Tuesday, December 12, 2006

"We killed Jesus, we'll kill you too!"

Right: Tove Johansson after being attacked in Hebron, Palestine (ISM Hebron photo).

The events described below occurred less than a month ago. Below is an excerpt from "Swedish human rights worker viciously attacked by Jewish extremists in Hebron" followed by some background from Jewish sources on Jewish attitudes toward Jesus and Christianity.
A 19-year old Swedish human rights worker had her cheekbone broken by a Jewish extremist in Hebron today. Earlier the same day at least five Palestinians, including a 3-year-old child, were injured by the settler-supporting extremists, who rampaged through Tel Rumeida hurling stones and bottles at local residents. Palestinian schoolchildren on their way home were also attacked. The Israeli army, which was intensively deployed in the area, did not intervene to stop the attacks.

Tove Johansson from Stockholm walked through the Tel Rumeida checkpoint with a small group of human rights workers (HRWs) to accompany Palestinian schoolchildren to their homes. They were confronted by about 100 Jewish extremists in small groups. They started chanting in Hebrew "We killed Jesus, we'll kill you too!" — a refrain the settlers had been repeating to internationals in Tel Rumeida all day.

After about thirty seconds of waiting, a small group of very aggressive male Jewish extremists surrounded the international volunteers and began spitting at them, so much so that the internationals described it as "like rain." Then men from the back of the crowd began jumping up and spitting, while others from the back and side of the crowd kicked the volunteers.

The soldiers, who were standing at the checkpoint just a few feet behind the HRWs, looked on as they were being attacked.
As evidenced by the response of one of the members of a Christian e-mail group I belong to, many non-Jews are hypersensitive to reporting the anti-Christian utterings of Jews. My correspondent expressed concern that the title of this blog post is "inflammatory and could be taken as anti-Semitic."

Of course, "it's inflammatory." The Jews who said it knew exactly what they were doing--the reference to "killing Jesus" is no accident. As for being "taken as anti-Semitic," well this verges on mind-boggling. I mean, a nonviolent activist gets viciously assaulted while her Jewish attackers chant "We killed Jesus, we'll kill you too!" and people are worried about seeming anti-Jewish?! Reporting this attack accurately is simply not anti-Jewish. Period. Stop. Some people have been so brainwashed that they are blind to the common, imperfect humanity that Jews share with the rest of us.

In any case, virtually any position taken against Israel or organized Jewry can, and often is, "taken as anti-Semitic." So what? Get over it. However, if you actually do hate Jews qua Jews then you should quit the movement until you've worked through your issues.

I'm with Norman Finkelstein on this. Here's what he says in Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History:
As already noted, Jewish elites in the United States have enjoyed enormous prosperity. From this combination of economic and political power has sprung, unsurprisingly, a mindset of Jewish superiority. Wrapping themselves in the mantle of The Holocaust ["an ideological representation of the (actual) Nazi holocaust"], these Jewish elites pretend—and, in their own solipsistic universe, perhaps imagine themselves—to be victims, dismissing any and all criticism as manifestations of "anti-Semitism." And, from this lethal brew of formidable power, chauvinistic arrogance, feigned (or imagined) victimhood, and Holocaust-immunity to criticism has sprung a terrifying recklessness and ruthlessness on the part of American Jewish elites. Alongside Israel, they are the main fomenters of anti-Semitism in the world today.
Okay, I promised some background on Jewish attitudes toward Jesus and Christianity. This is to provide some religious and historical context for the "100 Jewish extremists ... chanting in Hebrew 'We killed Jesus, we'll kill you too!' — a refrain the settlers had been repeating to internationals in Tel Rumeida all day." Here it comes.

In the fall of 2003, while controversy about Mel Gibson's The Passion raged, the author of Understanding Jewish History and National Director of the American Jewish Committee's (AJC) Contemporary Jewish Life Department weighed-in with a piece entitled "Jesus in the Talmud." Steve Bayme's article soon became a source of controversy itself and was quickly pulled from the AJC's web site.

Reporting on the matter in The Jewish Week, Eric J. Greenberg writes:
He [Bayme] contends that Jewish interfaith representatives are not being honest in dialogue if they ignore the explicit Talmudic references to Jesus.

His article was posted on the AJCommittee's Web site last week, then removed after a Jewish Week reporter's inquiry.

