Friday, January 29, 2016

More Philip Roth

last excerpts from Operation: Shylock

The gun was manned by a grim, unshaven young soldier, who eyed us soberly while we handed our papers over to another guard, who tossed them onto his desk and, with a truculent gesture, indi-cated that we could go on.
"Sephardic boys," George told me as we continued toward a side door of the jail. "Moroccans. The Ashkenazis prefer to keep their hands clean. They get their darker brethren to do their torturing for them. The ignorant Arab haters from the Orient furnish the re-fined Ashkenazis with a very useful, all-purpose proletarian mob. Of course when they lived in Morocco they didn't hate Arabs. They lived harmoniously with Arabs for a thousand years. But The white Israelis have taught them that, too—how to hate the Arabs and how to hate themselves. The white Israelis have turned them into their thugs." The side door was guarded by a pair of soldiers who, like those we'd just encountered, looked to have been recruited from the meanest city streets. They let us through without a word, and we stepped into a shabby courtroom barely large enough for a couple of dozen spectators. Occupying half the seats were more Israeli soldiers, who weren't carrying weapons that I could see but who didn't appear as though they'd have much trouble putting down a disturbance with just their bare hands. In scruffy fatigues and combat boots, their shirt collars open and their heads bare, they sat lazily sprawled about but nonetheless looking very proprietary with their arms spread to either side along the back rail of the wooden benches. My first impression was of young toughs lolling in the outer lobby of an employment agency that specialized in placing bouncers.

and

To me he then confided, "This is the Middle East. We all know how to lie with a smile. Sincerity is not of this world, but these native boys make a specialty of underdoing it. That's something you find out about Arabs—perfectly natural in both roles at the same time. So convincing one way—just like you when you write—and then, the next moment, someone will walk out of the room, they'll turn around and be just the opposite." "And how do you account for this?" I asked him. "One's interest allows anything. Very, very basic. Comes from the desert. That blade of grass is mine and my animal is going to get it or die. It's my animal or your animal. That's where interest begins and it justifies all duplicity. There is in Islam this idea of taqiya. Generally called in English `dissimulation.' It's especially strong in Shi'ite Islam but it's all over Islamic culture. Doctrinally speaking, dissimulation is part of Islamic culture, and the permission to dissimulate is wide-spread. The culture doesn't expect that you'll speak in a way that endangers you and certainly not that you'll be candid and sincere. You would be considered foolish to do that. People say one thing, adopt a public position, and are then quite different on the inside and privately act in a totally different way. They have an expression for this: `the shifting sands'—ramal mutabarrika. An example. For all their bravado about opposing Zionism, throughout the Mandate they sold land to the Jews. Not just their run-of-the-mill opportunists but also their big leadership. But they have a wonderful proverb to justify this as well. Ad-daroori lib achkaam. `Necessity has its own rules.' Dissimulation, two-facedness, secretiveness—all highly regarded val-ues among your friends," he told me. "They don't think that other people have to know what is really on their minds. Very different from Jews, you see, telling everything that's on their minds to every-one nonstop. I used to think that God has given the Jew the Arab to bedevil his conscience and keep it Jewish. I know better since meet-ing George and the bard. God sent us the Arab so we could learn from him how to refine our own deviousness."

