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Netanyahu’s Christmas message: More anti-Muslim public diplomacy

Netanyahu Christmas message

Does Netanyahu’s message extend to what Israeli policies do to Palestinian Christians at all? (h/t: Avi. H)

Netanyahu’s Christmas message: More anti-Muslim public diplomacy

By Barak Ravid (Haaretz)

Every year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publishes a Christmas message for Christians in Israel and abroad. One of the message’s objectives is hasbara, or public diplomacy, to the Christians of the world. But this year’s greeting was especially political. Netanyahu chose to radicalize his traditional greeting into an attack on Muslims in Arab countries.

In his December 2011 greeting, Netanyahu made do with pointing out the fact that in the Middle East “Christians are persecuted in a routine manner, and there is little tolerance toward them.”

In his 2012 greeting, Netanyahu, who continuously cautions the world that Israel is under existential threat from Iran, asserted that the Christians in the Middle East are in danger of extermination. No less.

“Today Christian communities throughout the Middle East are shrinking and many of them are in danger,” said Netanyahu, according to the announcement published by his bureau in Hebrew and English. “…this is of course not true in Israel. Here there is a strong and growing Christian community that participates fully in the life of our country.”

Netanyahu did not specify in his greeting exactly who is threatening to annihilate the Christians, but it’s clear from the wording that he means the Muslims. As he did last year, he emphasized that the Christian community in Israel is large and that it enjoys freedom of religion and freedom to worship, but this year he added a hinted reference to the “Judeo-Christian heritage.”

The reference is to a sensitive term taken from the conceptual world of the rightist-evangelical anti-Muslim wing of the Republican Party. After the 9/11 attacks, U.S. conservative politicians and intellectuals used this term in criticizing American multi-culturalism and claimed that the Muslims were engaged in a culture war against Judaism and Christianity.

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  • Chameleon_X

    “Perhaps Sarka was prescient or making an educated guess at that point, but at the end of the day, the statement that 1DrM “was only criticizing Zionism” and not Jews turned out to no longer be true.”

    Point taken. However, DrM’s previous sentence focusing on the “Zionist liar” interpretation seems to imply that these are the same “chauvinist Jews” to whom he is referring, which is how I interpreted his words. That said, I agree that his word choice was not clear, and certainly not how I would put it (i.e., the word “Jew” implies a possible generalization beyond just Zionists, whereas I prefer to keep these terms very distinct). I think only DrM can clarify what he meant there.

    With respect to the other issue, I also agree that Sarka has mellowed in terms of word choice, as I already acknowledged, which is why I consider this issue a dead horse. However, it is troublesome that s/he still has not similarly acknowledged how the original word choice was academically overreaching and clearly offensive — intentional or not — with respect to at least three separate statements/claims invalidating Islam as being derived from God without any evidence.

  • Just_Stopping_By


    Since you refer to my comments, let me make a few points. First, 1DrM responded to Sarka with, “Only chauvinist Jews insist that Judaism is the starting point with ‘borrowing and lifting theories’ nonsense.” Perhaps Sarka was prescient or making an educated guess at that point, but at the end of the day, the statement that 1DrM “was only criticizing Zionism” and not Jews turned out to no longer be true. I agree that Sarka jumped the gun in the assumption, but s/he was ultimately correct with regard to one individual, though not with regard to any generalization to all Muslims. Agreed?

    Second, at least I am okay with Sarka’s most recent comments. Sure, s/he could add in “from a secular view” every now and then, but as you say, the tone has mellowed. I think once one has noted that they are speaking from a secular point of view, it is not necessary to keep repeating that caveat. I found the word “lifted” particularly problematic, but I’ll agree with you that that is more a poor word choice for this forum than a deliberate attempt to be offensive.

  • Chameleon_X

    “I haven’t stated any views here concerning the relationship between Zionism and Judaism.”

