I first read Professor Marc Ellis’ book “Toward a Jewish Theology of Liberation” as a rabbinical student back in the mid-1980s – and suffice to say it fairly rocked my world at the time. Here was a Jewish thinker thoughtfully and compellingly advocating a new kind of post-Holocaust theology: one that didn’t view Jewish suffering as “unique” and “untouchable” but as an experience that should sensitize us to the suffering and persecution of all peoples everywhere.
And yet further: Ellis had the courage to take these ideas to the place that few in the Jewish world were willing to go. If we truly believe in the God of liberation, if our sacred tradition truly demands of us that we stand with the oppressed, then the Jewish people cannot only focus on our own oppression – we must also come to grips with our own penchant for oppression, particularly when it comes to the actions of the state of Israel. And yes, if we truly believe in the God of liberation this also means that we must ultimately be prepared to stand with the Palestinians in their struggle for liberation.
When I first read Ellis’ words, I didn’t know quite what to make of them. They flew so directly in the face of such post-Holocaust theologians as Elie Wiesel, Rabbi Irving Greenberg and Emil Fackenheim – all of whom viewed the state of Israel in quasi-redemptive terms. And they were certainly at odds with the views of those who tended the gates of the American Jewish community, for whom this sort of critique of Israel was strictly forbidden.
Over the years, however, I’ve found Ellis’ ideas to be increasingly prescient, relevant – and I daresay even liberating. As a rabbi, I’ve come to deeply appreciate his brave willingness to not only ask the hard questions, but to unflinchingly pose the answers as well. And it is not at all surprising to me that we are now witnessing a new generation of rabbis and young Jewish leaders starting down the road he has paved for us.
All this to say I am profoundly sorrowed to learn that Ellis is currently under threat of losing his job at Baylor University due to an investigation led by new university president Ken Starr.
By every appearance, Ellis has had a distinguished academic career, having taught at Maryknoll School of Theology, Harvard Center for the Study of World Religions and Florida State University. Thirteen years ago, he was appointed Professor of American and Jewish Studies at Baylor, where he founded Baylor University’s Center for American and Jewish Studies and currently serves as its director.
There is ample reason to mistrust the academic validity of this investigation. According to a new petition now being circulated by Cornel West and Rosemary Ruether:
Marc Ellis was brought to Baylor in 1998 and all previous presidents supported his dissident voice. After Ken Starr (nemesis of Clinton in the White House) became president in 2010 the attacks started. During the last year Baylor lawyers were instructed to communicate with many of Marc’s colleagues, past students and staff. The objective was to request all of them to report all “abuse of authority.” Most of us explained to the lawyers that was a lost cause because Marc has been an exemplar colleague, professor and mentor.
But starting this Fall he was separated from his classes, his center closed and a hearing scheduled to take place some time in this academic year. As far as we know the accusations are about abuse of authority but we are not aware of the details because they are part of the internal legal process. Obviously it is about something else: Marc’s dissident voice. We will inform all of you as soon as we know more information.
In a statement released yesterday, Ellis commented thus:
Given what I currently understand of the rules of the Baylor process I will, for now, honor the process by not discussing the specifics, except to say that I believe this is a pretext to silence an independent voice at the place for which I have had deep appreciation.
I write now to ask you to please join me in signing this petition in support of Ellis – an important Jewish dissident thinker and (as his many academic colleagues are now attesting) a truly distinguished scholar. I would add: even if you don’t personally agree with all of his ideas, I urge you to support his cause. It is high time for us to stand down those who would trample academic freedom, shun open discourse and debate, and muzzle those with whom they simply disagree.
I’ll end with Professor Ellis’ own words, all too sadly apt under the circumstances:
Prophetic Jewish theology, or a Jewish theology of liberation, seeks to bring to light the hidden and sometimes censored movements of Jewish life. It seeks to express the dissent of those afraid or unable to speak. Ultimately, a Jewish theology of liberation seeks, in concert with others, to weave disparate hopes and aspirations into the very heart of Jewish life.
(“Toward a Jewish Theology of Liberation,” p. 206)
Thank you, Rabbi Brant, for this principled and articulate testimony about the significance of Marc Ellis’s work. He has touched my life as an academic and a Jew as well.
