Sunday, September 25, 2011

Debate between Calvin Smith and Stephen Sizer on Israel - November 9

Conor O'Riordan submitted a comment (to an old post of mine) about an interesting debate coming up on November 9 in the UK.
Live televised Debate: Israel and The Church: Replacement or fulfillment?
Place: Revelation TV London UK in front of a studio audience
Date: November 9th 2011
Time: 9 pm to 10:30 pm UK time (please adjust for local time) broadcast live via SKY TV in Europe and live streaming worldwide at this link:

Participants: Calvin L Smith and Stephen Sizer

Defending the position that the nation of Israel as it exists since 1948 still has a place in end time Biblical prophecy will be Calvin Smith, principal of Kings Evangelical Divinity School.

Opposing this and giving a different Biblical view on Israel and the Church will be Stephen Sizer ,who is vicar of Christ Church Virginia Water Surrey UK and founding member of the Institute for the Study of Christian Zionism.

E-mails and texts will be intermittently read out and tallied to ascertain which position garners most support from the public.

Note: Viewers in USA with a ROKU BOX can now watch Revelation TV and so view the debate through this medium.

Revelation TV is the most popular UK Christian television station

Dr Calvin L. Smith

Dr Calvin L Smith is principal of Kings Evangelical Divinity School, editor of the Evangelical Review of Society and Politics, author of numerous books including The Jews, Modern Israel and The New Supercessionism. He lectures in theology and hermeneutics. He is an academic researcher conference and Church speaker.

Stephen Sizer

Stephen Sizer is senior pastor of Christ Church, the community church of Virginia Water in Surrey UK. He is a founding member of (ISCZ) Institute for the study of Christian Zionism. He is a member of the advisory council of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding. He co-authored the Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism signed by the heads of Churches in Jerusalem. He has an extensive international ministry teaching regularly in Churches, seminaries, and universities in the USA, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.
Update - Dr. Smith has posted about the upcoming debate on his blog.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Who else endorsed Gilad Atzmon's "The Wandering Who?"

There's been several blog posts recently on John Mearsheimer's endorsement of Gilad Atzmon's book, The Wandering Who, but there are several other remarkable (or appalling) blurbs on the book:

1) Richard Falk has a blurb on the front cover of the book: "Gilad Atzman has written an absorbing and moving account of his journey from hard core Israeli nationalist to a de-Zionized patriot of humanity and passionate advocate of justice for the Palestinian people. It is a transformative story told with unflinching integrity that all (especially Jews) who care about real peace, as well as their own identity, should not only read, but reflect upon and discuss widely." Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor of International Law Emeritus, Princeton University, author of over 20 books, and United Nations Special Rapporteur for Occupied Palestinian Territories. It appears that he has now also decided that he should be ashamed of his Jewish identity. He appears to be a frequent contributor to Counterpunch.

2) James Petras - not a surprise (he is the inventor of the phrase "Zionist Power Configuration" as the new term for the international Jewish conspiracy - we've got to move on from the Protocols, after all. He is a frequent contributor to Counterpunch). He writes: "‘Gilad Atzmon's The Wandering Who is a series of brilliant illuminations and critical reflections on Jewish ethnocentrism and the hypocrisy of those who speak in the name of universal values and act tribal. Relying on autobiographical and existential experiences, as well as intimate observations of everyday life, both informed by profound psychological insights, Atzmon does what many critics of Israel fail to do; he uncovers the links between Jewish identity politics in the Diaspora with their ardent support for the oppressive policies of the Israeli state. Atzmon provides deep insights into “neo-ghetto” politics. He has the courage - so profoundly lacking among western intellectuals - to speak truth to the power of highly placed and affluent Zionists who shape the agendas of war and peace in the English speaking world. With wit and imagination, Atzmon’s passionate confrontation with neo-conservative power grabbers and liberal yea sayers sets this book apart for its original understanding of the dangers of closed minds with hands on the levers of power.This book is more than a “study of Jewish identity politics” insofar as we are dealing with a matrix of power that affects all who cherish self-determination and personal freedom in the face of imperial and colonial dictates."

3) Alan Hart: "THE WANDERING WHO? is a magnificent title for this challenging and incredibly controversial book. Author Gilad Atzmon quotes Israel Shahak: “The Nazis made me afraid to be a Jew and the Israelis make me ashamed to be a Jew.” In what Gilad calls this Study of Jewish Identity Politics is the explanation of why he, too, is ashamed to be a Jew."

