August 30th, 2006

Must-read: on Israel, chosenness, supercessionism

Richard Landes of Second Draft and Augean Stables has written what just might be the definitive answer to those who–like Norwegian writer Jostein Gaarder–accuse Israel of heinous crimes and intents based (among other things) on the accusers’ complete misunderstanding of certain principles of Judaism such as the knotty problem of “chosenness.” There’s also a clear and concise discussion there about what’s known as “supersessionism,” and how various religions stack up on that score.

One of the many problems with discussions on these topics is that people of good will often feel they are starting with a basic agreement on concepts. They are not. A phrase such as “chosen” is one that people often think they intuitively understand. Because Christians and Jews have a common history that goes way back, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that the religions have more in common than they actually do.

The problem is compounded by the fact that many–if not most–Jews in this country and elsewhere consider themselves secular and have very little grounding in the tenets of their own nominal religion. Therefore even most Jews probably share the misconceptions common among non-Jews about some basic Jewish concepts such as that of having been “chosen.”

So, please read.

29 Responses to “Must-read: on Israel, chosenness, supercessionism”

  1. Sergey Says:

    Gaader article is a clear case of ultimate ignorance. He obviously knows nothing about the subject he refers to – Judaism – and simply repeats old antisemitic cliche. They were debunked thousand times, and without any effect. More troublesome is Jewish self-hating, as illustrated by Kennet Roth, head of HRW. He quoted Talmudic text “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” as if it was justification of supposed Israeli “disproportional” response. But never in Jewish history it meant a right to extract somebody’s eye or tooth; it means literally “proper size of material compensation for unintentional bodily harm”, and later – simply “measure for measure”. Again, total ignorance and popular hate-driven distortions of classical texts.

  2. Abigail L. Rosenthal Says:

    While I certainly applaud this laborious effort to teach a grown man — considered an intellectual — the rudiments of fairness with regard to Jews & Israel & the A,B,C’s of common sense with regard to Jihad, the whole exercise strikes me as inexpressibly sad.

  3. jgr Says:

    “the whole exercise strikes me as inexpressibly sad” Agreed.

    Still this is educational reading for me at the Augean Stables. It brings this question:
    What I wonder is the intellectual atmosphere in Norway? The appearance of this voice, the reaction, maybe support, seem to be a warning.

  4. scary Says:

    Jostein wrote: “Shame on all apartheid, shame on ethnic cleansing and shame on every terrorist strike against civilians whether carried out by Hamas, the Hezbollah or the State of Israel!”

    Well said! Israel are a disgrace to civilisation. Their apocalyptic governmental style is no better than GWB and they are equally deserving of condemnation for their groundless aggression and genocide of innocents.

  5. goesh Says:

    “Israel are a disgrace to civilisation”, so says basijji man, Scary. Are you really sure you want us to believe you are working on a Doctorate degree?? That’s your new name, Basijji Man – most fitting and appropriate. You are like a broken record, the same old verse and rendition, the same old whine so often heard when muslims attack Jews and get seriously bloodied. Your civilians are assets, just as you regard Western civilians as assets. Assets – don’t you understand? Welcome to the war on terrorism, basijji man, and you ain’t seen nothing yet. Tell me, basijji man, what is the estimate of civlian assets that will be taken out when Iran is assaulted for trying to possess nuclear weapons? Collateral damage is out, civilian assets is in. Go with the flow, baby – ya’ gotta’ learn the new buzz words and catch phrases. Do you actually think God has granted fundamentalist muslims the right to possess nuclear weapons? How many of your kids have to be blown up for you to realize civilization will not be drug back to the stone age by the mullahs of Iran?
    When the reactor sites are blown up and radiaton is blown into the atmosphere and the skin starts to rot on thousands of Iranian civlian assets, are they really going to thank God for the chance they had to do the same to Jews, or are they going to just lay down and die, Basijji Man? You tell me, you’re the one with the brains working on that advanced academic degree.

