Research Shows Link Between Conservative Christianity and Crime


Research Shows Link Between Conservative Christianity and Crime

Christian fundamentalism is toxic: Recent research in criminology demonstrates a strong correlation between high rates of violent crime and conservative Christianity.

In The Devil You Know, the Surprising Link Between Conservative Christianity and Crime, Elicka Peterson Sparks, an associate professor of criminology at Appalachian State University, demonstrates that “fundamentalist Christian ideology is criminogenic – in others words it actually causes [crime].”

Of particular concern is “Christian Nationalism,” defined as a political ideology steeped in “a Christian right to rule,” and entailing a false revisionist history specifically focused on America’s founding fathers as devout Christians who did not believe in separation of church and state.

Pointing out that the United States has more fundamentalist Christians than any other nation, Sparks notes:

The United States also has a very high rate of violent crime, and particularly high rates of lethal violence – compared to other similarly situated nations.

This is not a coincidence…this belief system, and the culture it inspires, lends itself to many types of criminal activity including the promotion of violent crimes against a variety of victims, terrorism against those of different faiths, and even crimes against the environment.

Why does religion cause crime? Sparks answers that question with three points:

  1. the explicit theology of violence present in fundamentalist religions;

  2. the psychology attendant in insulating oneself from fear of death through religion;

  3. and the promulgation of laws, policies, and programs to address crime that stem from this belief system.

Noting the violent biblical passages often cited by religious conservatives, their sense of righteousness, their dogmatic mindset that tolerates no dissent, and their support for harshly punitive measures toward “sinners,” Sparks shows that their worldview is the ideal seedbed for violence.

Bottom line: Conservative Christianity’s toxic mixture of fundamentalism, authoritarian politics, patriotism, and retributory justice actually causes crime.

For more information on this topic see: The Devil You Know, the Surprising Link Between Conservative Christianity and Crime.

(Image via Twitter)

(Image via Twitter)

Roots Of Modern Terrorism And Religious Fundamentalism


genocide

Roots Of Modern Terrorism And Religious Fundamentalism

By G. Asgar Mitha

– Anyone who attempts to construe a personal view of God which conflicts with Church dogma must be burned without pity – Pope Benedict III – Pope from 855 – 858 AD.

– Fear is the basis of the whole – fear of the mysterious, of defeat and death. Fear is the parent of cruelty and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand – Bertrand Russell

I‘ve quoted Bertrand Russell after reading his rather interesting essays titled Why I’m Not a Christian delivered on March 6, 1927 to the National Secular Society, South London Branch and that inspired me to write this article.

The horrors of the Catholic Church are well documented while even today the modernists, historians and politicians are turned off to discuss those horrors and are involved in discussing the horrors of a Muslim civilization. No civilization has been without its dark ages. Europe and America burnt people alive by tying them to stakes after accusations of witchcraft. Ancient Egypt used to cut off the limbs of their citizens from opposite ends and then crucify them. Rome too crucified their citizens. All kinds of horrors have been recorded in history books. One of the best movies I’d seen was The Name of the Rose starring Sean Connery regarding the Holy Inquisition involving the Church. The procedures of the Holy Inquisition involved examination of charges of heresy by the Church. Even those innocent were not spared by trumped up charges. Such was the terrorism due to religious fundamentalism within the European religious system that the Church reaped wealth, mainly from the poor and destitute while protecting the wealthy aristocrats. The Church was not only a religious entity but it also embodied politics.

The Spanish Inquisitions from 1474-1834 AD were held under Pope Sixtus IV mainly against the Jews and Muslims but also against Christian heretics. Those refusing to take up Catholic faith were led to the stake to be burnt alive in a ceremony known as auto-de-fe (act of failth) and their properties confiscated to the Church.

The horrors of the Catholic Church are provided in brief in the above paragraphs. However the roots of current situation of Muslim terrorism and fundamentalism need to be examined. The basis of all terrorism and fundamentalism is not religion (as correctly postulated by Karen Armstrong) which condemns both but rests in politics and powers of the state and the religious authorities. Both politicians and clergy have used religion to consolidate their power over the weakest of their audience condemning them as heretics and kafirs (heathen unbelievers).

While I was growing up in Pakistan until 1968, there was harmony and religious tolerance among the Shia and Sunni sects. Christians and Hindus too were accepted and tolerated and there were no Islamic laws that discriminated them. Hotels used to serve alcohol and advertise striptease shows of women from many countries. After having completed my education in the US, I returned to Pakistan in 1977 under the martial law rule of President Zia-ul-Haq only to find a Pakistani society devoid of all tolerance and one of extreme religious fundamentalism but not yet of visible terrorism. It was in the germinating stages. Zia was a diehard Saudi supporter who closely held the Wahhabist-Salfist belief of forcibly imposing religion upon the people. In exchange Zia received large Saudi monetary aid to breed religious extremism among the Taliban (students) in madressas (religious schools) operated as seminaries to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan. The Saudis in turn received the political support from the US. The students were not taught true Islamic values which are based on knowledge and free learning that benefits mankind. The Wahhabist teachings are instead based on fear aptly described by Bertrand Russell.

The other Wahhabist-Salafist fundamentalist Saudi citizen, Osama bin Laden, led the Afghan Mujahideen (holy warriors) and Taliban against the Soviets under the umbrella of Al-Qaeda (the base). He was supposedly killed in Pakistan in May 2011 by the Americans. The Soviet war in Afghanistan lasted over nine years from December 1979 to February 1989. Zia died in August 1988 in a mysterious plane crash. He’d served his masters well and the Americans and Saudis rewarded him with a plea to God to open the doors of Heaven for him and for the houris (female angels) to entertain him. Unfortunately I perceive the same fates for other current Pakistani leaders who are serving their masters.

IS (Islamic States), for example, has nothing to do with religion but everything to do with fear, cruelty, politics and religious intolerance. IS does not represent Islamic moderation, tolerance, respect and knowledge. The IS Jihadists being recruited from Europe and N. America are most likely not mainstream Muslims but lunatics and converts in a society they hate. They could well have been victims of political and extremist religious brainwashing similar to the Taliban. Just like al-Qaeda and Taliban were recruited against the Soviets, the IS may have been created to plunder the Arab countries. The IS is conducting inquisitions against everyone regardless of their minority (Christians and Yezidis) or sectarian beliefs (Shias and Sunnis) and their methods of torture and murder (beheadings and burning) are as horrifying as was practiced by the European Churches.

Following the war’s end, Afghanistan was in ruins and those same political parties (the seven party Jihadists) that had allied against the Soviets engaged in trivial disputes and fighting among themselves. America abandoned Afghanistan and Pakistan only to return in 2001 with a war against the former and military threats and promises of monetary aid for the latter. The Taliban returned victorious to Pakistan after having defeated the Soviet infidels. They now believed they were God’s chosen people and like Zia, it was their bounden duty to forcibly impose Wahhabism upon a nation. Terrorism and fear became their instruments and many of these Taliban also infiltrated the political parties in Pakistan in order to gain power and wealth similar to the norms of the Christian Church of the dark ages. America watched and learnt how hyenas fight over a carcass. Pakistan and Afghanistan were ushering in the dark ages. The lessons were going to be applied throughout the Muslim world with the objectives of once again gaining not only power but control of the precious black gold resource.

