Israele Siamo Noi: Italy’s New Bestseller?

Ruthie Blum, whose laser vision has skewered more than one unsuspecting victim, interviews Fiamma Nirenstein, the fiery Italian journalist who went from 60s radicalism to proud Zionism in her life of passionate integrity. Fiamma’s new book — Israele Siamo Noi — represents what I hope will be the beginning of a turn-around in European perceptions… from the sick (in the Nietzschean sense) self-hatred and dhimmi appeasement of the current anti-American, anti-Zionist “left” to a healthy respect for all that Western culture has achieved in the way of civic culture, freedom and tolerance, and the courage to defend it against global Jihadis. Her insights into why the Italians don’t want to think about the threat posed by Islam are at once illuminating and depressing.

One on One: Making the case for commonality

Ruthie Blum, THE JERUSALEM POST May. 9, 2007
Fiamma Nirenstein rushes into her kitchen to brew some Italian coffee before we sit down to discuss her latest best-seller, Israele Siamo Noi [Israel Is Us; Rizzoli Publishers], which sold out in its first week and is already on its second printing. On the table, amid a mound of newspapers – The Jerusalem Post prominent among them – is a laptop with at least three documents on which she is working simultaneously: one, an article she needs to finish by evening to meet her deadline for the Milan-based daily, Il Giornale; another, a lecture she is preparing for her upcoming trip to Rome; yet another an entry for her popular blog.

The music of the bubbling espresso pot is accompanied by the repeated Outlook Express jingle signalling she has new mail and the ring of her home and mobile phones.

“Pronto,” she answers each, practically simultaneously, talking to one caller in Italian and the other in Hebrew. This she does while ushering me into the salon and gesturing that I take a seat on the couch. The spacious, sunny living-and-dining room may as well be a multilingual Mideast studies library, for all the books on the subject lining the walls, and the dozens more piled high on other surfaces – a number of which she herself has either authored, co-authored or contributed to.

Given the room’s decor, it may as well be located in Florence, where Nirenstein was born and raised; in Rome, where she lives and works (and visits her 25-year-old son, Binyamin) half of every month; or in Tuscany, where she spends her summers. The panoramic view of the Holy City from the floor-to-ceiling windows is the only give-away to the location of Nirenstein’s home in Jerusalem – which she shares with her Israeli husband, Ofer Eshed, a TV news cameraman.

“Israel is a country of heroes,” Nirenstein says in Italian-accented English, now turning her undivided attention to our hour-long interview. “My book tries to destroy the vile myths perpetrated about its being ‘colonialist’ or an ‘apartheid state’ on the one hand, and about terrorists ‘being militiamen fighting for freedom’ on the other.”

Nirenstein does this, she explains, by dissecting what she calls the “sick words” that have infiltrated the language and consciousness of an increasingly anti-Semitic Europe – terms she and a group of Italian academics plan on collecting for a glossary, “because such word abuse prevents even the possibility of understanding what Israel is all about.”

She comes by her passion for Israel – and familiarity with the conceptual distortions characteristic of “autocratic ideologies” – honestly. The daughter of Holocaust historian and long-time Al Hamishmar correspondent Aharon “Nir” Nirenstein (who came to Palestine in 1936 from Poland, and went to Italy in 1945 with the Jewish Brigade) and Corriere della Sera journalist Wanda Lattes, Nirenstein was an ardent communist in her youth. And, just as Zionism was part and parcel of her upbringing, so too, she says, was she caught up in the “mental corruption” that caused her generation to look to the likes of Che Guevara for inspiration, while attributing the world’s ills to “capitalist imperialism.”

Nirenstein, who has been reporting from Israel for the Italian print and broadcast media for nearly two decades, after years of being an international columnist (recently, she moved from the Left-leaning La Stampa to the conservative Il Giornale), is a European version of a neocon. Her journey across the political spectrum – like that of her American counterparts – began as a response to the radical climate of the 1960s in her own country. Unlike theirs, however, Nirenstein’s was paved with an added complication: To side with anything resembling the right wing in post-World War II Italy meant aligning with the fascists.

Still, Nirenstein asserts, “You cannot run away from reality indefinitely. Ultimately, you have to know what’s right in terms of values, and be courageous about standing up for them.”

For her, this endeavor has taken the form of examining, reporting on and writing extensively about terrorism – and defending Israel in the face of it. “This costs something, of course,” she says, alluding to the bodyguards who pick her up from the airport every time she lands in Italy, and shuttle her from place to place throughout her stay there.

This is the tip of that iceberg of intimidation that permeates even Western countries (not to mention anyone in Arab lands) when it comes to reporting negative news about the Palestinians and Muslims. Anyone who does not appreciate the “price” one must pay to report accurately, does not understand why our news reporters — even the top echelon — do not serve us, their audience, well.

During her most recent stint to promote her book – an appeal to Europeans to emulate Israeli democracy – Nirenstein says she was pleased about the positive reception it received, but stops short of being optimistic. Shrugging and smiling wryly, she sighs: “I’m afraid Europe will only wake up if terrible things happen that none of us would wish on ourselves or on anybody else.

Why is it significant that your book has received so much attention in the mainstream Italian press?

My previous [eight] books have also been given extensive coverage, but what’s significant in this case are the headlines. “Israel: A model for all of us,” and “Israel: A model for democracy.

Even the newspaper Corriere della Sera – which isn’t known for its pro-Israel attitude – titled the review: “Israel – a laboratory of democracy for all of Europe.”

I got the sense that this book released a cork in European public opinion. Many people have approached me and whispered in my ear, “I am with you.”

I would like to think this is true, and anecdotal evidence I have culled from British and French friends and acquaintances suggests that it is. But like the “silent majority” of Palestinians that Rees assures us wants to be freed of the madness that rules them, they have enormous difficulty standing up and speaking out. As the Japanese saying goes, “The nail that sticks up is hammered down.”

Does this mean that the general attitude in Europe is changing?

The attitude in Europe is terrible. It is a public who admires [EU Secretary-General Javier] Solana for telling the Americans that we must be ready to make an agreement with [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad.

It is a public with ideas like one expressed by a reader of my blog, who wrote that the Israelis are the ones who launch American missiles at the poor Palestinians whose only weapons are stones.

Americans and Israelis may know that the world is unsympathetic to them. But they don’t understand how deep the lack of European understanding of terrorism goes, nor how deep the rejection of the word “war.”

War to Europeans, regardless of the context, is anathema and has been since World War II. For Europeans, whoever wages a war is a criminal. Even those with a more sophisticated point of view always start from this point. So, for example, another person responding to my blog wrote that for two soldiers who were kidnapped on the Lebanese border, the Israeli army destroyed all of Lebanon by bombing it incessantly and killing women and children.

Anyone who wages war is a criminal unless they do it in order to resist Western imperialism. Then, no matter how vicious and insane — the Oslo Intifada — they are heros. As the International Solidarity Movement sign at the height of the suicide bombings went: Resistance is not Terrorism!

You see, Israel is the country in the world most covered by the press, yet about which the least is known. This is why I wrote the book. In it, I try to describe what Israel is; what its war is all about; how it is possible to be at war and a democracy at the same time; and most importantly, how Israel is the avant-garde of the Western countries. These are crucial points to convey to Europeans, for whom democracy and war simply do not go together.

Even though World War II saved European democracy?

First of all, there is a lot of revisionism going on now in Europe about the American intervention in WWII – even as far as to view it as imperialistic.

This development, which so flies in the face of any balanced account — the Marshall Plan represents the most non-imperialist, positive-sum solution to a war in which tens of thousands of American lives were lost — that it takes one’s breath away. The only way to understand it is in terms of a profound resentment of the US in Europe, and an unwillingness to own their own follies which, twice in thirty years, led them to terrible wars against each other.

Second, since Europeans consider democracy to be their invention, it should be something they’re very attached to – like a beloved wife. But history has demonstrated how they betray her all the time with great pleasure.

Let’s face it: Europe is the cradle of all the autocratic ideologies of our time – fascism, communism… There is a real fascination in Europe with assertive autocracies and ideologies. And it goes beyond the usual justification for terrorism – as though it is the result of the poverty and exploitation of victims of colonialism. It’s a genuine fascination.

I see the dangerous seeds of a culture of violence in Europe being inspired by the Islamic model – exactly the way that my generation was inspired by [Marxist guerrilla leader] Che Guevara.

There is something that indicates not only a growth of a culture of violence, but worse than that. As we had a sexual revolution, we might now have a violence revolution. You know, beheading people, and all kinds of unthinkable phenomena.

Are you saying, then, that Nazism was a natural or logical product of Europe?

What I’m saying is that there is an illness in Europe that’s always been there – one whose main symptom is anti-Semitism.

Has the post-WWII taboo against expressing it expired?

Well, anti-Semitism in Europe today is very high, and has taken an even sharper rise since the Second War in Lebanon. According to statistics, anti-Semitic incidents all over Europe have multiplied.

I’d put this as a three-step process. First Muhammad al Durah and the outbreak of the Intifada, then the “Jenin Massacre” which prompted Oriana Fallaci’s cry of outrage against the European enthusiasm for suicide terrorism, then the Lebanon War, which prompted such screeds as Jostein Gaarder’s. All fed, if not triggered by Pallywood productions.

Not only those perpetrated by Muslims?

Not only by Muslims. There are neo-Nazi, neo-Fascist and also leftist global movements that are very anti-Semitic – though they would never acknowledge it. They call it anti-imperialism, and say it’s simply criticism of the State of Israel. But if you look at the double standards with regard to civil rights, you know they are being false. We come from a culture of civil rights, which became totally distorted by the communists, who took all of the civil rights for themselves and denied them to others. During the Cold War, civil rights became the medal you received for being on your way to communism. That was the way the communists saw the Third World and Arab countries. So terrorist, autocratic, fascist governments, like the Arab ones, became recipients of civil rights, though they were not upholding them at all.

In other words, the left, here the communists, were master demopaths, invoking the language of civil rights as part of a power play.

Nirenstein’s argument here supports what I argued in response to Finkielkraut‘s effort to explain why the left hates Israel and loves the Palestinians: The European left behaved abominably when they took power in revolutions. So the comparison with Israel is a burning shame which they wash not in self-criticism, but by accusing Israel of being right wing imperialists.

In my book, I tell my own personal story of mental corruption during the time I was a communist. I also speak about the sexual revolution, and about the way we saw the reconstruction of Europe. When we witnessed Italy’s reconstruction in the ’60s, we didn’t see the enormous and marvelous effort being put into creating structures and infrastructures in Europe in general and in Italy in particular. After the complete disaster and havoc that fascism wreaked on Italy, it was now blossoming. But when we saw houses and neighborhoods and factories going up, what did we see? Capitalist exploitation. The gap between the rich and the poor. We didn’t see the fantastic ability of the leading classes in Italy to make the country one of the world’s first powers.

In other words, rather than appreciate the miracle of civil society and the opportunities to do even better that it offered — still higher levels of equality, especially gender, greater fairness in education, stronger social security net, etc. — the leftists took the freedoms of the West to assault the West as the incarnation of evil. That’s certainly what I felt the worst elements of the “New Left” were doing in the late 60s and 70s.

Yet you were also a feminist. Did you not see sexual and other forms of freedom for women being allowed to blossom, as well?

Yes, but it’s more complicated than that. The burst of freedom that Italian women were experiencing during those years mainly affected the Catholics. We Jewish girls were a different story. I saw my mother working, for example, and my grandmother was a free-thinking member of the bourgeoisie.

But I remember an incredible confusion that created the impossibility of living a happy couple life, and much divorce. We thought that love and passion were exactly the same thing. So, when passion became pale, we simply got divorced. We had children here and there from different marriages. We created situations that were very hard to manage. We made our lives very difficult. And what emerged from all that was a terrible selfishness. Couples in Europe now, particularly in Italy, rarely have more than one child. Meanwhile, the immigrants are having many.

This is, of course, the great dilemma of “advanced” societies. DINKs (Dual income no kids) have trouble handling the enormous emotional energy it takes to raise kids, and the real hit your ego takes every time they do not behave as you wish — especially in public. Authoritarian cultures have an answer to this: “hit them.” But we liberals, who will not hit our kids, who fear to even appear authoritarian, we have to put up with kids who often enough express deep resentment of our narcissistic self-involvement, our bourgeois uptightness, our pathetic efforts to discipline them, or to seem relevant when time has passed us by long ago. So in the same breath as we progressives define child-rearing in its most challenging and difficult, but grandiose terms — no violence, no yelling, no punishments, good example, patience, understanding, encouragement, empowerment — we also tend to run away from that challenge. Herein lies the core of the challenge. And again, Israel offers the whole “advanced world,” some important lessons on caring enough about children to have them, cherish them, and raise them to be independent thinkers and agents.

