August 28, 2009

Glorious bastards

Tarantino recent contribution to human heritage, which I haven't seen, and must admit probably won't see, certainly won't pay to see, is grabbing attention. It is, as I read, a fantasy about Jews violently taking their revenge from Nazis. To be sure, such Jews certainly existed, and no apology is needed. For example, a Jewish terrorist's, Herschel Greenspan, assassination of a German diplomat was the excuse for Kristallnacht. The Nazis used it to stoke righteous anger and advance their assault on German Jews. This is a pattern of state strategy that students of the Israeli occupation would be familiar with, as Israel uses Palestinian terrorism in similar ways. But this is another story.

Anyway, the film excites Jewish U.S. commentators, and although Tarantino pretends the film has nothing to do with current realities, the fantasy immediately translates into not very bright thoughts about Israel. Jeffrey Goldberg felt all psyched up and ready to settle in Jordan, whereas the ever dull MJ Rosenberg grasped the opportunity to justify the necessity of a Jewish state with a fantasy of Israel participating WW-II and bombing Germany. As I pointed out over there, had Israel been established a decade earlier, it is uncertain on which side of WW-II it would have fought, if at all. That drove him to over the edge.

It seems to me that the film, for all its pretense, is essentially a 300 for liberals, allowing those who imagine themselves urbane and sophisticated to enjoy the same uncomplicated sense of righteous violence and masculinity liberated from feminist "oppression" that the hoi polloi experience in the typical action movie. The introduction of the Jewish themes (as well as Tarantino's name) elevates the film from the mildly disreputable category of entertainment, whereas the Nazis, not a real political phenomenon but a token of pure, fantastic evil, merely function as a device that frees the genteel consciousness from the guilt of enjoying the pleasures of fascism. This is yet another reason to remember (as I also explained here) that the fundamental problem with calling people Nazis is not that it "demonizes" them, but that it assumes that Nazis were demonic. The category of the demonic, not the wrong labeling of Zionists or Arabs or anybody else with this category, is the door through which fascism is kosherized.

But let's get back to uncomplicated Jewish violence. As Weiss notes above, Nazis are no longer among us. The Jewish commentators who saw the film immediately performed the obvious displacement, onto Israel and Palestinians. Unfortunately, finding Israelis with such a "healthy" and uncomplicated attitude towards violence is easier that I would prefer. If Tarantino were honest and had an ounce of courage, he would have made the film about that. Because, for the subject of a high production values snuff movie, few things beat the real adventurers, for example, of one Meir Har-Tzion, about whose murderous exploits I first learned from a devoted fan of his who was a teacher in my high school. By the way, it is possible that the film is about that, but perhaps I read too much into the fact that Tarantino's heroine shares a name with Har-Tzion's sister. With this in mind, here is Har-Tzion's death-porn, quoted from his memoir, published in Israel in 1969.
The wide, dry riverbed glitters in the moonlight. We advance, carefully, along the mountain slope. Several houses can be seen. Bushes and shrubbery sway in the breeze, casting their shadows on the ground. In the distance we can see three lights and hear the sounds of Arab music coming out of the homes immersed in darkness. We split up into three groups of four men each. Two groups make their way to the immense refugee camp to the south of our position. The other group marches towards the lonely house in the flat area north of Wadi Gaza. We march forward, trampling over green fields, wading through water canals as the moon bathes us in its scintillating light. Soon, however, the silence will be shattered by bullets, explosions, and the screams of those who are now sleeping peacefully. We advance quickly and enter one of the houses "Mann Haatha?" (Arabic for "Who's there?")

We leap towards the voices. Fearing and trembling, two Arabs are standing up against the wall of the building. They try to escape. I open fire. An ear piercing scream fills the air. One man falls to the ground, while his friend continues to run. Now we must act we have no time to lose. We make our way from house to house as the Arabs scramble about in confusion. Machine guns rattle, their noise mixed with a terrible howling. We reach the main thoroughfare of the camp. The mob of fleeing Arabs grows larger. The other group attacks from the opposite direction. The thunder of hand grenades echoes in the distance. We receive an order to retreat. The attack has come to an end.

On the following morning, the headlines will read: "The refugee camp of Al-Burj near Gaza was attacked. The camp has been serving as a base for infiltrators into Israeli territory. 'Twenty people were killed and another twenty were wounded."

.. . . A telephone line blocks our way. We cut it and continue. A narrow path leads along the slope of a hill. The column marches forward in silence. Stop! A few rocks roll down the hill. I catch sight of a man surveying the silence. I cock my rifle. Gibly crawls over to me, "Har, for God's sake, a knife!!" His clenched teeth glitter in the dark and his whole body is tight, his mind alert, "For God's sake," . . . I put my tommy down and unsheath my machete. We crawl towards the lone figure as he begins to sing a trilled Arab tune. Soon the singing will turn into a death moan. I am shaking, every muscle in my body is tense. This is my first experience with this type of weapon. Will I be able to do it?

We draw closer. There he stands, only a few meters in front of us. We leap. Gibly grabs him and I plunge the knife deep into his back. The blood pours over his striped cotton shirt. With not a second to lose, I react instinctively and stab him again. The body groans, struggles and then becomes quiet and still. (Quoted in Livia Rokach, Israel's sacred terrorism)
This is the historical content of the fantasy, the new Jewish masculinity that enthralls MJ Rosenberg and Jeffrey Goldberg.


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