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What’s wrong (and right) with Judaism? Douglas Rushkoff will join me for some interfaith dialogue next month

Douglas Rushkoff is the author of many excellent books, most recently Life, Inc. Another key Rushkoff text is Coercion, which I reviewed here. We will discuss his 2003 book Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Jews and Judaism Tuesday, January 19th, 2010 on Fair and Balanced.

My original radio show, Truth Jihad Radio, started out on Republic Broadcasting Network–and my very first broadcast featured John Kaminski, an early 9/11 truth supporter and writer of fiery op-eds. Halfway through the show, Kaminski started ranting against Jews and Judaism. I argued with him for awhile. RBN owner John Stadtmiller even came on and told Kaminski to “cool it, I don’t want the ADL on my ass!” That just got Kaminski even more riled up. Finally Stadtmiller suggested I kick Kaminski off the air, which I proceeded to do. It was my first-ever show, and the first and last time I ever kicked a guest off the air. (It was also the last time I let someone else choose my radio guests for me.)

Since then, I have noticed that there is a vocal minority of people in the patriot radio community who dislike Judaism and/or Jews. These people fail to heed Adrian Salbuchi’s common-sense observation that Judaism, Zionism, and the state of Israel are three different things.

If it weren’t for Zionism and the criminal policies of the Israeli regime, such people would be far less numerous. Muslims, in particular, would be more likely to notice positive aspects of Judaism if their holy places were not the site of a genocidal occupation by a self-proclaimed “Jewish” state.

So…ask me about Zionism or Israel, and I have a simple answer: I’m agin’ it. Ask me about Judaism, and we’re in more complex and nuanced territory. My first question is, “which Judaism? The Judaism of child-killer rabbis, or the Judaism of Naturei Karta or Ken Biegeleisen or Douglas Rushkoff?” The three radically different approaches to Judaism of NK, Biegeleisen and Rushkoff all strike me as highly admirable, in different ways and for different reasons. At the root of all three approaches is an iconoclastic moral serious that is deeply rooted in the Jewish tradition, and which should be celebrated by Jews and non-Jews alike.

Rushkoff’s book Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism earned rave reviews from the likes of Naomi Wolf, and angry diatribes from those Rushkoff might characterize as Jewish fundamentalists and unreflective Zionists. Rushkoff argues that Judaism is best regarded as an open-source code built around the central idea of an utterly transcendent, universal deity characterized by absolute oneness, the affirmation of which “amounts to a declaration of the unity of the universe” (10). Wait a minute — that sounds a whole lot like Islam, whose core ideas are God’s transcendence, universality, and oneness, and whose code is as open-source as it gets thanks to its rejection of any form of priesthood or rabbinate. Perhaps the resemblance is not purely coincidental, since Islam came to reaffirm the truth of the earliest prophets’ message, not replace it.

In Nothing Sacred, Rushkoff argues that Judaism’s core message — iconoclasm, monotheism, and social justice — has gotten lost in the post-Holocaust rush to Zionism and other neo-orthodoxies and fundamentalisms. It is a trenchant critique, as well as an appealing vision of what Judaism (and monotheism in general) ought to be.

I am tempted to apply Rushkoff’s critique of Jewish fundamentalism to the contemporary Islamic scene, which is also plagued by various forms of obscurantism. One major difference, however, is that Islam is currently under attack by non-Muslim imperialist and colonialist powers–led by the Jewish Zionists–which makes it hard to fault those who rally around local cultural traditions, some of which they falsely equate with Islam, as part of their strategy of resistance. Telling a person whose culture is under genocidal attack to give up that culture, and adopt a more universal one, is tantamount to supporting the genocide. Or to put it another way: When a Westerner says to a Native American/Iraqi/Palestinian/Afghani “accept our liberal, tolerant, universalist way of life or we’ll kill you!” I reach for my revolver.

One Thought to “What’s wrong (and right) with Judaism? Douglas Rushkoff will join me for some interfaith dialogue next month”

  1. Gaza keeps coming to mind, it is clearly genocide. It reminds me of Michael Hoffman's point, Jews may believe everyone else is undeserving of life? It seems the case? I remain unconvinced that Israel's foreign policy has anything to do with Judaism, however. It may very well be all Zionist influence. Islam does not simply fit into a Zionist New World Order because of their beliefs against usuery?

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