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Medinat Weimar
July 8, 2008 9:54 AM   Subscribe

Medinat Weimar wishes to establish a Jewish state in Thuringia, Germany, with the city of Weimar as its capital. A land without a people for a people without a land! Oh, wait ...

The site's homepage contains the 13 principles of the movement; a video with anthems and manifesto in four languages (Yiddish, English, Russian, and German - but no Hebrew); and plenty of links.

Graduate student pushes for Jewish state in Germany - an article in English from Ha'Aretz on the movement and its founder, Ronen Eidelman.

For those who read Hebrew: Don't you feel like establishing a Jewish state in Germany? - a blog entry on Ha'Aretz by regular contributor Benny Tzipper, in which he laments Israel's fading connection to Western culture and points out some of the benefits of moving to the heart of Europe.

The Movement for a Jewish State in Thuringia - the entry in Ronen Eidelman's blog on the project. Check out the (not so supportive) reader comments, particularly the first one.
posted by Sar HaPanim (53 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
They should have done this 60 years ago. It makes a lot more sense then giving them a tract of desert the size of New Jersey that modern Jews realistically had no meaningful connection to and more importantly no legitimate claim too. But it is too late now.
posted by BobbyDigital at 10:09 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


A Jewish state in Weimar: Fantasy, provocation or both?

I'm going to go with "both".
posted by Artw at 10:11 AM on July 8, 2008


What could possibly go wrong?
posted by DU at 10:14 AM on July 8, 2008


BTW, I'm assuming he's gotten the German equivalent of an Arts Council grant for this?
posted by Artw at 10:15 AM on July 8, 2008


Given that Thuringia was behind the Iron Curtain, a Jewish state established there 60 years ago would probably have gone the way as Birobidzhan. Assuming that Stalin let it happen in the first place.
posted by acb at 10:21 AM on July 8, 2008


The last thing I need is a religious state right in the middle of Europe. It would be a bad influence on all the other countries...and kind of throw a monkey-wrench in that whole EU thing.
posted by creasy boy at 10:22 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Given that Thuringia was behind the Iron Curtain, a Jewish state established there 60 years ago would probably have gone the way as Birobidzhan.

East Germany would also be where majority of German Neo-Nazis come from, which might be a factor in the choice of location.
posted by Artw at 10:25 AM on July 8, 2008


They should start a Jewish state in the middle of Utah. I'm sure the Mormons wouldn't mind at all if an uncorrupted tribe of Israel shared some of their wasteland.
posted by Caduceus at 10:26 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't normally like projects of this sort much at all but I think this one straddles the line between conceptual art and troll superbly, entertainingly and informatively. It's getting revealing bites everywhere there are comments on it including here, Ha'Aretz, and on the blogs, all despite explicitly saying right there in the main body text (principle thirteen) what it is actually all about and why it need not be taken seriously.
posted by motty at 10:28 AM on July 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure anyone has actually read the links.

TBH I skipped them and went to google.
posted by Artw at 10:30 AM on July 8, 2008


I love this kind of sketch comedy, it's like Mr.Show the European edition.
posted by nola at 10:32 AM on July 8, 2008


In his piece, Benny Tzipper argues in favor of the idea. He points out advantages of having a Jewish state in Germany: Thuringia is sparsely populated and large, with many natural resources; all that's lacking is entrepreneurship, and one can easily assume that the area would flourish if Jews moved in. Weimar is the cradle of German culture, the city of Goethe and Romanticism. There would be no Palestinian problem; the German neighbors would put up with the Jews without complaint. Finally, student trips to Nazi concentration camps would be easier.

He then discusses the negative effect settling down in one place has had on Israeli Jews. He relates an encounter with a recent immigrant from Russia who he found struggling through Anna Karenina in Hebrew to improve her skill in the language, and laments that no native Israelis would read this book. He argues that Israel has absorbed the negative influence of the Middle East: corrupt government, violence, parochialism, and excessive religiosity.

