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.



Means Justify the Ends, Beautiful Friends, The Ends
March 2, 2010, 11:19 AM
Filed under: Israel, media, Zionism | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Ok, after all the speculation and hear say, after all the he-said-she-said and pointless re-iterating of irrelevant, un-newsworthy facts and numbers, names and casual insinuations, it’s time to set the record somewhat straighter than its current spiral-shape – because all this spin is making me dizzy.  So before you rip off your clothes, pull out your hair and run down your street screaming “APOCALPYSE NOW!! I SEE THE FOUR HORSEMEN!”, take a deep breath, or a shot, or a hit of your inhaler and read this.

Une : Self-righteous indignation is only permissable if the indignant are blameless. Don’t kid yourself Australia, Britain, France, or even you, Gold-medal winning Canada – sure, this time you are the victim, but are we forgetting that espionage is the dirty little secret of many great powers, used on varying occasions to kill, maime or capture war criminals, arms dealers and military and political leadership. No one is blameless, and all are punish-ed if they believe they are.  

Deux : There is no proof Mossad nor any Israeli was involved – it’s not like these people left their business card, or even a 20-shekel printed T from the Carmel Shuq. But, like all great conspiracies, the rumour is 3/4 of the way to the truth, and lights a great big stinking flare for all the crazies to come out (take this choice quote from New Matilda’s comments section, on Mustafa Qadri’s seminal work “Has Israel Finally Gone Too Far?” –  

“All Israeli Duel (sic) passports should now be triple checked and bags searched. Israel is using(some give permission)their citizens (sic) passports for their murderous deeds (9/11 ) cheering when the towers were pulled. Two planes hit two towers and building 7 just fell down ??? Mossad has blood on its hands. Guilty your honor.”  

Thanks Mate. Stellar contribution to the debate). Even in the murky jurisdictional waters of international justice, defendants are innocent until proven guilty, and subject to a fair trial – by the courts, not by fire or the media.  

Trois : The ends justify the means. Let’s not forget the end result of this little fiasco. There is one less self-described murderer and violent agitator in the world, who was killed while in Dubai on an arms-dealing mission for his organisation, Hamas, whose own political charter calls for the destruction of its neighbour, and who has acted upon that charter countless times in violent terrorism against citizens of the State of Israel. Where I come from that’s a winner. Sure, it (allegedly) took 27 people to arrange it, and a slew of tennis-related props, but the guy is no longer with us, and while I offer his family my condolences, I offer those responsible my congratulations.  

Quatre : When you assume, you make an ass of you and me. With the AFP on the way to Israel to conduct its own investigation, there is no doubt Australia is taking allegations of passport fraud seriously. However, it is worthwhile to remember that the three dual citizens named, were also shamed in extensive media coverage of the issue. I’m not a conspiracy theorist by any means, but it would be reasonable to assume that any and all parties, complicit in any illegal undertakings would be far less inclined to reveal their true involvement with hordes of cameramen and journalists banging down their doors. Especially if the likely outcome were jail time/extradition to their country of origin or revoking of their citizenship. Funny that. 

Cinq : It was Contextual, I swear. Remember that nothing happens in a vacuum – the response of the Australian government is tempered directly by the state in which it finds itself – demoting a minister, held responsible for the deaths of four tradies, and led by a Prime Minister who believes their hold to be slipping.



The Odd Couple of days
February 27, 2010, 5:07 PM
Filed under: Comment, Identity | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I found myself recently on a road trip, heading down the beautiful south coast with a ragtag bunch of friends and acquaintances. Amongst us were 2 Labor hacks, 1 PhD student, an Ethiopian immigrant, a Torres Strait Islander, a couple of Catholics and a range of couples, singles, old flings and potential new ones, as well as a guy who seemed to relish every opportunity to point out that myself and one other in the group were Members of the Tribe – though he didn’t see fit to put it as politely as that.

But I suppose, it was kinda my fault anyway. I did discuss it with my fellow Heeb – that is, our general Heebi-jeebiness. More specifically, after a few months MIA, I was interested to find out about his life, including his non-Jewish girlfriend, and how he was dealing with the clashes in belief and religious practice (she is an atheist). Perfect pre-dinner conversation. It started meekly enough, but before we knew it, it seemed everyone had an opinion on our musings, and were being quite vocal in their appreciation, or in this guy’s case, disgust. Then we entered the twilight zone, and bizarre-0-man provided the ultimate conversation buzz-kill:

My Grandmother warned me about people like you”. (Me? I thought? what, conservative? Opinionated? Pseudo Feminist? Middle Class? Sorry?)“She warned me about Jews. Don’t Trust ’em.”

