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Making The World A Bitter Place

Posts Tagged ‘Jews

Austrians Running Out Of Ways To Fake Contrition Over Nazi Past

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Crematorium ovens at Mauthausen

Vienna (AP) – When the Vienna Philharmonic posthumously stripped several Nazis of honors it had conferred upon them in the 1940s, members of the organization’s board wondered both why they hadn’t thought of the idea earlier, and what else they could still do to pretend they regret their complicity in the Holocaust.

The popular perception of the Third Reich coercing a weak Austria into the 1938 Anschluss has long held sway, but remains at odds with the historical record of cheering crowds and enthusiastic Austrian participation in all things Nazi, including the persecution, deportation, and murder of Jews. Unlike Germany, which the world saw as bearing direct responsibility for the Second World War and the Holocaust, Austria was viewed, especially during the Cold War, as forced to do Hitler’s bidding, though Hitler himself was Austrian; he was raised in Linz.

Austrians now worry that as the last remaining Nazi war criminals die off after living in the country unmolested for nearly seven decades, they will lose one of the few remaining vehicles though which to feign horror and remorse: each time the quiet life of a former Nazi official or death camp guard would come to light, Austria would erupt in a predictable chorus of mea culpas; they were shocked, just shocked, that such a monster could be allowed to dwell in their midst.

While Germany – first only West Germany, and then, after reunification in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the eastern part – has never ceased demonstrating recognition of the moral and historical burden it bears, Austria has largely lacked the impetus to engage in any such internal reckoning, and shows no sign of considering any. Austrian claims that Nazism and the Holocaust were essentially German enterprises fell on willing ears as the West sought ways to stem the tide of Soviet Communism in Eastern Europe. The postwar generation of Austrians eagerly promoted the Sound of Music version of history, in which Austria struggled mightily to assert its cultural independence from the yawning maw of Nazi Germany.

The Austrian Ministry of Education is considering a program that would train students in the proper methods of paying lip service to Holocaust commemoration and expiation. Currently, only licensed tour guides – such as those taking foreigners on trips to such locales as the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp complex – are formally trained to feign remorse that such atrocities could take place on Austrian soil.


Written by Thag

December 24, 2013 at 11:38 am

Early Hanukkah Causes Confusion Among Assimilated Jews

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Black FridayNewport News, Virginia (AP) – The relatively early occurrence of Hanukkah this year has sown perplexity among assimilated American Jews, who have become accustomed to combining or confusing the holiday’s practices with those of Christmas and not Thanksgiving. The first day of Hanukkah comes out this Thursday, which is also Thanksgiving.

The lunar Jewish calendar has a typical year lasting approximately 354 days, making it 11 days shorter than the solar year. A complicated cycle of leap years Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Thag

November 24, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Israel Announces New Construction In Settlements; World Ends Again

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Ramat Shlomo

This is what the apocalypse looks like, in case you needed to be told. I mean, the horror.

Jerusalem, Israel (AP) Israel announced final approval for the construction of 1,500 residential units in a neighborhood of Jerusalem that it captured in the 1967 war, causing the end of the world yet again. The occurrence marks the latest in a series of hundreds of construction projects that have brought about the complete and irreversible cessation of human civilization on Earth.

The move prompted condemnation from Palestinians, the United States, and the European Union, who each called on Israel not to bring all of world culture and human achievement crashing down by granting formal approval for several hundred buildings to be built on a dozen barren hillsides abutting an existing neighborhood. The neighborhood, called Ramat Shlomo, lies on the other side of the Green Line, the boundary that marked the 1948 cease-fire between Israel and Jordan. Each instance of Israeli clearing, digging, Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Thag

October 31, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Man To Reenact Ancient Yom Kippur Ritual By Flinging Cat Off Roof

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Guri and Tuli. Which of them is the evil twin remains undetermined.

Guri and Tuli. Which of them is the evil twin remains undetermined.

