Jewfros in Palestine

by Corey Robin on January 31, 2014

Tablet has a moving piece by Samantha Shokin, a Brooklyn-based writer, on how a semester in Israel helped change the way she felt about herself, particularly her bodily self-image as a Jewish woman. Shokin writes:

I spent a lifetime hating my Jewish hair—straightening it, covering it, or otherwise finding ways to diminish its presence. A trip to Israel is what it took for me to realize my hair was wonderful all its own, and much more than just an accessory.


Shokin does a wonderful job describing how her hair was caught up with her feelings of awkwardness, shame, and exclusion, how difficult it was as an adolescent to contend with images of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera from the vantage of “frizzy brown hair and glasses.” This was no simple matter of teenage angst, Shokin makes clear; it cut to the heart of her Jewish identity, not to mention a long history of anti-Semitism. For centuries, Jewish looks, including hair, have been a dividing line between the drowned and the saved. As that simple line from Paul Celan reminds us: “your golden hair Margarete/ your ashen hair Shulamit.” So it’s quite clear in Shokin’s piece that she’s not simply describing her personal insecurities. She’s tapping into a wider conversation, familiar to members of other ethnic minorities, about how particular conceptions of beauty become markers of status and inclusion—and, concomitantly, inferiority and exclusion. It’s no wonder that when Shokin goes to Israel and sees so many dos like her own, she feels at home.

 

But there’s something to be said about stepping into a hair salon and not feeling like a piece of work, just as there is about stepping into crowd of people and not feeling like a stranger.


That said, the piece suffers from an obliviousness I can’t help flinching at. Nowhere in Shokin’s discussion does she even give a hint that she’s aware that her feeling at home comes at a cost to someone else. How might a teenage Palestinian girl in the West Bank—undergoing not only the adolescent angst that Shokin once endured but also the facts of the Occupation—read this piece? Might she not respond, “I have to suffer all of this, just so you can feel at home with your hair?”

I’m being tendentious. But it’s a tendentious situation. And articles like this don’t help. They speak instead to a larger cluelessness among Jewish Americans about what they’re doing when they go to Israel and find themselves at home.

I can’t tell you how many discussions I’ve had over the years with Jewish defenders of the State of Israel whose position is entirely fair and eminently reasonable—so long as you forget that there are actual Palestinians living there. People I love and respect mount air-tight arguments and make genuinely moving cases to me about the Jewish need for a refuge from persecution; about the desire to live somewhere—anywhere, say some—where they are not a minority; about the stirring feeling of hearing Hebrew spoken in the street; about the longing to feel at home. About wanting to be a teenager who loves her hair.

All of this I hear, and think, yes, of course, how could anyone not understand and empathize with that? But all of these heartfelt and legitimate claims rest upon a simple omission: the Palestinians. For these claims to obtain their intended force, we have to pretend that the Palestinians aren’t there—or that they don’t exist.

Shokin’s piece is a microcosm: its adolescent sense that my problems are the only problems that matter in this world sound all too much like Zionist arguments for a Jewish homeland. Not Zionist arguments at their weakest, but Zionist arguments at their strongest.

{ 204 comments }

1

MPAVictoria 01.31.14 at 7:30 pm

Corey her article wasn’t ABOUT the Israeli-Palestinian problem. Is the Israeli-Palestinian the only thing Jewish authors are now allowed to write about? Why should she write about what you want her to write about?

2

Anderson 01.31.14 at 7:37 pm

” the Jewish need for a refuge from persecution; about the desire to live somewhere—anywhere, say some—where they are not a minority; about the stirring feeling of hearing Hebrew spoken in the street; about the longing to feel at home”

Unfortunately, Utah was already taken.

(Agree w/ MPA that this post is a bit over the top, but then, hey, it’s a blog.)

3

Lynne 01.31.14 at 7:40 pm

Corey, her article was pretty limited in scope, agreed. You noted her obliviousness about the Palestinians, I noticed that she never mentioned how toxic these images of female beauty are for all women, not just Jews, how in fact the very idea that women have to be pretty (in a Jewish way or in the blonde Britney way—though Britney dyes her hair, I’m pretty sure) is responsible for a lot of women’s problems.

However, as MPAV says, her article was not about those things, and I thought it did a pretty good job of shining a spotlight on her particular situation. Would I like her to think about the larger context? Yes, I would, and maybe she does and writes about it elsewhere. But this article was worth a read as it stands.

4

MPAVictoria 01.31.14 at 7:44 pm

Additionally, even Israel becomes a single multi-ethnic state there will still be a large Jewish population there for her to feel at home among.
/Unless of course Hamas gets their wish but no one ever wants to talk about that
//Or what it would mean for the LGBTQ community either.

5

John Glover 01.31.14 at 7:45 pm

I disagree with MPA and think what Corey says is spot-on.

For some reason, it reminds me of Tom Perkins. People just don’t like to have it pointed out when their happiness and contentment comes at somebody else’s expense.

6

MPAVictoria 01.31.14 at 7:49 pm

“People just don’t like to have it pointed out when their happiness and contentment comes at somebody else’s expense.”

That could apply to EVERYONE. You ever spend a dollar while a child somewhere is going hungry? People are allowed to write about multiple issues and don’t have to cover every issue in every piece they write.

7

Corey Robin 01.31.14 at 7:55 pm

I understand exactly what Shokin was trying to do in her article; I think I describe it fairly well — and sympathetically — in my second graf. I also think there are real limitations to what she is trying to do in her article. Were those limitations peculiar to her or her article, I wouldn’t have bothered to comment on them. But as I go onto say, they are in fact representative a far wider problem in the Jewish American community, and it’s a problem that’s intrinsic to Zionism as a whole. It’s not merely an awkward teenager, angsting about her hair, who finds succor in Israel; it’s juniors in college looking for identity; it’s high school graduates off to their Birthright tours. It’s a lot of people who go there in search of something — never stopping to think what are the conditions that make that quest possible. I think our job as bloggers is to make those conditions visible at every turn. So, no surprise, I’m not persuaded by any of these critiques here. Sorry!

8

Corey Robin 01.31.14 at 7:57 pm

I might also add that it’s the writer who opens herself to these critiques. She herself wants to make a larger point about her struggle with identity, about the connections between her feelings about her hair and her feelings about the land, about the connections between the personal and the political. You open that door, you can’t close it. Certainly not in this context.

9

Corey Robin 01.31.14 at 7:59 pm

MPAVictoria: “People are allowed to write about multiple issues and don’t have to cover every issue in every piece they write.” Believe me, as a blogger, I understand that point all too well. I don’t expect a writer to cover every issue in one blog. In this instance, however, as I said, I think she opened herself to these other issues. Nothing you’ve said persuades me otherwise.

10

bob mcmanus 01.31.14 at 8:00 pm

“The Young-Girl does not want history.” …tiqqun

“There is always a penal colony hiding behind the Young-Girl’s vitrified smile.”

“Every Young-Girl constitutes, in her own way, an advanced position in the imperialism of the trivial.”

11

Joshua W. Burton 01.31.14 at 8:01 pm

Might she not respond, “I have to suffer all of this, just so you can feel at home with your hair?” I’m being tendentious.

No, actually you’re being scary. There are a range of competing visions of a future in which that teenage Palestinian girl is no longer suffering; among these are some form of a two-state solution, and some form of a binational state. In both of these, a Jewish visitor from Brooklyn to a land that is now more than half Jewish between the river and the sea, and will remain so (for at least a generation, or as far as the demographic eye can see) in the absence of large migrations, could expect to feel at home with her hair much as she does in present-day Israel. To become less Jewish than Brooklyn, the state(s) in question would have to experience at least an 85% Jewish emigration or a 500% non-Jewish immigration.

As an advocate of peace who is pretty broad-minded about what would constitute an acceptable peaceful and permanent resolution to the conflict, I can literally imagine no such resolution that would cause a demographic shift of that magnitude in the writer’s lifetime — though I can of course imagine various unpeaceful scenarios where that demographic shift does come rapidly to pass. So, your formulation here begs the question: what sort of outcome are you truly rooting for?

12

TM 01.31.14 at 8:04 pm

Is Jewishness really correlated with hair structure? I thought those were stereotypes.

13

Crickets Chirpping 01.31.14 at 8:06 pm

Corey – you’re in a hole … and you keep digging.

FWIW, there weren’t “jewish problems” in much of western europe post-1945 and the allied Arab countries tried a similar approach in 1948 and 1967. War sucks for all parties, especially the losers.

14

Corey Robin 01.31.14 at 8:11 pm

Joshua W. Burton: Your comment puzzles me. What in what I said entails or implies any of the grandiosity of your response?

15

bob mcmanus 01.31.14 at 8:16 pm

Young Girl Full

“Young-Girl is only ever really at home in relationships of pure exteriority.”

“The “dictatorship of beauty” is also the dictatorship of ugliness. It doesn’t mean the violent hegemony of a certain paradigm of beauty, but in a much more radical way, the hegemony of the physical simulacrum as a form of the objectivity of beings. Understood as such, it is clear that nothing prevents such a dictatorship from extending to all people, whether beautiful, ugly, or indifferent.”

“The Young-Girl is not there to be criticized.”

Was this Young-Girl’s image unattractive to you, Corey?

16

Corey Robin 01.31.14 at 8:18 pm

Bob Mcmanus: I have no idea what you’re asking me. Maybe you could try formulating your question more clearly.

17

LizardBreath 01.31.14 at 8:21 pm

It’s not exactly what Corey was saying, but I found something fundamentally offputting about the linked piece. Failing to live up to a beauty standard devaluing anyone who isn’t a thin blond straighthaired woman can be a difficult and unpleasant experience, but it’s not a necessarily Jewish experience, both because there are plenty of thin straight-haired Jews, and there are plenty of ways to be non-thin, non-blond, and non-straight-haired without being Jewish. Neither Jersey or Brooklyn is Finland — she didn’t grow up as an unusual anomaly in an area that was otherwise uniformly straight-haired and blond.

It felt as if she was eliding the distinction between feeling oppressed because she was unable to live up to a media-created beauty image (of a petite straight-haired blond) and feeling oppressed by being surrounded by non Jews (which in Brooklyn really aren’t mostly, or in fact hardly at all, straight-haired blondes). If she felt more comfortable in Israel than she did in Brooklyn, I really doubt it was actually because there were significantly more people with varying levels of curly hair in Israel.

18

MPAVictoria 01.31.14 at 8:23 pm

“She herself wants to make a larger point about her struggle with identity, about the connections between her feelings about her hair and her feelings about the land, about the connections between the personal and the political”

The political? Where did you see that Corey because I didn’t.

19

adam.smith 01.31.14 at 8:24 pm

Not sure. I agree that people that there needs to be a way to write pieces that focus on a single aspect of something but my guess would be that whether this can be done here depends very much on your view of how much the oppression of Palestinians is a foundational issue of Israel.
To avoid Godwin, imagine a young journalist writing in 1960. She was born in Alabama and moved to NYC as a teenager. People always made fun of her accent. Then she travels down to Alabama and finds her identity among the gracious Southern Belles. No mention of Jim Crow, civil rights, or, for that matter black folks at all (I don’t have any examples, but I’m pretty sure one could find similar pieces from that time, to this isn’t entirely hypothetical). Wouldn’t that strike you as, at best, a somewhat uncomfortable read?
Of course, if you view the issue as less foundational — say along the lines of stop-and-frisk in NYC — you’d see this differently.

20

bob mcmanus 01.31.14 at 8:30 pm

16: Okay, how do you know she isn’t tormented by the Palestinian dispossession?

Because it wasn’t presented to you as her Spectacular surface.

You aren’t even judging her; you are judging her appearance and finding it unattractive.

21

MPAVictoria 01.31.14 at 8:33 pm

” In this instance, however, as I said, I think she opened herself to these other issues. Nothing you’ve said persuades me otherwise.”

Could it be because you were looking to talk about those issues? She never mentions the Settlements, the Palestinians or the Israeli Government. And, as Joshua points out unless something unspeakable happens there will be a large population of Jews living in that area no matter what. Her story doesn’t depend on the existence of Israel, it depends on the existence of a large community of Jews.

22

LFC 01.31.14 at 8:34 pm

Off on a slight tangent: is anyone here familiar with Kai Bird’s Crossing Mandelbaum Gate: Coming of Age Between the Arabs and Israelis, 1956-1978 (Scribner, 2010)? I recently ran across and bought it (in a used book place). He grew up largely in the Middle East as his father was a For. Service officer (one of the State Dept Arabists, as they were sometimes called); he married a woman whose parents were Holocaust survivors. Have only had a chance to dip into it, but appears to be an interesting, highly readable blend of memoir and history. Unlikely to change anyone’s mind about anything but probably a pretty good read. (Bird is prob. best known for his biography of the Bundys and a bio of Robert Oppenheimer, co-authored w Martin Sherwin.)

23

Joshua W. Burton 01.31.14 at 8:36 pm

Corey @14: You explicitly lament (“flinch at”) Ms. Shokin’s failure to consider the political subtext of her introspective piece. I think other commenters have answered pretty well that she has no obligation to do so, but that’s not my beef.

Granting that the suffering of your Palestinian teenager is unavoidable in the present situation, and granting that something should therefore be done about the current situation (and that Ms. Shokin should think about that more often or more deeply or more loudly or something) . . . how does feeling ethnically at home as an American Jewish visitor in Tel Aviv-Yafo depend on nothing being done?

I’d like something to be done. I’d like Palestinian teenagers not to suffer. I’d also like most of the Jewfros in the Middle East, not to mention the heads they’re attached to, to feel safe. I consider anyone who doesn’t want all these things — well, for lack of a better word, an enemy. As a public voice of the BDS movement, you are important to me, and I would like to understand: are you my enemy?

