Hyehudi’s Deterministic Historiography

A WORLD WITHOUT JEWS

An exhilarating new intellectual history argues that anti-Judaism is at the heart of Western culture

February 13, 2013 • 7:00 AM

The title of David Nirenberg’s new book, Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition, uses a term pointedly different from the one we are used to. The hatred and oppression of Jews has been known since the late 19th century as anti-Semitism—a label, it is worth remembering, originally worn with pride by German Jew-haters. What is the difference, then, between anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism? The answer, as it unfolds in Nirenberg’s scholarly tour de force, could be summarized this way: Anti-Semitism needs actual Jews to persecute; anti-Judaism can flourish perfectly well without them since its target is not a group of people but an idea.

Nirenberg’s thesis is that this idea of Judaism, which bears only a passing resemblance to Judaism as practiced and lived by Jews, has been at the very center of Western civilization since the beginning. From Ptolemaic Egypt to early Christianity, from the Catholic Middle Ages to the Protestant Reformation, from the Enlightenment to fascism, whenever the West has wanted to define everything it is not—when it wants to put a name to its deepest fears and aversions—Judaism has been the name that came most easily to hand. “Anti-Judaism,” Nirenberg summarizes, “should not be understood as some archaic or irrational closet in the vast edifices of Western thought. It was rather one of the basic tools with which that edifice was constructed.”

This is a pretty depressing conclusion, especially for Jews destined to live inside that edifice; but the intellectual journey Nirenberg takes to get there is exhilarating. Each chapter of “Anti-Judaism” is devoted to an era in Western history and the particular kinds of anti-Judaism it fostered. Few if any of these moments are new discoveries; indeed, Nirenberg’s whole argument is that certain types of anti-Judaism are so central to Western culture that we take them for granted. What Nirenberg has done is to connect these varieties of anti-Judaism into a convincing narrative, working with original sources to draw out the full implications of seminal anti-Jewish writings.

The main reason why Judaism, and therefore anti-Judaism, have been so central to Western culture is, of course, Christianity. But Nirenberg’s first chapter shows that some persistent anti-Jewish tropes predate Jesus by hundreds of years. The Greek historian Hecataeus of Abdera, writing around 320 BCE, recorded an Egyptian tradition that inverts the familiar Exodus story. In this version, the Hebrews did not escape from Egypt but were expelled as an undesirable element, “strangers dwelling in their midst and practicing different rites.” These exiles settled in Judea under the leadership of Moses, who instituted for them “an unsocial and intolerant mode of life.” Already, Nirenberg observes, we can detect “what would become a fundamental concept of anti-Judaism—Jewish misanthropy.” This element was emphasized by a somewhat later writer, an Egyptian priest named Manetho, who described the Exodus as the revolt of an impious group of “lepers and other unclean people.”

As he will do throughout the book, Nirenberg describes these anti-Jewish texts not in a spirit of outrage or condemnation, but rather of inquiry. The question they raise is not whether the ancient Israelites were “really” lepers, but rather, why later Egyptian writers claimed they were. What sort of intellectual work did anti-Judaism perform in this particular culture? To answer the question, Nirenberg examines the deep history of Egypt, showing how ruptures caused by foreign invasion and religious innovation came to be associated with the Jews. Then he discusses the politics of Hellenistic Egypt, in which a large Jewish population was sandwiched uneasily between the Greek elite and the Egyptian masses. In a pattern that would be often repeated, this middle position left the Jews open to hostility from both sides, which would erupt into frequent riots and massacres. In the long term, Nirenberg writes, “the characteristics of misanthropy, impiety, lawlessness, and universal enmity that ancient Egypt assigned to Moses and his people would remain available to later millennia: a tradition made venerable by antiquity, to be forgotten, rediscovered, and put to new uses by later generations of apologists and historians.”

With his chapters on Saint Paul and the early church, Nirenberg begins to navigate the headwaters of European anti-Judaism. Paul, whose epistles instructed small Christian communities in the Near East on points of behavior and doctrine, was writing at a time when Christianity was still primarily a Jewish movement. In his desire to emphasize the newness of his faith, and the rupture with Judaism that Jesus Christ represented, he cast the two religions as a series of oppositions. Where Jews read scripture according to the “letter,” the literal meaning, Christians read it according to the “spirit,” as an allegory predicting the coming of Christ. Likewise, where Jews obeyed traditional laws, Christians were liberated from them by faith in Christ—which explained why Gentile converts to Christianity did not need to follow Jewish practices like circumcision. To “Judaize,” to use a word Paul coined, meant to be a prisoner of this world, to believe in the visible rather than the invisible, the superficial appearance rather than the true meaning, law rather than love. More than a theological error, Judaism was an error in perception and cognition, a fundamentally wrong way of being in the world.

