No sooner had US President Barack Obama touched the ground at
Ben Gurion Airport, than he commenced this speech:
Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and most of all, to the people of Israel,
thank you for this incredibly warm welcome. This is my third visit to Israel so
let me just say tov lihiyot shuv ba’aretz.
honored to be here as you prepare to celebrate the 65th anniversary of a free
and independent State of Israel. Yet I know that in stepping foot on this land,
I walk with you on the historic homeland of the Jewish people.
than 3,000 years ago, the Jewish people lived here, tended the land here,
prayed to God here. And after centuries of exile and persecution, unparalleled
in the history of man, the founding of the Jewish State of Israel was a
rebirth, a redemption unlike any in history.
the sons of Abraham and the daughters of Sarah are fulfilling the dream of the
ages — to be “masters of their own fate” in “their own sovereign state.” And
just as we have for these past 65 years, the United States is proud to stand
with you as your strongest ally and your greatest friend.
Now, there is much in here that a critical biblical scholar
might take issue with.
Have “the Jewish people” really lived in the region for “more
than 3,000 years”? No. A people known as Judeans did live in the land from
perhaps the early part of the first millennium BC to the early Common Era. And
they did so alongside many other peoples, many of whom have come and gone,
including the Philistines (or residents of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron
and Gath), the Edomites/Idumaeans, Romans, and Arabs (including Nabataeans).
Moreover, the Judeans never occupied all the region now occupied by the modern
state of Israel, including Tel Aviv, where Obama delivered his speech.
Did “the Jewish people” pray to God there for more than 3000
years? No. Not if you mean by God, with a capital letter, or the monotheistic
concept of later Jews. In the early period of Judean settlement of the southern
hill country and northern Negev, the inscriptions from various sites and the
Elephantine correspondence (around 400 BC), written before much of the Bible
was written, show that Judeans worshipped a number of gods and goddesses.
Before this, even Yahweh (later identified as the monotheistic “God”) was
worshipped alongside his divine consort or wife, named Asherah.
Are “the sons of Abraham
and the daughters of Sarah” fulfilling the dream of the ages — to be
‘masters of their own fate’ in ‘their own sovereign state'”. No. Almost
everything is wrong with this. First, no Abraham or Sarah ever existed, except
in legendary tales. Second, if you’ve read the Bible, you might note that “the
sons of Abraham and the daughters of Sarah” comprises a much more inclusive
group than the Jews of the “Jewish State of Israel”. The sons of Abraham and
daughters of Sarah include, for example, Ishmael (Abraham’s first son), the
alleged ancestor of all Arabs. Given that the Bible makes Ishmael older than
Judah (the eponymous ancestor of the Jews), why haven’t their “dreams of the ages” to have “their own
sovereign state” been fulfilled? Third, the “dream” of a sovereign Jewish state
is not “the dream of the ages”. It was only a dream of some Jews in the
nineteenth century onwards, under the influence of European concepts of
national sovereignty and Christian concepts of divine election and manifest
destiny. And many Jews today still oppose the idea of a sovereign state in
But this propaganda sounds all very familiar. Oh yes – remember
the speech by Bibi Netanyahu to Congress in the US in 2011?
We’re not the British in
India. We’re not the Belgians in the Congo. This is the land of our
forefathers, the land of Israel, to which Abraham brought the idea of one god,
where David set out to confront Goliath, and where Isaiah saw his vision of
– Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu,
in Jonathan Lis, “The facts and fictions of Netanyahu’s address to Congress”, Ha’aretz, 26 May 2011
I guess when you’re
planning a war against Iran “to preserve our freedom” (as Obama alluded
to the Bush Doctrine in his speech) the facts
will only get in the way of shoring up political alliances.