An editorial comment

by Richard on July 4, 2012

A rare joint post by Richard & Kim.

Googling around to find out a bit about Edward Kessler, Kim came upon a story about a Jewish guy who travels from Israel to the United States. When he returns, he tells his friend some of the amazing things he has seen. “I met a Jew who had grown up in a yeshiva and knew large sections of the Talmud by heart. I met a Jew who was an atheist. I met a Jew who owned a large business, and I met a Jew who was an ardent communist.” “So what’s so strange?” the friend asks. “America is a big country and millions of Jews live there.” “You don’t understand,” the man replies. “It was the same Jew.”

This is great Jewish humour, but that’s not the principal reason we repeat the joke. It’s because it makes crystal clear what should be obvious – that “being Jewish” is a complicated, not a monolithic concept, and that there is no such thing as the Jewish view of things, including, indeed especially on the vexing and volatile issues of Zionism and Israel.

Yes, this really is a no-brainer. Yet there are a few folk who comment on this blog who only show up only when the post is on Israel, and who act as if Christians who disagree with them are anti-Semitic at worst, and egregiously misinformed and wrong-headed at best. They also seem to act as if fellow Jews who disagree with them are, at worst, disloyal or self-loathing, a disgrace to the cause of Israel, if not Judaism, and, at best (like said Christians), are egregiously misinformed and wrong-headed, and therefore dismissible with due condescension and even contempt.

Churchill said that “a fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” More deliciously still, the America journalist and humourist Finley Peter Dunne said that “a fanatic is a man that does what he thinks the Lord would do if He knew the facts of the case.” That about describes the folk we have in mind. Interestingly (according to the OED), the word “fanatic” derives from the Latin fanaticus, meaning “of the temple”, and in its earliest, 16th century usage, described behaviour or speech that was symptomatic of one possessed by a god – or demon: hence, a “religious maniac”. Personally, we find “fanatic” or “maniac” unduly provocative epithets, but we are certainly dealing here with people who are obstinate, belligerent, apparently inerrant, and certainly lacking both a sense of humour and the willingness to empathise with another point of view.

Richard has been running this blog for more than 10 years, and in that time has always welcomed contrary points of view. There is no plan to do anything else. But please remember that this is his online home and he reserves the right to edit or delete comments that he’s not happy with. From now on, that right is likely to be exercised more frequently.

Richard Hall
Kim Fabricius

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Peter Banks 07.04.12 at 4:16 pm

And now let’s join together and sing that wonderful hymn: ‘Come, we that love the Lord, And let our joys be known - We’re marching to Zion, Beautiful, beautiful Zion…’ (where marching is not in a military fashion, instead picture walking with a joyful and brisk stride).

2

Richard 07.04.12 at 4:46 pm

I haven’t sung that in years! It was one of my dad’s favourites.

3

Mark Byron 07.07.12 at 5:08 am

If I can try to sum your take on the issue, it would be that “Palestinians are people, too.” Poorly represented people, but people nonetheless that deserve a fair shake.

That’s going to cast them as the bad guys for folks who look at Israel as the good guys. However, even the good guys cross the line sometimes.

4

Richard 07.07.12 at 8:02 am

I can live with that, Mark.

5

Neil 07.11.12 at 9:16 pm

Have you seen Daphne Anson’s blog?

6

Richard 07.11.12 at 9:26 pm

I haven’t. Is she saying nice things about me? :)

7

Kim 07.12.12 at 6:26 am

I’m not sure how far I got into the post. All I know is that my finger strting seizing up from the seemingly endless scrolling down — and then I started to grow a beard.

8

Richard 07.12.12 at 8:15 am

Such a long post devoted to little us! You’ve done the right thing and resisted the urge to respond, I trust?

9

Kim 07.12.12 at 10:26 am

You trust rightly. Silence is sense.

