May 15, 2010

Is "Jewish" the name of the psychotic condition?

In his preface to Frantz Fanon's "The Wretched of the Earth", Sartre wrote that colonial "France was once the name of a country. We should take care lest it become, in 1961, the name of a neurosis." That admonition seems lost on many US Jews today, since Zionism has made "Jewish" the name of a neurosis, and maybe even the name of a psychotic condition.

Edward Said wrote:
Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and its native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted.
This quote, attributed to the “Palestinian American literary theorist and cultural critic", Edward Said, appeared in the English Literature and Composition test taken by high school students seeking college admission. Oh the horror! The Horror! Reports the Forward:
Nearly 2 million high school students worldwide are taking Advanced Placement tests this May... But one test question citing the late Palestinian-American scholar and activist Edward Said on the theme of exile is prompting protests from some Jewish students. The English Literature and Composition test, in which the question occurs, requires students to read excerpts of poetry and prose... The passage from Said contains no reference to Palestine or Israel. But the test’s description of the late Columbia University humanities professor as a “Palestinian American literary theorist and cultural critic” has led some pro-Israel students to object that the test has been politicized.

“I was really startled to see that quote because both of the practice questions didn’t mention the writers’ nationalities,” said Ayelet Pearl, a senior at New York’s Bronx High School of Science. “For me including this one clearly had political implications.”... “I’m in a public school and most students here have the impression that Israel is the one attacking [the Palestinians],” the 17-year-old Pearl said. “To put a quote in like this subconsciously reinforces the idea that Israel’s the antagonist, the aggressor, the one in the wrong.” ... “I find it really inappropriate to put a political question like that on a test,” she said she wrote. Using this quote in the AP exam “is very reflective of the widespread use of education and testing as a platform for anti-Israel propaganda,” she told the Forward...Two nights later Pearl began an open Facebook protest group, called “Protest the 2010 AP English Literature and Composition Free Response Question...” [with] co-creator Alyssa Blumenthal, a senior at Long Beach High School in Long Beach, N.Y. ( The Forward, May 12th 2010)
As the article makes clear, the description of the writer's background sometimes appears and sometimes not, a choice mostly reflecting an assessment of the likelihood that the author would be known to a high school graduate. But for a Jewish American kid, the moniker "Palestinian" triggers an episode of delusional paranoia. The test writers must be conspiring against the Jewish people, feeding propaganda into tender minds.

Except the only brainwashed kids in this story are the Jewish ones. As Ayelet Pearl testifies, "most students here have the impression that Israel is the one attacking [the Palestinians].” Indeed! That is also the objective truth. Of course, the fact that "most students" in a US high school are aware of something that happens to be both true and disliked by the US ruling class is in itself a miracle worth celebrating.

Saying that Edward Said is "Palestinian," a fact, and also a meaningful fact for interpreting a quote of Said's construction of being Palestinian, is "political," and "anti-Israel propaganda." Like Macbeth seeing Banquo's ghost, American Jews see any reference to "Palestinians" outside CNN news, let alone in a place of authority such as a test, or a theater, etc. as the personification of their guilt. "Political," in this degraded context of an over-privileged high school student, is a synonym for "unsettling." Anything that challenge Ayelet's privilege is "political." Anything that confirms it is not. She has great parents!

The psychosis is political, in the sense that it is not merely an emotional reaction, but a complex of responses almost made to order to reinforce and authorize a genocidal plan. For, like Macbeth, Israel "hath murdered sleep." There won't be sleep as long as a single Palestinian lives, or even appears in print, or is referenced, or mentioned anywhere as Palestinian. The psychosis is anything but imaginary. Israel not only destroyed over 500 Palestinian villages, but dynamited their remains, planted forests on top of them courtesy of the Jewish National Fund's blue box, and excavated biblical sites beneath them, attacking their historical present on the land from both their past and their future. The expulsion of the Palestinians requires the erasure of the fact that Palestine existed and that "Palestinian" is a name that applies to anything and anybody. Nothing less than total disappearance and also the disappearance of that disappearance will restore the good sleep of American Jews like Ayelet Pearl, Alyssa Blumenthal and their parents.

But that won't happen. May I recommend to the upcoming literature majors of Jewish descent another "political" poem to study? Here's Bertolt Brecht:
The Unconquerable Inscription

During the war
In a cell of the Italian prison in San Carlo
Full of imprisoned soldiers, drunks and thieves
A socialist soldier, with an indelible pencil, scratched on the wall:
Long live Lenin!
High above, in the semi-dark cell, hardly visible, but
Written in large letters.
As the warders saw it, they sent for a painter with a bucket of lime.
And with a long stemmed brush he whitewashed the threatening inscription.
Since, however, with his lime, he painted over the letters only
Stood above in the cell, now in chalk:
Long live Lenin!
Next another painter daubed over the whole stretch with a broad brush
So that for hours it disappeared, but towards morning
As the lime dried, the inscription underneath was again conspicuous:
Long live Lenin!
Then dispatched the warder a bricklayer with a chisel against the inscription
And he scratched out letter by letter, one hour long
And as he was done, now colourless, but up above in the wall
But deeply carved, stood the unconquerable inscription:
Long live Lenin!
Now, said the soldier, get rid of the wall!


Sleep will return when Palestinians return to their land. Go, Ayelet, Alyssa, tell that to your psychosis burdened parents!

UPDATE: The facebook group created by our two Jewish paranoia patients is here.


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