Because if the future you want is compatible with Ms. Shokin’s happy travel story, then I can’t understand why you’re on her case. She’s not asking for a greater Eretz Yisrael, nor for an indivisible Jerusalem, nor even for a blue flag overhead and a Hebrew stamp on her passport. She’s asking to visit her relatives where they live today. So I ask again, why does that upset you? What do you, personally, want Dizengoff Street to look like on her daughter’s teen visit?

24

godoggo 01.31.14 at 8:45 pm

I’m going to say something trivial, sorry. When I was a kid, all I wanted was hair like Jim Morrison. Is that so much to ask? And I’d walk down the street on a sunny day and look down and see this shadow with a damn frisbee hovering over the shoulders and think, “This is not working out as I’d hoped.” Moving to Israel wouldn’t fix this problem for me. Well I warned you.

25

Corey Robin 01.31.14 at 8:49 pm

“how does feeling ethnically at home as an American Jewish visitor in Tel Aviv-Yafo depend on nothing being done?”

In the abstract — which, as I point out in my OP, is how so many of my friends and family who defend the State of Israel, like to speak — it doesn’t. In the now nearly 100 years of history that undergird the question you’re posing — i.e., in reality — it has depended on nothing being done (or a lot bad things being done) quite a bit. And I consider anyone who seeks to answer that question in the abstract, without wrestling with the reality, not to be terribly serious about the Palestinians, whatever they may profess.

I see nothing inconsistent in what I’ve just said — or what I said in my OP — with the idea that one day, in a binational state, Shokin will be able to visit her relatives and not worry about her hair.

MPAVictoria: “Her story doesn’t depend on the existence of Israel, it depends on the existence of a large community of Jews.”

You’re doing exactly what I talked about in the OP, which only convinces me even more that I was right to use this article as exhibit A. In theory — in the abstract — you’re right: it doesn’t depends on the existence of Israel, i.e., a state that is founded on the dispossession of hundreds of thousand of people. As I said in the OP, no one can disagree with the story in the abstract.

It’s the reality — that her story is in fact not merely about being in a community of Jews, but being in the State of Israel — that’s the problem. And whenever defenders of the State of Israel wish to defend the State of Israel, when they’re really pressed to get down to essentials, they can only do so by flying to the abstract, to a level at which most people wouldn’t disagree. But again it’s not the abstract that’s the problem.

So that’s why I think Shokin’s article is absolutely perfect for demonstrating how Zionism works as a political argument and a political practice.

26

Corey Robin 01.31.14 at 8:49 pm

Bob McManus: Still not understanding. Sorry!

27

Corey Robin 01.31.14 at 8:55 pm

MPA: “The political? Where did you see that Corey because I didn’t.”

This is a piece about traveling to the State of Israel, about feeling at home in the State of Israel, and, by the end of the piece, about seriously contemplating becoming a citizen of the State of Israel (though ultimately deciding not to). If you don’t see a meditation on belonging and citizenship — however oblivious and clueless it might be about the implications of that — as political, I don’t know what to say.

28

Joshua W. Burton 01.31.14 at 9:08 pm

As I said in the OP, no one can disagree with the story in the abstract. It’s the reality — that her story is in fact not merely about being in a community of Jews, but being in the State of Israel — that’s the problem.

Perhaps there is some technical sense of “abstraction” and “reality” that makes sense of this otherwise paradoxical claim. As I read it, “abstract” here means the concrete subjective circumstantial experience of a particular trip and a particular life, as told in first person. “Reality” is a century or more of world history, read as a political narrative that the author ought to be in dialectic with instead of listening to the wind in her own hair.

Was being in the state of New York also a problem? In reality, I mean, not in the abstract.

29

Tyrone Slothrop 01.31.14 at 9:08 pm

Corey, perhaps what Bob McManus is getting at is that is that Shokin’s piece is about an ideal of appearance that’s superficial, literally and in what it claims to be objectively revealing – but it says nothing about, because it cannot say anything meaningful about, what her actual interiorized position/feelings/anguish about Palestinians may in fact be. So that in how you have positioned her, you are performing in a similar fashion to those who would gauge, and hence oppress, purely through appearance.

That’s my guess, anyways. Thought I’d take a stab.

30

Tyrone Slothrop 01.31.14 at 9:09 pm

Sorry if I totally bollixed that up, Bob.

31

TM 01.31.14 at 9:11 pm

LizardBreath 17: My reaction too. What is weird is to ethnizice an experience that really doesn’t seem to have much to do with that particular identity. It is relevant of course that she perceives it as such but one is permitted to ask why.

32

Corey Robin 01.31.14 at 9:17 pm

Tyrone: I try to stick to a general rule: If it takes me longer to decode and understand a comment than it took me to write my original post, I ignore the comment. I’m afraid we’re rapidly approaching that time. I appreciate your efforts to translate to a lummox like me, but that’s where we are.

33

MPAVictoria 01.31.14 at 9:21 pm

“If you don’t see a meditation on belonging and citizenship — however oblivious and clueless it might be about the implications of that — as political, I don’t know what to say.”

Eh. I stand by my interpretation. You are simply reading in what you want to read in.

34

The Temporary Name 01.31.14 at 9:25 pm

Does leaving the US for Israel result in bloodier hands?

35

Corey Robin 01.31.14 at 9:25 pm

Sorry, Tyrone, just to put some meat on them bones. You say, channeling Bob, that the piece is about appearance and superficiality — and what that cannot be said to reveal — and that therefore, within the constraints of the piece, it cannot talk about anything so interior as the author’s feelings about Palestine. First, Bob didn’t say that the piece can’t talk about Palestine; he said I assumed she had no thoughts about Palestine. Which of course I didn’t say or assume at all. I spoke about the piece only. But, second, moving to your formulation, it’s actually not true that the piece is speaking about appearance and superficiality, as the author understands the piece. The author is sees appearance as embedded in social practices and groups, of being a minority, of social exclusion, etc. (Which is again why I find MPAVictoria’s comments above so puzzling.) Her treatment of appearance is the opposite of what you claim it is: she’s filling in appearance with depth and sociological fact. And, finally, you say she can’t, within the terms of her piece, look to the Palestinian experience b/c it can’t speak to her own feelings about much of anything. Well of course it does speak to her own feelings, and what’s more, she connects her feelings to social and political facts. The problem with the piece is not that she’s operating the surface — or that I treating her as if she were — but that her sense of social reality is radically circumscribed: it does not make reference to the actual conditions that make her sense of reality possible.

All of which is to say: I’ve now spent the better part of the last few hours trying to puzzle through these comments of Bob, and now you, and I don’t feel like I’m any closer to understanding what it is you’re saying, much less arguing with you, so I have to move on.

36

MPAVictoria 01.31.14 at 9:26 pm

I guess the question is can a person right anything about a trip to Israel that does not mention the Palestinian issue? I say yes. If I want to write a blog post on Israeli cuisine I don’t feel like I am under any obligation to write about the Settlement issue. I feel like the same privilege should be extended to this young woman.

She wants to write about her own personal experience visiting a place that has a large Jewish majority for the first time. Why shouldn’t she write about that if she like? Because you would rather talk about something else? Well too bad. Write your own article.

37

godoggo 01.31.14 at 9:27 pm

I’d tell my friend Campbell about this and he’ go, “Freddie Capacho!” Apparently Freddie Capacho had the same problem.

38

bob mcmanus 01.31.14 at 9:28 pm

Why did Johansson drop Oxfam? Because mercenary motives are more attractive.

The Young-Girl is the model post-modern citizen, and so does not think about politics.

Israel was for Shokin a consumer experience, and a positive reflection. It helped her feel sincere which is a very marketable quality.

29: Close enough, Tyrone. Commodification has become immanent. Even interiority has become commodified and superficial.

I loved the article. She is what we are.

For Sartre, ethics was both inevitable and impossible. For us, politics is both inescapable and impossible.

39

Corey Robin 01.31.14 at 9:30 pm

MPAVictoria: “Well too bad. Write your own article.” I think I just did.

40

MPAVictoria 01.31.14 at 9:35 pm

“MPAVictoria: “Well too bad. Write your own article.” I think I just did.”
Ha! Fair enough. I meant your own original article, not one criticizing a 24 year old talking about a personal experience that was important to her.

41

bob mcmanus 01.31.14 at 9:37 pm

…but that her sense of social reality is radically circumscribed: it does not make reference to the actual conditions that make her sense of reality possible.

You do so get it, you were just kidding. This is what it happens when individualism and identity become ethical norms.

Yes, it is all about her. Can it be otherwise?

Would it be different if she had visited Gaza, saw the suffering and cried out to the world? Or would that be just another produced and consumed image?

42

Plume 01.31.14 at 9:38 pm

It goes without saying that it’s completely understandable that Jews would want to have a place free of persecution. They have been, arguably, the most persecuted people in world history.

But it doesn’t follow that in order to escape that persecution, a country, created especially for them, which guarantees their majority status, is required, or even legitimate. And given the history after its founding, it’s pretty obvious that its locale, while fulfilling part of that desire, hasn’t done a thing regarding existential threats. It’s actually increased them.

No other minority group — that I can think of, anyway — has been granted this majority state. Why this exception? It was never a good idea, much less a moral or ethical one, to remove one group of people in order to facilitate that first ever (type of) state for another. It was destined for endless violence from the getgo.

43

MPAVictoria 01.31.14 at 9:42 pm

“No other minority group — that I can think of, anyway — has been granted this majority state. “
All the countries that made up the former Yugoslavia, a number of the former member Republics of the USSR and many many more. National self determination is hardly a new concept Plume.

44

bianca steele 01.31.14 at 9:43 pm

Lynne @ 3

She also mentions that her mother didn’t know what to do with her hair either–something I can certainly relate to–but not really support for her argument. While Shokin makes it clear that she was a Zionist before her semester abroad, the post does seem a bit opportunistically picking on a weak target and ruling out discussion on larger issues because those discussing them so far are not as pure as snow. Maybe Corey feels there’s something off about the hair discussion or the identity discussion themselves, and if so I’d like to hear what he has to say.

45

Corey Robin 01.31.14 at 9:46 pm

Plume, Hannah Arendt was one of the first to grasp the extraordinariness of that claim. Writing in 1943, she said that the basic premise of Zionism was “that tomorrow’s majority will concede minority rights to today’s majority, which indeed would be something brand new in the history of nation-states.”

46

Corey Robin 01.31.14 at 9:51 pm

47

Corey Robin 01.31.14 at 9:56 pm

Bianca: “Maybe Corey feels there’s something off about the hair discussion or the identity discussion themselves…”

Corey: “Shokin does a wonderful job describing how her hair was caught up with her feelings of awkwardness, shame, and exclusion, how difficult it was as an adolescent to contend with images of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera from the vantage of ‘frizzy brown hair and glasses.’ This was no simple matter of teenage angst, Shokin makes clear; it cut to the heart of her Jewish identity, not to mention a long history of anti-Semitism. For centuries, Jewish looks, including hair, have been a dividing line between the drowned and the saved. As that simple line from Paul Celan reminds us: ‘your golden hair Margarete/ your ashen hair Shulamit.’ So it’s quite clear in Shokin’s piece that she’s not simply describing her personal insecurities. She’s tapping into a wider conversation, familiar to members of other ethnic minorities, about how particular conceptions of beauty become markers of status and inclusion—and, concomitantly, inferiority and exclusion.”

I put Shokin’s discussion of hair and identity in the context of Paul Celan (!), and you think I’m somehow belittling it or saying that there’s something off about that discussion in and of itself? What I have to do? Says she’s Kafka? I thought the Celan reference was enough to signal how serious I think the issues she brings up actually are.

48

Plume 01.31.14 at 9:59 pm

MPAV 43,

Which minority group, aside from the Jews, was ever granted their own country, thousands of miles away from their actual homes? It’s never been done, prior to the 1948 founding of a new Israel.

You aren’t describing the same thing. You’re talking about “break-away” Republics. Not the removal of one people, replaced by others formerly scattered across the globe.

49

The Temporary Name 01.31.14 at 10:00 pm

50

Donald Johnson 01.31.14 at 10:01 pm

“All the countries that made up the former Yugoslavia, a number of the former member Republics of the USSR and many many more. National self determination is hardly a new concept Plume.”

No, but when it is is accompanied by ethnic cleansing as it was in Yugoslavia and Israel then “national self determination” is just another one of those fancy ideological justifications for war crimes.

On the article, as Adam Smith said, a good analogy would be to someone visiting the South circa 1960 and writing about the charm and warmth and hospitality of the (white) people and never mentioning Jim Crow or civil rights. Sure you would have the right to do this, but it would seem at best a little clueless.

51

Plume 01.31.14 at 10:02 pm

IOW, it wasn’t “national self determination.” Not in the slightest. It was actually the destruction of the previous inhabitants’ ability to determine what constituted their own nation.

52

Layman 01.31.14 at 10:05 pm

“I guess the question is can a person right anything about a trip to Israel that does not mention the Palestinian issue? “

I think the OP is on target. This is a piece about belonging in Israel, not hair, and “belonging in Israel” is meaningless if there’s no Israel. Put another way, the author is saying that it’s good Israel exists,because it gave her a sense of belonging. So it’s reasonable to expect some reflection on the problems of Israel – should some people be made to suffer so others can be made to feel belonging?

53

Plume 01.31.14 at 10:05 pm

Donald Johnson 50,

Well put. Ethnic cleansing. That’s what modern Israel was based upon. And while it’s never justified, or legitimate, and is always immoral, it seems even more perverse when it’s done by and for peoples previously located far away from that particular “homeland.”

I think it’s safe to say that that was unprecedented.

54

dalriata 01.31.14 at 10:09 pm

Plume@48,

Not quite countries, but colonial Massachusetts (plus CT) and Pennsylvania (plus DE and kinda NJ) were more or less that for Puritans and Quakers. And at least in the former case, that formerly persecuted minority acted as a persecuting majority. Both had tensions with the preexisting inhabits (less so in PA but still pretty horrible, e.g. the Walking Purchase). The principal difference from the situation you describe in #43 was the population differential between colonized and colonizers.

55

dalriata 01.31.14 at 10:10 pm

err, #42, not #43.

56

LFC 01.31.14 at 10:11 pm

mcmanus:
For us, politics is both inescapable and impossible.
I am continually amazed that people can not only get tenure but became famous by writing pages of such nonsense. (This does not directly apply to b. mcmanus, who is not famous and who is not, afaik, an academic, but who does appear to have a fondness for some of the worst stuff churned out by the academy.)

mcmanus quoting (from an earlier comment):

“The “dictatorship of beauty” is also the dictatorship of ugliness. It doesn’t mean the violent hegemony of a certain paradigm of beauty, but in a much more radical way, the hegemony of the physical simulacrum as a form of the objectivity of beings.

This is even worse. The author is upset that so much attention is paid to, and importance placed on, physical appearances and image in general (“the hegemony of the physical simulacrum”), so s/he claims that this “hegemony” is or has become a “form of the objectivity of beings.” This is a stupid, convoluted way of saying what Durkheim said much more clearly about “social facts”: namely, they can take on a constraining, ‘objective’ quality. If everyone pays attention to appearances, then the importance of appearances becomes a ‘social fact’ with which people must contend and which, to some extent, they internalize. You can say this without all this needlessly convoluted crap about “the hegemony of the physical simulacrum.”
This passage, in its deliberately obfuscatory pseudo-profundity, is a crime against the English language.

57

bianca steele 01.31.14 at 10:16 pm

Corey Robin @ 47

In citing Celan, you name an anti-semite who was aware that frizzy dark hair (ash-colored hair isn’t actually dark but whatever) is coded Jewish. Would I be thrilled for someone to announce to the world that I share mental structures with Celan? No, I’d take you to be suggesting that I share a pathology with him, or a pathology that’s a mirror-image of his.

The OP argues that by writing about her experience visiting Israel, she makes it necessary for her to defend the Zionist position (or spend energy trying to differentiate herself from it). She just “opened herself up” to criticism from people who oppose Zionism, so she’s fair game, even if she’s a very young person trying to explore a very different question.

The quote from the OP in @47 just suggests that her opinion isn’t wanted, because there are lots of other people who are at least equally qualified to talk about hair and beauty, and they don’t have her disabilities. There isn’t anything interesting specifically about appearance issues that could only be explored by describing the difference between the US and Israel (or that at least could be approached most easily for some people by comparing those two places).

And I’m not at all certain how seriously to take, “This was no simple matter of teenage angst, Shokin makes clear.”

58

jwl 01.31.14 at 10:16 pm

Abkhazia, a partially recognized state, like Israel, ethnically cleansed the majority of its population (mostly ethnic Georgian) to make Abkhaz the majority. That happened in 1993.

The country Corey lives in definitely gave minority rights to the previous majority population. Northern Ireland is another case that springs to mind, if we ignore Anglosphere settler colonies.

It is a very dangerous notion to view Israel as unique and sui generis.

59

bob mcmanus 01.31.14 at 10:17 pm

56:

A: Blame the translator?
B: You don’t like poetry?
C: Orwell sucks
D: Gone in a huff.

60

bianca steele 01.31.14 at 10:17 pm

What happened to the last sentence of the first paragraph? It should say, “(I’ve read my Sander Gilman.)”

61

Ronan(rf) 01.31.14 at 10:18 pm

People should also read Lena Ibrahim’s thoughts, as a member of the Palestinian diaspora, about going to Palestine for the first time

http://mondoweiss.net/2013/10/moments-in-palestine.html

62

jwl 01.31.14 at 10:18 pm

Bianca, are you calling Paul Clean the Jewish Holacaust survivor and author of some of the most amazing German poetry ever written an anti-Semite?

63

jwl 01.31.14 at 10:20 pm

Celan not Clean. Hate autocorrect!

64

bianca steele 01.31.14 at 10:21 pm

jwl,
No, I’m just now discovering that Celan and Celine are not the same person.

65

Plume 01.31.14 at 10:21 pm

dalriata,

But weren’t they persecuted because they actually wanted to establish theocracies based on their various zealotries? As mentioned, they tried to persecute others here, along religious lines.

I’m not well-read on the Puritans or the Quakers, so am not sure, one way or another. But an interesting comparison.

66

Layman 01.31.14 at 10:23 pm

“Bianca, are you calling Paul Clean the Jewish Holacaust survivor and author of some of the most amazing German poetry ever written an anti-Semite?”

I had the same thought, then guessed Bianca was thinking of Celine…

67

Plume 01.31.14 at 10:24 pm

Celan was brilliant. Cryptic, but brilliant. Most famous for his todesfuge:

68

Plume 01.31.14 at 10:26 pm

I highly recommend his collected works, translated by John Felstiner, who writes very well about the incredible difficulties of translation.

69

Corey Robin 01.31.14 at 10:27 pm

Bianca: “In citing Celan, you name an anti-semite who was aware that frizzy dark hair (ash-colored hair isn’t actually dark but whatever) is coded Jewish. Would I be thrilled for someone to announce to the world that I share mental structures with Celan? No, I’d take you to be suggesting that I share a pathology with him, or a pathology that’s a mirror-image of his.”

I think you mean Celine. Paul Celan was a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust. I would hope you would give me a little more credit than that.

70

Plume 01.31.14 at 10:28 pm

Corey 45,

Thanks for the quote from Arendt.

71

Corey Robin 01.31.14 at 10:29 pm

Oh, I see others beat me to the Celine/Celan confusion. In any event, Bianca, I’m not sure why you’re so quick to jump to conclusions. I’m not in the business of rehabilitating fascists.

The Celan video Plume links to is the very one I liked to in my OP.

72

Plume 01.31.14 at 10:32 pm

Corey,

Can you read Celan in the original? I can’t. But I think Felstiner does an admirable job of translating the nearly impossible. Poetry, any poetry, is going to be harder to translate than prose. But Celan presents unique difficulties.

73

LFC 01.31.14 at 10:33 pm

mcmanus:
Orwell sucks
Yes, you think clarity sucks. “Everything that can be thought can be said clearly”: I forget who said that but I’d rather have that as a guidepost than “the hegemony of the physical simulacrum.”

You don’t like poetry?
This kind of postmodernist claptrap is not poetry. It’s fuzzy thinking and terrible writing.

74

MPAVictoria 01.31.14 at 10:34 pm

“This is a piece about belonging in Israel, not hair, and “belonging in Israel” is meaningless if there’s no Israel. Put another way, the author is saying that it’s good Israel exists,because it gave her a sense of belonging. So it’s reasonable to expect some reflection on the problems of Israel – should some people be made to suffer so others can be made to feel belonging?”

I would say she is saying that for her it was a positive experience to visit a place where she wasn’t the minority. This would continue to possible even if Isreal ceases to exist as a Jewish state.

I also agree with Bianca that this is a case of Corey punching down. Not bullying but not really a cool thing to do either.

75

Collin Street 01.31.14 at 10:35 pm

I guess the question is can a person right anything about a trip to Israel that does not mention the Palestinian issue? I say yes.

Of course she can. But you get judged — your understanding and knowledge as well as your attitudes — by what you say, and if what you say on some particular topic is “nothing” then that’s what you get judged on.

You can’t not communicate. Everything you do stems from who you are and reveals who you are.

[pragmatics was always my favourite part of linguistics. It's also the discipline you use for the formal study of deception...]

76

Corey Robin 01.31.14 at 10:36 pm

Bianca: “The quote from the OP in @47 just suggests that her opinion isn’t wanted…” That’s a serious misreading of the paragraph. If I had wanted to say that I would have.

“And I’m not at all certain how seriously to take, ‘This was no simple matter of teenage angst, Shokin makes clear.'”

You should take it as seriously as I meant it: which was seriously.

I’m not going to argue with you if you insist on distorting the plain meaning of my words. Forget distorting: you just want to read what I say to mean the exact opposite of what I say. Now I see why you’d like to think I was quoting a fascist anti-Semite when I was in fact quoting a Jewish Holocaust survivor.

77

Collin Street 01.31.14 at 10:43 pm

Like I said, pragmatics.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooperative_principle

[now. Discourse structures are based on the speaker building a mental model of what [they think] the listener knows and believes [&c]: what conditions or circumstances might give a person genuine difficulties with modelling the state of mind of others, and what other issues is “has difficulty modelling the state of mind of others” often associated with?]

78

Plume 01.31.14 at 10:47 pm

jwl 58,

Not seeing the similarity between what happened in America and 1948 Israel. World powers didn’t choose to return a scattered, very small, persecuted minority to its former homeland after a gap of two thousand years (in the case of America). In America, European powers slaughtered indigenous populations, fought over the land, with the British and Spanish “winning” the majority of that land. They outnumbered the former majority. Hordes of Europeans filled the continent, etc. etc. They didn’t single out one, otherwise helpless (and persecuted) minority to set up and replace the previous majority. They took the land for themselves.

World historical tragedies in both cases. Moral wrongs in both cases. But really not that similar. Of course, if sheer numbers is the criteria, the American tragedy dwarfs the one in Israel. But a life is a life is a life.

79

Tyrone Slothrop 01.31.14 at 10:51 pm

Corey, that whole bit of interpreting Bob McManus was actually my effort, in the face of your stating you didn’t understand what he was getting at, to try and make sense out of something I didn’t glom onto fully either. It wasn’t facetious and it wasn’t attempted out of sympathy for Bob’s position (as I sort-of pieced it together), but as a trial balloon to test if I had understood him and/or made his intended meaning any clearer to you. With that said, I think your response to my effort shows your grasp of Bob’s comments was pretty sound to begin with, and you actually made them clearer to me in puzzling through what I’d written. Thank for your responses.

80

William Timberman 01.31.14 at 10:55 pm

bob mcmanus @ 59

Very Serious People can be Very Annoying sometimes. No, they don’t like poetry. They demand that a spade be called a spade, and with spades you don’t dig graves in the air. Everybody knows that.

Here’s one from Basil Bunting:

81

William Timberman 01.31.14 at 10:58 pm

Well, I screwed the YouTube embed code, it seems, so here’s the text:

WHAT THE CHAIRMAN TOLD TOM

Poetry? It’s a hobby.
I run model trains.
Mr Shaw there breeds pigeons.

It’s not work. You don’t sweat.
Nobody pays for it.
You could advertise soap.

Art, that’s opera; or repertory―
The Desert Song.
Nancy was in the chorus.

But to ask for twelve pounds a week―
married, aren’t you?―
you’ve got a nerve.

How could I look a bus conductor
in the face
if I paid you twelve pounds?

Who says it’s poetry, anyhow?
My ten year old
can do it and rhyme.

I get three thousand and expenses,
a car, vouchers,
but I’m an accountant.

They do what I tell them,
my company,
What do you do?

Nasty little words, nasty long words,
it’s unhealthy.
I want to wash when I meet a poet.

They’re Reds, addicts,
all delinquents.
What you write is rot.

Mr Hines says so, and he’s a schoolteacher,
he ought to know.
Go and find work.

82

mrearl 01.31.14 at 11:02 pm

I don’t think Corey’s fighting below his weight here. He’s not arguing with the lady, and his observations would almost surely have been the same had she been a reminiscing fortysomething rather than a less-experienced twentysomething. He’s using her article as a step-off for the point he sees it exemplifying.

Fair? Well, she did put it in print, but I’m old and tend to cut the young some slack when they write that kind of stuff.

83

bianca steele 01.31.14 at 11:15 pm

Since you say you meant it entirely seriously, I apologize. I took it for the kind of verbally objective, there’s no need to be explicit about the moral valence because we all know how we really feel about the issue here, kind of talk. And I took it this way because I made assumptions about why you brought up “tapping in to a wider discourse” and so on, which again, I apologize for. I myself do think something’s “off” about the article, or at least the argument, though maybe “off” is not the right word–the fact that her epiphany came at a Rasta kind of music festival and not in the supermarket or the bookstore, the fact that she feels as isolated in Brooklyn as in her WASP suburb (what has happened to the Russian immigrant community I remember from the 1970s and 1980s?), the way she writes about people in the US asking her if she’s Turkish and so on but never Jewish and her assumptions about its significance–but that some of these, like the question what’s going on in The Princess Diaries, could be explored further. I thought you explored certain parts of the piece at length because you also were troubled by it, but if not, okay, your point was different.

That does still leave the fact that people who explore “the broader discourse” are more likely to be attacked if they’re weighing feminist-related issues more heavily than others, sometimes simply if they’re women, or if they step too close to certain hot-button political issues which they may not have the ability to engage.

84

bianca steele 01.31.14 at 11:15 pm

@83 to Corey @ 76

85

roy belmont 01.31.14 at 11:56 pm

W. Timberman-
Dude poetry is calling a spade a spade. It is the origin of names, of naming things. The saying of what hasn’t been said yet, but needs to be.
For all its music it has much less to do with rhyme and meter than it does truth.
-
A) There’s a bunch of people in the US with kinky hair I think already yeah? Besides Jewish girls? Who had to go through all that “I’m ugly! No, I’m not!” crap.
Angela Davis maybe? Erykah Badu?

B) Corey Robin there’s some real courage displayed in your OP and subsequent replies that I personally find inspirational.
But then you start to maybe get a little fudgy in there. Not a lot, but darn.

