On July 19th Israel passed legislation reaffirming its status as a Jewish state. Jewish American analyst and publisher Ron Unz describes his journey of discovery concerning this subject matter.
*It’s important to note that some of the extremist religious views Unz discusses, while held by a very small minority of Jewish individuals, are espoused by some of the armed, extremist settlers in the West Bank and religious leaders in Israel. The source Unz cites below for this information, Israel Shahak, was a highly regarded Israeli professor and human rights activist endorsed by Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, the London Review of Books, Jewish Socialist, and others. Please see “Related Reading” at end of post.
By Ron Unz, from Unz Review
For graphics and links to the books discussed below, and to join the lively debate pro and con this article, go to the original posting on Unz Review.
About a decade ago, I happened to be talking with an eminent academic scholar who had become known for his sharp criticism of Israeli policies in the Middle East and America’s strong support for them. I mentioned that I myself had come to very similar conclusions some time before, and he asked when that had happened. I told him it had been in 1982, and I think he found my answer quite surprising. I got the sense that date was decades earlier than would have been given by almost anyone else he knew.
Sometimes it is quite difficult to pinpoint when one’s world view on a contentious topic undergoes sharp transformation, but at other times it is quite easy. My own perceptions of the Middle East conflict drastically shifted during Fall 1982, and they have subsequently changed only to a far smaller extent. As some might remember, that period marked the first Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and culminated in the notorious Sabra-Shatila Massacre during which hundreds or even thousands of Palestinians were slaughtered in their refugee camps. But although those events were certainly major factors in my ideological realignment, the crucial trigger was actually a certain letter to the editor published around that same time.
A few years earlier, I had discovered The London Economist, as it was then called, and it had quickly become my favorite publication, which I religiously devoured cover-to-cover every week. And as I read the various articles about the Middle East conflict in that publication, or others such as the New York Times, the journalists occasionally included quotes from some particularly fanatic and irrational Israeli Communist named Israel Shahak, whose views seemed totally at odds with those of everyone else, and who was consequently treated as a fringe figure. Opinions that seem totally divorced from reality tend to stick in one’s mind, and it took only one or two appearances from that apparently die-hard and delusional Stalinist for me to guess that he would always take an entirely contrary position on every given issue.
In 1982 Israel Defense Minister Ariel Sharon launched his massive invasion of Lebanon using the pretext of the wounding of an Israeli diplomat in Europe at the hands of a Palestinian attacker, and the extreme nature of his action was widely condemned in the media outlets I read at the time. His motive was obviously to root out the PLO’s political and military infrastructure, which had taken hold in many of Lebanon’s large Palestinian refugee camps. But back in those days invasions of Middle Eastern countries on dubious prospects were much less common than they have subsequently become, after our recent American wars killed or displaced so many millions, and most observers were horrified by the utterly disproportionate nature of his attack and the severe destruction he was inflicted upon Israel’s neighbor, which he seemed eager to reduce to puppet status. From what I recall from that time, he made several entirely false assurances to top Reagan officials about his invasion plans, such that they afterward called him the worst sort of liar, and he ended up besieging the Lebanese capital of Beirut even though he had originally promised to limit his assault to a mere border incursion.
The Israeli siege of the PLO-controlled areas of Beirut lasted some time, and negotiations eventually resulted in the departure of the Palestinian fighters to some other Arab country. Shortly afterward, the Israelis declared that they were moving into West Beirut in order to better assure the safety of the Palestinian women and children left behind and protect them from any retribution at the hands of their Christian Falangist enemies. And around that same time, I noticed a long letter in The Economist by Shahak which seemed to me the final proof of his insanity. He claimed that it was obvious that Sharon had marched to Beirut with the intent of organizing a massacre of the Palestinians, and that this would shortly take place. When the slaughter indeed occurred not long afterward, apparently with heavy Israeli involvement and complicity, I concluded that if a crazy Communist fanatic like Shahak had been right, while apparently every mainstream journalist had been so completely wrong, my understanding of the world and the Middle East required total recalibration. Or at least that’s how I’ve always remembered those events from a distance of over thirty-five years.
During the years that followed, I still periodically saw Shahak’s statements quoted in my mainstream publications, which sometimes suggested that he was a Communist and sometimes not. Naturally enough, his ideological extremism made him a prominent opponent of the 1991 Oslo Peace Agreement between Israel and the occupied Palestinians, which was supported by every sensible person, though since Oslo ended up being entirely a failure, I couldn’t hold it too strongly against him. I stopped paying much attention to foreign policy issues during the 1990s, but I still read my New York Times every morning and would occasionally see his quotes, inevitably contrarian and irredentist.
Then the 9/11 attacks returned foreign policy and the Middle East to the absolute center of our national agenda, and I eventually read somewhere or other that Shahak had died at age 68 only a few months earlier, though I hadn’t noticed any obituary. Over the years, I’d seen some vague mention that during the previous decade he’d published a couple of stridently anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist books, just as might be expected from a hard-line Communist fanatic, and during the early 2000s I started seeing more and more references to these works, ironically coming from fringe sources of the anti-Semitic Far Right, thereby once again proving that extremists flock together. Finally, about a decade ago, my curiosity got the better of me and clicking a few buttons on Amazon.com, I ordered copies of his books, all of which were quite short.
