From Spinoza to Vilkomerson, Jewish voices for peace have long been banned– by Jews

Middle East
on 107 Comments

The big news concerning Israel’s fight against the movement for Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions this week is the publication of an Israeli government blacklist of 20 organizations. Notable on the list is the American Jewish group, Jewish Voice for Peace.

Rebecca Vilkomerson, the head of the organization, wrote Monday that “now, contrary to any democratic norm, there’s to be a political litmus test for entering the country.”

It may come as a surprise to some that Jews are actually being banned in an organized and institutional manner – from entering Israel – the Jewish state. But scrutiny of Jewish history reveals how logical this is. They are simply considered “the wrong kind of Jews”, as Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann told Lord Balfour. And the “wrong kind of Jews” can be banned. The Jewish tradition of such societal expulsion of Jews is known in Hebrew as ‘herem’, the term also applied for ‘boycott’.

Rebecca Vilkomerson (Photo: Skip Schiel)

Indeed, Israel seems to have no moral qualms about banning not only Jews but those who have historically helped them– the American Friends Service Committee, which was also on the blacklist — whilst inviting Nazi-affiliates, if they support the goals of the Jewish State.  Natasha Roth wrote about this on Monday, “Why has Israel banned Jewish leftists but not members of Nazi-linked groups?”. Roth concludes:

“But the formality of this step — banning outright leaders and key members of a Jewish organization — is yet further concrete evidence of what has been apparent for some time: that even as the Israeli government makes crystal-clear its commitment to having as few non-Jews as possible within its borders, it is also becoming increasingly blatant about possessing criteria for the types of Jews it considers kosher.”

This throws me 362 years back, to the expulsion of the legendary philosopher Benedict (Baruch) Spinoza in 1656, from the Amsterdam Jewish-Portuguese community.

There are admittedly differences, which I shall address, between that expulsion and the banning of Jewish Voice for Peace – but there are also striking similarities, which I believe are instructive for understanding the psychological mechanisms at hand.

The young Spinoza (23 at the time) was expelled by the community rabbis in the synagogue, with a proclamation containing curses and vitriol that was simply unparalleled at the time by any other expulsion. The proclamation referred to the “evil opinions and acts” of Spinoza, and not only excommunicated and expelled him, but also “cursed” and “damned” him:

“Cursed be he by day and cursed be he by night; cursed be he when he lies down and cursed be he when he rises up. Cursed be he when he goes out and cursed be he when he comes in. The Lord will not spare him, but the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven. And the Lord shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law”, the rabbis proclaimed.

Got that? The interesting thing is that the whole proclamation contains no factual reference to Spinoza’s “evil opinions and acts”. In fact, at the point, Spinoza had not yet published any philosophical treatise. So what we have here is hearsay, about an alleged heresy. And who needs to know more? If such a man is cursed so badly, he must have done something really, really bad.

Let’s jump back a few centuries, to the recent ban. As I have already quoted Natasha Roth on this yesterday, I’ll do it again:

“The Israeli government apparently considers the banning of BDS activists acceptable behavior for a democracy, a view facilitated by its having very diligently cultivated and promoted the lie that BDS is an anti-Semitic movement aimed at destroying Israel. This lie has been remarkably successful, despite the clear statement on the official website of the BDS movement that its goal is to secure the same human and civil rights for Palestinians as everyone else living in Israeli-controlled territory. But if granting equal rights to everyone who lives in the territory controlled by Israel will cause the state to implode, then surely those who oppose BDS on those grounds are ignoring a fundamental problem — that a state which cannot survive if all its residents have equal rights is by definition not a democracy.”

See the similarity? Spinoza was surely not criticizing or challenging Zionism at the time, because it didn’t exist as such. He was probably voicing certain logical arguments with his peers – and this was perceived as aiming to ‘destroy Israel’ (the rabbis said that Spinoza “should be excommunicated and expelled from the people of Israel” – “Israel” has been used in Jewish history to signify the “Jewish people”).

We know of Spinoza’s actual thoughts as they matured, as he later wrote them down. We can assume they had roots in his younger years. No doubt, these thoughts were radical not only for Jews at the time, but also for Christians. The notion that God is not a being that makes judgement at all, that God is really parallel to nature – “God or Nature” (Deus sive Natura), as Spinoza would put it – that was radical. If God does not judge, doesn’t that challenge the whole notion of the Jewish laws and commandments supposedly passed down from God? Indeed, Spinoza opined that the bible was simply collated and written by humans, and not through some divine delivery. Spinoza challenged the “afterlife” notion (which was actually more challenging of Christian tradition than Jewish), and Spinoza’s ‘God’ does not choose anything – it just is – which then renders the notion of the “chosen ones” meaningless.

These are radical thoughts for the time. Yet today many of us see them as utterly fascinating, and appreciate the huge contribution of Spinoza’s radical thinking to the whole process of Enlightenment.

Is it possible, that those who today challenge Zionism, the Jewish State and its actions, may later be appreciated by those who currently demonize them? Will those who challenge Israel strongly today and are demonized for supposedly wanting to destroy it – will they in the future be seen as those who have actually contributed to enlightenment, one that we in the future might be proud of?

Interestingly, in 1927, Professor Yosef Klausner of the newly established Hebrew University in Palestine, made a speech concerning Spinoza, and ‘rescinded’, as it were, the ban on Spinoza:

“To Spinoza the Jew, it is declared from Mount Scopus, from our ‘Temple in miniature’ – the Hebrew University in Jerusalem: … The ban is nullified! The sin of Judaism against you is removed and your offense against her atoned for! Our brother are you, our brother are you, our brother are you!”, Klausner proclaimed. 

Klausner was using the rabbinical phrase ‘our brother are you’, traditionally applied to rescind a ban. But Klausner was no rabbi. Nonetheless his proclamation was stating a certain Jewish-academic view, that was to apply to the modern outlook of Zionism, which would be less fundamentally attached to the Jewish views of 1656.

But how did Spinoza exactly ‘atone’ for his ‘offences’? His subsequent treatises after the ban only strengthened the views that would have seemed heretical, blasphemous and evil at the time. No, Spinoza didn’t ‘atone’ for his offences. It is perhaps Judaism, or at least some Jews, who have moved on since, and seen him in another light.

Spinoza had reacted to his expulsion with grace and equanimity:

“All the better; they do not force me to do anything that I would not have done of my own accord if I did not dread scandal. But, since they want it that way, I enter gladly on the path this opened to me, with the consolation that my departure will be more innocent than was the exodus of the early Hebrews from Egypt.”

Let’s jump back to the present. Rebecca Vilkomerson:

“Yet as we at JVP are now feeling the pain of exclusion, we are very aware that Palestinians have always faced profiling and bans on entry to Israel. From the right of return for refugees to the simple ability to travel from one town to another, travel restrictions are a core feature of the Israeli apartheid state.”

Now that’s decent. That’s noble. That’s a commendable, empathetic, mature response.

Spinoza’s expulsion may arguably have ‘released’ him to write his thoughts more extensively later. He still did publish his two major treatises Ethics and Theological Political Treatise anonymously, in 1670. There was more to fear than the Jews, and the latter treatise was regarded as “forged in hell” at the time. In comparison to current events, the Israeli banning of various organizations and activists that seek to take Israel to task for its violations, in a peaceful, nonviolent manner, may well spur the movement into more action. It seems highly unlikely that it will actually silence it.

Speaking of Spinoza’s ideas today can only be a sign of merit. Personally, I became utterly fascinated by his thoughts already at age 16, when I recall having been assigned to do a presentation on him in history lessons – in an Israeli high school that is. At the time I did not access his thoughts on religion and Judaism, simply found him utterly fascinating on other matters.

