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The Israeli election: in the balance

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — the election itself a one day affair, and may even be settled by the time you read this — but the impact lingers, and the complex balancing of forces in the region remains ]
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Calder

**

Nothing is ever black-and-white, it seems to me — but there are moment of exceptional clarity, and with the Israeli election (as best I can tell from afar) still in the balance as I write this, two quotes from Herzog (upper panel, below) and Netanyahu (lower panel) strike me as encapsulating the koan facing the Israeli people:

SPEC DQ Israeli elex koan

**

Still in the balance.

I was discussing the Middle East earlier in the day, an the issue of balance came up. Cheryl Rofer had said, “The big issue with KSA and Israel is balance of power” and I commented that if you throw Iran into the mix, the issue becomes one of a “balance of balances of power” — which could then be extended on out to include other interested parties.

This brought me to the idea of Alexander Calder mobiles, and the sense that they offer a kinetic equivalent to the static formalism of my own HipBone Games — their precarious balances and homeostases representing by analogy the tensions and resolutions between stakeholders and / or ideas, ideologies, approaches, in a way that features both “equilibrium and its discontents”. Fascinating.

To which Cheryl responded with gnomic accuracy:

Multibody problems are hard.

Ain’t that the truth!

**

Sources:

  • NYT, Netanyahu Says Never to a State for Palestinians
  • Fathom, We must divide the land: an interview with Isaac Herzog

  • Mobile, Alexander Calder in Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
  • Apocalypse Row: Netanyahu, Nukes, and Iranian Eschatology — Tim Furnish

    Monday, March 2nd, 2015

    [ guest post by Tim Furnish, posted by Charles Cameron ]
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    Blog-friend and occasional guest poster Dr Tim Furnish just posted this very timely piece at his MahdiWatch blog, and I am delighted to post it in its entirety here with Tim’s permission.

    **

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak to a joint session of the US Congress on Tuesday, March 3, 2015.  If his speech earlier today at the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was any indication, the Islamic Republic of Iran and its pursuit of nuclear weapons will be the major topic.  Partisan bickering (about whether the Republican majority in the House and Senate wished to insult President Obama) aside,  the central issue boils down to whether Bibi is correct in his long-held belief that the IRI leadership amounts to a “messianic, apocalyptic, radical cult” which must be stopped at all costs from going nuclear (as he first said six years ago).   

    He is not.  

    Now as my usual friends and colleague sharpen their knives, allow me to explain.  First off, I am a staunch supporter of Israel, as both a Christian and an American, and have been there three times in the last decade.  Also, now that Turkey, under Sultan Erdoğan, has slipped back into Neo-Ottomanism, Israel is the only truly democratic nation in the Middle East.  Along with the Kurds, the Israelis are our closest allies in that region.  

    But that does not mean that everything Israeli is automatically correct.  And this claim that Iran wants nuclear weapons in order to use them on Tel Aviv and thus spark the coming of the 12th Imam al-Mahdi is a gross misreading of Twelver Shi`i doctrines as well as of Iranian politics. 

    I examined this issue in depth for the Institute for Near East & Gulf Military Analysis back in 2011, in a paper entitled “A Western View on Iran’s WMD Goal: Nuclearing the Eschaton, or Pre-Stocking the Mahdi’s Arsenal?”  The major points therein follow, after this pictorial message:

    Ismail
    Safavid Shah Isma’il (L), founder of the 16th c. dynasty that converted Iran to Twelver Shi`ism. HE would not have hesitated to use nukes (in fact, his turban itself is weaponized). But Khamenei? Not bloody likely.

    Z  Belief in the return of the 12th Imam from ghaybah, “occultation,” is not “fringe” or “extremist” but a mainstay of this brand of Islam (just as is the doctrine of Jesus’ return for all orthodox Christians).

    Z The 12th Imam’s reappearance is totally up to Allah’s discretion; nothing humans can do will advance his timetable.  “Hotwiring the apocalypse” depends not on WMD usage or any other violent activity but, rather, hinges on creating the Mahdist state in microcosm (i.e., the IRI) and then waiting on Allah to send the Mahdi to rule it.

