Mega-Bleg: Plato, Aristotle, and the Jews

This is the sort of question that never occurs to me when I teach Plato and Aristotle back home (itself a rare event), but it’s the kind of question I’m sure to get asked while teaching them here in Palestine next week. And damned if I know the answer.

Were Plato and Aristotle acquainted with Abrahamic monotheism?

Put more concretely for purposes of historical inquiry:

Were Plato or Aristotle familiar with the Jewish people or the Hebrew Bible?

I’ll bet that David Riesbeck has an answer, but I pose the question(s) above (as well as those below) for anyone with answers. Continue reading

Stereotypes and Muslim Presidents

Jose Duarte has an intelligent blog post on the Ben Carson/Muslim President controversy over at Medium. I respond to some of Duarte’s critics in the combox of his blog.

Carson’s comments are all over the place, but here’s a link to the CNN version.

I’m not a believing or practicing Muslim, so my comments at Duarte’s blog shouldn’t be construed as a defense of Islam per se; they’re intended as criticism of the incredible hypocrisy and culpable ignorance of people like Carson and those who agree with him.

For documentation of my comments on political Catholicism, I’d suggest reading Geoffrey Robertson’s The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Violations. For documentation of what I say about political Judaism, I’d suggest reading John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s much-derided but in my view unrebutted The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.  Here’s Robert Menendez on the holiday of Purim. This is how Menendez’s thoughts on Purim were received by some of my supposedly civilized Jewish neighbors here in New Jersey–a rabbi, no less.* For a mind-blowing defense of the Book of Esther–including an explicit defense of collective punishment and mass murder–I would suggest reading Yoram Hazony’s The Dawn: Political Teachings of the Book of Esther. And here is the full text of the Book of Esther itself, which you can probably get through in about half an hour or so.

The more of this anti-Muslim hypocrisy I hear, the more I feel like reverting back to Islam and declaring a jihad against the unbelievers. If I could get over the whole God thing (heaven, hell, angels, Satan, miracles, prophets, etc.), I’d do it in a heartbeat.

Wow, I should probably be careful with these cardiac metaphors.  “Know that God comes between a man and his heart…” (Qur’an, 8:24).

*Postscript: I had originally said “Menendez’s comments” rather than “Menendez’s thoughts.” Just to be clear: the author of the blog post begins his post by praising a 2015 Menendez speech at AIPAC, but then goes on to praise Donniell Hartman’s claims about Purim in 2015, not Menendez’s comments as voiced in the 2014 speech I link to above. (Actually, Hartman goes farther than Menendez in endorsing the claims of the Book of Esther.) So the author wasn’t literally responding to Menendez’s comments on Purim.

This ends up being a distinction without a difference, because Menendez 2014 and Hartman 2015 are saying virtually the same thing about Purim. Anyway, since “thoughts” is a little more precise than “comments,” I’ve modified the post.

Postscript, October 7, 2015: It’s hard to know how to comment on something like this, except to wonder out loud how “mainstream” political discourse in this country has descended to a level this idiotic. How did we get to the point at which well-paid people shovel pure garbage onto the nation’s airwaves, regard it as political commentary, influence the electorate, and get taken for granted for doing so?

Postscript(s), October 10, 2015: A useful item worth reading on this topic. Hat-tip: Fauzia Qureishi and my Mom.

Things just keep getting better.

Rally organizers in New York City suggest demonstrators target mosques in all five boroughs. In Dearborn, Michigan, protesters are being asked to bring their weapons for an “open carry, anti-mosque, pro-America rally.”

I’m just waiting for the pro-gun types to say, “Well, if the Muslims want to protect themselves, they should just make sure to be as heavily armed as the protesters.” Actually, shouldn’t Ben Carson be saying that? Maybe next week we can look forward to the Retaliatory Rally Against the Judeo-Christian Tradition, featuring large mobs of armed Muslims gathering in front of churches and synagogues.

I’m trying to remember why my family fled the insanity of sectarian strife in Pakistan for the U.S., but it’s not coming to me at the moment. All I know is that escape to Israel or Turkey is not an option. Or Pakistan, India, or Syria. Even Canada is becoming iffy.  There’ll always be an England? 

Puerto Rico?