    My point exactly. I think you missed the punch line, so let me walk you through it. You said to DrM after he strongly criticized Zionism (not Judaism), “Well, you nicely illustrate why no Muslim leaders are going to be talking about “Judaeo-Islamic culture” soon.” By doing so, you were implying that a criticism of Zionism is a criticism of Judaism, when in fact Zionism is an anti-Judaism ideology based on racism, which I assert that Judaism rejects. That is why I said, “And thank you for nicely illustrating how you and so many others can’t differentiate between Zionism and Judaism.” You were conflating the two by implication of your criticism of DrM when he was only criticizing Zionism. As I emphasized on another thread, this is a very common error, since even many Jews themselves don’t differentiate between Judaism and Zionism as they indeed should.

    Islam has very much in common with Judaism, but both of these noble religions reject the racism inherent in Zionism. I am still waiting on a single person to debate me on this topic if they disagree. If we don’t point the finger at the political ideology of Zionism to explain such massive patterns of injustice, then we will end up pointing the finger incorrectly at Judaism, Jews in general or the entire state of Israel, which I believe are all wholly incorrect and bigoted views because they cannot be rationally supported. That is just my claim, and I welcome anyone to try to persuade me otherwise with relevant evidence.

    You say, “Islam owes a lot to Judaism in terms of ideas”

    You also say, “Both Christianity and Islam are “derived” from Judaism in the sense that they take over this idea – which was highly specific to Judaism in the ancient world – but of course both do not just “derive it” but reinterpret and add to it – often with ideas from other sources”

    You are softening your prior offensive claims with these backtracked and contorted interpretations of your prior words, but it is still incorrect to assert, since Islam owes everything to God, not Judaism, and because both come from the same source. To assert that Islam is “derived from Judaism” is at best a very poor and logically incorrect choice of words if you were intending to mean that both religions could still be contemplated to come directly from God with this phrase. I think you need to reread JSB’s comments to help you clarify what is an academically correct way to state something when you don’t have evidence vs. what is an offensive way to assert something as if it were true rather than merely an academic possibility. In the rest of your comment, you are just repeating the same straw man arguments (that nobody is going to dispute) about what you really meant to say.

    Let’s just leave it at this on this topic: What you originally claimed, as I quoted you word for word above, was indeed offensive, and I think others expressed agreement with this as well. However, given that you are making what appears to be a sincere effort not to be offensive and to restate your meaning, however contorted that may be, I will let it pass and just consider it a very poor choice of words. There is no point in either of us repeating the same arguments over and over. Let’s move on.

  • Sarka

    I haven’t stated any views here concerning the relationship between Zionism and Judaism! You seem to be joining up a lot of your own personal dots here…
    Nor did I assert that because, in my view, Islam owes a lot to Judaism in terms of ideas, Islam is therefore “bogus”. Talk about straw men! Both Islam and Christianity share the idea that God reveals himself narratively through history (prophetic history) – which is in marked contrast to some other major religions that do not have a historical mentality in the same way. Both Christianity and Islam are “derived” from Judaism in the sense that they take over this idea – which was highly specific to Judaism in the ancient world – but of course both do not just “derive it” but reinterpret and add to it – often with ideas from other sources. In both cases the believer will believe that this reinterpretation and addition of culminating prophetic point represents the truth. In both cases scholars (whether or not atheists, but just people with their scholarly rather than believer hats on) can explore the obvious connections, derivations, recastings and so forth. That need not be any problem for the believer, because he/she believes, precisely, that God speaks through the Jewish tradition that, variously, culminates in the Quran or in the Gospels – thereby becoming universal to a greater degree than in Judaism.

    I have to confess that I find all this stuff about “offensiveness” related to “evidence” a bit zany. Neither a Christian nor a Muslim (any variety of either) could ever produce “evidence” (of an objective kind) for his basic faith in the status of Christ or Mohammed as in various ways culminating points in the relationship between man and God.

    That is a matter of faith – which doesn’t make their faith invalid but puts it outside the realm of argument in which anyone can reasonably expect of opponents that they have “hard evidence” to dispute the claims of faith – for the claims of faith, as sheer faith – are not empirically grounded but in these cases are about interpretation beyond the empirical. How far one should or should nt “offend” people of faith by expressing one’s own non-faith or other faith is in these circumstances a matter of politeness that has nil connection with intellectual arguments over evidence for their faith propositions…I wouldn’t, usually, argue with people of faith who are not trying to engage in argument – put forward no public claims about it – . My pious Christian mum (with whom I did argue – we argued about plenty), had nice old-lady friends from church with whom I would never, in politeness, have started some argument over tea and scones about the basic premises of Christianity. However, had any of them wanted to argue in a public forum about relations between Christianity and Judaism, I would have assumed they wanted a real argument unmuddied by constant diversions into questions of politeness!

