jewin' the fat


Top Ten: The Zionist Conspiracy

In honour of the biggest Zionist day in the calendar year this week, here’s a tribute to the ten or so biggest Zionist-stereotypes, all of whom claiming to hold the key to what a ‘true’ Zionist really is. The reality is, at the end of the day, that Zionism is not a political theory, power conspiracy nor a policy of a government (as detractors/hacks/ignoramuses may assume), it is an ideology which is inherently personal, and interpreted by the individual to facilitate self-determination as a member of the Jewish people.

As it turns out, a bunch of those Jew-Individuals got together a couple hundred years ago and, determined to do more than argue with each other on the value of a state for Jews or a Jewish state, actually set about creating it.

It is neither the plot of the 8th Harry Potter novel, 'Harry Potter and the Zionist Conspiracy to take over the world with superior money-handling skills and uber-developed business acumen mu-ha-ha-ha-hacking-cough-ha-ha!" (HT @ Diaryofanelderofzion.blogspot.com : he's a Zionist - he knows!)

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Im Tirtzu
April 15, 2010, 11:36 AM
Filed under: Comment, Identity, Israel, Zionism | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

This week marks the 62nd year of independence of the modern State of Israel. So let’s explore the ‘ism‘ that inspired, and facilitated the path towards a state for the Jewish people of the world.

If you will it, it is no dream  — Teddy Herzl

There is certainly an element of pride associated with Zionism, but it is not to be confused with nationalism (a pride-filled ideology though it may be). In fact, Zionism at its origin is more about the expression of self-determination, and self-determination is about feeling worthy as a nation of the elements of nationhood that others enjoy. Elements of nationhood can include common language, culture, traditions, symbols and of course geography – the latter being the uniquely absent component when one of the first Zionists, Theodore Herzl, cooked up this hair-brained scheme to get Jewish nationhood back on the menu.

However, Zionism at its origins was not widely accepted as a national movement – most Jews lived as ‘guests’ in countries in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Despite the threat and implications of violence, discrimination and expulsion (see England in 1290 CE, Spain, 1492 CE, Kiev, 1886 – click here for a full list of Jewish ‘Fugees) many didn’t appreciate the necessity of a national homeland. Unfortunately, it took a hundred years and millions of lives for the international community to realise this as a requirement for the safety and continuity of the Jewish people.

Currently, the image of Zionism is bound up in the current politics of the State of Israel. Perhaps it should be. But there are many forms, and many understandings of this ideology, and it’s important to see them not as a homogenous belief, but as focused manifestations of our identity as Jewish people – members of the tribe, individuals who identify as Jews, children born of Jewish parents, and people who subscribe to the tenants of faith, cultural norms and traditions of a 3000 year old history of a people – a people dispersed, and then, through the hope of Zionism, brought back together again..

So who is a Zionist? Check this out for the full list of wannabes, willneverbes and wildebeest that make up the Zionist colour palette.



From the vault: Ennui-tainment 1 & 2
April 12, 2010, 9:57 AM
Filed under: Comment | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Today marks Yom HaShoah, Israel’s national Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes Memorial Day, and around the country and the world, ceremonies are being held to commemorate and consecrate those who perished under the Nazi regime. In Israel, the theme centres around “The Voices of the Survivors”, and the ways in which survivors themselves have contributed to Holocaust commemoration over the years.

But what happens when there are no more survivors to tell their own stories? How will we carry the heavy burden of remembrance?

Take a look at this double-header from September 2009, on the power of commemoration and the importance of maintaining its relevance for future generations.

Part One

Part Two

Velvele Valentin Pinkert, one of the 33 771 victims of the massacre at Babi Yar on September 29-30, 1941 (HT @ Yad Vashem - http://www.yadvashem.org)



Under-estimated and Under-age
April 8, 2010, 10:03 AM
Filed under: Comment, Jewish Community | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I remember sitting in early morning Prayers in high school, a quietly fuming 14 years old and one detention note closer to threatening to turn the whole institution on its head. No, I wasn’t the kid who called in bomb threats to get out of History exams, nor was I the student who lit the computer room on fire, or the idiot who stood on a chair to get the teacher’s frayed attention and stuck his hand in the fully operational ceiling fan. They were the best of times and the worst of  times …  

Nope. I was a rebel with a cause, and that cause was the hypocrisy I could smell on every teacher in every carpet in every classroom. My school reeked of it, and I recall this morning in morning prayers because that is when I came face-to-face with the woman whose hypocrisy went so deep, even Easy-Off BAM’s poor example of grammar couldn’t have scrubbed it out. Looking back it was a simple matter of insubordination – a refusal to a direct order to open a prayer-book. But I stuck it out, protesting the inadequacy of prayer recited without proper intention, and made an offer of silent meditation in its place. My peace-offering rebuffed, I went to that afternoon detention with a smile on my face, content in the knowledge that I had stood up for what was right, and not submitted to what was expected.Lo and behold, over a decade later, I am (sadly) shocked to happen upon the same stench, thick and repulsive, all these years later. It’s still just as offensive, and although I am an adult, with power, influence and killer letter-writing skills, I can still feel the rage of underage subjection and underestimation stinging my senses.  

