Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp, two of the Wild West’s most famous gunslingers, fought together at the O.K. Coral and killed together during the Earp Vendetta Ride that sought retribution for the murder and maiming of Earp’s brothers, but they parted ways in Albuquerque after a serious clash that remained unexplained for over a century. In 2001 a letter was discovered that apparently provided an incredible answer: Holliday had called Earp “a damned Jewboy" during lunch and the famous gambler and sheriff walked out in a huff.
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According to the unsigned letter, apparently written by then Governor of New Mexico Territory Miguel Antonio Otero, Holliday had been rattled by the sight of Earp “doing the mezuzah” at the home of his Jewish friend, businessman Henry Jaffa. More importantly, perhaps, Holliday might have already been aware of Earp’s budding relationship with Josephine “Sadie” Marcus, a San Francisco "Jewess", as Otero noted, who was now ending her marriage to Earp’s big rival, Tombstone Sheriff Johnny Behan. Wyatt and Sadie lived together until his death in 1929, which is why he’s buried at the Jewish Hills of Eternity Memorial Park in Colma, California, next to Marcus, who died in 1944, and in close proximity to Levi Strauss, he of the denim jeans.
The term “Jewboy”, which Earp found so offensive, was imported to America at the end of the 18th century from London, where it described young Jewish boys who sold counterfeit coins. Over the course of the next two centuries of anti-Semitism, Jewboy joined the un-illustrious ranks of epithets such as kike, Yid, sheeny, Hymie and many others, which most Jewish immigrants and their descendants would hear at one point or another in their American lives.
Richard Nixon used to summon his National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger to the Oval Office by shouting “Where’s My Jewboy”. Ironically, the exact same word reverberated outside Kissinger’s windows at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in the mid-1970’s as he employed "shuttle diplomacy" to reach separation and interim agreements with Egypt and Syria. “Jewboy go home” the demonstrators shouted, in what can be viewed in retrospect as the initiation rites of the settler movement Gush Emunim. “The Shikse’s husband” they cried, noting Kissinger’s 1974 second marriage to the non-Jewish Nancy Maginess.
Yitzhak Rabin, serving his first stint as prime minister at the time, called the protesters “Jewish anti-Semites." I was not surprised, he wrote in his memoirs: “In the name of the Jewish religion, supposedly, Gush Emunim reached a low point of self-abasement in Judaism, which any reasonable Jew cannot but contemptuously condemn. There are few incidents in Jewish history in which such an unruly mob grants itself a ‘mandate from heaven’, etches on its nationalistic-religious flag anti-Semitic slogans such as ‘Jewboy’, gives Jewish-Israeli legitimacy to hatred of Jews and under the loathsome camouflage of love for the Land of Israel crudely bursts into the streets to impose fear and terror. I was ashamed."
Rabin, however, is no longer with us, no one dares talk like that anymore about Gush Emunim since it started to take over the country, and the use of the term “Jewboy” or its less-than-perfect Hebrew translation “Yehudon” to describe Jewish Americans who work for their government has turned into a tradition of sorts. Former Secretary of State Jim Baker’s Jewish advisers - Dennis Ross, Aaron Miller and Dan Kurtzer - were routinely called Jewboys and “Court Jews” by Israelis and Americans alike. Right wing minister Rehavam Zeevi, assassinated by Palestinian gunmen in 2001, called then Ambassador Indyk a Jewboy in 1997 and was famously threatened with a punch in the face in return. Settler leader Zvi Hendel described then envoy Kurtzer as a “Little Jewboy” - Yehudon Katan - in 2002, for having dared to suggest that Israel might consider investing in its disabled instead of its West Bank settlements. Prime Minister Netanyahu himself used a well-known variation of “Yehudon,: when he reportedly described White House advisers David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel as “self-hating Jews” in 2009. And this week it was Ambassador Dan Shapiro’s turn, after he told a Tel Aviv conference that Israel’s application of the law in Judea and Samaria discriminated between Jews and Palestinians.
It was a trivial observation, of course, one that most if not all Israelis who are not unconscious are well aware off, despite their public protests. Nonetheless, Shapiro was subjected to torrents of criticism and sometimes abuse, from Netanyahu on down, but it was left to the prime minister’s one time spokesman Aviv Bushinski to do the real deal. “I am ashamed today to be an American,” Bushinski said, in slight overkill; Shapiro’s words, he said, were “Jewboy statements”. The Hebrew press failed to pick up on his utterance, but Haaretz’s Allison Kaplan Sommer did, as did many news outlets abroad. “Former Netanyahu aide describes U.S. Ambassador as a ‘Jewboy’” the headlines read, raising the question that is being asked with increasing frequency by Israel’s friends around the world: “What in God’s name is going on over there?”