Ken Bandler, a spokesman for the AJCommittee, said the article was taken down to "avoid confusion" over whether it represented the organization's official position. AJCommittee officials now refer to the article as "an internal document."
But Bayme was unswayed. Citing the continuing controversy over Gibson's "The Passion," which has reignited concern over Christianity's ancient charge against Jews as "Christ killers," he wrote that it is also important "that Jews confront their own tradition and ask how Jewish sources treated the Jesus narrative."
So, just what did Bayme write that was so controversial? Here are a couple of excerpts:
... the account of the Gospels, and its associations with anti-Semitism, needs to be honestly confronted, including the question of the relationship of church teachings to acts of violence against Jews. Yet it is also important that Jews confront their own tradition and ask how Jewish sources treated the Jesus narrative. Pointedly, Jews did not argue that crucifixion was a Roman punishment and therefore no Jewish court could have advocated it. Consider, by contrast, the following text from the Talmud:
On the eve of Passover Jesus was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, "He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Anyone who can say anything in his favor let him come forward and plead on his behalf." But since nothing was brought forward in his favor, he was hanged on the eve of Passover. Ulla retorted: Do you suppose he was one for whom a defense could be made? Was he not a mesith (enticer), concerning whom Scripture says, "Neither shall thou spare nor shall thou conceal him?" With Jesus, however, it was different, for he was connected with the government. (Sanhedrin 43a)
This text, long censored in editions of the Talmud, is concerned primarily with due process in capital crimes. Standard process requires that punishment be delayed for forty days in order to allow extenuating evidence to be presented. However, in extreme cases, such as seducing Israel into apostasy, this requirement is waived. The case of Jesus, according to the Talmud, constituted an exception to this rule. Although one who enticed Israel into apostasy is considered an extreme case, the Jews at the time waited forty days because of the close ties of Jesus to the Roman authorities. However, once the forty days elapsed without the presentation of favorable or extenuating comment about him, they proceeded to kill him on the eve of Passover.

Three themes emanate from this passage. First, the charges against Jesus relate to seduction of Israel into apostasy and the practice of sorcery. According to the Gospels, the charges against Jesus concerned his self-proclamation as a messiah. The Talmud seems to prefer the more specific charges of practicing sorcery and leading Israel into false beliefs. One twentieth-century historian, Morton Smith of Columbia University, argued on the basis of recently discovered "hidden Gospels" that the historical Jesus indeed was a first-century sorcerer (Jesus the Magician, HarperCollins, 1978). In the eyes of the Talmudic rabbis, the practice of sorcery and false prophecy constituted capital crimes specifically proscribed in Deuteronomy 18: 10-12 and 13: 2-6.

Second, the Talmud is here offering a subtle commentary upon Jesus' political connections. The Gospels portray the Roman governor Pontius Pilate as going to great lengths to spare Jesus (Mark 15: 6-15). Although this passage may well have been written to appease the Roman authorities and blame the Jews, the Talmudic passage points in the same direction: The Jews waited forty days, in a departure from the usual practice, only because Jesus was close to the ruling authorities.

Lastly, the passage suggests rabbinic willingness to take responsibility for the execution of Jesus. No effort is made to pin his death upon the Romans. In all likelihood, the passage in question emanates from fourth-century Babylon, then the center of Talmudic scholarship, and beyond the reach of both Rome and Christianity. Although several hundred years had elapsed since the lifetime of Jesus, and therefore this is not at all a contemporary source, the Talmudic passage indicates rabbinic willingness to acknowledge, at least in principle, that in a Jewish court and in a Jewish land, a real-life Jesus would indeed have been executed.
What, then, are the implications of this reading of Jesus through the eyes of rabbinic sources? First, we do require honesty on both sides in confronting history. Jewish apologetics that "we could not have done it" because of Roman sovereignty ring hollow when one examines the Talmudic account. However, the significance of Vatican II, conversely, should by no means be minimized. The Church went on record as abandoning the teaching of contempt in favor of historicizing the accounts of the Gospels and removing their applicability to Jews of later generations. A mature Jewish-Christian relationship presupposes the ability of both sides to face up to history, acknowledge errors that have been committed, and build a social contract in which each side can both critique as well as assign value to its religious counterpart.
In 2004, David Klinghoffer, a columnist for Jewish Forward and author of The Discovery of God: Abraham and the Birth of Monotheism wrote a piece similar to Bayme's for the Los Angeles Times entitled "Gibson's view of 'Passion' supported by Jewish texts." Here are two excerpts:
Mel Gibson's movie about the death of Jesus, "The Passion of the Christ," has created an angry standoff between the filmmaker and Jewish critics who charge him with anti-Semitism. The controversy will continue to affect relations between Christians and Jews unless some way to cool it can be found. One possible cooling agent is an honest look at how ancient Jewish sources portrayed the Crucifixion.

