The Jews are Bad !
by Werner Cohn
A review of
Jewish History, JewishReligion. The Weight of Three Thousand Years. by Israel Shahak, Foreword by Gore Vidal. Pluto Press, London and Boulder,Colorado. 1994
Israel Horizons, vol. 42, no. 3 of 4(sic), Autumn 1994, pp. 28-9. copyright 1994 by Werner Cohn
Israel Shahak is a retired Israeli teacher ofchemistry who travels the world to lecture on the evils of Zionism and theJewish religion. His claims and opinions are so bizarre that, by themselves,they could not justify paying any attention to this book. But the work comes tous with an urgent recommendation from Noam Chomsky on its cover and with anessay by Gore Vidal as a foreword. Bearing this double cachet, the book willundoubtedly find its way to the shelves of bookstores and, at least in somelimited way, to the attention of people on the Left.
Dr. Shahak says that he wants Jews to changetheir ways and to stop the atrocities associated with Zionism and OrthodoxJewish religion. As a first step, he wants us to face the terrible crimes thatwere committed by of our ancestors. One way of doing this, he says (pp. 72-3),is to develop a positive attitude toward "popular [his emphasis]anti-Jewish manifestations of the past." His prime example is theChmielnicki massacres of 17th century Ukraine, which he wants us to celebrateas a progressive uprising:
Do decent Englishhistorians, even when noting the massacres of Englishmen by rebellious Irishpeasant rising against their enslavement, condemn the latter as 'anti-Englishracists' ? What is the attitude of progressive French historians towards thegreat slave revolution in Santo Domingo, where many French women and childrenwere butchered ? To ask the question is to answer it.
It is indeed.
Dr. Shahak is full of startling revelations,if that is the word, about Jewish history and the Jewish religion. None ofthose I was able to check had any foundation.
Some are just funny. He says (pp. 23-4) that"Jewish children are actually taught" to utter a ritual curse whenpassing a non-Jewish cemetery. He also tells us (p. 34) that "both beforeand after a meal, a pious Jew ritually washes his hands....On one of these twooccasions he is worshiping God... but on the other he is worshipingSatan..."
I did take the trouble to question myorthodox rabbi nephew to find what might be behind such tall tales. He had noclue. If orthodox Jews were actually taught such hateful things, surely someonewould have heard. Whom is Dr. Shahak kidding ?
Orthodox Jews, according to Shahak,frequently kill those whose views they do not like. "For example, in thelate 1830's a 'Holy Rabbi' (Tzadik) in a small Jewish town in the Ukraineordered the murder of a heretic by throwing him into the boiling water of thetown baths..." Shahak gives neither the name of the town nor the year ofthis alleged killing. We are asked to take this tale on his say-so alone (p.17).
In another story he gives enough detail tofind a reference to the incident in the Encyclopaedia Judaica. It seems that aliberal rabbi and his family were poisoned in Lemberg (now Lvov) in 1848.According to the EJ, some orthodox fanatics were suspected of the crime. Wherethe EJ reports an unsolved case, which may indeed have been due to foodpoisoning, Shahak knows precisely who the murderers were: "the leaders ofthe Jewish community." How does he know this ? He won't say. This is thevery stuff of the paranoid approach to historiography. (P. 17)
One of Shahak's charges has been taken veryseriously. Some thirty years ago Shahak reported to the press that he hadpersonally witnessed the following incident: an orthodox Jew saw an injurednon-Jew on the Sabbath. To save the man's life, it was necessary to call anambulance. The Jew had the phone handy but would not allow a violation of thesabbath, i.e. use of the phone, because the injured was a non-Jew. In Shahak'sversion, with which he begins this book, the Jew here followed the ruling theof orthodox rabbinate. The story was taken up by Ha-Arets in Israel, then bythe Jewish Chronicle in London and other publications, all joining in a clamoragainst the barbaric orthodox. (Dr. Shahak does not seem to notice that thisclamor, which he duly notes, is in itself a refutation of his charge thatcurrent Jewish life is dominated by orthodox inhumanity).
Dr. Shahak, whose nose is longer thanPinocchio's in any case, does not tell us the whole story of the incident. Inthe Summer 1966 issue of Tradition, an orthodox Jewish journal, we have themuch more credible account by Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits (later the Chief Rabbiof the British Commonwealth). First of all, according to Rabbi Jakobovits, andcontrary to Shahak's allegation, the rabbinate had ruled clearly that not onlycan the Sabbath be violated under such circumstances, but such violation wouldbe a religious duty, to save a non-Jewish life no less than a Jewish life.Moreover, we also learn that Dr. Shahak, when challenged to produce his"orthodox Jew," was forced to admit that this Jew did not exist.
