Monthly Archives: August 2012

How Gökçeada Became Turkish

Posted by dianamuir on August 31, 2012
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Gökçeada, a small island  at the mouth of the Dardanelles where Turkish firefighters are struggling to put out a forest fire today, was not always Turkish.   Under the  Ottoman Empire it was an ethnically Greek island called Imbros, supporting itself by farming and fishing.

The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, recognized the awkward status of Imbros and neighboring  Tenedos.   Because they were populated by Greeks, they ought  to have been made part of Greece,  but because of their strategic position at the mouth of the Dardanelles, Turkey retained them after guaranteeing that the  almost entirely Greek population could govern itself autonomously in local affairs.

In 1960  military government that took power in Turkey.  It abrogated Turkey’s obligations under the Treaty of Lausanne.  The schools on both Imbros and Tenedos, taught in Greek under treaty guarantees, were   closed in 1964.  In 1965 the first mosque with the highly charged name Fatih Camisi (the Conqueror’s Mosque) was built on land confiscated from the Greek Orthodox vakif (waqf).   Fishing was banned on the pretext of creating an underwater marine reserve.   Almost all arable land was expropriated to build  a large military base and to build an “open prison”, the inmates of which would support themselves by living on and working the expropriated Greek land.   The inmates preyed on the Greek community of farmers and fishermen, who, with no schools, the criminal threat, nowhere to fish and no land, left.[1]
Ethnic cleansing by other means.

Turkish settlers were moved onto the  islands and they were eventually  given new, Turkish names.  It was all done in flagrant violation of Turkey’s obligations under the Treaty of Lausanne, but, really, who cares?  Who even remembers?

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Reading Yoram Hazony’s Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture

Posted by dianamuir on August 30, 2012
Bible, Translation / 1 Comment

“Jeremiah  actually has quite a bit to say about the human mind but this fact often escapes notice because of faulty translation.   The Hebrew word lev (לב), taken literally, refers to the physical organ we call the heart, and as a consequence most translations use the English heart whenever the original Hebrew has lev

“The fact that most Westerners read the biblical authors as though they are talking about the heart whenever they refer to the mind means that the entire biblical corpus takes on a kind of romantic, sentimental feeling that is absent in the original.  and as a byproduct, it makes it almost impossible to understand what the biblical authors have to say about human thought.  This is certainly the case for Jeremiah, whose orations regularly use the word lev to refer to the mind.” (p. 171)


Yoram Hazony, The Philosophy of the Hebrew Scripture

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Islamic Supersessionism – Parsing the Qur’an

Posted by dianamuir on August 10, 2012
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Supercessionism, also know as replacement theology, refers to the foundational Muslim idea that Islam and the Qur’an come not to add to the older Abrahamic religions, but to replace them.

Angelika Neuwirth illuminates the core of Islamic replacement theology in her study of Sura 112:   “Say: He is God, one / God the absolute / He did not beget, nor is He begotten / and there is none like Him”.[1]

“Say: He is God, one”.   This is the Quran’s replacement for the  central Jewish prayer, Shema Yisrael, “Hear oh Israel, the Lord, our God, is One”.   The Shema “remains audible” in the Sura because of the choice of the word ahad  (one) although it is more awkward in Arabic than its synonym, wahid.    The word choice underlines the replacement of Judaism by Islam.

Sura 112 also replaces the Nicean Creed of 335CE, one of  the foundational documents of the church, which itself responds to the Shema by replacing   words, “Hear oh Israel, the Lord, our God, is One”,   with, “We believe in one God…”

Surah 112, “God the absolute”, replaces the Nicean, “the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.”

The Nicean Creed continues, “And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, very God of very Gods, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.”

The sura denies this directly, “He did not beget, nor is He begotten,”  and concludes,  “and there is none like Him.”

The response to Jewish and Christian ideas in this sura is direct and absolute.  The consequences of supercessionism have been complex and important.


More on this to come.


