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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.

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  • Could Ron Paul's Iowa surge finally open up political debate on Israel and Iran attack?
    • The BBC main evening news is treating the Iranian incident as less significant than the bleak economic announcements being made by the government today. The 'breaking news' as I write is about Michael Jackson's doctor. The teletext service is saying that there have been 'apologies from Iranian officials'. At the moment it doesn't sound too warlike. If there do turn out to be outrages against individual UK citizens I suppose things might change.

  • Guardians of the City: An interview with Neturei Karta's Rabbi Meir Hirsh
    • I think that any religious person is likely to say that if our attempts to resist evil or indeed to do good do not in the end succeed we have to accept that our failure is God's will.
      None of us find it easy to pursue the question from there. Why is God's will so harsh? If you don't believe in God, why does a rational species behave so badly sometimes? The possibilities seem to be that:
      a) the victims had done something wrong, maybe long ago, and the error had to be paid for
      b) the victims were exceptional in their character and their contribution to society and so attracted the envy and hatred of the wicked
      c) the victims were in every way normal people who had the misfortune to be selected by the whim of other people who were both bad and arbitrary.
      The exponents of all these ideas can call on plenty of literary and theological resources. The Deuteronomic History tells us over and over that political suffering is the wages of sin, idolatry and irreligion. The Servant songs in Isaiah (we Christians can't get enough of these, though they are more complex and problematic than we like to think) suggest the second view. Being caught up in a problem too big to be handled is more of a pagan experience, perhaps.
      Freud in Mo and Mono understood that the first two ideas are not incompatible. He thought that the Euro Jews had made a very constructive contribution, exciting envy. On the other hand there was this basic problem of inherited guilt that had never been addressed and that kept putting both the internal and external relations of the Jewish community somehow wrong.
      Still all these ideas, however you combine them, remain distressing and unattractive. Hard to escape from all of them, though.

  • The liberal Zionist inability to confront the right of return
    • As to Christian atheists, Jewish sceptics and all that, the poet Joseph Brodsky defined himself as Jewish, I think, but also as 'a Christian by correspondence' whatever that means. These poets are sometimes obscure. He died in NY but had himself interred in a plot belonging to the Anglican Church in Venice - good taste, I'd say.

    • Yes indeed, patm - some people have claimed to be 'Christian atheists' or at least have accepted that label. Philip Pullman being perhaps the best known at the moment. They tend see a way of life marked by the kind of love for others described in I Corinthians as the sole defining characteristic of Christianity. I think most of them would think that they belong to a group rather than a tribe, because 'tribe' has connotations of kinship.
      Richard Falk sometime ago offered a definition of 'Jewish' which was solely in terms of professed loyalty to certain ideals - he did not specify that these ideals be actually practised or conveyed by Jewish ritual or preaching. I am Jewish, I think, under that definition.
      Others would not use the words 'Christian', 'atheist' and 'Jewish' in the same way, of course. But then we may define words as we wish, so long as we make ourselves clear.
      But it doesn't seem to me that any group gains political rights simply from how it defines itself or is defined by others.

  • NBC and the Israel lobby
    • I can't add to the validity and moral dignity of what annie says. I like to think and do think that there are multitudes of Jewish people who would scorn to participate in vindictive campaigns against individuals. The general movement in recent years, whereby we who think Zionism a mistaken belief have advanced from being negligible to being noticeable, has not been stopped in its tracks by these or other means. We now have to move from being noticeable to being significant, which means we have to keep talking - and also to keep our heads. Everything is still massively stacked against us, as atimeforpeace has said. We have no real advantages except for being right and being genuinely anti-anti-Semitic, but that may be enough in the end.

  • Pamela Geller's Islamophobia hits new low with Thanksgiving Day smear of dietary laws
    • In 1623 the extraordinarily precocious Puritan John Milton wrote his powerful hymn 'Let us with a gladsome mind', choosing Psalm 136 over 107 as his basis. Best semi-original poem by a 15 year old? 107 is actually less nationalist and more universal in spirit than 136. The Psalms could inspire a Platonist like George Herbert - 'the Church with psalms must shout, no door can keep them out. But above all the heart must bear the longest part'. But the nationalist/imperial theme was certainly there too. I've just been having a look at Cotton Mather's 'Wonders of the Invisible World' which refers to New England as a land reclaimed from the devil, very much recalling Israel in Palestine.

  • 'Segregated country': Israel envisions Orthodox-Jewish-only 'cities' in Palestinian area
    • All of us here owe a great debt to you too, annie. I'd just like you to know, since you were concerned, that my Bella Freud/Tilda Swinton scarf has now had several outings and been noticed. Some people say they agree with the message, some freeze in a funny way but no one has suggested that I'm cross-dressing, though one person (a priest) did say that it would help my wife to find me in the dark. It is in fact quite unnecessary for that purpose.

    • The legal side of the story isn't everything. Rebecca Solnit in 'Storming the Gates of Paradise' writes interestingly of the 'Indians'. 'No other ethnic group in the United States' she says 'is...certified in somewhat the same way that Old Master paintings are identified' (p.34). 'As extras from the Golden Age they are assumed to have faded into the sunset along with the credits'. There is quite a strong analogy with what is happening to the Palestinians, who are being prepared for a role as a museum piece or as characters - savage, intrusive, just a bit picturesque - in the romantic story of 'how the Middle East was won'.
      Terrible crimes have been committed in the formation of western nations. The Arthurian romances in their way reveal and conceal those committed 'in the matter of Britain'. If I identified with one of the sets of victims (my Welsh ancestors would probably think of me as a half-breed sellout) I might not think that the western victors had ever fully paid the price. But they have taken the minimum step of full enfranchisement, without relevant exception, of all those subject to their sovereign power. This Israel has not done and will never do.
      WF Albright, the archaeologist/linguist/theologian who did so much to establish what he called 'the essential historicity' of the Bible narrative, was highly conscious of the ancient Israel/modern America parallel. He seems to have with most of his mind thought that they were mutually validating stories, with a little of it to have suspected that God would visit the sins of the conquerors on them one day.

  • NPR story on Dead Sea Scrolls makes listener feel like a goose being force-fed Israel propaganda
    • De Vaux, I think, would not, because of his political sympathies, cooperate with the Israeli authorities and this led to a stoppage in Scroll publications until Pierre Benoit took over in 1972. The Scrolls were still in Catholic hands - it was not for some time, around 1980, that Israeli scholars, notably Emanuel Tov and Elisha Qimron, became involved. I may have exaggerated Strugnell's role in bringing them in, but certainly Strugnell, who has been much vilified, cooperated with Israeli colleagues and produced work in collaboration with them. He was by all accounts a linguist of the highest quality and his work continued to be used after his removal.
      The Scrolls' mainly Catholic editorial group and the Israel Antiquities Authority both took a very restrictive attitude towards publication, officially for fear that half-qualified people would seize on bits and pieces of text and produce irresponsible interpretations. The question of personal copyright for fragments of text deciphered by particular individuals has also arisen.
      Of course the fear of irresponsible interpretations could be regarded as fear of interpretations that were merely unorthodox.
      The Eerdman's Bible Commentary has a good summary of the actual implications of the Scrolls. To my mind, the Scrolls do make clear how fluid was the Tanakh text of the time, how important the apocryphal and Enochic texts were, how familiar within Judaism the Greek language was, how unpopular the Jerusalem religious elite was in some Jewish circles. I bet they don't mention much of any of this when official exhibitions of the Scrolls are mounted 'for the geese'.

