North East Stop The War Coalition Discussion Forum

General Category => South Tyneside Stop the War => Topic started by: John Tinmouth on November 25, 2014, 02:17:58 PM

Title: A History Of Judaism And Present-Day Orthodox Judaism
Post by: John Tinmouth on November 25, 2014, 02:17:58 PM

… At Bibi Netanyahu’s dinner table in Jerusalem, I listened with crawling dismay to Bibi talking about the future of his country. “In the next war, if we do it right we’ll have a chance to get all the Arabs out”, he said. “We can clear the west Bank, sort out Jerusalem.” He joked about the Golani Brigade, the Israeli infantry force in which so many men were North African or Yemenite Jews. “They’re okay as long as they’re led by white officers.” He grinned. He and his kin despised what they perceived as the decadence of the West and of Europe, such feeble friends to Israel in her hours of need. I saw revealed at tables of that sort in those days a scorn for weakness, an exaggerated respect for strength and toughness, which made me deeply uneasy because it possessed a historical resonance of the most baneful kind.
Extract from Max Hastings book, Going To The Wars


– AS DESCRIBED IN ISRAEL SHAHAK’S Jewish History, JewishReligion


The Book
The Author
The Author’s Exposé
Shahak: The Key To Understanding Israeli Politics And Zionism
Shahak: The Nature Of The Jewish State, And The Dangers It Poses
A Note On The Arrangement Of This Article

Judaism To The End Of The Talmudic Period
The Talmud And Its Structure
The Legal System Of The Talmud

Jewish History To The End Of The Talmudic Period
Ancient Jewish History
The Period Of The Dual Centres Of Palestine And Mesopotamia

Classical Judaism
Judaism Is Not A Monotheistic Religion
Classical Judaism And Jewish Mysticism – The Cabbala
Interpretation Of The Bible
Classical Judaism And The Dispensations
Social Aspects Of Dispensations
The Laws Against Non-Jews

Jewish Deceptions About Judaism In The Classical Period
Attacks On, And Censorship Of, Judaism, And The Jewish Response
Historic deceptions about Judaism in detail

Jewish History In The Period Of Classical Judaism
Major Features Of Jewish Society In The Period Of Classical Judaism
Jewry’s Ignorance Of Jewry’s Contemporary State
Anti Jewish Persecutions

Orthodox Judaism In Modern Times
Jewish Deceptions About Judaism In Modern Times

Modern deceptions about Judaism in detail
Jewish History In Modern Times
The Condition Of Jewry At The Beginning Of Modern Times
The Breakdown Of The Totalitarian Jewish Community
The effect of liberation from outside
Anti Jewish Persecutions
Modern Antisemitism
The Zionist Response To Anti-Semitism
Major Features Of Israeli Society
Israeli Expansionism
The terrible effect of Jewish religious fanaticism on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
The Failure To Speak Out Against Zionism And Jewish Rascism

Pervasive Influence Of Orthodox Judaism And Zionism
Effect Of Orthodox Judaism And Zionism On Israeli Policies
The Baleful Influence Of Some Diaspora Jews, Especially Some Jewish-Americans

Confronting the Past
The Test Facing Both Israeli And Diaspora Jews
Our Own Comments - The Good Guys And The Bad Guys


The Book
Israel Shahak’s Jewish History, Jewish Religion was first published in 1994 and reprinted with a new foreword in 1997. It is therefore several years old now, but the picture he presents is unchanged. In fact, evidence from the Israeli army’s recent assault on Gaza supports his views. Today, it is even more important that his voice is heard.

The blurb on the back cover of the reprint (its author is not identified) gives a brief summary: “While Muslim fundamentalism is vilified in the West, Jewish fundamentalism goes largely unremarked. In this highly acclaimed and controversial work, Israel Shahak embarks on a provocative study of the extent to which the [supposedly] secular state of Israel has been shaped by religious orthodoxies of an invidious … nature. Drawing on his study of the Talmud and rabbinical laws, Shahak argues that the roots of Jewish chauvinism and religious fanaticism must be understood, before it is too late.”

The Author
In the forewords to the first and second printings, by Gore Vidal and the late Edward Said respectively, details are given of the author:

The Author’s Exposé
Edward Said, in his foreword, sums up the account in Shahak’s book:
Shahak: The Key To Understanding Israeli Politics And Zionism

Shahak: The Nature Of The Jewish State, And The Dangers It Poses
Shahak believes that:

A Note On The Arrangement Of This Article
It has been thought useful, in summarising Shahak’s book, to arrange events chronologically. Shahak splits Jewish history into three periods. Judaism is described for the first two periods, that from ancient times to the end of the Talmudic period, and the period referred to by Shahak as ‘classical Judaism’. However, since Shahak’s account is ultimately concerned only with Orthodox Judaism, and its political effects, he describes Orthodox Judaism only in the third period – modern times. Within each period, two narratives, as described by Shahak, are set out:

Naturally, these two narratives – the religious history of Judaism and Orthodax Judaism, and Jewish social/political history, interact with and profoundly affect each other. Indeed, this is the whole point of Shahak’s account.


Judaism To The End Of The Talmudic Period
The Talmud And Its Structure
Shahak notes that “ … the source of authority for all the practices of classical (and present-day Orthodox) Judaism, the determining base of its legal structure, is the Talmud, or, to be precise, the so-called Babylonian Talmud; while the rest of the talmudic literature (including the so-called Jerusalem or Palestinian Talmud) acts as a supplementary authority.”

He explains that although, in the Talmudic period ending around AD500, there were Jews living throughout the Roman Empire and in many areas of the Sassanid Empire, it is quite evident from the Talmudic text composed in that period that no scholars from countries other than Mesopotamia and Palestine took part in the composition of the Talmud, and that its text therefore:

“We cannot enter here into a detailed description of the Talmud and Talmudic literature”, Shahak says, “but confine ourselves to a few principal points needed for our argument.” “Basically, the Talmud consists of two parts”, he continues:

The Legal System Of The Talmud
Shahak notes that “The legal system of the Talmud can be described as totally comprehensive, rigidly authoritarian, and yet capable of infinite development, without however any change in its dogmatic base. Every aspect of Jewish life, both individual and social, is covered, usually in considerable detail, with sanctions and punishments provided for every conceivable sin or infringement of the rules. The basic rules for every problem are stated dogmatically and cannot be questioned. What can be done and is discussed at very great length is the elaboration and practical definition of these rules.” He then gives a few examples:

Jewish History To The End Of The Talmudic Period
This consists of the period to about 500AD, comprising the period of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah, which was followed by the period of the dual centres of Palestine and Mesopotamia.

Ancient Jewish History
Shahak takes ancient Jewish history as comprising “the [period] of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah, until the destruction the first Temple (587 BC) and the Babylonian exile.” He notes that “much of the Old Testament is concerned with this period, although most major books of the Old Testament, including the Pentateuch as we know it, were actually composed after that date ... Socially, these ancient Jewish kingdoms were quite similar to the neighbouring kingdoms of Palestine and Syria; and - as a careful reading of the Prophets reveals - the similarity extended to the religious cults practised by the great majority of the people. The ideas that were to become typical of later Judaism - including in particular ethnic segregationism and monotheistic exclusivism - were at this stage confined to small circles of priests and prophets, whose social influence depended on royal support.”

The Period Of The Dual Centres Of Palestine And Mesopotamia
The following period, as taken by Shahak, is that of “the dual centres, Palestine and Mesopotamia, from the first 'Return from Babylon' (537 BC) until about AD 500.” Shahak continues:


Classical Judaism
Judaism Is Not A Monotheistic Religion
Shahak states that, before considering the theological-legal structure of classical Judaism, “it is necessary to dispel at least some of the many misconceptions disseminated in almost all foreign-language (that is, non-Hebrew) accounts of Judaism, especially by those who propagate such currently fashionable phrases as ‘the Judeo-Christian tradition’ or ‘the common values of the monotheistic religions’ … [Among] the most important of these popular delusions [is] that the Jewish religion is, and always was, monotheistic … as many biblical scholars know, and as a careful reading of the Old Testament easily reveals, this … view is quite wrong. In many, if not most, books of the Old Testament the existence and power of ‘other gods’ are clearly acknowledged, but Yahweh (Jehovah), who is the most powerful god, is also very jealous of his rivals and forbids his people to worship them. It is only very late in the Bible, in some of the later prophets, that the existence of all gods other than Yahweh is denied.”

Classical Judaism And Jewish Mysticism – The Cabbala
Shahak says that it is quite clear, though much less widely realised, that classical Judaism, “during its last few hundred years, was for the most part far from pure monotheism.” He continues:

“Finally, all of this”, says Shahak, “is of considerable importance in Israel (and in other Jewish centres) even at present.” He goes on:
                                                                                                                                - “all these”, says Shahak, “and many other traits of zionist politics, which puzzle so many well-meaning people who have a false notion of classical Judaism, become more intelligible against this religious and mystical background. I must warn, however, against falling into the other extreme and trying to explain all zionist politics in terms of this background. Obviously, the latter’s influences vary in extent. Ben-Gurion was adept at manipulating them in a controlled way for specific ends. Under Begin the past exerted a much greater influence upon the present. But what one should never do is ignore the past and its influences, because only by knowing it can one transcend its blind power.” [our italics]

“It will be seen from [the above]”, says Shahak, “that what most supposedly well-informed people think they know about Judaism may be very misleading, unless they can read Hebrew. All the details mentioned above can be found in the original texts or, in some cases, in modern books written in Hebrew for a rather specialised readership. In English one would look for them in vain, even where the omission of such socially important facts distorts the whole picture.”

Interpretation Of The Bible
Shahak states that “There is yet another misconception about Judaism which is particularly common among Christians, or people heavily influenced by Christian tradition and culture. This is the misleading idea that Judaism is a ‘biblical religion’; that the Old Testament has in Judaism the same central place and … authority which the Bible has for Protestant or even Catholic Christianity … We have seen [under classical Judaism] that in matters of belief there is great latitude. Exactly the opposite holds with respect to the legal interpretation of sacred texts. Here the interpretation is rigidly fixed – but by the Talmud rather than by the Bible itself. Many, perhaps most, biblical verses prescribing religious acts and obligations are ‘understood’ by classical Judaism and by present-day Orthodoxy in a sense which is quite distinct from, or even contrary to, their literal meaning as understood by Christian or other readers of the Old Testament, who only see the plain text. The same division exists at present in Israel between those educated in Jewish religious schools and those educated in ‘secular’ Hebrew schools, where on the whole the plain meaning of the Old Testament is taught.”

“This important point”, Shahak goes on, “can only be understood through examples [specific examples of interpretations of the Bible].” Shahak then gives some examples of interpretations – these are included in the attached Appendix A, “Examples Of Judaistic Interpretations Of The Bible”

Shahak notes that “It is quite clear even from the examples [given in Appendix A] that when Orthodox Jews today (or all Jews before about 1780) read the Bible, they are reading a very different book, with a totally different meaning, from the Bible as read by non-Jews or non-Orthodox Jews. This distinction applies even in Israel, although both parties read the text in Hebrew. Experience, particularly since 1967, has repeatedly corroborated this. Many Jews in Israel (and elsewhere), who are not Orthodox and have little detailed knowledge of the Jewish religion, have tried to shame Orthodox Israelis (or right-wingers who are strongly influenced by religion) out of their inhuman attitude towards the Palestinians, by quoting at them verses from the Bible in their plain humane sense. It was always found, however, that such arguments do not have the slightest effect on those who follow classical Judaism; they simply do not understand what is being said to them; because to them the biblical text means something quite different than to everyone else.”

“If such a communication gap exists in Israel, where people read Hebrew and can readily obtain correct information if they wish, one can imagine”, says Shahak, “how deep is the misconception abroad, say among people educated in the Christian tradition. In fact, the more such a person reads the Bible, the less he or she knows about Orthodox Judaism. [Orthodox Jews regard] the Old Testament as a text of immutable sacred formulas, whose recitation is an act of great merit, but whose meaning is wholly determined elsewhere. And, as Humpty Dumpty told Alice, behind the problem of who can determine the meaning of words, there stands the real question: ‘Which is to be master?’ ”

Classical Judaism And The Dispensations
It was noted above that the Talmudic text does not reflect social conditions outside the dual centres of Mesopotamia and Palestine, and reflects a complete Jewish society of that time, with Jewish agriculture as its basis. Shahak notes that this contrasts sharply with the period of classical Judaism - we find, he says, “that the two features mentioned above have been reversed” Jewish societies are spread over a much wider geographical area of the world. Shahak says that they have undergone a deep change – wherever they are, they are not peasant societies.

Shahak notes that “the Talmud was adapted to the conditions – geographically much wider and socially much narrower, and at any rate radically different – of classical Judaism. We shall concentrate on what is in my opinion the most important method of adaptation, namely the dispensations.”

He goes on “As noted above, the Talmudic system is most dogmatic and does not allow any relaxation of its rules even when they are reduced to absurdity by a change in circumstances. And in the case of the Talmud – contrary to that of the Bible – the literal sense of the text is binding, and one is not allowed to interpret it away.”

Shahak states that “in the period of classical Judaism various Talmudic laws became untenable for the Jewish ruling classes – the rabbis and the rich. In the interest of these ruling classes, a method of systematic deception was devised for keeping the letter of the law, while violating its spirit and intention. It was this hypocritical system of ‘dispensations’ (heterim) which, in my view, was the most important cause of the debasement of Judaism in its classical epoch.” [Shahak considers the second most important cause of the debasement of Judaism to be Jewish mysticism, as described above]. Shahak then gives some examples of dispensations, to illustrate how the system works – these are included in the attached Appendix B, “Classical Judaism And Present-Day Orthodox Judaism: The Dispensations”

Social Aspects Of Dispensations
“Two social features of [dispensations] and many similar practices deserve special mention”, says Shahak.

He goes on: “ … a dominant feature of … dispensations, and of classical Judaism inasmuch as it is based on them, is deception – deception primarily of God, if this word can be used for an imaginary being so easily deceived by the rabbis, who consider themselves cleverer than him. No greater contrast can be conceived than that between the God of the Bible … and of the God of classical Judaism The latter is more like the early Roman Jupiter, who was likewise bamboozled by his worshippers, or the gods described in Frazer’s Golden Bough.” He continues:

“The second dominant feature of the dispensations”, saya Shahak, “is that they are in large part obviously motivated by the spirit of profit. And it is this combination of hypocrisy and the profit motive which increasingly dominated classical Judaism.” He continues:

The Laws Against Non-Jews
Classical Judaism (and, as we will see later, Orthodox Judaism) displays hostile attitudes to non-Jews and practices deceptions against them.

The laws against non-Jews, which refer to the above codes of Talmudic law, are extensive, and are included in the attached Appendix C, “Classical Judaism And Present-Day Orthodox Judaism: The Laws Against Non-Jews”.

