The Elder of Ziyon, Jewish Studies, & Me

“Elder of Ziyon” is the nom de web of a rightwing activist. He’s including here yours truly in this piece about [1] real and imagined anti-Zionsts in Jewish Studies, [2] rightwing religious Zionists and provocative prayer in East Jeruslem and on the Temple Mount. He cites at some length an exchange between us on Twitter, which is maybe in bad form; but fair is fair; after all, we’re doing this online. But The title of the piece is “A small example of how academic Jewish studies has been taken over by anti-Zionist politics” Tags at the top of the article include: African-Americansanti-Zionist not antisemiticbigotryBLMJewish studiesJewish supremacyJoshua KarlipPittsburghPowayprovoking Arabsracismsecond intifadastereotypingwokeZachary Braiterman.

On the one hand, Elder of Ziyon thinks my case is an example of anti-Zionism in Jewish Studies, whereas I think ethno-religious fanatics like Kahanist Ben-Gvir have taken over Religious Zionism and that Jews like Ben Gvir and Elder of Ziyon who go up tto pray at the Temple Mount are religious pyrohmaniacs. What Elder of Ziyon really doesn’t like is this. He claims that it is I and people like me are the ones who have put all Religious Zionists in a “racist bucket,” when, in fact they have placed themselves there all on their own. He also probably knows I’m right. What happened to the National Religious Party from days of yore? Which are the Religious Zionist parties in Israel for a moderate Religious Zionist to vote for? He knows that there are none. On the other hand, Elder of Ziyon also claims at the end of the piece that I could not be an anti-Semite because of the time I spent working through the Sefat Emet.

Poltics and religion aside, one other thing that separates us is that Elder of Ziyon writes in the virtual world behind an anonymous cover, My own presence online is transparent. Elder of Ziyon can address me by name, whereas I have no idea who he is in the actual world. I don’t know his actual name or where he works on in what city he lives. Is he young, old, or middle age? Does he have a beard? Is he tall or short like me? Is Elder of Ziyon a man or a woman or non-binary? I know nothing about “him” beyond “his” being a digital cipher for dangerous forms of rightwing religious Zionism threatening to push Judaism and Zionism and Israel over the brink.

About his remaining anonymous, he posts this at the FAQ at his blog. :

Q: How old are you? How many kids do you have? Where do you live?A: I am not keen on giving out personal details, although long time readers would figure some of the answers out. I have mentioned Mrs. Elder, my children, the beautiful and talented Daughter of Ziyon and Junior Elder, and Elder Brother of Ziyon in comments sometimes. I do not, unfortunately, live in

Q: Why do you want to remain anonymous?A: It is not because of fear of death threats or anything that dramatic. It is simply because I have a regular professional job in a high tech field and I don’t want any prospective employers to Google me and find tens of thousands of posts about the Middle East; they would assume (correctly) that at least some of those are written during work hours. If I am still blogging when I retire (seems doubtful, but it is a fun hobby), then maybe I’ll start using my name.

(2021) I need to update this answer. Pro-Israel social media personalities have been subject to huge amounts of abuse – when they use their real names. It is especially a problem for women. While I might not mind it myself, I do have to be concerned about haters harassing my family members. My job used to be the main reason I wanted to remain anonymous, but this concern has overtaken it. 

A part of me can appreciate the levity, but I also want to push back. Weall have families and jobs. Some of us actually don’t have a lot or any job security, including junior colleagues and gradauate students in Jewish Studies who all write under their own actual names and suffer huge amounts of online abuse which is painful on its own and which always threatens to spill over into the actual world offline. At any rate, it’s also true that I enjoy the attention but not necessarily when people, presumably rightwing nutjobs send me hate-email calling me a “Kapo.” Had i chosen to remain anonymous this would not have happened. But anonymity makes for very “bad faith” and very bad Judaism. A good name is all we have in the end.

[h/t Jeff Weintraub]

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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4 Responses to The Elder of Ziyon, Jewish Studies, & Me

  1. dmf says:

    sorry you are caught up in this kind of trolling feedback loop, these folks really aren’t worth it.
    that said I don’t see protecting family, friends, and patients as being in bad faith, it’s an online exchange of ideas no more no less…

  2. I have attended a few events at which EoZ appeared. He is what you would probably call a white cis-male. I don’t really understand why you make an issue of his identity: the only plausible reason I can think of is that you wish to make an ad hominem argument, which reflects rather poorly on you.

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