From Hans Christian Anderson to Barak Obama — The Emperor’s New Clothes — Redux

 

Hans Christian Anderson’s famous parable, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” tells a story about two swindling weavers who promised to make an Emperor a new suit of clothes that is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. After the swindlers present him with his suit, the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that he doesn’t see any suit of clothes until a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”

After the child said what was obvious to everyone but to the Emperor, the rest of the crow chimed in, “Why, the Emperor hasn’t got anything on!”  So, the Emperor shivered as he realized that everyone else was correct. However, he thought, “This procession has got to go on.” So, he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all.”

Anderson’s parable can certainly apply to what is going in the Middle East today as the United States desperately tries to conclude an agreement with Iran over its use of their nuclear program. The whole world knows fully well that Iran hasn’t a shred of moral or religious integrity. At one joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Obama addressed his ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran. According to the Supreme Leader of Iran, said Obama, “it would be contrary to their faith to obtain a nuclear weapon.”[1]

I can only imagine what the German audience must have been thinking. . .

Yes, just as the Emperor has no clothes, and neither does President Obama’s plan to make an agreement with Iran “have any clothes” either.  The agreement is nothing more than a legal fiction intended to deceive Iran’s many enemies into thinking that their thousands of nuclear centrifuges are designed solely for peace.

The Democrats’ behavior is reminiscent of the Emperor’s subjects who are too terrified to cross their foul-tempered President, who remembers every infraction or sign of disloyalty to his political reign.

I wonder: does he really expect the world to think that Iran is a shining example of a nation that adheres to the positive values of Islam?

  • Women are routinely raped and stoned  for adultery if they don’t have four witnesses to attest to their innocence.[2]
  • Christians are persecuted if they try to publically speak about their faith.[3]
  • Homosexuals are stoned on almost a daily basis.[4]
  • Iran has sentenced several juvenile offenders to death.[5]
  • The Mullahs have no respect for killing infidels like the Americans who fought in Iraq, only to be blown up by their IED roadside bombs.[6]
  • Blowing up Jews across the world in Argentina is perfectly acceptable civilized behavior for the Mullahs of Iran.[7]
  • Hezbollah leader said: “If they [the Jews] all gather in Israel it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide” and “They [Jews] are a cancer which is liable to spread at any moment. . .”[8]

If President Obama thinks we can accept the Iranian mullahcracy to promise that they will not use nuclear bombs, then we are as foolish as the Emperor who believed he was wearing a special suit—even though he was stark naked. We are also just as morally cowardly as the Emperor’s subjects who lacked the integrity to recognize the fraud that the Emperor’s assistants perpetuated against the kingdom.

Like the child of our original story, Bibi Netanyahu is the only political leader in the Western world who is not afraid to say it the way it is. Obama’s disdain toward Netanyahu was evident, as was Obama’s contempt for the people of Israel when he refused to speak to the Israeli government at the Knesset. Despite not wishing to influence the Israeli election, Obama has sent many of his minions to do precisely that—influence the Israeli elections.

The entire world owes Netanyahu a huge debt of gratitude. Let us hope that Congress—and not the President—has the ultimate say whether this proposed agreement with Iran is worth signing.

Interestingly enough,  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has considerable supportive in  Saudi Arabia. According to the Saudi daily newspaper Al-Jazirah on Monday, columnist Dr. Ahmad Al-Faraj called Netanyahu’s appearance before Congress under such circumstances “unprecedented in US political history.”

  • I am very glad of Netanyahu’s firm stance and [his decision] to speak against the nuclear agreement at the American Congress, despite the Obama administration’s anger and fury,” wrote the Saudi. “I believe that Netanyahu’s conduct will serve our interests, the people of the Gulf, much more than the foolish behavior of one of the worst American presidents. . . .Obama is the godfather of the prefabricated revolutions in the Arab world, and…he is the ally of political Islam, [which is] the caring mother of [all] the terrorist organizations,” he wrote, suggesting that any deal struck by this particular American president could simply not be trusted.

For everyone else living in the Middle East, they know exactly what is at stake here. If allowed to act with impunity, the world will see a new nuclear arms race in the Middle East that can engulf the entire world in perpetual nuclear warfare.

Our politicians who think that Netanyahu is motivated by politics, I would say, “What politician isn’t motivated by political concerns?” If that were a crime, every politician would be arrested. However, I personally believe that Netanyahu is correct here to bring this up before the final agreement with Iran becomes fait accompli. The Israeli PM is correct, “Thy enemy’s enemy is still thine enemy.”[9]

We would be wise to remember that.

[1] http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2015/02/09/obama_according_to_irans_supreme_leader_it_would_be_contrary_to_their_faith_to_obtain_a_nuclear_weapon.html

[2] http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/03/world/meast/iran-stoning/

[3] http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/Iran-Rouhani-UN-Christians/2014/03/21/id/560965/

[4] http://www.jihadwatch.org/2014/03/new-moderate-iran-executes-two-gay-men-and-hands-down-death-sentence-for-insulting-the-prophet

[5] http://www.hrw.org/news/2010/10/09/iran-saudi-arabia-sudan-end-juvenile-death-penalty

[6] Blair warns Iran over Iraq bombs”. BBC News. 2005-10-06.

[7] “Iran, Hezbollah charged in 1994 Argentine bombing”. Daily Jang. October 25, 2006.

[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hassan_Nasrallah

[9] http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/26160/Default.aspx

Living in an a Dystopian America

Image source: BuzzFeed

Whenever I hear Obama and his minions claim that “Islam is the religion of peace,” I cannot help but think the President is utilizing several concepts drawn from writer George Orwell’s famous book, Nineteen Eighty-Four. In this political parable, he writes about how the people of Oceania are trained from childhood to be vigilant in detecting and persecuting anything that the State considers as “evil.” Simply put, the State defines what is good and what is evil. Succumbing to the Party is considered the greatest good; obedience and complicity constitute the “love” of Big Brother.  The State aims to pursue a merging of consciousness, where the State’s will—as defined by Big Brother—becomes the will of the individual.

