Do the Jews Really Not Belong in the United States?

by Corey Robin on March 29, 2015

Last September, Joe Biden spoke to a group of invited guests, including leading American Jews, about Israel as a haven for American Jews:

Folks, there is no place else to go, and you understand that in your bones. You understand in your bones that no matter how hospitable, no matter how consequential, no matter how engaged, no matter how deeply involved you are in the United States … there’s only one guarantee. There is really only one absolute guarantee, and that’s the state of Israel.

I found that a rather stunning comment from a sitting vice president. So I wrote about it for my column at Salon.

 

Yet no one has remarked upon the fact of a sitting vice president telling a portion of the American citizenry that they cannot count on the United States government as the ultimate guarantor of their freedom and safety. The Constitution, which the vice president is sworn to uphold, guarantees to American citizens the “Blessings of Liberty” and equal protection of the law. Despite that, despite “how deeply involved” Jews “are in the United States,” the occupant of the second-highest office in the land believes that American Jews should look to a foreign government as the foundation of their rights and security.

A country that once offered itself as a haven to persecuted Jews across the world now tells its Jews that in the event of some terrible outbreak of anti-Semitism they should… what? Plan on boarding the next plane to Tel Aviv? It’s like some crazy fiction from Philip Roth, except that when Roth contemplated an exodus in “Operation Shylock,” it was to imagine the Jews fleeing Israel for Poland.

I talk about JFK on the Irish, Bernard Williams and Hobbes on the state, and Malcolm X on the UN. And begin my conclusion thus: “The reason no one has been ruffled by his statement, I suspect, has less to do with any special sensitivity to Jewish experience than with an ancient, not altogether wholesome, notion that the Jews are somehow different.” Read on here.

{ 246 comments }

1

Rich Puchalsky 03.29.15 at 1:46 pm

I think that this is the logical outcome of supporting Israel as American politicians have been trained to do. On the recent thread about the Israeli election I thought about pointing out that roughly the same numbers of Jews like in the U.S. as in Israel, and that the real change in this balance is projected to have nothing to do with massacre or with immigration /emigration but rather with assimilation. But this isn’t a Jewish site and it felt like there would be too much that would have to be painstakingly explained for it to be worth it.

2

Lynne 03.29.15 at 2:04 pm

That is a pretty stunning statement, and I hadn’t heard it before. Is Biden Jewish himself? (Sorry if that is a dumb question. I’m not American!) That would complicate the statement. Rich, you might be right that the financial support of Israel ($3 BILLION dollars last year, I think it was) has got to warp the American perception of Israel, but this idea of Jews being so different seems really sad. I look forward to reading the rest of your article, Corey.

3

Brad DeLong 03.29.15 at 2:23 pm

I would not say: “an ancient, not altogether wholesome, notion that the Jews are somehow different.”

I would say: “an accurate recognition that, historically, Christians’ attitudes toward Jews are very different from their attitudes toward other Christians.”

Seems to me that it would be a failure to recognize the Christian potential for anti-semitism that would be “not altogether wholesome” here, no?

Brad DeLong

4

bianca steele 03.29.15 at 2:32 pm

Lynne,

Biden isn’t Jewish, he’s just frequently not entirely appropriate.

5

Corey Robin 03.29.15 at 2:40 pm

Brad: Happy to go with your rewrite, for that’s not where the problem lies. It’s what Biden, and the people who are defending his comment, assume follows from that sentiment: namely, that the Jews should look to their protection elsewhere.

Just do a substitution and you’ll see what I mean. Try “an accurate recognition that, historically, white Americans’ attitudes toward African Americans are very different from their attitudes toward other white Americans.” That seems fine, right? Now try this: “You understand in your bones that no matter how hospitable, no matter how consequential, no matter how engaged, no matter how deeply involved you are in the United States … there’s only one guarantee. There is really only one absolute guarantee, and that’s the state of Liberia.”

Doesn’t seem “altogether wholesome,” does it?

6

Warren Terra 03.29.15 at 2:46 pm

A country that once offered itself as a haven to persecuted Jews across the world

This statement is almost completely ahistorical.

7

William Timberman 03.29.15 at 2:52 pm

Even without referring to recent history, one can say this: minorities embedded in a larger community who want to maintain their separate identities in any meaningful way have reason to be fearful on the one hand of being assimilated, and on the other, of becoming targets of opportunity for disaffected members of the majority. Anti-semitism in the United States may not be a major cause for concern today, but if I were a Jew, I wouldn’t assume that this will always be the case. That said, it’s hard for me to imagine how anyone could think of Israel as a safe haven for Jews now, even if it once might have seemed so to committed Zionists.

8

Anarcissie 03.29.15 at 2:52 pm

As a visitor from another planet, I can understand some Jews’ conviction that they are safe only if Israel exists in its present form. I think their belief is incorrect, but it’s still comprehensible. What I don’t understand is the fetishization of Israel by Americans who aren’t Jews, for example Biden’s speech noticed above. I wish someone would explain the creation and structure of the fetish. Biden has too much company to be merely dismissed as weird.

9

Corey Robin 03.29.15 at 2:55 pm

“This statement is almost completely ahistorical.”

That would come as news to my grandfather, who fled with his family from Odessa to the US in 1908, three years after the worst anti-Jewish pogrom in Odessa’s history. From what I’ve heard, he wasn’t the only one.

10

Corey Robin 03.29.15 at 3:00 pm

William Timberman: As I explained to Brad DeLong above, the issue is not whether there is or isn’t anti-Semitism today in the US or even if there could be. It’s the notion that the answer to that lies in the Jews’ flight to another country. We all know that the situation a lot of African Americans today is fairly perilous; the threats to their safety and security are numerous, including from the police. It’s certainly far more perilous than the situation of American Jews. Yet no one — least of all the occupant of the second highest office in the US — would ever suggest that blacks should look for their safety in a foreign government. As I said in my Salon piece, when Malcolm X offered a much more muted version of that argument, he was visited with a holy terror from multiple agencies of the US government.

11

Warren Terra 03.29.15 at 3:04 pm

Corey,
Some of my great-grandparents were refugees from Byelorus at about the same time – a time when anyone with a white skin and free of certain infectious diseases could easily immigrate to the US, and also a time when a Jew in America could expect to face systemic prejudice ranging from exclusion from schools, jobs, and neighborhoods, up to physical violence and the occasional lynching. But when it mattered, when Jews came to the US not as generic European immigrants but as refugees fleeing persecution, they were turned away. After the war, the Jewish survivors of the holocaust, who still faced persecution and even murder, were locked up in Displaced Persons camps, not offered an American haven. When in response to the founding of Israel and the Nakba many Arabic and Islamic countries persecuted their Jewish citizens, the US did not offer a haven. When it became possible for Jews to flee the Soviet Union and then Russia, they were welcomed into Israel and into Germany – not into the US. When Ethiopean Jews fled famine and persecution, the doors of the US were not open to them.

So, yeah, almost completely ahistorical.

12

bianca steele 03.29.15 at 3:05 pm

I think the sentiment Biden expressed–at least the first part of it–is by now a cliché with almost no content. We Jews, supposedly, need Israel to allow us to protect ourselves. Why does Israel offer protection? What is the mechanism by which this happens? No one really knows. I don’t think most Jews my age or younger, even if they reflexively “support Israel,” think in terms of emigrating even in some dire future. I don’t think Israelis who use this rhetoric expect the enormous number of American Jews someday to appear on their doorstep, either.

13

bob mcmanus 03.29.15 at 3:05 pm

Lynchings, Palmer deportations, racially discriminatory immigration policies in the twenties, Japanese internment, Jim Crow, wars on people of color overseas, Guantanamo…19th century horrors we really haven’t come to terms with…

…there may be other minorities I might currently worry more about than Jews, but I can’t guarantee the safety and equal treatment of any minority in the United States in high stress global circumstances.

If things go 1930s level bad, (this is unlikely, but not impossible in my mind, but the scenarios do not leave Israel as a good refuge) Canada and Mexico might be options.

3: China and Japan have had some anti-Semitic outbreaks, even post-WWII. It is tough to explain.

14

Bartleby 03.29.15 at 3:07 pm

Re #6 and #9 – It would come as a surprise to my grandparents as well, particularly to my grandfather, who left Russia to avoid a Tsarist draft notice that, as I understand it, amounted to a life sentence (and who then raised three sons who volunteered to serve his adopted country in WWII).

As for the larger issue under discussion, you can count me as one American Jew who feels no need or desire for the protection of any foreign government. I was born here and I will die here. This is my country. Israel is not.

15

bianca steele 03.29.15 at 3:07 pm

When it became possible for Jews to flee the Soviet Union and then Russia, they were welcomed into Israel and into Germany – not into the US.

This would be news to lots of my neighbors in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

16

bianca steele 03.29.15 at 3:09 pm

IIRC it was the USSR who permitted exit visas to Israel but not to the US.

17

Joshua W. Burton 03.29.15 at 3:14 pm

What Brad said. But also . . . .

Rich Puchalsky @1 mentions assimilation, and thereby hangs a tail risk. The American protections enshrined in the Constitution’s preamble and 14A are individual; a future in which every Jew enjoys them until there are no more Jews is, in American terms, a perfectly acceptable way to secure blessings to ourselves and our posterity. But to a Jew as a theological matter, and to a Zionist as a practical political matter, salvation is national rather than personal: kol Yisrael ‘arevim ze le’ze (all Israel are surety to each other). The US (or any liberal democracy) makes its guarantees to Jews, not to the Jews; the guarantee that only Israel seeks, however unreliably and improbably, to offer is and ought to be the “only” one of its kind. (Also, there is the matter of timescale: what’s two and a quarter centuries between Pharaohs?)

18

bob mcmanus 03.29.15 at 3:14 pm

Okay, it is conceivable that against some weaker countries, an advanced military or nuclear threat from Israel might afford protection for diaspora Jews.

Very much more complicated as to whether the Israeli threat (MAD) has protected and can protect Jews in advanced or nuclear nations, since Israel is not protected from a first strike, as far as I know. Does Israel have ICBMs?

19

Corey Robin 03.29.15 at 3:15 pm

“But when it mattered…”

It mattered to my grandfather and his family. And millions of other East European Jews. There are more moments in history than one.

“When it became possible for Jews to flee the Soviet Union and then Russia, they were welcomed into Israel and into Germany – not into the US.”

Not really. I remember our synagogue sponsoring Russian Jewish families coming to the US, in the 1970s. I just looked up how representative that was. According to a report from the American Jewish Committee’s Director for Russian Affairs, in the 70s, as many Soviet Jews were coming to the US as were going to Israel — much to the chagrin of the Israeli government, which tried to block them from doing so. And the Lautenberg Amendment, passed in 1989, classified Soviet Jews as a persecuted group and gave them automatic refugee status, which prompted another massive wave of emigration to the US from the Soviet Union and then Russia.

So, yeah, completely wrong.

http://www.ajcrussian.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=chLMK3PKLsF&b=7718799&ct=11713359

20

Warren Terra 03.29.15 at 3:27 pm

Corey, you’re being specious. Jews fleeing Eastern Europe and the pogroms before immigration laws were revamped amid the hysteria of the Palmer raids after WWI may have fled seeking safety, but they entered the US not as refugees but as standard-issue European immigrants. As refugees they were, if anything, unwelcome. When in later years Jews did come seeking refuge, they were condemned to death.

Let me repeat that: condemned. to. death. By the country you seem to think is the default and trustworthy refuge for persecuted Jews, such that you affect a failure to understand why anyone would suggest Jews might seek to preserve other options.

21

Joshua W. Burton 03.29.15 at 3:28 pm

Bianca @12 writes: I don’t think most Jews my age or younger, even if they reflexively “support Israel,” think in terms of emigrating even in some dire future.

I don’t know the broad demographics, but anecdotal perspectives vary. About a quarter of the US-born kids who became bar or bat mitzvah in our little minyan in the last thirty years are now Israeli. Nobody sees anything dire about it, and I would be surprised if even one of them voted for Bibi.

22

The Raven 03.29.15 at 3:29 pm

Corey, as to the USA as a haven for Jews fleeing persecution: in the interwar period, the USA turned away Jewish refugees from Germany. And where did they go? Ah, you know that. Palestine, to swell the Zionist ranks. Had the USA taken in the refugees the Zionist project would have taken a very different course.

And, yes, Biden’s remarks were disgusting. Surely the USA is to stand for all its citizens, regardless of religion. And how, exactly, is tiny Israel to offer a refuge for all the world’s Jewry, should one be needed again? And would not Israel then become a beleaguered refuge?

Earth: we have nowhere else to go.

23

a.y.mous 03.29.15 at 3:33 pm

Is there any Jew in the US who considers Israel to be a foreign nation as much as say, Botswana or India or Argentina?

24

bianca steele 03.29.15 at 3:47 pm

Joshua,

Obviously there are differences from place to place and time to time. I was a little surprised to see your theological defense of political Zionism @16. When I was growing up, it was taken for granted, as far as I could tell, that Orthodoxy didn’t care much for Zionism. That was between the time when the AJC started helping Soviet emigres and the time when the AJC started becoming a branch of Likud, before Rabin was assassinated. I’d be surprised if any of my high school friends who took the hard-Zionist line in classroom or youth-group debates have moved to Israel.

25

mattski 03.29.15 at 3:49 pm

Is it fair to parse Biden that closely? I don’t think he’s the sort to speak especially carefully.

*Also, wasn’t it the Jews who started this whole thing about being somehow different? (Half-Jew here.)

**Guarantees. They look great on paper.

26

Jim Harrison 03.29.15 at 3:57 pm

What struck me as peculiar about Biden’s remark was the “absolute” in “There is really only one absolute guarantee.” Since when has any individual or people had an absolute guarantee of anything. Whatever you think of the moral legitimacy of Zionism, Israel was, is, and will continue to be a highly fraught entity, surrounded by enemies, and widely believed to be illegitimate. As a practical matter, isn’t West L.A. a rather safer venue than Tel Aviv? I guess it’s possible that the American right could revert to its traditional hatred of Jews or European-style left wing anti-semitism could take root in this country, but surely it is more likely that Israel’s neighbors will find the means to expel the intruders or sheer demography will eventually make an ethnic state an untenable proposition.

27

Joshua W. Burton 03.29.15 at 4:02 pm

Bianca,

The Talmud bit (Shavuot 39b, כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה) hyperlinks straight back to the curses in parshat Behukotai, specifically verse 37, “they shall stumble one upon another when none pursue.” It’s not a tidy promise that Jews will be safe when we rely upon each other, merely a warning that for this chosen people there is no other hope on offer. Ben Franklin may have had this very verse in mind when he spoke of hanging together, or separately.

28

Joshua W. Burton 03.29.15 at 4:11 pm

Jim Harrison @25: As a practical matter, isn’t West L.A. a rather safer venue than Tel Aviv?

Huh? No, not even close.

29

Layman 03.29.15 at 4:12 pm

I agree with Mattski. It’s wrong to read too much into what Biden says about anything. He is the sort who starts with an uncontroversial notion (“Israel is important to some American Jews”) and talks until Very Bad Stuff comes out. He does not mean to say that America is not a safe place for Jews, and would be stunned to discover that you thought he meant that. Just my opinion.

30

Watson Ladd 03.29.15 at 4:16 pm

Corey, why would you say that the position of US Jews is more secure than that of Jews in 1920’s Germany, or heck, Babylon? I wouldn’t say that Biden is stating that the US shouldn’t or doesn’t protect its citizens: rather, he’s pointing to the fact that this protection is a result of a particular political configuration which may change in the future. Likewise, Yugoslavia protected the rights of minorities, until one day it didn’t.

As for African-Americans, the Federal government failed to protect their rights from the election of Hayes to the 1940’s and 1950’s. It was actively complicit in discrimination. And black nationalists did claim the answer was to form another country, and there was a back-to-Africa movement. There also was a movement for securing civil rights within the US that was more successful.

We shouldn’t assume any political situation is immutable. There can be progress, there can be regression.

31

P O'Neill 03.29.15 at 4:33 pm

As mattski says, parsing Biden too closely is a tricky business e.g. Henry’s recent explained to a Washington Post audience —

he cracked a joke that is causing great unhappiness among one, somewhat unwilling group of Irish people — Ulster Unionists. When opening the door to the delegation, he joked that “if you’re wearing orange, you’re not welcome in here.”

Of course, the Orangemen are probably quite welcome in Israel.

32

Joshua W. Burton 03.29.15 at 4:42 pm

Sigh . . . kicking myself for relying on a second-hand quote, instead of going back to the source. (To be fair, it was a Goldberg article in the Atlantic, and the title was not encouraging.)

But even Goldberg, and more importantly even Biden, deserve to be engaged on what Biden actually said. Mr. Biden leads into the quote pulled here with an anecdote about meeting Golda Meir, and hearing (allegedly in first person) her quip about the Jews’ secret weapon being that “we have no place else to go.” In context, this foreign leader is clearly talking about the Jews in her charge, in Israel. And so Biden goes on to tell an American Jewish audience that the only guarantee for the six million Jews of Israel is, not the influence and engagement of the six million Jews of the US, but the survival of their own state. His audience cares about that because kol Yisrael etc., but he’s obviously not talking about a guarantee on their safety; he’s talking about a guarantee on the safety of their cousins — to whom the US makes, and can reasonably make, no promise of unconditional haven.

Let’s assume good faith in the truncation here, but now that I’ve underlined it I will think ill of anyone who continues to engage with what Biden’s quote can be misconstrued to say when so truncated. It just has nothing to do with that; Goldberg wanders off into those fever swamps without textual support.

33

William Timberman 03.29.15 at 4:46 pm

Corey @ 10

Point taken. I think, though, that other commenters have the right of it insofar as they’re taking Biden’s off-the-cuff, foot-in-mouth remark as not so much an indicator of the hidden wellsprings of government policy as of Biden’s own internal confusion. It is, after all, hardly the only example of something deeply awry in Biden’s thought processes.

In the broader context, self-determination can mean all sorts of things, but often it means something as simple as arriving a place where you can see welcoming family all around you rather than hostile strangers, even if that turns ought later to be more illusion than reality. The Jewish community in the U.S. has an admirable — and remarkably successful — record of solidarity in defending itself against bigotry, but I can also understand why someone might think that if the ADL ever failed, the IDF would still be there.

34

Joshua W. Burton 03.29.15 at 4:52 pm

In other words, Biden isn’t saying that the blacks of Mississippi should count on Liberia. He’s saying that the blacks of Liberia should count on Ellen Sirleaf (and not Pat Robertson) to bring Charles Taylor to justice. Which is a pretty uncontroversial stance, even in Mississippi.

35

oldster 03.29.15 at 4:53 pm

Thanks to JWB @31 for directing me to the original quotation.

