The Superseded Jew

This was originally to be Part IV of my anti-Semitism series. I’ve mostly been side-tracked from it — I don’t think the rest of it flows organically from discussions we’ve been having. This post, though, I think remains important on its own merits.

When Christianity first came about, it did not see itself as a rival to Judaism. Rather, it viewed itself as its completion. The coming of Jesus was the next step in the natural progression of Jewish history. Early Christians were thus surprised when Judaism refused to die off in the face of its claims. This presented a problem: if Christianity is merely the new and improved form of Jews (as they like to see themselves, hence names like “The New Testament”), what does it mean if there continues to exist a live and vibrant Jewish community that rejects the divinity of Christ?

Christian theologians solved this problem by holding that post-Christ Judaism was vestigial, a dead tree that would bear no more fruit. This doctrine, of course, runs into trouble insofar as Jews still were running around making theological claims and arguments, and Christian rulers worked extraordinarily hard as a result to suppress Jewish religious practice and particularly the creation of Jewish religious scholarship. The goal was make the declaration of Jewish irrelevancy a reality, by force if necessary. Christianity could only be said to be complete insofar as it was totalizing; it could only be totalizing if it entirely incorporated (dominated, colonized) Judaism.

As the Enlightenment swept through Europe (and came to America), a similar problem emerged. Like Christianity, Enlightenment Liberalism was a totalizing ideology. Its assertions of universal human rationality were colored by the experiential backdrop of the persons making the claim. What was said to be “universal” was, in reality, primarily a reflection of the values of the dominant castes: European (later White), male, middle-class, and secular/Christian. Some Enlightenment thinkers were Christian, and others were not, but regardless of their religious affiliation they had to make allowances for the overwhelmingly Christian majorities they represented. Explicitly sectarian rules were abandoned, but they principles which replaced them did little to undermine Christian hegemony.

Once again, though, Jews presented a problem. Jewish difference was incompatible with the universalism that characterized Enlightenment thought. “Neutral” laws written with the Christian majority in mind did not fall equally upon the Jewish community – for example, Sunday closing laws, which are easily defended as neutral in purpose (to give people a day off) and selection (Sunday is the day most people would want off). Even the vaunted separation of Church and State, an enlightenment triumph and a hallmark of efforts to protect minority faiths, has been operationalized to perpetuated the social subordination of Jews. In such situations, once again the Jew was called upon to erase her or himself. Jewish requests for accommodation were shot down as special pleading or violations of equal treatment. But conditioning equality upon sameness, as Catherine MacKinnon argues, “simply means that…equality is conceptually designed never to be achieved. Those who most need equal treatment will be the least similar…to those whose situation sets the standard against which one’s entitlement to be equally treated is measured.” As Albert Memmi, a Tunisian Jew and one of the key figures in contemporary post-colonial philosophy, memorably put it in The Liberation of the Jew, Jewish inclusion into majority Christian “secular” institutions was done under the conditions of “the poor man who enters a middle-class family: they demand that he at least have the good taste to make himself invisible.” The idea that Jews could only become equal by abandoning their Jewishness was sometimes expressed in distressingly violent terms. In 1793, the German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte wrote that “As for giving them [the Jews] civil rights, I see no remedy but that their heads should be cut off in one night and replaced with others not containing a single Jewish idea.”

In short, like its Christian forbearer, quasi-secular Enlightenment liberalism could only self-actualize by denying Jewish particularism as a legitimate source of political claims. In theory, the bargain was that Jews would secularize and in return would receive the protections of universal human personhood. In reality, in exchange for bartering away their independence, Jews received very little protection against anti-Semitic violence. There is an old saw amongst historically minded Jews that imagines telling a turn-of-the-century European that there would be a brutal, anti-Semitic genocide on his continent within the next 50 years. The listener would not be surprised – but he’d assume it’d be in France. France was just coming off one of its most virulent anti-Semitic episodes in recent memory in the Dreyfuss Affair. Germany, by contrast, was widely regarded as the single most open and tolerant community for Jews to live in. Moral of the story? Enlightenment values aren’t a check against deep-seated prejudice, and tolerance now doesn’t preclude violence later.

As an aside, hopefully this talk about supersessionism makes it clear why the establishment of Israel was so important to much of the Jewish psyche. Many people, it seems, can’t grasp why establishing Israel mattered to Jews aside from some romanticized Biblical claim. I don’t think reestablishing the reign of Biblical kings was a major motivating factor for (largely secular) Zionism at all. For nearly 2,000 years, Jews had been seen as a sort of living fossil – a relic of a bygone era that had no autonomy, agency, or even subjectivity. Its continued survival was interpreted along a continuum of amazement to fury, a long since obsolete people who by all rights should have just become Christian or French or European or American a long time ago. The establishment of Israel was a stunning repudiation of this mentality – in many ways, the first undeniable assertion of Jewish popular agency since entering the diaspora. Here was living proof that we created something, that we were live actors, not a dead relic. Israel was undeniably real and undeniably ours, and commanded the attention, at least, of the global community. In the wake of the Holocaust – when it was an open question whether this wound against the Jewish people was too deep, one we could not survive – this could not have occurred at a more important time.

Supersessionism occurs whenever Jews are set against a totalizing narrative constructed by non-Jews that seeks to violent or coercively absorb them into its schema. Along with Christianity and Enlightenment Liberalism, Marxism believed itself to supersede the Jew (along with all other religions). Islam, like Christianity, also has historically seen itself as a (or the) metanarrative. Because metanarratives always carry within them the cadences of the group that creates them, these metanarratives (not created by Jews) always exist in tension with the Jewish community. Though the “universal” is always really particular, it is never admitted to be such. Instead, Jewish difference from the universal norm is taken as just cause for its suppression.

Keeping the supersessionist claims in mind makes clear several realities about the Jewish condition. First, supersessionism interlocks with the hyperpower myth in an intriguing way that reinforces Jewish silencing. If the Jew is no longer a legitimate independent source of perspective – either because of its impermissible sectarianism, or because at root it is just a “quirky Christian sect” – then of course it is no problem when Jewish voices are absent. But even persons who admit the utility of a plurality of perspectives can still justify ignoring Jewish voices particularly, because they view it as incorporated within the dominant Western-Christian paradigm. These figures would never be so crass as to allege that The Jews are hyperpowerful – except that they end up reaching the same place by default by grouping them within categories such as “Judeo-Christian” that are supposedly the dominant caste in the modern world.

“Judeo-Christian”, of course, is a nonsense phrase that is 100% Christian and, where it does happen to overlap with Jewish perspectives, does so completely by accident. And where Jewish ideology clashes even a little bit with Christian hegemony, it is immediately jettisoned from the pantheon. So we get Katherine Harris telling folks that adhering to “Judeo-Christian values” means only electing Christian legislators (presumably, not Jews), and Duncan Hunter explaining that the reason Israel can have gay soldiers but America can’t is because the latter’s combat troops have, you guessed it, “Judeo-Christian values.” Effectively, the “Judeo-Christian” concept nails Jews from both ends: conservatives get to claim Jews (against our will) to obtain faux-diversity, liberals happily cede us to them so they can bash us as part of the oppressive Christian/conservative power structure they’re warring against. What’s lost in all of this is the simple fact that Christians and Jews are different. Ask 100 people about the “traditional Judeo-Christian position” on abortion or the death penalty. I guarantee 90% of the time you’ll get an answer reflective of traditional Christian conservatism – but one that will have nothing to do with the way those issues are treated in classical Jewish texts. Christians are relatively conservative on these issues. Jews are relatively liberal. But despite being one of the most liberal demographics in America, Jews are often assumed to be conservative, because they’ve been subsumed in the public mind as just a branch of the dominant caste. That’s why a Greek paper was able to applaud Obama’s election as “the end of the Jewish domination”, despite carrying the ballots of 78% of American Jews. Ultimately, the refusal to situate Jews inside their own narrative and experience, instead defining them as mere extensions of Whiteness or Europeaness or what have you, is a replication of the supersessionist ideology in which Jews were stripped of their subjectivity as human actors.

The second implication has to do with how we view liberal remedies for anti-Semitic oppression generally. Many proponents of a single, bi-national state “solution” to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict argue that this is the only remedy that is consistent with the liberal, multi-ethnic, and egalitarian democratic ethos. A “Jewish” state is impermissibly sectarian and partisan, thus illiberal. A bi-national state which is neither “Jewish” nor “Palestinian”, but where everyone is just “citizen”, is what our progressive commitment to liberality demands.

I believe the liberal prescription for how oppressed people ought to seek their liberation is deeply flawed, for at least two reasons. First, the “neutral” rules under which the oppressed are supposed to conduct their affairs were made by and for the oppressors, for the precise purpose of maintaining the status quo hierarchy. And second, the rules are ones that nobody but the oppressed are expected to meet: they are routinely and flagrantly violated by the very persons who are shocked, shocked, whenever the marginalized step even a toe out of line (the taboo against interracial sex thus rests quite easily with the White campaign of rape and terror waged against Black women).

In other words, the liberal burden puts the onus on the oppressed class to craft a liberation agenda which maps perfectly onto an idealized fantasy that doesn’t exist and adhere to systematized rules and procedures which were crafted with reference to the current oppressive reality — they have to be both the paragons of idealized justice which nobody else practices and meet technical hurdles designed specifically to ratify an existing power structure which keeps Jews at the bottom.

What advocates of the single multi-ethnic liberal state miss is that this paradigm has never served to protect Jews, and there is no reason aside from misty-eyed idealism to suppose it will do so now. Moreover, it is a demand made of virtually no other nation. Not only has this “bargain” failed us before, but now like then, it is one made under implied threat: Jews who reject the particularistic nature of our identity do so under the watchful eyes of centuries of pogroms, burnings, torture, and murder that stand in silent testament to the alternative.

Asking Jews to buy into this model is a case of unilateral disarmament demanded of a people who have (as Richard Rubenstein pointed out) the least reason to trust in the promises of “abstract moral principles, human virtue, or international institutions.” How many more bullets can we be expected to take while we wait for you all to get this thing right? Anyone who has paid even the slightest bit of attention to the history of the 20th century cannot ask oppressed people to place their trust in the consciences of the international community and expect to be taken seriously. Maybe liberal multi-ethnic democracy is the shining path of salvation to the future. But I don’t think it is proper to make the Jews be its guinea pig.

Even the United States, historically one of the most tolerant locations for Jews to live in, can’t replicate the function of a “Jewish state”. Most obviously, Jews are still a minority here – still the other, still the strange – and depend on the goodwill and magnanimity of others to secure our equality. I take it as a basic principle of self-determination that no person should have to be a minority everywhere. There ought to be spaces where all of us get to be the center and not the frontier, the norm and not the marginalized. A liberal multi-ethnic state wouldn’t be a neutral baseline upon which all citizens can flourish, it would merely be a different baseline – one that would likely track the interests of the dominant or majority classes. There is no guarantee that either the dominaters or the majority will be particularly interested in crafted policies designed to insure that all citizens (much less minority groups) can flourish.

I don’t discount the great benefits that come from integration and multiculturalism – after all, I’m a Jew who was born in and plans to remain in America, so clearly I’m personally willing to give this deal a shot. But that’s my choice – you don’t get to roll the dice with my life. This can’t be our only option. Our efforts to remove racism from the University of Chicago do not negate the rationale for Howard University. The superstructure is still present, and believe me when I say I’m eyeing it warily.

But more directly, America has, when pressed against the wall, refused to serve as a substitute for the most important function Israel serves: a haven for Jews fleeing oppression. A poll taken in the United States after Kristallnacht asked respondents if they approved of the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews. 88% responded that they did not. They were then asked if they favored allowing more Jewish exiles into the country from Germany. 72% responded in the negative. And the American government’s policy was set accordingly, and remained consistent throughout the war. Coupled with Britain’s decision (under Palestinian pressure) to dramatically restrict the flow of Jewish refugees into the territorial mandate of Palestine, and Jews were bottled up and left to die. A great deal of Jewish support for Israel can be explained from this very simple sequence of events. Hitler’s “Final Solution” was brought into being because his previous efforts to rid himself of Jews (through expulsion) foundered on the fact that no state would accept them. Had Israel existed in 1928 instead of 1948, the Holocaust (of the Jews, at least – the 5 million others Hitler killed would likely have still met their fate) would not have occurred.

Meanwhile, the view of Israel’s statehood as somehow aberrational to the general proceedings itself betrays a specific and partial perception of which states are legitimate and which ones are not. I dare say that every modern nation has come into being wrapped in a shroud of pain and death. Israel is no exception, nor will the eventual Palestine. But in a world with French nation-states, Arab nation-states, Persian nation-states, Chinese nation-states, all manner of nation-states, only the Jewish-nation state is conceived as a request for “special rights”, because only the Jewish-nation state is seen as something external to the status quo state of affairs predicated on anti-Semitic domination (which of course, it was). Speaking only of the oppression created when Israel came into being, it pays no mind to the oppression present when there was no Israel and that Israel was created in response to. That oppression is instead taken as part of the neutral baseline, which Jews can be expected to absorb, or at best resist only in manners which affirm the deeper and more fundamental truth that Jews must always be a minority, must always be at the sufferance of others (I don’t have time to deal with yet another anti-Semitic myth, but I can’t help but think the presumed justness of this state of affairs is nourished by the idea of the “wandering Jew”). And that oppression cannot be plucked from its social location and placed in some sort of ahistorical abyss. It was done by Christians and by Muslims and by atheists; it was done by those who believed in theocracy and nationalism and Marxism and liberalism. The moral and political theories of the gentile world have one thing in common – they have been wretched failures at securing Jewish equality.

The basic line is this. When I’m told that a bi-national state will protect Jewish rights, ensure their flourishing, shield them from violence, and serve as a haven for Jews fleeing oppression elsewhere, I don’t believe you – nor am I obligated to. When I’m told that a liberal, multi-ethnic democracy will accomplish these things, I don’t believe you – nor am I obligated to. History, I think, is firmly on my side here.

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25 Responses to The Superseded Jew

  1. Very well said, David. Very well said.

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    “Judeo-Christian”, of course, is a nonsense phrase that is 100% Christian and, where it does happen to overlap with Jewish perspectives, does so completely by accident.


    Damn, I hate the phrase “Judeo-Christian.” And although I’m sure there are exceptions, every Jew I know hates it, too.

    * * *

    Aren’t there many peoples in the world who live without a homeland of their own? I’m not sure that I buy that having one’s own nation-state can or should be seen as a universal human right.

    I remain fairly neutral between two-state and one-state solutions. I don’t think you can have a reasonable discussion of Israel’s future that excludes Jewish interests; but I also don’t think you can have a reasonable discussion of Israel’s future that excludes Palestinian interests and non-Jewish Israeli interests.

    If a two-state solution, in which Palestine is a fully viable independent state, and in which non-Jewish Israelis are fully equal citizens, is possible, then I support that.

    If a two-state solution is impossible, I support a one-state solution over the status quo. As important as providing a refuge against a hypothetical future anti-Jewish holocaust is — I’m not being sarcastic, it is important — freeing the Palestinians from Israeli oppression is more important. Not because Palestinians are more important than Jews, but because present harms are more important than hypothetical harms.

  3. 3
    David Schraub says:

    There are plenty of folks without homelands out there. There are very few who have one, that are being asked to give it up entirely. Though even when we’re talking about currently stateless people who are seeking a state of their own (the big examples I can think of now are Palestine, Tibet, Western Sahara, Kurdistan, and the Basque), my intuitions always lean pretty strongly in favor. This also motivates my strong sympathies to the Black Power ideologies of Stokely Carmichael and James Cone (indeed, I’ve read that there was a fascinating intellectual interplay in the 70s between Reconstructionist Jewish scholars and Black Power advocates, with the former identifying the latter as the Black version of Zionism and supporting it fiercely as a result)

    (And the war against “Judeo-Christian” has been one I’ve been on for years. Search it in my archives — nothing will send me into an apoplectic rage faster than some nitwit calling a nativity scene an expression of “Judeo-Christian values).

  4. 4
    chingona says:

    This was very well done.

    I have one … I’m not sure if it’s a qualm or just a request for clarification.

    You write:

    I believe the liberal prescription for how oppressed people ought to seek their liberation is deeply flawed, for at least two reasons. First, the “neutral” rules under which the oppressed are supposed to conduct their affairs were made by and for the oppressors, for the precise purpose of maintaining the status quo hierarchy. And second, the rules are ones that nobody but the oppressed are expected to meet: they are routinely and flagrantly violated by the very persons who are shocked, shocked, whenever the marginalized step even a toe out of line …

    In other words, the liberal burden puts the onus on the oppressed class to craft a liberation agenda which maps perfectly onto an idealized fantasy that doesn’t exist and adhere to systematized rules and procedures which were crafted with reference to the current oppressive reality …

    It seems to me that this would apply equally to Palestinians within Israel as to Jews in the world in general. This problem in Zionism – creating our liberation through the oppression of other people – is well trod territory that I don’t need to rehash, but I do think someone who takes a Zionist position needs to remain … cognizant, I suppose, of that. (And I’m not saying necessarily that you’re not, but it did catch me as I read this piece.)

    Like Amp, I believe that if a two-state solution is impossible, justice demands a one-state solution. The status quo is unacceptable. But I have a lot of skepticism about a bi-national state’s ability to protect all its citizens.

    But again, well done.

  5. 5
    Mira says:

    Hi, David. I came across your series of posts on antisemitism yesterday night and spent a good chunk of this morning reading them, so it’s interesting and serendipitous to see a new one. The comment on the phrase “Judeo-Christian” is particularly appreciated — I’ve always found that phrase rather infuriating (but for a different reason, specifically because I think it’s often deployed to mean “Western” or “European”, and identifying European Jewish traditions, as well as non-European Jewish ones, with European Christian ones is inaccurate and messed up, and also because if it’s being deployed to mean something about monotheistic scriptural religions, the phrase should be “Judeo-Christian-Islamic”).

    Anyway. I want to agree with your point on Jewish nationalism — that is, why should there not be a Jewish nation-state when there are umpteen states that have been founded on ethnic nationalism. It seems logical, and when it’s phrased this way that makes it seem as if any questions about the foundations of the Israeli state are inherently antisemitic and are intended as a challenge to the idea of Jewish nationhood. But I think that the relationship between the Jewish people and the state of Israel is considerably more complex than that between, say, the Polish people and the state of Poland, or the Finnish people and the state of Finland. The best example I can give for this is the Israeli law of return, which, honestly, the more I think about it, the more it blows my mind. It’s true that a fair number of countries have provisions that allow for people who they’ve defined as belonging to that country ethnically to immigrate to said country with fewer restrictions than would be on other immigrants (apologies for tortured syntax), and it’s true (as well as obvious) that Jewish history and circumstances make a law like this necessary when you’re trying to set up a Jewish state.

    Still, I think it’s significant, because it makes Israel very different from other states in a pretty profound way. One of the most basic things about a state is that it has a fixed citizenry; there’s a very clear demarcation between who’s a citizen and who isn’t. Also, I get the feeling that if Israel were to revoke the law of return, this would change the nature of the Israeli state fundamentally. In the 1990s, the Czech Republic decided to waive their ordinary residency requirement to allow ethnic Czechs from Ukraine to get Czech citizenship, but if they hadn’t done so, I don’t think this would have reduced their legitimacy as the state of the Czech nation.

    I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.

  6. 6
    David Schraub says:

    Chingona: I think it does apply to the Palestinians actually — there certainly is a trend amongst certain philo-Zionists to try and craft “neutral” rules and procedures for the staking of moral claims (e.g., the “rule” that only groups with a coherent national identity prior to the 20th century can have national claims, or the “rule” that proper ownership of the territory should be based on [Jewish] biblical principles, or the “neutral” solution wherein Jordan is the Palestinian state). These are set up as “fair” and “neutral”. They’re clearly not.

