Friday, February 26, 2010

Purim and the obsessions of crackpot professors

Haman begging Esther for mercy, by Rembrandt

With the festival of Purim around the corner, Jews turn to Persia and tell the story of how the Jewess Esther and her uncle Mordechai saved their people from extermination by the wicked Haman.

Same story, different time. President Ahmadinejad has again just announced he is looking forward to a Middle East without Zionists.

In leftwing circles it's become fashionable to downplay Ahmadinejad's threats to annihilate Israel as just so much empty rhetoric, or a mistranslation of the Farsi. We are now seeing a breed of young (Ashkenazi) Israeli academics who see Marxist dichotomies and hifalutin' theories of cultural dissonance where there is just plain old antisemitism.

This book, by professor Haggai Ram, at Ben Gurion university, reviewed here, is no exception:

Employ­ing the soci­o­log­i­cal con­cept of “moral panic,” Ram takes on the com­monly held notion that Iran and Israel are “nat­ural” ene­mies. Instead, Ira­nopho­bia sug­gests that Israel’s “moral panic” finds its roots in cul­tural anx­i­eties relat­ing to Israel’s pre­car­i­ous con­cep­tion of itself as essen­tially “West­ern.” Ram’s analy­sis argues that fear of Iran is in fact deeply con­nected to ten­sions gen­er­ated by the pres­ence of non-Western Jew­ish immi­grants in Israel. These groups are seen as call­ing into ques­tion the state’s Ashke­nazi (Euro­pean) “eth­noc­racy” and com­pli­cat­ing Israeli society’s per­cep­tion of itself as fun­da­men­tally Euro­pean and “mod­ern.” The con­cep­tion of Iran and Iran­ian cul­ture as essen­tially non-Western, as some kind of “Other,” allows Israeli soci­ety to con­ceive of itself and build an iden­tity in con­trast to that coun­try and its people.

Well I'm sorry, Ram, your theory rests on the false Marxist premise that Israel's Mizrahi Jews want nothing more than to break away from their culturally-repressive Ashkenazi brethren in Israel and melt back into the surrounding Middle East landscape of corrupt and tinpot dictatorships. It's easy for crackpot professors in the Israel and the West who have never heard the knock on the door in the middle of the night to disparage Israeli democracy as some sort of alien 'western' concept foisted on the natives against their will. But democracy and the rule of law and the protection of human rights mean a great deal to Mizrahi Jews in Israel who suffered in their countries of birth from the absence of such things.

Ram's work seems to have nothing to say about Iran's long tradition of Shi'a discrimination, enshrined in the Islamic Republic's sharia law. Whether the Shah was Eastern or Western, the bottom line is that he was a good deal more tolerant of minorities than the Ayatollahs are nowadays. To trumpet the fact that there are 25,000 or 30,000 Jews in Iran today is nothing to be proud of. The truth is that 80,000 Jews got out when they could.


victor said...

Why is Iranophobia worse than Israelophobia?

TxLady said...

If only we could have Esther now.
Golda was an Esther in a way.
Both women and both STRONG. Both righteous and PROUD to be. Proud to be righteous instead of the current cultural climate where people yell and shout about being proud while they are as debouched as they can be. They should have nothing to be proud of. Proud? We should denigrate the fools that are proud to be vile.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

I read the review by Lederman linked to in the post. The reviewer succeeds in displaying his own insanity next to --but not quite as extreme as-- that of Haggai Ram,

Note that both Ram and Lederman insanely perceive a kind of undifferentiated "orientalness." No Muslims versus dhimmis. No Shi`ites versus Sunnites." No Shiites versus Zoroastrians. No freemen versus slaves. No acknowledgement that in the 19th century, many members of Middle Eastern subject peoples, both Christians and Jews, were happy to take on the citizenship offered by several European powers [UK, France, and others], thereby escaping the disabilities of dhimmitude and second-class subjecthood in the Ottoman Empire.

It is really insane to minimize the threat to Jews posed by the present Iranian regime and its satellites and dependents, Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas. These bodies have also professed their belief in traditionally Western Judeophobic claims. For instance, One of the Hizbullah papers in Lebanon wrote back in circa 1987 that: "Le microbe juif est partout" [the Jewish microbe is everywhere]. This is clearly a Western Judeophobic notion, although Shiite Islam had its own traditional forms of Judeophobia and oppressing Jews, which Ram and Lederman are unaware of or deliberately overlook.

