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University of San Diego Sells Academia Out to Rich Catholic Donor

Posted by NT Wrong on July 22, 2008

Last month, June 2008, Rosemary Radford Ruether was appointed to a visiting chair at the University of San Diego for 2009/10. This month, following pressure from a conservative Catholic pressure group, and the opinion of some anonymous Catholic donor who provides cash for the university’s chair, Ruether has been unappointed by the University of San Diego. This is so, despite the fact that the faculty supported the original appointment, the university had made the offer to Ruether, and the university’s wbsite advertised the appointment. Iyov has the details.

If you were considering studying at the University of San Diego, you may wish to reconsider. Academic integrity comes second to the uninformed opinions of interest groups and donors. This lack of academic integrity is by no means something that the University of San Diego has a monopoly on, but that doesn’t excuse the poor decision.

Posted in Academia | 2 Comments »

Off to the SBL International Meeting!

Posted by NT Wrong on July 3, 2008

Mrs Wrong kindly snapped a photo of me, as I was pretending to board the plane at Raleigh-Durham International. That’s me, partially obscured by the man in the red shirt.

Whose idea was it to have a July conference in the Southern Hemisphere? Don’t they realize that it’s midwinter down there? And is New Zedland a real place? I thought it was just some fictional land made up by JRR Tolkien.

Anyway … while at the SBL International Conference, I promise to share digital photos from my new camera. And, I’ll provide passing comments on any papers of interest that I attend.

Posted in Academia | 10 Comments »

The Contribution of Biblical Studies to the Humanities – Mark S. Smith

Posted by NT Wrong on July 2, 2008

From The Skillful-and-Wise One, Mark S. Smith:

“Perhaps beause of its historical roots in theology, the field of Israelite religion (not to mention biblical studies generally) remains one that does not generate its own general theoretical contribution to the humanities or social sciences.”

– Mark S. Smith, The Early History of God: Yahweh and Other Deities in Ancient Israel. 2nd edn.; Grand Rapids & Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2002: xxx.

Is Mark S. Smith right?


Posted in Academia, Biblical interpretation, Criticism, The Bible | 3 Comments »

Eisenmania IV – Search for The Historical Abraham

Posted by NT Wrong on June 20, 2008

Robert Eisenman is rightly sceptical about the historicity of the Abraham stories. But in his second lecture on the Dead Sea scrolls, he introduces a new criterion for distinguishing an historical kernel about Abraham from the legends – detail and distinctiveness of people and placenames:

“I don’t know how historical Abraham is. There is one story about Abraham in the Bible, in case you’re interested, which I think is historical – and the really only kernel that they have to work off of. I don’t know if I can find it for you [ … ] Chapter 14, the campaign of the four kings … That is clearly totally different from the rest of Genesis.”
Robert Eisenman ( 4:00–5:00 )

Ah yes – the survival of toponyms and personal names in stories. Unfortunately for Eisenman, toponymns and personal names tend to survive very well in legends, while the details of the story remain mythical. Catalogue of Ships, anyone? Anyway, Eisenman tells us about the amazing historical details in Genesis 14:

” ‘It was in the time of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goiim, Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar).’ None of these names are ever spoken of before or after. And the precision of this is very high.”
Robert Eisenman ( 5:10–5:34)

Hmmmm … It’s been well known for well over a century that Genesis 14 is in fact from a quite unrelated source from what surrounds it. So Eisenman is quite right on that count. But what does he mean exactly by the historical “precision” of this account. How can he tell when something has “very high” precision? What exactly is Eisenman referring to that is historically “precise”?

” ‘they defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzites in Ham, the Emim in …’
Robert Eisenman ( 5:40–5:45)

Ah yes – Rephaim, Zuzites, Emim … according to the Bible, these are groups of … Giants! Now that’s historical precision!!

“All of this is in, like, three or four or five lines! … This is old even when the narrator puts it down. This is old! This is very old!! Even the narrator doesn’t understand it … If you saw this you could see – even I, a dumbo, who had little training when I first started here in these things could see – this is not like any other text in all of Genesis and the rest of the Bible. Why? Presumably it’s from a stele … I think this is actually the kernel of the Abraham story because at the end of this he says … ‘Abram the Hebrew’ … This is real. I mean real from whatever period it was. So there was a person called Abraham the Hebrew. I’m sure of that. Just from this here. And he was called the Hebrew. I’m very sure of that, too, just from looking at this in a literary-critical manner … ‘Abraham came back after the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings at his side’ and so on and so forth. I mean, these names come out of … space, as it were. There’s no description of who they are, what they are, what their background is, where they came from, so on and so forth. That’s where you get real history, and it’s not poetry because it’s crappy poetry. It doesn’t even read well. It’s a newspaper clipping, from that time, or a commemorative clipping shortly after.”
– Robert Eisenman ( 5:45–8:00, 0:00–1:17 )

Let’s think just for a couple of seconds about that ‘commemorative stele’. Rather than commemorate victory over historical peoples, it names … Giants. Now that’s the strangest commemorative stele I know of. If there was a commemorative stele behind the tradition, it’s been well buried in legend. Genesis 14 is not the best choice for establishing history in Genesis (it’s much like the rest of the material, in that respect).

Posted in Academia, Dead Sea Scrolls | 2 Comments »

Eisenmania III – On why ‘The Son of Man’ must be foreign

Posted by NT Wrong on June 20, 2008

This has to be my favourite episode of Eisenmania, yet. The quotations below are from Robert Eisenman’s first and second lectures on the Dead Sea scrolls. Although Robert Eisenman’s explanation is far from clear, it appears Eisenman is trying to make the following argument:

    1. Daniel 7 only refers to a (generic) son of man, meaning ‘man’;
    2. Jesus refers to himself as “The Son of Man”, with the definite article, somewhere in ‘The Gospels’;
    3. Only a foreigner could make such a mistake (in interpreting Daniel);
    (therefore) 4. The narrator of ‘The Gospels’ was a foreigner who put these words into the mouth of Daniel, because he misunderstood Daniel’s reference to ‘son of man’.

“‘You will see The Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven.’ … Well, to my mind, that shows that the Gospels are, first of all, are written by people who don’t know Hebrew, or Aramaic, and are of overseas origin. And actually, just from that line – I know I’m pushing a lot in that – but they know very little about what is going on in Palestine at all. Most of what they’re talking about is, like, poorly digested hearsay and so on … People are putting their own ideas into Jesus’ mouth.”
– Robert Eisenman ( 4:25–5:43 )

Points (1) and (2) are quite true. But point (3) is nonsense. The phrase “The Son of Man”, referring to a specific heavenly being, was in fact used by Jews. In fact, “The Son of Man” was used by Jews in their own native Aramaic tongue in 1 Enoch 46.

(That Aramaic was the original language of composition for the Parables (or ‘Similitudes’) of Enoch is “obvious” (J. Charlesworth, in Boccaccini, Enoch and the Messiah Son of Man, 2007: 452), so is not in question.)

In 1 Enoch 46, the figure of “The Son of Man” is clearly an individual, another power in heaven alongside God, who will be “the One” to carry out the eschatological judgment. Some Jewish reinterpreters of Daniel had developed the ‘one like a son of man’ tradition, so that at the turn of the millennium some Jews were interpreting it, in their native tongue, as “The Son of Man”. So Eisenman’s argument that only a foreigner could have referred to “The Son of Man” (with the definite article) is seriously flawed, contrary to evidence he should know about, and quite untenable.

Here is Eisenman’s own ‘explanation’ (the explanation is a little hard to follow, because throughout his explanation, Eisenman is searching for Mark’s famous ‘Little Apocalypse’ in Ch 13, but Eisenman has forgotten where it is, or even which book it is in for that matter):

“… Adam being the ‘Son of Man’ coming on the clouds of heaven. I tried to tell you that I thought that that formula probably showed a foreign authorship. I just read something in the Gospels today when I was looking for something for these footnotes that I’m doing. And it said that, “The Son of Man …” Where was it. It was in, um, I don’t know if I can find it quickly. I probably can’t. Let’s see quickly if I can find it […] Let’s see if I can find it. Now … after Jesus is saying that you can eat anything you want … um: “These are the things which defile a man. But eating with unwashed hands does not defile a man” … and, ah … and now I can’t find the Son of Man … Ah well, it was in here some place. I was just seeing it. So um … He was referring to himself … Maybe it’s Mark 7 … um … Let’s see […] We have quotes here with Jesus referring to himself as ‘The Son of Man’. What I’m trying to say is, there is no The Son of Man. So I don’t know if Jesus would have said that himself … What did the President of Columbia say, “You either don’t know what you’re talking about, or you’re uneducated” or something like that? [I don’t know] if he would have been that unsophisticated. Only those people who were putting those speeches down in his name – whether they’re accurate or not, beng no tape-recorders at the time … So, I just came across one of those things. I can’t … I better find it. Hold on a minute, just give me a second, I can’t leave that hanging out there. Let’s just give me a minute here … ahhhhhh, let’s see … um …………….. it doesn’t look like I’m going to find it … ah, this page here I think … um … nah! no way … ha … well, I can’t find where he actually says it, not the narrator – where Jesus actually calls himself The Son of Man … I can’t find it. But anyway the reason I brought up the whole Daniel material is because it comes from Daniel (“One like a son of man coming on the clouds of heaven”) and ‘man’ is ‘Adam’ in Hebrew. So that’s why I got off on a tangent, to show how important the concept of Adam is …”
– Robert Eisenman ( 1:10–4:18 )

Of course, there is no word ‘Adam’ in Dan 7, which is in Aramaic (instead: bar enosh). (Although Eisenman does explain this in his first Dead Sea scrolls lecture.)

Posted in Academia, Dead Sea Scrolls | 5 Comments »

Eisenmania II – When Dissimilation Resembles Dissemblance

Posted by NT Wrong on June 19, 2008

I was drawn back into the 1,013 videos of Robert Eisenman lectures now available on YouTube. Right at the start of Eisenman’s second Dead Sea scrolls lecture, he talks about a “great word” he wants his class to learn.

Unfortunately, he gets the word wrong. He says “Dissimilation” when he means “Dissembling”. After explaining this great word to his students for a while, he begins to realise he really means “Dissembling”. But instead of confessing that “Dissimilation” was the wrong word altogether, he says, ‘Here’s a synonym of Dissimilation: Dissembling!’

One of the ironies is, of course, here is Eisenman identifying two quite distinct words that sound similar and saying they must mean the same thing. Isn’t that just a microcosm of his whole work?

“[Writes ‘dissimilation’ on whiteboard] You probably don’t even know what ‘dissimilation’ is, some of you. Dissimilation, dissembling, means that you don’t really believe what you’re saying [sic]. You’re saying something what you think will help you, or will please the ears of the person you’re saying it to, or you know it wasn’t true to begin with, or in fact you know its false. You’re “dissimilating” it. You’re “dissembling”. That’s what that means. It’s a great word. And, um, it’s got a synonym [writes ‘dessembling’ [sic] on whiteboard], I don’t know if I’m spelling it right. Probably not. This is probably an i [changes second letter from ‘e’ to i]. I don’t know which it is, ‘e’ or ‘i’. I can’t spell either. Look it up in spellcheck. I mean later on.”
– Robert Eisenman

dis·sem·ble – “to give a false or misleading appearance to; conceal the truth or real nature of: to dissemble one’s incompetence in business”

dis·sim·i·la·tion – “Phonetics. the process by which a speech sound becomes different from or less like a neighboring sound”

Posted in Academia, Dead Sea Scrolls | 4 Comments »

Robert Eisenman – Feminist Criticism, Hebrew, Dead Sea Scrolls

Posted by NT Wrong on June 18, 2008

Professor Robert Eisenman’s students at California State University, Long Beach have uploaded ONE THOUSAND AND THIRTEEN videos of his lectures onto YouTube.

In his first lecture from his Dead Sea scrolls course, Robert Eisenman makes some interesting feminist criticism. I say “criticism” in the widest possible sense … wide enough to include the critical capabilities of an afternoon West Virginian talk-radio audience, say.

Anyway, in the words of Eisenman, from a lecture he delivered on the Dead Sea scrolls:

“The name Adam means also [sic] what in Hebrew? … Man. So Adam and man are the same thing … So we call the first man Adam, but he’s also the name for all man- or ‘human-‘ kind. I don’t want to get sexist about this, or chauvinist, or whatever. The ancients, you know, did emphasise maleness – let’s face it. You can attack them or think whatever you want, but I’m not sure it’s much better today when everything’s being feminized, either. I mean, I don’t know if the world’s a better place. I mean, I can’t judge. I have to wait another 500 years to tell. Today everything is like, well, I think it’s kind of like totally ‘womanized’, now – in the sense that women are dominant, in culture and things like that. You write a book and you’re a woman – you get published much quicker than a man. You apply for a teaching job some place, in this university, or in the religious department, it’s much, much quicker. I tell my sons, ‘Don’t even bother going into academia’, unless you’ve got some really[?] thing going through your neural network, don’t even bother. And so on and so forth.”
– Robert Eisenman

And when Eisenman comments on the Aramaic portions of the Bible, it gives an insight into his knowledge of the Bible’s languages – on which he bases his detailed, nay convoluted, nay crazy, theories about the linkage of different Jewish personal names, place names, and words:

“What people don’t realise is Daniel isn’t even written in Hebrew. It’s written in Aramaic [sic]. People say, ‘This is the “Hebrew Bible”.’ That’s a misnomer too, they want to change the word from ‘Old Testament’ to that – that’s the present scholarly sort of preference. Well Daniel’s an Aramaic book [sic], so how is that the ‘Hebrew Bible’? It’s a collection of books, some of them are Hebrew – most of them are Hebrew – but some are not. Well, at least one isn’t, I think there may be another in Aramaic as well [sic] – I’ll have to check it out.”
– Robert Eisenman

Those comments are from the first three or four minutes of his Dead Sea scrolls lecture. If you dare to go on to plumb the depths of his ignorance, have a look at the whole lecture below. I’m still amazed that any University employs him to lecture at all. Even in California.

Posted in Academia, Dead Sea Scrolls | 9 Comments »

NEWS: Alan Lenzi Invents New Trilemma – On Biblical Studies and Christian Faith

Posted by NT Wrong on June 7, 2008

Alan Lenzi, Professor of Hebrew Bible and ancient Near Eastern Studies at University of the Pacific, has invented a new ‘trilemma’.

The original ‘trilemma’ was coined by C. S. Lewis, who famously argued that Jesus must either be Lord, a Liar, or a Lunatic. This caught on immediately, due to the catchy alliteration.

Now, Prof Lenzi has discovered a trilemma which applies to biblical scholars who claim Christian faith. These are the good professor’s own words:

“Ultimately, I think one must exercise a kind of intellectual schizophrenia, engage in [at least] implicit mysticism, or turn a blind eye to some major critical issues if one is going to maintain Christian faith as a Biblicist.”
Alan Lenzi [, with systematic emendation]

Let’s break that down.

A self-professed Christian doing biblical studies today, after all that has been discovered over the last 200 years or so, must either:

    1. Be an schizo, intellectually holding to two opposite things at once;
    2. Be a mystic, appealing to some lame ‘God works in mysterious ways’ theology, Barthianism, some other obscurantism, or all of the above;
    3. Be intellectually dishonest, choosing to ignore the ramifications of what she or he has learnt.

‘The New Trilemma’, as it has been coined, manages to avoid the charge of ‘false trichotomy’ which undermined C. S. Lewis’ formulation – because it leaves open the possibility that faith-professing biblical scholars can do all three (sometimes, even, within a single sentence).

A New Trilemma has been born.

Posted in Academia, The Bible | 8 Comments »

Academic Norman Finkelstein Detained and Interrogated by Israel Security Forces

Posted by NT Wrong on June 1, 2008

Rebecca Lesses has been right to call for the continued freedom of expression and operation of the Israeli Academy. Her call is in opposition to the recent totalitarian action of the University and College Union’s Congress, which recently passed the motion to boycott Israeli academics. Such a boycott is a stupid and misguided confusion of the people who live in this part of the Levant (and are furthering academic knowledge) with the political hegemony of the modern nationalist State. While I am not so naive as to imagine the Academy is fully independent of the State, I am also firmly against such a blunt instrument as the boycott which has naively equated the two. In a terrible and totalising irony, the University and College Union’s Congress has simply accepted the hegemony of the modern nation-state, rather than recognising the forces which always challenge that hegemony (including, especially, voices within the Academy itself). As such, the actions of the University and College Union’s Congress is nothing less than the method of terrorism and totalitarianism.

For the same reasons, Norman Finkelstein’s detainment, interrogation, and 10-year banning from Palestine (not only Israel) should be loudly opposed. It is another act of totalitarianism by a country which–and it bears repeating–should know better. There is no justification to silence the voices of dissent, whether one agrees with them or not.

US academic Norman Finkelstein denied entry to Israel
By Jean Shaoul
31 May 2008

Professor Norman Finkelstein, an American Jewish scholar known for his trenchant criticism of Israeli policy, was detained and interrogated by Israel’s security forces, Shin Bet, for 24 hours at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport on May 23, denied entry into Israel and deported back to Amsterdam where he had been lecturing.

Finkelstein had been en route to visit a friend in Hebron in the occupied West Bank. His deportation, and a 10-year ban on entering Israel for “security reasons,” is a major attack on the freedom of expression, the right of Israeli citizens to hear alternative viewpoints, and an attempt to intimidate and silence international opposition to Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians.

It also exposes the fraud of any putative Palestinian state where Israel controls the Palestinian borders and thus who may or may not enter.

