Friday, July 23, 2010

The Jews as the Ram in the Thicket: The re-abandonment of the Jewish people

In "The Jews as the Ram in the Thicket," Dexter van Zile makes a compelling case that there is a rise in anti-Semitism and a rise in anti-Israel sentiment and actions in mainline Christian churches. He likens it to the situation before World War II, when so-called "peace" activists (such as America First activists) saw the Jews as responsible for the world's woes, rather than as potential - and actual - victims of the Nazis. He points out a possible reason for resurgent anti-Semitism and writes in conclusion::
6. Part of the problem is that many people in mainline churches have embraced a view of history that portrays Western civilization as the dominant, if not unique source of suffering in the world today. Given this understanding, and the self-hate it engenders, members of these churches feel as if they deserve punishment.

In this sense, the members of mainline churches are like Abraham's son Isaac on the way to Mount Moriah. They see the wood and the fire and have a vague sense that an immolation is going to take place, but hope desperately that they will not be the victim of this sacrifice. They feel on one level that if it weren't for their exquisite moral sense, that they would deserve to be immolated.

And how do they demonstrate and give voice to their exquisite moral sense?

By condemning Israel.

Israel, for these folks, is the ram in the thicket on Mount Moriah. Israel is the entity that they can thrust into the fire of moral judgment.

In sum, what we are witnessing is an intellectual process by which people are preparing themselves to justify the re-abandonment of the Jewish people. If we continue with this process, it will have great consequences for the Jewish people in particular and Western civilization in general.
The theology to which he refers is of course Liberation theology. The resurgence of anti-Semitism due to a liberal rationale in place of the old reactionary ones is a dismal prospect, as mainline churches line up to deliver lopsided condemnations of Israel.

Pro-Israel Methodists

As everyone probably knows, the Methodist Church (UK) recently adopted an extremely anti-Israel program. It is heartening to see that not all Methodists agree. A Methodist Friends of Israel group was formed. At their Web site, they explain who they are:


Who We Are


Methodist Friends of Israel was formed in July 2010.  We are Christians who are members or adherents of the Methodist Church, who love Israel and want to bless her and who fully accept God's everlasting covenant with His chosen people.  While recognising that the nation of Israel is, like all nations of the world, an unrighteous nation that does not always get things right, we firmly stand with her at all times and continue to support her in an increasingly hostile world.  We will not turn our backs as so many did in the 1930s.

We see that anti Semitism is on the rise throughout the world with synagogues and graveyards vandalised and Jews being attacked both verbally and physically and that there appears to be a direct relationship between the increased attacks on Jews and the blanket condemnation of Israel by the media, many charitable organizations and world bodies such as the UN. We are concerned that the whole, true picture of what life is like in Israel is given to the world rather than the biased half truths, distortions and lies that are presently reported.

We are concerned that many churches are going down the politically correct line of condemning Israel's policies and are thus contributing to the strong anti Semitic views of the world. In their support of calls to boycott goods from certain parts of Israel they are actually hurting the very people they say they want to help, as many Palestinians are employed in the growing of, or production of, the goods to be boycotted. If the boycott takes place jobs will be lost, together with income, and increased poverty will be the result.

Within our churches we want to see an understanding of our Jewish roots, which brings a new depth to our understanding of the Scripture, and a return to full teaching on God's relationship with Israel, past, present and future as revealed in Scripture. This includes recognizing that Israel is the land given by God to the Jews and Jerusalem is its only capital.

Our Commitment

We commit to:

  • Praying for Israel, land and people- including praying for safety, justice and fairness for ALL, Jew and Gentile, who live in the land and for wisdom for the members of the Knesset as they make their policies
  • Studying the Scriptures
  • Finding out from many sources the whole picture of what is happening in Israel so that we can pass on the facts to those whose view is based solely on biased media coverage, and so correct mistaken beliefs
  • Blessing Israel however possible including buying goods and produce from Israel and resisting all calls for boycotts
  • Supporting Israel's defence of its people and their right to live without the threat of missile attacks, homicide bombings etc.
  • Standing against libellous attacks against Israel
  • Fully supporting Israel's right to the land given them by God
  • Encouraging the Church to have a real understanding of its Jewish roots

 Ami Isseroff

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Help, Rape!

Gatemouth is a NY blogger who likes to talk a bit dirty now and then. The case of the Arab who had sex with a Jewish girl by telling her he is Jewish has attracted the attention of all and sundry. I can't resist remarking that it reminds me of an old joke.
A lady pays for her groceries with a $10 bill. The clerk says, "Sorry Ma'am. This bill is counterfeit."
The lady screams, "I've been raped."
Ami Isseroff

La Condanna Dona Dona

posted by Gatemouth
This week has brought several expressions of outrage over Israel convicting an Arab citizen of "rape by deception" for lying about his religion in order to bag a Jewish girl.

Did he also promised not to come in her mouth?

He did promise her a "serious relationship, " though, given his 18 month sentence, it appears that he was the one who had that promise visited upon him.

The Guardian reports that Gideon Levy, a liberal Israeli commentator, said "I would like to raise only one question with the judge. What if this guy had been a Jew who pretended to be a Muslim and had sex with a Muslim woman? Would he have been convicted of rape? The answer is: of course not."

No, but her family might have killed her for the dishonor. In their defense, the family might have killed her even if her consort was an Arab.

More progressive Arab countries like Egypt (at peace with Israel) only take away one's citizenship for activities like sex with a Jew if you actually fulfill the promise to marry 'em (at least that's the punishment for men).

Anyway, it is a disturbing story--although the guy's behavior is disturbing too.

Take away the ethnic element, and make it a different lie--say, the guy lied about being a doctor, and I know plenty of supposedly liberal people who would volunteer to castrate him.

Truth be told, I think radical feminist Andrea Dworkin would have sided with the Israelis; of course, she was certifiably nuts.

This case is already being used to vilify Israel for racism, but the charge of "rape by deception" is hardly unprecedented.

There is even an Italian film called "La Condanna" ("The Conviction") about a man tried and convicted trial for "rape by deception" for seducing a woman by convincing her they were locked in a Museum all night, when he had the key all the time. Claire Nebout looked awesome naked, and she seemed to enjoy the experience while it was occurring.

Men (and some women) sometimes have a tendency to obscure the truth in matters of amour, and more so in matter of sex.

I once had a woman hit me because I lied about reading "The Power Broker."

I later read the book and it was worth it, though she wasn't

This law review article details case after case involving such charges. Most where there was a conviction involve far more serious matters of deception, often quite repulsive, but some of them (promises of a career in show biz, rather than a lifetime of Jewish bliss) come close to the Israeli example.

Volokh also provides some cases from different states and nations with more similarity to the instant matter, including one where a man got convicted for seducing a woman by lying about being a neurosurgeon.

The country where that happened was Israel, and the man who was convicted was a Jew.

In Israel, the law is a conviction of rape should be imposed any time a "person does not tell the truth regarding critical matters to a reasonable woman, and as a result of misrepresentation she has sexual relations with him." The operative question is whether an ordinary person would expect such a woman to have sex with a man without the false identity he created.


The Israelis may be guilty of being crazy (or, if you prefer, highly enlightened), rather than being racist.

If only Americans knew: Palestinians in the Arab World: Why the Silence?

Lebanon did apparently vote to grant some rights to Palestinians after this article was written - they can apply for work permits.
But Abu Toameh is right of course.
Ami Isseroff

When was the last time the United Nations Security Council met to condemn an Arab government for its mistreatment of Palestinians?

How come groups and individuals on university campuses in the US and Canada that call themselves "pro-Palestinian" remain silent when Jordan revokes the citizenship of thousands of Palestinians?

