Woody Allen and the IDF

Woody’s screen persona was that of a clown, mocking a stereotype: Jewish Passivity.
July 3, 2024
Woody Allen. (Photo by John Minihan/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Marilyn Monroe was one of the screen’s great clowns. Her schtick, though tagged as sexual or provocative was actually an affectionate send-up of sexuality. 

Woody’s screen persona was also that of a clown, mocking a stereotype: Jewish Passivity. In all his films he is bumbling, physically inept, and out-of-phase in a (largely) Christian world. But he always gets the Girl.

Just as Marilyn, for all her charming doofishness, always gets the guy she wants.

These are ancient stereotypes — Woody’s the Schlemiel of Ashkenazi Jews, amended here, only by his eventual sexual triumphs. He may bumble his way through life, but he can laugh any woman into bed. Psychoanalytically, he asserts his masculine superiority to the supposedly more macho Christians he moves among.

The stories of Chelm, the City of Fools in Ashkenazi folklore, mocked Jewish intramural foolishness. Mythic encounters with the Goyim left the Jews baffled by their incomprehensible, dull, or doltish ways, but generally, a Jew came off the winner in most contests — if only in his superior understanding of the situation. 

Segregation and the Jim Crow South knew the Crime of Reckless Eyeballing, the very suspicion of which put a Black man at risk of his life. (See Emmett Till.) The Black Folklore of the Old South, of course, contained innumerable instances of Black contempt for White stupidity, and (variously modified) references to revenge.

The “Blue Tail Fly” was a minstrel song of the mid-19th century, repopularized at the beginning of the Folk Music Era by Burl Ives. Ostensibly about the death of the Master, thrown by a horse, bitten by the fly, and the singer/slave’s stoical reaction: “Jimmy crack corn and i don’t care, da Massa’s gone away.” The slave’s reaction, however, is clearly ironic, as it was he who killed his oppressor. Just as Woody gets the best of the Goyish World in which he is sentenced to move, by getting, not only The Girl, but the youngest and prettiest of the Christian girls — available to him, but not to their coreligionaries, who a) (in the film) want wit; and b) (in Life) are not rich and famous.

Today, this writer, in his waning seventies, was discussing etymology with a Jewish coeval. (Take that, Iowa Writers Workshop.) We were reminiscing about the Turbulent Sixties, and he mentioned Rizla Rice Paper — then used, I am told, to roll “joints.” “Yes,” I said, “a most interesting product name. It was composed of ‘riz,’ French for rice (being rice paper), the ‘la,’ definitive article in French ‘the,’ and the symbol of a modified Jerusalem cross or Croix-Patee.”  

He said, yes, he knew the whole thing, but the brand was pronounced, in toto, RizlaCrosse.

“No, no,” I responded, “LaCrosse had nothing to do with LaCroix: the word, in French, signified a shepherd’s crook — that form which was adapted by Native Americans into the game so beloved of the boarding schools.

“Ah, yes,” he said, “I attended such a school, and, of insufficient eye-hand coordination, was assigned to row on the third-string school team, but …” 

He continued but he had no need to do so, as I recognized from his tone an upcoming disclaimer. 

“I took French for six years, but when I got to Paris, found …”

“I’ve never been able to digest ____” 

“I’m Jewish, but I’m not that Jewish …”

These are our beloved admissions of a lack or gentle failure interesting to ourselves as proof of our curious and heartwarming (but not culpable) quiddity: The assertion of our lack of intent to compete with those we acknowledge as our betters.

My friend’s story continued: He had been placed in a boat or punt, or whatever, with the neer-do-wells and dolts, and told to row. The boat could not be made to go straight, and they all ended up in the drink.

Campers, firefighters, police, aviators, sailors, climbers, and others involved with actual danger, tell anecdotes about their ineptitude or salvation by chance. The stories are accepted by those similarly familiar with danger and effort, as homage to their final inferiority to fate, and to the dangers of inattention. But the Jewish tale of physical ineptitude, told as an entre-nous delight, is self-castigation.

The Jew, here, doesn’t Get the Girl, he doesn’t get over on the Goyim, there is no humor in it, unless one wants to misname the masochistic indictment funny. It’s never funny. It is the offer of commonality with the somehow impaired. 

Anyone can learn to use a hammer, to master basic carpentry, rowing, use of a firearm. Basic skills are no respecters of race or sex — and if a man mocked a woman for some genetic inability to perform them, he would be, rightly, censured as loathsome.

The “I don’t even know how to use a screwdriver” meme of the last century Diaspora Jews, is a bid for group inclusion. It is shared as a reminder that safety demands passivity. It comes at a horrendous price: The Jew professing passivity invites and encourages attack.

A passive-aggressive individual portrays inability and submission in order to exercise control. The Jew, alone among minorities, is self-denied even this (unfortunately effective) tool. He actually believes he is powerless against the Wider Culture in which he is enmeshed, and strives to appease it through a proclamation, first of his powerlessness, and, latterly, of his guilt – a last sick legacy of that still calling itself “Liberalism.”

The IDF, and the State of Israel itself are a challenge, not merely to the acculturated Jew’s self-image, but to his Worldview. His potential for safety, historically, for the 2,000 years prior to 1948, has consisted in passivity and anonymity. It’s a wrench for him to forgo the notional protections he has enjoyed, and to recognize them as merely fortuitous, when they weren’t imaginary. 

Such traumatic reappraisement is most usually undergone only by those who have Hit Bottom. But the horror of Oct. 7 did not bring Western Liberal Jews to that state, but only further into the service of adversaries who sided with the assassins, and call it Liberalism.

On Sunday, June 23, Jews going to a meeting at a shul in the Jewish Pico-Robertson neighborhood of Los Angeles were barred and battered by pro-Palestinian thugs. Police stood by, and Legacy Media reported it as a “clash of protesters.”

The Jews assaulted were protesting nothing; those denying their access to shul were, supposedly, “protesting” Israeli actions in Gaza, but the actual, dread content of their agit-prop was the assertion of shared Jewish Guilt for the actions of other Jews. Known, historically, as “The Blood Libel.” 

“From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free,” is a call for the death of Jews. And yet the LAPD was ordered to bar the Jews from the synagogue, and let the “protesters” rant and assault in peace.

The Diaspora meme; “I’m Jewish, but I’m not that Jewish,” has, again, been corrected by a mob’s screaming, “Yes. You are.” They’re quite right. That they are shrieking should not prevent us Jews profiting from the correction.

The Diaspora meme; “I’m Jewish, but I’m not that Jewish,” has, again, been corrected by a mob’s screaming, “Yes. You are.”

The Western World has concluded that murdering, raping, harassing, and calling for the death of Jews is permissible. It’s insufficient to suggest it ends in murder, it is an actual incitement to murder – a felony under federal law. It is a crime to solicit, command, induce or otherwise endeavor to persuade another person to engage in a crime of violence against person or property.

The assimilated Jew talks about “changing their minds,” or “raising their consciousness,” or “altering the narrative,” an aphasia equal to chattel slaves complaining, “Don’t they understand …?”

The antisemites do understand. It is the Liberal Jews who do not. As Golda said: “We want Peace, they want us dead. There’s little room for conversation.” Our existential challenge is not to change “their” minds, but to change our own, protect ourselves and our like, and demand our governments do the same, here and in Israel.

The hand wringing, saddened, Liberal, passive Jew’s 70-year-long run of safety was in an interregnum between two eras of atrocity. To whom is this arcane knowledge? The terrified child hugs the teddy bear; the New Holocaust Denier is the Jew who hugs The New York Times.

by David Mamet
copyright © 2024 by D. Mamet

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