Saturday, March 3, 2007
Gilad Atzmon - From Esther to Birkenau, From Esther to AIPAC (Purim Special)
“In certain contexts, memory can be subversive; in others, memory can shield the status quo. When individuals and communities become vested with memory as a form of identity and specialness, then other suffering threatens to displace the centrality of our experience. Instead of a bridge of solidarity to others who are suffering in the present, suffering in the past can become a badge of honour, protecting us from the challenges that are before us. Then our witness, originally powerful, opening questions about God and power, becomes diluted, can be seen as fake, contrived, even wilfully so. An industry grows up around you, honours you, and at the same time uses your witness for other reasons. In the end a confusion results, externally and internally, until the witness himself can no longer differentiate between the world of interpretation he helped articulate and the world that now speaks in his name. Is this what happened to Wiesel, or is Finkelstein's more acerbic analysis accurate?”
Jewishness is a rather broad term. It refers to a culture with many faces, varied distinctive groups, different beliefs, opposing political camps, different classes and diversified ethnicity. Nevertheless, the connection between those very many people who happen to identify themselves as Jews is rather intriguing. In the paragraphs that follow, I will try to further the search into the notion of Jewishness. I will make an attempt to trace the intellectual, spiritual and mythological collective bond that makes Jewishness into a powerful identity.
Clearly, Jewishness is neither a racial nor an ethnic category. Though Jewish identity is racially and ethnically orientated, the Jewish people do not form a homogenous group. There is no racial or ethnic continuum. Jewishness may be seen by some as a continuation of Judaism. I would maintain that this is not necessarily the case either. Though Jewishness borrows some fundamental Judaic elements, Jewishness is not Judaism and it is even categorically different from Judaism. Furthermore, as we know, more than a few of those who proudly define themselves as Jews have very little knowledge of Judaism, many of them are atheists, non-religious and even overtly oppose Judaism or any other religion. Many of those Jews who happen to oppose Judaism happen to maintain their Jewish identity and to be extremely proud about it. This opposition to Judaism obviously includes Zionism (at least the early version) but it also is the basis of much of Jewish socialist anti-Zionism.
Though Jewishness is different from Judaism one still wonders just what constitutes Jewishness: whether it is a new form of religion an ideology or if it is just a ‘state of mind’.
If Jewishness is indeed a religion, the next questions that have to be asked are, “what kind of religion is it? What does this religion entail? What do its followers believe in?” If it is a religion, one may wonder whether it is possible to divorce from it as much as it is possible to step out of Judaism, Christianity or Islam.
If Jewishness is an ideology, then the right questions to ask are, “what does this ideology stand for? Does it form a discourse? Is it a monolithic discourse? Does it portray a new world order? Is it aiming for peace or violence? Does it carry a universal message to humanity or is it just another manifestation of some tribal precepts?”
If Jewishness is a state of mind, then the question to raise is whether it is rational or irrational. Is it within the expressible or rather within the inexpressible?
At this point I may suggest considering the remote possibility that Jewishness may be a strange hybrid, it can be all of those things at once i.e., a religion, an ideology and a state of mind.
The Holocaust Religion
“Yeshayahu Leibowitz, the philosopher who was an observant orthodox Jew, told me once: “The Jewish religion died 200 years ago. Now there is nothing that unifies the Jews around the world apart from the Holocaust.” (Uri Avnery)
Philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz, the German born Hebrew University professor, was probably the first to suggest that the Holocaust has become the new Jewish religion. ‘The Holocaust’ is far more than historical narrative, it indeed contains most of the essential religious elements: it has its priests (Simon Wiesenthal, Elie Wiesel, Deborah Lipstadt, etc.) and prophets (Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu and those who warn about the Iranian Judeocide to come). It has its commandments and dogmas (‘never again’, ’six million’, etc.). It has its rituals (memorial days, Pilgrimage to Auschwitz etc.). It establishes an esoteric symbolic order (kapo, gas chambers, chimneys, dust, Musselmann, etc.). It has its shrines and temples (Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum and now the UN). If this is not enough, the Holocaust religion is also maintained by a massive economic network and global financial infrastructures (Holocaust industry a la Norman Finkelstein). Most interestingly, the Holocaust religion is coherent enough to define the new ‘antichrists’ (the Deniers) and it is powerful enough to persecute them (Holocaust denial laws).