Saudi Arabia and other Monarchist Arab Wahhabist countries have been natural economic allies of America and its European vassals as they are weak and in need of protection. America continues to support the Saudis in exporting their perverted religious dogma across the Muslim countries in order to breed religious intolerance, cruelty and terrorism. Some of the countries like Iraq, Libya, Syria and Palestine have been war victims, others like Pakistan, Jordan and Egypt have survived upon American and Saudi aids. Iran is the only Muslim country where America and the Saudi monarchy have failed for exporting terrorism and religious extremism and both fear it as a regional power. Iran has adopted values of democracy, tolerance, moderation, justice, knowledge and learning – the hallmarks of Islam. The roots of Wahhabism are based on an extremist form of Islam, of intolerance of all religions, injustice and implementation of fear by their religious police known as mutawwas supported by the monarchies which the west supports. The one thing common among the Arab monarchies and the western ‘democracy’ is deep hypocrisy.

Why Genesis Is Literally False, But Also Metaphorically False!


How Genesis Is Not Only Literally False, But Metaphorically False
Posted by Daniel Fincke
Mary Midgley argues that only the views of fundamentalist literalists are refuted by the fact of evolution:

Appeals to evolution are only damaging to biblical literalism. Certainly the events described inGenesis 1 are not literally compatible with what science (from long before Darwin’s day) tells us about the antiquity of the Earth. But this is not news. The early Christian fathers pointed out that the creation story must be interpreted symbolically, not literally. Its message centres not on the factual details but on gratitude for the intelligible unity of the creation. Later Christian tradition always understood this, even before the historical details began to be questioned.

This argument is so old that I feel justified in simply replying by reiterating the points I made in an old post.I

I made the central argument more clearly in the comments section, so I’ll start by reproducing most of that remark:

just because science-accepting Christians offer to read Genesis only  metaphorically does not exempt them the metaphorical or mythical  meanings from scrutiny.  Just being a myth does not make the ideas  contained within it automatically true.

If this was indeed a book described by God, why is it false both  literally and metaphorically?  Can’t God get his story right?  If he was  divinely writing books why not just be literally true and tell us about  evolution in the Bible?  Why not tell us we emerged through a long  process and because we were naturally selected for different  environments and ways of life than those in which we presently live, we  must take care to  correct for some of our ill-fit cognitive tendencies.   In other words, if this were a divine book it would get these sorts of  facts right.  But it doesn’t.  Because it wasn’t inspired by God it was  dreamed up by ancient people doing the best they could to imagine and  wonder what things were like.

There was nothing wrong with that at the time, but now we’ve moved  past those primitive guesses and we should accept that authorities once  taken to be true simply are not.  That’s not “war” against Christianity  and religion, it’s how reason works.  We abandon ideas and authorities  when they are proven false.

The problem with religion is that it wants to freeze us in the past.   We must forever think of humanity as fallen, even when we realize we’re  just descended from other animals and not from a pristine state of  human perfection in a pristine garden.  We must forever think that pain  comes from a curse when in reality it’s just an adaptive trait that  warns us of danger and it existed long before humans could have ever  sinned.  We must forever think of humans as inherently corrupted by some  ancestor’s sins instead of fundamentally innocent beings who learned a  set of social relationships of cooperation and hierarchy while still  lower order primates and are still struggling to learn the best ways to  take care of our own needs and flourishing while balancing the interests  of our society.

Religion insists we must always freeze our knowledge, we must suspend  our ability to say, “oh, the old religious myths turned out false—we’re  not inherently evil, we’re not to blame for suffering in the world, we  don’t have to mistrust our natural drives as corrupt—just instead see  them as sometimes ill-fit for contemporary society since they evolved in  another time for different needs.”

Religion tries to teach people to defer to ancient authorities who  have no knowledge credentials and to override free, rigorous, and  sincere reassessment of what is good and bad in our nature.  Religion  teaches you that bronze age people’s fantasies are somehow divine  revelations when there is not a single good reason to think so.  They  have no special knowledge that only a God could give them.  They didn’t  give us the theory of quantum mechanics as a gift from the designer of  quantum mechanics.  They don’t seem to know any single fact about that  alleged creator’s world that they couldn’t have made up themselves.  So  why think they got special knowledge from that creator?

It goes on and on and on, Lisa.  There is no good reason to believe.   The Bible is false on every level.  The legal code it gives is repulsive  barbarism and the antithesis of the democracy I believe is just and  enlightened.  The genocides of the Old Testament are the height of  immorality.  They’re indistinguishable in their evil from the actions of  Hitler.  There are commands to slaughter men, women, infants, to rip  open the wombs of pregnant women.  It’s pure corruption and no sign of  divine wisdom.  It took a turn away from faith to Enlightenment to get  the democratic institutions and scientific advancements that make  possible an egalitarian society and technological power to extend  lifespans into the 70s and to create powerful means of creating and  communicating.  Faith doesn’t do these things.  It freezes knowledge in  the past, it teaches us to hate our human nature as fallen, and it  opposes the spirit of free, secular society.  And in all these ways, it  represents an obstacle to people’s free reason and rational decisions  about ethics.

And:

the non-literal reading of Genesis is just as false as the  metaphorical one.  When religious people argue that the Garden of Eden  story is unaffected by scientific knowledge they ignore the fact that  the Eden myth asserts an initial state of perfection from which we have  fallen because of a sin.  But that’s not “metaphorically” or  “mythically” true.  Our ancestors were (1) not even better human beings  than us, let alone “metaphorically perfect” humans, in fact they were  “lesser” evolved than we are socially, culturally, morally, and  physically—pretty much by every standard we have for judging human  excellence, (2) they did not incur pain on the universe, either  literally or metaphorically, since it already preexisted our arrival by  millions of years, and (3) our tendencies towards ethical failings and  our sufferings are not punishments for any sins (“original” ones or  otherwise, either literally or metaphorically) but are in fact  explicable in terms of both the precision and imprecision of complex  sets of strategies for social and environmental success that proved most  benefiical to our survival.  Similarly our intellectual shortcomings  have everything to do with an evolutionary necessity for making  judgments of a local kind coupled with an evolutionary indifference to  judgments of highly precise theoretical kind.

In other words, an evolutionary understanding of primeval history  exposes not only that the Genesis story is not literally true but that  its mythically presented propositional claims that pain in the universe  is connected to moral failing, that moral failing is a punishment for a  sin, that the need to work and for women to suffer excruciatingly during  child birth are both owed to matters that are our faults, and that  humanity was initially better off than we are now are, are all flat out false.

And finally I want to repost two superb videos that add much, much more to those points I just made.  The first points out the falsehood, both literal and metaphorical, of Eden myths and the points out the harmful consequences of such thinking.

embedded by Embedded Video
YouTube Direkt And start Christopher Hitchens’s brilliant speech below (maybe my favorite of his) and think about whether the scientific picture of reality he presents is one that we were made in the image of God by a benevolent personal God who selected the ancient Israelites to reveal himself to us and to provide us with our morality:

embedded by Embedded Video

‘The Great Agnostic’: Giving Up Politics To Preach Against Religion


‘The Great Agnostic’: Giving Up Politics To Preach Against Religion

by NPR Staff

The Great Agnostic

Attention American history buffs, here’s a name you might not have heard before: Robert Ingersoll. According to author Susan Jacoby, he was “one of the most famous people in America in the last quarter of the 19th century.”

“He went around the country,” Jacoby tells NPR’s Rachel Martin. “He spoke to more people than presidents. He was also an active mover and shaker behind the scenes of the Republican Party.”

But Ingersoll is largely forgotten today. His crime? Speaking out in favor of the separation of church and state. Jacoby, the author of a new biography The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought, says he promoted Darwin’s theory of evolution and fought publicly against government interference in religion.

“Because of this, as The New York Times said in his obituary when he died in 1899, he couldn’t run for public office even though he was a big deal behind the scenes,” she says. “Because even then, although most of the Republican presidents from Lincoln on didn’t even belong to a church, you still, if you were an open agnostic or atheist, could not hope to run for public office.”

Ingersoll actually gave up his public career, Jacoby says, because “he thought it was more important to talk about the ways in which fundamentalist religion was a bad thing.”

Author Susan Jacoby says Robert Ingersoll "was probably the first person who said, 'I don't believe in a God,' that a lot of people had ever seen."

Author Susan Jacoby says Robert Ingersoll “was probably the first person who said, ‘I don’t believe in a God,’ that a lot of people had ever seen.”

It was a controversial message. “He had enormous audiences,” Jacoby says. “The late 19th century, we think of this as the Victorian era, and stuffy and all that, but it was a time of enormous change” as Americans began to discover Darwin, and immigration changed the social makeup of the country. “Ingersoll was probably the first person who said, ‘I don’t believe in a God,’ that a lot of people had ever seen.”

Ingersoll’s father was actually a Presbyterian minister, who kept a library “of all of the things that Ingersoll came not to believe,” Jacoby says. “There is nothing like reading the Bible literally to make you question it; Ingersoll said that quite often.”

And he was public about those questions. “He wanted to revive the secular portion of America’s revolutionary history,” Jacoby continues. “He did not want to deny the role of religion in the founding of America, but he wanted to put it in its perspective.” Then as now, she adds, many people asked whether America had been founded as a Christian nation. “As controversial then as it is now, Ingersoll’s answer was no, and he went around explaining why it was no.”

Men like Ingersoll would have been astonished, Jacoby says, by the survival of fundamentalism in our era. “I don’t think that they would have been at all surprised that people are still religious. I think they would have been very surprised that anybody, by the end of the 20th century, would have been running for office on the platform that the Bible is literally true.”

Hate-oozing, Creepy Religious Reich Kook Brian Fischer Likens God to a Vampire


God Doesn’t Go Where He’s Not Wanted
Reminds one of the series “Trueblood” where vampires are forbidden entry into peoples homes without permission!
Brian Fischer wants us to know that God won’t go anywhere that he’s not invited.  His god is like a vampire that way, I guess!

I just don’t know anymore.  You’d think that someone from the Christian mainstream would step up and explain “omnipresence” to Fischer.  You’d think someone would explain that a God who will go to Nineveh won’t stop at a school room door.  You’d think that some influential Christian would explain that Christians don’t worship a God that petty.  But there’s never any pushback.

That leaves idiots like Fischer to us; atheists, liberal Christians and religious minorities calling them out. Is there any point? We can chronicle all the horrible things that people like him say, but they just keep on saying them. You can’t embarrass them. You can’t shame them. They live to be offended, and every attack against them just fuels their persecution complex.

South Park Blasphemy | Right Wing Fox News Cronie Seeks Government Inquisition


Fox News Host Wants Federal Investigation into ‘South Park‘ for Blasphemy

Fox News’s Todd Starnes is sick and tired of ‘South Park’ and Hollywood getting a free pass. The Fox News commentator participated in the Values Voter Summit panel on “Religious Hostility in America” over the weekend.

The panel featured the familiar argument that Christians in America are somehow a beleaguered minority that is under constant assault. Starnes claims to have a pile of stories stacked up on his desk about “instances of people who have been facing attack because of their faith in Jesus Christ.”
Speaking of the controversy surrounding the laughably bad “Innocence of Muslims,” Starnes asked why the federal government isn’t investigating “shows like ‘South Park,’ which has denigrated all faiths.” He also demanded to know why President Obama hasn’t denounced Hollywood.
We have the seen the administration come out and say, “we condemn anyone who denigrates religious faith.” And they come out in regards to this anti-Muslim film.
Well, that’s well and good, but my question is, when has the administration condemned the anti-Christian films that are coming out of Hollywood? Where are the federal investigations into shows like ‘South Park,’ which has denigrated all faiths?
Where is the outrage when people of the Christian faith are subjected to this humiliation that is coming out of Hollywood?
Religious Right activists have been the most vocal supporters of the filmmakers, if you can call them that, and have rightfully pointed out that the First Amendment protects their activities. Starnes, however, seems to have a double-standard when it comes to speech that he deems offensive to his religious views.
As it turns out, the only investigation going on around the “Innocence of Muslims” concerns whether one of the purported “filmmakers” violated the terms of his probation. Otherwise the government has no place policing speech, regardless of who is offended, and the president is not the film critic in chief. President Obama can be excused, however, for speaking out when Americans are being killed over an amateurish YouTube video.

Facebook Atheist Charged for “Insulting” Islam | Islamo-Fascism Attacks Free Speech


Alex Aan’s trial begins Thursday

Via:- Maryam Namazie

Alex Aan‘s trial begins tomorrow, Thursday, with the first prosecution witnesses being called, according to Rafiq Mahmood. Alex is the 30 year old Indonesian civil servant who has been charged with ‘insulting’ Islam in an atheist group in Facebook.

Rafiq says:

This isn’t just for Alex but for all of us. There have been far too many “blasphemy” cases which have just slipped by. We have to stop it if we have a chance and Indonesia is a very good place to make a stand.

And a stand we must make.

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and the Atheist Alliance International are collecting money towards Alex’s case. If you want to support his case financially, you can send a donation to the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. Just make sure to earmark it for Alex Aan.

Obama, Assassination, and the Antichrist Conspiracy


Obama, Assassination, and the Antichrist Conspiracy
Chip Berlet on the connections
Randall Gross Nov 19, 2011

[Link: http://www.talk2action.org/story/2011/11/19/153758/35/Front_Page/Obama_Assassination_and_the_Antichrist_Conspiracy]

Even if the shooter is a thorough crackpot his delusions did not form in a vacuum. Hate sites like Prison Planet, Atlas Shrugs, and Farrah’s World Net Daily all do most of the heavy lifting for these conspiracy theories and delusions. Oprah is not a hate site, but she does her share of aiding and abetting delusion with promotion of pseudoscience and magical thinking disguised as pop pscyh self help, so it’s really not a contradiction that he addressed a video to her, even though many on the right will grasp at that and say aha!

