I mean..gosh; the're just like us!
May 17, 2007 4:22 AM   Subscribe

Behind the 'Zion curtain' Just as Arabs do not realise just how 'Middle Eastern' Israelis are, Israelis don't realise how 'western' millions of Arabs are. An article by Kaled Diab. via
posted by adamvasco (112 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Great article.

Anything that cuts against the demonization of "The Other" is good, and being true doesn't hurt either.
posted by bornjewish at 5:27 AM on May 17, 2007

It just really shows how Americans have missed the point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: This is a war between Israelis and Palestinians for land and influence; not a war between Jews and Muslims.
posted by parmanparman at 5:30 AM on May 17, 2007

parmanparman, isn't that always true though? All 'religious conflicts' are basically political.
posted by Firas at 5:41 AM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

It began as no more than a struggle for land and influence, but conflicts evolve.

Sadly, to a large degree it has become a religious war. Demonization of the other will do that, given time.

But its origins are most certainly no different than the "Cowboy & Indian Wars" in America, the struggles in South Africa, etc.

I'd have to grant that "Religion" is really a form of politics anyway. But (Firas) some religious wars had religious origins (The Wars of Religion in France, the 30 years war, the Crusades) despite having political over & undertones.
posted by bornjewish at 5:48 AM on May 17, 2007

basically, but no, not always. Look at the persecution and pogroms of Mennonites by Lutherans and Catholics after the Reformation. The Mennonites weren't fighting for land, they were fighting for the right to believe. The Catholics waited until 2004 to actually formally apologize. The Lutherans have never done so.
posted by parmanparman at 5:49 AM on May 17, 2007

posted by empath at 5:57 AM on May 17, 2007

Good article, yes, but I think the best part about this link is that there's actually a CIVIL discussion in the comments about Israel / Palestine. Rare you find that sort of thing on the interwebs. (Of course, I'm only about halfway through..)
posted by inigo2 at 6:02 AM on May 17, 2007

After all, about half the Jewish population of Israel came from Arab countries

And I suspect this is what has contributed greatly to the divide between them. It is a pity that once-thriving Jewish communities in Arab countries are no longer there.

In many ways, Jews as a people/race/culture and Jews as a nation have become inseperable concepts. Whether or not this conflation of Zionism with Judaism is a good thing, only time will tell.
posted by three blind mice at 6:04 AM on May 17, 2007

Middle East is Middle East and West is West and never the twain will do more than resemble each other, which they do quite a bit.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:43 AM on May 17, 2007

3BM: You are so right, and I hate that.
What's worse still is the conflation of "Ethnic Jewishness" and "Judaism the Religion."

Does anybody tell an atheist Italian that he is no longer Italian just because he is no longer Catholic?

I have "Jews" telling me that I am "Not Jewish."

What am I? Chopped Liver?
posted by bornjewish at 6:46 AM on May 17, 2007

What am I? Chopped Liver?

Fair game for killing, I imagine.
posted by atrazine at 6:51 AM on May 17, 2007

The Catholics waited until 2004 to actually formally apologize. The Lutherans have never done so.

The "Lutheran church" isn't exactly the same kind of institution as the "Catholic church". Who exactly would you expect to speak on behalf of "the Lutherans"?
posted by Slothrup at 7:04 AM on May 17, 2007

And in other news...Netanyahu wants to cut off the water and power in Gaza.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:06 AM on May 17, 2007

A: So you don't practice?
B: Guitar?
A: Judaism.
B: Well, kinda.
A: You pray?
B: Not to God.
A: You don't believe in God.
B: No.
A: So you aren't Jewish.
B: No.
B: No, yes.
B: I mean, yes, sure I'm Jewish.
A: You pray.
B: My parents, grandparents, and great grandparents were Jewish.
A: Alright, so you're of Jewish descent
B: Is my father Jewish?
A: Yes.
B: And my grandfather?
A: Yes.
B: And my great grandfather?
A: What's your point?
B: My grandfather gets to be a Jew. My father gets to be a Jew. But I get to be a Jew's child.
A: We can teach you!
B: You're meshugeh. . .
A: Boy, have we got the synagogue for you.
posted by nilihm at 7:09 AM on May 17, 2007

I have this problem with Americans regularly, and as I don't particularly identify with Judaism, I end up referring to myself as "Russian" when I just need a quick answer and don't have the time to explain that while my great-great-etc.-grandparents hail from Eastern Europe, we weren't Slavs. I kept thinking there was something wrong with the way I thought about it until my friend's European-and-living-there girlfriend informed me that over there, the concept of an "athiest Jew" (note: not non-practicing Jew) is a pretty common occurrence.
posted by griphus at 7:22 AM on May 17, 2007

AND, as I agree with Richard Dawkins that the appellations "Christian Child" "Muslim Child" "Hindu Child" are as foolish and ugly as terms like "Communist Child" "Keynesian Child" "Libertarian Child" and "Neo Conservative Child" I become something of a hypocrite when I claim I was a "Jewish Child."

Can I get a new word for my ethnic identity please?
posted by bornjewish at 7:38 AM on May 17, 2007

The "Lutheran church" isn't exactly the same kind of institution as the "Catholic church". Who exactly would you expect to speak on behalf of "the Lutherans"?

Actually, you would be wrong. No big deal there, I mean, how many people would know about the Lutheran World Federation? Probably not any more than would know Bishop Mark Hanson is the leader of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, USA. That the LWF would certainly be a group talking about Mennonite-Lutheran reconciliation. (PDF warning! See page 21).
posted by parmanparman at 8:00 AM on May 17, 2007

And here lies the biggest potential weapon in the Arab arsenal: militant peace. Arabs should dialogue directly with Israelis and tell them clearly and unequivocally that they want to live alongside them in warm peace once they reach a settlement with the Palestinians and Syrians.

Yes. Yes. And again, Yes.

The best card the Arabs have in their deck is the promise of rapprochement and normalization of relations with Israel following a just peace. Unfortunately the only people (save, Mr. Diab, apparently) who get this are demagogues like Khaled Mashal and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who promise eternal enmity in order to foreclose upon any chance of peace. The Israeli street today feels extremely isolated. Must have something to do with the rockets that inevitably follow upon disengagement.

I had no idea until last year how many Palestinians there were who hold American passports. When I had to go to the Interior Ministry in East Jerusalem to sort out my visa, the line for foreign passport holders was easily the longest and most active. And mostly made up of Palestinians. Speaking to a friend, I found out that whole areas of Ramallah are populated by people who've returned from the US with blue passport in hand. And that the money that comes into the West Bank from relatives in the US is one of the most constant revenue streams that Palestinians have.

It strikes me that having a sizable contingent of dual-nationality Palestinians gives the US considerable opportunity to affect the peace process in a non-traditional fashion. Why isn't the US government trying to facilitate dialog between dual-national Israelis and Palestinians in America in order to develop a discourse at home that can influence the dialog abroad? If we're concerned about the undue influence AIPAC has on American foreign policy, and that influence is skewed because AIPAC is ignorant about the real costs of the occupation, then why not create opportunities for AIPAC (and their supporters) to meet and speak with Palestinian-Americans who have strong ties to the region?

