I put Middle Earth Journal in hiatus in May of 2008 and moved to Newshoggers.
I temporarily reopened Middle Earth Journal when Newshoggers shut it's doors but I was invited to Participate at The Moderate Voice so Middle Earth Journal is once again in hiatus.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Of Jews and Jews (continued)

Previously, Ron talked to you about one of those subjects I just have a love-hate relationship with, and it involves Jews, Israel, and the intersection of the two. There's one portion of that post which I feel requires a second look.
So AIPAC doesn't represent the American Jews so who do they represent and why do they have so much power?

Tell me about it. But allow me to lay out a few thoughts on this subject, which never fails to get me into trouble and occasional puts me in danger of having my head explode. Yes, I too have Jewish friends, but one thing I often notice is that they are quite often Americans who happen to be followers of the Jewish religion. No matter who you are, frankly I don't give a rat's arse which of the various pantheon of gods you choose to follow. Jews, Christians, Muslims, Wiccans, atheists and agnostics... it's none of my business and makes no difference to me. (Ok... except maybe the Jehovah's Witnesses. Next time you bastards come knocking on the door during the Jets game on Sunday afternoon, I'm throwing eggs.)

The point here is that if you happen to be an American who is of the Jewish faith, it doesn't automatically mean that you are a citizen of Israel and support everything their government does. Nor does it mean that the neocon lobby speaks for you in terms of our country's relationship with Israel and the rest of the Middle East. Yes, most Jews I've met are certainly sympathetic to Israel and want its citizens to fare well, but not everyone agrees on the best road to follow toward that end.

I've never made any apologies for the fact that I'm primarily an isolationist. I also haven't been in the least bit shy about stating my belief that a lot of our current problems with primarily Muslim terrorist criminals stems from Middle East reactions to our handling of Israel. While they are certainly a nation sympathetic to our national philosophies and deserving of support, such backing can't always be offered in a vacuum. Antagonizing most of the rest of world by waving our U.N. veto around like a cudgel any time a discussion of Israel comes up doesn't do much for our buying power in the area of international diplomacy.

AIPAC has been a thorn in the side of open government for some time, and has exerted influence in our government's policies and actions far, far beyond any portion of the population of the United States which they might actually represent. Treating American Jews as if they are some sort of homogeneous block of neocons agitating for war is insulting, and something which community leaders should speak out against.


  1. I think a distinction needs to be made here regarding what "Jew" means.

    Yes, it means one who subscribes to the Hebrew religion. But that's a secondary definition of the word. It's primary definition is one of ethnicity - as evidenced by Israel's immigration policy hinging more on geneology rather than faith.

    Indeed the very word "Jew" is an ethnic tag. It refers to the tribe of Judah.

    I am ethnically (part) Jewish, but I have never subscribed to the Hebrew faith.

  2. So... people born and raised in New Jersey who go to temple every week aren't Jews? Or aren't "as Jewish" as residents of Israel?

  3. No, that's not what I'm saying. Whether they are or aren't is likely a highly subjective question that could change depending on who you ask.

    What I am saying is that "Jew" is an ethnic term which has morphed over the centuries to also include spiritual beliefs. But first and foremost it is an ethnic term.

  4. Kevin, this is fascinating, and I would like to explore this some more with you. My understanding of the common usage of the term "ethnic" generally refers to people of or originating from a given country or politically distinct entity. For example, one might consider oneself to be of "German" ancestry or "germanic" if one was born in Germany or if one could trace one's ancestry back to a time when the family lived in the area we now know as Germany. (And has been recognized, in various forms and sizes as "Germany" or a variation of that going back to the Germanic tribes who fought the Romans.)

    Conversely, I know of people being identified by a particular regligious group, but it seems to be independent of geography or physical / political unit location. There are Christians, Muslims, Hindus, etc. from all over the world. What they share in common is their religion. They might live or have come from anywhere.

    The term "Jews" might apply here if there was ever some sort of "Jewland". You point out the Tribe of Judah. That's not a land or location. It is a tribe of people identified by their religious sect as I understand it. Israel, as a country could be identified back a couple of thousand years ago (with slack given for spelling) and then disappearing until the 20th century. You might better say Hitities or such. The Romans conquored the entire area anyway and lots of poltiical units were lost forever.

    Jews, however, have been around in a large number of locations going back as far as we have recorded history for the most part. Where were they all from? In order to understand this, I think we need to look at one of the key terms you are using here.. "ethnic."

    There seems to be two definitions of the word "ethnic" from a number of sources I just checked. The modern defintion as per Cambridge is "of a national or racial group of people". There is a far older definition which states "a heaten, or pagan, not acknowledging the God of Christianity and Judaism and Islam". Neither of these seem to apply to what you are trying to say.

    I suppose the best way to define this is to ask you the following: Please identify any person in the world who identifies themself as a "Jew" who does not follow Judaism, OR, please identify somebody who identifies themself as an Israeli who is not a legal citizen of the nation of Israel.

    I'm sorry, but what you are saying makes no sense to me and flies in the face of every reference and definition I can find. Israelis are people who live in or are citizens of the nation of Israel and "Jews" are followers of a particular religion. You can make a "kind of" sketchy argument that there is "Jewish Food" like you would find in a deli, and that's sort of "ethnic" in a loose modern parlance, but it bears little weight on this discussion.

