How Tall is Bashar Al-Assad compared to Goliath?

Is Bashar Al-Assad taller than Goliath?

Goliath versus Bashar Al-Assad

No. The President of Syria is 6’2½” (189cm), which is about half a foot (13cm) shorter than Goliath.

Note: In the various manuscripts of 1 Samuel 17, Goliath’s height ranges from 4½ cubits (6’8″ or 202cm) to 6½ cubits (9’7″ or 293cm). However, the earliest manuscripts have Goliath’s height at 4½ cubits, and this was at a time when the height of your average “Israelite” would have been 3½ cubits (5’3″ or 162cm). Therefore, the manuscripts which put Goliath’s height at 6½ cubits probably reflect a later exaggeration. The “cubit” was not an exact measure, but referred to the length of the forearm – from the elbow to the tip of the finger. But we have assumed for the purposes of making this comparison that one cubit = 45cm (just under 18″).


Max Blumenthal on the Banality of Racism and Violence in Israel

Amy Goodman, of Democracy Now, interviews Max Blumenthal on his latest book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel.

The full transcripts, videos, and mp3s (for part 1 and part 2) of the interview are available on Democracy Now.

But here are a few snippets. On the “banality” of racism in contemporary Israel:

AMY GOODMAN: What were you most surprised by in your research for your book Goliath?

MAX BLUMENTHAL: I was most surprised at the banality of the racism and violence that I witnessed and how it’s so—it’s so widely tolerated, because it’s so common. And I’m most surprised that, you know, in my reporting on this, it hasn’t made its way to the American public. And so, that’s why I did this book. When we hear about this kind of daily violence, you don’t read about it on the pages of The New York Times. And I really asked myself why, and that’s why I set out to do this endeavor, this journalistic endeavor, to paint this intimate portrait of Israeli society for Americans who don’t see what it really is.

On the influence of U.S, Christian Zionist support on Israeli policies:

MAX BLUMENTHAL: We can see the Republicanization of pro-Israel support in the recent Pew poll of Jewish attitudes, where 82 percent of evangelicals believe that Israel is the promised land, that it was given to the Jews by God. Only 16 percent of secular Jews believe this. And so there’s—so the future base of Israel, as long as it’s under the control of people like Netanyahu and those to his right, like Naftali Bennett, is the Bible Belt. That’s Israel’s safety belt, Christian Zionism. And so, this is a dynamic that’s really going to develop in American foreign policy and play out in the next presidential campaign.

On choosing the title of his book:

AMY GOODMAN: Goliath, the title, how did you choose it?

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well, I chose it because of the biblical tale of David and Goliath, and also because my editors forced me to choose it. And I think it’s a good title, especially because my last book, Republican Gomorrah, has, you know, biblical resonances and begins with the letter G. But there’s an interesting quote in my book. There’s a person I quote in my book who is the first Jewish ambassador of the United Kingdom to Israel, Matthew Gould. And he went on Israeli TV, and he said, “You’re obsessed with these hasbara, or propaganda, efforts to explain your position to the world and to cover everything up. You have to recognize that Israel is now seen as the Goliath, and Palestinians are seen as the David. Cut the hasbara, the propaganda, out, and end the occupation. Maybe then you won’t be seen that way.” And that’s the problem. That’s the problem with Netanyahu. It’s the problem in Israeli society. This occupation will not end as long as this current system is intact. And so, I think Goliath is the perfect title.

Part 1:

Blumenthal - Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel 1

Part 2:

Blumenthal - Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel 2

Misquoting Jesus – Fishes or Penises?

The Gospel of Mark 6:38-44 relates the account of Jesus’s multiplication of the loaves and fish:

And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.”

When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”

Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.

Recently the President of Venezuela, Según Maduro, pushed for schools to multiply, “just like Christ multiplied the fishes”, but accidentally said “just like Christ multiplied the penises”. That’s easier to do in Spanish than in English, though:

In commenting on plans to expand and improve access to education, Maduro made allusion to the Biblical miracle of the seven loaves and fish, but misspoke: instead of the Spanish word for fishes (“peces“), the Venezuelan president said “penes“, meaning “penises“.

Dressed in an Adidas track suit in the bright red, blue and yellow colors of the Venezuelan flag, Maduro told the audience, “We need to go in school by school, student by student, high school by high school, community by community, get in there, multiply ourselves, just like Christ multiplied the penises – “, realizing his mistake, he paused to correct himself, ” – pardon me, the fishes and the loaves. Pardon the expression. Just like Christ multiplied the loaves and the fish.”

– “Nicolas Maduro Verbal Gaffe: Venezuelan President Pushes For Schools To Multiply ‘Just Like Christ Multiplied The Penises’”, Latin Times, 28 August 2013

But the misquoting of Jesus continues, this week. Here’s how the Gospel of Luke 14:12-14 quotes Jesus: “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” But this week some members of the Republican Party in the U.S. accidentally misquoted Jesus’s words, here, as “Fuck the poor”.


David and Goliath Story as Rhetorical Device to Legitimize Violence by Powerful or Militant “Victims”

black_panthers_in_marvelIn “David, Goliath, and the Black Panthers: The Paradox of the Oppressed Militant in the Rhetoric of Self-Defense” (Journal of Communication Inquiry 37 no. 1 (2013): 5-25), Amanda Davis Gatchet and Dana L. Cloud argue that the reference to the David and Goliath story, when used as shorthand for the defeat of a powerful opponent by a weaker party,

is a rhetorical resource that serves two functions for both mainstream political and social movement discourse. First, it potentially legitimizes the use of violence in a social conflict by figuring political collectives as aggrieved victims. Second, it crafts a paradoxical collective persona: that of an oppressed militant (in the case of social movements) or a mighty victim (in the case of hegemonic powers), an agent who is at once both powerful and oppressed. (5)

The authors examine the rhetorical use of elements shared with the David and Goliath story by the Black Panther Party for Self-Defence (BPP) and also by the media in their portrayals of the BPP. They draw some conclusions for contemporary politics:

In contrast to rhetorics justifying hegemonic violence (e.g., in the War on Terror), social movement actors lay claim to the identity of the oppressed in terms of their particular counterhegemonic position in a socioeconomic order: that of the oppressed militant. The rhetoric of the U.S. War on Terror, on the other hand, framed the George W. Bush administration’s violence in terms of the mighty victim, despite the marked asymmetry of power relations between the United States and its targets. The difference may explain why (in an ideological not intentional sense) mass media and politicians more often than not framed the Panthers in discrediting ways. Explanations of sociopolitical phenomena in terms of system and structure are not commonsense or natural frames within which to interpret violence in liberal capitalist society, but critics should recognize their reasonable-ness…. Only the actors already in power maintain the prerogative of system blindness. (18-19)

As it is the tenth anniversary of Edward Said’s death, here is a part of his last major speech, which should resonate with the article by Gatchet and Cloud:

The US has, at the very least, asserted its strategic dominance over the center of the world’s largest known energy reserves from the Gulf to the Caspian Sea. And it plans to reshape the area by pacifying threats to its dominance in countries like Syria, Iran, and some of the Gulf emirates.

To threaten war with such belligerence and such a wasteful deployment of military resources is an abuse of human tolerance and human values….

… my point here is to assert the universal applicability of human rights to those unfortunate people — given that since World War II, there has grown up an impressive, even formidable, world-wide consensus that each individual or collectivity, no matter his or her color, ethnicity, religion, or culture, is to be protected from such horrific practices as starvation, torture, forced transfer of population, discrimination on the basis of religion or ethnos, humiliation, extra-judicial political assassinations, land expropriations and all manner of similar cruel and unusual punishment.

I want to affirm also that no power, no matter how special or how developed or how strong or how urgent its claims of past victimization, is exempt from accusation and judgment if that government practices such things.

See also:

The Use of the David and Goliath narrative in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict“, Remnant of Giants, 23 February 2013

Israelite David versus Palestinian Goliath? Imagined Community and Israeli Missile-Defence Systems“, Remnant of Giants, 14 November 2012

Keith Whitelam on Obama’s Speeches in Israel

Following Remnant of Giants‘ examination of Obama’s opening speech in Israel as buying into Israeli and biblical founding myths, Keith Whitelam comments on what Obama has been saying about Israelis, and what he hasn’t been saying about Palestinians:

Keith Whitelam - Rhythms of Time: Reconnecting Palestine's PastThe references to ‘our ancient homeland’, ‘our ancient capital’, the story of the exodus, ‘the promised land’ or the use of the Dead Sea Scrolls as a title deed to the land in the speeches of Obama, Peres and Netanyahu show why it is so important to challenge this biblical view of history. It is constantly used to justify Israel’s claim to the land and resonates powerful with Israeli, American and western audiences. It is used to deny Palestine’s connection to the past and undermines any claims to the present.

There is no mention in Obama’s speeches to Palestine’s past. The cultural struggle for an alternative history of Palestine that shows how the past is connected to the present is crucial in countering the biblical view of history.

– Keith W. Whitelam, Keith W. Whitelam Facebook page, 22 March 2013

Whitelam is a former biblical studies professor at the University of Sheffield and, most recently, the author of  Rhythms of Time: Reconnecting Palestine’s Past (BenBlackBooks, 2013) – which was reviewed by Remnant of Giants here.

