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Bill O'Reilly- to Jewish caller: "[I]f you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel"

A tip of my hat to the smarter than you average Bear who provided the initial impetus for this post.

I had heard murmors about this, but I hadn't seen it yet. Bill O'Reilly is currently ranting and raving about his perception that religion is under siege. O'Reilly's premise in the piece above is about an attack on religion, but what he is really talking about is his perception of an attack upon Christianity.

As a member of a true minority religion in the US it is hard for me to feel badly when I look at what appears to be a complete bias in the opposite direction of his point. But I'll get to that in a moment, first let's look at the transcript of O'Reilly's call cited above. From http://mediamatters.org/items/200412070004

"FOX News Channel host Bill O'Reilly responded to a Jewish caller to his radio show who objected to "Christmas going into schools" and explained that he "grew up with a resentment because I felt that people were trying to convert me to Christianity." O'Reilly told the caller that America is "a predominantly Christian nation" and that "if you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel." O'Reilly labeled the caller's concerns "an affront to the majority" and insisted that "the majority can be insulted, too." During his exchange with the caller, O'Reilly also mistakenly referred to "the seven candles" of Hanukkah.

From the December 3 broadcast of the nationally syndicated The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

CALLER: I agree with what you've been saying recently -- you're concerned about the secularization of Christmas and -- I'm concerned about the secularization of Jews and about the -- and Christmas going into schools.

When I was growing up -- I'm Jewish, but I was not in a very Jewish area. There were some Jews there but, I was kind of -- grew up with a resentment because I felt that people were trying to convert me to Christianity --

O'REILLY: Were they?

CALLER: Yeah, when I got to college I found out -- that's true. A lot of people were. I found that millions of dollars were spent trying to convert --

O'REILLY: I mean that you really believe that people were trying to convert -- you personally -- were trying to make you change from being Jewish to Christian?

CALLER: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: How do they do that?

CALLER: Well, for example, there are various organizations in the colleges that go to people -- try to invite you to Bible study groups --

O'REILLY: Yeah, I know, but -- I mean, you don't have to go. I mean they do that to me. They come -- the Jehovah's Witnesses come to my door and invite me places. I mean, I don't care -- I just say no, get outta here.

CALLER: The thing is, is when you have -- for example, Christmas carols or gift exchanges being done in school, that kind of sets the kids up to being converted.

O'REILLY: Yeah, but you give gifts on Hanukkah, don't you?

CALLER: No, there's not really a Jewish tradition of giving gifts on --

O'REILLY: Well, the seven candles [sic], you get a gift for every night, don't you?

CALLER: Actually, the Jews give gifts on --

O'REILLY: All right. Well, what I'm tellin' you, [caller], is I think you're takin' it too seriously. You have a predominantly Christian nation. You have a federal holiday based on the philosopher Jesus. And you don't wanna hear about it? Come on, [caller] -- if you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel then. I mean because we live in a country founded on Judeo -- and that's your guys' -- Christian, that's my guys' philosophy. But overwhelmingly, America is Christian. And the holiday is a federal holiday honoring the philosopher Jesus. So, you don't wanna hear about it? Impossible.

And that is an affront to the majority. You know, the majority can be insulted, too. And that's what this anti-Christmas thing is all about."



Here is my take on the matter. We live in nation that is predominantly Christian and as such there are going to be some things that are done that benefit the majority, such as making Christmas a federal holiday. If you celebrate this holiday there is an excellent chance that you will never have to worry about getting time off because most businesses are closed.

This is as opposed to those of us who do not and are forced to use vaction or sick leave so that we may engage in our own worship and observance of the holidays that are important to us.

I don't fault Christians for wanting this and am not upset by it, I live in a Christian country and am happy to make some allowances.

However, O'Reilly demonstrates ignorance in his remarks and a complete disregard for the position that the caller tries to raise in which millions of people are not Christian and have no attachment to the holiday. It is not an insignificant number. Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans and others as a collective comprise a very substantial number of people. Why should we be force fed Christmas.

We can certainly appreciate that it is important to other people, but we can do so without being beaten over the skull with it.

