July 4, 2014

FROM THE ARCHIVES: THE DEFIANT ONES:

(via ef brown):
On Hating the Jews: The inextricable link between anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism. (NATAN SHARANSKY, November 17, 2003, Wall Street Journal)

[I]srael and the Jewish people share something essential with the United States. The Jews, after all, have long held that they were chosen to play a special role in history, to be what their prophets called "a light unto the nations." What precisely is meant by that phrase has always been a matter of debate, and I would be the last to deny the mischief that has sometimes been done, including to the best interests of the Jews, by some who have raised it as their banner. Nevertheless, over four millennia, the universal vision and moral precepts of the Jews have not only worked to secure the survival of the Jewish people themselves but have constituted a powerful force for good in the world, inspiring myriads to fight for the right even as in others they have aroused rivalry, enmity and unappeasable resentment.

It is similar with the United States--a nation that has long regarded itself as entrusted with a mission to be what John Winthrop in the 17th century called a "city on a hill" and Ronald Reagan in the 20th parsed as a "shining city on a hill." What precisely is meant by that phrase is likewise a matter of debate, but Americans who see their country in such terms certainly regard the advance of American values as central to American purpose. And, though the United States is still a very young nation, there can be no disputing that those values have likewise constituted an immense force for good in the world--even as they have earned America the enmity and resentment of many.

In resolving to face down enmity and hatred, an important source of strength is the lesson to be gained from contemplating the example of others. From Socrates to Churchill to Sakharov, there have been individuals whose voices and whose personal heroism have reinforced in others the resolve to stand firm for the good. But history has also been generous enough to offer, in the Jews, the example of an ancient people fired by the message of human freedom under God and, in the Americans, the example of a modern people who over the past century alone, acting in fidelity with their inmost beliefs, have confronted and defeated the greatest tyrannies ever known to man.

Fortunately for America, and fortunately for the world, the United States has been blessed by providence with the power to match its ideals. The Jewish state, by contrast, is a tiny island in an exceedingly dangerous sea, and its citizens will need every particle of strength they can muster for the trials ahead. It is their own people's astounding perseverance, despite centuries of suffering at the hands of faiths, ideologies, peoples, and individuals who have hated them and set out to do them in, that inspires one with confidence that the Jews will once again outlast their enemies.


Due to the problems of demographics and assimilation, we're less sanguine than Mr. Sharansky about the future of Judaism, but Judaism is so central to the West and to Christianity that so long as America remains Western/Christian, Judaism's legacy will endure.

[originally posted: 11/17/03]

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Posted by at July 4, 2014 4:08 AM
  

I'm reminded of Woody Allen's "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying."

Posted by: David Cohen at November 17, 2003 2:07 PM

You'd think that would be preferable for nations and societies, but apparently not.

Posted by: oj at November 17, 2003 2:13 PM

Hate to say it, Orrin, but don't you think your pronouncing on the imminent death of Judaism is a tad presumptuous? I mean, Europe, Canada, Japan, etc., ok, but Judaism? They have pretty impressive survival skills.

Sharanksy is writing very philosphically and even apocalyptically these days. How about we just get down to the gritty, strategic work of backing Israel and park the poetry.

Posted by: Peter B at November 17, 2003 7:45 PM

What bizzare people are the Jews. Faced with the openly genocidal hate of the Islamic world, and 2000 years of persecution culminating in the holocaust, they vote Democrat and organise peace outreaches to the palestinians. When they are weak they are slaughtered, when strong they show mercy- and are hated and murdered by terrorists.

But they never seem to catch on. Look Jews, it's simple- kill your enemies. Burn their cities.

I'm glad I come from a long line of anglo warmongers with a history of doing just that, I don't think I could cope with my own internal contradictions if I was Jewish, it looks like hard, hard work.

Posted by: Amos at November 17, 2003 11:21 PM

....but it certainly makes life interesting.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at November 18, 2003 1:26 AM

Some things in the Jewish tradition seem to serve as an unwelcome mirror to the dominant cultures in which the Jews have lived. They have never been either a demographic or military threat. The religion does not actively seek converts. They have been net contributors in most every measure of a society's achievements, yet neither assimilation nor a quiet separatism has kept them from being hated. Israel doesn't really change that. Militarily Israel is capable of self-defense at best. Even with their nuclear arsenal, they don't have the ability to seize and hold large amounts of territory.

I'm convinced that anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism share many of the same roots. As a litmus test, I imagine life in countries where anti-Semitism is the strongest, and would not wish my children to have to live in any of them. In that sense, I pray that Judaism survivies and prospers.

Posted by: Dave in LA at November 18, 2003 4:09 AM

For the last couple of millenia, Jews have been defined from the outside, mostly as not Christian or not Muslim. This had its good points and its bad points, but until recently it meant that Jews have not had to think corporately about what defines a Jew. In the mean time, we've lost the ability to act as a group and to reach consensus. Now that it is urgent for us to come to agreement on what makes a Jew a Jew, we can't do so.

(For me, it comes down to the Shma, "Hear, O'Israel, the Lord our G-d, the Lord is one".)

As for the similarities between Americans and Jews, I think it's because both peoples are, for want of a better word, homogenously bourgeois in our self-conception. This, at least, explains the militant individualism that we find so attractive in ourselves but which most other peoples (the gentiles, I suppose) find so unattractive.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 18, 2003 9:04 AM

It's hard to pin down really. It's quite complex.

Remember that Jews are both socialist revolutionary iconoclasts and reactionary capitalist bloodsuckers, rootless comopolitans and frenzied ultra-nationalists, ardent atheists and religious zealots. And everything in between.
(Even pigs and monkeys.)

In short, we're everything we're wanted to be. (So obliging, really.)

The problem, I think, as far as America (as a whole) is concerned is, to what degree does it wish to be seen (globally) as "Jew lover" or as "protector of Israel." Since there does seem to be a huge price to pay for filling such a role.

(To be sure, it would also seem that those who believe that the price is not worth paying and so decide to relinquish that role are likewise doomed to pay....)

And it is entirely possible that the US, policy-wise, will one day come to make such a decision.

If so, another "golden age" may well come to a close.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at November 18, 2003 9:23 AM

As long as the US values the source of its liberty and understands the role of government and its just powers and whence they are derived, the safety of Jews and Christians around the world will more rather than less secure. If the trend toward centralization and secularization of our government and our society continues without a change in direction then the odds would seem to favor a less secure environment. The left after all worships the state as the embodiment of the general will and so potentially unlimited in its powers. Classical Liberalism envisions the state as the protection for the rights of the individual since all are created and equal in the eyes of the Creator. The contest between the worship of the State, for its own sake, or God as the final authority and source of our rights was once thought to be a settled issue with the founding of the American Republic. The lure of statism, utopianism and rationalism/materialism is having its effects and virulent anti-semitism has never trailed far behind.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at November 18, 2003 11:51 AM

OJ:

Since you are so worried about the survival of the Jewish people, I am going to send the guys from federation around to collect from you.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at November 18, 2003 10:37 PM
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