    • 'Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel' recently edited by Francesca Stravrakopoulou and John Barton is a very up to date summary of views not too popular with Zionists. Francesca did a television series a few years ago maintaining that Samaria, not Jerusalem, was the true capital of Palestine and the leader of its civilisation in the ninth century. The remains are certainly very substantial compared with those in Jerusalem, though Jerusalem of course has been reconstructed many times since those ancient days. See the Oxford History of the Biblical World for a more 'moderate' view.
      Identifying buildings as gates, stables etc. is of course extremely speculative yet massively indulged in. The entirely reasonable doubts about the deeply linked trio of great kingdom, great city and great temple that have emerged are reprehensibly ignored.
      Just to mention to O Farmer, whose remarks are often of great value to us, that the Scrolls themselves have never been under effective Israeli or Jewish control. They have always been in Catholic hands, first with Roland de Vaux and later with John Strugnell, who was the first (in the 80s) to grant access to Jewish scholars. Strugnell lost his job because of his extremely negative views of Judaism to which on at least one occasion he gave voice after too much beer. Obviously there was a fear that something that could be interpreted as highly discreditable to Jesus - what if 'someone of that name' had been expelled from the Qumran community, allegedly for taking too much beer? - might emerge. This did not happen. It had of course been clear for a long time that the Qumraners held scornful feelings about Pharisaic Judaism, a religion for 'seekers after smooth things'. This could be taken in stride as sectarian vituperation.

  • Kissinger: 'Is there a more self-serving group of people than the Jewish community?'
    • There is no scientific test for being Jewish, so it's not an objective fact that someone is Jewish or not. And it's certainly true that racial identify, self-ascribed or ascribed by others, does not determine moral character - wonderful, criminal or whatever.

  • Condi Rice was 'shocked' by 'ethnic purity' claims for Jewish state
    • The right to participate in the politics of a place, be a citizen, a voter etc. derive from living peacefully in that place. By what right or reason could someone dwelling peacefully and contributing constructively be denied that right? Peaceful existence is not the same as maintaining by continuous exercise of force, which is a negation of peace, something that was created by force in the first place. Rights plainly do not arise from violence, though they can arise from agreements made to end a period of violence, which is what all social contracts are.

    • It's part of an imperialist mindset to think that populations can be moved around the international chessboard - Uganda, Palestine, Patagonia, whatever it takes - in pursuit of the rational plan which the empire, having the broad view that lesser organisations lack, is alone able to develop. Balfour was of rather similar opinion.
      Prof. Rice seems to think that in certain circumstances - ie when you can claim to be engaged in a long historical journey - you can also claim the right to ethnic purity. Why exactly does this 'journeying' status make such a difference? How is it recognised? Aren't all groups, Americans included, on a journey of some kind?

  • Five Republican congressmen take Christian Zionist solidarity tour of settlements
    • Klaus Scholder's The Churches and the Third Reich is very good, though saddening. It's clearly true that many Nazis did consider themselves to be Christians. Perhaps their Christianity was inauthentic - it's very difficult to explain what is the authentic form of any religion or indeed of any school of thought.

  • Four Freedom Riders, then and now
    • It's hard to measure caring scientifically - I think that the West would be prepared (is signalling that it would be prepared) to subsidise a Palestinian mini-state to some extent, with some effect on the welfare of the population as well as on 'security'. But giving money isn't necessarily a sign of caring, sometimes only of a wish or hope to shut people up. When two groups are in conflict a small donation to one is not very caring if accompanied by huge donations to the other. Especially if these donations are used to keep the other group oppressed and without dignity and if this humiliating situation is reinforced among the donors by a substantial flow of hostile propaganda, while the more powerful group is constantly assured of its high status. And especially if the basic belief of the more powerful group, that they alone have a true right to be in the place which in practice they share, is treated with the respect that it does not deserve. According to this belief one side is a heavy weight on the scales of justice, the other nothing whatever in comparison. Which isn't a caring way to look at anyone, even if you throw a bag of coins at them.

    • The West's ability 'not to care' about Palestinians - to consider them as in some strange way unreal - has many roots, some of which were producing sprouts and twigs in the days of the Freedom Rides. Not so much a kind of uncaring, perhaps, as a kind of unseeing. Or of always seeing something else as more important. Or of always thinking that there's nothing constructive we can do or say.
      It took even Stokely Carmichael, I think, some years to evolve from full sympathy with Zionism to strong opposition and even then - at first - not because he saw that the Palestinians, real people, were being treated as nothing at all, but because Israel-South Africa cooperation gradually became apparent to him.
      Carmichael's influence on King was growing in the late 60s though it seems that they never discussed or even considered the idea that the Palestine problem should be brought to the forefront of their very American movement. Yet King was one of the very few westerners who had visited Palestine in the days of Jordanian rule. He must have sensed how important the problem was but must also have thought that he could not make any constructive contribution to solving it. This opened the way to hoaxers and to pseudo-King pro-Zionist documents in later years.

  • Dueling messages on Iran
    • Another mess surrounds the tomb of one of the kings of Macedon, advertised by the Greek authorities (will the EU insist on changes?) as being the tomb of Philip II, Alexander's father, belonging to an 'Hellenic kingdom in the age of democracy' - all about glory and success. Others attribute it to Philip III, Alexander's unfortunate and murdered successor - all about a king who died young and a kingdom that was shrinking back to its original size after a short imperial venture.
      I'm not too good at supplying links, but would mention a blog called Bible Places, with interesting articles about Mazar, dated Feb 2010 and June 2011 (see interesting comment by someone called Ritmeyer, of whom I should probably have heard more).
      Mazar has been responsible for what seems to be a very implausible, but officially encouraged, identification of the Water Gate (related to the Dung Gate of which Kate has written recently) and also for the identification of a tenth century wall and 'house of David' - the house, she says, from which David withdrew when menaced by the Palestinians. All very speculative.
      She's probably aware that she has pushed the 'trowel in one hand, Bible in the other' technique as far as it can reasonably go and that if things are pushed beyond all reason by tourist-trappers there will, at long last, be a reaction towards incredulity.

  • Gorenberg says a one-state solution would produce another Lebanon
    • Do you mean that Weimar Germany was very strongly under an influence that was specifically Jewish? I think that Ludendorff referred to the Dawes Plan, that seemed to make the payment of reparations practicable, as 'a Jewish Tannenberg'. We should look at that kind of opinion sceptically, I think. Would a society in that state have elected Hindenburg as President?

  • Saul Bellow didn't like WASPs
    • Luke, the only evangelist to report the Parable, also makes a point of having the mass of Jewish people in his crucifixion scene behave like onlookers, not knowing what to think, or even (women especially, for whom Luke-Acts has a soft spot) as weeping sympathisers. It's only the Jewish leaders and the Roman soldiers who mock and scorn.
      The story does goes on, I suppose I must accept or admit, to show Roman alienation decreasing and Jewish alienation increasing.
      Alienation did increase to a tragic degree, of course. Donald mentions the time of Heraclius and the temporary Persian capture of Jerusalem in the early seventh century. From about a century before that there had been vicious Jewish-Christian wars in Arabia, which must have played their part in the rise of Islam.
      For all that, I'm sure that modern Christians read the Samaritan story as meaning that religious professionals can be morally useless and that outsiders can be, when challenged, remarkably humane. The useless behaviour need not be inexplicable - the priest and Levite pass by on the other side, maybe indicating that they think that the man on the ground is a decoy. This is the personal risk or challenge that the Samaritan accepts. The story doesn't suggest that Jews shunned Samaritans - the Samaritan is obviously doing regular business and booking hotel rooms in Jewish territory.

  • 80 year old Palestinian woman stoned by settlers
  • The law and practice of apartheid in South Africa and Palestine
    • Great to have someone of Professor Dugard's distinction among us! This is a humane rather than a legal essay - there's no formal definition of 'apartheid', just a set of reminders and comparisons. I think that Israel is not based, like the old SA, on an idea of separate development but on an idea of unique right: 'only Jewish people have a birthright in Palestine'.
      As I remember, Goldstone all along called himself a Zionist, so he must have regarded the structure of river-to-sea Jewish minority rule as essentially defensible - despite regrettable excesses!! - by the fact that the Palestinian minority in one section is enfranchised and by the supposed fact that in the other section the situation is meant to be merely temporary. Ho hum.