H/t: Jim West, “Keith Whitelam: Right on Obama’s Visit to Israel

Obama’s Opening Speech in Israel Sounds Strangely Familiar – Oh yes, remember Bibi Netanyahu’s speech before Congress in the US?

Obama at Ben Gurion Airport

No sooner had US President Barack Obama touched the ground at Ben Gurion Airport, than he commenced this speech:


President Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and most of all, to the people of Israel, thank you for this incredibly warm welcome. This is my third visit to Israel so let me just say tov lihiyot shuv ba’aretz.

I’m so honored to be here as you prepare to celebrate the 65th anniversary of a free and independent State of Israel. Yet I know that in stepping foot on this land, I walk with you on the historic homeland of the Jewish people.

More than 3,000 years ago, the Jewish people lived here, tended the land here, prayed to God here. And after centuries of exile and persecution, unparalleled in the history of man, the founding of the Jewish State of Israel was a rebirth, a redemption unlike any in history.

Today, the sons of Abraham and the daughters of Sarah are fulfilling the dream of the ages — to be “masters of their own fate” in “their own sovereign state.” And just as we have for these past 65 years, the United States is proud to stand with you as your strongest ally and your greatest friend.

– Barack Obama, in “Full text of Obama’s speech on arrival in Israel”, The Times of Israel, 20 March 2013

Now, there is much in here that a critical biblical scholar might take issue with.

Have “the Jewish people” really lived in the region for “more than 3,000 years”? No. A people known as Judeans did live in the land from perhaps the early part of the first millennium BC to the early Common Era. And they did so alongside many other peoples, many of whom have come and gone, including the Philistines (or residents of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gath), the Edomites/Idumaeans, Romans, and Arabs (including Nabataeans). Moreover, the Judeans never occupied all the region now occupied by the modern state of Israel, including Tel Aviv, where Obama delivered his speech.

Did “the Jewish people” pray to God there for more than 3000 years? No. Not if you mean by God, with a capital letter, or the monotheistic concept of later Jews. In the early period of Judean settlement of the southern hill country and northern Negev, the inscriptions from various sites and the Elephantine correspondence (around 400 BC), written before much of the Bible was written, show that Judeans worshipped a number of gods and goddesses. Before this, even Yahweh (later identified as the monotheistic “God”) was worshipped alongside his divine consort or wife, named Asherah.

Are “the sons of Abraham and the daughters of Sarah” fulfilling the dream of the ages — to be ‘masters of their own fate’ in ‘their own sovereign state'”. No. Almost everything is wrong with this. First, no Abraham or Sarah ever existed, except in legendary tales. Second, if you’ve read the Bible, you might note that “the sons of Abraham and the daughters of Sarah” comprises a much more inclusive group than the Jews of the “Jewish State of Israel”. The sons of Abraham and daughters of Sarah include, for example, Ishmael (Abraham’s first son), the alleged ancestor of all Arabs. Given that the Bible makes Ishmael older than Judah (the eponymous ancestor of the Jews), why haven’t their “dreams of the ages” to have “their own sovereign state” been fulfilled? Third, the “dream” of a sovereign Jewish state is not “the dream of the ages”. It was only a dream of some Jews in the nineteenth century onwards, under the influence of European concepts of national sovereignty and Christian concepts of divine election and manifest destiny. And many Jews today still oppose the idea of a sovereign state in Palestine.

But this propaganda sounds all very familiar. Oh yes – remember the speech by Bibi Netanyahu to Congress in the US in 2011?

We’re not the British in India. We’re not the Belgians in the Congo. This is the land of our forefathers, the land of Israel, to which Abraham brought the idea of one god, where David set out to confront Goliath, and where Isaiah saw his vision of eternal peace.
– Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, in Jonathan Lis, “The facts and fictions of Netanyahu’s address to Congress”Ha’aretz, 26 May 2011

I guess when you’re planning a war against Iran “to preserve our freedom” (as Obama alludes to the Bush Doctrine in his speech) the facts will only get in the way of shoring up political alliances.

How to Make “The Original Replica of David and Goliath Slingshot”

From the official office of Kenya Tourism Online (“The Gateway to Kenya Tourism”), Fredrick Mutooni’s instructional video on how to make the “original replica” of the slingshot David used to kill Goliath:

And a demonstration of how to make a slingshot sound, in Fredrick Mutooni’s backyard:

And another demonstration by Fredrick Mutooni, this time recreating the “Palestinian boy versus tank” scene made famous during the First Intifada:

Fredrick Mutooni in New York:

Fredrick Mutooni
Fredrick Mutooni