Which brings us to the issue of demography – the buzz-word in Israel that has been framing the debate since 1967. What about the demographics in Europe?

I read that Austria – one of the most conservative countries in terms of public life and behavior – in a few years will have a white Christian minority. Incredible.

But it’s more than that. People have asked me, “Is it true that ‘Israel is us’?” And I say no. Today, we are not able to wage a war, as Israel is; we are not able to have the kind of vibrant and stable democracy that Israel has; and we are unable to behave with internal solidarity the way Israel does.

Is Italy really the same as other European countries? After all, Italy sent troops to Iraq…

It also took them out of there.

Still, you say that people whisper in your ear about being on your side. The book must have touched a nerve.

The Italians are much milder than other Europeans in the way they express their views. They are neither vulgar nor violent. This is something that makes the discussion at least possible.

On the other hand, don’t forget that a third of European Jewry was deported during the war, and Italy was no exception. It had racial laws exactly like those of Germany. Furthermore, today Italy has a large, opportunistic, politically correct petit bourgeoisie.

So, when [Silvio] Berlusconi was prime minister – though Italy had different international politics, particularly regarding the US and Israel – nevertheless, even his own television stations (which are filled with leftist journalists) were broadcasting material that wasn’t pro-American or pro-Israeli. In fact, one of the most important TV shows discussed the possibility that the Twin Towers were destroyed by the Americans themselves because of the Jewish conspiracy. And this is Berlusconi’s TV!

Whoops. But according to the wildly successful polemical “documentary” Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land, the owners of newspapers exercise complete control over their contents, which explains why the press is so Zionist.

Hegemony is something that still almost completely reigns (with the exception of my newspaper, Il Giornale, and a few others). In Italy, as in the rest of Europe, what dominates is a politically correct media.

This comment is unclear. Either Nirenstein means that the hegemony of the Politically Correct reigns over European media, or she invokes “hegemony” to describe the key word in European anti-American discourse. According to Europeans, the Americans have global cultural hegemony, something that infuriates Europeans, and justifiably provokes the most violent reactions from victims of that hegemony… like, for example, Al Qaeda. The celebrated French sociologist, Jean Baudrillard wrote right after 9-11 that the US got what it had coming to them.

    That we have dreamed of this event [9-11], that everybody without exception has dreamt of it, because everybody must dream of the destruction of any power hegemonic to that degree, — this is unacceptable for Western moral conscience, but it is still a fact, and one which is justly measured by the pathetic violence of all those discourses which attempt to erase it.

    In the end, they did it, but we wanted it.

This deep resentment of (imagined) total American hegemony, which targets Israel as well, lies at the core of the European sickness, what permits its intellectuals to blame American and Israeli imperialism for the world’s ills, to embrace the discourse of Islamic grievance.

So, maybe the Italians are not aggressive in an argument; maybe they are polite and civilized. But when you sit at a dinner party with them, their basic assumption is that Israel is wrong and the Palestinians are right. And that terrorism is a minor phenomenon which pales in comparison to the domination of capitalism.

In spite of their witnessing the carnage produced by radical Islamic violence? And in spite of their seeing certain behavior on the part of immigrants to their countries? Has this not created a racist backlash on the part of many Europeans?

Of course, there is a quiet tendency to what I call “democratic racism.” In fact, I wrote a book with this title when this dangerous phenomenon started. And it is dangerous because the intellectual elite have not been elaborating the issue properly, since political correctness forbids them from doing so. So, what they say is, “These immigrants are welcome here. We need to have a multicultural society. Terrorism and the madrassas that educate to it are a minor phenomenon. Islam is one of the three monotheistic religions.”

On the other hand, there is mumbling on the part of ordinary people to the effect that, “We can’t stand them any more. Our streets aren’t safe.They steal our money. They take our jobs.” Which is unjust, of course. And which is why the absence of an intellectual bridge between these two positions is dangerous. It’s about time that we created one, because if we don’t, the mumbling will become a violent mob shout.

How can this intellectual void be filled?

For example, by telling immigrants, “If you come to our country, you won’t marry four women; you will marry only one.”

I mean, you know, Italy is a country in which women have been fighting for centuries for freedom – and now you have women living in homes with other wives, and subject to honor killings and female circumcisions. Which is all due to this ill idea of multiculturalism.

I’ll give you an example of this illness. Recently on Italian TV, a famous Italian journalist defended [Taliban leader] Mullah Omar [believed to be harboring Osama bin Laden].

How he did this was by reading a fictitious letter he had composed as though he were the Mullah Omar – to make a point about how one could put himself in the shoes of the other side. In this letter, the “Mullah Omar” said: “You call me a terrorist. But is it I who is a terrorist, or is it George Bush bombing our country and killing people at weddings? And when we hid bin Laden here, we told Bush to give us proof that he indeed perpetrated the World Trade Center bombings.” Then, he ends by saying: “It’s true I live with four wives, who are covered from head to toe. But what would you tell me about your own women, who walk around with their underpants showing?”

Who could ask for a better illustration of cognitive egocentrism done in the key of moral equivalence.

During the week that this broadcast appeared, I was teaching a Mideast history class [at Luiss University in Rome], and we were talking about terrorism. I asked my students what they thought of the equation this journalist made between Bush and Mullah Omar. And they said they found it quite interesting. I asked them why, and then a discussion ensued. While it was going on, the other person teaching the class with me interrupted to say, “Fiamma, don’t you get it? These kids don’t want to face the fact that there is terrorism in the world, because they are not ready to fight. There is no compulsory conscription in Italy, and they will never join the army.”

So I turned to the students and asked them, “If you were threatened, like Israel is, would you go into the army?” And they all said no. Then I asked them if their brother or sister were being threatened, would they go into the army, and they said no.

Then I thought about what I wrote in the book about Israeli youth. And I thought of the stupid saying by Bertolt Brecht, “Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes.”

Well, I think, “Happy the land that is in need of heroes,” because it gives the people the possibility of loving and being committed to something. Of course, I’m not referring to warriors against democracy and for conquering the world, like the Islamists do. I’m referring to wars of defense, like those of Israel. When you speak to Israeli boys and girls – even during this time of the Winograd Committee findings about the failures of the government and upper echelons of the IDF – you realize how unique they are. None of this stops them from wanting to serve in the army. Nor does it stop them from wanting to go to pubs at night. This duality is a fantastic creation of the State of Israel. Indeed, Israel is special for the fantastic men it has created. Which is why I feel so bad whenever I see it despised and destroyed by Israelis themselves.

Give an example of this self-destruction.

One recent example is the Israeli film, Beaufort [directed by Joseph Cedar and based on the novel by Ron Leshem, about the last battle at the Beaufort Castle during the first war in Lebanon in 1982]. It’s a good movie, in the sense that it gives you the sense of who these Israeli boys are. It destroys the international myth of the ferocious Israeli soldier. The trouble is that it introduces a different myth: that war is the stupid invention of the upper echelons in Israel, in order to be assertive about incidents which could just as easily have been ignored.

The movie portrays the suffering of the soldiers – suffering that was certainly genuine – but these soldiers appear weepy and mournful. I know Israeli soldiers. They laugh a lot; they make a lot of jokes. And they not only love this country, but they are ready to die for it. And this isn’t mere rhetoric. In fact, earlier this month, I went to the North to observe the situation as it stands nearly a year after the war.

There I met a 25-year-old officer who, with a shy smile, told me: “I know it must sound funny to Italian ears, but I’m ready to die for the country.”

In the movie, you see these boys full of fear and a feeling that the whole thing is senseless. Senseless?! – since they left Lebanon, the Hizbullah has been growing and building up its arsenal!

The movie also has Haaretz’s Gideon Levy interviewing soldiers’ parents on the TV, and one main theme comes out of those interviews: We don’t blame anybody; we don’t blame the Hizbullah; we don’t blame the terrorists; we blame ourselves for not giving our children the sense of how important their lives are and how they must not die for any reason. Now, that’s true that children must not die for any reason – please go and tell that to [Hizbullah chief Hassan] Nasrallah! Why are you explaining it to the people being assaulted?

I don’t think this is the best example of the way that self-critical Israelis go overboard and assault their own country in their eagerness to beat their breasts. Actually there’s a website that tracks the sometimes vicious anti-Israeli discourse of some Israeli academics.

So, the aim of your book is to tell anybody who believes in liberal values that Israel is a model to identify with and emulate?

Yes. And to stop paying so much heed to all the corruption allegations and other assaults against Israel.

Speaking of which, how do you respond to Italians who point to widespread corruption in the Israeli government?

What I say is that people are not perfect. And that democracy involves the circulation of information that exposes everybody. I’m sure that in Syria and in China, there are scandals of this kind. But we don’t know about them.

I actually had a long conversation in the summer of 2005 with an Italian newscaster. She was telling me about how sad it was that Israel, which had been a beacon of hope, now was a sea of corruption filled with politicians who manipulated a public they didn’t care about. When I pressed on how she knew this — had she been to Israel… did she know Israelis? — she responded that she got them from Italian sources. “Would this be a good description of Italian politics right now?” “Yes,” she agreed. It might be projection.

Nirenstein’s point about how we find out about corruption deserves attention. When I was in France around the time of the scandal surrounding the Catholic Church in Boston (and beyond), some of my French friends took a certain thrill in pointing out how even the Catholic Church in the USA was corrupt. “Do you think this doesn’t go on in the French Catholic Church? Or is it just that the French media would not dare tell that story?” Even though they were medievalists, and trained to think about sources, this apparently had not occured to them.

In Israel, as everywhere else, human nature is what it is. When I’m asked which errors I admit to Israel’s having committed, I say that Israel has made many mistakes, but for the most part, they are political ones. One can argue about whether it was right or wrong to withdraw from Gaza. My own opinion on that has changed, by the way, because originally I thought it was a good idea, but now that I have seen the results, I say, “Mea culpa, mea culpa.” I think I’m not alone in that.

Isn’t the response to your book an indication that Europeans are beginning to grasp what you’re talking about?

No. I’m afraid they’ll only wake up if terrible things happen that none of us would wish on ourselves or on anybody else.

Or as a friend of mine puts it: “When does Pharaoh listen to Moses? When it hurts.”

Having said that, there is some level of awareness that the Islamist jihadists hate not only Israel, but also the rest of the Western world.

Ahmadinejad has his Shihab-3 missiles pointed at European capitals – which they realize to some extent. But still, things are not really getting better.

What has dominated European life is laziness on the one hand, and loneliness on the other. There isn’t the kind of solidarity that exists in Israel – where everybody has something to say to everybody else – even if it’s done in a hutzpadik manner. In my book, I describe a traffic jam on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, with one driver asking another how much he’s selling his car for; another accusing someone else of not knowing how to drive; another hitting on a woman. The point is that in Israel, there is a sense of communication – and of being in the same boat. This is something not found anywhere else.

And it is something Israel should be stressing about itself: that it is a country full of solidarity – one which is so insanely democratic that the likes of Azmi Bishara went to the Hizbullah and the Syrians immediately after the war and passed on information to them – as a member of the Knesset! It’s a country whose prime minister and defense minister are being treated like dishrags, and exposed to the public like clowns, as a result of a government-initiated commission of inquiry!

It is said of Italians that they have a lot in common with Jews – in terms of their mothering and nurturing, etc. Doesn’t this mean that they would be naturally more susceptible to the ideas you are expressing?

[She laughs] My son says that he suffers terribly, because he’s got a mother who’s both Italian and Jewish.

But otherwise, I don’t think there’s any real cultural similarity – not in modern times, anyway. Since 1945, the Italians haven’t had the experience of having to fight to protect their children, for example. World War II vaccinated them. But also, their army – other than the Partisans – was a fascist one that sided with the Nazis, which caused a double sense of disaster, not only about war, but being on the wrong side of the war.

So, on the one hand it’s true that people are starting to sense that [radical] Islam is against democracy. On the other, it’s not clear whether this feeling will develop any further.

You see, there is a complete disconnect going on. Using my students as an example again: They say, “It’s true that we are a superior culture because of civil rights and women’s rights and freedom and democracy. But, precisely because we are superior, it is we who have to find a way to an agreement.”

When you tell them, “But they don’t want an agreement. They are a revolution. Think about Ahmadinejad. He doesn’t want an agreement. He’s a revolutionary. It’s his revolution,” they say, “This is impossible!”

They think reaching an agreement is always possible.

The classic positive-sum, win-win, let’s get to “yes” mentality that lies at the heart of civil society. But it’s not easy to do that, especially with people who play by different rules. Who use those rules against you. And Europe, which only reached this “pacific” approach to life after a thirty-years war that killed tens of millions of Europeans, thinks that it is the master of the technique and vastly superior to the cowboys that saved them twice from their own follies.

Don’t Israelis also think that?

