A guest post by Joe Geary
I have recently taken to trying to fathom an explanation of the phenomenon of the As-A-Jew which, thanks to Howard Jacobson, also goes by the name of ASHamed Jew or “Finkler”. Some call them “self-hating Jews”.
What precisely can it be that transforms a sensible upstanding member of the Jewish community into a raving, swivel-eyed fanatic bent on spouting the most preposterous anti-Israel claptrap complete with conspiracy-theory quotes from Chomsky and friends? Or into a simpering obsessive, forever composing letters in green ink to the Guardian beginning:
“Dear Sir, As a Jew I am writing to dissociate myself from the policies of the Israeli government …”?
You see, I’m not Jewish myself but if I were I’d be inordinately proud of what my co-religionists have achieved in a blink of history’s eye. I’d be an Israel braggart, poking people in the chest and challenging them “what do you think about that then?” A democracy with civil rights for all, sexual equality, freedom of expression, freedom of faith. A scientific cornucopia forever replete with marvellous inventions. A never-ending cultural and artistic festival with magnificent film-makers, musicians, writers. And all in sixty years and all in a region benighted by despotism, cultural and educational stagnation and under-achievement in every sphere except those of violence and intolerance. Yes, I’d be an Israel pub-bore. Like Jacobson, only less funny.
So how does Jacobson himself explain the “Finkler”? He sees it partly as an expression of the famed Jewish disputatiousness (his word, too long for me to have thought of), of contrarianism. A sort of: “I’m Jewish and so you expect me to be proud of Israel? Well, I won’t be, just to teach you not to presume”. And partly as an expression of the eternal Jewish quest, of self-interrogation for the essence of Jewishness in a world of non-Jews, which brings with it at times great pride but at other also a sense of guilt at being Jewish in that world of non-Jews. And partly as a paradoxical sense of disappointment. Before it existed it was possible for Zion to be all things. Now that Israel does exist, why isn’t it perfect in every single way?
All very cerebral and complicated. But then, Jacobson is an intellectual and intellectuals sometimes have a difficulty in seeing a spade as anything less than a long-handled spatula agricultural implement. Me, plain old Joe Geary, I’m not convinced. Why not? Well just look at them, these As-A-Jews – the Richard Silversteins, the Antony Lermans, the Tony Greensteins. Do you really think they’re capable of all the mental machinations that Jacobson attributes to them, all that self-interrogation? Are they in constant logical and emotional turmoil forever pondering and balancing ideas of identity and belonging? Do me a favour. These are the Jews that God forgot. The Friday afternoon Jews, or perhaps the extremely-late-in-the-evening-of-the-Sixth-Day-when-He-was-really-exhausted Jews. Whose craniums He omitted to fill and whose backbones got left in the crate.
No. My explanation is much simpler. The As-A-Jew certainly wants to be loved. He desperately desires to be accepted into the shallow hypocritical soi-disant left-leaning world which he feels is his natural habitat (that would be, by the way, the world whose UK branch is pandered to and bolstered by the Guardian). But he has a problem. He’s Jewish. And one of the trade-marks of, one of the tribal markings you must have to enter that shallow hypocritical soi-disant left-leaning world is a hatred of Israel, aka the Jewish state. That soi-disant left-leaning world is therefore suspicious of Jews: do they or do they not pass the Jonathan Freedland “Israel test”? Tell us you despise the place and there is a seat at our dinner table. Tell us you feel any affinity and you can find your own way to the door. As Freedland puts it most succinctly:
[I]f Jews refuse to dissociate themselves from Israel, then they are fair game for abuse and attack until they publicly recant. Liberals rightly recoil from the constant pressure on Muslims to explain themselves and denounce jihadism or even Islamism. Yet they make the same implicit demand when they suggest Jews are OK, unless they are Zionists.The effect is to make Jews’ place in British society contingent on their distance from their fellow Jews, in this case, Israelis.
There you have it. The As-A-Jews are the Uriah Heeps who, instead of unleashing the old two-fingered (or one-fingered if you happen to be American) salute on whoever sets them this test, meekly renounce the Little Satan and all its Works.
And having betrayed their people, their history, their tradition, they make a virtue of that very betrayal. They brandish their anti-Israeli views like a pimp displays his Cadillac. They’ll top any anti-Israel story with one of their own. They’ll meet your “Gaza-open-prison” and raise you an “apartheid State” They even become experts at the reductio ad Israelam fallacy, namely, the evils of the Middle East, nay make that the entire world, are all down to the existence of the Zionist entity. Thus our As-A-Jew, like some latter-day Hebrew Faust sells his soul to buy his soirée cred.
Also of course there’s money and fame to be had – if you can call “fame” being published by the Guardian’s Comment is Free.
And doesn’t that soi-disant left-leaning world just love its tame As-A-Jews, its “House Jews”? What could be more useful in the campaign to delegitimise the Jewish State than to trot out a Jew to recite your script?
So, I’m sorry Howard, but I don’t buy your intellectualisations. You do these sell-outs too much credit. This is my version. You asked “The Finkler Question”. Call this answer the “Geary Theory”.
- Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland is mugged by the reality of BDS movement’s malevolence (cifwatch.com)
- “As a Jew” explained (cifwatch.com)
- An open letter to Jonathan Freedland (cifwatch.com)
- The Guardian’s anti-Israel Jews and a letter to my teenage nephew (cifwatch.com)