30 November 2023

Saying grace

A helpful internet friend shared a lovely little story worth a minute of your time.

I was and am Jewish, and at thirteen, I had never in my life done the whole “saying Grace” thing before, though I was at least aware that the practice existed

I have a different funny story about this culture gap.

In my freshman year in college I dropped in to a few Christian dorm lounge Bible studies, which lead to my sweetheart finding Jesus, which led to several instructive months of hanging around Evangelicals. Among other things, it made me feel very Jewish — the God I did not believe in turned out to be a very different figure than the one they did believe in.

Their style of saying grace was pretty improvisational: “Would anyone like to say grace?” Then someone would volunteer, with lots of “lift up my sister Colinda who has a midterm tomorrow” et cetera. I never offered. But one day we wer sitting down to pizza or something and nobody was feeling like doing it, so someone turned to me and asked if I would like to. I imagine that they expected one of the friendly demurrals I had gotten good at. But instead I felt a bit inspired.

“Can I do it in Hebrew?”

I had not yet absorbed how the unnerving philo-semitism of Evangelicals works, so I was not prepared for how enthusiastic they were about this idea.

I could not resist a little theatrical wave of my hands over our repast as I exhausted a good 20% of my entire Hebrew vocabulary saying “בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה׳ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם הַמּוֹצִיא לֶחֶם מִן הָאָרֶץ” adding a hearty “אָמֵן” and pronouncing it “ah-mayn” instead of their “ah-men”. I wryly added, “For those of you who do not speak Hebrew, that means, ‘Blessed art thou, O Lord, our god, king of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth’.”

They were very impressed. I had (mis)understood their enthusiasm for me proposing it — exposure to the cool practices of other cultures and all that — but the aftermath was too much. What the heck?

Then it hit me maybe a week later. They must have assumed that I just made that up on the spot, that I could have gone on like that for hours if I felt like it!

16 November 2023

Victor von Doom

With rumours making the rounds about Marvel Studios’ casting of the Fantastic Four, I’m thinking about how they will handle Victor von Doom.

Almost a decade ago, when it started looking like Fox & Marvel were going to work things out for Marvel Studios to share the rights to use X-Men, as Sony eventually did for Spider-Man, I said “eyes on the prize”: forget the X-Men, Marvel Studios needs to get their hands on Doctor Doom.

That was an exaggeration ...

A long aside about Marvel, Fox, and the X-Men

When I said right after the release of Winter Soldier that Marvel Studios had the perfect media franchise I thought maybe I was speaking the obvious too late. But their best days were still ahead of them. Right now a lot of people think their best days are now already behind them, but not me. Yeah, Marvel Studios have had a run of stuff which has not been bad but has been weak. I think that has largely been echoes from covid shaking everything up.

I believe that Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige already deserves a Thalberg award, and is gunning for one when he says “there’s 80 years of the most interesting, emotional, groundbreaking stories that have been told in the Marvel comics, and it is our great privilege to be able to take what we have and adapt them”. Disney Imagineers are undoubtedly hard at work disassembling that deep bench of experiments in overlapping, serialized stories to assemble new giant killer francise robots from the parts.

Dongwon 송동원 raises a legitimage concern about that:

honestly pretty annoyed by the “thanos was right” thing. I feel like it mocks a lot of us long term x-men fans who are deeply invested in magneto’s perspective as a more radical, revolutionary voice in comics’s most prominent and consistent examination of marginalization.

especially considering how many alt-right bros latched onto Thanos’s fascist genocidal logic. I know it’s ridiculous, but I honestly feel like “Magneto was right” actually means something to a lot of us that isn’t just contrarian, crypto-fascist, genocidal apologia.

I dread the days feige finally figures out what he wants to do with the x-men, honestly. I genuinely enjoy so much of the MCU nonsense, but what makes the x-men so special is so antithetical to the underlying logic of the MCU machine.

But I feel hopeful that Dongwon has it backwards. I think that as Feige’s control over Marvel Studios strengthens, he will give more latitude to the different creators, which will enable stuff like giving us the X-Men with a sensibility in tension with what we have gotten with the movie Avengers. Plus I think that desite a wobbly start, streaming series will turn out to be a great format for Marvel. Their first long run of movies like a huge, slow TV series was great but showed how the canvas of a few features each year is still not big enough for what the characters and setting can do.

Marvel Studios has their Game Of Thrones waiting in reserve: Chris Claremont’s epic, soap-operatic run of X-Men comics. Douglas Wolk, who literally wrote the book on how much storytelling space there is in Marvel Comics, says:

If you only know the X-Men from Fox’s movies, you may not suspect how deep that catalog gets, and how many characters it involves. Marvel Comics currently publishes 11 monthly X-Men-related titles, and that’s not even a record. 2019’s simultaneous miniseries House of X and Powers of X — the former about mutants establishing a nation of their own called Krakoa, the latter showing the X-Men’s secret past and what might become of them 100 and 1,000 years in the future, each triggering bombshell revelations in the other — set up seemingly endless story possibilities that have been playing out ever since. The current era of X-comics, focused on Krakoa becoming a global political force, could easily turn into a cluster of movies and TV shows and specials bigger even than the MCU in its current form.

I believe it. We are mad at him now, but remember that the first guy to show up writing TV inspired by a youth reading Claremont’s X-Men drew on its moves to create Buffy The Vampire Slayer as not just a hit TV show but a cultural phenomenon. There is an army of nerdy, brilliant, seasoned middle-aged creators whom Marvel Studios can tap to work on this.

So yeah, I was exaggerating when I said that Marvel Studios could forget about how buying Fox meant getting the X-Men back. But. Spending a few billion dollars on Fox would have been worth it to the Mouse even without the X-Men.

Victor Über Alles

At this point I really feel the Marvel Cinematic Universe having a Doom-shaped hole in it.

Marvel Studios has been doing more and more cosmic stuff, giving us references to the baffling cosmic godlike Celestials. Thanos is gone for the forseeable future, which points us right to Galactus. They don’t need the Fantastic Four on stage to tell stories about Galactus, but his key story involves them so you want them there before too long. Plus when RDJ wriggled out of the golden handcuffs, it left them with an opening for the real irresponsible “hero” mad scientist with his fingerprints all over Marvel stories: Reed Richards, Mister Fantastic of the Fantastic Four.

To bring Galactus on stage, Marvel Studios needs the human who stands taller. With Richards on stage, they need the man whose brilliance is greater. With Celestials on stage, they need the mortal daring enough to rival their power.

Scientist. Wizard. Tyrant. Meglomaniac. Genius. The greatest villain in Anglophone literature.

How I would do it

Obviously it starts with teasing.