Fewer and fewer, I think. Look at the Winograd Report. At the end of the day, what is the issue? The issue is that Israel must still win the war. In other words, what’s wrong with [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert and [Defense Minister Amir] Peretz is that they fared badly, not that they went to war – that they were incompetent to lead a country surrounded by enemies.

But it’s not only Europe that doesn’t understand this. I fear that Israel doesn’t understand this about itself the way it should. Israel is at the heart of the greatest adventure not only of this century, but of this millennium.

And, if this exceptional, three-century old experiment in freedom and civil society continues to progress, of this coming millennium as well.

28 Responses to Israele Siamo Noi: Italy’s New Bestseller?

  1. ahmedinajad says:

    READ THE FOLLOWING PASSAGES FROM THE BIBLE AS IT HAS IMPLICATIONS ON THE WAR AGAINST TERROR/ISLAM and the claim of Israel that god gave them the land. If the child is an infant than the Judeo-Christian version becomes null and void and we are wasting our time and resources i.e. we could save trillions of dollars and create a more peaceful world rather than fighting against Islam the religion of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all).

    The COVENANT with Abraham and his DESCENDANTS is central to JUDAISM/CHRISTIANITY/ISLAM.

    Please note this is not a competition between faiths but an attempt to decipher fact from fiction.

    Genesis 21:14 Contemporary English version se below link;&version=46;

    Early the next morning Abraham gave Hagar an animal skin full of water and some bread. Then he put the boy on her shoulder and sent them away.

    GENESIS 16:16
    And Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ish’mael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ish’mael to Abram.

    GENESIS 21:5
    Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

    At Genesis 22 Abraham had only 2 sons others came later. The Quran mentions that it was Ishmael that was sacrificed hence the reference in genesis 22:2 your only son can only mean someone has substituted Ishmael names for Isaac!!

    NOT ROMAN NUMERALS (I, II, III,IV,V,VI,VII,VIII,IX,X) NB no concept of zero in roman numerals.

    100 years old – 86 years old = 14 ADD 3 YEARS FOR ISSAC’S WEANING


    Carefully read several times the above passage and then tell me the mental picture you get between the mother child interactions what is the age of the child. If the mental picture is that of a 17 year old child being carried on the shoulder of his mother, being physically placed in the bush, crying like a baby, mother having to give him water to drink, than the Islamic viewpoint is null and void. Why is there no verbal communications between mother and (17 YEAR OLD) child?

    GENESIS: 21:14 – 21
    So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the (17 YEAR OLD) child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-Sheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the (17 YEAR OLD) child under one of the bushes. Then she went, and sat down over against him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Let me not look upon the death of the (17 YEAR OLD) child.” And as she sat over against him, the (17 YEAR OLD) child lifted up his voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the (17 YEAR OLD) lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not; for God has heard the voice of the (17 YEAR OLD) lad where he is. Arise, lift up the (17 YEAR OLD) lad, and hold him fast with your hand; for I will make him a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the (17 YEAR OLD) lad a drink. And God was with the (17 YEAR OLD) lad, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

    The age of Ishmael at this stage is crucial to the Abrahamic faiths. If he is 17 than the JUDEO/CHRISTIAN point of view about the Abrahamic covenant is correct. This has devastating theological consequences of unimaginable proportions.

    This makes the conflict between Ishmael and Isaac and there descendants a work of fiction. I would strongly suggest it is clear cut case of racial discrimination and nothing to do with god almighty. The scribes have deliberately tried to make Isaac the only son and legitimate heir to the throne of Abraham??

    Please can you rationally explain this anomaly?

    I have asked many persons including my nephews and nieces – unbiased minds with no religious backgrounds but with reasonable command of the English language about this passage and they all agree that the child in the passage is an infant.

    For background info on the future religion of mankind see the following websites:





    HOLY QURAN CHAPTER 37 verses 101 – 122

    101. So We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear.

    102. Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: “O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what is thy view!” (The son) said: “O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so wills one practising Patience and Constancy!”

    103. So when they had both submitted their wills (to Allah., and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice),

    104. We called out to him “O Abraham!

    105. “Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!” – thus indeed do We reward those who do right.

    106. For this was obviously a trial-

    107. And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice:

    108. And We left (this blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later times:

    109. “Peace and salutation to Abraham!”

    110. Thus indeed do We reward those who do right.

    111. For he was one of our believing Servants.

    112. And We gave him the good news of Isaac – a prophet,- one of the Righteous.

    113. We blessed him and Isaac: but of their progeny are (some) that do right, and (some) that obviously do wrong, to their own souls.

    114. Again (of old) We bestowed Our favour on Moses and Aaron,

    115. And We delivered them and their people from (their) Great Calamity;

    116. And We helped them, so they overcame (their troubles);

    117. And We gave them the Book which helps to make things clear;

    118. And We guided them to the Straight Way.

    119. And We left (this blessing) for them among generations (to come) in later times:

    120. “Peace and salutation to Moses and Aaron!”

    121. Thus indeed do We reward those who do right.

    122. For they were two of our believing Servants.

    Therefore the claim that god gave the land to Israel is destroyed without the need of any WMD’s.

    Volume 4, Book 55, Number 583:

    Narrated Ibn Abbas:

    The first lady to use a girdle was the mother of Ishmael. She used a girdle so that she might hide her tracks from Sarah. Abraham brought her and her son Ishmael while she was suckling him, to a place near the Ka’ba under a tree on the spot of Zam-zam, at the highest place in the mosque. During those days there was nobody in Mecca, nor was there any water So he made them sit over there and placed near them a leather bag containing some dates, and a small water-skin containing some water, and set out homeward. Ishmael’s mother followed him saying, “O Abraham! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything (to enjoy)?” She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her Then she asked him, “Has Allah ordered you to do so?” He said, “Yes.” She said, “Then He will not neglect us,” and returned while Abraham proceeded onwards, and on reaching the Thaniya where they could not see him, he faced the Ka’ba, and raising both hands, invoked Allah saying the following prayers:
    ‘O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Your Sacred House (Kaba at Mecca) in order, O our Lord, that they may offer prayer perfectly. So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits, so that they may give thanks.’ (14.37) Ishmael’s mother went on suckling Ishmael and drinking from the water (she had).
    When the water in the water-skin had all been used up, she became thirsty and her child also became thirsty. She started looking at him (i.e. Ishmael) tossing in agony; She left him, for she could not endure looking at him, and found that the mountain of Safa was the nearest mountain to her on that land. She stood on it and started looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not see anybody. Then she descended from Safa and when she reached the valley, she tucked up her robe and ran in the valley like a person in distress and trouble, till she crossed the valley and reached the Marwa mountain where she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She repeated that (running between Safa and Marwa) seven times.”
    The Prophet said, “This is the source of the tradition of the walking of people between them (i.e. Safa and Marwa). When she reached the Marwa (for the last time) she heard a voice and she asked herself to be quiet and listened attentively. She heard the voice again and said, ‘O, (whoever you may be)! You have made me hear your voice; have you got something to help me?” And behold! She saw an angel at the place of Zam-zam, digging the earth with his heel (or his wing), till water flowed from that place. She started to make something like a basin around it, using her hand in this way, and started filling her water-skin with water with her hands, and the water was flowing out after she had scooped some of it.”
    The Prophet added, “May Allah bestow Mercy on Ishmael’s mother! Had she let the Zam-zam (flow without trying to control it) (or had she not scooped from that water) (to fill her water-skin), Zam-zam would have been a stream flowing on the surface of the earth.” The Prophet further added, “Then she drank (water) and suckled her child. The angel said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid of being neglected, for this is the House of Allah which will be built by this boy and his father, and Allah never neglects His people.’ The House (i.e. Kaba) at that time was on a high place resembling a hillock, and when torrents came, they flowed to its right and left. She lived in that way till some people from the tribe of Jurhum or a family from Jurhum passed by her and her child, as they (i.e. the Jurhum people) were coming through the way of Kada’. They landed in the lower part of Mecca where they saw a bird that had the habit of flying around water and not leaving it. They said, ‘This bird must be flying around water, though we know that there is no water in this valley.’ They sent one or two messengers who discovered the source of water, and returned to inform them of the water. So, they all came (towards the water).” The Prophet added, “Ishmael’s mother was sitting near the water. They asked her, ‘Do you allow us to stay with you?” She replied, ‘Yes, but you will have no right to possess the water.’ They agreed to that.” The Prophet further said, “Ishmael’s mother was pleased with the whole situation as she used to love to enjoy the company of the people. So, they settled there, and later on they sent for their families who came and settled with them so that some families became permanent residents there. The child (i.e. Ishmael) grew up and learnt Arabic from them and (his virtues) caused them to love and admire him as he grew up, and when he reached the age of puberty they made him marry a woman from amongst them.

  2. fp says:


    it seems to me that there is an almost identical flaw built into the left and islamism, which may explain in part why they are in bed together against all odds.

    they’re both utopian. and utopias cannot possibly be wrong. if something does not work, it cannot possibly be the utopia. the solution is never to question the utopia, but its insufficiency.

    when leftists societies failed, it was not the underlying ideology; it was the west’s fault who did not understand and believe in the right goals and values.

    when islamic societies failed, it was not islam that failed; it was the infidels influence and colonialism, and the impure faith.

    they’re both faith and dogma that conflict with reality. but because they exclude self-criticism, they have self-destruction built in. that explains the hatred and demonization and the disregard of reality.

    comment – rl: you’re right, altho i prefer the term millennial for this (from the book of Revelation 20:1-7, i.e., movements aimed at establishing the 1000-year messianic kingdom of perfection on earth) of which utopianism is one, secular, variant of the larger phenomenon. what you describe in terms of denial, projection and violence was called “cogntive dissonance” by festinger in his famous essay on millennial disappointment.

    i grant you that this is a significant link between them, but there’s plenty of millennial disappointment going around, with its attendant cognitive dissonance, including in the ranks of some Christian apocalyptic movements. We need to explain why the “left” finds the Muslim variety so attractive. It’s unbridled violence? It’s anti-Westernism? It’s size?

  3. Sophia says:

    With respect, who is fighting against Islam? That has nothing to do with the right of the Jewish people to self-determination after 2,000 years of getting beaten almost to death.

    I would suggest a more humanistic approach, please, rather than scrying ancient texts and employing numerology in attempt to seek the “truth”, then compounding the problem by seeking to retroactively apply modern concepts like “racism” to these stories – be they divinely inspired or not.

    The truth is simple and it’s as plain as the rising of the sun: a tiny persecuted minority of people has been decimated by Christian, Islamic and political ideologies, accused of hideous crimes, expelled from home after home. Just recently a good try was made to exterminate them entirely – and threats to finish the job continue to this day – but yet much of the wisdom of the modern world derives from their contributions.

    These people, though scattered through the ages since the diaspora from Judea at Roman hands, remained in some numbers in Jerusalem, in Judea, Samaria, and elsewhere throughout the Middle East – where in fact they’ve dwelled for at least 3400 years. Others have finally come home: from Europe, Ethiopia, India, America, Europe, and Asia.

    Simple compassion argues for them to be left in peace in Israel. A simple look at a map will inform anybody that the Arab/Muslim world is enormous, full of potential and rich with resources. People who have been displaced by war are legion throughout the world. The Palestinian people must also find a safe haven. It is obvious that their Arab brothers must help. To do otherwise, to continue maintaining a nation of “refugees” after 60 years, pointed like a sword at another group of victims, is simply cruel.

    Peace be upon you, sir, and may we someday meet in a happier world.

  4. fp says:


    don’t know why you responded to that gibberish, it does not deserve attention. it was obvious.

    comment rl: actually i wondered whether i should approve of that comment or count it as spam. i thought as long as it wasn’t car insurance, cheap medication, or sex-enhancement materials, it should go up.

    sophia’s response was actually a confirmation of my decision. eloquent, straightforward… jeffb?

  5. Eliyahu says:

    fp may be right about the affinity between the Left and Islam. By the way, at the very start of the Bolshevik misadventure in 1917, Stalin’s Commissariat of Nationalities took a pro-Muslim position against the national rights of non-Muslim peoples [i.e., Armenians] when these rights clash with the rights and interests of Muslim peoples [i.e., Turks].

    Fiamma points to Che Guevara as a problem. I always sensed something fascistic about him in his belief in violence as a positive good and his lack of a positive social program. Social issues did not interest him. Only the Revolution, that is, an enterprise of blood and violence, interested him.

    Che’s friend Fidel also showed a certain affinity for violence and death. As I recall, one of his slogans was Patria o Muerte! [Fatherland or Death!]. It does ring slightly like the American Patrick Henry [Give me liberty or give me death]. But it is much closer to the words of Spanish general Millan Astray that are supposed to have shocked the philosopher Unamuno. Millan Astray was a general in Franco’s fascist army. At a public meeting at the university in Salamanca, Millan Astray led a group chant by some of his troops that went something like this:
    [one voice:] Espanya [group response:] Muerte [chant repeated…]. Now, Muerte means death in both cases. Espanya means Spain, that is, their fatherland.

