Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Andrew Sullivan reminded me today of this great article by Ron Rosenbaum -- Goodbye, All That: How Left Idiocies Drove Me to Flee.

Another Neturei Karta connection -- on October 3, 2000, their spokesman appeared at the International Action Center (the group from which International ANSWER spawned).

I had wondered, in the last couple of years, who the obviously Orthodox Jews were who appeared at various anti-war and anti-Israel rallies -- the Neturei Karta website makes it plain that they are. Another interesting thing about their website -- they have a list of "documents in other languages" -- including Russian, Italian, Arabic, and Persian -- but not Hebrew.


Another example of Jews being our own worst enemies....

While cruising around LGF, I found a link to the amazing website of Neturei Karta. Neturei Karta is the extreme ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionist group that, in this web page, condemns the assassination of Sheikh Yassin. Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss says in his statement on behalf of Neturei Karta that "we mourn together with our Palestinian cousins, the murder of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin."

He continues, "And so we are reminded of one of the exceptional attributes of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. How he constantly drew a clear distinction between true Judaism and Zionism and between the practitioners of Judaism and Zionist perpetrators. The followers of Judaism were never considered by the Sheik to be an obstacle to true peace." Apparently Neturei Karta is not disturbed by Hamas suicide attacks that kill religious as well as non-religious Jews, Zionist as well as anti-Zionist Jews, Arabs as well as Jews.


Monday, March 29, 2004

Once again proving that Jews can be our own worst enemies -- British MP wants economic sanctions against Israel.


A British Member of Parliament from the ruling Labour party, Gerald Kaufman, has called for economic sanctions against Israel, including cutting off arms supplies, to force it back to the negotiating table with the Palestinians.

"It is not enough for the world community, including our own Government, to condemn the Israeli Government's brutal policies of repression," he said, addressing members of his Manchester constituency.

"Only widespread economic sanctions on Israel, together with cutting off arms supplies, can make any impact on this Government without a conscience".

Mr Kaufman, himself Jewish, said US President George W Bush's father, the former president Bush, had "understood the importance of forcing the Israelis to the conference table by imposing economic sanctions on a previous Likud Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir".

Mr Kaufman, once a frontbench Labour foreign affairs spokesman when the party was in opposition, criticised a decision by Mr Bush to receive Mr Sharon in Washington.

"Bush has shown whose side he is on in this grossly unequal struggle by refusing to invite the Palestinian Prime Minister, even though the ostensible purpose of the invitation to Sharon is the Middle East peace process," Mr Kaufman said.

Mr Sharon has received an invitation to meet Mr Bush on April 14.

-- AFP

Friday, March 26, 2004

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

A good surprisingly good column from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, reprinted from the Independent, on the assassination of Sheikh Yassin. I don't know if it was the prudent or wise thing for Israel to kill Yassin now, but it's nonsense to call him the "spiritual" leader of Hamas (the spirituality of murdering Jews?), and it's equally nonsense to focus on the fact that he was in a wheelchair as if that meant that he was a mere figurehead. Yassin was the founder of a murderous organization whose goal is to destroy the state of Israel. Hamas is not interested in a two-state solution, and never pretended that it was. The Hamas Covenant mentions the Protocols of the Elders of Zion approvingly.

As Part III, article 11, states: "The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine has been an Islamic Waqf throughout the generations and until the Day of Resurrection, no one can renounce it or part of it, or abandon it or part of it."

Part III, article 12, states: "[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion."

Part III, article 22 details "the powers which support the enemy." These include, "the Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, B’nai B’rith and the like."

Part IV, article 32 says, "For Zionist scheming has no end, and after Palestine they will covet expansion from the Nile to the Euphrates. Only when they have completed digesting the area on which they will have laid their hand, they will look forward to more expansion, etc. Their scheme has been laid out in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and their present [conduct] is the best proof of what is said there."


Monday, March 22, 2004

Well, this is a relief -- Arafat says Gibson's 'Passion' not anti-Semitic. I was waiting for someone authoritative to inform me....
Apparently Yasser Arafat has become a film critic (unlike the Pope). He says that "The Passion of the Christ" is "Impressive". The article from the "International Press Centre -- Palestinian National Authority State Information Service" also includes this little gem:

Nabil Abu Rudeneh, one of Arafat's closest advisors, watched the film along with the Palestinian President and a group of American and European men of cloth and Palestinian Muslim clerics.