Critical scholars who dispute the notion of ‘Holocaust religion’ suggest that though the new emerging religion retains many characteristics of an organised religion, it doesn’t establish an external God figure to point at, to worship or to love. I myself cannot agree less. I insist that the Holocaust religion embodies the essence of the liberal democratic worldview. It is there to offer a new form of worshiping. It made self loving into a dogmatic belief in which the observant follower worships himself. In the new religion it is ‘the Jew’ whom the Jews worship. It is all about ‘me’, the subject of endless suffering who makes it into redemption.
However, more than a few Jewish scholars in Israel and abroad happen to accept Leibowitz’s observation. Amongst them is Marc Ellis, the prominent Jewish theologian who suggests a revealing insight into the dialectic of the new religion. "Holocaust theology,” says Ellis, “yields three themes that exist in dialectical tension: suffering and empowerment, innocence and redemption, specialness and normalization."
Though Holocaust religion didn’t replace Judaism, it gave Jewishness a new meaning. It sets a modern Jewish narrative allocating the Jewish subject within a Jewish project. It allocates the Jew a central role within his own self-centred universe. The ‘sufferer’ and the ‘innocent’ are marching towards ‘redemption’ and ‘empowerment’. God is obviously out of the game, he is fired, he has failed in his historic mission, he wasn’t there to save the Jews. Within the new religion the Jew becomes ‘the Jews’ new God’, it is all about the Jew who redeems himself.
The Jewish follower of the Holocaust religion idealises the condition of his existence. He then sets a framework of a future struggle towards recognition. For the Zionist follower of the new religion, the implications seem to be relatively durable. He is there to ‘schlep’ the entirety of world Jewry to Zion at the expense of the indigenous Palestinian people. For the Socialist Jew, the project is slightly more complicated. For him redemption means setting a new world order, namely a socialist haven. A world dominated by dogmatic working class politics in which Jews happen to be no more than just one minority amongst many. For the humanist observant, Holocaust religion means that Jews must locate themselves at the forefront of the struggle against racism, oppression and evil in general. Though it sounds promising, it happens to be problematic because of obvious reasons. In our current world order it is Israel and America that happen to be amongst the leading oppressive evils. Expecting Jews to be in the forefront of humanist struggle sets Jews in a fight against their brethren and their supportive single superpower. However, It is rather clear that all three Holocaust churches assign the Jews a major project with some global implications.
As we can see, the Holocaust functions as an ideological interface. It provides its follower with a logos. On the level of consciousness, it suggests a purely analytical vision of the past and present, yet, it doesn’t stop just there, it also defines the struggle to come. It defines a vision of a Jewish future. Nevertheless, as a consequence it fills the Jewish subject’s unconsciousness with the ultimate anxiety: the destruction of the ‘I’.
Needless to say, a faith that stimulates the consciousness (Ideology) and steers the unconsciousness (Spirit) is a very good recipe for a winning religion. This structural bond of ideology and spirit is fundamental to the Judaic tradition. The bond between the legal clarity of the halacah (ideology) and the mysteriousness of Jehovah or even Kabala (spirit) makes Judaism into a totality, a universe in itself.
Bolshevism, the mass movement rather than the political theory, is built upon the same structure, the lucidity of pseudo-scientific materialism together with the fear of the capitalistic appetite. Neoconservative’s politics of fear is again all about locking the subject in the chasm between the alleged forensic lucidity of WMDs and the inexpressible fright of ‘terror to come’.
This very bond between consciousness and unconsciousness brings to mind the Lacanian notion of the ‘real’. The ‘real’ is that which cannot be symbolized i.e., expressed in words. The real is the ‘inexpressible’, the inaccessible. In Zizek’s words, ‘the real is impossible’, ‘the real is the trauma’. Nevertheless, it is this trauma that shapes the symbolic order. It is the trauma that forms our reality.
The Holocaust religion fits nicely into the Lacanian model. Its spiritual core is rooted deeply within the domain of the inexpressible. Its preaching teaches us to see a threat in everything. It is the ultimate conjunction between the ideology and the spirit that has materialised into sheer pragmatism.
