The Anti-Jewish Past of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Favorite Bible Story

In a pre-election interview with the National Catholic Reporter, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez cited as of particular importance to her the New Testament tale of Jesus entering the Second Temple and overturning the tables of the moneychangers. While mentioning this very well-known episode is hardly evidence of antipathy toward Jews, it’s worth noting how often it was historically wrapped up with anti-Semitism. Menachem Wecker explains:

To early Christians, [often themselves Jews, this story] cast other Jews as rejected by God, and medieval adherents leveraged it to associate Jews with money and power. Prevailing conspiracy theories of unduly influential Jews continue to mine the story. . . . The more accurate way to read the story is that Jesus criticizes some moneychangers but praises others.

Malka Simkovich, a Jewish-studies professor and the director of Catholic-Jewish studies at Chicago’s Catholic Theological Union, thinks Ocasio-Cortez allows herself to be heard in certain ways without spelling metaphors out. . . . “It’s enough for her to say, ‘I like this story’ and to allow those who read it in an anti-Jewish way to interpret it,” she said. “I don’t think it’s anti-Semitic, but she’s allowing a broad tent of people to ally with her who associate Jews with power and money.”

Money changing wasn’t stigmatized in the 1st century CE, as pilgrims had to exchange their cash for Judean currency to purchase animals for sacrifice and pay Temple taxes. . . . Later interpretations “distorted” the original Gospels’ meaning, [says the historian Jonathan Karp], and an initial anti-Jewish motif of “Jews and materiality, carnality, literalism” gave way to one of Jews and money. In other words, Karp said, Jews were “missing the inner spiritual message of biblical prophecy because of an exclusive focus on the external [and] ritualistic.”

By the Middle Ages, Jews were more concentrated in commerce, including occasionally money lending. They weren’t forced to change money, but being barred from other areas, some gravitated to it. Christians began to apply New Testament texts about Jewish money changers and Judas’ betrayal of Jesus for 30 silver pieces to Jews collectively, and medieval religious plays and art represented Judas as a Jewish moneylender and money changers in the Temple courtyard as particularly Jewish, Karp said.

Read more at National Catholic Reporter

More about: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Anti-Semitism, New Testament

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy