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.




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. 

Saturday, May 14, 2022

A Request for Jewish Friends During War in Ukraine

Pope John Paul II and Rome Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff

A Request for Jewish Friends.


I've been paying a lot of attention to Russia's war on Ukraine.


It's almost unbearable.


A woman tied up and forced to watch as Russian soldiers rape her young son.


The streets of Bucha lined with corpses, their hands tied behind their backs, bullets in their skulls, signs of torture on their bodies.


In an intercepted phone call, a Russian bride encourages her Russian husband to rape Ukrainian women. A Russian mother praises her son for confessing that his outfit shot an innocent Ukrainian mother in front of her children. "You had to shoot her. She is Ukrainian. She is the enemy."


In a video posted online, a Russian soldier brags about booty he looted from a Ukrainian home: Tupperware and jam. In another case, Russians looted a washing machine and kept the large, electric item in a muddy trench till they retreated.


A Russian soldier describes being seriously wounded and his fellow soldiers relieving him of his weapons and his phone, and leaving him to die. He did not receive medical care for his serious wounds till days later, when captured by Ukrainians.


And of course Vladimir Putin threatening the world with nuclear war, to "win" a pointless war that Russia can never, and will never, win.


Those in the West offering propaganda support for Putin, like Tulsi Gabbard, Tucker Carlson, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Madison Cawthorn, and Matt Walsh, disgust and enrage me. I have lost Facebook friends over this.


Recently a Facebook friend said that he went to Veselka, a Ukrainian restaurant in NYC. Their sidewalks signs read "Eat Borscht. Stand with Ukraine" and "Make Pierogi Not War."


One of his friends, whom I'll call "Rose," began to shout. She shouted for many, lengthy, subsequent posts. The gist of her message was that she would never eat at Veselka because Ukrainians are scum. "Butcher" "Rabid" "sordid" and "Never forget" are some of the key words from her post. I can't quote the entire post here because it was in a private, not public thread.


I responded, this is my entire post:


"Ukrainians have, at least twice in their history, committed massacres of Poles. During WW II, Ukrainians, allied with Nazis and also acting alone, massacred Poles. Poles were sawed in half, crucified, dismembered.


Towns that had been Polish for centuries were ethnically cleansed and Polish history erased.


Poles have been second to none in their support of Ukraine and Ukrainians.


Poles have a great deal to be proud of.


People with your attitude have nothing to be proud of."


Rose responded with all caps, calling Poles "butchers," "Nazi collaborators," "Szmalcowniks" "terrorists." She cited Grabowski, Gross, and Engelking. She said, "You resent my knowledge." She repeated the word "resent" four times  The old stereotype that she is intelligent and I am stupid. "I am proud of my knowledge" she said and this is an exact quote. Any call to support Ukraine today is a "revisionist narrative."


I replied, "I wonder if you've heard of Lazar Kaganovich?


From Wikipedia: "Kaganovich played a central role during the Great Purge, personally signing over 180 lists that sent tens of thousands to their deaths. For his ruthlessness, he received the nickname "Iron Lazar". He also played a role in organizing, planning and supervising the collectivization policies that are said to have led to the catastrophic Soviet famine of 1932–33 (the Holodomor in Ukraine in particular)."


Jakub Berman participated in show trials of, defamation of, torture of, murder of, and burial in mass graves of Poles who fought against the Nazis, including Polish Catholic Witold Pilecki, who volunteered to be smuggled into Auschwitz so that he could help the Polish resistance against Nazis.


Pilecki was just one of thousands of heroic Poles who met the same fate. Public defamation, show trials, torture, murder, burial in unmarked graves,


In September, 1939, Jews often denounced Poles to Soviet invaders, who put them on cattle cars to their deaths in Siberia.


There is a great deal of suffering and atrocity to go around.


Those who cling to these events and insist on a punitive attitude today for crimes of the past hurt the world. And hurt themselves.


Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish. "His grandfather, Semyon (Simon) Ivanovych Zelenskyy, served as an infantryman, reaching the rank of Colonel,[5] in the Red Army (in the 57th Guards Motor Rifle Division)[22] during World War II; Semyon's father and three brothers died in the Holocaust.[23][24][25][26] In March 2022 Zelenskyy revealed that his great-grandparents had been killed after German troops burned their home to the ground during a massacre."


Ukraine voted for a Jewish president, and this Jewish president loves Ukraine. Amen!


Good luck."


Rose responded that Jews became Communist because Communism "was supposed to treat everyone equally."


She also alleged that Zelensky is secretly Christian. And she called me an anti-Semite. " you were born that way," she said. She compared me and all Eastern Europeans to the KKK and Jews to black people.


Rose, by resorting to the anti-Semite insult, missed the point.


I personally know people whose families were betrayed by Jewish neighbors during the Soviet invasion of eastern Poland in 1930. These Poles were packed into cattle cars and sent to their deaths in Siberia.


Rose's logic: "Ukrainians did bad things to Jews so I have a right to refuse to eat borscht or support Ukraine in other way." By Rose's logic, everyone in Eastern Europe has a right to hate, as well.


When I do meet anti-Semitic people, they are like Rose. They use exactly Rose's logic. "A Jewish person or persons did something bad to me or someone I care about so I have a right to hate."


But Poles have chosen *not* to use their history to hate. Zelensky has chosen *not* to use his history to hate.


Rose has chosen to use her history to hate.


Rose couldn't see that.




Rose is not alone. I have encountered many such posts on social media. Jewish people saying that because they are Jewish, they couldn’t care less about the suffering in Ukraine, and they don't support the world's support for Ukraine. They make it a point to tell a distorted history that depicts Ukrainians as "butchers … rabid … stupid … born that way."


Phyllis Chesler did just that in her Tablet article.


No context. No admission that Ukrainians did bad things in the past under given historical circumstances that have since changed.


No. Ukrainians are essential rabid butchers, "Born that way."


Eastern European Christians are the only villains. Jews are the only victims.




And here is my request for Jewish friends. I am Polish-descent and Catholic. The Roses of the world will always dismiss me as an anti-Semite, "born that way," "resentful" of her "knowledge." I can't get through to her.


You can.


I would love to see a piece by a Jewish author in a mainstream publication addressing Rose and Phyllis and others pushing this "Ukrainians are essential butchers; do not support them" narrative.


Meanwhile, Jewish people on social media can stand up against this hate with their posts.


When and if I see that happen, I will appreciate it.


Me? I have published on my support for Israel. I have taken a stand against anti-Semitism. So yes I know others can also take a stand against hate. Now is the time. Thank you.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

The Brute Polak Stereotype and War in Ukraine: Former Estonian President Toomas Ilves Speaks Out


Toomas Ilves Source: Wikipedia 

In a recent interview with Klub Jagiellonski, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the former president of Estonia, brought up what I have called the Bieganski, Brute Polak Stereotype. This stereotype, as my book makes clear, applies to all Eastern European, Christian-descent populations. We are all brutes, and Westerners who are invested in this stereotype condescend to us.


Some clips from the interview, below


"Recently 'westplaining' has become a very fashionable term. It concerns the problem of patronizing the Eastern European states by Western politicians. Anne Applebaum stated that 'American and European leaders' profound lack of imagination has brought the world to the brink of war'. Will the Russian invasion of Ukraine change the attitude of looking at Eastern policy through the Western prism?"


"For me, westplaining is mostly germansplaining and the shock of the February 24th invasion was enough to lead chancellor Scholz to revise 50 years of Ostpolitik. We could also see that the German president Steinmeier has announced his regrets on his position. I think that, until now, there has been a general inclination to always believe the Russians and to look down on and disregard the views of the countries who have experience in dealing with Russia.


I was saying for years that there is an anti-empirical bias among West Europeans and Americans. You have experience with Russia and instead of listening to your experience, they write you off as being biased. That willingness to believe a Russian narrative always before an Eastern European narrative is something that we have had to deal with for a long time.


Sometimes it comes up in really obnoxious ways. Last year's defense of building Nord Stream II on the part of Steinmeier for example. He basically said that Germans owe it to the Russians because of all of the suffering they inflicted upon them, forgetting about the fact that far more people, not only proportionally but even in absolute numbers, suffered in Poland, Belarus and Ukraine than suffered in Russia." …


"To borrow from Edward Said's famous book, it is a case of orientalism. The only people left in the world toward whom it is politically correct to act like a racist are Eastern Europeans. You cannot do it toward Russians because then you are Russophobic.


There is a book by Robert Kaplan, 'Balkan Ghosts'. He writes there about 'primitive tribal hatreds' of the Eastern Europeans. What could be more racist than that? It is just like during a massive cyber-attack against Estonia in 2007. We went to NATO to talk about it, and the response was 'you are just being Russophobic'. And that is from countries all far less advanced digitally than we are. None of these people had a clue about anything digital. Will we see a change in 30 years of this smug, patronising behaviour? It's too early to tell." …


"My position on the following is: no easing up on sanctions until Russia has paid for the damages of what was done to Ukraine. We can get $200 billion from the seized or frozen assets by the West, but it will not be enough. Ukraine needs around $700 billion to be rebuilt. Russia also has to pay the reparations for the killings and for the injuries that have been done.


The other requirement must be that all of the people responsible, from the lowest to the highest, have to go to court. From the corporal who shoots and rapes people in Bucha to the people who write articles in the state media saying we have to eliminate the Ukrainian people. They say the same things about Poles and Estonians. The lies they said about Poland regarding the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact are utterly ridiculous, but this is what we face." …


"I have taken a family of two refugees to my farm and the bureaucracy has worked amazingly well. I got them their ID numbers so they will get digital identities and I took care of the formalities to open a bank account for them. I have also driven them to get the older woman registered for her pension, and to put the younger Ukrainian refugee's CV on the unemployment list so she can get a job.


On the part of civil society, Estonians are donating everything. Many people have given their houses, apartments and furniture, while more wealthy Estonians are buying up four-by-four cars to send to the territorial defense units in Ukraine. One guy even bought 35 ambulances on his own!


The same thing is happening in Latvia as well. I think it goes back to the issue of experience. None of this that we see today is new to us. We have lived through it. You have lived through it. There is no need for me to teach Poles about your own history, though there is a need for all of us to teach Western Europe about our own history." …


"We, as well as Poles, Latvians and Lithuanians, know what the Russians do. I do not think Estonians were really surprised by Bucha because we have similar experiences. It is no less horrifying, but when we see it, we know they could do that because they did that to us as well." ...


Thank you Jerzy for sending this in.