Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ernest Sternberg: Purifying the World

Today has been an offline day for me. However, I did find time to have a peek at a link suggested by Y.Ben David, who mentioned an article by Ernest Sternberg titled "Purifying the World: What the New Radical Ideology Stands For". I haven't yet had time to read it carefully, but at first glance Sternberg may have succeeded in tying together the many disparate strands of general nastiness that emanate these days from various parts of what we rather incorrectly call the "far Left". Whether they're Left or not, what they've got in common is a yearning for a pure, post-history world. Predictably, the two main enemies are the United States and Israel (previously known as the Big Satan and the Little Satan, if you remember your Iranian mythology).

There's a short online Sternberg lecture on the topic here.

Interestingly, Sternberg is a professor of geography, or urban planning, or something like that. You may remember that I wrote about his German predecessors of a century ago, just a few days ago. Apparently, some academic disciplines eventually redeem themselves totally.


Silke said...

Judging from the Abstract it will be a delight to read the guy since he seems to write what I've been preaching for how long now?

thanks! I need something like that - I've just finished listening to Philip Weiss - what a malicious empty-headed one, in fairy tales he'd be the evil dwarf like Rumpelstilzchen maybe.

Sérgio said...

It´s an excellent article. A must.

Anonymous said...

Silke -

What a great description. You gave me such a big smile.

I printed the article last night to read over the weekend.


Barry Meislin said...

Hitler also wanted to purify the world.

He almost succeeded.

Some eager beavers want to take up where he left off.

X said...

Wow, that is one hell of an essay. A lucid and very complete account of what I've been increasingly turning against in recent years.

Much to my shame, just a few years ago, I bought in to much of the "purification" agenda, especially the anti-Americanism. I'm so glad I didn't succumb to it. I sometimes wonder whether it was just a lucky accident that I avoided that fate, or if it was certain to happen sooner or later.

the sad red earth said...

I discovered Sternberg's article just over a year ago. It is exceptional, and I, too, heartily recommend it. Ernest and I had an exchange, and he gave me permission to reproduce it at the sad red earth a much shorter article called "Zionism and Universal Justice," originally published in a New York State University at Buffalo student magazine. It is a powerful brief Affirmation of Zionism.

It's true that Sternberg's field is urban planning. He'd simply had enought, began to research and began to write. He has been a leader of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.

Anonymous said...

Shavua Tov -

Well, that was a really cheerful article - not. Now, I am very afraid.

Wow, Yaakov. The video link is to the entire Yale Anti-Semitism conference from 2009! How cool is that? Now I will get no work done at all!

I am still processing Sternberg, in the meantime I have a question. He writes on page 21 "... totalitarianism has depended on anti-Semitism.
Hannah Arendt pointed out that Stalin renewed the tradition after World War II
by inventing the concept of a Zionist world conspiracy."

Can someone point me to what this is referring, so I can a little historical background?


Silke said...

By now I'm only 6 pages into the essay but already think that Purificationism, no matter how apt, needs to be approved on, it isn't snappy enough. Here are my first tries:

Holy-ganism (derived from Hooliganism which since it is a soccer-phenomenon may be too alien for Americans)

Ass-a-Saint (as best I know Judaism doesn't do Saints, and sometimes I think "they" are as ignorant about "our" early learnings as "we" are about "theirs".

And since Wikileaks certainly belongs to the "movement" here are 2 philosophers musing about it.

Julian Assange and the rise of nerd supremacy

The Julian Assange Conspiracy - Networks, power and activism

The second one refers to an essay Assange wrote the meaning of parts of it even the philosopher doesn't understand (yet). I have to listen to it again because the whole concept - Assange's not the philosopher's - of being unwittingly a member of an (evil) conspiracy sounds very alluring to me ;-)

Anonymous said...


Why no mention of Netiva Ben-Yehuda's passing?

Anonymous said...

Although Sternberg presents the observation that the anti-Empire left has latched on to the anti-Zionist meme, and why they need to have a "public enemy #1," he doesn't really explain how it came to be adopted, other than the "enemy of my friend is my enemy."

This led me to thinking about what was the structure of government under the Ottoman's in pre-Mandate times, and how did that change under the British. Has anyone done a good treatment of this topic?

I know Jews were at least a plurality, if not a majority in Jerusalem, before WWI. Were they subject to special taxes because they were Jews? Were their political and economic rights limited because they were Jews? What was the status of other non-Muslims under the Ottoman? How did the British rule change anything in this regard?

According to what I have read, there was no Arab-Jewish politcial violence prior to the Mandate. Violence begins with riots in 1921 objecting to Jews bringing chairs and a partition to the Western Wall for Yom Kippur.

Yaacov, can you point me to a good source?


Yaacov said...

Nycer -

You're right. It's fascinating, but not satisfying.

I'm at the beginning of Simon Sebag Montifeore's "Jerusalem, a Biography"; if he answers your questions I'll tell you when he gets there (right not I"m only at Herod). A for the facts I do know: there was a Jewish majority in Jerusalem by the mid-19th century, perhaps as early as 1837. There was no nationally-motivated violence before 1920 (not 1921), but the affair with the benches at the Western Wall was in 1929. I haven't ever heard that the Ottomans had a separate legal or taxation system for Jews, but in any case by the 1840's it would have been moot, since the various European powers were encroaching on the city and Jews tended to identify as their citizens - so that the only place in the world where a Jews was proud of being a citizen of Czarist Russia was Jerusalem...

Barry Meislin said...

You might be interested in reading the first several chapters of Joan Peters history, which include some really inconvenient "narratives"....

Anonymous said...

I will wait 1900 years.



Barry Meislin said...

Well, I did say they were "inconvenient."

(I should have added they were "unapproved.")

Anonymous said...


I meant 1900 years for Yaacov to cover between Herod and the Ottomans.

I have the Peters book on reserve at the library. What do you mean by "unapproved"?


Yaacov said...

It's all right. I got the joke. Seeya then :~)

Yaacov said...


Netiva definitely would have deserved mention. On the other hand, how would one go about making her sound authentic to a mostly non-Israeli readership? Even by Israeli standards, she hardly fit into any recognizable pigeonholes, and the things that made her so beloved, in her utterly wacky way, aren't obviously translatable. Though perhaps I should try.

Silke said...

thanks Nycerbarb for explaining

I was still trying to muster the courage to ask

but it's a good one - thank you for that one too

Barry Meislin said...

Sorry, I misunderstood you (a common affliction of mine).

I assumed you meant to say that you'd consider opening the book, oh, maybe in 1900 years.

Apologies, once again.