Symbolic Identifiers and Jewish Stereotypes
(gilad.co.uk) -- By Gilad Atzmon
Jews are usually proud to define themselves as Jews. Some Jews may, for instance, proudly carry the Jewish banner (Jews for Peace, Jews for Justice, Jews for Jesus and so on) as if they believe that the ‘J’ word contains special righteous attributions. However, they also will be gravely offended if they are called a ‘Jew’ by others. Suggesting to a Jew that “he is a Jew” or “behaves like a Jew” can be regarded as a serious ‘racist’ offence...
On the face of it, it would seem as if Jews are over sensitive to the ‘racial’ discriminatory implication of the ‘J’ word. However most Jews are not that concerned when being associated collectively with some great minds, adorable violin players or conductors. In short to safely apply the ‘Jew’ category, you just have to make sure you say the right things. No one will ever cause you any trouble for mentioning Albert Einstein in reference to Jewish intelligence or even bringing up Anne Frank as an exemplary motif of Jewish innocence but you may get into some serious trouble once you mention the following list of real and fictional characters: Bernie Madoff, Fagin, Wolfowitz, Lord Levy, Shylock, Alan Greenspan, Netanyahu and Nathan Rothschild without even identifying them as Jews.
All of the above depicts a very obscure, yet far from surprising picture. As it seems, Jews, largely do not mind stereotypes or collective categories. They do not mind racial generalizations and essentialist stigmas as long as they are positive.
Fagin Vs Anne Frank
It occurred to me recently that by juxtaposing Jewish stereotypes (those Jews seem to hate versus those Jewish ethnic campaigners try to promote) may throw some crucial light over issues to do with Jewish collective identity. It would also suggest to us how Jews might see themselves and even more importantly, it may also help us to grasp how they prefer to be seen.
It is rather obvious that some Jews are rather unhappy with Charles Dickens’ Fagin and Shakespeare’s Shylock who they regard as ‘anti Semitic’. I get the impression that the prominent Zionist enthusiast and London Barrister Anthony Julius would like to see these cultural iconic characters diminished from popular discourse. On the other hand, the British Holocaust Education Trust (HET) already managed to plant Anne Frank within the British curriculum.
It doesn’t take a genius to gather why Julius and others are concerned with Fagin or Shylock. Fagin is the ultimate plunderer, a child exploiter and usurer. Shylock is the blood-thirsty merchant. With Fagin and Shylock in mind Israeli barbarism and organ trafficking seem to be just other events in an endless hellish continuum. However, it is also obvious why the HET is so thrilled by Anne Frank. On the face of it, and for obvious reasons, Frank is there to convey an image of innocence. And indeed not a single moral system could ever justify the ordeal this young girl went through along with many others.
Yet, Anne Frank wasn’t exactly a literary genius. Her diary is not a valuable piece of literature. She wasn’t an exceptionally clever either. She was in fact a very ordinary girl and this is exactly her power within the post WWII Western cultural discourse. She was just an innocent average girl. In fact, the attempt to make Anne Frank into a cultural hero may be a genuine reflection of the Zionist inclination towards sameness. Frank mirrors the desperate Zionist attempt to prove to the world that ‘we the Jews’ are people like other people. Moreover, the success of Anne Frank’s Diary is there to suggest the West’s willingness to accept Jews as people amongst peoples.
Yet, once again, the Jewish discourse is caught in a limbo. Jewish people can never achieve their task. They can never be like ‘other people’ for no other people aim to be like other people. In fact, those who demand to be seen as equal must feel inherently and categorically different...
In his latest book Trials of The Diaspora, Anthony Julius renews his attack on those whom he labels as ‘anti Semites’ for being anti Zionists. The problem with anti Zionism, says Julius, is that “it denies the Jews the right that it upholds for other comparable people, it adheres to the right of self determination except in the Jews’ case...
For Hasbara (propaganda) to win a debate and for Julius to win his argument, Jews have to prove that they are truly the same rather than demand to be seen as similar. Surely Julius must know that winning a moral argument is very different from winning a court case.
Presumably Julius is familiar enough with Kant’s ‘categorical imperative’ that suggests that to behave ethically is to ‘act in such a way that the maxim of one’s actions can be willed as a universal law’. Julius may fail to grasp that ethnically cleansing the vast majority of the Palestinian population cannot be ‘willed as a universal law’. Locking millions in concentration camps such as Gaza is not exactly a maxim of profound ethical standing. Dropping white phosphorous on people hiding in a UN shelter doesn’t make the Jewish state look like every other state. In fact, it doesn’t make Jews look like other people either. Watching Jewish lobbies around the world push for a war against Iran doesn’t make Jews look like ordinary people. And this is something that even Anne Frank cannot change...MORE...LINK
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