Finally, he suggests that moving to Germany would be a great way to turn a new page and escape from all the filth that's built up in Israel over the years. He admits that everything would probably turn sour after a generation or two, but suggests that it is the fate of the Jews to destroy themselves and then to build anew.
posted by Sar HaPanim at 10:35 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Funnily enough that’s the kind of thing that makes Israelis (broad, broad generalization here, and probably flawed in all kinds of ways) very interesting people.
posted by Artw at 10:46 AM on July 8, 2008


Sar HaPanim: "Finally, student trips to Nazi concentration camps would be easier."

I don't think that phrase came out quite how you meant it too.
posted by symbioid at 10:50 AM on July 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


If being western is about being euro-trashy, then Israelis are pretty much the gold standard for western civilization. Just kidding all my israeli (ars'eem) friends.
posted by zpousman at 10:52 AM on July 8, 2008


Well, they would be right on top of Buchenwald. TBH It's not one of the more interesting ones to visit.

Ah... but does it count?
posted by Artw at 10:53 AM on July 8, 2008


I think the big question is if they'd get their own Eurovision entry.
posted by Artw at 10:56 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Uh huh. And out of curiosity, will this Thuringian "land for people without a land" also come with an especially handsome and protective perimeter structure... say perhaps, a sort of fence, and lovely, tall... uh... scenic observation towers located at the corners, with powerful spotlights to help facilitate the... uh... vista studies after dark? And I'm thinking that someone really oughta take a look at how their motto, "See Thuringia and Authentically Live with Affable Germans" looks as an acronym.

I'm just saying.
posted by Mike D at 11:07 AM on July 8, 2008


He argues that Israel has absorbed the negative influence of the Middle East: corrupt government, violence, parochialism, and excessive religiosity.
...

Funnily enough that’s the kind of thing that makes Israelis (broad, broad generalization here, and probably flawed in all kinds of ways) very interesting people.


Huh?
posted by delmoi at 11:13 AM on July 8, 2008


RTA dammi. from the 1st link.

13 > Medinat Weimar is not a realistic movement, but rather one that seeks to agitate and provoke by taking anti-Semitic, neo-liberal, nationalistic, Zionist arguments to their unreasonable conclusions illustrating their inner logic and absurdity.
posted by lalochezia at 11:18 AM on July 8, 2008


huh?

Well, yes, that is a little paradoxical, and I'm wading into distinctly dodgy teritory here, but my general (possibly quite limited experience has been that Israelis, even ones i disagree with, tend to have interesting and often suprisingly complex views on these matters. It's rarely the "Yay! Zionism" or "Boo! Zionism" that you see in, um, some places.
posted by Artw at 11:23 AM on July 8, 2008


They could call it the Weimar Republic!
posted by Nelson at 11:29 AM on July 8, 2008


The last thing I need is a religious state right in the middle of Europe.

Check.

I think the big question is if they'd get their own Eurovision entry.

And, check.
posted by kittyprecious at 11:30 AM on July 8, 2008


Ah, Dana International – a reason that Israel is awesome that Israel hated. I guess I should stop with this referring to Israel as a homogenous block thing.
posted by Artw at 11:32 AM on July 8, 2008


Vatican City should do Eurovision entries like that...
posted by Artw at 11:37 AM on July 8, 2008


Make Germany a Jewmany and Europe a Newrope!
posted by The Straightener at 11:53 AM on July 8, 2008


Europe? 46 percent of the Jews in the world live in the United States!

GIVE US FLORIDA! WE'RE TAKING IT ANYWAY!
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:04 PM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I fully support this idea. Eastern Europe is virtually uninhabited anyway.
posted by Avenger at 12:21 PM on July 8, 2008


You know this makes so much more sense, since the Jews have such a better historical track record with Europeans than they do with Arabs.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:26 PM on July 8, 2008


You know who else wanted a Jewish state in Germany?


