Beyond Jewish Identity: Exceptionalism Revisited

20 Aug

Beyond Jewish Identity: Exceptionalism Revisited


The problem with Jewish identity is Jewish identity! By this I mean, the hegemonic forms of Jewish exceptionalism to which most Jews are enthralled, including a provocative insistence on willed disaffiliation in a few rate instances. Such a gesture of anti-exceptional exceptionalism is a kind of personal manifesto, a private declaration to the world of independence of Judaism with respect to both articles of faith and ethno-nationalist markers. It is usually rooted in a deep earlier experience of what it meant to be Jewish that is repudiated later on for personal and, sometimes, political reasons.


Of course, this kind of perverse exceptionalism also applies, with even greater stringency, to the genuine anti-Semite who attributes a negative exceptionalism to Jews by of hatred, blame, and paranoia. Zionist zealots often manipulate negative exceptionalism to instill fear among Jews about the intentions of their adversaries. It is also a useful instrument in Zionist hands to brand critics of Israel or supporters of BDS, discrediting their good faith by deliberately alleging hatred of a people while what is at stake is harsh criticism of the practices and policies of a state that inflict massive suffering on a vulnerable people. To be called a ‘self-hating Jew’ as I have been is to turn negative exceptionalism into a double-edged razor sharp weapon.


Positive exceptionalism, essentialized for many Jews by a variety of readings of Jews as the people chosen by God, as different and superior. It is sometimes concretized by reference to Israel that pulls above its weight when it comes to military power and technological achievement. There is another kind of positive exceptionalism that regards Jews as chosen by God to engage justly in the world seeking peace, abhorring violence. Michael Lerner, Rebecca Vilkomerson, and Marc H. Ellis exemplify the presence of such angels in our midst.


Thinking more personally, I acknowledge the importance of being Jewish as a marker of my identity both for myself and for many others in their chose life journey. What this means substantively is obviously very diverse. It eludes me almost altogether as I am not observant of nor familiar with Jewish rituals or traditions, although I have welcomed exposure to them when the occasion has arisen, and it has, although infrequently as my circle of friends is overwhelmingly non-observant. Subjectively, Judaism has never had a greater resonance for me than the rituals and traditions of other world religions, most of whom I have been exposed to from time to time, and which I studied long ago with a strong academic interest in religion as a structure of belief. I always welcomed opportunities to become more deeply immersed in any world religion whenever they arose. I never felt a particular attachment to the religion conferred upon me by the accident of birth, perhaps because in my case, it was not part of my upbringing and socialization experience as a child growing up in the highly secular surroundings of Manhattan.


Living part of each year in Turkey for more than twenty years has led my to think about the secular/religious divide that is very deep in Turkish society, and produces cleavages of understanding and polarizing enmities. I believe religion is deeply relevant to the mass of humanity, and has in recent decades been revived in quite diverse settings. In part, this seems a reaction to the modernist failures of community and identity. These failures are evident in the commodified surroundings we daily inhabit whether we wish to or not.  This defining reality of the lifeworld is heavily influenced by neoliberal capitalism as increasingly disseminated by the ambiguous magic of the digital age.


In the Turkish case, perhaps due to my experience of friends and colleagues, I find that the secularists tend to be more judgmental than their Islamist counterparts (who by and large accept the idea that religion and secularism can and should coexist so long as there is mutual respect and equal rights).  I interpret this difference as reflecting the fact that secularists held tightly the keys of power in republican Turkey until the Justice and Development Party (AKP) gained an electoral mandate to govern in 2002, and has been reelected time and again ever since. Had the situation been reversed, it is possible that it would be the secularists who would be more open to coexistence and mutual respect, although their pre-AKP record of governance and societal dominance gives little reason for such confidence as their policy was guided by the strong wish to keep religion in its box.


I am undoubtedly influenced by the view that unless ethno-nationalism in all its forms is soon superseded by a surge of commitment to species identity the human condition faces a dismal future. This does not mean abandoning a Jewish or other sub-species identities altogether, but it does emphasize another way of conceiving and layering multiple identities, with an insistence on privileging ‘human identity,’ which would reverse almost all that has gone before.  Such a revolutionary hierarchy inverts the ordering of identities that presently exist that works outward from family and immediate neighborhood, and gives least weight to ‘humanity’ or ‘cosmic consciousness.’


Such assessments also reflect spatial and psychological location. The meaning of being Jewish would undoubtedly be more central to my daily experience if I were living in Israel, yet no less or more authentic than an identity shaped by living most of the year in California. This affirmation of equivalence is undoubtedly an anathema to many Jews in and out of Israel, especially to adherents of Zionism in any of its many forms. Zionism above all else, as I understand it, embodies a dialectical interaction between negative and positive variants of Jewish exceptionalism, and takes for granted the hypothesis that Jews are deservedly, and for some, unavoidably exceptional.


