Wednesday, December 28, 2005

No New Revelation

How can a revelation replace another if the revelation (is claimed) to be reiterating, not replacing, another (not previous) revelation? This would be like replacing something with another version of the same thing. With respect to Islam, this is the true backbone of the religion, its replacement of the Judaism and Christianity that came before it; this claim deserves some attention.

First of all, we must contend with the notion that a revelation replaces another in the first place. For example, Islam's central belief is the replacement of Judaism and its tenets; why? The answer that Islam gives is that the Jews, the supposed followers of Judaism, went off the path and strayed from the message of the Torah and the reiterations of the prophets. Not to mention, they also deliberately altered the text for their own purposes, i.e., to advocate a lie that they were the only chosen people.

However, why must one group's revelation be intended for another? For example, G-d gave the Torah to the Jews when there were no other people in the world that were ready to accept and embrace a notion of pure monotheism, and it is necessary to mention that there were no Muslims alive at this point in human history. If the Muslims had been alive then, then they could have accepted the monotheistic point of view. Thousands of years later, when the Arabs, through their figure Muhammad, had their own monotheistic revelation, it did not suffice them to live with it on their own, they felt that they had to spread their particular monotheistic viewpoint to the Jews. The question is "why" and the answer is that they viewed (and had to) Divine Revelation as a continuing process. In this they are right save for one minor mistake; the Jews also believe in continual Divine Revelation, but in the sense that G-d reveals Himself from one group to another until the whole world is united under Him. To contrast, Islam believes in continual Divine Revelation in the sense that one Revelation has to replace another; it is not sufficient that different groups of people exist in the same world with different understandings of pure monotheism. This attitude is what gave the Jews the ability to accept the theology and existence of Islam, while the opposite of this attitude is what made Judaism intolerable Muslims.

We must also wonder what more there is to be learned by a new revelation; if G-d gave the eternal Torah to the Jews, there is nothing new for Islam to teach to Jews, which would also mean that Jews can remain Jews and be honest to G-d's will. This makes Islam irrelevant for Jews, which is one reason why Muhammad had such a violent reaction to Jews when they rejected him.

But it doesn't make Islam irrelevant for Muslims; they were not around when the Torah was given to the Jews, and it's quite possible (and wise) to consider Islam "Torah for Muslims," the problems begin when Muslims want Jews to become like Muslims. For instance, Muslim tradition explains that the prophets of the Torah, which describes them as "Muslims," castigated the Jews for straying from G-d's message, which would have returned them to G-d, to submission, or Islam. When we consider that the prophets were Jews telling Jews to return to the Torah, it makes sense, but when Muslim tradition defines those who followed G-d as Muslims and those who didn't as non-believers (who just happened to be Jews), then we get a formula for confusion. Indeed, we can say that Jews are still supposed to live with the Torah, while Muslims are supposed to live with Islam. It is inaccurate to say that Islam replaces Judaism, but rather that Islam replaces polytheism for Arabs in the same way that Judaism did for the Hebrews. Having said that, there is nothing for the Jews in Islam; all that they need and indeed, all that G-d asks of them is required in the Torah. Islam is not a "final revelation" in the sense that they replace one another, it is "the only revelation," for Arabs. Islam should be careful not to turn the final revelation into the final solution.

Furthermore, let's be honest, the Jews have been around longer than the Muslims, which has given them the opportunity to shift with the times and adapt their own monotheistic tradition in concordance with the Torah's Law on their own; there is nothing that Islam, the Q'uran, or Muslim jurisprudence can contribute to this process. In fact, all it can do is the opposite, it can fight the Jews and try to force change on them in ways that they do not approve, which, unfortunately, it has done repeatedly and continuously through history; this can largely be attributed to its necessity of viewing itself as the final and only revelation that everyone must conform, confirm, and convert to. Jews have had their own struggles with the surrounding world when it came to the exposure of monotheistic ideals to the pagan and polytheistic world and have caused struggles and even rifts in the Jewish religious sphere, not to mention, another religion (Christianity). Islam should worry about its own internal realities and less about Judaism's life, which, not to mention, would be an adviseable political strategy for Arabs when it comes to Israel; there is a clear connection between these two Muslim attitudes towards things external. Islam's aggression is also attributed to the power (that it once had), which meant that it reached harmony with its neighbors in ways other than letting them practice their own religions, but through power.

