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State of Freedom

A man has found himself between
Being alive and being free
He looks his captor in the face
Says “I’ll be buried in my grave.
Before you put me in those chains,
You can put me in the ground”

Take my life, you’ll never take my soul
I will meet my Father face to face
And see the new Jerusalem
And see the new Jerusalem

Three Hebrew boys are meant to choose
Between a lie and what is True
They stand up tall before the King
Said “you can throw us to the flames.”
It makes no difference what you do,
Cuz we will never bow to you.”

Long ago, we have resolved
To serve nobody else but G-d
To never fall into again
The deathly wicked hands of man
It seems we lost this war, my brothers
But I will not perish by their sword
I’d rather die in a state of freedom
Then hand my life over to Rome


Based on Elazar ben Yair’s final speech in the Great Revolt against the Romans (66 – 70 AD):
Since we long ago resolved never to be servants to the Romans, nor to any other than to God Himself, Who alone is the true and just Lord of mankind, the time has now come that obliges us to make that resolution true in practice…We were the very first that revolted, and we are the last to fight against them; and I cannot but esteem it as a favor that God has granted us, that it is still in our power to die bravely, and in a state of freedom.”

Phantom Fantasia in the Middle East

Sometimes brainwashing can become so uncontested and thoroughly convincing, what’s left after the spin cycle is nothing but falsehood. 

Take the case of the “nation-laundering “of the Palestinian people. Here’s what decades of impeccable PR, global gullibility, and re-imagined anti-Semitism has enabled many to bizarrely believe:

There once was an Arab nation called Palestine, with the people in it known as Palestinians. After the Holocaust (which was either a hoax or exaggeration), the Western powers, duped by scheming Jews, were guilted into creating a Jewish state, fashioned solely from stolen Arab land. 

Israel’s colonial imperialism required a massive population transfer of invaders and settlers. Jews from Europe, America, Canada, and South Africa—all white-skinned with absolutely no connection to the Holy Land—“occupied Palestine.” They formed an army, fortified by advanced weaponry supplied by the West, and then forcibly drove Palestinians from their homes, confiscated their property, and scattered them either to other Arab states or wretched refugee camps. 

An otherwise peaceful people, the Palestinians who remained in the West Bank and Gaza have been relentlessly tormented by Israeli aggression, mistreatment, and, of course, illegal occupation, ever since.

Not a single sentence of that storyline is remotely true. 

There never has been an Arab nation-state called Palestine. At the time of Israel’s founding, in 1948, the word Palestinian did not describe a distinct Arab people. In fact, the word itself was created by the Ancient Romans, and they were referring to Jews, not Arabs.

Jews have been living continuously in what is today Israel since the time of the Jewish patriarchs of the Old Testament and the creation of the first Jewish state – the Kingdom of Judea, which preceded the Ancient Greeks by several hundred years. After the fall of Judea, until Israel was created, the land was occupied by a host of other nations for well over 2,000 years. Ironically, the occupation of “Palestine” ended with the creation of Israel.

And with one million Middle Eastern and Persian Jews forcibly removed to Israel soon after its creation, most Israelis today are actually dark-skinned, indigenous people. But even Jews who were born in Brooklyn or Brentwood have an umbilical, ancestral connection to Israel.

There never has been an Arab nation-state called Palestine. At the time of Israel’s founding, in 1948, the word Palestinian did not describe a distinct Arab people. In fact, the word itself was created by the Ancient Romans, and they were referring to Jews, not Arabs.

The Holocaust did, in fact, result in the mass murder of two-thirds of European Jewry, but the discussions about resurrecting Judea and creating a new Jewish homeland originated decades earlier, during World War I.

Declarations, treaties, resolutions, the League of Nations, and then the United Nations all attested to Israel’s existence. The world was not conned into giving Jews anything more than what was already a claim of right—a country of their own after two millennia of exile, on the same land where Jews first became a people. 

The West did not weaponize Israel against the Arabs. In fact, the West’s reluctance to enflame the Cold War caused it to stay fairly neutral. During its early years battling hostile Arab nations, Israel relied mostly on archaic armaments from Czechoslovakia and France—which were purchased with cash.

Finally, many Arabs living in Israel in 1948 would still be there as full citizens had not five regional nations attacked Israel on its very first day of existence. And certainly no one can credibly refer to the Palestinian people as “peaceful.” We have them to thank for inventing and perfecting the terrorism that plagues us all today. And as for “occupation,” not a single Jew lives in Gaza, and Israel has no legal obligation to withdraw from the West Bank until the border is secure and Palestinian violence is finally abated.

So how did the counter-story of a mythical Palestine—this phantom fantasia—obtain such staying power? It’s not just false—it’s spectacularly false.  And the plain facts are not ancient history. It’s quite easy to verify. There are still people alive from Israel’s founding—Jews and Arabs. There are ample books, newspaper accounts, radio recordings, documentary footage—all setting forth how Israel became a nation, and how the Palestinians, time and again, repeatedly failed to take the necessary steps to become one. Yet, these easily debunked fabrications persist.

It requires the suspension of disbelief aided by the repetition of lies. Palestine is more an idea than an actual place, the magical thinking of a country that never existed. Hocus-pocus political history. The politics of telling a better story, especially one that more people are already predisposed to believe. 

And it’s working.

The United Nations has designated “Palestine” as a permanent non-member state with souped-up observer status. They have their own relief agency, UNRWA, which allows Palestinian-Arabs to remain as refugees in perpetuity, never required, unlike other refugee groups, to fold themselves into another state. The U.N. has accepted the mythology of an unlawfully confiscated Palestinian homeland. No such similar acknowledgment has been granted to the Kurds, Cypriots, Tibetans, and Kashmiri, however. 

Palestine is more an idea than an actual place, the magical thinking of a country that never existed.

Meanwhile, Middle East Studies Departments in universities all across the Western world hype the false narrative of persecuted Palestinians and land-grabbing Jews. The paradox of Palestinian inclusion within the vortex of woke, intersectional grievances is not lost on anyone who has been to college lately. Indeed, it is laughable given how Sharia-observant Palestinians, especially in Gaza, feel about women, gays, the transgender, cultural and academic freedom, religious diversity, free speech, and the rule of law. 

Feminists march alongside theocrats who mandate head coverings and praise beheadings? Homosexuals find common cause with those who would have them flung from rooftops

The “progressives” who have embraced the plight (and overlooked the terrorism) of the Palestinians wouldn’t last a week in Gaza or Ramallah. Tel Aviv, however, would be very much to their liking if they could only get past the presence of so many cosmopolitan Jews.

The U.N. has accepted the mythology of an unlawfully confiscated Palestinian homeland. No such similar acknowledgment has been granted to the Kurds, Cypriots, Tibetans, and Kashmiri, however.

Mainstream media plays its own role in disseminating a one-sided, hopelessly biased account of how Jews came to dominate a Middle East where they don’t belong, and who subjugate a docile and distinct group of Arabs who merely wish a return to their homeland without Jewish malevolence. Palestinian rejectionism of five separate offers of statehood since 1947 is never even a footnote in the “official” account. 

The Charters of Hamas and Fatah are never closely examined, either. If anyone bothered to look, they wouldn’t find anything resembling the Declaration of Independence. The Palestinian contribution to representative democracy, as embodied in their founding documents, are blood libels writ large. So, too, is the chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” an undeniable ode to genocide. A gleeful anticipation of a Jewless Israel. The expressed language of national aspirations foreshadows what pluralism will look like in a Palestinian state. 

It is well known that Palestinian violence is rarely reported. Hamas launches rockets from hospitals and schools indiscriminately; Palestinian children are deployed as human shields. Not newsworthy. Palestinians stab tourists outside the gates in Jerusalem’s Old City. A minor incident, especially if the victims are either Jewish or white. What’s “fit to print” is always reduced to an indictment of Israeli reprisal, which is presented as disproportionate and aimed at civilians. 

Moral clarity gets lost in this fog of twisted perceptions and altered states. Israel wins wars it does not start and rather than set the terms for surrender, global opinion insists that it instantly sue for peace—and then return conquered land. Palestinian attacks on civilians are dismissed as the price Israel should pay for the “Occupation.”

Anti-Semites will accept any story that demonizes Jews. They are forever the world’s scapegoat from which there is no escape. Blamed for its problems. Subjected to its absurd double standards. Always portrayed in a false light. And self-hating Jews are quite comfortable looking unfavorably upon their own people, a life’s mission dedicated to distancing themselves from the tribe. They don’t seem to understand that trying to convince Christians that they are among the “good Jews” is a self-defeating crusade.

Which comes down to this unassailable inflection point: There’s never a shortage of people who will gladly adopt the Palestinian version of events.

Anti-Semites will accept any story that demonizes Jews.

Yet, is there no consequence to these delusions—moral or otherwise? It is the deliberate circulating of an entirely wrong set of facts with no attention paid to truth.

In 2020, the actor Seth Rogen appeared on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, where he revealed that he was lied to as a child in a Vancouver Hebrew School. Apparently, he was told that no Arabs lived in Israel at the time of its creation, that Britain was overseeing a totally empty piece of land that eventually was awarded to the Jews. Camels, dates, and sand were in abundance—but, improbably, no Arabs. He wanted listeners to know that this inexcusable omission has left him incensed and caused him to reject the idea of a Jewish state altogether.

How can a Jewish person be that ignorant of basic facts, while also casually rejecting the self-determination of his own people? Rogen accused the Zionist movement of conning not just the world, but Jewry itself! The Conflict and all its complexity, simplified by someone who wasn’t paying attention in Hebrew School. The 2,000 years of Jewish wandering, an exile that ended for him in western Canada, is a mere trivial detail in recorded history. 

Let me be clear: If the Arabs of British Mandate Palestine wished to rename themselves “Palestinians,” that is their right. There will always be right-wing Jews who argue that Palestinians are simply Jordanians who want their own country. I am not among them. Like many Jews and Israelis, I accept the reality that Arabs and Jews always lived in the land that is now Israel—which include the disputed territories. There is no dispute about that. But the question of nationhood is equally without dispute: There has never been an Arab, no less Palestinian nation, on Israeli soil. 

The problem is that Palestinians profess to want the land and the title, but they refuse to put in the work necessary to achieve statehood. States are not built on the foundation of hate alone. All those rejected peace offers are telling. It suggests a fear of what it takes to bring about an actual Palestine. Fantasizing about a mythical homeland while seeking to destroy the Jewish one is far more satisfying. 

Palestinians may lack confidence in everything except their disdain for Jews, which is prodigious, but also poisonous. After all, both are descendants of Abraham, a sibling enmity that is as tragic as it has been long-lasting. The Abraham Accords, so aptly named, was regrettably not launched where it was most needed.

There has never been an Arab, no less Palestinian nation, on Israeli soil.

But while Palestinians may be indigenous to the land of Israel, they are wholly disingenuous in presenting themselves as its perpetual victims. Nothing was stolen from them. They are stateless because they never had a state—not because they were denied one, or had one taken away. Indeed, it’s not at all clear whether they actually want one. When your patriotism is inversely related to the death of Zionism, you’re not ready for statehood.

For a people without a country, with no national currency, political history, sustained leadership, defined borders, or even a gross national product aside from terrorism, Palestinians have nonetheless created the illusion of a homeland lost to Jewish land-grabbers. After all those hijacked planes, murdered Olympic athletes, a handicapped man (69-year-old Leon Klinghoffer) tossed overboard from a cruise ship, elderly Parisian grandmothers thrown from balconies, pizza shop and Passover Seder bombings, the Palestinians finally discovered their true calling—the branding of their suffering, and the delegitimizing of the Jewish state. 

If you can’t beat them, defame them.

Palestinian rage is understandable, the bitterness of seeing Israel rise from the sands of the Middle East and in a mere handful of decades, emerge as an economic juggernaut and regional superpower. But that rage is not limited to violence alone. It has been channeled into a secret weapon worthy of TV’s Mad Men – the deploying of Madison Avenue techniques to peddle propaganda. Israel has been outmaneuvered in both the game theory of hasbara and the conspiracy theories of old. 

The case for the Jewish state is a tough sell, always perhaps, but especially these racism-shaming days. Palestinians are invoking Jim Crow but dispensing with passive nonviolent resistance. Sympathy for Jews in this cultural moment is a woke outrage; while criticizing Muslims, even the fanatically murderous variety, is categorically taboo. 

Will this new marketing strategy continue to succeed? Hard to tell. Palestinian petulance has always been rewarded. And there’s no Iron Dome for global revulsion. Yet, with the normalizing of relations with Israel, Gulf nations have seemingly withdrawn from the Palestinians, favoring a more profitable trading partner, instead. Angry Arabs can be tiresome. And hate does not a nation make. 

Palestinians have rejected peace offers that would have given them 97 percent of what they had ostensibly asked for. It’s what they can’t respectably ask for that is the real problem: dead Jews.

Palestinianism is the Natural Front for Islamism

Across the planet, radicalization among diverse Muslim-majority communities continues essentially unabated. Most Muslim communities have long ignored, are unaware, or live in fear of the root cause of that radicalization: the ideas of political Islam, or Islamism. There are innumerable opportunities to track and learn about what happens upstream from ideas fueled to send susceptible Muslims hurtling down the river of militant Islamism. But no single idea has given Islamist movements more return on their radicalization investment than “Palestinianism” and the marriage of that national identity movement with Islamism and HAMAS. Understanding this synergy or parasitism is essential to countering the perennially obstructionist and radical elements of the Palestinian leadership establishment. 

More globally, understanding this synergy is also essential to translating how the Palestinian front ideology for Islamism—Palestinianism—is then also capitalized around the world to radicalize other Muslims and legitimize Islamist supremacism. From the United States to Indonesia, this is not simply a phenomenon relegated to Palestinianism, but rather no ethnicity or nationality of Muslims is spared the ravages of the supremacist ideologies of Islamism. 

No single idea has given Islamist movements more return on their radicalization investment than “Palestinianism” and the marriage of that national identity movement with Islamism and HAMAS.

Islamists care nothing about the indigenous ethnicities they conquer. Instead their caliphism steals the grievances of others in order to drive a blinding movement across a people with a common identity. One of the primary worldwide oncogenes of this phenomena is manifested within the Palestinian movement. 

First, let us take a look at Palestinianism as an idea and then look at the idea of Islamism, vis-à-vis HAMAS. Last, we will look at how understanding this phenomenon carries within it the only path to defeating the propaganda machine of Palestinianism’s primary fuel—political Islam. 

Islamists care nothing about the indigenous ethnicities they conquer.

The idea of Palestinianism takes hold

Palestinianism, on its surface, was first described by apologists for the Palestinian movement toward statehood as a “mirror image” of Zionism and part and parcel of a two-state solution. In one of the earliest references to the idea, in 1973, John B. Wolf noted that an outgrowth of the 1967 war had been for Palestinians to recognize their “Palestinianism,” an idea which he noted would integrate them into their lost land and give them a political presence so far ignored. It was a formulation of an idea that essentially legitimized, whether real or not, a deeply seeded concept of a Palestinian state within the Palestinian consciousness. A national identity does not have to be real or even based in an actual existing state for it to quickly become a virulent inspiration of a collectivizing movement. 

Edward Said then gave the term new life defining it as “a political movement that is being built out of a reassertion of Palestinian multiethnic and multireligious history.” Said, a Palestinian-American author and Columbia University professor, made an industry out of obsessively blaming the West for their “bias” in framing the ills of the Palestinian movement. His premise was essentially that if the West changed its vantage point to being one primarily through the lens of Palestinian grievances, it would realize that Zionism (often articulated more obliquely under critique of colonialism or orientalism) was the problem and Palestinianism was the solution. His advocacy for Palestinianism inspired other Western Palestinian intellectuals and apologists like Rashid Khalidi to revise history and expand Palestinian identity from the cultural domain into the national and political domain. Khalidi, for example, later tried to counter the history of early 20th century Zionism by claiming that Palestinianism as a national movement existed long before World War I

This all recently came full circle as growing criticisms of radical Islamist American politicians like Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) were defended last year by anti-Zionists like Peter Beinart, who tried to claim that criticism of these high profile politicians was simply bigoted “anti-Palestinianism.” Beinart and others were feebly attempting to mirror their experience with anti-Zionism with an attempt at equating Palestinianism with domestic American identity politics. Tlaib, an Arab-American, has embraced her identification as a “woman of color.” Beinart made the hysterical claim that “the evidence that the Squad’s critics are anti-Palestinian is far stronger than the evidence that the Squad is anti-Jewish.” In effect, Palestinianism became a central driving force to minimize rank anti-Semitism and normalize the propaganda of Palestinianism. Therefore, clearly diagnosing what Palestinianism actually represents is key.

What exactly is Islamism and how does it inspire Palestinianism?

In short, “political Islam” or “Islamism” is a belief that Muslims have an obligation to promote the public application of their interpretation of sharia (Islamic jurisprudence), and where possible, establish Islamic states. Thus, a political movement embodied by a party or parties whose platform is centered on the advocacy and application of sharia under a collective identity and national flag of Islam is by definition—Islamist.

Islamists believe the Qur’an is the source of law, not a source of law. Argumentation within Islamist governments and parties is based upon clerical interpretations of God’s law, not upon a reasoned deduction of effectiveness of human law. Thus, whatever their interpretation of God’s law is not up for debate or liberty to reject. It is mandated. Citizen rights in the Islamic state are not inalienable from God but rather guaranteed by the “consensus” of the clerics or “ulemaa” (so-called scholars) chosen in this oligarchy to interpret Islam for the nation (or the ummah). No matter how moderate Islamists present themselves, they will always hold on tightly to the notion that a majority Muslim state must be identified as an “Islamic state” with clerical guidance to ensure society’s proximity to the Muslim path. Islamists, when a minority, can often appear to be lawful and to fit within the constructs of minority rights. They will often dissimulate publicly to deceive the population about their long-term intentions. 

Islamists believe the Qur’an is the source of law, not a source of law.

Islamists will use religion and clerical leaders to wrest control of government, society, and culture from the masses. Their populism, where it exists, is rooted in collective faith identity politics of “majoritocracy.” Terrorists do this by any means necessary; non-violent Islamists do it through patient advocacy and slow societal change and even democracy. Islamists try and run under the radar wherever possible, especially where they are a minority because whether violent militants or non-violent civilizational jihadists, their ends justify any means necessary. 

One should read the work of Hasan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood and those of other Muslim Brotherhood ideologues such as Sayyid Qutb, (author of the infamous treatise Milestones) to understand the all-encompassing transnational goals of lslamism. The philosophical father of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sayyid Qutb, spent two years (1948-50) in the United States before going back to lead the founding of the Islamist movement in Egypt with his book Milestones, a short treatise that described the West as the land of Jahilliyah (ignorance) and evil. This treatise listed the ‘Milestones’ for establishment of the Islamic state in order to prevent the descent of society into the evil of the “secularism” he saw in the West. Certainly, the anti-Semitism found in Europe reinforced many of the Islamist constructs he developed for political Islam. The likes of Qutb used whatever constructs they could to advance their Islamist supremacy and discarded as ignorant other constructs that contradicted their Islamist goals. 

Islamism depends upon conspiracy to explain away the weakness of the Muslim condition and the need for Muslim collectivism and Islamic statehood and ultimately neo-caliphism. Although the Muslim Brotherhood has reportedly abandoned its open endorsement of terrorism and changed its methods to include democratic means after the Arab Awakening of 2011, its endgame (theocracy) is still anathema to Western liberal democracies. As I testified to Congress in 2018, the Brotherhood shape-shifts frequently, but its published mission has never changed. Its 18-month rule of Egypt again revealed what Recip Erdogan, the over 20-year President of Turkey and head of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), said in 1996 as Mayor of Istanbul. He noted publicly that “Democracy is like a train; you get off once you have reached your destination.” 

Democracy obviously is not just about the ballot box. It is about a system of law in which every citizen has access, and minority rights are defended. The ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood has flourished over the past century under the toxic atmosphere of despotic dictatorships and monarchies throughout the Muslim world, metastasizing into hundreds of Islamist splinter movements.

Islamism depends upon conspiracy to explain away the weakness of the Muslim condition and the need for Muslim collectivism and Islamic statehood and ultimately neo-caliphism.

An Islamic state, whether ISIS, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, or Turkey (under Erdogan’s AKP) will unite its military as a force fighting for the honor of that Islamic state, fighting for Jihad. The unification of 56 otherwise disparate states under the Organization of Islamic Cooperation is in effect a neo-Caliphate, which is inspired by an attempt to centralize the Islamist collective, whether each state is fully theocratic or pseudo-secular. This is extremely important to an understanding of Palestinianism as there is nothing more convenient to creating a consciousness of an “Islamic Empire” than fabricating and exploiting a national identity that pits Muslim grievances against a ”non-Muslim oppressor.” Islamists exploit this with Palestinians and Kashmiris alike. 

In 2005, Laurie Goodstein, in an interview of Zaid Shakir of the San Francisco based Zaytuna Institute, quoted Imam Shakir as saying, “Every Muslim who is honest would say, I would like to see America become a Muslim country.” The Islamist lens and hijacking of any Palestinian grievances is rooted, not in truth about root causes, but rather in a Machiavellian anti-Semitism that has become an intoxicant not just for young impressionable Palestinian youth but also a rallying cry for Islamists across the planet. 

Most important, as long as domestic and global Islamist influences stranglehold the Palestinian communities, the Islamists of HAMAS have little desire to work toward peace and take in any honest brokerage for realpolitik. Their Islamist platform is wholly dependent upon an infinite propaganda of the anti-Israel, anti-Semitic narrative and the global leadership and funding it gives them from countries that may otherwise be their enemies, from Iran to Pakistan.  

Lastly, as much as an argument could be made that for the Palestinian Christian minority, for example, the Edward Saids and Hanan Ashrawis of the Palestinian movement, Palestinianism was more about a national, cultural, and historic identity, the reality is that HAMAS’ leadership infused an unmistakable definition which made Palestinianism equivalent to an Islamist theocratic state. The useful idiocy of certain Palestinian Christian leaders notwithstanding. 

The Islamist lens and hijacking of any Palestinian grievances is rooted, not in truth about root causes, but rather in a Machiavellian anti-Semitism that has become an intoxicant not just for young impressionable Palestinian youth but also a rallying cry for Islamists across the planet.

The link between Islamism and anti-Semitism

The link between Islamism and anti-Semitism is rather simple. It is self-evident that supremacists from within a particular faith community will create and exploit hatred toward another faith community in order to collectively rally their own followers against a common enemy. Islamists utilize anti-Semitic imagery as a tool for their own ascension into power among Muslim-majority communities and nations. Islamists often exploit both the Muslim Ummah and the Jewish minority in order to create a groupthink against the “other.” The demonization of Jews by Islamists is a key signal to all of us, not only because of its imminent threat to all Jews across the world from Islamists who may become violent or oppressive, but also because beneath that hatred lies a more global supremacism that treats all minorities from within the faith and outside the same, as obstacles to their own ascension. These theo-fascists use the demonization of minorities as populist tools to rally populations to their fascism.  

In Arab-majority nations, Islamist movements have always set themselves up to fill in the vacuum created by Arab authoritarianism and fascism. Per that playbook, Palestinianism, in its form as a supremacist racial national identity has found itself usurped also by the Islamist movement of HAMAS. HAMAS’ propaganda has always been that they are the “moral and religious” alternative to the secular, God-less, Fatah Party. They insist that their version of Palestinianism is far more moral and protective of Palestinians when, in reality, they are just as corrupt but keep the Palestinians beholden to grander global Islamist movement interests and the strings of every OIC Islamist regime that sends them aid and weaponry. 

 Islamists utilize anti-Semitic imagery as a tool for their own ascension into power among Muslim-majority communities and nations.

The hate created by both the secular and Islamist fascists in the Arab world has also tellingly fueled a mass exodus of the Jewish people that began in 1948 at Israel’s founding when there were more than 800,000 Jews living in Arab lands.  Today, it is believed that there are less than 20,000 remaining.  That exodus has carried over to the Christian community where it is believed more than two million Christians have fled the Middle Eastern Arab community in the last 20 years. This vacuum of religious diversity only fuels the Islamists’ supremacist mentality. 

The exploitation of Israel among Islamists is also virtually a litmus test for anti-Semitism. Martin Kramer, a Middle East scholar has noted, “Islamists see Israel as a symptom of a larger conspiracy against them either Western or Jewish or a sinister combination of the two. Many Islamists today do not look at Israel or its policies as their irritant. They look beyond, either to America, symbol today of the power of the West, or to the Jews, dispersed throughout the West where they exercise a malignant influence. These are deemed to be the real forces driving history.”   

Kramer highlighted in 1994 that Rashid al-Ghannushi, who later happened to become the Tunisian Islamist leader of the ruling Al-Nahda party (Tunisia’s equivalent of HAMAS) stated then that there existed, “a Jewish-American plan encompassing the entire-region, which would cleanse it of all resistance and open it to Jewish hegemony from Marrakesh to Kazakhstan.” This exemplifies the use of conspiracy theories by Islamist demagogues to portray a false narrative against Israel and thus by association, all Jews. 

These conspiracy theories then spread like wildfire and are exploited by fellow global Islamist movements of all stripes to broaden the conspiracy against all Muslims and provide more excuses for the failures of Muslim-majority nations. When the OIC met in Malaysia, Prime Minister Mahatir told the crowd, “The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.” Reports were that the crowd responded with a “resounding ovation.” This fits with the opinion polls from Pew for those nations.   

No one personifies the symbiosis of global Islamism and the HAMAS grievance narrative better than the de facto leader of Sunni Islamism across the planet, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. Al-Qaradawi is an icon of the Islamist movement. His presence on Al Jazeera, teaching Arab masses about Sharia and Life with more than 60 million viewers, has made him one of the greatest threats to Israel and the West among Islamists. His influence and perch from Qatar upon the Islamist movement and Muslim majority nations is unparalleled. Any review of his work in Arabic would show how deeply central his apologetics for HAMAS and his demonization of Israel are. Again, global Islamism needs the Islamist narrative form of Palestinianism to fuel its continued existence. 

HAMAS 

HAMAS (Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya- Islamic Resistance Movement) is a militant Palestinian spin-off of the Muslim Brotherhood founded by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in the 1980s. As radical as they were employing suicide bombing and jihad, they tried to portray themselves on the Palestinian street as the only viable alternative to Fatah, and more moderate than the militant PIJ (Palestinian Islamic Jihad). HAMAS took over the Gaza Strip from the other Palestinian political party, Fatah, in elections in 2006. It rightly remains a U.S. designated foreign terror organization (FTO) because of its comprehensive utilization of terrorism underpinned by a charter and ideology that explicitly endorses terror and jihad. It still gets massive material and financial support from Iran as well as political support from Turkey and other OIC nations. Its politburo (governing council elected by its “shura council”) was long led by Khaled Meshal who was perched in Damascus until the Arab Awakening, and now is led by Ismail Haniyeh since 2017, who has operated from Doha, Qatar since 2020.  

HAMAS’ rule of Gaza, as it took over Palestinian Authority institutions, has left little doubt of the type of rule their Islamism brings. Its judiciary has empowered authoritarian institutions based in draconian sharia law which is misogynistic, racist, and Islamic supremacist against all other faiths. 

In May 2021, HAMAS and Israel entered their deadliest conflict in over six years. HAMAS and PIJ initiated the war firing thousands of rockets into Israel after weeks of tension in Jerusalem. Hamas likely lost standing among Palestinians, and globally, and found that the best way to curry favor with their followers in the Islamist movement was through engaging in armed conflict with Israel. Ten Israeli civilians were killed and more than 300 injured. Evidence showed coordination with the IRGC and Lebanon’s Hizballah. Israel was forced to respond militarily to remove the threat of rocket attacks posed by HAMAS and its terror supporters in Gaza. Soon thereafter a cease-fire was achieved, and Palestinianism only again grew stronger as HAMAS’ aggression somehow bolstered their victimhood narrative. 

Palestinians need their own ‘Arab Awakening’

Last year’s armed conflict between HAMAS and Israel, which started with HAMAS’ offensive launching thousands of rockets into Israel aided by the IRGC and other global Islamist interests, only ended with another embarrassing military defeat for HAMAS and its Islamist movement. Yet, the narrative always somehow works out for HAMAS regardless of the reality: a narrative of defense, not offense, of victimhood, not aggressor. Without Islamist supremacism, and its theological underpinnings, their conspiracy-laden fictional accounts would have little traction. Jihadists never lose. Even in suicide, they are the victors. Even in surrender, they will overcome. 

Why does all this matter? Palestinianism is a malleable tool that has certainly been useful over the last half-century for its anti-Semitic exploiters of all stripes, whether Islamist or Arabist or otherwise. Its fungible themes of identity politics, tribal collectivism, grievance narratives, and national supremacism have stood at the ready for any willing accomplice. Yet, the underlying fuel that drives the growth of the movement, despite massive losses year after year, is the inspiration of Islamism. Without Islamism, Palestinianism dies on the vine like every other supremacist national identity in the region before it. With Islamism, it carries the imprimatur of God, of Islam, of faith and the Hereafter. When Islamism is parasitizing Palestinianism, any Islamist Muslim can be a “Palestinianist.” It is quite the phenomena that Pakistani Islamists in the Jamaat Islamiya party, Islamist Supremacists in the Iranian Republican Guard Corps, Islamists in Qatar, Egypt and across the West all chant the Islamist mantras of Palestinianism. Regardless of their own national identity, each are conferred honorary citizenship vis-à-vis Islamism. 

Palestinianism is a malleable tool that has certainly been useful over the last half-century for its anti-Semitic exploiters of all stripes, whether Islamist or Arabist or otherwise.

Invoking Palestinianism can happen literally during any Islamist attack across the planet. As so-called ‘mainstream’ Islamists from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim American Society (MAS) took up the grievance narrative of Lady Al Qaeda, Aafia Siddiqui, the MIT graduate jailed in a federal prison with an 86-year sentence in Texas for trying to kill American soldiers and planning a terror attack in New York City, they radicalized many including a British national, Malik Faisal Akram. Akram attacked a Colleyville, Texas, synagogue on January 16, 2022, taking hostages and demanding Siddiqui’s release. Thankfully, the terrorist was shot dead and the hostages released. It should, however, come as no surprise that this Pakistani cum British radical Islamist immediately targeted the Jewish community when he decided to get vengeance for his militant hero, Aafia Siddiqui. Siddiqui, like her students, was barbarically anti-Semitic. During her trial she demanded that jurors be tested genetically for their Jewish identity. From Afghanistan to Texas, Islamists find immediate common ground as Palestinianists blaming their ills of the day not on the Islamists but upon Israel and the West. 