Slogans play an important part of  the collective indoctrination of the people. Orwell describes an usually fictional language he calls, “Newspeak,” which is a controlled language that is designed to constrict the freedom of thought. Newspeak aims to eliminate concepts that pose a threat to the regime such as freedom, self-expression, individuality, and peace. Contrarian perspectives are typically regarded as “thoughtcrimes”

Big Brother uses another interesting too to enslave the minds of the people called  “Doublespeak.” Simply defined, it is a language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Wherever one goes in this dystopian society, the citizen always encounters the three slogans of the Party that stand out in bold capital letters: 

  • WAR IS PEACE
  • FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
  • IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

Orwell intended to warn us about the dangers of people whose visions for a totalitarian utopias, whether political, economic, social, or theocratic. You can see this kind of “political correctness,” our now-passing rage of liberal conformity today. Often as Jews, we can see how the Left is castigating Israel and demonizing anyone who dares to challenge the status quo.

As we look in the present era, 2015, we can see how people who criticize Obama are routinely called “racist” and marginalized through shaming and other not-so-subtle techniques of intimidation. In Hollywood, actors who criticize the President’s agenda often do not receive acting jobs. There is an atmosphere of terror and the ghost of McCarthy  is reminding us that liberalism can be just as fascist as any political philosophy of the ultra-right.

This Orwellian phenomenon can be seen in our country’s universities, wretched parodies of what they are supposed to be, are veritable monuments of newspeak and doublethink.  Yet, as we witness the global rise of ISIS and observe how the Iranian mullahcracy continues to threaten both Israel AND the United States, as they stand at the threshold of developing nuclear arms—our President has the temerity to tell us:

  • ISLAM IS THE  RELIGION OF PEACE!
  • THERE IS NO GLOBAL JIHAD
  • BEWARE OF EXTREMISM

Consistently, Obama has never recognized a “global jihad” is shaping up before the entire Western word to see. Now that ISIS is taking over Libya (as Khadafi warned Hillary and Obama), ISIS is threatening Italy and announced, “: “You have seen us in Syria, now we’re right here, just south of Rome…”[1] Continue reading “Living in an a Dystopian America”

Shirley MacLaine: Aging Without Saging

 Shirley MacLaine is a better actress than she is a philosopher or theologian. Jewish groups are justifiably upset with some comments she penned in her new memoir, “What If… A Lifetime of Questions, Speculations, Reasonable Guesses, and a Few Things I Know For Sure.”

The quote that is generating a lot of criticism suggest, the six million Jews and others who died in the Holocaust were “balancing their karma” by paying for sins in a previous life.  But MacLaine did not stop with just the six-million Jews, or for that matter the other eighteen million people killed by one man’s hatred, she also compared  Stephen Hawking to Jesus, writing that just as Jesus chose martyrdom, Hawking “chose to live” with a debilitating disease.

Gee, that must make the Holocaust survivors along with their children really great knowing that somehow, they “karmically” managed to survive. As  a child of an Auschwitz survivor and as a parent of an ALS child, I take great offense to her words.

Let us briefly examine MacLaine’s comments:

  • What if most Holocaust victims were balancing their karma from ages before, when they were Roman soldiers putting Christians to death, the Crusaders who murdered millions in the name of Christianity, soldiers with Hannibal, or those who stormed across the Near East with Alexander? The energy of killing is endless and will be experienced by the killer and the killee.” (pp. 240-241)

Over twenty-years ago, I encountered this kind of muddled thinking once before.  On one occasion I debated a Religious Science minister who said  something almost identical to MacLaine. The minister claimed that if a young child is raped or mutilated, it is I order to clear the child’s soul of his/her “karmic debt.” The Church of Religious Science is an example of a New Age religion sometime ago in the 1980s—based on the metaphysical theosophical thought of Ernst Holmes. Although Holmes never advocated anything that was even remotely similar to what this minister asserted, many of his disciples seemed to developed this idea on their own.

The popular New Age self-help writer, Louise Hay, author of  the NY Times best-seller “You Can Heal Your Life” maintains that every human being is responsible for creating every circumstance that occurs in one’s life. According to her, all disease comes from a lack of self-love and unwillingness to forgive others. This is true regardless whether you have headaches or hemorrhoids—all disease comes from a failure to “love yourself.”

A Pulitzer prize journalist named Michael D’Antonio wrote about a conversation he had with Hay. Her views on Third World nations and AIDS victims prove to be revealing:

  • People starve amid the “abundance of the universe” because of low self-esteem,” said Hay. “A poor self-image is more damaging than one might expect and attracts the kind of experience that seems appropriate. That’s why, she said, women who are raped are responsible for what happens to them. They attract the rapist because they expect and fear an attack. Similarly, the poor of the world are responsible for their plight, as are those afflicted with AIDS…[1]

In another conversation, D’Antonio commented about Hay’s remarks regarding the Holocaust. She mused that the AIDS victims were the reincarnated souls of the Nazis, who were being paid back for “their crimes against the Jews!”