Statements Directed Against Christianity
Shahak states that “the Talmud and the talmudic literature – quite apart from the general anti-Gentile streak that runs through them [which is discussed in detail above], contains very offensive statements and precepts directed specifically against Christianity.” Shahak gives some examples:

Jewish Deceptions About Judaism In The Classical Period
Attacks On, And Censorship Of, Judaism, And The Jewish Response
There were, Shahak notes, “ … Christian attacks against those passages in the Talmud and the Talmudic literature which are specifically anti-Christian or more generally anti-Gentile … this challenge developed relatively late in the history of Christian-Jewish relations – only from the 13th century on. (Before that time, the Christian authorities attacked Judaism using either Biblical or general arguments, but seemed to be quite ignorant as to the contents of the Talmud). The Christian campaign against the Talmud was apparently brought on by the conversion to Christianity of Jews who were well versed in the Talmud and who were in many cases attracted by the development of Christian philosophy, with its strong … universal character.”

“A powerful attack”, says Shahak, “well based in many points, against talmudic Judaism developed in Europe from the 13th century. We are not referring here to ignorant calumnies, such as the blood libel, propagated by benighted monks in small provincial cities, but to serious disputations held before the best European universities of the time and on the whole conducted as fairly as was possible under mediaeval circumstances.”

“What”, Shahak asks, “was the Jewish – or rather the rabbinical – response? The simplest one was the ancient weapon of bribery and string-pulling. In most European countries, during most of the time, anything could be fixed by a bribe. Nowhere was this maxim more true than in the Rome of the Renaissance popes.” Shahak notes that “the Editio Princeps of the complete Code of Talmudic Law, Maimonides Mishneh Torah – replete not only with the most offensive precepts against all Gentiles but also with explicit attacks on Christianity and on Jesus (after whose name the author adds piously; ‘May the name of the wicked perish’) – was published unexpurgated in Rome in the year 1480 under Sixtus IV, politically a very active pope who had a constant and urgent need for money.”

“During that period”, Shahak says, “as well as before it, there were always countries in which for a time a wave of anti-Talmud persecution set in. But a more consistent and widespread onslaught came with the Reformation and Counter Reformation, which induced a higher standard of intellectual honesty as well as a better knowledge of Hebrew among Christian scholars. From the 16th century, all the Talmudic literature, including the Talmud itself, was subjected to Christian censorship in various countries. In Russia, this went on until 1917. Some censors, such as in Holland, were more lax, while others were more severe; and the offensive passages were expunged or modified.”

“All modern studies on Judaism”, continues Shahak, “particularly by Jews, have evolved from that conflict, and to this day they bear the unmistakable marks of their origin: deception, apologetics or hostile polemics, indifference or even hostility to the pursuit of truth. Almost all the so-called Jewish studies in Judaism, from that time to this very day, are polemics against an external enemy rather than an internal debate.”

He goes on: “It is important to note that this was initially the character of [religious] historiography in all known societies … [it] was true of the early Catholic and Protestant historians, who polemicised against each other. Similarly, the earliest European national histories are imbued with the crudest nationalism and scorn for all other, neighbouring nations. But sooner or later there comes a time when an attempt is made to understand one’s national or religious adversary and at the same time to criticise certain deep and important aspects of the history [or religious history] of one’s own [nation or religious] group; and both these developments go together. Only when historiography becomes … ‘a debate without end’ rather than a continuation of war by historiographic means, only then does a humane historiography, which strives for both accuracy and fairness, become possible; and it then turns into one of the most powerful instruments of humanism and self-education.”

Shahak notes that “It is for this reason that modern totalitarian regimes rewrite history or punish historians. When a whole society tries to return to totalitarianism, a totalitarian history is written, not because of compulsion from above but under pressure from below, which is much more effective. This is what happened in Jewish history, and this constitutes the first obstacle we have to surmount.”

Historic deceptions about Judaism in detail
“What”, says Shahak, “were the detailed mechanisms (other than bribery) employed by Jewish communities … to ward off the attack on the Talmud and other religious literature? Several methods can be distinguished, all of them having important political consequences reflected in current Israeli policies.” [our italics] Shahak then records the historic deceptions about Judaism in detail – these are included (together with modern-day deceptions) in the attached Appendix D, “Jewish Deceptions About Judaism”

Jewish History In The Period Of Classical Judaism
Between the period of the dual centres, and the period of classical Judaism, Shahak says, “there is a gap of several centuries in which our present knowledge of Jews and Jewish society is very slight, and the scant information we do have is all derived from external (non-Jewish) sources. In the countries of Latin Chris-tendom we have absolutely no Jewish literary records until the middle of the 10th century; internal Jewish information, mostly from religious literature, becomes more abundant only in the 11th and particularly the 12th century. Before that, we are wholly dependent first on Roman and then on Christian evidence. In the Islamic countries the information gap is not quite so big; still, very little is known about Jewish society before AD 800 and about the changes it must have under¬gone during the three preceding centuries.”

“Let us”, says Shahak, “therefore ignore those 'dark ages', and for the sake of convenience [in studying the period of classical Judaism], begin with the two centuries 1000-1200, for which abundant information is available from both internal and external sources on all the important Jewish centres, east and west. Classical Judaism, which is clearly discernible in this period, has undergone very few changes since then, and (in the guise of Orthodox Judaism) is still a powerful force today.” Shahak defines the period of classical Judaism as ending around 1780.

Major Features Of Jewish Society In The Period Of Classical Judaism
Shahak characterises the period of classical Judaism in terms of the social differences distinguishing it from earlier phases of Judaism, and distinguishes the following major features. He notes:

Shahak states that “The consequences of [the above] social features, taken to¬gether, go a long way towards explaining the history of classical Jewish communities both in Christian and in Muslim countries”. He goes on:

Shahak then illustrates how the social features referred to above apply, by briefly reviewing the history of various Muslim and Christian coun¬tries as examples. For those interested, his book may be referred to.

Jewry’s Ignorance Of Jewry’s Contemporary State
Shahak also notes that, because of the closed nature of Jewish communities everywhere, Jewish history was not written, and, as a result, Jews were unaware [at that time] of the contemporary state of Jewish society. He says:

Anti Jewish Persecutions
“During the whole period of classical Judaism”, Shahak notes, “Jews were often subjected to persecutions … [these were] popular movements, coming from below.” Shahak then examines particular anti-Jewish persecutions in the period of classical Judaism, and comes to the following conclusions:

“The general rule can be observed in all the major massacres of Jews in Christian Europe”, says Shahak. He goes on: “During the first crusade, it was not the proper armies of the knights, commanded by famous dukes and counts, which molested the Jews, but the spontaneous popular hosts composed almost exclusively of peasants and paupers in the wake of Peter the Hermit. In each city the bishop or the emperor's representative opposed them and tried, often in vain, to protect the Jews. The anti-Jewish riots in England which accompanied the third crusade were part of a popular movement directed also against royal officials, and some rioters were punished by Richard I. The massacres of Jews during the outbreaks of the Black Death occurred against the strict orders of the pope, the emperor, the bishops and the German princes. In the free towns, for example in Strasbourg, they were usually preceded by a local revolution in which the oligarchic town council, which protected the Jews, was overthrown and replaced by a more popular one. The great 1391 massacres of Jews in Spain took place under a feeble regency government and at a time when the papacy, weakened by the Great Schism be¬tween competing popes, was unable to control the mendicant friars.”

Shahak again: “Perhaps the most outstanding example is the great massacre of Jews during the Chmielnicki revolt in the Ukraine (1648), which started as a mutiny of Cossack officers but soon turned into a widespread popular movement of the oppressed serfs: 'The unprivileged, the subjects, the Ukrainians, the Orthodox [persecuted by the Polish Catholic church] were rising against their Catholic Polish masters, particularly against their masters' bailiffs, clergy and Jews.’ This typical peasant uprising against extreme oppression, an uprising accompanied not only by mas¬sacres committed by the rebels but also by even more horrible atrocities and 'counter-terror' of the Polish magnates' private armies, has remained emblazoned in the consciousness of east-European Jews to this very day - not, however, as a peasant uprising, a revolt of the oppressed, of the real wretched of the earth, nor even as a vengeance visited upon all the servants of the Polish nobility, but as an act of gratuitous antisemitism directed against Jews as such. In fact, the voting of the Ukrainian delegation at the UN and, more generally, Soviet policies on the Middle East, are often 'explained' in the Israeli press as 'a heritage of Chmielnicki' or of his 'descendants'.


Orthodox Judaism In Modern Times
It is crucial to understand that Shahak is interested, in modern times [since around 1780], only in Orthodox Judaism (because of its political/social/military effects) – he is not interested in any other strand of Judaism in modern times. It was noted above that classical Judaism, during its last few hundred years, was for the most part far from pure monotheism. Shahak states: “The same can be said about the real doctrines dominant in present-day Orthodox Judaism, which is a direct continuation of classical Judaism.” He notes that “The Jewish Enlightenment [with which he is not concerned], which arose out of the crisis of classical Judaism, had to fight against this mysticism and its influence more than against anything else, but in latter-day Jewish Orthodoxy, especially among the rabbis, the influence of the cabbala has remained predominant. For example, the Gush Emunim movement is inspired to a great extent by cabbalistic ideas.”

Jewish Deceptions About Judaism In Modern Times
Modern deceptions about Judaism in detail
Shahak states that “Modern scholars of Judaism have not only continued the deception [about Judaism], but have actually improved upon the old rabbinical methods, both in impudence and in mendacity.” He goes on: “I omit here the various histories of antisemitism as unworthy of serious consideration, and shall give just three particular examples and one general example of the modern ‘scholarly’ deceptions.” Shahak then records these examples of modern-day deceptions about Judaism in detail – these (together with historic deceptions) are included in the attached Appendix D, “Jewish Deceptions About Judaism”

Jewish History In Modern Times
Shahak says that Jewish history in modern times is “characterised by the breakdown of the totalitarian Jewish community and its power, and by attempts to reimpose it, of which zionism is the most important. This phase begins in Holland in the 17th century, in France and Austria (excluding Hungary) in the late 18th century, in most other European countries in the middle of the 19th century, and in some Islamic countries in the 20th century. (The Jews of Yemen were still living in the medieval 'classical' phase in 1948).”

The Condition Of Jewry At The Beginning Of Modern Times
Shahak defines the condition of Jewry at the beginning of modern times (that is, at the end of the period of classical Judaism, [roughly] around 1780), and thus the meaning of the word ‘Jew’ at that time, as follows:

The Breakdown Of The Totalitarian Jewish Community
Shahak states that “All this was changed by two parallel processes - beginning in Holland and England, continuing in revolutionary France and in countries which followed the example of the French Revolution, and then in the modern monarchies of the 19th century. The Jews gained a significant level of individual rights (in some cases full legal equality), and the legal power of the Jewish community over its members was destroyed … both developments were simultaneous.” He goes on:

The effect of liberation from outside
The effect of liberation from outside is noted by Shahak:
Anti Jewish Persecutions
“During the whole period of classical Judaism [as noted above]”, Shahak states, “Jews were often subjected to persecutions - and this fact now serves as the main 'argument' of the apologists of the Jewish religion with its anti-Gentile laws and especially of zionism. Of course, the Nazi extermination of five to six million European Jews is supposed to be the crowning argument in that line. We must therefore consider this phenomenon and its contemporary aspect. This is particularly important in view of the fact that the descendants of the Jews of pre-1795 Poland (often called 'east-European Jews' - as opposed to Jews from the German cultural domain of the early 19th century, including the present Austria, Bohemia and Moravia) now wield predomi¬nant political power in Israel as well as in the Jewish communities in the USA and other English-speaking countries; and, because of their particular past history, this mode of thinking is especially entrenched among them, much more than among other Jews.” [our italics]

He continues: “We must, first, draw a sharp distinction between the persecutions of Jews during the classical period on the one hand, and the Nazi extermination on the other. The former were popular movements, coming from below; whereas the latter was inspired, organised and carried out from above: indeed, by state officials. Such acts as the Nazi state-organ¬ised extermination are relatively rare in human history, al¬though other cases do exist (the extermination of the Tasmanians and several other colonial peoples, for example). Moreo¬ver, the Nazis intended to wipe out other peoples besides the Jews: Gypsies were exterminated like Jews, and the extermi¬nation of Slavs was well under way, with the systematic massacre of millions of civilians and prisoners of war. How¬ever, it is the recurrent persecution of Jews in so many countries during the classical period which is the model (and the excuse) for the zionist politicians in their persecution of the Palestinians, as well as the argument used by apologists of Judaism in general; and it is this phenomenon which we consider now.”

Modern Antisemitism
“The character of anti-Jewish persecutions”, Shahak states, “underwent a radical change in modern times. With the advent of the modern state, the abolition of serfdom and the achievement of minimal indi¬vidual rights, the special socio-economic function of the Jews necessarily disappears. Along with it disappear also the powers of the Jewish community over its members; individual Jews in grow¬ing numbers win the freedom to enter the general society of their countries. Naturally, this transition aroused a violent reaction both on the part of Jews (especially their rabbis) and of those elements in European society who opposed the open society and for whom the whole process of liberation of the individual was anathema.”

He goes on: “Modern antisemitism appears first in France and Germany, then in Russia, after about 1870. Contrary to the prevalent opinion among Jewish socialists, I do not believe that its begin¬nings or its subsequent development until the present day can be ascribed to 'capitalism'. On the contrary, in my opinion the successful capitalists in all countries were on the whole remark¬ably free from antisemitism, and the countries in which capital¬ism was established first and in its most extensive form - such as England and Belgium - were also those where antisemitism was far less widespread than elsewhere.”

“Early modern antisemitism (1880-1900)”, Shahak asserts, “was a reaction of bewildered men, who deeply hated modern society in all its aspects, both good and bad, and who were ardent believers in the conspiracy theory of history. The Jews were cast in the role of scapegoat for the breakup of the old society (which anti-semitic nostalgia imagined as even more closed and ordered than it had ever been in reality) and for all that was disturbing in modern times. But right at the start the antisemites were faced with what was, for them, a difficult problem: how to define this scapegoat, particularly in popular terms? What is to be the supposed common denominator of the Jewish musician, banker, craftsman and beggar - especially after the common religious features had largely dissolved, at least externally? The 'theory' of the Jewish race was the modern antisemitic answer to this problem.”

“In contrast”, he goes on, “the old Christian, and even more so Muslim opposition to classical Judaism was remarkably free from rac¬ism. No doubt this was to some extent a consequence of the universal character of Christianity and Islam, as well as of their original connection with Judaism (St Thomas More repeatedly rebuked a woman who objected when he told her that the Virgin Mary was Jewish). But in my opinion a far more impor¬tant reason was the social role of the Jews as an integral part of the upper classes. In many countries Jews were treated as potential nobles and, upon conversion, were able immediately to intermarry with the highest nobility. The nobility of 15th cen¬tury Castile and Aragon or the aristocracy of 18th century Poland - to take the two cases where intermarriage with con¬verted Jews was widespread - would hardly be likely to marry Spanish peasants or Polish serfs, no matter how much praise the Gospel has for the poor.”

Shahak continues: “It is the modern myth of the Jewish 'race' - of outwardly hidden but supposedly dominant characteristics of 'the Jews', independent of history, of social role, of anything - which is the formal and most important distinguishing mark of modern antisemitism. This was in fact perceived by some Church lead¬ers when modern antisemitism first appeared as a movement of some strength. Some French Catholic leaders, for example, opposed the new racist doctrine expounded by E. Drumont, the first popular modern French antisemite and author of the noto¬rious book La France Juive (1886), which achieved wide circula¬tion. Early modern German antisemites encountered similar opposition.”

Shahak says that “It must be pointed out that some important groups of European conservatives were quite prepared to play along with modern antisemitism and use it for their own ends, and the antisemites were equally ready to use the conservatives when the occasion offered itself, although at bottom there was little similarity between the two parties. 'The victims who were most harshly treated [by the pen of the above-mentioned Drumont] were not the Rothschilds but the great nobles who courted them. Drumont did not spare the Royal Family ... or the bishops, or for that matter the Pope. Nevertheless, many of the French great nobles, bishops and conservatives generally were quite happy to use Drumont and antisemitism during the crisis of the Dreyfus affair in an attempt to bring down the republican regime.”

“This type of opportunistic alliance”, notes Shahak, “reappeared many times in various European countries until the defeat of Nazism. The conservatives' hatred of radicalism and especially of all forms of socialism blinded many of them to the nature of their political bedfellows. In many cases they were literally prepared to ally themselves with the devil, forgetting the old saying that one needs a very long spoon to sup with him.”

Shahak contends that “The effectiveness of modern antisemitism, and of its alliance with conservatism, depended on several factors.” He lays these out:

“Nevertheless”, states Shahak, “a sharp distinction must be made between conservatives and even reactionaries on the one hand and actual racists and antisemites on the other. Modern racism (of which antisemitism is part) although caused by specific social conditions, becomes, when it gains strength, a force that in my opinion can only be described as demonic. After coming to power, and for its duration, I believe it defies analysis by any presently understood social theory or set of merely social obser¬vations - and in particular by any known theory invoking interests, be they class or state interests, or other than purely psychological 'interests' of any entity that can be defined in the present state of human knowledge … I do not mean that such forces are unknowable in principle; on the contrary, one must hope that with the growth of human knowledge they will come to be understood. But at present they are neither under¬stood nor capable of being rationally predicted - and this applies to all racism in all societies. As a matter of fact, no political figure or group of any political colour in any country had predicted even vaguely the horrors of Nazism. Only artists and poets such as Heine were able to glimpse some of what the future had in store. We do not know how they did it; and besides, many of their other hunches were wrong.”

The Zionist Response To Anti-Semitism
Shahak says that “Historically, zionism is both a reaction to antisemitism and a conservative alliance with it - although the zionists, like other European conservatives, did not fully realise with whom they were allying themselves.”

He goes on: “Until the rise of modern anti-Semitism, the mood of European Jewry was optimistic, indeed excessively so. This was manifested not only in the very large number of Jews, particu¬larly in western countries, who simply opted out of classical Judaism, apparently without any great regret, in the first or second generation after this became possible, but also in the formation of a strong cultural movement, the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah), which began in Germany and Austria around 1780, was then carried into eastern Europe and by 1850-70 was making itself felt as a considerable social force. I cannot enter here into a discussion of the movement's cultural achieve¬ments, such as the revival of Hebrew literature and the crea-tion of a wonderful literature in Yiddish. However, it is impor¬tant to note that despite many internal differences, the move¬ment as a whole was characterised by two common beliefs: a belief in the need for a fundamental critique of Jewish society and particularly of the social role of the Jewish religion in its classical form, and the almost messianic hope for the victory of the 'forces of good' in European societies. The latter forces were naturally defined by the sole criterion of their support for Jewish emancipation.”

“The growth of antisemitism as a popular movement”, Shahak continues, “and the many alliances of the conservative forces with it, dealt a severe blow to the Jewish Enlightenment. The blow was especially devastating because in actual fact the rise of antisemitism occurred just after the Jews were emancipated in some Euro¬pean countries, and even before they were freed in others. The Jews of the Austrian empire received fully equal rights only in 1867. In Germany, some independent states emancipated their Jews quite early, but others did not; notably, Prussia was grudging and tardy in this matter, and final emancipation of the Jews in the German empire as a whole was only granted by Bismarck in 1871. In the Ottoman empire the Jews were subject to official discrimination until 1909, and in Russia (as well as Romania) until 1917. Thus modern antisemitism began within a decade of the emancipation of the Jews in central Europe and long before the emancipation of the biggest Jewish community at that time, that of the Tsarist empire.”

“It is therefore easy”, says Shahak, “for the zionists to ignore half of the relevant facts, revert to the segregationist stance of classical Judaism, and claim that since all Gentiles always hate and persecute all Jews, the only solution would be to remove all the Jews bodily and concentrate them in Palestine or Uganda or wherever. Some early Jewish critics of zionism were quick to point out that if one assumes a permanent and ahistorical incompatibility between Jews and Gentiles - an assumption shared by both zionists and antisemites! - then to concentrate the Jews in one place would simply bring upon them the hatred of the Gentiles in that part of the world (as indeed was to happen, though for very different reasons). But as far as I know this logical argument did not make any impression, just as all the logical and factual arguments against the myth of the 'Jewish race' made not the slightest difference to the antisemites.”

Shahak states that “In fact, close relations have always existed between zionists and antisemites: exactly like some of the European conserva¬tives, the zionists thought they could ignore the 'demonic' character of antisemitism and use the antisemites for their own purposes. Many examples of such alliances are well known. Herzl allied himself with the notorious Count von Plehve, the antisemitic minister of Tsar Nicholas II; Jabotinsky made a pact with Petlyura, the reactionary Ukrainian leader whose forces massacred some 100,000 Jews in 1918- 21; Ben-Gurion's allies among the French extreme right during the Algerian war included some notorious antisemites who were, however, careful to explain that they were only against the Jews in France, not in Israel.”

Shahak continues: “Perhaps the most shocking example of this type is the delight with which some zionist leaders in Germany welcomed Hitler's rise to power, because they shared his belief in the primacy of 'race' and his hostility to the assimilation of Jews among 'Aryans'. They congratulated Hitler on his triumph over the common enemy - the forces of liberalism. Dr Joachim Prinz, a zionist rabbi who subsequently emigrated to the USA, where he rose to be vice-chairman of the World Jewish Con¬gress and a leading light in the World Zionist Organization (as well as a great friend of Golda Meir), published in 1934 a special book, Wir Juden (We, Jews), to celebrate Hitler's so-called German Revolution and the defeat of liberalism.” Shahak continues:

“Of course”, says Shahak, “Dr Prinz, like many other early sympathisers and allies of Nazism, did not realise where that movement (and modern antisemitism generally) was leading. Equally, many people at present do not realise where zionism - the movement in which Dr Prinz was an honoured figure - is tending: to a combination of all the old hates of classical Judaism towards Gentiles and to the indiscriminate and ahis-torical use of all the persecutions of Jews throughout history in order to justify the zionist persecution of the Palestinians.”

“For”, continues Shahak, “insane as it sounds, it is nevertheless plain upon close examination of the real motives of the zionists, that one of the most deep-seated ideological sources of the zionist establish¬ment's persistent hostility towards the Palestinians is the fact that they are identified in the minds of many east-European Jews with the rebellious east-European peasants who partici¬pated in the Chmielnicki uprising and in similar revolts - and the latter are in turn identified ahistorically with modern an¬tisemitism and Nazism.”

Major Features Of Israeli Society
Shahak sets out the defining features of Israeli society:
Israeli Expansionism
Shahak says that “the main danger which Israel, as ‘a Jewish state’, poses to its own people, to other Jews [the Jewish diaspora], and to its neighbours, is its ideologically motivated pursuit of territorial expansion and the inevitable series of wars  resulting from this aim.”

“The more Israel becomes Jewish”, he notes, “or, as one says in Hebrew, the more it ‘returns to Judaism’ (a process which has been under way in Israel since at least 1967), the more its actual politics are guided by Jewish ideological considerations and less by rational ones. [our italics]

He continues: “The ideological defences of Israeli policies are usually based on Jewish religious beliefs or, in the case of secular Jews, on the ‘historical rights’ of the Jews, which derive from those beliefs and retain the dogmatic character of religious faith.” Shahak gives a telling example:
Shahak states that “close analysis of Israeli grand strategies and actual principles of foreign policy, as they are expressed in Hebrew, makes it clear that it is ‘Jewish ideology’, more than any other factor [such as Israeli imperial planning of a secular nature, as discussed below], which determines actual Israeli policies.”

Jewish ideology, says Shahak, “enjoins that land which was either ruled by any Jewish ruler in ancient times, or was promised by God to the Jews, either in the Bible or – what is actually more important politically – according to a rabbinic interpretation of the Bible and the Talmud, should belong to Israel since it is a Jewish state.”

“However”, says Shahak, “an Israeli grand strategy, not based on the tenets of ‘Jewish ideology’, but based on purely strategic or imperial considerations had also developed since the inception of the Israeli state”:

Shahak tells us that he opposes “root and branch the Israeli non-ideological policies as they are so lucidly and correctly explained by Gazit” However, he recognises that “the dangers of the policies … motivated by ‘Jewish ideology’ are much worse than [the dangers of] merely imperial policies, however criminal” [our italics]. He continues “This [Jewish] ideology is, in turn, based on the attitudes of historic Judaism to non-Jews, one of the main themes of this book. Those attitudes necessarily influence many Jews, consciously or unconsciously.” He goes on:

Furthermore, Shahak says that, because foreign observers usually know nothing about Judaism except crude apologetics, they thus take no heed of Judaism as it really is, and no heed of ‘Jewish ideology’ – so that Israeli policies are incomprehensible to them.

Shahak says it is politically important, especially for foreign observers, that, since an important component of Israeli policy is based on ‘Jewish ideology’, this ‘Jewish ideology’ is understood. He goes on to say that this ‘Jewish ideology’ is in turn based on the attitudes of historic Judaism to non-Jews, and that those historic attitudes necessarily influence many Jews today, consciously or unconsciously. The task, therefore, he says, is to discuss historic Judaism.

Shahak goes on to note that “true believers in that Utopia called the ‘Jewish state’, which will strive to achieve the ‘Biblical borders’, are more dangerous than the grand strategists of Gazit’s type because their policies are being sanctified by the use of religion or, worse, by the use of secularised religious principles which retain absolute validity. While Gazit at least sees a need to argue … [the case for] the Israeli diktat [his ridiculous argument that it benefits the Arab regimes], Ben-Gurion did not pretend that the re-establishment of the kingdom of David and Solomon will benefit anybody except the Jewish state.”

“There can be no better definition of ‘classical Judaism’ ”, says Shahak, “and of the ways in which the rabbis manipulated it, than this Platonic definition …”:

Shahak further notes that “it was the above quoted passage which was chosen by Karl Popper in The Open Society and Its Enemies as describing the essence of  ‘a closed society’. Historical Judaism and its two successors, Jewish Orthodoxy and Zionism, are both sworn enemies of the concept of the open society as applied to Israel. A Jewish state, whether based on its present Jewish ideology or, if it becomes even more Jewish in character than it is now, on the principles of Jewish Orthodoxy, cannot ever contain an open society. There are two choices which face Israeli-Jewish society”:

The terrible effect of Jewish religious fanaticism on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Shahak states that “It is against the glorification of inhumanity, proclaimed not only by the rabbis but by those who are supposed to be the greatest and certainly the most influential scholars of Judaism, that we have to struggle …” He continues: “ … we can derive [a] general conclusion about the most effective and horrific means of compulsion to do evil, to cheat and to deceive and, while keeping one’s hands quite clean of violence, to corrupt whole peoples and drive them to oppression and murder … for there can no longer be any doubt that the most horrifying acts of oppression in the West Bank are motivated by Jewish religious fanaticism.” [our italics]

The Failure To Speak Out Against Zionism And Jewish Rascism
“Most people seem to assume”, states Shahak, “that the worst totalitarianism employs physical coercion, and would refer to the imagery of Orwell’s 1984 for a model illustrating such a regime. But it seems to me that this common view is greatly mistaken, and that the intuition of Isaac Asimov, in whose science fiction the worst suppression is always internalised, is the more true to the dangers of human nature … the rabbis – and even more so the scholars attacked here, and with them the whole mob of equally silent middlebrows such as writers, journalists, public figures, who lie and deceive more than them – are not facing the danger of death or the concentration camp, but only social pressure; they lie out of patriotism because they believe that it is their duty to lie for what they conceive to be the Jewish interest. They are patriotic liars, and it is the same patriotism which reduces them to silence when confronted with the discrimination [against] and oppression of the Palestinians.” [our italics]

“ … we are also faced with another group loyalty”, he goes on, “but one which comes from outside the group, and which is sometimes even more mischievous. Very many non-Jews (including Christian clergy and religious laymen, as well as some marxists from all marxist groups) hold the curious opinion that one way to ‘atone’ for the persecution of Jews is not to speak out against evil perpetrated by Jews, but to participate in ‘white lies’ about them. The crude accusation of  ‘antisemitism’ (or, in the case of Jews, ‘self-hate’) against anybody who protests at the discrimination [against] Palestinians or who points out any fact about the Jewish religion or the Jewish past which conflicts with the ‘approved version’ comes with greater hostility and force from non-Jewish ‘friends of the Jews’  than from Jews. It is the existence and great influence of this group in all western countries, and particularly in the USA … which has allowed the rabbis and scholars of Judaism to propagate their lies not only without opposition but with considerable help. [our italics.]

Shahak goes on:


Pervasive Influence Of Orthodox Judaism And Zionism
Shahak states that “The persistent attitudes of classical Judaism toward non-Jews strongly influence its followers, Orthodox Jews and those who can be regarded as its continuators, zionists. Through the latter it also influences the policies of the State of Israel. Since 1967, as Israel becomes more and more 'Jewish', so its policies are influ¬enced more by Jewish ideological considerations than by those of a coldly conceived imperial interest. This ideological influence is not usually perceived by foreign experts, who tend to ignore or downplay the influence of the Jewish religion on Israeli policies. This explains why many of their predictions are incorrect.”

He continues: “In fact, more Israeli government crises are caused by religious reasons, often trivial, than by any other cause. The space devoted by the Hebrew press to discussion of the constantly occurring quarrels between the various religious groups, or between the religious and the secular, is greater than that given any other subject, except in times of war or of security-related tension. At the time of writing, early August 1993, some topics of major interest to readers of the Hebrew press are: whether soldiers killed in action who are sons of non-Jewish mothers will be buried in a segregated area in Israeli military cemeteries; whether Jewish religious burial associations, who have a monopoly over the burial of all Jews except kibbutz members, will be allowed to continue their custom of circumcising the corpses of non-circumcised Jews before burying them (and without asking the family's permission); whether the import of non-kosher meat to Israel, banned unofficially since the establishment of the state, will be allowed or banned by law. There are many more issues of this kind which are of a much greater interest to the Israeli-Jewish public than, let us say, the [then] negotiations with the Palestinians and Syria.”

Effect Of Orthodox Judaism And Zionism On Israeli Policies
“The attempts made by a few Israeli politicians to ignore the factors of 'Jewish ideology' in favour of purely imperial interests have led to disastrous results”, says Shahak. He goes on:

“The conclusion from this consideration of Israeli policies, supported by an analysis of classical Judaism, must be”, says Shahak:

The Baleful Influence Of Some Diaspora Jews, Especially Some Jewish-Americans
“In addition to Israeli policies”, states Shahak, “it may be surmised that the `Jewish ideology' influences also a significant part, maybe a majority, of the diaspora Jews. While the actual implementation of Jewish ideology depends on Israel being strong, this in turn depends to a considerable extent on the support which diaspora Jews, particularly US Jews, give to Israel. The image of the diaspora Jews and their attitudes to non-Jews, is quite different from the attitudes of classical Judaism, as described above. This discrepancy is most obvious in English-speaking countries, where the greatest falsifications of Judaism regularly occur. The situation is worst in the USA and Canada, the two states whose support for Israeli policies, including policies which most glaringly contradict the basic human rights of non-Jews, is strongest.”

Shahak says that “US support for Israel, when considered not in abstract but in concrete detail, cannot be adequately explained only as a result of American imperial interests.” …” [We might add that this same conclusion was arrived at some years later by the American professors Mearsheimer and Walt – see the article entitled “Bully Boys II: Thoughts On Mearsheimer And Walt’s Book On The Israel Lobby”, which we have already distributed. For those who do not have copies, the article is available on South Tyneside STWC’s website, referred to above.] Shahak continues: “The strong influence wielded by the organised Jewish community in the USA in support of all Israeli policies must also be taken into account in order to explain the Middle East policies of American administrations. This phenomenon is even more noticeable in the case of Canada, whose Middle Eastern interests cannot be considered as important, but whose loyal dedication to Israel is even greater than that of the USA.”  “In both coun¬tries (and also in France, Britain and many other states)”, he goes on:

“Why”, asks Shahak, “should some American Jews display chauvinism, some¬times extreme, and others not?” He explains:
“How else”, says Shahak, “can we explain the enthusiasm displayed by so many American rabbis in support of, let us say, Martin Luther King, compared with their lack of support for the rights of Palestinians, even for their individual human rights? How else can we explain the glaring contradiction between the attitudes of classical Juda¬ism toward non-Jews, which include the rule that their lives should not be saved except for the sake of Jewish interest, with the support of the US rabbis and organised Jews for the rights of the Blacks? After all, Martin Luther King and the majority of American Blacks are non-Jews. Even if only the conservative and Orthodox Jews, who together constitute the majority of organised American Jews, are considered to hold such opinions about the non-Jews, the other part of organised US Jewry, the Reform, had never opposed them, and, in my view, show themselves to be quite influenced by them.”

“Actually the explanation of this apparent contradiction is easy”, avers Shahak: “It should be recalled that Judaism, especially in its classical form, is totalitarian in nature. The behaviour of supporters of other totalitarian ideologies of our times was not different from that of the organised American Jews”, he says:


Confronting the Past
Shahak says that “All Jews who really want to extricate themselves from the tyranny of the totalitarian Jewish past must face the question of their attitude towards the popular anti-Jewish manifestations of the past, particularly those connected with the rebellions of enserfed peasants. On the other side, all the apologists of the Jewish religion and of Jewish segregationism and chauvinism also take their stand - both ultimately and in current debates - on the same question. The undoubted fact that the peasant revolutionaries committed shocking atrocities against Jews (as well as against their other oppressors) is used as an 'argument' by those apologists, in exactly the same way that the Palestin¬ian terror is used to justify the denial of justice to the Palestinians.”

“Our own answer”, continues Shahak, “must be a universal one, applicable in principle to all comparable cases. And, for a Jew who truly seeks liberation from Jewish particularism and racism and from the dead hand of the Jewish religion, such an answer is not very difficult.”

“After all”, says Shahak, “revolts of oppressed peasants against their mas¬ters and their masters' bailiffs are common in human history. A generation after the Chmielnicki uprising of the Ukrainian peasants, the Russian peasants rose under the leadership of Stenka Razin, and again, one hundred years later, in the Pugachev rebellion. In Germany there was the Peasant War of 1525, in France the Jacquerie of 1357-8 and many other popular revolts, not to mention the many slave uprisings in all parts of the world. All of them - and I have intentionally chosen to mention examples in which Jews were not targets - were attended by horrifying massacres, just as the Great French Revolution was accompanied by appalling acts of ter¬ror. What is the position of true progressives - and, by now, of most ordinary decent educated people, be they Russian, German or French - on these rebellions? Do decent English historians, even when noting the massacres of Englishmen by rebellious Irish peasants rising against their enslavement, con¬demn the latter as 'anti-English racists'? What is the attitude of progressive French historians towards the great slave revo¬lution in Santo Domingo, where many French women and children were butchered? To ask the question is to answer it. But to ask a similar question of many 'progressive' or even `socialist' Jewish circles is to receive a very different answer; here an enslaved peasant is transformed into a racist monster, if Jews profited from his state of slavery and exploitation.”

Shahak goes on: “The maxim that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it applies to those Jews who refuse to come to terms with the Jewish past: they have become its slaves and are repeating it in zionist and Israeli policies. The State of Israel now fulfils towards the oppressed peasants of many countries - not only in the Middle East but also far beyond it - a role not unlike that of the Jews in pre-1795 Poland: that of a bailiff to the imperial oppressor. It is charac¬teristic and instructive that Israel's major role in arming the forces of the Somoza regime in Nicaragua, and those of Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile and the rest has not given rise to any wide public debate in Israel or among organised Jewish communities in the diaspora. Even the narrower question of expedi¬ency - whether the selling of weapons to a dictatorial butcher of freedom fighters and peasants is in the long term interest of Jews - is seldom asked. Even more significant is the large part taken in this business by religious Jews, and the total silence of their rabbis (who are very vocal in inciting hatred against Arabs). It seems that Israel and zionism are a throw-back to the role of classical Judaism — writ large, on a global scale, and under more dangerous circumstances.”

“The only possible answer to all this”, Shahak continues, “first of all by Jews, must be that given by all true advocates of freedom and humanity in all countries, all peoples and all great philosophies - limited though they sometimes are, as the human condition itself is limited. We must confront the Jewish past and those aspects of the present which are based simultaneously on lying about that past and worshipping it. The prerequisites for this are, first, total honesty about the facts and, secondly, the belief (leading to action, whenever possible) in universalist human principles of ethics and politics.”

Shahak quotes the ancient Chinese sage Mencius (4th century BC), much admired by Voltaire:

“We have seen above”, says Shahak, “how far removed from this are the precepts with which the Jewish religion in its classical and talmudic form is poisoning minds and hearts.”

“The road to a genuine revolution in Judaism”, he goes on, “to making it humane, allowing Jews to understand their own past, thereby re-educating themselves out of its tyranny - lies through an unrelenting critique of the Jewish religion. Without fear or favour, we must speak out against what belongs to our own past as Voltaire did against his.”

The Test Facing Both Israeli And Diaspora Jews
Shahak upholds that “The support of democracy or of human rights is therefore meaningless or even harmful and deceitful when it does not begin with self-critique and with support of human rights [even] when they are violated by one's own group. Any support of human rights in general by a Jew which does not include the support of human rights of non-Jews whose rights are being violated by the 'Jewish state' is as deceitful as the support of human rights by a Stalinist. The apparent enthusiasm displayed by American rabbis or by the Jewish organisations in the USA during the 1950s and the 1960s in support of the Blacks in the South, was motivated only by considerations of Jewish self-interest, just as was the commu¬nist support for the same Blacks. Its purpose in both cases was to try to capture the Black community politically, in the Jewish case to an unthinking support of Israeli policies in the Middle East.”

“Therefore, the real test facing both Israeli and diaspora Jews”, says Shahak:
Our Own Comments - The Good Guys And The Bad Guys
Let us, for a brief moment, take a leaf out of George W. Bush’s simplistic black-and-white world, and take a brief look at the good guys and the bad guys. Childish of course, but it’s fun! Have you got your very own good guys or bad guys? See if you can spot them in the list! If not, write and tell us, with your reasons!

Really, really, really, really, really, really, really bad guys:
Netanyahu, Lieberman and co., their racist Israeli state, and the racist Jewish religious fanatic settlers.
Marvel at their utter indifference to Palestinian human rights, the rule of law, and world opinion! Watch the Israeli flea flip the American elephant, and take him for a ride!
Consider for further review: Bibi Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman, Ehud Barak, Gush Emunin, Shlomo Aviner, Brig Gen Avichai Ronsky, Elad, and many, many more.

Really, really, really, really, really, really, really bad guys:
The Jewish-American pro-Israel Lobby, and their neocon and other Gentile friends:
Behold as they buy off and suborn America’s Vichy Congress! So much for American democracy!
Consider for further review: American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), Anti-Defamation League, the neocons, the Christian Zionists, and many, many more.

Really, really, really, really, really, really, really bad guys:
America’s Vichy Congress, and the senators and congressmen who make it so:
See (or rather, don’t see) them take Jewish-American campaign contributions! Stare in amazement as they are hectored and lectured by Bibi, AIPAC and the like! Go with them on their free trips to Israel! See them pervert the policy of the USA in the Middle East in a way which damages America’s real interests! Watch the world laugh in astonishment!
Consider for further review: America’s Vichy Congress, Joe Lieberman, and many, many more.

Really, really, really, really, really, really, really bad guys:
The American Administration:
Goggle as Netanyahu treats Barack like a schmuck! Observe Obama as he fails to stop continuing Israeli illegal settlement (never mind the Israeli withdrawal necessary for a viable Palestinian state)! Watch him as he fails even to end the siege of Gaza and alleviate a little the suffering of the Palestinians there! Stare as he helplessly surveys Israel’s slow and cruel strangulation of the Palestinian people, so far advanced today! Perceive how he fails to use the vast leverage available to America by threatening withdrawal of its massive diplomatic, economic, and military support for Israel! Despair as he continues to support a (currently moribund) peace process which is designed (like the Clinton one before it) to produce a pitiable, non-viable non-state for the Palestinians! Conjecture how he might have acquired rose-coloured spectacle of such dimensions as might lead him to believe that such a non-state could bring peace, since the Palestinians would not accept it! Marvel at his not understanding that his entire American peace effort, as currently constituted, is a waste of time! But, above all, comprehend that he hasn’t got the bottle to take on the pro-Israel lobby and all those purchased senators and paid-for congressmen in a hard-nosed and uncompromising way, and force a just peace on Israel!
Consider for further review: Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, George Mitchell, and many, many more.

Really, really, really, really, really, really, really bad guys:
The mainstream American media, and the writers and journalists who serve it:
Regard their half-truths and distortions as they seek to exonerate Israel’s crimes!  See them praise the wondrous state of Israel and it’s democracy! Notice how their executives cave in to pressure from CAMERA, Jewish letter campaigns and the like! Consider their lack of stomach! Watch how they prevent the truth about Israel from reaching the American public! They don’t directly have blood on their hands like George W., but, by hiding the truth from the American people, haven’t they got some blood on their hands?
Consider for further review: ABC, CBS, CNN and their front-men, the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Wall Street Journal, and the likes of Safire, Kagan, Krauthammer, Kristol, Boot and many, many more.

Really, really, really, really, really, really, really bad guys:
American cultural, intellectual and religious apologists, many of them Gentiles, many of them supposed ‘liberals’, who curiously believe that one way to ‘atone’ for the Nazi persecutions is not to speak out against Israeli crimes and to participate in ‘white lies’ about them, and to support ‘Jewish’ positions in general.
Watch them as they shout ‘Anti-Semite!’, and attempt to vilify any critic of Israel, or those whose account of Jewish history or Jewish religion conflicts with the cosy lies of Israel’s foundational myths, or the deceptions about Judaism propagated by rabbis and Jewish ‘scholars’!  (Or if the critic is a Jew, he’s a ‘self-hater’!) The real ‘friends of the Jews’? – no, the real friends of the Zionists, and the enemies of free speech.! Consider for further review: the Zionist historians and their apologists, the film-makers who propagate the Exodus and Fiddler On The Roof version of history, and many, many more.

Really, really, really, really, really, really, really bad guys:
The British  pro-Israel Lobby:
They’re much more opaque than their American counterparts! They do similar things, though, helping to finance MPs, taking them on free trips to Israel and so on!
Consider for further review: the Friends Of Israel (Labour and Conservative) and their wonderful opacity, Board of Deputies of British Jews, Lord Levy, Jon Mendelsohn and many, many more.

Really, really, really, really, really, really, really bad guys:
Britain’s Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary:
Watch them, as, grovelling to the Yankees as usual (following in Blair’s footsteps), they take a very tender line with Israel, and a tough one with the Palestinians!
Consider for further review: Gordon and David, the dream ticket for the Israelis.

Really, really, really, really, really, really, really bad guys:
Parts of the British  media, and many of the writers and journalists who serve it:
In general, they’re not as mendacious and truth-distorting as their American buddies, but that’s not saying much! Speculate, as they spare Israel, their apparent utter indifference to the fate of the Palestinians! There are fewer of them in the ‘liberal’ British media, but they’re not unknown.
Consider for further review: BBC Trust, BBC (especially BBC2 television and Radio 4), Director-General of the BBC, certain heavyweight BBC personalities in the area of current affairs, the right-wing press in general, and many, many more.

Really, really, really, really, really, really, really bad guys:
British cultural, intellectual and religious apologists, many of them Gentile, many of them supposed ‘liberals’, who, just like their American counterparts, curiously believe that one way to ‘atone’ for the Nazi persecutions is not to speak out against Israeli crimes and to participate in ‘white lies’ about them, and to support ‘Jewish’ positions in general.
Consider for further review:   bishops, rabbis, and cultural/entertainment apologists who soft-pedal on Israel, or defend the indefensible (or merely don’t mention the subject), who attack critics of Israel, and many, many more.

Really, really, really, really, really, really, really bad guys:
The pro-Israel Lobbies in Canada, Germany, France and other countries , those parts of their media which are part of that lobby, and their cultural, intellectual and religious apologists (many of them Gentiles):
Consider for further review: the politically correct and morally cowardly Germans who don’t speak out about Israel’s present-day crimes because of a terrible past which they can do nothing about, and many, many more.

Really, really, really, really, really, really, really good guys:
A round of applause for: the American professors Mearsheimer and Walt, Noam Chomsky,  Joe Klein, Israel Shahak, Amira Hass, John Pilger, Michael Neumann, Ilan Pappe, Robert Fisk, Seamus Milne, Peter Oborne, Yesh Din, the Israeli soldiers involved in the ‘Breaking The Silence’ project, and not too many more.

This is an important book by Israel Shahak, and should be read by all those concerned with Middle East policy, and anyone uneasy about democracy in America, Canada, the UK, Germany, France and elsewhere. Will Barack get to read it? Will it get past Rahm Emanuel?



Further evidence which has emerged since Israel’s recent assault on Gaza provides further corroboration of Israel Shahak’s line of reasoning.

The Goldstone Report
According to a UN-commissioned report published in September 2009, Israel targeted "the people of Gaza as a whole" in its 23-day assault which began at the end of December 2008. The military operation, which left some 1,400 Palestinians dead (including 770 civilians, according to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem) against only 13 Israelis, triggered a wave of criticism against Israel across the world. Disproportionate, you think? The journalist Robert Fisk recently quoted Gadi Eisenkot, the Israeli army northern commander in the Gaza war: "We will wield disproportionate power against every village from which shots are fired on Israel, and cause immense damage and destruction... This isn't a suggestion. This is a plan that has already been authorised."

Israel had refused to cooperate with the inquiry, contending that the UN Human Rights Council, which commissioned the inquiry, was biased against Israel. It therefore prevented the inquiry team entering Israel or the occupied West Bank. However, they were able, over this summer, to hold public hearings in Gaza, talking to Palestinians, and in Geneva, talking to Israelis. They interviewed 188 people and read 300 reports.

The UN fact-finding mission was headed by the Jewish South African former Supreme Court Judge Richard Goldstone. He said Israel should face prosecution by the International Criminal Court, unless it carried out fully independent investigations of what the report said were repeated violations of international law, "possible war crimes and crimes against humanity" during the Gaza operation.

The UN mission rejected Israel's argument that the war was a response to Palestinian rocket attacks and therefore an act of self-defence. It said it "considers the plan to have been directed, at least in part, at a different target: the people of Gaza as a whole". It found the war was "a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself and to force upon it an ever-increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability".

The report also said that "In this respect the operations were in furtherance of an overall policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population for its resilience and for its apparent support for Hamas, and possibly with the intent of forcing a change in such support." It added that some Israeli military personnel should carry "individual criminal responsibility" for grave breaches of the laws of war, meaning soldiers could face prosecution.

Furthermore, the report also stated that the long Israeli economic blockade of Gaza (which began some two years prior to the Gaza assault, and which continues to this day) amounted to "collective punishment intentionally inflicted by the government of Israel on the people of the Gaza Strip".

Israeli actions depriving Gazans of means of subsistence, employment, housing and water, and denying their freedom of movement "could lead a competent court to find that the crime of persecution, a crime against humanity, had been committed", it said.

“The report says that "the destruction of food supply installations, water sanitation systems, concrete factories and residential houses was the result of a systematic policy by the Israeli armed forces". The purpose was "to make the daily process of living and dignified living more difficult for the civilian population".

The report also says that vandalism of houses by some soldiers and "the graffiti on the walls, the obscenities and often racist slogans constituted an overall image of humiliation and dehumanisation of the Palestinian population". Hospitals and ambulances were "targeted by Israeli attacks."

The statements of Israeli political and military leaders in before and during the Gaza assault indicated the use of "disproportionate force", aimed, the UN report said, not only at the enemy but also at the "supporting infrastructure". Further: "In practice this appears to have meant the civilian population."

Goldstone also called on Israel to halt immediately its closures of the crossings into Gaza and said the Israeli military needed to review its rules of engagement to avoid future Palestinian civilian deaths.

The report also harshly criticised the Palestinian side, on attacks that have caused terror in southern Israel, and on the extrajudicial killings, detention and ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. However, Israeli conduct during the operation takes up much the greater part of the 570-page report, and its harshest language is reserved for the Israelis.

In October 2009, the report was referred to the UN General Assembly by the Human Rights Council despite intense lobbying by Israel and the US. The 25-6 vote at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva brings one step closer – at least in theory – the possibility that Israel could face International Criminal Court proceedings if it does not launch, within 6 months, its own independent investigation into its conduct of the war. The USA (in its usual resolute pursuit of freedom around the world) opposed the resolution. Britain and France (gutless as usual), which had been expected to register formal abstentions, instead called in vain for a delay in the decision and did not participate in the vote at all - both countries had been under intense pressure from Israel and the US to oppose the resolution. So much for America’s worldwide pursuit of democracy. The US, UK, and France advised Israel to hold its own inquiry.

Douglas Griffiths , a senior US diplomat in Geneva, said America had opposed the decision because of its "one-sidedness" and because it could unsettle a Middle East peace process. What Middle East peace process? There is no Middle East peace process, because Obama hasn’t the bottle to take on America’s powerful pro-Israel lobby.

The vote followed a U-turn by the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, who faced severe criticism from the Palestinian people themselves after succumbing to US and Israeli pressure, when the Human Rights Council first debated the report two weeks prior, to agree to defer the whole issue until next year

The decision refers the report of the council's fact-finding mission headed by Goldstone to the UN General Assembly for further consideration.

Israel refused to accept the decision, calling it "unjust" and "one-sided, and said today it would launch a diplomatic offensive to prevent any risk of prosecutions. No independent inquiry into the military's conduct during the war last January would be held, it said. Israel has not got a history of co-operating with international inquiries into the actions of its army.

While the US (defending democracy again) has indicated it will veto any Security Council resolution calling for proceedings by the International Criminal Court – neither Israel nor the US, is a signatory – a UN General Assembly decision in favour of such proceedings cannot be ruled out.

Rabbinical Influence In The Israeli Army
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Israel. We quote verbatim from his article on the Electronic Intifada website, dated 4 February 2009 (

“Extremist rabbis and their followers”, says Cook, “bent on waging holy war against the Palestinians, are taking over the Israeli army by stealth, according to critics. In a process one military historian has termed the rapid ‘theologization’ of the Israeli army, there are now entire units of religious combat soldiers, many of them based in West Bank settlements. They answer to hardline rabbis who call for the establishment of a Greater Israel that includes the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

Cook continues: “Their influence in shaping the army's goals and methods is starting to be felt, say observers, as more and more graduates from officer courses are also drawn from Israel's religious extremist population. ‘We have reached the point where a critical mass of religious soldiers is trying to negotiate with the army about how and for what purpose military force is employed on the battlefield’, said Yigal Levy, a political sociologist at the Open University who has written several books on the Israeli army.

He goes on: “The new atmosphere was evident in the ‘excessive force’ used in the recent Gaza operation, Dr Levy said. More than 1,300 Palestinians were killed, a majority of them civilians, and thousands were injured as whole neighborhoods of Gaza were leveled. ‘When soldiers, including secular ones, are imbued with theological ideas, it makes them less sensitive to human rights or the suffering of the other side.’ ”

“The greater role of extremist religious groups in the army came to light [in January 2009]”, Cook states, “when it emerged that the army rabbinate had handed out a booklet to soldiers preparing for the recent 22-day Gaza offensive. Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group, said the material contained messages ‘bordering on racist incitement against the Palestinian people’ and might have encouraged soldiers to ignore international law. The booklet quotes extensively from Shlomo Aviner, a far-right rabbi who heads a religious seminary in the Muslim quarter of East Jerusalem. He compares the Palestinians to the Philistines, the Biblical enemy of the Jews. He advises: ‘When you show mercy to a cruel enemy, you are being cruel to pure and honest soldiers ... This is a war on murderers.’ He also cites a Biblical ban on ‘surrendering a single millimeter’ of Greater Israel.”

“The booklet”, says Cook, “was approved by the army's chief rabbi, Brig Gen Avichai Ronsky, who is reportedly determined to improve the army's ‘combat values’ after its failure to crush Hizballah in Lebanon in 2006. Gen Ronsky was appointed three years ago in a move designed, according to the Israeli media, to placate hardline religious elements within the army and the settler community. Gen Ronsky, himself a settler in the West Bank community of Itimar, near Nablus, is close to far-right groups. According to reports, he pays regular visits to jailed members of Jewish terror groups; he has offered his home to a settler who is under house arrest for wounding Palestinians; and he has introduced senior officers to a small group of extremist settlers who live among more than 150,000 Palestinians in Hebron. He has also radically overhauled the [army] rabbinate, which was originally founded to offer religious services and ensure religious soldiers were able to observe the sabbath and eat kosher meals in army canteens.”

Cook says that “Over the past year the rabbinate has effectively taken over the role of the army's education corps through its Jewish Awareness Department, which co-ordinates its activities with Elad, a settler organization that is active in East Jerusalem.”

“In October”, he goes on, “the Haaretz newspaper quoted an unnamed senior officer who accused the rabbinate of carrying out the religious and political ‘brainwashing’ of troops. Levy said the army rabbinate's power was growing as the ranks of religious soldiers swelled.”

Cook continues: “Breaking the Silence [referred to further below], a project run by soldiers seeking to expose the army's behavior against Palestinians, said the booklet handed out to troops in Gaza had originated among Hebron's settlers. ‘The document has been around since at least 2003,’ said Mikhael Manekin, 29, one of the group's directors and himself religiously observant. ‘But what is new is that the army has been effectively subcontracted to promote the views of the extremist settlers to its soldiers.’ ”

He goes on: “The power of the religious right in the army, reflected wider social trends inside Israel, Levy said. He pointed out that the rural cooperatives known as kibbutzim that were once home to Israel's secular middle classes and produced the bulk of its officer corps had been on the wane since the early 1980s. ‘The vacuum left by their gradual retreat from the army was filled by religious youngsters and by the children of the settlements. They now dominate in many branches of the army.’ According to figures cited in the Israeli media, more than one-third of all Israel's combat soldiers are religious, as are more than 40 percent of those graduating from officer courses.”

“The army has encouraged this trend”, says Cook, “by creating some two dozen hesder yeshivas, seminaries in which youths can combine Biblical studies with army service in separate religious units. Many of the yeshivas are based in the West Bank, where students are educated by the settlements' extremist rabbis. Ehud Barak, the defense minister, has rapidly expanded the program, approving four yeshivas, three based in settlements, last summer. Another 10 are reportedly awaiting his approval.”

Cook states that “Manekin, however, warned against blaming the violence inflicted on Gaza's civilians solely on the influence of religious extremists. ‘The army is still run by the secular elites in Israel and they have always been reckless with regard to the safety of civilians when they wage war. Jewish nationalism that justifies Palestinian deaths is just as dangerous as religious extremism.’ ”

Breaking The Silence – The testimonies of Israeli soldiers
As noted above, ‘Breaking the Silence’ is a project run by soldiers seeking to expose the army's behaviour against Palestinians. Selected testimonies of Israeli soldiers, 54 in all, are recorded in the ‘Breaking The Silence’ website. According to the information on the website, “ … many Israelis are still not aware of what really happened [in Gaza] … The testimonies … were gathered … from soldiers who served in all sectors of the operation. The majority of the soldiers who spoke with us … turned to us in deep distress at the moral deterioration of the IDF [Israeli army] … these narratives are enough to bring into question the credibility of the official IDF versions.” These testimonies describe use of the ‘Neighbor Procedure’ … white phosphorus ammunition … massive destruction of buildings … permissive rules of engagement … We also hear … about the general atmosphere … harsh statements made by junior and senior officers … the military rabbinate … introduced controversial religious and political interpretation under the auspices of the IDF and with its blessing … the IDF spokesperson has gone to great lengths to prove that if there were any moral problems … they were merely on the level of the ‘delinquent soldier,’ rather than a widespread, systemic issue. The [testimonies] prove that we are not dealing with the failures of individual soldiers, and attest instead to failures in the application of values primarily on a systemic level. The IDF’s depiction of such phenomena as ‘rotten apple’ soldiers is a tactic used to place the responsibility solely on individual soldiers on the ground and to evade taking responsibility for the system’s serious value and command failures. The testimonies of the soldiers in this collection expose that the massive and unprecedented blow to the infrastructure and civilians of the Gaza strip were a direct result of IDF policy, and especially of the rules of engagement, and a cultivation of the notion among soldiers that the reality of war requires them to shoot and not to ask questions.”

More on this later.

John Tinmouth
South Tyneside Stop The War Coalition
Monday, 23 November 2009

Since this article was completed, we noticed that there were notable omissions from our list of  really, really, really, really, really, really, really good guys: Jonathan Cook, Max Hastings, George Galloway MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, and Mark Steel. There are probably others.




Shahak: “We have seen [under classical Judaism] that in matters of belief there is great latitude. Exactly the opposite holds with respect to the legal interpretation of sacred texts. Here the interpretation is rigidly fixed – but by the Talmud rather than by the Bible itself. Many, perhaps most, biblical verses prescribing religious acts and obligations are ‘understood’ by classical Judaism, and by present-day Orthodoxy, in a sense which is quite different from, or even contrary to, their literal meaning as understood by Christian or other readers of the Old Testament, who only see the plain text.”

“This important point”, says Shahak, “can only be understood through examples. It will be noted that the changes in meaning do not all go in the same direction from the point of view of ethics … [apologists] of Judaism claim that the interpretation of the Bible … fixed in the Talmud, is always more liberal than the literal sense. But some of the examples below show that this is far from being the case.” He continues:



Shahak gives some examples of dispensations, to illustrate how the system works. These are set out below in his own words – quotation marks at the start and end of each of the sections below indicate this.

Taking of interest.
“The Talmud strictly forbids a Jew, on pain of severe punishment, to take interest on a loan made to another Jew.

According to a majority of talmudic authorities, it is a religious duty to take as much interest as possible on a loan made to a Gentile.

Very detailed rules forbid even the most far-fetched forms in which a Jewish lender might benefit from a Jewish debtor. All Jewish accomplices to such an illicit transaction, including the scribe and the witnesses, are branded by the Talmud as infamous persons, disqualified from testifying in court, because by participating in such an act a Jew as good as declares that 'he has no part in the god of Israel'.

It is evident that this law is well suited to the needs of Jewish peasants or artisans, or of small Jewish communities who use their money for lending to non-Jews. But the situation was very different in east Europe (mainly in Poland) by the 16th century. There was a relatively big Jewish community, which constituted the majority in many towns. The peasants, subjected to strict serfdom not far removed from slavery, were hardly in a position to borrow at all, while lending to the nobility was the business of a few very rich Jews. Many Jews were doing business with each other. In these circumstances, the following arrangement (called heter 'isqa - 'business dispensation') was devised for an interest-bearing loan between Jews, which does not violate the letter of the law, because formally it is not a loan at all:

The sabbatical year.
“According to talmudic law (based on Leviticus, 25) Jewish-owned land in Palestine must be left fallow every seventh ('sabbatical') year, when all agricultural work (in¬cluding harvesting) on such land is forbidden. There is ample evidence that this law was rigorously observed for about one thousand years, from the 5th century BC till the disappearance of Jewish agriculture in Palestine. Later, when there was no occasion to apply the law in practice, it was kept theoretically intact. However, in the 1880s, with the establishment of the first Jewish agricultural colonies in Palestine, it became a matter of practical concern. Rabbis sympathetic to the settlers helpfully devised a dispensation, which was later perfected by their succes¬sors in the religious zionist parties and has become an established Israeli practice.

This is how it works:

Non-zionist rabbis do not recognise the validity of this dispensation, claiming correctly that, since religious law for¬bids Jews to sell land in Palestine to Gentiles, the whole transaction is based on a sin and hence null and void. The zionist rabbis reply, however, that what is forbidden is a real sale, not a fictitious one!”

