Posts Tagged ‘Hebrew Bible’

The Rabbinical Condemnation of Gossip and Slander

June 4, 2018

I found this passage on the condemnation of gossip by the rabbinical sages of late antiquity in the book, Knowledge Goes Pop, by Claire Birchall (Oxford: Berg 2006). Birchall is, or was, a senior lecturer at Middlesex University, and the book, subtitled ‘From Conspiracy Theory to Gossip’, is about popular knowledge, such as conspiracy theories and gossip and how it is formed and shapes the way people see the world. The book also examines how valid it is compared with official knowledge, and the question of ‘why does such (mis)information cause so much institutional anxiety?’.

The chapter on gossip contains a discussion of its condemnation in the Bible in both the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and the New Testament, before going on to describe how it was also attacked by the great Jewish sages of the Talmud. The passage reads

Editors of The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Religion explain that the rabbis of classical Judaism in late antiquity warned against gossip in the most heightened terms. For example, the rabbis claimed that slander, talebearing, and evil talk were worse than the three cardinal sins of murder, immorality, and idolatry. Indulging in lashon ha-ra is seen to be akin to denying the existence of God (see the entry for ‘Lashon Ha-ra’ in Zwi Werblowsky and Wigoder 1986). Of note for our discussion later concerning the unstable verity of content transmitted through gossip is that while Judaism distinguishes between slander (lashon ha-ra) which refers specifically to true talebearing, and motsi’shem ra (causing a bad name) which applies to untrue stories, ‘both are totally forbidden by Jewish Law’ (Zwi Werblowsky and Wigoder 1997:648). Here, then, the verity of the gossip is not at issue, but rather the very act of passing potentially damaging information on whether true or false. (Pp. 98-99).

In Mike’s case, and those of the countless other decent people like him, who have been libelled by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Labour Movement, the truth of the accusations made against them is very much the issue. In the case of these decent, anti-racist people, the stories and claims made by Gideon Falter’s outfit and the JLM are very much a case of motsi’shem ra – causing a bad name – as they’re intended to be. They’re intended to smear and provide grounds for the expulsion from the Labour party of critics of Israel and left-wing opponents of the Blairites.

This passage also shows how the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Labour Movement conveniently forgot these moral injunctions when they decided to vilify and malign those of opposing viewpoints. And this includes self-respecting Jews, who have lost relatives in the Holocaust, and/or have been subject to real anti-Semitic abuse and violence themselves.

But this doesn’t alter anything: their tactics of smear and libel are nevertheless condemned in the Talmud, no matter what specious stories they may make, claiming to be defending Jews, or rather, Israel, from anti-Semitism.

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Vox Political: Why Isn’t Britain and other Countries Condemning Israeli Gaza Massacre More Strongly

May 18, 2018

On Wednesday Mike put up a post questioning why Britain and many other countries had not made stronger condemnations of the Gaza massacre by Israeli soldiers. He also attacked the statement issued by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, justifying the shootings by stating that Hamas is a terrorist movement intent on the destruction of Israel that ruthlessly uses unarmed civilians and children, and so put them up to massing at and trying to break through the fence. Mike points out that, whatever the Israeli state has claimed, no Israelis were harmed, while 55 – the number of dead reported at the time – Palestinians had been killed. He also pointed out that this is blaming the victims, exactly what the Nazis did to justify their own persecution and genocide of the Jews.

And other Jews in this country and Israel have similarly been appalled and disgusted at the Israeli’s violence. They include tweeter Tom London, whose avatar is the fizzog of 18th century radical Tom Paine. Haggai Matar, whose first name is that of one of the lesser prophets of the Hebrew Bible, also posted a piccie of 500 Israeli protesters blocking the Tel Aviv road.

Muslims and those of Arab descent have naturally not been silent. Aleesha has expressed her utter disgust, and Mehdi Hasan has stated that the comments on the massacre by various organisations, which don’t condemn the Israeli state, mean that nothing they say on the subject of Israel should ever be taken seriously again.

Alistair Burt, speaking for the government, just made a very anodyne and half-hearted condemnation urging restraint of both sides, stating he was very saddened by the massacre and the use of live fire, but also the use of civilians by terrorists, and that all this was a threat to the peace process and a two state solution.

He was immediately torn into by Tom London, who found this weak condemnation also ‘cowardly, immoral and shameful’.

Rupert Colville, the UN’s spokesman on human rights, declared that the massacre was a violation.

