Harvest of Ignorance

By Thomas Kochman - 09.10.2010

Roger Cohen’s, “Harvest of Anger “ Op Ed piece does an excellent job of cataloging the anger of many in the U.S. and Europe towards Muslims –not only terrorists but also immigrants—but comes to the misplaced conclusion that because of that anger the decision to build a mosque near the world trade center bombing is wrong. By way of comparison he cites the field of crosses displayed around Auschwitz when he visited there 12 years ago as an affront to Jews, based on the numbers of Jews who died there compared to non-Jews.

Why I think Cohen’s reasoning and conclusion are wrong principally has to do with who or what was blamed for the Holocaust.

In the West, Christianity as a religion was not under fire, or directly held responsible, because of the Holocaust or the concentration camps.

Islam as a religion, because of Al Qaeda backed terrorism and 9/11 is.

Despite the long standing history of anti-Semitism around the world and its roots in Christian thinking and attitudes towards Jews and Judaism people in the West saw the camps as the concoction of madmen, and a deviant moral aberration, and not what Christianity was truly about.

Because of our familiarity with Christianity we in the West were able to separate Christianity from the murderous actions and behavior of people who also happened to be Christian, holding the latter, but not the former, accountable for what happened.

This has not as yet happened in the West with Islam and Muslims.

For that reason when I heard that a Mosque was going to be built near the World Trade Center bombing –quite apart from thinking about First Amendment Rights — I thought, “Great!” What better way for Muslims to make the distinction between the practice of Islam as a religion and those who would hijack it for political ends, despite what the Quran itself says about righteous struggle (Jihad) and suicide.

In that regard, I think it is significant that the Al Qaeda recruitment manual aims to target those who are essentially non-religious and “not to trust potential recruits who know the Quran by heart.”

So what is the thing to be really afraid of here:  irrational and politically motivated anger?

Try Ignorance!

“Self-Hating Jews”

By Thomas Kochman - 04.24.2010

The term and expression “self-hating Jew” is generally used to identify Jews –especially American Jews—who, as Richard Greener notes, do not fall lock-in-step with or unconditionally support the policies and practices of Israel’s government especially those of the right wing Likud party.

Yet when I think of “self-hating Jews”, it’s more psychologically and culturally in sync with the pariah status of Jews which in various twists and turns over the centuries, translates into Jews themselves not only expecting, but ultimately, anticipating, inviting and feeding on the hate and aggression that others direct at them.

This pattern of directing the aggression of others against oneself in ways that “combine both sadistic attack and masochistic indulgence” is characteristic of Jewish humor, as seen in the movie Borat –where public decency and decorum is routinely and outrageously flouted—and in its most recent incarnation, the films of Ben Stiller.

What’s funny in jokes and films however, is not funny when flagrant behavior threatens to destroy our global financial structure, or influences the way nation states like Israel behave not only towards its enemies—by reacting excessively to any and all provocations—but also towards its allies and friends, such as proclaiming new settlements in East Jerusalem at the time of Vice President Joe Biden’s visit, putting Israel once again, at the seat and center of public controversy and rekindling the Jewish/Israeli image of world pariah and difficult partner.

Driving and promoting much of this attitude toward the world of course is an all pervasive Jewish/Israeli feeling of insecurity.

As Roger Cohen notes that, “It’s not easy to parse fact from fiction, justifiable anxiety from self-serving angst, in this pervasive Israeli narrative.”

The problem with “unyielding angst”, however, like that of seeing oneself as a “victim”, is that it gets in the way of rational thinking. Read more »

The Party\’s Over

By Thomas Kochman - 03.16.2010

David Brook’s recent NY Times column “The Spirit of Sympathy” speaks to the decline of civility and personal relations in the Senate and increasing polarization along strictly party lines following the pattern of the House.

But who is responsible for this fissure? Presumably bipartisanship in the past was at one time driven by pragmatism and common cause and a triumph of persuasion and personal relationships over partisan politics .

What we have now is Republican resistance and obstinacy rooted in ideology, an “all or nothing” mentality, and the self delusion that, despite losing the election, they still “speak for the American people”.

For persuasion and personal relations to prevail across party lines disagreements have to be rationally based, remediable, constructive and ultimately humanistic –a sensibility and sympathy for how laws, policies, practices and social neglect impact people –not just my people but all people. Read more »