The Zionist Message of James Joyce’s “Ulysses”

June 17 2022

For enthusiasts of James Joyce, yesterday, June 16, was Bloomsday—that is, the day on which the entirety of his Ulysses takes place. This experimental novel, based on Homer’s Odyssey, has a Jew as its main character, and has as a central plot device an advertisement for a Jewish planters’ society near Jaffa. Noga Emanuel explores the book’s almost classically Zionist message:

Leopold Bloom, Joyce’s Odysseus, is Jewish. Although he was born to a Catholic mother and a Jewish Hungarian convert, and was baptized at birth, so is not a Jew in any formal Jewish or Irish-Catholic sense, he is known throughout Dublin as a Jew and is treated like one, enduring anti-Semitic jeers and humiliations, the butt of Jew-baiting jokes, wherever he goes. There are explicitly 25 direct mentions of “Jews” in the entire text, and many other implied references, most of them conveying classically crude antisemitic slanders, fewer samples of modern anti-Semitic conspiracies, and fewer still neutral mentions.

When Bloom tries to avow himself a bona-fide Irishman, neither his compatriots nor his author allow him to be one. Indeed, one could argue that had Bloom been an Irishman, fully assimilated, no longer Jewish in any formal or cultural sense of that identity, his author would have had no use for him. No, Bloom is still a Jew. Neither the jeering Dubliners, nor Joyce misread his identity. Perhaps most clueless is Bloom, who longs to belong organically to the Irish nation while being literally incapable of wresting himself from his deeply felt Jewish awareness.

Bloom is invariably perceived as meek and unmanly by his fellow Dubliners. When he rues the injustice inflicted upon Jews, Bloom is pleading for something that no one around him can understand or respect. The answer he gets is: stand up to it with force, “like men.” All this pleading and speaking of universal love as the corrective for the injustice to Jews and Irish alike is deemed “unmanly” and wins him even more violent vituperation. The “love” Bloom prescribes cannot cure anti-Semitism or gain him one iota of respect from his fellow Dubliners. But . . . it is not Jewish laws or customs that have depleted Bloom’s spirits but rather his disinclination to accept himself as a Jew. The only time we see him animated is when he responds to [one character’s] taunts by shaking his fist and speaking for the Jewish people, as a collective.

Read more at Fathom

More about: Anti-Semitism, Ireland, James Joyce, Jews in literature, Zionism


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount