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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.

Showing comments 200 - 101

  • F. W. de Klerk on why apartheid will fail in Israel/Palestine
    • I agree with de Klerk on points 1-2, which seem to mean that there could never anywhere at all be agreement on a 2ss which partitions the territory with enormous unfairness when you compare the size of the populations versus the area of land and the location of natural resources. This is one of the reasons why the Palestinian 2ss, which is massively unfair, is always talked about but is not actually on the table as a proposition for negotiation - the Palestinians could never in their hearts accept it, even with the few modifications that negotiations might bring, so the Israelis cannot find it in their hearts to offer it.
      The Israeli and Palestinian economies must be linked to some degree but must contain barriers of all sorts between the two sides. The removal of these barriers would presumably be good for the prosperity of both but the Israelis are doing well enough not to think that those gains would be worth the cost. Actually I think that the young de Klerk also thought that the economic gains of removing the equivalent barriers in SA would not be worth the cost, but had to change his mind for other reasons.
      De Klerk's remarks may not have very optimistic implications - they may indicate that years of tragedy, physical suffering and moral calamity, lie ahead.

  • Education Ministry announces school trips to occupied West Bank-- some parents object
    • The Oxford History of the Biblical World gives a fairly conservative interpretation but makes it clear that no satisfactory Exodus chronology has been found, also that the Stela seems to portray 'Israel' both as culturally like the others and on the same side as those others in opposition to the attempts of the Egyptians to reassert control, not as recent terrifying invaders who had just fought the others into complete submission. The next Egyptian account of a foray into Palestine, that of Sheshonq (presumably the Shishak of Kings; often dated to around 920) notices no Israel, Judah or Jerusalem.
      If Merneptah's imagery of 'all the local peoples together' had had more influence the world might be a better place. But what we have in the Book of Joshua is a poetic reflection on faith and violence of such intense literary power - 'Be strong and of good courage! I go before you as a consuming and devouring fire' - that mere facts hardly matter and normal values seem no longer to apply.

  • Trivializing the anti-Semitism charge
    • Cloak is quoting Wistrich from Haber's article. I have two rather opposite problems with Wistrich here.
      If anti-Z and anti-S 'tend to converge' they presumably have, under his definition unlike mine, ideas in common. What are these shared ideas?
      On the other hand, if we use the term 'anti-S' only for opposition to 'Jews as Jews' we may be defining it in a way which is oddly narrow and would fit hardly anyone. Surely hardly anyone would say with full seriousness 'I explain my dislike of people who are Jewish simply by referring to the fact that Jewish is what they are: that's it'.

  • Bill Kristol's group pictures Obama in front of Western Wall seemingly soaked in blood
    • The coins are related to the Roman governor Valerius Gratus, who seems to have struck them in or around 16 CE.
      I'm very bad at creating links like everyone else does here, but just to say that I came across the topic on the website of Ritmeyer's Archaeological Design, Leen Ritmeyer being an archaeologist who is trying to describe the Temple of Jesus' time. There was a link to a report - a mere snippet, I thought; no more available anywhere - of Amro's presentation. It's very hard to see whether this presentation was defensible. It was denounced and the comparison with Goebbels made. There is also an announcement on a website called The Bible and Interpretation, which carries regular reports on archaeology in Israel, by Stephen Rosenberg. I left comments (in very moderate terms) on both which have attracted no replies.
      Both these announcements rely not on the distinction between Temple and Temple Mount (it's very interesting to hear from anoncomm of that distinction being made for visitors) but on the few words in Book XX of Josephus' Antiquities that 'the Temple' was completed in the early 60s CE, so that major work after 16 is not surprising. But it's not as easy as that, since there is a longer statement in Antiquities XV that Herod completed the Temple amid great celebrations, bringing the project in on time and presumably within budget, around 12 BCE. And there are more complications than that, with evidence pointing different ways. There may have been some looseness in the way the term 'the Temple' was used and in how it was related to the idea of the holy mountain of God. But there does now seem to be good, maybe even conclusive, reason to doubt that the western wall was part of the plan for the Temple area on which Herod embarked and considered that he had finished and which Jesus saw with his mortal eyes.
      Perhaps it should serve as a symbol less of the exclusive Jewish claim and more of the contribution of many faiths to the city of Jerusalem.

    • There has been a recent find of Roman coins dating from 16 CE or later which give rise to serious questions - I don't say conclusive answers - about the western wall and whether it was really part of the Temple over which Herod the Great instituted his great celebrations. I read an article denouncing a Palestinian archaeologist named Amro who was making statements about this find as another Goebbels.

  • Mossad Chief: Stop calling Iran an 'existential threat'
    • An existential threat is a threat to one's existence and it's plain enough that a small nuclear armament in the hands of a hostile power does not by itself create a threat to the existence of someone whose armament is massive, though it may produce danger over a long time in combination with other things. But do Mossad chiefs really speak autonomously? Maybe we're facing a general resort to the rhetoric of defence - walls and fences everywhere, no panic even if Iran becomes rather better armed.
      The choice of the words 'close up shop and go home' is interesting in a Freudian sort of way, sounding as if the Israelis are on an outing from their real dwellings.

  • Arendt: Born in conflict, Israel will degenerate into Sparta, and American Jews will need to back away
    • I went to a lecture by Martin Goodman, Professor of Ancient History at Oxford, in which he suggested that the Jewish War could be portrayed as a soap opera - 'Caesars and Herods' I suppose. He drew attention to the relationship between Titus (whose family, seriously short of pagan prodigies, were grateful for a prophecy from the Jewish sage Josephus) and the Jewish princess Berenice, the loves of each others' lives, seemingly, who were split up by post-war anti-Jewish sentiment in the Senate. Had they married and had children there would probably have been Jewish kings reigning in Europe.

    • There is no absolutely accurate analogy, ancient or modern, for the current IP situation, but Sparta and the helots, with their perpetual war and secret agents targeting helot dissidents, do come close in some ways.
      The First Book of Maccabees, written 100-ish BCE in support of the Hasmonean dynasty, claims (ch.12) that the Judaeans and the Spartans had had good relations, perhaps even blood brotherhood and a habit of mutual prayer. (II Macc and Josephus somewhat concur.) Historically this may not be too likely but it does show that some influential intellectual figures and perhaps the hard-driving King John thought the Spartans a good role model. Maybe they saw resemblances between the helots and the Samaritans.

