Archive for the ‘Hebrew’ Category

Yoav Litvin on How Jews Must Fight Against Anti-Semitism and Zionism

February 11, 2017

Yoav Litvin, one of the long time contributors to Counterpunch, has written an excellent article, ‘To Oppose Trump, Jews Must Join the Fight Against Fascism and Zionism’. Litvin notes the rise in anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic incidents under Trump, and the presence of anti-Semites and Nazis like Steve Bannon and Richard Spencer amongst Trump’s supporters and his cabinet. He also shows how, despite this, Israel is doing little or nothing to criticise Trump, because Trump is a very vocal supporter of Israel.

He notes the similarity between the White racism of Trump and his Fascist supporters in the Alt-Right, and the ethno-nationalism behind Zionism. He also comments on the way Zionists and the Israel lobby, particularly Alan Dershowitz, have particularly smeared as anti-Semites liberal Jews, with traditional cosmopolitan values who oppose Zionism as another form of racism. As for Trump, he and his allies hide behind the specious argument that because they have Jewish friends, they can’t be anti-Semites. Mr Litvin writes

One would logically expect the American Jewish community to unite around vocal opposition and resistance as a response to the new Republican administration’s fascist tendencies and ties to White nationalists and neo-Nazis. Though some rabbis have come out in protest over Trump’s Muslim travel ban, the American Jewish community’s response to the new administration has been weak and split, with one main reason – Israel. Trump and his gang have capitalized on the inherent contradiction between liberal cosmopolitan Jewish values and an ethical emphasis on human rights, and the unjust nationalist policies of Israel towards indigenous Palestinians.

This contradiction was highlighted in a recent debate between Rabbi Matt Rosenberg and Richard Spencer, in which the latter justified the creation of a white “ethno-state” by using the example of the exclusionary Zionist ideology and practices of the state of Israel. The rabbi was left speechless. Accordingly, the term “white Zionism” has been used to describe “alt-right” ideology.

In line with widespread support for Trump in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu has been very favorable, even jovial at the prospects of the new Republican administration. With Donald Trump as their champion, the Tea Party represents tribal, misogynist and nationalistic attitudes that are championed by Jewish right-wing Zionists like Netanyahu. In fact, the very idea for the “alt-right” Breitbart news website was conceived in Israel and it has faithfully served as an outlet for the Tea Party, anti-Semitic and Zionist agendas. On a personal level, Trump and Netanyahu are mirror images of each other in their corruption, extravagance and talent in manipulating the press.

But this is nothing new. Zionists and anti-Semites have historically shared mutual interests. While anti-Semites have wanted to get rid of Jews, Zionists have concentrated their efforts on attracting them to Israel’s shores, i.e. Judaizing Israel as a means to fight the “demographic threat” posed by native Palestinians.

Litvin states that there are positive aspects to Israel and Zionism. The country has served as a model for nation-building, revived Hebrew as a living language and created a new, confident Jewish people, who fight for their rights, work the land and have pride in themselves. But these achievements are offset by the terrible suffering and persecution inflicted on indigenous Palestinians:

However, as with all settler-colonialist and exclusivist projects, the indigenous population has paid the price. As a result of political Zionism and Israeli policies, Palestinians have undergone a process of ethnic cleansing and genocide to make room for non-native Jewish settlers.

As the blooming relationship between the Trump administration and Israeli politicians and apologists shows, the ethno-centric character of Israel shares many attributes with- and has been a source of inspiration for- American White nationalism, now embodied in Trump’s administration.

In order to effectively fight this new administration and protect community members against the growing tide of anti-Semitism, American Jews need to recognize these parallels, come to terms with the failure of political Zionism and renounce collaborators such as Alan Dershowitz and David Friedman.

To counter Trump it is essential that American Jews fight against all ethno-centric, exclusivist forces, including fascism, White supremacy and Zionism. The long history of trauma and persecution must guide Jews in a quest to vanquish these forces alike toward a vision of justice, freedom and equality for all.

Read the whole article at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/02/10/to-oppose-trump-jews-must-join-the-fight-against-fascism-and-zionism/

Litvin’s precisely right, and this is the crime for which left-wing Labour members like Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker and Naz Shah were smeared as anti-Semites by the Israel lobby: they did treat Zionism as another form of racism. None of them were anti-Semites. Livingstone in his book Livingstone’s Labour denounced anti-Semitism as another form of racism, along with anti-Black racism and hatred of the Irish. He also specifically discusses in the book the way Nazis responsible for horrific crimes against the Jewish people and humanity generally were recruited by the Allies after the War as part of the global campaign against Communism.

But he was smeared because he dared to make the historically accurate point that the Zionists had collaborated with the Nazis over immigration to Israel. It’s the same point Litvin makes in his article.

And many members of the anti-Zionist movement are Torah-observant Jews and people of Jewish heritage. Jackie Walker’s father was a Russian Jew, her partner’s Jewish, and her daughter goes to a Jewish school. Both she and her parents were and are very active campaigners against racism, including anti-Semitism. But this made no difference. She had placed the Holocaust, as terrible as it was, in context as one genocide amongst the others that have disgraced human history down the aeons, including Black slavery. She also stood up for the rights of the Palestinian people, and discussed how Jewish merchants had also been involved in the slave trade, even though the overall responsibility lay with the Christian empires in which they lived and whose monarchs they served. This was a perfectly reasonable point, which is discussed by Jewish historians.

But the Zionists saw it as a terrible threat to their own interests, and so they smeared her.