But the struggle to bring the knowledge of monotheism to the world cannot end, although it will have to change in form without taking away from its core truths, and violent force is not the proper, nor the effective means. Islam cannot be blamed for attempting to unify people under a monotheistic vision, for this too is the Messianic vision of Judaism and the Torah; the only thing that can be called into question is the method, and even more than this, Islam's urge to replace Judaism as part of this process of bringing knowledge of monotheism to the world. If monotheism is truly what Islam wants (which is what the Jews want), then it will have to relinquish its belief that it has the monopoly over G-d and see Judaism and Jews for what they are, the original and perpetual bringers of this type of knowledge to the world, not as corrupted sinners. Notice that Judaism does not call for, or try, to replace Islam with Judaism, for considering Islam's numbers and purported belief, it is clear that it has a high potential for goodness; we are all waiting for it to be unlocked and released. Afterall, Jewish tradition says that Ishmael did t'shuva (a loose translation of 'repented') and was a "tzaddik," a righteous person.
Channukah 2005

Larry Domnitch, THE JERUSALEM POST  Dec. 26, 2005


What induced Antiochus Epiphanes to attempt to eradicate Judaism? Some speculate that he had his own political motives. However, he initially had good relations with the Jews who had helped him take Jerusalem from his rival, the Egyptian Ptolemy. The chronicler of that era, Josephus Flavius mentions that Antiochus initially granted Jews the right to keep their laws. (Josephus Flavius, Antiquities, Book XII, chapter 3:3) He had also decreed that the Temple of Jerusalem continue to be respected by all as a Jewish institution under Jewish auspices. Furthermore, the attempt to eradicate an existing nation by outlawing their religious practices was unprecedented.

One might presume that all of Antiochus's predecessors who had ruled over the Land of Israel for over 150 years since the conquest of
Alexander the Great, had themselves, imagined forcing Hellenism and idolatry, the universal creeds of the time, upon the Jews. All other
nations readily accepted Hellenism, so naturally the question arose, what about the Jews?

The Jews for the most part were left alone to practice their faith and live their way of life. The Greeks initially on favorable terms with the Jews, had also understood that they were steadfast in their beliefs, and there was a futility of attempting to force them to accept other creeds and practices.

However, as Antiochus Epiphanes ruled, the numbers of Jews who had embraced Hellenism were increasing. Those Jews known as, mityavnim sought to popularize Hellenism among the Jews. The Book of Maccabees quotes the Hellenists who proclaimed, "let us go out and make a covenant with the heathen around us." (Maccabees 1:11)

As two brothers, both mityavnim, and heirs to the position of the High Priesthood feuded for that position, one of the brothers, Menelaus, went to the emperor and told him that the mityavnim were "desirous to leave the laws of their country, and the Jewish way of living according to them, to follow the king's laws, and the Grecian way of living" (Antiquities, book 12, Chapter 5:1). He then proposed the construction of a Greek style stadium in Jerusalem, to which the emperor consented.

When Antiochus eventually issued his infamous decrees outlawing Jewish practices, the Jewish Hellenists readily consented. "They (the mityavnim) profaned the Sabbath and sacrificed to heathen altars" (Maccabees 1:43).

IT IS plausible that Antiochus was influenced by the existence of the mityavnim from whom he might have perceived that the Jews'
tenacity and resolve could actually be broken. If some Jews could accept Hellenism, maybe they all could. However, the Jews proved him

There have been similar situations facing the Jews in their history. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Soviet regime banned
Jewish observances and closed Jewish houses of worship. Similar to Antiochus, their intent was to eliminate Judaism by destroying its
spiritual sources. Jewish assimilation in the Soviet Union was on the increase. Furthermore, there was a comparatively small but vocal
Jewish wing of the Communist Party, which in 1918 passed a resolution that called for "suspending the operations of Jewish institutions" within Jewish communities. A section of the Jewish communists, known as the Yevsektzia, also zealously aided efforts against Judaism in Russia. They helped the regime close religious institutions, and informed on those Jews who continued Jewish observances clandestinely. The Soviet authorities were also no doubt influenced by their modern day mityavnim.

However, during the difficult years of Soviet rule, courageous efforts among Jews who acted as modern-day Maccabees, persevering to
preserve their heritage, bore outstanding results. Today there are multitudes of dedicated and observant Jews from the Russian republics in Israel, and other communities worldwide.

PRESENTLY, THE world watches the nation of Israel. As nations line up to pressure and demand more Israeli concessions, what if the people of Israel held their ground? What if they categorically said no to a Palestinian state and to the pressure? What if they proclaimed that they have but one country while the Arabs have virtually unlimited territory? What if they stated that no nation can be compelled to facilitate the creation of an entity that would continue to oppose and act against its very existence? If the Jews were unmovable, world reaction might be different.

Instead, President George W. Bush, Secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, the EU, and various other world leaders speak of visions of
Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace, although there is no tangible sign that these visions have any value.

But when many in the Israeli media and Knesset, along with American Jewish leaders utter the same lines, and espouse the same positions,
what reaction from world leaders should one expect?

The pressure we face may not be so much about George Bush, Condoleezza Rice, the EU and the UN, as about an internal Jewish issue of self image; of how Jews perceive themselves within the global community.

Will events of the modern times compel Jews to seek to merge with the international community at the cost of imperiling the well-being of the Jewish state? Now is the time for modern Maccabees to stand up.

The writer is the author of The Cantonists: The Jewish Children's Army of the Tsar recently released by Devora Publishing.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Munich Review --

Note - If you haven't seen "Munich" yet, perhaps you should wait to see it before reading this since I give away some parts of the movie.

I watched Munich a few days ago after reading a few reviews saying that it equated the Palestinian murder of the Israeli Olympics team in 1972 with the Israeli retaliative assassinations of the terrorists. Dennis Ross, on the other hand, said that it did no such thing, so I decided to watch it and see for myself; these are my perceptions.

If I could speak about the movie in the terms of an essay, I would say that its final conclusion is that revenge, ultimately, destroys, even if the intent of the revenge was justified. However, the movie didn't arrive me at that conclusion immediately, Speilberg navigated through a series of perceptions and gradually tried to get the viewer to see that point of view.

Example; the movie starts off with the Palestinian terrorists hopping the fence to the Olympic games, entering the hotel where the Israeli team was staying, breaking in, and beginning their hostage situation/rampage. During these few minutes of film, there were not many available emotions to feel towards them other than anger and resentment.

However, the table soon turns; when the Israeli assassination team targets their first terrorist by planting a bomb in his telephone, the same exact angles and shots are used to show the Israeli's entering his house as it did when showing the Palestinian terrorists entering the hotel. It's a subtle usage of footage, but the intent is to draw a parallel between the morality of the actions by making one scene remind you of another. In a movie, the producer is G-d and creates the necessary world to get the desired points across.

Again, the movie doesn't break the thesis to the audience immediately, it has them simmer in it before gradually slipping it to them. The plot of the first assassination was to call the house of the terrorist when he answered the phone and then to detonate the bomb. However, to the audience's horror, his young daughter answers the phone, only to show the assassination team abort the mission at the last second. They try again and succeed with their mission the second time around after the daughter leaves. Perhaps this was the movie's intent or perhaps it wasn't, but this made a clear delineation between the Israeli assassination team's effort to avoid killing innocents and non-combatitants, in contrast to the Palestinian terrorists' specific goal of the exact opposite.