  • Happy New Year
    • It would be very good to think that with one big idealistic push we can lay the foundations for peace and justice in 2112. Let's give it a try.
      For 2012 all good wishes.

  • 'People who promoted the Iraq war ought to be so discredited that no one listens to them any more'
    • Some people had reached the conclusion that the idea of a divergence of interest between the United States (perhaps the whole Christian world: Blair) and Israel is inconceivable. I don't see any degree of separation between the Jewish, Christian and atheist members of this group. They got their following wind because 9/11 created the angry reaction - we have the same enemies, who hate us for our freedoms - of which Dan speaks. That militaristic illusion had an ugly cousin, the liberal or liberal-Christian illusion that They must be yearning for liberation by Us. I can still remember the deluded thoughts going through my brain on the way to work on Sept.12 that year. I don't think I fully came to my senses until I had to watch Blair defending the Lebanon invasion as a matter of 'principle' - principle! So some of what went wrong is the fault of the likes of me.
      I had never been a big fan of Israel - I think I was waiting, with remarkable patience, for the liberal Zionists (not that that term was in much British use then) to assert themselves. I didn't see that the idea of Them Liberated by Us was a version of the Altneuland theme within Zionism, supporting that idea that Israel and the West are engaged in a single, indivisible and noble endeavour, the basic premise of neo-conservatism.

  • Real News Video: JNF 'Judaizes' expropriated land
    • Margaret Macmillan's 'Peacemakers' has a chapter, to my mind invaluable, on Palestine and the 1919 treaties. Curzon, she says, came to regard Balfour as an evil man. Balfour for his part came up with two reasons for denying 'self-determination' to the Palestinians - that the Arabs had huge lands anyway and surely shouldn't begrudge a small 'notch' (strange choice of words) to the Jewish claimants and also that the true constituency for determining the fate of Palestine included all Jewish people everywhere. The latter point was pressed on Woodrow Wilson by Louis Brandeis. Both arguments had a great future, didn't they?
      Balfour had indeed never meant what he said in the Declaration about the rights of non-Jewish people - he even briefed the press accordingly (Macmillan, p.428), so that the Times headline announcing the Declaration was bluntly and quite realistically 'Palestine for the Jews'.
      British (later Anglo-American) Christian Zionism had very deep roots, going back at least to Henry Finch's 'Great Restauration' of 1621. After 300 years the great moment had come.

  • Israel's mythological borders: an interview with Rachel Havrelock
    • The British imperial definition of Palestine was surely influenced by the Bible and how the British read it. The story of the conquest by Joshua is indeed quite complex but British schoolboys (I was one once!) saw the image of the Jordan as the special border which was decisively crossed and Canaan, river to sea, as the object of conquest. 'Bread of Heaven', one of the most famous Protestant hymns, originally Welsh but very popular in English, has the verse 'When I tread the verge of Jordan/bid my anxious fears subside!/ Death of death and hell's destruction/bring me safe to Canaan's side.'
      On one side of the river the shifting sands of desert, literally, and of mortal life, allegorically - on the other, the land of milk and honey and the joys of paradise. In British Protestant theology not just a natural border but a supernatural one.

  • AIPAC-championed amendment pushes Obama into a corner on Iran
  • Ron Paul prose on Israel allegedly makes woman cry
  • 'Haaretz' columnist says 2-state solution is dead--and global community must help us toward equal rights
    • I prefer your analysis to Strenger's, certainly! I agree that there was never any serious intention to move to a 2ss, the deepest reason, I would think, being the total incompatibility of the 2ss with the basic premises of Zionism.

  • Ron Paul and the left
    • I meant this to be in reply to jnslater but I seem to have jumped up the page. Sorry!

    • Yes, you describe my view of Zionism, which I understand as the belief that Jewish people, and they only, have an inherent right (birthright) to a share of sovereignty in the HL, others having a share only by (quite readily available) grace and generosity. I don't think - though I try not drip while saying so - that this belief is logically capable to taking a liberal form. I might say '1905 Zionism' rather than just 'Zionism' if someone insisted.

    • I'm a small-time Protestant - we in the Church of England seem to be trying to stabilise the Christian Palestinian population by setting up a fund for them. This may be too little and too late and rather half-hearted, but we'll see. I wouldn't want the Palestinians in general to give up on the battle that they seem to me to be winning a bit more day by day, ie the battle of demography. Minority rule cannot continue for ever.

    • Again, matters of definition at which I keep worrying, probably wearyingly.
      'Anti-Semitism' to me is 'suspicion of Jewish culture and its effects so strong as to lead to serious unfairness or worse', not refusal to admire any achievement or quality by or in anyone Jewish. Even Wagner thought that the Jews had (though with ultimately malevolent intentions) played a positive part in preserving western culture from the absolute and crushing control of the Church - at least that's how I'd interpret Mime's role in relation to Siegfried. Even Celine had (for a few weeks only, as far as I know) a Jewish girlfriend - to a degree it is a theme of anti-Semitism that the Jews would not be so dangerous if they were not so attractive, even at times so constructive.
      Not that I've the slightest reason to attribute anti-Semitism in any form to RP.
      As to anti-Zionism my idea of it is 'regarding the arguments for Zionism as consistently mistaken'. So to be an anti-Z is to think that Z neither ever did or ever could take or ever could have taken an acceptable form - so no form of Z is an expression of genuine liberalism. (Others may define the term differently, of course, but it might be a good idea to make anti-Xism for any value of X the rejection of X in all its forms.) This would be a rejection of Z in its essence and I would call myself an anti-Z in this sense.
      This def. doesn't involve spitting blood at Zionists, just saying in season and out of season that they are mistaken in their arguments. It doesn't, absolutely doesn't, involve a steady stream of full-spectrum insults - 'You're ugly! You never made any desert bloom! You never made an interesting archaeological discovery! Your critiques of other cultures are all rubbish!' Israel and Israelis - their scientists, their philosophers, even their soldiers, even their politicians - can have every credit where it's due. It's just that none of this and none of anything amounts to a good reason for Zionism in any form.
      I'm only saying what I mean by anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, not giving reasons for rejecting one and accepting the other. I recognise that Zionists would not accept any definition that distinguishes the two.