Interestingly, the Abraham Accords have given new hope to the normalization of relations between some of the Arab gulf states and Israel. They have begun to rupture the once impenetrable front of Muslim-majority nations in the OIC against the state of Israel. But still, Arab monarchies are lower-hanging fruit since as Arabists they will take self-interest and self-preservation over Islamist ideologies every day of the week. While their concessions away from the tired history of anti-Semitism against Israel are a major step forward, it does little to fracture the Islamist hold on Palestinianism. 

In the end, the only viable pathway forward will come when the Palestinians themselves marginalize and defeat the global Islamist movement’s stranglehold on their communities vis-à-vis HAMAS, PIJ, and their tentacles. Palestinianism is a natural front for Islamists to work hand-in-glove with Palestinianists. Yet, it matters little to any of them that the Islamists do not have a care in the world about the actual grievances of Palestinians as they, instead, simply create more grievances. 

Islamists hijack the consciousness of Palestinians, use it for their own global purposes in jihad and caliphism, and dismiss their own crimes against humanity and the radicalization of coming generations. 

In the end, the only viable pathway forward will come when the Palestinians themselves marginalize and defeat the global Islamist movement’s stranglehold on their communities.

Reformist Muslims, with our eyes on the target of the only cure, counter-Islamism, are harboring no illusions. The struggle against Islamism is generational but must be realized. Peace and self-determination for Palestinians can only come after they have shed their Islamist masters. With the Arab Awakening marching across the Arab world, many hoped that it would come to Gaza in protests against HAMAS as well as Fatah. But unfortunately, the battle for the soul of Palestinians has yet to be realized. 

The only pathway for generational security of Israel from Islamists, whether Palestinianists or otherwise, is to join the West in a systematic, public-private, broad-based anti-Islamist strategy to combat Islamist ideology. All free thinkers and liberal leaders in the West, and across the planet, must take sides within the House of Islam with the dissidents against the Islamists. Our Muslim Reform Movement coalition in the West has the makings of a template of how HAMAS, Palestinianists, and other Islamist supremacists can be defeated.

Taking the side of reform-minded Muslims who champion liberty and eschew Islamism, must be the centerpiece of the strategy. Our Muslim Reform Movement is a coalition formed in December 2015, united in our common opposition to theocracy and tyranny, and in the defense of liberty. Our Declaration of the Muslim Reform Movement articulates what we are for and what we are against. No Islamists or Palestinianists would ever be able to honestly sign that declaration. Within its principles and leadership coalition is the makings of the only strategy with an antidote to the poisonous intoxicant of Islamism within Palestinianism.


Footnotes

Wolf, J. B. (1973). Black September: Militant Palestinianism. Current History, 64(377), 5–37. http://www.jstor.org/stable/45312785

Said, Edward (2007). “The Palestinian Experience (1968-1969)”. In Rubin, Andrew; Bayoumi, Moustafa (eds.). The Selected Works of Edward Said, 1966 – 2006. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. pp. 14–37.

Khalidi, Rashid. The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance 1917-2017. 2020.

Martin, Richard C and Barzegar Abbas Ed. Islamism: Contested Perspectives on Political Islam. 1st Edition. Stanford University Press. 2010. Part 2: Political Islam, Liberalism, and the Diagnosis of a Problem by M. Zuhdi Jasser pp. 104-109.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Global Threat. Hearing Before the Subcommittee on National Security of the committee on Oversight and Government Reform. House of Representatives. 115th Congress. Second Session. July 11, 2018. Serial No. 115-90.

 The Salience of Islamic Antisemitism: It’s not just about Israel, but neither is it the nature of Islam. Institute of Jewish Affairs Reports.  No 2. October 1995.

Schrag, Carl. Malaysia’s Casual Anti-Semitism. Slate.com.  October 20, 2003.

Jasser, M. Zuhdi. Anti-Semitism: A Growing Threat to All Faiths. Testimony to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations. U.S. House of Representatives. February 27, 2013.

Bartal, Shaul, Rubinstein-Shemer, Nesya, and Karsh, Efraim. Hamas and Ideology: Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi on the Jews, Zionism and Israel (Israeli History, Politics, and Society). 1st Edition. 

CFR Backgrounder: What is Hamas. Zachary Laub and Kali Robinson. Council on Foreign Relations. August 17, 2021. 

Now It All Makes Sense: ‘Palestine’ as Keystone

Did it make sense for Nazi Germany to waste precious wartime resources pursuing worldwide Jewish genocide? Or what happened in Colleyville, Texas, on January 15, 2022 – did that make sense? Malik Faisal Akram flew from England to Texas and took a Jewish congregation hostage, demanding “the release of, as he said, ‘my sister,’ Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani Jihadist held in federal prison in Fort Worth.” Why? Because, he claimed, “Jews control the world, Jews control the media, Jews control the banks … Jews control everything.” This kind of craziness goes back some 2,000 years. But you know that! 

For I’m preaching to the choir and our congregation knows the story. Who else was murdered by the millions in facilities designed to create nothing other than Hell on Earth? What other people has been deemed to deserve it—to the detriment and even self-destruction of the persecutors themselves? We know about being regularly beset by absurd injustices—what it is to be against impossible odds—and to lose. We know of the hopelessness of those who died in the camps – our relatives, our allies. We know that Sophie Scholl and her friends in the White Rose resistance movement were captured and executed. 

Nothing makes sense. I mean, did it make sense for Germany to waste precious wartime resources pursuing worldwide Jewish genocide—a policy founded on nothing but obsessional delusion?

I’m addressing those who already have a sense of such realistic hopelessness. I remember hearing the testimony of a Holocaust survivor: “We knew, every day, that we would die—we had no hope … and yet…” 

And I’m addressing those who understand that “Jews may be guilty of many things, but I would put it to you that they are never, never guilty of the crimes with which anti-Semitism charges them,” as the scholar Ruth Wisse said. So I’m not going to make that case, and I speak to those who recognize anti-Jewish prejudice precisely by such false charges. To those who believe otherwise, as well as to those who remain unaligned (and those passing by who catch an earful of my sermon), I say: listen, if you want to, if you can, if you feel drawn (you may be changed); otherwise, move along. 

The congregation I’m addressing is not defined by religious affiliation, or by tribalism in either its positive or negative sense, not by indelible markers or even by general life choices, but instead by decisions made in the moment—any moment, every moment. It requires a decision for truth—a wager on its validity, on its value; a decision for fidelity—to the facts of the case, to what’s given in reality; for honesty—with an oath, a pledge; and for justice—the truest possible, for such fallible beings. It is a decision made, in every case, in each individual heart. 

***

And since you already know, I don’t need to convince you that the charges against Israel are, as Jewish advocate Dani Ishai Behan puts it, 80 percent lies and 20 percent half-truths (though it’s always good to be reminded). Nor do I need to rehearse the details of the defense when, amongst ourselves, it suffices merely to recite the litany: 

We’ve pointed out these realities tirelessly, but it makes little impression. We’ve answered the unjust charges reasonably and with overwhelming evidence, but to no avail because we’re up against unreason. The fact that our prosecutors’ case is the exact obverse of the Israeli one is plain to us, though not to the wider world. And we know why: because the truth is coherent, they’ve modeled their every point on it, but in reverse. 

The charges against Israel are 80 percent lies and 20 percent half-truths.

We know that the so-called “Nakba” is a cruel, cynical ruse to usurp the true horror of the Shoah, to seize the status of victim for its public relations appeal. But with such outrageous accusations levelled so relentlessly at the Jewish state, who—outside of our circle—isn’t naturally going to wonder if there isn’t fire where there’s so much smoke? And while people do admit there may be “two sides to the story,” even that much—giving the Jews some benefit of the doubt for being such frequent victims of persecution—increasingly requires the willingness to defy an angry chorus and to risk having one’s voice cancelled completely. 

This exposes a stark reality. Out of three possible judgments—Israeli/Jewish responsibility for the conflict, Arab/Muslim responsibility, or combined Israeli/Jewish and Arab/Muslim responsibility—only actual Jewish innocence seems inconceivable today, even to the most generous of viewpoints. 

***

My own wholehearted support of Israel was not a foregone conclusion. If life experience made me aware of Jewish suffering (my great-uncle had been in Dachau, my father’s family had left Eastern Europe and its pogroms for the Americas), and if my patrilineal connection gave me some skin in the game (I was ashamed, for example, of “looking Jewish”), these also helped orient me toward the suffering of Palestinian Arabs. I could easily imagine them feeling aggrieved about their loss of land, their military defeats, their living conditions. 

And if liberal parents and a rebellious bent led me to question convention and authority, Israel did represent one of those authorities, its essential rightness a convention of my upbringing. If my icons of politics and philosophy—self-described defenders of the underdog, challengers of the status quo—were interrogating its public face, how could I help but ask along with them: Is Israel an apartheid state? Does it oppress Arabs? Does it silence its critics? Has it betrayed its professed ideals? Was it born in an “original sin” of dispossession? 

I became “critical of Israel,” as people sometimes say of themselves. No, I didn’t accept (unlike many, it must be said) the most fanatical charge: that Israel had become Nazi-like and therefore, like Nazi Germany, shouldn’t exist. I knew that was nonsense—though probably inevitable, given the psychological factors (and, of course, a post-Nazi Germany does continue to exist). But surely Israel was committing the crimes and transgressions enumerated by my progressive sources. Why should this be inconceivable? If Jews are just human (the very argument against anti-Jewish demonization), why mightn’t they give in to vengeance, or simply act badly? Who in history hasn’t done as much, at some point? 

If Israel is in fact behaving like apartheid South Africa, it should be subject to the same sanctions, no less—though also no more! For if it manifests the violence of abused-become-abuser, doesn’t it deserve our love as much as our censure? Because other historical victims-turned-victimizers were provided by my progressive models, with justifications for their extremism, it seemed only fair that Israel be judged according to the same standards. And couldn’t the Jews, of all people, be forgiven some overreaction? The worldwide Jewish population hasn’t to this day returned to pre-Holocaust levels! But even my attempted evenhandedness (itself shockingly rare) was utterly off the mark. It didn’t take into account the mythical power of “Palestine” and its apocalyptic battle with the “Zionist entity.” 

***

I did at last come to realize, less than a decade ago, that Israel is not guilty. Studying the contending positions, weighing the credibility of the parties, considering the psychological dimensions, reasoning as objectively as I could, I finally determined that the charges are not only false, but made in bad faith. The accusers pervert the course of justice for their self-serving, unjust ends. 

Israel is not guilty of a founding sin, not guilty of repeated aggressions, not guilty of land-theft or historical revisionism, not guilty of expansionism or imperialism, not guilty of supremacism, not guilty of indefensible violence. (If, unlike the people I’m addressing directly, you’re not convinced of this position, you can’t do much better for an objective overview than Ben-Dror Yemini’s Industry of Lies: Media, Academia, and the Israeli-Arab Conflict – or, for that matter, this issue of White Rose Magazine.) Should Israel have acted wrongly in some instance (of which there is, I swear, indeed remarkably little evidence), such exceptions have no bearing on Israel’s supposed fundamental crime, the crime of existing. 

And double-jeopardy applies: that charge can never again be given credence. Even in the face of other, lesser charges, one’s first response must now be disbelief, for there exist no prior bad acts to be taken into account, and the prosecution’s zeal has been exposed as agenda-driven, its objections as slanderous distractions. As we’ve cried out for 2,000 years: the Jews are not guilty!

But you know that. 

***

If we want to talk about systemic bias, how about one that regularly accuses Jews of the most heinous crimes, prejudges them as guilty, then sentences them to the most brutal punishments—a “system” that includes Christian, Islamic, secular, even Jewish variants, a protocol of thinking now 2,000 years old? Who wouldn’t despair? I feel it sometimes, and I don’t live on the Gaza border, subjected to the incessant renewals of attack, to rockets from above, terror tunnels from below, environmental arson all around—not to mention a media determined to misreport the situation, if mentioning it at all. Nor am I on a Western campus, isolated and facing an indoctrinated mob barely able to contain its urge to hurt—an ever more common occurrence, one coming entirely from the left, but one that hardly registers among Western liberals, including campus administrators. 

But I do see things plainly and clearly (now). And that’s part of my message: the whole is visible like never before. Yet, we can’t help but ask, isn’t it all the more overwhelming to rehearse such a record of wrongs, all the more hopeless to glance back over such a history of loss? In a way, yes. Realism! But no, too, because a new clarity may emerge about just what we’re dealing with. 

If we want to talk about systemic bias, how about one that regularly accuses Jews of the most heinous crimes, prejudges them as guilty, then sentences them to the most brutal punishments—a “system” that includes Christian, Islamic, secular, even Jewish variants, a protocol of thinking now 2,000 years old?

In Germanic legend, there’s a story about how Thor leaves the human world, Midgard, to visit Utgard, “the beyond,” where King Loki challenges him to prove his strength. But it’s a trick: the cat Loki directs Thor to pick up is really a section of the world-encircling Midgard Serpent. So try as he might, Thor can’t help but fail. The cat’s ordinary appearance masks its incomparable immensity. Our situation is different, because we do know the enormity of what we’re up against. But the hostage-taking at Beth Israel in Colleyville was resolved when the rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker, threw a chair at their captor, allowing the four hostages to escape. This sermon of mine is about that chair, which—thanks to our historical moment—is within all our grasp. 

Thor and Loki’s Cat

I know that “the Israeli/Palestinian conflict” seems too big to lift, too heavy in every way, and it can be massively destructive when wielded against us. But taking it up into our thinking we actually hold the very key not just to the moral, spiritual fight for the Jewish people, as if that weren’t enough. Our decision to see through the spectacle to its meagre ordinariness, to pull back the curtain on the Wizard, shows to the world that truth, fidelity, honesty, and justice won’t be held hostage, illegitimately occupied, self-servingly redefined—un-defined—by their enemies, despite their bluster, despite even their desperate violence. 

***

The word “Palestine” has become wildly mythologized, has come to fairly drip with classic anti-Semitic associations, generally unrecognized as such. We, of course, know the old tropes: rapacious Jewish land theft, secretive Jewish power, child-murdering Jewish fanaticism, innocence defiled by an alien Jewish presence. They explain why anti-Jewish persecution has always played out the same way: a misunderstood minority is imagined as having outsized influence but is much weaker in reality than the majority and therefore makes the perfect target for any show of false bravery—a “punching down” portrayed as its complete opposite by the perpetrating mob. 

The unique geopolitical situation of Israel has thus been ideal for the emergence of the newest version of the old configuration. For a calculating focus—“Checkpoints!” “Refugee camps!”—can easily make Israel look like the bad guy. In reality, it’s but a tiny country with a tiny population, beset by internal enemies and outnumbered by external aggressors, facing a “Long War” waged by the most patient of foes, in an unsympathetic global context. Denial of context is key, the refusal of a broader perspective—for as we know, checkpoints are but a practical response to Arab terror, and Palestinian Arab living conditions are kept poor by their own leadership. Why? To cultivate despair and render civilians more easy to weaponize against the Jews—who are portrayed as the obstacle to Islamic supremacist dreams, as substitute villains to be blamed for Arab misery. To create conditions not unlike those of Germany, 1930—fertile ground for would-be dictators, with a ready supply of disaffected potential extremists. 

The word “Palestine” has become wildly mythologized, has come to fairly drip with classic anti-Semitic associations, generally unrecognized as such.

Israel’s military may be renowned, but we know the story of its gradual build-up from nothing in the face of repeated assault. We’re rightfully proud of its proficiency, and of its precision in minimizing civilian casualties—we know Israel has no bloodlust. And we know beyond doubt that Israel would have preferred not to need a military at all, to have lived in peace from the outset. We know, too, that every self-defensive Israeli gesture will be met with condemnation, will be presented to—and taken by—the world as an Israeli offense (for, as we know, Jews are never granted the right to be “innocent until proven guilty”). 

But if we zoom out, what appeared upside-down—as a cartoonish hell with no explanation beyond “Jewish evil”—is suddenly righted, explicable by the most pragmatic, psychologically obvious interpretation. The Nazis had unified, controlled, and exploited a war-scarred, post-Depression populace by conjuring a demon of epic proportion and sending Germany into existential struggle against it. The forces arrayed against Israel have more at stake even than Hitler’s “Thousand Year Reich”: the worldwide caliphate, the millennial victory of Islamism, the absolute confirmation of their belief. And they’re aided and abetted by that other would-be world conqueror, utopian collectivism/leftism, in almost all its variations. 

If we take a still longer view, we can see beyond even this understandable if unfortunate drive to conquest (“It’s just human nature”). Crucial though it is to refute the “Big Lie” of Israeli criminality, to expose the base motives behind its enemies’ high-minded talk of “rights” and “justice,” all we’ve shown is familiar human ugliness at work. (Practically speaking, achieving even this level of humanization is usually impossible with anti-Israel activists). Yes, the image of “Palestine” holds together a narcissistic role-play in which real people are demeaned into fairy-tale opponents. But what is revealed by this construction is not merely a pathetic pretense or a rigged game, not just the power-lust of the immature or a desperate con-job—all prosaic insights, however vital. It discloses something far more consequential for everyone. 

***

Complex and unresolvable as it is, yet somehow transcendently singular, Jewish peoplehood has been attacked in its every aspect in historical turn: the religious dimension (deicide, “Christ-killers”), the geographic (exile and diaspora), social (ghettoization, expulsion), biological (“racial inferiority”), cultural (“Degenerate Art”), and finally, today, the political as such (“Israel is illegitimate”). But these onslaughts haven’t been random: each is meaningful, for their objects together form the very image of human personhood. What is a person, after all, but a spiritual, geographical, social, biological, cultural, political being? To be anti-Jewish is thus to be anti-human, to flee the demands of personhood as such. And this coherence has only become visible today, because over time the anti-Jewish figure has shown itself completely, thanks to the survival – spiritual, geographic, social, biological, cultural, and political – of the Jewish people. 

Even more: as the people, Israel, were chosen by their G-d as “a light unto the nations,” so the region, Israel, may function for anyone as a light on human universality, on the place of truth, fidelity, honesty, and justice – for those with eyes to see, for those who decide to look with truth, fidelity, honesty, and justice. It creates a line that cuts through every positive identity, every abstract demographic: Christian, Muslim, secular, even Jewish; traditionalist, conservative, liberal, radical. If one decides, in one’s own heart, for oneself, to abide by truth, fidelity, honesty, and justice, one will find oneself among genuine allies, sharing a cardinal orientation if not every particular position. And one will find oneself on the side of Israel – that ethnically diverse, politically pluralistic, religiously tolerant, argumentative but life-affirming nation, that state which is more than just another country (as its enemies clearly realize, on the deepest level). 

***

From our long vantage point, we will see, too, that Jewish values have won—despite their repeated betrayal by hypocrisy. In fact, our very awareness of hypocrisy testifies to their triumph, for otherwise people (and regimes) would get on with their self-serving acts without the need for higher “moral” excuses. The true source of the fantasy of Jewish world domination is Judaism’s actual universal influence on consciousness! It testifies to the supreme elevation of conscience—the inescapable presence, in each person’s mind, of that infinite demand to take the other into account, to consider the effect of one’s actions on one’s neighbor. (Hitler, remember, thought conscience a Jewish invention.) 

This is why Israel’s enemies can’t simply annihilate it, but must pretend to defeat it on its own ground—must illegitimately claim the mantle of truth, honesty, fidelity, and justice before a bought or bullied jury. It’s why Jewish anti-Zionists can claim to be truer to Jewish values than Zionists: even their spurious authority comes from speaking “as a Jew.” For the Jewish people do, as it happens, stand on the side of right in the courtroom of universality, despite their enemies’ overwrought denials (which, seen through, only further reinforce the fact). 

“Palestine” is the keystone in an edifice of lies, and its removal can bring down the walls. It is what psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan designated with the term point de capiton, the “quilting point” that sutures together a fabric, unifying all the pieces of an ideology, giving the whole its semblance of truth. In the fever-dreams of Israel’s enemies, “Palestine” makes it all make sense—not just this specific historical, religious, social, political conflict, but everything: history, religion, society, politics. They believe all inequities will be ironed out, all struggles pacified, utopia flower, if there is but “justice in Palestine.” 

“Palestine” is the keystone in an edifice of lies, and its removal can bring down the walls.

We know—those of us who care about the reality of truth, fidelity, honesty, and justice—that this inversion of reality casts their position on everything else into doubt. If you’re so committed to one illusion, how can your other views be trustworthy? Sure, it’s understandable to prefer a fairy tale where you’re the vanquishing hero to a lifelong struggle against the odds. Yes, it’s sometimes awkward to stand with people who disagree about fundamental things – though the workers, bankers, artists, students, Christians, Jews, Roma, soldiers, intellectuals, farmers, and shop-keepers of the anti-Nazi resistance knew their common enemy (imagine the philosophical debates!). 

But to place a fabrication based on lies and evasions at the symbolic center of your worldview? Israel, in this fantasy, represents the epitome of all Western evils rolled into one. It is meant to be guilty of all our era’s ultimate crimes. And like every historical example of this same pattern, Jews are imagined as being virtually all-powerful, with only the shaheed for jihad—or “Siegfried” queered, depending on your background—able to take them down. (Recall our Colleyville hostage-taker’s tirade.) 

***

Finally, demythologizing “Palestine” offers us a unique and decisive purchase on modernity itself – on the very questions of meaning that haunt our post-truth times. For the whole “anti-Zionist complex” (as Jacques Givet titled his masterful book) is not simply a lie, or even the sort of demonization common to all warring enemies. If it were, it wouldn’t have the uncanny power it does, the superficial allure to seduce ideological opponents, the shiny promises so attractive to the easy mark. The collectivist fantasy of “Palestine” presents the very mirror-image of the community of truth: the latter cuts across simplistic identities, bringing together disparate individuals through their own choice for conscience; the former provides those wishing to avoid the challenges of personhood with the cheap satisfactions of conformity and self-gratification. 

The deconstruction of truth in contemporary culture is not separate from the line of development that begins with Judaism’s earliest enemies, and that results in what Holocaust survivor Primo Levi called “the anti-creation” of the camps – the murder, not just of human beings but of the very idea of the human, as survivor Elie Wiesel said. In the real-life logic of history, in the sense behind many sensational events, Israel – name of the people and of the nation – is indeed pivotal. 

Demythologizing “Palestine” offers us a unique and decisive purchase on modernity itself – on the very questions of meaning that haunt our post-truth times.

In the fantasy on which Israel’s enemies rely, “Palestine” is the keystone, quilting point, linchpin. But in our hands, the reality of Israel is that chair with which the rabbi took out the Beth Israel attacker. In our discussions and debates, in our own minds when trying to wrestle with the huge, seemingly world-encircling serpent that is anti-Jewish prejudice, we are – thanks to the truth revealed by the facts – in the remarkable situation of being able to lift the cat, to throw the chair. It can be wielded by anyone who takes the long view, who grabs reality by the big picture, and whose aim is guided by truth, fidelity, honesty, and justice. 

I’m preaching to the choir: sing out! Even in the surest knowledge of hopelessness, the word of our congregation, clearly articulated and precisely targeted, can disable a hallucinating, hysterical attacker. And to save a life—not least, one’s own—is to save a world. 

“We had no hope … and yet … ” 

CODA: A chair for everyone – As my friend, artist Gilles Goyette, asks when challenging accusations of Zionist “Nazism” by leftists and Islamists: whose side do you think would Hitler have been on today, that of Israel or that of Israel’s enemies? In other words, here’s a “Beth Israel chair” that anyone can use to hit the target square on the head, because everyone knows the answer. Would Hitler have sided with the Jews? The idea is laughable, absurd. So throw the chair: “If Hitler were alive now, how would you feel about being on his side?”

A Genealogy of the Idea of ‘Palestine’

The Genealogy of Ideas is the history of the evolution of thought around any particular subject. 

It is part of the larger subfields of Cultural and Intellectual History. However, it touches upon every aspect of the field, such as Social History, Military History, Economic History, etc.. What distinguishes the History of Ideas from other categories is that it traces how various people thought about the object of discussion and how those ideas influenced behavior.

The history of the notion of “Palestine” spans millennia and evolved continually from the ancient Greeks to the Romans, to Christianity in the Middle Ages, to 19th century European Zionism, to the Arab states in their alliance with the Soviet Union in the 20th century, and, finally, to the western-left following the 6-Day War of 1967. It was after that moment that the western-left adopted Arab notions of “Palestinian” indigeneity to Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel), thereby validating and financing the long Arab-Muslim War against the Jews of the Middle East.

The Jewish Presence – Pre-History, the Bible, and the Babylonian Exile of 587 BCE:

The Jewish experience in Canaan precedes formal history. The early Jews, much like the early Muslims, had no notion of “Palestine” until it was foisted upon the people by Emperor Hadrian and the Romans in the 2nd century CE and then, later, by the European Christians in the early Medieval period. No Jew, from the time of Abraham through until the Jewish nation’s defeat and scattering by the Romans, considered themselves “Palestinian.” The Philistines, however, they were certainly well-aware of.

Although the Philistines are referred to numerous times in the Hebrew Bible, even the ancient Egyptians were aware of their presence as we know from reliefs at the Temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu. The Hebrew Bible, of course, is not a historical text in the way professional historians think of such work. Rather, it is a primary source from which historians draw, but do not consider definitive. The Bible is an early attempt at the writing of history and tells us much about the Jewish people. 

The Israelites encountered the Philistines in the Biblical account when they entered Canaan. The Philistines preceded the Israelites, who followed Moses and Joshua out of slavery in Egypt to the “Promised Land.” Each considered the other a hostile power because, in a conflict over land and, thus, the means for survival, they were enemies. 

In Genesis 21-22, we read of Abraham and Isaac and their dealings with Abimelech (a generic Biblical name for all kings of the Philistines) and their negotiations and treaties. Just as Abraham prayed for peace between his eldest son, Ishmael, child of Hagar, (his concubine) and his son Isaac, so he prayed for peace between the Israelites and the Philistines.

In any case, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II destroyed the Philistine city of Ashkelon in 604 BCE, wiping the Philistines off the face of the planet. The Jews were a bit luckier. In 587 the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, resulting in what history knows as the Babylonian Exile. But the Jews survived the Babylonians. The Philistines did not.

The Ancient Greeks – 5th Century BCE:

The Philistines, as an Aegean people, were kin to the Greeks. The Greek Reporter tells us:

“Philistines were very likely of Greek origin, according to a recent DNA study that traces the origins of the ancient villains in the Eastern Mediterranean.

This is actually the first study of DNA recovered from an ancient Philistine cemetery, as scientists wanted to find the roots of the infamous people of the Hebrew Bible, according to a report in National Geographic.

It is therefore not particularly surprising, that the ancient Greek historian, Herodotus (484 – 425 BCE), is the first person in recorded history to use the term “Palestine” as a geographical location. 

As he was writing during the Babylonian Captivity, he makes no reference to the Land of Israel, however as we read in the text of the Histories, he refers to “Palestine” nine times. 

In The Fifth Book of the Histories, Called Terpsichore, Herodotus tells us that, “the sea coast of Syria; and this part of Syria and all as far as Egypt is called Palestine.” 

In The Fourth Book of the Histories, Called Melpomene, he further claims:

Now in the line stretching to Phenicia from the land of the Persians the land is broad and the space abundant, but after Phenicia this peninsula goes by the shore of our Sea along Palestine, Syria, and Egypt, where it ends; and in it there are three nations only.

One thing is clear. At no point in the Histories are the people of “Palestine” ever represented as Arab. They certainly could not be Muslim because Muhammad was not born for many centuries to come.

Despite Arab claims to the contrary, contemporary “Palestinians” have no historical connection to either the land conquered by the Philistines, nor Canaan more generally, as their forbearers largely remained within the Arabian Peninsula until shortly after the death of Muhammad in 632 CE. This marks the beginnings of the Arab colonial period, defined by the conquest of the Middle East and the defeat of the Byzantine Empire.

The Romans – Early in the Common Era:

Were it not for the ancient Romans, it is likely that the word “Palestinian” would have disappeared from human lips long ago. For the Romans the idea of “Palestine” very specifically referred to the Philistines, which is precisely why Emperor Hadrian, upon the defeat of the Bar Kochba Rebellion (132–136 CE), renamed Eretz Israel as Syria Palaestina. The idea was not merely to humiliate the defeated Israelites by naming their land after its ancient enemies, but to erase Jewish history entirely. Hadrian thus set a precedent later duplicated by the Arabs and their western-left allies to seek erasure of Jewish history on Jewish land.

Despite Arab claims to the contrary, contemporary “Palestinians” have no historical connection to either the land conquered by the Philistines, nor Canaan more generally, as their forbearers largely remained within the Arabian Peninsula until shortly after the death of Muhammad in 632 CE.

During the Roman conquest of the Jewish people many of the Jews who were not slaughtered or crucified were led in chains to Rome, where surprisingly:

… the Jewish community in Rome grew very rapidly. The Jews who were taken to Rome as prisoners were either ransomed by their coreligionists or set free by their Roman masters, who found their peculiar custom obnoxious. They settled as traders on the right bank of the Tiber, and thus originated the Jewish quarter in Rome.

According to Lucius Cassius Dio (155 – 235 CE), a Roman historian and senator:

Five hundred and eighty thousand men were slain in the various raids and battles, and the number of those that perished by famine, disease and fire was past finding out. Thus nearly the whole of Judaea was made desolate, a result of which the people had had forewarning before the war. For the tomb of Solomon, which the Jews regard as an object of veneration, fell to pieces of itself and collapsed, and many wolves and hyenas rushed howling into their cities.

The significant point in terms of the genealogy of the idea of “Palestine,” however, is that the Roman conquest represents the key moment whereby Israel became “Palestine.” Although they failed to wipe out the Jewish people, as the Persians erased the Philistines, they did manage to plant the seed that turned the Jews into “Palestinians.” Any semi-educated Roman understood that the Philistines were long gone by the time Hadrian dragged thousands of Jews to the Rome.

