A Shande für de Goyim* — Ben Shapiro edition

DougJ has a stronger stomach than I do.  I won’t link to the offending column — go ahead through Balloon Juice if you want all the gory details.  But if you want to see epistemic closure in action, this could be a type specimen.

(As an aside, I must say I have had the good fortune to have avoided all knowledge of the young (very) Mr. Shapiro until clicking through that post.)

In his open letter to American Jews (why — he means me!) Shapiro commits many, many sins, in what he said and the way he said it too.**

On content, Mr. Shapiro, with the depth of geopolitical experience that a childhood in Burbank, adolescence in Westwood, and premature old-age in Cambridge can give you, asks us to join him in  a murder-suicide vision of Israel’s future.  He comes from that school of American Jewish folly that equates support for Israel with unquestioned allegiance the policies of particular Israeli governments.

Ah well. Those who from the safety of schoolrooms thousands of miles away from the center of conflict are happy to encourage others to fight fiercely will always be with us.

And I’m not really upset with Shapiro for his schoolboy patter of insult to those whose views he finds distressinl  He has all the idiocy that comes from cleverness fed a diet of highly selected books; he has no argument; and so, in the manner of people in such a predicament he sputters out words like “reprehensible” or, more grandly, condemnation of folks who are “committed to chimerical morality that values libertinism over liberty.” (Why, I think he means me again!  News to my wife, who might treasure a bit of libertinism now and then.)

This is the kind of diction bad writers use when they want to impress you with how many words they know.  I get it.

In any event, I can take it.  I can take being told I’m not Jewish, really, or not Jewish enough, or that I seek the destruction of a country to whose founding my family has ties that precedes its existence by more than a century.  If such high dudgeon helps him sleep at night, whatever.

But what makes Shapiro’s letter shameful, and a disgrace before the community of Jews in America in particular and Americans in general is a craziness that amounts, in the end, to a kind of Holocaust denialism.

That is:  Shapiro writes that far from being evidence that President Obama actually trusts and supports Jews at the very highest levels of American power, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is in fact something else altogether.  Really, Shapiro thunders, Israeli army veteran Emanuel, “is a kapo.”

This is, to put it as simply as possible, as dumb as it gets, and evil too, the product of a depraved indifference to the reality of Jewish history.

As DougJ points out, kapos were concentration camp inmates selected by the SS to run work gangs of other inmates up to the point where they, along with their charges, were murdered.

It does real damage to dilute the meaning of words that describe particular horrors.  It may feel good to tar your imagined enemies with the worst epithet you can think of — but when you do so, the actual events, the real history, the suffering and murder and all that was lost in the Holocaust slip a further out of memory, to be transformed into empty cliche.

When other folks, when non-Jews, do this, when they appropriate the language of the Holocaust to describe trivial or hallucinatory wrongs, we condemn them.  (See also Elie Wiesel’s quote at this page.)

And in fact,  I’ll bet that Ben Shapiro, in the dark of the night, actually does recognize some difference between a Nazi collaborator and Rahm Emanuel.  If so, that makes his sin here worse.  In any event, he’s either to ignorant of history and the fragility of language and memory, or he knows and doesn’t care, willing to diminish the real disaster of the Jews in the 20th century to advance a pitifully poorly argued bit of political ephemera.

Has he no shame?

No, he has not.


*”A shande für de goyimis the Yiddish phrase that can be loosely translating as dissolving oneself into a hideous supperating eruption of puss in front of all and sundry, especially non-Jews.

**I forgot, of course, that Shapiro himself assures us that he is both “a reasoned political thinker and a powerful writer.”*** I do, however, come from that old school in which it tends to be the case that those who say such things of themselves are less reliably in possession of such qualities than those of whom it is said by others.  But that’s just me.

***See, for an example of Shapiro’s euphonious ear for language and his mastery of that tricky concept, metaphor, this passage:

Even as you continue to buttress a president who seeks the destruction of your co-religionists, you demonstrate your myopia by rejecting the tea party movement and evangelical Christian Israel-supporters.

I hate my state as a shortsighted architectural member who rejects both movement and men/women.

Explore posts in the same categories: Republican knavery, Stupidity, Uncategorized, words mattter

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5 Comments on “A Shande für de Goyim* — Ben Shapiro edition”

  1. Jim Bales Says:

    Right on! But, as another state-hating shortsighted architectural member, let me note that the link under “more than a century” seems to be broken. My inquiring mind wants to know what those connections might be!


  2. Ted K Says:

    I like this post very much. I really like your writing Tom, very few I like on Political writing more than you, although you are probably even too liberal for me sometimes.

    I usually hesitate to “weigh in” on these things because I am a “goyim” and also for fear to show my own ignorance. And I know sometimes goyim is derogatory term among Jews, the same as “Laowai” is OFTEN (though not always) derogatory term in China, but they will always tell you it isn’t. But I can take that term because I see the humor in it, and can poke fun of myself with it I think.

    Although some things I don’t like about Rahm Emanuel ( i think he encourages the President to be too cautious on some issues, and on other things I think he shows a lack of morality, but what Rahm probably views in his mind as political pragmatism) I don’t think anyone can doubt the man is of extreme high intelligence and that in his heart of hearts he would do NOTHING which would hurt Israel as the rightful homeland of all Jews.

    I appreciate/respect the way you write very honestly your true feelings on this Tom, because I know it makes you a easy target (for other Jews), but it is your true feeling and you say it.

    I think many people mix up nationalism with pride in their ethnicity. Of course like most things Jewish this gets even more complicated, but I still believe they are separate issues. That is I mean to say there are at least 3 distinct issues that Jews and everybody gets mixed up: Ethnic identity/pride, Israel as the rightful homeland of Jews, and Israel government policy. I think they are all separate issues.

    And I think Jews (and others) often say that if you are not for one of the 3, then it means you are against the other 2, and I think it’s very wrong, and very unfair. I think it is very possible that you can be for any 1 of these 3, and against the other 2…or any number of permutations that you can come up with 3 items.

  3. Ted K Says:

    Hey Tom, next time you read Ben Shapiro, Megan McArdle, or David Brooks and it pisses you off, watch 2:33 to 4:30 of this. I don’t know, I always find it helpful to my mental health.

  4. Legalrealist Says:

    Oy. I’m assuming that Tom Levenson was joking about his definition of Shande fur de goyim. If he was serious, it was the worst definition of it I have ever heard. (And since most people don’t know what it means, the joke is lost.) It means, simply, something done by Jews that is embarrassing in front of the rest of the world–see, eg Bernie Madoff.

    Otherwise, I agree with the tenor of the criticism of Ben Shapiro, who appears over educated and under mature. Hopefully, he’ll appreciate the subleties of actual life a little more when he has to actually accomplish something.

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