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Book Review December 25, 2002
Hate Thy Neighbor As Thyself
By Mark Ames Browse author Email
Page 2 of 4
If you were to boil down the Bible to one theme, it would be Jewish self-hatred. All the problems that befall the Jews in the Old Testament are due to the Jews' ingratitude, deceitfulness and unfaithfulness. The New Testament is little more than Jewish self-hatred apotheosized: oh, we've finally done it now! We done gone 'n killed God hi'self! Now we REALLY have a reason to hate ourselves! Yippee!

The main difference between Old and New is that the Old Testament is racism raised to a level unimaginable in our time, whereas the New Testament reserves all its racism for Jews. The Old T's racism is a primitive, tribal racism, a racism common to its time but so dangerous today. Over and over and over, Yahweh tells the Jews to exterminate all the non-Jewish people in the land of Israel. When the Jews don't exterminate every last Chaldean or Moabite or whatever, Yahweh gets pissed off and strikes them down with a massive military defeat, or expulsion, or a venal king or a famine or something horrible. Then the Jews wail and crawl back to Yahweh, who says, "Didn't I tell you to exterminate the [name of neighboring desert tribe]." Jews: [shame-faced] "Yes, sorry Yahweh." Yahweh: "Okay, this time I'll let you off the hook, but promise me you'll exterminate your neighbors!" Jews: "Well, okay, we swear." Naturally the Jews don't exterminate all of them, they even inter-marry some, or turn to worship Baal or some other tribe's god, and then, well, look what happens: another round of misery and misfortune. If you want to understand why the Israeli religious right (and the American religious right for that matter) is so hell-bent on exterminating the Palestinians, look no further than the Old Testament. It's all there, clear as day: all Jewish misfortune and pain comes from not exterminating their neighbors. Yahweh is the first great genocide-cheerleader.

There are really two great sins that the Jews commit over and over and over in the Old Testament: not exterminating their neighbors, and backstabbing Yahweh. In fact, Jews-as-backstabbers is an entirely Jewish invention. The Old Testament is the ultimate expression of Jewish self-hatred as well as Jewish self-love. If you don't understand this about Jews, their obsession with self-hatred and self-love, then you won't understand the Bible, you'll misread it as some kind of metaphysical enigma. As poet Robert Pinsky once said, "Every Jew thinks every other Jew is either too Jewish or not Jewish enough."

Is it a good book? The Old Testament has some interesting moments, especially as it approaches something of a Kafka voice and narrative. Genesis has the spare, creepy nihilism of Kafka, while Job is the closest thing to modern literature. Judges, Samuel and Kings are clearly the height of the book's aesthetic, coinciding with the height of Jewish national power. In those three books there are real, memorable stories there that evoke a strange half-familiar world with a common thread of brutality, frailty, heroism, betrayal and stupidity. The stories of King Saul and David are about as close to a second-rate competitor with ancient Greek literature as you'll find. Ecclesiastes (not to be confused with Ecclesiasticus, which sucksius assius) is the funniest, most eXile-ish book. It starts out like this: "Sheer futility, Qoheleth says. Sheer futility: everything is futile! What profit can we show for all our toil, toiling under the sun?" And from there, it doesn't come to some kind of religious epiphany or happy ending, but rather sticks with the theme that all is useless so you may as well drink, fuck and give up hope: "One dead fly/can spoil the scent-maker's oil:/a grain of stupidity/outweighs wisdom and glory."

And this is where the Old Testament starts getting crazy. As the Jews' fortunes go from bad to worse in the last couple hundred years before Christ, the volume of loony self-hatred ratchets up to ear-piercing pitch. Pages and pages of horrible verse (Psalms) and incredibly primitive proverbs (Proverbs, Wisdom, etc) finally devolve into sheer torrents of anger and self-hatred, nay, anti-Semitism at its shrillest. Remember Samuel Jackson's line about the shepherd and the valley of darkness and his furious anger before plugging those skate rats? That's Ezekiel, when Yahweh has had enough of Jews and rants and raves and screams about how he's gonna fuck the Jews up big-time! He's gonna git medieval on the Jews' asses! Yeah! And they's gonna be a savior comin' too to set y'all's straight.

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