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.

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Read more at National Catholic Reporter

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

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter