Friday, January 17, 2014

How Iran, Putin and Assad Outwitted America. By David Keyes.

How Iran, Putin and Assad Outwitted America. By David Keyes. The Daily Beast, January 16, 2014.

The ASA, NYU, and the Shame of Academia. By Jonathan S. Tobin.

The ASA, NYU, and the Shame of Academia. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, January 16, 2014.

Open Letter to NYU’s President: Why the American Studies Assn.’s Israel Boycott Makes Me Ashamed to Be an Alumnus. By Richard Behar. Forbes, January 14, 2014.

Homophobic, Racist, Sexist, “Take Xanax”: Reactions To My Open Letter To NYU’s President On ASA’s Israel Boycott. By Richard Behar. Forbes, February 4, 2014.

Exposing the Israel Bashers: Opinions Without Facts, Facts Without Context. By Abraham H. Foxman. The Huffington Post, January 15, 2014.


The vote last month by the American Studies Association to join a boycott of Israel’s colleges and universities generated a firestorm of criticism of the group, and justifiably so. The willingness of an academic organization to participate in an effort to single out the Jewish state in this manner is an appalling instance of prejudice. The vote illustrated the way the far left has seized control of such scholarly groups and the insidious nature of a campaign which is not designed so much to help the Palestinians—the alleged objects of the ASA’s concern—but to aid an economic war on Israel that is rooted in a desire to wipe the one Jewish state on the planet off the map. But in addressing the efforts of the BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) movement, it isn’t enough merely to scrutinize this and other groups of pseudo-scholars bent on politicizing their fields of study. The time has come to hold their enablers accountable, as well.
That’s the thrust behind a lengthy piece published in Forbes this week by journalist Richard Behar in which he lets loose with a cri de coeur directed at his alma mater New York University, and its president, John Sexton, for his indifferent response to the ASA.
As Behar makes clear, responsibility for this disgrace doesn’t belong solely to the radicals intent on demonizing Israel. It also should be placed on those institutions that are supporting these hatemongers as well as resisting efforts to hold them accountable. As Behar notes, NYU falls into both categories.
While Sexton has stated his disagreement with the ASA’s vote, as Behar rightly notes, the NYU president’s statement was perfunctory, especially when compared to more passionate denunciations of this subversion of academic integrity made by the presidents of other universities–such as the University of Connecticut, Wesleyan, Middlebury College, or the University of Indiana–that Behar cited. But if that sounds like nitpicking, it isn’t. NYU has a special responsibility to speak up about this issue because its faculty is neck-deep in the ASA’s decision-making process. The incoming head of the group is NYU’s Lisa Duggan and fully 25 percent of the national council that first promulgated the anti-Israel resolution is based at the school. Moreover, as the home to what Hillel International reports is the largest number of Jewish students at any American institution of higher learning, NYU should also be mindful that giving platforms to scholars that promote an ideology that is indistinguishable from classic anti-Semitism places them under a particular obligation to avoid creating a hostile environment for Jews.
A key element of this controversy is the fact that many schools are themselves institutional members of the ASA and are thus compromised by its participation in the boycott. NYU is one such university. But unlike other schools that have moved to sever their connections with the ASA and thus remove this taint from themselves, it has neither done so nor clarified the nature of its connection with the group.
As Behar also notes, NYU bears a special responsibility for speaking about discrimination against Israel, because of its decision to open a campus in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. While that principality has welcomed business with the West and its leaders have been showering NYU and other American partners with generous donations, it has also been notorious for its discrimination against Israel, Israelis and Jews. Just this past a month a Dutch soccer team invited to play in the country was forced to leave one of its members at home because he was an Israeli citizen if the team was to be permitted to play in Abu Dhabi.
The need to raise money may be offered as an excuse for an institution like NYU getting into bed with a nation that boycotts Israel. But even if we are to grant them a pass on that egregious connection, that should make Sexton and NYU even more eager to distance the univeristy from the ASA’s attack on academic freedom.
Also discouraging is NYU’s public opposition to the proposal in the New York State legislature, by its Speaker Sheldon Silver, that would block colleges and universities from using state aid money to fund groups that promote discriminatory boycotts like the ASA. While more a symbolic measure than anything else, it is still a way for the state of New York to register its disgust at the ASA. Yet rather than sever its ties with the ASA, NYU to condemn the proposal as an affront to academic freedom.
Behar, whose piece contains a lengthy defense of Israel against the specious charge that is an apartheid state, understands the realities of the conflict and the plight of Palestinians better than the ASA’s members. In a Forbes cover story published last August, he wrote about the way Israel’s growing high-tech industry was seeking Palestinian partners. But as he reported in a follow-up article, the Arab businessmen who were working with Israelis in partnerships that stood to benefit the Palestinian economy were subsequently forced to disavow any interest in working with the Jews. The dynamic of the conflict is such that anyone who seeks to create common ground with Israelis is branded a collaborator. Rather than working to promote peace, groups like the ASA are, instead, backing those forces that are intent on perpetuating and worsening the situation.
Behar is to be applauded for speaking out in this manner. But he should not be alone. It is time for alumni of other schools that are also implicated in the ASA scandal to pressure them to draw a line in the sand against anti-Israel hate. A good place to start would be by withholding contributions that alumni are endlessly asked to make from universities that foster anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli sentiment on their campuses under the spurious guise of academic freedom.

Obama’s Messianic and Obsessive Foreign Policy. By Michael Weiss.

Obama’s Messianic and Obsessive Foreign Policy. By Michael Weiss. Real Clear World, January 16, 2014. Also at NOW Lebanon.

The Israel Double Standard. By Victor Davis Hanson.

The Israel Double Standard. By Victor Davis Hanson. National Review Online, January 16, 2014.


