Saturday, January 03, 2009

Jewish and English history

Punditarian has some comments on my recent posts about Jews. We appear to be in substantial agreement -- with the main problem being that he has completely missed my point when I compared the English and the Jews. I was not at all interested in the question of what the future holds for the English. I was merely trying to extract what lessons we can learn from their rather distinguished history to date. How did the English do so well from the 11th to the 20th centuries? I think the answer to that could have lessons for Jews. And there is nothing in that answer that is at all threatening to Jewry or Judaism. Quite to the contrary. Jews have survived for 3,000 years amid great suffering. I believe that there are ways to reduce that suffering. It has been said that when we stop learning we die so I do hope that Jews are still capable of learning some things. If so, I believe that the English are one group who could teach most people something.

I think the only area where Punditarian and I disagree is fairly trivial. He wants to call Jews a nation. I have no strong feelings about that at all. My only point is that Jews are not a race and he seems to agree with that. Nonetheless his use of "nation" is a bit peculiar. In ordinary usage, "nation" refers to the people of a particular place under a single government. So Israel is undoubtedly a nation but Jews generally are not. Whether you call Jews a nation, a people or just a group, however, the only really interesting question, it seems to me, is how they are defined. It is of course an old question that has been debated for many years and Israel itself has effectively thrown up its hands over the matter and declared that you are a Jew if you think you are. Being one of those pesky social scientists, however, I still strive to bring a bit of order out of chaos so I still like my definition that you are a Jew either because of your own religion or the religion of one of your recent forebears.

In an earlier post, Punditarian conflated geneology with genetics in discussing one of my statements but I concede that the statement concerned was unclear enough to enable that. I could not see how any modern day Western Jew could trace a GENEOLOGICAL connection to the Israel of 2,000 years ago but Punditarian took me to be referring to a GENETIC connection. There is of course no doubt (as we see here) that some Western Jews derive some of their genes from the Middle East and, hence probably from ancient Israel. Overall, however, Jews are racially very mixed. I trace some of my ancestry to Scotland but that does not mean that I am a Scot.

One point made by Punditarian that I rather liked, however, was his point that Jews have always been only weakly endogamous. As he notes, the Bible itself records plenty of examples of marrying "out". The book of Ruth is in fact all about one such episode.


"I'm keeping Kosher for Christmas"

A rather fun video about Jews and Christmas below. Definitely no suicide bombers involved. But it does look like the Yiddisher Momma has won most of the battles. But the video link was afer all sent to me by a real Yiddisher Momma!

She also sent me An interview with God that has some good thoughts in it.


Has Israel learned its lesson?

ISRAEL'S 2006 WAR against Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terrorist army based in Lebanon, was a disaster -- an ill-planned operation that did more damage to Israel's military reputation than to Hezbollah's resolve and influence. Now, as it fights Hamas in Gaza, Israel seems determined not to repeat the mistakes it made 2« years ago. This time, Israeli prewar preparations were much more meticulous. Months were devoted to gathering detailed information on scores of Hamas targets, including training camps and offices, rocket launchers, underground bunkers, weapons-making sites, tunnels from Egypt, and the homes of terrorist commanders. Israel's military and political operations appear better coordinated than in 2006, and Israeli diplomats are making use of online weapons -- launching a dedicated YouTube channel, for example, and conducting a live citizens' press conference via Twitter -- to get its message out.

But it remains an open question whether Israel's leaders have learned the most critical lesson of all: that genocidal jihadists and other mortal foes cannot be wheedled, negotiated, bribed, or ignored into quietude. In a war with enemies like Hezbollah and Hamas and the PLO -- enemies explicitly committed to Israel's destruction -- goodwill gestures beget no goodwill, and peace processes do not lead to peace.

