Joshua redux?

Does anyone remember Joshua from the Old Testament? This particular part of the Tanakh is the most violent and also a harsh reminder about the consistency of Jewish aggressiveness against non-Jews since their beginning. It is sadly ironic that these events are taking place in the same physical area where Joshua fought his “battle” killing every living thing.

I can hardly believe the images I’m seeing on the Internet, the stories I’m hearing from friends in the West Bank, and the reports I’m listening to on the BBC radio. Jericho, which up until yesterday has been one of the only Palestinian areas that was completely under Palestinian Authority control, was invaded by Israeli military tanks in order to apprehend PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) leader Ahmad Sa’adat and other Palestinians who are accused of assassinating Rehavam Ze’vi, a former minister in the Israeli cabinet. The Israelis were able to storm the prison because the American and English guards who were monitoring the prison had left. I find it curious that the Israelis knew this only fifteen minutes after their departure. Even more suspicious is the fact that the last warden message we received from the American embassy was particularly strict with warnings about travel in the West Bank. It seemed odd to be only related to American paranoia about the Hamas elections. It seems like there was some collusion going on between the U.S., England, and Israel.

In the aftermath of the event, the West Bank became a place that I just don’t know. I was shocked to learn that an American professor who teaches at the Arab American University in Jenin was kidnapped (I learned about this after receiving an email from a friend worried that it was me). The British Council and AMIDEAST offices in Ghaza were set ablaze and there were all kinds of protests by PFLP and other organizations in the West Bank. Other foreign aid workers and teachers were kidnapped as well, but all of these people have since been released (thankfully kidnapping in Palestine is an entirely different animal than in Iraq). The Israeli Occupation Forces also re-invaded places like Aida refugee camp in the Beit Lahem area, where they shot, bombed, and arrested people for five hours. The BBC has some photographs of the devastation and humiliation that Palestinians suffered at the hands of Israel’s invading and occupying army.

I’m still in shock about what happened and I find it hard to respond to what’s going on without being there. On my gut level this all seems to be provocation by the Israelis given their upcoming election in a couple of weeks. It’s an easy way for Olmert to show that he can be militant and forceful like Sharon. However, as always, Ali Abunimah has the best and most thorough analysis of what went on. Here are some excerpts of his article:

Let us remember why Ahmad Sa’adat and other prisoners in the Jericho jail were wanted by the occupation authorities. Saadat is accused of killing Rehavam Ze’evi, the founder of the Moledet Party and an Israeli cabinet minister. The missing contextual facts are that the PFLP killed Ze’evi in retaliation for Israel’s murder of its leader Abu Ali Mustafa (Mustafa al-Zibri) in August 2001. Al-Zibri was not carrying arms or fighting, but sitting at his desk when an Israeli Apache helicopter fired a missile at him blowing him to pieces. Ze’evi was the leading advocate in Israel for the destruction of the Palestinian people, calling for their wholesale expulsion. The party he founded is running on the same platform in the current Israeli election campaign as anyone can read on its website.

In the present atmosphere, we are being told that Hamas, which has maintained a truce for more than 12 months, and which has declared its willingness to come to terms with an Israel that withdraws to the 1967 border, is beyond the pale for Europeans and Americans to talk to until it “recognizes Israel” and “renounces violence.” Why were such conditions never imposed on Israel? How is it that a proud, boastful ethnic cleanser like Ze’evi could sit in the Israeli cabinet with Ariel Sharon and Nobel Prize winner Shimon Peres for years and not one of those Western officials who today threaten the Palestinians with an end to all aid for electing Hamas uttered not one single word? Why is it acceptable for the US Congress to hand over billions of dollars to an Israel whose government ministers advocate ethnic cleansing? How is it that instead of demanding the arrest of the murderers of Abu Ali Mustafa and thousands of other Palestinians, Britain and the US collude with Israel to commit new crimes under international law?

There’s much more to his article, and I encourage people to read it in total. I’m headed to the Dead Sea tomorrow, just across from Eriha (Jericho). It will be strange to sit across that magnificent sea and imagine what must be going on on the other side.



12 thoughts on “Joshua redux?

  1. I can’t speak for Jews everywhere, but the phrase ‘Jewish aggressiveness against non-Jews since their beginning’ seems offensive. I’m surprised that you, having some Jewish background, couldn’t think of a better way to put that. Also, the storming of a jail is no way comparable to the conquest of a city; the Israeli tanks left in short order.

