Two thousand years ago a mob of Jews stood on a paved walkway outside of Pilate’s residence in Jerusalem and screamed for Jesus’ crucifixion.
This past week, a group of Israeli soldiers and medics stood about a dying Palestinian man lying prone upon a street, offering him no medical assistance–just as one of the soldiers stepped forward and pumped a bullet into the man’s head.
The question we might ask ourselves is what do these two incidents, spaced 2,000 years apart, tell us about Jewish behavior? Do they suggest a pattern? Maybe even a historical one?
Recently I published my second novel, The Memoirs of Saint John: When the Sandstone Crumbles. The book has a lengthy section in it set in Alexandria in 38 AD. One of the first pogroms against Jews in recorded history took place in an Egyptian city at that time, and the events which unfolded, including a massive explosion of violence against Jews, serve as the story’s backdrop.
Here’s a true fact–a man named Philo lived in Alexandria in those days. He was one of the wealthiest, most prominent Jews of the city, and he also happened to be a prolific writer. You can do a search and turn up a number of his treatises on the Internet today. One of these is entitled “Embassy to Gaius,” in which he referred to the native Egyptians as “a seedbed of evil in whose souls both the venom and the temper of the native crocodiles and asps were reproduced.” Philo, though highly respected by Jewish scholars today, was, as you can see, a bit of a racist.
The population of Alexandria at the time was comprised mainly of three different groups. There were the Native Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Jews. Considerable tensions existed between the Jews, on the one hand, and the Greeks and Native Egyptians on the other. The Native Egyptians by and large tended to work as laborers for Jewish traders and shopkeepers, though some excelled in a variety of other endeavors including philosophy and sciences.
In addition to his supremacist attitude toward the Egyptians, Philo also managed to enrage Greek scholars at the Museion–the sector that housed the city’s famed library–by insisting that Plato had gotten all his ideas from Moses. The Greeks, of course, revered Plato, much in the way that the Jews venerated Moses. A brouhaha ensued, particularly after Philo asserted that Moses had been in essence “the very summit of philosophy.”
An Egyptian scholar jumped into the fray by arguing that the ancient Israelites had not actually escaped from Egypt, as their books maintain, but had in reality been expelled–while a Greek scholar interjected, by way of elaboration, that the expulsion had been due to the Israelites being “scabby and leprous.”
Thus, as we see, tensions in the city were seething under the surface–at virtually every level of society. It was in essence a “perfect storm” waiting to engulf the Jews of Alexandria. And it did indeed engulf them.
One of the things I noticed when I started studying the events of 38 AD is the striking parallel between Jewish behavior at that time and what we see occurring in Occupied Palestine today. In fact, it was one of the reasons I wrote the novel.
For 275 years–from 305 BC up to 30 BC–Alexandria was under the rule of a family dynasty known as the Ptolemies. During this time the city was subdivided into five districts, each named after the first five letters of the Greek alphabet. The Jews were assigned the Delta district with the stipulation that they remain in that district and not move into other areas of the city. This took place under one of the early Ptolemy leaders, who also accorded the Jews a large measure of self-government.
The privileges extended to them included the right to practice their own religion according to their own laws, with a Jewish ethnarch to preside over their civil affairs whose power was officially recognized by the Ptolemy kings. The Ptolemies had in effect rendered Jews independent of the council and civic government of the city as a whole, though as I say, there was one stipulation–that they remain in the Delta district.
But in the following years, the Jewish population grew, and eventually leave was given to them to expand into a second district. Into a third district they also moved, followed by a fourth, until, by 38 AD, Jews could be found living in all five districts of the city. This in itself probably would have brought them into conflict with the other two ethnic groups, but Jews were granted additional licenses as well.
The lone Jewish ethnarch had been replaced by a Gerousia, which had 71 members–just like the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. Theoretically, the Gerousia was subject to the authority of Flaccus, the Roman-appointed governor of Egypt, but Jews also had considerable political influence in Rome. Herod Agrippa, part Jewish, was best friends with the emperor Gaius. The two were old-school chums, and Gaius appointed Agrippa as king over a vast swath of territory, including most of Palestine as well as parts of what is today Syria.
In Alexandria itself, Jews equally held political influence. Despite being presided over by their own Gerousia, through which they conducted their own civil affairs, they also held administrative posts in the city government. In fact, Philo’s brother, a man named Alexander, held the position of alabarch, making him the chief customs official for both of the city’s harbors. He was widely suspected of corruption.
The riots against the Jews started in early August of that year and ended up with Jewish shops being plundered and with Jews being bound and dragged through the streets. The anger had been building for nearly three centuries, and suddenly it found release in an explosion of pent-up fury. A “court” was set up in the city’s theater. Here Jews were taken, accused of crimes, and subsequently found guilty. Some were killed, and others were stripped of their clothing and flogged in front of an audience of cheering spectators. The flogged and chastened included a group of 38 members of the Gerousia who had been captured and paraded through the streets.
All of these events are described in my novel. What I see in Palestine today is not exactly the same, but it does have certain similarities. Glaring examples of Jewish supremacism can of course be seen on display in modern-day Israel. For instance, compare Philo’s quote about the Native Egyptians–that they are “a seedbed of evil in whose souls both the venom and the temper of the native crocodiles and asps were reproduced”–with remarks about the Palestinians by Israeli “Justice” Minister Ayelet Shaked:
They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now, this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be juster. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.
Crocodiles and asps…little snakes. You get my drift. Striking, striking similarities! And of course, compare the expansion out of the Delta district by Alexandria’s Jews with the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Note also what Shaked said regarding blood, namely that the Palestinian’s “blood shall be on all their heads,” and then look at Matthew 27:25. “Then answered all the people, and said, ‘His blood be on us and on our children.’” Scholars, many of them Jewish, have often contended that passages like this from the gospels are nothing more than fabrications by anti-Semites–but the extent to which we now see Israel in essence validating the portrayals of Jews in the New Testament is little short of amazing!
This past week a video (no longer available on YouTube, deleted) went viral all over the world. What it shows is an Israeli soldier stepping up toward Abdul Sharif and firing a bullet into his head. You can’t make out Sharif’s features too well in the video above, but in the photo below, he is the one on the right.
Both Sharif and Ramzi Aziz Qasrawi were shot after an alleged stabbing attack on an Israeli soldier in the West Bank city of Hebron. Both died. Both were 21 years old.
The video has created an international uproar. Clearly, Sharif had been subdued and posed no threat to anyone. So why did the soldier shoot him in the head? What was going through his mind?
The shooting took place in the morning hours of Thursday, March 24. The day was a holiday in Israel. The holiday, Purim, marks the massacre of thousands of Gentiles, as related in the Old Testament book of Esther. The shooting took place in the same area of Hebron where a Purim celebration was scheduled to be held later that day.
The celebrants seem oblivious to the international outrage that was, at that very time, beginning to brew. Israeli officials, however, were not oblivious, and a few were exerting efforts at damage control. One of these was Brigadier Gen. Moti Almoz.
“As far as the orders given to soldiers are concerned, the moment terrorists are neutralized, soldiers are supposed to immediately give medical assistance to the wounded, including the terrorists,” Almoz claimed. “This is the IDF, these are the values of the IDF, and this is not up for interpretation. We are unambiguous about this.”
The general, in other words, was attempting to pass off the atrocity as nothing more than a stunning aberration. Nothing like this has ever happened before!
“This is not the IDF culture or the Jewish peoples’ culture,” he insisted.
Perhaps Almoz hasn’t heard the news that Israel is a sick society, as confessed by the country’s own president.
For most of us, I guess, it would be hard to conceive of a country where people are left to bleed on the street as being anything other than a sick society, and as one writer put it, “Maybe even worse than the murder itself is the fact that no one in the vicinity seems at all moved by it.”
The timeline of events is kind of interesting. On March 15, just nine days before Sharif’s execution, Israel announced it had seized 579 acres of Palestinian land near the Dead Sea for the construction of Jewish settlements as well as tourism enterprises. It was the largest confiscation in recent years. Two days later, on March 17, the act was condemned by the EU, but then on March 21, a brand new land grab was announced, of approximately 296 additional acres, near Nablus. Then came the brutal killing in Hebron, captured on videotape. Much of the world’s attention at the time was focused on Belgium, which had experienced a bloody terrorist attack just the day before, but the video that emerged from Hebron was so shocking it even managed to upstage the images from Brussels.
