Roast AIPAC #3

You may have already seen these videos and articles, but because this week is Roast AIPAC week I’ll take the opportunity to list them here together. They make it clear that Ilhan Omar’s criticism of the Israel lobby was too mild. AIPAC’s reach goes further than we would like to think, and AIPAC is not the only organization that influences American opinion and policy in favor of Israel.

The Washington Post published an informative article as well. This seemed surprising at first, given the Post’s previous support of the lobby, but maybe it wasn’t so surprising after all. The article did not criticize AIPAC. It praised the Democratic Party for supporting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict–a stand that had a negative impact on Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Netanyahu’s ‘wedding’ together of Israel with the Republican Party has hurt the prospects of peace in the Middle East, the article claims. As for Reps. Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), it identifies them merely as the new members of Congress who have attracted attention with ‘toxic tweets’ and support for boycott and insists that they represent a minority of Americans. Not only that, they have both endorsed the BDS movement. The Post argues that this behavior is not representative of the majority of Democrats who think the United States should support Israel. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/the-democrats-israel-problem-is-not-ilhan-omar-its-netanyahu/2019/02/17/db624298-306c-11e9-86ab-5d02109aeb01_story.html?utm_term=.3c51127e756f

I think the Post’s criticism of Netanyahu merits a place here, but US support for Israel was not the point of Omar’s tweet, was it? She was making a comment on the undue influence of AIPAC. She was right too. Shortly after Omar’s tweets, The Nation Magazine published an article outlining the extent to which AIPAC has been able to influence American politics.

We do, in fact, have a growing anti-Semitism problem in America. But Omar and Tlaib are not a part of it. They are allies of mine and of Jews across this country who are fighting for peace, racial justice, immigrants’ rights, and the defeat of fascism. The anti-Semites are the Nazis and white supremacists who marched and murdered in Charlottesville, whom Donald Trump called “very fine people,” and the MAGA supporter who massacred worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

https://www.thenation.com/article/ady-barkan-aipac-ilhan-omar/

The last video ends with Sam Seder wondering why it was left to the new Muslim members of Congress to call out AIPAC.

Seder’s point is appreciated, but by now we have a pretty good idea why the Democratic establishment keeps its collective mouth shut about AIPAC.

Roast AIPAC

Rep. Illhan Omar (D-Minn) has been under pressure since she suggested that US support for Israel has something to do with money from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).https://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/business-a-lobbying/430054-furor-over-omar-puts-spotlight-on-aipac Although AIPAC’s influence in the United States is no secret, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi demanded that Omar apologize. Omar did apologize, but she remained firm on her criticism of the lobby. She has subsequently been harrassed by journalists and politicians alike. However, I’m not writing to join the ranks of her defenders. It is increasingly clear that she can handle the pressure. I’m writing because I was personally offended that so many people felt free to dole out this treatment on an elected member of the Congress of the United States.

Some assumed that Democrats were pressured by Republicans to discipline Omar, but it’s more likely they were pressured by AIPAC directly. Maybe the rumors of Israel’s influence in our elections are true. Is it possible that both Domocrats and Republicans know that if they offend AIPAC they could lose their next election?

I propose that we exact a cost for AIPAC’s arrogance. Progressives who object to the undue influence that AIPAC demonstrated this week should spend next week criticizing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. This would inform AIPAC that there are costs for bad behavior.


Religion in the Age of Pisces

Do the planets exert an infuence on human affairs? Considering the the way religion has developed in the Age of Pisces I think the answer would have to be yes. I would like to share the observations that lead me to this conclusion. If any of them contradict theological foundations that is not my intention and I would appreciate corrections and/or criticism.

Before I begin, I want to distinguish between two approaches that I have observed in discussions of religion. One is impartial and informational; the other is from the point of view of a believer. The word ‘impartial’ does not imply indifference or lack of belief; believers might use either approach.

According to T.R. Glover’s book, The Conflict of Religions in the Early Roman Empire, none of the religions that we now believe to be ancient are older than 700 BC. (Glover writes from the point of view of an atheist, arguing that the whole point of religion is to organize a society. I disagree with him on that point.) These religions include the worship of Orpheus, Dionysos, and Osiris–all figures with Hermetic attributes. I have come to believe that the Age of Pisces, ruled by the planets Jupiter and Neptune, was bound to have Hermetic characteristics.

Since reading Walter Friedlander’s book, The Golden Wand of Medicine, which attributes a malevolent influence to the symbol of the Caduceus of Mercury (or Hermes), I’ve been terrified of its influence in the United States. At one time I thought I might find a guarantee of safety in Catholic theology, because I have seen theological debates that seem aware of this threat. For example, part of the problem that arose between Père Jérôme and Albert Gleizes was Gleizes’ opinion that Church theology since the thirteenth century had to be thrown out. Gleizes thought Thomas Aquinas had taken everything in the wrong direction and that he could see its effects in sacred art. In other words, all theology since Aquinas had to be redone. But apparently the Church had already decided a debate between these two theologians in favor of Aquinas. As I understand it, part of the reason Aquinas prevailed was the greater degree of St Augustine’s Hermeticism.

Gleizes believed that Christianity was based on an older tradition and that it had lost its knowledge of the sacred. The idea of a basis in an older tradition by itself is not controversial, since it could refer to Judaism, but it was based on Guénon’s idea of a great world tradition of which Christianity is simply a part. The most obvious danger of this stance from a Catholic point of view would be the idea that Christianity had ceased to radiate spirituality, and so it is not exactly surprising that this began to create problems between Gleizes and Père Jérôme. (Albert Gleizes: For and Against the Twentieth Century, Peter Brooke, Yale University Press, 2001. page 221-223)

But to return to the problem of Hermeticism, I think I’ve seen similar considerations taking place in American Indian religion regarding Kokopelli. However, I realize now that it is unrealistic to expect a guarantee of safety. I don’t think human existence works that way, especially under the Age of Pisces.

Jupiter and Neptune rule the Age of Pisces. They are both associated with the Hindu deity Siva, and Siva has associations with Hermes. According to Edward Moor’s book, Hindu Pantheon (J. Johnson, St. Paul’s Church-Yard, London, 1810), “most of the principal Hindu deities might be identified with Jove or Jupiter”(page 47). And, “The Jupiter Marinus, or Neptune of the Romans, resembles Mahadeva (Siva) in his generative character; especially as the Hindu god is the husband of Bhavani, whose relation to the waters is evidently marked by her image being restored to them at the conclusion of the great festival of Durgotsava”(page 48). “In the character of destroyer also, we may look upon this Indian deity as corresponding with the Stygian Jove or Pluto, especially since Cali, or Time in the feminine gender, is a name of his consort, who will be found to be Proserpine” (page 46). 

I’m not arguing that Christianity is just another version of this older religion. I’m arguing that these planets have influenced our age.  Robert Eisler argues for the Jewish origin of Christianity in his book Orpheus the Fisher. In the preface, page v, he says,

Christianity, considering its Greek influences, seems remarkable for its loyalty to the Jewish religion, and at the same time its rejection of the pagan gods of Greece and Rome. Is it possible that both characteristics of the Christian religion are responses to the potential harm caused by Hermeticism under a Pagan system?

The believer in me would put it another way. If there was ever a time that God would find it necessary to make himself known to humanity, it would be at the beginning of the Age of Pisces.

I think it is also reasonable to argue that the Protestant Reformation unwittingly opened the floodgates to aspects of the Age of Pisces that had previously been suppressed by the Roman Church.

 

Do We Want to Overcome Our Fortress Mentality?

Evangelicals’ dream of an apocalypse in the Middle East. This dream is as dark as it gets. They insist it is based in the Bible, but it serves irreligious neoconservatives and oilmen who want to use religion as a battle axe, so how biblical can it be?

Unfortunately, the blame doesn’t belong entirely to religious leaders and politicians. The fact that this group of voters can be inspired by such a dark worldview reveals much about their own spiritual state, not to mention their understanding of religion in general.

While the Book of Isaiah does call King Cyrus the Lord’s annointed, it says many other things that can be understood to contradict the conservative agenda for Jerusalem. (Cyrus is the Persian king who allowed Israel to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Evangelicals believe Donald Trump is a modern-day Cyrus.) For example, the Book of Isaiah also tells us that states are unimportant to God.

Who hath directed the Spirit of the lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him?

With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?

Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.

And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.

All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity. (Isaiah 40: 13-17)

The word Apocalypse means ‘an uncovering; a disclosure of knowledge or revelation’. The claim that it refers to physical destruction is a matter of interpretation. But in any case, if you really believe the Bible it shouldn’t matter if you agree on a particular meaning. We should be able to agree that God will reveal its meaning.

If we want to trace a new course as an alternative to the dark vision of the neocons, we would need to decide whether Isaiah’s words have meaning for us today.  I think it is reasonable to take Isaiah’s words as encouragement, not only for Western Civilization but, through Western civilization, for the entire world. However the concept of Western Civilization has become so muddled that it will require an effort to make it so. The important question then would be, do we choose to make it so?

In the last 70 years or so, we have lost the concept of Western Civilization and when we think we have recovered it, we discover it has become a partisan concept.

Western Civilization is a partisan concept in relation to countries and peoples that don’t consider themseves part of the West. It may also be a partisan concept in relation to the Jews. There is a quote from Eric Voegelin that illustrates this problem:

Western civilization, as it emerges from the Middle Ages, rests on the unique and precarious balance between the elements of ancient civilizations that were merged in it: Hellenic rationalism, Israelite spiritualism, and the Roman jurisdictional order governing the private wills and public offices.

This quote sounds straight forward until you remember the West’s long history of discrimination against the Jews. The following is a quote from SYLVIE COURTINE-DENAMY’s article in Voegelinview.  

One can see how Voegelin ends up in a somewhat paradoxical situation since while taking for his basis and point of departure the Revelation to Israel, nevertheless gives a negative appraisal of Isarel’s fate, supplanted as it is by the universal revelation of God in Christ…

But again, partisanship can be found everywhere, even within the Christian Church. Is it possible that we can build something new using this concept as a foundation? Our goal, if we decide that the concept of Western Civilization is helpful to what we are trying to accomplish in this conversation, would be to identify the mistaken thinking that brought us to this point. Our reward would be the ability to read the Book of Isaiah as the encouraging message that he intended it to be.

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.

Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40: 1-3)

It can be argued from our own tradition that Isaiah is not necessarily talking about a physical place or race of people. He is talking about a civilization. And the time has passed when it made sense to think of Western Civilization as simply the West.  We need alliances.  We need cooperation from everyone if we are going to survive into the next century. So the next task would be to work out the logic of including peoples that are not normally considered to be a part of Western civilization.  The United States may be the most logical place in the world for this understanding to arise, if we so choose.

Agribusiness versus Joseph in Egypt

One of the reasons I supported Bernie Sanders for president was his support of family farms against the abuses of agribusiness. He mentioned agribusiness again in a recent speech about health care in Iowa so I thought it would be a good time to discuss an article in the February 2016 issue of Harper’s entitled The Trouble With Iowa”. (Richard Manning, The Trouble with Iowa: Corn, corruption, and the presidential caucuses. Harpers, Feb. 2016) The article ends with these words:

The standoff that results from all of this plays out across our continent. Those endeavors that produce food and energy need scale and landscape and are of necessity rural and are of necessity unspeakably destructive. The industries involved must be free to operate on their own terms in the landscape in the nation’s midsection, where the states are red and square. As Stowe Says, all they have to do is to protect the status quo. To do that, they don’t need to play to checkmate; stalemate and gridlock are success enough. Iowa’s caucuses, and for that matter the whole presidential ritual, will do nothing to change this.

The man quoted in this paragraph is William Stowe, head of the Des Moines Water Works. Mr. Stowe has received death threats from the people he’s trying to serve and not because of a decrease in water quality. People are upset with him because Stowe’s department has sued county operators of drainage districts over the fertilizer and hog manure they’ve been dumping into Iowa’s waterways and drinking water.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in Iowa. Rolled up in that iceberg are other key issues of the 2016 election such as immigration, health care and obesity, poverty and income inequality, and the entrenchment of a corporate oligarchy. In other words, Iowa is a pint-sized version of the United States. And like the rest of the United States its pollution makes its other problems look like a cakewalk.

