Public Comment

The Upside of Hell

By H. Scott Prosterman
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:51:00 AM

I’m told by a fellow traveler that the upside of hell is knowing that all of your friends will be there. I can hardly wait. Such was the feeling I had when I saw my name among many more important people on the Masada 2000 website. They are an ultra-right Zionist organization, bent on destroying the reputations and careers of any Jew who dares to utter or publish a criticism of Israel. They call this the Self Hating and/or Israel Threatening (SHIT) List. And there are over 8,800 names. Does that illustrate anything about how many Jews actually support Israel but readily voice objection to Israel’s behavior and policies toward the Palestinians? 

I was alerted to their presence (and my inclusion) in an e-mail I received from a psychiatrist in NYC, who is also among their “sweepstakes finalists.” He reminded me that these people “have the capacity and intent to destroy your career or business.” I replied that I already know that, and that these people have been saying nasty things about me and discouraging other Jews from doing business with me for over 30 years. As an undergrad, I had this silly Messianic complex that I could help Jews better understand the actual history of conflict in the Middle East and help solve this epic problem. So I devoted my academic career to the area, took a M.A. at Michigan, and have done some editorial work and commentary in the field. My personal reward was being publically called out as SHIT by community leaders and rabbis, and suffering some social and business consequences. But usually when one door closes, a better one opens, right? 

A funny thing is that some people on this list do not like one another. The leftist community in America knows as well as any how “familiarity breeds contempt.” Even progressive, leftist Jews have the capacity to cannibalize one another but not nearly as badly as our right-wing brethren and sistern. Most of the people on this list are some of the coolest, most interesting, and accomplished people on the planet. The list includes Woody Allen, Noam Chomsky, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Harold Pinter, Professor Joel Beinin, and Reuven Kaminer, one of my favorite leftist Israeli Jews and a gracious host. I’m almost embarrassed to be included. It includes many great scholars from the full spectrum of academia, along with actors, musicians, union leaders, rabbis, attorneys, journalists, community activists, teachers of anything and everything and bloggers. One of my friends said, “It looks like a list of most of the smart Jews in America.” And all I said was . . . 

My entry says, “This Berkeley, California Jew feels, ‘It is not a Jewish thing to expropriate land, pirate water and farming resources, close schools and cut people off from their families or jobs... The growing Israeli shame ultimately led to the evacuation of Gaza. And there’s still a long way to go... Israel has a right to exist, but not to brutalize the Palestinians...’” Like I should be so ashamed for saying that. I’m guilty, guilty, guilty. 

It would be great for us all to get together for a party. Since the Jews of SF and the East Bay make up such a sizeable portion of the SHIT list, we should actually do that. They’ve already done us a small favor by giving us each other’s e-mail addresses on the website, so let’s get in touch ya’ll and have a big party. Maybe make it a fundraiser for a worthy cause. We’ll even include the people we don’t like. 



H. Scott Prosterman is a Berkeley resident.