Commenter Profile

Total number of comments: 3338 (since 2009-11-18 22:41:33)


I'm retired after teaching philosophy for some decades. I am a secular Christian, very interested in biblical scholarship, with decent Greek but must learn some Hebrew. Rather obsessed with ancient multiculturalism and belief that Palestine was always multicultural and multiracial, while Jewish cultural influence in the wider ancient world was greater than is supposed.

Showing comments 3338 - 3301

  • Khalidi: It's time for Palestinians 'to get off their knees' and turn to Europe and ICC
    • I wish I could believe that the flock will turn the way predicted by GJB. Support for Zionism is so widespread and so prevalent within the western world that the likeliest majority reaction is a vague uneasiness - ten years ago it would have been scorn - coupled with a strong desire to think about something else. We have made progress - and the leaders of Mondoweiss have contributed to this as much as anyone, I think - but the light comes slow, how slowly!

  • John Kerry and the Pope set to face off with Jewish Knight Templars on the Temple Mount
    • The medieval knights were Templars. There was, I believe, a small German religious sect called the 'Templers' which had beliefs about Temples and Palestine and had a presence in Palestine before and during Mandate days. They were eventually regarded as close to the Nazis and expelled, but still have some organised existence.

  • Peter Beinart misses South Africa's apartheid lesson, Gideon Levy gets it
    • I have a religious commitment to the Bible, being an active Christian, but I do not think that specific political rights should be determined by religious prescription but by ethical principles common to all: such principles exist, I think. I also think, for what it's worth, that I follow the Bible here.
      Moreover, if you want to study history scientifically (which is the only hope for getting your account fully accepted) then you have to let the record be questioned, that being a principle of scientific enquiry. Some will come to the conclusions robustly expressed by Woody.
      If you both accept the Biblical story of the Israelite Conquest as more or less true and also accept normal ethical principles you could not think that the heirs of the conquerors, who did not act in accordance with those principles, had a permanent ethical claim, based on that very story, to exclusive rights in the place in question. It's somewhat similar with the later story down to the Maccabees.
      If you think at the level of theology that in ancient days God made an exceptional decree setting normal principles aside for a time then it's important that exceptional circumstances do not last for ever and that God's purpose could only have been for the good of all humanity in the end, Palestinians included.

  • Snowden revealed a world of conspiracies I once would have scoffed at-- Bryan Burrough
    • I think Snowden forced us to face up for a moment to what, to some degree, we all knew and I can't but applaud that. However, I suppose that the revealing of secret operations may always to some extent 'put lives at risk', so there may be more of a tragic choice about revealing them than meets the eye. The situation of Joseph Conrad's 'Secret Agent', where there are twisted links between reactionary, anarchist and state forces, may not be so unrealistic. In this country we have (allegedly) our monarch's word for it that there are dark forces at work. Vive la Reine!

  • UN peace envoy denied entry to Church of the Holy Sepulchre by Israeli police
    • Well, I think there is some spiritual kinship: both are 'strong', both pretty ruthless. And people are noticing a certain shift in power towards Russia. The Financial Times front page last Thursday, explaining how business interests are opposing sanctions against Russia, will have been read in Washington, Moscow and Jerusalem with interest.

  • How many 'Palestinian Arabs' want to kill 'all Jews?'
    • I don't think that the Palestinians got the country at any point by excluding large numbers of those who had previously lived there. What happened at various times was changes of ruling dynasty and consequently changes in religion.
      Not that the rights operative at any time depend on how ancestors arrived: I'm descended, no doubt, from quite a few different waves of invaders of England but I would argue, if challenged, that I do have a right to exist here. That does not imply that no one has any rights or that only might is right, which I would deny. Since rights do exist they should not be violated (otherwise they would not be rights), and if violated they can be re-asserted at any time (otherwise might would be right) until they are laid down/renounced by means of some agreement or contract. At that rate refugees have a right of return until they lay it down per agreement and those who are in place because rights were violated do not have a right to remain until they acquire it per agreement. Agreements of this kind should sometimes be made to avoid endless trouble. Locke as I remember uses the phrase 'endless trouble' in his discussion of conquest in his Second Treatise and I am somewhat softening his views because he seems to think that endless trouble should sometimes be endured rather than have rights permanently mocked.

    • Slippery sliding between different definitions causes a lot of problems! Meanwhile thanks for much valuable information.

    • Well, I do think that the permanent exclusion of so many Palestinians and the permanent reduction to (at least) second class status of the rest, with no recognisable equal-terms share of sovereignty over even a square foot of soil, amount indeed to 'genocide' in an understandable sense of that word, even if (as has not been the case!) no individual person had ever got killed in the process. A political sub-genus of the overall genus humanum was eliminated quite long ago and until this day: not absorbed into a larger 'bi-national' whole nor even restricted within new borders under some sort of 2ss but undeservedly removed from existence and never yet restored. Some would say that groups and genera do not suffer but the experience of the genus had to amount to enormous suffering for huge numbers of individuals.

  • On Easter, costly Jews - and costly Palestinians
    • I think that Marc is very anxious to show his readers that he is very much a follower, with whatever degree of critical gaze, of the Jewish religion and that, though he condemns the support given by contemporary Judaism to Zionism, he is no renegade and has not gone over to the specifically Christian version of the idea that the promises of the ancient scriptures can and should be fulfilled without a kingdom in the Holy Land. Maybe he tries a bit too hard.
      Thank you all for these comments. I'm sure that the Letters of Ignatius do, as Jeff says, tell us something, though I understand that they are a very difficult text. Maybe I have my own version of Marc's problem with certain elements of historic Judaism in the form of discomfort with Christian literature from the second century, the world of the Church rather than of the Bible, when the alienation between Christianity and Judaism was producing certain wounds which have never quite ceased to bleed.
      The reference to Pilate could have little to do with fixing responsibility - it could be used, as I think WJ suggests, simply as a practical marker of a date in characteristic Roman terms about who wielded real power at a certain time in a certain place and it could be used to insist, contra the Docetists, that Jesus really suffered rather than to identify the person who inflicted the suffering. I still would note that the early Christians resisted, or never felt, the temptation to go as far as to state in their most recognised creeds that 'Jesus suffered by the malice of the Jews' or something really dangerous like that.

    • Yes, indeed. I suppose that any decent prophet, especially in Marc's view of the term, would make powerful enemies. I don't know if anyone in the time when the creeds were being formed thought of substituting 'under Caiaphas' for 'under P Pilate' but no such thought was pursued.

    • Marc is quoting Mr. Raushenbusch of Huffington Post and satirising the 'Pastor Facebooks' that think like him.
      Following pabelmont above, I would think it clear that the Gospels all say that the Romans crucified Jesus and all say, indeed make a point of saying, that the Jewish priests did not have authority to crucify people. However, all attribute a heavy degree of responsibility to at least some Jewish people, Matthew most questionably and disturbingly because he makes a Jewish crowd accept responsibility, Luke being different in that he distinguishes sharply between the Jewish leaders - the rich and powerful, as pabelmont says - and the Jewish masses, who are very unhappy with the event.
      I can sympathise with one of Marc's aims, which is, as I was suggesting in response to his Passover meditations, to tell us Christians not to be smug. But argument gets very difficult beyond that point. He seems to want us to avoid the facile renunciation, a version of Bonhoeffer's 'cheap grace', of anti-Jewish feeling that comes so easily to Pastor Facebook and wants the current violation of Palestine to be explicitly mentioned. I have some sympathy with Pastor F: it is not easy to mention that violation and to mention specifically, with Marc, the abuse of power by Jewish people, without sounding smug or hostile or worse.

  • 'Israel is the home of all Jews,' declares a right-wing official
    • I don't intend to defend my country for this disgraceful episode. I think it's pretty clear that there was some kind of race for support of Jewish opinion in the United States, though we were always going to win because the Germans were impeded by their Ottoman alliance. My opinion, for what it's worth based as it is entirely on secondary sources, is that the commitments made by Balfour could have been watered down quite significantly at a later stage but were not because Balfour - and even more importantly his boss, Lloyd George - were convinced Christian Zionists and were doing it for God, atoning for their sins and bringing a foretaste of the promised, peaceful Kingdom out of the wreckage and carnage of a terrible war.

    • The non-humorous - or non-intentionally humorous - version of the dog bites man story is given by Margaret Macmillan on p.434 of her invaluable book about Versailles and all that, called Peacemakers. Balfour, playing the part of the dog (ingeniously trained by Louis Brandeis, according to Macmillan), states that 'it is wrong to use mere numerical self-determination' to settle the future of Palestine. 'Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land'. That was to say that the electorate choosing the future of Palestine definitely included Jewish people worldwide and only questionably including the current residents. It is , as piotr remarks, not surprising that this opinion is echoed today.

  • Reports of anti-Semitism in Ukraine and Hungary
    • I'd recommend an article by Keith Gessen in the current London Review of Books which reports from Ukraine with some emphasis on the fact that, as Stephen says, everyone wants to label the opposition 'fascist' - accordingly many on both sides are keen to have Jewish support. Gessen refers to Joseph Broksky as representative of the strand of Jewish opinion which urged Ukraine to stay with (culturally superior) Russia and notes that at present the anti-Russian Right Sector, quite widely suspected of anti-Semitism, is forming a Jewish division in Odessa, already 8 strong. There's an element of propagandist comedy in all this but it's significant that even in that place and in this time the dire events of WW2 continue understandably to give people who are Jewish a special kind of moral significance, even authority.