And Linda Sarsour pointed out that South Africa, which has also lived through apartheid, has just broken off diplomatic relations with Israel. South Africa was a strong supporter of Israel under apartheid, something that appalled and disgusted many Israelis, even those who supported their own apartheid against the Palestinians. Will this loss of an erstwhile ally upset the Israelis? Not while they’ve got new, extreme right-wing allies in Europe like the present Polish administration and Fidesz in Hungary.

So why is the British government’s own response so muted? According to Marsha de Cordova, it’s because last year Britain sold the Israelis £216 million of arms, including sniper rifles. And coincidently, many of those murdered in Gaza were killed by snipers. The tweeter radicals put the figure at £445 million, including snipers.

Jeremy Corbyn issued a much more robust, statesmanlike response stating that the massacre came after weeks of Palestinians being killed while demonstrating for their right of return. He mentioned Trump’s movement of the American embassy to Jerusalem as a further emphasis to the threat to peace and the injustices inflicted on the Palestinians. He condemned the weak response by western governments to the massacre, and urged them to take a lead from Israei campaigners for peace and justice. There should be an end to the 11 years siege of Gaza, and the 50 year occupation of Palestinian territories, as well as the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements.

He concluded:

“We cannot turn a blind eye to such wanton disregard for international law. That is why Labour is committed to reviewing UK arms sales to Israel while these violations continue.

“The international community must at last put its collective authority and weight behind achieving a lasting settlement that delivers peace, justice and security for both Israelis and Palestinians, who have waited so long to achieve their rights.”

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/16/why-is-the-uk-and-the-international-community-not-condemning-israel-bitterly-for-the-gaza-massacre/

Corbyn’s speech is excellent, gives due credit and emphasis to Israeli campaigners for peace and justice for the Palestinians, and rightly condemns the ‘merchants of death’. So we can expect it will be seized upon and twisted by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism for alleged Jew hatred. As soon as the Israel lobby finds a way of fending off public outrage against them, of course. Mike’s put up a piece today reporting that the Board of Deputies of British Jews is being torn to shreds by British Jews, who like Tom London, find their statement disgusting. Liberal Judaism is particularly appalled, as is Yachad. Many joined a demonstration held outside Downing Street by Jewdas, while others held a ‘Kaddish for Israel’. The Kaddish is the lament at Jewish funerals, and comes from the passage in the Hebrew Bible ‘The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord’. MPs have also condemned the shooting, and the board’s excuse that 50 of those killed were Hamas terrorists has been dismissed by one blogger as ‘a load of Fascist crap’. It’s another comparison between Israel and the Nazis. But as Mike points out, it isn’t anti-Semitic as it’s accurate.

He ends his article with the rhetorical question that if the side of reason is winning the argument, then

Why is the Duke of Cambridge – Prince William – determined to continue with a planned visit to Israel that will amount to an endorsement of that country’s murder of innocent people?

This issue becomes more complicated by the second.

Which is precisely the point Dr. Basem Naim, the former Gaza Health Minister raised when interviewed by Afshin Rattansi earlier this week.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/17/huge-backlash-against-supporters-of-israeli-government-over-gaza-massacre/

Apart from arms sales, there are also other geopolitical reasons why Britain supports Israel. It’s one of the two pillars of British foreign policy in the reason, the other being Saudi Arabia. They’re supposed to represent islands of stability in the region, and were our allies against the Soviet bloc and its Arab allies.

In fact the various statements that have been made justifying this situation are just so much guff. Israel isn’t the only democratic state in the region – so was Lebanon. And what the Americans and our governments feared was Arab nationalism, which was also considered pro-Soviet. Many of the Arab socialist regimes were pro-Russian, but not Communist. And almost from the moment the Balfour declaration was issued, there were suspicions that this was an attempt to create a pro-British Jewish island in the region, just like Belfast was a pro-British island of Ulster Protestants.

The Conservatives have always had a very close relationship with the arms industry, and I don’t doubt for an instant that many of them have shares in arms companies. The excuse for backing the arms industry is that it will open up these countries to the import of other British products. It doesn’t. They don’t buy other British goods, just our arms.

And earlier this week people compared the British attitude to the Gaza massacre with the Saudis using British arms to kill children and babies in Yemen. Well, once again, the accusation is correct. The Israelis have also been using British weapons to kill the innocent. Especially as one of those who died was a baby after Israeli squaddies threw CS gas into a tent.

Israel is an apartheid state engaged in ethnic cleansing. It is a disgrace, like every other nation with the same policies. We should stop arms sales now, and give every effort to support a secure, just peace between Israel and the Palestinians. And those organisations justifying such massacres and persecutions should be marginalised and destroyed.