What interested me is that as the movie unfolded, one saw that its primary emphasis was the moral question of retaliation to terrorism in the form of assassination (and the equation of the two), and not the moral question, or the way in which a culture of terrorism/hijacking develops, of terrorism itself. Clearly it would take a more complicated and perhaps expensive movie to explain the mentality of Palestinian terrorism within the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict; it is relatively easier to make a movie exploring the moral issues of retaliatory measures to such terrorism. Plus, for some, it is easier to point the finger at themselves than to accuse others.

All in all, the movie portrays the Israeli assassination team with the noble and justified goal of eliminating the terrorists. In order to do this, the lead assassin, a former Mossad agent (the actor does a less than good imitation of an Israeli) has to bargain with scum-of-the-earth international hitmen, who describe themselves to him as "ideologically permiscuous." After some double- and triple-crossing and general manipulation, it becomes apparent that the Mossad, with its righteous agenda, becomes likened to the hitmen it mingles with by way of association. In other words, it is as if to say, "Don't become what you hate." More patronizing would be to say, "Don't become what you hate, even if you have the right to hate it because it wants to kill you."

This message is clearly strewn throughout the movie, especially when the assassins become thirsty for revenge and go out of their way to target terrorists not on their list, basically, just for the heck of it. More shocking is when they go out of their way to kill a women agent that murdered their friend, and the way in which they killed her is particularly gruesome; firing darts at her naked body that cause her to choke on her own blood. They stand there watching it gush out of the holes in her chest, and when one of them covers her naked blood-covered body, another quickly opens her robe back up to add humiliation to her death. At this point in time it is hard not to see them as terrorists, but again, the producer calls the shots.

An interesting scene is when one of the assassins, the bomb-maker, a genuinely nice fellow, leaves the group when they go on their revenge rampage. His moral criticism is that of revenge and that Jews should take the moral high road, which is absolutely true, and wonders if the Israeli government should capture the terrorists and try them in Israel as was done with the Nazi's in the Nuremburg Trials rather than assassinate them. This morning, as I was waiting for my waffles to heat up before going to work, I thought of this; would it have actually been better to capture the terrorists and to bring them to Israel for trial? Would it have been better to travel to whatever country the terrorists were in, and one-by-one, infiltrate them and bring them to Israel? Would it have been better to cause a potential blood-bath by attempting to capture people that don't mind dying and killing innocents, putting them on a plane with the approval of their country's of residence government, and flying them to Israel, of all places? Had this succeeded, the entire Arab world would now see a group of Palestinians being tried and probably put to death by the Israeli government, and they would join the ranks of martyrs. Would it have been better to assassinate them and to end the story there? Either method produces martyrs, but one is out in the open and the other is covert. Furthermore, the German government held a trial to convict those guilty of war crimes, with America's supervision and in front of the whole world; there was no way for them to retaliate. The capturing of and bringing in of the terrorists of Black September would have not been as clean and much bloodier than the assassinations.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Palestine and the Racist Minute Men--

** This is a response paper that I had to write for a class after watching a presentation about the Minute Men.**

I had mixed thoughts and emotions as I was paying attention to the Minute Man presentation on Wednesday. For the most part, I feel empathy for the suffering of other people, in this case, the Mexicans who try to find economic comfort in the United States. For the most part, I am also in disagreement with the attitudes of neo-Nazi-type groups, although I think that it is very easy for (otherwise normal) people, perhaps many, to be sucked into hate politics, especially when they feel that they’re cause is justifiable. It is not always easy to pinpoint hate when you see it, which is many times elusive.

However, despite my strong disagreements with neo-Nazi type attitudes, I do not feel that the speakers present at the presentation made a particularly strong argument for their rejection of the United States’ border policies, except for perhaps the first woman that spoke. I think that a lot of race-, nation-, and economic-based resentment are the primary culprits behind this conflict, but the speakers appealed to the emotions more than they did to the speakers’ intellect, and particularly to their emotions, which left me unconvinced on many of their points. In all honesty, I expected to be presented with more of a usage of fact, statistics, and evidence, but was not. I feel that they presented the audience with only a slice of the information needed to get a fuller picture of this scenario, and that, by using certain types of rhetoric, expected to pull the audience along. Regardless of this, I nevertheless feel that their cause is justified because clearly there are issues that need to be dealt with, but it seems that they felt that they were “preaching to the choir,” and did not take into account that there would be people in the audience who did not already have their minds made up on the entire issue. (I saw some of the people around me nodding their head in agreement and heard some calling ‘the invterviewees’ names).

