Monday, May 23, 2022

"Should Jews Support Ukraine?" Bieganski Replies


Lucie Fielding 


Lucie Fielding, pictured above, self-identifies as "trans-identified." I don't know if that means that LF is xx or xy.
 
LF says, "I am queer, kinky, polyamorous, Jewish, non-binary, trans-femme and witchy."

 

As they used to sing on Sesame Street, "One of these things is not like the other." The point of the song was to help young children to learn how to classify objects. Blue things are all alike and different from green things. Rectangles are all alike and different from circles.

 

What's different about LF's self-identifiers?

 

That's correct. The word "Jewish." Claiming to be "witchy" and polyamorous is very much not like claiming to be Jewish. See, for example, Exodus 20:14, Deuteronomy 5:21, Exodus 22:18, Genesis 24:65, Genesis 9:21-27, Genesis 19, teachings on tznuit, or modesty – see this article – etc.

 

Given that the activities that Fielding advocates for are expressly condemned in Judaism, why does LF claim Jewishness?

 

One word: identity.

 

People crave meaning as they crave food. Identity is a big part of meaning. LF wants to be "Jewish" because being "Jewish," even for an American who rejects core tenets of Judaism, endows the claimant with a sense of identity and a sense of meaning.

 

Life can seem meaningless. Life intimidates us with big, scary questions. "Why am I here? What is this all about? Where did I come from? Where am I going? Is there a God? Does God have any relationship to me? Am I connected to others, to the past, to the future, or am I just a lonely particle floating around empty space?"

 

These big, scary questions are reduced to a background whisper, rather than a bullying shout, once one slaps on an identity moniker as if it were a nametag. In the case of folks like LF, the nametag is the kind with weak adhesive. You can remove it at the orgy, and replace when convenient to your search for identity.

 

"Identity" answers one question. Here's the next obvious question. Why doesn't LF just, simply, be Jewish?

 

At minimum, follow the Ten Commandments. Read the Bible. Attend synagogue. For a bigger experience of identity, LF could keep kosher, join a Jewish community.

 

And then there's the biggest commitment of all. Believe in God. Pray. Do God's will.

 

LF chooses not to do those things for the same reasons that anyone rejects a religion does so. LF doesn't believe in Jewish behavior's efficacy, and LF finds these behaviors too hard. LF would prefer to covet others' spouses, attend orgies, eat pork, party on the Sabbath.

 

People leave Christianity / Hinduism / Islam for similar reasons. "I don't believe this does any good," "This is hard," "I'd rather do other things."

 

Judaism makes high demands. There are 613 commandments.

 

Yes, we all know that Judaism is, famously, an ethnicity as well as a religion. But Jews insist that Jews who convert to Christianity can no longer be allowed to call themselves "Jews." How about Jews who orchestrate and encourage trans orgies? I would think that that would be as much of a disqualifier of Jewish identity as accepting a Jew, Jesus, as the promised Messiah, that is, a Jewish concept.

 

In short, the need for identity trumps logic. People cling to identity in ways that simply aren't rational.

 

***

 

Here's a very, very counter factual analogy.

 

What if …

 

What if, in 1945, after the end of World War II, it was widely known what atrocities the Germans had committed in Poland? What if it were also widely known that the advancing Red Army, as it made its way West, was raping every female they could get their hands on, and sometimes literally raping women, girls, children, grandmothers, concentration camp survivors, to death? What if it were also widely known that the USSR would take control of East Germany for the next forty plus years, and maintain a notorious police state?

 

And what if social media existed back then?

 

I'm Polish-American. I would be outraged and broken-hearted at the atrocities Germans committed against my relatives and other Poles.

 

Even so, I cannot imagine posting on social media, "The Germans committed atrocities against Poles; therefore, I don't care about German women and children being raped by the Red Army. I don't care about the USSR turning East Germany into a prison nation with no human rights, for the next two generations, including Germans born after the fall of Nazism."

 

Why would I not say that?

 

Because what the Red Army did was wrong. Period. No further discussion. Nothing justifies the atrocities that Russians committed against German women. Nothing justifies the USSR turning East Germany into a prison state.

 

It's a slogan children can understand. "Two wrongs don't make a right."

 

***

 

After Russia invaded Ukraine, Tablet: A New Read on Jewish Life published an article that depicted Ukraine as a "muddy," "freezing" "slaughterhouse." I blogged about that article here.

 

The timing of the article deserves attention. Ukraine is under attack.

 

Some basic facts:

 

Vladimir Putin, alone, is the author of this war. He is a power-mad monster. He kills his enemies for fun, often using poison. He has threatened America with nuclear war. Ukraine posed zero threat to Russia. NATO is no threat to Russia. There is no rational, decent reason for supporting Russia in this war.