  • 'New York Times' implies anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic
    • Zionists tend - understandably, I suppose - to use words in such a way that 'anti-Zionism' will always turn out to be 'anti-Semitism', though precisely stated definitions aren't that common. People may use words as they like provided they make clear what they're doing.
      I use 'anti-Semitism' to mean unfairness and prejudice against Jewish people. I don't think Sand questions the Scriptural record because he is prejudiced but because he is popularising the critical theories that have arisen among scholars, even fairly conservative ones, and which deserve to be more widely known - one obstacle being a culture of discretion which is doing great harm. He does tend to favour the most radical among the available range of conclusions, but that is a position well within reason. Standard works, like the Oxford History of the Biblical World or Grabbe's 'Ancient Israel: What do we know and how do we know it?' would show you what I mean. They are rather less radical in their conclusions but belong, if I may put it like that, to the same thought-world.

    • If anyone produces an argument that is logically valid the only thing to do is accept its validity, since logic is the same for all. You don't have to accept its truth, because the premises may be false. But no premise - no proposition - is proved false by the fact that horrible people agree with it. Anyone who uses rhetoric, ie attempts to persuade, will tend to use the same methods, often called tricks. Tricks to watch out for include the famous 'tu quoque' - ie the attempt to rebut a critique of Me by changing the subject to similar actions by You. Also the famous Guilt by Association. We see these quite often on MW.

  • The gift of the Jews
    • Thanks for those really kind words! - Martin

    • Jewish people were uniquely well-placed to be critical of traditional Christian society and to press for positive change. Many of them played an essential role in creating modernity. For this, a debt of gratitude is due, but to the individuals concerned, not to the group, whose overall contribution was, like that of every other human group, mixed.
      There is only one human race. There are no moral supermen, either by ancestry or by culture.

  • Israeli army policy of calling West Bank 'Judea and Samaria' ups the likelihood of religious conflict
    • Thank you for making me think about old Omri, clearly an important historical character, again!
      Some say that the true etymology of 'Samaria' is 'Watch Mountain'. Some place Tirzah near Nablus.
      I quite see that modern, Jerusalem-based Israel wants to co-opt the 'Israel' of 875 BCE. But whether you read Kings with belief or with scepticism Omri and his city come across as a person and a place completely antagonistic to Jerusalem. That is why the language about him is so harsh. To draw attention to the name Samaria is to draw attention, at least among people who read the Bible, to these antagonisms and harsh judgements. The people in Samaria may have judged the people in Jerusalem just as harshly.
      WJ mentions Judaea. A couple of years ago I went to a lecture by Eyal Weizman, author of a book (which I haven't got round to reading!) called 'Hollow Land', which is about 'the architecture of occupation' and more generally about how Israel uses the humane academic disciplines to support its activities. He began his lecture by saying that until 1967 Israel had been in possession not of the historic lands of the Jews but only of the historic lands of the Jews' enemies. So (my paraphrase from now on) there was a persistent memory of non-Jewish presence in the coastal strip, Philistia and Phoenicia,which required immense emphasis to be laid on the core territory of Judaea - the central, sacred area to which the rest had become subdued. Omri must be turning in his grave.

    • Omri seems to have built the city of Samaria on a greenfield site (?875) and presumably the name, then attached to a few green fields, preceded the city. But the importance of the site and the fame of the name were due entirely to people who were not amenable to Jerusalem authority and with them the name became associated, just as I mentioned, in the Tanakh and in the New Testament. Between the testaments came the Hasmonean war crime,which resulted in the destruction of the city. An odd name to go with a Jewish claim.

    • The distinction between what we do and who we show ourselves to be - therefore who we are, at least for a time - is not hard and fast, I would think, in any context.
      I think it's important to distinguish between noting, in an objective spirit, bad things done by certain English people and therefore being against those people and on the other hand being so predisposed to suspect and condemn anyone who is English that you will not judge objectively or fairly. It is the latter rather than the former that I would call Anglophobia. But people may define words as they wish.

    • I'm not sure that the 67 lines were 'along the middle' in terms of good land and natural resources.
      The area round Jerusalem was certainly part of the K of Judaea. Samaria was traditionally very resistant to kings and priests based in Jerusalem, so calling a territory by a name traditionally associated with anti-Jewish sentiment is an odd way to press a Jewish claim. The city of Samaria was the site of a major war crime by the Jewish King John in 113 BCE.

  • Arendt: an Israel dependent on 'great powers' will always be 'precarious'
    • Maybe you're right but to me the ordinariness of evil and the banality of evil seem very different things.

    • Arendt on 'banality' became famous with reference to the Eichmann trial rather than the Nuremberg trials and is much influenced, I think, by Lenin's 'The State and Revolution', which identifies 'bureaucracy' as the main force stifling human liberty and development. So there's a genuine far-leftist element in her analysis, though also a more conservative element derived (I would think) from Heidegger. She denounces Cecil Rhodes, as I remember, for having no true national loyalties but only grandiose personal projects - ironically coming rather close to the 'rootless cosmopolitan' stereotype.
      The idea that evil is boring, good interesting seems very questionable to me.

  • Pentagon asks for extra $100 million to Israel for Iran defense (and Congress doubles the tip)
    • I think that there must exist a certain number of sixpackers who do benefit from this money. The money is recycled to businesses who will support and fund and to individuals who will vote for - and perhaps fanatically advocate through their churches - the politicians who vote for the arms contracts, thus setting the cycle in motion yet again. It's an extraordinarily distorting and inefficient way to use public money to stimulate the economy but a war-related stimulus has that perverse popularity that a peace-related stimulus does not.

  • 'This is awful,' Bush said, coming into Bethlehem
    • Balfour was highly educated and had intellectual tastes. His colleague Curzon refers to his 'extraordinary intellectual distinction' which, because he never bothered to read his official papers or study the facts, 'created lamentable ignorance'. It's true that he was a committed Christian Zionist, as was his boss Lloyd George. LlG affected a certain contempt for Balfour but was really using his talent for looking like a languid, ineffectual aristocrat who would do nothing much whilst actually doing the ruthless deed to which they were both committed because both thought that God had commanded it. The Anglican Balfour, the Calvinist Lloyd George and until his untimely death the Catholic Sykes formed a powerful CZ trio.
      Zionism has always had enormous power to appeal across a wide spectrum of opinion. In the early days ignorant reactionaries like Scofield stood shoulder to shoulder, in a way, with ultra-educated ultra-progressives like George Eliot.