10

Paul Martin 07.12.12 at 11:06 am

Just made myself visit said blog. The post in question was sufficiently fruity that it made mme resolve not to take the good lady serioussly as a commentator. Did somebody hack in to bring her into disrepute?

11

Adam 07.18.12 at 1:47 pm

A fanatic is indeed someone who won’t change the subject.

The Methodists should take note.

Paul, always better to play the person than the ball, eh?

12

Richard 07.18.12 at 3:45 pm

>> “The Methodists should take note”

What is that supposed to mean, I wonder? I can’t think of any subject that “the Methodists” are talking about to the exclusion of all else. Can you?
I think you’ll find that Paul’s comment was directed at the content of a particular blog - certainly less ad hom. than much of the stuff on said blog.

13

Adam 07.18.12 at 4:26 pm

Richard

“the good lady” is both condescending and sexist, and does not address the points she has made about the Methodists’ relentless obsession with Jews and Israel. It is surprising that you close your eyes to this.

If you bothered to read what Daphne has written over time, you would find your arguments against the Jewish state comprehensively destroyed.

Indeed, your Israel bashing agenda repeatedly rears its ugly head whilst whole swathes of the world (including several issues in the Middle East itself) get scant comment, or no comment at all. You and your sycophantic contingent may comfort yourselves with your smug backslapping, but you cannot hide from the fact that the Methodists have set themselves on a course which is both immoral and nonsensical. And it is churlish to pretend that there is no rift between the Methodists’ adopted hostile stance and mainstream Jewish opinion. Admit it, you have a problem.

And by the way, whoever claimed that every Jew on earth thinks the same? How silly.

14

Kim 07.18.12 at 5:07 pm

Full throttle, dry tank.

15

Richard 07.18.12 at 6:21 pm

>> “… the Methodists’ relentless obsession with Jews and Israel”

That’s a plainly ludicrous thing to say. If you mean the Methodist Church of Great Britain, I think you’ll find that our Conference has debated a large number of different issues over the last few years. Israel/Palestine has been a very minor part of the agenda. I doubt you would even have noticed the Methodist Conference debates had not one very ill-advised blogger make a great fanfare of suing the church — a lawsuit that was subsequently dropped without any publicity.
If the target of your remark is this blog (unlikely, in my view) then again I ask you to consider the evidence: this blog has something like 6000 posts. 58 are tagged ‘Israel’. I don’t always remeber to do tags so that’ll be an underestimate. Call it 120 to be on the safe side. That’s 2%. Doesn’t sound like a relentless obsession to me.

>> “And by the way, whoever claimed that every Jew on earth thinks the same?”

That claim, or something very like it has been made on this blog several times. Jewish voices which are critical of the Israeli government are simply dismissed.

16

Adam 07.18.12 at 7:51 pm

Yes Richard, debated, but few such “debates” have resulted in the orgy of hatred and calls for boycotts than when it comes to…Israel. What a surprise.

Why isn’t your church calling for a boycott of the Hamas run administration in Gaza? Or anywhere else for that matter?

Paul’s comment was indeed sexist, sad you won’t admit it. I guess Israel bashing trumps sexism.

And kindly point to an instance of someone claiming that all Jews think alike.

I also note you haven’t been able to refute a single point made by Daphne. Face it Richard, your chums and you never look deep down into yourselves. Not very Christian, is it?

17

Adam 07.18.12 at 7:53 pm

” …Jewish voices which are critical of the Israeli government…” - you mean, half of Israelis? Who ignores them?

What nonsense. Which Jews do you mean? Examples?

18

Richard 07.18.12 at 8:17 pm

I’m afraid I don’t recognise the ‘orgy of hatred’ you present. Where and when was it, please?

Paul’s comment was perhaps patronising. But I doubt his use of “lady” is any worse than your use of “chums”. As for “kindly point to an instance of someone claiming that all Jews think alike”, I invite you to read through some of the very long comment threads that have occurred here on this subject in the last couple of years. I promise you that you’ll find comments which (more or less) claim that “real” Jews entirely support the illegal (disputed, if you must) settlements and all the rest. Those that don’t are dismissed as “self-hating”.