But Spinoza’s thoughts on Judaism also reflect on Israel today, as it is the Jewish State. Take for example his mentioned notion about God not ‘choosing’ anything, and hence not even assigning any territory to anyone, not Jews nor anyone else. Mirror that against Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely’s claim that “this land is ours. All of it is ours. We did not come here to apologize for that” (because God gave it to us); and you will see that his notions are very relevant. And if that’s too much of a religious-national example, then what about the ‘leftist’, ‘secular’ former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who brags about having “liberated Judea and Samaria”?

Aye, Zionism isn’t really secular, as I’ve written in the past. As Israeli journalist Gideon Levy wrote more recently, “Zionism is Israel’s fundamentalist religion” .

I cannot say whether, if Spinoza would have been alive in our times, he would challenge Zionism as he did Judaism (as well as other religious notions). I believe that he would, because that’s where the logic of his arguments seems to point to. As he wrote:

“At the present time, there is nothing whatsoever that the Jews can arrogate to themselves above other nations.”

I would not only take this as relevant to our very times, but also add, as the Jewish British cabinet minister Edwin Montagu did in 1917, that there is no “Jewish nation” at all.

Spinoza opined that commandments of Torah, have no validity for latter-day Jews. The single most important thing that he saw as a crucial maxim is thus:

Love your fellow human beings and treat them with justice and charity.

That’s something we can hopefully all relate to. And it’s beginning to dawn upon many that Israel’s policies, even its very founding ideology, is fundamentally violating that principle, and it’s not getting any better with time. It’s not anti-Jewish to abide by that principle – it is arguably Jewish. It’s also arguably essentially Christian too. And one needs to have a reality check about that principle. If the Jewish State violates it, systematically and institutionally, then it may be the Jewish State that has it wrong.

And it really doesn’t matter which kind of a God you believe in, or whether you believe in one at all. Many people would be able to relate to this as ‘humanity’. These are the principles that stand at the core of modern enlightenment, at the core of the body of law especially since WW2, known as international law – which Israel regularly and systematically flouts.

Now, how many centuries will it take, before Jews who care mostly just about themselves, understand that fellow Jews who are empathetic and vigilant about human rights, may actually be the ones who carry the future, also for Jews?  In the meanwhile, those fellow will be banned. And not many Jews in the Jewish State will lift any kind of outcry. Because if ‘rabbi’ Gilad Erdan’s Ministry of Hasbara said they were the wrong kind of Jews, then it must be true.

About Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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107 Responses

  1. Citizen
    January 10, 2018, 5:08 pm

    Your conclusion means we should stand up for Ahed Tamimi, her family, her village, her people. They are on the right side of history. I have no doubt at all that Hillel The Elder, Jesus, Spinoza, Ghandi, MLK, for example, would agree. So would Buber & Einstein, Mother Theresa, and The Pope. I also agree that Zionism is fundamentalist Judaism, just as Hagee Evangelicalism is fundamentalist Christianity–both are true cults. Myself, I am agnostic by default and I think the bible is merely a human product.

    • Mooser
      January 10, 2018, 6:47 pm

      ” Myself, I am agnostic by default and I think the bible is merely a human product.”

      Maybe, but even agnostics must admit; it’s the greatest product ever sold.

      • Paranam Kid
        January 11, 2018, 12:35 am

        I would say the greatest con ever sold.

    • Talkback
      January 11, 2018, 10:06 am

      Ghandi in his own words:

      “I do believe that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence I would advise violence.”

      “He who cannot protect himself or his nearest and dearest or their honour by non-violently facing death may and ought to do so by violently dealing with the oppressor.”

      The cry for the national home for the Jews does not make much appeal to me.
      The sanction for it is sought in the Bible and the tenacity with which the Jews
      have hankered after return to Palestine.

      Why should they not, like other peoples of the earth, make that country their home where they are born and where they earn their livelihood? Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs. What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct. The mandates have no sanction but that of the last war. Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home. The nobler course would be to insist on a just treatment of the Jews wherever they are born and bred. The Jews born in France are French in precisely the same sense that Christians born in France are French.

      If the Jews have no home but Palestine, will they relish the idea of being forced to leave the other parts of the world in which they are settled? Or do they want a double home where they can remain at will? This cry for the national home affords a colorable justification for the German expulsion of
      the Jews. …

      And now a word to the Jews in Palestine. I have no doubt that they are going about it in the wrong way. The Palestine of the Biblical conception is not a geographical tract. It is in their hearts. But if they must look to the
      Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun. A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs. They should seek to convert the Arab heart.

      The same God rules the Arab heart who rules the Jewish heart… They will find the world opinion in their favor in their religious aspiration. There are hundreds of ways of reasoning with the Arabs, if they will only discard the help of the British bayonet. As it is, they are co-sharers with the British in despoiling a people who have done no wrong to them. I am not defending the Arab excesses. I wish they had chosen the way of non-violence in resisting what they rightly regarded as an unwarrantable encroachment upon their country. But according to the accepted canons of right and wrong, nothing can be said against the Arab resistance in the face of overwhelming odds.

      Let the Jews who claim to be the chosen race prove their title by choosing the way of non-violence for vindicating their position on earth.”

      Well, they miserably failed.

      • Paranam Kid
        January 12, 2018, 9:47 am

        @Talkback: I fully agree with you, you make valid points

    • Misterioso
      January 11, 2018, 10:43 am


      Video interview with Ahad Tamimi

      “Empire Files: Abby Martin Meets Ahed Tamimi—Message From A Freedom Fighter”

      “Recently, the struggle for Palestinian human rights gained international attention surrounding a new icon of resistance–16 year old Ahed Tamimi.

      “While in the West Bank in late 2016, Abby Martin interviewed Ahed Tamimi about her hardships and aspirations living under occupation and it becomes clear why her subjugators are trying to silence her voice. Her brother Waad and father Bassem also talk about their experiences with Israeli soldiers harassing their village and targeting their family.

      “In this exclusive episode, Abby outlines the Tamimi family’s tragic tale and unending bravery in the fight for justice and equality in Palestine and how the story of their village of Nabi Saleh is emblematic of the Palestinian struggle as a whole.”

      • Paranam Kid
        January 12, 2018, 12:19 pm

        This kid already had a lot of mental strength at the end of 2016 when Abby Martin visited her. That strength increased, as she showed when she took on the soldier/trespasser. In prison, she will become like a lioness, and may well take on a leadership role in the Palestinian struggle.
        AHED TAMIMI FOR PRESIDENT, YEAHHHHH !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • eljay
        January 12, 2018, 12:34 pm

        || Paranam Kid: … In prison, she will become like a lioness, and may well take on a leadership role in the Palestinian struggle. … ||

        All the more reason to fear for her life. If there’s one thing Zionists are likely to despise even more than “militant” Palestinians – who are easy to portray as dangerous to Israel Jews – it’s a young, female Palestinian Gandhi.

      • catalan
        January 12, 2018, 1:25 pm

        “prison, she will become like a lioness, and may well take on a leadership role in the Palestinian struggle. ”
        Your are gonna have to take that up with Annie. She says that Ahed will be released “relatively shortly”, due to the international pressure. So I guess no prison=no lioness. As a side, I would much rather be a lamb outside of prison than a lion in prison. You should watch Orange is the new black, prison is not all that glamorous.

      • Talkback
        January 12, 2018, 2:32 pm

        Paranam Kid : “@Talkback: I fully agree with you, you make valid points”

        Me? That was Ghandi. Every single word. I only wrote the last sentence “Well, they miserably failed.”.

      • Paranam Kid
        January 13, 2018, 7:21 am

        @catalan: does Annie have inside info? Does she know something we don’t, or is she just giving in to wishful thinking?
        As far as Israel’s presumed actions are concerned, I personally only believe what I see.

        As for your “I would much rather be a lamb outside of prison than a lion in prison.”, you may not have noticed it but neither Ahed, nor any Palestinian arrested by the occupying killing machine has any choice in the matter. So, if Ahed is released soon, so much the better for her. In any case she will have learned a lot from this experience, whether she stays in prison or not, and she will have become harder & better prepared to deal with the bloodthirsty Zionists.

      • Annie Robbins
        January 14, 2018, 12:35 am

        hi panama kid. context is everything, i can’t recall the original conversation but i think it was in response to initially some politician saying she should spend the rest of her life in jail. and then someone (i can’t recall, maybe catalan) said she would be in for decades. and then i said i didn’t think that would be the case. and while i can’t recall what term or phrase i originally used, catalan, in another thread, mockingly me, said “why worry” and then falsely quoted me (catalan loves putting words in my mouth) to which responded that i did think it would be relatively shortly and not decades. and now he’s turned into “quick” and “easy” (attributed to me of course, why not!). which i did not ever say. and finally i used the term “shortly” (i have checked my archives) after he extracted it out of me in another of the bs fishing expeditions as he did here. basically, catalan twists my words all the time. take everything he says w/pound of salt (he lies). shortly, in the context of decades, is still a very long time. and i would never ever reference a prison term as easy or quick.

        i have no inside information. but if israel gives her a long prison sentence (several years) there will be hell to pay. that’s my opinion and i do not think they will do it. ie; if she gets more time than the murdering medic… there will be hell to pay. that’s just my opinion.

      • Paranam Kid
        January 14, 2018, 8:32 am

        @Annie: thanks for replying to me Annie, 1st time you do ;-)
        Judging by what I have seen of some of your comments elsewhere I admit I was a bit surprised by catalan’s statement. Your explanation makes it perfectly clear.
        The world’s focus is/was on Ahed so there could be a chance she’ll get out before long. But 3 weeks after her incarceration nothing has happened yet, so my feeling is Israel will keep her in as long as possible hoping the world will lose its focus so the issue goes away.

    • pabelmont
      January 11, 2018, 10:52 am

      Bible is a very human product, including its contradictions:

      “‘If a man marries his brother’s wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonored his brother. They will be childless.” Leviticus 20:20

      “If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her.” Deuteronomy 25:5

      Some people read these two verses as contradictory. Who am I to say them nay? And what do the “fundamentalists” say about them, resolve them? Some Christians after all say the Bible is absolute truth w/o error. Maybe some Jews say the same thing. I wouldn’t know.

      Henry VIII, once a king of England, seemed to make a preferences between these. Ain’t religion wunnerful?

      • RoHa
        January 11, 2018, 5:53 pm

        We should follow Henry’s lead on this. English monarchs outrank God.

      • Yitzchak Goodman
        January 14, 2018, 2:26 pm

        In halachah yibum–Levirite marriage–is just seen as an exception to the prohibition of a brother’s wife. The circumstances are specific. The original husband has to die without children.

      • Mooser
        January 14, 2018, 5:31 pm

        “The original husband has to die without children.

        Unless a woman, perhaps a widow, tells him: “Well, you needn’t, ask me now, or round midnite”.

  2. JWalters
    January 10, 2018, 6:42 pm

    This is a great article! The parallels between Spinoza’s and Vilkomerson’s treatments are very illuminating. The persistence of this pattern over history is illuminating. Powerful points and voices are assembled in a compelling case for humanity. The irrationality and parochialism of Judaism’s strand of supremacism stand out in the historical perspective. I don’t see how any reasonably rational American Jew could read this and not see clearly the fatal flaw in Zionism.

    Nathan Rothschild recently declared “the return of Israel to its ancestral homeland” to be a “sacred goal”. Many Palestinian people have been sacrificed by the Zionists in pursuit of this “sacred goal”. Some Zionists may even believe shooting a Palestinian is a legitimate sacrifice to God. But those beliefs carry no weight in a modern system of Justice, which ignores ethnic differences. This Zionist project is taking the human race backward toward a more barbaric time.

  3. yonah fredman
    January 10, 2018, 7:08 pm

    Chaim weizman’s “wrong kind of jew” has been taken out of context by jonathan ofir(yet again). the british politician said, “all the jews I know are opposed to zionism” and this was true. the jews he knew were all upper class assimilating british jews who were uninterested in the long shot of zionism (which zionism certainly was until the balfour declaration). these jews had no interest in a long shot that was not designed with them in mind, but was designed for the teeming millions in eastern europe. these “upper class” british jews were interested in assimilating, in asserting that they were brits of the mosaic persuasion and waiting for british society to accept them fully as british (which was still a struggle early in the 20th century and even later). the Jewish middle class and working class and eastern european types (those still in eastern europe and those who recently immigrated from eastern europe to britain) had little to no interest in assimilation or alternatively had tasted the pogroms that put a lie to the ideal of assimilation, these were the millions that were supporting zionism. the british politician was polling an unrepresentative group. this was what weizman meant by the wrong jews. (like the person who says, I don’t know how reagan won, not of my friends voted for him. well, you know the wrong people. wrong meaning, unrepresentative of the majority. your polling is off, not representative of the american people as a whole. the brit politician’s polling was not representative of the Jewish people as a whole.)
    in a different context in 2018 if someone calls a jew the wrong kind of a jew it is condemnation, but reading weizman’s statement in such a fashion is anachronistic and misleading.

    • Marnie
      January 11, 2018, 12:32 am

    • Paranam Kid
      January 11, 2018, 2:04 am

      From the start of the racist Zionist project the organisers & now the rulers of the racist Zionist state have had difficulty getting enough Jews interested in their project. So, in order to get Jews to Palestine they coerced North African Jews, they organised false flag Arab bombings of synagogues & other Jewish places in Iraq, and, after WW2, they organised the kidnapping of Jewish orphans from Europe who had found foster parents in Britain in order to resettle them in Palestine without the slightest consideration of inflicting a 3rd trauma (1. WW2, 2. losing their parents, 3. losing their new parents) on these poor souls. This all described in the book Stae of Terror by Thomas Suárez.

      And the reason not enough Jews were & are interested is precisely because they prefer to stay in their country of origin rather than go to a racist “country” with a suffocating atmosphere. And many of those that do go to Israel want to get out, which is why there are now 1 million Israeli expat Jews living in the US, among other countries.

      • Bumblebye
        January 11, 2018, 10:14 am

        One story:

        Young woman, widowed, pregnant, two small children, friendless, no help, no resources (fairly substantial but lost to the nazis), post war London. No welfare state. Turned to prostitution in an effort to keep a roof over their heads. Arrested. Older children taken into care. Youngest, once born, was adopted. Mother was put in an asylum. She remained there the rest of her life, dying not long after youngest child traced and met her. Missing older sister was also traceable, but no sign of what became of brother. Daughter of youngest child would be interested in knowing if there is/are any organisations who try to find relatives who may have been kidnapped to israel.

    • traintosiberia
      January 13, 2018, 10:35 am

      Chaim weizman’s “wrong kind of jew” was pretty evident to himself – any Jew who did not subscribe to his view of migrating and taking residence in Palestine by force .

      • echinococcus
        January 13, 2018, 11:11 am


        Chaim weizman’s “wrong kind of jew” was pretty evident to himself – any Jew who did not subscribe to his view of migrating and taking residence in Palestine by force…

        … on behalf of Herr Weizmann, who wouldn’t himself be painted dead anywhere in Palestine.
        Too different from Vienna. Same for today’s top Zionist BoD: too different from Scarsdale or Malibu.

