The Biblical Roots of Nazi Racism

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by Neil Godfrey

fightingwordsNot only Christian apologists but even some respected academic historians argue that Christianity had nothing to do with Nazism and that the Holocaust was inspired by atheistic, non-Christian ideologies. Not so, argues Hector Avalos, in Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence:

In fact, we shall argue that the Holocaust has its roots in biblical traditions that advocate genocide. (Kindle loc. 4093)

Avalos surveys the range of published viewpoints that argue Hitler and Nazism were driven by atheistic, anti-Christian and pro-evolutionary agendas but writes that

the main theoreticians [among Nazi ideologues] saw themselves as religious. (loc. 4158)

Cover of "The End of Biblical Studies"Hector Avalos is already renowned/notorious for The End of Biblical Studies. There he argued that the biblical texts are without any relevance today, or at least are no more relevant than any other writings from ancient times. Scholars who attempt to argue for the moral relevance of the Bible in today’s world, Avalos argues, do so by tendentiously re-interpreting selected passages out of their original contexts and arbitrarily downplaying passages that contradict their claims. Theoretically, Avalos reasons, one could take Hitler’s Mein Kampf and likewise focus on the good passages in it and insist they over-ride the bad ones, and that the negative passages should be interpreted symbolically and through the good sentiments we read into the better passages. No-one would attempt to justify the relevance of Mein Kampf by such a method. Yet Avalos points out that that’s the way scholars justify the relevance of the Bible in today’s world.

This post is based on another work by Avalos, Fighting Words, in which he analyses the way religious beliefs can and do contribute to violence. The full thesis is something I will address in a future post. Here I look at just one controversial point made in that book.

Avalos does not deny that Nazism drew upon scientific ideas of its day. But it can also be concluded that these scientific notions of race were extras added to ideas that had a deeper cultural heritage, in particular as they found expression in the holy book of Christianity. A modern and prominent theorist of race, Milford Wolpoff, traces modern ideas of racism right back to Platonic ideas of “essentialism“.

Ernst Haeckel

Plattdüütsch: Ernst Haeckel nadem he ut Italie...
Ernst Haeckel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ernst Haeckel (1834-1913) was perhaps the most influential of evolutionary theorists and writers at the turn of the twentieth century; his views were widely embraced with his book, The Riddle of the World (Die Welträtsel) having sold 100,000 copies before the turn of the century. Haeckel popularized the idea that different human races each evolved from different species of ape-men. Exterminations and exploitation of lesser races by superior ones was considered the inevitable consequence of Darwinism. The Nazi Party’s publications cited Haeckel frequently.

At the same time, Hitler saw racism as compatible with religion, as do many biblical authors. Even Haeckel, who is often maligned for supposedly introducing scientific grounds for genocide, saw himself as simply reexpressing biblical concepts in scientific language.

Note, for example, Haeckel’s comments on his vision of Utopia:

The future morality, free from all religious dogma, and grounded in a clear knowledge of nature’s law, teaches us the ancient wisdom of the Golden Rule … through the words of the Gospel: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

As in Christian and Jewish texts, “your neighbor” originally meant a fellow member of your in-group. Thus, Haeckel’s interpretation of “neighbor,” even if exegetically flawed, was based on the same concept of insider and outsider that is present in the earlier religions.

Avalos likens the Nazis to the “scientific creationists” of their day:

So from Haeckel to Hitler, Nazis did not see themselves as opposing biblical principles so much as they thought that modern science could be used to support, purify, and update those biblical principles. Nazis were often more like the scientific creationists of today who believe their pseudoscience supports the Bible. (loc. 4290-4297)

Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels & Theozoology

English: Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels Polski: Jörg...
Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lanz von Liebenfels (1874-1954), for a time a Cistercian monk, was inspired by new archaeological finds for the Assyrian empire and new discoveries of primate and dinosaur fossils. With an extensive knowledge of Hebrew and Near Eastern languages he combined these interests with Bible narratives to formulate a theory he published in Theozoology, 1905.

This work indicated that lower orders of a human species (ape-men, Neanderthals. . .) were the product of Eve and the serpent as suggested in Genesis 3. I leave it to interested readers to follow the above link to learn more of the bizarre details. The Bible is said to express special disgust for certain races through animalistic descriptions. So Esau is said to be “hairy” (Genesis 27:11), and of his descendants, the Edomites, while Psalm 137:9 gloats:

Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!

“Lanz’s characterization of Jews and non-Germans was not that different from characterizations of Jews in many Islamic traditions. Well-known in Islam is the tradition that God turned the Jews into apes because of idolatry (Sura 2:65). . . . Likewise, Ibn Hisham’s biography of Muhammad, relates an episode in which Muhammad speaks of how God made . . . some of the Hebrews into “apes” . . . for their sins.”

“Ilse Lichtenstadter has traced this idea of devolving into apes to the Jewish Talmud. In Sanhedrin 109b , we find the curious story of what happened to [groups who were dispersed after the attempt to build the Tower of Babel. . . One group] was turned into apes (kophim).In short, Jewish exegetical traditions acknowledged the existence of inferior and bestial races.”

“Likening people deemed inferior or “outsiders” to apes [can be traced back to] the third millennium BCE. A Sumerian text [describes Gutians having] canine intelligence and apes’ features.”

Lanz argued that this sort of hatred is only explicable if the victims are the products of “bestial miscegenations”. Such beast-men are notorious for their perverted sexual habits; they were the same as inhabited Sodom.

Jews and non-Germans (non-Aryans) generally were from these ape-men/neanderthal type creatures. There was a constant, cosmic struggle between these “beast-creatures” and the “pure Aryan stock”. The solution and the only sure way to avoid catastrophe for the blond German race was to castrate and sterilize young Jewish “good-for-nothings”.

Lanz’s racist ideology found support in “at least one hundred biblical references” compared with “only a handful of references to scientific works on anthropology and paleontology.” His reading of the Bible was certainly tendentious, but it is equally true that he did find in the Bible bestial descriptions of unfavoured races.

In fact, the Bible was certainly the first great popularizer of racist descriptions of the other in the ancient Near East. Despite the fact that we find depictions of enemies in bestial terms, Jerrold S. Cooper observes that “Mesopotamian sources of all periods are surprisingly free of racist ideology.” (The Curse of Agade, pp. 56-57) Peter Machinist also notes that “nowhere in Mesopotamian literature is there anything like a systematic ethnography of a foreign group or a treatise on Mesopotamian national character.” . . . It is not until the Bible comes on the scene, therefore, that we truly have a consistent and persistent authority for racism in Western civilization. (loc. 4193)

Alfred Rosenberg

Alfred Rosenberg, head of Reich Ministry for t...
Alfred Rosenberg, head of Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alfred Rosenberg was, Avalos informs us, “a premier theorist of race in Nazi Germany”. His book, The Myth of the Twentieth Century: An Assessment of the Psychical-Spiritual Struggle of our Time, sold around half a million copies between 1930 and 1936, being “second only to Hitler’s Mein Kampf in sales and reputation.” The Myth of the Twentieth Century “is replete with biblical quotations.”

Rosenberg has sometimes been accused of being anti-Christian, but in fact was apparently opposed to organized “Christendom” that had departed from the true teachings of Jesus.

Rosenberg sought to purify Christianity by going back to its Nordic roots. In this he was supported by the well-known biblical scholar Ernest Renan (1823-1892). Thus, Rosenberg did not repudiate Christianity insomuch as he thought he was following the true and original teachings of Christ. (loc. 4202)

Rosenberg believed that the sacrificial death of Jesus was a “Jewish corruption” of true Christianity and that it was the life of Jesus that was the meaningful exemplar for Germans. One should love one’s race; later this teaching was corrupted to mean some universal love for all. Rosenberg praised the second century Marcion for his rejection of the Old Testament. The Gospel of John, Rosenberg taught, expressed the truly “aristocratic spirit” of Christ and “strove against the collective bastardization, orientalization and Judaization of Christianity.”

Indeed, Rosenberg syncretized Christian concepts found in the New Testament with Germanic myths, as well as myths of his own creation or adaptation.

Rosenberg described his views as a form of “positive Christianity (positive Christentum), as opposed to the one represented by the Asiatic clergy.”

I mentioned above that Rosenberg relied heavily on biblical passages. He agreed with biblical scholars, including Jewish ones, who understood that the command to “thou shalt not take advantage of thy neighbour” in Leviticus 25:17 really refers to fellow Hebrews and not to everyone.

He understood that the Bible did indeed stress the necessity of genealogical purity. Genesis 24:3-4 teaches us that Abraham insisted on marrying into the right blood-line. The Bible was used to demonstrate the immorality of interracial marriage and in passages like Deuteronomy 23:3-6 laws were leveled against offering assistance to other ethnic groups.

The Bible also introduces the idea of the killing of certain groups because of their physical attributes. In 2 Samuel 8:2 David does just this: he kills the strongest of his captives and spares the weakest who would pose less threat in the future. The latter become slaves. David was thus deliberately genetically weakening (in terms of physical strength and stature) the race of Moabites.