According to people who have seen a rough cut, Gibson's film depicts the death of Christ as occurring at the hands of the Romans but at the instigation of Jewish leaders, the priests of the Jerusalem Temple. The Anti-Defamation League charges that this recklessly stirs anti-Jewish hatred and demands that the film be edited to eliminate any suggestion of Jewish deicide.

But Jewish tradition acknowledges that our leaders in first-century Palestine played a role in Jesus' execution. If Gibson is an anti-Semite, so is the Talmud and so is the greatest Jewish sage of the past 1,000 years, Maimonides.
A relevant example comes from the Talmudic division known as Sanhedrin, which deals with procedures of the Jewish high court: "On the eve of Passover they hung Jesus of Nazareth. And the herald went out before him for 40 days (saying, `Jesus) goes forth to be stoned, because he has practiced magic, enticed and led astray Israel. Anyone who knows anything in his favor, let him come and declare concerning him.' And they found nothing in his favor."

The passage indicates that Jesus' fate was entirely in the hands of the Jewish court. The last two of the three items on Jesus' rap sheet, that he "enticed and led astray" fellow Jews, are terms from Jewish biblical law for an individual who influenced others to serve false gods, a crime punishable by being stoned, then hung on a wooden gallows. In the Mishnah, the rabbinic work on which the Talmud is based, compiled about the year 200, Rabbi Eliezer explains that anyone who was stoned to death would then be hung by his hands from two pieces of wood shaped like a capital letter T -- in other words, a cross (Sanhedrin 6:4).

These texts convey religious beliefs, not necessarily historical facts. The Talmud elsewhere agrees with the Gospel of John that Jews at the time of the Crucifixion did not have the power to carry out the death penalty. Also, other Talmudic passages place Jesus 100 years before or after his actual lifetime. Some Jewish apologists argue that these must therefore deal with a different Jesus of Nazareth. But this is not how the most authoritative rabbinic interpreters, medieval sages saw the matter.

Maimonides, writing in 12th-century Egypt, made clear that the Talmud's Jesus is the one who founded Christianity. In his great summation of Jewish law and belief, the Mishneh Torah, he wrote of "Jesus of Nazareth, who imagined that he was the Messiah, but was put to death by the court." In his "Epistle to Yemen," he states that "Jesus of Nazareth ... interpreted the Torah and its precepts in such a fashion as to lead to their total annulment. The sages, of blessed memory, having become aware of his plans before his reputation spread among our people, meted out fitting punishment to him."
Finally, there is "What happened to Jesus' haftarah?" Hananel Mack, lecturer in the Naftal-Yaffe Department of Talmud at Bar-Ilan University. In the Israeli daily, Ha'aretz, Mack writes about how Jewish hostility toward Jesus and Christianity has effected haftarah, the "custom of reading a chapter from the Prophets section of the Bible in public in the synagogue." The haftarah, according to Mack, is "an integral part of the Jewish liturgy on Sabbaths and holidays."
Generally speaking, Jews excluded from the haftarot those verses on which Christians based the principles of their religious faith. Thus, all of the customs related to the haftarah readings omit the passage in Isaiah whose focus is the well-known verse, Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son" (7:14), because it is the foundation of the Christian belief in the concept of the Virgin Mary and the virgin birth of Jesus.
The same principle is applied in the case of the "Christological" passages outside the Book of Isaiah. On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the haftarah that is read is one of the most wonderful chapters in the Prophets Jeremiah 31. It stops at the famous words that have become part of the Jewish liturgy today: "Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord" (Jeremiah 31:20). It is no mere coincidence that the haftarah ends here and does not continue with the next few verses, to the promise that Jeremiah utters regarding the new covenant that God will draw up in the future with his people[--] one of the most commonly quoted passages in the New Testament.
In the table below are the texts of the key verses of the excluded passages identified by Mack and their corresponding "Christological" verses.