Done! Thanks for sharing this and for your ongoing advocacy and informative commentary.
Is it now our way of life that when someone expresses a different opinion on whatever subject, that it they are immediately suspect and to be “investigated”? The abuse of authority seems to be heavily weighing on Ken Starr! Thank you for the opportunity to side with Prof. Ellis.
I’m inclined to be suspicious of ANY investigation headed by Ken Starr. Can’t believe he has any credibility whatsoever.
Perhaps it is time to have an investigation of Ken Starr’s investigations.
I’m not a fan (to say the least) of Ken Starr either. In the absence of much information, I hope the folks mentioned in the blog post above are proven to be correct.
As quick aside – who knew that a religious sponsored university in Waco has been home for the author of “Toward a Jewish Theology of Liberation” for many years? Maybe this world is more open minded in some places than some of us progressives give it credit for?
Thank you for calling attention to this. By the way, it’s “Rosemary Ruether.”
I do not know the specific reason for the investigation, but I do know Ellis’ opinion on the Israel/Palestine problem. He claims that 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were “ethnically cleansed” to make place for Israel. That is a blatant lie. The refugee problem was the direct result of the war the Arabs started, one day after the the UN partition vote, trying to prevent by force the implementation of the UN plan,. Had they accepted the partition like the Palestinian Jews did, and had not started the war, there would have been no refugees and the Palestinian Arab state would have been 63 y old today. I will leave to his imagination to guess what would have been the fate of the Palestinian Jews had the Arabs won that (or any other) war.
Ellis also supports the one-state solution to the conflict. That means that he denies the right of the Jewish people to political self-determination and statehood. Anybody, Jewish or not, who denies that right to the Jewish people, while not denying it to any other people, is as racist as he can be.
The claim that 700,00 Palestinian Arabs were “ethnically cleansed” from their homes is not a blatant lie. It has long been supported by many reputable Israeli historians. If you think “ethnic cleansing” is too incendiary a term, then let’s put it this way: they were forcibly expelled by the Jewish armed forces (the majority before the founding of the state in May 1948) then not allowed to return to their homes.
There is no such thing as an intrinsic “right” of the Jewish people to nationstatehood, any more than there is to any other group of people. When it comes to nation-building, history has proven that “might makes right.” The question Ellis (and many of us) are asking is not who has the “right” to this land, but rather how can human and civil rights be extended to all who live in this land? I would add that extending full rights to some ethnic residents and not others is, as you put it, “as racist as can be.”
Actually, the right of “self-determination of peoples” is enshrined in Article 55 of the UN Charter, and it was this right of the majority Arab population of Palestine that was violated in 1947 by UNGA Resolution 181, the partition plan. Representing 2/3 the population and owning over 90% of the land, it was the Palestinian Arabs, not the Zionists, who held that right. Under heavy Zionist pressure and Arab refusal to even participate due to the illegitimacy of the process, the UN compromised its integrity right from the start. However, the UN Security Council rejected 181 in March 1948, whereupon Zionist terror organizations (Haganah, Irgun and Stern Gang) launched their well-planned ethnic cleansing operations, committing 33 massacres and expelling 80% of the Palestinian Arab population in just 9 months. What has kept the conflict boiling is their refusal to honor the right of return as specified in Articles 13 and 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UNGA Resolution 194, and Israel’s own pledge as a condition of its 1949 admission to the UN.
Aftraid you have some reading to do, Jacob. The UN partition plan was announced in November 1947. It was grossly unjust since the UN did not own the land and had no right to make such an alloocation, and it violated the UN Charter principle of self-determination since Arabs were the majority population and landowners. Of course the Arabs rejected it and conflct naturally erupted. The UN Security Council rejected the plan in March 1948 and Zionist terror groups launched their well-planned and well-funded ethnic cleansing campaign, expelling 40% of a helpless, unarmed Arab population by May 1948 when the British left and the UN assumed administrative authority. Only then did outside Arab forces attempt to intervene with much too little too late. The only credible Arab military, the Arab Legion of Transjordan, had colluded with the Zionists to divide the land, retaining the West Bank in exchange for non-interference with Zionist seizure of the rest.
As for the “helpless, unarmed Arab population”. In fact, during the civil phase of the war, before the invasion of the regular Arab armies, the Palestinians had an edge in light arms, the main armaments during the civil war. And they enjoyed the support of the 4,000-man Arab Liberation Army, consisting mainly of Syrian and Iraqi volunteers, under the command of Kaukji, which had field artillery, which the Jews did not possess.
One day after the UN partition vote, armed Arabs attacked a bus close to Petach Tikva, murdering five passengers and wounding several others.The attacks on the roads and on islated Jewish villages became a frequent occurrence. In January 1948, Kfar Czold, in the upper Galilee was attacked by the Arab Liberation Army. That same month, Kfar Etzion was attacked by a group led by Abd el Kader el-Husseini. The Arabs were able to disrupt the Jewish lines of communications and succeeded in blocking some major axes to Jewish traffic. The Jews responded and an atmosphere of continuous warfare enveloped the country.
That warfare caused many thousands of Arabs to flee so as to avoid the battles. As Muhammad Nimr al-Khatib summed up: “The Palestinians had the neighboring Arab states which opened their borders and doors to the refugees , while the Jews had no alternative but to triumph or to die”.
Until the invasion of the regular Arab armies, on May 15, 1948, more than 2,000 Jews died and many hundreds were wounded. That was because the Arabs were “helpless and unarmed”….
All that is well documented and can be found in many history books. One hopes even Ph. D’s can find them…
Good luck to the campaign. Unfortunately there has been a bit of a trend recently in directors of jewish studies programs in the US who are not staunch Likudniks being dismissed and replaced.
Zohra is absolutely correct about this – this very disturbing trend is being spearheaded by the right-wing philanthropic org the Tikvah Fund.
Do you have evidence for that claim?
Rabbi Brant –
As always, an interesting discussion. An article from a Forward sponsored web site (ZEEK) on silencing opposing views is a bit like throwing stones from a glass house (and I am a long-time subscriber / big fan of the Forward). The Forward’s board of director’s fired their esteemed editor for failing a Liberal litmus test. The details are here: http://www.nytimes.com/2000/04/08/nyregion/editor-of-the-forward-is-being-ousted-executives-say.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm. Not something for the Jewish community to be proud of.
While I am not familiar with the Tikvah Fund, I must take issue the ZEEK article where it says, “Tikvah Fund, a right-wing philanthropy that in recent years has invested considerable resources … (in) platforms geared to a broader reading public…. Completing the picture is Nextbook, an organization which runs a press and the online journal Tablet, and which is funded by a member of the Tikvah Board of Directors.”
Far from a right wing mouthpiece, Tablet Magazine is a wonderful publication covering many aspects of Jewish culture. I suspect that most readers of your other blog and many members of your congregation would really enjoy Tablet Magazine – in fact I’d be shocked if they didn’t. Reading it and listening to its outstanding podcast (“Vox Tablet”) is like an immersion in all sorts of interesting aspects of Jewish culture from food to literature to the arts and even sports. In the current on-line issue is a piece critical an Israeli government ad campaign (it was the most popular article on the site this evening, by the way) and the podcast is an interview with a woman who put the poetry of Abraham Joshua Heschel to some really good music – who knew Heschel was a Yiddish poet? Their pieces on Jewish literature are particularly interesting – and I’m not even a fan of literature. I could go on and on, but encourage readers to go to tabletmag.com to check it out for yourself. I doubt you will be disappointed (full disclosure: I have no ties whatsoever to Tablet Magazine).
On Tablet and the neo-con connection, see:
Note that you’re claiming that there is a vast conspiracy by Tikvah to kick out all directors of Jewish Studies programs who are not Likudniks with absolutely no evidence. That Zeek article only brings evidence that the Jewish Review of Books is right-wing. (Which it is, although the author misunderstands or misrepresents many of the articles that he presents. Also, looking at their Editorial Board, of the names I recognize, 4 are left-wing and 2 are right-wing. I suspect that the reason he doesn’t refer to the “reviewers” of the JRB articles by name is that if he did, people would immediately recognize some of them as liberals.) Braiterman does not at all support the claim that Tikvah is systemically purifying academia of all liberals. He doesn’t even try.
