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Friday, October 18, 2019

TGIF: Let's Make Sure the Nazis Killed in Vain


I don’t know how many times I've heard that if we don’t stand by Israel, the victims of the Nazi Judeocide will have died in vain. I knew something was wrong with that claim, but for the longest time I couldn’t put my finger on it. Now I think I can.

The claim is peculiar right off the bat. How would backing an Israeli regime that systematically and indiscriminately oppresses an entire non-European population in the 21st century possibly honor the victims of the Nazis, who were in power in Germany from 1933 to 1945? It makes no sense.

But that’s not all. To die in vain means that to die in the futile pursuit of a cause that remains unfulfilled even posthumously. This can include suicide as well as death at the hands of murderers. But someone who is killed while simply living dies neither in vain nor (perhaps eventually) triumphantly. A “passive” murder victim just dies, no matter what the killer intended. (No disrespect whatever is intended by the word passive here. I mean the death was not in a cause pursued by the victim.) It's a tragedy, but nothing more -- as though that were not enough.
The victims of the Holocaust did not see themselves as dying for a cause and were not expecting their deaths to accomplish anything on their part. They certainly did not think of themselves as dying for the future establishment of a chauvinist Jewish state in Palestine, although a small number might have been Zionists.

They died merely because their Nazi killers viewed them in a particular way. Indeed, most German Jews were surprised at being regarded as Jews rather than as Germans. In Nazi Germany one did not have to be a believing and practicing Jew to be targeted because the anti-Semites subscribed to the once-a-Jew-forever-a-Jew philosophy; having a Jewish mother was enough. (The philosopher Spinoza, who was excommunicated by the Jewish community of Amsterdam in 1656, would have been branded a Jew, although he rejected religion and changed his first name from the Hebrew Baruch to the Latin Benedictus.)

I note that today’s Jewish nationalists, that is, Zionists, take the same essentialist position. In their eyes (and unfortunately in the eyes of many non-Jews), one can never stop being a Jew. For them, Judaism is not a matter of religion but of blood. (They too regard Spinoza as a Jew.)
This is utter rubbish: there is no Jewish gene, despite the shameful Israeli search. Moreover, Jews do not constitute a single distinct ethnic group: Jews are found among many ethnic, racial, and national groups. There is no universal Jewish language, food, theater, music, etc. -- that is, no worldwide secular Jewish culture. The dominant culture in Israel is not Jewish; it's Israeli. Judaism represents a worldwide religious community with common beliefs and rites. Why isn't that enough? (See Shlomo Sand’s How I Stopped Being a Jew, which eloquently defends a position I wish to associate myself with.)

So here we are: no matter what I and others do, the victims of the Holocaust cannot have died in vain or not died in vain. People who talk in such terms commit a category mistake.
I could leave the matter there, but I can take this a step further. While nothing we can do will determine whether the Jewish victims of the Nazis died or did not die in vain, all of us -- Jew and non-Jew -- can work to guarantee that the Nazis killed in vain. That's what we should want for any homicidal and tyrannical regime. The best thing to be said about a despot is that he lived in vain.
Now the question is: how can we best guarantee that the Nazis killed in vain? Jewish nationalists (including the ill-defined secularists among them) would give the same answer to other Jews as before: embrace Jewish identify, with Israel, the self-described "nation-state of the Jewish People [everywhere]," at the center of that identity.

I say that’s not a good answer. For one thing, as Shlomo Sand writes, to the extent that Jews and non-Jews embrace an ethnic/racial/genetic notion of “the Jewish People,” the Nazis are awarded a major ideological goal -- and that would mean their killing was not entirely in vain. I want no part of it.

For another, a Jewish national identity necessarily comes at the expense of millions of Palestinian Arab Muslims, Christians, and secularists, who are thrown a few crumbs but have no real rights in Israel itself and have even less than that in the apartheid occupied West Bank and the concentration camp -- some Israelis use that term -- known as the Gaza Strip.

A far more promising way to make sure the Nazis killed in vain is to work overtime for individual freedom and toleration in all spheres, which means minimal -- zero would be better -- political power. That is: embrace radical liberalism, otherwise known as the libertarian philosophy, to combat oppression and bigotry. How many Jews could Hitler have killed had he remained a failed artist and paperhanger in Austria because no state was available? None, I’d guess: the creep probably would have had the crap kicked out of him on his first try. Power is poison, and we must work to eliminate it -- and the myth-based nationalism that it fuels -- in favor of voluntary peaceful social cooperation.

Once we see things that way, we will be equally appalled by all genocides and lesser forms of oppression. (One, of course, is especially horrified by the sheer scale and methodical nature of the Nazi killing machine, but that should be true no matter the victimized group.) No special consideration can be accorded to Jewish tragedies -- no "hierarchies of suffering," to use Haaretz writer Amira Hess's phrase, can be accepted -- without preventing the Nazis from having killed in vain.

With all its splendid ethnic, cultural, and individual variations, the human race is one people with one proper code of justice for all. Invidious divisions undermine justice, liberty, peace, and cooperation by fragmenting and weakening the oppressed before their oppressors.

