Face of Jewish Terror

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From out of a nightmare, the face of Jewish terror is the face of the 1967 Occupation and the Jewish settlement project. The face is violent, clownish, and dangerous. Its relationship to the state is ambiguous. It threatens to engulf the very state that sustains the environment in which it festers. Vile and disgusting people, they act with impunity.

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This is a Jewish Act, We Do Such Things (The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsheh)


About the terrorist attack, the murder 18-month old Ali Saad Dawabsheh, from the NYT, which you can read here, a quote from Yinon Magal, a member of the Israeli Parliament from the pro-settler Bayit Ha’Yehudi: “This is not a Jewish act,” Mr. Magal said. “This is not a moral act. This is a terrible act. We do not do such things. This is not our way.” Better to be honest and admit. This is a Jewish act. We do such things. This is our way.

Ahmad, the older boy, was precocious and prone to tantrums if anyone played with his toys, the uncle said; baby Ali, in contrast, was quiet and sweet.

About previous attempt to incinerate Palestinian homes while their occupants were sleeping, there’s this  piece in Haaretz, which you can read here (in Hebrew). The attempts go back two years ago and are identified in the article as an outgrowth from the arson attacks on mosques by Jewish settlers. The point here is that there’s more than ample precedent

It’s too easy to blame this form of Jewish terrorism on just a bunch of extremists or fundamentalists. This is “Jewish” and this is “Judaism,” or at least a form of it, and there’s no way around it. Yes, I happen to think these acts are “perverse,” but my own sense is that there’s no “core” to either of these things, that there is no core to pervert. What we have are different variables always in motion. Some of them are noxious.

And also, it’s not just a handful of fanatics. There are too many mainstream groupings, particularly on the right, which are complicit in creating the institutional and political and social and cultural conditions where all of this is made possible, starting with the occupation and the refusal or inability to stem the tides of incitement and hatred.

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Politics of Religious Terrorism In Israel Today (The Problem is “Judaism”)


In the United States many people tend to have a benign, warm and fuzzy view of “Judaism.” Even on the anti-Zionist Jewish left, Judaism is let off the hook, as if the political task was to free Judaism by separating it from Zionism. To be sure, there are toxic combinations of the two today in contemporary Israel, and it would be a grave mistake to ignore that larger supporting nexus. But the first source of the political murder and mayhem rests securely on the side of Judaism, on rightwing religious Jews acting under the umbrella of “Judaism.” It’s not secular Ashkenazi Israelis, secular Ashkenazi Likudnikim, traditionalist Sephardi working class people, Ethiopian Jews, or Russian immigrants but rightwing religious Jews who are responsible for the recent murder of the Palestinian baby in the West Bank village of Duma, the attempted murder at the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, or the arson attack at the Church of the Multiplication, or the so-called Price Tag attacks, or the burning every year of olive trees throughout the West Bank, or the riots at Beit El, or the organized move to upset the delicate balance on the Temple Mount. Aiding and abetting, the State and its organs are all complicit, and so too are secular Israelis who do nothing to contain and arrest this dangerous phenomenon. But it’s Judaism, the Judaism of the religious settler community that entrenches the Occupation, makes territorial compromise impossible, and foments not just garden-variety racism, but blatant anti-Arab incitement. Maybe “responsibility” is the wrong word. The government is responsible. The right word is “motivation,” religion being the force that directly drives these explosive types of political violence. The political violence is not just political. Given its demographic, the racial animus and violence have their first base in religion, religious ideas and ideologies, religious communities and institutions, religious texts and traditions. It’s “Judaism,” rightwing Judaism that bears the direct and immediate onus for the political violence in Israel that goes back to the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin.

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Chinese Restaurant (Max Weber) (No, Not That Max Weber)


Say what you want about painter Max Weber, born in Bialystok. But this painting here, one of his best, dates the American Jewish love for Chinese food earlier than one might have thought, back some one hundred years at the dawn of the 20th century. It’s made of common stuff:oil, charcoal, and collaged paper on linen. The black and white floor tile evokes working class neighborhoods in New York. Much more than the French masters of the art, this Cubism look is downtown and lumpenproletariat.


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(No Place to Rest) New York City Park Bench (Defensive Urban Design)


Friend and colleague Gail Hamner posted on FB this article, which you can read here, about “defensive urban design.” Looking a little like installation art in the article, the use of dull little spikes has as its main social function the driving away of the homeless and indigent. Following the same logic, note the middle arm rest on this New York City park bench, which makes it impossible for an adult to lie down, take a nap, or get a night’s sleep.

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Looking Forward to New York State Fair?


Now’s the time to get your dirt cheap discounted tickets and ride passes for the Great New York State Fair here. But you’ll  have to get yourself to Syracuse.

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A Sad & Sorry Story About Jewish Thought (Gossip From the Hebrew University)

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I’m not going to say too much about this sorry story concerning the Department of Jewish Thought (machshevet Yisrael) at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. At its center is a popular professor and department chair who is being transferred by decision of the Dean from the department to the school’s Department of Jewish Education. The immediate rationale is that the professor crossed too many lines separating scholarship and identity-politics. The sad story it tells relates to the state of Jewish Studies and Jewish thought at the Hebrew University. Full of insider information, this post, which you can read here, refers to and cites many of the main players and their students from the once storied department’s not so recent past in the 1980s.

At a time of academic austerity for the Humanities worldwide and at the Hebrew University, the department finds itself caught between vicious binaries: objectivist vs. subjectivist scholarship, philological-historicist research vs. philosophical-ideological research, commitments to scholarship vs. commitments to society and community, warm pedagogy vs. rigor, scholarship vs. nationalism, citizenship, and politics. On top of that are those niggling little details called methodological pluralism and academic freedom, which alone should have decided the issue in the professor’s favor. The upshot of the post would seem to be that while the professor may very well have crossed certain lines, these are lines that were once considered in the department and in the field of Jewish thought to be more loose and flexible than the way they are shaping up today. It’s a story in which every party seems to bear its own bit of fault. Against everyone’s better interest, the continuing collapse of this particular department bodes poorly for the field.

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