The tortuous un-logic of Will Self, a Jewish un-Jew

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.


Guardian contributor Will Self

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:

 The Ku Klux Klan opens its door to Jews, homosexuals and black people in bizarre recruitment drive.

Wait… didn’t we predict it eight years ago?


43 replies »

  1. Err, no: “antisemite” is not only a correct spelling, but it is more accurate and more sensible. Jew-haters are not “anti” a group called “Semites” (whose existence is highly doubtful, anyway). They hate Jews. That is what the term (invented by Marr) means. It makes sense only in its entirety (and that’s how it’s written), therefore the hyphen is wrong and misleading. I will go further and say that the spelling “anti-Semite” is stupid and illiterate.

      • Hi Leah, for some reason my previous comment got swallowed by the system. First of all, it’s pointless to argue with a dictionary. The dictionary says that a person what hates Jews is called “anti-Semite”. We can call the dictionary stupid, but it wouldn’t change this fact. Now, re your next remark – about the banner: there indeed appears a word “antisemitism” – and it is correct! The point is that both “Anti-Semite” and “antisemitism” are correct, but “antisemite” and “anti-Semitism” are not. As with any language, the best policy is not to try to figure whys, unless you are a linguist of course – it is simpler just to follow what dictionary says.

  2. Here’s another personal story from another writer froma time when CIF didn’t exist. Regardless, it’s impossible to keep up with literary journals for example, even London Magazine, a very reputable eminent one when it was edited by Alan Ross.

    After he died however it showed how much it had declined in publishing a piece of misogynist anti-American anti-semitic polemic trash masquerading as criticism… which others objected as I found, though in silence or in private. For this reason I became more concerned. “Concentrate on the misogyny only” said one well-meaning friend. Another agreed the piece was terrible but was afraid to say so publicly for fear of being seen as “Islamophobic”.

    I don’t know the religion of the author who, as it turned out, was American, despite the ignorance displayed about the American poets cited. Those poets discussed in his critic’s article just happened to be all Jewish! Or writing about Jewish subjects. what a coincidence. Other colleagues said to me: Why waste time over this terrible piece? Because, I said, its messages were symptomatic of a worrying trend. (This was about a decade ago by the way.)

    So this was the response from people I knew and respected and the editor himself resisted publishing any opposing piece. “People really liked the essay,” he told me, which if true made it even more important to say something about it. Finally the editor relented but only when a writer whose work was set to appear in next issue took a stand, withdrawing his piece if my reply wasn’t published.

    There’s no room here to say more about the many objectionable things in this piece (though happy to send it to anyone interested). But one thing that struck me about it which is my reason for mentioning i t here was the utter scorn and contempt shown by this critic towards writers whose subject was Jewishness. Imagine one disdaining, for example, Muslims writing about their tradition. It wouldn’t happen. This was a rubicon, the moment when my feeling that something was wrong was confirmed.

  3. The Rabbis might say shiva over the loss of a Jew but I for one wish him God-speed and hope he never looks back. Or comes back. We need folk like him in our community like a hole in the head. Next, can Alexie Sayle and Miriam Margoylas (and all the other media luvvies whose only connection to their Judaism is to wheel it out to bash real Jews) also fuck off.

      • Exactly, Leah.

        I don’t agree with the “self-hating Jew” label because 999 times out of 1,000 (if not more), it’s not themselves they hate, it’s the other Jews. They’re more likely to be self-worshiping than self-hating.

  4. Will, a Jewish anti-Semite (yeah, that is the right way to write “Jew-hater”, according to the dictionary, at least)

    Oh dear. Sorry to see CiFWatch stoop so low.

  5. Self’s crossing from being a Jew into being an antisemite caused a dramatic increase of the average IQ in both camps.
    I started to understand why an other famous Guardinista – Deborah (the chosen people) Orr – the loyal wife of Wliie – hates the Jews.

  6. You missed the kicker, and the reason he even gets a column- Will Self is married to Deborah Orr, who is a regular Guardian “social” commentator.

  7. I usually like to call such people ‘Jew-hating Jews’, but in his case ‘SELF-hating Jew’ also fits nicely 🙂

  8. While the Guardian reserves the right to celebrate the identity and aspirations of its ‘chosen’ repressed nations and racial minorities, it takes extreme umbrage at anyone who dares to support the Jewish national liberation movement – what we know as Zionism – which offers redemption to the most oppressed and persecuted racial and religious minority that has ever had the misfortune of settling on Europe’s dark continent.

    And to prove the Guardian is right, it wheels out vindictive, sanctimonious bores like Will Self to tell us that the only Jews that really count are the ones like him, who know their place in polite, middle class English society and take no pride in Jewish heritage and history, and dismiss and ridicule the very real contemporary trials and tribulations that continue to threaten Jewish existence.

    Self might be a walking thesaurus who can bore the pants of anyone who cares to listen to his pompous monologues, but he knows nothing of history – especially Jewish history. Not so long ago, there were German, Austrian and Hungarian Jews who were just like him, bending over backwards to renounce their faith, culture and people in an effort to appease the voracious appetite of European nationalism that was about to devour them. It won’t help Self if he thinks throwing all the decent Jews to the lions is going to save his sorry ass.

    • Yes, excellent.
      “who know their place in polite, middle class English society” – hit the nail on the head.