TGIF -- The Goal Is Freedom -- appears occasionally on Fridays. Also posted at The Libertarian Instiute.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Palestinians' Living Standard? Don't Change the Subject!

Opposing Palestinian self-determination because West Bank Arabs have a higher living standard than other Arabs is like opposing the abolition of slavery because, unlike white factory workers, slaves have job security.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Thought for the Day

What Israel badly needs is for-Prophet Judaism.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Take That, Sartre


When someone solves an algebra problem for you and you understand why x=2, your believing that x=2 requires no extra step. That is, to understand is to believe. Once you understand, you are not free to believe otherwise. To modify Martin Luther: Here I understand. I can do no other, so help me Nature.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Another Interview

Scott Horton and I did another -- shorter (half-hour) -- interview about my new book, Coming to Palestine. Listen here.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

What Is Judaism?

From Rabbi Elmer Berger's A Partisan History of Judaism: The Jewish Case against Zionism (1951):
Judaism evolved from a primitive tribalism to as noble a spiritual and universal vision as man has ever attained. This fact attests, even without detailed proof, to the truth that "unity" and segregation may have had their partisans but that there must also have been undiscourageable partisans of another kind through the long history of Jews and Judaism.
For change and evolution rarely, if ever, are born from uniformity. Uniformity is imposed, as our modern world knows, in order to suffocate rather than encourage growth. That the history of Judaism reveals such growth is proof of disunity, of individualism, of liberalism, and of respect for these things in whatever degree necessary; to have accepted their achievements and grafted them into the organism of Judaism itself.
Both traditions and both viewpoints existed side by side. There has been a constant strugge between them. Sometimes the viewpoint of universalism and assimilation of all but religious identity prevailed. Sometimes the segregaton was initiated by separtist Jews. Sometimes it was enforced by segregation-minded people who were not Jews. Sometimes both groups or a combintion of circumstances created by segregationalists of both kinds established the pattern.
But the important fact remains that always, among both Jews and those of other faiths, there were those who respected the individual integrity of people of Jewish faith and the transcending, universal values of Judaism....
For people other than Jews to resist the apparent prevalence of "Jewish" nationalism and affirm that Judaism is a highly personalized conviction about God, the universe, and mankind is not, therefore, to violate either the feelings of Jews or the traditions of Judaism....
In plain English, to oppose Jewish separatism and segregation in our national life, except in the field of religion, is not the equivalent of anti-Semitism. 

Is the Bible a Title Deed?

I was asked on Facebook, "What is your response to many Jews and Christians who believe the Bible makes it clear that the land belongs to the Jews?" Here's is my (slightly edited) response:
  1. The Bible isn't a history book, and archaeology has not been kind to it. See Spinoza's and Paine's critiques, and more recent work by Rabbi Elmer Berger and Shlomo Sand.
  2. If it is, Joshua committed genocide, which can't be grounds for legitimate title.
  3. If it is, God threw the Jews out. Where's the Messiah?
  4. Most Jews are the descendants of converts who never set foot there. Judaism, which proselytized widely for nearly a thousand years, from the later centuries BCE to well into the Common Era, is a religious community and does not represent one people in a genetic sense. Jews have many ethnicities, races, cultures, nationalities, languages, foods, etc.
  5. The Palestinians, as Ben-Gurion and others argued at one time, are the descendants of people who have lived in Palestine continuously from time immemorial. These Palestinians have included Muslims, Christians, and Jews.
None of these points are original with me (they are well-documented most recently by Shlomo Sand), and all this is discussed in my forthcoming book, Coming to Palestine.

New Interview: Spinoza, the Constitution, and Palestine

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Friday, September 13, 2019

Interview on Forthcoming Book


I was interviewed about my forthcoming book, Coming to Palestine (Libertarian Institute). Listen here and watch for news of the book's release.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Judaism, Zionism, and the Dual-Loyalty Charge

Zionists, that is, Jewish nationalists, who hold that Jews qua Jews constitute something more than a religious community, open themselves up to the dual-loyalty charge. And that is exactly what the majority non-Zionist Jews warned against from the start.

As Joseph Levine writes:
It’s particularly ironic that Zionists should be making this charge [that dual loyalty is an anti-Semitic trope]. When [Howard] Lovy (along with many others...) refers to the “ancient specter of Jewish disloyalty”, I take it he means in particular the standard anti-Semitic charge during the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe over the Emancipation of Jews from the ghettoes and their integration into civil European society as full citizens with full rights. Anti-Semites considered Jews a nationality, a people, a race, and as such they could never be truly assimilated into European society. The liberal democratic argument in response was to say that Jews can just as much be English, French, German, etc. as members of any other religious community. French Jews, on this view, are as legitimately considered full French citizens as French Catholics and Protestants. Judaism is a religion, not a nationality. 
But of course Zionism was founded on the Romantic nationalist idea that Jews really are a people apart from other peoples, and so historically shared a general outlook on the question of the relations between collectives and individuals with the right-wing and anti-Semitic camps. Yes, we are a people apart, argued the Zionists, and that’s why we deserve to have a homeland and state of our own. That this position leads inexorably to worries about “dual loyalty” is evident from the response to Zionism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries from leaders of the Jewish community throughout Europe and the US that the doctrine of Jewish nationhood is extremely dangerous for the position of Jews in these countries. They flat out rejected the Zionist-nationalist framework largely because it did rationalize the charge of dual loyalty. So, for Zionists and their supporters to now trot out this charge of anti-Semitism in the guise of “dual loyalty” is hypocritical and cynical.
So let's have no more of this hypocrisy, okay?