Edward Said, Noam Chomsky, etc. praise Shahak
My first surprise was that Shahak’s writings included introductions or glowing blurbs by some of America’s most prominent public intellectuals, including Christopher Hitchens, Gore Vidal, Noam Chomsky, and Edward Said. Praise also came from quite respectable publications such as The London Review of Books, Middle East International, and Catholic New Times while Allan Brownfeld of The American Council for Judaism had published a very long and laudatory obituary. And I discovered that Shahak’s background was very different than I had always imagined. He had spent many years as an award-winning Chemistry professor at Hebrew University, and was actually anything but a Communist. Whereas for decades, Israel’s ruling political parties had been Socialist or Marxist, his personal doubts about Socialism had left him politically in the wilderness, while his relationship with Israel’s tiny Communist Party was solely because they were the only group willing to stand up for the basic human rights issues that were his own central focus. My casual assumptions about his views and background had been entirely in error.
Once I actually began reading his books, and considering his claims, my shock increased fifty-fold. Throughout my entire life, there have been very, very few times I have ever been so totally astonished as I was after I digested Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, whose text runs barely a hundred pages. In fact, despite his solid background in the academic sciences and the glowing testaments provided by prominent figures, I found it quite difficult to accept the reality of what I was reading. As a consequence, I paid a considerable sum to a young graduate student I knew, tasking him to verify the claims in Shahak’s books, and as far as he could tell, all of the hundreds of references he checked seemed to be accurate or at least found in other sources.
Even with all of that due diligence, I must emphasize that I cannot directly vouch for Shahak’s claims about Judaism. My own knowledge of that religion is absolutely negligible, mostly being limited to my childhood, when my grandmother occasionally managed to drag me down to services at the local synagogue, where I was seated among a mass of elderly men praying and chanting in some strange language while wearing various ritualistic cloths and religious talismans, an experience that I always found much less enjoyable than my usual Saturday morning cartoons.
Although Shahak’s books are quite short, they contain such a density of astonishing material, it would take many, many thousands of words to begin to summarize them. Essentially almost everything I had known—or thought I had known—about the religion of Judaism, at least in its zealously Orthodox traditional form, was utterly wrong.
For example, traditionally religious Jews pay little attention to most of the Old Testament, and even very learned rabbis or students who have devoted many years to intensive study may remain largely ignorant of its contents. Instead, the center of their religious world view is the Talmud, an enormously large, complex, and somewhat contradictory mass of secondary writings and commentary built up over many centuries, which is why their religious doctrine is sometimes called “Talmudic Judaism.” Among large portions of the faithful, the Talmud is supplemented by the Kabala, another large collection of accumulated writings, mostly focused on mysticism and all sorts of magic. Since these commentaries and interpretations represent the core of the religion, much of what everyone takes for granted in the Bible is considered in a very different manner.
Given the nature of the Talmudic basis of traditional Judaism and my total previous ignorance of the subject, any attempt on my part of summarize some of the more surprising aspects of Shahak’s description may be partially garbled, and is certainly worthy of correction by someone better versed in that dogma. And given that so many parts of the Talmud are highly contradictory and infused with complex mysticism, it would be impossible for someone like me to attempt to disentangle the seeming inconsistencies that I am merely repeating. I should note that although Shahak’s description of the beliefs and practices of Talmudic Judaism evoked a fire-storm of denunciations, few of those harsh critics seem to have denied his very specific claims, including the most astonishing ones, which would seem to strengthen his credibility.
On the most basic level, the religion of most traditional Jews is actually not at all monotheistic, but instead contains a wide variety of different male and female gods, having quite complex relations to each other, with these entities and their properties varying enormously among the numerous different Jewish sub-sects, depending upon which portions of the Talmud and the Kabala they place uppermost. For example, the traditional Jewish religious cry “The Lord Is One” has always been interpreted by most people to be an monotheistic affirmation, and indeed, many Jews take exactly this same view. But large numbers of other Jews believe this declaration instead refers to achievement of sexual union between the primary male and female divine entities. And most bizarrely, Jews having such radically different views see absolutely no difficulty in praying side by side, and merely interpreting their identical chants in very different fashion.
Furthermore, religious Jews apparently pray to Satan almost as readily as they pray to God, and depending upon the various rabbinical schools, the particular rituals and sacrifices they practice may be aimed at enlisting the support of the one or the other. Once again, so long as the rituals are properly followed, the Satan-worshippers and the God-worshippers get along perfectly well and consider each other equally pious Jews, merely of a slightly different tradition. One point that Shahak repeatedly emphasizes is that in traditional Judaism the nature of the ritual itself is absolutely uppermost, while the interpretation of the ritual is rather secondary. So perhaps a Jew who washes his hands three times clockwise might be horrified by another who follows a counter-clockwise direction, but whether the hand-washing were meant to honor God or to honor Satan would be hardly be a matter of much consequence.
