Muslim Propaganda at the University of Chicago

Ms. Muir is the author of Reflections in Bullough’s Pond: Economy and Ecosystem in New England. The working title of her current project is: What Good is a Nation; A Clear-Eyed Look at Nations and Nationalism.

The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago is Indiana Jones’ museum.  At least, it is the museum that Indiana Jones would have shipped the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant home to, if only he had been a real person.

Not that even the Holy Grail would top the actual collections of the museum by much.  Chicago had lots of  archaeologists shipping stuff home.  Visitors can see the sixteen foot tall human-headed, winged, guardian bull from the palace of Sargon II,  the astonishing giant head of a bull made of polished black that guarded the entrance to the Hundred-Column Hall at Persepolis, and an almost equally remarkable bit of Islamic propaganda - written by the museum staff and posted in the section on ancient Megiddo - in which history is rewritten and Mohammed actually travels to Jerusalem.*

The Muslim propaganda wall plaque is headed:

Land of the Bible
600 B.C. to the Present
Three Major Religions Grew in the Southern Levant

Right in the headline, the curator misstates history to satisfy a political agenda.  Judaism and Christianity “grew” in the southern Levant  (defined by the museum as  roughly the territory of modern Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories.)  Islam did not.  It “grew” in the Hijaz (Mecca and Medina,)  nor did the scholars who defined the religion after the death of the Prophet live in the Levant.

The plaque continues:

Long after the Canaanites and the Israelites, the Southern Levant has continued to play an important role in the religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

The golden days of Israel and Judah ended at the hands of the Babylonians with the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 586 B.C. and subsequent mass exile of the Israelites.  Although many returned to the Southern Levant under the rule of the Persians (529-332BC), they would not soon regain their autonomy.

But Israelite religion continued to develop.  At the turn of the first millennium AD, several religious sects broke away in response to Roman rule and the local political climate.  One of these lines led, ultimately, to the tradition of modern Jewish religion.

Did the curator slip that bit of anti-Jewish sovereignty propaganda under your radar?

The Israelites fail to “regain their autonomy” but continue to “develop” as a “religion.”   This is a standard line of argumentation according to which the Jews cease to be a political community and transition to being a religious community with, consequently, no entitlement to sovereignty. 

Written out of history by the Oriental Institute is not only all evidence that the proto-Jewish community in Judea under the Persians at times enjoyed a limited degree of political autonomy, but the entire history and existence of the Hasmonean and Herodian kingdoms.  Since one of the strongest arguments that can be made by a national liberation movement is that the group claiming a right to sovereignty has a history of sovereignty, eliminating ancient Jewish kingdoms from the historical narrative reduces the historically based claim to legitimacy of the modern Jewish state, with real political implications.

Having skipped right over two centuries of Jewish political sovereignty in favor of an anti-Zionist story line that has the Jews abandoning political life after the Babylonian exile in favor of developing exclusively as a religion, we come to the advent of Christianity. 

Jesus was born into this context, and was hailed by his followers as the Messiah, Son of God.

Fair enough.   Scholarly and objective.  But when we come to Mohammed, scholarly objectivity disappears.

Six centuries later, the Prophet Mohammed would visit Jerusalem where he would experience his Night Flight and Ascension to heaven. 

Only the pious believe that the visit and night flight are actual, historical events. Mohammed’s visit and Night Flight is a religious myth or dream, not an actual event.  The Prophet never actually visited Jerusalem.  The Quran speaks not of a visit to Jerusalem, but of a visit to the “farthest mosque.”   Scholarly dispute over the event centers around the question of how early the Quranic reference to “the “farthest mosque”  came to be interpreted as a reference to Jerusalem. 

But note the wording of the plaque.  Even a museum visitor who does not believe in night flights and ascensions to heaven, will read -- and quite likely accept as fact -- the notion that Mohammed’s visit to Jerusalem was an actual, historical event.   After all, this is the faculty of the University of Chicago saying that he did.

The assertion that Muhammad actually visited Jerusalem is a political statement which has the effect of making the groundless assertion in the headline -- that Islam grew in the Levant -- appear to be true.  If Mohammed did travel to Jerusalem, if he actually set foot on the Temple Mount, Jerusalem becomes one of the places where the religion of Islam “grew.”   Because one of the arguments made by national liberation movements is that formative events in the history of the group claiming sovereignty took place on the land they are claiming, if we accept that the Prophet visited Jerusalem, the Muslim claim to Jerusalem is strengthened, with real political implications.

The problem with substituting political propaganda for history is that it alters our perceptions of the world, and our perceptions affect the actions we take.  Schoolchildren throughout the Muslim world are taught history exactly as it appears on the wall of the Megiddo room in the Oriental Institute.  Jesus was a man, not the messiah as his followers believe.  The Jews are a religious group, not an historic Levantine nation, (and therefore have no claim to sovereignty.)  Mohammed visited Jerusalem, (which makes it Muslim land).

Maybe we need to send Harrison Ford to the University of  Chicago in his Indiana Jones hat,  to teach the faculty of the Oriental Institute  the difference between evidence-based scholarship and political propaganda.

*The Megiddo section of the recently renovated museum is otherwise excellent.   The altars and the two proto-Aeolic column capitals, the style used in Israelite royal buildings, are of particular relevance to the historical development of ancient Israel.  Although the Institute is still expanding its online gallery, an image of a similar column found at the City of David in Jerusalem can be seen here

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Bernard Feder - 2/28/2010

Interesting that Ms. Muir can spot Muslim propaganda,but misses blatant Christian propaganda.

About the following comment ("Jesus was born into this context, and was hailed by his followers as the Messiah, Son of God") she writes: "Fair enough. Scholarly and objective."

At the time of Jesus' death, he had a handful of Jewish followers, referred to contemptuously as "ebionites" by those gentiles later recruited by Paul. These "ebionites" considered Jesus a Messiah, but decidedly human. The concept of Jesus as the Son of God was an invention by Paul (Saul of Tarsus)

Your perception,dear Ms. Muir, is limited to a recognition only of Muslim propaganda.

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Mr Friedman
It is not that you are working for if you answer my question it is more a question of how accurately you quoted Ibn Khaldun!
I can not check, or try to check, the authencity of your quote, or the translator's if you fail to indicate which edition he translated!
My am told by people in the know that several editions of Al Mukadimah exist!

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Eckstein's comments are normally studded with inane comments; however he has broken his record and surpassed himself with his latest:
"Omar needs to explain why this is so."
He expects me to explain any Moslems', person or body, action or inaction that irks him one way or another!
The funny, but malicious , thing here is that he presumes and tries to convey to the general reader that I agree with it whether I so stated ( in which case I have to explain , to the general reader of course not to his closed mind), and much more often, wherever I remained silent about it and expressed no opinion .
Can he "explain" the words, opinions and actions or inactions of any one in his family, faculty, universty or his co- religionists?
One is intelectually honour bound to explain any attitude he takes or opinion he expresses but NOT that of any one member of his community....A, B and C that the unworthy professor can not get in his brains.
More is the pity for his unfortunate students!

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Why "accomodate" the usurpor and aggressor seems to be a question that Simon fails to ask himself.
To accomodate unfounded claims is called submission and why submit before the war ends?

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Since the Koran can only be interpreted accurately from its Arabic original the meaning of words in Arabic is crucial.

"Al Aksa" means "furthest".

To some whether the night flight (Al Issraa) involved actual, physical, transport or not seems to me an inane point, next to impossible to prove or disprove.
As with all religions’ the question is, whatever it is, how important it is to the believers that matters .

Is the crucification of Jesus Christ an unassailable historical fact?

Nevertheless it is central to the Christian, traditional, faith.

Muir should know that 1.2-1.5 billion Moslems unreservedly believe in it; and that is what really matters.

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Birds of a feather...

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Would any historian here with us at HNN tell us:
For how long were the Jews sovereign in Palestine versus the Moslems.

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Mr Friedman
If, a very big IF, you have quoted Ibn Khaldun correctly; I see no reference to your source( chapter and verse?)
Then his assertion that :
"because of the universalism of the (Muslim) mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force. "
(note :...either by persuasion or
(BY FORCE) by force."
His assertion would be against the explicit teachings of Islam as laid out by higher authority than Ibn Khaldun; the Koran.
Has Ibn Khaldun so asserted ??? he would be going against a clear injunction of Islam , as laid out in the Koran, (Surat/Ayet): 2/256, which explicitly ordains:
" compulsion in religion"
( la ikraha bil din).

However If you, Mr Friedman, deem Ibn Khaldun more authorative than the Koran re Islam, which would NOT
surprise me, then you can go on misinforming people with your erudition .

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Mr Friedman
Many words to say nothing of substance re the relative authority of the Koran versus Ibn Khaldun's (??) and Mr Friedman's.
The "Moslem Position" is as laid out in the Koran: "la ikraha bil din= no compulsion in religion!"; and NOT as attributed to Ibn Khaldun(??/ see note below) nor as warmly embraced by you for obvious reasons and out of an inborn, or conscious?, total blindnes.
The two types exist; I am not sure where you, Mr Friedman, belong , though I suspect in the latter category for obvious reasons.

(Did Rosenthal's translation indicate which Arabic edition it is based on; name of publisher, year etc?
I will try to look it up in the original.)

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Mr Friedman
Your heated but irrelevant defense of Muir fails, for obvious motives, to note the two important points I made in my post,
1- That “Al Aksaa “ (Al Aksaa Mosque in Jerusalem) means “farthest” which is in response to her misleading and fallacious contention that:
“The Quran speaks not of a visit to Jerusalem, but of a visit to the “farthest mosque.”

2- As for “…one of the strongest arguments that can be made by a national liberation movement ….” the important thing as far as religious teachings are concerned is NOT the historical unassailable accuracy of a statement/event etc but the number of people who implicitly believe in it and are influenced by it in their over all outlook.

Re your contention that :
"Your statements (Omar's) suggest you believe the museum should peddle what Islam teaches as if it were historical fact."
With you and the rest of the herd around you can, and do,contend whatever serves your purposes.
You often, nay, recently, always consciously misinterpret my statements to suit your ulterior objectives irrespective of the truth.

That is a new LOW for you Mr Friedman; unworthy Eckstein's influence? Herd instinct?

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Mr Friedman
The real problem is that in your desperate and feverish search for material denigrating Islam you want :"... that (Ibn) Khaldun's view is the dominant view among Muslims over the course of history ".
Are you contending that "over the course of history" more Moslems followed Ibn Khaldun's (??) than the Koran's injunction?
A selective, "hunting", reading of history, any history, can come up with ample material to support any inane, sick or racist notion the hunter is intent on locating and is predisposed to adopt as the "real history"!
This is where you, after reading you for more than a year, now stand:hunting material to denigrate Islam.
However when you boldly contend that more Moslems believe, or ever believed, in what Ibn Khaldun (??) is supposed to have confirmed (look at note below)you would be marching into the realm of absurdity , to say the least.

You contend in the title of your post that:
"The problem here, Omar, is that Khaldun's view is the dominant view among Muslims over the course of history "
How ever did you reach that categorical confirmation :"the dominant view among Muslims"?
(Not that we worry about what you, and yours, think .
I respond to the possible benefit of others,)
With your erstwhile subtlety you could have made it " a wide spread view" or "the view of many Muslims" or Islamic scholars etc; you are usually Not at a loss for words but here you reach a new LOW!It must be Eckstein's, the unworthy professor's, influence!