The alleged shooter charged with attempting to assassinate President Obama, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, apparently thinks our Commander in Chief is an agent of Satan in an End Times war. Sarah Posner has explained the basics in an article “‘Obama the Antichrist’ and end-times doctrine.” I warned about the possibility of the demonization of Obama leading to more violence in a book chapter published in 2010 “The Roots of Anti-Obama Rhetoric.” Here is a slightly revised version of what I wrote:

Many Americans believe Obama is a Muslim. Others are convinced he was not born in Hawaii and is thus not eligible to be President. Some say Obama is the Antichrist of Biblical prophecy.

A September 2009 poll in New Jersey found that 14% of Republicans believed that President Obama was the Antichrist—Satan’s agent in the End Times according to one reading of the Bible’s Book of Revelation. Another 15% thought it might be possible.

The results across political allegiances, however, were also troubling; with 8% of respondents statewide saying they thought Obama was the Antichrist and 13% stating they “aren’t sure”. The poll also found that “21% of respondents, including 33% of Republicans, express the belief that Obama was not born in the United States”.

According to the pollster, these are “eye popping numbers” (“Extremism in New Jersey”, 2009). The mobilization of apocalyptic expectation among Christian Evangelicals in the United States has been shown to be an effective mobilization strategy by the Christian Right and allies in the Republican Party (Boyer, 1992; Fuller 1995). This is especially true among fundamentalists (Barron, 1992; Mason, 2002; Berlet, 2008). This millenarian mood is spread from religious into secular communities, often through conspiracy theories (Brasher, 2000).

Hitler Was God’s Chosen Hunter: Hunting Jews! Claims Crazy For God John Hagee!


The Religious Right habitually camouflages it’s nefarious Christian Nationalist Worldview behind a phoney “pro-Israel” facade.

Religious fanatic John Hagee believes god sent Hitler to exterminate Jews and thus, as act and prophetic directive of his god, obviously a righteous and just genocide.

Like Catholic Hitler, John Hagee believes that unless Jews are converted to his Christ, they will be eradicated in the fires of hell that is, their final annihilation.

One has to wonder how even certain Right Wing Jews can be so utterly blind and continue support a religious buffoon who considers the destruction of Jews an inexorable, righteous and prophetic dictate — of his
psychopathic god?!

The Destruction of Israel


Make no mistake, Israel‘s existence is under threat
TheDrum By ABC’s Ben Knight

Updated September 24, 2011 12:17:39

Let’s imagine for a moment that at this time next year, by some
miracle, Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas meet on the White House lawn to
sign the accord that will create the nation of Palestine. All disagreements are
forever resolved – from where the borders of the two countries will lie, to how
they will share Jerusalem as their capital.

Let’s also assume that all Muslim and Arab nations will keep their promise to
recognise Israel – and that the militants of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad
are consigned to the dustbin of history.

Israel is finally free to realise its full potential as a nation. Or, to put
it another way – Israel is finally free to let its own internal divisions and
hatreds tear it apart.

If you think Israelis and Palestinians don’t see eye to eye, the gulf between
secular Israelis and the ultra-orthodox religious is probably just as wide.

Go to Tel Aviv on a Saturday morning, and you’ll see one version of Israel –
secular, middle-class sun-worshippers, sitting in trendy beachside cafes,
munching on bacon and eggs, or hummus and salad.

Then, on the same Saturday morning, drive 40 minutes up the highway to
Jerusalem, where you’ll visit an entirely different country. Here, there are no
cars, and streets are closed off with police barriers – as ultra-orthodox Jews
in black overcoats and fur hats walk to the Western Wall to pray.

And no, the two groups don’t get along.

Secular Israelis work, pay taxes, and serve in the army. Ultra-orthodox, or
Haredi Jews, don’t.

Secular Israelis are prepared to die for their country in battle, but have to
travel outside it to get married in a civil ceremony.

Not surprisingly, it’s a pretty sore point. Especially as the demographic
balance is shifting fast.

Secular couples have, on average, around two children per couple. Haredi
couples have closer to eight or nine.

And it’s changing the very identity of Israel – away from the secular,
socialist civil society it was created as in 1948 – to something quite
different.

To see it in action, you only need to take a peek inside an Israeli
school.

Israeli’s government funds three streams of education; regular state schools,
ultra-orthodox religious schools, and Israeli Arab schools.

Back in 1960, only around 15 per cent of Israeli children were enrolled in
religious or Arab schools.

That figure is now around 50 per cent. In 30 years, it will be almost 80 per
cent. That is a frightening statistic for the nation of Israel.

Arab Israelis have long had lower education, and higher unemployment
levels.

But the real problem is in the religious stream.

In religious schools, children don’t learn mathematics, science, or English;
only the Bible. All day, every day. And Haredi men are expected to – and do –
continue that Bible study for the rest of their lives.

It’s all funded by the taxpayers. And the taxpayers are… secular
Israelis.

What does it mean? Well, if the figures are to be believed, in less than 30
years, Israel will have a population where the majority either can’t, or won’t
join the workforce – putting an increasing, and impossible burden on the secular
minority to pay the taxes and serve in the army.

This, in the ‘Startup Nation’ – the country that prides itself on its hi-tech
sector. Israel has the ideas, the inventors, and the entrepreneurs – but
already, it has to import workers from overseas, because there aren’t enough
educated Israelis in the job market.

It’s not sustainable. Israelis know about it, and sometimes talk about it,
but Israel’s government does nothing. It’s just too hard – especially as the
political power of the ultra-religious is growing. It’s almost impossible to
form a government in Israel today without them.

Opposition – and resentment – is growing. Middle-class, taxpaying, secular
Israelis are already so angry about the mere cost of living – and that their
children cannot afford to buy or rent a home – that they have taken to the
streets in huge numbers.

But it’s hard to see how any government – however brave – is going to be able
to turn the ship around without committing political suicide.

Now let’s imagine that in a year from now, Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud
Abbas have not reached a peace deal.

All of the current problems are still there; but Israel is even more
isolated, the Palestinians are even more frustrated, and sitting in the midst of
an ever more unstable and chaotic region.

This week’s UN assembly might have put Israel and Palestine back in the
headlines – but it won’t solve the conflict. And soon enough, it will all fade
from view again.

And all the while, behind the scenes, Israel’s
demographic time bomb is still ticking away.

Ben Knight
is the ABC’s Middle East correspondent.

Iran: Female Blogger Receives 50 Lashes


Iran: Female Blogger Receives 50 Lashes

Posted 15 September 2011 23:41 GMT
Written byFred Petrossian

These are the words Iranian blogger Somayeh Tohidloo wrote [fa] in her blog after receiving 50 whip lashes in Evin Prison on September 14, 2011:

Be happy, for if you wanted to humiliate me, I confess that I feel my entire body is suffering with degradation.

Somayeh TohidlooSomayeh Tohidloo

Somayeh was active during the 2009 presidential election in the campaign for Mir Hussein Mousavi, and she was jailed for 70 days in 2009, after a mass protest movement erupted in Iran. She was released after paying bail, but the flogging sentence was eventually upheld.

