Sunday, October 10, 2010
Dr. Victor Sasson
The title Exilarch was that of the head of the Jewish community in Babylonia, modern Iraq. The office developed out of the emerging need to have an authoritative person to represent this exiled religious community to the ruling power or government at the time.
It is not my purpose here to sketch the history of the Exilarchy. There are scholarly sources that will give the reader the necessary information. What has now prompted me to discuss the issue of Exilarchy is the strange phenomenon of a modern Iraqi Jew who claims he has revived this office which survived up to some centuries ago. As a Babylonian Jew myself, I find this claim to be a preposterous anachronism.
Mr. Naim Dangoor, based in London, is of course an honourable man. For several decades he printed and published a journal, The Scribe. And he was generous enough to distribute this magazine to anyone who requested it -- free of charge. This publication was very important. It gave many dispersed Iraqi Jewish readers much joy. Archival photographs and various documents about Iraqi Jews, far and wide, were also published. Over the years (and some years ago it ceased to appear in print), the journal received many letters that showered flatteries upon its owner and his venture -- and he proudly published those letters in the journal.
For those of us who do not know, Mr. Dangoor is a millionaire. He is said to have made his millions through real estate business in England. Not being myself in any kind of business, except in the impoverishing business of reading books, doing research, teaching and writing, I really cannot tell wheat from rye, or a property developer from a slumlord. Of one thing, however, I am convinced, and it is this: Real Estate is a ruthless, highly competitive business in which only worldly, hard-nosed persons can survive, let alone make millions.
Anyway, Iraqi Jews should always be proud of having a millionaire amongst them. But the name of the foundation Mr. Dangoor has chosen for the institution he has created, to wit, The Exilarch’s Foundation, is presumptuous and does not have the active support of the Iraqi Jewish community, anywhere. But even if it did, that would not legitimize this man’s claim to holding the office of Exilarch. It is sheer pompous vanity to self-appoint oneself for this office, which is outdated and outmoded, anyway. For in this day and age of mass education, democratic states, and enlightened governments in the West, the Exilarchy is old hat, antiquated, and useless. Luckily, the vast majority of Babylonian/Iraqi Jews – now living outside Iraq -- do not care a hoot if a fellow Iraqi Jew proclaims himself the New Messiah, the Exilarch, or the Man in the Moon. Their general attitude is to ignore the phenomenon -- so long as they are left alone and nobody bothers them.
Now over the years, Mr. N. D. published a variety of his own pieces in The Scribe. It is his journal, of course, and nobody can argue about that. However, since he has distributed it far and wide, what he has written largely ceases to be private correspondence. This is so particularly because he ventured to enter into specialised, scholarly fields in which he is mere dilettante. Buffoonery is easily detected by specialists when one pretends to possess specialised, expert knowledge in the humanities. Mr. Dangoor’s pronouncements on politics, theology, history, and so on, display amateurism and superficialities. This can be dangerously misleading to the majority of the journal’s readers. In a word, Mr. Dangoor has pretended to be an all-knowing person, an authority on a vast array of subjects in our era of specialization, expert scholarship, and exact sciences. We are of course fortunate we no longer live in the Middle Ages -- a fact, alas, that has escaped this man’s attention.
Further, anyone who reads the things he has written in the journal will conclude that N.D. is obsessed with royalty, titles, and honours. There is nothing wrong with this as all of us, mortals, entertain dreams of associating with the high and the mighty. But a lifetime of business in a cutthroat world of real estate and the humility, wisdom, and tactfulness of a religious leader can never truly mix. Mr. N. D., nevertheless, on account of his great generosity of heart, has contributed millions towards education in England. This is highly commendable, of course, and the fact that he has made this contribution at the age of ninety should not detract from this act.
Now to illustrate what I have just said about his writings in The Scribe, let me relate that in 1996 I read a piece by him entitled, ‘Why Only One God?’ Here was an Iraqi Jew, living in England for decades, claiming to have resurrected the office of Exilarchy, challenging one of the most basic and sacred tenets of the Jewish Faith, uttering a blasphemy that our ancient Babylonian Rabbis would have found deserving of stoning. Outraged, I – being a biblical scholar, an observant Jew and proud of my Jewishness, and being also a specialist in Hebrew/Aramaic/Semitic Epigraphy -- wrote an article, responding to his utterances, using words rather than stones. Since I have kept a copy of it, I have reproduced it on the Web for the benefit of interested readers. The readers will find it there as I actually wrote it and submitted it to The Scribe at the time.