I think Litvin’s right in that Israel and Zionist lobby’s silence over the genuine anti-Semites behind Trump should lead to more Jews becoming aware of the racism at the heart of modern Zionism, as well as discrediting Zionism amongst decent Americans generally.

After all, Trump’s friendly relationship with Israel and Netanyahu, despite, or because of the Nazis in his cabinet, blatantly and flagrantly bear out what Walker, Livingstone and the others are saying about Zionism as another form of Fascism.

On Gender, Misogyny and the Word ‘Mouthy’

August 21, 2016

I was astonished to hear today that somebody had called Mike from Vox Political a ‘misogynist’ because he had called someone ‘mouthy’. Mike’s accuser was under the impression that ‘mouthy’ was a term that was only used against women.

Now I’m aware that a staple of misogynistic abuse and jokes down the centuries have been about women’s supposed greater predisposition to talk and gossip. There’s even been some scientific evidence presented for this. Supposedly, women on average talk so many more thousand words per day more than men. On the other, it’s also been claimed that male and female brains are biologically different, and this explains why women are better at language skills, while men have better spatial skills. This has also been challenged by neuroscientists, who’ve said that, except for people at the extreme ends of the scale of gender characteristics, there’s no difference between the brains of men and women. So that fact – that women talk more than men – may be another factoid.

But the term ‘mouthy’ is different. In my experience, it’s most definitely applied to both men as well as women. When I was at school, I can remember other boys being described as ‘mouthy gits’. And there’s the phrase, ‘all mouth and trousers’, which is certainly applied to men, who like the sound of their own voices. Similarly, noisy, ignorant men are described as ‘loudmouths’. And so on.
I also distinctly remember how this got into an RE lesson at school, when they teacher wanted to stop one of the boys from talking during class. She had just been teaching us about the appointment of Aaron as Moses’ spokesman in the events leading up to the Jewish Exodus from Egypt. The Hebrew term for ‘spokesman’ in the Bible literally means ‘Chief Mouth’. One of the lads was continuing to talk over the teacher, so she shouted out his name, and then said, ‘You Chief Mouth’, to the lad’s embarrassment and the hilarity of the rest of the class.

Mike ain’t a misogynist by any means, and neither is ‘mouthy’ a gendered term of abuse.

Twitter Bigot Falsely Accuses Vox Political Writer of Anti-Semitism For Criticising Anti-Semitism Allegations

May 30, 2016

I suppose it had to happen. The grotesque abuse of allegations of anti-Semitism is now so widespread, and so promiscuously used, that even those seeking to defend those accused of it are now themselves being accused. And Mike over at Vox Political has now joined their numbers.

He reports that yesterday, somebody on Twitter calling themselves ‘Porky Scratchings’, using a picture of Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter from the Alice in Wonderland film, accused him of anti-Semitism. Mike was anti-Semitic, according to this idiot, because he rejected the accusations of anti-Semitism against the various members of the Labour party. Porky Scratchings, then departing from most reasonable standards of logic, attempted to support this accusation by arguing that if Jews said someone or something was anti-Semitic, then it was. Mike refuted this by arguing that something was not anti-Semitic, if it was true. He also accused Porky Scratchings of racial supremacism in his turn, as he was trying to argue that Jews had a right to use double standards when it came to defining who was anti-Semitic. Mike also stated that he was ending the conversation.

At that point, Mike’s Twitter account went down, and Mike was then told that somebody had tried to hack in. It had therefore been frozen, and Mike was requested to change his passwords.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/29/wow-did-vox-politicals-writer-just-endure-an-anti-gentile-attack/

So it looks very much like Porky Scratchings, really he wasn’t going to get anywhere with Mike, threw a strop and tried a bit of cyberwarfare.

This is risible and grotesque, as are the accusations of anti-Semitism against the Labour party members. Mike has always been anti-racist, anti-Nazi and very definitely not any kind of anti-Semite. It was Mike, brought me back from a College trip to Berlin a book from a exhibition on the Gestapo, SS, and Reich Security Service Headquarters in the city, which documented their crimes against humanity when I was studying it at Uni.

Terror Topography

On his site, he has put up numerous pieces attacking the Right for racism. In one recent piece, he reminded everyone how the Tory MP, Gulzabeen Afsar, had said that she would not serve under ‘that Jew’, when Ed Miliband was campaign to be PM. Miliband’s Jewish, and Afsar’s comment is clearly anti-Semitic. Mike was outraged not just at the comment, but also at the leniency with Zabar was treated by the Tories. She simply issued an apology, and the Tories then claimed it was all over. Which is precisely what they aren’t doing with the accusations of anti-Semitism in the Labour party.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/26/remember-when-tories-practised-anti-semitism-rather-than-hypocritically-complaining-about-it/

Mike also recently reblogged a piece from Pride’s Purge, about how one of the Nazi grouplets tried to set up a stall in Leicester to persuade people to join the ‘Leave’ campaign on the EU. This group is Britain First, which most definitely is anti-Semitic. One of the drawings the group has produced, which Pride’s Purge did not reproduce, shows a stereotypical kneeling Jew being shot through the forehead from behind. The fact that Mike reblogged this story attacking those nutters should be enough to show that, whatever his views on the anti-Semitism allegations, he isn’t a Nazi or anti-Semite, as Porky Scratchings has alleged.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/26/nazi-sympathiser-working-for-vote-leave-campaign-prides-purge/

The post about Britain First, on which Tom Pride drew for his piece about them trying to attach themselves to Vote Leave, including their vile cartoon, is at the anti-racism, anti-religious extremism website, Hope Not Hate. See http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/insider/something-very-unpleasant-attaches-to-vote-leave-campaign-4891

None of this should really need to be said. There is ample evidence enough on Mike’s own website. But this isn’t about history or attacking real, genuine anti-Semitism. The character of the accused show this. Red Ken has been accused, yet Ken Livingstone’s administration when he was head of the GLC was reviled by the Tory press and media because of its firm stance against all forms of prejudice, including racism. I’ve put up pieces from his book, Livingstone’s Labour, in which Marxist-Leninist Newt Fancier clearly condemns racism, including anti-Semitism, and attacks the post-War US and British authorities for dropping charges and actively recruiting Nazi war criminals in the Cold War campaign against Communism. Jackie Walker, one of the others accused, is of mixed Black and Jewish heritage. Her mother was a Black civil rights activist thrown out of America for campaigning against the oppression of Black Americans. Her father was a Russian Jew, who would therefore have been well acquainted with real, brutal anti-Semitism. She herself actively campaigns against racism, and her partner is also Jewish. As for Naz Shah, she has the support of her local synagogue. The real crime of the above it isn’t anti-Semitism; it’s simply that they dared to criticise Israel for its barbarous oppression of the Palestinians.

This is about the Israel lobby trying to deflect criticism and international outrage against its occupation of the West Bank, its bombardment of Gaza and its seventy year long project of expelling the indigenous Palestinians from their ancestral homes. And those who criticise this policy in America have also been accused of anti-Semitism, even when they manifestly are not. Like former President Jimmy Carter, and the head of Obama’s Jewish Outreach Campaign. This lady was not only Jewish, but she was also a very active part of her community. It didn’t matter. She was still dismissed on a trumped-up charge of anti-Semitism.

Norman Finkelstein, who has done so much to document and raise awareness of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian and other Arab nations, has stated that these accusations are wearing very thin. The accusations of Holocaust denial, or moral complicity in the Holocaust, have been overused to such an extent that he says, ‘We’re all Holocausted out’. And the same is true of the allegations of anti-Semitism. Just how seriously the majority of young American Jews took it can be shown by the fact that when Carter came to debate Alan Dershowitz at Brandeis University, the largest secular Jewish uni in the US of A, Carter got 3 or 4 standing ovations from the students before he even spoke. And when it was Dershowitz’s time to speak, 2/3 of them walked out before he had opened his Neo-Con gob.

So those making the accusations are becoming increasingly isolated and impotent. Hence the shrill accusations and petulant foot-stamping.

Now let’s go through some of the issues raised in Mike’s argument with Porky Scratchings. Firstly, Mike is entirely right that it is not anti-Semitic, or indeed prejudiced generally, to use facts and historical truth. For example, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the notorious forgery produced by the Tsar’s secret police, are anti-Semitic because it’s an enormous lie, produced with the object of provoking hatred. The Protocols purports to be the notes of a secret meeting of Jewish leaders discussing their plans for world domination and the enslavement of Gentiles. No such meeting took place, or has ever taken place. The Protocols were written by the Tsarist Okhrana to drum up support for their persecution of the Jews in Russia.

It was not anti-Semitic to point out that in 1995, the Republican Party in America and Israel’s Likud party jointly produced a plan for the invasion of Iraq, an illegal invasion that was eventually carried out by George Dubya, and which 70 per cent of Jewish Americans under 35 oppose.

It is similarly not anti-Semitic to compare the enslavement of Black Africans, the Holocaust and the Israeli persecution of the Palestinians, as Jackie Walker did. These were all terrible crimes against humanity, which were and are all too real.

Now there’s the matter of the subjective nature of Porky Scratching’s argument about what constitutes anti-Semitism. Porky Scratchings states that it’s only prejudice, if the offended person believes it is. He cites the example of a female victim of sexual harassment. If the woman was offended, then it’s sexual harassment. But this flies in the face of accepted standards of truth and justice. These are notions which depend on objectivity. Just because someone is offended by something, doesn’t mean that it’s a case of prejudice or injustice to mention it.

To give another example, much of the bitter hostility towards Britain in Iran is due to our maltreatment of the country during imperialism, our domination of their oil industry – it was completely owned by us as British-Persian Oil, and our toppling of Mossadeq, the Iranian Prime Minister, in 1957 when he nationalised it. Now the chants of ‘Death to Britain’ by the Mullah’s legions is clearly anti-British. However, it would not be anti-British for a delegate from the Islamic Republic to discuss Britain’s exploitation and abuse of his country and its people if this once again became an issue, such as perhaps an unfair trade deal. Or if he were trying to explain to a Western audience just why the Islamic Republic will not allow westerners to own its industries.

Under Tony Blair, New Labour passed a number of laws further defining and outlawing hate speech. This was criticised by the Conservatives in this country, just as the Republicans attack similar legislation in America, partly on the grounds that it left too much to the perception of the offended party. If somebody believed they had been the victim of a racial slur, they were, even when they weren’t.

One of the victims of such an attitude was a Black White House aid under Obama. He worked for the US Treasury, and was accused of racist abuse by another Black government official because of a remark during a discussion about funding. The budget for some aspect of US state spending was considered too parsimonious by the man’s accuser. The man responded by saying, ‘No, I’m not being too niggardly.’ He was then prosecuted for using a racial slur. But he hadn’t. ‘Niggard’ comes from the Middle English term, nig, which simply means a miser. It has absolutely nothing to do with the ‘N’ word.