Let's consider a couple of other points and put them into context. The argument that we should all abide by what we think the majority wants is not something that can stand untouched. It is an argument that has less substance than many want to admit.Majorities of people around the world have at one time or another believed that it was flat, that slavery was permissible, that women were property and should not be allowed to vote, that the Sun revolved around the Earth and all sorts of other nonsense.

There can be no argument that the US was founded in part because of a desire for religious tolerance. We can debate repeatedly the intent of the Founders, but there is still no doubt that the First Amendment provides for a separation of church and state, which is why courthouses should not be adorned with the 10 Commandments or similar religious paraphenalia.

In concept you should be able to walk into a court and not be concerned with the religious beliefs of the judge because he/she is supposed to rule upon law, not religious law.

One of the things that I find funny here is that O'Reilly and others who complain about bias and a lack of tolerance seem to be incredibly intolerant about so many things. Do they not see the hypocrisy of their positions.

Anyway, I have to get back to work now, but we can visit and revisit this until the horse is not just dead but glue.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Jackal: The bear link is broken. It doesn't lead to his site
Jen said…
I was listening to O'Reilly today in my car on my lunch break. I heard him say that America is a religious country and we need to keep it that way. *sigh*

Happy Chanukah, BTW, from a fellow Jew who, apparently, needs to go to Israel.
Elianah-Sharon said…
I can't blog about this because people I work with read my blog...but yesterday after taking a 1/2 day on Monday, I walked into "Baby Jesus Land." Baby Jesus bears and mice and people were all over the place. There are no less than 3 nativity sets in our extremely small offices (which employ, at last count, a mere 8 people.)

And Santas. There are no less than 10 santas and two trees and a wreath in our small space.

It's like I came to the Bible Belt.

And no one here even cares. The woman who put them all up...who has a morbid fascination with Jews (she's always pointing out to me when she sees something "Jewish" - and I put that in quotes because it may or may not be)...also said to me, "Don't you love my Santas?" Then she quickly added, "Oh, that's right, you people would say Kris Kringle I suppose."

Droll and even droller look.

My point, and yes, I have one, is that she, like many others, is a HUGE fan of the treif they call "O'Reilly." He is slightly lesser than G-d himself but definitely on a higher moral plane than us Jews.

She has said to me the following (and I paraphrase):

- something like, the values of Christianity are universal - don't you believe in them? Which would, then, make me slightly less than Lucifer himself in her eyes no matter what I say.

- what does it hurt to have a christmas tree and a nativity out? If you don't believe in it, you can at least respect what it stands for. This from the woman who has made fun of my Jewish observance levels and told me flat out that she couldn't be a Jew, we're too weird.

- in the ongoing debate about "to tree or not to tree" at our house, she tells me I am akin to Joan Crawford aka "no more wire hangers" should I decide NOT to tree.

- and finally, she has organized a huge christmas feast for our little non-profit's board meeting (there's a Jewish lawyer on the board but I don't know what's up with him - maybe he just rolls with it in December) complete with shrimp and sausage and a turkey dinner and christmas decorations of which I am expected to help set up...and she doesn't see why this bothers me.

Of course, I am a Jew right? And in her eyes, like Bill O's, if it bothers me I should just go to Israel.

That's what it's there for.
Jack Steiner said…
Hi Z,

Sorry to hear about that. This kind of nonsense is so irritating. I used to work with someone who would tell me how bad she felt for me because I hadn't celebrated Christmas.

I finally got irritated and told her that I wouldn't notice if the holiday disappeared and that if she cared to join me in the office on December 25th we could get more work done while people celebrated a fake holiday.

Because essentially what she was telling me was that I believed in a myth, so I figured why not return the favor. Grr....
Elianah-Sharon said…
This one figures that I am going to hell for being a Jew. She has said it in so many words...once she asked me if I believed in heaven and so I told her all about how I don't know one way or the other and that I am more worried about the here and now. She blinked and said, "Oh, so you don't believe in god." And she has believed that about me ever since.

I just told her that the final answer in the "tree or not to tree" is definitively NOT to tree. (I am SO happy) and she gave me a filthy look and said nothing.

I'm just a Jew, a lonely Jew....
Jack Steiner said…
You are in good company. I have been told I am going to hell more times than I can count.
Elianah-Sharon said…
Oh wow, I love a party! ;)