The author of this article was not lamenting the difficulty of getting a candidate elected. He was talking about how difficult it is to keep promises once a candidate takes office. One of Obama’s campaign promises was the reform of industrial agriculture, which is why he appointed Tom Vilsack as Agriculture Secretary. But even though Vilsack had been governor of Iowa and a supporter of reform, his appointment did not have the hoped-for effect.

Tyson responded to his efforts by joining with Smithfield and other meat producers to mount a multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign, complete with astroturf opposition and congressional arm-twisting. Big Ag outplayed Vilsack at nearly every turn, and he quickly backpedaled on the new rules. Finally, Congress killed the reform effort late in 2011. Two years later, with the fundamentals of its business plan intact, Smithfield sold itself to the Shuanghui Group, a Chinese company. What Smithfiel sold to the Chinese was less its pork production than its control of Iowa’s politics and its landscape. The irony of some of the world’s last remaining Communists taking over from Iowa’s swine capitalists is outdone only by Donald Trump, who spends whatever time he isn’t using to bash immigrants bashing the Chinese. He offers no hint of course, about how he might best the Shuanghui Group, which, through finely honed contracts, now controls the landscape of all that beautiful corn in the Midwest.

So what exactly is this business plan passed on to the Chinese by Smithfield? It is modern-day serfdom. Iowans say their state has been chickenized. Richard Manning thinks it’s more accurate to say it has been Tysonized. Tyson describes the process as vertical integration. Thanks to its efforts over the last 30 years the company owns every step of the process, from producing and delivering feed and hatchlings to slaughter, processing and distribution. During that time, Tyson has even managed to redesign the chicken by genetically selecting for animals that will eat high-energy corn and soy while crammed in windowless, climate-controlled factories.

The process depended on a networked system of growers and farmers, who became contractors. The network was organized as a tournament. Tyson delivered hatchlings, formulated and supplied the feed and antibiotics, and took away the birds when they were ready for slaughter…Growers in a given region were lumped in a pool and paid on the basis of a competitive scheme that ranked them according to the pounds of chicken produced per pound of feed. Everything was tightly monitored by a flow of data that measured corn and soy in, McNuggets out. A productivity gain of a few percentage points meant the difference between bankruptcy and a paycheck for many growers.

What a feat! Tyson not only reformulated chickens, it domesticated farmers. So naturally the pork processors wanted to get in on the deal. A large part of the pollution in Iowa comes from the manure produced by these operations. It is not regulated because unlike factory waste, farm waste is not considered pollution. Never mind that twenty-one million Hogs produce the waste of about 45 million people. (Iowa has a population of just 3 million.) The chickens likewise produce more manure than all the people in the state and almost none of it passes through a sewage treatment plant or septic tank before going into the public waterways and drinking water.

The financialization of food and farming has wreaked havoc on the natural world. The long list of the consequences of industrialized agriculture includes the polluting of lakes, rivers, streams, and marine ecosystems with agrochemicals, excess fertilizer, and animal waste. (Foodopoly, page 11. cited below)

It is possible to remove nitrates from water. However at this concentration Des Moines Water Works would need an equipment upgrade costing up to $180 million. And there are 260 cities and towns in Iowa with the same problem. And even if they all removed the nutrients from their drinking water it would not help the life of the rivers. Or the ocean. Nitrates traveling from the corn-belt down the Mississippi River have killed ‘a Connecticut-size stretch of the Gulf of Mexico.”

The cost-effective way of solving the problem would be to run the drainage pipes into wetlands, plant some permanent pastures, apply less fertilizer and replace much of the corn with other crops. Unfortunately the government would have to stop subsidizing the growing of corn and those who receive subsidies won’t allow it.

Meanwhile a diet of corn products and products from soybeans, a companion plant of corn, is changing America’s diet. Eighty-five percent of America’s farmable cropland is planted in corn, soybeans, wheat and hay. In Iowa, 23 million of 24 million acres is planted in corn and soybeans. This translates into higher consumption of high-fructose corn syrup as well as products containing soybean oil. From 1909 to 1999 the consumption of soybean oil increased a thousand fold. Linoleic acid found in soybean oil is a culprit in the obesity epidemic, and since livestock feed contains soybeans it is even found in the chicken and pork we eat. It may even be responsible for decreased brain development in the population since it supplants omega-3s in our diets.

The plight of the family farm raises fundamental questions about what kind of society we want to have. Back in 2014  I imagined a new kind of community centered around family farms. I said that one of the things this community would have to do is develop its own candidates for public office. Sadly, that wasn’t a new idea. That’s exactly what farm communities used to do. We’ve actually been moving away from that ideal. Now agribusiness’s gains of the last twenty years have made the rivers run so thick with animal waste and synthetic fertilizer everything the river touches dies.

This is all relevant to the election of 2016.  Farmers have been the vanguard of populism since the Civil War, fighting abuses by railroads, banks, grain merchants, and food processors, and government allies of agribusiness. And we can’t forget the speculators. Hedge funds, one of the main culprits behind the recent financial crisis, have become some of the largest investors in food companies, farmland, and agricultural products. Their speculation in food commodity markets has also contributed to price spikes in corn and soybeans. Hedge funds have been big proponents of grabbing land worldwide in order to capitalize on expectations of profitability from climate change on agriculture. (Foodopoly, Page 11)

These financial interests have worked together to decrease the number of family farms because farming communities are the biggest obstacles to their oligarchic pretensions. Farmers led the populist uprisings of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when unfair economic policies threatened farm family livelihoods. Family farmers banded together to form organizations like the Grange, the Farm Alliance, and the National Farmers Union. They ran candidates and joined with progressive allies in labor and social justice movements.

If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard about this it’s because it’s been erased from history–especially the post-World War II part. (Foodopoly, page 13) In 1955, in response to Ezra Benson’s move to reduce crop prices, farmers formed The National Farmers Organization (NFO). Benson, who was simultaneously a Mormon apostle and President Eisenhower’s secretary of agriculture, was determined to destroy the New Deal program for agriculture that ensured fair farm prices. As a representative of the ‘captains of industry’, he saw farmers as excess labor. This cabal organized the Committee for Economic Development (CED) in 1942. (Foodopoly, page 13) However it wasn’t until the early 1960s that it released its report stating its intentions for this so-called excess labor. The corporate solution was to get farm boys off the farm and into vocational training for industrial skills, and relocated to where their labor was needed. So by the time of the August 1962 NFO convention in Des Moines, Iowa farmers were fighting mad.

