The Heterodox Judaism of Baruch Spinoza

Pantheism

There is only one and unique substance in existence, a substance that is infinite, self-caused, and eternal. This substance is the spatio-temporal world. But it is also God, says Baruch Spinoza, the Sephardi Jew from Amsterdam excommunicated by the Talmud Torah congregation.

By Richard Mather…

‎Baruch Spinoza was born in 1632 in Amsterdam to a Sephardi Jewish family who had fled Portugal because of persecution by the Catholic Church. Spinoza had a traditional Jewish upbringing, attending the Keter Torah yeshiva of the Amsterdam Talmud Torah congregation. He studied the Talmud and Maimonides (who continued to exert a lifelong influence on Spinoza). Spinoza’s controversial ideas about God and the nature of soul resulted in his ejection from the Jewish community when Amsterdam’s Talmud Torah congregation issued a cherem (חרם), a kind of ban or excommunication. At the young age of 23, Spinoza was excluded from – and shunned by – the local Jewish community.

The cherem did not stop Spinoza. He went on to write his Short Treatise on God, Man, and His Well-Being, which contained many of the ideas that appeared in his philosophical masterpiece Ethica, ordine geometrico demonstrata, commonly known as Ethics. He wrote to scientists, philosophers, and theologians throughout Europe. He wrote and published his Theological Political Treatise (a pre-emptive defence of his forthcoming Ethics) and earned money by grinding lenses and making cutting-edge optical equipment, notably the microscope and the telescope. Whilst in The Hague, he continued work on Ethics, but also wrote two scientific essays, as well as a Dutch translation of the Bible and a compendium of Hebrew grammar.

What is Spinoza’s philosophy and what are its theological implications? Spinoza argues that there is only one and unique substance in existence, a substance that is infinite, self-caused, and eternal. This substance is the spatio-temporal world. But it is also God, the self-caused Being. As Spinoza says, “God is one, that is, only one substance can be granted in the universe.” Spinoza famously said that God is Nature. But when Spinoza says Nature, he means Being and Becoming, the essence of everything that is and will be. Every physical thing in the universe, including you and I, are simply “modes” or modifications of the single substance that is God and conceived under the “attribute” of extension (more on this later). Manchester’s leading Reform rabbi, Reuven Silverman, describes it like this: “[Spinoza’s] God is not merely the sum-total of all that exists […] but is also the process by which everything exists.”

Spinoza rejected the notion of a personal God. God is neither male nor female. God is “the indwelling and not the transient cause of all things.” In other words, God is not a transcendent Creator but is immanent within the world. Nor did God exist prior to Creation. Everything that is, is in God. Spinoza’s view is called neutral monism, which means that only one substance exists, and it is neither mental nor physical. Spinoza’s claim that divinity is not beyond this world but is expressed in the world can perhaps be described as “theomonism” – the idea that the oneness of Being is manifest in the created universe, that the world itself a revelation, and that revelation is happening at every moment.

One of Spinoza’s most radical ideas is his notion that God “does not love anyone.” Neither does God hate anyone. God is indifferent to individuals. In a statement that must have scandalised his Jewish and Christian contemporaries, Spinoza said that anyone “who loves God cannot endeavour that God should love him in return.” Spinoza believed that God is without passions, intentions and purposes. God is unaffected by any emotion of pleasure or pain. To Spinoza, a passionless God is a perfect God. When Devarim (Deuteronomy) calls on us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart,” Spinoza had in mind a kind of love that is without emotion or passion. He calls it the “intellectual love of God.”

Spinoza wanted to demystify religion and divest God of any moral agency. God, says Spinoza, does not intervene in the course of history. God doesn’t judge individuals. There is no heaven or hell. There is no supernatural realm, no miracles or angels, and no external authority that determines morality. “God gives no laws to mankind,” says Spinoza. Spinoza describes circumcision as merely a way of differentiating the Jews from other nations. The law of Moses was not divine but was the earthly legislature of the Israelites and Judeans. Any notion of chosen-ness was bound in with Jewish legislation and ethical precepts. Moreover, the commandments were limited to a particular time and place – the Land of Israel prior to the Roman destruction in 70 CE / 135 CE.

Spinoza did foresee a time when the Jews would return to the Land of Israel, but it is unlikely that he thought the Torah should play a part in the national legislature. In a sense, he foreshadows the secular Zionist pioneers who spurned the passivity of the rabbis who were waiting for the Messiah. “Were it not for the fact that the central principles of their religion have so emasculated them,” says Spinoza, “I would not hesitate to believe that they [the Jews] might one day […] re-establish their independent state, and that God will again choose them.” There is a touch of irony in the last part of his statement. According to Spinoza, God is indifferent to man – including the Jews. The rebirth of Israel would not be the product of divine intervention but the work of human hands.

Spinoza also rejected teleological explanations. There are no final causes, not even for God. In other words, there is no end to history, no messianic era, no kingdom of heaven on earth. Hardly surprising for a man who dismissed supernaturalism, angels and miracles. There is only one kingdom in Spinoza’s world – the kingdom of God or Nature. Cats, trees, humans, stars, and so on, all belong to this kingdom – and they belong equally. Humans are not special; nor are they set apart from Nature as Charles Darwin would later testify.

In Spinoza’s theology there is no good or evil in the absolute sense . Good and evil are relative notions that vary according to the particular prejudices of humanity. He did believe, however, that bodily and worldly pleasure are authentic expressions of human desire. In words that are reminiscent of Sefer Mishlei (Book of Proverbs), Spinoza said we should not shun pleasure, but neither should we act gratuitously: “It is part of a wise man,” says Spinoza, “to refresh and restore himself in moderation with pleasant food and drink, with scents, with the beauty of green plants, with decoration, music, sports, the theatre.”

Spinoza also dismissed the concept of free will. Every action is part of a chain reaction of cause and effect. “All things in nature proceed from certain necessity,” he states. We are not in a position to understand the chain of causality because we are not omniscient. And we are ignorant of the causes of our desires. We might appear to be free, but we’re not. God alone is free – but only in the sense that God acts from the necessity of God’s own nature. We can, however, strive to master our emotions and passions, which are often confused because they are reactions to events over which we have no control. An emotion can only be overcome by a stronger emotion. One of those stronger emotions is Reason.

Spinoza places a great deal emphasis on Reason. Spinoza recommends that we endeavour to understand the world around us and gain a greater degree of conatus, which is the term Spinoza uses to express the power that is found when an individual “strives to persevere in its own being.” When we recognise that everything we do is determined by things outside of our control, we can claim to be active participants in the world, rather than passive victims.

Once we comes to terms with the necessity of everything that happens, there is no point feeling despair. Despair comes when we foolishly wish for things to be otherwise. Given our inability to change things, we may as well accept the necessity of all things. Only then will we experience what Spinoza calls “blessedness.” The more we are conscious of ourselves and the universe, the more perfect and happy we are. This happiness is not a spontaneous outburst of joy, but a kind of beatitude or serenity. In Hebrew, we might call it (osher) אושר, but without the connotation of wealth (עשור). The psalmist would describe it thus: “Blessed (אַשְׁרֵי) are those that dwell in your house, they are ever praising you.” Of course, Spinoza’s idea of praise was purely intellectual.

God is to be approached sub specie aeternitatis (“under the aspect of eternity”). According to Spinoza, the senses grasp the world as it appears from a given viewpoint at a given moment. But by showing how a thing follows from one or another, we see the world under the aspect of eternity. It is the nature of Reason to regard things under the aspect of eternity, says Spinoza. It is what Spinoza calls the third kind of knowledge or “intuition,” which takes what is known by Reason and grasps it in a single act of the mind.

To quote Spinoza expert Genevieve Lloyd, “We know that we are in God, and are conceived through God. […] I can understand that dying is of no consequence to me, since, in understanding myself in relation to substance which is eternal, the greater part of my mind is given over to what is eternal, rather than to what is individual and perishable in me, my imagination and memories.” This is the nearest we will ever get to immortality in the Spinozian system.

Whether or not you agree with Spinoza’s ideas, it is hard to avoid him. He is the subject of a great many books and articles, many of which are written by rabbis. Can Spinoza the Jew be rehabilitated in the twenty-first century? Well, the rehabilitation is already more than a century old. In 1891, Reform Rabbi Joseph Krauskopf said that in the whole history of Israel there has never been a “truer, purer, nobler Jew.” The great Jewish scholar Martin Buber held Spinoza in high regard. Buber once wrote that Spinoza is “the greatest philosophical genius Judaism has given to the world.” David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of the State of Israel, wanted the rabbinical authorities to rescind Spinoza’s excommunication. Reuven Silverman, the rabbi of the Jackson Row Reform Synagogue in Manchester, has written sympathetically about Spinoza. In December 2015, Jerusalem’s Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo (although hostile to Spinoza’s ideas) called for a lifting of the cherem. But Amsterdam’s Chief Rabbi Pinchas Toledano has so far resisted, saying that “the moment we rescind the cherem […] it would imply that we share his heretic views.”

No doubt the war of words between Jews want to reclaim Spinoza as Judaism’s greatest genius and those who reject him as a heretic will continue for a long time to come. But it is worth pointing out that some of Spinoza’s views do overlap with orthodox Jewish ideas. The accusation that Spinoza is a pantheist overlooks the fact Spinoza believed that Nature is only God when seen under the “attributes” of thought (mind) and extension (physical bodies). Spinoza argued that mind and matter are not two opposite substances but are two different ways of conceiving one and the same substance. But the attributes of mind and matter do not exhaust God’s attributes. God has infinitely more attributes. It’s just that we’re not aware of them.

It is self-evident that Spinoza was no atheist. He believed in the oneness and uniqueness of God, and although he dismissed the notion of God as transcendent, he did believe in the immanence of God. Spinoza’s view on the mortality of the soul (that the soul is synonymous with life) echoes the Hebraic biblical word nephesh, which literally means “living being,” although it is commonly rendered as “soul” in English translations. The concept of an immortal and immaterial soul that is distinct from the body was not found in Judaism until after the Babylonian Exile.

The ongoing controversy surrounding Spinoza and his ideas on God, soul and scripture ensures that his writings will be dissected and discussed by Jews on either side of the debate. Even Jews hostile to his ideas should at least be proud of the fact that Spinoza, the Sephardi Jew from Amsterdam, is routinely described as the one of the greatest philosophers to have ever lived. It’s not for nothing that twentieth century French cultural theoretician Gilles Deleuze crowned Spinoza “the prince of philosophers.” In 2003 at a special session of the Council for Progressive Jewish Congregations, Micah Moskowitz from the National Spinoza Association, said: “Spinoza’s commitment to unity is more rigorous than that of most theologians. His God occupies all the world. All its space, its matter, its thoughts, its time. There’s no physical separation between this God and the world.”

In other words, Baruch Spinoza wasn’t only a philosophical Jew, he was a Jewish philosopher.

spinoza portrait

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Islamophobia and Orwellian reversal

Muslim_star_s878x782

By Richard Mather…

When Muslim activists appropriate the Judenstern, which is the yellow star or badge made infamous by the Nazis, one has to wonder whether there is any end to the moral decrepitude of such people. The most recent example is an American Muslim by the name of Rose Hamid, an anti-Israel activist, who attended a Donald Trump rally wearing a yellow star; but instead of “Jude,” the star featured the word “Muslim.” And last year, Bahar Davary, an Iranian American academic, distributed around one hundred yellow Stars of David marked with the word “Muslim” to her students. Apparently, it didn’t occur to any of these people that wearing a yellow Jews’ star is a gross insult to the victims of the Holocaust. Nor did they see the irony that it is Muslim fanatics who are today’s great discriminators.

It is a total absurdity for Muslims in America or any other Western nation to portray themselves as victims of discrimination. Real victims are not pampered Muslim students bewailing the lack of “safe space” on campuses. No, the real victims of discrimination are Yazidis sold into sex slavery; or Jews, Christians and Parisian nightclub-goers slaughtered by Islamist fanatics who kill in the name of Allah. And it is not just American Muslims who aspire to victimhood. Muslims in Britain, Europe, Israel, Australia, and just about everywhere else, claim they are the victims of anti-terror laws, media slurs and political discrimination. Islamist fanatics are even more upset. Western democratic ideals are apparently inimical to their idea of true justice, which is the brutality of Sharia law.

The statistics do not support the oft-repeated claims that Muslims in the West are being persecuted. In fact, statistics show that Jews in countries like Britain, France and the US are much more likely to be victims of racial or religiously-motivated hatred than Muslims. Indeed, Muslims are only infrequently on the receiving end of attacks. Even when the newspapers are full of stories about terrorist atrocities in France and sex attacks in Cologne, people are remarkably tolerant of their Muslim neighbors and co-workers. Far from being persecuted, Muslims are treated very kindly indeed. It’s a bit rich for Muslims to claim they are victims when they are treated so well by their host societies and when their co-religionists are facilitating anti-Semitism, terrorism, sexual molestation and wanton destruction.

True, there is some hostility towards Muslims in the West. But as the figures show, the numbers are very low. And as Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, points out, “Any existing hostility toward Muslims is based on rational truths – that most terrorist attacks are committed by Muslims in the name of Islam; twenty-six per cent of young US Muslims support suicide bombings; large percentages support Isis, al-Qaida and Hamas; large percentages support Islamic law to be the law of the land; and large percentages are hostile to Jews, Christians, and gays.”

In other words, Islamophobia is mostly justified because it is a social anxiety triggered by the fear of being blown up, molested, attacked or subjugated by Sharia. Islamophobia is not the same as racism, which is an abhorrent prejudice directed at someone just because they come from a particular race, country or have a particular skin color. To criticize Islamic beliefs and practices that pose a threat to civil society is not racism or bigotry. It is a rational response to a real and present danger.

II

When Muslims don the yellow star, they overlook the fact that Jews never chose to wear the Judenstern. The yellow badge and similar symbols were forced upon them – and not just by the Nazis. Throughout history, Christians and Muslims have marked out Jews for discrimination by making them wear a star, a patch, a particular type of clothing, or even a special cone-shaped hat.

The practice of wearing special markings in order to mark out Jews and other dhimmis was introduced by Umayyad Caliph Umar II in the early eighth century. A document from 1121 describes the situation in Baghdad: “Two badges [are to be displayed], one on the headgear and one on the neck. Furthermore, each non-Muslim must hang round his neck a piece of lead with the word dhimmi on it.”

In Christian Europe, a similar situation arose. In the year 1227, the Synod of Narbonne commanded Jews to wear an “oval badge” in “the centre of the breast.” And in 1274, Edward I of England required Jews, from the age of seven years old, to “wear a distinguishing mark on his outer garment.”

It was in the late 1930s and early 1940s that the Judenstern acquired its most sinister reputation. In late 1939, after the start of the Second World War, individual authorities enforced the wearing of the Judenstern in Nazi-occupied Poland. Over the next five years, the yellow star system was extended to Germany and most of Nazi-occupied Europe.

As Jacob D’Ancona has pointed out, throughout history the wearing of a badge or outward sign “was to shame and to make vulnerable as well as to distinguish the wearer.” By contrast, the Muslim star is the mark of the cry bully. A cry bully is an aggressor who pretends to be a victim in order to win sympathy, or more dangerously, to shut down criticism. In effect, Muslim activists and extremists are drawing a ludicrous and offensive parallel between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

Finally, the Muslim yellow star/Islamophobia phenomenon reveals something else. Unable to take pride in their own historical identity due to a cultural and political inertia that has lasted for hundreds of years, many Muslims have opted for a politically-motivated inversion of values by stealing someone else’s tragedy – the tragedy of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. So when a Muslim wears a yellow star, not only are they bewailing their victimhood and accusing everyone of Islamophobia, they are making the claim that they are the “new Jews,” and that you and I are the “new Nazis.”

This is Orwellian reversal at its worst. By appropriating the yellow star and drawing an analogy between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, such people are making a mockery of Jewish suffering and cheapening the Holocaust. Moreover, by accusing their critics of Islamophobia or fascism, they are creating a culture of fear and denial in which decent people are afraid to speak out against terrorists and extremists because of the potential backlash. All of which has very serious implications for free speech. Speak out against Islam and/or Islamist extremism and chances are someone will label you as a Nazi or a fascist. In fact, your very existence may be put into question because jihadis have a habit of murdering their critics. Ask the people who work at Charlie Hebdo or the relatives of film-maker Theodoor van Gogh, who was murdered by a Dutch-Moroccan Muslim after criticizing the treating of women in Islam.

Does being murdered or mutilated by thugs armed with machetes or Kalashnikov rifles sound like the actions of a persecuted minority? No, of course it doesn’t. If anything, it is reminiscent of the totalitarian horrors of the Soviet Union and – dare I say it – Nazism. The situation is intolerable. And it is a situation that cannot be allowed to continue because once again the future and fate of Western civilization hangs in the balance. We cannot allow ourselves to silenced or subjugated by people who are intent on destroying our hard-won values of free speech, liberty and democracy.