The plight of Palestinians living in Arab countries in general, and Lebanon in particular, is one that is often ignored by the mainstream media in West.

How come they turn a blind eye to the fact that Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and many more Arab countries continue to impose severe travel restrictions on Palestinians?

And where do these groups and individuals stand regarding the current debate in Lebanon about whether to grant Palestinians long-denied basic rights, including employment, social security and medical care?

Or have they not heard about this debate at all? Probably not, since the case has failed to draw the attention of most Middle East correspondents and commentators.

A news story on the Palestinians that does not include an anti-Israel angle rarely makes it to the front pages of Western newspapers.

The demolition of an Arab-owned illegal building in Jerusalem is, for most of these correspondents, much more important than the fact that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Lebanon continue to suffer from a series of humiliating restrictions.

Not only are Palestinians living in Lebanon denied the right to own property, but they also do not qualify for health care, and are banned by law from working in a large number of jobs.

Can someone imagine what would be the reaction in the international community if Israel tomorrow passed a law that prohibits its Arab citizens from working as taxi drivers, journalists, physicians, cooks, waiters, engineers and lawyers? Or if the Israeli Ministry of Education issued a directive prohibiting Arab children from enrolling in universities and schools?

But who said that the Lebanese authorities have not done anything to "improve" the situation? In fact, the Palestinians living in that country should be grateful to the Lebanese government.

Until 2005, the law prohibited Palestinians from working in 72 professions. Now the list of jobs has been reduced to 50.

Still, Palestinians are not allowed to work as physicians, journalists, pharmacists or lawyers in Lebanon.

Ironically, it is much easier for a Palestinian to acquire American and Canadian citizenship than a passport of an Arab country. In the past, Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were even entitled to Israeli citizenship if they married an Israeli citizen, or were reunited with their families inside the country.

Lebanese politicians are now debating new legislation that would grant "civil rights" to Palestinians for the first time in 62 years. The new bill includes the right to own property, social security payments and medical care.

Many Lebanese are said to be opposed to the legislation out of fear that it would pave the way for the integration of Palestinians into their society and would constitute a burden to the economy.

The heated debate has prompted parliament to postpone a vote on the bill until next month.

Nadim Khoury, director of Human Rights Watch in Beirut, said, "Lebanon has marginalized Palestinian refugees for too long and the parliament should seize this opportunity to turn the page and end discrimination against Palestinians."

Rami Khouri, a prominent Lebanese journalist, wrote in The Daily Star that "all Arab countries mistreat millions of Arab, Asian and African foreign guest workers, who often are treated little better than chattel or indentured laborers…The mistreatment, abysmal living conditions and limited work, social security and property rights of the Palestinians [in Lebanon] are a lingering moral black mark."

Foreign journalists often justify their failure to report on the suffering of Palestinians in the Arab world by citing "security concerns" and difficulty in obtaining an entry visa into an Arab country.

But these are weak and unacceptable excuses given the fact that most of them could still write about these issues from their safe offices and homes in New York, London and Paris. Isn't that what most of them are anyway doing when they are write about the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip?


Christians take on anti-Israel bias in the PCUSA

This report is all the remarkable for its scrupulous attempt for fairness and objectivity. The PCUSA just doesn't stand up to the test.
Ami Isseroff
Features June 29, 2010

Habits of anti-Judaism
Critiquing a PCUSA report on Israel/Palestine
by Ted A. Smith and Amy-Jill Levine

Old habits die hard. Despite numerous attempts by mainline Protestant denominations to promote historically informed studies of Judaism, repudiate supersessionist theologies and engage in conversations with Jews, the old habit of bearing false witness against Jewish neighbors lives on. In recent years this practice has thrived especially in mainline Protestant statements on the Middle East.

Congregations, denominations and councils have rightly advocated for Palestinians suffering because of Israeli policies. The injustice is real; the situation is urgent. But church statements too often slip from a laudable call for a just peace—a call with which a large and growing number of American Jews would agree—into false and negative depictions of Jews. This slippage contradicts the churches' own theological convictions. It distorts Jewish teaching and history. And it can discourage both Palestinian Christians and their U.S. supporters from building alliances with Jews who share their commitments to peace and human rights.

Members of the churches that issue these statements frequently express sincere desires to avoid anti-Semitism. Supporters of problematic statements are rarely bigots; they are more likely people committed to justice who have also absorbed centuries-old patterns of Christian anti-Judaism. This false witness is more a matter of habit than of hate. It lives on through good intentions.

Good intentions are crucial resources for the work of breaking bad habits. But good intentions can become obstacles to change when they short-circuit serious conversation about the nature, history and impact of actions. Breaking habits requires bringing them to consciousness. And that requires attending to the gap between action and intention.

A report just issued by the Middle East Study Committee (MESC) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) provides an important example of this gap between action and intention—and it presents a real opportunity to begin to learn better habits. The report will be considered this July at the denomination's General Assembly in Minneapolis. The MESC was created at the 2008 General Assembly, which asked the moderator, Bruce Reyes-Chow, to work with his two immediate predecessors in appointing the committee's nine members. The assembly charged the committee with preparing "a comprehensive study, with recommendations, that is focused on Israel/Palestine within the complex context of the Middle East."

The study committee made several moves that demonstrate its desire to avoid some of the most common forms of false witness against Jews. For example, it notes that most Presbyterians reject supersessionist narratives in which "Christians have supplanted Jews" to become "the only legitimate heirs of God's covenant with Abraham." Signaling this rejection of supersessionism, the report speaks of "Older Testament" and "Newer Testament" in its biblical references. Such language is neither necessary nor sufficient for avoiding supersessionism, but it at least suggests a desire to proclaim a gospel that does not begin with God's rejection of Jews.

Yet Christian false witness persists in the report despite its authors' intentions. Habits have that kind of power. Below we name some of these habits and trace the dynamics by which they survive. We write as a Presbyterian and a Jew, as colleagues on a divinity school faculty and as teachers who continue to see the habits of false witness in the work of even our most talented and committed students. We know firsthand how deep-seated the habits can be and how quickly they can outrun our best intentions. We seek not to single out the Presbyterian report, but to illumine patterns that recur in many forms of Christian witness.

Echoes of past interpretations: The report's opening biblical reflections make conspicuous efforts to avoid anti-Jewish exegesis. But the report pays scant critical attention to Christianity's long history of anti-Jewish interpretations, and so echoes of these interpretations linger. Those echoes then become amplified by other sections of the report.

The report's title, "Breaking Down the Walls," echoes the celebration in Ephesians 2:11-22 of God's overcoming of divisions between gentiles and Jews in Jesus Christ. The passage, which speaks of abolishing Torah and the formation of "one new humanity in the place of two," has a long history of supersessionist deployment. There are other ways to read this passage, but the committee does not offer them. The report affirms that Jesus breaks down "the dividing wall of hostility between any two peoples or groups within God's creation." Read in the context of the full report, however, that vague affirmation takes on supersessionist content. The church is asked to consider a historical narrative that points indirectly to a single state—a new social body—in which a Palestinian majority displaces Jews. The report's consistent lament that the time for a two-state solution is rapidly ending solidifies that impression. "Breaking down the walls" in order to form "one new humanity in the place of two" evokes old echoes of theological supersessionism and transposes them into a political key.

Such echoes also linger in the report's treatment of the story of Jacob and Esau. Framing the story as an illustration of general "processes of human reconciliation," the report explicitly refuses to identify Palestinians and Jews with one brother or the other. But it describes Jacob in ways that resonate with anti-Jewish stereotypes. He is "characteristically untrusting and wily." He cannot accept forgiveness. And "in spite of his having seen 'the face of God' and received a new name, he had no experience of 'new being,' of 'new creation.'"