At this time the CED was headed by representatives of Ford Motor Company and Sears, so the NFO organized catalogue marches in seven cities where protesters dumped Sears catalogs in front of their stores and drove Ford cars and trucks in circles around Ford establishments in several cities. Not long afterward both companies disavowed the report and the U.S. Senate and House agriculture committees held hearings to discredit the ‘solution’ pedaled by the CED. (Foodopoly, page 15) But unfortunately the enemies of the people have plenty of time and resources, and they never quit.

During the CED’s first fifteen years of existence, thirty-eight of its trustees held public office and two served as presidents of the Federal Reserve Bank. The organization maintained strong relationships with the Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy administrations, helping to direct government research dollars as well as to provide funding for academic research. The strong ties to academia resulted in policy prescriptions shrouded in sophisticated economic rhetoric and focused on weakening the reform-liberalism of the New Deal. They couched their proclamations on shrinking the farm population as moving ‘labor and capital where they will be most productive.’

In 1962 Kennedy was influenced to support a massive tax cut by a CED report that called for ‘a prompt, substantial and permanent reduction’. The CED helped organize the Business Committee for Tax Reduction, endorsed by Kennedy, which actively lobbied Congress, eventually resulting in the passage of legislation in 1964 cutting individual tax rates by 20 percent across the board and reducing corporate tax rates.

They were aided in these efforts by their propaganda arm. The CED’s information committee included members of several advertising agencies, the editors of the Atlanta Constitution and Look, the publisher of the Washington Post, the head of the Book-of-the-Month Club, the board chairman of Curtis Publishing, and the presidents of Time-Life and the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). The CED’s 1958 pamphlet, ‘Defense Against Inflation,’ was discussed in 354 papers and magazines, reaching 31 million people. Everything was done according to plan.  (Foodopoly, page 15)

Immediately after its formation in 1942 the CED began creating a postwar program to expand chemical-intensive agriculture and to grant industrial and financial interests more control over it. It worked to create a postwar economy built on massive and profitable industrial growth in the North, which would require an enormous pool of cheap labor.

But first they had to do away with those pesky programs created by the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 which were intended to achieve parity for farmers. This is how the Adjustment Act worked:

The act provided for acreage reduction and land set-asides to reduce over-production. In addition, the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) established a price floor by making loans to farmers when the food processors or grain corporations refused to pay farmers a price that covered the cost of production. Farmers pledged their crops to the government as collateral against the loans, effectively ensuring that they were paid a fair price. The loan rate, set by the CCC and based on parity, acted as a price floor, because a farmer could sell to a national grain reserve that was established as a last-resort market.(Foodopoly, page 15)

The grain reserve was filled when crops were abundant and prices were low; grain was released when crops were scarce. In this way the reserve prevented crop prices from skyrocketing during times of drought or low production. Since this policy stopped products from reaching the market if the price was not fair, prices inevitably returned to a normal level, and farmers could pay off their loans. Together these policies helped keep overproduction in check and reduced commodity price volatility. This meant farmers could make a living without subsidies.

The parity programs worked so well that there was real prosperity in rural areas during World War II and that postwar period. This was strikingly different from the post-World War I era when, without supply management, farm prices collapsed. The programs also worked for Main Street by reducing price volatility, and the grain reserve actually make a profit of $13 million over twenty years as the crops were sold on the commodity market.

But the food-processing and grain industries preferred overproduction because it led to cheap prices for the products they needed–a preference that still motivates their propaganda. And it’s important that they are also motivated by their fear of the political power of farmers.

The story of the destruction of parity reminds me of the biblical story of Joseph whom his brothers sold into slavery. He ended up in Egypt where he was given the job of telling the Pharaoh the meaning of his dream. Joseph told the pharaoh it was a warning that a famine was coming. Egypt prepared for this famine by storing grain. There was indeed a famine and Joseph’s brothers traveled to Egypt when their own supplies ran out, not knowing that they had been saved by their brother’s wise policies. Our situation is the reverse of the biblical story. Agribusiness is the anti-Joseph.

Today the representatives of agribusiness include the American Farm Bureau Federation, which works in concert with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In the twenties this group worked with members of Congress, ‘the farm bloc’, who feared the Progressive movement. The farm bloc was made up of farm-state legislators who wanted to appear to address the concerns of their constituents without changing the overall economic structure. The 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act passed in spite of their efforts to defeat it but it was poorly designed. Although it did manage to curb excesses through the 70s it has not been seriously enforced since the 80s.

In 2008 Obama found he was unable to keep his campaign promise to correct this situation and in the Fall of 2011 the Republican-controlled House of Representatives denied funding for enforcing regulations at the Departments of Agriculture and Justice. A similar fate befell the post-World War I effort by populists to abolish futures trading. Commodity speculation continued to plague farmers right up to the 1929 stock market crash.

Today populists face the same powerful forces with a drastically reduced number of family farms and labor unions that are in a state of dysfunction. Our situation is as serious as it gets. For that reason I have serious doubts about pundits who criticized Senator Sanders during the campaign for not satisfying all of their criteria. I can understand if the younger voters lack perspective, but not the so-called experts.

Now at the risk of contradicting everything I’ve said so far, Bernie’s campaign is not your grandmother’s populism. My main piece of evidence is his invitation to Native Americans to take part in the primary. Most of us probably didn’t realize how unusual this was at the time—not for Bernie of course, it was consistent with his civil rights work–but it was at least a contradiction in terms. If I’m not mistaken, the first populist movements carry some responsibility for homestead policies that imposed on tribal lands, railroads on tribal lands, and residential schools that separated native children from their culture. So maybe we’re creating an opening for an entirely new political entity. This is an interesting development and it needs more thought.

The other side of this contradiction—the family farm side—is important for the reasons stated above. We need farmers if we’re going to survive but the environment can’t tolerate the agribusiness approach. Iowa’s extreme pollution only appeared in the last twenty years and it’s getting worse by the day. Family farms and the communities that grow up around them are one solution. On the other hand most of us would make sorry farmers at this point. This also supports my suggestion that something new is needed—new organizational structure, new ways of thinking. However there are principles in our populist past that might help us go forward.

Now I just had a terrible thought. What if the conflicts of the past were the result of a failure to think through problems like this? Now that I’ve learned how difficult this process is I think it’s possible. You think you’re on to something with the populist fight against the oligarchs and suddenly you remember the Native Americans and their struggle to protect our water. Was it like that in the nineteenth century I wonder? Maybe in their struggle against corporate interests people couldn’t see anyone else until they came face-to-face with the original inhabitants of their so-called homestead. Or maybe they were just used by the oligarchs to help clear the way for the railroads. I suppose it’s also possible that they were as pugnacious in their own way as the oligarchs. And maybe all of those things were factors.

I wonder, what might happen if this time we begin with the Native Americans and their unique culture and build from there? I already know what the oligarchs will say about this. Judging from the way they categorize these people, and corral and enslave them, they seem to hate and fear indigenous people most of all. We on the other hand have no obligation to the oligarchs’ agenda. Their ways are not our ways.

Onan and the Patriarchal Agenda (Updated)

If I had to name one issue that is central to any discussion about political reform, it would have to be women’s rights. It can be argued that women’s rights are synonymous with human rights, or that repression of women is the foundation of all repression. Every repressive regime the world over has developed a rationale for limiting the freedom of the female sex. Unfortunately, there are ongoing influences that make women’s rights seem like a peripheral issue. Systems of male rule are conjoined with religion and accepted as proper, inevitable, and even moral. And they are sustained by claims to great antiquity. Until the eighteenth century, educated classes in Europe and the United States believed that Abraham established the patriarchal order and that his posterity carried it forward until the time when it radiated from the temple of Solomon to the rest of the world. Although the originality of patriarchy has been disproved by archaeological and historical scholarship, the belief persists that patriarchy was the original form of social organization. This belief is still used in defense of female subjection.

[intlink id=”985″ type=”post”]My suggestion[/intlink] for self-governing, matrilineal communities was based on a pre-patriarchal model of society. I am aware that such a revolutionary change is improbable. However, I think it would be a waste of time to talk about reform without confronting the ideas that have made reform necessary. I will use the matrilineal model to identify the principles that lead to strong families and communities. I will also call into question the dogmas that obscure these principles.

We haven’t yet had the discussion of Christianity that it deserves. We’ve talked about its [intlink id=”24″ type=”post”]Hermeticism[/intlink] and about the ‘heretical’ teachings of some sects, like the [intlink id=”689″ type=”post”]Dispensationalists[/intlink], but our purpose was to analyze their influence on current events. In this post I want to expand on another troubling tendency that I have already mentioned, the tendency to disguise [intlink id=”743″ type=”post”]Indo-European ideas[/intlink] as the religion of Israel. An example of this practice is found in the Biblical story of Onan, the son of Judah. Onan married his sister-in-law Tamar, but instead of fathering a child with her, he practiced the withdrawal method of birth control, after which he was killed by Yahweh for spilling his seed on the ground. This story is especially relevant today because the Quiverfull movement, which is the vanguard religion of America’s pronatalist agenda, rejects any form of birth control including the withdrawal method, which they call Onanism.

Onan is introduced in the account of Judah and Tamar, in Genesis 38: 1-30. Immediately after Joseph is sold into slavery, Judah leaves the family to go and live in the Canaanite lowlands to the West.

At about that time, Judah parted from his brothers and put in with a certain Adullamite named Hirah.

There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite named Shua, and he married her and cohabited with her.

She conceived and bore a son, who was named Er.

She conceived again and bore a son, whom she named Onan.

Then she bore still another son, whom she named Shelah; they were at Chezib when she bore him.

Judah got a wife for his first-born Er, and her name was Tamar.

but Er, Judah’s first-born displeased Yahweh, and Yahweh took his life.

Then Judah said to Onan, “Unite with your brother’s widow, fulfilling the duty of a brother-in-law, and thus maintain your brother’s line.”

But Onan, knowing that the seed would not count as his, let it go to waste on the ground every time that he cohabited with his brother’s widow, so as not to contribute offspring for his brother.

What he did displeased Yahweh, and he took his life too.

Whereupon Judah said to his daughter-in-law, “Stay as widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up” –for he feared that this one also might die like his brothers. So Tamar went to live in her father’s house.

A long time afterward, Judah’s wife, the daughter of Shua, died. When the period of sorrow was over, Judah went to Timnah for the shearing of his sheep, in the company of his friend Hirah the Adullamite.

When Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is on his way to Timnah for the sheep-shearing,” she took off her widow’s garb, wrapped a veil about her to disguise herself, and sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the way to Timnah; for she saw that, although Shelah was grown up, she had not been given to him in marriage.

When Judah saw her, he took her for a harlot, since she had covered her face.

So he turned aside to her by the roadside, and said, “See now, let me lie with you” –not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law. She answered, “What will you pay me for lying with me?”

He replied, “I will send you a kid from my flock.” but she answered, “you will have to leave a pledge until such time as you send it.”

He asked, “What pledge shall I leave you?” She answered, “your seal-and-cord, and the staff you carry.” So he gave them to her, and lay with her, and she conceived by him.

She left soon, took off her veil, and resumed her widow’s garb.

Judah sent the kid by his friend the Adullamite to redeem the pledge from the woman, but he could not find her.

He inquired of the men of that place, “Where is the votary, the one by the Enaim road?” They answered, “there has never been here a votary!”

So he went back to Judah and said to him, “I couldn’t find her. What is more, the townspeople told me, ‘there has never been here a votary.”

And Judah replied, “Let her keep the things, or we shall become a laughingstock. I did my part in sending her the kid, but you never found her.”

About three months later, Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law has played the harlot; moreover, she is with child from harlotry.” “Bring her out,” Judah shouted, “and she shall be burned!”

As they were taking her out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “It is by the man to whom these things belong that I am with child. Please verify,” she said, “to whom these things belong–the seal-and-cord and the staff!”

Judah recognized them, and said, “she is more in the right than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah.” Nor was he intimate with her again.