And the Jews? Well, they too deserved their “karmic fate.” [2]

For Jews, this is nothing new. We have been accused of karmic crimes for a long time. Unfortunately, many of the Christian world’s greatest theological minds—ancient and modern—expressed  ideas that also resonated with MacLaine’s view of karma. After the night of  Dietrich Bonhoeffer became famous for saying on the night of Kristallnacht, ““If the synagogues are set on fire today, it will be the churches that will be burned tomorrow.” But who would imagine him, saying only minutes later to one of his colleagues, “that the Nazis were merely giving what was owed to the Jews. After all, “they nailed the Redeemer of the world to the cross,” they had been forced to bear an eternal curse through a long history of suffering, one that would end only “in the conversion of Israel to Christ”?[3]

Here is one more example of Bonhoeffer’s animus against the Jews:

  • The Church of Christ has never lost sight of the thought that the “chosen people” who nailed the redeemer of the world to the cross must bear the curse for its action through a long history of suffering…. But the history of the suffering of this people, loved and punished by God, stands under the sign of the final homecoming of Israel [the Jews] to its God. And this homecoming happens in the conversion of Israel to Christ…. The conversion of Israel, that is to be the end of the people’s period of suffering. From here the Christian Church sees the history of the people of Israel with trembling, as God’s own, free, fearful way with his people, because God is not yet finished with it. Each new attempt to solve “the Jewish question” comes to naught…[4]

Deicide is not a new accusation, it goes back to the earlier period of Christian history.[5] All of these attempts to explain the suffering of the Jews ignores what I believe to be the only truth worth discussing: Karmic reasons play no role whatsoever in why one people  suffers and not another. When looking at the real causes of human suffering, one thing is clear. Human beings are responsible for the moral evil they perpetuate against other people. Continue reading “Shirley MacLaine: Aging Without Saging”

A Contrast in Leadership: King Abdullah and President Obama

 

 

Some of us have short memories and some of us have long memories. This writer in particular will not ignore two noteworthy events that occurred in the last six months. Both of these events involved ISIS executing its hapless captives. Both of these events present two very different kinds of responses–as different as day and night.

President Obama took to the podium and said some appropriate remarks for the tragic death of the American journalist Tom Foley.

  • They declared their ambition to commit genocide against an ancient people. So ISIL speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just god would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt. They may claim out of expediency that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior.[1]

What happened next proved to be more important than anything the President said at the podium.  In short, if a picture could tell a thousand words, the images that ensued within four minutes after the President’s speech could fill ten thousand volumes. Within four minutes after leaving the podium, Obama teed-off and could be seen laughing with friends and fist-bumping them during a five-hour round at Farm Neck Golf Course on Martha’s Vineyard  – his seventh 18-holes in ten days.

I cannot recall a president in recent memory who was so oblivious to the pain and shock that the entire nation felt, yet the game of golf had to go on! I can only imagine the European heads of states shaking their heads in disbelief. Putin and ISIS were probably laughing derisively at our President, who forgot about the “optics” of how he looked on camera.

Yes, Mr. Obama, we know why you detest the press.

After discovering how his popularity plummeted in the next several days, President Obama reluctantly admitted, “after the statement that I made, that you know, I should’ve anticipated the optics,” he said.

The second reaction was that of King Abdullah II of Jordan to  news that the Jordanian pilot Lt. Moath al-Kasasbeh, 27, had been burned alive while confined in a cage.

  • Jordan’s King Abdullah, himself a former general, angrily vowed to pursue ISIS until his military runs “out of fuel and bullets,” in a closed door meeting with U.S. lawmakers that followed the release Wednesday of a grisly video showing a captured Jordanian airman being burned alive in a cage by the terrorist army.[2]

Such resolve, such courage! Who would expect little tiny Jordan to act like the mouse who roared while the most powerful leader of the free world got upset that the world did not see him at his best.

Interestingly, King Abdullah II of Jordan was in the United States when ISIS released the video on the Internet. What did he do? The King immediately cut his trip short in order to return to Jordan to comfort the family of the lost pilot.

Can you—the reader—appreciate the difference between Obama’s and Abdullah’s reaction? I do not think for a minute that King Abdullah worried about the optics—his place was with the victims and with his people.

Winston Churchill has never been one of Obama’s heroes. When Obama first took the White House, one of the first things he did while he was in office was to remove the bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office and send it back to the British Embassy. The British probably felt surprised at this sign of presidential disrespect, for one never unilaterally returns a gift from a foreign leader!

In retrospect, it is not hard to see why.  Churchill once said: Continue reading “A Contrast in Leadership: King Abdullah and President Obama”

America’s Deflating Foreign Policy (Revised)

 

CHULA VISTA, California — For many of us who happen to be Tom Brady football fans, we read the story about Brady’s alleged deflated football. For those of you unfamiliar with what practical difference this all makes, bear in mind that an under-inflated ball, the legend goes, is easier to throw and catch. Apparently, deflated balls were used to defeat the hapless  Indianapolis Colts last week.

To use an analogy from another sport, a deflated football is practically like using a corked baseball bat, which makes it easier to hit home runs out of the park. Historically, most of Babe Ruth’s bats were subsequently discovered to be corked, but baseball fans  love home runs, much like football fans love lots of touchdowns.

Sports pundits have been calling the New England Patriots’ victory over the Colts “Deflategate,” but for my money an even greater scandal is the deflation of American foreign policy. The world sees the United States as weak and disinterested in standing up against the Jihadists. The late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia proved to be a good, strong, and silent supporter of Israel, as well as a powerful critic of Obama pro-Jihadist sympathies.

Although Israel and Saudi Arabia have never had formal diplomatic ties, in recent years Israel and Saudi covertly cooperated on plans to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. Over the last couple of years, Israeli and Saudi interests have also aligned on combating the growing threat of Sunni Muslim terrorist groups such as the Islamic State and the Muslim Brotherhood. He bravely condemned the recent war initiated by Gaza against Israel.[1]

Abdullah also felt outraged by the United States role in enabling the Muslim Brotherhood to seize power in Egypt by removing one of America and Israel’s staunchest political allies—Hosni Mubarak. The Saudi capital of Riyadh felt very nervous and extremely wary of the ongoing negotiations between Washington and Iran over the latter’s nuclear weapons program. When the President drew a red-line concerning Syria’s use of chemical weapons against its citizens, Obama’s last-second decision not to bomb Damascus in the wake of Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons attack on August 2013 was seen by Riyadh as dithering and weakness — and a sin of omission that has prolonged and exacerbated the Syrian war.

Let us not forget, that Obama made Mohammed Elibary, said to have strong ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, a member of the United States’ Department of  Homeland Security’s advisory council, until his comment about the inevitability of a caliphate forced him to resign that council.[2]

Of course, American Jews by and large either ignored this appointment, or could care less because of their loyalties to Obama and the Democratic leftists who walk in goose-step with his pro-Jihadi policies. Then again, the continuous snubbing of Israel’s Bibi Netanyahu and the President’s determination to buy loyalty from Iran, as well as elevating the Shiite rogue regime as a partner in the war against ISIS also made King Abdullah feel anger, as they did Israel.

And now in Yemen, which has fallen to the pro-Iranian rebels, Saudi Arabia is finding the web of Iran slowly encloses their country. No, Mr. President, your Yemenite success story was no success. Not by a long shot.

Unnamed administration sources threatening “serious consequences” if Bibi Netanyahu meets with Congress in March sends an uncomfortable signal to the entire free world—namely, the United States is feeling little loyalty to one of its most important allies of the Middle East—the State of Israel. Other allies of the United States have good reason to feel nervous about the deflating effects of Obama’s foreign policy.

I hope that Netanyahu defies the President—because the Iranian menace is laughing, while our President continues to behave as the “Appeaser in Chief.” Thomas Friedman is certainly not regarded as a conservative columnist of the New York Times, but even he had some sharp words about the President’s feckless foreign policy when it comes to recognizing the global war of Jihadist Islam:

  • “The administration has lapsed into unselfconscious ridiculousness. Asked why the administration won’t say [after the Paris attacks] we are at war with radical Islam, Earnest on Tuesday explained the administration’s first concern ‘is accuracy. We want to describe exactly what happened. These are individuals who carried out an act of terrorism, and they later tried to justify that act of terrorism by invoking the religion of Islam and their own deviant view of it.’This makes it sound as if the Charlie Hebdo terrorists set out to commit a random act of violent extremism and only subsequently, when they realized that they needed some justification, did they reach for Islam.[3]

Aside from the President’s absence from the Parisian march against Jihadist Islam, the President completely ignored President Abdel Fattah al Sisi courageous remarks, when he spoke on January 1st to a large college of Muslim clerics. He dared them to “promote a reading of Islamic texts in a “truly enlightened” manner to reconsider the concepts “that have been made sacred over hundreds of years.” By such thinking, the Islamic world is “making enemies of the whole world. So 1.6 billion people (in the Muslim world) will kill the entire world of 7 billion? That’s impossible … We need a religious revolution.”

Sisi has also called for religious toleration – on New Year’s Eve, he became the first Egyptian president to attend a Coptic Christmas Eve mass. It was a popular move among Christians, to whom Sisi’s authoritarianism represents a bulwark against the return of the Muslim Brotherhood.

This is a man our President ought to be supporting, but according to Obama, there is no Jihadist threat  to the civilized world. Any talk about a “Global Jihadist” threat is treated as a symptom of “Islamophobia.”

It is not the place of our President to act as an apologist for Muslim Jihadi movements.

Instead of inviting rock stars and other Hollywood or sports celebrities, maybe the President ought to invite moderate and secular Muslims like Ayaan Hirsi Ali.M. Zuhdi Jasser, American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Ibn Warraq, and other secular Muslims who oppose the marriage of State and religion, as advocated by Sharia law. These Muslims affirm the power of conscience and believe in the equality of all human beings. They also advocate eliminating such backward practices, such as female circumcision, honor killing, forced veiling, and forced marriage, that further the oppression of women; protect sexual and gender minorities from persecution and violence. Most importantly, they affirm Islam as a personal faith—not as a political doctrine.



[2] http://www.libertynewsonline.com/article_301_36189.php#sthash.sG33Hzqb.dpuf; http://www.clarionproject.org/analysis/senior-homeland-security-adviser-slams-egypts-christian-copts See also http://pamelageller.com/2014/09/obamas-muslim-pro-muslim-brotherhood-homeland-security-adviser-resigns.html/#sthash.8lwuXjd6.dpuf.

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/21/opinion/thomas-friedman-say-it-like-it-is.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Fthomas-l-friedman&_r=0

Unleashing the Artistic Imagination

veiled

When you look at the history of Islamic art, it’s inclusion in the Islamic faith has not been without periods of repression. Among those singled out for the most severe penalties of the afterlife, are the artists, and other “makers of images or pictures.”Although the Quran did not prohibit artistic expression, the subsequent Hadiths (oral traditions) do attribute considerable hostility to the artists of Muslim lands.

As the art historian Daniel Boorstin notes:

  • Sultan Firuz Shan Tughluk (c. 1308-1388; reigned 1351-88) left his mark in Muslim history not only by building his own capital city, Firuzabad, and by constructing mosques, hospitals, baths, bridges, and the Jumna Canal, but by mutilating and destroying innumerable works of art. His autobiography boasted that he had erased all pictures from the doors or walls of his palaces and “under the divine guidance and favor” had even removed the figured ornaments from saddles and bridles, from goblets and cups, dishes and ewers, from tents, curtains, and chairs. Sometimes pious Muslims economized efforts by merely scratching or smearing the faces of the images they happened to be on.[1]

The Jewish influence on early Islam is pretty obvious. The Second Commandment has often been interpreted as a ban against all graven images—a point of contention we experienced when the Temple refused to take the Roman coins bearing the likeness of the Emperor, who was often deified by the Roman society. Hence, money changers served an important function in the Temple whenever people coming from afar wished to purchase animals and other offerings. However, in Islamic history, the artist was often perceived as an “imitator” of God, trying to usurp God’s role as Creator. As Boorstin later observes: [2]

  • Islam, by affirming the “stark monotheism” of a God who had a monopoly on creation, abhorred the temptations to compete with God by man’s pretended acts of creation. On the Day of Judgment when God calls upon the painter to breathe life into the forms he has made, the painter’s mockery of God’s acts of “creation” is exposed. Then he is sentenced to the worst punishments of hell. The artist by pretending to be a creator has denied the uniqueness of God and commits blasphemy with every stroke of his brush. According to the Koran, God alone is the “fashioner” (musawwir).

