Saturday, December 20, 2008

Can one say "the Jews"?

I don't mean "the Jews" as in "the Jews have won one-fourth of all Nobel prizes." I mean "the Jews" as in "the Jews have poisoned wells and fields in the West Bank." Can one say that? There seems to exist a stigma attached to the suggestion that if a Jew does something wrong it has anything to do with his being Jewish -- a stigma that does not apply to other peoples. If a Hungarian beats up a Jew, for instance, that's yet another example of perennial Magyar antisemitism. If a Jew beats up an Arab, on the other hand, we rush to show evidence that the man is deranged and that his Jewishness played no role in the event.

It is true that, in principle, generalizations should never be made. It is wrong to say "the Argentinians invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982," for instance. I'm an Argentinian and I didn't invade the Falklands, nor do I support the notion that our (in my opinion) legitimate claim to sovereignty over the islands should be realized by military means, or that our rights should trump the rights of the population already living there, for whom becoming Argentinians is anathema. But I don't go ballistic over hearing "the Argentinians invaded the Falklands" because, after all, the invaders were not private agents, but representatives (even if unelected ones) of Argentinian interests. It's unfair to the substantial minority of Argentinians who believe the invasion was wrong on moral grounds; but it can hardly be described as an outright outrage.

Things get a little fuzzier with the following kind of generalization:

Many goyim watch these movies, not out of compassion, but out of self-congratulatory sentiment. Alas, the Jews of the Holocaust are used - used for their juxtaposing of the Nazis and fascists for being as evil as we see them. Or did the double-standards not occur to you - of how those Jews butchered by the Soviets and the Romanians and the Poles and the Czechoslovaks are rarely mentioned in leftist-dominated visual media, but the suffering of those Jews butchered by the Nazis and fascists is always on our screens?

Did "the Poles" butcher Jews? Or did some Poles murder Jews, with most others taking no part in the killings, and not condoning them? Were the Poles comparable to the Nazis (i.e. State agents) -- or to the Jewish kapos who actively collaborated in the massacres (i.e. individual wrongdoers)? Sure, lots of Poles did kill Jews, there's no denying that -- but did they kill them as Poles, or as people who wanted to take over their houses, or were moved by irrational superstitions? The author of the quoted excerpt seems to think they acted as Poles. Others would beg to differ.

Now let's fast forward 60 years and change continents. In recent years there have been reports of water well poisoning in the Israeli-occupied West Bank -- and according to Israeli police estimates, Jewish settlers are to blame (Source 1, Source 2, Source 3, Source 4, Source 5, Source 6, Source 7). Poisoned wheat kernels have been spread over the Palestinians' pasture fields as well; and, again, Jewish settlers have been deemed responsible (Source 8).

In the Middle Ages, the Jews were falsely accused of trying to poison the Christians, especially through well-poisoning. Any suggestion that the recent instances of poisoning in the West Bank can be blamed on "the Jews," as opposed to a collection of individual Jews, touches thus a very sensitive nerve and should not be irresponsibly made.

Now the fact that an accusation shouldn't be irresponsibly made does not mean it can't be made at all. Only, a threshold of responsibility must be established, composed of very stringent criteria. Thus, it would appear to be unfair to collectively blame the Jews for an act of violence unless the following conditions are met:

  1. It must be carried out in the name of Jewish interests.
  2. It must be part of a policy.
  3. It must be done with the support and connivance of official Jewish institutions.
  4. It must not be condemned by the majority of the Jewish public.

In the case of the Jewish poisoners in the West Bank, all four conditions are unfortunately met. The settlers don't try to poison the Arabs for personal reasons, but to make them flee from the land given by God to the Jews. They don't do the poisoning in isolation, but as part of a violent combo that also includes clubbing elderly shepherds, uprooting fruit trees, torching houses, desecrating cemeteries, smashing cars and market stands, stoning schoolgirls and more. They must not fear retaliation from the local population because they have the full weight of the Israeli army behind them. Although investigations are ostensibly opened, those responsible are never caught, much less jailed. Finally, neither the Israeli citizenry nor a relevant percentage of Diaspora Jews demand for Israel's government to crack down on the settlers or else.