Except that this time, it isn’t happening to me.  It’s happening to other vulnerable, underrepresented young JC. And that is something I cannot abide.

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Playing Games
January 14, 2010, 3:56 PM
Filed under: Comment | Tags: , , , , ,

It is clear to any fan of a sporting code these days that sport can no longer separate itself from Politics.

It started in the 1930s, during Hitler’s Berlin Games and reared its ugly head again in the 1968, with the Australian 200m Silver medalist Peter Norman deliberately left off the 1972 Athletic squad for his complicity in the pro-African American human rights protest during the national anthems. 11 Israelis were murdered in the Olympic Village in Munich in 1972, the Indian cricket team withdrawal in protest over the British government’s support of the South African Apartheid government, which threatened the integrity of the 1988 Commonwealth Games, six Sierra Leone athletes, who disappeared from the 2006 Commonwealth Games were later granted asylum in Australia. As recently as last week, an Angolan separatist group carried out the deadly ambush on the Togolese national football team at the African Nations Cup, and has vowed to strike again.

And now? An Indian far-right Hindu group, Shiv Sena, have threatened the Australian Cricket team, should they attempt to play in certain parts of India, because of the government’s inability to curb violence against Indian students living in Australia.

What happened to the notion that sport was about skill and grace, that teams meeting on the grassy battlefield of football and rugby, parched dirt of tennis or rapids of the pool transcended border conflicts and community conflict? It seems politics and sport are unescapably intertwined, and have been for decades – often with violent and bloody consequences.

But for a country like Australia, whose people hold sport above everything else, including politics, and for whom sport is the natural expression of their national pride, it is a bitter pill to swallow that something as petty and insignificant in their eyes, should get in the way of a good Indian thumping. On the cricket pitch, of course.



Jew is as Jew does

We knew it would happen eventually, and you know what they say – when the shit hits the fan, everyone gets covered in it.

I’m talking of course about the imminent ruling of the Supreme Court in Britain, regarding the case of a Jewish boy who was born to an Orthodox Jewish father, and Progressive Jewish mother (a Convert). This boy, whom the courts have dubbed ‘M’, was denied enrolment to the Jewish Free School (JFS) in London, on account of the fact that the school adheres to a strict Orthodox-only enrolment policy. ‘M”s parents decided to sue on the grounds of racial discrimination, and so we find ourselves waiting with bated breath for the ruling that could change the very way we define ourselves, and our community as Jewish, right here in Australia.

Jewish

Up until now this has been protected by the laws in the UK governing religious freedoms, especially in running educational institutions. Now whatever you believe about the validity of a school operating for the youth of a particular religion, this case is basically proposing that rather than a religion, being Jewish is purely a blood-line – a ‘race’.  

In fact, this case goes to the very fibre of what a ‘Jew’ is in our contemporary society – a race, ethnicity, culture, nation, religion – and whether it is possible to have our cake and eat it too. 

I’ll begin with a story. As with most great stories, this is a tale follows a simple and popular narrative structure.

There is a boy. He meets a girl. At a summer camp for young (Jewish) people. Needless to say, by the end of the camp, they are smitten, and they begin to date. He is a good Jewish boy, from a nice family in Sydney’s north, and she is a sweet, funny Jewess from the south-East of the city. The relationship barrels along, sparks fly, plans are made and before you know it, he is on one knee on a beach proposing they spend forever together.

Except that Mother didn’t tell her daughter that when she married the girl’s father, she was impatient, in love and ill prepared for the tumult of Orthodox conversion. So she converted as a Reform Jew. And that her Orthodox-educated, raised and believing daughter, according to Halacha, is one too.

Now at this point, the story shifts focus, and for many, it becomes a crash course in choose-your-own-adventure – something that many are not prepared for at all. I mean, she was from the right side of the tracks – hell, she could even be more observant than he is, but it changes little in terms of the strict Halacha that governs these situations. And again, agree or not with the Jewish law, this is a purely religious standard, for those who wish to abide by it.

But what about civil liberties? Where is the space in this paradigm for human rights? The ability of a citizen of a country to choose his or her own destiny, regardless of their race, religion, class, sex or sexual orientations? Recent calls by prominent Muslim community spokesperson, Keysar Trad to integrate Shariah Law into the Victorian legal system were met with anger and condemned as being an affront to the very independence and multilateralism of justice. For all. Imagine if the laws governing Jewish marriage, death, divorce – were all suddenly absorbed into a secular, national system, and overruled by it. It will destroy a system that thrives in its separation of church and state.

Australians are beholden to a justice system steeped in British traditions, as according to our history as a former British colony. Our government system, our past times, eating habits – even the Jewish community in Australia looks to the London Beth Din to dictate the terms of Orthodoxy, and rule of matters of Jewish life and law.

So what happens if the British Supreme Court rules in ‘M”s favour?

Well, no doubt it’s decision would need to be accepted by the London Beth Din, and changes made to the JFS accordingly. It means that the right to define who is a Jew is taken away from the community, and given to the courts, in direct contradiction to the human rights of the individual to practise their religion freely and without prejudice.

It means for Australian Jewish schools, clubs and organisations, precedents are being set removing the autonomy of the institution, and the religious structure of the Australian community may begin to erode. It means that while our claim as a nation may be upheld, our religious rights as Jews may not be.

It means that the rights of the individual are protected in law, above and beyond the rights of the community. Unlike other peoples, Jews have ensured their survival over millenia through the power of tzdaka, the importance of tikkun olam and the power of the many, over the self-interest of the few. It would be a shame to start now.

It also means that for Australians, we may have to accept that being a Jew is no longer just an ethno-culture or religion, but strictly defined by the word ‘race’, a concept created by those groups who would have seen Jews eradicated – and almost did.

And that is something I, and you, and even those still perched on the fence,  should not be forced to abide.



John Safran – Blacking up, and getting down

Come to the edge, he said. They said: We are afraid. Come to the edge, he said. They came. He pushed them and they flew.     

                                                                        — Guillaume Apollinaire

John Safran is arguably the King of Satire. After the “Make a realistic wish” debacle of the Chasers War on Everything backfired, and the Gruen Transfer going MIA, it was a personal pleasure of mine to hear Safran, of John Safran’s Music Jamboree, and John Safran Vs. God is back on the ABC. This time, he is diving head first into the messy world of Race Relations, asking the hard questions about racism, religious prejudice and whether we should stay with our tribe, or leave it.

In an ABC Unleashed article, Kim Dalton, ABC‘s Director of Television laid down the gauntlet, daring audiences to build and bridge and get over what they think the ABC is about. Tackling holy cows, and pushing the boundaries of good taste, Dalton applauded his intelligent audiences and suggested, “If you think you are going to be offended or outraged (or want to be offended or outraged) then don’t tune in.”

But tune in we did. In a circumnavigation attempt to rival that of Jessica Watson, Safran takes his peculiar brand of squirm producing, power-subverting humour on the road, crossing state lines, continents, ideologies and even races, in an attempt to push the audience to discover what really keeps them apart.

Is it skin colour? Is it guilt – in Safran’s case, of the ‘Jewish Mother’ variety? Is it simply tribalism? Are we able to leave our prejudices behind, and bring all nations together to become a truly global community, living in peace and harmony? Should we get funky, set some mood lighting and make rainbow babies with people we have nothing in common with?

Safran bravely goes where no man has gone before. And he is crucified along the way.

John Safran is crucified in the Phillipines for Race Relations

John Safran is crucified in the Phillipines for Race Relations

This 8 part series premiered on Wednesday night, as with most of John Safran’s work, amidst a mire of controversy, drummed up by the PC police and their minions. Headlines screaming racist, immoral, offensive only drove the puclic interest in the series higher, and the masses were not left so unsatisfied.

In the series opener, Safran takes gene-based dating to a whole new level, consulting a scientist to determine if his penchant for Eurasians is justifiably a genetic preference. Turns out, a panty-sniff test is just what the doctor ordered, and after stealing a dozen pairs of under wear belonging to childhood friends, the Thai Princess, Nicole from the Pussycat Dolls, and . Though obscene (“Ooh, good … Oooh, less good”) is part scientific-fascination and another part creepy. But the fun doesn’t stop there. Throwing in his school-yard Rabbi, a few ex-girlfriends and even some racially-charged pixelation, we are off and running. Oh yes – we head over to Israel and Palestine, land of political (in)correctness, in Safran’s efforts to create the ultimate mixed-race – the Jalestinian.

Probably an image I will have imprinted on my brain forever is a smothered-giggle from Safran, as his Palestinian boom-operator masturbates about two feet away from him. Crass? Yes. Hilarious? Absolutely. And that is just the beginning of this irreverent, devil-may-care series, which takes public propriety and shoves it back in its box. Of course, ripping through the PC shield we have all been covered with for so long, requires some grunt (Thanks boom-operator guy), and no doubt as the series progresses, we will be compelled to take a look at our own prejudices, forced or imbibed, and evaluate their legitimacy.

Not a bad idea, especially considering the trigger for such self-reflection is mostly sexual innuendo, awkward situation comedy and simple laugh-out-loud-can’t-look-away-oh-no-he-didn’t-did-he funny.

Safran hits the G-spot of satire Gold with this one. He is bold, unafraid, and blissfully unpretentious in his geek-makes-good style. After Hey Hey It’s Saturday beamed stupidity and crass across the world, Australia gets a chance to redeem itself, with a man who is not afraid to push the limits of good taste, as long as he makes his point.

And it is a point excellently made.

John Safran’s Race Relations airs Wednesday nights on ABC1 at 9.30pm, AEDST.