As Islam gradually evolved, the Abbasid caliphs (750-1258) cultivated a reputation for strict piety, Muslim rulers slowly disregarded the old taboos against art and hired their own artists to glorify the Islamic faith in cities like but Baghdad and cities in Persia that were under Muslim control.

Fortunately, there is no known chapter in Jewish history where artists were routinely harassed or persecuted.  In one famous Mishnah, we read about how a famous 1st century rabbi used to frequent a bathhouse that had a statue of Aphrodite inside:

  • Peroklas, the son of a philosopher, asked once R. Gamaliel at Ako, who was then bathing in the bath of the goddess Aphrodite: Your law prescribes [Deut. xiii. 17]: “Let nothing of the devoted objects cleave to your hands”; why, then, do you bathe in the bath of Aphrodite? And he answered: Such questions are not answered–at a bathing place. After he had left the bath, he said: I did not come into her domain, but it is she is the one who came into my space! Truly, people do not say: The bath is erected to adorn the Aphrodite, but the Aphrodite was added in order to beautify the Roman bathhouse. Moreover, you would not agree for any amount of money to appear before your idol when you are naked or urinating. The Aphrodite, however, stands on the channel, and everybody urinates in front of her. The law says their gods, i.e., to say such toward whom one behaves with dignity inspired by something divine; while whatever does not inspire such a behavior, is allowed.[3]

I doubt very seriously, whether today’s Haredi or Hassidic rabbis, or even Modern Orthodox rabbis would be caught dead in a Roman bath house that had Aphrodite as an ornament for the bathhouse.  Yet, religious traditions evolve, as do their followers.

Today, there is scarcely a Muslim leader—even someone as extreme as Osama bin Ladin, who would refuse to have his picture taken. Yet, when depictions of Mohammed the Prophet are depicted by Western artists in a manner that is not complementary, the Jihadists view such disrespect as “blasphemy.”

While the old restrictions regarding art or music (as it was in the case of rabbinic tradition) have been cast into the dustbin of history, comedic and satirical depictions of faith still rub many of us the wrong way–whether the person being depicted is Jesus, Moses, or Mohammed. The problem occurs when people wish to use satire in explaining religiously venerated texts such as the Tanakh, New Testament or the Quran. Yet, in a free society you will not see other religious groups murder others who “blaspheme” their religions. Christians and Jews have learned to accept this, Muslims must accept it as well.  While many of us may not like the artistic depictions of our religious traditions, (e.g., the new movie, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”), the majority of us will avoid what we do not wish to see or allow it to enter into our consciousness. Death by the polls is the best medicine here for all faiths to consider instead of using violence to suppress unpopular thought.

The award-winning author Salman Rushdie, who once received numerous death threats for portrayals of Islam in his work, expressed his support for the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo after an attack that killed at least 12 on Wednesday.

  • “I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity,” he wrote in a statement posted by the Guardian. Gunmen killed at least 12 people in the paper’s offices before fleeing the scene in France’s deadliest terrorist attack in recent memory. “Religion, a medieval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms,” Rushie wrote. “This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today.”[4]

Is there room for an alternative view within mainstream Islam? Actually, there is. As Hassan Nasrallah said a few days ago,“Islamic extremists have insulted Islam and the Prophet Muhammad more than those who published satirical cartoons mocking the religion.” He added, “The Islamic extremists who behead and slaughter people have done more harm to Islam than anyone else in history.”[5]

For once I must agree with Nasrallah. However, it’s a pity he does not apply this to the villainous mullahs of Iran. Simply put, we cannot control how other people think. In a free society, every religious group enjoys the freedom that comes with free speech. It is criminal for anyone who suppress the fundamental democratic life—even this speech seems barbed at times.

Maybe the time has come for religious people to redefine blasphemy in a manner that is not inconsistent with Western values. What is blasphemy? It is taking something beautiful and turning it into something ugly. When viewed from this perspective, killing people in the name of Islam—or any faith—now, that’s true blasphemy.

No cartoon is worth killing over.

======

Notes:

[1] Daniel J. Boorstin, The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination (New York: Random House, 1992), p. 194.

[2] Ibid., p. 195.

[3] Mishnah Avodah Zara 3:4.

[4] http://time.com/3657541/charlie-hebdo-paris-terror-attack-salman-rushdie/

[5] http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4612771,00.html

For Obama, it would be ‘je ne suis pas Charlie’

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Byline: SD Jewish World — Jan 13, 2015

As the world leaders boldly proclaimed in Paris, “We are Charlie” as the Sunday rally attracted more than 1.7 million people, and more than twice that nationwide. These people gathered to show solidarity to those brave souls who fought for the public’s right to enjoy free speech, the President of the United States, was nowhere to be found, he was “missing in action.” What a pity, the President probably could have silenced some of his critics by attending and proclaiming that the United States stands in solidarity with France against Jihadist fanaticism.

Where was the President? Was he spending the weekend watching NFL football? To date, nobody knows for sure… The official word from the government is that “onerous and significant” security preparations for a presidential visit requires more than the 36-hour advance notice.”

Granted, let’s assume the President had a legitimate excuse for not attending. By not attending the unity rally in Paris on Sunday, President Obama has missed an chance to show leadership, to prove that Americans are as committed to fight against terrorism as anyone else  in the world. More importantly: America stands with its allies in a worldwide battle that has no short-term solution.