  4. yonah fredman
    January 10, 2018, 7:19 pm

    (I contend that) spinoza’s excommunication was undertaken because of the vulnerability of the jewish community in the netherlands. they did not want their own place in society endangered by a heretical jew, whose philosophy was inevitably going to cut christianity to ribbons. the only way to protect themselves against this vulnerability was to be cruel to free thinkers. tolerance might have meant wholesale persecution. better to excommunicate the free thinkers.

    • Paranam Kid
      January 11, 2018, 12:39 am

      Utter, complete nonsense: the Jewish community in the Netherlands was not vulnerable at all, it was a solid integral part of society, which is why Spinoza and many other Portuguese & Spanish Jews fled there, it is why they were allowed to build their Portuguese-Spanish synagogue, which is now the oldest in the Netherlands.
      And, like Jonathan points out, at the time of his excommunication Spinoza had not even started writing & publishing yet.

      • echinococcus
        January 11, 2018, 10:48 am

        That’s because “Utter, complete nonsense” is the sum total of all Zeducation all kids of Zionists had to grow with.

      • MHughes976
        January 11, 2018, 2:03 pm

        Yonah has a point, I think. The Jews of Amsterdam were rich and powerful but would not have welcomed a scandal enabling Christians to call them a bunch of atheists.

      • echinococcus
        January 11, 2018, 5:44 pm


        If you think the excommunication was because of atheism, that’s extremely improbable in any Jewish community. Such virulent reactions to atheism are usual in Christian and Muslim communities. Much more probable is a crime of universalism, i.e. revolt against tribal unity.

      • Paranam Kid
        January 12, 2018, 9:44 am

        @echinococcus: sorry, don’t understand what you are on about with your Zeducation. All I can guess is that you perhaps try to sarcastically tell me that “utter complete nonsense” is a tautology. If that is your objective then all I can say is, yes, it is meant that way.

      • MHughes976
        January 12, 2018, 12:56 pm

        There certainly was a lot of Christian hostility to Spinoza and some other people who took views similar to his suffered worse than censure and excommunication. I don’t think that it’s absurd to see the Jewish community as concerned for its reputation. Nor of course to see it as simply scandalised both by S’s ideas and by his imperturbable nature, which would probably have been found maddening by religious leaders used to being able to shame their followers and not used to people who answered back. That’s not a monopoly Jewish characteristic, of course.
        The 1650s and 1660s were also the time of the very delicate matter of the return of openly practised Jewish worship to England, where again scandal would have been a problem. Fortunately Charles II was friendly with Hobbes, in some (some) ways the Anglican Spinoza. And he liked people who might lend him money and thus begin the transformation of his offshore island into a world power.

  5. RoHa
    January 10, 2018, 8:23 pm

    Thank you for calling him “Benedict”. That was the name he chose, the name he published under,
    the name he was known by in his time, and the name he he was known by throughout most of modern history. It is only in very recent years that people have started calling him “Baruch”.As far as I can tell, he never used “Baruch” outside the synagogue.

    Nor (again, as far as I can tell) has he changed his views since 1677. (If he has, perhaps he could send us a note.) He did not, as you point out, atone. But he is now famous and admired, so people like Prof Klausner want to reclaim him as a Jew and bask in reflected glory. Such people are contemptible.

    “Therefore at the present time there is nothing whatsoever that the Jews can arrogate to themselves above other nations. ”

    I’ll continue that quotation a bit.

    “As to their continued existence for so many years when scattered and stateless, this is in no way surprising, since they have separated themselves from other nations to such a degree as to incur the hatred of all, and this not only through external rites alien to the rites of other nations but also through the mark of circumcision, which they most religiously observe. That they are preserved largely through the hatred of other nations is demonstrated by historical fact.”

    Yonah has a attack of the vapours whenever I say anything like that.

    But even in Spinoza’s time, Jews were hardly a nation in any modern sense.

    • DaBakr
      January 12, 2018, 3:11 pm

      Because they kept themselves together as a nation as much as they could once ousted from their state by keeping their rites and traditions-which were alien to the nation’s they had course to flee to(or through) hardly makes them a nation. That is the gist of your presentation afaict. That is some bodaciously clever thinking going on down at the jew-hate factory massa roha

      • Mooser
        January 12, 2018, 3:40 pm

        Shorter “Dabakr”: ‘You don’t get to racialize Jews with negative characteristics! No, only we get to racialize Jews with positive stereotypes!’

        It doesn’t work that way, “Dabakr”.

      • RoHa
        January 12, 2018, 6:11 pm

        I have, in previous comments, explained in detail why Jews do not count as a p-nation or an n-nation. I do, however, think they can qualify as a c-nation.

      • Mooser
        January 12, 2018, 8:52 pm

        “I do, however, think they can qualify as a c-nation.”

        Based on a state-by-state study of vehicle registrations, researchers concluded the Jews are not a red car nation.

      • echinococcus
        January 13, 2018, 9:20 am


        I am a bit confused by the alphabet. Is a c-nation what we in the US call an S-corporation or is it like a C-corporation with sole proprietorship? Will a c-nation pay less tax than a p-nation?

      • RoHa
        January 13, 2018, 9:42 pm

        Echi, go to my profile and put “c-nation” in the search box. Then read all comments that include the term. All your doubts will be dispelled, your questions answered, your attachments to samsara dissolved, and you will gain enlightenment.

      • echinococcus
        January 14, 2018, 6:00 am

        Thank you, RoHa.

        Masterful dissection, as always.
        Allow me to submit a couple side remarks.
        You’re ignoring the need for words that deny wiggle room to the ill-willed.
        A c-nation as you defined it is a private club. A private club should not be called a nation (nowhere in Α tο Ω), as the two concepts have little in common. Besides, being judokas or chess players is very much less arbitrary and objectively better defined than selecting a “Jewish” club membership that does not require any skills or particular activity.

        A p-nation, i.e. a state, is sometimes called a nation in the general consensus but that is extremely misleading, too. The most elaborate and multiethnic of political states are not called so even by those who call “nation” today’s state units. No “Roman, Ottoman, Holy Roman, Austro-Hungarian… nation”.

        We’re left, in the way of unqualified nations, with the nationalists’ nations. Which do not necessarily involve language unity in addition to territory, see the Swiss. Or the Finns, equally multilinguonational, who if I’m not mistaken you had selected as typical examples for n-nation.

        So with the “Jewish c-nation” we have a set where there is no common religion (most being irreligious), no common ancestry/Blut, no common territory/Boden, no common culture (at all, zilch) that wants to call itself nation. No matter how good your analysis, which is good, and no matter the alphabet labels, it still is a rape of language.

      • Mooser
        January 14, 2018, 12:32 pm

        “Then read all comments that include the term. All your doubts will be dispelled, your questions answered, your attachments to samsara dissolved, and you will gain enlightenment.”

        And transcend dental medication.

  6. RoHa
    January 10, 2018, 8:30 pm

    Montagu was not the only dissenter. We should not forget the first native-born Governor General of Australia (1931 – 36), Sir Isaac Isaacs.

    Sir Isaac’s main points were

    “Summarising my objections…the demands of Political Zionism are:-
    7. A negation of Democracy, and an attempt to revert to the Church-State of bygone ages.
    8. Provocative anti-Semitism.
    9. Unwarranted by the Balfour Declaration, the Mandate, or any other right; contrary to Zionist assurances to Britain and to the Arabs’ and in present conditions unjust to other Palestinians politically and to other religions.
    10. As regards unrestricted immigration, a discriminatory and an undemocratic camouflage for a Jewish State.
    11. An obstruction to the consent of the Arabs to the peaceful and prosperous settlement in Palestine of hundreds of thousands of suffering European Jews, the victims of Nazi atrocities; and provocative of Moslem antagonism within and beyond the Empire, and consequently a danger to its integrity and safety.
    12. Inconsistent in demanding on one hand, on a basis of a separate Jewish nationality everywhere Jews are found, Jewish domination in Palestine, and at the same time claiming complete Jewish equality elsewhere than in Palestine, on the basis of a nationality common to the citizens of every faith.”” rel=”nofollow”>

    It is rather depressing to see that both Montagu and Sir Isaac present the same sort of objections as those which we post on MW.