"The Palestinians are still being daily exposed to the kind of pain Jesus was exposed to during his crucifixion," Abu Rudeneh said in a statement after he watched the movie.


Ah, so the Palestinians = Jesus, and if so, the Israelis and current-day Jews = Christkillers. Interesting theology....

(My thanks to PaleoJudaica for pointing this article out).


Sunday, March 21, 2004

On a far more pleasant note, the Ithaca College theatre department is performing Yentl, the play based on Isaac Bashevis Singer's short story, "Yentl the Yeshiva Boy". This will be the culmination of the year's Yiddish culture events, sponsored by Jewish Studies, Hillel, and a number of other groups on the IC campus.
LGF has more information about one of the demonstrators at the Hollywood demonstration: "What the Associated Press doesn’t tell you about Emily Richard and her little play starring Emily, is that she is holding an Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades poster—the branch of Arafat’s Fatah group responsible for numerous acts of mass murder in Israel. The same depraved posters that are plastered across the walls of the West Bank and Gaza are now carried by Western idiots through the streets of Los Angeles."
Going through the Yahoo News Photos of protests today against the beginning of the Iraq war a year ago, it is remarkable how many of these demonstrations around the world feature anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian signs. For example, photo 133, from a London anti-war demonstration, features at least two signs that say "Free Palestine" and "Freedom for Palestine." Photo 135, from an Amman protest, features people holding up pictures of Saddam Hussein (I'm not sure why this should be labeled an "anti-war" march by Yahoo, rather than a "pro-Saddam" demonstration). People are also wearing ties that show all of historic Palestine on them with Arabic lettering across the map. Photo 154, from Rio de Janeiro, features an Israeli flag, equated with the swastika, and red paint or blood across it. Photo 158, from Paris, shows several people holding signs that say "Killers! Troops out of Iraq, Justice in Palestine." Across the top of the sign there are pictures of Bush, Sharon, Blair, and Aznar. A Spanish demonstrator holds a sign with a dove pierced through by a dollar sign and a star of David (photo 170).

Photo 177 shows a neo-Nazi anti-U.S. demonstration in Munich. Photo 206, of a Communist Party of India demonstration in New Delhi, shows two signs: one says, "Try Bush Blair as War criminals" and the other says "Release Saddam and other Iraqi leaders immediately and unconditionally." Photo 208 from London shows, among other signs, "End the Occupation of Iraq, Freedom for Palestine." A "peaceful" sign in the Sydney demonstration (Photo 229) reads "Kill Bush, Blair, Sharon and Coward, the 4 terrorists." Photo 24, from Hollywood, has signs from International ANSWER, including "Bring the troops home now, end colonial occupation -- Iraq, Palestine, Haiti & Everywhere." I wasn't aware that U.S. troops were engaged in a colonial occupation of Palestine.... Photo 40, of the San Francisco demonstration, has a big sign also from ANSWER that reads "U.S. OUT! Free Palestine!" Photo 59, from Chicago, shows a demonstrator being arrested, carrying a sign that says "Palestine will be free."

Frankly, it's a bit baffling to me why these demonstrations are necessarily labeled "anti-Iraq war" by Yahoo, because many of them, according to the signs, appear to be for a hodge-podge of causes that have been piggy-backed onto anti-Iraq war protests. And at least judging from the signs, many of the demonstrations are sponsored by far-left organizations such as ANSWER, the Socialist Workers or International Socialist Organization -- hardly an attractive band of protestors, to my taste.


Friday, March 19, 2004

More on the G.O.P.'s anti-gay crusade from Andrew Sullivan. He finishes by saying, "I have to say that I have been culpably naive about this administration on this issue. They led me to believe they weren't hostile to gay people, that they would not use anti-gay sentiment to gain votes, that they would not roll back very basic protections for gay federal employees. I was lied to. We were all lied to. But now we know."

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Once again, Tom Friedman gets it right in Axis of Appeasement. He says: "The notion that Spain can separate itself from Al Qaeda's onslaught on Western civilization by pulling its troops from Iraq is a fantasy. Bin Laden has said that Spain was once Muslim and he wants it restored that way. As a friend in Cairo e-mailed me, a Spanish pullout from Iraq would only bring to mind Churchill's remark after Chamberlain returned from signing the Munich pact with Hitler: 'You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war.'" This is what I fear also. Friedman is also right in this column to decry the way that the Bush Administration is rebuilding Iraq -- on the cheap, with as few American troops as possible, and without any serious attempt to work with the U.N. to create an Iraqi democracy. But at the moment I'm more afraid of how Al Qaeda will understand the results of the Spanish election.