  • The Book of Exodus and the Book of Palestine
    • I would point out to Marc that the Tanakh covers 3-4,000 years, from Adam to Cyrus and beyond, so that the extended New Testament would still be very far from finished, giving us time for amendment of life.

  • Palestinian youth say the talks with Israel are futile
    • The reference to destruction because of the symbolic status of the thing destroyed seems quite unpleasant, if Mr. Kishik is correctly quoted, and certainly represents a strained interpretation of Deuteronomy.
      The prophecy of Zephaniah 2:4 'Ekron shall be uprooted' is a play on the meaning of 'Ekron' and undoubtedly refers to the destruction of olive groves, since Ekron was, as the archaeologists tell us, the biggest centre of the olive industry. Some connect the prophecy with Nebuchadnezzar's campaign of December 604 - there must have been quite a crisis for him to have ventured that far west in the winter - and many argue that Ekron was at that time in the Egyptian sphere and that Nebuchadnezzar was already targeting Egypt as his main enemy. The prophet may just possibly be suggesting that the Iraqi invader is doing something which a good Israelite would regard as an atrocity, which would be something to reflect upon.

  • Resurrecting Passover?
    • Warwick Ball's 'Towards One World: Ancient Persia and the West' is quite good on that side of things.

    • 'Cave full of terrorists', perhaps, rather than 'house of prayer for all nations'. In Mark Jesus seems to be accusing the Temple of being too narrowly Jewish and perhaps complaining that it was being transformed into an armed camp, since the word that King James translates as 'vessel' could refer to military equipment and a revolutionary could easily be called (rather as Josephus portrays the Masada militants) a brigand or a thief. Matthew and Luke omit 'for all nations', so the complaint against brigand-like rapacity is evolving towards what it is in John, where the objection does indeed seem to be against excessive charges and using religion to make money. In John the demonstration becomes more violent and a potentially lethal weapon, a whip of knotted cord, is used. We see part of the evolution of Christian attitudes to the Temple here. I could understand that non-Christian readers might find these passages too hostile to Jewish practice and to people who were only trying to make a living. Christian readers should note that it is very hard to regard it as a Christian hope that a Jewish rather than all-nation 'house of prayer' should be re-established.

  • Haaretz joins Rush Limbaugh and company in trying to link Max Blumenthal to KC shooter suspect
    • I too welcome Zophia to our discussions and hope to hear more from her. She clearly knows her nomenclatural onions and the topic of names is very important. Gabriel Piterberg's Returns of Zionism is good on this topic.

    • The reply I would put into liberal Zionist mouths is that White Christians do not have the need to do any of those things, since their own survival has never been threatened. Nor do they have a right based on being unjustly expelled from the very same soil in ancient times or on having a culture which depends for its very existence on acceptance of their special rights in that place (and only in that place, be it noted) so that denial of those rights amounts to a kind of genocide. Situations that are unique - recall that endless, every-generation threat of destruction - create rights that are unique. For my part I would be critical of that reply, but I think that's what they would want us to consider.

    • I've always been a reluctant boycotter - there are always anomalous and unintended consequences. You have to be persuaded that the good outweighs the bad and you ought not to persuade yourself of this lightly. Still, the decisions as to what products you buy, where you put your money and whom you choose to associate with are decisions normally and properly entrusted to individuals with only very limited state intervention. If one person thinks that there is a moral issue that person may call on others to act in the same way, though of course may not usurp the powers of the state by enforcing rather than persuading.

  • Updated: Remote-control gun installed atop wall near Bethlehem -- Ma'an
    • The Deuteronomic Confession, 26:5 ff, does not say that the Israelites originated in Palestine but that 'a Syrian ready to perish was their father', becoming a great nation in Egypt and given Palestine by God. The Conquest as described in the Deuteronomic History does not, if read with the ethics of our day in mind, form the foundation of a claim for exclusive possession now, since it was something which those ethics could not approve. The scriptures overall - I am on more subjective ground here, I admit - present this terrible event as an exceptional moment designed not only for the benefit of the chosen people over a certain time but in the end for the benefit and salvation of all for ever.

    • I think that the right to live as an enfranchised member of a society depends on normal peaceful residence or else on being a refugee, unjustly dispossessed and with a right of return. I don't see how it could depend on anything else without removing recognisable legitimacy from every society on earth. Residence is not peaceful if won by force or if inherited from the victors in a war unless the issues of that war have been settled and treaties signed or general acceptance secured, which it had been for centuries by ancestors of the current Palestinians. The painful situation and therefore the consoling rights of refugee status is as a matter of fact sometimes inherited and lasts, how could it not, until citizenship of another country is accepted: perhaps for longer if that is part of the terms on which that citizenship is accorded but it cannot last if the idea is that the former refugees join the new community on absolutely identical terms as everyone else. There's very little room for ancient history in this.
      Can't help mentioning again that the Palestinians have been about as long, to a matter of decades, as far as recorded presence on the archaeological record is concerned, as the Israelites in the Holy Land - rather longer, since well before there were any Israelites, if you believe Genesis 21. The Egyptian records, the Merneptah Stela and the story of the Sea Peoples, present both as somewhat disreputable, but there was propaganda in those days too.

    • Not surprising if people who have made great gains by questionable means very strongly desire peace in the sense of having their gains accepted without further protest.

  • Handling holy hypocrisy at holiday season
    • I do take the point that we Christians ought not to get smug and self-righteous at this point in the proceedings and if I said to Jews 'No Passover until the liberation of Palestine' they could reply with some reason 'No Easter until the righting of wrongs linked with the British Empire', which would touch my Anglican nerve. In fact I do not call for Passover celebrations to be suspended, though I would appreciate Toronto-style mention of the Palestine situation. We could chime in with some repentance of our own.
      My own very small branch of the Church of England was dwelling on persecuted Christians on Sunday, when I was due to lead the prayers of intercession. I did make a point of saying that it should not be forgotten that Christians have inflicted persecution as well as suffered it.
      I think we should - those of us who maintain some kind of faith -try to deploy the resources of our religions in a good way rather than shut them up in a cupboard for the duration of injustice in the world.

  • Why are two Republican congressmen doing a walkabout on the Temple Mount?
  • 66 years ago today 42 members of my family were slaughtered in Deir Yassin
    • I think many people draw a distinction between driving people out and massacring them. And I would agree that the offence against individuals is somewhat less. But we still have a genocide, a genus as such eliminated, if people are driven out and given no choice (if they even have that choice) but to live among strangers and see their children (at best) grow up as citizens of a country that is alien to their parents. The former political group no longer exists.
      You may say 'I don't mind what happens to groups , only what happens to individuals' you may be right in a way, but what can be expected to happen to individuals in these circumstances is much more than relocation - impoverishment, insecurity and humiliation in multiple forms, echoing to some extent down the generations. Elimination of the genus, even if it proceeds without massacre and even if the people concerned do have descendants who live on as members of other groups, still implies individual suffering on an enormous scale and a triumph of might over right.

    • I just want to re-emphasise your 'it really shouldn't matter'. One of the main techniques for defending the indefensible is to start all sorts of hares with whose help discussion is concentrated not on the enormity of what was obviously done but on endlessly complex surrounding details.

    • And will the heirs of the dispossessed never return?

  • Australia opposed Palestinian UN bid because foreign policy was 'subcontracted to Jewish donors' -- report
    • A statement can be both true and an expression of prejudice, I suppose. To me anti-Semitism is prejudice against at least some things Jewish, presuming that prejudice is always an irrational thing.

  • Brandeis retracts plan to honor anti-Muslim activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali
    • I completely agree with your second para, particularly about the different standard that would be set for remarks about non-Islamic religions.

    • Is there really a distinction of any moral significance between a disinvitation and a retraction of a known decision to invite? I would think that an honorary degree - or any honouring action - for a controversial writer need not express corporate agreement with her controversial opinions - that idea would have disturbing consequences of its own, surely? - but in some cases only admiration, at least by some members of the institution, for style and vigour of expression.
      Alice Walker was to be honoured by an invitation to give a special lecture which was withdrawn because of the content of her opinions and many of us didn't like that and furthermore hoped that people who disagreed with her anti-Zionist opinions would still not approve of the way she was treated.
      I agree that HA's opinions verge on incitement to violence, which gives me pause. On the other hand I think we gain more if we not only permit people with odious opinions to speak out but also don't even stand in the way of those who want to say admiring things about the speaker. Then we can demand parity.

    • Well, I always have some regret about disinvitations, which should in themselves conflict with the core values of a university. I wouldn't have wanted them to disinvite a Jewish writer who claimed that Christianity was an odious, imperialist death/crucifixion cult or a militant Catholic who regarded Anglicanism as a detestable heresy that has made England a moral cesspit. Much as those opinions would hurt me.

  • 'Poof' -- Kerry blames Israel for breakdown of talks (Updated)
    • I'm quite close to Donald at this point, though maybe the difference between the Clinton days, when the Generous Offer story was almost universally accepted, and this moment is a bit more than tiny. This time there is at least an argument. We're still very much the weaker party in the argument, of course, with almost no support in the political class or in mainstream journalism. We do at least have some visible strength in the slightly unreal worlds of academic and student politics. But that is enough to worry people.

    • I'm not so sure how important the 'right-wing' element is: at least I don't think it's connected to right-wingness in the form of support for traditional capitalist social institutions. Israeli capitalists presumably wish, if thinking in purely capitalistic terms, to get the best return from labour and so would like a situation where there were no political complications to using the labour of Palestinian hands and brains. The checkpoints and all that are a cost for Isreali employers as well as for Palestinian workers.
      Even on the right open rejection of the famous peace process is a minority thing, I think. It's just an idea whose time has never quite come and has no obvious moment when its time will arrive. The need is always there - I think that's what Netanyahu's people have been telling Mr. Strenger, who really wanted to believe them. They weren't exactly lying, they just didn't add that the need is never pressing. It's always more important to improve the negotiating position another little bit.
      Underlyingly, the problem is not that people will the capitalist system to survive but that they cannot really bring themselves to be Zionists who renounce Zionism by putting the Palestinians in a position where they can 'We too have a birthright here, you admit it yourselves in the great agreement'.

  • Where is Sarah Ali?
    • Just to point out that 'studying in London at Oxford University' is a bit misleading, those two cities being about 50 miles apart and of very different academic history.

  • No thanks for Zionist 'chaperones' --Wesleyan declares itself an Open Hillel
    • I don't pretend to have analysed Lord Lester's argument provided to the Universities and Colleges Union. It was kept secret for many years, and though I think it was published as part of the UCU's defence in the face of the recent 'Zionist' Employment Tribunal litigation, where the Union's 'scrupulous' adhesion to it was mentioned, I haven't read it. I believe that Lester is one of the main architects of our civil rights and anti-discrimination laws and an extremely senior Queen's Counsel.
      As far as I could see his opinion would imply that the old boycott against apartheid SA was illegal, so I don't deny I was surprised by it.

    • Perhaps this will lead to a testing in court of the advice from eminent human rights lawyers, notably from Lord Lester to the Universities and Colleges Union, that boycotts against a nation are illegal.

    • Page: 33
    • We owe something of a debt to Stephen Hawking, it seems.

  • Ehud Olmert's JNF-sponsored tour nixed after corruption conviction
    • The relationship between personal and political can be very tortuous. Perhaps Olmert took bribes to further a political career intended to bring moderation and peace.

  • Oren says Pollard 'sacrificed himself for the Jewish people'
    • There is a dependency on context, I agree, in the sense that the words used in the definition may be loaded in various ways. If terrorism is 'violence of lethal and undiscriminating character used for political purposes' then 'undiscriminating' brings in an element of condemnation, but does not exclude terrorism on the part of governments; if it's 'violence originating within a country and used for regime change' then the possibility of justification is not foreclosed, if the regime is very bad, but only anti-government forces can be terrorists.
      If someone says 'I don't call anything torture if it's punishment' then we know something of how that person uses words, but we aren't prohibited, even if we use words that person's way, from saying 'That form of punishment shares the evil of torture'.

    • We have to accept, I think, that people use words differently. No one has authority concerning words. We just have to ask people who use controversial words what they mean by them and be ready to say what we mean.

  • 'A Painful Price': The escalating war on Palestine solidarity at U of Michigan and beyond
    • Whether the term was used inaccurately depends on what it means. I am absolutely sure that the term has been used inaccurately from my point of view to apply to all anti-Zionists. I consider this usage inaccurate because I use the term to refer to a form of prejudice and I consider anti-Zionism reasonable, not dependent on any form of prejudice. Of course if you make the term include anti-Z 'by definition', that's up to you. Used in that way the word leaves open the possibility that something accurately called 'anti-Semitism' can take reasonable forms: unless, that is, anti-Z is shown on other grounds to be unreasonable. Kathleen of course is no more in my book an anti-Semite or tempted by anti-Semitism than she is a flat earther.

    • How do you understand this term? I use it to mean 'prejudice against at least some things characteristically Jewish', taking prejudice as something always irrational.

    • Things were quite confused in nineteenth century Europe. Marr did popularise 'anti-Semitism', the word becoming widely used from around 1880. He seems to have recanted later. Meanwhile Otto Weininger around the turn of the century became the most influential 'self-hating Jew', proving his self-hatred by committing suicide.
      There were many good and creative currents at the same time and not long after. Weimar would have been one of the great creative periods but for the madness caused by the Depression coming too soon after the traumatic war.

  • An open letter to J Street: Let's talk
    • Zionism does indeed call for the planting and increase of a colony and it does place its foundation on a distinction of races. But even if had done neither of these things but applied a religious or class distinction to an existing population, claiming that only the followers of one religion or only those with certain levels of property deserved a share of sovereignty, its claims would have formed an indefensible contradiction with the idea of human rights, which implies that all those in peaceable (or in some versions peaceable and productive) occupation of territory should be enfranchised and if driven out should, at least unless they have accepted citizenship elsewhere, be restored.

  • From Portland to Portland, and Amman to Lahore, 'NYT' letter-writers are sharper than 'NYT' writers
    • I very much agree with Nick's sentiments. People who value their links to a Jewish community with whose general ways they are comfortable but who disclaim Zionism deserve an especial respect.
      As to latent ideas, they must be beyond measurement if they are indeed latent in the sense of not showing themselves in any way. But it is illogical and dishonourable to use this fact as a reason for some kind of universal suspicion, with everyone guilty until proved innocent by a standard which it is hard even to define.

  • Former Israeli general: failed peace talks won't lead to doom
    • It may be that the General is substantially correct. If Kerry is really so weak as to fall back on the old 'sort it out yourselves' nonsense and public opinion is really ready to accept the idea that 'it's all Abbas' fault because he went to the UN' then the way is open for Israel to do all sorts of enjoyable things. These two conditions may not be met, of course. When the 'Rejection of Generous Offer' story was put about there was almost no alternative voice with any audience and that has changed now. And is the Kerry/Obama team really quite as useless as it's now letting itself appear? There is reference on another thread to Jonathan Pollard as a 'pathetic guy' but there are others who seem to outdo him in that respect.

  • Let Pollard go. But first get answers from Tel Aviv
    • We Christians are still, I suppose, the culturally dominant group in the world. 'Our' achievements in all the arts and sciences are staggering. This fact tends to hide from us the fact that our faith has characteristics, 'stones of stumbling', that set us apart. If I say 'Our Saviour was born in Bethlehem, died and rose again' almost everything about this sounds not just false but strange to any ear from a different religion or culture. The soteriology of our hymns - 'We believe it was for us he hung and suffered there!' - implies a view of the placation of the deity which others find extraordinary. Our belief in miracles - we can reduce but not eliminate our commitment here - seems to bring us into more conflict with science than is common among religions.
      Bethlehem is normally less of a problem, I agree, but I do remember reading some work by a Jewish archaeologist, claiming that Bethlehem was a best a one-horse town in Herod's time, so a very unlikely site for a Roman tax office: what I recall was the slight (though polite, indeed unexpressed) impatience of the writer - 'How on earth' (he was saying under his breath) 'can sensible people believe such stuff?' We have to accept this situation, I think.

  • Jewish National Fund lures singles to Israel with tasteless sexual joke in NYT
    • If 'secular' means 'concerned with the things of this world' and 'religion' means 'concerned with things beyond this world' then secular ideas can, I suppose, claim reason and authority, over and above what they have in secular terms, from religious ones - as with the Crusaders' 'God wills it!'. So religions can have secular elements or aspects and most do. But religious ideas can add authority, beyond what secular ideas have in themselves, only if they are in themselves not entirely secular. So religions can't take entirely secular forms.

    • If I lay in a bath with a fleet of toy boats I could achieve navel and naval contemplation at the same time.

  • Reports: Abbas faults Israel for 'procrastinating,' says Palestine will move to join int'l organizations
    • The surprise would come from the fact that Abbas' role has been to comply - after a few rounds of protest and threats of resignation - with whatever he's asked to do, knowing that he'll always be asked to do a bit more. Whether we now see the worm turning, or (as I think Walid suspects) merely wriggling, we don't yet know.

  • Wait, did a 'Washington Post' columnist just call Netanyahu a bad guy?
    • I am sure MLK would have had no difficulty in affirming that he had no wish to destroy Alabama, to limit the rights of its inhabitants or to deny that it had a white majority and would stay that way for a long time. But that would not have been enough.
      He could not have denied, had the word been around then, that he was trying to delegitimise Alabama while it retained its current way of doing things.

  • Attacks on BDS sharpen as it gains traction in the Jewish community
    • If there were a statement of what the alleged right of self-determination of peoples in principle amounts to we could see how it applies to the ME problem.

  • A British Jew warns US Jewish orgs to heed rapidly-shifting world opinion
    • I see the IP problem in all questions of a) all questions of great power status b) all questions of economic relationships between the rest of the world and the oil producers. These two kinds of question are often linked.
      We are seeing Russia in the midst of an attempt to assert itself as a great power, if only in its own (quite big) region. To have this status it must be able to offer support to lesser powers, which is, logically enough, one of the marks of 'great' status. Hence the need to keep its naval links with Syria through Crimea. Anyone who wants to be a patron or player in the ME game has to take some position with respect to IP, even if it is ambiguous and prevaricating. But it's there, a constant irritant.
      We see the EU trying to consolidate its trading position with the ME, where Israel is an important partner. The EU is supposed to stand for certain principles which are at stake in the ME, including when it comes to the Palestinian areas under Israeli control. So there are minor, but perceptibly increasing, difficulties. China is expanding economically into Africa, where there is a strong Muslim presence - and though the Muslim world is not about to initiate a clash of civilisations it is concerned enough about IP to make tact, at very least, on the part of its trading partners necessary.
      Iran, I think, needs to be brought back into some sort of comity of nations. That is because alternatives to ME oil have been overestimated and because Iran has an important proportion of the ME's overall oil reserves.
      Religious organisations are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with each other as conflicting religious claims are made about IP and the comforting feeling that it can all be solved with a bit of good will looks ever more unpromising.
      All these problems interconnect.
      I disagree with Norman Finkelstein that Obama and Kerry are interesting themselves in the ME out of vanity, when the bubble of their reputation is just as likely to be punctured as amplified by what happens. People motivated by vanity would look elsewhere and take fewer risks. They are motivated by fear.
      The IP problem is the worst thing in the world. Its poison spreads everywhere, here some, there some, noticed here, less noticed there, but always more tomorrow than today.

