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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Religion and politics

I'm still too busy with personal affairs to offer a proper blog post. But I'd like to offer some rambling thoughts about the intersection of religion and politics.

Just now, Reuters carried a story about some catty remarks made by Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- ad libbed, and apparently spoken without the knowledge that a nearby microphone was "hot" -- about Binjamin Netanyahu:

As the two leaders discussion turns to Israel and the Palestinians, Sarkozy is first to express his distaste for the conservative Israeli Prime Minister.

"I cannot bear Netanyahu, he's a liar," the French president was heard to say.

In response, according to the account by Arret Sur Images, Mr. Obama sympathizes with Sarkozy's frustration, saying, "you're fed up, but I have to deal with him every day."
Obviously, this will do a great deal of harm to Obama, who will no doubt be forced to scrape and bow and perform astounding feats of acrobatic apologetics. The right wing -- and many Jews, right and left -- will probably profess to be appalled at the President's "anti-Semitism" -- even though neither he nor Sarkozy said one anti-Semitic word.

During the Camp David discussions between Jimmy Carter, Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, it became very clear that Carter disliked Begin on a personal level. As I recall, one of the major news magazines -- Time or Newsweek, I forget which -- said so directly. Yet nobody scored Carter for "anti-Semitism"; nobody presumed that he was anything but an honest broker in the peace negotiations.

Frankly, Begin didn't make a good impression on most Americans: He was rude and arrogant and easy to dislike. He had also been a terrorist -- a fact often acknowledged freely in newspaper editorials in the 1970s. You can't mention that history nowadays without being called an anti-Semite.

What a change has occurred since then. Israel is now beyond criticism. It was acceptable for a president to dislike Begin three decades ago, but Obama's mild expression of exasperation toward Netanyahu will be probably give rise to all sorts of hysteria and paranoia.

Parallels. I'm reading a book called Paris, Capital of Modernity by David Harvey, a leftish retelling of the various recurrent rebellions that beset that city throughout the 19th century, and of the conditions that gave rise to those rebellions. Much of that book has a bearing on the OWS movement.

Religion was the key factor in that history.

Between 1789 and 1871, the Parisian rebels were often led by men who detested religion. Whenever they got the chance, they would shoot archbishops or guillotine nuns or commit some similar outrage. This anti-religious frenzy had the very predictable effect of turning the rural areas of France against the "reds" of Paris; peasants and workers acted against their own interests, aligning themselves with royalists in order to defend their faith. Whenever the rebels tried to do injury to the Church, the Church became stronger. Reactionary, paranoid, and strong.

A very similar series of events took place during the Spanish Civil War. Anticlerical anarchists, fueled by their inchoate hatred of all religion, committed supremely foolish acts, such as digging up dead nuns and displaying their skeletons for the movie cameras. That footage became a potent recruiting tool for Franco.

Today, in America, the Southern Baptists and evangelicals hold enormous power. Fundamentalist Protestantism is the single most important force which drives so many working class Americans to act against their interests. As a result, we have a "new atheism" movement -- which, of course, is only going to strengthen the fundamentalists.

Not let's bring it all back to Obama and Netanyahu.

I am convinced that peace in the middle east is possible. The most direct route to peace would require the American president to take a stern stance toward Israel: "We're not asking you to do this; we're telling you." Alas, no president would dare to adopt such an attitude, because the result would be a political typhoon on the domestic front.

Don't blame American Jews; the problem rests entirely with Christian Zionism.

Today, as in the 19th century, the greatest obstacle to political progress is religion -- not all religion, but religion in its most reactionary, most paranoid forms. Yet if you confront the religious right directly, you'll only make it stronger. Opposition will be seen as confirmation of their fears.

How can one deal with such a foe?
If it were possible to ignore them, that would be the best defense. Of course, that would also require that they were a minority, and a small one. I think they are still not the majority (I hope), but they are a large enough block that ignoring them won't work. The problem with religion in general is that you can't appeal to reason, because most people throw that away to become believers in the first place (not everyone, but most......I think reason and belief ARE compatible, but I think for most people they throw one or the other away).

As to the comments of Obama and Sarkozy, I have no doubt Sarkozy is right. I also have no doubt that the calls of antisemitism will be swift and thick. However, there is a certain irony in these two world leaders accusing another of being a liar. Pot, meet Kettle.
It's up with the Israelis to deal with him...and they are rising up. They actually "occupied" Tel Aviv in July...way before our own tent cities sprang up, and Jews and Arabs alike discussed social justice, and marched on Tel Aviv to the tune of half a million marchers. They're re-occupying Tel Aviv now. Hopefully they are headed for a more progressive future, as we're all striving for.