In sum, Lanz and Rosenberg illustrate that there was a long tradition, traceable to Muslim, Hebrew, and Near Eastern sources, that saw groups of people as being inferior or meriting violence on the basis of genealogical identity. All of these sources posited the existence of bestial races who posed a danger to the privileged group. (loc. 4221)

Mein Kampf and Race

What of Hitler’s own views of race? First thing Hector Avalos points out is that any reading of Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, shows us that Hitler was not an atheist. Hitler wrote:

Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator; by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.

English: On the Jews and Their Lies (old germa...
On the Jews and Their Lies by Martin Luther, 1543. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hitler also saw Protestantism as an ally of German nationalism:

Protestantism as such is a better defender of the interests of Germanism, insofar as this is grounded in its genesis and later tradition.

He also claimed Martin Luther was one of his heroes.

For Hitler, race was a matter of blood. It was all important to keep the blood “pure”. For Hitler,

Blood sin and desecration of the race are the original sin in this world and the end of a humanity which surrenders to it.” Expressing a belief reminiscent of one found in Leviticus 17:11-14, Hitler exclaims that “in the blood alone resides the strength as well as the weakness of man.” (loc. 4232)

Avalos sees it this way:

If we understand racism, then, as the idea that genealogical groupings determine rankings of rights and privileges, then biblical racism and Nazi racism are indeed parallel. (loc. 4243)

It All Began Long Before Darwin

As early as the second of first century BCE we find a writing testifying to an act of ethnic cleansing against the Jews because of health scares. Lysimachus wrote that the Jews were expelled from Egypt because they had leprosy. The claim is very probably unhistorical but what is noteworthy is that the author thought such an action conceivable and justifiable.

Ezra 9:1-2 expresses dismay that Jews had intermarried with non-Jews. Genealogical purity is clearly considered to be the express will of God. Ezra 9:11-12 carries the suggestion that “pollution” can be avoided by banning mixed marriages. Blood ties are stronger than family ties with the consequence that Ezra declared that such marriages invited the wrath of God and demanded that wives and children by “sent away” (Ezra 10:14, 3).

The Talmud interprets Genesis 4:10 (where God says he can hear the “bloods — (plural) — of Abel” crying from the ground) as indicating that descendants, genealogical lines, are identified by “blood”. The plural is taken as referring to Abel’s multiple would-have-been descendants.

GoiteinSimilarly the “bonds of blood were stronger than the ties of marriage” among medieval Jews examined in a massive study by Samuel Goitein.

Spain, 1449, statutes were enacted to discriminate against Jews who, even though they had converted to Christianity, were nonetheless not Spaniards “by blood”.

The archbishop of Toledo, Juan Martinez Siliceo, in 1547, proposed legislation based on limpieza de sangre — i.e. “cleanliness by blood” or “purity of blood”.

Some of Hitler’s specific terminology for “purity of the blood” (e.g. “Reinhaltung des Blutes”) corresponds quite closely to the terminology applied against Jews in sixteenth-century Spain. Likewise, in Islam we find that blood is also believed to be the locus of genealogical relationships. Thus, one Hadith speaks of Allah making blood sacred . . . . Hitler, therefore, probably mirrors Christian or Islamic ideas more than Darwinian ones here. (loc. 4255)

Nazi laws forbidding marriage between Jews and Germans (the Nuremberg Laws)

are simply a continuance of Christian and biblical concepts. The marriage of Christians and Jews was already forbidden by the Council of Elvira in the fourth century.

When the Nazi’s planned to place Jews in labour camps they were in fact reviving Martin Luther’s seven point plan against the Jews.

Genocide Medicalized

The Hebrew Bible frequently speaks of foreign races in terms of “contamination”. They represented a disease to be “cut off”. See Deuteronomy 32:43 and Numbers 35:34.

Canaanites and Amalekites were to be entirely exterminated lest they corrupt and pollute the “pure” Israelites. Similarly Hitler feared that Jews would “seduce and contaminate Aryan women.”

Biblical scholar and fundamentalist Gleason Archer has justified biblical genocide in his Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (available for $2.66 on amazon) again with medical terminology:

Just as a wise surgeon removes dangerous cancer from the patient’s body by use of the scalpel so God employed the Israelites to remove such dangerous malignancies from human society. (p. 121)

For Avalos, it is possible to argue that Hitler hated Judaism not because Judaism taught a racist ideology, but because it was a racist ideology that proved itself very successful. The Jewish religion taught the superiority and distinctiveness of the Jewish race and thus preserved the Jews throughout their long history.

It is one of the most ingenious tricks that was ever devised, to make this [Jewish] state sail under the flag of ‘religion,’ thus assuring it of the tolerance which the Aryan is always ready to accord a religious creed. For actually, the Mosaic religion is nothing other than a doctrine for the preservation of the Jewish race.

For Hitler, therefore, the solution was to assert a racist ideology that would match and overcome the Jewish one. (loc. 4290)

Hitler was no different from many biblical authors who came to view racism as entirely compatible with religion.

Of course many today do not accept Hitler’s or the Nazi views of the Bible but that makes little difference to reality. The fact is that the Bible is free to be interpreted in many diverse ways according to the cultural proclivities of the age or the personal preferences of individuals. No one way is any more verifiable than another.

The Supreme Tragic Irony

Nazi racism is a synthesis of modern pseudoscience and biblical concepts of ethnocentrism and genealogical purity. In many cases, biblical claims were misunderstood, and in other cases biblical claims in fact had a racist basis. In this regard, Nazi ideology is similar to creationist ideology, which believes that scientific findings support the biblical stories of Creation and the Flood. (loc. 4296)

Both the Hebrew Bible and Nazism have in common:

  • Commands for ethnic purity
  • Discouragement of interracial marriage
  • Foreigners viewed as contaminants
  • Genocide is a valid solution

A modern Jewish scholar, Jon Levenson, in “Is There a Counterpart in the Hebrew Bible to the New Testament Antisemitism” (published in the Journal of Ecumenical Studies 22, no. 2, 1985), concluded

Jews would do well to consider that the factors which impeded the banishment of Christian stereotypes are not quite without their counterparts in Judaism.

Avalos remarks on the “supreme tragic irony” of the Holocaust: it was a reversal of the very policy of racial extermination systematically promulgated in the Hebrew Bible.

Nazi ideology simply had better technology to do what biblical authors had said they would do to their enemies.

Hector Avalos concludes:

The bulk of the evidence indicates that Nazism was indeed a synthesis of Christian anti-Judaism, Israelite ethnocentrism, anti-Christian paganism, and pseudoscientific thinking. Religion was a necessary precursor to this synthesis. The reason the Jews were identified as a distinct group had predominantly religious rationales in European history. . . . Hitler saw himself as trying to counteract Hebrew racism, which he saw as the main counterpart and enemy of the German race. (loc. 4316)

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47 thoughts on “The Biblical Roots of Nazi Racism”

  1. There shouldn’t be anything controversial to Avalos’ conclusions other than the fact that he is willing to voice them. For example, Sigmund Freud’s 1949 Moses and Monotheism appears to have been motivated by the desire to counter the biblical underpinnings of anti-semitism as expressed (then) most recently by the Nazis and their genocidal designs against the Jews. By demonstrating that Jews were not, in fact, distinct from Egyptians, he sought to both undermine the credibility of the biblical accounts of the Jews as a distinct race, as well as the accounts of Jewish genocides against other peoples.

    If Avalos could be accused of anything, it might be that he soft-peddled things a bit too much. There really was no difference between Nazi anti-semitism and the Christian anti-semitism of the time, other than the means that the Nazis were willing to undertake to address it. The hatred was the same, and so was its source and rationalization.

  2. Now we’re in a topic I have some experience with…by-product of being married for a short time to a Croat lady of an Ustasha background back in the early eighties.

    Most people aren’t aware of things like a 1934 Concordat between the Vatican and the Nazi regime, or aware that, unlike his predecessor who was both anti-Communist and anti-Nazi, the wartime pope was only anti-Communist.

    Croatia’s wartime Ustasha regime tended to treat the war as a religious war. Everything in the Ustashi death camps were on the Vatican’s heresy list. I might also cite the Ustasha’s treatment of Jewish shtetls in the Ustasha state…Baka Topala and Baka Polanka were both wiped out.

    Collaborationist regimes in Eastern Europe? Predominantly Catholic.

    Also in such death camps were dissident Catholics.

    Think of that Concordat in 1934 as an extension of the Inquisition.

    One thing I’ve really got to point out about Jews having been in Israel in the nineties…there are Jews of all looks and descriptions and also Ethiopian Jews. There is room for converts of any nationality or color, even though Judaism does not SEEK converts. There is the idea of the righteous non-adherent and sojourner with the Jews. Things that don’t come across clear enough in the idea of Judaism we get from Christianity.

    No, Hitler wasn’t an atheist, he was, if I remember, a good Catholic boy.

    And how DID Ustasha war criminals escape Europe? How did their wartime leader Ante Pavolic get over to South America?

    That too goes through a church network. For that I can cite a book called “Ratlines.”

      1. That’s a basic health issue, Neil. Even here in Australia we still make sure blood donations are carefully checked now, ESPECIALLY after the first AIDS problem where there were contamination of blood donations and people picking up HIV/AIDS from donated blood.

