Times of Israel Scrubs Revisionist David Cole’s Work!
When I started blogging for The Times of Israel, I knew it would be a risky endeavor. Risky in terms of wasted effort. Sure, I had to provide links to blog editors Hannah Fink and Miriam Herschlag (“Fink n’ Herschlag”…I can’t decide if that sounds like a wacky sitcom or a position from the Yiddish Kama Sutra). So, I provided them with links detailing my revisionist activities, my book, and my Taki’s Magazine columns, all in the name of honesty and full disclosure (if I was going to lose this gig, it wouldn’t be because I lied on my application).
I was approved. My first op-ed was pummeled by trolls (“He’s a denier! He’s a denier! Burn ‘im, he’s a warlock!”), but the Times stuck with me. The second piece was blessedly free of troll comments. Both pieces garnered hundreds and hundreds of shares, likes, retweets, etc. I thought to myself, “I might just be able to keep this going for a few months.” I mean, my pieces were successful, they were pulling in readers, and the admins had approved me knowing my history. Plus, I liked the challenge of “toning down” my voice. My steady gig at Taki’s Magazine gives me the opportunity to speak my mind, uncensored. But with the Times, I enjoyed the game of “how revisionist can I make this without being too revisionist?”
Ah, but never underestimate the power and tenacity of my former “Friends of Abe” pals, the Hollywood conservatives who declared me Public Enemy #1 when they learned I had an opinion about Auschwitz. There are a good dozen of them out there who refuse to leave me alone, even as we approach the two-year anniversary of my “outing” (April 20th, a very important date: the birthday of Judith O’Dea, star of “Night of the Living Dead”). The passing years don’t matter. These tiny-brained furious folks are still just as agitated and crimson-faced in anger now as they were in 2013. Bottom line – on Friday I picked up some “chatter” that something was going down with the Angry Abes, and by Monday my Times of Israel page had been scrubbed cleaner than Howard Hughes’ hands after touching a hobo. My bloggers password was revoked, and I was permanently barred from the site.
Blog editor Miriam Herschlag was blunt when I requested an explanation:
I learned about you only after you joined our blogs. Your contributions are not welcome on The Times of Israel and your blog has been deleted.
The decision is final and I have nothing more to add.
My Republican former-buddies had won a victory. Amazingly, a few of them continued to brag on their Facebook pages about how “brave” they are for opposing leftist censorship, while actively seeking to ban my work from the public sphere. One of them even still has “Je Suis Charlie” as his profile pic!
I’m not going to lie. I enjoy the fact that I still make the Abes angry. And I like the fact that they continue to attack me, because it validates a hatred against them that I don’t want to let go of. It’s a comforting hatred. It’s what Elie Wiesel called (in a different context) “healthy, virile hate.”
As long as the Angry Abes continue to come after me, I can allow myself this hate without being troubled by the fact that I’m still holding on to it. These people took everything from me, everything I’d built up in my life, and they have since gone out of their way to attempt to continually ruin me at every turn. It’s not a matter of them winning – I’m smarter than they are, and I’ve gotten past much worse. It’s that I don’t want to be through with them yet, and they oblige me by not being through with me either. So I enjoy being able to parry their continued advances. It’s like a workout; it keeps the anger from bottling up.
Look, I never claimed to be Gandhi (although I do admire his disdain for shirts).
I’m expecting a complaint or two from my readers that this post has focused more on the Angry Abes than the Times of Israel. Well, I’m not going to feign shock or surprise that the Times editors acted exactly as I assumed they would when their feet were put to the fire. What I find more interesting, as an overall story, is the level of blind, unreasonable wrath that basic, reasonable historical revisionism has provoked in a supposedly “rational” group of Hollywood Republicans (comprised of people who are Jewish and non-Jewish).
Not to mention the proof this episode provides of the simple truth that “free speech”-loving conservatives will resort to exactly the type of censorship and bullying they decry in the left…you just have to strike the right nerve.
