As someone who is both Jewish and supportive of the Palestinian struggle for a just and sustainable peace, I am often asked about my identity. The harshest critics of my understanding of the Israel/Palestine conflict contend that I am a self-hating Jew, which implies that sharp criticism of Israel and Zionism are somehow incompatible with affirming a Jewish identity. Of course, I deny this. For me to be Jewish is, above all, to be preoccupied with overcoming injustice and thirsting for justice in the world, and that means being respectful toward other peoples regardless of their nationality or religion, and empathetic in the face of human suffering whoever and wherever victimization is encountered.And what makes this "Jewish"?
As the great Rabbi Hilal teaches, “[T]hat which is hateful to you do not do to another. The rest (of the Torah) is all commentary, now go study.” Not hateful only to another Jew, but clearly meant to encompass every human being.Falk, whose Jewishness is so pronounced that he cannot figure out how to spell "Hillel," wildly misinterprets Hillel's words. Hillel in no way meant that every human being has veto power over what every other human being can do, which is what Falk pretends he is saying. Falk's Hillel would be against freedom of speech if it hurts someone's feelings, the real Hillel wouldn't.
The real Hillel simply inverted "love your neighbor as you love yourself." Falk is clueless.
But in a more fundamental respect my own evolution has always been suspicious of those who give priority to tribalist or sectarian identities. In other words, it is fine to affirm being Jewish, but it should not take precedence over being human or being open and receptive to the insight and wisdom of other traditions. We have reached a point in the political and cultural evolution that our future flourishing as a species vitally depends upon the spread of a more ecumenical ethos. We have expressed this embrace of otherness in relation to food, with the rise of ‘fusion’ cuisines, and with regard to popular culture, particularly music, where all kinds of borrowing and synthesis are perceived as exciting, authentic, valuable.
Falk is here slyly accusing most Jews of racism by simply wanting to prioritize the security of their people. Of course, he would never say similar words in terms of the racial and religious superiority endemic in Arab or Muslim culture.
Prioritizing your own people - family, tribe, religion, nation - is not in itself racism. It is often necessary for survival. Should native Americans not fight for their right to maintain their culture?
If Falk would take his self-righteous words seriously, that means that he would not accept a kidney transplant for his own daughter if someone across the world might be a better candidate. I somehow doubt that his fake morality would withstand that test.
Yet by his accusing Jews of giving priorities to their own, he is charging them - and them alone, because that is the topic of this essay - with bigotry. If he would ever say anything remotely similar about Islam, I'll eat my words. The next time he sees a Saudi leader, let's see him demand that the Gulf Arabs be more amenable to accepting Hindu, Buddhist and Christian culture as being equal to their own.
There is of course no contradiction between giving priority to one's own people and learning from, and borrowing from, other cultures, and Falk's implication that (in this case) Jews resist that is ridiculous. Ever hear of Yiddish and Ladino? Ever listen to Jewish music from Arab lands? Ever notice the difference of Jewish cuisines depending on where one's ancestors came from? Jews are hardly the poster children for intolerance of other cultures. I can think of some people who might fit that criticism a bit better, but Falk would be loathe to go there.
For me this rejection of tribalism takes two forms, one negative, the other positive. I do not feel exclusively Jewish. Also, even if I did, I would never claim the superiority of the Jewish religion over other religions. I have felt uncomfortable since childhood with biblical claims, often repeated in contemporary social settings, that Jews are ‘the chosen people’ of God, even if this is understood benevolently and temporally as a special destiny associated with doing justice rather than as a matter of societal achievement via wealth and professional success. As soon as exclusivity or superiority is claimed for any ethnic or religious fraction of the human whole, there is implicitly posited a belief in the inferiority of ‘the other,’ which unconsciously and indirectly gives rise to the murderous mentality of warfare and gives a moral and religious edge to many forms of persecution, culminating in a variety of inquisitions.Hey, Richard, do you admit that most people are either exclusively male or exclusively female? If so, are you not using "exclusivist" terminology that will inevitably go down the slippery slope to murder of the "other"?
Judaism sees different roles for different groups of people. That brings with it a host of concomitant obligations. Within Judaism, descendants of Aaron have a different role than others, but that does not make them "superior" in any sense. Falk's lie about this basic concept of Judaism shows that his knowledge of the religion he pretends to take pride in is virtually nil.
He then makes his hatred for Jews more explicit:
And, of course, the historical climax of inverted exclusivity was the Holocaust, a process in which Jews (along with the Roma and others) were chosen for extermination. Claims of exclusivity often usually pretend to possess privileged access to truth that helps disguise monstrous intentions and behavior. To have such access, whether from a divine or secular source, treats all those outside the select circle as tainted by falsehood, the logic of which generates a societal license to kill, even to exterminate. Extreme tribalism is genocidal at its core given material scarcities and inequalities that exist in the world, which would otherwise be indefensible.Again, Falk's only example of this "extreme tribalism" is the Jews. Is there any real difference between what he is saying here and what one can find at neo-Nazi sites?
...In my case I have at various times been inspired and enlightened by the practices and wisdom of Christian, Buddhist, Islamic, Hindu, Taoist, and indigenous peoples. And in a more mundane sense, I think that the future of humanity will be greatly enhanced if these various religious and wisdom traditions are ecumenically and inclusively embraced by more and more people throughout the world, providing a thickening societal and civilizational fiber for human solidarity....In this sense, I want to say, yes I am Jewish, and proud of it, but I am equally indigenous, Sufi, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian to the extent that I allow myself to participate in their rituals, partake of their sacred texts, and seek and avail myself of the opportunity to sit at the feet of their masters.Falk says he is proud to be Jewish, yet he cannot point to a single example of Jewishness that he admires. On the contrary, he only has terrible things to say about most Jews that he dismisses as tribalist and exclusivist, and any parts of the religion that treat Jews differently from non-Jews are evil.
Falk's Judaism has no room for proud Jews, nor for Jewish tradition, nor for Jewish history, nor for the Judaism practiced for thousands of years. For Falk to be "proud" of his Jewishness he must demonize the entire religion and all of its adherents.
How is that not anti-semitism?
I have criticized Falk many times in the past, but have never called him a self-hating Jew because of his anti-Israel positions. This essay, however, proves that he really is. And it can hardly be a coincidence that this anti-Zionist is also anti-semitic.
(The same post is on his blog. Feel free to comment there - he clearly reads all the comments.)