Palestinian refugees from1948 may have numbered less than 300,000

UNRWA wide

By Richard Mather

Most serious students of the history of Palestine would accept that the number of Arab refugees from Israel during and after 1948 claimed by Arab and UN sources—some 600,000 to 750,000—was exaggerated. It is very easy to refute that estimate and many have already done it. – Yehoshua Porath

It is a common misconception that around 650,000 Palestinian refugees were created because of fighting that took place in 1948. But a closer look at both the population data and statements made by UN officials at the time suggest that the true figure is much lower, possibly as low as 270,000.

The conventional figure of 650,000 cannot be true for more than one reason. Firstly, there were fewer than 660,000 Arabs living in the part of Palestine that eventually became Israel; and secondly, UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency), either through incompetence or deliberate manipulation, handed out multiple identity cards to the same persons, some of whom were not refugees at all but permanent residents who took advantage of the aid offered by UNRWA. This is attested by UNRWA officials.

Before taking a look at UNRWA’s role in the invention of the Palestinian refugee problem, it is worthwhile examining the population data of Eretz Israel/Palestine prior to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

The Statistical Abstract of Palestine in 1944-45 set the figure for the total Arab population living in what would become the Jewish-settled territories at 570,800. Another set of figures based on a census taken in 1944 suggests there were 696,000 Arabs living in what would become Israeli-controlled territory. Tsvi Misinai, an Israeli researcher and historian, believes the figure to even lower. He believes that prior to the 1948 war, there were 390,000 Arabs living in areas that would fall into Israeli hands. (None of these figures include the number of Arab Palestinians residing in east Jerusalem, Gaza and Judea-Samaria. Figures vary, but the number of Arabs in those areas was probably 600,000, which brings the total number of Arabs residing between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea to 1.2 million).

According to Misinai, there were in excess of 120,000 Arabs inside Israel’s borders by the end of the war, although most commentators believe the figure to be 160,000 or 170,000. (The discrepancy becomes less glaring when Israel’s repatriation of 20,000 Palestinian Arab refugees from Jordan is taken into account). This means that the number of Palestinian Arabs displaced from areas that came under Israeli control cannot be higher than 270,000.

Of the 270,000, most had ended up in neighbouring Arab countries, with the rest having fled to Judea-Samaria and Gaza. Around 4,000 had voluntarily moved from west Jerusalem into houses abandoned in east Jerusalem. During the course of the war, 77,000 Arabs (mostly Bedouin) returned to their homes in what would become Israeli territory. As the war went on, another 81,000 Palestinians fled, 24,000 of which had already fled and returned, only to flee again. By the war’s end, there were 270,000 Palestinian Arabs who had lost their homes and/or their land.

At first glance, this seems a rather low figure. A report submitted by the UN mediator Count Folke Bernadotte suggested that the number of Palestinian refugees totalled 330,000. Other contemporary reports put the number at around 424,000. Either way, it is statistically impossible for there to have been more than 430,000 genuine Palestinian Arab refugees from the 1948 war. This is the view of Dr Walter Pinner, who bases his figures on reliable census data carried out in the mid-1940s.

So we have a situation where no less than 270,000 and no more than 430,000 Palestinian refugees were created by the 1948 war. Misinai’s suggestion of 270,000 can be attributed to his rather low starting figure of 390,000 Arabs who resided in pre-state Israel. Perhaps if one takes into account the Arab migrants and citrus farm workers who had gone back to their country of origin, there may be a case for a final figure of 270,000. Plus, a reliable study undertaken in the mid-1960s suggests the figure of 270,000 may be close to the mark (more on this later).

Many books and websites quote a figure of 650,000 when discussing the number of Palestinian refugees created by the 1948 conflict. How did the figure of 650,000 arise?

One explanation is the attested fact that in the aftermath of the conflict, refugees were counted more than once. In order to receive extra funding, many refugees identified themselves twice before UNRWA officials. As a result, they received more than one identity card. One of the camp workers in Lebanon stated, “We try to count them, but they are coming and going all the time; or we count them in Western clothes, then they return in aba and keffiyeh and we count the same ones again.”

This was not the only fraud committed by the refugees. Another was the concealment of natural deaths so that families could continue to collect the deceased person’s food. Births, however, were always registered. In 1951, UNRWA reported that “it is still not possible to give an absolute figure of the true number of refugees as understood by the working definition of the word.” A reason given by UNRWA for the erratic data was that the refugees “eagerly report births and … reluctantly report deaths.” According to the July 23 1955 edition of the Cairo-based Mideast Mirror, “There are refugees who hold as many as 500 ration cards, 499 of them belonging to refugees long dead…. There are dealers in UNRWA food and clothing and ration cards to the highest bidder.”