(Note: I have asked you whether Rosenthal's translation of Ibn Khaldun's Al Mukadimah indicated on which Arabic "original" or edition it was based for me to, possibly, check it; I fail to see a reply from you to that important point.)

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Well said; a rare truth in a contaminated forum.

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

More of the same: the absurd contention that to most Moslems Ibn Khaldun (??) wielded more authority than a clear unmistakable injunction by the Koran!
How absurd can one be driven by hate and bias is well illustrated by Mr Friedman's stand!
(Note: for the third (3rd)time I ask of you, Mr Friedman, to indicate on which edition of Ibn Khaldun's Mukadimah(=introduction) Rosenthal's translation is based. If you do not know; say so.If Rosenthal did not indicate that tell us.OK!)

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

With contentions that truly reflect his credibility , reliabilty and his worth as a Professor? of History?? of all things!
Having patently failed as a historian (TV shows, including possibly TV commercials, NOT primary and official publications are his favourite, and only?, sources of knowledge) he indulges his biases and hatreds through character analysis and knowledge assessments.

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Mr Friedman
(Note: for the third (3rd)time I ask of you, Mr Friedman, to indicate on which edition of Ibn Khaldun's Mukadimah(=introduction) Rosenthal's translation is based. If you do not know; say so.If Rosenthal did not indicate that tell us.OK!) Omar's post# 101069.
This now 3+1=4; the FOURTH time I ask you the same question that you refuse to answer!

Don Williams - 11/30/2006

The University of Chicago is known for its learning in the Classics. Maybe the museum --far from promoting "Muslim propaganda" --was being far more tactful than Muir recognizes.

1) Diane Muir's major claim in the above article is that the University of Chicago, by "eliminating ancient Jewish kingdoms from the historical narrative reduces the historically based claim to legitimacy of the modern Jewish state".

2) Ms Muir's scholarship seems extremely limited and pedestrian. Otherwise, she would recognize that questioning Jewish claims to Palestine didn't begin with the University of Chicago --it goes back at least 1900 years to the Roman historian P. Cornelius Tacitus.

3) In Book V of his "Histories", Tacitus tells us what was known of the history of Palestine and of the Jews circa 70 AD. It is available online at

Some excerpts:
Some say that the Jews were fugitives from the island of Crete, who settled on the nearest coast of Africa about the time when Saturn was driven from his throne by the power of Jupiter. Evidence of this is sought in the name. There is a famous mountain in Crete called Ida; the neighbouring tribe, the Idaei, came to be called Judaei by a barbarous lengthening of the national name. Others assert that in the reign of Isis the overflowing population of Egypt, led by Hierosolymus and Judas, discharged itself into the neighbouring countries. Many, again, say that they were a race of Ethiopian origin, who in the time of king Cepheus were driven by fear and hatred of their neighbours to seek a new dwelling-place. Others describe them as an Assyrian horde who, not having sufficient territory, took possession of part of Egypt, and founded cities of their own in what is called the Hebrew country, lying on the borders of Syria. Others, again, assign a very distinguished origin to the Jews, alleging that they were the Solymi, a nation celebrated in the poems of Homer, who called the city which they founded Hierosolyma after their own name.
Most writers, however, agree in stating that once a disease, which horribly disfigured the body, broke out over Egypt; that king Bocchoris, seeking a remedy, consulted the oracle of Hammon, and was bidden to cleanse his realm, and to convey into some foreign land this race detested by the gods. The people, who had been collected after diligent search, finding themselves left in a desert, sat for the most part in a stupor of grief, till one of the exiles, Moyses by name, warned them not to look for any relief from God or man, forsaken as they were of both, but to trust to themselves, taking for their heaven-sent leader that man who should first help them to be quit of their present misery. They agreed, and in utter ignorance began to advance at random. Nothing, however, distressed them so much as the scarcity of water, and they had sunk ready to perish in all directions over the plain, when a herd of wild asses was seen to retire from their pasture to a rock shaded by trees. Moyses followed them, and, guided by the appearance of a grassy spot, discovered an abundant spring of water. This furnished relief. After a continuous journey for six days, on the seventh they possessed themselves of a country, from which they expelled the inhabitants, and in which they founded a city and a temple.
While the East was under the sway of the Assyrians, the Medes, and the Persians, Jews were the most contemptible of the subject tribes. When the Macedonians became supreme, King Antiochus strove to destroy the national superstition, and to introduce Greek civilization, but was prevented by his war with the Parthians from at all improving this vilest of nations; for at this time the revolt of Arsaces had taken place. The Macedonian power was now weak, while the Parthian had not yet reached its full strength, and, as the Romans were still far off, the Jews chose kings for themselves. Expelled by the fickle populace, and regaining their throne by force of arms, these princes, while they ventured on the wholesale banishment of their subjects, on the destruction of cities, on the murder of brothers, wives, and parents, and the other usual atrocities of despots, fostered the national superstition by appropriating the dignity of the priesthood as the support of their political power.

Cneius Pompeius was the first of our countrymen to subdue the Jews

Don Williams - 11/30/2006

Have any of you people ever been near a University??

1) Real history is not myths made up by people engaged in a limpwristed version of a drunken bar fight. Real history looks at the facts -- at the historical record , at original primary documents. If, God help us, any of you are actually academics, you are a disgrace to your institution.

2) You want to know the basis for the creation of Israel? It fucking simple -- Britain was close to losing WWI to Germany and so cut a deal with "world Jewry" before the Germans could. And to hell with the human rights of the inhabitants of Palestine. Why do you think the Balfour Declaration is addressed to a member of the richest banking family in Europe --Lord Rothschild? Who the hell do you think financed Woodrow Wilson's Presidential campaign and had influence over whether how far he would support Britain?

3) Lloyd George clearly explained the maneuvers behind the Balfour Declaration in his "Memoirs of the Peace Conference". Assuming you ranting chimps can read, it's available online here:

Note: I've checked the first several pages of the above copy against the actual book (Vol II, page 792?) and it's faithful. Note that some parenthetical comments --clearly marked --have been inserted by the site owner.

4) Note that some of Britain's most prominent Jews --e.g., Lord Montagu --OPPOSED the creation of Israel because they feared the specter of dual loyalty and felt secure in their acceptance as British citizens.

The concerns of those Jews were confirmed by history. Lloyd George's smug recital did not go over well with German veterans of WWI who had endured starvation under the Versailles Treaty --including a veteran and former corporal named Adolph.

5) Contrary to the impression spread by modern day propagandists, Israel was not created in response to the Holocaust. Rather, the Zionist campaign to create Israel helped, in part, to cause the Holocaust.

The situation is more complex, of course. If any of you can actually produce facts with citations, feel free to respond.

Alamgir Hussain - 11/28/2006

Interesting thread. I requst Mr. Omar to have a look at this article to find out the meaning of "No Compulsion verse" (Q 2:256):


Elliott Aron Green - 11/28/2006

Sorry for adding a misleading in post above. It should read:
Zionism did try to obtain sponsorship from major powers...

In fact, when the chips were down, during the Holocaust, the British mandatory power did not help the Jews or help Zionism. The UK govt even went so far as to collaborate or acquiesce in a pogrom against Jews in Baghdad in 1941. See link:
This policy was set by the pro-Arab nationalist Anthony Eden.

Elliott Aron Green - 11/23/2006

Barrie Lambert, your citations of the Churchill White Paper of 1922 and the 1939 White Paper demonstrate that British imperialism was anti-Zionist and did not side with Zionism, with Jewish settlement in the country. In fact, the 1939 White Paper, which severely restricted Jewish immigration into Israel --precisely during the Holocaust-- can be said to demonstrate that Britain was a silent partner in the Holocaust, preventing Jews from taking refuge in the internationally designated Jewish National Home.

Next, Lambert mentions the 1922 & 1939 White Papers. He fails to mention the San Remo Conference [1920] at which the Jewish National Home became part of international law, a decision endorsed by the League of Nations in 1922 when the League issued the Mandate document. Now, I trust that Lambert recognizes that the word "colony" is a problematic term. Perhaps we could say that Jews --even before founding of the Zionist Organization by Herzl-- had set up "colonies" in the Land of Israel. However, colonies in the sense of farming settlements are not colonialism. And colonialism does not apply to Zionism since there was no imperial state that sent out Jewish colonists. In fact, the British authorities in the Jewish National Home tried to hamper and curtail Jewish settlement on the land --in violation of the League's Mandate. Zionism did not try to obtain sponsorship from major powers, as most nationalist movements do. Herzl looked to Germany as well as to Germany's rival Britain. Tsarist Russia, had it survived WWOne, might have been interested in sponsoring the Jewish National Home. Who knows? In any event, the British violated their promises. And the White Papers that Lambert cites are proof of that. It is certain that the Zionists were not interested in making Israel a permanent colony of any Western state nor in glorifying any of those states for its own sake.

Finally, Jerusalem's population. Cesar Famin published his book citing a Jewish majority in Jerusalem in 1853. Marx wrote an article in 1854 [New York Tribune, 4-15-1854] which is almost entirely a paraphrase and quotation from Famin's book. Famin was a French diplomat and historian, as I said before. Another Frenchman, Gerardy Santine, lived in Israel, publishing a book in 1860 in which he wrote that the Jews were "une bonne moitie'" [a good half, that is, more than half] of the Jerusalem population. As early as 1844, the Prussian consul here in Jerusalem, Schulze, wrote that the Jews were a plurality of the population. That is, more than either Christians or Muslims. Without citing all authorities and sources, Yehoshua Ben-Arieh, in Jerusalem in the Nineteenth Century, cites several population estimates and censuses of the late 19th century, leading him to point to Jews being half the population in 1870, steadily becoming a majority after that. In fact, Nu`aman al-Qasatli, an Arab attached to the Palestine Exploration Fund, cited a Jewish majority in 1874. Lambert ought to consult other sources than those he is accustomed to.
Next, his use of the term "palestinian" as a term exclusive applied to Arabs as of 1946 is an anachronism. At that time, the Arabs in the country called themselves Arabs, not palestinians. Indeed, official Arab witnesses testifying before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry in 1946 denied that there was such a place as "palestine" in history, let alone a "palestine people." Lambert can check the proceedings of the Anglo-American Committee. Let's be charitable about Lambert and merely say that he has been misled by his sources.

Barrie Lambert - 11/19/2006

Elliot, why not adopt the first rule of nominalism? If you clearly define your meaning of the term "colony", any alternative meanings will not complicate the discussion, although it may reveal your argument to be a complete nonsense.

Even if you choose not to adopt the first rule of nominalism, you will still find that Balfour clearly and deliberately stated on behalf of HMG that the so-called Balfour declaration is merely a "declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations" (letter to Rothschild, November 2, 1917) and cannot by any stretch of the imagination be regarded as a "mandate" in any way, shape or form.

In 185O, when its population was confined to the old city walls, and in 1878 and 1920, including its expansion beyond the old city walls, Jerusalem was considered to be a mixed town with a predominantly non-Jewish, that is, Arab population. In 1946, for which HMG compiled what are generally regarded to be accurate statistics, the Jerusalem demographic was 62% Palestinian and 38% Jewish. I am not aware of Famin’s work, although I should imagine it is as unreliable as Marx’s in this instance - unless entire Jewish populations were able to emerge and disappear in Jerusalem seemingly at will(or random intervals, perhaps) during the period 1850 to 1946.

“Palestine” refers to the land of the Palestinian or Philistine people and has been in common usage certainly since the Napoleonic Wars. You will also find that the Cabinet Resolution commonly known as the Balfour Resolution, whch predated San Remo by three years, used the term “Palestine” twice without the necessity of further definition.

The construction placed on the Balfour Declaration by you is explicitly denied in the Churchill White Paper of June, 1922, and in the White Paper of May 17, 1939, which clearly states that “His Majesty’s Government believe that the framers of the Mandate in which the Balfour Declaration was embodied could not have intended that Palestine should be converted into a Jewish State against the will of the Arab population of that country”.

There are instances in life when you can argue a case so hard on so little reliable evidence that people will tend to disbelieve anything might also you say on unrelated matters, even when you're right. Transparently re-writing history to suit your whimsical and mischievous impulses does not engender great confidence in the reader.

Elliott Aron Green - 11/19/2006

Well, Richard, mass murder has been going on in the Sudan since 1956, the year Britain gave Sudan independence as a unitary [not federal] state under Arab control. There was very little international concern with southern Sudan in all the years of mass murder there. It was only when mass murder in Sudan spread to Darfur in the West that the BBC began to give attention to genocide in Sudan. Now I indeed do find something very wrong with a world where the alleged crimes of Israel, even if true, pale beside the mass murder perpetrated in Sudan since 1956, yet vastly more attention is paid to Israel's alleged crimes than to the Sudan. See my article below:
As far as the British in Israel, they betrayed their mandate under internatinal law to set up the Jewish National Home. This betrayal started with Allenby before the San Remo Conference, before San Remo applied the name "palestine" to the country which the British called "Occupied Enemy Territory-South" between 1917 and 1920, and which under the Ottoman empire was divided into several administrative regions [vilayets] not related to the final boundaries of the Jewish National Home and having capitals in Damascus and Beirut [although the smaller district, the Sanjaq of Jerusalem, set up after the Crimean War, carved out of the Damascus vilayet, did have its seat in Jerusalem].
The word colony does have several meanings, which complicates the discussion. Bear in mind that Jews have been the majority in Jerusalem since 1853 [see Cesar Famin, French diplomat & historian of the time, as well as Karl Marx in an article in the New York Tribune, 4-15-1854]. The British supported the Arabs despite their commitment --mandate-- in international law to foster development of the Jewish National Home, meant to allow a Jewish Return to Israel, a restoration of the Jewish state. No one spoke of a "palestinian people" before the 1960s, least of all the Arabs. The British excluded Jewish refugees from Israel during the Holocaust and supported the Arabs in 1948, so it would seem that the Arabs were serving colonialist interests.

Elliott Aron Green - 11/19/2006

Omar tells us that al-Aqsa means furthest. Yes, indeed, the word aqsa is cognate with the Hebrew word qes or qets meaning end, and qitsoni meaning extreme. But the meaning of the word is not of the essence here. What is most significant is that the Temple Mount in Jerusalem was not identified as the site of al-Aqsa until the reign of the `Umayyad Caliph `Abd al-Malik [685-705; see Dizionario dell'Islam a cura di Massimo Campanini (Milano 2005)]. Faced with a rival dynasty controlling Mecca and Medina, `Abd al-Malik asserted the holiness to Islam of Jerusalem --already seen as holy in the Jewish & Christian traditions-- which was within his domain. In this vein, he had the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque constructed on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, site of the ruined Israelite/Jewish temples. In other words, he meant to assert his Islamic legitimacy by possessing an Islamic holy place/holy city/ of his own against the rival dynasty in Mecca & Medina [the haramayn]. Now have all Muslims believed in the holy status of Jerusalem? In fact, Ibn Taymiyya --an esteemed Hanbalite Muslim jurist and theologian-- rejected imputing holiness to Jerusalem. Further, the text of the Quranic sura al-Isra'a [= Night Flight, also called Bani Isra'il = Sons of Israel] does not say where this Farthest Mosque was located. Some authorities place the Farthest Mosque in Medina. The Quran nowhere mentions Jerusalem by name, although it is alluded to in the Qur'an in several places.
Indeed, Omar is right to say that what believers believe has its own importance. But real history is important too. I don't believe that Muhammad flew to Jerusalem on a winged steed named al-Buraq [= lightning, cognate to the Hebrew word baraq, the name of one of Israel's less luminous prime ministers]. Nor do I believe that he flew from there to heaven. Actually, when did he have time for this trip when he was so busy fighting so many diverse enemies, the Quraysh, the Bani Qurayza Jewish tribe, raiding the Jewish oasis of Khaybar, etc., so busy looting, having heads chopped off, marrying female captives, etc??

Elliott Aron Green - 11/19/2006

Lambert must have felt cornered by arguments pointing out al-Manar [Hizbullah] TV's Judeophobic TV shows and the fact that al-Manar was banned by France's Conseil Superieur de l'Audiovisuel [or similar name] which governs electronic media in France. So Lambert sought to change the subject. He asked Why the series had an audience. Is the fact of having a credulous audience a sort of defense? I ask. BL goes on to explain that the Judeophobic series broadcast several years ago had an audience because Israel was --he alleges-- unjustly killing Arabs in Gaza in November 2006. Or maybe the events of 11/2006 only confirm Israel's murderous character contrasted with the noble, innocent Hizbullah [& its Syrian & Iranian sponsors], despite Hizbullah's slaughter of ca. 250 American & 55 French troops in 1983 who had been sent to Lebanon to protect the PLO & Arafat [according to statement by a French minister in the National Assembly].

Without going into the threat that Hizbullah represents for Lebanon and its sovereignty and the majority of its people, nor the character of its sponsoring regimes in Syria & Iran, I would like to point out Hizbullah Judeophobia expressed in 1987 [circa 1987]. In the French elections occurring in that year, politicians won office considered less sympathetic to the Arab/Islamic cause than their opponents [I believe socialists, considered more pro-Israel at the time had defeated "right wingers"]. LeFigaro reported the Hizbullah reaction to the elections shortly afterwards. One Hizbullah journal had written, "Le microbe juif est partout" [quoted in LeFigaro], because Jewish voters in France apparently voted socialist. Now, it seems to me that calling Jews microbes expresses Judeophobia. But if Omar I Baker or Barrie Lambert want to deny the Judeophobia of that statement, then I can only view them as obdurate partisans and apologists. Bear in mind, that the statement was made before the first "intifada" which broke out in December 1987. By the way, Hizbullah's sponsor, Ahmadinajad of Iran, cast doubt on the Holocaust. Is Lambert going to take a "we really can't know" position on the Holocaust? The Hizb's other sponsor, the Syrian regime, claims that Jews in Damascus in 1840 really murdered a Catholic priest to use his blood in baking matsohs [the Damascus Affair]. Does Lambert share the official Syrian position on the Damascus Affair or does he take the "we really can't know" stance or does he believe that the Jews in Damascus in 1840 were libelled? By the way, Islamic Judeophobia goes back to early Islam [see Carlo Panella, Il Complotto Ebraico (2005)].

Elliott Aron Green - 11/19/2006

My comment above was intended for Ralph Luker. The exhibit was blatantly partisan in favor of Arab & Muslim narratives.

Elliott Aron Green - 11/19/2006

Barrie Lambert praises what he calls the "high" "evidential quality" of the quranic accounts. Does that mean that he agrees with what the Quran says about divine assignment of the Holy Land to the Jews, about the Jewish return to the Land, etc??? Or does Lambert only find a "high" "evidential quality" in the Qur'an when he disputes N Friedman?
Mr Lambert, in the Qur'an, it all depends on which verse you want to quote, yes, the Quran is full of contradictions!!!

Elliott Aron Green - 11/19/2006

Diana Muir was reporting bias at the Oriental Institute. Her objections to the exhibit were factual. Yet you try to turn things around by accusing her of bias. This is an implicit rejection of the facts. Hence, you are implicitly claiming expertise on the matter that you deny to Ms Muir.

Elliott Aron Green - 11/19/2006

I am actually quite pleased that our dear Habib, Omar I Baker, suggests that the Qur`an is a "higher authority" that cannot be contradicted by subsequent Muslim writings. Baker of course explicitly says only that the Qur`an is a higher authority than Ibn Khaldun --an Arab scholar for whom I have high respect, by the way-- but implicitly Baker's words mean that the Qur`an is the very highest authority for Muslims. Now, that could be helpful for making peace between Arabs and Israel, since the Qur`an says that Allah made a covenant with the Sons of Israel [5:12], that Allah assigned the Holy Land to the Jews [5:20-22, verse numbers vary in some editions], that Allah settled the Jews in a "blessed abode" [some translations differ], that the Jews will return to their Land [17:104; here echoing the Biblical book of Zechariah]. Now, if the Qur`an is the supreme authority for Muslims, then why don't they see resurgent Israel as fulfilling quranic prophecy? Why don't they make peace with Israel according to the Qur`an, which Comrade Baker implies is their highest authority? If they really believe in those verses of the Qur'an, why we could have a very nifty peace. And if the Muslims don't accept the verses that I mentioned, then why should we believe that "there is no compulsion in religion," according to Islam?

Elliott Aron Green - 11/14/2006

I would add to this the periods of armed independence in the war of 68 CE to 73 CE that you mention, as well as the period of the Bar Kokhba uprising from 131 to 135 CE. At this time [135], Emperor Hadrian renamed the Provincia Iudaea the Provincia Syria-Palaestina. The name change was an act of imperialist oppression of the Jews. It was meant, inter alia, to suppress Jewish nationality in the Land of Israel, which Rome had previously called Judea [IVDAEA], not to be confused with the southern part of the country which is sometimes called Judea in the New Testament. See my article at:
The Romans excluded Jews from living in the zone around Jerusalem, renamed and reconstituted as the Colonia Aelia Capitolina, which was colonized by other peoples, including Syrians and Arabs [see Avi-Yonah, based on the Church Fathers]. The Romans eventually relaxed enforcement of the prohibition on Jews living in the polis/colonia of Aelia Capitolina. In view of the gross ignorance expressed by the Lambert person above [who also demonstrates that the most ignorant about a historical subject are not thereby deterred from being highly vituperative], it needs to be stated that Jews continued to live in other parts of the Land of Israel [the former Province of Judea now called Palaestina]. The Jewish population was especially dense in the Galilee and Golan Heights, with many Jews living in Lod [Lydda], Eyn Gedi, the Hebron region, Transjordan, etc.

Under Arab/Muslim rule, the oppressive measures instituted for the dhimmi [non-Muslim] population --such as the jizya and kharaj taxes, plus humiliations, restrictions and persecutions of many sorts-- led many Jews to emigrate, some going as far as northern Europe. Yet, the Jews were a major part of the population of the Land until the Crusader massacres after 1099 CE. As to geographical names and divisions under Arab-Muslim rule, Israel was included in the Arab geographical concept of al-Sham or bilad ash-Sham [= Syria or Greater Syria]. The name "Filastin" was used only for a section of Palaestina that had been called by Rome/Byzantium [= East Rome] "Palaestina Prima" [the south of the country, excluding the Galilee, northern Samaria, etc.]. After the Crusades, the term Filastin was NOT used by the Muslim rulers of the Land, neither the Mamluk empire [its capital Cairo], nor the succeeding Ottoman Empire [its capital Constantinople, today renamed Istanbul]. Despite the Crusader massacres and Muslim oppression and exploitation [see books by Bat Yeor and Norman Stillman, inter alia], there have always been Jews living in the country, coping as best they could with the difficult social-political conditions of dhimmi existence in a Muslim state. The name "Palestine" was not officially given to the country as a whole until 1920 at the San Remo Conference.

It was kind of B Lambert to call the Jews of Israel only "Judeo-fascists." The Arab nationalist movement generally and the Palestinian Arab leadership in particular were pro-Nazi. The chief leader of the Palestinian Arabs, the British-appointed mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini, lived in Berlin during WW2, taking part in the Holocaust, encouraging Muslim support for the Nazis [as in Bosnia and Kossovo], etc. Before and after the British left Israel in May 1948, they were supporting the Arab war effort, even sending British tanks and fighter aircraft to fight the Jews. B Lambert does need to do a lot of historical study before expressing such foul vituperation.

N. Friedman - 11/14/2006

Again, Mr. Lambert,

What country were the Jews who settled in Israel a colony of? And, note the example, it refers to colonies of European countries. That is something very different from what you claim.

I might add: what if Israel was a colony of some European state? So what? Is that bad? How is that different than Mexico's relationship to Spain?

It strikes me that you use language selectively.

E. Simon - 11/14/2006

What on earth is your point? And what on earth does it have to do with your disinterest in acknowledging the difference between the words "all" and "many?" Or with your penchant for using this term particularism as a negative way to dismiss that distinction earlier only to immediately turn around and link to a page from Brandeis with a less negative interpretation of your term? Does Brandeis also demonize Zionists as you do? Must your wariness of circuity get conflated with something so basic as intellectual integrity?

Do try to say something meaningful, assuming you are capable of doing so, Mr. Lambert. Those who stick around here actually care to be understood, regardless of your deriding that as just a "need for self expression." And your incoherent play on the racism card you deal in is a bit tiresome and transparent. Perhaps you could stand a visit to your former colony, the U.S., where true multiculturalism has already gone through the kinds of growing pains in reconciling itself with civic values in such a way that you Brits don't seem to have gotten a handle on just yet.

Barrie Lambert - 11/14/2006

You obviously don't have a clue what you are talking about. So much need for self expression, and so much prejudice to express, yet such limited information with which to express yourself. Better look on the bright side though, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one who demotivates you or deflects you from your chosen path in life. And who knows? Maybe racism and ignorance will always be enough to enable you to get by in life . Still, you might consider some of the points made by Will Fitzhugh in his article, “Is it Wrong to Ask Students to Write Term Papers?” ( It may well provide you with adequate grounds to seek financial compensation from your unfortunate teachers.

However, if you may ever wish to understand what others mean by the term ”Jewish particularism”, why not see if you are able to tap reality on the shoulder for once by taking advantage of this offer:

E. Simon - 11/14/2006

Yes, Venn diagrams and the definitions of and distinctions between the words "many" and "all" are the products of Jewish "particularism," because only someone with crazed "Jewish" ideas or ways of thinking, taking hold over their heads, would bother to make such apparently trivial distinctions.

Once again, readers are invited to draw their own conclusions regarding this individual, who, failing a credible defense of anything morally or intellectually redeeming in his own contributions to these threads, derides arguments he doesn't like as displays of "Jewish particularism." He keeps interesting company in that department, when it comes to the history of rejecting an idea or argument on the basis of it being tainted with some specifically - if inexplicably - insidious strain of Jewish thought. Insights of this nature into the "Jewish" mind have an illustrious if not so illuminating history furthered by many interesting individuals and movments with which this scoundrel Mr. Lambert apparently wishes to keep intellectual company. Let's wish him good luck in this. He will need it.

Barrie Lambert - 11/14/2006

Jewish particularism rearing its head again, I see: truly an argument turning in circles.

Maybe you should build on this and create a new faction of crazed Zionists called the Ultra Piffleists. You'll probably be offered a seat in Olmert's cabinet because you seem to have all the necessary moral and intellectual qualities for membership.

If you like, I'll be happy to write you a letter of recommendation.

E. Simon - 11/14/2006

"Many" does not = "All"

Richard Bartholomew - 11/13/2006

I see: "you must not not talk about Israel, you must talk about Darfur or 1840s US expansion instead. And if you don't agree with me, you hate Jews."

I don't think that requires any further comment from me.

Barrie Lambert - 11/13/2006

As your dictionary says: "2. the country or district settled or colonized: Many Western nations are former European colonies."

Just like Israel, in fact.

N. Friedman - 11/13/2006

My dictionary is a dictionary of the English language, not some political tract.

1. a group of people who leave their native country to form in a new land a settlement subject to, or connected with, the parent nation.
2. the country or district settled or colonized: Many Western nations are former European colonies.
3. any people or territory separated from but subject to a ruling power.

(Emphasis added).

Our conversation is in English, not in politicalese. In English, Jews were not colonists and they did not form colonies.

E. Simon - 11/13/2006

Certainly your comment here on whose message it is more important to sympathetically receive, Mr. Lambert, comes free of any burdensome judgments on the practical, political or moral and ethical implications and intellectual underpinnings of those messages. How nice. With 25% of Britain's young Muslims now condoning murder-suicide attacks, perhaps you can show us the proper way to "receive" that sort of a message in such a way that advances your salvational understanding of it, so that useful things can be done about it, without offending the barbarity of those sentiments you undoubtedly - if not wistfully - hope to transcend, rather than to just merely accomodate and relate to. That you never bother to ask what it is that your fresh approach has to offer to them, that others haven't, says more about you then it does about them and what they want.

It's okay to be a utilitarian, just be honest about whose and what sort of agenda your utilitarianism is serving. If you can. If you can transcend your own perpetual need for understanding as salvation first.

E. Simon - 11/13/2006

I'm glad to know you were unable to take any issue with the substance of what I said, and instead had to resort to concluding that your hurt feelings preclude you from offering further comment.

Yehudi Amitz - 11/13/2006

The main reason for the death of Palestinians is Muslim violence against them (and some Arab Christian too). Arabs killed about 10 times more Palestinians then the Israelis killed in self defense. Darfur is Muslim on Muslim killing at genocidal level but your sick hateful mind prefers to blame the Jews.
I am a wealthy Jew and I can help you buy new spectacles but I am not sure that it will help you because you need "spectacles for understanding history articles" and I don't know the store for this kind of merchandise. Probably the only store for understanding history is education and I am pretty sure you wouldn't accept the re-education of your brainwashed anti-Jewish hate.

Barrie Lambert - 11/13/2006

"Piffle" is an accomodation one makes for the sake of good manners.

Sadly, I must judge your contribution as overheated piffle squared.

Barrie Lambert - 11/13/2006

Some practical and methodlogically sound history for Messrs Friedman and Simon.

This is a definition of the word “colony” (defined in terms of its then contemporary, everyday and commonsense usage) taken from the aptly titled, “The New Imperial Reference Dictionary” published by George Newnes Limited, London, date unknown but purchased at Xmas in 1956, the Year of Our Suez:

“a name vaguely applied to a state’s dependencies overseas or abroad (distinguished from a dominion) : (Rom. hist.) a military settlement planted in subject territory ; (Greek hist.) a band of emigrants or their new home connected with the mother city by no political tie; a body of seperate persons settled in a foreign country or forming a seperate group in any way (as by common occupation), or organised for purposes of support, labour, treatment, etc ; the settlement so formed : the place they inhabit : (biol.) a number of organisms, esp. of one kind, living together as a community : a coenobium”

No spin, no apologetics, no post-modern definitional gymnastics, and certainly no special pleading, just a sensible and appropriate definition of an workaday word used in a very practical world in which colonies, in their various forms, were everyday political phenomena .

Oh, and the recognition of guilt is very different from displacing it, and my comments on the growing problem of anti-semitism are certainly not the result of easy persuasion on my part. Reception theory tells us that it is not the message understood by the transmitter which is signficant, but the message understood by its recipient. Ask Bush.

E. Simon - 11/13/2006

Yet his reasoning for it - (Jews are different by their own definition and therefore invite their being scapegoated/hated) - is a very telling statement.

N. Friedman - 11/13/2006

Mr. Simon,

I did not notice your point. I merely noticed that he was as Anti-Israel as Omar.

E. Simon - 11/13/2006

"Well, I wouldn't accept "political ambitions" that end up subjugating me, and I don't expect the Palestinians to either, but this accusation is completely baseless."

Then why do you conflate the two? There were (and are) plenty of options available to the Palestinians that would have accomodated quite legitimate political ambitions of the Jews that would have had nothing to do with subjugating. The fact that they viewed and view all as a win-lose proposition means that /their/ political ambitions were the only ones where subjugation of one or the other were inextricably linked.

E. Simon - 11/13/2006

Yes, and the British sure tried their damnedest to make sure to settle as many Jews (sorry, "colonists") into the Palestine Mandate as they could. For that is what colonists do. They do not restrict immigration with... oh well, whatever.

Lambert's attempt to displace British guilt over [how they handled the mandate, what became of the Middle East generally after their broader involvement regionally] by blaming Jewish or Israeli actions for anti-semitism is a pretty transparent and facile one, and one that I suspect is more common in the former seat of the Empire than I think many would care to point out. But the pathetic "prove my electronic conspiracy theory of anti-semitism wrong" bit is the lamest duck to quack on either side of the pond. Pretty elaborate, though. Hope it does the job on the competition of ridding one's self of shameful hold-over feelings of guilt that he's incidentally not winning - (at least outside of his own mind, that is).

E. Simon - 11/13/2006

methodological mania on his part, that is, he being the appellant to such things, of course.

E. Simon - 11/13/2006

But you overlooked Lambert's piece de resistance, Mr. Friedman. Apparently now particularism of one's own group is just a way to attract enough attention to allow for that group's being scapegoated by others. That is the oh so subtly sly and slippery premise this pedant now peddles. Wonder what methodological mania let that flimsy one slip?

E. Simon - 11/13/2006

What's your supposedly apolitical methodology for "mak(ing the world) better?" Or do normitive sentiments somehow uniquely (and oddly) define your "methodological" "concerns," your research methods and goals?

It's interesting that someone who thinks that hatred and the feeding of it is more deserving of understanding than condemnation, would place himself in the position you seem to with this stance. It seems you confuse your study subject with your object of sympathy, and I don't suppose it's difficult for you to get lost in the swirling vortex intertwining those otherwise separate matters, or to attack the arguments of others who point this out by calling them circular, by virtue of your inability to poke your head above water and see the undertow you made and got lost in.

Understanding and irrationally over-sympathizing are, actually, two different things, Mr. Lambert. And "piffle" sounds more like bluster than a methodological appeal to argument.

N. Friedman - 11/12/2006


You write: I've got nothing against Jews seeking refuge in Israel or anywhere else, but who exactly are all those right-wing New Yorkers currently strutting about the West Bank with guns seeking "refuge" from?

You mix apples with oranges. I wrote about Jews migrating to the land that became Israel. You now post about Jews settling in land ruled by Israel. I do not call such people refugees. I call them Israelis - people who moved to Israel for whatever reason.

Now, such people are hardly all from New York or even the US. Many are but many is not all. Most people live in suburbs of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and few of them are anything but ordinary Israelis - children of those who originally moved to the region or the children of Jews ethnically cleansed during Israel's war of Independence.

Whether or not they are all in their right minds is another matter. In that Israel does not intend to return 100% of the land captured in the 1967 war - that is a fact, not a declaration of support or non-support of that policy -, such people are following government policy when they move to villages along Israel's border.

Now, the people you more than likely have in mind are people who settled in Hebron. In that Hebron was home to a large community from time immemorial, I am not quite sure that the reconstitution of the population of that town - after it was attacked in the 1920's -, constitutes colonialization. By that reckoning, the effort by Palestinian Arabs to have the children of refugees move to Israel would amount to colonialization.

Now, if you want to call the policy stupid or foolish, that is another story. I likely would agree with it, at least for those villages that Israel will not return, even as part of a peace treaty. However, it is not colonization.

Richard Bartholomew - 11/12/2006

talking about Darfur, for example, would be a "crime".

No, but unless you can tie it into this particular thread about ancient history and modern Israel it would be an irrelevance.

yours is a Jew hating classic...

Don't embarrass yourself, and don't diminish the suffering of those who have faced real anti-Semitism.

N. Friedman - 11/12/2006

Mr. Lambert,

Your comments do not address my points. Look up the definition of colony. What country did Jews represent? What you write, rather than address my point, is that Jews employed the existing techniques for migrating in an orderly fashion. That is quite a different thing from saying they represented another country, which is the element which would allow for the word "colonial" to be applicable.

Richard Bartholomew - 11/12/2006

I've got nothing against Jews seeking refuge in Israel or anywhere else, but who exactly are all those right-wing New Yorkers currently strutting about the West Bank with guns seeking "refuge" from?

I agree that Israel as colonial is somewhat different from (say) Rhodesia as colonial, but I think we can draw some parallels concerning imperial contexts and more recent world geo-political concerns. That's rather different from ancient Arab conquests and migrations.

On your way of looking at things, those who escape oppression have no right to organize politically and have no right to have political ambitions to begin with.

Well, I wouldn't accept "political ambitions" that end up subjugating me, and I don't expect the Palestinians to either, but this accusation is completely baseless.

Barrie Lambert - 11/12/2006

Oh right. I see.... Even though it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is really a......... mmm...: Let’s try one document and see what it throws up, shall we?

“Herzl convened six Zionist Congresses between 1897 and 1902. The Congresses created the instruments of Zionist action for implementing the settlement plan, including The Jewish Colonial Trust, the Jewish National Fund and the movement's newspaper Die Welt.” Ami Isseroff, Preface to Theodor Herzl , Der Judenstaat,1896, translated by Sylvie D'Avigdor
(MidEastWeb PDF Edition

“The Jewish Company is partly modeled on the lines of a great land-acquisition company. It might be called a Jewish Chartered Company, though it cannot exercise sovereign power, and has other than purely colonial tasks.” Theodor Herzl , Der Judenstaat, 1896,translated by Sylvie D'Avigdor
(MidEastWeb PDF Edition

And I would have thought that in exercising the Mandate in Palestine, the British State acted as a typical European colonial power in blindly fulfilling the implied obligations contained in the Balfour Declaration to the benefit of the Jewish colonists, and to the detriment of the Palestinians. My own father, who served in Palestine during the early years of the Second war, confirmed this view, as did his brother, and other survivors of the African Campaign with whom he was aquainted, who, kindly, shared their views with me at his funeral three decades ago.

Having said that, I have my suspcions. Both Yehudi and the somewhat ambiguously named Mr Friedman, seem to be writing the sort of emails which can only be designed to elicit the worst of all anti-semitic responses from many of their hapless readers. They strike me as carcatures of over hysterical and fanatical pro-Israeli Zionists bubbling over with anti-Arabi feeling which are barely under control. Betcha you're blue eyed, blond haired third generation anti-semitic SS clones intent on making dislike of Jews socially acceptable through, not just the whole of the Arab world and the USA, but Europe and China, and everywhere the is an academic industry, a computer and access to HNN. Hope I'm wrong, but that seems to be an effect you intend, and the effect you're having.

Barrie Lambert - 11/12/2006

No. Just piffle, and now even more piffle, not least because you seem incapable of recognising that my concerns are primarily methodological. Develop your methodological skills and you can ease back on the irrevelent abuse, the bluster and blether of of arguments which usually go nowhere or, if by some mischance they do, it's more likely than not to be circular.

Yehudi Amitz - 11/12/2006

Talking about rhetorical devices, yours is a Jew hating classic: the subject is Jews, we don't discuss anything else, even if it's as bad or worse. Even if the subject is "Muslim propaganda" we should limit ourselves to Jews, talking about Darfur, for example, would be a "crime".

N. Friedman - 11/12/2006


I think Mr. Amitz has in mind, if you want to go back to the Biblical period, to the book of Esther - Haman and all. The interpretation given to that story (which had Jews play the role of scapegoat due to being a people within but apart from others) has had a rather large influence on the Jewish understanding of living apart but in other nations.

The treatment of Jews in ancient times is a different matter. There were, for a good time, Jewish armies and kings. And, the issue for Jews was being monotheistic in a polytheistic world. That led to differences but not to blind and irrational hatred.

The rise of Christianity (also, to a lesser extent, Islam) was the determining factor in creating irrational hatred of Jews, until, later, the rise of the nation state altered the focus (but, for many, also combined with religious hatred). In such schema, Jews often played the role of scapegoat. And now, in very contemporary times, new factors have emerged. Now, the issue of transnational states (e.g. the EU and, before that, the Nazi state) and proposed imperial transnational states (e.g. the pan-Arab and, now, the Islamist state) have created blind, irrational hatred of Jews with them also playing, once again, the role of scapegoat.

You, no doubt, see the matter differently. Such is life.

N. Friedman - 11/12/2006

Mr. Lambert,

I make no enemies, at least not on purpose. I certainly have said nothing racist. However, criticism is appropriate comment. And your comment suggested you need to read more carefully.

N. Friedman - 11/12/2006


You write: "... placing Israel in the context of other instances of colonial-settler states and expansions is actually quite a fruitful idea."

Israel is a state. It was settled by refugees and persons escaping oppression and discrimination - both from Europe and the Arab regions. Israel could not be a colonial state because the refugees represented their own interests, not the interests of a foreign state.

Refuges and persons escaping oppression and discrimination migrate to where they can find refuge. Such is a basic moral right and it is nothing akin to the loaded language that surrounds the accusations about settler-colonialist states.

However, you might consider that on your implicit definition, every state on Earth is a settler-colonial state. And, that applies doubly to the Arab states - other than in Mecca, which all came to be by means of Jihad and its corollary, Fatah (i.e. opening, as in conquest and settlement).

On your way of looking at things, those who escape oppression have no right to organize politically and have no right to have political ambitions to begin with.

Barrie Lambert - 11/12/2006

Hi Yehudi

I was making a broader point about the relationship between mythology (as opposed to theology) and historical interpretation - although I must admit any yearning for biblical knowledge were fatally undermined long ago when I realised that there were two distinctly different versions of Eve's creation in Genesis 1 and 2. Still, it was the King James version so my time wasn't entirely lost.

However, you say, "what I meant about the about 2000 years of killing Jews was killing the Jews as scapegoats" (sic). My guess is that the 2000 years you refer to are CE and not BCE. If I'm right, this implies a very particular view of history (which in turn implies that you refer to CE), and your statement begs a number of questions. Being pedantic, the one which I find most interesting concerns your use of the term "scapegoats" - that is, as substitutes for others. Doesn't that, in itself, fatally undermine your general argument of Jewish particularism? History or hyperbole? You choose.

Richard Bartholomew - 11/12/2006

I agree that all "land grabs" should be explored and critiqued fully, and placing Israel in the context of other instances of colonial-settler states and expansions is actually quite a fruitful idea.

I suspect, though, that you mean something else: namely, that it is unfair (and anti-Semitic, I suppose?) to criticise Israel's history with the Palestinians when there are so many other depressing situations in the world both today and in the past. That's a rather tiresome rhetorical device which doesn't add anything to the discussion at hand.

art eckstein - 11/12/2006

Once more, Mr. Friedman hits the nail on the head.

A museum must above all be factual. Any exhibit can have a particular perspective, but a museum exhibit cannot be based on a manifest historical falsehood.

This exhibit in Chicago is. The specific issue for me remains the differential treatment of Christianity and Islam, where the plaque discusses Christian BELIEF about Jesus but states as a historical FACT that Mohammed visited Jerusalem (totally improbable) and even implies as a fact that he ascended to heaven from there (!).
Where is the statement on that plaque that this is simply Muslim belief?

The treatment of highly improbable Islamic pieties as historical truths would be bad enough for a museum attached to a university-- unacceptable in itself. But here you have a case where the museum combined this kid-gloved treatment of Islamic beliefs with a treatment of Christian beliefs as mere pieties held by some believers. The combination is a grotesque and unscholarly double standard.

Nor is the Oriental Institute alone in this double standard. The BBC does the same thing on its website, as Mr. Friedman has pointed out. But the Oriental Institute is part of a university, which makes their conduct even more of a betrayal of scholarly standards.

Yehudi Amitz - 11/12/2006

Does "manifest destiny" policy of the 1840s qualify as "recent history"? If we are principled people, shouldn't we take in consideration all the "recent" land garbs and not limit ourselves to blaming the Jews for trying to survive?

Yehudi Amitz - 11/12/2006

A short Bible lesson from an atheist (I suggest you to change your Bible school).
The history of the Jews, as described in the Bible, begins with the patriarch Abraham. Cain and Able were not Jews yet.
After Abraham there is a lot of violence and killing in the Bible, perpetrated by Jews and against the Jews, but what I meant about the about 2000 years of killing Jews was killing the Jews as scapegoats.

Barrie Lambert - 11/12/2006

Mr Friedman, you are much too modest. I rather suspect that you and and Mr Amitz are amongst the Palestinians worst enemies - which is presumably why you both continue to contribute so much sub-Rosenberg racist chop logic nonsense to this site.

N. Friedman - 11/12/2006

Mr. Lambert,

If you had carefully read Ms. Muir's post and the various comments on the topic - most particularly Omar's (e.g. )-, you might better understand Mr. Amitz's point.

Omar says, referring to his earlier statement that "'Al Aksa' means 'furthest'": "Muir should know that 1.2-1.5 billion Moslems unreservedly believe in it; and that is what really matters."

By contrast, Mr. Amitz says: "Al Aksa has religious and political meanings which may get lost in some translations." And, by that, Mr. Amitz has in mind that Palestinian Arabs are their own worst enemies. They are moving far, further and furthest from their goal, never ceasing to miss an opportunity - except the opportunity to behave like barbarians.

Which is to say, I understood him rather well.

N. Friedman - 11/12/2006

Mr. Bartholomew,

Yours is a very interesting post with which I agree more than I disagree.

On the other hand, I think you conflate two very different sorts of forms of criticism into one.

You are certainly correct that Ms. Muir's criticism of the museum is not pure happenstance. She has her reasons for her article. So, when you note that she has an agenda, you certainly are correct. At the same time, what she has written is factual. Which is to say, she has written an article that takes a position and is supported by actual facts.

Likewise, when you note that the museum has an agenda, you are also correct. But, the issue with the museum is not simply that it has an agenda. Obviously, any exhibit presents a perspective.

The issue, instead, with the museum is whether it has maintained fidelity to truth. Ms. Muir's contention is that the museum has not done that. And, I gather you agree with that point.

Failing to maintain fidelity to truth is a much different and much more problematic thing than having an agenda. After all, every writer or exhibitor has an agenda, basically by the fact that some editorial judgment and selection is involved.

So, it is not correct or fair to lump very different sorts of criticism together as if they were a a mirror image of each other. They are not.

Barrie Lambert - 11/12/2006

Yehudi, you are too modest about your people's history of being killed because I've been told it goes back a lot further than 2000 years. What about those Cain and Able chappies, for instance? Didn't they set the
whole thing off in motion? Or Samson, a model psychopathic suicide bomber well before his time, and using only the most environmentally friendly locally sourced materials too? So, believe me, you have even more reasons to be paranoid than you originally thought.

Or perhaps I'm being terribly obtuse. Is your post an ironic attempt to show what alarming things can happen when we attempt to displace and detach anything approaching "objective" truth from historical discourse - truth being crudely defined as the sum of n subjectivities divided by n, in this instance? Good joke, probably, but I can't quite grasp the point. Maybe it's the way you tell them that needs a little more work. I agree with you, a lot can get lost in translation.

E. Simon - 11/12/2006

My conclusion, from Lambert's statement here, is that he believes historical inquiry should in the service of the same kind of politicization that he derisively perceives in others, but only so long as the cause of that politicization is one of which he approves.

He is therefore either a hypocrite or an elitist, and is therefore not very worthy of continuing in such a discussion - at least not with the expectation of gaining any honest insights or answers.

Richard Bartholomew - 11/11/2006

Since one of the strongest arguments that can be made by a national liberation movement is that the group claiming a right to sovereignty has a history of sovereignty...
Why? A more relevant argument for sovereignty should be that a majority of a particular group want it now, and that it can be achieved without harming other groups.

Downplaying past Jewish kingdoms for political reasons today is deplorable and philistine, but rights and wrongs of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians are to be assessed by studying recent history, not by constantly harking back to the events of thousands of years ago, whether well-established or contested. Clearly, someone at the Oriental Institute is too dense to understand that, but it looks as though Muir wants to use history for her own political purposes.

art eckstein - 11/11/2006

In September 2006 kidnapped reporters Steven Centanni and Olaf Wiig were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint by their Palestinian kidnappors and captors. No mullahs or religious leaders condemned their captors for doing this.

In September as well, American al-Qaeda operative Adam Gadahn issued a widely-broadcast "convert-to-Islam-or-die" message directed specifically to George Bush (as well as Michael Shuerer, Daniel Pipes, Steve Emerson and Robert Spenser, all of whom have written books on jihad as primarily violent conquest) No mullahs or major Muslim religious leaders condemned this "invitation to Islam" either.

Omar needs to explain why this is so. He needs to explain why there was no condemnation of these famous or infamous events if Ibn Khaldun is really out of the mainstream or is being mistranslated, as he implies (neither, of course, is actually the case). Frankly, it does no good to point smugly to "There is no compulsion in religion" (2:256) and a hypothetical non-existant tolerant Islam when what the West confronts is really-existing Islam in all its violence and intolerance, a violence and intolerance based on the hadiths, the jurists and a sense of superiority, all of which are very widely accepted. The post-Koranic literature is vast in its hostility to religious freedom (Here I am quoting the Turkish Muslim author Mustafa Akyol.). Why else do Muslims demand the right to build a huge mosques in Rome while they FORBID the building of churches in Mecca? If there is no compulsion in religion, why is apostasy from Islam punishable by death in half a dozen Muslim countries?

If all this intolerance of religious freedom is a great "mistake" and "un-Koranic", then one must STILL explain WHAT within the Muslim tradition has led to this huge, tragic and widespread "mistake" about religious freedom.

In connection with this distinction between hypothetical Islam and really-existing Islam, some readers may remember that Omar proclaimed a couple of weeks ago that Shiek Taj al-Halily, the "deranged cleric" (HIS term)--remember women as "uncovered meat"-- who is the Mufti of Australia, was going to step down as Mufti. Even if that were true, one would STILL have to ask how a "deranged cleric" (Omar's term) ended up as "spiritual head" of Australia's 300,000 Muslims in the first place! But on any case, it turns out that al-Hilaly is NOT stepping down as Mufti:

From THE WEST (Australia)
4th November 2006

Muslims’ first loyalty should be to God, not Australian society, Sheikh Taj el-Din al-Hilaly told worshippers at Lakemba Mosque yesterday in a defiant speech in which he firmly reasserted his place as the leader of “moderate” Australian Islam. [by the way, Omar, if this misogynist "deranged cleric"--your term for him--is a Muslim "moderate", what do you suppose the "extremists" are like? AE]

[ Also, Omar, do you remember that this guy proclaimed he wasn't going to preach for two or three months because of the disgrace of the women as "uncovered meat" remark? I guess that was a lie. AE]

Sheikh al-Hilaly called for nominations to replace him but said he would only step down if a better person could be found and he was found by a legal inquiry to have endorsed the rape of immodest women.

[In other words, he is not stepping down--AE]

N. Friedman - 11/11/2006


I do not work for you. You do not answer my questions so why should I answer any of yours? As the saying goes, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Capice?

Yehudi Amitz - 11/11/2006

"Al Aksa" translation into English is "furthest". As I see it, it is the symbol of the famous Abba Eban quote "The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity". Through violence, corruption, incompetence the Palestinians go further away from the goal of having a state. I've read that the number of Palestinians leaving for other countries is on the rise. Time doesn't work for the Palestinians. Israel is less inclined now to offer work to the Palestinians and normally they have to look for work in other places "far", "further", "furthest" away.
Omar Ibrahim No Bagel Baker and his toadies, here, are very eager to to see lots of Jews killed but I have news for
for you, my "friends", we the Jews have a 2000 years experience with being killed and I believe we learned our lesson that only being able to strongly defend ourselves can limit the killings.
Al Aksa has religious and political meanings which may get lost in some translations.

N. Friedman - 11/11/2006


As I see it, you are quoting the Koran selectively. Having already demonstrated that the Koran has contradictory statements regarding the treatment of non-believers, you simply cannot rest your case on the Koran.

Why should I take your assertions seriously? Do you seriously claim you know more than Ibn Khaldun, who is world famous? What are your credentials?

N. Friedman - 11/11/2006

Mr. Lambert,

Saying something is nonsense - complete, utter or otherwise - does not make it nonsense.

If you can establish your position, fine. Otherwise, you have no business calling my views nonsense.

Barrie Lambert - 11/10/2006


Barrie Lambert - 11/10/2006

Complete and utter nonsense. No, I correct myself: deliberately mischievous nonsense.

N. Friedman - 11/10/2006

Mr. Lambert,

Yes, a museum may do what it likes. However, the museum, in this instance, appears to have created what the public would have thought to be an historical exhibit rather than the sort of exhibit that advances the views of a particular religion. So, in a sense, a type of fraud was perpetrated on the public, which presumably would have visited the museum to learn something historical, not something theological masquerading as historical.

Asserting something as historical that is simply not diminishes the museum unless the goal of the museum is to present history as it would be understood by a person raised on theological views of history rather than actual historical views.

N. Friedman - 11/10/2006

Mr. Lambert,

I have noted your argument and why it makes no sense.

Barrie Lambert - 11/10/2006

What a silly person!

A. M. Eckstein - 11/10/2006

Readers, draw you own conclusion.

Barrie Lambert - 11/10/2006

What you might ask is why is there an audience for "29 episodes on official Hezbollah TV centered on Jews eating Christian babies"?

Have you checked out the killings in Gaza yesterday? The destruction of the Lebanon, with that inimatable final hello of cluster bombs before the ceasefire? Ever read Cohn's "Pursuit of the Millenium" and tried to interpret the present through the prism it offers you? Try looking at the work of Keith Thomas sometime when you are not busy checking out websites or annoying students. Don't you ever sit down and ask yourself the questions

1 how does the world really work;

2 what's the reason why; and

3 how can I help to make it better, rather than worse?

Special treatment?

Grow up.

art eckstein - 11/10/2006

1. If someone cannot accept obvious evidence of facts, no matter if those facts make that person uncomfortable, then that is important to know when such a person seeks to engage in scholarly conversation. So--do you, Mr. Lambert, accept that 29 episodes on official Hezbollah TV centered on Jews eating Christian babies for Passover constitutes unavoidable evidence of deep Hezbollah anti-semitism or not? Do you accept that outrageous anti-semitic quotations from personal interviews with Hezbollah leaders in an award winning article in one of the U.S. leading magazines constitutes powerful evidence of deep Hezbollah anti-semitism or not? If you do, fine, then we are all on the same intellectual page and can continue a conversation as scholars. If you do not, then people have a right to know to what sort of person they are talking.

2. In any case, it was Omar who first brought up today the "television stuff" as an attack on ME--claiming that I was unscholarly because I didn't accept Hezbollah propaganda in preference to despicable Hezbollah actions. I didn't bring it up the shameful Hezbollah actions of Ramadan 2003, HE did--because after all the argumentation last summer, he STILL doesn't understand what powerful evidence this is! Isn't that important to know, in terms of his general mind-set? I was just explaining to new people such as you what the issue was about and why he was attacking me as a professor who prefered tv to written material.

In any case, all of this is irrelevant to anyone's defense of the Oriental Institute of Chicago's shameful plaque accepting improbable Muslim pieties as historical fact while simultaneously distancing itself from Christian pieties as not historical fact. That differential treatment is the issue. And my point is NOT that the museum should accept Christian pieties as historical fact but that neither religion's pieties have a right to be presented as historical fact, so why were Islamic pieties--improbable as they are-- given special treatment?

That is a very serious question.

N. Friedman - 11/10/2006

Mr. Lambert,

Well, there is no evidence that Marco Polo visited North America. Hence, that is possibility, taking your idea to its logical conclusion.

No. There is evidence for things we know, which does not include a trip by Muhammad to Jerusalem.

And, the Islamic interpretation is an interpretation of Islamic religious text, not historic texts. So, in fact, it is irrelevant.

Barrie Lambert - 11/10/2006

"If on the other hand you do not accept this evidence either, then I certainly have the right to think less of you as a scholar, and to view anything you subsequently say askance." Prof Eckstein, if this isn't personalisation, what the hell is?

Look to yourself, man, look to yourself!

The present is the country we look to the past to understand, and that is the true purpose of historical knowledge, not seeking to bully people who choose to disagree with you - perhaps because your methods are truly disagreeble.

A. M. Eckstein - 11/10/2006

You misunderstand. Omar isn't literally a student of mine. He is an adult with no connection to me, engaging in a political discussion, but he is a person who refuses to accept the strongest possible evidence when it goes against his thesis. I wasn't the only person over the summer who tried and failed to teach him what evidence is.

So the question is: do you, Mr. Lambert, understand and accept that a 29-episode series on Hezbollah televsion in which Jews are depicted as eating Christian babies is very powerful and indeed unavoidable evidence of Hezbollah anti-semitism? Omar does not. If you do, then you must question his reasoning. Do you accept that quotations in an award-winning article in a reputable magazine is good evidence for anti-semitic statements by Hezbollah leaders. Omar does not. If you do, then you must question his reasoning.

If on the other hand you do not accept this evidence either, then I certainly have the right to think less of you as a scholar, and to view anything you subsequently say askance. That would not be not "personalizing discussion" but emphasizing an intellectual fact about an interlocutor in the conversation.