No, wait a minute...
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:29 PM on July 8, 2008


"Do you know who else was a Jewish artist?", perhaps?
posted by Artw at 12:32 PM on July 8, 2008


the Jews have such a better historical track record with Europeans than they do with Arabs.

Not to stir the pot (in other words, I don't mean this to be a loaded question or to nit-pic, though maybe that's what I'm unintentionally doing), but wouldn't it be more accurate to say that the Jews who eventually settled in Israel after the Holocaust were themselves Europeans rather than to say that they merely had a history with the Europeans?

What I mean is, weren't the Jews of the diaspora pretty well assimilated in most parts of Europe? Antisemitism was sickeningly common throughout European history before and after the Nazis ascent (as this other recent thread also discusses), but then, the fact that racism against blacks was until recently almost universal and still persists in many parts of the US doesn't mean that blacks in America don't usually still self-identify as Americans.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:51 PM on July 8, 2008


I'm still puzzled about the whole "Jewish state" thing, and why people think that's a good idea. Governments founded on religion never do well, and Israel has done squat to prove that aphorism wrong.

I've also never really understood the appeal that Israel has for some Jews. I'm with Asimov, it was a terrible idea, essentially carving out the world's largest ghetto and, worse, doing so in a manner that could hardly have been better designed to fan the flames of Islamic anti-Semitism.

So, I suppose I'm the wrong audience for the artist. I don't think the problem is so much that Israel is in the middle east and that a different location might work out better, I think the problem is with the very idea of a Jewish state. I'd object to a Sikh state, or a Hindu state, or a Christian state just as much.
posted by sotonohito at 1:04 PM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I got to "we will use the autonomy of art" and stopped. Anything that deploys that phrase without irony is living in a very different world from me.
posted by LMGM at 1:19 PM on July 8, 2008


Maybe then they can kick the damn Lutherans out!
posted by Mister_A at 1:21 PM on July 8, 2008


13 > Medinat Weimar is not a realistic movement, but rather one that seeks to agitate and provoke by taking anti-Semitic, neo-liberal, nationalistic, Zionist arguments to their unreasonable conclusions illustrating their inner logic and absurdity.

Oh right, this is really going to help the cause of issues that are already lacking in peaceful and logical ideas and solutions.
posted by junesix at 1:26 PM on July 8, 2008


There would be a seriolus problem with such an idea. the far Left--the Marxist--for years talked about the coming class struggle. It never came and so they shifted their argument to lend support to all peoples they called "oppressed." That meant the left, once supporting the fledgling state of Israel now supported the arabs. Now, if Israel moves to Germany, the poor left has nothing left to rave and rant about and might even have to consider what is happening in Africa.
posted by Postroad at 1:26 PM on July 8, 2008


I'm still puzzled about the whole "Jewish state" thing, and why people think that's a good idea. Governments founded on religion never do well, and Israel has done squat to prove that aphorism wrong.

Many people mistakenly see the religion part of Judaism and think that's all it is. It's just as important - or moreso - to recognize that it's also an ethnicity and culture. Many key early Zionists were socialist and atheist, or otherwise definitely did not see Israel as a religious state in the sense of "Theocracy." They did, however, see Jews as a distinct people, and nation, in need of a state.

If for no other reason than historically, Jews have been really good at finding governments eager to kill them, and the most obvious response to this is "Get your own government, and some guns to make it last."
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:34 PM on July 8, 2008 [7 favorites]


Not to stir the pot (in other words, I don't mean this to be a loaded question or to nit-pic, though maybe that's what I'm unintentionally doing), but wouldn't it be more accurate to say that the Jews who eventually settled in Israel after the Holocaust were themselves Europeans rather than to say that they merely had a history with the Europeans?