An obscure academic organization called the American Studies Association not long ago voted to endorse a resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli universities. The self-appointed moralists were purportedly outraged over the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians.
Given academia’s past obsessions with the Jewish state, the targeting of Israel is not new. Yet why do the professors focus on Israel and not Saudi Arabia, which denies women the right to drive and only recently granted them the right to vote? Why not Russia, which has been accused of suppressing free speech, or Nigeria, which has passed retrograde anti-homosexual legislation?
The hip poet Amiri Baraka (a.k.a. Everett LeRoi Jones) recently died. He was once poet laureate of New Jersey, held prestigious university posts, and was canonized with awards — despite being a hateful anti-Semite.
After 9/11, Baraka wrote a poem that suggested Israel knew about the plan to attack the World Trade Center. One of his poems from the ’60s included this unabashedly anti-Semitic passage: “Smile, jew. Dance, jew. Tell me you love me, jew. . . . I got the extermination blues, jewboys. I got the hitler syndrome figured.” Yet that did not preclude the New York Times and NPR from praising him after his death.
Trendy multicultural French comedian Dieudonn√© M’bala M’bala is known for his anti-Semitic provocations and for making a gesture that has been described as an inverted Nazi salute. He recently quipped of a Jewish journalist: “When I hear him talk, you see . . . I say to myself, gas chambers . . . a pity.” Auschwitz is now a joke?
Loudmouth multimillionaire hip-hop artist Kanye West recently suggested in an interview that President Obama’s approval ratings have waned because “black people don’t have the same level of connections as Jewish people.” In the mind of Mr. West, Obama’s current unpopularity has nothing to do with the IRS, Benghazi, the Associated Press and NSA scandals, or with the Obamacare disaster.
In politics, Israel often finds itself at the wrong end of a troubling double standard.
Secretary of State John Kerry seems to be camped out in Israel these days. The Obama administration hopes to pressure Israeli leaders to offer concessions that will lead to an elusive Middle East peace. Yet even if Israel gave this administration what it wanted, how would the United States guarantee reciprocal commitments from the notoriously corrupt Palestinian Authority, which has no democratic legitimacy among those in the West Bank? Terrorist-affiliated Hamas wants no part of any such settlement.
It is hardly anti-Semitic to focus on problems between Israel and the Palestinians, or even to pressure the Israelis. But it becomes so when problems elsewhere are simply ignored and Israel alone is singled out to be chastised.
Is the U.N. focused on the 13 million Germans who were ethnically cleansed from Eastern Europe about the same time that thousands of Palestinians left what became Israel? Would the American Studies Association boycott Chinese universities over the absorption of Tibet?
Is the world really troubled about divided capitals like Jerusalem? If so, why not an international conference on the Turkish occupation of a divided Nicosia?
Can Kerry not use shuttle diplomacy to settle who owns all those disputed rocky islands that have led China and Japan to the brink of war?
Nazis and racists used to spearhead Jewish hatred using ancient crackpot defamations that date back to the Jewish diaspora into Europe after the Roman destruction of Judea. But lately, anti-Semitism has become more a left-wing pathology. It is driven by the cheap multicultural trashing of the West. Jewish people here and abroad have become convenient targets for those angry with supposedly undeserved Western success and privilege.
Aside from the old envy, and racial and religious hatred, I think cowardice explains the new selective anti-Semitism. Kanye West would not dare slander radical Muslims, given the violence and threats against European cartoonists and filmmakers who have dared to create work perceived as insulting to Islam. The American Studies Association would not call for a boycott of Russia despite its endemic persecution of gays. After all, Russian president Vladimir Putin is as unpredictable as Israeli politicians are forbearing.
Kerry is not rushing into Damascus to stop the bloodletting that has claimed far more lives than all the Palestinians lost in 70 years of conflict with Israel. Syrian president Bashar Assad, Shiite terrorists, and al-Qaeda would not listen politely to Kerry’s pontificating sermons.
The sort of anti-Semitism we see from buffoons like Dieudonn√© M’bala M’bala is appalling, but the double standard to which Israel is held in matters of foreign policy by those who should know better is in many ways even more galling.

Palestinian Incitement and the Endless War. By Jonathan S. Tobin.

Palestinian Incitement and the Endless War. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, January 15, 2014.

Palestinians Move to Breach Process. By Tom Wilson. Commentary, January 14, 2014.

Netanyahu: Jew Free Palestinian State Would Be Ethnic Cleansing. By Joshua Levitt. The Algemeiner, January 15, 2014.

Europe’s Unhinged Assault on Israel. By Tom Wilson. Commentary, January 17, 2014.

Abbas Denies His Authority to Make Cardinal Decisions for a Lasting Peace Agreement. By Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, January 13, 2014.


The Palestinian strategy has been revealed in full. The current political negotiations, or any future negotiations, cannot bring about a signed, stable, and lasting political agreement that will bring an end to the conflict and all claims. The first Palestinian objective in their order of priorities is to receive full sovereignty on the territory of 1967 – while leaving the conflict wide open.
The problem of the refugees is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and this is seen from the Palestinian perspective as a winning strategic card, through which the Palestinians will be able to wear down the power of the state of Israel even after the establishment of a Palestinian state, and to overcome Israel demographically and turn it over the long term into a part of a single Palestinian state from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.

The Palestinian Refugees on the Day After “Independence.” By Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, December 1, 2011.


Last week, the Israeli government sought to focus the world’s attention on one of the chief obstacles to peace in the Middle East: Palestinian incitement aimed at fomenting hatred of the Jewish state and the Jewish people. The report detailed the way the Palestinian Authority uses its official media, school textbooks, as well as the influence of many of its leaders to reinforce the notion that Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state irrespective of its borders. The hate that is routinely broadcast on Palestinian television, published in its newspapers, or taught in schools seeks to demonize Jews and inculcate the notion that they are evil and have no rights to any part of the country. In doing so, the PA—which is supposed to be Israel’s partner for peace—doesn’t merely exacerbate an already tense situation but also sows the seeds of future conflict by teaching new generations to hate their Jewish neighbors.
Unfortunately, the reaction from the United States and much of the international media to this information was apathetic if not one of complete indifference. While some try to draw a false moral equivalence between official Palestinian government hate speech and honors for terrorist murderers on the one hand and stray comments by a tiny minority of Israelis who express hate for Arabs on the other, American officials and media pundits determined to place the blame for the lack of peace on the Jewish state simply ignore the subject. As was the case in the 1990s when both the United States and the Israeli government turned a blind eye to the incitement carried out by the newly empowered PA in the wake of the Oslo Accords, most peace processers treat talk about Palestinian incitement as a distraction from the real issues. Anything that diverts attention from attempts to pressure Israel into making concessions to the Palestinians is seen as off the point, if not a destructive effort to derail peace.
But the issue of incitement isn’t limited to hate speech on Palestinian TV or in textbooks. As today’s New York Times reports, the PA’s rivals in Gaza have managed to put their even more extreme program of hate into action. The Hamas government there used the winter break for its schools to enroll more than 13,000 youngsters at terrorist training mini-camps throughout the Gaza Strip. The recruitment of school-age children in this manner is child abuse on a massive scale as well as a potential war crime. But just as important, it is a sign that the issue of incitement isn’t so much a theoretical problem as a literal guarantee of endless war.
The Futwaa program is funded by the Hamas Education Ministry and focuses on teaching boys and young teenagers the finer points about the use of weapons, street fighting (in which civilians are used as human shields), and ferreting out Palestinians who might give information to Israel. This massive effort not only prepares children for future service in the so-called military wing of Hamas, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, which supervises the Futwaa camps, but also enables them to intensify the hate education about Israel and Jews that is already integral to public education in Gaza. As the Times notes, Hamas officials are pleased with the results and are thinking about expanding their program:
Ismail Haniya, the Hamas prime minister of Gaza, told Futwaa participants at a graduation ceremony on Tuesday in Gaza City that theirs was “the generation that will achieve the liberation and independence” of Palestine. Suggesting that the program would soon be provided for girls as well, Mr. Haniya predicted that Israel would face “a Palestinian generation that weakness knows no way into their hearts.”
One participant, Osama Shehada, 15, said he wanted to study physical engineering to learn how to make bombs and explosives to target Israel.
Lest there be any confusion about what this indoctrination consists of, by “liberation and independence” of Palestine, Hamas isn’t referring to a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem that is supposed to be the solution to the conflict. When they say “liberation” that means “liberating” all of Israel, including those areas inside the June 1967 lines, from its Jewish population–which is to say exterminating the Jews. That the Times article refers to Hamas using bases evacuated by Israel in 2005 in an effort to separate the two peoples and therefore achieve peace for these camps is a cruel but telling irony.
Instead of ignoring Israeli efforts to focus on incitement, Secretary of State John Kerry should be paying close attention to the issue. While a solution that would create two states for two peoples regardless of the borders would be something an overwhelming majority of Israelis would happily accept, Palestinian educators, both in the West Bank governed by PA “moderates” and in Hamas-run Gaza, have ensured that most Palestinians would reject any such deal. Until a sea change in Palestinian culture occurs that would allow their leaders to make peace, all efforts to craft a compromise to resolve the conflict are doomed to fail.

