"Restore(s) a little sanity into current political debate" - Kenneth Minogue, TLS "Projects a more expansive and optimistic future for Americans than (the analysis of) Huntington" - James R. Kurth, National Interest "One of (the) most important books I have read in recent years" - Lexington Green
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On the Jewish holiday of Purim the practice is to read the book of Esther. Purim is on March 15-16 in 2014. It is not a widespread practice, but I know Catholics who read the book of Esther on Purim, and I read it last year for the first time. If you have never read it, you should. It is only about 6,000 words, the length of a long article, not a book. You can find it here.
As Seth notes, while the story is one of survival for the Jews, it also shows the sorrow and disgrace suffered by every defeated people at the hands of their conquerors.
Every year at Purim, my co-religionists and I read Esther. The story, as customarily explained to children, is that Esther won a contest . . . something akin to the modern beauty pageant. The prize was that she was made queen – the wife of the Persian emperor. As a result, by pleading to her husband on behalf of her brethren, she was well-situated to save the Jewish community from the nefarious Haman, who actively plotted genocide against the Jews. Esther’s courage thwarts Haman and the community is saved, although it remained in exile. The story is presented as one with a happy ending.
But, that is the story as it is told to our children.
By contrast, an adult, who considered Esther, would understand that the story of Purim is also an intensely sad story.
…because it increasingly seems that the first three digits must be One, Nine, and Three.
Kanye West says Obama’s problems with getting things done are because “Black people don’t have the same level of connections as Jewish people”…(also, “Black people don’t have the same connection as oil people.”)
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews is one example of those “progressives” who think patriotism is all about obeisance to the government and the Leader, rather than being about love of country.
A third-grade textbook, said to be compliant with the new Common Core standards, portrays Obama with the kind of messianic iconography commonly used by totalitarian governments in praising their rulers.
This long and thoughtful essay by Robert W. Nicholson is well worth reading for anyone with an interest in Israel and modern Christianity, particularly the relationship between American Jews and evangelical Christians.
At a time when the state of Israel lies under existential threat from jihadist Islam, and under ideological and diplomatic assault in foreign ministries, international organizations, churches, universities, editorial offices, and other circles of advanced Western opinion—and when even some Jews in the Diaspora seem to be growing disenchanted with the Zionist cause—millions of evangelical Christians unabashedly continue their outspoken, wholehearted, stalwart defense of both the Jewish state and the Jewish people.
By all rights, this rather stunning fact—the fact of a vibrant Christian Zionism—should encourage a welcoming response from beleaguered Jewish supporters of Israel. Instead, it has caused palpable discomfort, especially among Jewish liberals. Wary of ulterior religious motives, and viewing evangelicals as overly conservative in their general outlook on the world, such Jews either accept the proffered support with a notable lack of enthusiasm or actively caution their fellow Jews against accepting it at all. To many, the prospect of an alignment with evangelicals, even one based on purely tactical considerations, seems positively distasteful. Very few have attempted to penetrate the evangelical world or to understand it in any substantive way.
This is a pity, for many reasons. It is also a serious strategic error. For the reality is that today’s Christian Zionism cannot be taken for granted. For one thing, not all evangelicals do support Israel. For another, more alarming thing, a growing minority inside the evangelical world views the Jewish state as at best tolerable and at worst positively immoral, a country that, instead of being supported on biblical grounds, should be opposed on those same grounds.
Nicholson is alarmed by continued Jewish indifference or hostility to evangelical Christian support in the face of a growing pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel/anti-Jewish movement in the evangelical world that he compares to Liberation Theology in Catholicism. He makes a strong case and American Jews would be wise to heed it. Most of them probably will not do so, however. If they were smarter about their interests they would long since have embraced evangelical Christians as political allies.
An Israeli soldier reports on what he has learned while speaking about Israel at universities in the Pacific Northwest:
When I served as a soldier in the West Bank, I got used to having ugly things said to me, but nothing prepared me for the misinformation, demonization of Israel, and the gut-wrenching, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic hostility expressed by many students, professors, church members, and even some high school students right here in the Pacific Northwest.
