From Martin Buber to Michael Oren

What does Martin Buber have in common with Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States?

In response to the Obama administration’s objection to settlements, Mr. Oren is reported to have said: “Settlements are not the issue.” “The issue is the recognition of the mutual legitimacy of these two peoples, the legitimate claim to these two states [the Jewish state and the projected Arab state].”

Underlying the words I have emphasized is a mode of thought that has long influenced the mentality of Israel’s political and intellectual elites: historical or cultural relativism. I discuss the pernicious influence of relativism in my book Israel and the Malaise of Democracy, written shortly after the Israel-PLO Agreement of September 1993. Here are some key passages:

“Because it cannot transcend [cultural relativism], the government [of Israel] is psychologically incapable of asserting the preeminence of Jewish [over Arab] rights to Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. Note the subtle influence of relativism [and subjectivism] in this statement of Dr. Eliahu Ben-Elissar, [once] Likud chairman of the Knesset foreign affairs committee: ‘In our eyes we have a right to this land’ (The Jerusalem Post, June 5, 1992, p. 5a, emphasis added).

“We see in Ben-Elissar the shallowness of the Likud’s political Zionism…. » Continue reading “From Martin Buber to Michael Oren”

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The Particularism that Nurtures Universalism

Edited transcript of the Eidelberg Report. Israel National Radio, Aug 3, 2009.

Today’s report is based on my forthcoming book, Toward a Renaissance of Israel and America. The subtitle is The Political Theology of Rabbi Eliyahu Benamozegh.

Unlike Christianity and Islam, Judaism unites Particularism and Universalism. This unique quality of Judaism is developed in depth by the Italian Rabbi Eliyahu Benamozegh, a philosopher and theologian whose magnum opus, Israel and Humanity, was posthumously published in 1914.

To begin with, Rabbi Benamozegh mentions some of the ethnic and parochial aspects of the Mosaic law, such as those that depend on the seasons and geography of Eretz Israel. For example, the Passover is linked to the Israel spring, and the Great Sanhedrin can only function on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Moreover, God promises that He will establish His dwelling place in Eretz Israel, where the Jews would obtain salvation. But what about the salvation of the Gentiles, who are also created in the image of God? » Continue reading “The Particularism that Nurtures Universalism”

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Iranian, American, and Israeli Grievances: A Question of Revolution

Iran’s fraudulent presidential election of June 12, which kept Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power, was enough to trigger a revolution—not civil disobedience Israeli style. Many Iranians lost their lives in violent protests against the fraud. The revolution is not over. Report has it that even Iranian soldiers are helping opponents of the regime.

“No taxation without representation” was the clarion call of the American revolution of 1776. The Americans were fed up with protests and civil disobedience. Ponder these words of the American Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; » Continue reading “Iranian, American, and Israeli Grievances: A Question of Revolution”

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What is a Jew and What is a Jewish State?

Edited transcript of the Eidelberg Report. Israel National Radio, July 27, 2009.

In a recent article, I referred to Raphael Patai’s The Jewish Mind. Such has been the assimilation of so many Jews since the Enlightenment, so varied are the attachments of most Jews to Judaism, that Patai concludes that “a Jew is a person who considers himself a Jew and is so considered by others.”

In contrast to this subjective and vacuous definition of a Jew, I will argue that what is most distinctive of Jews is that which has preserved them as a people, the Torah and the Talmud.

Turning to specifics, I will mention only two unique characteristics of the Jew — and without disparaging countless Jews who do not exhibit these characteristics. The first is this: The Jew relates every question concerning thought, passion, and action to the Torah and regulates every facet of his life to the laws thereof—say the Halakha. If he is not learned in the Halakha, he consults his rabbi and defers to his judgment. And every rabbi has a rabbi.

It needs to be emphasized that the Talmud, rooted in the Torah, is more than a collection of laws. » Continue reading “What is a Jew and What is a Jewish State?”

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Israel

One should not identify Israel with the State of Israel. Since Israel was created as the God-bearing nation, it is infinitely more than a state—one of some 200 states represented in the United Nations. The State is a secular concept. It denotes the sovereign power within a political society.

As a secular entity, the State of Israel, in contradistinction to Israel per se, is a temporary phenomenon. This conclusion may be inferred from the thoughts of Rabbi Avraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935), Israel's first (Ashkenazi) Chief Rabbi who, in addition to being an extraordinary Torah scholar, was a profound philosopher of history.

Referring to secular Zionists of his own time, in whom he saw some semblance of Jewishness, Rav Kook admonishes them, saying:

The denial of our “Thou hast chosen us” vocation and singularity is a fatal blunder. Set apart from the Gentiles, as evident in our incomparable history, the Jewish excellence and nobility surpasses that of any other nation. » Continue reading “Israel”

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“The Jewish Mind”

“The Jewish Mind” is the title of a 600-page tome by Raphael Patai, the famous author of The Arab Mind. Patai, who died in 1996, was not a Jewish chauvinist. He knows there are stupid Jews as well as brilliant non-Jews. But he couldn’t ignore the extraordinary intellectual accomplishments of the Jewish people.