The Times of Israel acted exactly as I expected The Times of Israel to act. I could make a rather cogent point about the irony of the Times censoring an essay about free speech, but my regular readers get the humor without me having to say anything. However, if you want to say something to The Times of Israel, by all means do!
Miriam Herschlag: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hannah Fink: email@example.com
Censored Piece #1: “Can the Jews Survive Free Speech?” (view cached version)
There exists, in many Jews individually, and in the Jewish community as a whole, an internal struggle, a civil war of sorts, between two very basic and fundamental Jewish instincts: the impulse to be civil libertarians, and the desire for self-preservation.
In law, in government, in the media, Jews have always been a loud and unapologetic voice for basic human rights such as free speech (arguably, in my opinion, the most fundamental human right). But when Jews feel threatened, and where the law allows (as in Canada and most of Europe), there has been a tendency to demand governmental protection in the form of laws that punish “hate speech.”
Free speech versus “protection.” We see this debate raging full force in Western Europe these days, especially in France, as anti-Jewish incidents, predominately carried out by Muslims, are on the increase. Typical of the duality I described above, in the past few months I’ve seen individual Jews, and Jewish organizations, band together to chant “Je Suis Charlie,” while at the same time demanding the prosecution of people who make anti-Semitic comments or deny the Holocaust.
Needless to say, some Muslims call out the hypocrisy. And they’re not entirely wrong, although there is hypocrisy on their end as well, as many of Europe and Canada’s Muslims, in the name of prosecuting “Islamophobes,” invoke the anti-speech laws that were in many cases initiated by Jews.
Anti-speech laws thus become a double-edged sword for Jews. Jews get the protection of the state, but so do other groups. Jews get to see Holocaust deniers thrown in prison, and Muslims get to take legal action against activists who favor restricting Muslim immigration, or who criticize Muslim crime or culture.
In the end, I’ve always believed that laws restricting speech do more harm than good for the Jewish community. They turn anti-Jewish fringe-dwellers into martyrs, they provide ammo for the propaganda of those who claim that Jews are controlling and conspiratorial, and eventually they become exploited by the very people Jews are supposedly trying to protect themselves against.
The “free speech vs. protection” debate among Jews is older than you might think. In the April 1947 issue of Commentary, distinguished legal scholar Milton Konvitz reviewed the book “An International Convention Against Anti-Semitism” by Mark Vishniak (Research Institute of the Jewish Labor Committee, 1946). And damned if the debate hasn’t changed one iota in seventy years. Vishniak argues that anti-Semitism can, and should, be kept down by law. Konvitz is skeptical. If the date on the magazine wasn’t 1947, I’d think I was reading the current issue.
Dr. Vishniak sees the issue as one between the right of Jews to live a life of dignity and honor, and the right of persons to express their opinions of groups by written or spoken word. The right to honor and the right to free expression of opinion may clash. How is the conflict to be resolved?
“A citizen’s right to express his dislike of the Jews or other minorities,” says Dr. Vishniak, “and to single out for criticism their negative traits, is as inviolable in a democratic state as is, on the other hand, the undeniable right of the state to prevent and to punish actions at the point when they deprive individuals and groups of their rights, worth and dignity. We must look for and we must find a balance. It is no restriction of the freedom of speech, for example, to forbid a false cry of ‘fire’ in a crowded cinema.”
Konvitz is unconvinced. He makes two cogent points, one of which I’ve already voiced in more contemporary terms:
Dr. Vishniak would, I take it, support the Lynch Bill, which was considered in Congress in 1944. This bill provided that the criminal code be amended to declare non-mailable all written matter and pictures containing any defamatory and false statement which tends to expose persons, designated by race or religion, to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy, or tends to cause such persons to be shunned or avoided, or to be injured in their business or occupation. The American Jewish Congress sponsored the bill. On the other hand, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People opposed the measure because of their apprehension that enactment of the bill would lead to a stifling of free expression of grievances (grievances, e.g., of Negroes against white persons), and would impair the constitutional right of free speech and freedom of the press. To my mind, if one takes one’s position on the Constitution, then the ACLU and the NAACP are right, and the American Jewish Congress and Dr. Vishniak wrong.