Strangely enough, many of the traditional rituals are explicitly intended to fool or trick God or His angels or sometimes Satan, much like the mortal heroes of some Greek legend might seek to trick Zeus or Aphrodite. For example, certain prayers must be uttered in Aramaic rather than Hebrew on the grounds that holy angels apparently don’t understand the former language, and their confusion allows those verses to slip by unimpeded and take effect without divine interference.
Furthermore, since the Talmud represents a massive accretion of published commentary built up over more than a millennium, even the most explicit mandates have sometimes been transformed into their opposites. As an example, Maimonides, one of the highest rabbinical authorities, absolutely prohibited rabbis from being paid for their religious teaching, declaring that any rabbi who received a salary was an evil robber condemned to everlasting torment; yet later rabbis eventually “reinterpreted” this statement to mean something entirely different, and today almost all rabbis collect salaries.
Another fascinating aspect is that up until very recent times, the lives of religious Jews were often dominated by all sorts of highly superstitious practices, including magical charms, potions, spells, incantations, hexes, curses, and sacred talismans, with rabbis often having an important secondary role as sorcerers, and this even remains entirely true today among the enormously influential rabbis of Israel and the New York City area. Shahak’s writings had not endeared him to many of these individuals, and for years they constantly attacked him with all sorts of spells and fearful curses aimed at achieving his death or illness. Many of these traditional Jewish practices seem not entirely dissimilar to those we typically associate with African witch-doctors or Voodoo priests, and indeed, the famous legend of the Golem of Prague described the successful use of rabbinical magic to animate a giant creature built of clay.
Talmudic view of non-Jews
If these ritualistic issues constituted the central features of traditional religious Judaism, we might regard it as a rather colorful and eccentric survival of ancient times. But unfortunately, there is also a far darker side, primarily involving the relationship between Jews and non-Jews, with the highly derogatory term goyim frequently used to describe the latter. To put it bluntly, Jews have divine souls and goyim do not, being merely beasts in the shape of men. Indeed, the primary reason for the existence of non-Jews is to serve as the slaves of Jews, with some very high-ranking rabbis occasionally stating this well-known fact. In 2010, Israel’s top Sephardic rabbi used his weekly sermon to declare that the only reason for the existence of non-Jews is to serve Jews and do work for them. The enslavement or extermination of all non-Jews seems an ultimate implied goal of the religion.
Jewish lives have infinite value, and non-Jewish ones none at all, which has obvious policy implications. For example, in a published article a prominent Israeli rabbi explained that if a Jew needed a liver, it would be perfectly fine, and indeed obligatory, to kill an innocent Gentile and take his. Perhaps we should not be too surprised that today Israel is widely regarded as one of the world centers of organ-trafficking.
As a further illustration of the seething hatred traditional Judaism radiates towards all those of a different background, saving the life of a non-Jew is generally considered improper or even prohibited, and taking any such action on the Sabbath would be an absolute violation of religious edict. Such dogmas are certainly ironic given the widespread presence of Jews in the medical profession during recent centuries, but they came to the fore in Israel when a religiously-minded military doctor took them to heart and his position was supported by the country’s highest religious authorities.
And while religious Judaism has a decidedly negative view towards all non-Jews, Christianity in particular is regarded as a total abomination, which must be wiped from the face of the earth.
Whereas pious Muslims consider Jesus the holy prophet of God and Muhammed’s immediate predecessor, according to the Jewish Talmud, Jesus is perhaps the vilest being who ever lived, condemned to spend eternity in the bottommost pit of Hell, immersed in a boiling vat of excrement. Religious Jews regard the Muslim Quran as just another book, though a totally mistaken one, but the Christian Bible represents purest evil, and if circumstances permit, burning Bibles is a very praiseworthy act. Pious Jews are also enjoined to always spit three times at any cross or church they encounter, and direct a curse at all Christian cemeteries. Indeed, many deeply religious Jews utter a prayer each and every day for the immediate extermination of all Christians.
Over the years prominent Israeli rabbis have sometimes publicly debated whether Jewish power has now become sufficiently great that all the Christian churches of Jerusalem, Bethleham, and other nearby areas can finally be destroyed, and the entire Holy Land completely cleansed of all traces of its Christian contamination. Some have taken this position, but most have urged prudence, arguing that Jews needed to gain some additional strength before they should take such a risky step. These days, many tens of millions of zealous Christians and especially Christian Zionists are enthusiastic advocates for Jews, Judaism, and Israel, and I strongly suspect that at least some of that enthusiasm is based upon ignorance.
For the last two thousand years, Jews have almost invariably existed as small, relatively weak minorities living in the lands of others, whether Christian or Muslim, so a religious doctrine so unswervingly hostile to outsiders has naturally presented considerable obstacles for peaceful co-existence. The solution to this dilemma has been based on the divine mandate to preserve Jewish life and well-being above all else, superseding almost all other religious considerations. Thus, if any of the behaviors discussed above are considered likely to stir up resentment from powerful Gentile groups and put Jews at risk, they must be avoided.
For example, the prohibition against Jewish physicians treating the illnesses of non-Jews is waived in the case of powerful non-Jews, especially national leaders, whose favor might provide benefits to the Jewish community. And even ordinary non-Jews may be aided unless some persuasive excuse can be found to explain such lack of assistance since otherwise the vengeful hostility of their friends and relatives might cause difficulties for other Jews. Similarly, it is permissible to exchange gifts with non-Jews but only if such behavior can be justified in strictly utilitarian terms, with any simple expression of friendship towards a non-Jew being a violation of holy principles.
If the Gentile population became aware of these Jewish religious beliefs and the behaviors they promote, major problems for Jews might develop, so an elaborate methodology of subterfuge, concealment, and dissimulation has come into being over the many centuries to minimize this possibility, especially including the mistranslation of sacred texts or the complete exclusion of crucial sections. Meanwhile, the traditional penalty for any Jew who “informs” to the authorities on any matter regarding the Jewish community has always been death, often preceded by hideous torture.
Much of this dishonesty obviously continues down to recent times since it seems very unlikely that Jewish rabbis, except perhaps for those of the most avant garde disposition, would remain totally unaware of the fundamental tenets of the religion that they claim to lead, and Shahak is scathing toward their apparent self-serving hypocrisy, especially those who publicly express strongly liberal views. For example, according to mainstream Talmudic doctrine, black Africans are traditionally placed somewhere between people and monkeys in their intrinsic nature, and surely all rabbis, even liberal ones, would be aware of this religious doctrine. But Shahak notes that the numerous American rabbis who so eagerly worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and other black Civil Rights leaders during the 1950s and 1960s strictly concealed their religious beliefs while denouncing American society for its cruel racism, presumably seeking to achieve a political quid pro quo beneficial to Jewish interests from America’s substantial black population.
Shahak also emphasizes the utterly totalitarian nature of traditional Jewish society, in which rabbis held the power of life and death over their congregants, and often sought to punish ideological deviation or heresy using those means. They were often outraged that this became difficult as states grew stronger and increasingly prohibited such private executions. Liberalizing rabbis were sometimes murdered and Baruch Spinoza, the famous Jewish philosopher of the Age of Reason, only survived because the Dutch authorities refused to allow his fellow Jews to kill him.
Given the complexity and exceptionally controversial nature of this subject matter, I would urge readers who find this topic of interest to spend three or four hours reading Shahak’s very short book, and then decide for themselves whether his claims seem plausible and whether I may have inadvertently misunderstood them. Aside from the copies on Amazon, the work may also be found at Archive.org and also a very convenient HTML copy is freely available on the Internet.
My encounter a decade ago with Shahak’s candid description of the true doctrines of traditional Judaism was certainly one of the most world-altering revelations of my entire life. But as I gradually digested the full implications, all sorts of puzzles and disconnected facts suddenly became much more clear. There were also some remarkable ironies, and not long afterward I joked to a (Jewish) friend of mine that I’d suddenly discovered that Naziism could best be described as “Judaism for Wimps” or perhaps Judaism as practiced by Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Racism, National Socialism, Eugenics
There may actually be a deeper historical truth behind that irony. I think I’ve read here and there that some scholars believe that Hitler may have modeled certain aspects of his racially-focused National Socialist doctrine upon the Jewish example, which really makes perfect sense. After all, he saw that despite their small numbers Jews had gained enormous power in the Soviet Union, Weimar Germany, and numerous other countries throughout Europe, partly due to their extremely strong ethnic cohesion, and he probably reasoned that his own Germanic people, being far greater in numbers and historical achievements could do even better if they adopted similar practices.
It’s also interesting to note that quite a number of the leading racialist pioneers of 19th century Europe came from a particular ethnic background. For example, my history books had always disapprovingly mentioned Germany’s Max Nordau and Italy’s Cesare Lombroso as two of the founding figures of European racism and eugenics theories, but it was only very recently that I also discovered that Nordau had also been the joint founder with Theodor Herzl of the world Zionist movement, while his major racialist treatise Degeneration, was dedicated to Lombroso, his Jewish mentor.
Even as late as the 1930s and afterward, international Zionist groups closely cooperated with the Third Reich on international economic projects, and during the world war itself one of the smaller rightwing factions, led by future Israeli Prime Minister Yizhak Shamir, actually offered a military alliance to the Axis Powers, denouncing the decadent Western democracies and hoping to cooperate against their mutual British enemies. The Transfer Agreement by Edwin Black, 51 Documents by Lenni Brenner, and other writings have documented all these facts in detail, though for obvious reasons they have generally been ignored or mischaracterized by most of our media outlets.
Obviously the Talmud is hardly regular reading among ordinary Jews these days, and I would suspect that except for the strongly Orthodox and perhaps most rabbis, barely a sliver are aware of its highly controversial teachings. But it is important to keep in mind that until just a few generations ago, almost all European Jews were deeply Orthodox, and even today I would guess that the overwhelming majority of Jewish adults had Orthodox grand-parents. Highly distinctive cultural patterns and social attitudes can easily seep into a considerably wider population, especially one that remains ignorant of the origin of those sentiments, a condition enhancing their unrecognized influence. A religion based upon the principal of “Love Thy Neighbor” may or may not be workable in practice, but a religion based upon “Hate Thy Neighbor” may be expected to have long-term cultural ripple effects that extend far beyond the direct community of the deeply pious. If nearly all Jews for a thousand or two thousand years were taught to feel a seething hatred toward all non-Jews and also developed an enormous infrastructure of cultural dishonesty to mask that attitude, it is difficult to believe that such an unfortunate history has had absolutely no consequences for our present-day world, or that of the relatively recent past.
Furthermore, Jewish hostility toward non-Jews may have often served the interests of others, and helped determine the economic role they played, especially in European countries, with this factor having been obscured by widespread ignorance of the underlying religious tenets. As most of us know from our history books, political rulers with little sympathy for their subjects sometimes restrict military power to a relatively small group of well-rewarded mercenaries, often of foreign origins so that they will have little sympathy for the population they harshly repress. I strongly suspect that some of the most common traditional economic niches of European Jews, such as tax-farming and the arrenda estate-management system of Eastern Europe, should be best understood in a similar light, with Jews being more likely to extract every last penny of value from the peasants they controlled for the benefit of their local king or lords, and their notorious antipathy for all non-Jews ensuring that such behavior was minimally tempered by any human sympathy. Thus, we should not be surprised that Jews first entered England in the train of William the Conqueror, in order to help him and his victorious Norman lords effectively exploit the subjugated Anglo-Saxon population they now ruled.
But states in which the vast majority of the population is oppressed and dominated by a thin slice of rulers and their mercenary enforcers tend to be much weaker and more brittle than those in which rulers and ruled share common interests, and I believe this is just as true for economic enforcers as for military ones. In many cases, lands reliant upon Jewish economic intermediaries, notably Poland, never successfully developed a native middle class, and often later fared quite poorly against their nationally-unified competitors. Spain was actually one of the last countries in Europe to expel its Jews, and over the next century or two reached the peak of its military and political glory. Prof. Kevin MacDonald’s controversial books on Judaism have also extensively argued that rulers who seem to have been more concerned for the well-being of their subjects also tend to be the ones more likely to be labeled “anti-Semitic” in modern history books, and his volumes are now easily available in my selection of HTML Books:
In 2009, Gene Expression blogger Razib Khan interviewed eminent evolutionary theorist David Sloan Wilson on the group selection ideas that have been his major focus. During this hour-long discussion, the theories of MacDonald became a major topic, with Wilson seeming to take them quite seriously, and pointing out that within the scientific framework “parasitism” has a simple technical definition, namely the exploitation of the large by the small. Unsurprisingly, the video record of such extremely touchy subject matter was quickly truncated to just the first 11 minutes, and eventually completely removed from both YouTube and BloggingHeadsTV. But it still at least partially survives in archived form:
In recent years, the history of Jewish expulsions from various European societies over the last thousand years has received considerable attention. The total number is somewhat disputed but almost certainly in excess of 100, with the 1930s policies of Hitler’s Germany being merely the most recent example, and Wired Magazine provided an interesting graphical presentation of this large dataset in 2013. Given these unfortunate facts, it may be difficult to point to any other group so consistently at bitter odds with its local neighbors, and the religious details provided by Shahak certainly make this remarkable historical pattern far less inexplicable.
A very even-handed but candid description of the behavior pattern of Jewish newcomers to America was provided in a chapter of a 1914 book on immigration groups by E.A. Ross, one of America’s greatest early sociologists. Ross had been one of the towering Progressive intellectuals of his era, widely quoted by Lothrop Stoddard on the Right while still so highly regarded by the Left that he was named to the Dewey Commission to adjudicate the conflicting accusations of Trotsky and Stalin and also received glowing praise in the pages of the Communist New Masses. His dismissal on political grounds from Stanford University led to the formation of the American Association of University Professors. Yet his name had so totally vanished from our history books I had never even encountered it until beginning work on my content-archiving project, and I would not be surprised if that single chapter from one of his many books played a major role in his disappearance.
Jews spent two thousand years living as a diaspora people, and their tightly-bound trans-national colonies provided them with a uniquely effective international trading network. Since their religious traditions regarded slavery as the natural and appropriate lot of all non-Jews, both ideological and practical factors combined to apparently make them some of the leading slave-traders of Medieval Europe, though this is hardly emphasized in our histories. Closer to home, in 1991 the Black Nationalists of The Nation of Islam published The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews, Volume One, which seemed to persuasively document the enormous role Jews had played in the American slave-trade. In 1994, Harold Brackman published a short attempted rebuttal entitled Ministry of Lies under the auspices of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, but I found his denials much less compelling. I very much doubt that most Americans are aware of these historical facts.
Throughout most of my life, Nobel Laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn was generally regarded as the greatest Russian literary figure of our modern era, and after reading all of his works, including The First Circle, Cancer Ward, and The Gulag Archipelago, I certainly concurred with this assertion, and eagerly absorbed Michael Scammel’s brilliant thousand page biography. Although Russian himself, many of his closest friends were Jewish, but during the 1980s and 1990s, whispers of his supposed anti-Semitism began floating around, probably because he had sometimes hinted at the very prominent role of Jews in both financing and leading the Bolshevik Revolution, and afterward staffing the NKVD and administering the Gulag labor camps. Late in his life, he wrote a massive two-volume history of the tangled relationship between Jews and Russians under the title Two Hundred Years Together, and although that work soon appeared in Russian, French, and German, nearly two decades later, no English translation has ever been authorized. His literary star seems also to greatly waned in America since that time, and I only very rarely see his name mentioned these days in any of my regular newspapers.
Samizdat versions of major sections of his final work may easily be located on the Internet, and a few years ago Amazon temporarily sold a 750 page hard copy edition, which I ordered and lightly skimmed. Everything seemed quite innocuous and factual, and nothing new jumped out at me, but perhaps the documentation of very heavy Jewish role in Communism was considered inappropriate for American audiences, as was the discussion of the extremely exploitative relationship between Jews and Slavic peasants in pre-revolutionary times, based on liquor-dealing and money-lending, which the Czars had often sought to mitigate.
When a ruling elite has limited connection to the population it controls, benevolent behavior is far less likely to occur, and those problems are magnified when that elite has a long tradition of ruthlessly extractive behavior. Enormous numbers of Russians suffered and died in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution, and given the overwhelmingly Jewish composition of the top leadership during much of that period, it is hardly surprising that “anti-Semitism” was deemed a capital offense. Kevin MacDonald may have been the one who coined the term “hostile elite,” and discussed the unfortunate consequences when a country comes under such control.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, reborn Russia soon fell under the overwhelming domination of a small group of Oligarchs, almost entirely of Jewish background, and a decade of total misery and impoverishment for the general Russian population soon followed. But once an actual Russian named Vladimir Putin regained control, these trends reversed and the lives of Russians have enormously improved since that time. America’s media organs were overwhelmingly friendly toward Russia when it was under Jewish Oligarchic rule, while Putin has been demonized in the press more ferociously than any world leader since Hitler. Indeed, our media pundits regularly identify Putin as “the new Hitler” and I actually think the analogy might be a reasonable one, but just not in the way they intend.
Sometimes it is much easier to notice obvious patterns in a foreign country than in one’s own. In the early 2000s I read The Master Switch, a widely-praised history of modern communications technology by Columbia University professor Tim Wu, who has subsequently become a leading Internet-rights activist. I found the account fascinating, with so many stories never before known to me. However, I couldn’t help but notice that all the powerful mass-media technologies of our modern world–film, radio, and television–had been invented and pioneered by Gentiles, mostly of Anglo-Saxon origin, but in each case control was seized by ruthless Jewish businessmen, who sometimes destroyed the lives and careers of those creators. By the 1950s, nearly all of America’s leading concentrations of electronic media power—with the sole major exception of Disney Studios—were solidly in Jewish hands. In an open society such as ours, these are the central levers of political influence, and over the next generation or so, America’s long-dominant and heavily Anglo-Saxon ruling elite was replaced by a mostly Jewish one, a development I alluded to in my long Meritocracy article of a few years ago.
Critics today of all backgrounds bemoan the total impoverishment of so much of America’s once comfortably affluent middle class, noting that some sixty percent of the American population today possesses less than $500 in readily available savings. A younger generation has been reduced to permanent debt-servitude by ruinous student loans, while the the newspapers report that the opioid drug epidemic has claimed a dreadful toll in lives and family-breakdown even while Wall Street and other elite sectors of the financialized economy are richer than they have ever been before. There are certainly many different explanations for this sad economic trajectory, including technological change, growing international competition, and shifts of political power in the American system of government. But it does sometimes seem like a substantial fraction of our population has been reduced to a 21st century version of the drunken, ignorant, exploited, indebted, impoverished, and immiserated Slavic peasantry of the Jewish-dominated Pale of Settlement, and a striking graph produced by the Economic Policy Institute demonstrates that a very sharp economic inflection point occurred in the early 1970s, right around the time that the aforementioned ethnic transformation of our ruling elites was fully under way.
Contrary to widespread popular belief, it is not actually illegal to be a “Nazi” in America, nor are Nazis prohibited from owning property, even including media outlets. But suppose that the overwhelming majority of America’s major media concentrations were owned and controlled by Nazis of a particularly fanatical type. Surely that might have serious consequences for the course of our society, and especially that fraction of the population viewed with considerable disfavor under Nazi doctrine.
One important point to consider in the abbreviated history of Hitler’s Third Reich was that although the ruling Nazi elite was often quite harsh and extreme in its behavior, well over 98% of the population it ruled prior to the outbreak of war consisted of Germans, the particular group which that ruling elite most sought to benefit and uplift in all possible ways, and despite the obscuring cloud of retrospective propaganda, this goal seems to have largely been achieved. In 2004, Counterpunch published a column by the late Alexander Cockburn, its redoubtable editor, noting the tremendous success of Hitler’s peacetime economic policies, and in 2013 that same webzine carried a much longer column focused entirely on this same subject, citing the analysis of Henry C.K. Liu, whose Chinese background provided him greater critical distance. Indeed, during most of the 1930s Hitler received widespread international praise for the great success of his domestic economic and social achievements, making the cover of Time Magazine on numerous occasions and even being named its Man of the Year for 1938. By contrast, I suspect that a population that was some 98% non-German but ruled by those same fanatically pro-German leaders might have fared far worse.
