stolen from Gawker, sue me!Gawker takes a swipe at…
Here’s the time line… the Associated Press ran a story last Tuesday about the release of the latest and final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Like previous releases, all the bookstores that sell the book have to agree to release it simultaneously, and in Israel that was on Saturday at 2:01 am – on the Sabbath. The article noted that Israeli law requires most businesses to remain closed on the Sabbath (obviously the author hasn’t been to Tel Aviv or Haifa…) and that the usual suspects from the Israeli ultra-Orthodox political parties took great offense at this desecration. Industry and Trade Minister Eli Yishai, head of the Orthodox Shas party, threatened to fine any book store that opens Saturday in order to sell the Harry Potter book. Avraham Ravitz of the United Torah Judaism Party, who probably never read a Harry Potter book, stated that “We don’t have to be dragged like monkeys after the world with this subculture, and certainly not while violating our holy Sabbath.” OK, Fine. That reaction was to be expected. Steimatzky, Israel’s largest chain of book stores planned a big Friday night blowout at its Tel Aviv location, but as far as I know, none of the Jerusalem stores were open.

Then along comes Gawker… Gawker is one of the leading New York-based blogs. Gawker is also arguably the biggest, baddest Jewish blog – last year the Forward listed Gawker Editors Jessica Coen and Jesse Oxfeld amongst its 50 most important Jews in America. Anyways, the Wednesday following the AP story, Gawker editor Alex Balk wrote a post on the whole Harry Potter, Sabbath in Israel thing, adding a typical New York secular Jew slant:

Some stores are planning to open anyway—these are Jews, let’s remember, and a buck’s a buck—which has resulted in predictable outrage from the more Adonai-adoring elements of Israeli society. Avraham Ravitz of the United Torah Judaism Party slammed the Potter books for their “defective messages.” … Not to get all Hitchens on you, but isn’t this exactly how some of us feel about, you know, the Bible and its subculture of weird, tallis-wearing followers? Give us this wizard any day. (Actually, don’t, we’re fucking grown-ups, but you get the point.)

So along comes Mark Caro, an entertainment columnist for the Chicago Tribune. He cited the Gawker piece, which he found to be “stupefying in its casual offensiveness,” and concluded that the folks at Gawker could be real schmucks sometimes. Of course Heeb magazine, cited in Caro’s article, quickly took the bait and joined in the fray (gotta love RSS and Google alerts – as if anyone at Heeb ever reads the Chicago Tribune!). They predictably chided Caro for being a fuddy duddy. And Heeb Editorial Director Rebecca Wiener lusted over Caro’s cool photoshopped clip art icon. Gimme a call Rebecca, we’ll whip something up for you… but I digress.

Gawker responded to Caro’s criticism by stating that they weren’t being ironic at all – they were in fact “writing about life in a theocracy … But now that you mention it, yeah, we really hate the Jews too.” Given that Gawker isn’t exactly Judenrein, this time around I think they were in fact being ironic, unless of course you go by what one of the commenters on Caro’s column stated:

I read Gawker daily and enjoy it – but yes, it frequently veers into anti-Semitism. That’s because its editors believe its readership are leftwing, self-hating Jews, for whom anti-Semitism equals self-affirmation. In reality, however, its readers are not nearly as leftwing (and hence anti-Semitic) as they think.

Later that day, Gawker responded to the Heeb post, and more specifically to the negative comments it inspired, and issued a tongue in cheek apology:

Dear Jew,

We are sincerely sorry for offending your delicate Jew sensibilities. Yes, it’s true, there are a few Jews here in the office—we’ve crunched the numbers, and four out of five Gawker editors have at least some Jew blood in them (not on them!)—and we do think that gives us the right to make Jew jokes. But you know what? None of us are Irish, thank God, and we still knock the micks every now and again. We’re kinda of the opinion that the idea of ethnicity and its accompanying stereotypes are inherently hilarious. So, sure, we may not know a lot about life in Israel—do you guys still eat the Palestinian kids after your tanks run them over, or did you stop that once Rabin came into office? Do we still send Israel billions of dollars a year?—but, guess what, we think the comical ways in which your Jew country kowtows to the craziest Jew elements of crazy Jewiness could not be funnier. Hope that’s okay!

Shalom,
Balk

Finally, on Friday, as if to milk this issue for all it was worth, Gawker followed up with a diagram that shows things about the Jews that are funny – included in this brilliant, self-deprecating list were the following: Giant Noses (6/10 on the humor scale), Cheapness (8/10), Domineering Mothers (5/10), Comical Hats and Beards (4/10), Constant Bitching about Anti-Semitism (9/10), Love of Chinese Food (4/10), The Holocaust (2/10) etc.

Nice! Balk, brought in by Gawker owner Nick Denton to replace Jesse Oxfeld and broaden Gawker’s user base, doubtlessly scored points with the boss by resorting to crude Der Stürmer-like characterizations of money grubbing Jews with their weird rituals and observances. I like a good self-referential joke as much as anyone, but I couldn’t help but chuckle at the cluelessness of my holy brothers in New York who have no idea what Israel is really like. Thousands of copies of the latest Harry Potter book were sold on Saturday throughout Israel – not that I approve, as Balk noted, we are fucking grownups after all. The Jerusalem Post correctly noted that Jerusalem residents wishing to purchase the book could do so in east Jerusalem from an Arab-owned book store. It was also reported that an unnamed Jerusalem Rabbi stated that Sabbath observant Jews could get the book if it “is paid for before Shabbat, no Jews work in the store, and the store did not open specifically for Jews.” But how could one really expect Gawker to resist poking fun at their weird Jewish co-religionists living in that odd, shitty little country?

Never mind that in this theocracy, if you wanted to, you could have easily gotten the friggin book. Afterwards, while the whacky Jews wore their tallises and recited their Sabbath prayers, you could have gone and enjoyed breakfast shrimp and bacon at Bolinat in the center of town. This could then have been followed by a nooner with a non-Jewish Norwegian nympho that you met at a party at Hebrew U. You could have gone at it for a while and still have made it on time for seudat shlishit at the Brodt’s. In other words, Gawker’s humor fell flat. Anyone who knows Israel would not have found it funny as Gawker’s depiction of our country is deeply inaccurate. But whatever, I don’t want anyone to make fun of me! Perhaps what we ought to do at this point, is read about The Coming Jewish Schism by Joey Kurtzman, an editor over at Jewcy. “Coming” Joey? It’s already here.

Too depressing this close to Tisha B’Av where some of us fast and read the book of Lamentations? Well then, you can read another article in Jewcy – Harry Potter Gets Laid, a review of certain choice bits of Harry Potter fan fiction. And the best part? You don’t have to go to East Jerusalem to get it. Well that and the part where Hermione and Draco get it on.

No I’m kidding. It’s awful. It’s all awful.

Follow me

About the author

ck

Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.

17 Comments

  • I found the Gawker thing obnoxious and vulgar – hardly funny. As with most insults – it says way more about them than it does about us.

    I was also intrigued by this line “. We’re kinda of the opinion that the idea of ethnicity and its accompanying stereotypes are inherently hilarious.”

    Idea of ethnicity? Is the realm of human experience, most identify in one sense or a another with ethnicity. It is a defining element of identity. Whether the solipsist Gawker editor finds the “idea” hilarious or not, ethnicity is important to humans.

    The vulgarity of the post and resulting comments reveal the dirty underbelly of racism.

    It is fair to take issue with the Rabbis’ desire to protect the sanctity of the Sabbath. It is entirely disgusting to issue wholesale insults, contempt, and perpetuate vulgar and harmful anti-Jewish racism.

  • Perhaps most disturbing is the level of misinformation and misperception that exists about Israel…even (perhaps especially) amongst Jews.

  • Rabbi Yonah wrote “The vulgarity of the post and resulting comments reveal the dirty underbelly of racism.”

    Rabbi, it reveals everything about the blogosphere. When I worked in print media, when we used word processors with the green blocky typeface, we had these folks lording over us we called “Editors”. One for each department, one the other editors answered to. The rest of us were “Writers”. Staff writers or contributing writers. After I left the mastheads of the rags I worked on started listing the writers as contributing editors. There were, like two writers and twenty-five contributing editors.

    Which is the model for blogs. As entertaining as it is (and Deadspin rocks), Gawker Media isn’t journalism and it isn’t commentary in the traditional sense. No ethical or journalistic creed runs the show. And since all writers are editors, no one has to answer to anyone.

    I’m not complaining. In fact the opposite. While during the day I was writing safe little fluffy reviews of bad French movies and nice multi-culturally oversensitive essays about urban life for the nice middle-class liberals, at nights I was in the underground rags and fanzines where it was a free-for-all, a bunch of ranters and self-professed humorists tossing off whatever comes into our heads. We were lunatics and we were running the asylum.

    Which describes what Denton has done. Put together an asylum run by lunatics. Button pushing has replaced commentary and discourse. It’s kind of what ck put together here except there’s more of a premium on intellect here and he’s the one who does most of the swearing.

  • I’ve been to France a few times in the last few years. They pride themselves on being a secular society with separation of church and state. Given that, French law requires all stores to be closed on Sunday. If you open up, you get a hefty fine. Walk along the Champs Elysee on Sunday, and only a handful of places are opened who figured that the heavy fine is worth paying.

    But, in Israel, the saying is ‘more saintly than the pope’ and the non-religious try to break the ‘religious’ laws davka cuz it’s their right. And if anyone tries to protect the Jewish day of rest, he’s villified by Jews and ridiculed as primitive.

  • We as Jews have a double standard. When the Christians in America say, “don’t do X because Jesus said so” we say, “but I don’t believe in that!” But when Gawker says the same thing to Jews, “we find your Torah as much fiction as Harry Potter is” we go nuts. I agree, it’s a cheap shot to call Israel a wacky theocracy and the media distorts it to look that way all the time, but deep down, I think there’s a kernel of truth in what Gawker says.

    This sentence may offend you: “but isn’t this exactly how some of us feel about, you know, the Bible and its subculture of weird, tallis-wearing followers?” but I’ll bet you’d nod in agreement if it were about the “odd” practices of fundamentalist Muslims or Christians.

  • Becca, I have to agree with you. But I don’t think the purpose of Jewlicious is to expose insensitivity to Muslims. In that regard the compare/contrast illustration doesn’t work. Regardless of whether or not Gawker identifies itself as a Jewish blog (not) Heeb as Jewish culture magazine (yes), ck’s or TM or the such are going to expose what they perceive as anti-semitic sentiment. Even if they are being overly sensitive.

    The argument is about that age-old question of who can make fun of whom, for humor or otherwise. I’m sure many of us would like to have the permanent Don Rickles Exemption but we’re not Don Rickles. Same argument going on in the African-American community re: using the N word.

    Are we being overly-sensitive to Gawker’s not-so-funny stab at irony? Does this make them automatically self-hating Jews? I don’t think so, but like I alluded to up there, the rules have changed. It’s no longer think before you write. As some may accuse me of doing with my last two comments.

  • I would look at it the opposite way, though. Instead of everyone pointing out the insensitivity of other people to their faith or beliefs, why not choose to laugh? What we do *is* wacky! We just happen to know the meaning of it and have done these things all our lives and so it doesn’t seem bizarre to us. Most of my friends aren’t Jewish and so I am forced to see what I do every day through their eyes. Sure, they respect my beliefs but I’m also sure the fact that I can eat this but not that, this but not with that, at this time but not at that time, as being from Mars.