  • Two critiques of Norman Finkelstein
    • I see what you mean about international law and its progress. I may be misled by my Platonist feeling about a moral law that is the same for ever. You did warn me about the dangers of polla grammata.

    • Hostage speaks more respectfully of Westphalia than I would, since to me it seems that it enshrines a degree of sovereign authority over individual religion - cuius regio eius religio - that I think imperfect, though perhaps progressive in all the circumstances of the time. Was one of the reasons why the Jewish population gathered in Poland rather than in the Holy Roman Empire that Westphalia was oppressive in comparison with the Confederation of Warsaw? I'm speaking of what I little know and of what Hostage and others know well.
      With a bit more confidence, I'd say that individuals surely have a right to live at peace under a sovereign who respects their reasonable rights without an eye to the supremacy of a racial or religious group. The idea that a group defined by race or religion should demand that there should exist a state which is theirs, where they have a supreme voice in appointing the sovereign, is not an expression of individual rights but a negation of them.

    • I suppose we have to distinguish between the question of what would amount, as a matter of humanity and justice, to a reduction in the wrong being done to the Palestinians and the question of should be done here and now to move things forward. The 2ss is so massively unfair that even if things went fairly well it would amount to very little reduction in the overall wrong being done. On the worst outcome it would amount over time to no reduction at all in suffering and injustice because the pieces of Swiss cheese to which Diane refers would be very likely gobbled up, one by one on various pretexts, over a few decades and the population - mere cheesemites to some people - once again 'transferred'. Even so, NF and others can make a serious case for calling for 2ss negotiations and hoping for the best. For my part I disagree - we'll just get caught up in the endless prevarications which we've already witnessed and in seeming to encourage them, even to call for more. I think our job in the western world is less to call for negotiations that to call for recognition that injustice is being done, more every day, worse every day.
      Season's greetings to one and all of all races and ideologies.

  • Ben-Ami: I advocate for Israel, Palestinian groups should advocate for Palestinian human rights
    • The inaudible bit seemed to affect the overall meaning quite seriously. Did he mean that he wanted to be able to live in Israel and be proud of the place, but cannot do that because of the injustices being inflicted there, so his objective is to influence Israel from a pro-Israel point of view (in short, call for a 2ss) rather than to call directly for Palestinian rights, though he hopes others will. But if Palestinian rights have reached that degree of legitimacy, and if the Israeli rejection of those rights is correspondingly illegitimate, it is doubtful if there is any logical room for his pro-Israel sentiments. How can there be moral significance in the idea of a national home if that idea could never have been made reality without injustice? How can injustice be justified?

  • The Ron Paul moment-- bad and good
    • That does seem remarkable news, especially because the Paul vote seems to be a way of conveying popular disquiet over the 'war with Iran' drumbeats. To my foreign eyes Paul is a right-wing politician who has seized a chance to build a coalition by moving left. For years the world has been dominated by those making the opposite flip, the Clintons and Blairs. But looking at all - I should say 'what little' - I know of Paul I'd still feel some compunction about People Like Us voting for People Like Him.

  • Why Alan Dershowitz is wrong on Israel's 'rights'
    • The argument seems to create rights of aggression for all against all, as Hobbes would have said. 'All' would include Israel, the United Kingdom, everyone in both its instances.

  • We've almost reached our fundraising goal--please kick in!
  • For Hanukkah this year, our chefs prepare a special dish: their own words
    • 'Engineered', which would mean 'carefully brought about', does differ from 'bought and paid for' but absolutely not by being more precise. 'Bought and paid for' states the exact and rather demeaning method, ie control and manipulation of certain important moneys, by which the event was, with due care, brought about and made to happen. 'Engineered' is less precise and so leaves open the possibility that more legitimate methods were used. Friedman is saying that he should have been more obscure and mystifying. I hope he doesn't mean it. Anyway, congratulations on standing by his arguments 100%. I wish Goldstone had.

  • UK, France, Germany and Portugal condemn Israeli plan to build 1,000 new settlements homes
    • Just to mention that Catherine Ashton is not an MP but a member of the House of Lords. We are the world's leading feudal country, you know.
      I think that the EU, currently in serious difficulties, would like to do lots more business with the Muslim world and Israel for its part would like closer relations with the EU, even membership. So there is some genuine scope for pressure on Israel and genuine self-interested reason for the EU to apply some pressure - and I don't think wild talk about nuking everyone would do Israel much good. But self-interest alone, without that good old black magic of a moral vision, gets you only so far. Our leaders in the EU seem (I don't entirely share Dum's extreme distaste for them) to be rather odd people with far too many problems of their own to do anything much for the human race.
      What they're saying is better than nothing but not much.

  • Klein: Ron Paul is surging because he opposes another neocon war for Israel
    • But the thought might send them into raptures.

    • I can't really believe that RP will be the candidate but even a few good performances by him will make a huge contribution by showing the political class that war with Iran would, despite the barrage of propaganda, be very unpopular. I think that they know that already but need to be reminded.

  • What my God chip says about Jerusalem
    • This is a disturbing text! Hard to withhold sympathy. Jerusalem clearly arouses both positive emotion and great pain. But MRW is right in that we don't hear what you think about J'lem theologically or politically. Tell us more.

  • Obama's rabbi sidekick is opposed to 'too many Arabs' in Israel
    • If a group of friends or likeminded people are to be called a tribe, fair enough - though I think that that is not a very common way to use the word. That sort of group - a 'clique', perhaps - raises fewer problems than one based on race or religion, tribe in my sense. Even then I think 'cliquy' behaviour can be distressing and undesirable, though the distress rarely reaches political significance. But I still think that exclusiveness on the part of groups that are based on race and religion and which do have political significance are dangerous.

    • I do have problems with tribalism on the part of individuals, big problems. If someone says 'You are not of my tribe or race or group, therefore I would rather you went away for some distance and made room for someone like me to be near me' I wouldn't like it one bit, for a number of reasons. The sheer irrationality of choosing whose company you like on the basis of something other than character would strike me hard. This would be the opposite of the Martin Luther King Dream. If the basis or criterion is ancestry it would be arbitrary. If the basis is religion then this is religion in its most alienating and frightening form. Furthermore, it would encourage a parallel reaction in me, would in a way threaten to corrupt me. If this person prefers others rather than me I have reason to prefer people other than him/her, to keep my distance. I wouldn't like to have this sort of idea in my brain.

