Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"Some of my best friends are Jews"

As much as I swear off talking about Jewish matters I still seem unable to stay silent about it for long.

There are some politically active people in the Melbourne Jewish community and I do what I can to circulate their material when I can. One of their movers and shakers, Ralph Zwier, has recently written a small article on the old, old controversy about people saying "Some of my best friends are Jews". That remark is, rather paradoxically, usually interpreted as indicating that the person uttering it is antisemitic. So although Ralph and I have had an amicable and frequent correspondence for some time, you can understand why I would never dare to call him one of my best friends!

But isn't that a bit paradoxical? What are genuinely philosemitic people supposed to say? Are they supposed to say: "None of my best friends are Jews"? There is actually an answer to that in the Bible. I find it in three of the Proverbs of Solomon the Wise: "He who flatters a man spreads a net for his feet" (Proverbs 29:5 R.S.V.); "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy" (Proverbs 27: 6. R.S.V.); "He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favour than he who flatters with his tongue" (Proverbs 28: 23 R.S.V.). In short, a true friend is CRITICAL, but constructively so. So by that standard I think I stand up rather well, in that I have on several occasions (e.g. here) remarked that Jews as a whole tend to be politically stupid and have endeavoured to point to wiser paths that they might follow.

But that does that wash? I perfectly understand that many Jews might see me as being simply impertinent and ignorant. So is it the case that Gentiles are damned whether they speak either good or ill of Jews? Nearly but not quite. Ralph Zwier's point is that antisemites say things which indicate that they have BENEFITED from Jews. the obvious corollary is that a real philosemite would actually do things the other way around: He would do things that benefit Jews rather than seeking benefits FROM Jews. And I think that is a completely commonsense observation. My way of supporting the Jewish community is to defend Israel in any way I can and to donate to Israeli charities. And, Yes, I do have some Jewish friends whom I value greatly.



Obama hit by Guantanamo reality: "President Obama's plan to close Guantanamo Bay within a year appeared to be unravelling yesterday with the emergence of former inmates on terrorist websites, fierce opposition in the US and a lukewarm response to taking detainees from the European Union. After signing an executive order last week to close the US military prison, Mr Obama has been confronted with myriad obstacles that are making his ambitious pledge look unrealistic. David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, ruled out the prospect of Britain taking any more inmates, claiming that it had already made a significant contribution. His announcement, at a meeting of EU foreign ministers, came as Saudi Arabia announced yesterday that it had rearrested nine Islamist militants, including former Guantanamo inmates released to the Kingdom who had undergone a re-education programme in Riyadh. Two other former detainees sent home to Saudi Arabia from the prison in November 2007 re-emerged over the weekend on a jihadist website, railing against Britain, the US and Israel and identifying themselves by their Guantanamo detainee numbers. One of the men who appeared on video was Said Ali al-Shihri, now the deputy leader of al-Qaeda's Yemeni branch."

Let 1,000 Republican flowers bloom : "George W. Bush, the leader of the party - and, let's face it, of conservatives - for the last eight years, has only just left town. Fairly or unfairly (mostly unfairly), he ended up a very unpopular guy. It's going to take a while for Republicans to shake free of the Bush effect. And, more important, to shake free of the fact that for the last 14 years, and 26 of the last 28, there's been a Republican president in the White House and/or Republican control of Congress. That's why one has to be careful about what one wishes for. Republicans, newly liberated, need to resist calls to shackle themselves to prematurely announced agendas and already anointed leaders. This is the time for a thousand Republicans to bloom."

Boon or doggle? "Even if government spending in theory could 'stimulate the economy' in a genuine, sustainable way, it would not follow that politicians and bureaucrats would know how to spend the money intelligently. The pressures to do something now and the perverse incentives facing those in charge of the money guarantee there would be more doggle than boon. Government `countercyclical' spending is notorious for kicking in after the recession has passed. The planners' information is necessarily dated, and their capacity to act quickly is overestimated."