To give you a taste of the viciousness of the BDS attacks, let me cite just a few of the many shocking experiences I have had. At a BDS event in Portland, a professor from a Seattle university told the assembled crowd that the Jews of Israel have no national rights and should be forced out of the country. When I asked, “Where do you want them to go?” she calmly answered, “I don’t care. I don’t care if they don’t have any place else to go. They should not be there.” When I responded that she was calling for ethnic cleansing, both she and her supporters denied it. And during a presentation in Seattle, I spoke about my longing for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. When I was done, a woman in her 60’s stood up and yelled at me, “You are worse than the Nazis. You are just like the Nazi youth!” A number of times I was repeatedly accused of being a killer, though I have never hurt anyone in my life. On other occasions, anti-Israel activists called me a rapist. The claims go beyond being absurd – in one case, a professor asked me if I knew how many Palestinians have been raped by IDF forces. I answered that as far as I knew, none. She triumphantly responded that I was right, because, she said, “You IDF soldiers don’t rape Palestinians because Israelis are so racist and disgusted by them that you won’t touch them.”
It appears that in 2008 there was considerable collusion among journalists to ensure that Barack Obama’s relationship with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright did not receive serious attention. Be sure to read the piece at the link. I feel sure that there are numerous people who voted for Obama who would not have done so had this matter been properly covered. But these journalists–who no doubt consider themselves Your Moral and Intellectual Superiors, as Glenn Reynolds puts it–did not want you and other Americans to have and consider this information, but arrogated to themselves the power to decide what voters should see and should focus on, based on their own views of which candidate should win the election. Morally at least, what these journalists did is analogous to selling stock in a company while hiding material adverse information about the company…except that the stakes in this case were much, much higher.
More recently, 60 Minutes performed what PowerLine calls “a classic hit job on Israel ,” alleging that Israel is responsible for the exodus of Christians from the West Bank and Jerusalem. PowerLine notes that:
The story was short on facts and context, particularly the context of the assaults on Christians and Christian sites in the Muslim Middle East. Anyone who has ever been to Israel knows that the authorities treat all religious sites as a sacred trust. At the American Spectator, Aaron Goldstein asks: “How many Christian churches have been burned down by Israelis? How many Christians have been murdered inside Israel?” Simon failed to “report” the answer to that question, but I’m pretty sure Power Line readers have a good bead on it.
Watch the CAMERA video at the PowerLine link, which shows that CBS News made false statements about Bethlehem and the Israeli security fence. CAMERA also says that CBS, even after being advised of its error, has thus far failed to correct the misinformation it has propagated.
Bookworm discovered and embedded a video by Professor Anthony Esolen, in which he challenges the common belief that the Middle Ages were a dark and dreary era with few redeeming attributes. Book adds thoughts of her own, and there is a good comment thread on the post.
Pseudodionysius posted the same video at Ricochet, resulting in an extensive discussion thread…192 comments so far…which includes significant pushback against the Esolen thesis. The thread became pretty contentious…unpleasantly so, at points, but it includes some worthwhile discussion and useful links, especially on the comparison of Medieval with Classical technologies.
Do you believe that the lesson we should learn from the Holocaust is one of tolerance?
Do you believe that the mainstream media reports fairly about Middle East issues?
Do you believe that Israel practices apartheid?
Do you favor the two-state solution?
Do you believe that the unrest in the Middle East would end if a Palestinian state were established?
Do you believe that Israel should compromise more for the so-called peace process?
Do you believe the settlements in Israel are an obstacle to peace?
Do you doubt that Islam desires to establish global dominance?
Do you believe that continued sanctions and negotiations will deter a nuclear Iran?
Do you believe that the international community has the right to dictate Israel’s appropriate response to terrorism in defense of its citizens?
Do you believe that you can be anti-Israel and not anti-Semitic?
Do you believe that the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe is caused by Israel?
Do you believe that Islamophobia in America is far worse than anti-Semitism?
Do you believe there would have been no Holocaust if a Jewish state had existed in Hitler’s time?
Do you believe Franklin D. Roosevelt was a hero to the Jews during the Holocaust?
Do you believe that American Jewry did all they could to stop the slaughter during the Holocaust?
Do you believe your life as a Jew would be unaffected if there were no Jewish state?
Do you believe social justice should be taught in public schools?
Do you believe that you are safer if only the government is armed?
Do you believe that another Holocaust can’t happen?
Hostility toward Israel is disturbingly common throughout the Democratic Party’s base. 25% of Democrats say the U.S. is “too supportive” of Israel, versus only 13% of Republicans giving that answer. Only 9% of Democrats say the U.S. is “not supportive enough” of that country, versus 46% of Republican who think the U.S. should be more supportive.
In addition to the lack of support and outright hostility toward Israel that appear among the Democratic base, outright anti-Semitism appears to be all too common. 20% of Democrats and Independents view Jews as “caring only about themselves,” compared with 12% of Republicans giving this answer. Another survey, conducted in the wake of the Bernard Madoff debacle, indicates that 32% of Democrats blamed “the Jews” for the financial crisis, while only 18% of Republicans did so. (” This difference is somewhat surprising given the presumed higher degree of racial tolerance among liberals and the fact that Jews are a central part of the Democratic Party’s electoral coalition,” said the study’s authors.)
Obama’s clear hostility to Israel, and the disturbing opinion patterns among the Democratic base, should be of concern not only to Jews and to those who have a particular affinity for Israel, but also to all Americans who are interested in world stability and peace, and in an American polity which is not ripped apart by ethnic conflicts.
The incident, so characteristic of this leftist ideologue president, is the stimulus for theorizing about how economies work, and perhaps why this one is so stuck with Obama in the White House.
There is an excellent analysis by David Warren printed last year in Canada and which I have saved. It is a comparison of Obama with Gorbachev and brings considerable light on the subject of success of nations.
Yet they do have one major thing in common, and that is the belief that, regardless of what the ruler does, the polity he rules must necessarily continue. This is perhaps the most essential, if seldom acknowledged, insight of the post-modern “liberal” mind: that if you take the pillars away, the roof will continue to hover in the air.
Gorbachev seemed to assume, right up to the fall of the Berlin Wall and then beyond it, that his Communist Party would recover from any temporary setbacks, and that the long-term effects of his glasnost and perestroika could only be to make it bigger and stronger.
There is a corollary of this largely unspoken assumption: that no matter what you do to one part of a machine, the rest of the machine will continue to function normally.
This brief discussion fits well with the book that was recommended by the Postrel piece.
The Bad History Behind ‘You Didn’t Build That’
By Virginia Postrel
The controversy surrounding President Barack Obama’s admonishment that “if you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen” has defied the usual election-year pattern.
Normally a political faux pas lasts little more than a news cycle. People hear the story, decide what they think, and quickly move on to the next brouhaha, following what the journalist Mickey Kaus calls the Feiler Faster Thesis. A gaffe that might have ruined a candidate 20 years ago is now forgotten within days.
Three weeks later, Obama’s comment is still a big deal.
Today is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. Screenwriter Robert Avrech has posted the first part of his Emmy-award-winning film The Devil’s Arithmetic, which is based on Jane Yolen’s book of the same name, for on-line viewing.
The DVD is available from the usual sources, including Amazon and Netflix. Highly recommended.
Via Martin Kramer, who asks: “What happens to aging ’60s American Jewish radicals after the kids move out, the dog dies, and their parents (may they rest in peace), who so valued and cherished Israel, have passed on to their heavenly reward?”
If the trailer is representative, this is a slick piece of agitprop packaged as folksy interviews with thoughtful Jewish intellectuals who just happen to have doubts about Israel, no doubt because their integrity and independent-mindedness let them see clearly the evils of Israel that other Jews (and most non-Jewish Americans) are brainwashed into overlooking. In fact this is a bunch of leftist hacks repeating buzzwords (apartheid etc.) and citing events pruned of context to single out Israel for demonization. The woman in the last interview gives the game away by blaming Israel for the “stateless” condition of Palestinian refugees, even though Palestinian Arab statelessness, to the extent it still exists, is a racket maintained by Arab governments and the Palestinians themselves, and even though the post-WW2 world has had many refugee populations that dwarfed the Palestinian Arab refugee population and that, unlike the Palestinians, were mostly resettled within a few years. The difference is that people like those in this movie couldn’t use those other refugee populations as a weapon against the Jews. You would have to be profoundly ignorant to find this movie convincing, but ignorant people seem to be the target audience. Watch it for yourself.
