An Earlier Earthquake in the Jewish World: Response to Eva Illouz

Eva Illouz wrote a dramatic New Year’s piece for Ha-aretz, in which she accuses fellow Jews who support Trump of falling prey to messianic fantasies and “betraying Jews, Jewish history and humanity,” and claiming for the “liberal Jews” like herself, the sole mantle of “authentic opposition to anti-Semitism.” Invoking Freud’s definition of the uncanny (das Unheimliche), or the anguishing sense that behind the familiar lies something profoundly foreign and menacing, she claims that “the [Trump-riddled] world at the beginning of 2017 elicits the same feeling of the uncanny: It is the same old world we knew, yet we sense it has become inhabited by foreign ghosts, hybrid creatures never seen before.”

An earthquake in the Jewish world

A feeling of the uncanny accompanies the start of the new year, as Jews witness their religious and political leaders aligning themselves with anti-Semites and anti-democrats | Opinion

By Eva Illouz | Jan. 1, 2017/Rewritten by Richard Landes,  Jan 1, 2003

Over the last three years (2000-2003), like many others, I have followed the news with an undefinable mixture of dismay, fascination and terror. When reality evades our grasp, we may reach for familiar concepts to cope with its elusiveness.

In 1919 Sigmund Freud wrote a short essay, called “The Uncanny” (“Das Unheimliche,” in German), in which he attempted to understand a particular kind of anxiety and fear elicited by art or literature (for example, the tales of E.T.A. Hoffmann) or events (such as recurring coincidences), the uncanny. Unheimlich is the opposite of Heimlich, the familiar, domestic and homey.

Freud’s stroke of genius consisted in understanding that psychically “unheimlich” is not the opposite of “heimlich,” but rather a sub-category of it: It is the strange that occurs within the home, as when a child looks at the face of his mother and suddenly senses that behind her face hides a ghost or a witch (countless horror movies tap into the feeling of the uncanny, turning grandparents, parents or children into possessed creatures). The uncanny is thus the very special form of terror we feel when we look at someone or something that is familiar, yet fail to recognize it. It is the anxiety that derives from actually seeing a foreign creature in the well-known body and face.

The world at the beginning of 2003 elicits the same feeling of the uncanny: It is the same old world we knew, yet we sense it has become inhabited by foreign ghosts, hybrid creatures never seen before.

The “moral leaders of the democratic world, the global progressive left,” uphold undemocratic values reminiscent of the world that the United States crushed only 70 years ago (the name of Goebbels been frequently evoked in the context of Charles Enderlin, with regard to the vicious war propaganda he has disseminated, promoting global Jihad, not rebuked but emulated and admired by his colleagues). This man is far closer in war propaganda journalism, to the Palestinian journalists who concoct footage to spur their people to hatred, than to any “modern” journalist who takes his professional commitments seriously. The Western interference in Israeli affairs, executed with the active collaboration of academia and the Mainstream news media – the apple of the left’s progressive eye, of the presumed guardians of “truth” of “bearing honest witness,and bringing social justicerevealing to all forces that undermine Western civil polities from within its epicenter. Two specters now haunt the world, and seem to have taken possession of its soul: the past specter of the mad messianic wars of the Middle Ages and the future one, of an auto-induced newspeak.

But perhaps most unheimlich of all are the new alliances that have materialized in the Jewish world. The new century/millennium brought, an alliance of a kind never seen before, between Jewish progressive groups, a large percentage of secular Jews (in both the U.S. and Israel), and Jihadi associates and supporters, the same who, during and after the wild protests against Israel, cheered mischievously at Palestinian and Arab Hitler admirers, whose own genocidal meme, “drive the Jews into the sea!” we hear loud and clear on our campuses, with the “social justice” cry, “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.

I belong to the generation for which the fight against anti-Semitism was paramount to Jewish moral, political and religious identity. The struggle against anti-Semitism has held entire Jewish communities together, helping different strands of Judaism to overcome their divisions; it has made the State of Israel the center of Jewish life; it has been the focus of Jewish historical memory worldwide. But for the first time in modern history, significant segments of Jews in the West – the most powerful Jewish communities outside Israel – have sided with a political group from which emanates the stench of anti-Semitism. None other than a whole array of Jewish progressives took up the call to demonize their own people, to compare Israel to the Nazis, to join in with the most ferocious anti-semites in the world today, and call for Israel’s “annihilation.”

If, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Boyarin, Norman Finkelstein, Judith Butler, Jacqueline Rose, together with countless diaspora and Israeli progressives (or professional organizational Jews, such as the progressive leaders of Peace Now or Hillel or International Solidarity), can hold their noses when smelling the anti-Semitic stench emanating from Palestinian supporters, and pretend that stench is a rose fragrance of resistance , and if they can celebrate the emergence of suicide terror because it targets evil Israelis, as the sign of  impending arrival world peace and social justice – then unbeknownst to us, an earthquake has occurred in the Jewish world, opening a wide and gaping geological fault. This is a change of formidable proportions.

The meanings of this change are many: Internationalism has replaced historical memory as the nexus of Jewish institutions and Jewish identity. Israeli post-Zionists and progressive Jewish organizations, are willing to legitimize and collaborate with anti-Semites, when the latter can help them promote interests that are recklessly activist, that is, that are about control and power through the takeover of public discourse by a social-justice driven agenda. The global progressive left wants the information professionals to provide them with a seal of legitimacy, to tell the story that keeps the social justice warriors fighting. The peace warriors want to cede territory to the Palestinians for peace and quiet which they won’t get, and they are willing to corrupt entire institutions – the UN, the World Court, academia, with their Palestinian victim narrative. And the enlightened Jews want to get rid of embarrassing cousins like the “orthodox” or the Israelis.

