Thursday, July 30, 2015

Camille Paglia: The Salon Interview with David Daley.

Camille Paglia: How Bill Clinton is like Bill Cosby. Interview with David Daley. Part 1. Salon, July 28, 2015.

Camille Paglia takes on Jon Stewart, Trump, Sanders: “Liberals think of themselves as very open-minded, but that’s simply not true!” Interview with David Daley. Part 2. Salon, July 29, 2015.

“Ted Cruz gives me the willies”: Camille Paglia analyzes the GOP field — and takes on Hillary Clinton. Interview with David Daley. Part 3. Salon, July 30, 2015.

Camille Paglia Nails It on Clinton and Cosby. By Rush Limbaugh. Rush, July 28, 2015.

Paglia, Part 3:

I think that liberals are dangerously complacent about Scott Walker. They’ve tried to portray him as a madman, an uneducated rube, a tool of the Koch brothers. Right now, Walker seems to be the true GOP frontrunner, but I also feel he lacks gravitas.  He’s not ready for his close-up. What is this oddity about so many of the GOP candidates–their excessive boyishness, as if their maturation stalled? But Walker is a very talented and combative politician, with far more substance than liberals are allowing for.

The union issue is huge–because as governor of Wisconsin, Walker went to war with unions and won. Liberals are caught in the past right now in their rosy view of unions, which were heroically established during the progressive era that reformed the abuses of the industrial revolution. But the union battle in Wisconsin had nothing to do with exploited working-class miners or factory workers. In his push to balance the state budget, Walker took action against the middle-class public sector unions, whose negotiations with municipal and state governments outside the arena of private competition have become an enormous drain on local budgets as the economy has worsened. There has been a history of rampant corruption in the public sector unions, coming from their cozy quid pro quo relationships with politicians. Liberals need to wake up about this! All they have to do is read the obituaries of the smaller newspapers in metropolitan New York to see how the early retirement and lavish pensions of the public sector unions have grotesquely drained taxpayer dollars. Obituary after obituary–so-and-so, aged 75, worked for fifteen or twenty years as a policeman or city sanitation worker, retired in his late 40s, and spent the rest of his life on the taxpayer’s dime, pursuing his hobbies of fishing, boating, and golfing. Great work if you can get it!

And then the teachers’ unions! What a colossal tactical error American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten (a longtime Clinton friend and donor) made several weeks ago in unilaterally declaring her union’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton right in the middle of the Bernie Sanders surge. Probably for the first time ever, American liberals woke up to the corrupt practices that have become way too common in the political maneuverings of the big unions. The point here is that Scott Walker, in his defeat of the public sector unions, drew the roadmap for struggling municipal and state governments everywhere to balance their budgets, as he did in Wisconsin. Because who ends up suffering the most? It’s the kids. All that money outrageously pouring into inflated pension plans has been gutting public education and community arts programs.

Exactly how have the teachers unions improved the quality of education in our big cities? Look at the dilapidated public schools in Philadelphia or in many other cities run by Democrats. The rigid and antiquated seniority system imposed by the teachers unions has been a disaster–“last hired, first fired.” So many young and vital teachers have been terminated during budget cuts–the entire future of the profession. The unions value seniority over quality, and it’s inner-city children who have paid the price.

In my opinion, Scott Walker still lacks seasoning, presidential temper, and a working knowledge of international affairs. But if Democrats try to use the union issue to take him down, they’re simply empowering him–and we’re going to end up with President Walker.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Would Economic Populism Turn the White Working Class Democratic? By Jason Willick.

Would Economic Populism Turn the White Working Class Democratic? By Jason Willick. The American Interest, July 29, 2015.

What is the matter with America? By Hisham Melhem. Al Arabiya News, July 26, 2015.

Revenge of the Radical Middle. By Matthew Continetti. Washington Free Beacon, July 24, 2015. Also at National Review.