Green City writes [fa]:

Here is Iran, where Somayeh Tohidloo, a PhD-graduate is lashed while a $3 billion dollar fraud [over a Lake Urmia] happens, and nothing is done to punish the fraudulent acts.

Christian Right – United NOT in Christ But in Facsist, Rightist Politics


Baptising Beck

‎Wednesday, ‎14 ‎September ‎2011, ‏‎5:11:40 PM | Richard Bartholomew

Warren Throckmorton has the latest on David Barton and Glenn Beck:

David Barton is feeling the criticism from Worldview Weekend founder Brannon Howse. Today, Barton responded to some of those criticisms as he framed them.

Howse is particularly concerned that David Barton’s partnership with Glenn Beck leads Christians to believe that Beck is a Christian or that Mormonism is just a form of Christianity.

Barton’s approach was to call Beck a Christian because Beck says that Jesus is his savior and redeemer and point to Beck’s deeds to validate his faith. You can read essentially what Barton claimed on the air here on his Facebook page.

Barton’s apologia also follows an attack by Marsha West in Renew America last week:

Why do evangelical leaders choose to team up with a Mormon? More specifically why did historian David Barton of Wall Builders, Attorney Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, Mike Evans of Jerusalem Prayer Team, and Pastor John Hagee join Glenn at the Restoring Courage rally?

California megachurch pastor Jim Garlow said, “I have interviewed persons who have talked specifically with Glenn about his personal salvation — persons extremely well known in Christianity — and they have affirmed (using language evangelicals understand), ‘Glenn is saved,’” Garlow reported. “He understands receiving Christ as savior.” (Online source)

David Barton stunned the audience when he went on Live TV and told host Randy Robison (here) that just because Beck attends a Mormon church “doesn’t say anything about his personal relationship with Jesus…. I have literally watched him pray and hear from the Lord and turn on a dime.”

One well-known Mormon practice is the vicarious baptism of non-Mormons into the LDS; this appears to be returning the gesture. I blogged on Beck’s alliance with Christian Right pastors – particulatly John Hagee – here.

Of course, Barton has little regard for the ninth commandment, let alone the Nicene Creed, but it is interesting to see how a segment of the US Christian Right – known for its exclusivity and refusal to “compromise” with science or Biblical scholarship – appears to be accommodating a religious tradition which is obviously disconnected from historic Christianity. Beck supports Israel and promotes the USA’s “divine destiny”, and holds socio-economic views the Christian Right finds congenial. That is far more important than notions such as the Incarnation or the Trinity.

As I blogged here, there have also been attempts to incorporate Judaism into the Christian Right vision.

UPDATE: Warren Throckmorton has more:

The Moody Broadcast Network station in East Texas, KBJS-FM canceled David Barton’s Wallbuilders Live radio program during the while Barton was discussing Glenn Beck’s religious beliefs. Randy Featherstone, KBJS manager, said the show was dropped due to Barton’s failure to distinguish between Mormon theology and Christianity.

Evolution is a Jewish Conspiracy


Evolution is a Jewish conspiracy

by PZ Myers

The essay starts off stupidly enough.

In 1867 Karl Marx dedicated DasKapital to Charles Darwin.

Actually, no, he didn’t. It’s a fairly common lie in creationist circles, though, just like the others sprinkled throughout the story.

Modern creation science is led by an array of top-flight Ph.D. scientists, including biochemists, paleontologists, astronomers and geologists. It presents a formidable battery of evidence now knocking hundreds of holes in traditional evolutionary arguments. As never before, scientific creationism debunks the contrived “evidence” that evolutionary theory has fed on since Darwin.

No, it isn’t. Creation science is led by a gang of ignorant clods who can’t read a paper without mangling it.

But OK, so far this is just your standard modus operandi for creationists. The really weird stuff is shouted out in the title: JEWISH SUPREMACISTS USE EVOLUTION TO CORRUPT MANKIND. Did you know that evolution is a Jewish conspiracy to corrupt Western civilization?

Why doesn’t the scientific community abandon Darwin’s failed hypotheses? Simple: The Jewish-dominated media and educational establishment are determined that, like unconditional support of Israel, Holocaust mythology, hate laws, and “civil rights” favoritism, there will be no end to the relentless force-feeding of evolution. Belief in evolution is a prerequisite for Jewish supremacism‘s new-world order.

Yet anti-Zionist leadership on the right remains oblivious to the fact that evolution is the largest, ugliest, most aggressive tentacle of the Jewish revolutionary octopus. Anti-Zionists are often evolutionists, claiming that Jews evolved in a way that makes them inherently degenerate, subversive, and corruptive. They make the most Luciferian, dehumanizing fable ever invented by pseudo-science into a pillar of their thinking!

The Reverend Ted Pike is kind of obsessed with Jews. They’re behind everything.

You see, the degenerate Jews promote evolution, which led the Nazis to kill Jews, and we must organize resistance to the Jewish agenda and the Judaic threat, and we absolutely must support Israel without question. Every paragraph drips with anti-semitic bigotry, but at the same time he rants against the wicked anti-Zionists.

I’ve seen this often in fundamentalist Christians. Jews aren’t really people; they’re just props in the script of their eschatology. We have to keep them around because the True Final Solution is for Jesus to exterminate most of them and convert the survivors, and if we jump the gun and kill them all now, why, that would invalidate the Bible, which would be wicked.

The problem we face today originates in Jewish rebellion to Christ. It is primarily a moral issue which cannot be addressed by dehumanizing Jews or violence. It must be met with reason and persuasion, even love. The Bible presents Jewish apostasy as part of a long-range scenario that will ultimately result in anti-Christ world rule but also redemption of a remnant of Jews out of great tribulation at Christ’s second coming. The problem of Jewish supremacism ultimately is Christ’s problem, to be resolved by Him, not military or persecutive measures.

This is why Adolf Hitler and the Nazis must be damned. Not because they killed people, but because they lead us into “anti-biblical, evolutionary, racist errors”. We must support Israel because it’s a kind of holding pen for the Jews, where they will be annihilated in Armageddon, and you’re a bad, bad person if you begin the slaughter prematurely.

Despite the fact that I don’t have any evidence of any Jewish background in my lineage, I do have to cop to being an ugly evolutionary tentacle, and there are most certainly Jews in my readership. Does it make you feel all warm and happy and safe to peek into the minds of some of the most ardent Christian supporters of Israel?

Forced Indoctrination At Gunpoint Wishes Mike Huckabee!


Mike Huckabee Says He Wants Americans To Be Indoctrinated At Gunpoint

David Barton is the leading promoter of a brand of falsified American history altered to support the claim that America was founded as a Christian, rather than a secular, nation. As Chris Rodda, who has authored an entire book debunking Barton’s brand of pseudo-history, writes,

I was quite surprised… to come across a video clip from this conference on the People for the American Way (PFAW) Right Wing Watch blog with the headline “Huckabee: Americans Should Be Forced, At Gunpoint, To Learn From David Barton.” I had watched Huckabee’s speech. How on earth could I have missed a statement like that? Well, I didn’t. It had been edited out of the webcast that I had watched.