    • 'Now they have a reason to hate us' says my fellow citizen. No we haven't. There will never be a good reason for hating or indeed loving anyone because of their race or ancestry.
      People may love or hate with no good reason, of course. It's another question whether a dangerously anti-Semitic movement could arise without good reason. I must say that I don't think it will in anything like the near future. When it comes to the Palestine question I do not fear 'new anti-Semitism' but the same old complacency and prevarication.

    • I think that the conflict lives on. It complicates everything for everyone, to say the least. Hence all the Kerrying around.

  • 'Contractually obligated' to say the peace process is alive, Aslan told Americans to get ready for one state
    • For all the rhetoric that is going on, with people trying to influence what Kerry is going to do and positioning themselves for what he might do, I still think that any proposal which Kerry and Obama call for all parties to put to a referendum stands a reasonable chance of acceptance and implementation. They just have to have the courage to make the call. There is a chance of failure - the Cyprus 2-community referendum a few years back didn't work out well, but also a chance of success that would gather a new improved gold-plated Peace Prize and a book called 'How I did what no-one's done since Cyrus' that every nice person in the world would feel contractually obligated to buy.
      That is not to say that I think it would be the end of the story but it would open a new chapter, whether for better or worse. Good for the peacemakers is of course not the same thing at all as good for the people involved.

  • Journalistic malpractice: Washington Post suggests Abbas doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist
    • We do need some enforcement of the stated rule!!

    • Talking to myself somewhat...About 'recognising right to exist as Jewish state', what does it mean? Is there any guidance from Israeli sources?
      1. We recognise Israel as a fact - that Israel exists with a significant Jewish majority.
      2. We recognise 'Israel by right' - that the Zionist claim that Jewish people have and always have had an especial right to the former Palestine is valid, and that opposition to it was wrong from the start.
      3. We recognise 'Israel by agreement' - that Israel within a defined frontier both has, and has a right i) to maintain or ii) to maintain by means consistent with human rights, a Jewish majority either a) for a significant time b) for ever: hence that all further calls for Zionist ideas not to be applied will be abandoned for the Israeli area as now defined.
      1. is clearly not enough, 2. so ferocious that no Palestinian could even pretend to accept it, 3. full, perhaps dangerously full, of variation.
      Has Israel ever offered the parallel concession, ie to recognise 'Palestine by agreement', with (not merely the fact of a current non-Jewish majority) but some form of the right to maintain a non-Jewish majority and some pledge that all further calls for the implementation of Zionist ideas will be abandoned for the non-Israeli area now defined?

    • Yes indeed - in the phrase 'Israel's right to exist' only the particle 'to' is without serious ambiguity.
      No Palestinian can possibly agree that Zionism was right all along, that it's all Eretz Israel from river to sea, or even that Palestinians have, as a result of intervening events, lost all rights in the pre-67 territories, though some of them would probably interpret these rights fairly minimally - financial compensation and all that. What they are prepared to do is sign, and sincerely accept, a treaty that recognises Israel, that is Israel pre-67 plus settlement blocks and a few more desirable things, as the state of affairs for the foreseeable future. But even as they sign it they will be saying in their hearts 'Foreseeable future maybe, but not for ever and ever'. What the Zionists were saying at one stage, the Christian ones since at least the early 1600s.

    • For my money an interesting mix of very plausible and not so plausible. I think that the United States has more at stake, much more, than Finkelstein thinks. The ME conflict is poisoning international relations to some extent at point after point. Russia's desire to maintain influence in the ME is one of the reasons for the Ukraine/Crimea strife. Iran can't be restored to a normal place, and its much needed oil exploited, without at least some semblance of a Palestine settlement, and these problems will only grow worse.
      That the intention is to sell out the Palestinians as far as possible is clear enough, and its clear enough that all the supporters of Palestine have at very least problems of their own.
      Yet every Kerry proposal that can be imagined leaves the Palestinians with one victory, ie still being there and having a right to be there under the new agreement which, because it will enshrine immense differences on the grounds of race, will be morally discredited from the start and more and more so with every year that goes by. That's why the Israelis aren't racing to accept any proposal, however huge the disproportion of land, water and military installations that it gives them.

    • The phrase 'Israel's right to exist' is open to many interpretations. I don't suppose that more than a very few Palestinians consider that the Zionist claims to the Holy Land were fully justified all along. There are many, obviously including Abbas, who would, in order to get an agreement, grant that there should for the foreseeable future be an Israel with a Jewish majority.
      Well, it's a strange question, asking people to compare what they think is in Obama's brain, Abbas' brain and their own. Not to be taken too seriously, surely.

  • 'The clash of civilizations’ theory is absolutely and completely dead
    • I have valued Krauss' comments here and am sure no comparison, even subconscious, of human beings with insects is ever present in them. I have also valued Walid's closeness to the events we are discussing, while I merely sit in the deep south of England clutching a few books on ancient history.
      I don't think that the idea of political clash associated with religious clash is that surprising. It happens. It's just one element in a complex landscape. You can cry 'God wills it!' in support of a Crusade. You can alternatively cry 'Rather the Turk than the Pope!' Or you can follow the WW1 pattern, of which we should be mindful this year, when British Protestants fought German Protestants, French Catholics fought Austrian Catholics, Arabian Muslims fought for Us, Turkish Muslims for Them, Jewish workers and intellectuals alike flocked to prove that they were as loyal to King George or Kaiser Bill as any old Christian might be.

  • Liberal Zionists are the new front line against BDS
    • The legion of Electronic Illegal Expansionists seems to be assaulting our ramparts in greater numbers at the moment, spreading mind-numbing verbiage, a potentially lethal threat to reasonable conversation if you have to wade through it. There must be dozens more all waiting to go over the top in every sense. Something needs to be done.

  • Obama's European message-- self-determination, equality, dignity-- is null and void in Palestine
  • JJ Goldberg says Adelson's influence fulfills anti-Semitic belief
    • Thanks for the article, kalithea, which is quite perceptive, I would say. I'm fully in agreement that we are not talking about any corporate agency of Jews as a racial group, since a race cannot be represented. So we're not going along with those fantasies that appeal to anti-Semites.
      And I'm sure Jilly is right to say that the word 'anti-Semite' will always be used against us. I think that our reply (or our disdaining to reply) should be based on the fact that admiration for/dislike of certain people who are Jewish is not the same thing as admiration for/dislike of people because they are Jewish. No more is rejection of false claims made for Jews rejection of Jews. No more is reasonable argument an expression of prejudice.

    • Resentment against certain individuals who are Jewish is not the same thing as resentment against people on the ground that they are Jewish. I don't think that the one will lead to the other.
      I've heard that it's always very difficult to say what the very rich actually own, and that the thing about being rich is that you never know how rich you are. Does Mr. Adelson really put his own money at risk? Or he does he just represent forces and resources aligned with the Israeli government? I don't, of course, mean 'aligned with Jewish people in general' - Jewish people in general do not have and never have had any corporate agency outside anti-Semitic fantasy.
      Of course it's not the fault of Mr. Adelson or of Jewish people in general that we have all, or at least by a massive majority, chosen with fairly open eyes to live in a capitalist society where everything but everything is, for good or ill, for sale.

  • BDS' big night: Loyola student government passes divestment, U. Mich votes it down
    • It's perfectly rational to want to leave one's home if that home is in a war zone. And the whole idea about a home is that you are free to leave and return without the permission of anyone else. That's the difference between a home and a prison. Excluding people who wish to return to their home is, for that reason, a moral outrage. If you say 'it's not the same as expelling people who were clinging in vain to the lintels of their doors' you're right in a way, since the two actions are not identical in all respects. But there's no great moral difference, none at all worth speaking of. One way of seeing this is that expulsion or removal, if short-lived, is, if taken by itself, nothing like as destructive to the victims as long-term exclusion. It's the long-term exclusion which is the most horrible thing.
      I share the view that justification and trivialisation of the Nakba is proceeding here quite a lot and I wish we had to endure less of it, good at ignoring most of it as I have become.

  • Liberal Zionists turn on media darling Ari Shavit for promoting Netanyahu's bluff
    • Well, I'll go along with Yonah to a certain extent. What degree of secondary status for non-Xs is necessary if 'this is a democratic state for Xs'? At a minimum, secondariness resulting from the fact that non-X votes in elections cannot be too many, therefore discriminatory immigration laws at very least must always exist or be ready to be invoked.
      We might have the impression that it is not necessary, at least in strict logic, to impose any further discrimination on a permanent basis: not that immigration rights are trivial. But this is a misleading impression. It will be necessary to impose further discrimination at least some of the time and at least informally. Non-Xs cannot be allowed to become so influential that they can undermine the desired permanent X majority, so there must be a few glass ceilings; Xs themselves must be reminded by whatever means are to hand, such as zoning laws, that they are the special group and their majority status must always be defended.
      There must always be something painful and humiliating in many of the lives of non-Xs in an X state.