Friday, March 12, 2004

One of the amusing things about doing this blog is noticing the Google ads at the top of the page. Right now there are two ads for cookies -- one from "Chip-N-Dough Cookies" and one to "send a bouquet of cookies". Kind of contradicts my attempts to adhere to Weight Watchers....
Another evil terrorist bombing, this time in Madrid -- Spain Struggles to Absorb Worst Terrorist Attack in Its History. It's not known yet who's responsible -- the Basque terrorist group ETA seems to be the main suspect, but there are other possibilities as well.
My friend Ben Greenberg has just started a blog, HungryBlues, to discuss his father's (Paul Greenberg) life and times -- his involvement in the civil rights movement, labor struggles, and his relationships with some of the jazz luminaries of the swing age. Ben is also a wonderful poet. Seems like an interesting blog to follow....

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

As Jim Davila points out, the Passion won't be eligible for a foreign-language Oscar. The film was made by an American film company -- but even if that were not a problem, which country would nominate it for the foreign-language Oscar? Iraq, Syria....or for that matter the U.S., since many of the Middle Eastern Christians who speak Aramaic have now moved to the United States? Or maybe even Italy....?

In an interesting article, Hypocrisy and anti-Semitism, Yossi Sarid (member of Knesset from the Meretz party, a left-wing, secular Zionist party in Israel), makes some telling points about the linkage between the Israel right and the fundamentalist Christian right in the U.S., which supports the state of Israel and has also extolled the wonders of "The Passion" by Mel Gibson. I think he's misled on some points in the article (for example, he seems to think that the movie is just being faithful to the gospels, when it's clearly not, since so much is taken from Emmerich's writings), but he does sound the alarm about something real (for more information on this linkage, see the recent book by Gershon Gorenberg, End of Days on Jewish, Christian, and Muslim messianism centered on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem).

Sunday, March 07, 2004

An interesting article on Beliefnet gives a more thorough discussion of the scenes taken from Emmerich's book 'The Passion': What's Not in the Bible?. An article by Laura Sheahen, also on Beliefnet, Another Scriptwriter for Mel Gibson's 'Passion'?, gives information about Emmerich and quotes a selection from her book that depicts Jews as suffering from a kind of original sin as a result of the utterance recorded in Matt. 27:25:

"Whenever, during my meditations on the Passion of our Lord, I imagine I hear that frightful cry of the Jews, ‘His blood be upon us, and upon our children,’ visions of a wonderful and terrible description display before my eyes at the same moment the effect of that solemn curse. ...this curse, which they have entailed upon themselves, appears to me to penetrate even to the very marrow of their bones, even to the unborn infants. They appear to me encompassed on all sides by darkness; the words they utter take, in my eyes, the form of black flames, which recoil upon them, penetrating the bodies of some, and only playing around others."


Although Gibson does not illustrate this vision in his movie, it is frightening that he would take Emmerich's visions as a guide for his movie.

A set of good resources on the movie is to be found at Resources on the Mel Gibson Movie, the Passion, a site on the Boston College web site.

At this site is a very good article by Philip Cunningham, a Catholic scholar, both on the sources of the film and the way it deviates from current Catholic teachings on Jews. As he notes, "The film is so dependent on her [Emmerich] that it could have been aptly titled The Passion According to Emmerich."

It turns out that the entire text of the book that Mel Gibson took as his inspiration for the movie is on line -- THE DOLOROUS PASSION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, by Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824).

Tim Challies, in a site with the subtitle, "Putting the Fun in Fundamentalism," has catalogued many of the scenes in the film that Gibson took from Emmerich's book. From my brief glance at the book, it seems to me that a good deal of the horror film atmosphere comes from Emmerich's book (and certainly not from the Gospels).

I thought the Passion was a powerful film -- but in a very disturbed and violent way. The camera lingered lovingly on every injury that Jesus suffered. I think that this film would have a seriously negative impact upon children who viewed it -- personally, I think it should have gotten an NC-17 rating for violence. The one really positive note in the film was the love depicted between Mary and Jesus, and this demonstrated the essentially Catholic nature of the film, since devotion to Mary is a very important strain in Catholicism, but not in Protestantism. I am curious to know what the Evangelical audience made of this devotion.