Rabbi Brant – Yes, some neo-conservatives have pushlished their views in Tablet Magazine. But the writer of the article you linked to clearly hadn’t read Tablet Magazine except to justify what they wanted to say. The following are some quotes from Tablet Magazine articles: “The Israeli government wants to lure expats back home with provocative ads. For one American Jew and her Israeli-born husband, it’s a false promise” and “Israel Delegitimizes Itself – The BDS movement is the big winner after yesterday’s law” and “I am a citizen of Israel. I also wholeheartedly support a ban on the settlements, which I believe to be illegal, morally reprehensible, theologically misguided, and politically ruinous. “
More than simply Jewish studies programs are threatened by by loss of academic freedom. Israel, threatened by growing worldwide public awareness of their abuses and disinformation they fear is “delegitimizing” their state, has launched a full court press guided by their Reut Institute to target university campuses for “attack” and “sabotage” against their principal perceived adversaries – “human rights activists.” What does that tell you about the “only democratic state” in the region? This institute advised the Israeli gov’t that their own policies were causing the delegitimization. But heedless, they appear determined to self-destruct, enabled by their purblind friends – AIPAC, ADL et al. – in the U.S.
Marc Ellis’ statement on a Jewish theology of liberation could also be taken to apply to Christian theology, and, I suspect, Muslim as well.
Thanks to Rabbi Rosen for a balanced view of history and political philosophy.
I won’t claim to be deeply familiar with the work of Mr. Ellis, or of the investigation currently underway at Baylor. I am, however, deeply intimate with debates on this subject which might provide a different angle to this conversation.
Characterizing Mr. Ellis as an advocate of a kind of Liberation Theology as it applies to the Middle East conflict implies that the Middle East Conflict should really be seen as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Israelis in the role of oppressors and Palestinians as the oppressed.
But this conflict could also be fairly characterized as the Arab-Israeli conflict with Israel on one side, and two dozen wealthy and powerful Arab League nations (allied with 50+ Islamic Conference nations) on the other. Under this configuration, it is not Israelis who are denying Arabs their national rights but these dozens and dozens of powerful and wealthy states who have organized their politics around opposition to the Jewish state, with consequences for Israelis and Palestinians alike.
Under this interpretation, then, advocates for the Israel = Oppressor/Palestinian = victim equations (such as Mr. Ellis) are not courageous thinkers standing up to power, but actually political partisans who have chosen to embrace Goliath while convincing themselves that they are actually Gandhi.
Now there are two ways of working through such challenges to the self-identify of Ellis and others. One is to grapple with it and see if the truth lies with Mr. Ellis’s interpretation, with mine, or somewhere in between.
A simpler alternative, however, is to simply dismiss what I have said as representing a distraction being thrown up by the forces of Likudnik reaction in league with “the Jewish establishment” trying to suppress debate (in this case, by contributing to it in ways not everyone wants to hear). But anyone going down this route unfortunately identifies themselves as a single-minded partisan, rather than any kind of moral authority.
As Israeli historian Avi Shlaim and others have documented in considerable detail, the Arab states have long (from 1949 forward) and often offered peace and recognition to Israel, but it has been Israel – unwilling to define its borders and preclude further land grabs – that has refused these offers. Egypt has been bribed by the US since 1979 and jordan since 1994 to collaborate with Israel, while the wealthy Gulf states have remained under US domination through our oil symbiosis. Israel has never been seriously threatened, and the Arab leaders have never cared seriously about the Palestiinians although their populations do care. Israel has never been attacked although they have repeatedly attacked and occupied their neighbors. In 1948 the weak Arab forces attempting to intervene never penetrated the UN-designated Jewish area and in 1973 attempted only to regain the land stolen in 1967 and never penetrated the internationally recognized borders of Israel (the 1949 armistice line). .
You are not the first person to cite (selected) Israeli historians in order to give your interpretation of the last 60 years of Middle East history (featuring only hapless, peace-seeking Arabs running into Israeli warlike intransigence) an Israeli stamp of approval.
But such an argument from authority only holds weight if you also demonstrate a willingness to assign such authority to Israeli scholars in general, even those who would argue against each and every one of your highly debatable premises. Absent this, you are simply another political partisan picking and choosing his evidence and sources to confirm already strongly held beliefs (and proof positive that a PhD is no antidote to this type of confirmation bias, particularly regarding heated political subjects).
