Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hitch's Poison Pen

Christopher Hitchens has never been a fan of Israel, but lately his animus has taken an uglier turn--verging on classic Judenhass, even. Benjamin Kerstein writes about a toxic little Hitch bitch--"enchantingly titled 'Israel's Shabbos Goy'"--that appeared last month in Slate:
In this article, Hitchens's trademark indignation was aroused by the Obama administration's offer to Israel of various benefits in exchange for a moratorium on settlement building. Any such deal would have had to be approved by Israel's coalition government, one of whose members is Shas, a Sephardi religious party whose founder and spiritual leader is Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The once-formidable scholar, referred to by Hitchens with typical subtlety as "this elderly Sephardic ayatollah" and a "scrofulous medieval figure," is now in his nineties and, as evidenced by some recent nasty remarks about non-Jews, much in need of retirement. For Hitchens, however, Ovadia Yosef and his attitude toward Gentiles are not the real problem. The real problem is Judaism itself:
The only mystery is this: why does the United States acquiesce so wretchedly in its own disgrace at the hands of a virtual client state? A soft version of Rabbi Yosef's contemptuous view of the Gentiles is the old concept of the shabbos goy—the non-Jew who is paid a trifling fee to turn out the lights or turn on the stove, or whatever else is needful to get around the more annoying regulations of the Sabbath. How the old buzzard must cackle when he sees the Gentiles [i.e., America] actually volunteering a bribe to do the lowly work!
 The tone of unrestrained invective in these passages is part of Hitchens's cachet as a writer. The substance, however, is very ugly stuff indeed, composed out of some of the most barbarous and reactionary stereotypes of the Jewish people. In one paragraph alone, Hitchens evokes an image of the Jews as preternaturally crafty, hypocritical, manipulative, supremacist, animalistic, and morally diseased creatures who, with the help of their corrupt talents, set themselves to exploiting Gentiles for financial gain and "cackle" with glee at the resultant spectacle. Nor is this sort of defamation particularly unusual for Hitchens, who has been writing similar things for years and, for the most part, getting away with it.
Were I of a Freudian bent, I might venture that Hitch, who based his entire writing career--his entire identity--on being atheist, but who learned somewhat late in life that he was born to a Jewish mother (and is therefore officially Jewish himself), is doing his utmost to distance himself from what he views as an immensely distressing provenance.

Or maybe some of the cancer cells have travelled to his head and compromised his ability to think (pathological Judenhass, as we know, being a type of brain impairment).


Paul said...

Hitchens may be a lot of things but he's not wrong about Yosef.

Yosef being just the crazy flip side of those Penguins we keep seeing at anti-Israel protests.

He and his adherents are a nasty piece of work, indeed, and counter to any normal person's notion of modern day Judaism.

scaramouche said...

It's not what he said it's the way he said it.

Paul said...

I'm not sure what you mean by "the way he said it." Here's the quote from NP.

and the religiously orthodox Shas Party, under the spiritual leadership of deranged Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. “Fringe” though they might be, members of such groups hold key ministries, including the ones that dominate the “settlement” process. Since I last wrote about him, Rabbi Yosef has again been to the fore, blaming the calamitous forest fires in northern Israel on the failure of Jews to observe the Sabbath in the proper way. And the country’s interior minister, a Shas member named Eli Yishai, has rejected offers of fire-fighting equipment from Christian organizations, lest they use the opportunity to seduce Jews away to the worship of the Nazarene."