From *The Skeptical Review*, 2000 July/August:
by Farrell Till
Soon after the May/June issue was mailed, I received the following e-mail comment from Sol Abrams, whose articles have appeared in TSR.
Your article on the front page of the current issue which I received today was excellent and right on target. You are 100% correct in your statement that the atrocities committed by Moses, Joshua, David, Gideon, etc. were surely equivalent to the holocausts committed by the Nazis and Milosevic. I also pointed that out in my article, "Milosevic and Moses: Innocent or Guilty?" (TSR, September/October 1999, p. 11). It really amazes me that people who practice the religion of Judaism, who are very intelligent and rational in their everyday lives and in politics, have a complete blind spot when it comes to the so-called "Holy Torah," which in fact, not just my opinion, is the book of the five B's: Barbarism, Bestiality, Bigotry, Bloodshed, and Brutality.
Although I have never asked him, I have always assumed from his name that Mr. Abrams is ethnically Jewish, so I was glad to see that he had understood the intention of my article and did not see it as an ethnic slur.
Another Jewish reader, however, was not as perceptive as Mr. Abrams and reacted exactly as I had anticipated when I said that anyone who implied that Jewish history is also tainted with the moral disgrace of ethnic massacres "runs the risk of being accused of anti-Semitism." That very charge came later in an e-mail message from the other subscriber, who had obviously taken offense at the article.
You have disavowed your allegiance to Christianity, but it is apparent that, nevertheless, you still are poisoned by the anti-Semitic vitriol of the Gospels. The atrocities of the early Israelites, if in fact they occurred, are prehistoric, and contemporary Jews cannot, reasonably, be held responsible for ancestral events in the dim past, over which they had no control. Moreover, your indictment ignores the evolution of Judaism from henotheism to monotheism and its concomitant change from a savage tribal religion to one of universality, compassion, and morality. Further, the conduct of the ancient Israelites was no better than that of your own savage ancestors, but, certainly, it was no worse. With few modifications, your article will fit very nicely in contemporary versions of Dur Sturmer. Yes, you are an anti-Semite.
This letter was sent by Bernard Arkules (5224 East Arroyo Road, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253; e-mail, email@example.com), whose addresses I have parenthetically included for the benefit of readers who may want to contact him. We exchanged several messages, which unfortunately became "heated" on both sides. I took offense because Mr. Arkules had accused me of ethnic bigotry and hatred, a charge that I vehemently deny and strongly resent.
In my article, I referred to the holocaust as "malevolent atrocities" and said that Jews had been "treated horribly during the Hitler era," yet Mr. Arkules at no time even suggested that I was anti-Germanic in my attitude. My position is that ethnic massacres are morally repugnant whether they are committed by Germans, Serbs, Turks, or any other ethnic group, so I consider it hypocritically inconsistent for Jews to demand apologies for atrocities committed against them, while they continue to practice a religion based on a book that is tainted with several claims of genocide committed on instructions from the god they worship. How can Jews consistently demand that Germans renounce the Hitler era while they themselves do not renounce the eras of Moses and Joshua or Saul and David?
Mr. Arkules defended Judaism on the grounds that "contemporary Jews cannot, reasonably, be held responsible for ancestral events in the dim past, over which they had no control." I agree with him wholeheartedly. Contemporary Jews cannot be held responsible for what Moses, Joshua, Saul, and David may have done (if indeed the massacres attributed to them even happened), but they can be blamed for continuing to practice a religion that regards men like Moses, Joshua, and David as honorable, heroic ancestors and worships the god Yahweh, who commanded that the atrocities in question be committed. The issue is not whether contemporary Jews are responsible for their past but why they don't renounce their past.
I tried to explain this to Mr. Arkules but to no avail. In a later e-mail message, he just dressed up the same argument in different clothes.