    I gather the source of your discomfort — and it’s one that I share — that you can take this point to an extreme and brush aside everything as “the oppressor’s rule” (in a very Fanon-esque type fashion), thus legitimizing any “resistance” to it (including theft, rape, terrorism…etc.). And that leads to morally intractable conflicts, and some very scary situations.

    “Cognizant” is, in fact, one of my favorite words in these situations, because a large part of me thinks that these tensions aren’t going to rationally dissolvable. Rather, we just have to be mindful that we need to straddle several moral obligations that aren’t necessarily going to be solidly lashed together, and try to hold them all together as best we can.

    Mira: Thanks for stopping by. I think the difference in Israel’s law of return stems from the peculiar nature of Jewish and Israeli history, and is one of the reasons I think it’s critically important to situate Israel inside Jewish history, rather than lumping it in with European maneuvers.

    First, unlike many (if not all) other nation-states, the nation Israel was associated with, at the time its creation was being contemplated, was primarily (though not entirely — there was always a continual Jewish presence) in diaspora. Hence, Israel inverted the hierarchy between “native-born” and “immigrant”, with the latter taking priority. This is different, but is it inferior, or is it just … different? There are harms at the edges of both (colonialism and xenophobia), but I can’t help but think the suspicion we have of Israel’s immigration-ethos stems in large part simply because it is unfamiliar to the standard categorical sets, wherein we assume that people “naturally” live wherever they’re born, and if they move to another location that’s something abnormal, a deviation that needs to be justified.

    Second, Israel’s creation wasn’t “just another” nationalist event. It had an important — to my mind primary — purpose as a haven for Jews fleeing oppression, rather than as a “home base” for Jewish culture. That meant the law of return was written purposively extremely broadly. It wasn’t based on observance, or even the technical religious definition of a Jew. It basically defined Jew as “anyone the Nazis might have killed for being Jewish”. There are many Russian immigrants to Israel under the law of return who aren’t Jewish, and don’t identify as Jewish (and in some cases, “hilariously”, are anti-Semitic!), but who were able to get visas and citizenship because they had a single Jewish ancestor somewhere down the line.

  7. 7
    David Schraub says:

    Also, I think it’s worth noting that I don’t think choice right now if the two-state solution fails is “status quo” versus “binational multi-ethnic democracy”. The barriers that are blocking a two-state solution (from ethnic conflict to the settlements) also and equally poison the one state solution.

    This is the real nightmare: the path we’re going down, I think, doesn’t just make a two-state solution impossible, it makes a solution impossible, period. If the two-state solution fails, we might eventually see a one state solution (if we’re very lucky, a one-state solution that is free, democratic, and respects the rights of all its citizens) — but I’m nearly positive we’ll have to go through an outright civil war to get there. And if so, it’ll make the last 60 years look tame.

  8. 8
    chingona says:

    Your other post there gets at a lot of what worries me about one bi-national state. It’s not just (or even primarily, for me) that it means the end of Israel as a Jewish state. It’s that I see all these really plausible scenarios that are really bad for everyone. But that’s what depresses me about the whole thing in general. Everything bad seems fairly likely, and everything hopeful seems really improbable.

  9. 9
    chingona says:

    Aren’t there many peoples in the world who live without a homeland of their own? I’m not sure that I buy that having one’s own nation-state can or should be seen as a universal human right.

    Though even when we’re talking about currently stateless people who are seeking a state of their own (the big examples I can think of now are Palestine, Tibet, Western Sahara, Kurdistan, and the Basque), my intuitions always lean pretty strongly in favor.

    I noticed that all the examples you use here are people currently living more or less in their traditional homeland but under the political authority of another state. I’m wondering about people who, like the Jews, have lived among but not quite of other societies for much of their history. The only ones who really spring to mind are the Romani, who certainly have a record of persecution into the present day that rivals that of the Jews and more than enough reason to mistrust liberal democracy’s ability to protect them. I’m sure there are a few others, though.