First a post-credits stinger, of course. I like Moviebob’s idea from his elaborate, clever Fantastic Four pitch of giving him just one word after the first FF appearance — “RrrriiiihchARDS!!”. But it could be anything. Maybe a secondary character who got driven off earlier in the movie shows up to reveal that they were not simply defeated, because they got away with an unnoticed MacGuffin to deliver to Doom. Maybe have Doom on his Latverian throne steepling his fingers to signal to civilians that he ranks like a Thanos-like master villain, so they ask their nerdy friends about him.

Then there is a thing in a movie or two where we catch a glimpse of him on the periphery. Maybe he’s on video of some shenanigans and someone says “is that who I think it is?” and one of the less experienced heroes is all “who?” and gets blown off with “the most dangerous person on Earth — you don’t want to know”. Maybe he aids someone with an escape.

Then we get a proper cameo, with Doom in his genteel, regal mode. Maybe he’s at an international conference where he debates with Shuri and arrogantly corrects her about nanotechnology or some such — the worst part being that it turns out later in the movie that Doom was right.

Then in his first major appearance, Doom crushes a few heroes (or villains!) in an early scene. Who is this guy? Reed is there to explain with some essentials from Doom’s elaborate backstory. This includes a flashback of young Doom swearing his vendetta against Richards over The Accident leaving a few tiny scars which only made him look more badass. Toward the climax of that movie, Doom gets his hands on some earthshattering power — maybe siphoning it off of Wanda or an Eternal — and the first thing Doom does is wish away the scars he owes to Richards, triumphantly removing the mask. Of course doing that delays him enough that he does not get time to complete his plan to open a portal, nuke Madripoor, turn the Sahara into a garden, or whatever. The heroes (or villains!) witness how Doom is brilliant and powerful but undone by his own ego.

Then we get a movie with a one-scene cameo. Some character we need to establish as badass gets a flashback to a few years back, when for a moment they knocked Doom’s mask off. We don’t want to overwork the disfigured villain trope so this will be the first, last, and only time we see Doom severely scarred. Richards didn’t know about this! Nerds go yeah and civilians go whoa.

At this point Marvel can treat Doom as a fixture of the world. We don’t see him much, but it seems like he is connected to almost everying. Some character has Latverian tech. Someone has a meeting cut short with Namor or Contessa de Fontaine because Doom is here to talk. Et cetera.

Then we get a movie where magic is a big piece of the plot. In the course of things, Reed Richards and a few other characters track down a renegade monk from Ta Lo or Kamar-Taj who explains that the only person who has the plot token or secret knowledge or whatever our heroes need is Doom. “But you don’t want to talk to that madman.” Why not? “I was there when he put on the mask for the first time. In his obsession, he reached for it before it had finished cooling. He did not scream, or even gasp. There was only the sizzle as it burned his flesh.” Reed is shocked ....

13 November 2023


With the great Twitter exodus, I have to rescue my musing about the 2016 Ghostbusters and how I liked it more than a lot of folks did, but the thing I love was of course Kate McKinnon as Dr. Jillian Holtzmann. It is now unmistakable that we will never get another movie in the 2016 Ghostbusters continuity, which is fine — I think we should let the ghostbusters conceit go entirely — but that doesn’t mean we cannot have more Holtzmann. She could show up in all kinds of places.

Tell me an audience won’t go berserk for a cameo in just about any comedy.

Heck, you could shoehorn her into a lot of action movies. Holtzmann doesn’t make any less sense than anything else in the Fast & Furious universe, f’rinstance.

MacKinnon could have a side career playing cameos of Holtzmann forever, like Bebe Neuwirth does with Lilith. We would always be happy to see her.

C’mon Hollywood, take our money.

Holtzmann does not hate you 
 nor does she love you
 but you are made out of atoms
 which she can use for something else

12 November 2023


You know what TV series should get rebooted as a Hollywood blockbuster series, played straight?

An independent Nerd Rōnin who travels light, abhors violence, knows how things work, improvises, and saves the day when institutions fail!

The original MacGyver series got stale and silly because it was impossible to come up with 20+ episodes a year worth of contrived situations for him. But doing a feature film with a tight script and a moderate budget every couple of years? That could really sing.

Here’s my pitch:

I would return McGyver to the root ideas from the pilot episode.

In the cold open we get a five minute thriller like the HBO Chernobyl series. Authority figures make a mess. Then they make it worse out of a combination of ego and institutional perversity. Sweat. Yelling. A ticking clock before a lot of innocent people pay the price.

Cut to MacGyver in the middle of doing something awesome. Setting up equipment at a run-down hospital together with some doctors trying to help refugee kids. Fixing pumps and other Dam Stuff together with preservationists trying to fix a damaged ecosystem. Something collaborative and strategic which makes the world better.

Then Mac’s phone rings. Seeing who is calling, Mac makes a face, almost sends it to voicemail, but answers, “Who screwed up?”

Cut to MacGyver hugging some comrades goodbye, as a helicopter arrives.

Cut to introductions to a bunch of government or corporate types in suits, maybe some soldiers. MacGyver is indifferent to looking out of place with an Action Nerd battered jacket and duffel bag.

Some soldier asks, “Is this civilian cleared for this?”

“No, but you need it fixed, right?”

"You'll sort out this SNAFU all by yourself in a jiffy? With what you have in that bag?” Smirking, dismissive.

“No. The bag just has duct tape and few other things; it’s mostly for what I find on the way. Speaking of which, may I borrow one of those?" says MacGyver pointing to something not obvioulsy useful which will, of course, have a clever application later.

Mac keeps asking “who screwed up?” in a tone of polite exasperation as the suits and uniforms infodump the plot obstacles Mac will spend the rest of the movie overcoming.

Then MacGyver heads off to save the day. Mac uses the duct tape ... and a Swiss Army knife, of course. And wits. And friends made along the way, each of whom knows something, or how to do something, which turns out to be surprising and useful.

I hope that I don’t need to explain Mac and these new friends never using a gun or weapon or threat.   

Solving the crisis requires solving a little mystery. What really happened here, and why? Mac discovers, of course, that the trouble came from powerful assholes cutting corners which they knew would put people in danger.

After MacGyver has prevented disaster and a few rich assholes or callous soldiers or whomever get walked off in handcuffs, the suit who called Mac in the first place says, “Well now we know who screwed up.”

Mac replies, not bitter, just matter-of-fact, “Yeah. You did, by letting them do this. You better not need to call me again.”

We know they will.

Over the end credits we see MacGyver back to his regular thing, helping on the project from the opening, now setting up an expensive new x-ray machine or hydraulic pump or whatever that the project needed, happy among friends, maybe with someone from this movie’s adventure having joined that crew.

And you get that this MacGyver is not a white guy, right?

And fergawdsake get Aldis Hodge to do a cameo as Hardison from Leverage. Or maybe Kate McKinnon as Holtzmann ....