Yes I said it: Donald Trump supporters are living a childlike fantasy land. By Joan Walsh. Salon, July 31, 2015.

This is how the clowns took over: The sad history of the spectacle of a Fox News debate starring front-runner Donald Trump. By Heather Cox Richardson. Salon, August 2, 2015.


Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders delivered a sharp critique of the state of the Democratic Party in an extensive interview, released yesterday, with Vox’s Ezra Klein:
I think it would be hard to imagine if you walked out of here or walked down the street or went a few miles away from here and you stopped somebody on the street and you said, “Do you think that the Democratic Party is the party of the American working class?” People would look at you and say, “What are you talking about?”

There was a time — I think under Roosevelt, maybe even under Truman — where it was perceived that working people were part of the Democratic Party. I think for a variety of reasons, a lot having to do with money and politics, that is no longer the case. In my view that is exactly what shouldn’t be happening. Instead of spending all of our time raising money, I think we should go out organizing people and getting them to unite around a progressive agenda which expands the middle class which tells the billionaire class that they cannot have it all, which says to corporate America, “You’re going to have to start paying your fair share of taxes,” which says we’re going to raise the minimum wage, we’re going to make college available to all regardless of their income, that we are going to have pay equity for women workers, that we are going to create millions of jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. You need a progressive agenda, then you need the ability to go out and organize people.
Sanders’ central insight—that the New Deal Democrats were a working class party, but the modern Democrats are not—is clearly correct, even if the party doesn’t like to acknowledge it. Blue collar workers were at the center of the New Deal coalition, while today’s white working class voters cast their ballots overwhelmingly for the GOP.

Why the shift? Sanders suggests that it has to do with “money and politics.” He doesn’t spell out what that means, exactly, but it seems to points to his belief that the Democrats have abandoned robust social welfare programs in favor of a more centrist, pro-corporate economic program. This contrasts with the rather more self-satisfied explanation that some on the elite left have offered—namely, that whites without a college education are a lost cause because conservatives trick them into voting Republican by exploiting their latent prejudices and resentments.

Sanders’ proposed solution to the Democrats’ poor showing among the white working class is well known: a hard-left economic populist agenda, complete with dramatic minimum wage increases, high-end tax hikes, massive government spending on and infrastructure and education, and invective against the superrich—in other words, a restoration of the blue model and then some. He’s not alone; the rest of the party is signing on to some of these economic proposals as well.

But would an economic populist program actually wrest the white working class from the GOP? Perhaps it will move the needle temporarily, but the genuinely working class party of Truman and Roosevelt simply cannot be resurrected in the foreseeable future. The economic model that existed in the New Deal era, and that the New Deal political coalition relied upon, is deteriorating—not only because of policy choices, as Sanders suggests, but also because of irreversible trends in technology, globalization, and demography. Private sector unions will never reattain the level economic and political might they wielded in the 1950s no matter how the Supreme Court rules on right-to-work statutes. And shoring up the public benefits system devised in the New Deal would require large tax increases—not only upper-end tax hikes, but middle-class tax hikes as well—that would risk splintering the Democratic coalition.

Then, of course, there is culture. As the white working class began to slip away from the Democrats in the 1960s, the party drifted leftward culturally—a process that is once again picking up steam today. In important (though qualified) ways, upper class liberals are further to the left culturally than working class voters. So in addition to economic populism, winning back blue collar whites would probably require adopting a softer tone on cultural questions—something that would not please culturally liberal constituencies (like Silicon Valley tycoons) that provide the Democratic party with critical support.