They also overlook support by the United States [under carter and brzezinski] for Khomeini's takeover of Iran. How do Ram and Lederman explain that?

Further, the institution in Israel which most openly displays contempt for the Oriental Jews is the HaArets newspaper. Gideon Levy, notorious for his pro-Arab sympathies, his sob stories about Arab victims of Jews [true or false or highly embellished?], very clearly declared this contempt in an article last summer [2009] on an open air concert in Tel Aviv. Other HaArets staff scribblers take a similar position, although seldom as blatantly as Gideon Levy did. How does that fit into Ram's theory? Levy is not a governmental official who points to the threat of a nuclear Iran. He does not often write about Iran, if at all. What proof of any sort does Ram --or Lederman, who simply accepts Ram's claims-- have for the basic argument of the book?

The fact that Israel-Iran relations were fairly good at the time of the Shah is not seen by Ram as a contradiction of his theory but is used by Ram as a confirmation of it in that he claims that both Iran under the Shah and Israel were trying to deorientalize their populations. Be that as it may, it does not explain Iranian financing of Hamas and Hizbullah nor Iran's nuclear bomb project. It does not explain A-jad's threatening statements against Israel.

Lastly, if there is panic, it should derive not only from Iran's nuclear bomb project and its threats but from the apparent Western acceptance of an Iranian bomb. This seems clear from the years of Western procrastination and refusal to take concrete steps to stop the Iranian bomb project. Do you know that as far back as 2003, the USA and other Western powers gave Iran a "last chance" to stop its nuclear treaty violations? They are still giving Iran "last chnces" in 2009 and 2010.

If it is indeed Western policy to facilitate Iranian acquisition of a nuclear bomb, then Ram's book can only give those Western policy makers "moral" comfort.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

In my previous comment, I should have written the contrast "slaveowners versus slaves" and not as written.

More importantly, I note in the review that no proof or evidence for the basic claim of the book is given. Since the review is lengthy and seems fairly comprehensive, the absence of evidence means that the book's thesis is stated as a dictum without any grounds, except perhaps as an extension of the reader's previous prejudices. The thesis is an intuition at best, unless the author gives us some quotes indicating that the fear of Iran is really based on "panic" over Oriental culture. That the reviewer accepts the author's basic argument and that the book was published at all indicate the depths to which Academia has sunk.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Here is an article on the threat of Iran written by Menashe Amir, himself an Iranian Jew:

bataween said...

Thanks for your thorough deconstruction of Lederman's review. The irony that Iran and its proxies are motivated by western concepts of judeophobia seems to have escaped both Ram and Lederman.
They see Israel's reaction to Iran only as a projection of its paranoia.
This is consistent with a recent tendency on the left to deny or belittle Jew-hatred. Yoav Shamir's film 'Defamation', lionised by the Guardian, took the view that antisemitism was little more than a figment of ADL's imagination.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

The claim or insinuation of Jewish paranoia goes far back with the so-called "Left." But note that in fact Communists and other breeds of "leftist" often exhibit paranoia about "right-wing" enemies, fascists, real or imagined, etc.

There was an Israeli "leftist," one Yael Lotan, energetically marketing the claim of Jewish paranoia at least as early as the Sixties. I recall hearing American "leftists" trying to minimize the Holocaust after the 6 Day War, while I was in America. One of the arguments went something like this: What's the big deal about the Holocaust? After all, the Armenians suffered a genocide too. So what's the big deal?

This argument shows how dumb and ignorant these "leftists" were [and they are dumber today]. The motive of the "leftists" was to minimize any sense of threat that Jews might feel from the Arabs. But the Arabs are mainly Muslims and the Turks are Muslims. So if we examine the Armenian genocide's perpetrators, the Ottoman Turkish govt in which Arabs too held high posts, we have to consider the possibility of Islam as a motive or a facilitator of the genocide. That should reasonably give us more reason to be suspicious of the Arabs, besides the Arab collaboration in the Holocaust.

Menashe Amir points to traditional Shiite Muslim prejudices against Jews --especially the nafis notion-- as motives or pretexts for Iranian policy. Matthias Kuentzel [spelling?] argues that both traditional Shiite prejudices and German Nazi influences helped shape the Judeophobic worldview of Khomeini and other leading Iranians. Kuentzel does this in a recent book.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

This is a link to Matthias Kuentzel's article on Iranian Judeophobia.