July 31, 2002

FROM THE FRONT LINES: Here’s an email I got from law-school classmate Yehudah Mirsky:

Please forgive these random thoughts. Today’s bombing at Hebrew U., just over an hour ago, really hits home. The building it happened in is named “Frank Sinatra” which just makes it more surreal. Hamas, doing it their way. When I heard yesterday’s bomb I was standing in a used bookstore about half a mile away.

That explosion was up the block from the Rav Kook archive where I have done a good bit of my work, but, hey, it seemed like not much of anything with only a few injured, and this morning’s papers called it a “miracle,” which of course is a pretty odd reading of divine providence, but there are no atheists in foxholes, and fewer postmodernists.

When I walk around Hebrew U I have always been glad to see Palestinian students there because deep down I do believe that a university is a different kind of place, or can be when it wants to. I’d assume Hamas doesn’t care that they think that any Palestinians they kill should be happy to be collateral martyrs. In a way, all the victims are collateral martyrs offered up on the altar of the mad cult of violence gripping the Muslim Arab world.

As it turns out I was reading Nietzsche today, and I wonder how much of this he is responsible for too, these crazy notions of self-actualization through violence that he spat into the culture and take on a life of their own, all over. I’m lucky, I have an American passport and in theory could head for the airport anytime I want. Where is everybody else supposed to go? And one more thing that makes me tired and angry, that like a nice Jewish boy I go on praying for peace not only for the Jews but for the Arabs too, while they keep praying to my God to kill me. Yours, without answers, but still praying for peace like a river Yehudah

UPDATE: Yes, that’s the Yehudah Mirsky who used to work for the State Department and who sometimes writes for The New Republic. Reader Yonaton Aronoff weighs in to defend Nietzsche:

Although I totally sympathize with Yehuda, as a fan of Nietzsche, I must interject. Nietzsche would be horrified at radical Islam’s construction of a cultural identity out of what is essentially a “sour grapes” reaction to the West: realizing itself incapable of attaining Western wealth and power (but wanting it fiercely), radical Islam professes hatred of everything that is Western – such as wealth and power – in order to avoid hating ITSELF for not having what it wants. At the same time, its secret desire to attain wealth and power is manifested as the vigor with which it seeks to destroy that which it cannot have. While Nietzsche DID at times profess “self-actualization through violence,” he was also a bitter opponent of the use of religious power as a repressive force. His assault on the internally-inconsistent “values” of bourgeois Christianity (“Geneology of

Morals,” “Beyond Good and Evil”) is actually quite applicable to the way in which radical Muslims have hijacked Muslim cultural identity.

Perhaps we need more Arabic translations of Nietzsche.