Jerusalem, Israel (AP) – A Jerusalem resident Intends to launch a cat off the roof of his apartment building this Saturday to commemorate an ancient Jewish atonement rite involving goats.

Gidon Levi, 40, will partially reenact the Biblical scapegoat ritual for the Jewish Day of Atonement, which this year begins this Friday evening just before sundown.

The practice, mentioned in Leviticus and given detail in the ancient text of Jewish law called the Mishna, has the High Priest use lots to select one of two identical he-goats upon which to symbolically place all the sins of the people. The goat is subsequently sent out into the wilderness and pushed backwards over a jagged cliff, becoming dismembered on the way down. The ritual has not been performed since the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 CE.

In the absence of the Temple – its site now occupied by the Muslim shrine the Dome of the Rock – and given the impracticalities of obtaining two identical, unblemished, one-year-old male goats on short notice in an urban setting, Mr. Levi will instead fling one of his two one-year-old kittens, Guri and Tuli, off the roof of his sixth-floor walkup and down into the rocky valley along the western approach to the city.

The ritual, known as Azazel, once served as a way for the people to express their desire to distance themselves from sin and devote themselves to God, explained Levi. “One animal was sacrificed on the altar as an expression of our reaffirmed dedication to serving God, while the other, identical goat, another part of ourselves, takes our iniquities away to be banished forever, an expression of our aspiration to rid ourselves of the failings that drive a wedge between us and God.”

Levi will use kittens, specifically, both because of their easy availability – there are thousands of feral cats in his Har Nof neighborhood alone – and because they come closest to evoking the vibe that goats did in the ancient world. “The Hebrew word for ‘goat’ is the same word used for ‘demon,’ and cats are similarly associated with all things dark and evil,” he noted.

On Saturday morning Levi will select which of the two kittens to launch to a grisly death by means of a lottery drawing. He will place two pieces of wood inside a box, pieces of wood identical in every respect but the words written on them: “For the Lord” and “For Azazel,” respectively, in Hebrew text. The term Azazel refers to the high, mighty cliff from which the animal is pushed, he explained.

Levi will swiftly pull out the two blocks and immediately assign them without looking, to ensure randomness, to the kittens, one of which will be marked with a red strip of wool to identify it as the Azazel animal. He will march the kitten upstairs onto the roof, and there, between the water-heating solar panels and the neighbors’ satellite TV dish, he will push the animal off.

If the ritual goes as planned, the kitten will travel down the seven stories that account for the height of the building, plus two stories of the hill’s natural severe slope, until impact, where Levi expects the descent to continue for several dozen meters until the animal is torn limb from limb, and atonement achieved.

The Jerusalem native seemed unperturbed by the notion that his intended activity constitutes cruelty to animals, noting that only a few radical activists would object to something that reduced the number of cats in the city. “They’re a plague,” he lamented, comparing the niche feral cats occupy to that of the raccoon in North America.

“I might raise a few eyebrows with the gory way in which I do it,” he conceded, “but this is the Middle East. The brutal slaughter of other creatures is a daily ritual in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and sometimes Lebanon, so people are basically used to this kind of thing.”

Written by Thag

September 10, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Community Has Kosher-Style Food, Moral-Style Behavoir

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The ark containing the Torah scrolls, the contents of which the congregation quotes and dismisses at will.

The synagogue’s emblem and a photo of the ark containing the Torah scrolls, the contents of which the congregation quotes or dismisses at will.

Snellville, Georgia (AP) – In this suburb of Atlanta, Temple Beth David’s Reform Jewish congregation offers a full range of religious-style services, bringing Jewish-style worship to Gwinnett County. Founded in 1981, Beth David adheres to most of the familiar tenet-style teachings of Reform Judaism, including a firm commitment to a tradition-style lifestyle.