The problem, as Nirenberg argues in the richest sections of his book, is that this is an error to which Christians themselves are highly prone. Paul and the early Christians lived in the expectation of the imminent end of the world, the return of Christ, and the establishment of the new Jerusalem. As the end kept on not coming, it became necessary to construct a Christian way of living in this world. But this meant that Christians would have need of law and letter, too, that they would need to “Judaize” to some degree.

That is why the theological debates in the early church, leading up to Saint Augustine, were often cast as arguments about Judaizing. Marcion, a 2nd-century-CE heretic, followed Paul’s denigration of “the letter” to the point of discarding the entire Old Testament (as the Hebrew Bible was now known); to keep reading Jewish scriptures was to miss the point of Christ’s radical newness. On the other hand, Justin Martyr, Marcion’s orthodox opponent, believed that this reduction of the Old Testament to its merely literal content was itself a way of repeating a “Jewish” error. In other words, both Marcion and Justin each accused the other of Judaizing, of reading and thinking like a Jew. This, too, would become a pattern for subsequent Christian (and post-Christian) history: If Judaism was an error, every error could potentially be thought of as Jewish. “This struggle to control the power of ‘Judaism,’ ” Nirenberg writes, “will turn out to be one of the most persistent and explosive themes of Christian political theology, from the Middle Ages to Modernity.”

With the rise of Catholic polities in the Middle Ages, anti-Judaism took on a less theological, more material cast. In countries like England, France, and Germany, the Jews held a unique legal status as the king’s “servants” or “slaves,” which put them outside the usual chain of feudal relationships. This allowed Jews to play a much-needed but widely loathed role in finance and taxation, while also demonstrating the unique power of the monarch. The claim of the Capet dynasty to be kings of France, Nirenberg shows, rested in part on their claim to control the status of the Jews, a royal prerogative and a lucrative one: King after king plundered “his” Jews when in need of cash. At the same time, being the public face of royal power left the Jews exposed to the hatred of the people at large. Riots against Jews and ritual murder accusations became popular ways of demonstrating dissatisfaction with the government. When medieval subjects wanted to protest against their rulers, they would often accuse the king of being in league with the Jews, or even a Jew himself.

The common thread in Anti-Judaism is that such accusations of Jewishness have little to do with actual Jews. They are a product of a Gentile discourse, in which Christians argue with other Christians by accusing them of Judaism. The same principle holds true in Nirenberg’s fascinating later chapters. When Martin Luther rebelled against Catholicism, he attacked the church’s “legalistic understanding of God’s justice” as Jewish: “In this sense the Roman church had become more ‘Jewish’ than the Jews.” When the Puritan revolutionaries in the English Civil War thought about the ideal constitution for the state, they looked to the ancient Israelite commonwealth as described in Judges and Kings.

Surprisingly, Nirenberg shows, the decline of religion in Europe and the rise of the Enlightenment did little to change the rhetoric of anti-Judaism. Voltaire, Kant, and Hegel all used Judaism as a figure for what they wanted to overcome—superstition, legalistic morality, the dead past. Finally, in a brief concluding chapter on the 19th century and after, Nirenberg shows how Marx recapitulated ancient anti-Jewish tropes when he conceived of communist revolution as “the emancipation of mankind from Judaism”—that is, from money and commerce and social alienation. And this is not to mention some of Nirenberg’s most striking chapters, including one on the role of Judaism in early Islam and one devoted to a close reading of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.

Nirenberg has a sure grasp of a huge variety of historical and intellectual contexts, and, unlike many historians, he is able to write elegantly and clearly about complex topics. Not until the very end of Anti-Judaism does he touch, obliquely, on the question of what this ancient intellectual tradition means for Jews today. But as he suggests, the genealogy that connects contemporary anti-Zionism with traditional anti-Judaism is clear: “We live in an age in which millions of people are exposed daily to some variant of the argument that the challenges of the world they live in are best explained in terms of ‘Israel.’ ” For all the progress the world has made since the Holocaust in thinking rationally about Jews and Judaism, the story Nirenberg has to tell is not over. Anyone who wants to understand the challenges of thinking and living as a Jew in a non-Jewish culture should read Anti-Judaism.