There are several problems with this story, but the most obvious one would be the way in which Levirate marriage is portrayed. According to Yaffa Eliach, Levirate marriage simply didn’t work that way. The obligation to remarry belonged to the widow. This obligation was taken quite seriously and there were legal ramifications if it was breached. While the woman was obliged to remarry, her brother-in-law could release her from her obligation to him by providing a legal document relinquishing his claim. [ref]Eliach, Yaffa. There Once Was a World: A 900 Year Chronicle of the Shtetle of Eishyshok. Back Bay Books, 1999[/ref] Yet, in this story we have Tamar mooning over Judah’s ‘seed’ as though she knows it represents a royal line, or as though these are the last men left on earth.

It seems to me that if Levirate marriage obligated the widow rather than her brother-in-law this suggests a different dynamic than what we see in this story. It would make more sense if it were associated with the custom of matrilineal inheritance, and/or a payment made to the bride’s family by the groom. The Bible does not provide detailed information about Israelite custom in this matter, but according to Roland de Vaux, the mohar was a sum paid by the groom to the bride’s family, as compensation for the loss of their daughter. The bride’s father could use the profits from this payment, but the principal reverted to her at the time of ‘succession’ or her husband’s death. (This explains why Rachel and Leah complained in Genesis 31: 15 that their father ‘devoured’ their money after having ‘sold’ them. Apparently he used the principal of the mohar, rather than holding it in trust for his daughters.)

The Palestinian Arabs of today have a similar custom, the makr, and part of it goes to the bride’s trousseau. In Babylonian law, the tirhatu was paid to the girl’s father, and was administered by him, but it reverted to her if she was widowed, or to her children after her death. In Assyria, the tirhani was given to the girl herself. There was a parallel in the Jewish colony of Elephantine, where the mohat was paid to the girl’s father, but was counted among her possessions.

In Israel, parents might give their daughter gifts after her wedding, and these were considered her property. In Babylon, the father gave his daughter presents that belonged to her in her own right, but while she was married, her husband had the use of them. They reverted to her if she was widowed or divorced, without fault on her part. Assyrian law has similar provisions. [ref]de Vaux, Roland, Ancient Israel, Its Life and Institution. John McHugh translation. William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co. Grand Rapids. 1997[/ref]

You could argue that under such a system the groom’s family would have stood to lose their investment in the marriage if their son died prematurely. They would also lose any benefits that accrued from the bride’s property while the marriage lasted. Levirate marriage would protect this investment. This would explain why it was the man’s right to release the woman from this obligation and not the other way around. It also makes nonsense of Onan’s stated motive. He should have given Tamar a letter releasing her from her obligation.

Of course, the story doesn’t attribute monetary concerns to Onan. It says he was reluctant to ‘raise seed to his brother.’ In my opinion, this presents its own difficulties. It seems to me that It implies either non-Hebrew religious beliefs or a non-Hebrew political organization. The following is my own speculation.  The belief that one could raise seed to a deceased brother is consistent with the belief in a fully functional afterlife. Unfortunately, the Hebrews didn’t have such a belief at that time.  But perhaps Onan’s reluctance was connected to a more worldly aspiration–to be the father of a dynasty. Maybe he resented the fact that the royal line would be attributed to his brother. Again, the Hebrews didn’t have kings in this period, not to mention dynastic succession.  On the contrary, the modes of inheritance mentioned above indicate a matrilineal system, although it takes a rare scholar to admit this. It is customary to call the inheritance a gift, but property belonged to the woman in her own right. It follows that any ‘seed’ would have belonged to Tamar’s line, regardless of who the father was.

According to the Anchor Bible, this episode is attributed to the Bible’s ‘J’ author, who had an interest in tracing the lineage of King David from the tribe of Judah. Unfortunately, the Judah of this story can’t be reconciled with the brother of Joseph. This Judah stays in Canaan long enough for his three sons to reach manhood, but when the story of Joseph resumes there has been no corresponding passage of time and Judah is still living with Jacob’s family. ((Genesis: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary by E.A. Speiser. Doubleday and Co. Garden City, NY. 1986))

I conclude that the story of Onan is suspect. Perhaps it was never anything more than pro-patriarchy, pronatalist propaganda. After all, that is how it is used today. This isn’t the first time we have seen a ruling class agenda in the Bible and, as usual, it hinges on the subjection of women–especially of their reproductive potential. But the agenda doesn’t end with women. Judah’s descendant, David, was a menace to the people of that area. His son, Solomon, was a dynastic monarch who was as wealthy as a pharaoh and had a harem the size of a small village. This can only mean one thing for the common people: servitude and penury.

Recently, I found corroboration in Moor’s Hindu Pantheon for my theory that the story of Onan is an Indo-European idea.

“To the four deities of purification, Maruta, Indra, Vrihaspati, and Agni, goes all the divine light, which the Veda had imparted, from the student who commits the foul sin avacirna.”–Ib. v. 122.

According to this source, avacirna is a term for anyone who commits the sin of Onanism. Specific instructions must be followed in order to expiate this sin.

“…sacrifice a black or a one-eyed ass, by way of a meat offering to Nirriti, patroness of the south-west, by night, in a place where four ways meet….Let him daily offer to her in fire the fat of that ass; and, at the close of the ceremony let him offer clarified butter, with the holy text Sem, and so forth, to Pavana, to Indra, to Vrihaspati, and to Agni, regent of wind, clouds, a planet, and fire.”–Ins. of Menu, Chap. XI. verses 119, 120.

Israel has been held accountable for the imposition of patriarchy on the world, which is not surprising considering the effort that has gone into making it appear that way. However, the story of Onan is not evidence for a patriarchal system in Israel. It is only evidence that the ruling class has no shame.

(I’ve edited this since it was first published.  The first version didn’t distinguish my arguments from the the cited material.  The custom of giving gifts to the bride’s family and the bride were described by Roland de Vaux.  The details about Levirate marriage were provided by Yaffa Eliach’s book.)

The Genealogy of Adam and Eve

The central tendency and probably the major cause of error in modern religion is the determination to separate male and female and define them as superior or inferior in relation to each other. This is often called ‘difference’ rather than inferiority, but it usually results in disadvantages for women. Even today the Catholic Encyclopedia states that women are inferior to men. (See Catholic Encyclopedia, Newadvent.org, Article, ‘Women’)

“The female sex is in some respects inferior to the male sex, both as regards body and soul.”

