Commenter Profile

Total number of comments: 3850 (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 3850 - 3801

  • Sorry, American Jews, you don't have a birthright
    • If the title deed metaphor has any validity then it should be noted that it is the newest, not the oldest, deed that is normally considered valid. Perhaps that is what the Israelis have but it is written in too much blood to be valid in my estimation.

    • As to inheritance from ancient conquerors - the Jewish people of ancient times, if anyone can be identified in those terms, cannot have been the final victors in the ancient quarrels. It must have been their defeat in ancient times, final as far as those times were concerned, which created the exile whose long duration Zionism laments and claims to have ended, but only recently.
      On the moral side, we can think of a prized possession which has attracted a sequence of violent grabs, each at the time with no special justification. These grabs must all have the same moral status. To say that one of them except the last, differently from all the others, is sacred and inviolable, therefore creating permanent rights, is to resort to ideas that can only be religious.
      The last of them may be different in that if it is now well in the past it may have marked the beginning of a period of peace, goodwill, prosperity and justice, or at least some reasonable (given the resources and standards of the time) approximation thereto - and this may be regarded as creating some legitimacy and right to continue. It does so by transcending and contrasting with the upheavals of the previous time, therefore not by being simply the one that came last in the sequence. I do not think that Israel has achieved a situation of peace and goodwill.
      The existentialist/survivalist principle cannot be combined with any form of belief in the right of an existing polity to continue its existence. No rights mean anything if they may be swept aside by any internal or external group whose survival is at stake and who determine that this is what is necessary. Survivalism and appeal to ancient rights are in logical conflict, though they appear mixed up in Zionist propaganda, as do cultural and genetic criteria for continuity.

    • Without religion we have some sort of existentialist claim: people who are Jewish by being the targets of anti-Jewish feeling to the extent that their human rights are never secure have a right to do whatever their survival requires, there being no such thing as a right to stop anyone seeking survival. The claim to the Holy Land then becomes a means to an end, a way of consolidating solidarity. I think that this sort of existentialism is both paradoxical and terrifying.
      There is sometimes some suggestion that the Jewish people of today represent the last men standing among the old time conquerors, but that claim cannot be either true or a foundation
      of moral right.

  • Palestinians continue protests after Israel takes down metal detectors around al-Aqsa, installs new cameras
    • The removal of the metal detectors is quite a significant climb down, I think, indicating that there are limits to how far Israel can go in putting the cooperative Jordanian regime at risk and that there is no readiness for another big war. The logical,step would be to put forward a clear and definite final status proposal, but I don't suppose that that will happen.

  • Avishai's prophetic 'Tragedy of Zionism' was denied by Jewish community 32 years ago
    • Much of this is perplexing: the differences between the forms of Z are treated as very important, yet in practice they amount, on this showing, to less and less. What do you have to believe, per Avishai or per Nikles, to believe if you are to be a Zionist? What is the root idea? What form of Palestinian rights might be compatible with this idea?

  • Three settlers stabbed to death and three Palestinians shot dead in turmoil over security measures at al-Aqsa mosque compound (Updated)
    • I'm M, Mist, (Martin) but not Mc, not being very Scottish. I'm prolly descended from Welsh and English fifth century race warriors. That was a bad time.

    • I've read Kay's remarks back to May and I don't see much warmongering. I think - Kay might use stronger language - that we should at least be wary of Putin.

    • I don't see that it needs any special religious indoctrination to resent every new extension of the process by which you and those of your nationality are regularly humiliated at checkpoints by wrongdoers who assume the role of moral instructors, telling you what to. I must admit that I might get quite annoyed, even driven to wild rage, if I couldn't visit a cathedral without being searched by Muslim police who offer moral lectures.

    • Are you saying, Mist, that belligerent occupation incurs a right of armed resistance in all circumstances, or that this is not a genuine occupation but something so much worse that it may be opposed by all means?

  • The Spirit of '68 Lives On: Zionism as racism, and the network of lies
    • Could we not afford, Yoni, to use the gentler term 'cultural' rather than 'fictional' for the connection of medieval and later Jewry with the Second Temple Judaeans? People arose who decided to join this particular one among the religions that were claiming to be the true interpreter of the ancient scriptures. You can adopt a culture as much and as validly as you can inherit it, surely? I certainly think that Zionist ideology relies upon a confusing and arbitrary mix of genetic and cultural continuity, which neither singly nor together justify their claims.