No consensus for "stimulus" among economists: "Contrary to claims by the Obama administration, there is no consensus among economists for a 'stimulus' package, much less the trillion-dollar pork-filled 'stimulus' package being crafted by Obama and liberal Congressional leaders. (Many economists oppose it). Even the liberal Washington Post, which has not endorsed a Republican for President since 1952, admitted this today: `Fiscal stimulus is far from a sure-fire remedy.'"

McDonald's posts sizzling 80 per cent profit rise in 2008: "US fast-food giant McDonald's says its 2008 net profit soared 80 per cent from a year, lifted by growing demand from consumers seeking low-cost meals in a deepening global recession. Net profit for the full year totalled $US4.3 billion, compared with $US2.3 billion in 2007, the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company said in a statement. Excluding exceptional items, earnings per share were $3.76, widely exceeding consensus market forecasts of $3.63. The robust annual results came despite a sharp 23 per cent decline in fourth-quarter net profit to $US985 million, from $US1.273 billion in the 2007 fourth quarter. Fourth-quarter earnings per share were 87 cents, above expectations of 83 cents. "2008 was a strong year for McDonald's," chief executive Jim Skinner said in the statement. "Through our strategic focus on menu choice, food quality and value, the average number of customers served per day increased to more than 58 million in 2008."

Financial crisis claims Icelandic government: "ICELANDIC Prime Minister Geir Haarde announced today the immediate resignation of his Government following massive protests over its handling of the country's dire economic crisis. "I'm here to announce that I and the leader of the Social Democrats have decided that we will not continue with the coalition,'' Mr Haarde said, adding that he would seek a broad coalition with all parliamentary parties. The announcement came just days after Mr Haarde called for snap elections on May 9 in which he would not run due to health reasons, after months of protests in the normally calm island nation calling for the Government's resignation. Many Icelanders blame the Government for the collapse of the country's financial sector in October, which led the state to take control of three major banks as the economy and currency plunged amid huge debts. Iceland's President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson formally accepted the resignation a few hours after Mr Haarde's announcement and said he had asked the Cabinet to stay in place until a new government can be formed." [Sad that Iceland has to take the punishment for the destructive legislation of the U.S. Congress]

UK: Data bill "will wipe out privacy at a stroke" : "Sweeping new laws to allow ministers to release the private details of millions of people to a string of public bodies or private firms have been condemned as being `open sesame to a vast increase in government power.' Opposition MPs joined human rights campaigners in attacking the new powers, warning that they could lead to the widespread release of medical records and other sensitive data."


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


1 comment:

William Hone, Jr. said...

One possible reason for the negative interpretation of the saying "some of my best friends are Jews" may stem from the Jewish folk belief that in the early 1930s in Germany Nazis in good standing who were questioned about the anti-Semitism of their party would immediately reply that they had Jewish friends.

In Modernity and the Holocaust (Cornell University Press, 1991), p.187, Zygmunt Bauman presents a chilling example of this lack of correlation between personal (the "Jew next door") and abstract images ("the mythological Jew" of political antisemitism). Quoting Joachim C. Fest,The Face of the Third Reich (Penguin Books, 1985), p. 177, Bauman writes :

"Long after the machinery of mass destruction had been set in full swing, -- in October 1943, to be precise -- Himmler complained in front of his henchmen that even devoted party members,who had shown no particular compunctions concerning the annihilation of the Jewish race as a whole,had their own,private,special Jews whom they wished to exempt and protect:

'The Jewish people is to be exterminated,'says every party member.'That's clear,it's part of our programme,elimination of the Jews,extermination,right,we'll do it.'And then they all come along, the eighty million good Germans, and each one has his decent Jew. Of course the others are swine, but this one is a first-class

Bauman's work goes a long way toward clarifying the central role the social production of immoral behavior played in the perpetration of the Holocaust. In a more antiquarian spirit,I have found evidence that the saying under examination had a wider and earlier provenance than Germany in the 1930s. Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch,in a 1999 interview "Marking His Retirement As Executive Director Of The World Union For Progressive Judaism" spoke about the assimilatory trend of Jewish Americans in the 1920s. He said,"There were so many Jews in the 1920s who were converting to Unitarianism that they began to say, 'Jewnitarians.' There were so many Jews who became active in the Quaker movement that they began to say, 'Some of my best Jews are Friends.' " [Source:]