Matthew Continetti has perceptively written that “there are two Republican parties, an elite party of the corporate upper crust and meritocratic winners that sits atop a mass party of whites without college degrees whose worldviews and experiences and ambitions could not be more different from their social and economic betters.” In the same way, there are two Democratic parties; an elite party of affluent white urban cultural liberals that sits atop a coalition of identity groups—blacks, hispanics, LGBT people, single women, and young people. Bernie Sanders wants to win back some of the disaffected whites who currently find themselves in the Republican camp, and re-constitute the singular New Deal Democratic Party of yore. But given existing economic and social trends, we may be stuck with two Democratic parties—and two Republican parties—for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mayor “Know-It-All” Could Use a Lesson in Humility. By Michael Goodwin.

Mayor “know-it-all” could use a lesson in humility. By Michael Goodwin. New York Post, July 22, 2015.


The lefty mayor traveled to the Vatican to meet the lefty pope yesterday, but failed to learn anything new. Count that as another missed opportunity to be a better mayor.

Had Bill de Blasio done his homework, he would have copied Pope Francis’ recent confession that he, the pontiff, was wrong to ignore the middle class.

Asked during his down-with-capitalism trip to Latin America why he rarely speaks about the “working, tax-paying” middle class, the pope reflected a humility that would be shocking if it came from Mayor Know-It-All.

“You’re right,” Francis admitted. “It’s an error of mine not to think about this.”

Bill de Blasio, pay attention!

Instead, the mayor is so hellbent on beating to death the income-inequality, climate-change spiel that he forgets the middle class is in the middle for a reason — it’s the largest segment of the population. The pope noticed the middle is shrinking, and perhaps one day, he’ll also come to realize that the progressive policies he and de Blasio push are a big reason why.

Soak-the-rich nostrums, coupled with invitations for the poor to sign up for permanent government dependency, hurt everyone except the ruling class. As Willie Sutton might have said, the middle class is where the money is, so it always gets stuck with the bill.

Now, the middle class is as much a state of mind as it is an income group. The term defines the broad mass of people who live an ordered, responsible life in the expectation they are creating a better future by sacrificing now.

They are aspirational investors who believe life’s compounded benefits are produced by hard work and delayed gratification. Whatever their race or ethnicity, they practice the Protestant work ethic, which formed the backbone of American capitalism.

The middle class works for a living, pays its own way and raises children to be good students and law-abiding citizens. They make good neighbors and stable communities, and struggle up life’s hills without undue complaints or demands for the fruit of others’ labor.

Naturally, de Blasio ignores them when he isn’t undermining them. They are irrelevant to his vision of New York, where government commands the heights and presides over redistribution schemes that, despite good intentions, never lift the poor.

As historian Fred Siegel says, liberals want to deregulate morals and regulate everything else. True to form, deBlasio demonizes cops and orders them to cut down on aggressive policing and forces schools to stop suspending disruptive students.

In both instances, bad behavior is endorsed as normal, while those who behave properly wonder why they bother playing by the rules. The lack of clear incentives and disincentives corrodes the quality of life for everyone.

The de Blasio ilk also undermine social norms by accusing the nation of being unfair, unjust and in need of sweeping change. They treat as shnooks those who believe America is still the land of opportunity, while rewarding those who burn, riot and loot. Illegal immigrants are welcomed with open arms and handouts, while taxpayers struggling to make ends meet are deemed bigots if they object.

Their policies help create the problems progressives rail against. By grabbing ever more power, socialist-style planners sap private initiative and curb the liberty necessary for the pursuit of individual happiness. Government then promises to solve resulting unhappiness with even more government.

Their failure is proven repeatedly throughout history, but arrogant progressives can’t resist the temptation to spend other people’s money, so history repeats itself.

Any excuse for more power will do, though few are as flimsy as the Vatican meeting on “Modern Slavery and Climate Change.”

It sounds like an old Flip Wilson joke — “the devil made me do it.” Yet there they were, the pope and about 60 mayors, promising to shackle entrepreneurs and save the middle class from freedom.

“Is it not the definition of insanity to propagate corporate policies and consumer habits that hasten the destruction of the Earth?” Rev. de Blasio asked.