But even they understood that the “Palestinians” were not Arabs. And despite the change of name to Syria Palaestina, everyone understood from that moment until well into the 20th century that inhabitants of “Palestine” were primarily Jews.

The Rise of Christian Europe – The Early Medieval Period to the Crusades:

Following the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, and with the rise of Christian Europe, the idea of “Palestine” took on new meaning. No longer was “Palestine” merely a contemptuous Roman label meant to demean the Jewish people and eliminate Jewish history. Rather, it became an idealized place of religious yearning, often referred to as “The Holy Land.” Church historian and Bishop of Caesarea, Eusebius (263 – 339 CE) represents the first recorded usage of the word “Palestine” within the Medieval European Christian context. He wrote, History of the Martyrs of Palestine thereby unintentionally advancing a malicious Roman usage of the name. From that day to this, “Palestine” or “The Holy Land” has been in regular employment in the West and it was always understood to be the land of the Jewish people and the place where Jesus walked.

Despite the change of name to Syria Palaestina, everyone understood from that moment until well into the 20th century that inhabitants of “Palestine” were primarily Jews.

To a Medieval Christian, the notion that “Palestine” referred to a land indigenous to Arabs and Muslims would have been entirely preposterous, and from a historical perspective even the most illiterate, half-starved, serf would have been entirely correct. Everyone in Christian Europe understood “Palestine” or “The Holy Land” to be the land of their savior, Jesus Christ, who was a Jew believed to have been betrayed by other Jews. This concept goes to the very heart of the Christian faith. Were it not for the betrayal by Judas and, thus, the crucifixion of Christ, there could be no Salvation, nor the advent of Christianity itself. That it was Jewish land, however, was never in doubt. 

During the Crusades, in retaliation for the Muslim conquests of the Christian Byzantine Empire and the Jihad into Europe until halted at “The Gates of Vienna,” the Church sought to claim Jerusalem for itself. But the Crusaders understood, despite their slaughter of the Jews – as a mere interim exercise on their quest to trounce the Islamic Empire – that the land of Jesus was Jewish land at the time of Christ. The Crusaders had no soft and squishy collegial sensibilities with regards other peoples. They wanted, quite simply, to replace the Muslims with the People of Jesus. They longed with religious fervor to stomp out the Muslim conquerors and replace them with the Christian conquerors. That the land had once been Jewish was not relevant to the effort, but it was also not denied. The ones with any education understood that “Palestine” had been the land of the Jews, but why would that fact deter their goal? 

Naturally, it did not. From that day through until most of the 20th century “Palestine” was always understood to be the historical homeland of the Jewish people.

But the Crusaders understood, despite their slaughter of the Jews – as a mere interim exercise on their quest to trounce the Islamic Empire – that the land of Jesus was Jewish land at the time of Christ.

Muhammad and the Quran – Early 7th century:

Despite contemporary ahistorical Arab-Muslim claims to an ancient Palestinian nation that long preceded the rise of the Roman Empire, there is no reference to any such place known as “Palestine” in the Quran. There is, in fact, not even a direct reference to the city of Jerusalem in that book, and Muhammad never once left the Arabian Peninsula and therefore never put a toe in that city. 

Islam today claims that the al-Aqsa Mosque, in Jerusalem, is the ‘third holiest site in Islam.’ It does so because Muhammad is said to have, upon his death, ascended to Paradise on horseback, at the site of the “Farthest Mosque” in what is known as The Night Journey. Contemporary Muslims generally believe this mosque was in Jerusalem, even though there were no mosques in Jerusalem in the year 632, the year of Muhammad’s passing. 

It must be understood that religious mythology, while holding great meaning in the lives of believers, does not constitute historical truth. Nor should it, because that is not its function. As the famous 20th century mythologist, Joseph Campbell, said:

Mythology is not a lie, mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth—penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words.

Mythology is poetry. Muhammad’s Night Journey is religious poetry, perhaps even beautiful religious poetry, but it has nothing to do with historical truth. In much the same way the romantic notion of an ancient (Arab) “Palestine” is likewise mythology, but in the case of “Palestine” it is not even referred to in the Hadiths. 

Even contemporary sources, such as the pro-Palestinian / Jihadi organization Islamweb.net admits this. In a post titled, “Qur’anic verses about war between Israel and Palestine” we read, “The Hadith does not mention Palestine by the name, so this war will be general, i.e. in Palestine and everywhere else.” The Hadiths are Shia and Sunni religious texts, usually thought compiled around the 8th or 9th century, that describe the behavior of Muhammad, allegedly from eyewitness sources. They serve as examples to Muslims on how best to behave to exemplify Muhammad’s principles. “Palestine” is not referenced in the Hadiths, because it is not referenced in the Quran. It is not referenced in either because there was no “Palestinian-Arab” place in history until the United Nations formalized the notion. 

Mythology is poetry. Muhammad’s Night Journey is religious poetry, perhaps even beautiful religious poetry, but it has nothing to do with historical truth.

The Jewish Presence – The First Aliyah:

Theodore Herzl and the First Zionist Congress encouraged and promoted the First Aliyah, the wave of immigration from Europe to Israel in 1881 – 1903, for the Jews chased out of the Pale of Settlement by the pogroms and general Eastern European hostility. This requires very little emphasis because it is so obvious. For millennia, from the time of Bar Kochba until the late 19th century, after being slaughtered and forcibly removed from their homeland, the Jews were the world’s most famous wanderers. The “Wandering Jew” was a popular cliché throughout Europe and the West. The rootless Jew was a villain in the common imagination of many western nations. The Jews who made Aliyah at the end of the 19th century were determined to re-establish themselves in their ancestral homeland. At the time, even the Arabs had no concept of “Palestine” as distinctly Muslim land, other than by right of earlier conquest. It was simply one bit of land among many other much larger parcels that they had taken through Jihad and that, therefore, must always remain Muslim per theological decree. It was only as diaspora Jews returned to the Land of Israel that the Muslim leadership decided that Jerusalem was their third holiest site. Prior to that, some small numbers of Muslims and Arabs made a home for themselves there, but its religious significance was minor. Within the Ottoman Empire it was a backwater.

A glance at this 1875 photograph of the Dome of the Rock speaks volumes:

It was desolate and overgrown with weeds, which would hardly befit the “Third Holiest Place in Islam.” Of course, at the time, the Dome of the Rock, built upon the Second Jewish temple, was not the Third Holiest anything to anyone. The notion that the Temple Mount was holy to Arabs was simply politics and not the least bit reflective of Arab feelings. 

Such a notion, in the long genealogical march of the idea of “Palestine” from Herodotus and Hadrian was definitely not gospel to the approximately 25,000 Jewish people who arrived in Zion under miserable physical and financial conditions during this period. The land was overgrown, untended, filled with swamp, mosquitos, and malaria. Were it not for the generosity of the famous Rothschild family, and its head, the Baron Edmond De Rothschild (1845 – 1934), it is likely that the First Aliyah would have died.  Instead, as Jews cleared land and set up settlements and towns, Arab peasants from elsewhere in the Ottoman Empire began to immigrate to the land, too. 

The British and the Mandate following World War I:

This began to change following the Ottoman defeat in World War 1, by the Allied Powers of France, Britain, Russia, and the United States. In the negotiations after the war, the Mandate of Palestine (full-text) was established as a British protectorate under the League of Nations, thereby maintaining the western inclination toward the idea of (Jewish)“Palestine.” Herodotus (for innocent reasons) and Hadrian (for malicious reasons) dubbed Israel “Palestine” and so “Palestine” it remained. Of course, the post-war San Remo Conference of 1920, divvied up the Ottoman corpse among the European powers, while the text outlining the British Mandate of Palestine called very specifically, following the Balfour Declaration of 1917, for the “close settlement by Jews on the land.” The British immediately violated the Mandate by chopping off three-quarters of it as a gift to the Hashemites – descendants of the Prophet — who created the state of Trans-Jordan (now Jordan).

But even then, the truncated land delegated for the Mandate of Palestine was understood to be the land of the Jews who were giving the British migraines in their determination to continue Aliyah and to settle their own homeland whether anyone liked it or not. The Brits did not particularly like it and neither, obviously, did the Arabs who objected to any Jewish presence unless those Jews conformed to their traditional role of dhimmi with severely limited rights. The Jew among them as subservient they could stomach. The Jew among them as equal, they could not. 

Following the war Aliyah continued and the Jewish people – along with some Arabs, it should be noted – went about building the political, financial, industrial, agricultural, and transportation infrastructure of what would become recognized by the United Nations as the Jewish State of Israel, in Resolution 181, 1948. It should also be noted that the United Nations emphatically did not create the State of Israel. It merely acknowledged the condition of statehood that the Jews had constructed for themselves. 

The Arabs in the 20th Century:

Beneath the Arab surface, however, some Arab Christian intellectuals had already, by the late 19th century, floated the idea of a distinct “Palestinian” nationality. Your average local Arab would not have been aware of any such notion of “Palestinian” nationalism. And the opportunity did not arise until after David Ben-Gurion dubbed the Jewish reclamation of Jewish land Israel (or “He Who Struggles with God” – Genesis 32:28) that the local Arab population could later take up the banner of “Palestine.” 

It should also be noted that the United Nations emphatically did not create the State of Israel. It merely acknowledged the condition of statehood that the Jews had constructed for themselves.

In 1964, Yasser Arafat created the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). They not only insisted upon the ahistorical notion of an ancient “Palestinian” people struggling against Jewish usurpers, but with some helpful advice from the Soviet Union, suggested that Zionism was contemporary Nazism. In other words, they convinced some Western youth that fighting Jewish self-determination in the wake of the Holocaust was actually a fight against a Nazi-like evil. In the effort to demonize the Jews of Israel, the local Arabs in coordination with the Western press, developed what we call “Pallywood.” Pallywood was (and is) staged productions, or highly edited video footage, designed to malign Israel for the purpose of encouraging hatred against, and the eventual dissolution of the Jewish state. This encouraged idealistic western progressives to justify their venom for the Jewish state, and the Jewish people, as a righteous fight against contemporary fascism. Essentially, this is a genocidal project because, were it to succeed, it would leave the seven million Jews in Israel at the mercy of the over four hundred million Muslim-Arabs surrounding them. History very clearly suggests that any such eventuality would lead to the slaughter of those Jews. 

Nonetheless, throughout most of the 1960s, the local Arabs considered themselves Arabs, or often Syrians, but not “Palestinians” because in their experience that referred to the Jewish people, their traditional social inferiors. Many local Arab-Muslims despised the Jewish “Palestinians” because they refused to know their place under Islam.

All of this changed after the 6-Day-War of 1967. It was only after it became clear that the Jewish Israelis would not be so easily removed from the land that Yassir Arafat’s project began to reap significant fruit among the general Arab population who expropriated the name “Palestinians” for themselves as a distinct people.

This history of ideas teaches, among other things, how quickly people can be persuaded to believe virtually anything if the powers-that-be promote an idea, and one’s family and social circle embrace it. So, it was with the Arabs of the former Mandate. Within a very brief period after the Six Day War, a majority of Israeli Arabs  came to think of themselves as “Palestinians,” an allegedly ancient Muslim people. The local Arabs, encouraged by the Soviet Union and then by the western left, took up the notion of an ancient “Palestinian people.” The idea of an ancient “Palestinian” people became so widespread that the Palestinian Board of Tourism claimed (with a straight-face) – as we learn in Ryan Bellerose’s work in this volume –  an amazingly venerable “1 million years of Palestinian history” on this tiny strip of land.

The truth, however, was told by PLO executive committee member, Zahir Muhsein, in 1977, when he said:

“The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity… In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese.”


The Silver Platter

…And the land will grow still
Crimson skies dimming, misting
Slowly paling again
Over smoking frontiers

As the nation stands up
Torn at heart but existing
To receive its first wonder
In two thousand years

As the moment draws near
It will rise, darkness facing
Stand straight in the moonlight
In terror and joy

…When across from it step out
Towards it slowly pacing
In plain sight of all
A young girl and a boy

Dressed in battle gear, dirty
Shoes heavy with grime
On the path they will climb up
While their lips remain sealed

To change garb, to wipe brow
They have not yet found time
Still bone weary from days
And from nights in the field

Full of endless fatigue
And all drained of emotion
Yet the dew of their youth
Is still seen on their head

Thus like statues they stand
Stiff and still with no motion
And no sign that will show
If they live or are dead

Then a nation in tears
And amazed at this matter
Will ask: who are you?
And the two will then say

With soft voice: We–
Are the silver platter
On which the Jews’ state
Was presented today

Then they fall back in darkness
As the dazed nation looks
And the rest can be found
In the history books.

Translated from the Hebrew by David P. Stern

Boy and girl Haganah members, 1948 (Dmitri Kessel)

Palestinianism as Counter-Myth + Islamist Cloak

The truest thing that can be said about Palestinianism is this: if not for Zionism, Palestinianism would not exist. It is, in every way, a reaction to Zionism and what has been achieved through it – namely, the reconstitution of the national home of the Jewish people. And where Zionism is the spontaneous national liberation movement of a people whose connection to the land predates antiquity and modernity alike, Palestinianism was imposed upon Arabs who resided in what was once the colony of Palestine. More than that, it is an adaptation of Arab nationalism, which can be viewed as the intellectualization of a percieved need to reclaim the colonial privilege and sense of ethnonationalist unity that were lost when the Islamic Empire dissolved at the end of WWI. 

The truest thing that can be said about Palestinianism is this: if not for Zionism, Palestinianism would not exist.

And when the Arab League began the process of transforming resettled Arab refugees and Arabs who were adapting to the reality of life in Israel into a discrete Arab Palestinian people, the glue that held together the notion of that people was so weak that the Arab League felt it necessary to strip resettled Palestinians of their rights as citizens and residents of the Arab states wherein they made their homes and to then ghettoize them regardless of their wealth, achievements, and contributions lest they forget that they were now Palestinian first and Arab second. This new condition of otherness and statelessness had two effects. The first was the setting apart of newly minted Palestinians from the pan-Arab world. Many were confined to UNRWA camps that would shortly become slums wherein an authentic voice and the power to transform one’s condition were impossible to come by. The second was that Arabs turned Palestinians were now limited to a politics defined by a hatred for Jews, Israel, and Zionism. This had and still has the added effect of drawing into that trifecta of hatred anyone who sympathizes with Palestinians. Meaning, per Palestinianism, to sympathize with the plight of Palestinians is to hate their “persecutors” and to never look beyond that hatred in order to  gain a deeper understanding of the conflict. 

But, what is Palestinianism? Simply put, it is the belief that freedom for the Palestinian people will not be achieved until Palestine, which was never a state and never exclusively Arab and Muslim, is restored to its pre-1948 boundaries. Meaning, Palestinianism is defined by a call for the destruction of the Jewish state and the dispossession of millions of its citizens. But, how do the proponents of Palestinianism intend to accomplish that destruction? As different as Yasser Arafat, the man who once led the PLO, and Edward Said, the Palestinian American academic and author of Orientalism are, both men agree that Palestinians lack a counter-narrative, or as Said would say, a “counter-myth.” Enter BDS (the campaign to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel) with its false claims of Palestinian indigeneity, forced dispossession, genocide, and of course “Israeli apartheid.” Arafat and Said would also agree that developing that counter-myth and convincing the world of its “truth” is key to reversing everything that has been accomplished through Zionism. But, where Said naively imagines a “post-Zionist” reality wherein the end of the Jewish state and the removal of every political and national boundary between the river and the sea has resulted in equity between Arab and Jew, Arafat imagined a a purely Arab and Palestinian state in place of Israel and the territories of “Palestine.” His stated intention was to realize that state by “making life unbearable for Jews” via psychological warfare and demographic change, or, as he put it, “population explosion.”

Palestinianism is defined by a call for the destruction of the Jewish state and the dispossession of millions of its citizens.

As the primary vehicle for Palestinianism, BDS, or rather those who lead it, excel at applying the language of Said and those like him to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while covertly pursuing the agenda of Arafat and his terrorist successors. And this habit of obfuscation is as much a part of Palestinianism as its rejection of the Jewish right to self-determination in the ancestral home of the Jewish people. For proof of this, look no further than the official home page of the BDS movement, which describes BDS in this way: 

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and to force Israel to comply with international law.

Compare that statement to this one made by Omar Barghouti, the founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel: “Israel was Palestine and there is no reason why it should not be renamed Palestine.” Barghouti also said this: “…we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, would ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.” But, it isn’t just Barghouti who holds these views. Barghouti’s Egyptian counterpart and the co-founder of BDS, Rami Saath, has proven ties to Ikhwan Al Muslimeen or the Muslim Brotherhood, the transnational Sunni Islamist organization that is directly responsible for the creation of Hamas in Gaza. Rather than renounce the Brotherhood (which once tried, but failed to transform Egypt into a theocracy), Saath gave up his Egyptian citizenship and left Egypt altogether. 

As the primary vehicle for Palestinianism, BDS, or rather those who lead it, excel at applying the language of Said and those like him to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while covertly pursuing the agenda of Arafat and his terrorist successors.

Realizing that BDS, which has done the most to propagate Palestinianism in the West, is fundamentally ultra-nationalist and supremacist should lead one to another realization: that it and thus Palestinianism are cloaks for Islamism, which is to say for a group ideology that espouses not just the destruction of the State of Israel, but the destruction of the West. If Islamists succeed in both endeavors it will be because they, along with far-left ideologues, were able to convince enough people that the rights of seemingly marginalized or oppressed groups matter more than those of seemingly privileged groups—for how else could Palestinianists and Islamists convince the world that Palestinian freedom and sovereignty can only be achieved through the elimination of the world’s only Jewish state and that persons who push for that elimination will be on the “right side of history”? The pursuit of that ethical sea change is the common ground that the far-left and Palestinianists/Islamists stand upon and that serves as the basis for their strange fellowship. I say “strange” because the Islamist is necessarily opposed to everything that the left holds sacred. Gender equality and women’s rights? Haram (forbidden)! LGBTQ rights, including the right to be one’s authentic self without fear of harm and persecution? Doubly haram! And then there is the right to be free of compelled religious practice and forced compliance with religious beliefs. As far as the Islamist is concerned, that right is yet another Western blasphemy. 

Realizing that BDS, which has done the most to propagate Palestinianism in the West, is fundamentally ultra-nationalist and supremacist should lead one to another realization: that it and thus Palestinianism are cloaks for Islamism, which is to say for a group ideology that espouses not just the destruction of the State of Israel, but the destruction of the West.

And when leftists call upon Israel to end her blockade or “siege” of Gaza absent any call upon Hamas to alter its disposition toward Israel, they appear to be blissfully ignorant of the reality that made that blockade necessary. That reality is not a product of Israeli malice toward Gazans (it was Israel that gave all of Gaza to its Arab residents and that not only sends massive amounts of material aid to Gaza on a continual basis, but that regularly treats Gazan children in Israeli hospitals), but a product of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorism. When Israel last eased the blockade by allowing Gazan fishing boats to venture further into the Mediterranean and by allowing material goods and technical aid to flow more freely into the Strip, the end result was the appearance of “terror tunnels” that led from Gaza to Israeli communities and the deployment of Iranian-made Fajr-5 rockets that that could threaten lives in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The Islamist is necessarily opposed to everything that the left holds sacred.

This is where the obfuscation that is so regularly employed by Palestinianists meets the ignorance of their audience – an audience that, by every appearance, prioritizes the propagation and defense of a  sociopolitical identity over evidential reasoning and moral clarity (mind you, right-wing ideologues suffer from the same disease of the mind). I’m speaking of course of young adults who are either in the process of becoming liberally educated, or who lack formal education and view themselves as social outsiders and members of an underclass. The former is most likely to take part in actions that are confined to the safety of a college or university campus while the latter could be found ‘decolonizing’ Seattle’s Capital Hill neighborhood during the summer of 2020 and, in so doing, depriving thousands of Seattle residents of basic public services (emergency services included) for just under two months while also contributing to more than one homicide inside the protest zone. 

But the goal of the Palestinianist is not to engender chaos for its own sake. Instead, his or her immediate goal is to alter the fabric of Western culture—to make it thinner and more prone to tearing. Think of that fabric as the Judeo-Christian tradition with its rejection of collectivism, which proceeds from the Judeo-Christian belief in the divinity or sacredness of the individual. Now, think of those tears as moral confusion. The tearing of that cultural fabric is nowhere more evident than on Western college and university campuses, whereupon Palestinianists have compelled some faculties and administrations to divest from Israel by selling shares in any enterprise that does business in or with Israel and by ending relationships with Israeli academics and institutions. To be clear, it is the normalization of the Palestinianist hatred for the Jewish state and a unified Jewish people that creates those tears, not the acts of divestment and boycott themselves. In all likelihood, the Palestinianist understands this and regards any increase in that hatred as a sign of success. 

But the goal of the Palestinianist is not to engender chaos for its own sake. Instead, his or her immediate goal is to alter the fabric of Western culture—to make it thinner and more prone to tearing.

And because the West has already imbibed too much of that hatred and hatreds like it, it has begun to lose sight of the truth. Should it continue to drink from that cup, it may soon become crtically demoralized and fall prey to an enemy whose brand of morality would have once been regarded by virtually every member of that society as evil, or, at the very least, wrong-headed. And make no mistake, the West is well on its way to becoming so. That many in the West do not see Palestinianism for what it is proof enough of this. That is not to say that Palestinians do not suffer and that the average person is wrong to sympathize with Arabs who must navigate checkpoint after checkpoint in order to travel from village to city and back again or who are confined to Gaza, a place with crumbling infrastructure and a weak, insular economy. But, why do these conditions exist? Does Israel truly engineer and maintain them for her own benefit? A Palestinianist would certainly say so but could not honestly tell you why. That Palestinianist might tell you that it’s all about land – that the Zionists want it all. 

Never mind that it was the Zionists who offered to exchange land for peace whenever Jerusalem sensed that peace might be possible. Israel most famously exchanged land for peace when it returned the Sinai to Egypt, but decades earlier, some Zionist leaders in what was then Mandatory Palestine agreed to the British plan to place half of Palestine under Hashemite rule and thereby divide the land in the hope that doing so would quell Arab nationalist unrest and strengthen the British position in Palestine. Rather than quell that unrest, the creation of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan made the prospect of a full-blown civil war in Palestine inevitable by giving Arab nationalists a base from which they could launch attacks against Jewish Palestine. Still, Israel clung to the hope that she would one day be at peace with her neighbors. That hope bore fruit when Israel, with the help of U.S. brokers, struck permanent peace deals first with Egypt and then with Jordan

But, according to the Palestinianist, a just peace with Israel is impossible. This claim was repeated when the Palestinian Authority scuttled the Oslo Peace Accords and publicly endorsed the use of terrorism against Israeli civilians and military personnel alike during the Second Intifada. While it is true that the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin would have negatively impacted Arab confidence in Oslo, it is just as true that Israel demonstrated her good faith by evacuating every last Israeli soldier and civilian from the Gaza Strip and by pledging to recognize a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem should the peace process continue. So, why make this claim in spite of all the evidence to the contrary? It has been said that honor culture (a culture that relies on extra-judicial violence and the threat of the same to enforce claims and to deter enemies) is to blame, but a better theory may be that the Palestinianist rejection of peace is, in reality, an Islamist rejection of the same for it is Islamism that most informs Palestinianism and it is Islamism that holds that Islam forbids the Islamic world from entering into that peace. A hudna or temporary peace? Certainly, but a permanent peace? Never. 

The realization that a rejection of peace with Israel, which is to say peace with Jewish self-determination in the region, is a matter of course and even a matter of faith among Islamists coupled with the realization that Palestinianism is little more than a vehicle for Islamism can be a hard pill to swallow. It becomes less so when one explores the timeline of Arab nationalism in the region. That timeline begins with Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the man who was installed as the Grand Mufti (chief Islamic jurisconsult) of Jerusalem in 1921 and who is pejoratively known as Hitler’s Mufti. Much has been said about the Mufti’s relationship with Hitler, which was supposedly based upon a shared desire to extend the Shoah or Holocaust to Palestine, but all of that has the effect of drawing attention away from the relationship that did the most to shape and determine the political beliefs of Al-Husseini and thus the political beliefs that comprise the Palestinian national movement, for it was al-Husseini who groomed Yassar Arafat to lead that movement into a new century and who lent Arafat all of his credibility. 

Palestinianism is little more than a vehicle for Islamism.

I’m speaking, of course, of the Mufti’s intimacy with the Muslim Brotherhood. In its role as the foremost Islamist organization in the Muslim world, the Brotherhood tirelessly promoted the Mufti to its members and supporters during the war years and beyond. Those members included Arab heads of state who, after the war, were able to compel the French to release al-Husseini from house arrest (it was really more of a protective custody necessitated by the need of the French to strike a deal with the influential Mufti lest he turn on them in the way he turned on the British). Once free, al-Husseini was brought to Cairo, which was then a place where, for the most part, the Brotherhood could do and say as it liked. Hassan Al-Banna, who led the Brotherhood’s Egyptian branch did just that when he brazenly declared that an unshackled Mufti would “continue the struggle” against the Americans, the British, and the Jews now that Hitler and Mussolini were gone. And continue that “struggle” he did. 

Before and after the war, al-Husseini fomented anti-Jewish pogroms in the British Mandate of Palestine that would give way to a full-blown civil war and Arab insurgency, which he also agitated for. That war forced the British to abandon Palestine and obliterated any hope for the creation of a state wherein Jews and Arabs could enjoy equal shares of power and benefit from a politics not determined by ethnic and religious conflict. But, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but bends, or rather can be bent toward justice, this had the effect of justifying the Zionist effort to carve a new state out of the Territory of Palestine wherein Jews could, after millennia of exile and persecution, once again be free and enjoy some measure of security. 

Were it not for the Cold War and the attention given to the Soviet-PLO relationship, the true beginnings and thus the true nature of Palestinian nationalism might be better understood for it was the Mufti, a man who collaborated openly with the Nazis and the Brotherhood alike, who breathed life into what his apprentice, Yassar Arafat, would recast as the “Palestinian national struggle.” Arafat gave credence to that struggle by inventing an “ancient Palestinian people” who, in Arafat’s imagination, could lay claim to every dunam of the land. Arafat became expert at disguising the Islamist and supremacist tendencies of that struggle by playing the role of the tough, but erudite secularist and righteous anti-colonialist when speaking to the English, Dutch or French press and then only sharing his true thoughts and intentions, which were frequently bloody, with the Arab press. Sadly, for Arafat, this Janusian communication strategy ceased to bear fruit when Hamas, which is the Brotherhood by another name, could not be convinced to go along with his plan to weaken Israel via the concessions that Arafat believed would ultimately include the re-partition of Jerusalem and an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. Rather than allow Oslo to proceed, Hamas and its affiliates launched the wave of bombings and melee terror attacks known as the Second Intifada. Arab support for that intifada laid bare Arafat’s failure to sell his strategy, which was to trick Israel into bringing about her own destruction, to the Arab public. And thus, hard-line Islamists were able to perpetuate status quo, the status of Gaza notwithstanding, at the cost of hundreds of innocent Arab and Jewish lives. 

This brings us back to the present – a present wherein the status quo is still with us and wherein Islamists clothed as pro-Palestinian activists would see Israel collapse under its growing weight. And it may be that Israel will soon be forced to shoulder that weight without, or with reduced help, from the U.S. and the West in general. Not because those activists were able to make Israel a pariah, but because America’s as well as the West’s ability to project power abroad is waning. What the Islamist does not realize is that this would be to Israel’s benefit. Why? Not just because Israel is socially, politically, and technologically capable of shouldering that weight, but because the growth and endurance of pro-Palestinian activism is dependent upon the subconsciously held belief that the West is paternally obligated to steer the affairs of the Near East and make it more Western, or progressive in character. As the West continues to turn inward, this belief will be exercised with decreased regularity until it ceases to be exercised at all. That is not to say that Islamism and its cloak, Palestinianism, are no threat at all. 

It bears repeating that the more immediate threat may be to the cultural fabric of the West, which is to say, to the ability of the average Westerner to discern right from wrong and good from evil using a cultural framework that centers and even sanctifies the individual and that would never sacrifice the essential rights of one human collective, which is really a collection of individuals, in order to appease another collective. And when one pulls back the curtain on Palestinianism, one discovers the Islamist desire to do just that with regard to Jews living in their ancestral homeland. For that reason, seeing Palestinianism with clear eyes is the duty of any person who would see the experiment that is individualism continue and thereby bear the fruit that we call human rights, which may be cultivated and enjoyed by any people who generally think as Elie Wiesel, the author of Night thought when he declared, “No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.”

Three Recent Events Exemplify a Century of Extremist Leadership + Racist Lies

1929 French Paper Depicts Massacres in Jerusalem and Hebron

This past month, three things occurred in the context of the Israeli and Palestinian Arab conflict that help to exemplify both the root of the conflict and why, absent a titanic shift in the way Palestinian Arabs view the conflict and Israel, there can be no comprehensive resolution to the conflict. 

These three things were:

At the outset, it is important to clarify why I write “Palestinian Arab” and not just “Palestinian.” 

The reason is that history matters (especially when discussing the history of a conflict and its source), and the history of the word “Palestinian” is that until the end of the 19th century, when people referred to “Palestinians,” they were referring to Jews. This is why the 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant described Jews as “the Palestinians among us,” and it is why until the very middle of the 20th century the only people living in the land of Israel who generally referred to themselves as “Palestinians” were the Jews living in British-controlled Palestine. This is not to say that since 1948 (the time of Israel’s declaration of independence from British rule), that the Palestinian Arabs have not developed and coalesced around a Palestinian identity. It is, however, clear that they don’t have a monopoly on that identity, and certainly not on its history. 

PIJ’s mission: to destroy Israel

In addition to being a designated terrorist group by the U.S. and the EU, PIJ—based on its own words—is an Islamist supremacist fundamentalist offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood (just like al Qaeda), committed to the complete destruction of Israel (from “the river to the sea”) as well as to the establishment of a totalitarian Islamist theocracy on the ashes of Israel. 

PIJ opposes any relations with Israel and its Jewish citizens—other than those designed to try to violently destroy them. In line with its anti-Semitic and genocidal raison de’etre, PIJ’s number one sponsor and financial lifeline is the Iranian Mullahcracy. Iran is another Islamist supremacist fundamentalist theocracy, which not only brutalizes and terrorizes its own people, but just like PIJ, is committed to violently wiping Israel and its 9 million citizens (and in particular its 7 million Jews) off the map.  