  • OSU group questions campus presentation of an Israeli soldier as a 'feminist role model'
  • Over half of all Israeli land sales in 2014 have been in the occupied territories
    • Thanks for all the information, Kate. The item about the attempted partial integration of Christians is highly interesting. I can see that inequality for Christians creates a weak point for Israel's standing in the West, also that strong assertions of a specifically Muslim character of opposition to Israel would frighten Palestinian Christians somewhat - though maybe much less so far than the Israeli polity frightens most of them. As the troubles around the Temple area sputter on Christian support for the interventions on Al Aqsa would be invaluable. On the other hand any transition from, as it were, Judaea to Judaeochristiania would be almost inconceivably difficult. I wonder if an overture will be made to another small group, that is people of Jewish background who are of Christian religion.
      This is a moment where the Christians the area could exercise some international influence if only they could find a powerfully rhetorical speaker - a Tutu? - for their cause.

  • U of Michigan student gov't meets tonight, amid anticipation of divestment vote
    • Yes, thanks, you cheer me up! As does the news from Loyola - many will share annie's sentiments on the relevant thread about Max's contribution.

    • I often offer, maybe avoiding boredom with some slight variation of wording, the definition of 'Zionism' as 'the belief that Jewish people, and they only, have an inherent right (now commonly called a birthright) to a share of sovereignty in the Holy Land, others having a share only by the grace and generosity of the true heirs'.
      I'm ready to work with any other def that you suggest (no one owns words) but I think that what I suggest is more or less what is necessary to justify what has been done in Z's name.
      Z (as I understand Z) is a belief that I say is false, though I quite accept that Z does not rule out grace and generosity and general good treatment, to a certain but of course limited extent, to people, to a large but of course limited number, who are not Jewish. You give me examples of this. However, I believe that people living under the sovereign power operative in the Holy Land (or anywhere else) should all be fully enfranchised without distinction of race, contrary to what Z prescribes, and should have rights in the same absolute way, not in any case dependent on the grace of others.
      I think that Z's operative idea of 'Jewish' is sufficiently based on ancestry, including distant ancestry, to involve, in reasonable use of language, race. The claim of exclusive rights on grounds of race is, again in reasonable use of language, racist - more importantly, morally indefensible - and the denial of those claims in the name of equality regardless of race, fairly plainly anti-racist.
      I repeat my claims that it is the right of all, but for those in some temporary and exceptional circumstances, to exist as enfranchised citizens subject to a sovereign power and that invaders and marauders defy and violate this right. (This is the right of people who are Jewish, Palestinian, British, Venusian, Martian and all sorts.) JeffB has suggested a critique of this claim, though I'm not sure that he or anyone else has flatly denied it. I have replied to this critique already, fairly courteously by my standards, and do not think that courtesy compels me to repeat what I said then (which was maybe a bit too long anyway, as maybe this note is too) at least unless someone else intervenes in the discussion.

    • Yes, I think that this is one of themes with which we comfort ourselves too much and too soon. Those who are lost to Zionism are for the most part just walking away, as people do when doubt attacks certainty, and preferring not to think about those things, whereas those who stay attached to the Zionist cause see that there is a problem and resolve to do something about it.

    • One of our fixed points, I think, should be that the answer to unjust discrimination practised by some Jewish people against others 'just because they are not Jewish' is never ever discrimination or hostility against anyone at all 'just because they are Jewish'. One of our sanctions against Zionists, Jewish or not, is to wound their consciences by making it clear that we can take a genuinely anti-racist position while they cannot. I would say from my own experience of doing wrong things, of moral error, that usually you get some sense of it.

    • Yes, that's very sensible, weareone. It's just that I think that the task of keeping the faith in this context stretches into the future for a long way. Preposterous arguments and complacent people stand in our way almost as much as they ever did. Not quite as much, I agree. We've made the transition from negligible to noticeable but not from noticeable to acceptable in mainstream conversation.

    • Still, a pretty crushing defeat - anything over 2:1 is always bad - for the likes of us and I think it will discourage many similar moves within student organisations. We're still the outsiders. I've often mentioned that James Thurber line, 'the night is dark and getting darker; the road is long and getting longer'.

  • US desperate to keep futile peace process going a little longer
    • The message of the headline and of the text seem a bit different. Are the talks definitely futile if the Palestinian side at last has some leverage?
      In the end that leverage goes beyond the predicament of the Obama regime. My thought is that any President, however colourful his (or more likely her) rhetoric, would be told in no uncertain terms by the economists that Iranian oil must be brought back on stream and by the military brass that it cannot be seized by force.

  • Democrats have no problem with Israeli envoy addressing GOP group opposed to Obama
    • She certainly dons the Boudicca persona - and I think had a whole Hollywood film made about a female President who had no difficulty about getting in touch with her inner macho man - but she is also quite intelligent and (as I keep saying here) I don't think that the Israeli government can altogether trust her, and knows it can't.

  • 'NYT Book Review' owes readers an apology for printing blatant racism about Palestinians
    • Opposition to Israelis would be opposition to a national, not a racial, group. I don't see any disparagement of all Israelis in blanket terms, particularly not of those Israeli Jews who resist the bad things going on around them at considerable cost and risk. I do see radical disagreement with Israeli policies and with Zionism, Israel's basic ideology. That's what it's all about. I don't see racism in the sense of prejudice or unfairness, such as would be apparent if disagreement with Zionism were combined with approval of another ideology of similar structure. Well, it's hard to be certain that nothing of that kind has ever been even remotely glimpsed but I'm sure that there is no prominence on Mondoweiss of support for the idea that the full right to a share in sovereignty anywhere should be confined to those of a certain religion or ancestry and that this principle should be enforced with great violence.

  • US Jewish leaders blast Harvard students on pro-Israel trip for taking photo at Arafat's tomb (Update)
    • Josephus' account of Masada is meant to convey an impression not that the garrison was heroic but that it was a bunch of terrorists and criminals. This was important to him as part of his justification for his change of sides and his eventual pro-Roman position. He may, in order to make his point, have exaggerated both the scale of the events and the bad behaviour of the people concerned. I read somewhere, but can't retrieve the source for the moment, that Yadin, for his part, accepted that he had yielded too much to political pressure to support an interpretation of the data that was not really justified. I believe he was more proud of his work on a site famous for events 1000 years earlier, Hazor. This too is now under sceptical scrutiny. At Hazor Yadin was continuing the overall interpretation of events, militaristic in spirit and somewhat uncritical about the literary sources, made almost canonical decades earlier by WF Albright, who thought he was uncovering an earlier and more sacred version of what Euro-Americans had done to Native Americans, though he feared divine retribution in both cases. There is of course considerable continuity between Albright and Yadin on Joshua's Conquest and Yadin on Masada.

  • British architects vote to ban Israeli group from industry association over expanding settlements
    • It will be very interesting to see what the countermeasures are. The insistence that it is 'not a boycott' must be uttered with an eye on the now widely known advice from an eminent legal source to the Universities and Colleges Union that a boycott would be an illegal form of discrimination on grounds of nationality. Someone will be thinking of arguing in court that it does amount to a boycott and is illegal on those grounds. Someone else will be thinking that maybe at last this famous and highly influential legal advice, the main thing that has stopped British (perhaps to some extent pan-Euro) BDS in its tracks, will be discredited.

  • Kerry isn't satisfied by Israeli minister's non-apology for calling Obama a wimp
    • Obama has presided over a period when Russia has regained a bit of strength and the status of dominant regional power and when public opinion in the whole Western world has lost confidence in the interventionism of the previous decade. Neither of these can be helped. Russia couldn't be stopped from benefiting from its oil reserves and the public couldn't be stopped from resenting what had happened in Iraq. I believe that another long-term process is occurring - well, long-term by political standards - and that is the realisation that Iranian oil is necessary for the world economy. I'm sure that the next US President will use stronger rhetoric than Obama has done but won't go to war with Iran either.

  • The battle over Palestine is raging--and Israel is losing: Ali Abunimah on his new book
    • I find a bit of a paradox in Abunimah. I value his information about the attempts of the PA to bribe Israel into letting the Palestinians stay in Palestine by promising that they will be a pool of ultra-cheap labour. On the other hand his vision of Palestinian liberation as liberation from certain forms of capitalist exploitation shimmers confusingly alongside his evident view that this liberation has nowhere been achieved so far and that the two examples of which we all think, post-J Crow and post-apartheid, are really illusory.

  • Israeli teens dressed as KKK and in 'black face' for mock lynching at school Purim party
  • In Abbas meeting, Obama dropped formula about recognizing Israel as Jewish state
    • I took Kerry to say that there have acknowledgements of the Jewish character of Israel and that it was fine that these should have been demanded and given without any reciprocity, but that he objects to, and considers excessive, Israeli demand for endless repetition or endless refinements of terminology. This amounts to a crumb of rhetorical comfort for Abbas. But all these rhetorical ploys on all sides are only part of the game of managing expectations, not really substantial things.

  • U. Mich student government move to table divestment resolution sparks uproar
    • These Student Governments do seem to a foreign eye to be extraordinarily ponderous and pompous things.