The next day was shite. More rain, rain and rain. Good thing there was take-away fish and chip shop, Rugby Union on TV and a stack of board games, including Monopoly. (side note: I am not an avid Monopoly player. I am not interested in investment, and am far more likely to be seen frittering my wealth away on rent and chance cards, landing myself in Debt and in Jail. Now Risk. There’s a game for me!) So we settled in to play. Someone nominated me as the Bank, mostly because I was sitting closest to the board and already mesmerised by the pretty colours. And away we went! Soon it became clear that Jew 2 and I had put  a foot wrong, and not because we both were hemorrhaging money faster than Lehmann Brothers.  Rather because we were so unwilling to give up without a fight for our precious coloured paper.

“Ah, the Jews are out in force today … you guys should be good at this, you know, gouging people for rent … Jews hate to lose money …Yeah you love money … well, it is what they were born to do …”

Now once again, perhaps we had led them down the garden path a bit – you know, played along, laughed it off. Pretended the 7th or 8th jibe didn’t sting far more than the 1st or 2nd. Well eventually I went bankrupt (I told you), and it was with a sigh of relief and a deep sense of gratitude to whomever bought me out and let me escape to check my Gmail. Out of the fry pan and into the fire.

After the Rugby, it was dinner time and the hordes were hungry. We shopped, cooked and feasted, and while we sat around drinking wine, licking our fingers and picking at leftovers, someone brought up the unusual topic of hazing, on university campuses. So I thought ‘hey, I’m amongst friends, a little sharing never hurt’, and offered my experience as an executive member of a Jewish university Campus group, and the spectacle we presented to the first-year group which involved four heads of campus in Sydney, our hands tied behind our back, and an apple that had to be eaten. Again, within an instant, my story about consensual adult public fruit-eating  has turned into a travesty of sexual rights and abuses, and I was being accused of being just as bad Nazis for forcing honest, hard-working Germans to vote for them in 1936.

WHAT THE DEUTSCHMARK?!

Now, I could have reminded this human-rights defender about the history of pre-war Germany, and still bristling with the desire to stick my fork in his leg and his fresh t-bone up his nose, my Jew-in-arms came to be defense, but without much effect. Apparently asking consenting adults to engage in harmless, though messy showboating for the amusement of 18 year olds is akin to supporting a dictatorship with genocidal tendencies. Thanks for bring that to my attention. Oh silly me. Isn’t my face red now, hmm?

In an effort to stop my outrage bubbling into violence, I busied myself with cleaning up, while more wine was poured, and the group wound up covered in chocolate and eating nectarine slices. Happy families indeed. The next day it was home time and I woke early to make it down to the beach for a swim before everyone woke up. As I got dressed upon my return, I noticed a familiar black white and red poking out of my bag. ‘Must’ve been her Nazi voting instruction manual’, I hear you surmise.

Nope. It was my rip-off I Heart Israel T-shirt, bought in Occupied Palestine with a serious dose of Irony and Zionism, no less. I threw it on indifferently and as I rolled up the sleeves, I realised why my anger had suddenly dissipated. I could have called this guy any number of names under the sun, most of them a reference to his lack of understanding, knowledge or appreciation of culture, history and sensitivity. I could have called him out on his disrespectful language, tone and reference, how he, as an Indigenous Australian should understand the danger of antiquated, unsubstantiated prejudice and baseless bigotry.

But it all melted away. I let it go. Because you can wear your heart on your sleeve and your identity with shame, or pride, or joy or irony or contentment. The point is, you get to choose,  no one else. No matter what they call you.

PostScript: We have booked another escape for an upcoming long weekend to that same gorgeous spot of southern coastline, and we have instituted a strictly non-negotiable ‘no bigot’ policy. That’s right. This time, this Jewess gets to choose who comes along for the ride. And I’m calling shotgun.



Thought for the Day
December 4, 2009, 12:34 AM
Filed under: Israel, Zionism | Tags: , , , , , ,

When flying El Al into Israel, it seems an obligation to not only stare apprehensively out of the windows upon descent into Israeli airspace (no matter what seat you happen to be in, that is), but to engage in two thoroughly unsafe behaviours, most unusual for those well versed in proper travel etiquette.

