66 thoughts on “Christopher is a Lying Scumbag – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. And the snake again strikes. Don’t forget that Mr. Hitchens quite amazingly morphed into a Little Drummer Boy for the Bush-Cheney neocon monstrosity a.k.a The Iraq War. But it wasn’t really quite amazing, his transmogrification, from enlightened liberal, supposedly, to yet another right-wing shill. The key to the Hitchens metamorphosis, as I see it, is the 2002 book, “Koba the Dread”, by Martin Amis, who in denouncing Communism, which he one fervently espoused, excoriated unmercifully his dear friend Hitchens for failing to denounce Stalinism and its attendant horrors. Not long after his being so thoroughly and very publicly chastised by his own dear friend, Amis, Hitchens shifted into a pro-right stance that saw him happily advocate for the Iraq atrocity and now apparently for a prelude to an attack against Iran. Even creeps can be explained.

  2. Hitchens did his weird metamorphosis a few days after 9/11.
    I’m not going to look it up, but what was weird was that his first post 9/11 column (published, I think, in a British paper) sounded like the old leftist Hitchens and then a few days later in the Nation he was the secular jihadist itching to kill Islamofascists and denouncing all his former friends for bringing up Western crimes. I don’t think Amis’s dumb book (what sort of idiot thinks it’s brave or cutting edge to denounce Stalin in 2002?) had too much to do with it.

    1. Actually Hitchens was showing some signs of drifting politically right prior to 9/11. However, although Amis’s “dumb book” (a rather peculiar cavalier designation for this well-written mea-culpa rant) did not break new ground, its political and emotional blows, some downright ad hominem, struck against his friend Hitchens must certainly have helped expedite his descent into the right-wing slime pit. This is not to suggest he wasn’t heading that way anyhow.

      1. I called it dumb because there’s something silly and posturing about a literary intellectual writing a rant against Stalin in 2002 as though he was saying something brave and bold that needed to be said, no matter how well-written. If he’d written it in 1940, fine, but in 2002 I think I’ll stick to the historians if I want to learn about Stalin.

        1. Any influence Amis may have had on Hitchens on this subject is likely to be more direct–they’re both Islamophobes, though I think Amis went public with his a bit later–


      2. Anyway, we have Hitchens’s reaction to the Amis book (I read this at the time, but didn’t realize it was online) and it doesn’t sound like it drove him over the edge–


        Actually, Hitchens makes some good points. Like Mary, I don’t like him on religion (there’s a little of that attitude in this review) and he’s become a real political hack, but when the subject matter is sufficiently far away from his current secular holy war on Islam, he can still be worth reading.

  3. The exact same metamorphosis occured in a number of ‘opinion makers’ in the Netherlands: Former communists (and indeed, a number of them Stalinists) turning into right-wing neocon Islamophobes. Apparently totalitarianism sticks: It may appear as though they have fundamentally changed their views, and they may definitely think so themselves, but their penchant for radical approaches mixed with not a little bit of violence is evidence for a disturbing coninuity in their thinking.

    1. Alas, Elisabeth, all too true. When one clings to a god that has failed, it’s quite likely that the disappointed suitor will seek a replacement. Wasn’t it Mencken who once said, “The more I see of people, the better I like dogs.”

      1. You are quite right. And I like Mencken, although – not being American – I did not know of him until a while ago, when I came accross something I found so funny that I copied it on my computer. (You have to understand that this was around the time of the last presidential campaign, with Sarah Palin, Joe the Plumber and Christian fundamentalists all over the news.)
        “What one observes [amongst clerics] is a horde of uneducated and inflammatory dunderheads, eager for power, intolerant of opposition and full of a childish vanity–a mob of holy clerks but little raised, in intelligence and dignity, above the forlorn half-wits whose souls they chronically rack. In the whole United States there is scarcely one among them who stands forth as a man of sense and information. Illiterate in all save the elementals, untouched by the larger currents of thought, drunk with their power over dolts, crazed by their immunity to challenge by their betters, they carry over into the professional class of the country the spirit of the most stupid peasantry, and degrade religion to the estate of an idiotic phobia. There is not a village in America in which some such preposterous jackass is not in eruption. Worse, he is commonly the leader of its opinion–its pattern in reason, morals and good taste.”
        In other words: Idiocy is not reserved to the likes of Hitchens (alas).