The proximate cause of the fighting in Gaza was the sharp increase in rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli civilians after Hamas refused to extend its tenuous cease-fire with Israel past Dec. 19. But the deeper cause was the transformation of Gaza into an Iranian proxy and terrorist hub following Israel's reckless "disengagement" in 2005. Israelis convinced themselves that ethnically cleansing Gaza of its Jews and handing over the territory to the Palestinians would reduce violence and make Israel safer. It did just the opposite. In 2000, Israelis had similarly believed that a unilateral retreat from southern Lebanon would deprive Hezbollah of any pretext for continuing its war against the Jewish state. But far from extinguishing Hezbollah's jihadist dreams, it inflamed them.

There are heartening indications this week of a more realistic and unsentimental approach. Defense Minister Ehud Barak described the offensive against Hamas as a "war to the bitter end" and told an American interviewer, "For us to be asked to have a cease-fire with Hamas is like asking you to have a cease-fire with al-Qaeda." Both leading contenders in the upcoming Israeli election, Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister and head of Kadima, promise to make it a priority "to topple the Hamas regime" if elected prime minister. Israel's UN ambassador, Gabriela Shalev, has said that the operation in Gaza will last "as long as it takes to dismantle Hamas completely."

More here



Obama Promises Bush III on Iran: "President-elect Barack Obama has promised major changes in U.S. diplomacy and repeatedly criticized the Bush administration on both substance and style. On Iran, also for over five years, Mr. Bush has endorsed vigorous European diplomacy. The Europeans offered every imaginable carrot to persuade Iran to drop its nuclear program in exchange for a different relationship with Europe and America. This produced no change in Iran's strategic objective of acquiring deliverable nuclear weapons. The only real consequence is that Iran is five years closer to achieving that objective. It now has indigenous mastery over the entire nuclear fuel cycle. The Obama alternative? "Present the Iranian regime with a clear choice" by using carrots and sticks to induce Iran to give up its nuclear aspirations. What does Mr. Obama think Mr. Bush and the Europeans have been doing? Does he really think his smooth talking will achieve more than Europe's smoothest talkers, who were in fact talking for us the whole time? Neither North Korea nor Iran is prepared to voluntarily give up nuclear or ballistic missile programs. The Bush policy was flawed not because its diplomacy was ineffective or disengaged, not because it was too intimidating to its adversaries, and not because it lacked persistence. Mr. Bush's flaw was believing that negotiation and mutual concession could accomplish the U.S. objective.... Mr. Obama's handling of the rogue states will -- at best -- continue the Bush policies, which failed to stop nuclear proliferation. Get ready for a dangerous ride."

The need for votes ensures centrism: "Anyone looking for an example of the genius of American politics, and how Barack Obama exemplifies it, need go no further than the just-announced program for Inauguration Day: Aretha Franklin, the queen of soul herself, will sing; the Rev. Rick Warren will deliver a surely purpose-driven prayer; Yo-Yo Ma will play the cello and Itzhak Perlman the violin; a certified professor of African American Studies will contribute the inaugural poem ... and so eclectically on."

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


1 comment:

ShrinkWrapped said...

Jews often refer to other Jews as "MOTs", ie Members of the Tribe. Since I see people as being essentially tribal in their social relations, I have no trouble with the idea. The Jewish tribe is characterized primarily by a geneological connection to Jewish ancestors and a particular psychological orientation (a complex structure often described as a "Yidisha kup", ie a Yidish head.)
I have suggested on my blog that the wonder of America is that it has enlarged the concept of an American tribe to encompass all sorts of ethnic and religious sub-tribes that subscribe to some minimal standard of cultural acceptance of the American ideal. Interestingly, just as you credit the British success, in part, to the success of their genotypic and philosophical offspring (in America, Australia, Canada, etc) one could consider the Jews to be successful in proportion to their integration into the American tribe. Since ~50% of Jews intermarry in America, more and more Christian Americans now have Jews or Jewish blood in their families. I do not think it is a coincidence that America and Israel have become conflated in the minds of those who oppoose Western civilization. Americans are the new Jews, if you will, which suggests that Jews have become very successful indeed.