Or consider the case of the exasperated Jewish student, who was sued for racial harassment by a group of Black sorority girls at his university. This poor fellow had been revising ready for an exam the following day. Unfortunately, the sorority girls were just outside his window. They were loudly celebrating something, and he couldn’t concentrate. So he lost his patience with them, and shouted out, ‘Shut up, you water buffalo!’ So they sued him for racial abuse. Members of the academic staff solemnly stood up at what was basically his trial, to testify that the water buffalo was an African animal, and so the Jewish guy must have been prejudiced. Water buffalo ain’t. They come from Indonesia. At the time this case was reported in the Financial Times, the maligned student was trying to defend himself by saying that ‘water buffalo’ was his translation of the Hebrew behema, ‘beast’, which has no racial connotation.

So you see how dangerous it is to use definitions of abuse and prejudice, based simply on perception and feeling, rather than actual fact.

Finally, Mike states that Porky Scratching’s double standards on the issue of anti-Semitism – it’s anti-Semitic only if Jews say it is, whatever gentiles believe – shows that Porky Scratchings is himself bigoted against gentiles. In this case, Porky Scratchings has by his behaviour tried undermine something Jews have been trying to dispel as part of their campaign for emancipation and freedom to participate in their country’s national life as fellow citizens. In the 1920s at least some synagogues in Germany dropped one of the lines in the service, as it was feared this gave the impression that Jews believed they were superior to them. They did not wish to give any support whatsoever to anti-Semitic impressions and misperceptions.

Mike isn’t an anti-Semite by any measure. But I think he’s right about Porky Scratchings’ own bigoted views. And it’s a disgrace that Porky Scratchings holds them, after so many people, Jews and Gentiles, have struggled for so long against bigotry and prejudice.

The Language of Ancient Sheba in Yemen

January 14, 2016

Sheba Solomon Islam

Persian painting of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, from the poems of Farid al-Din Attar, 1472.

Yemen is the location of the ancient kingdom of Sheba, whose Queen is mentioned in both the Bible and the Qu’ran as having visited King Solomon. In the Bible, he tested her with hard questions, which some commenters believe were riddles. In Islam, Solomon wished to know whether she and her people worshipped God – Allah – or the sun. The kingdom of Sheba itself was located at Marib. Archaeologists have excavated a pre-Islamic religious sanctuary, the Mahram Bilqis, which is named after her. Bilqis is the name given to her in Muslim legend, though she is not named in the Qu’ran. The sanctuary, mahram, has been associated with her since the rise of Islam in the 7th century AD.

In addition to the remains of its buildings, and great feats of architectural engineering, such as a magnificent dam intended to provide the country with much needed water, archaeologists have also uncovered a number of inscriptions, and have been able to reconstruct this ancient civilisation’s language. It’s
Semitic, and so is related to Hebrew and Arabic, and was part of a family of languages spoken in the five or so different kingdoms that existed in south Arabia before the rise of Islam. As a South Arabian language, it is one of the ancestors of Ge’ez, the ancient literary and religious language of Ethiopia, which was colonised by settlers from that part of Arabia. In Ethiopian legend, Solomon and the Queen of Sheba married, and the Queen later travelled to Ethiopia, where she became the founder of the Abyssinian monarchy, according to their national epic, the Kebra Nagast, or ‘Glory of Kings’.

The linguistic remains have been so complete, that a dictionary of the Sabaic language, by A.F.L. Beeston, W.W. Muller, M.A. Ghul and J.Ryckmans, was published by the University of Sanaa in Yemen in 1982.

Sabaic Dictionary Front

Sabaic Dictionary Arabic

Here’s a short list of some words from that ancient tongue. As a Semitic language, like ancient Hebrew and Arabic, on the consonants were written, so the actual pronunciation is unclear.

Affair, matter, undertaking, ‘kln
Blood, Dm
Body, person, grbt
Camel, ‘bl
Cattle, Bqr
Cultivated field, Dbr
Famine, ‘wfy-n
Father, ancestor, ‘bw
Folk, people, community, ‘hl
Garden, orchard, gnt
To give, to grant, ‘dw
Goats, ‘nz
God, ‘l
Goddess, ‘lht
Grain crops, corn, meal, ‘kl
Grandchild, Hfd
Health, prosperity, Bry
Land, territory,
country, cultivated Ground, ‘rd
Man, male, ‘ns
Mother, ‘mm
Place, occasion, Brt
Sea, coast, plain, Bhr
Servant, serf, ‘bd
Sheep, D’n
Son, daughter, child,
descendant, family member, Bnw
To take, to seize, to capture, ‘hd
Woman, female, wife, ‘nt
World, ‘lm.

My fear is that the war in Syria will lead to the destruction of Yemen’s ancient monuments and its invaluable archaeological remains, either through ordinary military action, or a deliberate act of destruction by ISIS. Daesh have done their best to destroy the ancient pre-Islamic heritage of the other nations they’ve taken over, in part of Iraq and Syria, as well as the religious shrines, monuments and mosques of Muslims they judge to be of the ‘wrong’ faith, like the Shi’a and ordinary, moderate Muslims. Quite apart from the horrors and death inflicted on the Yemeni people themselves in this conflict. Remember, the civilian casualties in the Saudi drone strikes, aided by America, are 50% +. The Yemeni people have a brilliant, fascinating past, and like its people, it needs to be protected.

