Is there a connection between capitalism and the Jews, or is this just an anti-Semitic canard? In the second part of this week’s Goldstein on Gelt show, Douglas Goldstein meets Professor Jerry Z. Muller of the Catholic University of America, who answers this question and more when he discusses his new book “Capitalism and the Jews.”
Posts Tagged ‘History’
Political metaphors may simplify or symbolize actual or anticipated events but take a toll on political responsibility and sincerity. Throughout history, including the “line in the dirt” challenge of Colonel William Travis in March 1836 at the Alamo, lines have been drawn in the sand as indicators of intentions or actions. Individuals since Julius Caesar, who in January 49 B.C. violated the rule that Roman generals were forbidden to bring their troops into the territory of the Roman Empire and invaded with his army from the area of Gaul, have taken decisive action and crossed the Rubicon.
The most recent metaphor in American politics is the “red line,” supposedly a stronger warning than these other metaphors that an action or behavior will not be tolerated. A “line” is more definite and durable than “sand” or the flowing Rubicon, and has an analogy with a geographical line. The present dilemma for President Barack Obama, and to a lesser extent for Hillary Clinton, who in August 2012 similarly spoke of a red line but now is no longer secretary of state, stems from his use of this metaphor on a number occasions regarding Syria.
The problem for Obama is that in August 2012 he unequivocally said the use of chemical weapons by Syria would be a “red line for us…. There would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front, or the use of chemical weapons. That would change my calculus, or calculations, significantly.”
Of course one can appreciate, as Obama said to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, that though information has filtered out in Syria, “we have to make sure that we know exactly what happened… I think having the facts before you act is very important.” This was clearly a not very subtle reference to the actions of President George W. Bush in justifying the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 because of the information of supposed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the country, information that turned out to be inaccurate or not corroborated.
It is understandable that no imminent attack is envisaged or that quick military action against Syria is improbable, or perhaps has never been contemplated by Obama. Yet there are real problems with Obama’s position and lack of action following the rhetoric. First, there is the refusal to admit that the existing facts made known so far justify that action. Although three countries, Britain, France, and Israel, as well as U.S. intelligence agencies, have declared that chemical weapons have been used in Syria on at least two occasions, and Secretary of State John Kerry said they had been used in Aleppo and near Damascus, the Obama administration still maintains that this is insufficient confirmation.
Reservations about Syrian actions were expressed with cautious nonchalance by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on April 25, 2013 when he stated that “The U.S. intelligence community assesses with some degree of varying confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria.” Secretary Hagel still had “uncertainties about what was used, what kind of chemicals was used, when it was used, who used it.”
Obama has been even more reserved. The mantra, often repeated concerning Iran, that “all options are on the table,” is now applied to Syria. But Obama’s utterances of the last week suggest otherwise. It has long been clear that Syria has chemical weapons — sarin, mustard gas, and other military-grade agents that attack the respiratory and nervous systems. But a problem regarding Obama’s position is that sarin gas, a nerve agent that can be found in human tissue, dissipates within a short time. Asking for more time to investigate and find evidence thus is less likely to lead to success.
Nevertheless, Obama on April 26, 2013 said he was responding “prudently” and “deliberately” to evidence that Syria had used chemical weapons. Using language — “prudence” and “deliberate assessment” — more like that of Edmund Burke than of a liberal Democrat, Obama was seeking further proof of culpability for the chemical attacks. In view of the refusal of the Syrian government to allow United Nations inspectors or the head of the U.N. agency for disarmament into the country, a refusal backed by Russia, it is difficult to see how the indisputable proof can be found. In his conversation with the King of Jordan on April 26, the president spoke of the need to obtain more direct evidence and confirmation of this “potential” use of chemical weapons.