C) Not that anyone cares, but what I keep hoping to see is someone demanding a revision of the whole thing. The whole ball of wax, from Genesis to the financial world of 2014. From conceptions of pre-history to modern intelligence testing.
Everything. Out with the old.
What I keep seeing is timidity and squishy sentimentality, and people fighting to be comfortable.
Nothing here or anywhere else about how Christina and Britney were pimped to Shokin’s generation exactly because of how they looked, by direct heirs to the patriarchy from whence her leefa cometh.
Shokin’s adolescent suffering behind that impossible image contrast comes nowhere but from those men.
Who remain untouched by any but the most superficial criticism.
And forget ripping the cover off the sleaze waiting backstage for those desirable young icons.
One of the first porn ads I saw on the internet was for pics of Britney nude. You think that might have translated to some incredible, invisible, pressures from wealthy creeps with access to her private numbers?
It’s as though, in the common view, Britney Spears crawled out from under a cabbage leaf and took over the image-raising of millions of “Young Girls” like some kind of mega-witch casting spells through the fires of the entertainment industry.
The dark side of that is her public suffering as cheap catharsis for all those yearning, but not pretty enough, “Young Girls”. And their angry moms.
And all that just leading up to the placement of Shokin’s story, in the midst of turbulent social change, as a mollifying, humanizing modifier.
Emotionally moving propaganda is still propaganda.
I want to know what we’re supposed to do in the cruel time, when we come home from searching for the fell coward enemy legion, only to find them already there ranked and waiting for us, women and old men weeping, broken to the ground, our living children tied to the villains’ shields.
“Go on and strike, heroes!” The leering grin, the stench of perfidy.

I could use some help with that.

86

jwl 02.01.14 at 12:01 am

Plume,

I can read Celan in the original, and I have no idea how you would know a translator did a good job unless you could read the original. Perhaps you may admire them for what they are in English, but how would you know what is Felstiner and what is Celan?

I don’t think your potted history of Israel 1948 is accurate, so I won’t comment on comparing it to America. I think the Abkhazia parallel is closer, so I would be interested in what you had to say about that.

87

SoU 02.01.14 at 12:01 am

i have a hard time believing that anyone here seriously engaged in the discussion over the future of Canaan does not see parallels between the ‘here i truly feel home’ element of the linked piece, and the Zionist project writ large. these sentiments are what underpin support for the Zionist project more so than any explicit political or ideological leanings (at least among Jewish individuals, i am obv. excluding Christian millennial types). this is no big secret – if anything, it is one of the major motivating elements in the birthright project: bring Jewish youth from the diaspora and manufacture a situation where they feel ‘this is your homeland’ quite strongly, in various ways (if you doubt this happens, look up the staging of romantic encounters on these trips). then they return home with an identity attachment to Israel, which is a very good foundation upon which to build a gut level sympathy for Zionist politics.

as CR said in the OP, these sentiments themselves rely on a permanent exclusion. the frame of these narratives is easily disturbed by a re-introduction of the other – because that is precisely what you are escaping, the feeling of otherness.

do you honestly believe that this writer would have felt the same way about her experience had she had to travel through the checkpoints? been on the wrong side of the ethnic spectrum when the IDF asked for her papers? these harsh realities can easily break the spell. it is telling that the birthright trips do not travel to the OPT.

88

hix 02.01.14 at 12:03 am

Did the Nazi stereotyping really turn Israel into a place where women dont colour their hair blonde and Russian female immigrants dont dress up more than those heading from further west? Im not buying that.

Even in Sweden or Russia, most women are not blonde, not coloured blonde, much less natural. Thats nowhere the case.

89

SoU 02.01.14 at 12:04 am

also i just saw #85 above: “Emotionally moving propaganda is still propaganda.” ; yes. frankly, its the best kind.

90

bianca steele 02.01.14 at 12:07 am

if you doubt this happens, look up the staging of romantic encounters on these trips if you doubt this happens, look up the staging of romantic encounters on these trips: Heh, this happened a bit differently in my day, from what I was told: the odd stereotype about American girls.

91

Ronan(rf) 02.01.14 at 12:09 am

roy – you (genuinely) have a beautiful way with words

92

GiT 02.01.14 at 12:13 am

93

LFC 02.01.14 at 12:48 am

roy belmont:
For all its music [poetry] has much less to do with rhyme and meter than it does truth.

And most of the postmodernist rubbish of which Mcmanus seems fond has to do less with truth than with willful obfuscation and with destruction of English as a medium of communication (as opposed to a medium of pointless showing off).

94

godoggo 02.01.14 at 12:49 am

Well, since none of you has the guts to respond to any of my previous comments, here’s a quote from One Palestine Complete (in Google Books), pp. 257-258:

The image of the ideal pioneer was largely congruent with the image of the “new man” supposedly being created in Palestine. He appears on period posters and in photograps as a muscular, light-haired, joyous youth. The ideal was part of the Zionist movement from its beginnings. Max Nordau was famous for his call for a revival of “muscular Judaism.” Arthur Ruppin praised the pioneers as members of “a new jewish race.” Ze’ev Jabotinsky said, “There is a need to create a new Jewish frame of mind, I am almost prepared to say a new psychological race of Jews.” Ben-Gurion dreamed of a “new type of Jew who will be an exemplar for tourists.” The inspiration for this ideal came largely from the Soviet Union, but also from Weimar Germany and Fascist Italy.

95

LFC 02.01.14 at 12:57 am

John Sanbonmatsu, The Postmodern Prince, p.72 (emphasis in original):

As theory became vulnerable to the spatio-temporal rhythms and relations of the new regime of global capital, less and less directly engaged in the problems of human society, it became…correspondingly less truthful. In content, theory became idealist; in form, meanwhile, it became baroque.

96

Plume 02.01.14 at 1:17 am

jwl #86,

On Celan and the Felstiner translations. What an odd thing for you to take issue with. My embrace of those translations. Really?

First of all, a German speaker told me about his translations, recommended them, so I purchased his collected works. They are bilingual, German facing English. Even a non-speaker can sound out the German, note the pacing and make comparisons, at least.

This volume led me to also read Felstiner’s bio of Celan, which impressed me.

http://www.amazon.com/Paul-Celan-Poet-Survivor-Yale/dp/0300089228

Felstiner demonstrates in-depth knowledge of his life, the historical context, and the difficulties of translation, as mentioned. I’ve had good experience reading scholars of a particular poet who are also the translators.

And you must have missed the part where I acknowledged the difficulty of translation, especially poetry. I’ve done some myself, of Rilke’s, primarily. It’s not easy. At all. And I never said it was. Using online translation services, trying to turn that into good poetry, etc. etc. Or, simply reworking already existing English translations.

Anyway . . .

97

Plume 02.01.14 at 1:35 am

On Abkhazia:

If this article is any guide, then, no. There is no logical comparison between that disputed nation and Israel.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abkhazia

There was no carve-out for a minority of peoples scattered across the globe, who once lived in that location two thousand years earlier. There was no consensus effort by world powers to make that carve-out happen.

No “rights of return” are at issue, etc. etc.

This is another instance of a breakaway republic, and one still in dispute. This particular case pits two larger actors, Russia and Georgia, against each other, and involves ethnic cleansing by the Abkhaz, primarily. Georgians, Armenians and Greeks were their main victims, and the cleansing was brutal. But this wasn’t a matter of kicking out one group, which had lived in that place for thousands of years, so that another, absent for two thousand years, could return — from dozens of different countries.

The other huge difference is that the Jewish state was created so Jews, minorities in all the countries they lived in prior to Israel, could be the majority once again — as mentioned in the OP. There is just no other case of the (re)collection and (re)concentration of a massive diaspora in its former homeland, after a two thousand year absence.

98

Bruce Baugh 02.01.14 at 1:38 am

Corey: I have little to add, but I very much liked this post.

I realized a bit after reading it that it reminded me in some ways of the spoken-word opening to Bruce Cockburn’s song “Get Up Jonah”:

(I woke up thinking about Turkish drummers
It didn’t take long – I don’t know much about Turkish drummers -
But it made me think of Germany and the guy who sold me cigarettes
Who’d been in the Afghan secret police
Who made the observation
That it’s hard
To live

Then I was reminded of the proprietor of a Vietnamese restaurant in Quebec who used to be head of the secret police in Da Nang – and it occurred to me I was thinking about all this stuff to keep from thinking about something else… Isn’t that just what secret police are all about???)

99

jwl 02.01.14 at 2:44 am

Plume,

I don’t understand your comments re Abkhazia. Russia isn’t a world power? The majority of the pre-1993 population doesn’t want a right of return? Georgians haven’t lived in the Caucasus for over a thousand years? You do realize there is a substantial Abkhaz diaspora in other countries. That Abkhaz were a minority in Abkhazia in 1993 and had been for many years.

History is never going to be exactly the same, but it can rhyme.

100

jwl 02.01.14 at 2:48 am

Plume,

I’m glad you like Celan’s poetry. More people should read him. But you haven’t read him, except in translation. How do you know that Celan’s poetry is impossible if you can’t read it? It sounds to me like you are repeating something that other German speakers have told you.

How are you translating Rilke if you can’t read German? Are you just translating his late French work?

101

William Timberman 02.01.14 at 2:51 am

Roy, yes, a spade is a spade. Except when it isn’t. Poetry flexes, extends, substitutes, recapitulates, compares. Poetry can turn a spade into something else even while you’re digging with it. It’s damnably perfidious that way, poetry, and not just when you’re doing it wrong. People who look for truth in poetry find a mirror instead. The poet is content with this, even when the philistine burns his book.

Returning to the OP, I think Bob is right about one thing. The lady with the oracular hair is offering us a self-centered epiphany, true enough, but that isn’t a crime, provided she isn’t afraid to go where more threatening ones might overtake her.

102

Harold 02.01.14 at 3:01 am

I am glad that there are also some alternative ways of exploring one’s Jewish heritage
http://www.yiddishkayt.org/helix-project/

103

Harold 02.01.14 at 3:06 am

104

Kaveh 02.01.14 at 3:26 am

SoU “ i have a hard time believing that anyone here seriously engaged in the discussion over the future of Canaan does not see parallels between the ‘here i truly feel home’ element of the linked piece, and the Zionist project writ large.

This.
Isn’t this such a perfect example of how privilege works? But I think it’s also a good example of why people should understand privilege as more situational and less a characteristic of the sum of certain personal/social characteristics (race, class, gender…) than they seem to (at least to me). Less taxonomy, more empathy, and a little suspicion. Is her sense of not-belonging only important if it’s recognizably tied to a certified and approved type of oppression?

Here I’m trying to take bianca steele’s comment @83 and push it a bit further “That does still leave the fact that people who explore “the broader discourse” are more likely to be attacked if they’re weighing feminist-related issues more heavily than others,

105

Harold 02.01.14 at 3:36 am

Fighting Erasure
Students know about loss, but not what was lost

Excerpt from above link to Helix Project:

“Over the past 60 years, the catastrophe of the Holocaust has understandably dominated our sense of how Jews lived in the world. The study of Jewish culture and history has become overwhelmingly focused on despair and tragedy to the point where Jews and catastrophe have become inextricably linked. The success of Holocaust education has highlighted a serious absence: Students know about loss, but not what was lost. When Jewish culture is taught from its endpoints, the Holocaust is allowed to triumph over the memory of the vibrancy of Jewish life.

Helix is the only program that seeks to fight against this erasure by helping students learn to see and investigate the diversity that once defined Jewish life, exploring the landscapes Jews called home and the cultural treasures produced there. Helix creates a fuller, more inclusive view of life and history.

Helix approaches Jewish culture as world culture — using Yiddish as a model of the creative possibilities that occur when cultures mix together and fuse. The Yiddish language is a living record of the cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic exchange that historically defined Jewish life and continues to characterize our increasingly diverse multicultural world.

106

Plume 02.01.14 at 4:26 am

jwl,

Never said Celan’s poetry was impossible. Just that translating it was very difficult. This is acknowledged by every translator I’ve read on the subject, most of whom will say that poetry — anyone’s poetry — is tougher to translate than prose. But there are differences between poets, differences in difficulty, etc. etc. I imagine, for instance, that poets like John Ashbery, Barbara Guest and Rosemarie Waldrop (to name a few off the top of my head) are more difficult to translate into other languages than Robert Frost or William Carlos Williams.

I’m a poet, too. And have studied poetry, poets, translation, etc. etc for a long, long time. I feel pretty comfortable with my assessment of Felstiner. And, again, I look carefully at Celan’s German as it faces the English translation side of the book. I’ve done the same with Rilke, and even though I don’t speak German, as mentioned, I use translation services to extract the basic English and then try to recreate the poem in English.

It’s not the best method in the world, and it would be much, much better if I could speak the language, but it’s not impossible to come up with a poem based upon the work in question. And when it comes to poetry, that’s often the best one can do.

Huge influence for me was/is the excellent (classic, even) The Random House Book of 20th Century French Poetry, edited by Paul Auster. From the 80s. First read through it roughly 30 years ago, if memory serves. Excellent intro by Auster, and then wonderful translations, by well-known poets, of the French works. The French also faces the English.

Basically totally changed the way I write poetry and think about it.

107

Luke 02.01.14 at 4:41 am

FWIW, I don’t think Rilke’s English translations do him much justice. Or rather, each does some of justice, but doesn’t give you the whole picture.

If you know a little of a language and are patient, bilingual editions can be wonderful. That’s how I muddled my way through the Elegies the first time.

108

Plume 02.01.14 at 4:49 am

Luke,

I can see that. Probably the same for his prose. I’ve read his Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge a few times, and in two translations:

M.D. Herter Norton and a recent version by Burton Pike. I liked the recent one much more. Poulin, Kinnell, Snow and Mitchell for his poetry. I lean toward the Kinnell, there. As poetry. His is a bilingual collection, too.

