The Marc Steiner Show

07/25/07 Tsvi Bisk, The Optimistic Jew

I’m not Jewish.  When I told two friends who are Jewish about today’s show with Tsvi Bisk, I said, “He basically says that Jews need to stop being so obsessed with the past.”  These two friends come from about as different political viewpoints as possible, but they each said, “He’s right.  Jews are obsessed with the past.”

Now the interesting thing is that both of these friends are also young-in their twenties.  And in his book called The Optimistic Jew, Tsvi Bisk says that Judaism will lose the attention and interest of these young people-the future- if it remains what he calls “a culture constantly in mourning,” a culture obsessed with what happened in the past.  He believes that the Jewish people need to turn their attention from the past to the future in order to become leaders in the 21st century.

Thoughts?  What did you think when he said that Jews needed to stop obsessing over the Holocaust?  Or when he said that Israel is not the goal-it is simply a tool, a means towards liberal democracy?  I thought he said some pretty interesting and controversial stuff.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.


Written by Marc Steiner

Marc Steiner

The Marc Steiner Show airs Monday thru Friday from 10AM to Noon on WEAA 88.9 FM. The show covers the topics that matter, engaging real voices, from Charm City to Cairo and beyond. Call us at 410.319.8888 or email us to participate live in the show, or share your comments on our site! Aren’t in Baltimore but want to listen? Stream the show live.


  1. In my opinion Monoculturalism is an antiquated and somewhat offensive ideology. Your guest Tsvi Bisk compared Israel to states (like Denmark or Sweden) that have had monocultural nationalism for centuries – they are antiques. You don’t build new antiques. Maintaining an identity as a people is admirable, if not inherently divisive – however for it to take the form of diminishing the identities of surrounding peoples ceases to be admirable, and in my mind becomes disgusting.

    I was shocked that you would even entertain the concept that to be anti-Israel is to be anti-Semitic. If I’m not mistaken, there are numerous Jewish organizations fighting the policies of Israel. I favor JATO – of course I’ve heard from some of my more militant Jewish friends that they simply hate themselves. If someone says they’re anti-thug or ant-hip-hop, I don’t call them anti-black or racist. The meme that suggests that dislike of another’s cultural artifacts is dislike of them as people needs to be retired – it closes off intelligent conversation about very real and very important issues in our world.

    And do you not hear the incipient racism in your guest’s argument? He speaks of Israeli pioneers vs. Arab despots. No one will doubt the heroism of the former or the despicable greed of the latter. However he never speaks about the simple Arab and Persian citizens who are and have been oppressed by the despots as well as the pioneers, often with the complicity of the western world. Many in the leadership of Israel have been guilty of abominable crimes – why not compare them to the Despots? And with current events, I prefer a Prince who takes bribes more than a President who takes undue liberties if you get my meaning.

    One thing shining through in Mr. Bisk’s commentary and something that has always irritated me about Zionism, is the implication that the Jewish people somehow deserve more than other abused peoples. I hear no one speaking seriously of giving American Blacks like me a country where we can have our identity. I hear no one speaking of giving the few Native Americans not slaughtered a country where they can practice whatever old ways they still have intact after being chased across America. No one can doubt the horror of the Holocaust – but nor can one doubt the risks of treating one set of people differently than others based on their racial identity.

    Like many Zionists, he speaks of a ‘demographic problem’ which tries to minimize the horror that the state of Israel has wrought on the Mideast (and obviously the horror wrought back upon its people by the same area) into a mere question of statistics. The country is blatantly attempting to achieve racial purity – disgusting enough without considering that its on land that was owned by other people for hundreds of years! Am I the only person who sees a problem with this?

    The two state solution is absurd and smacks of the same segregation we no longer accept in this country – Marc, what would happen if I barged into your house and insisted it was all mine by birth right – but wait – you may have half and access to bathrooms and kitchens. Does that seem likely? More possible to me seems a one state solution, where Arabs and Jews and Christians have to live together and live in peace – no walls, no roadblocks – none of that. Just all the people who hold that land holy having equal access to it. In the beginning of the hour, your guest spoke of Zionism creating options for the Jewish people. Far from it. Zionism forces the Jewish people in Israel to live in the shadow of Qassams all day, to have constant tension, to live with the personal pain of treating other men like lessers. As for the rest of us? Zionism seems to make the world a far more dangerous place for Americans, and American acceptance of it seems to make the world more dangerous for everyone..

    As far as Israel being a tool for building liberal democracy, military censorship of the media, rampant violations of international law, and attempts to silence international critics are hardly hallmarks of a free society.

  2. Here’s my objection to a ‘two-state solution’. Has there ever been a state made of two unique parts (ie West Bank and Gaza miles away). How would anyone administer a state like that? For instance could Abbas have sent an army to Gaza and defend it (assuming he had an army to send)?

    So Gaza is like you can have the house but I control the front and back yard, all the doors and windows and the utilities. The West Bank is worst because I also control the hallways. I don’t understand how someone is supposed to build a viable state from that.

    Last point, right now we (the West) want Abbas to keep Gaza close to starvation. What would the world say if Mugabe/Castro/Chavez came up with a plan like that?

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