and

 I heard myself next praising the greatest Diasporist of all, the father of the new Diasporist movement, Irving Berlin. "People ask where I got the idea. Well, I got it listening to the radio. The radio was playing 'Easter Parade' and I thought, But this is Jewish genius on a par with the Ten Commandments. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and then He gave to Irving Berlin `Easter Parade' and 'White Christmas.' The two holidays that celebrate the divinity of Christ—the divinity that's the very heart of the Jewish rejection of Christianity—and what does Irving Berlin brilliantly do? He de-Christs them both! Easter he turns into a fashion show and Christmas into a holiday about snow. Gone is the gore and the mur-der of Christ—down with the crucifix and up with the bonnet! He turns their religion into schlock But nicely! Nicely! So nicely the goyim don't even know what hit 'em. They love it. Everybody loves it. The Jews especially. Jews loathe Jesus. People always tell me Jesus is Jewish. I never believe them. It's like when people used to tell me Cary Grant was Jewish. Bullshit Jews don't want to hear about Jesus. And can you blame them? So—Bing Crosby replaces Jesus as the beloved Son of God, and d the Jews, the Jews, go around whistling about Easter! And is that so disgraceful a means of defusing the enmity of centuries? Is anyone really dishonored by this? If schlockified Christianity is Christianity cleansed of Jew hatred, then three cheers for schlock. If supplanting Jesus Christ with snow can enable my people to cozy up to Christmas, then let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! Do you see my point?" I took more pride, I told them, in "Easter Parade" than in the victory of the Six Day War, found more security in "White Christmas" than in the Israeli nuclear reactor. I told them that if the Israelis ever reached a point where they believed their survival depended not merely on breaking hands but on drop-ping a nuclear bomb, that would be the end of Judaism, even if the state of Israel should survive. "Jews as Jews will simply disappear. A generation after Jews use nuclear weapons to save themselves from their enemies, there will no longer be people to identify themselves as Jews. The Israelis will have saved their state by destroying their people. They will never survive morally after that; and if they don't, why survive as Jews at all? They barely have the wherewithal to survive morally now. To put all these Jews in this tiny place, surrounded on all sides by tremendous hostility—how can you survive morally? Better to be marginal neurotics, anxious assimilationists, and everything else that the Zionists despise, better to lose the state than to lose your moral being by unleashing a nuclear war. Better Irving Berlin than Ariel Sharon. Better Irving Berlin than the Wailing Wall. Better Irving Berlin than Holy Jerusalem! What does owning Jerusalem, of all places, have to do with being Jews in 1988? Jerusalem is by now the worst thing that could possibly have happened to us. Last year in Jerusalem! Next year in Warsaw! Next year in Bucharest! Next year in Vilna and Cracow! Look, I know people call Diasporism a revolutionary idea, but it's not a revolution that I'm proposing, it's a retroversion, a turning back, the very thing Zionism itself once was. You go back to the crossing point and cross back the other way. Zionism went back too far, that's what went wrong with Zionism. Zionism went back to the crossing point of the dispersion—Diasporism goes back to the crossing point of Zionism."

and

I could have sat up on the bed and composed from there my remaining questions for Aharon, but instead, to safeguard what little equilibrium I still possessed, I chose to sit as I have been sitting all my life, in a chair, at a desk, under a lamp, substantiating my peculiar existence in the most consolidating way I know, taming temporarily with a string of words the unruly tyranny of my incoherence.

and

 I waited for a decision to be made about operating on c\\  my obstructed arteries while in Bellow's The Bellarosa Connection. The book you clutch ile reading, not without some pleasure, the while awaiting the worst is a book you may never be capable of \\*\ summarizing coherently but whose clutching you never forget. When I was a small boy in my first classroom—I remembered this, itting obediently as a middle-aged man in what I could not help thinking might be my last classroom—I had been transfixed by the alphabet as it appeared in white on a black frieze some six inches high that extended horizontally atop the blackboard, "Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee," each letter exhibited there twice, in cursive script, parent and child, object and shadow, sound and echo, etc., etc. The twenty-six asymmetrical pairings suggested to an intelligent five-year-old every duality and correspondence a little mind could possibly conceive. Each was so variously interlocked and at odds, any two taken to-gether so tantalizing in their faintly unharmonious apposition that, even if viewed as I, for one, first apprehended the alphabet frieze—as figures in profile, the way Nineveh's low-relief sculptors depicted the royal lion hunt in 1000 B.c.—the procession marching immobilely toward the classroom door constituted an associative grab bag of inexhaustible proportions. And when it registered on me that the couples in this configuration—whose pictorial properties alone fur-nished such pure Rorschachish delight—each had a name of its own, mental delirium of the sweetest sort set in, as it might in anyone of any age. It only remained for me to be instructed in the secret of how these letters could be inveigled to become words for the ecstasy to be complete. There had been no pleasure so fortifying and none that so dynamically expanded the scope of consciousness since I'd learned to walk some fifteen hundred days before; and there would be nothing as remotely inspirational again until a stimulant no less potent than the force of language—the hazardous allurements of the flesh and the pecker's irrepressible urge to squirt—overturned an-gelic childhood. So this explains why I happened to be reading when Smilesburger appeared. The alphabet is all there is to protect me; it's what I was given instead of a gun. In September 1979, six years before he was thrown in his wheel-chair over the side of the Achille Lauro by Palestinian terrorists, Klinghoffer and his wife were on a cruise ship bound for Israel. This is what I read of what he'd written in the leather-bound diary with the rickshaw, the elephant, the camel, the gondola, the airliner, and the passenger ship engraved in gold on its cover.
9/5 Weather clear Friday. Sunny Took tour through Greek port of Piraeus and city of Athens. Guide was excellent. The city of Athens is a modern bustling city. Lots of traffic. Went up to the Acropolis and saw all the ancient ruins. It was a well-guided and interesting tour. Got home about 2.30. Quarter of 4 on way to Haifa, Israel. A very interesting afternoon. Tonight was the night. After dinner there was a singer from Israel. Gave a performance. I was one of the judges for queen of the ship. It was all hilarious. What a night. To bed at 12.30.
Would Jews without enemies be just as boring as everyone else?