Milking on the Sabbath.
“This has been forbidden in post-talmudic times … The ban could easily be kept in the diaspora, since Jews who had cows of their own were usually rich enough to have non-Jewish servants, who could be ordered (using one of the subterfuges described below) to do the milking. The early Jewish colonists in Palestine employed Arabs for this and other purposes, but with the forcible imposition of the zionist policy of exclusive Jewish labour there was need for a dispensation. (This was particularly important before the introduction of mechanised milking in the late 1950s.) Here too there was a difference between zionist and non-zionist rabbis.

According to the former, the forbidden milking becomes permitted provided the milk is not white but dyed blue. This blue Saturday milk is then used exclusively for making cheese, and the dye is washed off into the whey.

Non-zionist rabbis have devised a much subtler scheme (which I personally wit¬nessed operating in a religious kibbutz in 1952). They discov¬ered an old provision which allows the udders of a cow to be emptied on the sabbath, purely for relieving the suffering caused to the animal by bloated udders, and on the strict condition that the milk runs to waste on the ground. Now, this is what is actually done:

Mixed crops.
“Similar dispensations were issued by zionist rabbis in respect of the ban (based on Leviticus, 19:19) against sowing two different species of crop in the same field.

Modern agronomy has however shown that in some cases (especially in growing fodder) mixed sowing is the most profitable.

The rabbis invented a dispensation according to which one man sows the field length¬wise with one kind of seed, and later that day his comrade, who 'does not know' about the former, sows another kind of seed crosswise.

However, this method was felt to be too wasteful of labour, and a better one was devised:

Leavened substances.
“Leavened substances must not be eaten or even kept in the possession of a Jew during the seven (or, outside Palestine, eight) days of Passover.

The concept 'leavened substances' was continually broadened and the aversion to so much as seeing them during the festival approached hysteria. They include all kinds of flour and even unground grain.

In the original talmudic society this was bearable, because bread (leavened or not) was usually baked once a week; a peasant family would use the last of the previous year's grain to bake unleavened bread for the festival, which ushers in the new harvest season.

However, in the conditions of post-Talmudic European Jewry the observance was very hard on a middle-class Jewish family and even more so on a corn merchant. A dispensation was therefore devised, by which:

“Perhaps the most developed dispensations con¬cern the 'Goy (Gentile) of Sabbath'.

As mentioned above, the range of tasks banned on the sabbath has widened continually; but the range of tasks that must be carried out or supervised to satisfy needs or to increase comfort also keeps widening. This is particularly true in modern times, but the effect of technological change began to be felt long ago.

The ban against grinding on the sabbath was a relatively light matter for a Jewish peasant or artisan, say in second-century Palestine, who used a hand mill for doniestic purposes. It was quite a different matter for a tenant of a water mill or windmill - one of the most common Jewish occupations in eastern Europe.

But even such a simple human 'problem' as the wish to have a hot cup of tea on a Saturday afternoon becomes much greater with the tempting samovar, used regularly on weekdays, standing in the room.

These are just two examples out of a very large number of so-called 'problems of Sabbath observance'. And one can state with certainty that for a community composed exclusively of Orthodox Jews they were quite insoluble, at least during the last eight or ten centuries, without the 'help' of non-Jews. This is even more true today in the 'Jewish state', because many public services, such as water, gas and electricity, fall in this category. Classical Judaism could not exist even for a whole week without using some non-Jews.

But without special dispensations there is a great obstacle in employing non-Jews to do these Saturday jobs; for talmudic regulations forbid Jews to ask a Gentile to do on the Sabbath any work which they themselves are banned from doing. I shall describe two of the many types of dispensation used for such purposes:



Shahak states that “As explained [above], the Halakhah, that is the legal system of classical Judaism - as practised by virtually all Jews from the 9th century to the end of the 18th and as maintained to this very day in the form of Orthodox Judaism - is based primarily on the Babylonian Talmud. However, because of the unwieldy complex¬ity of the legal disputations recorded in the Talmud, more man¬ageable codifications of talmudic law became necessary and were indeed compiled by successive generations of rabbinical scholars. Some of these have acquired great authority and are in general use. For this reason we shall refer for the most part to such compilations (and their most reputable commentaries) rather than directly to the Talmud. It is however correct to assume that the compilation referred to reproduces faithfully the meaning of the talmudic text and the additions made by later scholars on the basis of that meaning.”

He continues: “The earliest code of talmudic law which is still of major importance is the Mishneh Torah written by Moses Maimonides in the late 12th century. The most authoritative code, widely used to date as a handbook, is the Shulhan 'Arukh composed by R. Yosef Karo in the late 16th century as a popular condensation of his own much more voluminous Beyt Yosef which was intended for the advanced scholar. The Shulhan ‘Arukh is much com¬mented upon; in addition to classical commentaries dating from the 17th century, there is an important 20th century one, Mishnah Berurah. Finally, the Talmudic Encyclopedia - a modern compilation published in Israel from the 1950s and edited by the country's greatest Orthodox rabbinical scholars - is a good com¬pendium of the whole talmudic literature.”

The laws against non-Jews, and their consequences, are set out below in Shahak’s own words – quotation marks at the start and end of each of the paragraphs below indicate this.

Murder and Genocide
“According to the Jewish religion, the murder of a Jew is a capital offence and one of the three most heinous sins (the other two being idolatry and adultery). Jewish religious courts and secular authorities are commanded to punish, even beyond the limits of the ordinary administration of justice, anyone guilty of murdering a Jew. A Jew who indirectly causes the death of another Jew is, however, only guilty of what talmudic law calls a sin against the ‘laws of heaven’, to be punished by God rather than by man.”

“When the victim is a Gentile, the position is quite different. A Jew who murders a Gentile is guilty only of a sin against the laws of Heaven, not punishable by a court. To cause indirectly the death of a Gentile is no sin at all.”

“Thus, one of the two most important commentators on the Shulhan ‘Arukh explains that when it comes to a Gentile, 'one must not lift one's hand to harm him, but one may harm him indirectly, for instance by removing a ladder after he had fallen into a crevice ... there is no prohibition here, because it was not done directly. He points out, however, that an act leading indirectly to a Gentile's death is forbidden if it may cause the spread of hostility towards Jews.”

“A Gentile murderer who happens to be under Jewish juris¬diction must be executed whether the victim was Jewish or not. However, if the victim was Gentile and the murderer converts to Judaism, he is not punished.”

“All this has a direct and practical relevance to the realities of the State of Israel. Although the state's criminal laws make no distinction between Jew and Gentile, such distinction is certainly made by Orthodox rabbis, who in guiding their flock follow the Halakhah. Of special importance is the advice they give to religious soldiers.”

“Since even the minimal interdiction against murdering a Gentile outright applies only to 'Gentiles with whom we [the Jews] are not at war', various rabbinical commentators in the past drew the logical conclusion that in wartime all Gentiles belonging to a hostile population may, or even should be killed. Since 1973 this doctrine is being publicly propagated for the guidance of religious Israeli soldiers. The first such official exhortation was included in a booklet published by the Central Region Command of the Israeli Army, whose area includes the West Bank. In this booklet the Command's Chief Chaplain writes:

“The same doctrine is expounded in the following exchange of letters between a young Israeli soldier and his rabbi, published in the yearbook of one of the country's most prestigious religious colleges, Midrashiyyat No'am, where many leaders and activists of the National Religious Party and Gush Emunim have been educated.”

“Of course, this doctrine of the Halakhah on murder clashes, in principle, not only with Israel's criminal law but also - as hinted in the letters just quoted - with official military standing regula¬tions. However, there can be little doubt that in practice this doctrine does exert an influence on the administration of justice, especially by military authorities. The fact is that in all cases where Jews have, in a military or paramilitary context, murdered Arab non-combatants - including cases of mass murder such as that in Kafr Qasim in 1956 - the murderers, if not let off altogether, received extremely light sentences or won far-reaching remissions, reducing their punishment to next to nothing.”

Saving of Life
“This subject - the supreme value of human life and the obligation of every human being to do the outmost to save the life of a fellow human - is of obvious importance in itself. It is also of particular interest in a Jewish context, in view of the fact that since the second world war Jewish opinion has - in some cases justly, in others unjustly - condemned 'the whole world' or at least all Europe for standing by when Jews were being massacred. Let us therefore examine what the Halakhah has to say on this subject.”

“According to the Halakhah, the duty to save the life of a fellow Jew is paramount. It supersedes all other religious obligations and interdictions, excepting only the prohibitions against the three most heinous sins of adultery (including in¬cest), murder and idolatry.”

“As for Gentiles, the basic talmudic principle is that their lives must not be saved, although it is also forbidden to murder them outright. The Talmud itself expresses this in the maxim 'Gentiles are neither to be lifted [out of a well] nor hauled down [into it]'. Maimonides explains:

“In particular, a Jewish doctor must not treat a Gentile patient. Maimonides - himself an illustrious physician - is quite explicit on this; in another passage he repeats the distinction between 'thy fellow' and a Gentile, and concludes: 'and from this learn ye, that it is forbidden to heal a Gentile even for payment ... ' ”

“However, the refusal of a Jew - particularly a Jewish doctor - to save the life of a Gentile may, if it becomes known, antagonise powerful Gentiles and so put Jews in danger. Where such danger exists, the obligation to avert it supersedes the ban on helping the Gentile. Thus Maimonides continues: ' ... but if you fear him or his hostility, cure him for payment, though you are forbidden to do so without payment.' In fact, Maimonides himself was Saladin's personal physician. His insistence on demanding payment - presumably in order to make sure that the act is not one of human charity but an unavoidable duty - is however not absolute. For in another passage he allows Gentile whose hostility is feared to be treated 'even gratis, if it is unavoidable'. ”

“The whole doctrine - the ban on saving a Gentile's life or healing him, and the suspension of this ban in cases where there is fear of hostility - is repeated (virtually verbatim) by other major authorities, including the 14th century Arba'ah Turim and Karo's Beyt Yosef and Shulhan ‘Arukh. Beyt Yosef adds, quoting Maimonides: 'And it is permissible to try out a drug on a heathen, if this serves a purpose'; and this is repeated also by the famous R. Moses Isserles.”

“The consensus of halakhic authorities is that the term 'Gen¬tiles' in the above doctrine refers to all non-Jews. A lone voice of dissent is that of R. Moses Rivkes, author of a minor commentary on the Shulhan 'Arukh, who writes:

“This passage, dating from the second half of the 17th century, is a favourite quote of apologetic scholars. Actually, it does not go nearly as far as the apologetics pretend, for it advocates removing the ban on saving a Gentile's life, rather than making it mandatory as in the case of a Jew; and even this liberality extends only to Christians and Muslims but not the majority of human beings. Rather, what it does show is that there was a way in which the harsh doctrine of the Halakhah could have been progressively liberalised. But as a matter of fact the majority of later halakhic authorities, far from extending Rivkes' leniency to other human groups, have rejected it altogether.”

Desecrating the Sabbath to Save Life
“Desecrating the sabbath — that is, doing work that would other¬wise be banned on Saturday - becomes a duty when the need to save a Jew's life demands it.”

“The problem of saving a Gentile's life on the sabbath is not raised in the Talmud as a main issue, since it is in any case forbidden even on a weekday; it does however enter as a complicating factor in two connections.”

“First, there is a problem where a group of people are in danger, and it is possible (but not certain) that there is at least one Jew among them; should the sabbath be desecrated in order to save them? There is an extensive discussion of such cases. Following earlier authorities, including Maimonides and the Talmud itself, the Shulhan 'Arukh decides these matters according to the weight of probabilities. For example, suppose nine Gentiles and one Jew live in the same building. One Saturday the building collapses; one of the ten - it is not known which one - is away, but the other nine are trapped under the rubble. Should the rubble be cleared, thus desecrat¬ing the sabbath, seeing that the Jew may not be under it (he may have been the one that got away)? The Shulhan ‘Arukh says that it should, presumably because the odds that the Jew is under the rubble are high (nine to one). But now suppose that nine have got away and only one - again, it is not known which one - is trapped. Then there is no duty to clear the rubble, presumably because this time there are long odds (nine to one) against the Jew being the person trapped. Similarly: 'If a boat containing some Jews is seen to be in peril upon the sea, it is a duty incumbent upon all to desecrate the sabbath in order to save it.' However, the great R. 'Aqiva Eiger (died 1837) comments that this applies only 'when it is known that there are Jews on board. But ... if nothing at all is known about the identity of those on board, [the sabbath] must not be desecrated, for one acts according to [the weight of prob¬abilities, and] the majority of people in the world are Gen¬tiles.' Thus, since there are very long odds against any of the passengers being Jewish, they must be allowed to drown.”

“Secondly, the provision that a Gentile may be saved or cared for in order to avert the danger of hostility is curtailed on the sabbath. A Jew called upon to help a Gentile on a weekday may have to comply because to admit that he is not allowed, in principle, to save the life of a non-Jew would be to invite hostility. But on Saturday the Jew can use sabbath observance as a plausible excuse. A paradigmatic case discussed at length in the Talmud is that of a Jewish midwife invited to help a Gentile woman in childbirth. The upshot is that the midwife is allowed to help on a weekday 'for fear of hostility', but on the sabbath she must not do so, because she can excuse herself by saying: 'We are allowed to desecrate the sabbath only for our own, who observe the sabbath, but for your people, who do not keep the sabbath, we are not allowed to desecrate it.' Is this explanation a genuine one or merely an excuse? Maimonides clearly thinks that it is just an excuse, which can be used even if the task that the midwife is invited to do does not actually involve any desecration of the sabbath. Presumably, the excuse will work just as well even in this case, because Gentiles are generally in the dark as to precisely which kinds of work are banned for Jews on the sabbath. At any rate, he decrees: 'A Gentile woman must not be helped in childbirth on the sabbath, even for payment; nor must one fear hostility, even when [such help involves] no desecration of the sabbath.' The Shulhan 'Arukh decrees likewise.”

“Nevertheless, this sort of excuse could not always be relied upon to do the trick and avert Gentile hostility. Therefore certain important rabbinical authorities had to relax the rules to some extent and allowed Jewish doctors to treat Gentiles on the sabbath even if this involved doing certain types of work normally banned on that day. This partial relaxation applied particularly to rich and powerful Gentile patients, who could not be fobbed off so easily and whose hostility could be dangerous.”

“Thus, R. Yo'el Sirkis, author of Bayit Hadash and one of the greatest rabbis of his time (Poland, 17th century), decided that 'mayors, petty nobles and aristocrats' should be treated on the sabbath, because of the fear of their hostility which in¬volves 'some danger'. But in other cases, especially when the Gentile can be fobbed off with an evasive excuse, a Jewish doctor would commit 'an unbearable sin' by treating him on the sabbath. Later in the same century, a similar verdict was given in the French city of Metz, whose two parts were connected by a pontoon bridge. Jews are not normally allowed to cross such a bridge on the sabbath, but the rabbi of Metz decided that a Jewish doctor may nevertheless do so 'if he is called to the great governor': since the doctor is known to cross the bridge for the sake of his Jewish patients, the gover¬nor's hostility could be aroused if the doctor refused to do so for his sake. Under the authoritarian rule of Louis XIV, it was evidently important to have the goodwill of his intendant; the feelings of lesser Gentiles were of little importance.”

