Jewcentricity

I am reading a fascinating and timely book – Jewcentricity – by Adam Garfinkle.  The subtitle is “why the Jews are praised, blamed, and used to explain just about everything.”

The primary thesis is that Jewcentricity is about exaggeration and distortion. 

Garfinkle writes that “it is about the various roles Jews are imagined to play on the world stage that they do not, in fact, actually play.  Some of this imagining is done by Jews, but most of it is done by non-Jews.  Some of these roles are imagined to be benign, even transcendently wonderful.  Some are imagined to be malign, even cosmically evil.”  

While cautioning that we should ourselves be careful not to exaggerate, since it is not a universal phenomenon, Garfinkle describes 4 main types (as a 2×2 matrix).

“First there are non-Jews who obsess over Jews in a negative way, irrationally blaming Jews for everything they dislike and fear.  These are the antisemites.

Second, there are non-Jews who obsess over Jews in a positive way.  These philo-Semites today populate the ranks of millenarian and evangelical Christians in the United States and abroad, for example, but they are found in other forms, as well, in a range of expressions.

Third are Jews who obsess positively over themselves.  Some Jews distort the idea of the Chosen People into a form of religious chauvanism offensive to non-Jews and to a lot of their fellow-Jews, too.

Finally there are “self-hating” or “self-loathing” Jews,  Jews who obsess over the fact that they are Jews who would rather not be.  Some go to considerable lengths to distance themselves from being identified as Jews.  Others identify themselves as Jews but exert themselves to defame everything commonly associated with Jews, Jewishness and Judaism.”

Later Garfinkle states “By “self-hating Jews”, I mean those who identify themselves as Jews, but who take sharply adversarial positions on virtually all matters of concern to the Jewish community”.  Garfinkle identifies 3 related but different phenomena that may be hard to distinguish: self hatred, renegadism and the behaviour of the parvenu.  The self-hater is neurotic.  The Jewish renegade can also be self-hating, but is not necessarily so; either way, his behaviour towards Jews is active and public, while genuine self-hatred usually takes quietist forms.  The parvenu seeks to ingratiate himself with select circles of non-Jews, and thinks that anti-Jewish gestures and behaviour will help in that. This too, can involve self-hatred, but it need not – it can be merely selfish and venal.”

Garfinkle discusses the craving of Jews for acceptance, and the fear of some that they would be accused of dual loyalty.  He adds “The same is true for some Jewish intellectuals in Europe, except that the community they care about is far smaller – the left-wing, postmodernist academic-intellectual sanctum they see as their real home, and which they will do virtually anything to remain a part of. ” 

Interestingly, Garfinkle notes that “The craving of such Jews for acceptance into their desired ideological circles intensifed after 9/11 when the undertone of European mutterings over Islamist terrorism quickly turned to blame Israel (read: the Jews) for all their problems. “The number of Jews in Europe (and some American Jews who study Europe as a specialty” who have gone out of their way to publically dissociate themselves from and denounce Israel is impressive.” ..

Further “These and other anti-Zionist Jews have been hailed in much of Europe as brave and honorable “dissident” Jews, the “authentic” voice of Judaism.  They enable European anti-Semites to argue that they do not hate Jews, only Zionists”.

“The artifice of dividing “authentic” Jewish dissidents from other Jews is nothing new either, particularly in Europe”. When Jews were rootless, stateless, beleagured, and in distress, they “proved” the Church’s curse on them.  When they stood up and reestablished themselves on their own terms, they posed a theological problem.  The contemporary Europeans leftist enthronement of anti-Zionist “dissident” Jews represents exactly the same phenomenon in secular form: Jews who define and pursue their own interests pose an ideological problem.”

The book discusses the Mearsheimer, Walt   Israel lobby debate, arguing that the accusation is nothing new, even though it is very Jewcentric.

In keeping with the theme of Jewcentricity being an exaggeration and distortion, I liked the quote from Daniel Schorr “All news is an exaggeration of life”

Garfinkle has written several articles related to his book here and  here and a good interview with him is here.   In the interview he makes a lot of sense with his comment that “The widespread belief in Europe and, to a lesser degree, here in the United States that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the be-all and end-all of every problem throughout the Middle East and even beyond, and that Israel must bear the brunt of its solution, is a residual effect of Jews having been the most prominent “other” in European history. This belief is false, and can lead to ineffective and even counterproductive policies.”

The book is well worth reading.  Garfinkle is editor of the “American Interest” which is linked to on the right.

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