09 November 2023

Indiana Jones

Dreading Twitterpocalypse, I want to rescue a few threads about Indiana Jones

Sean Kelly

Indy vs Nazis

Indiana Jones is a multi-dimensional character. He explores ruins, hunts down treasures, travels the globe.

He also hates Nazis. Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg, and others behind-the-scenes have made that clear, and so does the text of the movies themselves. The Ark of the Covenant burns through the swastika on the crate containing it, as a little appetizer of how God feels about Nazis in the Indiana Jones-verse. And then they’re all burned in holy fire. This isn’t subtle. His father announces, with appropriate venom, that “you goose-stepping morons should try reading books instead of burning them”. When Donovan drinks from the wrong Grail, he painfully crumbles to dust, which blows away to reveal his Nazi lapel pin is all that’s left of him.

Yes, there are times that Indy doesn’t fight Nazis — Temple of Doom, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - but those are, notably, the weaker entries. I’m not saying that Dial of Destiny is better than Temple of Doom, of course - Short Round alone is worth the price of admission, though Kate Capshaw is a much worse traveling companion than Phoebe Waller-bridge. But something feels off in Temple of Doom. And what’s off is the stakes. Nazis are the ultimate defilers. No matter your race, creed, religious beliefs, a Nazi putting his hands on your artifacts is a sacrilege. And the way they intend to use those artifacts is a perversion.

It's often been pointed out that Indy is, at heart, a white guy appropriating cultural treasures to put in Western museums, and there’s some problematic stuff there — but a guy who wants to put it behind glass is way preferable to the Nazi who wants to make a death ray. Without the Nazis there as a foil, Indy seems more like the “grave robber” we joke he is in his weaker moments.

It’s amazing, honestly, how deep the internet dipshit contrarian streak has to run where you start making “hates Nazis” somehow a controversial opinion, and how deluded and up your own ass you must be to not recognize it as a key plank of Indiana Jones in general. Dial of Destiny is, actually, calling out this sort of behavior, in its way — for the first half of the movie, Indy keeps pointedly reminding everyone that the bad guy is a Nazi, and everyone else ignores him as though those days are over. And then, at the climax of the movie, the bad guy dons a full Nazi uniform, alongside a bunch of Americans too young to have fought in WW2, because if you ignore that a guy is a Nazi he’s gonna do Nazi shit, and Indiana Jones doesn’t turn his back on those guys.

It is not just that they’re “villains.” Spielberg was born in 1946 to a Jewish family, and his hatred towards the Nazis has been a special focus of his filmography his entire career. Like maybe if you lived under a rock and only knew him as directing Raiders you could think something this monumentally stupid, but the guy also directed Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List, dude has feelings and opinions on this subject.

More on Dial Of Destiny

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a movie about how the Nazis don’t go away, they just pop back up trying to bring back the “good old days,” and the only appropriate response is to punch them in the goddamn face. Good movie, gonna be better regarded with time.

The bad guy is basically Wernher von Braun, a Nazi scientist saved from a life in prison so he can work for NASA, and half his henchmen throughout the movie are hapless CIA agents who don’t seem to realize who and what they’re helping. This is topical shit!

There’s a vocal and stupid minority that thinks I’m pulling this out of my ass, so let’s talk about Dr. Voller and Operation Paperclip.

When we first see Dr. Voller, he’s a scientist working for the Nazis. The next time we see him, he’s got a new name, and he’s about to get a medal from the President of the United States, referred to as the man who helped the US conquer the Moon. This is actually a thing that happened. In the closing days of WW2, and the years after, the US had a program, called “Operation Paperclip,” that involved bringing over as many Nazi scientists to the US as possible to help get an edge over the Soviets in the coming conflicts.

One such man was Wernher von Braun, a high-ranking Nazi scientist who helped develop the V2 rocket for Hitler, and a card-carrying member of the SS. Then he moved to the US, and got to work for NASA, developing the Saturn V rocket. We knew some of von Braun's checkered past back in the day.

For most of his American life, von Braun lived in Huntsville, Alabama, which was and remains a focus for aerospace engineering in America. It’s also where Dr. Voller lives in Dial of Destiny; his CIA handlers make mention of needing to get him back there.

Most accounts say that, at worst, von Braun was a collaborator, doing the work he was best at regardless of who was in charge, afraid of imprisonment or execution if he refused to make rockets for Hitler. But von Braun was just one of hundreds of Nazi scientists we brought over, and some of them were bound to have been true believers at some point or another.

Throughout the movie, Indiana is hung up on Dr. Voller’s Nazi past, whereas the Americans keep giving him the resources befitting a hero to the United States — a private jet, CIA muscle. He even has his own handpicked team, the most notable of which has a Southern drawl. So here we unify two uncomfortable truths: the US was perfectly fine bringing over literal Nazis to work for us, and the American South in the 1960s was a fertile ground for people who'd be sympathetic to the Nazi cause.

People treat Indy like he's being an old crank, like his focus on this guy being a Nazi is an old-man hangup. But he is! He’s literally a Nazi, and he’s literally trying to bring back Nazi Germany the way it used to be!

The movie is saying, be like Indy. The movie is saying, don’t forget which people were okay working alongside Nazis to accomplish their goals. The movie is saying, don’t trust those people. The movie is saying, punch those people in the face. The movie is also saying, be wary of the people who say the leftists, the socialists, the communists, are “just as bad”, because those are the folks who always end up teaming up with the Nazis to fight the Left and never seem to do it the other way around.

How to end the series

Indiana Jones sequel where his great-granddaughter, in the present day, pulls off elaborate museum heists with the aim of returning everything Indy ever “recovered” to the people and countries they rightfully belonged to to begin with. “It belongs in a museum,” the bad guys would say, of the artifacts. “No,” she’d say, “It doesn’t.” End of the movie, it’d turn out that Indy is still alive, impossibly old, because of a fancy cup he drank out of one time. And he’s very, very proud of her.

Also solid:

I think she’d answer “Not your museum”.

OPE! I’m adding to it:

Someone comes to the young Jones, someone from overseas whose people are suffering. They tell her it is because a mystical, protective totem was taken from them 85 years ago, by Indiana Jones. They charge her with the task of righting her family’s wrong and fixing what he broke. It was taken early in his career as a treasure-hunter, before he realized that sometimes the magic is real.

She has to go to the college where he taught, because all his notebooks and maps and research are there. The whip and hat are behind glass, donated and untouchable. She learns more about the artifact, about where he found it, but pages are missing.

So in the first phase, she has to steal the artifact back ... from the British Museum, where Indy donated the thing. She’s only in her early 20s. She’s never done something like this. She has to get help. And there’s competition, thieves who want to rob the museum for money. This is very globe-trotting excitement, of course, but so far it’s more Mission Impossible than Indiana Jones.