Withdrawal to the 1967 Lines Will Not Put an End to the “Occupation.” By Yoel Ben-Nun.

Withdrawal to the 1967 Lines Will Not Put an End to the “Occupation.” By Yoel Ben-Nun. Ynet News, January 14, 2014.


Ahead of historic decision on peace deal based on half-truths, let’s not lie to ourselves.

Against a complete lie it’s easier to defend oneself and present a truth. With half-truths, however, it’s very hard to deal.
1. “Two states for two people”
The Palestinians in Amman and the Palestinians in Nablus, Ramallah and Jenin are one people. They have different political leaderships, and most Israelis prefer justifiably, and out of years-long experience, the royal Hashemite leadership, but in the historical Land of Israel there have been two states for a long time, and there are no three people.
2. “Jewish state in Land of Israel, with solid Jewish majority”
Today’s conflict focuses on controlling Area C, where some tens of thousands of Palestinians and hundreds of thousands of Israelis (= “settlers”) reside.
The Palestinian struggle against the Israeli construction in Jerusalem and the settlements – which are all in Area C – shows that this is not a demographic problem at all, neither is it a problem of Palestinian citizenship and the threat on the Jewish majority. Even if Israel annexes all Area C, the Jewish majority in the Jewish state will not be affected at all, and the Palestinian civil status in Areas A and B will not change. The American demands concern a Palestinian territorial continuity, rather than their civilian status which has already been settled.
3. “Israeli occupation”
Many times I have asked decent and educated Palestinians, who have nothing to do with terror, when the “Israeli occupation” began. All, without exception, said in 1948. There are Palestinians and Israelis who I haven’t talked to, who start the “occupation” from the Balfour Declaration, and even from the beginning of Zionism. Therefore, even the 1967 borders will not put an end to the occupation. They see the entire State of Israel as “occupation.” Only in the minds of Israelis, and Europeans and Americans, “the occupation” is identified with the settlements and the 1967 borders.
4. “Peace”
The perception of peace and acceptance, in the sense of compromise, has become fixated in the Jewish culture, and there is also the justice of compromise – “justice, justice shall you pursue!” Why twice the word justice? “One for law, and one for compromise” (Sanhedrin Talmud tractate, page 32). In the Arab culture, and of course in the Palestinian culture, peace means justice, in other words “restoring the justified rights.” Compromise cannot be considered as peace in their eyes – at the most there is a partial restoration of rights, which means a “phase program.”
5. Security vs. terror
In the Israeli world of concepts, we have justified rights in this land of our forefathers, and the return to Zion is the vision of the Torah and prophets which is materializing in front of our eyes. History has also proved that the Jewish people have no other place in the world to implement their rights besides this land. We anyway have a justified right to defend our existence as a people in this land, and anyone fighting us is an enemy. The division of the land, in the Israeli world of concepts, is a strong and deep bone of contention, between a “necessary concession” and a “disaster” to faith, vision and the future.
In the Palestinian world of concepts, terror against women and children is a justified method of war by powerless people whose land has been occupied and robbed as part of the Zionist “occupation crimes,” which is the essence of our existence as a people and as a state in this land. Therefore, murderers and terrorists who were tried by us are, in their eyes, nothing but captive fighters who were released, or who are about to be released.
There is no real meeting point between the two cultures, and there is no chance to stop the Palestinian terror as long as there are Palestinian organizations which see the “Israeli occupation” as a crime of disownment, expulsion and theft. Hamas and the resistance organizations are declaring explicitly that they will not accept any agreement signed by Abbas on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, and we have already seen in Gaza what is expected to happen when Hamas takes over the PA in Ramallah too. Whoever says we will then go back in – is welcome to go into Gaza.
In principle, I am against peace agreements based on half-truths which are worse than lies, but I am not a member of the Knesset or of the government.
Israeli government ministers and Knesset members, upon making a historic and legal decision on the outline of the American agreement, and on borders which will be set “based on the 1967 lines with land swaps” – if most of you are convinced that there is no other choice, that the State of Israel cannot be perceived in Israel and in the world as the side which thwarted the agreement – at least don't lie to yourselves, and set conditions which will expose the truth.
At least say in advance: Any Israeli agreement to permanent borders will be completely canceled if it becomes clear that the Palestinian terror against the “occupation of 1948” will continue after the agreement and if Palestinian missiles are placed on the ruins of the settlers’ communities, and under the Palestinian villages.
“And a Redeemer will come to Zion!”

Proto-Aeolic Capital Associated with Judah’s Longest Spring Tunnel. By Noah Wiener.

A stylized palm tree motif is carved onto this proto-aeolic discovery associated with a remarkable Iron Age spring tunnel system near Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of Binyamin Tropper.

Proto-Aeolic Capital Associated with Judah’s Longest Spring Tunnel. By Noah Wiener. Bible History Daily, January 15, 2014.

Investigating royal iconography and large-scale construction in Iron Age Judah.

The Origin and Date of the Volute Capitals from the Levant. By Oded Lipshits. The Fire Signals of Lachish: Studies in the Archaeology and History of Israel in the Late Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Persian Period in Honor of David Ussishkin. Edited by Israel Finkelstein and Nadav Na’aman. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2011.

From Megiddo to Tamassos and Back: Putting the “Proto-Ionic Capital” in Its Place. By Norma Franklin. The Fire Signals of Lachish.