Interestingly enough, the Holocaust religion extends far beyond the internal Jewish discourse. In fact, the new religion operates as a mission. It sets shrines in far lands. As we can see, the emerging religion is already becoming a new world order. It is the Holocaust that is now used as an alibi to nuke Iran. Clearly, Holocaust religion serves the Jewish political discourse both on the right and left but it appeals to the Goyim as well, especially those who are engaged in merciless killing ‘in the name of freedom. To a certain extent we are all subject to this religion, some of us are worshipers, others are just subject to its power. Interestingly enough, those who deny the Holocaust are themselves subject to abuse by the high priests of this religion. Holocaust religion constitutes the Western ‘Real’. We are not allowed to touch it or to look into it. Very much like the Israelites who are entitled to obey their God but never to question him.
The Scholars who are engaged in the study of the Holocaust religion (theology, ideology and historicity) are engaged mainly with structural formulations, its meanings, its rhetoric and its historical interpretation. Some happen to search for the theological dialectic (Marc Ellis), others formulate the commandments (Adi Ofir), some learn its historical evolution (Lenni Brenner), other expose its financial infrastructure (Finkelstein). Interestingly enough, most scholars who are engaged in the subject of Holocaust religion are engaged with a list of events that happened between 1933-1945. Most of the scholars are themselves orthodox observant worshipers. Though they may be critical of different aspects of the exploitation of the Holocaust, they all accept the validity of the Nazi Judeocide and its mainstream interpretations and implications. Most of the scholars, if not all of them, do not challenge the Zionist narrative, namely Nazi Judeocide, yet, more than a few are critical of the way Jewish and Zionist institutes employ the Holocaust. Though some may dispute the numbers (Shraga Elam), and others question the validity of memory (Ellis, Finkelstein), no one goes as far as revisionism, not a single Holocaust religion scholar dares engage in a dialogue with the so-called ‘deniers’ to discuss their vision of the events or any other revisionist scholarship.
Far more interesting is the fact that none of the Holocaust religion scholars have spent any energy studying the role of the Holocaust within the long-standing Jewish continuum. From this point onward, I will maintain that Holocaust religion was well established a long time before the Final Solution (1942), well before the Kristalnacht (1938), well before the Nuremberg Laws (1936), well before the first anti-Jewish law was announced by Nazi Germany, well before the American Jewish Congress declared a financial war against Nazi Germany (1933) and even well before Hitler was born (1889). The Holocaust religion is probably as old as the Jews.
In a previous paper I have defined the notion of ‘Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder’ (Pre-TSD) . Within the condition of the Pre-TSD, the stress is the outcome of a phantasmic imaginary episode set in the future, an event that has never taken place. Unlike the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, in which stress is realised as the direct reaction to an event that (may) have taken place in the past, within the state of Pre-TSD, the stress is formed as the outcome of an imaginary potential event. Within the Pre-TSD an illusion pre-empts the conditions in which the fantasy of future terror is shaping the present reality.
As it seems, the dialectic of fear dominates the Jewish existence as well as mindset far longer than we are ready to admit. Though fright is exploited politically by Jewish ethnic leaders since the early days of emancipation, the dialectic of fear is far older than modern Jewish history. In fact it is the heritage of the Tanach (the Hebrew Bible) that is there to set the Jew in a pre-traumatic state. It is the Hebrew Bible that sets a binary framework of Innocence/Suffering and Persecution/Empowerment. More particularly, the fear of Judeocide is entangled with Jewish spirit, culture and literature.
I would argue here that the Holocaust religion was there to transform the ancient Israelites into Jews.
The American anthropologist Glenn Bowman who specialised in the study of exilic identities offers a crucial insight into the subject of fear and its contribution to the subject of Identity politics. “Antagonism,” says Bowman, “is fundamental to process of fetishsation underlying identity, because one tends precisely to talk about who one is or what one is at a moment in which that being seems threatened. I begin to call myself such and such a person, or such and such a representative of an imagined community, at the moment something seems to threaten to disallow the being the name I speak stands in for. Identity terms come into usage at precisely the moment in which for some reason one comes to feel they signifying a being or entity one has to fight to defend.” 
In short, Bowman stresses that it is the fear that crystallises the notion of identity. However, once the fear is matured into a state of a collective pre-traumatic stress then identity re-forms itself. When it comes to the Jewish people, it is the Bible that is there to set the Jews within a state of Pre-TSD. It is the Bible that initiates the fear of Judeocide.
More and more Bible scholars are now disputing the historicity of the Bible. Niels Lechme in ‘The Canaanites and Their Land’ argues that the Bible is for the most part “written after the Babylonian Exile and that those writings rework (and in large part invent) previous Israelite history so that it reflects and reiterates the experiences of those returning from the Babylonian exile.”
In other words, being written by home-comers, the Bible incorporates some hardcore exilic ideology into an historic narrative. Very much like in the case of the early Zionist ideologist who regarded assimilation as a death threat, “The communities which aggregated under the leadership of the Yahwehist priesthood (at the time of the Babylonian exile) saw assimilation and apostasy not only as social death for themselves as Judeans but also as attempted deicide. They resolved to maintain an absolute and exclusive commitment to Yahweh who they were sure would lead them back to the land from which they had been expelled. The prescribed blood purity as a means of maintaining the borders of the national community, thus proscribed inter-marriage with those surrounding them. They also established a series of exclusivist rituals that set themselves off from their neighbours, and these not only included a surrogate form of temple worship but also a distinct calendar which ritualistically enabled them to exist in a different time frame than the communities with which they shared space. All of these diacritical devices served to mark and maintain difference, but did not prevent them from trading with and thus being able to sustain themselves amongst the Babylonians.”
Looking into Bowman and Lechme’s spectacular reading of the Bible and the Judaic narrative as a manifestation of exilic and marginal identity may explain the fact that Jewishness flourishes in exile but rather loses its impetus once it becomes a domestic adventure. If Jewishness is indeed centred on an émigré collective survival ideology, than its follower will prosper in Exile. However, that which maintains the Jewish collective identity is fear. Similar to the case of Holocaust religion, Jewishness sets the fear of Judeocide at the core of the Jewish psyche, yet, it also offers the spiritual, ideological and pragmatic measures to deal with this fear.
Book of Esther
The Book of Esther is a biblical story that is the basis for the celebration of Purim, probably the most joyous Jewish festival. The book tells the story of an attempted Judeocide but it also tells a story in which Jews manage to change their fate. In the book the Jews do manage to rescue themselves and even to mete revenge.
It is set in the third year of Ahasuerus, and the ruler is a king of Persia usually identified with Xerxes I. It is a story of a palace, conspiracy, an attempted Judeocide and a brave and beautiful Jewish queen (Esther) who manages to save the Jewish people at the very last minute.
In the story, King Ahasuerus is married to Vashti, whom he repudiates after she rejects his offer to visit him during a feast. Esther was selected from the candidates to be Ahasuerus's new wife. As the story progresses, Ahasuerus’s prime minister Haman plots to have the king kill all the Jews without knowing that Esther is actually Jewish. In the story, Esther together with her cousin Mordechai saves the day for their people. At the risk of endangering her own safety, Esther warns Ahasuerus of Haman's murderous anti-Jewish plot. Haman and his sons are hanged on the fifty cubit gallows he had originally built for cousin Mordecai. As it happens, Mordecai takes Haman's place, he becomes the prime minister. Ahasuerus's edict decreeing the murder of the Jews cannot be rescinded, so he issues another edict allowing the Jews to take up arms and kill their enemies, which they do.
The moral of the story is rather clear. If Jews want to survive, they better find infiltrates into the corridors of power. With Esther, Mordechai and Purim in mind, AIPAC and the notion of ‘Jewish power’ look like an embodiment of a deep Biblical and cultural ideology.
However, here is the interesting twist. Though the story is presented as an historic tale, the historical accuracy of the Book of Esther is largely disputed by most modern Bible Scholars. It is largely the lack of clear corroboration of any of the details of the story of the Book of Esther with what is known of Persian History from classical sources that led scholars to come to a conclusion that the story is mostly or even totally fictional.
In other words, though the moral is clear, the attempted genocide is fictional. Seemingly, the Book of Esther set its followers into a collective Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It makes a fantasy of destruction into an ideology of survival. And indeed, some read the story as an allegory of quintessentially assimilated Jews who discover that they are targets of anti-Semitism, but are also in a position to save themselves and their fellow Jews.