    Though their versions are more elegantly expressed, and in better English.

    • pabelmont
      January 11, 2018, 11:09 am

      Well, if Montagu and Isaacs were non-Zionists (or anti-Zionists) in their times because they were comfortably well off and lived without fear in their country, perhaps it is the same with me and other Jews in the USA: we are on the whole comfortable, unthreatened, not worried in any practical way by whatever anti-semitism may be around , etc. If it were otherwise, we might (many of us) be Zionists. But the facts seem to militate against this.

      It is rather otherwise — we must wonder why so many American and European Jews who have no desire or intention of moving to Israel are nevertheless Zionists. Social pressure has created a cult. Money in the hands of leaders of the cult make it prosper.

      Glad to have JVP out there and “out” there.

  7. Marnie
    January 11, 2018, 12:43 am

    “Now, how many centuries will it take, before Jews who care mostly just about themselves, understand that fellow Jews who are empathetic and vigilant about human rights, may actually be the ones who carry the future, also for Jews?”

    It seems the ‘jewish state’ is hell bent on destruction of any and all perceived threats and will kill themselves along with anyone in their path before they acknowledge the obvious wrongs they have committed (with others colluding of course, they couldn’t quite get it done on their own) and do the right thing. I can’t see that happening, ever. I hope I’m wrong. The majority of israeli jews are self-destructive and hateful, and never fail to miss an opportunity to do what is right out of fear of being a sucker.

    • Paranam Kid
      January 11, 2018, 1:52 am

      Well said.

    • LHunter
      January 11, 2018, 9:46 pm


      You may be right about the self destructive nature of a majority of Israeli jews (I sincerely hope you are not as you are). Given these tendancies and the nuclear arsenal Israel has at its disposal, ridding Israel of Zionism may be an apocalyptic endeavour.

      I’m betting there’s more bark than bite from the Zionists and enough money to go around to placate the ones that have their finger on the button. Having said that, a rogue nation with nukes is a global threat and one that won’t cave easily.

      • Marnie
        January 12, 2018, 12:00 am

        I hope not too.

      • DaBakr
        January 12, 2018, 3:21 pm


        you suspect “more bark then bite”? Really? Based on the past 70 yrs I suppose. But you are partly correct. Large numbers of the Israeli left are living in a bubble from the past. It might well be true that is their bark that’s worse then their bite. And I hope so too

      • Talkback
        January 13, 2018, 4:50 am

        DaBakr: “Large numbers of the Israeli left are living in a bubble from the past. ”

        Yes, the fail to realize that they have never been “left”, but only a left wing in Israel’s right extremist supremacist settler colonialism.

    • DaBakr
      January 12, 2018, 3:18 pm

      We’re your statement applied to any other ethnicity, nation or religion you would have been hounded to hell (by your co-collaboraters in your human rights project for some, not all)until your opinion was just a bubble in the tides. Islamaphobe? Racist, bigot, prejudiced and intolerant. But it’s ok because your safe. Your none of those things . But we hear you.

      • RoHa
        January 12, 2018, 6:13 pm

        But is Marnie wrong?

      • Marnie
        January 14, 2018, 12:28 am

        You don’t hear anything DaBakr. Your ears are filled with ziowax that doesn’t allow criticism to penetrate. Your mind is full of voices that scream poor me, why me, why us, what’d we ever do to anybody, why can’t we do the things saudi arabia does? Why are we always compared to nazis (who we welcome at Ben Gurion, but turn away jews who see palestinians as human beings, why oh why are we so horribly persecuted when we’ve done nothing but ‘return’ to our ancestral homeland? Shema israel – you’re fucking horrible and we’ve heard everything but an apology and seen everything but the end of the occupation. We hear you because we listen and we see what you do and aren’t about to pretend that because of the horrors of the 20th century visited upon european jews, that israel has any right to exist at the expense of anyone, especially the native people of palestine. Instead of demanding the rest of the world see israel as the David of legend, best start reconciling yourself to being Goliath. Sucks don’t it?

  8. Paranam Kid
    January 11, 2018, 12:44 am

    Jonathan, an excellent essay. the only small addition I would make is this:

    “Zionism is Israel’s fundamentalist religion” should really read Zionism is Israel’s fundamentalist, racist “religion”.

    • Jonathan Ofir
      January 11, 2018, 1:55 am

      Thanks Paranam Kid, but I’m quoting Levy there, so it’s gotta be like he said, and it is…here’s the prime source

      I’m sure Levy wouldn’t have serious objection to such modifications. He tends to go raw and ironic. I get it, and I like it.

      I get the notion of putting double quotes on “religion”, to distinguish it from “true religion” as it were. But this actually brings us back to Spinoza, and to that axiom mentioned, which for him sums up what “true piety” actually means. Sadly, it doesn’t reflect what so many humans have otherwise made of “religion”.
      Personally, I think religion is what humans make it, and I am not very ‘religious’ about it. What I do care more about, as Spinoza does, is what reality we cause each other to live in, here and now, as fellow human beings.

  9. mjhw
    January 11, 2018, 7:20 am

    This was a great article until it included “Jews who care mostly just about themselves.” When I attend the meetings of the New England Network for Justice for Palestine, the majority of people around the table are Jews. Yes, there are Jews who only care about Jews. But that’s true not because they are Jews, but because they’re the individuals they are. Yes, some Jewish authority figures and institutions encourage this, but then, there’s John Hagee for the “Christians.” Person by person, “by their fruits ye shall know them.”

  10. pabelmont
    January 11, 2018, 11:18 am

    Is Zionism (especially as observed in Jews outside Israel) a “religion”? A cult? An addiction? Within Israel it seems a plan for a power-grab by non-religious Jewish people unhappy living in Poland (and some other places) a long time ago which — having been put into effect as politics-in-action has since then become a sort of “hot potato” which cannot be dropt no matter how bad it gets and which attracts fanatics (as violent supremacism cults sometimes do) which fanatics make the “hot potato” even hotter.

    The Jewish-Zionists living, say, in the USA, must somehow contrive not to see how horrible the “hot potato” has become because they want — cultlike — to hold on to their belief and their loyalty, etc.

  11. echinococcus
    January 11, 2018, 11:22 am

    Vilkommerson is wrong again:

    now, contrary to any democratic norm, there’s to be a political litmus test for entering the country.

    1. Democracies are not characterized by being open to all people independently of political beliefs or affiliation. As an example, the US is undemocratic not because it bars organized Communists from entering it. Similarly, the Zionist entity is undemocratic, and how, for a host of other reasons, but not because it has political criteria for letting anyone enter its non-existing borders.

    2. What this exclusion does to the Z. entity is something else: the Zionist entity loses its right to call itself “the Jewish state” the very moment it refuses to grace with its fake “citizenship” any person who responds to the published criteria defining “Jewish” according to the Zionist entity. If Chomsky or Finkelstein or Vilkommerson had held “Israel” citizenship (I believe Chomsky has done so) then barring them from entering its borders or “borders” disqualifies the Zionist entity from ever calling itself “Jewish state”.

    If Vilkommerson held “Israel” citizenship the Zionist entity would be obliged, if it wants to call itself “Jewish state”, to let her in (and then, being her owner, arrest her or do to her as it pleases.)

    3. Why would Vilkommerson insist on a right to be complicit in crimes against humanity and war crimes by, as I understand she wants to, entering pre-67 occupied Palestine with the purpose of visiting relatives etc. among the Master-Race occupiers? Such trips are still as illegal as residential immigration of unauthorized persons on a racial basis.