I believe it’s fair to say that the vast majority of Israelis and others, PhDs and otherwise, would reject out of hand your claims that five Arab armies killing off 1% of the Israeli population in 1948, or the near fatal invasion of Israel in 1973 (both announced as “wars of annihilation by the Arabs themselves) were simply the reasonable reaction of enfeebled states trying to establish preferred borders with (rather than the disappearance of) the Jewish state.
Not that you are not entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to an unchallenged opinion, especially one based on such an eccentric reading of history.
More to the point, it is the willingness to bend facts and history to political prejudice that ensures war will continue in the Middle East for the foreseeable future (possibly forever).
Dresser writes: “In 1948 the weak Arab forces attempting to intervene never penetrated the UN-designated Jewish area.”
The ‘weak” Arab side began with an overwhelming advantage in equipment and firepower. In the first fortnight of the invasion, the Arabs had more than seventy combat aircraft, Spitfires and Furies, and the Yishuv had none. During the following months, the Arabs continued to enjoy an overwhelming advantage in combat aircraft. Until the end of June, certainly, the Arab invaders possessed a massive superiority in all other types of heavy weaponry: they deployed about two hundred standard armored fighting vehicles, many of them mounting two- and six-pounder cannon; dozens of tanks (Cruiser, Locust, Mark 6, and Renault); and dozens of artillery pieces. The Israelis had two tanks, one of them without a gun. and one, then two, batteries of light pre-World War I-vintage 65mm Mountain artillery; and makeshift armored cars, civilian trucks patched up with steel plates in Tel Aviv workshops.
The Syrian tanks did reach Deganiyah ( supposed to be in the proposed Jewish state), The Egyptian planes did bomb Tel Aviv (also supposed to be in the Jewish state) and their army tried to reach it but was stopped some 20 miles from it.
It appears that facts are irrelevant. What matters is the “narrative”, the Palestinian of course…
In Bethlehem, where I live, I don’t see Goliath. I see a community that’s fighting for every last breath. The wall is strangling the town economically, and the problems this causes have all got human faces for me – such as the face of my landlady, who told me this past summer that she wants to die. Large parts of the town went without running water for six weeks solid in late July/August. Meanwhile, in neighbouring settlements, the lawns were kept watered and the swimming pools were kept full – because Israel has complete control of the West Bank’s aquifers. The consequences of this are nasty enough in Bethlehem, but when you travel south of Hebron to the farming communities whose livelihood depends on their agriculture and herding, it gets even uglier.
Israeli policy is what makes this possible, along with the house demolitions (three poor and struggling villages that I know well have suffered from demolitions in the past three months), refusal of building permits, land confiscation (which is rampant), heavy restrictions on movement, and more. The neighbouring Arab countries have made no serious effort to prevent this – their support for justice in Palestine chiefly amounts to verbal posturing, used to score political points at home. When I cross the Green Line, I’m always hit hard by the contrast in living. Here are people who can go where they please, when they please; who have only to turn on the tap when they want water; whose homes are not under threat of demolition; and who are subject to civilian rather than martial law. It is impossible to refer to the Palestinians as ‘Goliath’ when they are under Israeli military control and liable to be detained without charge or trial under the provisions made by that law, when they queue for four hours in a cage-like structure on their way to work in the morning (this is Bethlehem checkpoint – it resembles a giant abbatoir), when Israel even has the power to determine which products are stocked in West Bank shops. The West Bank is a captive market, and it is exploited for all it’s worth. These are just a few examples of the abuses of power. Oppression? Yes.
What were the trustees at Baylor thinking? Hiring a controversial, publicity-seeking lawyer as president? This seems to be the most blatant assault on academic freedom since the 1950s. Perhaps (heh, heh) President Starr should be impeached.
I’m astounded to learn Baylor named a strong rightwinger and bigot, Ken Starr, its president. As a result, that private school should lose all credibility. – George Beres
Well “rabbi”. it was this little thing called the holocaust, which was only the crescendo in a few thousand years of blood. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Are you that ashamed of being Jewish? Some of us, when we see a fight between the IDF and hamas want the IDF to you know , win. Or we don’t like to see Jewish children killed, You seem to feel differently.
