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Emet m'Tsiyon

Monday, October 31, 2016

Outrageous UNESCO Vote against History -- Craven European Response

The European and Arab countries that denied Jewish history in Israel demonstrated hostility to history in the notorious UNESCO vote that presented Jerusalem as an Arab-Muslim city.  In this case, we are dealing with facts continuously known in both the Arab-Muslim and Western historical traditions. Those who deny the Jewish identity of the city of Jerusalem are inventing a fake history apparently required for political/diplomatic purposes. But a lie. Now Western countries like France, Italy, Belgium, Portugal and Spain have long traditions of historical scholarship, which includes knowledge about the Land of Israel with which these countries have been in contact since the time when all of these countries plus the Land of Israel itself were part of the Roman Empire.

Since the study of the Latin language has long been part of higher education in those lands and they take pride in their scholars --who exemplify and demonstrate their higher civilization-- there is no excuse for the governments and foreign ministries of these lands not to know the real history as related in Latin [and Greek] ancient books. Even an abstention from voting against the lying resolution proposed in UNESCO bodies by Arab states on Jerusalem is shameful. Yes, it is shameful to let a historical lie go unopposed. To be sure, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy regretted his foreign ministry's vote which he may have been unaware of.

I do not mean that only ancient Latin or Greek writings are authoritative on the history of ancient Israel. Far from it. Jewish works in Hebrew and  Aramaic are important too (as well as writings by Jews in Latin and Greek). But let us approach it this way. The bigot, the Judeophobic ignoramus, including the academic variety, will say that he cannot accept Jewish accounts of Jewish history because Jewish historians are "biased". Parenthetically, the rejection of Jewish historians represents bias too. In this case, challenge this bigot or ignoramus --whichever label you like-- to accept accounts by non-Jews in Latin, Greek and other languages. The Roman historian Tacitus supplied an account of the Roman-Jewish war from 66 CE to 73 CE in his Histories. The Romans took Jerusalem in the summer of the year 70 CE and destroyed the Jewish Temple at the same time. The Roman general Titus Caesar won the war, however, not only with Roman legions but with auxiliary forces including a "strong contingent of Arabs" [various translations vary. See Tacitus' Histories V:1:2 ]. I quoted the Latin original and various translations years ago on this blog. Now I will quote what he wrote farther on in his book which is highly explicit in refuting the UNESCO lies:

V:8:1 --  The greater part of Judea [note that Tacitus calls the country Judea] is divided up into villages. They also have cities. The capital of that people is Jerusalem.

So Tacitus and Romans generally recognized Jerusalem as the Jewish capital. Rivka Fishman wrote a scholarly article about this recognition in Greek and Latin literature for the Jewish Political Studies Review. The key phrase that is important here is, "The capital of that people is Jerusalem." See the Latin original just below.

Now here is the Latin original of  the quote from Tacitus above:
V:8:1 -- Magna pars Iudaeae uicis dispergitur; habent et oppida; Hierosolyma genti caput.
[for full original of V:8:I see here]

The key word in that key phrase is "genti" which can be "of the people" or "of the nation." It is a declined form of the word gens meaning people or nation. Since Tacitus calls the country Judea and since the whole text, the whole context, furthermore, is about the Jewish revolt in Judea, we see that the "people" or gens (genti) in the phrase means the Jewish people or nation.

Full disclosure: While I write these lines I am translating from an Italian translation since I do not have an English translation available. The study of Latin is still important in Italy and the Italian translations from ancient Latin texts are fully as reliable as the English and American  translations of those works. Here is my source for the Latin and Italian texts: Tacito, Le Storie a cura di Francesco Nenci. Here is his Italian translation:

V:8:1 -- Gran parte della Giudea e' suddivisa in villaggi; hanno anche citta'; la capitale di quel popolo e' Gerusalemme. [for full original of V:8:I see here]

One of the reasons that this line from Tacitus is not more widely known in the English-speaking world may be that some translators into English of Tacitus' Histories have chosen not to translate the Latin word genti into English, for whatever reason.

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UPDATINGS/ADDITIONS AS OF 31 October 2016

Here is one of many good commentaries on the UNESCO disgrace -- [here]
Here is  a commentary by Herbert London -- here.
Rivka Fishman on the relevant line:
"Tacitus, Historiae V, 8:1, in Menahem Stern, Greek  and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Vol. II, No. 281,1980), 21,28. The Latin reads: “Hierosolyma genti caput.” The term “gens” refers to the people of Judea, the Jews, mentioned in the first part of the sentence."

The Boston Globe ran a good editorial on the issue of the shameful UNESCO vote [here]

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