Historian Simon Schama says “the occupation” will end Israel. By J.P. O’Malley. The Times of Israel, March 29, 2014.
Simon Schama Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story About Israel. By Aaron Goldstein. The American Spectator, April 2, 2014.
— Simon Schama loves a daunting challenge. In 2000 he completed the first part
of what became a three volume book series about the history of Britain. It was
accompanied by a TV show with the same name.
month sees the British historian publishing a book in the US that takes on
another epic historical subject. Released in the UK last year, “The Story of the Jews: Finding The Words 1000 BC-1492 AD” was also accompanied by an
impressive BBC documentary series. This month it was aired again on PBS in the US in a two-part series ending April 1.
series Schama is shown at his family’s Passover seder; in Jerusalem, he notes
that he celebrated his bar mitzvah nearby; and at a London synagogue, he
explains how he feels when the Torah is brought out.
is the moment when Jews feel most Jewish,” Schama narrates. “The ark opens, the
Torah scrolls . . . are held up and you smile. At least I always smile at the
pure beauty of it all.”
not the first time Schama has documented Jewish history.
the British Jew who grew up attending London’s Golders Green Synagogue wrote
“Two Rothchilds and the Land of Israel.” But the author doesn’t consider it a
success. “I was too close to the subject,” he says. “Maybe there were too many
uncles and aunties in the way.”
try and understand the complexities of the Jewish story, for this book he
decided to go back to the beginning. Not the mythical beginning of patriarchs
and prophets who deliver messages from God. But one that involves archeological
did this arise? If we are to believe the men who scribed the Hebrew Bible, it
was supposedly sometime around 1300 BCE, when Moses led the enslaved Israelites
from Egypt into the desert mountains and towards the Holy Land.
book is intent on pointing out that much of the Bible is highly inaccurate, and
some passages were written nearly 500 years after supposed historical events
took place. In other words, the Scriptures, historically speaking, are most
likely an echo of the truth, rather than a reflection of actual events.
certainly would stand by the claim that there is no documentary or
archeological evidence of an Exodus [to Israel from Egyptian bondage]
whatsoever,” says the 69-year-old Columbia University history professor from
his home in New York.
historian you have to leave the possibility open that there might be some basis
of remembered truth in it. But the myth of the Exodus is exactly the same as
the Iliad, or the Aeneid, in that there is a poetic truth behind it. It has
also a fierce poetic grip on the Jewish imagination. But we have absolutely no
evidence of it at all.”
claims the first time the word Israel appears on any historical artifact is in
the late-13th century BCE. It was mentioned on the triumphal inscription penned
for Pharaoh Merneptah, which read: “Israel is laid waste . . . its seed is no
more.” This hieroglyph, which today resides in a museum in Cairo, leaves no
doubt that the word “Israel” was originally meant as a people, rather than a
place, says Schama.
historian spends an entire chapter of his book discussing the strange
relationship between Israel and Egypt. It is impossible to see Jewish history
as being inseparable from Egyptian history, he adds.
presence in Egypt goes back to before the 5th century BCE. Prophets like
Jeremiah forbid Jews from returning to the lowlands, but they kept going back
there. Think about Judaism as somehow shaping itself between two different
kinds of physical, as well as spiritual landscapes: the up mountain and the
lowlands of the plain,” he explains.
lowlands are often the river culture of the Nile. Judaism exists here rather
than in the uplands hills of Judea. It’s just a long fact of Jewish history
that it’s often in an Egyptian setting.”
first half of Schama’s narrative, he zones in on the relationship between
religion and politics, a theme that has consistently dominated Jewish
intellectual and spiritual history for millennia.
also asks a key question: Has political power sustained piety or damaged it?
has a real ancient dialectic in Jewish life that goes way back to the
upbraiding of King David,” Schama explains. “Both David and Solomon are
depicted in the Bible as pure monarchs. Even though they play such an important
part in the Bible. And that distinction, between political and military power
on the one hand, and religious continuity on the other, for a long time was
represented by making it impossible for religious kings to be high priests,
unlike other surrounding religions.”
Mesopotamia, or, Egypt, for example, the monarch had a God-like religious
status. But this is not the case in Judaism. So that notion that religion can
go on, when all the markers of power, and trappings of monarchy disappear,
ultimately, serves the endurance of Judaism very well.”
Jews invented a portable religion in the shape of the Bible, the Torah, and
eventually the Talmud, and with other portable forms of writing. So it’s now
possible to carry the religion that is embedded in that writing, away from the
ruins of political and military power. It can lead you utterly defenseless, but
also make for survival and endurance.”
spends a great deal of time in the middle section of this current book
discussing three crucial events that would ensure a permanent separation
between Judaism and Christianity: when Jews referred to Jesus as Satan in the
New Testament; when St. Paul moved the heart of Christian teaching from
Christ’s life to his death, thereby implicating Jews in his murder; and when Christianity
finally became the state religion of imperial Rome in 380 CE.
these three crucial events arose the nasty myth, says Schama, of a
beastly-Christ-killing-Jew, which began to dominate Christine doctrine.
conversation, I mention St. Paul’s vital role in stirring up anti-Semitism
within Christian ideology. This is something Schama writes about in the book
with great enthusiasm. But he is slightly skeptical of the subject today.
been criticized about this point by many people and I accept some of the
criticisms,” he admits. “In the book I’m a little harsh on St. Paul’s view. And
I’m aware that there is a huge debate going on about whether Paul is
ferociously determined to eradicate [Jews].
now know that Paul really wanted to make a much cleaner separation between
Jewish ritual practice, which all historians agree was sustained by all early
says it depends really on whether you think Paul is the formative shaper of
seems to me to be pretty undeniable. Perhaps I have overridden or
misinterpreted that point. But St. Paul was making it impossible to be Jewish
and Christian at the same time. What is very striking about those early Churches
and communities is that you could be both. Under Paul though, you absolutely
are having this conversation I get the feeling I’m keeping Schama from
something. Then he tells me that he is currently in the process of writing the
second volume of this massive compendium of Jewish history. He has already
discussed parts of this in the TV series.
covers the Medieval period of Jewish history, when Sephardic Jews were expelled
from Spain and began laying down roots in places like Turkey, Venice, and North
there it will look into the flourishing of Jewish culture in Europe during the
Habsburg Empire in the 19th century, to the near annihilation of it— via Nazi
ideology— leading up to, and during World War II. The book will also spend
considerable time analyzing the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
we part company we begin discussing the trajectory of Jewish history to its
present moment. As a British Jew who now lives in the US, is Schama always
completely comfortable with Israel’s domestic and foreign policies?
makes it clear that he is a committed Zionist, who believes 100 percent in a
Jewish state, but not one that excludes Palestinians from having their homeland
too. Nor is he keen on any Jewish state that makes Arabs live as refugees in
their own country.
passionately invested in the survival of Israel and everything Israel
represents. But I am extremely critical of much of its policy,” says Schama
unapologetically. “I believe that the occupation must end. And if it doesn’t,
it will end Israel. I’m not in favor of settlements.
old style Zionist. All my life I’ve always believed that a Jewish State and a
Palestinian state should exist alongside each other. But that just puts me in
common with large numbers of Israelis, who have an equally critical view. I
believe in peace for land.
you ask me: is the Iranian threat real? I would say yes. Does Hamas have to
acknowledge the State of Israel for there to be peace? Yes it does.”
It’s OK to be Depressed. By Daniel Gordis. Jerusalem Post, March 20, 2014. Also at DanielGordis.org.
