Monday, August 29, 2005

(Very) Short History of Anti-Semitism

Here's a "short" little rough summary of anti-Semitism, according to me. This was originally an e-mail that I sent to a person that I know.

It basically began when the Roman emperor Constantine adopted Christianity (around 325 CE) as the official religion of the Empire. Previously, Jews and the to-be Christians (who were also Jews) were two minority groups in the Empire, and when the latter started to spread throughout the Roman Empire (by way of Paul), Constantine adopted it as the state religion.

That Jewish "sect," as it is called, was not on good standing with Judaism as a whole, and years later, as Paul was spreading it to the varying polytheists of the Roman Empire, it became "polytheized." When it was still a Jewish "rival sect," it could have been considered Jew-on-Jew hostility, but once it became a polytheistic religion, it was a matter of two peoples that did not know each other (although the latter possessed a certain "memory" of the Jews, particularly as the murders of their deity). Only then did Constantine "convert" to Christianity, and Christianity converted to a Roman religion with it. The basis for religious resentment by Christians (when they were still Jews) towards Jews as a whole became one of the political bases of the Roman Empire, and to where it spread.

Since then, anti-Semitism was a general European social problem, since, more or less, Rome's spirit lived on in the subsequent European countries, along with the resentment for Jews that it inherited. Europe was made up of many different peoples, but to some degree, resentment of Jews was a common thing. Jews eventually became a commodity to the different places, and the varying kings and philosophers each had different ideas of what should be done with them, some were more friendly than others. What ended up happening was that Europe tossed the Jews around like a rag doll, and when something bad would happen, somehow the Jews were suspected of causing it. Europe had its own problems and I wonder how they would have been dealt with if the Jews weren't there.

As Europe changed (the Enlightenment, French Revolution, etc...) anti-Semitism also changed; it was too common-place to just go away over night. The French Revolution is a good example. Up until that point, Jews in France were not given citizenship, which is one thing that the Revolution wanted to do, to make everybody in France a full French citizen. This seemed like a good thing for the Jews, but it was a double-edged sword since Jews had to break ties with their religious way of life if they were to be accepted as full citizens of the State, and the Jews that decided not to were decidedly anti-State.

This made the French mad, because after all this time of not having equal rights, France was now handing it to them on a silver platter, and yet the Jews rejected it. This brought up "ancient" resentment for the stubborn Jews (Jesus offered them salvation on a silver platter and they rejected that too), and this marked the beginning of the option of secularism for Jews, which did not develop on their own accord. The type of resentment that this brought to the Jews was not religiously motivated, for many of the French of the French Revolution were secular themselves, products of the Enlightenment, and it introduced what many historians call "secular anti-Semitism," held by the elites of society. The spirit of the French Revolution spread to other European peoples.

Interestingly enough, Jews who secularized,such as Richard Dreyfus, who was notorious for putting his French citizenship ahead of his being a Jew and was faithful to France to his dying day, even after being sent to Devil's Island for treason without a trial (against the state that he loved so much), was lambasted as being "that Jew Dreyfus" by those that didn't like him. Turns out that his escape from Jewishness in his own mind wasn't perceived by others. The slogan "mort a la Juif" (death to the Jews) became popular somewhere around this time. Marx's (who was a Jew that came from a family of Rabbi's) ideology of Communism was not just ideologically motivated, it was vehemently anti-religion (a coincidence that Judaism is a religion?) because he said that it, along with money (another Jewish stereotype) were the causes of the world's problems; he was quick to associate anything "Jewish" with evil. So ironic that Marxists are notorious for disliking Jews. Power and money became inseparable from dogmas about Jews, and were barely grounded in reality. Society was hinged on a pyramid of evil, which Jews silently ran. Of course, no straight-thinking Jew-hater is able to highlight this intellecual dissonance this without blushing and being labeled by his fellow haters a "Jew-lover." Therefore, the evidence is just "so abundant," The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, for example.

Secular anti-Semitism still freely wanders in the realm of academia and intellectual circles, and since the inception of the State of Israel, it has again changed in shape, now focusing on Jewish statehood, which is called Zionism. And again, the arguments are compelling (as they always were to those who wanted to believe them). Among them are the arguments of all types, criticizing Zionism for one thing, and when that argument is proven wrong, criticizing Zionism for the opposite. For example, some anti-Zionists will say that Zionism was inavlid because the religious Jews opposed it vehemently (which is not entirely accurate), and yet other anti-Zionists will criticize it on the basis that it was a form of religious extremism. Both cannot be true.