    Z The anjuman-i hujjatiyeh (“Hujjatiyeh Society”) is not some insane group dedicated to destroying Israel but an organization dedicated to re-converting Baha’is to Twelver Shi`ism—and, furthermore, was banned in the early 1980s for being insufficiently supportive of Ayatollah Khomeini’s clerical rule.

    Z As per the excellent article by Ze’ev Maghen, “Occultation in Perpetuum: Shi`ite Messianism and the Policies of the Islamic Republic,” the ruling ayatollahs are probably the most vociferous opponents of a true Mahdist claim on the planet—because acknowleding anyone as such would end their rule of Iran, and with it their wealth, power and privilege. 

    Z Twelver Shi`i views of jihad mandate that jihad-i ghalaba, “victorious holy war,” be prohibited until the return of the 12th Imam—NOT employed to importune him to appear.  Usage of nuclear weapons is thus really not allowable for the apocalypse-hotwiring which many pundits impute  to Iran.

    Z Yes, some Iranian leaders have spoken, repeatedly, of Israel being “erased from the pages of history.”  But I believe that this means they believe in a gradual demographic disintegration of the “Zionist entity,” and not a mushroom cloud over Israel.

    Z It is possible for men to have long beards, wear turbans, express eschatological beliefs and yet still be rational political actors. The Supreme Leader and his cronies all know that were Iran to use a nuclear weapon against Israel, their nation would be a radioactive ruin about 15 minutes later. The Mahdi has no desire to rule over such a wasteland. Plus, it would deprive the clerics of their wives and Rolls Royces.

    Z All of the above by no means makes the IRI a peaceful or trustworthy state.  The ruling ayatollahs want nuclear weapons not only to hold onto their power (as per the ruling clique in Pyongyang) but to provide immunity against possible American military strikes and to increase Tehran’s regional clout—just not to summon the Mahdi via a nuclear conflagration.  

    President Jarrett, er, Obama and SecState John Kerry are fools to think that any written agreement will disabuse Khameini and his ilk of their lust for nuclear weapons.  But attempting to counter the administration’s naiveté with inane bluster that misepresents our enemy’s beliefs and intentions amounts to falling off the horse on the opposite side.  Instead, let’s try sitting upright on a strong horse and avoiding partisan extremes of misapprehension.  

    Déjà or not? Netanyahu in DC

    Monday, March 2nd, 2015

    [by Charles Cameron — this is all way off to the side of my pay-grade — can I say that? ]
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    A DoubleQuote: upper panel, Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic; lower panel, Adam Silverman at Sic Semper Tyrannis:

    SPEC DQ Netanyahu Begin

    Silverman then quotes President Reagan, from his memoir, An American Life, p 415:

    I don’t like having representatives of a foreign country – any foreign country – trying to interfere in what I regarded as our domestic political process and the setting of our foreign policy.

    **

    Sources:

  • A Partial Accounting of the Damage Netanyahu Is Doing to Israel, upper panel
  • This Has Sort of Happened Before: Mr. Netanyahu’s Meshugana Mystery Tour, lower panel
  • John Schindler 1: Putin, Gorenberg, Jerusalem

    Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — Putin: the other fellow’s Ukraine is this fellow’s Temple Mount ]
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    It is hard to keep up with John Schindler [@20committee]: his writings flow fast and sure enough that I feel a bit like Alice, running fast to keep still, as I try to think through enough of what he writes to make meaningful comments. In this series of posts, I’ll try to come close to catching up.

    **

    St Putin icon & gas

    **

    First, as backdrop and just for the record, here are Vladimir Putin‘s comments on the spiritual relationship between Russia and the Ukraine, in which he compared the Ukraine to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, from a transcript of his December 2014 Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly:

    Of course, we will talk about this year’s landmark events. You know that a referendum was held in Crimea in March, at which its residents clearly expressed their desire to join Russia. After that, the Crimean parliament – it should be stressed that it was a legitimate parliament that was elected back in 2010 – adopted a resolution on sovereignty. And then we saw the historical reunification of Crimea and Sevastopol with Russia.

    It was an event of special significance for the country and the people, because Crimea is where our people live, and the peninsula is of strategic importance for Russia as the spiritual source of the development of a multifaceted but solid Russian nation and a centralised Russian state. It was in Crimea, in the ancient city of Chersonesus or Korsun, as ancient Russian chroniclers called it, that Grand Prince Vladimir was baptised before bringing Christianity to Rus.