Christian fathers, such as Tertullion condemned women for the part Eve played in the Garden of Eden. But he must have known that the first chapter of Genesis is actually an independent creation story, while the second and third chapters were written by a different author and speak of traditions that are not Hebrew. The first chapter was written by ‘P’ or the priestly source. The second chapter was written by ‘J’, the J standing for Jehovah. The J source tends to be more politically minded, which can be seen in the segments attributed to him.

In the first chapter, Elohim created humans, male and female. But the second chapter actually tells of the birth of gods, or of the man-god.

In verse 23,

“Said the man, This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called Woman for she was taken from Man.”

According to the Anchor Bible notes, Woman and Man are translated from ‘īš and ‘iššā. This assonance has no etymological basis in Hebrew. ((Speiser, E.A. “The Anchor Bible: Genesis”. Doubleday & Company, Inc. 1986))

The Hebrews were persecuted by Isis,so it isn’t likely they would claim descent from her. ((Jewish Encyclopedia.com: Isis. Cited June 1. Available: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8262-isis)) This only makes sense if they were telling the history of their world, which included various people of that region and time period. It seems they were not speaking of themselves as an isolated entity.

Some of the people in that region worshiped Adam as a god. Apparently the Greeks did because Luke, who wrote his gospel with the Greeks in mind, traced their lineage to Adam. This is in contrast to Matthew, who wrote for Palestinian Jews and traced their lineage to Abraham. As explained in [intlink id=”226″ type=”post”]The community of Ancient Israel[/intlink], genealogies establish identity as well as religious and political alliance. In our time they should serve to establish the identity of various people in the scriptures, but they are misunderstood and ignored.

The story of Adam and Eve was not an allegory for human males and females. Yet, Christian theologians have claimed for two thousand years that we are all the children of Eve. Today this error is at the heart of Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

See also:

[intlink id=”743″ type=”post”]Adam Noah and the Snake-king[/intlink] for Adam and Noah in the mythology of China, India and Greece

[intlink id=”749″ type=”post”]Nomads and City Dwellers: Institutions, Worldview[/intlink] for the problem of Adam, Cain and Noah in nomadic mythology

Israel and Iran: War Religion and Politics

Israel’s apparent desire to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities can’t help but draw Americans in to a very confusing drama. For many reasons Israel is important to Americans. For some American Christians the Jews represent spiritual kin. Still, other Christians, such as Christian Zionists, emphasize the division between Christians and Jews.

The relationship between the U.S. and Israel is every bit as complex as the relations between Christians and Jews. In both cases conflicting opinions about Jewish destiny muddy the waters. For example, it has been argued that Israel acts as the United States’ peacekeeper in the Middle East. This contrasts with the claim that the U.S. is Israel’s pawn. Some believe the “ruling class” in the U.S. wants to limit Israel’s territory–not an easy argument to follow, in part because there is disagreement about whether the ruling class is represented by Democrats or Republicans. It is clear, however, that the pro-Israel lobbies in Washington have taken the stance that Israel can do no wrong. They tend to encourage territorial expansion of the State of Israel. The pro-Israel lobbies are perhaps the most troubling part of this troubling story. Israel’s recent threats to Iran may serve to bring the lobbies into focus. This, in turn, may shed some light on various other mystifying events, such as the United States’ involvement in the Iraq War.

At the center of the storm is the Christian Zionist movement. Many elements of this movement have been called heretical. The main influence behind Christian Zionism is Christian Dispensationalism, which has been influential in the U.S. for about 150 years. The majority of Christian Dispensationalists are Evangelical Christians and tend to favor a Middle Eastern War, believing that war is necessary for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Also included are most of the Southern Baptist churches, as well as fundamentalist sects. However, many Christians are opposed to this movement, including Christians in Palestine. When Jesus returns, the Dispensationalists say, he will rule over the Jews in the earthly kingdom of Jerusalem and also over Christians, who will reside in Heaven, directly above Jerusalem. But I can’t imagine that they have made it clear to the Jews who immigrate to Palestine that they expect the majority of them to perish during the coming “tribulation”.

“Crucial to the dispensationalist reading of biblical prophecy is the conviction that the period of tribulation is imminent along with the secret rapture of the Church and the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple in place of, or along side, the Dome of the Rock. This will signal the return of the Lord to restore the Kingdom to Israel centered on Jerusalem. This pivotal event is also seen as the trigger for the start of the war of Armageddon in which most of the world’s population together with large numbers of Jews will suffer and die.

“Convinced that a nuclear Armageddon is an inevitable event within the divine scheme of things, many evangelical dispensationalists have committed themselves to a course for Israel that by their own admission, will lead directly to a holocaust indescribably more savage and widespread than any vision of carnage that could have been generated in Adolf Hitler’s criminal mind….”

Again, according to Dispensationalists such as author Hal Lindsey, these events are desirable, as they will merely hasten the return of Jesus Christ as King of the Jews, who will rule over the nations from the rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem. This doctrine actually depends on Islamic resistance, envisioning that it will lead to a nuclear holocaust centered on Jerusalem, “with the 200 mile valley from the Sea of Galilee to Eilat flowing with irradiated blood several feet deep.”((http://christianchat.com/bible-discussion-forum/31794-christian-zionism-dispensationalism-roots-sectarian-theology.html title=”Christian Zionism: Dispensationalism and the Roots of Sectarian Theology”))

Religious believers, together with certain members of Congress (who may or may not think this is simply a political issue) represent the War Party. Fear-mongering is an important tool in the War Party’s arsenal. Presently Iran is being held up as the next great threat to the Middle East and the world. However, a new U.S. intelligence report concerning Iran’s possible nuclear weapons program was released November 8, 2011 and it agrees with the last report, which states that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003.Unfortunately, that may not be the end of it. In NPR’s eerie coverage of the latest intelligence report the part about the lack of evidence was presented in a rather mealy-mouthed fashion, toward the end of the segment. Worse, it was alleged that regardless of the lack of hard evidence, secret activities may still be taking place.

There are several foci in this for our American conversation. One focus has been provided by Mark M. Hanna, Ph.D., a Dispensationalist working against Christian Zionism. Hanna argues among other things, that when the Bible refers to Israel as a nation it means ‘a people’, not a territory or state.This is an important point.