It really makes a *big* difference to the significance of Biden’s quote if the Jews whose safety he claims is dependent on the state of Israel are exactly: Jews who live in Israel.

And having now read the original quotation, that looks like a far more plausible interpretation of what Biden meant than the interpretation according to which he was saying that *American* Jews are only safe in Israel.

Yes, yes, he was addressing an audience that contained some Americans in it, too. But his remarks were directed to the Israeli visitors. The introductory anecdote from Golda Meir makes that clear.

Corey, I think this is somewhat of a tempest in a tea-pot: JB was not saying that American Jews are only safe in Israel. He was saying that Jews in Israel are dependent for their safety on the continued stability of Israel, and quoting Meir’s “no place else to go” line in order to emphasize that.

36

Joshua W. Burton 03.29.15 at 5:08 pm

tempest in a tea-pot

Or a dsquared, to revive a happy Shakespearean coinage.

37

Corey Robin 03.29.15 at 5:17 pm

Joshua Burton and oldster:

Sorry, I think you’ve just got it wrong. For two reasons.

First, the Meier quote, which I also cite — so I was hardly trying to avoid the context of Biden’s quote — is just a setup for Biden’s to say to America’s Jews, the only guarantee for you is Israel’s existence. Syntactically, even by Biden’s standards, it makes no sense to start with Meier saying that the only guarantee for Israel’s existence is that Jews in Israel have nowhere else to go, and then to pivot from there to say to American Jews, you know above all else, despite your influence and involvement here in the US, the only guarantee for the Jews of Israel is that they have nowhere else to go. That doesn’t exactly provide a ringing endorsement to US Jews.

Second, Jeffrey Goldberg, who was actually there and reported the whole incident, and who is no friend of mine, interpreted Biden’s comments to be referring to the anxieties of American Jews for their survival. In all the commentary on this article, no one, but no one, has challenged his interpretation of that comment.

So, sorry, I think I’m on firm ground here.

38

Phil 03.29.15 at 5:21 pm

One of the quoted passages from Dana Milbank reads oddly to me:

Making sure she is Jewish in the eyes of the Jewish state gives me peace of mind. If the Gestapo ever comes again, she and her descendants will have a place to go.

For a start, “if the Gestapo ever comes again” is a bizarre phrase to these eyes. Why on earth would anyone imagine that actual Nazism would rise again, at any time in the next 80 years, say – least of all in the USA? I find it hard to imagine taking the idea of an American Nazi government even seriously enough for it to be a nightmare – it’s about as credible as Red Dawn, which is to say only a bit more credible than Iron Sky. If a lot of people out there are living with the fear that another Holocaust might actually be just around the corner… well, those are some seriously anxious people, and without much reason for being so anxious as far as I can tell. In a similar vein, I remember a Jewish friend mentioning casually, as if it needed no explanation, that for a long time after 9/11 he and his friends had been waiting “for the other shoe to drop” – as if what happened that day was only a curtain-raiser for an equally big, or bigger, attack on Israel or on Jews collectively. Thankfully it wasn’t, of course, but why would people think it would be?

But even if we take the idea of taking out neo-Gestapo insurance in 2015 seriously, how does being a Jew help Milbank’s daughter in this nightmare scenario? As a child she’ll want to stay with her parents if they emigrate, obviously, but as an adult (“she and her descendants”) surely the safe option would be not to be officially Jewish when the knock at the door comes. Besides, when the planeloads of refugees from Nazi America touch down at Tel Aviv, is the immigration authority really going to pick out the ones without attested Jewish ancestry – or without adequate documentation – and send them back? It’s a very weird fantasy, all the more weird in that Milbank seems to take it seriously enough to act on it – or at least to present himself as having acted on it.

39

Doctor Science 03.29.15 at 5:26 pm

As a liberal, religious American Jew, I know that the argument — which I’ve heard many times before — that only Israel is a truly reliable place for Jews to live is a *lie*. It may be a place that welcomes Jews … who fit certain definitions of “Jewish” … but it is *not* a place where Judaism as I know and believe in it can be practiced.

For instance, it’s not a place where my friend, the female Jewish Renewal rabbi, could perform a marriage for my other friends, the gay men. It’s not a place where Bat Mitzvahs are a normal part of the Jewish life cycle. Even Jeffrey Goldberg has said:

It has been true for decades that Jews in the U.S. have more freedom of religion than Jews in Israel

And what kind of Jewish refuge is it, really, where we can’t practice Judaism as we understand it, and as we feel it is best for us to do?

Israel is a bait-and-switch. The idea that we should depend on a nation, *any* nation, for Jewish existence is idolatry, because there’s only One we should depend on. Not all Jews who wander are lost.

40

Corey Robin 03.29.15 at 5:26 pm

Here’s what Goldberg goes onto say (many paragraphs’ worth) after reporting that Biden comment. Again, this story ran a few weeks ago. You would think that if Biden had an issue with Goldberg’s (and my) interpretation of his comment, his press handlers would have issued a clarification or something. But no one has. So, until it can be shown that a commenter on a Crooked Timber thread has suddenly found the true and secret meaning of Joe Biden’s utterances — meanings that were previously unknown to the journalist who reported on them, to the many journalists who commented on this journalist’s article, or to the Vice President who uttered them and then failed to disavow the meaning ascribed to them by said journalist — I’ll not worry about this much.

Again, this is what Goldberg says immediately after reporting Biden’s comments:

“There was applause, and then photos, and then kosher canapés. I will admit to being confused by Biden’s understanding of the relationship between America and its Jewish citizens. The vice president, it seemed to me, was trafficking in antiquated notions about Jewish anxiety.

“Nearly 30 years ago, I moved to Israel, in part because I wanted to participate in the drama of Jewish national self-determination, but also because I believed that life in the Diaspora, including the American Diaspora, wasn’t particularly safe for Jews, or Judaism. Several years in Israel, and some sober thinking about the American Jewish condition, cured me of that particular belief.

“I suspect that quite a few American Jews believe, as Biden does, that Jews can find greater safety in Israel than in America—but I imagine that they are mainly of Biden’s generation, or older.

“A large majority of American Jews feels affection for Israel, and is concerned for its safety, and understands the role it plays as a home of last resort for endangered brethren around the world. But very few American Jews, in my experience, believe they will ever need to make use of the Israeli lifeboat. The American Jewish community faces enormous challenges, but these mainly have to do with assimilation, and with maintaining cultural identity and religious commitment. To be sure, anti-Semitism exists in the United States—and in my experience, some European Jewish leaders are quite ready to furnish examples to anyone suggesting that European Jews might be better off in America. According to the latest FBI statistics, from 2013, Jews are by far the most-frequent victims of religiously motivated hate crimes in America. But this is still anti-Semitism on the margins. A recent Pew poll found that Jews are also the most warmly regarded religious group in America.”

Again, neither Joe Biden nor the people in the audience have disavowed this interpretation, which Goldberg (whose writing is read, we all know, very closely by the White House) and The Atlantic published two to three weeks ago. The piece has been discussed on NPR, in Slate, and elsewhere.

41

Harold 03.29.15 at 5:28 pm

Biden is mindlessly echoing Netanyahu’s line, when in fact, Jews are leaving Israel in droves. NY is filled with ex-pats.

We could turn it around. Where would Israel be without the US?

42

Joshua W. Burton 03.29.15 at 5:32 pm

Not quite what Biden’s saying. My emendation of your paraphrase in bold: … to start with Meir saying that the hidden bulwark (though no guarantee) for Israel’s existence is that Jews in Israel have nowhere else to go, and then to pivot from there to say to American Jews, you know above all else, despite your influence and involvement here in the US, the only guarantee for the Jews of Israel is Israel’s existence, because after all they have nowhere else to go.

As I said, I’m done with it now that the whole quote is available here. Think as you like.

43

oldster 03.29.15 at 5:48 pm

There is some ambiguity over what the statement meant. You chose to run with the most inflammatory reading, while not even alerting your readers to the existence of an equally plausible innocuous reading.

(Yes, equally plausible, if not more so. If you think it is significant that the White House has not clarified the ambiguity, then let me introduce you to the term “strategic ambiguity.”)

This is the behavior of a clickbait artist, not a scholar. You need to decide which one you are.

44

Corey Robin 03.29.15 at 6:01 pm

“equally plausible, if not more so.”

And yet somehow, despite this story having been reported two weeks ago, despite the fact the reporter who heard the comments and reported them interpreting them exactly as I have, despite the fact that numerous other journalists who have reported on this article have accepted this interpretation, no one till now has come up with this “equally plausible, if not more so” interpretation.

The reason I “chose to run” with it as I have is that everyone in an actual position to interpret it has interpreted it exactly as I have.

45

Gator90 03.29.15 at 6:07 pm

@Corey Robin

Warren Terra has the better of the argument regarding the US as a historical haven for persecuted Jews. Your assertion is, at best, historically accurate in a limited way, some of the time.

46

Main Street Muse 03.29.15 at 6:21 pm

I have no idea where Biden is coming from – but I find that to be true of any number of things he says.

Were there Jews in the audience who were outraged? If not, why not? Is there a sense that Israel is indeed the haven for American Jews? IS anti-semitism on the rise in America – enough so that Jewish Americans feel threatened (my Jewish friends do not seem to feel this kind of dire threat – but perhaps I’m not in the right crowd here in the South.)

To Brad Delong, I must respectively disagree with the blanket you’ve thrown over “Christian” – I’ve moved from a heavily Catholic region in the north to south of the Mason-Dixon line – Christian is defined not just by “Christianity” but by the type of Christianity and by the individual church as well. (Methodists view the world differently than the Baptists who are different from Congregationalists – and the Baptists choose to establish their identity with a particular church and minister, etc.) There are so few Catholics as to be viewed with an antique suspicion as not quite “Christian” enough. Of course Jews are even fewer…

But I don’t hear anyone filled with absolute hatred of Jews (i.e I don’t feel I’ve moved to the Third Reich just yet.) Although my state did recently float the idea of establishing a state religion…

47

Robert Hirsch 03.29.15 at 6:21 pm

First reaction, utter disbelief. Second reaction, Obama is his boss. This is why I have a license to carry. We will never let what happened in Europe happen here. We will not go down without a fight. We financed the American revolution. Fought and died in every war that America has fought. We believe in freedom for all. Yes, I am a Jew first, but I am a Jewish American. I will fight and maybe die protecting your freedom Mr. Biden. I expect no less from you. If you or any other soul that calls him or herself an American, and is unwilling to make that commitment, then he of she should surrender their American citizenship and return to whence they came or plan to reside in HELL.

48

Mike Schilling 03.29.15 at 6:25 pm

America’s current tolerance towards Jews will never change, and the fact that the United States was almost entirely unwilling to accept Jewish refugees from Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe is wholly irrelevant to this discussion.

49

Cranky Observer 03.29.15 at 6:37 pm

– – – – – America’s current tolerance towards Jews will never change, and the fact that the United States was almost entirely unwilling to accept Jewish refugees from Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe is wholly irrelevant to this discussion. – – – – –

Given the incredible growth of hard right wing christianism over the last 30 years and its apparently insatiable appetite for persecution complexes and imposing itself on others through government I would personally be quite hesitant to use the world ‘never’.

50

Mike Schilling 03.29.15 at 6:43 pm

Good thing I was being sarcastic then :-)

And the current evangelical infatuation with Jews is fairly recent. Back in the 70s, under the leadership of Doctor Falwell, the consensus was that Jews, like all unbelievers, are going to Hell and there’s a Christian duty to convert them.

51

Doctor Science 03.29.15 at 6:50 pm

Almost every time I go to shul (Reform), someone publicly says something like “Israel is the only absolute refuge for Jews” or even “Jewish survival in America depends on Israel” (I have no idea how that’s supposed to work). As Corey says @39, quoting Goldberg, the idea that Jews can find more safety in Israel than America is quite common among Jews of Biden’s generation — which is also the campaign- and congregation-donor generation.

I figured the point of Corey’s posts was, among other things, to let that group of Jews (and their gentile friends, like Biden) know that many other Jews don’t see it that way — and that younger Jews are especially unlikely to see it that way.

I’m adding that this may be even more true for those of us who are religious & non-Orthodox. Israel offers a “place of refuge” where we can’t practice Judaism as we do in America: how can that *possibly* be better?

But, coming from a religious perspective, what do you expect from people (not just Biden by any means) who say “There is really only one absolute guarantee, and that’s the state of Israel”. That makes a WARNING WARNING BEEP BEEP sound in my head, because I remember that there’s only One who’s supposed to be my refuge, my rock, my safety, my absolute and enduring guarantee. That’s why I say it’s idolatry: it’s putting a thing in the place of the One.

52

Rich Puchalsky 03.29.15 at 6:53 pm

Here’s a poem I wrote about related subjects a while back:

After Langston Hughes

Some swear “America will be!”
What has this country been to me?
Parent’s parents came here bereft
Found a better place than they left
And here almost a century
We’ve lingered – yet eventually
We will move on. Is this a dream
Better, greater than those we’ve seen?

Should we have stayed in Babylon?
Settled in the empire of Rome?
Converted to the faith of Spain?
Upheld the Tsar, not left again?

Langston Hughes says we must redeem
The rotting flower of the dream
The beauty that hides in its bloom
Our Leader and our own rape rooms
Can America be made real?
Hasn’t by now, it never will
Always ahead, that’s what I’ve heard:
What happens to a dream deferred?

This place is mighty crush the weak
A dream is not the land we seek
What our history has made clear
Those who died for dreams aren’t here

53

Joshua W. Burton 03.29.15 at 6:59 pm

[Private to oldster, nothing of general interest.]

It’s interesting that the version of this tediously often repeated Biden soundbite for which we have an official transcript leaves no room for ambiguity about which Jews at risk this story habitually brings to his mind.

“That trip was almost four decades ago, but I remember it as clearly as if it happened yesterday. And it drove home all that my father had spoken of — randomly, occasionally but consistently — over the previous 15 years. And he told me as a young boy, that Israel and Jews in the world had no place else to go with absolute certitude.”

This is Biden speaking at a remove of fifty years about what for him was apparently a formative political verity, compatible with the American patriotism that drove him into public service. “Israel and Jews in the world” from 1958-73 could mean North Africa; it could certainly mean the Soviet Union. It could allude back to the huge aliyah of the previous decade, to the DP camps in Europe, and to the Ship of Fools and other desperate stories of the Holocaust years. It could look forward retrospectively to Jews in distress in Ethiopia or almost anywhere. What it cannot mean, in the plain sense of this sourced version of the speech, is Obama’s steadfast America.

54

Bernard Yomtov 03.29.15 at 7:00 pm

I just want to endorse the various comments by Warren Terra and Mike Schilling.

I hope that, since Corey seems to have retired from this argument, he is doing some further reading on the topic, which will enlighten him.

55

Joshua W. Burton 03.29.15 at 7:31 pm

I’m adding that this may be even more true for those of us who are religious & non-Orthodox. Israel offers a “place of refuge” where we can’t practice Judaism as we do in America: how can that *possibly* be better?

Depends what we’re doing it for — I agree it can’t possibly be easier. (זָכַרְנוּ, אֶת-הַדָּגָה, אֲשֶׁר-נֹאכַל בְּמִצְרַיִם, חִנָּם; אֵת הַקִּשֻּׁאִים, וְאֵת הָאֲבַטִּחִים, וְאֶת-הֶחָצִיר וְאֶת-הַבְּצָלִים, וְאֶת-הַשּׁוּמִים.)

56

bianca steele 03.29.15 at 7:46 pm

Phil,

Unless Israel changes its laws, the child of a gentile mother and Jewish father would be considered Jewish enough to get asylum in Israel. (If the mother were Irish, she could move there instead.). But she couldn’t be married there, even if her US synagogue had considered her a member by reason of patrilineal descent. In effect, the reasoning seems to be that someday all Jews may be legally required to live under a strict interpretation of Orthodoxy, so maybe make sure in advance not to violate that.

57

LFC 03.29.15 at 8:09 pm

I happened to hear this morning, re-broadcast on C-Span radio, a good chunk of Ted Cruz’s frightful (and actually also somewhat frightening) announcement-of-his-candidacy speech at Liberty University. One of the biggest applause lines was Cruz saying that, unlike Obama, he would not “boycott” (Cruz used that word, as I recall) Netanyahu but embrace him. The whole audience, presumably made up entirely of conservative and/or evangelical Christians, burst into lengthy and loud applause.

I agree w Corey that what Biden said is somewhat weird and troubling (though possibly explicable, as some commenters suggest, by Biden’s age (i.e., the generation he belongs to) and what his father told him when he was a little kid). But I find the right-wing Christian/right-wing Israeli connection rather more troubling.

Of course what Cruz doesn’t bother to say is that Obama (unfortunately in my view) has in no way tried to diminish US military support of and cooperation with Israel, despite Obama’s obvious lack of pleasure about some of Netanyahu’s statements during the recent Israeli election campaign.

I don’t mean to derail the thread — you all can go back to arguing about what Biden meant, etc. etc.

58

Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant 03.29.15 at 8:21 pm

Let us pretend that the U.S. really did go neo-Gestapo, and Biden’s “guarantee” of Israel as the refuge of last resort for the world’s Jews was to be tested.

Does not that “guarantee” in its current state at least require the continued support that Israel has always enjoyed as a client state of the U.S.? If a neo-Gestapo U.S. were to come to pass, would not such support cease? Absent this support, how long could Israel continue to sustain any massive influx of refugees fleeing from the U.S. and, quite possibly, other nations? Does anyone think that an America that Jews would to have flee from would find an Israel still cashing American foreign aid checks? Does anyone think the member nations of the UN or the European Union would likely increase the draining of their own national treasuries to pick up the slack, especially given the history of Israel’s own behavior toward the Palestinians?

I suspect that Biden’s real “guarantee” is NOT that Israel will always be the Jews’ safe harbor of last resort so much as he is “guarantee”-ing that the U.S. will continue to support the State of Israel even if things go downhill for Jews living in the U.S. — and that this is the real vouchsafing of all the world’s Jews. The un-thought-through-ness of Biden’s comments is the real eye-catcher here: Biden would need to parse out just how is Israel to remain the Jews’ bullet-proof “panic room” if the politics of American life for Jews should somehow take a turn for the worse.

Biden was clearly pandering. But his rouser was not flattery to Israel’s promise to Jews so much as it was flattery to America’s continued promise to Israel. He appears not to have considered the implications of how it can be that an unpleasant turn of events in the U.S. for American Jews would not ultimately redound to an unpleasant turn of events for the State of Israel’s continued status as an American client state.