Separating myself from this kind of involvement does not imply any hostility toward religious and ethnic identities so long as they seek openness to the ecumenical dimensions of human identity. To the extent a preferred identity is closed to religious and ethnic otherness, as in a variety of fundamentalisms (including secular fundamentalism), it has become in the twenty-first century the most widespread means to exhibit a collective death wish on behalf of the species. What I find most empowering is a trans-religious spirituality that draws on the insights and wisdom embedded in all the great religions, including the spirit faiths and nature religions of many native peoples. These religious and spiritual constructions of reality impart a far fuller sense of the awe and mystery of life on planet earth than can be gained by mastering what the Western Enlightenment canonized so powerfully through its amoral embrace of instrumental reason. All that reason leaves out is love, empathy, friendship, beauty, insurgent energies, and the indispensable balances and harmonies of co-evolutionary nature. Such spirituality could become a vital source of liberating energy if the human species manages to seize this bio-political moment that is upon us whether or not we realize it. And this also is a warning that the ethno-nationalist moment that continues to hold the political imagination in captivity has become the king’s highway to species extinction.


Instead of Jewish exceptionalism  (or American exceptionalism) the call of this bio-political moment is for species exceptionalism.




53 Responses to “Beyond Jewish Identity: Exceptionalism Revisited”

  1. Gene Schulman August 20, 2016 at 4:26 am #

    What is so exceptional about the human species, and why should it be favored over others? It is that species that is endangering all the others and the whole planet with them. Perhaps its extinction is the answer! If they can’t learn to care for their habitat and that of other species, perhaps they deserve what’s coming. Religious identity is irrelevant.

    • Richard Falk August 20, 2016 at 7:21 am #

      I understand this trans-human logic, but on religious identity we will never agree. The gap
      is partly a matter of personal belief and experience and partly an issue of ontology and an
      assessment of the potentialities for generating respect for universal norms. Richard

    • Clif Brown August 20, 2016 at 10:05 pm #

      I think we humans greatly exaggerate our own situation, forgetting that the problem is the nature of life itself, not humanity as a species. The basis of life is expansion everywhere possible, stopping only when met with environmental restrictions which of course include other forms of life on the make.

      One form of life does not respect another, coexistence happens through lack of competition for resources, interactions that allow mutual benefits or parasitism not lethal to the host. If we do ourselves in, another species would eventually gain the ability to take the place we have now as king of the beasts and be confronted with the same “we have met the enemy and he is us” we know so well.

      The bridge that has to be crossed for life itself to survive is that from natural passion to reason. There is no way to turn the former off while turning the latter on. Life on earth has passed several bottlenecks but this bridge could be uncrossable. Some suggest it is the reason we find no evidence of intelligent life beyond earth – if it happens, the window of time before extinction is very short.

      Humanity may be playing out the ultimate Greek tragedy – we know ourselves well, we know the problems we face, we know the danger in our behavior, yet even so find it impossible to put our better selves in command over our passions. This or that individual can without doubt achieve self-mastery but as a species? Impossible. If our extinction comes, it will poignant because, unlike the extinction of all the other species lost in time, ours will not be a mystery to us.

      • Richard Falk August 21, 2016 at 1:32 am #

        Extremely thoughtful comment that adopts a valuable and sensitive meta-human perspective
        on the biopolitical destiny of the human species.

      • Gene Schulman August 21, 2016 at 4:47 am #

        It will not ‘have been’ a mystery. However, our species is still here, and we do have consciousness. If we can allow ourselves to get into the mess we’re in, we should be able to find a way out of it. It’s just a matter of recognizing why it has happened and who has done it. Prof. Falk addresses this in his fine new book, “Power Shift”. I would say the world needs more than a shift in power, rather a paradigm shift in governance.

  2. Schlüter August 20, 2016 at 4:41 am #

    Great post again! What appears extremely painful is that a whole number of Jews having imigrated from Europe, particularly East Europe, into the US have made themselves intellectual servants of the US Neocon Power Elite (mostly WASPs) and those ones greed to dominate the world. Among those ones should be named George Friedman, Albright, Wolfowitz, Kissinger, Richard Perle, the Kagans and so on.
    Robert Kagan is co-founder of the neoconservative “ Project For The New American Century”. The neocons are more and more in control of the democratic party and of the US administration. If one wants to know what is in the Neocon „pipe“, one should read their think tank papers. In September 2000 the US Think Tank “Project for the New American Century” issued the paper “Rebuilding America´s Defenses”. On page 60 you find the announcement of Fascist atrocities! It reads:
    „And advanced forms of biological warfare that can “target” specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool.“
    Surely it should not target white Anglo Saxon Protestants (WASPs)! About the possible consequences and background: “US Power Elite Declared War on the Southern Hemisphere, East Asia and all Non-Western Countries in September 2000”:
    Such People (like Kagan & Co) adhere to the new (Corporate) Fascism endangering all of Humamity. Since those intellectual servants are usualy more visible than their superrich WASP masters a very strange picture develops with many People.
    And another important point: the deeds of that (mostly) WASP US Power Elite have exposed them particularly to the blackmail power of Israel´s Zionist Power Elite with respect to Middle East desicions, see:
    „USA and Israel, the Helpless Giant and his Mad Dog: are there more dirty secrets?“
    Keep the struggle for humanity up!
    Cordial regards

    Andreas Schlüter
    Berlin, Germany

    • Richard Falk August 20, 2016 at 9:56 am #

      Your concerns are shared! and that is a horrifying sentence that I had not realized was present in the PNAC.

      Thanks also for your affirming words.