    I got involved with this debate because I wanted to suggest where the concept of “Judaeo-Christian” came from and NOT because I was desperately looking for sticks to beat Islam. The history of such concepts, unlike matters of faith, can be a matter of reasonable historical/cultural debate and mapping. My own acquaintance with the concept does not suggest that it has been developed mainly in the context of Israel-West relations even if some use the concept in that context.

    . .

  • Hey ding-dong, have you even bothered to ask Christians why? I have. Almost all of them have answered due to sectarian tensions being fueled and encouraged by Western powers. None of them blamed Islam in general, they all blamed the fringe lunatics that the West allowed to take control after Saddam Hussein was deposed. Same thing’s happening in Syria, and the US is actively funding and backing the blokes who are killing Christians. Your fault buddy. Things were stable before you meddled.

    As for the Palestinian Christians, NONE of them blame Muslims. They all have cited Israel’s racist policies as the reason for leaving.

  • One of the reasons they remain in “Israel” is the concept of Sumud. Resisting by staying put, no matter how harsh the circumstances. One of the most noble forms of resistance IMO.

  • Benjamin, is that you? Use your real name next time so we can address you accordingly.

  • Oh Nettie, hasbara and racism as a gift again this year? Awww…you shouldn’t have.

    No, really…you SHOULDN’T HAVE.

  • Chameleon_X


    Again, these are some of the claims you made:

    1) Islam is “massively derived from Judaism”,
    2) “Mohammed himself as it were appropriates the Judaic tradition”, and
    3) “the Muslim view of Adam as first man [was] lifted entirely from Judaism.”

    Now defend your claims or retract them as nothing more than unsupported opinion. Also, please walk us through the logic of how these specific statements are not implying that Islam is the result of a man-made fabrication (forgery) as any normal person would interpret these claims.

    Now for your straw man arguments:

    “someone who is not a Muslim (either atheist, or another religion) is not going to agree with Muslims that the Quran came straight from God”

    Of course, and no one is asking atheists to agree. I would only demand that atheists back up their claims if they are going to assert those claims in public as being true without evidence. It is called free speech, and it is a perfectly rational — and calm — response to demand that someone support offensive claims.

    “people can agree to disagree without throwing abuse or hatred – or else the mere status of not being of the (speaker’s) religion would in itself be bigotry”

    Yet another straw man argument. Of course we can agree to disagree quite amicably and holding a contrary view is not bigotry at all, but that is not the point, is it? When someone publicly asserts an offensive claim, then they should be prepared to defend it rather than take the stand that they don’t have to. “Holding a view” is not the problem. Asserting it recklessly as truth is, since that can be considered bigotry according to the definition of that word.

    “People can have revelations (religious experiences) or develop religious traditions and write them down “in good faith” believing them to be true and meaningful, while other people – without attributing any ïntention of “fabrication”, like a forger or malicious inventer – can disbelieve in the significance or interpretations of those experiences/writings etc etc…”

    Again, this is another straw man argument. Of course individuals can believe or disbelieve whatever they want, but that is not the point. It is when you implicitly assert without evidence that someone else’s belief is bogus because it is “derived from”, “lifted from” or otherwise conjured out of someone’s imagination (deliberately or unwittingly) that such words become offensive. Again, it is not necessarily wrong to assert something that is offensive, but you had better be able to back it up with evidence. If not, then it is wrong to make that assertion.

    All I am demanding is evidence. When someone asserts claims that are clearly offensive, it is not “extraordinarily defensive” at all to demand rational arguments in support of those claims. The only question is whether I am ever going to get those arguments, or if I am just going to get more straw man arguments that everyone already agrees with.

  • No one here is denying that Muslim ever persecute Christians or people of other faiths for that matter. That would be ridiculous, just as ridiculous as claiming that Christians or Jews never persecute people of other faiths. But to claim that all Muslims do, is ridiculous as well. You also seem to be unaware of the fact that there are Christians living In the Palestinian territories who don’t want to live in Israel or particularly like Israel for that matter.

    Christ at the Checkpoint: Hope in the Midst of Conflict

    Palestinian Christians Hail U.N. Resolution

    Palestinian Christians seek world support for UN bid

    WEST BANK: Palestinian Christians denied access to holy places in Jerusalem during Easter

  • Solid Snake

    “This is not in itself bigotry – people can agree to disagree without
    throwing abuse or hatred – or else the mere status of not being of the
    (speaker’s) religion would in itself be bigotry!”

    That is correct. In fact that is what Loonwatch is trying to convey. We know there are people who disagree with Islam and even some who have very offensive views, the point is if you want to discuss them to do so “without
    throwing abuse or hatred” around. This so called counter Jihad movement is built on throwing abuse and hatred at Muslims. That is what Loonwatch is attempting to show, this counter jihad movement is not interested in truth finding or discussing issues in order to find a solution.

    Also, just because DrM says something or Chameleon posts a passionate argument does not necessarily mean that all Muslims or even a significant part of the Muslim population agree with their ideas or methods. I just wanted to respectfully point that out to you.

  • Sarka

    I made no such claim. Whether you are a Muslim or merely someone concerned to defend Muslims, you are being extraordinarily defensive.

    Of course, someone who is not a Muslim (either atheist, or another religion) is not going to agree with Muslims that the Quran came straight from God, In the same way, a Muslim will not agree with Christians that Christ was the son of God etc etc… a (religious) Jew will not agree with either Christians or Muslims as to the status of the NT, the Quran, the figures of Christ or Mohammed etc…
    In that sense, all will see the others (and an atheist will see them all) as not persuasive in their claims about truth.

    This is not in itself bigotry – people can agree to disagree without throwing abuse or hatred – or else the mere status of not being of the (speaker’s) religion would in itself be bigotry!

    Some atheists (and some religionists vis a vis each other) see religions as “fabrications” in the strict sense – someone deliberately made them up to mislead other people, someone deliberately lied or cheated.

    But in fact that is not the only explanation from their point of view, nor even (usually) the most persuasive one. People can have revelations (religious experiences) or develop religious traditions and write them down “in good faith” believing them to be true and meaningful, while other people – without attributing any ïntention of “fabrication”, like a forger or malicious inventer – can disbelieve in the significance or interpretations of those experiences/writings etc etc…

    In the history of religion there are certainly some instances of complete forgery (The Donation of Constantine is a famous one in Christianity, or all kinds of fake relics – in Islam I have seen obvious fabrications of “Mohammed’s letters” etc…) but on the whole neither historians nor critical theologians approach the basic texts of religions in this spirit, whether or not they accept them.

    Calm down.

  • Chameleon_X


    Nice try. “Fabrication” does not only mean invented from scratch. If that were the case, then just about nothing could be considered “fabricated”. It also means, per the dictionary, “to forge” or “to fake”, and that was clearly the meaning I was implying per my context. You made a claim that Islam was essentially forged, faked, or fabricated (i.e., not from God, but from other sources) without any evidence, and that was wrong. I was exactly on target to call you out on such claims of fabrication that you did not support.

    Moreover, as I clearly stated, the key reason that language can be considered bigotry is because it is trashing someone else’s religion without any evidence to do so. The key word is evidence – i.e., facts and logic. I have no problem with anyone who wants to try to trash Islam, but they had better come to the table prepared with compelling evidence. If they are just making offensive claims that they have no support for, that is just an expression of irrational intolerance or prejudice, and therefore bigotry.

    When you are ready to present your evidence, let me know. But my guess is that there won’t be any.

  • Chameleon_X

    Well said, JSB. I didn’t comment on the “Judaeo-Islamic” or “Judaeo-Christian” constructs, since I find such terms fairly innocuous. In general, emphasizing our shared Abrahamic heritage is a good thing either way, but I would prefer simply “Abrahamic tradition” so that it does not exclude any of the three religions or imply that two are linked and the other is not, as Netanyahu appears to be doing in the context of his speech, though admittedly not directly.

    It would be an interesting research project to track the historical usage of the term “Judaeo-Christian”. Based on my more limited anecdotal evidence, my hypothesis is that this term gained its popular traction in the context of propaganda surrounding the rational for the creation and support of Israel as a Jewish state by Christian-majority countries. I would be surprised if it were anywhere near as popular in the 19th century, for example.

  • Just_Stopping_By

    And, thank you, Sarka, for your reasoned response.

    Most of what you said would not be controversial from a secular point of view, but one of the key rules in writing is to know your audience. On the Internet, and particularly on advocacy sites, you will find many who are, as you say, “touchy about other people’s use of language” and/or who in my opinion are typically ineffective in promoting their own views because they engage in ranting (your word) rather than attempting to calmly understand and influence someone whose statements they disagreed with.

    Your comment on arguing for a “Judaeo-Islamic” concept is intriguing, though I am sure you appreciate the political challenges that would face at the moment. Anyway, I like it from my side of that phrase, and I know of various individual Muslims who I assume would from their side as well.

    I do want to focus on one point that you mentioned in your last reply: “merely stating the connection hardly seems as if it should annoy anyone.” I don’t think that that was the issue. It was much more the use of terms like “lifting,” which suggests taking without attribution, and even “derived from Judaism,” whereas Muslims would rather say that the two “derive from a common source.” You are, of course, free to use whatever language you choose, but consider phrases such as “X, which can be viewed either as derived from Judaism or as due to the same type of divine revelation that led to similar Jewish texts, depending on your mode of analysis.” You are not compromising your principles, just making a statement that recognizes the variety of interpretations out there.

  • Chameleon_X


    “merely stating the connection hardly seems as if it should annoy anyone”

    100% agreed. No one is disputing the appropriateness of “stating the connection”, especially when the Quran proclaims this connection loudly and clearly. Of course there is a connection. There is not an iota of controversy in this statement, so you are reframing your words into a straw man argument. But what you were actually doing, as I already highlighted, was making clear claims of fabrication. If you are going to make such claims, then they had better be supported. If not, then making those claims is wrong and should be retracted.

    Even from an academic point of view, it is simply wrong to make these claims of fabrication without strong supporting evidence. Merely showing a correlation that is already loudly proclaimed by Islam itself does not in any way imply causation. That is nothing but a claim in the language of bigotry based on bad science.

    If you notice, I did not call it outright bigotry simply because it is partially a reflection of the atheist zealotry inherent in academic research — i..e., that atheism is the correct default scientific view and theism is the wrong scientific view. But science cannot even prove that atheism is the more correct view (i.e., greater than even a 50% probability), which is why atheism as the default academic view is based not on science, but zealotry.

  • Sarka

    Thank you for the politeness and fairness of your comment. I didn’t actually think I was making any controversial points. Both the academic view that Islam drew heavily on Judaic tradition (rather than e.g. Buddhist tradition!) and the Muslim religious view that Mohammed was the final prophet in a line of the Jewish prophets (plus Jesus), concur in connecting Islam to Judaism. Much the same can be said of Christianity. Of course, Jews do not agree with what either Muslims or Christians do with the Jewish traditions (how they see them as completed and therefore retrospectively reinterpret them – making them as it were the “back story” to their own narratives), but merely stating the connection hardly seems as if it should annoy anyone – and is so obvious as hardly counting as “argument”..

    Also of course, the theological and historical connections between the three Abrahamic religions are much more complicated than that. But this isn’t the moment or the article to go into that. My point was related just to the understanding of the word “Judaeo-Christian” – which I come across all the time in cultural history in contexts remote from US Republican or Israel/Palestine issues. I don’t myself see why any Muslim would object to the concept in itself – although if he/she disliked its use in a context that seemed to put Jews/Christians on one side against Muslims on the other, then the cleverest objection would precisely be to argue that “Judaeo-Islamic”would be an equally possible concept – regarding both the relationship of Islam to Judaism at its birth and the quite close symbiosis between Jewish and Muslim cultures in the Islamic world at various points over the centuries…

    I speak not of you, but if people want the right to be touchy about other people’s use of language, they should probably refrain from ranting about how a poster who just disagrees with them is probably someone sinister in disguise bla bla.

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