I’m pretty sure we’re done. Any further comments will have to make their point very politely to have any chance of getting posted.

19

Kim 07.18.12 at 10:12 pm

I’m surprised you answered Adam’s latest orgy of orge, Richard. Or is it your way of handing him another spade?

20

Adam 07.18.12 at 10:41 pm

Richard, your church’s stance against Israel is indeed hateful, and utterly hypocritical. It singles out the one democratic state in the region for boycott, whilst Hamas run Gaza, (try being Christian there for a while and see how you get on), is whitewashed - in its treatment of women, gay people, or anyone who dissents from the genocidal Islamists’ agenda.

Richard - one thing you refuse to acknowledge is that poll after poll has shown that an overwhelming majority of British Jews support Israel, and a very small minority actually attack it. Indeed, my objection to several of these high profile Israel bashers is that they use their Jewishness to attack Israel, when the rest of the time their Jewishness means nothing to them - they belong to no congregation, they do not identify with Jewish cultural projects, nor do they identify with Israel other than to attack and criticize. Now we can all look at their opinions, but the fact remains that an argument either stands or falls by its merits - the ethnicity of the individual making it is neither here nor there. But if, as you seem to, think that the ethnicity of those attacking Israel is of significance, you will find that the Jews attacking Israel are small in number to those who support her - and any brief research will demonstrate this. Thus there is mainstream and fringe opinion. The Methodists have put themselves at odds with mainstream Jewish opinion. At least recognize that!

By the way, you always do this - say “we’re done” once you’ve replied, trying to shut down the debate. I am not using invective, foul language, or ad hom attacks. There is no reason to shut this down unless you simply don’t want to examine your views too closely.

21

Richard 07.18.12 at 11:09 pm

Show me one post here, or one statement of the Methodist Church in Britain which whitewashes Hamas, and I’ll take you seriously again. This kind of overblown rhetoric makes conversation impossible.

Trying to bring a thread to a close is not to shut down debate. If I wanted to do that, I have a handy delete button. I merely meant that you’ve had your say, I’ve had mine. Unless there is a new point, some fresh perspective, there’s no point in continuing: long threads in which the same points get repeated ad nauseam serve no purpose.

22

Adam 07.19.12 at 9:03 am

Richard, you have censored my last post. Now I understand that repeating points ad nauseam is pointless. But ignoring points is quite another thing. You simply did not respond to the points I put to you - then you close down the debate.

That isn’t intellectually honest, Richard.

23

Adam 07.19.12 at 9:36 am

24

Kim 07.19.12 at 10:10 am

Thus there is mainstream and fringe opinion. The Methodists have put themselves at odds with mainstream Jewish opinion. At least recognize that!

I’m sure Richard does, as it’s a duh. But so what? From that fact it is a non-sequitur to deduce anti-Semitism, or even anti-Zionism, or that the Methodist Church is morally wrong to take the position it does, along with the WCC, Christian Aid, etc, etc. As for the argument from “mainstream Jewish opinion” — or, say, mainstream American conservative evangelical opinion — you might call it the Hananiah fallacy.

Finally — finally — Richard has not, nor have I, refused to answer the arguments that you and Daphne and Avraham, et. al. have raised; we have in spades, along, of course, with a huge body of critics of Israel. You are not convinced. Fine, we can live with that. What we cannot abide, however, is malicious accusations of malice of those who disagree with you. Along with not seeing the point of repetition — life is too short — that is why there seems no point in continuing the “debate” with you.

25

Richard 07.19.12 at 10:15 am

I’m happy for others to judge my intellectual honesty, or lack of it. Yes, I removed your last comment: it didn’t add anything to the thread. That’s “imho” of course, but this is my blog. Again, I’m not “closing down the debate”. I’m editing the comment thread to stop it getting boring. (Too late!) Contrary opinions are always welcome. Repetitious hectoring is not.

I’ll leave that link to the Huff Post article, though you should know that the paper it refers to never had any standing as an official position of the Methodist Church, didn’t appear to have been linked from anywhere on the Methodist Church website, and has long-ago been removed.

Can I offer a handy hint, based on the subject of this thread? Take note of this sentence: “…there are a few folk who comment on this blog who only show up only when the post is on Israel, and who act as if Christians who disagree with them are anti-Semitic at worst, and egregiously misinformed and wrong-headed at best.” If you only read and comment on posts which are about Israel, you won’t have any real idea who I am. Nor do you give me the chance to know who you are.

26

Adam 07.19.12 at 10:50 am

Kim - thank you. I am glad you acknowledge that Methodists are in conflict with the mainstream Jewish community. You say this provides no evidence of ill intent. But you are in fact saying that most Jews are wrong on their own homeland. It also seems that you are not remotely bothered by this state of affairs. Your attitude seems more bullish than Richard. Would that be correct?

Richard, I have asked you where the church’s position on Hamas run Gaza has been stated. Would you mind pointing me to where I may find it?

Finally, you say you don’t know me - that’s true. I don’t know you either. I am happy to widen the discussion - for example, I would be keen to know what you think the road to peace should look like. What do you think needs to happen for peace between Israel and her neighbours to be realized? Is there a solution? It helps to know where we’re both coming from.

27

Richard 07.19.12 at 11:41 am

On your first paragraph, I’m sure you’d acknowledge that the minority opinion can be the one with truth on its side. (Otherwise you’re stuck with acknowledging that the Settlements are, as the majority would have it, illegal) Kim’s temperament is different to mine, but our opinions are similar on many subjects.

On Hamas, try here, here, here and here. You will acknowledge I’m sure that the Methodist Church has consistently called on Hamas to renounce violence and recognize the state of Israel.

Lastly, I like to keep threads ‘on topic’ where possible and I’d like to do so here. If we’re going to get to know one another it would be helpful to discuss a wider range of subjects than Israel/Palestine with you and I look forward to doing just that.

28

Kim 07.19.12 at 1:05 pm

No, Adam, I do not think I am more “bullish” than Richard. I think we’re pretty much singing from the same hymn sheet. We’ve just got different voices (his is more mellifluous than mine — after all, he’s a Methodist!).

As for most Jews being wrong on their homeland, hey, biblically, Jews have form on being wrong about their homeland. Especially the court prophets, i.e., the Israel-right-or-wrong prophets, the defenders of the political establishment and the status quo. Again check out Hananiah — and Jeremiah sticking it to him. Apologies if that sounds patronising, because you must know this.

Also, as an American, I would aver that most Americans are wrong on their homeland — American exceptionalism (with its faux-theological basis), etc. And as a Christian, I speak from a minority position on many issues — my Christological pacifism, for instance; i.e., I think that most Christians are wrong on some very important theological (and political) issues.

“Not bothered” by these states of affairs? Of course I am bothered. And one thing I do as a result is read, write, and teach about them — and constantly critically revisit my always-provisional working conclusions on them. On the other hand, I try not to get too worked up about them, ultimately on the grounds that (as the theologian Jaroslov Pelikan lapidarily puts it), “If Christ is not risen, nothing else matters; if Christ is risen — nothing else matters.” Which is not a recipe for quietism, rather an encouragement to have total confidence in God — and neither to fret about being in a minority, nor to demonise my opponents — nor to take myself too seriously.

29

Richard 07.19.12 at 9:00 pm

At the risk of ignoring my own advice about staying on-topic, can I thank you for ‘lapidarily’? A new word to me, and one I intend to put to use!