    I bring this up because as much as your last paragraph resonated with me, the idea that all stateless groups can and should have their own country does have serious limitations. I understand the question of whether Israel should have been founded and whether it should continue to exist are two separate questions (though I think you would answer yes to both of them. No?). And I’m not asking you to “solve” the problem of the Romani. (Apparently, there was a movement in the early part of the 20th century to establish a Romani homeland either in India or in Africa (Somalia, not Uganda), but it never got very far.)

    I’m mostly throwing this out there as food for thought. This came up a lot at Feministe – that because this remedy is not available to all groups/peoples, it is wrong for the Jews to claim this remedy. And a lot of people made sure to caveat that by saying that of course persecuted people have the right to flee persecution, but the reality so far, as you described very well, is that liberal democracies have not been very good about making that right a reality. And yet here we are, unable to offer the remedy of statehood to all peoples.

  10. 10
    Erunyauve says:

    I’ve been following this series with interest. I haven’t commented before, largely because I don’t really feel that I (a White, middle-class, well-educated Christian American) have anything constructive to say in a discussion of anti-Semitism.
    However, I was struck by this:

    “Judeo-Christian”, of course, is a nonsense phrase that is 100% Christian and, where it does happen to overlap with Jewish perspectives, does so completely by accident. And where Jewish ideology clashes even a little bit with Christian hegemony, it is immediately jettisoned from the pantheon.

    You are very right, of course. I find the use of the term “Judeo-Christian” infuriating, for a reason that is completely opposite your opinion, yet a reason that dovetails nicely with your reason, to wit: Judaism and Christianity are not the same thing. To conflate the two (outside of a discussion of the internal politics of the Roman province of Judea in before the Diaspora, which is the onlytime the phrase “Judeo-Christian” makes any sense) is not only wrongheaded, it is rankly offensive to both groups. As a Christian, I acknowledge the Jewish roots of my faith because to deny them would be dishonest. Yet, I am not Jewish. I do not identify as “Judeo-Christian” but as “Christian.” Those phrases are not the same thing.
    I agree with you that those who use the phrase “Judeo-Christian” are using it to advance the conservative Christian belief set. This usage is insulting to Judaism, and quite frankly, to Christianity. The form of Christianity being advanced by those who use the phrase is a part of the broader fabric of the faith, but are no more (or less) representative of the faith as a whole than the Haredim are of Judaism. To define Christianity as a whole by them is foolish, wrong, and insulting to the rest. If you listed the top 100 tenets of the supposed “Judeo-Christian” mindset, I would probably disagree with 90 of them, because I am not a conservative Christian. I would probably not disagree with the same 90 that you would, but there would be a substantial overlap, I think.
    What I suppose I’m winding my way towards with this comment is this: right on! A solution to the Israel/Palestine problem will not be arrived at until Judaism as a faith – and Jews as a people – are seen simply as that: a faith and a people. So long as Jews are lumped into the “Judeo-Christian,” White, or Western group, Israel’s existence will be seen as problematic. So long as Judaism is seen as the red-headed stepchild of Christianity this problem will persist.
    Judaism and Christianity are not the same thing. They are related, to be sure, but “Judeo-Christian” is an illogical construct.
    I would argue, incidentally, that the very term is evidence of the discriminatory nature of the mindset. The term is not “Christo-Jewish,” but “Judeo-Christian.” The former term implies that the main group is the Jewish part and that the Christian part is auxiliary, extra, and lesser. It is not used. I just came up with it now. “Judeo-Christian,” by its very linguistic elements and construction, implies that Judaism is an odd, lesser offshoot of Christianity. Words are important. If the implication was to have been that Judaism and Christianity are related, and have overlap, but both bring things to the table (of equal value) – which, in my mind, they do – then the term would be something like “Jewish-Chrisitian.” Yet we never hear that term tossed around, unless it is when a contrast is being drawn.