  4. Yes, Hitchens IS a slum bag. My own personal contention for this is his purported review of Michael Scammell’s new biography of Arthur Koestler which appeared in the December issue of the Atlantic. He takes great pleasure in salaciously slandering Koestler without, evidently, even having read Scammell’s book. The reason? Envy. Koestler was the intellectual journalist non-parail of the 20th century. Hitchens would like to be the same of the 21st. But he doesn’t have one grain the amount of integrity that Koestler had. Koestler never lied.

    1. I never had any respect for Hitchens anyway; he came out of the woodwork post 9/11 and began hanging out with the likes of Richard Dawkins, and joined the “I hate people who believe in God and think they’re stupid” crowd, then wandered into the neocon camp where he has pitched his tent, while picking up some good Islamophobia pointers from Daniel Pipes and his ilk. A lover of theater, and to show he’s a good sport, Hitchens allowed himself to be waterboarded ostensibly to show that it wasn’t such a nasty thing after all, but supposedly he came away enlightened by the experience. Evidently, it hasn’t taught him not to slander people or practice the snotty and slipshod journalism he is so well known for.

      What is most odious about Hitchens is his propensity to wade neck deep into a dangerous subject and go off half-cocked, making statements he cannot verify and blithely smearing people who are smarter than he is. I don’t even bother with him anymore, his pontifications are a waste of time.

      1. How sad that such intellectual lightweights always manage to get all the attention, instead of more serious thinkers. Also, the way in which he and his like portray religious people only describes the most stupid simple minded fundamentalists. (A bit like themselves really.)

        1. Hitchens and his fellows are media savvy whores who know what to write, and when to write it, for it to sell and contribute to his fame and fortune. What he writes doesn’t have to be true; it just has to sell. Hitchens is a talented writer, full of wit and sarcasm, and the arrogance to push his words as truth – and the force of his personality helps to project this phony veracity. He has a go-to-hell attitude which comes thru in everything he writes and which can intimidate those of lesser stylistic literary talent.

  5. RE: “CHRISTOPHER IS A LYING SCUMBAG…I’m sorry. That’s not a very nice post title.” – R. Silverstein
    MY COMMENT: Yes, it’s very unlike your customary style of understatement, but I can assure there is no need to apologize for such “harsh criticism”* of Hitch. And I just love that photo!

    *Back when the Iraq debacle was at it’s worst (2006 or so), ‘Commander Guy’ Bush pleaded with everyone to stop all of the “harsh criticism” of him and his administration.

    1. There were so many embarrassing photos to choose from. Another I was considering showed him naked taking a shower w. a fag (cigarette…didn’t want anyone to get the wrong impression) in his fingers. Repulsive…

      1. The booze and cigarettes photo is pure phony Faulkner. With the stains on the shirt, it’s pure artissimo. If you had one where he had vomited or pissed himself, it would have been over the top.

  6. Hey, c’mon everybody, doesn’t anyone like poor Chris? Surely, we’ve got to love him for stirring things up. Mary sums him up best. He is indeed a whore. But just what do you have against Dawkins? Just because he’s an atheist? I am, too. I have deeper, more intellectual reasons for disagreeing with Dawkins, but not emotionally over religion.

    1. Sweetie, there are more than emotional reasons to dislike Hitchens. He picked up Dawkins’ arrogance and ran with it. I am sorry that people think they are alive without a spiritual life, but that is another subject, not for this thread. Religion involves the whole being, not merely emotions. Mother Theresa understood that; she struggled internally with her faith all her life, just s many others have. I just don’t understand people who try to convince others that after they die, they will just rot like a bag of trash on the shoulder of a highway.

      1. From the subsequent replies, I agree. Yes, best left for another thread. But please don’t mix apples and oranges. On the one hand, Hitch and Dawkins & cohorts who knock religion may do it with with an iron fist. But sometimes that is necessary in order to get the point across and make people think about it. Otherwise, while Hitch is despicable, Dawkins is a recognized expert in evolutionary biology. And in this field, it his over the top neo-Darwinism that upsets me.