  • If Sen. Ron Wyden wants to end arms sales to Bahrain for 'violently suppressing peaceful civil dissent', why not Israel?
    • And can't deny that it is the greater victimiser. This does not entirely prove that it should be condemned as the greater wrongdoer. But the only way to avoid that condemnation would be to say either 'we victimise them much but we benefit them more' or 'they are in fact remarkable among the nations and peoples in that so many of them deserve to die; we have to enforce the moral law with appropriate sternness'. The first is the idea behind the 'civilising missions' of imperial powers, the second the idea- of Kurtz, famously, in 'The Heart of Darkness' - when the attempt to civilise has failed and the attempt to destroy taken its place.
      Perhaps situations arise in which reasonable people, and not only people like Kurtz who was himself falling apart physically and morally, may think in one of these ways. But I'd like to see the argument either that the Palestinians are gaining as much as they're losing or that they are part of the heart of darkness.

  • Netanyahu needs a history tutor -- Can UNESCO experts help?
    • This gives us a context in which to see the alarm caused by the Israeli decision to repair access to the Dung Gate, said to be on the site of the gate with that name in Nehemiah 3, reported by Kate the other day. What will come or be said to have come out of the ground? In 03, as I recall, an inscription, now regarded by the Israel Antiquities Authority as a forgery, emerged from the famous Muslim cemetery, allegedly confirming Jehoash's repair of the Temple mentioned in II Kings. This seemed to spook the Muslim authorities who control the sacred sites into making repairs of their own, pulverising the ground beneath the Temple area and making sure that nothing could ever emerge that would be taken as a summons to bring the Temple back into operation. Many Muslim artifacts will have been destroyed in the process, though they wouldn't have impressed Netanyahu anyway. There are loudly voiced suspicions that Israelite remains are being found but obliterated.
      In reply more of those tunnels have been dug near the Temple, wrecking the layering of the ground.
      Nothing of great significance seems to have been discovered as yet. Meanwhile Israel produces many remains of the Roman and Byzantine periods. The drip-drip of propaganda continues effectively, producing at least a vague sense among Western Christians that the Zionist interpretation of the Bible is being confirmed.

    • My understanding is that the Scrolls, mainly discovered between 47 and 56, were physically under Jordanian control until 67 and were then removed to an Israeli museum. In 2010 the Jordanians called on the Canadian government to seize the scrolls while they were on exhibition in Canada and return them to their rightful owners.
      There are also photographic facsimiles, a complete set, in the Huntington Library in California, and it was these that were the basis of the eventual publication.
      No one seems to doubt that the published version is full and complete, not seriously tampered with. There don't seem to be any smoking manuscript guns discrediting any religion.
      Physical possession is one thing, access another. Almost from the beginning the Scrolls and access to them were controlled by Catholic priests, led at first by Roland de Vaux, and this control did not change in the slightest with the Israeli seizure, if that's the word, of the physical objects. From an early stage the one non-Catholic - agnostic - member of the team, John Allegro, began to argue, with varying degrees of scandalous language, that the Scrolls showed that Christianity was, or was merely, one of many unorthodox offshoots of Judaism centred on a preacher who was maltreated or martyred. At his extreme, he claimed that Jesus was preaching the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms. Allegro died in the 80s and around the same time a new editor in chief, an English Catholic convert called John Strugnell, was appointed.
      Strugnell is credited with bringing in two or three Jewish scholars to the circle of students admitted to the scrolls. The very fact that this credit is due, forty years after the discovery, is a demonstration of how impossible it had been for Israel to turn possession of the scrolls into access to them. Strugnell had psychological problems, one of which was blurting out highly anti-Jewish remarks when he had had a few beers. 'Judaism is a Christian heresy which should not exist' was the one that took the biscuit and got him dismissed from his job. This was one occasion when the Israelis exercised their muscle, rather literally I think, in that Strugnell was physically removed and shortly found himself undergoing psychiatric treatment in America.
      Meanwhile, two movements were taking shape. One was around Baigent and Leigh's scandalous book about the scrolls, very much influenced by Allegro, alleging a Catholic conspiracy. The other was a campaign by the Biblical Archaelogy Review, the main popular organ of Zionist ancient history, to have the scrolls published to the world. This campaign bore fruit at the Huntington Library.
      No religions got thoroughly discredited as a result - though it is important that the Scrolls, though they are mainly in Hebrew and Aramaic, often take forms (see essay on the Scrolls in Eerdman's Bible Comm.) that enhance the authority of the Greek text of the Tanakh - remind us just how Greek Judaism was.
      Sorry to have written at such length. The Scrolls are probably genuine, though forgery is rife in the wider field of Palestinian archaeology. I have grave, though thoroughly inexpert, suspicions of the Netanyahu seal. If it could be demonstrated to be a forgery great fun would result.

  • Where occupy and tea overlap
  • 'A historic forum:' Sylvia Schwarz tells Minneapolis gathering that privileging Jews is racism
    • If the belief that those who are of a certain race deserve significant privileges isn't racism, what is?

    • I think that Sabatai, when he took over the synagogue at Smyrna in ?1665, distributed titles to his followers, one of whom became 'Roman Emperor'. At that rate his ambitions stretched beyond Palestine!
      I believe that Sabatai's father had business dealings with England and so might have heard of Sir Henry Finch's 1620s idea of a 'Great Restauration' in which a renewed Jewish Kingdom would bring in a messianic era for the whole world.
      Perhaps Finchism was behind the use of the name 'Salem' in the New England colonies, though I haven't found a way of tracing the link.

  • Leading progressive magazine gives Palestinian solidarity the Swastika stamp
    • Jan Assmann's 'Moses the Egyptian' offers a very interesting commentary on the background to Freud's theories, which is also part of the background to Zionism. The most challenging element of Freud's distinctive argument lies in his belief that the Israelites were responsible for the death of Moses, leading to repressed memory, dreadful guilt and all those Freudian things. A very complex personal attitude towards Judaism and the Jewish cultural inheritance emerges.

  • 'J Street' urges Israel lobby group to sever ties with Elliott Abrams's wife Rachel for 'unhinged hate speech' against Palestinians
    • I saw Nir Rosen on AJE the other night suggesting that natural processes might not be enough and that there might well be a Turkish intervention, without other Nato participation, in Syria.

  • Israeli military and settlers interrupt olive harvest celebration in Hebron
    • I think the Germans definitely owe us an apology over that business. How about it, Morgan Bach?
      The Byzantines did get rough treatment, but that was after we had handed over crusade management to a questionable Venetian.
      I think Richard's settlement at the end of the Third Crusade did lead to a period of stability. He and Saladin are said to have admired each other, though Saladin considered Richard rash. He did tend to get too close to the front line in battles and sieges, which was how he met his death.

    • 'Lionheart' - King Richard I of England - was not captured by Saladin. Saladin defeated the Crusaders in ?1189 and captured Jerusalem but not the coastal strip. The Third Crusade, which followed, was a very quarrelsome affair, though Richard defeated Saladin in a great battle at Arsuf and advanced on Jerusalem. The Templars advised him, and he agreed, that it would be better to have a negotiated solution, leaving a Christian Kingdom based on Acre and holding pilgrimage rights, rather than attempt to hold Jerusalem any longer. On his way back he became a prisoner of the German Emperor, a fellow-Christian, and was ransomed. Richard's open homosexuality had made him unpopular with some. A gay singer took great personal risks to identify for the English government the castle in which Richard was being held and to verify that he was still alive. The phrase 'a king's ransom', meaning a great sum of money, entered the English language from this event.
      There were Christians who tried to behave reasonably in Crusading times.