The ambiguity of these associations takes on a more pernicious clarity when this retelling of the story of Jacob and Esau is compared to the report's main historical narrative. The narrative describes the birthright of a peaceful, multicultural Palestine being appropriated by an influx of European Jews. It says that these Jews refused to assimilate, but preferred—like Jacob—to move ahead on their own. It says that Israel—like Jacob—has refused the offer of full reconciliation. While the biblical reflection suggests that Jacob might also be like Palestine, no part of the document suggests how this might be. Jacob/Israel becomes the guilty brother.

Such associations defy the report's stated intentions. The failure to root them out allows them to resound and replay in later arguments.

Ambiguities about covenant: The report's biblical section draws upon at least three different understandings of covenant and land. First, its analysis of the term Zion concludes that the church "fully transferred the locus of God's concrete presence in the world of space and time from the place of Zion—that is, Jerusalem—to the person of Jesus, who had been crucified and raised from the dead just outside Jerusalem." The covenant has been fulfilled, and its fulfillment involves a transcendence of place in the person of Jesus. Covenant no longer concerns land.

Consonant with this view, the report reaffirms a prior PCUSA statement that "the State of Israel is a geopolitical entity and is not to be validated theologically." Thus Israel, having neither special sanction nor special obligations, should be judged by the same standards applied to any other nation.

But a second understanding of the land checks this approach. Appealing to a survey of Presbyterians and a collection of biblical texts that limit Israel's claim to the land, the report states, "Most Presbyterians . . . hold that this promise [of offspring and land] is conditioned by concepts found elsewhere in the first five books of the Bible," such as the idea that the gift of land is conditional upon Israel's "adherence to justice." Here God's covenant with Israel did and does include provision of land. But that covenant also includes special obligations. And so the report insists that "Israeli Jews" must "fulfill their 'land responsibilities'" and their "covenant obligation." Israel is here not just another nation, but a nation held to a special standard. Its claim on the land is not unconditional, like the claims of other peoples upon the places where they live.

A third view of the land further complicates the report's thinking. When it seeks to expand the Abrahamic covenant to include Palestinian Christians, it appeals to Paul's view that in Jesus Christ God's covenant with Abraham expands to include the church. But when the report expands the covenant to Palestinian Muslims, it argues that the covenant extends to all Abraham's descendants. Thus the report offers different views on who is included in the Abrahamic covenant and how people come to be included. But in neither case does it mention special covenantal obligations. Again the report promotes a vision in which conditional Jewish claims to the land are surpassed by and then reformulated within the seemingly unconditional claims of other communities.

All three views draw upon old tropes of Christian anti-Judaism. The first describes the incarnation as a rejection of God's covenant with Israel. The second singles Jews out as a people condemned to wander, a people without "natural" ties to land like other people. The third follows a narrative in which Jews are replaced by others.

The use of any of these tropes would be problematic. The problems increase when the report entangles these different strands of thought, with the only significant consistency supplied by political conclusions that stress unconditional Palestinian (Christian and Muslim) covenantal roles while minimizing and holding to special standards Israeli (Jewish) covenantal roles.

Comparative trauma and false stereotypes: The MESC report rightly refuses to engage in comparisons of suffering. It rejects attempts to compare the systematic murder of 6 million Jews (ha-Shoah) and the forcible displacement of 750,000 Palestinians (al-Nakba). Instead it argues that these two catastrophes should be regarded as parallel but incomparable "psycho-traumas." But the report compromises this sound principle when it compares present-day suffering, calculating that the "ratio of all Israeli to Palestinian deaths [between 2000 and 2008] is 1 to 8.5 and for children it is 1 to 7.4." Thus suffering is incomparable when comparison might speak on behalf of Israel, but quantifiable to a tenth of a life when it benefits Palestinian claims.

The report makes a further unhelpful comparison in tracing the effects of these traumas. It states, "This sense of historical victimization creates for some Israelis a compensatory reflex to choose power and armament; to reject the claims and critique of others; and the adoption of a philosophy that the 'end justifies the means,' even if that means the loss of human rights, life, and the dignity of others." The summary of effects for Palestinians invites comparison: "The inexplicable pain of the Nakba creates for some Palestinians a sense of historical victimization, which creates a compensatory reflex to choose violence; to reject the claims and critique of others; and the adoption of a philosophy that the 'end justifies the means.'"

Israelis have a "sense of victimization"; Palestinians have "inexplicable pain." The Israeli psyche is so damaged that it leads to the "loss of human rights, life, and the dignity of others." The Palestinian psyche appears better preserved. This comparison is neither social psychology nor pastoral counseling. It is at best unfortunate rhetoric—all the more unfortunate because it draws upon stereotypes of Jews as neurotic, legalistic, bellicose and xenophobic. Again the report's rhetorical habits betray its best insights: traumas are wounds to be tended, not arguments to be deployed.

Narratives of replacement: The report's longest section is a sprawling 68-page "Plea for Justice: A Historical Analysis," written by a professor of bioethics and a professor of Old Testament. This study appears alongside a nine-page piece by a Reform rabbi titled "Notes from a Humanistic, Liberal Zionist: A Personal Perspective." The two documents seem intended, despite the disparity in size, to balance one another.

They do not. "Plea," which stresses a Palestinian perspective, was written by members of the MESC, and its arguments appear elsewhere in the report. "Notes" exerts no discernible influence on other parts of the report. Even the titles of the pieces suggest asymmetry: "Plea" makes a much stronger rhetorical claim on readers than some comparatively skimpy "Notes."

The problem here is not simply imbalance. The problem is that neither document is rigorously historical. "Notes" is a collection of personal anecdotes. "Plea," despite its length and footnotes, ignores violence against Jews in the region both before and after 1948 and so can be easily dismissed as partisan.

The lack of critical historiography in "Plea" also allows old narrative habits to structure the material. For example, "Plea" notes that between "the fourth and the seventh centuries C.E., the majority of those who lived in the Roman province of Palestine were Christians . . ." But it ignores the reasons for this shift, including Christian persecution of Jews, an influx of Christian immigrants and an imperially supported program of Christianization. Worse, it argues that "when Jerusalem was captured by the Persians in the seventh century of the Common Era, it was the Christians, not the Jews, who sang a lamentation over the Holy City." Here, Christians replace Jews in lamenting Jerusalem, and this replacement then legitimates Christian claims to the land. The form of supersessionist narrative endures, even as the topic shifts from soteriology to politics.

Presentations of history always involve decisions about what data to present and how to present them. The canons of academic history—canons that "Plea" largely ignores—do not eliminate the necessity of such judgments. But they can check political interests, force reflection on inconvenient truths, create conditions for meaningful disagreement and disrupt too-familiar narrative forms. They can expose bad habits and serve as a tool for their reform.

Mischaracterizing Jews: The report begins with a series of letters to groups the committee believes have a stake in the report. One letter, addressed to "Our American Jewish Friends," laments the difficulty of working with "organizations within the mainstream Jewish community." This difficulty should be the occasion for dialogue, not an excuse for avoiding it. Moreover, the report does not name these "mainstream" groups. The open-ended designation has the effect of suggesting that most Jews do not care about Palestinian suffering.

Nor is it clear that the committee seriously attempted to engage with this Jewish "mainstream." Its schedule of interviews included an associate director of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, but no other representatives of U.S. rabbinic assemblies, let alone the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. The committee did meet with the American Jewish Committee's representative in Israel, but he told the Jewish Week, "They listened to nothing." Also missing is a conversation with Americans for Peace Now (APN), a "mainstream" Jewish organization and a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. APN was established to mobilize support for the Israeli peace movement, Shalom Achshav (Peace Now), and is the most prominent American Jewish Zionist organization working to achieve a comprehensive, just political settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The report silences some Jews by naming them as difficult. It silences other Jews by presuming to speak for them without having spoken to them. The report states that it is "hopeful as organizations like J Street, B'Tselem, Jewish Voice for Peace and others continue to raise the banner that being pro-Israel and being truly Jewish is not tantamount to complicity in the excesses of Israeli policy." However, a J Street spokes person indicated that the committee did not consult her organization. She added that J Street had "serious disagreements" with the recommendations and deep concern that the report "consistently downplays Israel's very real security concerns, appears to shrug off any Palestinian responsibility for resolving the ongoing conflict, and downplays the Israeli narrative throughout."