In other words, the “Lynch Bill” could have been turned around and used to stifle what black Americans said about whites. Konvitz predicted the “turnabout is fair play” aspect of anti-speech laws back in the ‘40s, yet many Jews today seem shocked that Muslims have figured out how to use Jewish-backed anti-speech laws to their advantage. Only a fool couldn’t have seen that coming.
Konvtiz’s other cogent point is that these kinds of laws don’t work:
Dr. Vishniak’s book itself provides partial proof that legislation against group defamation is not the cure. The Criminal Code of the Soviet Union provides that incitement of national or religious enmity and disunity shall constitute a crime against the state. A person convicted of the crime may be sentenced to imprisonment for a period up to two years or, under certain circumstances, he may be sentenced to death by shooting. But the author admits that “the most recent news from U.S.S.R. testifies that the scourge of anti-Semitism has not disappeared.”
So even under threat of firing squad, anti-speech laws don’t work.
The time has come to lay this shopworn debate to rest. There are no decent arguments for imprisoning writers, artists, polemicists, pamphleteers, bloggers, historians, pseudo-historians, comedians, and street-corner agitators.
Jews are a people of history. Study the history of this debate, and you’ll see the overwhelming common sense of one side of it.
Jews are a people of faith. Have faith that yes, we can absolutely survive free speech.
Censored Piece #2: “American Jews and the Crisis of Bad Faith” (view cached version)
An October 2013 Pew Research Center poll delivered alarming news regarding the state of the U.S. Jewish community. Judaism as a religion, as a faith, is fading. One in five American Jews (22%) now consider themselves to be “Jews of no religion.” That number rises to 32% among Jews born after 1980.
Much has been written about that poll, but I’d like to address it from a perspective that’s uniquely mine. As a former Republican Party activist, and as a man who’s adult life is bookended by Holocaust research, I think I have a distinctive point of view on this subject.
It’s easy for atheists and secularists to jump for joy at the news that a non-religious form of Judaism seems on track to become the majority American Jewish belief system within a few decades. But before you break out the Penn Jillette party favors, it’s important to understand what the religious aspects of Judaism are being replaced with. It’s not worship that’s being rejected; it’s worship of God specifically. The desire to worship is still there, but the divine has been replaced with the temporal and vulgar. As the only human being ever dubbed a “meta-ideologue” (“an existentialist on a quest to understand how ideologues invent their realities,” according to Dr. Michael Shermer in the L.A. Times), if there’s one thing I understand, it’s that the urge to believe never goes away; it just gets transferred.
According to the Pew poll, a whopping 73% of all respondents believe that the single most “essential” thing about “being Jewish” is “remembering the Holocaust.” Coming in at 56% is “working for justice and equality.” “Observing Jewish law” limped in at 19%, and “believing in God” came in at 29%.
Why is this not good? Well, let’s start with that 56% “justice and equality” figure. In my years as a GOP activist, I saw Jews cling to the Democrat Party with a zealotry normally reserved for religion. In a lifetime of living in one of L.A.’s most heavily Jewish areas, I have never once been frowned upon or chewed out by Orthodox Jews for ordering crab legs or pork. Never. Not once. I’ve never been given a dirty look for driving on the Sabbath. Never. Not once. But being a Republican? Secular Jews have attacked me so many times for that, I’ve lost count.
“Social justice Jews” have replaced their faith in God with a faith in politics, which is, by extension, a faith in man, which is always a very bad idea. Politics is dirty, politicians are crooked, and this is coming from me, a die-hard partisan. If you’re looking to take all the fervor that might have otherwise gone into religious worship and direct it somewhere else, politics is just about the worst place you could put it.
Or is it?
That the Holocaust is now the defining factor for American Jews is something that experts in the field have dreaded, and warned against, for decades. Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt – no friend of mine – called it with impeccable foresight back in 1981, in Judaism: A Quarterly Journal (issue #119). Remember, this is thirty-four years ago:
Isolating the Holocaust from the historical continuum is, in measure, a problem of methodology and perspective and results in a misreading of history. It is dangerous, but not as insidious as the tendency among Jewish lay and religious leaders to use the Holocaust as a means of arousing feelings of latent Jewish identity. They “invoke” it and make it a code word for a series of Jewish experiences.
In these instances the Holocaust becomes a means of achieving communal cohesion and accelerating the process of identification. Not only is it exploitative of both victims and the Jew whose “conscience is being raised,” but it reinforces the historically inaccurate message that anti-Semitism and persecution are the glue that has bound the Jewish people together, and it is because of the ever-present threat of anti-Semitism that Jews must remain Jews.
Lipstadt saw it coming.
Among those who have reacted negatively to the increasing emphasis on the Holocaust have been members of the Orthodox community, who believe that the Holocaust is being used as a means of fostering lapsed tribalism … They (the Orthodox) already possess a myriad of positive symbols on which to rely and they reject the suggestion that Jewish suffering might serve as an agent for the maintenance of communal cohesion. When the Holocaust becomes the focal point for preservation of Jewish tradition, it is virtually transformed into a religious symbol.
Some Orthodox Jews contend that the Holocaust is used as a means of legitimizing a pre-existing denial of the existence of God. They argue that those who have already rejected the notion of a just and powerful Deity find the Holocaust a convenient means of rationalizing their decision. This argument is – at least in certain cases – correct.
Jews replacing God with the Holocaust. Jews using the Holocaust to justify their lack of faith. Jews turning the Holocaust into a secular religion. Say what you will about Lipstadt, but she nailed it…in 1981.
In 1994, “progressive” rabbi and author Michael Lerner was even more direct, in his book “Jewish Renewal:”
Israeli philosopher Adi Ophir predicted that eventually a Judaism will emerge whose primary focus is on the Holocaust. It would have its own commandments: “I am the Holocaust. Thou shalt have no other Holocausts before me. Remember the Holocaust and keep it holy.” His exaggeration highlights a tendency that has distorted Jewish life.
Lerner’s only mistake was in calling Ophir’s sardonic quote an “exaggeration.”
Just as in the case of the “Democrat Party is my God” Jews, I witnessed firsthand the intolerance of the “Holocaust is my God” Jews after I was “outed” in 2013 for my controversial Holocaust research in the early ‘90s. All of a sudden the rational secular Jews on the right, some of whom were among my closest friends, reacted with the same fanaticism as the Democrat Jews we used to collectively deride.
The greatest danger in turning any historical event into a religion is that no one is born with a pre-existing knowledge of history. People learn about history by reading the work of historians, and historians can be wrong. Yes, even the really good ones are fallible. If you make history your God, then by definition every historian becomes your pope, a vessel through which holy wisdom is dispensed.
Faith belongs to the divine. It has no place in politics, or in history. If you want to have faith, have faith in God. If you want to pretend you’re Penn Jillette, then be Penn Jillette and cast a skeptical eye toward all man-made institutions and ideologies, including politics and history.
Which brings me to a closing bit of hopeful news. In the Pew poll, following the Holocaust and “social justice,” 49% of respondents said that, to them, being Jewish means “being intellectually curious.” If Judaism as a faith is fading among young Americans, if the religious trappings of Judaism must be replaced by something, better it be intellectual curiosity than politics or the Holocaust. It might not be the best solution to the current crisis in Jewish spirituality, but, as my bubbe used to say, “you could do worse.”