59

Aulus Gellius 03.29.15 at 8:54 pm

I think it’s possible to believe both that there’s some truth to Biden’s words and that he shouldn’t have said them. I can buy the idea that we shouldn’t entirely trust the Gentile majority to protect us, whether or not that implies that Israel is the best solution. And I don’t really object when other American Jews wax cynical about the trustworthiness of the US (or other countries) in this regard. But when a high-ranking non-Jewish member of the US government says it, it sounds uncomfortably like a threat, or at least a disconcerting lack of intention to do anything about the problem.

I’m usually suspicious of this kind of thing, but Corey’s hypotheticals about other minorities seem apt here. Obviously, it’s pretty sensible for Blacks, Native Americans, Hispanics and others to distrust US promises of support; but the US should, nevertheless, keep promising to support them, not start saying “hey, we’re clearly a bunch of jerks, you’d better find someone else to help you out.” It’s one thing to say “don’t look to the government to protect you,” and quite another for the government to say “don’t look to us to protect you.”

On the other hand, is there really anything more going on here than somewhat clumsy pandering? Biden is trying to echo the kind of language very regularly used by pro-Israel Jews, and neither he nor his speechwriter noticed the problem with putting this kind of language in the mouth of a Gentile vice-president.

60

LFC 03.29.15 at 9:26 pm

Donald Pruden Jr. @58 makes an interesting pt.

Btw re Biden: I vaguely recall reading, I think in a New Yorker pce some yrs ago, a criticism of his lecturing of Vaclav Havel about something or other when Biden was on a trip to the Czech Republic? or maybe still Czechoslovakia at that pt? when he was chair of the Senate For. Rels. Cte. Sorry, very vague, and not taking the time to look it up. OTOH, as chair of the Senate For Rel Cte Biden did learn a certain amt about the world. Some of what he said about Iraq after the ’03 invasion, around ’05-06, now looks somewhat prescient. Biden is not dumb, but he sometimes says dumb things, and as anyone who recalls his performances as a member of the Judiciary Cte questioning Sup Ct nominees will realize, he has never really known when he has talked enough and when the time is to shut up.

61

mattski 03.29.15 at 9:35 pm

A sort-of response to Doctor Science.

A group identity is a double-edged sword. It provides us with ready made friends and ready made enemies. It provides us with a feeling of belonging and a feeling of identity. It provides a pretext for abuse. The Egyptians enslaved the Jews at least in part because the Jews were a distinctly identifiable minority. Europeans and Americans enslaved Africans in no small part because of the convenience of skin color as a distinguishing characteristic.

The Jewish tradition includes a lot of emphasis on ‘otherness,’ which I think has a tendency towards some vicious cycles:

-We were persecuted, so we turned inward.
-Turning inward made it easier to say things like, ‘chosen by God.’
-We turned inward, so we were persecuted.

ISTM all religion grows up around the universal spiritual experience of selfless rapture, often referred to as “revelation,” and inevitably the institutions that accrete around spiritual leaders become corrupted and removed from their original inspiration. The mystical experience–deep and not really translatable into words–of oneness, of the sameness of human life is what gives rise to moral teachings like Hillel’s One Leg.

The highest calling of religion, in so far as it reflects these universal spiritual truths, is the abandoning of separation between self and other. So, I hold out hope that parochial religious identity, slowly and surely, dissolves as it progresses.

62

Doctor Science 03.29.15 at 9:53 pm

Joshua @55:

alas, I not Hebrew-enabled, and copy&pasting into google translate doesn’t seem to work. What does your Hebrew say?

63

Joshua W. Burton 03.29.15 at 10:21 pm

Sorry to be obscure — was trying to be friendly, one liberal religious Jew to another. Numbers 11:5. And a happy and kosher Pesaḥ to you and the whole Science family!

64

Doctor Science 03.29.15 at 10:54 pm

Joshua:

Thank you! Tonight is in fact chicken broth/stock-making night (for the matzoh ball soup, natch). Mr Dr Science is making a dinner tonight of Tortellini Alfredo, as part of All Chametz All the Time week. We’re not highly observant, but we do go without flour products for the full time of Pesach.

65

William Berry 03.29.15 at 10:58 pm

Well, yeah, it is an alarming statement.

But, I think it says a lot more about JB’s fitness as (potential) president than it does about the status of Jews in the U.S.

(Draft Warren for 2016)

66

Mike Schilling 03.29.15 at 11:36 pm

#65

Warren has made a lot of valid points in this thread, but as far as I know he’s not interested in running for office.

67

eddie 03.29.15 at 11:41 pm

” Why does Israel offer protection? What is the mechanism by which this happens? ”

The same way american police forces offer protection, aparrently; by assassinating the children of poor brown people.

68

Tabasco 03.29.15 at 11:43 pm

According to Netanyahu, Jews in Israel are existentially threatened by their Arab and Muslim neighbors. For the sake of argument, assume he’s right. This isn’t going to change in any time soon. It’s been going on for 67 years. Why not another 67? Or a another 670?

Whose life is more secure, a Jew in New York or a Jew in Tel Aviv?

Robert Hirsch 47: Obama is not Biden’s boss. He can’t fire him. Biden was elected just like Obama.

69

JM Hatch 03.30.15 at 12:17 am

So Joe Biden just admitted the Constitution is a useless piece of parchment, what’s new. Now, I want to know what about the rest of us, what’s our external guarantee? I know there isn’t one if your black, native (American doesn’t seem quite right), Polynesian (Hawaiian, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands). The aboriginals are still in for a long, slow screwing over.

As to the rest of us, I hope it’s something better than some racists nation occupying land forcibly removed from the owners and surrounded by people who want us dead…. wait, did I just describe the history of the Israel or the USA, no wonder we have a special relationship.

70

bianca steele 03.30.15 at 1:10 am

I want to second Dr. Science’s note about the strange ring “guarantee” has to it. It sounds like it wandered in from a different discourse, at least to me. With most politicians, you’d blame the speechwriters and dismiss it, in this case there’s the history to consider, but either way, most likely it’s at worst not thought through and at best tossed off with no real significance to the exact wording. Still, it seems poorly chosen.

71

Corey Robin 03.30.15 at 1:16 am

I wrote a long response at my blog to four criticisms of my column, some of which appeared here.

Here it is:

http://coreyrobin.com/2015/03/29/more-on-biden-and-the-jews-a-response-to-critics-of-my-salon-column/

72

derrida derider 03.30.15 at 1:32 am

Actually, one of the things that has always puzzled me about Zionists, especially those more attracted to the Likud view of the world, is this apparent contradiction.

Israel is supposed to be the only safe place for a Jew because all the goyim are infected by the Original Sin of Anti-Semitism and cannot be trusted not to have an sudden outbreak of that disease no matter how cuddly, tolerant and democratic they pretend to be. Yet on the other hand we all should unconditionally support Israel because it is a precarious and embattled little state in constant threat of liquidation by powerful, irreconcilable and genocidal enemies; hardly a safe haven.

Both tenets seem flatly untrue to me, but true or not they surely contradict each other.

73

Joshua W. Burton 03.30.15 at 1:46 am

[Private to oldster, again.]

Have you ever had a student who just gets things wronger and wronger when asked to read more closely? Re @71, take a particularly critical look at the word “hospitable” in the paragraph cited by the OP.

(1) US Jews being hospitable will not suffice to guarantee their own safety.

(2) US Jews being hospitable will not suffice to guarantee the safety of Israeli or other non-US Jews needing hospitality.

A desperate attempt might be made to save the first reading by intuiting something like:

(1a) US non-Jews (“you”) being hospitable will not suffice to guarantee the safety of US Jews (also “you”).

But, you know, there comes a point.

74

Roger Gathmann 03.30.15 at 2:08 am

This is related to a recent article about attitude of certain american jews to european jews here: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/121388/why-jews-arent-leaving-europe-contra-atlantics-jeffrey-goldberg
There seems to be the idea that Jews en masse are emigrated or wanting to emigrate to Israel from, like, France. More French jews have recently moved to Israel, but I’d bet more have also moved to London. The economy, innit.
We’ve reached the point where a certain nationalist romanticism starts attacking the culture that doesn’t fit into its narrow agenda viz. Israel and the Jews.
This isn’t good.

75

Corey Robin 03.30.15 at 2:21 am

Joshua W. Burton: Only problem with your close reading of my post is that your #1 is not at all my interpretation. Remember that differentiation between the nominative and accusative case, between the subject and object of a sentence, that you learned in grade school? That might be of some help to you here, since you’re confusing the two.

But you still have the problem that the person who heard and first reported the quote thinks you’re wrong. As does the rest of the journalistic community. In fact, in all the weeks that this story — which was fact checked by the fact checkers at The Altantic and edited by its editors — has been reported and discussed in other columns — which were also edited by editors trained to catch mistakes like this — the only person who has interpreted the statement in the way you have is…you. And your alte kocker friend here. Far be it from me to question a revisionist reading of a text, but to take off, revisionism usually needs an endorsement or two from more than the revisionist himself.

76

oldster 03.30.15 at 2:42 am

1) I apologize for the “clickbait” line, which was unnecessarily harsh.

2) *If* JB thought that he was addressing a group consisting solely of American Jews, and intended to tell them that *their* only safety lies in Israel, then I endorse your response of alarm.

3) Like many above, I find the idea that any state can guarantee safety to any person or group a laughable fiction. No one is safe anywhere. Jews are not safe in America; Jews are less safe in Israel. Germans are not safe in Germany, French are not safe in France, Indians are not safe in India and Chinese are not safe in China. We all live at the sufferance of others, and at any moment hysteria can be whipped up to get me killed for a half-dozen reasons. Indigenous peoples have never been safe in their own lands; sometimes they were safer in lands to which they emigrated, sometimes not.

I understand why states conspire to pretend that their “guarantees” are not fictions, and I understand why some people fervently wish they were not fictions. But they are.

4) The real factual issue that will decide between the reading Goldberg et al. adopt and the reading that JWB proposed is this: did JB believe he was addressing citizens of Israel in a mixed crowd of some Israelis and some Americans? Golberg does not give a full guest-list: he mentions “political supporters, leaders of Jewish organizations, members of Congress, Jewish officials of the Obama administration, and the stray journalist or two,” but does not say whether there were, e.g., ambassadorial staff from the Israeli embassy.

Given the event, it seems to be me highly likely that there were Israeli citizens in the mix, and that JB’s comments were directed to them. Accordingly, there is no “pivot” to addressing American Jews: he was addressing Israeli citizens throughout.

It would be nice to have a guest-list for the event. I’ll ask Jill the next time I drop by the Observatory.

77

Joshua W. Burton 03.30.15 at 2:45 am

Biden: “You understand in your bones that no matter how hospitable … you are in the United States”

Robin: “When Biden says “hospitable,” whom is he speaking of? Whom does he mean the US is being hospitable to?”

There’s definitely a subject/object problem as between these two. I’ll put a stake in the ground and say, as a native English speaker, that “you” (listeners, US Jews) and not “the United States” is the subject of the dependent clause in the first sentence, and that “are”, being a copulative, does not admit of an accusative. Further, without some imaginative leap like my (1a) @73, the imputed “hospitable to” finds no indirect object for which “whom” in the second sentence is grammatically salvageable.

78

stevenjohnson 03.30.15 at 2:49 am

Biden was burbling Zionism. The OP discovers that this has an implicit view of Jews as not being part of the American people. Zionism is about Jews taking their God-given land, Palestine, back precisely because Jews are not part of any other people and can’t be equal without their own God-given land. I’m not quite sure what the OP really thinks, if its position is thought out at all. Is the proposition that Biden/Democrats/liberals/whomever espouse a Christian Zionism because they want Jews in Israel instead of here? Absent mass telepathic polling, no one can know for certain I think. My best guess is that kind of thing is much more likely true of the apocalypticists, who are not an insignificant minority, even if they are a despised one.

Or, is the proposition that it bespeaks a shocking lack of commitment to the fundamentals of a civilized society and democratic government, to be unable to even promise, not even lyingly with a secret snigger, elementary survival to the rabble citizenry? Two thousand years ago the primitive Romans, worshipping idols and sacrificing gladiators as entertainment, could at least provide peace and order. The modern American empire promises only endless war. Minioins boast of their master pondering drone murder lists to inspire respect for him. I’m sorry but being shocked at this loser hack politician’s minor gaffe seems overblown.

Perhaps the proposition should be that Zionism is not philoSemitism? Personally I’m convinced this is incontestably true of Christian Zionism, but I’s pretty sure you can make a strong case it’s true of all Zionism.

79

Joshua W. Burton 03.30.15 at 3:14 am

oldster @76: The real factual issue that will decide between the reading Goldberg et al. adopt and the reading that JWB proposed is this: did JB believe he was addressing citizens of Israel in a mixed crowd of some Israelis and some Americans?

No. Stipulating an exclusively American audience (as I did; I have no information about Israelis in the crowd if any), the “you” becomes US Jews throughout, and the guarantee remains, as a natural segue from the Golda anecdote (and as explicitly stated in the 2010 paraphrase of the same speech I cited @53) a guarantee for Jews of Israel and of (other parts of) the world.

I am not sure I understand your objection to Biden addressing US Jews (no pivot) with the safety of Israeli Jews the topic, if indeed you have one. The safety of Israeli Jews is, after all, the primary foreign policy concern of US Jews who would come out to hear this speech.

“Clickbait” was indeed harsh, if you don’t mind my saying so, and your apology pleases me as I hope it will the OP. Imputing bad motives is, even in extreme cases, less charitable than disputing a misreading.

80

LFC 03.30.15 at 3:20 am

I’ve decided on a bit of further reflection that I don’t really care much what Joe Biden said about Israel and American Jews “to a group of invited guests.” One has to take into account the speaker (crucial here, given what anyone who has listened to Biden over the years has come to expect in terms of awkwardness, etc.) and the audience (presumably mostly a group of well-heeled donors or potential donors).

Obama, in the course of a recent news conference, went out of his way to say that US military cooperation with Israel wd “continue unabated” (I believe that’s a direct quote), that the US remains committed to ensuring Israel’s “military edge” in the region. Even when proclaiming the need to re-evaluate the US’s stance on the currently moribund ‘peace process’ as a result of Netanyahu’s remarks during the campaign about a two-state solution, Obama feels compelled to ensure everyone that the flow of US military aid to Israel will continue undiminished. (It probably has to, by congressional mandate, having already been authorized, but Obama made a point of emphasizing it.) In that context, should *anything* Biden said several months ago about Israel really surprise anyone much?

81

Joshua W. Burton 03.30.15 at 3:25 am

In fact, it all comes down to the first quoted sentence (and the Golda quote before it).

“She looked straight ahead and she said, ‘We [Israelis] have no place else to go.’” He paused, and repeated: “‘We [Israelis, she told me] have no place else to go.’”

“Folks,” he continued, “there is no place else [for X] to go, and you [US Jews] understand that in your bones.

Solving for X, I get “Israelis” as the unique answer consistent with the natural flow of the speech, with the “hospitable” remark that follows, and with other deliveries of the speech on public record. Goldberg reads it differently, but he’s a troll with a known agenda. People responding to Goldberg read it differently, but they wouldn’t be responding to him if they couldn’t contrive a case that he is saying something.

82

LFC 03.30.15 at 3:29 am

I also don’t really care about whether JB was referring to the safety of American or Israeli Jews. However, as a matter of language and context and audience, I think Corey’s reading (following Goldberg et al) makes more sense. The “hospitable” is awkward, but it seems JB is either misusing the word in this context, mixing up his “you”s — i.e., two different subjects in one phrase — or both. It’s Biden. The English language is not always his friend.

83

LFC 03.30.15 at 3:34 am

@Joshua Burton 81
One problem is that you’re assuming Biden is using “hospitable” correctly and appropriately in the context, which is, IMO, a somewhat dubious assumption. He cd have meant “hospitable” as in: you [US Jews] being ‘friendly to’, i.e. part of, American life. That wd be consistent with “engaged”, “deeply involved,” etc. Or he cd have been mixing up two subjects in one phrase.

84

Joshua W. Burton 03.30.15 at 3:43 am

LFC @83: Sure, but why suppose incoherence in service of perfidy as a null hypothesis? The other way [X = Israelis] is grammatically sound, politically shrewd, patriotically clean, and pleasing to an American Jewish audience. It is also what he said in 2010, what he seems to have said in 2013, and what every American Jew who has quoted that Golda quip in my hearing in the last thirty years has meant.

It’s not what Netanyahu would say if he were quoting Golda, but on the day when Bibi quotes Golda we can ask the Messiah exactly what he meant.

85

Jake 03.30.15 at 3:53 am

Is Corey actually making the argument that if Jonah “Liberal Fascism” Goldverg said it that it must be true?

This must be a first in the history of Crooked Timber.

86

Joshua W. Burton 03.30.15 at 4:03 am

Jake @85: You go to Salon with the foil you have, not the foil you wish you had. And this is Jeffrey “Prisoners” Goldberg, not Jonah “Liberal Fascism” Goldberg.

87

Jake 03.30.15 at 4:08 am

Ah, I knew it was too weird to be true.

88

Anarcissie 03.30.15 at 4:25 am

I think Biden knew what he was saying and believed he had to say it, because of the fetishization I mentioned earlier. The logical expansion of Biden’s thought is, of course, close to nonsense: if the U.S., a secular liberal democracy not attached to any particular religion or ethnicity, must support Israel because Jews might be threatened at some time in the future and can find safety only in a state of their own, then the rule is: for any group X where X might be threatened, X must have a state of its own and the U.S. must support it. There must be hundreds or thousands of such groups. Clearly Biden could not sensibly intend this consequence; so, in echoing certain kinds of Zionist discourse, Biden must be merely paying homage to a version of the fetish. The statement was not supposed to make a lot of sense, but to resonate the discourse.

A fetish is an object which stands for something else. For Jews with an affection for or other attachment to Israel, it is reasonable to suppose that Israel can stand for a recognition of their status in the world and the American political community. Because of Israel, they can’t be made into subhuman ‘stateless persons’ as they were in the leadup to the Holocaust. This is completely reasonable. But the valence of the fetish for those who are not Jews is more mysterious to me. Biden, of course, may be simply taking care of the Democratic Party’s plantation, but that doesn’t apply to most of the American Right’s fetishization, which seems particularly intense and yet quite disconnected from the material interests and personal concerns of its adherents.

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bad Jim 03.30.15 at 6:10 am

When did Palestine’s Jewish population exceed that of the U.S.? Probably in the aftermath of World War II. Before the 1920’s, America was the homeland of the Jews. It wasn’t much of a sanctuary between then and the 60’s, and perhaps millions died because of that, but historically America has been a place where Jews did pretty well. Both my senators are Jewish as is a third of the Supreme Court.

