Virtual Talmud

Virtual Talmud

Mark LeVine: Wrong and Irresponsible

UC Irvine historian Mark LeVine, writing on Beliefnet, has once again crafted a beautiful apology for Islamic leadership.

Contrary to everything stated by Hamas and Hezbollah, LeVine somehow has managed to argue that “However harsh the rhetoric against Israel or even Jews, it would be inaccurate to assume that Islam is the main motivator of their conflicts with Israel.” Rather, Levine claims the real reason why Hamas decided to kidnap Israeli soldiers and Hezbollah decided to bomb innocent civilians in Haifa is due to “territorial and national [issues].” Hello, earth to Mr. LeVine, ISRAEL PULLED OUT OF THE GAZA AND LEBONON!! What territorial issues are you talking about?


Most disturbing is LeVine’s bizarre nineteenth-century western definition of “religion.” According to LeVine, the problem is not the “religion” of Islam but politics–as if religion and politics are two distinct spheres that have nothing to do with one another. I am not sure what kind of religion Levine is talking about, but most religious people and especially most Muslims do not distinguish between these two spheres. Religion is a lifeworld that is comprised of culture, politics, beliefs, and practices. (Levine must have gotten his definition of religion confused with certain elements of nineteenth-century Christianity.)

The truth of the matter is that Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, has different theological and political strands, some more militant some more peaceful. At this point, the militant message dominates Islam and unfortunately represents its public face.


Islam, like all religions, is not some idealized a-social a-political eternal idea. It is constantly evolving.

Right now it has been hijacked by its extreme militant voices, and until Islamic leadership or its adherents stand up to these terrorists groups, Islam will continue to be perceived as violent.

But the most dishonest and distrubing part of LeVine’s piece of yellow journalism is his ability to disregard every public statement made by Hamas and Hezbollah claiming the exact opposite.

I am sorry, Mr. LeVine: All your article does is promote more irresponsibility on the part of an Islamic leadership that has done nothing to stop the demeaning and killing of Israelis and Jews in the Middle East and across the world.

Comments read comments(5)
post a comment

posted July 18, 2006 at 2:54 pm

I hope more people read this because on another b-net board, some people are praising Mark Levine for his “open-mindedness” and willingness to discuss Israel’s many faults as the “real” reason she is being attacked.

report abuse

Richard B. Cook

posted July 19, 2006 at 2:53 am

Mr LeVines’ notion of seperating religion and politics is a Jeffersonian, american notion. If peace is not an option in the middle east, how is the lethal violence stopable? Does the killing of necessity continue untill the last moslem is dead. As an american jew, I don’t like that outcome. Perhaps I have no choice but to get used to it. Abraham refused to enialate all things Amalikite, we have suffered ever since.

report abuse

Rabbi Eliyahu Stern

posted July 19, 2006 at 4:48 am

Wow Richard!! slow down tanto. I agree with you that we are in a terrible situation and that Islam must share in the blame, but every Moslem dead? That sounds like the most UnJewish of ideas. Actaully, it sounds like…. First of all Amalek cannot be Islam. The Rabbis tell us that Amalek is Edom (Rome). The Arabs and Islam come from Ishmael not Edom. Secondly, we as Jews stand against all forms of absolutisms and only hope and pray that Muslims stand up and speak out against their sick brothers and sisters. We need to help and encourage Muslims to realize that all human beings are children of Allah and must be treated a such.

report abuse

Richard B. Cook

posted July 19, 2006 at 7:06 pm

Thank you Rabbi Stern for your considered responce. I really don’t harbor muderous thoughts against Muslums. The Muslems I know personally are of the secular sort who live in the United States. My merderous thoughts are born of a frustration similar to the frustration that fuled the uprising in the Warsaw gehto in WWII.

report abuse


posted September 21, 2006 at 5:11 pm

The main motivator of Israel’s conflict with its neighbors is the vast refugee problem created during the 1948 war when Jewish paramilitary forces pushed Arabs (both Muslim and Christian) with violence or threat of violence out of their homes in Palestine. Today Arabs Israelis (legal Israeli citizens), in the practical, cannot buy property in Israel, nor does the Israeli government allocate bomb shelters, sirens and other services to its Arab neighborhoods. Palestinians in the Occupied Territories cannot trade without disruption, so their economy has been in shambles, nor can they visit their family and friends in the opposite Palestinian territories. The Jewish community must pause to consider whether always identifying itself as a victim of others oppression is in its best interest, when it blinds them from seeing how its own actions oppress others.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

The Task Is Never Finished
It has been heartwarming to read the warm responses to Rabbi Waxman's post asking Beliefnet to reconsider its decision to cancel Virtual Talmud. Virtual Talmud offered an alternative model for internet communications: civil discourse pursued in ...

posted 12:31:46pm Apr. 03, 2008 | read full post »

Some Parting Reflections
Well, loyal readers, all good things must come to an end and we’ve been informed that this particular experiment in blogging as a forum for creating wide-ranging discussion on topics of interest to contemporary Jews has run its course. Maybe ...

posted 1:00:29pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

Obama's Lesson and The Jewish Community
There are few times in this blog’s history when I have felt that Rabbi Grossman was one hundred percent correct in her criticisms of my ideas. However, a few weeks ago she called me out for citing a few crack websites on Barak Obama’s ...

posted 12:09:08pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

The Future of Race Relations
As a post-baby boomer, it is interesting to me to see how much of today’s conversation about racial relations is still rooted in the 1960s experience and rhetoric of the civil rights struggle, and the disenchantment that followed. Many in the ...

posted 4:04:41pm Mar. 25, 2008 | read full post »

Wright and Wrong of Race and Jews
Years ago, as a rabbinical student, I was one of a group of rabbinical students who visited an African American seminary in Atlanta. My fellow rabbinical students and I expected an uplifting weekend of interfaith sharing like we had experienced ...

posted 12:50:11pm Mar. 24, 2008 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.