Fraudulent claims were made regarding the number of dependents. It was alleged that refugees would “hire” children from other families at census time. In 1950, UNRWA director Howard Kennedy said that “fictitious names on the ration lists pertain to refugees in this area […] it is alleged that it is a common practice for refugees to hire children from other families at census time.”

The situation in Jordan was especially difficult because western Jordan was already populated by Arab Palestinians, so distinguishing a refugee from a non-refugee was particularly arduous. An UNRWA official noted that the Jordan ration lists alone “are believed to include 150,000 ineligibles and many persons who have died.” A similar situation arose in Lebanon. In a 1950 report to the UN General Assembly, the director of UNRWA noted that “many Lebanese nationals along the Palestinian frontier habitually worked most of the year on the farms or in the citrus groves of Palestine. With the advent of war they came back across the border and claimed status as refugees.” UNRWA conceded that up to 129,000 Lebanese workers may have falsely claimed Palestinian refugee status.

In fact, this developed into a widespread trend. Because the UNRWA refugee camps were better than standard housing, some non-refugee residents of Judea-Samaria and Gaza declared themselves refugees in order to gain access to food, as well as medical and educational benefits. Many permanent residents of Judea-Samaria and Gaza came to carry both an UNRWA refugee card that had the address of a refugee camp and a regular ID card with their actual identity and address.

Another problem was the unrecorded movement of peoples, especially the Bedouin tribes who moved between Gaza, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon, thereby increasing multiple registrations. Even the UN acknowledged that 15,000 Bedouins were actually non-existent, that they were fictitious persons or people already registered. In the words of UNRWA, the movement of people introduced “a double source of error into any estimates of the number of persons who could have become refugees.”

By 1950, the UN disclosed that it was “not possible to give an absolute figure of the true number of refugees as understood by the working definition.” According to a report, the percentage of error in the UN statistics was “possibly as much as 50 per cent and represents a serious operational difficulty.”

Nonetheless, the UN kept revising its figures upwards because it pursued a maximalist position on who was a refugee, which ranged from a “needy person” who “has lost his home and means of livelihood” to “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948.” Even refugees who still had a house but had lost some or all of their land were considered refugees. In addition, Arabs who had settled in Palestine illegally prior to 1948 were also given refugee status. No wonder the figures were artificially high.

In 1966, Dr. Walter Pinner identified a huge number of fraudulent refugee claims. Basing his findings on  UNRWA’s own reports, he discovered that 484,000 refugees were Arabs from western Jordan and Gaza Strip; another 117,000 were unrecorded deaths; 109,000 were people who had been resettled in 1948 and were no longer refugees; and a further 225,000 had subsequently settled elsewhere and become self-supporting. After subtracting the inauthentic claims, he concluded that there were 115,000 “old and sick” refugees, and 252,000 “other unsettled genuine refugees,” totalling 367,000 legitimate refugees as of 1966.

Once the natural rate of increase between 1948 and 1966 has been subtracted, the number of genuine Palestinian refugees from 1948 cannot be much higher than 300,000. In which case, Tsvi Misinai’s figure of 270,000 may not be far off the mark.

Significantly, UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold did not refute Dr Pinner’s findings, nor did he issue any corrections to Dr Pinner’s figures. He did, however, acknowledge receipt of Dr Pinner’s work, so it cannot be claimed that the UN wasn’t aware of his analysis. It is probable that the UN, at least in private, agreed with Dr Pinner’s findings but did not want to admit that UNRWA had been defrauded of millions of dollars.

All told, the conventional figure of 600,500 Palestinian refugees from the 1948 conflict comes from the double counting of refugees, the non-recording of deaths, the vague and expansive use of the term ‘refugee,’ the counting of people who were not refugees, the counting of former refugees who had resettled elsewhere, and the untracked movement of peoples between Jordan, Gaza, Lebanon and Judea-Samaria.

The implication is that many of today’s Palestinian refugees actually derive from people who did not reside in Palestine at the time of the war or had lived there for only two years, which means more than half – possibly even two-thirds – of those who claim to be Palestinian refugees in 2016 are not descended from Palestinian refugees at all. (What is also galling is that the living conditions in the Palestinian refugee camps are much better than the conditions of their non-refugee Arab neighbours who do not receive international aid. Indeed, many of the Palestinian refugee camps are not camps at all, but are fully-functioning neighbourhoods.)