        Remember too, what you cited pointed out there was an outcry even within Israel…probably louder than it was in the outside world.

        Might bring up Yemenite Jews too, since they’re not white…but are regardless an integral part of Israeli society.

        They don’t segregate in Israel. Israeli-Arab citizens have full rights and vote, are members of Knesset, Supreme Court Judges, lots more. Likewise the Ethiopian Jewish community is settling in and enjoying the same rights as every Israeli…something that wasn’t the case back in Ethiopia.

        1. My reading of the event was that the dumping of the blood was done without testing of it for contaminants and it was that that caused the furore. I don’t believe Israelis are any different from any other peoples — I am sure they have their racists too as well as those opposed to racism in their midst as do probably most or all peoples generally.

          I have read about issues like this, the controversies faced with respect to “black Jews”, in Israel from time to time over the years and don’t see their issues as different from what we might expect in any other country. There are good and bad people, idealistic and less informed, in every place.

          1. I’m not disputing that there’s the occasional racist in Israel…but at least there’s not as many as people think. No, they’re not perfect, no disputing that…but I like the way they try harder to do something about it and shift the racists back out to the edges. Unfortunately we elect ours.

            1. Harder than whom? I feel wary of any claims that one group of people are by nature more moral than another. You may not be saying that, but I do agree with the observation that antisemitism since the Second World War/1967 has bifurcated into negative attitudes towards the unnaturally bad Arab and unrealistic extolling of the unnaturally virtuous Jews.

              Both are in a sense dehumanizations — one replaced with a demon and the other with an angel. I prefer to see no difference between the humanity of either of them and us.

              (I wish no racist leaders had ever been elected to any position of power in Israel or any other nation. The record clearly demonstrates racists have been elected to power in Israel just as they have in Australia and Palestine.)

              1. That’s just the point, Neil…Israelis actually don’t consider themselves better than anyone else. They don’t claim they’re perfect.

                Unfortunately, anti-Semitism now has morphed to anti-Israel/anti-Zionism. That’s in seeing everything the Israelis do as wrong.

                It’s still the same old anti-Semitism under a new guise. And the problem with anti-Semitism is it really doesn’t matter what the Jews do, it’s never good enough and they’ll be considered “bad” or “wrong” for two entirely contradictory things.

                In the end, I don’t see them wanting to wipe out or poach parts of Saudi Arabia, which WOULD be the equivalent of what the PA and Hamas (and Hezbollah and a few other groups) want to do to them.

                Perhaps I tire of seeing the Jews still demonized when actually they’re running a country that treats Muslims and Christians, Druze and Bedouin, Arab and Jews better than most countries of the Middle East do.

                Or should I bring up the Syrian civil war to illustrate my point? The Opposition groups in Syria led by Al-Qaida contingents have NO care for minorities or non-Sunnis. Whatever we thought about the Assads, at least the minorities were somewhat safer than they are under the Opposition groups.

              2. I have never suggested that Israelis think they’re perfect. I think you have misunderstood my point. I don’t think the Israelis are different from anyone else. It is apologists for Israel who very often express a fundamentalist goodness about Israel as a nation. Yes, they make mistakes, the claims go, but fundamentally they mean well. They are not like their Arab neighbours who are not like that at all and want to drive the into the sea. That’s the idea that comes across from many apologists of Zionist policy.

                Criticizing nationalism in its extreme forms that led to expansionism, dispossession of peoples, wars, etc is not racism. I criticize my own nation’s past and present when it displays such tendencies. Unfortunately, to dare criticize Israel for the same things is to risk being branded an anti-semite — which is outrageous. It leaves one nation immune from criticism. Do I have to say how many Jewish friends I have, or how many Jews make the same criticisms themselves — especially within Israel?

                There is nothing anti-semitic about condemning injustice and cruelty where it exists, whether committed by either Semitic branch, the Arabs or the Jews.

              3. I can’t reply to the latest bit in line with it, as it doesn’t have a reply button, Neil…but one thing I found endearing about Israelis when over there in 1990 and 1991 was that they do beat their own breasts about how they treat others. Sometimes a bit too much.

                But there are good institutions in Israel where self-criticism is heartily exercised. However, we can’t compare Australia to there. For starters, English colonists came to a country with an indigenous population.

                For the Holy Land, the indigenous people are still Jewish. Just the ones who remained in the place had to sit through some real crap circumstances while others wandered the world in exile.

                Same way the Arabs are indigenous to Arabia, but not “Palestine.” While we’re at it, Arabs are indigenous to Arabia, but not Syria, Egypt, Libya, or Morocco.

                And there ARE indigenous populations now MINORITIES in those countries who might feel the Arab occupation of their lands is unjust.

                Likewise, there are Christians and other minorities in Arabic countries AND especially the PA areas and Gaza who don’t think the Israelis are that bad. Christians in Bethlehem and Nazareth didn’t suffer under Israel…but they’re becoming a dying species under the PA…and that’s not a pun. At least the Israelis never expected them to convert to Judaism…and they could at least be sure the Israelis respected the Christian holy sites. The same cannot be said about the PA.

                At least, even with it’s faults, you can be Christian in Israel, you can be Muslim, you can be Jew, Druze, Bedouin or Arab.

                But in Arabia…you don’t find Christian churches and you especially don’t find Jews.

                As for Palestinians…I think refugees of EVERY other conflict where there have been refugees would ask why the Palestinians get a special deal where refugee status can be passed on two generations. At the same time…how many Jewish refugees were forced out of Arab lands after 1948? A lot. At least their people absorbed them.

                Perhaps we should be asking countries of the Middle East why they haven’t absorbed their Palestinian brethren and still keep them in ghetto’d refugee camps.

              4. I know we can find raw data that renders many of the views you express here at least open to question.

                I am also generally very wary of any argument that presents a simplistic black and white scenario in human conflicts.

          2. “My reading of the event was that the dumping of the blood was done without testing of it for contaminants ….”

            Nobody tests blood for (HIV) “contaminants”. They test blood for antibodies to HIV. Antibodies to HIV can take a fair amount of time to appear, even though the blood itself is pathogenic.

            This is an important point. Blood banks simply can not afford to be advocates for minority rights – they have to be advocates for a safe blood supply. Period. That means disqualifying donors based on criteria that might seem bigoted.

    1. The fact that most Nazis were believing Christians seems to become forgotten in most discussions. It’s more fashionable to bring some of the Neo-Pagan fringe to the forefront.

      One small correction: Haeckel’s book is spelled “Die Welträtsel” (or old-fashioned “Die Welträthsel”).

      1. Thanks for the correction. Yes, one of Hector Avalos’s points is that a good many Christians and scholars, too, who should know better, are loath to blame Christianity or the Bible in any way for the racism that culminated in the Holocaust — so background sociological reasons are found, or extremist interests are blamed, and Christians love to blame atheism or evolution. Perhaps scholars in the backs of their minds are a bit worried about being branded anti-Christian.

  3. I’m sure over the centuries and a millenia or two racists of all types have tried to claim a biblical reason for it. And perhaps looked at some of the sections this posts cite.

    Here’s the problem. The Israelites and Jews read something in plain text and understood it. Choosing was not about elitism:

    Deuteronomy 9:6
    “Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people.”

    Missing this bit is where racist ideologies using the bible as a justification have always got it wrong.

  4. Neil, I keep having to reply to some things in the wrong part of the comments because of the lack of the reply link…

    Things that are open to question…no problem with that…scientific process IS about questioning. Whether something passes muster from hard evidence, archaeological or documentary.

    This is why I enjoy your work on this blog because it’s a fair way to examine the whole Jesus thing. Does Jesus past muster in terms of archaeology and documentation?

    Not really.

    Likewise, examining the claims of Israelis versus Palestinians requires some hard scientific process too.

    Which group has real archaeology backing their claim? Which doesn’t mind independent scrutiny of the documentary record? Which group doesn’t mind if you DO look at the independent record?

    SO from a purely scientific approach, can you at least show me evidence of an ancient kingdom of Arabic Palestine? Tell me the names of its key leaders? Can you tell me when this sovereign state of Arabic Palestine existed? Can you tell me anything about the ancient Arabic Palestine’s date of dissolution? Or when it’s Diaspora started?

    Scientific process. That’s not a simplistic black-and-white view…that’s a desire to see hard evidence of one narrative over another.

    Anyway, I like your work here in this blog and the points you examine, so I prefer to get back to reading the latest posts.

    1. Archaeology is a controversial topic in Israel for some — some archaeologists publish findings that do not support the national ideological narrative. Not everyone is happy with certain archaeological claims do not support the historical reality of the united kingdom of biblical times.

      Your point about wanting me to post evidence for something I don’t believe existed mystifies me. You seem to have a black-and-white either-or view of the record that does not bear any relationship to any of the historical reconstructions based on archaeological finds that I have read.

      No-one has ever suggested there was any such thing as the kingdom you are asking me to provide evidence for. I simply don’t get your point.

      (The indented threads run out after a certain number. We are stuck with the as-is set up now. No problems.)

      1. We do reach a point of agreement here…we have it pretty clear that one narrative didn’t exist. That’s non “black-and-white thinking, that’s simply an observation of a reality. There’s a narrative in the whole subject that has no basis in reality, yet is often told…and believed by a certain percentage of people…without question.

        Yeah…archaeology has it’s moments, too…but at least through it we know of independent testimony of the ancient kingom(s) of Israel. I’m sure you’re aware of archaeology in other countries that attests to kings of the two-kingdoms era (Northern kingdom of Samaria and southern kingdom of Judea).

        Even at its worst, archaeology in such a manner gives us some independent evidence to work with.

        So one narrative has at least some facts backing it…while the other side makes a lot of statements regarding their own narrative, but not a great deal of facts to support it. In a situation as contentious as the one we’re talking about…that’s a crucial thing.

        I tend to equate this also to the Christian thing, too. I was brought up Christian and till the last year or two, at least kept some thought to the fact Jesus might have been real.

        However, if I were to justify that belief now on an evidential basis, from actually archaeology or documentation…I’d find myself unable to. Taking a good, questioning look at the history from the actual documentation of that era…and the archaelogy…I couldn’t really defend any original beliefs I had.

        Your site here has helped with that, pointing out a heap of things. Stephan Hullers, too…since he digs deeper into the Samaritan liturgy and theology to such a level it makes more sense of some elements of the NT…St. Stephen in Acts misidentifying Shechem as the burial spot of Sarah being one such point, as that misindentification makes more sense if St. Stephen was reciting the Samaritan narrative of the time.

        However, that wouldn’t require me to suddenly take up Samaritanism. It just makes the picture a little clearer.

        Likewise…in the Middle East conflict…if I were trying to figure it out at all…from ANY sort of perspective, scientific, legal, historial, evidentary…I would still have to assess it by some hard facts. Not by the narrative, but by hard facts. And that comes down eventually to…which narrative actually has any sort of facts behind it. So yes, there are some problematic parts of archaeology…but not enough problematic parts that we can’t determine who really had a past and real tie to that patch of turf.

        Meantime, in places like Tel Aviv-Yafo and Haifa, Beersheva and a few other places in the Israeli side of the green line, Jew and Arab will get along famously…have their own debates about this, then have a coffee or a beer together…and get on with life.

        1. I have never heard of the narrative you are saying has no basis before. I have no idea who believes it. And I don’t know what difference it would make to anything if there were some nutters who argued it as I understand it from your account.

          But as an aside I will ask: Where did you hear about this narrative? What source/s? Where can I hear it expressed today and by whom?

          And how does the existence of an ancient kingdom of Samaria and another later kingdom of Judah that have precious little in common with the biblical narrative have any relevance to how people should treat each other today? Palestine was not the only option originally on the table among the first Zionist leaders wanting a homeland for Jews but it was chosen in preference to the others because of certain religious pressure-groups, I understand.

          1. Okay, dealing with the last paragraph first…Uganda was suggested to Hertzl initially. I think I read he very nearly went for it as accepting what he could…but others pointed out to him the Jewish people have NO history with Uganda, let alone holy places or attachment to it whatsoever.

            Imagine how it would be today if they’d accepted Uganda.

            On the other hand…the Holy Land they had an attachment to. It was still the place of their ancient history. Even the negative parts of their history, like the Divided Kingdoms split into Samaria and Judea. Archaeology elsewhere attests to Omri and Ahab, two rulers of that period.

            The narrative I refer to is the Palestinian narrative. Was it Abbas or one of his cabinet who recently claimed they were descendants of the Canaanites or Philistines?

            Let’s scientifically question that narrative, then. Since earlier you were mentioning that archaeology in the Holy Land may produce different intepretations, I think I can remember some archaeological theory that ancient Israelites and Canaanites weren’t that much different…but that would mean the Israelites and later Jews have more tie to the Canaanites than the Palestinians. THEN there’s the Philistines? Who were the Philistines? Ancient Greek sea peoples…coming from the Aegean.

            The Palestinian narrative, however, is used as a justification for a heap of terrorism. Yet you can drive more mack trucks through the holes in it if it were really questioned properly…

            …and that brings us back to treatment of people.

            If the Palestinian narrative is a load of made-up hooey…then how can it really be used by them to justify their violence and terrorism?

            And if the Israelis are still treating Arabs, Druze, Bedouin, Christians, Muslims and the Bahai faith nicely inside the Green Line…then the Palestinian narrative still has holes in it so big you could drive the Millenium Falcon through.

            1. I thought you were talking about a narrative about some independent Arab Kingdom of Palestine, no?

              You write:

              The narrative I refer to is the Palestinian narrative. Was it Abbas or one of his cabinet who recently claimed they were descendants of the Canaanites or Philistines?

              This is something I notice quite often. So very often those who take a very strong position for Israel turn out to not be very sure of the basis of their claims when pushed a little to verify them. This is one of the reasons for my posts on one facet of the history of modern Palestine. I would like more of us to be more careful to read widely on all sides and always be on the lookout for verified claims versus emotive ones. Culturally the West has a vested interest in the Zionist narrative and we need to always keep that in mind — I don’t mean that our cultural interest makes it invalid, but all claims need verification.

              Yes, the Kimberleys in Australia was also considered; also Madagascar, and some others. Odd that Jews who suggested these options must have been ignorant of their own history? I think it’s important to understand why Jews could indeed make such proposals at that time. Have you looked into that question? Who exactly was proposing these alternatives? Why? Who, exactly, opposed them? Why? It is easy to make casual assumptions that may not turn out to be correct.

              But as for violence and terror is that all one-sided? One has only to compare the death statistics, surely. Do we have to choose between narratives to decide whom we side with? I don’t believe so. I don’t see any relevance to archaeology turning up a record of an ancient kingdom or Canaanite city (that have just about zilch in common with any biblical narrative we know) to the question of violence today.

              My posts on the transfer of the Palestinians (especially the earlier ones) give some hard documented evidence from Jewish sources that the Arabs were more upset over what was happening to them in their own time than they were about living out any ancient narrative.

              But as for the theme of Hector Avalos’s book, it seems you are justifying one religious narrative over another’s narrative, yes?


              In talking with both sides there is one theme that seems to be repeated so often: one side will speak much about grand narratives; the other about daily suffering and conditions. It’s an interesting contrast.

              1. Pretty much everything I’ve read indicates it wasn’t Jews suggesting Uganda…as for the others, if anyone Jewish thought of those places, no, they really didn’t know their own history well.

                The point is…the narratives of the Palestinians justify their claims that the Israelis are “occupiers” and justify Palestinian violence. Narratives of an attachment to that patch which doesn’t have a basis in may facts of any type. Yet on a fantasy, they think it okay to “resist” the Israelis. Worse…the martyr mentality. That ideology alone turns their own people to cannon fodder. Yes, the death tolls are somewhat lopsided, but it does show the Israelis do a better job of keeping their people alive. We should factor in also the deaths of those merely ACCUSED of “collaboration” with Israel.

                It’s a lot of hard work to prevent loss of life among Israelis. The warning time for rockets coming over from Gaza is only seconds. The fact that few now are killed by Hamas rocket shots is a mixture of miracle and hard work there. By the same token, one town that Hamas fire on constantly, Sderot, has NEVER fired a rocket or anything like that in Gaza’s direction. And it’s NOT like Hamas or Islamic Jihad give warning when they fire rockets.

                Then again, Saddam Hussein fired 39 scud shots into Israel in 1991 and could only kill 1 Israeli direct by scud.

              2. I’m a little surprised you don’t seem to think it worth checking to learn the facts behind the various alternative proposals for a Jewish homeland but seem content with your own surmise.

                These [your points] are all the things we read in the newspapers and hear on the news. It is the narrative the mainstream media gives us. But it appears you are not familiar with the Palestinian side of the news, except perhaps some excerpts that come to us through western media selections. There are also several European and Asian media sources that provide more balanced views of the conflict and even those provide a very different perspective from the one you are repeating here.

                It seems you have not seen any Palestinian responses to either Jewish attacks or attacks from their own side against Israel except as you find such information filtered through our media and Israeli sources. It also appears you are unaware of Palestinian arguments except as you read them again through our or Israeli media filters.

                It appears to me you only know one side of the story and rely upon western mainstream media to help you understand the nature of both sides.

                I hope I don’t sound offensive but I really would like you to be more aware of Palestinian sources themselves. You mentioned you have visited Israel twice. Did you also spend time in the West Bank or Gaza (or in refugee camps in Lebanon or Syria?) getting to know Palestinians, too? In their homes? Speaking with them? Hearing their stories as well?

                I prefer to check the original sources on both sides as far as possible.

                Otherwise I fear we risk buying into an anti-Arab (another form of antisemitic) agenda.

  5. Perhaps I should finish comments here on this page by looking at everything you’ve been examining in this blog and the scientific process of working out the whole Jesus thing.

    If it came to scientific process, archaeology and documentary, the proto-Orthodox/proto-Catholic view of things does not hold water. Worse, their own testimony, though hostile, validates more the progression of the Gnostics and the fact Gnostics were indeed first.

    Worse, that hostile witness testimony and the strict scientific approach would tend to lead to a conclusion that if Jesus existed at all, it was as a Samaritan, not as a Jew. And if we thought to even examine Samaritan theology and liturgy, we’d see that come across more.

