Happy Ignorant Hannukah, from the JA

I almost unsubscribed from the Jewish Agency’s newsletter this morning. I mean, I have no idea why I get it anyway … because I taught Hebrew School? Because they ‘know about me’ and are trying to not-so-subtly bring me over to the dark side?

But I took another look at today’s mailing – Hannukah greetings! and wishes for Jewish prosperity and remembrance of Israel – and I was struck with in fact the usefulness of this newsletter. Yes, it’s the Jewish Agency, and no, I don’t agree with pretty much anything they do or say. But it’s a fascinating study of the rhetoric of this debate.

In reality, Israel is a tangible thing. It’s a country with political problems and a military occupation and minority rights issues, with a complex society of not just Jews but Christians and Muslims and Atheists and Baha’i, of Europeans, Americans, Russians, Ethiopians, Palestinians, even Azerbaijanis. But Israel as it’s painted in this picture is an idea, an ancient myth, a figment of some publicist’s imagination. This is the image that so many of us, as American Jews, are shown and believe. This imaginary wonderland is the place to which we give millions of dollars a year in tax-deductible donations. There is a huge disparity between the Israel being sold to American Jewry and the Israel that exists. It is in their (Israeli government, the Jewish Agency, etc.) interest to perpetuate this myth, and to keep the reality of what Israel is as far as possible from the awareness of their donor base: American Jews.

And it is for this reason, this fascination with the mythology of this debate, that I will proudly continue to receive the Jewish Agency’s emails, and so I can point out their continuing efforts to keep us in ignorance and blind faith. And because, honestly, scary as they are, I am vaguely amused by this intentionality and their brilliant marketing strategies.


One thought on “Happy Ignorant Hannukah, from the JA

  1. I don’t know if a “consciousness-raising” can be scheduled like a dental exam, but my trajectory for “peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict” has peace breaking out in Israel, then spreading to the US later. Now, your notes today notwithstanding, that latter half seems to have two phases. The first is among US Jews, who as a group are not automatically, pathologically, pathetically, ridiculously opposed to discussing anything at all having to do with Israel. The second, you may have intuited, is the non-Jewish base, really, the Establishment, which, for some obscene reason, has made the status quo in Israel one of its “can’t help but thinks” (OW Holmes, Jr.’s phrase for the social assumptions that underlie law). “See how they run, like pigs from the gun,” sang George Harrison. This is the US gentile debate on Israel–running from that debate.
    Would the US gentiles keep on battling with 20 F-35’s, banning the Goldstone Report (is that why Bill Moyers lost his TV show, for having Justice Goldstone on? who runs PBS/NPR?), etc., etc., after US Jews have repudiated arbitrary government in the spurious service of Jewishness/Judaism/Jews?
    The heart of WASP culture, speaking as one, and partly Swedish (apparently famous for their stubborness), is stubborness. Martha, we’ve always done it that way and I don’t know why you can’t understand that. Do I have to get out my belt? It may also be, as an African-American woman sociologist told me once, that this gentile culture is run by women (“priestess-prostitutes”?, in one study’s terms, not of the US in particular–hmm?–Barbra Streisand in “Nuts”–“a woman will crawl through mud for a mink coat”?). The “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t talk, don’t look at me like that or you’ll be sorry” rule has been in effect for centuries.
    As Uri Avnery said the other day, about Jews milking the goy state, the only reason this is possible is that the goy state is, well, a long string of adjectives of devotion to dignified futility. Thorstein Veblen, the one distinguished graduate of my alma mater, Carleton College, and what’s his bequest to humanity: the debunking concepts of conspicuous consumption and invidious comparison–the more useless it is, the more dignified (Carleton’s record on him judged him, one of the first four graduates, “unsound”). The most useless thing of all is an idea of society as a counter-intuitive institution–we do it because it’s hard, dear, not because it’s going to produce any results. At heart, a suicidal culture. A distorted Christian “narrative”. We do it because it’s hard, dear, and because it doesn’t make any sense. Maybe because it keeps us from having to deal with each other. (Oh, she’s lost her mind–send her off to the mental hospital.)

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