back to babylon: fires of revenge

Anyone with a smattering of biblical knowledge knows that historical Israel was claimed and conquered under circumstances that could not plausibly be described as peaceful and orderly.Yet, instead of reveling in, and advocating for war and armed struggle,Jewish tradition is said to identify with allegiance to God, instead of military capability, as the central factor in the victories noted in the five books of Moses. So, with the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem, Jewish life underwent a radical change, a transformation, that rejected the use of force and may in part have been an overreaction.

---Bruce Cheadle:A 21-year-old Senate page put her job on the line Friday in a silent protest against Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s majority Conservative government. Brigette DePape staged an unprecedented protest on the floor of the Senate chamber, walking out into the red-carpeted centre aisle carrying a red “Stop Harper” sign that she’d pulled from beneath her skirt as Gov. Gen. David Johnston read the new government’s speech from the throne. The University of Ottawa graduate stood silently holding her hand-painted sign for at least 20 seconds — while the vice-regal made a barely perceptible hitch in his address and a stunned room full of dignitaries and invited guests stared in mute astonishment....Read More:

In a sense, the situation in the Middle East exists because it suits the interest of the West….

Lawrence Ferlinghetti: You know, just because he is black, everyone thought he was a revolutionary. He’s no revolutionary. Obama is a centrist. And as far as any on the left who thought he was a revolutionary, I think the air is going out of his revolutionary balloon daily.

If there were three things you could have him do …

Well, like some of the signs I have in the window. The direction he’s already going wrong on is the total support of Israel and having appointed Hillary Clinton as the Secretary of State. This is more of the same. This isn’t change. He said long ago during the campaign, you had to change the set of mind about things like war. Well, with Hillary Clinton, you’re getting the old set of mind. Read More:

will horter:The media has widely praised the civil disobedience occurring throughout the Arab world, but when protest came home to roost in Canada’s Senate recently the vitriol began to fly. Compared to the graphic images from the “Arab Spring,” Senate page Brigette DePape’s silent display of a “Stop Harper!” sign during the throne speech was fairly tame. Who would have guessed that a stop sign could cause so much controversy? The Canadian press alternatively praised DePape as a “hero” or excoriated her as “dangerous” or a “spoiled child.” Generally I abide by Texas pundit Jim Hightower’s famous saying: “There’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos,” but not this time. I disagree with both extreme perspectives, finding myself — for one of the few times in my life — right in the middle of the debate. On one hand, the critics denouncing DePape clearly misunderstand or reject the very idea of civil disobedience. On the other hand, if DePape was attempting to create real change she surely could have highlighted something less mushy than “Stop Harper!” Read More:

Jewish tradition tends to interpret the destruction of the Temple and the ensuing exile as divine punishment for certain transgressions committed by the Jews. Even to the extent where gratuitous hatred among the Jews is held to be the cause of the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome. It is said that the Talmud reports that the Roman siege of Jerusalem in the first century divided the city’s population against itself. The scholars of the Law were more inclined toward a negotiated compromise, while the rebels organized a forceful response. Evidently, that division, secularized as it may be today, still exists. In fact, America and other Western nations face the same polarity among the electorate. Economically, its the guns and butter argument. Would  the Temple of Jerusalem would still be standing if those favoring armed struggle had been brought to heel? But, how could it be done without force?

Rick Salutin:But mensch? The term comes from Yiddish, the language of East European Jews, many of whom, including my family, immigrated here a century ago. It means a person, but of rare quality. Yiddish authority Leo Rosten says it connotes “noble character.” Others talk about rectitude; I’d add: soulful. Calling someone a mensch is the highest compliment. It derives from German, where the word meant “human being” but became part of the 18th century enlightenment which envisioned new levels of human unity, as in the French Revolution’s equality and fraternity. The poet Schiller wrote that all “menschen” shall be brothers, which Beethoven dropped into the climax of his ninth symphony. In Stephen Harper’s case, the meaning seems closer to “unshakable ally” or: “He has our back no matter what we do.” It lacks the essential moral element. I’m sure Harper and his supporters would say it’s all based on Israel being in the right, but it’s hard to imagine anything Israel could do that Harper would fault...Read More:

Meir Margalit:WE’RE LIVING in a deprived city, where poverty is spreading like wildfire, with many citizens already beneath the poverty line or

ering on its edges. But the mayor doesn’t sense them, he doesn’t hear them. That’s why Barkat just doesn’t get the chief problem assailing the city he heads. Yes, the mayor understands Jerusalem’s merchants, industrialists and hoteliers, he’s attentive to them, and helpful.

But not to the city’s critical mass – Rehov Stern, Rehov Nurit, Shmuel Hanavi and Neve Ya’acov. This isn’t in his field of vision, not to mention east Jerusalem.