    Anyhow, if you’re a poor Cuban courtesy of Fidel Castro, it probably doesn’t matter much to you whether you’re suffering because of Communism or Fascism. Is there much of a diff at the grass roots level?
    As for Che and Fidel, maybe Fidel wasn’t such a friend of Che. Did Fidel –ever loyal to friends– somehow force Che to leave Cuba and try his luck in the Bolivian jungle? Did Fidel maybe feel that Cuba wasn’t big enough for both of them?

  6. fp says:

    as a political scientist who has studied these things,
    the notion that there is a left-right continuum is in error. it is actually a circle, where the extremes of the right and left meet. between hitler and stalin there were differences without a distinction — the consequences were the same: totalitarianism, terror, death, etc.

    if you’re after utopia, you have no choice but to be willing to die, or to kill.

  7. fp says:

    inability to post:

    once in a while I am unable to post in a certain thread. today it’s been “why paletinians are killing each other…”.

    when i click ‘submit query’, instead of posting the thread page is returned immediately without the post. if i retry, i am told it’s a duplicate post.

    since there is no email contact available to let RL know, I am posting this here, in case somebody knows the solution.

    incidentally, when i clicked on the RL signature link at the bottom of RL’s posts, i get a very strange page of a dating site:

    comment rl: i have put up information for contact at the top right of the home-page.

  8. Cynic says:

    #7 fp,
    It seems that along with the coming of the trolls, JeffB, calzone and now comment #1 here, RL’s link has been hacked.

    I think the posts are too acurate and hitting the nail on the head everytime.

  9. David M says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 05/29/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

  10. Joanne says:

    Regarding Che Guevara, below is a link to an excellent article on Slate. The author is Paul Berman, and, yes, I have quoted from him before, but I really like his stuff.

    The article is a review of the movie Motorcycle Diaries, but it’s really about Che in general.

  11. Solomonia says:

    An Italian Pro-Israel Best Seller?

    Richard Landes comments on a fascinating interview with former Italian radical Leftist author Fiamma Nirenstein regarding her new book, Israele Siamo Noi [Israel Is Us]: Israele Siamo Noi: Italy’s New…

  12. Eliyahu says:

    Joanne, note that I whereas Berman connects Che to the Catholic tradition, I connect Fidel to the Spanish tradition, roughly speaking the same thing –in Spanish-speaking lands. Millan Astray was one of Franco’s generals. So there you had a death cult. But a death cult also prevails among the “Left”, especially in so far as they side with the Arabs, and overlook the overwhelming death cult of the Arabs, and other Muslims. Recall that most victims of the Arab death cult are fellow Arabs.

    Anyhow, let’s not let “leftists” preach to us about death worship or a death cult. The “Left” is a manipulated body of public opinion. “Leftism” can’t be taken seriously as a body of thought, just as a dangerous fanatic movement like the Crusades or the fascists or Savonarola’s followers.

  13. Joanne says:


    Since I count myself on the left or center-left, as does Berman, I find his “preaching” to be very welcome. I like his nuanced point of view. Like Irving Howe and others, Berman remains a man of the left while clearly seeing the problems with left-wing dogmatism. I like his integrity, insight and lack of tendentiousness. It’s silly to dismiss him so cavalierly, as you do.

    Moreover, “leftism” isn’t a body of thought any more than “rightism” is. Each half of the political spectrum includes many shades of thought and sensibility. As for manipulation, I think there is a fair share of that across the political spectrum.

    Eliyahu, I suggest you read the article more carefully; it’s a brief one, anyway. The article doesn’t connect Che to the Catholic tradition. Berman says about Che: “He stood for the ancient rigidities of Latin-American thought, in a Marxist-Leninist version.”

    Berman linked the MOVIE with a Catholic-like worship of Che: “Yet the entire movie, in its concept and tone, exudes a Christological cult of martyrdom, a cult of adoration for the spiritually superior person who is veering toward death.”

    And I’m not sure what you mean when you say that Fidel is connected to the Spanish tradition. What Spanish tradition are you talking about? Franco’s generals? Huh? In any case, the article is about Che, not Fidel.

    Also, I think there is a difference between being a member of a suicide cult and being a deluded European leftist who, for his own reasons, has some sympathy for suicide bombers. Let’s not resort to that broad brush.

  14. Eliyahu says:

    Joanne, I didn’t mean to put down Berman. I thought it was a good article. What made you think that I was putting him down?
    As to Che, I do think that Berman connects him to the Catholic tradition, especially in its Lat Am form. Perhaps the link is implicit. But I thought that Berman was making the link rather obviously. In any case, I know Spanish fairly well, as well as the Spanish tradition, which has of course been a major influence on literary and cultural traditions in Latin America.

    As to Che and Fidel, I think that they are connected in the public mind and in history and are similar in much of their thinking. Spanish culture does have a certain frank fascination with death. You recall that bullfighting is a tradition there, for instance. This is in their poetry too, more so than in French poetry, I believe. I also wanted to make the link between Fidel and Franco’s general Millan Astray, who was once notorious for that chant in praise of death. As said or implied above, Che and Fidel shared many values. I believe that their culture’s fascination with death influenced both of them.
    Now, as to “right-left,” I don’t believe in the political spectrum, period. Nor do I agree that politics and ideology are a continuum or circle. If we must use geometric metaphors, then I say that politics/ideologies are a three-dimensional phenomenon. Leftists today say things, particularly about Jews, that “rightists” said in the 1920s and 1930s. In my opinion, the notion of a political spectrum is one of the great deceiving ideas of our time. As far as public opinion is concerned, it is like a mushroom. It is kept in the dark and fed on manure. In general, public opinion is manipulated, as you seem to be saying. The best immunization against being manipulated is to be well informed, to study history widely, and to be able to read newspapers in several languages.

  15. Joanne says:

    It seems like a good article, fp, but long! It must be taken from his upcoming book.

    Eliyahu, I’m sorry if I misunderstood you, but when you said Anyhow, “let’s not let ‘leftists’ preach to us about death worship or a death cult,” I thought you were referring to Berman.

    Regarding Che, I don’t know Latin American culture, but I don’t see any death cult on Che’s part. And I still say the article was referring to a Catholic impulse in the movie, not Che’s thought.