There’s no chance our moralizing mayor will lead by example, so walking to work and giving up air conditioning are out. The most we can hope for is that, upon his return, his day job leaves him no time for preaching about the evils of progress.

Tomi Lahren: A 22-Year Old Jacksonian News Anchor Blasts Obama’s Failure to Confront Radical Islam.

Conservative anchor Tomi Lahren, 22, becomes viral star with passionate rant against Obama. By Kelly McLaughlin. Daily Mail, July 20, 2015.

The one-time intern dating a SEAL who is the Right’s new poster girl: How gun-loving, straight-talking Tomi Lahren became the newest thorn in Obama’s side – but don’t dare call her a bimbo! By Kelly McLaughlin. Daily Mail, July 21, 2015.

This is the hunky Navy SEAL boyfriend of conservative TV news anchor Tomi Lahren – who inspired her tirade against President Obama and his “half-baked” ISIS policy. By Ryan Parry. Daily Mail, July 22, 2015.

Watch This TV Host SCHOOL Obama… Says What We’re ALL Thinking. By Michelle Jesse. Allen, July 19, 2015.

Fox News interviews Tomi Lahren about viral rant demanding Obama call Tenn. shooting radical Islam. Video. The Right Scoop, July 21, 2015. Also at Daily Mail.

News anchor slams Obama, his “half-baked, tip-toe” Middle East policies in on-air rant: “Put the fear of God in their desert!” By Meg Wagner. New York Daily News, July 21, 2015.

News Host Tomi Lahren’s Obama Takedown Is a Hit in Certain Circles. By Ron Dicker. The Huffington Post, July 21, 2015.

How One America News Is Positioning Itself to be the Next Fox News. By Emma Roller. National Journal, March 17, 2015.

CPAC 2015: Tomi Lahren OANN. Video. The ACU, February 28, 2015. YouTube. Also here, here.

CPAC Speaker Tomi Lahren Zings Hillary’s Mannish Pantsuit. By Pam Key. Breitbart, February 28, 2015.

CPAC speaker calls Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren “old, rich, white, males.” By Tony Ortega. Raw Story, February 28, 2015.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Israel and the Palestinians: An Existential War of Blood and Faith (incomplete draft 1)

I and my brother against my cousin. Middle Eastern tribalism: A Bedouin camp in the Transjordan in the 1890s. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

By Michael Kaplan

The conflicts of the twenty-first century are shaping up, as strategic analyst Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters predicted, to be “wars of blood and faith.” This is true of the civil war in Syria and similar conflicts across the developing world, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and even America’s post-9/11 war with radical Islam. Jacksonian America is after all a folk community that embodies the blood and faith element of American life (just listen to Toby Keith). These wars are driven by the existential issues of tribal and religious identity: Who am I and who is God? Is God a kind, loving, and merciful father, or is he a harsh, hate-filled, and punitive tyrant? “Will the god of love and mercy triumph over the god of battles?” Colonel Peters asks. Millions will die in the coming years trying to answer these questions.

