Friday, December 21, 2018

Alice Walker's antisemitic post on the Talmud: A Commentary

Alice Walker's antisemitism has come to wider public notice because of the New York Times' interview with her, which revealed that one of the books on her nightstand is “And the Truth Shall Set You Free,” by David Icke, the blatant British antisemite who believes that the world is being ruled by reptilian alien invaders (really!). 

Her antisemitism is fed by other sources as well, including classic slurs about the Talmud. She published a "poem" on her blog in 2017 titled It Is Our (Frightful) Duty To Study The Talmud

It is frighteningly malevolent in its hatred for Jews and Judaism. This part of the writing is specifically about the Talmud:
For the study of Israel, of Gaza, of Palestine,
Of the bombed out cities of the Middle East,
Of the creeping Palestination
Of our police, streets, and prisons
In America,
Of war in general,
It is our duty, I believe, to study The Talmud.
It is within this book that,
I believe, we will find answers
To some of the questions
That most perplex us.
Now, why would studying the Talmud help with understanding present-day Gaza, Palestine, and Israel, police violence in America, and war in general? The Talmud is a work from late antiquity from a completely different political context than the one we live in now.
Where to start?

You will find some information,
Slanted, unfortunately,
By Googling. For a more in depth study
I recommend starting with YouTube. Simply follow the trail of “The
Talmud” as its poison belatedly winds its way
Into our collective consciousness. 
Apparently it didn't occur to her to pick up one of several books that offer good introductions to the Talmud, but instead to apply to Google University. Google was too biased for her, apparently because the first articles are from reputable academic or media sources. I just googled the word "Talmud," and the first hits are: a definition of the word, the Wikipedia article on the Talmud, a My Jewish Learning article on the Talmud, several more introduction articles of the same type, and then a series of news articles about the Talmud, including one from the BBC, Why has the Talmud become so popular? (from 2013) and an article from the New Yorker on why the Talmud has become a best-seller in South Korea (from 2015). None of them are from antisemitic sources - except for Alice Walker's antisemitic poem, which is the 31st hit on the first page of Google results.

The second page of results starts with a short Youtube video by Rabbi Yehiel Eckstein about the Talmud. It includes a few more antisemitic sites, including another link to Walker's "poem," the Come and Hear website, run by an antisemite, which has published all of the Soncino translation of the Talmud into English, and The Talmud Unmasked: THE SECRET RABBINICAL TEACHINGS CONCERNING CHRISTIANS, first published in St. Petersburg in 1892, and in English translation in 1939 (Google for the link).

From John-Paul Pagano, more on the anti-Talmud literature:
Its modern source is the Talmud anti-Semitism of the 17th Century Christian Hebraist, Johann Eisenmenger. An Orientalist, Eisenmenger purported to expose the misanthropic teachings of the Talmud by cherry-picking scraps and publishing them as Entdecktes Judenthum, or Judaism Unmasked. These excerpts, shorn of context and cranked through a grinder of jaundiced interpretation, struck Gentiles as scary. Next was August Rohling, a German theologian and professional anti-Semite who rehashed Eisenmenger's work in Der Talmudjude, or The Talmud Jew, and retailed himself as an expert witness. In an adumbration of the Holocaust-denier David Irving's disgrace by the scholar Deborah Lipstadt, Rohling was eventually embarrassed on the stand, himself exposed as a fraud who -- unlike his muse, Eisenmenger -- was almost entirely ignorant of Judaism.
The situation is much worse on Youtube. The first two hits are "Religious Jews are asked about the Talmud," by Corey Gil-Shuster, and the second one is "What is the difference between Torah and Talmud," by Jihadi Jew. Both are fine. The third hit is "Ugly Truths about the Talmud," then an audiobook of the Rodkinson translation of the Talmud, and then some more antisemitic videos: "Marching to Zion. Talmud Exposed! Any One Race as 'God's Chosen People' Exposed," "The Talmud Unmasked" (audio version of the book mentioned above," "The Israel you don't know: The Talmud and the Jew," by "Rise Up Goyim," "Talmud teaches an EVIL jewish tradition," by "External Evil," and "Talmud Judaism is Satanism - Alex Jones," in which he says that the Talmud is basically Satanic. He also raves about Hillary Clinton being responsible for female genital mutilation.