The thinness of the committee's consultation with Jews is especially striking when the report is compared to another Presbyterian document, "Christians and Jews: People of God." This document followed eight meetings between PCUSA theologians and representatives of the National Council of Synagogues and four additional meetings of Presbyterian ministers and Conservative, Orthodox, Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis.

Erasing Israel: Breaking old habits is hard work. Guidelines can help. But guidelines become fault lines when they slip from being guides for transforming action into standards for justifying action.

A crucial guideline for Christians seeking to break habits of anti-Judaism is to criticize Israeli policies in the same ways they criticize the policies of other states—without calling the very existence of Israel into question. The report follows this guideline in its letter to American Jews: "We want to say to you in no uncertain terms," it insists, "we support the existence of Israel within secure and recognized borders. No 'but,' no 'let's get this out of the way so we can say what we really want to say.'"

Having sworn off qualifications of its support for Israel's existence, the report then offers them: "The phrase 'the right of Israel to exist' is a source of pain for some members of the 2009-2010 Middle East Study Committee, who are in solidarity with Palestinians who feel that the state of Israel has denied them their inalienable human rights."

This frank acknowledgment helps interpret a series of notable silences. While the letter to American Jews affirms Israel as a "home for the Jewish people," language about a "Jewish state" appears in no policy recommendation. Affirmation of Israel as any sort of state is absent from the letters to American Muslims, Palestinians and Christians in the Middle East. The recommendations do not call the General Assembly to reaffirm its commitment to Israel's existence. And the recommendations—despite a promise in the summary of past GA positions—do not call "Palestinians and other Arabs to recognize Israel's existence within secure borders."

At two points the report insinuates the illegitimacy of Israel through connections to Nazi Germany. A committee member quotes an unnamed Israeli activist as saying that Israel "acts as a Nazi state." By quoting an Israeli, the report draws the unfortunate connection even while exculpating itself of having made it.

The report also quotes Martin Niemöller's famous litany: "First, they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a socialist. . . . They came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew." Then it calls for human rights "not just for the Jew, but for every suffering victim in the world today, including the Palestinians." When Palestinians become Jews in the quote, Israel becomes Nazi Germany. It is hard to see how such rhetoric attends to the "psycho-trauma" noted in the social analysis. And it is hard to see how it squares with the strong affirmation of Israel's existence contained in the letter to American Jews.

Critics of Christian statements on Israel/Palestine have too often relied on premillennialist theologies or blanket charges of anti-Semitism that stop conversation before it can begin. The former exempt Israel from criticism because of divine favor; the latter exempt Israel from criticism because of human guilt. We have tried to avoid both gambits. We do not wish to muzzle Christian critics of Israeli policy. We have criticisms of our own. We rather seek to foster conversations that can consider Middle East politics without being overwhelmed by old habits of anti-Judaism.
Ted A. Smith and Amy-Jill Levine teach at Vanderbilt Divinity School.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Muslims debate: Is there sex in Heaven?

MEMRI Special Dispatch|3110| July 21, 2010
Saudi Arabia

Debate Among Saudi Scholars: Are the Dark-Eyed Virgins For Sensual Pleasure?

On June 11, 2010, Dr. Anwar Bin Majid 'Ishqi, head of the Saudi Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies, published an article on the issue of whether the dwellers of Paradise engage in sexual relations. The article was published in Al-Risala, the weekly supplement of the Saudi daily Al-Madina, under the title "Paradise is Above Sex; The Dark Eyed Virgins are Not for Sensual Pleasure." In it, Dr. 'Ishqi explains that he took up the issue of sex in Paradise for two reasons. First, because terrorists make extensive use of it in the recruitment of young people: they incite these impressionable youths to carry out suicide operations by promising them that their reward will be to enjoy sex with the virgins of Paradise. The second reason, he says, is that many religious scholars – including prominent ones – believe that Paradise offers actual sexual pleasures.

'Ishqi rejects this notion as absurd and harmful. He says that it is a source of contempt for Muslims, and also a travesty of Islam, because the sexual pleasures mentioned in the Koran are not meant to be understood as physical pleasures but as spiritual ones. 'Ishqi contends that in Paradise people have no sexual desires, and that their bodies even lack sexual organs, because they have no need for them. 

'Ishqi's article sparked heated responses from several Saudi clerics, who argue that both the Koran and the Hadith provide extensive evidence that the dwellers of Paradise do enjoy physical pleasures, including sex. They concede that these texts are exploited and distorted by extremists, but contend that this abuse does not justify denying the straightforward meaning of the text and misrepresenting it as metaphorical. 

It should be noted that 'Ishqi's article has since been removed from Al-Madina's website and online archive. 

Following are excerpts from 'Ishqi's article, and from three responses.

"Terrorists Exploit Adolescents, Telling Them that If They Carry Out Suicide Operations and Kill and Destroy... the Dark-Eyed Virgins Will Welcome Them in Paradise"

"Two things induce me to write about sex in paradise. First, the fact that the terrorists exploit adolescents, telling them that if they carry out suicide operations and kill and destroy, they will become martyrs, and as soon as they die, the dark-eyed virgins will welcome them in Paradise. Second, I have discovered that a number of religious scholars and prominent intellectuals believe that sex is practiced in Paradise, so much so that one of them [even] wrote a book in which he described this fantasy in great detail. And he said that the 'immortal boys' mentioned in the Koran [Koran 56:17] are intended for [the pleasure of] those people of Paradise who were inclined in this world to sodomy, but who denied and restrained themselves from practicing this perversion. So Allah rewards them in Paradise with these immortal boys. This distorts the image of Paradise in the minds of Muslims and causes disdain among their enemies.

"The terrorists and other deviants benefit from this wrong understanding and exploit it to seduce young people. This is so not only in our times; it also occurred in the days of Nizam Al-Mulk and Salah Al-Din, when the assassins of the Batini sect [were active].[1] This gang was established by Hassan Bin Sabah, who set up for them an [imaginary] Paradise and Hell, so as to toy with the emotions of the youth and to push them toward terrorism and assassinations. Today, we find that the terrorists make use of all the methods used by Hassan bin Sabah and his followers in order to convince the young men of the reality of the dark-eyed virgins. [The terrorists] give them a distorted [understanding] of suicide, killing, and destruction, and distribute drugs among them...

"Allah created sex in the lower world so that man and woman would be interested in each other, so as to ensure procreation. And this is also true of animals and plants. However... in Paradise there are no sexual impulses. Therefore, people's sexual organs will disappear in the afterlife, because Allah described them as [a source of] shame. As He said: 'When they both ate of the tree, their shame became apparent to them, and they began to conceal themselves by covering themselves with leaves of the Garden. And Adam disobeyed his Lord, so went astray.' [Koran 20:121]"

"Allah Did Not Expel Adam and His Wife from Paradise for Their Disobedience, but Because of Their Shameful Parts, Which Appeared [Only] after They Both Ate from the Tree..."

"Allah did not expel Adam and his wife from Paradise for their disobedience, but because of their shameful parts, which appeared [only] after they both ate from the tree... Due to the emergence of their shameful parts, they were no longer eligible to stay in Paradise, so he expelled them... The great painter Leonardo da Vinci made an error when he painted Adam and Eve with a navel. It escaped him that the two of them were not born of a woman's womb with an umbilical cord, and that they did not have shameful parts when they were first created... Allah created Adam from wet clay and copied Eve from his rib. Thus, there is no sex in Paradise. The sex organs of the people [who go there] disappear, because they have no need for them...

"Allah knows that human minds cannot grasp the nature of the pleasures of Paradise, so He made it closer to their understanding by mentioning dark-eyed beauties, wine, milk, and fruit. Allah utters nothing but the truth, which means that there is wine [in Paradise, but it is] not like the wine of this world, and there is food that is not like the food of this world. Rather, these are spiritual pleasures that make the sensual pleasures pale in comparison...

"Likewise, the pleasure [given] by the dark-eyed beauties is not sexual pleasure. That is why Allah endowed them with [beautiful eyes]: the most beautiful part of the human form is the face, and the most beautiful part of the face is the eyes... This is a spiritual pleasure, the extent of which we cannot grasp with our worldly minds. Those with deviant purposes select from the Koran that which pleases them, and interpret it in a way that serves their purposes. And thus we come to an age in which in we place religion at our service rather than [the other way around]."[2]

Khaled Muhammad Al-Nu'man: "Yes There Is Sex in Paradise"

Saudi cleric Khaled Muhammad Al-Nu'man responded to 'Ishqi's article in an article of his own, titled "Yes There Is Sex in Paradise," published in Al-Madina on July 2, 2010. He wrote: "...I [recently] read an article by the honorable Dr. Anwar bin Majid 'Ishqi titled 'Paradise is Above Sex.' As evidence for this [claim], he stated that Adam, peace be upon him, left Paradise only after his shameful parts became apparent. In his view, these [shameful parts] will disappear [from the bodies] of those who enter Paradise. However, when we consider [Allah's] words – 'Surely the dwellers of the Garden shall on that day be [engaged] in a joyful occupation. Together with their spouses, they shall recline in shady groves upon soft couches' [Koran 33:55-56] – and what the exegetes say about them, we discover the opposite of what is claimed by the learned Dr. ['Ishqi].

"According to a large number of Koranic exegetes, the occupation... [referred to] in these verses is the deflowering of virgins. It is recounted, on the authority of the son of Ibn 'Umar, in [the hadith collection] Al-Darr Al-Manthur: 'The Muslim [in Paradise], whenever he desires his wife, he will find her a virgin.' And in the description of Paradise it is mentioned, on the authority Abu Hurayra: 'The Prophet was asked, 'Will we have sexual intercourse in Paradise?' And he answered, 'Yes. By Allah, it will be dahman dahman. And when the man rises from [his wife], she will revert back to a pure virgin.' Whoever wants to better understand the meaning of dahman dahman should open the Lisan Al-Arab Dictionary under the letter 'm',[3] because this is not the place to explain it in detail. It follows that the people of Paradise take any kind of pleasure they want, including sex...

"However, what today's terrorists do in order to seduce young men, [namely] their claim that the dark-eyed virgin sits next to the young man in his car [when he is on his way to carry out a suicide mission], and that he cannot see her until the moment he blows himself up and hurts others... is patently false... Only someone who has no sense at all could believe this. If those youths [seduced by the terrorists] had any sense, they would have realized that [the terrorists] are sending them to their death while sparing themselves and their own sons. If they were sincere, would they so altruistically [send other youths] to the virgins and the shady gardens, while depriving their own children of these pleasures?

"Truly, these deluded youths do not understand that they are instruments in the [hands] of criminals who use them to achieve their goals. Society as a whole should reach out to these youths, each [individual] in his own field, in order to guide them and teach them, lest they fall into the claws those who plan only evil things for them."[4]

Muhammad Kamel Al-Khoja: 'Ishqi's Article Was "An Intellectual Blunder"

Saudi cleric Muhammad Kamel Al-Khoja wrote in the daily Al-Bilad on July 5, 2010:

"An important man once came to the great scholar Abu Hanifa and asked him how he interprets the Koranic verse: 'The Compassionate One seated Himself upon the throne.' [Koran 20:5] And [Abu Hanifa] answered: The [fact of the] seating is known but the 'how' is unknown. To believe in it is obligatory; inquiry about it is a forbidden innovation. I was reminded of this story as I read the various speculations that Dr. 'Ishqi wrote [in his article]... Dr. 'Ishqi, whom I love and hold in esteem, should not have inquired into issues that are shrouded in mystery and into which no one should delve, not even well-established scholars, because these are secret matters which only Allah knows... And the Muslim should [simply] believe them, because the Koran does not provide any details about them... The tradition of the prophets, including Muhammad, the Seal of the Prophets, does not provide [detailed information] about them either.

"The way Dr. 'Ishqi allowed himself to explain them, letting his imagination run away with him, has baffled religious scholars. These matters are shrouded in mystery, [but Dr. 'Ishqi] presented them in a manner that contradicts what can be clearly inferred from a number of Koranic verses... Had he considered these verses from the perspective of a believer, rather than in a materialistic, modern manner riddled with doubt, [he would have realized this fact]... Dr. Brigadier (res.) 'Ishqi speaks about the creation of Adam and Eve, their life in Paradise, and their disobedience of the Creator in eating from the forbidden tree... and [argues that] they could not remain in Paradise after their shameful parts became apparent to them...

"As for the enjoyment of sex in the Paradise, which is promised to the believers, Paradise is not above it. What is concealed, and known only to the Creator, is 'how' [sex is experienced in Paradise]. However, I and all those who believe in the powers of Allah maintain that the pleasure of sex in Paradise will be higher, sweeter, and more joyous than the pleasure [of sex] in this world... In the Koran there are [verses] that confirm [the existence of] marriage in Paradise, which Dr. 'Ishqi denies... These Koranic verses are intended to heighten the desire for Paradise among the believers...

"There is another topic that seems to have escaped Dr. 'Ishqi's understanding. I would like Dr. 'Ishqi, who is a well known linguist, jurist, and consultant, not to apply the term 'terrorists' to those who spread corruption in the land and to the erring sect [i.e., those who carry out terrorism in Muslim lands], because terrorizing the enemy [is a good thing]: it is necessary and Allah encourages us to do so in the Koranic verse: 'And prepare against them what force you can and horses tied at the frontier, to strike terror among the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them...'  [Koran 8:60]... [So] let us not apply the term 'terrorists' to those sinful, bloody, destructors who spread corruption in the land and [belong to] the erring sect. These are more accurate terms for them...

"What Dr. 'Ishqi published was an intellectual blunder that was surely unintended. It is [only] to prevent this [misconception] from spreading among the public that I wrote what I wrote against it..."[5]

Khaled Babtin: The Terrorists' Exploitation of the Faith "Should Not Lead Us to Deny... All the Pleasures that Allah Intends for the Dwellers of Paradise "

Cleric Khaled Babtin, a lecturer at Umm Al-Qura University in Mecca and a member of the Saudi Association of Islamic Jurisprudence, wrote on the online magazine Al-Wiam ( on June 5, 2010: "The honorable Dr. Anwar bin Majid 'Ishqi took us by surprise with the publication of a strange and bizarre article, which I wish he had not written... In this article, he created a strange mixture and adopted views that he did not support with evidence... He made various claims: (1) There are no sexual relations in Paradise because, according to 'Ishqi, Paradise is above sex. (2) There are no sexual impulses in Paradise. (3) People in the hereafter will not have sex organs. (4) The virgins of Paradise are not for sexual pleasure. (5) The natural inclinations which humans have in the world do not exist in Paradise... (6) Allah did not expel Adam and his wife from Paradise for their act of disobedience, but rather because their shameful organs appeared after they ate from the tree. (7) Our father Adam and our mother Eve, peace be upon them, did not have shameful parts when they were first created. (8) The prophets, peace be upon them, did not worship Allah for the sake of Paradise and its pleasure, nor for fear of Hell and its fire, but rather out of love for His essence.