However much Jews have been vilified, no one—not even the worst anti-Semites—ever accused the Jewish people of being stupid. Indeed, it has been reported that the Jews, with less than 0.2% of the world’s population, have produced 22% of all Nobel laureates.

When it comes to politics, however, the intelligence of Jews is not conspicuous. To the contrary, Charles Krauthammer refers to the 1993 Agreement between Israel and the PLO as “the the greatest diplomatic blunder in history.”

Consider, also, how Jews voted in the American presidential election of 2008. » Continue reading ““The Jewish Mind””

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What Should Israel Look Up to?

What is most decisive about the character of a nation is what its people look up to and admire. Sometimes what people look up to and admire is a myth.

Consider Israel’s “Declaration of Independence.” The Declaration is taught and public schools, and Israel’s Supreme Court has said it embodies the “credo” of the State of Israel.

It so happens, however, that the first sentence of the Declaration, which states that the Jews became a nation in Eretz Israel, is a lie. The Jews became a nation at the Law-Giving at Mount Sinai, hence, before they ever entered the Land of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that foundational falsehood on June 14, 2009 at Bar-Ilan University. There he had the audacity to negate God’s Covenant with the Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state on the land chosen by God for the Jewish people. » Continue reading “What Should Israel Look Up to?”

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The Likud: A Dead Man Walking

The Likud is a dead man walking, and no one can enliven that intellectually sterile party. This means that political Zionism is dead. It died in May 1996 when Benjamin Netanyahu was elected prime minister and said his government would abide by the Oslo or Israel-PLO Agreement which the Labor Party had foisted on the nation in September 1993.

Unknown to the general public, Oslo presaged the establishment of an Arab-Islamic state in the Land of Israel, a state Netanyahu unlawfully sanctified on June 14, 2009 at Bar-Ilan University. Let us probe the little known perfidious nature of the Likud via political Zionism.

It never entered the minds of political Zionists that the return of the Jews to the Land of Israel was to culminate in the construction of the Third Temple and the restoration of Jewish law. The founders of political Zionism, such as Herzl and Pinsker, started from the failure of liberalism to solve the Jewish problem, but continued to see the solution in liberal terms, as a merely human problem. As Leo Strauss has written:

The terrible fate of the Jews was in no sense to be understood any longer as connected with divine punishment for the sins of our fathers or with the providential mission of the chosen people and hence to be borne with the meek fortitude of martyrs. » Continue reading “The Likud: A Dead Man Walking”

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An American Patriot in Israel

Edited transcript of the Eidelberg Report, Israel National Radio, July 13, 2009.

More than forty years have elapsed since I wrote “The Crisis of Our Times,” which was printed in The Congressional Record (U.S. Senate, July 31, 1968, pp. E.7150-E.7157).

The article revealed that the doctrine of moral relativism permeates all levels of education in America and even influences decisions of its Supreme Court. I warned that moral relativism was undermining America’s political heritage and that it would lead to America’s demise. Enter Barack Obama, the first moral relativist in the White House. Before continuing, I had better define relativism.

Moral relativism (like cultural relativism) denies the validity of any standards by which to determine what is good or bad, right or wrong, just or unjust. Hence there are no rational or objective standards by which to determine whether the way of life of one individual, group, or nation is intrinsically superior to that of another.

Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton quotes Obama as saying: “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” “This answer,” says Bolton “proves precisely the opposite of what Obama is ostensibly saying. » Continue reading “An American Patriot in Israel”

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Some Reflections of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch

1.  “It would be a piece of base self-deception for us to imagine that we could buy the friendship of the peoples and permanently assure it to ourselves by discarding the Jewish distinctiveness.”

2.  “Haman’s ancestor Amalek fell upon Israel when it had not yet received these separatist laws at Sinai.”

3.  “So long as there is night upon earth, the struggle between [Esau and Jacob] will continue, Jacob will not overcome Esau, nor Esau Jacob, even though Esau may prevent Jacob from setting his feet firmly and independently on earth. But when the morning breaks and the struggle will come to an end, this end will not lie in the abandonment and cessation of the mission of Jacob, Jacob will not be vanquished. Esau will say to Jacob, ‘Let me go, for the morning has broken, the time of conflict is over. Jacob, however says, ‘I will let you go, but not before you bless me, before you have admitted to me that I have not deserved this cursing, hatred and persecution, before you have fully acknowledged what a blessing I deserve—and blessed me.’” » Continue reading “Some Reflections of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch”

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