    Regarding left vs. right,I understand your point about three dimensions of ideology rather than just a spectrum, especially as the left and right seem to overlap (and not the first time in history, by the way). But I don’t think that the notion of “left” and “right” is a deceitful idea. It’s very real, an in history the differences among right-wingers and left-winger–in whatever context–have been meaningful. Only, now the situation’s become more complex. The differences are fuzzier in many cases.

  16. RL says:

    left vs right is a key issue of our time, since our current use is so faulty that even thinking in these terms misidentifies what we’re dealing with. the culture wars are getting worse (esp in the usa with 9-11 conspiracy thinking), and it’s not clear how to get out of this.

    if anyone has any good articles addressing this, or want’s to prepare a post, i’d be happy to put it up.

  17. Eliyahu says:

    Joanne, you probably remember the day when Left meant championing poor workers. That day is long gone. When do you ever hear a faker like No`am Chomsky worrying about the working class? And he surely would never say a word in defense of the exploited wage-slaves or slave-slaves [chattel slaves] in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the several and sundry Persian Gulf emirates [most of them joined together in the Union of Arab Emirates]?? But No`am [whose foul and ugly deeds belie the meaning of his name: “pleasantness”] runs off to Teheran to display solidarity with the Nazi leader of Iran. That he has time for, but the miners in Putin’s Russia who are treated like human beasts No`am and his followers have no time for. How about the boy camel jockeys in Dubai or is it Abu Dhabi or both? These boys are slaves. Jiminy Cricket, ex-prez of USA and slayer of the killer rabbit, plus Jim Baker and George II are quite charmed by the noble falcon-raising sheiks of Araby. Jiminy seems especially charmed by their pecuniary treasures and munificence, by their mammon, to use a Hebrew word. George II wanted to place US ports under the management of a Dubai firm. And as far as I know, No`am and the disgraceful Nazi norman finkelstein [are we allowed to call him a Nazi?] have nought to say about labor-capital relations in the Persian Gulf or anywhere in Araby. Is this the Left? And one might ask the same question about the Monthly Review‘s scribblers who pretend to be on a high, Marxist theoretical plane, but essentially avoid the same issues as No`am does, as far as I know, although from time to time they might refer to “the Arab working class” or “pro-Western feudal Middle Eastern kingdoms,” blah blah.

    Hence, Joanne, even if the political spectrum notion may have had some meaning in the French National Assembly in the days of the Jacobins, the Girondins, and the Mountain, this notion today merely serves to confuse public opinion. It deceives the public and is probably used for the purpose of deception OR by the deceived.

  18. fp says:


    i don’t think we can resolve this problem.

    i always go back to the educational system and its collapse. this kind of issue requires not only knowledge and the ability to think critically and independently, but also the appreciation that they are critically important. as you observed, this is precisely what jeffb was lacking and why nobody could get through to him.

    all this must be imparted by the educational system. when it is not, the problem is not solvable, because the basic intellectual capacities and tools do not exist and they cannot be imparted “on the fly”.

    it is this most than anything that makes me suspect that western society is doomed. because even if we were to overhaul the education system tomorrow (which we won’t), it would take generations to have an impact. and we’re going in the opposite direction.

    the same problem wreaks havoc with the a-i conflict. there is practically no education in the territories, and there is a deterioration on the israeli side too.

    i see what hanson calls the post-west: the parallels with the fall of rome are shockingly similar, complete with gladiator shows on tv.

  19. fp says:

    mark steyn once in a while touches on this problem, for example:

    When reality’s up for grabs (requires free registration)

    but he comes from a judeo-christian/neoconservative direction, which is different than my greco-roman perspective (which is, in my opinion, a more accurate one insofar as the positives of the western culture are concerned), which has a faith component which i find as damaging (even if not as violent) as islam.

    comment rl: do explain what you mean…

  20. fp says:

    here’s another indicator of suicidal indicators a la rome:

  21. Joanne says:

    A “greco-roman perspective”? You must be kidding. What do you mean by that.

  22. Richard Landes says:

    i think eliyahu’s comments are very pertinent. while they still are concerned with a social program, they have fallen in thrall to this “anti-imperialist” post-colonial paradigm in which western power represents the great enemy. as a result, both in women’s issues and in “resistance” issues, they have sided with regressive forces because they oppose the west (or their idea of what’s wrong with the west, namely how we use power). that their allies would abuse power far more oppressively is something that cannot penetrate their “paradigm.”

  23. fp/ says:


    what i meant was that the west is usually positively portrayed as founded on judeo-christian values. but in fact, the west’s positive foundation is greco-roman. judeo-christian is a religious foundation and it’s been far from positive, as all religions are. thus, we had to go through the dark ages which suppressed the positive values until we came out in the renaissance and got back to the positive values.

    so if i were to promote the west against the barbarism of islamism, i would not do it on the basis of judeo-christian, but rather greco-roman values.

    note that i am not claiming that the latter are perfect and the former are all bad. but on average, it holds.

  24. Richard Landes says:

    fp: actually greco-roman values are pretty heavy on the imperialism… the civic values of democracy (like equality before the law) didn’t survive long when the lure of imperial conquest beckoned.
    and while the imperialist dimensions of monotheism are undeniable and dangerous (both christianity and islam fell prey to its lure), there is a strong element in monotheism of what i call demotic religiosity (equality before the law, dignity of manual labor, freedom of conscience) that i think have contributed considerably to the devt of real democracy in the west.
    i’m willing to argue that, without biblical inspiration, democracies would not have emerged from the west — remember that the renaissance (as opposed to the reformation) was not a popular movement, but an elitist one.

  25. fp/ says:

    i’m not entirely sure i would buy that argument, although i grant some influence.

    as far as i know from my historical analyses of the bibles, there was a heavy greek element to their roots, particularly paul. although i don’t haven’t studied the subject, my guess is that to the extent that the bibles influenced democracy, it is probably the helenistic component that did it. i may be wrong.

    in any case, there are both negative and positive elements in greco-romanism, just as they are in the bibles. at least the greeks and the roman HAD an actual democratic stage in their history. i am unaware of democratic systems in christianity and judaism for many years after the bibles. just the opposite (remember constantine)?

    the consequences of religion can be better seen in the dark ages and it was the renaissance that brought the positive values back. i am not sure that the sequence of events validates your position and not mine.

  26. […] heritage – cannon fodder for the Islamic alternative, she said. Europeans need copies of Fiamma Nirenstein’s Israele Siamo Noi in whatever langu […]

  27. […] that topic, see Fiamma Nierenstein’s brilliant book, Israele siamo noi [Israel is us]. In fact, a few cracks appeared in the Obamania front when the Magician pulled an […]

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