Once she’s successfully stolen the artifact, though, things get real: because now (on the run) she has to go put the artifact back. The missing pages of Indy’s journal turn out to be held at the village, left there 80 years ago when Jones was there last. They’re written in a code that she understands, it’s one the Jones family came up with.

The temple is filled, of course, with traps: spike pits, rolling boulders, tripwires, poison darts. But that’s not all. There are also whip marks, German bullet casings, all the hallmarks of a grand adventure that happened here a long time ago. Eyeballing these details, our heroine is able to reverse-engineer exactly how Indy got through, tracing his steps, doing what he would’ve done.

By the time she gets to the last chamber, she's the spitting image of her ancestor: torn khakis, strategic nicks and scrapes, a bullwhip she now knows how to use.

The holding place for the idol has a bag of sand on it. You know he tried that trick more than once.

When she puts the idol back, it’s instantaneous. Shafts of light, harmonious sounds. Further back in the temple, all the traps reset while the bad guys are making their way through — all, presumably, except for the main bad guy, gotta have a better confrontation than that.

When our young Jones returns to the village, she apologizes for what her ancestors did to this place. One of them notes that maybe fate played a part: after all, if Indy hadn’t taken the idol, the Nazis would have gotten it instead, and used its power for evil. He shouldn't have left with it, it’s true - he should have trusted the villagers to know how to hide it, and given it to them as soon as he wrested it away from the Nazis — but now, balancing the scales, is someone of the same bloodline, returning it to its rightful place.

Afterwards, she’s reflecting on what she’s done. How she can’t really go back to a normal life now. She’s wanted by Interpol, for one thing, but also she can't turn aside from this life of adventure again. And she realizes that she’s like Indiana in that way, too.

So as the sun rises on the college campus, and the janitor sweeps the Dr. Henry Jones, Jr. collection in the college library, the camera pans up to reveal that the hat is missing from the display case.

Walter Chaw 周瑜 with an even better solution

Your periodic reminder that Indiana Jones should pass the whip & fedora to a grown Short Round played by John Cho. And the prologue should be a rousing bit, set in the ’60s in the Dr. No-esque volcano fortress of Lao Che, to retrieve and repatriate Nurhachi to a museum in China.

Imagine the scene where Indy dismisses Shorty when Shorty’s trying to tell him something, and suddenly realizes that this is how his father used to treat him and decides in that moment to do better by his adopted son. Ford can act when asked to act. Ennoble his farewell.

At the end, as they prepare for another adventure, Indy demurs: “You get this one, Shorty. I have thirty years of papers to grade.” As Shorty puts on the fedora, the theme swells, and decades of shame and self-loathing for my Asian-Americanness sloughs off me like an old skin.

This was from before I knew Ke Huy Quan wanted to act again. Manifest this you guys.

Peter and Miles

Rescuing some threads about Spider-Man against the Twitterpocalypse

Dapper Dan Gvozden on kids named “Ben”

I wanted to tell the story of how important J. Totino Tedesco and Brad Meltzer’s Marvel Comics #1000 page is to me.

[JK note: I am enough a fan that this page shatters me, and I am not too proud to admit it]

For years, I had been struggling with the choice of whether or not to have a child. My parents used to say, “You’re never ready," whenever I suggested the timing wasn't right. This always felt disingenuous, surely there are better and worse times to have a kid. That all changed when I saw Lord and Rothman’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. I loved how their script reframed Miles and Peter’s life-choices into “It’s a leap of faith." For Miles, that was brilliantly portrayed by his leap off the building.

The brilliant, and often ignored, element of this story is that the glass behind Miles breaks when he jumps. The reason isn’t because of his momentum, but because his fear-activated Spider-stickiness is activated. He’s jumping despite his fear.

Miles repeats Peter’s line back to him in the film's final moments. “It’s a leap of faith.” Here the context changes and it is exactly what Peter needs to hear to regain confidence in himself, heal his fractured marriage, and try to have a child. I wrote about this in a piece for The Hollywood Reporter where I argued that allowing Peter to grow up and for Miles to take his place as the young Spider-Man was a bold move that the comics should consider. Responsibility only increases the older you get.

This one movie completely changed how I felt about fatherhood. No longer was I looking at parenthood as “You’re never ready”, as if I was about to get hit by a bus. But as, “It’s a leap of faith.” I could do this! And... a couple years later I did. Meet Ben.

Now back to the comic page from Marvel Comics #1000, entitled “We’re Calling Him Ben”. I’m sure you can guess my son’s name has something to do with this comic. You’d be right. Let me explain.

My read on the comic is as follows: Peter saves a pregnant woman who responds by wanting to name her son after him. He gives the name “Ben” to honor his late uncle. We see the impact of Spider-Man doing this many times, saving people and sparking a rash of kids named “Ben”. My favorite detail is almost hidden in the bottom corner, after all the other images. A lone word balloon reading “Ben”. I read this as the infinite baby. The idea of the endless number of good deeds that Spider-Man will do, especially as his comic continues infinitely.

I remembered this when it came time to name my son. I love the idea that our good deeds can echo into the next generation and serve as a moral guide. I can only hope that I can pass on my morality to my son, who can do the same, and on and on.

But it also speaks to me of the power of fiction in our lives. That I was inspired to have a child by a movie’s fictionalized version of a man wrestling with the concept of fatherhood. That so much of my life is built around principles I’ve learned from fiction.

I make, analyze, and study fiction because I believe in the power that it has to pass along empathy, entertainment, and values. This single-page comic story addresses all of those things and represents all I want to pass on to my son. A print of this page hangs in my son's bedroom. We look at it every morning and it is his absolute favorite image in his room. I hope one day I can explain its importance. Excelsior!

TJ Collins on Miles’ choice

The montage sequence in Spider-verse is amazing but let me offer up why this scene is the most important scene in the movie.

A theme throughout the movie was that Miles didn’t have a choice but to do what others wanted of him. Whether by peer pressure or pressure he put on himself, Miles felt like he had no choice but to do what others thought was right for him. What was responsible. What was expected.
This message was delivered over
and over
and over
and over again.
It was made to feel like the only choice he could make for himself was whether or not to tie his own shoes.

What does doing it all for everyone else lead to? He almost died, his uncle was killed, and his dad thinks he did it. His world is imploding. The only place of refuge is the school he tried failing out of. No sooner than unmasking and he's reminded of those Great Expectations.

The spider peeps take the goober and he is left alone. In a way, he gets what he wants. He’s been relieved of the great responsibility that comes with his great power. But he's still literally and figuratively trapped.

Then comes a moment of clarity for his dad. He realizes that forcing things on him, even if well intentioned, is only pushing him away. If he doesn’t want what happened to him and his brother to happen to him and his son, then Miles needs to be able make choices for himself.
Quick flashback to earlier in the film when his dad literally pressured him into saying, “I love you” back.