These conflicts are made even more savage by the pressures of globalization. A recent study by Hebrew University political scientist Pazit Ben-Nun Bloom asserts that while globalization “has increased interpersonal contact between individuals from culturally diverse backgrounds,” it has not promoted greater tolerance or acceptance of difference. Nor has it promoted religious liberty and protection of minority groups. Just look at the Muslim Brotherhood’s bloody jihad against Coptic Christians in Egypt. Instead globalization’s freewheeling cultural diversity and upheaval “induces perceived threat to a hegemonic religion, which leads to more restrictions on religious freedom.” People really don’t like having cultural and religious differences shoved in their faces. This is just as true of subgroups – smaller tribal, family, and cult identities – within an ethno-religious society, as for example the intensifying conflict between ultra-Orthodox Haredim and the Israeli mainstream over issues of female sexuality and military service. Ben-Nun Bloom and her co-authors conclude:
that increasing awareness of diverse cultures, ideas and traditions as a result of globalization increases the perception of threat to religious, cultural and national integrity and results in a backlash that manifests itself in distrust of and even aggressive attitudes towards alien cultures and lifestyles. Globalization thus creates a threat to the sense of group integrity, which in turn leads to fears of loss of identity and the sense of a disintegrating community and generates strong resistance towards other value systems, such as other religions.
In fact globalization is provoking its opposite: a re-tribalization of much of the world. Faced with moral chaos through the overthrow of age-old customs and values by globalization, people are falling back on their primal tribal identities. Or to borrow Tom Friedman’s metaphor, people are rejecting the Lexus for the Olive Tree. Ethnic street gangs, usually linked to the drug trade, are the new tribes of urban America’s economic and spiritual wastelands. God Himself, Ralph Peters writes, is being re-tribalized. “Far from monolithic, both the Muslim and Christian faiths are splintering, with radical strains emerging that reject the globalization of God and insist that His love is narrow, specific, and highly conditional.” This is not a recipe for peaceful coexistence.

Political scientist Pazit Ben-Nun Bloom, Hebrew University

Ethno-religious conflicts are prime examples of a central paradox of human nature: the connection between violence and sociality. Human nature is tribal and people divide the world into “us” and “them”; and while the boundaries of what constitutes “us” and “them” changes over time, “them” are by definition the enemy who must be defeated and annihilated. Sociability, kindness, and empathy are reserved exclusively for those who are within the group. Those outside the group are treated as less than human. These traits have deep roots in our evolutionary past; we share them with our closest relatives, the chimps. Conflict and violence between groups (such as rival bands of chimps, Jacksonian America and the Indians, or Israel and the Palestinians) actually fosters social cooperation, altruism, and even self-sacrifice within the group or tribe. Those groups that are more cohesive and organized are in a better position to defend their existence and triumph over less cohesive enemies. Along these lines, the late Judge Robert Bork observed, “Real human beings do not have any unfulfilled capacity for love, or at least not a large one; they simply do not regard men as infinitely precious, whatever the homilist may say on Sunday; and they lack the boundless energy and selflessness required to will themselves to brotherhood.” This is especially true for those outside one’s tribe. These tribal imperatives continue to drive much of human behavior in the globalizing world of the twenty-first century, making it more difficult for communities divided by blood and faith to coexist in peace.

We should also note the sexual and demographic dimension in ethno-religious violence. It’s no coincidence that Islamist terrorists from Al Qaeda to Hamas are drawn to martyrdom by the promise of 72 virgins awaiting them in Allah’s paradise. The Arab Muslim world has a serious demographic problem: a surplus of young men with little prospect of productive employment or marriage.

Abstract principles of justice and morality, the fruit, as Amos Oz says, of the union between the Judeo-Christian tradition and Western liberal humanism, are the hallmark of a civilized society. They are the building blocks for the rule of law, democracy, and the culture of liberty, and should always be fostered in the life of a nation, which for 65 years Israel has strived to do. In the fullness of time the Palestinians and the Arab Muslim world may come to share these values with Israel. But despite a century of Wilsonian idealism, these principles have little or no place in the Hobbesian world of international relations. For a nation surrounded by immemorial tribal enemies waiting to devour it, the only morality is survival. In the existential war of blood and faith in which Israel is engaged, there is no substitute for victory.

See also: The Middle East’s Tribal DNA. By Philip Carl Salzman. NJBR, November 5, 2013.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Breakup of the Kingdom of David: Biblical Geopolitics and the Limits of Statism (incomplete draft 1)

By Michael Kaplan

Limestone relief of Pharaoh Shoshenq I (biblical Shishak), Temple of Amun at Karnak, Egypt, listing cities conquered in his invasion of Israel.  Digital Karnak, UCLA.