But “Jewboy”, in fact, is not an exact translation of “Yehudon”, or at least the terms’ usage is different. Both are epithets hurled at Jews by non-Jews, but Yehudon also serves as an insult from one set of Israeli Jews to another. Yehudon originated as the Hebrew version of the Russian words “Zhid” and "Zhidy" which originally meant Jew or Jewish but came to be used as slurs. In 1787, Jewish rabbi and businessman Joshua Zeitlin, a friend of Prince Potemkin, famously petitioned Catherine the Great for Russian authorities to stop using the term “Zhid” and to use “Evrei”, Hebrew, instead, which remains the situation to this very day. To a lesser degree, the same fate awaited the word “Jew” in America: it became a derisive adjective, as in ‘Jew-lawyer’ and ‘Jew-doctor’, which is the reason we have the YMHA (Young Men’s Hebrew Association) rather than YMJA (Young Mens’ Jewish Association). Later, the word Yehudon was also attached to the German Jude, which achieved notoriety before and after the Holocaust.
But right-wing leaders and columnists in Israel have asserted their right to keep on using the “Yehudon”, whatever its connotations. Settler and writer Uri Elitzur defended Handel’s insult to Kurtzer in 2002, saying it was not being used as an anti-Semitic slur but as an “internal Jewish insult that means a hunched Jew, one who kowtows or tattletales, one who is willing to harm his Jewish brothers so that the goyim think he’s OK.” According to Elitzur, as well as Handel, Netanyahu, Bushinski and others, Jews who work for foreign governments, including the U.S. administration, must display dual loyalty, at the very least. If they express or implement a policy of their government that is critical or opposed to Israel’s, they are nothing but Jewboys, informers and collaborators, by definition.
But not only Americans are Jewboys, so are Israelis who supported the Gaza disengagement or who now espouse a two-state solution, never mind those who champion human rights, work with Palestinians or are just overly-critical of the Israeli government or army. Former right-wing, settler MK Elyakim Haetzni often quotes from German philosopher Theodor Lessing’s 1930 book on Jewish Self-Hatred, parts of which he also translated. “The Jewish people are the first and perhaps the only nation that always seeks guilt only in themselves,” Lessing wrote.
Opposition to Israeli policies meant to safeguard Israel and maintain its hold over the territories are nothing less than Jews who have “abandoned Israeliness and returned to the disease of Diaspora Jews with their distorted and destructive self-hatred,” Haetzni noted. It is presumably the same defect that Israeli diplomats “carry in their DNA”, as Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett diagnosed last week.
That’s why Benny Katzover, head of the Samaria Settlers Council, found no fault last year with the blatantly anti-Semitic video “The Eternal Jew” which his organization produced last year, and which has served as the inspiration for Im Tirzu’s recent campaign against “foreign moles”. Katzover defended the video, which depicted hook-nosed Jews betraying their country in exchange for money from a European “Mr Sturmer”, and was unperturbed by the fact that the video, still up on YouTube, took its name from the Nazis’ infamous anti-Semitic “degenerate art” exhibition and subsequent film. “Were talking about despicable Jewboys here” he said, referring to the same leftist activists and NGO’s now being openly and brazenly suppressed by the Netanyahu government.
One could hear a distant echo to this issue in the discussion sparked by Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s recent claim that his GOP rival Donald Trump is guided by “New York values,” Cruz’s defenders vigorously rebuffed claims that the term could be taken as code for “Jewish values”, citing his strong support for Israel as exculpatory credentials.
But like many of the Evangelicals whose votes he is seeking, one can support Netanyahu’s militant and increasingly isolated Israel, as well as its no-compromise settlers, while concurrently abhorring Jewish liberals, in and out of New York. It is they, after all, who are often at the vanguard of campaigns such as abortion, equality, climate change and voting rights that staunch conservatives detest. These are the same New York values, with appropriate modifications of course, that are reviled by the conservative and Orthodox right wingers in Israel as well. The difference is that in New York the cold winds that are blowing are not evil, and liberal Jews are anticipating snow, not an imminent pogrom.