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The Jewish "Theologian" from Waco By: Steven Plaut
Middle East Quarterly | Tuesday, June 01, 2004

The first hint one has of the real orientation of this atrocious little book, which purports to be a theological re-examination of what it means to be Jewish after the Holocaust, is that the only people Ellis and his publisher could find to endorse the book on the jacket are members of the Terrorism Lobby: Edward Said, Noam Chomsky, and their ilk. Not a single Jewish theologian.  Nation, the Far Left anti-Jewish American political magazine, recently praised the book's call for Israel to be eliminated, while expressing dislike for the fact that Ellis thinks religion still has some positive roles to play in the 21st century. Need we say more?

That is about as much a work in theology as is New Age drugs-and-Marxism Tikkun Magazine, a venue where Ellis feels right at home. Ellis is University Professor of American and Jewish Studies at Baylor University, a Baptist School in Waco, Texas. This is the same Waco we all recall as the home of some other peculiar forms of theology. Ellis has a long track record of using his Center there to proliferate leftist agitprop and Israel-bashing materials.

This poorly written book, the latest in the series of Israel-bashing propaganda tirades published by Pluto Press, is little more than a vicious anti-Israel broadside. The only thing of value that Ellis thinks Jews should derive from their experiences during the Holocaust is an unambiguous denunciation of Israel and total support for the demands and agenda of the Palestinians.

For Ellis, Israel is the embodiment of all that is evil and all that is wrong with Judaism today.  His concept of Israel is of a bunch of bullies riding about in helicopters and firing at poor innocent Palestinians for no reason at all (an image repeated ad nauseum in the book). Ellis' Israel is a belligerent selfish entity mistreating and enslaving the Palestinians as part of some sort of grand pursuit of the goals of the Jewish settlers in the "Palestinian" territories. 


While I did not test it with a computerized word count, I would wager that the word "bully" juxtaposed next to "Israel" is the most common word combination in the entire screed. Ellis apparently has never heard of the Oslo "peace process" and speaks about Israeli conquest and occupation of the Palestinians as being "complete," this a decade after Yitzhak Rabin and Bibi Netanyahu turned most of them over to the PLO's tender rule.

Ellis makes it clear that he only feels comfortable with his fellow Jews when they are being victimized. When they stand up to defend themselves, they lose their Jewish soul and their legitimate right to exist. In his zeal to delegitimize Israel (he speaks blissfully of the "post-Israel era"), he goes even further than the "Rabbis" of Tikkun magazine, which Ellis lists as the greatest of ethical institutions in the Jewish world, and approaches the views of crackpot Norman Finkelstein.  Like Finkelstein, Ellis thinks the Jews have utilized the Holocaust as a gimmick to grasp power and oppress the poor Arabs. The only real lesson Ellis wishes us to learn from the Holocaust is that Israelis are behaving like Nazis and that Jews who assist the Palestinians in achieving their aims are ethically equivalent to those few Germans who rescued Jews in World War II from the Gestapo.

According to Ellis, Israel's original sin was to utilize the Holocaust as an excuse to occupy "Palestinian" land. Israel's existence is not justified by Jewish suffering during the Holocaust. The only "massacres" of any Holocaust-relevance are those Israel perpetrates. Jenin and Deir Yassin (neither of which was in fact a massacre) are the moral equivalents of the Holocaust of the Jews, insist Ellis.

Ellis is openly contemptuous of any talk about Jews being in need of any national empowerment. Such things constitute "Constantinian Judaism," to use Ellis' term, which is nothing more than conscripting religion to serve the agenda of the militarist state and of those evil malicious "settlers." Jews can only fulfill their ethical role in history, which - Ellis is persuaded - is to promote socialism and leftist fads, if they are stateless and suffering. While crying his eyes out over the "inhumane" treatment of the Palestinians, Ellis never finds time in his discussion of the theological implications of the Holocaust to discuss the mass murder of Jewish children by his Palestinians. Jews certainly have no right to ride around in helicopters to prevent such things.

Nor is he willing to acknowledge that any "mistreatment" of Palestinians, such as assassinating their leading terrorists, might have anything at all to do with the atrocities committed by the Palestinians. In a book supposedly about the lessons of the Holocaust for the Jews, there is not a single word about the Nazi-like demonization of Jews by the PLO and its affiliates, nor the calls for genocide against Jews.

Ellis rejects even the political positions of Israel's Far Left. He is contemptuous of claims that Ehud Barak's offer to the Palestinians at Camp David II in 2000, in which Barak offered the PLO absolutely everything, was generous, not to mention suicidal. The offer did not come even close to what Ellis insists Israel must do, which is to cease to exist. Ellis is a passionate endorser of the "One-State Solution," also known as the Rwanda Solution, in which Israel will simply be eliminated as a Jewish state and will be enfolded within a larger Palestinian-dominated state that stretches from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. This, insists Ellis, is the ultimate realization of the Jewish mission.

Ellis' explicit motivation for writing this book is that he got drubbed rather badly in a debate a few years back in New Zealand by Prof. Yossi Olmert, brother of the previous Mayor of Jerusalem. Olmert had the chutzpah to defeat Ellis mercilessly in argument. Hence Ellis opens his book by viciously stating that Olmert is the moral equivalent of Yigal Amir, the assassin of Yitzhak Rabin. He denounces Olmert as a bully because Olmert bested him in the debate. No doubt all of Israel also became a bully because it refuses to adopt the program for self-destruction advocated by this "theologian" from Waco.

Steven Plaut is a professor at the Graduate School of the Business Administration at the University of Haifa and is a columnist for the Jewish Press. A collection of his commentaries on the current events in Israel can be found on his "blog" at www.stevenplaut.blogspot.com.

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