4) Robert Wyatt: "A seriously funny writer and the wittiest musician since Ronnie Scott…We’re lucky Gilad Atzmon is around. "

5) Karl Sabbagh: "A book by a professional saxophone player, a philosopher, and an anti-Zionist Jew promises to be an unusual read, particularly since they are all the same person. Gilad Atzmon’s book, The Wandering Who? is as witty and thought-provoking as its title. But it is also an important book, presenting conclusions about Jews, Jewishness and Judaism which some will find shocking but which are essential to an understanding of Jewish identity politics and the role they play on the world stage."

6) William Cook: "Atzmon’s insight into the organism created by the Zionist movement is explosive. The Wandering Who tears the veil off of Israel’s apparent civility, its apparent friendship with the United States, and its expressed solicitude for Western powers, exposing beneath the assassin ready to slay any and all that interfere with its tribal focused ends." He is professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California and author of Tracking Deception: Bush Mid-East Policy, The Rape of Palestine, The Chronicles of Nefaria, and The Plight of the Palestinians

7) Samir Abed-Rabbo: "The Wandering Who? is a pioneering work that deserves to be read and Gilad Atzmon is brave to write this book!’" According to the Zero Books website: "He is director of the Center for Arabic and Islamic Studies in Brattleboro, Vermont and the former Dean of The Jerusalem School for Law and Diplomacy."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

PLO ambassador says Palestinian state should be free of Jews

There's been a lot of depressing and discouraging news lately in the US - awful flooding just south of where I live in Ithaca (the flooding of Binghamton, Owego, and Candor by the Susquehanna River as a result of the torrential rains brought by hurricane Lee, leaving devastation behind), the horrible state of the American economy, the fear that the European economy is about to take a dive which will bring us down with it, Obama's decreasing popularity and the grim possibility of a Republican president being elected in 2012, not to mention the depressing news coming out of the Middle East - the storming of the Israeli embassy by a mob in Cairo, Turkey's prime minister Erdogan doing his best to stir up further hostility to Israel by threatening to escort any future flotilla to Gaza with Turkish warships, his expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Turkey, and now this disgusting statement: PLO ambassador says Palestinian state should be free of Jews.
The Palestine Liberation Organization's ambassador to the United States said Tuesday that any future Palestinian state it seeks with help from the United Nations and the United States should be free of Jews.

"After the experience of the last 44 years of military occupation and all the conflict and friction, I think it would be in the best interest of the two people to be separated," Maen Areikat, the PLO ambassador, said during a meeting with reporters sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. He was responding to a question about the rights of minorities in a Palestine of the future.

Such a state would be the first to officially prohibit Jews or any other faith since Nazi Germany, which sought a country that was judenrein, or cleansed of Jews, said Elliott Abrams, a former U.S. National Security Council official.

Israel has 1.3 million Muslims who are Israeli citizens. Jews have lived in "Judea and Samaria," the biblical name for the West Bank, for thousands of years. Areikat said the PLO seeks a secular state, but that Palestinians need separation to work on their own national identity.

The Palestinian demand is unacceptable and "a despicable form of anti-Semitism," Abrams said. A small Jewish presence in a future Palestine, up to 1% of the population, would not hurt the Palestinian identity, he said. "No civilized country would act this way," Abrams said.

Israel has often complained of anti-Semitic views in Palestinian discourse. Palestinian media frequently publishes and broadcasts anti-Semitic sermons by Islamic religious leaders, while the Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV shows programming for preschoolers that extolls hatred of Jews and suicide bombings, according to a 2009 State Department human rights report.

The PLO seeks a U.N. vote on Palestinian statehood when the U.N. General Assembly meets in New York City next week. Areikat said Palestinian negotiators have been stymied in peace talks with the Israelis because of the two sides' unequal status before international legal institutions such as the U.N. and the International Criminal Court, where Israel is a full member and the Palestinians are not. The Palestinians hope the increased pressure will push the Jewish state to agree to their demands.

"We are trying to preserve the concept of a two-state solution," Areikat said. "And to make the Israelis understand there will be consequences for their actions."

The Obama administration has promised to veto the statehood bid if it reaches the U.N. Security Council. "This shortcut is not going to create a Palestinian state," U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said. "We continue to urge them and convince them that would be self-defeating."
I have supported the two-state solution since the late 1980s, when I first understood that in fact, there was a partner for peace on the Palestinian side. I heard Faisal Husseini (former PLO leader in Jerusalem, son of a distinguished Palestinian nationalist family) speak in 1988 and say that it was time for both peoples, the Israelis and the Palestinians, to give up on their dream of possessing all of Palestine, and dispossessing the other.

I oppose racism both in the United States and in Israel, in my own small way - in Israel I believe that non-Jewish citizens should be treated equally before the law in all ways (which they are not), and I consider it a betrayal of the principles of the Israeli declaration of independence that Arab citizens are not treated equally. I feel the same way in the United States about our shameful history of slavery, Jim Crow, and continued discrimination against people of color.

What, then, should my response be when the PLO ambassador to the UN says that the future Palestinian state should be empty of Jews, even of Jews who agree to live peacefully under Palestinian rule? This is racism, pure and simple. I understand that a Palestinian state would not want to contain people who are actively fighting against it, which would be true of some of the settlers who live in areas that would come under Palestinian sovereignty - but that is far different from categorically stating that no Jews could live in a state of Palestine. Imagine the worldwide protest if Israeli prime minister Netanyahu had just announced that no non-Jews would henceforth be allowed to live in the state of Israel.

The ambassador's statement also highlights the utter hypocrisy of official Palestinian statements that they will not recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Israel is supposed to recognize a Palestine where no Jews can live, yet to refrain from declaring its own national identity?

Friday, September 09, 2011

Remembering September 11, 2001

I was trying to figure out what to write here on the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, and I started looking through the collection of emails I have from immediately after the attacks. I found an email that I wrote to a number of my friends, and I find that it still expresses my feelings. I reproduce it here.
September 16, 2001

Dear friends and family,

These are some of my thoughts on the events of the last week....

Since the terror attacks in New York and Washington, I've been listening to the radio late at night (since I haven't really wanted to go to sleep). NPR has continually broadcast news since the attacks, and on each night, starting around 10:00 p.m., they've been opening up the phones for callers from around the country. Each night they've asked people a different question. On the first night it was: "how has everything changed since the attacks." On the third night it was, "what are you doing to survive – how are you coping with the attacks." I must say that I have a real hunger to hear the news, to know what's going on, and to hear what a variety of people are saying around the country. I'm very glad they haven't gone back to the regular schedule yet.

I woke up on Tuesday morning when I received a phone call from a friend inviting me to dinner the second night of Rosh Hashanah. I turned on the radio, and heard that a plane had struck the World Trade Center in New York. I immediately jumped up and went downstairs to turn the television on. I then saw the replay of the second plane striking the second tower – the unbelievable scene that I'm sure you've all seen, of the plane going through the tower. I couldn't believe what I was seeing – and then a few minutes later, to hear that the Pentagon had been struck by yet another plane. I was in shock.

In the afternoon I had to go into the office to start getting ready for my evening class. I wasn't sure what to do. Had classes been cancelled? I arrived on campus, and found students wandering around, watching television, talking on the telephone, trying to reach family and friends, and talking to each other about their worries and fears. Classes weren't cancelled, but professors had the choice of whether to meet. On Tuesday night the class met very briefly – it was clear that students were not able to focus. One student was missing – apparently she was very worried about someone from her family. Another student just kept talking nervously. A third student stared into space.

On Tuesday night, the local Jewish community met at Temple Beth El downtown for a memorial service. This included the usual evening prayers as well as the Jewish prayer for the dead – "El Malei Rahamim" ("God who is full of mercy"). The Conservative and Reform rabbis both officiated – it was very moving.

The next day (Wednesday) three of my classes met, and we spent most of each class session discussing the attack the previous day. It was clear that my students were confused, and often didn't know the first thing about who Osama bin Laden was, or even where Afghanistan was. In my Jewish history class we abandoned our discussion of the wars of the Maccabees (second century B.C.E.) for a quick overview of Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, and Islamic fundamentalism. I think that on Monday I will hand out some further information on these topics (including a map of central Asia) and then, I hope, proceed to talk about our planned class subjects.

On Friday at Ithaca College there was a service organized by the president of the college, Peggy Williams, and the chaplains: two Catholic, a Protestant, and a Jewish chaplain. Students also participated, as musicians (we have a great music school). We sang some songs, including Amazing Grace and a really beautiful round in Latin called "Ubi Caritas." The Jewish chaplain led us in the Kaddish. There is no Muslim chaplain, because there aren't very many Muslim students, but the regular imam (prayer leader) for the Jumaa (Friday) prayers was asked to speak. I'm glad he participated. The president of the college spoke. Many people came, about 2,000 (we have a total student body of around 5500). I heard that a similar gathering at Cornell drew 15,000 (out of a total population of 30,000).