I was actually being sarcastic. Jews in Europe, be they European Jews or Semetic Jews or what have you have been murdered and exiled since Roman times, that is in with the exception of the times where Arab or Turkish empires ruled the land. Al Andalus was a great place to be a Jew, but Andalucia until fairly recently was not so great. Selanik was a haven for Jews (particularly those forced out of Spain), but you'd be hard pressed to find more than a few left in Thessaloniki. Of course the 20th century wasn't the best for Jews on almost any continent, between the Holocaust, the Istanbul Pogroms and the Intifada it was pretty tough to hang a mezuzah anywhere, but really the short term conflict in the Middle East pales in comparison to the long term history of hatred and bigotry they've found for centuries in Europe.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:45 PM on July 8, 2008


an oddity worth noting: 'when the nazi went after the Jews of Europe, those Jews who could, fled...but refugees were denied entrance in any and all of the democracies and were allowed in only in the Dominican Republic , ruled by the dictator Trujillo. They were readily absorbed and are an important part of that nation today, unpersecuted and assimilated.
posted by Postroad at 2:01 PM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


as well as its shrinking population and a weak economy is the optimal place for a new Jewish state.

I see they use a different definition of "shrinking" than I do. See, I always imagine shrinking to mean that the population may be decreasing but that people still live there. Apparently these guys believe that shrinking means nobody lives there at all.

But then, that's why this whole thing is such a colossally stupid idea. You don't get to form a new country without fighting and/or dying first. Them's the rules. Preach some sky-high hopeful message all you want, but nobody is going to give you land that other people actually live on just because you think it'd be a neat idea. Jews died in horrific numbers before they were given Israel, and they've continued to fight and die for it ever since. India won their independence non-violently, but it was their country to begin with and they had to die in horrific numbers before the English finally faced enough worldwide condemnation to leave.

They should find someplace that human beings don't currently occupy. Like Beverly Hills.
posted by shmegegge at 2:39 PM on July 8, 2008


Tomorrowful Lots of elasticities don't have a nation, and frankly ethnic nationalism isn't all that great. Its better than religious nationalism, yes, but that's hardly a ringing endorsement.

More to the point, Israel is hardly a secular state which happens to have a majority Jewish population. The marriage situation, for example, demonstrates clearly that not merely Judaism, but specifically Orthodox Judaism is given a privileged position. The situation WRT buses and the state turning a blind eye to assault and battery by crazy fundamentalist Jews against women is another good example of the fact that regardless of intent Israel is sliding down the path to theocracy.

Self evidently the religious component of Jewishness is doing the harm all of us secular state advocates predicted it would.

As for the second part, I can see the post-Holocaust appeal, but that hasn't really worked out too well either. Yes living in Israel is better than the Holocaust, but it isn't that great either. I mean, its a police state that routinely uses torture to extract confessions, life there is constantly subject to random explosions, etc.

I just don't think its a good idea to form any religious states, even if the religion has a large ethnic component. And I know it was an extremely bad idea to form that state right in the center of the biggest hotbed of antisemitism outside the Waffen-SS.
posted by sotonohito at 2:52 PM on July 8, 2008


China also opened their borders. Tens of thousands of Jewish refugees were able to make it to a ghetto in Shanghai.
posted by worbid411 at 4:36 PM on July 8, 2008


Has anyone read Michael Chabon's alternate history novel "The Yiddish Policemen's Union"? Long review here: "In the alternative twentieth century conceived by Chabon ... In 1948, Jews in the Holy Land were defeated and savaged by Arabs, so there is no Israel. Enticed by an American settlement act that promised them sixty years of sanctuary before their federal district reverted to Alaska, thousands of Yiddish-speaking Jews arrived by a World War I troop transport at a swamp near the old Russian colony of Sitka ..."


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
posted by gudrun at 5:16 PM on July 8, 2008


sotonohito: I never said it was a secular state that happened to have a majority-Jewish population; I also never said that ethnic nationalism was all that great. (Personally, I despise it, but what does that matter?)

I was purely responding to the comment that Israel is proof that "governments founded on religion never do well." It was not founded on religion. It was founded on a little religion, a lot of ethnicity, a measure of of nationalism born of having spent thousands of years as a commonly-hated Other group, a hefty dose of socialism, a bit of general frontier-seeking spirit, and, when it finally happened, an enormous serving of "Oh fuck, several million people just got wiped out by an angry government, which is the latest in a long history of same, perhaps we should establish a state where we can know for certain the government will not try to kill us by the ton, because we run it."

I was seeking to explain that Israel was not founded as a theocratic religious state; not make any statements about the desirability of ethnic nationalism or anything else. Please try not to resort to strawman in the future.
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:32 PM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of the Michael Chabon essay, Useful Expressions (just retrieved from the Internet Archive). It discusses possibilities, inspired by a Yiddish phrase book that presupposes a non-existent Yiddish-speaking country, for alternative Jewish homelands that never came about, such as if the Hebraists hadn't won out and we had Alyeska, "a cold, northern land of furs, paprika, samovars and one long, glorious day of summer".
posted by raygirvan at 5:38 PM on July 8, 2008


raygirvan, I actually have that phrase book. It's quite something, though apparently there's been a response to Chabon's essay that defends the authors' intentions.
posted by greatgefilte at 6:45 PM on July 8, 2008


gudrun and raygirvan: If you read the Ha'Aretz article, you'll see Chabon's Yiddish Policemen's Union is mentioned as another example of an alternate history "jewish state". I recently read this book and would recommend it.

sotonohito: I'm still puzzled about the whole "Jewish state" thing, and why people think that's a good idea. Governments founded on religion never do well, and Israel has done squat to prove that aphorism wrong. ... I don't think the problem is so much that Israel is in the middle east and that a different location might work out better, I think the problem is with the very idea of a Jewish state. I'd object to a Sikh state, or a Hindu state, or a Christian state just as much.

There is really nothing correct in this comment. Which other governments "founded on religion" are you thinking of? The royal family of Saudi Arabia? The revolutionary govt of Iran? The Taliban? The kingdom of Charlemagne? Are these really similar to the democratically elected government of Israel, the vast majority of which consists of secular political parties? And what really separates them from other despotic governments not "founded on religion"?

As to your other point, the State of Israel has succeeded in a variety of respects: it has brought back Hebrew as a spoken language after three thousand years, it has developed a functioning democratic state and military from scratch, its economy is booming, and it has contributed a great deal to the world in the fields of science and technology. It has also risen the standard of life for most of those living there - please compare with Russia and Arab countries. This is not to say that the creation of Israel did not displace Palestinian Arabs, that Israeli society is fair, that its military and extremists do not carry out brutal acts, or that there aren't serious questions as to its continued viability as a Jewish democratic state over the next several decades. However, it should deter casually made claims that Israel should never have been established in the first place and has done no good since.

Anyway...

I was kind of hoping people would read the articles I linked to (or at least the main website) and conduct a discussion about the past and future potentialities of Jewish statehood. Maybe that was too much to expect, but I hope that it wasn't and that we can still have a good conversation.
posted by Sar HaPanim at 6:54 PM on July 8, 2008


"I was kind of hoping...about the past and future potentialities of Jewish statehood."

As far as I know, no one here is running for office and swearing allegiance to Israel was not a prerequisite for membership of this blog.
posted by Student of Man at 7:20 PM on July 8, 2008


greatgefilte and Sar HaPanim

Thanks for the references!
posted by raygirvan at 7:53 PM on July 8, 2008


A Jewish state in Thuringia + a Caliphate in Cologne = No slow news day ever again
posted by Ljubljana at 11:53 PM on July 8, 2008


Finally, he suggests that moving to Germany would be a great way to turn a new page and escape from all the filth that's built up in Israel over the years. He admits that everything would probably turn sour after a generation or two, but suggests that it is the fate of the Jews to destroy themselves and then to build anew.
While we're handing out new countries: the UK is looking pretty shabby, so we'll take part of Sweden, thanks.
posted by SciencePunk at 5:40 AM on July 9, 2008