As an American, I strenuously object to the notion that members of a persecuted religious group are only safe in a country they control. That was surely the motivation of the Puritans in Massachusetts, but the Constitution put in place a guarantee of universal liberty of conscience, ““a Government which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance” , which has proven to be a more robust solution than the alternatives. An immense landmass separated by oceans from traditional theocracies has perhaps also been helpful.

Of course Jews have faced discrimination in the U.S. So have most immigrant groups. It’s always been a brutal country, but it’s also a very big country. Wall Street shut out anyone who wasn’t a white-shoe Yankee, one among many equal-opportunity bigots. So? Movies are a new thing, no gatekeepers, and California provides sunlight nearly year-round, thus Hollywood. My state also seems to be an alternative homeland for Armenians, Iranians, Vietnamese, Cambodians, what have you, as I’m reminded whenever I’m mailed a ballot pamphlet with notices in half a dozen alphabets.

The American model identifies safety and strength with liberty and diversity. That’s not to say we do a good of living up to our ideals, just that historically it’s been a place where refugees have thrived.

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George Berger 03.30.15 at 8:04 am

Biden’s statement does not surprise me, though we cannot know if it is true. Born in New York City, I lived in the Netherlands for 36+ years and, since 2009, in Sweden. Also in other countries for brief periods. I am an atheistic Jew. In all three countries I was at times exposed to dangerous anti-Semitism, especially in the Netherlands. Sweden has an active neo-Nazi movement that has wormed itself into local and national government. There is no way I can feel fully secure in these countries. Now, even if Mr Biden is right today, Israeli politics might prove him wrong tomorrow. How can he be sure of my standing invitation? The feeling of insecurity is backed by history and the uncertainty of the near future.

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Warren Terra 03.30.15 at 8:06 am

@ Bad Jim, #89
Without looking up the numbers, I would be extremely strongly inclined to suspect that before the 1920s Poland was the homeland of the Jews, or perhaps the Tsarist Russian Empire was.

And considering that two branches of our government are controlled by a bunch of neanderthals who are openly hostile to everyone who isn’t a conservative Christian like themselves, and usually a White one, the picture you paint of an inclusive and diverse America is strikingly incomplete. Sure, it describes the urban, educated society I live in, too – but it’s not a nation all of our compatriots live in; it might not even be the one the majority live in.

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bad Jim 03.30.15 at 8:44 am

In a more jocular mode: when I was young, it seemed obvious that, as a desert, Southern California was an appropriate homeland for the Jews. But Herzl and his followers lived in temperate climate zones where rain was not a rarity and even snow was not an apocalyptic apparition. So why pick the most barren edge of the Mediterranean? Because of scripture?

“Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronen blühn?” I get that; it’s why my Swedish grandfather moved to America, a warm country where all sorts of fruits grow that you can’t get at home. That’s an aspiration, not a birthright.

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Ronan(rf) 03.30.15 at 10:19 am

I guess as an outsider to US politics Im missing something, as I tend to agree with Phil @38 that Dana Milbank’s sentence is bizarre and irrational on every level. It strikes me as being up there, logically,with the thinking behind the militia movements arming against Obama.

On the sentence from Corey Robin that is causing such consternation :

“A country that once offered itself as a haven to persecuted Jews across the world”

If it was tweaked ever so slightly to:

“A country that (relative to any country in modern world history, with the exception of Israel) has offered itself as a haven to persecuted Jews across the world”

Would this be accurate ?

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Phil 03.30.15 at 10:32 am

stevenjohnson: Perhaps the proposition should be that Zionism is not philoSemitism? Personally I’m convinced this is incontestably true of Christian Zionism, but I’s pretty sure you can make a strong case it’s true of all Zionism.

I’m of the opinion that Biden’s logic is too weird to be read straight and needs decoding (this also goes for Dana Milbank’s, as I said @38). I think one of the messages is, precisely, that non-Jewish Zionism is at best orthogonal to philo-semitism. I also agree with Anarcissie @88:

in echoing certain kinds of Zionist discourse, Biden must be merely paying homage to a version of the fetish [of Israel]. … A fetish is an object which stands for something else. For Jews with an affection for or other attachment to Israel, it is reasonable to suppose that Israel can stand for a recognition of their status in the world and the American political community.

and with Donald Pruden Jr @58:

Biden was clearly pandering. But his rouser was not flattery to Israel’s promise to Jews so much as it was flattery to America’s continued promise to Israel.

In short, I think we’ve been reading this the wrong way round. Biden’s starting-point is the US commitment to Israel, which is real & seemingly unshakeable (for whatever reason). He talks about Israel because it’s a way of reminding his audience of that commitment; he wants to remind them because he thinks it matters a lot to them; and he thinks it matters to them because he thinks they’re Jews and therefore not like us.

It’s a bit like dsquared’s crack about certain British anti-racist groups – they’re vigilant for any hint of anti-semitism, because left unchecked it could develop into criticism of Israel. Israel is the geopolitical reality for Biden; American Jews are just these shmucks who have this big thing about it.

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jwl 03.30.15 at 10:58 am

Corey Robin, your writeup was particularly illuminating for me.

You’re descended, like many Americans from one of the lucky ones. Your ancestors made it as Jews in a largely non-Jewish country, and you view that as normal and possibly even desirable.

Israelis are largely descended from the unlucky ones. They lost their relatives, their homes, became refugees and DPs, because their own countries didn’t want them and other countries wouldn’t take them. So they view living as a minority as an ever present danger to life and limb.

It’s a big gap and I don’t know how it can be bridged.

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Brett Bellmore 03.30.15 at 11:00 am

“Forget it, Jake, it’s Joe Biden.”

And, tempted as I am to read something into it, I’ll leave it at that.

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Gator90 03.30.15 at 11:52 am

@Ronan #93

It would be accurate as far as it goes, which isn’t very far. Saying the US has been more welcoming to Jews than most other countries is pretty weak sauce. And when it counted most, the door was closed.

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Julius Cortes 03.30.15 at 11:57 am

Reading all of this reminds me of a piece by Andrew Solomon last year, courtesy of The New Yorker:

“Societies in transition are always studies in contradictions. How did Romania relate to Jews, to the mentally ill, to gay people, to Gypsies? Everything I represented seemed to attract prejudice there. I had not intended to set off a scandal, nor had I anticipated how sad the six-day trip would make me. But I had likewise not imagined the surges of joy beneath those cherry trees and at New Europe College. The supporters of social liberalization in a poor, conservative, religious country are not the mainstream. Those women with hoes near Dorohoi were not going to get behind gay marriage or mental health, and they probably don’t like Jews or Gypsies. But Romanian is a Latin language, and Romanians blend the warmth of Italians with the combative spark of Slavs. Various Romanians pointed out that, because my grandfather was born there, I could get a Romanian passport, and some asked me to do so. I’m contemplating it seriously. It’s a horrible place and we were lucky to get out of there, but it’s also a wonderful place and I’m lucky to have returned.”

http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/gay-jewish-mentally-ill-and-a-sponsor-of-gypsies-in-romania

I always thought Joe Biden as the flaw in Barack Obama. Because.

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Rich Puchalsky 03.30.15 at 12:20 pm

Parsing what Biden said doesn’t seem to me to be that important. He was incoherent, pandering, etc. I was interested in the post because of what it says about larger elements of history, not about Biden. Specifically, it’s good to look at the differences between the Jewish American experience and the black American experience (which is why the original Salon article brings up Malcolm X, and why my poem @ 52 is phrased as a reply to Langston Hughes). Black peoples’ ancestors were forceably brought here in large enough numbers so that they have to be committed to this place whether they want to be or not. As individuals or families they can leave, but the black population of America as a whole can’t really consider emigration as a workable solution to e.g. the problems of police shooting their kids and disproportionately locking their teenagers up in jail. Langston Hughes’ Let America Be America Again is a work of genius, but it reaches for a universality that isn’t quite there. Is it a universality that *should* be there? Different question.

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Vanya 03.30.15 at 12:41 pm

@89 “Before the 1920’s, America was the homeland of the Jews.”

No, the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was the homeland of the Jews, but since partition in the late 18th century, the Jews in Galicia, on the Austrian run part of old Poland, had had it better than Jews on the Russian side. Certainly many Russian, and not a few Austrian Jews, set out for better lives in America in the late 19th century, but so did plenty of poor gentiles from the same regions. This is the homeland that Hitler and the Nazis thoroughly destroyed during WWII.

Before the 1920s, the German Kaiserreich was probably the most civilized and tolerant place to live as an educated Jew in the world. Which goes to show how quickly things can change.

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LFC 03.30.15 at 12:45 pm

On the issue of the U.S. as haven (or not) for persecuted Jews:

As Corey pointed out, a lot of Jews came to the U.S. from Russia and E Europe around the turn of the 20th cent. This was before the restrictive immigration legislation of c.1920 (not the exact date; I’m not looking it up). Although some members of this wave of immigration were swindled/exploited by people pushing utopian-village-schemes-in-Colorado etc. that turned out to be false (I know of one specific case of this, at any rate), on the whole the members of this wave of immigration fared well in the U.S., or if they themselves had to struggle their children and grandchildren fared, on the whole, quite well. As one commenter above mentioned, if, say, one’s grandparents came in this wave of immigration, one is likely, with considerable justification, to see the U.S. of the late 19th / early 20th cent. as a haven. For many, it was.

The history of the 1920s and the 1930s, after the immigration laws became more restrictive, is of a less welcoming U.S. But for a (qualified) defense of FDR in this connection, see Richard Breitman and Allan Lichtman, FDR and the Jews (note: I haven’t read it but am aware of their basic argument).

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LFC 03.30.15 at 12:48 pm

p.s. Bad Jim @89 already said some of what I said just now, and I agree w the general tenor of his comment (if not every single nuance).

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Rich Puchalsky 03.30.15 at 1:27 pm

Vanya @ 100: “No, the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was the homeland of the Jews, but since partition in the late 18th century, the Jews in Galicia, on the Austrian run part of old Poland, had had it better than Jews on the Russian side.”

As I allude to @ 52, “the homeland of the Jews” has always been within some empire or other for 2000 years. That empire always leaves propaganda behind about how great it was, and the people who survive it as Jews survive it on the basis of getting out at the right time.

As for a biblical Jewish homeland, I think that the basic argument about that was between Josephus and the heroes of the Masada. One of them left descendants who may well have become our ancestors, the others killed their families.

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LFC 03.30.15 at 1:38 pm

p.s. on the history of immigration restriction in the U.S. late 19th early 20th cent.:

The Chinese Exclusion Act (or Law) was in 1882. More general numerical and ethnic limits, aimed at E Europeans among others, followed in legislation of 1917, 1921, and 1924, plus some tweaks in 1927. (from the historical summary in David Jacobson, Rights Across Borders, ch.3) (Presumably the same facts can be found in Wikipedia or some other online place.)

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Lynne 03.30.15 at 1:46 pm

This thread has really taken off. I’m surprised so many Jews seem to be fine with this idea of Israel as a bolthole. I wonder how the prevalence of this idea affects the chances a Jew will become President—wouldn’t s/he be perceived to have a divided loyalty unless s/he distanced her/himself from this view?

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Rich Puchalsky 03.30.15 at 2:09 pm

“This thread has really taken off. I’m surprised so many Jews seem to be fine with this idea of Israel as a bolt hole.”

Um…. you’re surprised that many Jews are Zionists? Or you’re surprised at this thread? I may have missed some comments, but so far in this thread I’ve seen approximately zero comments that imply that the commenter is fine with the idea of Israel as a bolt hole.

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Gator90 03.30.15 at 2:24 pm

Lynne #105 – “wouldn’t s/he be perceived to have a divided loyalty unless s/he distanced her/himself from this view?”

Some American Jews do in fact have divided loyalty. (I did, for a long time.) It could be argued that Joseph Lieberman, who came very close to becoming vice president 15 years ago, is one of them. I’m not sure of the extent (if any) to which his ethnic/religious affiliation was a political liability.

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bianca steele 03.30.15 at 2:36 pm

I very much liked Corey’s Salon piece, especially the part about political theory.

For reasons I’ve explored elsewhere, I don’t quite agree with Hobbes or Williams, but their formulation does reflect an influential, even dominant, strain in modern politics. It’s in the interest of each government to protect its citizens or at least to pretend that it is doing so. Once a government forsakes that principle, it loses its claim to legitimacy. It can’t expect its citizens to obey.

Zionism in essence has an incoherent political theory ISTM because (especially given its abandonment of socialism) it has to be based on a peculiar form of nationalism that abandons hundreds of years of European thought about these questions, yet combines an idea of governing along some kind of ethno-religious lines with an idea of power politics that envisions states as almost persons that, like persons, should have equal status among one another and have the same kinds of power relations among one another that (adult) individuals do. A reminder of the actual responsibilities of the state toward all its inhabitants (frequent failures to achieve this) is salutary.

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bianca steele 03.30.15 at 2:38 pm

please insert a “notwithstanding” before the closing paren

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Lynne 03.30.15 at 2:51 pm

Rich, I skimmed the thread and noted commenters unsurprised by the idea of Israel as a bolthole because they know people who think that way, even if they don’t think that way themselves. There were almost one hundred comments when I checked this morning so as I say, I skimmed. But _I_ am surprised by the idea (non-Jew, non-American).

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William Berry 03.30.15 at 3:06 pm

@JWB: “why suppose incoherence [in service of anything whatsoever] as a null hypothesis?”

Forget it, Josh, it’s Joe Biden Town.

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William Berry 03.30.15 at 3:07 pm

Sorry, I hadn’t seen BB’s comment.

Now I’m embarrassed.

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William Berry 03.30.15 at 3:12 pm

Also, what Rich said @99.

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Rich Puchalsky 03.30.15 at 3:19 pm

Lynne @ 110: OK. I’m not a Zionist (obviously not, if you read my comments) but Zionism is impossible to understand without understanding why many Jews think this way.

I don’t know your background at all, but there are two typical kinds of the many potential responses to being a stereotyped minority. One of them is to put on formal clothes and tell everyone that the only way forwards is to be just as good as the oppressors at the oppressor’s own game. For the Jews, this means that you need your own national homeland and your own indigenous people to repress. The other way is to ironically adopt those stereotypes and own them. A black person in America might do this by wearing a gold chain and mockingly speaking like a Blaxploitation actor; a Jew becomes a rootless cosmopolitan. Would this be a barrier to becoming President? Well, the careers of JFK and Obama are both illustrative here.

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CJColucci 03.30.15 at 3:30 pm

We should have let all the refugees in before the war and given the Jews Texas in 1947. That would have saved lives, eliminated a cause of friction in the Middle East, put a friendly power on top of oil, and civilized Texas. Hell, throw in Oklahoma, too.

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LFC 03.30.15 at 4:13 pm

bianca steele 108
an idea … that envisions states as almost persons that, like persons, should have equal status among one another

Incoherent or not, a version of this is one of the cornerstones of modern international law, where it goes under the label “sovereign equality.” All member states of the UN, for ex., though they obviously vary widely in numerous respects, have basically the same legal status. (“Basically” because the permanent members of the UN Sec Council have certain legal powers that others don’t, and there are some other qualifications.) But sovereign equality among the 190 or so states recognized as members of ‘international society’ is the rule. Not sure exactly how you see this in relation to Zionism: the fact that Israel has a (de facto or otherwise) ethnonational or religious basis is a twist of sorts, but not unique, viz. The Islamic Republic of Iran, The Islamic [is it Republic? I forget the full official name, but ‘Islamic’ is in the title] of Pakistan, etc.

n.b. I have not read the Salon piece, just the OP here and CR’s remarks at his blog.

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LFC 03.30.15 at 4:22 pm

Gator90 @107
I understand (sort of) where you’re coming from here, but personally I wd be very wary of the phrase/accusation ‘divided loyalty,’ given its use during the McCarthy era. I think Lieberman thought there was a near-complete coincidence of interest betw Israel and the US. I suppose you cd call that divided loyalty, but I wd prefer other labels for it, e.g. misguided.

118

rewenzo 03.30.15 at 4:25 pm

I’ve seen a lot of people question why Zionists think that Jews are any safer in Tel Aviv than in New York, especially if they think the United States could one day go full-Gestapo. I think they miss an essential part of Zionist thought.

The point of Zionism is a Jewish controlled state that has full sovereignty. Not a Jewish homeland that is ultimately controlled by the British Empire in Uganda or Mandatory Palestine, and not status as a secure minority in a friendly and tolerant nation. The outcome in the former may not be empirically more secure than the outcome in the latter, but the point of Zionism is not necessarily actual security from actual threats but security from the threats of those that govern us.

The sympathy of other peoples to Jews is assumed to ebb and flow. They won’t always hate us, and they won’t always like us. They won’t always kill us, and they may not always take our property or our jobs. They may not care about us in particular at all, but be willing to trade us to somebody who does. Under this dynamic, the security of Jews is dependent on the whims of others, no matter how well-meaning they may be.

The solution that Zionism offers to this dynamic is that, however or whenever or if ever the shit goes down, at least we go down as masters of our own fate. At least we know it won’t be our police force that round us up, our courts that strip us of rights, and our civil service agencies that will remove us from the protection of our government. This is why Zionism – and I think all forms of Zionism no matter how liberal – is inconsistent with a one-state solution. The point is not security so much as it is Jewish-guaranteed security, even if that makes the ultimate security weaker. The security that Zionism offers Jews is not security from other governments, but from their own.

It’s why Ben Gurion and the Jewish Agency accepted partition in 1947 even though they thought (at the time, and incorrectly) that the borders were probably indefensible, and why the proto-government was so, um, open to the possible benefits of an Arab exodus, wink wink, from the Jewish side of the partition. It’s also why Begin was able to pull out of the Sinai, and why Sharon was able to disengage from Gaza, and why religious Zionists insist with such fervor that even if Israel annexes all the Occupied Territories there is no way that Jews would become a minority in Israel. It’s also why these same religious Zionists are so concerned with Israel’s heavy dependence on the US.

(Israel’s dependence on the US doesn’t really cut against this. First, Zionism has no problem with taking help where help is offered, so long as the ultimate decider of accepting the terms of that help is a Jewish Israeli (or, theoretically an Israeli beholden to a Jewish electorate). There’s no harm to be done in staying on the US’s sweet side, so long as it doesn’t threaten ultimate Jewish sovereignty. Second, Israel is not really dependent on the US any more.)

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Donald Johnson 03.30.15 at 4:26 pm

Anglo Texans would have reacted with extreme violence, CJ. They were busy slaughtering Hispanics at roughly the same time the Palestinians killed Jewish civilians in riots during the early 20’s. The death toll in Texas was much larger, from what I remember reading.

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bianca steele 03.30.15 at 4:44 pm

LFC,

Re-separating the two parts of the comment:

The idea here is that you can decide what the government should be, on an ethno-religious basis. Not universal law, or law defined in Catholic or secular universities. Not on the basis of a criticism of supposedly universal law, but on the basis of the idea that religious beliefs, and ethnic customs, not intended as political theory, can be the sole basis of government, and that each government should protect its own people’s customs.

The idea that states should be formed on ethno-religious boundaries obviously isn’t unique to Zionism, which draws the idea from ideas common in the nineteenth century and even after WWI. The fact that lots of people have done it (I don’t think many have, in that sense–most have taken over institutions they inherited from previous European empires and from pre-imperial state apparatuses, and there are few places that could really be homogeneous without long ethnic cleansing, even if they could decide how narrowly they want to define ethnicities and sects) doesn’t mean it makes sense. Also, it’s not the basis of the US constitution–which is part of the point of the OP.

The other part, obviously, is very like a lot of standard theory. Would you exclude Kissinger’s realpolitik from that kind of standard theory? Maybe you wouldn’t, but it’s the kind of thing I had in mind. The idea that the State of Israel was being granted a kind of international-political emancipation and now some notional “international law” requires the other nations of the world to treat it with the kind of respect it supposedly now deserves (a kind of respect it feels the Palestinians are “obviously” not entitled to yet), and that if Israel treats other peoples badly, it’s exactly what every other similarly situated group does all the time.

Even if that was desirable, it seems to be based on a different concept of the state.

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mattski 03.30.15 at 4:47 pm

Thanks for spoiling my reverie, Donald. I was dreaming of barbecued blintzes and about to compose a CT quiz to find the best name for Houston’s Jewish-inspired NFL team…

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mattski 03.30.15 at 4:51 pm

@ 98

It’s a horrible place and we were lucky to get out of there, but it’s also a wonderful place and I’m lucky to have returned.

That’s about the size of it.

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LFC 03.30.15 at 5:23 pm

bianca steele 119

I guess I should go read the whole Salon column, because you are reacting to that and, since I haven’t yet read it, I’m perhaps not fully grasping all the points. So at some point before this thread closes (I hope) I will have read the Salon column and may return to this.

But w.r.t this:
The idea that the State of Israel was being granted a kind of international-political emancipation and now some notional “international law” requires the other nations of the world to treat it with the kind of respect it supposedly now deserves (a kind of respect it feels the Palestinians are “obviously” not entitled to yet), and that if Israel treats other peoples badly, it’s exactly what every other similarly situated group does all the time.

Some people in Israel may indeed hold this idea: i.e., we are a state, we are entitled to do pretty much whatever we want. (It may be in some ways the de facto view of the current Israeli government, though I doubt they would ever phrase it that way.) But I’m not sure much of anyone else, apart from the most ardent supporters, holds this idea as a theoretical matter (whether they hold it as a practical matter is a somewhat different question). International law, ‘notional’ or otherwise, does not require states to accept illegal acts by another state, and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is widely (and correctly, IMO) considered to be illegal under international law. You may say “so what? No one has done much of anything about it” and you would be right. Which again highlights the theory v. practice question.

There is a long-running debate about whether international law is really ‘law’ and, even if it is law, whether it’s simply a tool of the most powerful states, etc. Aspects of your comment sort of touch on these contentious matters, but it’s not something I want to get into here.

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CJColucci 03.30.15 at 5:23 pm

The Houston Oy-lers>

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Roger Gathmann 03.30.15 at 5:27 pm

I am wondering about the phrase “divided loyalty”. Is there someone who doesn’t have divided loyalties? Myself, I am officially an american citizen, but my foreign policy sympathies often fall on the opposite side of the American government’s. This isn’t because I think “real” American interests aren’t served by the government, but because I have a loyalty to a cosmopolitan vision of how things should be. In fact, my loyalty to the US is a very restricted thing. In the eighteenth century, because the rulers of nations were ultimately bound to their dynastic families rather than the people, the sense that one should be loyal to a nation was extremely attenuated. Voltaire, Rousseau, Hume, etc. had no problem boundary crossing, and expressed loyalties not to a nation, but to an ideal of citizenship that was defined by humanity.
I think that there were many Jews in the nineteenth century who looked back on this ideal as one to give their loyalty to – and I think the mass murder of Jews in the twentieth century dealt that ideal a deathblow. Or at least set it way way back.
Still, that doesn’t mean the Likud version of zionism is the only alternative left. In actual fact, if the high end estimate of Jews in the U.S. is to be believed, there are more Jews in the US – 6.8 million – than in Israel. Which reverses Biden’s claim – it is the US that seems to be the ultimate sanctuary of the Jews. The US doesn’t have to advertise itself strenously to achieve this status, as Israel does, either.
http://www.brandeis.edu/ssri/pdfs/AmJewishPopEst2012.pdf

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Gator90 03.30.15 at 5:29 pm

LFC #117

Your points are well taken, and you’re right that many American Zionists, likely including Lieberman, perceive no distinction between Israeli interests and American ones. But I tend not to shy away from terms like “divided loyalty” or “dual loyalty,” in part because I think it is sometimes accurate, and in part because I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically wrong with being loyal to more than one country.

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LFC 03.30.15 at 5:37 pm

Re Zionism, I agree w/ most of what rewenzo says @118 (as an analytical matter, I mean). That was the theory: “a Jewish controlled state that has full sovereignty.” And as long as a ‘mainstream’ Jewish-dominated political party is in charge in Israel and the nuclear arsenal is intact, it has some plausibility. But the trouble w this whole discussion is that the scenario presupposed, the US becoming a place from which Jews have to flee, is extremely unlikely. It’s just not a v. interesting basis on which to say much of anything other than “look at stupid Joe Biden and what he said and why aren’t people more ruffled by it.” Occam’s Razor might suggest that many people aren’t more ruffled by it b.c they know Joe Biden occasionally says stupid things.

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LFC 03.30.15 at 5:39 pm

Gator90 @126: ok, fair enough.

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rewenzo 03.30.15 at 5:59 pm

LFC @127

It’s not ridiculous to Zionist thought, and is therefore probably not ridiculous to anyone in the room with Joe Biden.

Zionism as a political philosophy came into being before World War I. The Holocaust, the Israeli War of Independence, the Expulsions from North Africa and the Middle East, the whole history of the Soviet Union did little to discredit the idea that non-Jewish governments cannot be trusted to safeguard the rights of their Jewish citizens.

There’s also a very popular strain of thought that learned from the Holocaust’s origin in Germany that it is precisely the nations to which Jews are most assimilated that present the most dangerous threat. Or, in its weak form, “If it can happen in Germany, it can happen anywhere.”

I would imagine that the people in the room with Biden are all donors to AIPAC and very susceptible to that thinking. To them, it is naive to suggest they can rely on the US (or Canada, or the UK or whoever) to be different, and acknowledging that they can’t was Biden’s pandering. It sounds ridiculous (and somewhat threatening) when thought about too much, but it is what it is.

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Rich Puchalsky 03.30.15 at 6:08 pm

rewenzo: “This is why Zionism – and I think all forms of Zionism no matter how liberal – is inconsistent with a one-state solution.”

Yes, I agree. Since both the one-state and two-state solutions have been ruled out, the solution that remains is apartheid forever. I leave it to others to imagine whether apartheid forever is really a viable long-term setup from a practical rather than a moral sense.

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bob mcmanus 03.30.15 at 6:14 pm

the US becoming a place from which Jews have to flee

I am actually imagining additional more complicated, indirect scenarios involving Empire’s US overseas interests.

Ok, wild, unimaginable, just grant me some space for play.

The US/NATO and Russia fighting a proxy war in Ukraine with much invested materially and ideologically and Right Sector quasi-Nazis take power in the Ukraine and start a progrom. US denies there are any anti-semites there and denies any repression going on. Fairly absurd because of a lot of internal Ukrainian complications, and it is hard to sort out the warlords and their affiliations. But…

The point being that as long as there is an Israel there will or could be a powerful nation willing to defend Jews worldwide, or threaten with nukes or military might to prevent a local extermination, without consideration of conflicting interests, like oil profits. The US is really not such a country.

132

Mike Furlan 03.30.15 at 6:24 pm

Very sad.

The day that Jewish Americans feel that they must leave because of antisemitism is the day the US as a nation is worth less than a bucket of warm piss.

133

bob mcmanus 03.30.15 at 6:26 pm

Has the existence of Israel actually lessened actual antisemitic practices worldwide in the years of its existence?

There are certainly many other factors. Consider it an honest question.

134

Gator90 03.30.15 at 7:16 pm

bob mcmanus #133

It has lessened the number of available Jews upon whom to practice said practices.

135

Mike Schilling 03.30.15 at 7:54 pm

The one state solution is incompatible with knowing anything about the history of Lebanon over the past 50 years.

136

CM 03.30.15 at 8:09 pm

I think your column inadvertently perpetuates the assumptions you are critiquing. You refer to attitudes “widely if privately” held by American Jews; later you say you have no problem with American Jews wishing to be separate or even having divided loyalties.

Any time you refer to attitudes “widely if privately” held by Jewish people, you are getting into dicey territory, since clannish secrecy is one of the main stereotyped characteristics of Jews. When you uncritically suggest that American Jews might have divided loyalties, you lend credence to the stereotype of Jews as a fifth column. My guess is that members of the vast majority of ethnic and religious groups in America occasionally talk amongst themselves about their own identities as distinct from a notional mainstream American identity, and that these conversations happen in a wide variety of registers, from proud or ironic expressions of distinctness to lamentations about stereotyping or bigotry. This in no way precludes the possibility that, at the same time, the people having these conversations feel 100% American–perhaps somehow connected, maybe deeply connected, to a religious or ethnic “homeland” someplace else, but not any less American or any less loyal to America than anybody else.

You talk about Irish people’s feelings toward Ireland; in my Italian-American neighborhood, where old people still speak Italian, there are Italian flags, Italian street names, Italian saints-day celebrations. There are a million ways to describe or talk about the feelings that these Italian-Americans have toward Italy. It is a rhetorical choice–and it would be a very strange, unusual rhetorical choice–to talk about Italian-Americans’ sense of separateness or their divided loyalties or about private Italian-American sentiments about Italy. Yet couching discussion of Jewish attitudes in these terms feels so normal that even a writer engaged in rebutting the idea of Jewish people’s fundamental difference or strangeness doesn’t see anything wrong with it, or weird about it.

I honestly have no idea what percentage of American Jews are passionately pro-Israel or feel fundamentally separate from the mainstream of American society. What I do know is that I am an American Jewish person who grew up in one of the most heavily Jewish areas on earth outside of Israel (suburban Philadelphia) and neither I nor the people I grew up among “wished to be separate” or “had divided loyalties.” Some of my Jewish relatives, particularly older ones, express strong Zionist views; just as many do not. As a Jewish American who, for whatever reason, has never felt any connection whatsoever to Israel, I am extremely frustrated when people make assumptions about my attitudes. Particularly over the last year or so, I feel like I am constantly reading pronouncements about how “American Jews” think and feel, and these pronouncements never describe me. It is very, very annoying to be stereotyped. And increasingly disturbing.

137

Rich Puchalsky 03.30.15 at 8:51 pm

CM: “It is a rhetorical choice–and it would be a very strange, unusual rhetorical choice–to talk about Italian-Americans’ sense of separateness or their divided loyalties or about private Italian-American sentiments about Italy. ”

I believe that there was a whole lot of tok about German-American’s sense of separateness or divided loyalties just before WW I, and whether they would oppose the war traitorously. Around WW II, of course, America preemptively locked up Japanese-Americans because of their presumptive divided loyalties. Muslims are targeted for spying on right now in America because of their “sense of separateness” and presumptive interest in terrorism. So this is an American tradition and I guess that we should be proudly included in it as Americans.

138

Main Street Muse 03.30.15 at 9:32 pm

I am curious – are there large numbers of Americans who feel Biden’s comments reflect a change in how the Jews are treated in the US? Are you seeing a significant rise anti-Semitism in this country? Are we seeing a shift in US government policy where Jews feel threatened to be here (brown shirts for all)? OR is this simply Biden speaking in a rogue and stupid sort of way? (My Jewish friends do not seem to feel that this country does not protect them.)

(I am also remembering UIUC where pro-Israeli factions forced the firing of anti-Palestinian professor Salaita.)

139

CJColucci 03.30.15 at 9:53 pm

My grandfather was investigated by the FBI before WWII when a group of Italian-American businessmen raised funds for a statue of Columbus and, apparently, received some money from an organization under the influence of Mussolini.

140

Brett Bellmore 03.30.15 at 11:06 pm

I think his remarks mostly reflect that he’s, not an idiot, ( Nobody gets a heartbeat away from the Oval office, even as the President’s life insurance, by being stupid.) somehow deranged. I’d guess that it had something to do with the current administration’s views, buy again, it’s Biden.

141

marcel 03.31.15 at 12:21 am

CJColucci wrote:

We should have let all the refugees in before the war and given the Jews Texas in 1947.

Yeah, yeah. How about a different panhandle, one in Alaska, where it’s easier to come by lox?

142

JanieM 03.31.15 at 12:29 am

Hopefully fixing the link to Alaska. I love that book.

143

marcel 03.31.15 at 12:32 am

144

marcel 03.31.15 at 12:34 am

Thank you, JanieM. Botching the link as I did kind of destroys my comment. I appreciate your rescuing it.

145

Anarcissie 03.31.15 at 1:13 am

Mike Schilling 03.30.15 at 7:54 pm @ 135:

‘The one state solution is incompatible with knowing anything about the history of Lebanon over the past 50 years.’

Israel-Palestine seems rather different from Lebanon to me.

But in any case the one-state solution is inevitable because it already exists.

146

Ze Kraggash 03.31.15 at 10:00 am

131 “a powerful nation willing to defend Jews worldwide”

This is wrong. Zionism is not interested in defending Jews worldwide. It’s interested in escalation of antisemitism worldwide, leading to increased immigration to Israel.

147

Phil 03.31.15 at 10:28 am

There were Zionists in the Polish ghettoes, and I don’t think it’d be fair to say that they were interested in the escalation of anti-semitism. Besides, for lots of Jews the idea of Israel is bound up with their identity as a Jew, even if they don’t have the slightest intention to emigrate – so that good news for Israel is by definition good news for the Jews, and attacks on Israel are assumed to be attacks on the Jews. So perhaps it’d be fairer to say that Zionism assumes – at best – the continuation of anti-semitism around the world, against which migration to Israel is ultimately the only safeguard.

148

Phil 03.31.15 at 10:43 am

the one-state solution is inevitable because it already exists.

If only. As Rich pointed out upthread, there are actually three options – two states, one state and an apartheid state. We’re currently a lot closer to 3. than to 2., and seemingly getting ever closer.

149

jwl 03.31.15 at 11:58 am

There are way more than three options, particularly since there are two Palestinian quasi governments at odds now.

There is the possibility of four states for example. Gaza, Israel, Judah (crazy settlers), and Palestine (whatever is left of the West Bank). Depending on how one looks at it and the course of the Syrian Civil War, there is a possibility of a Druze state encompassing the Golan as well.

150

Anarcissie 03.31.15 at 12:35 pm

An apartheid state is a kind of state. The current apartheid-like arrangement has been going on for long enough to be considered permanent, in the sense of ‘likely to go on for a long time to come, with no effective mechanism of change in sight.’ The two-state solution can be regarded as a flim-flam to keep the existing arrangement fundamentally undisturbed; many interests are thereby served, not just those of Likud. It may be that almost everyone really likes the flim-flam, and I’m just interfering with their fun in the name of dour old Reason, whom nobody loves. If so I apologize and will withdraw.

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Phil 03.31.15 at 1:07 pm

Not a direct response to the above, but – what I think is really important about Israel/Palestine is that there is no status quo. Normality as far as the Israeli state is concerned is a process of continual encroachment – where last year’s encroachments, and the year before last’s, are treated as normal & unchallengeable, while this year’s are embedded and plans are drawn up for next year’s. If nothing changes – which is part of what the two-state flim-flam is all about – then things will carry on changing, for the worse. I can’t see an endgame, except one in which all Palestinians end up in bantustans. Then the bantustans get smaller. Then they’re blockaded. Then they’re invaded…

I speak as someone who heard an Amos Oz lecture in my early 20s – courtesy of a kibbutznik friend – and came home to announce to my startled left-wing family that I was a Zionist. (Only the nice kind – the kind that believes in peaceful coexistence, possibly even within a single state, we can work out the details later, let’s just stop all the fighting eh?) I’m afraid I was sold an absolute crock.

152

Rich Puchalsky 03.31.15 at 1:13 pm

“It may be that almost everyone really likes the flimflam”

Wait, the Palestinians like the flimflam?

153

Julius Cortes 03.31.15 at 1:21 pm

@122

I’m reading, though it feels like I’m re-reading, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s, We.

“The Benefactor’s opponent is I-330, a woman so liberated that even today one can only surmise what a jolt she must have delivered to the systems of her first readers. Gorgeous by nature, she is happy to enhance her beauty by the outlawed cosmetics and perfumes obtainable by stealth. She drinks and smokes, activists known to the Numbers of OneState only through historical study. She enjoys sex but is not above using it as a weapon for the movement. She is big-hearted enough to find shelter for her rival, O-90, who wants to go through with the crime of bearing D-503’s child. She is powerful enough to be the leader of a revolutionary underground, the Mephi. And she is courageous enough to endure the Benefactor’s worst tortures and die rather than talk. She is the philosophical voice of Zamyatin’s favorite idea, the central thematic of the book.

When some two years after We was finished, Zamyatin got around to putting this idea into essay form, he used the speech of I-330 as an epigraph. The essay is titled “On Literature, Revolution, Entropy, and Other Matters” (1923). The epigraph derives from Record 30, the philosophical core of the book. She stumps the mathematician and engineer D-503 by asking him to name the final number. To his objection that the number of numbers is infinite, she replies that so is the number of revolutions. There can be no final revolution. One imagines how sweetly this fell upon the ear of the Bolsheviks, whose first business, was to root out and destroy the slightest suspicion of the second.

The two forces at war, like the Country and the City, the Mephi and OneState, are Energy and Entropy. Zamyatin’s essay tends to be overrated as an essay simply because it is so splendid as a commentary on his masterpiece. For all its characteristic brevity and briskness, the essay manages to drop some weighty names: Louis XIV, Euclid, Lobachevsky, Galileo, Babeuf, Darwin, Lamarck, Schopenhauer, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Tolstoy, Gorky, Chekhov, and others. One eloquent name is suppressed, that of Heraclitus, possibly because it was Heraclitus who, some 500 years before Christ, gave the central idea of the essay its classical expression.

Nothing is final. The only reality is change.”

[From the introduction to my copy, by Clarence Brown, Princeton, New Jersey, 1992]

To return but to be unable to stay. For long. Perhaps there are worse things than those that AS describes. All the same ones but of the opposite gender.

Look at what happened to Amy Winehouse. Like Whitney Houston, no Britney Spears like redemption for her.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HLY1NTe04M

If you get the chance, watch the Day She Went to Dingle . . . it almost feels like she was the female equivalent of Jesus, 2k year later, filmed for posterity, before being crucified.

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jwl 03.31.15 at 1:39 pm

Phil,

It is not a case of constant encroachment, or there would still be settlements in Sinai and Gaza. Some settlements have been removed in the West Bank, while others have been expanded.

I’m confused what your problem with Amos Oz is, exactly. He’s opposed to the settlements and the current government, and wasn’t a fan of previous governments either that expanded settlements.

155

mattski 03.31.15 at 2:16 pm

@ 153

Heraclitus indeed.

156

Doctor Science 03.31.15 at 3:33 pm

Main Street Muse @138:

None of these are true! Most American Jews *don’t* feel that antisemitism is on the increase, etc. But Biden’s remarks aren’t “rogue”, they’re a common formula among Zionists, and especially common among the Jewish and Christian Zionist donor class (who would be the audience Biden was really talking to).

Yes, his statements make no logical sense, especially coming from a US gov’t official. But I don’t think they’re so much “pandering” as “repeating an important slogan for emotional effect on one’s self as well as others”.

Corey’s right, such statements *should* be shocking for their logical implications. But people aren’t really shocked, because so much talk about Israel has nothing to do with logic, it’s *all* emotion.

157

Julius Cortes 03.31.15 at 4:54 pm

Man on Wire . . . touches the heart because it shows us that a technology that enables such destruction, can also show us something truly beautiful.

What happened to those beautiful gestures:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10SPHevZFZY

Does one justify the other?

Hard to answer for us mere mortals.

What will remain of Hurricane Katrina, for example, will it be one song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_r_AZj3VZQ

Try to imagine that one single person, a human, pushed a button that via a series of other humans, caused those buildings to fall. To cause chaos. Utter chaos. For no other reason. Because they could not wait to see what happens next. Because they wanted to make what happened next.

The human use of human beings, via their minds, via satellite, needs attention.

Period.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WdUWI9GTXQ

[In the meantime, the story of the man who walked into that village, saw the whole town about to stone the adulteress to death and drew a line in the sand . . . well, who would not walk away, after that question.]

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/the_odyssey.shtml

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Julius Cortes 03.31.15 at 4:56 pm

At one fifty five, that is.

159

Anarcissie 03.31.15 at 4:57 pm

Rich Puchalsky 03.31.15 at 1:13 pm
‘ “It may be that almost everyone really likes the flimflam”
Wait, the Palestinians like the flimflam?

Why not? The PA gets to play government and state, providing jobs and social status to numerous politicians, officials, bureaucrats, hangers-on, party apparatchiks, leeches, spies, saboteurs, and so forth. Hamas gets to do a similar if more edgy thing. Money flows in for skimmers to skim. The jihadis get to talk up their fantasy of driving the infidels into the sea and blow up the occasional pizza parlor. The ordinary people may not like it, but they do vote for this sort of leadership.

If I were king of the Arabs, I would tell my subjects to throw themselves into the arms of Israel, and say, ‘You wanted me, you fought for me, you got me: now I’m yours and you are mine — forever. Now make an honest ethnic-religious group of me!’ Where reason, wisdom, and brute force have failed, there is still soap opera.

160

PGD 03.31.15 at 10:25 pm

I don’t know if Warren Terra’s inaccurate criticism of Corey’s piece as ‘ahistorical’ (@6, 11, 20) has been answered but Terra is completely wrong. Going back to its founding the US has portrayed itself and has actually been a haven from anti-semitism for the Jews and indeed from religious prejudice for all manner of religions. See George Washington’s famous letter to the Touro Synagogue from the 18th century:

http://www.tourosynagogue.org/history-learning/gw-letter

This has not however obligated the US to treat *non-American Jews* with foreign and not American citizenship as a special case under American laws, i.e. to offer blanket refugee status to foreign Jews that would not be given to oppressed foreign peoples who were not Jewish. U.S. immigration laws *in general* were restrictive during the 1930s and 1940s and admitting non-American Jewish refugees from Hitler’s persecutions into the U.S. when other non-Jewish non-American refugees with humanitarian claims were not admitted amounts to saying that the U.S. did not offer special favoritism to persecuted Jews. That is true enough but it is totally different than saying that the U.S. countenanced or encouraged anti-semitism here in the US.

Israel’s claim to benefit the Jews rests in great part on its ability to offer automatic citizenship and refugee status to Jews from countries less hospitable than America. American Jews don’t and shouldn’t need it, one reason why Biden’s statement is so shocking.

161

Donald johnson 03.31.15 at 11:34 pm

Mattski–I know CJ was kidding about Texas, but it reminded me of a time when a Texan friend of mine saw a Tom Segev book on my shelves about the Mandate period and smugly said that Palestinians were killing Jews then too. I was too slow-witted to point out the obvious about human rights in Texas in the 1920’s–this was me, rising to the occasion 12 years later.

162

Donald johnson 03.31.15 at 11:35 pm

Ah, 12 years after my friend’s dumb remark, not 12 years after the 1920’s.

163

Joshua W. Burton 03.31.15 at 11:45 pm

Israel’s claim to benefit the Jews rests in great part on its ability to offer automatic citizenship and refugee status to Jews from countries less hospitable than America. American Jews don’t and shouldn’t need it, one reason why Biden’s statement is so shocking.

Or would be, if there were an iota of supporting evidence that Biden’s statement was about American Jews, rather than to American Jews about oppressed Jews as (I have tediously and laboriously pointed out) it appears to be, and earlier published versions of it certainly were. A hundred comments later, for me, the lingering interest is entirely psychological and rather prurient: why do you want to be shocked, or if that’s too intrusive why do you choose to be shocked, when you have a clean alternative (just fairly read Biden’s actual words, resolve not to let Goldberg do this to you again, and move on) wide open in front of you?

164

js. 04.01.15 at 12:07 am

Golda Meir:

We Jews have a secret weapon… We have no place else to go.

Joe Biden quotes Meir’s “We have no place else to go”, and then says:

Folks, there is no place else to go, and you understand that in your bones.

If one just fairly reads Biden actual words, the referent of “you” is indeed clear.

165

Joshua W. Burton 04.01.15 at 12:22 am

The referent of “you” is folks (American Jews, his audience). The elided subject of “go” is them (Israeli Jews, Golda’s “we”), just as in the previous sentence. The identification of the two is nowhere supported — is the claim that “you” can’t care about “them” in your bones, and therefore the emotional force of the sentence implies the identity? I’m still struggling to see how that reading is plausible, even in the absence of all the outside evidence I’ve adduced against it.

166

js. 04.01.15 at 12:38 am

Well, see I’m kind of simple-minded and not that smart, so when I read “we Jews”, I take the referent of “we” to be Jews. The rest follows in similarly simple-minded ways.

In any case, saying that State X is the only absolute guarantee for the citizens of X is practically a tautology. No one has any place else to go, in that sense. It’s not the sort of statement that requires a several-sentences-long argumentative and emotional buildup.

167

LFC 04.01.15 at 12:58 am

Joshua Burton 162
if there were an iota of supporting evidence that Biden’s statement was about American Jews, rather than to American Jews about oppressed Jews as (I have tediously and laboriously pointed out) it appears to be, and earlier published versions of it certainly were.

Joshua, obviously there is at least an iota of evidence against your reading, and that evidence, for me at any rate, is Biden’s reference to “no matter how consequential, no matter how engaged, no matter how deeply involved you are in the United States … there’s only one guarantee.” That Biden says “no matter how deeply involved you [American Jews] are in the United States” suggests he might well be making a point about the ultimate guarantor of safety either for American Jews or for Jews in general (incl. those in the US). I’m just reading the quote that the OP opened with. Even with the Golda Meir context, there’s still a reasonable case to be made that it’s addressed to American Jews. I don’t know whether it was or not in Biden’s intention, but for you to claim that there is no evidence to support any reading other than your own is a stretch, I think.

168

LFC 04.01.15 at 1:08 am

p.s. Esp. it’s a stretch when there has been considerable back-and-forth about this earlier in the thread, which did not, IMO, end with a clear-cut, unambiguous ‘victory’ for your interpretation. As people have said over and over and over, this is Biden; this is not one of those British politicians (they used to exist, a few probably still do) whose every utterance conforms punctiliously to the King’s English. Wasn’t it Biden who got in trouble in one of his past presidential campaigns for lifting, unacknowledged, some passages from Tony Blair? I hold no brief at all for Blair when it comes to his politics on the Iraq war etc., but Blair would never have said anything quite this mangled in terms of the syntax and referents. Biden would, and he did. You have consistently refused (unless I missed it) to acknowledge that point, the point that Biden has a particular relationship to spoken English. It’s not as bad as G.W. Bush’s was, but it’s not exactly a model.

169

Joshua W. Burton 04.01.15 at 1:18 am

Oy. It is addressed to American Jews; no one is disputing that. The question is whether it’s about American Jews, crucially in Biden’s mind or peripherally in the mind of his audience. The sentence you quote is very strong evidence that it’s not: being consequential and engaged in the US is a wash for your own safety, but (if the political process works at all, which no elected leader doubts) a boon for the safety of those on whose behalf you engage. And being hospitable in the US to yourself makes no sense at all — if “you” is US Jews, as we seem to agree, then the hospitality “you” offer is to “not you.”

With a running start in that direction (which we don’t have) I can fracture the sentence and make “hospitable” into some sort of inept circumlocution for “amiable,” a quality of a guest rather than a host, but that’s not what the word means. So to even admit a reading other than mine, you have to believe that Biden’s words are (1) badly formed, (2) shocking to patriotic sensibility, (3) unlike what he said when he used the same anecdote in 2010, and (4) carefully enough thought out be dicta, rather than merely a gaffe. With both high and low gates to clear, it’s a jump, a stretch and a limbo bend.

170

Corey Robin 04.01.15 at 1:28 am

Among the many reasons Joshua is wrong, reasons I’ve already detailed above and at my blog, is something that js. is getting at here.

Meier is saying that the secret weapon for the survival of Israel or the Jews of Israel — remember, the context is a discussion of the 1967 War — is that the Jews of Israel have nowhere else to go. Biden’s statement, after saying to American Jews that they understand “that” (we’ll hold off for a second on what he means by “that”) in their bones, is the following: “You understand in your bones that…there’s only one guarantee. There is really only one absolute guarantee, and that’s the state of Israel.”

The question is: absolute guarantee for what? If Biden is saying that what’s being guaranteed here is the survival/safety of Israeli rather than American Jews, which is what Joshua has so valiantly tried to argue (on the assumption that Biden is merely reiterating what Meier said and not extending the principle to American Jews), he’d have to be saying this: “You American Jews understand in your bones that the only guarantee for the survival of the Jews of Israel [or the State of Israel] is…the State of Israel.”

But that statement is not all what Meier said; it has nothing to do with what she said at all, and almost flies in a completely different direction from what she said. So there goes Joshua’s claim for reiteration.

But let’s say Biden is making this claim: “You American Jews understand in your bones that the only guarantee for the survival of the State of Israel [or the Jews of Israel] is…the State of Israel.” The problem with that interpretation is that it would have Biden saying that Israel is pretty much all alone in the world (“the only guarantee”), that it does not have allies or friends in the world standing behind it. Not America or even America’s Jews can be a part of that guarantee; Israel is “the only guarantee” of itself and its Jews.

That of course is nothing a US official would ever say. Indeed, as Goldberg reports in his article, Biden goes onto say the exact opposite of that: “‘And so I just want to assure you, for all the talk, and I know sometimes my guy’—President Obama—’gets beat up a little bit, but I guarantee you: he shares the exact same commitment to the security of Israel.’”

Quite apart from this thread, where Joshua has managed to convince only a few individuals, there’s an entire media universe out there, in which this story has been well reported. For several weeks now. And there’s a reason no one in that media universe has made the claim that Joshua has made: it makes no sense.

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Joshua W. Burton 04.01.15 at 1:30 am

As people have said over and over and over, this is Biden . . . .

Then who cares? But anyway, surely you see this is circular, unless you believe he is literally incapable of talking coherently, to the extent that the coherent reading is materially suspect on that sole ground.

considerable back-and-forth about this earlier in the thread, which did not, IMO, end with a clear-cut, unambiguous ‘victory’ for your interpretation

“Sir, I have found you an argument; I am not obliged to find you an understanding.” I have never claimed to be victorious on this, but so far I am substantively unopposed.

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Fuzzy Dunlop 04.01.15 at 1:40 am

This is so silly, I can’t believe Joshua is doubling down on this point. Not he or anyone else would have even considered that Biden’s remark excluded American Jews if we weren’t talking about how weird it was for him to be calling Israel a last refuge for American Jews. I’ve only even heard Israel described as a last refuge for Jews in general, never with the qualification ‘except for Jews in the US, you guys will always be fine’. Every time I’ve seen this discussion, here included, it has turned to whether violent antisemitism could become prevalent in the US. Israel as a last refuge for Jews including Jewish Americans is the thing that people talk about, Israel as a last refuge for non-American Jews is not a thing (and surely never will be a thing). That is, I think, the real reason JWB’s reading is almost implausible. Biden clearly didn’t think through the problematic implications of a VPOTUS describing Israel as a last refuge for Jews to an audience of American Jews, and certainly his intent wasn’t to say ‘you guys better watch it here in the US’, but the idea that we can carefully parse his (Biden’s!) grammar to extract a new and improved version of the repeated-ad-infinitum ‘Israel as the last refuge for the Jews’ is just absurd.

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Ronan(rf) 04.01.15 at 1:48 am

I’m largely agnostic on the question of what Biden meant to say, but why is Biden’s general incoherence really relevant here ? Wasnt this a pre planned speech given to an important set of donors/backers ? So a written speech rather than one he’s freewheeling ? Surely the assumption would be that whatever he said is what he planned to say.

I also think PGD’s second paragraph is completly right, and is why I found the ‘safe haven’ exchange so odd.

174

Ronan(rf) 04.01.15 at 1:51 am

..that wasnt directly to LFC (a number of people made the point upthread, so was meant more generally)

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Joshua W. Burton 04.01.15 at 1:59 am

OK, this time Mr. Robin’s position is a bit clearer; the bandwagon argument is still beneath response (the people who are writing about this are self-selected; reading it as I do, I wouldn’t have used column inches on it if an unkind fate had thrust me into “the media universe”), but I am happy to engage substantively: I now withdraw (as hasty, so early in the thread…) my last remark @170.

But let’s say Biden is making this claim: “You American Jews understand in your bones that the only guarantee for the survival of the State of Israel [or the Jews of Israel] is…the State of Israel.”

It’s “Jews of,” as with Meir, and yes, let’s say that. In fact, let’s unpack it.

You American Jews came to hear me, Obama’s bulldog on Israel, because the survival of the Jews of Israel is something you care about “in your bones.” You would like to think that being hospitable (Emma Lazarus’s poem!) and consequential (seder at the White House!) and engaged (here we are!) will help them, but Golda said — to me! — that it’s not enough. They’ve spoken to me, they’ve spoken to you — you know they mean it, and (MS St. Louis!) “in your bones” you know they are right. You can’t save them from the Iranian bogeyman by promising them refuge here. Their only safety (and, as I said in 2010, and my dad said to me in the 1950s) the only safety for Jews in bad places worldwide, is a strong Israel. So that’s what you turn out to apply your US influence to, and Barack and I (always!) have your back. (Never again! NEVER AGAIN! fade to UJA commercial)

There’s a lot in there that itself doesn’t make too much sense (my little parentheses are somewhat derisory), but it’s made entirely of known and typical tropes — you’re soaking in it. The claim that it’s what he said, because it’s what the words mean and what Biden believes and what his audience wanted to hear and what he’s always said, is the one I’m making, and still making sense with.

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Corey Robin 04.01.15 at 2:17 am

Joshua: I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my comment at 169, but instead of dealing with its substance — showing that I’m wrong, how I’m wrong — you’ve simply rewritten what Biden said in order to have his statement mean what you want it to mean.

177

Joshua W. Burton 04.01.15 at 2:22 am

Fuzzy Dunlop @171: Israel as a last refuge for Jews including Jewish Americans is the thing that people talk about

I’d be the last to dispute it, in the long-view abstract: as I said @17: “what’s two and a quarter centuries between Pharaohs?” No American Jew who ever sat at a seder table is complacent about the American guarantee for posterity into epic time. There is room for two opinions about whether the Zionist dream, reshit smichat ge’ulateinu (beginning of the dawn of our redemption) is a way off the Wheel; surely nothing else but death or final assimilation is.

Even further, I’ve mentioned in this thread that (actually more than, by my count) a quarter of my local Jewish circle are US citizens with their genetic future now in Israel, so the idea of Americans taking that long view seriously in their practical lives is not new to me. But none of them feel pushed; they feel pulled. And when Biden talks about “nowhere else,” he’s not understood to be talking about Skokie grandparents having to follow their kids to Modi’in, nor about their distant descendants fleeing the Post-American Reich. He’s understood to be talking about what Skokie voters can do to keep their kids in Modi’in (and those nice neighbors of theirs from Moldova and Tunisia and Ethiopia) safe in the next ten years. (Namely, redoubling the US commitment to keeping Modi’in on the map.)

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Joshua W. Burton 04.01.15 at 2:34 am

@175: you’ve simply rewritten what Biden said in order to have his statement mean what you want it to mean

Which would have been impossible if, as you suggest @170, “what I want it to mean” made no sense for Biden to mean, or didn’t fit his actual words. We’ve gotten nowhere starting from Biden’s words, because the very people who think we should care about them also insist that out of Biden’s mouth they can’t be trusted to mean what the grammatical rules of English say they mean. So, instead, I’m starting from what I say they mean. If you withdraw from asserting that my words are “nothing a US official would ever say,” or are the opposite of what Biden says elsewhere, then we have at least a strawman — an existence proof that there is at least one rhetorically coherent, politically shrewd, patriotically passable thing he could have meant.

And then, finally, we’re back on square one with a level foundation, and you can set out to establish, as no one has done yet, why (in 2015, contra 2010) it can’t be what he actually did mean, or why anything else rises to the same standard of plausibility as what he could have meant, in light of the previously noted syntactic, geopolitical, and moral objections to Goldberg’s reading.

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Joshua W. Burton 04.01.15 at 2:50 am

showing that I’m wrong, how I’m wrong

(1) “Hospitable” reverses subject/object on your reading; on mine, it means what the word means.

(2) “Nowhere else to go” means the same group throughout on my reading; on yours, it jumps across the Atlantic between Meir’s sentence and Biden’s. (Your best argument here, by the way, would hang heavily on Golda Meir herself being a naturalized US citizen, and her “we” therefore including American Jews. But there’s still a leap from an Israeli politician meaning that about us — which they generally do — and a non-Jewish US politician meaning it.)

(3) In the 2010 speech, for which we have a clean official White House transcript, Biden walks the same path through the same talking points, and makes it explicit that he is talking, and his dad was talking, specifically about Israeli Jews and Jews who were in peril in the 1960s. Your theory either reinterprets that speech (a longer and steeper uphill slog), or it argues that this time the same words mean different things, clearly enough to broadcast your outrage at. (No one invited you to headline this; the burden of proof on what it might mean surely falls to the person who takes offense at it!)

(4) Goldberg is sitting back with his feet up and laughing at you. Do Not Feed the Energy Creature.

But you knew all that.

180

mattski 04.01.15 at 2:56 am

Donald,

Right on. I still would like to be on your debating team, if we can call ourselves ‘The Slugs.’

181

Corey Robin 04.01.15 at 3:11 am

Joshua: I never responded to you about 2010 because you never demonstrated that he meant only Israeli Jews or Jews in bad places when he said, “And he told me as a young boy, that Israel and Jews in the world had no place else to go with absolute certitude.” You simply claimed that he couldn’t have meant the US, but aside from your say so, there’s nothing to support the claim. So that’s a wash.

Contra what you say now, in my comment at 169 (and elsewhere, but I’ll stick with this one), I actually started with Biden’s actual words. And showed how your construction of his words requires Biden to completely change Golda Meier’s claim (which is precisely what in earlier comments you said he wasn’t doing). Not the subject of her claim — which is what I am arguing — but the claim itself.

On your account of Biden’s words, it makes much more sense that he would be sticking like glue to the subject of Golda Meier’s statement — the survival of Israeli Jews — but completely abandoning the substance of her statement: that their survival depends on their having nowhere else to go. Note that in your rewritten version of Biden’s statement at 174, one critical claim — they’ve got nowhere else to go — makes no appearance at all. You simply substitute “a strong Israel” for “the Jews have nowhere else to go” and thereby evade the words themselves.

If that’s how you choose to make sense of a very concrete, specific, almost visceral statement — i.e., by completely ignoring it — you can have your straw man. Because that’s all you’ve got.

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Corey Robin 04.01.15 at 3:25 am

For what it’s worth, I think it’s far more plausible that Biden could seamlessly and easily float back and forth, in his own head, between Israel’s Jews and America’s Jews, to think that they were basically interchangeable — I’ve had many well meaning non-Jews in my life tell me that my real home is Israel, not in a rude or confrontational way, but in a perfectly sweet and caring way, thinking they were being culturally sensitive and appropriate — than that he would drop the very notion (the Jews have nowhere else to go) that made Golda Meier’s comment so memorable to him, a half-century after he first heard it.

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Corey Robin 04.01.15 at 3:41 am

Joshua: I’m genuinely sorry about my straw man comment at 180. I appreciate you changing the tone of this engagement with your last several comments, and it was wrong of me to drag it back to something snarkier and snider.

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Joshua W. Burton 04.01.15 at 4:01 am

“And he told me as a young boy, that Israel and Jews in the world had no place else to go with absolute certitude.”

Biden was born in 1942. Find me even one American who would have said American Jews had no place else but Israel, in Israel’s first decade. Not even Mahalniks; not even the friend who was telling me at dinner this Friday about his terrifying 1948 exploits in the Negev. In that context, at the very least, it’s an absurd reading.

And showed how your construction of his words requires Biden to completely change Golda Meier’s claim

(By the way, it’s Мабович then Meyerson then Meir/מאיר — if you don’t mean anything by consistently misspelling her, please stop as a courtesy to me, as I find it irritating; if you do mean something by it, please explain.) Your argument here, if I understand it, is that Meir is saying “her” Jews — Israelis, and those in peril, by which she might be discourteous enough to young Biden to mean “including American Jews” but can’t expect him to agree to that footnote — have nowhere else to go: Israel will somehow win, because there are no do-overs and Israel’s destruction will doom all “her” Jews. Whereas Biden, on my reading, is agreeing, forty years later, that “her” Jews — those in peril, then or now, and right now since he’s talking about Iran it’s Israelis — have nowhere else to go: Israel had better win (and you US Jews and we Israel-loving Democrats will work unstintingly for that), because there are still no do-overs and Israel’s destruction is not something you can mitigate by being “hospitable” to the survivors.

You say that those two sentiments go in completely different, even opposed directions. I absolutely don’t see it: what I say Biden is saying in Golda’s name in 2015 is exactly what she, that day in 1973, would want him to carry her words forward as saying. The world situation has shifted a bit, but modulo the Soviet aliyah he’s using her words to make her exact case as an enduring verity.

On your account of Biden’s words, it makes much more sense that he would be sticking like glue to the subject of Golda Meier’s statement — the survival of Israeli Jews — but completely abandoning the substance of her statement: that their survival depends on their having nowhere else to go.

Golda’s job is Israeli pluck: “nowhere else to go” from her side means keep on winning until peace, or else. Biden’s job is US policy: “nowhere else to go” from his side means, however much we’d like to, we can’t help them by taking them all in when they lose; if we help them at all, it has to be by keeping Israel strong until peace. In 1973, that’s what each of them would mean: same proposition, different roles. In 2015, Meir’s words still mean to Biden what they meant in 1973, to Biden.

You simply substitute “a strong Israel” for “the Jews have nowhere else to go” and thereby evade the words themselves.

I’m not evading them; I’m looking at them from both sides of the table. From Biden’s side, “Israelis have nowhere else to go” and “we are committed to protect Israelis” add up, in 1973 or 2015, to “we are committed to a strong Israel.”

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js. 04.01.15 at 4:04 am

Sorry, it’s just a really simple point. That Israel is the ultimate guarantor of Israeli citizens is blindingly obvious. How involved “you”—for any value of “you”—are in American life, the activities of Fluxus, or the fortunes of the Pittsburgh Steelers is utterly and completely irrelevant. So the idea that Biden is saying “there is no other absolute guarantee” for Israeli citizens is beyond bizarre given everything else he says building up to it.

I guess this sounds snarky or snide. I’m not going to apologize for it.

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Corey Robin 04.01.15 at 4:19 am

Joshua: Meir. Didn’t mean anything by it. Just misspelled it.

As for the rest, you’ve merely rewritten — at even greater length — what you would prefer (for whatever reason, I’m not assuming agreement) Biden to have said. I prefer to stick to what he said.

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Joshua W. Burton 04.01.15 at 4:28 am

js. @184: Your argument proves too much. That Russia was the ultimate guarantor of Russian Jewish citizens may have been blindingly obvious, but four fifths of them in the last 25 years have found it false. How involved US Jews have been in political and philanthropic life was deeply relevant for Russian Jews who came to the US with help from family services and UJA; for Russian Jews who stayed and rebooted Jewish religious life with help from the Joint Distribution Committee and Chabad; for Russian Jews who came to Israel with help from Misrad haKlita and private megadonors.

What Biden is saying is that this isn’t like that: if Israel goes down in flames, there isn’t enough tzedakah in the world to tidy up the pieces. Even some Russian Jews had nowhere else to go (and of the three options, they have done conspicuously best in Israel), but in the crunch Israelis really, really have nowhere else to go. He’s saying this, of course, to people who already believe it, whether as an applause line, a campaign promise or an affinity fraud. It may not be true, but to that audience, with this history, it’s very far from bizarre.

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Joshua W. Burton 04.01.15 at 4:40 am

you’ve merely rewritten

Damn, and I thought we were getting close. Am I correct that you consider “completely abandoning the substance of her statement: that their survival depends on their having nowhere else to go” to be the implausible thing I’m reading Biden to be doing? Because my point, as concisely as possible, is that Golda and Biden agree that, since they have nowhere else to go, Israeli Jews’ survival depends on both graveyard courage, which was Golda’s job, and unwavering support, which was and is Biden’s. Hearing it in person and empathetically, Biden succeeded in understanding the quip’s implications from both sides, and has been shouldering his end at speeches ever since.

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Joshua W. Burton 04.01.15 at 4:53 am

Biden’s campaign book, Promises to Keep (summer 2007), page 143:

“Listening closely to these leaders had been an incredible window onto the personal intimacy of diplomacy. I remember an early meeting with Prime Minister Golda Meir where she could see my despair at the prospects for peace and security for Israel. I found her bucking me up but also giving me an unforgettable lesson in the strength and weakness of the Israeli position: “We Jews have a secret weapon in our struggle against the Arabs,” Meir told me. “We have nowhere else to go.” On my first trip to China after renormalization . . . .”

Make that one about rescuing US Jews, even peripherally, and I will surrender.

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LFC 04.01.15 at 5:12 am

Ronan @172

I’m largely agnostic on the question of what Biden meant to say, but why is Biden’s general incoherence really relevant here ? Wasnt this a pre planned speech given to an important set of donors/backers ? So a written speech rather than one he’s freewheeling ?

Ok, I understand this wasn’t directed specifically to me but I’ll respond anyway. The quoted passage at issue was clearly not a written-out word-for-word speech. Biden might have thought in advance, probably did, about what he was going to say, but the words themselves are clearly somewhat improvised, “freewheeling” to use your word.

I’ve more or less decided I don’t know what he meant. I think it can be read more than one way. It would help to hear the tone of voice and emphases, which I haven’t.

JWBurton says his reading results in Biden’s remarks being grammatically sound. That may be, but the intended meaning is not obvious and clear. If it were, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Maybe, as Corey implies @181, Biden was not entirely clear in his own mind what he meant, that he floated back and forth between Israeli and American Jews.

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LFC 04.01.15 at 5:34 am

JW Burton @183

Golda’s job is Israeli pluck: “nowhere else to go” from her side means keep on winning until peace, or else. Biden’s job is US policy: “nowhere else to go” from his side means, however much we’d like to, we can’t help them by taking them all in when they lose; if we help them at all, it has to be by keeping Israel strong until peace. In 1973, that’s what each of them would mean: same proposition, different roles. In 2015, Meir’s words still mean to Biden what they meant in 1973, to Biden.

There is some plausibility to this, and I strongly suspect that Biden’s main *intended* message was probably about the need to keep “Israel strong until peace.” He was speaking off-the-cuff, however, and this standard intended US policy message (esp. to an audience partly or entirely composed of Jewish campaign donors) came out of his mouth in a way that let people in the media and other commenters interpret it in the way Corey says “the media universe” interpreted it.

For that result, Biden has no one to blame but himself and, more specifically, his inability (on this occasion, though it wasn’t unique to this occasion) to use the English language to convey precisely, clearly, and unambiguously the substance of what he intended to say.

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LFC 04.01.15 at 5:39 am

p.s. JWB @168: yes, I did say “addressed to” when I meant to say “about.”

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js. 04.01.15 at 6:21 am

JWB @186:

So… Israel is the ultimate guarantor not of Israeli citizens but of Jews worldwide, including possibly American Jews. Which moreover is something that even American Jews might “feel in their bones”. I guess I don’t see what in Corey’s reading you’re disagreeing with.

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js. 04.01.15 at 6:22 am

I mean, what kinds of conclusions would you draw from Gujarat 2012, exactly?

195

js. 04.01.15 at 6:23 am

Fuck! Gujarat 2002, obviously.

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Joshua W. Burton 04.01.15 at 6:53 am

So… Israel is the ultimate guarantor not of Israeli citizens but of Jews worldwide, including possibly American Jews. Which moreover is something that even American Jews might “feel in their bones”. I guess I don’t see what in Corey’s reading you’re disagreeing with.

No, Israel was one guarantor among several when post-Soviet Russia failed (most of) its Jews — but (said Golda, and says Biden), as there is no plausible guarantor of Israeli Jews should Israel fail them (and real concern about, e.g., some South American and European Jews in that scenario), US Jews and sympathetic Americans like Biden can most effectively help Israeli and world Jews from our position of safety not by making vacuous promises to be that final guarantor, but by preventing Israeli collapse.

What do you suppose Biden would actually say, if cornered and asked to entertain some future reason for US Jews to need an outside guarantor, even Israel, as a hypothetical? I think all evidence suggests that he’d reject it furiously, as a matter of principle and patriotism; Mr. Robin thinks he’s already implicitly entertaining it, and barely even being coy about saying so. Since this is the whole substance of the OP and Salon article, there’s nothing to see here unless I am necessarily wrong.

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Joshua W. Burton 04.01.15 at 7:05 am

I mean, what kinds of conclusions would you draw from Gujarat 2002, exactly?

In this context? That even horrible pogroms don’t raise the spectre of a complete physical extinction of Indian Hindus or of Indian Muslims to the level of an American fundraising soundbite. This trivial truth is overdetermined: there are a lot of sufficient explanations, but I guess I’d have to find somebody surprised by it to decide whether any of them is necessary.

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Peter T 04.01.15 at 10:06 am

Well, if Jews want a safe haven, the US might be a better bet than Israel, seeing as they have been evicted from there at least three times in the last 3000 years. Diversification – having as wide a diaspora as possible – is demonstrably an even better bet.

I think the sub-text here is not simple physical survival, but the survival of Jewishness. The US may be safe, but it assimilates. As does Europe. Outside these, there are no major centres of Jewish life left.

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marcel 04.01.15 at 11:07 am

I count only two evictions (Babylon and Rome) during that time. The original exile started out as an Egyptian holiday, i.e., the original move was voluntary (well, maybe not Joseph, and after him, Benjamin, but the rest of his family fer sure). You may hear something about it in a couple of days.

Unless, of course, you are instead counting the 10 lost tribes of Israel deported by the Neo-Assyrians, (but Judah stayed in place at that time, not being exiled for the first time until about a century and a half later, so …)

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jonnybutter 04.01.15 at 1:31 pm

[to blame is Biden’s chronic inability] to use the English language to convey precisely, clearly, and unambiguously the substance of what he intended to say.

What’s interesting to me is not that he is frequently disabled in this way, but that he is usually emphatic in what he says but doesn’t mean or means but doesn’t say. It telegraphs something larger in the case of this speech: American Israel politics/policy is so weird and goofed up, it’s like an infinite regress of bad/unintended consequences. It’s like a laughably outdated college survey course – so outdated and so peripherally specific that it’s hard to understand even if you’re in the field today! Like that. Just a tragedy for practically everyone.

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Anarcissie 04.01.15 at 1:53 pm

As several others here have said, I think Mr. Biden is being overparsed. His speech was mostly phatic: saying the right thing to the right people on the right occasion. The fact that it doesn’t make much sense is beside the point. He is a politician practicing his craft, not a philosopher.

Why so many Americans are so wrought up about a foreign country does strike me as an interesting question.

202

Joshua W. Burton 04.01.15 at 2:36 pm

Why so many Americans are so wrought up about a foreign country does strike me as an interesting question.

From my perspective, mainstream American Zionism has always seemed very much like mainstream American circumcision: yes, uh, (please keep your voice down) if you must know, we do it — but frankly, (and stop waving that around) we think the rest of you who do it are nuts. And yes, so are the fringe who are screaming at you to stop. But what do we know about it?

203

Ronan(rf) 04.01.15 at 3:00 pm

lfc @189- I think you’re clarification is right

204

Donald Johnson 04.01.15 at 4:33 pm

I’m with those who think it’s a category error to imagine Joe Biden’s comments have a determinate meaning. He might have been giving a proof of Godel’s Theorem or reciting the Gettysburg Address from memory and that’s how it came out.

On the claim that the Romans exiled the Jews, which I had always believed, Charles Manekin (citing a historian) says it’s a myth link to Magnes Zionist site

205

Mike Furlan 04.01.15 at 5:01 pm

“As several others here have said, I think Mr. Biden is being overparsed. His speech was mostly phatic: saying the right thing to the right people on the right occasion. The fact that it doesn’t make much sense is beside the point.”

Let me try again.

If we should ever see a circumstance in which Jewish Americans had to flee this country in fear of their lives, the United States will have been fatally broken. It truly is a worse case scenario. The country as we currently understand it will have died. And Biden should have said that he would fight to the death to avoid such an event. Not, “never mind, no bid deal, you will always have Israel.”

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phenomenal cat 04.01.15 at 5:37 pm

No, Israel was one guarantor among several when post-Soviet Russia failed (most of) its Jews — but (said Golda, and says Biden), as there is no plausible guarantor of Israeli Jews should Israel fail them (and real concern about, e.g., some South American and European Jews in that scenario), US Jews and sympathetic Americans like Biden can most effectively help Israeli and world Jews from our position of safety not by making vacuous promises to be that final guarantor, but by preventing Israeli collapse. Burton@195

I don’t get it, I really don’t. Burton, your argument is more vacuous and empty than you claim Corey’s to be. And yet you’ve spent how many hours on this thread treating Biden’s language like it was Kantian in scope, requiring a Derrida-like attention to its interpretation, only to say the above?

Seriously, what’s the deal?

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Jerry Vinokurov 04.01.15 at 5:55 pm

If we should ever see a circumstance in which Jewish Americans had to flee this country in fear of their lives, the United States will have been fatally broken. It truly is a worse case scenario. The country as we currently understand it will have died.

Not to mention that if that happens, the existence of Israel won’t matter one damn bit.

208

Joshua W. Burton 04.01.15 at 6:01 pm

Seriously, what’s the deal?

Biden said something vacuous and not unpatriotic and utterly forgettable, that he’s said many times before. Goldberg misconstrued it to push an annoying Zionist panic narrative. Robin fell into it with a will, as a hook into an annoying panic counternarrative, that casts the VP’s patriotism in a pretty bad light. None of these arguments are mine; I tried to put the worms back in the can, and hilarity ensued. I can’t do anything more with the worms, but I’m not going to eat them — they still belong back in the can. I’m still not done with Pesah cleaning. So, no deal.

209

johnnyred 04.01.15 at 6:34 pm

The concept that Jewish Americans somehow need further guarantees of their safety is hilarious. Perhaps Biden doesn’t think they have enough influence in our government and our media. Astounding.

210

LFC 04.01.15 at 6:51 pm

I have to say that this one of those (relatively few) Crooked Timber threads in which I changed my mind somewhat about something in the course of reading the comments. I am now of the view that JW Burton is probably right about what Biden intended to say. However, because the actual words Biden chose to utter were less than clear, I can’t much blame those who interpreted them in the way that Goldberg, and later Corey, did.

I still haven’t read the Salon column, just the OP here. However, since I’ve read (most of) The Reactionary Mind Corey will perhaps not care too much if I don’t ever get to his discussion in Salon of Hobbes and B. Williams on the state. “Malcolm X on the UN” (from the OP’s teaser) is sufficiently intriguing, however, that I might get to the Salon column at some point.

211

Rich Puchalsky 04.01.15 at 7:13 pm

Mike Furlan @ 203: “If we should ever see a circumstance in which Jewish Americans had to flee this country in fear of their lives, the United States will have been fatally broken. It truly is a worse case scenario. The country as we currently understand it will have died.”

The interest that this thread has for me lies not in whatever Biden said, but in this kind of rhetoric. (Previously stated @ 132.) From my viewpoint, the country has already been fatally broken in some respects, and of course not because Jews have to flee it. But we do live within an extensive security and spying apparatus, ethnically directed to shoot and imprison black people and to spy on Muslims, to choose just two representative ethnicities (one perennial and one de jour). Our external warmaking is in no way under the control of anything resembling democratic processes or control.

But “fatally broken” implies a recent break, and if you look back at U.S. history you see that this kind of thing is universal. It’s not merely that the U.S. has (e.g.) not always been a haven for Jews: the U.S. regularly goes through spasms where it decides that some ethnicity is suspect and puts them under heightened security or suspicion. That’s what’s so bad about the “the U.S. is trustworthy, it would never do anything like this” rhetoric. The U.S. would never lock up a whole ethnic group in camps? Tell Japanese-Americans that. And that was from one of the more sympathetic, social-democratic U.S. leaders.

No one can say with a straight face that the U.S. would never do such a thing. That is not to say that Jews in the U.S. have any reason to worry in particular, but that no one in the U.S. can depend on the propaganda about our freedoms.

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mattski 04.01.15 at 7:20 pm

Our external warmaking is in no way under the control of anything resembling democratic processes or control.

I don’t think it’s entirely under Executive control either. To some extent the war machine has a life of its own.

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Mike Furlan 04.01.15 at 9:39 pm

Re: Rich Puchalsky

I can’t disagree, you views are correct. I just have a slightly different opinion. Mainly that what we are talking about would be a break from past history.

The event that I think Biden was speaking of was a full on Third Reich Holocaust. I do not think it was ever the intention of the US to totally exterminate any group of people. The Native American case would be the closest. But I don’t see where we in the past have attempted to make the Continent Native American free, or African American Free, or Japanese Free.

Now what might come in the future? I agree as humans we are certainly capable of sinking as low as any group that has come before us. However, as a sitting US Vice President, Biden should have made risen above the Rumsfeld “stuff happens” attitude.

214

Donald Johnson 04.01.15 at 10:20 pm

Any reason why my earlier comment is still under moderation? I’m not sure how that works, because it normally doesn’t happen. There’s a link–maybe that triggers it?

215

LFC 04.01.15 at 10:51 pm

D. Johnson
Any reason why my earlier comment is still under moderation? I’m not sure how that works, because it normally doesn’t happen. There’s a link–maybe that triggers it?

I believe comments go into moderation at random. (There also may be certain triggers; I don’t know.) Once in moderation, they stay there until a CT administrator releases them. The time for that can vary depending on when one of them next checks the queue. It doesn’t hurt to leave a comment, as you just did, saying you have one stuck in moderation. But anyway, sooner or later they get released.

216

Teachable Mo' 04.02.15 at 12:10 am

Biden’s remarks sound like they could have come from The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. I can understand disagreeing with him but to find them offensive seems odd.

217

Peter T 04.02.15 at 1:06 am

“But I don’t see where we in the past have attempted to make the Continent Native American free, or African American Free, or Japanese Free.”

Who’s the “we” here? There were certainly significant factions in the US that sought to make the US “Native American free” (Andrew Jackson’s backers?), and Liberia was envisioned as a start of making the US African American free. Some of the time, some of those factions held considerable power within the US political system.

As the survival of Jews as a group in Europe – despite the worst Hitler could do – demonstrates, genocide is not easy where it involves a large group. The US has been able to kill or assimilate into extinction numerous native groups, but others hang on, even in the face of harsher persecution than anything anti-Semitism in the US has inflicted on its targets.

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Julius Cortes 04.02.15 at 12:25 pm

@CT

Your perogative whether to delete or not:

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20150326/12252530454/free-speech-censorship-moderation-community-copia-discussion.shtml

Possibly before you choose either way, checkout this month’s copy of Scientific American.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/959e5fa6-d703-11e4-93cb-00144feab7de.html?hubRefSrc=email#lf_comment=289911902

To me, personally speaking, Israel means womanhood. Period.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqKZ_WIK5ms

[Ease up on Joe Biden, he suffered plenty during this seemingly never ending Cold War and I’m sure never meant any harm. You would have to be in his head to know what he really meant and if you were there, why were you there, I would ask. Furthermore if you were there, how do I know it was not him that made any supposed slip-of-the-tongue.]

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Rich Puchalsky 04.02.15 at 12:43 pm

“I do not think it was ever the intention of the US to totally exterminate any group of people.”

This is the soft bigotry of low expectations, isn’t it? Saying that only being as bad as the Nazis is really bad is setting a pretty low bar. Let’s imagine that there was a group of Orthodox Jews in a town named, oh, Ferguson NY, and that the police made a habit of differential enforcement for them. You know how the rest of this story goes. Or let’s say that every Rabbi in the U.S. was under electronic surveillance and prominent synagogues were infiltrated by police informers looking to make terrorism cases, that new buildings intended as synagogues couldn’t even be built because of public antipathy towards Jews. Don’t you think that Jews would be saying maybe the U.S. is not really the guarantor of our rights?

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Trader Joe 04.02.15 at 12:53 pm

“But I don’t see where we in the past have attempted to make the Continent Native American free, or African American Free, or Japanese Free.”

If you think this, you should spend some time reading up on your Western U.S. history….I’d recommend “Bury my heart at Wounded Knee” for a start.

While it is true there is no specific Executive action that says “make the Continent Native American free” the actions of the war department and its written communications up and down the chain of command are not nearly as forgiving. There are any number of documents in existance that if you substituted Jews for say Cherokee or Apache would read like the a Third Reich production.

I agree with your broad point concerning the likelihood of Jewish persecution in a similar manner, but don’t put your head in the sand about the U.S. in the 1800 – apart from Lincoln, there wasn’t a lot of enlightened leadership.

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Julius Cortes 04.02.15 at 2:21 pm

@ Jeffrey Goldberg

Lynn Margulis:

Identity is not an object; it is a process with addresses for all the different directions and dimensions in which it moves, and so it cannot so easily be fixed with a single number.

I work in evolutionary biology, but with cells and microorganisms. Richard Dawkins, John Maynard Smith, George Williams, Richard Lewontin, Niles Eldredge, and Stephen Jay Gould all come out of the zoological tradition, which suggests to me that, in the words of our colleague Simon Robson, they deal with a data set some three billion years out of date. Eldredge and Gould and their many colleagues tend to codify an incredible ignorance of where the real action is in evolution, as they limit the domain of interest to animals . . . very tardy on the evolutionary scene, and they give us little real insight into the major sources of evolution’s creativity. By “codifying ignorance” I refer in part to the fact that they miss four of the five kingdoms of life . . . bacteria, protoctista, fungi, and plants.

[RIP]

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/feb/08/robert-mccrum-lucky-survivor-stroke-treatment-revolution

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geo 04.02.15 at 5:09 pm

Very late to the thread and so doubtless water under the bridge, but FWIW I think Corey’s (and Goldberg’s) reading of Biden’s comment is right. Joshua’s reading is plausible — or rather, not unplausible — but relies too much on the mere verbal echo of Meir’s phrase: “no place else to go.” Yes, both Meir and Biden meant “Jews worldwide are only safe to the extent that Israel is strong.” But the difference in contexts — speaker and auditor(s) — makes a crucial difference in meaning. Meir is saying: “No matter how safe we Jews seem to be anywhere, we must have our own powerful nation-state for a refuge.” Biden is saying: “No matter how safe you Jews seem to be anywhere — including the United States, notwithstanding our constitutional guarantees to all our citizens — you must have your own powerful nation-state for a refuge.” For a high Israeli official to say the former twenty years after the Holocaust was understandable. For a high American official to say the latter seventy years after the Holocaust is disgraceful.

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marcel proust 04.02.15 at 9:21 pm

Of absolutely no relevance to the OP (or pretty much anything else about this thread), and about a day and a half late (Sorry, but work interferes with the important things of life, work and tax prep, work, tax prep and …) but Somebody’s wrong on the internet!

LFC wrote:

Wasn’t it Biden who got in trouble in one of his past presidential campaigns for lifting, unacknowledged, some passages from Tony Blair? I hold no brief at all for Blair when it comes to his politics on the Iraq war etc., but Blair would never have said anything quite this mangled in terms of the syntax and referents.

It was Neil Kinnock the last of the pseudo-lefty leaders of the Labour Party. I don’t recall much about his relationship with the English language nor his history of mangling syntax and referents.

So take that, LFC!

224

Mike Furlan 04.03.15 at 12:48 am

Peter T, Rich Puchalsky, Trader Joe:

I am in no way excusing the horrors of American History. Slavery and the ethnic cleansing of the continent are atrocities for sure.

But as bad as they were:

1. They were in the past and if we degenerated into anything like them again it would be a break from our current trajectory. (“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”)
2. There has never been an attempt to exterminate Native Americans, just because they were Native Americans. Jews were targeted just because they were Jews. It was a level of insanity never seen here. Even the White Supremacist South hated the Nazis.

So, you are correct, I would agree that the United States, from it’s inception till Wounded Knee wasn’t worth a bucket of warm piss. But from the nadir of 1890, we have made progress.

Finally, I think we all agree, Never Again.

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Julius Cortes 04.03.15 at 3:49 am

[Never Again. Never Agai. Never Aga. Never Aga. Never Ag. Never A. Etc.]

http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/1999/apr/23/features11.g21

“I’ll be completely honest with you: Even we haven’t yet solved the problem of happiness with 100 percent accuracy. Twice a day – from 16:00 to 17:00 and again from 21:00 to 22:00 – the single mighty organism breaks down into its individual cells. These are the personal hours, as established by the Table. During these hours you’ll see that some are in their rooms with the blinds modestly lowered; others are walking along the avenue in step with the brass beat of the March; still others, like me at this moment, will be at their desks. But I firmly believe – let them call me idealist and dreamer – but I firmly believe that, sooner or later, one day, we’ll find a place for even these hours in the general formula. One day all 86,400 seconds will be on the Table of Hours.

I’ve read and heard a lot of unbelievable stuff about those times when people lived in freedom – that is, in disorganized wildness. But of all the things the very hardest for me to believe was how the governmental powers of that time, even if it was still embryonic, could have permitted people to live without even a semblance of our Table, without obligatory walks, without precisely established mealtimes, getting up and going to bed whenever it pleased them. Some historians even claim that in those days lights burned on the streets all night, people were out walking and driving on the streets all night long.

Now, that’s something I simply cannot get through my head. No matter how limited their powers of reason might have been, still they must have understood that living like this was just murder, a capital crime – except it was slow day-by-day murder. The government (or humanity) would not permit capital punishment for one man, but they permitted the murder of millions a little at a time. To kill one man – that is, to subtract 50 years from the sum of all human lives – that was a crime; but to subtract from the sum of all human lives 50,000,000 years – that was not a crime! No really, isn’t that funny? This problem in moral math could be solved in half a minute by any ten-year-old Number today, but they couldn’t solve it. All their Kants together couldn’t solve it (because it never occurred to one of their Kants to construct a system of scientific ethics – that is, one based on subtraction, addition, division and multiplication).”

Reverse engineered, Ted Hughes ‘Thought Fox’ seems ever more cap-it-all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fK6SpVLqatQ

http://www.garygreenbergonline.com/

[If you can get access, perhaps take a look at a tape of the WEF at Davos in 2010, I think it was, when Klaus Schwab asked Desmond Tutu, what he thought was the solution to the then still very febrile financial crisis. ]

226

Julius Cortes 04.03.15 at 4:23 am

[Last post . . . real work beckons.]

@224 from @225.

[Some will get the reference: they certainly made it blatant enough, at the time.]

The quote was from Yevgeny Zamyatin, We, translated by Clarence Brown, 1993.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqMapRhPuFA

Still hoping to get on a bullet train one day at St Pancras, all the way to Seoul.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cO5evGShbmU

Via Moscow.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/20/books/review/the-prague-cemetery-by-umberto-eco-book-review.html?_r=0

227

Layman 04.03.15 at 7:49 am

Mike Furlan @ 222

“2. There has never been an attempt to exterminate Native Americans, just because they were Native Americans. ”

I don’t think this statement is true for any reasonable meaning of the words. American history is replete with examples of ‘attempts to exterminate Native Americans just because they were Native Americans’, many with either explicit or implicit state sanction. If anything, the official program looks remarkably familiar: Starting with an ethnic group enjoying rights under the law, first pass legislation to restrict those rights; then pass legislation to seize their property; then forcibly relocate them to the hinterlands; then systematically starve and exploit them; then directly kill them when they inevitably resist this procedure; and include everyone, e.g. Noncombatant women and children in the killing. You can argue that, at some point, the program ground to a halt before achieving its aims, but I don’t think you can credibly argue that there wasn’t such a program carried out over decades.

228

Ralph Hitchens 04.03.15 at 3:30 pm

I think this statement is being misinterpreted — understandably so, as I also think Biden did not express himself with any clarity. I suspect this was intended to be an obligatory statement that the survival of Israel was essential for the whole of the Jewish people, and it goes without saying that the US would remain committed to this principle.

229

Suzanne 04.04.15 at 7:54 pm

If the U.S. really did go full Gestapo would emigration to Israel help much? For the sake of convenience, it might even be helpful to a possible American Hitler to have so many Jews living in one small settler state surrounded by neighbors with unreliable attitudes and a restive indigenous population.

I think that, as noted above, Biden was just unthinkingly spouting the Zionist line. Too bad Joe will likely not be participating in the primaries. It would have been entertaining.

230

bianca steele 04.04.15 at 8:10 pm

Well, I started to write a response to the use of “neo-Gestapo” above and decided not to finish it, but I think the issue isn’t so much the fear that the US would decide to wipe the world clean of Jews, as the fear that the US will decide it can become a Christian country [1] and either expel or give second-hand status to other religions. (Zionism isn’t entirely about political repression so much as the psychological effects of living in a Christian country, anyway.)

[1] How this happens when no one variant of Christianity has a plurality in the US, no one has ever attempted to answer, I think.

231

JanieM 04.04.15 at 8:15 pm

plurality

Nitpick: some denomination has a plurality by definition (the one with more adherents than any other). I think you mean a majority…….?

Heaven (TM) forbid.

232

bianca steele 04.04.15 at 8:17 pm

Janie,

Good point, and I’ve never really known what “plurality” means, I guess. But anyway I think Catholics and evangelicals are tied, with about 25% each.

233

Julius Cortes 04.04.15 at 8:53 pm

[overheardinbenjaminclementinelandeastwesterday]

Dear/Snr . . . I see Barack Obama shaking hands with Vladimir Putin in Jerusalem.

Mid summer 2015. The longest day.

With a genuine smiles.

Rand Paul/Colin Powell. 2016. One hopes.

234

Julius Cortes 04.04.15 at 11:21 pm

[040438juliocortesgarcia250814]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlOxdsTEF80

235

Suzanne 04.05.15 at 12:41 am

@228: Possibly, but the Americans who insist most noisily on the Christianity of the U.S. also tend to be the ones who support most strongly a heavily militarized Jewish state with its boot on the neck of the local Arabs. It is true that many of these also anticipate a mass Jewish conversion at some future point, but since such a fantasy Armageddon is unlikely to occur, it doesn’t seem like something Jewish Americans really need to fret about. The only religious group at even remote risk of expulsion from the U.S. would surely be Muslims.

236

jonnybutter 04.05.15 at 1:14 am

It is true that many of these [aggressive Christians] also anticipate a mass Jewish conversion at some future point, but since such a fantasy Armageddon is unlikely to occur, it doesn’t seem like something Jewish Americans really need to fret about.

Nothing they should ‘fret about’ except that it’s grotesquely anti-semitic. I guess if *that* doesn’t bother you…

237

Rich Puchalsky 04.05.15 at 4:27 am

“Nothing they should ‘fret about’ except that it’s grotesquely anti-semitic. I guess if *that* doesn’t bother you…”

Been over that in a recent thread: characterizing the belief that for the End Times predictions to come true then specifically all Jews have to be converted or killed as anti-semitic is apparently some weird Althusserian contortion.

That could never lead to anything: the U.S. has never had a religious revival.

238

Julius Cortes 04.05.15 at 7:12 am

Everybody knows there is no fineness or accuracy of suppression; if you hold down one thing you hold down the adjoining. Sol Bello.

239

jonnybutter 04.05.15 at 2:13 pm

*all Jews have to be converted or killed as anti-semitic is apparently some weird Althusserian contortion.*

That could never lead to anything: the U.S. has never had a religious revival.

One of the current load of GOP pres. contenders actually called for a religious revival the other day (sorry, can’t/won’t remember which). But my point was to highlight (I hoped anyway) how ethically repulsive it is for Jews to ally with (a vast number) of anti-semites in an attempt to bolster a strictly political state – completely aside from any incipient manifestation of anti-semitism. That it is foolish in a directly instrumental sense you’d think would be even more obvious.

240

Beryl 04.05.15 at 4:08 pm

Shorter jonnybutter (and others): Jews really don’t know what’s good for them.

241

jonnybutter 04.05.15 at 4:29 pm

Shorter Beryl and others: It’s not repulsive for a political state which claims to speak for all Jews to ally itself semi-permamently with anti-semites.

242

Beryl 04.05.15 at 5:03 pm

@jonnybutter,

I’m sure your concern about anti-semites is truly appreciated.

243

LFC 04.06.15 at 1:36 am

@marcel proust 222

You are right. It was Neil Kinnock, of course. I stand corrected.

Substituting Kinnock doesn’t change the underlying point, such as it was, since neither Blair nor, I think, Kinnock matched Biden’s more-than-occasional proclivity to mangle words.

244

LFC 04.06.15 at 1:43 am

In fact, if I recall this correctly, the borrowed passages were from a speech or speeches of Kinnock that Biden happened to like. I suppose I shd read the linked Wiki article on the Biden ’88 pres. campaign, but I’m not feeling much inclination to do so. Which I guess means I shdn’t have brought the whole thing up to begin with.

245

jonnybutter 04.06.15 at 4:05 pm

Mizner in Jacobin: It’s not just The Lobby

Just to fill out the picture of repulsively cynical behavior (and to not impute it exclusively to hasbara-type trolls or Israeli politicians).

246

bianca steele 04.06.15 at 4:24 pm

@222, 244

Germond and Witcover, Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars? (on the 1988 election), ch. 15.

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