Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Hannah Arendt, Israel's Elites and the Non-Banality of Snobbery

When I was in the midst of my Hannah Arendt obsession, one of the things that most irked me about her was her elitist snobbery; how, in her book on the Eichmann trial, she reviled Israel's then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and his Zionist ilk because they were "Ostjuden"--Jews with an Eastern European provenance--and she, of course, was German and a beneficiary of Germany's superior kultur.

Arendt never fully came to terms with what Germany had become under the Nazis. And, as a secular and deeply conflicted Jew, she couldn't help but inculcate some of the German loathing for Jewry, going so far as to blame the Jews, at least in part, for what the Nazis did to them, and helping rehabilitate the reputation of Martin Heidegger, her former professor and lover--and, oh yeah, a card-carrying, sieg-heiling member of the Nazi party--after the war.

Arendt brought along all this baggage to the Eichmann trial, even though no one could really see it at the time. Hence, her outrageous assertions of Jewish complicity. Hence, her crafting "the banality of evil" theory, one of the most compelling ideas to come out of the Holocaust, and one that, in disguising Arendt's desire to somehow let Germany off the hook, has done incalculable harm to the truth--and to Israel.

The reason I mention all that is because when I read Daniel Greenfield's piece about Israel's leftist elites, I was immediately reminded of Arendt. Like her, the elites are snobs of the first order, convinced that they are superior in every way to the hoi polloi. Ironically, though, the elitists are the descendants of the same Ostjuden whom Arendt could not abide. And, in manifesting the same sort of loathing for the "new" Ostjuden--Jews who hail from Muslim lands--they, in turn, have become the "new" Arendts.

Here's Greenfield doing a righteous take-down of the snobs:
Israel’s two populations exist in two different worlds. Its leaders want to be Europe while its people just want to be Israel. The former exist in a textbook in which Islamic terrorism is a moral and a philosophical problem. The latter live in a reality in which having a knife stuck in your back is a daily threat. 
The elites think of the ordinary Israelis who just want to live in their own country without being shot, stabbed, bombed, barraged with rocks or forced to run to bomb shelters as Nazis. Meanwhile ordinary Israelis view the entitled elites who lecture them from presidential forums and prestigious columns as an undemocratic cartel abusing the privileges that they earned with their last names. 
Israel isn’t sick. But its elites are. Israel isn’t turning undemocratic or fascist. But its elites are undemocratic and totalitarian. Their accusations of fascism mask their casual willingness to censor, suppress and silence dissenting views. Like all oppressive systems at odds with the people they rule over, they are playing a totalitarian game that they are bound to lose. And they know it. 
I'm not sure if they know it. I think that they think that since they are obviously smarter and more virtuous than ordinary Israelis, and since most of the world sides with the elites, eventually, they will prevail.

Isn't that what most people on the left believe?

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