  • Israel is incapable of taking on the settlers
    • Any Zionist person or organisation confronting Jewish settlers on HL soil cannot say 'You have no right to be here'. No more can they say 'You have a right to be here' to Palestinians. Zionism is about exclusive Jewish rights, not shared with others, in the HL. So the agents of the Zionist state can oppose the settlers and protect the Palestinians - this is the very best possibility - only a temporary and limited way. And there's plenty of evidence, such as the evidence Annie adduces, that this best possibility is far from reality by many miles.

  • 'Christopher Hitchens's loathing for Israel...' --John Podhoretz
    • The weekend British obituaries have left me with the impression that '9/11 changed him'. He must have been in a difficult position at that point. As someone who had been close to Edward Said and written strongly in the Palestinian cause he could have said 'You should have listened to me years ago. Letting the Palestinians be persecuted was bound to bring bad things back to us' - he would then have ceased instantly to be taken seriously. Instead he became one of the - or the? - most articulate and effective spokesman for the Iraq War, perhaps thinking that someone who still had some pro-Palestinians sympathies should remain within the system.

    • I wonder how Podhoretz interprets the frequent insistence of Scripture that the Israelites were often unfaithful. God restores them only because of His greater purposes.

    • That was a deeply perceptive comment both about Hitchens and about western society!

  • Why did it take 6 years to talk about the Israel lobby?
    • All of us make compromises for the sake of a quiet life. We can't simply correct all injustices. We have to make new beginnings. But accepting the daily expression and slow intensification of a screamingly unjust partition of power and resources - it was already that before 67 - seems more like refusing serious compromise and staying on the existing track rather than beginning anything new.
      Rights can't be created by might or war but they can be created by an agreement that brings a war to an end. But it has to be an agreement within reason, in touch with justice.
      Not that I want any more blood shed or anyone driven out or Nakbaised.

  • How a comic book healed the wounds of normalization
    • The claims of non-Jewish Palestinians aren't weakened by the date and circumstances of their arrival unless (at very least) they arrived in some wrongful way. But if many moved during late Ottoman times, from one part of an empire to another - legal and acceptable enough, surely? - they and their descendants had and continue to have a right to be there. The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire did not put an obligation on them to return to another former province - why should it? On the contrary it placed on obligation on any new sovereign to protect them now that the old sovereign had ceased to exist. If there is anyone in today's Palestine who can prove continuous family residence for a thousand year that proof does not confer extra rights.

    • I should have paid attention to that verse, I agree. But I'm not sure that it removes my doubt over conversion as a major theme of the book. The reference to those who from mere fear declared - perhaps merely 'professed' - themselves to be Jews seems very contemptuous and doesn't sound as if the author of the story supposes that a great many of his audience belong or are descended from this rather unworthy group. The verse could be a warning to check the credentials of those who claim to be Jewish.
      But perhaps the descendants of Ahasuerus and Esther will be Jewish kings?

    • I don't see conversion as a major topic of Esther, though the Jewish characters seem to have no objection to living in the Persian Empire and to have no particular thought of returning to Palestine. Jonah, which has a strong element of comedy, does concern a missionary effort, whose success is embarrassing to those involved in it. There clearly were Jewish communities dispersed all over the Persian or Persian/Egyptian world. Their language, Aramaic, was the language of imperial administration.

  • David Remnick erases Norman Finkelstein
  • Likud's perfect candidate: Newt Gingrich (UPDATED)
  • Remnick says Gingrich has been reading 1984 'propaganda tract' Wiesel, Peretz and Bellow fell for
    • The story of Peters and Finkelstein is horrible in itself. This is the real 1984, the western Ministry of Truth. I'm mildly pleased that UK scholarship comes out of all this fairly well.
      On the other hand the rights of the Palestinians of 48 would not have been any less if they all had had grandparents born in Syria or on the moon.

  • Gingrich comment that Palestinians are an 'invented people' enters primary debate
    • The people of a province within an empire, to whose rule they effectively consent, do have a national government in the sense of a government running their affairs. If that government collapses or withdraws under outside pressure the individuals concerned do not cease to exist and do not lose all common interest. Anyone who tries to take the place over would have an obligation to act in the common interest of all his (her, their) new subjects, not pretend that there was no such thing.

  • One day in the State of the Jewish People, a 'light unto the Nations'
    • A mouser, I think, is a cat good at catching mice. Mooser is a bit like that.
      (I enjoyed the flight of fancy about Simeon).

    • The Hillbillies became dominant because they had the best poets, able to draw together the cultural strands of the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian worlds and to write unforgettably. But there are still some cantos unwritten.

    • Both the Oxford Bible Comm and the Eerdman's Comm seem to me to repay study here. The beautiful Servant imagery applies both to individuals and to groups or nations - see the opening Eerdman's comment on ch.41 - and through this imagery of shifting focus many theological points are made. The identification of the Servant with the Messiah goes back to the Aramaic Targum of Isaiah which would have been the version used by quite a few people in Jesus' time. There also seems to be reflection on the careers of the (really or supposedly) righteous kings Hezekiah and Cyrus (Jewish and Iranian) who brought peace and unity, the first to the Israelites, the other to the wider ME (E Comm on 52:13 and 53:5 and 10). To my mind the prophet does not point to the angry nationalism of the Zionists.

    • What would the Other Israel have been like? Above all, less oppressively religious - I suppose.
      Yet if you set down one group of people in the midst of another in ways that arouse serious antagonism and if one of the distinctions between the two groups relates to religion what can you expect, over time, than a gradual strengthening of the influence of religion - or at least of a culture with significant religious aspects? All the more so if both sides appeal (or even if one side appeals) to 'their' religion to explain why they should be there.
      To be a bone of contention the religion doesn't even have to be believed, only to be an important part of the discussion. Once it has reached that point the people on one side will increasingly try to boost 'their' religious story at the expense of the other - in this case the boost comes on both sides from highly contentious interpretations of archaeology and from furious denunciations of the moral impact of each others' traditions.
      This point was reached long ago in the history of Zionism - before the allegedly atheist Ben Gurion led bible study groups in his PM's residence, before the reference to 'the Book of Books' in Israel's founding documents, before the rejection of 'anywhere but Palestine' by the Zionist Congress of 1905, maybe with the increasing interest of British Jews in 'Daniel Deronda', maybe well before that.
      The Other Israel is an impossible imaginary thing which Professor Slater uses to justify his tenacious adhesion to Zionism. I wish he'd let go.

  • Gingrich says Palestinians are an 'invented people'
    • The opposite of 'invented' (deliberately brought into existence) would be 'discovered' (found to be in existence before we looked), I suppose. The criteria for this difference aren't explained by Newt or by anyone on his side, as far as I can see.
      I don't know how important the difference is supposed to be. When an empire breaks up, with its different provinces remaining in some degree recognisable and distinct, the inhabitants of each province surely form 'a people', in the sense of a group who can't avoid having common interests, especially in agreeing on a government or in agreeing to split up into smaller units without bloodshed - if they can. (In fifth century Britain this proved difficult.)
      I think that many ancestors of the present Palestinians must have been in Palestine from time immemorial. (I think the book on ancient Canaan by Jonathan Tubb of the British Museum is quite good.) Many would have been called Edomites or Hurrians or Philistines or Samarians - many would have been called Israelites. There are no records of mass mortality or mass expulsions, only of mass conversions. But of course it is not ancient history, or the way that individuals were grouped together 3,000 years ago, that confers rights on the Palestinians. It's their presence - anyone will discover them who looks, already there - as real individuals here and now, born and bred in the place.

  • Israeli soldier shoots protester in face at close range with teargas canister
  • AIPAC posterizes Obama in Senate, 100-0
    • I wouldn't be too distressed or impressed by this vote. There's been growing sympathy for the Palestinians throughout the West and even in the United States - I don't think that even the most ardent Lobbyist would deny that. On the other hand there has been no increase of sympathy for the Iranians, so the problem of Iran - with its harsh, factionalised leadership and its repressed but not crushed opposition - is there to exploit.
      Still, lack of sympathy doesn't mean readiness for war. Objectively war could well be disastrous for us in the West. Public opinion is already disillusioned with the existing wars. Members of Congress know these things well enough, I believe. The increasing demand for economic warfare has its encouraging side. Even the most bellicose economic warrior knows that his sanctions and boycotts take time to work and if that kind of bellicosity rears its head it means that the advocates of short, sharp military shocks are a little crestfallen.
      Someone says that 'we want gas riots in Iran' - well, that would take time. And it must be very difficult to get riots going in any country if foreign powers choose to make it totally obvious that the difficulties are of their making.
      Just let me repeat my too-oft-stated argument that the way the Battle of the Tree gave everyone a pretext for a major war which no one took up indicates that no one on the ground was really ready for war and that there is for the moment a balance of power.
      Hostage and Toivo have made it clear enough that this is half-hearted stuff, not really a declaration of economic war but a preparation for posturing during the election campaign. One day the moment for serious negotiations between the United States and Iran will come - well, we're allowed to hope, aren't we?

  • Karen Greenberg's evasion
    • 'You have to be very careful when it comes to torture' - the extreme care is not about making sure that no resort to torture goes unreported but that no powerful government is accused of torture without clear cut proof. This seems to be erring on the wrong side.

  • Is Ethan Bronner whitewashing rape by a former Israeli President?
    • We seem to be hearing a lot of the 'tu quoque' argument recently. 'You and your friends are as bad as I am'. This is a really feeble and deceptive argument.
      If I say that there is a moral prohibition on certain types of action (taking milk from cats, say) and that X has just committed an action of that type, what if X replies 'Y has done just the same forbidden thing. Why don't you mention that'?
      But the important point is not, absolutely not, whether the point about Y has been mentioned but whether it is in fact true. Has Y done wrong? If Y has done wrong then the condemnation of X, who has done the same, is not lessened, only illustrated more vividly.
      If Y has not in fact done wrong then there must be some special consideration deflecting blame. Either there is something special of this kind to which X can appeal, in which case let's hear it - merely mentioning Y doesn't help us here. Or there isn't, in which case Y's case is irrelevant and X should stop going on about it.

  • Israel isn't good for the Jews anymore
    • You can have an 'intuitive' view, positive or negative, of almost anything, I suppose, though we often think of many of these views as inept because they fail to recognise variation in the things themselves. So if someone says 'I dislike Gothic churches' others might say 'How can you say that when they're so different?'
      If we can overcome this problem with 'grand intuitions' about ways of life, national groups etc. and give them the same status as the more focused intuitions about pictures and poems we would have to accept what that status implies. If we give the same status to the intuitions of someone who just does and someone who just doesn't like a particular picture and make them equally valid we would have to accept that Anglophilia and Anglophobia, say, were equally valid too.
      If we say that all intuitions are not of the same value then we have to question those that are offered to us. It becomes legitimate to ask for the reasons why a particular culture is so valuable and to look at the ideas of those who have preferred to move into another cultural group.

    • Thanks for interesting comments on 'Christian atheism'.
      I don't know if there are any French Catholics around but I've heard that one kind of sceptical French Catholic is called 'pratiquant, pas croyant'.
      Definitions aren't descriptions of the world, only ways of linking words to other words, so no definition is factually mistaken. Hostage seems to me to be defining 'roots' in terms of certain degrees of ancestry and of continuous culture and on the assumption that the term 'Jewish', which appears on both sides of his equation, is already understood. Fair enough - though I'd note that this definition permits someone who has Jewish roots to have no continuing personal commitment to the Jewish culture in which (s)he was raised.
      I think it's clear as a matter of fact rather than of definition that Judaism, the Mosaic religion, is not alone in having related to it a culture or spectrum of cultures where religious practice or religious belief - or both - have vanished. We can then, whether or not we use words so as to call these cultures 'Jewish', 'Christian' etc., pursue the question raised by Talkback and RoHa. I would like to ask the question more widely - what is the value of preserving not just the Jewish version but any of these whole things, these whole spectra of belief?
      Many of us would begin by saying that there's always a value in letting any individual pursue those kinds of thought or practice that seem to him or her fulfilling without suffering any kind of reduced status or insecurity thereby. This point could be used to support a Western liberal society. But it seems to call Zionism, whose aim has been to make Jewish culture (whole spectrum) very much the leading culture in the Holy Land, using force where necessary, into serious question. The Zionist proposition that only Jewish people have the relevant birthright makes the position of all others fundamentally insecure.