Most of these disheartening facts that have so completely upended my understanding of reality over the last decade could not possibly have come to my attention until the rise of the Internet, which partially broke centralized control over the distribution of information. But many other people surely must have known large portions of this important story long before that, and recognized the very serious consequences these matters might have for the future of our society. Why has there been so little public discussion?
I believe one factor is that over the years and the decades, our dominant media organs of news and entertainment have successfully conditioned most Americans to suffer a sort of mental allergic reaction to topics sensitive to Jews, which leads to all sorts of issues being considered absolutely out of bounds. And with America’s very powerful Jewish elites thereby insulated from almost all public scrutiny, Jewish arrogance and misbehavior remain largely unchecked and can increase completely without limit.
I’ve also sometimes suggested to people that one under-emphasized aspect of a Jewish population, greatly magnifying its problematical character, is the existence of what might be considered a biological sub-morph of exceptionally fanatical individuals, always on hair-trigger alert to launch verbal and sometimes physical attacks of unprecedented fury against anyone they regard as insufficiently friendly towards Jewish interests. Every now and then, a particularly brave or foolhardy public figure challenges some off-limits topic and is almost always overwhelmed and destroyed by a veritable swarm of these fanatical Jewish attackers. Just as the painful stings of the self-sacrificing warrior caste of an ant colony can quickly teach large predators to go elsewhere, fears of provoking these “Jewish berserkers” can often severely intimidate writers or politicians, causing them to choose their words very carefully or even completely avoid discussing certain controversial subjects, thereby greatly benefiting Jewish interests as a whole. And the more such influential people are thus intimidated into avoiding a particular topic, the more that topic is perceived as strictly taboo, and avoided by everyone else as well.
For example, about a dozen years ago I was having lunch with an especially eminent Neoconservative scholar with whom I’d become a little friendly. We were bemoaning the overwhelmingly leftward skew among America’s intellectual elites, and I suggested it largely seemed a function of our most elite universities. Many of our brightest students from across the nation entered Harvard and the other Ivies holding a variety of different ideological perspectives, but after four years departed those halls of learning overwhelmingly in left-liberal lock-step. Although he agreed with my assessment, he felt I was missing something important. He nervously glanced to both sides, shifted his head downward, and lowered his voice. “It’s the Jews,” he said.
I do not doubt that much of the candid analysis provided above will be quite distressing to many individuals. Indeed, some may believe that such material far exceeds the boundaries of mere “anti-Semitism” and easily crosses the threshold into constituting an actual “blood libel” against the Jewish people. That extremely harsh accusation, widely used by stalwart defenders of Israeli behavior, refers to the notorious Christian superstition, prevalent throughout most of the Middle Ages and even into more modern times, that Jews sometimes kidnapped small Christian children in order to drain their blood for use in various magic rituals, especially in connection with the Purim religious holiday. One of my more shocking discoveries of the last dozen years is that there is a fairly strong likelihood that these seemingly impossible beliefs were actually true.
I personally have no professional expertise whatsoever in Jewish ritual traditions, nor the practices of Medieval Jewry. But one of the world’s foremost scholars in that field is Ariel Toaff, professor of Jewish Renaissance and Medieval Studies at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, and himself the son of the Chief Rabbi of Rome.
In 2007, he published the Italian edition of his academic study Blood Passovers, based on many years of diligent research, assisted by his graduate students and guided by the suggestions of his various academic colleagues, with the initial print run of 1,000 copies selling out on the first day. Given Toaff’s international eminence and such enormous interest, further international distribution, including an English edition by a prestigious American academic press would normally have followed. But the ADL and various other Jewish-activist groups regarded such a possibility with extreme disfavor, and although these activists lacked any scholarly credentials, they apparently applied sufficient pressure to cancel all additional publication. Although Prof. Toaff initially attempted to stand his ground in stubborn fashion, he soon took the same course as Galileo, and his apologies naturally became the basis of the always-unreliable Wikipedia entry on the topic.
Eventually, an English translation of his text turned up on the Internet in a PDF format and was also placed for sale on Amazon.com, where I purchased a copy and eventually read it. Given those difficult circumstances, this work of 500 pages is hardly in ideal form, with most of the hundreds of footnotes disconnected from the text, but it still provides a reasonable means of evaluating Toaff’s controversial thesis, at least from a layman’s perspective. He certainly seems an extremely erudite scholar, drawing heavily upon the secondary literature in English, French, German, and Italian, as well as the original documentary sources in Latin, Medieval Latin, Hebrew, and Yiddish. Indeed, despite the shocking nature of the subject matter, this scholarly work is actually rather dry and somewhat dull, with very long digressions regarding the particular intrigues of various obscure Medieval Jews. My own total lack of expertise in these areas must be emphasized, but overall I thought Toaff made a quite persuasive case.
It appears that a considerable number of Ashkenazi Jews traditionally regarded Christian blood as having powerful magical properties and considered it a very valuable component of certain important ritual observances at particular religious holidays. Obviously, obtaining such blood in large amounts was fraught with considerable risk, which greatly enhanced its monetary value, and the trade in the vials of this commodity seems to have been widely practiced. Toaff notes that since the detailed descriptions of the Jewish ritualistic murder practices are very similarly described in locations widely separated by geography, language, culture, and time period, they are almost certainly independent observations of the same rite. Furthermore, he notes that when accused Jews were caught and questioned, they often correctly described obscure religious rituals which could not possibly have been known to their Gentile interrogators, who often garbled minor details. Thus, these confessions were very unlikely to have been concocted by the authorities.
Furthermore, as extensively discussed by Shahak, the world-view of traditional Judaism did involve a very widespread emphasis on magical rituals, spells, charms, and similar things, providing a context in which ritualistic murder and human sacrifice would hardly be totally unexpected.
Obviously, the ritual murder of Christian children for their blood was viewed with enormous disfavor by the local Gentile population, and the widespread belief in its existence remained a source of bitter tension between the two communities, flaring up occasionally when a Christian child mysteriously disappeared at a particular time of year, or when a body was found that exhibited suspicious types of wounds or showed a strange loss of blood. Every now and then, a particular case would reach public prominence, often leading to a political test of strength between Jewish and anti-Jewish groups. During the mid-19th century, there was one such famous case in French-dominated Syria, and just before the outbreak of the First World War, Russia was wracked by a similar political conflict in the 1913 Beilis Affair in the Ukraine.
I first encountered these very surprising ideas almost a dozen years ago in a long article by Israel Shamir that was referenced in Counterpunch, and this would definitely be worth reading as an overall summary, together with a couple of his follow-up columns, while writer Andrew Hamilton offers the most recent 2012 overview of the controversy. Shamir also helpfully provides a free copy of the book in PDF form, an updated version with the footnotes properly noted in the text. Anyway, I lack the expertise to effectively judge the likelihood of the Toaff Hypothesis, so I would invite those interested to read Toaff’s book or better yet the related articles and decide for themselves.
The notion that the world is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine has often been misattributed to the British astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington, and over the last fifteen-odd years I’ve sometimes begun to believe that the historical events of our own era could be considered in a similar light. I’ve also sometimes joked with my friends that when the true history of our last one hundred years is finally written and told—probably by a Chinese professor at a Chinese university—none of the students in his lecture hall will ever believe a word of it.
The Unz website encourages discussion and debate, and this article has generated over 1,500 comments. Below is one that contains criticism of the article. Read more comments, pro and con, here.
- Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, by Israel Shahak, Pluto Press
- Exchange between Stefan Bialoguski and Israel Shahak
- Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, by Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky, Pluto Press, reviewed by Allan C. Brownfeld
- Book Review: Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight Of Three Thousand Years, by Morris Halle in Z Magazine
- Pursuing the Millennium: Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, by David Hirst
- The Extremist Origins Of Education And Sharing Day: Why Is The US Honoring A Racist Rabbi?
Prof. Israel Shahak, Scourge of Nationalists, Laid to Rest
Professor Israel Shahak, one of Israel’s most prominent and courageous human rights activists, was laid to rest yesterday in Giv’at Shaul cemetery, Jerusalem. He died Monday night in Jerusalem at the age of 68, after years suffering from diabetes.
Professor Israel Shahak, one of Israel’s most prominent and courageous human rights activists, was laid to rest yesterday in Giv’at Shaul cemetery, Jerusalem. He died Monday night in Jerusalem at the age of 68, after years suffering from diabetes.
Israel Shahak (Himmelstaub) was born in Warsaw in 1933 to a family of well-educated, Orthodox Zionists. He spent his childhood in the Warsaw ghetto, where he went into hiding at the start of World War II.
He was caught and transferred with his mother to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where spent two years that left him handicapped for the rest of his life.
He and his mother were liberated in April 1945 by the Americans, and emigrated to Israel in late 1945, when he was twelve years old.
Shahak received his doctorate in 1961 from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He was appointed a lecturer in the university, and later a professor, for organic chemistry.
Year after year, Shahak was voted most admired lecturer by his students.
Professor Shahak received international recognition for his research of a treatment for cancer, but was famed most of all for his controversial political standpoints.
For many years, he was widely labeled “an Israel hater.”
Shahak became actively involved in politics and human rights in the sixties, and was renowned for his independent and original views. His denunciation of all forms and expressions of nationalism roused the anger of both Israelis and Palestinians.
In 1968, he headed one of the first political organizations that opposed the Israeli occupation of the territories – the Council against House Destruction.
Shahak was later chair of the Israeli Civil Rights League from the mid-seventies until 1990 when the organization collapsed.
Professor Shahak’s appearances in numerous international forums, in which he denounced the Israeli occupation, raised public anger at home and in the early 1970s more than one voice was heard demanding that he be dismissed from the Hebrew University faculty and be tried for treason.
Intellectuals throughout the world stood by his side, including his friends Jean-Paul Sartre and Noam Chomsky, but few Israelis supported his views.
His lectures and publications enraged the Israeli left even more than the right – Shahak often attacked the hypocrisy of the left in Israel.
Prof. Amnon Rubinstein (Meretz) at one point appealed to the interior minister to confiscate Shahak’s passport to prevent him going abroad to “slander” Israel.
In 1990, Shahak retired from the university because of diabetes.
However, until his last day he continued to follow and criticize the Israeli media, firing off many letters to editors.