        Look around you, Mary, most people do end up rotting like a bag of trash on the shoulder of the highway. But that doesn’t mean that there is an afterlife. Our western sense of burying our own is generally due to respect to our loved ones, but look what we’re doing to those “evil doerish” Muslims. Scumbags, bags of trash, indeed.

        1. Hitchens and his crowd are merely riding on the popularity of the “new atheism,” cranking out books comforting people who don’t have a spiritual life and feel guilty about it. There’s lots of money to be made when one can tap into societal guilt and shame; remember “Codependency” and “I’m OK, You’re OK”, and “Your Erroneous Zones”? Dawkins was obviously not making enough moolah s a biologist and so he branched out into a more lucrative subject. His book isn’t even well written.

          The body rots after death, Gene. If all you are is a body, and there is no afterlife, then what do you care for the suffering of the world if all we are is bags of trash? I know this is not the thread for having this discussion, but your comment just begs the question.

          The thing is, these so-called journalists such as Hitchens have no credibility. Hitchens is a fabricator, a “lying scumbag” because what he writes is dangerous as well as untrue. He is in a position of being able to shape public discourse, and his slipshod reporting of incorrect information is inexcusable.

          1. Mary, I am not sure on what basis you state that people who do not have a spiritual life feel guilty or ashamed about it. I have seen nothing in my life that leads me to that conclusion. I am also not sure on what evidence you insist that belief in an afterlife is a prerequisite for caring for the suffering of the world. On the contrary, belief in an afterlife sometimes leads people to be too complacent about these things since, after all, those who suffer will see their reward in the afterlife and not this one, and I must admit that is a perfectly rational conclusion if your premise is that there is life after death. In my experience people who have no spiritual life appear on the whole to be as comfortable with themselves and their lives as people who do have spiritual lives. Some of the most caring people I have known have not believed in an afterlife, and yet have devoted themselves to the relief of suffering and injustice in this life.

            Militant atheism is equivalent to militant religiosity, and equally annoying. Convictions around religion are personal matters, and should be treated and respected as such. It is, however, very interesting to rationally contemplate and argue various points of view around religion, though I find it tiresome when people with one set of beliefs show intolerance toward those whose beliefs are different.

          2. PS I agree with you about Christopher Hitchens, though I am not sure I would describe his work as shoddy. I think that is too mild a term for what he does, and for the intent behind it.

          3. Shirin, I was merely pointing out my view that the “new atheism” is a fad, just as the other self-realization movements were in the past. How about “The Secret,” and its mantra,”Ask, believe, receive”? I personally feel that Hitchens draws a good number of the spiritually confused.

            As I said, it is not a subject for this thread, and I do not want to risk Richard’s ire, and so I will not pursue it further.

          4. Well, whenever they label anything that has been around for centuries the “new [fill in the blank]”, they’re trying to make a fad of it, and are rarely bringing anything new to it or adding any worthwhile new ideas to the discourse.

            It looks to me like they are just trying too hard, and I find the whole thing rather boring.

          5. PS I agree with you about all that “self realization” hocus pocus – so ’80’s! And it’s rather narcissistic, isn’t it? Wasn’t it called “self actualization” for a time? Nice buzzword. I alternate between being annoyed and amused by it.

    2. What I have against Richard Dawkins, for one thing, is his idiotic advertisement campaign on the London busses:
      “There’s probably no god
      Now stop worrying and enjoy your life!”

      I have no problem with the first line, but you really need to be a rich, healthy, successful white guy (with healthy children at that) in order to fully appreciate the next line. I find this so incredibly condescending and lacking of empathy with what the vast majority of the population of the world (especially outside of the few wealthy enclaves) has to deal with. What on earth do people like him think the human condition is like? As if the average sufferer would “stop worrying”, when she or he would no longer be ‘bothered’ by a belief in god. Didn’t it ever occur to him that life can be so hard for many people, that they might actually take comfort in the idea that there is ‘something’ that cares for their suffering? Whether true or not?