Stand down President Starr and keep Marc Ellis at Baylor!
Baylor stood up for academic quality and support when it hired Marc.
It is thought less of now. He is a fine scholar, creative thinker, and
human spirit. Baylor is apparently none of those now.
WPearlman seems to be seriously underinformed about who has been killing as well as imprisoning and abusing whose children. I suggest visits to http://www.rememberthesechildren.org and http://www.dci-pal.org. Does he object to any children being killed or only Jewish children? If the latter, then he is in the right camp. The Holocaust is long past, but he Nakba remains ongoing. It is ironic that that Jews lived in harmony with Arabs for 2600 years before the blight of Zionism, and these Mizrahim Jews did not suffer a holocaust at the hands of those upon whom they have inflicted 64 years of land theft, murder, and dispossession. WP and Ken Starr both need to read Israel’s own historians Ilan Pappe, Avi Shlaim, Tom Segev and Shlomo Sand.
Muslim persecution of the Jews started in the 7th century with the birth of Islam and has continued ever since. It is true that down through the decades persecution of the Jews by Christians was more savage and barbaric than by Muslims. It is also true that there were periods when Jews prospered under Muslim rule. But the so-called ‘golden age’ for Jews in Muslim lands was very short indeed. The true history is a story of humiliation, persecution and pogroms.
The great medieval Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, no less, was forced to flee his native Cordoba in Spain after it was conquered in 1148 by the Muslim Almohads, who gave the Jews a choice of conversion, death or exile. In his Epistle to the Jews of Yemen written in about 1172, Maimonides wrote of the news of compulsory conversion for the Jews in Yemen having ‘broken our backs’ and ‘astounded and dumbfounded the whole of our community’. The Arabs, he said, had ‘persecuted us severely and passed baneful and discriminatory legislation against us’. ‘Never did a nation molest, degrade, debase and hate us as much as they…'”
‘ ‘After the Jews rejected Mohammed, the Qur’an says the Jews were cursed by Allah (5:78) who transformed them into monkeys and pigs as punishment (2:65, 5:60, 7:166). It accuses the Jews of corrupting their holy books and removing the parts that spoke of Mohammed (2:75, cf verses 76-79, 5:13). It says the Jews were the greatest enemies of Islam (5:82), that both they and the Christians want Muslims to convert (2:120), that the Jews start wars and cause trouble
The Jews were considered to be “dhimmi” The dhimmis recognized the supremacy of Islam and the dominance of the Muslim state, and their acceptance of a position of subordination, symbolized by certain social restrictions and by the payment of a tax to which Muslims were not subject.
Massacres of Jews by Muslims were recorded in Aleppo (1850, 1875), Damascus (1840, 1848, 1890), Beirut (1862, 1874), Dayr al-Qamar (1847), Jerusalem (1847), Cairo (1844, 1890, 1901-02), Mansura (1877), Alexandria (1870, 1882, 1901-07), Port Said (1903, 1908) – these are just key cases.
These were tribal societies that engaged in considerable tribal conflict independent of cosmologies including fueds between Arab tribes. Mohammed’s first accomplishments were reduction of these conflicts, unification of local groups, and development of conflict-resolution mechanisms. Throughout the Middle Ages Jews persecuted by Christians found refuge in Muslim lands, and the Jews of Spain left with the Muslims when Spain was invaded by Christians in 1492. During WWII the King of Morocco protected Moroccan Jews from the Nazi/Vichy occupiers by refusing to identify them, and Muslims of Kosovo provided refuge for Jews fleeing the Holocaust (this was the theme of a recent photo exhibit in NY). In 1948 the population of Baghdad was one-third Jewish – the oldest Jewish community in the world – before false flag Mossad bombings stampeded most into flight to Israel. Unlike expelled Palestinians, no Misrahi Jews have ben denied the right of return and both Egypt and Iraq have proactively invited their former Jewish citizens to return.
In 1948 alone there were 33 massacres of Arabs (both Muslim and Christian) by Jews and there have been over 60 in the history of Israel, crowned most recently by Operation Cast Lead.
