Abravanel, the Blog

Jewish life and not only in Greece / Εβραϊκή ζωή και όχι μόνο στην Ελλάδα

Theodorakis on the Old Testament

Posted by Abravanel, the Blog στο 03/04/2007

Mikis Theodorakis, the famous greek composer, emblematic figure of the greek Left and resistance fighter during the 7yr military regime did it again. The other day during a ceremony for the presentation of a new work he began a phillipic against those who dare to talk against the Archibissop of Greece, Christodoulos. «In Greece we have two institutions, he said, the President of the Democracy and the head of the Greek Church, whoever dares to talk about them should rinse his mouth first!» I remind that Christodoulos is accused of being racist, politically oriented and supporter of far right groups.

But then he went on to his favorite target, the jews wanting to rule the world. He suggested that: the Old Testament should be removed from the schools because it is written than Israel shall overpower and exterminate his enemies. We can’t say these things today. Look at what is happening in the Middle East with the help of Bush and the help of Rice.

Theodorakis in the past had described jews as being «the root of evil» and controlling the world’s economy, banks and mass media. He had also said that they control the world music industry plus the usual stuff about jews having a superiority complex and wanting to control the world. I repeat these things just for the casual reader who might thing that the guy wanted to be politically correct. He again made his favorite mess of jews, Israel, religion and antiamericanism while never ever showing any awareness of how deeply insulting his words are.

Typical of the greek paradox nobody rose to challenge these new views of Theodorakis. There was only a moderate criticism on the fact that he decided to support the Archibissop which has risen into a protagonist of the greek political life in a negative manner. Even more when the Archibissop is accused of supporting the dictatorship during and aftwerwards, while at the same time Theodorakis was exiled because of the regime!

Because of the objective value of his work and his anti-dictatorship fight Theodorakis is venerated in Greece; he was even the greek candidate for the Nobel prize for Peace. I can understand that and I feel he might have been worthy of it in the past. But for the past years he has made one huge mistake after the other and now I can’t find a reason why he shouldn’t even join the xenophobic LAOS party, (he has shown that he doesn’t have problem with changing parties in the past).

Thanks to Panayote Dimitras for pointing to the actual newspaper article which I am attaching here -> original article in greek.

11 Σχόλια προς “Theodorakis on the Old Testament”

  1. omadeon said

    It’s sad that Mikis said those things. Very sad. But it still doesn’t make him an antisemite. Trust me. Find out WHY.

    If you find out WHY, Mikis is NOT Antisemite, but only repeating ideas that are floating around everywhere, without anyone realising what these words ultimately mean and contain, then you will forgive him, understand that his heart is greater than his words, and that his choice of words is NOT always the best choice, the one that expresses his heart.

    With great respect, and much openness, I say those things
    (having known Mikis for a short period of time, recently, etc)

  2. omadeon said

    About the religious aspect of this story, I have a lot to say. What I can offer you is only my subjective impression of things, of course. I am only human. But I will express it warmly, passionately, friendlily. I will try to open bridges between us. NOT blow them up. Believe me, you have nothing whatsoever to risk or loose. OK, dont believe it; just open up to it, give it a chance. Here it is: (I keep a copy for publication in a separate context, but the FIRST version is here, in YOUR blog):

    It’s a very great mystery to me, why it has always happened, that the greatest critics of bad aspects of certain religions, are those people who were born into these religions themselves.

    Very often, it is the open-minded Jewish person, who knows best the negative aspects (or side-effects) of Jewish philosophy or religion.
    IMHO, this is one of the most important reasons, for the astonishing success of so many open-minded Jews in so many professions. Because of tolerance for different opinion, as well as solidarity, among other things and virtues, Jewish success was achieved, honourably, in so many fields.

    The problems arise, when someone ELSE starts to criticize you! In other words, if you are not e.g. my open-minded English Jewish Friend Sam (hi Sam! -a sculptor and photographer who NEVER writes in the internet and have not yet his permission to nention his surname)… well… if you are NOT my trusted, good Jewish friend Sam, who calls himself agnostic and tries to read the Bible from an entirely different pespective than traditional religion… Then, it is quite possible, and indeed quite frequent, that you and I must misunderstand each other very easily. My criticisms of the New and Old Testament might be construed as racist or antisemitic (when dealing with the Old Testament) or even… Satanist and Communistic (when dealing with the New Testament), and so on.

    My Jewish friend KNOWS that this is a philosophical and religious quest. It is not in the least antisemitic than our… adored singer Madonna’s public appearances and Kabbalistic religious practices.

    To cut a long story short, and knowing Mikis a bit more than most other people, he is a passionate lover of Jewish people and Jews, and a self-styled critic of what he is conviinced is the negative side of certain things, including the Bible, for instance.

    If he was any other 82-year-old person, with an inquisitive mind that can ALSO make mistakes, and if he had come across certain ideas that seemed appealing to him and you had visited his home (as I did) and talked about these ideas, while drinking coffee, it would be almost a… piece of cake to convince Mikis that some things he believes CAN ALSO be wrong. He is an EXTREMELY humble person with EXTREME tendency to express himself with sincerity NOT taking care about ANY consequences.

    Of course you might not believe all this; it is your right. But believe me, I have ALSO met Jews who’d like the Old Testament to STOP being taught at schools, who would also like to see a completely secular, non-religious Israel with equal rights for both Arabs and Jews, and so on… people with all kinds of strange ideas, including Jewish strange ideas…

    Mikis is NO different at all than ALL these people.

    The sad thing is that he is so old now, he can’t really defend himself, that easily. He can’t start again to talk so much, with so many others. I will conclude this personal account of him with just one thing, out of the most sincere depth of my heart, NOT even caring if you believe it or not; but saying it FOR ME, to relieve MY heart, from my own sadness (about some of the things Mikis has said):

    When Mikis, one day, will no longer be with us (hopefully NOT soon, hopefully quite some time in the future), you, Jewish people, will have lost MORE than just a secret friend; You will have lost ANOTHER JEW, in the particular sense that Mikis will NEVER stop being hunted like a Jew, slandered like a Jew, excluded like a Jew, from many things he deserves. Mikis is MORE Jewish than many of you; He is even more Jewish than his Jewish critics. Even when his words sound strange, or wrong; Mikis’ heart is STILL inside those camps, STILL inside those gas chambers, STILL in true solidarity with the BEST inside EVERY Jew, even today.

    Thank you for our Jewish tolerance
    (which created the Einsteins and the Freuds of this world

  3. omadeon said

    Personally I consider the Old Testament a _mixture_ of good and bad things. Certainly I don’t think ANY religion should be taught in schools in a way that either promotes it or condemns it unreasonably.

    I find myself in the strange position, of BEING religious, but NOT wishing to follow any SPECIFIC religion.

    It would be EASY to «solve this problem» by saying «Oh yeah! Why not? Let’s try to convince the leaders of Christianity to stop emphasizing the Old Testament’s importance» (and so on), the reason being that the Old Testament (unfortunately) DOES contain a lot of violent or «bad» statements, mixed together with a lot of wisdom.

    If you are ANY decently thinking, freely-thinking ordinary 82-year old person, and come up with this idea while drinking tea with some visitor in your home, a Jewish visitor for example, then you might spend the rest of the evening having a delightful conversation about novelties in religion, the pros and cons of Holy Books, and so on…

    However, if you are… MIKIS THEODORAKIS, Greece’s best International Composer, and the former events happen in YOUR life, and you go out and tell these ideas, to the TV or the press…

    Quite evidently, SOME people are going to interpret your bright new ideas, QUITE differently.

    For these and for other reasons, I REFUSE to judge Mikis
    George A. Stathis

  4. abravanel said

    Again thanks for commenting.I apologize for the delay but alas time is not bountiful :)

    First things first. The Old Testament in my humble opinion is a book written by humans and thus it has human flaws. It is characterized by the spirit of the age in which it was written and certainly, while a source of spiritual inspiration for some, it shouldn’t be part of a modern secular state. Since I’m not israeli, I don’t live or plan on living in Israel I will refrain from commenting on what’s happening there. I don’t think that what happens in Israel concerns my status in Greece, so I feel examples including it are not really relevant.

    I agree that Theodorakis is «able to express himself with sincerity NOT taking care about ANY consequences» and «his choice of words is NOT always the best choice». I’ve read his interview in Kathimerini and I am convinced that he said these things, thinking honestly that he was doing a favor to jews telling them what’s the problem with them.
    This fact does not alter that what he said in the past was a mixture of traditional antisemitism and modern one. He says that the jews control the USA, they control the Wall Street, they generically have the control of governments throughout the world, they have a superiority complex, they tend to control everything, that the jews payed the price of being a tight society presumably during the Holocaust, that jews are both masochists but also sadists, that jews are arrogant and aggressive, that jews control the world orchestras and don’t allow for his plays to be played (!)

    I can go into a lengthy debate on why each and every one of these views are a direct manifestation of pure antisemitism, almost in it’s academic form. Contrary on what you think, I do not consider Theodorakis humble and his self-admiration leads him indeed to express himself freely without constraints; this indeed is a gift, since he allows us to judge him without forcing us to make guesses or base ourselves on what he might have wished to say. My focus in this particular case is NOT the fact that he expressed himself against the Old Testament, his philosophical views are not the problem here. The problem is that Theodorakis, who has in the past spoken against greek jews in a racist manner, continues in the same direction without caring one bit about what the consequences of his words are.