Barrie Lambert - 11/10/2006

It strikes me that your classroom difficulties have little to do with the evidential and methodological issues raised by Muir's piece but much to do with your willingness to personalise arguments. You seem very happy to publicly attack a student who is less willing to interpret quite difficult evidence open to a very wide range of interpretations,many of them uncomfortable, as you do, and in what I would imagine is a very difficult situation for your student. Not very professional, if you really want my opinion.

A competent teacher makes the classroom intellectually and physically safe for students in order that they might best develop their knowledge and understanding of the past. You seem to have failed in this. Brecht once wrote (and this is a rough translation from memory):

Truly, the age we live in is bleak
When a conversation about trees
Is a crime...

You seem to have turned a conversation about history (and the politically charged present!) into a crime for this student, whereas I always assumed that my purpose was to get students to the point where they could use my methods in order to disagree with my conclusions. You must be old enough to know that all truth is partial and provisional, so look at yourself Professor Eckstein and then walk a mile in Omar's shoes. Tight fit?

A. M. Eckstein - 11/10/2006

Mr. Lambert, Omar is referring to the fact that during the summer, when I was trying to teach him what evidence was, he refused to accept as evidence of Hezbollah anti-semitism the fact that Hezbollah official television put on a 29-episode television series during Ramadan 2003 that depicted Jews eating Christian children. It also meant nothing to him that official Hezbollah TV was kicked out of France in December 2004 for broadcasting the idea that Jews were infecting Muslims with AIDS. To him, that's not anti-semitism either.

That is: Omar prefers the propaganda in certain Hezbollah pamphlets to actual Hezbollah acts.

In addition, in the summer, Omar refused to accept as evidence of Hezbollah anti-semitism the outrageous statements of Hezbollah leaders in interviews in an award-winning article in The New Yorker in October 2002. Without evidence, he simply said the article was a lie. Oh, before he attacks on this, he said that the fact that certain Hezbollah leaders were depicted in this article in a most reputable magazine as saying certain outrageous things was insufficient evidence for him that they had done so. It comes to the same thing. The fact that the author of this article appeared on CNN this past summer (NOT Fox News, CNN) as an acknowledged expert on Hezbollah, nor were his credentials challenged by anyone on the panel--this also meant nothing to Omar.

If you wish to side with this level of argument (and it appears to me from your other postings that you do), that is up to you. But it isn't scholarship. Nor is a sewer of personal abuse a substitute for scholarship and facts.

Barrie Lambert - 11/10/2006

Sorry to intrude again but there is a "reasonable counter-argument to the idea that a university museum must depict historical truth.." - in fact, there are many. But the one I prefer asserts that all history is provisional (albeit more or less rigorously and regularly tested), and that any museum, by its very nature, is a mere entertainment and, at best, a distraction from the more serious business of life.

However, Omar is having the best of the argument so far and I really think that Messrs Eckstein and Friedman had better get up to speed very quickly if they intend to keep me entertained for much longer.

Barrie Lambert - 11/10/2006

My point still stands, and the common Islamic interpretation is not the only interpretation.

I'm not at all certain what you mean by "actual history" - possibly you refer to some shady post-modern quasi-positivist stance that plays well in an empty head - as opposed to the usual kind of "reasonable or less reasonable" interpretation of history understood by most of the rest of us.

In the real world, if there is no evidence of an visit to Jerusalem, there is likely also to be no evidence of a visit never having been made. Not a good starting point from which to assert the virtues of "actual history", I would have thought.

The specific point at issue here, then, is the assessment one makes of the evidential quality of the account in the Koran. I am inclined to regard it as of high quality, much as I regard accounts I have read of, say, the words uttered by Lincoln at Gettysburg as evidence of high quality. From the modern curator's perspective, it would therefore be sensible to regard Mohammed's visit to Jersalem as reasonably well settled, at least until the Muirs and Friedmans of this world have managed to re-write history such that it finally satisfies the demands of the Israel Lobby.

Oh, now I get it: "actual history" is what you think will help you achieve a particular political goal. Now why didn't I think of that before?

N. Friedman - 11/10/2006


I certainly agree with you here that Omar's argument makes no sense at all.

art eckstein - 11/10/2006


1. Omar doesn't understand what a museum is, or what a university museum is for, or what standards of scholarship are, and

2. When you seek to explain all this to him so very patiently, that a museum must above all be historically truthful and not depict pious (and improbable) religious belief as objective fact (which the University of Chicago disgracefully did with the Islam plaque), what did you get in response? A reasonable counter-argument? No--because there IS no reasonable counter-argument to the idea that a university museum must depict historical truth, not religous piety.
What you got instead was a stream of personal abuse, and accusations of anti-Islam conspiracy.

How sad.

N. Friedman - 11/10/2006

Mr. Lambert,

Actually, you are objectively mistaken. The sentence in issue reads: "Six centuries later, the Prophet Mohammed would visit Jerusalem where he would experience his Night Flight and Ascension to heaven. "

Note that the word "would visit Jerusalem" precedes the phrase "where" and note that "where" is follow by "he would experience his Night Flight ..." So, in fact the experience is said to have occurred in Jerusalem, which is the common Islamic interpretation - albeit not the only one that is possible from the Islamic religious sources -.

On the other hand, the actual history of the subject is a different one since there is no evidence of an actual visit. And, the museum has no business adopting a non-historic point of view as if it were settled history.

N. Friedman - 11/10/2006


Again, the issue is what appears in the museum. You may have your national liberation movement - or, as I would call it, the descent into barbarism movement - but what appears in the museum as fact is not fact. It merely adopts the view of a particular religion.

N. Friedman - 11/10/2006


I am not denigrating Islam. I am referring to Islamic theology.

I also contend that Jihad was not, for the most part, an individual activity. It was a communal obligation under the authority of the Caliph, at least theologically speaking. And the goal of the theological enterprise to was to spread Muslim rule under Muslim law across the globe. Perhaps you could refer to that, as Ephraim Karsh does, as justification for an imperial government policy. I am not sure. However, as Patricia Crone and others note, individual Jihadic activity occurred during a substantial portion of Islamic history so theology did not always govern action.

As for your quoting from the Koran, you are selectively quoting. I posted other material from the Koran, including material which contradicts the material you cite. Why should your selection of quotes be considered better than renowned experts such as Goldhizer? or, Ibn Khaldun for that matter?

In any event, if we go by the Koran on the issue of compulsion in religion, should Muslims "massacre" them and "wage war against the unbelievers and be severe unto them" or should Muslims employ no compulsion on matters of religion? How, without theology, can you reconcile these disparate statements?

And, I claim that the universal mission described by Ibn Khaldun - as well as the vast majority of Muslim theologian whom, until recent times, have addressed the topic - was the view governing Muslim ideology on the topic in question. I stand by that view.

Barrie Lambert - 11/10/2006

The Mohammed plaque, I suspect quite deliberately, uses the term "experience" which, in any religious context, is ambiguous, to say the least. From my reading, it is actually on a par with the statements about Jesus and the Jews quoted by Muir. The notion of the Prophet's visit to Jerusalem is equally ambiguous and equally valid.

Muir's essential problem, and that of some of the commentators on this item, is that the Oriental Institute does not assert Jewish sovereignty over Palestinian lands.

N. Friedman - 11/10/2006


I did not take Khaldun to be per se addressing himself to forced conversions. I think he was addressing himself to the universal mission of Islam. That is a different thing, at least as I view the matter. While the Koranic passage you cite has something to say about how the mission might be accomplished, it does not of itself define the mission. So, I do not think you have undermined the famed Khaldun by citing the Koran.

A more theologically stated version of Khaldun's statement is made by Goldhizer, who writes:

In addition to the religious duties imposed upon each individual professing Islam, the collective duty of the "jihad" (= "fighting against infidels") is imposed on the community, as represented by the commander of the faithful. Mohammed claimed for his religion that it was to be the common property of all mankind, just as he himself, who at first appeared as a prophet of the Arabs, ended by proclaiming himself the prophet of a universal religion, the messenger of God to all humanity, or, as tradition has it, "ila al-aḥmar wal-aswad" (to the red and the black). For this reason unbelief must be fought with the force of weapons, in order that "God's word may be raised to the highest place." Through the refusal to accept Islam, idolaters have forfeited their lives. Those "who possess Scriptures" ("ahl al-kitab"), in which category are included Jews, Christians, Magians, and Sabians, may be tolerated on their paying tribute ("jizyah") and recognizing the political supremacy of Islam (sura ix. 29). The state law of Islam has accordingly divided the world into two categories: the territory of Islam ("dar al-Islam") and the territory of war. ("dar al-ḥarb"), i.e., territory against which it is the duty of the commander of the faithful ("amir al-mu'minin") to lead the community in the jihad.

In any event, the actual position taken by Muslims on forced conversion has been rather inconsistent. You correctly quote from the Koran. However, it is not the only or even the last word on the matter. In fact, the Koran also calls for the faithful to wage Jihad against those who do not profess the "true faith" and to "massacre" them. Moreover, there is Mohammed command to "wage war against the unbelievers and be severe unto them." Such language is often asserted to abrogate the passages precluding compulsion in religion.

Nonetheless, I would say that more often than not, Muslims, when dealing with "people of the book," have not forced such people to convert. That, of course, cannot be said with respect to pagans who, in fact, were forced to convert or they were put to the sword. And, as for "people of the book," Muslim rule led to substantial persecution and discrimination that could be largely overcome by conversions. That, in its way, amounted to a system of compulsory conversion - a fact born out by the tendency of people to convert in order to escape persecution and discrimination.

There were also periods when people of the book actually were forced to convert. This, notwithstanding the kind Koranic language you cite. The argument asserted was to the effect that if the Muslim religion is to be, as Islamic theology holds, for all of humanity and if non-Muslims are to be permitted to live among Muslims, but only if they are made to feel low - as the Koran also indicates -, that means that the goal is, in fact, to convert people. So, that means they should be converted and, as with the way things work in this world, that became, at times, they must be converted or die.

In any event, there have, at times, been people forced to convert to Islam. Such is well chronicled by famed historian of Muslim history, Patricia Crone.

Now, we live in a time where there have been very large numbers of people forced to convert to Islam. Such occurred most particularly in Sudan.

N. Friedman - 11/10/2006


To answer your question, the notion of sovereignty today and in ancient times was quite different, especially in the land that is now Israel. However, Jews or, perhaps, initially Israelites, controlled what is now called historic Palestine, initially by tribal rule (which is still somewhat of a force in the Arab regions), from about 1200 BCE. They united into a single Kingdom around 1050 BCE but the kingdom split into two parts, Israel and Judea around 920 BCE. The Northern Kingdom, Israel, was conquered in about 722 BCE while the Southern Kingdom, Judea, was conquered around 586 BCE. A fairly substantial portion of the Jewish population was exiled at that point but, in about 559 BCE, many of those Jews were allowed to return and they, at times, had autonomy. From about 165 BCE to 63 BCE, an independent Jewish kingdom existed. That kingdom disintegrated. However, an independent Jewish kingdom emerged, with support from the Roman Empire, but that arrangement fell apart, especially after 73 AD, when the Roman army crushed the remains of the Jewish army.

The above is rather incomplete but it does show a rather substantial period of Jewish sovereignty, with numerous kingdoms and tribal arrangements of the type that existed in the ancient world.

In this regard, it might be noted that
Arab rule, after the Arab conquest and colonization of the region, was also not permanent. They were supplanted for many centuries by the Ottoman Turks, who moved populations around to suit their needs. The Turks were driven out, basically, by the French and the British, with the British taking control. The British, in turn, were driven out by the Jews.