Alright, let’s assume the President had a legitimate excuse for not attending. Why didn’t the President send Vice President Biden to attend? Why didn’t he send John Kerry in a pinch? Well, we know that John Kerry was lecturing the people of India about the dangers of global warming. President Obama has mentioned on numerous occasions that global warming is far more serious of a threat than global terrorism.

Now it’s time to ask ourselves a more relevant question: How did the people of France interpret our leader’s absence from this event? As a French citizen, traumatized by the latest terrorist attack conducted in the name of ISIS or Al Qaeda, how would you feel? What are the other people of the free world saying about our President?

If I were a Frenchman, I would think that the President of the largest superpower of the free world really does not care about the victims of Jihadism Inc. In fact, let the record show that the President never speaks about an Islamic threat at all, but calls it by the amorphous term “work place violence” or “extremism” and so on.

As it turned out, Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris, but he too was missing in action. He only made taped interviews in a Parisian studio. Holder’s behavior is puzzling. Why did he bother flying to Paris at all? Couldn’t he have stayed in a Washington studio, with some Frenchmen interviewing him with a picture of the Eiffel Tower in the background?

No matter how you look at the optics of the President’s absence, even enthusiastic supporters are scratching their heads.

Permit me to add some perspective to our question. Does anyone remember the movie, The Innocence of Muslims?  This 2012 fourteen minute movie on the “Real life” of Mohammad offended millions of Muslims across the world. At a September 25, 2012 address to the United Nations, Obama himself declared, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” While there were fifty people who were killed as a result of these riots, the President did not defend the producer’s right to express his artistic or political point of view. Instead, he utilized the influence of the White House to keep this film out of circulation.

Worse still, the President gave an insipid speech  at the United Nations, where he blamed the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens on a YouTube video. Like many other falsehoods we have heard from our President, the President contorts reality rather than hold the Muslim community responsible for failing to challenge and speak up against Jihadism.

When Nidal Hasan, the infamous Fort Hood shooter killed thirteen people and injured thirty others in November, 2009. Eric Holder made sure that Hasan was only guilty of “work place violence” rather than “terrorism.”

Then again, September of 2009, shortly after the Iranian vote, thousands of dissenters hit the streets and protested—only to be rebuffed by the Iranian secret police and army. The people wanted our President to speak up on behalf of democratic reform in Iran. One would think this is something the President could have done and he would have “appeared” as a champion for democracy.

But did it happen?

No it didn’t.

President Obama has seldom challenged theocratic regimes—plain and simple.[1]

I suspect that the President’s sympathies are not at all with the Charlie Hebdo, for they unabashedly are lampooning Mohammed and his followers. Far from targeting Muslims in particular, the satirical newspaper has ridiculed everyone from English people to  Pope Benedict XVI regarding the sexual scandals of the Vatican.

In one past 2011 issue, “Sharia Hebdo” by David Sessions, features a cartoon of a “guest editor,” the prophet Muhammad threatening readers with “100 lashes if you don’t die laughing!” The publication’s offices were fire-bombed after it published this issue.

As you can see, the President has painted himself into a corner. The real reason why he cannot support the French people is because he believes that Charlie Hebdo magazine is wrong for showing their scorn to the prophet and the followers of the “Religion of Peace” (which is really a common misnomer, “Islam” means “the religion of submission.”

Need I say more?

You have to admire Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, whom the French Prime Minister quietly asked not to attend, but he certainly did and showed solidarity with the French Jews, reminding them that “Israel is still their home.”

Two comments from the Muslim world really captured the right kind of response that our President should have considered:

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah group said, “Islamic extremists have insulted Islam and the Prophet Muhammad more than those who published satirical cartoons mocking the religion.” He added, “The Islamic extremists who behead and slaughter people have done more harm to Islam than anyone else in history.

A second noteworthy response really cut to the heart of the problem: Egypt’s President al-Sisi opened the new year with a dramatic call for a “revolution” in Islam to reform interpretations of the faith entrenched for hundreds of years, which he said have made the Muslim world a source of “destruction” and pitted it against the rest of the world.

In his January 1st speech at al-Azhar addressing Muslim clerics — held to mark the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday–al-Sisi called on them to promote a reading of Islamic texts in a “truly enlightened” manner to reconsider concepts “that have been made sacred over hundreds of years.”

By such thinking, the Islamic world is “making enemies of the whole world. So 1.6 billion people (in the Muslim world) will kill the entire world of 7 billion? That’s impossible … We need a religious revolution.”[2]

Affifi, from al-Azhar, told the AP that al-Sisi didn’t mean changing texts – something even al-Sisi quickly made clear in his speech.

“What the president meant is that we need a contemporary reading for religious texts to deal with our contemporary reality,” said Affifi, who is secretary general of the Islamic Research Center…. [3]

In short, it is this writer’s opinion that instead of coddling the forces of Islamic extremism, we need as a community, to start promoting the moderate voices of Islam through the power of our media. Unfortunately, the media is dedicated to maintaining the status quo—and such tacit support can only further embolden the fanaticism of the Jihadists.

[1] http://article.wn.com/view/2009/07/06/Iranian_dissenters_embark_on_campaign_of_covert_civil_disobe/?template=cheetah-search-adv%2Findex.txt

[2] http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4612771,00.html

[3]http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4612771,00.html

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Rabbi Samuel is spiritual leader of Temple Beth Shalom in Chula Vista.  Your comment may be posted in the box below or sent directly to the author at michael.samuel@sdjewishworld.com

The Culture of Life vs. the Culture of Death

In my opinion, the brilliant 20th century Eric Fromm ranks as one of the greatest psychologists and social prophets of the century. I would also add that Fromm must rank as one of the least appreciated Jewish philosophers of his time as well.