Contrary to the Official Story, Jews have not been simply the innocent victims of history. Ynet editor Sever Plocker wrote in its 21 May 2009 issue about “Stalin’s Jews” led by Genrikh Yagoda, founder and commander of the NKVD and Gulag system. Yagoda is judged responsible for at least 10 million deaths through policies of forced collectivization, starvation (Ukrainians in 1932-33), purges, expulsions, executions, and mass deaths in the Gulags. Some 40% of those holding senior posts in Stalin’s mass-murdering security apparatus during the 1930s were Jewish, establishing a record of horror that exceeded that of Hitler. (This kind of honesty often seen in the Israeli press is never seen in the American press.)
Some responders here attempt to confuse facts with opinions to support their denials of the former. Following declassification in the 1980s of Israeli archives, Israel’s “New Historians” – Ilan Pappe, Avi Shlaim, Tom Segev, Shlomo Sand, and even arch-Zionist Benny Morris – have discovered and reported the truth of Israel’s history, key aspects of which I have summarized above. This is not survey research in a heavily propagandized population or academics in “Judaic studies” who perpetuate what Shlomo Sand calls Jewish “mythistory.” To begin your re-education, if willing, I recommend Ilan Pappe’s “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.”
Really? Shlomo Sand? (Also, I’m not sure why exactly you feel the need to list that you have a Ph.D., especially considering it’s in clinical psychology.)
There is another possibility you should consider (assuming that’s possible), that it is you that is confusing facts with opinions, i.e., mistaking our own opinions about who was right and wrong, strong and weak in the the various Arab wars against the Jewish state. After all, you have been presented with facts and figures regarding relative men and arms in the 1948 campaign and have chosen to ignore this information and instead simply bring up a slew of authors who agree with you and claim: “Look! Israelis say it so it must be true!” (while simultaneously declaring any facts presented by any Israelis – or anyone else for that matter – that don’t conform with your oppinion to be illigitimate propaganda).
Might it be that all of the accusations you throw at others (being blinded by propaganda, unwilliness to consider other opinions regardless of their veracity) actually be best directed inward?
Ilan Pappe is an “historian” of the Soviet mode. He is a pro-Palestinian propagandist. As he himself said in an interview with the French newspaper Le Soir, Nov. 29, 1999: “Facts are irrelevant when it comes to the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Indeed the struggle is about ideology, not about facts, Who knows what facts are? We try to convince as many people as we can that our interpretation of the facts is the correct one, and we do it because of ideological reasons, not because we are truthseekers,”
In his book Pappe says: “My pro-Palestinian bias is apparent despite the desire of my peers that I stick to facts and the ‘truth’ when reconstructing past realities. I view any such construction as vain and presumptuous. . . Mine is a subjective approach. . . .” Spoken like a true disciple of Zhdanov.
As for Shlomo Sand. He claims that there is no Jewish people, just a Jewish religion. He rejects most of the stories of national-identity formation in the Bible, including the exodus from Egypt. He thinks it’s all fiction and myth that served as an excuse for the establishment of the State of Israel. According to him, the Zionist need to devise for them a shared ethnicity and historical continuity produced a long series of inventions and fictions. In his opinion present-day Jews are not descendants of the Jews who lived in Judea 1900 years ago, but descended form later-day converts to Judaism. As such they are just a group with the same religion and had no legitimate right to establish their nation-state in Mandatory Palestine.
But Sand ignores the genetic research which clearly shows that, even though there is no “Jewish DNA,” there is definite biological-genetic evidence that the Jews are one people. The studies were done in very reputable academic laboratories and published in prestigious peer review journals.
The researchers found that despite their long-term residence in different countries and isolation from one another, most Jewish populations were not significantly different from one another at the genetic level. The researchers studied seven Jewish populations: Yemenite, Ashkenazic, Near Eastern, North African, Asia Minor, the Balkans and Ethiopian. The first six showed a strong affinity, with the Ashkenazic and Yemenite populations coming out the closest. Palestinian, Syrian and other non-Jewish Middle Eastern populations were also very close to the Jewish populations.
Other research shows that the Jews in different countries are much closer to Jews in other countries than to their non-Jewish neighbors.