Then, tonight (Saturday) I went to a candlelit vigil organized by the local Tibetan Buddhist monastery (only in Ithaca!) – the monks chanted in Tibetan, the rest of us held candles, we walked around the Commons downtown, and then dispersed. Interestingly enough, at both the Ithaca College service and the Buddhist prayer vigil there were American flags flying.

At the end of the Ithaca College service, after the official part was over, a group of student starting singing the Star Spangled Banner – which I had been hoping we would sing, because it just seemed appropriate – our nation has been attacked. I started crying – the first time I've really been able to cry all week.

I feel like I'm getting a grip on what love of country really is — it's not about beating our chests and saying "we're America, we're No. 1, we can beat you up!" – it's about all the people who volunteered to look for survivors in New York, all the rescue workers who died when the World Trade Center towers collapsed, and all the people around the country who are organizing their own local prayer vigils and candlelit vigils and spontaneous singing sessions (like the amateur chorale singers who got together in New York on Thursday night at Lincoln Center and just started singing patriotic songs, and the crowd started getting larger and larger), all the people who are trying to donate blood, all the folks who are giving lots of money without thinking twice to help those who were injured in the attacks, those who lost family in the attack – etc. etc. I've never seen anything like this in my country, and I'm proud of it. I now have a better understanding of why people in Israel don't leave the country when they're in danger – it's their country and they love it for all of the specific ways in which Israelis do good things. And I love this country for all the specific ways that the vast variety of Americans manage to do good. I think that militaristic patriotism feeds off this more basic, open, pluralistic patriotism – but that we don't have to let it. The flag belongs to all of us, not just xenophobes, racists, and warmongers. I think we have to remember that.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Some online resources for the study of Jewish magic

From the Jewish Encyclopedia of 1904, which has been put on line: the article on Amulets is by Ludwig Blau.

From the YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe: Amulets and Talismans (by Avriel Bar-Levav). It includes pictures of several amulets on paper. In the same encyclopedia, see also the articles on Magic, Ba'ale Shem, and Demons.

Article on the finding of a Jewish amulet from the 3rd century CE in a child's grave in the Austrian city of Halbturn.

Article by Dan Levene on Aramaic incantation bowls. He discusses one of the bowls that uses the get formula to expel demons. Here's a link to a photograph of the bowl -

Virtual Magic Bowl Archive at the University of Southampton (created by Dan Levene).

Traditions of Magic in Late Antiquity online exhibit at the University of Michigan.

A printing plate for an amulet from Slovakia (1832). The amulet is against Lilith, to protect the mother and new-born child. From the website of the Center for Jewish Art at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

A short blog post on one of the Babylonian magical bowls held by the University of Pennsylvania museum (from Nippur - published by Montgomery).  It's a very nice photograph of the bowl.

Speaking of Montgomery, his Aramaic Incantation Texts (1913) is also now available from Google Books as a PDF download - very handy. The bowl mentioned in the blog post above is #2 in Montgomery's book.

My course on Jewish magic this semester

I just started teaching my course on "Jewish Folk Religion: Magic and Ritual Power." When I was putting in a book order for the course, I included Joshua Trachtenberg's Jewish Magic and Superstition (1939) because it's a classic and much of it is still very useful. I found out from the bookstore that it's now available in its entirety from Google Books (for free) and that Sacred has also just put it online - at I think the Sacred Texts version is easier to use. Both versions have all of the illustrations as well as the notes.

For those interested in seeing the course syllabus, I've posted it as a Page (see link on right side) , leaving out the sections that are only of interest to the students in the course (like the rules for how to behave in the classroom), but including everything else.

It was interesting putting together the syllabus. I first taught the course in 2004, but I wanted to include more anthropological theory (it's now cross-listed with the anthropology department), so the first three weeks are devoted to theory. At the end of the course I'm going to include more about contemporary Jewish magic, principally in Israel. I found a good article by Zion Zohar on the invention of the Pulsa DeNura curse and its use in Israeli politics - "Pulsa De-Nura: The Innovation of Modern Magic and Ritual" (Modern Judaism 27 [2007] 72-99). I'd like to find more articles in English about other manifestations of Jewish rituals to gain power in contemporary Israel - especially about the use of amulets and the contemporary use of the ritual to exorcise a demon, and how it has become politicized.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Endeavour Crater - on Mars

Another beautiful NASA photo, this time of Mars, not Earth. It was taken by the Mars rover Opportunity at the Endeavour Crater, just as it was entering the crater. For details, see Mars Rover’s Discovery Excites NASA Scientists.

When I visited the Negev this summer and saw the three large craters there, they looked like this (although they had life in them, which of course we can't see in this photo).