  • Netanyahu's map of 'Israel' annexes West Bank, leaves out Gaza
    • There are quite respectable Biblical reasons for thinking that Gaza was never part of the true Holy Land. I would think that someone trying to reconcile the exclusive 'Judenstaat' claims of Zionism with the generous 'Altneuland' claims would be quite keen to get rid of Gaza and even to see it flourish with even more seaside coffee shops and urban lingerie stores. The only practical way is to get the Egyptians to take it over and I think that that has long been a widespread hope. But of course that requires a totally dependable Egyptian regime without the slightest tincture of Nasserism or worse. To relinquish Gaza requires putting Egypt securely under Western control and Egyptian political life has never followed a secure path.

  • Explicit censorship of Palestine solidarity work is becoming the new normal on American campuses
    • I don't quite know how to pursue this question rationally. I would think that intimidation, to be a morally significant thing, would have to affect life by affecting action, deterring (or distracting by fear) someone from doing what (s)he would otherwise have done. There would be little protection for free speech if censorship were justified whenever listeners simply had feelings that they would rather have avoided. There would be rather too much protection for people whose consciences had been pricked and were trying to dispel a sense of guilt by turning the blame back on others.
      Intimidation by means of a spoof or fiction would require taking the fiction for fact or close to fact, so that you take yourself in your real situation to be a likely victim of some action.
      Is there reason to think that students suffered serious, behaviour-affecting fear that they were likely to be evicted from their bedsits or whatever?
      Is there reason to think that these reactions were shared by people who do not particularly identify with Israeli policies towards Palestinians? If they occurred entirely or almost entirely among people who do identify themselves with these policies then it would seem that it was the serious message or content of the communication they received, rather than its spoof format, which caused a negative reaction. In which case it would have been the content, rather than the manner or occasion, of the communication which is in question: so it would be a free speech issue.
      I have suggested reasons for my belief that the claims of the institutions concerned that they respect free speech are spurious. I don't think I've made a conclusive case but I think my reasons are serious. I take my moral bearings as to the generality of the right of free speech and as to exceptions from, of course, Mill's On Liberty. Some might question these.

    • I can't believe that these institutions would wish to hide behind their private status and I'd be surprised if they didn't have statutes that protect free speech in the most noble-sounding terms. I am sure that they would swear black and blue that anyone is free to state that Palestinians are being evicted unjustly and that it's a question of vandalism, insult, intimidation and of doing things on the right occasion. But to my mind these arguments are spurious.
      I suppose that the spoofs were intended to produce some kind of frisson at first appearance as a way of catching attention but that is not the same thing as leaving someone, at very least someone who is as intelligent and rational as students are supposed to be, with a sustained sense of fear or insult. The abiding impression would not be one of fear for oneself but of discomfort over the bad situation of others, a very different state of mind. That's to say that attention would have been caught and consciences disturbed, neither of which are bad.
      At that rate the objection must be not to the manner or occasion of the 'speech' but entirely to its content, so this is a denial of free speech in classic form.

  • Brandeis prof blasts school's deference to Israel and AIPAC (and donors Steinhardt, Schusterman, Crown)
    • Very disturbing. If you mentioned Palestinian rights or even the Palestinian situation in one of these meetings what would happen? Would it be like swearing in church?

  • 'What's being done to Palestinians is wrong,' evangelical Christian says on NPR religion show
    • Walid's interpretation of Jesus' progress is interesting, though we should note that the encounter with the Syrophoenician (Lebanese!) woman, the only person who defeats Jesus in argument, is in Mark's Gospel, ch.7, whereas the 3-year career, giving Jesus time to mellow, is only in John. Mark has a meteoric 1-year story. In John, Jesus is quite friendly to non-Jewish Palestinians (at least in the guise of Samaritans) from quite an early stage.
      The Good Samaritan story in Luke is perhaps another indication both of how controversial the interpretation of the command to love neighbours was in the pre-70s era - 'who is my neighbour?' - and of how the Samaritans in the post-70 era may have formed a big part of the cohort of new Christians. Jewish and Christian neighbours have wrestled with the problem ever since.

  • Lebanon 'affirms right' of citizens to resist Israel
    • Has Israel ever offered to negotiate through a representative who clearly trusted and respected Palestinians?

  • Does Israel Have a Right to Exist as a Jewish State?: An excerpt from Ali Abunimah's 'The Battle for Justice in Palestine'
    • Yes, though I must say that I also think that the exclusion of certain immigrants is pretty unreasonable. I accept that there are exceptional situations where the normally universal right cannot be pressed. Postwar Europe with its mass of refugees comes to mind.
      Locke's Second Treatise is the locus classicus, I'd say.

    • You are saying that I both claimed and denied that the right to enfranchised existence depends on 'serving the purposes of the state'. I don't think that I did. I didn't refer to 'purposes'. I claimed a universal right with an exception clause referring to 'exceptional and temporary situations'. I didn't elaborate on this phrase - I was thinking of situations where there is a mass of refugees and suchlike - but I did not contradict it by saying either 'not even temporary exceptions are possible' or else 'there are certain permanent exceptions', which in logic are the only ways in which my claim about 'a universal right subject only to temporary exceptions' could be contradicted.
      From my claim it does follow that invaders and marauders, ie those whose activities take away the justified status of many (at least 'many'; perhaps huge numbers) of people as enfranchised citizens of a sovereign state, are violating at least some important rights. If that happened in Britain it was a violation of rights and the slogan 'Britain for the British!' could legitimately have been used to denounce what was happening.
      Just how these violations should be negated or corrected is another matter. I've made some suggestions about that now and then in these discussions.
      Perhaps you think that the Palestine/Israel situation should be interpreted as a temporary and exceptional situation where the normal right to enfranchised existence does not apply. That claim could be discussed but it wasn't the point at issue. The point at issue was the validity of the formula 'Xia for the Xians!'
      I don't particularly agree with your interpretation of 'Westphalia', which is part of the history of 'Christendom'. Surely the key W principle 'cuius regio eius religio' is the opposite of what you say? Not that that is of major concern here.

    • All persons have a right to exist, but for exceptional and temporary situations, as enfranchised citizens of a sovereign state. Would anyone question this?
      Consequently, invaders and marauders violate the rights of the people whose territory they invade. This point implies that all sovereign states have a right to exist in peace, which implies that a state currently existing under the name 'X' has a right to retain its name and to claim to be 'for the Xians'. Thus Belgium for the Belgians and Israel for the Israelis.
      Propositions like 'Belgium is and should be for the Anterwerpers' are ambiguous. If I mean 'Antwerpers are Belgians, therefore Belgium is for them' that is one thing, and presumably true. If I mean 'only or especially for them' that is quite another thing and indeed false, implying as it does that the basic rights of individuals who live in Belgium but not in Antwerp may be treated as secondary or compromised.
      'Israel is a Jewish state' is ambiguous in the same way. If it means that it is a state which is and should be for its Jewish citizens without discrimination that is one thing. If it means that Israel is and should be especially for its Jewish citizens, therefore that there is and should be something not so special, ie secondary, about the status of those who exist subject to its sovereign power but are not Jewish that is another thing, and false. Not a million agreements and documents can make it true.

  • A War on Campus: 'Democracy Now' covers the Northeastern SJP suspension (Updated)
    • I presume that the 'eviction notice' ploy was itself an attempt to play the game you mention, to prick consciences by making people think what it would be like to be in some of the shoes that Palestinians are forced to wear and walk in. Consciences do seem to have been pricked and the reaction is anger.
      Perhaps we for our part have to think what it would be like to be called upon to give up a privilege that we have claimed vigorously and enjoyed on a grand scale. Our reaction might not be pretty or even very rational.

  • Why I didn’t make it to Gaza for International Women’s Day
  • Shira Robinson explains the DNA of Israel
    • After all, nothing ceases to be bad because something else is bad too.

    • A conquering force, competing down the years or even down the generations with the conquered, remains a conquering force from the moment its campaign begins until the moment, if it comes, when things are transformed by a settlement to which all agree. What else could we think? The members of the conquering group who become active later are surely, who could doubt it, engaged on exactly the same operation, with exactly the same right or lack of it, as were their predecessors or ancestors. The success of the first wave does not transform the ethical situation for the second wave unless might is right, which it isn't.
      For much the same reasons I would think that refugees remain refugees down the years and generations until they accept some new status, either as returning exiles or as citizens who have chosen a new residence.
      The 'Danes' who arrived in 'England' during the later 800s accepted a settlement and I'm sure I'm descended from people on both sides of that conflict.

  • Northeastern University SJP chapter suspended as members are subjected to police interrogation
    • They seem to be in a strong position in France. My own leader, David Cameron, is currently declaring total solidarity with Israel and its right 'to defend itself'. I expect that the other British party leaders will embark on an American-style competition, perhaps in less demonstrative terms, to be regarded as the most committed supporters of Zionism and all its works. The road ahead is still long and steep.

  • J Street cheerleading for Kerry features Congressman warning Palestinians will demand the vote if two states fails
    • The 'bang up job' has worked by endlessly promising negotiations for a 2ss, by endlessly convening conversations on that topic and by gaining enormous acceptance for the Generous Offer accounts of how the conversations went. This time it won't be quite so easy, since if Kerry does make a proposal it is impossible that it will favour Israel enough to be accepted gladly, since it will administer the poison pill of giving the Palestinians the right to be there that Zionism in its heart and soul denies them. But I think abc is quite right to imply that all sorts of reasons to demur and prolong 'negotiations' can still be found and quite likely be believed in Western power centres.