Hokhmat Shlomoh, a 19th century commentary on the Shulhan 'Arukh, mentions a similarly strict interpretation of the concept 'hostility' in connection with the Karaites, a small heretical Jewish sect. According to this view, their lives must not be saved if that would involve desecration of the sabbath, 'for "hostility" applies only to the heathen, who are many against us, and we are delivered into their hands ... But the Karaites are few and we are not delivered into their hands, [so] the fear of hostility does not apply to them at all.' In fact, the absolute ban on desecrating the sabbath in order to save the life of a Karaite is still in force today, as we shall see.”

“The whole subject is extensively discussed in the responsa of R. Moshe Sofer - better known as 'Hatam Sofer' - the famous rabbi of Pressburg (Bratislava) who died in 1832. His conclusions are of more than historical interest, since in 1966 one of his responsa was publicly endorsed by the then Chief Rabbi of Israel as 'a basic institution of the Halakhah'. The particular question asked of Hatam Sofer concerned the situa-tion in Turkey, where it was decreed during one of the wars that in each township or village there should be midwives on call, ready to hire themselves out to any woman in labour. Some of these midwives were Jewish; should they hire them¬selves out to help Gentile women on weekdays and on the sabbath?”

“In his responsum, Hatam Sofer first concludes, after care¬ful investigation, that the Gentiles concerned - that is, Otto¬man Christians and Muslims - are not only idolators 'who definitely worship other gods and thus should "neither be lifted [out of a well] nor hauled down",' but are likened by him to the Amalekites, so that the talmudic ruling 'it is forbidden to multiply the seed of Amalek' applies to them. In principle, therefore, they should not be helped even on week¬days. However, in practice it is 'permitted' to heal Gentiles and help them in labour, if they have doctors and midwives of their own, who could be called instead of the Jewish ones. For if Jewish doctors and midwives refused to attend to Gentiles, the only result would be loss of income to the former - which is of course undesirable. This applies equally on weekdays and on the sabbath, provided no desecration of the sabbath is involved. However, in the latter case the sabbath can serve as an excuse to 'mislead the heathen woman and say that it would involve desecration of the sabbath'. “

“In connection with cases that do actually involve desecra¬tion of the sabbath, Hatam Sofer - like other authorities - makes a distinction between two categories of work banned on the sabbath. First, there is work banned by the Torah, the biblical text (as interpreted by the Talmud); such work may only be performed in very exceptional cases, if failing to do so would cause an extreme danger of hostility towards Jews. Then there are types of work which are only banned by the sages who extended the original law of the Torah; the attitude towards breaking such bans is generally more lenient.”

“Another responsum of Hatam Sofer deals with the question whether it is permissible for a Jewish doctor to travel by carriage on the sabbath in order to heal a Gentile. After pointing out that under certain conditions travelling by horse-drawn carriage on the sabbath only violates a ban imposed 'by the sages' rather than by the Torah, he goes on to recall Maimonides' pronouncement that Gentile women in labour must not be helped on the sabbath, even if no desecration of the sabbath is involved, and states that the same principle applies to all medical practice, not just midwifery. But he then voices the fear that if this were put into practice, 'it would arouse undesirable hostility,' for 'the Gentiles would not accept the excuse of sabbath observance,' and 'would say that the blood of an idolator has little worth in our eyes'. Also, perhaps more importantly, Gentile doctors might take revenge on their Jewish patients. Better excuses must be found. He advises a Jewish doctor who is called to treat a Gentile patient out of town on the sabbath to excuse himself by saying that he is required to stay in town in order to look after his other patients, 'for he can use this in order to say, "I cannot move because of the danger to this or that patient, who needs a doctor first, and I may not desert my charge" ... With such an excuse there is no fear of danger, for it is a reasonable pretext, commonly given by doctors who are late in arriving because another patient needed them first.' Only 'if it is impossible to give any excuse' is the doctor permitted to travel by carriage on the sabbath in order to treat a Gentile.”

“In the whole discussion, the main issue is the excuses that should be made, not the actual healing or the welfare of the patient. And throughout it is taken for granted that it is all right to deceive Gentiles rather than treat them, so long as 'hostility' can be averted.”

“Of course, in modern times most Jewish doctors are not religious and do not even know of these rules. Moreover, it appears that even many who are religious prefer - to their credit - to abide by the Hippocratic oath rather than by the precepts of their fanatic rabbis. However, the rabbis' guidance cannot fail to have some influence on some doctors; and there are certainly many who, while not actually following that guid-ance, choose not to protest against it publicly.”

“All this is far from being a dead issue. The most up-to-date halakhic position on these matters is contained in a recent concise and authoritative book published in English under the title Jewish Medical Law. This book, which bears the imprint of the prestigious Israeli foundation Mossad Harav Kook, is based on the responsa of R. Eli'ezer Yehuda Waldenberg, Chief Justice of the Rabbinical District Court of Jerusalem. A few passages of this work deserve special mention.”

“First, 'it is forbidden to desecrate the sabbath ... for a Karaite.' This is stated bluntly, absolutely and without any further qualification. Presumably the hostility of this small sect makes no difference, so they should be allowed to die rather than be treated on the sabbath.”

“As for Gentiles: 'According to the ruling stated in the Talmud and Codes of Jewish Law, it is forbidden to desecrate the Sabbath - whether violating Biblical or rabbinic law - in order to save the life of a dangerously ill gentile patient. It is also forbidden to deliver the baby of a gentile woman on the Sabbath.' ”

“But this is qualified by a dispensation: 'However, today it is permitted to desecrate the Sabbath on behalf of a Gentile by performing actions prohibited by rabbinic law, for by so doing one prevents ill feelings from arising between Jew and Gentile.' ”

“This does not go very far, because medical treatment very often involves acts banned on the sabbath by the Torah itself, which are not covered by this dispensation. There are, we are told, 'some' halakhic authorities who extend the dispensation to such acts as well - but this is just another way of saying that most halakhic authorities, and the ones that really count, take the opposite view. However, all is not lost. Jewish Medical Law has a truly breathtaking solution to this difficulty.”

“The solution hangs upon a nice point of talmudic law. A ban imposed by the Torah on performing a given act on the sabbath is presumed to apply only when the primary intention in performing it is the actual outcome of the act. (For example, grinding wheat is presumed to be banned by the Torah only if the purpose is actually to obtain flour.) On the other hand, if the performance of the same act is merely incidental to some other purpose (melakhah seh'eynah tzrikhah legufah) then the act changes its status - it is still forbidden, to be sure, but only by the sages rather than by the Torah itself. Therefore:

“This hypocritical substitute for the Hippocratic oath is also pro¬posed by a recent authoritative Hebrew book.”

“Although the facts were mentioned at least twice in the Israeli press, the Israeli Medical Association has remained silent.”

“Having treated in some detail the supremely important subject of the attitude of the Halakhah to a Gentile's very life, we shall deal much more briefly with other halakhic rules which discriminate against Gentiles. Since the number of such rules is very large, we shall mention only the more important ones.”

Sexual Offences
“Sexual intercourse between a married Jewish woman and any man other than her husband is a capital offence for both parties, and one of the three most heinous sins. The status of Gentile women is very different. The Halakhah presumes all Gentiles to be utterly promiscuous and the verse 'whose flesh is as the flesh of asses, and whose issue [of semen] is like the issue of horses’ is applied to them. Whether a Gentile woman is married or not makes no difference, since as far as Jews are concerned the very concept of matrimony does not apply to Gentiles ('There is no matrimony for a heathen'). Therefore, the concept of adultery also does not apply to intercourse between a Jewish man and a Gentile woman; rather, the Talmud equates such intercourse to the sin of bestiality. (For the same reason, Gentiles are generally presumed not to have certain paternity.)”

“According to the Talmudic Encyclopedia: 'He who has carnal knowledge of the wife of a Gentile is not liable to the death penalty, for it is written: "thy fellow's wife" rather than the alien's wife; and even the precept that a man "shall cleave unto his wife" which is addressed to the Gentiles does not apply to a Jew, just there is no matrimony for a heathen; and although a married Gentile woman is forbidden to the Gentiles, in any case a Jew is exempted.' ”

“This does not imply that sexual intercourse between a Jewish man and a Gentile woman is permitted - quite the contrary. But the main punishment is inflicted on the Gentile woman; she must be executed, even if she was raped by the Jew: 'If a Jew has coitus with a Gentile woman, whether she be a child of three or an adult, whether married or unmar¬ried, and even if he is a minor aged only nine years and one day - because he had wilful coitus with her, she must be killed, as is the case with a beast, because through her a Jew got into trouble.' The Jew, however, must be flogged, and if he is a Kohen (member of the priestly tribe) he must receive double the number of lashes, because he has commit¬ted a double offence: a Kohen must not have intercourse with a prostitute, and all Gentile women are presumed to be prostitutes.”

“According to the Halakhah, Jews must not (if they can help it) allow a Gentile to be appointed to any position of authority, however small, over Jews. (The two stock examples are 'com¬mander over ten soldiers in the Jewish army' and 'superintendent of an irrigation ditch'.) Significantly, this particular rule applies also to converts to Judaism and to their descendants (through the female line) for ten generations or 'so long as the descent is known'. ”

“Gentiles are presumed to be congenital liars, and are disqualified from testifying in a rabbinical court. In this respect their position is, in theory, the same as that of Jewish women, slaves and minors; but in practice it is actually worse. A Jewish woman is nowadays admitted as a witness to certain matters of fact, when the rabbinical court 'believes' her; a Gentile - never.”

“A problem therefore arises when a rabbinical court needs to establish a fact for which there are only Gentile witnesses. An important example of this is in cases concerning widows: by Jewish religious law, a woman can be declared a widow - and hence free to re-marry - only if the death of her husband is proven with certainty by means of a witness who saw him die or identified his corpse. However, the rabbinical court will accept the hearsay evidence of a Jew who testifies to having heard the fact in question mentioned by a Gentile eyewitness, provided the court is satisfied that the latter was speaking casually ('goy mesiah lefi tummo') rather than in reply to a direct question; for a Gentile's direct answer to a Jew's direct question is presumed to be a lie. If necessary, a Jew (prefer¬ably a rabbi) will actually undertake to chat up the Gentile eyewitness and, without asking a direct question, extract from him a casual statement of the fact at issue.”

Money and Property
“The Talmud bluntly forbids giving a gift to a Gentile. However, classical rabbinical authorities bent this rule because it is customary among businessmen to give gifts to business con¬tacts. It was therefore laid down that a Jew may give a gift to a Gentile acquaintance, since this is regarded not as a true gift but as a sort of investment, for which some return is expected. Gifts to 'unfamiliar Gentiles' remain forbidden. A broadly similar rule applies to almsgiving. Giving alms to a Jewish beggar is an important religious duty. Alms to Gentile beggars are merely permitted for the sake of peace. However there are numerous rabbinical warnings against allowing the Gentile poor to become ‘accustomed' to receiving alms from Jews, so that it should be possible to withhold such alms without arousing undue hostility.”

Taking of interest.
“Anti-Gentile discrimination in this matter has become largely theoretical, in view of the dispensation [explained above] which in effect allows interest to be exacted even from a Jewish borrower. However, it is still the case that granting an interest-free loan to a Jew is recommended as an act of charity, but from a Gentile borrower it is mandatory to exact interest. In fact, many - though not all - rabbinical authorities, including Maimonides, consider it mandatory to exact as much usury as possible on a loan to a Gentile.”

Lost property.
“If a Jew finds property whose probable owner is Jewish, the finder is strictly enjoined to make a positive effort to return his find by advertising it publicly. In contrast, the Talmud and all the early rabbinical authorities not only allow a Jewish finder to appropriate an article lost by a Gentile, but actually forbid him or her to return it. In more recent times, when laws were passed in most countries making it mandatory to return lost articles, the rabbinical authorities instructed Jews to do what these laws say, as an act of civil obedience to the state - but not as a religious duty, that is without making a positive effort to discover the owner if it is not probable that he is Jewish.”

Deception in business.
“It is a grave sin to practice any kind of deception whatsoever against a Jew. Against a Gentile it is only forbidden to practice direct deception. Indirect deception is al¬lowed, unless it is likely to cause hostility towards Jews or insult to the Jewish religion. The paradigmatic example is mistaken calculation of the price during purchase. If a Jew makes a mistake unfavourable to himself, it is one's religious duty to correct him. If a Gentile is spotted making such a mistake, one need not let him know about it, but say 'I rely on your calcula¬tion', so as to forestall his hostility in case he subsequently discovers his own mistake. ”

“It is forbidden to defraud a Jew by selling or buying at an unreasonable price. However, 'Fraud does not apply to Gen¬tiles, for it is written: "Do not defraud each man his brother"; but a Gentile who defrauds a Jew should be compelled to make good the fraud, but should not be punished more severely than a Jew [in a similar case].' ”

Theft and robbery.
“Stealing (without violence) is absolutely forbidden - as the Shulhan 'Arukh so nicely puts it: 'even from a Gentile'. Robbery (with violence) is strictly forbidden if the victim is Jewish. However, robbery of a Gentile by a Jew is not forbidden outright but only under certain circumstances such as 'when the Gentiles are not under our rule', but is permitted 'when they are under our rule'. Rabbinical authorities differ among themselves as to the precise details of the circum¬stances under which a Jew may rob a Gentile, but the whole debate is concerned only with the relative power of Jews and Gentiles rather than with universal considerations of justice and humanity. This may explain why so very few rabbis have pro¬tested against the robbery of Palestinian property in Israel: it was backed by overwhelming Jewish power.”

Gentiles in the Land of Israel
“In addition to the general anti-Gentile laws, the Halakhah has special laws against Gentiles who live in the Land of Israel (Eretz Yisra'el) or, in some cases, merely pass through it. These laws are designed to promote Jewish supremacy in that country.”

“The exact geographical definition of the term 'Land of Israel' is much disputed in the Talmud and the talmudic literature, and the debate has continued in modern times between the various shades of zionist opinion. According to the maximalist view, the Land of Israel includes (in addition to Palestine itself) not only the whole of Sinai, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, but also consider¬able parts of Turkey. The more prevalent 'minimalist' interpre¬tation puts the northern border 'only' about half way through Syria and Lebanon, at the latitude of Homs. This view was supported by Ben-Gurion. However, even those who thus exclude parts of Syria-Lebanon agree that certain special discriminatory laws (though less oppressive than in the Land of Israel proper) apply to the Gentiles of those parts, because that territory was included in David's kingdom. In all talmudic interpretations the Land of Israel includes Cyprus.”

“I shall now list a few of the special laws concerning Gen¬tiles in the Land of Israel. Their connection with actual zionist practice will be quite apparent.”

“The Halakhah forbids Jews to sell immovable property - fields and houses - in the Land of Israel to Gentiles. In Syria, the sale of houses (but not of fields) is permitted.”

“Leasing a house in the Land of Israel to a Gentile is permit¬ted under two conditions. First, that the house shall not be used for habitation but for other purposes, such as storage. Second, that three or more adjoining houses shall not be so leased.”