Kyle Mantyla over at PFAW’s Right Wing Watch had recorded Huckabee’s speech when it was streamed live on Thursday, and posted the ‘forced at gunpoint’ clip on Friday. By Saturday, when I watched the webcast on the United in Purpose website, that part of Huckabee’s speech had been edited out.

The webcast that I saw showed Barton leaving the stage as he ended his presentation, then the screen going black for a moment, and then what appeared to be the beginning of Huckabee’s speech. What was edited out was Barton returning to the stage to introduce Huckabee, and the first two minutes and forty-five seconds of Huckabee’s speech, during which Huckabee made his ‘gunpoint’ comment and praised David Lane, the man behind all of the American “Renewal” and “Restoration” projects that have popped up across the country during the past few elections.

[below: the unedited footage from Huckabee’s speech, with the “joke” about indoctrinating Americans at gunpoint to be found at at 1:06. Footage courtesy of Kyle Mantyla of Rightwing Watch, who might have almost single-handedly consigned Huckabee’s presidential hopes to the dustbin of history.]

I should also note that what Chris Rodda has to say about this has especial weight given that she’s arguably been the most indefatigable author to challenge David Barton’s sprawling falsified American history oeuvre, as a Talk To Action site search on Rodda’s extensive posts debunking Barton would suggest. Chris Rodda is author of the book Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History which prominently features David Barton, head of Wallbuilders and arguably king of the “liars for Jesus”. Rodda is also Head Researcher for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

Loons Pamela Geller and Terry Jones Make Hate List


Pamela “the looniest blogger ever” Geller is on the front page of the SPLC hate report. The SPLC should feature Spencer’s hate diatribe and association now as well.

Geller, Jones Amp Up Anti-Muslim Hate Rhetoric

The annual observances in New York City of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the World Trade Center are normally somber and subdued. But with anti-Muslim acrimony in America escalating, apparently stoked by anger over a proposed Islamic cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero, this year’s commemorations were sometimes downright ugly.

Public figures such as Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin helped fuel that discord with harsh denunciations of the proposed Muslim center. But no one did more to fan the flames of fear and hatred over the “Ground Zero mosque” than Pamela Geller, co-founder of Stop Islamization of America (SIOA).

Earlier this year, Geller — who also has questioned whether President Obama was born in America — bought anti-Muslim ads that were displayed on New York City buses for a month. She warned that Muslims will “turn to further intimidation, murder and terrorism” if they can’t achieve a political takeover. Her comments were so incendiary, in fact, that several neo-Nazi organizations even ignored the fact that she is Jewish and published her diatribes. She in turn commented favorably on the South African, apartheid-defending terrorist Eugene Terre’Blanche after he was murdered, blaming his death on “black supremacism.”

Pamela Geller
Pamela Geller

On Sept. 11, Geller led a rally near the proposed Muslim community center, where protesters carried signs (“No mosque on sacred ground”) and heard speeches by her and Geert Wilders. Wilders is a hard-line Dutch lawmaker who has compared the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf and made frequent speeches in the United States warning that Islam is an ideology, not a religion, intent on world domination.

At the same time Geller’s demonstration was being staged, a rival rally was held just blocks away. Those demonstrators called for tolerance and carried their own signs — “The attack on Islam is racism” was one.

Citing police estimates, The Wall Street Journal said there were about 1,500 people at Geller’s anti-mosque rally and 2,000 at the counter-demonstration. The New York Post said the pro-mosque crowd outnumbered the anti-mosque protesters, 3,000 to 2,500. Both these estimates infuriated Geller, who accused the “liberal establishment mass media” of a “massive distortion” meant to minimize her cause.

Terry Jones
For several days this September, Gainesville, Fla., pastor Terry Jones and his plans to burn Korans were world news. Then the Muslim- and gay-bashing chief of the Dove World Outreach Center sank back into obscurity.

Meanwhile, an obscure pastor from Gainesville, Fla., drew vastly more publicity than the far better known Geller by announcing a plan to mark the 9/11 commemoration with “International Burn a Koran Day.” News of Terry Jones’ plans tore across the Muslim world, igniting fury in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates phoned Jones in an effort to persuade him not to burn copies of the Islamic religious text. Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, warned that Jones could endanger the troops. President Obama said if Jones followed through on his plan, it would be “a recruitment bonanza for al Qaeda.” The right-wing pastor, who has also bitterly attacked “homos,” received death threats and a visit from FBI agents. The international police agency Interpol issued a warning to governments worldwide of an increased risk of terror attacks if Jones proceeded with his plan. The U.S. State Department also warned Americans living and traveling abroad of the potential for violent protests.

In the end, Jones canceled his Koran burning event, saying he had an agreement that would move the Manhattan Islamic center to another site. That wasn’t so. Gainesville law enforcement agencies later said they would bill Jones for the costs associated with his planned Koran burning. They are expected to exceed $200,000. That would bankrupt his 50-member Dove World Outreach Center, Jones said, a prospect that clearly delighted many residents of Gainesville.

Fascist, Neo-Nazi Rabbi Wants Debate with Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks


Posted on January 1, 2011 by Richard Bartholomew

From the Jewish Chronicle:

The rabbi who spoke at an English Defence League rally two months ago has apparently challenged Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks to a televised BBC debate on “Is Islam a religion of peace?”

…In an email seen by the JC, Rabbi [Nachum] Shifren says he has set rules for the debate structure, to be followed by the Chief Rabbi and the BBC – despite no known interest in such a programme from either party.

The JC saw the email because it was sent to them; the text was published on 23 December on a blog devoted to the Rabbi’s exploits:

Dear Sir,

I, Rabbi Nachum Shifren, Director of The California Security Council, who,having been the first person in the history of England to be banned from excercising [sic] freedom of speech at the home and pivot of British free speech at Speaker’s Corner in London, Hereby challenge Rabbi Lord Jonathon [sic] Sacks; Chief Rabbi of the Hebraic congregations of The United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth, to a one hour televised BBC debate on a number of topics including “Is Islam a religion of peace?” The Islamification of Britain. Cultural Marxism in Western liberalism, Multiculturalism and it’s [sic] effect on the host society; education, religion, laws and culture.

This is the first time I’ve seen Shifren complain that he was supposedly “banned” from Speaker’s Corner; a video of his appearance there merely shows him arguing with a Muslim about how “fags” can’t be executed in Judaism because there is no religious court in Jerusalem where they can be put on trial. The only people who seemed to be keen for him not to continue in this vein were his EDL handlers (I blogged on the incident here, and on Alan Lake’s response to my post here).

The blog where the “challenge” was published has the encouraging name of Newworldorderuk, but there is no information about who runs it or how the message was passed to them; presumably the blog owner is someone with a personal link to Shifren. However, given that Shifren has a background as a schoolteacher in California, the spelling is strangely poor, and one wonders if he has actually written it himself.

There is also a list of conditions for the debate, including  the demand that

The programme should not be advertised or announced using such inflamitory [sic] labelling as ‘far-right, ‘extremist.’ i.e. not served up in terms that suit the marxist-Islamist agenda of the BBC.