After 2000 progressive Jews joined in an orchestrated blood libel of their own people, and now produce moral voices that sound epochal dramas on the back of systematic misinformation they themselves have spread.

Future generations will probably not remember this since it’s not the first time it’s happened and apparently been forgotten: Ultra-Liberal and ultra-internationalist Jews traded the historical memory of the Jewish people, and their own allegiance to the Jewish people, in a public market of political interests for the sake of virtue signaling their commitment to all humanity (!). It also means this: The Israeli left-wing’s incessant invocation of what it sees as the the exaggerated paranoia of the Israelis who don’t trust their neighbors, their outrageous criticism of those who outrageously criticize Israel, and their deplorable shift to the “right wing,” in order to legitimize its anti-Israel foreign and domestic policy is deeply irresponsible posturing.

Now, only tribal Jews in Israel and tribal democrats the world over can claim to be the authentic opponents of anti-Semitism, because one cannot fight against anti-Semitism without fighting those who spew a genocidal version openly and constantly. To disconnect the fight against anti-Semitism from human rights, to consider anti-Zionism legitimate, as the Israeli left and progressive Jews do, is tantamount to declaring that only [designated] victims have the right to hate, a “right” we deny ourselves. Finally, these new alliances have created and will continue to generate rifts from which the Jewish people will surely recover, but why be so reckless with the remarkable world of civil polities we have inherited. There are historical precedents for this fear, such as the sectarian (apocalyptic) follies of the Zealot revolt.

Religions and peoples have split over less fundamental issues. The Protestant Reformation was caused by the rejection of the Catholic Church’s mixture of religion, political intrigues,  bottomless financial greed, and intolerance of dissent, even though each “Protestant” sect that gained power replicated the triumphalism of those against whom they protested.

I do not know if we are close to a Jewish Reformation, but I am sure that a part of the Jewish left today resembles the chiliastic Schwärmer (fanatic) that both the Church and Martin Luther despised and feared. It displays the same mixture of conceptual fundamentalism, social politics, and messianic self-righteousness and grotesque alliances, a mixture that all too often in the history of mankind has elicited the degradation of the spirit and, on more than one occasion, mega-deaths in the millions.

The moral derangement of this progressive embrace of anti-Zionism is particularly evident than in the shameful way that “human rights community” constantly sacrifices of the rights of women, and infidels, and Jews, in order to appease the anger of insulted triumphalist Muslims. When human rights discourse has been morally corrupted by people who defend Muslim tyrants and go to Saudi Arabia to raise money to attack Israel, who fire women who criticize patriarchal Jihadis, who glorify groups who accuse Israel of genocide even as they promote racial violence, it is hard to take the invocation of the cause of “human rights” seriously in today’s discourse. 

While all around me voices “for peace” say: “support human rights and social justice” even when those so-called “rights” are shamelessly sacrificed to appease their bully enemies, I cannot in good conscience assent, especially to morally authoritative, and just oh-so-almost supersessionist, pseudo-prophecy on behalf of “liberal” Jews. The narrative is straight out of some crude version of the documentary hypothesis, where the editor is a clumsy propagandist. Those of us, inside and outside Israel, who are committed to the memory of Jewish history and to the defense of the rights of Jews as human rights, must quietly affirm, like Luther, “Here I stand, I can no other.”

Without Obama, No Trump.





5 Responses to An Earlier Earthquake in the Jewish World: Response to Eva Illouz

  1. Fabio Paolo Barbieri says:

    Of course I don’t accept a thing about the implicit praise of Luther in this article, but that does not matter, since it is little more than a rhetorical device. I am however reminded – and I am sure I cannot be the first – of what two other Jews said to their own Jewish contemporaries: ” you have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing whip shall pass through, it shall not come to us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves…” “To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot listen: behold, the word of the LORD is to them a reproach; they have no delight in it…. They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? no, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush…”

    • Richard Landes says:

      indeed, the only reason i even mention Luther is because Illouz invoked him in her piece, and i’m trying to stick to her text.
      the two prophetic quotes you give are powerful and seem apt. what makes them deaf to rebuke is that they are in their own morally narcissistic coffin, convinced that they are the prophets.
      is there any case of prophets accepting rebuke?

      • Cynic says:

        It seems like ‘many years ago’ that we had a discussion here of beliefs and the psychological problem of casting forth those beliefs in favour of facts.
        These Jews you write about, for whatever reason psychologically, take on those beliefs as a security blanket.
        Basically I think it’s cowardice, and I’m no psychologist, as they cannot confront the opinion of the masses in their bubble.

  2. Igor Foukzon says:

    Die Projektion. Probably the most essential feature of the mean and (self-)deceiving spirit.

    “Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?” (Job 40:8)

  3. Barry Meislin says:

    Not sure I’d waste much time on Illouz’s stunning perversity (there’s so much of it out there, yawn, especially in Haaretz), except to say that it’s a most “unheimliche” maneouver.

    Which would appear to mean that one must actually choke the victim (as a moral act—in order to “save” that victim)….

    Which seems about as good a description as any of the ethos of the far-Left, at least with regard to how its adherents view the State of Israel.

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