What you won't like is that they say remaining leaderless is key for these movements. :) Because then there is no "head" that would be easy to cut off.,8599,2097627,00.html?xid=fblike
Absurd to equate disliking Bibi with anti-semitism. If thats the criteria then a good 35% of Israel (at least) could be classified as anti-Semitic.

My cousin is about as pro-Israeli as a Jew can be. However even he think the wrong Netanyaho became a politician. The other was a great thinking and great soldier. But he died at Entebbe.

Obama complained to Sarko the Sayan about having to deal with Netanyahu "every day". The western media will focus on his 'nasty attitude', not on how or why a US President has to deal with Netanyahu every day.

I've been comparing this with the 1970s too.

According to Kissinger, Nixon told him he'd given the order to reverse US policy on the Middle East. From then on, the US would support the Arab powers and oppose Israel, and the policy would not be reversible by future presidents. That's what Kissinger says Nixon told him. No kidding.

(I read it in a newspaper serialisation of a book by Kissinger many years ago. I couldn't find anything about it on the internet. I think this account must be in Kissinger's 'Years of Upheaval' book.)

Oh, and 2 days later, Nixon resigned.

From then on, no US president would fucking dare take such an attitude!!

Sarko the Sayan probably deliberately led him on.

This story will ratchet up the fierce 'belief' among US Zionist Jews that Obama is a wicked wicked man just looking for a chance to stab them in the back. Sending in the US airforce to carry out an attack - possibly a nuclear attack - on Iran wouldn't be enough. Occupying Iran wouldn't be enough. NOTHING would be enough for these nutcases! Obama is clearly Hitler reborn.

If anyone has got a copy of Kissinger's book on their shelves, or knows the reference, I'd appreciate it if they could post chapter and verse for the 'Nixon said he'd reversed US Middle-East policy' story.
You must understand, the American "religious right" is not actually Right, which represents Tradition.

The American "religious right" is an apocalyptic heresy called "dispensational premillenialism" aka Christian Zionism, which eschatology was only developed in the late 1800s and as such is theological modernism.

It is self-destructive, materialistic-capitalist, soteriologically lacking, and as such is a sign of decadence of what is left of Western religion in the US.

Not far off, when Israel is transformed into a democracy devoid of rabbinical law (the One State Solution) millions of these American heretics will lose faith immediately, recognizing Christ has no intention of appearing on a white horse and leading a mass of newly converted Jews to military victory against Islam, Russia, China etc.
I think our relationship with israel is more intertwined with our relationship with oil than really with religion. We like having a deeply western aliened nation, one beholden to us (and the Brits) for it's very existence, right smack dab in the middle of all that oil.

The Isrealis, of course, have run an excellent propaganda campaign that's visible only by looking back at decades of infinitesimal shifts in public opinion. It better be successful; they know their existence depends upon it. You might call it their "Jews! almost as good as Christians!" campaign.

One of the delicious parts of the book "Lolita" is Nabokov's subtle skewering of American anti-semitism of the 1950s.
Obie will turn this opportunity or engineered event
( take your choice) to his advantage. What's more
disturbing is labeling militant Zionism with Judaism
as if both were religions. Hitlerism vs Natzism lived
side by side from 33-45 - being mere political state ideologies. Modern Judaism's got this going for it:
Disturbing outcome if history repeats or even rhymes.
Don't blame American Jews; the problem rests entirely with Christian Zionism.

Unless you can point to a Charles Percy taken out by Christian Zionist primary money, I must disagree.

"dispensational premillenialism"

Exactly right. Now, look back into who funded Scofield's 'Reference Bible' that created that heresy, as the beginning of wisdom.

Organized religion is Satan's greatest invention. All organized religions - your's included (if you have one).
I don't know how true this is but it's interesting. This from Joseph Massad quoting Benjamin Netanyahu:

"In my office in Jerusalem, there's a ... an ancient seal. It's a signet ring of a Jewish official from the time of the Bible. The seal was found right next to the Western Wall, and it dates back 2,700 years, to the time of King Hezekiah. Now, there's a name of the Jewish official inscribed on the ring in Hebrew. His name was Netanyahu. That's my last name ..."

"... My first name, Benjamin, dates back a thousand years earlier to Benjamin - Binyamin - the son of Jacob, who was also known as Israel. Jacob and his 12 sons roamed these same hills of Judea and Samaria 4,000 years ago, and there's been a continuous Jewish presence in the land ever since."

Massad goes on...

"Indeed Netanyahu's father Benzion Mileikowsky was the son of Polish Jews converted to Zionism, who named their son Benzion based on their ideological commitments and changed their name to "Netanyahu" after they immigrated to colonise Palestine in 1920.