Upon reading what Mr. Dangoor actually published of my article, I felt injustice was done. But I had no means of redress; there was nowhere for me to respond. With the computer and the Web, it is now possible to do so. We should all be thankful for the Internet as it is one truly formidable democratic weapon that dictators, tycoons, and oppressors much fear, indeed as much as they fear weapons of mass destruction.
A comparison of my submitted article and the one that Mr. Dangoor actually printed in The Scribe (no. 68, 1997, which now appears on the Web) will show the following:
1. My academic title was chopped off.
2. My academic affiliation (at the time) was obliterated.
3. A number of sentences and phrases that show this writer to be a specialist in Biblical Studies were deleted.
4. Mr. Dangoor refers to my article as ‘letter’ when in fact it was submitted as an article.
5. With sections deleted, what was left of my article was something like half, if not less.
6. Mr. Dangoor saw fit to respond by writing and printing almost twice as much as the mutilated article he published.
7. His response did not address the issues I raised but engaged in platitudes and irrelevances.
8. His statement that what he had deleted was ‘abusive’ proves his deceptiveness, for at least my academic title (i.e. my doctorate) and scholarly affiliation (at the time) cannot in any way be considered abusive. And whatever statements I wrote in my response to his blasphemies and which he chose to delete are not for him to pronounce abusive but for the readers of the journal to read and judge.
9. There is no doubt that Naim Dangoor wanted to downsize this writer and at the same time aggrandize himself.
10. The clear impression one gets from all of this is that this man must have managed his real-estate business and accumulated his riches in the same way -- by downsizing, controlling and exploiting anyone who stood in his way.
This is, in fact, the kind of behaviour one would expect from the likes of Saddam Hussein – another Iraqi -- who was in the habit of chopping off heads and cutting off tongues. Naim Dangoor, an Iraqi Jewish millionaire, became used to flattery from all quarters, delighting in his economic power. Hence he could not and cannot take any kind of criticism. That’s what happens to dictators. Power, whether political, economic, or military, corrupts and the person in question assumes the privileges that are the prerogatives of God Almighty. Hence, he wishes to be the resurrected, revived religious Exilarch, reminding us of his fetish for titles and honours. And he challenges anyone (to use his own words) ‘better qualified’ than himself to ‘come forward’! The trouble is, there are hardly any Iraqi Jewish millionaires around, for this appears to be the most important criterion for an Exilarch – i.e. a lot of money in the bank.
Ecclesiastes, after all, is quite right: money is the answer to everything. For whereas scholars, wallowing in penury, slave for years in study and research to get their doctorate and a meager pension at old age; tycoons, notoriously contemptuous of books and scholars, supping on beef and liquor, can rightly claim the titles of ‘Exilarch’ and ‘Doctor’.
Copyright©2010 by Victor Sasson
All Rights Reserved.
Monday, September 6, 2010
Dr. Victor Sasson
Elected Member of the Society
for Old Testament Study in Britain
As a specialist in Biblical Studies, I venture to intervene in what is basically a layman’s discussion (‘Only One God?’ – in The Scribe, no. 67). But before I proceed with a brief sketch on the topic, I would like to say that I find it incredible that this Babylonian Jewish journal should voice such sacrilege as plurality of gods. *
The word Elohim (a plural form of Eloah=a god) is sometimes used in its singular sense and sometimes in its plural sense. But it is quite clear that when Elohim is used of God the Creator or of the God of Israel (and here one must rely on context and syntax of the Hebrew text), it is used in its singular sense – that of one deity, one God.
El, Eloah, and Elohim are general, generic terms for a deity in the Hebrew Bible, and it is true that Elohim is also used in the sense of ‘gods’ and ‘angels’. El, in fact, was the name of the supreme, all-powerful deity in the Canaanite pantheon. We know this from Ugaritic texts, first discovered about seventy years ago. The term el can also signify ‘power, might’, as in the biblical Hebrew expression yesh la-el ya-di (=it is in my power).