    • There are people who call themselves Christian atheists (Philip Pullman for one) meaning, I suppose, that they find Christian ideals, and perhaps Christian art and literature, attractive - even though they do not believe that there is a God who backs these ideals up.
      Barrie Wilson (author of How Jesus became a Christian) is a convert to Judaism from Christianity. He seems to be attracted morally to the Jewish division between Jews with their Mosaic obligations and Righteous Others with their obligation to obey only the Seven Laws of Noah, which don't (it seems to me) call for any religious ceremony or expression of belief, though they do call for avoiding idolatry. Here we do find a sanction which has a religious nature for a position which is at least very close to atheism. I wouldn't share Wilson's attraction to this system myself, but that's a matter that could be debated - reasons could be exchanged.
      What moral or aesthetic qualities of Jewish or Christian or Muslim culture make it desirable to create states and countries marked by a special affinity with one of these? What justifies imposing the costs of this creation on those of other traditions?

  • New York liberal Democrat implies Gutman is anti-Semitic
    • If nothing anti-Semitic is justified, nothing justified is anti-Semitic. Therefore no amount of complaint against Israel can be anti-Semitic if there is good reason for it.

    • It's true that anyone who considers that there are good reasons for any phobia (Anglophobia, say) shares the phobia, since we tend to accept whatever we consider to be backed by good reasons. If by 'phobia' we mean an attitude which is irrational and excessive then any claim that there are good reasons for it is in truth a delusion. But by the same token any negative attitude which is supported by good reasons cannot be phobic or dismissed as phobic. If I begin any relevant discussion by assuming that there cannot be good reasons for negative attitudes towards English people I am not showing splendid consistency but arguing in that old proverbial circle, making an assumption of what I want to prove.

  • Gutman is right: Anti-Semitic incidents in England spiked after attacks on Gaza and flotilla
    • We may all define words as we like, provided we make ourselves clear.
      I couldn't really object to this 'working definition' on the grounds that there can't be hatred directed towards a group - or 'collectivity' if you like to be pretentious. I think that such hatreds might well exist. (But we should note that 'I hate the Nazi Party' does not imply 'I hate all individuals who belong to the Nazi Party'.)
      However, I would like to ask if hatred is regarded as always unjustifiable. What if some groups do hateful things? If the answer is that moral opposition is not the same as hatred and that hatred, even in the face of the most hateful behaviour, is always unjustified then I would say that the Ambassador should have paused before taking evidence of moral objection to Israel as evidence of 'hatred', which triggers the possibility of 'anti-Semitism' under the working definition.
      If by contrast the answer is that it is sadly conceivable that some groups might act so badly that hatred of them becomes justifiable then we cannot condemn anyone simply on the evidence of cherishing some hatred of this sort.
      We could then insist that Israel has never acted that badly or come anywhere near doing so, but that insistence would require further moral reasoning.

  • Another Israeli hankering to be in the Diaspora
    • Hannah Arendt has a long discussion of old Cecil in 'Totalitarianism'. She thinks, as well as I remember, that he was the ultimate dissociated man or man without loyalties. He was, on her showing, at the same distance from everyone - British, German, African, Christian, Jewish - and thus had no compunction at all in reorganising them into completely new societies for his own purposes, his very lack of compunction giving him great success.
      I'm sure you're very right that it's an insular culture talking through Liad's grannie. That fretful treatment of a human characteristic as if it were specifically and troublingly Jewish!

    • I could understand that Jews were forced to live on their wits as an insecure minority and found that there were some advantages, as well as many dangers, in that situation. Liad's grannie's contention that Jewish people cannot easily live with each other - ie are used to somewhat mistrusting all those around them - is rather worrying, one of those internal traces (as they seem to me) of anti-Semitism in some forms of Jewish culture. The second idea, that Jewish uncles 'of course' achieve success 'easily' among non-Jewish people, is mentioned ironically but it is the counterpart of the first idea and easily makes me uneasy.
      Thanks for the figures, patm. If education is being drained out and religion and militarism left in that can't be good. And thanks for the info about Ohio the other day.

  • Israel trades $100 million in frozen PA funds for nuke-ready submarine
  • Pappe on why Palestinian Israelis are 'second-rate citizens'
    • That's a very useful summary of the situation. Success and riches for some individuals are not ruled out, I suppose.

  • Welcome Annie Robbins as Writer at Large
  • Beinart says Israel must give citizenship to Palestinians under occupation
    • B is surely right to say that between river and sea there is one sovereign power and a mass of people subject to it. This really implies that all individuals concerned have the same rights of representation etc. - Locke's 2nd Treatise and all that. It then follows, as night from day, that Israel, if in the exercise of its sovereign power it refuses these rights to some of its subjects on a racial or religious or group-membership basis, is an illegitimate power.
      B seems to resist this conclusion with all his might, heart and soul. That means denying the premise. His denial is on the basis of saying that there is no permanent refusal to concede the Palestinians their rights, no fundamental bad intention. This is very little different from what Goldstone has been saying in response to the 'apartheid slander'.

  • A point for the Israel lobby theory, from Panetta
    • You know more about every aspect of this than I do, Pamela. My idea is that there are enough 'dominionist' Christian voters to make sure that going along with Israel brings electoral rewards. There are enough people in high places who think in what passes for their hearts that Israel is a western garrison in the ME, intimidating everyone, setting them at sixes and sevens and making sure that no powerful anti-Western force emerges. Finally there is the lobby system that has made itself essential to the job security of almost all politicians. (It would be considered odd in the UK to object to the 'Friends of Israel' organisations that exist in all three of our serious political parties.)
      All three of these forces are not only powerful but face no real opposition in their own different terrains. Mainstream Christians look down their noses at the dominionists but do not denounce them or embrace opportunities like Kairos Palestine to take a different view. The Church of England, just for instance, disgraces itself in this respect. There is no force operating in elite circles arguing that a rapprochement with Arabia/Islamia is essential, or even that it would be in our best interests. And there is no serious counter-lobby, as we all know.
      It's going to be a long haul, don't you think?
      Your book is very useful in its presentation of the Palestinians as normal and human. Though it's a horrible thing that this kind of presentation is necessary.