Tomorrowful Sorry if I miscommunicated. I'm perfectly aware of the position you are trying to explain. I wasn't expressing ignorance of that position, I was rejecting it as fallacious. The "Judaism isn't really a religion so much as an ethnic group" argument doesn't hold up, yes there are atheist Jews but what has gained power in Israel is the religion of Judaism, and increasingly the extremist evil form of the religion of Judaism. The mere existence of Israel's marriage laws, of the preferential, differential, treatment given to backwoods fucktards who like to beat up women on buses, demonstrates that it ain't the ethnic aspect that is important in Israel.

Israel was founded on religion: Judaism. Trying to excuse that, trying to say "this time it will be different" by claiming that there's an ethnic component to some definitions of Judaism don't make the basic fact that Israel is founded on a religion false.

If it were the ethnic part that was important, not the religious part, I (not ethnically Jewish) couldn't get preferential immigration status by converting to the *RELIGION* of Judaism.

Sar HaPanim wrote I was kind of hoping people would read the articles I linked to (or at least the main website) and conduct a discussion about the past and future potentialities of Jewish statehood.

I kind of thought that's what I was discussing. I think Jewish statehood is a terrible idea and that it has no potential other than as yet another example of the horrors of theocracy. Note that I don't think there's anything particularly special about Jewish statehood, and that I think exactly the same about Islamic statehood, Christian statehood, Sikh statehood, and Shinto statehood. Religious based statehood is a horrible, awful, thing.

As for your other points, I'm not really sure that I see bringing back Hebrew as a spoken language is worth establishing a state that coddles the Haredi loonies, sorry. Yes, its nice to see a dead language come back, but it isn't that great.

Which other governments "founded on religion" are you thinking of? The royal family of Saudi Arabia? The revolutionary govt of Iran? The Taliban? The kingdom of Charlemagne? Are these really similar to the democratically elected government of Israel, the vast majority of which consists of secular political parties? And what really separates them from other despotic governments not "founded on religion"?

All of the above, plus all the other governments founded on religion you care to name. They all share one common characteristic: they eventually (usually quickly) fell into hellhole status. Religion and government don't mix well, attempts to make them mix *inevitably* result in very bad things.

Yes, despotic horrorshows can exist without religion, I'm not claiming that a secular state is a guarantee of good things, but I am claiming that its a minimal condition for the possibility of good things. Religious based states have never yet succeeded in being anything other than hellholes. Yes, some secular states are hellholes, but note that all non-hellholes are secular states. I don't think this is a coincidence.

As for Israel in specific, its almost a perfect recipe for disaster. There's no superlaw guaranteeing rights, and so already torture is a routine and fully accepted part of police work, and the religious parties you so casually dismiss as unimportant are sufficiently large that no government can form without their approval and support. Religious fanatics are never happy, meet their demands today and they'll have a new set of demands tomorrow, as evidenced by Israel's kowtowing to them and the unmitigated disaster that's been. Since no one can build a coalition large enough to form a government without the support of the religious parties any government that forms must give in to at least some of their demands.

Israel is not a secular state, it is a state that explicitly and unabashedly privileges and promotes the religion of Judaism; that's kind of its entire purpose. There is nothing special or magic about Judaism, its a religion the same as all the other religions people have tried forming governments with, and the result is all but preordained.

And, finally, leaving all that to the side, building the world's largest ghetto still seems like a bad idea. I can see how it'd appeal to people fresh from the horror of the Holocaust, but people don't really think straight after horrible experiences, and the Holocaust is still tops as far as horrible experiences go.

I think there's a reason that nearly as many Jews live in the US as live in Israel: the Jews here know that a big powerful ghetto is still a ghetto and still not a good idea.
posted by sotonohito at 7:13 AM on July 9, 2008


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