  • The unbearable absence of being: Palestinians and statehood
    • What is the authority for saying that there is a parliamentary commission concerned with Blair's business dealings?
      I certainly think that Blair's behaviour is outrageous but I don't think that he is real stumbling block standing in the way of a Palestine Treaty. It's true that treaties can mark the political annihilation - or at least plain subordination to the victor - for many decades or some centuries of a defeated party; not that the Treaty of Versailles was anything like that. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo perhaps was. But on the whole a treaty marks continuing rightful existence, even after a severe defeat, and continuing ability to press for vital interests, or just commercial interests. The reason why a Treaty in Palestine is so hard to envisage is that Zionism denies in principle that a Palestinian sovereign state can exist rightfully. There can only be autonomous areas and suchlike wretched and impermanent things.

  • Americans who support Palestinian cause must be willing to lose friends
    • Time and time again I've seen Zionists saying that they welcome critical views of Israel, only it has to be on the basis of accepting the right to exist on Zionist principles. This is a rhetorical trap, as is 'Are you anti-Israel? Yes or No!'
      'Anti-Israel' is ambiguous. There's a power structure that we should be against, there's a mass of people who should have a future free of their current predicament and who, for all the bad things that have happened, don't deserve vindictive attitudes.
      Zionism is the belief, the proposition, that only Jewish people have a right to a share of sovereignty in the Holy Land, though these rightful heirs may by grace and generosity extend the right to others on suitable terms. This is false and unjust. Like American I think it has no valid parallel anywhere.
      Injustice cannot be put into practice without violence and cruelty from the beginning and all along: there's no alternative. If the cruelty stares you in the face (examples of it stare in Morgan Bach's face, clearly) this should lead to rejection of the basic ideas from which the cruelty springs. So I think we have to accept the label 'anti-Zionist'.

  • 'Neocon' is suddenly a bad career move (and Rachel Abrams ain't helping the Elliott Abrams brand)
    • Strictly, piotr, it's not men loading loathsome wives with bombs but loathsome women loading demonic offspring.
      It's not that easy to follow the grammar of the Rachel Abrams diatribe. But I think the main clause runs (with a lot of abbreviation) 'Round up the captors and throw them into the sea'.
      On the way there are lots of parenthetic terms. The captors are further described as slaughterers of innocents - etc.. I think these terms take us beyond the narrow circle of those who had any direct dealings with the Shalit capture.
      The captors are further said to 'use' women and their offspring. There is an implicit distinction between those women and children who are loathsome and demonic and those who are merely used. Though this distinction is there, it is de-emphasised almost to vanishing point by the huge emphasis on the loathsome femmes and their little demons. It is this emphasis which gives the long sentence most of its emotional force. The more the distinction recedes the more the angry rhetoric embraces the whole of the group. And it is not just angry, it is calling, as the J Streeters have perceived, for the deaths of individuals and for the extermination of a group. The fact that the group is a little ill-defined ('Jew' was not a well-defined term for anti-Semites) is not very reassuring, rather the reverse.

    • I don't think that Austria had to be pushed very hard into making full use of the blank cheque from Germany. The crucial decision was the decision not to accept the reasonable-seeming Serbian reply to the ultimatum and I think that the Austrians have to take responsibility for that. Prince Lichnowsky, the German Ambassador to the UK, thought that the Austrians also had to take responsibility for the provocative royal visit to Sarajevo, which he saw as an irresponsible challenge to the Black Hand to do its worst.
      Two main attempts were made to stop the course of events, one by the Tsar in decreeing only partial mobilisation and one by the Kaiser who did think the Serbian reply reasonable and at the eleventh hour asked the Austrians to go for a military demonstration ('halt in Belgrade'; the Serbs were not planning to defend Belgrade) rather than a real war. Neither worked. Both were improvised ideas without proper contingency planning behind them. The moral might be 'if you want to avoid war, plan for every event you can think of, and then some'.
      The underlying moral question, which we would still find difficult now, is how far it is right to go in restraining or punishing a state that uses terrorist methods. Are 'wars on terror' what the Tsar in his last rather tragic letter to the Kaiser said they were, ie 'ignominious wars against small nations'?
      I think it's still hard to beat Luigi Albertini's 1942 collection of documents, interviews and reflections on the 39-day crisis.

  • Props for the amazing political space OWS created (but who is talking about Palestine?)
    • The socialist left believes in social ownership of the major means of production or at least in socially agreed planning of the way these means should be deployed or at very least in socially agreed controls on the way these means are deployed for private profit: where 'socially' means 'by the state'. This 'very least' form is quite widely supported - the majority view, I think - but there is a difference of emphasis between those who think the current level of control and regulation about right and those who demand a considerable increase the role of the state, including in that role imposing serious losses on individuals who make bad investments (housing bubbles, Greek sovereign debt etc..) I think that this is about as far as the current protesters have got and so they are still really making a demand which is legitimate within the system/majority view. So they aren't yet revolutionaries. Or Stalinists.

    • Aren't 'debt' and 'credit' simply two words, one related to duty and one to belief, for two aspects of the same thing? One person gets something now with money from another and accepts a duty to pay later, the other expressing a belief that this duty will be carried out and the later-date payment made.
      Without the belief there would be no agreement and the duty would not arise, without the duty the belief would be meaningless.
      If the belief is false and the payment does not appear both parties have a problem.
      If I say 'I like to drink on credit' and 'I like to get into debt when I have a drink' I am saying the same thing twice. 'Only boring people pay cash for booze' is close in meaning.

  • Feingold says Palestinian Authority doesn't acknowledge Israel's right to exist
    • The Economist as recently as May 11 this year had an article about the disputed frontiers of India, Pakistan and China, some of which are serious flashpoints. These disputes have not been taken as making UN membership impossible for any of these countries. At that rate I don't see how Feinstein can claim that the possible existence of a disputed frontier between Palestine and Israel is a reason for refusing UN membership to Palestine. And of course the sticking point has seemed to be not a disputed frontier in the ordinary sense but a demand from Israel to be recognised as Jewish, whereas no one has ever thought that India, Pakistan or China needed to be recognised as Hindu, Islamic, communist, multicultural, democratic or whatever.
      I suppose that none of this is the real point, though. Feingold doesn't believe that the Palestinians can really in their hearts accept the fairness of any 2ss. If you give them an inch now they will one day claim a few yards. He may have a point there.

  • Touring Palestine, you see... Jewish symbols everywhere
    • The different forms that this prophecy takes in Zechariah (Heb and Gk), Matthew and John are an indication of how difficult the concept of Messiahship is - is it about peace or victory?
      Perhaps - considering the anti-Greek tone of these oracles - the original meaning concerned a real visit by a real, presumably Iranian, king to his dominions in Palestine threatened by Athenian or Macedonian machinations. That old Jewish-Persian alliance!

  • Salama's wife clings to fading hope
  • Is Occupy Wall Street anti-Semitic?
    • There's a good commentary on this passage in Beale and Carson's 'Comm. on NT use of OT'.
      Paul remained in Arabia for his first three years as a Christian, so maybe his first converts were, in spite of the King's hostility, Ishmaelites. What a shame we have no Epistle to the Arabians.

    • Have the narrow Christians read Genesis 21/22 where Abraham, who has maltreated the kindly Philistines, promises on behalf of his descendants that there will be better treatment in the future?
      Ishmael, a central figure of Genesis 15, presumably represents the unruly desert tribes of the eastern lands, compared to the 'Philistines' who are conceived as living close to the sea and the trade routes. His personally wild condition does not seem beyond remedy among his descendants, who will include twelve rulers. His mother Hagar was granted a face to face vision of God (more than has happened to me, I must say) which ought to mean something positive for the future.