  6. scary Says:

    God? Do you really live your life according to some mediaeval superstition? How on earth do think I can feel insulted by comments from someone like that? HhahahahahahahahaaaaaaaaaAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    Dude! I just weed my pants.


  7. Ariel Says:

    scary, I am an atheist, and have probably been one slightly less long than you have been alive (given the normal age group going for PhD’s) and to call the richness of religion just medieval superstition is very shallow thinking. I may not believe in gods, but I can see much to be learned from what you so easily dismiss. Are you just a bit bigoted, perhaps? (Hint: these religions go back before Medieval Europe began. Second hint: Shakespeare drew heavily on religious themes.) Your dissertation may take more time than you realize.

    The Second Draft has a good refutation of al Durah (sp), whether it predates the German expose of that fake film, I have no idea. It does seem that a lot of what we are fed adheres to the Hearst school of journalism.

  8. Scary Says:

    No. Religion is an excuse to look down on others. We’re all human, even the guys who blow up children (LRA, Hamas, Al Qaeda, the US Armed Forces, the IDF, etc.). The only reason people do these things is because they haven’t received a balanced education based upon facts. If everyone understood that such acts harm humanity far more than they benefit any small cultural group then they simply wouldn’t do it.

    Religion has been around as long as humanity. I’m not sure why you brought up Shakespeare. This book, by Archibald Robertson, published in 1954, describes the origins of religion eloquently and succinctly and remains the classical text for a comprehensive refutation of Christian dogma.

    Any more reasons for murdering people you’d like me to destroy? Please ask, I am keen to help.

  9. jgr Says:

    Scary, if only Voltaire were here.

  10. Ariel Says:

    Actually, you destroyed nothing. The belief that “a balanced education based on facts” and “if everyone understood that such acts harm humanity far more than they benefit any small cultural group then they simply wouldn’t do it” is so very naive, not to mention unsupportable, that there is no where to begin to address it.

    I will write that sociopaths do rise to positions of power, as well as those who are terminally self-centered, and neither will be affected by “a balanced education” or whether something best for them is not good for mankind. There are too many variables in the development of human psyche to think education and altruism will win out if only we try harder. I won’t go into “evil”, as I doubt you believe in the concept.

    I do hope your animus for Christianity applies equally to Islam and all other major religions. They all have their less than desirable histories, to a greater or lesser degree. If your animus is only directed at Christianity, then you fall either as a Western self-hater or Eastern bigot. If you ignore all the good of Christian thought, then your world view is two dimensional.

    As for refutations, they are usually best only for the choir. I haven’t read Robertson’s, but probably won’t as I no longer waste my time as I did in my youth, my bigotry towards religion having long ago dissipated. One thing I do consider silly these days is the “religion is the cause of all wars and hate” in past times. I won’t go into why, you have years for that.

    Finally, Shakespeare drew on religious thought, history, etc. to give his plays their eternal depth. When you called goesh’s beliefs “medieval superstition”, I thought immediately of that medieval superstitionist, Shakespeare.

    Anyway, best of luck to you. And always remember, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  11. Senescent Wasp Says:

    The only Deity scary recognizes is tenure. And he will pray prior to his oral comps and dissertation defense, he just won’t ever cop to it.

    His posturing and cocky stance indicates that he is very young. I probably have riding boots older than he is. Worse, PhD’s like his have devalued those obtained when some intellectual rigor was required. The creature can’t even think.

    An understanding of both the broad sweep of history and the places held by specific histories such as the history of Western Civilization, or the histories devoted to regions; e.g. the Modern History of the Middle East since the fall of Constantinople or countries; e.g. The History of Japan prior to the Meiji Restoration were once hallmarks of “educated people” and academics were held to a higher standard. Attempting to understand any history without the specific religious context is like writing a thesis without using, say, the letter “l”.

    Assigning any understanding of the role of religion to the dustbin in favor of more “modern”, as in post-modernism, simply indicates the really appalling lack of standards that obtain throughout “higher education”.

    Anyone who went to college prior to 1965 and the beginning of the devaluation of advanced degrees would be able to understand at least the outlines of Neo’s post. A theological education is not necessary to “grok” the concepts of “chosenness” a factor in, for example, Japanese culture and “supercessionism” a continuing intellectual thread in educated discourse about the role of religion in, for example, politics.

    scary is a poster child for educated ignorance.I knew someone like scary once. He faked his way through to a very mediocre advanced degree, all the while thinking he was really hot “axademic” stuff. He struggled for years in a succession of street car community colleges finally winding up teaching in for profit “extension”. He died several years ago of liver disease; an old, virtually unemployable drunk railing against the “academic establishment”. Had he gotten his degrees now he would have been tenured in five years and gone on to sipping sherry at faculty soirĂ©es.

    …how the mighty have fallen 2 Samuel 1

  12. Gary Rosen Says:

    Yes, many people have been killed in the name of religion. Not, however, the 30-50 million slaughtered in the 20th century by the atheists Stalin, Hitler and Mao.

  13. scary Says:

    Gary, I remind those who seek to counter with the tired old canard that Stalinism and Nazism are proof that secular arrangements are worse than religious ones, that fundamentalist religion is the same in its operation and effects as Stalinism and Nazism for the reason that they are at base the same thing, viz. monolithic ideologies. Religion is a man-made device, not least of oppression and control (the secret policeman who sees what you do even in the dark on your own), whose techniques and structures were adopted by Stalinism and Nazism, the monolithic salvation faiths of modernity, as the best teachers they could wish for. When any of these imprisoning ideologies are on the back foot and/or in the minority, they present sweet faces to those they wish to seduce: the kiss of friendship in the parish church, the summer camp for young communists in the 1930s. But give them the levers of power and they are the Taliban, the Inquisition, the Stasi.

    Wasp, you know nothing of my PhD. You also come across just like the alcoholic, ignorant semi-academic which you describe, ranting on about how it was “better in the good old days”. You’re really not making any headway towards reaching me, here. Try harder matey!

    I am an atheist and naturally I regard all religions with equal contempt. However a majority of Islam exists amongst developing countries and have no excuses for knowing better. Christianity, on the other hand, is the majority religion of some of the most developed countries on earth and you really should know better than to wield your superstition as a tool for repressing the less fortunate people of the world. An atheist manifesto for the abolishment of religion exists here:

    (My opening paragraph was stolen from it . . . ah, the joy of plagiarism 🙂 )

  14. Senescent Wasp Says:

    scary, I don’t want to reach you you. I want you to go away if you cannot keep to the topic of the discussion thread, which if it hasn’t slipped your addled mind is about topics in theology.

    No one is interested in the fact that you are an atheist except as it bears on the topic.

    You are simply one more in a line of trolls from Troll Central in the UK who come through this blog to high jack comment threads. Also, you aren’t even the most interesting one. It seems you have a very limited agenda as well. At least the Marxists had some depth.

    If you do not begin to engage in on topic discussion you will suffer the same fate they have suffered, you will be banned and the ban will continue when this blog migrates to a stronger comment control system as well. Clear enough, matey?

  15. Senescent Wasp Says:

    In it’s turn, Islam has wrapped itself in the mantle of supersessionism which is the foundation of Jihad.

  16. scary Says:

    I couldn’t care less for your hollow threats, Wasp. As if banning me from this site would, in some bizarre way, cause me suffering. I am happy- and,indeed, amazed- not to have been banned already so if it does happen immediately after I post this I will still be content to have stuck a few pins into your rock-hard porcine dermis.

    Fuck you, you nazi cunt.

    [Left up as evidence of scary’s trollish propensities. Scary, consider yourself unwelcome here. Please refrain from coming back.]