  • Game changer: Hillary says Israeli restrictions on women remind her of Rosa Parks and Iran
    • What biblical passages are you thinking of, john h?

    • That was a great story/report, Taxi. No doubt you'll have more to tell us when you've returned from your visit.

    • I'm with those who find it hard to believe that this is big news. The Obama crowd, HC among them, cannot but cannot want a serious confrontation with Israel at this turn of events,with an election coming up. They're playing their cards so as to neutralise as best they can the obvious hatred and contempt which the Likud crowd feel for them, Obama especially, by lining up with the liberal Zionists, who are a big segment of the donors and opinion-formers whose support they need. The next thing we hear will be another bang on the drum of right to exist, right to security etc..
      The inconsistencies and insincerities of all this may slowly become apparent over time and over time the huge Zio coalition may indeed begin to crumble. But it won't happen in the very short term and the Republican candidate, unless indeed it's Paul, won't be in any position to point the problems out, since they have equal problems of their very own.
      We may look back on the day when Ms. Clinton became indignant because female Israeli soldiers were insulted when they tried to sing as the day when the game changed. But can such a disproportionate kind of indignation, based so clearly on the domestic politics of the United States, really have that kind of moral force? Concert opportunities for Palestinian chanteuses?

  • Roll over Ben-Gurion and tell Jabotinsky the news (even Tablet's had enough)
    • We have many terms - Loyalty, Law, Allegiance, even Ligature, even Religion - that must go back to an old Indo-Euro sound LIG for 'tie' or 'link'.
      In feudal times it came to refer to the sacred link of subject to sovereign - Dante regards Brutus and Judas as particularly diabolical because they turned against their lords - Caesar and Jesus. But as Hobbes remarks a sovereign does not need to be an individual - so the United States, as a democratic sovereign, calls for loyalty every bit as much as feudal monarchs did. In the UK we have the more enigmatic conception of Queen and Country.
      'Ties that bind' should not be imputed on grounds of race alone, since people have more mental freedom than to be committed to ideologies merely by kinship. So if Locke is being raked over simply because of his ancestry he is being wronged, a Locke mocked. I'd rather Flynn had said 'Zionist' rather 'Jewish' loyalties. It does seem unwise to appoint a representative who has avowed personal commitment to the very ideology that disturbs the relationship between Israel and its neighbours - unless, that is, HMG is an organisation itself clearly committed to Zio. But if it is, it should say so openly, so that we loyal British subjects who would disagree could say so openly in our turn. Which it won't.
      Much surprise would be caused if we announced that our next Ambassador to Iran, when we can fix one up, will be a Shiite. Everyone would say that we surely could not want to make a gesture that specifically encourages Shiism in its Khomeini form. But the goose and gander do not receive the same sauce.

    • How could anyone have expected tolerance, plurality and civility from a project that claimed special and distinctive rights for one group - only they have an inherent right to live in the Holy Land? Religious devotion, existential determination, military heroism perhaps. But the idea that there are rights that only we have is any logic a rejection of 'plurality': it's not 'you and us' but 'just us'. You can hardly be civil if you're prepared to assert these claimed rights by force. And you are bound to display the intolerance of a warlike group, perpetually engaged in combat, towards those whose views are different. Presenting the discovery of the Israeli insistence on singularity, incivility and limited tolerance as a kind of surprise at which one can be slightly puzzled and offended in a civilised sort of way is itself a kind of bad faith. Not much good can come of bad faith.

  • Letter from Cairo: the liberals, the Brothers, and the poor
    • BBC radio news has just carried an interview with someone from the American University of Cairo, mentioning that there has been some Saudi influence - and presumably money - but that the real reason is the rise of religious sentiment in Egypt itself. The liberal young are shocked and astonished, he said. Depressing.

  • Nakba denial: 'NYT' removes the word 'expulsion' from article describing Palestinian refugees
    • The word 'exclusion' seems undeniably correct, and exclusion implies disfranchisement and deprivation of property - indeed terrible suffering. All this for no misdeed at all. How is fleeing a battlefield a wrong action? And battle or no battle everyone whatever, except for those who are detained after a legal process, has the right to leave home at will and for any reason (anything else would amount to a kind of imprisonment), to enter or seek to enter another territory, and then to return.
      How did the moral nonsense that surrounds the Nakba get accepted almost without question in the western world for decades?

  • Israeli forces uproot 100 olive trees and 'arrest' a farmer's tractor to extend wall in Occupied Territories
    • Unions still just about exist in the UK, though we're very moderate and action-averse. The Government does have to negotiate with us. I was on the picket line the other day, in a rather dodgy status since I'm no longer a member of the workforce. In the United States I've heard that a recent referendum in Ohio went the unions' way.

  • The earlier me
    • Well, I found Melita Maschmann's 'Account Rendered' (1964), describing her disillusion with Nazism, quite interesting. This book was misinterpreted by Goldhagen in Willing Executioners.

    • What were the considerations that really changed your mind, Liz?

  • No freedom in the land of false prophets
    • Beale and Carson's 'Comm on NT use of OT' points out that Paul portrays Elijah as underestimating God's mercy. He is not as alone as he thinks.

  • Roger Cohen says our foreign policy has been 'Likudized'
    • Sick's remarks are very apt but I wonder whether we face an alternative to 'the Bush Doctrine of perpetual war' or only a version of that doctrine? And would the fickle, fearful public in the end want to regulate or restrain these nameless forms of extermination when it comes to hated races or demonised individuals?

  • The Occupy movement seeks to change U.S. foreign policy--will Palestine be included?
  • A brief story of dispossession, American-style – and what you can do about it
    • Rebecca Solnit, in 'Storming the Gates of Paradise' remarks that Indians, unlike all other ethnic groups, are seen as Hollywood characters, therefore as works of art, tested and appraised for government recognition in the same way as Old Masters. Pretending to be a genuine Indian is, she remarks, a crime akin to faking a Rembrandt.

  • Now they care
    • There in all of us, I think, of all religions and races. People are created equal in more ways than they like to think.

  • Could Ron Paul's Iowa surge finally open up political debate on Israel and Iran attack?
    • Apparently some 'embassy workers' were taken hostage but 'have been released by police' and 'all accounted for' (says the Foreign Secretary). A picture of the Queen was inverted. (All per the BBC).

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