From Tablet, here.

Ron Paul on the Stoneman Douglas High School Massacre

More Gun Violence: Let’s Look Beyond Politics

For example, why do those calling for more gun control remain silent when armed federal agents raid Amish farms to stop them from selling raw milk? This shows the hypocrisy of those who call for restrictions on private firearms ownership while supporting the use of government violence as a means of controlling our lives.

Unfortunately, there are many key questions lost in the race to score political points from the shooting.

Why does it always seem that the shooter in these mass killings has been on some kind of psychotropic drugs? As the New American magazine pointed out this week, at least ten high profile mass shootings have been committed by individuals who “were either on — or just recently coming off of — psychiatric medications.” The young killer in Florida was no different. According to his aunt, he had been on these medications to treat mental problems.

Why is no one questioning these medications – all of which come with labels warning of horrific side effects? Perhaps one reason they are ignored is that the pharmaceutical industry spends billions of dollars lobbying Congress.

Also, how is it possible that the FBI once again missed so many obvious clues that a violent person intent on causing massive harm to others was about to strike? Is the FBI actually this incompetent, or perhaps its focus was in other areas — like meddling in our own elections by presenting “evidence” they knew was flawed to the FISA court to get permission to spy on the Trump campaign?

We’ve heard many stories of how alert FBI field agents tried to alert their bosses before 9/11 that foreigners were taking flight lessons but were not interested in learning how to land the planes.

Is giving the federal government more power to spy on us – as they demand – the answer to stopping these terrible crimes? Hardly!

Those who think that giving federal authorities greater surveillance powers might prevent mass shootings should consider that the FBI has been alerted that the latest school shooter had made Facebook posts and YouTube comments talking about his intention to be, as he put it, “a professional school shooter.” But the Bureau failed to properly investigate the tips. If the FBI fails to stop someone who openly boasts about their intentions on social media why should we believe that giving them the power to snoop on every American would increase our safety?

We cannot stop tragedies like this by banning guns. We need to look seriously into the psychotropic drugs that more and more Americans are being prescribed. We need to demand that our elected Representatives demand a real day of reckoning at the FBI. We need to keep focused and ignore those who politicize such events.

From Lewrockwell.com, here.

Gary North: Public Schools Are Too Dangerous for Children!

Public School Control Now!

Gary North – February 16, 2018

The murder of 17 innocent high school students in Parkland, Florida reminds us that public schools are dangerous. Too dangerous for children.

Yet there are pro-public school ideologues who refuse to face the facts. They shut their eyes to reality. They spout their slogan: “Public schools don’t kill public students. Killers kill public school students.” We have heard this for 50 years. Yet the killers are always one of these: (1) enrolled public school students, (2) public school graduates, or (3) expelled public school students. It’s time to turn a deaf ear on the refrain about public schools not killing public school students.

When was the last time you heard of a mass execution of students in a private school? The next time will be the first.

When did anyone hear of a dozen or more corpses lying on the floor of a homeschool co-op?

The facts are inescapable. Students in public schools are at risk. Terrible risk. Unacceptable risk. There is no excuse for this any longer. None. The statistics are clear. Students get gunned down only in public schools.

Yet defenders of public schools never cease spouting their slogans about a constitutional right to taxpayer-funded education. They claim that this is guaranteed by the Constitution’s general welfare clause. This is preposterous. There were no taxpayer-funded day schools in 1788, not even a military academy. There wasn’t even a school at West Point. It was a fort. West Point was where Benedict Arnold had been in charge.

We need to organize . . . now. We need to go to the voters . . . now. We need to tell them what they already know but refuse to say in public: it is time to ban public schools once and for all. No more excuses. No more gradualism. Gradualism kills! In every town, every city, every county, every state, and in Congress, our voices must be heard. “Shut them down! All of them!”

There should be a school building buy-back program. Any school board that is willing to turn in its schools to the local police department should be paid. The empty schools can be then sold to private schools or even turned into business complexes. The police department should be allowed to keep the profits. We want our men in blue behind this.

County schools can be sold by the local sheriff’s office. Same arrangement. “Support your local sheriff. Turn in your schools.”

What will the students do? They can stay home and sign up for the Khan Academy. It’s online. It’s free. There would soon be a market for similar programs. Churches can create them. Retired teachers can create them. Service organizations can create them. If Salman Khan can do it, others can do it. There is a working model. This isn’t rocket science.