      1. Couldn’t agree more, Elisabeth. And I appreciate the tenor of comments on this thread. First to the Hitch, Eric Alterman said it best (have to say I have mixed feelings about Alterman overall) when he described Hitchens as a “performance artist”. Hitch is the poster boy of empty supposed provocativeness, or rather, one gets the strong sense Hitchens thinks he’s provocative and challenging in being a former lefty (wasn’t he a Trotsyite, talk about deluded) who has gone imperial establishment with guns blazing, let’s-keep-down-the-wogs, yeeehah! Like the necons and neo-liberal war hawks he’s a die-hard exponent of war-making as “moral clarity”, and oh so romantic.

        He thinks we’re still fighting Hitler, oh boy. Of course, I don’t see him out there with the grunts in the field taking fire. And yes, the romantic gonzo journalist pose is painfully ridiculous, it belongs in some masochistic British comedy sketch.

        On the other theme, I have respect for atheists and a lot of respect for the agnostic position, but Hitchens and Dawkins display a degree of fundamentalism in their evangelizing atheism that reminds me frankly of religious fundamentalists.

        1. Thanks Warren. What about an advertisement like this for a joke:

          “There are probably no ‘selfish genes’
          So take care of thy neighbors and make their life more enjoyable!”

  7. It is really sad to note what has happened to a real intellectual. I used to eagerly look forward to reading his and Prof Edward Said’s articles in The Nation in the 80s. He changed after the Iranian govt declared FATWA on his good friend Salman Rushdie in Feb 1989 after the big controversy regarding his book “The Satanic Verses”. Of course, then Sep 11, 2001 events happened and he has been going downhill since then.
    Even as late as 2005, an international poll of 20,0000 voted him as one of the top intellectuals. Sadly, it has all been wasted.

  8. Define “widely debunked report.” So far the only people who’ve picked it up are the original publication (Truthout, not quite the most credible source of information) and Iranian government-run news sites.

    Similarly, define “devastating evisceration.” Giraldi is not in the CIA, was not since the 90’s. How exactly does his singular unnamed source eviscerate anyone?

    I’m just interested in hearing a clearer version of your position. I read the previous post as well, it didn’t help.

    1. Can you prove that Truthout or Inter-Press Service, where the report was originally published, are not realiable media sources? And can you prove that anything in the article debunking the Iran forgery is wrong or inaccurate? We have a little rule here which I know will seem quaint to people of the right like you, but before you make unsupported claims of the sort you raise here we ask for evidence. I know it’s damned inconvenient, but you’ll have to humor us for our old fashioned ways. So come up w. some evidence or be laughed out of the box.

      Giraldi’s report is based on a source who works for U.S. intelligence NOW. And if you have problem w. Giraldi relying on an unnamed source then you certainly must have an even bigger problem with the Times of London relying on a similarly unnamed source for their fraudulent document. The Times’ source is even more vaguely specified as “an Asian intelligence agency” while at least Giraldi is a little closer to home by acknowleding his source works for U.S. intelligence.

      1. For whatever it’s worth, I find Truthout to be an excellent news source, and their writers to be talented and honest, particularly the excellent Jason Leopold, who has written for Consortium News and his own site. It is not unusual by any means for a journalist not to name his or her source; confidentiality is essential when reporting on touchy subjects. Anyone remember Judith Miller and Robert Novak? If a journalist has an established reputation for accuracy and integrity, which truthout does, there is little reason to doubt their reportage or its accuracy.

      2. Wow, I don’t know what I said to warrant such a response. Where is this animosity coming from? All I asked for was a clarification of your views in light of what I thought were uncontroversial claims, not grounds for offense.

        Anyway, reading the actual points you made (minus the venom) Mary actually manages to bring up the event that makes my point for me. Jason Leopold blatantly lied reporting the Karl Rove “indictment.” That doesn’t quite sound reliable to me. More importantly, though, when contradicted by the mainstream media, Truthout.org chose to “stand down” on the story, and defer to “the nation’s leading publications.” What that tells me, at least, is that even Truthout.org recognizes their own second-tier status.

        Regardless, this attempt to introduce empiricism to discussions like this is very misguided, and perhaps a red herring. Can you prove Truthout is a reliable source to begin with? Seems that with an off-the-beaten-path publication like this, the burden of proof is on you. Can you prove that Arutz 7 is unreliable? I’m fully aware that it is, but I don’t think I could provide proof for the contention without spending a significant amount of time researching.