[1] Newwirth, Angelika, “The Quran and the Bible”,  The New Cambridge History of the Bible form 600 to 1450, Cambridge Universtiy Press, 2012.

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Obama, because Hawaii is unique

Posted by dianamuir on August 07, 2012
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Hawaii is the only state that could have produced a President of African ancestry in this generation.

Because Hawaii is the only state where an American kid Barak Obama’s age with a black father could have grown up looking and being treated like a member of the ethnic mainstream.   In Honolulu,  the fact that Obama looked sort of  Puerto Rican meant that he was mainstream at a time when Puerto Rican-looking kids on the mainland were regarded as inferior to white kids.

Race is different in Hawaii because of  the old sugar plantations.    The sugar industry was started in the 1840’s by the Hawaii-born children of New England missionaries  who saw a way to make a lot of money if only they could find workers to do the hot, heavy work of growing sugar cane.    Native Hawaiians didn’t want these jobs and while the would-be sugar magnates could have bought black slaves, these children of missionaries were morally opposed to slavery.    They were, however, racist enough not to want  black people in Hawaii.

So they recruited  contract laborers from every part of the world where cheap labor was available and not black.   Most Hawaiian sugar plantation workers came as contract laborers from Asia, the big numbers were from China, Japan, the Philippines, Okinawa, and Korea, with smaller groups from Puerto Rico, Portugal, Spain, Norway, Germany and Russia.

Some workers returned home at the end of their contracts, more stayed, brought their families over, and built new lives, becoming the parents and grandparents of Hawaiians.  Café au lait was the color of normal in Hawaii decades before it was on the mainland.

The Hawaii of Obama’s childhood was a place where  economic and political dominion by a white elite was rapidly receding.     Men Hawaiians called local boys, the Hawaii-born descendants of the plantation workers, had built businesses, made fortunes, fought in the Second World War,  and gone to college.    In post-War Hawaii, they were rising to the top in every field.

The old rules under which white girls married white boys and Chinese girls married Chinese boys rapidly broke down, and it was difficult to know at a glance whose ancestors had come from where.   It was not that people had forgotten where their grandparents had immigrated from or were ashamed of it, it was just that it didn’t much matter.  Being a local boy did.

But on this island of café au lait kids with ancestors from just about everywhere the number of people with ancestors from Africa was tiny.  This made Hawaii the only state in the nation where a baby born in 1961 with a black father could have grown up without having that fact be the single most significant aspect of his identity.

This is not to say that Obama had an easy time growing up.  Being a child of divorced and absent parents is tough, and Obama youthful troubles were compounded by the fact that he was so conspicuously different from the other kids at school.   The difference was that he was a scholarship boy.

Obama attended Punahou, the island’s most elite private school.     But he was the child of  family with no money and he who lived with his grandparents in a modest rented apartment.    One of the other kids’ parents probably owned the apartment building, because Punahou was the school where the families who owned the plantations, the banks and everything else in Hawaii sent their children. In a small city like Honolulu, that enormous social gap may have loomed larger than race, large enough to make him unlikely to develop Bill Clinton’s bonhomie.

Race was there, of course.  But while the young Obama had to grapple with the fact that the father he hardly knew was black, he did not have race thrust upon him every time he walked into a store or got on a bus.  He didn’t look different than a kid with one Puerto Rican and one native Hawaiian parent might look.   He looked as he might have had his name been Louis Ortiz.

Twenty-first century America is filled with café au lait young people who don’t want to be defined by little boxes that must be checked “black” or “white”.    But when Obama was growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s, Hawaii was unique.   And that unique ethnic history did not spare Obama all racist scorn, but it did spare the young Obama the casual, inescapable racism that white Americans inflict on black Americans with a glance.    That is why he was able to inspire voters with confidence that he would have the interests of all Americans at heart as President.

Hawaii is not paradise.  There is racism and ethnic tension, but Hawaii did arrive ahead of the rest of America at a point where the amount of melanin in your skin doesn’t matter very much or very often.