As PIJ lives and breathes an openly violent Islamist Supremacist ideology – which is a near mirror image of the Christian white supremacy that animates groups like the KKK – and gets its marching orders from a brutal thugacracy like Iran, a rational person might be excused for thinking that based on PIJ sending terrorists to Israeli towns and cities to murder Israeli civilians sitting in restaurants, walking their children by their apartments (in a purely residential area), and picnicking in parks and subsequently fired hundreds of rockets targeting random Jews for murder from Tel Aviv to Sderot (which also misfired repeatedly and landed in Gaza), that the mainstream international media and social media condemnation of PIJ, and corresponding support for Israel, would have been immediate and clear. But if that is what anyone expected, they would have been very disappointed. 

In fact, even after it became clear that the Palestinian Arabs’ leadership and their various media and social media arms were trying to blame Israel for the PIJ-misfired rockets that were landing in Gaza and killing Palestinian civilians, including children, much of the mainstream media refused to condemn PIJ and even repeated the bogus claim that Israel was to blame for the results of PIJ’s misfired rockets. 

“Heroic Operation” – to shoot at an unarmed pregnant woman

A few days after a ceasefire was entered into between Israel and PIJ, a Palestinian Arab terrorist, Amir Sidawi, opened fire on a random group of Jews at a bus stop. He shot eight people, including among his victims a 35-year-old pregnant woman he critically injured, whose child is still – as I write this – fighting for his life. 

In response to this heinous terror attack, where a terrorist looked in the eyes of a pregnant woman and aimed for her belly, Fatah, the party headed by the supposedly “moderate” Mahmoud Abbas, who heads up the also supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority, praised the attack and the attacker. Same, of course, for Hamas, which praised both the attack and the attacker as “brave” and “heroic.” After all, what says “bravery” and “heroism” more than shooting at a group of civilians waiting for a bus and facing down an unarmed pregnant lady with an automatic rifle? 

In response to this heinous terror attack, where a terrorist looked in the eyes of a pregnant woman and aimed for her belly, Fatah, the party headed by the supposedly “moderate” Mahmoud Abbas, who heads up the also supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority, praised the attack and the attacker.

50 Holocausts

Following up on the complete absence of any moral compass demonstrated by the actions of Islamic Jihad, the terrorist attack at the Jerusalem bus stop, and the reactions to both of those by sadly almost all Palestinian Arab groups and leaders, we had the Mahmoud Abbas “50 Holocausts” moment in Germany.

In the same country where, within living memory, the “Final Solution” was planned and implemented, the head of the Palestinian Authority was being feted by the current German government and given the incredible respect of sharing a podium with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.  

Plainly, it should be considered absurd to honor with a joint press conference, with the German head of state, a man who is virtually stealing EU and American aid money (meant to better the lives of Palestinian Arabs); as he refuses to sit for elections and is in the 18th year of his original (supposed) four-year term as president of the Palestinian Authority. Setting aside this absurdity, it was only natural, given the 50th anniversary of the Munich Massacre, that the German press would ask Abbas questions about the heinous and brutal terrorist attack at the 1972 Olympics, which he helped plan and fund.

But after being asked the to be expected question about whether he was ready to apologize—50 years after the fact—for his role in the murder of eleven Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, Abbas did not respond with an apology (for being an accomplice to the mass murder of athletes attending the Olympics), but rather with the claim that Israel has committed “50 Holocausts” against the Palestinians. 

Of course, since in the entire approximate 100-year history of the Arab-Israeli conflict around 17,000 Palestinian Arabs and 26,000 Israelis have been killed (mostly in armed conflict and in Israeli responses to terrorist and rocket attacks from armed Palestinian Arab groups), the claim that Israel has committed even one “Holocaust” (where more than 6 million Jews—one-third of the worldwide Jewish population—were intentionally murdered in barely 5 years) would be an extraordinarily immoral comment bearing no relationship to the truth, or respect for facts or history. But “50 Holocausts”? That represents a worldview that is beyond malignant. Beyond out of touch with reality. Rather, one that is informed by antisemitism while completely unhinged from both reality and human decency.  

Sadly, the fact that the Palestinian Arabs’ “moderate” leader and supposed “partner for peace” with Israel is that unhinged from reality and engages simultaneously in Holocaust denial, Holocaust inversion, and blood libeling the one Jewish state (as he claims Israel has done something 50 times worse than the worst crime of the Nazis) should surprise no one. 

At the same time that Abbas has repeatedly been the invited and honored guest of world leaders since his last election as the Palestinian Authority president, Abbas has also repeatedly trafficked in the worst antisemitism, revisionist history, and Holocaust denial and inversion. In 2018, Abbas blamed Jews for 6 million of them being murdered, claiming that “Jewish behavior and not anti-Semitism” caused the Holocaust. In 2015, Abbas asserted that Jews have no right to go to the holiest site in Judaism (the Temple Mount), and actually referred to Jews “defiling” the site with their “filthy feet.” 

Abbas also heads up a Palestinian Authority dictatorship that not only praises terrorist attacks; it has a literal Jew-murder incentive program (colloquially known as “Pay to Slay”), which rewards those who murder Jews in acts of terrorism with lifetime salaries that are often eight times what the average high school teacher makes in Ramallah. Abbas’s Palestinian Authority is also a Der Sturmer-like fount of Jew-hatred and antisemitic revisionist history. From promoting Henry Ford and Nazi-type claims about Jews controlling banks and foreign governments, to claims that harken back to medieval times about Jews “harvesting organs” and poisoning wells, there seems to be no antisemitic line the Palestinian Authority and its “moderate” leader are not willing to cross.

This is why these three events: PIJ’s unvarnished antisemitism and Islamist Supremacy, as well as the world’s reaction to it; the continued glorification of even the most heinous act of terrorism (shooting an unarmed pregnant woman in her stomach); and Abbas’s “50 Holocausts” libel and the world’s feigned outrage—as they keep touting Abbas as a moderate, and sending billions of dollars to the PA—exemplify the root of the conflict and why there cannot be a foreseeable near-term resolution to it.

As long as the most “moderate” of Palestinian Arab leaders engage in Holocaust denial;  promote anti-Semitic canards; and deny any Jewish historical connection to the land of Israel—all while they praise and reward the murder of Jews—peace is simply not possible.

The modern inception of this conflict was in the 1920s. At that time, there were two principal heads of the two most powerful Palestinian Arab families who were vying for effective control of the Palestinian Arab cause and narrative. The first was the Ragheb Nashashibi, the then mayor of Jerusalem, as determined by the British Mandate. On the other side of this divide, was Haj Amin el-Husseini, the head of the Arab Higher Committee and the Mufti of Jerusalem (also as determined by the British).

Ragheb Nashashibi at that time represented a far less virulent and aggressive response to Zionism. He represented a then influential voice of compromise, and notably supported the partition proposed by the Peel Commission: a proposed partition plan by the British, which if it had been implemented would have led to a sovereign Jewish state, and would have likely saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Jews, who ended up being murdered in the Holocaust.

As long as the most “moderate” of Palestinian Arab leaders engage in Holocaust denial;  promote anti-Semitic canards; and deny any Jewish historical connection to the land of Israel—all while they praise and reward the murder of Jews—peace is simply not possible.

Haj Amin el-Husseini, in sharp contrast to Nashashibi, opposed all compromise (all “normalization”) and regularly incited violence against Jews by telling outrageous lies, which used classic antisemitism to foment hatred of Jews and to deny the Jewish people any right to exist as a sovereign people in any part of their indigenous land. For Husseini, the conflict had less to do with land and who had sovereign control of which parts, and far more to do with hatred of the Jewish people, and a fundamentalist duty to destroy the Jewish people, which is why, shortly after 1937, he became an honored guest of Hitler in Berlin and a Nazi collaborator.

Unfortunately, by the time the Arab Higher Committee had rejected in 1937 the creation of the first independent Arab state west of the Jordan River, pursuant to the Peel Commission, it had also become clear that Husseini had taken on the role as the de facto leader of the Palestinian Arab population. Subsequently, after Husseini had repeatedly incited with antisemitic lies multiple mass murder pogroms between 1920 and 1936 targeting Jews in British controlled Palestine, he ended up taking on the role of being the Arabic voice of the Nazis on German radio and on July 7, 1942, the “Voice of Free Arabism” hosted by Husseini played a program titled, “Kill the Jews Before They Kill You.” 

Just like the violence so often incited against Jews in Israel over the past 15 years by the “moderate” Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, this broadcast began with a lie: “A large number of Jews residing in Egypt and a number of Poles, Greeks, Armenians, and Free French have been issued with revolvers and ammunition” to fight “against the Egyptians at the last moment, when Britain is forced to evacuate Egypt.” The broadcast by Husseini continued:

“In the face of this barbaric procedure by the British we think it best, if the life of the Egyptian nation is to be saved, that the Egyptians rise as one man to kill the Jews before they have a chance of betraying the Egyptian peopleIt is the duty of the Egyptians to annihilate the Jews and to destroy their property. … You must kill the Jews, before they open fire on you. Kill the Jews, who have appropriated your wealth and who are plotting against your security. Arabs of Syria, Iraq, and Palestine, what are you waiting for? The Jews are planning to violate your women, to kill your children and to destroy you. According to the Muslim religion, the defense of your life is a duty which can only be fulfilled by annihilating the JewsThis is your best opportunity to get rid of this dirty race, which has usurped your rights and brought misfortune and destruction on your countries. Kill the Jews, burn their property, destroy their stores, annihilate these base supporters of British imperialism. Your sole hope of salvation lies in annihilating the Jews before they annihilate you.”

In 1942, the democracies of the world at least treated Haj Amin el-Husseini and those who trafficked in his lies like the extremist Jew-hating racist supremacists they were. Today, out of convenience or moral cowardice, as much of the media ignore the virulent and open Islamist supremacism by groups like Islamic Jihad, most world leaders pretend there is a meaningful difference between Mahmoud Abbas and his Holocaust-denying antisemitism and exploitation of antisemitic canards, to the extremism of Haj Amin el-Husseini. They pretend that there is a credible difference between the “moderate” Palestinian Arab leadership and the views and lies of an outright Nazi collaborator; a man who is widely credited with being the godfather of the Palestinian Arab nationalism, as well as of the collective Palestinian Arab rejection of any right of the Jewish people to have any sovereignty and self-determination in their indigenous land. A rejection grounded in lies, revisionist history, and outright antisemitism, which has fueled this conflict for over a century. 

But while Mahmoud Abbas and his cronies may wear nice suits and occasionally say in English some nice words about peace, their actions and claims—as illustrated by these three events and sadly many others—demonstrate that when it comes to the possibility of peaceful coexistence, any differences between Husseini and Abbas are meaningless. 

Moreover, until the democracies of the world recognize that the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict—both in the 1930s under the leadership of Husseini, and today under Abbas—remains the antisemitic view of the Jews as being a “dirty race” that should be “killed” and who somehow brought the Holocaust upon themselves with their “behavior,” as they commit far worse horrors than the Nazis themselves; and refuse to tolerate such views and thereby further enable the perpetuation of these sick beliefs among most of the Palestinian Arab leaders writ large, peace will never be possible. Impossible that is, absent a self-imposed titanic shift among the Palestinian Arabs themselves, a shift, which would include a return to Nashashibi’s pragmatism, and even more importantly, the complete rejection of Husseini’s Nazi-collaborating antisemitic legacy, as perpetuated presently by all of the  Palestinian Arab leadership, from Abbas to Hamas to Islamic Jihad.

Biden, the ‘Palestinians,’ + the Taylor Force Act

Vanderbilt graduate student Taylor Force was killed March 9, 2016, in a terror attack in Tel Aviv- Jaffa.

Recently President Biden made a trip to the Middle East to visit both Israel and Saudi Arabia. In truth, the stop-off in Israel probably wasn’t meant to accomplish much, but Biden was forced to make sure he stopped, make some promises, shake some hands, and then move on. Why was he compelled to stop for a visit? Back in June of 2009, then-President Obama made a similar trip to the Mideast, first to Turkey, after which he flew straight to Egypt, bypassing Israel entirely. President Obama’s failure to stop for an official visit – as would have been expected if Israel was America’s greatest Mideast ally – was a glaring omission on the presidential travel itinerary, and wasn’t missed by the world press or Israel.  Much ink was spilled voicing speculation about this apparent diplomatic snub. Instead of visiting a long-U.S.-allied nation, Obama flew straight to Egypt where he gave a speech at Cairo University titled, “A New Beginning” in which the U.S. president excoriated Israel in front of the Muslim world for her policies, miscasting Jewish and Israeli history to fit the Arab rejectionist narrative. Israel was furious not only at the snub, but at the ahistorical comments.

This time, Biden’s team wasn’t going to repeat Obama’s diplomatic faux pas and cause controversy in an election year. Instead, Biden landed at Ben Gurion Airport, where the Israeli leader of a caretaker government tried to make nice to an unpopular US president. And why is Biden unpopular with Israelis? For four reasons. First, Biden announced his plans during the election season to lift sanctions on Iran, a nation that poses an existential threat to Israel. Second, Biden promised to restore money to the Palestinian Authority, funds President Trump had previously cancelled due to Palestinian incitement to murder innocent Israelis. This reward money for murder is popularly known as the “Pay-to-Slay” policy. Third, Biden promised the Palestinians that the U.S. would re-open the U.S. consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem, Israel’s holiest city and Israel’s sovereign capital. Fourth, Biden reiterated U.S. support for a “Two-State Solution,” a diplomatic dead end in view of its repeated rejection by the Palestinian Authority.

The first issue, sanctions on Iran, seems to be taking care of itself since Biden can’t offer the Mullahs enough to get them to play, “Let’s make a deal.” 

The third issue, opening a Palestinian consulate in the heart of Israeli’s capital needs the agreement of the Israeli government, which is not likely to happen in view of strong objections from the Israeli electorate. After 74 years of Palestinian terrorism, Israelis don’t want the PA claiming a foothold in their capital city, once half-occupied and ethnically cleansed by Arab armies. If the United States wants a “Palestinian” consulate opened, the proper address is Ramallah.

The fourth issue, “two states for two peoples,” won’t happen any time soon. Abbas was offered a two-state solution by President Trump, and he unequivocally rejected the offer, saying “No, a thousand times no!” 

Biden’s current dilemma is fulfilling a campaign promise to restore funding to the Palestinian Authority when the law forbids it. Taylor Force was an American graduate student and army veteran visiting Tel Aviv as part of his university’s study group examining global entrepreneurship. His killer was a Palestinian terrorist from the West Bank city of Qalqilya who stabbed Force to death and wounded 11 others in his attack. The deceased terrorist’s family was rewarded with a lavish monthly stipend by the Palestinian Authority, well above the average Palestinian monthly income. This is part of the PA’s policy to incite its residents to murder and then reward the murderers killed or imprisoned for violent attacks on Israelis. 

If the United States wants a “Palestinian” consulate opened, the proper address is Ramallah.

After the terrorist attack, in 2018, Congress passed the Taylor Force Act, an act cutting off funds in order to cripple the incentivizing of terrorism using American taxpayer money. The Taylor Force Act unambiguously states that American funding would not be restored unless and until the PA stops paying stipends to terrorists and their families. It is a law that prohibits “certain economic support assistance that directly benefits the Palestinian Authority (PA) from being made available for the West Bank and Gaza unless the Department of State certifies that the PA, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and any successor or affiliated organizations:

Biden’s current dilemma is fulfilling a campaign promise to restore funding to the Palestinian Authority when the law forbids it.

The Palestinian Authority’s promise of enriched monthly stipends to the imprisoned or their families for acts of violence, coupled with a drumbeat of incitement to kill from official PA channels, is what is driving terror attacks against Israelis or anyone in Israel. Such lavish rewards are an attractive incentive for the poor, uneducated, and/or ideologically brainwashed who feel aggrieved by their economic situation. Today a Palestinian in debt, or angry that he can’t find work, finds a simple solution in becoming a murderer. Jobs are scarce in the PA since money is allocated by allegiance rather than need, so an act of terror not only gains family honor, but wealth, making the killer’s family financially stable or even well off for decades. For example, back on July 31, 2002, four terrorists bombed the student cafeteria at Hebrew University, killing nine people and injuring more than 100. The terrorists were found, arrested, tried, and convicted of the murders and are serving life sentences. On July 31, 2022, on the anniversary of their terror attack, they were notified that their monthly stipend would increase by 14 percent from $2,251 to $2,572 a month with an additional $96 added because they are residents of Jerusalem. 

In 2020 the PA transferred 597 million shekels ($181 million) to the families of Palestinian terrorist prisoners and the families of deceased “martyrs.” The payment was made despite the PA’s claim of a severe budget deficit. In order to circumvent accountability and avoid sanctions, PA terror stipends are now made through ATMs in post offices, circumventing Israel’s order banning banks from handling accounts of terrorists and their families. To put these incentives in perspective, one must know what the average minimum wage is in the territories. Acts of terror are rewarded depending on the numbers of dead and injured Israelis. The more people killed, the longer the prison sentence, then the larger the stipend awarded to the terrorist and or his family.

Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the U.S. has given the PA billions of dollars, yet they are still claiming financial dependency. In 2016, the monthly salaries and benefits to terrorists in Israeli custody or if deceased, to the terrorist’s family, amounted to $300 million annually. Such lavish financial rewards clearly demonstrate the PA’s institutional commitment to sponsoring terror against Israel.

Was it necessary for Congress to pass the Taylor Force Act to end U.S. funding of terrorism? Yes. Because the United States has no interest in becoming an accomplice to Palestinian terrorism by funding the same. 

Acts of terror are rewarded depending on the numbers of dead and injured Israelis. The more people killed, the longer the prison sentence, then the larger the stipend awarded to the terrorist and or his family.

Was the Taylor Force Act’s mandated cuts in aid to the PA effective in stopping or slowing Palestinian acts of terror? Yes. In 2020, the last year of President Trump’s presidency, a fiscal year when nothing was given to the PA, terror-related deaths decreased. Yet in 2021, the first year of the Biden presidency, President Biden and the State Department’s Ned Price announced that they would restore funding to the PA. Not surprisingly, PA “open season” on Israelis started anew, terror attacks increased, and the numbers of murdered Israelis rose. In 2022 from January to August, 19 more Jews have been killed, in slightly more than half a year. These numbers tell the tale; cut the funding for rewarding terrorism, and there is less terrorism; without the financial incentive to kill Israelis, there are fewer attacks. 

Bewilderingly, Biden has made restoring funding to the PA a top priority of his administration. Since assuming office last year, the president has made good on his campaign promise to fund the PA. For example, on July 14th, the White House announced that it would give the Palestinian Authority $316 million in order to “restore relations between the U.S. and Ramallah.” This gift does not include $201 million to the UNRWA, in addition to already budgeted amounts, in order to restore services to the Palestinian people in order that—in Biden’s words—“they can live in dignity” for a total UNRWA pay-out of $618 million. 

In 2020, the last year of President Trump’s presidency, a fiscal year when nothing was given to the PA, terror-related deaths decreased. Yet in 2021, the first year of the Biden presidency, President Biden and the State Department’s Ned Price announced that they would restore funding to the PA. Not surprisingly, PA “open season” on Israelis started anew, terror attacks increased, and the numbers of murdered Israelis rose.

The entire point behind U.S. and European support all these decades for the Palestinian Authority was to help a proto-state transform itself into a functioning independent state with democratic institutions and become self-sustaining. It is time to rethink this. Instead of creating an independent democratic state, the Western powers have funded a warlord mafia controlled by an autocrat who oversees his oligarchy of loyalists, kept in power by their armed factions, enriching a select few and their extended families but leaving the majority of Palestinians in an oppressive police state with few options for individual advancement. The economy is stagnant, with tens of thousands of Palestinians seeking work in better-paid Israeli jobs; infrastructure is so poor that much of it is supported by Qatar, UAE, US Aid, or EU and Saudi funding. This is not “living in dignity” – this is going nowhere, with little hope for a free and economically stable society.

Billions have found their way into the Palestinian coffers since Oslo and nothing ever seems to get better. “Palestine” is essentially a welfare state, dependent on the largesse of foreign donors despite decades of money being poured into it. With such a circumscribed future, it is no wonder than some Palestinians, persuaded that killing Jews is both honorable and remunerative, resort to terrorism.

Is this good for the future of the Palestinian people? No. Acts of terror that are rewarded by the Palestinian state do not change attitudes in Israel for the better, but instead harden them, empower the political right, and mute the voices for dialogue and negotiation. Acts of terror will not end the occupation, will not strengthen a Palestinian government, will not aid the emergence of a viable Palestinian state in the future. Instead, they delegitimize the very idea of a Palestinian state, creating the impression that terrorism, ultranationalist or irridentist or religious, is rewarded by the governing authorities of the Palestinian people and that the world might be better off treating the PA as a rogue sponsor of terror, much as it treats Iran, Russia, and North Korea if it continues to encourage and reward terror and mass murder while spurning dialogue and negotiation.

Instead of creating an independent democratic state, the Western powers have funded a warlord mafia controlled by an autocrat who oversees his oligarchy of loyalists, kept in power by their armed factions, enriching a select few and their extended families but leaving the majority of Palestinians in an oppressive police state with few options for individual advancement.

According to laws passed in 2004 and amended in 2013, Palestinians and Israeli Arabs who are convicted of terrorism are entitled to monthly stipends. Men who have served at least five years in Israeli jails, and women who served at least two, are entitled to these “salaries” for life. Those imprisoned for three to five years receive $570 per month. Someone sentenced to 30 years or more is entitled to $3,400 per month. The more heinous the crime, the more money a prisoner receives.

These are people who engaged in terrorism, murder, and attempted murder, while the PA refuses to fund infrastructure projects, modernize hospitals, or create jobs. This money allocated to killing Israelis increases annually, while Palestinians continue to live in “refugee camps” on the UNRWA dole, inside a Palestinian Authority that refuses to create a dignified, democratic, viable future for them.

The Fundamental Irrationality of Palestinianism

I have always tried to be someone who bases my opinions on empirical facts, things I can prove. I try not to ever form opinions based on feelings or on what someone tells me I am “supposed to believe.” There is a time and place for faith-based beliefs, but they should never overrule facts and evidence.

I have great antipathy toward causes that rely on me disbelieving my “lying eyes,” and frankly when I am told that something is simply true because someone said so, my aversion to going along with the mainstream kicks in.

I am a Native Canadian and an activist; this means that my first exposure to anything regarding the Israeli/Arab conflict was incredibly biased toward the Arabs. I was taught that the evil white European Jews conquered and colonized the poor pitiful Palestinians, stealing their land and their sacred places, and that the Arabs were just like me, victims of settler colonialism who had their basic indigenous rights stolen from them. This, of course, plays well to someone who was fighting European supremacist ideology and colonialism.

The problem is that it requires one to be completely ignorant of the facts and history, and it relies on not being challenged. If one is willing to suspend factual analysis, then one can maintain the blissful ignorance required to support the “Palestinian” cause while being against colonialism. If one is educated in the actual history, suddenly the house of cards topples, usually in a pretty spectacular fashion.

Most Native Canadians were raised Christian, but a massive part of colonization is the “mainstreaming” of the colonizers’ religion, language, and culture. This means that the colonizer always imposes its foreign and alien method of interacting with the Creator, its foreign and alien tongue, and even its basic culture and beliefs, on those they colonized. Native Canadians all speak English (or French), and we were almost all converted to Christianity. Why?  It is a central part of colonization. Remember this, I will be coming back to it. 

I think it was this basic education in Christianity that actually opened my eyes to the ridiculous nature of the “Palestinian” narrative. After all, if one reads the Old Testament, it is basically stories about Jews living on Jewish ancestral land. Palestinians and indeed, Arabs, are never mentioned in the Bible, which is odd given that they supposedly preexist the Jewish connection to the Holy Land. If their claims were true, they would be mentioned at least a few times even if it was not complimentary. This was what made me start asking questions about “Palestinian indigenous status,” a claim that almost every Palestinianist makes with a straight face, yet none can seem to defend. The so-called pro-Palestinians are averse to being challenged on these points; while they love to use the language of anti-colonialism, they are in fact supporters of colonialism because they are attempting to justify Arab colonialism by inverting the actual history. 

If one is willing to suspend factual analysis, then one can maintain the blissful ignorance required to support the “Palestinian” cause while being against colonialism. If one is educated in the actual history, suddenly the house of cards topples, usually in a pretty spectacular fashion.

Colonization is basically when a group of people come from somewhere else, conquer the locals, and impose their society, culture, beliefs, and language on the people who are already there. They then use the resources, settle the land under their own methods, and slowly (sometimes not so slowly) replace, assimilate, or destroy the local culture, language, and belief systems.

The Palestinian “narrative” is that they are a tiny, oppressed minority who had their ancestral land stolen by a larger, more powerful group who viciously and violently oppresses them and attempts to destroy their land and sacred places.

Palestinians and indeed, Arabs, are never mentioned in the Bible, which is odd given that they supposedly preexist the Jewish connection to the Holy Land.

How then do the Jews fit the characterization of colonizer? They are not in fact Europeans, at least not according to the Europeans. They are a displaced indigenous people who have returned to their ancestral land where some of them had never left. Jews do not force Judaism or Hebrew on anyone, as is the case with all occupiers and colonialists. The vast majority of their stories literally occur in the lands called Judea and Samaria, and their religious sites, including the three most sacred places – the Temple Mount, The Cave of the Patriarchs, and Tzfat – are in Israel. Hardly what you would expect from a colonizer? Jews number approximately fifteen million people worldwide, with about seven million in Israel. The surrounding Arab population, who are the children of the Muslim conquerors and those they conquered, number over four hundred million people.

However, the Palestinians themselves often contradict their own narrative by self-identifying as Arabs, who are the majority in the Middle East by a significant percentage. Arabs who are, in fact, indigenous to the Hejaz, or the “Arabian Peninsula,” violently colonized the entire region beginning in the 7th century CE. Arabs who have destroyed many antiquities and sacred sites of indigenous peoples and to this day build mosques on top of the sacred places of those they have colonized. 

Jews do not force Judaism or Hebrew on anyone, as is the case with all occupiers and colonialists. The vast majority of their stories literally occur in the lands called Judea and Samaria, and their religious sites, including the three most sacred places are in Israel. Hardly what you would expect from a colonizer?

If you ask a “Palestinian” where his most sacred place is, he will tell you that according to Islam, his religion, (which comes from the Hejaz) his most sacred place is Mecca, which is in fact in the Hejaz. He will tell you this in Arabic, which is his language and is NOT local. Oddly enough, when you pay attention, these facts directly contradict their narrative in its entirety, not a single part of their narrative holds up even to the most minor scrutiny. The so-called violent oppression is revealed to be almost benign in comparison to places where actual oppression exists. Israel treats the Arabs pretty well, especially considering the incessant terror attacks upon Jews and non-Muslims on a regular basis.

The “Palestinians” cannot seem to decide if they want to be powerful and dominant or perpetual victims and underdogs so they simply rely on their supporters, never questioning these contradictory “narratives.” Their language vacillates between threats of “destroying Israel and pushing the Jews into the sea” (a common theme) or crying about how Israel doesn’t respect their basic human rights. Arab members of the Knesset talk about how oppressive “APARTHEID Israel” is, while walking around without fear and collecting salaries from the state they want to destroy. If Israel was as oppressive as they claim, one would think they would be more careful and moderate in their criticism. 

The truly bemusing thing is not just the patently ridiculous claims of denying Jewish connection to Jewish ancestral land, but that people do not actively call out the nonsense. The Palestinian board of tourism once claimed that “Palestinians” had “1 million years of history” in the land of Palestine. Rather than call out such nonsense, their supporters ignore it. When they are caught lying or faking oppression with their pathetically made videos (which seems to be almost weekly), they are almost never called out even when the lack of truth is obvious. This leads them to make more and more ridiculous claims; after all, if nobody ever calls them out, why wouldn’t they?

Israel + the Western Left

The Muhammad al-Dura Hoax (September, 2000)

One of the most dramatic political shifts that occurred during the latter half of the 20th century was the change in the attitude of the Western left towards the Arab-Israeli conflict, and their near universal adoption of the Palestinian-Arab narrative, particularly their claim to perpetual victimhood, complete purity, and total righteousness. These changes occurred in three distinct phases — during the Six-Day War and its immediate aftermath, after the two Intifadas, and with the development of modern day “Pallywood” propaganda in the early 21st century, which most notably began with the Muhammad al-Durrah incident.     

The Western left remains obsessed with condemning Israel, above other nations, for engaging in nothing other than self-defense, despite the massive number of conflicts in the world. 
David Ben-Gurion declared the reestablishment of the State of Israel on 5 Iyar 5708 / May 14, 1948. What could possibly be more progressive than an indigenous people once again reclaiming national sovereignty in their historic homeland after two thousand years? Initially, the Western left was supportive of the early state, especially since the Yishuv leading up to this time was of a socialist, community-minded bent, heavily focused upon rebuilding the land through kibbutzim, or collective farming communities.

What could possibly be more progressive than an indigenous people once again reclaiming national sovereignty in their historic homeland after two thousand years?

Immediately after Ben-Gurion’s declaration, all of Israel’s neighboring Arab countries attacked the new state militarily, along with Iraq and Yemen. Israel won the war and maintained its independence. The underdog overcame great odds.

Israel is still a tiny country of roughly nine million people, outnumbered in population by a factor of about 45-to-1, by the same countries that tried to wipe them off the face of the earth. Israel possesses well under one percent of the land in the region, has no desire for expansion. In fact, Israel has often tried to trade even more of its land for peace, to no avail.

So what has changed? Why has the clear underdog, simply fighting for its survival, suddenly become Goliath in the eyes of the Western left? How did “Palestinianism” take such a strong hold upon those who profess to support social justice and all the rest of the nice-sounding buzzwords of the progressive movement?

In the days leading up to the first week of June in 1967, Egypt, under their Soviet-supported president Gamal Abdel Nasser, closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, ejected United Nations military observers from the buffer area in which they had been charged with keeping the peace since the 1956 Suez Canal crisis, and began building up a large and threatening military presence of their own right on Israel’s southern border.