Dan Cruikshank on ISIS’ Attack on Ancient Monuments

June 24, 2015

Next Tuesday the Beeb is showing a programme by Dan Cruikshank on the threat posed to the great antiquities and priceless monuments of Middle East by ISIS. It’s entitled Dan Cruikshank’s Civilisation under Attack. The blurbs for it in the Radio Times state

Islamic State have declared war on some of the planet’s most important architectural sites, with jihadi fighters seemingly set on destroying the wonders of the ancient world. Dan Cruikshank charts the likely course of the militant group’s advance, investigating why it is happening. (p. 86)

and

Watching the videos here of Islamic State fighters taking sledgehammers and drills to Assyrian reliefs in Nimrud – then blowing up the whole site – is hard. Similar attacks in Mosul, Nineveh and Hatra have brought global condemnation, and now the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra lies under IS control.

Dan Cruikshank talks to Islamic scholars about the claimed rationale behind the IS actions and what, if anything, can be done to challenge it. ‘Are we prepared to use armed force to protect the cultural heritage of all humanity?’ demands one expert. But it turns out to be not nearly that simple, in a programme that can offer few answers. (p. 83.)

The programme’s on BBC 4 at 9.00 pm, if you can bear to watch the footage of this gratuitous vandalism.

Cruikshank is an architectural historian with a deep appreciation of the glories of the world’s architectural heritage, not just that of Britain. A few years ago he presented a series, in which he toured the globe’s great buildings and monuments, including those of Iraq and Afghanistan. These included either Babylon or Nineveh, where he was horrified to find how botched and tawdry the ‘restoration’ performed by Saddam Hussein had been. The monument had been partly restored using modern brick stamped with the late dictator’s own name. I’ve got a feeling this was slightly before the West’s invasion of Iraq, as he stated his own, real fears about the threat a war in the country posed to the survival of these precious antiquities. He also talked to one of the leaders of the Christian community in Iraq about the deterioration in relationships between them and their Muslim compatriots. The interview was quite strained, with ominous pauses where the bishop appeared to be thinking very carefully indeed about how to explain his people’s embattled situation. He explained that relations between Christians and Muslims had previously been quite harmonious. Tensions had increased, with members of the Christian church physically assaulted, with the threat of invasion from the West.

Alas, Cruikshank’s fears have been borne out. Christian communities throughout Iraq and the Middle East have been attacked and expelled by ISIS as part of their radical Islamisation of the territories they capture. And it’s not just been Christians that have suffered. They’ve also attacked, brutalised and enslaved the Yezidis, and have killed Muslims, whose religious views differ from and are opposed to their own. I’ve blogged before about how many Islamic clergy have been murdered and mosques demolished by ISIS, simply because they dared to have a different conception of Islam.

And in addition to destroying churches, and ancient Assyrian monuments, they’ve also destroyed historic Islamic shrines, again because they are ‘un-Islamic’, according to their twisted ideology.

All this is a deliberate attack on an ancient heritage that belongs to the world and specifically to the peoples of the countries ISIS have conquered and brutalised. These monuments are a threat, as they show just how ancient the history and culture of these peoples are. Archaeologists and historians of the ancient Near East, such as Georges Roux in his Ancient Iraq have noted, for example, that the style of housing used by the ancient Babylonians is very much the same as that traditionally used in Iraq. The forensic scientist and Egyptologist, Dr Jo-Anne Fletcher, made the same point about the type of houses built and used by modern Egyptians. This is also very similar to those built by their ancient predecessors thousands of years previously.

In language, too, there is considerable similarity and some remarkable survivals from the ancient cultures. Akkadian, the language of the Assyrian Empire, was, like Arabic and Hebrew, a Semitic language. And there are still words in modern Arabic, which are clearly derived from, if not exactly the same, as those uttered by the Assyrians. Certain customs and cultural practices have also survived down the centuries from the ancient past. In the programme about Palmyra, Cruikshank pointed to a relief, which showed a group of veiled women riding camels or mules. This, he pointed out, showed how ancient the veiling of women was in the Middle East. It certainly does. Respectable married women were required by law in ancient Assyria to veil themselves in public.

ISIS’ destruction of these monuments is a deliberate attempt to erase the history and cultural identity of Iraq and Syria. It’s the same totalitarian strategy pursued by Hitler and Stalin, in their brutal campaigns to remodel Nazi Germany and the Communist Soviet Union, so that no trace of their former cultures could survive to challenge the regime. And the cultural vandalism didn’t stop there, but was also imposed on the nations they conquered. Hitler, for example, had the Paris metro destroyed, as he had claimed that Berlin was the only city in the world that had such an underground railway system. This was clearly belied by the existence of the French system, and so it had to be destroyed. And as Orwell stated in 1984, that classic SF dystopia, if you want to control the future, you have to control the past. Hence the Ministry of Truth, which existed to rewrite history in order to satisfy the ideological and propaganda needs of Big Brother’s tyranny.

Orwell based his book on Stalin’s Russia. Since then, Communism has fallen, although Putin seems determined to revive some of Stalin’s reputation and his brutal methods. And ISIS have now succeeded the Nazi and Stalinist regimes as destroyers of culture and history in the pursuit of totalitarian power.

They haven’t always been able to get their own way, however. There has been the odd case where the local people have protested so strongly against their attempts to destroy one of their country’s monuments, that ISIS have been forced to retreat. One of these cases was when the locals gathered round to protect an historic minaret.

Their actions stand in stark contrast to far more enlightened approach of the early caliphs. What made medieval Islam such a powerful cultural and scientific force in global society, was its willingness to seek out, absorb, and assimilate the learning of the peoples they had conquered. This was then synthesized and built on, with the result that Muslim scholars made astonishing advances in astronomy, medicine, physics, mathematics, philosophy, chemistry, historiography – the philosophy of history – and even in areas ISIS utterly detest, such as musical theory.

ISIS, by contrast, are destroyers, and their deliberate and calculated attack on these ancient monuments has left the culture of the world and the Muslim and Arab peoples themselves badly impoverished.

Commemorating Christian Martyrdom: The Armenian Genocide

April 24, 2015

Armenian Gospels

Armenian Gospel Book from the Monastery of Gladjor, c. 1321

Today is the centenary of the beginning of the Armenian Genocide. This was a series of massacres carried out by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenian people. The Armenians had risen up, like the other, majority Christians subject nations in the Balkans across the Black Sea to gain their freedom from the decaying Turkish empire. To counter this, the last Turkish sultan, Talat Pasha issued a firman ordering that the Armenians should be rounded up and slaughtered. 1.5 million Armenians, men, women and children were butchered.

The Pope caused controversy earlier this week when he marked the massacres, calling it the first genocide of the 20th century. I’m not sure if this is quite true, as I think about ten years or so previously the German colonial authorities in East Africa had also organised a genocide of the indigenous Herrero people. The occasion has a wider, European significance than just its attempt to exterminate the Armenians. Hitler noted the way the other European powers remained silent and did not act to stop it. This convinced him that they also wouldn’t act to save the Jews when the Nazi state began to persecute and murder them in turn. As he said ‘Who remembers the Armenians?’

Denial of Genocide by Turkish Authorities

Unfortunately, the genocide is still controversial. Robert Fisk in his article in Monday’s Independent discussed the Turkish government’s refusal to recognise the massacres as a genocide. Pope Francis’ comments sparked outrage amongst the Turkish authorities, and the Vatican’s ambassador to Turkey was summoned to meet the prime minister. Fisk himself recalled the abuse he had received from Turks outraged by his discussion of the genocide. He stated he began receiving mail about the issue when he personally dug the bones of some of the Armenians out of the sands of the Syrian desert in 1992. He stated that some of the letters were supportive. Most were, in his words, ‘little short of pernicious’.

In Turkey any discussion or depiction of the Armenian genocide as genocide was brutally suppressed. A few years ago, the Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink, was killed for writing about them. Liberal Turks, who wish their nation face up to this dark episode of their history, have been imprisoned. The great Turkish writer, Orhan Pamuk, was sent to jail a few years ago. His writing on the genocide was judged to be ‘insulting to Turkish nationhood’, a criminal offence.

Fatih Arkin, Turkish Director, on Movie about Genocide

Dink’s assassination has, however, acted to promote a greater discussion and awareness of the genocide, and a large number of both Armenians and Turks are now pressing for the Turkish government to recognise it as such. Indeed, the Turkish-German film director, Fatih Arkin, made a film about the genocide, The Cut which premiered in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, in January.

In the interview below, Mr Arkin talks about he was moved to make the film following Dink’s assassination, and the number of Turks, who also join with the Armenians in demanding their government officially recognise the atrocity. Among those is the grandson of one of the leading perpetrators. What is interesting is that the film received a wide release in Turkey with no opposition or move to ban it.

Fisk on Turks Who Saved Armenians

This seems to show a new openness amongst the Turkish people as a whole about the genocide. And Fisk in his article notes that there many courageous and humane Turks, who refused to comply with Sultan’s orders, and saved Armenians. He stated in his article that these included at least one provincial governor, as well as lesser Turkish soldiers and policemen. Fisk felt that the Armenians should compile a list of these heroes, not least because it would make it harder for politicians like Erdogan, the country’s prime minister, not to sign a book of condolences, which included their names.

And these men were courageous: they risked their lives to save others from the carnage. There is absolutely no reason why they should not also be commemorated. In Judaism, I understand that righteous gentiles, who save Jews from persecution, are commemorated and believed to have a part in the olam ha-ba, the world to come. There is a section of the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem, which displays the names of such righteous gentiles, who saved Jews during the Third Reich.

Syriac Evangelistary

The Miracle at the Pool of Bethesda, from a Syriac Evangelistary

Massacre of Syriac Christians as Part of Wider Pattern of Massacres

The massacre of the Empire’s Christian minorities was not confined to the Armenians, although they are the best known victims. Other Christian peoples, including the Syriac-speaking churches in what is now Iraq and Syria, were also attacked and massacred, in what has become known as ‘the Day of the Sword’. The massacres also spread into Iran, where the Christian communities there also suffered massacres. They too deserve commemoration.

Peaceful Relations between Christians and Muslims Normal in Ottoman Empire

Historians of the Turkish Empire have pointed out that the Armenian genocide, and similar massacres committed by the Ottoman forces in the Balkans during the nationalist wars of the 19th century, were largely the exception. For most of the time Christian and Muslim lived peacefully side by side. Quite often Muslims and Christians shared the same cemeteries. And in one part of Bosnia, at least, the local Roman Catholic church stood bang right next to the local mosque. There were even a small group of worshippers, who seem not to have differentiated between Christianity and Islam.

There’s a story that one orthodox priest, while officiating mass at his church, noticed a group of people at the back wearing Muslim dress. He went and asked them why they were attending a Christian church, if they were Muslims. The people replied that they didn’t really make much difference between the two faiths. On Friday, they prayed at the mosque, and on Sunday they went to church.

Historical Bias and Nationalist Violence by Christians in 19th century Balkans

Historians of the Balkans have also pointed out the dangers of religious bias when discussing the various nationalist wars in the 19th century. In the 1870s the Ottoman Turks committed a series of atrocities suppressing a nationalist uprising in Bulgaria. This outraged public opinion in England, and provoked the Liberal prime minister, Gladstone, to demand that the Turks be ‘thrown out of Europe, bag and baggage’. Other British and American observers noted that atrocities were hardly one sided. Christians also committed them, but these were ignored by the West. One author of a book on the Balkans I read back in the 1990s argued that the various atrocities committed in this period were caused not so much by religious differences, but from nationalism, and so were no different from other atrocities committed by other countries across the world, and in western Europe today as part of ethnic and nationalist conflicts, such as Northern Ireland.

British Empire and Atrocities in Kenya

Other decaying empires have also committed horrific atrocities, and attempted to cover them up. It was only after a very long legal campaign, for example, that the British government admitted the existence and complicity in the regimes of mass murder, torture, mutilation and internment in Kenya to suppress the Mao Mao rebellion. See the book, Africa’s Secret Gulags, for a complete history of this.

ISIS and the Massacre of Christians

The commemoration of the genocide of the Armenians, and by extension the other Christian subject peoples of the Ottoman and Persian Empires at the time, has become pressing relevant because the persecution today of Christians in the region by the resurgent Islamist movements, like ISIS, and Boko Haram in Nigeria. Yet these groups differ in their attitude to the massacre of non-Muslim civilians from that of the Turkish government. The official Turkish attitude has been silence and an attempt to suppress or rebut the genocide’s existence. This points to an attitude of shame towards them. ISIS, which last Monday murdered 30 Ethiopian Coptic Christians, shows absolutely no shame whatsoever. Far from it: they actually boast about their murder and enslavement of innocent civilians.

Conversion of Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians by Force, and Murder of Civilians Contrary to Muslim Law

I was taught at College that their actions contravene sharia law. Islamic law also has a set of regulations for the conduct of warfare, which rule out the conversion of the ‘Peoples of the Book’ – Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians – by force. Nor may women, children and non-combatants be harmed. And this has been invoked by the ulema in the past to protect Christian and other minorities in the Ottoman Empire. In the 17th century one of the Turkish sultans decided he was going to use military force to make the Christians in the Balkans convert to Islam. He sought approval for his course of action from the majlis, the governing assembly of leading Muslim clerics, who issued legal opinions on questions of Muslim law and practice. They refused, on the grounds that it was un-Islamic. The sultan backed down, and his planned campaigns against his Christian subjects were abandoned.

ISIS Also Butcher Muslims and Yezidis

Nor do ISIS, and similar Islamist movements limit themselves to attacking Christians. We’ve also seen them butcher and enslave the Yezidis, as well as other Muslims, simply for being the ‘wrong’ type of Muslim. For ISIS, they, and only they, represent true Islam. The rest are part of the ‘juhailiyya’, the world of darkness and ignorance, who must be fought and conquered.

Need to Commemorate All Victims of Atrocities

The Armenian genocide and its victims should rightly be remembered, as should so many other holocausts since then. Not only is this owed to the victims and history itself, but also to stop similar massacres occurring. And we need to remember that the capacity for such evil is not confined to particular nations, but can be found throughout history and humanity.

Israeli Advert for Friendly Relationships with Iran on the Net

April 11, 2015

I’ve put up a number of posts over the past few weeks reporting the Israeli’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and his supporters in the Republican party in America have been trying to drive America to war against Iran. They have tried to undermine and discredit Obama’s peace deal with the Iranians limiting their nuclear programme. Before then, back in 2012, Netanyahu lied to the UN about supposed Iranian readiness to develop nukes. Even Mossad, the Israeli internal security service, the Shin Bet and his own generals denied that the Iranians had the nuclear capability he claimed.

Needless to say, Netanyahu and his warmongering doesn’t speak for all Israelis, just as the Repugs don’t speak for every American. I thought I’d post the video below to show the other side of the situation, that there were Israelis who also want peace and friendly relations with the people of Iran.

It shows a young Israeli guy walking through the streets of an Iranian city, before sitting down at a café and getting out a backgammon set. He is then discovered by an Iranian friend. They greet each other, and then sit down to play a game.

I don’t speak Hebrew, but the blurb for it put up by the poster on Youtube states that it roughly reads that ‘In reality this is not yet possible. But it happens on the internet all the time’.

Here it is

I first saw it about two decades ago when it was broadcast here in Britain on Tarrant on TV. That was a late night show looking at sleaze and general weirdness on television around the world. It was mostly lurid, tabloid entertainment, but here and there it did include pieces that made a genuine moral point. One of these was this Israeli ad.

The video’s message is exactly right. Apart from ISIS and the preachers of hatred and violence, the Net has also brought nations together in ways that their rulers don’t like and can’t allow. It’s why the Iranian government during the Green Revolution attempted to censor the internet. It’s why countries like Egypt and others in the Gulf are trying to hack into mobile phones, aided with software developed by Western companies like Nokia.

Through the Net, people in widely separated countries, divided by deep historical and religious hatreds, can nevertheless meet each other in peace and friendship. Nation, can indeed, speak peace unto nation.

And it’s got a rocking soundtrack by the tartan terror himself, Rod Stewrt.

The Greek Texts as God’s Word: A Reply to ‘Submit’

July 11, 2013

I had this comment posted by ‘Submit’ to my post Christianity and the Survival of Ancient Learning: Part Two

Are Greek texts pure word of God. Where is Logia of Jesus in Aramaic. Where is Matthew’s Aramaic gospel?

P46 (175CE) is Greek manuscript with the largest percentage of difference on record. This just proved that Church have been changing words since early 2nd century at will.

Here is the words of the early church father, Origen (3rd century CE):
“The differences among the manuscripts have become great, either through the negligence of some copyists or through the perverse audacity of others; they either neglect to check over what they have transcribed, or, in the process of checking, they make additions or deletions as they please.” Origen, early church father in “Commentary on Matthew.”

