Monday, July 31, 2006

Discussion Between Michael Rubin and Aaron Miller about Israel and Lebanon....

I just caught the last few moments of a discussion about the Israel-Lebanon situation on KUAT’s (channel six in Tucson) Online News Hour with Jim Lehrer. Michael Rubin, to paraphrase, said that Lebanon needs to reign in on and remove Hezba-llah and to fill that vacuum. The host (not Jim Lehrer) asked him if Lebanon has the capability to do this and Rubin promptly answered with another question, which I paraphrase; “Was Lebanon able to end the Syrian occupation? No, but with the help and support of the international community this was accomplished.” Rubin’s parallel between Hezba-llah’s hijacking of Lebanon and Syria’s occupation of Lebanon is right on the money, and it also demonstrates the general Arab society’s passivity when faced with destructive terrorist regimes thriving within the borders of their very own countries. Aaron Miller, whom was debating Rubin, had a quick and defensive/apologetic response, along the lines that such a thing would take too long. Too long for what? On the surface, he’s saying that a quick solution is better, but what this is really just a rejection of Rubin’s proposition, and means that Miller is saying that Israel is responsible for bettering the situation and not Lebanon.

The Problem with Al-Aqsa Mosque (al Masjid al Aqsa) and False History

Here is a picture of where the the Al-Aqsa Mosque stands today. Take a close look at the picture; the walls which create the platform upon which the Mosque stands are the walls to the old Jewish Temple. Normally, and this is how it was in the past, there was something inside the walls, not on top of it. The Mosque, literally and figuratively, rests on top of the site of the Temple. Here is a (rendered) picture of where the Beit Hamikdash, or Temple used to be. Al-Aqsa Mosque was built on this site in the 7th Century and today is the cause of many problems.

While we are all scrambling to understand the core reasons of the problem in the Middle East, coming up with interesting theories, many valid, some not, many have ruled out historical events as the culprit.

The building of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque are the causes of the problem, par excellence. The erection of the Dome of the Rock (the gray dome to the left) and the Al-Aqsa Mosque (the golden dome to the right), with the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade acting in its name in the 7th Century was completed to establish political control over Jerusalem. They act as an encroachment and obstacle to Jews, now for Israelis, and now for peace, for both political and religious reasons. This should be deemed intolerable violation and probably deserves a UN Resolution on its own.

Both are built on top of the site of the Temple, i.e., the Temple which was the center of Jewish religious and political life from when King David built it some three thousand years ago to its destruction in the year 70 of our millennium. Even after its destruction it remained the location of pilgrimage and central Jewish theology. Jewish tradition holds that it is the location where Abraham, long before King David lived, went to sacrifice Isaac, one of his sons. This is known as the Akeidah, or “binding.”

In 715 of this millennium, the Damascus-based (Syria) Ummayad Dynasty had the Al-Aqsa Mosque built on the site of the Temple Mount. Their reasons for doing so were political, and according to an article written by Daniel Pipes, the “Umayyad rulers sought to aggrandize Syria at the expense of Arabia (and perhaps also to help recruit an army against the Byzantine Empire).”

Muhammad himself changed the direction of prayer (qibla) from Jerusalem to Mecca in his lifetime, and later Muslim religious tradition had to create reasons to bring Jerusalem back into the religious sentiments of Muslims. In the attempt to achieve this, which was largely successful, the Ummayads built the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the site of the Temple in Jerusalem. They inferred a claim, very loosely based on Qur’anic Scripture, that Muhammad’s Night Journey took place at the Temple Mount and that he tied his horse, ”Al-Buraq,” which means “Lighting” due to his incredible speed, to the Kotel Ha-ma'aravi Pipes notes that passage 17:1 in the Qur’an reads, “Glory to He who took His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque to the furthest mosque. (Subhana allathina asra bi-‘abdihi laylatan min al-masjidi al-harami ila al-masjidi al-aqsa.)” and “When this Qur'anic passage was first revealed, in about 621, a place called the Sacred Mosque already existed in Mecca.” “Al-masjid al-aqsa” literally means “the furthest mosque,” which the Ummayads interpreted as referencing Jerusalem. However, Pipes explains that “Elsewhere in the Qur'an (30:1), Palestine is called ‘the closest land’ (adna al-ard).” How could the furthest mosque be located in the closest land? If the land was the closest then the mosque in it would also be the closest. Pipes also notes that “The ‘furthest mosque’ was apparently identified with places inside Arabia: either Medina or a town called Ji‘rana, about ten miles from Mecca, which the Prophet visited in 630.” It is most likely here where Muhammad had his Night Journey. There were also no mosques in Jerusalem, or anywhere in Palestine either at this time.