  • Oren rationalizes Israel's isolation (then rants about Abbas denying 4000 years of Jewish homeland)
    • 'Canaanites' by Jonathan Tubb of the British Museum reminds us that the Phoenicians were a subset of the Canaanites and that it was they who gave alphabetic writing to the western world.
      He gives two etymologies for 'Canaan', one connecting it with an Indo-E word meaning 'blue cloth' and the other with a Semitic word meaning 'be subdued', in which case 'Canaan' would mean something like 'occupied territories'.

    • There are many strange things in the human mind but the belief that these claims could fly high as kites is one of the very strangest.

    • 2000 for the Fall of Jerusalem, 3000 for King David, 4000 for Abraham - conventional chronologies. If you're in the business of believing what we read in the Scriptures you should note that Abraham found the Palestinians already there. Palestine is the historic homeland of many peoples - obviously so for Bible-believers and Bible-sceptics alike.

  • Don't just stand there, let's get to it, strike a pose, there's nothing to it
    • The Independent on Sunday has a main headline: 'Werrity "plotted with Mossad to target Iran"' - lots of scare quotes.
      The main editorial congratulates the press on forcing Fox's resignation. It seems to be agreed that (as annie mentions) the parliamentary debate was weak. This may be explained partly by the style of the main Opposition defence spokesman, Jim Murphy, who is rather too soft-spoken for these occasions - but I would share the suspicion that the Oppos have their own links with Israel, even with Mossad, that might not look too different from those in which Dr. Fox is entangled.
      The same edition of the IoS has a report on the famous Iranian plot against the Saudi Ambassador, 'taken very seriously in the White House'. I can't quite tell whether the reporter, Patrick Cockburn, is using these words with a straight face or a mocking one.

    • Hear, hear. The BBC did mention yesterday that the grim assembly with which Fox had become involved had been encouraging him in his 'pro-American, pro-Israel' commitments. (There are assumptions about America and more distantly about Jewish people in that phrase that might be questioned.) A letter in today's Independent by a Labour Member of Parliament rather cryptically accuses Fox of running an independent foreign policy.

    • You don't think it's a unisex product? If I wear one will they say I'm a cross-dresser as well as anti-Semite?

  • Fat lady sings -- Israel announces new E J'lem neighborhod called Givat Hamatos
    • The 1812 war seems to me to illustrate how the war machine even of the greatest empire in the world, which we were then, can run low after years of use and strain. We 'saved' Canada by the skin of our teeth and only because the 'Indians' were on our side. Then Napoleon overreached in the economic campaign and brought us a bucketful of Euro allies, which was lucky.
      In the 1860s the Americans were the blockaders (of their southern ports) and we were the blockade-runners, leading to a diplomatic exchange that came in very handy for us when, playing the same trick on the Kaiser we'd previously played on Boney, wanted to blockade Germany in WW1. I presume (Hostage may correct me) that the San Remo blockade manual that came in so handy for Israel over the Mavi Marmora is a summary of international law derived in part from what we and the Americans put in place in the course of those old conflicts.

  • Neocon orgs seek to paint Wall St protests as anti-semitic
    • I don't think MRW needs to say, in order to make his factual point, that all Jewish people give strong and unreserved support, moral and financial, to Zionism - only that Jewish people are significantly more likely than others to offer that support. MRW must have noticed the Jewish leadership of Mondoweiss and I presume he's noticed that support for Zionism among non-Jewish people is substantial, even if not equal to what it is on the Jewish side.
      Our moral response to this fact depends on what we think of Zionism. If I were a keen Zionist I would say that these facts offer no support to anti-Semitism but, quite to the contrary, show that, in this respect at least, Jewish people are doing the right thing and putting the rest of us to shame - putting oil in the lamp that gives light to the nations.
      As an anti-Zionist I find it very painful that the moral ideas - and the consequent frightening actions, such as massive political donations - that I oppose are ideas strongly associated with a racial group. It's a pain that has to be borne. Nothing like the pain of mind and body inflicted on the Palestinians as these ideas are put into practice.

  • Americans believe red herring-- Iran is Enemy #1. Why?
    • Ah but was Arbab just acting drunk and absent-minded over the decades? You know how clever these fiends are.
      Adrian Hamilton in the Independent accepts the possibility that the Iranian regime has some crazy people among its agents but points out how unlike the generally known behaviour of the regime and its leaders all this would be.
      The BBC report last night was that the USG would be 'going hammer and tongs' on the diplomatic circuit to persuade everyone of the evil that is Iran. The polite incredulity they will encounter - I think it will leak out - will be amusing in an embarrassing sort of way.

  • Burg, former Knesset speaker, endorses idea of one state from river to sea
    • I think one could read the earlier article as calling for 2ss before it is too late, the second one as edging closer to the idea that it is already too late. The earlier one states that there is already no Jewish majority from river to sea - ie what we have long seen is a kind of minority rule. He is now a bit more explicit about what he thinks should be done - though he doesn't seem ready to press the button just yet - and it should be a campaign on the South African model for franchise without discrimination. He doesn't mention SA but it must be in his mind. Perhaps there is an implicit idea - is this part of what Mdws detects? - that the majority should accept the franchise rather than economic redistribution as their aim - Mandela, not Mugabe. Hence little attention to the external Palestinians, who might be thinking too hard about giving the prosperous Jewish Israelis a taste of their own bitter medicine.
      Many minds - mine certainly - quail before these problems. I think Burg is making his position clearer - very slowly. I'd say that he is slipping quietly over the border between liberal Zionism and ex-Zionism.

  • Fragile Egypt
    • Phil seems to have a real journalist's instinct for being in the right place. Our good fortune, but he must be running some personal risks.

  • Some preliminary questions about the alleged Iranian terror plot
    • They will say that he masqueraded as an opponent of the regime for the benefit of gullible students. That's the fiendish cunning we have come to expect.

    • Yes, I suppose the message is 'We hate and despise you and will crush you when we can' - but it's more reassuring to have that message repeated than to have an ultimatum-style 'Do this or else'.

    • There seems to general agreement that the Iranian government and ruling class is highly factionalised. I wouldn't be too surprised if one faction or another became involved in a foolhardy plot.
      Still, the remarks of Hillary Clinton - 'a message must be sent to Iran' - doesn't seem to me to have the ring of an ultimatum rather than of normal propaganda, perhaps leading to some more rather pointless sanctions.

  • Panic and shock sweep Cairo
    • The BBC teletext service is reporting that 'Some Muslims joined the Copts in protesting against military rule while others responded to government calls to help preserve stability'. The second phrase has a splendidly Orwellian ring but the first indicates that the trouble might not be purely sectarian.
      I've no expertise in these matters whatsoever but is it true that the present situation is that the Army officers who have been in power for so long are attempting to form a cosy post-Mub power-share with the Muslim Brotherhood, with no nonsense about holding free elections and respecting the unpredictable result? This attempt would naturally anger both the Christian minority and those Muslims who do not consider that the MB speaks for them.