On Friday, the day after Purim, Ma’an News reported that the Palestinian cameraman who had shot the video had become the target of threats and harassment. Meanwhile, Aymen Odeh, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset, tweeted that “Israel has turned in recent months into a place in which executions are carried out in public with the encouragement of cheering mobs.” Others were tweeting similar things.
Zionist Squatters in occupied Ashkelon demonstrating in support for IOF that executed Palestinian in Hebron pic.twitter.com/vzuofEyaVP
— Abbs Winston (@AbbsWinston) March 26, 2016
Observations like Odeh’s are being made more and more frequently these days–by Jews as well as non-Jews–both inside and outside of Israel.
“Our collective moral compass has become so fundamentally twisted that even the most decent of people, those who are not considered extremists, believe that there is nothing wrong with shooting a man as he lies dying on the ground,” writes Jewish Israeli Orly Noy.
“One of the more dangerous and frustrating aspects of the fascism taking over the Jewish-Israeli public, led by its elected officials, is the way it is fed by every single thing that happens here. Nearly every piece of news pushes this process forward — even events that should serve as a warning sign,” she adds.
Another astute observer is US author E. Michael Jones. In an interview with Press TV last December, Jones said what we’re seeing in Israel now, both with regard to the killing of Palestinians as well as the theft of their lands, is a rebellion against what the Greeks referred to as logos, or “reason.”
“Reasonable people know that you can’t steal the property of other people, but these are not reasonable people,” said Jones–and what we are witnessing now is “the internal logic of Zionism.” He went on to add:
They stole the land in 1948. They’re going to keep stealing the land until some type of external force stops them from stealing the land because when you don’t have a reason, you don’t recognize any boundaries. You expand and you expand until you are stopped from the outside…What they’re doing is basically turning world opinion against themselves, and we’re in for a long process, of basically the change–the Jews, the Israelis, the Zionists acting in a way that will lead to their total ostracism by civilized people throughout the world.
The “long process” Jones alludes to is actually a long and lengthy repetition of cycles–of Jews entering a country or region, followed by a pogrom or expulsion of them or their descendants from the same area some years, decades, or centuries later. The list here shows 109 such expulsions over a period beginning in 250 AD and running through 1948.
Taking some of this history perhaps into account, Theodore Herzl, regarded as the father of modern Zionism, made a rather telling observation in his book, Der Judenstaat, or The Jewish State:
The Jewish question persists wherever Jews live in appreciable numbers. Wherever it does not exist, it is brought in together with Jewish immigrants. We are naturally drawn into those places where we are not persecuted, and our appearance there gives rise to persecution. This is the case, and will inevitably be so, everywhere, even in highly civilized countries—see, for instance, France—so long as the Jewish question is not solved on the political level.
Herzl thought the only way Jews would ever be able to avoid anti-Semitism was by having a state of their own. But if the mere “appearance” of Jews in a new place naturally “gives rise to persecution,” as he put it, how would it be possible for such a people to found a state that would or ever could live in peace with its neighbors? This is what Herzl seemingly failed to take into consideration.
Richard Edmondson is an author, novelist, poet, and journalist whose writings often focus on Middle East issues, the Zionist lobby, and religion. His latest novel is The Memoirs of Saint John: When the Sandstone Crumbles, a story about an archaeological team doing a dig in Syria and set amidst the current conflict in the country.
In 2014 Richard attended an International Conference on Combating Terrorism and Religious Extremism, held in Damascus. The book is part two in the Memoirs of Saint John series.
Two other books by Richard are Rising Up: Class Warfare in America from the Streets to the Airwaves, relating his experiences founding and operating an unlicensed or “pirate” FM radio station in San Francisco in the 1990s, as well as a volume of poetry entitled American Bus Stop: Essay and Poems on Hope and Homelessness.
Richard is cognizant of the words of the early Christian writer Tertullian, who in the second century-basically prognosticating the fall of the Roman Empire-wrote: “We have made merry amid the ludicrous cruelties of the noonday exhibition.”