  2. On another note, it was your ‘protestors’, not the Israelis, who were doing the abducting.

    The PFLP’s Abu Ali Mustapha Brigades has carried out attacks on both civilians and military targets during the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Some of these attacks are:

    * The killing of Meir Lixenberg, councillor and head of security in four settlements, who was shot while travelling in his car in the West Bank on August 27, 2001. [2]

    * The 21 October, 2001 assassination of far-right Israeli politician and Israeli Minister for Tourism Rehavam Zeevi, the only Israeli politician to have been assassinated in the current intifada.

    * A suicide bombing in a pizzeria in Karnei Shomron, on the West Bank on February 16, 2002, killing three Israeli civilians – Keren Shatzki, 14; Rachel Theler 16; and Nehemia Amar, 15. [3]

    * A suicide bombing in a Netanya market in Israel, on May 19, 2002, killing three Israelis – Yosef Haviv, 70, Victor Tatrinov, 63 and Arkady Vieselman, 40. This attack was also claimed by Hamas[4], but the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades have identified the perpetrator on their website as one of their members[5][6]

  3. I agree with Dark Provest that to take a biblical narrative from several thousand years ago, tie them to current actions by the State of Israel and to come out with “consistency of Jewish aggressiveness against non-Jews since their beginning” is an astounding leap. I’m sure you demand far more diligence and accuracy from your students, or at least I hope you do. What other instances from history can you provide to back up this statement?

  4. First of all, I don’t have “some Jewish background,” I am 100% Jewish on both the maternal and paternal biological sides of my family. This goes back for as many generations as I am aware of. Second of all, I don’t see that it is at all offensive to say that there is a serious problem of Jewish aggressiveness against non Jews; this is rooted in the Tanakh (what Christians call the Bible) in the Hebrew version. All of the things that even Christians hold dear as humanist, such as love thy neighbor, or thou shall not murder, are actually mis-translated; in Jewish religion and law Jews are only commanded to uphold such virtues when it comes to Jews. It is perfectly legal, within Jewish law, and thus in the Jewish state, for Jews to commit crimes against non-Jews.

    Yes, the people who were being abducted were being abducted by Palestinians. One might consider the question of why all the mayhem? Why might Palestinians be so outraged and frustrated with what happened last week?

    Finally, I raise the issue of biblical allusion because it bears out a fairly linear history. I didn’t mean to suggest that Israelis razed Jericho this time, but rather I meant to suggest the ruthlessness that you can see when reading that part of the Tanakh when the Israelites were fighting the Canaanites. Even rabbis use this chapter of Judaism to ponder the current situation in Palestine and Israel; the difference is that many rabbis fail to mention who began the aggressive battles or encounters then and now.


  5. I challenge you to find a single Jew, Dr. Newman, who thinks that one can behave how so ever they wish towards non-Jews. While anti-Semitic websites documenting this ‘tendency’ are not easy to find, it will be quite a struggle to find an actual specimen that holds this belief. I also apologise for not knowing the full extent of your Jewish background, having only met you on one occasion.

  6. The dark provost you can know jews from their family name , most of them end with man like:
    newman, huffman, shuman …….
    and you can find many other examples

    Also I belive suman family, the Arab Bank founder, are jews although they denay that!!


  7. My name is Holmes, a fine Anglo-Saxon name, but I am Jewish. Just goes to show, you never can tell.

  8. Dah!
    I didnt say that you can figure out all the jews using the above rule, what I am saying is that people whose family name ending with **man are most likely to be jews !

  9. I’m always intrigued by people who change their names to something “less Jewish,” like Frank Gehry and Natalie Portman did. Then those same people are often the ones who go on about Israel and the importance of Jewish identity.

    I have a very Jewish-sounding last name (although it’s actually a German name). I never felt a reason to change it because I HAVE NEVER BEEN A VICTIM OF ANTI SEMITISM. Nor do I feel a reason to support Israel.

  10. You can’t blame Natalie Portman, born in Jerusalem, for being somewhat fond of Israel.

  11. I guess I have to state the obvious: I wasn’t “blaming” Natalie Portman for being “fond” of Israel. I was pointing out the hypocrisy of changing one’s name to hide one’s identity, then proclaiming how important that identity is. I don’t know Portman’s political views, but I am somewhat familiar with Gehry’s.

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