These people have to be careful with the insults that they toss around, because if they say that the genuine of the religious Jews rejected Zionism on the basis of it being religious fanaticism, then they are implying that the representatives of the Jewish religion were moral and moderate people, rejecting extremism. Oops, can't say that now, can we?; go back to the drawing board, suckers. If one looks at the argumentation made by anti-Semites through history, you will see that they were of the same nature; Jews were simultaneously blamed for being both capitalist pigs and Communist fruitcakes. Either anti-Semites are stupid people, or something about the nature of anti-Semitism clouds their minds with stupidity.

In the last forty or so years, anti-Semitism has wiggled its way into the Arab countries and their media. Maybe more than forty years ago actually. Before Israel was a state, Hitler met with Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and the two discussed their plans. European anti-Semitism was cross-pollinated with Muslim Jew-resentment, which was not exactly anti-Semitism in the same form that Europe had it, but was close enough for their DNA patterns to be spliced.

The wierdest thing to see is the alliance between Arab Muslims and American white people in bashing Israel. Each is motivated in a different way, and have much different lives, but come together when it comes to hating on Israel. There is a certain amount of this in campus anti-Israel groups, which are sometimes affiliated with a professor or a department, or some socialist screw-loose who runs a group of white kids, and more often than not, you get a Jew in there that wants to save the world. Sometimes Muslim student groups get together with these groups, an unfortunate (yet not totally unexpected) occurence. On this campus (University of Arizona), specifically, there is an African professor that speaks loudly against Israel and joins in the ranks of these groups, occasionally opening as the speaker for their presentations. It just melts my heart to see that anti-Semitism is such an open-minded and pluralistic venture.

Another strange thing is when these "bored white kids," as I call them, step up in support of the Palestinians. It's so wierd to see them sporting Palestinian flags and otherwise getting caught up in their black, green, red, and white parifernalia, because the forefront of Palestinian identity is represented by Muslim religious extremists, and these communist-types hate religion. They are willing to put their seething hatred for religion aside when it comes to supporting terrorism against Jews. Mind you, the fact that Jews live there doesn't bother them, it's just that it's a Jewish state that drives them mad; pay no mind to the twenty three Muslim states in the region or the countless Catholic or Protestant states in Europe and abroad.

*** Theodor Herzl, the father of (secular) Zionism (a Viennese Jew of the late 1800's), was disgusted by what he saw in Europe as an allergy to Jews, and wrote the book on the theory of auto-emancipation, "Der Judenstaat," "the Jewish State." Many religious Jews disagreed with the notion of a return to the Land of Israel on a secular basis, a point of disagreement that still stands today with the Jews living in Israel as well. Nevertheless, it marked the beginning of a concerted effort for Jews to settle in what had become, in the last two thousand years, to be informally labeled "Palestine." When the Romans seized Israel in the year 70 C.E., they changed its name to "Philistina," which was a derivative of the word "Philistine," (the enemy nation of the Kingdom of Israel). The Romans did this in order to break the Jews' allegiance to the land.

However, the Romans eventually dissipated while the Jews remained, and along with them, so did Israel. One thousand eight hundred and sixty two years later (in 1932), the name given to Israel proved to have served its purpose well; the name "Palestine" didn't sound "particulary Jewish" to anyone, as did "Israel." In 1932, the League of Nations officially recorded the name of this region as "Palestine," a derivative of the word "Philistina." Therefore, the Jews settled in Palestine. Today, Palestinians and other Arabs recognize Israel as "Falestin."

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Yup -- Satan IS in Heaven

This can be considered to be a short sequel to the post from 6/23/05 titled "Satan is in Heaven." In that post, I tried to discuss the theology that both Judaism and Christianity have about Satan, keeping in mind that in the Christian narrative, Satan is a being that was G-d banished from Heaven due to his rebellion against Him. In the Christian mindframe, Satan is the ultimate of evil. In the Jewish mindframe, Satan is the cause of evil (the tempting angel), but is not evil himself, for "good" and "evil" do not apply to beings that possess no free will.

The differences in belief between the two religions might be considered subtle differences. However, when we consider that Christianity holds the notion that humanity forever inherits the sin of Adam and Eve (Original Sin), the differences are not subtle. This sin is forever upon humanity, and ultimately a soul will suffer Hell as the only possible option if it does not accept the sin offering, which is Jesus. Christianity considers Satan to have rebelled against G-d by tempting Adam and Eve, while the Jewish view maintains that tempting Adam and Eve was a punishable offense, but was Satan's job. Near the beginning of the Torah, we see that Satan was never expelled from Heaven as a punishment for tempting Adam and Eve, but rather was brought to a lower status (Genesis 3:14-16). Genesis is telling us that Satan actually stayed in Heaven (and is still there).

Genesis 3:14-19 describes first Satan's, then Eve's, and then Adam's punishments for their respective deeds (temptation, and falling to temptation). Genesis 3:22-24 describes that Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden (Heaven) as a precaution to keep them from eating from the tree of life; Satan is not included here. There is a Christian (and a Muslim) belief that Satan was banished from Heaven due to his rebellion against G-d, but we see that he is only punished. (14-16) The difference between Christianity and Islam with regards to Jesus is that Islam does not believe that he died to redeem humanity from original sin.

This means that Satan is in Heaven, which seems to be a funny statement, especially if its logistics are not considered, but truthfully, where else would Satan be? Christianity derives its tradition that G-d banished Satan to Hell from the Book of Genesis, but nowhere in Genesis does it even allude to that. G-d did not want Adam and Eve to attain eternal life as a result of eating from the tree, so He expelled them. Satan, on the other hand, necessarily has to be an immortal being since he is the tempter, and as long as humanity exists, there is a purpose for Satan. If he is immortal (not immoral), then there is no reason for G-d to worry about his eating from the tree of life. Secondly, Judaism explains that angels are beings without free will, which can only really exist if a being is able to be tempted. This can also be inferred to arrive at the conclusion that Satan had no temptation to eat of the tree of life because he himself is the tempter. Therefore, we find in Genesis, not a basis for, but the outright explanation that, Satan is a being that resides in Heaven.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

What Does A Jew Look Like?

The first thing I think about when I hear this question is, “Who cares?,” but it seems that there is a subconscious demand for this answer, so I will try to answer it. Perhaps it is because our sense of sight is heavily relied upon to make decisions, or because a certain image of “the Jew” has been imposed by the anti-Semitism of Europe (largely Germany), or some combination of the two that many people (including some Jews) see this as a determinant factor in Jewish identity.

It must be said that there is truth to this portrayal, as every reflection of reality is just that, a reflection. However, in many cases, the reflection leaves out a certain element of reality that can only be perceived by observation. In and of itself, the portrayal is not negative. I do not feel insulted, for example, when someone portrays me as I really am, although I am perplexed by the fact that they feel that they are issuing an insult. For example, the term “Jew” is deemed by some to be an insult, but I am a Jew, so why should I feel insulted? If anything, they are complementing me. Furthermore, it would be foolish to rely on the perspectives of a person who uses the word “Jew” as an insult; we do not need to rely on the definitions of those who dislike us. Can anybody dictate to a Jew as to the contents of the “inner Jew?” The answer is “No.” Another thing that raises my awareness is to why people feel that they have to portray Jews; why are images of Jews so commonplace that large sections of society have memorized and internalized these images and are shocked when real Jews don’t fit well those images? Are other people as regularly portrayed? And finally, perhaps the crux of this matter is, “Why do the portrayals of Jews reflect few segments of Jewry?”

Who are Jews?

In this post, I will only discuss the historical aspect, for the halakhic aspect (Jewish Law regarding religiosity) is a topic of which I am not an expert, although I have a foundational understanding of it. Jews are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their religion passed down through them, their families, and their environs. Jacob was renamed “Israel,” had twelve children, each of whom became the leader of a tribe, and from then on, the Hebrews were known as “Israelites,” or the “Children of Israel.” One of Jacob’s children was named “Judah,” and after the subsequent invasions of the Land of Israel and Judah (where the tribe of Judah and Benjamin resided) by the Assyrians and Babylonians, many of the Israelites were scattered into Assyria and Babylon, a large portion of them becoming “lost.” More can be learned about these “Lost Tribes” in the video “Quest for the Lost Tribes,” an Arts and Entertainment documentary by an Orthodox Jew who believes to have found the descendants of these Israelites. Judah was relatively safe from the assaults, which led many Jews to move into Judah and to adopt the name of that tribe. These Israelites, all members of the religion of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, eventually adopted the name “Yehudim,” that is, affiliates of the tribe of Judah, which in English would be pronounced “Judahites.” Today, the word “Yehudim” is translated as “Jews,” a shortening of the word “Judahites.” Following these historical developments, we see that “Jews” is the term used to refer to those people. Since the word “Jew” refers to the believers in the existence of the One G-d, there is no purpose in using the term “Israelite” or “Hebrew,” and therefore “Jew” is used to refer to the prophets Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, to their descendants, and so on. It would be anachronistic for me to say that I am an Israelite or a Hebrew, although technically I am.

