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What is a Jew?

Forgive my ignorance, but what, exactly, is a Jew? What is a Semite?

There’s been so much intermarriage over the course of centuries, I’m not sure if “Jew” is a valid designation of a race. What are all these anti-Semite protestors and blood-thirsty barbarians referring to when they call for gassing the Jews again? I confess my ignorance. There is the Hebrew language, which only Jews and scholars can fathom. But a language is not a race.

As I remarked in an earlier column, I wouldn’t know a Jew on the street, not on sight. Jews don’t wear their “race” on their sleeves, not unless they’re of the Hassidic or other strict sect. Jews come in all sizes and races. There is no distinctive facial definition of a Jew. Contrary to the Nazis’ cartoonish stereotyping and vilification, not all Jews have hawkish noses and heavy eyebrows. Dress an Amish farmer and a Hassidic rabbi in the same T-shirts, jeans, and Nike tennis shoes, and I dare anyone to play that two-card-Monte game and win by pointing out which is which. It’s only if they open their mouths and say something that a distinction can be made.

One of my first jobs when I moved to New York City in 1968 was as a backroom clerk for a big stock brokerage. Most of the men in the room were Jewish. I picked up more foul language there than I had in the Air Force. I won’t repeat any of the raunchy terms I learned in that big, noisy room where we sorted through stock certificates and reconciled ownershps. But raunchy language is not the monopoly of Jews. Blacks have their own, as do Italians and Poles and Russians and there is a variety of Latino patois. I employ many black street terms in my Roaring Twenties novels.

Later in my itinerate and very checkered work life, I worked as a teletypist for Société Générale in New York, and picked up some French obscenities. (The French, they are a very snobbish people!). Once, having a coffee break with an American black woman who was in charge of ciphering international transactions for the bank, I told her not only that her most immediate ancestors came from Louisiana, but from which coast of Africa her remote ancestors came (remote, meaning the American colonial period). She gaped at me, open-mouthed, absolutely dumb-struck, and asked me how I knew all that. She was unmarried and had a French surname. And her skin color corresponded with the numerous light-skinned African slaves who were brought over to America from the West Coast. (Most of the truly ebony slaves came from the East Coast, where Muslims monopolized the slave trade, and still do, although they’ve now branched out into enslaving Filipinos, Indonesians, and the hapless members of other ethnic groups.)

But I could never tell if a Jew’s ancestors came from Russia or Poland or the Ukraine or Munich or Iraq or Persia. It’s the difference between Upper and Lower Swabia to me. That person would need to tell me. Then I’d know. But I otherwise wouldn’t even venture a guess. Racial or national origins mean nothing to me. Culture and ideas do.

Let me be frank: As an atheist, I don’t buy either the Christian, Judaic, or Islamic racial or historic origins of Jews, no more than I believe in Noah’s Ark, Archbishop Ussher‘s dating the beginning of the world on October 23, 4004 BC, or Moses parting the Red Sea. Hate me if you like, but I don’t regard fables as evidentiary proof of anything, regardless of how sacred and unassailable Christians, Jews, or Muslims regard their foundational texts. That goes for Buddhists and Hindus, too.

Judaism, if that’s what the belligerent and foul-mouthed anti-Semitic protestors are “protesting,” is strictly a religion to me, not a race. Anyone with a lot of patience and superb memory skills can convert to it. But that’s not what they’re protesting. They are damning a race, the Semites. They’re “anti-Semites” shouting vitriolic language about their historical brothers and sisters. At least, the Muslim demonstrators are. I can’t speak for the others.

But, what’s a Semite? Arabs or “Palestinians” are Semites, according to ethnologists, with a common ancient origin in terms of ethnicity. Strictly speaking, what the Muslims and Leftard protestors (many of them Jewish) are “protesting” is the whole Semite race, Jews and Arabs alike. So, should they all go to the gas chamber? Has it ever occurred to any one of them that if we’re going to go by definitions, the Muslims themselves are cursing their own origins? I don’t think it has occurred to them, and I would not envy the person who volunteered to inform them of the fact. He’d probably be beaten to death for committing blasphemy or “racism.”

Perhaps it’s analogous to the difference people see between the Catholic Irish of Ireland and the Protestant Irish of Northern Ireland. If we’re going to also define the Irish as a “pure” race, what’s the difference except in terms of an imaginary line called a border? But Ireland and the British Isles as a whole were raided so many times by the rapacious Vikings there can hardly be anything called an “Irish” or “Celtic” race. The Scots and the “British” raided each other often enough to dilute any “racial” purity in those groups. And, let’s not forget the Romans and the Normans and 1066. And the Angles and the Saxons and the Picts. Then there’s Germany, and France, and every European country invaded by waves of barbarians over millenia.

I always laugh when I watch Hitler ranting about the necessity of preserving the purity of the German or Aryan race by getting rid of the Jews. In terms of measuring his physiology against his ideal of a blonde, blue-eyed brute, he got the very short end of the racial stick. I’ve even read articles which argued he had “Jewish” blood in him. If there’s any substance to the idea, then Hitler was the ultimate self-hating Jew. Much like the liberal Jews who hate Israel and can be seen chanting deprecations with the other savages.

I won’t go into the details of the rise in anti-Semitic rioting across the globe here. That’s easy to read already and details are plentiful. The rioting is caused by Israel’s actions taken in self-defense against Hamas and that whole Islamic gang that wants to extinguish Israel and crow on the ashes and bodies of Israelis. The whole anti-Israel phenomenon reveals a hatred of Israeli successes in science, technology, standards of living, and the freedom of the mind. What they’d ever do with a “free Palestine,” except build new gas chambers and mass graves, doesn’t require much imagination: Nothing. Remember what the Gazans did to the greenhouses left behind after Israel ceded that part of Gaza and removed the Israeli settlers? They were trashed, or their materials turned into weapons or other uses.

The “Palestinians” and their masters are experts at growing nothing but death. Islam is a death-worshipping, nihilist creed and political ideology. Nihilists build nothing. They destroy. It’s their whole purpose in life. Whatever it is in Judaism that permits Jews and especially the Israelis to excel in virtually everything they undertake to promote life and happiness, I’m too ignorant of the creed to say. Perhaps it’s a compartmentalized fealty to reason and reality, one that’s segregated from the religion’s mysticism and historiography and traditions. That’s my diagnosis.

Whatever explains it, Jews aren’t the only ones who compartmentalize. Millions of non-Jews have the same handicap. That should make us all Jews, we the thinking, the productive, the glad-to-be-alive.

So, call me a Jew.

  • Jake Murrin

    You’re wrong about intermarriage:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2000/05/09/science/y-chromosome-bears-witness-to-story-of-the-jewish-diaspora.html

    “With a new technique based on the male or Y chromosome, biologists have traced the diaspora of Jewish populations from the dispersals that began in 586 B.C. to the modern communities of Europe and the Middle East.

    The analysis provides genetic witness that these communities have, to a remarkable extent, retained their biological identity separate from their host populations, evidence of relatively little intermarriage or conversion into Judaism over the centuries.

    Dr. Lawrence H. Schiffman, chairman of the department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University, said the study fit with historical evidence that Jews originated in the Near East and with biblical evidence suggesting that there were a variety of families and types in the original population.

    The results accord with Jewish history and tradition and refute theories like those holding that Jewish communities consist mostly of converts from other faiths, or that they are descended from the Khazars, a medieval Turkish tribe that adopted Judaism.

    Present-day Ethiopian Jews lack some of the other lineages found in Jewish communities, and overall are more like non-Jewish Ethiopians than other Jewish populations, at least in terms of their Y chromosome lineage pattern.”

    If race doesn’t play a role in Jewish genius (http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/jewish-genius/, then it’s one hell of a coincidence. But I understand that Objectivists prefer to think of race as skin-deep, and would never consider (say) that American blacks murdering at seven times the rate of non-blacks might be even partially a racial issue. This refusal to acknowledge human evolution is the biggest reason why I am not an Objectivist.

  • Peggy1900

    Maybe the Jews have set themselves up to be easier targets as many are in Israel now versus the diaspora. The enemy have a concrete target and that is to destroy the Israel as she is today. So a tiny country surrounded by backward neolithic peoples is a hard rock to climb…because how do you communicate to such people?

  • writeby

    If you mean the backward, neolithic peoples, you don’t. First, you recognize there is no possibility of compromise.

    “We intend to remain alive. Our neighbors want to see us dead. This is not a question that leaves much room for compromise.” – Golda Meir

    Then, you annihilate them.

    “There is only one tactical principle which is not subject to change. It is to use the means at hand to inflict the maximum amount of wound, death, and destruction on the enemy in the minimum amount of time.” – General George S. Patton, Jr.

    And do so utterly and completely.