In response, Israel took the initiative and, refusing to wait for the inevitable invasion, set their own timeline and wiped out the Egyptian Air Force in a matter of hours while also taking control of matters on the ground. Other neighboring Arab states, including Egypt’s two primary allies, Jordan and Syria, soon entered the fight. The war ended in six days. It was a swift and stunning Israeli victory that resulted in the liberation of Judea and Samaria, which had been occupied by Jordan since the end of the 1948 War of Independence. That traditional Jewish heartland had been ethnically-cleansed of all Jews during that period, as had the eastern section of Jerusalem, in which Jews have lived for much longer than the English people have lived in London, or the French people have lived in Paris, and certainly far longer than today’s American people have lived in Washington.

Taking a brief step back, it must be noted that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded at the behest of the Soviet KGB three years prior to the Six-Day War, in 1964. Arguably the PLO could not have thrived in its current form under the guise of the Palestinian Authority, without funding and support from the Soviet Union. The USSR took up, and helped manufacture, the “Arab-Palestinian” cause after Israel ultimately proved unwilling to be a Soviet client state. However, it was the period following the 6-Day War that the Western left slowly switched sides and bought into the Arab narrative of colonial victimhood before the bayonets of militaristic “white Jews.” The “progressive paradox” here in which non-Native American Western leftists who, for example, live on Lenni Lenape lands in places like New Jersey, while criticizing Jews for living in their historic and indigenous homeland, should not be ignored.

Asking exactly what the PLO was seeking to “liberate” at that time, when the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan could have allowed the Palestinian-Arabs to create a state of their own in Judea and Samaria, would be a fair question. Yet the authorities of the Kingdom never allowed the Palestinian-Arabs the right to self-determination, because it has always been pretty obvious that the entire point of this exercise is to delegitimize the very existence of the one tiny Jewish state in the world, not to make Jordan smaller.

The USSR took up, and helped manufacture, the “Arab-Palestinian” cause after Israel ultimately proved unwilling to be a Soviet client state.

So now we come back to the question of why, and how, the Western left began to sympathize with those who targeted civilians and supported suicide bombers? The “underdog” status had swiftly changed, and Israel began to lose sympathy for because she was  succesful at self-defense.     

In return, the Palestinian-Arabs invented car-suicide bombings, such as the 1993 Beit-El attack. From there, they went on to become ever-more inventive right up until the 2001 Jerusalem Sbarro suicide bombing, which resulted in the deaths of 15 people. 7 children were murdered, as was a pregnant woman. The Western left didn’t care. And the woman who was behind it, Ahlam Tamimi, now lives free as a celebrity in Jordan, even though the United States currently seeks her extradition to face charges for the murder of 15-year old Malki Roth in that terrorist attack.

This is tragically the new normal. The left does what it does, with little consistency or principle, at least when it comes to the issue of Jewish rights in the Land of Israel.

Stepping back in time, and we note that that the German left, in particular, possessed a serious motivation to not replicate the sins of their previous generation. Nevertheless, there was a homicidal attack upon Jews in Germany during the 1972 Olympics in Munich, which ended up with two Israelis immediately murdered, and nine others held hostage and tortured before also being killed, not long after the world “promised” that this would never happen again.

So how did we end up with “Palestinianism” as the overwhelmingly accepted narrative amongst the Western left?

It is due to the lies and foreign-sponsored terrorism of people, “Palestinian” or otherwise, who are trying to snatch away the rights of the Jewish people to live freely in their indigenous homeland.

The false “Palestinian” narrative needs to be challenged. The Palestinian-Arabs are people who need to be respected and accepted in their host countries, which have constantly engaged in discrimination against them. They are not indigenous to the Land of Israel, however. 

This is a fact that the Western left needs to understand.     
We need to recognize, acknowledge and accept the basic fact that the Jews have a right to a nation in the Land of Israel. Arabs are indigenous to Arab lands, particularly Saudi Arabia. Both peoples should live together in peace. But we don’t need the Western left to continue to pour fuel on the fire as they toast their marshmallows while cheering on an endless conflict between both peoples. One in which they ultimately have no stake other than demonstrating their virtues and righteousness to each other, while both peoples continue to suffer.

Palestinianism: an Ideology + an Identity

Palestinianism is more than a collection of political beliefs. It is a closed system of memes, including a historical narrative, a Cause to which its believers aspire, and an idiosyncratic language in which familiar words have special meanings. In those ways, it is similar to Marxism—which is not surprising, considering its origin. Palestinianism is neutral on the religious-secular axis, although it has adopted elements of Islamic belief where they have proven helpful to advance the Palestinian Cause. Adherents of Palestinianism include those who self-identify as Palestinians, as well as many on the Western left (especially in academia) who support the Cause.

Origin

Palestinianism had its origin in the 1960s, when it was created by the cognitive warriors of the Soviet KGB. The Soviets had had an interest for some time in opposing U.S. and British influence in the Middle East, which they did by supporting Arab nationalists like Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. With the decline of pan-Arabism, Palestinianism provided a cause that the Soviets could use to unite all the Arabs of the Middle East against the West. It also provided a reason to oppose Israel. Although Stalin had initially hoped that Israel would join the socialist camp, it became clear to the Soviets by the mid-1950s that Israel was moving more and more in the direction of the West.

Palestinianism had its origin in the 1960s, when it was created by the cognitive warriors of the Soviet KGB.

Until this time, most of the Arabs of “Palestine,” that area that had been part of the British Mandate, insofar as they had any national feelings at all, had generally seen themselves as belonging to “southern Syria” (although a specifically Palestinian nationalism did exist to a small extent in the early part of the 20th century, particularly among Christian Arabs.)

This was a time of worldwide decolonization, and the KGB promoted the idea that the conflict between the Jews and Arabs for sovereignty in Palestine (or Eretz Yisrael, depending on your point of view), was actually a struggle of national liberation by an indigenous Palestinian people against European colonialists (the Jews!), despite the fact that about half of all Israelis came from the Middle Eastern and African diasporas.

The Soviets had always used race as a point of leverage in their psychological warfare against the U.S., correctly seeing the exacerbation of race-based resentments as highly effective in creating division and strife among the population. During the 1970s, they introduced the racial element into the Arab-Israeli conflict, as exemplified by the passage of the “Zionism Is Racism” resolution at the UN in 1975. The absurdity of this contention—both Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Arabs come in all colors—did not prevent the wide acceptance of the idea that the political and national conflict was basically racial. At the Durban Conference on Racism in 2001, NGOs funded by European governments and left-wing charities promoted the idea that Israel was guilty of apartheid. The fact that it proved necessary to invent a new meaning for the word before it was even possible to argue the question was apparently considered irrelevant by them.

The Palestinian Arabs suffered a severe blow to their honor when they lost the military struggle for sovereignty in 1948. The fact that most of them fled and were not allowed back after the war—a not uncommon result of warfare—was perceived and represented as a tragedy of historic dimensions. But unlike other groups who experienced similar tragedies, the Palestinian Arabs, with the help of the Eastern Bloc and the Arab nations, managed to establish a UN-sanctioned, permanent, steadily growing, reservoir of stateless “refugees.” Permanent institutions were put in place in the UN to ensure the growth of the “refugee” pool, to prevent their resettlement, and to promulgate the Palestinian narrative.

The Narrative

The pivotal event in the Palestinian historical narrative is the loss of the land they suffered in 1948, the Nakba. It is true that some Arabs were expelled from their homes by the IDF, but the majority left of their own accord, encouraged by both Arab and Jewish propaganda, fearing the imminent violence, and following the example of wealthy Arabs, who chose to sit out the destruction of the new Jewish state in their comfortable summer homes. It is also true that most of those who fled were not allowed to return or to claim their property. But what happened to the Arabs of Palestine is common for a losing side in war. After WWII, at least 12 million ethnic Germans fled or were expelled from Central and Eastern Europe. Jordan completely ethnically cleansed Judea, Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem of Jews after 1948. Some 800-900 thousand Jews fled or were expelled from Arab countries at that time as well. Had the Arabs won the war, the Jews of Israel would certainly have faced a similar fate.

But unlike the ethnic Germans or the Jews of the Middle East, the Palestinian Arabs did not accept—or more precisely, their own leaders and the Arab nations did not allow them to accept—resettlement or almost any amelioration of their condition. And so, the reversal of the Nakba, the “return to their homes” of the more than 5 million descendants of the original 600,000 refugees became a fundamental part of the Palestinian Cause.

The Palestinian Narrative also extends into the past. It insists that a Palestinian people has inhabited the land for hundreds, possibly thousands of years. Some Palestinians, like the late diplomat Saeb Erekat, claim that they had been in the land from the time of the Canaanites or Philistines. The Jews, on the other hand, are said to be recent European immigrants who displaced them by guile and by force. In reality, while some Arab families have a history in the land of more than several hundred years, most go back no farther than about 1830, when Muhammad Ali invaded what were then Ottoman provinces on behalf of Egypt. And a large number of them only migrated from neighboring countries after the Zionist and British development of the land in the early 20th century made it economically attractive. After the war, Palestinian refugee status was granted to by the UN to anyone who could show that they had lived in Palestine for as little as two years prior to 1948.

Along with the arrogation of aboriginal status to Arabs, the Narrative denies it to Jews. It denies the historical provenance of Jews in the land, sometimes claiming that there was no Jewish temple in Jerusalem, or that today’s Jews are Khazars that have no connection with the Middle East (an anti-Semitic canard that is easily refuted by genetic evidence). Palestinian Arabs have destroyed archaeological evidence of ancient Jewish presence in the land, even on the Temple Mount.

The Principles of Palestinianism

To the Palestinians, the Nakba is the most important event in their history, as important as the exodus from Egypt is to the Jews. Palestinians (and Barack Obama) sometimes compare it to the Holocaust. Much is derived from it. It is considered a wrong that cannot be righted in any way other than by its reversal, that is, the “return” of the “refugees” and the repossession of all of the land. And because the narrative says that the refugees were expelled violently, then violence is justified to reverse it. Palestinian honor cannot be regained by diplomacy or compromise. Palestinianism only accepts the two-state idea as a temporary expedient toward its ultimate objective of reversing the Nakba. And even then, it rejects the idea of “two states for two peoples,” insisting that the “return” of the descendants of the 1948 refugees “to their homes” must accompany the re-partitioning of the land.

Postcolonial ideology has also found its way into Palestinianism, in particular in connection with violence. The doctrine that it is moral, indeed praiseworthy, for a colonized people to resist colonization by any means necessary, is used as a justification for terrorism against Israeli civilians. Indeed, involvement in terrorism and support for it is a sine qua non for success in Palestinian politics. For this reason, Mahmoud Abbas is praised for saying that he will never stop paying imprisoned terrorists and the families of “martyrs,” even if there is no money left for anything else.

Another consequence of the Nakba is that by virtue of their infinite victimization, nothing negative about Palestinian culture, or anything bad that happens to them, can be construed as their fault. So the rampant corruption in the Palestinian Authority is explained as a consequence of Israel’s influence. The prevalence of domestic abuse of Palestinian women is said to be because the men are traumatized by “the occupation.” The collapse of a waste treatment pond in the Gaza strip, which inundated nearby areas with human excrement and resulted in several deaths, was blamed on Israel’s “blockade” of Gaza (rather than the embezzlement of international donations intended for sanitary facilities by Hamas), and so on.

Like Marxists, Palestinianists believe that history is on their side. They point to the various regimes that have controlled the land over the centuries, Romans, Crusaders, Turks, British, and say that it is a matter of time before Israel, too, collapses.

Before the 1960s, the Palestinian Arabs could be described as a mixed population of Arabic-speakers, mostly Muslims, and mostly non-indigenous (although again, some Palestinian Arab families did have long histories in the land). But although it makes me unpopular among my right-wing friends, I would say that since that time, the experience of their struggle with Israel and their self-definition as “Palestinians” has made them a people. It is extremely important to understand the fundamental role of the conflict in the development of a specifically Palestinian identity. To be Palestinian is to oppose Israel and to resist – by any means necessary – the occupation of “Palestinian land,” from the river to the sea. This has important consequences for the future of the conflict.

The Cult-like Nature of Palestinianism

Palestinianism as an ideology is in a certain way like Marxism or Scientology. When Palestinianists are confronted with clear-cut facts (like the historical and archaeological evidence of the presence of Jews in the land for thousands of years), they nevertheless find it possible to deny or ignore them. Palestinian film director Mohammed Bakri made a documentary about the “Jenin Massacre” in 2002, which accused Israel of destroying buildings that didn’t exist, murdering hundreds of Palestinian civilians (in fact, about 50 Arabs, almost all of them terrorists, were killed), and so on. Bakri was sued for slander by Israeli reservists whom he had accused of war crimes. When confronted with the facts, he claimed that he was an artist and not a historian, and that his film expressed the deeper truth about the events. The narrative always trumps the facts.

Like Marxism, Palestinianism has a special language. For example, in ordinary English one can occupy a house or a country. But in Palestinianism, Israel “occupies” the “Palestinian people.” The implication is that Israel can “occupy” Gaza without having a single soldier or settler there. There is the word “resistance,” which has connotations of French partisans blowing up Nazi ammunition trains, but in Palispeak means bombing a pizza restaurant in Jerusalem or a disco in Tel Aviv. Another one is “nonviolent popular resistance” which means murdering random Jews with knives or automobiles rather than guns or bombs.

Palestinianism as an ideology is in a certain way like Marxism or Scientology. When Palestinianists are confronted with clear-cut facts (like the historical and archaeological evidence of the presence of Jews in the land for thousands of years), they nevertheless find it possible to deny or ignore them.

The Psychological Function of Palestinianism for the Western Left

One can more or less understand why Palestinian Arabs find Palestinianism useful in their struggle against Israel. But what do left-leaning students and academics get out of it? There are several things that I can see. One, especially in Europe, is that it is an outlet for anti-Semitic impulses that have been repressed when they are directed at individual Jews. It’s tacky to hate Jews, but hating Israel is considered virtuous. Another is the intersectionalist Left’s adoption of “Palestine” as one of its causes. In order to be accepted by the crowd – and in universities especially, the crowd leans left – one must espouse all of its causes, including Palestinianism. It’s easy for an American student, far from the action, to virtue-signal by adopting the Palestinian cause as his or her own.

Conclusion

Palestinianism is an internally consistent system, which is disconnected from both historical and current reality. Originally created by the Soviet KGB as a weapon of cognitive warfare, it has morphed with the times, like the anti-Semitism to which it is closely related. The objective of Palestinianism, the Palestinian Cause, is the replacement of Israel by an Arab state, the violent expulsion of the Jews, and their replacement by the descendants of the Arab refugees of 1948. The adoption of Palestinianism as an essential part of the identity of the Arabs of Eretz Yisrael, means that there can be no compromise solution to the conflict. It implies that the Palestinian people is the enemy of the Jewish people in the land, making the conflict a zero-sum game. Ultimately, it means that the conflict will continue until one of the two peoples will remain in the land, and the other will disappear.

BDS on Campus

In an age defined by activism, with calls for dismantling the patriarchal and oppressive ties to the past, BDS has become a rallying cry on campuses for many as a means to achieve that goal. Students are driven to become involved and protest what they deem is an “apartheid” state, full of racist, hateful, genocidal, and war crime actions. With an appeal to their moral consciousness for a desire to end the horrific crimes of humanity and secure human rights and world peace, students are drawn to get involved. 

However, there are many problems with this scene. The BDS movement uses carefully worded language to cover up its anti-Semitism and the desired goal of the destruction of Israel. The rise of BDS on campus has marginalized Jewish students and raised the rate of anti-Semitic incidents by more than 90 percent, with more 200 incidents. If so, how can so many students be swept up in such a movement and ideology? 

BDS, and its popularity on campus, is the product of a larger issue, namely anti-Zionism being a form of anti-Semitism. The BDS movement is seen as being humanitarian, advocating for the Palestinians who are supposedly suffering under the “oppression” of Israel and denied their homes. Its proponents use language to falsely compare the situation in Israel with that in apartheid South Africa, drawing inspiration to end “Israeli Apartheid.” It calls on the world to end Israel’s “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians, a claim that can easily be disproven when properly researching Israel’s actions. In the United States, the civil rights movement and all it stands for has been used as a means of advocating for humanitarian efforts around the globe, particularly in Israel. As such, people get swept up into activism, joining the BDS movement with the belief that it is truly a peaceful means of advocating for necessary social change and protection of a people wrongly mistreated. 

Yet this perception is dangerous, for the BDS movement ultimately calls for the end of Israel. Its founder, Omar Barghouti, has been heard saying things like “we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine” and “Israeli Jews are colonial settlers… Colonizers are not entitled to self-determination.” In doing so, he rejects all historical claims of Judaism to Israel, delegitimizing the right of Jews to live in Israel. The demands BDS list on its website, such as ending occupation, providing rights to Arabs, and “promoting the right of Palestinian Refugees to return” are carefully worded in a way that seem honorable and moral, but when examined spell out the destruction of Israel. In addition, it creates false comparisons to arouse the sympathies of Western students who are unaware that the situation in Israel is NOT parallel to that of the civil rights movement in the U.S., or the end of apartheid South Africa. 

BDS has become more prominent on campus due to the student organization Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which joined student governments throughout the West to promote BDS and petition school boards to adopt BDS in order not to be complicit in the oppression of the Palestinians. They are extremely vocal, and have managed to get approximately 47 universities to adopt such measures in the name of furthering humanitarian efforts. Members are known for chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” an open call for the end of Israel. What’s disturbing is that many students join in, not paying attention to the words and not seeing that if all the land between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea is “free,” that leaves no room for Israel, and calls for “freedom” beyond what SJP and BDS claim to be the occupied territories, namely the Judea and Samaria, Gaza, and Eastern Jerusalem. If this is so, how can SJP claim to be humanitarian? How can the complete destruction of Israel be justified? And how does that fit in with SJP claims that they “will continue to fight against white supremacy, Zionism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, sexism, capitalism, militarism, imperialism, homophobia, transphobia and all other political institutions that continue to oppress marginalized folks.” Advocating for the destruction of Israel, even in a roundabout way, does not help secure peace in the Middle East, and goes against their very claims for not being anti-Semitic and seemingly open to a two-state solution. 

In addition to SJP, professors are openly voicing their thoughts on Israel, using their positions to become political advocates and shame Israel and students who support it. This creates an environment of fear and suppression, where students cannot voice their own opinions due to their grades taking a severe hit or being ostracized and labeled as racist and complicit in genocide. One example is when professors refuse to write letters of recommendations  to students affiliated with Israel study abroad programs due to academic boycotts of Israel. SJP, and at times faculty, call on universities to take a firm stance on the conflict and Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Israel in order to end the continued perpetration of Israel’s alleged crimes. This is wrong, for universities are meant to be academic spaces that facilitate discussion and education about various topics, not forcing one perspective under threat of harassment, and alienating and condemning all Jewish students in the process.

Professors are openly voicing their thoughts on Israel, using their positions to become political advocates and shame Israel and students who support it. This creates an environment of fear and suppression, where students cannot voice their own opinions due to their grades taking a severe hit or being ostracized and labeled as racist and complicit in genocide.

These factors make it difficult for Jewish students to involve themselves in student organizations or engage in civil and nuanced discussions on the subject, for being anti-Zionist has become a prerequisite for any form of advocacy. You want to be an environmental activist? Denounce Israel. A feminist? Denounce Israel. It is an all or nothing situation, where students say, “how can you be a feminist when you condone Israel’s actions and allow its continued oppression of Palestinian women? You can’t!” It doesn’t matter that the situation is complex, that there is a whole historical, religious, political context, and that even Zionists might disagree with the actions of the Israeli military. It’s all or nothing, much like the overall political atmosphere on campuses. It becomes very difficult to defend oneself, for a common tactic by SJP is to lump the conflict with all other conflicts such as the BLM movement and Native Americans and others in order to show that they are all a larger universal problem and you cannot stand for one without standing for all. For students who wish to learn more about Israel or go on birthright, a free trip to Israel designed to educate students about their Jewish heritage, they might find their campus Hillel facing pressure from SJP to end these trips due to their ties with Israel. One’s connection to Israel, regardless of its nature, can ruin academic and career prospects, and this is before any outright attacks and extreme forms of harassment.  

Universities are meant to be academic spaces that facilitate discussion and education about various topics, not forcing one perspective under threat of harassment, and alienating and condemning all Jewish students in the process.

Jewish students face a harder time, as they are viewed as guilty by association. If you are Jewish, you are Zionist, and therefore are responsible for Israel’s actions, as if a 19-year-old college student has any say in the decisions of the Israeli government. It is often difficult for such students to defend themselves against the numerous accusations, for they view themselves as not knowledgeable enough to debate the topic and factually back up their support or disapproval of Israel. More frequently, this plays out in student governments, where Jewish members are harassed until they resign.  The rhetoric against them often includes things like “Even if all the orgs on campus that are Jewish are also Zionist, that’s not an excuse for you to join. That’s still blood on your hands!” Or an anti-Zionist might say, “a woman with years of internalized racism, classism, and Zionism behind her should not be given the luxury of being a [USC] student.” SJP and Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) have been known for more extreme tactics to raise awareness of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and shock people into joining. These include mock checkpoints to mimic security measures taken in Israel, mock eviction notices on student dorms, and swastikas on Jewish students’ doors. When responses include declaring such statements and actions as anti-Semitic, the tables are turned with arguments that the Jewish students were harassed for their racism and Islamophobia, not their Judaism. Even in general conversations, these arguments are used whenever a student tries to point out the more nuanced nature of the conflict and raise legitimate arguments regarding the flaws in Palestinian leadership, the past refusals for a two-state solution, ongoing terrorist actions, and how such behaviors contribute to the conflict. Such a mention that Israel is not solely to blame is then translated into “you are perpetuating Islamophobia” and “you blame the oppressed for their oppression, therefore you are just as horrible as any colonizer and white supremacist, therefore you are a hater.” 

Further complicating the matter is SJP’s arguments that accusations of anti-Semitism are thrown around to silence them, denying them the right to the freedom of speech or to criticize what they see as Israel’s harmful actions. While for many, this is true, there is a fine line between genuine criticism and a disguise of anti-Semitism. While people should be able to speak freely about their opinions regarding the complex nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have the freedom to criticize Israel, what is problematic is SJP’s convenient lack of acknowledgement of any Jewish right to self-determination and a safe space to call home, free from anti-Semitism and persecution. By calling the entire land “Palestine,” they remove any possibility of legitimacy for Israel’s existence, thereby denying the viability of a two-state solution for the region. SJP is also known for reworking a definition of Zionism in order to leave out the historical realities of its development, and how it was greatly shaped by the aftermath of the Holocaust. Rather than Israel having been built to allow Jews to return to their homeland, which has been archaeologically and historically verified, as well as provide a safe space for Jews where a holocaust would never be able to happen, Zionism is vilified as a white colonialist movement bent on taking over a land and displacing its native inhabitants. By using language of white colonialism, with all its implications of expansionism, oppression, and subjugation, there is a deliberate misleading of well-meaning individuals who understand the implications of white colonialism, but are not aware of the political and religious realities of the Middle East. 

Even my own university, Rutgers-New Brunswick, known for a robust Jewish community and only mild cases of anti-Semitism, has felt the ramification of SJP’s actions. In May 26, 2021, during the Gaza War, the university issued a statement that “we call out and denounce acts of hate and prejudice against members of the Jewish community and any other targeted and oppressed groups on campus and in our community.” SJP quickly issued a scathing response, expressing “deep concern” that the university “conveniently ignores the extent to which Palestinians have been brutalized by Israel’s occupation and bombing of Gaza” and that the statement “neglected to use the words ‘Palestine’ or ‘Palestinian…’ this refusal to acknowledge and affirm the existence of Palestine, and thus the Palestinian faculty and students at Rutgers university, reveals the university’s inability to stand in genuine solidarity with the Palestinian members of its university.” The fact that condemning anti-Semitism on campus should be equated with, and dependent on, taking a political stance regarding Israel, perpetuating and funding any alleged crimes, or a form of discrimination toward another minority group is outrageous. It demonstrates the lie that SJP and BDS stand against anti-Semitism, as well as other forms of discrimination, racism, and bigotry. Regarding the complaint that Rutgers used “the Middle East and Hamas” rather than “Palestinians,” the school was remaining out of the conflict and not choosing sides in what is a nuanced conflict. It attempted to remain neutral and only speak about how the conflict was directly impacting the university community rather than issue a broader statement on world politics. In response to these complaints, the university stated its desire to affirm “all identities… the impact of our message fell short of that intention. In hindsight, it is clear to us that the message failed to communicate support for our Palestinian community members. We sincerely apologize for the hurt that this message caused.” The university later issued another statement, clarifying that it would not “apologize for standing against anti-Semitism” and then listing all forms of hatred and racism the university condemns. SJP’s response is one problem, but the fact that the university caved and apologized for not being inclusive enough while condemning anti-Semitism is a much greater one, demonstrating how SJP conflates multiple issues into one and creates an all or nothing environment.

Ultimately, BDS on campus is harmful to Jewish and Zionist students, as well as anyone interested in having a genuine and nuanced discussion on the matter. It uses misleading language, falsely comparing the conflict to those of white colonialism and white supremacy, denying any form of legitimacy for a Jewish state or the possibility for a two-state solution. As long as members of organizations such as BDS, SJP, and SAFE are active on campuses and push such rhetoric, and at times harass Jewish students, those campuses become an impossible space for Jewish students to thrive within. Where polite and impactful dialogue is stifled, the community cannot contribute in any meaningful way to a viable path to peace in the Middle East.

A Letter to the World

Editor, The Times of Israel (1969)

I am not a creature from another planet, as you seem to believe. I am a Jerusalemite-like yourselves, a man of flesh and blood. I am a citizen of my city, an integral part of my people. I have a few things to get off my chest. Because I am not a diplomat, I do not have to mince words. I do not have to please you or even persuade you.

I owe you nothing. You did not build this city, you did not live in it, you did not defend it when they came to destroy it. And we will be damned if we will let you take it away.

There was a Jerusalem before there was a New York. When Berlin, Moscow, London, and Paris were miasma forest and swamp, there was a thriving Jewish community here. It gave something to the world which you nations have rejected ever since you established yourselves – a humane moral code.

Here the prophets walked, their words flashing like forked lightning. Here a people who wanted nothing more than to be left alone, fought off waves of heathen would-be conquerors, bled and died on the battlements, hurled themselves into the flames of their burning Temple rather than surrender, and when finally overwhelmed by sheer numbers and led away into captivity, swore that before they forgot Jerusalem, they would see their tongues cleave to their palates, their right arms wither.

For two pain-filled millennium, while we were your unwelcome guests, we prayed daily to return to this city. Three times a day we petitioned the Almighty: “Gather us from the four corners of the world, bring us upright to our land, return in mercy to Jerusalem, Thy city, and dwell in it as Thou promised.” On every Yom Kippur and Passover, we fervently voiced the hope that next year would find us in Jerusalem.

Your inquisitions, pogroms, expulsions, the ghettos into which you jammed us, your forced baptisms, your quota systems, your genteel anti-Semitism, and the final unspeakable horror, the Holocaust (and worse, your terrifying disinterest in it) – all these have not broken us.

They may have sapped what little moral strength you still possessed, but they forged us into steel. Do you think that you can break us now after all we have been through? Do you really believe that after Dachau and Auschwitz we are frightened by your threats of blockades and sanctions? We have been to Hell and back – a Hell of your making. What more could you possibly have in your arsenal that could scare us?

I have watched this city bombarded twice by nations calling themselves civilized. In 1948, while you looked on apathetically, I saw women and children blown to smithereens, after we agreed to your request to internationalize the city. It was a deadly combination that did the job-British officers, Arab gunners, and American-made cannon. And then the savage sacking of the Old City – the willful slaughter, the wanton destruction of every synagogue and religious school, the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, the sale by a ghoulish government of tombstones for building materials, for poultry runs, army camps, even latrines. And you never said a word.

You never breathed the slightest protest when the Jordanians shut off the holiest of our places, the Western Wall, in violation of the pledges they had made after the war- a war they waged, incidentally, against the decision of the UN. Not a murmur came from you whenever the legionnaires in their spiked helmets casually opened fire upon our citizens from behind the walls.

Your hearts bled when Berlin came under siege. You rushed your airlift “to save the gallant Berliners”. But you did not send one ounce of food when Jews starved in besieged Jerusalem. You thundered against the wall which the East Germans ran through the middle of the German capital- but not one peep out of you about that other wall, the one that tore through the heart of Jerusalem.

And when that same thing happened 20 years later, and the Arabs unleashed a savage, unprovoked bombardment of the Holy City again, did any of you do anything? The only time you came to life was when the city was at last reunited. Then you wrung your hands and spoke loftily of “justice” and need for the “Christian” quality of turning the other cheek.

The truth – and you know it deep inside your gut – you would prefer the city to be destroyed rather than have it governed by Jews. No matter how diplomatically you phrase it, the age-old prejudices seep out of every word. If our return to the city has tied your theology in knots, perhaps you had better reexamine your catechisms. After what we have been through, we are not passively going to accommodate ourselves to the twisted idea that we are to suffer eternal homelessness until we accept your savior.

For the first time since the year 70, there is now complete religious freedom for all in Jerusalem. For the first time since the Romans put a torch to the Temple, everyone has equal rights (You prefer to have some more equal than others.) We loathe the sword – but it was you who forced us to take it up. We crave peace, but we are not going back to the peace of 1948 as you would like us to.

We are home. It has a lovely sound for a nation you have willed to wander over the face of the globe. We are not leaving. We are redeeming the pledge made by our forefathers: Jerusalem is being rebuilt. “Next year” and the year after, and after, and after, until the end of time – in Jerusalem!

Stanley Goldfoot
Founder Editor
The Times of Israel

( Audio Version )

Defunding the Police Harms Black Victims of Domestic Violence

I go over my list again and again in my head. Is my gas tank filled up with gas? Do I have my emergency resources binder? Is my crisis cell phone charged? Did I put a change of clothes for an adult and a child in my trunk? This is the checklist that many who work in domestic violence crisis response go over when it’s our turn to be “on-call.” We have to make sure that we’re ready to respond at the drop of a hat, no matter the time of day or night. We are trained to make the first statement to the caller, “If you’re in immediate danger, call 911.” I have worked with hundreds of clients, all of whom were seeking safety from abusive partners. Their safety has always been at the center of my advocacy.