Keeping Bowman in mind may throw some light here. The Book of Esther is there to form the exilic identity. It is there to implant the existential stress, it introduces the Holocaust religion. It sets the conditions that turn the Holocaust into reality.
Interestingly enough, the Book of Esther (in the Hebrew version) is one of only two books of the Bible that do not directly mention God (the other is Song of Songs). In the Book of Esther it is the Jews who believe in themselves, in their own power, in their uniqueness, in their sophistication, in their ability to conspire, in their ability to take over kingdoms, in their ability to save themselves. The Book of Esther is all about empowerment and the Jews who believe in their powers.
From Purim to Birkenau
In an article named “A Purim Lesson: Lobbying Against Genocide, Then and Now”, Dr. Rafael Medoff shares with his readers what he regards as the lesson inherited to the Jews by the Book of Esther. If to be more precise, it is the art of lobbying which Esther and Mordechai are there to teach us. “The holiday of Purim” says Medoff, “celebrates the successful effort by prominent Jews in the capitol of ancient Persia to prevent genocide against the Jewish people.” But Medoff doesn’t stop just there. This specific exercise of what some call ‘Jewish power’ has been carried forward and performed by modern emancipated Jews: “What is not well known is that a comparable lobbying effort took place in modern times -- in Washington, D.C., at the peak of the Holocaust.”
In the article Medoff explores the similarities between Esther’s lobbying in Persia and her modern brothers lobbying within the FDR’s administration at the pick of WW2. “The Esther in 1940s Washington was Henry Morgenthau Jr.” says Medoff, “a wealthy, assimilated Jew of German descent who (as his son later put it) was anxious to be regarded as ‘one hundred percent American.’ Downplaying his Jewishness, Morgenthau gradually rose from being FDR's friend and adviser to his Treasury Secretary.”
Clearly, Medoff spotted a modern Mordechai as well, “a young Zionist emissary from Jerusalem, Peter Bergson (real name: Hillel Kook) who led a series of protest campaigns to bring about U.S. rescue of Jews from Hitler. The Bergson group's newspaper ads and public rallies roused public awareness of the Holocaust -- particularly when it organized over 400 rabbis to march to the front gate of the White House just before Yom Kippur in 1943.”
Medoff’s reading of the Book of Esther provides us with a glaring insight into the internal code of Jewish collective survival dynamics in which the assimilated (Esther) and the observant (Mordechai) are joining forces with clear Judeo centric interests in their minds.
According to Medoff the similarities are indeed shocking. “Mordechai's pressure finally convinced Esther to go to the king; the pressure of Morgenthau's aides finally convinced him to go to the president, armed with a stinging 18-page report that they titled ‘Report to the Secretary on the Acquiescence of This Government in the Murder of the Jews.’”
Dr. Medoff is rather ready to draw his historical conclusions. “Esther's lobbying succeeded. Ahasuerus cancelled the genocide decree and executed Haman and his henchmen. Morgenthau's lobbying also succeeded. A Bergson-initiated Congressional resolution calling for U.S. rescue action quickly passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- enabling Morgenthau to tell FDR that ‘you have either got to move very fast, or the Congress of the United States will do it for you.’ Ten months before election day, the last thing FDR wanted was an embarrassing public scandal over the refugee issue. Within days, Roosevelt did what the Congressional resolution sought -- he issued an executive order creating the War Refugee Board, a U.S. government agency to rescue refugees from Hitler.”
It is clear beyond doubt that Medoff sees the Book of Esther as a general guideline for a healthy Jewish future. Medoff ends his paper saying: “the claim that nothing could be done to help Europe's Jews had been demolished by Jews who shook off their fears and spoke up for their people -- in ancient Persia and in modern Washington.” In other words, Jews can do and should do for themselves. This is indeed the moral of the Book of Esther as well as the Holocaust religion.
What Jews should do for themselves is indeed an open question. Different Jews have different ideas. The Neocon believes in dragging America and the West into an endless war against Islam. Emmanuel Levinas, on the contrary, believes that Jews should actually position themselves at the forefront of the struggle against oppression and injustice. Indeed, Jewish empowerment is just one answer among many. Yet, it is a very powerful not to say a dangerous one. It is especially dangerous when the American Jewish Committee (AJC) acts as a modern-day Mordechai and publicly engages in an extensive lobbying effort for a war against Iran.
When analysing the work and influence of AIPAC within American politics it is the Book of Esther that we should bear in mind. AIPAC is more than a mere political lobby. AIPAC is a modern-day Mordechai, the AJC is modern-day Mordechai. Both AIPAC and AJC are inherently in line with the Hebrew Biblical school of thought. However, while the Mordechais are relatively easy to spot, the Esthers, those who act for Israel behind the scenes, are slightly more difficult to trace.
I believe that once we learn to look at Israeli lobbying in the parameters that are drawn by the Book of Esther/Holocaust-religion, we are then entitled to regard Ahmadinejad as the current Haman/Hitler figure. The AJC is Mordechai, Bush is obviously Ahasuerus, yet Esther can be almost anyone, from the last Neocon to Cheney and beyond.
Brenner and Prinz
In the opening paragraph of this paper I ask what Jewishness stands for. Though I accept the complexity of the notion of Jewishness, I tend to additionally accept Leibowitz’s contribution to the subject: Holocaust is the new Jewish religion. However, within the paper I took the liberty of extending the notion of the Holocaust. Rather than referring merely to the Shoah, i.e., the Nazi Judeocide, I argue here that the Holocaust is actually engraved within the Jewish discourse and spirit. The Holocaust is the essence of the collective Jewish Pre-Traumatic stress disorder and it predates the Shoah. To be a Jew is to see the ‘other’ as a threat rather than as a brother. To be a Jew is to be on a constant alert. To be a Jew is to internalise the message of the Book of Esther. It is to aim towards the most influential junctions of hegemony. To be a Jew is to collaborate with power.
The American Marxist historian Lenni Brenner is fascinated by the collaboration between Zionists and Nazism. In his book Zionism In The Age of Dictators he presents an extract from Rabbi Joachim Prinz’s book published in 1937 after Rabbi Prinz left Germany for America.
“Everyone in Germany knew that only the Zionists could responsibly represent the Jews in dealings with the Nazi government. We all felt sure that one day the government would arrange a round table conference with the Jews, at which – after the riots and atrocities of the revolution had passed – the new status of German Jewry could be considered. The government announced very solemnly that there was no country in the world which tried to solve the Jewish problem as seriously as did Germany. Solution of the Jewish question? It was our Zionist dream! We never denied the existence of the Jewish question! Dissimilation? It was our own appeal! ... In a statement notable for its pride and dignity, we called for a conference.” 
Brenner then brings in extracts from a Memorandum that was sent to the Nazi Party by the German Zionist ZVfD on 21 June 1933:
“Zionism has no illusions about the difficulty of the Jewish condition, which consists above all in an abnormal occupational pattern and in the fault of an intellectual and moral posture not rooted in one’s own tradition...
….On the foundation of the new state, which has established the principle of race, we wish so to fit our community into the total structure so that for us too, in the sphere assigned to us, fruitful activity for the Fatherland is possible.
... Our acknowledgement of Jewish nationality provides for a clear and sincere relationship to the German people and its national and racial realities. Precisely because we do not wish to falsify these fundamentals, because we, too, are against mixed marriage and are for maintaining the purity of the Jewish group...
… We believe in the possibility of an honest relationship of loyalty between a group-conscious Jewry and the German state...”
Brenner doesn’t approve either of Prinz’s take nor the Zionist initiative. Filled with loathing he says, “This document, a treason to the Jews of Germany, was written in standard Zionist clichés: ‘abnormal occupational pattern’, ‘rootless intellectuals greatly in need of moral regeneration’, etc. In it the German Zionists offered calculated collaboration between Zionism and Nazism, hallowed by the goal of a Jewish state: we shall wage no battle against thee, only against those that would resist thee.”