 

Decent, rational people support Ukraine, and want to see Russia defeated, for reasons too numerous to detail here.

 

But here are some.

 

Ukraine is a major grain producer. Areas of Africa and Asia rely on Ukrainian grain. There is grain in Ukrainian silos now ready for market. Russia is preventing it from reaching the market. Ukraine is also a major producer of edible oil. Russia is preventing that from reaching hungry people.

 

The war is increasing gas prices worldwide.

 

Russia is committing war crimes. Rape, torture, murder of innocents. All documented.

 

Rational, decent people support Ukraine.

 

The Tablet article appeared at the wrong time.

 

What else was wrong with the article? It resorted to the Bieganski stereotype. The article was not an intellectually and morally responsible treatment of atrocity. The depiction, rather, supported a stereotype of Eastern European, Christian, peasant-descent populations as *essentially* brutal, irrational, violent, hateful, anti-Semites.

 

That stereotype is false.

 

Saying that a stereotype is false is not the same as saying that bad things never happened.

 

Again, an analogy. There are anti-Semites who insist on depicting Communist atrocities that were committed or facilitated by Jews like Jakub Berman and Lazar Kaganovich not as events of a given time, place, and set of circumstances, but, rather, as expressions of an essential, timeless, Jewish character. These anti-Semites insist that Jews did bad things, not because of the particular time and place and circumstances surrounding the atrocity, rather, Jews did bad things because Jews do bad things, no matter the time or place or circumstances or individual involved.

 

That's stereotyping.

 

Did Ukrainians commit atrocities against Jews? Yes, they did. That is a well known fact, dramatized, albeit in a sanitized form, in one of the most popular musicals of all time, "Fiddler on the Roof."

 

To understand those atrocities, one must understand something of Ukrainian history. Those resorting to stereotyping, as in the case of the above-mentioned Tablet article, assiduously refrain from mentioning any of that history.

 

"You're just saying that because you are not Jewish and you do not feel our pain!"

 

Well, no. There are tens of millions of non-Jewish people who also have reason to have historical grievances with Ukrainians. Poles. Ukrainians committed massive atrocities against Poles at least twice in history: under Chmielnicki and during WW II. The Chmielnicki events of the seventeenth century were particularly devastating. They were part of something called "The Deluge" when Poland was attacked from all sides, weakened, and later lost its independence and became a colony of Russia, Prussia, and Austria. This resulted in horrific conditions in Poland. Poles are hyper aware of this history.

 

Again, in the twentieth century, Ukrainians massacred perhaps 100,000 Poles. Ukrainians raped and tortured Poles. Poles were sawn in half. Towns that had been Polish for centuries were ethnically cleansed forever. They are now Ukrainian towns. Poland lost a good part of its historic national territory.

 

And yet Poles are second to none in the generosity they have shown Ukrainians.

 

Why?

 

At least part of the reason is that we realize that Ukrainians who committed atrocities were not acting out an essential identity. Rather, they were responding to a given set of circumstances at a specific moment in history, and unless you provide THE FULL STORY of that entire historical moment you can never understand – not rationalize, not forgive, not justify – but simply understand – what happened.

 

***

 

I exercise zero political power. Even so, I frequently announce, in public, that I support Israel. I once went so far as to write an article explaining why I support Israel. That article is here; it was reprinted in an Israeli newspaper.

 

I care about Israel's survival as a nation and I care about individual Israeli citizens. When violence heats up I try to post pro Israel posts on social media. I lack the magical ability to protect people I care about in Israel, but at the very least, and I know this is a small thing, I can say, "I care about you. I am praying for you. I'm letting people know that I support Israel and that anyone who makes any anti-Israel comments will face pushback from me."

 

***

 

A Jewish Facebook friend shared the Tablet article. Numerous persons, identifying as Jewish, said things like "Wow. I had no idea Ukraine was such a hellhole. Makes me rethink my support for this war."

 

Another Jewish friend said, repeatedly, at least five times and certainly more, that he is magnanimous enough to offer Ukraine grudging support, even though it is a "shameful" country inhabited by Slavic rapists and he is personally ashamed of having roots in Eastern Europe, nations full of rapists and murderers.

 

Another Jewish friend sicced her non-Jewish friend on me, who came to my page and yelled at me.

 

Another said that I am a Polish nationalist and therefore nothing I say can be supported factually.

 

Another Jewish friend, ironically, someone with whom I had attended a march against violence against Jews, said nothing as his evidently clinically insane friend screamed insults at me in post after post. What insults? I'm stupid, violent, a thug. The Bieganski stereotype.

 

Another Jewish friend lectured me about how Eastern Europeans are rapists and murderers – the accusations are predictable and entirely in line with the Bieganski stereotype as outlined in my book.

 

This friend insisted that the Holocaust was a "culmination" of Eastern European peasant Christians' anti-Semitism.

 

This claim is astounding. I pointed out to this person that, in terms of raw numbers (as opposed to percentages of populations), Nazis murdered more Slavic non-Jews than Jews. I posted the charts, below. The millions of dead Slavs would seem to suggest that my friend's insistence that the Holocaust was a project of Slavs, as opposed to Nazis, is open to question.

 

His response to my mention of Slavic, non-Jewish deaths under the Nazis? He told me to stop talking to him.

 

The people saying these bigoted things to me are people who had previously given every sign of wanting to associate with me, even to associate with me more closely than is typical of social media. One had given me his phone number and encouraged me to chat with him over the phone. Another had once sent me a really lovely present: the CD set of Phillip Glass' opera "Satyagraha." I'm a big fan of Glass' music.

 

And yet these same people who had seemed to want to be friendly to me now said the most shocking, bigoted, ugly, things about Slavic Christians, apparently expecting me to nod my head and smile and say, "Oh, you are so right. Me and my ancestors? Nothing but murderous scum. And have a nice day."

 

In other words, the irrationality and cluelessness of these stereotyping posts is quite high. And it is telling. These folks are not thinking things through, I suspect. They are falling back on a stereotype, a stereotype that is important to their personal sense of identity.

 

***

 

What do all of the above facts add up to? To me, they are evidence of the accuracy of the diagnosis offered in my book Bieganski.

 

All people, not just Jews, reinforce identity through stereotyping, for example: "Whites are hard working / Blacks are lazy." "Brahmins are spiritual / Untouchables are without divine contact." "Chinese are good businesspeople / Malaysians are not good at business."  

 

I remember Denzel Washington, one of the most successful people who has ever lived, referring to himself as a "slave." Of course he's not a slave; of course he's just saying that because it gives him a feeing of enhanced identity. Washington could dedicate himself to the African slaves living today. Maybe he's done that; I don't know. But working on ending slavery today is much harder than identifying oneself as a slave, and, thereby, as a hero who has overcome impossible odds.

 

That Facebook posters, including friends, felt perfectly comfortable screaming at me that I am an essential rapist and murderer because I descend from Slavic Christians (and Pagans) indicates to me that not a lot of thought is taking place here. These folks are repeating a stereotype that they have invested in without intellectual reflection.

 

How significant in this trend? I have no idea. I'm writing about material coming through my Facebook feed. I did not seek this material out; it just showed up. After a Jewish friend insisted that the trend is insignificant, I googled "Should Jews support Ukraine?" and I found similar comments on other platforms.

 

For example, I found the page linked here.

 

This website claims "as many as 100,000 Jews died" in the Chmielnicki uprising.

 

Wikipedia disagrees. "Newer studies have estimated the Jewish population of that period in the affected areas of Ukraine is estimated at around 50,000."

 

Chmielnicki was fighting against Poles, the article admits, but "his real victims were the Jews."

 

Wikipedia disagrees. "Population losses of the entire Commonwealth population in the years 1648–1667 (a period which includes the Uprising, but also the Polish-Russian War and the Swedish invasion) [The Deluge] are estimated at 4 million (roughly a decrease from 11 to 12 million to 7–8 million)."

 

The article depicts Ukrainians as anti-Semitic monsters. That effort worked for at least one reader, who responded that Ukrainians "dropped the lethal pellets into the gas chambers. The Ukraine had it's own Nazi SS Division. Mila Kunis' family left Ukraine because they hate Jews. What is so complicated?"

 

The article includes a graphic depiction of torture. The depiction was written by Nathan Hannover, a famous historian of this period. The article carefully omits one of Hannover's most famous quotes. Here it is: the Ukrainians "were looked upon as lowly and inferior beings and became the slaves and the handmaids of the Polish people and of the Jews."

 

We know why the article does quote Hannover but leaves out that key quote. Because the article is doing the work of stereotyping. Ukrainians are just a bunch of *essential* rapists and murderers. Their very country is a "muddy freezing slaughterhouse." We must repeat this, to cement our own idea of ourselves, even as Ukraine is subject to horrific war crimes, and our support is vital.

 

Ukrainians were oppressed by Poles and Jews. Ukrainians victimized Polish Catholics as well as Jews. These facts do not *justify* the atrocities Ukrainians committed. These facts do put those atrocities in context. Polish peasants committed similar atrocities against Polish Catholic nobility during an uprising in 1846. Notoriously, Polish Catholic peasants sold the heads of Polish Catholic nobility to foreign colonizers.

 

There are many atrocities in the long history of Eastern Europe. Not all these atrocities involved Christians killing Jews. Some involved Catholics killing Catholics. Some, as in the case of Berman and Kaganovich, involve Jews committing massive wrongs against non-Jews. To omit these facts is to distort history, but to reinforce identity.

 

***

 

A Facebook friend yelled at me for even mentioning this trend. She wants me to mention that Jews support Ukraine. She herself has donated to Ukraine, and she is not a wealthy person. God bless her.

 

I don't know how representational this trend is. Someone with research funds can conduct a survey and get back to me. All I know is, it exists, and its existence is not random. Its existence is evidence of the continued vitality, power, and function of the Bieganski stereotype.

 

I just googled "Israel support Ukraine." An image of the results is below. It looks as though Israel has been careful about supporting Ukraine.

 

I just googled "American Jews Support Ukraine." Those results also suggest a less than wildly enthusiastic level of support. Again, this is a Google search, not a fully funded survey, so it is inaccurate, an impression of trends, not a statement of actual support. 













12 comments:

  1. You write, 'LF wants to be "Jewish" because being "Jewish," even for an American who rejects core tenets of Judaism, endows the claimant with a sense of identity and a sense of meaning.'

    Yes. And that is also why the Holocaust permeates the American educational system.

    ReplyDelete
  2. We study the Holocaust in school because it is a huge historical event that happened close to us in time and we , Americans, played a role from the rise of Hitler to the American troops liberating concentration camps.

    American scientific racism inspired Hitler. America stayed out of the war till it entered the war. Survivors and descendants of soldiers live in our country today.

    The murder of 60% of Europe's Jews in a few short years demands study.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Jerzy PankiewiczMay 24, 2022 at 4:00 AM

    "The murder of 60% of Europe's Jews in a few short years demands study." I support this opinion. But unfortunately some Holocaust educational institutions declare their political unprecize opinions (https://www.ushmm.org/information/press/press-releases/collaboration-and-complicity-during-the-holocaust, https://www.ushmm.org/information/press/press-releases/museum-statement-on-holocaust-legislation-in-poland). Some texts for education are biased and too difficult ("Maus") and discussing "Maus" causes critics.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Jerzy PankiewiczMay 25, 2022 at 3:12 AM

    Israeli press https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-videos-israelis-fighting-with-ukraine-thank-israel-jewish-people-for-support/ In videos, Israelis fighting with Ukraine thank Israel, Jewish people for support https://www.timesofisrael.com/jewish-ukrainian-soldier-in-besieged-mariupol-plant-asks-israel-to-rescue-garrison/ Vitaliy Barabash says in Facebook video that there are other Jewish soldiers in the Azovstal complex; Ukrainian sources put the number at over 20 https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-61361827 "The Hasidic community and Ukrainians became much closer. They don't differentiate between Jewish people or not Jewish. It doesn't matter."

    ReplyDelete
  5. Jerzy PankiewiczMay 25, 2022 at 9:17 AM

    "Ghost Citizens" by Krzyzanowski, review by US professor, published by German journal http://www.sehepunkte.de/2022/05/37054.html I find the text biased, internal Polish discussion becomes nasty, when literally translated. The book needs 50 pages of context explanation.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Jerzy PankiewiczMay 25, 2022 at 9:18 AM

    An another review, unavailable to me. https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv1198zsp

    ReplyDelete
  7. Jerzy PankiewiczMay 25, 2022 at 9:31 AM

    "A Tree For Poland"
    "Amidst the international outrage in 2018 following an attempt to criminalize speech about Poles’ participation in the Holocaust" Para-academic trash, Clark University

    ReplyDelete
  8. Jerzy PankiewiczMay 26, 2022 at 2:48 AM

    Regarding 1846 crimes - the peasants believed to be Masurs, oppressed by Polish szlachta. Similar splits existed in other parts of divided Poland. The Endeks wanted later to integrate Polish speaking people, especially the peasants. Now we remember only Endek antisemitism.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Jerzy PankiewiczMay 26, 2022 at 7:48 AM

    Nashville rabbi volunteers in Poland https://eu.tennessean.com/story/opinion/2022/05/20/polands-treatment-ukrainian-refugees-provides-lesson-humanity/9860402002/ Poland's treatment of Ukrainian refugees provides a lesson on humanity

    ReplyDelete
  10. Jerzy PankiewiczMay 26, 2022 at 9:32 AM

    https://ipn.gov.pl/pl/publikacje/periodyki-ipn/polish-jewish-studies/157357,Polish-Jewish-Studies-volume-22021.html#page Polish-Jewish studies, a number of English language reviews.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Jerzy PankiewiczMay 27, 2022 at 5:35 AM

    Land donations for Russia https://twitter.com/elmaydanska/status/1529728952226484224/photo/1

    ReplyDelete
  12. Jerzy PankiewiczJune 1, 2022 at 2:03 AM

    The Insider numbers are wrong. Belarus includes also number of victims from Eastern Poland, so called Western Belarus.

    ReplyDelete

Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
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