Monday, March 12, 2007

The Jewish intellectuals nostalgic for 'dhimmitude'

The phenomenon of the anti-Zionist, 'self-hating' Jewish intellectual is not new. France has its fair share: Edgar Morin, Rony Brauman, Théo Klein, Jean Daniel, Gisèle Halimi, Esther Benbassa, Michel Warshawski, Guy Sorman.

In the USA Noam Chomsky is the kingpin of a coterie of Jewish, anti-Zionist intellectuals and academics.

In Britain we have Harold Pinter, Stephen Fry, Miriam Margolis, Nicole Farhi - so-called 'Independent Jewish Voices', who claim that the Jewish establishment seeks to stifle their criticisms of Israel.

Now the highly-respected professor and publisher of the magazine Controverses, Shmuel Trigano, has coined a term to describe these people: Alterjuifs (alternative Jews). Delving into the psychology of the Alterjuif, Controverses identifies a particular sub-group, peopled by Jewish intellectuals from Arab countries:

"For the Alterjuifs of the Maghreb, their hostility to Israel is linked to their specific experience of exile: Israel is to blame for their leaving Arab countries. The creation of Israel is to blame for Arab Muslim hostility and antisemitism.

"These intellectuals are prisoners of a myth they cannot and will not abandon: the lost Arab paradise where all peoples lived in harmony. Some people look back with nostalgia to being slaves in Egypt; others to the nostalgia of the ghettos. Today we have the nostalgia of dhimmitude. To hear their complaints and their anger, the logical conclusion is as follows: for the lost paradise to be recovered and the golden age re-established, the Jews and Israel need to be put in their place, i.e in the leg-irons of servitude. The Arab Muslims would revert to being nice and peace would reign on earth.

"Israel" has always had on its margins lost, embarrassed Jews, Alterjuifs, virtual Jews. They are proof that Judaism is open and lively - far from being the closed world and prison some like to describe."

Read article in Guysen Israel News (French)


Anonymous said...

This is typical Zionist claptrap. Such authors are simply incapable of understanding the fact that there are Jews who think that the Zionist enterprise was a bad idea from the start and so they must "psychoanalyze" them away. This conveniently removes anti-Zionism from the realm of intellectual discussion where arguments have to be faced by counter-arguments.
Noam Chomsky and Michel Warshawski (and, I suppose, Leah Tsemel and Norman Finkelstein and the Satmarim and Neturai Karta, for that matter), full-fledged Ashkenazim, are now said to be nostalgic for their past lives in their Arab homelands.
What hooey!
I have plenty of agreements with many of the above, but let's not use this pseudo-intellectualism to sweep their ideas under the carpet.

bataween said...

Trigano clearly states that 'alterjuifs' from Arab countries constitute a sub-group among anti-Zionist intellectuals.(I see you bracket the crackpot orthodox fundamentalists of Neturei Karta with the Marxists and the Trots. Strange bedfellows!) As someone once said, the fewer coins there are in the box the more noise they make. For these intellectuals are hardly representative of the mainstream. Most Jewish people overwhelmingly support the idea of a Jewish homeland - which is what the world Zionism means. It's not such a bad idea if what you are proposing in its place, as most anti-Zionist intellectuals do, is yet another failed Arab state.

Anonymous said...

bataween is right. The author was refering to a subgroup of alterjuifs. And the author had a point--many of them are deeply nostalgic for their Arab homelands and to some degree they have allowed their nostalgia to run away with them.

But this is not necessarily a pathological mourning over a false past, let alone dhimmitude or slavery in Egypt, but a real reaction to their present dilemma as second-class citizens in Israel and a centuries-long attachment to Arabic culture, or the culture of their particular Arab homelands.

There is a thriving business of Iranian, Turkish, and Azerbaijani Jews going back and forth to so-called dhimmitude, i.e., the homeland of centuries of ancestors. They love their homeland perhaps even more than their Muslim neighbors because love for their homeland, its food, its smells, its customs, is all they have which ties them to it, not being tied to it by religion.

Bottom line, I was wrong to underestimate the writer, who, on second thought, has a strong argument. But he, in turn, oversimplifies the position of those Jews from the Muslim world who identify more with the homeland of their ancestors, which is not the land of Israel, but the land in which they and their ancestors had lived in for centuries. Such a sense of patriotism should not be despised just because it is inconvenient for the Zionists.

I do not presume to present a solution. All I'm saying is that the Zionist project has led the Jews into a dead end. This was predicted by its early critics. How to get out of it is another question.

bataween said...

Hello evan (I don't suppose you are the same as Evan)
You make several very good points. ButI do not agree that 'identification with the Muslim homeland should be despised because it is inconvenient for Zionists'. The examples you state are Muslims states who happen to have (or had in the case of Iran)good relations with Israel. These Jews do not have to choose between their homeland or Israel - they can have it both ways. Not comparable with the Trigano's Arab-born'alterjuifs' who categorically reject Israel.
I fail to see how Israel has led Jews into a 'dead-end'. Israel has been a refuge and a boon to the vast majority of Jewish refugees, and infinitely less of a'dead-end' than the Arab world would have been.