The Bible And Its Consequences

by Brendan Clifford

One of the great points of the Anglo-Irish propaganda in support of the Penal Laws was that the Catholic Hierarchy did not allow Catholics to read the Bible, thus depriving them of a fundamental human right. I don’t know if it was the case that the Bishops did not allow people at large to read the Bible. They certainly did not distribute Bibles and encourage a reading of them. Indeed they seem on the whole to have discouraged religious enthusiasm beyond the routine performance of essentials, and they tended to take sacred things with a pinch of salt, as did their congregations.

If there was at one time a ban on the reading of the Bible, it gave way in Ireland before the Anglo-Irish propaganda of the Protestant Crusade in the 19th century. And, assuming that to be the case, I think it is a pity that it was unbanned. It is a book that could do with banning.

I had very little acquaintance with the Bible until some years after I parted company with religion. The Bible was not a book one came across in Slieve Luacra—Goethe, Schiller, Stendhal, Dostoevsky, but not the Bible. I even came across Mein Kampf—Murphy’s translation—and read it before I ever saw a Bible.

I became a stage-manager of religious performance at the age of seven or eight—an altar boy—because it was found that I could memorise the Latin easily. Piety didn’t come into it. And the stage management of a performance of piety is not itself an activity conducive to piety. I arranged the scenery, gabbled the Latin, poured on the wine and water, scrutinised thousands of tongues in gaping mouths while holding the paten under thousands of chins, and burned incense which I swung out of the thurible. The last bit of business I positively liked. But it was all business. And, since altar-boys who could help a busy priest to get through his daily mass in fifteen minutes, so that he wouldn’t be late for golf, were not very plentiful in my region, I did rather well out of tips. There were times in the Summer when I did four or five masses for priests home on holiday—and missed a morning’s school as well as collecting shillings. So I have happy memories of the religion of rural Ireland in those backward times in that backward region.

My only acquaintance with the Bible was from the two brief Bible readings at Sunday Mass—Gospel readings, as far as I recall. Insofar as I took any notice of them, they struck me as being of a kind with Grimms’ tales or Hans Anderson’s.

I read the Bible many years later—possibly around the age of sixteen—purely to find out what was in it. I got the King James Bible through an ad. in the News Of The World. And I read Mein Kampf around the same time. And I would say that, if it is right to ban Mein Kampf, I cannot see why it is right to let the Bible loose on the world. They are books of a similar kind.

A propos the Anglo-Irish campaign to bring the Bible to the Irish people: I recently had reason to look up the Books of Maccabees. The King James is universally available, so I looked in it. And I found they weren’t there. And this led me to the discovery that the Protestant and Catholic Bibles are different. The books of the Macabee rebellion and totalitarianism are not in the Protestant Bible. It appears that the Books of the Maccabees and some other books were thrown out by Henry VIII or one of those people. So, what the Anglo-Irish Crusade tried to inflict on the Catholics of Ireland was not “the Bible”, because there is no such thing as “the Bible”.

I was greatly surprised that I could have read so much material about the Bible crusade without having it forced on my attention that the Protestant Bible was not the same book as the Catholic Bible. I thought they only differed in the way certain verses were translated.

I have not gone into the matter, but I take it as a working assumption that the Catholic Bible was simply The Bible for a thousand years, decided upon by some Council of the Church in the early centuries, and that the Reformationists turfed half-a-dozen books out of the Bible in the 16th century. And I find it strange that the Maccabees should be in the Catholic Bible and not in the Protestant, since Protestantism—English Protestantism at any rate—is much more Old Testament in spirit than Catholicism. In the Catholic world the priesthood shielded the populace from the raw genocidal totalitarianism of the Old Testament while Protestantism made a virtue of submitting everybody to its influence.

I believe that in Germany in the 1930s newly-married couples were given free copies of Mein Kampf. I have never come across an investigation of the influence it had on them. But the damage done in the world by fanatical Protestant distribution of the Books of Moses is there for all to see. And I would have thought that Maccabees went very well with the Books of Moses. It has to do with the re-establishment of the theocratic Jewish state in rebellion against Hellenic civilisation—which is to say, against civilisation.

