I don’t know about you, but I can’t pass up a gory traffic accident. I’m always among the gawkers, staring at the bloodied victims with a mixture of repulsion and fascination. I’m ashamed of this, but it’s true.
I’m not sure that a name for my affliction exists. Call it “fascination with the unmentionable.” But whatever it is, I’ve got it.
Which is why, I suppose, I have always been fascinated by anti-Semitism of all kinds. All of it, from today’s wacko Web pages charging Jewish doctors with the invention of AIDS to the ancient claim of the Babylonian historian Manetho that the Jews were thrown out of Egypt for spreading leprosy, throws me into a trance of morbid fascination.
Of all the fascinating anti-Semites and Judeophobes that exist in recorded history, my all time favorites are those MOTs — from Pablo de Santa Maria to Noam Chomsky — who defy all the comforts of herd thinking to “go over to the other side” of the great Jewish-goyish divide and publicly burn their Jewish bridges in a stunning auto de fe of sanctimony.
By telling “an insider’s truth” about the Jews, they liberate themselves from the confining constraints of parochial Jewish society and win the congratulations of the larger world beyond, which, in its deep knowledge and respect for all things Jewish, accords them the honor of being the “real Jews” or the “Jewish exceptions.”
It is this willingness to be “beyond good and evil” that wins my rapt attention.
The most recent object of my obsession is a newcomer to the club of Jewish “truth tellers,” Ms. Jennifer Peto, a 29-year-old Jewish woman who grew up in the Orthodox community of Toronto and is a product of its Jewish day school system.
She is of late the number one celebrity in Toronto’s Jewish community by virtue of the Internet publication of her Master’s thesis, titled “The Victimhood of the Powerful: White Jews and the Racism of Hegemonic Holocaust Education.”
This graduate of the University of Toronto, whose thesis was approved by her mentors in the graduate department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education, argues, among other things, that Holocaust education is in fact a regime of indoctrination designed to use the Holocaust as a smoke screen (pardon the pun) to obscure the crimes of “racist-colonialist Zionism” in creating the State of Israel.
Let me quote from the introduction to her thesis:
“Instead of taking Jewish victimhood as a fact, I have made it the very subject I want to interrogate. I start from the premise that Jewish people of European descent are a group that today holds power and privilege. In Israel, this dominant group oppresses Palestinians and non-white Jews.” (p. 6)
“In my thesis, I will build on the work of these and other anti-Zionist Jewish scholars. I hope to contribute to this growing body of literature by integrating critical anti-racist theory into Jewish anti-Zionism. My work is based in the understanding that Zionism — the belief that Jewish people have a right to a nation-state built on top of the ruins of Palestine — is a racist, imperialist ideology that can only effectively be challenged through anti-racist, anti-imperialist theory and activism.” (pp 9-10)
This thesis goes the Holocaust deniers one better. According to Ms. Peta, you see, the Holocaust certainly happened. But the Jews in general, and the Zionists among them in particular, have ever since used it cynically as a moral bludgeon with which to beat the West, mired in guilt, into letting Zionism have its way with the rightful residents of Palestine, who now suffer under an apartheid regime that reflects the inherent racism of Zionist ideology.
Had enough? Not me!
As a victim of “immersion in the unmentionable” syndrome, reading such cant arouses in me not a desire to refute or capitulate. Rather it engages me physiologically, engendering an exhilarating rush of endorphins, an acute heightening of the powers of concentration, and rapidity of breath, leading to a swoon of hyper-oxygenization. In other words, I’m hooked by the buzz.
So I read the thing — 100 pages! — online.
Critics of the piece had led me to believe that Peto “hadn’t done her homework” and generally was uninformed about her topic. But, frankly, I learned a lot about Leftist anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
Given her slant on the Holocaust and Zionism (which you either buy or don’t buy — there is no “case” made here), she very industriously turns up a long tradition of Jewish anti-Zionists, both vanished and living among us (mostly in Tel Aviv and Brooklyn, of course), who support and sharpen her claims.
But is Ms. Peto’s thesis, as some charge, an academic “obscenity?”
I’m not sure. True, unlike the best scholarship, she doesn’t “challenge the field.” Like any good MA candidate, she adds footnotes to an established academic tradition of anti-Zionism just this side of outright anti-Semitism (check her bibliography!).
This is “normal science,” whose method is no more horrendous than many other works that fail to question the governing paradigms of received wisdom. It just happens to use the Holocaust as an excuse for the reckless disregard of Jewish life and safety. That it is hateful and offensive to most members of the Jewish community says nothing about its claim to be protected by the freedom of inquiry and speech taken for granted in the academy.
But is the thesis “obscene” in the sense that it violates all standards of conventional scholarship to grind a genocidal axe of Jew-hatred? Well, like justice Potter Stewart opined in the obscenity trial of Louis Malle’s film, The Lovers: “I know pornography when I see it. And the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”
Sadly, Ms. Peto’s thesis is not obscene. It is a bore. I know, because I didn’t get my endorphin rush.