Portrayals of Jews

At least in America, and perhaps in places that have internalized certain images of Jews, people are quite sure of what Jews look like. For the most part, they are thought of as socially different white people who wear skullcaps, hats, suits, and have beards. Note, this physical conceptualization is generally true of much of European Jewry and their descendants, and furthermore, is only true of the men (skullcaps, hats, suits, and beards). These images are of religious Orthodox Jewish men; Jewish women are imagined in much different ways (picture ‘The Nanny,’ a caricature of a secular American Jewish woman, which for some reason serves as the prototype of American Jewish women as a whole). In fact, the words “Orthodox Jewish woman” probably register no image in the minds of many Americans. There are also physical facial features that come along with images of Jews, many of which are rooted in the anti-Semitic notions that came from the Middle Ages in Europe, and to a large degree, from Christian notions coming from the same times and places that had vested interests in portraying Jews in particular ways, although this is another topic.

If we consider where Jews come from, then we can get a more basic understanding of what Jews look like. The first thing that has to be mentioned is that the ethnicity, or race if you will, of the patriarch Abraham was Hebrew, who were a Middle Eastern peoples. This was the original ethnicity of the Jewish people, and as they migrated and were moved around throughout their long history, they came into contact with other people, surely some of which converted to Judaism. The religion did not remain solely a Hebrew religion for long, the Torah entails the conversion of Jethro, a member of the Midianite religion and Moses’ father-in-law, and Ruth, a Moabite woman and grandmother of King David, to Judaism. The Talmud, or oral tradition of the Jewish people, teaches that Abraham would spread his teachings to the surrounding people, and we also glean that he was an influential and wealthy man in his day. We see that the religion thrived in the most genuine of senses, as a concerted religion, belief system, and philosophy and not as an ethnicity or race, although the Hebrews were the sole people who received revelation from G-d. It is clear that many people became associated with the religion of Judaism throughout the millennia, events that are not necessarily emphasized in the pages of the Tanakh. Noting a much later example, the Kuzari, a book written by Rav Yehuda ha Levy in the 12th century, entails the Khazari king’s decision to convert his empire to Judaism. Therefore, a Jew was defined by his or her adherence to the religion of Judaism and not by the particular ethnicity or race. Suffice it to say that historical disagreements related to Judaism are rooted in theological and judicial disputes rather than issues of race.

One can carry out in-depth studies of the different Jewish communities throughout time and all over the world, but I do not plan on writing a thesis on this topic, but rather, I only want to take the reader on a short journey throughout the varied world of Jewry. Why, you ask, do I want to do this? I want to do this because the Jewish world is suffering an image problem, and not from the inside out, but from the outside in; many people, reacting to societal and cultural imagery of all sorts, are left confused as to exactly what and who Jews are. The purpose of this post, as stated earlier, is to shed some light on this topic. A certain misconception that I have come across often in the (mis)information superhighway that is the Internet is that the Jews that we know today are descendants of a Middle Ages European people who converted to Judaism. The real Jews are no more. The information is one part true and three parts ludicrous. The majority of society probably does not believe this nonsense, but the point is that the image of white European Jew in the black suit is in stark contrast to the image of the Jew in the Tanakh in his robes, and the contrast confuses the common citizen.

Our society tends to believe that things that have the appearance of being ancient are more genuine, and since Jews have largely ditched their peasant era garb, they must not be the real thing. Furthermore, there are many Muslims today who still look like they came out of the pages of the Tanakh, and weak minds are at risk of believing that Jews should look like this if their message is to be genuine. If this is true, then I make the assertion that we are actually losing our grasp on a huge element of the history of humanity with regards to G-d, religion, ethics, and philosophy. For example, if there was a misnomer in society that wrongly assumed that the “original form of Christianity or Islam” had by now disappeared into the annals of history, then this would be a great disservice to society, especially since there are many of these same Christians and Muslims around today.

An aside, it is equally disturbing that the religion of Islam views this as one of its central truths, that the Jewish religion has become malformed over the generations to the point of nonexistence. A Muslim Egyptian that I used to know once suggested this to my face. All of this is said in the name of creating a reason for Islam.

At this point of the post, rather than explaining in depth about the different types of Jews whom lived in different times and whom live in different places, I will simply provide the reader with a visual. – Sephardic Jews (originally from Spain, living in the Middle East for generations) – Ethiopian Jew – Ashkenazi (European) Jews, whom are quite varied among themselves (different places in Europe, different times) – Jewish woman, probably from a Middle Eastern country – Orthodox woman – Jews from India – More Jews from India – Afghani Jews – Iraqi Jew – Syrian Jewish women - Babylonian Jewry – Assyrian exile of Israelite Jewry (722 BCE) – a link to several pictures of Jews – links to worldwide communities of Jews, past and present – Alula Tzadik, Ethiopian Jew (music)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A Poem

Unscathed truth is propaganda to the fearful
If reality is an illusion, then murder is an inevitable conclusion
Spilling blood is only evil when it's on your own hands
But you didn't lift a finger when the people were screaming
Corrupted righteous are evil, but you're guilty by association
You make fun of the wise while you bask in stagnation
You say what I am, but you are what you say
Don't pretend to be enlightened when you lick people's bodies
I will invest like the ant and inherit my future
The scholars document at what point we began believing
Hypothesize about the belief of millions to liberate themselves from their bondage
Biology is true when it backs your beliefs
But when you disagree, we see your fangs of intolerance
You fulfil your prophecy that humans are animals
Peace was on our minds, but blood is on yours
All we want is freedom from religion
Exodus from the Oasis, take us back to Egypt
Some won't say and some won't do
No such thing as a bad Jew!
Muslim Assyria

Rejection by Muslims of the State of Israel is not reserved only for religious Muslims, for a peoples’ religion makes up the identity and culture of those peoples even after they have secularized. The Palestinians are largely a secular Muslim people, yet they utilize the worst form of religious conviction when trying to destroy the Jewish state, a secular political attitude of conquest informed by the original modus operandi of Islam, to bring lands under Muslim rule. Many religious Muslims declare that those Muslims are acting in violation of Islam, and that religious fundamentalists are driving them, but in the end, they also believe that the land should be under Muslim rule. Ultimately, they believe, there cannot be peace there until Islam rules. What you get is a combination of political Islam taking the form of Palestinian nationalism, which for the Palestinians is entirely political in nature, but for religious Muslims is religious in nature. It just so happens to be that Israeli nationalism and Palestinian nationalism coincide in the same exact place, with the borders of the Land of Israel coming to a distinct stop (as delineated in the Torah), while the borders of the lands conquered by Muslims encompass the Land of Israel and more. The most fundamentalist Muslim (not nearly all of them, I think) believes that all countries should be brought under Islam. In contrast, even the "Jewish fundamentalist" believes that only Israel is to be under Jewish rule.

In short, Israel is not allowed to exist because it lies in Muslim lands, but Muslim countries are allowed to exist because they lie outside of Israel. “Palestine,” however, is problematic to Israel because it takes on the appearance of a Muslim country that is simply to exist within the borders of Israel, but fits into the larger pattern of the reconquista of Muslim lands, that Israel lies within the borders of Islam. The Jews are astutely aware that this is occurring, and anybody with a grasp on history should be aware of this as well. Regardless of the imperfect analogy, the empire of Islam is like a monotheistic Assyria or Babylon.

*** The Big Question***

Is there a precedent to make a case in adherence with Muslim religion, tradition, and belief, that allows for a Jewish state?

Monday, August 08, 2005

What is Islam, According to You?

This is not a professional study, but a composition of the most common range of opinions on the religion of Islam that I have heard through talking to a variety of people. Comments greatly appreciated...

1) An alternate form of monotheism for the world (starting in the Arabian Peninsula) to exist alongside other forms (an Arab Torah)

2) The benevolent, continued (and final) revelation of monotheism for the world sent by G-d for the purpose of putting people back on the right path (the Torah = the Q'uran)

3) A malevolent (monotheistic) force struggling to replace another monotheistic religion, driven by theological conviction

4) A malevolent (monotheistic) force struggling to replace another monotheistic religion, driven by political conviction

5) A positive spiritual path of life emphasizing ethics and truth, universally true and unrelated to context, time, and place, yet necessarily existing within it in order to affect humanity's positive growth
G-d is Consciousness

G-d is consciousness.

He is not a consciousness that exists solely within the human mind, allowing it to tell the difference between right and wrong.

For if that consciousness only existed within the human mind and not externally, then even the notions of right and wrong would be subjective manifestations of the mind.

Buddhism’s philosophy attests to this assumption when it states that consciousness itself is an illusion of existence, and if consciousness is an illusion, then any form of consciousness is an illusion, be it right, wrong, good, evil, or truth.

Indeed, Buddhism’s philosophy states that right, wrong, and truth are subjective realities, perceived through the prism of human awareness, which give the human being the false sense of his own existence.

It is Nirvana that frees the individual from the falsehood of his perceived existence.

Therefore, any notion of truth is only connected to an external consciousness, and any purpose emanating forth into the human sphere is rooted in the truth connected to this external consciousness.

This external consciousness is G-d, and He is therefore real.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

My Sister's 20th Birthday

Just officially recording my sister's 20th birthday here.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Just a Thought ...

90% of the walls in mens' bathrooms are a sociological study on the decay of elements in our society. Consider it the writing on the wall.