Why single out the Jews, particularly since the alleged brutality is a matter of prehistory, the very distant past, while early history, resounds with inhuman conduct by many peoples? Should the descendants of the brutal Vikings , the Aztecs, the Conquistadors, Incas, the Mongols, and so forth offer an apology to the victims? It is, indeed peculiar how Jews bear an onus for conduct that is acceptable in others.
So Mr. Arkules still seemed not to understand. If I could check into my ancestral background, I'm sure, as Mr. Arkules suggested in his first letter to me, I would find that the conduct of my ancestors was indeed no better than that of the ancient Hebrews, because those were uncivilized times when no one ethnic group had a monopoly on barbarism; however, I don't practice a religion that glorifies ancestors who engaged in such conduct. In a reply to Arkules, I pointed out that the same was true of the ancient ethnic groups that he had appealed to.
The descendants of Vikings, Aztecs, Incas, Mongols, etc. do not practice a religion that glories the atrocities committed by their ancestors. If they did, they would deserve reprimand. The Jews do not disassociate themselves from the atrocities in their past, while demanding apologies for atrocities committed against them.
Mr. Arkules made a big issue over how "distant" the past was when the Hebrew atrocities were committed, as if time had a way of making moral atrocities into nonatrocities. If the atrocities were atrocities, then they were atrocities, and a few thousand years won't change them into something they weren't. No one can blame contemporary Jews for what their ancestors did thousands of years ago, but they can be blamed for not separating themselves from that past. In my final letter to him, I asked Mr. Arkules if he would consider it ethnically honorable if Germans two or three thousand years from now should practice a religion that is based on honoring Hitler and other Nazi leaders. He answered, but he did not answer this question.
Another issue that should be addressed was briefly mentioned in the article that Mr. Arkules took exception to. Modern Jews still embrace a religion that teaches they are the "chosen people" of God. Nazis believed that they were an Aryan "super race." Jews believe they are the chosen people of God. Is there really much difference in these two ideas? Mr. Arkules said that Judaism had evolved from "a savage tribal religion to one of universality, compassion, and morality." That may be true, but in this evolutionary process, they have not renounced their own violent past or the notion that they are "chosen of God." In that savage past, it wasn't uncommon for ethnic groups to think they were the chosen ones of their particular tribal gods. The descendants of those ethnic groups, however, have outgrown that ancient superstition, except for modern Jews. Many of them still think that they are the "chosen people of God." The Nazi belief in Aryan superiority apparently didn't teach them the danger inherent in such ideas.
Ultimately, this issue boils down to a simple question: Is it anti-(fill in the ethnic group) to state a truth about that group? Modern Jews still embrace a religion that was based on the notion that their ancestors were chosen of God to possess a particular piece of real estate in the Near East, and so they were justified in massacring the ethnic groups already occupying this land. They rightly condemn those who attempted to exterminate them, but they don't separate themselves from a religion that condoned this kind of barbarism. Why is it anti-Semitic to say this? What is anti-Semetic about stating a simple truth? To prove anti-Semitism in this matter, shouldn't one have to show that the charge of inconsistency and hypocrisy is untrue?
To be fair, we must also recognize that Jews are not the only ones who should be blamed for adhering to a religion that is based on ancient barbarism. Christians must share the blame, because they too defend the Yahwistic atrocities that filled the Old Testament. They will justify them on the grounds that the god who created life had the right to take life or that the tribes exterminated were so morally depraved that God had no choice but to eliminate them. They do everything but admit the probability that these tales, if true, were nothing more than accounts of wars fought by a barbaric people who had created their god in their own image and thought that what they were doing was what the god who had "chosen" them wanted them to do.
That's the insidious thing about religion. Once it has people in its grips, they can't seem to escape. They will blindly accept just about anything, even something as morally repugnant as genocide. Christians and Jews alike will condemn the holocaust and "ethnic cleansing" in the Balkan wars, but the ethnic cleansings in the Old Testament... well, that's different. Their god was doing all that, and so that somehow made it right.