the elephant and the jewish question

Sun, 23 Jan 1994 02:01:35 EST

/* A tale of the Evil Empire which asks the question, how goyish can Luke */
/* Skywalker have been if he was invented by someone named Spielberg. The */
/* causes of Daniel A. Foss in a famine caused by Evil Emperor closes the */
/* episode. - TV GUIDE */
Can anyone in the studio audience tell me the joke wherefor the subject
line is the punchline? Give that organism two Susan B. Anthony *silver
dollars* from a Long Island Railroad ticket machine which is *usless* in
any coin-operated device outside Nevada and Atlantic City.

We now take up the question, is *goy*, *goyim*[pl.] a racist epithet?
This entails consideration of the entire question of "what is racism." As
Stephanie J. Nelson should recall, I taught Race and Intergroup [Ethnic]
Relations twelve times, and was seriously preoccupied with this issue for
years. When pressed by a student, who was African-American, as to whether
there was such a thing as "Black racism," as she indeed believed, I came
down, after some hesitation, with "no."

The rationale was, race is constituted by *hierarchy*, not by the largely
or entirely suppositiously hereditary biological differentiation, in terms
of "socially significant body parts" - as Prof. Richard Williams would have
it (Hierarchical Structure and Social Value, 1992) - which impart to racism
its "appearances." Jews were for all practical purposes, in the nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries, a "race" in the Old Country, meaning the
Evil Empire [Tsarist Russia] and the Other Empire [Habsburg] in the time
of the Emperors. The practice of both Judaism and Christianity had ceased
in large sections of the population, notably urban adult males; and the
creed of Marxist Socialism was by the early part of this century replacing
it as an urban faith. Millions more were merely secularized, nonbelievers,
lapsed, nonattenders. Believers or not, *there were no hereditary identifying
marks* such as skin color, shape of nose or eye. That people were said to
"look Jewish" was a matter of lifelong habituation to facial expressions.
Wrinkling the face a certain way gives you the "Jewish nose" or everted
lips. (In the USA the notoriously "thin-lipped Protestants" got that way
from the same sort of practice of facial expressions.)

If racism is understood as a hierarchical relation, the subordinates
in the hierarchy cannot strictly speaking be be called racists merely
by the quite reasonable fact that they hate the dominant or superordinate
or powerful "race" in the hierarchy. (Which may take the guise of hatred
of the majority by a minority, where the latter is denied access to State
power; is powerless and hierarchically inferior to the majority.) There
should, nevertheless, be a name for this, and I call it *counterracism*.
No hierarchical domination, no racism. *Goy*[sing.], *goyim*[pl.] is a
counterracist epithet, by analogy with *honkie*, *peckerwood*, and their
successors. This is moreover contextualized to the Old Country and subsequent
hostile relations, where applicable, with rival and antisemitic immigrant
communities. Its survival today means essentially nothing except selfconscious
archaism. Jewish racism qua Jewish cannot exist anywhere outside Israel,
where it is indeed virulent. Where Jews act qua whites, on the contrary,
a word like *shvotzer* is authentically racist, a slur on African-

Here is a brief and wildly inaccurate account of the racialization of
Jewish-Christian relations, a matter of decades:

Some identifying marks were cultural: Jews practiced male circumcision;
most Christians did not. There were Jewish and Christian dietary restrictions
of course. Married Jewish women among the devout had their heads shaved at
marriage. Jewish religious specialists and scholars wore long beards and
caftans, where the latter was not prohibited by law (in Russia, from the
time of Nicholas I, 1825-1855, who also ordered Jews to adopt Western-
European-style surnames). There were differences in language. Above all,
both constituting and reproducing all other differences, was the different
positions occupied by Jews and Gentiles in the division of labor. Above
all was the urban-rural distinction in the most backward capitalist economies
in Europe. Jews were two thirds of Vilna, 36% of Warsaw. Where the Christian
peasants lived in the village, *selo*, the Jews lived in a "little city,"
*shtetl*. Ownership of land by Jews was prohibited except for areas outside
the Pale of Settlement which the Tsarist Empire found for all practical
purposes uninhabited, meaning that agricultural labor was thin on the
ground or the original inhabitants had been exterminated or decimated by
the military and Cossacks. These were regions like the Eastern Ukraine
or New Russia.

For centuries friction between Jews and Christians had derived from
the usefulness of the former to landlords, which entailed their perceived
threat to the standard of living of peasants, in the absence of systematic
state subsidized systems of agricultural credit. The late nineteenth century
brought a drastic change, with the rapidity of capitalist development. The
Tsarist regime, under the most Evil Emperor of them all, Alexander III,
1881-1894, commenced the racialization of the Jewish-Christian distinctions
originally based on culture and division of labor.

The full extent of the paranoid insanity of Alexander III is brought out
by George W. Kennan in The Collapse of Bismarck's European Order. In conduct
of foreign policy, the Emperor relied to a dangerous extent on shady
adventurers, crooks, and lunatics. One of these was Ilya Tsion, or Elie Cyon,
a sophisticated journalist and satirist who ingratiated himself into
right-wing circles in both Russia and France. Curiously, he was the only
Jew ever appointed to the Faculty of Medicine of the University of St.
Petersburg, where in 1862 he was hounded out of the classroom by student
Nihilists (q.v.). In 1886, Russia attempted to float a large loan, four
billion gold rubles, through the Rothschild banking house in Frankfurt.
This failed, due to skepticism in the international banking community as
to the stability of the Russian economy and the mind of the Emperor.
Kennan suggests that Tsion-Cyon, an amateur spy in his own estimation,
wrote a sophisticated satire called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,
including his own name, that is, in the title. The satire was of the
control of international finance by the Rothschilds, not unlike the
portrayal of the partly or mostly fanciful Gnomes of Zurich in the
novels of Paul Erdman, who served a prison term for arcane violations
of inscrutable Swiss banking law, in our own day. Decontextualized,
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion were not in the least funny, especially
to the police agents of the Ministry of the Interior, who printed it in
police stations in the years to come. By the Kishinev Pogrom of 1903,
attributed to the dissemination of the Protocols, and to all intents and
purposes a race riot, antisemitism had become a State-sponsored racism
of modern type, enforced by paramilitary thugs called the Union of the
Russian People; popularly, the Black Hundreds, whose activities were
strictly analogous to the KKK in the USA, and aided and abetted by police
agents. The latter were suspicious of, and persecuted, Jews as capitalists
and as socialists, confusing and rendering bizarre the relations of capital
and labor in general (e.g., the "police socialism" of Georgiy Zubatov,
1903-5, which circuitously contributed to the Revolution of 1905).

Another barely-noticed event of 1886 was the detection of an assassina-
tion plot against Alexander III by noble-born university students. The rap
was taken by Alexander Ilyich Ulyanov, aged 26, student of medicine, who
was hanged. As luck would have it, the deceased had a kid brother, Vladimir
Ilyich Ulyanov, who gave himself a nom de guerre, variant of the Lena River,
Lenin. Whose acievement was to break with all preceding mistakes and create
newer and bigger ones, which he himself foresaw: "If a Russian Revolution
is not quickly followed by proletarian revolution in the west, this must have
the most reactionary consequences, both political and economic." But to
borrow the words of Mel Brooks, "Who knew?" In 1917, workers tore down the
equestrian staue of Alexander III in St Petersburg; and in 1991, in the
same place, they tore down the statue of Lenin which replaced it.

In 1891-2 Alexander III's government created a massive famine in South
Russia and the Ukraine. The food, you see, was need for export, to earn the
"much needed scarce foreign exchange." What the population was fed was
antisemitism; Jews were hounded throughout the regions of their densest
settlement. Of the Jews, the Emperor said, "One third will convert, one
third will emigrate, one third will starve." The entire population of
Boguslav, Kiev Province, about 10,000 people, emigrated to New York City.
Among them Josef and Lena Lisak, whose five surviving children included
Gittel, who married Irving Foss, draft dodger from the First Balkan war.
And so, every time I see that picture of Alexander III getting bombed
in the *other* sense, with the slogan, "The Spirit of the Tsar Lives On,"
I must take out the old magic marker and scrawl, "this insults armenians."

Daniel A. Foss
Note: The use of "Japs" is advocated to highlight racist-xenophobic aspects
of Trade Wars rhetoric as what it is.