NOTICE: Watch for my new book, Why Palestine Matters, from The Libertarian Institute.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The FDA's Continuing Assault on the Principles of Justice

Eddie Gray, the owner of the online pipe-smokers' boutique The Pipe Nook, reports in his latest YouTube video that the FDA has accused him of selling to a minor but refuses to provide the evidence. This is nothing less than a direct assault on a basic principle of Anglo-American justice: innocence until guilt is proved, which means that the government -- exclusively -- has the burden of proof and the accused has no burden whatever to provide evidence of his innocence. One obvious aspect of this principle is that the state has an obligation to present the evidence to the accused, who may then rebut it. This is how things should work because one cannot prove a negative, namely, that one is not guilty, especially when one is given no details about the alleged offense.

When will those in Washington who love to rail against regulation finally pull the plug on the FDA, which tramples individual rights wherever it treads?

See my other FDA posts here, herehere, and here.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

What Is Fascism? What Is State Socialism

I was interviewed recently on how fascism differs from state socialism. The interview is based on my article, "Fascism," in The Concise Encylopedia of Economics. Listen here.

Friday, February 15, 2019

TGIF: Who Owns You?

Thomas Szasz (1920-2012)

Many people have legitimate complaints against the Food and Drug Administration. For example, during its long history, the FDA has delayed the marketing of badly needed drugs and medical devices, leading to unnecessary pain and death. Excessive bureaucratic requirements for testing have made drugs more expensive than they would have been otherwise. And, as I’ve detailed elsewhere, its regulation of tobacco and nicotine interferes with people’s enjoyment of those products. 
I want to suggest, however, such isolated complaints fail to go to the heart of the matter.

TGIF -- The Goal Is Freedom -- appears Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Become a Free Association patron today!

Friday, February 08, 2019

TGIF: The FDA's Assault on Tobacco Consumers, Part 3

Early one morning last December, Jeff Gracik was heading to his southern California home garage-workshop where he makes his living when he heard a loud, hurried knock on his front door. Thinking it might be a rushed UPS driver, he quickly opened the door. But it wasn’t UPS. Standing on his doorstep were three badge-flashing inspectors from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They had come to inspect Jeff’s business.

TGIF -- The Goal Is Freedom -- appears Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Become a Free Association patron today!

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Interview: The FDA versus Smokers, Vapers, Dippers

I talked to Scott Horton about the FDA's oppression of tobacco and nicotine users. Listen here.

Friday, February 01, 2019

TGIF: The FDA's Assault on Tobacco Consumers, Part 2

A bill introduced in the U.S. House last month would ban the flavoring of any “tobacco product.” The targets are vaping devices (vapes, e-cigarettes), but also cigars and pipe tobacco. (Flavored conventional cigarettes other than menthol have already been banned.) The Food and Drug Administration deems vaping devices “tobacco products” even though they contain no tobacco. Introduced without sponsors by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the bill would allow an exception for some vaping products, but it is one that would be all but impossible to qualify for.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Become a Free Association patron today!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Interview: America's Bipartisan War Culture

I recently talked to Scott Horton about America's war culture. Listen here.

TGIF: The FDA's Assault on Tobacco Consumers

We’ve all heard horror stories about the run-amok regulatory state. Enabled by open-ended statutes passed by Congress and signed by presidents, regulatory agencies have acquired virtual carte blanche to write rules governing peaceful behavior. Even when a seemingly narrow purpose has been set out, regulatory rule-making has engaged in mission-creep with alarming regularity. 
Here’s an example that gets little attention because it directly impinges on the freedom of only a small number of Americans.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Become a Free Association patron today!

Friday, January 18, 2019

TGIF: America's War Culture

For most of the opinion-making class in America today, war is the default position. Representatives of establishment newspapers and TV news operations are not likely to grill someone who favors U.S. military intervention somewhere -- anywhere. He or she will have no burden of proof to sustain. But persons who oppose a new war or call for an end to an existing one are sure to be treated like oddballs if not traitors. They’d better have an extraordinarily strong defense of their position because the burden of proof will be squarely on them, but even a strong defense won’t get the heat turned down.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Become a Free Association patron today!

Friday, January 11, 2019

TGIF: Tucker Carlson Needs Love from His Leaders

Fox News host and Trump cheerleader Tucker Carlson is a culturally conservative, big-government, nationalist populist. As such, he’s upset that establishment politicians and their sponsoring elite don’t care enough to promote his and his fellow Americans’ happiness. 
That’s weird. Why would he want them to?

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.

Become a Free Association patron today!