Because he grew up in Hawaii, Obama came of age relatively unscathed by the American mental habit of automatically categorizing every human as either black or white, and treating them differently.   And that is something that no one his age who grew up on the mainland can claim.


Below, America’s café au lait generation:



Population Engineering in Singapore

Posted by dianamuir on August 07, 2012
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Two interesting posts:

Eugenics in Singapore Lee Kuan Yew’s ideas


Making Babies for the Nation




Crude Turkish Blood Libel

Posted by dianamuir on August 01, 2012
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İğneli Fıçı, is an anti-Semitic Turkish book published in 1958 featuring a  Jew who kidnaps Muslim children and extracts their blood for use in baking matza with an İğneli Fıçı, a “pin barrel” or “needled barrel”,  a barrel studded on the inside with sharp spikes.



This vicious blood libel was invented by one Cevat Rıfat Atilhan, long one of Turkey’s leading anti-Semites.   It is apparently still in print.

Özen Karaca published a clear-eyed doctoral dissertation on Atilhan, The Theme of Jewish Conspiracy in Turkish Nationalism: The Case of Cevat Rıfat Atilhan in 2008.  It is available online.

Karaka is a useful source on Turkish antisemitism, a topic not easily accessible to those of us who do not know Turkish.  I take the liberty of reprinting most of the brief section on Passover and Blood Libel:


“Atilhan asserts that for the Jewish festival, Passover, unleavened bread
is cooked from the blood of Muslim and Christian children through a pin barrel;
this is a Jewish tradition for the satisfaction of greed and grudge towards the non-
Jews (Atilhan, 1958: 7). In the foreword of Igneli Fıçı, Atilhan discusses the
authenticity of the killing stories:

“‘Some say that these stories are inventions, false accusations or merely myths; yet, can there
be any smoke without fire?‘ (Atilhan, 1958: 5).

“This shows that Atilhan thinks the sharp reaction of the Jews is related to the fact
that they performed such cruel killings. The killing stories display in his view “the
horrible conspiracy by the Jews aimed at destroying Islam and Christianity”
(Atilhan, 1958: 117). His emphasis that such atrocity cannot be carried out by
human beings has a provocative character which not only has a mobilizing but
also a justifying effect to attack the Jews. In this way, very similar to fascist
discourse, violence against the Jews becomes legitimate.”


The phrase İğneli Fıçı appears to have become something of a trope among Turkish anti-Semites, a shorthand for vicious anti-Semitic slanders.


İsrail Öldürmeye Devam Ediyor, Israel continues to kill


And here:

Cem Garipoğlu'nu İsrail'in Mossad'ı saklamış (Yahudinin kanlı böreği, iğneli fıçı ve Münevver Karabulut cinayeti)

A Turkish website posts an image dripping bloody anti-Antisemitism, in an accusation about the tragic the murder of Münevver Khan, a pretty, Istanbul 17-year-old  brutally murdered in 2009.  The accusation here is that she was killed in a “pin- barrel” and that the murderer escaped on a flight to Tel Aviv arranged by the Mossad.


Here’s the jacket of another  Atilhan title:

TARİH BOYUNCA YAHUDİ MEZALİMİ, Atrocities of the Jews appears to include İğneli Fıçı.

To the credit of the Turkish reading public, this Atilhan title is  apparently out of print.


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First, Build an Art School

Posted by dianamuir on August 01, 2012
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Before Zionists built Israel’s first kibbutz, first university, or first luxury hotel, they built an art academy.  The Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design opened in 1906, not because the Jewish homeland needed an art school more than it needed a university but because the Zionist leadership thought an art school would be an effective motor of economic growth.

The man who built the art school was named Zalman Dov Baruch Schatz before he left his yeshiva to study art and changed his name to Boris. His sculpture won a silver medal at the Paris Exposition Universelle, but he couldn’t feed his family. So, in 1895, he accepted an offer to help train the first generation of artists for the new nation of—Bulgaria.





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