The mosques were built for political purposes and continue to serve those purposes of trying to bring Jerusalem under exclusive Muslim rule. The latest fad and historically false expression of Muslim domination over “Palestine” is Palestinian nationalism, which insists that an undivided Jerusalem is to be the capital of the Palestinian state, at the cost of blood and tears. Jerusalem was largely a backwater in Islamic politics, but as Pipes states, “This neglect came to an abrupt end after June 1967, when the Old City came under Israeli control. Palestinians again made Jerusalem the centerpiece of their political program. The Dome of the Rock turned up in pictures everywhere, from Yasir Arafat's office to the corner grocery. Slogans about Jerusalem proliferated and the city quickly became the single most emotional issue of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The PLO made up for its 1964 oversight by specifically mentioning Jerusalem in its 1968 constitution as "the seat of the Palestine Liberation Organization."

Can we imagine trying to split Mecca up in the same way and for the same political reasons? Pipes’ article, which is very good and stunning in the clarity of its information and research, can be found here.

Yet another Arab woman speaks out. Yashar koyach!...............

Brigitte Gabriel, yet another Arab woman, speaks out against some of the fundamental problems with Muslim terrorism occurring in the Middle East. Oh yes, the times, they are a changin’.

Brigitte Gabriel

Absolute Truth and G-d

The best things about humanity were not invented by humanity. In short, to the stance that G-d is a human invention is my attempt to show that G-d is not a human invention but in fact real. If G-d were a human invention, He would clearly be the best human invention, but then if we consider for a moment that G-d is not a human invention, we can see the world in a perspective that gives value to everything.

We must consider some things before delving into this. Firstly is the matter of subjective vs. objective reality, or truth. We can liken it to a tree in the middle of a jungle with an array of people standing around it; that the tree exists is no question, everybody attests to its existence. Truth is like this, it is not a matter of subjective reality or perspective, because even although each person standing around the tree sees it from a different angle, in respect to his/her specific location in relation to it, each agrees that in fact there is a tree in the middle of the jungle and that it is a tree.

Truth is not the same thing as each individual’s subjective perspective on life and reality, it is an object external to the human mind, as real as the tree. We cannot say that the tree exists in the person’s mind, i.e., is a product of that person’s individual and subjective consciousness, because it is perceived by all. Something about the process of a human’s coming into existence endows, which can also be said “traps,” the human being in a shell of his/her own perspective, his subjective reality. This is what creates each person’s “own truth.” His life becomes a product of his own truth.

This puts the individual and his personal subjective reality in tension with something that everyone perceives, an existence outside of himself. The tension is a product of his relationship with it; he knows that there is something outside of him, something perceivable, and that that thing strikes a chord of transcendence. The tension is created when he realizes within himself that he did not create this thing, that this thing is simply there and that it relates to everybody. He can take his own personal and individualized stance on this thing, but he is aware, and this is what troubles him, that he did not create this thing – it is not a figment of his imagination, although it is blurred by his imagination and personal experiences. It is like seeing a light through a multi-faceted prism; the light is bent and produces an indecipherable image, but it is clear that it is still light.