—1 Kings 14: 25-28. New Revised Standard Version

Israel’s King Solomon, whose wealth and wisdom have become the stuff of legend (and in the judgment of some scholars greatly exaggerated), died in 922 BC after a reign according to the Bible of nearly forty years. The king’s death was a moment of grave crisis for the Israelite monarchy created by Solomon’s father King David some 80 years earlier. Through war, diplomacy, treachery, and occasional cruelty, David had succeeded in forging a disparate group of loosely confederated highland tribes, clans, independent villages and Canaanite city-states, under constant threat from their richer and more powerful Philistine neighbors, into a new bureaucratic dynastic state: Israel. David’s Israel, with its new royal capital Jerusalem, was the first independent territorial state under local leadership ever to emerge in the land then called Canaan, later to be called Eretz Yisrael or Palestine.

David, in the judgment of his most recent biographer, “was a successful monarch, but he was a vile human being.” He is the pivotal figure of the Bible and the central political figure in Jewish history: the founding father of the Israelite nation who established Jerusalem as the focus of Jewish, and later Christian, religious faith, achievements which reverberate to the present day. The historical David was a masterful political leader and military strategist. He was also a cunning Near Eastern warlord and despot in the mold of Saddam Hussein and Hafez al-Assad, who was transformed over the course of several centuries into the ideal king of the Judeo-Christian tradition, “a man after God’s own heart,” and the prototype of the Messiah. This process began during Solomon’s reign with the writing of an apology for David’s life and actions, a masterpiece of literature and propaganda later incorporated into the biblical books of Samuel. The Israel reborn in 1948 was the deliberate re-creation of David’s Israel in modern guise. As Joel Baden writes, the founders of the Zionist state “chose the name of David’s unified nation, linking the emergence of Israel in the twentieth century CE with the emergence of Israel in the tenth century BCE. . . . Geographically, politically, and ideologically, the Israel we know today is the embodiment of David’s legacy.”

The idealized David by Michelangelo. Wikipedia.

In 961 BC as David lay dying, his favorite wife Bathsheba, in league with her one time adversary the Prophet Nathan, engineered a palace coup that brought her son Solomon to the throne. Solomon built on David’s achievements, using diplomacy and dynastic marriages with princesses from neighboring states, to create a network of trade and commerce that enriched his kingdom. Yet Solomon’s autocratic rule, his imposition of high taxes and forced labor to support his public works program and opulent royal lifestyle, his favoritism toward his own southern tribe of Judah at the expense of the northern Israelite tribes, led to growing popular resentment. When Solomon’s son and successor Rehoboam went to the northern Israelite cultic center at Shechem (modern Nablus) to be anointed king by an assembly of northern elders, he arrogantly refused their demands that he lighten the state’s burden of taxation and conscription. Rejecting the counsel of his father’s advisors who urged him to compromise with the elders, and goaded on by his hotheaded young retainers, the king told the assembly, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” (1 Kings 12:14). This was not what the elders hoped to hear. Seeing that they could expect no redress from the king the northern Israelites raised the banner of rebellion:
What share do we have in David?
   We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse.
To your tents, O Israel!
   Look now to your own house, O David.
When King Rehoboam, in a further display of royal arrogance and stupidity, sent Adoniram ben Abda, his minister of forced labor, to whip the rebels into submission, they stoned the hapless official to death. The king barely escaped with his own life by jumping into his chariot and fleeing back to Jerusalem. The northern assembly then chose Jeroboam ben Nebat, a former Solomonic administrator who had launched an unsuccessful rebellion against the old king, as king of a separate northern kingdom which took the name Israel. Rehoboam was left to rule the rump southern kingdom of Judah. The unified Israelite monarchy was never restored.

Khirbet Qeiyafa, a Judahite fortress in the Elah Valley, where the Bible says David slew Goliath. Excavations by Yosef Garfinkel unearthed a multichambered gate and artifacts dating to David’s time in the early 10th Century BC.  Greg Girard/National Geographic.

