Blame it on Spinoza. Spinoza provided the raw material for the abandonment of Jewish messianism and what had been the conventional and traditional religious conceptions that had defined jewish life in the diaspora.Spinoza was the architect of liberal democracy and in an equal breath, the principal originator of what became the modern solution to the Jewish problem.
Salutin: Normality has always figured in Jewish experience. For almost two millennia, living in exile among non-Jews seemed normal for religious reasons: Jews had somehow botched their relationship with their God and exile was the consequence. In His own good time, he’d eventually end it. Meanwhile, Jews lived among “the nations,” fruitfully, painfully or both. There were occasional messianic eruptions involving attempts to return to the Holy Land; they were always treated by rabbinic authorities as heretical….
Spinoza viewed a Jewish revival as a plausible potential, but an occurrence not necessarily desirable. Nonetheless, he articulated two of what became seen as the modern solutions to the jewish problem which were political Zionism and assimilation. Spinoza suggested a preference for the latter while suggesting the former somewhat ambiguously. The adventure of the liberal state would imply the abandonment of Judaism as such: washed away by emancipation and assimilation.
…But in modern times, a separate existence among others came to seem abnormal. So there were attempts to “assimilate,” with or without religious conversion. When these failed, or partially failed, one proposed alternative was for Jews to return to their ancient land and become a normal people, like everyone else: they would farm and engage in the normal range of activity. A German-Jewish philosopher I knew had spent time with a German farmer, as prep for his move to Israel. When I lived in Israel as a student, we were amazed at the sight of Jewish cops and hookers! Normality had been achieved…. ( Salutin )
Ironically, Spinoza, the man who was excommunicated by his contempt for Judaism and efforts to view immanence within a pantheistic framework, helped arrive at the definition of Jewish people as a nation by empathizing the religious aspects of nationalism. His views on the separation between religious and national-secular institutions also contributed to a pervasive zionist idea concerning “normalcy” , to extent the word is appropriate, since jewish/zionism and normal seem oxymoronic- and the future Jewish state, under the quest for material possession of nature spurned under the veiled contempt for Judaism.
…I thought about that this week when I spoke with Amira Hass, an Israeli journalist whose beat is the occupied territories, where she has lived for almost 20 years: first in Gaza, now Ramallah. She’s here on a speaking tour. We discussed the BDS (Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions) movement, which aims to isolate and stigmatize Israel, as boycotts did to apartheid-era South Africa. I said I feared it would undermine the potential constituency for a peace settlement in Israel, by evoking memories of anti-Semitism. She said, “I don’t agree,” in a straight-ahead tone. “Israelis are able to live a normal life five minutes away from the occupation. They need to get the message that this is not normal and moral. Something has to shake them.”…
…She is not an all-out boycott backer. For one thing, “As an Israeli, I cannot boycott Israelis.” But she’s also a complex thinker who sees contradictions and double standards: “If you boycott Israel, why not boycott its backers like the U.S. and Canada?” There’s a Cassandra quality to her, spotting the idiocies on all sides. But she had underlined one aspect of a boycott that I’d missed….
…Hass uses “normal,” which seems like a bland word, in an intensely moral way that jolts you: This cannot be the norm for human behaviour. (Come to think of it, Dalton McGuinty ran in this election pretty much as Mr. Normal. But it can take guts to express normal thoughts like, Good Things Cost Money, in the current political climate of tax cutting. As for bland, Ontario’s very successful premier, Bill Davis, liked to say, “Bland works.” It worked fom, as normal seems to work for McGuinty, mainly because it feels true to their natures.)
Hass is splendidly undogmatic about all this. Boycotting investment in occupied areas may make obvious sense but “a visit by a string quartet . . . ?” The point isn’t to formulate rigid rules for action, it’s to somehow get that message to Israelis about what’s normal. She also shows respect for those elsewhere, who must decide how they can best support a just peace. What she offers is some useful info and insight, then it’s on us….
…It’s the classic role of the journalist as witness, but there’s something else, which she must have heard often and may make her wince: the prophetic comparison, not in the sense of people who predict things, but those figures from biblical times who stood up to kings, speaking truth and justice to power. Sorry, King David or King Ahab, but this is not normal, what you are doing, simply because you want to or are able to . . .Read More:http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1066125–salutin-when-to-be-normal-is-weird
But, as Allan Nadler recounts in this Forward review of David Ives’s play, “New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch Spinoza,” no singular version of his life or legacy has emerged from the multitude of historians, novelists and playwrights who have written about the Dutch philosopher famously excommunicated by the Amsterdam Jewish community in 1656:
The many novels and plays inspired by Spinoza are bizarrely diverse, ranging from the great German Jewish novelist Berthold Auerbach’s “Spinoza: Ein Historischer Roman” (1837) and the biological racist Erwin Kolbenheyer’s “Amor Dei: Ein Spinoza Roman” (published in 1913, exactly two decades before its author became a major Nazi propagandist), to Goce Smilevski’s highly erotic “Conversation With Spinoza: A Cobweb Novel,” which won the 2002 Macedonian National Novel of the Year Award. The many short stories inspired by Spinoza range from Israel Zangwill’s “The Lens Grinder” to Isaac Bashevis Singer’s “Spinoza of Market Street.” And, as I have already written in these pages, Spinoza’s life, with a particular focus on his excommunication, has been the inspiration for no less than four Yiddish and three Hebrew plays and, most recently, an Israeli play and film. Read More:http://www.jewishliteraryreview.com/2008/02/a-good-review-of-spinoza-inspired-literature/
Amira Hass:On Friday an Israel Defense Forces soldier called to protest the publication of another story in Haaretz which in his words, tainted not only the troops’ image but also his Sabbath day.
The soldier was referring to Gaza resident Zinat Samouni’s account of how soldiers killed her 46-year-old husband and their 4-year-old son Ahmed – just two of the 29 people of the same family the army killed between January 4 and 5.
The soldier, who said he participated in the fighting, said he didn’t believe the women’s statements were true, though he did believe soldiers “scrawled stupid things on the walls, and that’s really not right.”
This is a common Israeli solution – in this case, to admit to the graffiti’s existence, but downplay its seriousness or view it as everyday Israeli high jinks.
Everything else can be denied. It can always be said that photographs of civilians killed were fabricated. The Palestinians’ accounts can be dismissed as lies, intrigues of Hamas, embellishment or, at best, facts taken out of context since Gazans are, after all, afraid of what Hamas would do to them if they told the truth. … Read More:http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/amira-hass-the-one-thing-worse-than-denying-the-gaza-report-1.7747