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Let's do it by all means !

Reader comment on item: Not Stealing Palestine but Purchasing Israel
in response to reader comment: Let's elucidate something

Submitted by Ianus (Poland), Jul 14, 2011 at 09:44

Dear Moshe,

I hope that irrespective of the outcome of our dispute we will remain friends. You know how high my opinion of modern Israel is and I firmly believe that no amount of criticism of the ancient Jewish ways can change that opinion of mine.

You wrote :

> But while you are accusing: "religion loves obscure places and imprecise, nebulous vocabulary", you are in fact practicing just the same. Your tortuous argumentation is called in our places plain "sophistry".<

I am by all means in favour of elucidating things too. But you must be more specific about your accusations, my friend. What is exactly so obscure about my line of argument "in your places" ? Is it "sophistry" when I suggest the strict distinction based on common sense and elementary semantics between "improbable" and "impossible" ? Improbable things can happen under rare circumstances , imposible ones in principle can't. Is it so "obsucre" and sophisttry-like because e.g. the Bible doesn't make or care about the distinction? If it did many so called "miracles" described or announced there, would have to be considered with much more modesty.

Or is your accusation directed against the Aristotelian criterion of truth I poorly paraphrased ? Is it "sophistry" "in your places" to respect and apply it to things which in some places are never subject to any strict rational examination but are taken blindly at their face value ?

Or perhaps you are afraid that the distniction and the objective criteria of truth may have extremely adverse consequences on the belief system that makes your identity and you can't have it if you accept teh argument against it as correct ? Well, in that case a saying by Aristotle comes to my mind "Amicus Plato, sed magis amica veritas". We have to choose between what is true and what is not. I have made my choice long since. If my impression is correct , you seem to have done it as well.

> Somehow you are systematically avoiding addressing my arguments to the point. Well I assume that this is in lack of better arguments.<

I find this accusation hardly justified, my friend. To see why let's briefly sum our discussion so far.

The point of depart for it was my post "The Unholy land- ancient and modern' where I quoted a 4th century author and his observations from contemporary Palestine. To that you replied "here obviously you have been talking about Christianity and Islam, and about what they have done to this Jewish Holy Land after robbing it, wasting it and raping it". (Unholy people and the Holy Land).

I found your accusation unfair.The problems in Palestine had very ancient structural origin. My point was that "the ancient Jewish theocracy that was involved in a constant antagonism and war on all those who contested its validity inside or outside. And with its quite wild Messianic promises it brought the society it absolutely dominated to ruin and expulsion." Given a dysfunctional political system ancient Israel could not be such a fine place at all as you uggest ascribng all bad things in old Palestine to non-Jews.

You questioned the validity and credibility of my remark writing : "your comments regarding "the ancient Jewish theocracy" which according to you created all the problems in the last Jewish Kingdom (2nd Temple) must be based mostly on biased Christian sagas from the New Testament. The Jewish states were never run by priests and prophets, neither during the 1st Temple nor during the 2nd Temple. If anything, the prophets were always trying to better and elevate the social ethics of the kings and of the corrupt administrations, but they were never in control; all they could do was to preach.'

But it turned out that no "biased Christian sagas from the New Testament" were needed to prove my point. The Old Testament best refutes your assertion. I duly inserted the pertinent quotations in my answer ( Exodus 19.6-8 & 32.26-28 ; 1 Kings 19.40) , using the Biblical phrase about ancient Israel as "the kindom of priests" and showing what tyrannical power priests or prophets could exert by controlling the minds of the ancient Jews.

I added a adage by Plato which you visibly greatly disliked. You wrote "you must be aware that Plato didn't tell you whose worldview is wrong, or who is the victim of "wishful thinking". I replied by elaborating on the crietria of truth well known to the ancient Greek philosophy. But you seemed not to care much about that. You observed only that "Regarding your lengthy and creative interpretation of the Scriptures, I'm sorry; I don't believe that debating it would lead us anywhere." which I interpreted so that you drop the point without admitting you might be wrong.

Then you went on to make a strange claim that "You also must be aware that the Jewish People, in what you call" their naive belief that their religious utopia would win a war against the reality" in fact WON MORE THAN A SINGLE WAR AGAINST REALITY."

So the debate turned to "war against reality" and you gave as an example the survival of the Jewish people for long centuries : "If this implausible survival in itself is not WINNING A WAR AGAINST REALITY, then what is? And please trust me, I can cite you many more cases in which such "wars against reality" were won by the Jewish people but for the sake of concision I will not go ahead with it."

Here I considered the distinction between the improbable and the possible very pertinent and I insisted on it to be clear what is meant by "wars against reality". Now you visibly disliked the distinction as you wrote :

"I have the impression dear Janus that all we are doing here is arguing about DEFINITIONS. For you winning wars where the REALISTIC chances to win are close to negligible, is still in the realm of the NATURAL and POSSIBLE. For me, when such wars are won systematically and repeatedly, as a matter of routine, is WARS WON AGAINST REALITY. Of course, post factum you can always find the "rational" factors behind the impossible."

I questioned the validity of this argument. "Close to negligible" isn't the same as "impossible" and so you abuse semantics when you treat as synonyms the terms with different meanings. Anyway, your last post ended with the following half-conciliatory note :

"Besides I think that I could agree with most of your standpoints except those stemming from some weird and original historiography of the Jews which is apparently popular in some circles but most of which is based mainly on speculations and is severely biased, and therefore untrue and misleading. "

After summing up our discusion (if I have ommitted something imposrtant please correct me) may I ask you why you have accused me of "systematically avoiding addressing my arguments to the point. Well I assume that this is in lack of better arguments."? I can't see anything I avoided addressing , let alone "systematically avoiding". If what I have quoted is correct, then it' not me who avoid addressing the arguments to the point.

True, it is not clear to me what you mean by "some circles" and their "weird and original historiography of the Jews" "most of which is based mainly on speculations and is severely biased, and thereforeuntrue and misleading". I find this charge too amorphous and propagandistic to handle as it does imply that anything unflattering said about the ancient Jews (and I admit I have said many such things) may be easily dismissed without ever discussing it on the flimsy ground that it is a "biased Christian saga" or "speculations...severely biased, and thereforeuntrue and misleading". One example of what I mean . You told me earlier I based my judgement on a "biased Christian saga'. When I quoted the Old Testament to prove the contrary you didn't comment and now instead of facing the evidence you complain again but ,frankly, I am not sure about what ? That I criticize your religion ? You're welcome to criticize my beliefs too. I will never complain about that. No hope for reciprocity ?

> And may I kindly ask you why you are at all mixing religion in our discussion?<

Can you say anything senseful about ancient Israel without mixing religion in , my friend ? Besides, if you look back at the course of our discussion you should realize that religion emerged as a natural part of it and not as my foul and biased effort to add something alien,external and artificial to it.


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