Sunday, June 6, 2010

Smart Jews, Stupid Jews

Rising young(ish) novelist Michael Chabon weighs in on last week's debacle and its long-term significance. He starts with a comment from Jeffrey Goldberg, about how Jews are supposed to have seichel, a sort of superior Yiddish ingenuity which was sorely lacking last week and has actually been lacking for a while in the way Israel goes about its international business. Chabon agrees with Goldberg that indeed Jews think that seichel in particular and high intelligence in general are what have been keeping us afloat these past few thousand years. However, he claims in his op-ed, it ain't necessarily so: there are stupid Jews too, and we'd do ourselves a service if we recognized that we're as prone to stupidities as everyone else.

As the mythical rabbi said, Jeffrey's right, Michael's also right, and the observer commenting on the contradiction is also right.

Allow me, however, to speculate that this is yet another of those cases where Israeli Jews have a different narrative than their American cousins, for the simple reason that you can't live in a country full of Jews and still think they're all smart, or even most of them.

You know how many Jewish idiots there are around here? First, our governments: ever since the mid 1970s we've consistently voted every government out that dared present itself to elections, with maybe two exceptions in 35 years. Obviously, we don't think our leaders are very intelligent. Second, our national pastime of kvetching is predicated on everything being all wrong. You can't kvetch about smart people doing things right all the time. We kvetch about our school system (stupid bureaucrats, stupid teachers and the resulting stupid school kids). We kvetch about the economy (other stupid bureaucrats, stupid business people, stupid customers). We kvetch about our military (stupid generals, stupid lieutenants, stupid suckers who do reserve duty). We kvetch about our airlines, the operators of the airport, the folks who take vacations in Turkey, the folks who don't take vacations in Turkey, the mayor, the plumber, the electric company, the Lefties, the settlers, the road planners, the doctors, the patients... you name them, we'll tell you why they're awful at whatever they do and ought to be replaced by someone more intelligent.

My point being that if you're a Jewish member of a small minority group, some of whom are outlandishly intelligent and others mostly intelligent, it's possible to pretend that's what Jews are and - as Chabon describes - overlook the intelligence-challenged cohort. If you live in a place where 80% of everybody is Jewish, it's sort of hard to pretend there's something inherently intelligent in being Jewish.

There is however another possibility, and that's the possibility that Jews almost always manage to produce enough intelligent folks, some of them extremely so, to deal with whatever threat needs to be headed off at any given moment, or to recuperate successfully if it couldn't have been headed off. In that department I think Jews as a group have mostly been pretty good.


Anonymous said...

amazing how obvious it becomes that this smart kid's knowledge of military operations is close to null.

It took me years of listening to Pritzker Military Library offerings, a book on Falluja and any piece of true journalism I could get hold of to get even a vague inkling of how being in an exchange might actually be like.

Especially the talks with the Medal of Honour recipients at Pritzker are very instructive on how unavoidably normal it is that one has no idea of the broader picture and how one's own experience/memory even after the thorough investigation accompanying the medal of honour doesn't always synch with those findings.

- but Mr. Chabon from afar, wannabe brillant novelist who once fantasized about what would have happened had Jews opted for Alaska, has already figured out all of it, i.e. the Israelis were stupid

- I wonder how that makes the families of the wounded soldiers feel, whom just by chance, n'est-ce pas?, he forgot conveniently to mention while not forgetting the dead wannabe jihadists.

also amazing that he didn't give the NATO-member STATE Turkey any credit for maybe having come up with an unexpectable Blitz-style surprise but rather opts for Israel's stupidity. Even his last paragraph whose opening sentence I like needs this "oh I don't want to commit myself" finger wagging at Israel.

Disney-fied Israel is what they want and I can understand that very well - why shouldn't they be scared of the old monster's revival even in the US? I only doubt very very much that Israel relativism no matter how elegantly worded will provide any protection.


PS: I watched Jon Stewart on the subject, shallow, callous, unsubstantial
it is really tough for me to admit it but Glenn Beck (5 installments available at YouTube) did with hard to tolerate glitches a reasonably good job at educating us "little" ones on the justness of Israel's behaviour without at any point passing judgment on botched or not botched i.e. as far as that went he propagandized but stuck to the known facts while Jon Stewart had it all figured out presumably all by himself.

Barry Meislin said...

OK. Now, Israelis are stupid, too.

Finally, a decent reason to exerminate the Jewish State.

Anonymous said...

remember "Watership Down" (the book) any of you? (I read it as a rewrite of the journey from Egypt to Jerusalem)
in that tale it is the dumb guy incapacitated by seizures on top of it who saves them from disaster again and again. He is needed just as much as his big muscle packed smart brother is.


Anonymous said...

Yes, it is shocking and disappointing to meet stupid Jews. They exist both in Israel and in the Diaspora (I live in the latter and have recently visited the former). However, isn't the real issue that Israel as a small country with huge security issues demands a leadership that has to get it right all the time. This requires creativity and intelligence. It also requires Israel's enemies to be blockheads most of the time. Neither of these are realisitic propositions. However, I think to characterise the flotilla incident as blockheaded is a little harsh, There is an element of damned if you do/damned if you don't about this whole episode.

Lee Ratner said...

The main problem with how the Gaza flotilla was handled seemed to be that the IDF attempted to be as flashy as possible while at the same time tried to minimize damages. I'm not a military expert by a long shot but this does not seem to be a good idea because when you try to be flashy things tend to get out of hand.

Lee Ratner said...

I should also be pointing out that most of the reaction to the Gaza flotilla has been pretty stupid to, from both sides. The anti-Israel side has consisted of the usual anti-Zionist insubstantial gloating and a lot of people using big, complicated words that they don't understand like tribalism. The Israel side can't generally admit that this was not an optimal way to handle the Flotilla.

Anonymous said...

just for the files - here is an excerpt from Peter Beinart's book - you remember the great writer of the worth to be discussed at length everywhere NYBooks essay

I've had a look at the first sentence - my former neighbours in the village pub were more original thinkers than that guy

Anonymous said...

here is one for you from our "mistreated" Turkish minority - there are 9 of them alltogether this is the first - the media describe the demo as noisy but without major incident. At 2:50 they are yelling Allahu Akbar - very respectful to us infidels, don't you think so? or are infidels not deserving of respect?
(respect is what their screaming wannabe representatives always claim that it is denied them, so the word by now has become a strange extra meaning in German)

In the German part of the speech (2nd half) they make a claim that Gazans are forbidden by Israelis to work 70 % of their arable land. In this sea of absurdities that was a new one for me.

Duisburg is the city where the Religious STATE Authority of Turkey has a mosque with community center - so it may be quite safe to presume that directives for how to demonstrate were given Friday evening at prayers and that those directives were in accordance with Erdogan's wishes i.e. one face for us Germans, Allahu Akbar notwithstanding, another one ... well business as usual - the second link gives you an idea of the "shabbyness" of the mosque - as to finances - Ditib claims that the money comes from donations from members if that is so 8which nobody believes) then they are probably tax deductible which means that there is a German state contribution - still no reason to not yell Allahu Akbar of course.


Anonymous said...

neither smart nor stupid but admirable Israelis ...

Fortunately the Brits still seem unable to resist admiring daring soldiers. If you are in need of an uplift start reading at Flotilla 13 in the text and leave out the end where they pay lipservice to PC.
If you are female don't miss Henning Mankell on female soldiers -

also don't miss the way "young Turks" crop up in the text and how they call it a plausible narrative emerging - none of the "we know it all" attitude of the wannabe supersmart others.


ShrinkWrapped said...

Jews, and many others in the elite, often make the mistake of believing that intelligence is synonymous with judgment. Having superior intelligence does not automatically equate to superior judgment, although the two may be covariant. William F Buckley's comment, that he would rather be ruled by the first 500 names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard, seems to me to have great merit. The Jews (American and Israeli alike) have smarts in abundance; they don't always have good judgment.
All of which is somewhat irrelevant, because it is clear that in the recent disaster, the Israelis did not have good intel.

Anonymous said...

YOu should see and hear the Jewish idiots we have running around here.

Anonymous said...

where? I just watched a German one who is a doctor also, hopefully they don't let him near patients.

according to the London Times, linked to above, it seems the Israelis had good intel but still underestimated the determinaton of the opponent to be deadly - and as I keep repeating before Monday nobody would have imagined that the Turkish STATE would export Jihad and be proud of it.

Reading your opponent wrong has happened to commanders and soldiers again and again all over the world at all times (it probably is more common than good readings).

The best thing one can do in a case like that is stand up for them and let them sort it out themselves. Also notice how the article emphasizes that Netanjahu and Barak are one in this and in government in general.


Anonymous said...

the IDF has found an Al Qaida connection (are they getting bored by the Americans?)

"in smuggling Al-Qaeda operatives via Turkey into the Strip."

will that help to convince the Europeans that Israel is right? or will they go on believing Gaza and Berlin are worlds apart

Gavin said...

I think everyone needs to stop second guessing. My reading of this is that the Israeli Government just did not want to believe that Turkey is lost. On that basis they treated it as a 'peaceful' protest flotilla rather than accept what was probably pretty obvious. 700 people, many from islamist Turkey? Hindsight is a wonderful thing isn't it.

Israel's PR on this has been a bit poor, printing the interview with the soldier who shot six of them isn't the smartest move. There's too much emphasis on minor stuff like the 'Auschwitz' & '911' remarks, which while insulting is not very relevant in the whole scheme of things. (it doesn't contribute anything to the scene of events, should be local consumption only) Having said that it doesn't matter what Israel says, the enemy will refuse to believe it and make up their own fantasies. They're all busy trying to pick apart the official narrative, nothing will convince them of the truth.

The real issue here IMO is Turkey. That was an act of war disguised enough for both Israel and Turkey to pretend that it wasn't, but both governments know it for what it was. Israel clearly doesn't want to fight Turkey, and they're bending over backwards to avoid any confrontation, but unfortunately that approach looks to me like it's just encouraging the Erdogan government. Turkey should be of concern to everyone, the US must be worried about their descent into radicalism.


Anonymous said...

German morning news had it that the next flotilla will come from Iran
- it didn't say which harbour the Iranians would be allowed to use
but if it is Turkey then the NATO member which denied US airforce flying rights for the Iraq war is granting use of a port to the Iranians - that's mind boggling

I think NATO is having a huge problem there, giving up Turkey means giving up the Dardanelles, giving up the Dardanelles may mean the Russians could grab the entrance to the Mediterranean/ the exit from the Black Sea. Care to imagine Russian subs finally out there? so it is Scylla and Charydis, neither scenario "appealing"

It is becoming all way too "interesting" and the commentariat keeps moaning about Israel, as if it weren't becoming more and more clear that standing unequivocally on Israel's side is the only chance for the "west" of keeping its access to the mediterranean unhindered.


Nimrod Tal said...

It is time to promote the Kurds as a strategic alternative to the Turks. Turkey has been long lost to radical Islam. It is the next Pakistan

zionist juice said...

i think it is incredibly stupid not to release videos -which supposedly exist- showing the beating of 3 soldiers under deck and their subsequent extraction.

Anonymous said...

as to videos my source is the IDF and still Elder of Ziyon for stuff that comes from elsewhere.

As to videos showing soldiers stripped and begging for their life, I for one don't want to see them.

First time around Elder hat the photo of the soldier Reuters tinkered with with a blurred face, then they (he and Suzanne) decided to leave the face unblurred because nuts are saying that's already censorship and the foto is already out there somewhere. The difference to my gut is palpable. So I've pleaded for leaving the face blurred and linking to a site which has it unblurred at the same time.
Seeing the poor guy's face makes me hurt more from compassion but it will make the others salivate more, so the effect evens out.

But on another basis I strongly vote for sticking with one's own rules for decency independent of the demands of Zeitgeist/fashion.

Also there seems to be a fight going on between reporters and the IDF, the reporters demanding their "confiscated" stuff is returned to them untouched and uncopied - maybe they'll demand to be paid ;-((( if the IDF publishes it.

But the chattering classes of course know better as always, I am only surprised to find Sahm amongst them.

and yes I think the IDF is right in not publishing them. I've read the rumors, one of the soldiers is said to have wet himself, you really want to watch that? There is a difference between knowing and feeling compassion and him knowing that it is out there for the world to see (not that I would look at him and possibly not even at the perpetrators just as I wouldn't look at somebody in real life who would for whatever reason wet him/herself)

Also the military has always been wise in guarding its claim to invulnerability. I hope they keep the videos off YouTube.

Once they are out there the whole leering salivating crowd will jerk off to them. Believe me, I know the guys, it is now weeks if not months that I deal with them at Ibrahim's they are sick in more than one respect. For example they seem to heat up when I call myself a vicious Teutonic woman and you want to give fodder to perverts like that? (to be honest maybe they heat up to vicious but I strongly suspect it is Teutonic)


zionist juice said...

silke, there must be a misunderstanding here:
according to the article i cite there exists videos out there which shows that 3 soldiers where dragged down stripped of there clothes and beaten up by a few with iron sticks. it also shows an arab woman trying to protect them and an arab man trying to stop the mob by beating them.
maybe there is also footage of the rescueing of the three by the other soldiers. according to the article 6 of the nine were killed at this point of the struggle.
maybe it is embarassing for the three to be seen worldwide but there is much more to lose than their feelings.

Anonymous said...

zionist juice

I trust the IDF's press office

- if they don't post the videos they will have good reasons for it

- I've been following them besides quite a number of blogs and I feel sure, that they know what they are doing much better than any journalist out there. So for me it is: I trust their lead. If they should screw up somewhere along the way so be it, journalists screw up all the time but I feel that risk is with them a lot smaller than with any other outlet.

If the videos are out there then Elder and Eldress of Ziyon will find them (they seem to find everything) and if they decide to post them I'll decide whether I object or not. They haven't said anything about the videos yet - so maybe they are on the confiscated cameras safe with the IDF and the idiots are only out there making noises to force the IDF's hand.

And again if one of the boys were my son or my brother or my lover or just my neighbour or my countrman, I would fight tooth and nail to spare him the indignation of being shown helpless and vulnerable and exposed like that. (also from all I know it is wise soldiering to avoid that)

You remember Ibrahim's sneer when Yaacov told us of his son's visit to one of his comrades in the hospital? There is no way I am willing to accept their rules unless they threaten me with a knife or so and in my book Israel's friends should stop clamouring and start trusting the IDF.