    That is what war looks like. It is devastating; it is cruel; it is sickening; it is horrible in its destruction and in its slaughter. War is more than hell; it’s the end of the world—the civilized world, which ends on the battlefield; and for the nation that initiates war for conquest, it is the end of any moral consideration, too, except in the form of one moral imperative for those fighting such a nation: Destroy it.

    Until you have achieved total victory.

    In the tactics of war there is no room either for vengeance against or sympathy for enemy civilians. There is in fact no room for any emotion at all. There is room only for the cold-blooded, decisive destruction of the enemy. And there is only one moral standard by which to measure one’s success in that endeavor.

    Victory.

    And you do so without guilt or regret.

    “May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won’t.”–General George S. Patton, Jr.

  • disqus_KOXhHJcY0P

    “Dress an Amish farmer and a Hassidic rabbi in the same T-shirts, jeans, and Nike tennis shoes, and I dare anyone to play that two-card-Monte game and win by pointing out which is which.”

    The rabbi is the one with hair on his upper lip.

  • Moshe

    Be careful. In Objectivist circles it isn’t fashionable to acknowledge – except in the most general and abstract way – that Judiasm is a belief system and not an ethnicity. For some reason, unlike the other two big religions, in practice, Judiasm gets a pass. It’s as though Judiasm isn’t as destructive as Christianity or Islam, and therefore – even though (qua religion) it is just as potentially destructive – it isn’t as deserving of explicit, activist-type criticism. By explicitly untangling Judiasm the philosophy from Semitism the ethnicity, as you’ve done here, you’re opening the door to a closer look at Judiasm by objective people. Why, exactly, it’s adherents do what they do, and get treated by others the way that they do. It isn’t as simple as “jealousy” or “hatred of the good for being the good.”

    Of course, the contention that Judiasm isn’t as destructive as the other big two religions is absolutely true, but it’s still destructive – and so one wonders why an attempt to spread Judiasm to a benighted part of the world (“the holy land”) is lauded by most Objectivists as an advancement of civilization, whereas a proportionally identical attempt to spread Christianity (think of missionaries in Borneo, for example) is loudly condemned as an irrational/immoral waste of time (because, from the perspective of the missionaries, it’s a sacrifice of a greater value for the sake of a lesser value, and therefore altruism). How can anyone honestly say that the Zionist Jews, who have been locked in perpetual combat with the Muslims ever since that movement began, are better off than had their destination been The USA? That they needed to be there in order to do the objectively good things (in science and business, etc) that they’ve done, in spite of that conflict?

    Of course, one can argue that if not in “the holy land,” then nowhere – because anti-Semitism would result in more pogroms and holocausts, but that’s a dubious notion. Why? Because as I’ve said (and shown) elsewhere on this website, it’s an indisputable fact that the Jews themselves are disproportionately responsible for creating and maintaining (and profiting from) the various socialist/communist/fascist states which inevitably collapse and then, ironically, scapegoat the Jews. If they didn’t want to be scapegoated, then maybe they shouldn’t have such disproportionate representation in the key roles of such states!

    Yes, Judiasm attracts and/or keeps those who (for whatever reason – probably neurological) have a greater “fealty to reason and reality” than other people (who latch on to other religions, because it’s less rational doctrines compliment their mentalities), but this isn’t because of anything in Judiasm that’s inherently rational. It’s simply in spite of “Judiasm” that Judiasm is such a “rational religion” (ie: culture). It’s because of some “x-factor.” It’s indisputable that that is the biggest reason why Jews are consistently hated (ie: because of this intelligence, they are also disproportionately truly productive – and therefore people are jealous), but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s not the only reason.

    Again: by writing a blog post, predominantly read by Objectivists, where you point out that being a Jew is a choice, you are elevating the discussion to where it always should have been: where Judiasm is critiqued completely. As I’ve said, Objectivism has a blind spot for that (simply because the comparison between Israel and the palestinean territories provides such good opportunity for polemics about moral certainty), and by bringing up things that must be brought up if the potential for clarity is ever possible, you’re risking the wrath of the Objectivists who have a vested interest in maintaining that blind spot.

    Altruism is 100% evil, but that isn’t simply because it causes a neurotic tendency to want to harm oneself through sacrifice to others (and to resent when others don’t do the same – which is the largest reason why the Muslims and the Western Left hates Israel with such passion). Altruism is also evil because it causes a neurotic tendency to want to (ironically, counter-intuitively) harm oneself through sacrifice of others to oneself. Objectivists would do well to remember that – and look at the Jews more closely to see their culture as an example of it.