1) Disregarding flight attendants’ (repeated) instructions to remain seated until the seatbelt sign is turned off. Manifests in passengers being forcefully sat back down by frustrated attendants, only for the passenger to get back up and continue to stretch/remove bags from overhead locker/kibbitz to their husband friend or significant other.

2) Rapturous clapping upon touchdown. It reminds me of what a potential So You Think You Can Fly style reality TV show. In the event of such behaviour, common courtesy dictates joining in is not only encouraged, but demanded by the psyche of the masses. Sure, you don’t know if they are clapping the ability of the pilot to land the plane (superfluous much?) or his ability to land it in the right spot (er, even the ticket said Tel Aviv … it shouldn’t be so hard), but do not underestimate the vivacity of cabin-fevered Israelis.

I have travelled El Al a total of three times into Israel, and if they didn’t say that the third time was the charm, I would be seriously concerned by the oddity of it all. But it seems this is a naturally occurring phenomenon, and until such time as passengers get over the excitement of  the simple act of landing a plane, and that plane landing in Israel, it won’t be dying down any time soon.



I’m leaving on a jet plane
November 30, 2009, 8:49 AM
Filed under: Comment, Israel | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Travelling to Israel is a pretty heady thing, from the longer-than-long-haul flight, to the change in hemisphere, time-zone, season, language, civility, politics, religion, lifestyle – Just touching down and finding one’s way to a bed to sleep off the jet lag is no small feat.

After a few trips, spanning almost two years in total, I am going back for more – previous posts on Israel and travel have no doubt provided a snapshot of things to do, see and experience over there, but while packing for this particular trip, I found something that jogged my memories. A little slip of paper that took me back to a Jerusalem bank queue, where I scribbled down all the things that had made my year so unforgettable.

And now, a year older, but not so much wiser, I find myself looking back, wondering how much will have changed, and how much will have remained the same. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a little reminder of why I keep coming back.

So here they are: Things I will miss

Thongs in bars – My Thongs – Mike’s Place – Gilli – Alex – Alex 2 – Hebrew – The US Consulate guys – Jager bombs – Walking everywhere – Daniel’s sense of humour – Shmee’s Breakfasts – Sitting with a beer and salad with Shachar – My Jenny – Blues Music – Being a Whore with Jenny – eating Iraqi food with Daniel in the Shuq – Selichot at midnight at the Kotel – Sleeping on Shachar’s couch – The view out over Jerusalem – Pesach at Dan – Shabbat Sirens – Deserted Streets on a Saturday – The Muezzin’s call on the way home from work – Telling Eefke about my latest conquest – Shuq shopping – Shabbat at the Shorer family – Shabbat at the Dov family – Ori making fun of my shoes – Learning the bus routes – Lusting over clothes in Mamila – Breakfast at the Rupin – Complaining about work with Jill – Tel Aviv Summer Days – Jerusalem Summer Nights – The Bolinat on a Friday – Arguing with Zak about money/politics/religion etc. – More Blues music – My Tan – Kareoke at Eefke – 20 NIS Jerusalem <-> Tel Aviv Shirut – Watching the sun rise 4 days a week – living in Rehavia – The Beach – Tiyulim – After work drinks – 24 hour breakfast with the boys – Hanging with Whitney eating hot wings – The Crazy Landlord – Ben in uniform – Purim – Playing hostess – Picnics in Gan Haatzmaut with my girls – Playing tour guide – Housewarmings



Ennui-tainment (Part 2)

The stubborn refusal to give tragedy the final say

There seems to be a distinctly anti-Generation-Y movement which undercuts the question of Shoah re-commemoration.

See, for years there has been a very stable, highly enforced method of interacting with the history of Holocaust, and an especially enforced standard of commemoration of that history. It included extreme reverence, highly emotive triggers, and a heaviness of the soul that most Jewish youth associate with any Holocaust-related public conversation.

Then, after upwards of 50 years of silent, sombre and most sincere reflection, young  Jewish people began to do with the Holocaust what young Jewish people have done with Shabbat, Zionism and other sacred cows – they turned it on its head.Cyanide and Happiness 

Which is not to say that young Jews today don’t appreciate the gravity of the Holocaust. Rather, they over-appreciate it. They are saturated in understanding. Like the children of Holocaust survivors who were drowning in the silence of their parents, these third-generation Jews are likewise drowning in the over-exposure their parents are kindly facilitating.  

Is visiting a death camp at 16 an age-appropriate experience? Indeed, can one ask an 11-year-old to comprehend or relate to the number 1 000 000, let alone light a candle to remember 1 000 000 children killed in the Shoah? How do you explain hatred for hatred’s sake, without condescending, or killing for ethnicity’s sake, without terrifying?

