The occasional award is given to the person who best personifies the Travis Bickle character in the movie Taxi Driver.
In the movie Taxi Driver the plain-man-hero Travis Bickel laments the filth and pornography that he sees all around him. His real desire is to confront a powerful patrician politician whom, he believes, is responsible for that decay.In the case of Rosenfeld, the professor trained and prepared to take on a powerful outside foe -- worldwide antiSemitism and the Holocaust. But then, instead of pursuing the real enemy, the professor now has turned to go after a smaller, more familiar enemy -- in this case a handful of progressive Jewish intellectuals.
The real Bickel is not heroic enough to go after the big gangster, though he certainly prepares and trains to do so. Instead he ends up killing a small time bad-guy - an ordinary lowlife like Bickel himself - and therby saves two girls from suffering.
The newspapers and parents praise Bickel as a hero.
This story encapsulates the Travis Bickel Complex. You prepare all your life for a confrontation with a powerful and alien evil foe. But in the end you take on a small time enemy who is just like you. And you come out acclaimed as a hero.
Should we acclaim him a hero? I don't know. But I do know that he merits this latest Travis Bickle Award.
Links to the professor's essay and the NY Times story:
Essay Linking Liberal Jews and Anti-Semitism Sparks a Furor
By PATRICIA COHEN
The American Jewish Committee, an ardent defender of Israel, is known for speaking out against anti-Semitism, but this conservative advocacy group has recently stirred up a bitter and emotional debate with a new target: liberal Jews.
An essay the committee features on its Web site, ajc.org, titled “ ‘Progressive’ Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism,” says a number of Jews, through their speaking and writing, are feeding a rise in virulent anti-Semitism by questioning whether Israel should even exist.
In an introduction to the essay, David A. Harris, the executive director of the committee, writes, “Perhaps the most surprising — and distressing — feature of this new trend is the very public participation of some Jews in the verbal onslaught against Zionism and the Jewish State.” Those who oppose Israel’s basic right to exist, he continues, “whether Jew or gentile, must be confronted.”
The essay comes at a time of high anxiety among many Jews, who are seeing not only a surge in attacks from familiar antagonists, but also gloves-off condemnations of Israel from onetime allies and respected figures, like former President Jimmy Carter, who titled his new book on the Mideast “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid.” By spotlighting the touchy issue of whether Jews are contributing to anti-Semitism, both admirers and detractors of the essay agree that it aggravates an already heated dispute over where legitimate criticism of Israel and its defenders ends and anti-Semitic statements begin.
The essay, written by Alvin H. Rosenfeld, an English professor and the director of the Institute for Jewish Culture and the Arts at Indiana University in Bloomington, castigates a number of people by name, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner, the historian Tony Judt, the poet Adrienne Rich and the Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, in addition to a number of academics....