Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Judaism

The Legacy of Ariel Sharon

For all intents and purposes, Ariel Sharon died on January 4, 2006. That was when he suffered a stroke and entered into a persistent vegetative state. However, his body was kept running by machines until just yesterday, so even though Sharon has been politically inactive since the mid-aughts, it is an appropriate time to discuss what legacy he left behind, with the benefit of most of a decade to see what followed.  With the benefit of that perspective, Sharon represents a missed opportunity, a path not taken.

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Why the Palestinians Need a Mandela

Mahatma Gandhi died in 1948. Martin Luther King Jr. died in 1968. Now Nelson Mandela has died in 2013, and the last of the big three satyagrahi has turned out the lights, and for the first time peacefully, in his own time, rather than in response to the inescapable mandate of the bullet. This has me wondering what future role nonviolent civil resistance has to play in world affairs. Above all others, it is the Arab Israeli cause that seems to me most in need of a leader of this kind. Here’s why.

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Bill O’Reilly Agrees with Reza Aslan

Bill O’Reilly appears to have written a book called Killing Jesus in which O’Reilly argues that Jesus was killed because he opposed the Roman occupation of Judea (I say “Judea” because that is what the Romans called it at the time) on the grounds that the Romans were redistributing wealth away away from the people of that province, shipping it back across the Mediterranean to Italy. In sum, O’Reilly portrays Jesus as an anti-tax hero, in the mold of the Tea Party. The left has, of course, jumped all over this, emphasizing that O’Reilly neglects the various parts of the Bible in which Jesus defends the poor. What I find so interesting about this is that while O’Reilly has placed the emphasis on specific, narrow parts of the Bible, he is expressing a view that is more or less consistent with the one expressed by Reza Aslan, the man who was the subject of that famous interview with FOX in which they malign him for being a Muslim yet nonetheless writing about Jesus. I wrote about him here. Read the rest of this entry »

Erdogan and Zionism

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently said this in a UN address against racism and discrimination:

In addition to indifference vis-à-vis the Muslim countries, we also see harsh, offending, insulting behavior towards Muslims who live in countries other than their own, and this continues to be an unconscionable act that has been ongoing around the world.

We should be striving to better understand the beliefs of others but instead we see that people act based on prejudice and exclude others and despise them. And that is why it is necessary that we must consider — just like Zionism or anti-Semitism or fascism — Islamophobia as a crime against humanity.

This has managed to infuriate, among others, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. So the question of the day is whether Erdogan is correct in characterising Zionism as politically similar to anti-Semitism, fascism, and Islamophobia, or whether, in falsely equating Zionism to these other things, he is himself guilty of anti-Semitism as his critics suggest. Let’s have a look.

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What if God Exists?

When confronted with right wing social conservatism, the left usually adopts one of two strategies. On the one hand, it can argue for tolerance of differing viewpoints, but this argument is only persuasive for those who themselves are not so certain of what they believe as to legislate it. In other words, the tolerance argument only works for people who were already susceptible to accept social progressivism.  Alternatively, the left sometimes approaches this problem by rejecting the existence of god so as to undermine the foundation of the conservative belief system, but in order for social conservatives to exist in the first place, their level of confidence in their belief in a god must be very high. These arguments, in many cases, are doomed to fail. So what else can the left argue? Well perhaps the left can seek common ground with the right by accepting, for the purposes of argument, the existence of god.

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