    • MHughes976
      January 11, 2018, 1:37 pm

      I agree with echino against RV.. One of my problems with boycotts is that some people may support them with enthusiasm but without having to pay much personal cost and thus may be demanding of others sacrifices that they do not have to make themselves. But it may still be true that a boycott is the right thing in some circumstances. If it is then we each have to face up to what the personal costs may be. We may decide that the costs are personally unbearable in which case I think that we have to draw back from the boycott movement or at least from any prominent position within it. I’m a bit surprised that people whose BDS commitment is the ostensible cause of Israel’s ire against them should think fit to exempt their own family visits snd should not have inflicted ‘the pain of exclusion ’ upon theselves. Campaigns with this sort of toxic mixture of politics and religion have always the sort of thing that divides father against son, as Jesus noted.

      • echinococcus
        January 11, 2018, 2:08 pm

        Thank you, Hughes, for your wording that is always as much in good style as it is effective.
        I was reluctant to observe that boycott starts with personal travel.

        One thing, though: this is not a “toxic mixture of politics and religion”; in fact, religion does not even marginally enter into it. The poison in the cocktail is tribal identity politics.

      • Donald Johnson
        January 11, 2018, 5:41 pm

        I don’t agree with this at all. The idea of a boycott is not to demonstrate personal moral rectitude and willingness to suffer, but to impose pressure on Israel. Refusing to see your own family members is an odd way to put pressure on a government.

      • echinococcus
        January 11, 2018, 6:41 pm


        Fraternizing with the enemy, bringing it your dollars and breaking the necessary isolation is the best way to conduct a struggle, then?

      • Donald Johnson
        January 12, 2018, 7:02 am

        Visiting your family is not fraternizing with the enemy. I would not go to Israel as a tourist but if I had family there I would visit them.

        Also, the idea that everyone in Israel is an “ enemy” is not the message the BDS movement is trying to convey, afaik. When people boycott companies or states or governments, they usually don’t cut all ties with people who live in those places or work for those companies until the goal is achieved.

      • echinococcus
        January 12, 2018, 10:57 am


        1. There is officially a war going on, a boom-boom war, not a “War of Ideas” as the old slogan went. That one side is a bunch of disarmed civilians does not change the fact, it makes it much worse.

        2. The visited “loved ones”, as the idiom says, are not just innocent civilians; they are complicit in the crime against humanity of colonization and expulsion –at least. A majority have invaded against all law, after the Zionist entity militarily attacked and expelled the owners of the territory and they immigrated as knowing accessories to the crime of apartheid, too –at the very least, given that an overwhelming majority seem to be reserve soldiers.

        3. Even without those elements, in any war the citizens of your enemy are the enemy except in cases where it can be proved that they are fighting their government. Even Dr. Schweitzer was interned by the French as a German citizen –and he saw it as entirely natural.

        4. Considering boycott and assorted measures, a serious economic impact is out of the question –the US taxpayer is on tap. Considering the >90% rate of ideological commitment on the part of the Herrenvolk population according to all polls, the only thing with the boycott that is likely to harm the Zionists is to make the private citizen understand that he is a pariah in the eyes of civilized populations. The really effective parts of the boycott are the academic boycott, the sports boycott and, most importantly, the shunning of private citizens! Only when Zohn Q Zublic realizes that he is utterly rejected by the “Western World”he’s so proud of protecting from the Big Bad Arabs will there be any effect of the boycott.

        5. My main objection to working with declaredly tribal organizations (in the case of JVP, even if it were not an enemy of committed anti-Zionists, even if it were itself clearly committed against Zionism, which it is not) is that their members have a multitude of affective involvements and entanglements in the enemy camp –their so-called loved ones. Again, we are in a very real war that has already claimed tens of thousands of lives. The movement to support Palestinian resistance cannot afford such a ball and chain.

        4. Any travel as a private tourist to the Zionist entity, which is not concerted or on behalf of Palestinians not working for the enemy, is a serious breach of any kind of the most elementary boycott.

        If you want to join the resistance and be taken seriously, the very least you can do is, as Hughes so well says it, to pay the price. This means cutting all ties with Zionists, at the very least the Zionist entity Master-Race citizens. Anything else cannot be but some Liberal-Zionist “BDS” in order to hang on to some part of the illegitimate loot in Palestine, like the “boycott” limited to the post-1967 occupation practiced by bona fide Zionists.

      • MHughes976
        January 12, 2018, 3:42 pm

        Perhaps we all find ourselves in situations where there is something we ought to do but the cost is more than we can bear. I hope I didn’t sound too self-righteous. However, a boycott is an infliction of loss, even suffering, on its targets and is therefore a breach of fraternity wherever fraternity had previously existed. If the boycott does not inflict much physical loss then the psychological loss becomes more important. If moral law requires that this loss be inflicted by me then I mustn’t flinch from the idea that it may have, as part of the very same thing, to be inflicted on me. I think that it is very important to make clear, when you’re acting on a moral principle, that that is what you are doing – and your readiness to lose something important to you is a very important token of your sincerity. Israelis, if justifiably boycotted, may not be our enemies but we can’t conceal that we are at variance with them. If the point is to put pressure on the Israeli Government by means of a boycott then that pressure remains and is no less if we maintain it despite family links. If we give it up because of family links we weaken the pressure we were supppsed to apply.

      • Mooser
        January 12, 2018, 3:48 pm

        When I was young, I was terrified of being sent to Israel (we had relatives…). My parents used to use it as a threat: “We’ll send you to Israel, to work on a kibbutz all summer”.

      • RoHa
        January 12, 2018, 6:21 pm

        A kibbutz? Work, shorts, and folk dancing! The blood runs cold at the mere thought of it.

      • Mooser
        January 12, 2018, 9:01 pm

        ” The blood runs cold at the mere thought of it.”

        It may seem cruel, yes, but I was an obstinate youngster and the threat of Israel brought instant, trembling obedience, with no back-talk! It’s no wonder my parents resorted to it. Used to have nightmares about it.

        But here’s an interesting blog post: “IN WHICH DEMOGRAPHIC HAS TRUMP BEST HELD HIS SUPPORT?”

  12. NorthCascadian
    January 11, 2018, 12:48 pm

    A definite markers of cults is a strong barrier to outside people and a harsh “shunning” of members that fall out of line. Herems issued by Rabbis are a classic example of this. Benedict Spinoza therefore is an excellent subject worth talking about. My analysis of why he was shunned so early was his close connection to other Dutch non-Jewish free thinkers and that he likely began to tell them about Jewish “teachings” that are forbidden to be told to non-Jews.

    “If a non-Jew studies the Talmud, he is subject to the death penalty.” Moses Maimonides, Mishneh Torah: Yad Hachzakah 10:9.

    “He was later attacked on the steps of a theatre by a knife-wielding assailant shouting “Heretic!” He was apparently quite shaken by this attack and for years kept (and wore) his torn cloak, unmended, as a souvenir” wikipedia

    Spinoza solved the problem by becoming an ex-Jew and renaming himself “Benedict” a distinctly non-Jewish name. Spinoza no longer wanted to associate himself with a religion that attacked him, that seems like a reasonable approach.

    • echinococcus
      January 11, 2018, 2:12 pm

      “Benedict” is not a renaming but a translation. Standard for any European writing in Latin in the 17th Century, as he did; it is in itself neutral, without any hint of rejection or adoption of anything, except good current Latin usage. Besides, he already had his original Portuguese name, Benedito.

    • Mooser
      January 11, 2018, 7:42 pm

      “If a non-Jew studies the Talmud, he is subject to the death penalty.” Moses Maimonides, Mishneh Torah: Yad Hachzakah 10:9″

      Okay, that’s a little harsh, but I would think it at least justifies a 72-hour hold and psych exam.

