The Upside of Hell

Tel Aviv

I’m told by a fellow traveler that the upside of hell is knowing that all of your friends will be there. I can hardly wait. Such was the feeling I had when I saw my name among many more important people on the Masada 2000 website. They are an ultra-right Zionist organization, bent on destroying the reputations and careers of any Jew who dares to utter or publish a criticism of Israel . They call this the Self Hating and/or Israel Threatening (SHIT) List. And there are over 8,800 names. Does that illustrate anything about how many Jews actually support Israel but readily voice objection to Israel ’s behavior and policies toward the Palestinians?

I was alerted to their presence (and my inclusion) in an e-mail I received from a psychiatrist in NYC, who is also among their “sweepstakes finalists.” He reminded me that these people “have the capacity and intent to destroy your career or business.” I replied that I already know that, and that these people have been saying nasty things about me and discouraging other Jews from doing business with me for over 30 years. As an undergrad, I had this silly Messianic complex that I could help Jews better understand the actual history of conflict in the Middle East and help solve this epic problem. So I devoted my academic career to the area, took a M.A. at Michigan , and have done some editorial work and commentary in the field. My personal reward was being publically called out as SHIT by community leaders and rabbis, and suffering some social and business consequences. But usually when one door closes, a better one opens, right?

A funny thing is that some people on this list do not like one another. The leftist community in America knows as well as any how “familiarity breeds contempt.” Even progressive, leftist Jews have the capacity to cannibalize one another but not nearly as badly as our right-wing brethren and sistern. Most of the people on this list are some of the coolest, most interesting, and accomplished people on the planet. The list includes Woody Allen, Noam Chomsky, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Harold Pinter, Professor Joel Beinin, and Reuven Kaminer, one of my favorite leftist Israeli Jews and a gracious host. I’m almost embarrassed to be included. It includes many great scholars from the full spectrum of academia, along with actors, musicians, union leaders, rabbis, attorneys, journalists, community activists, teachers of anything and everything and bloggers. One of my friends said, “It looks like a list of most of the smart Jews in America .” And all I said was . . .

My entry says, “This Berkeley, California Jew feels, ‘It is not a Jewish thing to expropriate land, pirate water and farming resources, close schools and cut people off from their families or jobs… The growing Israeli shame ultimately led to the evacuation of Gaza . And there’s still a long way to go… Israel has a right to exist, but not to brutalize the Palestinians…’” Like I should be so ashamed for saying that. I’m guilty, guilty, guilty.

It would be great for us all to get together for a party. Since the Jews of San Francisco and the East Bay make up such a sizeable portion of the SHIT list, we should actually do that. They’ve already done us a small favor by giving us each other’s e-mail addresses on the website, so let’s get in touch ya’ll and have a big party. Maybe make it a fundraiser for a worthy cause. We’ll even include the people we don’t like.

H. Scott Prosterman

Scott Prostermanis a music, film and dance historian in Berkeley. He worked as a disc jockey in Pittsburgh and Memphis, where he grew up and where it all began. He was born in the 50s, grew up in the 60s, thrived in the 70s, barely survived the 80s, and re-grouped in the 90s.


  1. says

    Thanks Scott for this alert,

    I checked out the SHIT list and the overall Masada 2000 site. The overall site’s contents seem to be a mix of cogent fact mixed in with lots of stupid shit – tasteless gee-whizmo and jingoism.

    But the SHIT list features notably even more ugly shit and less fact. It’s a list of the allegedly guilty, where most entries are unaccompanied names – devoid of even claimed evidence of anything whatever – of which to be either guilty or innocent. At least the entry on Scott features a quote, in or out of context.

    I hope that some of those on the SHIT list go after these guys for defamation.

    I say all the above even though I quite agree with one view featured on the Masada 2000 site – that some Jews (along, in my view, with many non-Jews) merit reprobation for being anti-semitic (to use a term first used by an anti-semitic writer): that is, they focus (sometimes obsessively) on one or another institution or creation of the Jewish people, and critique it by an invidious double-standard that is not applied to like institutions or creations of other peoples.

    Sometimes anti-semitic views are coupled with arrogance, for example as in the prior comment:

    “I used to support the concept of a Jewish state, but after seeing Israel’s horrendous actions over the past 20-30 years, I now believe that isolating ourselves in our own country leads to a terrible state of affairs.”

    No one asks concerning any other state in the world whether you (private person) support the ‘concept’ of that state. If you don’t like the ‘concept’, too bad – you are not world dictator.

    On the contrary, progressive and reasoned folk tend to support movements for peaceful and democratic self-determination of peoples, and on that basis have supported creation of MORE states, including the restoration of destroyed independent states like Tibet. Unless the majority of the people of a state demonstrably wants their state go out of existence but somehow can’t manage the job, there’s little reason to object to the ‘concept’ of that state. Policies are one thing, concept and very existence are another.

    The commenter (who presumably is Jewish, to judge from his or her use of the term ‘our’) would at least seem less biased and a lot more credible if she or he (presumably American) first said the same thing about the USA (or wherever he or she resides):

    “I used to support the concept of an American state, but after seeing the USA’s horrendous actions over the past 20-30 years, I now believe that isolating ourselves in our own country leads to a terrible state of affairs.”

    • Paul McDermott says

      Joe, I see nothing arrogant about MLM’s stating that he doesn’t believe the Zionists should have tied the Jewish experience to a colonizing experience in Palestine. It’s your problem that you have to pick apart and twist a simple statement until it appears to be unpatriotic. Is it your belief, Joe, that if a Jew doesn’t support what the Likudnik, right-wing Israeli government is doing that he or she is unpatriotic, or worse, a self-hating Jew?
      In a recent article, I believe in the NY Review of Books, Tony Judt describes a similar path from his kibbutz years in Israeli to a rejection of what Zionism stands for today.

      • says

        Contra his allegation, it’s Paul’s problem, not mine, that he has ‘to pick apart and twist a simple statement’. He claims that MLM (presumably MyLeftMind) expresses disbelief that ‘Zionists should have tied the Jewish experience to a colonizing experience in Palestine’. However, MLM doesn’t say a word about Zionists, colonizing, or Palestine, let alone about the combination.

        MLM states simply that he/she doesn’t support the concept of a Jewish state. That thought is clear and stands on its own, whether or not Zionists ever existed or ever promoted ‘colonizing’ anywhere let alone in Palestine. MLM’s sentiment can be judged on its own merits, and as such it is quite OK and understandable as a statement of how personally MLM chooses to live, but arrogant if intended to tell the world that one or another actual country somehow shouldn’t exist, despite the preferences of that country’s own present or would-be inhabitants.

        Both MLM and I are entitled to be critiqued for what we actually write, and not have to answer for what we or someone else in fact didn’t write.

        Paul asks me: “Is it your belief, Joe, that if a Jew doesn’t support what the Likudnik, right-wing Israeli government is doing that he or she is unpatriotic, or worse, a self-hating Jew?”

        My answer is simply NO. The ruling political regime in Israel no more defines either Israeli patriotism or Jews’ fidelity to their people than do the policies and actions of the Obama administration define true patriotism of Americans.

        Sure, and not surprisingly, SOME policies of both administrations make complete sense as expressions of true patriotism. But some do not.

        And this judgment has nothing to do with the alleged ‘right’ or ‘left’ or other character of the current Israeli government or of any other government. Labels ‘right’ and ‘left’ are relative to time and place. Many progressives now would likely be more reassured by the overall attitudes and trends of the ‘right’ Nixon administration (or for that matter with those in Israel of the Netanyahu administration) than with the those of the ‘left’ Obama administration.

        I don’t know what to make of Paul’s note that Tony Judt followed a ‘similar’ path. ‘Similar’ to WHAT path, or WHOSE?? Anyway, what ‘Zionism stands for today’ – and therefore what has to be affirmed or rejected – is largely in the mind of the beholder. Zionism historically was simply the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, and its essential message was and remains an entirely affirmative one – the continued self-respecting survival of the Jewish homeland as an instrument to self-respecting and fruitful survival of the Jewish people. Zionism does not equate to specific governments or necessarily to specific policies. However, as various people dislike the notion that Jews should have a viable homeland, for them Zionism is demonic and anathema, or anyhow the word serves as a convenient epithet. Ditto Americanism.

  2. MyLeftMind says

    Wow, I looked at the list and there are some really scary looking peace activists on it.

    I used to support the concept of a Jewish state, but after seeing Israel’s horrendous actions over the past 20-30 years, I now believe that isolating ourselves in our own country leads to a terrible state of affairs. It’s time to stop basing our lives on archaic writings and start behaving like modern people in a multicultural world. We don’t need our own state that has to constantly fight and abuse other people. We simply need to honor our Jewish culture and history and allow the best of our traditions to make us and the world a better place.

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