When I wrote [intlink id=”226″ type=”post”]The Community of Ancient Israel[/intlink] I wanted to explore how people in the 21st century who are isolated, alienated and solitary, might begin to forge the bonds of kinship necessary for a true community. This seemed crucial because traditionally holiness, or sanctity, was manifest at the center of human communities. Unfortunately, war has always worked to tear societies apart, leaving individuals open to the lure of centralized authority and universal religious systems.

In this light, it is interesting to remember that the Jews who first developed the universal ideals held today by Christianity no longer had a unified, coherent social structure. This was the result of conquest, the Babylonian exile and Hellenization. Yet they seem to have had no illusions about returning to a simpler, bygone age. It might be interesting to reexamine their vision for starters, as it has never really been tried–Christianity had its own unique, non-Jewish character from the beginning.

Although Christianity has always had a universal tendency, individual churches and sects provide a sense of community and family, which could never be provided by nations or empires. However, this function is not limited to Christian churches. The lodges of the Freemasons fulfilled the same function for members. It almost seems that sects with divergent beliefs call into question the meaning of universalism and nationalism. A case in point: Christian Dispensationalists don’t represent the entire population, but the sect has political clout and a universal agenda. Currently, there are more than 120 pro-Israel organizations and lobbies influential in Washington D.C. with the proven ability to influence national policy.

Regardless of religious claims of bloody inevitability, I insist that we can still decide to forgo the War Party’s dreadful scenario. This blog has been the attempt to build. War does the opposite–it tears down. It is not possible to build and tear down at the same time. Now the alternative comes clearly into focus. The alternative is, go to war for the sake of a virtual tribe that is plotting secretly for their religious agenda. Then perhaps those who survive after everyone else has been killed will go to live in the sky with Jesus. There they will hover over the earthly city of Jerusalem and gaze down at the little remnant of Jews who somehow manage to escape the blood bath and nuclear holocaust.

In our society, one is free to chose religious beliefs. History has shown it is also easy to deny responsibility for the consequences of one’s religious and political beliefs. However, some of America’s enemies have already said they hold the American people responsible for the actions of their government. If Dispensationalism is the reason that so many Americans supported the Iraq War, I’m afraid I can’t argue with them. Religious beliefs are no excuse for an unjust war–one freely chooses such beliefs. Dire predictions and drastic scenarios carry an obligation to get the facts straight. Here is food for thought:

1. Dispensationalist teachings say that only the Jews who believe in Jesus Christ will survive the holocaust. However, in the early days of the Church Jews were not allowed to live in Jerusalem, not even those who had converted to Christianity.
2. The Dispensationalists’ claimed that Saddam Hussein was re-building Babylon. It wasn’t true, although this was part of the rhetoric leading up to the Iraq War.
3. Christianity did not have to go in this direction. The idea of a divine messiah who glories in the end of human history is a Zoroastrian idea. In other words, this state of affairs can’t be blamed on a Hebrew named Jesus.

Dispensationalism is currently being disseminated to the rest of the world through the work of the Dallas Theological Seminary. The Seminary was founded in 1924 by Lewis Sperry Chafer. Chafer was a student of Cyrus I. Scofield who began a Comprehensive Bible correspondence Course in 1890 (later taken over by the Moody Bible Institute). During the 1890s Scofield was also the principal of the Southwestern School of the Bible which became the Dallas Theological Seminary.

The Community of Ancient Israel

Robert Bellah wrote in “The Broken Covenant” that American Civil Religion helped form a unified nation. Bellah assumed civil religion was necessary because America was the world’s first ‘new’ nation, a nation of unrelated immigrants who do not share a common history or religion as the populations of other countries do. However, Bellah was not the first to perceive the need for unifying ideas. It was Enlightenment thinker J. J. Rousseau who first proposed this idea. Both Bellah and Rousseau were in search of a source of political unity in lieu of the Church.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, Ancient Israel is the primal community unified by blood, religion, law, and history. It is assumed that theirs was a natural association not possible in modern times, except perhaps in the case of Israel’s descendants. However in modern Judaism, the idea that Ancient Israel was a separate race of people is a matter of debate. Critics of this idea argue it was religion that united Israel, and that the religion was never limited to Jews. Critics of Zionism also debate whether modern Jews were meant to create the political state of Israel in Palestine. Even the Jewish historian Josephus has been criticized for his nationalistic tendencies.

Hebrew mythology and nomadic custom offer a different explanation for the unity of the family of Israel. Central to nomadic custom is the obligation of hospitality. Nomadic people exist in a hostile environment. Anyone left alone could die, therefore requests for asylum were never denied. You helped each individual or group who needed help because next time you may be in need. Nomadic tribes were bound to welcome refugees for a certain period of time. If the refugees chose to stay permanently the simple statement, “I adopt you,” made the newcomers one with the tribe who sheltered them. In this case, they would take the new tribe’s name and forget their old affiliations. In addition, people often embellished genealogies to explain the new family relationships. Today, genealogies are often assumed to be lists of human ancestors. However, ancient genealogies were mythological and political.

Moses led the exodus of several distinct tribes. (Their shared determination to leave Egypt is significant and will be discussed later.) Nomadic tribes initially took their names from nature and myth. Similar to Arabic tribes who took names such as “the Sons of the Rain,” Hebrew tribes took names such as “Sons of the Longhaired” or “Sons of the Multiplier. These names endured for a long time, eventually serving as names for Jacob’s sons. This was the beginning of the genealogical tradition, which traces the people of Israel to its first father, Jacob and thence goes back to his father and to Abraham.” This indicates a purposeful and methodical creation of family ties as a basis for political alliance.

Now it is interesting to think in this way of the tribes of Judah and Israel after they settled in Palestine. De Vaux laments that during their brief period of sovereignty they wasted time fighting each other. However, this was not exactly a family squabble. The religion and custom of Israel and Judah were not identical. For example, Judah was dynastic from the time of David. Israel was not dynastic until Omri. This is a fundamental difference. They were often allies, however, having more in common than either of them had with the Canaanites.

For the information about tribal names and the material in quotation marks see:

Goldziher, Ignaz and Heymann Steinthal. “Mythology Among the Hebrews and its Historical Development.” Cooper Square Publishers. New York. 1967.

See also:

The Genealogy of Adam and Eve

Adam, Noah and the Snake King

Nomads and City Dwellers: Institutions, Worldview