One scholarly explanation that has been advanced as to why Elohim – a plural form – is used of God is this: in ancient Canaan a variety of gods with a variety of names were worshipped. The word Elohim possibly came to signify the totality of divine power and this was invested in the One, true God worshipped by the Israelites.
God in the Hebrew Bible is also called Shaddai, Almight. However, it must be remembered that the personal name of the God of the Israelites and of the Jews throughout the ages is YHWH – the Tetragrammaton. This is the God that we have been exhorted to worship. He is the El, Eloah, Elohim, and Shaddai – the Creator of the Universe. The vocalization of this name – as found in the Massoretic Hebrew Bible – is taken from the word Adonai(=’Lord’), but modern biblical scholarship recognises that this was not the original vocalization, which was lost. On the basis of some ancient, non-Jewish texts, some scholars think that we now have the original vocalization. While some scholars -- Jews and non-Jews – use this new vocalization, others do not use it. I myself do not vocalize the Name in my own published scholarly research. The Dead Sea Scrolls use the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, whenever Adonai is mentioned in a particular text. There the Name is written in ancient Hebrew script (not the so-called square script), and is left unvocalized. In the Hebrew Bible the word Elohim is sometimes combined with YHWH, and that gives us YHWH Elohim= Adonai God= The Lord God.
The idea of plurality of gods that was voiced in The Scribe smacks of pagan pantheons. Biblical scholars recognise that the Hebrews in ancient Israel borrowed some concepts and practices from their Canaanite neighbours. However, as the centuries passed on, and as our Hebrew prophets spoke – sometimes at the risk of their own lives – some fundamental changes took place. Our ancestors saw light shed on the true significance of their religious concepts and their ritual. But the struggle was long and the cost in lives and suffering was enormous. The contest between Elijah the Prophet and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (First Book of Kings, chapter 18) is well known. I suspect that had Naim Dangoor lived during the times of Elijah, he would have sided with the prophets of Baal (although I do not suppose he would have danced around to awaken the pagan god from his slumber). For, surely, he is not advocating a return to primitive religion, or to the Dark Ages? – Or, indeed, is he? Worse, he is giving fuel to Christians and their missionaries who are always trying to convert Jews, claiming that God is a three-person deity (the trinity). Do we need to add Jewish nonsense to this Christian nonsense? Don’t we have enough on our hands dealing with ‘Jews for Jesus’? The biblical reference mentioned by The Scribe (Genesis 3:22) is only one of the scriptural references used by the Christians in their efforts to obliterate our religion. In an earlier issue N.D. mentions some of those other references and makes the incredible statement that they were fulfilled in Christendom! Is this not an insult to our prophets and saints who gave their lives to perfect and preserve our religion?
As is well known, Muslims have completely renounced the idea of plurality of Gods. The Quran is quite emphatic about this fundamental point that God does not beget, nor is He begotten, clearly refuting Christian claims. Maimonides (Ibn Maimon) was very particular to emphasize this important tenet of our faith. The Scribe is doing disservice in that it can confuse or mislead the average Jewish Babylonian reader.
Finally, in this day and age of intensive and exciting research in the fields of Hebrew Bible and Semitic languages, the era of pseudo-Biblical scholarship and fanciful theological philosophizing is gone for ever. Few readers will write and criticise. Those that do not do so, will smile and shake their heads. Several oral responses that reached me from some quarters are highly critical.
To serve the multi-faceted congregations of Babylonian Jewry throughout the world, the Scribe would do well to devote its precious pages to cultural issues exclusively. It has done good work in that regard – and even there the democratic principle should never be lost sight of. But it should shun political and theological issues, for these have been treated either one-sidedly, superficially, misguidedly, or wrongly. Personal observations on politics and theology are best preserved in a book of memoirs or biography. The Scribe – although we appreciate is distributed free to individuals and communities far and wide – should not be exploited as a vehicle for all sorts of propaganda or personal aggrandizement. It should faithfully and honestly – and, of course, democratically – reflect our Jewish Babylonian heritage.