    We’re wacky! We like it that way. We wouldn’t do it any differently. Our strangeness has kept us apart and cohesive for millennia. Who cares what Gawker thinks? If they thought we were like them then there’d be something wrong.

  • Becca – well put. Why should we care what Gawker thinks… unless we’re looking for work there. My non-Jewish friends envy us.

    When ck brought up Tisha B’av the first thing that came to mind was Lev Raphael’s collection of short stories “Dancing on Tisha B’av”. (Which I found in a bookstore in the train station in Amsterdam while searching for English-language reading material to get through some long European travels.) To me those stories help sum up our internal conflicts. And remind me that we are a beautifully wacky people. And sometimes obnoxious and vulgar. For example, Jewish guys have a universal crush on Sarah Silverman. They jealously chide her for being in love with a frumpy non-Jewish guy. And some of them are gay.

  • Gawker is definately not a Jewish blog. All of the so-called “Jewish” staffers are from intermarried families and weren’t raised Jewish. They pretend to be Jewish so they can get away with anti-semitic crap. This is the destruction that intermarriage has created.
    Gawker would never make fun of Arabs or Muslims because they’re scared of the backlash and don’t want to be blown up. Or maybe because they hate Israel and support Arab terrorists. I suspect it’s the latter.
    Gawker has be one of the worst blogs ever. It’s not in the least bit funny and all commentators are staffers, their friends or relatives. You actually have to be approved to comment on their stupid blog. That is why all the idiotic comments are similiar. It figures that facism and anti-semitism are what defines Gawker.

  • Good grief. I like to take the piss out of Gawker too, but you need to relax! When Sarah Silverman used the word “chink” on a late night talk show, we understood immediately that she wasn’t racist and making fun of Asians and Chinese people, but that she was in fact making fun of racists. It’s called irony. I’m pretty sure that while Gawker was pushing envelopes here, their intent was to be sort of ironic. As for the commenters, I am not friends with anyone at Gawker, nor am I related to anyone there either. Yet I am a commenter. That having been said, I will admit that my comments are usually idiotic…

  • The difference is Sarah Silverman IS funny while this guy Balk is not funny at all. I mean did anyone find his posts funny at all?

  • Well, he’s clearly not as funny as Silverman, but I don’t think his intent was to fuel Antisemitism.

  • “All of the so-called “Jewish” staffers are from intermarried families and weren’t raised Jewish. They pretend to be Jewish so they can get away with anti-semitic crap. This is the destruction that intermarriage has created.”

    Wow. Now, who would want to make fun of someone who says stuff like that? For someone so concerned with anti-semites, Gawkersucks, you’re right up there with the most formidable contenders for head of the Department of Assinine Conspiracy Theories.

  • Well, I’m pretty sure Gawker doesn’t want to get blown up. In fact I’m pretty sure it’s in their mission statement:

    “We will avoid any reference to any ethnic, religious or social group that may be deemed offensive so that we won’t get blown up.”

    Well, at least that’s my theory. Or at least I suspect that that’s my theory. It’s either that or they’re actually members of the Muslim Brotherhood in disguise. I suspect the latter.

    So far Silverman has earned the right to use her Don Rickles Exemption. But she should know I’ve got my eye on her. Like most guys I know.

  • Really, Gawker does have something in common with terrorists, and tantrum-throwing three-year-olds, and bullies of all ages, and the ‘Mean Girls’ teen archetype: they are all encouraged and perpetuated by, and more or less exist only by virtue of, attention – media, parental, and otherwise. Take away the analysis and the endless reporting, the coddling and acquiescing to violent mood swings and dysfunctional behavior, and they will all just stifle in their own irrational rage. Aaah, but what’s a blog to do? What – – are bored journalists / fasting writers / society-conscious college students / Jewish avengers / Silverman fans / devout bloggers / etc… meant to simply ignore ranting toddlers like Gawker? What a concept.

Leave a Comment