“These and several other rules are explained as follows: ... 'so that you shall not allow them to camp on the ground, for if they do not possess land, their sojourn there will be tempo¬rary.' Even temporary Gentile presence may only be tolerated 'when the Jews are in exile, or when the Gentiles are more powerful than the Jews,' but

“It is therefore clear that - exactly as the leaders and sympathisers of Gush Emunim say - the whole question to how the Palestinians ought to be treated is, according to the Halakhah, simply a question of Jewish power: if Jews have sufficient power, then it is their religious duty to expel the Palestinians.”

“All these laws are often quoted by Israeli rabbis and their zealous followers. For example, the law forbidding the lease of three adjoining houses to Gentiles was solemnly quoted by a rabbinical conference held in 1979 to discuss the Camp David treaties. The conference also declared that according to the Halakhah even the 'autonomy' that Begin was ready to offer to the Palestinians is too liberal. Such pronouncements - which do in fact state correctly the position of the Halakhah - are rarely contested by the zionist 'left'.”

“In addition to laws such as those mentioned so far, which are directed at all Gentiles in the Land of Israel, an even greater evil influence arises from special laws against the an¬cient Canaanites and other nations who lived in Palestine be¬fore its conquest by Joshua, as well as against the Amalekites. All those nations must be utterly exterminated, and the Talmud and talmudic literature reiterate the genocidal biblical exhorta¬tions with even greater vehemence. Influential rabbis, who have a considerable following among Israeli army officers, identify the Palestinians (or even all Arabs) with those ancient nations, so that commands like 'thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth' acquire a topical meaning. In fact, it is not uncom¬mon for reserve soldiers called up to do a tour of duty in the Gaza Strip to be given an 'educational lecture' in which they are told that the Palestinians of Gaza are 'like the Amalekites'.”

“Biblical verses exhorting to genocide of the Midianites were solemnly quoted by an important Israeli rabbi in justification of the Qibbiya massacre, and this pronouncement has gained wide circulation in the Israeli army. There are many similar examples of bloodthirsty rabbinical pronouncements against the Palestinians, based on these laws.”

“Under this heading I would like to discuss examples of halakhic laws whose most important effect is not so much to prescribe specific anti-Gentile discrimination as to inculcate an attitude of scorn and hatred towards Gentiles. Accordingly, in this section I shall not confine myself to quoting from the most authoritative halakhic sources (as I have done so far) but include also less fundamental works, which are however widely used in religious instruction.”

“Let us begin with the text of some common prayers. In one of the first sections of the daily morning payer, every devout Jew blesses God for not making him a Gentile. The conclud¬ing section of the daily prayer (which is also used in the most solemn part of the service on New Year's day and on Yom Kippur) opens with the statement: 'We must praise the Lord of all ... for not making us like the nations of [all] lands ... for they bow down to vanity and nothingness and pray to a god that does not help.' The last clause was censored out of the prayer books, but in eastern Europe it was supplied orally, and has now been restored into many Israeli-printed prayer books. In the most important section of the weekday prayer - the 'eighteen blessings' - there is a special curse, originally directed against Christians, Jewish converts to Christianity and other Jewish heretics: 'And may the apostates have no hope, and all the Christians perish instantly'. This formula dates from the end of the 1st century, when Christianity was still a small persecuted sect. Some time before the 14th century it was softened into: 'And may the apostates have no hope, and all the heretics perish instantly', and after additional pressure into: 'And may the informers have no hope, and all the heretics perish instantly'. After the establishment of Israel, the process was reversed, and many newly printed prayer books reverted to the second formula, which was also prescribed by many teach¬ers in religious Israeli schools. After 1967, several congregations close to Gush Emunim have restored the first version (so far only verbally, not in print) and now pray daily that the Chris¬tians 'may perish instantly'. This process of reversion happened in the period when the Catholic Church (under Pope John XXIII) removed from its Good Friday service a prayer which asked the Lord to have mercy on Jews, heretics etc. This prayer was thought by most Jewish leaders to be offensive and even antisemitic.”

“Apart from the fixed daily prayers, a devout Jew must utter special short blessings on various occasions, both good and bad (for example, while putting on a new piece of clothing, eating a seasonal fruit for the first time that year, seeing powerful lightning, hearing bad news, etc.) Some of these occasional prayers serve to inculcate hatred and scorn for all Gentiles. We have mentioned [above] the rule according to which a pious Jew must utter curse when passing near a Gentile cem¬etery, whereas he must bless God when passing near a Jewish cemetery. A similar rule applies to the living; thus, when seeing a large Jewish population a devout Jew must praise God, while upon seeing a large Gentile population he must utter a curse. Nor are buildings exempt: the Talmud lays down that a Jew who passes near an inhabited non-Jewish dwelling must ask God to destroy it, whereas if the building is in ruins he must thank the Lord of Vengeance. (Naturally, the rules are reversed for Jewish houses.) This rule was easy to keep for Jewish peasants who lived in their own villages or for small urban communities living in all-Jewish townships or quarters. Under the conditions of classical Judaism, however, it became imprac¬ticable and was therefore confined to churches and places of worship of other religions (except Islam). In this connection, the rule was further embroidered by custom: it became custom¬ary to spit (usually three times) upon seeing a church or a crucifix, as an embellishment to the obligatory formula of re¬gret. Sometimes insulting biblical verses were also added.”

“There is also a series of rules forbidding any expression of praise for Gentiles or for their deeds, except where such praise implies an even greater praise of Jews and things Jewish. This rule is still observed by Orthodox Jews. For example, the writer Agnon, when interviewed on the Israeli radio upon his return from Stockholm, where he received the Nobel Prize for litera¬ture, praised the Swedish Academy, but hastened to add: 'I am not forgetting that it is forbidden to praise Gentiles, but here there is a special reason for my praise' - that is, that they awarded the prize to a Jew.”

“Similarly, it is forbidden to join any manifestation of popular Gentile rejoicing, except where failing to join in might cause 'hostility towards Jews, in which case a 'minimal' show of joy is allowed.”

“In addition to the rules mentioned so far, there are many others whose effect is to inhibit human friendship between Jew and Gentile. I shall mention two examples: the rule on 'libation wine' and that on preparing food for a Gentile on Jewish holy days.”

“A religious Jew must not drink any wine in whose prepa¬ration a Gentile had any part whatsoever. Wine in an open bottle, even if prepared wholly by Jews, becomes banned if a Gentile so much as touches the bottle or passes a hand over it. The reason given by the rabbis is that all Gentiles are not only idolators but must be presumed to be malicious to boot, so that they are likely to dedicate (by a whisper, gesture or thought) as 'libation' to their idol any wine which a Jew is about to drink. This law applies in full force to all Christians, and in a slightly attenuated form also to Muslims. (An open bottle of wine touched by a Christian must be poured away, but if touched by a Muslim it can be sold or given away, although it may not be drunk by a Jew.) The law applies equally to Gentile atheists (how can one be sure that they are not merely pretending to be atheists?) but not to Jewish atheists.”

“The laws against doing work on the Sabbath apply to a lesser extent on other holy days. In particular, on a holy day which does not happen to fall on a Saturday it is permitted to do any work required for preparing food to be eaten during the holy days or days. Legally, this is defined as preparing a 'soul's food' (okhel nefesh); but 'soul' is interpreted to mean 'Jew', and 'Gentiles and dogs' are explicitly excluded. There is, however, a dispensation in favour of powerful Gentiles, whose hostility can be dangerous: it is permitted to cook food on a holy day for a visitor belonging to this category, provided he is not actively encouraged to come and eat.”

An important effect of all these laws - quite apart from their application in practice - is in the attitude created by their constant study which, as part of the study of the Halakhah, is regarded by classical Judaism as a supreme religious duty. Thus an Orthodox Jew learns from his earliest youth, as part of his sacred studies, that Gentiles are compared to dogs, that it is a sin to praise them, and so on and so forth. As a matter of fact, in this respect textbooks for beginners have a worse effect than the Talmud and the great talmudic codes. One reason for this is that such elementary texts give more detailed explana¬tions, phrased so as to influence young and uneducated minds. Out of a large number of such texts, I have chosen the one which is currently most popular in Israel and has been re¬printed in many cheap editions, heavily subsidised by the Israeli government. It is The Book of Education, written by an anony¬mous rabbi in early 14th century Spain. It explains the 613 religious obligations (mitzvot) of Judaism in the order in which they are supposed to be found in the Pentateuch according to the talmudic interpretation [discussed above]. It owes its lasting influence and popularity to the clear and easy Hebrew style in which it is written.”

“A central didactic aim of this book is to emphasise the 'correct' meaning of the Bible with respect to such terms as 'fellow', 'friend' or 'man' (which we have referred to [above]). Thus 219, devoted to the religious obligation arising from the verse 'thou shalt love thy fellow as thyself’, is entitled: 'A religious obligation to love Jews', and explains:

“In 322, dealing with the duty to keep a Gentile slave enslaved for ever (whereas a Jewish slave must be set free after seven years), the following explanation is given:

“In 545, dealing with the religious obligation to exact interest on money lent to Gentiles, the law is stated as follows: 'That we are commanded to demand interest from Gentiles when we lend money to them, and we must not lend to them without interest,' The explanation is:

“Similar distinctions are made in numerous other passages. In explaining the ban against delaying a worker's wage (238) the author is careful to point out that the sin is less serious if the worker is Gentile. The prohibition against cursing (239) is entitled 'Not to curse any Jew, whether man or woman'. Similarly, the prohibitions against giving misleading advice, hating other people, shaming them or taking revenge on them (240, 245, 246, 247) apply only to fellow-Jews.”

“The ban against following Gentile customs (262) means that Jews must not only 'remove themselves' from Gentiles, but also 'speak ill of all their behaviour, even of their dress'.”

“It must be emphasised that the explanations quoted above do represent correctly the teaching of the Halakhah. The rabbis and, even worse, the apologetic 'scholars of Judaism' know this very well and for this reason they do not try to argue against such views inside the Jewish community; and of course they never mention them outside it. Instead, they vilify any Jew who raises these matters within earshot of Gentiles, and they issue deceitful denials in which the art of equivocation reaches its summit. For example, they state, using general terms, the importance which Judaism attaches to mercy; but what they forget to point out is that according to the Halakhah 'mercy' means mercy towards Jews.”

“Anyone who lives in Israel knows how deep and widespread these attitudes of hatred and cruelty … towards all Gentiles are among the majority of Israeli Jews. Normally these attitudes are disguised from the outside world, but since the establishment of the State of Israel, the 1967 war and the rise of Begin, a significant minority of Jews, both in Israel and abroad, have gradually become more open about such matters. In recent years the inhuman precepts according to which servitude is the 'natural' lot of Gentiles have been publicly quoted in Israel, even on TV, by Jewish farmers exploiting Arab labour, particularly child la¬bour. Gush Emunim leaders have quoted religious precepts which enjoin Jews to oppress Gentiles, as a justification of the at¬tempted assassination of Palestinian mayors and as divine author¬ity for their own plan to expel all the Arabs from Palestine.”

“While many zionists reject these positions politically, their standard counter-arguments are based on considerations of ex¬pediency and Jewish self-interest, rather than on universally valid principles of humanism and ethics. For example, they argue that the exploitation and oppression of Palestinians by Israelis tends to corrupt Israeli society, or that the expulsion of the Palestinians is impracticable under present political condi¬tions, or that Israeli acts of terror against the Palestinians tend to isolate Israel internationally. In principle, however, virtually all zionists - and in particular 'left' zionists - share the deep anti-Gentile attitudes which Orthodox Judaism keenly promotes.”

Attitudes to Christianity and Islam
“In the foregoing, several examples of the rabbinical attitudes to these two religions were given in passing. But it will be useful to summarise these attitudes here.”

“Judaism is imbued with a very deep hatred towards Chris¬tianity, combined with ignorance about it. This attitude was clearly aggravated by the Christian persecutions of Jews, but is largely independent of them. In fact, it dates from the time when Christianity was still weak and persecuted (not least by Jews), and it was shared by Jews who had never been persecuted by Christians or who were even helped by them. Thus, Maimonides was subjected to Muslim persecu¬tions by the regime of the Almohads and escaped from them first to the crusaders' Kingdom of Jerusalem, but this did not change his views in the least. This deeply negative attitude is based on two main elements.”

“First, on hatred and malicious slanders against Jesus. The traditional view of Judaism on Jesus must of course be sharply distinguished from the nonsensical controversy between antisemites and Jewish apologists concerning the 'responsibility' for his execution. Most modern scholars of that period admit that due to the lack of original and contemporary accounts, the late composition of the Gospels and the contradictions between them, accurate historical knowledge of the circum¬stances of Jesus' execution is not available. In any case, the notion of collective and inherited guilt is both wicked and absurd. However, what is at issue here is not the actual facts about Jesus, but the inaccurate and even slanderous reports in the Talmud and post-talmudic literature - which is what Jews believed until the 19th century and many, especially in Israel, still believe. For these reports certainly played an important role in forming the Jewish attitude to Christianity.

“Secondly, for theological reasons, mostly rooted in igno¬rance, Christianity as a religion is classed by rabbinical teaching as idolatry. This is based on a crude interpretation of the Christian doctrines on the Trinity and Incarnation. All the Christian emblems and pictorial representations are regarded as `idols' - even by those Jews who literally worship scrolls, stones or personal belongings of 'Holy Men'.”

“The attitude of Judaism towards Islam is, in contrast, relatively mild. Although the stock epithet given to Muhammad is 'madman' ('meshugga'), this was not nearly as offensive as it may sound now, and in any case it pales before the abusive terms applied to Jesus. Similarly, the Qur'an - unlike the New Testament - is not condemned to burning. It is not honoured in the same way as Islamic law honours the Jewish sacred scrolls, but is treated as an ordinary book. Most rabbinical authorities agree that Islam is not idolatry (although some leaders of Gush Emunim now choose to ignore this). Therefore the Halakhah decrees that Muslims should not be treated by Jews any worse than 'ordinary' Gentiles. But also no better. Again, Maimonides can serve as an illustration. He explicitly states that Islam is not idolatry, and in his philo¬sophical works he quotes, with great respect, many Islamic philosophical authorities. He was, as I have mentioned before, personal physician to Saladin and his family, and by Saladin's order he was appointed Chief over all Egypt's Jews. Yet, the rules he lays down against saving a Gentile's life (except in order to avert danger to Jews) apply equally to Muslims.”



Historic deceptions about Judaism in detail
“What”, says Shahak “were the detailed mechanisms (other than bribery) employed by Jewish communities … to ward off the attack on the Talmud and other religious literature? Several methods can be distinguished, all of them having important political consequences reflected in current Israeli policies [our italics].” He goes on:

Modern deceptions about Judaism in detail
“Modern scholars of Judaism”, Shahak continues, “have not only continued the deception, but have actually improved upon the old rabbinical methods, both in impudence and in mendacity. I omit here the various histories of antisemitism as unworthy of serious consideration, and shall give just three particular examples and one general example of the more modern ‘scholarly’ deceptions.” He goes on: