Thursday, August 21, 2014

Can We Tolerate a Tollerton?

In something called The Conversation*, Dr. David Tollerton writes against Eli Weisel.

Tollerton lectures in "Jewish Studies and Contemporary Biblical Cultures and his two main research interests are (i) religious responses to the Holocaust and (ii) uses of the Bible in relation to modern identities, conflicts and concepts of blasphemy".

Here is his lead in to his article:

From debates concerning the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to the 1967 Six Day War’s titular reference to the days of creation, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has often been made to resonate with biblical images and language.

"Titular reference"?

The war lasted ... six days, no?  Is that a joke on his part?  Should they have called it the "War of the Three Week Waiting Period"?  

As for "debates concerning the Temple Mount", actually the role of Mount Moriah and Jewish national renaissance can be traced back, in the modern period, to Rabbis Kalischer, Akiba Eiger, the Chatam Sofer in the early 19th century in connection with the revival of sacrificial service and then in the 1920s involving Rabbis Kook and Hirschhorn concerning permitting entrance into the Temple Mount.  Tollerton is not exactly scholarly in this instance.

But to his central point:

to frame the debate in terms of biblical descriptions of child sacrifice is unhelpful. In one passage, Wiesel creates a three-way comparison between Hamas, the child-sacrificing Moloch-worshippers of the Hebrew Bible, and the mass-murder of Jewish children during the Holocaust.

Tollerton does not mention the 160 children sacrificed in tunneling the "smuggling tunnels" and I do not have up-to-date figures on the "terror tunnels" but they should be in the dozens (and we won't mention the Gazan Arabs killed by Hamas rockets falling short or exploding on launch as, perhaps, Tollerton would refer to them as "sacrifices").  In writing so, he misrepresents Weisel's advert.  Without this relevant framework, Tollerton is quite unfair to argue with Weisel, especially in an organ whose readers, I am presuming, are primed to be anti-Israel and this only adds fuel.

Tollerton is buzzed by the Bible.  It's his right.  He can deconstruct as much as he wants and others can deconstruct his destruction (no misspelling).  But not to misuse the good book and its imagery as well as its basic moral message for mankind, including Muslims.

Tollerton, in the past, has written about blasphemy using the

interesting interface between [the Monty Python film] Life of Brian and historical scholarship on the period, consideration of such debates in late Second Temple Judaism also highlights in more general terms how unstable concepts of blasphemy can be during times of social upheaval. 

This present script of his does injustice to his academic thesis as well as to the reality of Hamas. Or, perhaps, his academic thesis, as applied to current political events is colored by his ... political outlook?

Even if he dismisses the applicability of a Biblical paraphrasing to describe what is happening in Gaza, Hamas surely is engaged in child sacrifice, the ritual sacrifice of Jewish children.  And I think the Nazis acted similarly.

And for this, shame on Tollerton and, how a university tolerates Tollerton is beyond me.



The Conversation is "an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public.  Our team of professional editors work with university, CSIRO and research institute experts to unlock their knowledge for use by the wider public...Our aim is to allow for better understanding of current affairs and complex issues...We only allow authors to write on a subject on which they have proven expertise...Since our launch in March 2011, we’ve grown to become one of Australia’s largest independent news and commentary sites. Around 35% of our readers are from outside Australia."


I received this comment which I decide belongs inside the post:

His central premise in any case goes unargued.  He presents it here:

“Rather than seeing Hamas fighters as human beings driven by varying mixtures of rage, desperation and extremist ideology, they become players in an ongoing battle between good and evil that is epic in scope and primordial in origin.” 
And that’s bad why?  Tollerton doesn’t say.  He merely avers that Wiesel’s approach for drawing analogies and framing moral lessons “provides little insight into messy realities.”  A complete dodge.
How about this: Hamas fighters, as morally responsible human beings, should give up rage, desperation, and extremism and get a job.  Argue against that, Tollerton.


Not children but it is sacrificial in a sense.  In other socieites, they could have been called "activists promoting peace and coexistence through anti-terror activity".


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