The Arab states themselves have been major players in the refugee fraud. Greed was one motivating factor because UNRWA money was, in effect, free money. In 1961 UNRWA director John H. David admitted that Arab countries overstated their refugee figures in the 1950s to get more funds. But the refugee crisis was useful for another reason: It was a way of exerting international pressure on the State of Israel to repatriate the so-called refugees, thereby demographically destroying the Jewish state. This explains why the Arabs didn’t permanently rehouse the refugees in Judea-Samaria and Gaza, which were under Jordanian and Egyptian control respectively between 1948 and 1967.

The sordid history of the Palestinian refugee situation means the Israeli government must be extremely wary about compensating or repatriating Palestinians who claim to be refugees. Many of them are frauds or the descendants of frauds. If the Israeli government does decide to compensate or repatriate some of the refugees as part of a peace deal, then a detailed investigation needs to be conducted to ensure that only genuine claimants are assisted. In return, a wider compensation package is needed in which the descendants of Jews who lost their homes, savings and livelihoods in Nazi Europe (not just Germany) are compensated, and the Jews forced from Arab lands in the 1940s and 1950s are likewise recompensed. In addition, there needs to be some recognition that many Jews were killed and displaced in the 1948 war – a war instigated by an alliance of several Arabs nations to destroy the Jewish homeland.

 

 

 

Israelophobia is the product of twenty centuries of Jew-hatred

Contemporary anti-Zionism is the inevitable outgrowth of two thousand years of very deep-seated Judeophobia. The injustices suffered by the State of Israel is a continuation of the theology of contempt, which spans nearly two millennia. Twenty-first century anti-Zionism may not always driven by Christian Jew-hatred, yet centuries of Christian vilification, plus the importation of Islamic anti-Semitism, have provided the foundation for attacks on Israel.

By Richard Mather

I have just finished re-reading Dan Cohn-Sherbok’s The Crucified Jew, which documents in horrific detail twenty centuries of Christian anti-Semitism from the era of the Gospels to the Holocaust. Although he doesn’t progress much beyond the Shoah, it takes no leap of the imagination to conclude that contemporary Israelophobia is the inevitable outgrowth of two thousand years of very deep-seated Judeophobia.

Israelophobes might say there’s a difference between pre-Holocaust anti-Semitism and post-Holocaust anti-Zionism, but there isn’t. Anti-Zionism is a continuation of Jew-hatred by other means. The assertion that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are qualitatively different is a ruse designed to legitimise Jew-hatred and delegitimise the State of Israel. In truth, European anti-Zionism preceded the creation of Israel by several decades. In 1911-1912, British journalists began a campaign accusing “Zionists” of fomenting the Turkish Revolution. Back then, anti-Zionism wasn’t about Israel but a paranoid reaction to a rumours of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy. It had nothing to with settlements or the Palestinians. After World War One, anti-Semitic French Catholics were lamenting the possibility of the Holy Land falling “under the domination of the Jews.” Again, no mention of the Palestinians.

In other words, anti-Zionism existed long before the Palestinian problem, which didn’t become an issue until after the 1967 Six-Day War. Anti-Zionism and Israelophobia are variants on an ancient theme. It is the prolongation of a prejudice that inspired the blood libel, the Inquisition, the pogroms, the Dreyfus Affair and the Holocaust. Given Europe’s history, it would be more surprising if Israelophobia wasn’t a regular occurrence in the twenty-first century.

Throughout the ages, Jew-hatred has taken on different forms at different times. At times Jew-hatred has been religious in nature; other times it has been motivated by race or economics. All of these variants have one thing in common: demonisation, which in colloquial usage refers to propaganda or moral panic directed against any individual or group; more literally it is the imputing of diabolical influences. As A. Jay Adler has stated, the demonised are “made malevolent beyond the pale: outsider, foreigner, witch, blasphemer, even literally an alien – somehow dehumanised.”

Most sane people in the West no longer believe Jews are guilty of deicide (killing God). Nor do they believe that Jews perform ritual murders of Christian children to make unleavened bread, or that they spread plague or poison wells, although these beliefs are still common in the Muslim world. Nobody believes that Jewish men menstruate. But once upon a time Europeans subscribed to some, or all, of these absurd beliefs. In fact, the blood libel was still widely believed in Poland after the Second World War and was the cause of a massacre of Jews in 1946.