Lets hope that getting a government in office in 2008 that is concerned with results rather than more status-quo cronyism translates into creative initiatives like this. Seriously. Is there anyone alive who thinks that another visit from Condi is going to accomplish a goddamn thing? Mr. Diab is right on the mark: the solution has to come from opening up ways for Israelis and Palestinians to recognize the human costs of their protracted conflict on those on the other side.
posted by felix betachat at 8:22 AM on May 17, 2007

Can I get a new word for my ethnic identity please?

It's not so easy. As an "American" living outside the U.S. people often look at my last name (which is Polish) and ask me "What are you?" and I say "American".

The inevitable reply: "Yes, but what are you really?"

"American," I insist ("why do you think I have this outrageous accent, you silly King," I think to myself.)

"But you have a Polish name," they point out. "And my mother has an Irish name," I patiently explain, "but that doesn't make me Irish."

"Yes," they say," but 'American' is a label, it doesn't tell me what you are."

"I am who I am, nothing more, nothing less," I say with increasing agitation.

"Yes, but what are you."

At that point I finish my drink, pay my tab, and move on to the next bar. I've learned not to waste time talking to people who want to put me into an ethnic box.

And this is without the albatross of religion. I can only imagine how frustrating it is for ethnic Jews who eat pork and party on Friday nights to explain to people what they are.
posted by three blind mice at 8:46 AM on May 17, 2007

But how do you create a dialogue and mutual understanding with things like the Arab League boycott? Obviously more cultural and economic interaction is needed before any type of peace settlement can possibly succeed, but how can this happen? Having an Israeli passport means you cannot travel to any neighboring countries (excepting Egypt and Jordan) and because of pressure from Arab groups, Israeli academics, artists, and athletes are often pressured out of academic conferences as well as cultural and sporting events. Many countries have no embassies or any official contact with Israel. You hear a lot of these stories about how when you actually manage to get some Arabs and Jews together, they actually realize they have a lot in common and get along just fine, and I think these stories are generally true. If so, creating peace in the region should be helped along by more interaction. This cannot be done while the boycott is in place.

Israel develops and exports a whole lot of useful technology and knowledge. Cell phones, pentium chips, agricultural knowledge, and tons of medical research are exported. Israel is one of the few countries in the world to succesfully fight desertification and acquire a net loss of desert. These are products and skills that are useful to the world and particularly useful to the Arab world. The boycott is not helping anyone. I know that the rationale behind it is supposedly to put pressure on the Israeli government to end the occupation, but is it doing that? I believe it has the opposite effect, reinforcing the fortress (or victim or paranoid or ghetto or persecution complex, whatever you want to call it) mentality in Israel, which is so often cited as a major obstacle to peace, and keeping both sides separated, making them susceptible to propoganda. Refusing to make contact with your rival is an obstacle to peace, not an incentive to one. The boycott maintains the status quo, which is distrust, segregation, and economic and cultural stagnation.

If you support the establishment of a Palestinian state, an end to the occupation, and a 2-state solution, ask yourself objectively if the boycott is helping this goal or hurting it. If it is helping, how so? Also, if you believe the boycott is helping, do you think that the US should not engage in diplomacy with North Korea or Iran (diplomatic boycott)? How are the two situations different?
posted by SBMike at 8:50 AM on May 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

You don't have dialog with a boycott anymore than you have a dialog with illegal settlements.

You have a dialogue with people.
posted by bornjewish at 8:57 AM on May 17, 2007

sorry, I meant to say "...with things like the Arab League boycott in place"
posted by SBMike at 9:02 AM on May 17, 2007

You have a dialogue with people.

Precisely my point. Given that America is so heavily invested in the region, and that there are substantial numbers of bi-national Palestinians and Israelis, why doesn't the US government harness the resources of America's free marketplace of ideas to influence the internal political discussions of both sides?

Conversations could be taking place in the US that are literally impossible in Israel and Palestine, either on a bilateral governmental basis, or between citizens. I mean, open any page of Haaretz's weekend magazine and you're going to find eye-opening information about what's happening in the territories. But this never translates into official policy because the siege-mentality is so deeply ingrained at the official governmental level.

Fruitful dialog in the US between diaspora Israelis and Palestinians might translate, eventually, into joint resolutions. These resolutions could be tied to economic incentives. And such incentives could eventually affect policy. But somebody in the government has to give a damn. Sure, it would be difficult. But I'd argue that it's worth doing, since it would effect change far better than another State Department cat-herding initiative.
posted by felix betachat at 9:12 AM on May 17, 2007

OK, then how do Arabs have a dialog with things like the illegal settlements, the harsh occupation, the collective punishments, the illegal wall, IN PLACE?

The answer is simple.

To paraphrase you:
These things are "Meant" to force the Arabs into negotiating, but are they working?
posted by bornjewish at 9:14 AM on May 17, 2007

The Israeli street today feels extremely isolated.

Not to derail, but why do people always refer to the "X street" when speaking about the Middle East? You hear talk of the "Israeli street" or the "Arab street," but how come you never hear about the "Hungarian street" or the "Brazilian street?"
posted by Afroblanco at 9:18 AM on May 17, 2007

bornjewish, are you talking to me?

If so, please go back and reread my comments. My point is precisely that these things you mention, and the constant rocket attacks on Sderot (which you don't mention), are the result of official governmental policy by state actors in the region.

I'm saying that dialog could be happening by non-state actors in the United States that could translate into joint political pressure to stop these things from happening.

I'm explicitly saying that bi-lateral negotiations at the official level aren't working. Mr. Diab is suggesting that one way past this impasse is to foster mutual, human recognition. My suggestion is an attempt to translate what Mr. Diab has said into an effective, American governmental initiative.

Is that clear?
posted by felix betachat at 9:22 AM on May 17, 2007


Good Question. I don't know the answer. Actually, I had never heard "Israeli street" before.
posted by bornjewish at 9:24 AM on May 17, 2007

SBMike, (Not Felix, whom I agree with)

I support the establishment of a Palestinian state, an end to the occupation, and a 2-state solution.

I ask myself objectively if the boycott is helping this goal or hurting it. My answer is "Hurting it."

Just like Israel's collective punishments, political assassinations, illegal settlement activity, etc. are hurting Israel's purported goal of "Peace."

I am not here to excuse Arab behavior.
I am here to point out that Israeli behavior is not really any better.

You wanna take this up without bothering others?

Felix, I will get back to you.
posted by bornjewish at 9:26 AM on May 17, 2007

bornjewish, where did I say I was in favor of any of those things?
posted by SBMike at 9:27 AM on May 17, 2007


I support your initiative, but I don't hold out much hope for its ultimate success.

I think only exhaustion will solve this now.

My guts want to bomb Jerusalem (Especially the Old City, the "Temple Mount") and yell "You kids can't play nice with your toy!!! Well now you don't have yer toy to play with anymore!!"
posted by bornjewish at 9:29 AM on May 17, 2007

Not to derail, but why do people always refer to the "X street" when speaking about the Middle East?

Maybe because it's here like nowhere else in the world that there is a disconnect between official governmental policy and collective national sentiment? The term is used for the "Muslim street" whenever someone wants to refer to national attitudes at odds with the stated policy of a non-democratic regime. I think these days, when Ehud Olmert's government is failing and suffering from disastrously low approval ratings, that the term applies in Israel as well.
posted by felix betachat at 9:31 AM on May 17, 2007

Why isn't the US government trying to facilitate dialog between dual-national Israelis and Palestinians in America in order to develop a discourse at home that can influence the dialog abroad?

This is a very good idea.

I'm a non-practicing, American Jew, and I didn't have a real clue about the Israeli-Palestinian situation until I befriended a Palestinian-American. Prior to that, all I knew about the situation was the stuff that my (racist) family said, the (biased) stuff they told me in Hebrew school, and of course, the (in)famous Passover toast, "Next year in Jerusalem!"

After spending a number of years hanging out and playing drums with my friend Samer, I will never see pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian activists the same way again.

The world is a far more surprising and complex place than many would like to imagine.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:32 AM on May 17, 2007


You did not.
But you implied that dialog with the Arabs was not possible with "X" in place.

I made the mirror comment that I would expect Arabs to make. (A bit of sarcasm was implied.)

I say both are otnay ootay ightbray.

Dialog, as Felix wants, or fight till you are exhausted expecting the other side to stop its nastiness first.
posted by bornjewish at 9:32 AM on May 17, 2007

The world is a far more surprising and complex place than many would like to imagine.

Amen to that.

As an editorial aside, this conversation is extremely depressing. adamvasco put together a good FPP precisely because Mr. Diab had come up with a novel angle on conflict resolution which worked around the usual and seemingly intractable impasses.

But within 30 comments, we're back to debates over state policy and hyperbolic suggestions to bomb population centers.

Hey guys, why not try responding to the post itself instead of trotting out the usual mules? It's "weblog as conversation" remember?
posted by felix betachat at 9:38 AM on May 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Please recognize he difference between "Suggestions" and "Agonized Sarcastic Despair."

I did not suggest bombing anything. I expressed despair over the situation as a whole.

Also, whose usual mule is "Destroying Jerusalem so that both sides can't fight over it anymore"? I have never heard anyone say it before, even in jest as I have.
posted by bornjewish at 9:47 AM on May 17, 2007

Also, whose usual mule is "Destroying Jerusalem so that both sides can't fight over it anymore"? I have never heard anyone say it before, even in jest as I have.

It would depress you to see how many times I've heard secular, anti-Zionist American Jews say that kind of thing. They're usually trying to show how "iconoclastic" they are.

Sorry, it's just not a funny joke. At least, not from where I sit, which is a 5 minute walk from the Old City and a 15 minute walk from the kotel. People live there. It's not a "toy." I'm not trying to be a cheerless scold, just to point out that comments like that are counterproductive and come off sounding hopelessly naive.

Here's a good rule of thumb: if you wouldn't say it to the face of an Israeli or a Palestinian, then, being an outsider, you oughtn't say it at all. Even anonymously on the internet.
posted by felix betachat at 9:53 AM on May 17, 2007


I had a similar conversion, in the 1980's. I also grew up on "Our Myths."

Now learning about, and debunking, the various myths of the various nationalities is a hobby of mine.

Did you know that "The People of India are the original inhabitants and never ate cows"???

Did you know that "The Chinese people never colonized others like the Europeans did"???

Every nation has its myths about itself.
posted by bornjewish at 9:54 AM on May 17, 2007


I still find it funny. In a sad black comedy sort of way.
I am cheered to hear it is more common than I knew.
And I would say it to the face of anyone.

Moreover, I believe there are worse ways that this could end. MUCH WORSE.

How about this? We warn everybody that it is going to happen so that nobody dies. Unless they want to be a martyr.

That way just the toy (and it is just a thing, a toy, like a car is a toy for big boys.) gets destroyed.

I do not see how you can call this "Counterproductive".
What is counterproductive, in my opinion, is that ancient ruin and the passions it stirs. The world would be better off without it.
posted by bornjewish at 10:03 AM on May 17, 2007

bornjewish: I challenge you to go to the kotel some year to see the all-night observance of Tisha b'Av. To see the religious jews of all stripes who come to the plaza to read from lamentations and mourn the destruction of the temple as if it had happened yesterday. To watch them cry and tear their clothing. I've been a couple times, most recently last year. Sure, it's profoundly alienating and more than a little creepy. It's also tremendously effecting emotionally. The kotel for them is not an "ancient ruin". It's a present, constitutive fact. The literal linchpin of their religious identity. If you want to make suggestions to them about how to fix their political circumstances, then you must take that fact seriously and attempt to integrate its logic into your proposal.

By the same token, the muslims who stream to the temple mount each Friday for prayers, who hang pictures of the Haram on the walls of their homes, who lined up facing the Damascus gate to pray in the street when they were protesting the excavations at the Mugrabi gate back in February, they don't see the Haram as an "ancient relic." It is a physical fact too. The last place on earth where the foot of the prophet touched soil. Whether or not you take that seriously, they do.

Just because you're post-religious doesn't mean everybody is. And advocacy needs to start from a basis of taking religious discourse (and national aspirations) seriously, framing solutions in these terms. Otherwise, you're just wanking.
posted by felix betachat at 10:20 AM on May 17, 2007


I have little doubt that I could experience the Kotel as you describe it and continue holding my position. (But unless you are paying, it is not going to happen.)

It is these very people to whom my message of "Stop fetishizing material objects" is directed.

I recognize that not everybody is post-religious. Just as I recognize that not everyone is nonviolent or American or right-handed or brown-eyed etc.

I recognize that these people fail to realize that it is just an ancient ruin. I see their delusion for what it is.

I have experienced masses of people enjoying their mass culture and mass emotions. Both directly (I live near DC) and indirectly. I have been impressed (Chinese protesting the Tian An Men Massacre) and unimpressed (The Million man march). It depends on the ideals in the situation.

I am no more positively impressed by these demonstrations of religio-political emotion than I am by mass Nazi demonstrations or mass communist demonstrations.

I do find what you are describing as "Creepy." But I am also experienced enough with "Mass Emotions" to not get caught up in it. Not when it is "Creepy."

I know they take this seriously.
Waaaaaay too seriously.
That is PRECISELY why I wish to eliminate the ruins.

I desire to eliminate the lynchpin of their religious delusions.

Any attempt to solve this without recognizing the poisonous nature of religion in this context is no less wanking than failing to recognize the importance of religion to these people in the first place.

Physically destroying the Temple Mount is within the bounds of possibility. I can't see what other single thing would do as much good.
posted by bornjewish at 10:58 AM on May 17, 2007

"Can I get a new word for my ethnic identity please?
posted by bornjewish"

I've been thinking about just this issue. How about Hebrew? Of the other labels I'm familiar with, Israelite sounds too much like Israeli (technically you might be by Law of Return, but I don't think politics is your point), "of the Mosaic persuasion" is definitely a religious label, labels like Palestinian and Samaritan are not only off-base but already taken, and I haven't known many of your "tribe" who run around proclaiming themselves Kikes or Yids (though the I gather the latter, while insulting in English, is just "a person whose mother tongue is Yiddish" in Yiddish).

I'm lucky that my ethnic label doesn't correlate closely with a religious one; the closest correlation I can think of would be off-base and obscure, Mutt : Syncretist.
posted by davy at 10:58 AM on May 17, 2007

Also, I suggest to you that if you were not depressed previously about the situation, you were not paying close attention.

Note how I praised Kaled Diab's article, I was the very first poster. I am behind the effort. I put my back into it. I seek dialogue with Muslims at any opportunity. I am generally well received.

I just don't think it will do enough good.

I am merely depressed about the prospects of a decent solution.
posted by bornjewish at 11:08 AM on May 17, 2007

And bornjewish, I too favor demolishing Jerusalem. The obvious solution would be making Jerusalem an International city and a kind of museum few people actually live in, like Pompeii, but that's not figuring in the nationalisms and superstitions involved. But as far as I know I have no ancestral connection with your "tribe" so I can't be the first to say that or I'll be called an "anti-semite."

Oh, about your ethnic label, how's Semite sound to you? If you call yourself that then I'll get to explain that I'm not an anti-semite any more than I hate all English just because I scorn the Anglican Church, so we might both benefit (though I still prefer Hebrew because it's more precise, we won't have to deal with the Arabs who've been saying "I can't be an anti-semite because Arabs are Semites too" getting upset).

[As for my opinions on the subjects of this thread, bornjewish has already expressed something very very similar to them, with fewer parentheses and no semicolons.]
posted by davy at 11:13 AM on May 17, 2007

Thanks Davy,

I prefer "Yid" to Hebrew.

My kinship is to the Ashkenazim of Europe, not the language of the Judeans of history.

I look to Einstein, Spinoza, Freud & company for inspiration.

My "Original" culture is that of Marc Chagall, Shalom Aleichem, Primo Levi and those wacky Rebbes of Chelm.

I am a "Semito-Slav" I think.

But none of these labels work in public.
posted by bornjewish at 11:13 AM on May 17, 2007

Bornjewish, while I sympathize with and fully share your "post-religious" outlook (as felix described it), I tend to think that the destruction of the Temple Mount wouldn't really solve anything, because while you can destroy physical objects you can't destroy the memories of them or the ideas they create.

People have fought just as vociferously over patches of land where things used to stand as they have over the actual things themselves.

Felix has it when he says that even when we can't comprehend the attachment and devotion groups on both sides feel to a physical area or thing, we have to find a way to engage with that attachment in order to assist.

While I think the attachment is nonsense on both sides, public belittling it or ignoring would, from a 3rd party policy perspective seeking to assist in dialogue in the region, be utterly counter-productive.
posted by modernnomad at 11:14 AM on May 17, 2007

Davy, again:

"Semite" covers a lot of ground. Too much. And ties me back to desert that we got kicked out of FOR GOOD CAUSE 2,000 years ago. My ethnic identity is European, not Judean.

It would be like a Gypsy calling himself an Indian. Sure the origins were there but...

An International Museum sounds great to me.
I don't really want to destroy all that history.
I would like to excavate it archeologically.

My point about destroying it is, of course, rhetorical.
posted by bornjewish at 11:22 AM on May 17, 2007

"Can I get a new word for my ethnic identity please?"

Why not say "Ashkenazi" -- not "Ashkenzai Jewish", just plain old "Ashkenazi"? It describes a specific ethnic group from a distinct region of Central/Eastern Europe with some unique ethnic-specific genetic markers (some of them neutral -- "looking Jewish", and some of them quite bad -- i.e. Tay Sachs genes), and while it is usually carries a religious connotation (i.e. Ashkenzai Passover customs versus Sephardic Passover customs), it doesn't really have to.

posted by Asparagirl at 11:25 AM on May 17, 2007

Well said Nomad!

My point was rhetorical.
I am not a public diplomat.

But I really still think that eliminating it, in this case, would be salutary.

Did we "Engage" with Nazism to assist the Germans?
No, we uprooted it.

I think the public ruin would disillusion many.
Or maybe I just hope so.

And next let's destroy the Kaaba and the Vatican!
(Yeah, I'm dreaming)
posted by bornjewish at 11:30 AM on May 17, 2007


Cuz I get blank stares when I try that.
It is my first try in most situations.

Only the already educated understand that term.
And those people are not my problem.

There is no answer to my lament.
I have learned to live with that.
posted by bornjewish at 11:39 AM on May 17, 2007

Destroying the temple mount? That's some great irony there. Why is the temple mount sacred to Jews in the first place? It is the place where their religious institutions were destroyed millenia ago. You think that destroying Jerusalem will somehow moderate the religion of the Jews? It didn't happen in 586 BC when the Babylonians destroyed the first temple at the mount. It didn't happen in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed the second one. What makes you think it will happen in 2007? Destroy it again and I'm pretty sure the Jews will be back within another few hundred years, probably with an even more fanatical religion.
posted by SBMike at 11:54 AM on May 17, 2007

Waiting for a bus this morning, at a liquor store on the West Side, one of the guys behind the counter was really surprised to see me (not exactly a neighborhood teeming with olive-skinned office temps). And he called over the other two proprieters to have a look at me.

"What are you, anyway?"

"Oh, I'm all sorts of things."

This is a lie, I'm really just all sorts of Middle Eastern looking Jew that's been kicked out of all sorts of Europe (Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, and Spain with nothing but a few words of yiddish to show for it).

"But where are you from exactly? You look like us!"

He wasn't asking about what part of the city I was from, so I told him the lie that I tell whenever I want to keep all parties happy.

"I'm Egyptian, Israeli, and Puerto Rican"
posted by elr at 12:02 PM on May 17, 2007

I agree. Until you realize just how many similarities you have with other people, you will never understand them.

Night before last I had an hour long conversation with a friend in Egypt. We are both stressed out. We are both a little depressed and frustrated with work, finances, lovelife, family, etc. While our cultures are very different & the details of our problems and our environments are different, we have an immense amount in common and we can talk for hours about it. We're very similar in a lot of ways. The differences are there, but the similarities are really more important sometimes. Too bad that sometimes people don't stop to see that.

As for people in the Middle East being more Westernized than people realize, all I know is that if I ever want to find out about whether or not Norah Jones' latest CD is any good or which movie I should rent from Netflix, he'll give me better advice than a lot of people I know in America. And he eats a LOT more Kentucky Fried Chicken than I do (which basically means he eats it at all).
posted by miss lynnster at 12:05 PM on May 17, 2007

modernnomad, it might take a while for the religious aspects of that geographical site to fade, that's all. How many modern Greeks get all misty-eyed thinking of the vanished Omphalos of the Oracle at Delphi? (The latter Wikipedia is a redirect, a fact I find telling.)

And bornjewish, I would also rather have Jerusalem as an international museum and archeological site, but like you I despair of a decent solution. Who'd want to visit or work in an archaeological site people are STILL fighting over? (On preview, I see you just said "And next let's destroy the Kaaba and the Vatican!" -- which I alsoi agree with, rhetorically of course.)

I'm still not sure how Jerusalem REALLY got to be the third holiest city of Islam anyway, unless Islam really is, like Karaism, Samaritanism, Sadduceeism and Orthodoxy, a Jewish sect. Xianity by contrast is a Hellenistic mystery religion: one of the cores of the other Abrahamic faiths is the concept of ritual purity, something Xianity lacks. (The differences between the Xian Christ and even the Twelver Shiite Mahdi are that the Mahdi isn't God but a descendant of a prophet and didn't die but went into hiding/hibernation; very important differences for theological hairsplitters.)

As for your unanswerable lament, I'm really glad it isn't mine in the way that it's yours. The less ancestral baggage one has to carry around the better; I'm glad I don't have to get all homicidal when I think of the Trail of Tears, e.g.

But then the closest I've ever had to come to your "I want another label" problem is trying to explain to people that being bisexual does not mean I'm really a closet "homo," that Gay and Transsexual are two different things, and that Social Constructionism does not mean that all "perverts" can or should be "cured."

And asparagirl, for many women "looking Jewish" is a big plus in MY book, as is the New York "Jewish" accent. But then I developed these "fetishes" (for lack of a better word) back in the 1970s so they're probably out of date by now.

And on preview, SBMike might have a point, but why single out the Jews? Think of the Mosque of Omar and of all those pieces if the True Cross still being sold on the Internet. And anyway, if Crone & Cook were right, Islam was at first just an even more fanatical form of Judaism.
posted by davy at 12:05 PM on May 17, 2007

As for "Destroying Jerusalem so that both sides can't fight over it anymore"? Well since I've started taking Arabic you'd be surprised how many people feel that's a good opportunity to tell me about how we should just let the barbarians all blow eachother up & be rid of them.

Yeah, really pleasant. Amazing how ugly some people are just under the surface.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:07 PM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Time and wealth has moderated the Jews.
I hope it continues to do so.

Don't confuse the idea of destroying a ruin with the past Roman & Babylonian salt-sowing type actions.

You speak of "The Jews Coming Back" as if what I suggested would remove them.

Think long and hard on why you made that error.
posted by bornjewish at 12:10 PM on May 17, 2007

Hey elr, you could alays try "Hungarican".
posted by davy at 12:11 PM on May 17, 2007

Great article, great post, amazingly civilized discussion. Kudos all around. And I think this is a great analogy, which I'll have to figure out how to use effectively:

It would be like a Gypsy calling himself an Indian.
posted by languagehat at 12:15 PM on May 17, 2007

unless Islam really is, like Karaism, Samaritanism, Sadduceeism and Orthodoxy, a Jewish sect

This is pretty much what Patricia Crone and Michael Cook said in their wildly controversial book Hagarism (detailed discussion at Wikipedia, and I'm sorry to see the authors are alleged to have backed away from their more outrageous claims). Anyone interested in these topics (irrelevant for today's world, but fun to argue about) should try and find a copy.
posted by languagehat at 12:29 PM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't know if I wanna roll with that particular clique...

(I was gonna end it there but I realized I was almost missing out on a random pop culture reference suicide joke opportunity)

I don't know if I wanna roll with that particular clique, I don't think I can HANG.

(Har. That's how Freddie Prinze Sr. did himself in, right?)
posted by elr at 12:31 PM on May 17, 2007

And asparagirl, for many women "looking Jewish" is a big plus in MY book, as is the New York "Jewish" accent.

*bats eyes, tosses frizzy hair, readies nasal vowel sounds*
posted by Asparagirl at 12:33 PM on May 17, 2007

elr, it was a bullet to the head. And what "particular clique"? I'm not getting ready to be offended, I'm just curious about your meaning.
posted by davy at 12:34 PM on May 17, 2007

languagehat, isn't the Hagarene hypothesis kinda like saying Islam is a Jewish plot? Or maybe was one, till Arab nationalists redeemed it?
posted by davy at 12:39 PM on May 17, 2007

(asparagirl, you tease.)
posted by davy at 12:41 PM on May 17, 2007

(Not that that's a bad thing, just that I'm so old & tired.)
posted by davy at 12:42 PM on May 17, 2007

isn't the Hagarene hypothesis kinda like saying Islam is a Jewish plot? Or maybe was one, till Arab nationalists redeemed it?

More like saying Islam is a Jewish heresy that branched off until it was no longer Jewish, much like the Druze and Alawite sects are former Muslim heresies.
posted by languagehat at 1:35 PM on May 17, 2007

So once we figure out what the Biblical Jews branched off from we'll know who to blame. Akhenatonism? Some Sumerian cult? Extra-Terrestrials maybe?

And now for davy's Controversial Statement of the Day, there was no exodus from Egypt, in that era Canaan WAS part of Egypt.

(And by the way lh, I was kidding; I almost typed in a smiley.)
posted by davy at 1:58 PM on May 17, 2007

Nuke 'em from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.
posted by Sparx at 2:48 PM on May 17, 2007

(somewhat OT) Bornjewish: The destruction of Jerusalem as conflict-ender occurs in Sheri S. Tepper's (imho crap... but I suppose did I finish it) The Fresco.
posted by pompomtom at 4:40 PM on May 17, 2007

Sparx and Lynster miss my point.
(Sparx probably sarcastically intentional)

I don't see anything "Ugly under the surface" about wanting to destroy/remove a building/ruin to attempt to end a conflict that kills people.

I only see a surface judgement.

The "Hagarene" stuff interests me more.
Next post...
posted by bornjewish at 6:35 AM on May 18, 2007

I'm doing research on "Hagarism" prior to the Koran. That would be FASCINATING. See you in a few.

I will now have to learn to use the "Link" function.
posted by bornjewish at 6:46 AM on May 18, 2007

I didn't miss your point at all. I didn't say you did. I was speaking for myself.

I said that the people who say that to me are often saying it in a way that displays ugly under the surface. Unfortunately, that's been unquestionable in a few instances... in particular when a friend's husband (a man who previously I'd never seen do much of anything but smile with me) began virtually spitting about the "damn ragheads" and how barbaric they are about ten minutes after walking in on me studying my Arabic homework. It ended up being a half hour long conversation where he ended up calming down and trying to see my points about things not being as black and white as he thinks. I tried to explain that first-hand experience has taught me that the world as a lot more gray. The initial ugliness of the attitude he had been clinging to just under the surface was unquestionable, however. Fortunately, after our talk I don't think I'll see it again.

I agree that it's a surface judgment. It's the easy road. But unfortunately, a lot of ugly behavior and most prejudice is. Shallow as they may be, those thoughts & ignorance have inspired a lot of violence in the world. So I myself can't really call that pretty. As usual, YMMV.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:02 AM on May 18, 2007


I see. Sorry that I took that personally.
posted by bornjewish at 7:26 AM on May 18, 2007

"Hagarism" is Fascinating!

First, one of my standard references on the Koran:

If I recall correctly, this article (If it is to be believed, which I did at the time I read it) proves "Hagarism" to be false. It shows that while the Koran did indeed undergo significant revision in the time of Umar, the earlier versions were not different enough to support Crone & Cook's claim.

I was not familiar with Davy's claim here: "Xianity is a Hellenistic mystery religion: one of the cores of the other Abrahamic faiths is the concept of ritual purity, something Xianity lacks."
This seems "Technical" to me. I understand and agree with his facts, but I need to see Davy's definition of "Sect" before I alter my own understanding to match his.