I was fortunate to have had in high school a leftist, anti-Semitic history teacher, a man who was an enthusiast of Third World “liberation” movements run by kleptocrats and gangsters but who put Israel under a moral microscope. The Israeli Jews, as he saw it, had treated the Palestinian Arabs unjustly by (he would quote a particular historian whose book he always had at the ready) expelling them and this unjust treatment colored everything that Israel did subsequently. Two wrongs — an allusion to the Holocaust — don’t make a right. We should all be citizens of the world and should drop our parochialisms and be happy. Of course he mainly applied this argument to the Jews, and I was not clever enough to point out that the Jews’ enemies had often persecuted them for supposedly being too worldly. I argued, and learned a great deal in that class, and watching this movie trailer transports me right back to it. Shabbat shalom.
Via Martin Kramer. This is a very well done sermon by a Reform rabbi, a political liberal, against Peter Beinart’s argument that we should penalize Israel by boycott because of Israel’s continued control over the area between the Jordan River and the 1949 armistice line.
Beinart’s Times op-ed is a monument to sloppy reasoning. He ignores the key facts underlying Israel’s reluctant continuing control over Judea and Samaria: that Israel captured the territory in a defensive war to prevent its own destruction and therefore holds it legitimately absent a peace deal, that most Israelis would be happy to return control over the territory to an Arab government in exchange for a reasonable peace deal, and that none of the Arab governments that have controlled the territory has been willing to make such a deal (which is why Israeli public opinion has shifted away from its 1990s accommodationism). The settler issue per se is a red herring, since there is no obvious rationale other than anti-Jewish ethnic cleansing for preventing Jewish settlers from remaining in their homes under Arab rule (as more than one million Arabs live in Israel), and most of the “settlers” are residents of close-in suburbs of Jerusalem that would be incorporated into Israel under any reasonable final deal. (Why is the term apartheid only used to color the perceptions of ignorant people about democratic Israel but never used in connection with the proposed de-Judeization of the West Bank?)
Beinart strikes me as either a committed leftist or an opportunist who is trying to position himself to make hay from the BDS movement. Perhaps he is both. Regardless of his motives, his arguments are weak.
Open the door to “scientific” determination of matters of life and death, and America’s Orthodox Jews — a minority within a minority — will be vulnerable to a new Inquisition. On this issue, there can be no compromise. Agudath Israel is right: Jews should stand by the right of the Catholic Church to determine what is acceptable by its standards, just as we one day will ask the Catholic Church to stand by our right to determine what is acceptable by our standards. To its credit, Britain’s Catholic Church stood by us in 2009 when the English courts shamefully and wrongly ruled that our most basic religious criteria were “racist.” Shamefully and wrongfully, some Jews have failed to stand by the Church under the Obama administration’s persecution. I appeal to these Jews: Don’t be naive. We’re next.
Today’s principal form of Jew-hatred is anti- Zionism. Anti-Zionism is similar to previous dominant forms of Jew hatred such as Christian anti-Judaism, xenophobic and racist anti- Semitism, and Communist anti-Jewish cosmopolitanism in the sense that it takes dominant, popular social trends and turns them against the Jews. Anti-Zionism’s current predominance owes to the convergence of several popular social trends which include Western post-nationalism, and anti-colonialism.
Here’s a description of the War Scroll from Qumran, which “is dated to the late first century BCE or early first century CE”:
Against the backdrop of a long biblical tradition concerning a final war at the End of Days (Ezekiel 38-39; Daniel 7-12), this scroll describes a seven stage, dualistic confrontation between the “Sons of Light” (the term used by Community members to refer to themselves), under the leadership of the “Prince of Light” (also called Michael, the Archangel) – and the “Sons of Darkness” (a nickname for the enemies of the Community, Jews and non-Jews alike), aided by a nation called the Kittim (Romans?), headed by Belial. The confrontation would last 49 years, terminating in the victory of the “Sons of Light” and the restoration of the Temple service and sacrifices. The War Scroll describes battle arrays, weaponry, the ages of the participants, and military maneuvers, recalling Hellenistic and Roman military manuals.