    • When the NT refers to 'the scriptures' the Hebrew (it is rather better to say Hebrew-Greek) scriptures are meant, and the main reasons why you should accept Our Lord Jesus Christ is are that his resurrection was validly witnessed and that the scriptures validate his claims. This meant that the Hebrew Scriptures were indeed built into the foundations of the West as it became Christian, but now in their role as the Old Testament, the translated ancient text interpreted by the newer one. That newer text subtly incorporated a certain heritage from the less authoritative but much larger and more varied pagan tradition, which became the other foundation of the West. It is still a Christian principle, I agree, that Jews had 'much advantage every way' as the custodians of the oracles of God.

  • Bill making it a federal crime to support BDS sends shockwaves through progressive community
    • Medieval Jews and Christians were highly conscious of religious differences and a dark stain was left on the Christian side as a result. The question of who was the most 'other' is difficult. Heretics and those accused of sorcery were not clutched to orthodox bosoms. But the modern Christian or post-Christian world is marked not only by these ideas of otherness but also by the fact that we have tried to reject them, i.e. put aside medieval versions of identity politics.
      Christians and Jews were not entirely strangers to each other's sex lives in medieval Spain, which was one reason why the Inauisition got so neurotic about purity of. blood. King Ferdinand himself was supposed by some to have some blood whose purity could be questioned.

  • 'Irreplaceable bedrock' of U.S. backing for Israel is threatened by -- intermarriage
    • I'm sure that is right on the economics, og, though I think Antidote is perceptive about Israel's gathering new supporters and thereby compensating for a certain weakening (not to exaggerate that process)?of formerly cast iron suppprt among Jewish people in the United States.

    • Thanks for good wishes!

    • It took me longer - I am 73 today - to appreciate the terrible injustice that is being perpetrated in Palestine.

  • 'We need to cut their heads off,' Bush said of anti-western demonstrators in Syria in '06 -- Tzipi Livni
    • I would be quite surprised, Kaisa, if there was much anti-Jewish mockery anywhere near the mainstream - the Nazi-era mockery has such a bad name. On the other hand, there has certainly been anti-Christian mockery in the age of church scandals.
      I find that the Bont Eastlake contributions, though in my view outside Mondoweiss rules, make me think, though they outrage values I hold dear - though there's an indication there why religious affront cannot reasonably be taken as a capital offence.

    • I've never seen it but I suppose it was an allusion to Piss Christ - that famous photo which I read somewhere is just about to appear again in an exhibition.

    • The important thing is that we assure Muslims that we acknowledge their rights. We - not that 'we' and 'they' are entirely distinct categories - claim our rights but theirs matter just as much.

    • I disagree, jon, with NE's views on hate speech. At the time I didn't think I had anything to add to what RoHa was saying.

    • I too believe in free speech in matters of religion. You can mock Jesus Christ and the Church of England all you like without deserving death, legal proceedings or social or career ostracism. Other religions no different.

  • 'You are thieves of history!' Hotovely tells Palestinians, waving books at them
    • It's some of what occurs in the Bible, but so does restoration after suffering and sacrifice - notably in 2nd Isaiah. Wieselism seems to me to be a theology in this spirit.

    • Did Rashi really use a word equivalent to 'occupiers'?
      The Palestinians have lived in obedience to many kings, though their dominions usually extended beyond Palestine, and they lived a cultural life that was part of the wider cultural life of the ME. The Jews have over the centuries also lived in obedience and loyalty to many kings, ones whose dominions did not usually include Palestine. So what conclusion follows?

  • Israeli paper investigates 50-year-ago attack on 'USS Liberty,' while US papers leave it in the letters column
    • I've not read Hounam's book and don't think I'm going to - It's a bit hard to believe that he is meticulous in all other respects if he gets the name of the flagship wrong, and I still think that the conspiracy would have had to be unrealistically extensive. As far as I can see Keith is quite right.

    • I am a bit sceptical about the Johnson conspiracy, which would surely have involved guilty knowledge among quite a lot of people. But if Johnson was really conspiring with Dayan to murder hundreds of Americans he and any Americans who were in on the plot are on a far lower moral plane than any Israelis were, though the event is still, even on a more exculpating account, a monument to Israeli recklessness and arrogance. The continuing importance lies in the fact that even way outside Johnson's circle of conspirators or dupes, dead and buried with him, a pattern was set that has never changed whereby what Israel says, however hard to believe, is believed and Israeli actions, however hard to condone, are condoned. If you will take that attitude when the victims are your own people how much more will you do so when they are others for whom you do not specially care?

  • At NY premiere, David Grossman will join Netanyahu minister who boycotts Darwish
    • The characteristics 'practising a certain religion'; 'being close in blood to those who practise it' are different but not conflicting, merely disjunctive: the same person could qualify both ways. It seems to me completely intelligible and understandable a) to say that a system ascribing ' supremacy' to members of this disjunctively defined group is 'religion supremacist' b) to believe that this sort of supremacy is wrong either because all supremacy is wrong or else because it is morally impossible to ascribe rights on such an arbitrary basis or on both these grounds.
      A belief in religion supremacy doesn't have to be itself a religious belief - it may be defended on grounds of social utility. If it is clearly based on religious belief, ie the religion implies its own supremacy, there is scope for objection. It is to be expected that membership of the supreme group is closely guarded by its generally recognised members. You may not want to share supremacy more widely than you really have to.
      Terms and phrases come not only through strict definitions but through an umbra of associations and suggestions. I think eljay is being harshly treated when his meaning is completely intelligible as a matter of definition and also, when it comes to associations and suggestions, useful in reminding us that the role of religion in Israeli life is surely rather greater than Israel's liberal admirers might have us think. However, there are misleading associations as well, since everyone knows that professed atheists can do well in Israel. 'Religion supremacist' isn't a rhetorical weapon which causes dismay on the other side, rather dissension on ours.

    • I'd say that Israel does give supremacy or at least crucial and massive privilege to a rather strangely disparate group of people practising the Jewish religion or related by blood to those who do or did - so religion enters into their understanding of what the top group is. Supremacist in that sense. But there is no need for members of that group to be religious, indeed for a time it was at least highly fashionable to make a display of atheism. So supremacy without religion in that sense. One of the keys to the success of Z has been the remarkable and unique ability to survive at almost every point of the religious and political spectrum.

    • Isaiah 6:13 in the standard reading refers to the holy seed more as what the Israelites are than as what they possess. The ugly stump that has survived the forest fire is the seed from which, presumably, a mightier and more beautiful tree will grow. Thus we see, friends, that it was in ancient Israel that the theory of natural selection, along with the 21st century principle that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger, was first discovered.

  • London's Palestine Expo defies smear campaign attracting more than 15,000
    • See Brian Klug 'The Other Arthur Balfour', an extract from one of his books posted on the Balfour Project website on July 8, 2013. Klug notes B's frequently expressed admiration for Jewish people and his efforts to protect British Jews against petty discrimination alongside his support for the first round of UK immigration laws, which did arise from an anti-Jewish scare and which set the tone for other immigration scares right up to today. Like Klug I think that we can't really call him an anti-Semite. He was certainly a Christian Zionist by religious conviction,
      The celebrations of the Declaration later this year will certainly be rather horrible.

  • Israel charges UNESCO with 'Fake history'
    • Orla Noy's remarks about the non-anti-Semitism of Unesco are good. Judaism is the first religion of pilgrimage that Unesco mentions.

  • Nadia Hijab on Palestinian options, Jewish allies, and the Zionist crisis
    • 'In war the weaker have always recourse to negotiations' remarked David Hume - he and you, jon, make a very sensible point about self-interest , but isn't there a corresponding point morally, that one should not maintain a situation which ought to be ended so that one gains more and more by superior power? Olmert's proposal, though it did not quite get off the ground and became known only a bit later - Abbas apparently says that 'Olmert was assassinated politically just as Rabin had beeen assassinated materially' - is the sort of thing, a defined idea (nearly defined idea, perhaps), that we should see more of.

    • I too don't think negotiations are impossible, indeed I think that there is a responsibility on the more powerful party to start them and to start them again if they stop. Ms. Hijab is talking of medium-term goals, I think, in particular of rallying American Jewish opinion to the cause of a just settlement. It's not realistic to think that the long-term hope, the glorious dawn of liberty and suchlike, can be brought to reality soon. But the reason why I think that we should keep this conversation and flow of news going and going some more is that there is a short-term goal which may be realistic, that of pressing and pushing the Israeli government to make a clear proposal for the end of occupation and the final settlement.
      It doesn't even have to be an acceptable proposal: just having something for all to see would be highly clarifying and would involve public opinion, even political opinion, in a way that has a chance of being constructive.

    • The expulsion of the German population from the territories which returned to Polish sovereignty, having been taken away by the eighteenth century Partitions, was an atrocity, surely, even if the loss of life was less than other atrocities caused. However, the Germans have chosen to accept the situation and formalise it through treaties, including the EU treaties, though the EU right for Germans to move anew to Poland does not amount to restitution of anything that was lost. Stalin was the moving spirit but the other Allies were responsible too. The Danes, I think, wanted to repossess territory which they had lost much more recently, just about within living memory, but were told by the British to forget it: so we weren't following a consistent policy of negating Prussian militarism.

