Cross posted from the blog Simply Jews
Reading an excellent article in Contentions, What Has the Guardian Got Against Jews?, I couldn’t help myself but click on a linked article by Will Self How I Stopped Being a Jew by Shlomo Sand and Unchosen: The Memoirs of a Philo-Semite by Julie Burchill – review.
What can I say? The article starts, as is proper for an article written by a writer – a member of the most narcissistic guild (save, probably, that of the Hollywood celebs) – with a highly personal statement:
In 2006, as the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) were undertaking their second major incursion into Lebanon, I resigned as a Jew.
Neither the subject of Shlomo Sand nor that of Julie Burchill was of sufficient interest to me. On top of it, I didn’t even know that Will Self is (or, rather, was – as he thinks) Jewish. As a result, trying to ignore the passages related to the opuses by Sand and Burchill and to understand what it is that Will Self was trying to say about himself, I got totally mired. And, I am a bit ashamed to confess, to the degree where I started to doubt – again, after so many years of using this beautiful language as my daily tool – my reading comprehension ability.
No, it is not because Will Self is in love with some highfalutin words like “gallimaufry” or “bricolage” or what have you. It is rather because of his uber-convoluted logic that circles, turns about, jumps aside and consumes itself more times than a well-behaved Ouroboros should allow itself.
First, as you can see, eight years ago Will Self decided that he is not a Jew anymore. So there, you would think, what is done is done. But no, even after eight years our “retiree” nostalgically recalls at least one benefit to being Jewish:
A couple of years earlier, on Question Time, I had also challenged Melanie Phillips over her campaign to force British Muslims to take a loyalty oath, saying: if British Muslims, why not British Jews? But on that occasion, when she had accused me of being an antisemite, I was still able to play my trump card: I’m Jewish.
[Editor’s note: Phillips did not in fact ever suggest that British Muslims should be forced to “take a loyalty oath”.]
Dear Will, a Jewish anti-Semite (yeah, that is the right way to write “Jew-hater”, according to the dictionary, at least) is not exactly an unknown creature. There are quite a few around, as there are white Anglo-Saxon Islamists, Latino neo-Nazis, black racists etc. So don’t be too humble, please – if you feel an urge – just go for it.
It is interesting that even with eight years gone since the brave resignation, Will Self is still disappointed by the results:
The reaction to my resignation was pretty muted. I did receive an email the following morning from a pressure group called Jews for Justice in Palestine, urging me… etc.
Hm… so no wailing Jews on the streets rending their garb and covering their balding heads with ashes. No matter, Will, it was probably just bad timing. Next time… oops, sorry.
Nevertheless, the decision made 8 years ago still rankles – but mostly the decision-maker himself, apparently, since even today he looks for moral succor and support, finding both in the writings of no else but Shlomo Sand:
In fact, I’d been surprised by my own apostasy (if it can be called that), and it’s only now, having read Shlomo Sand’s elegant and passionately felt essay, that I’ve come to understand why it is I resiled from … what? This heritage? Or is Jewry a people, a religion, or possibly – if pejoratively – a tribe?.
Of course, Will, Shlomo Sand knows all from elegance – elegance is a French shtick, and prof Sand’s expertise, accidentally, lies in French cinema. Which is not the domain where he somehow became the darling of the anti-Zionist crowd. Not so much with professional historians, geneticists and other miscellaneous scientists – but this is not in the spiritual plane, so I wouldn’t bother you with trifles. Back to the tortured logic, and not logic alone:
Discussing Sand’s views with a variety of self-identifying secular non-Israeli Jews over the last few weeks, I found them stubbornly clinging to their Jewish identity. And why wouldn’t they? They do indeed share powerful and meaningful traditions – festivals, commemorative meals, holidays, ways of speaking and doing – and if I found it easy to resign my own Jewishness this was probably because there was very little of this in my natal home, unless you count my mother’s periodic outbursts about the Jews being “smarter than everyone else”, and occasional trips to Bloom’s in Golders Green to scoff hot salt beef sandwiches.
Oh, what the heck. Come on, Will, be a mensch… sorry, can’t use that word with you now, so – be a man, OK? Just let it go. Isn’t it simpler all around to just say: “f**k it all, I never was and never will be Jewish. I know f**k all about being Jewish and even less about Israel and I couldn’t care less”. Just repeat this formula several times and I guarantee – you shall feel much better. Almost (but not quite, granted) like prof. Sand. But, absent that element of French elegance, no one could be as hip as prof Sand, you will understand it, I hope. And stop torturing yourself with that fancy and diabolically circular logic. It is no good to anyone, you know… that, aside of being soooo Jewish…
The other thing you should take care off is that nose. The schnozzle, the proboscis, whatever you want to call it in that highfalutin fancy words tradition of yours. We all understand and agree that you are no Jew. Just do something about that extremity – to avoid any possibility of a misunderstanding in the future. You know what I mean. I hope, that is, that you know.
And the last remark – actually, it is an edict: hereby I, STG, by vested in me by the Elders authority, forbid a certain non-Joo, Will Self, to use the word “schmuck” – forever and ever. Which word, accidentally, should be not written with a German accent as “schmuck” but simple shtetl style “shmuck”. For reasons we shall not go into for the moment, that last remark should be of relevancy and import to the said Will Self.
Oh well. Now I can switch to something more straightforward:
Wait… didn’t we predict it eight years ago?