Chomsky über seine zionistischen Wurzeln und religiöse Herkunft

Philip Weiss drückt seine eigene Liebe zu Noam Chomsky, für mich als unverbesserlichen und aus reiner Eitelkeit nicht-zionistischen Philosemiten😉 ein Fels in der Brandung, reichlich eigentümlich aus: Weiss zeigt sich immer wieder verbittert  über, wie er es sieht,  Chomskys mangelndes antizionistisches Bewusstsein, d.h. er kritisiert Chomsky scharf dafür, dass dieser nicht gewillt zu sein scheint, sich von seinem eigenen Zionismus zu trennen. Seine Enttäuschung geht so weit, dass er immer wieder Leuten wie Jeffrey Blankfort ein Forum auf seinem wieselflinken, wuseligen Blog bietet – Elise Hendricks hat eine so überfällige wie in vielerlei Hinsicht treffende Abrechnung mit Blankfort geliefert.

Bei Blankfort fragt man sich in der Tat: Meisterdenker Heni weilt doch auch in den Staaten. Könnte der nicht mal Blankfort besuchen? Nein?

Ich habe immer das Gefühl, dass sich Weiss aus Gründen, die bei ihm bzw. in ihm selbst zu finden sein könnten, auf Themen wie Chomsky’s Zionismus oder die Frage der (vermeintlich?) doppelten Loyalität amerikanischer Juden – USA und Israel – herumreitet. Das macht den Reiz seines Blogs aus, genau wie die gelegentlichen Posts über Party-Gespräche oder Konversationen im Auto mit seiner Frau, aber manchmal übertreibt der Mann einfach. Doch gerade das macht ja den Reiz des Bloggens auch aus. Übertreiben, sich Irren, wieder neu anfangen. Deshalb imponiert mir Weiss‘ Arbeit und ist mir immer wieder Quelle von Inspiration und coolen Links. Beispielsweise verlinkt Weiss hier ein sehr persönliches Interview, in welchem Chomsky nicht nur auf seinen eigenen Zionismus, sondern auch auf seine religiösen Wurzeln zu sprechen kommt. Sehr interessant:

You grew up in a home that was heavily influenced by Ahad Ha’am [7], the father of cultural Zionism.

My father was a great sympathizer of Ahad Ha’am. Every Friday night we would read Hebrew together, and often the reading was Ahad Ha’am’s essays. He was the founding figure of what came to be called cultural Zionism, meaning that there should be a Zionist revival in Israel, in Palestine, and it should be a cultural center for the Jewish people. He wrote in Hebrew, which was novel, because Hebrew was then the language of prayer and the Bible. He saw Jews as primarily a Diaspora community that needed a cultural center that had a physical presence, but he was very sympathetic to the Palestinians. In fact he wrote some very sharp essays, after a visit to Palestine, criticizing the way the new settlers were treating the indigenous population. He said, “You can’t treat people like that.” Also, on practical grounds, he didn’t want to create enemies. A Jewish cultural center in Palestine was his ideal.

Now I won’t swear to the precise accuracy of this, because these are childhood memories, but I remember reading together with my father an essay that Ahad Ha’am wrote about Moses. The basic idea was there are two Moseses—the first is the historical Moses, if there was such a person, and the other is the image of Moses that was constructed and came down through the ages and occupies an important place in the national mythology.

Ahad Ha’am was an early advocate of the idea that later became famous with [the Marxist political scientist] Ben Anderson, when he wrote his books about how nations are imagined communities. He said there’s an imagined—I don’t think he used the term—but there’s an imagined Jewish community, in which Moses plays a central role, and it really doesn’t matter if there was a historical Moses or not. That’s part of the national myth, which is a sophisticated version of what [author [8]] Shlomo Sand was trying to get at. Sand debunks the historical Moses, but from Ha’am’s point of view, it makes no difference.

Did you read Nivi’im, the prophets, with your father in Hebrew?

The word “prophet” is a very bad translation of an obscure Hebrew word, navi. Nobody knows what it means. But today they’d be called dissident intellectuals. They were giving geopolitical analysis, arguing that the acts of the rulers were going to destroy society. And they condemned the acts of evil kings. They called for justice and mercy to orphans and widows and so on.

I don’t want to say it was all beautiful. Dissident intellectuals aren’t all beautiful. You read Sakharov, who is sometimes appalling. Or Solzhenitsyn. And the nivi’im were treated the way dissident intellectuals always are. They weren’t praised. They weren’t honored. They were imprisoned like Jeremiah. They were driven into the desert. They were hated. Now at the time, there were intellectuals, “prophets,” who were very well treated. They were the flatterers of the court. Centuries later, they were called “false prophets.”

People who criticize power in the Jewish community are regarded the way Ahab treated Elijah: You’re a traitor. You’ve got to serve power. You can’t argue that the policies that Israel is following are going to lead to its destruction, which I thought then and still do.

Did you imagine yourself as a navi, a prophet, when you were a child reading those texts alone in your room or on Friday night with your father?

Sure. In fact, my favorite prophet, then and still, is Amos. I particularly admired his comments that he’s not an intellectual. I forget the Hebrew, but lo navi ela anochi lo ben navi—I’m not a prophet, I’m not the son of a prophet, I’m a simple shepherd. So he translated “prophet” correctly. He’s saying, “I’m not an intellectual.” He was a simple farmer and he wanted just to tell the truth. I admire that.

Did religion play a role in the life of your home? Did your mother light Shabbat candles?

We did those things, but they were­—I don’t know how you grew up, but my parents were part of the Enlightenment tradition, the haskalah. So you keep the symbols, but it doesn’t involve religious faith.

At the age of 10 I came to the conclusion that the God I learned about in school didn’t exist.

I remember how I did that. I remember it very well. My father’s family was super Orthodox. They came from a little shtetl somewhere in Russia. My father told me that they had regressed even beyond a medieval level. You couldn’t study Hebrew, you couldn’t study Russian. Mathematics was out of the question. We went to see them for the holidays. My grandfather had a long beard, I don’t think he knew he was in the United States. He spoke Yiddish and lived in a couple of blocks of his friends. We were there on Pesach, and I noticed that he was smoking.

So I asked my father, how could he smoke? There’s a line in the Talmud that says, ayn bein shabbat v’yom tov ela b’inyan achilah. I said, “How come he’s smoking?” He said, “Well, he decided that smoking is eating.” And a sudden flash came to me: Religion is based on the idea that God is an imbecile. He can’t figure these things out. If that’s what it is, I don’t want anything to do with it.

And what did your father say?

I was just thinking about that. He just quoted the line to me and then explained, “He thinks he is eating.”

Your father, Zev, was one of the significant Hebrew grammarians of the past century, and you did your early academic work on medieval Hebrew. Did something interest you about the structure of the language, or was it just available to you as the language in your home?

It wasn’t the language in the home. We spoke English. My parents would never utter a word of Yiddish, which was their native language. You have to remember there was real kulturkampf going on at this time, in the 1930s, between the Yiddish and the Hebrew tendencies. So we never heard a word—my wife either—of Yiddish. Hebrew was the language we studied. And then when I got to be a teenager I was immersed in novels.

Chomsky bedeutet mir persönlich sehr viel. Während eines mehrmonatigen Aufenthalts in Jerusalem im Jahr 2001 las ich The Fateful Triangle – auf deutsch: Offene Wunder Nahost, und die Verbindung aus eigener Anschauung vor Ort und intensiver Lektüreerfahrung in meinem Appartement im muslimischen Viertel der Altstadt Ostjerusalems gehören für mich zu den Highlights meines bisherigen Lebens.

Auch dafür nochmals Dank an Rainer, Matthias und Cheb!

Ein Gedanke zu “Chomsky über seine zionistischen Wurzeln und religiöse Herkunft

  1. ‚Prophet‘, in the sense of one who speaks on behalf of God, seems a perfectly good word to translate ’navi‘. The Greek term is used in the bilingual documents of the Ptolemaic period such as the Decree of Memphis, to render the Egyptian term hm-ntr, the servant of God, one of whose functions was to represent God on earth.

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