  11. 11
    David Schraub says:

    As I said above — I think the fact that Jewish oppression manifested itself in exile from “their” territory, rather than subjugation inside of it, makes their situation different, but I’m not sure it necessarily defeats their claims so much as the foreigness of the experience compared to the “standard” case just rings odd to us. My answer is “yes, Israel should have been established”, although there is one major bias in that we don’t know what would have happened if it hadn’t been established, and when it comes to Jewish history, what you don’t know can kill you ;-).

    My understanding of the Roma is that they don’t particularly want a homeland (is there a place they even identify as a homeland)? If they did, I think that they’d have a pretty strong case for it though.

  12. 13
    chingona says:

    Speaking of “Judeo-Christian” and superseded Jews, a number of years ago I read a book called “Where Judaism Differs.” It goes through a whole series of theological concepts like free will, relationship to God, sin, etc., and compares Judaism’s take on these concepts with other religions, not just Christianity but eastern religions as well.

    Anyway, I bring this up because in the introduction, the author wrote that he always wanted to the title to be “Where Judaism Differs” but under pressure from the publishers, the original edition in the 1950s was published as “Where Judaism Differed.” The publishers wanted to relegate all those distinctions to the past because we’re all the same now. In the edition I was reading, the title had been restored to what the author had always intended.

  13. 14
    Holly says:

    I take it as a basic principle of self-determination that no person should have to be a minority everywhere.

    Oh, David. You cast aside any hope I have of freedom, because there is almost nobody like me anywhere in this world. I exist at too many intersections. I will never be in any majority, and will never pin my hopes on any attempt to be a majority. It is not a solution for those of us who will always, always be in the minority, no matter what.

  14. 15
    David Schraub says:

    Solution for me, but not for thee? It’s a fair point, but I don’t think freedom is one size fits all. I am hopeful that there are many mountains by which we might reach the stars.

  15. 16
    sanabituranima says:

    Holly makes a good point. If homeland is a prerequisite of freedom, what happens to people of mixed race?

    Nevertheless, this is very interesting. You have put the case for Israel better than I have ever imagined it could be put.

    Yes, “Judeo-Christian” is a very silly term. The only thing that can be meaningfully called “Judaeo-Christian values” is the 10 commandments, and, as Mira pointed out, they should be called “Judeo-Christo-Islamic” (I use that word order because of the chronological orer in which said religions emerged.) Even with the ten commandments, we’re in muddy waters? How many cultures are there which DON’T condemn murder, theft, adultery etc? And there is no universal agreement on what murder, theft, adultery etc are. Is capital punishment murder? Is abortion murder? Is assisted suicide murder? Is killing in self-defence murder? Is theft really theft if you steal tofeed yourstarving children? If I collected the answers of all the Jews, Christians and Muslims in the world to those questions, I doubt I’d find many people who gave the same set of answers.

    I have a lot of concerns about a two-state solution, but ANY solution would be a welcome thing.

    I’d like to put in a little (slightly off-topic) plug for the Bereaved Families’ Forum. There won’t be any peace until Israelis and Palestinians see each other as human and this org is making proress towards that.

  16. 17
    David Schraub says:

    The other things is, I think is pretty readily apparent the difference between “this option isn’t available to me” and “this option is available to me, but you don’t think I should have it”.

  17. 18
    Sailorman says:

    Good post.

  18. 19
    Matt says:

    In addition to the Romani, the Hmong are a group that exists today entirely in Diaspora. Unlike the Romani, the Hmong identify a historic homeland (although I’m not sure if they can point to it on a map or it’s just vaguely ‘somewhere in modern China’). Like the Romani, their present day situation is very difficult. Many settled in the US after fighting in Vietnam, but the US did its best to completely destroy Hmong culture while resettling them. These examples, I think, do point toward something particular about not having a homeland beyond not having unfettered sovereignty over a historic homeland.

  19. 20
    chingona says:

    @ Matt … Have you read “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down”? If you have not, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

  20. 21
    Matt says:

    No, I haven’t, but I will. Thanks for the recommendation.

    (Oh, and David, great post.)

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