"Therefore, I felt it my duty to respond to Dr. 'Ishqi's article and to dispute his claims, which surprised everybody. In his capacity as head of the Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies, Dr. 'Ishqi has accustomed us to seeing him on satellite channels as an outstanding strategic and political analyst, who comments on [such issues as] the implications of the sanctions on Iran...; the preemptive action taken by the Saudi security services against terrorists...; the criminal attacks perpetrated by the Houthis against our holy territory; and other such political and security matters. These are matters he can discuss very well. But how on Earth did he come to speak of things that he does not know well, and which lie outside of his area of expertise and outside the domain that his Center [for Strategic Studies] deals with?...

"Additionally, I was very surprised by Dr. 'Ishqi's insistence that Paradise is above sex, as he puts it... He says this without presenting a shred of evidence. In the beginning of his article, he explains that two things induced to write about sex in Paradise: the fact that [it is] exploited by the terrorists to exploit the youth... [and the fact that] a number of scholars and important intellectuals actually believe that there are sexual relations in Paradise.

"We see then that Dr. 'Ishqi was affected by the words of the terrorist leaders and those who organize those sinful, criminal operations from which our country has suffered in the past – [the words] with which they seduce the youth. Indeed, what these terrorists do is wrong and unacceptable, from the perspective of both Islamic law and common sense. It is [their] way of stirring up the emotions and impulses of young and unsophisticated boys. However, this should not lead us to deny the confirmed [facts] about all the pleasures that Allah intends for the dwellers of Paradise and grants to the true believers [who come there]...

"The fact that [the terrorists exploit religious beliefs] should not lead us to abandon the truth in which we believe. The first generations of Muslims used to encourage the mujahideen, in the heat of battle, with mention of the virgins. It is recounted in the [hadith] collection of Ibn Hajar [Al-Asqalani] that in the Battle of Siffin, 'Amar proclaimed, 'Whoever wishes to be embraced by the virgins, let him step forward to face the enemy in order to merit reward in Paradise.' Dr. 'Ishqi, read along with me the verse: 'Surely the dwellers of the Garden shall on that day be [engaged] in a joyful occupation. Together with their spouses, they shall recline in shady groves upon soft couches.' [Koran 33:55-56] Don't you know, doctor, that the occupation in which they are engaged is the deflowering of maidens?... And this clearly demolishes ['Ishqi's] article from its very foundations. This reading of the verse is agreed upon by all the Koranic exegetes, first and foremost among them the Companions of the Prophet, who had the greatest knowledge of the Koran...

"The Prophet Muhammad said: 'In Paradise Each Man Will Be Given the Strength of a Hundred [Men] for Eating, Drinking, Copulation, and Passion"

"For your benefit, Dr. 'Ishqi, and for the benefit of all the readers, I shall present some texts as evidence that the people of Paradise enjoy copulation, or sexual relations, as Dr. 'Ishqi calls it. Firstly, on the authority of Anas bin Malik: 'The Prophet Muhammad said: "In Paradise the believer will be given much potency for copulation." So he was asked, "Will he [be able to] endure this?" And he answered, "He will be given the strength of a hundred [men]"'...

"Secondly, on the authority of Zayd Bin Arqam, the Prophet Muhammad said: 'In Paradise each man will be given the strength of a hundred [men] for eating, drinking, copulation, and passion.' On the authority of Abu Hurayra: 'The Prophet was asked, 'Shall we have sexual intercourse in Paradise?' And he answered, 'Yes. A man will have intercourse with one hundred virgins a day...' [Babtin quotes further traditions of this kind to support his position.]

"The great scholars of the prophetic tradition arranged these traditions into various chapters, which indicates that this point was firmly established for them. For example, [there is] a chapter on desire among the people of Paradise, and a chapter on  sexual intercourse among the people of Paradise and the utmost pleasure they derived from it...

"Thirdly, this copulation mentioned in the Koran and in the prophetic tradition is performed by the believers in Paradise with the same sex organs they possessed in this world. These [organs] do not, as the writer claims, disappear in Paradise... Those believers whom Allah favors by bringing them into his Paradise enjoy its pleasures in the same way they enjoyed them in this world, except that the pleasure of Paradise is of a degree incomparable to that of this world...

"I say to Dr. 'Ishqi: All Muslims believe that [there is sex in Paradise, for] it is evidenced in the Koran and in tradition, and [the matter] is not as you fantasized...

"[Finally,] Dr. 'Ishqi presumptuously claims, Allah forgive him, that Adam and Eve, peace be upon them, did not have shameful parts when they were first created. I will not response [to this] at length, and it is enough to quote the verse: 'I did not allow them to witness the creation of Heaven and Earth, nor their own creation.' [18:51] Have you, Dr. 'Ishqi, witnessed your own creation, that you allow yourself to speak of the creation of our father Adam and our mother Eve?..."



[1] This refers to the Hashshashin sect, active in the Middle Ages.

[2] Al-Madina (Saudi Arabia), June 11, 2010.

[3] In Classical Arabic dictionaries, words are ordered according to the final letter of the root, which in this case is m. The entry for the verb dahama states that its meaning is "to push forcefully," and that when applied to a woman, it means to have sex with her.

[4]  Al-Madina (Saudi Arabia), July 2, 2010.

[5] Al-Bilad (Saudi Arabia), July 5, 2010.

MEMRI: Special Dispatch|3108| July 20, 2010
Egypt/Lantos Archives on Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial
Egyptian Daily Publishes Antisemitic Dissertation by the Late Al-Azhar
Sheikh Tantawi
; In It, He States 'The [Jews'] Abominations Described in the
Koran Are Demonstrated Throughout the Ages,' Recounts Damascus Blood Libel

The independent Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm recently published a series
of articles about the doctoral dissertation of the late Al-Azhar sheikh Dr.
Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, who passed away in March 2010. Written in 1969, the
dissertation is titled "The Sons of Israel." The first article in the series
was preceded by an introduction in which the daily stated that, following
the recent events of the Gaza flotilla, a reexamination of Tantawi's work
affords a better understanding of the roots of aggression in Jewish history.
The introduction said: "It seems that, for the first time, the world has
been shocked by [an Israeli crime, namely] its latest crime against the
Freedom Flotilla. This time the shock was [expressed] by the West itself,
which, for more than 60 years, has persistently propagandized about the
democratic [character] of the Jewish state, and has paid the price for the
illusion that [Israel] is discriminated against and oppressed by its Arab
neighbors. Dr. Sayyed Tantawi, the late sheikh of Al-Azhar, debunked this
illusion when he dedicated his 1969 doctoral dissertation to exposing what
can be called the roots of violence in Jewish history, from [the Jews']
arrival in Egypt and their departure therefrom, to the establishment of the
[Jewish] state, [attained] through the destruction of entire nations.
Al-Masri Al-Yawm rereads this important research in light of circumstances
that demand an interpretation of and investigation into this culture of
aggression throughout Jewish history..."[1]

Following are excerpts from the articles:

The Abominations of the Jews Can Be Seen Everywhere and Throughout History

"The sixth chapter of [Tantawi's] study deals with the 'Jews' abominations
as they are described in the Koran.' In this chapter, Tantawi explains that
the sons of Israel are described in the Koran as people of various bad
qualities, loathsome character, and contemptible behavior. The Koran
describes them as infidels and liars, as ungrateful, selfish, arrogant and
cowardly, as naggers and cheaters, rebels and lawbreakers, cruel and
inherently inclined to deviate [from the straight and narrow]. [They are]
quick to crime and aggression, and they steal people's money through lies
and commit other such atrocities that are mentioned in the Koran and due to
which [the Jews] deserve to be excluded from Allah's mercy and doomed to
baseness and wretchedness. The abominations described in the Koran are
demonstrated by [the Jews] throughout the ages and in different places. As
time goes on, [these abominations] intensify and become more deeply
entrenched among them.