      • Schlüter August 21, 2016 at 2:10 am #

        Thanks for your understanding of that my point, which worries me a lot, the more since those named people belong to the close surrounding of the – most probably – next President, Hillary Clinton!
        Cordial regards

    • Fred Skolnik August 20, 2016 at 10:34 am #

      I see, Prof. Falk, that you are reluctant to post my response to Mr. Schluter’s very offensive remark about “a whole number of Jews.” But please do tell us what difference it makes if Kissinger is a Jew. And may I add that you can be sure that 90% of the Jews in America, like the non-Jews, wouldn’t even be able to define the word “neocon” in any meaningful way.

      • Schlüter August 21, 2016 at 2:00 am #

        Dear Mr Skolnik,
        it seems you have thoroughly misunderstood my point! “A whole number of Jews” is not the majority of them. And that type of people I´ve talked about are as disconnected from the majority of Jews as the US WASP Power Elite is disconnected from the majority of Protestants.
        But the mentioned number of People – not at all representative – are very similar in their personal mentality to Kissinger, whom you might see well characterized here:
        Gil Troy on Kissinger:
        At times reading thoroughly is helpful (also with my linked articles)!
        Andreas Schlüter

      • Fred Skolnik August 21, 2016 at 2:21 am #

        But what does their being Jewish have to do with anything any more than if they were Italian or Irish?

      • Schlüter August 21, 2016 at 2:43 am #

        Ah, and a little help to understand what “Neocons” mean:

      • Fred Skolnik August 21, 2016 at 4:10 am #

        That doesn’t answer the question. You are writing about a certain ideology in a negative way and you are identifying some of the people who advocate this ideology as Jews for reasons that I don’t really understand. If I were to say that many Jews worked for and supported the civil rights movement, it would be for the purpose of saying something positive about the Jews as such. What are you trying to say about the Jews as such? And if nothing, why point out that some neocons are Jewish?

      • Fred Skolnik August 21, 2016 at 7:32 am #

        Prof. Falk

        You again seem to be arbitrarily blocking my replies and I can’t even begin to imagine how you are rationalizing it. I am asking Mr. Schlutter a question about his gratuitously identifying certain neocon figures as “Jewish” when he admits that they are “disconnected” from the majority of Jews and I think the question should be answered:

        “You are not answering the question. You are writing about a certain ideology in a negative way and you are identifying some of the people who advocate this ideology as Jews for reasons that I don’t really understand. If I were to say that many Jews worked for and supported the civil rights movement, it would be for the purpose of saying something positive about the Jews as such. What are you trying to say about the Jews as such? If nothing, then why identify them as Jews?”

        (And also my reply to his reference to James Baldwin.)

      • Schlüter August 22, 2016 at 1:03 am #

        Mr Skolnik,
        it appears to me that you´re trying hard to systematically misunderstand Prof. Falk as well as me. Surely he as well as me are not making “the Jews” responsible for the sad state of this world. The tragic situation we´re faced with is – I stated it clearly – mostly shaped by the – predominantly WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) – US Power Elite and their allies/vassals. You take the closest “Intelligence” Network of this world, the “Fife Eyes”, the Network between the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. That is the “Club” of countries, whose Power Elites consider themselves as WASP, and designed to forcefully keep White world dominance up. Without doubt there was a broad Jewish support for the civil rights movement in the US (including quite a number of Jewish victims from “Red Neck” violence against that movement). A large proportion of the US Diaspora was to be considered “left liberal” for a long time. In course of time the US Power Elite in union with arch Zionist forces were to a grade successful to manoever many American Jews into a hysteria about “the survival of Israel” – being the mightiest Military force in Middle East that couldn´t be challenged – and into support for US Imperialism and its brutal and bloody destruction of the region. What I said is, that it´s sad how a number of very visible Jews made themselves intellectual servants of US (Neocon) Imperialism. No doubt there are also members of other US minorities having lent a helping hand to those monstrous deeds, like Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell (who regretted at least a bit), and last not least Obama (allowing the WASP Power Elite to use him as the human Brown mask). That Power Elite today likes to mask. And the point was – declaredly shared by Prof. Falk – that those named prominent Jewish intellectuals are providing support for (Fascist) concepts and at the same time help the imperial Power Elite to mask as something else. For this masquerade the powers that (shouldn´t) be are very tricky to use specific group narratives and tendencies to persuade and corrupt People into more support. Prof Falk has dealt with thendencies in the Diaspora which make the Power Elite´s Manipulation easier. We both stated our sadness about that.
        I recommend this my article again to you to read carefully:
        Anyway, this is my last attempt to make the position clear to you. Without will there is no understanding!

      • Fred Skolnik August 22, 2016 at 9:27 pm #

        You are missing the point. Setting up a negative category and then identifying some of its members as Jewish is precisely what antisemites have been doing for a thousand years, whether they talk about Jewish bankers or Jewish merchants, or Jewish neocons. Then it turns out that the Jewish bankers and Jewish merchants and Jewish neocons don’t act any differently from non-Jewish bankers and non-Jewish merchants and non-Jewish neocons and that there is nothing especially Jewish about how they act and there really isn’t much more than a proportionate number of them.

        If you object to Jewish support of the State of Israel, that is another matter, As I’ve said before, when a neighbor who has been threatening to murder you and your family and burn your house down for twenty years crosses the street with a gang of armed men and marches up to your door, you would have to be crazy not to shoot first and your cousin living down the block and witnessing all this might have a very good reason to become “hysterical.”