Recently, I learned that an area non-profit working in domestic violence discouraged, in the name of “defunding the police,” women of color from calling 911. Nothing could be more harmful to their interests. Yet that’s where today’s progressive ideology seems to have taken us.

Those working in the field of domestic violence are tasked with listening to clients, letting them take the lead on their decisions, all the while keeping them informed of their rights, possible impacts, and available resources. Victim and survivor advocates have to be flexible, knowledgeable, and empathetic to each caller while being acutely aware of the dangers they face. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), domestic violence hotlines receive more than 20,000 phone calls every day in the United States. Sometimes callers are seeking information and resources so they are better able to assess their options. Many times, however, they are looking for immediate support to extricate themselves from a violent and dangerous situation.

Everyone working in the field knows that it is our duty to inform victims to call 911 immediately if they are in danger. We rely on law enforcement for their immediate physical safety.

But the defund the police mantra has apparently gotten a segment of our field off track and off mission. As someone who has direct professional experience working with nonprofits focused on assisting those impacted by domestic violence in the Philadelphia metro region, I was astounded to read that a major domestic violence nonprofit was engaging in divisive race ideology that negatively impacts the ability of employees to engage in this highly stressful work. Forcing staff to sign statements, as this nonprofit did, that “all white people are racist and I am not the exception,” in no way furthers the cause of eliminating domestic violence or makes it so individuals no longer live in fear of family violence. Women Against Abuse claims to offer “quality, compassionate, and nonjudgmental services” to those impacted by domestic violence. Compelling staff to sign statements of racial guilt, however, only foments divisiveness and instability in a highly demanding environment for employees and clients alike.

Forcing staff to sign statements, as this nonprofit did, that “all white people are racist and I am not the exception,” in no way furthers the cause of eliminating domestic violence or makes it so individuals no longer live in fear of family violence.

And if that isn’t bad enough, the same nonprofit discouraged victims, specifically Black women, from contacting law enforcement when they are in danger. As a Black woman who has advocated for victims and survivors, I find that especially horrifying. When a victim of domestic violence reaches out for help, their race is not something that an advocate, attorney, or therapist should take stock of in order to do the job. Law enforcement offers some sense of safety from that violence no matter the victim’s race. The idea that clients would be told to steer clear of the police in life threatening situations is mind bogglingly dangerous and averse to their interests.

The same nonprofit discouraged victims, specifically Black women, from contacting law enforcement when they are in danger.

Moreover, given the less than stellar relationship between law enforcement and those working in the domestic violence prevention and response field, more, not less, funding is necessary for law enforcement. Sure, there are times when police officers do not act in a manner that respects the position they hold. There have been countless times when domestic violence victims go to the police for help and are dismissed, the danger they’re in not taken seriously. Such miscarriages of duty call for more funding for training, not less. We need law enforcement to take the dangers of domestic violence seriously and respond appropriately when a victim reaches out for help, not leave the scene.

For all of those proudly chanting “defund the police” I have one question: Who do you want to respond when a victim is locked in her bathroom, trying to escape her abuser? Who should show up at her home when her abuser has a loaded gun and is threatening to shoot her? Do you honestly believe that I, as a social worker, will be able to de-escalate a potential perpetrator who is exhibiting homicidal intention and brandishing a gun? Are you willing to put me and my fellow social workers in harm’s way just to score political points and gain social clout in progressive circles? Or are you just virtue signaling, hijacking a movement that rightfully desires police reform, in order to further your own agenda?

Have social movements toward progress gotten so shallow that they ignore the disenfranchised in favor of the privileged few who have never needed to call 911 because someone is threatening to kill their children? What I come away with is that the Defund the Police movement did not consider the impact their ideology has on victims, and organizations that claim to advocate for victims have no business going along with such dictates.

Making History in Manhattan

“…there is a surprisingly rich and layered heritage of modern buildings proving our connection to contemporary architectural thinking which makes me wonder why we have so lost touch with this spirit. So many current new buildings can’t make up their minds what they want to be other than parochial regionalism… the meek wallpaper contextualism of today’s wrapping paper facades.” 

Stanley Saitowitz                     

Architects are making history on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. In simple quantity of output, there is an enormous amount of residential construction going on in upper Manhattan. “The last decade has been a banner one for New York City construction. The five boroughs have rebounded from the recession and two major hurricanes to reach 25-year highs in construction spending,” according to the NY Building Congress, a forum for the design, construction, and real estate industries.

Projects that were planned at the height of the 10-year rebound from the 2008 recession and then put on hold during the pandemic, are now coming to completion all over the area from 57th street on upward. Much of this is on the Upper East Side. And much of it is ground-up, luxury-level condominium apartments.

But it is in the quality of the output especially that history is being made. Within the paradoxical framework of rehabilitating our nation’s decaying physical infrastructure as well as signaling a change of ethical agendas to favor conservation and “sustainability,” a curiously surreptitious set of guidelines for economic planning is taking hold, seemingly more intent on social engineering a new American mindset rather than generating viable investment growth programming.     

Nobody used the phrase “Build Back Better” when Rudy Giuliani took over the mayor’s office from David Dinkins in 1993 and made the city of New York safer for tourists, businesses and the ordinary citizen. His administration’s tactics, including his “broken windows” strategy of addressing the more visible (if less destructive) effects of crime as a way of inhibiting the less visible and more dangerous ones, were not always popular but they worked. Neither was that phrase used when Mayor Bloomberg salvaged and expanded New York’s economy after 9/11 with extensive new zoning that dramatically altered the city’s fabric and feel. “Mayor Mike’s” policies are variously blamed or celebrated, depending on who’s counting, for the widespread gentrification the city has undergone during and since his convention-defying, three consecutive four-year terms. 

Then 2020 happened.  Riots in the name of “racial justice” following George Floyd’s death swept through large cities across the country. Our government used a viral pandemic to force the suspension of the entire private economy and the mandated lockdowns of the polity from every sphere of public life.  Suddenly, the “Build Back Better” mantra was being advertised as the salutary doctrine for every one of civilization’s ills, however deliberately they were caused.  It is in this urban milieu of rebuilding and replenishing a city evacuated by the most financially well-off who escaped the crime and societal carnage that filled the vacuum of our emptied streets that the construction upswing has picked up speed and forged ahead. 

Developers have snatched up plots from the far border of East End Avenue all the way to what was the last remaining low rise, townhouse-sized building on Fifth Avenue to build large, multiple-residence apartment buildings.  And these builders are turning to architects to build in styles that will appeal to buyers in neighborhoods that are still the safest, cleanest, most economically stable “bedroom communities” in all the five boroughs: high-earning young families with children in private schools and second vacation homes, who will occupy these multi-room homes rather than flip or rent them as investments.    

To make these well-to-do buyers feel secure and at home in the once-settled but now less predictable neighborhoods of Lenox Hill, Carnegie Hill, and Yorkville, the approach to design favored overwhelmingly has been cautious, conservative, and immediately familiar in its expressive vocabulary. It is a mongrel style I refer to as “retro-historicist”: anodyne pastiches of earlier styles that were themselves backward looking assemblages of history-evocative architectural devices even when they were new. Technically this collaging technique is a hoary tradition as old as the city itself. So, when we say that history is being made, it may be more accurate to say history is being manufactured. 

Paris on the Hudson 

Since their earliest days, when Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam brought with them the brick walled, tiled roofs of domestic building from the Netherlands, NYC’s building owners naturally relied on European vernaculars. As the city and its economy evolved, builders relied on grander models to express their aspirations as inheritors of the centers of power—political, financial, and cultural, of the Ancien Régime. And of course, the French were the principal stylists for the material of modern Western civilization, which they achieved by the expert manipulation of classical-reductive architectural imagery, combined with controlled extravagance. Versailles and the Paris Opera House are grandiose, but they are also disciplined.  

More than the Italian model, which was the architectural lingua franca of the entire colonized world from the time baroque Imperial Urbanism in the days of Augustus replaced sedate Republican architecture, through to its rediscovery in the renaissance and on to its promiscuous revival in the 19th century New World, the Italian idiom has been more animated, more excessive, and less exclusive in the symbolism it has employed. The French, by contrast used the vocabulary of ancient Greece and Rome in more decorous, if also more contrived configurations and elaborations. 

When American architects of the late 19th century ventured to depart from the prevailing Victorian styles they belatedly still looked to, they alighted on the Beaux Arts. In contrast to the eccentric and freewheeling organizational logic and busy vocabularies of the Queen Anne and Neo-Renaissance, the classically inspired methodology brought back to New York from the eponymous Ecole in Paris by a new generation of European-educated American architects, lent itself to more rigorous handling. 

The Beaux Arts’ organizational rules—symmetry and hierarchy in both plan (the placement of rooms and spaces to move through) and elevation (the articulation of vertical surfaces)—were more composed, more clearly legible to the user than past styles; and its conjugation of Greek and Roman-inspired grammars was more flexible for use in the myriad different building types that defined the boom of building in the prolific development of the Gilded Age. Lending itself as easily to the public institutional buildings—libraries, post-offices, train stations—being built all over the country, as it was adaptable to the great private mansions, the Beaux Arts style filled a need. Even the nascent building typologies—the new luxury-level, multiple residence apartment buildings as well as the state-of-the-art department stores for which there was a quickly expanding market in a burgeoning city such as New York—were perfectly suited to the ceremonial Beaux Arts. Hand-in-hand, construction and architecture together quickly helped New York blossom into the nation’s epicenter of business and culture as the 19th gave way to the 20th century and the city flourished. 

Until the second half of the twentieth century, the multivariable application of Beaux Arts style defined New York City, and New York City defined urbanism: densely built, diversely populated, technologically advanced, and constantly transforming itself. Serving and expressing all this activity were its monuments to efficiency, democracy, and upward mobility: Pennsylvania Station and Grand Central Terminal welcomed immigrant and commuter alike; the Savoy, the Plaza, and the Ansonia Hotels, gave temporary shelter, and the Apthorp apartments offered permanent residence. The Municipal Building on Centre Street, the New York Public Library served the populace, the department stores from “Ladies’ Mile” to Macy’s on Herald Square. The Singer and the Woolworth towers housed commerce, Shearith Israel for worship, and Luna Park for leisure.  All of these were vehicles for bringing cosmopolitan Parisian monumentality to every facet of American urban life. And all of them typified the Beaux-Arts.     

International Stylin’ 

If the appropriateness of the Beaux-Arts style—a freely adaptable compendium of formal gestures whose purpose was to evoke the continuity of the March of History, and its inevitable destination in the USA—had its culmination in the years between the wars, then it’s not hard to understand what would be perceived by the arbiters of taste as its complete irrelevance in the years that followed. Two World Wars, the seductions of the Machine Age, the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), that promoted Functionalist goals for the building and decorative arts to speak more honestly, and for aesthetics more straightforwardly of the forms they expressed—all coincided to prove the incongruity of heavy, overwrought, and superficial treatments that no longer represented the collective unconscious in built form. 

International Style Modernism swept the world and became the stripped-down form and symbol for any developed or developing nation to show it was ready to participate on the world stage. Amazingly New York City continued to hold its place as the locus of power in business and culture through all the stages of High and Late Modernism. Only in the late 20th century did slick corporate austerity finally cede its stylistic hegemony over architectural output, in parallel to the waning, if still predominant, power of American culture. Post-Modernism—reflexively ironic, idiosyncratically eclectic, or, at its most self-serious, historically revivalist—served to undermine the monolithic pretensions of architectural expression. It became fair game to wear one’s style on one’s sleeve. Philip Johnson’s Chippendale-topped, thin-veneered skyscraper for AT&T completed in 1984 (now 550 Madison with extensive renovations) was the most conspicuous iteration of this style, and it winked and elbowed its Post-Modern bona-fides in every department: at once mocking tradition even as it alluded to its authority in heavy handed, colossally over-scaled, pink travertine. 

Until the second decade of the 21st century, when the city’s economy returned after first, 9/11 and then the Great Recession, there was not much space given over to newfangled architecture at all. Now that the government has abated its enforced privations, we are seeing what was gestating as we quarantined; and with that how advances in the design of urban infrastructure have lapsed, or even retreated to a refuge of false comfort.      

Bozo Arts on the Upper East Side

27 East 79th Street

Squished into the footprint of a single typical brownstone between two wider, more genteel, and sober-faced apartment blocks from the last century, is 27 East 79th Street. A 15-story sliver that spreads its vague historical motifs across its narrow 25-foot breadth, seemingly intent on not leaving a square foot unadorned. The sales website describes in the usual overheated real estate bromides that “Parisian design firm Cabinet Alberto Pinto” (actually, a decorator rather than an architect, though to quibble over any supposed deception would be to overlook the service truly being performed by his office, which is, indeed, decorating, albeit of a 232 x 25-foot curtain wall); “has created a truly contextual building with foundations in the past. The eight exquisite residences are housed within a boutique building (whatever that might be) that is influenced by the classical past architecture of Fin de siècle Paris. The building’s façade features rich details (unclear what this means) of Beaux Arts classicism and delicate Art Nouveau touches while taking its cues from the stately prewar neighbors.”—and to this last observation, we can say: Bingo! Finally, a correct if half-true admission of how this building’s facile facial expression was motivated, if not how shallow is its treatment. It was meant to take cues from its neighbors. Regrettably it doesn’t seem to have known what to do with them once they were taken.  

The “rich details” might allude to the feeble attempt at rustication, a way of treating joints between cut stone to accentuate its massiveness that here is more akin to scoring, as one does to cardboard to make it fold more easily. Or the surface-mounted, CNC-routed curlicues or dentil-inflected architraves that interrupt the prefabricated limestone panels in no discernable rhythm or relation to their periodic position across the building’s narrow height, instead of their natural place giving visual support to an attic story or pediment. Or the various keystones or medallions that interrupt still other applied gimcrackery from top to bottom.   

To borrow from classicism is what classicism was made for. At its simplest, it’s a set of platonic solids and elementary spatial volumes, that by their reference to the scale of the human figure, endow large, man-made objects like buildings with legible proportion and grace. Its parts are meant to be reconfigured, if according to rules derived from nature, like gravity, balance, order, and regularity. 

Art Nouveau, on the other hand, is a mannerist, idiosyncratic, and most importantly, reactionary play on the rules of expressive form-making that, in consisting of already abstract sources—highly stylized motifs taken from plants & flowers, is a direct rejection of academic classicism.  It is conceivable that any single building might have started out dressed in the garb of Beaux Arts classicism and was later introduced to some Art Nouveau flourishes, though I can think of no examples. But to start out with both of these diametric opposites and without any attempt at an integrated new hybrid that might result, is to mimic the neighbors’ speech without knowing what language they’re speaking. “Context” be damned!    

333 East 82nd Street

“MANOR82,” as its website & street signage refer to it, is a stoutly scaled, ersatz Chateau squatting between brownstone faced apartments on an otherwise motley if unassuming block between 1st and 2nd Avenues. Its pretensions to the great habitations of landed gentry begins and ends with its awkwardly unhyphenated name: it is too large and undifferentiated in its massing to suggest any relation to the primary residence of a country estate, even if transported to a dense and narrow cross street in Manhattan. And its division into 21 separate residences over its eight stocky stories results in apartments that, though possibly spacious by New York standards, are, with the exception of the penthouse unit, stuffed together with only two exposures at front and back, the latter of which look onto the fire escapes and rear windows of brick tenements to their north. 

While its developer, Rybak, refers in its promotional materials to its “classic limestone façade” and sales agent CityRealty’s online ads describe its “Hand-chiseled limestone,”  the managing architect’s web page devoted to the project candidly admits of the entire front façade’s being executed with a “patented glass fiber reinforced gypsum rainscreen with (cladding manufacturer) Zoho Stone’s ‘Forton MG product’,” while the rear is brick veneer, and lot-line walls made of “EIFS” —a sprayed on synthetic stucco. In other words, as it appears to this observer, the “rounded window bays, molding bands, and dentil course parapet comprise an opulent, pre-war-styled façade“ made of heavy-duty Styrofoam. 

That its windows are oversized and tinted insulated glass with false mullions, its molding bands extend horizontally and vertically irrespective of their supporting masses, and their dentil course clads a heavily looming cornice and not a parapet are only a few of the many things that prevent this building from being opulent or “pre-war-styled.” But even a simulated manor house of dubious provenance mysteriously dropped mid-block on a side street of upper Manhattan would not feature a 12-foot-wide garage door prominently if haphazardly akimbo from the vertical rhythm of projecting bays that bulge out over the sidewalk above it. 

200 East 83RD Street

200 East 83rd Street is on the corner of 3rd Avenue—slightly off the beat from the “Millionaire’s Row” of Fifth Avenue, or grand dames of Park Avenue. That it was designed by the office of Robert A.M. Stern, perhaps the single most preeminent architect in America, longtime dean and educator at Yale school architecture and respected author of multiple seminal histories of the architecture of New York, has strangely not stopped this from being a massive pile of banality. Never in recent memory has so much masonry been put in the service of so many indiscriminately applied decorative cliches in a single edifice. The sheer number of platitudes rendered in Indiana limestone is an embarrassment of moneys spent and taste sacrificed. 

Rising approximately 500 feet above ground the 35 story tower plunges into the sky above all other buildings that surround it. The air rights of the adjacent properties were secured by the developer to allow for such a height and to provide it with 360-degree views.

The vertiginous façade—real limestone so overly machine-finished that it looks fake—is interrupted twice with deeply set arched “loggias” suggesting open-air porches that could not possibly be occupied at such heights, making them “blind” if left open windswept empty holes. 

From the 3rd story setback and upward, it looks like the office’s junior designers rented a truck and raided a garden statuary salvage yard stealing anything that might be appended to what would otherwise be a bland but innocuous shaft of punched windows:  

Six story tall, bas-relief pylons with vertically-half-cut urn finials; inset panels of diamond lattice patterns adorning chamfered setback corners; projecting rectangular panels with circular giant half-story high, stone swag and tassel-based brackets supporting nothing above and engaged with shallow-relief keystone voussoirs below; miniature tapered Juliet balconies below windows far too high and too small to be functional. 

As it nears completion, the building is a theme-park—a veritable index of pseudo-Beaux-Arts motifs, without recourse to the ordering principals, or expressionistic logic that would have made its sources legible and provided the continuity with the great buildings of the past, and even a few of the past-facing other recent projects from this firm’s desks, tolerable, even admirable. 

Lost in Translation

You can believe and admire that Manhattan has always been the surrealist “exquisite corpse” game of addition and accretion and erasure and substitution by separate individual owners of adjacent parcels. And there is no one super-structural mode of holistic urban planning that is not susceptible to such shortcomings that allow for the production of ugliness, lack of utility, and other occupational failures of urban architectural planning.  

The complaint, if there is one, is not just about the failure of discrete instances of building designs that fail to adhere to any of their own internal logics, however derivative those are. Rather, the objection is to buildings that purport to place themselves into “contexts” or define or reflect on their neighbors in ways that enhance the former (themselves) and diminish the latter (their neighbors). Had any one of these three examples of meekly reactionary designs dispensed with the cloying quotations from misremembered style manuals, and relied on the inherent qualities of real materials, or even the creative opportunities of synthetic ones, it might have been quieter, but believable. Or if they’d exploited the tectonic methods that undergird their physical accomplishments, they might have been loud but authentic. And had they looked to the underlying thinking that originally gave meaning to the classical systems they so tepidly reference, instead of the calcified forms of its hackneyed application; or if they proposed their own new systems altogether—the buildings might not be so vaguely familiar (or familiarly vague), nor so safe. But they might have been respectable in their own rights. And they may have advanced the actual causes of the elaborated classicism they so lamely borrow from: the legible articulation of structural elements and their relation to the human form by systems of proportion, abstracted from nature and the essentials of built assembly.  

To complete the quote at top of San Francisco architect Stanley Saitowitz in his reexamination of the best of his city’s modern building design: 

“…. It is reassuring to see architecture express ideas of making in ways that users can understand construction and intentions and are set free to inhabit and interpret their spaces.”

If developers want to offer assurances of security, and architects the authority of history, their work will be more convincing, and our skylines more agreeable, if created with the courage – and the clarity – of conviction.     

Drawings by the author.

Zelensky: A Modern Day Jagiello

On a recent walk through Central Park, I stumbled upon a statue of a warrior, mounted on a horse, brandishing two swords. The monument bore the following inscription:

King Jagiello – Founder of a Free Union of the Peoples of East Central Europe — Victor Over the Teutonic Aggressors at Grunwald — July 15, 1410

Change the name of the aggressors and of the battle, give the warrior a green T-shirt and replace his swords with smartphones, and you could replace the medieval warrior-king, Wadyslav II Jagiello, with the President of the Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Last month marked the 612th anniversary of a legendary medieval battle, one of the most unexpected military victories in European history. At Grunwald, on July 15, 1410, the tenacious Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, led by the brilliant and talented warrior-king, Wadyslav II Jagiello, and aided by a ragtag coalition of recruits from much of the rest of eastern Europe, vanquished the Teutonic Knights, one of the most highly sophisticated, powerful, and menacing civilizations in medieval Europe. Their victory ushered in the Polish Golden Age, which would provide an anchor of relative stability in eastern Europe for centuries.

So, who was King Wadyslav Jagiello (pronounced Ya-Guy-Lo)? Who were the Teutonic Aggressors? And how did a statue of Jagiello end up in Central Park? What can we take away from a king and a battle that occurred more than six centuries ago?

Jagiello was born sometime in the 1350s, one of 13 sons of Lithuania’s Grand Duke. In 1377, upon the death of his father, Jagiello ascended the throne as co-regent with his uncle, Kestutis. Kestutis was mysteriously murdered in 1382 while in prison where Jagiello had sent him.

Catholic Poland and Lithuania shared a common enemy in the Teutonic Knights. While his mother, Russian by birth, encouraged him to marry a Russian princess to forge a stronger alliance with Russia, Jagiello instead married a Polish princess, Jadwiga, converted to Catholicism, and was crowned King of Poland in 1386. Lithuania and Poland would henceforth operate as separate states under one crown, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Jagiello established what remains one of the oldest universities of Europe, Jagiellonian University, whose distinguished alumni include both Copernicus and Pope John Paul II. But Jagiello was best known as a skilled military leader and masterful diplomat, most remembered for his surprise victory at Grunwald.

The Teutonic Knights were a crusading military order founded in 1198, under the auspices of the Holy Roman Empire, to help retake Jerusalem from Saladin in the failed Third Crusade. After the decline of the Crusader states in the early 13th century, the Knights took aim at other territories—first Transylvania, then the Baltic states, and later much of Prussia. They developed a sophisticated and powerful civilization—perhaps the most advanced state Europe—and developed into the malevolent European super-power of their day.

In 1409, Teutonic Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen declared war on Jagiello’s Commonwealth under the false pretense of spreading the Christian faith (Poland had been Christian since 966). On July 15, 1410, following the end of a ceasefire mediated by Wenceslaus, King of the Romans, Jagiello launched a surprise invasion at the German town of Grunwald. Under his leadership, within hours, a ragtag coalition of Catholic Poles, pagan Lithuanians, Muslim Tatars, and Eastern Orthodox Ukrainians crushed the Teutonic Knights. Eight thousand aggressors, including most of the knights, were killed, and 14,000 were taken prisoner.

The peace treaty that resolved most of the territorial issues imposed heavy reparations on the Teutonic Knights, from which they never recovered. They were never a credible fighting force again. Jagiello’s victory ushered in Poland’s Golden Era of commerce, education, arts, and literature. Jagiello and his progeny became one of the most influential dynasties in Central Europe and reigned for centuries.

A bronze statue of Jagiello mounted on his horse was erected in Krakow in 1910 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald. A replica of this statue sits across from Belvedere Castle, behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in Central Park today.

The Central Park monument was created for the Polish Pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, Queens. The statue symbolically guarded the pavilion as a not-so-subtle reminder to Nazi Germany of the fate of its Teutonic ancestors. On September 1, 1939, four months after the opening of the pavilion, Germany invaded Poland. And tragically, the original Krakow statue of Jagiello was removed by the Nazis and melted down to manufacture bullets.

The New York statue was put into storage when the World’s Fair closed in 1940. It was recovered from storage and unveiled in Central Park in 1945, on the 535th anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald, two months after V-E Day.

Volodymyr Zelensky’s personal history, path to power, and governing system could not be more different from King Wladislaw II Jagiello’s. Jagiello was no democrat, and Zelensky did not descend from European royalty. However, a victory by Ukraine over the Russian aggressors could be as significant and lasting for Central and Eastern Europe today as was Jagiello’s six centuries ago. Just as Jagiello, one of the most skilled diplomats and military leaders of his day, formed an international coalition of diverse powers to fight his sworn enemies in their trumped-up war on his country, Zelensky has skillfully aligned most of the civilized world in his defense of his homeland and countering of Russian fabrications. 

Zelensky could serve as similar inspiration well beyond Ukraine, to the Baltics, the Czechs, and Poles—even the Taiwanese—and to free people around the world, in our day and for generations to come.

The civilized world’s tangible support, however, has not matched its rhetoric. Its military support, while improved since the early days of the war, has been begrudging and inconsistent. The United States and its allies must do more, and they must do it swiftly and aggressively. The Ukrainians are not only fighting for themselves; they are fighting for the rest of Europe and for us, and perhaps for the entire world.

Jagiello stood up to outside invasion, and inspired generations of eastern Europeans to oppose tyranny, including the spiritual liberator of Eastern Europe, Pope John Paul II. Likewise, with proper support, Zelensky could serve as similar inspiration well beyond Ukraine, to the Baltics, the Czechs, and Poles—even the Taiwanese—and to free people around the world, in our day and for generations to come.

Fairfax Leadership Fail

Numerous reports show that public school curricula hostile to Jews and Israel are rapidly spreading into American classrooms. Jewish parents would normally assume that Jewish community leaders would be alarmed at the prospect of our children harassed and even hated for being Jewish and supporters of Israel. One would think Jewish leaders would be on top of this. We did. We were wrong. 

My informal group of Jewish parents in Fairfax County, concerned about growing anti-Semitism in Northern Virginia public schools, assumed we could count on our local Jewish leadership to help us. Instead, we found a leadership that had generally failed to educate the Jewish community about this threat and seemed to have no appreciable strategy to fight it. 

While our leaders are more responsive when hatred comes from neo-Nazis and white supremacists, they still have no strategy for addressing it, and they seem utterly flummoxed and paralyzed by the more nuanced anti-Semitism arising from groups other than these. 

In our case, as we became aware of multiple incidents of anti-Semitism occurring over the years in our local schools in Northern Virginia, we reached out to the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), which presents itself as the authority to speak for the Jewish community. We soon found that the JCRC was conflicted in their interests and rather than prioritizing fighting anti-Semitism, we found them to be more interested in currying favor with elected officials and promoting a “progressive equity” agenda. The JCRC showed little interest in working with members of the Jewish community, especially grassroots organizations such as ours (we would later form United Against Antisemitism-Northern Virginia), unless we were in agreement with their agenda, and they insistently pushed back against Jewish individuals and groups who wished to take action against the growing anti-Semitism. The standard JCRC response toward concerned Jews was essentially: “We know the players. Back off and leave this to us.” 

The JCRC showed itself either unwilling or unable to closely evaluate friends or foes, right in our local community. For example, in May 2021, as Israel was defending itself from Hamas’s indiscriminate shelling of Tel Aviv, we learned that Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) board member Abrar Omeish called Israel an apartheid, colonizing state, and accused Israel of killing innocents on her social media account, an account linked to her official school board webpage. Individual members of the Jewish community responded by calling for the school board to censure her, but to no avail.  

A few days after she made her post, the JCRC issued a statement calling her tweet a: “one-sided, inaccurate, and hateful statement that smeared Israel, defamed Israelis, and disenfranchised the thousands of Jewish families in her district.” The JCRC offered her the opportunity to “amend her remarks,” and tried to convince her to take down her social media post. She refused, forcing the JCRC to rescind the honor they were scheduled to present to her as a “champion of faith equity” for her work in trying to include additional days of religious observance to the FCPS school calendar. Meanwhile, her post accumulated multiple anti-Semitic responses from people encouraging her, some of them calling for the destruction of Israel, some threatening Jews individually. 

Now comes the truly shocking part: a cursory Google search revealed that as a college student at Yale University Omeish was president of the Muslim Students Association, an organization whose origins are associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Her father, a former president of the Muslim American Society, another organization whose origins are also associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, was forced to resign from a Virginia commission on immigration when videos surfaced of him advocating for jihad in Israel. Her father also recommended that their mosque hire Anwar al-Awlaki as imam, which they did. As recently as 2018, the elder Omeish was cited by name in congressional testimony for his ties to terrorist organizations. Following in her father’s footsteps, Omeish led efforts to block the courageous feminist and Islamist critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali from speaking on her campus. A few weeks after her social media post, as she delivered the commencement address at a high school graduation ceremony in her official capacity as a school board member, she introduced her terrorist-linked father as a special guest in the audience. She then told the graduating class to “remember their jihad.” The JCRC staff, one assumes, is composed of competent professionals, yet all the alarm bells that we – just parents – easily found spending thirty minutes on Google, either did not sound in any JCRC office, or worse, were ignored.  

We were forced to ask ourselves: was the JCRC fooled or did they willingly turn a blind eye in their desire to court an “interfaith political partner” on the school board? Did their strategy of linking with “victim groups” – and proving they were anti-Islamophobes – conflict with what should be their first priority: keeping the Jewish community safe? Instead of educating the Jewish community about the threat of Islamist anti-Semitism, the JCRC, patronizingly, tried to dissuade us from taking further action against her.  

When the school board initially ignored our calls for censuring Omeish, we became aware from multiple Jewish parents that the school district had a pattern of ignoring incidents of anti-Semitism in their schools. We naturally called on the JCRC to help us, join us – or even lead the effort in confronting the schools and protecting Jewish children from anti-Semitism. While the JCRC met with us several times, we quickly learned that they were more interested in forging political partnerships with elected officials than forcefully addressing numerous incidents of anti-Semitism in the local school district. Not only did they not appear to have an overall strategy to address antisemitism in the schools, they were unaware that the few programs they had initiated to address the problem, which they boasted about to the community, were not actually getting into the classrooms, showing little understanding of how to navigate the school system’s large bureaucracy. Instead, they wanted us to come to them regarding issues, but then at every point they discouraged us from operating on our own, effectively telling us to be quiet.  