"The study describes some of these abominations in detail, the most
important of which are 'that they violate treaties and agreements and act
wrongly toward Allah; that they are unbelievers; that they resent the good
[fortune] of others, out of envy, and use trickery in order to permit what
Allah has forbidden; that they contemn the Koran and distort its words; that
they cling to life and cravenly avoid jihad; that they ask their prophet
Moses to make them a god like the god of their fellowman, and devote
themselves to worshipping the golden calf; and that they misuse

The Jews Betrayed the Muslims

The daily proceeds to present examples of how the Jews violate treaties. For
instance, it says, they violated their agreement with the Prophet Muhammad
in Al-Medina, according to which they agreed to fight alongside the Muslims
in case of an attack on the city, and in return the Muslims granted them a
life of freedom and stability in their midst: "[The members of the Jewish
tribe] Banu Qaynuqa', who lived in Al-Medina, their homes right next to
those of the Muslims, did not only avoid extending a hand to the Muslims in
the Battle of Badr [in 624 CE], they even resented the [Muslims'] victory
over the Quraysh, and expressed sorrow over the defeat of the Meccans, and
began conspiring against the Muslims...

"When the Prophet saw that they were determined to breach their treaties,
that they continued to fight against the Islamic faith, and that they
supported anyone who opposed it, he expelled them from Al-Medina to Adhra'at
[in Khoran] as punishment for their betrayal. As for [the members of the
Jewish tribe] Banu Nadir, they were even more despicable than [Banu
Qaynuqa'] in violating treaties with Muslims. They were not satisfied with
[merely] refusing to offer assistance to the Muslims in Badr, but even
sheltered their enemies who came to devastate Al-Medina... Banu Nadir were
also those who tried to assassinate the Prophet when he came to their homes
in order to ask for their help in paying the blood money of a man who was
accidentally killed. As punishment for their betrayal and for breaching
their treaties, the Muslims expelled them from Al-Medina just as they did
with [Banu Qaynuqa']..."[3]

Murder and Assassination Are Part of the Jews' Nature

The daily stated further: "It is written in many verses of the Koran that
the Jews killed prophets and those who commanded them to act justly. The
Jews killed Allah's prophets Zakariya [Zechariah] and Yahya [John], and
attempted to kill 'Issa [Jesus],[4] taking all [possible] measures to do so.
But Allah granted him immunity against them, contrary to their will. They
also tried to kill the Prophet Muhammad, but did not succeed because Allah
saved him from their wickedness and cunning. Whoever follows history through
all its stages will discover that murders and assassinations have been part
of the Jews' nature throughout the ages.
"[Tantawi's] study examines an assortment of murders and assassinations that
were recorded by the [Roman] historian Cassius [Dio] in the 78th volume [of
his works], the most egregious of which is that 'the Jews in the second
century AD massacred the Romans and Greeks, ate their flesh, skinned them,
split many of their bodies in two from the head down, and cast many of them
to predatory beasts, to the extent that the number of dead reached

The Jews Used Christian Blood in their Passover Matzoth

"The same source states that 'one of the religious ceremonies honored among
the Jews' is bleeding a Gentile to death and mixing [the blood] into the
dough used for preparing Matzoth for Passover. This wicked matter has been
investigated and verified; and it has been proven that Jews have done this
throughout the ages. Their proven guilt in this crime is one of the main
reasons that led Gentiles to persecute and torment them. Several historians
compiled [a record of] these crimes by the Jews, which reached more than 200
in number.'

"[Tantawi's] study states that the most notorious of these crimes was what
occurred in 1840 [in Damascus], when it was proven that [the Jews] murdered
Father Toma and his servant. The essence of this crime is that one of the
Jewish rabbis requested the blood of a Gentile to be used in the Matzoth for
Passover, and several Jews complied. They lured Father Toma and his servant
[after them] and then slaughtered them and bled them to death. All the
murderers were proven guilty and sentenced to death, but the European Jews
took interest in this incident and sent some of their rich to Muhammad 'Ali
Basha, who at that time was ruler of Egypt and Syria, and gave him a large
sum of money. Then he issued a decree of clemency for the criminals who
committed the crime in Damascus..."

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion Expose the Jews' True Designs

Tantawi's study also examines The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which has
been translated to Arabic by several authors: "Here is a quick look at the
Protocols: The leaders of the Jews held 23 conferences between 1897 and
1951, the last of which was held, for the first time, in Jerusalem, on
August 14, 1951, and openly addressed the issue of Jewish emigration to
Israel and the borders of the [Jewish] state. Their first conference was
held in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897, with [Theodor] Herzl presiding and 300
of the haughtiest Jews in attendance, representing 50 Jewish associations.
There they decided on their secret plan to enslave the entire world under
the crown of a king descendant from David, may he rest in peace. A French
woman managed to get [a copy] of the protocols, by cunning, from one of the
Jewish leaders in France, and when she saw the evils they contained she gave
them to a Russian dignitary, who passed them on to the Russian priest
[Sergei] Nilus, who printed several copies in 1902.

"Once these protocols were disseminated, the Jews' true wicked designs were
discovered and there were widespread massacres against them in Russia, to
the point where in one [alone] 10,000 were killed. Their leader Herzl was
alerted and began screaming and shouting over this scandal, publishing a
number of announcements in which he declared that several secret documents
that had been kept concealed from all but their owners, even from some of
the most important Jews, had been stolen from 'the Holy of Holies.' The Jews
were quick to proclaim everywhere that the protocols were not their doing,
but no sensible person believed their claims.

"Afterward, the protocols were once again printed, but the Jews were
vigilant and as soon as a copy appeared for sale they hurried to get hold of
it by any means possible and to burn it. Several British authors succeeded
in disseminating these protocols a number of times, the last of which was in
1961, and some Arab authors translated this publication into Arabic..."

After presenting several excerpts from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,
the daily adds: "Tantawi writes that 'This [i.e., the Protocols] is a
compilation of decisions made by the elders of Zion that exposes all the
evils, hatred, and destructive designs that forever fill their innermost
hearts, and their [plans] to destroy the world and enslave its citizens,
groups, and peoples. Likewise, it makes clear their great mastery at
exploiting people's weak points in such a way as to serve their goals and
aspirations. [This compilation proves] that they are striving to topple the
governments of all the countries and replace them with governments
subjugated to Jewish influence, and that they never stop planting seeds of
contention and civil strife in all countries through various clandestine,
political, religious, and economic organizations and clubs."[5]

[1] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), June 10, 2010.
[2] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), June 12, 2010.
[3] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), June 12, 2010.
[4] According to Muslim tradition, Jesus was neither crucified nor executed,
but was brought up to the heavens by Allah, and another crucified in his
[5] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), June 13, 2010.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