If modern-day Jews are descendants of converts, as Sand claims, then there would have been no similarity between the different Jewish communities. And the Jewish populations would have been similar to their non-Jewish neighbors. In fact, the Ethiopian Jewish community is different from the other Jewish communities because it originated from descendants of local converts.
The Ashkenazi Jews were not found to be similar to present-day Turkish speakers. This opposes the suggestion that Ashkenazi Jews descended from the Khazars, a Turkish-Asian empire that converted to Judaism in or about the 8th century CE. Dr. Neil Risch, a researcher at the Department of Genetics at Stanford University, said:
“If you made a [genetic] map of Europe and the Middle East and you put Ashkenazi Jews on it, they would not end up in Turkey or in the middle of Europe, but in the Mediterranean.”
The results of the research support the notion that modern Jews descended from a common Middle Eastern ancestral population.
Contrary to Sand’s assertion the term “Jewish” denotes BOTH religion and peoplehood. There is no “Catholic’ or “Protestant” people but there is Jewish people, just like there is Bulgarian or French people.
It is immaterial if there was an Exodus or not or if Jews were expelled by the Romans or not. What counts is that the Jews became a people in what was later called Palestine, some 3500 y ago. Regardless if the Bible stories are true or not, they were written by members of the Jewish people. The Mernaptah stele (1200 BCE) mentions Israel, indicating that it was a significant socioethnic entity. And, in spite of losing their territorial base for more than 1900 years, and being dispersed all over, they managed to preserve their historical memory and did not disappear like so many other nations of antiquity did.
Contrary to Sand’s assertion, both history and science support the existence of the Jewish people.
It is important to keep in mind that Sand grew up in a fervent Bundist anti-Zionist family. When his father came to Israel he refused to speak Hebrew as this would mean that Zionism won. Sand himself was a member of Banki, the Israeli communist youth organization. So, his “finding” about the Jews was in tune with the long held communist idea that there is no Jewish people.
For those who cite religious texts and are open to comparing their racism, I suggest they start with the Book of Deuteronomy, especially in its Hebrew version. For a comprehensive account of racist Jewish fundamentalism and its influence on the state of Israel, I recommend the book “Jewish History, Jewish Religion” by Israeli professor Israel Shahak who examines the Talmud and rabbinical laws in unflattering detail, including key omissions in the English translations.
I see, so Israeli villainy is actually not derived from Zionism, but from the Talmud (the subject of the late Israel Shahak’s squalid little book-shaped object to which you refer).
Perhaps Rabbi Rosen can provide us an opinion of Mr. Shahak’s quality of scholarship, beginning with Shahak’s frequent use in the very book you cite of a branch of the faith called (in Shahak’s words) “Reformed Judaism”.
So this is the brilliant scholar you are asking us to take at face value when he tells us that Jewish sacred texts are the source of Jewish bigotry? And we are supposed to take you seriously why? Because you put “PhD” in your signature line>
Jack, you seem to have forgot the Bosnian SS Moslem division.
Thank you Rabbi Brant for reminding us all of the situation of Marc Ellis. I first came across his work while completing a Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies. He is a rare voice of sense, reason and humanity. He provided the strong dissenting voice within the Jewish tradition that seeks for liberation of those facing oppression.
It has been encouraging to read the depth of responses by Jack Dresser. It is an honour to have someone who the skills and experience of Jack to add to this debate.
Than you again Brant for encouraging us all to sign the petition in support of academic freedom.
Shalom Salam Peace
I am absolutely not a fan of Marc Ellis’s politics (although when his book on Jewish liberation theology was published I was appreciative that there was finally a Jewish voice in liberation theology – but I’m a liberal Zionist, which he most emphatically is not), but I don’t understand why he should lose his job. From the purely academic perspective, he’s published a great deal with good publishing houses. It’s hard to imagine that this is not a political move on the part of Baylor – especially since Ken Starr is the president of Baylor. What does “abuse of authority” mean? It’s also appalling that during the process he’s not allowed to teach and his center has been closed. If Baylor was truly worried about him in particular, they would appoint someone else to head the center – the fact that they’ve closed the center makes it look entirely political. I think that if he does lose his job, he’ll have a very good case for a lawsuit against Baylor.