    • I think that representatives of the population of an occupied territory can negotiate with the occupiers - this procedure was followed by minor Axis Powers postwar., leading to the Treaties of Paris of ?1950. The clumsily named Treaty on Final Settkement with respect to Germany, never called a peace treaty, was not negotiated unti 1990.

  • Church leaders must be willing to pay a price for Palestinian solidarity
    • It is perfectly possible for the same person to be operating a military government not representing the people of an area and to be pursuing in the same territory or perhaps a subset of it - or perhaps a wider area - a policy of separate racial development under one sovereign power. Namibia in the old days is probably is a good example. One may and should reasonably wish, though cannot always expect in the short term, for both these features to be absent from all societies and may reasonably complain of both when both are present.

    • You do well to draw these remarks to our attention, jon. I came across a website called Jewish-Christian Relations and a long article on the Covenant of Sinai by Hans Hendrix, seemingly well informed and remarking that something of an ecumenical consensus in favour of the idea that the Covenant was still valid, i.e. really that Christian Zionism is an unavoidable commitment for followers of the New Testament, had emerged even before Pope John Paul's, and now Francis's, dramatic pronouncements. This is not just excessive enthusiasm by F.
      Hendrix may overstate somewhat but I don't think he's so far wrong that the task of constructing a New Testament based anti-Z, at any rate one that will command much support, might be imagined easy.

  • Israel slams UNESCO World Heritage decision on Hebron as Palestinians celebrate 12-3 vote in favor
    • I agree with Nathan - and with Hobbes - to the extent of saying that established and functional polities should not lightly be called illegitimate, thus inviting great dangers and uncertain outcomes. Even basic rights can be disregarded for a time if there is serious hope that time will make things better, if the custom and consent of the society seems to make insistence on those rights premature and if acting according to those customs brings something like benefit all round. But if there is no all round benefit, but considerable misery for many, and no general consent among those involved and if rights are being disregarded relentlessly or on what our colleague Yonah calls a cruel vector then I think that these are circumstances in which, as I think Locke shows, illegitimacy sets in.
      International recognition is important. We shouldn't be too ready to put ourselves outside the consensus of the human race but the formalities of recognition do not always amount to human consensus and if a blind eye is being turned to something seriously wrong then the word of what is really only a committee - made up of powerful and well-informed people, maybe, but only of people, not gods - can't be the last word.

    • I fear that they may have completely forgotten what being highly tickled is like.

    • I'd think they'd say, by way of formal reply, that attributions of style are inessential: they were following their normal rules, in that the place is not in internationally recognised Israeli territory, in that it is in frequent use by Palestinian Muslims - as Canterbury Cathedral is in daily use by Anglicans - in that Palestine is at very least a Unesco constituent of a sort. If this isn't Palestine for Unesco purposes what is? Enough was said to justify the judgement that it's a World Heritage site - moreover drawing attention to the religion of the founders is not a normal Unesco practice.
      On the other hand the situation here is very strange, the buildings being undocumented, in which circumstance the Herodian style is an undeniably important, though not conclusively revealing, clue. So the 'formal reply' would not be quite enough, I must admit.
      So I think that the Unesco majority must have wanted to make some sort of a stand, by simply calling the place Palestinian, against the constant stream of insulting Israeli insistence that the Palestinians, living and breathing people who bleed when pricked, write poetry and study scientific matters, are somehow deficient in political rights by not having a culture 'of their own' - that dark stream being insufferable to many even when its insults don't splash on us personally.

    • Someone mentioned the Alhambra - I looked at the Unesco document about it and had previously looked at Unesco on Canterbury Cathedrsl. You're right that they try not to mention religious controversies. They do of course have to mention that Canterbury Cathedral is a working Anglican place of worship. On the Alhambra they mention things that are obviously Islamic, such as the Nasrid and Hispano-Muslim style of architecture. I think in a way that Herodian style should have been mentioned in the same manner. But there's nothing you could say that would satisfy the Zionists, who will not accept that the building is very strange one, explained by nearly nothing in the ancient record. Meanwhile, it is Palestinian in the same way that the Alhambra is in normal usage Spanish and Canterbury Cathedral Anglican, except for the recent violent appropriation of part of it.