109

Jake 02.01.14 at 5:35 am

Haha, that’s crazy, I was on that study abroad trip with Sam. NYU Tel Aviv Spring 2011 forever!

110

Belle Waring 02.01.14 at 1:27 pm

Roy Belmont, “[n]ot that anyone cares, but what I keep hoping to see is someone demanding a revision of the whole thing. The whole ball of wax, from Genesis to the financial world of 2014. From conceptions of pre-history to modern intelligence testing.
Everything. Out with the old.”
As Eddy Grant sings in his for-some-weird-reason genuinely killer song “It’s All In You”, it’s all in you. It’s all in you to do the things you do. It’s all in you, baby, it’s all in you. Begin demanding such a revision of the whole ball of wax. Maybe not 100% definitely on our blog, but make demands. Don’t just wait for other people to demand things. Demand them all on your own self.

You dudes probably all already know this, but just in case not, the “Raw Materials to the Theory of the Young Girl“, published in Tiqqun in 1999, is…is…well, fuck, it’s a bunch of bullshit. You know how mcmanus-sensei has been saying things and you’ve been thinking, “that’s unusually cryptic and…sexist? Even for sensei, what’s gotten into him?” That thing did. And it was a bunch of BULLSHIT. Don’t think it was sexist or anything though, whoa Nellie no!

The Young-Girl is obviously not a gendered concept [obviously--ed]. The resplendent corporate advertising retiree who divides his time between the Côte d’Azur and his Paris office, where he still likes to keep an eye on things, is no less a Young-Girl than the urban single woman too obsessed with her consulting career to notice she’s lost fifteen years of her life to it. And how could we account, if the Young-Girl were a gendered concept, for the secret relationship between ultratrendy musclebound Marais homos and the Americanized petit-bourgeoisie happily settled in the suburbs with their plastic families?

MmmmHmmm. Suuuuurrre. The New Inquiry’s Further Materials Towards a Theory of The Man-Child were nonetheless welcome. Because the Jeune-Fille thing was a bunch of bullshit, as I mentioned. Now, was mcmanus-sensei advancing a rather refined and slanting, bishop-like judgment of CR along these lines: your critique of Zionism finds an all-too-convenient outlet when it strikes against the vulnerable beauty anxieties of a young girl? No. No, no he wasn’t, because he likes the Hardt and Negri-ism of the original. So, no worries then Corey. ODER?!11 mcmanus-sensei, enlighten us. But for real, no.

111

LFC 02.01.14 at 2:08 pm

Belle Waring @109

You know how mcmanus-sensei has been saying things and you’ve been thinking, “that’s unusually cryptic and…sexist?”

I, for one, was not objecting to the (alleged) sexism of his above remarks (which didn’t esp. strike me) but to the needless pomposity of phrases like “the hegemony of the physical simulacrum” (which he quoted from somewhere or other).

I’m also struck that, faced with 88 pages of what I assume is Deleuze-ish semi-garbage, the best you (B. Waring) can do is criticize it on the grounds of sexism. Before getting to whether the Young-Girl is a “gendered concept,” why not ask if it’s a useful concept? Does it shed any light on anything? I strongly suspect the answer is no.

112

bob mcmanus 02.01.14 at 2:22 pm

The translator’s, Alana Reines, introduction is available at comment 10

Cherilyn Parsons …reviews “Young Girl” at Truthdig

LA Reviews …”Young Girl”

http://lemonhound.com/2013/02/14/not-girls-and-madwomen-tiqquns-preliminary-materials-for-a-theory-of-a-young-girl-and-kate-zambrenos-heroines/“>Heather Cromarty …reviews “Young Girl” and semiotext(e)’s Heroines

113

bob mcmanus 02.01.14 at 2:27 pm

And a Long Discussion Thread of “Young-Girl”, “Man-Child”, and jargon. I recognize some names, like “Frowner” and Martin Wisse

114

bob mcmanus 02.01.14 at 2:52 pm

I almost responded to LFC last night but did not want to hijack Robin’s thread. I though the earlier quotes, like “The Young-Girl does not want history” at 10 were reasonably on-topic. The point of linking to “Young-Girl” was to posit that Shokin’s “failings,” narrative, or political omissions were not individual faults, but symptomatic of late- or post-capitalism.

And the flaw of the “Man-Child” essay is that is not connected to a critique of late capitalism, that “Man-Childness” is not sufficiently embedded in neoliberalism and an ontology of globalisation, which is what tiqqun, and what is usually published by semiotext(e), Verso, and Historical Materialism try to do. Thus Jezebel was able to run with the “Man-Child” essay as about individual men and their lack of maturity, and their commenters could go with personal anecdotal complaints about men. tiqqun would never criticize an actual young girl, as opposed to the symptomatic and metaphoric “Young-Girl.” It is exactly this shifting of viewpoint from the general and the social back to the individual and particular that is neoliberalism, and subjectivity/identity as property to be managed is what tiqqun is fighting.

“the triumph of the Young-Girl originates in the failure of feminism.” …tiqqun

I no longer expect critiques of capitalism or late-capitalism or neoliberalism from Belle Waring or John Holbo.

115

Belle Waring 02.01.14 at 3:01 pm

LFC: you wound me. To the very quick. Of course I can do better than that. But there is no need. It’s so manifestly, idiotically, pompously sexist that it would have to be of superlative merit to clear the bar and make you think, well, I’m going to have to down a lot of swill, but it’ll be worth it, FOR SURE. It would be as if I wrote an article about the ontology of modern political beings grounded in Mailer’s concept of the White Negro, and then went on about Baudrillard for a fucking age. Would you really need to sit back, take stock, and offer a detailed assessment of the potential usefulness of the things ticking along with Baudrillard there? Or could you just go “the White Negro? In 2014? Are you fucking kidding me?” And then drop the blog post on the subway platform and edge away from it hoping that the wind from the next train just tore it into the tunnel after the passing downtown express and no one ever spoke of it in connection with you again. The latter, hm? And if I were to get all indignant and pissy and say, “you just picked up the sword and buckler of anti-racism and didn’t deal with the Hardt and Negri–nice try, evasive petit-beourgeois scum!” I think you could quite fairly come back with, “White Negro? Seriously? Fuck me. You go on then. Just White Negro yourself as you please.” This is just like that, only with sexism.

116

bob mcmanus 02.01.14 at 3:02 pm

Mark Fisher “Exiting the Vampire’s Castle

The first law of the Vampires’ Castle is: individualise and privatise everything. While in theory it claims to be in favour of structural critique, in practice it never focuses on anything except individual behaviour.

The third law of the Vampires’ Castle is: propagate as much guilt as you can.

The fourth law of the Vampires’ Castle is: essentialize. While fluidity of identity, pluarity and multiplicity are always claimed on behalf of the VC members – partly to cover up their own invariably wealthy, privileged or bourgeois-assimilationist background – the enemy is always to be essentialized.

The fifth law of the Vampires’ Castle: think like a liberal (because you are one).

117

Kaveh 02.01.14 at 3:03 pm

bob mcmanus 113 tiqqun would never criticize an actual young girl, as opposed to the symptomatic and metaphoric “Young-Girl.”

There’s a neat parallel between tiqqun criticizing the metaphoric “Young-Girl” and criticism of actual young girls, and Shokin talking about her comfort with her own hair in Israel, and Israeli racism. Tiqqun and Shokin (and others like her) are simply not concerned with sexism and anti-Arab racism, respectively, and that is the problem.

118

Belle Waring 02.01.14 at 3:07 pm

mcmanus-sensei: “I no longer expect critiques of capitalism or late-capitalism or neoliberalism from Belle Waring or John Holbo.”
You may be making productive assessments of your time. Maybe. We do differ at times, though, you know. If you will admit with precision why and where they went so wrong in siting their critique of late-stage capitalism in the very bodies of some of those most vulnerable to it, while they, the white male adult tiqqun authors, sat smug behind their computer screens, I will be more than happy to assess their claims more generously. In detail mind you, and you first. LFC: my offer is quite open to you as well. If you cannot see the force of my critique I do not think you are taking any critiques of late-stage capitalism seriously. Or are you going to tell me to subsume my “mere” feminist concerns in service of the greater goods, and you all will “get to us” later?

119

Lynne 02.01.14 at 3:08 pm

MPAVictoria,

“I also agree with Bianca that this is a case of Corey punching down. Not bullying but not really a cool thing to do either.”

Someone up thread said they are old and tend to cut the young some slack. That’s me, I cut 24-year-olds more slack than I cut myself at that age and sometimes I wonder if there’s something paternalistic about my attitude. Nevertheless, I do it and so weighed in upthread in favour of the article being limited but worth reading on its own. Also, I think people’s experiences and what they make of them are worth reading about and worthy of respect.

I think the OP showed a lot of respect for the piece. I did not think Corey was picking on Ms. Shokin unfairly. He said “That said, the piece suffers from an obliviousness I can’t help flinching at.” And this after a fair, even generous, appraisal.

I felt something similar only what I flinched at was her obliviousness of a feminist context. Am I punching below my weight, too? I don’t think so. The piece reads as seriously incomplete to anyone with any political or feminist context, don’t you think? I mean, I flinched. You didn’t, at all?

120

LFC 02.01.14 at 3:10 pm

@bob mcmanus 111

Well, your linked piece in LA Rev of Bks appears, on a glance, to be in more-or-less comprehensible English, so I suppose that’s something to be grateful for. I note that the piece refers to Hardt & Negri’s Empire as “celebrated” w/o noting that it was also severely criticized. To some extent this is all standing in for an argument about the most productive ways to criticize (critique, if you prefer) neoliberal globalization, but I don’t think that’s an argument we can have on this thread.

As for J. Holbo, he doesn’t do critiques of capitalism or late-capitalism or, except indirectly, neoliberalism, as a rule. Rather, he does critiques of U.S. conservatism. Which is fine and also has a place. But my point is don’t expect critiques of late-capitalism from a blogger whose interests lie elsewhere.

121

Lynne 02.01.14 at 3:11 pm

Bianca,

“That does still leave the fact that people who explore “the broader discourse” are more likely to be attacked if they’re weighing feminist-related issues more heavily than others, sometimes simply if they’re women.”

This is true but as I said above that wasn’t my impression of the OP. Was it yours? And did you think the Shokin piece really was weighing feminist-related issues more heavily than others? I think you give her too much credit.

122

William Timberman 02.01.14 at 3:20 pm

Belle @ 109

Demand things for your own self. Yes, that’s the ticket. Where else are we going to start? But of course it doesn’t end with demanding. The rest of the world, physical and social, keeps building more boxes to enclose the box we’re trying to break out of. Even worse, our own selves aren’t actually all ours, and it takes so damnably long to figure out which parts are theirs, embedded by all the customary magic in the child that we were, and then to reclaim those parts and put them to you use in our own interest. Along the way, of course, we also have to figure out where our own interest lies.

I’m with bob mcmanus on this one, at least insofar as his point is that it sometimes takes a hall of mirrors, a fragmentation and reassembly of the language we use to describe what we see, to separate the images and find out which of them genuinely belong to us. Afterwards we can go on the attack, if we like, with some confidence that we know what we’re doing. In short, I don’t see the Tiqqun piece in question as sexist at all, but as an inversion for revelatory purposes of the infantilizing sexism our society is so good at. As I say, sometimes it takes a bit of jiggery-pokery, linguistic and otherwise, to reveal the sources of these debilitating stereotypes, and more importantly, our complicity in perpetuating them.

I suppose you could argue that I can’t see the sexism because I’m male. Maybe if you do argue that, we’ll get somewhere. Similarly, LFC’s rejection of the hegemony of the physical simulacrum might be grounded in an honest yeoman’s distaste for fancy-dancers, and for long-words-where-short-words-will-do, but it could just as easily be that he has a tin ear for poetry.

Finally, I do hope Corey is patient with thread derailments, ’cause this one has sure been a doozy. Bob may have started it, but at this point it seems to be a genuinely communal effort.

123

bob mcmanus 02.01.14 at 3:29 pm

117: If you will admit with precision why and where they went so wrong

I don’t think they did. And although an anonymous collective, they do claim it was co-written by women.

The critique is situated in the metaphor of the Young-Girl precisely because, more than any other figure, both her friends and foes want to deny her agency.

She is an archetype of all our surrendering to late-capitalism, neoliberalism and “There Is No Alternative…do small stuff and be happy” Capitalist Realism.

It is supposed to hurt, enrage, make indignant…and generate compassion.

“Having been a Young-Girl, this book flays me open in a way I long for.” …CP at 111

The review by Cherilyn Parsons has a nice anecdote on the 2nd page.

“Yes, with conviction!” The director commands.

Conviction. I can do conviction. The eyes of the director are raking me up and down. I smile more brightly. What can I do better?

The little ball of life is plummeting inside my chest to a place where no one will ever find it. It’s a relief to disappear.

124

LFC 02.01.14 at 3:30 pm

@Belle Waring
LFC: my offer is quite open to you as well. If you cannot see the force of my critique I do not think you are taking any critiques of late-stage capitalism seriously. Or are you going to tell me to subsume my “mere” feminist concerns in service of the greater goods, and you all will “get to us” later?

Ok, I’m thinking this over; may have an actual reply later on.

125

bob mcmanus 02.01.14 at 3:32 pm

tiqqun, for the record, despised Hardt & Negri.

With that, I am gone. Sorry. No more in this thread.

126

oldster 02.01.14 at 3:34 pm

Lynne @118–

as a point of British idiom–I don’t think it is native to North America–I believe that “punching below one’s weight” does not at all mean the same thing as “punching down.” Nearly the opposite.

“NN punches down” means that NN directs their violence against people smaller and less able than they are.

“NN punches below his weight” means that NN, despite weighing a lot, fights as though they themselves belong in a lower weight-class, i.e. they fight ineffectually. If a heavyweight “punches below his weight”, then his punches are only as effective as the punches of a much lighter, smaller boxer.

I suppose if you must “punch down,” it is only courteous to “punch below one’s weight,” but otherwise the two idioms mean totally different things.

(In fact, I have only heard the version “punches above its weight” to mean, is more effective than you might judge from the usual indices. England loves to say that its military forces “punch above their weight,” i.e. they may be small and scrappy, but by gum they are effective.)

This comment is entirely irrelevant to anything that matters.

127

Lynne 02.01.14 at 3:40 pm

Oldster, that is fascinating. But then isn’t punching down bullying? I’d actually never heard that phrase before and just assumed it was the same as “punching below one’s weight”, which if you are right I have always misunderstood. I am mortified because I thought it meant someone qualified to fight at a heavier weight was fighting against weaker opponents. Humph. I mean, I’ve thought this for a very long time. Ugh. Anyway, the OP didn’t strike me as doing either thing.

128

oldster 02.01.14 at 3:46 pm

Lynne–

Yes, punching down is bullying, or at any rate directing violence against those smaller. E.g., I weight about 18 stone, so when I repeatedly squish a million tiny yeast-fungi in my bread-dough, I am said to be “punching down” my dough.

Look, I’m not an expert on any of this–we could ask other people on the blog what they think.

129

Lynne 02.01.14 at 4:00 pm

Oldster, I’m not an expert either and have no opinion about “punching down,” which I’d never heard before, but I just checked with my (British-born) husband and he had the same idea I did about “punching below one’s weight”. Also I googled and got some agreement there. I’ll be interested to hear what other people think.

My aunt made her own bread (out of this world delicious) and cinnamon buns (!)—you just brought that memory back for me of her standing at the kitchen counter in her farmhouse punching down her dough.

130

Ronan(rf) 02.01.14 at 4:11 pm

Well, fwiw, I’d use it in the same way as Lynne @ 118 ie fighting below your weight means that the fight is not a fair match (in your favour) I guess *punching* below your weight could be construed as Oldster does @125, as punching above your weight means that you’ve performed better than expected, perhaps punching below your weight means you have not performed as you could.
I don’t think that’s very helpful in clarifying anything though, apologees !

131

Lynne 02.01.14 at 4:21 pm

Ronan, like you I’ve usually heard it as “fighting above/below one’s weight” rather than punching. I conflated the two expressions.

132

Corey Robin 02.01.14 at 4:31 pm

Getting back on track here, one of the issues that’s been raised throughout this thread is that Shokin intended to write a thoroughly nonpolitical/personal piece about her body, appearance and identity — that just happened to be set in the context of a trip to the State of Israel — that I then took and imposed my rabid anti-Zionist ideology on. Thereby forcing her to talk about the issues I care about when all she wanted to do was talk about the issues she cares about.

I think that argument is specious, as I’ve laid out in my responses above, but I thought you all might be interested in this incredibly detailed and powerful report on Birthright trips to Israel, which I link to below. Birthright, for those of you who don’t know, are free trips that Jews throughout the world can take to Israel. The explicit purpose of them, of course, is to develop or reinforce the Zionist commitments of international Jewry, commitments that polls show are increasingly flagging, particularly among the young. So teens like Shokin herself are encouraged to come.

But what’s so fascinating about these trips –as this article makes clear — is that as political as they are, they are constructed in such a way as to make their politics invisible. Youth are encouraged to think of Israel in the context of their own adolescent identity crises. That’s the whole power of these trips. As Kiera Feldman, who wrote this piece, says, “It invites travelers to ‘explore Israel without being force-fed ideology,’ but you don’t have to be Althusser to know that ideology almost always calls itself nonideological.”

So that’s the context for my own piece about Shokin. Having grown up in this Zionist milieu myself, I’m all too familiar with how much we American Jews are/were encouraged to think of our deepest identities in terms of Israel. So much so that when you talk about Israel, it seems like you’re not talking about politics at all; you’re just exploring what it is to be human. (There’s an unbelievable video, by the way, from the 70s, in which Barbra Streisand signs the Hatikvah onstage but before that calls Golda Meier on the phone. The entire point of the performance is to make Golda Meier a sweet, if a bit salty, Jewish grandmother. So the audience identifies with Barbra, the Jewish grandchild, while our loyalty to our grandma gets reaffirmed. Right there, you see Zionism in action.)

So when I read Shokin, I come to it with my antenna up. Those of you who weren’t raised in that milieu may find that off-putting on my part, or may not really get it. But as this Nation piece makes clear, it’s not just me being overly sensitive. It’s how this whole operation works.

http://www.thenation.com/article/161460/romance-birthright-israel#

133

Corey Robin 02.01.14 at 4:32 pm

Here, by the way, is that Barbra Streisand/Golda Meier performance. You really have to watch this.

134

Harold 02.01.14 at 4:41 pm

I feel this article is benighted in some way. For one thing, it would come as a surprise to Tolstoy and Pushkin that the “Russo-Slavoc female prototype is “blonde, svelte, and sexy”. This does not describe Natasha Rostov, Tolstoy’s prototype of Russsian womanhood, at any rate, who is said to have black eyes and and a too-wide mouth.

Such a superficial response illustrates why I am intrigued with the Los Angeles based, Helix project, a secular Yiddish immersion project that “aims to create a fuller more inclusive picture” of Jewish culture as a world culture, whose language, poetry, and song, they maintain, is the result of an interaction and mixture of cultures.

This project has drawn the ire of some of the funders of the “Heritage” trips to Israel, who wish to forget (some would say erase) all that.

135

JanieM 02.01.14 at 4:44 pm

Barbra Streisand signs the Hatikvah onstage

I was waiting for her to sign as she sang.

Odd typo there.

136

Lynne 02.01.14 at 4:51 pm

Wow, what a performance. I’m finding this discussion of Israel and Zionism enlightening.

137

Corey Robin 02.01.14 at 5:07 pm

Sorry about the typo, JanieM. I tend to make that mistake a lot.

138

JanieM 02.01.14 at 5:15 pm

Corey — it just gave me a weird feeling, because it would have been surprising to see someone signing in a concert in the ’70s, and I expected that to be just one more strange overlay on top of the other things you were suggesting.

Which you were right about.

139

Plume 02.01.14 at 5:21 pm

Corey, I would be interested in your take on Zionism before and after. As in, the Zionism of someone before the Jewish state became a reality, and Zionism after. Kafka’s flirtation with it, say, which was obviously well before the event — he died in 1924. Or even Herzl.

I think this also connects, at least somewhat, with discussions regarding support for Stalin, before and after his crimes and atrocities were known. Or any dream that becomes nightmare**.

In the complete absence of a Jewish homeland, well before the fact, dreaming of one seems . . . I don’t know. Harmless? But to insist upon it, still, once we know what it all entails, who suffered horrifically as a result, the Occupation, the refugee camps, the structures of apartheid, the racialism, etc. etc. . . . . that strikes me as a totally different animal.

Thoughts?

**It’s important and essential to know what that dream actually refers to, specifically, not what is imposed or projected upon it by others, later, and how far it may be from the end result in reality. The perversions and bastardizations of said dream.

140

mud man 02.01.14 at 6:37 pm

MPAV #6 “People just don’t like to have it pointed out when their happiness and contentment comes at somebody else’s expense.”

That could apply to EVERYONE.

That would be the point, yes. YOU are inconvenienced, WE are oppressed, I am lost and denied.

141

mud man 02.01.14 at 6:38 pm

HTML fail. “That could apply to EVERYONE” is the quote from MPAV. The last sentence is me.

142

Donald Johnson 02.01.14 at 6:40 pm

Picking up on Plume’s question, what are the most reliable histories of early Zionism? I sorta expect most will be either glorifying or demonizing at this stage. If there is ever a just solution for the I/P conflict, I expect balanced histories, but has anyone jumped the gun and produced one already?

143

Donald Johnson 02.01.14 at 6:41 pm

Answering my own question, Tom Segev’s work seems balanced to me, but it doesn’t cover everything.

144

bianca steele 02.01.14 at 6:56 pm

Lynne,

Do I really see feminism in Shokin’s piece? Yes.

I can see where you might not. You’ve said you have a strong connection to, I think, second-wave feminism and second-wave feminists, and it’s true that Shokin doesn’t connect her own experience to a larger struggle. But I believe that feminism ought to be partly about letting women like Shokin go public with their experiences and try to figure out what larger struggle they’re a part of: that might be something about which second-wave feminism would disagree with me.

Also, I’m not an activist. I’m an ordinary person who calls herself a feminist and I take what feminism I see out there, happening right now. Sometimes I agree with it and sometimes I don’t. It seems ridiculous for me to sit here and denounce this writer or that for not “really” being a feminist. But anyway what I see is that articles that call themselves feminist are making the same arguments Shokin does about Britney Spears and so on.

So I can see why you think that way about the article–and thank you for explaining–but maybe you’re expecting too much, and reading too much significance into what didn’t get into the piece.

145

bianca steele 02.01.14 at 7:02 pm

Was it yours?

I’ve already said it was.

146

bianca steele 02.01.14 at 7:07 pm

My mother remembers that in her mixed Jewish/Protestant, white/black working/lower-middle class public grade school, in the 1950s–after the reading of the King James Bible and the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, I presume–they would sing Hatikvah among other inspirational songs.

147

Corey Robin 02.01.14 at 7:10 pm

Donald Johnson:

Viewing things from a Zionist perspective (not harcore, ultra right, but Zionist), I think Anita Shapira’s Land and Power is considered the most authoritative to date. I’ve been told that Zach Lockman’s Comrades and Enemies is, from the opposite side, quite good. Sees Zionism as intrinsically related to Palestinians, not something that was just added on toward the end. Rashid Khalidi also has what seem to be some very good footnotes and sources to follow up in his The Iron Cage.

148

Mario 02.01.14 at 8:15 pm

I don’t know if I understood this post correctly, but it seems that Corey Robin is of the opinion that any Jew, of any age, that feels happy and at home in Israel is doing wrong. If so: wow, what a nasty and horrible post. It would be great if someone could clarify.

149

Tyrone Slothrop 02.01.14 at 8:23 pm

Mario: No, you did not understand this post correctly.

150

Harold 02.01.14 at 8:46 pm

My cousin, a retired physician in San Francisco, just returned from trip to Israel, his first, although he and his wife sent their also daughter on one of these dubious “Birthright” trips. He felt right at home there all right. He said that to all intents and purposes it just as though had never left California, specifically Los Angeles. He was impressed by Istanbul, though.

Tolstoy’s ideal Russian woman, Natasha, had black eyes, a wide mouth, and dark curly hair.

Samantha Shokin is a strikingly lovely young woman whose type of beauty also conforms to that of Florence or Sicily. She needs to read and travel more.

151

Lynne 02.01.14 at 8:55 pm

Bianca,

“Shokin doesn’t connect her own experience to a larger struggle. But I believe that feminism ought to be partly about letting women like Shokin go public with their experiences and try to figure out what larger struggle they’re a part of: that might be something about which second-wave feminism would disagree with me.”

No disagreement there, but I don’t see Shokin trying to see what larger struggle she’s a part of. It’s all Me-Me-Me. Like I said, it’s worth reading for what it is, but I did wince at her obliviousness. So it goes. I winced, you didn’t.

152

Ronan(rf) 02.01.14 at 9:33 pm

” Rashid Khalidi also has what seem to be some very good footnotes and sources to follow up in his The Iron Cage”

For some reason Khalidi’s publisher always puts the bibliography on the website and not in the book, so here it is

http://www.beacon.org/client/pdfs/0308_biblio.pdf

153

Dr.S 02.01.14 at 10:25 pm

154

roy belmont 02.01.14 at 10:33 pm

WTimberman -
I completely misread the intent and the content of your referenced “spade” post. Cursory haste undid me.
My apologies.
-
RE: the roots of Zionism.
I guess I understand the need for rational grounding, but doesn’t Zionism originate in Genesis?
It’s sort of like this thread, I mean the origin discussion is, where you have effete hermeneutical epistemic lightning bolts – with thunder! -flying over the heads of kids trying to stay out of the rain and get to an understanding of some basic human-interest stuff about the aesthetics of curly hair.
Zionism is a political movement etc.
But most observers would agree the support of fundamentalist American Christians is essential to the present Zionist project in a lot of important ways.
Not the least significant thing in that support is the mystical reverence accorded the Bible, wherein it is written:

…thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee.
And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.
This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you…

and wherein it is also written:

When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Gir’gashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Per’izzites, and the Hivites, and the Jeb’usites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou;
and when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them:
neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.

-
There’s the Zionist source-code.
Dismissing that stuff as ancient mumbo-jumbo and its continued presence as promise not just history, in the religious practices of people who couldn’t hold their own in a casual discussion of the post-Lacanian semantics of identity, as no more than a trivial distraction from the crucial subject at hand is I think a serious mistake.
The religious center of the Zionist project as perceived by religious Americans is vital to its survival. For that alone it needs airing out.

155

William Timberman 02.01.14 at 11:11 pm

Roy, I kinda thought so. No big deal, I do it myself often enough. And yes, those old guys, when they did poetry — and they did it a lot — they damned sure did mean it, even if most of the time it was purely hortatory.

156

Corey Robin 02.01.14 at 11:15 pm

The religious and textual origins of Zionism are complicated, as is Zionism itself. I would merely urge people not to put too much emphasis on those texts. Many original Zionists saw the movement as a secular — not a religious — answer to the Jewish Question, and indeed were opposed by the more Orthodox for that very reason. To this day, Zionism is often seen as an answer to a flagging Jewish identity (religious, cultural, otherwise). As Kiera Feldman writes in that piece I linked to above, on Birthright, “Bronfman’s partner in founding Birthright, Michael Steinhardt, professes faith in Israel as ‘a substitute for theology.'” There’s an awful lot of Zionists who don’t give a crap about the Bible, don’t even know what’s in it. Not saying there’s no religious dimension to this, but just urging some caution about overstating it.

157

Saurs 02.01.14 at 11:51 pm

She is an archetype of all our surrendering to late-capitalism, neoliberalism and “There Is No Alternative…do small stuff and be happy” Capitalist Realism.

bob mcmanus, it doesn’t strike you as fishy that this Anonymous Collective That Definitely Included Women chose to represent as their “archetype” (strawgirl, I’d say) narcissistic, consumerist, shallow “late capitalist” “neoliberal” a young girl? There’s no hint of misogyny, there? I mean, it’s fine if you don’t initially detect it or don’t care about it (because bitches are shit and interrogating oppression from a feminist perspective is shallow and narcissistic, so sayeth and hinteth many men, including the OP here), but this wide-eyed innocent stuff is literally unbelievable.

158

grackle 02.02.14 at 3:25 am

In my more perfect world both Bob McManus and Belle Waring would be designated national treasures.

159

Plume 02.02.14 at 3:49 am

Saurs,

The accusation of “misogyny” is a big deal. It’s a horrible thing for anyone to be. It’s disgusting, despicable, indefensible and incredibly ignorant. If the accusation is warranted, then that person or group should be called out on it. Most definitely. Just like racism, homophobia, etc. etc.

But, judging from your post, you’re not sure if fits, and it seems like you’re reading between the lines and projecting just a bit. I think even you would have to admit that you’re digging pretty laboriously to unearth a hidden agenda. You have “suspicions” rather than evidence.

Wouldn’t it be more productive to find the evidence first, and charge the guilty then? Or, better yet, pay homage and respect to the actual victims of misogyny by going after their actually existing oppressors?

Tiqqun, in its brief existence, concentrated on social justice from a leftist point of view. It had no observable record of “misogyny” or oppression of women. It had no power, really, over women. And the text in question critiques a system that actually does — have that power. It, too, was marginalized by society.

Sorry if this has already been posted, by here are some translations of their texts:

http://www.bloom0101.org/translations.html

http://tiqqunista.jottit.com/

They aren’t the enemy.

160

Belle Waring 02.02.14 at 4:23 am

Plume, for the very serious (as you know I am liable to be joking): if you can come away from reading that thing and think anything other than “what a bilious, misogynist, nasty little piece of work” then you are a—a different person than I, clearly! Because the hatred is venomous, it really is. And the details appended to the theoretical embodiment of the late-capitalist social breakdown are physical and specific and full of a kind of thwarted sexual desire that one just does not see elsewhere. Venomous. For true. I find it positively loathsome. This is why I never thought it neccessary to refute it properly–it doesn’t rise to the level of things that deserve to be taken seriously because it is so wretched. This is not the case of everything tiqqun ever produced! But it is the case there. mcmanus-sensei: I am perfectly aware one of the committee of writers is a women; I had thought it was more, actually–several, nu? THIS DOES NOT PRECLUDE THINGS FROM BEING SEXIST. WELCOME TO FEMINISM PRE-K.

grackle: I sort of feel flattered, but then again, I worry about my company. Nah, fuck it. Me and mcmanus-sensei. I want a life-size statue. In bronze.

161

Plume 02.02.14 at 4:38 am

Belle Waring 158,

I respect your take. Gotta cop to complete ignorance of the actual text in question, having only read the overview linked below . . . along with other Tiqqun texts. I may have put too much store in their overall project for social justice and their own marginalization. Will reread and admit total defeat if I’m wrong. I don’t have a problem with that. Foot in mouth disease, etc.

http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/preliminary-materials-theory-young-girl

162

Plume 02.02.14 at 4:38 am

Make that read for the first time.

163

Plume 02.02.14 at 4:47 am

Just skimming through the translator’s preface . . . Belle Waring, it sounds like you were right. Even the translator was sickened by some of what she read:

Right, OK, so aspects of the translation were difficult rhetorically while other sections sickened me; at times it was difficult to separate a language problem from a problem of ideology; in any case I think it took me about a year simply to read the book without reading mainly my own reactions to it. Look how formally I’m writing right now, as though I were afraid that without the prophylaxis of slightly snooty rarefied rhetoric this book would infect me all over again; fill me with enough loathing that I’d be back shitting rivers like it was 2011.

But actually when I read the book now, in English, it passes through me pretty pleasurably. I feel in effortless agreement with most of it; it’s fun to read. So I have either overcome something with the help of the others who worked on it with me, or the process of translating it has simply worn me down, beaten me into submission, as it were. Or, like something colonized, I’ve gotten used to my position vis-à-vis the master and what it expects from me; I’ve learned to whistle while I work.

I don’t remember reading a translator’s reaction like this before. It’s rather extraordinary.

164

Saurs 02.02.14 at 5:09 am

The accusation of “misogyny” is a big deal.

Nope. Please don’t address me in future, Plume. I don’t want to speak with you.

165

Plume 02.02.14 at 5:12 am

Saurs,

NP. Your loss.

166

Saurs 02.02.14 at 5:13 am

Don’t address me. Thanks.

167

Plume 02.02.14 at 5:20 am

Saurs,

NP. I won’t. Again, your loss.

As mentioned, it’s amazing that a clearinghouse for academics seems to attract so many overly judgmental and self-righteous readers. And so many who don’t actually want to open themselves up to dissenting views. They. Just. Won’t. Hear. Of. It.

Always the orthodox line with them. And so quick to come to final conclusions. The immediate freeze out is immediately put in place, without any further study.

Oh, well.

168

Plume 02.02.14 at 5:28 am

I’m not your enemy, either. I’m a feminist, too, and your ally. I just happen to include class in the mix. I just happen to see that as far more important than texts from obscure French groups who no longer exist.

Compare that with Republican governors and state legislatures across the country trying to destroy a woman’s right to choose. Compare that to women making 77 cents on the dollar and the absence of the ERA, which I strongly support.

A text by an obscure, defunct group of French intellectuals, who patterned themselves after Dada and the Situationists?

Come on. Perspective and proportion.

169

Corey Robin 02.02.14 at 7:06 am

Saurs: “because bitches are shit and interrogating oppression from a feminist perspective is shallow and narcissistic, so sayeth and hinteth many men, including the OP here.”

That “hinteth” is doing a lot of work for you there. Did you just skip over the 2nd paragraph of the post, i.e., the longest paragraph of the entire piece?

You must have skipped over the Shokin article, too; had you read it, you’d see that she is not at all interested in interrogating oppression from a feminist perspective. Her focus is on how ethnicity — and not gender — structures conceptions of beauty.

That’s some feminism you’ve got going for you there; you don’t even have to listen to what a woman says in order to know what she’s saying.

170

Saurs 02.02.14 at 7:17 am

Wrestling with white- and goyim-centric standards of female beauty has nothing to do with Shokin being a woman and (yep!) a feminist? Hokay, then.

Beyond that, of course, and in this here thread, we have a lot of men complaining, in overwrought terms, about just how ill-equipped feminism is in saving the world and curing cancer and creating world peace. Or did the Tiqqun discussion just pass you by altogether? Maybe reading the whole thread is in order? Just a thought.

171

Plume 02.02.14 at 7:31 am

Corey,

I think the powers that be love this stuff. They love it when lefties eat their own. Civil wars of moral righteousness and umpteen forms of J’accuse. They love it. This distracts from the billionaires screwing us over, or the billions of people around the world living in poverty and hopelessness. A text might wound us — we privileged humans of the developed world — temporarily, but a ghetto is forever.

We’re so busy being morally offended by each other, talking past one another, demanding from others what we refuse to offer in return:

respect, recognition of our humanity, dignity, equal status, etc. A one way street for the righteous among us.

Before Bob McManus linked to it, I had never heard of the Vampire Castle. But I’m seeing its worth, and like this intro:

http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/mark-fisher/exiting-vampire-castle

We need to learn, or re-learn, how to build comradeship and solidarity instead of doing capital’s work for it by condemning and abusing each other. This doesn’t mean, of course, that we must always agree – on the contrary, we must create conditions where disagreement can take place without fear of exclusion and excommunication.

Again, if the despicable is there, yes, call it out. But to go out of one’s way to search between the lines for it? The “hint” of it?

Life is too short.

172

Corey Robin 02.02.14 at 7:51 am

“Maybe reading the whole thread is in order? Just a thought.”

It is just a thought, and not a terribly well thought out one at that. What does what people here saying about Tiqqun — something I didn’t even know about till it was brought up in this thread, and as I said repeatedly upthread (yeah, those parts are worth reading too), I didn’t even have a clue what people, Bob McManus particularly, even were saying about all that — have to do with my OP, which you claimed “hinted” at the idea that, what was it, oh yeah, this: “bitches are shit and interrogating oppression from a feminist perspective is shallow and narcissistic.”

You might be right about the Tiqqun thread; as I say I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. But you don’t have a leg to stand on with that claim as it pertains to my OP.

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Plume 02.02.14 at 8:01 am

I had never heard of Tiqqun’s Young-Girl before this thread, either.

But I do agree with one thing Saurs mentioned. One needs to read the entire thread, at least the relevant portions, which I did not do before commenting. I give myself 100 demerits for the failure and will never forgive or forget. I will always be eternally ashamed of this.

G’night, all.

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Belle Waring 02.02.14 at 10:38 am

I only came in about tiqqun to help others understand what mcmanus was on about, because I am intellectually charitable. I think if one re-reads the thread, Plume, what one actually notes is that mcmanus-sensei, ever in the vanguard, trolled you out onto a limb, you kept trolling from there despite total ignorance of the terrain, and then he skipped town as soon as any actual quotes were in the offing, leaving you to die as troll cannon-fodder. Food for thought there: don’t be trolled by the master, unless you are prepared to die on the bridge.

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Igor Belanov 02.02.14 at 10:40 am

I think the definition of ‘trolling’ becomes a little vague and misleading when it is used to mean opinions that you happen to disagree with.

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Belle Waring 02.02.14 at 11:21 am

Agreed, but any discussion of the commentary of bob mcmanus which does not accept as its very premise that he is trolling is a discussion which is simply under-informed. If you doubt this at all, please read threads faithfully and email me in ten days. I will be VERY surprised indeed if you do not think he is trolling both the universe in general and, in all likelihood, you in particular, at that point.

For there is no unitary “point of view” which mcmanus-sensei might, with separate applications of vehemence, wish to put across, while meeting with continuous resistance from me. It is not the case that he could fairly be described as “always to my left” politically, for example. On account of mcmanus-sensei has raised trolling to a higher art form what we mortals wot not of (though one can make him angry without an astonishing amount of effort, and my husband has genuinely trolled him on several occasions). Look, during the Fukushima reactor meltdown after the tsunami he advocated, in all seriousness, that the US nuke the reactor. Yes. Totally seriously. I know what you’re thinking. “Ha! Who was being trolled then hahaHA!” Look, please, just take this one little thing from me on faith. I don’t feel like linking the comments, (which were at another site but were still him) but if you will chapter and verse read CT threads with a willingness to be convinced either way, and in ten–fuck, in a week (and I say this only because he might go somewhere)–want to tell me mcmanus-san over here is not trolling…dag. You are very willing to be trolled.

In the case at hand, do you think the tiqqun piece is not misogynist? If you do, would you not agree it was misleading, in a way, for mcmanus-sensei to lure Plume out there and then skedaddle as soon as anyone who had read the work in question appeared in the thread? (Plume shouldn’t have rushed after sensei, as I said, because it’s a mug’s game, but he had the decency to say he didn’t know enough about it and then re-consider, even if the attempted ‘let’s re-cast my being lured onto that trembling branch by sensei as a metaphor for how left politics has been forced into internecine strife’ thing was maybe a little weak.) If you don’t think it is, would please tell me why, even in a two-sentence version? Because I really don’t see it–at all. But I am not unwilling to listen to argument by any means. If you have no opinion, than on what basis have you formed the opinion as to whether sensei was trolling or not? No basis whatsoever? That doesn’t seem like a good basis, I must say.

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Igor Belanov 02.02.14 at 11:35 am

You can’t have it all ways though. It seems very conspiratorial to suggest that he ‘lured’ Plume into trolling on his behalf! Plus, if you consider his comments offensive then surely it is better that he has sat out the rest of the thread rather than taking it over as certain commenters (who will remain anonymous but obvious) tend to do?
The reason why I don’t consider McManus’s comments as ‘trolling’ is that I can’t really see them as a concerted or deliberate attempt to wind a person or persons up. They can be decidedly opaque, occasionally provocative but sometimes interesting- but not unusual for blog comments!

178

Belle Waring 02.02.14 at 11:55 am

Mmmm, I see your point. Plume was inclined to believe the things he took mcmanus to be claiming, and so was inclined to defend mcmanus’ sources without 100% knowledge of them, something I would never do am pretty sure I did earlier today on Gawker. In that sense he was lured out onto a trembling branch by the master, who, as I said, bounced when knowledge was in the offing. But the fact that sensei did so does not strike me as evidence of sincere concern for the truth…rather the opposite. Tactical withdrawal, and, again, that often leaves raw recruits behind to die.

But seriously, mcmanus-sensei is something way a billion times more than deliberately opaque: he is a fucking Ada Lovelace confusion-engine! Me, personally, I like him! Otherwise why would I call him and Emerson sensei and no one else, hm? But he’s a troll. No shame there. I troll my own blog after all. Not to the degree mcmanus would if he had a blog…suddenly I felt as if a million LULZ were crying out at once…because who would READ the blog? No one. No one would. Someone’s got to be the straight man. That I should ever be cast in this role–or for the love of God John Holbo–is merely a trillion pounds of evidence on my side of the scale.

179

Phil 02.02.14 at 12:57 pm

Just got round to reading the Shokin piece (which is OK, because I haven’t been commenting here – I’ve checked).

No comment, really, except that this struck me:

It was my father who had the final say on the decision that changed my life—to study abroad in Tel Aviv in spring of 2011, my junior year of college. My parents are staunch Zionists, as many Soviet Jews tend to be, and Papa knew that releasing me from my parents’ clutches was the right way to go.

Weirdest use of the word ‘release’ I’ve seen in some time.

180

LFC 02.02.14 at 2:13 pm

Wm Timberman @121
could just as easily be that he [LFC] has a tin ear for poetry

I didn’t intend to comment further here but this calls for a response. I have an old-fashioned, I guess, view that poetry is a distinct genre, mode, form, thing, etc., best judged by standards appropriate to it. One doesn’t expect poetry necessarily to convey clear meanings, and any meanings it does convey are often conveyed very indirectly. Poetry of course is a broad category and I recognize that it comes in a large variety of different shapes, including prose poems. But while poetry is a broad label, it’s not an all-inclusive one that *usually* shd be applied to prose, even prose that displays, in yr words, linguistic “jiggery-pokery.”

I don’t think the quoted passage to which I objected is poetry, nor do I think that (except with very rare exceptions) any social theory, political theory, history, etc. is poetry. Now, such work can and sometimes does have literary merit of course, and it can even be argued that in some cases the literary style of such work is inextricably connected to its substance. But that doesn’t make it poetry.

If you want to maintain — and I’m not talking spec. about the Young-Girl piece here, which I haven’t read and don’t intend to any time soon, if ever — that any effort to engage in “fragmentation and reassembly of the language we use to describe what we see” is poetry, that’s your prerogative of course. I don’t share that view, and indeed find it extremely uncongenial. If you think that a producer of theory (or Theory) can be excused from any obligation to convey meaning with some minimal degree of directness as long as he or she is engaged in the “fragmentation and reassembly” of language, fine. That’s not my opinion.

Your own comments here often strike me as well written but somewhat ornate, roundabout, occasionally opaque, and difficult to decipher in terms of a point, so perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised that that is your view.

181

LFC 02.02.14 at 2:15 pm

[a comment is in moderation]

182

Plume 02.02.14 at 5:51 pm

Belle Waring,

Thanks. That was a gracious and deserved take down.

Funny thing is, this mess started, at least for me, because I thought others had needlessly jumped the gun to judge things all too harshly, etc. To be judgmental before the facts were in. This, I did, without reading the source in question or keeping up with the running conversation.

I didn’t even think I was guilty of same, at the time. Upon reflection . . . . it’s rather obvious. Doesn’t work so well in a conversation online or anywhere else. “Look before ya leap!” (I should have remembered), and all the good stuff one’s Scottish grandmother told us to do.

She also used to say, putting on her best Scottish brogue, “Fight ye devils, fight!! I hate peace!!” when we children were going at it for no reason.

Mea culpa.

183

Watson Ladd 02.02.14 at 9:31 pm

Harold, not all Jews are Ashkenazi, and not all Ashkenazim spoke Yiddish or came from Eastern Europe. Furthermore, asking Jewish identity and its connection to Israel to be rooted in the shtetl instead is like asking Irish identity to be routed through Ulster: ethnic ideologies don’t work like that.

At a broader level, Israel is no more a product of ethnic cleaning than Ulster, England, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, Czech Republic and Slovakia, or the Ukraine. Yet we don’t hear about how Ukrainian identity depends on collaboration with the Nazis, or Estonian anti-Russianism. Spanish food involves the pig to exclude Jews and Muslims, yet we don’t complain about the racism of the burrito.

The tragedy of humanity can only be resolved by letting bygones be bygones, and resolving the abuses in the present that cause people to take up arms. No one wants to die over Saarland today, even if they complain about the languages they have to speak.

184

Joshua W. Burton 02.02.14 at 9:53 pm

Spanish food involves the pig to exclude Jews and Muslims, yet we don’t complain about the racism of the burrito.

What you mean “we,” white man?

It’s the lard in plain white bread, though, that makes Spain and Poland so logistically challenging (and so charged with Zionist subtext!) for Jewish youth tours.

185

godoggo 02.02.14 at 10:22 pm

What self-respecting Jew gives a damn what’s in plain white bread?

186

Harold 02.02.14 at 11:10 pm

The figures I have seen are that 80 percent of the world’s Jews are Ashkenazi. The Helix tours are not confined to the shetl and are predominantly, though not exclusively secular. They have plans for tours of places where Shephardic Jews lived also. The tour organizers contend, or at least Robert Adler Peckerar does, that Jewish identity has long been predominantly cultural and secular, just as the Zionists do. They wish to raise public awareness of the centuries of Jewish culture which has been lost sight of if not erased in the post-holocaust world. According to the Los Angeles Times:

Adler Peckerar’s group is part of a postmodern movement that celebrates the flowering of a largely secular Yiddish culture, one that produced an astonishing outpouring of literature, music, art and science in the late 19th and early 20th centuries before being all but silenced by the one-two punch of Soviet repression and the Holocaust.

What Yiddishkayt doesn’t tend to celebrate is the Jewish religion, and many of its leading figures are atheists. They embrace a notion of Jewishness that is purely cultural.

“There are people who aren’t interested in the synagogue route, and they don’t connect to Judaism through religion, or they don’t connect to Judaism through Israel,” said Aaron Paley, who founded Yiddishkayt in 1995 and whose family is providing the seed money for the Helix program. “This is a different way to connect with who you are.”

Adler Peckerar, a former professor of Jewish literature and culture at the University of Colorado, goes further, arguing that the Jewish religion has never been central to Jewish identity.

187

Harold 02.02.14 at 11:13 pm

I am sure you are all aware of Ruth Calderon. She also says it is time for secular Jews to reclaim Jewish learning and culture from the ultra orthodox male community and make its riches available to everyone, men and women, believers and unbelievers, Jews and non Jews alike.

188

roy belmont 02.02.14 at 11:23 pm

Lard is in the well-made tortilla too. Noticeably, both in its presence and absence.
But only in Spain because of cross-fertilizing with US franchise fast food reality.
It’s a Mexican issue, the burrito. Originally. Unlike tapas and sangria.
And well who knows really not a McManian de-fense but I think maybe some folks have are confusing “trolling” acting in a trollish manner and bridges central to the mise en scene, with “trolling” dragging baited hooks behind your boat in hopes of enticing fishes onto the hooks and into the boat.
Trolls hide under the bridge, and wait for unalert passers to jump out in front of on, and demand moneys for further passage – troll bridge stop pay troll – or bad things will ensue, because trolls are well-centered for physical altercation and mean-spirited generally speaking, plus not exactly human so no loyalty.
Fisherfolk trolling for piscene sustenants are not grossly misshapen and demanding money from innocent travelers.
They are dressed funny because of weather and conditions, and work-hardened faces plus elements. You only have to give them money if you want fish.
Confusion complicated by the fact that the internet commentarian ecology is teeming with both kinds of metaphorial pain in the ass. With a dual continua of blurry almosts. So lots of blurring making the def indistinct.
Consequent misuse.
Plus regular folks whose articulate sane and clarity-soaked comments are somewhat opaque now and again to the lesser-gifted mind.
Even sometimes to those Langley-affinites whose everyone a handful I ever met, a fulsome handful indeed, were totally cool-radar proficient, and knew how to talk good, and whose cousins in the preterite world can still walk through all beats w/o falter.
Opacity there being the motific more than say the constructual.

189

Harold 02.02.14 at 11:37 pm

Spanish tortillas are made with olive oil and potatoes.

190

roy belmont 02.03.14 at 12:04 am

Burritos are in Spain because of California.

191

Joshua W. Burton 02.03.14 at 12:45 am

godoggo @183:

What self-respecting Jew gives a damn what’s in plain white bread?

Wow. Where did that come from? And where can I donate to send a Jewish kid (or that Palestinian girl at the checkpoint!) on a self-discovery trip far away from it?

192

Harold 02.03.14 at 12:56 am

Biblical scholarship says that the events recounted in Exodus never happened.
http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/144177/reconciling-biblical-criticism/2

[David ] Wolpe is ranked as America’s most popular rabbi by Newsweek, but when he told his Conservative congregation that modern scholarship cast doubt on the historicity of the Exodus from Egypt, it proved to be one of his most unpopular sermons. Though many congregants supported their rabbi, others were disturbed by his words. Dr. Laura Schlessinger condemned the sermon on her nationally syndicated radio show, and Wolpe’s Sinai Temple had to set up an extra phone line to deal with the response. As one columnist put it at the time, the incident revealed that “the Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Reform movements must do a better job of explaining themselves, even to some of their members.”

193

Watson Ladd 02.03.14 at 3:24 am

Harold, I’m quite aware of the ethnoliguistic relations of Yawaiites to the Cannanites and the use of Exodus as myth. But how does that change the existence today of Israeli persons? Does the mythical nature of the Nibelungenlied make Germany inherently problematic, and not the actual crimes carried out in the 20th century? What nation has a founding story not rooted in myth?

194

Harold 02.03.14 at 3:39 am

You are aware of it, but Rabbi Wolpe’s congregation wasn’t.

Creation stories can be very toxic, although the Nibelungenlied isn’t a very good example, since it was never widely popular. Better examples are the epic poems of the Albanians in keeping old hatreds going for many centuries. Anyway, someone upthread said that Zionism is rooted in the Bible — therefore, it is rooted in myth. It’s one thing to learn about myths and enjoy them in artistic works, it’s another to act as though they justify political actions.

195

Plume 02.03.14 at 3:41 am

Watson Ladd,

But Jewish myth is quite likely the first and only mythology to help a once very small and frequently defeated tribe (in ancient times) to return to their ancient homeland after an absence of two thousand years — displacing (through violence, not willing compliance) the current inhabitants during that interim in the process.

It’s quite likely the only mythology in world history to actually help create a nation after such a gap in time — and from such a great and widespread distance.

196

Harold 02.03.14 at 3:52 am

Well, it also conquered the Roman empire, too. It’s a pretty powerful book. But it wasn’t merely the Bible that caused the foundation of the state of Israel, The events ofWW2 and allied guilt played a part.

197

LFC 02.03.14 at 4:20 am

roy belmont @186
This “lesser-gifted mind” is not going to bother to reply. I will say that aspects of this thread have been bizarre, even by the standards of CT threads.

198

roy belmont 02.03.14 at 5:02 am

LFC @195
This “pointless show-off” is not going to bother to expect your reply, so we should both do nicely there.
I will say there has been very little in my life to exceed the bizarrely empty timid dullness of academic conformity in its incitement of my lusis animus, plausibly because it so faithfully accompanied and so often justified the grinding torments of my youth.
One can see yes? That that being lumped into a boxcar of rejectees for being “bizarre” against those same conformist standards, well it’s damn near a compliment, really.

199

Harold 02.03.14 at 5:06 am

I was intrigued to read in LFC’s blog (I think it was) about Stalin’s creation of a Jewish state in Siberia. I got to know some Soviet Jewish refugees here in Brooklyn in the early 80s — they had spent the war in Samarkand. They very much resented having had to have their ethnicity (Jewish) stamped on their passports. I suppose you needed internal passports to travel in the USSR, like in Italy under Mussolini and up until the 1960s or so.

200

Phil 02.03.14 at 9:23 am

Harold – thanks for the Helix link; I think Yiddishkayt represents a really important alternative narrative. When I was studying the Holocaust I more than once caught myself thinking “These Bundists seem to have the right ideas – we never hear of them any more, though, I wonder what happened?” Then I remembered what happened.

201

William Timberman 02.03.14 at 11:54 am

LFC @ 180

A gracious rebuttal, probably better than I deserved. I doubt that this will seem as gracious to you, but it still needs to be said — for the sake of a certain symmetry, you understand:

The hegemony of the physical simulacrum
Was Norma Jeane Baker really
Marilyn Monroe?
Was Archie Leach Cary Grant?
And what about Idoru?
The hegemony of the virtual simulacrum?
No, that won’t work, will it?
Can you see why?
(Hint: Wir schaufeln ein Grab in den Lüften
Da liegt man nicht eng.)

No, we can’t say that
It trivializes a tragedy that
still
causes great suffering
among the descendants
of its victims

Therefore

The jury will disregard the previous testimony
(If it can)

202

SoU 02.04.14 at 12:12 am

well then – this thread certainly derailed – and then crashed under a bridge or something, what with that whole argument over who gets to claim the title of king/queen troll. i guess that’s what happens when people start to talk about the occupation and feminism all at once.

203

Kaveh 02.04.14 at 1:27 am

SoU @202 i guess that’s what happens when people start to talk about the occupation and feminism all at once.

It’s what happens when you point out privilege. It’s bizarre how many people are willing to make up really wild accusations (like Joshua Burton interpreting the OP as promoting mass-expulsion of Jews from Israel, and accusations that the OP was singling out Shokin for being a young girl and/or feminist) rather than admit that they or somebody they identify/sympathize with is benefiting from the tiniest bit of privilege. I think people are probably used to seeing men lose their s#it in discussions of male privilege, but discussions of Israel are usually not that crazy…

204

SoU 02.04.14 at 4:26 am

@2o3 “discussions of Israel are usually not that crazy…” i feel that the discourse here in the US is starting to shift, and the fever is breaking. so your ‘are usually’ here, as i see it, is increasingly going to be a ‘used to be’

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