For the text of Lord Jakobovits's paper,please click on http://www.edah.org/backend/document/jakobovits1.html
Much of Shahak's book, and all of his Chapter5, are given to the allegation that the Talmud requires or permits Jews tocommit crimes, including murder, against non-Jews. Here Shahak follows an oldanti-Semitic tradition that began with the 1700 work Entdecktes Judenthum (JudaismRevealed) by Johann Eisenmenger.
There are gravely offensive passages in theTalmud. (And there are, as we know from our most recent history, some Jewishfringe groups who interpret traditional Jewish writings in a hateful,xenophobic manner.) Eisenmenger did not distort the Talmud, but he interpretedit maliciously. There are many mutually contradictory passages in the Talmud,and a great deal depends on methods of interpretation. The rabbis have neverallowed the immoral Talmudic interpretations which Eisenmenger and hisfollowers attribute to Judaism. Moreover, the Talmud is not unique incontaining offensive material. As many scholars have pointed out, a hostilecommentator could easily produce a Christianity Revealed to provide a basis fora (similarly unjustified) anti-Christian campaign. The problem of hostileTalmud interpretation is very thoroughly discussed in the first chapter of thescholarly work by
I was recently curious to learn how Talmudicteachings concerning non-Jews are actually transmitted to our generation ofJews. The Encyclopedia Talmudica, founded by Rabbi Meyer Berlin (Bar-Ilan), hasa full discussion (volume 1, pp. 274-5). This source teaches that non-Jews areto be loved in the same manner as Jews; in particular, robbing a non-Jew is thesame as robbing a Jew; the non-Jewish sick are to be visited just as the Jewishsick; and so forth. All this is in very direct contradiction to the assertionsby Dr. Shahak, who tells us, over and over, that all religious Jews teachhatred (and worse) of non-Jews.
With very little trouble, anyone can learnfor himself that the wild accusations by Israel Shahak have no foundationswhatever. And this brings us back to Noam Chomsky and Gore Vidal. Chomsky'scontribution to this work is confined to two sentences, which are worth citing:"Shahak is an outstanding scholar, with remarkable insight and depth ofknowledge. His work is informed and penetrating, a contribution of greatvalue."
For his part, Gore Vidal tells us that an(unnamed) "American Zionist" brought Harry Truman two million dollarsin cash in 1948 and that as a result US recognition of Israel went through veryfast. Nevertheless, says Vidal, he himself is not an anti-Semite. Somewhatlater, he finds that Shahak is particularly "...a joy to read on the greatGentile-hating Dr. Maimonides."
The association of these men with this littlebooklet was meant to lend credence to Dr. Shahak. I think that, on thecontrary, it brings dishonor -- further dishonor -- to Chomsky and Vidal.
N.B. The French edition of Shahak's book ispublished by the neo-Nazi publishing house La Vieille Taupe
PS (June 2001): It appears that there is anEnglish edition of the Shahak book that also contains the Said introduction.The edition of Shahak's book advertised by amazon.com says, on its cover, thatit has a foreword by Said. WC
Addendum (July 2005): For additional reading,please see "TheInterpretational Errors of Israel Shahak" by Professor Andrew E.Mathis.
Addendum (May 2007). The online catalog ofNoontide Press, publishing arm of the American "revisionist"Holocaust-deniers, offer Shahak's work for sale with the following description:
Thisstunning, powerful work, with a foreword by Gore Vidal, is essential readingfor anyone interested in the eternally vexing "Jewish question."Drawing on a masterly study of the Jewish Talmud and rabbinical laws, Shahakbrilliantly traces the long Jewish record of vicious hostility toward non-Jews,and particularly against Christianity. He reveals the destructive role Jewshave played throughout history on behalf of tyrannical rulers. Written by aPolish-born Jew and "Holocaust survivor" who spent his childhood inthe wartime Warsaw ghetto and the Belsen concentration camp. After moving toPalestine in 1945, he worked for years as a Professor of Organic Chemistry. MITprofessor Noam Chomsky calls Shahak "an outstanding scholar, withremarkable insight and depth of knowledge," and praises his work as"informed and penetrating, a contribution of great value." Deeplyprobing the roots of Jewish chauvinism and arrogant hostility toward non-Jews,Shahak shows how Jews are encouraged to regard non-Jews as spiritually andmorally unclean subhumans. As a result, warns Shahak, "Israel as a Jewishstate constitutes a danger not only to itself and its inhabitants, but allJews, and to all other peoples and states in the Middle East and beyond."
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