Book Review: Masters of Discourse
Good morning from the Zundelsite:
For weeks and weeks, I have had on my nightstand two titles by Israel Shamir, an Israeli journalist and internet essayist par excellence. One is “Cabbala of Power”, of which I will say little because it is, essentially, an argument of sentiment by a converted Jew who has found solace and relief in Christianity.
Here I speak only for myself. I have been an entrenched agnostic since I was twelve years old and argued with the preachers that God had certainly no business casting Satan into outer darkness without granting him a platform and an impartial ear. Little did I know in those young years that here was a budding revisionist speaking!
“Well,” said the preachers, launching a rigid imperative as they are wont to do while missing the point of my protest, “he refused to love God, didn’t he?”
Sheesh! What a Jewish argument, coming from a Christian preacher! What is “love”, I wanted to know – still do! - without merit or respect? Why should anybody be compelled to “love” without any rhyme or reason if one’s dogmatic counterpart arbitrarily cuts off a two-way discourse?
That is one of many worthy points in Shamir’s second title, “Masters of Discourse” – a collection of beautifully crafted essays discussing some of the conflicts that plague us world-wide because otherwise high-minded people don’t exactly “love” the Jews – and, hence, to their astonishment, find themselves cast into outer darkness by self-righteous counterpart maxims. Jews expect to be “loved” – please, on what merits?
Those were my thoughts for weeks as I was eyeing those two titles with ambivalence. Central to my reservations as a book reviewer was a barrier I am a bit squeamish to admit – that Israel Shamir is a Jew. He is also my friend and a man I abundantly admire and respect – and have for many years. I know, I know – he is a Christian now, no longer a “Jew” - but even there a pesky intrusion pops into my head my Christian-Mennonite grandmother would often cite with passion and zest:
“If a cat has kittens in the oven, does that make the kittens cookies?”
If I become a Muslim, does that make me an Arab?
As much as I like, appreciate, and even admire Shamir for any number of good reasons, primarily his breadth of understanding and his amazingly precise yet literarily seductive pen, this is where we part ways. I don’t think one can renounce being a Jew, any more than one can renounce being a Gentile. I am a German Gentile from way back, even though my people lived in Russia for five or six generations. I never saw myself as a Russian, much less did I think of myself as a Slav. Who we are genetically is not something one can discard any more than one can ditch the color of one’s eyes. It’s our blueprint, for better or for worse. We can’t choose our snail house that comes with ancestry.
What we can choose, however, is a moral outlook and a moral conduct, whether one is Jewish or Gentile by background or not. That is where I give credit to Shamir. He is, in my book, one of the noblest, most genuine, caring and discerning human being on this planet, and he lives his “Gentile” creed, his brand of Christianity against his Jewish background, through his brave conduct and his stunning writing every day.
In an ever more polarizing Jewish-Gentile universe, this “identity politics” argument is peeling itself out of a century of socially laissez-faire gook. As I was pondering just what to write to be fair to my friend’s talents and insights, Ernst called me from Mannheim Prison where Shamir’s vengeful tribal brethren have finally managed to manacle him because he asks, as I did as a child: “Worship the Jews? Please. On what merits?”
“What are you doing?” asked Ernst.
“I am trying to review Shamir’s books,” I told him. “And I am having a dickens of a time. It used to be that one could never speak about a Jew except in a cloyingly backslapping manner. These days, I get clobbered if I say anything at all approving about Jews! The hatred out there on the Net against Jews is alarming.”
Said Ernst with a small chuckle, on the receiving end of global Jewish virulence for all his adult years: “We’ll be their last defenders!”
Of all the ironies!
So let me defend Israel Shamir while I still can. Shamir digs in his heels and speaks Wrath to Power with an almost suicidal courage, yet inside, I believe, is still a suffering Jew who tries to get his tribal brethren to head for the safety hatch while there’s still time, while they still can. Will he succeed? I cannot answer that. The anger out there against “Jews” is ferocious and past the point of reason – especially now with Gaza on everyone’s mind.
I have no trouble stating that anything that Shamir writes is beauty and complexity, even if it deals with cruelty. Below, I will give you a handful of examples what I mean when I say that the power of his pen is equal to none:
“The Jewish leadership never intended to give their captive goy a chance to lead a normal life. Sooner will a cat turn vegetarian.”
“Saddam Hussein is gone,” he writes, “but by now every leader in the world knows what he should expect if Israel asks its American Golem for his head.”
“Without Israel, US forces would be quite content to hang around their bases in Georgia and Texas instead of seeking out Jew-haters in the five continents.”
About Jewish media control: “The fearsome AIPAC is just the visible tip of the iceberg, below which are miles and miles of solid ice: media lords, chief editors, their pundits – in short, the Masters of Discourse.”
About the double standard: “As the gentile killer of Klinghoffer the Jew is pursued around the world by the CIA, the Jewish killer of Rachel Corrie goes free.”
“In space studies, there is a phenomenon called the black hole. The collapse of an old, heavy star warps the geometry of the surrounding space, and rays of light can no longer escape the intense gravity. Such a black hole star is invisible because its very size and power has defeated gravity. Jewry is such a black hole. It is so powerful that it is not seen. One is not allowed to see it. It is the strongest taboo of our day.”
“Liberalism is as Jewish as gefilte fish.”
“It befits beggars to brag about sores and show off their deformities, not warriors and philosophers. Demanding apologies and begging forgiveness is sick.”
“The Jew and the goy are like wolf and lamb; if you want the wolf to dwell with the lamb, please provide a fresh lamb every day.”
“It is easy to object to “Israeli tanks’, ‘Israeli snipers’, ‘Israeli killers’. Try Jewish killers. Not so easy.”
“Playing word games does not fool anyone – least of all ‘the Jews’. If Raimondo were slapped by Aaranovitch, he would probably claim that he was slapped by Aaranovitch’s hand ‘which has nothing to do with Comrade Aaranovitch’. In my view, if Aaranovitch’s hand slaps Raimondo, I’m guessing Aaranovitch is close by.”
And, finally, the apex of insight for me:
“This is a war against Spirit, and Spirit is not to be trifled with.”
I love that kind of writing. It’s near impossible to do justice to the many layers of Shamir’s book, The Masters of Discourse”. If you want to know what hard thinking is, wrapped in the most literarily seductive prose you’ll ever find in our intellectually and morally warped century, read Israel Shamir - and see where you come out.
Israel Adam Shamir, Masters of Discourse (Surge Books 2008) 695 pp. $23.99 ISBN 1-4196-9243-7