There has been a lot of talk recently about a “covered up” proto-aeolic capital. I’ll admit: I indulged in a bit of this myself last April. Last week, the conversation was reopened when Arutz-7 reported that the location of the site—sensationally (and without any substantiation) labeled “King David’s Castle”—would be announced Friday, January 17.
The capital is part of an undoubtedly important archaeological site just over five miles from Jerusalem’s City of David and four miles from Bethlehem. The find itself—a one-of-a-kind proto-aeolic capital still attached to its base—is a rare-yet-iconic First Temple period type. The iconography is familiar in Israel; proto-aeolic designs are etched on modern Israeli five-shekel coins.
The capital is associated with a 525-foot-long tunnel system, the largest and most impressively hewn spring tunnel in the region of Jerusalem. This labor required to carve such a system opens new questions regarding the Judahite administration and agriculture around Jerusalem. Unfortunately, most of last year’s discussion hinged on media reports of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) response to the Kfar Etzion Field School’s attempts to publicize the find. The archaeological significance was all but ignored.
Last summer I had the chance to meet with Binyamin Tropper, the Kfar Etzion training coordinator who recognized the capital in February 2013, and Daniel Ein-Mor, the IAA archaeologist who previously surveyed the area, identified the capital, explored the water system and recently published the site (see notes below). Media articles last spring portrayed the Kfar Etzion and IAA camps in a pitched battle over the discovery’s public presentation. I saw no indication of hostile contention—both Ein-Mor and Tropper were cordial and enthusiastic in sharing information about the site.
Before discussing the ancient evidence, we need to address the elephant in the room: the articles last year suggesting that the IAA “covered up” the discovery. While there are modern political sensitivities surrounding the location of the site, Bible History Daily is not the place for such discussion. It is a place for the presentation of archaeological data, so first and foremost, it is important to rectify the notion that this site remains quietly unpublished. Last year, Daniel Ein-Mor and geologist Zvi Ron published the article “An Iron Age Royal Tunnel Spring in the region of Nahal Rephaim” in Guy Stiebel et. al (eds.), New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Region. Ein-Mor also published a shorter free online report “Walajeh (‘Ain Joweizeh)”  on the IAA  Hadashot Arkheologiyot website last summer.
The Proto-Aeolic Typology
In his article “The Origin and Date of the Volute Capitals from the Levant,” Tel Aviv University Professor Oded Lipschits introduces the type:
The Iron Age volute capitals (the so-called “Proto-Aeolic” or “Proto-Ionian” capitals) are among the most impressive and special finds discovered in archaeological excavations in Israel and Jordan. The size of the capitals, their weight, the quality of their carving, and their impressive design provide an indication of their function in the gates and palaces of the ancient kingdoms of Israel, Judah, Moab, and Ammon.
The capitals—an architectural term usually referring to decorative supports on top of columns—are widely associated with monumental sites but are poorly understood, in large part because they have rarely been found in situ. Proto-aeolic capitals are decorated with curving date palm tree motifs, associated with the Near Eastern “Tree of Life,” and the architectural style was influential in shaping later architecture from classical Greece to Mesopotamia.
Where have these capitals been found? In the Hadashot Arkheologiyot article “Walajeh (‘Ain Joweizeh),” Daniel Ein-Mor succinctly lists the existing evidence of proto-aeolic capitals, citing a Hebrew article published by Oded Lipschits in 2009:
Twenty-four stone capitals decorated with a Proto-Aeolic design from the First Temple period are known from the main cities of the Kingdom of Israel: Samaria, Megiddo, Hazor and Dan. Eleven others are known from the Kingdom of Judea [Judah]; ten capitals were found at Ramat Rahel where remains of a palace from the late eighth–early seventh centuries BCE were excavated, and one capital comes from the City of David excavations in Jerusalem (Lipschits 2009). Five capitals are known from the site of el-Mudeibi’ – Mudaybi in Moab, and a capital was found in secondary use in the village of ‘Ain-Sara, west of Kerak, next to a spring of the same name. Two fragments of capitals are also known from the citadel in Amman (Lipschits 2009). The capitals from the Kingdom of Israel mainly date to the ninth century BCE and those from Judea and Jordan to the late eighth or early seventh centuries BCE. Although the central motif is identical, the capitals from the various sites differ in some features.
In “The Origin and Date of the Volute Capitals from the Levant,” Lipschits suggests that capitals were first made during Israel’s Omride dynasty in the 9th century B.C.E. He proposes that after the Assyrians invaded Israel, the capitals’ “size, esthetics and quality, attracted the attention of the Assyrian rulers who were known for their adoption of artistic and architectural elements, and for incorporating them in the local Assyrian tradition.” We have artistic depictions of these capitals at numerous palatial Assyrian sites. Lipschits goes on to suggest that the proto-aeolic capitals found in Judah, Moab and Ammon, which were built later than the examples found in Israel, reflect “Assyrian encouragement, approval or sponsorship.”

Proto-aeolic capitals have been uncovered at dozens
 of Israelite and Judahite sites. The proto-aeolic palmetto iconography
 is often associated with Israelite kingship,
and the motif is minted on the modern Israeli five-shekel coin.
However, to understand the type, we also need to look west. Haifa University scholar Norma Franklin draws parallels between the capitals and Cypriote architecture, focusing on the similarity between the proto-aeolic motifs and those found in tombs at Tamassos in Cyprus. In her article “From Megiddo to Tamassos and Back: Putting the ‘Proto-Ionic Capital’ in Its Place,” Franklin suggests that these “capitals” were never, in fact, used structurally as capitals. Instead she notes a variety of functions from site to site: they served as column bases, support for wooden objects or other non-structural roles within monumental architecture. There is little evidence that proto-aeolic capitals were ever used as structural column capitals, and the phrase persists more due to common usage than accuracy. The proto-aeolic “capital” associated with the Judahite water system is actually a design carved into a monolithic rock.
A New Proto-Aeolic Capital
The recently announced proto-aeolic capital, associated with the ‘Ain Joweizeh water system, is the first ever found still attached to its base. Originally identified as a lintel in a 1982 survey of the water tunnel, the hewn proto-aeolic decoration is part of a massive, partially buried rock that likely weighs several tons, suggesting that it hasn’t moved far from its original location. The decorations—which are undoubtedly carved in the proto-aeolic style—are actually part of a monolithic rock that may have been part of a monumental entranceway.

Proto-aeolic capitals have rarely been discovered in situ,
 and despite the name, there is little evidence
 that the capitals sat atop columns as architectural elements.
This new find is carved from a monolithic rock—while
 still attached to its base, it is not part of a traditional column.
 Photo courtesy Binyamin Tropper.

In terms of style, the proto-aeolic decoration is most similar to examples from nearby Ramat Rahel and the City of David, but parallels can also be drawn between the capital and examples from Moabite el-Mudeibi‘ and Cypriote Tamassos.
The capital sits in a “seam” (to borrow a phrase from Daniel Ein-Mor’s Hadashot Arkheologiyot report) between an earlier and later phase of the water tunnel’s construction. It sits across from another unexcavated massive stone monolith. One likely possibility is that the capital marked an entrance to the water system after the first phase of construction. If this marks an entrance, there is good reason to believe that the nearby-but-unexcavated stone across from the proto-aeolic capital may be another capital, and the two together framed a monumental entrance to the tunnel or the system’s reservoir.
The Walajeh or ‘Ain Joweizeh Water System
Daniel Ein-Mor was quick to caution me: “We don’t want to overlook the importance of a site because one aspect is attractive—the capital is attracting attention, but the water system itself is at least as interesting.” I have to agree.

The ‘Ain Joweizeh tunnels are the largest and most elegantly carved
 karstic water system in the region. Despite the massive effort
 required to carve such a tunnel,  it did not draw a great deal of water.
 Photo courtesy Binyamin Tropper.

We know of over 100 spring tunnels in the area, and none is even half as long as the ‘Ain Joweizeh system. It is a massive effort to cut through hard dolomite rock. The even and measured chisel marks in the Iron Age tunnel reveal that it is a masterpiece of construction, one that would have required a great deal of funding. Unlike Hezekiah’s tunnel, which carries water drawn from Jerusalem’s Gihon Spring, the Joweizeh tunnel drew its water from springs en route. The Joweizeh tunnel is the longest tunnel of its type in the region. Because of the similarity in workmanship, it is worth comparing this tunnel with Hezekiah’s, as Todd Bolen notes on the Bibleplaces blog.
Despite the extensive labor required to carve the tunnel (which includes a side channel used to regulate uneven water flow), the spring itself is relatively low flow, raising questions about its purpose. Who would have cut the hard dolomite rock and haul it hundreds of feet out of the tunnel? The tunnel does not reach Jerusalem. Where was this water going? Why was this elaborate tunnel marked by a proto-aeolic capital, a type often associated with royal construction?
Interpreting the Finds
This site has not escaped the attention of the Israeli archaeological community. Binyamin Tropper mentioned the site’s visitors, and his list included some of the most esteemed names in the field: Nadav Na’aman, Israel Finkelstein, Yuval Gadot, Amihai Mazar, Yosef Garfinkel, Norma Franklin and several others.
Such a water system suggests the presence of a nearby settlement or wealthy estate (Daniel Ein-Mor specifically mentions the possibility of a royal palace or estate similar to Ramat Rahel), but so far there is no archaeological evidence of such a place. A proto-aeolic capital at ‘Ain-Sara in Jordan may be associated with a spring. Assyrian reliefs from Khorsabad and Nineveh show proto-aeolic capitals associated with gardens and springs. Following Oded Lipschits’s proposal that the capitals originated in Israel and were subsequently adopted by Assyrians before being introduced into Judah and other nearby territories, perhaps the usage shown in Assyrian reliefs would have been familiar to anyone considering constructing proto-aeolic capitals in Judah.
Of course, archaeologists have not yet uncovered anything resembling a Judahite or Assyrian-style garden estate in the area, and we can’t base assumptions about the nature of the region from a few foreign artworks. What we know now is that the construction of this water system required a great deal of labor, and someone—perhaps the Judahite government—was willing to invest a great deal in an as-yet archaeologically inconspicuous part of the hinterlands of Jerusalem.

This Assyrian relief from the palace of Assurbanipal at Nineveh (now housed at the British Museum)
 shows a structure with proto-aeolic capitals atop a garden and a stream.
 Some believe this artistic comparison could help archaeologists understand
 the relationship between the water tunnel and capital.

Was Harry Truman a Zionist? By John B. Judis.

Seeds of Doubt: Was Harry Truman a Zionist? By John B. Judis. The New Republic, January 15, 2014.


Harry Truman’s concerns about Israel and Palestine were prescient—and forgotten.

As president, Truman initially opposed the creation of a Jewish state. Instead, he tried to promote an Arab-Jewish federation or binational state. He finally gave up in 1947 and endorsed the partition of Palestine into separate states, but he continued to express regret in private that he had not achieved his original objective, which he blamed most often on the “unwarranted interference” of American Zionists. After he had recognized the new state, he pressed the Israeli government to negotiate with the Arabs over borders and refugees; and expressed his disgust with “the manner in which the Jews are handling the refugee problem.”
Of course, there were good reasons why Truman failed to achieve a federated or binational Palestine, and I don’t intend by recounting Truman’s qualms to suggest that he was wrong to recognize Israel. But Truman’s misgivings about a Jewish state and later about the Israeli stance on borders and refugees were not baseless.  Truman was guided by moral precepts and political principles and concerns about America’s role in the Middle East that remain highly relevant today. Understanding his qualms is not just a matter of setting the historical record straight. It’s also about understanding why resolving the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians needs to be high on America’s diplomatic agenda.
Some of the same people who portray Truman as a dependable supporter of a Jewish state also describe him as having been a proto-Zionist or a Christian Zionist along the lines of Britain’s Arthur Balfour or David Lloyd George, who in 1917 got the British government to champion a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Truman biography Michael T. Benson says that Truman’s support for Israel was an “outgrowth of the president’s religious upbringing and his familiarity with the Bible.” But Truman’s love for the Bible was partly based on his flawed eyesight. The family Bible, with its extra large print, was one of the few books at home the young Truman could read. By his teens, Truman’s favorite author was the irreverent Mark Twain, and like Twain, he would come to have no patience with religious piety.
Truman was not a philo-Semite like Balfour or Lloyd George. He was skeptical of the idea that Jews were a chosen people. (“I never thought God picked any favorites,” he wrote in his diary in 1945.) He had the ethnic prejudices of a small town Protestant Midwesterner from Independence, Missouri. He referred to New York City as “kike town” and complained about Jews being “very very` selfish.” But Truman’s prejudice was not exclusive to Jews (he contrasted “wops” as well as “Jews” with “white people”) and did not infect his political views or his friendships with people like Eddie Jacobson, his original business partner in Kansas City. He was, his biographer Alonzo Hamby has written, “the American democrat, insistent on social equality, but suspicious of those who were unlike him.”
There were two aspects of Truman’s upbringing and early political outlook that shaped his view of a Jewish state. Truman grew up in a border state community that had been torn apart by the Civil War. That, undoubtedly, contributed to his skepticism about any arrangement that he thought could lead to civil war. And Truman, like his father, was an old-fashioned Democrat. His political heroes were Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, and he shared Jefferson’s insistence on the separation of church and state. He blamed Europe’s centuries of war on religious disputes, which, he said, “have caused more wars and feuds than money.” That, too, contributed to his skepticism about a Jewish state.
. . . .
Was Truman right that Morrison-Grady was the “best possible solution” all along? Certainly, as an American, one has to believe that the best possible solution is one where peoples of different religions and nationalities get along in one country. And it remains, perhaps, an ideal solution, but it was not going to happen in those years after World War II. Even if one sets aside the fierce political opposition in the United States to the proposal, there were ample reasons why the plan for a federated or bi-national Palestine was not feasible.
The Arabs and Jews in Palestine both rejected the plan. The Arabs, who, in Rashid Khalidi’s words, had been “envenomed” by their failed rebellion against Zionism and the British, saw the arrival of more Jewish immigrants as a harbinger to a Jewish-controlled Palestine, while the Jews saw any restriction on their sovereignty (or the size of their state within Palestine) as a threat to their survival in the wake of the Holocaust. Still, in the year before Britain gave up trying to mediate between the contending forces, there were hints of compromise from the Arabs and the Jews. What was finally lacking, however, was an outside power capable of imposing and then enforcing a compromise.
Britain was crippled by its war debts after World War II. It could no longer support an overseas military, and in February 1947 announced the withdrawal of its troops from Greece and Turkey. It threw the future of Palestine into the lap of the U.N. in the hope of being able to remove its troops from there, where it was in the midst of war with Zionist forces. The British believed they could only oversee Palestine if the United States contributed money and troops. They could have believed, with some justification, that they could intimidate the Arabs and that the Americans could intimidate the Jews into co-existing with each other. Truman, however, was willing to contribute money but not troops. The United States had undergone rapid demobilization after World War II, but the Cold War had begun. By 1947, Truman and the State Department were preoccupied with having enough troops to defend Europe against Soviet communism. As the final debate over partition was occurring in the United Nations, the U.S. was in the midst of the Berlin crisis with the Soviet Union. There was no support in the American government, or in the public, for sending troops to Palestine.
Truman rejected sending troops to enforce Morrison-Grady and later to enforce the original U.N. partition plan. Without American troops, the British and then the U.N. were powerless to prevent a civil war and to alter the final results, which left the Jews with almost 80 percent of Palestine, and the Palestinian Arabs stateless and dispersed as refugees throughout the region. Even with an American-led intervention force, the U.N. might still have been unable to prevent a civil war from breaking out or the subsequent war between Israel and the Arab states, but without such a force, there was simply no chance of realizing the Morrison-Grady plan or the original U.N. plan of November 1947. Truman’s nostalgia for the Morrison-Grady plan was based on a fantasy.

Proposed partition of Israel/Palestine in 1947

But the considerations that led Truman to favor a bi-national or federated Palestine were not fantastic, and remain relevant today. There was always a strong moral streak in Truman’s foreign policy. He thought of the world divided between underdogs and bullies and good and evil. He genuinely hated Nazis and sympathized with Jews as their victims. His support for the right of the refugees to emigrate to Palestine reflected his moral conviction rather than any concern about electoral support. And in Palestine, he wanted a solution that was fair to the Arabs as well as to the Jews.
Truman didn’t know all the details of the history of Palestine, but he knew that the Jews had come to Palestine a half century before to establish a Jewish state where another people had lived, and had made up the overwhelming majority for the prior 1,400 years. He was offended by the proposal, pressed by Silver and American Zionists, that a minority should be allowed to rule a majority. He wanted an arrangement that would respect the just claims of both Jews and the Arabs.
After he dropped his public opposition to a Jewish state, and supported some form of partition, Truman continued to be guided by moral considerations. In October 1947, he had endorsed a partition that would more accurately reflect the size of the existing populations. After Israel was established, and had defeated the Arabs, he supported a peace agreement that would allow some of the 700,000 Arab refugees from the war to return to their homes. (The Israeli ambassador to the United States complained that Truman was “sentimentally sympathetic” to the refugees.) In each case, however, Truman backed down under pressure from the Zionist lobby. In August 1949, Truman and the State Department finally gave up trying to influence the Israelis.
Today, of course, the Arab-Israeli conflict remains a moral issue. The Jews got their state in 1948, but the Palestinians did not. After the 1948 war, Jordan annexed the West Bank and Egypt Gaza, and the term “Palestine” was banned from Jordanian textbooks. After the Six Day War, Israel annexed East Jerusalem and took over the West Bank and Gaza. It evacuated its settlers from Gaza after 2006, but continues to control its outer access and air space. The Israeli government has allowed over 500,000 Jews to settle in Palestinian areas of Jerusalem and in the West Bank. The “underdogs,” as Truman once put it in a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt, are now acting like the “top dogs.”
Truman and the State Department were also worried that the attempt to create a Jewish state in an Arab-dominated region would lead to war and continued strife. Many of their concerns have become outdated. They were worried originally that the Arabs would slaughter the Jews and that the United States would have to prevent a second Holocaust. They worried for decades that American support for Israel would drive the Arabs into the arms of the Soviet Union. But their underlying concern—that a Jewish state, established against the opposition of its neighbors, would prove destabilizing and a threat to America’s standing in the region—has been proven correct.
That’s been even more the case in the wake of Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, a Muslim holy site, and its occupation of the West Bank. Opposition to the Israeli occupation was central to the growth of Islamic nationalism in the Middle East in the 1970s and to the rise of international terrorist groups. Osama bin Laden’s 1996 Fatwa was directed at the “Zionist-Crusader alliance.” America’s continued support for Israel—measured in military aid and in its tilt to Israel in negotiations with the Palestinians—has fueled anti-Americanism. In his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2010, General David Petraeus, then in charge of operations in Afghanistan said publicly what many American officials privately believe:
The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR [Area of Operations]. Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.
Resolving the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians would not necessarily calm the turbulent Middle East, but at a time when Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and even Lebanon are in chaos and could become havens for international terrorism, it would remove an important source of unrest and allow the United States to act as an honest broker rather than a partisan in the region.
Truman’s solution to the conflict was, of course, a federated or binational Palestine. If that was out of the question in 1946, it is even more so almost 70 years later. If there is a “one-state solution” in Israel/Palestine, it is likely to be an authoritarian Jewish state compromising all of British Palestine. What remains possible, although enormously difficult to achieve, is the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. That is what the last three American Presidents, sometimes facing opposition from Israel’s lobby in Washington as well as from the Israeli government and the Palestinian Hamas organization, have tried unsuccessfully to promote, and what Secretary of State John Kerry is currently trying to negotiate.
If Truman were still around, he would wish Kerry well. The same moral and strategic imperatives that led Truman to favor the Morrison-Grady plan for Palestine now argue in favor of creating a geographically and economically viable Palestinian state. And if it is going to happen, America, the leading outside power in the region, has to play a major role. It has to be “Cyrus”—not just for the Israelis, but for the Palestinians.

Common Traits Bind Jews and Chinese. By David P. Goldman.

Common Traits Bind Jews and Chinese. By David P. Goldman (writing as Spengler). PJ Media, January 11, 2014. Also at Asia Times Online.


JERUSALEM – The Chinese are connoisseurs of civilization. For thousands of years they have absorbed ethnicities into their own culture, eliminating on occasion tribes that proved too troublesome. They have watched other civilizations come and go; they have seen their younger neighbors adopt parts of their culture and then try to assert their superiority, and ultimately fail. They are the last people on earth to accept the liberal Western dogma that every culture is valid within its own terms of reference, for they have seen too many civilizations fail of their own flaws.
There is no greater compliment to any culture than to be admired by Chinese, who with some justification regard their civilization as the world’s most ancient and, in the long run, most successful. The high regard that the Chinese have for Jews should be a source of pride to the latter. In fact, it is very pleasant indeed for a Jew to spend time in China. The sad history of Jew-hatred has left scars on every European nation, but it is entirely absent in the world’s largest country. On the contrary, to the extent that Chinese people know something of the Jews, their response to us is instinctively sympathetic.
“I am always surprised by the expressions of affection that the Chinese show for the Jews. Both cultures, the Chinese emphasize, share respect for family, learning and, yes, money,” wrote the journalist Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore last year. ‘”Most Chinese will think Jews are smart, clever or good at making money, and that they have achieved a great deal,’ Professor Xu Xin, director of the Institute of Jewish Studies at Nanjing University (one of over half a dozen centers in China dedicated to studying Judaism) told me last week,” she wrote. “This logic — that the Jews are admired for their success despite their small numbers and historical oppression — has also led to a burgeoning industry of self-help books that use Jewish culture and the Talmud to preach business tips.”
Family, learning, respect for tradition, business acumen: these are Jewish traits that the Chinese also consider to be their virtues. All this is true as far as it goes. One might also mention that China never has had reason to view the Jews as competitors for legitimacy.
Christianity began as a Jewish sect and has vacillated between the claim that is has superseded Judaism and the view that it is a daughter religion that should honor its parent. Islam claims that Jews and Christians falsified the revelations given to them and that their scriptures are a perversion of God’s true message, which Mohammed restored to its original integrity. But by no stretch of the imagination could China view the Jews as a threat to the legitimacy of its civilization.
The Chinese, in short, have no reasons to dislike or fear the Jews, and a number of reasons to admire them simply because Jews display traits that Chinese admire among themselves. A Jew visiting China, though, senses an affinity with Chinese people, more than can be explained by the commonality of traits. There is a common attitude towards life, and especially toward adversity.
A Chinese friend explained it to me this way: If you suffer a setback, even if through no fault of your own, and even if through the malicious acts of malevolent people, you must not feel sorry for yourself or blame others for your troubles. It is you who must take responsibility for overcoming them. You are required to redouble your efforts and work all the harder. Perseverance in the face of adversity is something Jews understand very well. Through two millennia of exile in the West, Jews maintained an autonomous high culture while succeeding at the highest level within Western culture, often despite persecution.
Civilizations fail when they become despondent, when they lose confidence in their history and their future, when their citizens cease to feel pride in and draw inspiration from their culture. Somehow, for thousands of years, Jews and Chinese kept their confidence in their civilization and preserved it through war and foreign conquest. Surely that helps explain their present success. The confidence to redouble one’s efforts in the face of adversity, even malevolence, cannot be explained by simple stubbornness. The grit required to excel even when the game is rigged against you is not only a cultural trait, but the trait of a culture, that is, a personal characteristic that draws on a culture’s self-confidence.
It may seem odd to compare the largest of peoples with one of the world’s smallest, but Chinese and Jews have something in common that helps explain their success and longevity. That is the ability to rise above ethnic conflicts.
Tribal warfare is the bane of human society. During the 40,000 years before the dawn of civilization, some anthropologists estimate, two-fifths of males who survived infancy died in warfare. The great empires of the Near East and the West failed because they enslaved the peoples they conquered rather than integrate them. European Christianity offered a compromise: the ethnicities that occupied Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire would join a universal Church in the spirit, but keep their ethnic nature in the flesh. Ultimately the flesh overwhelmed the spirit, and ethnocentric nationalism provoked the terrible wars of the 20th century.
Chinese civilization offered a different model: it integrated innumerable ethnic minorities into a unified culture centered on a written language and literary tradition, and offered the opportunity for advancement to everyone who came under the umbrella of this culture. Unlike Rome, it did not enslave subject populations to work giant estates, but emphasized the extended family as the fundamental unit of society.
Unlike Christianity, where the unifying language of Europe (Latin) was understood by a tiny elite, Chinese culture propagated a unifying written language. Literacy in ancient China was extremely high in comparison to the ancient and medieval West, between 20% and 30% by most estimates. China still has 55 ethnic minorities and a wide variety of spoken languages. The only people with a higher literacy rate in the ancient world were the Jews, who began a program of compulsory universal education during the 1st century BCE.
What distinguishes Israel from all the other peoples of the ancient world west of the Indus River? Uniquely, the ancient Hebrews believed that their nation was defined not by ethnicity and geographic origin but rather by a code of practice given by divine mandate.
Jewish Scripture describes the founding father of the Jewish people, Abraham, as a wandering Babylonian summoned by the single Creator God to leave his homeland and come to a land–the present-day Israel–where his descendants would multiply and endure forever. The generation of his great-grandchildren migrated to Egypt, and their descendants were enslaved. God’s intervention freed the Hebrews from slavery, and gave them the Torah (“teachings”) at Mount Sinai, instructing them to conquer the future Land of Israel.
The Jews are not an ethnicity but a people defined by a partnership with the Creator God, in which they are obligated to recognize God’s presence in the details of their daily lives, and empowered to help in the work of creation. Individuals of all races can be adopted into this nation by accepting its responsibilities; in today’s State of Israel one sees hundreds of thousands of black African Jews from Ethiopia, as well as Jews of all ethnicities.
The Jews are not an ethnic nation but a multi-racial family. The Jews were the first people to apply the same laws to the foreigner as to the home-born. Indeed, they are commanded to love the stranger in the same way that they love themselves, because they were strangers in Egypt. It is a particular nation–indeed, a “nation apart”–that nonetheless has a universal purpose for all of humanity. The Jews are “the paragon and exemplar of a nation,” the German-Jewish theologian Franz Rosenzweig wrote a century ago.
The proof that Jewish nationhood has a universal mission is the founding of the United States of America–the most successful nation in history–by radical Protestants who sought to walk in the footsteps of ancient Israel and drew inspiration from the Jewish Bible and later Jewish commentators.
What the Jews have in common with the Chinese, therefore, is a sense of loyalty to an ancient tradition that defines the obligations of each member of society and puts the family at the center of social life, as opposed to a mere tribal and ethnic loyalties. These are parallel ways of rising above tribalism.
There is an enormous distinction, to be sure: the Jews believe that they were summoned into national existence by the one God, the Maker of Heaven, for whom the universe is like a suit of clothes which he will replace when it wears out (Psalm 92). For that reason they are obligated to bring the presence of God into everyday life, through laws of diet and family purity, prayer, and Sabbath observance.
The religious life of ancient Israel was centered in the Temple at Jerusalem. It was an institution revered in the ancient world. As Dore Gold writes:
The Temple service reflected the universalistic role envisioned for Jerusalem. In dedicating the Temple, King Solomon said that prayers would be offered there by “a foreigner who is not of your people Israel, but rather comes from a distant land.” In Isaiah, God described the Temple as “a house of prayer for all peoples” . . . sacrifices were regularly offered to promote peace for the entire world. . . . According to biblical law, non-Jews were in fact permitted to offer sacrifices at the Temple, a practice that became particularly widespread during the Second Temple period (512 BCE to 70 CE ). . . . It was also common for non-Jewish leaders to send gifts to the Temple throughout the Second Temple period. Darius, King of Persia, and even Augustus Caesar both did this. Undoubtedly because of the Temple, [the Roman historian] Pliny the Elder wrote that Jerusalem was the most famous city in the East.
Christianity resituated the holiness and authority of the Temple in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. As Pope Benedict XVI explained, Jesus claimed for himself the qualities of the Temple (Matthew 12:5). After the Romans destroyed the Temple at Jerusalem in 70 CE, the Christian variant of the Jewish idea gained support, and ultimately was adopted as the state religion of the Roman Empire.
But it was the standing of Judaism and its universal appeal in the ancient world that made Christianity possible in the first place. That explains why it is more difficult for Christianity to take hold in China today than in the ancient Mediterranean; without the living memory of the Temple at Jerusalem and the unique role of ancient Israel, Christianity becomes an abstraction rather than an extension of Israel’s living presence.
By replacing the Temple with the person of Jesus of Nazareth, Christianity spiritualized Jewish practice. In place of the sacrifices of the Temple, belief in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and his subsequent resurrection became the center of Western religion. Christianity appealed to the tribes of Europe by offering them a place in a “new Israel” of the spirit, while retaining their ethnic identity in the flesh. The tragedy of Western Christianity is that the flesh overcame the spirit, and the tribalism of the European peoples ultimately destroyed the universal ties of Christian culture.
It is instructive to contrast today’s Europe with today’s China. Europe has achieved a limited degree of unification without, however, overcoming national resistance to a unified government. China by contrast contains fifty-five distinct ethnic minorities and numerous spoken languages within a single political system. Despite the occasional eruption of separatist tendencies, China is in little danger of reverting to a loose confederation of ethnicities.
For all its great accomplishments, the European project of the past thousand years has failed. The greatest achievement of the West is the creation of the United States of America, which selected immigrants from all nations in a new, non-ethnic polity defined by a Constitution inspired to a great extent by ancient Israel.
When Christianity failed to overcome the residual tribalism of the West, its universalizing message was replaced by relativism. The reigning dogma in the secular West now states that every ethnicity is entitled to its own “narrative” and that all cultures are equally valid in their own terms. Relativism refuses to consider the obvious fact that some cultures succeed while others fail miserably; it insists on the absolute right of self-definition and self-termination for every tribe.
This post-Christian ideology motivates many attacks on China in the West, and justifies Western support for breakaway movements in Tibet, Xinjiang, and other Chinese provinces. The same ideology justifies attacks on the State of Israel. Liberal relativists argue that Palestinian Arabs have the right to their own self-defining narrative, which regards the State of Israel as an alien intrusion in the Middle East-despite the thousands of years of Jewish history and the unbroken Jewish presence in the country over those thousands of years. The relativists demand that Israel abandon its character as a Jewish State, or at least give up so much land as to become indefensible.
The State of Israel was founded in one of the many population exchanges that occurred after World War II: about 700,000 Jews were expelled from Arab countries, including the ancient community of Iraq that predated the Arabs, and about 700,000 Arab refugees left the State of Israel. Israel integrated the expelled Jews but the Arab countries refused to integrate the expelled Arabs, maintaining them instead as a permanent “refugee” population in token of their refusal to accept the historical rights of the Jewish people.
The Arab countries began three wars of aggression against Israel-in 1947, 1967, and 1973–but failed each time. In 1967, Israel retook the eastern half of its capital Jerusalem, the site of the ancient Temple. Jerusalem has had a Jewish majority since the middle of the 19th century, and a continuous Jewish presence–with brief interruptions after expulsions by Roman and Christian conquerors–for more than 3,000 years.
The same perverse logic that denies Israel the right to live in its ancient homeland in secure borders with its ancient capital city is used to condemn China’s sovereignty over Xinjiang and Tibet, among other places. The supposed right of self-determination for “Uyghur culture” or “Tibetan culture” is opposed to China’s historic sovereignty over those territories. If this argument were extended to its logical conclusion, the great accomplishment of Chinese civilization–its genius for integrating many ethnicities into a unifying culture–is a wicked form of imperial impression.
This begs the question: why are Western liberals so obsessed with the putative right of the Palestinian Arabs to their own “narrative”? The answer, I believe, is that the Palestinian issue is the thin end of the wedge. In the West, Israel represents the ideal of a civilization that rises above ethnicity. The historic continuity of the Jewish people is the foundation for Christianity, which has faded as a universalizing civilization in Europe.
If Israel’s historic rights to its ancient homeland are compromised, and if Israel can be portrayed as an imperial aggressor that violates the self-definition of ethnic minorities, relativism will triumph over the principle of unifying civilization. Israel has enormous symbolic importance for the West.
Founded just 65 years ago, the modern Jewish state has become a pocket superpower in technology, business and the arts, as well as the strongest and most stable state in the Middle East. It is also the only industrial country with a fertility rate far above replacement. Not just in the abstract, but in its concrete manifestation in the modern State of Israel, Jewish nationhood remains “a paragon and exemplar of a nation.”
The ambitions of liberal relativism extend far beyond the Middle East. It is much easier to drive the thin end of the wedge into Israel, a nation of just 8 million people, than into China, a world power of 1.4 billion people. Precisely the same reasoning that proposes to carve up the State of Israel justifies ethnic separatism in China.
It is important to emphasize that this has nothing to do with the question of democracy in China. The Western liberals who support Tibetan separatism, for example, do not argue that Tibetans should have the right to vote in Chinese elections: they argue that Tibetans should have the right to restore the extremely undemocratic feudal system that prevailed before Tibet was integrated into China.
The instinctive affinity that Chinese feel for the Jewish people, therefore, is not a matter of happenstance. Nor is the fact that Chinese civilization and Jewish civilization have longer continuity than any other modes of human existence. Despite their great differences, they share a common purpose, to transcend tribalism through a unifying civilization. It should be no surprise that they have enemies in common.