An Attack on Iran: Back on the Table

Joe Klein brings some interesting news about the state of Iran thinking in Washington in An Attack on Iran: Back on the Table.
The punchlines:
Gates is sounding more belligerent these days. "I don't think we're prepared to even talk about containing a nuclear Iran," he told Fox News on June 20. "We do not accept the idea of Iran having nuclear weapons." In fact, Gates was reflecting a new reality in the military and intelligence communities. Diplomacy and economic pressure remain the preferred means to force Iran to negotiate a nuclear deal, but there isn't much hope that's going to happen. "Will [sanctions] deter them from their ambitions with regards to nuclear capability?" CIA Director Leon Panetta told ABC News on June 27. "Probably not." So the military option is very much back on the table.
What has changed? "I started to rethink this last November," a recently retired U.S. official with extensive knowledge of the issue told me. "We offered the Iranians a really generous deal, which their negotiators accepted," he went on, referring to the offer to exchange Iran's 1.2 tons of low-enriched uranium (3.5% pure) for higher-enriched (20%) uranium for medical research and use. "When the leadership shot that down, I began to think, Well, we made the good-faith effort to engage. What do we do now?"
Other intelligence sources say that the U.S. Army's Central Command, which is in charge of organizing military operations in the Middle East, has made some real progress in planning targeted air strikes — aided, in large part, by the vastly improved human-intelligence operations in the region. "There really wasn't a military option a year ago," an Israeli military source told me. "But they've gotten serious about the planning, and the option is real now." Israel has been brought into the planning process, I'm told, because U.S. officials are frightened by the possibility that the right-wing Netanyahu government might go rogue and try to whack the Iranians on its own. (Comment on this story.)
One other factor has brought the military option to a low boil: Iran's Sunni neighbors really want the U.S. to do it. When United Arab Emirates Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba said on July 6 that he favored a military strike against Iran despite the economic and military consequences to his country, he was reflecting an increasingly adamant attitude in the region. Senior American officials who travel to the Gulf frequently say the Saudis, in particular, raise the issue with surprising ardor. Everyone from the Turks to the Egyptians to the Jordanians are threatening to go nuclear if Iran does. That is seen as a real problem in the most volatile region in the world: What happens, for example, if Saudi Arabia gets a bomb, and the deathless monarchy there is overthrown by Islamist radicals?...
Of course, it is also possible that this low-key saber-rattling is simply a message the U.S. is trying to send the Iranians: it's time to deal.
The considerations of any such policy must not be "Will Israel do it on their own" or "Do the Sunnis want us to do it?" The important questions are "Do we need to do it for the safety of the U.S. and U.S. interests and allies? and "Can we do it?"  and "Are the Iranians really building a bomb?"
Ami Isseroff

Who is a Jeremiah?

In The dangerous Jeremiah syndrome Gerald Steinberg writes:

Long after the age of prophecy has ended, it is difficult to distinguish between those who have something serious to say and the many false prophets in our midst.

In the final days of the First Temple, with the Babylonian army nearing the city walls, the prophet Jeremiah warned Jerusalemites of destruction and exile if they did not change their ways. The prophet was ridiculed and pursued, with catastrophic results.

Since then, the Jewish people have been plagued by a continuous stream of imitations – self-proclaimed Jeremiahs warning of gloom and doom, but without the prophetic insight or divine license.

With the creation of Israel and the challenges faced by the restored Jewish state, the number of modern day Jeremiahs has grown exponentially. Artists, professors, columnists, bloggers, NGO officials and politicians have assumed the role and adopted the rhetoric, if not the substance, of morality. Indeed, the prophecy of doom has become a major industry...

Now, long after the age of prophecy has ended, it is difficult to distinguish between those who have something serious to say and the many false prophets in our midst. Self-appointed and self-promoting messengers come from the fringes of the political, religious, and social spectrum – Left and Right, ultra-religious and fundamentalist-secular...They are usually unable to gain support through the electoral system, and thus hostile to democracy, but have access to large amounts of foreign money which is used to impose their agendas.

This is far from Jeremiah's model...

[T]he original Jeremiah clearly did not want the job (like his professional colleague Jonah).. In contrast, modern self-appointed prophets have huge egos. From within the country and the from the Diaspora, they desperately seek the attention accompanying warnings of the imminent demise of Israel or the disappearance of the Jewish people... Many claim, like Jeremiah, to "love Israel" and to possess "the truth"....

Amen. But then Steinberg focuses exclusively on critics of the left. What about those critics on the right, and we know who they are, who are constantly warning that Israel is being betrayed by a corrupt and incompetent government, that it is being subverted from within, or that the only solution is "Jewish leadership." What about the critics who inform us every day that the sky is falling? What about those who tell us that we must do everything their way, or there will certainly be a disaster? The problem is the same as it was 2,500 years ago: One person's Jeremiah is another person's false prophet. It is hard to tell them apart without a scorecard, and it depends on who is doing the scoring.

Ami Isseroff


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Iran National Guards warn U.S. of "fallout" over bomb attack

There is no evidence that the US was involved in the bombing, but it is an excuse to blame something on the U.S.

Iran Guards warn U.S. of "fallout" over bomb attack

Sat, Jul 17 2010

By Ramin Mostafavi and Hashem Kalantari

TEHRAN (Reuters) - The United States will face "fallout" from a deadly rebel bomb attack in southeast Iran, a senior Revolutionary Guards commander was quoted as saying on Saturday by a semi-official Iranian news agency.

Massoud Jazayeri did not elaborate on what he meant. Iran has accused arch-foe Washington of backing Jundollah, the group that claimed responsibility for Thursday's blasts that killed 28 people and wounded 306, including members of the Guards.

"Jundollah has been supported by America for its terrorist acts in the past ... America will have to await the fallout of such criminal and savage measures," said Jazayeri, deputy head of the dominant ideological wing of Iran's armed forces.

Jundollah, a Sunni Muslim rebel group, said it set off the bombs at a prominent Shi'ite Muslim mosque in the city of Zahedan in retaliation for the Islamic Republic's execution in June of Jundollah leader Abdolmalek Rigi.

Iran says Jundollah has links to Sunni Islamist al Qaeda and in the past has accused Pakistan, Britain and the United States of backing Jundollah to create instability in the southeast of predominantly Shi'ite Iran.

All three countries have denied this, and Jundollah denies having any association with al Qaeda.

Mohammad Hassan Rahimian, an envoy of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at the funeral, also blamed Washington for the attack, the official news agency IRNA reported.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday condemned the bombing and said those responsible must be brought to account.

"The murder of innocent civilians in their place of worship is an intolerable offense, and those who carried it out must be held accountable," Obama said in a statement.

The United States is embroiled in a stand-off with Iran over its nuclear program, which Tehran insists is for peaceful energy purposes but Washington and other world powers suspect is a cover to develop the means to build atom bombs.

Tehran and Washington severed diplomatic relations shortly after Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Jundollah, which says it is fighting for the rights of Iran's Sunni Muslim minority, said Rigi's relatives carried out the bombings targeting a Revolutionary Guards gathering.

The bodies of those killed were buried on Saturday in a ceremony in Zahedan attended by tens of thousands of people, according to Iranian state television.

Live footage showed the coffins, shrouded in Iranian flags, being carried on trucks with mourners chanting "Death to America" and demanding punishment of the attackers.

Iran arrested Rigi in February, four months after Jundollah claimed responsibility for a bombing which killed dozens of people, including 15 members of the Guards. That was the deadliest attack in Iran since the 1980s.

Zahedan is the capital of Sistan-Baluchestan province on the border with Sunni Muslim Pakistan. The province is dogged by serious security problems with frequent clashes between Iranian police and drug dealers and bandits.

A senior police official, Ahmadreza Radan, warned that Iran had a right to "pursue rebels inside Pakistan territory ... Iran has limited patience. Instability in Sistan-Baluchestan is rooted abroad (where) there is lack of will to confront rebels."

He said 40 people "who wanted to create instability" in Zahedan had been arrested there since the latest bombing.

Iran is grappling with ethnic and religious tensions in the southeastern province and authorities have responded to attacks by Sunni rebels with a spate of hangings. Human rights groups and the West have condemned the hangings.

Iran rejects allegations by rights groups that it discriminates against ethnic and religious minorities.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Mark Heinrich)