Sadly enough, being imprisoned by working class dogmatism and lacking the necessary academic practice of cross-cultural historical examination, Brenner fails to see the obvious. Rabbi Prinz and the ZVfD were not traitors, they were actually genuine Jews. They followed their very Jewish cultural code. They followed the Book of Esther, they took the role of Mordechai. They tried to find a way to collaborate with what they correctly identified as a prominent emerging power. In 1969, Rabbi Prinz confessed that ever “since the assassination of Walther Rathenau in 1922, there was no doubt in our minds that the German development would be toward an anti-Semitic totalitarian regime. When Hitler began to arouse, and as he put it ‘awaken’ the German nation to racial consciousness and racial superiority, we had no doubt that this man would sooner or later become the leader of the German nation.”
Whether Brenner or anyone else likes it or not, Rabbi Prinz proves to be an authentic Jewish leader. He proves to possess some highly developed survival radar mechanism that fit perfectly well with the exilic ideology. In 1981 Lenni Brenner interviewed Rabbi Prinz. Here is what he had to say about the collaborator Rabbi:
“(Prinz) dramatically evolved in the 44 years since he was expelled from Germany. He told me, off tape, that he soon realized that nothing he said there made sense in the US. He became an American liberal. Eventually, as head of the American Jewish Congress, he was asked to march with Martin Luther King and he did so.”
Once again, Brenner fails to see the obvious. Prinz didn’t change at all. Prinz didn’t evolve in those 44 years. He was and remained a genuine authentic Jew, and an extremely clever one. A man who internalised the essence of Jewish émigré philosophy: In Germany be a German, and in America be American. Be flexible, fit in and adopt relativistic ethical thinking. Prinz, being a devoted follower of Mordechai, realised that whatever is good for the Jews is simply good.
I went back and listened to the invaluable Brenner interviews with Rabbi Prinz that are now available on line. I was rather shocked to find out that actually Prinz presents his position eloquently. It is Prinz rather than Brenner who provides us a glimpse into Jewish ideology and its interaction with the surrounding reality. It is Prinz rather than Brenner who happens to understand the German volk and their aspirations. Prinz presents his past moves as a proud Jew. From his point of view, collaborating with Hitler was indeed the right thing to do. He was following Mordechai, he was probably searching for an Esther to come. Thus, it is only natural that Rabbi Prinz later became the President of the Jewish American Congress. He became a prominent American leader In spite of his ‘collaboration with Hitler’. Simply because of the obvious reason: from a Jewish ideological point of view, he did the right thing.
Final Words About Zionism
Once we learn to look at Jewishness as an exilic culture, as the embodiment of the ‘ultimate other’ we can then understand Jewishness as a collective continuum grounded on a fantasy of horror. Jewishness is the materialisation of politics of fear into a pragmatic agenda. This is what Holocaust religion is all about and it is indeed as old as the Jews. Rabbi Prinz could foresee the Holocaust. Both Prinz and the ZVfD could anticipate a Judeocide. Thus, from a Jewish ideological point of view they acted appropriately. They were committed to their esoteric ethics within an esoteric cultural discourse.
Zionism was indeed a great promise, it was there to convert the Jews into Israelites. It was going to make the Jews into people like other peoples. Zionism was there to identify and fight the Galut (Diaspora), the exilic characteristic of the Jewish people and their culture. But Zionism was doomed to failure. The reason is obvious: within a culture that is metaphysically grounded upon exilic ideology the last thing you can expect is a successful homecoming. In order to live for its promise Zionism had to liberate itself of the Jewish exilic ideology, Zionism had to liberate itself of the Holocaust religion. But this is exactly what it fails to do. Being exilic to the bone, Zionism had to turn to antagonising the indigenous Palestinians in order to maintain its fetish of Jewish identity.
Since Zionism failed to divorce itself from the Jewish émigré ideology, it lost the opportunity to evolve into any form of domestic culture. Consequently, Israeli culture and politics is a strange amalgam of indecisiveness; a mixture of colonial empowerment together with Galut’s victim mentality. Zionism is a secular product of exilic culture that cannot mature into authentic homegrown perception.
 Marc Ellis, Marc Ellis on Finkelstein http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/article.php?pg=3&ar=21
 Marc H. Ellis, Beyond Innocence & Redemption - Confronting The Holocaust And Israeli Power, Creating a Moral Future for the Jewish People (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1990).
 Glenn Bowman-Migrant Labour: Constructing Homeland in the Exilic Imagination, Anthropological Theory II:4. December 2002 pp 447-468.
A slightly altered version of this article is on Counterpunch