    When a public figure like Theodorakis, who enjoys a nation-wide admiration and followers, says that the Old Testament instructs jews to exterminate their enemies then we have a problem. I’m not hunting down a small obscure comment that might have antisemitic references. It is a public comment done by a public figure in a country that has a problem of racism, (like all countries, though the others try to do something about it). In that cultural context a comment like this, done in the public at the presence of another public figure which is accused of antisemitic conduct, is likely to favor antisemitism. Since he reputes himself able to dispense advices on the welfare of the greek people, then it is only logical to expect from him a similar ability to predict the consequences of these words to his fellow countrymen.

  5. omadeon said

    Usually when confronted with a generalisation such as «all rich people are Jews» I mention… Bill Gates, who is the richest man in the world and… obviously not Jewish.

    However, let us suppose for a second that the following statement is correct: «He says that the jews control the USA, they control the Wall Street, they generically have the control of governments throughout the world…» (I deliberately left out other things irrelevant to this small intellectual exercise).

    What are the consequences, if these things ARE true (and we all know they are only partly true; NOT absolutely true)? Placing myself, in YOUR position, pretending to BE Jewish (just as an exercise) I realised immediately that if I am not among the «Jewish elite» (described by those words) I am likely to face discrimination, almost automatically, by association with the elite (which is criticised). THIS is the problem, of antisemitism, I think. Unequal distribution of wealth, combined with ethnic or religious groups that predominate, implies an increased danger of less dominant, less powerful innocent people (members of those groups) to face discrimination.

    I know that (probably) you would yourself express those things (in your own way) but I just stated them as an intellectual exercise for the benefit of those people (e.g. some Greeks) who might wonder «why» I expressed concern over antisemitism.

    It’s a shame we didn’t talk with Mikis _in time_, about those simple things…

  6. abravanel said

    You put me into a difficult position. I agree partly with your ideas but then I read that the statements of Theodorakis are «partly true» and I get an itchy feeling. The problem is also the fact that jews aren’t considered simply another social group but they’re considered a foreign body in Greece. That’s how people arrive to link jews in Israel or in the US or in France to jews in Greece. If a frenchman arrived to become President of the Bank of Greece then few would be scandalized. If it was a greek jew then everybody would cry that jews control the banks – this is antisemitism.

    May I make an intellectual exercise myself, (and I want to emphasize I’m not ironic but trying really to make a point :) ). Let’s search the american information agencies like CIA. From the ex-head of CIA Tennet to Negreponte there are always greeks in top positions. Same goes for other sectors like Skouras in Hollywood or the very greek vicepresident Spyros Agnew. Is it legitimate to claim that it’s PARTLY true that greeks control the world?

  7. omadeon said

    On the whole I agree with you. I wonder what would happen if there were extensive statistics about the richest people in the world. Could it also possibly generate… anti-Greek hatred? :)

    What about Onassis and Niarchos, not to mention the richest of all mortals today, Bill Gates? Are they all «secret Jew sympathizers»? As regards banking, however, and fields like Hollywood, it is considered more-or-less trivial that Jewish people predominate. Well, yes, ut also… in political activism against all kinds of repression, Jewish people ALSO predominate! In fact, there used to be a rather extreme Israeli site, «massada», black-listing no less than 7000 progressive open-minded Jews around the world, slandered as «traitors» (etc). What happened, eventually, is that one of these black-listed Jewish people complained to the internet provider hosting «Massada», and it was closed down. Then, a hilarious thing happened: Some other progressive Jewish people (jokingly) complained that they… missed being blacklisted, because the hate-site denouncing them was in fact… uniting them, being a «world directory of OTHER open-minded Jews»! (Jewish humour, par excellence, I think).

    What would happen if there was zero antisemitism, around the world? Would the Jewish religion be just another distinguishing characteristic among many, of no particular significance? Would the Jewish people have become mostly assimilated culturally and ethnically by other people? Would they become forced to choose professions as likely to achieve financial success? These are of course purely hypothetical questions, but part of a fascinating study, through Jewishness, to understand human identity in itself, both with and without discrimination.

  8. omadeon said

    I have finally a question for you, Arbavanel. Would you agree that Israel being a state which is (at the moment) defined exclusively by religious considerations (and the only one in the world defined in this way) has made the situation of Jews around the world more complicated, because of cultivating the opposite or complementary (but essentially identical) idea to the one annoying you, the idea that «Jewish people are foreign to every country, because of being Jewish» (i.e. potential citizens of Israel)?

    What would happen if Israel was not defined exclusively through religion, but in a secular way, e.g. as a future federation between two states, a Jewish and a Palestinian one? Would it improve the chances of Jewish people being accepted warmly as no different than any other religious minority, around the world?

    I ask this question without implying in any way that Israel should not exist. On the contrary, on the basis of the fact that Israel’s future, like all countries, is a purely secular state, can we not let our imagination more free to consider other possibilities of unification, in a future where borders will become less important? There are already some Jewish intellectuals who have expressed similar ideas, but they are rarely heard, amidst the battles and the turmoil of the Middle East.

  9. omadeon said

    Before you answer the question, perhaps it’s forgivable to add a could of things I think. Firstly, because of the Middle East turmoil, most people seem to have forgotten today, that the most peaceful, hard-working, tolerant and non-violent religious minority in the world (together with a few others, like Greeks of «diaspora») _was_ fact the Jewish community. Envied because of its success, it was only slandered; never proved «quilty» because there was no such guilt. Horror stories were invented against the Jewish people, no doubt; but we know very well that these stories were lies. Just like the «Protocols of Zion», a pack of lies invented by the Russian Czar’s secret police (despite the widely held misunderstanding in countries like Greece or Arab countries).

    Secondly, I have no problems to recognise Israel. Israeli achievements in Science (and also music) are outstanding today. What would happen if Palestinians instead of facing problems they are offered solutions, and were encouraged to recognise Israel as a benefactor instead of a persecutor? How much would it… cost to feed, clothe, and educate them all, to stop being a menace for Israelis? The gain of an obvious victory of Jewish humanism over Israeli aggression would immediately silence ALL antisemitism around the world.

    To the best of my knowledge, these are also the… secret thoughts of Theodorakis, and many other people who are considered antisemites. But a true antisemite is not someone who makes such speculative thoughts. This is hardly enough; on the contrary it is even pro-Jewish. It is because I personally dont «buy» the myth of ANY religion being «best» or «superior» that I dont make the same _expressive_ mistake as those of Mikis, but the logic is not so different. It is not a logic against Jews, but on the contrary a logic in favour of Jews, and against those policies in the Middle East which today generate so much unnecessary antisemitism. (Of course Mikis said other things, too; which we already discussed; but this isn’t the issue here).

  10. abravanel said

    Hmm, I feel we should make some distinctions here. Jews were considered foreign before the founding of Israel and this view towards them survives for the same reasons that were asserted yesterday and are asserted today: because jews take part in an international brotherhood/conspiracy. Today, for the modern antisemite, Israel is nothing more than another state which jews dominate. It is not even considered the center of the jewish devious power, only it’s military arm and the US being the true political center. Even if Israel would become a federated state, nothing would change concerning the wrath or downright racism of the rest of the world.

    I am highly hesitant to comment on how antisemitism has been masked as antizionism; it would be a far too complicated discussion. What I can offer though is this practical example: I was reading on a greek blog about the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and the violent dismantling of the israeli settlements. It’s author, who in other pages spoke passionately about human rights, immigrants ill-treated etc, commented that this was just a trick of the israelis to gain political advantages. He continued that the tv images, that showed the beating of settlers who refused to abandon their homes, was just another trick, this time geared to make people sympathetic towards jews as they always try doing so with the Holocaust. He ended up by saying that we shouldn’t fall victims to israeli propaganda.

    Do you honestly believe that this person would actually stop his hate towards jews/israelis, (the terms are interchangeable in his mind), should the Israelo-Palestinian conflict end? The -many- israeli mistakes simply offer the opportunity for the hate to flourish but by no means cause it. And this kind of ideas are mainstream and not limited to few.

    PS. I will refrain, with utmost respect, from commenting your other ideas about solving the Israelo-Palestinian struggle. Many times people wrongfully link jews with israelis; I would not like to add to this confusion by discussing on a subject that does not concern greek jews, (as far as IsraeloPalestinian conflict gives opportunity for antisemitic actions, like the ones happened in Thessaloniki in August 2006 when antiwar demonstrants marched against the offices of the local Jewish Community). ;)

  11. omadeon said

    Many months, later, I still look at this old discussion, so very civilized, to take heart and move on, in a medium which is not always _that_ civilised.

    I discovered, happily, that other people have created links to this discussion. E.g.
    (I really dont know this person, but the link to our discussion is on the left column).

    Total agreement, between two individuals, is hardly necessary, when they understand each other, and when their values are _compatible_. As a result, I have included you in my blog-roll ,since today, with a subtitle which I think is fair (if you leave the mouse still on your name, in my blog-roll, you will read it). :)

    openness of Mind,
    to what is true
    maybe, sometimes,
    makes me feel too,
    just like ANOTHER… hunted Jew! :)

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