Would it surprise you that even our nightmares are Shoah related? I challenge any Jewish person to deny that they have had at least one, if not lifelong Holocaust-themed dreams. Mine involved abbatoir-style slaughter-houses, with loved ones forced like cattle through the turnstiles, awaiting their death, with nothing to be done. And for a long time, there was nothing to be done but tread water in the overwhelming tide that threatened to overpower our connection to our history altogether.

As time separated the generations from the immediacy of the tragedy, and threatened to disconnect them from its meaning, humour became the bridge which allowed Jews to take back the power, and stubbornly refused to submit to the magnitude of victimhood. Suddenly there was a means to process this massive influence in our lives – a method to understand the madness. What started with the Ghetto reinterpretations of Hitler’s masterpiece Mein Krampft (My Cramp) and the naming of dogs and pigs ‘Adolf’, became a critical communal and coping mechanism for those affected by Nazi policies. Survivor and Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl said in Mans Search for Meaning,

“We knew that we had nothing to lose except our ridiculously naked lives. When the showers started to run, we all tried very hard to make fun, both about ourselves and about each other. After all, real water did flow from the sprays!”

Half a century on this tradition continues, to the chagrin and horror of the PC police and inflated egos that cannot understand that Heeb Magazine’s mockery of Holocaust memoirs stems from a moral disgust that the once noble premise of documenting history has become a money-making industry – so why not write your own Holocaust memoir? And if we want to truly destroy the power of Hitler, how better than to belittle his memory and mock his self-righteousness character with a series of YouTube videos here, here and here? And here. And there. And here too.

People like Rosanne Barr hit the nail on the head – Sure it’s sick and twisted to don a moustache and bake Burnt Jew Cookies in an oven, but what are we so blinded by our pride and self-importance that we cannot see the irony and power of the inversion? When someone like Barr suggests such a photo shoot, a woman whose life has been dedicated to offending as many people as possible with her brand of take-no-prisoners humour, everything is fair game. As she herself told Heeb:

“He killed my whole family, it is true, but he is also dead, and I, a Jewish woman am still alive to make fun of him, and I will continue to make fun of the little runt for the rest of my life! He, and his ideas need to be laughed at even more these days, picked apart and analyzed up and down, as there are more and more people denying his crimes, and more and more despots trying to copy them.”

This peculiar cultural revenge is replicated again and again, in the infamous character actor Sascha Baron Cohen playing an anti-Semitic Kazakh in Borat, or in the faux-terror of Seinfeld‘s dreaded ‘Soup Nazi’ – turning the stereotype on its head, and in doing, fulfilling the hopes of the millions of victims encapsulated in the Talmudic verse: “The best revenge is to live”.

Call it revenge porn, but Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds could be regarded as the best antidote to the evils of the Nazi regime since Chaplin’s The Dictator. Tellingly, after the screening of Tarantino’s film, I bumped into a Jewish couple in their mid-sixties who could not fathom how such a film was even produced, let alone enjoyed – such was their disgust for the film’s subversion of the traditional power-relationship of the Shoah.

Where younger viewers whooped and heckled as Nazi’s were gunned down, and the image of a young Jewish woman laughed, rising in flames as the harbinger of death and destruction upon a Nazi crowd, wreaking her luscious revenge … it was a sweet moment for this generation.

2009_inglorious_bastards_002

Still from Inglorious Basterds

This tale of Jews taking back their honour and their lives from the Nazi regime which had tried and failed to destroy them was a “once upon a time” fable that reverberated in cinemas across the world, re-forming those Shoah nightmares into Shoah fantasies, littered with scalps and bullets and relief. Far from offensive, Inglorious Basterds gave young Jews the chance to divert the course of their people’s tragic history, even if it was only for a couple of hours, in a recliner seat in a theatre in Sydney or Toronto or London. And sure it’s just a movie – but in telling this story, Tarantino validated this generation’s fantasy, and went some way to understanding the foundations of the cultural architecture of 70 years of suffering.

So rather than mis-reading young Jewish attempts to re-imagine, re-define and re-tell the story of the Holocaust as out-of-touch, inappropriate, disrespectful or ignorant – perhaps it is time to step out of the stranglehold of ‘traditional’ Holocaust commemoration, and recognise that the light of satire does not diminish any of the truth of history. Rather, it can light the way to a better understanding, and clearer picture of what the Holocaust means for Jews today.