For example, the video made by the gentleman did a good job of showing the audience how things looked in some of the areas on the Mexican side of the border, and really tried to get us to feel what he felt. Having said that, I can empathize with his emotions, but it did not go much farther than that. To relate this to one of my own experiences (which is actually not really mine), my grandmother used to tell me about her negative experiences in Libya before she moved to Israel in 1948. She would tell me about the Libyan that murdered her father by running over him and then backing over him again to make sure that he was dead (this was never confirmed), and about the British-freed concentration camps that she found herself in, and my grandfather and her brother reinforced these horror stories when they told me that their shops were closed down and synagogues were burned. I have no doubt in my mind that these events occurred, partially because I trust their memory and partially because I have read of these types of incidents. However, these memories, as trustable as they are, represent a slice of the bigger picture of what was going on in Libya between Jews and Muslims prior to and during the establishment of the State of Israel; there were most-likely times in Libya when Jews lived under tolerable circumstances, as they did in many of the other Arab countries at other times.

But none of this justifies the type of hate that the Minute Men have towards immigrants; it can be said that it is representative of a longer-standing issue that we have here in the United States, a view that white is the norm, and these types of things are very difficult to squeeze out of a society when they have already found shelter within it. It can be said that their resentment is justifiable on certain counts, but even the most despicable of opinions can be backed by certain truths and understandable emotion.

If we view the way that America came into existence, generally speaking, there was a hierarchy of European ethnicities, with Protestants being on top, then Catholics; English above the Irish, Italians, Poles, etc, and Jews were one of the lowest (although not all Jews are European). Then “people of color” came into play, and they “naturally” had a harder time fitting into this society. This social trend continued to play itself out, and it has been improved much in the last two-hundred and thirty years after America received its independence, although there is still room for improvement. The view that the Minute Men hold can be attributed to this view of white superiority, which comes with the notion that to be American is to be white.

However, there were small kernels of truth in some of the things that the Minute Men were saying, but to their misfortune, whatever small amounts of logic they had were obstructed by their racist ideals. Furthermore, the gentleman who made the video did not bother to recognize their perspectives and then logically discuss why there wrong, but rather portrayed them solely as caricatures with comical and dangerous points of view, totally dismissing any kernel of truth that they might have had, and if the audience had thought more critically, he might have drawn away from his own argument.

So if I were to filter out the racist garble advanced by the Minute Men interviewed in the video and tried to unearth some of logical motives behind their flawed perspectives (which should have been the job of the video-maker), I would say that they feel threatened. Why do they feel threatened? They feel threatened because people look out their window and judge reality by what they see and not by what happened before their lifetime. In reality, it would be good if people did that, but they don’t always. Even the dispossessed, versus the dispossessor, eventually need to grasp reality in light of the present and not of the past, only if for their own mental well-being. These Minute Men feel as if they are being encroached upon, and although this land was not originally theirs, it has become their land by proxy of living on it.

To make a relevant political analogy, Israel, the land of the Jews, has become considered “Arab land” simply because Arabs conquered and settled there after the 7th century, during the one-thousand eight-hundred and seventy eight year-long (70-1948) “hiatus” that was initiated by a Roman invasion. Christians and Muslims, amongst other peoples, subsequently invaded and fought over it on their own terms during this timeframe. Yet today, the international community believes that the establishment of an Arab Palestinian state on Israeli soil is thought of as being the only way for there to be peace in the region. The analogy would be like establishing an American “state,” more like an enclave really – “Minutemanistan,” where Minute Men (and Women) can live in peace. In a starkly similar way that Mexicans are considered illegal if found in America without identification, Jews are confined to “Israel Proper,” (that is, minus Gaza and the West Bank) and are considered obtrusive and illegal settlers, yet their presence clearly had high potential for improving the economy of the surrounding Palestinians. They have already been pulled out of these areas due to overwhelming international pressure, as well as American pressure, yet we have yet to see a policy that will force Mexicans to leave America. Israeli's have to conclude that this pullout was in their best interest, and considering all of their options, it was the best (and the only realistic) one.