Daniel Gordis, Jeremy Ben-Ami Debate, Atlanta February 26, 2014. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Video. Daniel Gordis, March 12, 2014. YouTube. Full debate at Vimeo.
weeks ago, Jeremy Ben- Ami of J Street and I debated each other in Atlanta. It
was labeled a “conversation,” but it was really a debate.
civil, more than a bit of humor, rather conversational and all that, but still
a debate. (You can find the video on YouTube or Google.) Ben-Ami made his
points, I made mine. Mine were very simple: He and I both want the same thing.
He wants (I was willing to assume for the sake of the argument) a secure and
Jewish State of Israel. So do I. He wants (no question about this one) a
Palestinian state as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and I
would be happy to see such a state (and would vote for significant territorial
compromise) if it would mean an end to the conflict.
we disagreed about many things, there was one major point of contention that
was more significant than all the rest. He’s convinced that a deal for a
two-state solution is within reach, and I was, and remain, almost entirely
certain that it’s utterly impossible.
a good portion of the time, I laid out my case for why Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas will not make a deal. He’ll never give up on the right
of return. His refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is a symptom of
the sad fact that the Palestinians hate Israel (and let’s be honest, the Jews,
too) far more than they care about themselves.
the problem of Hamas and Gaza, and Abbas’s worry about Hamas potentially taking
over. There’s the unpleasant fact that even if Abbas did agree, what happens when
he or his successor is overthrown? What happens when Ramallah turns into Tahrir
Square? Where will we be then? Nothing new in all these arguments – just a
summary of what most people who think already know.
then I sat down.
was Ben-Ami’s turn to respond, and he made the most important comment of the
entire evening. “I just find that so depressing,” he said. In not so many
words, he was just saying that he cannot accept a world in which the options
are so bleak – so he chooses to believe that there is a way out.
my view is depressing, it must be wrong.
the most significant comment of the evening, I thought, because it was also the
most honest. What defines Israel’s position in the world today is a division
not so much between those who care about Palestinians and those who don’t
(though there are sadly many of the latter), not between those who tolerate the
Jews and those who can’t stand them (though there are tragically a growing
number of the latter), and not between those committed to a secure Israel and
those who would be happy to see Israel crumble (though there are many of those,
real divide is between those who can accept reality for what it is (with all
the sadness thereunto appertaining), and those who cannot tolerate that
bleakness – and therefore opt for delusion.
all the ostensibly fair-minded people who argue that Abbas’s refusal to
recognize Israel as a Jewish state is legitimate, indeed noble, because he is
seeking to protect that status of non- Jews in Israel. It’s a clever argument,
but also malevolently dishonest. Israel has defined itself as a Jewish state
since the Declaration of Independence was adopted in May 1948, and a Basic Law
of 1985 added the notion of “Jewish and democratic” (interestingly, the
Declaration of Independence says nothing about Israel being a democracy, but
that’s an issue for another time). But has that stopped Israel from appointing
Arabs to the Supreme Court? From having three Arab parties represented in the
Knesset? Does it stop Beduin women from becoming doctors in Israel? There is
obviously much about the status of Arabs and other non-Jewish citizens of
Israel that can and must be improved, but does anyone seriously believe that
Abbas is holding out to accomplish that? Anyone fair-minded understands that
Abbas will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state because once he does, he
undermines the argument that the refugees must be returned. And he needs the
return of the refugees to destroy Israel.
that means that there’s no deal to be had, because Abbas won’t give up the fight,
and Israel will not commit suicide.
is depressing for those who want a deal more than they like reality.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is telling Israel that it should give up on
that demand. Why? Because it’s easier, and less depressing, for Kerry to tell
Israel to be flexible – even at the risk of its very raison d’être – than to
admit that he is going to fail.
and pretense were for Purim, but Purim is behind us.
world in which we live is an increasingly bleak place. But that does not mean
that the solution is to pretend that matters are other than what they were. The
US pretends that it is going to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but
it is clear that it will not.
international community pretends that it has the willpower to stop Russian
President Vladimir Putin’s expansionist drive (the end of which one cannot even
begin to imagine), when it is clear that America under US President Barack
Obama is under a full-speed retreat from leadership. And the international
community insists that if Israel budges just a bit on one issue or another, the
Palestinians will make a deal, when it is clear that this is utterly myopic.
is much that Israel has done wrong in recent years, and Israel’s administration
has undoubtedly contributed to the Jewish state’s lonely place in the world
today. But let us be honest about at least one thing, even in the face of the
sobering – yes, depressing – reality we face.
prime reason that Israel is so maligned is that it, alone, simply refuses to be
part of the charade.