        As for mighty Israel’s war against the terrorist organizations – as I’ve also said more than once, you can be a hero with your own children, not mine.

  3. Fred Skolnik August 20, 2016 at 9:05 am #

    It is almost impossible to understand what you are getting at. Jews from biblical times have regarded themselves as a people or nation (“am”; even the word “goy” is used in the Bible) and as such are no different from the French, the Spanish, the Irish, the Italian, the Arab or the Turkish people, or insofar as their statelessness has been concerned, the Kurds. The religion is not what makes the Jew. Even someone who converts is halakhically considered a Jew, as is the child of a Jewish woman who converts. The “exceptionalism” that you attribute to them is basically no different from the national identities of other peoples, though historical circumstances have made Jews a more close-knit people than most. As for chosenness, all religions profess it, even if they don’t use the specific word.

  4. Gene Schulman August 21, 2016 at 1:06 am #

    “…. a Jew’s Jewishness exists only to the extent they are considered Jewish by those around them.”


    • Fred Skolnik August 21, 2016 at 1:43 am #

      No idea what you’re talking about. How about a Frenchman’s Frenchness?

      • Richard Falk August 21, 2016 at 2:03 am #

        It would be interesting, but distinctive in different ways than an Israeli’s Jewishness
        or for that matter, a ‘Frenchman’s Catholicism.’

      • Fred Skolnik August 21, 2016 at 2:23 am #

        All nations have their distinct ways of being themselves but the Jew’s Jewishness certainly does not exist “only to the extent they are considered Jewish by those around them.” That is simply absurd.

    • Schlüter August 21, 2016 at 2:05 am #

      A very meaningful remark that reminds me of Baldwin´s contemplations about the construction of the “Negro” by White America!

      • Fred Skolnik August 21, 2016 at 4:29 am #

        What you are missing is that historically, unlike the Negro, the Jews refused to be defined by the antisemites and did not relinquish their identities.

      • Gene Schulman August 21, 2016 at 4:32 am #

        Excellent analogy, but Mr. Skolnick wouldn’t grasp it. And what he can’t grqsp is always ‘absurd’.

  5. Rabbi Ira Youdovin August 21, 2016 at 6:05 am #

    There are an estimated 13–14,000,000 Jews in the world. How many of them did you interview before concluding that “most Jews are enthralled by a hegemonic Jewish exceptionalism?”(n.b. “Most” is the word you use”). And if you liked the time and financial resources to do the fieldwork, please cite a credible study that supports your thesis.

    In fact, what you’ve done is to perpetuate a negative stereotype, which which is been a primary tactic in fostering racial, religious and ethnic bigotry since time immemorial.

    You frequently complain about being falsely labeled as an anti-Semite because of your harsh criticism of Israel. This is undoubtedly a factor. But from time to time your guard slips and the real Richard Falk is revealed, leaving those of us who have been
    willing to give you the benefit of the doubt feeling betrayed.

    Rabbi Ira Youdovin

    • Richard Falk August 21, 2016 at 8:32 am #

      I make no ‘scientific’ claim, but I have had extensive experience, and have encountered very few
      exceptions to this generalization. You again slip into your preferred style of demeaning innuendo
      “the real Richard Falk is revealed.” I have had many friendships with progressive rabbis but I have
      never encountered such a mean-spirited temperament as yours, and that is in the course of a long
      lifetime of varied contacts.

      • Fred Skolnik August 21, 2016 at 9:21 am #

        Yes, people generalize on the basis of their experience but you are making a patently false assertion. My personal experience of half the Jews in the world, in Israel, tells me that apart from Orthodox believers, the concept of a “hegemonic Jewish exceptionalism” is simply meaningless. The Israeli sense of himself is of an individual bound to a gifted people with a tragic past, surrounded by a barbaric enemy, and pretty much a gawking provincial when he steps out into the Western world, where he feels at a distinct disadvantage and would give anything to know how to order wine in a restaurant. My personal experience of nearly the other half tells me that unaffiliated, assimilated American Jews (half the total) are American in every sense of the word and have very tenuous ties to their Jewishness, while among Reform and I am guessing a good many Conservative Jews there is nearly an equal degree of assimilation, that is, Americanness pure and simple, and considerable distance from any sense of chosenness. Once again, the “exceptionalism” that you attribute to Jews is basically no different from the national identities or ethnic pride of all peoples, though historical circumstances have made Jews a more close-knit people than most. As for the Orthodox belief in chosenness, all religions profess it, even if they don’t use the specific word.

      • Rabbi Ira Youdovin August 21, 2016 at 5:04 pm #


        No, you didn’t say you were making a “Scientific” claim, but you did State your assessment of “most” Jews as a fact without modification. I suspect you would have given one of your students at failing grade if he attempted that verbal sleight-of-hand on an examination.

        Regarding your claim to have had “extensive” experience with Jews, certain questions arise.
        By your own admission, you have had very little contact with the Jewish communities in places where you lived. Your contact, such as it was, must’ve
        been in a professional context: Teaching at a prestigious law school, negotiating with attornies and diplomats, etc. The numbers could not have been large, Nor would they represent anything approaching the diversity of the Jewish people. Indeed, I would think that those in the fast track you inhabited would have had nearly identical characteristics which cut across racial, religious and ethnic lines. Targeting the Jewsin the sample for criticism would seem to be, to use your phrase, “mean-spirited”.

        I’m also dubious about your claim to have friendships with “many” Reform rabbis. Where did you encounter them? Most of us do not frequent your circles. As a long time member of the senior staff of the union for reform Judaism, the umbrella organization for the American Reform Jewish movement, I know many, many rabbis. Few of them seem to know you, and many of those
        who do regard you as an anti-Semite.

        Sorry Richard, but you’re the one making the claims and defaming the Jewish People.


      • Gene Schulman August 21, 2016 at 11:55 pm #

        Ach, Ira, your sophistry is showing. One would think that with your rabbinical training you would be much better at it.

        Your attempts to portray Richard as an anti-Semite just won’t go down. You know as well as the rest of us that when Israel is being criticized, it is not anti-Semitism. It is purely and simply, criticism of outlaw behavior of a state, not unlike criticism of the US, or the NATO counties when they illegally begin wars of aggression and exploitation.

        Also, your attempt to minimize Richard’s experience with Jews – of whatever stripe – and Judaism, is a red herring. How can you know what experience he has had, given your own narrow-minded sense of ‘reform’ Judaism? Your whole specious argument is nothing but innuendo. And when have you ever given Richard the benefit of the doubt? Betrayal? Your vicious, personal attacks betray the very precepts you attribute to the Torah.

      • Fred Skolnik August 23, 2016 at 6:21 am #

        Are you that afraid, Prof. Falk, to let me remind your readers what the language of antisemitism looks like? or to correct Mr. Schulman;s disingenuous assertion that antisemitism never plays a part in criticism of Israel? Saying it never does is as extreme as saying it always does.

      • Richard Falk August 23, 2016 at 7:15 am #

        Mr. Skolnik: This has nothing to do with fear, absolutely nothing. It is the opposite. Deflecting criticisms
        of Israel by claiming that critics are anti-Semites, which is an intimidating accusation, and should
        not be irresponsibly made in a post-Holocaust world. I have a clear conscience about my attitudes toward
        Jews, and for that matter, other ethnicities and nationalities, and resent this kind of smear that is the result of making
        such allegations on this website. I know Mr. Schulman well enough to be confident that there is not a
        shred of anti-Semitism in his worldview, although he questions in good faith elements of the Jewish
        tradition. Critical thought is not anti-Semitism unless accompanied by enmity of spirit.

        I also resent your dredging up my article written in 2008, years before this blog existed, to allege
        that I equate Israeli behavior toward Gaza with Nazi behavior toward Jews. Even in that article it was
        more a warning than a comparison, and it was carefully qualified. Now your allegation has been repeated
        in the J-Post to contend that I made such comparisons while serving as Special Rapporteur, which never
        happened. And your allegation was that such comparisons are made on this blogsite repeatedly. This kind
        of contention, which you realize very well is inflammatory, is highly irresponsible, even malicious.

        And yet you wonder why I block your comments!!

      • Fred Skolnik August 23, 2016 at 9:26 am #

        You really are a coward. Though I have no desire to take my comments to you outside this little circle of yours, you are forcing me again to post them elsewhere.

      • Richard Falk August 23, 2016 at 9:55 pm #

        When you call me ‘coward,’ ‘fraud,’ ‘hypocrite,’ and worse, and then wonder why I block you, that makes me wonder
        about your mental state, which at best seems intemperate and hostile.

      • Fred Skolnik August 23, 2016 at 10:40 pm #

        Certainly I’m hostile. What do you expect when you call someone a Nazi and slander an entire nation? Once again you are only posting my comments when you think you have a winning reply. You would do a lot better to address the Nazi-genocide issue instead of blocking any reminder of it. And characterizing Mr. Schulman’s vicious “criticism” of Jews and Jewish tradition as anything other than “enmity of spirit” is pretty much another instance of your burying your head in the sand.

      • Richard Falk August 23, 2016 at 11:16 pm #

        I have many friends and critics who share your views on Israel/Palestine, but none other than you
        and Rabbi Youdovin rely on such personal invective to express their positions. You seem to relish this
        focus on what you call the ‘Nazi genocide issue’ when those critical of Israel largely focus on Israel’s
        policies and practices that violate international humanitarian law.

  6. Kata Fisher August 22, 2016 at 9:26 am #

    A note:

    I believe that is very difficult to dismiss Jewish/Hebrew exceptionalism – based on humanities. Every people group has some form of its own exceptionalism – based on Historical context. In addition to that, even if Zionism is some form of unexcepted Psychological-Philosophy it is still a base for Jewish peoples constituency. With that, it will be among Israeli citizens to how they will approach that from the point of provisions of constitutional democracy – which they have accomplished this far.

    I do not know about biological forms – they not one of the same kind species (Just as our Psychological-Philosophy) are not in our habitats / cultural settings.

    I hope this is helpful and that we all can have a wonderful day as wonderfully engaged and slowly evolving as better species. I do not mean to be hateful – but I believe that enlightening understanding adds to human enrollment toward a better race of species – regardless which cultural context.

    In addition to that, I feel special graces for Gene and Laurie – because I happened to be belonging to spiritually involved species. Unfortunately, some of the human species are obviously not. But there is no worry about that.