“We’re all about our heritage,” said synagogue president Mickey Kroll in an interview-style encounter with a reporter over a lunch of lobster, a creature that Jewish heritage prohibits. “We make the eternal Jewish message relevant to modern society,” he continued, seemingly unaware of the ontological impossibility inherent in that sentence. Kroll explained that his congregation maintains a strong faith in God, except that God can’t be trusted to formulate a lasting moral system.

In a demonstration of Jewish-style practice, the Atlanta native ate the Biblically forbidden crustacean at a restaurant that also serves foods prepared with at least a nod toward, if not actual adherence to, Jewish dietary tradition, such as the meat of permitted animal species. Kroll ate without acknowledging, either before or after eating, the goodness, insight, and wisdom of a creator who made such delicacies and their appreciation possible.

In fact, says Ronald Bluming, the congregation’s Rabbi, belief in God is not even a prerequisite for Reform worship-style practice. “I’m actually an avowed atheist,” he notes. Bluming sees no contradiction in values between his vocation and his position of theological authority, as the absence of a Creator makes all values a human construct in any case. “There’s no such thing as absolute morality without a God as the source, definer and arbiter of that morality,” he explains, “so I don’t so much give my congregation moral guidance as I do moral-style guidance.”

According to Bluming, moral-style guidance resembles genuine moral guidance in that it purports to be based on the goal of increasing good in the world, but unlike the morality in an absolute system, the very definition of “good” remains wholly the product of the perceptions, whims, drives, prejudices, limitations, and zeitgeists of the people involved. Moral-style guidance denies that any immutable good is even a coherent concept, and posits that all we have available to us is our conscience.

Bluming’s predecessor, Richard Baroff, arrived at similar practical pastoral conclusions even without overt atheism. Baroff, who retired in 2001, strove to convey to his congregants that God is real but does not ultimately care what we do. This approach, common among Reform Jews – and large swaths of society at large – allows a person and community to shift with changing mores, and to avoid the pesky notion that there is any cosmic significance to human behavior.

The freedom inherent in this attitude means that the community and movement can find in their faith support for anything they find compelling, untroubled by other parts of the same sources they adduce that condemn that very practice. Thus, the members of Beth David often quote the portions of Leviticus that advocate love for others, while ignoring the inconvenient neighboring passages that bar adulterous, incestuous, or otherwise immoral sexual liaisons.

Similarly, Temple Beth David welcomes interfaith couples and condones intermarriage, consistent with the view that all religious-style paths are of equal worth and there is no place for the notion that a special, unique, exclusive, individual and national relationship has any relevance, which also serves to explain the aforementioned attitude toward adulterous liaisons.

Written by Thag

July 28, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Book Accuses Jews of Controlling Israeli Government

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Hadda Nuffadis

Hadda Nuffadis

London, 9 July (AP) – In a new twist on an age-old stereotype, a British Muslim author’s newest work charges that a relatively small number of Jews effectively controls the workings of Israel, a country that most people consider a democracy.

Hadda Nuffadis, a Liverpool-born Muslim of Indian descent, writes in From Russia with Glove that the “hidden hand” of Jewish control can be seen in Israeli politics, government, industry, and finance since before the state was founded in 1948. The title evokes the metaphor of that hidden hand, which he sees wielded by Jews whose ancestry comes mostly from Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe.

From Russia with Glove painstakingly traces the personalities behind the evolution and exercise of Israeli power, offering a convincing argument that Israel, despite its population of over 7 million people with origins all over the world, follows the direction of fewer than four thousand individual Jews strategically placed at the upper echelons of government, the military, banking, industry, and media.

Of all the chiefs-of-staff of the Israel Defense Force, for example, every single one was Jewish; the same holds for Prime Ministers, Presidents, commissioners of the central bank, sports team franchise owners, ambassadors, newspaper owners, and labor union officials.