  • Israel is now attempting to 'de-Arabize' Palestinian Christians, but in the 1950s it was Jews from the Middle East
    • They didn't all get burned, since the Egyptian Church remains monophysite - I think that they prefer 'miaphysite'. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has said (I think) that this was little more than a matter of words and that he does not regard the Egyptians as heretical.
      The anti-Monophysite Definition of Chalcedon in 451 resulted from the efforts of the Empress Pulcheria - courageous, intelligent and patriotic, I think, though perhaps a bit fanatical - to maintain the unity of the Roman Empire. But if anything broke the unity of Roman world and paved the way for the Islamic conquests it was the insistence that there's only one authentic kind of Christian and that's a diphysite.

  • On American Zionist Education: An excerpt from 'The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans'
    • I suppose that we Christians interpreted the 'Persecutions' so as to meet our 'need' for a narrative which would justify our heresy-hunting and hostility to Jews.

  • Mainstream press embraces Netanyahu's speech as supporting Kerry initiative
    • I'm supposed to be on holiday and planning a week without controversies, but would just like to add that I think it makes a great deal of sense to put camel trains, which could supply armies as well as permit trade, into the times following 900 BCE. There seems to have been no serious Iraqi/Assyrian intervention in Palestine before then, but around 850 the Assyrians appear in force, first to be seen off by Ahab at Qarqar and later to make their historic alliance with Jehu.

  • Anti-anti-semitism: How did a movement against bigotry lend itself to another form of bigotry?
    • I think that Donald's question was not 'why were those dire events not more regarded?' as Krusty supposes, but 'why were they interpreted not to say that there should be no more oppression, but that the formerly oppressed had the right to some oppression of their own'?

    • We would miss you. We all have to persevere. That is the only hope. I do wish that the rule against nakba denial, which usually takes the form either of justification or of trivialisation, were better enforced.

    • The claim by Donald was that people are not moved from the United States to other countries on the grounds that their rights would be met by residence in any other English-speaking country, not that they are never moved under laws in whose making they have had a chance to influence. His claim is true. The comparison between the two categories is utterly odious.
      As to respect for laws, lack of it is not a valid reason for 'removal'. People are not expected to respect laws to whose making or continuation they have had no opportunity to contribute or which they have not 'accepted tacitly' by immigration.

    • Well, maybe everything sensible has been said. My memory of the early years, late 50s and early 60s, is that the Jewish need to stand tall and to be assertive, even to conquer, received a great deal of sympathy in a western world which was comforting itself with the idea that it had, whatever else it had got wrong, conquered the Nazis. Hostage has recently mentioned the idea, attributed to Mandela at one time, that South African liberation would not be complete without Palestinian liberation. The same memories make me think that many in the West thought that our conquest of the Nazis would not be complete until Jewish people - never, ever treated fairly and latterly the Nazis' principal victims - could share fully in the experience not just of liberation bestowed by others, but of conquest owed to their own strong right arm. It was the time when existentialism was popular and you could say that there is a dark version of existentialism in which only conquerors are free. And this joined up with the dark theology in which the Holocaust (a very theological term) was the sacrifice which God had accepted for the restoration of the Kingdom. Marxism, the other radical and in some senses popular force of the time, had always been linked with the idea of Jewish liberation and was seen by some (including the young Chomsky, maybe) as an essential step towards world socialism: liberation first for Jewish, then for all, people and peoples.

    • I think that these remarks amount to Nakba trivialisation and thus to Nakba denial: they should not be here.
      People displaced these days in the United States to make way for infrastructure projects etc. normally have this experience under a legal system to which they have access as enfranchised citizens and which (less crucially, but significantly) awards compensation as part of the process. Or if they are foreigners they have consented to live under United States law by moving there. They are not asked to move over into Canada and it is not suggested - it really isn't; there are some claims too outlandish to make, even now - that this move would meet their rights because roughly the same language is spoken and the same religion practised, the idea that Donald considered. Yet this outlandish claim is made in the ME and taken seriously.

  • Penn Hillel pushes Birthright-like trip for non-Jewish students
    • It's not a particularly new idea, I don't think. A few years ago I heard a talk by an Anglican clergyman, not of exceptionally high status but in a position to influence students. He spoke warmly of the Council of Christians and Jews, a group founded in the WW2 years by Archbishop Temple and others to spread information about (what was not yet called) the Holocaust and since very strongly Zionist. At the time I let it all wash over me but a few weeks later looked up the political statements of the CCJ and wrote asking if he could really endorse them. The reply, which got me nowhere, enthused about his visit to Israel which had included time under the stars visiting the tents of Bedouin living happily under Israeli protection, which is perhaps the truth, though a limited subset of the truth about the ME. I think this is the kind of 'nuance' programmed for certain kinds of visitors, not aggressive or militaristic claims to Judaea and Samaria so much as a soft TE Lawrence style romantic glow. This would be the attitude through which information would reach the students, the people who were really to be influenced.

  • I am hopeful
  • 'NYT' dismisses Wieseltier attack on Judis as tempest-in-a-teapot
    • A right of return continues to exist, I think, down the generations unless and until the refugee accepts citizenship elsewhere and, in order to be equal with new fellow-citizens, lays down former rights. If the right of return is extinguished by mere time then might becomes right if given enough time. But avoidance of the idea that might is right is one of the principal objectives of ethics.

  • Thought experiment. Dateline Ukraine
    • This is a terrible business, now looking as if it will turn Crimea into a major trouble spot.
      It was pretty clear that Yanukovich was unpopular and probably for very good reason. His supporters seem to have been divided and even the Crimean pro-Russians seem disinclined to rally around him. On the other hand, all governments go through 'mid-term' unpopularity and if that is treated as a reason for violent overthrow we shall have very dangerous consequences. The pouring of massive resources into the 'protests' was startlingly obvious - mind you, I'd be doubtful if oligarchs, Jewish or other, would invest too much of their own money when there must have been a flock of carrier pigeons flying from Washington and London with large cheques clipped to their claws. The EU must be involved to some extent but they have released a Nazi virus that will surely infect them.

  • Thanking Wieseltier, Shavit wants to save young American Jews who've been 'exposed to anti-Israel propaganda'
    • What are the reasons for 'cultural continuity'? There are the distinct but related questions of past achievements which a) result of a particular culture b) were due to people who were of that culture c) were due to people who lived in the midst that culture . English Protestant culture (a) produced the King James Bible and (b) from that culture came Newton, Locke, Milton and (c) we also have people who were possibly outsiders, like the putatively Catholic Shakespeare, but who definitely contributed both to EP culture and to the world. You could provide similar examples for Jewish culture over the centuries. Most cultures also have, in addition to their good elements, both definitely and arguably bad ones.
      We want more of the good and less of the bad. How to get that result? Presumably through letting the culture or tradition in question have free expression over time, be modified as the progress of the arts and sciences continues, and win such new adherents as it can by what it can offer by way of good example. Judaism and Anglicanism as religions, and Jewish and English culture in the wider, more amorphous sense, should continue as far as they are able by this means. Artificial means, like censoring critical voices or insisting that education be used as indoctrination, are not particularly admirable and so there cannot be any right to make use of them. If a religion disappears because it can longer command assent or if a culture disappears because it can no longer command sympathy that is not necessarily a bad thing to be avoided at great cost. If a religion continues because force or 'moral police' is used against dissenters or a culture continues because its members are too frightened to face any alternative that is not good.

  • Rising star Naftali Bennett is the new standard bearer for hardline Zionism
    • I agree that this is what Zionism has always been and there is nothing particularly new about the Judaea/Samaria rhetoric or the religious glow with which it is surrounded. It's over 30 years since I heard Begin say that J/S were not conquered but liberated territories. Earlier than that, though my recall is a bit hazy, I heard Meir saying that there 'was room only for one nation between the river and the sea' and as far as I know no Israeli government has officially reversed that position, except possibly for the now-you-see-it Generous Offer of Clinton's time.
      Is Bennett right about the demographic victory over the lesser breed?
      His name so recalls Jane Austen that I think that there must be a joke about pride and prejudice and truths universally acknowledged if only I could think of it.

  • 144 Irish educators pledge boycott-- as Karmi says, We gave up waiting on governments for help
    • I wish to see the elimination of the present system of river-to-sea minority rule and the substitution, under whatever name and maybe by several steps, of a system where there is no racial or religious discrimination, where sovereign power enfranchises all adults whom it governs and where there is nothing resembling the present 'occupation'. I usually call that 'the liberation of Palestine'. Some might call it, since we are all free to choose words, 'the elimination of Israel' as Israel is at present. But I think it could better be called 'the liberation of Israel' too.

  • Effort to remove Jews from West Bank is akin to Nazi slaughter -- settler spokesman
    • Yes, I agree that it never stopped being used - was indeed used by the Jewish writers Philo and Josephus in the first century. But it had to some extent been overwritten in official language by the use of 'Judaea' for the Herodian kingdom. That overwriting, if I can call it that, ceased in the mid-100s CE.
      I'm maybe giving a talk to a local group, interested in ancient history, on these questions - the ancient names and what we can learn from them. 'The restoration of the name "Palestine"' was a title - not too snappy! - that had occurred to me. Perhaps someone can suggest a better one.

    • I think 'Philistine' is Indo-European, from words like phyle/hestia, 'People of the Hearth', making 'Palestine' (-'ina' being an IE place name ending, some say Hittite) Land of Hearth and Home, a rather beautiful name. Ramesses' propaganda suggests one view of Palestinian origins, Genesis 20-21 another. Whether the Palestinians of old regarded themselves as invaders and marauders or called themselves such I doubt. By contrast the Israelites adopted, at any rate in later centuries, a story in which they had entered unprovoked, deprived, burned, expelled and killed. Not that this deprived the later Israelites of their rights.