  7. Laurie Knightly August 22, 2016 at 11:55 am #

    So it is that I find myself in a position of strong dissent in what appears to be Richard’s harsh criticism of secularism. I had never heard the Enlightenment described as an ‘amoral embrace of instrumental reason’….devoid of ‘love, empathy,friendship, beauty and insurgent energies. ‘Amoral? So the ideas cherished today that humans have individual worth and natural rights is an amoral concept? Besides science, arts, literature, music, philosophy etc became commonly available free from religious censure/punishment. This vastly improved ideology enhanced not only freedom, but esthetic life as well. No longer can one be executed for blasphemy, profanity etc. Art and music exists devoid of restrictive religious themes. It’s harrowing to imagine life before the age of Enlightenment – and many nations do still live stifled in the limitations of religion and tradition. The objectives inherent therein are still problematic but the eradication of religious authority and the idea of consent of the governed has made dissent possible. If secularists are ‘more judgmental’ in Turkey, it’s no doubt for valid reasons – or is that last word an anathema.

    One, instead, would enter a courtroom/government/teaching entity and announce that reason would be disallowed but we would proceed using only ‘transreligious spirituality’ to achieve justice. One would best be described as a member of humanity and eschew any smaller group type security and socialization altogether? Maybe a global kibbutz?
    No thanks…….

    • Kata Fisher August 22, 2016 at 3:11 pm #


      This is what I understand:

      I am simply suggesting that humanities is a tool to go about human problems – however, it is not that which will solve the problems of humans.

      For example: If you ask me the difference between “alles verputzt” and “alles kabuzt” I would not know the difference because of the lack of the relevant competencies to be connected or distinguish between these two terms.

      I know the exact meaning of the term “alles verputzt” – but “all kabuzt” is a term that is not known to me. Therefore, I understand none of the helpful differences between them.

      Now, let transfer that into the problems between Theology(religion) and Faith terms /items.

      Human problems are not solved with Theology because Theology is as exactly the same item as Psychological-Philosophy – unless Psychological-Philosophy has Faith item connected to it – it will not be directly considered to be under items of constitutional sovereignties – in terms of constituencies.

      What will solve your problems will be the Faith and the Law. These things are always sovereign and are always expected to be constitutional (in the application). In fact, are also inflexible items – if someone is going about solving the problems. Psychological-Philosophy does not have to be (in the application) constitutional – but will become irrelevant and can be extremely dangerous – in all form in reference to the human sustainability. Unless, it is an exceptional form of human Philosophy – and that which equals to Law constitutional civil-ecclesiastical.

      Faith and the Law are constitutional civil-ecclesiastical – and that is only and exactly the same pattern / way is how civil-ecclesiastical problems are solved. I do not know that there is any other.

      An exceptional form of human Philosophy – is the equal vector with Faith and Law.

      An exceptional form of human Philosophy can be also viewed as Apologetics/defence of human reason.

      Psychological-Philosophy and Theology not necessarily – for it will defend whatever is or may be viewed as reasonable.

      When I was in college – I had difficulty learning anything … I just understood it, instead. Which is the very vague in terms for human reason, and even education, all together.

    • Gene Schulman August 22, 2016 at 11:27 pm #

      I am not sure where Laurie gets the idea that Richard is criticizing secularism, or attacks the Enlightenment as amoral. Perhaps it was in one of the comments accidentally deleted? Or does she read all that into the his response to my first comment above? Yes, he does seem to be defending religion, as against ‘trans human logic’, but that seems a far cry from amoral enlightenment. For the rest, as usual, she is right on.

      Kata, I really don’t need your special grace, thank you.

      • Laurie Knightly August 23, 2016 at 7:14 am #

        Mid next to last paragraph of essay – that’s what it says. Starts with “These religious and spiritual constructions of reality impart………….”

        Look at Clif Brown’s comments – that’s enlightenment. We are born totally egocentric [know how to suck/demand] and learn allocentricism. The latter can rival the former when well learned – and survival depends on it. The responsibility is now global and I realize that. My manual is The Scottish Enlightenment – an anthology edited by Alexander Broadie. The word ‘spiritual’ has no external reality in itself.

      • Kata Fisher August 23, 2016 at 9:20 am #

        Dear Gene,

        I can agree with you – you live in Geneva no special graces needed.


        Moral Ethicist would not say, I have no special graces – I only have chaos.

        But I think that Fr. James Martin, SJ put it in much better context then I can ever do that.

      • Kata Fisher August 23, 2016 at 6:11 pm #

        This is what I understand about that specific edition:

        The Manual itself would be very useful and applicable, but it can have its strong shortfall in the case that is not constitutionally applicable. If the case is that it will override constitutional sovereignties from one region to another – or constitutional sovereignties to another – it can bring constitutional sovereignties and/or state/national system out of power, authorities, and functions/balances.

        I think that it can be edited (term by term) in order to be constitutional – it can be tailored (in terms) to the constitutional sovereignties of each and every entity and/or globally. The terminology should be globally applicable and/or in state-entity/national system both applicable and acceptable.

        This can be viewed in another way: Church Apologetics is one in the essence – however, different denomination has different Church Apologetic – and all of the denominational Church Apologetics are applicable – just because they are not directly applied in the specific Order of the Church and/or denomination this does not mean that each and every Church apologetics are not valid.

        However, when comes to the Christian Theology – that becomes very tough and difficult thing. When one goes about Christian Theology – that is just about as equal as impossible to figure out which is what for one individual (or denomination) – one needs all denominations with all spiritual gifts of the same kind – which are accompanied by all other (diverse) gifts spiritual in order to figure out what is valid by the standards of Church Apologetics and what is not.

        In civil terms – one needs interdisciplinary/Intercultural and so on setting in order to edit some manuals effectively. I do not know that there is any other way to go about that. They have to know and understand what and how exactly it has to be done – that way they all are in one aim: manuals constitutionally and legitimately applicable in some or all settings – or something similar as that. (Not all specifically what I am suggesting – but it that direction/vector/s somewhat). I only have limited understanding to all of that.

  8. Laurie Knightly August 23, 2016 at 11:32 pm #

    As we are well aware, blogs have an abysmal record in terms of productive dialogue.debate/discussion. Nothing new. As the mean spirited critics here consider our numbers/knowledge/motives involved of such little consequence, could they not be relieved of the burden placed upon them by their political institutions? We are not worth their valuable time and purported brilliance.They did their usual guideline objectives of pivoting the subject and engaging vitriol. Yawn….could they please now be relieved?

    Why you stoop to engage/defend/explain is beyond my understanding. Besides the social discomfort of despicable insults, it’s very boring, vapid, and repetitive. I am requesting that you put your intellect, education, experience, ethics, and dedication to a higher calling where it belongs. If you continue this senseless palaver, I am planning to send Guido by for a bit of a chat. You leave me no choice………..

    • Richard Falk August 24, 2016 at 5:14 am #


      I know with most of my being that you are completely right about this, and I have come to a similar conclusion on several
      occasions. Yet I suffer from a compulsive obsessive disorder that is probably an effect of teaching for almost 60 years of
      never leaving a student’s argument or comment unanswered, that teaching at its best is essentially an extended conversation
      in which both student and teacher learn. Under your benign influence, I will try once more to be selectively deaf! Richard

      • Rabbi Ira Youdovin August 24, 2016 at 11:59 am #


        First, let’s try to restore a little perspective. Considering the controversy you have stirred up over the past half century, it’s tough to believe that my communication is the most mean-spirited you’ve ever received. I’ve seen some of the other communication, and know its authors. . Even if I’d tried to match them, which I haven’t, my forensic skills don’t approach theirs. I’ll accept
        that mine are the most mean-spirited you
        received this week, or maybe this month. But that’s all.

        But seriously, I question whether mine are mean spirited at all. As you may recall our first exchange some years ago, you denied having ever accused Israeliis of behaving like Nazis, and it abhorred my accusing you of doing so. When I cited the reference, which was, and still is, available online, you neither apologized nor even acknowledged your error. It’s been like that ever since.

        I write as an individual, not part of the Ira and Fred team you’ve put together as a fabrication. Fred and I very communicate very rarely, and

        never coordinate our submissions. We agree on some points, but our political positions are far from identical. Fred can speak for himself, and does so very well. This post is about Ira and Richard, not Ira and Fred and Richard.

        My impression is that very little of my communication is mean-spirited. And when it is, it is in response to the mean spirited quality of some of your communication, and almost all of what’s posted by Gene Schulman and others. Indeed, you tend to use accusations of my being mean-spirited in the same way you accuse your critics of using charges of anti-Semitism as a device for evading having to respond to difficult challenges.

        So I propose an agreement to try a new approach. I’ll be careful to avoid as best I can any innuendos, etc. that might be legitimately construed as being mean-spirited. For your part. You would be careful to do the same. And if you do find something offensive, please give me some sense of why you do, so I might be able to make corrections, should any be indicated.



  9. Fred Skolnik August 24, 2016 at 5:44 am #

    You see, Prof. Falk, it’s as I say: you block a post because it’s unanswerable (my last) and then you rationalize it. That’s the cowardice. It’s only when you think I’ve given you an opening to “put me in my place” that you reply.

    If you believe that disparaging references to Jewish greed, character and morality is legitimate criticism, then you will also have to believe that Mein Kampf constitutes legitimate criticism and your readers do in fact use the language of Mein Kampf and when I point out the similarities you say, in effect, “I will not allow you to compare the language of my readers to the language of Mein Kampf.” Bravely spoken!

    I understand the reluctance of people like Laurie to be challenged and exposed. In the end the liberals turn out to be just a bit totalitarian and abhor dissent. You and your readers are continually making the same allegations in precisely the same unrestrained language, each one dozens of times. The fallacies in these allegations and the moral vacuum out of which they are made, which turns a blind eye to the most brutal acts of terrorism but weeps over an uprooted olive tree, are continually being pointed out, and as I say, the tactic is always to ignore what is unanswerable and repeat the allegation. But this is a public forum and you are inviting comment. Calling what you don’t like insulting won’t work, unless you apply the same standard to your admirers, or unless you redefine the meaning of common words and choose to construe even the use of the word “you” as personal or insulting, just as you’ve redefined every dirty word you can think of in order to apply it to Israel.

    • Richard Falk August 24, 2016 at 11:06 pm #

      smear tactics may work in the world you inhabit, but not on this blog site. please
      shift your attention elsewhere.

      • Rabbi Ira Youdovin August 29, 2016 at 2:13 am #


        I am disappointed, but not surprised, by your tacit rejection of my proposal to pursue a more civil dialogue, even on your own terms. It would have been merely polite for you to offer even a cursory explanation, instead of ignoring my post. But that’s the way things are on this blog.

        As you seem unwilling to explain yourself, I won’t speculate on your motives. Suffice to say, you are unwilling to proceed without the protection of being able to avoid challenging questions by falsely claiming mean-spiritedness, ignoring the question, or hitting the delete button.

        Your supporters will not question your reasons. Others will draw their own conclusions, as has happened repeatedly over the years.

        Suffice to say that you fatally undermine your claim to support free-speech and your “weakness” for answering even challenging questions.

        Finally, Laurie Knightly is correct. There are better ways for me to spend my time than grappling with the hostility that pervades this blog.


      • Richard Falk August 29, 2016 at 7:41 pm #


        I happen to be traveling in Pakistan with a heavy speaking schedule, and yet as is your
        tendency, you use the occasion to question my character and the quality of the blog, and
        yet seem to wonder why I might hesitate to respond positively to your proposal. You have
        such a heavy residue of bad feelings that it would seem rather masochistic to agree to such
        an arrangement.

        And then there are substantive problems. You put yourself forward as a liberal Zionist and
        yet you consistently support the views of an extremist such as Fred Skolnik, and make common
        cause with him. That does not suggest a basis for productive dialogue.

        If I understand your views correctly, you oppose BDS and favor negotiations with the US as
        intermediary. From such a standpoint, allowing Israel to annex de facto control over much of
        the West Bank and to consolidate their claim to govern a unified Jerusalem, the Oslo process
        has been helpful to advance Israel’s maximal claims, while extremely harmful to the Palestinian
        side, even without taking account of prolonging the cruelty of prolonged occupation.

        In this respect Laurie Knightly may be right, but not because of ‘the hostility that pervades
        this blog,’ which to the extent that it exists, is partly a consequence of your participation.


        Actually, I had not decided how to respond to your proposal

  10. Fred Skolnik August 29, 2016 at 9:39 pm #

    If you are going to drag my name into your replies to other people, I hope you will allow me to respond.

    You already made the accusation of extremism a few posts back and when I pointed out that my views on Israel’s response to terrorism are shared by the majority of Israelis, you instantly backtracked (“maybe not on this issue”) and asserted that my extremism lies in believing that Israel is always right, which is of course no more extreme than believing that Israel is always wrong, which is the theme of this blogsite.

    As for U.S. mediation, no impartial observer would object to it. Obama has certainly been critical of Israel with regard to the settlements and to Israel’s military responses to terrorist acts and couldn’t care less who controls what as long as there was peace and quiet in the area. The allegation that Israel is “expanding” settlements is false, unless you consider a few acres here and a few acres there “expansion,” including issues of legal ownership in places like East Jerusalem which are adjudicated in the courts. I have pointed out at least a dozen times that Israel has not built a new settlement or expanded the old ones since the early 1990s. Almost all building, with the exception of unauthorized hilltop outposts, mostly involving a few caravans, and various small encroachments have been within the existing boundaries of the settlements. You are therefore using the word “expansion” in a misleading way.

    I have also described what Israel’s opening position would most likely be in any negotiations. Since this is the heart of the matter, it is a little odd that you have ignored this completely, and this strengthens my feeling that the aim of the blog is not to suggest ways to achieve peace but to vilify Israel. It reminds me of Lenny Bruce’s Religions Incorporated speaker telling the assembled rabbis and reverends: “We’re not here to talk about God …”

    • Kata Fisher August 29, 2016 at 10:48 pm #

      A Note:

      Someone has hijacked constitution and constitutional sovereignties in this land – and people are saying that they believe that President Obama can not exercise his function – due to the illegitimate coercion.. and he may feel that there are threats to him.

      Why is that?

      This is what I do understand – as long as the constitution and constitutional sovereignties are not restored in the land – all shall continue in hell of self-destruction within Holy Land. This is what Church Charismatic ordained has said.

      No one can’t do any coercion toward US President without consequence – in this case President Obama – they only bring self-destructions upon them selfs.

      He has not taken constitutional oath in a bad conscience

      Constitution and constitutional sovereignties in this land have to be restored – or those who are causing illegitimate coercions / troubles trouble will not get theirs accomplished.

      We are certainly here to talk about powers and authority of Constitutional Sovereignties within the US.

      Professor Falk,

      This is what I understand:
      Constitution and constitutional sovereignties of US are # 1 priority to all negotiation concerning Holy Land. All Hebrew Prophets need to see and understand that. There is no other way out from all this chaos.

      We are should be willing to do step by step at time – but lets just not do any sliding backs in steps we all (this means global folks).

      Constitution and constitutional sovereignties of US are # 1 priority – or there is no other way but to BDS – and I mean BDS all the way … and angry folks may not stop at it.

      I am totally a believer in Faith Rights – but kosher salt may become optional for Jews world-wide. This is why: hijacked constitution and constitutional sovereignties – anywhere lead to extreme consequence. This is what I understand. We all have to denounce all of that! Its awfully bad and dangerous.

      There has to be sound human reason to all of this … unless we all become blind and can’t see it.

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    • Kata Fisher September 4, 2016 at 5:24 pm #

      Well, Hallo/Helo there

      You are in the centre of this universe!

      Everyone has been waiting just for Y-O-U!
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      Be blessed, and do not let spiritual attacks wipe your spirit out. (Smile)

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