Nuffadis describes a hierarchy within this cadre of Jews in which representatives are chosen primarily by the Jews with Israeli citizenship, to represent their interests on a council of 120, known as the “Knesset,” or Assembly. The Knesset functions much as any country’s Parliament might, except that it consists almost entirely of Jews. Leading the Knesset is an inner council of Jewish ministers and a Prime Minister who uses his power to appoint other Jews to positions of influence and control.

Unlike previous accusation of a Jewish cabal to control world governments, From Russia relies on ample documentation and supporting evidence. Nuffadis notes that in contrast to the classic conspiracy theories to the same effect, his book does not find any real attempt by the Jews to conceal these activities, perhaps in the belief that a small country such as Israel, with scarce natural resources and populated by the descendants of refugees, would never attract any attention on the world stage.

Jewish organizations in Britain and around the world were quick to react the the book’s publication. Abraham Foxman, of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote in an e-mail message, “Huh?” Eric Hier, Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, echoed the sentiment, saying, “Wait, say that again?” Closer to home, the heads of several Jewish organizations in London and Liverpool declined to comment, citing difficulty breathing and aching cheek muscles.

Nuffadis previously achieved some notoriety with his revelations in his 2008 book Bombs Away that the Allies in World War II focused disproportionately on bombing targets in Germany; upwards of 90% of Allied bombing sorties in Europe between 1940 and 1945 were directed at German soil, while the rest of the continent, despite teeming with Europeans, was largely spared such an onslaught.

Written by Thag

July 9, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Ahmadinejad Discovers He Is a Jew

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Moshe ben YaakovTehran, Islamic Republic of Iran (Reuters) – After two terms leading his country in a staunchly anti-Israel, and, many would say, anti-Semitic direction, former President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad discovered his own Jewish roots yesterday.

Unpacking from the move away from the Presidential Palace in the capital city, Ahmadinejad came across old photos of his parents holding him. On the back of one photo, marked 4 November 1956, were the words “Mazal Tov Moshe. May you only grow in Torah and love of Israel,” in Farsi. The former President at first thought the photo and inscription were a practical joke, but the age of the writing prompted him to consult an old relative, who broke the news to him.

The discovery is likely to have little or no impact on Iran’s policy toward Israel, as Ahmadinejad holds no more power, and he had fallen out of favor with the ruling elite over the last several years. If anything, says Persian Studies scholar Ima Yenta of Columbia University, “this development is actually more likely to inflame anti-Israel passions further, as it could easily be portrayed as another alleged case of Jews and Israel controlling governments and peoples.”

On a personal level, it is unclear how the revelation will affect Ahmadinejad. Iran has a small Jewish community that officially toes the government line on anti-Zionism, meaning the former President’s Jewishness does not necessarily make him persona non grata in his previous circles. However, the thin line between anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric and behavior often gets blurred when passions flare, which puts Ahmadinejad in a potentially risky position, given his prominence.

Ahmadinejad is not the first world leader to discover his Jewish roots later in life, nor the first anti-Jewish firebrand to face his Hebrew ancestry. According to Tuttle Beeyess, a Stanford University historian, none other than Joseph Stalin whispered a deathbed request that someone say Kaddish for him, referring to a selection from Jewish liturgy recited by the relatives of the deceased for a time after his death. Stalin was notorious for persecution of Jews and other adherents of religion, in keeping with Marxist Communist ideology. After his death it emerged that he was circumcised per Jewish practice at one week old and named Yosef ben BenTzion, but virulent Tsarist persecutions drove the family to hide their Jewish identity.

Obama in skullcapAnother surprising Jew was Abraham Lincoln, who was still struggling with his discovery the night he was assassinated in 1865. Some fragments of letters by his wife Mary attest to the conflicted feelings he harbored upon being informed that his parents had been crypto-Jews, continuing a long line of secretly Jewish Britons going back to the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290.

White House officials refused to comment on when President Obama will announce that he is also Jewish.

Written by Thag

July 7, 2013 at 8:26 pm