*This article was submitted to The Scribe and was published, in a deliberately mutilated form, by Naim Dangoor in no. 68 (1997), without consulting this author on any point raised in the article. A rebuttal to his lengthy and irrelevant response (published in that same issue) will soon follow.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
WIKIPEDIA AND THE VIRUS OF ZIONIST
An Essay on a Global Infectious Disease
DR. VICTOR SASSON
Let us be honest with ourselves and confess that being numbered amongst the notables featured in Wikipedia is desirable and uplifting. This has nothing to do with self-importance or self-aggrandizement. Wikipedia allows the whole wide world to know about one’s scholarly and literary work. Only those who are not fortunate to be considered notable enough to be included in Wikipedia would deny this and be resentful.
Wikipedia is a valuable tool. At the click of a finger I am able to get information about, say, Spinoza, the great Jewish philosopher, who was excommunicated by the Sephardi Jewish community in
Like Lord Byron, the great poet of the Romantic Era, I woke up one morning and found myself famous. By sheer chance, I found out in 2008 I was of notable quality, worthy of inclusion in Wikipedia. For this engine of information is instantly accessible to anyone, anywhere, and at least gives some basic information about a topic which can be double-checked elsewhere.
I had no idea at all who made the decision to create a page for me. Naturally, I supposed a committee of educated, enlightened persons, took stock of my impressive credentials, debated my education, my self-less lifelong research in Hebrew/Aramaic/ Semitic studies, and my literary output as well, and found me entitled to Notability.
Ah, I exclaimed, Recognition, at last!
I was very much delighted. Who wouldn’t?
Almost two years passed by and I slowly and religiously enlarged the humble beginnings of the allotted page. Watered it like a pot of precious flowers. I have also used Wikipedia far and wide for information on various topics. But soon it became clear to me that anything to do with politics, and the like, was liable to be terribly biased – in a sophisticated, clever, clandestine manner. This appeared to be especially in the case of Palestinians and Israelis, of Judaism, Zionism, and anti Zionism, and of Iraqi Jews – to mention a few topics of which I am personally and closely familiar. I knew, for instance, that Iraqi Jews – and I am one myself – were not persecuted in
Babylonian Jews – and I myself, too -- pride ourselves on coming from the most ancient Jewish community in the world, the descendants of the Babylonian Exiles, deported by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.E. But most of us have become oblivious to our ethical and religious responsibilities. Some have been easily manipulated by Communist propaganda; most of us were a plaything in the hands of secular, godless Ashkenazi/East European Zionist agents. Many Iraqi Jews have been infected by, and have succumbed to, the virus of Zionist disinformation, equating Fascist Nationalism with the Jewish Faith.
Jews who were imprisoned or executed in Iraq were accused of promoting Communism or were active Zionist agents or spies (in 1940’s both Communism and Zionism gained some following among some Iraqi Jewish youth).The much talked about Farhood was an episode of two days in June
Now when I recently consulted Wikipedia under ‘Iraqi Jews’ and read – to my disgust -- that Jews were ‘persecuted’ in Iraq and therefore they ‘fled’ the country and went to ‘Israel’, I knew that those people who put in these blatant falsehoods were wicked Agents of FascistZionism – paid or unpaid. Otherwise, they were brainwashed by the never-ending fanatic, relentless barrage of Zionist/Israeli, Ashkenazi virulent propaganda.
Since I have a Wikipedia account and can log in, I decided to edit (4th July) those two entries, the one on Iraqi Jews and the one on Anti-Zionism.
Here is what I myself added to the Wikipedia article on Iraqi Jews:
“Talk of ‘persecution’ of Iraqi Jews and the use of the word ‘fled’ are absolutely misleading, to say the least. This kind of language is usually used by Zionists – weather Sephardi or Ashkenazi – to whitewash the dispossession, persecution, and humiliation of the Palestinians. Thousands of Iraqi Jews remained of their own choice in
Within hours, if not minutes, my brief additions – and I did not delete anything of their articles – were obliterated. Within a further brief space of time, hours if not minutes, there was a notice on my own Wikipedia page that announced the imminent deletion of the page – and the reason given for the threat was that it had nothing to do with a book or article that I had written but that the person on the page [i.e. myself] was not important or notable enough for inclusion in Wikipedia. A couple of hours later, the entire page disappeared, with the notice still in place.
Now if this is not politically Zionist-motivated, what is it? If it’s not an attempt to silence people, what is it? It is claimed that I as a person was not worthy of an article in Wikipedia (to which I would not object), not that what I had added and was deleted by them was not true!
For about two years no one in Wikipedia noticed that I was not notable, even though I had edited some articles dealing with Semitic Epigraphy. I was not notable only when I put something that criticised and defied Israeli/Zionist lies! Does one need more proof that this is simply politically motivated and that Wikipedia is in the pay of Fascist Zionists, or that it has been infiltrated by these wicked people?
When I sent an email about all this, I received a message (and I am reproducing it almost verbatim) saying the deletions were not linked to my postings directly but that my own Wikipedia page was not appropriate anyway, and that this was discovered only now! A little later, I received an outrageous message in which I was literally barked at in print by a vicious, illiterate brute, accusing me of bias, and that what I wrote about Iraqi Jews was “both highly offensive and a minority viewpoint.” Clearly, the person who wrote this is a fanatic Fascist Zionist.
I chose not to write back.
The Wikipedia article on the flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to the besieged people in
Another example of Orwellian language is when the article on Iraqi Jews says that the newcomers to the
The article on Iraqi Jews carries the Star of David image, typically exploiting a religious symbol to further Zionist-Fascist agenda. They also cite numerous external links and names of documentary films -- all propaganda tools. The whole article is so heavily biased so as to exonerate Zionist/Israeli agents regarding the bombings in Jewish neighbourhoods in
Wikipedia agents conceal their true identity. They work behind masks. They appear to hide behind pseudo-names and numbers, looking for anyone who says anything good about Arabs and Muslims, anyone who contradicts Fascist-Zionist claims. Their relentless aim is to put Arabs, Muslims, Palestinians, in as bad a light as possible.
PURPOSE: to justify the dispossession, persecution, and humiliation of Palestinians – in short, to justify Israeli/Zionist war crimes. In the process, they make a mockery of the Jewish Faith and its sacred articles.
Already in the 1980’s Marion Woolfson, a British Jew, documented many facts in her book, Prophets in
In the Wikipedia article on Iraqi Jews, Marion Woolfson is mentioned once (her name wrongly spelled) along some other Jewish scholars who have denounced Zionism, but there is no mention of her book. Robert Wistrich wrote a review of her book which she criticised as ‘dishonest’. Here is one sentence from her letter published in The New Statesman in1980: “Dr. Wistrich’s dishonest review refers to the ‘myth’ of Zionist provocations in Arab countries without revealing that I provided a mass of documentary evidence (from Zionist sources) on this subject.”
Robert Wistrich – of Polish descent – is, in my opinion, an arch Anti-Semite by promoting Fascist-Zionism at the expense of the Jewish Faith/Judaism. He has engaged in this ugly business for decades. And the cruel irony is that he has been appointed the head of an institution researching Anti-Semitism!
My own recent book, Essays from Occupied
Finally, Wikipedia urges its readers to edit and improve articles. They say, ‘this article is too long and needs shortening’, or ‘this article needs more references’, and so forth. But all of this is laughable, deceptive talk. For if you contradict their wicked agenda and tell the truth, they are quick to delete you.
Global Political Zionism in its Fascist active form is alive and well. It is a virus ever on the look to infect any truthful statement made about the
Let us now return to Spinoza. This great philosopher -- to spite his Sephardi Jewish community which excommunicated him for his secular, philosophical views -- changed his name from Baruch, meaning ‘blessed’ in Hebrew, to Benedict (Latin for ‘blessed’). Benedict is typically a Catholic Christian name. Not that Spinoza converted to Christianity – not at all. He was a good Jew, steeped in the lore of the Hebrew Bible. He even wrote a grammar of Biblical Hebrew. But for excommunicating him, he fought back by changing his first name.
I know I am no Spinoza. Unlike him, I have no intention of changing my name. My name is still Victor. The Loser is Wikipedia for excommunicating me – and history will show that my editing of their false, deceptive articles was made in good spirit, with good intention and respect for the Truth. The Ultimate Loser is of course the educated Reader and the Researcher looking for reliable, balanced information. What he gets from Wikipedia, instead, is Zionist Disinformation.
As for me, I have for many years managed to live well with Anonymity.
Welcome back Anonymity, goodbye Notability!
Copyright © 2010 by Victor Sasson
All Rights Reserved
Dr. Victor Sasson grew up in