The Self-Hating Shanda

Let’s put the following out on the table: I am a proud Iranian-American Jew. I certainly don’t hold being Iranian-American and/or Jewish over being other things (a good neighbor, a good friend, a good family member, a good citizen, a good person who always seeks to learn from and seeks to respect those whose backgrounds are different from mine), and I am beyond grateful to have grown up in the multicultural United States, in thoroughly integrated communities where I have grown immeasurably from my exposure to people of different faiths, different skin colors and different heritages. I cannot imagine how much poorer my life would have been without that exposure, and I am more happy than words of any language can express that I don’t have to live out an impoverished alternative life. Racists who try to remove themselves from the American melting pot don’t know what they are missing, and make themselves hateful–especially when they seek to harm decent, tolerant, non-bigoted people who are head and shoulders taller than the racists, both intellectually and morally. But just as other people are proud of their cultural backgrounds–and should be!–I am proud of mine. I feel lucky and blessed to be a part of an extraordinary Iranian-American community, an extraordinary American Jewish community and an extraordinary Iranian-American Jewish community.

Concerning my Jewishness specifically, I am an agnostic when it comes to the existence of God, but that doesn’t make me any less a proud Jew who considers my Jewish culture and heritage to be a wonderful aspect of my life. Despite my agnosticism–and perhaps in a sense because of the wonder and curiosity that agnosticism inspires in me–I am active in my congregation, I go to services on a regular (weekly) basis, and I am always delighted to learn more about what it means to be Jewish, and how to be Jewish in the 21st century. I think that the Jewish people have made tremendously positive contributions to the United States and to the world throughout history, and I am deeply proud of the Jewish contribution to human development.

Proceeding directly from the above sentiments, I cannot understand, appreciate or respect any Jew who seeks to deny his/her Jewishness. I am unfortunate enough to know some people who do just that, who seem somehow ashamed of the fact that they are Jewish. I must say that I look at these people with more than a little pity and contempt; denying one’s Jewishness is about as absurd as denying the presence of one’s bodily organs. Especially loathsome is the self-hating Jew. Example of the self-hating Jew: Philip Weiss, who–as the title of my post indicates–is a self-hating shanda fur die goyim. Not an easy achievement to unlock, but boy, how Weiss has unlocked it.

I have written about Weiss before, and I would encourage longtime readers to take a look again at Michelle Goldberg’s profile of Weiss. Consider that while Weiss egomaniacally “compares himself to Theodor Herzl,” and while he claims that he “love[s] [his] engagement with Jewish communal life now,” he can’t quite pull himself away from that favorite activity of anti-Semites–Jew-counting:

“Over and over, American presidents have said they oppose the colonization program; over and over these instincts have been nullified politically because of the Jewish presence in the power structure,” [Weiss] wrote in 2009. “The Senate is dominated by Democrats, and 1/5 of them are Jews, even though Jews are just 2 percent of the population. The Washington Post has said that over half the money given to the Democratic Party comes from Jews. Obama’s top two political advisers are Jewish, Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod. The news lately has been dominated by Obama aides Kenneth Feinberg and Larry Summers. And what does it mean that the Treasury Sec’y gets off the phone with Obama to confer immediately with Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman and Jamie Dimon of Morgan (Dimon’s Jewish; Blankfein would seem to be)?” He didn’t say what exactly this did mean, particularly regarding Israel—it was just an invitation to conspiratorial speculation. From there, Weiss went on to list Jewish journalists including Ezra Klein, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Terry Gross, and Nina Totenberg.

(Note that I have removed a link to Weiss’s self-hating blog from that excerpt; if you want to see what the blog post says, you’ll have to click on it from Goldberg’s piece. Weiss will get no traffic from me.) One is in pretty bad shape morally when one has to be slapped down by the likes of Daily Kos. Of course, Weiss claims that it is fine and good to engage in the disgusting practice of Jew-counting because here in the United States, anti-Semitism is allegedly all but extinct–it really isn’t, no matter what the hopelessly ignorant and shamefully dishonest have to say–and because as a consequence,

The idea that American Jews might someday find themselves persecuted and in need of refuge strikes [Weiss] as paranoia. “Temperamentally, I lack a paranoid gene,” he says. He grew up, he adds, hearing that Jews would always and everywhere be in danger. “And my whole experience has been the opposite.”

Basing a reading of history on one’s “whole experience” is absurd; the plural of “anecdote” is not “data,” as many a wise person has noted. Additionally, the notion that Weiss lacks “a paranoid gene” is utterly laughable:

. . . In the 1990s, [Weiss] was a staunch Bill Clinton defender. But when Clinton disappointed him, he began a long flirtation with all sorts of anti-Clinton conspiracy theories. His New York Observer columns painted an image of a menacing cabal of thugs sitting in the White House and snuffing out their enemies. As he wrote in 1998, “Everywhere Bill Clinton goes, he makes Chinatowns.” He was particularly fixated on Vince Foster’s suicide, which he was convinced was part of something larger and more sinister. He has more of a paranoid gene than he realizes.

They say that when you lie down with a dog, you get fleas. Relatedly, when you bark, howl at the moon, scratch yourself behind the ears with your hind legs, roll over to get your belly rubbed, and fetch, you might also get fleas. Also relatedly, when you reveal yourself to be a self-hating Jew, you get anti-Semites:

Not surprisingly, some Jew-haters see Weiss as a native informer, telling the plain truth about the Zionist octopus. “Philip Weiss is a unique American Jewish voice—a Jew without all the usual rationalizations and blind spots–at least most of them,” Kevin MacDonald, a leading anti-Semitic theorist, wrote last May. MacDonald has bandied the idea of taxes on Jews and quotas against them in order to “achieve parity between Jews and other ethnic groups.”

Weiss isn’t responsible for his fans, of course. But when he wrote about McDonald’s embrace, there was something notably equivocal in his rejection of a figure who most American journalists and thinkers would find beneath contempt. “I find a lot of what MacDonald has said elsewhere bracing and bold,” he wrote. “He is alive to important sociological trends that few people are talking about out loud.” Only then did he call him out for his open racism and disdain for Jewish suffering.

(Link to anti-Semitic drivel removed from the excerpt above.) I suppose that we should be grateful that eventually, Weiss got around to calling out a fellow anti-Semite “for his open racism and disdain for Jewish suffering,” but one has to wonder why it was first necessary to be “notably equivocal” about it, and to praise a fellow anti-Semite for having written allegedly “bracing and bold” things that in fact would make decent and sensible people retch in disgust. Goldberg maintains–despite the evidence–that “Weiss can’t simply be written off as a victim of self-loathing.” Oh yes, he actually can, though I suppose that I should note that David Frum might have the best rejoinder to my view:

To call Philip Weiss a “self-hating Jew,” as do lots of commenters on his site, or even a “Jew-hating Jew” misses the point. The problem with Philip Weiss is not that he hates Jews or himself. Lots of people do that. The problem with Philip Weiss is that he’s a total dick.

I might respond to Frum by saying something along the lines of “embrace the healing power of the word ‘and,'” but maybe we are splitting hairs at this point.

“Any particular reason why you are writing about this now, Pejman,” I hear some readers ask in the distance. None really, but I suppose that I do believe that from time to time, horrible people worthy of universal opprobrium ought to be called out in public as being horrible people worthy of universal opprobrium.

Comments

  1. For me, a Scotch-Irish (more or less), reading your blog entry induced an acute case of envy and self-pity. I can’t even point to a specific land or place my ancestors came from! I’m not even sure of their religion! I’m not even sure if I should care that I’m not sure what their religion was! I love good banjo music but Appalachian culture doesn’t make my spine tingle with pride. I’d be a self-hating Scotch-Irish if I spent any time thinking about it. In Weiss’s case, the problem is that he’s a prog-liberal, and liberals of any stripe, even Jewish ones, tend to veer into anti-semitism, often starting with double standards for Israel.

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