        As for the story itself, not a single major news source in the country (or indeed any country besides Iran) picked it up. Does that not speak volumes? The original story made headlines in every single publication of note, as a cursory Google search will suggest. Israel’s attempt to forge such a document would be even more significant, really, and be much more interesting to people as well. Why hasn’t a single news source of note picked it up? There aren’t going to be any stories like “CIA confirms document is authentic” because that’s simply not how these stories work.

        My issue is not with unnamed sources. My issue is that you’re putting all of your eggs in one second-rate basket.

        And finally: what does my being “on the right” (I consider myself to the center-left, really) have to do with ANYTHING?

        1. You will have to fill me in about the Jason Leopold incident you refer to, as I have no recollection of it.

          Second rate baskets also extend to such publications as the New York Times and the Washington Post, who among others can be listed among the culprits who spread the lies about the reasons the US attacked Iraq. Yet you single out “Truthout”?

          It goes to show that even “news sources of note” do not always report the facts, or get them wrong.

          In this case, however, it is clearly illustrated that Hitchens willingly reported erroneous information.

          The “right” tends to defend its heroes even when they are indefensible. That is what it has to do with it.

        2. Jason Leopold blatantly lied reporting the Karl Rove “indictment.”

          No he didn’t. He received some incorrect information, and filed a report based on it. The worst he can be accused of is publishing the information before confirming it. You could realistically accuse him of showing questionable judgment, but not of lying. And no one got hurt. It was an embarrassing incident, but over time both he and Truthout have weathered it, and have reestablished their credibility.

          Now, compare that with, say Judith Miller, and her sidekick – what was his name? I forgot – who enthusiastically helped sell a war of aggression by printing one piece of fabricated information after another day after day, week after week. The blood of millions of Iraqis is on their hands just as much as it is on the hands of George Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and the rest of that gang of lying criminals. And where IS Judith Miller now, by the way?

          And if you want to talk about a case of deliberate – and very elaborate – lying, shall we talk about the fraud Joan Peters who wrote a whole tome of lies. And where has SHE been since her fraudulent “original study” was exposed? She hasn’t been seen or heard from since. Looks like she crawled back under her rock.

        3. Jon, I think you are confusing alternative with second rate. The two are far from the same.

          As for Arutz Sheva, puleeeeeeeze!

        4. Yr whole line is bullcrap. First, the story stands on its own merits regardless of where it’s published. It was also published at Inter Press Service, which employs Gareth Porter & I haven’t heard you discredit IPS, but go to it if you can. 2nd, you’ve raised one story out of thousands Truthout has published that you claim was wrong. What about the others? Or did yr research stop once you discovered the mistake you were looking for? You erroneously claim a reporter “lied” about a story instead of saying he got it wrong (why is it that our political enemies always lie while our friends can do no wrong?). 3rd, YOU characterize what happened with the Rove story w/o providing any supporting evidence or links. I’ve learned a cardinal rule here that you don’t accept stories offered by others w/o proof. So you’ll kindly offer proof from a credible source before any thing you’ve said will be believed. 4th, claiming Truthout recognizes their 2nd tier status is ridiculous & proves you can’t be taken seriously since you’re just making it up as you go along. 5th Truthout is not “off the beaten path,” but a respected progressive online publication. It may be off the beaten path for right wingers like you but that’s not relevant to anyone here.

          Can I prove Arutz 7 is unreliable? That’s an unbelievable statement. Of course I can. Every story there is full of lies, distortion & hate. It is settler central. I read it if I want to know what settlers are thinking about any particular subject. But I know it is packed full of lies. If the idea of proving Arutz 7 is unreliable is difficult for you to contemplate you’ve really shown us yr own ideological colors.

          not a single major news source in the country (or indeed any country besides Iran) picked it up. Does that not speak volumes?

          Yes, it does. It speaks volumes regarding the sloppy, lackadaisical coverage that U.S. media provide on this subject. You seem to know very little about Iran or how it is covered in this country. The key descriptor is: not well. The fact that U.S. publications haven’t cared about a debunking of a story in a British paper doesn’t surprise me much. Boredom, incompetence, waiting to see what the other guy will do: who knows the reasons.

          But beyond all this, I have been writing about this subject myself for a long time & know quite a bit about the role that Israeli intelligence has played in ginning up war against Iran & this story is entirely in character with what I’ve discovered in my own research.

          The original story made headlines in every single publication of note

          Judith Miller’s lies were spewed across the NY Times front pg. for months in the run up to the Iraq war. That didn’t make them any less lies or wishful thinking. The Times of London is either a willing co conspirator with the Mossad or an unintentional dupe. The rest of the world is happy to believe the worst of Iran & eats up frauds like this which conform to pre-conceived ideas. It’s a perfect storm of ignorance & deceit.

          I consider myself to the center-left

          You bad mouth Truthout & consider yrself “center left?” Really. I have never met any reader here who supports right wing views about Israel & the ME who conceded that their views were right wing. Of course you consider yrself liberal. All Jews consider themselves liberal & hate the idea that their views about Israel or Iran aren’t. But yours, at least as far as Iran is concerned aren’t center-left at all.

        5. Can you prove Truthout is a reliable source to begin with?

          Can you prove that it is not? And one unfortunate incident, in which they openly admitted and corrected their mistake, does not constitute proof that any source is unreliable.

          Seems that with an off-the-beaten-path publication like this, the burden of proof is on you.

          Rubbish. The fact that it is “off-the-beaten-path” as you call it does not make it more suspect. If anything the converse is the case, since we know from bitter experience that “on-the-beaten-path” publications – aka the mainstream media – have sold their souls to political and commercial interests to the extent that they can hardly be relied upon at all. Give me a good citizen journalist working for an “off-the-beaten-path” publication any time over a Judith Miller type.

          1. In actuality, Truthout is on a well-beaten path, but it just depends on the path you’re on. Besides, many non-mainstream publications have published honest and truthful articles, and have displayed more journalistic integrity than, say, the New York Times, The Weekly Standard, The New York Post, etc. In fact, go to Truthout and look at their writing staff, and you’ll see some of the creme de la creme of journalistic talent, including the excellent Michael Winship.

            Hitchens, on the other hand, is a showboat who has painted himself into a neocon corner. He’s bordering on self-parody. Richard’s photo of Hitchens could not be more apropos.

          2. I think by “off the beaten path” Jon means “not mainstream media”, as if somehow being part of the msm automatically makes a publication more credible. As we have seen so clearly, especially since the Iraq fiasco, but even well before that (remember the PR used by Bush I to sell the 1991 attack on Iraq, not to mention that used by Clinton to sell the systematic economic destruction and isolation of the Iraqi people along with his periodic major bomb-fests?), if anything being part of the msm should make a publication more, not less suspect. It has been clear for some time that if you want to get a realistic, well-rounded picture of circumstances and events, you are far better off with the alternative and foreign media as your source.

  9. Dawkins is a very reputable biologist, who has written some thought-provoking books. He’s a smart guy, and I share his conviction that religion is a form of dangerous lunacy that ought to be combatted. It’s a real shame he got mixed up with riff raff like Hitchens, who is nothing but a bloated clown. Even his literary criticism in the NY Review of Books sucks. He wants people to think he’s so well read but he hasn’t actually read anything. The guy knows zero about literature and even less about politics. I think Chomsky was right to say he wouldn’t even waste time debating Hitchens because it’s impossible Hitchens actually believes the things he’s saying. They are for effect and profiteering–nothing more.

    1. “religion is a form of dangerous lunacy that ought to be combatted”
      There are evils out there that are much more worthy of your attention: Militarism, nationalism, racism, take your pick…

    2. religion is a form of dangerous lunacy that ought to be combatted.

      I find this to be deeply offensive and contrary to the spirit of this blog. I have no problem w. readers writing about their issues, disagreement, problems with religion. But statements like yours are ignorant and needlessly hostile.

      1. “Religion is form of dangerous lunacy” is typical “new atheist” jargon and it gets on my nerves. I find these neo-atheists to be very intolerant and close-minded because of this prejudice against people who believe in God. There is nothing dangerous about religion; people, on the other hand, are dangerous. Shall we not believe in people? The worst wars were NOT based on religious conflict, by the way. I’m just so tired of that old yammer about religion being the cause of the world’s problems.

  10. On a side-note:

    I just read Koestler’s (since someone brought him up) biography on Wiki – check out this snippet:

    (in reference to a controversial book he wrote about Ashkenazi Jewish lineage)

    “used by pro-Palestinian groups attempting to disclaim the Jewish claim of right to the Land of Israel”

    Really? POV much?

    1. I have been reading the most recent book by Nissim Rejwan, an Iraqi Jewish intellectual who emigrated to Israel in 1951. In it he has some interesting observations about Koestler. I will look them up and try to to post a comment about them soon. Essentially Nissim argues that, based on Koestler’s point of view about Israel and Jewishness, when Koestler chose not not to immigrate, he chose to cease being a Jew.

      I have Koestler’s book, Promise and Fulfillment, in my personal library. It looks like he decided not to fulfill the promise himself. :o}

      I will try to provide some quotes from Nissim’s take on it in the next day or two. I do not have the book handy at the moment.

  11. Hi elizabeth.

    I could only agree with your assessment were I to separate religion from militarism, nationalism and racism. The most obvious counterexample is the loathsome state of israel, where the worst sort of militarism, extreme racism and nationalism are bound together through religious lunacy, that insists the israelis are God’s chosen and entitled by divine right to oppress and butcher their neighbors. Undoubtedly, you’ve read the stomach-turning accounts of the rabbis who egg on the IDF troops before their rampages in Gaza, informing them that it is a sin to show mercy to non-Jews.

    1. I see. You blame the religion, not the rabbis who “egg on the IDF troops.” Don’t you see how distorted your reasoning is?

  12. Hi Richard,
    I think religion is a two-edged sword. When it is of an intolerant and fundamentalist kind, it can form an alliance with militarism, racism, nationalism and so on, and strenghten it by giving it a holy aura. And this happens a lot. And it is also true that in conflicts that are not religious in origin (such as the ones in North-Ireland and Israel/Palestine, which basically have to do with colonialism) both parties will soon start to believe and behave as if their conflict is religious. In these cases religion does indeed play a very bad part.

    But secular ideologies are not necessarily better. I have argued on this blog a while ago that the record of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot seems to indicate that people are just as capable of killing in the name of ‘the people’ as in name of ‘god’.

    The other, more wholesome side of religion is that it can also inoculate people against bigotry (militarism, nationalism, racism etc.) and it can move people into social action. This also happens a lot, but it may be less conspicuous.

    I could agree with you wholeheartedly if you would say something more along the lines of “any intolerant ideology is a dangerous lunacy that ought to be combatted”. But maybe there is a better formulation. I have to admit that it is not an easy problem to get to grips with.

  13. elizabeth

    Certainly, I’d agree religion holds no monopoly on xenophobia, racism and murderous forms of tribalism. Nor could anyone claim that the born-again serial killer George Bush could have carried out his atrocities without the able support of the apparently atheist Vice President, and for reasons having little to do with religion.

    Clearly, both religion and the lack of religion have too often been cited as grounds for attacking and oppressing people. Today, it’s the “islamofascists” who must be vanquished, yesterday, it was the “Godless communists” of Indochina, who displayed a similar audacity in wanting to live in peace in their own countries.

    Nonetheless, the sheer irrationality of religious arguments makes me particularly queazy, in that they permit no possibility of revision, no chance of logical debate. So while Bush’s claims of Iraqi WMDs was eventually revealed as a bald-faced lie, Israel’s contention that they were given the land in perpetuity by God himself can never be challenged. It supersedes all earthly law and morality. An ideology based on divine authorization strikes me as an exceptionally dangerous proposition…source of unending mischief and misery. It has unhappily entered our discussions on everything from war to stem cell research to climate change. This is deeply worrisome in my view.

    1. Israel’s contention that they were given the land in perpetuity by God himself can never be challenged. It supersedes all earthly law and morality.

      Only in the settler’s terms. But there are other, many other reglious Jews who dispute this claim. So arguing as if all of Judaism accepts the settlers’ terms is either ignorant or dishonest.