Finkelstein, a son of Holocaust survivors, is one of a growing number of Jewish scholars who have made valuable contributions to the study of Israeli history and have become known as the “new” or “revisionist” historians. He has consequently been the focus of constant opposition from right-wing professors and the pro-Israeli media for years. He has been targeted in particular for his opposition to the charge of anti-Semitism being employed as a means of suppressing criticism of Israel’s violations of human rights and international law.

The 55-year-old political science professor is best known for his 2000 book, The Holocaust Industry, which argues that the Holocaust has been exploited for ends—support for Israel and calls for reparations—that have nothing to do with historical truth or the victims of the Nazi genocide. Finkelstein has also written critical studies of Daniel Goldhagen’s book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners, which argues that the cause of the Holocaust can be located in the inherent anti-Semitism of the German people as a whole.

His most recent book, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, continues on these themes, as well as documenting in detail the human rights violations of the state of Israel. Among the targets of the book, published by the University of California Press, are Harvard law Professor Alan Dershowitz and others who have used the charge of anti-Semitism to suppress criticism of Israeli policies.

Last year, Finkelstein was denied tenure at Chicago’s DePaul University where he had been lecturing for six years, despite support from his department, his students, and the faculty of the university, following pressure from opponents of his views, including Dershowitz. His classes for his final year in 2007-08 were cancelled and he was denied access to his office, leading him to resign under duress.

After landing in Tel Aviv last Friday, Shin Bet held Finkelstein in an airport cell and interrogated him about contacts with Hezbollah—against whom Israel fought a massive 33-day aerial bombardment in 2006—whether Hezbollah had sent him to Israel, any contacts he had with Al Qaeda and how he intended to finance his stay in Israel.

Earlier this year, Finkelstein had visited Lebanon, where he had been invited to speak at a conference at the American University in Beirut. He also undertook a tour in order to promote his book, accompanied by his Arab publisher and representatives of Hezbollah in the south of Lebanon. He has subsequently published articles about his trip.

Finkelstein’s web site posts excerpts from an interview he gave in January to Lebanese TV, in which he said he was “happy to meet the Hizbollah people because it is a point of view rarely heard in the US.”

Shin Bet’s line of questioning insinuates that Finkelstein is a supporter of Hezbollah, if not in their employ. Moreover to imply he is also connected to Al Qaeda is yet more absurd, particularly since Hezbollah is a a Shiite party while Al-Qaeda is a Sunni Muslim grouping.

The Shin Bet said Finkelstein “is not permitted to enter Israel because of suspicions involving hostile elements in Lebanon” and because he “did not give a full accounting to interrogators with regard to these suspicions.”

Finkelstein denied this in an emailed statement to Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper from Amsterdam. He wrote, “I did my best to provide absolutely candid and comprehensive answers to all the questions put to me. I am confident that I have nothing to hide. Apart from my political views, and the supporting scholarship, there isn’t much more to say for myself: alas, no suicide missions or secret rendezvous with terrorist organizations.” He added, “I support the two-state solution based on the ’67 borders and I told my interrogators I’m not an enemy of Israel.”

He explained that he was “en route to Palestine to see one of my oldest and dearest friends, Musa Abu-Hashhash.”

Finkelstein said he had visited Israel every year for the last 15 years. He added that he was held in a cell and encountered “several unpleasant moments with the guards.” Eventually he used a mobile phone belonging to another detainee and called another friend he had arranged to meet in Israel, the journalist Allan Nairn, who called a lawyer, Michael Sfard. Sfard met with Finkelstein and told him he could appeal the ban. He said that banning Finkelstein from entering the country “recalls the behaviour of the Soviet bloc countries.”

However, Finkelstein said that it was not “his inclination to pursue the matter,” although lawyers in Israel were encouraging him to do so on political grounds.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Finkelstein said he is not “dogmatic or fanatic” and while he believes every country has the right to restrict entry, he does not agree with the criteria. “Just as I would oppose the US not allowing people to enter due to ideological beliefs, I would consistently oppose them in Israel,” he said.

He also denied that he poses any threat to Israel. “I couldn’t be [a risk] because of any security threat I pose,” said Finkelstein. “The US has as stringent anti-terrorism laws in the books as Israel, and Hamas and Hezbollah are on their terrorist list. If I posed a security threat I should be talking to you from jail. Because no authorities have contacted me there are no grounds for it.”