    Edited By Siteowner

  17. Senescent Wasp Says:

    Bingo, bye bye.

    Guys, send us another one. This one didn’t last too long.

  18. banopus Says:

    thankyou for canning that jerk neo,
    I dont have the data that you have access to, but the seqencial arrival of these commenters seems anything but random. I go back, once again, to my assertion that they are trying to shut down the site.

  19. neo-neocon Says:

    banopus: They are definitely trying to make it unpleasant for the both the other commenters and for me.

    The idea is to either: (1) get me to turn off the comments function altogether, or (2) reduce the quality of the comments section–replacing substantive discussion with repetitive sniping and fighting, or (3) get me, and the other commenters, to answer the same old questions and same old accusations, and then keep moving the goalposts to keep us all hopping. Or, all of the above.

    I am looking into a change in the entire blog, which will take a while but will give me greater freedom to ban people. Stay tuned.

  20. Ariel Says:

    Shame, he should have looked up “epithets of abuse” and “Godwin’s Law”. And then done some needed introspection.

    You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him think. Ah, the callowness of youth.

    Sorry, neo, but I getting a bit pissy at these types in my old age.

  21. Ariel Says:

    “However a majority of Islam exists amongst developing countries and have no excuses for knowing better.”

    Rudyard Kipling couldn’t have said it any better. What a maroon.

    I feel better now.

  22. scary Says:

    Wow, you chaps are pretty backward when it comes to the web, hey?

    Why would I want to shut the site down, Neo or banopus? I am a humanist and I believe in free-speech. I thank you, Neo, for the opportunity to berate the ignorants that haunt your blog.

    FYI if this blog were hosted in the UK it would probably have been shut down by now because my government recently enacted a piece of legislation proscribing the incitement to hatred on the grounds of religion or race (The Racial and Religious Hatred Bill). Senescent Wasp would certainly not still be walking around at his own liberty.

    You see, we deal very efficiently with Nazis over here.

  23. Ariel Says:

    Actually, Nazis ban free speech. You should be ashamed of the bill, not proud.

  24. Ariel Says:

    Furthermore, such bills chill free speech. You do not believe in “free speech”, no matter how much you think you do. You, as an atheist, should understand the long term ramifications of such a bill, you fool.

  25. Senescent Wasp Says:

    scary, dude… Thought I’d add a little postscript to this dead thread. Gonna be in London soon for to visit friends and do our usual crawl of the the Tate Modern and Tate Britain before heighing off to the Cotswolds for more visiting and Indian Summer.

    I’ll walk the streets at liberty and maybe meet some old friends from the MOD. Get stuffed, dude.

  26. Mariah Scary Says:

    I’ve often wondered how it is that you yanks justify your exceptionalism to yourselves. I mean do you really think that you’re special in some way? Its almost as if you have 3 strands of DNA and the rest of us inbreds only have 2. You really can’t see how self-destructive such a position can be to your own society, can you?

    “BTW- well done on making the world such a safe place in the last 5 years. Since the 11th of September 2001 you have absolutely gone to town on fighting bad guys, toppling corrupt and dangerous regimes and making the whole world a lot safer place. Moreover you have totally convinced the world that the US Right is a political force to be reckoned with (not a farcical extremist sect at all, no!) and that you’re a really great bunch of people to share the planet with.”

    Now THAT’S sarcasm, you fuckwits.

  27. Senescent Wasp Says:

    Put it where the sun don’t shine, cupcake.

  28. Sergey Says:

    Not for Scary, of course, but for more sane folks here, I must note just one sound reason for American exceptionism: it is the oldest continuously functioning democracy in the world (may be, except Switzerland). A quarter of millennia – very good test of stability and soundness. Most European democracies go to past no deeper then one generation. They were saved or created by US in WWII and now are moribund again.

  29. Josh Says:

    Great post. You may be interested in this too:

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