The Official Goal of BDS is Ending Israel, Not Just the ’67 Occupation. By M.J. Rosenberg. The Huffington Post, March 26, 2014. Also at Tikkun.
Ultra-Orthodox Settlers Moving Into Heart of Palestinian East Jerusalem. By M.J. Rosenberg. The Huffington Post, March 20, 2014.
Mondoweiss and Is Anti-Semitism Dead? By M.J. Rosenberg. Tikkun, March 16, 2014.
Why I Don’t Support the BDS Movement. By M.J. Rosenberg. Tikkun, February 21, 2014. Also at The Huffington Post.
M.J. Rosenberg’s Critique of BDS Movement. Partners for Progressive Israel, March 19, 2014.
I Need to Stop Reading Ali Abunimah’s Twitter Feed. By M.J. Rosenberg. The Garbanzo Annex, October 2013.
stopped reading racist, homophobic, and anti-Muslim twitter feeds a long time
ago and my life is so much better for it.
for some reason, I still read @aliabunimah although, to me, it is clear that he
cannot stand Jews.
worse and worse. Right now, his feed is one hateful tweet after another. Yeah,
yeah, I know he is careful to scream about Israelis or Zionists and not Jews,
but he doesn’t fool me. Or any Jew who doesn’t want to be fooled.
there is one good thing about Ali Abunimah. There is a tendency among Jews on
the left, including myself, to argue so vehemently that being anti-Israel does
not make one an anti-Semite that we don’t notice when being anti-Israel
coexists with anti-Semitism, that one just feeds the other. We should.
line: I believe that Ali Abunimah would be ecstatic if Israel was destroyed,
blown off the face of the earth, along with every one of its people because,
after all, the Jews in Palestine are, by definition, Zionists, even the kids.
Settlers, colonialists, baby killers, torturers, invaders and all the other
labels he uses that exempt no Jew in any part of Israel or Palestine.
thanks, Ali. As long as there are people around like you, I will never lull
myself into believing that anti-Semitism is a thing of the past. It isn’t.
MJ Rosenberg Rips Ali Abunimah for Antisemitism. By Brian Thomas (Brian of London). Israelly Cool, October 13, 2013.
BDS movement distilled – when Israeli soldiers not raping Arab women is racist. By William A. Jacobson. Legal Insurrection, October 19, 2014. Includes MJ Rosenberg post attacking Ali Abunimah.
MJ Rosenberg owes Ali Abunimah an apology for false accusations of anti-Semitism. By David Samel. Mondoweiss, October 22, 2013.
I have been struck by the raw anti-semitism evinced on anti-Israel websites
(most egregious example, Mondoweiss). http://mondoweiss.net/
is nothing novel about it. It’s not “the new anti-semitism” that the
Anti-Defamation League likes to talk about. But the old kind, masquerading as
anti-Zionism but manifesting itself as support or, at least, sympathy for every
group or individual hostile to Jews: from Pat Buchanan to Hizbullah.
only difference between this anti-semitism and the old-fashioned kind is that
it has no impact. If you don’t visit Mondoweiss or other websites like it, you
won’t know it exists. It threatens no one. It is just ugly. But ugly and
we would all be better off without it.
that is why Jewish organizations should stop feeding it. The efforts by Jewish
organizations to shut down free debate on Israel by banning anti-Israel
speakers, closing down organization that support the BDS movement, or getting
state legislatures to penalize universities that support it, does nothing
except fuel anti-semitism.