The names of Benzion's father and mother (and Benjamin Netanyahu's grandparents) were Nathan Mileikowsky and Sarah Lurie, common European Jewish pre-Zionist names.

For Benjamin Mileikowsky (Netanyahu), a descendant of Polish Jewish colonists, to claim ancient Jerusalem as his ancestral origin, would be seen as a curious ideological and mythical fabrication during a dinner conversation, but to assert it as a fact-based political and territorial claim to the land of the Palestinians at the United Nations, makes a mockery of international law, which is the basis of UN resolutions that condemn Israel's occupation and colonisation of the city."

Is this true? Does Netanyahu's Jewish lineage go back a mere three generations?
"Is this true? Does Netanyahu's Jewish lineage go back a mere three generations?"

No no, you misunderstand. It was common for new immigrant Israelis to abandon their polish names - they were considered slave or serf names. They would then select something more "Israeli". My father did they same thing. A polish surname morphed into a Hebrew name.

So Netanyahu is of Polish Jewish decent like many Israelis. He has no evidence of decent from the Netanyahu associated with his ring. But his family remains jewish - albeit of polish descent.

Thanks Harry, I take your point. I misunderstood, and the phrase "Benzion Mileikowsky was the son of Polish Jews converted to Zionism" implies that the family were practicing Jews for a long time back. But I still think two of Massad's ideas remain valid:

(1) It is a lie by Netanyahu to claim that his adopted name has a direct genealogical lineage back to biblical times and it is an affront to decency and honesty to lay claim to territory on that basis. By the same reasoning I could be a German with a Hindi faith, Wolfgang Schmidt, believe that I have Aryan roots, change my name to Vikram Ananad, invade and occupy India and declare myself entitled to be there -- or, I could be a German Muslim convert and declare an antitlement to reside in Saudi Arabia.

(2) It is my understanding (and I'm prepared to be corrected on this if I'm wrong) that very few of European Jews are descended from a post-Masada diaspora. I've been told that many Europeans over the centuries converted to Judaism. In what sense then can such religious conversions form the basis of a claim to territory in the Middle East? How do we know Netanyahu's European forbears did not convert to Judaism?

Just asking.
Don't blame American Jews; the problem rests entirely with Christian Zionism.

Totally insane. I'm not defending Christian Zionism, but fundamentalist Protestants are mostly just a bunch of powerless idiots who believe what they see/hear from the Republican Party/Fox News/talk radio/End Times preacher bullshit machine, which is mostly Zionist controlled. AIPAC is full of American Jews, and Jews donate over 50% of campaign money to both parties. These are the people leading the effort to tikkun Iran's olam, not the Christians.

On point 1) I totally agree. I have a horrible suspicion that Bibi may see this coincidence as a form of divine providence. Very scary in a politician. But he might just be attracted by the coincidence. Either way, it is a coincidence so his reported comments are disconcerting.

2)I have seen contradictory evidence on this. So on the one hand, its not obvious how there came to be such a large number of Ashkenazi jews without mass converstion. The Sephardics are much easier to understand. On the other hand, there are clear genetic markers which as I understand it, Ashkenazis have in common with other Jews. That doesnt mean there hasnt been a lot of mixing over the years. There probably has. Incidentally, it doesnt rule out the idea that Palestinians are possibly descended from the original indiginous population - ie Jews, Greeks, Canaanites, Samarians etc. Basically all the people who spoke Aramaic in the area.

So then you get the potential irony of new coming European converts ending up oppressing people who were possibly descended from the original Jewish population. And there is some genetic evidence of this. But it certainly aint proven.

I don't want people to think I agree with Anon 6:36. I don't think that Jews control the world. Nobody does. But the power of fundamentalism should not be underestimated.
Why should you care whether people think you think Jews are ultra-powerful?

Are you afraid that your loyal Jewish readers would then scream anti-semitism, call you a Holocaust-denying Nazi and desert you forever?

Or do you agree with Alex Jones that it's not the Jews that control the media, it's the Saudis?

But then again...
Its not the Jews that control the media. Or the Saudis.

Its the rich.

And just who are the rich, Harry?

That nefarious "top one-percenter" class is mighty top-heavy with Ashkenazi surnames. By one recent survey a near majority of the one-percenters have such names, which puts such folks at the top of the pyramid-of-mammon way, way out of proportion with their presence in society as a whole.

And Federal Election Commission documents prove they are very, very generous with campaign contributions (both singular and cleverly bundled) -- to the point that the K-Street lobbying game (when it comes to mideast policy in particular) is by and large just a big boys' version of spin-the-dreidel.
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