  • Yom Kippur fast in solidarity with political prisoners to take place at Occupy Wall Street this Friday
    • It's reasonable, perhaps, for all of us to aspire to do slightly better than our society expects of its members and to hope that our own society will set a good example in the world. Some overall moral progress may be achieved.
      This idea is expressed quite powerfully in the Biblical (Isianic) 'Light to the Nations' theme - or 'Salt of the Earth' if you prefer New Testament phrases. Catholics have adopted this theme - 'Lumen Gentium' playing its part in the Second Vatican Council.
      Many strands of Jewish theology have, I think, adopted the idea that there are two moral standards, Noachite and Mosaic. Everyone is bound by the first set, the Seven Laws (Genesis 9) but only Jewish people by the second, more demanding (so in some sense higher) laws, based on the Ten Commandments and developed therefrom. The Jewish adhesion to the higher standard brings blessings on us all in the end. I understand that this is a widespread view - Shmuel might correct me - but I don't know where the authors of the King's Torah would stand.
      Of course a conspicuous effort to be better than the ordinary brings with it a danger of bad results in the form of overbearing and arrogance. But without it moral progress maybe would not occur.
      Forced conversion of Jewish people lost its appeal in the high days of the Spanish Inquisition, which fostered the idea that the stubbornness of the Jews makes genuine conversion impossible - they were all pretending, so the time had come for expulsion. Intra-Christian forced conversion remained popular, though. Louis XIV had his successes. The Balkan conflicts of WW2, which are still quite recent, represented the last serious attempt.

  • Jewish terrorists strike again, this time in the Galilee
    • Alan Hart seems to have moved from early admiration of Israel to current disillusion. Disillusion sometimes leads to excess. His website argues that Israeli and perhaps Western intelligence services must have known something, since they pretty effective, of the 9/11 plot even if it was originally hatched in other quarters. But this limited (though plausible) proposition slowly grows, for no substantial reason that I can see, into a version of the famous 'letting it happen on purpose' idea - whereas in truth (!) there is a massive difference between having many suspicions and being in a position to make a reasonably definite prediction.
      I think that a lot of what he says on general ME topics makes sense. I'm rather sorry to see him driving hard down this particular blind alley.

  • An American Jew who emigrated to Israel is asked if the end of the Jewish state would be a tragedy for her
    • What is racism? I would say any view of human rights that mistakenly but with significant effect makes ancestry or 'blood' crucial in assigning or withholding some of them.

  • Silverstein and McGovern ponder prospect of Israeli attack on Iran
    • I've always been a bit sceptical about the attack on Iran, which would presumably also involve actions in Lebanon and Gaza. If Israel had been all ready, awaiting only a pretext, there were big fat pretexts available when the Battle of the Tree took place and when the violence around Gaza led to the Egyptian police deaths - but they were not taken up. Have things really changed in Israel's favour since?
      I don't really sense that public opinion is being prepared for war through the kind of propaganda and the kind of ultimatums that preceded war in Iraq.
      Could be wrong!

  • Anwar al-Awlaki's extrajudicial murder
    • I might let you persuade me, IM, that this is a war - a major armed conflict outside any social contract - and that war necessarily involves killing and a degree of ruthlessness. But are we in a position where we should or must completely set aside the idea that non-combatants - including the often-mentioned women and children - should not be targeted? We haven't normally set this idea aside just because many women are, although they are unarmed, fanatical supporters of their menfolk's violent ways or may have helped supply the hostile army with munitions, as so many women did in the World Wars.
      What would it be about the present situation that makes people who talk in a loud and hostile fashion - and that seems to be all we really know about the person targeted - into a kind of combatant?

    • The reference to sighted people who will not perceive and hearing people who will not understand comes not exactly as a preface but as an explanation, offered to the disciples by Jesus, about his use of 'parables'. AJ Saldarini (Eerdmans Comm) is good on this passage in Mt.13/Is. 6 - the Jewish people are being given the best possible chance but at the same time Isaiah's terrible warning on the same theme is invoked. Jesus then begins to withdraw to non-Jewish areas, where he is out-argued - by a 'Canaanite' woman whom he had at first treated with apparent rudeness - the only time this happens to him or perhaps to any prophet. An indication that wisdom and understanding are on the move to new places.
      I think that Isaiah expects that people will refuse to listen not because he uses mysterious parables but because he is just too provocative. I think that we at Mondoweiss know something of how he felt - or of how a dialogue marked by mutual provocation goes - even if we don't think we have been commissioned by God in a terrifying vision of a smoke-filled temple.
      I'm not too convinced by Nietzsche - I think that the class that put Christianity into power must been the one that provided intellectuals and army officers.

    • Scheuer wrote a book called 'Imperial Hubris' about American policy, which he thinks wrong, too intrusive in the politics of others (he calls it 'bloody-handed'), and far, far too committed to Israel. But as an ex-secret agent he just seems to love the idea of political assassinations, though these too are intrusive, bloody-handed and an expression of overweening pride.

  • The Department of Corrections: Ben-Hur, the LA Times & a place called Palestine
    • The 'Peleset' in the Egyptian record of the 'Sea Peoples', dated to around 1175 BCE, are regarded as Philistines - this would be the earliest non-Biblical record of them. (The Stela of Merneptah, regarded as containing the first reference to 'Israel', is dated to about 30 years earlier.)
      There is archaeological trace of their presence around Gaza, notably in the form of pottery in early Greek style. A large and impressive hearth has also been found and this gives some credence to the etymology 'People of the Hearth' - phyle and hestia. They originally formed a state with 'five lords' - I sometimes suggest that they were the only democracy in the Middle East. How long this continued and how long they maintained cultural connections with Greece is not known. Presumably they merged into the wider Greek-speaking population of 'Palestine' when the Greek language became widely spoken there after Alexander's time, so I don't think that we should say that they ever ceased to exist. The name 'Canaan', unlike 'Palestine', seems to have fallen into disuse rather earlier.
      The alternative tradition, found in Genesis 20, that makes the Philistines/Palestinians a more ancient people, there even before Abraham, shouldn't be forgotten. It's testimony to the continuing presence in the period, I'd think fairly late, when Genesis was written, of Philistines/Palestinians in Palestine.

  • Mourning the Jewish New Year
    • II Kings 6 has a scene where Elisha has, using divinely given magic powers, lured some Syrian spies into the midst of Samaria. We read in the sonorous KJV 'The King of Israel said unto Elisha, when he saw them,'My father, shall I smite them, shall I smite them?' And he answered 'Thou shalt not smite them: wouldest thou smite those whom thou hadst taken captive with thy sword and with thy bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master' - presumably with reports that both the natural and supernatural resources of the Israelite kingdom are overwhelming.
      I saw this passage many years ago cited against Israeli treatment of captives by the late Paul Foot, a far-left journalist.
      In fact it's not a declaration of human rights, but is full of ambiguities - which look darker if you translate, as I understand some would,'Thou wouldst smite those whom thou hadst taken captive (by purely natural means)'. But neither is it a statement that non-Israelite human life is clearly quite worthless. Shmuel remarks that ancient texts frequently demonstrate double standards - maybe I'd rather say that their moral ideas are persistently elusive. Of course we mods have many ambiguities of our own.

    • I'd say, CKeep, that the term 'exile' refers to Assyria and Babylon. The 'main narrative' about Egypt is that there was a flight into Egypt to escape famine, followed by an Exodus, very much not an exile, in response to oppression - Matthew's Gospel regards the flight into Egypt by Israel in its beginnings as a prototype of the later flight in the same direction of Jesus as an infant. There is plenty of pagan testimony (mostly unflattering, not too credible but not worthless) to the Exodus and to Moses, beginning with Hecataeus of Abdera in the late fourth century. There is a really good survey of this subject in Assmann's 'Moses the Egyptian'.
      Historically, there is no way of finding a plausible date for an Exodus-style grand-scale escape from Egypt - see standard works, such as the Oxford History of the Biblical World. However, a transfer of ideas and of religious leaders and reformers from Egypt to other countries is quite possible.
      The later movements into Exile, from Samaria and Jerusalem to Assyria and Babylon, are likewise attested well enough from non-Biblical sources. They were not mass movements, though - the 'people of the land' remained. The Returning Exiles, who rededicated the Temple c.515, claimed exclusive religious authority and this had major and impressive results in terms of power politics and of world literature.

  • Let's negotiate over how we divide the pizza while I eat the pizza
    • Buchan's famous novel about the outbreak of war in 1914, the 39 Steps, contains, among its false clues to the source of the crime, a speech claiming that the Jews control everything - a sentiment which Buchan, who was close to the front line as a journalist, must have heard in the British trenches and was surely heard in German trenches as well. In Germany and Austria this sentiment was naturally turned into an explanation for the loss of the War 'despite an undefeated army'. The Leninist explanation of the War in terms of Imperialism, the last phase of Capitalism, was not that different in that 'capitalist' and 'Jew' were figures related in the public mind. Hence the picture of the Jewish financier manipulating and scorning the unemployed.
      In truth, this capitalist-Jew association was highly misleading and 'international Jewry' had no real being or organisation. It had self-appointed spokesmen of different kinds, like Chaim Weizmann and the people who attempted to organise the anti-Nazi boycott. This might for a moment have looked scary, since the German economy was still weak, but its extreme ineffectuality demonstrates how there was no such thing as the 'Judaea' of which some journalists and the unpleasant British politician Oswald Mosley liked to speak. (His acolytes wrote 'PJ' for 'Perish Judah' on walls.)
      We could say that many in Germany were seduced by an idea whose power was in no way confined to Germany and into which some Jewish people unwisely played. But not one single Jewish person deserved what the Nazis did to Jewish people. Just as not one single Palestinian deserved the expulsion inflicted on Palestinians in 1948.

    • Some good questions for me here!! A 'reply to my critics', as they say.
      - OK, Citizen, I accept that I ought to think again about Atzmon's book.
      I certainly regard 'Holocaust theology', which the 'uniqueness doctrine' (clearly very important to the likes of Foxman; I wish to assure Donald that I don't in any way cherish it) is used to support, as little better than blasphemy. But I may not want to base my argument on Atzmon's critique of Jewish thought in its secular rather than theological aspect and I don't want to rely on the numbers-based arguments used, I think with the intention of undermining 'uniqueness', by Snyder.
      Numbers don't speak for themselves, they have to be interpreted. Snyder seeks to interpret Stalin's attack on Poles as profoundly similar to Hitler's attack on Jews. I'm not convinced that Stalin's actions were based on an anti-Polonism comparable to Hitler's anti-Semitism.
      I accept Antidote's point that it's important to see that eastern Europe has enduring problems based on its geographical position between German and Russian power centres. But I'm not convinced that there was something 'typical of EE' about either the massacres of the dictatorial age in general or the attack on Jewish people in particular, nor convinced that the Jewish population of EE had essentially had the bad luck to get in the way of a great-power conflict. Bad things, very bad things, had happened before but nothing really like the events of that time had ever occurred. Jewish populations in Poland and Russia had remained stable over the centuries of international conflict - the Partitions, the Catholic/Orthodox conflicts over Ukraine.
      If we are looking for a region where instability and violence were typical or characteristic in times before WW1 we should not turn to Snyder's Bloodlands but to the Balkans - and the troubles of this region continued in WW2. But this was in great part because of active religious hostility, something that does not fit Snyder's thesis, based as it is on post-religious mistrust between ethnic groups.

    • And what on earth does he mean by saying that the link between Hitler and Stalin is 'geographical'? The surely trivial point that Germany and the Soviet Union were separated by only one other country, Poland? The controversial suggestion, which he does nothing but nothing to prove, that there was something in the air, the prevalent morality, of eastern Europe that made state-supported, race-related massacres likely?

    • Merely renaming an event doesn't show that it occurred or that it didn't. You could impute all the 6 million casualties to Hitler yet prefer to call the event (say) a shocking massacre rather than a holocaust. That would be my preference since I think that the term 'holocaust' brings to those who reflect on it theological overtones that are very misleading.

    • It's rather a strange book, I think. It's extraordinarily dependent on secondary sources, particularly of a Polish-Ukrainian nationalist type. It may not qualify as 'holocaust denial', indeed there is insistence on destruction of Jewish people as state policy, but it does seem to be denying 'holocaust uniqueness' by claiming that other massacres in the Bloodlands were equivalent both in scale and in racial motivation. There's a lot of questionable argumentation and hostile reading of documents.

    • I don't know very much about the deniers but I rather think that their plan or plot is to show that even on the evidence and methodology of accepted scholarship the casualty figures are distinctly lower than 6 million and then to use that point to accuse the standard scholars of prejudice and incompetence, with an eye to bringing down the whole structure of their arguments. For this reason it is equally important for the exponents of the standard view not to accept any such distinctly lower - or even comparatively imprecise - number. Even the Pope's reference to 'millions' rather than '6 million' gave offence - that was mentioned in the Economist's report of his trip to Israel.
      The events of WW2 and the number of casualties are important and shocking in their own right but in a way discussion of them is a snare. The validity of Israel's claims is not dependent, one way or another, on those numbers. Someone counting the dead in Warsaw or Minsk is not counting the hectares that Israel is allowed to occupy.

    • No, no irony was intended. I wasn't sneering at anyone. I was just trying to probe a definition - mentioning a real example in order to ask how far, for the purposes of the definition offered, the figure of 6 million could be taken as approximate. Perhaps I should have said 'what does 'roughly' mean here?' That isn't a mocking or hostile question.
      For what it's worth, little maybe, I would define 'denial' or 'offensive denial' here as 'avoiding the figure 6 million and using figures so low or so imprecise as to imply that the whole of what is now standard history may well be on the wrong track'. I think that it's that implication that really gives offence.
      Apart from questions of definition, Snyder's account is interesting, even if not persuasive, for its constant reference to and use of numbers.

    • I was brought up in the good old CofE where on a weekly basis we described ourselves as 'miserable offenders', though we were rather shocked by our Catholic counterparts with what we vaguely thought of as their penances, sackcloths and spikes. I internalised this language and was much induced to be conscious of and to lament my sins, which introduced an element which might reasonably be called self-hatred. The phrase 'miserable offenders' is much less used now.

    • If a Jewish researcher who lives in a settlement and 'denies' the Nakba were to write a book investigating and denouncing some crimes in Egypt or Pakistan - or indeed the UK - would we say that the horrible thing is that such an extreme Zionist has gained publication, that she must be too prejudiced against non-Jews to be factually correct and that her moral compass must be so crooked that what she thinks is criminal must really be quite acceptable? I think or least hope not.
      At the same rate I'd think that if someone (like Atzmon perhaps) has in effect said that some aspects of the Holocaust account, as defined above by our colleague Tom, are questionable we should not, for that reason alone, refuse to pay any attention, except perhaps for Goldberg-style hostile attention, to other things said by the same person. Mearsheimer has said that Atzmon's latest outpouring deserves attention and I thought his defence of his own statement was dignified and reasonable enough. Not quite enough to persuade me to read the book, though.
      Lysias mentions figures somewhat lower than 6m. Snyder gives 5.4m (Bloodlands p.380, where he mentions Hilberg) but this figure seems to include the results of partisan warfare, to which attention is drawn on p.233. He adds 0.3m of which the Romanians were guilty, p.218, though without the intention or policy of eliminating Romanian rather than Soviet Jews. I wonder if this is a flirtation with Holocaust denial on the part of this Judt-influenced historian?
      To me 'Holocaust' is a theological as well as historical term, indicating a sacrifice that God accepted for the beginning of the restoration of the Kingdom. In the realm of theology it is a term which I deny should be used.

  • 'Young, Jewish and Proud' issues challenge to the Jewish community
  • 'The Good Wife' takes on Israel/Palestine, Islamophobia and the Israel lobby
    • I must try to catch up with this when Rupert Murdoch sends it to the UK - mind you, now I know the ending it won't have me on the edge of my seat.