    • jon s
      January 13, 2018, 4:52 pm

      North Cascadian, Just to prevent any misunderstanding:In Jewish law there is no death penalty for non-Jews studying the Talmud.

      • Mooser
        January 14, 2018, 12:40 pm

        , “Just to prevent any misunderstanding:In Jewish law there is no death penalty for non-Jews studying the Talmud.” “Jon s”

        Oh, there’s no ‘death penalty’, the mandatory minimum sentences and heavy fines do the job well enough.
        We simply do not have the power to impose a death sentence, yet.

        The law is there: Moses Maimonides, Mishneh Torah: Yad Hachzakah 10:9″! And someday soon we will have the power to enforce it!

      • amigo
        January 14, 2018, 2:33 pm

        “Just to prevent any misunderstanding” Jon S

        Folks , just to prevent a misunderstanding , Jon S is an illegal squatter on stolen land.He claims he is living in his historic homeland.

        We wouldn,t want people to misunderstand , would we Jon S.

        Btw , the Knesset is working on the death penalty.First for so called terrorists and then for non Jews studying the Talmud (spies) .

        Israel likes to achieve some of it,s goals slowly , ie the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and introducing controversial (outside the rogue entity)laws such as the death penalty.

      • Annie Robbins
        January 14, 2018, 3:03 pm

        Btw , the Knesset is working on the death penalty.First for so called terrorists and then for non Jews studying the Talmud (spies) .

        amigo, not sure how helpful it is to co-join very real legislation with this other draconian thang.

      • amigo
        January 14, 2018, 3:23 pm

        “amigo, not sure how helpful it is to co-join very real legislation with this other draconian thang.” Annie

        Your right , I should have written !!, “Btw , the Knesset is working on the death penalty.First for so called terrorists and then, WHO KNOWS , for non Jews studying the Talmud (spies) .”

        Btw , the law is still in the Talmud and as zios , Jon S for example –squawk about the Hamas Charter not being revised , (we know otherwise ) shouldn,t the Talmud undergo revision.

        Happy new Year.

      • Annie Robbins
        January 14, 2018, 3:24 pm

        yes, much better! happy new year to you to amigo. ;)

      • jon s
        January 14, 2018, 4:10 pm

        North Cascadian produced a quote purporting to show that non-Jews studying the Talmud are subject to the death penalty, he didn’t say that there’s such a “law in the Talmud”. You ought to improve your comprehension skills. There really is no such “law in the Talmud”.
        As to myself :
        I’m not an illegal squatter, I don’t live on stolen land, I am living in my people’s historic homeland, and I am aware of the revised Hamas charter (I think that I even referred to the revision in a comment a while back).

      • Mooser
        January 14, 2018, 5:45 pm

        “Folks , just to prevent a misunderstanding , Jon S is an illegal squatter on stolen land.He claims he is living in his historic homeland.”

        But just in case he is mistaken about that whole Heimat thing., “Jon s” keeps a US passport and citizenship in his phylacteries, ready for instant use.

        Good lord, I wonder how real Israelis feel about people like “Jon s”. Come to Israel to take advantage of the occupation, but equipped to bug right out if it blows up in their faces. Absolutely no motivation to solve any of the problems, the way it is now advantages them!

      • eljay
        January 14, 2018, 6:10 pm

        || jon s: … I don’t live on stolen land … ||

        You live in a town located outside of Israel’s / Partition borders that was acquired by military force and colonized by Israel.

        || … I am living in my people’s historic homeland … ||

        Geographic Palestine is not the “historic homeland” of every person in the world who chooses to embrace the religion-based identity of Jewish.

      • Mooser
        January 14, 2018, 6:12 pm

        “There really is no such “law in the Talmud”.

        “Jon s”, we understand why you have to say that. Hasbara.

        Since our religion and nationality are so closely co-joined, our real theology, our real religious precepts, are an Israeli state secret.

      • Talkback
        January 14, 2018, 6:34 pm

        jon s: “North Cascadian produced a quote purporting to show that non-Jews studying the Talmud are subject to the death penalty, he didn’t say that there’s such a “law in the Talmud”. You ought to improve your comprehension skills. There really is no such “law in the Talmud”.”

        Ok. That’s enough.

        “Mesora: Based on Talmud Sanhedrin 59a (top of page) and Maimonides’ Laws of Kings (Chap. 10, Law 9) a Gentile may not learn Torah except for his 7 Noachide laws, punishable by death. … It should be understood why the punishment is so severe, if a gentile learns Torah other than what applies to his seven Noachide Laws. By doing so, the Gentile then blurs the lines of who is a “Torah Authority”, and this done en masse, will destroy Torah, as other Gentiles not fit to teach, will proliferate ignorant rulings. Only by the Rabbi/student system discussed in the JewishTimes these past two week, is the Torah insured from falling into the hands of those without proper training. ”

        “And Rabbi Yoḥanan says: A gentile who engages in Torah study is liable to receive the death penalty; as it is stated: “Moses commanded us a law [torah], an inheritance of the congregation of Jacob” (Deuteronomy 33:4), indicating that it is an inheritance for us, and not for them.

        The Gemara challenges: But if so, let the tanna count this prohibition among the seven Noahide mitzvot. The Gemara explains: According to the one who says that the verse is referring to the Torah as an inheritance, this prohibition is included in the prohibition of robbery, as a gentile who studies Torah robs the Jewish people of it. According to the one who says that the verse is referring to the Torah as betrothed, as the spelling of the Hebrew word for betrothed [me’orasa], is similar to that of the word for inheritance [morasha], the punishment of a gentile who studies Torah is like that of one who engages in intercourse with a betrothed young woman, which is execution by stoning. ”

      • Annie Robbins
        January 14, 2018, 8:46 pm

        cults. phew!

      • amigo
        January 14, 2018, 9:16 pm

        ““Just to prevent any misunderstanding:In Jewish law there is no death penalty for non-Jews studying the Talmud.” “Jon s”

        I think some other folks dealt with that issue.

        “You ought to improve your comprehension skills. There really is no such “law in the Talmud”.Jon S

        See above.

        As to comprehension skills, mine are fine.I can tell the difference between right and wrong , ie living on stolen land versus on legally acquired land.

        Better go read your torah if you are to fulfill God,s plan for your place as a chosen one , placed here in occupied Palestine to teach the rest of us how to act and stick to OUR 7 laws written by some Jewish guy to keep us in our rightful place.

      • Mooser
        January 15, 2018, 1:46 pm

        ” the punishment of a gentile who studies Torah is like that of one who engages in intercourse with a betrothed young woman, which is execution by stoning. ”

        “eljays” rather brutal analogies seem to have a kosher provenance.

      • Mooser
        January 15, 2018, 1:54 pm

        “By doing so, the Gentile then blurs the lines of who is a “Torah Authority”, and this done en masse, will destroy Torah, as other Gentiles not fit to teach, will proliferate ignorant rulings.”

        Wow, gotta hand it to them, those old Chef Rabbis had the Christian Zionists pretty much pegged, didn’t they?

      • gamal
        January 15, 2018, 2:36 pm

        “as other Gentiles not fit to teach, will proliferate ignorant rulings.”

        but Jons is now keeping it in-house, no doubt the penalties are severe, pinching at least, perhaps a slap..

        “Wow, gotta hand it to them,”

        A Rasta friend and I had some interaction with a pair of Orthodox Jews (Ten Gallon Hat and Crombie coat) for several years, it was weekend thing so he asked me

        “they only have one good clothes”

        ” No” I said ” they have one clothes, thats all they wear”

        “Only one suit, one hat, one shirt, one pants, one coat, they wear all the time”

        “I think so, one style”

        He looked at them with profound admiration “Irie” he ruled, it was the consensus

      • RoHa
        January 15, 2018, 6:18 pm

        Jon, you seem to be saying that “living on stolen land” and “living in my peoples’ historic homeland” are mutually exclusive. Could you explain why they are exclusive?