    We’re lucky to have independent documentary evidence at all from that time, because we know what happened to the best darn cache of it in the Library of Alexandria in the fourth century…and what group destroyed that independent documentation.

    It’s about narrative. The proto-Orthodox/proto-Catholic narrative, the one that eventually won out. But that narrative is not necessarily proven by anything truly independent.


    1. I’m still open to all possibilities. The evidence does not allow for much certainty in historical reconstruction at all. That’s why I focus more on literary analysis, trying to understand the nature of the literature we have, what it indicates about the culture and ideas of the day.

      I don’t know that we have the resources to ever be able to construct a “who did this and who did that” sequence of early Christian development.

      To me, that’s all a guessing game. Some can argue for plausible scenarios, and they might be right, but I can’t bring myself (at this stage) to come down on the side of any and argue any such scenario was a “fact” of history.

      1. I found one of the first things to help reconstruct is looking at at least Josephus and/or Philo.

        From Josephus at least I can read half a dozen times about ONE Galilean rabbi who founded the one new major stream of Judaism that century…but it’s clear Judas the Galilean founded the zealots, not Christianity.

        From Philo I can at least get where the theology in the book of John came from.

        And from the Philo point I can look around to groups in that particular stream…Essenes, Alexandrian Christians or Alexandrian Jews, and the Samaritans.

        These are my starting points.

        However, they’re two entirely different things. Zealots really don’t come across as anything other than a messianic claimant who failed…whereas the Essene/Samaritan/Alexandrian axis seem to go with an angel/God allegory.

        But it’s the allegorical version that seems to come first…because the proto-Orthodox’s own hostile witness testimony points out to the fact it was wide-spread and can even attest to its development…ofttimes better than they can attest to their own story.

        Whether its the Judas the Galilean story that became the Jesus as strictly human story prior to Irenaeus’ merging of the two differing concepts…remains to be seen. However the other axis with an angel/God is clearer. So too is the fact Gnostic groups and even Justin Martyr kept going on about the importance of “8” to their version. The Ogdoad in one language, but not necessarily in Hebrew/Samaritan. How is “8” pronounced in Hebrew? “Shmone” The Shmone or Simon.

        Which brings us back to your posts on the Simonian origin.

  6. Unfortunately, the nested bit kicked in, so I’m answering this further down the page from what you last spoke about.

    Jerusalem. Old City. One favorite old-style pizza bakery run by a really nice old gentlman who was Palestinian. Encountered Palestinians around the Old City enough over the two-year trip. Also had a particular experience with one Palestinian backpacker hostel owner/manager, which was probably the most crucial experience…as he was known around the backpacker industry as a Hamas man. Eighteen months of that last experience that I could call ‘hair-raising.’ Oh, and didn’t have too much problem with 200 Palestinians in Damascus Gate in mid-1992 during an altercation with that hostel manager. Even they thought the guy was a thug while they witnessed the argument.

    Walking through the Old City heaps of times, through the Christian Quarter, the Muslim Quarter and the Armenian, before the Jewish Quarter.

    However, one thing stands out in the Jewish Quarter. It was turned into rubble between 1948 and 1967 and one of the oldest synagogues (with hundreds of years of prior existence) was demolished by the Jordanian Legion. Now, the Israelis have had the Jewish quarter in their own hands since 1967…and there was a Muslim minaret right next to the rubble of that synagogue…but the minaret was perfectly INTACT. Hadn’t been touched by the Israelis.

    Those things stand out if you go to Israel with an objective viewpoint and look to see what each side is on about.

    And yes, I read the Palestinian papers occasionally when I could find one in English…there were a couple that could be found. Very polemical would be the bare minimum description for them and an understatement.

    Now at the same time, let’s look at the fact there are citizens of Israel who are Arab and Muslim. They have equal rights. There are Druze. There are Bedouin. Citizens of Israel. Can vote. No segregation. Even be Ministers of the Israeli Knesset. Even be ambassadors of Israel. As far as religion in the Jewish state, there are Christians, there are Muslims, there are even the Bahai.

    Now if I’m one-sided…I wouldn’t even be noting all these groups that live in peace in Israel with the Israelis.

    1. Then I am sure you will also love to have another look at this:


      So you haven’t visited the West Bank? Discussed the politics with Palestinians?

      But nor have I. I rely upon listening to those who have been there, including some Palestinians and Israelis themselves. I’d be interested to know how your contacts compare with mine with respect to their views.

      I don’t doubt you are being as fair as your believe you can be. My problem is that you seem not to be aware of the Palestinian perspective from their own mouths. Nor the perspective of specialists — Jewish, Palestinian and other — who study both sides.

      I also am confused by your apparent reliance upon ancient historical/religious narratives apparently to justify what has happened there since the late nineteenth century.

      1. Neil, for 18 months of a two year trip, I got a daily dose of Palestinian perspective. I passed through the West Bank on a few occasions and even once drove through it on my own.

        First observation about passing through the West Bank…all that money the PLO collected over the decades from various donors…never spent on improving things for the Palestinians. Don’t think the Israelis would have objected. Can’t blame the Israelis for the wastage of Palestinian leaders on terrorism, weapons and other non-essentials. And yes, the first thing to be aware of is that enough money passed through PLO hands that it could have been spent better.

        The Hamas-member backpacker hostel manager was an interesting experience because I found myself hated by him for even daring to see even partly the Israeli point of view. Note that in particular. For even daring to question his viewpoint.

        It’s a sharp contrast to Israelis you can have a decent, roof-raising political or even religious debate with and still have a beer and a coffee with after.

        It’s also something which is a common-place phenomenon in the West Bank. If you found Palestinians who said nice things about Israel or Israelis, they’d usually not last long and be summarily executed by the PLO or Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

        I’ve had to hear 12-year-old Palestinian kids in the Old City say straight out their greatest ambition in life was to grow up to kill Israelis. I’ve had to see kids even younger on a low wall above a South African lady with a large nail or spike about to be dropped on that lady’s head.

        I’m sure there are heaps of specialists. But if I remember, I went on my own trip the first time to just take a look for myself and not rely on specialist opinion yea or nay.

        The last line…ancient historical/religious narratives…try archaeology and even hostile witness testimony.

        In fact, even look to what most of this blog is studying.

        We know where the Jews came from and we know where they returned to against all odds and against all scientific opinion that tells us Jews should be as extinct as the dodo.

        Contrasted against a narrative that doesn’t even begin to have the same independent proof of real connection. But for which is the justification for terror and murder of Jews and Israelis.

        Now please also explain to me Israeli citizens…Druze, Arab, Bedouin, Circassians even…Muslims, Christians, Bahai, perhaps an animist or two…who are FULL citizens, have equal rights while living in a Jewish state. Forget the West Bank for a minute…Tel Aviv-Yafo. Mixed Jewish/Arab city. No segregation, no razor wife. Haifa. Mixed Jewish/Arab city with no segregation, no razor wire and is even home to the World HQ of the Bahai Faith. While we’re on Bahais…a few countries over, in Iran, Bahais are persecuted. Not in Israel, however.

        Christians…treated well under the Israelis. But a dying species in places like Nazareth or Bethlehem when under PA control.

        Muslims…refer to Tel Aviv-Yafo and Haifa and villages on the Israeli side of the Green Line.

        If we must even talk about the IDF…well, there are Druze and Bedouins in the IDF. Now even Christian Arab citizens of Israel joining. And a few more Muslims to…signing up to defend their country.

        Why? Because they actually prefer their country to the PLO/PA alternative.

        And yes, there are Arab Ministers of Knesset. Some of whom are PA-friendly. It’s a strong democracy where they can sit and spout what in other countries would be considered treason against the country they’re citizens of…yet so far nobody has yet brought treason charges against them.

        Anywhere else in the world, even Australia, they would.

        Sounds like the Israelis CAN share.

        So let’s look at the West Bank. It was in Jordanian hands between 1948-1967. Did Jordan make it an independent Palestinian state? And Gaza. Controlled by the Egyptians for the same length of time. Was it made into an independent Palestinian state by them? The answer to both is no.

        Gaza. Now in Hamas hands. How many Jews live there? None. There are Christians…but they don’t seem to be treated as well as the Christians in Israel.

        If I skip ALL the politics and just went by how each side treated others…it would still come down to prefering the side that at least beats its own breast about how it DOES treat others.

        And I’d look at that intact minaret right next to the Hurva synagogue. That synagogue has since been rebuilt since I was in Israel…and the minaret is STILL intact.

        Do the Arab countries with Palestinian refugees treat them well?

        No. Seems the absorbing of refugees after one generation and making them citizens of their host country doesn’t apply. Decades later, various Arab countries still keep Palestinians in refugee camp slums. Don’t allow them to be citizens, don’t absorb them and give them truly productive and decent lives.

        So if we’re gonna bag Israel for treatment of the Palestinians, it should be a matter of fairness to criticize the Arab countries who turn Palestinians into a political football.

        While I could continue this topic for a LONG while if I had to, Neil…it’s distracting from the rest of things I want to read in your posts.