You can see why I’m interested.
The Nag Hammadi texts are a little less well known but include — along with a variety of other texts, some of them self-described as “apocalypses” — the now celebrated Gospel of Thomas, which Bart Erhman reads as continuing a “de-apocalypticizing” of Jesus’ message which he finds beginning in Luke and continuing in John:
In the Gospel of Thomas, for example, written somewhat later than John, there is a clear attack on anyone who believes in a future Kingdom here on earth. In some sayings, for example, Jesus denies that the Kingdom involves an actual place but “is within you and outside you” (saying 3); he castigates the disciples for being concerned about the end (saying 18); and he spurns their question about when the Kingdom will come, since “the Kingdom of the Father is spread out on the earth and people do not see it” (saying 113).
Again, you can see why I am delighted that these texts are becoming available to a wider scholarly audience…
In both the Nag Hammadi codices and Qumran scrolls, we have texts that were lost for almost two thousand years and discovered, somewhat haphazardly, in 1945 and 1947 respectively, providing us with rich insights into the religious ferment around a time and place that have been pivotal for western civilization.
Now, more than half a century later, the web — as it becomes our global museum and our in-house library — brings us closer to both…
Warning: spoilers, I guess, though with a film like this it’s hard to give anything away so as to really detract from the experience. Maybe a few autobiographical spoilers of my own.
Having only seen it once so far, I am aware of having gotten at most glimpses of its full intent. I cannot easily describe Terrence Malick’s oeuvre except in superficial ways: mostly out-of-doors, with nature as a significant element; spectacular cinematography; more or less nonlinear storyline; voice-over narrations. I have not seen Badlands but have seen everything from Days of Heaven on. Read the rest of this entry »
AFTER THE war, world Jewry adopted “Never Again,” as our rallying cry. But “Never Again,” is just a slogan. It fell to the leaders of the Jewish people to conceive the means to prevent a recurrence of the Holocaust.
These leaders came up with two very different strategies for protecting Jews from genocide, and their followers formed separate camps. Whereas in the early years, the separate positions appeared to complement each other, since the 1970s the gulf between them has grown ever wider. Indeed, many of the divisions in world Jewry today originate in this post-Holocaust policy divide.
The first strategy was based on international law and human rights. Its champions argued that the reason the Allies didn’t save the Jews was because the laws enjoining the Allies to rescue us on the one hand, and prohibiting the Nazis from killing us on the other were insufficiently strong. If they could promulgate a new global regime of international humanitarian law, they believed they could force governments to rise above their hatreds and the shackles of their narrow-minded national interests to save innocents from slaughter. Not only would their vision protect the Jews, it would protect everyone.
The Jews who subscribed to the human-rights strategy for preventing another Holocaust were the architects of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the Genocide Convention. They were the founders of the international human rights regime that now dominates so much of Western discourse on war and peace.
Unfortunately, the institutions these idealistic Jews designed have been corrupted by political forces they had hoped to defeat.
Consequently, the international human-rights regime they created has failed completely to accomplish what they hoped it would accomplish. Instead, the regime they created to protect the Jews is now a key weapon in the political war being waged against them.
[. . .]
A secondary casualty of the failure of the human rights paradigm has been intra- Jewish relations. Faced with their preferred paradigm’s failure and corruption at the hands of anti-Semites, many Jewish human-rights activists have opted to abandon their fellow Jews and Israel in order to maintain their allegiance to the corrupt, anti-Semitic human-rights model.
PARTICULARLY ANNOYING to these human-rights followers is the stunning success of the other post-Holocaust Jewish strategy for giving meaning to the slogan “Never Again.”
Tomorrow, May 2, is Holocaust Remembrance and Heroism Day, Yom Hashoah Ve Hagevurah. The date for this observance was chosen in part because of its calendrical proximity to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising; more here.
In this video, Jay Black (born David Blatt–singer for the 1960s group Jay and the Americans) sings “Where is the little street?” (“Vi iz dus geseleh?”) accompanied by images from Marc Chagall paintings.