        (And, perhaps, also explain what “historic homeland” means?)

      • RoHa
        January 15, 2018, 6:23 pm

        ” as the spelling of the Hebrew word for betrothed [me’orasa], is similar to that of the word for inheritance [morasha], the punishment of a gentile who studies Torah is like that of one who engages in intercourse with a betrothed young woman, which is execution by stoning. ”

        And the spelling of “burglary” is similar to the spelling of “buggery”, so the same punishment should apply to both.

        Are these Rabbi types :
        (a) totally nuts
        (b) incredibly stupid
        (c) both


      • Mooser
        January 15, 2018, 6:50 pm

        “(And, perhaps, also explain what “historic homeland” means?)”

        “No Jew is an invader in the Jewish historic homeland. We’re not thieves in our historic homeland.”

        It’s a lot like the Heimat” thing, only you gotta go a long way to get it


        C’mon “RoHa” when you are sitting around glossing and exegesisising the Torah, aren’t engaging in intercourse with a betrothed woman, and then an execution by stoning, the images you use?


    • Yitzchak Goodman
      January 14, 2018, 5:57 pm

      The citation to Maimonides is faulty. Yad Hachazaka is just another name for the whole Mishneh Torah. 10:9 only means something (chapter and halacha) once one of the 14 books has been specified. Hilchos Talmud Torah, for instance.

      • Mooser
        January 15, 2018, 1:27 pm

        “The citation to Maimonides is faulty.”

        So if a non-Jew did try to study the Talmud, he (or she, you never know what women will do these days.) could get off on a technicality, or on appeal? Capital cases are always given the widest latitude for appeal, but still, it could take years!

  13. jon s
    January 11, 2018, 2:41 pm

    Spinoza didn’t really “rename ” himself. “Benedict” is a translation of “Baruch”. It’s actually the same name.
    An interesting point is that Spinoza , after being excommunicated by the Jewish community, did not convert to Christianity. Out of the synagogue, and not in the church , he is seen by some as the “first secularist”, taking one of the first steps towards the modern world.

    • RoHa
      January 11, 2018, 6:02 pm

      Translating a name to something that sounds quite different is renaming. But as far as I can tell, Spinoza never used “Baruch”. He was “Benedito” to his family and friends, and “Benedictus” when he was using formal Latin. He didn’t rename himself. It is only in recent years that he has been renamed “Baruch”.

      It is an insult to the man to reject his preferred name and impose the name he was cursed under.

      • jon s
        January 13, 2018, 12:25 pm

        Like many Jews Spinoza had a “Jewish name ” and a” secular” or “everyday” name.

        In any case, I think that the essay here has the analogy upside-down: Jewish supporters of BDS , like JVP, boycotting Israel, are analogous to the community leaders who excommunicated Spinoza.

      • Annie Robbins
        January 13, 2018, 12:29 pm

        Jewish supporters of BDS , like JVP, boycotting Israel, are analogous to the community leaders who excommunicated Spinoza.

        don’t stop there jon, please elaborate.

      • Mooser
        January 13, 2018, 1:41 pm

        Jewish supporters of BDS , like JVP, boycotting Israel, are analogous to the community leaders who excommunicated Spinoza..”

        “Jon s” must have one hell of a tolerance for pilpuls! He’s way over the LD50 with that one!

      • Annie Robbins
        January 13, 2018, 2:01 pm

        no distraction mooser! i really want to hear him back this up. this should be really fun (cough) interesting.

      • Mooser
        January 13, 2018, 2:09 pm

        . “this should be really fun (cough) interesting.”

        He has the floor.

      • jon s
        January 13, 2018, 4:44 pm

        Annie, all historical analogies are imperfect, at best. With that in mind, it did occur to me that anti-zionists like JVP, in promoting a boycott of Israel, are doing something analogous to what the leaders of the Jewish community in Amsterdam did to Spinoza. Placing him in “herem” (excommunication) was a form of boycott.

      • Mooser
        January 14, 2018, 12:45 pm

        “With that in mind, it did occur to me that anti-zionists like JVP, in promoting a boycott of Israel, are doing something analogous to what the leaders of the Jewish community in Amsterdam did to Spinoza.”

        Very interesting anality “Jon s”.

        But I’m missing one little thing. How are “the anti-zionists like JVP”*, analogous to “leaders of the Jewish community in Amsterdam”?

        That’s one heck of a promotion for JVP.

        (*BTW, “Jon s”, JVP is most assuredly NOT anti-zionist.)

      • Annie Robbins
        January 14, 2018, 1:56 pm

        not sure you understand the meaning of excommunication jon. for your edification:

        Excommunication is an institutional act of religious censure used to deprive, suspend, or limit membership in a religious community or to restrict certain rights within it, in particular receiving of the sacraments.

        what “rights” is jvp limiting or restricting? there are fundamental differences between a boycott and an excommunication. jvp has no power to excommunicate.

        this penchant to portray israel, the powerful or the oppressor as the victim is noted, again. i know you so want to be on the side of the victimized, but you’re not.

      • Mooser
        January 14, 2018, 2:05 pm

        ” i know you so want to be on the side of the victimized, but you’re not.”

        “Annie”, isn’t it obvious? “Jon s” is trying to articulate his own victimization by Zionism, but he can’t yet. He knows he feels he is a victim, but to put the blame where it belongs is just about impossible for him.

      • John O
        January 14, 2018, 3:43 pm

        @jon s

        “… all historical analogies are imperfect, at best. With that in mind, it did occur to me that anti-zionists like JVP, in promoting a boycott of Israel, are doing something analogous to what the leaders of the Jewish community in Amsterdam did to Spinoza. Placing him in “herem” (excommunication) was a form of boycott.”

        It doesn’t really help your argument to say that historical analogies are imperfect and then to make another imperfect analogy.

        They didn’t so much boycott Spinoza as place their hands metaphorically over their ears.

        As for Spinoza, like Groucho Marx, he was probably glad not to be a member of that particular club.

      • Mooser
        January 15, 2018, 1:48 pm

        “Like many Jews Spinoza had a “Jewish name ” and a” secular” or “everyday” name.” “Jon s”

        Makes it that much harder to serve subpoenas and warrants.

      • Keith
        January 15, 2018, 4:56 pm

        MOOSER- “Makes it that much harder to serve subpoenas and warrants.”

        Good point. And if Spinoza was alive today he would no doubt want to comment on Mondoweiss under a different screen name. How about Spinooser?

  14. genesto
    January 11, 2018, 4:48 pm

    Maybe this will help JVP to see Zionism for the evil it really is and, finally, reject it fully and publicly.

    • LHunter
      January 13, 2018, 11:26 am

      Perhaps I am being a bit lazy but I’ve only got my phone this weekend to read from and I’d really enjoy reading up on why many commentators here are suspicious of JVP’s relationship/views with and on Zionism. It comes up often and has a couple of times just in this comment section.

      I was upset to read about JVP’s stance on If Americans Knew and Alison Weir (which I disagree with whole heartedly) but I’ve briefly read that JVP has denounced Zionism and did so in their last annual conference.

      Can anyone point me to something recent (2017) that casts a suspicious light on JVP and their commitment to rid the world of Zionism.

  15. Stephen Shenfield
    January 12, 2018, 8:36 pm

    A sort of ‘Zionism’ did arise during Spinoza’s lifetime — the movement of Sabbetai Zvi, who claimed to be the messiah, led to the start of a mass Jewish migration to Palestine, although it was soon cut short. We do not know what Spinoza thought of Sabbetai Zvi (

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