    In addition to ethnic similarity, a common language, common elements of their material culture, a common territory, even though its borders were not marked then, and a nascent common economy and government, Christianity was a powerful spiritual unifying force that helped involve various tribes and tribal unions of the vast Eastern Slavic world in the creation of a Russian nation and Russian state. It was thanks to this spiritual unity that our forefathers for the first time and forevermore saw themselves as a united nation. All of this allows us to say that Crimea, the ancient Korsun or Chersonesus, and Sevastopol have invaluable civilisational and even sacral importance for Russia, like the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for the followers of Islam and Judaism.

    And this is how we will always consider it.

    **

    How serious is this?

    End times, apocalypse-serious in three religions, driest kindling for a global wildfire in our drought-ridden world. All it would take is a single spark, and there are those who play with matches:

    Israel indicts Livvix Aqsa

    To me, that’s nightmare scenario number 1, number two having to do with Pakistani nukes..

    **

    Gershom Gorenberg, whose book The End of Days is still the best guide to the clashing of rival apocalypses on the Temple Mount aka the Noble Sanctuary — writes of that “thirty-five-acre not-quite-rectangular enclosure on the souther-east corner of the Old City of Jerusalem” that it is “the most contested piece of real estate on earth”.

    Everyone, from the Lord on down, surely knows that the center of the earth is Jerusalem — even the maps tell us so:

    462_medieval-mapJerusalemCenterC1250

    As Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav says:

    Wherever I go, I go to Jerusalem.

    — and we can zoom further in:

    As the navel is set in the centre of the human body,
    so is the land of Israel the navel of the world…
    situated in the centre of the world,
    and Jerusalem in the centre of the land of Israel,
    and the sanctuary in the centre of Jerusalem,
    and the holy place in the centre of the sanctuary,
    and the ark in the centre of the holy place,
    and the foundation stone before the holy place,
    because from it the world was founded…

    **

    Given the centrality of the Temple Mount, then, what are the prospects should someone, not unlike Adam Everett Livvix perhaps, motivated by desire to see the Temple rebuilt and Moshiach or Christ make his presence felt, attempt to destroy the mosques atop the Mount — as has already been attempted more than once?

    Jeffrey Goldberg‘s interview with Gershon Salomon, leader of the Temple Mount Faithful movement, published in the New York Times just before the turn of the millennium, included this fascinating and to my mind alarming exchange:

    I ask him how he would feel if someone blew up the Dome of the Rock.
    “The question is, Why did they build their mosque on our holy mountain, anyway? Who gave them permission? God didn’t.”
    Would you be saddened if the destruction of the Dome of the Rock led to war?
    “I don’t think it will come to that. The Muslims know in their heart that this belongs to us.”
    “But what if it did lead to war?”
    Salomon smiled. “The Temple will be a reality. God has promised it.”
    But what about war?
    “O.K.,” he said impatiently, “so we’ll have a war.”

    **

    Quite how far into the parallelism between the Temple Mount and Ukraine Putin wants to go is an unknown — but my sense is that John Schindler would come closer to the answer than most.

    This was the first of three posts.

    A metaphysical trigonometry

    Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — from [Inkling] Charles Williams via J’lem & Damascus to TS Eliot, iconology and the apophatic & cataphatic paths ]
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    The Second Coming: Orthodox icon and Turkish miniature

    The Second Coming: Orthodox icon and Turkish miniature

    **

    The phrase “metaphysical trigonometry” is from Charles Williams, friend of Tolkien and Lewis, and is drawn from the opening paragraph of his book, The Descent of the Dove: A Short History of the Holy Spirit in the Church.

    The beginning of Christendom, is, strictly, at a point out of time. A metphysical trigonometry finds it among the spiritual Secrets, at the meeting of two heavenward lines, one drawn from Bethany along the Ascent of the Messias, the other from Jerusalem against the Descent of the Paraclete. That measurement, the measurement of eternity in operation, of the bright cloud and the rushing wind, is, in effect, theology.

    **

    Williams mentions Bethany, the geographic lift-off point for the Ascension of Christ — but where is his Second Coming to be witnessed?