The priests are dressed up in ridiculous regalia that to my eye did not resemble what Exodus describes as priestly garb (it is described in this week's Torah portion, Tezaveh). The camera lingers on their bearded faces, many with the stereotypical Jewish hooked nose.

In an early scene in the Temple (at least I think it was there -- it was pretty unclear where a lot of the initial action occurred after the arrest of Jesus), it showed Jesus being led through the crowd, with people shouting at him in hatred. This is the scene where one really sees stereotypical depictions of Jews akin to those in medieval paintings -- they look demonic, with noses larger and more hooked than would be possible in a human being, with evil faces. They look like figures out of a Hieronymous Bosch painting.

Jesus appears before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, twice (following the gospel of John). After his first appearance before Pilate he is scourged (a scene of pornographic brutality, as Andrew Sullivan has noted), and then he is led out before Pilate again. As many people have commented in reviews, the film portrays Pilate as a sympathetic figure (even more sympathetic than his appearances in the Gospels). He is shown agonizing over the decision to crucify Jesus, and it is Caiaphas, the high priest, who manipulates him into that decision by threatening a revolt against Rome -- a scene that does not exist in any of the Gospels, of course. It is ludicrous to suggest that Pilate, known for his cruelty and brutality, would have been manipulated by one of his own native appointees (the high priests were appointed by Rome from among the high priestly families).

In this scene first Caiaphas, and then the priests and crowd at large shout out "crucify him!" This line is translated from Aramaic in the subtitles. The crowd also shouts out in Aramaic, "his blood be on us and on our children!" (taken from Matthew 27:25), but the line is left untranslated. I was listening for this line and heard it among the Aramaic cries of "crucify him!" Of course, not very many people know Aramaic -- but it seems to me that this translated line could be added in again if the film is shown in other cries, or when it is released as a DVD. This is one of the scenes that I think truly could foster renewed anti-semitism.

At the end, right after the crucifixion, there is what appears to be an earthquake, and in a quick cut to the Temple we see the floor splitting in two and priests falling into the crevasse. This is a scene not found in the Gospels. In Luke 23:45, it states that "the curtain of the Temple was torn in two" (see also Mark 15:38 and Matthew 27:51).

A note on the languages -- according to the colleague I saw the film with (who teaches Latin), the Latin was distinctly Italian-accented and occasionally became pure Italian. The actors seemed to me to speak the Latin much more fluently than the Aramaic, which they spoke very slowly and sometimes haltingly (making it easier for me to understand). There was a ludicrous scene when Pilate questioned Jesus in Aramaic -- I think it very unlikely that he would have spoken Aramaic, and it's much more likely that they both would have spoken Greek, as many have commented.


A very interesting review by Charles Krauthammer of Mel Gibson's "Passion". He notes that:
In none of the Gospels does the high priest Caiaphas stand there with his cruel, impassive fellow priests witnessing the scourging. In Gibson's movie they do. When it comes to the Jews, Gibson deviates from the Gospels -- glorying in his artistic vision -- time and again. He bends, he stretches, he makes stuff up. And these deviations point overwhelmingly in a single direction -- to the villainy and culpability of the Jews.

The most subtle, and most revolting, of these has to my knowledge not been commented upon. In Gibson's movie, Satan appears four times. Not one of these appearances occurs in the four Gospels. They are pure invention. Twice, this sinister, hooded, androgynous embodiment of evil is found . . . where? Moving among the crowd of Jews. Gibson's camera follows close up, documentary style, as Satan glides among them, his face popping up among theirs -- merging with, indeed, defining the murderous Jewish crowd. After all, a perfect match: Satan's own people.


When I saw the film last week that's one of the things I noticed -- Satan moving among the Jewish crowd. It reminded me of John 8:44. This is part of a long dialogue between Jesus and "the Jews" (as they are styled in this gospel; the other gospels are more nuanced, mentioning the priests, the scribes, or the Pharisees). John 8:42-44 reads, "Jesus said to them, 'If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. Your are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him.'" In John's gospel, unbelieving Jews (as opposed to the Johannine community) are identified with the devil by Jesus' own words. I think it could be argued that this is where Mel Gibson got the idea to have Satan mingling with the Jewish crowd.

Monday, March 01, 2004

I'll be going to see the Passion tomorrow with students from my class on Biblical Interpretation -- it will be interesting to see after all the reviews I've read. I'm curious also to hear what the students' response will be.