    2. I see, you are claiming that religion is bad because of the religious beliefs Israel is supposedly founded on? Isn’t that simplistic thinking?

      1. Of course, Israel is not founded on religious beliefs, and never was. It is founded on the very secular notion that Jews are a “nation”. That is why calling it a theocracy is incorrect. It is much more accurate to call it an ethnocracy, although in reality there really is no universal Jewish ethnicity as the Arab and other “oriental” Jews who immigrated to Israel learned very, very clearly.

        1. Israel is founded on Zionism, which makes it an ideocracy. It is not a theocracy in the same way as, for example, Saudi Arabia.

    3. You are barking up the wrong tree holding religion responsible for Israel’s greed for territory. Zionism was not based on religion at all. It was a secular movement by secular Jews, many of whom were atheists, most of whom, including Herzl himself, were assimilated Europeans with the standard nineteenth and early twentieth century European colonialist world view. The Zionists did not make a claim to the land based on some promise by God, but on the secular concept of The Jews as a nation.

      Israel’s claim on the land is not based in religion except in the minds of a certain relatively small set of extremists whose disappearance tomorrow would not change a thing significantly. David Ben Gurion, who was a secular Jew, had big territorial ambitions that from time to time others had to hold in check. Yigal Alon did not create his plan for eventual annexation of the West Bank based on some notion of God and chosen people, but on purely secular considerations. Certainly the illegal colonization and illegitimate annexation and exploitation of the Golan Heights had nothing to do with God, but with territorial greed. Even the insistence upon Jerusalem as “the eternal undivided capital of The Jewish State” is mostly historically and not religiously based, unless you believe that Netanyahu is a deeply religious man.

      If you are going to pontificate about these matters, at least learn enough history to know what you are pontificating about.

  14. Well..I’d describe the notion that the settlers are some radical subset of Israeli society, opposed by the mainstream, to be either ignorant or dishonest. They rely on the IDF to support them and provide cover for their religiously-inspired crimes. The officially sanctioned rabbis are dispatched to minister to the tefilin-wearing IDF goons, encouraging them to commit atrocities with a clear conscience because the Palestinians are ‘Amalek.’

    We’ll get nowhere in this struggle without admitting the truth–Judaism has a hell of a lot to answer for and is a major cause for the horrors transpiring in the Mid East.

    Stateside, I have yet to hear of a SINGLE synagogue to go on record in opposition to Israel’s massacre in Gaza. They ALL view fealty to Israel as a religious duty for practicing Jews.

    The great news for we Jews is that we are free to reject this depraved and asinine ideology, and still remain Jews–a luxury not afforded those who call themselves Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslim, etc

    1. Judaism has a hell of a lot to answer for and is a major cause for the horrors transpiring in the Mid East.

      Yet another reason you’ve been banned.

      And once again, synagogues don’t go on record supporting or opposing specific Israeli policies. You simply don’t have a clue how synaoguges or any religious institution operates.

    2. Demanding that synagogues go on record in opposition to Israel’s actions makes just about as much sense as demands that mosques go on record in opposition to Muslims who commit violent acts – i.e. none.

      we Jews…are free to reject this depraved and asinine ideology, and still remain Jews–a luxury not afforded those who call themselves Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslim, etc

      What the HELL are you talking about? This sentence makes absolutely no sense at all. Since when can’t Muslims reject depraved and asinine ideologies and still remain Muslims? In my experience they do it all the time. Ditto Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. And it is not a luxury, it is a normal thing. Good grief! Are you as daft as you sound?!

      1. It makes me feel dirty even to try to interpret this jackass’ views but what he means to say (I think) is that Zionism is a central tenet of Judaism (which is false of course). But luckily for him (he believes) Judaism doesn’t require you to believe in its tenets in order to remain a good Jew, as other religions do require you literally to profess the central tenets in order to be considered a member in good standing.

        There is about 10% of truth in this statement. The rest is utter drivel. The guy’s been banned anyway so luckily we won’t have to parse any more of his crap here.

      2. Evidently he thinks all Muslims are followers of al Qaeda, or else they aren’t Muslims. I have never seen such bizarre reasoning since the guy who insisted that Muslims are taught to kill non-Muslims. Yeah, I think he’s as daft as he sounds.

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