle shades of grey (with blame enough to go around). Any ignorance you exhibit seems to be so suspiciously selective that one requires a more satisfying explanation.
Regarding irrational impulses, I’m not preaching from some lofty pedestal. In fact, I’m not accusing you of anything I haven’t been guilty of myself. The part of my mind I control are rational, atheist and humanistic. But I’m not deluding myself. There are dark corners where the collective subconscious still rules. Knee-jerk racist emotional reactions against “the others”. For example, you are a “goy” and I remember people saying that word in my childhood as if there was something dirty, unwholesome about it. Nobody would ever say as much in polite company but the undercurrent was always there. That sort of impression sinks in. The same goes for “Aravim” (arabs in hebrew). The word and its uses in the Hebrew language is associated with primitivism at best, dehumanized blood thirst at its worst. Most educated adults would never voice such an opinion out loud, but talk to the children who haven’t learned political correctness yet and the truth is laid bare.
Again, I do not claim to truly know your mind. That would be hopelessly arrogant. I’m just making an educated guess and may be completely off the mark.
I also have a somewhat simpler competing theory. Pick your poison if you like. It’s not as interesting as a “new brand” of anti-semite though: maybe you’re just a knee-jerk contrarian leftist. Anything that the neocons are for, you are against. You just don’t want to be in the same camp on any issue with them.
I wouldn’t expect you to admit it either way, but you can tell if this is true if your political opinions on most issues align with one side of the false right/left political dichotomy. If so, that really is just lazy minded of you. But better than being an anti-semite I suppose.
Oh dear, am I rambling again? It must be that funny mood again. Well, at least it’s not 6 pages worth this time.
Anyhow, as I said before you have my leave to publish my rambling correspondence if you like on your blog. Anonymously. I doubt you will though perhaps you would be more eager if my views were easier to dismiss or make fun of, such as those of the uneducated, tribal, short-sighted people that are the majority (on both sides) in my particular part of the world. But It wouldn’t do you much good to call me an idiot if your readers could judge to the contrary for themselves. Let’s just say I wasn’t exactly surprised that you published only the first paragraph in which I accuse you of anti-semitism without anything else to balance that out. At least you’re consistent.
I don’t take offense at being called an anti-Semite, but largely because I don’t get offended. If anything, I’m perturbed at the over-use of the term, and I feel like Jews would be better off not crying wolf. If I hated Jews, I wouldn’t have married one, and if I hated Israelis as a matter of principle, I wouldn’t have married someone who has an Israeli passport. I also assure you that Christian prejudices don’t carry over into my views as an atheist. I think it’s fine that you use the blood of blonde Christian kids in Matzo, which is why we call white people “crackers.” I kid, of course.
If anything, I was taught through Christianity that Jews had to be in the Holy Land in order for daddy Jesus to come back, which is why most Christians in America feel morally obligated to defend Israel: they want the end of times to come. I heard this idea mentioned maybe twice before I became an atheist; Israel just wasn’t a common topic for me growing up.
I personally don’t think what happens in Israel has anything to do with the end of the world, but I do think it is a disaster waiting to happen upon the Jewish people, which is a shame. It’s already been a disaster for the Palestinians, and I don’t want the same hardship visited upon anyone, be they Jewish or any other religion or race.
But if it comforts you to call me an anti-Semite, by all means. I am technically against Judaism, in that I see the religion as an archaic form of institutionalized prejudice, so it’s not as though it cannot be argued that I am an anti-Semite, but I am probably more strongly anti-Christian and anti-Muslim, if only because I prefer picking on the bullies, not the bullied. It just so happens that on this occasion, Israel is the bully, and that Israel is full of Jews.
I urge you to see my view on Israel not as black and white, but as the result of a long, continuous interest in the matter going back to high school, when I dated a girl who was born in Israel (not my current wife... what can I say, I have Jewish-fever). I teetered on neutrality and siding with Israel for years while I dated her, rationalizing the treatment of the Palestinian people based on the actions of a few in their number who violently attacked innocent Israelis. I re-assured myself that the secular Jewish state was superior by virtue of it not being another fundamentalist Islamic stronghold. I have come to see these views as highly biased, and that the reality is much more complex than this.
In short, I don’t have to like Palestinians or agree with what they’re doing in order to see that they are still the victims of Israeli oppression. They may not take it in stride like the Buddhists of Tibet, but I don’t fault a people who refuse to give up.
Regarding the view that I am a contrarian leftist: I certainly might be on some issues, but you should know by now that the left in America is every bit in favor of Israel as the right. Both the left and the right in America have a favorable view of Israel (if they hold any opinion at all), and both the left and the right have those who oppose Israel on various grounds. The Aryan Brotherhood and other white-supremacist groups on the right certainly oppose Israel, and my view all but puts me in the same camp as KKK members and neo-Nazis. If I was trying to avoid being categorized as in the same view as people like Bush or Glenn Beck, I seem to have left the ideological company of the right for an even more hateful, far-right stance.
And yet, my reasons and ideas for solving the problem have nothing in common with brazen anti-Semites.
The fact that you can’t see how stealing the land of hundreds of thousands of people is something I would oppose on principle is strange, and leads me to believe you are trying to write between the lines I wrote. It’s almost as if you have predetermined that I could not have come to my conclusion through any sort of research or careful moral reasoning, but must instead hold my view out of some form of ignorance. That’s a convenient way of ignoring what I have to say, but I think it’s a rather lazy way of just avoiding my evidence.
I have many opinions, and all of those which I have come from years of research and writing, which I have been lucky enough to have been given the time to do without the burden of needing to work for a living. I have had an unusual amount of time and energy to pour into my philosophy, and I see myself as profoundly lucky for having this opportunity given to me by others. There is a lot I don’t know about, from the crisis in Darfur to the world of fashion, and on matters like these, I hold no opinion one way or the other.
I don’t feel compelled to take a stance on every issue, but those which I decide to learn about will inevitably lead me to a strong and pronounced viewpoint once I have a certain level of understanding. To have someone imagine they can negate my efforts to think beyond the popular consensus by hurling hate labels at me or passing me off as some sort of unprincipled malcontent doesn’t so much frustrate me as it does make me sad to count myself as part of the same species.
Regarding Israel, I’ve done the typical things like reading books, keeping up with the news, reading various historical accounts, and even talking to individuals. My wife met a young woman whose grandfather’s land was taken, and it can no longer be given back because Israelis built the Benghazi airport [correction: Ben Gurion Airport] on top of it. I’ve met people whose families fled to the US in the face of Israeli attacks, and these were the lucky ones who could escape.
I’ve also talked to Jews, and some, like my wife, have come to the same conclusions I have after being confronted with the facts which their upbringing shielded them from. But mostly, I meet befuddled opposition from folks (Jews, Christians, and atheists) who are as sure as can be that Israel is the victim of Arab oppression. And most of them just resort to calling me an anti-Semite, without providing any evidence based argument for their view.
I would say, more than those who agree with me, it’s the empty arguments of Israel’s supporters that assure me I am correct in my view, so perhaps in this respect, I am a contrarian, though I hold my view contrary to the majority in nearly every demographic I can imagine (with the obvious exception being the handful of Palestinians I have met).
I thank you for your reply, and I hope you decide to comment on my blog if you get the chance. I would like your views to be made public, because I think anything worth writing is worth being read.
[Addendum: when looking up if there was a name for people who prefer dating Jews, I had an interesting suggestion from Google. Pic below.]