Finkelstein did not intend to visit Israel, but had to pass through Israeli customs “by force of circumstance,” to visit a friend in Hebron. “Israel has the right to restrict who enters its country, but the West Bank is not its country,” said Finkelstein. “One day the Palestinian Authority may restrict my rights, but that’s an issue for the Palestinian Authority,” he continued.

Israel’s Association for Civil Rights called the deportation of Finkelstein an assault on free speech. “The decision to prevent someone from voicing their opinions by arresting and deporting them is typical of a totalitarian regime. A democratic state, where freedom of expression is the highest principle, does not shut out criticism or ideas just because they are uncomfortable for its authorities to hear. It confronts those ideas in public debate,” said the association’s lawyer, Oded Peler.

The decision to deport Finkelstein stands in marked contrast to Israel’s willingness to permit the entry of right-wing fascistic and religious zealots from the US and Russia who have been involved in all manner of provocative, criminal and murderous attacks on Palestinians—into both Israel and the West Bank.

The refusal to allow Finkelstein to enter Israel is particularly telling since Israel legally permits every Jew to exercise his or her right to live in Israel as a citizen of the country, in contrast to the Palestinians who fled their homes in 1948 and 1967 who are refused entry or the right of return, in accordance with the Law of Return that is fundamental to the Zionist state. It demonstrates that the security force reserves to itself the right to interpret the law as it sees fit. Israel is a home to diaspora Jews only providing that they do not criticise its military expansionism and oppression of the Palestinian people.

The ban on an academic critical of Israeli policy is all the more noteworthy because Israel likes to portray itself as a beacon of democracy in the region. In reality Finkelstein is not the first to be barred from entering the country: Israel regularly stops pro-Palestinian academics and peace activists from entering Israel who go to show support for Palestinian activists.

It also demonstrates the degree to which Shin Bet’s operations and decisions are not subject to judicial oversight. Israeli lawyers say that the chances of overturning Shin Bet’s ban on Finkelstein are slim. According to Ha’aretz, the courts do not intervene when Shin Bet decides that someone constitutes a security risk. Immigration authorities can prevent tourists entering the country, without even having to provide an explanation.

A Ha’aretz editorial opined, “Considering his unusual and extremely critical views, one cannot avoid the suspicion that refusing to allow him to enter Israel was a punishment rather than a precaution.”

“The Shin Bet argues that Finkelstein constitutes a security risk. But it is more reasonable to assume that Finkelstein is persona non grata and that the Shin Bet, whose influence has increased to frightening proportions, latched onto his meetings with Hezbollah operatives in order to punish him,” the editorial continued (emphasis added).

The attack on a liberal critic of Israel reflects a degree of desperation on the part of Israel. Faced with international opprobrium and internal dissent due to its brutal treatment of the Palestinians and bellicosity towards Iran, Israel is using its security forces to stifle opposition and to maintain the political hegemony of the financial and corporate elite in Tel Aviv and Washington.

If Israel’s liberal press was moved to express concern about the decision to deport Finkelstein, then that is more than can be said for the press in the West. His treatment went almost unreported in the United States. In particular the New York Times did not mention the exclusion of one of New York’s most well known residents.

In Britain, the Guardian reported it, but without an editorial or op-ed comment. It later published two letters. The first was from Dershowitz, which devoted more space to justifying the decision to deny tenure to Finkelstein because of his lack of scholarship and professionalism than to opposing Israel’s decision to ban him. The second was from the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, which claimed that Israel’s decision was entirely legitimate.

The silence of the liberal press speaks volumes about their attitude to basic democratic rights and the freedom of expression. Silence denotes consent. They do not criticise Israel’s actions because they agree with them.

Posted in Academia, Justice, Modern Israel, Politics | Comments Off on Academic Norman Finkelstein Detained and Interrogated by Israel Security Forces

Obama: The Constitution and The Bible – Subjects that Students Think they Already Know

Posted by NT Wrong on May 25, 2008

When Barack Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago, he would often encounter students who thought they were already quite familiar with the subject. And so, they would fail to seriously consider the subject in the detail it deserves.

Barack Obama makes a worthy comparison with the teaching of biblical studies:

“Sometimes I imagined my work to be not so different from the work of the theology professors who taught across campus—for, as I suspect was true for those teaching Scripture, I found that my students often felt they knew the Constitution without having really read it. They were accustomed to plucking out phrases that they’d heard and using them to bolster their immediate arguments, or ignoring passages that seemed to contradict their views.”
– Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, 2008: 85.

Posted in Academia, Religion & Society, The Bible | 2 Comments »