Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Appeasers by Martin Gilbert and Richard Gott

This contribution puts to rest the notion that Neville Chamberlain and Lord Halifax deliberately coaxed and indulged the Germans with appeasement in order to give England a chance to rearm and prepare for the war against Germany.  The authors forcefully show how from the time of the Treaty of Versailles that the English were in no mood to commit to a war and were committed to peace at a very heavy price even at the expense of Poland's sacrifice until the moral outrage and public opinion demanded that England keep their committed alliance and guarantee.

The outrageous treaty that stripped Germany of its assets and pride is seen by the British as an embarrassment.  The British seem eager to re-establish the 'Anglo/Saxon' bound and out of guilt offer appeasing policies, allocating colonies and allowing the break up Czechoslovakia and ultimate annexation of Austria to placate the Germans and blunt to impact of Versailles.

There is ample evidence that the diplomatic corp throughout the 1930's offered intelligence that suggested that Hitler's appetite was far greater that anything Chamberlain envisioned would satiate. The diplomats were concerned with the emerging brutality of the Nazi regime, its Anti-Semitism and quashing of any dissent; that it signaled the impossibility of reason.

The element of secrecy became necessary because the British public opinion would not tolerate the betrayal of its ally France.  If in secret, an agreement of peace could be reached it could be announced dramatically and heroically. Chamberlain really thought that the public waiving of the Munich agreement would stave off war.  In retrospect, Hitler exploited Chamberlain's guilt all along with continued demands.  Hitler was never interested in peace, he was interested in conquest and hegemony over the world.

All countries are committed to peace. Appeasement, however, seems likely when a country lacks the will power to fulfill obligations. Even when England had a guarantee for Poland's sovereignty, it still secretly pressed Poland to deal with Germany's demands!  The demand for peace not only can obstruct the enemy's true intentions but it also can demoralize morale.  The public moral outrage brought down the Chamberlain government and brought on Churchill as PM. It is interesting to note that as a member of the cabinet, and even one who staunchly and consistently criticized Appeasement, Churchill did not publicly demand the fall of the government, nor was responsible for it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Who Crucified Jesus by Solomon Zeitlin

Who Crucified Jesus is an excellent work of historical research into the Christian scriptures showing that the Jewish people are not responsible for Jesus' crucifixion.  There are some important features about the first century CE that come out in this contribution.  Sectarianism is explained clearly to show context of the emerging new religion.  The role of the Sanhedrin is discussed in detail.  Philo and Josephus are heavily relied upon to give an accurate picture of the Roman procurators.  Professor Zeitlin explains the differences between political and religious offenses and concludes that Jesus was accused of a political offense and put to death under the Roman authorities.  The book originally written during WWII enables the author to analogize the Roman brutality to the Nazi onslaught making an evocative read.

After discussing the Hasmonean revolt and the emergence of the sectarians Pharisees and Sadducees, Professor Zeitlin explain the basic differences in belief.  The Pharisees believe in an afterlife and the resurrection of the dead and the Sadduccees do not.  This difference ends up being crucial in understanding the Jewish followers of Jesus commit no crimes in believing in a resurrection.  The prof. goes through the Tannaitic literature and shows that Jesus commits no religious crime that deserves capital punishment through the religious court, the Sanhedrin and concludes that there must have been a separate second Sanhedrin for political crimes against the Roman State to which which Jesus is ultimately submitted and then sent to the Roman procurator, Pilate.  The political offense of being accused of being the "King of the Jews" would imply sedition to which the Romans would sentence one to death by crucifixion.

Dr. Zeitlin shows his power of exegesis when he deconstructs the Christian Scriptures.  He shows the absolute contradictions among them.  By explaining, however, that each book addresses a specific audience, the prof. proves that there are not serious contradictions but understandable prejudices.  He claims that the so-called 'Synoptic Gospels' are really addressing a Jewish audience and thus one does not find a negative inference about the Pharisees being hypocrites; whereas the non 'Synoptic Gospel' is addressing a non-Jewish audience which understandably depicts much prejudice against the Jewish people for rejecting their messiah and introduce the Pharisees as being hypocrites.

According to Christian Scripture, Pilot the procurator that put Jesus to death is depicted as sympathetic, however, Professor Zeitlin cites the testimony of Philo and Josephus to show that Pilate was not a sympathetic character but rather a vicious personality. There is built in animosity against the Jewish people for rejecting Jesus, so the Romans are depicted as not being responsible for his death.

Professor Zeitlin shows definitively that the Jewish people are not and should not be accused of crucifying Jesus.  He admits that Jewish people rejected him as the Messiah but never did they try Jesus for any religious offense that the religious Sanhedrin (which was dominated by the Pharisees) could have been responsible for punishing him.  As a matter of fact, the corrupt High priest as the vassal authority who had everything to lose by not cooperating with the Romans delivered Jesus over to the authorities for the capital crime of sedition against the Roman state.  The book is an excellent read, showing the consummate skills of the critical historian.