I often think, well okay, so he doesn’t do much to help the poor, but why make their lives more difficult, for heaven’s sake? Take his strategy: “deeper billing.” It’s a smart term, from the Hebrew language-launderette, a codename for gross and violent intrusion into citizens’ pockets. It’s a policy that sees a relentless pursuit of people, using legal threat and action. In a council meeting on Thursday, it was revealed that in 2010 alone, the municipality had liens on more than 90,000 bank accounts! I can personally attest to the humiliation involved in this process generated by Barkat from his sixth-floor office. Who are the people suffering? The ones who live in the poorest neighborhoods of this city, of course. Read More:, its not too surprising if Israel tends to resemble the United States or Canada with its income disparity….

---depicting King Hussein of Jordan lighting Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin’s cigarette at the Royal residence in Akaba, Jordan, shortly after signing the Jordan-Israeli peace treaty. I would quote the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan who referenced this specific photo in a 1999 speech, and said: “I should hasten to add that, in saying this, I am endorsing peace, not cigarette smoking.”---- Read More:

The classical definition  suggests that he who succeeds in controlling his own passions is more powerful than he who conquers a city. This definition, revitalized a few decades after the fall of Jerusalem, reflects a worldview that places all confidence in Providence and has nothing but disdain for physical force.

Zionism, which is something of a break with Jewish tradition, owes its existence and emergence through the context of several movements that originated in tsarist Russia and attempted to assimilate the Jew of the Diaspora. Zionism would seek to transform the  traditionalist Jew into an ideal Hebrew. According to Yakov Rabkin, radicals proclaimed it necessary to straighten the spine of the Jew, long curved before his oppressors and long bent beneath the weight of the volumes of the Talmud; to free him from the burden of exile as well as from that of Jewish tradition defined as “the yoke of the heavenly kingdom”—meaning loyalty to the Torah. Implicit in this process of liberation was an increased reliance on the use of force.

---Salutin:This Harperization of Yiddish reflects larger historical shifts among Canadian Jews. They once were immigrant, Yiddish-speaking, poor or working class, vulnerable and left-leaning. As they succeeded economically, they grew less vulnerable but also, I’d say, less soulful, and moved politically to the right. In global terms, with Israel’s rise, Jews seemed less an insecure minority in many countries (where they’d made vast cultural contributions); they had a state of their own now, like “all the nations,” and a new language: Hebrew. Read More: image:

In part, Zionism was the solution to avoid dealing with the disruptive sense of the tragic in Judaism. To serve as gatekeepers for the West and eschew spirituality in favor of materiality. The former being seen as an incidental and irrelevant byproduct of the latter. Jewish self-hatred? As Donald Kuspit astutely observed,  the paradox of the Jews is that they are a pure spiritual people — the people who discovered the oneness or unity of God or the sacred — who have been forced to become materialists to survive in a world that however much it yeasays spirituality refuses to accept the control of instinct that is a sign and proof of being truly human, that is, a spiritual being.

It was Haim Naham Bialik, a Russian author who later became a cultural icon in Israel, that stoked the fires of revenge. In a poem written following the Kishinev pogrom of 1903, he castigated the survivors, heaping shame upon their heads and calling upon them to revolt not only against their tormentors, but also against Judaism. Bialik lashed out at the men who hid in stinking holes while their non-Jewish neighbors raped their wives and daughters. The anger that had swept over many Jews caused Bialik, a former yeshiva student, to overturn the Jewish value system. He mocked the tradition that attributed all adversity to shortcomings in the behavior of the Jews: “let fists fly like stones against the heavens and against the heavenly throne.” Bialik broke violently with Judaism, and issued a ringing challenge: defend yourselves or perish!…Joseph Trumpeldor, a Russian veteran, is the incarnation of romantic heroism in the Zionist curriculum. Killed in a skirmish with the local Arab population, he apparently managed to utter the last words: “How good it is to die for the fatherland.” The phrase was to become, with the officers’ oath at Massada, one of the symbols of the new determination to take up arms. Read More:
In terms of ethnic connection, Zionists postulate that Jews from countries as different as Poland, Yemen or Morocco belong to the same people. Many, including Israel’s Prime minister, believe them to be descendents of the Biblical Hebrews. In his recent book Professor Shlomo Sand of Tel-Aviv University challenges these beliefs, arguing that the Jewish people, as an ethnic concept, has no historic legitimacy and was simply “invented” for the needs of Zionism in the late 19th century. Any nationalism needs a nation to begin with. Interestingly, even Sand’s scholarly critics agree that the claim to ethnic continuity of the Jews through millennia is simply not serious.

Moreover, Sand shows affinity between Zionist and antisemitic ideas. Zionism affirms the ethnic definition of the Jew modelled on Eastern European prototypes. Thus Zionists accept the antisemites’ view of the Jews as a distinct and therefore alien people or race. This is why most Jews rejected Zionism from the very beginning. They saw that Zionists played into the hands of their worst enemies, the antisemites: the latter wanted to be rid of Jews while the former wanted to gather them to Israel. The founder of Zionism Theodore Herzl considered antisemites “friends and allies” of his movement. This makes it hard to argue that Israel was meant to be a bulwark against antisemitism, and, sadly, only in Israel a Jew is likely to be killed simply because of being Jewish. No wonder that, in spite of consistent efforts by Zionist organizations, most Jews have chosen to live outside Israel, including those Jews, who change their country of residence. Read More:

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