        I would rather be reading and exploring your latest post…and you’ve seen the questions I asked regarding how the Kitos War and Bar Kochba Revolt factor in to the earliest gospels’ origins.

        I’d also like to read and explore more the posts on the Simonian origins of Christianity…since the Hebrew meanings of Simon’s name are an exploration all their own…you’ve raised the “hear/Harken” meaning, though I noticed when I put Hear through Google Translator, the Hebrew doesn’t have the FULL letters, whereas the Hebrew for 8 does…and there was a huge liking of the whole 8 concept in Gnostic Christianity.

        These bits of history were things I never heard about in any Christian church. They make a difference when one is aware of them. So much so over the last year I had to make a decision as to whether I should believe at all what I was taught in my younger days.

        So for the past year I’ve had to consider Jesus pretty much in the same category as Superman.

        So can we have an “agree-to-disagree” point here so we can get back to other topics?

        Guess I SHOULD bring something back to the original point that this whole page was about…

        I’ve been married at one stage to a Croat lady of Ustasha background back in the early eighties. I heard her anti-Semitism, I heard her justifying what Croats did in WWII. For three years I sat through a “narrative.”

        Here’s the spiel I heard. “We were such nice guys in WWII, we just picked the wrong side…”

        Years later looking at the diary of an SS soldier stationed among his Croat allies…reading the translation from German of how he kept throwing up watching the barbarity of his own allies.

        I’d read about that diary a few years before ever seeing it.

        Then in Israel, for 18 months having to listen to a Hamas-related Palestinian’s narrative and also looking at his treatment of me.

        No, I’m not a huge fan of “narratives.”

        1. Towards the end of the series on Masalha’s research I will be citing the evidence in detail for the expulsions (from both sides) of 1948. More myths will be busted.

        2. Hi again, George. I don’t for a moment doubt the sincerity of your perceptions as you portray them here. What I find lacking, however, is what I have been attempting to address — first hand evidence of the Palestinian perceptions of their own experience.

          First observation about passing through the West Bank…all that money the PLO collected over the decades from various donors…never spent on improving things for the Palestinians. Don’t think the Israelis would have objected. Can’t blame the Israelis for the wastage of Palestinian leaders on terrorism, weapons and other non-essentials. And yes, the first thing to be aware of is that enough money passed through PLO hands that it could have been spent better.

          My understanding is that many (especially if the election results in recent years are a valid indication) Palestinians agree with your criticisms of the PLO. What have been their choices? It is the PLO that had the backing of the US & Israel as the caretaker of the Palestinians. Much of the aid going to them was in the form of guns and handcuffs for their police force and there is no secret that some of the leaders have corruptly siphoned off funds for personal use. Might that be one of the reasons for the emerging popularity of Hamas?

          The PLO has surely betrayed the Palestinian people in many ways since they were afforded legitimacy as the representatives of the Palestinians by the US and Israel.

          But I wonder if you really mean the PA, Palestinian Authority?

          The Hamas-member backpacker hostel manager was an interesting experience because I found myself hated by him for even daring to see even partly the Israeli point of view. Note that in particular. For even daring to question his viewpoint.

          I don’t believe you mean to suggest that this hostel manager represents the majority of ordinary Palestinians, although I cannot comment on a personal experience that clearly meant what it did to you.

          What I have a hard time reconciling is your portrayal of Palestinian Arabs as a whole with what I have heard from West Bank Palestinians themselves in personal conversations, (the conversations were obviously not in the West Bank — I have not been there, but some Palestinians have found ways to leave and hopefully return by various ruses) and with Australians who have spent time in the West Bank getting to know Palestinians by lodging with Palestinian families and helping them work in their fields, and providing slightly easier access as they attempt to get through check-points.

          Your portrayal of Palestinians simply does not match the first hand reports I hear from Palestinians themselves and those who have spent time living and working among them.

          One common theme from these is the way many Palestinians do indeed hate Hamas and the times when it was more frequently attacking Israel through suicide bombings and shooting murders. They saw Hamas’s actions as counter-productive and cruel, and when they took their children as recruits they loathed them even more for using them heartlessly to murder and be murdered. In other words, the evidence that comes to me is of Palestinians who do not all think alike with respect to violence against Israel or violence of any kind. The reasons for the emergence of Hamas over the past decades are varied and by no means simplistic.

          Other comments of yours are still basically opinion and from my perspective lack support in the authoritative sources of documented events and current happenings. I believe this is an issue that is so fraught with opinion and perception that the hard core data of the reality is rendered invisible. It is a war that has extended at one level beyond Palestine itself into conversations like this, and we all know the saying that the first casualty in war is the truth.

  7. Agreed…one nasty [expletive deleted] isn’t necessarily indicative of everyone else…and I have knowledge of the fact 200 people in Damascus Gate in mid-1992 definitely didn’t like him. That in itself was an interesting experience…him and me having a little “debate” in front of 200 people there for ten minutes. It took me two days to hear back through someone I knew that I’d had the support of those 200 hundred witnesses. And it took me another four and a half years to hear that after that argument, a lot of those people decided to stand up to that Hamas [expletive deleted]…no, I like those people.

    Unfortunately, I have to bring to your attention that the Oslo Accords are only 20 years old. Before that, the PLO were plain terrorists. Hamas existed too at the time I was over there, but prior to 20 years ago, the idea of the PLO having US or Israeli backing is a total misnomer.

    And I might point out that prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the PLO had Soviet support, not American.

    I’m still old enough to remember that. Actually, wasn’t just the PLO either.

    IF you look closely…you and I DO agree that there’s a substantial number of Palestinians who’d rather NOT be having to put up with the PLO/PA or Hamas OR be involved in the politics.

    Then there’s the Palestinians who work for Sodastream. They love their work and the conditions they work under there. They don’t see Palestinian businesses or institutions that have such good conditions.

    Unfortunately, they might still end up dead from their fellow Palestinians, or at least those Palestinians associated with the PA and/or Hamas, because LIKING Israelis is something that’s considered “collaboration.”

    Even though I haven’t been near to Israel since November 1992…I try to keep up with what’s happening over there. Which is difficult with the fact “Western media” has a spin on it that is NOT necessarily pro-Israel at all…might show only a small WINDOW on a situation or event, not full footage…

    …and don’t get me started on how much I had to go over footage of that Neztarim Junction incident that’s incited the Palestinians in the years since it happened. You remember where the little boy was supposedly shot by Israelis from an army post?

    It’s interesting looking over footage from the other cameras on the scene that day.

    From different angles.

    And seeing some of the funniest acting I’ve ever seen. About the only thing the Israelis were doing that day was watching through their binoculars and scoring the scene across the junction for acting level.

    And then there’s photos supposedly of Israeli actions that are swiped from, say, the Syrian civil war…or in one case I saw in the past year…a photo that was actually swiped from an Israeli article and was actually a photo of an Israeli child injured by Hamas rocket fire.

    And I’m still recognizing all the Arab-Israelis in Israel itself. I won’t blame the rest of them for an idiot who’s a Minister of Knesset named Zoabi.

    “The first casualty of war is truth” you did say…

    …but I see the PA and Hamas all the way through really stretching the truth.

    Do Israelis tell porkies? Perhaps. But not to the level I’ve seen the PA and Hamas do.

    Israel doesn’t lie about its treatment of non-Jewish citizens and it keeps its promises.

    And I can still have a roof-raising intellectual debate with most Israelis I’ve encountered, disagree with them strongly, which they don’t mind as long as I bring a brain to the conversation…and I can still have a cup of coffee or a beer afterwards with them.

    On the other hand, I barely survived my 18 months experience with that hostel manager. Nope, couldn’t disagree with that bloke…

    1. The moment you mentioned Oslo I knew we were not communicating. That’s an argument that requires each side to begin by clearly outlining what they understand the other side’s point is, but the way it’s presented is through dogmatic declamations. Again, what it meant for people on the ground is lost in the Western media.

      But let’s not keep shifting the goal posts. You were speaking of the PLO as rulers of the West Bank when you were there and I was addressing that same situation. Let’s keep on track. If we want to shift to another situation twenty years earlier then that’s a completely separate discussion again.

      As I mentioned and it is still an issue, what I have a hard time reconciling is your portrayal of Palestinian Arabs as a whole — even again in this comment to which I am directly responding — with what I have heard from Palestinians themselves and with others who have spent time in the West Bank getting to know Palestinians by lodging with Palestinian families and helping them work in their fields, and providing slightly easier access as they attempt to get through check-points.

      Your portrayal of Palestinians simply does not match the first hand reports I hear from Palestinians themselves and those who have spent time living and working among them.

      1. Neil, I was addressing your point about the PLO being something that the US backed. I still would have to say that’s a mismoner.

        The Israelis had to at least negotiate with someone representing the Palestinians. Though it’s a really hard call to say that the PA and Israel get along that much. Every time the Israelis think they’re getting somewhere, the PA somehow end up not really helping things.

        Might I raise the point that every time Israel offers a lot…the PA never seem to think that’s enough?

        How much has to be offered to people like Arafat or Abbas? ALL of Israel?

        That’s obvious.

        It’s not an opinion. It’s what’s happened every time. Israel makes an offer that is substantial to the PA and it is never accepted.

