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RTT had a great time in Israel.

I was sure he would.

One can feel ambivalent about the establishment of Israel and still love Israel, by the way. It’s a complex situation.


After World War II it was quite apparent that Jews needed a homeland. I suppose they could have done what the Kurds were forced to do, what the Armenians were forced to do, what the native Americans were forced to do: Surrender claims to any sort of political autonomy.

But fuck that shit.

Israel’s here now. And it’s the only functioning democracy in the entire Middle East.

I’m still not certain it wouldn’t have been better to establish a Jewish homeland elsewhere, perhaps in Central America, historical antecedents or no historical antecedents.

The Palestinian situation is very unfortunate. But the area has never been autonomous; the people living there have never had self-rule. In the Middle Ages, it was controlled by the Egyptian Mamluk Sultanate; in the 16th century, the area was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. Then it was a British protectorate.

There’s never been a Palestinian state. One could argue convincingly that up until the 20th century, there’s never even been a Palestinian national or ethnic identity. Of course, there is one today, defined by the deep chasm of hatred separating Jews and Palestinians coexisting in Israel. It’s an issue that’s resulted in misery for a great many human beings. It needs to be resolved.

I don’t have a clue what that resolution should be except that I don’t believe it involves destroying the state of Israel. Or giving Hamas a voice in Israeli domestic or foreign policies.

The Arab nations never gave a fuck about until the Palestinians until it became clear that the Palestinians could be a useful political MacGuffin for an anti-Semitism that’s deeply ingrained in Islam.


There’ve never been all that many Jews either despite our widespread notoriety as pan-cultural Bad Guys. In Roman times, there may have been as many as 5,000,000, spread throughout Asia Minor. Under the Roman Emperor Caracalla, Jews were granted full privileges as citizens of Rome. Jews weren’t singled out for this honor, the privilege was granted to everyone with the means to pay exorbitant poll taxes. But after Christianity became the fading empire’s state religion, Jews began to be marginalized once again.

By the Middle Ages, there were probably fewer than 2,000,000 Jews worldwide. They tended to be merchants so they’d migrated west along the trade routes. The rise of Islam precipitated a tide of religious fundamentalism in the Catholic Church, and Jews became the victims of it. They were driven out of the west. The Jews of Britain, France, Italy, and Germany were driven into Eastern Europe, particularly Poland and Russia. Spanish Jews tended to migrate to Western Asia.

Apart from Poland, most of Eastern Europe wasn’t dominated by the Catholic Church but by their own episcopacies, the various Orthodox Catholic sects. I suppose this is the reason why Jews were tolerated there. They were not welcomed in any sense of the word, and from time to time they were actively persecuted. Their numbers were kept in check by intermittent pogroms.

In the late 19th century, Tsar Alexander III imposed a set of regulations upon the Jewish population that almost seem Nazi-like in retrospect. Russian Jews responded by migrating in large numbers to the Holy Land, so that by the time Palestine became a British protectorate following World War I, well over half a million Jews were living in what’s now Israel.

In fact, one of the reasons the League of Nations was founded in 1920 was to address the Jewish population’s right to political self-determination explicitly (Article 22 of the League’s Covenant.) The League was equally interested in political self-determination for the Arabs of Palestine. The area ceded to the Arab faction was an Ottoman administrative area in Syria that the Brits renamed “Transjordania,” and that today is the Kingdom of Jordan. Jordan is as much an invention of the West as Israel is. However, you don’t hear Arabs clamoring for the dissolution of Jordan.


The Islamic hatred of Jews has nothing to do with championing the rights of the Palestinian peoples. It’s rooted in the Qur’an. Most Westerners know that the Qur’an urges Muslims to kill all non-Muslims, but they probably don’t know the exchange rate: one dead Jew = 50 dead other nonbelievers! Yep, that’s true.

You can argue that the Torah is filled with similarly macabre, bizarre, outdated equations, and you’d be correct.


Outside the Hassid populations, I don’t know too many Jews who interpret the Torah literally. And you could logically argue that Hassids aren’t even Jews since they recognize their own Rebs as messiahs, and the Jewish religion doesn’t believe the messiah has arrived yet.

Millions of Muslims interpret the Qur’an literally.

That’s point one.

Point two is that while Islam is a highly evangelical religion, Judaism is not. We don’t proselytize. Apart from those wacky Chabad House guys. If you weren’t born into the religion, you will find it very difficult to convert. Thus fundamentalist Islam with its literal interpretation of the Qur’an is proliferated extensively. Jews don’t proliferate an analogous doctrine calling for the extermination of nonbelievers.


Intellectually, I believe in the separation of Church and State: Governmental entities should not have state religions.

For that reason, I’m ambivalent about Israel.

But Israel’s in my heart. Always will be.


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Every Day Above Ground

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