30

Kim 07.19.12 at 9:53 pm

The adverbial form is not in the OED — but why not?! ;)

31

Adam 07.19.12 at 10:56 pm

Richard

Your links simply serve to prove my point. Those truly are the most mealy mouthed pronouncements on Hamas - they are hardly criticisms. Indeed, these are simply urgings towards moderation. We are dealing with a genocidal terror organization which advocates openly the extermination of the Jews - ALL Jews - on this earth. Hamas has implemented policies which discriminate against women, whilst gay people have been killed. Journalists are tortured, whilst opposition Fatah members have been thrown to their deaths from the rooftops. Christians too are under intense pressure. Oh, and they also fetishize the killing of Jews- for being Jews - in their broadcasts, in their speeches, and in their actions.

And even in the context of urging “responsibility” towards this terror group, the church cannot resist condemnations of Israel. In other words, whislt no condemnation of Hamas is forthcoming, even mild urgings have to be “balanced” by Israel bashing.

It beggars belief that the church would even put Israel and Hamas on the same moral level - but it’s even worse than that - it bends over backwards to downplay Hamas’ crimes whilst it’s approach towards Israel nears hysteria. As I suspected, there are no calls at all for a boycott of Hamas. Richard, this is what I mean by intellectual dishonesty. Any serious analysis of the situation cannot fail to notice that there is an egregious bias at work here - and it is deeply immoral.

Kim - thanks for pointing out the failings of Jews re their historic homeland. I would merely point out to you that your faith and Islam both spread themselves across the globe through genocide and at the point of the sword. So I don’t really need lessons from you.

With such a hostile and hypocritical stance of the church, it is patently clear that whilst Jewish/Methodist relations are broken, they should remain so. Reaching out to people who display such ill will simply diminishes us, and we musn’t do it.

32

Richard 07.19.12 at 11:34 pm

I had a bit of a wager with myself. You’ve not disappointed me. I just respond to your closing sentiment with the observation that the Board of Deputies, while having continuing concerns, does not regard its relationship with the Methodist Church as broken.

I take it that having had your say, we’re done now.

Update: Please remember what I said about repetitious hectoring.

33

Kim 07.20.12 at 5:22 am

Kim - thanks for pointing out the failings of Jews re their historic homeland. I would merely point out to you that your faith and Islam both spread themselves across the globe through genocide and at the point of the sword. So I don’t really need lessons from you.

Well, yes, Adam, there is no end to the shame I feel over the Christian contribution to the history of human violence — above all, to the Shoah, sine qua non. But it sounds to me like you wouldn’t take lessons from anyone. You’re here simply to dish out the lessons. With tone. Which I understand. But beating us into submission with attitude really does signal the end of conversation. So so long, and take care.

34

Adam 07.20.12 at 9:31 am

35

Richard 07.20.12 at 9:53 am

No, not broken. That article is dated July 2010, immediately following the Methodist Conference that year. But this year, the Board of Deputies (while acknowledging concerns about the relationship, said “We are keen to continue to develop our dialogue and action with the Methodist Church, finding common ground and overcoming suspicion.” A strained relationship is not a broken one.

36

Adam 07.20.12 at 11:59 am

“Strained” or broken - play with semantics all you want - but it is the church’s actions which have led to this state of affairs.

37

Richard 07.20.12 at 12:08 pm

I’m not “playing with semantics”. You suggested that the relationship between Methodists and the Jewish community was broken “and should remain so”. The Board of Deputies clearly disagrees on both points. In fact, the synagogue in Southport hosted a very successful fringe event at the Methodist Conference in 2011.

38

Ric 07.20.12 at 12:54 pm

This is a fascinating debate, a very long way from being boring! To me it looks as though Adam has got the best of it, with Kim & Richard very much on the back foot - but then I would say that, wouldn’t I!
One of the key problems here is that it seems that the Methodist Church is equating Israel’s non-violent ways of defending itself against potential attack with the violent actions of Hamas et al. In the fourth link on comment 27 above (Methodist Conference Statements and Council Reports on Israel / Palestine 2002 – 2007) on pages 7-8, it states:
“Israel unilaterally ‘disengaged’ from the Gaza Strip last August, but it continues to control the territory’s borders, airspace and coastline. Hence the beach rocket attacks a couple of weeks ago.”
This implies that rocket attacks (and it is the mens rea of the attack, not the fact that it failed to kill any Israelis, that matters) are an appropriate response to border controls (NB: not hermetic sealing: food and other non-weaponizable necessities were passed through after checking). You cannot declare war on people and then expect them to look after you!

39

Adam 07.20.12 at 4:58 pm

Ric, you are right - except that Israel DOES look after Gazans. Around 10,000 Gazans received free medical treatment in Israel last year (which the lamestream media would never tell you), whilst Israel provides power to Gaza - even when Hamas has fired rockets at the very power station providing its power! (and killing two Israeli workers in the process).

In my view, Israel has no obligations to Gaza at all - the Hamas administration is openly racist, and calls for the extermination of all Jews in its charter. It regards itself as being at war with Israel - and it is unprecedented for the victim of an aggressor to provide aid to that aggressor whilst it continues to deliberately target innocents. Hamas fires rockets indiscriminately into Israel (especially at school picking up time - what a nice bunch of guys). Yet the Methodists have not called for a boycott of Hamas - no, for them, Jews living in Judea and Samaria are the problem - and they, alone, should be singled out for boycott and opprobrium.

It is a disgusting policy.

Richard, you are right about the Board, although I think they are ridiculous for trying to cozy up to apologists for Hamas. You should know, Richard, that the BOD is often referred to with little respect wihin the Jewish community - precisely because they are so meek and timid. It is a characteristic of British Jews to take the “softly softly” approach to problems encountered by Jews - and it is a strategy which is failing miserably - as Methodist conferences demonstrate.

40

Richard 07.20.12 at 5:08 pm

By all means, have the last word Adam.

41

Adam 07.21.12 at 9:42 am

Richard - that you not only refuse to reply to my straightforward question, but that you also choose to censor it, says a lot.

42

Richard 07.21.12 at 10:32 am

Yes it does. It says that the point of your ’straightforward question’ has been made several times in this thread already. I’ve said I don’t want a repetitious comment thread, and I’ll edit the comment thread accordingly. I gave you the last word: there’s no pleasing some people.

43

Adam 07.21.12 at 2:58 pm

Indeed, by censoring the question, any casual reader would make no sense of this thread. Is that the point - to make yourself look better than you would otherwise?

44

Richard 07.21.12 at 3:55 pm

Indeed not. I haven’t “censored the question”. It’s been asked directly in comment 16 & 26, with a similar point being made by you in other comments. I didn’t say I’d answered the question. I said the point has been raised several times. And it has. If I was censoring (especially because I was afraid of the question) it would have disappeared and stayed disappeared.

I’ve tried to keep this friendly. I’ve invited you to consider reading and commenting on the blog around other subjects so that we can get to know one another. I’ve offered an ‘open goal’ for you to put your point in whatever way you want (and one commenter did). But now I have to say, you’re trying my patience. 5 comments in 10 minutes?! 4 of them have to go I’m afraid.

45

Adam 07.22.12 at 2:17 pm

Richard, after admitting that you haven’t answered the question, perhaps now would be a good time?

Why is the Methodist church boycotting Jews who live in Judea and Samaria, and not Hamas (or anyone else)?

46

Richard 07.22.12 at 5:20 pm

You don’t give up, do you? As it goes, I could answer the question and would have but for two reasons:
1. I don’t think there’s any point. You haven’t shown much interest in listening to what I’ve got to say
2. I dislike being hectored

But I’ll make you an offer: I’ll offer a serious answer to your question when you’ve taken up my offer for friendly dialogue on a wider range of subjects than this one.

47

Richard armbach 05.03.14 at 11:26 am

“Daphne Anson” is not a “she “

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