    Some Christian telecasters, literal-minded and consequently of the opinion that not only living eyes but even the eye of the camera will be able to capture the event, suggest the Mount of Olives:

    Thus Christian Broadcasters’ Cameras Trained on Mount of Olives to Capture Christ’s Return:

    Two of America’s biggest evangelical Christian broadcasters have stationed cameras on a hill overlooking Jerusalem, ready to cover the return of Jesus Christ from the Mount of Olives as predicted in the Bible, should any such event occur soon.

    Texas-based Daystar Television Network was first to install a 24/7 camera from its terrace overlooking the Mount of Olives, and now Costa Mesa-based Trinity Broadcasting Network has bought the building next door, allowing it the same opportunity. The Mount of Olives, a mountain ridge east of Jerusalem, is rooted both in Jewish and Christian traditions, and is where Jesus is said to have preached to his disciples and later ascended to heaven, according to Acts chapter one.

    **

    I am hoping one of the Latter-day Saint friends of this blog will have more to say on LDS expectation, but have found this reference to Missouri as the site of the New Jerusalem — not quite the same as the place of the Second Coming, but certainly related to some extent:

    Building of the New Jerusalem:

    Near the time of the coming of Jesus Christ, the faithful Saints will build a righteous city, a city of God, called the New Jerusalem. Jesus Christ Himself will rule there. (See 3 Nephi 21:23–25; Moses 7:62–64; Articles of Faith 1:10.) The Lord said the city will be built in the state of Missouri in the United States (see D&C 84:2–3).

    **

    And in Islam, Damascus, and specifically the Umayyad mosque is the place of expectation, following the hadith reported in Muhammad Ata Ur-Rahim, Jesus: Prophet of Islam:

    At that point, God will send the Messiah, son of Mary, and he will descend to the white minaret in the east of Damascus, wearing two garments dyed with saffron, placing his hands on the wings of two angels. When he lowers his head, beads of perspiration will fall from it, and when he raises his head, beads like pearls will scatter from it. Every disbeliever who smells his fragrance will die, and his breath will reach as far as he can see. He will search for the Dajjal until he finds him at the gate of Ludd (the biblical Lydda, now known as Lod), where he will kill him.

    **

    It has been argued that the thrust of Hinduism as of Buddhism is vertically upwards, towards transcendance of this world in moksha, liberation, whereas that of Christianity is downwards, towards immanence, in the Incarnation, indeed in what Henri Nouwen calls “downward mobility”.

    In reality, however, the god Vishnu descends into human form in his avatars Narsingh, Rama, Krishna, Kalki — to play lila within creation, while the yogi’s path leads upowards to moksha — and the Christ who descends into time and human circumstance is also the ascended and eternal Christ whose celestial marriage feast is celebrated in each Eucharist…

    In short, paths of both ascent and descent are to be found, as perhaps we might have learned from the story of Jacob’s Ladder (Genesis 28,12):

    and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

    Or as TS Eliot puts it in Four Quartets, variously echoing Heraclitus, Dante, John of the Cross:

    And the way up is the way down, the way forward is the way back.

    and:

    Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
    To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
    You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
    In order to arrive at what you do not know
    You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
    In order to possess what you do not possess
    You must go by the way of dispossession.
    In order to arrive at what you are not
    You must go through the way in which you are not.
    And what you do not know is the only thing you know
    And what you own is what you do not own
    And where you are is where you are not.

    **

    Going a step further, Cleo McNelly Kearns writes:

    The way down is the way of asceticism and abstraction, while the way up is the way of erotic experience, metaphor and imagination. The negative way seeks, through a process of progressive elimination of the partial, to attain a posture of complete humility and self-erasure before the void; the positive way calls for escalating degrees of recognition and self-affirmation proceeding from like to like to a place commensurate with contemplation of the whole. Likewise, the negative way, or way down, seeks to move the consciousness beyond the body and its images, while the affirmative way, or way up, seeks to move it more deeply into them.

    The negative, apophatic way, avoids affirmative statements and images because they might be mistaken for idols and worshipped, while the affirmative, cataphatic way uses affirmations and images as icons and symbols through which the unseen may be glimpsed.

    And we’re into a whole new areea of discourse.


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