Commenter Profile

Total number of comments: 97 (since 2009-08-06 17:06:44)


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  • Where you can donate to help Gaza -- Updated
    • Here is the link to United Palestinian Appeal:

      link to

    • I think the Jerusalem Fund and the other charities listed are very good as well, but I advise people not to donate to UNWRA, which is in bed with the US gov't (Read Asad Abu Khalil on this if you doubt me), Chris Gunness' crying notwithstanding.

      Also, donate to the Electronic Intifada, which is the best source of news and advocacy in the US on Palestine.

      Finally, I've donated to United Palestinian Appeal, which does good work for orphans and disabled children in Gaza and WB:

      link to

    • Here is the link to how to donate to Gaza through Catholic Relief Services, which I believe is the biggest Christian charity in Gaza:

      link to

      (Given Phil's past expressions of hostility to the Catholic Church, not sure how welcome posting this will be, but I thought I'd post it anyway. In my opinion, its very important for prospects of peace in the Middle East for Christians to donate to causes like this. Catholic Relief Service is a very efficient use of money as well, unlike ICRC.)

  • It sure pays to support Israel!
    • Think about the fact for a second that these are non-profit organizations that are paying these types of salaries. So these are non-profits whose funding is solely through private donations, and the salaries that these charities pay is comparable to some CEO's at American companies.

      The obvious question: how is it that private donors can afford to pay these kind salaries? How loaded are these donors? Which leads to a mostly unspoken but still crucial realization: which is that your community is astronomically wealthy-- certainly multiple times more wealthy than any other ethnicity in the US, providing it with immense power to get its message across in the public square so that any and all competing voices have very few possibilities for responding in any meaningful way.

      There was recently a story about how the CIA was funding anti-Zionist propaganda in the 50's and early 60's, a story which was met with scorn by the MSM, and I generally hold the CIA in low regard, but in the end, one wonders what other entity could hope to counter such financial power other than those of the US government.

  • The new anti-Semitism, and the campaign to silence American critics of Israel
    • I didn't and don't deny that Anti-semitism existed in the US or that it was not serious in many cases. I denied that it was very serious at American elite universities from the 50s on, and I also noted that before the 50's, it was nothing like the Anti-Catholic prejudice that has historically existed at American universities and does exist to this day.

      I didn't say anything about African or Native Americans-- I was under the impression that we were discussion religious prejudice not racial prejudice.

    • Your problem, and the problem of most educated Americans, is that they know relatively little about the history of religion in the west or in the US. A review of that history shows that most of the charges of American anti-Semitism at elite American universities, while certainly valid in some cases, were exaggerated.

      Here are a few salient facts about the history of religious elites in England and the US after the seventeenth century that should make things clearer:

      1. After 1649, when the Puritans and the Levellers got control of England, the country became very philo-Semitic, something which did not change with the restoration of the king in 1660. It wasn't solely evidenced by Cromwell allowing free immigration of Dutch and German Jews. It was also that the Puritans thought of themselves as the New Jews-- the new Chosen nation. This was caused partly by the Erastian political theories that had begun in the earlier century, but it was also due to the new focus on the Old Testament by the Puritans, rather than the New Testament. The Puritans also viewed their own "anti-idolatry" tenets and their Bibliophilic nature as something that was similar to Judaism's reverence for scripture and iconoklastic approach to idol-worship as well as antithetical to Catholic reverence for saints and Catholic icons.

      2. During this period and later, it was often said by English and American Protestants of all denominations that it was far more important to fight the Catholics than the Jews or the Muslims. Indeed, even Queen Elizabeth had tried to establish strong diplomatic relations with the Sultan of the Ottoman empire, at a time when Europe was seriously threatened with wholesale invasion by the Ottomans. This is because Anti-papism was a fundamental aspect of Protestantism (and still is to some degree). In other words, it was similar to the trinity or belief in Christ's resurrection. It was a basic requirement of being a good protestant, and thus expression of anti-papism became a fundamental aspect of the religion. This never occurred with anti-Semitism-- in fact, many Puritan sects tried early on to emulate the Jewish prohibition on eating pork, for example, while everything to do with Catholic traditions was to be rejected.

      3. The reason why English and American Protestants discriminated against Catholics is that they considered the Pope to be another temporal ruler, which he was to a certain extent-- he governed the papal states, supposedly from the time of Constantine's Donation. And they thought that Catholics recognition of the Pope meant that Catholics were ipso facto traitors to the country. At least before the state of Israel was founded, there was no evidence of Jewish dual loyalty for American Protestants, so there was no reason to make accusations of dual loyalty during the first 5 decades of the 20th century.

      So while, yes, there was certainly anti-Semitism, Jews were accepted in the historically Protestant universities of the Northeast well before Catholics were accepted at those places. A good example of how serious anti-Catholicism was at the university level is the contempt that the University of Notre Dame encountered, when Knute Rockne tried to lobby for ND to join the Big Ten conference. Even though Notre Dame had rivalries with several of the Big Ten schools, administrators at Michigan and Chicago said very publicly that in no uncertain terms would there ever be a Catholic school in the Big Ten. There never has been such outward hostility to any other religion in the US, including Judaism, with the exception of recent hostility towards Islam.

    • Jews were never victims of anti-Semitism on campuses in the 70's, 60's, or probably the 50's either. Just a ridiculous statement. In fact, there were no real quotas affecting Jewish students during these years-- there were attempts at lots of elite universities to make them more nationally focused universities, by taking students from the other 40 states of the union, not huddled around the Northeast corridor. That is, there was positive discrimination for kids from the states that people in the Northeast have always hated (Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, etc), and as a result, many Jews living in the Northeast complained that this was pro-Christian discrimination or anti-Jewish discrimination in the same way that whites currently complain about affirmative action.

      There was and is only one true religious discrimination that has gone on at this country's elite universities and that is anti-Catholic discrimination, and Jewish professors and students as well as Protestant profs and students have done their part to stoke the flames against Catholicism and Catholics from the late 19th century to the present. More recently there is a fervent anti-Muslim fervor among lots of atheists and Jewish profs at elite universities-- the same type of people that are anti-Catholic are often equally anti-Muslim.

  • The morning commute (through the checkpoint)
    • Appalling treatment. Note that Bethlehem has a substantial Christian population as well.

      If any non-Christians need any evidence either of how ineffectual or how clueless Christians are politically (I can't decide which) in this country, here is exhibit number 1. I tend to lean towards Christians being incredibly ineffectual, given that I don't meet a fellow-Christian that is not aware of the deplorable situation in Bethlehem.

      On that note, Phil, are you ever going to do an accounting of the progress that this website has made in bringing this to the attention of the American people? Don't get me wrong-- you have obviously done incredible things here, getting together a terrific group of writers for this site, getting the money to run it, maintaining an interested readership year after year, but really isn't the state of American attitudes towards Israel largely unchanged, with those who don't know just as anti-Palestinian as ever and those who do too hesitant to risk being called anti-Semitic to speak up?

      Moreover, has there been one iota of change in the way that the American gov't responds towards Israeli settlements or blockades or even injustices that it perpetrates against fellow Americans? When are you going to take stock of your successes and not-such-successes? Now that we are going through another round of ridiculous peace talks, isn't this a good time to offer some historical context?

      Also, have you been able to write any longer articles on the evolution of this website and the evolution of your politics with regard to this issue to a magazine like Harpers or the Atlantic? After all, you used to write for those kinds of magazines? Might they be interested in your successes (and struggles) with this website?

  • The MSM tries to distinguish between Manning and Snowden. Don't let them
    • Phil: agreed, I'm a traditionalist that does not agree with you on a lot of stuff other than your work on Palestine and Israel, but I think the way that the MSM is using this guy to condemn Manning is deplorable. Manning is a hero-- all Americans owe him our profound gratitude for trying to show what the US military was really doing in Iraq and the violence and human rights violations it was perpetrating in the rest of the empire. Being right unfortunately is not the same thing as being popular. I'm hoping that by some miracle Obama might pardon Manning at the end of his term, but I guess this is not very realistic.

      If only there were other leakers that came forward now, there might be a perestroika moment for the US gov't that would raise all boats including Manning's....

  • A Jew, Jesus and Justice for Palestinians: An interview with Mark Braverman
    • There is no superiority of any one group in Christianity-- that is the point. In other words, Christians are not superior to Jews.

      Through Christ, every nation, every people of the world is equal. Everyone has the same ability to partake of Christ's body, to enter into communication with him.

      The main thing that changes is that the old Covenant with the nation of Israel dissolves, and is replaced by the universal covenant through Christ.

      Like other religions, Christian doctrine is mutually exclusive--i.e. there is no relativism in Christianity, although priests and ministers will always tell their parishes to be respectful of other Abrahamic religions.

    • I should note also that the term "replacement theology" is not the term that the mainstream Churches use, and I'm not sure they have ever used that term. I believe Pentacostals came up with that term to differentiate their own dispensationalist theology, which teaches that Jews still maintain a special covenant with God that is parallel to the one that Pentacostals have through Christ. Catholics don't really have a term for what I am describing above, because it is so essential a part of the Church-- it is in essence mainstream Christianity, but perhaps Catholics or Episcopalians or Lutherans might refer to it as Covenant Theology.

      So in my response above, I should really have put replacement theology in quotation marks.

    • Braverman is completely wrong about his explanation of replacement theology, and the changes that occurred with Protestantism and Vatican II have nothing to do with replacement theory, which is not seen as any kind of big evil or politically incorrect aspect of the church.

      Replacement theology, or supercessionism, still forms and will always form the foundation of every mainstream Christian denomination, and that has not changed and will not change. The reason is that replacement theory is the foundation of the Christian idea that everyone ,"Jew, Greek, woman, and man, slave and freeman, are equal before Christ," which is the basis of the universalizing aspect of Christianity. (It is also probably responsible for the secular humanist notion of universal rights.)