Now, instead of deicide, Jews are charged with the genocide of a fictional country called Palestine. Instead of ritual murder, Jews are charged with killing Palestinian babies and harvesting organs. Instead of the plague, Jews are accused of spreading AIDS among Arabs in Judea and Samaria. I don’t think there is a modern equivalent of male menstruation, although cartoon images of Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon gorging themselves on blood comes close. In the twenty-first century, Europeans subscribe to some, or all, of these absurd beliefs. The long tradition in the West of Adversus Judaeos (“Against the Jews/Judeans”) continues in the guise of anti-Zionism.

It’s true that Europeans no longer expel Jews or put them in ghettos or issue decrees forbidding Jews to do X or Y. But it is the case that Europeans boycott Israeli products, scapegoat hundreds of thousands of so-called settlers in Judea-Samaria, and call for Israel to be expelled from the family of nations. Likewise, Europeans have largely rejected Christian anti-Semitism, only to embrace Islamic anti-Semitism, which is just as virulent and nasty. Thanks to the internet, we have a cross-pollination of European and Muslim Jew-hatred, with anti-Semitic memes, ideas, images and conspiracy theories criss-crossing the globe at breakneck speed. As a consequence, there is little difference in the nature of Jew-hatred in Syria and Sweden, Iraq and Ireland, Jordan and Germany. Call it Euro-Islamic anti-Semitism.

Anti-Zionism is the superstition par excellence of the post-Holocaust era; the latest neurosis to afflict the planet. Perhaps in the year 2150, historians will look back on these times and wonder how it was possible that people actually believed the State of Israel was a bloodthirsty, genocidal, colonial power, when all the facts and evidence clearly show the opposite to be true. After all, historians look back on medieval anti-Semitism and ascribe Judeophobia to superstition, religious intolerance and economic jealousy. Historians never say that medieval Jews or the victims of the Shoah were to blame for the persecution they suffered, so maybe one day the State of Israel will also be exonerated.

The trouble is that like the anti-Semites of old, the contemporary anti-Zionist is immune to facts and statistics. As George Orwell said, “If you dislike somebody, you dislike him and there is an end of it: your feelings are not made any better by a recital of his virtues.”

Orwell makes an interesting point. Anti-Semitism has always been an emotional or neurotic condition in which the individual or group in question loses contact with reality and is impervious to logic. The emotional attachment to hating Israel must be maintained by the anti-Zionist at all costs, otherwise their worldview is at serious risk of collapse. People who comfort themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life usually end up acting out their problems in the guise of irrational fixations.

Of course, anti-Zionists never tire of telling us that some Jews are also opposed to Zionism. Ergo (they argue) this is proof that anti-Zionism does not equal anti-Semitism. But this overlooks the long history of Jewish apostasy. It used to be the case that some Jews would convert to Christianity and write long diatribes against the rabbis or petition the Pope to ban the Talmud. But this does not prove that Christian Jew-haters were right just because a handful of Jewish renegades fanatically denounced their former religion. All it means is that Jews are just as capable as anyone else of betrayal and opportunism. The modern-day phenomenon of the self-hating Israeli/anti-Zionist Jew is part of a long tradition of cosying up to the gentile majority and it does not exonerate anti-Zionist gentiles from the charge of anti-Semitism.

Jewish apostates aside, the non-Jewish world can’t be trusted to slay its own anti-Semitic demon (despite the horrors of the pogroms and the Holocaust). Islamic anti-Semitism and the West’s capitulation to Muslim Jew-hatred is proof enough. Who can we trust? Our friends today may be our enemies tomorrow. Shifting political allegiances may shift again. That is why the State of Israel’s military strength is essential because it is the one thing that stands in the way of the anti-Zionists whose ultimate intention is the utter destruction of the Jewish state and the genocide or expulsion of millions of Israeli Jews. Thanks to the men and women of the IDF, the security and intelligence services, as well defensive systems such as the Iron Dome and the Samson Option, the world is no longer in an easy position where it can eradicate Judaism or the Jewish people – not without paying a very high price, anyway.

So even though Europe in particular, and the world in general, have reverted to anti-Semitic type, the bulk of the Jewish people have taken it upon themselves to ensure that “Never Again” really does mean “Never Again.” For the first time in history the Jews are not helpless. We may be alone. But we’re not helpless. That is something that the nations will have to accept. The Jews, and the Jewish state of Israel, are enduring features on the world’s landscape. There is no going back.