If you gain mastery over them in battle, inflict such a defeat as would terrorize them, so that they would learn a lesson and be warned. — Qur’an 8:57
Allah made the Jews leave their homes by terrorizing them so that you killed some and made many captive. And He made you inherit their lands, their homes, and their wealth. He gave you a country you had not traversed before. — Qur’an 33:26
It’s been said that the Cold War was a conflict of civilizations, between opposing ideological views of the world. But it can also be seen as a simple geopolitical struggle between blocs. From the end of WWII until the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was common to find local disputes turned into proxy wars by the opposing powers.
There were also conflicts that were primarily instigated by the powers, as they tried to find an advantage in the struggle to protect or extend their spheres of influence. While there were exceptions, I think it is correct to say that there was a degree of centralized control, or at least strong influence, over much of the mischief in the world, and it was located in Moscow (or, if you prefer, Washington — my point is the same).
Today we are in the midst of a real conflict of civilizations, one which has been under way for much longer than the duration of the Cold War. It has gone up and down in intensity, sometimes remaining on simmer for hundreds of years, sometimes erupting into large-scale conflict, taking the form of traditional war, economic struggle, demographic competition, or all of those.
Unlike the cold war, this war is not directed from the capitals of the great powers. And unlike the cold war, in which ideology was wielded as a tool of the combatants, this war is in essence a war between ideologies. And at least on one side, it has become a truly grass-roots struggle.
Of course I am talking about the religion-ideology of Islam, whose endeavor to overpower the West has been going on for hundreds of years.
And not just the West. Most people are familiar with the rapid Muslim conquest of the Middle East and North Africa, and Islam’s advance into Europe until it was stopped at Tours in 732, but not the conquest of India which primarily took place during the 12th century, with Muslim rule dominating until the 1700′s. Indonesia, today the most populous Muslim nation in the world probably obtained its Muslim majority around 1600, with Islam gradually driving out minority Christian, Hindu and animist beliefs since then. In Africa, Islam moved southward and inland from the coasts, more or less continuously until the present day, when bloody fighting continues.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that one of the most important “commandments” of Muslim doctrine is to spread Islam throughout the world, by any means necessary. To do Jihad.
The struggle with the West was on hold for several centuries, as the Christian nations of Europe made comparatively rapid scientific, technological and economic progress, in some cases actually turning history (and Islamic doctrine) on its head by colonizing or at least controlling Muslim lands. Militarily, it was no contest, with traditional Muslim fighters on horseback facing machine guns, tanks and air forces.
But something has changed. Europe has to a great extent abandoned its Christian faith and even seems to have abandoned its desire to reproduce, with birth rates below the replacement level. It has no stomach for warfare, or even to confront small-scale attrition by terrorism and ‘crime’ by Muslim immigrants (whose birthrate is much higher than that of the natives). The question is not ‘will Europe fall?’ but when it will happen.
Why did I mention Christianity? Because when individuals believe that the world ends with their own death, why should they care about the future of their culture as a whole? This is why religious belief is critical to cultural survival. Worse, what replaced Christianity is a secular humanism which is hostile to nationalism or peoplehood. What does a European have to fight for?
Muslims have learned to use modern weapons, and in places where the terrain and home field advantage is favorable enough, have managed to hold off Western armies, if not defeat them. The crown jewel of Western military technology, the nuclear bomb, is now in Muslim hands, although it is yet to be used. And the degree of commitment to Islam and Islamic ideology is growing and deepening among Muslims everywhere, thanks in part to modern technology.
Studies conducted in Tel Aviv and in the Palestinian lands occupied by the Jews showed that they plant trees around their homes, because the Prophet Muhammad said that when the Muslims fight the Jews, each and every stone and tree will say: “Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.” The only exception is the gharqad tree, which is one of the trees of the Jews, and if they hide behind it, it will not reveal their presence. According to reports of people who went there and saw it with their own eyes, man Jews plant gharqad trees around their homes, so that when the fighting begins, they can hide behind them. They are not man enough to stand and fight you.
These Jew-hating motifs were reiterated by Egyptian Minister of Religious Endowments Talat Afifi, during an interview shown on Sada Al-Balad TV, March 14, 2013. In response to an interviewer’s query about visiting Israel with “only with a Palestinian visa,” Afifi replied,
This is premature. Let’s wait until it happens. However, we hope that the words of the Prophet Muhammad will be fulfilled: “Judgment Day will not come before the Muslims fight the Jews, and the Jews will hide behind the rocks and the trees, but the rocks and the trees will say: Oh Muslim , oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him – except for the gharqad tree, which is one of the trees of the Jews.” We fully believe that the future of this land lies with Islam and the Muslims.
While such hatemongering statements appear utterly bizarre to Jews devoid of any understanding of Islam’s foundational texts, and notwithstanding Sinem Tezyapar’s attempt to negate this reality in The Jewish Press, Egyptian cleric Ali Afifi, and earlier, Saudi cleric Al-Arifi’s inflammatory references to Jews, have sacralized origins immediately apparent to Muslim audiences. The crux of their remarks, in fact, merely reiterate verbatim, a canonical hadith, specifically Sahih Muslim, Book 41, Number 6985, which is also featured prominently in the Hamas Covenant, article 7.
Briefly (see 1, 2, 3, 4 for an in depth 4-part discussion), what are the hadith, and which specific antisemitic motifs do they contain? Hadith, which means “story” (“narrative”), refers to any report of what the Muslim prophet Muhammad said or did, or his tacit assent to something said or done in his presence. (Hadith is also used as the technical term for the “science” of such “traditions”). As a result of a lengthy process which continued for centuries after Muhammad’s death (in 632), the hadith emerged for Muslims as second in authority to the Koran itself. Sunna, which means “path” refers to a normative custom of Muhammad or of the early Islamic community. The hadith “justify and confirm” the Sunna. Henri Lammens, a seminal early 20th century scholar of Islam, highlighted the importance of the Sunna (and, by extension, the hadith):
As early as the first century A.H. [the 7th century] the following aphorism was pronounced: “The Sunna can dispense with the Koran but not the Koran with the Sunna.” Proceeding to still further lengths, some Muslims assert that “in controversial matters, the Sunna overrules the authority of the Koran, but not vice versa”…all admit the Sunna completes and explains it [the Koran].
The hadith compiled by al-Bukhari (d. 870) and Muslim b. al-Hajjaj (d. 875) are considered, respectively, to be the most important authoritative collections. The titles Sahih (“sound”) or Jami, indicating their comprehensiveness, signify the high esteem in which they are held. Their comprehensive content includes information regarding religious duties, law and everyday practice (down to the most mundane, or intimate details), in addition to a considerable amount of biographical and other material. Four other compilations, called Sunan works, which indicates that they are limited to matters of religious and social practice, and law, also became authoritative. Abu Dawud (d. 888), al-Tirmidhi (d. 892), Ibn Maja (d. 896), and al-Nasi (d. 915) compiled these works. By the beginning of the 12th century, Ibn Maja’s collection became the last of these compilations of hadith to be recognized as “canonical.”
Golda Meir once quipped that Moses could have done the Jewish people a better service. “He took us 40 years through the desert,” she said, “to bring us to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil.”
Today, Golda Meir’s quip has lost its punch. Last week, natural gas began flowing out of the Tamar gas field, discovered off the coast of Israel in January 2009. Tamar and Leviathan, its neighboring gas field, discovered in June 2010, are among the world’s largest recent offshore natural gas discoveries. The Israeli companies controlling the fields are even considering exporting gas to neighboring countries.
Geologists assume that commercial oil reserves may lie beneath the gas find. Some analysts say that the Tamar and Leviathan fields might change Israel’s position in the geopolitical and energy world. But not just Israel’s.
The Israeli fields are adjacent to the Aphrodite gas field, discovered in December 2011, which lies in Cypriot territorial waters, less than 25 miles west of Leviathan. The government in Nicosia expects that the result of offshore drillings will confirm later this year that the island is sitting on vast amounts of natural gas worth billions of dollars. The recent banking crisis in Cyprus –the latest episode in the saga of the collapsing euro – came too early for the country to benefit from its future natural gas wealth. It is, however, indicative that Cyprus turned down the European Union’s demands that the gas reserves be used as collateral for the loans which the E.U. has just extended to Cyprus.
Brussels had demanded that a fund be created in which it was given a direct say over the revenues from Cypriot gas reserves, but Nicosia refused to do so. The Cypriots feel betrayed by the E.U. Hence, they are not inclined to let Europe share in the future wealth which they hope to derive from gas. Nicos Anastasiades, the president of Cyprus, said that Cyprus had no other choice than give in to the harsh demand of Brussels that it dismantle its banking sector. He, however, promised that savers who lost money in the Cypriotic banks would be compensated by being given shares in banks guaranteed by the future natural gas revenues.
Today, Cyprus is paying a very heavy price for its membership of the E.U.’s common currency, the euro. When by 2019 the gas proceeds are expected to start flowing, the tables will be turned. Then Cyprus will be in a position to leave the euro without facing the prospect of national bankruptcy.
To begin extracting the gas from the Aphrodite field by 2019, however, the virtually bankrupt Cypriot government will in the coming years need to make enormous investments. The Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom, the largest extractor of natural gas in the world, seems keen to get involved. So far, however, the Cypriots have kept the Russians at bay.
Europe is already to a large extent dependent on Russian gas, supplied by Gazprom, a company controlled by the Russian oligarchy around President Putin. A quarter of Europe’s of Europe’s entire gas consumption comes from Gazprom. As a new player in the market of gas exporters, Cyprus could reduce the European dependency on Russian gas.
What applies to Cyprus, obviously, applies to Israel as well. It, too, could use its gas exports to a political end. Bat Ye’or has argued that the pro-Palestinian positions of the European governments since the 1970s were to a large extent the result of Europe’s dependency on Arab oil. Israel has a unique chance of also using the Cypriot gas to its own geostrategic benefit. The Cypriot gas fields are located halfway between the Cypriot and Israeli coast. Israel, Cyprus and Greece are already collaborating in the EuroAsia Interconnector project, which is an undersea power cable linking Israel with Cyprus and Cyprus with Greece. A gas pipeline following the same route would balance the current pipeline on the Baltic seabed linking Russia with Germany.
Another opportunity for Israel might be the fact that some international gas companies are reluctant to get involved in the exploitation of Cypriot gas fields because they also operate in Turkey and do not want to upset the Turkish authorities who oppose the Cypriot gas extraction. Though the Aphrodite gas field lies in waters across Southern Cyprus, Turkey is demanding that all gas revenues be shared with Turkish occupied Northern Cyprus.
During World War II, Irena, a Polish Christian woman, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist. She had an ulterior motive. Irena smuggled Jewish infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried. She also carried a burlap sack in the back of her truck, for larger kids.
Irena kept a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto. The soldiers, of course, wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the kids/infants noises.
During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2,500 kids/infants. Read that number again – 2,500 lives…Ultimately, she was caught, however, and the Nazi’s broke both of her legs and arms and beat her severely.
Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she had smuggled out, In a glass jar that she buried under a tree in her back yard. After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived and tried to reunite the family. Most had been gassed. Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted.
In 2007 Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize. She was not selected. Al Gore won, for a slide show on Global Warming. Today, we honor her courage, her bravery. She has been recognized as a Righteous Gentile in Yad Vashem.
Today is Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel. My parents were both Holocaust survivors. If my father were alive today he would be 109 years old. My mother would be 99. My two brothers who were in the early teens when they were freed from their bunkers are today in their mid 80s.
The fact is that the survivor population is aging. Many survivors are now gone having lived to ripe old ages. Some have retained their faith and some have not. Most have renewed their lives; had families and seen much nachas from the children, grandchildren and great grand-children. They have seen the birth of a Jewish State, a rebirth of Judaism, and an unprecedented growth of Torah observance.
But the memory of what happened to them and their loved ones who did not survive stays with them. How can it not? We need to recognize that. This was once again pointed out by Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel who this morning was interviewed on CBS’s Sunday morning news show in a Holocaust memorial segment.
When he was asked to describe his experiences, he said it is not possible. He said that there were no words in any language that could describe the pure evil of what Nazi Germany did. The Nazis managed to perpetrate acts that were so evil that they were beyond human description. How, he asked, does one describe what it’s like to stand naked in a line on your way to be murdered (along with everyone else in that line) in a gas chamber disguised as a shower?
I think he is right. Yes, there are genocides taking place in the word even to this day in some uncivilized societies. But never like the systematic and scientific murder machine that was Nazi Germany. They saw murdering Jews as an ideal to be worshipped. Hitler considered it his “sacred” duty to annihilate the Jewish people.
I know that the religious right objects to observing a memorial to the Holocaust during the month of Nissan in the Jewish calendar. We are not allowed to eulogize the dead during this month. But this has never stopped even the most right wing rabbis from doing so at a funeral that takes place during Nissan. They simply say something like – since we may not make Hespedim (eulogies) during Nissan they will just say a few words of praise about him – and then dive right into an elaborate eulogy.
But I understand their objection to making an official day of remembrance during this month. I wish it were not on that day but at a date where eulogies are permitted. But it isn’t. Unfortunately their anti-Zionist rhetoric has spilled into Holocaust Remembrance day even if they have not said anything specific publicly about it. A lot of disrespect of that day persists – some of it public. And that is a Hilul HaShem.
It is also disrespectful to edit out women from photos from that era as was recently done. While I don’t approve of the practice of editing out pictures of tzanua (modestly dressed) women under any circumstances, I understand that there are some members of the right wing – mostly Hasidim – who feel that any picture of a woman is not appropriate for men to look at.
Much as I disagree with them, they are entitled to their opinion. But there are times when it should be inappropriate even for them. Such as the time the Secretary of State was photo-shopped out of a widely distributed “iconic” picture of the President and members of his administration watching the “Navy Seal Team’ assassination of Bin Laden as it was happening.
However, when it comes to tampering with Holocaust images it should cross every line of human decency. There is no way to justify that. The picture in question has blurred out the images of women in a famous photo. How in heaven’s name can anyone claim that viewing the women in that picture is in any way inappropriate?!
It is an insult to them memories of all 6 million Jews to decide that because a victim in such a photo is a woman it should be somehow blurred out of it. The reason for eliminating photos of women is so that there won’t even be the remotest chance of their eliciting an improper though on the part of a man. In this photo? Are they kidding?!
This is what happens when you stop thinking and see everything in linear fashion. They say that a photo of a woman is always a possible source of indecent thoughts in men. No difference here. If they don’t hadn’t shown this picture at all, that would have been one thing. But they obviously felt it was important enough to publish it as part of their message. But the message they sent was not one of the horrors of the Holocaust. It was how ridiculously far their views about showing a woman in a photo goes.
I truly do not understand how anyone can be an adherent of a movement that thinks like this, no matter how warm and fuzzy it otherwise is.
I am not one to make a religion of the Holocaust. Unfortunately there are some people who do. The Jewish people are not defined by the Holocaust. We are defined by God’s mandate for us as expressed through written and oral Torah law. Even so, God forbid that we minimize what happened by using it to promote various agendas (as have animal rights activists)… or dishonor survivors by ignoring Holocaust Remembrance Day entirely – in some cases even thumbing our noses at it… or by injecting the most extreme interpretation of modesty for women into it.