So, now we come back to the single most important line in the movie. Not with how it starts but how it ends.

“I love you.

You don’t have to say it back though.”

This dad, who earlier in the movie forced his son to say "I love you" back to him, was now giving his son the choice to respond. The burden of expectation was finally lifted from Miles allowing him to choose for himself what he wanted to say or what he wanted to do.

I love how the movie gave this sequence time and space. Realistically, the situation hadn’t changed. He was still alone in his room stuck to a chair. But now he’d been given the chance to choose for himself. What does he want to do? What kind of person does he want to be?

Naturally he chooses to be Spider-man. That choice giving him control of his powers. Literally and figuratively freeing.

I could go on and on about this movie forever but I'll stop there. The montage was great because it was a satisfying payoff to a sweet, sweet set-up.

Miles & Peter

I said that thread perfectly exemplifies how Spider-Verse understands the essence of a Spider-Man story, including the subtle but important difference between a Miles story and a Peter story, and a friend asked me to expand on the point.

Spider-Man is about adolescence: growing into your talents, taking pleasure in them, but also feeling the need to step into adult responsibility but not quite having it together yet, getting tripped up by conflicting priorities and honest mistakes.

Peter Parker is also about dorkiness, not fitting in, feeling isolated. Peter eventually marries one of those hot women who has figured out that nerds make good sweethearts, but that isn’t him overcoming his dorkiness; his circle of friends and family as Peter stays small.

Miles Morales has a stronger matrix of friends, family, and community than Peter Parker. He is as nerdy as Peter and not cool, but is not an outcast dork.

Peter also originates as Jewish in 1963, right at the point when Ashkenazim have arrived at being white. It is part of why he is alienated … but not in the unmistakable way that Miles has to navigate being a Teen Nerd Of Color.

So Peter and Miles experience subtly different pressures in Getting Their Lives Together.

I am uneasy with Movie Miles having a father who is a cop, but it plays in underlining how Miles as a PoC is under different pressures than Peter in growing into responsible adulthood.

Tom Holland

It is awkward that the kid from Queens is played by a Brit affecting an American accent, and he is too handsome for the role. But. Rumours say that when shooting Avengers: Infinity War, they asked Holland to ad lib some stuff for Peter’s last scene in the movie to get a last line for him, and he was so damm good that they could not bear to cut any of it out. I believe it. Going out saying “I’m sorry”? Holland understands Peter.

Peter, MJ, and Black Cat

When an interent friend objected to the supervillainess the Felicia “The Black Cat” Hardy flirting with Peter “Spider-Man” Parker (then married to Mary Jane) —

Like, it says everything how good a person MJ is. If I knew that my husband was consistently being flirted with by a fellow superhero, I would take a lamp and bash the shit out of her. She’s not a girl’s girl. As a dude you probably don’t see that.
— I found myself naming something I have long thought about Mary Jane in her comics manifestation, who is much more interesting than any movie adaptation of her has been.

Black Cat is a villain. A not-very-villainous villain — she does not kill people, she just steals stuff that doesn't belong to her — and occasionally plays the hero when when very-villainous villains show up, but a villain nonetheless. She resembles, of course, the better character she is a lazy copy of.


She is not a good person. Her behavior is not OK. In real life flirting with a married man does not warrant violence but flirting hard as Black Cat does is bad behavior … and in the context of superhero melodrama I see Mary Jane as within her rights to hit Felicia over the noggin with a lamp, yes.

But it is appropriate that MJ does not try to give Felicia the shellacking she has earned because MJ is a good person who knows that Peter is a stand-up guy. He drops the ball sometimes but always picks it right back up and feels bad about every honest mistake. He’s Peter.

Maybe it is dude-ly of me in a bad way but well-written (which all too often I concur it is not) I do think this can be fun. Part of the melodrama of it is that Peter feels like he can flirt with Felicia because he knows he is never going to succumb to any real shenanigans with her — because he is ga-ga over MJ and even if he did not have MJ he knows that Felicia is a trainwreck. He flies a bit too close to the Sun flirting with Felicia because he does not feel to him like it is any real threat to his marriage. Poor form on his part — he should know that even though MJ rightly trusts him, knowing that he flirts with a femme fatale is still hurtful to her.

Peter is more together than he once was — not least because of his relationship with MJ, and he knows it — but he still carries his adolescent sense of his own dorkiness. He doesn’t feel that a gal like Felicia actually following through with him is a real possibility.

MJ had the savvy to register the reasons why Peter is in fact an attractive fella at an earlier age than most attractive women do.

Mary Jane’s very first comics panel, in which she is radiantly beautiful and tells Peter Parker, “Face it, Tiger, you hit the jackpot.”

She knows — in a way that Peter will never catch on to — how there are now plenty of hot women who want what MJ has with him. So MJ, living in the world which attractive women inhabit, sees how a woman like Felicia very well might draw Peter into a romance and then inevitably fuck up both of their lives and hearts. None of which occurs to him. Every time Peter lets Felicia get under his skin he thinks “golly, that was embarrassing, letting a pretty girl play me for a chump”. He does not see the real relationship threats Felicia represents. It is one of his good qualities.

Gunner Dobbins on what we learn from Peter

Hope Summers, the destined messiah of mutant kind, possibly the most important mutant ever born, destined to be a force of change, and her destined teacher to guide her to her destiny is…this loser from Queens?

Someone meeting Peter and starting a convo at “what the fuck can this moron teach me” and ending at “oh my god tell me how to do all of this” is so perfect and I’m mildly annoyed I’d never seen this before. He is the best of us and I love everything that reinforces that.

05 November 2023


People with far better insight than mine have named problems with the trans representation in Neil Gaiman’s comics epic The Sandman, most notably the character of Wanda in “A Game Of You”. I have immense love for the young trans people who are pained by its weaknesses; it is very good that we have a lot of work from trans creators now which does much better than “A Game Of You” did then.

And I think some readers simply misread what the story presents, often from seeing things out of context.

Spoilers ahead.

Consider this panel sequence offered as evidence that “A Game Of You” is “TERFy”. The redhead is Wanda, a trans woman. Since The Sandman is a lot of things, including both fantasy and horror, she is talking to a human face nailed to a wall named George, who was enchanted by a mostly-villainous witch who at that point has departed on a magical journey enabled by goddesses and the Moon.

“That so? Okay, George, why’d they leave ME behind to look after Barbie?”

“That’s uh pretty easy. It’s because you’re a MAN. That stuff they did with the uh Moon. That was a women thing.”

“I am NOT a man.”
“maybe not to YOU you’re not. but you’ve got the uh, you know. male nasty thing.”

“LISTEN: I’ve had electrolysis. I’m taking hormones. All that’s left is a little lump of flesh; but all that doesn’t matter ... INSIDE I’m a woman.”
“SHE doesn’t think so.”

George’s voice bubble appears over the Moon seen through a window: 

“and to be honest uh well even if you had uh had the operation it still wouldn’t to the Moon. it’s chromosomes as much as uh anything”

Kevin Riggle says of this:

I feel like a lot of the tension come from folks wanting Gaiman’s universe to be just—and I’ll be honest, the goddesses’ rejection of Wanda struck me to the core. But his universe, much like our own, isn’t inherently just, and the goddesses aren’t avatars of justice within it

Which is something folks struggle with mightily in modern works from trans and queer creators too

And it’s always dispiriting to watch our communities reenact the traumas we’ve experienced on younger creators, over and over and over again

Gaiman, commenting on that sequence, says much the same thing:

Yes, there were transphobic and TERFy characters in “A Game of You”. And there were other characters too, with very different opinions on the matter. With respect, I'm not sure you understand how literature works.

Is this just rationalizing in retrospect? Sunny Moraine reflects on the book in context.

In talking about something like “A Game of You” it is absolutely critical that we be able to recognize how in some ways it fails by today’s standards while also recognizing that for many older trans folks it was powerfully and overwhelmingly affirming. Stories like “A Game of You” help produce the better world in which “A Game of You” hasn’t aged altogether well.

I’m glad parts of it don’t look so great now. It makes me appreciate it more.

Representation doesn’t have to be perfect to be meaningful.


“A Game of You”’s open and explicit stance is that trans women are women. Doesn’t mean the imperfections aren’t there but I’m sorry, in 1993 that’s fucking huge.

Among the problems “A Game Of You” has to the contemporary eye is how Wanda does not survive the story, which plays into a bad Bury Your Gays trope. Her death does do a lot of thematic work, though. Wanda’s death is not the end of her story; Barbie attends Wanda’s funeral, where she is rightly disgusted at how Wanda’s family dishonor her her by denying who she was — ending on Barbie countering the way they deadnamed her, which many defenders of the story have shared on social media.

A series of comics panels. Barbie, in mourning black, sits at a gravestone.
“Oh yeah, and here.” She produces a lipstick. “I thought you’d like it. It’s TACKY FLAMINGO or whatever it’s called. Your favorite color.”

In a big panel, we see that she has used the lipstick to cross out the name ‘Alvin’ to replace it with ‘Wanda’.
“Hey, no problem. LEAST I could do.”

This vindication does not make it okay to repeat the trope, but I know how moving I found that page when, little acquainted with trans people, I read it thirty years ago. Other things stand up better. Wanda is on stage for a few chapters before the story bothers to mention that she is trans. And most of all to me, just a couple of pages after the page above another sequence, in which we get this:

Wanda, smiling, is with a pale goth girl with an ankh necklace. A caption of Barbie describing a dream vision reads: Wanda’s with this woman I don’t know. And the woman goes up on tippie-toe and whispers something into Wanda’s ear.
Then Wanda turns around and she seems to see me, and she waves. They both wave.

Moraine says of that:

And again, whatever the TERFy fucking goddesses say, Neil is very very clear in these panels whose side he’s on.

To emphasize the point: The Sandman is a fantasy epic which spans nearly all of time and space and that goth girl is a cosmic entity offered to us elsewhere in the book as literally the most wise being in the Universe. The Sandman says that if the Moon thinks you are a boy when you know you are a girl, the damm Moon is wrong. Fīat jūstitia ruat cælum.

The nightling argues that this justifies Wanda’s death as a storytelling move in a heartfelt commentary.

And there are tropes like “women in refrigerators” (which means a love interest- usually female- death is used to motivate a hero) or “bury your gays” (where it seems only the gay character is killed off). But there is one LGBT+ character death where I’m very glad the character died. And it’s a character I actually like.
Wanda’s death was important because it was the first time in a comic you saw a Trans woman’s soul as a woman— revealing that she is a woman where it matters most. Her death was the easiest way to show this.

It is a victory that many young queer people find The Sandman unreadable because they cannot imagine the world it was published into, a world in which it was a thunderclap of rich and vigorous queer representation. We honor a work like The Sandman by criticizing it, because that says it meets the standard which creators need to meet when representing people significantly different from themselves: to do something good enough to be worth criticism.

We honor those works further by moving past them. As we have done, and I hope we do further. But I hope not completely just yet. Because it has been obvious from when the Netflix streaming adaptation of The Sandman was first announced that one of Gaiman’s key motivations has been getting another bite at the apple of “A Game Of You” with the involvement of trans creators.

Via Felix Marques, I have a bushel of quotes from Gaiman about that.

Talking to N. K. Jemisen:

Things have changed. And because now there are lots of fantastic trans people making comics and telling their own stories. And I no longer would go, “hang on, I have trans friends. I am not seeing people like my trans friends in the comics that I am reading. So I am going to put people like my friends in my comics, because that’s reflecting my world.” By the way, if you are a 15-year-old boy in Middle America reading my comic, I want you to meet people that you aren’t otherwise going to meet.

NKJ: Or meet people who you may be yourself and haven’t figured out.

What’s weird for me is that hadn’t occurred to me when I was writing it. Maybe just because I was stupid or naive or whatever, but it didn’t occur to me. All I was going was, “I love Wanda. I will write Wanda. She will be like my friend Rachel. She will be like my friend Rose. She will be like all of the friends of Rose’s that she’s introduced me to.” What made me feel like I had done the right thing was the letters. Back then people wrote actual letters to the editor, and they would reach me a few months after they had done the letter column, in a big FedEx box with 100 letters.

Oh god, a hundred at a time?

Oh yeah. And I’d read them, because that was the only feedback. There was no internet. There was no way of knowing that what you were doing was doing anything. And I remember the first Game of You that came out, people going, “This is weird. Why do you have this person in our comic? We don’t like him/her. We are offended. We are threatened.”

And then six issues later, the same people are writing, “Oh fuck, I can’t believe they buried Wanda in a suit. They didn’t put her name on the thing. How could they do that to her.” And at that point I’m going, “Good.”


I’m not sure that I’d even try to tell that story now. There are a lot of trans writers, writing better comics about trans characters than I ever could. But the things that upset me then (eg misgendering in death) still upset me.


Some trans people love Wanda and some don’t. I think the important thing will be having trans writers in the writers room when we get to “A Game of You”.


My biggest request to the Sandman showrunner for when we get to the season with “Game of You” in it is that we have trans men and trans women in the writers’ room. Not as consultants, but as writers.

03 November 2023

The minefield of anti-Zionism

Lefty Jews like me who support the liberation of Arab Palestinians feel raw from the honest mistakes of goodhearted allies. Aside from some of that being ever the way in social justice advocacy, we have extra cause to respect it in this space; we know intimately how tricky the context is. Criticizing Israel well takes thoughtful care. Criticizing Zionism is walking through a minefield. I do not want to concern troll exactly how we name our opposition to the horrors of this moment, but I have to unpack it.

For my sins, I am still keeping an eye on Twitter, and a lefty I admire shared (with an appropriate note of puzzlement) this from the Torah Judaism <@TorahJudaism> Twitter account:

Screenshot of a tweet by Torah Judaism <@TorahJudaism>:

Zionists say that Jews must be exterminated; these are today’s Nazis.

Zionists reveal their true faces every day.

This Zionist woman, who supports Israel, says that all anti-Zionist Torah Jews should be killed in gas chambers, that Hitler should have killed them all, and that he made a mistake by not killing them all.

Leaders around the world are fueling Antisemitism by supporting Zionists.


[Video clip near its start. We see a few Orthodox Jewish men from behind, on a sidewalk carrying Palestinian flags, with an old woman facing them. There is large caption “Zionist attacks Jewish protesters” and a smaller subtitle transcribing what  she is saying “HITLER made one big mistake”]

Weird, right? I discovered that many accounts whom I Follow on Twitter were Following this account. It exemplifies how this vital cause is cursed with an array of bad actors. We all know to look for Nazis, but few are as cautious as we need to be about other bad bedfellows.

I’m going to step back to the general challenge, then come back to Torah Judaism as an example.

How hard all of this is

I write this in a galvanizing moment of horror, with Israel’s decades of brutal apartheid military policing taking a turn toward genocide. I appreciate the care I do see lefty gentiles taking to criticize Israel’s government without stumbling into Doing Antisemitism. It is comforting to see so many of y’all taking it seriously. But frankly it is galling how despite that effort, many of y’all are nonetheless doing that so badly.

Like most lefty Jews I climbed out of the fog of Israel hardliner propaganda through a lot of homework, difficult in the face of the pervasive deceit and outright lies in all directions. It is dispiriting to see my feed full of people I respect sharing bad analogies, commentaries with implications they obviously do not intend, and errors of basic fact in this moment in which it is necessary both to stand against Israel’s crimes against humanity and to stand against antisemitism surfacing.

Zionism and anti-Zionism

In particular, talking about Zionism is not for beginners.

Israel hardliners deceitfully cast all criticism of Zionism, Israel, and Israel’s actions as antisemitism. I hate that the Anti-Defamation League is at once an essential mainstream resource tracking organized hate groups and they an untrustworthy hardline Israel propaganda outlet abusing accusations of antisemitism to smear almost all legitimate criticism of Israel. This kind of over-reading antisemitism complicates spotting when bad actors are using “anti-Zionism” as a veil over antisemitism, when there are antisemitic implications in superficially innocent commentaries. It is very easy for people rightly outraged about Israel’s actions to get drawn in.

I am not a Zionist. I respect, and can even support, some forms of anti-Zionism. For instance, I join people fundamentally critical of the global order of Westphalian nation-states, but even if one does not share that critique I think one must respect as legitimate the rejection of Zionism which emerges from it. I think Zionism misjudges what best serves the global Jewish community. And so forth. But though I am not-Zionist (maybe more precisely post-Zionist) I cannot call myself an “anti-Zionist”.

Though many horrors are committed in the name of Zionism, direct opposition to those horrors by a liberal tradition has been an integral part of the Zionist movement, from the very beginning fifty years before Israel’s founding all the way through today. Since the founding of Israel, “Zionism” has meant nothing other than wanting to preserve the state of Israel in some form. This is no idiosyncratic attempt to reframe or reclaim the word “Zionism” for my use; I don’t want Zionism. It is simply what the word means. So knowing what Zionism is, one rightly reads “anti-Zionism” as a call for the destruction of the State Of Israel.

Thus I and many other Jews get hit with a cold splash of antisemitism when we see “anti-Zionism” invoked in the name of Palestinian liberation. Unless it is framed carefully, anti-Zionism holds Israel to a unique standard, not merely criticizing the government’s policies or the state’s history but rejecting the nation as illegitimate by definition. It tells Israelis that they are wrong to love the only home they have ever known.

Insisting “no, I mean opposition to the Zionists rationalizing their brutality against Palestinians” lets the worst Israel hardliners deceitfully appropriate the meaning of Zionism, just as they keep doing with antisemitism.

Insisting “no, I mean that Zionism is bad like all nationalist ideologies” makes me ask why you said “Zionism” instead of “nationalism”.

Anyone familiar with social justice advocacy should be wary of these protestations of No, No, I Did Not Mean It That Way, Why Would You Think That?

Again, one can criticize Zionism without stepping on those landmines. Don’t get me started, I will talk your ear off. But it is rare that people step carefully enough.

I wish I could say to listen to Jews, that one can trust that anti-Zionism from Jews, at least, will not walk into the antisemitic implications in that minefield, but Torah Judaism shows how no, one cannot.

Torah Judaism

Here again is the tweet that got us started:

Zionists say that Jews must be exterminated; these are today’s Nazis.

Zionists reveal their true faces every day.

This Zionist woman, who supports Israel, says that all anti-Zionist Torah Jews should be killed in gas chambers, that Hitler should have killed them all, and that he made a mistake by not killing them all.

Leaders around the world are fueling Antisemitism by supporting Zionists.


[A video clip shows a few Orthodox Jewish men from behind, on a sidewalk carrying Palestinian flags, with an old woman facing them. At the start a large caption reads “Zionist attacks Jewish protesters”.]

“Zionists say that Jews must be exterminated”? The woman in the attached video clip does indeed say that she wishes all Jews had died in the Shoah. But the tweet offers its assertion that she is a Zionist without any evidence ... and then takes her as representative of all Zionists, representative of what Zionism is. Dishonest.

So who is Torah Judaism?

With the caveat that analogies between Judaism and Christianity are dangerous, I will offer one here. If one sees a group describing themselves as “Bible Christians”, one’s antennæ go up: are these “Christians” who do not consider other Christians real Christians because they read the Bible “incorrectly”?

Sure enough, Torah Judaism turn out to be Neturei Karta, an ultra-Othodox cult who think they are pretty much the only real Jews.

