Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women's Liberation

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9780684836126: Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women's Liberation
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Explores the hatred of women and Jews throughout history, drawing on history, literature, philosophy, and politics to elucidate the misogyny and anti-Semitism of the last millennium.

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About the Author:

Andrea Dworkin has spoken at colleges, universities, and rallies around the world. With Catharine A. MacKinnon, she authored civil rights legislation recognizing pornography as legally actionable sex discrimination. She has written eleven books, including such influential works as Intercourse and Pornography. She lives in New York City.

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Chapter One: Homeland/Home

In Memory Fields Holocaust survivor Shlomo Breznitz goes to The Oxford English Dictionary to look up the word hope. He finds, he says, "the wisdom of language, as a symbolic product of lengthy cumulative experience": hope is "a piece of enclosed land, e.g., in the midst of marshes or wasteland"; or "a small enclosed valley"; or "an inlet, small bay, haven." The unabridged Webster's Third New International Dictonary still recognizes this old meaning: hope is "a piece of arable land surrounded by waste, especially: one surrounded by a swamp or marsh"; "a broad upland valley sometimes rounded and often with a stream running through it"; "a small bay or inlet." In Hebrew, too, writes Breznitz, "the words for hope and for a small enclosure derived from the same root...." (his ellipses). For Italo Calvino in The Road to San Giovanni the first principle of reality began in his home, which was synonymous with his homeland: "A general explanation of the world and of history must first of all take into account the way our house was situated, in an area once known as 'French Point,' on the last slopes at the foot of San Pietro hill, as though at the border between two continents." One might conclude that it is hard to have hope without land.

But even urban refuse can recognize its own. In A Stained White Radiance, mystery writer James Lee Burke has his narrator-hero say: "We all have an extended family, people whom we recognize as our own as soon as we see them. The people closest to me have always been marked by a peculiar difference in their makeup. They're the walking wounded, the ones to whom a psychological injury was done that they will never be able to define..." These weary, wounded, marginal souls "save us from ourselves. Whenever I hear and see a politician or a military leader, a bank of American flags at his back, trying to convince us of the rightness of a policy or a deed that will cause harm to others; when I am almost convinced myself that setting a humanitarian concern in abeyance can be justified in the interest of the greater good, I pause and ask myself what my brain-smoked friends would have to say. Then I realize that the rhetoric would have no effect on them, because for those who were most deeply injured as children, words of moral purposes too often masked acts of cruelty." One might conclude that hope requires the end of cruelty. The urban dispossessed, the grown children with hollow eyes and scars, the ten-year-old prostitutes and the players who rape and use them, do recognize one another; but have no hope and arguably no homeland either. A sewer replaces the arable land, the bay, the inlet, the haven. The sense of place attaches to a barstool, a street corner, a crack house, a brothel. This is a tribe, not ethnic, not connected by blood but by the experiences of exploitation, violence, and abandonment. Cosmopolitan even if illiterate, rootless, parasitic and self-destructive, this is a ghostly tribe, brutal, fragile, plague-ridden, devastated by "words of moral purposes too often masked as acts of cruelty." The stable middle class romanticizes the despair and wants a taste of the life, after which the tourists go home and wash. The tourists have a home and a homeland; those they rubbed up against are in a perpetual exile from hope.

In Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey, Isabel Fonseca describes a Gypsy song: "Nostalgia is the essence of Gypsy song, and seems always to have been. But nostalgia for what? Nostos is the Greek for 'a return home'; the Gypsies have no home, and, perhaps uniquely among peoples, they have no dream of a homeland. Utopia -- ou topos -- means 'no place.' Nostalgia for utopia: a return home to no place. O lungo drom. The long road." Considered outsiders wherever they have lived, they are thrown out. Fonseca says that the Gypsies "adapted, often by living in abandoned and inaccessible forests and wastelands, the countries within countries, and the borderlands." Stateless, they congregate especially on borders. That means, according to a Gypsy activist, that in international law Gypsies "have the status of trade unions, environmental lobbies, or professional associations [and women]." One Gypsy politician "promoted an alternative -- and to many sacrilegious -- identity in which people could be seen and discussed independent of property."

