A New Subject That Isn’t Really New: The Schism in Our Community (or Beyond the Politics of Caricature)

Has something been revealed more critically than ever this past month? Or has it been there all along, always, so long as there’s been a Jewish People — so long as there’s been any grouping of individuals bound into an entity known as Peoplehood — there has been division; there has been conflict; there have been accusations of betrayal and disloyalty; there have been attempts to heal the rift; to unite under the banner of k’lal Yisrael; of a unified congregation, when survival has been at stake; in the aftermath of wreckage; in the aching anxiety before an attack — and during — and after. We are family and families fight. We are Americans and Americans are divided.

We’ve been all sucked into the Politics of Caricature, wherein we make a mockery of that which opposes; that which affronts. We turn the offending work or mouthpiece into a grotesquerie. Guess what? I’ve done it too. We’ve done it with sitting presidents. We do it to radio talk show hosts. We do it with angry bloggers and comment writers who leave their own trail of vitriol. It’s really so intellectually incomplete, so morally short-sighted, so dramatically and theatrically thin to see the world in binary opposition with itself; with a Good side and a Bad side; an Absolute Right and an Absolute Wrong. Let their be degrees, and let their be a compass, but how ’bout not a world of Absolutes.

To this perspective will come rushing in the Critics of Moral Relativism; a place the Jewish left has found itself; consigned to the Dog House of Moral Relativism by a very, very angry, and aggrieved and, yes, mournful right. But is it right to call the right “right?” They are more than that, yes? Or do I mean, no?

This is but a mini-think-piece. Longer than a twitter, shorter than a rant. And gentler too. It’s a morning homily to move us–or at least move myself–beyond the Politics of Caricature. To add the “h” and another “a” and let go of the “i” and spell it as it is in art: “character.” Let us move to be in search of true character — when we look at a work and ask what it is — when we look at a policy and ask why it is born — when we look at a people and ask what do they want and how do they live. Can we see fully? Can we lower the temperature? Can we, to quote our president, learn to listen, and yet still lead?

3 thoughts on “A New Subject That Isn’t Really New: The Schism in Our Community (or Beyond the Politics of Caricature)

  1. Respectfully M.S.,

    Where have you been?

    Ari, You do a great job facilitating discussions, at least after a theatrical performance. We need more of those and other forums.

    We face an urgent and on-going long term crisis on several levels. Israel, as it currently exists and operates, is not a sustainable enterprise over the long term.

    Putting aside personalities and all the past rhetoric, US support for Israel is bumping up against other severe problems (and thus, interests) in the wider region. We have a list of problem relationships that could blow up at almost any moment.

    Israel must have security and the Palestinians must have justice in their economically viable state. A viable Palestinian state is a huge positive contribution to the effort we all support of making Israel not only a permanent fixture in the Middle East, but a welcome one as well.

  2. “so long as there’s been a Jewish People — so long as there’s been any grouping of individuals bound into an entity known as Peoplehood — there has been division;”

    Et alors, so there have been divisions within peoples. This is a general and abstract truism.

    How you get from there to “moral relativism” is beyond me.

    Still I don’t know why you think that because “there are inevitable divisions within peoples” that that notion justifies J Street.

    Only J Streets actions can justify J Street and so far, from what I can see, you have issues a number of very general statements about the desirability of peace (which very few people within the community disagree) within the context of a two State solution something I too support.

    However, you have also taken some actions like supporting the staging of antisemitic plays like “Seven Jewish Children” because even though it’s antisemitic it will facilitate discussion.

    I find this view supported by a number of known antisemites non Jewish and Jewish like Mark Elf and assimilationists like Philip Weiss also support.

    Contrary opinion is one thing; giving support to antisemites is something else. If you want to be taken seriously you should distance yourself from such actions. This isn’t just moral relativism; it’s above all a sign that you are desperate for support and attention.

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