Barrie Lambert - 11/10/2006

Just recently - in historical terms,the blink of an eye, I guess. After a gap of some 72 generations, the Jews imposed themselves on what had become, to all practical purposes, a Muslim society with a Muslim culture, the governing Mandate of which had been given to ubiquitous Albion at the end of the First War, the terms of which were to be promptly betrayed by the British government, and which continued to be so betrayed until the British shamefully gave up the Mandate in 1948 and left the Palestinians to the not so tender mercies of the Judeo-fascists.

N. Friedman - 11/9/2006


The museum is not an Islamic religious school. It is a museum. A museum owes it to the public not to spread, as if it were history, the position of any religion.

That means, it would be correct for the Museum to say that "devout Muslims believe [fill in the blank]." That, however, is quite different from confusing a religious position with historical fact.

Consider it this way. Devout Jews and Christians believe that the sea was parted to allow the Israelites to escape from Egypt. Were the museum to confuse fact with the feelings of devout Jews and Christians, the museum might write: "The Israelites fled Egypt and, due to the parting of the sea, escaped." Such a statement might make devout Jews and Christians happy. However, it would not be a statement of history, so far as I know.

Your statements suggest you believe the museum should peddle what Islam teaches as if it were historical fact.

N. Friedman - 11/9/2006


I do not consider Mr. Khaldun more authoritative than the Koran. Rather, I consider your statement to be a non-sequitor. The issue to me is one of theology, in this case, theology which is based on the Koran, ahaditha and biographies, among other things.

Which is to say, if the mass of Muslims, starting today, decide to interpret their religion as not bearing an universal message that, when resisted, calls lfor the use of force, then such will no longer be the Muslim position. Now, in my view, there are obstacles - and, all religions have them - to overcoming the dominant position (i.e. the position set forth by Ibn Khaldun), most particularly Muhammad's final speech, the 9th Sura and the very substantial body of ahaditha that exalt spreading Islamic rule by war, such is certainly possible. Catholicism certainly changed its positions dramatically, for example, in the Nostra Aetate declaration of 1965.

The real problem with you view is that significant figures in Islam's history - including renowned figures such as Avicenna and al-Ghazali - agree with Ibn Khaldun. And, there is basically an absence of figures - before the 19th Century - who do not hold to the view that Islam advocates the use of force, where other means fail, to spread Muslim rule and Muslim law.

As for quoting Khaldun correctly, I have. See The Muqaddimah, trans. by Franz Rosenthal (New York: Pantheon Books Inc., 1958).

I note lastly that I did not say that Muslims must use force. I would say that the classical theological position is that if peaceful overtures fail to succeed, then force is mandatory - at least in theory and subject to the ripeness of the situation.

N. Friedman - 11/9/2006


No. You have it wrong here. The issue raised is not about a disputed question of history. The statements made by the Museum have their origins in religion and politics, not history, and are not one of a number of arguably correct interpretations of fact.

If you disagree, find some actual history which supports the position taken by the museum. Show that what Elliott Aron Green states at is wrong. And find historical support for the view that Mohamed actually was in Jerusalem.

The reality here is that the museum either inadvertently (or, perhaps, intentionally) adopted a political position based, in considerable part, on religion.

A. M. Eckstein - 11/9/2006

An excellent, direct question from Mr. Friedman. Professor Luker, you ought to respond.

N. Friedman - 11/9/2006


I do not see the point of your comments. The issue raised by Ms. Muir is that the assertions made by the museum are based on a particular religion and not, as they purport to be based, on historical events. Do you contend that she is in error?

Yehudi Amitz - 11/9/2006

You "forget" the American Indians (PC: native Americans). There are big chunks of US territories legally owned by Indian tribes (recognized by federal and local courts in Connecticut, New York state, etc.) but with American settlers on them. Why not begin there? I guess you prefer the "blame the Jews" option.

Ralph E. Luker - 11/9/2006

Your apparent incapacity to distinguish between a claim of expertise and an observation about bias must be a considerable handicap. You have my sympathy.

Elliott Aron Green - 11/8/2006

Just to support Diana Muir, the area around Jerusalem was consituted by the Persian Empire as the pahawa of Yehud. The governor [pehah] of Yehud was usually or always a Jew. Significantly, Yehud issued its own coins, which was an expression of autonomy at that time. These coins --several of which have been found-- bear an inscription YHD [= Yehud] in the consonantal Early Hebrew alphabet, basically the same as the Canaanite alphabet passed on to the Greeks. A few specimens of the YHD coins are on display in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. To be sure, the pahawa of Yehud was much smaller in size than the kingdom of Judah in First Temple times. Further, many Jews lived in the land of Israel outside the pahawa of Yehud. Since Ralph Luker knows more than Prof. Furnish and Diana Muir, I suggest that he perfect his knowledge just a tiny bit by reading authorities like Michael Avi-Yonah and Felix-Marie Abel.

art eckstein - 11/7/2006

Dear NF:

The BBC material is pretty notorious. And of course it is pretty bad. But while the BBC material is also much more influential with the public than the material in the Oriental Institute at University of Chicago because it is seen by many many more of the naive than there are visitors to the Oriental Institute, which makes the BBC action even worse, the plaques at the Oriental Institute are to me even more disturbing. That is because a first-class university is involved, and because of the plaques' savage violation of scholarly standards of presentation, and because of their reflexive and preemptive appeasement of Muslim sentiment--a courtesy extended to no other religion--even when those pious Muslim beliefs have no historical moorings.

N. Friedman - 11/7/2006


I note the first lines from BBC blurbs about Islam, Christianity and Judaism. I also note that there are correctives within. But, the opening lines are interesting - akin to the museum's assertions -.

Islam began in Arabia and was revealed to humanity by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Christianity is the world's biggest religion, with about 2.1 billion followers worldwide.

Jews believe that God appointed the Jews to be his chosen people in order to set an example of holiness and ethical behaviour to the world.

And, of course, the BBC assures us:

What a Jihad is not

A war is not a Jihad if the intention is to:

* Force people to convert to Islam
* Conquer other nations to colonise them
* Take territory for economic gain
* Settle disputes
* Demonstrate a leader's power

Although the Prophet engaged in military action on a number of occasions, these were battles to survive, rather than conquest, and took place at a time when fighting between tribes was common.

This gem ought to be preached, were only it was true. However, the great Muslim historian and sociologist, Ibn Khaldun, stongly disagreed - and rightly so -. He asserted:

In the Muslim community, holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the (Muslim) mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force. Therefore, caliphate and royal authority are united (in Islam), so that the person in charge can devote the available strength to both of them (religion and politics) at the same time.

The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty to them, save only for purposes of defense. It has thus come about that the person in charge of religious affairs (in other religious groups) is not concerned with power politics at all. (Among them) royal authority comes to those who have it, by accident and in some way that has nothing to do with religion. It comes to them as the necessary result of group feeling, which by its very nature seeks to obtain royal authority, as we have mentioned before, and not because they are under obligation to gain power over other nations, as is the case with Islam. They are merely required to establish their religion among their own (people).

I bet, for what it is worth, that our resident expert, Professor Furnish, can confirm that Ibn Khaldun's view is the classical Islamic view - not to mention the dominant view to this day - and that the BBC view is the view of liberal Muslims, a group of, unfortunately, insufficient influence among Muslims over the course of the last 14 centuries and today as well. And, this is not to discount Sayyid Ahmed Khan, the great Muslim reformer from India, etc., etc..

What is the agenda of people not merely to say that Islam is a fascinating, brilliant religion which, in its dominant strain, is highly evangelical - on a communal, but not always a personal basis - by aiming to spread Muslim rule and, in connection therewith, often requires the use of violence by the community under the direction of its leader? Such might help people better understand the world as it is.

N. Friedman - 11/7/2006


I think you have made a very good point. Indeed, the claim to prophethood is an Islamic claim. In fact, it was a claim rejected, in Muhammad's time, by Jews and Christians in the Hijaz, where they had the advantage (or disadvantage, take your pick) of meeting Muhammad.

N. Friedman - 11/7/2006


Have you any reasons to assert that Ms. Muir or Professor Furnish are wrong? And, by the way, my memory has the facts pretty much as they assert.

A. M. Eckstein - 11/6/2006

There is simple no way that the following two statements at the museum, appearing simultaneously, can be defended:

1. On Jesus: "Jesus was born into this context and was hailed by his followers as the Messiah, Son of God."

compared with:

2. "Six centuries later, the Prophet Mohammed would visit Jerusalem where he would experience his Night Flight and Ascension to heaven."

Number 2 places an academic endorsement, as Number 1 does not, on major pious religious beliefs for which there is not the slightest evidence.

It is legitimate to protest this, it is legitimate to ask why Christianity is treated as a matter of some people's belief while Islam and Muhammed's adventures (and even ascent into heaven!) as if they were true, AND, finally, it is legitimate to ask WHY this differential treatment occurred at the museum of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.

In any case, however, the plaque on Mohammed must be replaced.

Peter Borregard - 11/6/2006

I didn't say that Christianity's claim regarding Jesus was only that he was a prophet, but (Lk 24:19) it includes the claim of prophecy. My comment was regarding the lack of symmetry in the museum's language, unremarked by Muir.

Ralph E. Luker - 11/6/2006

Well, no. Christianity doesn't merely consider Jesus a prophet. Its claim -- which makes it a scandal to both Judaism and Islam -- is that Jesus is the very Son of God.

Ralph E. Luker - 11/6/2006

Professor Furnish has already established beyond any doubt that he shares Ms. Muir's biases.

Peter Borregard - 11/6/2006

Note a huge difference in approach unfortunately unmentioned by Muir:

The museum: "Jesus was born into this context, and was hailed by his followers as the Messiah, Son of God."

Muir: "Fair enough. Scholarly and objective. But when we come to Mohammed, scholarly objectivity disappears."

The museum: "Six centuries later, the Prophet Mohammed would visit Jerusalem where he would experience his Night Flight and Ascension to heaven."

Muir: "Only the pious believe that the visit and night flight are actual, historical events. Mohammed’s visit and Night Flight is a religious myth or dream, not an actual event."

But Muir and the museum both accept that Mohammed was a prophet, not to mention THE Prophet.

How about "Mohammed claimed to be, and was hailed by his followers as being the final and truest prophet. Judaism considers prophecy proper to have ended by the Second Century B.C.E. while Christianity add Jesus to the roster of prophets."

But "The Prophet Mohammed" in this context goes beyond politeness to rank dhimmitude.

Charles S Young - 11/6/2006

These are disputed historical questions. If the minuteness of Muir's critique were followed, if the thoroughness of scrubbing Muslim fingerprints from academia were achieved, there would no longer be free discussion.

One quick comment: if Mexico can loose claim to the northern half of the country in less than 100 years, then Israelites can lose the privilege of a return and ethnic cleansing after millenium.

Tim R. Furnish - 11/6/2006

Well, as a Middle East historian I can attest that Ms. Muir's criticisms of the Oriental Institute are quite valid.

Salé Braun - 11/6/2006

Can you substantiate your claim by other means?Do you have any knowledge of Ancient History of the Near East besides the Internet?If not you better stay put!

Barrie Lambert - 11/6/2006

Subtle irony, or just a barrack room lawyer with a somewhat tangential response to reality....? God only knows, and that's for sure.

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