Philip Weiss on Philosemitism and Ethnocentrism
Philip Weiss has yet another meditation on being a Jew married to a non-Jew (“Philosemitism’s threat to Zionism”). He and his wife live in a social world made up of mixed couples., and his wife prefers it that way. I’d love to hear exactly what his wife means when she says that she prefers to socialize with mixed couples because some all-Jewish couples are too “strong” for her. Are we talking about the old stereotype of psychological aggressiveness, or is that an indelicate topic? Maybe it’s like the Jewtopia skit where a non-Jewish character says he loves Jewish girls because Jewish girls make all the decisions when they go out–where to eat, what friends to have, what to wear, etc., so that he doesn’t have to think any more. (Be sure to continue listening to see what happens when a Jew orders food at a restaurant; it’s the same psychological profile.) Maybe these Jews see life as a whole lot more peaceful with a non-Jewish spouse.
Weiss is the sort of Jew that most Americans think about when they think of Jews. He is wonderfully liberal and open-minded, gushing at a marriage between a Jew and a Hindu. He does not have a sense of historical injustice, at least when he thinks of his own experience in America. As he acknowledges, in this regard, he is quite unlike most American Jews and certainly unlike the activists who staff the organized Jewish community — the Jews like Abe Foxman who use their sense of persecution as a badge and sword. Weiss notes that the Israel Lobby “cannot trust [non-Jews] to act wisely without being politically coerced and bribed. The lobby has returned the incredible trust that Jews have been granted in the U.S. with suspicion.”
Indeed, he feels suffused by philosemitism, but then there’s the guilt at abandoning the tribe:
The objects of philo-semitism, myself included, feel some guilt about it. We know, or ought to, that we’re participating in an assimilatory process. We are hurting the tribe’s future as a tribe. And so for those who care about tribe, Israel gains a new significance: it is the bulwark of Jewishness, the place where Jews marry Jews.
Israel is indeed the bulwark of tribalistic Judaism. Weiss claims that the motive for Zionism was anti-Semitism in Europe. But in fact, a very large motive, especially for the racial Zionists, was retaining racial purity, and in that they have succeeded. Racial Zionists were part of the trend toward racial nationalism in Europe, and their descendants — the followers of Jabotinsky — are now in charge of Israeli politics. Here’s Arthur Ruppin, a prominent racial Zionist writing in the early 20th century:
Intermarriage marks the end of Judaism. Mixed marriage is regarded as destructive of Judaism even where the non-Jewish side adopts the Jewish religion, for it is understood, be it merely subconsciously, that Judaism is something more than a religion—a common descent and a common fate. Were it only a religious communion, assimilated Jews would actually have to welcome a mixed marriage which gains a proselyte for Judaism, but even among them this view is conspicuously absent. (Quoted in Separation and Its Discontents.)
An interesting recent example of Israeli racialism is Baruch Marzel, a former member of the Kach Party who would presumably still be a member except that Kach has been outlawed for its racist views. According to Haaretz, a Marzel has voiced his opposition to Leonardo DiCaprio marrying Bar Rafaeli, an Israeli model, because “it would dilute the Jewish race.”
Marzel is doubtless on the fringe of Jewish thinking — at least overtly. But the reality is that deep concerns about racial purity are always just below the surface in mainstream Israeli society. As reported in the Forward, a recent Knesset bill shows the continuing power of the Orthodox over conversion. The immediate concern was that foreign workers in Israel might convert to Judaism and therefore become eligible to be Israeli citizens via the Law of Return. As the bill moves forward, the trick is to write the legislation so that foreign workers would not be able to convert to Judaism while leaving intact the validity of conversions done by Reform and Conservative congregations in the Diaspora. The concern of Diaspora Jews is that ultimately the Orthodox will nullify all conversions except those performed by the Orthodox. Since the Orthodox already control marriage within Israel (so that Israelis who wish to marry people who can’t establish their Jewish ancestry must marry outside Israel), this would ensure the triumph of racialist Judaism in Israel.
Weiss understands that liberal forms of Judaism that exist in the Diaspora are dead ends. And he understands that therefore he will have “little influence over the body of Jewish life in the U.S. so long as I can’t imagine a corporate future.” So the tribe will endure without people like Weiss and his belief that “ethnocentric arrogance is unsustainable in a globalized environment.”
The problem that I have with this is that the racialists in Israel are firmly in charge and they have the overwhelming support of the organized Jewish community in the Diaspora. This isn’t going to change. Moreover, given the historical trends within Israel, Israeli racialism may well get even more extreme. People like Weiss and organizations like J Street function to give Judaism a softer veneer that is consistent with post-racial, multicultural America without having any effective influence on the “ethnocentric arrogance” at the heart of Judaism or even lessening the support of the Israel Lobby for Israel as an apartheid, racialist state. Intermarriage has many benefits for Diaspora Judaism as long as the racial core is not threatened, and the existence of Israel ensures that Jewish tribalism will remain long into the future.
Yet liberal Jews with many of the same beliefs as Weiss are the main bulwark of the left in America that has so successfully pathologized any sense of ethnocentrism by Whites — and only Whites. Pardon me if I refuse to disavow White ethnocentrism as I am sure Weiss advocates. I think we are going to need a very healthy dose of White ethnocentrism if Whites are to survive in a world that remains governed by the ethnocentric arrogance of others.
And pardon me if I predict that as Weiss gets older he will return to his Jewish ethnic roots. This is one of my working hypotheses about Jews and probably people in general. I discussed several examples in my books on Judaism, such as Heinrich Heine. Other examples (and counterexamples) are needed to make a good case, but the idea is that as we get older, our ethnocentrism tugs at us. We worry about the future of our people –what the world will be like in a hundred years, not just for our children and grandchildren, but for the wider group of people like ourselves. And right now, for people like me, it doesn’t look good.
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