Regarding the oldest surviving fragment, Colin Roberts compared P52 writings using ONLY 5 samples from the early 2nd century CE back in 1935 and concluded based on those 5 samples; P52 was from the early 2nd century.

(Brent Nongbri’s 2005. The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel)
What I have done is to show that any serious consideration of the window of possible dates for P52 must include dates in the later second and early third centuries. – Brent

Compare with 4th century codexes. You will be surprise how Holy Spirit inside the scribes fail to prevent them from changing words of God ever since the beginning.

‘Submit’s’ Question and Muslim Attitudes to the Gospels

Now it occurs to me that there’s a bit of Muslim polemic in here. ‘Submission’ is the English translation of the Arabic term, Islam, and while it’s possible that ‘Submit’ took his or her name from the ‘Submit’ button on the comments box, it could also be a reference to Islam’s name. One of the tenets of Islam is that it preserves the original teaching of the Jesus and the other Judaeo-Christian prophets, which the Jews and Christians have deliberately altered. Now I have to say that with arguments like those, I suspect there may be a double standard considering the penalties some Muslim societies have placed on the critical examination of Islam’s own sacred texts in the way the Bible has by Western scholars.

Now let’s examine some of ‘Submit’s’ claims and questions.

Where is Logia of Jesus in Aramaic. Where is Matthew’s Aramaic gospel?

They haven’t survived, but there’s no reason to believe that they were deliberately suppressed. The canon of scripture was formed from the books the churches used for preaching, learning about the Lord, and worship. There was no formal process in which Christian scholars deliberately decided which books to include in the canon, and which to exclude. Now the lingua franca of Jews outside Palestine, and indeed of the eastern Mediterranean in general, was koine Greek. The early Christian communities used the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Bible that had been composed for the Jewish community in Alexandria in Egypt. Some scholars have suggested that the division between the Greek and Hebrew communities mentioned in Acts may not refer to ethnic divisions in the early Christian community, but between Greek and Hebrew-speaking Jews. There is still some debate amongst scholars over how far Rabbinic Judaism was hostile to the early Christian communities. Some Jewish scholars have maintained that the Birakat ha-Minim, or 12th Benediction in the Talmud, was not written against Christians. The Birakat ha-Minim condemns ‘Nazarenes’ and other heretics. Earlier scholars have seen it as an attempt by the rabbis to combat the growth of Christianity. As I said, it’s disputed by Jewish scholars, who have argued that Christians were still welcome in the synagogues until the early 2nd century. The church historian Eusebius mentions Jewish Christians, such as the bishop, Hegesippus. Robin Lane Fox in his book, Pagans and Christians, notes that the Jews were largely hostile and unresponsive to Christian mission. Christian preaching to Jews in the synagogues appears to cease with St. Paul. Given that the wider language of the Jewish diaspora was Greek and that after the First century Gentile Christians exceeded Jewish Christians, it appears to me that Matthew’s Aramaic Gospel may not have survived, not because it was deliberately suppressed, but because it wasn’t relevant to the wider Christian community. Its use by Aramaic-speaking Jews would have meant that it would have died out when their community did.

Syriac, the Peshitta, and the Hebrew Gospels

There is also the general point that the Patristic sources, which mention this version of the Matthew’s Gospel simply states that it was written for the Jews ‘in their own language’. This could be Aramaic, or possibly Hebrew. It may also mean that the Gospel was superseded by the Peshitta, the Syriac language version of the Bible used by Assyrian and other Eastern Orthodox churches. Syriac is descended from Aramaic, and developed around the city of Edessa after 200 AD.

Problems of Assuming Bible first Written in Aramaic

Now there is the problem in that ‘Submit’ assumes that the Bible, at least in its earliest stages and elements was composed first in Aramaic, then translated into Greek. But this need not necessarily have been the case. AS I have said, koine Greek was the international language of the eastern Mediterranean. The language of the imperial administration, up to the Muslim conquest in the 7th century AD was also Greek. It is possible that Christ may have known some Greek, and part of his answers when tried by Pilate may also have been in Greek. It’s thus possible that the first logia composed by the Christian community may have been in the Semitic koine Greek used by the Jewish communities there, rather than in Aramaic or Hebrew.

Differences in Gospel Copies due to Scribal Errors, Not Invention

Now let’s deal with his contention that there are major differences in the various copies of the Gospels. In fact what he is describing, and what Origen was trying to correct, are copying errors. Manuscripts were frequently copied through dictation. This allowed a single reader, dictating to a number of scribes at the same time, to produce many copies of the same book, rather than a single scribe laboriously copying out the text for one book after another. The problem with that process, however, is that words that sound the same could be confused. Furthermore, Greek texts from the ancient world can be extremely difficult to read. There’s very little punctuation, and no gaps between words. It’s also true that some scribes may have slightly altered the text to make the passage clearer. Despite this, there are no major differences. About 97 to 99 per cent of the text in all the extant copies of the Greek Bible is the same, and there are no differences when it comes to the fundamentals of the faith.

As for scribes changing the text of the Bible ‘at will’, this also isn’t true. The scribal changes follow the conventions of three different stylist families, resulting from the different scriptoria that produced them. If the scribes were introducing such changes at will, they would be much more random and it would be much more difficult to group them into families.

Conclusion: Gospel Texts Accurate with only Minor Differences

So the early Greek texts were not altered at will, but largely through scribal error, and these differences do not altered the fundamental meaning of the Gospels themselves. They remain largely accurate copies of the original documents.