Not only does he realize that he did not create this thing, he realizes that the creation of such a thing would be an impossible task for him. He cannot create something better than him that tells him how to live life, for from where did that thing obtain the information other than its source? It is like creating a computer program that explains things to you; a computer program can only know what it has been programmed; there is no computer program that knows more than its designer. Nobody can create a computer that teaches its designer. Every computer is created with a fraction of the knowledge held by its designer. If it were possible to create a computer with knowledge surpassing that of its designer, it means that the person whom created that computer endowed it with the ability to obtain information from the world, which means that the person has all the knowledge of the computer already and therefore the computer is useless.
A person eventually realizes that, despite, or in compliment to his personal and subjective perspective on existence, that he exists in tension with a truth that he cannot shake and that he did not create, i.e., as a whole, and that it is not a product of his own mental creation. It is a law of sorts, a law of existence. It is no wonder that all societies develop laws with stark similarities to each other and that most human beings have certain, if very few, innate understandings of wrong and right. This is nothing less than the human ability, on the macro and micro level, to perceive that such a thing truly exists outside of the human mind. Every societal law and every personal maxim is a reflection of this external truth, this law.

Now the question becomes, “What is the source of this law?” We can try to reason that it is a compendium, an average, of subjective truths and that for some reason that subjective truths tend to align themselves with each other. But this is impossible, or highly unlikely, because the permutations of existence and their effect on a human mind are innumerable; it is virtually impossible that two different people develop similar subjective truths if they were not developing them based on some objective truth. That all drops of water fall from the clouds to the ground is not a coincidence; there is a force of gravity that draws them all to it.

This is the purpose of societies, to bring objective truth into the realm of livability. This is the purpose of law and of order, to try to catch a glimpse of that objective truth and to apply it to the human condition.

However, there is no human that has ever existed that was able to completely break through the tension of himself with that of the perception of absolute truth. Therefore, that humanity seems to be anchored in some notion of absolute truth means that, in some way, absolute truth found its way to us. There is no human that is able to, solely by his own reasoning and perception, state an absolute truth that at once, for all people, and for all time, applies and does not change; this above and beyond the range of human capability.

So the question now becomes, “How did air of this absolute truth reach humanity?” and the answer is that it was told to us, that it reached us not by way of our ability to masterfully tear through all of the world’s illusion, which we possess only in small and to imperfect degrees, but that it was given to us. Firstly, that it was given to us means explicitly that there is a knowledgeable Being whom willed to give it to us. It must be a Being and not a force because forces are neutral and mindless, possessing no will or forethought. Secondly, the person whom merited such a union with such a Being must have been sufficiently able to tear through the aforementioned illusion of existence; this individual was Abraham. It is fitting that Abraham was the first person to fully realize the existence of absolute truth, and with that the existence of the One G-d. Once he accomplished this, by way of his own reason, G-d came the rest of the way and broke that gap; He communicated with Abraham. Abraham reached the brink of human understanding, leading him to be absolutely sure that G-d existed, at which point G-d said, “You’re right, here I am.” What Abraham could not know, G-d informed him.

There is a term in Hebrew, in the Jewish lexicon, known as “bitul,” which is loosely translated as “nullification (of the self).” In Muslim thought there is a very similar parallel, if not the same concept altogether, known as “submission,” or the Arabic word “islam,” which shares a root with the Hebrew word “shalem,” whole, (shalom, peace). Abraham gave the world this concept and that is why he is the revered father of all monotheism and absolute truth today. Suffice it to say that Abraham reasoned that kindness was the Divine pillar of human interaction with each other; so monotheism, absolute truth, and kindness are inseparable.

To say that we created G-d is to say that we are able to create the notions, laws, that spew forth from G-d, but again, if we were able to create the thing that informs us, we would not need to create it because we would be able to inform ourselves. That all human groups throughout time and history have formed idols, imagined gods and goddesses, and had religions with cultural and societal laws is proof that we perceive that a Truth exists and that He gave us life and truth vs. our giving it to Him. Abraham’s recognition was the Identity of this Oneness, a Being, G-d, HaKadosh Baruch Hu.