The breakup of the Israelite kingdom is an object lesson on the excesses of statism (while keeping in mind that 10th-century BC statism was quite different from and far less advanced than its 21st-century AD counterpart). American patriots in 1776 saw in Rehoboam’s abuse of the northern Israelites a paradigm of their own mistreatment at the hands of King George III, while the Israelite rebellion against the Davidic monarchy provided sacred legitimation for the American Revolution. The northern Israelite tribes valued their traditional autonomy and freedom from the burdens of intrusive and overbearing royal government. The richer and more culturally sophisticated northerners also resented having to bend the knee to a dynasty of jumped-up southern hillbillies. David and Solomon may have forcibly unified the tribes and subjected them to the royal establishment in Jerusalem, but they were never able to heal the social and political fissures in the kingdom. Indeed David’s, and especially Solomon’s, policies only widened those fissures by making the northern tribes bear the financial and human burdens of a monarchy that ignored their interests while devoting itself to the power and prosperity of Judah and Jerusalem. Hebrew University archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel concludes from recent excavations that the development of a centralized state was a century more advanced in Judah than among the northern Israelites (a conclusion disputed by other archaeologists). So when pushed to the brink by Rehoboam, the northern Israelites pushed back.

Solomon’s glory through Victorian eyes. The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon, by Sir Edward John Poynter, 1890. Wikimedia.

Israel first emerged as a people over three thousand years ago in the land then known as Canaan, later to be called Israel, Judah, and Palestine. It is the central article of the Jewish faith that God made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, promising the land to their descendants, the Children of Israel (benei-yisra’el), who would be as numerous as the stars, with the Bible as the record of Israel’s birthright.

The first reference to Israel outside the Bible – the first anywhere in fact, as it pre-dates the oldest written portions of the Bible by at least 200 years – was in a hieroglyphic inscription on the stele of Egypt’s Pharaoh Merneptah in 1207 BC. Israel is depicted in the stele as a socioethnic entity (a “people” rather than a city-state or territory) living in the central hill country of Canaan, the region now called Samaria. Ironically, the pharaoh claimed to have been the agent of Israel’s destruction: “Israel is laid waste, his seed is not.” Like many later would-be destroyers of Israel, Merneptah, whose father Rameses II was the most likely pharaoh of the Exodus, spoke too soon. (Percy Bysshe Shelly had some choice things to say about Rameses II and the hubris of kings in his poem “Ozymandias.”)

The Merneptah Stele

Civil strife and discord at home often leaves a nation vulnerable to threats from abroad. So it was with the now rival kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Pharaoh Shoshenq I (935-914 BC, the biblical Shishak) the Libyan warlord and usurper who established Egypt’s XXII Dynasty, tried to weaken Solomon’s grip on power by giving refuge to Jeroboam after his failed rebellion.

The Kingdom of Judah, ruled by the descendants of King David, along with the First Temple in Jerusalem, was destroyed by the Babylonians (modern Iraq) in 586 BC, and much of the population sent into exile. Fifty years later a restored Judahite commonwealth was established as a province of the Persian Empire and a Second Temple was built in Jerusalem. From this time forward a diaspora of Jewish communities were established throughout first the Persian, and later the Hellenistic and Roman empires. An independent Judaea under the Hasmonean Dynasty (which is celebrated at Hanukkah) would have a stormy existence for 80 years until falling under Roman rule in 63 BC. In the wake of violent and unsuccessful revolts against Rome in the first and second centuries AD, the Second Temple was destroyed (70 AD), and in 135 AD the Roman Emperor Hadrian changed Judaea’s name to Palestine in honor of Israel’s ancient enemies the Philistines. Palestine remained a province of Rome, which became a Christian empire in the fourth century, until its conquest by the armies of the Caliph Omar in 638 transformed it into an Arab Muslim land.

Meanwhile, the center of Jewish life would shift to the diaspora.

Friday, July 3, 2015