Passage Excluded from the Haftarah ReadingsCorresponding New Testament Text
Isaiah 7:14. Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman* is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

*As Mack points out, "The term 'virgin' is translated as such in the Septuagint and that is how Christians explicate the verse to this very day." The NRSV, quoted here, uses the Masoretic text.
Matthew 1:22,23. All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us."
Isaiah 42:1-4. Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.Matthew 12:18-21. "Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope."
Isaiah 52:13. See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high.Same as above.
Isaiah 61:1. The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners;Luke 4:16-19. When [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
Jeremiah 31:30-33. But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge. The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt--a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.*Luke 22:20. And [Jesus] did the same with the cup after supper, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Hebrews 8:6-10. But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one. God finds fault with them when he says: "The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I had no concern for them, says the Lord. This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

*Mack does not provide any corresponding New Testament verses. See text above table.
Hosea 11:1. When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.Matthew 2:14,15. Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son."
Micah 5:2. But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.Matthew 2:3-6. When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 'And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'"

John 7:41, 42
. Others said, "This is the Messiah." But some asked, "Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?"
Zechariah 9:9. Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.Matthew 21:3-6. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, 'The Lord needs them.' And he will send them immediately. " This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, "Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey." The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them;

John 12:14,15.
Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: "Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!"
*Zechariah 11:12,13. I then said to them, "If it seems right to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them." So they weighed out as my wages thirty shekels of silver. Then the LORD said to me, "Throw it into the treasury"-- this lordly price at which I was valued by them. So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them into the treasury in the house of the LORD.

*Mack's article cites Zech. 12:13 but this isclearly a typographical error.
Matthew 26:14,15. Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me if I betray him to you?" They paid him thirty pieces of silver.

Mark 14:10,11.
Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
Malachi 3:1. See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight--indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.Matthew 11:10. This is the one about whom it is written, 'See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.'

Mark 2:2. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them.

Luke 7:27. This is the one about whom it is written, 'See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.'

John 3:28.
You yourselves are my witnesses that I [John] said, 'I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.'
All text is from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible via The Unbound Bible

See also:
Revised: 12/15/2006; 1/11/2008

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Powerful post. Brave blog.
I don't know whether the heart in this is anti_Semitic or not. But I would question the intent in bringing this story out as if to indicate that this is how Jews in general feel. This is a fringe group, much like our own "Christian" believers bomb abortion clinics, etc. There are extreme groups in any following.

But if you want to show violence one need only look at what the Palestenians try to do daily: murder innocent men, women, and children. Report those stories.

Also, the exegesis on Isaiah 7:14 is poor if one believes Isaiah was referring to a virgin birth. Keep in mind the context of what was going on at the time and who he was speaking to, and read the following verses. One can not simply lift a single verse out of context, which our texts often do in order to "prove" Christ in the OT.

Your comment reads like a careless knee-jerk response by someone who didn't even bother to read the post. The issue of "anti-Semitism" is confronted head-on and people who "hate Jews qua Jews" are advised to quit the movement and deal with their issues.

As for the "fringe group" matter, the Jews in question are decribed as "extremists" six times in the post. Why isn't that enough for you?

Regarding "what the Palestenians try to do daily" there is no shortage in the mainstream media and elsewhere of racists, the ignorant, and other assorted accomplices to war crimes and crimes of humanity who are willing to loudly stress the alleged murderous intent of Palestinians resisting a brutal racist Jewish occupation. But, in fact, Jews are much deadly in their intent and effectiveness at killing than Palestinians have ever been. In just this year alone, according to the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, Israelis have killed 434 Palestinians, 86 of whom were minors. The respective figures for Israelis killed by Palestinians are 30 and 4.

Finally, as for Isaiah 7:14, there is simply no "exegesis" of the verse in this post. One does wonder, though, how naysayers such as yourself explain the decision of scores of ancient Hellenized Judean scholars to translate the word "almah" as "parthenos," a word which typically means "virgin," in the Septuagint. To me this is a trivial matter, hence no exegesis, but it is clear that Jewish leaders thought it significant enough to hide it from Jews.
Great post. Thanks for the info. I thought it was even handed and insightful. I'm keen to produce a documentary looking into Israel’s occupation of Palestine and the many twisted perceptions the west has of this. You’ve provided some nice info and good leads. Must say I’m not looking forward to the inevitable passive aggressive stance that many Israeli’s will probably take on my presentation of straightforward facts. Based on what I’ve seen there is a propensity for many Israelis to play the victim while being the aggressor. But then again, I’m not doing it to win friends. Keep up the good work.
Expose the lie and the liars.


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