The Books of the Maccabees were excluded from the Bible and relegated to the status of Apocrypha—doubtful material. But, looking through a selection of Protestant Bibles, I got the impression that the exclusion of Maccabees came to be regretted, because there was a tendency to attach the Apocrypha to the Reformed Bible.

Puritanism—the popular Protestantism of England and America—was strongly Old Testament in its Christianity. That is to say that its Christianity tended to be pre-Christian. And one got the feeling that what made the Gospels of the New Testament tolerable to it was the Epistles of St. Paul and the Book of Revelations. (Jesus himself must have struck the strongly Calvinistic Irish Protestants as a kind of Fenian: “Behold the lilies in the field: they sow not, neither do they reap . . .”)

The pre-Christian character of Reformed Christianity gave rise to a kind of Zionism long before the Jewish Zionist movement was formed. And the Puritanism of the mass of English society began to affect the Whig aristocracy, which had been sceptical in the 18th century, and even the rationalist intelligentsia of the middle class. And I think it was this Old Testament fundamentalism, woven into the fabric of English culture from the time of Milton, as much as the calculation of realpolitik, that gave rise to the Balfour Declaration.

Atavistic fundamentalism close to the heart of Anglo-American liberal democracy launched the project of setting up a Jewish State in Palestine two thousand years after the fanatical Maccabee state had come to grief. And, three years after the overthrow of Nazism, the Biblican strain in Anglo-Saxon democracy gave cover to the Jewish State when it engaged in a massive campaign of ethnic cleansing.

The mentality of the Jewish nationalist movement in the 1940s was the mentality of the Book of Joshua. That is how it appeared to me thirty years ago when I started to write a history of modern political Zionism. I gave up the project when I saw where it was taking me.

Recently I came across the following:

"Eliav hesitated, then said, ‘It’s a ticklish point. But Deuteronomy is particularly Jewish in nature. It’s our holy book and it means double to us what it could possibly mean to a Catholic or a Baptist…’

“Deuteronomy was a living book and to a living Jew had contemporary force…

“At dinner Eliav said, ‘The point I want to make is this. The Hebrew used in writing Deuteronomy sometime in the seventh century B.C.E. is the same Hebrew that we’ve revived in Israel after it had been a dead language for a thousand years” (The Source by James Michener, 1965, p149-161).

James Michener was a writer of historical novels, well documented with facts, of the kind that The Reader’s Digest liked to publish. The Source is about an archaeological dig in Palestine (the part taken by Israel). The archaeologists include an Israeli Jew, an Irish priest, an American Protestant, and an Arab. They discuss ancient and modern affairs as the dig proceeds, and this is interspersed with stories of what had been happening around the site at the times when the various layers were laid down.

The atmosphere of the novel reflects the spirit of the time it was written, which was about fifteen years after the Jewish conquests of 1948. Jewish mastery of the situation is taken for granted. The conquered Arabs may still be resentful but historical inevitability would cause them to fall into line.

There is no trace of anti-Jewish sentiment in the novel—far from it. Michener would not have become one of the great American best-sellers if there had been. What is asserted in the extract I have given is not presented in disparagement of the Jewish project in Palestine. It is not the kind of fact that would be presented matter-of-factly by supporters of Israel today. But that is because the Jewish mastery of the situation has been subverted by Jewish conduct following the Israeli conquest of the whole of Palestine in the war that was launched two years after the publication of the novel.

I once acquired enough Hebrew to be able to catch a bus or read street signs in Israel, so I cannot comment out of any knowledge of my own on the statement that Israeli Hebrew is the Hebrew of Deuteronomy. But I assume that Michener got his facts right, and that he got them from Jewish authorities. The novel is strongly pro-Israel, and it glosses over the events of 1947-48 in line with the Israeli propaganda of those times. But I know from direct experience that a generation ago the outlook even of European-born Jews in Israel was remarkably similar to the outlook of Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy is a collection of the speeches of Moses to the theocratic host which he had assembled east of the Jordan, inciting them to conquest and genocide in Palestine. And there is ample evidence that the kind of historical understanding developed amongst Jews born in Israel by the Israeli system is all that Moses could have desired.

The Irish Government was criticised, in an academic review of foreign policy published recently, for being slow to recognise the State of Israel in 1948, the reason of course alleged being anti-Semitism.

It is a perversion of reason to deploy the concept of anti-Semitism to explain why an Irish Government—a state founded on a partial defeat of colonialism—should be reluctant to recognise a new colonial state in the world.

The Zionist propaganda sought to tap into the anti-colonial spirit of those times. But it required no great insight to see that the establishment of the state of Israel was a colonial act, that it was the first stage in a larger colonial project, and that it was a project that could only succeed through a continuation of the genocide which accompanied its establishment.

Is it anti-Semitism to dispute the ongoing validity as Constitutional documents of the Books of Deuteronomy and Joshua? Is a secular understanding of national rights as applying to the actual inhabitants of a territory, in defiance of the will of God as recorded in ancient documents, anti-Semitism?

The Irish Government eventually recognised that the Great Powers dominating the world (he USA and the USSR) had made the colonial state of Israel part of the actual structure of the world, and agreed to turn a blind eye to its sectarianism, ethnic cleansing, theocracy, and expansionist proclivity. (And, by the standards established by Anglo-America for the war of destruction on Iraq, not to be active in opposing evil is t support it.)

But Israel is a democracy, and therefore the rest doesn’t count. Very well. It is a colonial, sectarian, genocidal, expansionist, theocratic, democracy. It acts on the authority of God and secular concepts do not apply to it. That appears to be the view of those who rake over the residue of Church/State connections in Ireland but are enthusiastic supporters of Israel.

Do the categories of Church and State not apply in Israel?

John McCarthy attempted to probe this issue in a recent television programme (ITV July 27th). And, incidentally, he came up with a new historical event in his background summary: the Zionist “war of independence with the Arabs in 1948”. The so-called War of Independence was with the British in 1945-47. What happened in 1948 was a great terrorist offensive to clear the Arabs out of the territory awarded to the Jews by a UN General Assembly motion in 1947, and an invasion of the territory awarded to the Palestinians, which resulted in the annexation of half of it to Israel. But McCarthy’s category is more realistic than the official one. Israel would not have been functional as a Jewish State with a 48% Arab minority. The massive ethnic cleansing of 1948 was a precondition of the operation of a Jewish State.

Can there be a separation of Church and State in a Jewish State? Obviously not.

McCarthy found an Israeli Minister who said he would like to establish a distance between Synagogue and Government. But he made it clear that he would not contemplate a separation of Judaism from the state. Judaism was both a religion and a nationality.

Ernest Bevin was branded an anti-Semite in 1945 because he treated Judaism as a religion. He had an impeccable record of opposition to anti-Semitism in the British Trade Union movement. But, when he became Foreign Secretary, he refused to authorise the establishment of Palestine into a Jewish State, both because he was against bringing religion into politics and because he saw that the establishment of a Jewish State would involve the kind of thing he had just fought the Germans over. So he was branded an anti-Semite by the Jewish lobby, and the libel continues to be repeated in biographies. (An Israeli terrorist was sent to assassinate him, but the bomb planted under his seat in the Commons failed to go off.)

So the Israeli democracy is not only a colonial democracy, but a theocratic one. The Palestinian remnant that remained in Israel after 1948 are second-class citizens in the Jewish State, with no prospect of becoming anything else.

The Palestinian demand for a right of return of the refugees driven out in 1948 has been condemned as anti-Semitic. The Jerusalem Post says it is a demand for the destruction of the Jewish State. And that is true. The Jewish State is sustainable (as a democracy) only on the basis of the ethnic cleansing and genocide of 1948.

And, if Israel were reformed in such a way that it became a democracy in which non-Jews could participate as equals, that would be the end of the Jewish State.

There is no prospect of that happening. The dominant powers of the earth have made the Jewish State—a State based on a Church—a litmus test of democracy.


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