Languagehat loosely says that Hagarism is claiming: "Islam is a Jewish heresy that branched off until it was no longer Jewish, much like the Druze and Alawite sects are former Muslim heresies."
Why "Former" heresies? This is semantic now but: Aren't Islam and Christianity "Jewish Heresies" to this day? Which would make them "Jewish Sects" to my current understanding, except by dint of sheer size.
I am reminded of the "Distinctions" between 'Cult' vs. 'Religion' &/Or 'Dialect vs Language.' As in "A language is a dialect with an army and a navy." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_language_is_a_dialect_with_an_army_and_navy

davy says: So once we figure out what the Biblical Jews branched off from we'll know who to blame.
I don't get this.

davy's Controversial Statement of the Day: there was no exodus from Egypt, in that era Canaan WAS part of Egypt.
I take the Akhenatist stance. I see Canaan and Cyrenaica as often "Belonging to" Egypt, but not "Part of" Egypt. I think there was an "Exodus" but of disgruntled Akhenatists. I think that all the "Patriarch" stuff was invented/altered in Babylon, during the captivity.
posted by bornjewish at 7:42 AM on May 18, 2007

I'm not quite getting the point here, maybe I'm being thick. What exactly do you see as the Akhenatenist stance? Akhenaten/Amenhotep IV was a Pharoah who chose to change Egypt into a one-god belief system, not so much because he believed there was one god but because it gave him more political power. When Tutankhamun took over, Akenatenism fell out of favor & they went back to the whole multiple God thing. Are you saying the exodus of Egypt was Akhenatenists during Tut's reign?
posted by miss lynnster at 7:52 AM on May 18, 2007

I don't know about "During" Tut's short reign, but "After Akhenaton died" is the hypothesis.

Basically, yes. It fits all the facts I have seen so far.
posted by bornjewish at 8:04 AM on May 18, 2007

More for Lynn,

I am not insane enough to think this is even close to "Proven." It is just my current operating hypothesis.

Akhenaton's motives seem irrelevant to the question.

I have seen reasonable suggestions that stories about Abraham evolved from stories about an Egyptian "Hero". (Gary Greenberg, Biblical Archaeology Society of New York, 101 Myths of the Bible)

The bible's timeline is obviously off. Even 19th Century bible historians noted that the Pharaoh widely accepted as the pharaoh of the Exodus (Merneptah, successor of Ramesses the Great) ruled too late.

The timing of Akhenaton's rule seems reasonable given the currently accepted dating of the Hebrews.
posted by bornjewish at 8:28 AM on May 18, 2007

Well, they aren't irrelevant considering that the Egyptians switched back to the previous belief system, possibly because his motives weren't those of the Egyptian people and thus not considered a valid basis to continue his beliefs after his demise. So that would sense that there was a divide between the Akhenatenists you're talking about and the rest of Egypt, which would inspire the exodus you're talking about.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:36 AM on May 18, 2007

As for the Bible's timeline being off... you should write a letter to God & tell him about this stuff. 'Cuz he'd probably be pretty annoyed that people got His Book all screwed up. Just can't trust other people to do things right for ya, y'know?
posted by miss lynnster at 8:39 AM on May 18, 2007

Yeah… as an 'Atheist Muslim', although I share the skepticism of the concept that Sam Harris has called "God is an omniscient real estate broker", I find the 'destroy Jerusalem and it'll be over' stance hilariously misguided.

Even if it were done in a moral void and didn't breed resentment against the doer, viewed only from a pragmatic standpoint it'd be far from the optimal way to de-escalate the issue. Identity politics thrives on feelings of persecution; indeed, Judaism and Christianity base parts of their theology on it (not to mention Islam's Hijrah, which may not be a basic part of the faith but is quite infused within it regardless.)

The Hindus destroyed Babri Mosque for land claims timed millenia before it was created, the Jews founded Israel millenia after they were routed from the area, the Mayans still practice long after their civilization has been wiped out…

Even philosophical materialists have sentimental attachments; divine faith (at least in the religions involved here) requires a view of reality that explicitly transcends the material.
posted by Firas at 8:51 AM on May 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I still don't think that A's motives mattered. Or are reliably known for that matter.

The mere facts that...
He introduced a radical change to a VERY static society.
The priestly aristocratic class that easily survived his death hated that change.
He only ruled for 18 years.
...seem sufficient to explain the fact that his changes didn't stick.

As for this "God" fellow...
What a hoot.
(Wipes tears of laughter from his eyes)
Yer kiddin' right?
posted by bornjewish at 8:57 AM on May 18, 2007

proves 'Hagarism' to be false
Horrible, even.

posted by kirkaracha at 9:01 AM on May 18, 2007

Hi Firas,

The thing about "Destroying the Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif" that I think you are missing is that it would be a move against BOTH sides in that fight.

Also, please do not put me in such a "Definitive and Sure" position. I never said anything like "...and it will all be over."

I believe that any solution that will work will be one that effects a very slow change. I think that removing such a huge bone of contention would necessarily have positive effects that would increase over time. The lack of one more thing to fight over.

I can not deny that it might have negative effects as well. But I wonder how they could play out. Muslim hatred is already high against us and/yet/but this is a much more "Evenhanded" action than Muslims have seen from America in a LOOOOONG time.

Would Israel turn against America?
Would that be bad?
posted by bornjewish at 9:08 AM on May 18, 2007

Dude, I can't believe how obtuse you're being, even though I acknowledge that you're not advocating the action per se. Even if the place was radioactive people would be jockying for control of it.

PS. I agree with some commentors in the linked post that the I/P issue is basically resolved besides the right-of-return issue and just requires political willpower to move forward towards an agreement.
posted by Firas at 9:18 AM on May 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think the jockeying would be just a little less.
With that little increasing over time.

Also I think that the "Evenhandedness" of the action speaks volumes that would be salutary here. The "God can't protect his real estate" thing would be nice too.

And in my fantasies, the Kaaba and Vatican City would vanish as well.

Hopefully via great big rocks that fall from the sky with no return address.

But plenty of warning time so no one gets hurt.

It's a fantasy dude.
Just like "Peace in the Middle East" itself seems to be.

You say "All that lacks is political willpower"
What else is new?
posted by bornjewish at 9:30 AM on May 18, 2007

I've been following this thread for some time, shaking my head. The post is an article discussing the unimportance of the middle east, but a day later, here we are again, pouring over ancient texts trying to divine each group's true origin and meaning, their relationships, etc.

Academically, the discussion has been fascinating. But I think it is revealing of some other undercurrent that explains why, at least in the West, the region has significance far beyond its importance.

It seems to me that people are looking for some epiphany in pouring over the faded texts and ruins of the deserts, as if some previously unknown connection will make all the pieces fit together, and reveal that we are all truly parts of the same whole. People still want to connect the religious texts to the historical record, but why? We know that the texts are thousands of years old, why the need to see if they are historically accurate?

Is there some subconscious belief that if the texts are historically accurate, then that makes them spiritually accurate, or at least accurate to the extent that the supernatural is real? Do people really want to believe that badly that they are subconsciously looking for evidence of God?

The reason people are killing each other over that piece of dirt is because the parties in the conflict are the same as each other. The war is an attempt to forge an identity where none would properly exist.

For each side, possessing the land makes their prophecy, their revelation, their identity more accurate and more real than the others.

Each side uses its children to kill the other side's children for the right to put their stern and sanctimonious long-bearded old men into the temple to the God, which, if he/it exists, most definitely does not exist in a manner either side could ever comprehend.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:31 AM on May 18, 2007

Hopefully via great big rocks that fall from the sky with no return address.

MAJOR LULZ. I've seen people go through all sorts of crushing suffocation to touch things that fall out of the sky with a possible tingue of holiness.

I think I understand your argument in terms of 'voiding' (ie. if the things just disappeared out of existence and memory) but definitely not in terms of destruction. Any sort of destruction these symbols would be pouring petrol on the symbolism involved.
posted by Firas at 9:39 AM on May 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


While I read that article too (Littwak) that is not the article at the head of the thread.

I agree with you, I just enjoy history a whole fricken lot.

Also, I don't like the attachment people have to these stories, and like to show the disconnect.
posted by bornjewish at 9:42 AM on May 18, 2007


If I could, by my lonesome, be responsible for voiding those three things simultaneously, with no loss of life, I would do it.

The "God can't protect his real estate" thing would be worth giving my life for. I'm not that young anymore.

(Can I take Scalia out too? No that has to wait till after the next election.) ;)
posted by bornjewish at 9:57 AM on May 18, 2007


Here's that article on how unimportant the ME is...

I loved it.
posted by bornjewish at 10:01 AM on May 18, 2007

bornjewish, by that weird bit of typed laughter at my supposed expense, I can tell that you don't know my personality very well. And you probably haven't read my previous comments about religion.

I personally believe ALL religions are backwards in their own way, and that each is often misrepresented by various people who try to insert and add on differing agendas that aren't in the base beliefs. Zealots of any kind are purposefully ignorant and blind, as it's pretty much a requirement in order to make zealotry possible. I don't care where those zealots are or what they believe in, in their zealotry they tend to have a lot in common with the very people they supposedly hate. They simply are blind to that too... as that, unfortunately, is the nature of man.

I enjoy history a lot too, but I enjoy actively understanding, relating to, and learning of differing cultures and their perspectives even more. So I tend to live a life where I actively explore the gray areas of commonality rather than the black & white. I don't take myself all that seriously, nor do I believe that only my thoughts are correct or that other people's perspectives are any less valid.

More power to you for having strong opinions. I'll confess I tend to question some of them though... if only because of the hardened and, as was kind of noted, somewhat obtuse way they seem to be presented. But that may just be the way I'm reading them. I don't know.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:03 PM on May 18, 2007

bornjewish, from the Wikipedia article about her and a Google search I see Patricia Crone of Hagarism fame has changed her views somewhat in the past 30 years; "What do we actually know about Mohammed?" her own summary of her views circa last year, can be found here, along with her take on others' views of the subject and occasional inline links pointing to further reading. (This kind of stuff is what browser tabs are great for; in another tab I just found out that they've reprinted another of her controversial books, God's Caliph, in paperback fairly recently.)

As to Hagarism, from the point of view of those who love pedantic arguments one of the Good Things about any history and specially religious history is that the further back you go the less can actually be proven. Documents get lost or destroyed, literacy comes and goes, oral histories and traditions get warped or forgotten and so on. Maybe in 1500 years scholars will be arguing in whatever medium they have whether or not L. Ron Hubbard really existed. That said, it's hard to discuss that book without having it in front of me, and I see (in another tab!) that the only copy I can get of it has been checked out of the University library already.
posted by davy at 3:39 PM on May 19, 2007

Oh and bornjewish, one of the Bad Things about The Atlantic is that they won't let one read the article you linked to without being a subscriber.
posted by davy at 11:10 PM on May 19, 2007


I do not know you, nor your personality. I understand your point about Zealotry and Religions, or at least I think I do and I agree with what I took from it. I still maintain the opinion that monotheism is a big net negative for humanity and I maintain that there is no "Good" or "Evidenciary based" reason to believe in god.

I too enjoy active understanding and the exploration of grey areas. I too am not under the delusion that only my thoughts are correct.

I am not sure what is meant by "Taking oneself seriously." But I do know that I take "History" seriously.

I do have strong opinions, but I also pride myself on an ability to react to new facts.

I am aware that I am often taken as "Not valuing the perspectives of others" but, after long meditation on the theme, have come to the understanding that this is mostly the "Hurt Feelings of others" when I happen to challenge closely held beliefs of theirs.

I am very open to having my beliefs challenged. I invite it. I seek it. And, because of this, following the golden rule, I challenge the beliefs of others as well.

No one who is sincerely interested in the truth, rather than in simply "Defending their prior beliefs" could be offended by having their beliefs challenged.

I am sorry, very sorry, if I was incorrect and you were not kidding. I assumed you were and was laughing along with you. I am still not sure if you were kidding, but I am leaning now to "You were not."
posted by bornjewish at 9:13 AM on May 21, 2007


It is a shame that Atlantic won't let one read a full article without being a subscriber. But, while following the links you gave, in the Wiki on Crone I found stuff on the thrust of the Atlantic article...

"During the restoration of the Great Mosque of Sana'a in Yemen, where labourers working in the roof discovered fragments of Qu'rans that are among the oldest in existence. German scholars Gerd R. Puin who studied the manuscripts discovered that some of the Qu'ranic writing diverges from the authorised version, which by tradition is considered the pure, unadulterated word of God. What's more, some of the writing appears to have been inscribed over earlier, "rubbed-out" versions of the text."

Following the link on Puin I found this bit extracted from the article

"My idea is that the Koran is a kind of cocktail of texts that were not all understood even at the time of Muhammad. Many of them may even be a hundred years older than Islam itself. Even within the Islamic traditions there is a huge body of contradictory information, including a significant Christian substrate; one can derive a whole Islamic anti-history from them if one wants. The Qur’an claims for itself that it is ‘mubeen,’ or clear, but if you look at it, you will notice that every fifth sentence or so simply doesn’t make sense. Many Muslims will tell you otherwise, of course, but the fact is that a fifth of the Qur’anic text is just incomprehensible. This is what has caused the traditional anxiety regarding translation. If the Qur’an is not comprehensible, if it can’t even be understood in Arabic, then it’s not translatable into any language. That is why Muslims are afraid. Since the Qur’an claims repeatedly to be clear but is not—there is an obvious and serious contradiction. Something else must be going on.”

I agree that Crone has changed her views, I didn't deny Crone as a person, I denied the basic idea of "Hagarism." The linked summary of her current views was great. It seems Crone and I are on the same page.
posted by bornjewish at 9:28 AM on May 21, 2007

There are online resources in "the historiography of Islam," such as the "classic" books and articles by various scholars (on of all things Answering Islam, a site dedicated to converting Muslims to Christianity). Besides Crone there are a few other contemporaries, such as Ibn Warraq (for some reason my local public library actually has a copy or two of most of his books), and I'd also recommend (again!) clicking through those References, See also and External links things. Hell, I've gotten interesting results just typing phrases into Google, such as An Atheist's Guide to Mohammedanism.

As for Crone & Hagarism I have no ox involved there, I just think Hagarism was a neat idea. What if ALL the world's ideologies that people massacre each other over were fabrications and lies?
posted by davy at 2:10 PM on May 21, 2007

bornjewish... see, here's the thing. If you knew my posting history, you would've recognized that I was kidding. But also that, although I was kidding, the hahaha thing wasn't super necessary 'cuz although I come from a very very religious family & I do tend to sigh heavily when it comes to them at times (got a nephew enrolling in Bob Jones University next month, for example -- Lordy.), I do my very best to not mock other people's beliefs in whatever God they choose -- even in jest. Whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Zoroastrian or whatever... that's just not my sense of humor. (Scientology is a different matter.)

And also, profuse apologies or explanations are unnecessary to placate me if I disagree with someone unless they've personally offended me, but thanks anyhow for the effort. I tend to let things roll off of me in here as best I can. No way 50,000 Mefites are all going to say things I agree with any more than I expect 50,000 Mefites to agree with me.
posted by miss lynnster at 4:02 PM on May 21, 2007


I'm so very glad you were kidding.
But I have a question. (or three)

You say: I do my very best to not mock other people's beliefs in whatever God they choose -- even in jest. That's just not my sense of humor. (Scientology is a different matter.)

I wonder why that is. And why do you make an exception for scientology? That seems illogical to me. Do you also exempt Mormons? What about New-Age Crystal Wavers or Astrologists? What is your criteria for this "Non mocking"?

When you say "I do my best" that seems to imply you have to exert effort. That you SEE the humor, you just don't express it.

But then you also say "It's just not my sense of humor" which would imply that you DO NOT SEE the humor.

My position, like Richard Dawkins', is that ridicule is the perfect tool for opposing these poorly supported ideas. Whether they be Christian, Scientologist, Reincarnation, UFOers, or what have you.

As I said before:
I am very open to having my beliefs challenged. I invite it. I seek it. And, because of this, following the golden rule, I challenge the beliefs of others as well.

No one who is sincerely interested in the truth, rather than in simply "Defending their prior beliefs" could be offended by having their beliefs challenged.
posted by bornjewish at 9:21 AM on May 22, 2007


I see your point on "Neat Idea."
Often an academic will make a very strong hypothesis (to draw attention to themselves, to change the terms of debate, to ridicule another strong hypothesis, etc) then later draw back. I think "Hagarism" is just such a stroke.

I don't think these "Murderous Ideas" are based on "Lies." Fabrications, yes, but not lies. I think people believe their own bullshiite to an amazing degree.

Thanks for the sources.
I totally recommend finding a way to read more about Puin's work on the Qu'ranic variants found in the Great Mosque of Sana.
posted by bornjewish at 9:32 AM on May 22, 2007

You're hurting my head, bornjewish. I say I do my best because I do my best at everything I can, whether it takes effort or not. And because much of my religious upbringing involved people trying to tell me why I shouldn't respect the beliefs of others... which is a big reason I was turned off on organized religion.

I actually don't judge my Scientologist friends at all, instead I learned about Scientology so I could understand them because I respect these friends immensely. But my relationships with them aside, I don't consider Scientology a religion. I consider it as something similar to Landmark Forum, but with more alien overlords.
posted by miss lynnster at 2:44 PM on May 22, 2007

Sorry your head hurts Lynn,

But all I have done recently is ask questions. Can you handle some more?

Your explanation Re: "Doing your best" seems to not answer my question. My fault for inclarity. Let me restate it. Do you see the humor in claims like "3=1" & "There is an invisible being that created the universe, but was itself not created"? Or not?

On "Repecting the beliefs of others": This is funny thing. People seem to confuse the necessity of respecting the right of others to hold any damn fool opinion they choose with some sort of necessity to respect the opinions themselves.

I respect the right of others to believe in Communism, Nazism, UFOism, Judaism, Catholicism, etc. With out fail.

But I do not respect these systems of belief IN AND OF THEMSELVES. I ridicule Nazism. I ridicule Communism. etc.

And I hold that others have the right to ridicule my beliefs. In fact "Atheists" are a much derided and ridiculed group.

In your opinion, are certain systems of belief somehow "Off limits to ridicule" simply by virtue of them having the designation "Religion"?
posted by bornjewish at 8:30 AM on May 23, 2007

Small typo.

Should be...
This is A funny thing.
posted by bornjewish at 8:39 AM on May 23, 2007

miss lynnster, I'm afraid the faux-diminutive approach to resolution doesn't always work, (usually not if you're a man), and apparently not with certain men :)
posted by Firas at 9:02 AM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

To elaborate, bornjewish, your detached smugness is really unwarranted. Have you considered the idea that some of us came to that point and moved beyond it? Maybe some people are simultaneously capable of seeing the humour in the absurdity yet able to respect the worldview. A bitter resentment of the notion of deities is really not going to solve any of the problems caused by belief. Again your idealism overrules your pragmatism.
posted by Firas at 9:18 AM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Your imputation of smugness & bitterness is unwarranted. Your claim that your position is "beyond" mine is unproven, to say the least.

Have you considered the notion that maybe some people are able to simultaneously respect the rights of others yet still speak their minds as they see fit?

My question stands: Are certain systems of belief somehow "Off limits to ridicule" simply by virtue of them having the designation "Religion"?

Why should Scientology, Nazism, Capitalism, atheism etc. be open to ridicule, but Christianity or Islam somehow not?

You have not dealt with my distinction between "Repecting the RIGHT to one's belief" and "Respecting someone's belief."

Do you respect ALL beliefs? Equally? Do you respect Nazism?

Do "religious" beliefs deserve some kind of special protection?

posted by bornjewish at 10:56 AM on May 23, 2007

"sorry your head hurts … can you handle some more" is not smug? Ok, well, not my concern.

And no, I don't think anything is off limits to ridicule. Quelle idee. I'm a hardcore first-amendment type.
posted by Firas at 11:10 AM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

To put it another way:

We agree, do we not, that Scientology, Catholicism & Nazism are all "Humorously absurd"?

We agree, do we not, that Nazism is not above ridicule?

We agree, do we not, that Scientology is not above ridicule?

What claim does Catholicism, or any religion, have to being "Above ridicule"?

Also, how is your claim that your unsupported claim is "Beyond" mine any less "Smug" than anything I have said?
posted by bornjewish at 11:16 AM on May 23, 2007


On "Smug":
I meant it when I said I was sorry.
I assumed she was not in serious pain.
I wished to ask more questions.

I am sorry if you perceived this as smug.
I am ready to apologize, if Lynn feels as you do.

But I still think my basic question is quite relevant and hope you and/or Lynne will answer it.
posted by bornjewish at 11:20 AM on May 23, 2007


You say: I don't think anything is off limits to ridicule.

Then, in what way am I in breach of "Respect" issues?
posted by bornjewish at 11:22 AM on May 23, 2007

I haven't really been following your little spat with miss lynnster but it seems to be predicated on a miscommunication to begin with, so I'm not sure what your question is. No, I don't think religions are above ridicule.

From scanning the thread quickly she seemed to have taken exception to something you scoffed at thinking you were mocking her rather than laughing with her etc. etc. and I don't know where it went from there.

It's a style of conversation I rather dislike (wrangling about hints and presumptions rather than making an effort to cut through the affectations) so I'm sorry I've gotten mixed up in it.

I appreciate your earnestness, but sleeve-tugging is a tiresome rhetorical style.
posted by Firas at 11:34 AM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't think you're in breach of respect issues. I'd misperceived the point of your contention.
posted by Firas at 11:36 AM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


I am a styleless boor, in some ways.
I am uninterested in "Face" or "Style" in this context.
I am only interested in "Point" or "Substance."

(Unless and until we are come to matters of the heart, where there are no facts other than the ones we generate in our heads.)

If you could find this "Miscommunication" you think you see, I would consider myself indebted to you.

Can I take you to mean that, as far as you are concerned, I am NOT in breach of any respect issues?
posted by bornjewish at 11:41 AM on May 23, 2007


Are we having a "Spat"?
I don't think so myself.
posted by bornjewish at 11:57 AM on May 23, 2007

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