      The idea is that anyone, no matter their origins, their birth, their gender, their race, etc, can partake in the body of Christ. The New Covenant is that Christ forms a Covenant with people from every nation of the world-- this Covenant then replaces the old covenant, which God had with the nation of Israel. Jews are not excluded from the New Covenant nor blamed for anything-- they are just like everyone else, under the new covenant. Just like every other people of the world, Jews are seen as potentially in communication with the body of Christ.

      I don't want to minimize anti-Semitism in Europe, but Braverman's idea that replacement theology was responsible for the Nazi Holocaust is the worst kind of misunderstanding of Christian theology and the pagan origins of the Nazis. In the official theology of every mainline Christian denomination, Jews have never been blamed or singled out, and neither the Protestant reformation nor Vatican II changed anything on this score. Jews are viewed just like the rest of nations of the world before God, neither better nor worse.

      Religious education in this country is so poor, that I don't expect many people to notice Braverman's error here, but it is a very blatant error, and to be honest after that paragraph about the evils of a central-- perhaps the most important--tenet of Christianity, I could read no further.

  • Shared values?
    • No offense to this great blog and its contributors, including Phil, but Phil does seem to have problem with the Catholic Church. Not giving the Church credit for its history, going back to the sixteenth century (Las Casas, Francisco de Vitoria, Francisco Suarez, Antonio Vieira), of opposing slavery and segregation-- inspired by St. Paul's admonition, "there is no jew nor greek, nor female nor male, nor slave nor freeman, all are one before Christ,"-- is just part of Phil's problem. He has referred to the Catholic Church as the Church of Pedophilia, before people complained. He has shown a very simplistic notion of belief in historical progress whereby things like abortion rights signal progress, not realizing for example that the ease with which Americans kill the unborn makes it very easy to kill the unseen in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine by drone.

      His biases are typical of liberal journalists, which they have subsumed from the anti-Catholic Protestant heritage of this country: Catholic Church is evil, led by an oppressive tyrant; American democracy and institutions are fundamentally good; Catholic Church persecutes; representative democratic institutions are incapable of persecution, etc etc.

  • Don't 'target our Israeli ally'-- Schumer warns Palestinians
    • Waaa Waaaa! These crybabies are about to be dragged into a reality in which the limits of US power are more and more apparent. Wake up boys, before your precious Israel loses its last chance at some kind of future. Look around the rest of Africa and the Milddle East-- are there any other European settler states left? There is the remnants of white South Africa and there is Israel. Something tells me that Israel won't last for very long with oil at 250$ a barrel without a peace treaty, no matter how much brainwashed Americans insist on the myths of Israel uber ales and an America that can achieve energy independence without mideast oil.

  • 'NYT' analysis that Gaza assault was 'test run' for Iran war is ripped apart
    • Hamas has remained steadfastly neutral with regard to Bashar al Assad-- MacFarquar's piece has been criticized for saying that Hamas has backed the rebellion against the Assad gov't by Asad Abu Khalil in a recent posting on his blog. You should correct your error here, Alex.

  • Romney's defeat will expose the lobby's weakness
    • Rothkopf doesn't seem to publish very many non-MOT's period. He has Walt on there to placate the realist academics who read that rag, I guess, and then he proceeds to attack him periodically in his own blog. Incidentally, I know an academic who used to report for their mideast channel, who says he will not write for it anymore, given how neo-conesque the editorial line has become during the past year.

  • The conversion of Joel Kovel (Part 1)
    • Wrong-- Umayyad Mosque in Damascus was for a certain period of its history a place where Christians and Muslims worshiped side by side.

      John the Baptist and Jesus are both revered as prophets by Muslims.

    • You're both wrong-- first of all there is no such entity as Judeo-Christendom, except in the minds of American liberal Christians who want to be extra careful not to exclude Jews. If you are going to have Judeo-Christendom, you might as well have Judeo-Islamic Christendom, since Muslims have been involved with Christianity a long time as well, and Islam has more in common with Christianity than Judaism.

      Secondly, Christendom has never been equivalent to Europe or the West, etc, etc. It's hard to believe that one has to make this point, but given the comic book version of history that most people have gotten from school these days, it bears repeating. Christendom never enslaved anything-- Europeans did. To ironic liberals like I suspect you two are, that may seem like a distinction without a difference, but to historians it is very important. In reality, as Anthony Pagden showed, when he was doing really good history, and not trying to write the Global history of the West, there were two forces in early modern Europe during the beginnings of the enslavement of the Amerindians. On the one side were the secular authorities, encouraged by court humanists, using Aristotle's Politics to argue that the Amerindians were natural slaves, who favored enslaving people whom they considered non-human. On the other side, were the conservative bishops like Bartolome de las Casas and Francisco de Vitoria and Antonio Vieira, who used the line above about everyone being equal before Christ to argue that there were no gradations of humanity-- that Aristotle's Politics were wrong. All humanity was one. Interestingly, on paper, the latter argument prevailed-- and the proof of that is that both Ferdinand and Isabella and their son Charles V, wracked by their consciences, freed the slaves at the end of their reign. But in practice, because the slave drivers were on the sea and in South America, they could ignore what the prince said where it really mattered.

      As for the exclusiveness and "chosenness" of the puritans (the New Israelites) who excluded the North American Indians from their communities, they comprise relatively one tiny and abberant expression of Christianity that existed for a short period of time in England, Holland, and North America. IN other words, they are by no means representative of the vast majority of Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Armenian, Coptic, Anabaptist or even Calvinist Churches throughout the world.

    • Reminds me of my two favorite verses from the NT:

      "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."


      "There is neither Greek nor Jew, neither woman nor man, neither slave nor freeman before Christ, for all are equal before Christ."

      Somewhere between those sentiments, the drive towards charity-- the notion that the person in need before you might just be Christ--and the drive towards humanity as one family, equal before their maker is Kovel's conversion narrative. Giving up your eliteness, your specialness-- joining the human family and being willing to provide and to receive charity to and from the other.

  • 'IDF Fiction' author Boianjiu calls Palestinians ‘ballsy thieves’ in fashion magazine interview
    • It is standard practice. Believe me.

    • Part of the new American cosmopolitan, multicultural elite (I often wonder why most gentile elites are so keen on Israel. It recently struck me that they are probably worried about their own asses in a horrible job market, because if Israel fails, there is an instinctive fear among such gentile elites that all of the Israeli refugees will end up setting up camp here in the good ol' USA and the few elite positions in this country that would currently go to their (gentile) sons and daughters will now potentially go to Israelis.)

  • My correspondence with NYT's Rudoren
    • Sorry, I guess I'm a little dense sometimes.

    • She seems to imply that she doesn't speak a word of any of them. At least one would be nice, but it seems to me that a basic grasp of reading Arabic would be a must for anyone who wants to cover the region.

    • Is this a joke? She is there to inform us-- to get to the truth, not to serve readers, whatever that means. Are you saying that only a practicing jew could do the job, because a gentile would automatically be too biased? I really hope you are being sarcastic.

      Otherwise, I don't know what kind of Orwellian agenda you are pushing, but something tells me you are a few short of a six pack....

    • The lack of moral clarity of this woman is bad enough, but put all that aside.

      How is it possible in 2012 that a major American paper-- better yet THE American newspaper-- sends such a person to cover such a complex region, when that person lacks any education or background in the region in question? Here is a reporter who presumably knows not a word of Arabic or Persian-- does she even speak Hebrew?--, does not know the cultural differences between the various Arab ethnicities, has never lived in the region before this. Her only qualification for the NYTimes editorial board seems to be that she is a practicing Jew, which I suppose is so that she doesn't offend those readers who have a passionate love affair with Israel, who vastly outnumber Israel's detractors.

      And this neophyte, who has not spent one minute studying the region, is supposed to pass on vital information and knowledge about the region for the American public. That is essentially the reason that I will never subscribe to a major American paper again-- except perhaps the Wall Street Journal, which for all its conservatism, at least employs people who are experts in their field.

      In what other profession in the US or in the Western world could you send a complete neophyte to do such an important job? What next? Professors of Political Science whose only qualification for teaching Latin American politics is that they are learning Spanish as a hobby? Shakespeare teachers whose only qualification is that they like to read novels and watch plays? Chemistry teachers whose only qualification is that they take drugs for a heart condition? How does the NYTimes get away with this, and how do they expect to compete with bloggers like the Asad Abu Khalil, Juan Cole, Gary Sick, and Josh Landis, who are real expects in their fields?

  • 'NYT' publishes op-ed saying there are 'too many Palestinians and Arabs' in Israel
    • Miller's ideas about Israel have become the new received wisdom for Israel's supporters. There is no hurry, because Israel is doing fine-- its just not perfect. Notice that there is no reference to rights or justice or anything else in this formulation about Israel-- and without any people power pushing towards a peace they are largely correct. Governments are obviously not going to push Israel to do anything. So Miller's take on things has a way of shaping reality-- I suppose that, at dinner parties and other get togethers, when Israel supporters are forced to confront voices of despair, this will be their answer: "Yes the situation is not ideal, but things are not totally bad." I suppose we can hope that Iran does get a bomb, and that forces some change in Israeli behavior, but barring that, what is that could conceivably change the status quo and push Israel into some sort of settlement?

  • Romney's Jerusalem 'gaffe' illustrates the relationship between anti-Jewish sentiment and racism against Palestinians
    • Oh please-- there is no anti-Semitism here. Romney is as philo-Semitic as anyone could be. I'm sure he would agree with the chief rabininate in Israel that us gentiles are here just to serve you, Jews, as well as serving the Mormons, since it is well known that the Mormons think of themselves as one of the lost tribe of the Jews.

      Please get off your high horse about anti-Semitism-- most Israelis love Romney's kind of philo-Semitism-- the kind that maintains that they are the smartest ubermen on the planet, since they are arrogant and self-righteous and think the entire world belongs to them.

      Stop with the identity politics-- this is about Romney's contempt for the poor, the dispossessed, those groups that history has left behind, and the Palestinians embody all of that, as do they people in places like West Virginia and Appalachia and Detroit and Mississippi-- and besides Detroit, liberals like yourselves usually despise these type of Americans. I can't really believe what I am reading when I read this crap about Romney being anti-semitic-- calling Romney anti-semitic is about like calling Josef Goebels anti-German. It's ridiculous.

  • Ash responds to critique of Finkelstein on BDS
    • Normally, when one is fighting for a cause, one is tolerant of other voices that are fighting for the same cause, even if they disagree on one aim or aspect of the struggle. For example, I know Gays and Lesbian activists who are active on this cause, and make common cause with Catholics whose main concern is that the remaining Christians of the holy land do not get ethnically cleansed. In other areas of political engagement, they may be on opposing ends of some issue, but on the issue of basic rights for people suffering under never-ending occupation without the most basic rights they agree.

      This is what makes me suspicious of Finkelstein's motives in attacking BDS. Finkelstein might simply remark in passing that he disagrees with the methodology of the BDS movement, but he is still happy to fight alongside them for justice, and then move on. However, he goes on and on attacking BDS as if activists like himself were so much more successful at bringing this issue to international consciousness.

      But that is simply not the case. The only two methods that I've seen that have worked on the public consciousness of the West is 1) the Walt Mearsheimer argument that it is against US interests to support Israeli intransigence (this has worked in the US public sphere) and 2) in the international sphere, the argument that Israel is the same if not worse than South Africa and deserves to be boycotted.

      Finkelstein seems to be making himself a huge distraction to the cause-- I've seen interviews in which he suggests that Israel is on the verge of a huge capitulation on the issue of two states because of public opinion in Europe, and that BDS is going to derail this potential resolution of the issue, because it will paint Palestinian advocates as extremist. But where is he getting this idea? Israel just released a report saying that there is no occupation, and the settlers are there legally-- in other words, they are expanding and entrenching the occupation, not the opposite.

      The only thing that will work is for activists to fight, especially in Western Europe, to make Israel's leaders and political class as despised as Bashar al Assad and Ahmadinejad in the public consciousness. The mainstream press is constantly trying to avoid such a comparison, so it is an uphill battle, but to the extent that BDS can be one strategy to do this, people like Finkelstein should at least be tolerant, and not provide fodder for the other side.

  • Soccer's tragic flaw made a farce of Euro Cup final
    • Yes, same as the old aphorism, every animal is sad after sex except roosters and women. See Trainspotting for the comparison between sex and soccer: "Oh what a penetrating goal!" Also, I guess some women seem to follow soccer, but not many. Won't go any further than that lest my wife see this. As for roosters or cocks or whatever, well I won't go there...

    • It was tragic and unfair exactly the way that life in general is tragic and unfair. Life and history and human existence usually has a tragic unhappy ending-- football is like life. I always feel bad at the end of a soccer game, even though I love watching it, knowing that people have put such a huge investment into it and one side has to lose and their fans go away in misery. I root for Italy, but always feel bad for the opposing team and fans when Italy wins because it always seems to be a question of luck or unfairness, etc. People win and lose all the time, and most of the time it is because of luck and unfairness and injustice.

    • Phil:

      Your problem is that your opening assumption that European football should function like the rest of the world's sports is incorrect. Ask any European fan of football (besides the English), and they will tell you emphatically that football is not a sport, and you shouldn't watch it if you are expecting justice, rational rules, fair play etc. If you ask a European fan what football is, you will get a number of different responses: it is either a religion, a performance, an obsession, a game, play, a drama, a way of life, but it is not a sport, so don't expect it to be fair! If you want to watch a sport, watch water polo or chess or basketball or cricket or rugby. But don't expect football to make sense or conform to the logic of other sports.

      I was rooting for Italy, but I loved the final. It embodied why soccer or football or whatever it is is the greatest game on earth. But then I also loved Spain Portugal and Italy England as well... hated and loved them.

  • Finkelstein stands by 'BDS cult' accusation, says it's 'historically criminal' to not support the two state solution
    • Agreed-- the "Israel firster" argument has been a much more effective ...

    • As if to encapsulate exactly what I am talking about, there is the following article in FP, discussing a necessary American pivot to Asia:

      link to

      But the US can't pivot to Asia if it needs to defend Israel's backyard from every prospective threat (I'm saying this, not the article). Additionally, let's say that the US pivots to the seas surround China. Who says that China may not "pivot" to the middle east in response? And the fact is, China may already be doing so...

      The professor of middle east studies that has his office near me goes to Saudi every summer and says that all of the construction and oil services tech that iare used there is Chinese now, where as only ten years ago it was American and French and British. In other words, the US faces real threats to its hegemony, which Israel threatens. This is what will stop Israel, not mainstream Jewish or larger Western opinion.

    • At the time of Finkelstein's tenure battle-- at the end of it (he had by this time already lost the battle), someone in the Depaul administration released an anonymous statement that Depaul had information that they could not be specific about (in terms of sources, etc) that Finkelstein was not in reality what he was presenting himself as, seeming to imply that Finkelstein had another agenda. At the time, I dismissed this anonymous statement as a last ditch attempt to turn around a PR disaster for the university, but is it possible that there was something to that statement? Is it possible that Finkelstein had some other agenda, and the university found out about it?

      Certain things about Finkelstein stand out as strange: 1. the batsh-t crazy way in which he has organized his blog-- he regularly throws around Nazi holocaust analogies that he and he only seems to find funny, analogies that simply confuse the issues he is seemingly trying to highlight. 2. he went to Lebanon and actively endorsed Hezbollah's violent cause at the same time that he was writing a book on Gandhi. 3. He has a habit of making provocative statements just for the sake of being provocative-- like this one-- that he seems to know will annoy and embarrass his allies. 4. His speaking-style is obnoxious and offputting, and he has done nothing to mitigate this style.

      Finally, I don't agree with him that anyone important or people in large numbers in this country or pretty much any other western country are listening to the Pro-Palestinian movement. Where is he getting this, that there is an opportunity for Pro-Palestinians to be "listened" to? Phil and others (Finklestein included) who have valiently been pushing this movement are just as marginalized as ever.

      I think that Israel is in trouble not because of any sea-change in Western attitudes, but because of the Arab uprisings and because oil is an increasingly valuable and rare commodity that the West is going to need, thus giving Arab countries more leverage. Also, the threat of a nuclear Iran has caused lots of Israeli dual citizens to think really clearly about whether they and their familes want to live in a country where they might face nuclear annihilation at any moment. Such Israelis also don't like the rise of Orthodox jewry and the growing Arab population either, so they move. There are also questions about whether the US and its allies are wealthy enough to continue to input the tremendous amounts of energy and resources necessary to continue supporting this boondoggle of a country. These are the things that threaten Israel as the zionist state, not Western main-stream opinion, which has hardly budged over the past 20 years.

  • The Clementi family's compassionate statement
    • Funny post. You keep denying that Christianity has nothing to do with the equality of humankind against all the evidence that points the other way. I could point to a plethora of different verses from the Bible and countless quotations from the church fathers.

      Your ignorance is displayed all over the place as well: there was no slavery per se (ie. ownership of other humans) in Christian Europe until the 16th century after the encounters with the New World and Africa. In Spain there was a well known debate about slavery between on the one side, University of Salamanca Professor Father Francisco de Vitoria and Bishop Bartolome de las Casas and on the other side, Aristotelian humanists and court hanger-ons such as Juan Gines de Sepulveda. The priests used precisely the lines from the New Testament to which I am referring to argue that there was no such thing as a natural slave-- ie. all of humanity is one, while Sepulveda used Aristotle's Politics and Nicomachean Ethics to argue that the New World inhabitants were natural slaves and could be justly enslaved by Europeans. While the Church won the academic argument in Spain-- the debate occurred at the Spanish court at Vallodolid before the King, they didn't win the war on the ground in New Spain or with regard to African captives either, which resulted in the ignominious history of slavery until the 19th century.

      You got humanism wrong in thinking that humanists such as Erasmus in the 16 th century were anti-religious, but regardless, let's posit for the sake of argument that the humanists were less religious than the scholastics (something that is really dubious to argue since one argument of the humanist critique of the scholastics was that the universities were not religious enough), you still see that the innovators, the humanists, were the ones that were originally in favor of slavery while the conservative traditionalist scholastics were against it.

      In any case, when the battles over slavery re-emerged in the 19th century, the Quakers, the Mennonites, the CAtholics, the Presbytarians, and the Methodists were all on the anti-Slavery side. And when Southerners expressed misgivings about their own slaveholdings, they did so in religious terms.

      It may surprise you that I am not what you would call a religious person-- I find religious history more interesting than doctrine, but please have the decency to give credit where credit is due. Don't deny historical reality.

    • It's so satisfying that this quote, which many atheist readers probably saw for the first time here, got so many of Phil's readers so fired up and upset. Most of Americas elite, outside of a few elite universities who study such stuff or have thriving theology departments, are conditioned by the media they read, the New Yorker, the Atlantic, the Village Voice, the Guardian, to never have to confront the radical equality at the heart of Christianity. They are conditioned by such publications to see all the Abrahamic faiths as equally barbaric. But the fact is that at least two of them do espouse such radical, non-tribal equality. I could produce a plethora of other quotes from the New Testament that speaks to the same issue-- equality before Christ is at the heart of the entire religion.

      The quote says nothing about believers or non-believers-- it implies that all members of humanity, gentile and jew, men and women, slave and freeman, are equal before Christ. The verse, and other similar verses which say things like the gentiles have law written in their heart, were, according to intellectual historians, used during the early modern period to claim the equality of women, to provide the grounding of democracy which is founded on equal rights, and to fight slavery. In other words, you would not have your quaint Enlightenment notions of universal human rights, if it were not for Christianity. The difference between you lot and the Enlightenment philosophers like Locke and Kant that are responsible for positing a notion of universal rights is that at least the latter had the decency to credit Christianity for their idea. You lot think that such ideas appear out of thin air, not noticing that without a Deity to ground them in, they mean nothing in any case. They are just worthless claims without the theological tradition that produced them.

    • Paul's letter to the Galatians 3:28:

      There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

      In other words, all of humanity is equal before Christ. The same notion runs through the Koran as well.

    • Wrong-- Islam and Christianity arose out of the fight against insular tribalism. Both have at their center a Greek philosophical notion of common humanity, which unfortunately even the Greek city-states did not adopt under the influence of their philosophy alone. They also adopted it after the translation back through Christianity.

      Funny, how the nation and nationalism never gets the critical treatment that religion gets since 9/11. Far more people have been killed by extreme nationalism than religious fanaticism in the 20th century : 84 million alone in WWII and 50 million in WWI.

      I would bet that all of you atheists would never ever dare not to stand when they are playing the national anthem at some event. But somehow religion is the thing that is the cause of all of our problems.

    • Phil ought to read your post a few times, Aiman, before he condemns religion per se. Without Christianity and Islam, there would be no transnational, anti-tribal discourse in the world to fight nationalism and tribalism, which have been the most destructive human discourses of the modern age.

      As for Ravi, he was convicted of 15 counts that will get him potentially 10 years in jail for watching a few seconds of his roommate kissing another person. The room was his own-- he had a key, and he could have legally walked in at any moment. It's a huge miscarriage of justice. How can you spy on your own room?

      Here is my prediction: the hate crimes laws will soon be used by Zionist college students and faculty to target pro-Palestinian groups on campus, so Annie and Phil should not be celebrating this ruling. It will be used to persecute their allies at Rutgers and elsewhere.

  • ESPN and NYT should be ashamed for tiptoeing around rape at heart of Penn State outrage
    • Whatever-- I like Phil and his site, but I don't like bigotry, even when it is directed at popular targets among liberals like Catholics and mid-Westerners.

    • I'm not excusing him, and I'm not excusing anyone-- any person whatever they are should call the POLICE if they witness a crime is my opinion. I'm just pointing out what a sloppy piece of writing this is-- that is. That one error is hardly the only one in this piece by the way.

    • Also, what a ridiculous statement, "I hate State College." WTF: so all of State College is to blame for an child-abuse scandal that involves at most a handful of people connected to the athletic program? Now I guess that I understand your blanket hatred for the Catholic Church, Phil-- it's based on blanket bigotry...

    • Given the charges, one can, I suppose, empathize with your zealous scorn for Penn State. However, there are so many errors in this screed, that it's not much worth responding to, much less reading.

      Just to point one basic error that any journalist should have gotten: McQueary was not an assistant coach when he witnessed the assault on the ten-year old. I'll leave it up to you to find out what his position was, Phil. Maybe your journalistic skills are getting rusty, and you need some practice!

  • Behind closed doors Sarkozy and Obama spill the beans
    • I hope everyone realizes that this event was staged. Notice 1) that Obama did not actually say anything really that negative about Netanyahu, 2) that this occurred in the context of a previous statement in which Obama complained about France voting Yes to Palestinian membership in UNESCO-- the Lobby was supposed to note this part of the exchange, 3) the whole exchange personalizes things. It allows Obama and Sarkozy to both make clear that their problem is a personal one with Netanyahu, not Israel per se.

      The whole thing was a staged and planned leak...

  • 9/11 saved my life
    • You are one of a kind, Phil. Keep up the good work.

      (By the way, is a paragraph missing at the beginning of this post? It seems to begin mid-narrative, but perhaps that is for effect?)

  • UN report on flotilla raid: Israel shot em the wrong way but everything else it did was fine
    • The report is a joke, and I'm not sure what the result of it will be, other than to make certain that Israel and Turkey never experience any rapprochment.

      These things never get read in the US, whether they are against Israel and in favor of Israel. This one, I doubt will be read either-- perhaps some very irrelevant international lawyers will teach it in their law courses in order to show how even presidents and Un appointees don't know a thing about international law of the high seas.

      Other than that, this report will make things worse for everyone involved. The other thing it will do, I fear, though, is that there will probably be no more flotillas-- unfortunately the activist community has the idea that the UN works against US and Israeli interests, which is a neocon talking point, when the truth is that the UN is mostly advancing US interests or is pretty neutral on US interests.

    • If you read the comments by the Israeli representative and the Turkish representative, you immediately get the fact that the committee was, by its very make-up, three against one. The Turkish representative agreed with nothing in the report, while the Israeli representative agreed on about half of the report.

      It's unbelievable that the committee faulted the members of the Flotilla for resisting the Israeli soldiers in international waters. Whether they resisted or did not resist should not even be questioned in terms of its legality-- it is rather a question of prudence. I would choose not to resist, because I know that Israeli soldiers don't give a crap about anyone's life except for other Israelis, but anybody should accept that in international waters, they had the legal right to resist. And furthermore, that it was completely illegal to board the ship in international waters should be beyond dispute, and yet they say nothing about the illegality of this in the report. Why not? Can anyone answer that question?

      I have a feeling that this report, which seems to have no legal standing-- it was only meant to bridge the two sides in terms of negotiations-- will just make matters worse, and will cause the Turks to bring the whole matter before the ICC. At worst, if the Israelis continue to support the Kurds with military supplies, it may form the basis for hostilities to break out between the two countries.

    • One comment:

      I think Turkey got absolutely bamboozled by the composition of the committee members. Let us assume that Geoffrey Palmer is a neutral participant for the sake of my argument, and let us also assume that the Turkish member is biased towards Turkey, and that the Israeli participant is biased towards Israel.

      But what about Alvaro Uribe-- he is obviously a pro-American and thus pro-Israel plant on the committee, given that his government in Columbia, dependent on Bush administration largess in its fight against FARC, was responsible for terrible human rights violations against indigenous Columbians. He was responsible for the CONVIVIR program which set up paramilitary groups that killed Columbian peasants with impunity.

      I mean-- of course, this guy would support Israel's fight against the Hamas, which he would inevitably see as similar to his own fight against FARC. So Turkey screwed up from the beginning in agreeing that this guy could be on the committee. So Israel had two votes right from the beginning of its composition (the Israeli guy, and the Columbian president), and there was 1 vote for Turkey and 1 vote (Palmer) that I suppose was trying to compromise, but was also probably in the Anglo-American camp to some degree. Not a great make up for a committee to aspire to be neutral.

  • Non-Jewish influence (played important role in Allison Benedikt's awakening)
    • Im sorry-- that was not meant as a criticism of Phil. It was simply my bad writing-- writing quickly. It was meant to be a criticism of editors of major newspapers.

      What I meant to say is that Phil is the poster-child for what happens to a good journalist when he criticizes Israel. Phil doesn't get work in mainstream publications, right? That's not controversial, and it's very sad. And I don't think it should be that way-- Phil should have a very prosperous career in journalism, not be blacklisted, which he essentially is.

      Look Im one of Phil's biggest fans-- I don't think he does himself any favors by insulting the Catholic church, and I confused the issue by combining that with my comment on his being unemployable by big name publications. I guess, in my mind at that time, what joined them is the notion that Phil can be quite undiplomatic at times. But you are right that Phil has done a wonderful thing by giving the world this website-- he's done more good here than anyone could have imagined, and I've been reading him, it seems like forever. So yes, I am one of his biggest fans.

    • You guys misundestood me:

      Annie: I said the REFORM Judaism is dying, which is true, while Orthodox is growing, and Conservative Judaism is pretty much stable in terms of growth. Jews in general are abandoning reform Judaism in favor of the more conservative strains.

      Seafroid-- I was just quoting Phil who called Catholicism "the religion of pedophilia". It's his quote not mine. Here is the link:

      link to

      And here is the quote:

      "While you seem out rather reductively to prove the degeneracy of a religion which I’m sure is deeply problematic, as Islam is and the Church of Pedophilia…( sic)"

      I am dead serious when I say I think he should apologize for such a disgusting comment, which he would never make about any other religion.

    • Woody:

      I hear that often--among liberals--the wish that everyone abandon their religions, and at one time, I even sympathized with it. To some degree I abandoned my own religion when I got married as well, which perhaps is why someone like John makes me so annoyed. But in the real world, within the short or the long term, I don't think it is very realistic that everyone abandon their religion. Real people simply don't abandon their religions...

      My problem is that when one looks at how intolerant mainstream Judaism is turning out to be as it is currently turning out to be, one wonders about Allison's children. Are they going to be the Jewish version of Ned Flanders, rejecting all of Allison's leftist Judaism, and be the first ones to buy new apartments in the newest exclusivist settlement being built in the West Bank?

    • And by the way (Dude), our hero, Phil, ( his pal, Allison, and perhaps you also) is definitely what anthropologists call an "outlyer" within his community with regard to his views within Judaism-- so much so that what he believes with regard to Zionism doesn't look like Judaism at all from the inside of the mainstream of that religion.

      That's why I am increasingly skeptical of Phil's efforts on this blog-- I don't think there will be any big win for Phil in the battle for the Jewish soul, since his best shot, namely reform Judaism, which is as ethnocentric as the other kind after all, is experiencing a quite death-- so-called real Jews jokingly refer to it as dressed up Episcopalian-ism.

      And after all, people like Phil are in fact real bigots when it comes to Christians-- read Phil's recent interview with Gilad Aztmon, which I don't think he linked to, where he casually refers to Catholicism as the "Church of Pedophilia." Do you think anyone could say anything equivalent about Judaism and still have a job afterward? Indeed, Phil himself, for all his bravery with regard to critiquing Judaism from the inside, remains unemployable within the field of journalism.

    • Two comments:

      1. We don't agree on your idea of where Christian morality comes from. In fact, Paul's ideas about the equality of all humans comes from the Greek influence on Pauline Christianity, not from the Judaic side. And by the way, theologians and religious historians are pretty much in agreement about where the notion of equality and universalism within Christianity comes from. Such notions, no matter how one tries to pry them out of the OT, simply don't exist in Judaism. I'll give you the point about Judaism not being evangelical.

      2. Given that (I'll assume) most people that read and write for this blog think that the end result of modernity is that we all become Atheists in the end, my question to you is the following: what happens to American society in general when you have a situation where the great masses of the unwashed are all Christian-- and not mainline Protestant or Catholic-- but "muscular Christians" as they say? Meanwhile, the elite manager class is either atheist or non-Christian. What flavor do you think the inevitable revolution is going to take in that kind of situation-- given that you and I can both agree that the current path of economic stagnation is not sustainable? Don't you think that it benefits society in general to have some component of the elite classes that remain Christian, if only in order to provide an example to the rest of the country? (I realize that you probably have no idea or interest in how the rest of the masses live or think, but try for a minute to empathize for fly-over country for one moment.)

    • Im not going to read all of this-- just had to express my wonderment at why elite educated American gentiles are so ready to abandon their religious/ cultural identity when they marry the tribe. Is the tribe so much superior to us that you always need to abandon your own traditions? Is Christianity such a lowly common religion that it is not worth preserving among the elites? You know, the Christianity which gave us notions like the quaint idea that all people are created equally-- from Paul's Epistle to the Galatians: "there is no Greek, nor Jew, no bondsman, nor free, no man, nor woman-- all are equal before Christ." No desire by John to preserve those ideals, or the ideal of "what one does to the least of us, one does to Christ," which are the bedrock of what is good about Western culture?

  • After 'Amina': Thoughts from Cairo
    • You're so desperately want to believe that biology is the only determining factor in sexuality and that sexuality is the main determinant in someone's identity. Why don't you try to get out of your little bubble?

      Arabs suffer from their terribly repressive governments, but I don't share your notion that there are countless Arabs that are repressed solely on the basis of sexuality. You need to come to terms with the fact that sexuality is not the main determinant of identity in other cultures, as it is in contemporary Western culture.

      By the way, I had no doubt for one second that Amina was a fraud, created by someone immersed in the American and Western European ideologies that sexuality defines personhood and biology defines sexuality.

  • 'NYT' report uncovers Bush plot to torpedo Juan Cole, but ignores some crucial questions
    • I messed up-- partly because when you log into this website , I don't think it puts your comment where you want it to be, if you are responding to an individual poster. Therefore, I stupidly wrote this comment 3 times. Gellian's is the post I intended to respond to:

      Sorry, but you’re wrong. I don’t don’t have the time to explain why in detail, however. Just briefly, Samson’s account of how Yale and Harvard function as factories of conventional wisdom is exactly correct. I am very familiar with Yale– most elite departments in fields such as Poly Sci function more like Priest-cults than purveyors of knowledge.

      I am sure that Cole was kept out of Yale because people made comments like he “was too political” etc., without acknowledging the obvious, that donors were at stake. Yale is not some bastion of unconventional or leftist thought, unless your idea of the left something out of the Victorian period. It’s very conservative, very supportive of the status quo, which is after all what catapulted the current faculty into their current elite positions.

  • Why I fell so hard for 'A Gay Girl in Damascus' (and why the hoax makes me angry and conservative)
    • You are all caught in this mindless notion that the liberation of the world must follow one script, which is the Western one, whereby revolution leads to the anti-slavery moment, to women's rights, to civil rights, to immigrant rights, to abortion rights, to gay and lesbian rights.

      1. I think your notion of revolution is Disneyesque. There is very little relation, in reality, between the anti-slavery movement and gay and lesbian rights. These are two different movements, the first heavily inflected with religious notions of oneness, with the second being a largely secular movement. To be sure, the other movements are all distinctive as well-- there is some superficial relations between them, but there are important differences. And liberation does not have only positive results as well-- funny the way in which people in the seventeenth century were so aware that giving people more rights is not always positive in a strict sense, whereas to people today, to say something like that means you might as well be a fascist.

      2. Isn't possible that other cultures will have their own narratives of liberation that might not simply confirm our own? Might they come to their own balance of religion and sexuality that might be different from ours? A different balance of tradition and revolution, of custom and innovation? Why is tradition always bad? Common law traditions within England are responsible for the restrictions over monarchs that helped us establish congress. Do we want to do away with those traditions just because they are 900 years old and perhaps even older? Perhaps the Arab world feels the same about some of their traditions.

    • Phil:

      I have three things to say to you, and I hope you get this. I'm a university professor of literature working in the NY met. area, and within three seconds of reading that blog, I knew it was fraudulent. And here is why:

      1. You need to read Joseph Massad's "Desire Arabs" about sexuality in the Arab world. Both the left and the right in the West assume that sexuality is esssentialized, according to Western norms, because romantic and sexualized narratives are so naturalized in the west. But that is not the case in other cultures, where religion is still the most naturalized narrative. Gay and Straight identities were never documented before the advent of western psychology in the 1860's. Westerners, with their devotion to the scientific psychiatric and psychological establishment, think that it was simply that these essentialized identities were not identified and categorized before this. But what if, as Foucault and psychologists such as Ken Gergen have claimed, they simply created those identities? What if they did not actually exist before then, and what if they do not exist in other cultures, where sexuality is more fluid? Where is the gay movement in China? in Japan? in Africa? in Indonesia? in the Arabias? If they exist they exist through contact with Westerners-- by attempting to bring a western identity to bear within their own culture. In any case, read Joseph Massad-- it is the best account of how sexuality is viewed in the Arab world, his point being that the ARab world should resist what he calls the "gay international movement" in order to preserve those native approaches to sexuality, in which sexual encounters between men and between women are actually quite pervasive and tolerated but not essentialized.

      2. This is the kind of story that gets a lot of press attention, and it will actually probably help the Palestinians and Syrians if this guy's account of why people can't talk about the Palestinians freely in the US goes viral. He has been talking repeatedly about American press, and why the Palestinian narrative is so hard to find in the US. And that is a good thing for your cause. Americans may find his account more persuasive than Arab voices themselves.

      3. Even so I am not convinced that this guy is not working or at least training for an intelligence agency in the US, and that this was part of an intelligence plot that went awry. He created an identity going back 5 years, and went to Gay and Lesbian sites to speak erotically with people there. He had long email correspondences with North American Lesbians. Who does that in graduate school unless they want to create a deep and last identity for someone that could be used for certain purposes? Additionally, I am not sure that the CIA is completely on the side of Israel. If Michael Scheuer is any indication of their sympathies, they might have an online presence to counter the GIYUS crowd that works on behalf of Israel. In any case, I don't think that one should discount the possibility that this guy was actually working for American intelligence. It may be the case that he is just a pervert who was fantasizing about himself as a Lesbian, but I think it should be considered whether the CIA may be creating lots of these online identities for purposes that they may not necessarily even fully understand or comprehend at present.

  • Amina Abdallah Araf, gay Syrian blogger?
    • Phil:

      Important question.

      I think Amina's blog has almost been proven to be a fake, given that no-one has posted any updates on this girl's situation since June 6. All the other weird stuff about the blog, the picture, the absence of anyone who has met her, the absence of records in Virginia, pretty much confirms what people suspect.

      So the first question, which none of us will be able to answer now, is who perpetuated this hoax?

      But the more relevant question to Phil's site is what he thinks of his site being her 4th favorite on her blog list? What does it say if some intelligence agency has created this blog, US, British, Israeli for example, and they put you, Juan Cole and Angry Arab as three of the favorite websites? That you are being monitored?

  • Weiner's progressive defenders blind themselves to the rightwing views that may now ensure his survival
  • In 'The American Interest,' minister's kid Mead says God favors and protects Israel like he protects the U.S.
    • The question deserves both a non-theological answer and a theological answer.

      Here is an article where the Pope is criticizing the security barrier:

      link to

      There are plenty of other articles like this-- just look them up-- where the Pope and various Bishops are trying to administer to Palestinian Catholics.

      As for the theological answer, look up replacement theology, which is the traditional Christian belief that God's new covenant through Christ supercedes any prior covenants that were based on nation or land ownership. The current pope has said repeated that Christians owe an enormous debt to Judaism, and should keep Judaism dear to their hearts, but he seems to mean the Jews of the Bible. Some non-Catholic critics of the Church have taken him to be rejecting replacement theology, which some consider anti-semetic, but that is a misreading of his comments on this point. To reject replacement theology completely would be to reject Christianity itself.

      Traditional Christian thought, ofwhich Catholicism is the best representative, teaches that Christ is the only way, which would abrogate prior convenants with the nation of the Israelites.

      Im not now speaking by the way of my own beliefs-- just summarizing the basic tenets of Catholicism.

    • You're wrong about Catholics accepting Zionism. Not sure where that comes from-- Catholics are the least Zionist of all Christian adherents, all the way from still having an investment in traditional replacement theology, which is essentially Catholicism, to the fact that Israeli officials have targeted old Jerusalem monasteries like the Sisters of Charity hospice for eviction to the fact that most Palestinian Christians are Catholics. The Vatican has been among the most vocal about the Holy Land and especially Jerusalem needing to be shared by all faiths, and wanting to make Jerusalem an international city. The high church protestants have been more activist towards Palestinians, but that is because they have a history of political activism, which the Catholic church has been less enthusiastic about.

      Zionism is just plain antithetical to Catholic universalism as well. It is also antithetical to C of E theology, but in the early years there is a flirtation with seeing England as the new Israel.

    • Mark:

      Really interesting contribution. The same observation is made by both Catholics and moderate Protestants during the 16th century in England, namely that certain forms of Puritanism seemed closer to Islam than they did to Christianity. They did not make this charge on the basis of personal morality or fervor, since Islam was not known at that time as being particularly puritanical in terms of personal morality. Rather Puritanism was said to be like Islam with respect to its views on high church iconography, worship of the saints, and its relationship to the Book, for Puritanism, like Islam, was said to be a religion solely of the book.

    • This is such a stupid reading of Christianity, both Protestant and Catholic, that once again, one sees how badly served we are by our public intellectuals. To be as brief as possible, one of the most important tenets of Christianity is that God does not treat any one people or any one land or place as more holy than any other. There are tons of verses in the NT about this issue. Just one here, the most famous one from Galatians 3:28: "There is no Jew or Greek, servant or free, male or female: all are equal before Christ."

      Now it is true that some Protestants, considering stories of the Old Testament, seem to find in some of those stories a notion that those stories are more important than the more philosophical, universalist, Greek notions of the NT. Moreover, that those stories are not located in a theological-historical past, but have a kind of present-day application. But any cursory understanding of Christianity, which is after all about Christ, would have to understand this understanding of OT stories as an error. For 1000 of years, the OT was simply used to confirm that Jesus was who he said he was-- there was no other real investment in the OT, except as important stories proving God's uniqueness and his power-- the ten commandments, the creation story etc. The OT and the NT together were seen as a theological history of the relationship between God and man, in which man has a better and better understanding of hte nature of God as history unfolds.

      For myself, I wonder why these televangelists are so popular-- given that their readings of scripture are so patently literal and ignorant. Is it a sign of how stupid and ignorant Americans are and how bad American religious education is, or are these the kinds of ministers the networks are willing to put on TV?

  • Feeling the ignorance at AIPAC 2011
    • The most pathetic thing after watching this video is the realization that these are our opponents: a bunch of uneducated morons, who can't even find Pakistan on the map, who scream and carry on like 6 year olds, who prevaricate and lie to themselves and others without hesitation. These are the people who effectively dictate our foreign policy. It would be hilarious, if so many people hadn't actually had their lives ruined by it.

      Someone should send this to every president and prime minister of every country in the world so they can learn NOT to take anything seriously which the US says on this issue...

  • Why the U.S. will not 'do something' about Palestine
    • This essay is incorrect. The US is not as powerful as Tilley makes the country out to be. There are lots of weapons manufacturers in the world-- from France to Italy to Russia-- and for basic weapons that are needed to defend a county, those countries make better lower cost, easier to maintain weapons than the stuff that the US makes. The world is not dependent on the things Tilley says it is dependent on.

      The world IS dependent on US finance and capital, but that will be temporary.

      The US is not all powerful, and very soon we will all see the limits of US power, which begins with economic power. When the economy is a facade, which our economy is--and when an economic situation is so terribly dependent on one thing-- in our case oil-- sooner or later it will be contained, and the country's power will be contained as well.

      Also, the Israel lobby is not as powerful as people make it out to be-- Suzan Rice was shitting bricks on Al Jazeera trying to explain her veto decision-- that fear comes from knowing that the US is losing its empire before our eyes.

  • The world will be a much safer place when American Jews stop believing these 4 bad ideas
    • Wrong--you were never smarter than the rest of this. If you don't understand why this is true, just look at the history of civilization from the Sumerians to the present. Even when Phil is good, he sometimes make silly statements.

  • Israel's ashkenazi elite, not Russian immigrants, are responsible for the country's ever increasing racism
    • The truth is that all people are racist. Racism is an extreme form of nationalism and is in that respect an inevitable product of nationalism.

      Racist feelings are not the problem-- institutions that discriminate against certain populations and ethnicities are the problem. Racist institutions cause the problems for Israel, not racist people.

      We would do a better job of fighting systemic discrimination by acknowledging that racism is a fact of modern existence-- a product of culture and language and history that we will never eradicate. National literary traditions are premised on nationalism and thus to some degree racism. So when we teach our children English lit. or French lit or Italian lit, we are teaching them, in some respects, to be racists.

      Set up institutions that are premised on non-discrmination and you will have done more to fight systematic racism than trying to argue that this or that population are the true racists. Racism is in the system of Israeli governance. Smash the system of governance-- institute a new system, and eliminate the institutional racism.

  • Meltdown of the Macher: Abe Foxman loses it, calls Israeli interviewer a bigot and condemns the Seinfeld 'Soup Nazi'
    • If you ask me, that interview makes Foxman look good. The interviewer asks stupid questions about PETA-- he makes stupid comments, like that people who criticize Israel hate all capitalism. In general, Foxman who is a loathsome character, comes off as more grounded, more pragmatic, more rational, etc. by comparison.

      The response to Foxman's comment about selectivity is easy-- the US gives Israel 3 billion dollars in direct aid and 12 billion more in indirect and our fellow American citizens are committing crimes in the West Bank. Also the strategic and cultural importance of that area makes it much more important to us than Tibet, etc. But the interviewer makes himself look like a moron with his response about activists hating all capitalism.

  • An open letter to Hebrew University
    • Still its a great letter and Zehra makes a great point-- the only thing that will defeat Zionism is a vision of shared humanity. However one can pursue that-- that has to be the vision of Zionism's defeat-- whether through secular humanism or religious humanism, the notion that humans are one has to prevail.

  • 'AP' grants prominence to hasbara re Catholic bishops
    • I've actually looked for this story in US papers, and either it has been reported like the above-- from the Israeli perspective-- or it has been completely ignored. In fact, it hardly comes up on a google search.

      I hope US citizens who reflexively hate the Church for its supposed authoritarianism remember this incident the next time they assume that the Catholic Church is an all-powerful oppressive dictatorship. Please remember how comparably weak it has become in this country and in the west in general. Also please remember that, if it had remained as strong as it once was, an organization as complex as the Catholic Church might have helped them in some of their most important issues-- such as the peace movement, the malign effects of Globalized capital, and the Israeli occupation-- if the left hadn't been so puritanical in their political alliances.

  • Al-Hamdulilah-- 'Judaic Studies' at Univ at Albany to host the great Amira Hass next month
    • I didn't put Judaic Studies in in scare quotes, and I don't think Judaic Studies is a worthless discipline. I simply think that French and Russian and classics are more central to the the university mission than Judaic Studies or any ethnic studies for that matter-- I don't want to single out Judaic studies. I think Women's studies should also go before those.

      But before all of those, I think Business Management or Human Resource Management should go.

      You get my drift?

    • One of the great ironies of US higher education:

      While SUNY Albany was able to maintain programs in Judaic Studies, Africana Studies, Globalization Studies, and a whole host of largely worthless disciplines in the Business School and the social sciences, it just this month abolished majors in French, Italian, Russian, classics and theater, terminating the tenure of 20 faculty members in the Dept. of Foreign Languages.

      Also, note that the university has money to bring in Amira Hass-- last week, they brought in Barbara Walters to speak as well. Anyway here are the details:

      link to

  • Kafka on Jewish insecurity
    • That is-- its a misstatement to say that Jews were "safe on the sidelines"-- they weren't, but the historical view of Jews as always suffering at the hands of Christians does seem to be somewhat blind to the 400 years of violence that characterizes much of European history from 1550 to 1950.

    • I realize in retrospect that I am not being fair to the long history of pogroms against Jews in Eastern Europe during this period as well, which informs Kafka's view here, and which also had an effect on his perspective on Europe. That history of pogroms also explains the Dutch Jewish involvement with Cromwell, which led to Jews returning to England in 1657. Its very complicated.

    • Interesting quote-- and there is of course the justifiable feelings of paranoia here, but having read quite of lot of Kafka's writings, including his letters, there seems to be no sense in Kafka's concern about anti-Semitism that most of European violence up to that point involved tension between Catholics and Protestants and between various national entities. And during all these conflicts, Jews were mainly safe on the sidelines. Just two examples: during the 30 years war, roughly 30 percent of Germany's population was killed off. During Oliver Cromwell's invasion of Ireland, over 20% to 30% of the Irish population was killed-- 200,000 people. In both conflicts, Dutch Jews were had taken a side, but were pretty well shielded from any blowback.

      These are just two examples of a long list of national and religious nightmares that Europe underwent, in which Jews had few if any casualties. This goes right up to the calamity of the Great War, which absolutely devastated European populations, and destoyed Russia completely.

      PErhaps many Jews, unlike Kafka who was obviously more self-aware, saw themselves as invisible to the great conflicts of Europe, which had killed so many of that continent. Perhaps they believed that they would remain invisible in any further conflict-- that they were on the outside looking in at this incredibly violent tumultuous civilization, which had an average of 2 major wars each century, a continent in which they lived and had become major players by the time at which Kafka was writing.

  • We live in dark times
    • True, but Europe has very little nat. gas.

    • I agree that the BDS movement will have a limited effect on Israel's behavior. Much more difficult for Israel will be when the US and the West comes to the conclusion that it can no longer afford the luxury of Israeli intransigence and behavior-- because of the precious resources that are controlled by the Arab countries.

    • Exactly...nice metaphor.

    • Phil, your perspective is what historians and literary historians call a romantic or even a comic perspective on history rather than a tragic reading of history. That is, you tend to believe that history and in this case, the history of Israel and the Palestinians is going to have a happy ending. In contrast, people like Mearsheimer and Andrew Bacevich and Eric Hobsbawm embody the notion of history as a tragedy.

      In my spare time, I tend to count up which historians and philosophers and literary scholars see world history as tragedy and which see it as romance. Edward Said and Michel Foucault also tended to view history as tragedy.

      On the other hand, Noam Chomsky is a good contemporary historian, but he embodies the classic romantic Enlightenment idea of history as progress-- which is apparent in the first two seconds of when he speaks. Chomsky always opens his lectures by saying something like, "There has been enormous progress in political activism. Things are much better than they were in say 1968 with the anti-war movement." I always laugh when I see him say this, because I can't imagine what he means, because I share the more tragic view of history of Mearshiemer, Hobsbawm, and Bacevich. Interestingly, I think that Stephen Walt is also a romantic-- a guy who sees history as progress, although sometimes he checks himself.

      If you see the world romantically through the enlightenment world, then you tend to focus on the history of domesticity-- the role of women, the domestic space, the recent history of the West, the abolishing of slavery, a legal framework for a realm of personal liberty, and the history of technology. In these areas, you can be fairly comfortable that you will tend to see progress in history, because in all of these areas there has been enormous progress.

      If you consider the history of international relations, the history of war, the history of diplomacy, the laws of war, then you tend to see stasis or even decline and tragedy in human relations, as Hobsbawn does. If you look at the history of ethical thought, as Alisdair MacIntyre does in After Virtue, you also tend to see stasis or even decline. Interestingly, it is the Enlightenment, thinkers like Niccolo Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes, that tend to cause the decline in the historical outlook of philosophers like MacIntyre, because Machiavelli and Hobbs tend to locate the source of ethical judgment in individual reason rather than the community or in tradition, and they tend to see human nature as fundamentally selfish and egoistic, whereas an earlier Aristotelian, Augustinian conception of human nature was that humans are fundamentally good. One of the contradictions of MacIntyre-- that while he wants to view humans through the Aristotle lens of humans having a great potential for good, he sees decline in philosophy and ethics because of the abandonment of that particular view of humanity.

      There are other historians like Niall Ferguson that seem ambivalent on the question of progress-- Ferguson tends to view the recent 150 years of industrial and scientific progress in the larger picture, and he speculates that it is not sustainable in the long run because of certain Malthusian constraints that will come into play at some point. It is hard to know when such constraints will come into play, but I tend to agree with this reading of history.

      Humans, particularly Westerners, did a very good job for the past 300 years of providing for themselves, due to agricultural advances-- mainly the production of sugar, potatoes and corn-- and the exploitation of slaves and then the exploitation of petroleum-based technologies. The so called information age is a relatively minor advance in this view of history, which will be constrained by the limits of resources.

      I tend to see history tragically-- while technology has increased our lifespans, most people tend to be more and more appendages of machinery or cogs in a bureaucratic or managerial regime rather than enlightened beings. Whereas 400 years ago, many middle-class humans were their own masters, now they find themselves powerless to determine their own fate in all but the smallest realms. In terms of war and international relations, the decline of the Catholic Church, which adjudicated the European international sphere and certain benign empires like the Ottoman empire, the Austrian-Hapsburg empire, the old Russian empire have made the world a much more dangerous potentially explosive place. And of course, advances in technology cause humanity and much of life to teeter on the edge of extinction.

  • What does effective solidarity with Palestinians look like in the US?
    • Lakoff is a moron. Contrary to what most Americans think, Europeans hate taxes just as much as their American counterparts, and they also love tax relief, which is the only reason obnoxious people like Berlusconi keep getting re-elected. In general, Euros are more willing to pay taxes, because they assume that the tax revenue is going to people of their own ethnicity mostly, not people of other ethnicities. Tax protest is all about ethnicity, and to the extent that Europe becomes more diverse, I would expect, just as is currently the case with Holland, that there will be more tax protesting in the future in Europe.

      The other thing is that I would like to note the myth that Europeans pay more taxes than Americans. If you just count the Federal or national government, then yes, Euros pay more taxes, but the fact is that Americans pay taxes to the Federal gov't, the state gov't, the county gov't and the city gov't. Americans pay way more in property taxes than most Euros. If you live in some place like New Jersey or New York or Conn or Mass, you play way, way more taxes than people in countries like Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and most people in the UK. Having lived in Spain and Italy, and gotten pay checks there, I can tell you that this is a fact, even if you live in the wealthy north of Italy. Also, there are lots of ways to avoid paying taxes in Europe that are unavailable to Americans. If you live in Italy, it is very easy to pop over the border to Switzerland and open a money market account. If you use cash to open the account, the money is untraceable.

      As for Lakoff's other comment, anyone who doesn't understand that "partial-birth abortions" are one of the most insane abominations known to humankind is a moral mental-case. It has nothing to do with language-- listen to one of the few ObGyn residents who has actually seen one of these done. The people who do them are the equivalent of Dr. Mengele. A fetus at 6 months is a sentient being, just like any domestic animal is a sentient being, and it is certainly more of a sentient being than someone who is in a coma. One should ask oneself why all of the later have rights, where as the former does not. Again, the fact that most reasonable people from the left and the right are against this mad practice has nothing to do with language-- it is the practice itself that is heinous.

  • A history lesson in Jerusalem
    • Judaism is only notionally and textually more ancient than Christianity. According to most respectable religious history scholars, the two religions developed in roughly the same historical period-- the same 300 or 400 years or so.

      Your wife sounds like the typical baby-boomer who needs to discard her past in order to find herself. Sad that more Christians don't identify with all that the Palestinian Christians there lost. Elite Christians discarding their faith and traditions-- how many do I know that marry Jews and suddenly find a desire to join the exclusive club. Just one more sign that universalism is out and exclusiveness is in.

      Best to your wife on her decision...

  • Hair-curling demo in support of flotilla raid outside Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv
    • All of this means one thing for the very near future:


      And it seems to be coming sooner than anyone would have ever thought. We have big wars coming-- it's inevitable. Keep your head down-- it could get very ugly very quickly.

  • It wasn't Edward Said that upset the students; it was the very word 'Palestinian'
    • A general remark: one thing that the general reader gets from this blog-- and it is not necessarily Phil's fault-- is how incredibly entitled the Jewish community is in this country. I know that it is the purpose of this piece to point out how self-important and entitled the students are in this case, but the fact is that both this writer and the students involved come off as arrogant and self-important.

      I guess we are to assume that the author of this piece of crap is a teacher at Hunter. What is wrong with the AP has nothing to do with the contents of the test, which, as an educator, I know is mostly a futile exercise in rote learning. And that would be the case whether they put a quote by Said on it or not.

      The real problem with it is that it ignores the manner in which these tests are the main way in which the Northeastern and private schools lock in their students to the elite colleges and universities. Without the AP tests, there would be much more geographic diversity in the elite schools in this country. It is mainly the high schools in the Northeast that teach towards these tests, and wealthy privately educated and magnet-school students get obsessed with them because they correctly perceive that this is the way that they get into the elite universities in the country. If the rest of us really want to strike a blow against elitism in this country, we would demand that they abolish these idiotic tests.

      So the real significance of Said being on the essay section of the AP English, rather than Philip Roth or Bernard Malamud, is the loss of control which the elite populations living in the Northeast perceive themselves as having undergone. But, in reality, it is just cosmetic. The contents of the AP English exam have very little to do with how literature is taught at the university level, where historical context has become everything and literary tropes have become secondary. Even so, colleges give credit for these insipid timed tests, and I suspect that without an educational revolt against the unfairness of these tests-- especially the fact that students in Indiana or Missouri or southern Illinois can't take them because the classes are not even offered--nothing fundamentally will change.

  • Dersh the knife
    • Nice of you to drop in Rachel-- which part did you like best? Where he bizarrely accused professors that object to the occupation of sexually harassing their students, or where he went on to characterize those very students as "consumers" of their education?

      In my mind, the two images came together in a frightful image of Dershowitz down on his knees giving the collective body politic of Israel a big hummer...

    • My apologies. I see that Kennedy is actually a red-blooded American who once worked for the CIA, of all places. Not sure what to think of that, but in any case, his hiring obviously preceded Kagan's tenure as Dean.

    • Sorry, meant "goy".

    • I have one other comment, which is that I am actually impressed that Harvard Law even has a token gentile on the faculty there to teach a course like this. I suspect that, from his name, Duncan Kennedy is Irish and thus a foreigner, which seems to be the preferred way of putting a token goyim on the payroll. We can't have any gentiles at the best law school in the country, unless they are of the exotic type!

      See Andrew Sullivan's employment at the New Republic for reference.

    • It is really unfortunate that we can't see the syllabus-- Id love to see what a "balanced" course on the Arab-Israeli conflict is supposed to look like, even if it doesn't pass the Dershowitz sniff test.

      (Personally, I think the idea of balance in studying such a conflict is about as sensible as studying Stalin's gulags from a balanced perspective.)

  • philo-semitic Seder
    • I am one who is definitely not enchanted by Jews-- I'm not disenchanted with them-- just not enchanted. And those of us who don't particularly care for the ethnocentricism of Judaism should not be automatically taunted as anti-semites, any more than those who don't care for certain aspects of Christianity should be seen as anti-the Christian people. I like universalist ethical doctrines. It has only been through universalist either religious or non-religious that we have eliminated enormous oppression.

      That is my opinion, etc. I don't admire a people because they tend to be well-off or have good careers. I admire a people because of their commitment to justice, equity, for their commitment to universal values.

      That said, I am enchanted by Phil, as is everyone that reads this board. Oh-- and I'm also enchanted by the Jewish philosophers, Spinoza and Emmanuel Levinas.

  • Let me not to Wieseltier's fulsome toast of a power marriage admit impediments
    • Exactly-- it's truly amazing how much pompous crap has been written in condemnation of the "barbaric" and "savage" nature of the victims of Anglo-American imperialism. Without exception, such tripe fetishizes the savage behavior of the victims of invasion without noticing how such behavior may actually be a response to the invasion in the first place. The Irish received this treatment for more than 400 years, and it didn't end until they achieved independence from the empire. The Arabs have been getting this treatment for the past 100 years, and once the US empire collapses, the world will be amazed at how suddenly the Arabs have become "civilized".

      There is a domestic side to this dynamic as well-- right-wingers always expect the poor and dispossessed to act like they just graduated from some Ivy League finishing school, and when they don't, they condemn the poor as unreformable recidivists.

    • There is an incredible irony in him choosing these lines by Edmund Spenser. In Ireland, Spenser is the most hated poet, and while I think, in terms of sheer intellectual force and poetic skill, no one matches Spenser's Faerie Queene, the Irish view him as the quintessence of the evil imperialistic poet, whose served as the poetic apologist for the Elizabeth attempt to conquer Ireland. Incidentally, Karl Marx called him Queen Elizabeth "arse-licking poet" because of his service to the English state during the Tudor conquest of Ireland.

      Interestingly the sixteenth-century invasion of Ireland was very similar to the Israeli conquest of Palestine. The New English settlers, among which Spenser traveled, uprooted and displaced Irish landowners, who were forced into the bogs and woods, from which they attacked Dublin and other English settlements from which they had expelled. They were ironically called nomadic savages and barbarians (sound familiar?)

      The pattern of English conquest in Ireland was one that will be familiar to you. Unlike the Spanish, brutal in their own way, who attempted to convert all in their path to Catholicism, the English sought to displace the Irish natives in favor of English landowners like Sir Thomas Smith, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Edmund Spenser. With them came common English farmers and artisans.

      When the Irish fought back, the English destroyed their villages and burned their fields. When the Irish were starving, they resorted to drinking the blood of their cattle and eating the human bodies of those that starved before them-- all of this was meticulously recorded by Spenser in a tract called A View of the Present State of Ireland in order to prove how barbaric and savage they were. Like the modern Israelis, with which Wieselter sympathizes, Spenser was blind to the way in which the degraded existence of the Irish was directly connected to the brutal manner in which they had been displaced by the English settlers.

      Spenser was a great poet, but he was also an architect of the English empire-- the patterns of settlement that he and other New English landowners established in Ireland would be replicated in Virginia, Jamaica, Guyana, Africa, and the rest of the world.

  • I'm accused of anti-semitism
    • This is perhaps the first time I've ever disagreed with Phil.

      I think the analogy with Catholics and abortion is misplaced for a number of reasons, which I will recount here:

      1) As a Catholic, I would predict that there are many, many more practicing Catholics in the world who are against abortion in their own personal lives but pro-choice in general, than there are practicing Jews that are anti-zionists. For example, I am personally against abortion and would never use the procedure or advocate for its use, but given the history of infanticide and abortion through human history as a method of birth control, I tend to see abortion as inevitable. I suspect most Catholics are actually in agreement with me, whereas most Jews-- practicing or not-practicing--are definitely not anti-Zionists.

      2) The two issues are completely different in terms of their philosophical origins. Zionism is a nationalist ideology, which states that the land of Palestine belongs to one ethnicity, because that one ethnicity has a special relationship with God. It's aims, whether it states them openly or not, are to ethnically cleanse people not of that ethnicity from the land. In contrast, the anti-abortion movement within the Catholic church comes out of the foundations of Christian humanism, the doctrine within the Church that humanity is one organism, that no human beings are lesser in the eyes of God than any other human beings, that all humans are created in the image of Christ and are equal before Christ. And according to Christian humanism, just as it would be wrong to pull the plug on a sentient human hooked up to a respirator, it is wrong to abort a viable fetus. For the same reason, for example, anti-abortion activists in the CAtholic church are against assisted suicide for the terminally ill and the death penalty. In summary, one has its origins in an ethnic nationalist ideology, while the other comes from the a universalist standpoint.

      3) Many doctors who have actually witnessed an abortion performed late in the second trimester or afterwards will tell you that there is no difference between abortion after 4.5 months of pregnancy and infanticide. The fetus/ infant often attempts to respire if it's abdomen and head are intact, and it is usually moving vigorously as it is being sucked out of the birth canal. I have a family member, not a Catholic, who witnessed this during residency as an Obgyn and said he had nightmares for 3 months afterwards about it, and this was when he was a senior resident. I know that anti-abortion crusaders make a big deal about the procedure itself, and that their tactics are offensive, but I am just saying that many doctors in training have this visceral reaction to seeing this, and this is why there are so few doctors willing to do this procedure. In other words, it takes someone who is willing to ignore the horror to do this procedure. Given that this is the case, I suspect that the when people actually face in person the moral issues of abortion in any depth, almost anyone would conclude that there is something morally repugnant about it, when they actually have to face the reality and the event of destroying a viable human. Zionism is the exact opposite-- it seems to me to be an ideology that like so many bankrupt nationalistic ideologies collapses on examination.

      Once again, I realize the inevitability of abortion-- I am not advocating for its abolition. A curious sidenote is that the story of Moses' abandonment by his mother is one that is related to abortion, because that is how unwanted infants were dealt with throughout most of history. In fact, there is an entire genre of story telling in Europe, the romance, that revolves around young unwed mothers leaving their babies in the woods, where a shepherd, or a wolf, or a bear finds them and raises them as their own. Eventually, they find their way back to their parents so that they are able to reclaim their birth-right. It is clear that people in Europe and the rest of the world mostly practiced infanticide as a means of abortion throughout history.

  • Covering the olive harvest
    • I am sorry, but this guy embodies the typical arrogant, self-serving Israel supporter or Israeli.

      The only reason why he does his "good deeds" is to promote his ethnicity-- hasbara basically, although at least this kind of hasbara is better than the duplicitous tactics that pass for hasbara on this side of the atlantic.

      Then his stupid comment about the Palestinian choosing between violence and non-violence-- the arrogance of the colonial occupier, even those who claim to work for the natives, is that their own violence is completely invisible to them-- even when they see it, they don't see it. They don't see it as violence, they see it as law, as security, as justice, but they never see it for what it is: violence.

  • NPR's 'Morning Edition' Joins Vigilantes
    • NOw that you say this, it strikes me that you are right and that I overreacted. I think that 99% of NPR listeners did not need Frankel to confront the bigots to make it effective, although to be honest she did seem like she was agreeing with David and the 16 year old that was so afraid of "Arab men."

    • Thanks for that question potsherd.

      Ms. Shepherd was to say the least extremely defensive. She tried to argue that I had misunderstood the piece, that the reporter was not sympathetic with David and the sixteenth year old Jewish girl. I had the transcript in front of me and read her from it, and then she said that maybe I had a point. She then said she might go back and listen to the piece.

      My problem is that there were so many things I found horrible about the piece that I don't think I was very effective on the phone, so if they use my comment on the phone, I am afraid the perspective I was coming from may have gotten confused. My first comment, for example, was the fact that it was presented as "arab" versus "jew", although that was not the thing I found most objectionable.

      At the end of the conversation, I asked her if she thought it right that taxpayers were paying for reports that were so obviously racist against Arabs. And she said that taxpayers don't pay for NPR-- donors and contributors do. I then said, "well I suppose then you are simply unaccountable to people like me." She said, "I didn't say that. You obviously took the time to respond." I said, "Perhaps just basic journalistic standards would have improved this piece." I said," For example, I don't think CNN or CBS would make the basic mistakes that Frenkel made here."

      She ended by saying she would listen again, taking my name and other information. I then told her I would write her an email addressing my concerns more clearly.

    • My letter to NPR:

      Dear Ms. Shepherd:

      I am the person who called this morning about the Morning Edition story on the Jewish vigilantes by Sheera Frankel. I would like to clarify briefly what I (and others) found so appalling about the story. There are actually so many things that are appalling about how the story was reported that it is hard to know where to start, but I will begin with these four:

      1) Most broadly, the story leaves out any sense that Israel is occupying Palestinian territory, and that it has done so for more that 40 years, against international law. So when Montaigne introduces the story by speaking of "the Jewish settlements that have sprung up in and around traditionally Arab East Jerusalem," she is either ignorantly or deliberately ignoring the fact that Israel has intentionally built such illegal settlements by stealing Palestinian land in many cases from private owners. Once again, one must stress that this land-theft is in defiance of international law. Frankel's story leaves out who built the settlements-- they didn't just spring up. So the problem here is a lack of context.

      2) The second problem is that Frankel gives the clear impression that she sympathizes with the cause of these vigilantes, especially when she interviews David and the 16 year old girl, allowing them to say a bunch of prejudiced things about "Arabs," without contesting those statements, or allowing the "Arabs" to respond. Think about Selma, Alabama in 1965, and imagine a 1965 CBS reporter interviewing bands of white racists trying to protect white women from the supposed predations of "black men" who dared to date white women without challenging their racist statements. Would any respectable reporter not ask for at least a response from such a "black man" or at least a leader from the African American community?

      3) David and the other racists who seem appalled by Jews dating "Arabs" continually refer to "Arab men" and "Jewish girls," as if the Arabs are pedophiles who are preying on underage girls, when in reality the "Arabs" are probably "boys" the same age as the girls (Otherwise David could obviously have the pedophile arrested.) Frankel reproduces this predatory language several times in her piece, i.e., "he spotted a Jewish girl entering a car with several Arab men"; "she and her friends understand why some girls decide to defy local norms and date Arab men." This is simply unacceptable for any reporter to do. The other obvious question here is what about Jewish men and "Arab women"-- do they ever date? Or are we really back in pre-1965 Selma Alabama with the white racists obsessing about black men raping white women (only this time your young intrepid reporter presents the white racists sympathetically)? I have the distinct feeling that most of the dating between “Arab men” and “Jewish girls” goes on in the fervid imaginations of David, the other vigilantes, the 16 year old girl and possibly your reporter as well.

      4) Then finally, there is the problem of "Arab" versus "Jew", which is not really a distinction. I suspect what appalls David about Jewish girls dating "Arabs" is not that they are "Arabs" -- after all, there are Arab Jews from all over the Middle East. It is that they are Muslim or Christian and Palestinian by origin (they could be Palestinian but also Israel citizens). Get your reporters to report things accurately, and stop treating your listener as if he/she does not understand anything about the problems in Israel/ the Palestinian territories.

      Finally, let's consider American values here-- what does the American experience teach us about racists who go around trying to patrol the purity of ethnic boundaries? Shouldn't American public radio reflect American values (not rightwing Israeli values)? ANd that said, shouldn't these young people who choose to break down ethnic and religious barriers, who try to defy their parents’ prejudices, be applauded for attempting to live in harmony with one another? If Frankel could not interview one of these girls or boys who are dating, she could have at least presented them as a positive force for change. After all, these young people are not dropping white phosphorous on defenseless children. At the very most, they are having some harmless fun in the back seat of Dad's car.

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