One of Fromm’s greatest theories pertains to two opposite impulses that are struggling for supremacy in the world. He refers to them as necrophilia vs. biophilia. He explains that necrophilia, or the “love of the dead” is an ideation that is attracted to everything that is dead, e.g., corpses, decay, filth, dirt. As an illustration, Fromm mentions how the Nazi concentration camps were dedicated to the industry of death and genocide. Aside from killing the Jew, the Nazi genocide machine aimed to create an atmosphere of filth surrounding the Jew, who seldom ever had the opportunity to bathe. My father once told me that while he was in Auschwitz, he often bathed in the snow to keep his body clean, while the Nazi officers laughed at his behavior. According to Fromm, the goal of necrophilia as political and religious phenomena is to transform everything that is living into death. This culture dedicated to death defined Nazism for the evil scourge it was.

And yet, in our postwar illusions,we never dared to imagine that we would ever see this kind of menace threatening civilization again. It seemed too inconceivable.

But we were wrong—dead wrong.

The continuous attacks on Israelis only proves that the spirit of Nazism is alive and well–even thriving–in the Jihadist world today.

Whereas Nazism always remained a secular political philosophy dedicated to eradicating the world of Jews and other undesirables, today’s Jihadist movement poses a far greater threat to all of civilization because the engines that run its campaign of genocide derives from religion itself. Let us be clear: Jihadism is a death-force that aims to destroy life as we know it for the glorification of Allah, who behaves more like the bloodthirsty deity of the Bible known as Molech.

In fact, it is impossible to differentiate between the two.

Jihadists love saying, “We love death more than you love life”[1]

The worse part of necrophilia is that the people this philosophy affects makes them totally indifferent to life and even attracted to death. This would explain why being a martyr for Islam is so important. In the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians have museums celebrating the sacrifice of his human bombs; museums decorated with Israeli body parts across the wall.

Sounds like a museum made for Freddie Kruger.

The culture of Israel in contrast, corresponds to what Fromm calls, biophilia–the love of life, the attraction to everything that lives and grows. Preserving life and preventing death is one form ofbiophilia. Biophilous tendencies can be much more varied and tend to integrate and unite, to fuse with different and opposite. Biophilia is life that changes, grows, and develops to the changing circumstances of the environment. Fromm believed that for biophilia to emerge, there has to be certain circumstances to enhance its growth, e.g., the absence of injustice, the love of creativity, the presence of freedom, and the spirit to innovate.

Israel’s technological prowess continues to shape the world in new and exciting ways. This past week, Israeli companies announced they have invented a new way to recharge cellphone batteries instantaneously.

Contrast this with the new story about an A Palestinian baby who receives a life-saving bone marrow treatment worth $55,000—paid by an Israeli pediatrician. Most mothers would appreciate someone saving their child’s life, but what does this baby’s mother say?

While waiting for her son’s treatment in the Israeli hospital, Raida says that she would be happy to see her son become a “shahid” – an Islamic martyr for Jerusalem. “Like Arafat said? ‘A million shahids (martyrs) for Jerusalem?” asks the journalist Shlomi Eldar. “More than a million. All of us are for Jerusalem. All of our people,” she replies. “All of us, not just a million, we’re all for Jerusalem. Do you understand?”“Death is a natural thing for us. We’re not afraid to di[e],” Raida continues. From the smallest infant, even younger than Muhammad [her baby son,] to the oldest person, we’d all sacrifice ourselves for Jerusalem. We feel we have the right to it. … It’s heresy to say that Jerusalem isn’t ours.”[2]

In spiritual terms, biophilia encourages people to search for self-awareness, aspirations, and moral growth. Israel continues to develop technologies that improve the fabric of life while the Palestinian culture of death, which worships a god who loves shihads (martyrs) has produced a moral decadence that threatens the peace of humanity.

The time has come for the Palestinians and Israelis to work together and embrace a new paradigm of life that brings prosperity to all of its people.

Instead of putting more pressure to force Israel to  give up their land to a person that is hell bent upon their destruction, we need to put the pressure where it belongs by cutting off aid to the Palestinian government until it ceases its campaign of genocide against Israel and her people.

It is time for our country to do everything in its power to end the Palestinian paradigm of barbarism and savagery instead of rewarding their delinquent behavior with billions of American dollars and moral support.  In the meantime, every American Jew ought to be proud of Israel’s commitment to further the culture of life.

Golda Meir said it best, “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”

 

 

Welcoming a Real American Hero Home

 

 

This past Friday night, we rejoiced when we heard the news about Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who was finally released from having spent 214 days in a horrible Mexican prison.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this story, Tahmooressi was arrested on March 31 after he made a wrong turn in Mexico. Although he was aware he had entered Mexico with these weapons, he could not make a U-Turn because the flow of traffic did not allow him to do so, since the only turn was located in the farthest lane from where he was driving.  Unfortunately for him, he was carrying three weapons in his truck and this goes against Mexican law.

Little did he realize that he was entering the strange and peculiar reality known as “The Mexican Zone.”

U.S. Marine reservist Sgt. Andrew Paul Tahmooressi was arrested March 31 after Mexican customs agents in the border city of Tijuana found three weapons in his truck. It is illegal to bring guns into Mexico.

The Mexican government treated him as if he deliberately set out to commit a crime, a crime that would have cost him 21 years in a very dangerous prison. Thanks to FOX news analyst Greta Van Susteren, she and several other people finally convinced a Mexican judge to let him out on humanitarian reasons because he suffered from PTSD.

While he languished in prison, Tahmooressi told his friend Mark Podlaski that he had been severely abused in the Mexican prison. Inmates beat him with a bat and dislocated his jaw. In addition, he was often stripped naked and chained or tightly handcuffed to a bed. As if that were not enough, by the time they finally released him at the end of a four week ordeal,  “he couldn’t even walk, he was crippled from such bad muscle dystrophy and joint pain and not being able to fire the muscles in his body.”

And throughout it all, the President did nothing to rescue this brave and decorated soldier, who spent several tours of duty in Afghanistan. Podlaski and others who knew  Tahmooressi, described him as a “Marine’s Marine.”

