Dr. Carson, Rev. Wright, enough bizarro history!

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Bizarro Superman. Courtesy: www.dorkley.com

Bizarro Superman. Courtesy: www.dorkley.com

Bizarro Superman. Courtesy: www.dorkley.com

Bizarro Superman. Courtesy: www.dorkley.com

Remember Bizarro Superman?

Bizarro Superman was a distorted version of the famed superhero, who did everything opposite the way that Superman did it.

Welcome to Bizarro Jewish history — distorted images of who the Jews are, and who they have been.

First, presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson. His hypothesis:  if European Jews had been armed with guns, the Holocaust would not have happened, or at least would have been greatly diminished.

Carson’s statement immediately drew eloquent responses — most notably, from my RNS colleague, Cathy Lynn Grossman; Rabbi David Wolpe in Time; and Jay Michaelson in the Forward.

For those who are tempted to agree with Carson — read some history. It is cruel, seventy five years after the fact, to have expected a historically-powerless population to defend itself against the most brutal military onslaught of its time. Those who blame Germany’s gun control laws for the Holocaust have deliberately misread that history, only because they are against stronger regulation now.

Carson insults the memories of those Jews who did, in fact, resist — in Warsaw, and Vilna, at the Treblinka death camp, and in the forests, among other places. Whenever and wherever they could do so, Jews fought back.

That resistance was both heroic and, tragically, useless. Quentin Tarantino’s film Inglourious Basterds imagines tough Jews destroying the Nazis. But, that was a fantasy.

Never mind the criticism that Carson has gotten because of his tasteless and tendentious reading of modern Jewish history. He has defended his claims.

And even worse than that — Carson is rising in the polls.

Bizarro Jewish history, anyone?

Second: this past week, the New York Times published an article that gave subtle support to those who believe that the Jewish Temples did not exist — at least, not in the place where tradition has placed them. This, despite weighty archeological evidence, and the testimonies of Jewish, Christian, and, yes, Muslim writers over the last millennium.

The Times article was poorly written. It mentioned the controversy on the exact location of the temples on Jerusalem’s Temple mount. Fifty feet here, fifty feet there — what’s the big deal, really?

Liel Leibovitz, in Tablet, wrote about:

the Times’ potent blend of ignorance and malice. There’s reporter Rick Gladstone’s repulsive bad faith in continually moving back and forth in his text between the narrow question he seems to have asked: did the Temples stand precisely on the exact spot on the Temple Mount where Aksa was built, or might they have stood, say 50 feet over?

The Times, realizing that it had blown it, walked back the article.

Perhaps the Times knew what it was doing. It was giving free ink to Palestinian counter-historical claims that negate the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, Jerusalem, and the Temple mount.

Because if the Jews really weren’t there then, they shouldn’t be there now.

Bizarro Jewish history, again.

Third: At a rally commemorating the twentieth anniversary of Louis Farrakhan’s Million Man March, Reverend Jeremiah Wright declared that Jesus was a Palestinian, and that Israel is an apartheid state.

That Israel is an apartheid state — hardly original.

But Wright’s distortion of ancient Jewish history is a form of theological anti-Semitism. It identifies the Palestinians with Jesus.

It resurrects (sorry) the canard that “the Jews” were responsible for the killing of Jesus.

Here is the logic.

If Jesus was a Palestinian back then, then today’s Palestinians are (symbolically) Jesus.

And, if “the Jews” back then crucified Jesus, then today’s Jews are crucifying the Palestinians.

Jesus was a Jew. He wasn’t a Palestinian, even though he lived in the land of Israel, which the Romans would, a hundred years after his death, rename Syria Palestina.

Bizarro Jewish history, once again.

Over the last week, there have been hundreds of terrorist stabbings by Palestinians against Israelis (and, horrifically, vice versa as well). The reports come several times a day. As with the almost weekly reports of mass shootings in the United States, it is easy to become numb to the horror.

(Abbas complains bitterly that Israeli forces killed Palestinians who stabbed Israelis. Because, after all, why should Israel defend its citizens? Bizarro, to say the least).

Knives slash at Jewish bodies. Knives slash at Jewish history.

This is not new. Deborah Lipstadt wrote about it in Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory.

Those twin assaults have gotten worse. Intellectual relativism says that there is no truth. There is no history — only “my narrative” and “your narrative.”

The truth is what I think it is — or, what my psychological needs and/or political agenda demands.

There is no other people, and no other religion, that is as maligned and has its essential stories as gleefully distorted as the Jews. 

I am getting tired of the mendacious readings of Jewish history, distorted beyond recognition to prove political points.

But beyond that, what is happening to Jewish history is merely a symptom of the larger American malady.

It is anti-intellectualism. It is the willful ignorance of history. It is the refusal to think, and to engage in anything resembling nuance.

It is out of control.

It is becoming a political movement.

Who will criticize the dumbing down of our culture?

Religious leaders, that’s who.

It is what Amos and Isaiah would have done.

It is time. It is way past time.

  • Jason

    Pretty sure your image credit on Bizarro is incorrect. That’s an image from DC Comics, drawn by well-known comics artist Ed McGuinness. And the website listed is a parked site. Artists ought to be properly credited for their work.

  • Larry

    http://www.vox.com/2015/10/9/9486957/ben-carson-gun-control-hitler

    The article traces the history of the claim, so common on the right in this country, that Hitler instituted gun control. It just isn’t true, but it’s been repeated so often in the wingnut-o-sphere that it is now taken as gospel truth.

    aPierre’s book simultaneously made the shift from tendentious historical factoid (Germany had strict gun control laws) to completely bogus causal argument (Hitler was able to achieve the Holocaust because the population was disarmed) …

    The argument doesn’t pass cursory scrutiny — Hitler conquered Europe with sophisticated combined arms operations that were able to defeat large, properly trained and equipped armies, and a few more small arms in the hands of a few more Jewish civilians clearly wouldn’t have made a difference.

  • The Great God Pan

    “Who will criticize the dumbing down of our culture? Religious leaders, that’s who.”

    This piece was humming right along, and then…

  • Jack

    Comparing the Rev. Wright to Ben Carson in terms of harmful effects is like comparing Hurricane Sandy to an afternoon drizzle.

    Rabbi, you can do better than that. Ben Carson’s biggest sin is he’s a gaffe machine. Rev. Wright’s greatest sin is he’s a roaring, race-baiting, anti-Semitic demagogue who builds his career on whipping people up into foaming-at-the-mouth anger and murderous hatred toward others. He’s an African American version of a crazed medieval monk leading torch-wielding illiterate peasants to destroy Jews and other successful people.