Here is my message to these people: get a clue. The Holocaust was not about your agenda. It was not about tznius. Do not dishonor the memory of the victims or mock the sensitivity of the survivors by using the Holocaust for your own purpose or injecting your unreasonable tznius standards by photo-shopping women out of Holocaust pictures.
And to those who in other ways dishonor Holocaust Remembrance Day… Stop it! All you end up doing is dishonoring yourselves and bring mockery upon the Torah!
Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.
Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, and I’m troubled.
History is important, because justice today depends on a correct understanding of yesterday. If your vision of the past is distorted, then your objectives for the future and present actions can be morally wrong, pragmatically futile, or both. If you don’t believe this, think about the consequences of the false Arab and leftist narratives about Israel and “Palestine.”
Therefore, understanding what Hitler did to the Jewish people, what historical trends led up to it and how the world responded, is critical for all of us today. There needs to be a Holocaust remembrance Day and it ought to tell its story in detail, over and over to each generation of humanity, and not just to Jews and Europeans.
But certain ways of observing this day make me very uncomfortable.
One is what I call the “universal kumbaya Holocaust observance.” The message here is that there are lots of genocides, they are all similar, and we have to try to understand our fellow man in order to prevent them. I went to an event once in which it was said that the real Holocaust encompassed 11 million people — Jews, Gypsies, gays, disabled and mentally ill people, etc. I didn’t understand how they got to 11 million, nor why they stopped there: about 60 million people died as a result of WWII, probably about half of those in the European theater. Estimates range from 10 to 20 million Chinese dead in the conflict with Japan. Perhaps they should have lit 30 candles for the evil done by Hitler, and added another 30 for Imperial Japan?
The trouble with a universalized observance is that it obscures the significance of the specifically Jewish genocide, the fact that the Holocaust was the perfection, made possible by modern technology and careful planning, of the pogrom, the culmination of the hundreds of anti-Jewish murders committed over the centuries simply because the victims were Jews, as the Nazis said, a final pogrom which would, for once and for all, erase the Jews from the world.
And by hiding the meaning of this event in plain sight, as it were, among all the other horrors of war, it also absolves today’s Jews from the responsibility to find their own solution to the specifically Jewish problem of endemic Jew-hatred, which has not gone away.
Another kind of Holocaust observance is the “emotional binge,” in which participants try to bring themselves to the point where they can almost feel the doors of the gas chambers closing on themselves or (worse) their children, in order to fully internalize the “real meaning” of the Holocaust. These events include talks by survivors about their experiences, dramatic performances and even re-enactments in which participants play the role of Jews and Nazis (all of these have been done in my community). The common characteristic is that they are intended to evoke the strongest possible emotional responses.
The catharsis provided by emotional binges is greatly enjoyed by some people, but it adds nothing to the understanding of history. Indeed, it creates a dangerous fixation on the dead Jews of the 1940s, to the detriment of those living today.
Finally there is the “symbolic but trivializing gesture.” A local synagogue is attempting to collect 6,000,000 buttons in remembrance of the 6,000,000 Jewish victims of Hitler. It was explained that this is a big number, and the stack of buttons that they will make will help people visualize the extent of the Holocaust.
It’s hard to comment on something quite this silly. Collecting, storing and displaying that many buttons is a large effort, which one imagines could be exerted to much more effect in some other way. Personally, I have no problem visualizing 6,000,000 people: I just think about the Jewish population of today’s state of Israel.
Which brings me to the general problem I have with all of these ways of commemorating the victims of the Holocaust. They are entirely consistent with total ignorance of the real lesson of the Holocaust for Jews, which is not that 6,000,000 is a big number, or that the death of a child is horrible, or that genocide is bad everywhere, in Rwanda or Armenia or anywhere else.
This is why it is possible for some Jews to light candles, cry, and “dialogue” about the need for cross-cultural understanding with non-Jews until the cows come home, and then go out and (for example) join a demonstration against Jews moving into eastern Jerusalem.