According to Jewish ethics, redeeming captives from prison is one of the most important mitzvoth of the Torah. The entire story of the Exodus out of Egypt is based upon this principle. When people face degradation because of their captivity, there is a moral response that every human being is commanded to participate: redeeming captives.

Several months ago, President Obama broke American law and traded several high-ranking members of the Taliban A-Team  in order to free Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only American soldier held captive in Afghanistan. As a justification, the President explained his rationale:

  • Sergeant Bergdahl has missed birthdays, and holidays and simple moments with family and friends which all of us take for granted. But while Bowe was gone, he was never forgotten”— not by his family or his hometown in Idaho, or the military. “And he wasn’t forgotten by his country, because the United States of America does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind..

Any person with a modicum of humanity ought to wonder why the President didn’t ask our friendly neighbor, Mexico, to release Tahmooressi immediately after he was arrested. Yet, this never happened.

The immorality of our President’s behavior ought to fill all of us with disgust and disdain. Although the President met several times with the Mexican President and demand his release.

The Talmud expounded the verse, “You shall not stand by the blood of your neighbor” (Lev. 19:16). The Sages teach us:

From where do we know that if a man sees his fellow drowning, mauled by beasts, or attacked by robbers, he is bound to save him? From the verse,  “You shall not stand by the blood of your neighbor” (Lev. 19:16). [1]

When it comes to living an ethical life, we must make courageous decisions to get involved. Ignoring someone else’s suffering makes the observer morally guilty of murder. There can be no moral hedging on this matter. It is a pity that our President does not seem to have a moral compass guiding him to do the right and ethical thing.

As Americans and as Jews, we have a moral duty to speak out and tell our leadership that we will never tolerate immoral and evil behavior. If our President is unwilling to act like a mentsch, then the time has come for him to step down and let someone else more competent and just to preside as the leader of the free world.

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Notes BT Sanhedrin 73a

Rescuing Spinoza from the Depths of Hell

This past week, the Jewish Chronicle published a remarkable article that caught my attention that I would like to write about, which just appeared in the news for the first time.[1]

The time: 2012

The place: Modern day Amsterdam.

The event:  A group of university scholars and leaders of the Amsterdam Jewish community meet to discuss the possibility of lifting a ban of excommunication made against Baruch Spinoza. This ban has been in effect for 356 years.

The Amsterdam Chief Rabbi, Haham Dr. Pinchas Toledano was asked  to lift the 356-year-old ban of excommunication, but he refused to do so  for several reasons:

He gives many reasons for his position:

  • Spinoza never asked the community to rescind the ban despite the fact that the average excommunication [and there were many in those days] was lifted after 30 days. Therefore, “beyond any shadow of doubt, Spinoza never requested to rescind the herem.”
  • Spinoza never asked for forgiveness and felt his positions were justified within the matrix of Judaic thought.
  • Toledano explains that we do not wish to intimate that we approve of Spinoza’s heresies.
  • Judaism does not recognize the freedom of speech.

While one may or may not accept the first three reasons Toledano offers, the last reason about Judaism being against the freedom of speech is especially offensive and historically untrue. Throughout the medieval era, Jewish thinkers took umbrage with each of Maimonides Thirteen Principles of Faith. There has never been a catholicity of Judaic belief in Jewish history. This is an important distinction we make between the Christian faith that insists upon correct belief vis-à-vis  Jewish belief.

While one may or may not accept the first three reasons Toledano offers, the last reason about Judaism being against the freedom of speech is especially offensive and historically untrue. Throughout the medieval era, Jewish thinkers took umbrage with each of Maimonides Thirteen Principles of Faith. There has never been a catholicity of Judaic belief in Jewish history. This is an important distinction we make between the Christian faith that insists upon correct belief vis-à-vis  Jewish belief.

Perhaps the Ultra-Orthodox ought to take a lesson from the Catholic Church.

When Galileo first championed his heliocentric theories to Copernicus in 1610, the Catholic Church unleashed the power of the Inquisition, who ruled that such theories of the solar system were heretical. Galileo’s books were banned and burned. Nobody was allowed to even discuss his “dangerous” scientific ideas.  In 1633, he was tried and arrested for heresy and remained in prison until his death in 1642. Oddly, despite the scientific progress the world had seen since the time of his death, only Pope John Paul II finally freed Galileo from the tortures of purgatory in 1999.

People nowadays laugh that it took so long for the Catholic Church to finally honor a truly great figure in modern history. Today, many of the Church’s greatest theological minds are also physicists who believe that a symbiosis of science and religion is possible, as Einstein famously stated: “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

In short, anyone who is familiar with much of what Spinoza writes about with respect to God, Bible, and revelation, one can more or less discover many of his ideas in the classical sources. Granted, we have every right to differ with many of Spinoza’s ideas, much like we would differ with Maimonides’s view of Kashrut, or Gersonides’ views regarding Divine omnipresence.

The real problem that we are witnessing today is the attempt of Ultra-Orthodox  (Haredi, Chabad, Haredi Light Judaism, etc.) seeking to homogenize Judaic thought so it will exclude any non-Orthodox form of Judaism. That is the problem that demands addressing.

Our problem boils down to a very human problem: the fear of new ideas. Carl Jung once referred to this problem as  “misoneism” and it is nothing new in the history of human civilization and progress. Stalwarts of the status-quo fear a loss of position and power that comes with the introduction of a new paradigm. History reflects such rigid and intransigent thinking. Unfortunately, it is a problem that is evident in many walks of life—especially when it comes to religion.

The way to fight heretical ideas is not by burning or forbidding these books to be read. We must combat questionable or debatable ideas by coming up with better ideas. This is a legacy that Spinoza tried to start in his own way, and we are greatly indebted for the questions he poses for modern Jews of all denominational movements to wisely consider answering.