Further:

That the usual practice of selecting a carefully chosen hostile audience to the guest deemed to be ‘politically-incorrect’ according to BBC Trotskyist strictures [sic – the JC misquotes this as “Trotskyist structures”] be avoided by having no audience at all, ditto questions from emails or phone-ins.

Of course, this is transparent publicity-seeking – it’s a common crank strategy to demand a public debate with someone who has a higher profile, and then to insist, when the “challenge” is ignored or rebuffed, that this is clearly evidence that the crank views cannot be refuted.

Newworldorderuk has some commentary of his or her own – the writing style is the same as that of the challenge itself:

Rabbi Sachs [sic] has not responded to the challenge. Though the Chief Rabbi often makes important statements against secularism and the atheist attack on religion he inevatably [sic] risks a second Holocaust by supporting the Islamification of Britain, something which does not much worry the mass of the British political and religious class, still basking in the heritage of Bolchevism in the land where Karl Marx lived and died, wrote Das Kapital and the Communist Manifesto, and where Marx’s grave in Highgate cemetery remains a holy shrine. The land whch has been a socialist state since 1945.

…It appears that as is normal with all news emanating from the EDL or other opposition to the one party state, Rabbi Shifren’s challenge was referred to either Yasmin Alabhai Brown or Mehdi Hasan, the ‘Anti-fascist enforcers’ for the Communist National Union of journalists, where one of these two distinguished British Muslims has slapped a ‘No Platform’ on it’s [sic] publication across all British print and televised media.

The coming war on women


The coming war on women

by Kaili Joy Gray

A war is coming.

Congressional Republicans have already made clear that their top priority, once they take control of Congress in the next session, is to make sure President Obama is a one-term president.

But there is a second priority that many Republicans in Congress, and in state legislatures around the country, have promised to pursue: the further restriction of women’s reproductive rights.

As Mother Jones reported in December:

If you thought the abortion battle during the health care debate was fierce, just wait until Republicans take over the House in January. Strengthened by congressional victories in the midterm elections, Republican abortion foes plan to push hard in the new year. Their top goals: enshrine tough restrictions on abortion funding into federal law and defund Planned Parenthood.

The incoming Speaker of the House, John Boehner, is a staunch opponent of women’s reproductive rights, with a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee. In fact, last year, he received the 2010 Henry J. Hyde Defender of Life Award for his “extraordinary leadership in the fight to prevent taxpayer-funded abortion and for his work to protect women’s health in his own state of Ohio.” After the November election, his staff held a meeting with terrorist Randall Terry to receive Terry’s list of forced birth demands for the new Republican majority.

And then there is the selection of Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Penn.) as the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. As the New York Times reported:

The selection…presages a major shift on abortion and family planning, according to opponents and supporters of abortion rights.

Mr. Pitts was chosen last week as the chairman of the subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over private health insurance, Medicaid and much of Medicare, as well as the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health.

In urging Republican leaders to choose Mr. Pitts, the National Right to Life Committee said he had “made the protection of the sanctity of innocent human life the cornerstone of his service in the House.”

Forced birthers acknowledge that even with the additional 45 seats they picked up in the midterms, it will be difficult to enact their desired legislation with a still Democratically-controlled Senate and a pro-choice president. But forced birthers have, in the past, succeeded in passing restrictive legislation with the help of even self-described pro-choice Democrats. In 2003, for example, the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act passed with the help of 63 House Democrats and and 17 Senate Democrats, including then-Senator Joe Biden.

And of course, who can forget how Democrat Rep. Bart Stupak held health care reform hostage in order to extort further restrictions on women’s access to reproductive health care?

Last year, state legislators introduced more than 600 bills to restrict reproductive health care rights, dozens of which were enacted into law. Often, the laws are overturned by the courts for their blatant unconstitutionality, but that doesn’t stop forced birth legislators from continuing to introduce these bills in the hopes that they will reach the Supreme Court and ultimately be upheld.

As the Washington Independent reported:

With a wide swath of state legislatures in the GOP’s control beginning in January, Republicans across the country will have a new opportunity to subtly create laws restricting access to abortion.

“They have so many things in their arsenal to use — starting with an outright ban on certain types of abortion procedures (saline abortions have been a favorite target in the past) to banning abortion insurance coverage in the still- to-be-developed health care exchanges, to preventing any state funding to go to organizations that provide, refer or support abortions, to overturning the Doe v. Gomez case, which provides funding for abortions for women on Medicaid,” Linnea House of NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota told Birkey.

Every year, the forced birth advocates invent ever more creative ways to chip away at women’s rights to reproductive health care. Like the Personhood Amendment, which was on the ballot in Colorado in the last midterm election.

Personhood is a term that conservative groups have taken to using, arguing that life needs to be defined, essentially, at the most original point possible, starting with the zygote and calling it a person. The restrictions of such amendments like Colorado’s have major implications on a woman’s legal right to choose: If personhood were codified into law, not only would all forms of abortion become illegal, but stem cell research would be banned and women would no longer have access to certain forms of birth control.

The amendment was soundly defeated, but that won’t stop legislators from continuing to push for personhood laws throughout the country. Such legislation is currently being pursued in 30 more states.

And then there are the fetal pain laws.

Abortion rights foes emboldened by a new Nebraska law that restricts late-term procedures based on the disputed notion that fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks are pushing for similar legislation in other states, particularly those where Republicans won big in November.

National Right to Life held a strategy conference this week in Arlington, Va., to offer its state affiliates guidance for the 2011 legislative session. Indiana, Iowa and Kentucky lawmakers have already started drafting bills similar to Nebraska’s law, and abortion opponents are pushing lawmakers in Kansas, Maryland and Oklahoma to do the same.

Forced birthers have already made clear their intention to use the new health care reform law to deny reproductive health care to women. According to the Guttmacher Institute:

In late July, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and some 165 cosponsors introduced the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Smith argued that the debate over health care reform and its outcome made clear that “it is time for a single, government-wide permanent protection against taxpayer funding for elective abortion.” His solution includes refighting the fight over health care to enact the Stupak amendment to essentially ban abortion coverage in exchange plans. He would further solidify the Hyde amendment and its progeny (affecting all women dependent on the federal government for their health care or insurance), by writing the prohibitions into permanent law, instead of their current form in which they must be—and are—renewed annually on the various relevant appropriations bills. The original Hyde amendment has been enacted annually since 1978; most of the other abortion funding restrictions spanning the federal government were enacted starting in the early 1980s.

The Smith bill would go even further, however, into uncharted territory. It would carry the argument against funding abortion to an extreme by preventing employers from taking a tax deduction for insurance plans that include abortion coverage. Moreover, individuals’ premiums for plans that cover abortion could not be paid with pretax dollars. In addition, any costs incurred by an individual for an abortion would be disallowed under a flexible health spending account or for the purposes of a potential medical care deduction from federal taxes.

Even though President Obama has repeatedly stated his support for women’s reproductive health care, he has already compromised on those issues. And given that he has made clear his willingness to compromise on even his most fundamental principles, there is no way to know what further compromises Republicans will be able to extort, should they decide to again take the American people hostage.