  • White House sells Quartet statement on negotiations as 'a major accomplishment in Israel's favor'
    • Plutarch's Moralia (around 100 CE) has 'the mills of God grind slow but sure' but the original metric form was 'grind late but fine'. Only in the last 100 years or so, as far as I can see, did the wheels of human justice seem to acquire this divine attribute.

    • 'King of Righteousness' = 'Melchizedek' as per Genesis 14 (treated as King of all Canaan and called priest of God Most High) and Psalm 110, where it is stated that the king in succession to David is 'a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek'. One of the indications of continuity in the royal cult between Canaanite and Israelite times.

  • Turkish government releases identities of IDF soldiers who attacked the Mavi Marmara
    • Treason surely is by fairly common consent violent resistance or 'aid and comfort' to violent resistance to a legitimate government. If a government has lost (or never had) legitimacy because of injustice and violence of its own then resistance become legitimate and ceases to be treasonous. Locke argued for this in the 1690s.
      Around that time someone wrote the famous verse 'Treason doth never prosper. What's the reason? If it do prosper, none dare call it treason'.
      Non-violent civil disobedience would not be treason on this showing.

  • Obama's impossible dilemma--and ours
    • I think we should look forward to the day when people are judged not on their skin colour or the religion of their ancestors but on the content of their character and I think that good and bad moral characters are distributed evenly across all 'races', not that 'race' is a scientifically valid term. If a large number of Jewish Israelis should wish to migrate to the UK they should be welcomed.
      On the other hand I wouldn't rule out the idea that Cheney in his delusion was working against the objective interests of the United States or even of his own class.

    • Let me jump in with my definition of 'anti-Semitism (on my part)', which is 'an attitude of suspicion towards those considered (by me) to be Jewish, sufficient to prevent fairness in (my) thoughts about them'. I surely wouldn't consider resentment against people, Jewish and non-Jewish, who had in fact seriously misled public opinion, unfair, so I wouldn't call it anti-Semitic. I would only hope that this would not lead to persistent suspicion of Jewish people or of anyone on grounds of race, just a recognition that we all need to live together. A bit sentimental, I suppose, but it is what I'd hope for after all this time when ideas about race, an unscientific concept, have done so much terrible damage.

    • I must say that I'd hope they'd blame political attitudes centred too much on race and would consign both anti-Semitism and Zionism to the realm of the past.

  • Border anxiety in the West Bank
  • Abbas at the United Nations a game changer? Maybe.
    • Just to mention from ancient history, which we talk about sometimes, that non-Biblical reference to Palestine begins about the same time as reference to Israel. The general biblical report - things seem different in Genesis - is that the Palestinians had no single king but did form a state and were ruled by a committee of Five Lords. If you ask me ancient Palestine was the only democracy in the ME.

    • I understand that the etymologies suggested for 'Jericho' are 'Fragrant City' and 'City of the Moon' - no doubt bestowed by people who did not at the time consider themselves Israelites.
      Galilee, referred to by Matthew, quoting Isaiah, as 'Galilee of the Nations'
      was presumably a place where several populations were represented, though the Jewish population was almost certainly the great majority in Matthew's time, the first century CE. I understand that the name is connected with a common semitic term for 'circle' and that the Assyrians called the province 'the Circle', which would be consistent with it's being a centre for many tribes.

  • Obama approves secret sale of 'bunker buster' bombs to Israel
    • Sorry, should have been more alert! - Martin

    • Inhibiting import by Gaza of a pathetic amount of concrete and building up a terrifying bunker-busting arsenal seem completely consistent policies to me, meant to convey the good old WW2 message 'Further resistance is useless'. I wish I could share the much respected David Samel's view that sooner or later the United States Congress would investigate how massive weapons make sense against primitive fortifications. I think that many members of Congress would take deep satisfaction in the idea of reducing something little stronger than the antique 1940 pillbox that stands amid weeds near one of our local churches to absolute but absolute smithereens with one shot, no little lump connected to another, with a few terrorists shredded into the bargain.

  • Is Barack Obama the most pro-Israel president in history?
    • People are saying that Obama spoke as if the Palestinians were the occupiers - and I suppose that to those who read the Bible as a story of mortal combat that is just what they are.

  • Mr. President, we don't want a shortcut, we want our freedom
    • Well, I wouldn't put too much trust in our rather odd collection of leaders in the EU, who have other things on their minds. I think they do manage to typify their electorates in one respect, ie in that general Western desire that the whole troublesome thing would just go away. Why won't these strange foreign peoples just make an agreement, stop bothering us and let us have some oil?

  • Gideon Levy (unintentionally) lays bare the contradictions of liberal Zionism
    • I think that Gideon is right to remind us that Israel began with an extraordinarily good reputation in the West. I lived in a very off-centre Western location, far from the cultural high spots of Paris, NY or even London and I was marinated and pickled in the placid, unchanging ideas (which have changed so much since) of the Church of England. I learned about the ME from the BBC and also from the 'Church Times'. There was a faint but distinct sense of religious approval, mingled - I now think - with class sympathy, since some Israeli leaders looked very like English gentlemen. Also there was a deep sense of respect - to my sense now the most powerful, dangerous force - for successful Israeli militarism against the background of an increasingly besieged British Empire.
      So I don't think that Israel let the likes of me down by ceasing to be noble and morally exalted. Our respect for Israel was more of an expression of our own moral flaws - including complacency and self-deception - than of our good judgement - and we couldn't even say, as many Jewish people at the time reasonably could, that the events of WW2 had left us desperate. We saw what wasn't there. We didn't see the injustice visited on 'the Arabs' even though it stared us in our blank faces.
      The bi-nationalists and moderates like Magnes were I think also a little self-deceptive, not seeing their own marginality. Zionism could never have accepted Palestinians as equals.

  • Comments Policy
    • Terrific, thanks!

    • Alas, I don't think Mooser is back. This thread is very long running and the entry above dates from 2011.

    • I'm getting quite nervous about the absence of an official statement here.

    • I do hope so! Keith's remarks have lit a fuse of worry in me. It's the continuity of the comments and the visible personalities of the commenters that give Mondoweiss - even though it derives its energy, up-to-the minute quality and compelling style from Phil and his immediate colleagues - its distinctive flavour.
      Which is the flavour of discussing the ME with complete absence of anti-Semitism and very often of listening to people who are (I don't refer to myself) very well informed by way of research, personal acquaintance with the region and a moral integrity I've been proud to encounter. Which is what the many circling enemies of MW can least stand and most desire to eliminate.

    • Clearly it is possible for someone - anyone; as I often say, no one owns words - to define 'anti-Semitism' so that disagreement with Zionism falls fair and square under that definition. Anti-Zionists then have to reply 'you can use that definition if you like; but then you may not like the fact that under that definition there are forms of anti-Semitism that are justified'. In logic it is not possible for a definition, since it is merely a rule for the use of words, to prove either the factual existence or the moral justification of anything.
      My own view is that Zionism cannot be justified - is wrong, is mistaken, which implies that the attempt to put Zionism into practice must result both in absurdity and in cruelty. Which is to say that, in the common understanding of the words concerned, I regard Israel as illegitimate.
      This brings me up against the quasi-official, or would-be quasi-official, definitions of anti-Semitism that float around with the patronage of important political figures. For my part I absolutely deny that politicians have any special right or ability to settle moral questions.
      I thank Talkback for the valuable quote from Kapitan. I don't, alas, altogether share his/her view that the 'overall context' phrase is a helpful defence for the likes of us, or at least of me. It's not that I want to put my belief that Zionism is wrong, indeed indefensible by any recognisable moral principle, into some or other context. Rather the other way around: this is the idea that provides the overall context for what I want to say here.

    • Yes, I see what you mean. The comments are a vital thing.

    • I haven't thought of the ominous implications yet but I certainly regret the loss of this very useful feature.

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