Youtube is a cesspool of antisemitism, apparently untouched by any efforts to change the algorithm so that antisemitic videos don't appear as the first search items. (And it's owned by Google, so Walker's comments about Google really make no sense at all).
Some of what you find will sound
Too crazy to be true. Unfortunately those bits are likely
To be true. Some of the more evasive studies
Will exhibit unbelievable attempts
At sugar coating extremely disagreeable pills.
But hang in there, checking
And double checking, listening to everybody,
Even the teachers with the twisted pasts
That scare you the most,
And the taped rants of outraged citizens that sound
Like madcap characters on Car Talk
Except they are not laughing
But are righteously outraged.

Study hard, with an open
If deeply offended mind,
Until you can sift the false
From the true.
On Youtube, it's obviously possible to find any form of antisemitic fantasy one seeks, and Walker found the videos that matched her prejudices.
Is Jesus boiling eternally in hot excrement,
For his “crime” of throwing the bankers
Out of the Temple? For loving, standing with,
And defending
The poor? Was his mother, Mary,
A whore?
Are Goyim (us) meant to be slaves of Jews, and not only
That, but to enjoy it?
Are three year old (and a day) girls eligible for marriage and intercourse?
Are young boys fair game for rape?
Must even the best of the Goyim (us, again) be killed?
Pause a moment and think what this could mean
Or already has meant
In our own lifetime.
This part of the "poem" focuses on anti-Christian passages in the Talmud, presenting them as the main part of the teachings of the Talmud (which they are not). The passages include the unpleasant fate of Jesus in the afterlife, the bad reputation of Mary as the supposed mistress of a Roman soldier (also appearing in the Toldot Yeshu literature), and supposed passages that non-Jews are fated to be slaves of Jews or that the best of the Gentiles should be killed (I haven't seen these passages and don't know if they actually appear in the Talmud). Walker also misquotes the New Testament - Jesus didn't throw the "bankers" out of the Temple, but the money changers, who were there to change the money that pilgrims intended to offer to the Temple to the sacred Temple currency. She's obviously conflating the centuries-long stereotype of Jews as evil bankers with the New Testament account.

This next section gets into more conspiratorial thinking.
You may find that as the cattle
We have begun to feel we are
We have an ancient history of oppression
Of which most of us have not been even vaguely
Aware. You will find that we, Goyim, sub-humans, animals
-The Palestinians of Gaza
The most obvious representatives of us
At the present time – are a cruel example of what may be done
With impunity, and without conscience,
By a Chosen people,
To the vast majority of the people
On the planet
Who were not Chosen.
Not chosen to receive the same dubious
“Blessing” of
Supremacy over the Earth,
Humans, and Beasts of this realm. As is
Stated plainly in the first chapter
Of the Bible we all read.
The Unchosen who, until now,
Were too scared of being
Called names
To demand to know why.
According to Walker, non-Jews in general "have an ancient history of oppression" as victims of the "chosen people" (clearly using this term in an antisemitic way). When she says that Jewish oppression of the Gentiles goes back thousands of years Walker hearkens back to the Christian trope that ancient Jews persecuted Christians (see the Gospel of John and later Christian literature), but she is also probably retrojecting modern "theories" that Jews control the world (as found in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Mein Kampf) into the first century CE.
It is a “Blessing” Jesus did not want.
One that, risking crucifixion, he refused.
One reason he is loved
By those who recognize a good
And righteous person
When they encounter one.
Seen in this light he wasn’t even
A spiritual progressive, but a committed
Revolutionary: a Che Guevara
Of the ancient past.
In this paragraph, Walker tries to dissociate Jesus from Judaism - the Jews supposedly believe that God has given them dominion over the whole earth (this is a misreading of Genesis 1, which gives all of humanity dominion over the earth). Jesus died because he didn't accept the Jewish plot to control the world. This is a strikingly Nazi way of understanding the crucifixion, even though walker doesn't use Nazi racial terminology or concepts. I don't know if this was something that Hitler said, but it certainly fits into the Nazi claim that Jesus was an Aryan, not a Jew.
A past as scary, if not scarier, than
Our own time: A past that,
Unfortunately, is not even past (quoting

We discover this
To our enlightened grief
As we study
The Talmud,
Our own ignorance,
And the devastating impact of both
On our abandoned world.
Everything is blamed on the Talmud - all of the evils of our contemporary world. I have read a lot of antisemitic literature, including Mein Kampf, and this composition by Walker matches the worst of earlier classical antisemitic texts.

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