The Gypsies, like the Jews, were nearly exterminated by the Nazis; medical experiments were done on Gypsy children in Auschwitz and all of those children died. Living without written language, Gypsies have no written history and no written memory. The past -- Auschwitz, for instance -- comes into songs; but facts and the landscape of experience get lost. Without writing, memory becomes narrowed, smaller; isolation puts the Gypsies far outside the great conversation, ongoing through centuries, about meaning, hope, and homeland. Wanderers, vagrants throughout Europe -- the cohesiveness and integrity of the Gypsy way of life destroyed by the Nazis -- the children operate in gangs to rob tourists or anyone vulnerable, circling an individual to get the money, sometimes beating or killing the victim. The Gypsy women beg on the streets of Paris, Vienna, Rome, Berlin. Can a people survive without memory; or without writing; or without history; or without recognition under international law, these survivors of genocide? Can a people survive stateless, with no homeland -- ou topos, Utopia, no place?

After Hitler's war, the Jewish survivors also had no place. "I thought about all that could be said regarding these two words: return, repatriation," writes Jorge Semprun in Literature or Life? "The second one made no sense when applied to me, of course. First of all, I hadn't returned to my homeland, in coming back to France. And then, if you thought about it, it was clear that I would never again be able to return to any homeland. I had no native country anymore. I would never have one again. Or else I'd have several, which would amount to the same thing. Can you die -- think about it -- for several countries at once?"

The Jews had not known, before the war, that they were stateless, with no meaningful citizenship, with no country. As Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi writes in Original Sins: Reflections on the History of Zionism and Israel, "A Jewish community existed in Germany without interruption for 1,700 years before World War II. Jews settled in the fortified cities built by the Romans on the west bank of the Rhine. In Cologne there was a well-organized Jewish community in 321 c.e. and the Rhine Valley was the center of a glorious cultural tradition." Arguing for the maintenance of a convent for Polish Catholic nuns at Auschwitz (against Jewish opposition), Wladyslaw T. Bartoszewski writes about the long history of Jews in Poland: "The Jews lived in Poland side by side, rather than together with the Poles, and therefore many Poles could and did regard them as a nation within a nation. The description of the Jewish community, which had lived in Poland continuously for 800 years, as 'alien' can be understood only in such a context." Nevertheless, Jews and Poles had a lot in common. As Eva Hoffman writes in Shtetl: The Life and Death of a Small Town and the World of Polish Jews, "Ironically, as far as nationhood went, Poles and Jews had been in a similar position for a whole century: neither had an actually existing nation to go with their strong sense of collective identity, and both substituted a notional idea for the real thing. It can be fairly said that for both, the substitution of fantasized ideas for solid realities strengthened, with rare exceptions, the drive to separatism." One might conclude that both Poles and Jews were delusional: both groups lived there but where was the "there"? Poland was invaded, occupied, partitioned, cut up repeatedly throughout its history: so what exactly made Poles Polish except for their conviction that there was a Polish people and a Polish nation that were one and the same; and neither aggressors nor Jews were Polish? Is national identity a matter of borders, geographical boundaries; or is it a belief, informed by shared experience, validated or challenged by history, distorted by self-interest? The Poles were Catholic; Poland was Catholic. Polish Jews were not Catholic, therefore not Polish. Can national identity be configured by religious difference or religious prejudice or religious imperialism? History's answer is an unequivocal yes.

Jews, of course, knew about being unwelcome: expelled from England; expelled from Spain, where Jews had a thousand-year history; in Venice in 1516 forced to live in the first state-mandated ghetto. As Nora Levin says in The Holocaust: The Destruction of European Jewry 1933-1945: "Between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, Jews were expelled from England, France, Italy, Bohemia, and the Germanic states. The unconverted Jew polluted Christian society; the 'racial' Jew polluted German society." The sense of belonging, should it have existed subjectively or socially, could be aborted abruptly, cruelly.

Yet maybe belonging is more ambiguous than the convulsive history of any oppressed people; maybe some in the oppressor group, pressed by conscience, are unable to belong at all. Maybe South African novelist Nadine Gordimer in Writing and Being talks about a dislocation not unique to her: "The whites were not my people because everything they lived by -- their claimed racial superiority and the methods they were satisfied to use to maintain it as if it were truth -- was the stuff of my refusal....The blacks were not 'my people' because all through my childhood and adolescence they had scarcely entered my consciousness. I had been absent. Absent from them. Could one, in fact, make the claim, 'my country' if one could not also say 'my people'?" Gordimer's opposite might be Thomas Carlyle, the great (and anti-Semitic) English historian of the French Revolution, ostracized as a Jacobin. "Deeply a man of place," writes a biographer, "he hated wanderers and wandering, the nomadic obsession. In his mind and in his words he strained always to reproduce the movement of the rooks whose great circles gave form to mystery and established boundaries to the place he called home." Standing against the English hatred of the French revolutionaries, he stood against his people, but he made for himself a place in England nevertheless; he created a territory in which he was the sovereign, very much at the cost of his wife Jane Carlyle. Gordimer did not want power; Carlyle did, small, mean, and petty as it was. Each experienced a subjective exile while living in the country of birth. Belonging is not simple.

Carlyle's beloved French Revolution emancipated Jews for the first time in European history. Jews were recognized as French citizens. Laws discriminating against Jews were struck down. (Male Jews, of course; the French Revolution betrayed women, all women. See Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women.) It was the emancipation itself, according to Sara Bershtel and Allen Graubard in Saving Remnants: Feeling Jewish in America, that gave rise to the "'Jewish question,' which asked whether the Jews could truly be integrated into the larger nation." This question, they say, became "the central issue in European Jewish life." A pariah group, the Jews were seen as nomadic and separatist.

It is too easy to say that Jews accepted this characterization because they were a people who did not belong to the nations in which they lived. Beit-Hallahmi describes a version of the Jewish reality prior to the establishment of the state of Israel: "For most of history the Jewish condition has been one of Diaspora or dispersion. The Hebrew term used to describe this means exile, and the term has been used for 2,000 years, as if Jews had just recently moved from their homeland. In their synagogues, Jews mourned over their exile and the desolation of the ancient homeland every day, every week, and every holiday." But the reality is more schizophrenic. Jews developed affection for the countries in which they lived; also loyalty. Devotion to the promised land was a religious devotion contingent on the coming of the Messiah; it was not a mandate for conquest. Cursed by the Catholic Church, then Calvinists and Lutherans, for having killed Christ, Jews were always vulnerable to instant, organized, and sanctioned assault. But in everyday life, one lived in Italy or Austria or Hungary or Russia (or, for example, earlier incarnations of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Prussia, the Balkans). In daily life it is hard not to love where one lives, where one's life is. Even now, dislocation is a whisper away. "Our neighborhood," writes Cristina Garcia in Dreaming in Cuban, "was mostly Jewish then and my mother was always saying, 'They killed Christ! They pushed in the crown of thorns!' I felt sorry for the Jews getting thrown out of Egypt and having to drag themselves across the desert to find a home. Even though I've been living in Brooklyn all my life, it doesn't feel like home to me. I'm not sure Cuba is, but I want to find out." Neither the anti-Semitism nor the sense of dislocation is anomalous. It is not only Jews who long for a country they have not seen; nor is exile the central meaning of a Jewish life. There is the exile that changes the settled into nomads; then there is the mythology of that exile, stronger, bigger, denser, as time passes without return, without justice, without fairness. There is loyalty to one's immediate home and the sense or conviction of exile simultaneously: a geographic and moral schizophrenia. There are questions of assimilation and identity, citizenship and grief.

The myth of exile can be subjectively felt by every member of a group; and generation after generation it will become a bigger wound, but more important -- the original wound, the first brokenness, the origin of injury. Over time the sadness of exile is lost and in its place there is a sea of enemies, evil. The exiles are wronged but heroic. Heroism is the carrier of hope: arable land, a haven.

Zionism became the hope of the Jews. Zionism meant lifting a return to the holy land out of the prayer book and putting it into real time. Freud was one of many who believed that Zionism had no future. As he wrote in a 1930 letter to Dr. Chaim Koffler, who was soliciting Freud to oppose British policy in curbing Jewish immigration into Palestine: "Whoever wants to influence the masses must give them something rousing and inflammatory and my sober judgment of Zionism does not permit this. I certainly sympathize with its goals...But on the other hand, I do not think that Palestine could ever become a Jewish state, nor that the Christian and Islamic worlds would ever be prepared to have their holy places under Jewish care. It would have seemed more sensible to me to establish a Jewish homeland on a less historically burdened land." In 1932, writing to Arnold Zweig, Freud was contemplative: "How strange this tragically mad land...must have seemed to you. Just think, this strip of our mother earth is connected with no other progress, no discovery or invention....Palestine h...

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