Of the four conditions, the most critical one, in my view, is #3. The settlers could not rampage the West Bank if they did not enjoy heavy subsidizing and military support from Israel, as well as the impunity ensured by the State's justice system. (Which is irrespective of whether fig leaves are donned or not. "We strongly condemn the settlers" is no substitute for actually jailing them; even Czarist Russia prosecuted a few perpetrators after the worst pogroms.) Here, in the support provided to the settlers, is where the self-styled Jewish state takes their crimes out of the private sphere and makes them the responsibility of the whole population represented by that state -- i.e. Israeli Jews (Israeli Arabs are not represented, only contained, by the State), as well as Diaspora Jews who accept for Israel to act in their name.

It's in those Jews' power to dismantle Israel as a racist state and reinvent it as a state of all its citizens that won't tolerate and support acts of violence against defenseless minorities. Until they do, saying "the Jews have poisoned wells and fields in the West Bank" will be just as fair as saying "the Argentinians invaded the Falklands in 1982."


Anonymous said...

The large reason that it's construed as offensive to say "the Jews," is that being Jewish is not a nationality, but rather a concept of being and belief. While yes, Israel is a "Jewish state" and the preponderance of the population is Jewish, being Israeli does not make a person Jewish, and vice-versa.

Your argument regarding Argentina and the Falklands is null. While you identify yourself as an Argentinean, and I trust bleed for "river plate" or "la boca" (depending on where you live, I asssumed B.A. I apologize)I doubt that you apply a religious adulation to your country. Judaism, being an ideology rather than a nationality (because again, being a Jew and being Israeli are not one and the same), imbues its followers with a belief system and certain tenets to follow, none of which implicitly or explicitly state that Arabs/Muslims/people with beards and towels on their heads are their enemies; in fact, the opposite is the case.

While I don't disagree with you that the behavior of Israeli settlers is unconscionable, I think it is just that - the behavior of Israeli settlers. To say that "the Jews" are poisoning fields is misleading, because it implies that Jews are doing that based on religious beliefs. I cannot refute the fact that fields and wells have been poisoned, but to say that it is "the Jews" doing the poisoning rather than the "Israelis" is both misleading and inaccurate.

This argument at the end of the day is one entirely of semantics. I cede the points that Israel is a Jewish state, and therefore its citizen's actions can be construed as actions of Jews. I will also cede the point that settlers have been hurting Arabs in the West Bank. However, in concession for my ceding those points, I'd request that you consider that your argument is equally as circumstantial as mine, in that there is very little either of us can do to seriously defend our points.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

Judaism, being an ideology rather than a nationality (because again, being a Jew and being Israeli are not one and the same)

This is a very common mistake, and precisely one I try to correct with this post.

There is no such thing as an Israeli nationality. The State of Israel does not recognize it. It recognizes, however, the Jewish, Arab and Druze nationalities, as well as two or three minor ones.

And while the settlers are, in fact, Israelis, it's also true that they pursue Jewish interests only, not Israeli interests in general. For instance, if they build a new settlement, it's not like they'll offer Israeli Arabs apartements there at discount prices, or welcome them if they somehow manage to purchase one. They're in the West Bank advancing what they perceive to be the goals of the Jewish nation -- not of the multicultural State of Israel.

British Babe said...

Being an Israeli *is* a nationality - as reflected in the existance of an Israeli passport.

Sorry, but it is rather odd to state that it is not an nationality. Whatever religion an Israeli is - be it Jewish, Christian or Muslim - if they are citizens of the state of Israel then they are of ISRAELI nationality!

The relevance of whether a person is Jewish or not pertains to the Law Of Return, and is a different topic.

Thus it is not accurate to state 'the jews poisoned the wells in the west banks'. I am Jewish, but I don't live in Israel, thus I bear no culpability for this. Nor do Jews living anywhere but the West Bank.

The reason why one must take care when generalising about Jews is, clearly, because of our history. No other group has been so stigmatised throughout history than the Jews.

And saying 'the jews' when referring to Israelis is simply dowmright inaccurate. The 'Israelis' one is referring to in any given sentence might not *be* Jewish.

William Smart said...

Let's get this straight - there is no such thing as "Israeli Nationality".

Israelis have been to the courts and failed to have their ID cards marked as "Israeli nationality". There is no such thing, most Israelis have "Jewish nationality" and are entitled to the full services of the state.

The confusion arises because all Israelis have citizenship, but the state is not "for all of its people" (in fact, it may be an offence to call for it to serve all the Israeli people). The state is only there to deliver services for those holding Jewish nationality.