Wednesday, May 19, 2021

From Babylon to now, fight goes on and on

    The Bible is not the gateway to history that some wish it to be.
     The Passover story? Enslaved Jews making bricks, Moses, plagues, escape from Egypt? None of it supported by a shred of historical evidence.
     Oh, the ancient Egyptians were there. The mummy of the pharaoh in Exodus, Ramses II, is on display in Cairo. As are the pyramids. Somebody built them. But the Egyptians who, like the Germans, were sticklers for documentation, are tellingly mum on this topic. The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago is jammed with hieroglyphics recording everything from tax receipts to recipes for beer. But nothing about a certain people being let go through means miraculous or mundane.
     That said, it is generally accepted that the armies of the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar II, really did lay siege to Jerusalem in 589 BC, culminating in the destruction of the city, as laid out in 2 Kings 25. Archeologists have found pottery shards, bronze arrowheads and distinctive jewelry, leading them to believe the invasion took place. Score one for the Bible.
     But even if it didn’t, even if those broken pots led scholars astray, the continual warfare over this patch of land can’t be denied. From Assyrians to Macedonians, Romans to Persians, Turks to Brits ... the list goes on and on.
     Which is a long way of explaining why I’m leaping to add my two cents about What Needs to Be Done about the latest bloodletting over Jerusalem and the area around it. Which puts me right in the swim of popular thought, because though loud, neither side has the faintest clue what to do next.

To continue reading, click here.


  1. "I’ve picked over the Torah, looking for the part that says it’s OK to oppress people who live on land you want, and haven’t found it yet." Nicely turned. On a side note: Rameses II of course is very real, indeed. Essayed by Yul Brynner in "The Ten Commandments" (a very formidable man even in a skirt) and known to the Greeks as "Ozymandias," their phonetic take on his regal title. Same ostensible subject of the poem by Shelley. He ran the show around there for quiet awhile. As I often object to "horse-hockey" on Chicago tours, the truth of this history is compelling enough. All the rest is distraction.

  2. I remember quite clearly when I was 8 or 9 years old the dilemma I thought I might have to face should Ireland and the United States get into a war against each other. Where does my loyalty lie? With the country of my birth or that of my ancestors. Unreal and absurd as the premise was, it did bother me such that it has frequently come to mind over the years when world situations arise that aren't clearly good versus evil. When I was faced with participating in a real war in Vietnam, I eventually chose to opt out of my military service, while not joining any anti-war movements, essentially mugwumping it even to this day. Not exactly "a plague on both your houses." Nor can I root for either Palestinians or Israelis in the perennial conflict in the Middle East. Plenty of rights and wrongs on both sides, the very essence of irreconcilable differences. Perhaps a divorce would be more beneficial than a peace settlement.


    1. As an Irishman I often asked myself the same question about what side I'd be on in a war between Ireland and the United States.

      My answer is simple, if the U.S. and Ireland went to war one of the two countries would have taken a VERY bad turn for the worst, and I'd be on the side that was right.

  3. Ordinarily I dislike "a plague on both your houses" as an intellectually lazy approach. But I think it's appropriate here. Politicians on both sides have been despicably inflaming their citizens for generations. The only upside I see here is that it may force some American politicians to rethink their blind support for Israel.

  4. ("Yes, you can be Jewish and not blindly support Israel or its latest folly...")

    Damn betcha you can. You can shake your head in despair and disgust, emotions which eventually give way to anger and even hatred. You were not yet three years old, Mr. S, when Bull Connor unleashed his dogs and broke out the firehoses and thw whips on the blacks in Birmingham. So you probably have almost no first-hand memory of one of the most shameful moments in American history. I was a sophomore in high school. I remember.

    Israel has been the Alabama of the Mideast for decades, I have despised them for at least fifty years. Netanyahu (along with those who preceded him) is Sheriff Bull Connor. But why bother whipping and hosing and letting the dogs out, when you can just escalate conflicts repeatedly, and then order your forces to blow up neighborhoods and shoot to kill? That yahoo needs a net, and a straitjacket, and a rubber room. He's a lunatic. Just another New York thug and bully--Trump Lite.

    My long-time anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist stances have angered and offended many a fellow tribesman. I've been called a left-wing terrorist and a self-hating Jew and even a Nazi. Guess what? I no longer shrink from that kind of hostility--I welcome it.

    In recent years, I'm finding that more and more of my co-religionists have begun to adopt my own point of view. Especially when Palestinian casualties outnumber Israel's by twenty to one, every time. Fair fight? It's the Jets with bazookas and hand grenades versus the Sharks with sticks and switchblades.

    Support for Israel isn't what it used to be in America, and many American Jews not only no longer blindly support that country, they also oppose its racism and its colonialism. And their numbers are increasing. The pro-Palestinian demonstrations last weekend had a strong Jewish presence.

    Now that Trump is gone, left-wing Jewish activist organizations such asJewish Voice for Peace (JVP) have switched their focus to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. They are often labeled as self-haters. But vocal and strident criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism. With every passing day, it's becoming more and more like anti-fascism. Few of today's Israeli Jews were the victims of Hitlerism. Almost all the European survivors who chanted "never forget" and "never again" are now dead. Israel has forgotten. So it's happening again.

  5. A Jew should be free to disagree with Israel's policies, as any American is to oppose American policy. Wrong is wrong, and there is a lot of wrong to go around in the Israel/Palestine issue. In Paul Mooney's obit today he's quoted, "Racism will end when all white men are dead". It makes a strong point despite its' fallacy, but it is a template for peace prospects in the Middle East, a pipe dream that will never come true.


Comments are vetted and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.