understand that anti-semitism usually exists apart from anything Jews do. (I
don’t think the people posting at Mondoweiss would dislike Jews any less if
Israel returned to the pre-’67 borders tomorrow or disestablished itself as a
state.) But I believe that some hostility to Jews is caused by banning free
discussion of issues relating to Israel. The act of stifling, of smothering,
free inquiry can and often does ignite resentment and often hate. The BDS
movement, and its supporters, has as much right to propagate its views on
campus as Hillel or the Young Republicans. What does it signify when the only
issue on campus where the censors are out on force is Israel? When did AIPAC,
AJC and the ADL get an “Israel exemption” added to the First Amendment?
Jewish community needs to end its politics of suppression. We should be the
last people burning books and ideas.
the anti-semites, they will always exist no matter what Israel or Jews do.
Right now there don’t appear to be very many of them (in this country, at
least). We should do all we can to keep their numbers small and their impact
avoid reading Mondoweiss, I’d hardly know they exist at all. But still, why
give these people fuel?
An Alternative Model for Pro-Israel Liberals. By Evelyn Gordon. Commentary, March 28, 2014.
“J-Streetophobia” and Shutting Down the Debate. By Tom Wilson. Commentary, March 28, 2014.
How Do You Solve a Problem Like J Street? By Tom Wilson. Commentary, February 19, 2014.
Review: “The J Street Challenge.” By Jeff Dunetz. Truth Revolt, March 3, 2014.
J-Streetophobia, and the U.S. Jewish right’s hatred for American Jews. By Bradley Burston. Haaretz, March 25, 2014.
Philadelphia Feud Erupts Over Federation Embrace of Anti-J Street Film. By Nathan Guttman. The Jewish Daily Forward, March 26, 2014.
Anti-J Street documentary screened in Philadelphia. Israel Matzav, March 28, 2014.
J Street’s hypocrisy must be exposed. By Alan Dershowitz. Haaretz, March 27, 2014. Also at Elder of Ziyon.
Jews boo Dershowitz. By Stu Bykofsky. Philadelphia Daily News, March 30, 2014.
Lies, Damn Lies, and J Street. By Janet Tassel, NJBR, March 16, 2014.
The J Street Challenge: The Seductive Allure of Peace in Our Time. Florida premiere trailer. Video. The J Street Challenge. YouTube. Vimeo.
Mona Eltahawy’s opening remarks at J Street 2011. Video. ScarceMedia, February 27, 2011. YouTube.
America’s Useful Idiots. By Steve McCann. American Thinker, May 1, 2012.
Useful idiots, then and now. By Jeff Jacoby. Boston Globe, March 13, 2013.
“Useful Idiots.” By Thomas Sowell. Townhall.com, August 31, 2000.
Useful idiot. Urban Dictionary.
Useful idiot. Wikipedia.
The Poor Palestinians. By Ted Belman. American Thinker, February 12, 2012.
Condi Rice Blasts Obama on Weakness, Leadership. By Stephen F. Hayes. The Weekly Standard, March 27, 2014.
Condoleezza Rice blames Obama for “vacuum” that’s led to Putin. By Stephen Dinan. Washington Times, March 27, 2014.
Condi Rice lectures on war “weariness.” By Steve Benen. MSNBC, March 28, 2014.
The Fundamental Transformation of the Nation Rolls On. By Monica Crowley. MonicaMemo.com, February 25, 2014.
Why did Condi Rice blast Obama’s leadership “vacuum” now? Video. On the Record with Greta Van Susteren. Fox News, March 28, 2014. YouTube. Also at GretaWire.
now, there’s a vacuum,” she told a crowd of more than two thousand attending
the National Republican Congressional Committee’s annual dinner last night in
Washington, D.C. “There’s a vacuum because we’ve decided to lower our voice.
We’ve decided to step back. We’ve decided that if we step back and lower our
voice, others will lead, other things will fill that vacuum.” Citing Bashar al
Assad’s slaughter in Syria, Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, al Qaeda’s
triumphant return to Fallujah, Iraq, and China’s nationalist fervor, she
concluded: “When America steps back and there is a vacuum, trouble will fill
measured in tone, but very tough on substance – excoriated Obama administration
policies without ever mentioning the president by name. She mocked the naïve
hope that “international norms” would fill the vacuum left by U.S. retreat and
blasted the president for hiding behind the weariness of the public.
fully understand the sense of weariness. I fully understand that we must think:
‘Us, again?’ I know that we’ve been through two wars. I know that we’ve been
vigilant against terrorism. I know that it’s hard. But leaders can’t afford to
get tired. Leaders can’t afford to be weary.”
speech was the highlight of an evening that brought in $15.1 million for House
Republicans. The former secretary of state has mostly limited her political
appearances since leaving office to major events. She delivered a well-received
speech at a donor event that Mitt Romney held in Park City, Utah, in 2012 and
addressed the Republican National Convention in Tampa that summer. But those
familiar with her thinking say she’s determined to help Republicans pick up the
Senate and maintain the House heading into the 2016 presidential elections.
majority whip Kevin McCarthy introduced Rice and raised the prospect that she
might become even more involved in politics in two years. After listing various
prestigious positions she’s held, he noted, “There’s one thing that’s not on
her resume and I want her to put her mind to it to resolve that in 2016.”
has downplayed those suggestions and there’s little reason to believe she’s
angling for a run. Still, she has been increasingly active on behalf of her
fellow Republicans. Earlier this month, Rice spoke at a Kentucky fundraiser for
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and the spring convention for the
California Republican party. Rice appeared in an ad touting Alaska Senate
hopeful and Marine reservist Dan Sullivan, a spot paid for by Karl Rove’s super
PAC, American Crossroads. In the coming months, she will make appearances for
the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
began her speech Wednesday with something of a civics lesson, praising the
wisdom of the framers of the Constitution for the limits they placed on
government and noting that Americans, despite being the “most individualistic
people on this earth, are also the most philanthropic and communitarian.” Rice
trundled through well-worn Republican lines on lower taxes and less regulation
before once again touting the American system for its recognition of a “vast
private space into which the government should not intrude” and a “personal
space, where we respect each others’ choices.”
turning to foreign policy, Rice urged the crowd, including many Republican
House members, to keep America a “nation of immigrants” and strafed liberals
who send their kids to private schools but write New York Times op-eds claiming that school choice will ruin public
most powerful part of her speech came when Rice expressed her frustration with
Obama on national security. “As Ronald Reagan said: Peace only comes through
strength,” she recalled.
what are we doing? What are we doing when our defense budget is so small that
our military starts to tell us that we may not be able to carry out all of the
requirements put upon it? What are we doing, when a couple of weeks before
Russia invades Crimea we announce that we are going to have an Army smaller
than at any time since the Revolutionary – I’m sorry, not the Revolutionary
War, but World War II. What are we doing? What are we doing? What are we
signaling when we say that America is no longer ready to stand in the defense
seen this movie before and it doesn't end well . . . for us or for the rest of
the freedom-loving world. When the U.S. is weak or perceived as weak, the
wheels come off the world. The bad guys advance, the good guys retreat, and
major violent conflagrations are never far behind.
transformation of the nation” of which Obama spoke in 2008 has three major
components: moving America from individual liberty to government dependency and
collectivism, from capitalism to socialism, and from superpower status to
Gutting the military, which was well underway
before Hagel’s announcement yesterday, is another critical part of that
transformation. The extremist Left has always wanted to take America down a
notch or two . . . or ten. Hollowing out America’s armed services while ceding
global power to our enemies is the fastest and most efficient way to do that.
Campus Brownshirts on the March. By Caroline Glick. Jerusalem Post, March 27, 2014. Also at CarolineGlick.com.