American history and the sense of American patriotism was based on the settlement of land, and we cannot expect people to annihilate their sense of self-worth by denying their history, but we can expect them to allow others to succeed in that particular area of land. I would have liked if the speakers had spent more time talking about what the State of Mexico is able to do for its people rather than it having to be brought up by people in the audience in order to be addressed.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

To My Friend Avi, Regarding the Previous Post --

Avi, this is an article I got in an e-mail, thought you'd like to
read it.

Here's my thought on it (not like you asked for it, or anything). This guy seems right on, and do we really need Christians (who care about us) telling us how to be Jews?

It seems that Zionism, as an ideology, has finally revealed that it has some holes in it. Maybe this "revelation" is not so sudden for some people (all of whom I don't agree with), but it is more-or-less, more sudden for me. The major hole that I'm referring to is that Zionism ceases to make Israeli's proud of their absolute right to the land of Israel anymore. In other words, if Zionism is defiend solely as a cultural and social movement designed to allow Jews to live in their own nation as a free people, then the key point of Zionism is nationalism, and nations, especially diplomatic nations like Israel, give land for peace. I'm not criticizing it because it's true and sometimes has been necessary, but isn't this what we are supposed to tell people when they criticize Israel for being a pariah? Aren't we supposed to tell them that Israel has given land for peace?

The point is this, and you probably disagree, but Zionism, other than being fully agreeable on the essential principles that it brings up, is lacking when we realize that it doesn't motivate Jews (Israeli's) to stick to their land anymore The Jews that established Israel were awesome Zionists that weren't willing to give much up, but what's become of that ideology? It's no longer feasible because Israel doesn't give it much credibility as a policy (nor does the world). This means one of two things; either there are no longer anymore true Zionists, or something entirely different, that Zionism has run its course as being useful. I mean, essentially almost every citizen of Israel today is a descendant of people who were ardent Zionists, even the jerks at University of Haifa (such as Ilan Poopy) who rewrite history until I feel I want to puke.

This doesn't go to say that Zionism is completely incompatible with Judaism, for it is absolutely compatible with Judaism. Living in Israel is a Jewish thing to do, keeping the mitzvah's is a Jewish thing to do; these are well-known and don't even have to be discussed. However, what does need to be discussed is the opinion that Israel is "anti-Jewish" (in the religious sense) because it is not a theocracy, i.e., found the balance between life and religion, all of which will occur in the time of the Meshiach. When people (Jews) criticize Israel based only on religious criteria and completely ignore the national sentiments on the ground, they are essentially making the same mistake, and they are thinking in a way that is incompatible with life in Israel. Much of the time, although not always, these people have not really experienced Israel, and this is part of the reason behind their resistance to it. They would like to re-create Israel in their image as they see fit; if the people aren't ready for it, even though it is clearly their birthright, their Torah, and their commandments by Hashem, if they aren't ready for it, it's akin to an invasion of sorts, a cultural or even a religious invasion, and it can't be done, and won't work. Jews have to embrace Judaism.

Other times, they have experienced Israel as it is today, and sometimes this leads people to an informed decision based on the empirical evidence of life they've found there. In the end, however, it doesn't make sense to have a "Jewish boycott" of sorts on Israel, the country, because it is not (yet) Eretz Israel. It doesn't make sense to want to live in Israel but to boycott Judaism either.

Basically, everybody wants to make Israel what they want to make it without much regards to the other population, which makes this a Jewish problem.