and

Why are the Jews so lacking in the fundamental course sies of social intercourse even between themselves? Why must eve affront be magnified? Why must every provocation initiate a feud?" I had affronted no one. I had provoked no one. I could explain that million dollars. But to his satisfaction? Without Uri reappearing to feed me my lunch? I didn't answer. "The Jew's lack of love for his fellow Jew," Smilesburger said, "is the cause of much suffering among our people. The animosity, the ridicule, the sheer hatred of one Jew for another—why? Where is our forbearance and forgiveness of our neighbor? Why is there such divi-siveness among Jews? It isn't only in Jerusalem in 1988 that there is suddenly this discord—it was in the ghetto, God knows, a hundred years ago; it was at the destruction of the Second Temple two thou-sand years ago. Why was the Second Temple destroyed? Because of this hatred of one Jew for another. Why has the Messiah not come? Because of the angry hatred of one Jew for another. We not only need Anti-Semites Anonymous for the goy—we need it for the Jew himself. Angry disputes, verbal abuse, malicious backbiting, mocking gossip, scoffing, faultfinding, complaining, condemning, insulting—the black-est mark against our people is not the eating of pork, it is not even marrying with the non-Jew: worse than both is the sin of Jewish speech. We talk too much, we say too much, and we do not know when to stop. Part of the Jewish problem is that they never know what voice to speak in. Refined? Rabbinical? Hysterical? Ironical? Part of the Jewish problem is that the voice is too loud. Too insistent. Too aggressive. No matter what he says or how he says it, it's inappro-priate. Inappropriateness is the Jewish style. Awful. Tor each and every moment that a person remains silent, he earns a reward too great to be conceived of by any created being.' This is the Vilna Gaon quoting from the Midrash. 'What should a person's job be in this
bet world? To make himself like a mute.' This is from the Sages. As one of our most revered rabbinical scholars has beautifully expressed it in an admirably simple sentence not ten syllables long, 'Words generally only spoil things.'

and

 "These Jews who may or may not be contributing money to the PLO, why haven't they a perfect right to do with their money whatever they wish without interference from the likes of you?" "Not only do they have a right as Jews, they have an inescapable moral duty as Jews, to make reparations to the Palestinians in what-ever form they choose. What we have done to the Palestinians is wicked. We have displaced them and we have oppressed them. We have expelled them, beaten them, tortured them, and murdered them. The Jewish state, from the day of its inception, has been dedicated to eliminating a Palestinian presence in historical Palestine and expropriating the land of an indigenous people. The Palestinians have been driven out, dispersed, and conquered by the Jews. To make a Jewish state we have betrayed our history—we have done unto the Palestinians what the Christians have done unto us: systematically transformed them into the despised and subjugated Other, thereby depriving them of their human status. Irrespective of terrorism or terrorists or the political stupidity of Yasir Arafat, the fact is this: as a people the Palestinians are totally innocent and as a people the Jews are totally guilty. To me the horror is not that a handful of rich Jews make large financial contributions to the PLO but that every last Jew in the world does not have it in his heart to contribute as well."

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