    Other examples abound, obviously. But in the case of "Jews",

  5. This reminds me of a discussion I had with a friend of mine a few years ago. In that case it was about what is an Arab? Many if not most Americans equate Arabs with Islam in spite of the fact that most Muslims live in Indonesia.

  6. Jazz:

    Actually "Judah" is both a tribal name as well as the name of a ancient politically distinct entity.

    Try this for more detail history: Kingdom of Judah

    The commonly accepted history of the Hebrews is explained in that Wikipedia entry.

    To put it in simpler terms relevant to your questions, the ancient kingdom of Israel imploded and ended up as two kingdoms - the Northern kingdom of Israel and the Southern kingdom of Judah.

    The Northern kingdom of Israel was obliterated hundreds of years before the Southern kingdom of Judah finally lost her sovereignty. And by the time that Judah was finally destroyed the citizens of the Northern kingdom were dispersed and assimilated into a variety of local cultures to the extent that they no longer constituted a recognizable entity.

    Of the original 12 tribes only the tribe of Judah survived the ages as a distinct tribal group. There is much speculation about what modern peoples the other tribes might have merged into but only Judah survived more or less intact. In fact, if you look into the theology of the Mormon religion you'll find that they claim that the other 10 tribes traveled to the American continents - an assertion for which there isn't the faintest shred of supporting archeological or historical evidence.

    Very unlike the ancient Hebrews, which were a very patriarchal culture, modern Jews trace lineage via matriarchal lines. I know that I descend from an unbroken matriarchal line but I only know it back through the early 20th century. I don't know whether the first female in the line was herself properly a "Jew" or if she was Jewish (mother was not a Jew). Thus I don't know whether I am properly a Jew or merely "Jewish."

    Interestingly enough, at least to me, on my father's side I am Germanic. Which means that I surely had shirt-tail relatives on both sides of the Nazi insanity.

  7. Well, Kevin, I think I keep coming back to this statement in your original comment.
    I am ethnically (part) Jewish, but I have never subscribed to the Hebrew faith.

    You are, to my best reccolection, the only person I've ever heard say that. While I've read the story before, the linked wikipedia entry on the history of the twelve tribes, was a nice refresher course, so thanks for that.

    One thing it seems to clearly point out is that the original poltical entity, either in whole form or split into two kingdomes, existed for a few centuries back the last millenium BC. After that, it was gone as a "national" unit, with the Babylonians taking over, followed later IIRC by a period when the Hitites and the Egyptians were scrapping over it, until finally the Romans took the whole thing.

    Not sure if you are familiar with the Brit comedian Eddie Izzard or not, but he has a wonderful skit he used to do about the English arriving in India. The first Englishman shows up, looks around, plants a flag and says, "I claim this new land in the name of England!" Nearby a native Indian sees this, wanders up and says, "Umm... excuse me, but we're already here. This is India." The Englishman looks at him and says, "Oh really? Do you have a flag?" The Indian says, "Ummm... flag? Well.. no... not as such."

    "AHA!" cries the Englishman. "No flag, no country. Now go pick the tea for us!"

    The point being, following the disappearance of the lost tribes and the collapse of the Kingdom of Judah (the diaspora?) the Jewish people migrated all over Europe and the Middle East and beyond. Settling in many places, is it not fair to say that they "became" residents of the areas where they settled? (Remember... no flag, no country.) For example, many Jews settled in Germany, obviously, and had a thriving community going up until Hitler screwed the whole thing up. But by that time (nearly two thousand years later) is it not fair to say that they were "German"? I mean, I can't very well take a group of Methodists, move to Canada and expect my grandchildren to go around claiming they are Americans, now can I? They would be Canadians. They might also still be Methodists, but Canadians none the less.

    This goes back to your original statement I quoted. I would be interested in reading more about that. You are, as best as my ancient memory can manage, the only person I've ever run across to say they were "Jewish" who was not a practitioner of the Hebrew religion.

    And how about Christians or Muslims born in and living in Israel today? (There are some, apparently.) They are most certainly Israelies. But are they Jewish? I would think not and they might be highly put off if you told them they were. :-)

  8. You said: Yes, I too have Jewish friends

    Yeah right and I have a Black Housekeeper.
    You really sound like a bigot to me old chap.

  9. Well Jazz I think the best response I can give here would be to direct you to the Wikipedia entry on Messianic Judiasm.

  10. Jews for Jesus? Heard of them before. Really doesn't change my original question, though. The presumption that everyone who is Jewish in the United States is automatically in lockstep with the government of Israel seems to be a fallacy.

    The rest of the discussion has been informative and enlightening, though!

  11. Well there you have it then, other people who are "Jewish" but don't practice the Hebrew faith.

    Rare? Unusual? A tiny minority? Certainly. But we do exist. We're "Jewish" by virtue of our geneology alone.

  12. Um... I'm not a Messianic Jew, BTW. I just used them to illustrate the point that one can be "Jewish" without practicing the Hebrew faith.


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