Despite Republicans’ promises to re-dedicate the government to focusing on the “real” problems Americans face, it is abundantly clear that they are, in fact, dedicated to restoking the flames of the culture wars, with the battle to strip women of their reproductive rights front and center in that war. The real question is whether self-described pro-choice Democrats, including and especially the president, will have the strength to fight back. Because this is a war women can’t afford to lose.

Racism, Rabbinical and Otherwise


Via Ran HaCohen, December 20, 2010

As part of Israel’s orgy of racism and fascism since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formed his far-Right coalition almost two years ago, dozens of Israeli racist rabbis (RR) have signed an edict forbidding Jews in “the Land of Israel” from selling or renting property to non-Jews (in other words: to Israeli Palestinians or Arabs). The RR base their decision primarily on the prominent medieval Jewish scholar Maimonides (1135-1204), who forbids selling houses and fields in the Land of Israel to “idolaters” (Mishne Torah, Hilkhot avodat kokhavim 10).

Did Maimonides, who lived and prospered in a tolerant Muslim world, consider Muslims idolaters? On the contrary. In one of his responses, he states, “The Ishmaelites [i.e., Muslims] are not idolaters at all.” Like almost everything in Jewish law, then, things are open to negotiation: Maimonides’ authority is negotiable, his interpretation of the Law is negotiable, and his own intention is negotiable too. The RR reflect their own racism rather than some indisputable, inherent Jewish racism.

The Orthodox Fault

It was the Zionist Orthodox intellectual Yeshayahu Leibowitz (1903-1994) who urged the Israeli rabbinical establishment not only to emancipate itself from the state (the RR are all state employees!), but also to undertake a fundamental reform in order to adapt Judaism to the unprecedented reality of a modern Jewish state. The rabbinical establishment ignored Leibowitz’s call. Present-day Jewish Orthodoxy, especially the Zionist Orthodoxy, is therefore entangled in a whole network of ludicrous inconsistencies and contradictions, deriving from the fact that the Halakhah, the Jewish law, was conceived and developed in exile, when Jewish national independence – let alone a modern state – was at best a Messianic fantasy.

Jewish Orthodoxy has failed to cope with the fact that the Jews in Israel are no longer a minority but an sovereign majority. Many of the racist facets of Judaism are traceable to this unaccounted-for shift. A majority in a modern state has very different moral rights and duties than a small religious community in exile.

The leading Ultra-Orthodox Israeli rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv has poked fun at the Zionist RR by reminding that they are the ones who support the disputed circumvention of the biblical order to give the land a Sabbatical and to avoid cultivating it every seventh year. The controversial circumvention of this biblical order consists of selling the land to a non-Jew for the duration of the seventh year – in clear contradiction to the racist edict. The RR are not only racists – they are also hypocrites; their political commitment to chauvinistic racism is deeper than their religious integrity.

If the RR insist on treating Arabs in Israel as “idolaters,” why don’t they remind us of the rest of Maimonides’ words? In the same chapter, Maimonides forbids doing anything to actively save an idolater’s life: If an idolater is drowning, a Jew should not pull him out; if an idolater is dying, a Jew should not save his life; and a Jewish doctor should not even cure an idolatrous patient unless he is forced to.

On the other hand, in the same chapter Maimonides states that all these regulations apply only when Jews are in exile or when the idolaters are superior. What if the Jews have the upper hand? Then the Biblical command (Deuteronomy 7) should be followed in full: “When, however, Israel is in power over them, it is forbidden for us to allow an idolater among us. Even a temporary resident or a merchant who travels from place to place should not be allowed to pass through our land” – unless he accepts the Seven Laws of Noah, in which case he becomes a resident alien, a category that enjoys almost all the rights of a Jew. There can be little doubt that the Muslims obey the Seven Laws of Noah, and therefore…

The RR conceal all these considerations. They conceal the disputed validity of the racist regulations because they are adamant racists themselves. They conceal the worst racist regulations because they fear many of their followers would not go so far. At least not yet. At least not in public.

And they know their followers. Their urge not to rent or sell property to Arabs is supported by 55 percent of Israeli Jews, if a recent YNet poll (Hebrew) is to be trusted, including by a big minority of 41 percent of the non-religious Jews, and by 88 percent of Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jews. I challenge the Alan Dershowitzes of this world to find another country, Western or otherwise, in which a majority objects to selling land to an ethnic minority of fellow-citizens. 

The Secular Zionist Fault

The most vociferous among the RR is Shmuel Eliyahu of Safed. Not coincidentally, it is in his hometown where Arab students are regularly harassed and intimidated, their property is vandalized, and Jews renting flats to them are terrorized.

In a Hebrew column, the racist rabbi smears almost everybody: the “leftists,” the “environmentalists,” the “Arabs,” the court, the state – they all conspire against the true word of God, on which he and his followers have a monopoly.

But one of the RR’s targets is worth special attention: there’s nothing illegal about forbidding land sales to Arabs, says Eliyahu, because the Jewish National Fund has been doing the same for decades, and under the state’s auspices.

Here the racist rabbi hits the nail on the head. Indeed, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) owns 13 percent of Israel’s lands and explicitly allots them to Jews only. The Fund was created long before the state of Israel, collecting money in order to purchase land for Jewish settlements in Palestine. It’s a major player in Zionist consciousness all over the world; in former decades, no Zionist classroom all over the Jewish world was free of its  famous Blue Box for donations. This colonialist institution has been kept alive even after the state of Israel was established. Again, a sovereign state has very different moral rights and duties than a pre-state colonialist movement. But Israel is holding the stick in both ends.

The JNF’s discriminatory policy has been in place for decades and is now under consideration by Israel’s Supreme Court. Even last year, however, Israel signed a massive land-swap with the JNF, in which the JNF gives the state lands in the populated center of Israel, and gets in return mostly uninhabited lands in the north and the south – so that it can stop Arabs from settling them. The state of Israel uses the JNF as a subcontractor in order to bypass the principle of equality and to discriminate against non-Jews in their access to free lands – or, more often, to lands already inhabited by Arabs that Israel is determined to expel.

The JNF is the major dispossessor of the Bedouins in Israel’s southern areas: it is planting trees on thousands of acres of land containing Bedouin villages, in order to ethnically cleanse the area of any non-Jewish presence. The JNF is also behind the destruction of al-Arakib, a Bedouin village which has been destroyed at least seven times in the past months by JNF bulldozers.

When President Shimon Peres, then, and other Zionist politicians condemn the RR, their condemnation should be taken with a huge grain of salt. It has always been the Israeli policy – left-wing and right-wing governments alike – not to sell or hire lands to Arabs, a complementary measure to the massive confiscation of Arab-owned lands. Orthodox Judaism has failed to accommodate to the Jewish majority status; Zionism has refused to come to terms with its pre-state colonialist roots, even within “smaller Israel” (let alone the Occupied Territories). The racist rabbis may be less eloquent than, say, Shimon Peres, but both Peres and the rabbis are part and parcel of a much deeper Israeli ethos of ethnic discrimination. In fact, the victims of Israel’s relentlessly discriminatory policy are by far more numerous than those of the shameful rabbinical edict.

Read more by Ran HaCohen