Other Orthodox Jewish movements, including some who oppose Zionism, have denounced the activities of the radical branch of Neturei Karta [including] for attending a 2006 holocaust revisionist conference in Iran

They are of course cultural reactionaries — sexist, homophobic, you know the drill — and they are hungry for attention. So yeah, they rhyme more than a little with the hatemongers of Westboro Baptist. The UK Guardian describes the context:

Even among Charedi, or ultra-Orthodox circles, the Neturei Karta are regarded as a wild fringe. After some of them took part in an anti-Israel rally in the United States earlier this year, an advertisement in the Orthodox press excoriated those who had joined “the enemies of our people”. It is significant that the denunciation was endorsed by most of the major Charedi groupings in New York, including some with a staunchly anti-Zionist theology, such as the powerful Satmar Chasidic sect.
Today, many Charedim would be more accurately described as “non-” rather than “anti-” Zionist in the strict sense. Some would call themselves anti-Zionist in that they remain opposed to secular nationalism, at the same time as they tacitly accept the existence of the state. Many go from other countries to study in the Torah academies that have proliferated in Israel.

These zealots’ beef with Zionism is it being a secular movement. They reject Jewish ethnic & cultural solidarity, insisting that only religion exactly as they practice it is authentically Jewish. Zionism is one among many reasons why they reject the legitimacy of other Jews.

Their anti-Zionism is not political but theological, unrelated to Israel’s actions. Their claims to support Palestinian liberation are a lie; they are just waiting for the coming of the מָשִׁיחַ, when they dream that they will rightly claim the land as Israel ... and purge anyone whom they do not accept as Jews.

Since that is not obvious, it lets them invite misreadings of what they are saying. One might generously misread this tweet because it is close to a legitimate point about how criticism of Israel is not an attack on Judaism:

Israel is not a Jewish state.

Judaism is an ancient religious collective.

Zionism is a nationalist movement created in 1896 by ppl who were pronounced atheists

They wanted to be called Jewish but without actually believing in Judaism

That’s Zionism

Screenshot of a tweet by Torah Judaism <@TorahJudaism>

Israel is not a Jewish state.

Judaism is an ancient religious collective.

Zionism is a nationalist movement created in 1896 by ppl who were pronounced atheists

They wanted to be called Jewish but without actually believing in Judaism

That’s Zionism

One might generously misread this tweet because it is close to a legitimate point about over-reading antisemitism:

It is wrong to say that Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism.

Israel is a political entity founded by non-Jewish people.

The Jewish people are an ancient religious community belonging to many nationalities around the world.

How does criticizing Israel mean hatred toward the Jews?

Screenshot of a tweet by Torah Judaism <@TorahJudaism>

It is wrong to say that Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism.

Israel is a political entity founded by non-Jewish people.

The Jewish people are an ancient religious community belonging to many nationalities around the world.

How does criticizing Israel mean hatred toward the Jews?

One might generously misread this tweet because it is close to a legitimate point about respecting al-Aqsa:

The presence of the Zionist state in the Temple Mount is unacceptable.

While Jews are forbidden from going to Al-Aqsa Mosque, we do not accept that Zionists can pretend to be Jews and do whatever they want on the Temple Mount.

What Zionists do is against the Torah and the Jewish religion. They do whatever they want in Palestine and Jerusalem. It is a great sin for a believing Jew to go up to the Temple Mount, that is, Masjid al-Aqsa.

In our religion, Judaism, it is strictly forbidden for Jews to climb the Temple Mount. JEWS can never be there to pray. Zionists and thieving settlers are infidel people who defied the Torah and entered the temple hill disguised as Jews.

Screenshot of a tweet by Torah Judaism <@TorahJudaism>—

The presence of the Zionist state in the Temple Mount is unacceptable.

While Jews are forbidden from going to Al-Aqsa Mosque, we do not accept that Zionists can pretend to be Jews and do whatever they want on the Temple Mount.

What Zionists do is against the Torah and the Jewish religion. They do whatever they want in Palestine and Jerusalem. It is a great sin for a believing Jew to go up to the Temple Mount, that is, Masjid al-Aqsa.

In our religion, Judaism, it is strictly forbidden for Jews to climb the Temple Mount. JEWS can never be there to pray. Zionists and thieving settlers are infidel people who defied the Torah and entered the temple hill disguised as Jews.

One might generously misread this tweet because it is close to a legitimate point about Israel hardliners exploiting respect for Judaism to demand deference to Israel:

In Jerusalem’s Meah Shearim district, Jews set fire to a poster of Ovadia Yosef, the former chief rabbi of Zionist Israel. People like Ovadia Joseph are the showcase faces of irreligious Zionism. All they do is use Judaism for their own gain. Zionists are never Jews.
Screenshot of Torah Judaism <@Torah Judaism>

In Jerusalem’s Meah Shearim district, Jews set fire to a poster of Ovadia Yosef, the former chief rabbi of Zionist Israel. People like Ovadia Joseph are the showcase faces of irreligious Zionism. All they do is use Judaism for their own gain. Zionists are never Jews.

But at this point, you should be able to see what is really going on here: zealots’ wounded pride that others think differently than they do, projecting that to frame Israel as illegitimate and cartoonishly hostile.

Israel was founded by a nationalistic movement that replaces the Jewish religion with Zionism. They wanted Jews to forget G-d and Religion, & be united by land and language. To date, they have raised generations of Israelis who have a deep hatred for traditional Jews & Judaism
Screenshot of a tweet by Torah Judaism <@TorahJudaism>

Israel was founded by a nationalistic movement that replaces the Jewish religion with Zionism. They wanted Jews to forget G-d and Religion, & be united by land and language. To date, they have raised generations of Israelis who have a deep hatred for traditional Jews & Judaism

Of course most people cannot be expected to catch what is going on with this intra-Jewish theological weirdness at first glance. And this is characteristic of how opaque countless things are in understanding what is happening in Israel-Palestine.

But we must be smart about how many commentaries have such unwholesome implications.

Jews in the movement for Palestinian liberation

Jews who yearn for Palestinian liberation, as I do, hate how twisty all this is. The homework we did to get here was time-consuming, exacting, and emotionally wrenching. We watch friends step on landmines, and we get torn by shrapnel. We see entryist “allies” seeding the ground with more landmines.

Jews who yearn for Palestinian liberation, as I do, hate the horrors committed by Israel’s para-fascist leadership shaping Israel into a brutal apartheid state and claiming to do it in our name. They compromise our ability to face real antisemitism with their lies and deceptions muddying everyone’s understanding. I feel disgust at my own complicity with them when I fail to stand up and speak out more.

Jews who yearn for Palestinian liberation, as I do, are eager to cultivate allies we can stand with, especially in this moment. When we seem to be hairsplitting and over-sensitive, we are struggling to build a movement we can stand with.

The work before us

Surveying this minefield of accidental & deliberate antisemitism, under a thick cloud of deceit and outright lies kicked up by partisans on all sides, let us register how profoundly unfair it is that the path to Palestinian liberation winds through such difficult territory. The cause faces enough adversity without this compounding burden.

But it is the reality of the situation. The movement must step carefully. The movement needs Jews’ help doing that, both on the merits and so that we can stand with the movement in good conscience.

Many of us are eager to do more.