    • The 'it' in that badly written sentence of mine means 'the name Palestine'.

    • I gave most of the ancient (at least pre-Roman) evidence about names, and the multicultural reality they help to reveal, in my article here on June 22.
      The name 'Judaea' first appears in an Assyrian inscription from Nimrud of 730-odd, whereas 'Palestinians' appear in Ramesses III's famous 'Sea Peoples' inscription of around 1175. Much older. It's very true that it was used by Herodotus, also that it was restored, not invented, by the Romans after 135 CE.

  • Great Britain’s 100 year war on the Arab world
    • The importance of slavery in our history deserves to be remembered. The Balfour Declaration was shameful. We did good things too.

  • When Israel attacked Gaza, killing 100 civilians, Hillary Clinton said we have to support it '110 percent'
  • Disenfranchised: How the NYT spins the status of Palestinian land
    • The rights of Palestinians are not affected by whether or not they ever had a polity or a language or a culture that was exclusively or predominantly theirs, or whether they were divided into different competing groups, or whether they were part of a larger culture. All these conditions (which have in fact all existed in Palestine at different times) are compatible with the right to be enfranchised citizens under a sovereign power.

  • The campaign against BDS is a deliberate choice to maintain the status quo
    • No one is calling for 'a boycott of Jews'. Some are calling for a boycott in terms that would affect some people who are Jewish, but for reasons not connected with their race or ancestry - which is a very different thing.

  • Scholar explodes 'canonic' American Jewish belief: Russian Czar was behind 1903 massacre
    • The western academic world at that time encouraged discussion with a kind of deadly blandness about it and with a kind of tolerance of the Zionist view that Palestinians 'don't exist'. I remember, circa 1990, the response 'Who are they?' when I mentioned Palestinians. I'm afraid I reacted blandly, with amusement, now to my shame. The arrival of Muslim students, almost unknown for some time at least in the humanities departments of Western universities but now trickling in, must be making a difference.

  • Krista Tippett puts occupied East Jerusalem in Israel
    • Well, I suppose that 'Salem', where Melchizedek is King, does appear in the Torah/Pentateuch.
      The Zionist 'Judaea and Samaria', denoting a single region, is not a Biblical phrase. 'The regions of J and S' are mentioned in Acts 8, but the plural is significant. In the older Scriptures Samaria is a city rather than a region and has a very negative image as a site of religious error. It was destroyed in brutal fashion by the armies of John, High Priest and ?King of the Jews, around 110 BCE, perhaps fulfilling a long-standing objective of the rulers of Jerusalem, perhaps pursuing a personal agenda of eliminating all sites that were in political or cultic terms Jerusalem's rivals. The historic connection of Jewish people with Samaria is very negative, so that that 'Judaea and Samaria' phrase grates against the facts. That does not mean that, in all the circumstances of today, Jewish people should not live there: no moral principle implies that. The historic connection of Jewish people with Jerusalem is, considered in the same terms, of course very much more positive, but in the same way there is no moral principle linking that fact with unique rights for Jewish people in Jerusalem now.
      'Judaea' in various linguistic forms was from a very early stage the region around Jerusalem: the application of the name expanded over the Persian and Hellenistic periods, as is explained by Israel Finkelstein in his article on 'The Expansion of Yehud'. But beyond a certain point the name did not fit comfortably, as we see from the designations of the tetrarchies under Augustus, where Judaea is a limited subset.

  • Citing MLK, Florida students call on school to divest
    • I felt convinced on reading his 1959 Easter Sermon, where his visit to the Holy Land is described, from his referring, as no Zionist surely would, to 'Jerusalem, Jordan' and to his abstention from all the 'blooming desert' language of the time, that he was not a Zionist by conviction. At the time he flinched from the moral question posed by Zionism but his movement over the years was towards support for Israel, if not exactly endorsement of Zionist principles, for all public purposes.
      His sort-of alter ego, Stokely Carmichael, moved the other way, beginning from keen Zionism and ending in opposition. I think that King and Carmichael were always quite close but in memory they have become symbols of good and reasonable versus dangerous and extremist anti-racism, and mainstream Black politics has emphatically followed King's practical embrace of Zionism not Carmichael's ideological rejection of it.
      So has left-wing opinion in the arts and music world.
      One view of King is that in his desperate struggle to keep his huge, unwieldy coalition together he declined the opportunity, which would not quickly come round again, to change the Western conversation to the Palestinians' advantage - that he decided that this was an 'injustice somewhere' that he, not too differently from those white liberals, would disregard. The other view is that everything was at stake, that American cities might go up in flames with untold international consequences, and that any sacrifice that kept the moderate anti-racial coalition together just had to be made. There was no right thing for him to do. The bitter implication of that view is that 'justice everywhere' is an illusion.

    • I cannot see that he was spared encounter with the Zionist view of - fetish concerning -what should happen to the land in question. He had been there and was far too intelligent not to appreciate the price that was already being paid for putting that view into effect. In his later years he was busy resisting those members of the civil rights movement who wanted to say openly that Zionism was unjust and he knew what they knew. When it came to the point he sided with Zionism, at least for public purposes, maybe in slightly ambiguous language but pretty explicitly. His influence continues. When we see former 60s radicals giving current Zionism their moral support we see something of that influence.

    • I think that the trouble with invoking King is that his remarks in support of Israel, some of which are genuine, can be found and rehearsed. It seems to me that he did his best to evade the matter but when he was pushed by Zionist friends and correspondents he always told them what they wanted to hear, even if he chose words that are a bit ambiguous when pressed. The King Center has a statement in August 67 by the SCLC, which must have had King's endorsement, saying that the security of Israel is 'incontestable', though adding an objection to the 'imposed' economic backwardness of the 'Arabs'. It is clear that there had been considerable opposition to this line within the SCLC and that King had managed not to face it directly, but got one of his friends, Hosea Williams I think, to persuade the SCLC conference not to press the matter. I haven't checked this, but I think that Taylor Branch in his bio of King concludes that he regretted his apparently strong - rather stronger than many American church leaders could manage - endorsement of Israel in the 67 war. But regrets expressed in private don't cancel statements made in public.
      I can see the attraction of this sort of Left Zionism to intelligent people: Jewish people are advanced and their problems need to be solved by national security; Palestinians are poor and their problems need to be solved by the reform of the international capitalist system and the abolition of its local feudal lackeys. But in the end it's not morally sound, is it? It bases itself on distinctions between the rights of rich and poor of the very kind it should be opposing.

  • Judis's scholarly book on Truman's decision gets the Jeffrey Goldberg treatment
    • Yes, Asquith means that he is not personally inclined to attach so much importance to race as Disraeli in his view had. I don't know the source of the Disraeli 'quotation'.

    • Well, what should happen when a liberal-minded, or even a reasonably fair-minded, person, confronts the proposition that 'the Jews have sacrificed another people on the altar of their own interest'? First of all (s)he should reject it as it stands, because it attributes agency to 'the Jews' who are not a corporation or an identifiable moral agent. 'Another people' conveys something of the same corporatism, so 'many other people' or some such wording would do better. But I think that this corporatist way of words comes from Hirsch, not Judis himself.
      Hirsch is at liberty to deny the amended proposition 'Some Jews have (ie in the course of realising Zionist principles) sacrificed many other (ie Palestinian) people'. But he doesn't immediately deny it, or say that it's false, but instead suggests that there is some inconsistency in saying that it's true, and implicitly denouncing the Jewish people in question, on the basis of liberalism. But it's quite obvious that a liberal or fair-minded person could do nothing, if convinced that this behaviour had occurred, other than denounce the perpetrators. There are other ways to convey the denunciation than using Christian terminology but that terminology is not particularly inappropriate. Hirsch seems to think that he can avoid the substance of Judis' claims by attacking their logic but it's rather obvious that he can't.

  • 'NPR' praises Israeli assassination program in faulting US one
    • 'Review by courts of decisions to target and kill' is a sort of parody of the idea of courts of law. I'm going back beyond the American Constitution to the Twelve Tables and the Bible and the consensus of humanity. The whole idea of a court is that both sides may speak. A secret body reviewing a decision to kill someone and hearing only from those who want to do the killing is at best a committee, not a court. And not a very nice committee either, since it is based on acceptance of what seems very like bloody murder in the manner of tyrants - or of the Spartan krypteia.
      Some say it's not bloody murder, since all is fair in love and war. There is some reason in that idea but if you invoke it you give the others as much moral permission to kill you as you give yourself to kill them.

  • After big loss, AIPAC goes... Progressive!
    • And I think people are beginning to see that the various (sometimes fantastic)supposed alternatives to ME oil, like Iowa corn, are way more expensive than what they are supposed to replace.

    • The 'split in the Jewish community' may be important in that it gives Democratic politicians the cover, the fairly vocal support from Jewish sources, that they need in order to resist anti-Obama pressures. Also important, I think, is (what I take to be) the decision by very powerful forces that Iranian oil must be brought back on stream. I think that the wider public is beginning to sense that this needs, if the world economy is to recover fast, to happen. And there's not enough campaign money in all the world to make people vote for higher oil prices. Of course the moral fibre of us in the West, with our conscience so fickle and our fixation on oil price so great, is nothing to boast about.

Showing comments 3338 - 3301

Comments are closed.