Monday, July 5, 2010

Various Stuff

30% of Israelis back Germany in the World Cup. Historical animosities are nice to have, but good players can trump it, apparently.

David writes to tell me he's recently back from China. Of all the websites he frequents, only two were blocked inside China: Facebook, and Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations. Now it's true that the other Yaacov Lozowick is a legendary anti-Chinaman, but you'd think those censors would be able o see that this isn't his blog.

Longtime Ruminations' reader AKUS has done a spot of research and made a short film about Lauren Booth, a British journalist who seems not to be a Zionist. I'm not certain why he singled her out - I mean, you walk down Fleet Street and throw a brick at random and you'll hit a gaggle of such people, but perhaps he'll be making films about each one. He'll need lots of free time, poor bloke.

The Jewish Review of Books has a new edition up, here. I read the review by Walter Russel Mead on Shalom Goldman's book Zeal for Zion: Christians, Jews, and the Idea of the Promised Land.Mead points out that until recently, Jews and Jewish historians were not noticing the Christians who contributed significantly to the success of Zionsim; Goldman's book is part of a corrective trend. I can certainly plead guilty to Mead's point, though in recent times I"m moving in the opposite direction, and am beginning to say that Israel needs to maintain better relations with its Christian supporters, since there are a lot more of them than the Jewish ones, and their support apparently isn't wavering.

Then I read Robert Chazan's interesting review of Rodney Stark's God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades and Jonathan Riley-Smith's The Crusades: A History. Stark has apparently written a lawyer's defense of the Crusaders, which makes for bad history because lawyers marshal their facts to the benefit of their client, and un-marshall the inconvenient ones (think of Glenn Greenwald). Riley-Smith, however apparently manages to do history at it's best, meaning to detach the events from a contemporary political use:

Riley-Smith's reflections on the afterlife of crusading are just as cogent, especially with regard to the image of the Crusades in the 19th-century. Romantic misrepresentations of crusading came in two varieties in that period. In one, crusading represented the efforts of a more advanced society to bring its advantages to the backward Islamic world; in the other, the barbarous warriors of the West sought to impose their will on the cultured sphere of Islam. Both the modern Islamic world and the modern West have absorbed these distorted 19th-century perspectives, with harmful results. The juxtaposition of crusading and imperialism has created a counter-juxtaposition of anti-imperialism and anti-Christianity, which has become a powerful force in the contemporary Islamic world. In the West, a corresponding counter-rhetoric has emerged, of which Stark's book is an apparent example. Here is a case where actual historical understanding could serve useful political ends. As Riley-Smith writes:

We cannot hope to understand the circumstances in which we find ourselves unless we are prepared to face up to the fact that modern Western public opinion, Arab Nationalism, and Pan-Islamism all share perceptions of crusading that have more to do with nineteenth-century European imperialism than with actuality.

Finally, Shlomo Avineri, an old-school Zionist of the left, explains that nationalism isn't going away, and bi-national countries don't work. Though to be fair, I don't think anyone who supports a bi-national solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict expects it to work. The whole point is to have no Jewish state. Once that's achieved, the Jews can be expected to leave, just as the Arab Christians left, leaving a Palestinian state with some residual Jews - who will probably be tolerated, why not?


Sérgio said...

Well, after the brazilian fiasco and the uplifting effects of schadenfreude of watching the argentinian debacle, I think I´m rooting for the Huns. It seems Bryant was prophetic about a Germany x Holland


Anonymous said...

here's a foto for you to vet your Israeli allegiance appetite - the blogger Liza is just moving homes, so you'll have to wait for your lessons in Jewish and Israelig football prowishness a bit longer ;-)

it shows a place in Tel Aviv

as we don't need to spare Argentinian feelings any longer here is a piece I have kept back


Anonymous said...

you did it again: Stark is a sociologist writing a "kind of lawyerly brief" - I wonder who will take more offence now, the sociologists or the lawyers? :-)

to the best of my memory Steven Runciman loved Byzantium and thus could never forgive the crusaders what they did to that city after the orthodox had been declared apostate or so - besides I think from others I have read that he gets it about right.
If they crusaded after the Orthodox and the Katharer and I think others i.e. their own because of minor differences it seems unlikely that they would have left Jews alone. Maybe Jews were such a given as victims that they didn't need to be specifically named.

Also I had glimpses of new history book/s out there claiming that the crusaders and muslims at times and/or at places got along quite well i.e. signing treaties, granting rights of passage etc. What I read about those books suggested to me that they are trying to convince us that even way back then Muslims were reliable contract partners. I don't doubt that there were all kinds of deals going on at the time but the reviews trying to sell the book or books made it/them sound like propaganda.


Anonymous said...

I wish Chazan had spent less time disagreeing with Stark and more time telling me what I might find useful in Riley-Smith's book. I'm not sure I can convince the local library to purchase it on the basis of such a skimpy review.

4infidels said...

Why no love for Uruguay in Israel? That's my favorite of the 4 remaining teams. I enjoyed my visit there a few years back.

I guess I would root for Holland if I thought it would help Geert Wilders get elected Prime Minister!

As to Lauren Booth, I think what makes her stand out is her high profile along with her visible hypocrisy. She talked about how Gazans were starving and then was caught smiling in a Gazan store stocked with food!

I also thought the reviewer made a stronger case for why he didn't like the first book than for why I should read the second. The Islamic world can't have it both ways, complaining about being victims of the crusades and the supposed-horrors of the brief period of 18th century imperialism, while at the same time celebrating centuries of Islamic expansionism, conquest and empire.

Anonymous said...

I was speaking with a Dutch Israeli today and he mentioned that he will be supporting Germany. I asked him why and he answered simply, they did Teshuva as a society, the Dutch never did!

But I am still freaked out every time the Israeli commentators say the name SHWEINSTEIGER!


Anonymous said...

there is a Lauren Booth who is the sister-in-law of Tony Blair or Cherie Blair's sister. I remember she was on an earlier Gaza flotilla - German media were full of it at the time

how much the sisters agree on the subject is anybody's guess
- Cherie Blair had a piece on her in the New Yorker recently that made her look a bit weird. for example she addressed a waiter in a way which no man her age would have been allowed these days to a waitress (I hope;)


JG Campbell said...


Regarding the support of Christians for Israel, there are worrying signs that things are slowly moving in the opposite direction.

Thus, you may have heard about the UK Methodist's report on Israel and Palestine the other day with all the usual calumnies against Israel:

JPost describes it here:

The report itself is here:

Similarly, Solomonia has been tracing the anti-Israel/anti-Jewish bias of US Presbyterians in this post among others:

And if you walk into any Anglican church in England and Wales in the month of May, during which 'Christian Aid Week' takes place, you'll find wall-to-wall support for anything and everything the charity does, including its pro-Palestinian (i.e. anti-Israel) work.

I used to think this kind of stuff was restricted to the leadership of the churches and/or to the so-called progressive wing of Christianity. But although it admittedly still has a long way to go, I now suspect that it is slowly but surely becoming mainstream.

Now, let's see if I can only get one copy of this comment onto the site!


Yaacov said...

Hi Jonathan,

My understanding is that it's mostly an American phenomenon these days, pitting various strands of Christian denominations against each other, and no waning of support (from those who support us) at all. The picture in Europe and the UK is probably glummer.

On the other hand, someone recently told me the (American) Mormons are doing lots of missionary work in South America and elsewhere these days, and the Mormons are mostly on our side. So who knows.

I owe you a response from yesterday, but I'm supposed to be working (real work) right now, so it will take a while.

Anonymous said...

Re The Crusades: A History; Second Edition, by Jonathan Riley-Smith

I'm still not entirely convinced...