        The Palestinians could have had a state by now. If Arafat had a brain…they’d at least have a state that was most of what they claimed they wanted.

        Can you tell me if you think any Jews would be part of a Palestinian state? Are you aware that Abbas really doesn’t want Jews in his state if and when he gets it?

        Meantime, on the other side of the Green Line, Israeli-Arabs are enjoying rights as citizens of the State of Israel. Nobody’s “ethnically-cleansing” them or forcing them to convert to Judaism and they don’t have to be Jews.

        That’s something you need to be clear on.

        A whole heap of non-Jewish people are living in peace with the Jewish State of Israel. They’re keeping their culture and religion. They’re enjoying the same rights as Jewish citizens. They’re not segregated.

        The Palestinians who left believed their brother Arabs. They’ve been a political football for their brother Arabs and never absorbed into their brother Arabs’ nations after one generation (which is all EVERY other refugee ever is…one generation). They’re used as cannon fodder by the PA and Hamas and their brother Arabs.

        Now, I’m distinguishing quite clearly on different types of Palestinians. I’m recognizing that some might like Israel and pointing out that they are usually summarily executed for “collaboration.” I’d say that shows I have concern for them and think that’s grossly unfair of the PA/PLO/Any other faction.

        I recognize there probably is a small proportion who have been there at least a few hundred years. No disputing that there are families that old there. Except, any Palestinian named Halaby is a blow-in from Syria who probably came in during one of five wars against Israel. Yassir Arafat himself is Egyptian. You’re trying to tell me Yassir really is one of the true families who’ve been there hundreds of years?

        I am definitely recognizing the Muslim-Arab and Christian-Arab CITIZENS of Israel…who I’ve pointed out repeatedly live in peace with their Jewish neighbors in Tel Aviv-Yafo and Haifa. And the Druze and others.

        Heck, should I add concern for Christian-Arabs of Nazareth and Bethlehem? Their numbers are DECREASING under the PA. THAT I’m concerned about. Same too as for the Christian-Arabs of Gaza who have suffered under the Hamas regime.

        But to believe the narrative the PLO/PA and even Hamas have been telling for decades…I’d have to put aside concern for all these people.

        Speaking of the PLO, by the way…they formed in 1964. The West Bank was still in Jordanian hands and Gaza was still in Egyptian hands. So what were the PLO trying to liberate? Please don’t tell me they were prophets expecting three years in the future, because that really will stretch my credulity.

      2. I understand why you don’t believe you are expressing only an opinion but are speaking about the hard facts. Unfortunately every time I hear this expressed by someone it rarely comes with any examples. Or when examples are given in support it is very clear that the person only has a vague or general knowledge of the real record. In other words, my experience is they are only repeating the Israeli official line. Details, the other side, are silenced. I know of not a single exception. Perhaps you do.

        You said you were addressing my point about the US backing the PLO. Yes — from the time of Oslo the US and Israel were indeed talking with the PLO and paving the way for the PLO to become the leading power in the PA. I don’t know why we switched gears back to 1964 at that point. Arafat unilaterally, in secret from his colleagues, changed the charter of the PLO and gave up everything it had long fought for. Finally the PLO was a acceptable “partner for peace” at last!

        Since then Israel has violated international law at an accelerating rate in removing Palestinians from their lands and building illegal settlements like there’s no tomorrow.

        Arafat betrayed the Palestinian cause. Yes, an increasing number of Palestinians and others are coming to accept it is now too late for a two-state solution. A one state solution is something to dream about — but then it would mean justice for all, and an end to driving Palestinians from their villages and farms and illegal settlements. It will mean all of that will have to stop. It may even mean dispossessed Palestinians will seek redress in the courts. They will probably become the larger population, and in a real democracy they will probably dominate the government and oblige Israel to cease being a racist state for Jews and become a true democracy with genuine equal rights for all — including those in the West Bank and Gaza, not only for the descendants of the dispossessed within Israel’s borders now. It is easy now for the dominant race to be tolerant and give concessions to minorites who are clearly powerless.

        Why, Palestinians may even seek the right to have not only Jews return after 2000 years but even their fellow Palestinian relatives to return after a mere 66 years. And the Dome on the Rock will be secure since Jerusalem will be a capital for Jews and Arabs alike! Peace at last! A beautiful dream!

        1. “Since then Israel has violated International law…”

          Perhaps that would be more accurate to say violated international OPINION. For all that term is bandied about…I have yet to hear from people who really know international law.

          One: Israel is a sovereign state and can build anywhere in that state according to its own building and planning codes. Two: gee, you’d be surprised to hear of Jewish people who’ve fallen afoul of Jewish law regarding building illegal homes…but so too have Palestinians building or squatting in places too.

          I know that line is SO oft-repeated…but I would seriously like to see some real proof that Palestinians are removed willy-nilly. And the territory’s official designation is really “disputed.” You do have to remember Jordan occupied the West Bank itself illegally first. When they picked a war and lost, it ended up in Israeli hands. And I’ll repeat again…at no time while under Jordanian control was the West Bank ever made a sovereign state.

          Palestinians have been known to access Israeli courts already, sometimes successfully winning cases, sometimes not. Some cases actually prove they did own land. Others did not.

          “Arafat betrayed the Palestinian cause…” No…he kept up the political ambitions he’d always had. He just never could make a transition to statesman.

          “Racist state for Jews…” Gee, I keep pointing out what are FACTS about the make-up of Israel proper. It’s NOT racist. What does FULL citizenship and FULL rights mean? In Israel, exactly that.

          Which one of us did you say is believing too much Western media?

          Let me get this straight…one of us has been there and at least looked…and experienced. So I don’t have the same perspective as someone else who might have been there…big deal. The fact that when I first went there I went out to be OBJECTIVE doesn’t count? Says who? Have other people at least seen what happened when they disagreed with anyone from the PA or Hamas? Probably not. But I’ve had it in my own experience. I still say I’m lucky to have survived the experience.

          So everything I say is invalidated because objectivity eventually found a stronger case for the Israelis? Really…really…so I’m expected to instead find in favor the PA and Hamas?

          Sez who?

          So you want something cited…might as well point out some early International Law…the San Remo conference…1920…I’ll refer you to Wikipedia’s entry on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Remo_conference

          1. Regardless of what the PA and Hamas think…the Jewish state of Israel is one where all citizens have equal rights.

            I read your quotation again…and I would like to ask…did those who spent time with Palestinians also spend time with Israelis?

            Or did they go there with preconceived ideas of the situation and automatically think that Israelis were bad?

            Did they truly go there to really weigh up the situation watching both groups?

            And have they just blindly believed the first thing they were told without properly questioning it?

            So yes, you can find people who have a different view of it from me, but if they went there with preconceived ideas…and a bias…then they’ve simply only read the facts to suit their bias.

            I went in objectively and didn’t necessarily believe either side…I just went there to weight it all up. See on the ground what I didn’t necessarily see in an Australian newspaper.

            Obviously my viewpoint has ended up finding in favor of one side…because it passed more stricter muster.

            But my viewpoint is not good enough, why? Because it doesn’t match people who went there with a bias? Because it doesn’t match what Haaretz says?

            Because it doesn’t agree with the PLO/PA/Hamas/Hezbollah narrative?

            Because those groups think you MUST agree with them whether it’s right to or not?

            I’m sorry…I had an anti-Semitic, Ustasha-related ex-wife who demanded that sort of naivety and guillability from me.

            Anti-Semitism is anti-Semism.

            It’s also illogical. It will criticize Jews and Israel no matter what they do, and even if the Israelis are doing things as ethically as possible.

            I’m sorry, Neil, but I really do suggest you go over to the Holy Land, at least look at the Israeli part which has non-Jewish citizens who like the rights they have which they wouldn’t necessarily have in other countries of the region. Do you think Israeli-Arabs and Israeli-Muslims, or Israeli-Christians want to be in SYRIA or even the PA-controlled areas right now?

            Better yet…do what I did and see what it’s like when you don’t agree with someone from Hamas.

            Just as a purely scientific experiment.

            And test your hypothesis in a real field test.

            Disagree also with an Israeli…as a real field test.

            Compare the way you’re treated…as a purely scientific experiment.

            Assess results. See if your hypothesis proves one way or the other.

            Switch the sound of both sides down and just watch carefully how they behave.

            Or is that too scientific and balanced an approach?

            The problem I’m seeing here is that I’m expected to reach the same conclusions as other people you’re mentioning.

            And that’s the point I have to do the critical analysis.

            Isn’t that just peer group pressure?

            1. So your answer is that all my contacts are biased and probably antisemitic? No doubt the Palestinians I have met are also antisemitic and hate Israel irrationally? When they report any unpleasant fact it will be either a lie or only a half-truth? And the Jews for Peace and similar groups of Jews I meet are also biased and self-hating Jews? And representatives from organizations where Israelis and Palestinians work together and present the same story are also lying? And Haaretz is biased propaganda? And any other analyst I read whose work coheres with the reports of these people is also probably antisemitic? And no doubt if I did go there and returned with a different view from yours my conclusions would be invalid because I am biased against Israel from the start as is evident from the contacts I have made?

              I have also spent a lot of time with Israelis who argue the same as you do, George. I raise the same questions with them. They always reply in terms of grand narrative, strategic fears, sweeping and vague assertions that they can rarely verify when pushed for sources, and personal anecdotes that are certainly painful and distressing but are also only one part of the much larger mosaic of tragedy.

              (The Australian and American friends I spoke of who spent time working and living in the West Bank, except for one, are all academics. They have on the whole spent much time in Israel, Lebanon, and the West Bank. One is a Christian Lebanese himself. Another one did meet Arafat and attempted to persuade him to change the way he was making the mess of things in the eyes of the West — without success of course. At least one is a dedicated Christian who finds much to love about Israel as well as much to blame.)

              I have no doubt about your intentions to have an open mind on first visiting Israel but I find it difficult to understand why you have come to such firm conclusions now even though you have not spent as much time among those of the other side, in the West Bank, getting to know them at the same level.

          2. George, I do not dispute your own experiences. I am very sure that most people, Israelis and Arabs included, are very nice and good people when in “normal” social situations and in one-on-one interactions as guests-hosts, friends, etc. I have no doubt that the Israeli courts sometimes see justice done the the poorest Arab in Israel. I do not deny any of that. At the same time I also see some very ugly faces of Israel pushed on to the web by Israelis themselves who assume others will sympathize or laugh with them at the expense of Palestinian Arabs and even sometimes against “Black Israelis”. Surely no-one doubts that there are significant numbers of Israelis (I’m not saying they are a majority — I don’t know what proportion they are) who do hate Palestinian Arabs and do want to see them expelled from their lands and for Jews to take over those lands. I don’t think anyone can deny that Israelis — especially one on one — are a mixed bunch. They cannot all be painted with the same brush.

            I also do not deny your experience with the stone-throwing rioters or the Hamas hostel manager. (The only question I have is why you would even want to present an Israeli point of view to someone you knew belonged to Hamas — if I did not misunderstand you. I would think the prudent thing for any tourist is to seek to understand all peoples and be the one to ask questions to learn how others think — not try to persuade them of our own thoughts. At the same time, as for the stone-throwers, yes, we know the media often gets things wrong. That’s why I never rely upon any anonymous or undocumented or unsupported source that is not independently verified. I give relatively little attention to the mainstream media. But I wonder what your message is in your account. Are you asking us to accept that Palestinian Arabs are essentially prone to throwing stones at tourists when they get hot-headed over some political issue and that Jews are by contrasting nature the exemplars of civilized restraint?

            Sorry, George, but I believe that in places you have misread me. Firstly, the International Court of Justice and other international bodies have all agreed Israel is violating international law by the building of the settlements in occupied territory. (Whatever Jordan did or did not do beforehand is irrelevant.) There are only a handful of countries who disagree with the United Nations Security Council and the Court. Yes, you can say it is only one’s opinion — but it is the opinion of the majority of the world’s nations and international Justices.

            The convicted criminal can always say he is innocent and have a few friends to support him and say that it is only the rest of the world’s and the legal system’s “opinion” that he is guilty and that they all hate him because of his skin-colour etc.

            Arafat did indeed give up the program for the right of the return of three million refugees, he accepted the dismemberment of the West Bank and despite protests he rolled over as Israel moved in to displace Palestinians and build the illegal settlements in the occupied territories. He became Israel’s policeman and was severely punished whenever he failed to do a good enough job at that. He was corrupt; Israel bought him. He failed his people.

            Israel recognized the PLO for good reasons. Did Israel recognize the PLO while they were a terrorist organization bent on the destruction of Israel? Did the US open talks with the PLO while they were still carrying out terrorist missions?

            Yes, George, I know you have often said how well minorities are treated in Israel. That’s why I made the point about the descendents of the dispossessed and the small minorities who are powerless can afford to be treated to some extent with liberality as they indeed are in many cases — but certainly not as completely equal as you say. If Israel is truly not a state for the Jews — imagine any other country saying they are a state “for White Protestants” — then they will indeed welcome the one-state solution and let true democracy take its course. If that does indeed mean a restoration of justice to the majority population then that would be most wonderful news.

            But I somehow don’t think Israel is ever going to accept assimilating all the West Bank into Israel as a single-state. Many Palestinians would no doubt love that and welcome it. If you think Israel will welcome Abbas’s son’s proposal I really hope you are right.

            Yes, you have been there and I haven’t. You do have a perspective I do not have.

            I’m sorry, George, but I have tried to explain a couple of times now the difficulty I have with what you are saying:

            As I mentioned and it is still an issue, what I have a hard time reconciling is your portrayal of Palestinian Arabs as a whole — even again in this comment to which I am directly responding — with what I have heard from Palestinians themselves and with others who have spent time in the West Bank getting to know Palestinians by lodging with Palestinian families and helping them work in their fields, and providing slightly easier access as they attempt to get through check-points.

            Your portrayal of Palestinians simply does not match the first hand reports I hear from Palestinians themselves and those who have spent time living and working among them.

            So that is my experience. It is not as geographically centred as yours. But it is an experience that has left me with a quite different understanding of what Palestinians are facing and how they are facing it than your own accounts. I am sure yours have some truth to them as I am sure mine do, too. I have heard many stories like yours. I have heard of others conveying similar experiences with Israelis and coming away with similar perceptions.

            But what am I to do with my own experiences of the other side? Are all the people I have listened to, talked with, read, lying?

            1. Your own words earlier…”the first casualty of war is truth.”

              And unfortunately, when it comes to the PLO/PA/Hamas lot, they’re still playing war. Enough to push ordinary Palestinians along with them if they have to. It’s not like ordinary Palestinians get a real choice. They’re for the most part pushed to follow the PA/Hamas lines, or they’re dead. Same as an independent journo in Gaza can’t say the truth because Hamas won’t let them.

              I’m sorry, but what made you think Arafat was Israel’s policeman?

              1. I’m sorry, but what made you think Arafat was Israel’s policeman?

                The documented fact that the PA (under Arafat) was delivered massive aid in the form of crates of handcuffs and guns for police work and expected to keep the Palestinian factions under control for the benefit of Israel. I’m quite sure all of this was most reasonable and necessary if Israeli forces were to be relieved of some of the responsibility of keeping Israelis safe. Israel was talking to Arafat, recognized the PLO, was working with him as a “partner for peace” however fractious that partnership became at times whenever Arafat failed to keep the control that was expected of him.

                He was essentially a quisling ruler for Israel, in their pockets, neglecting the welfare of his own people, until he failed to perform his task diligently enough in his later years.

  8. Neil, seriously, I would rather be discussing your other posts.

    I’m enjoying your insights on early origins of Christianity and your discussions of the different studies on aspects of the biblical narrative.

    One thing I would suggest…nothing beats going over there. And that means seeing the Israeli part as much as any Palestinian part. And not taking any viewpoint at face value.

    The trickier bit of such a suggestion? See especially what happens when you disagree with either an Israeli or Palestinian and pay attention over there to how you’re treated.

    Disagreeing with anyone from Hamas, however…that’s NOT for the faint-hearted. I might have to give you some survival tips before you go over to the Holy Land and disagree with a Hamas person…

    Now, can at this point we shake hands and have a virtual coffee or beer and just leave this in the intellectual sphere? And agree to disagree and still respect each other’s viewpoints?

  9. Out of respect for the fact you have a great blog which is enlightening on the vagaries of early Christian literature, I’m stopping my side of discussion on the current Middle East.

    I have respect for your work.

    I may disagree with you on some aspects of the Middle East, but I respect your right to disagree. I even see at least where your coming from.

    But in fairness…we should already have a “agree to disagree” point.

    And it’s now, for me, distracting from the research you’ve done in the other field, the early centuries of Christian literature.

  10. May I with genuine respect suggest that this particularly valuable and respected website tries to avoid as much as possible from wandering or blundering across the thoroughly booby-trapped modern minefields of Zionism, Antisemitism, “The Holocaust” and Israel, except in so far as these are implied collaterally in general discussions of Biblical credibility, the events of 70 CE, religious belief and the effects of propaganda on historians? Other websites are available for serious discussions of “Racism”, the West Bank settlements, the Gas Chamber narratives, the relationship of Nazism to Christianity, Islam and Bolshevism, &c. I am interested myself in all these matters, and quite happy to join in any fray, but feel that the space here is best devoted primarily to analysis of the credibility of the New Testament and of philosophical theology. Current Jewish issues are liable to create sidetracks and provoke undesirable responses.

  11. The origins of Hitler’s hostility to the Jews remain a question not completely solved, when asked directly about it he said it was “a personal matter”, and there are grounds for thinking that some sexual circumstance was involved. He almost certainly read Lanz but there is no reason to think he swallowed all that stuff. He was influenced by Rosenberg over the origins of Bolshevism and probably the Talmud but ridiculed “Myth of the Twentieth Century”. One could write pages on this subject, and criticize so much nonsense. However, I would recommend that serious students begin with the documented arguments in Richard Weikart’s “Hitler’s Ethic” (2009). Of course, you have to watch your tongue in case you say anything, even accidentally, that seems “favourable” about “that man” who is the Satan of the post-christian world.

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