    • I'be just had a look at the Unesco citation for Canterbury Cathedral, which does not mention the word Catholic, though the edifice was undoubtedly constructed by Catholics, and does mention my spiritual gang, the Church of England, the custodians of (as is also said) five (merely five!) centuries' standing. It does mention massively un-Protestant things like Benedictine monasticism.
      As John O notes, there is obviously a problem in these contexts about mentioning things that can't quite be proved: where do you stop if you go beyond the hardest facts? I still think that some way of acknowledging the Jewish Claim should have been found.
      However, there has never been any Catholic protest about Unesco's Canterbury tale as far as I am aware.

    • I accept that the building is very likely pre-70. It may well be one of Herod's monuments, though it's odd that Josephus doesn't mention it. It may well be an image of the Temple but then descriptions of the Temple were available for some time after 70. It's strange that it lacked both a roof and an obvious entrance and perhaps hard to believe that it was a secondary cult centre, since second or secondary cult centres don't seem to have been permitted in Second Temple Judaism.
      But perhaps these strange features are not really central to the topic. Unesco is wrong to have - and discredits itself unnecessarily by having - failed to mention the fact that it is quite likely, to say the least, one of Herod's works - though things are not quite as clear cut the other way as people are saying.

    • I think that the Mosque is mainly a pre-Islamic structure of mysterious origin and purpose, since it may not have had an entrance, but is built in the style associated with Herod the Great, King of the Jews, whose religion was centred on the Jerusalem Temple, which the Christians came to think unnecessary - here I may differ from Yoni. The idea that the site is the second holiest in Judaism is hard to sustain in that there is little ancient reference to it and in that the religion of the Second Temple period did not really admit the idea of a second holy site. Unesco may not be providing a balanced and objective history but neither is the Israeli government.

  • Anti-Semitism accusations against 'Dyke March' prove pro-Israel lobby will torch LGBT rights for marginalized people
    • Well, echino, I only say that that is more or less the common definition. But no one owns words and all I think we can ask of one another is that we make ourselves reasonably clear. There is in any event no definition of 'Jewish' which will effectively support a rational argument for the sort of rights that Zionism claims for Jews, as I think you and I agree.
      I don't quite follow what you say about the differences between religions. I practise Anglicanism, other people other religions, including Judaism. There are differences.

    • I think that most people think that 'Jewish' means (of persons) something like 'practising the Jewish religion or being sufficiently close in blood to someone who practised it'. There is obviously room for considerable dispute in applying a definition in these terms but that difficulty is likely to persist if other defs are used.

  • Amazon pulls blank 'History of Palestinian People' -- which aims to dehumanize in order to subjugate
    • It's not obvious though, to me at least, what passages in the Republic are relevant. The Cambridge History of World Slavery vol 1 p.85 mentions the 'animalisation' of the Helots - they sometimes had to dress up in animal skins - which is definitely what we might call dehumanisation and surely contempt. The attitude attributed to the Helots to the Spartans - 'they desire to eat them raw' - is what we might call hatred. I agree with Tuy that 'hate' gets overused and that anti-hate rhetoric is often itself a clumsy and brutal thing.

    • The Bible contains some historical information, you just have to be careful with it. In some ways, such as never pretending that the Israelites were indigenous in Palestine or that the Israelites of ancient times were faithful to the Mosaic religion, it is very illuminating. The Zionist Bible seems to consist of the Book of Joshua in letters of fire four inches high.

    • Brown University, bless it, maintains a database of Holy Land inscriptions from about 500 - 500 BCE - CE. A few things stand out, one being the non-prevalence of Hebrew, what Isaiah had called 'the language of Canaan' (itself an interesting term), and the extensiveness of Aramaic, the business language of the Persian Empire, and then of Greek. I looked up the inscriptions mentioning equivalents of 'house', which seems, at least on first sight, to make these points quite well.. In the earlier stages Jewish religious terms are not universal - I noticed some references to God under his Edomite name Qos. In the later stages there is a lot of Christian piety. The non-Jews of Palestine did exist: mind you, the question of how you told the difference between Jew and non-Jew in say 450 BCE, when Herodotus was writing of the Syrians of Palestine, is not an easy question. However, there is no denying that the Hasmonean and
      Herodian policy of religious uniformity except perhaps in certain pockets on the fringes of their expanding dominions, like the Decapolis where Greek pagan literature appeared, surely took increasing hold. The effects of that policy, accepted seemingly by the Jewish masses as a sacred mission, are indeed being felt to this day. But there is no moral reason outside Biblical exposition - and many of us would expound the Bible differently - why the policy of this brief period should be so determinative of what happens now as it has become.
      People refer to Flavius Josephus, often making one of his Latin names end in 'ous', which suggests non-careful reading. He is of value for the period near his own time but the history of the period that was ancient to him is mainly dependent on the Bible.

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