What about the children of mothers who work outside the home? No problem! A city or county can pay profit-seeking charter schools to enroll students. Tax support involves coercion, but it’s better to have private charter schools with armed guards than what we have now. There have been no mass shootings in charter schools. There have not been any gang-related murders, either.

What about today’s student-to-teacher ratio of 16 students per teacher. Double it to where it was in my day. Each student will sit at a carrel that touches a wall. The carrels will be in a U-formation. Each student will use a cheap Chromebook computer. The student will wear headphones to listen to online lectures and audio-visual presentations. A teacher will walk around to monitor the students from behind. The students will not know if the teacher is monitoring them. There will be few behavior problems.

What if a student gets stuck? He will raise his hand. The teacher will come over and ask what’s wrong. The student will say: “I don’t understand this.” The teacher will say: “Google it. That’s how you will learn everything as soon as you get out of school. Get a head start.”

“But,” you may say, “if that’s all a teacher had to do, then a low-paid worker could do the job. The high school could hire two or three $100,000-a-year teachers for one-time emergency instruction sessions, and the rest would be paid whatever a starting teacher is paid today.” Wrong. A teacher would be paid no more than 70% of what a starting teacher is paid today. There would be lots of applicants with B.A. degrees in education. They would be trained in college mainly in Googling.

What about hoodlums and gang members? Expel them.

What about disruptive students? Expel them.

What about teachers’ union members? Expel them. (OK, I’m just kidding. No charter school would hire them in the first place.)

Academic performance will improve. U.S. News and World Report rank the best academic high schools in the USA. The top three schools in America are run by the same charter school company in Arizona: BASIS. So is the number-five school. The ranking is here. I am sure BASIS can meet the demand.

If BASIS doesn’t want to set up schools in high-crime neighborhoods, then local entrepreneurs can do it. Cities can set up voucher programs. With no school buildings to heat, cool, and repair, no teachers’ union to placate, and no liability insurance to buy, taxes can be lowered.

I see a market for private security services for charter schools. “We pack. Kids learn.” They can hire ex-football coaches. I can see the recruiting brochure. “You’re big. You’re loud. You’re ready.”

This program is practical. We must close the public schools forever . . . for the sake of the children.

From Gary North, here.

יעלה ויבוא מן התורה מנין

יעלה ויבא בראש חודש ובמועדים

תקנו חז”ל שבחול המועד ור”ח אומרים תפלת יעלה ויבא בברכת העבודה-רצה, ויש לשאול למה דווקא בברכה זו ולא בברכה אחרת, ואפילו בהנחה שיש לאמרה בעבודה, למה לא לנסח אותה כשייכת בפרט למעין המאורע, ושוב, מה עניין כל המילים הנרדפות לזכירה, ייראה יירצה יישמע ייפקד ייזכר, וכו’, וכל הזכרונות, זכרוננו פקדוננו, זכרונות ירושלים משיח עם ישראל וכו’, והוה אמינא שבמועד נאמר נוסח המתמצת את תפלת המועד, “והשיאנו ה’ אלקינו את ברכת מועדיך לחיים ולשלום לשמחה ולשלום כאשר רצית ואמרת לברכנו, ושמחנו ביום חג הפלוני הזה, והעלנו לציון עירך ולירושלים משכן שמך, ושם נעלה ונראה לפניך בשלש פעמי רגלינו ונעבוד לפניך כימי עולם וכשנים קדמוניות, ותחזינה עינינו וכו’,” ובר”ח נאמר “אוא”א חדש עלינו את החודש הזה לטובה ולברכה לששון ולשמחה, וכו’, ויהי החודש הזה סוף לגלותנו ותחילה לגאולתנו. מזבח חדש בציון תכין, ובעבודת בית המקדש נשמח כולנו, ותחזינה עינינו וכו’.”

וי”ל שסמכו חז”ל על מטבע הכתוב, במיוחד פסוק וביום שמחתכם ובמועדיכם ובראשי חדשיכם, ותקעתם בחצצרות על עולתיכם (ובספרי – קרבנות ציבור) ועל זבחי שלמיכם, והיו לכם לזכרון לפני אלקיכם וכו’. והנה בפסוק הזה יש עניין תגבור התפלה במועדים וחודשים, וכן הקשר לעבודת הקרבנות, וכן מטרת הזכרון, וראו חז”ל להוסיף התפלה על הזכרון בימים אלו כשמתפללים על השבת עבודת המקדש למקומה.

מאתר אברהם בן יהודה, כאן.