A few weeks after the Omeish incident, a Fairfax elementary school listed on its website a host of anti-racism resources for the community, including one called “Woke Kindergarten.”  Woke Kindergarten describes its mission as an “abolitionist early childhood ecosystem” promoting “black and queer and trans liberation.” It advances the oppressor/oppressed binary of Critical Race Theory. So, where are America’s Jews in this framework? Well, Woke Kindergarten’s website which poses “woke wonderings” in “liberatory thought” asks, “If the United States defunded the Israeli military, how could this money be used to rebuild Palestine?”  On its Instagram account, Woke Kindergarten labels Israel a “settler colony” that has “no right to exist.” Groups like Parents Defending Education publicized these and other posts as an example of FCPS promoting a site that utilized Critical Race Theory, and under pressure, the school district claimed it was a mistake and removed it.  

Woke Kindergarten describes its mission as an “abolitionist early childhood ecosystem” promoting “black and queer and trans liberation.”

Yet months later, after the media asserted that the Virginia gubernatorial election was, to a significant degree, about critical race theory, the JCRC held a two-part webinar entitled: “Beyond the Headlines: Understanding How History and Race are Taught in Our Schools,” that whitewashed CRT-based curricula.  The JCRC promoted the first webinar, “What is Culturally Responsive Instruction in K-12 Schools?  How Does It Impact Our Children?” as intending to clarify the “complex issue and how the current debate regarding school curricula impacts American Jews.” While Critical Race Theory was an election issue, the JCRC renamed and reframed it, giving their webinar the deceptively parve title: “Culturally Responsive Instruction in K-12 Schools.” The title purposefully obfuscated the issue. CRT – yes, a theoretical framework whose complex philosophical contentions are studied in universities – is the driving force that is changing curricula across the country. CRT ideology removes Jews from their historic position of being allies with America’s minority groups, and redefines them as “adjacent whites,” putting them in the oppressor class. 

The JCRC sought to use the example of Woke Kindergarten in Fairfax schools to demonstrate  how they protected Fairfax’s Jews from any potential problems CRT might present. During the webinar the JCRC explained that the school had quickly removed Woke Kindergarten because it did not match the equity officers’ vision of culturally responsive instruction. But in fact, Woke Kindergarten was never fully removed from the school district’s curriculum. Summer school lesson plans for elementary students revealed that links to Woke Kindergarten’s videos were used almost daily as part of literacy instruction. Our group found that this was perfectly in line with the vision of the school’s equity officer, who told us in conversations: “We use critical race theory as the frame for teaching history.”

CRT ideology removes Jews from their historic position of being allies with America’s minority groups, and redefines them as “adjacent whites,” putting them in the oppressor class.

Worse yet, neither of the JCRC’s guest presenters were from the Commonwealth of Virginia, where this was the recent election issue. One guest was a director of equity at a Maryland school district and the other guest was a university associate director of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity Education in New York who told the audience, “Jews should embrace CRT.”  

Jewish leaders should tell this inconvenient truth about Critical Race Theory: no matter how much their radicalized allies promote it, CRT is dangerous for Jews.  It casts Jews as “white adjacents” with disproportionate and ill-gotten power and it views the Israeli/Palestinian crisis through the lens of race where “white” Israel becomes an apartheid state and therefore like all systems of oppression, must be destroyed. Instead of the JCRC explaining this to the Jewish community, and fighting it, our JCRC is telling the community we should support an ideology that inevitably leads to anti-Semitism.  

The JCRC’s assurances that they had anti-Semitism under control in the schools also ran counter to the many examples parents shared of anti-Semitism that had been largely ignored by school administrators. Not only had the JCRC failed in providing much needed clarity and leadership regarding nuanced and politically charged anti-Semitism, but they were not even adequately addressing the more easily recognizable forms of anti-Semitism. Parents shared numerous examples of swastikas that remained unerased for years, of students performing the sieg heil, of them singing happy birthday to Hitler, and of them telling deeply offensive Holocaust jokes to Jewish students, many of whom were also repeatedly subject to ethnic slurs.  Administrators also refused to provide reasonable accommodations for Jewish students when school activities coincided with Jewish holidays.  

Jewish leaders should tell this inconvenient truth about Critical Race Theory: no matter how much their radicalized allies promote it, CRT is dangerous for Jews.

Assurances by the JCRC that they were working behind the scenes to improve the situation were not reassuring. (Activists throughout the country have shared with us similar experiences about their JCRC essentially telling them to back off and let them handle the situation.) The incidents we collected had been occurring for years with no apparent improvement and no apparent larger strategy in place to address this ongoing issue. Worse yet, when we asked the JCRC about trends in anti-Semitism in Fairfax schools, they admitted that after all these years, they had not collected that data. Realizing the truth about the ineffectiveness of the JCRC, our group reached out to the ZOA and other Jewish organizations who agreed to officially advocate for our Jewish families by demanding FCPS take action to address anti-Semitism in their schools. To our astonishment, our group soon discovered that the JCRC was coordinating back-channel discussions to convince one of the Jewish organizations to rescind their support. The JCRC showed greater concern in controlling the dialogue and relationships than leading any effort to solve our problems. However, given the repeated pattern of anti-Semitic harassment ignored by school officials, the ZOA filed a Title VI complaint against the school district. Since the complaint has been filed, we have brought two more incidents of students performing the sieg heil and impersonating Hitler to the school district and the JCRC’s attention.  

Most recently, we heard from individual members of the Jewish community that the NEA, the largest teachers union in the United States, was holding a vote on three anti-Israel “New Business Items” at their upcoming annual convention. The first two items called for the NEA to allot resources to “educate members and the general public about the history, culture, and struggles of Palestinians, including the detention, abuse, and displacement of children in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” and to advocate for the rights of Palestinians using one-sided and factually inaccurate sources from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, among others. A third New Business Item stated that the NEA will support members who engage in this work “when they are under attack.” While the first item failed, the second went to committee, and the third, which provides union support to members who promote a factually inaccurate narrative of the Israeli/Palestinian crisis, passed by twenty percentage points.  

It came to our attention that our members were alerted to this upcoming NEA vote by the JCRC. Rather than inform the larger Jewish community and mobilize them, the JCRC decided to only share this information with whom it considered to be concerned individuals by private email. Our organization, which had been fighting anti-Semitism in K-12 schools for over a year, did not receive an email. When we asked the JCRC if they would be making a public statement about the NEA’s items, a move that will impact Jewish and non-Jewish students alike, they responded that this was being handled “nationally.” Finding that answer dissatisfying, we organized Jews across the country to write letters and got media coverage of the NEA convention.  

The JCRC’s framing of the NEA resolutions as a national issue and therefore outside their purview, seemed highly problematic given their active involvement in other national issues.  At the same time the NEA issue was happening, the JCRC issued a detailed plan responding to Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. They coordinated with other organizations and participated in marches and appeared at events with lawmakers. They have had at least three webinars on abortion and reproductive rights in the month since the ruling with more planned.  The JCRC also issued a statement in Kennedy v. Bremerton. The JCRC comfortably criticized the decisions in both cases, and the Christian right presumably behind them, for being purportedly harmful to Jews, but was unwilling to also publicly criticize the leftist NEA for entertaining and supporting measures that would back teachers who engage in spreading falsehoods about Israel in our public schools.  

Early in the process of our interactions with the JCRC, hoping to partner with them and encourage them to take a more aggressive approach to fighting anti-Semitism and often becoming discouraged and disappointed in their approach, we became aware from various news articles in Jewish media that this situation was not unique. From Raleigh to Boston to Los Angeles, Jewish community members report a similar frustration with their local Jewish organizations who seemingly lack a strategy for addressing growing anti-Semitism. Rather than supporting and partnering with Jewish grassroots organizations nationwide, the legacy Jewish organizations have sought to maintain their “expert” status, often dissuading and sometimes even undermining these activist groups. We reached out to the Jewish Leadership Project, which has provided support to our group and others like us throughout the country who are deeply concerned about the rising tide of anti-Semitism and the lack of urgency and a cohesive strategy by organizations like the JCRC. Multiple ideological threats have left the Jewish community more vulnerable than it has been in years.  Jewish leadership needs to stop promoting their social justice agenda and rethink a strategy based on the illusion that the radicalized left is our ally.  They need to start prioritizing the safety of the Jewish community. 

A Remembrance of Eternal Truth

From nothing only nothing may come. So said Parimenedes, the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher and founder of ontology when he argued against the notion that nothing is eternal and that all things are subject to obsolescence and replacement. ‘Ex nihilo nihil fit’ or ‘nothing comes from nothing’ can also be taken to mean that creation is complete and can neither be added to nor subtracted from, only transmuted—like the clay that is shaped and fired so that it can become a bowl. This echoes Kohelet [Ecclesiastes] 1:9, which reads ‘what has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.’ It should go without saying that this doesn’t rule out the appearance of new forms, but those new forms would not come from nothing, but would instead be products of nature’s ability to convert matter into things that may appear new, but that are, at the sub-atomic level, ancient. 

Which brings us to the subject of ‘eternal truth.’ If nothing comes from nothing, then truth, like matter, must be constant. The pursuit of these constant or unchanging truths is, or should be, the shared cause of philosophy and science as it relates to the physical world. This was the belief of modernists and liberals alike. Yes, modernists and liberals took a non-classical approach to understanding phenomena, but they never confused the objective with the subjective or said that a thing could be called ‘true’ absent evaluation or demonstration. Had modernists and liberals believed otherwise, then much of the progress that we now take for granted would not have come to pass. And it may be that certain people have rejected eternal truth in order to embrace post-truth politics, which is to say, the elevation of narrative above what can be called objectively true, because these people live in an age in which it has become easy to take the modern world and everything that made it possible for granted. By way of illustration, the anti-vaxx movement, which overlaps with, but shouldn’t be conflated with widespread opposition to vaccine mandates, is enabled by a society that no longer fears the ravages of polio, smallpox, and tuberculosis and that shrugged its shoulders when a smallpox outbreak was traced to an affluent LA suburb wherein vaccine refusal had become fashionable. 

If nothing comes from nothing, then truth, like matter, must be constant.

The ideological extremes that play too large a role in American political discourse are likewise the result of social amnesia. That amnesia, which has caused many of us to forget that revolutions decimate society and rarely result in the keeping of revolutionary promises, has turned too many of us into what can be neatly referred to as ‘nihilistic idealists’ and ‘cultist nationalists.’

The ideological extremes that play too large a role in American political discourse are likewise the result of social amnesia.

The nihilistic idealist is one who believes that something can come from nothing, or that it is possible to construct reality using a set of beliefs that are ‘true’ not because they rise to the level of objective truth, but because they have been declared true by persons who possess the ‘virtuousness’ of the oppressed, the marginalized, and the underrepresented. Never mind that the Hutus were just that before they carried out their genocide against the Tutsis and that the Third Reich was born of working-class grievances. Just as might does not make right, neither is one right simply because one is in the minority or a member of the opposition. 

On to the cultist nationalist. Know the cultist nationalist by his or her tendency to see conspiracy everywhere and to view himself or herself as the savior of the state and its democratic institutions in the same way that the nihilistic idealist views himself or herself as the savior of all of who are tyrannized by the ‘capitalist patriarchy.’ For the cultist nationalist, right-wing politics is truth and anyone who questions that truth is an enemy of the state. This belief bastardizes Aristotle’s politics, which did not treat politics as a prescriptive or descriptive, but rather as a practical science and discipline, the purpose of which is to generate noble action and thereby increase the happiness of the populi. When a politics generates too much contempt (both within the ranks of persons who subscribe to that politics and in those who subscribe to a different politics) it has failed to live up to the Aristotelian ideal and can be called cultist.  

Just as might does not make right, neither is one right simply because one is in the minority or a member of the opposition.

But, with corporate media trumpeting this or that half of the binary of American political extremes as loudly and as incessantly as it does, is it still possible for American society as a whole to remember that the truth has not changed and that it is very much on the side of persons who, in spite of it all, have remained humble and free enough to avoid and even challenge that binary? The answer is “yes” and that answer can only be given in the form of divestment from and challenges issued to a political culture whose “truths” are so fragile that they cannot withstand the kind of discourse that eternal truth thrives on. And just as discourse can be used to separate truths of convenience from what is objectively true, it can also be used to bring people together so long as that discourse is civil. 

For the cultist nationalist, right-wing politics is truth and anyone who questions that truth is an enemy of the state.

Because who doesn’t respect a person who respects others as a matter of course and who would never pick up a sword when language and composure are enough?

Arrogance Breeds Foolishness

In the fifth chapter of the book of Daniel, there is a viceroy ruling Babylon in Nebuchadnezzar’s stead. The interim ruler’s name was Belshazzar, and he was Nebuchadnezzar’s son. As the story goes, one day, Belshazzar held a great feast for his thousand nobles. At this feast, he got drunk and did something never done before. (About seventy years prior, when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple in Jerusalem and conquered Israel, among many other nations, he took the holy things from the temple—cups and bowls made of gold and silver—and had them placed in his treasury.) The treasury was where they were kept all of this time. During the festivities, Belshazzar decided to have those things taken out so he could continue in his revelry and further intoxicate himself and his nobles with the holy items. They all indulged and worshipped their idol gods.

As Daniel 5:5-6 reads:

Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.

Belshazzar couldn’t find any diviners who could decipher the writing on the wall, until one of his nobles told him about Daniel, an Israelite who had served Nebuchadnezzar the past seventy years, “in whom is the spirit of the holy gods.” G-d gave Daniel the gift of unlocking mysteries and revealing secrets to King Nebuchadnezzar, and now his son was in need of Daniel’s very services. Belshazzar told Daniel that if he could tell him what the writing on the wall meant, he would clothe Daniel in the finest clothes, and make him third ruler in all the land. Daniel rejected the gifts but still told Belshazzar the meaning of the writing. As Daniel spoke, he gave Belshazzar (and the readers) context to his rulership, telling him that G-d gave Nebuchadnezzar authority over the known world, and Nebuchadnezzar destroyed many civilizations, but kept the holy things in his treasury. He explained that when Nebuchadnezzar got too arrogant, G-d made him lose his mind and live amongst the animals as a beast for several years until he recognized that the Holy One of Israel was the one true God. Then Daniel pivoted and told Belshazzar that he, even though he had seen all of this, had “lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven.” Then he interpreted what was written on the wall in Daniel 15:25-27:

“…And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; PARSIN, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

Belshazzar fulfilled his promises to Daniel and ordered that the finest clothes be put on him and that he be promoted to third in command, even though Daniel had refused the gifts. That very night, the Persians invaded the kingdom, killed Belshazzar, and became the new rulers of Babylon and a world superpower.

The Book of Daniel has always been one of my favorite books to read. One thing I caught this time while reading chapter five was that, according to Jewish sages and commentators, the reason Belshazzar held the feast in the first place was because he knew of the prophecy given through the prophet Jeremiah about two generations prior that G-d would raise up Nebuchadnezzar and that Israel would go into captivity for seventy years. Belshazzar thought that the seventy years had passed, and so he held the banquet to both celebrate Babylon’s continued existence, and to mock the G-d of Israel. He purposefully called for the holy things of the destroyed Jerusalem temple to drink from as a middle finger to their G-d.

Turns out, Belshazzar’s math was wrong.

Seventy years had not yet passed, but the end was fast approaching. With the dismantling of the Babylonian kingdom came the reign of Persia and the return of the Jewish exiles to their homeland. The return was indeed after seventy years of captivity. 

In Belshazzar’s arrogance, he purposely defiled the holy things of Jerusalem, something his predecessor never even did, just to make a point that he is more powerful than the G-d of Israel. It was this heinous act that moved G-d’s hand, as Daniel says in 15:23:

“…but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.”

It was from Belshazzar’s arrogance that he acted, but his actions were foolish. It is when we think we are wiser than the Creator of the universe that we make the most foolish decisions. Even if Belshazzar’s math was correct, and somehow, G-d never returned the exiles to Jerusalem, Daniel noted that Belshazzar has seen everything G-d put Nebuchadnezzar through and did not take it to heart. The Babylonian dynasty ends swiftly in Daniel 5:30:

That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. And Darius the [Persian] received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

Whether it be a person or a nation, arrogance breeds foolishness. And that foolishness will breed death. This is why Proverbs 16:18 is a timeless principle: 

Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall.


Wisdom Eternal

Understanding to understand

To be fair, this topic is extremely complex. Breaking down the two words “Eternal” and “Wisdom” does not make it any easier. We can easily look up each word in the dictionary and this would give us the simplest and most direct answer for each word’s definition, but not their true meaning. If we consider Eternity to be the ongoing of something ad infinitum, then we open many pandoras boxes. For example, if one believes in true eternity, then the Universe, and all the matter in it (whatever form it happens to eventually take), will exist forever.  However, there are many in science who believe in the Great Collapse, whereby the Universe is expanding today, and someday it will begin to contract on itself, going from a cool state to a hotter state as matter condenses, eventually forming a singularity before exploding again and starting the cycle all over.  We do see this pattern in nature in all things. The smallest cellular organisms are born, live, and die, the largest Galaxies are born, live, and die.  So where does that leave Eternity?  Can something be eternal when its existence relies on the very fabric of space and time itself?  

Now that the complex cosmological questions have been presented, let’s slow this thought process down a few light years and agree that Eternity as we know it is based on the laws of nature that we understand today.  In the time and space where humanity has existed, our understanding of eternity might be described as something that outlasts humanity itself.  In the context of our topic, Eternal Wisdom, this seems to make the most sense.  To those humans who believe in a Deity that existed before time and will exist afterward, it’s a safe bet that such an omnipotent being would also have everlasting, and obviously, eternal wisdom.  For the sake of this essay, however, let us open the discussion to less divine beings and if so, what does Eternal Wisdom look like for them? Is it something a human being can achieve?  Or might something else achieve such vast experience?  

Can something be eternal when its existence relies on the very fabric of space and time itself?

Scientia non providere experienta 

Knowledge does not provide experience. This is a critical concept, as the Latin above pronounces in the subhead. One can be extremely intelligent, imbued with vast amounts of information, but none of that leads to experience. There is a connection between the neurons in a brain and the outcome of a learned capability. Homo Sapiens evolved over time and have developed ever better abilities to acquire knowledge about a thing, and then over time, gain experience in a thing. This last bit about time is what defines one’s ability to gain Wisdom. True wisdom is being able to learn about a thing you have experienced to the degree that you are an expert in that thing, whatever it is.  

Take for example the art of negotiations.  A graduate from university with a shiny diploma and sparkling smile may have acquired very valuable knowledge about how to negotiate with other people, whether it be for legal purposes or capital trade. They may have even tried these methods in various classes and among groups. However, it is very likely that a well-seasoned used car dealer knows more about how to gain the advantage over their adversary in the art of negotiation without ever having set foot on a university campus. The reason is experience. The used car dealer has thousands of iterations of negotiating skill built into his or her brain. They can detect the subtle shift in tone, facial expressions, words being used, inflection of a voice, and they can size up a person and form a far better judgment in their minds at near instant speeds; whereas the student is oblivious to many if not all of these hidden pieces of information. Wisdom comes from experience, which is reinforced by understanding: “I have done a thing and I was successful, but I realized WHY I was successful and have implemented this learned thing.”  This process might continue many more times before true wisdom about a thing is gained.

True wisdom is being able to learn about a thing you have experienced to the degree that you are an expert in that thing, whatever it is.

Merging wisdom with eternity

As a student of history, it is impossible to approach the topic of Wisdom itself without invoking the Divine. This article is agnostic as we attempt to rationalize what Eternal Wisdom looks like without a Divine entity, if that is even possible. I believe we will see that it could be, within the scope of our framework outlined above, in our Universe, and with our laws of nature as we know them to be. Take an average human lifetime as a good example: when people are born, we humans take quite a while to develop autonomy, but from the very beginning we can observe quick and critical learned experiences, which eventually lead to expertise, but not necessarily Wisdom of a thing. “I know how to write my name with a pencil.  I learned this skill in my early years in school. Over time I became better at it, my letters became more legible, and my letters stayed even across the lined paper.” However, for most of us, the quality of our penmanship reached a plateau and there it remained. It stopped getting better, not necessarily for the lack of trying, or the lack of ability. We reached a level where our conscious mind inferred that enough experience had been gained for us to move forward without needing more practice. This is Wisdom: knowing when you know enough. You probably expected Wisdom to be more profound and Divine than a left-handed person with terrible penmanship, but consider that the most beautiful penmanship does not make one a better person, a better salesperson, than the person with poor penmanship. Some of the greatest minds had terrible penmanship. It was wisdom that allowed the person with poor penmanship to stop practicing and move on to more complex thoughts and ideas; that ability is wisdom.  

Expand this to thousands upon thousands of small experiences accumulated over time exponentially growing and creating new neural pathways in every human’s brain (and every animal brain for that matter, for wisdom is not unique to humanity), and we see the very beginning of Eternal Wisdom, which is carried over in our DNA and through generations from parent to child, from sibling to sibling and from person to person.  In a sense, whether we realize it or not, all of humanity is part of a giant collective of interconnected wisdom; we are contributing to a massive information system made up of 7.7 billion humans on planet Earth.  Wisdom is therefore expanding and developing at an exponential rate. The average human brain has 86 billion neurons and at the present time of writing this article there are 7.7 billion humans on planet Earth, which means as a collective species we have 6.62220 neurons working individually, but also loosely connected to advancing our collective wisdom. We are a massive biological computer and as long as humans exist, our knowledge will exist, as will our ever-growing body of wisdom. There is a very good discussion to be had about Humanities Wisdom at the current time of this article, and whether we have the wisdom to control the technological level we have progressed to. Such a topic is beyond the scope of this discussion and could be a future topic itself. Suffice it to say, we are in extreme danger as we have progressed very quickly in technology but lack the wisdom to understand and control it.  

In a sense, whether we realize it or not, all of humanity is part of a giant collective of interconnected wisdom.

Wisdom eternal

Reversing the title gives us a better context of what is possible.  Wisdom comes first, then the eternity of what that wisdom can become. Eternity before Wisdom implies some divine involvement, which is above humanity and above us; that was the concept our ancestors believed, from Moses to Jesus to Plato.  

As we humans continue to develop our collective consciousness and move beyond the information age to the next phase of intellectual and social evolution, we will see our wisdom increasing exponentially about all things. We humans have come a very long way. We have mastered fire, we have wisdom about the seasons and the crops, we know seafaring and we understand the human body in ways we never could before. We have wisdom, not just knowledge of these things.  Wisdom, which is passed on to new generations.  However, can it be eternal?  Is it possible for humanity’s collective wisdom to exist without humanity?  No single human has the wisdom of all humans, far from it, we barely have the wisdom of ourselves and our close associates much less the rest of the planet, but there might be a way.  If we imagine beyond the current information age, to a time where people’s minds are directly connected to a global network, sharing and accessing this information at the speed of thought, tremendous possibilities reveal themselves.  This very science is being worked on, tested, and thought about by countless scientists around the world.  It may be another hundred or two hundred years, but the day will come when all people will be connected at the neuronal level.  This connection essentially turns all of humanity into one giant computer, using the collective power to solve daily problems and more that we cannot even dream of.  In that framework, in that world, Wisdom can in fact be Eternal, because even if humanity might fail, it is very likely that we would be able to migrate our Wisdom to other mediums outside the biological, or at the very least some regenerative system, while not human, may still be biological acting like a silicon-based computer that we know today but biological. This is not fantasy. An example of this kind of science is “Dormio,” a project to build a device that could record and even guide people’s dreams. The end result was an ability to actually see rudimentary images of what people were dreaming, and even guide those dreams by implanting objects and features.

Eternity before Wisdom implies some divine involvement, which is above humanity and above us; that was the concept our ancestors believed, from Moses to Jesus to Plato.

We can take our wisdom to the stars. We can explore the universe and everything in it. We can be eternal.

In the image of God, we become divine

While trying to remain agnostic, most cultures believe that humanity was divinely created in the image of its creator, that our uniqueness was provided to us and is that which separates us from all other living creatures.  Suppose for a moment that such a divine entity does in fact exist, that the Universe as we know it, or the Multiverse, is not the madness we think (pun intended), and has an overarching order to the chaos, the grand birth, life and death of all things.  In this case, and in its own image, perhaps Humanity may exist in a way that allows us to take our Wisdom with us and keep that Wisdom eternally.  As we mentioned earlier, we are as a whole, one very large biological computer.  We know that DNA is a storage medium for information, and we know that this information is passed on to our progeny.  At the dawn of the 21st century, we see ourselves at the pinnacle of technological sophistication.  We have developed the computer, the information age, global networks, and immediate information. We have explored neural networks and modeled the human brain.  We are, however, infants.  Barely one hundred years ago, the horse was still a common mode of transportation for most of the world, airplanes were still a new thing, and computers were more idea than reality.  Let’s imagine for a moment, Humanity of the future, perhaps the 23rd century.  By that time, it is likely that we will have left our silicon, copper wire, technology and moved on to different mediums.  What if that medium were biological and self-healing, what might that look like?  It might look very much like a human being of today, our carbon-based bodies today do not repair themselves well over time, we age and oxidize and ultimately our senescent cells grow old and take up more and more of our bodies, and we die. Quite literally, we succumb to time and usage. However, it may not end up like this in the future.  We might very well see a time when humanity’s understanding of biological systems, and our ability to manipulate those systems at will, can provide us with unlimited repair, unlimited change and modification to endure the rigors of space travel, and in a sense time travel as well, as we use our knowledge of chemistry and biology to enhance the Homo Sapiens of today into an Eternal version of tomorrow.  Sounds like hogwash, but we can see the seeds of this capability in our research today.  Here is a short list of advanced research we are doing today to explain what I mean. We have the building blocks for nano technology, both silicon-based and biological-based “robots” that could eventually repair our bodies at the molecular level.  Just like in the movies, you get a cut, it heals very quickly as these internal bots repair the damage using resources from your body.

We can take our wisdom to the stars. We can explore the universe and everything in it. We can be eternal.

We have used DNA to store entire swaths of data; massive volumes have been stored on a single strand of DNA because DNA is something of a computer.

We are learning to map the human brain and have implanted false memories into the human brain; we have visualized images from dream states on our silicon-based computers.  We can take brain data and move it elsewhere.

These and many more advanced research topics are in progress now, and provide us with just a glimpse of the potential that humanity might achieve in the 23rd century.  Once we master the ability to repair our bodies, migrate and manipulate biological-based data at will, communicate and leverage those advancements for the collective good, humanity will indeed become as Eternal as the Universes it inhabits.  We will have reached a level of consciousness where we will have truly achieved Eternal Wisdom.  In the Old Testament, when God realized that Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, He said,  “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.” (Gen. 3:22-23).  To bring us full circle, Wisdom Eternal can only be gained by a group and a collective of learned experiences over time, passed from generation to generation until such time as we have reached a state of being where we are in fact creating the Tree of Life. It is up to you and I, and all of Humanity to pass the test, to overcome the trials before us, by using our collective wisdom to become Eternally Wise.

Of Pharaohs and Patriarchs

Many voices vie for our attention claiming to teach wisdom. In our current point on the Information Age continuum, we would do well to remember Biblical flesh and blood archetypes and the Source from which their wisdom stories flow. 

In generational waves of mysterious foreshadowing, actual and allegorical, which only the Divine could accomplish, at least 400 years (as referenced in both the Torah and the New Testament, Exodus 12:40; Galatians 3:17) before Moses confronted Egypt’s Pharaoh, Joseph, the beloved son of Jacob, served and brought blessing to Egypt’s Pharoah. And before the beloved son, Joseph, stood before Pharaoh, his great grandfather, Abram, in a transcendent connection to the future, stood before Pharaoh having come to Egypt to escape great famine. 

The word Pharaoh sounds exotic and far removed from 21st century.  In the sense, however, each person rules her own being, possesses her own prerogatives, makes his own decisions whether personal and unseen like how one feels about another, or public and far reaching like political policies or business practices, each person is a little Pharaoh. And as the three Pharaohs examined in this Biblical inquiry find wisdom (or don’t) when contact is made with God as symbolized by a Biblical patriarch, so each human heart finds wisdom or doesn’t as individual selves and the God Who made each one, connect. 

Abram + Pharaoh

Before Abram and God entered the covenant of the pieces, before Abram and Melchizedek, king of Salem and high priest of God, shared bread and wine, before the covenant of circumcision; and before God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, God first told Abram to leave all he had ever known; his country, his kinsmen, his now deceased father, Terah’s household, and go to a place God would show him. Abram obeyed God. God made this promise to Abram,

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Genesis 12: 2-3 ESV) 

The most holy Ten Commandments which God wrote for Moses with His own finger, generations following Abram’s promise from God, contain the same pattern as Abram’s promise: human hearts which love the Law bind blessing to their lives and human hearts that dismiss the Law bind cursing to their lives. (Deuteronomy 28)

Abram and his wife Sarai were traveling to find the place God wanted them to find. On their way, a terrible famine swept the land, and the escape-country was Egypt. Because of Sarai’s great beauty, Abram realized there existed high probability he would be murdered and Sarai would be taken. He told Sarai to tell people she was his sister. This was true. Terah was their father. They had different mothers. (Genesis chapter twenty explains a little more.)  Word got back to Pharaoh about Sarai’s beauty and he brought Sarai into his household as his wife. 

The result? Plagues came to Pharaoh and his entire household. 

Through this lens of wisdom seeking, Abram represents God. Pharaoh represents humanity.  

Pharaoh had not intentionally done anything against God. He had no knowledge of Sarai and Abram’s marriage. And yet, because Pharaoh did something against God’s will – against the coming covenants between Abram and God – Pharaoh incurred God’s curses as plagues. 

Through this lens of wisdom seeking, Abram represents God. Pharaoh represents humanity.

Sarai, merely being in Egypt would not transgress God’s will and therefore bring plagues to Pharaoh.  But Sarai being brought into Pharaoh’s household as his wife would transgress God’s will and would bring curses to Pharaoh. 

Most things in everyday life: friends, food, work, entertainments are like Sarai in Egypt. They exist in neutrality, or even as blessings from God. But the friend who becomes inappropriately close to another’s spouse in heart and/or body; the food meant to sustain life that becomes an addiction (or prescribed medication, alcohol, sex); the work that morphs into a kind of consumption; the entertainment that distracts from pursuits of substance, and any other benign thing that becomes a Sarai in Pharaoh’s household, becomes a thing that transgresses the Law of God.  Therefore, that thing must bind curses to the human attached to it. This is true because God is without hypocrisy and does not contradict Himself. If one plants a watermelon seed thinking it is an apple seed, the watermelon seed’s DNA will grow up as what it is, regardless of the wishes or intents or ignorance of the planter. But once the planter realizes her mistake, she is wise to acknowledge a law exists that supersedes her wish (no matter how justified she feels it is) for apples. 

It is Pharaoh’s response to the plagues that shows his wisdom. Pharaoh realized there was a greater law at work beyond his understanding and simply saying, “But I didn’t know,” was not enough. Pharaoh, in essence, repented completely of taking Sarai as his wife.  The teachings of Jesus reflect Pharaoh’s response. Jesus said, “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.” (Matthew 18:9 ESV)

Pharaoh understood it was better to lose Sarai than to continue hoping the consequence could be waited out. “And Pharaoh gave orders to his men concerning him (Abram) and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.” (Genesis 12:20 ESV)

Wisdom acknowledges God’s ways are better than all other human ways of living one’s life in transgression to His Laws. And wisdom recognizes this is true even if returning to God’s ways is deeply painful and costs a person something precious; something one might feel she cannot live without or is justified in keeping. A wise person, however, says in her heart, “I will have no other gods,” and ends the affair; gets help for the addiction; evaluates priorities and adjusts accordingly. A wise person asks God for His help in doing this. It cannot be done without His abiding Presence. 

Jacob, Joseph, + Pharaoh

After Jacob married Leah whom he didn’t love and Rachel whom he did love, Rachel gave him his youngest and most beloved son, Joseph. Afterward, Joseph understood his dreams of his accession to be from God and shared them with his brothers and father and mother perhaps while wearing the multi-colored coat Jacob had given Joseph, and after Joseph’s ten older brothers sold him into slavery so that he landed in Egypt, Joseph, handsome and well-built, served his master, Potiphar well and was rewarded with false accusations of rape by Potiphar’s wife.

After Joseph bore his underserved punishment in prison by serving the prison keeper well, Joseph became a conduit of God and correctly interpreted the Pharaoh’s servants’ dreams while they were in prison and was finally remembered (two years later) by Pharaoh’s cupbearer when none of the Egyptian spiritualists could interpret Pharaoh’s recent troubling dream.

Joseph, like his great grandfather Abraham, stood before the Pharoah of Egypt.

After Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams, he boldly proceeded with an action agenda to prepare Egypt for the next fourteen years.  

Pharoah, representing humans, listened to and accepted all that Joseph, representing God, said.

How interesting Pharaoh expressed no concern nor grief about his own spiritualists’ inabilities. Like the Pharaoh of Abraham’s time, this Pharaoh submitted himself to God without needing to cover his uncomfortableness with Joseph’s God, with statements like, “You’ve given me a lot to consider,” or “I’ll need to weigh my options.”

Pharaoh asked his servants, “Can we find a man like this in whom is the Spirit of God?” Clearly the rhetorical answer was no because immediately following the question Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over all my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command.” (Genesis 41: 38-39 ESV)

Not only did Pharaoh wholly recognize the immediacy of God over his former spiritual practices, but he also submitted his own efficacy, his own autonomy, his own prerogatives, and all his kingdom institutions and persons in it, to Joseph’s instructions, and therefore the implied supremacy of God emblemed through Joseph. Pharaoh, being wise, had no fear his advancing Joseph would diminish him.

Because the Pharaoh understood submitting to God meant there would still be difficult years ahead; that following God’s instructions did not guarantee an easy path, one can see the ruler had genuinely humbled himself to the degree true wisdom requires. To his credit he didn’t cajole his spiritualists to manifest a different outcome. He didn’t ask Joseph to intercede so perhaps God would change the prophetic dream. He simply recognized God’s authority over all outcomes throughout time and place and submitted his kingly authority to God’s counsel. The wisdom-seeking person will do the same.

During the dream-prophesied famine, Joseph’s father, Jacob, and his entire household came to Egypt to buy food from Pharaoh’s storehouses.

Pharaoh again humbled himself before God represented in Jacob’s person. 

Jacob, whose name God had changed to Israel, blessed Pharaoh. And Pharaoh who did not ask for the blessing, humbly received it, knowing by doing this he was admitting God, through Israel, was greater than Pharaoh and all Egypt.

Not only did Pharaoh humble himself to receive Israel’s blessing, but he also gave to Israel and all his household, the best land in Egypt, the land of Goshen.

The wise person will do the same. She will humble herself before God admitting she is not all-sufficient but dependent on Him for her very breath, and when she receives from Him whatever blessing He chooses to give, she will return a portion of it, the best of it, to Him, with delight. 

Moses + Pharoah

After generations passed and the Twelve Tribes of Israel populated Egypt, the good stories of Joseph and the God he served were forgotten and the Pharaoh feared the increasing numbers of Israel’s children thriving in Egypt and made them slaves who built him great cities.

And after the cries of Israel’s children reached God, Moses came to the burning-but-not-consumed bush and in his great humility asked God His Name. God answered, “I AM.”

Moses, then, like his father Abraham and his father Jacob and his father Joseph, stood before Pharaoh.

The Pharaoh before whom Moses stood embodied all that is antithetical to wisdom.

He was irrational. In miracle demonstrations between his spiritualists and God, he could not admit his practices and his spiritual disciplines were empty and ineffective. Perhaps he was afraid of God’s demonstrations of power, but he needed to appear right and never acknowledged God’s superiority. 

The Pharaoh before whom Moses stood embodied all that is antithetical to wisdom.

He was manipulative and indiscreet. Six of the ten plagues God sent produced from Pharaoh a promise to let the children of Israel go to the desert and worship God as God had instructed them, if only Moses would ask God to lift the plague. God kept His word and lifted each plague each time He was asked. Pharaoh broke his word and refused to the let the children of Israel go every time he promised he would.  Pharaoh made promises knowing he would break them if the alternative looked better.  The unwise person manipulates to get her way but lacks the discretion to see, after a while, each broken promise reveals the ignorance and self-centered ambition of the manipulative heart. 

Jesus would explain it like this, “Let what you say be simply, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5:37 ESV) 

And finally, the most reckless, dull, and witless demonstration of Pharaoh’s proud stupidity is this:

Then he (Pharaoh) summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as you have said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also! (Exodus 12:31-32 ESV)

It is the last three words that reveal Pharaoh’s folly. We know from the text this declaration will simply be another broken promise. Pharaoh, unlike the Pharaohs of Abraham and Joseph’s time had no true heart submission to the supremacy of God, which allowed no mental revelation of the preeminence of God’s ways compared to his own. Pharaoh wanted relief from the consequences of his rebellion to God without humbling himself through repentance. Pharaoh had no desire to submit his rule to God’s authority, much less to ask for His guidance. But hey! If he can manipulate a blessing for himself in his dealings with the allegedly inferior Moses, then why not ask? 

Another line of reasoning in Pharaoh’s demand, “bless me also!” is Pharaoh needed to equate himself with God. He got the last word in (so he thought) and that last word translates to: While you’re blessing your God, bless me as your god too.

Moses did not answer Pharaoh. Perhaps that is the wisest reply. 

In the New Testament, James writes the first letter to the nascent church, which he calls the Twelve Tribes scattered abroad. (This is because persecution had come). James explains there are two kinds of wisdom and describes their characteristics and source:

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere (James 3:13-18 ESV)

If wisdom is to be grasped, surely one would do well to consider these sacred stories rolling and returning upon themselves in patterns and complexities only an all-wise God could communicate.

Bible Taboo

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Psalm 23-4

God’s wisdom is eternal.

I was born in a country where the mere mention of God could get you into trouble, and I did not learn about God’s wisdom until I moved to the United States of America. 

In my twenty-three years of living in the Soviet Union, I had never seen a Bible. There was no room for God in the USSR. Religion was anathema to the Communist Party. 

In contrast, most people who live in the free world of the West can practice their religion of choice. The parents of young children can introduce them to Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam, Confucianism, or Baha’ism at one point or another in their developing lives. Children can attend religious schools where they can study the sacred texts of the Old Testament, Talmud, the New Testament, Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads and Veda, Tripitakas, Guru Granth Sahib, or the Holy Quran, among many other religious books that are available to study. 

None of these sacred works were for sale in the USSR. My own introduction to the Old Testament at age thirty-three in New York was an awe-inspiring experience. 

It happened while I was at Barnes & Noble on a lunch break, searching for a specific book for my three-year-old son. Mindful of my limited time, I looked for a salesclerk as soon as I stepped inside. Almost immediately, I found one and asked for her help. She walked me over to a specific area of the store and pointed her finger at a book. 

Taking a step forward, I pulled the thin paperback from the shelf and flipped through its colorful pages. I double-checked the edition number and the author’s name against the information given by my son’s teacher to make sure that everything matched. 

Satisfied, I was about to leave when, out of nowhere, a compelling yet unfamiliar voice told me to go to the Judaica section and pick out a Bible. The words I heard made me uneasy. Not knowing what to make of them, I turned around to confront the speaker, but no one was there.

Bewildered, frozen in place, and disappointed, I listened to the sound of my fast-beating heart that echoed in the silence of the aisle and resonated inside my brain. The words I heard sounded genuine, and their message was so powerful. My intuition told me to heed the advice. At that instant, I knew I had to find the Judaica section.

Overwhelmed with emotions, spellbound, I looked for signs to direct me to the place I needed to discover. I almost lost hope when, once again, I heard the same voice telling me to look up.

I lifted my head and thought my eyes would pop out of their sockets. To my amazement, I actually found myself standing in front of the Judaica section, the very place I was seeking. I felt my heart in my throat and wondered what kind of invisible force had brought me here. I had little understanding of what had happened. Shaken to the core of my being, I could not recall moving a muscle after selecting my son’s book.  

However, my inner excitement was dampened quickly by the inability to control my actions. I hated that. I like to be in charge, especially regarding my physical body. Still, in a trance-like state and with child-like admiration, I slowly walked down the aisle facing the many shelves stacked high with religious manuscripts. There were rows upon rows of Bibles. Each sacred text contained God’s words. I could not take my eyes off of them.

I wanted so badly to touch these books, but the non-believer in me struggled with the idea of placing my hand on a holy scroll. Just thinking about committing this act, in an instant, put my body in a state of flight or fight. The high dosage of adrenaline surging through my veins brought back the long-forgotten constant fear I lived with inside the Soviet Union. I reminded myself that I was in Barnes & Noble and did not have to flee.

Each sacred text contained God’s words. I could not take my eyes off of them.

In the USSR, people did not talk about God or the supernatural. They did not discuss omens, enchantments, or other types of mysticism. Practicing religion of any kind in public places was forbidden and even punishable by law. The only deity the oppressed masses of the proletariat were allowed to worship was the Communist Party. 

To promote the Party’s own self-aggrandizement, the communists used fear as a tool to control the population. 

In front of Judaica, I took a few long, deep breaths, exhaled slowly, and, surrendering myself to fate, I began to entertain the idea of finding a Bible.  As I continued to examine the various editions of the Old Testament, I searched for one I could take home.  

Never had I seen a Bible. I reached out and gently touched the sleek spines. Real, they were real! There were hundreds and hundreds of them, neatly arranged and perfectly aligned against the wall. 

In my mind, I reflected upon the knowledge all these Bibles had hidden inside. 

I looked closely at the many tomes and different sizes of the sacred text. Some were too large for me to carry, and others were small enough to fit into my pocket easily. 

I lifted a thick, heavy volume bound in supple, grainy leather with awe and admiration and inhaled the distinct, pungent aroma of the cured hide. I savored this moment and took time to flip through the glossy and velvety pages of the Old Testament. I loved the craftsmanship of the rare editions, but these beautiful Bibles were too expensive for my budget.

I am a firm believer in fate and the idea that things happen for a reason. Being inside Barnes & Noble at that instant in my life re-affirmed this belief. Deep inside my soul, I felt it was providence. It was meant to be.

Resolved to find the one meant for me, I searched for a perfect copy of God’s word, but finding one to satisfy my requirements proved challenging. I wanted an inexpensive softcover version of a Bible with a large font that was easy to read. I needed the book to be light so I could carry it in my tote back and read it on a train on my way to and from work. It took me a while, but my persistence finally paid off when I came across a decently sized paperback. This unique, soft-covered, large-print edition won me over, plus at only $16.95, it was affordable. The title read, “The Concise Jewish Bible,” and I liked the sound of it. An overwhelming feeling of relief washed over me when I realized that my search had ended and I had accomplished my mission. I now had access to God’s sacred words!

Armed with the Bible and the picture book for my son, both pressed hard against my chest, I walked toward the register proudly. But as soon as I got in line to pay for them, my resolve had wavered. The stark awareness that later I would read the holy text hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt intimidated.

Inside my head, I berated myself for picking up the Bible I now held. You know well that you have zero, zilch connection to this subject matter. It’s a fact. Face it! You will never, ever, ever read it. The simple act of opening the book terrifies you. How could an atheist like you take what it says seriously? Stop being ridiculous. Save yourself some time and money. Do yourself a favor and, please, leave it alone. 

Coming up with more excuses not to buy it, I retraced my steps back to Judaica and reluctantly placed the book in its designated spot. But, a few minutes later, when I returned to the register, my body again was overtaken by the same invisible force. This time, the now familiar voice became thunderous when it ordered me to go back and choose a Bible.  

In the end, the unseen, mysterious, uncontrollable force won even though I resisted surrendering to its power to the best of my ability. In my determination to win, I stubbornly went back and forth at least twenty, if not more, times between the Judaica section and register. I checked my watch on my final trip and realized that I had only minutes left to get back to work. I grabbed the sacred text for the last time, went back to the register, paid for it, and hurriedly walked out of Barnes and Noble.  

That night, upon returning home from work, I opened the Bible with humble trepidation and endless curiosity for the first time in my adult life. I read it one chapter at a time and found myself craving more of God’s eternal wisdom. Night after night, I acquired new knowledge about the history of my people. 

I reflected upon my ancestors’ sacrifices to please their God. Their deeds and unbreakable faith filled my heart with pride and joy. Day after day, page after page, I kept reading. It became like a ritual, almost an obsession. I could hardly put it down until I came to the final page.

Knowledge is power and ignorance is not bliss. Finishing the book taught me so much about the identity stolen from me by the atheist establishment of the socialist society. And it also brought me closure. Rejecting my miserable existence in the former Soviet Union, I stopped being ashamed of being Jewish. I, instead, experienced the immense pleasure of being part of a people the Creator referred to as “The Chosen Ones.”

Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”  

Knowledge is power and ignorance is not bliss. Finishing the book taught me so much about the identity stolen from me by the atheist establishment of the socialist society.

Reading the Old Testament, I understood what it meant to be Jewish. I discovered a religion called Judaism and learned that only those who practice it are identified as Jews. In a godless country of not enough, my nationality was Jewish, not because I practiced Judaism, but because my ancestors, who all died before I was born, did before the Communist Party took over. 

Jesus was thirty-three when he changed the world. When I was thirty-three, I found a place where I belonged and discovered my identity. Things certainly happen for a reason.

The fateful lunch hour I spent inside Barnes & Noble turned out to be a significant turning point in my life. What happened to me that day was divine intervention. God was letting me know that he exists and that I should not be afraid of connecting with my roots. He made me aware that he is part of me, and I am part of him. God lives inside all of us. We can connect to him through our inner self and take part in his eternal wisdom. God created us in his image. We refer to our Creator as a divine, omnipotent presence. I could only assume that each one of us has the capacity to reflect these fine qualities onto others. To do so, we have to be open-minded, kind, non-judgmental, and compassionate. 

In a godless country of not enough, my nationality was Jewish, not because I practiced Judaism, but because my ancestors, who all died before I was born, did before the Communist Party took over.

God is willing to share his knowledge that has existed throughout all time with us. His wisdom is filled with mysteries. I am a living example of it. Inside the bookstore, the unseen deity had, in his not so gentle, rather disturbing way, awakened my spirituality. 

His presence shook me to the core of my being, and later on, I realized that I needed that rude awakening to help me understand that God cared about me, and he wanted me to get to know him better. I also understood that, despite being ignorant about the religion of my people, God had never forsaken me. He walked beside me during the darkest hours of my life when I had to deal with anti-Semitism, the loss of my beloved father, and the subjugation of my rights in a country of not enough. He did not give me more than I could carry, and by doing that, he made me stronger and more compassionate.

Years later, I forgave my abusers and freed myself of the past. I moved on and became wiser. Wisdom is not a given. I worked hard to earn it. Wisdom became part of my journey, and for that, I am eternally grateful to God.


Eternal Traditions

Many people in the world today, particularly in the West, think of religion as a pre-Enlightenment way of thinking. The truth, of course, is that prior to the Western Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries pretty much all human thought—good, bad, or otherwise—was grounded in religion, because science and the Objective Method were only beginning to take hold.

What I am calling “Eternal Traditions” refers to the best of the great religious traditions of humankind but is not limited to those below.

Zoroastrianism counts. As does the Rastafarian tradition. As does Baha’i, Sikhism, Jainism, and Shinto, all of which are followed by millions of people around the world.

The primary difference between the Eternal Traditions and other ways of thinking is that worshipful practice potentially transforms the individual into a person infused with Spirit or Oneness or G-d. The best practices of the Eternal Traditions open the hearts of the devotees.

There are, needless to say, pitfalls in spiritual practice or religious belief, not the least of which include rigid orthodoxy, conformity, self-righteousness, sexism, and the condemnation of the other. 

The best of all religions, however, create compassion and art—beauty to nourish the soul.


Taoism

TAO TE CHING

Lao Tzu

506 B.C.E.

“Written more than two thousand years ago, the Tao Te Ching is one of the true classics of spiritual literature. It is a guide to cultivating a life of peace, serenity, and compassion. Through aphorisms and parable, it leads readers toward the Tao, or the ‘Way’: harmony with the life force of the universe.”

The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.

Christianity

Matthew 22:37-40

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Judaism

GENESIS

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Now the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep.
And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

The First Day

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
And God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness.
God called the light “day” and the darkness He called “night.”

And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day.

Buddhism

The Four Noble Truths

Life is suffering.
Suffering is caused by selfish desire (ego).
Selfish desire can be eliminated.
The way to eliminate desire is through the Eightfold Path.

The Eightfold Path

The Eightfold Path is composed of eight primary teachings that Buddhists follow and use in their everyday lives:

Right View or Right Understanding: Insight into the true nature of reality.

Right Intention: The unselfish desire to realize enlightenment.

Right Speech: Using speech compassionately.

Right Action: Using ethical conduct to manifest compassion.

Right Livelihood: Making a living through ethical and nonharmful means.

Right Effort: Cultivating wholesome qualities and releasing unwholesome qualities.

Right Mindfulness: Whole body-and-mind awareness.

Right Concentration: Meditation or some other dedicated, concentrated practice.

Islam

Surah Sad 45-47

وَٱذْكُرْ عِبَـٰدَنَآ إِبْرَٰهِيمَ وَإِسْحَـٰقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ أُو۟لِى ٱلْأَيْدِى وَٱلْأَبْصَـٰرِ

And remember Our servants: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the men of strength and insight.

We truly chose them for the honor of proclaiming the Hereafter.

And in Our sight they are truly among the chosen and the finest.

Hinduism

Bhagavad Gita

You have the right to work, but for the work’s sake only. You have no right to the fruits of work. Desire for the fruits of work must never be your motive in working. Never give way to laziness, either.

Perform every action with your heart fixed on the Supreme Lord. Renounce attachment to the fruits. Be even-tempered in success and failure: for it is this evenness of temper which is meant by yoga.

Work done with anxiety about results is far inferior to work done without such anxiety, in the calm of self-surrender. Seek refuge in the knowledge of Brahma. They who work selfishly for results are miserable.

The Giant Canvas

What if,

We were given a giant canvas,
And the freedom,
To find our own space on it,

Move on to whichever corner of the canvas we wished to,
Splash the colors of our choice,
Shape up the shapes that fascinate us,
Create our own masterpiece,
Every moment of our lives?

But …

What if,
We were not alone in this?

What if,
The canvas was shared by everyone else,
Each with the same freedom,
To find their own space on it,

Move on to whichever corner of the canvas they wished to,
Splash the colors of their choice,
Shape up the shapes that fascinate them,
Create their own masterpiece,
Every moment of their lives?

In the eclectic collection of these masterpieces,
In a crowd of artwork of varying styles and proficiency,
Could you have your masterpiece,
Co-exist and blend with others’,
And while it belonged to one giant masterpiece,
Yet, stand out on its own?

What would you do,
When at times,
Someone spilled their paint on your piece?

Would you blurt out in rage and berate them,
“Can you not see, moron,
How you have spoilt my work”?

Or, would you smear over that spilled-over paint,
And create an amazing art out of that,
Adding more life to your own?

What would you do,
When at times,
The bloke painting in the space next to you,
Paints something so off the mark,
So out of sync with yours,
That makes your creation so dissonant and discordant?

Would you ask him,
“Sir, could you tone down your blue,
And not have that ball look like an egg”?

Or, would you just use
Blends and borders and outlines,
Either to let his artwork accentuate yours,
Or to provide a contrast,
That makes your work shine out?

For, whether it is a splash of bright colors,
Dancing and swirling with boundless energy,
Or a dark, dull, dreary smudge,
Every piece of art could be a masterpiece.

For the world’s a giant canvas,
Whether we like their styles or not,
Whether we agree with their color wheels or not,
Everyone is out here,
To paint their hearts out,
On the same giant canvas that we do.

To those,
Who show us the dreams of “one world”,
And surreptitiously, stealthily, secretly,
Try to paint the whole wide world,
With the color of their choice,
We need to tell them loud and clear,
“That, while we share this giant canvas,
My colors, shapes and art are entirely mine,
As yours are entirely yours”.

For, a canvas,
Painted with one color all over,
Is NOT a piece of art,
Let alone a masterpiece.


What is the Good Life?

Review of Strauss, Spinoza and Sinai: Orthodox Judaism and Modern Questions of Faith, eds Jeffrey Bloom, Alec Goldstein, and Gil Student

For millennia, the greatest thinkers jostled with theologians about the meaning of the good life.  Is the good life one of faith or reason? Because of the deep penetration of the ideology of progress into most of our educational, political, and social institutions, the main question these days is different. The more “woke” people amongst us at this moment of history don’t seem to be concerned with the ancient philosophical and theological question about the meaning of the “good life.”   

The good life – today – involves neither reason nor faith.  It is concerned with politics and power. The progressive political life – which aims to destroy the institutional and ideological foundations of Western colonialism and racism, for the sake of redressing historical injustices – is the only meaningful one. This kind of life is that of the activist. The only way to live this kind of life is to dismantle the foundational institutions built by the West, which for that mindset, are based on racism, colonialism, etc.  Ancient philosophy and religion are two such foundational institutions.

The good life – today – involves neither reason nor faith.  It is concerned with politics and power.

Calling philosophy and religion out as the products of whiteness or white privilege is something of a duty on many college campuses and on social media.  Given this situation, philosophical and religious questions about the good life don’t matter to most people because western religion and philosophy are seen as being a part of the same West that produced racism, colonization, and the genocide of indigenous peoples. That’s the “reasoning” that we hear so often these days. But it’s not just in academia; it’s on Netflix and Disney Plus, in board rooms and organizations, it’s baked into institutions and policies around North America.

How then, today, can we think about the good life without being deemed complicitous?  

Over fifty years ago, the famous scholar of philosophy and politics, Leo Strauss framed the situation we still face, today, in terms of a choice between progress or return.  We either go forward and deem the past as something to be rejected and reactionary or we return to it and take it on as the foundation of the good life. Progress deems the past as something to leave behind. Return is about going back to things in the past that are fundamental to a moral, intellectual, and political existence: such as revelation, a past event in which the divine entered the realm of the human and (for Strauss, primarily) gave the law.

(The relationship of law to revelation is of great interest to Strauss.  The assumption being that a morality or a covenant commanded by God is more powerful and binding than one that human beings institute. As the scholar David Novak argues in several of his books, the American constitution is founded on the covenantal idea which, he argues, is the basis for all real trust and faith in the government and citizens to do what is just. As he argues, it is prior “historically and ontologically” to the constitution and to all ethics which rely on trust. To be sure, trust is the glue of society. Without it, no society can function.  For Novak, building on Strauss, that historical and ontological basis for law and for the trust it draws on is in revelation and covenant.)

Strauss seems to suggest that return and progress can keep each other in check because, on the one hand, a modern philosopher like Baruch Spinoza can’t know for certain that miracles or transcendence in the physical world is impossible; on the other hand, religion cannot definitively prove the existence of God, miracles, etc. It believes in God; it does not know God.   

When Strauss argued that the question about the good life is an ancient question that is at the foundation of the West, he thought that it should be deeply meaningful for us, even today, in a time informed, primarily, by progressive thought and politics. Leo Strauss brings the call for return, back from the dustbin of history; thereby suggesting something that presents a challenge that can prompt us – who are caught up in a misperception about who we are and what makes for a good life – to think. Thought is premised on opening oneself up to possibilities rather than denying them.   

For Strauss, this is a return to the tension between Jerusalem (Revelation) and Athens (Reason).  Today, we live in a world that has (seemingly) chosen Athens (reason and progress) over Jerusalem (return). (I say seemingly, because it is not the life of reason that we are living under today; it is the life of progressive political zealousness.) To be sure, the tension between Jerusalem and Athens, which Strauss appeals to in many of his writings, is based on giving equal credence to two entirely different answers to this very question about the good life. Strauss called it “the quarrel of the ancients.”  It is the tension that can prompt us to think about the good life and its meaning.

Thought is premised on opening oneself up to possibilities rather than denying them.

In the spirit of Martin Heidegger, who wrote about the “forgetfulness of the question of Being,” Strauss argues that this fundamental question and tension has been forgotten by modernity and has caused us to go off in the wrong direction.   

A major part of Strauss’s project was to – like Heidegger did with the “question of Being” – recover the quarrel and repeat it (wiederholung) in the modern period.  He wanted to present it as unresolved, as opposed to the progressive Enlighteners who mistakenly thought that, as Strauss puts it in his 1935 book, Philosophy and Law: Contributions to the Understanding of Maimonides and his Predecessors, their “mockery” of “orthodoxy” was sufficient to win the argument and end the quarrel.  But, as Strauss notes and as any logical person knows, mockery is not how one wins a philosophical or theological argument. It remains, to this day, unresolved. 

I would suggest that the question of the good life, the tension between Athens (Reason) and Jerusalem (Revelation), the quarrel of the ancients, can be seen, today, as a form of Counter Enlightenment (something that was of interest, at the time of Strauss’s first major writings, to the Frankfurt School and thinkers like Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin). If enlightenment chooses progress over return, there is no tension.  

Counter enlightenment puts the notion of progress and its conclusions into question and allows us to rethink the meaning of Jerusalem and Athens.  It allows for ancient questions to enter our way of thinking about ourselves and the world we live in rather than take the quarrel as a settled issue. Even today, it can put into question our smug sense of progress and our ideas of what constitutes meaning and value. As Strauss says in one of his essays on Maimonides, also in the spirit of Heidegger, one must allow oneself – one’s thoughts and one’s beliefs – to be put into question by this tension, which has been repressed by the Enlightenment and the ideology of progress.

The question of the good life, the tension between Athens (Reason) and Jerusalem (Revelation), the quarrel of the ancients, can be seen, today, as a form of Counter Enlightenment.

What do Orthodox Jews think about Strauss’s Challenge?  

Since Strauss sees the “quarrel of the ancients” as directed at what he calls “orthodoxy” (associated with Revelation), Orthodox Jews are implicated and should, for good reason, ask whether his distinctions are accurate or insightful, if his form of counter-enlightenment has any relevance for Orthodox Jews today. To be sure, Strauss’s work on Jerusalem and Athens suggests that Orthodox Jews can engage in the task of return and renew the quarrel of the ancients in our own time. What do Orthodox Jews think about this challenge and how Strauss has framed it?

In the new collection of essays, Strauss, Spinoza, and Sinai: Orthodox Judaism and Modern Questions of Faith ed. by Jeffrey Bloom, Alec Goldstein, and Gil Student, we are given a unique opportunity to see how Orthodox Jews look at Strauss’s arguments, his framework, and how they fare in our world. We are given an opportunity to relive this ancient quarrel and entertain the meaning of faith, specifically the faith of Orthodox Judaism (which as Strauss notes, is the basis of this quarrel). This book, to be sure, also recovers and repeats this tension and should be studied rather than just read, if one is to feel the impact of the questions it raises.

In this review, I’d like to briefly discuss some of these contributions so as to convey a sense of the urgency that these essays have about how we think about faith today vis-à-vis the work of Leo Strauss and Spinoza (two names that most young people today have never heard of before, unless they, for some odd reason, start trending on social media).   

Before touching on some of these pieces, which represent the main motifs in this collection, I will cite a part of the main passage from Strauss’s Preface to a famous essay on Spinoza, since this passage was sent to all of the orthodox scholars included in this book by the editors of this volume. What is most interesting about this group is that they are not Strauss scholars, by and large, so their response taps into an Orthodox Jewish reading of Strauss’s claims and distinctions and makes us give more thought to his descriptions and his very framework.  

One of the main distinctions, which is deemed problematic by most authors in this volume, is Strauss’s distinction between belief and knowledge (which I noted above): 

If orthodoxy claims to know that the Bible is divinely revealed, that every word of the Bible is divinely inspired, that Moses was the writer of the Pentateuch, that the miracles recorded in the Bible have happened and similar things, Spinoza has refuted orthodoxy. But the case is entirely different if orthodoxy limits itself to asserting that it believes the aforementioned things, i.e. that they cannot claim to possess the binding power of the known. For all assertions of orthodoxy rest on the irrefutable premise that the omnipotent God whose will is unfathomable, whose ways are not our ways, who has decided to dwell in the thick darkness, may exist. Given this premise, miracles and revelations in general, and hence all Biblical miracles in particular, are possible. Spinoza has not succeeded in showing that this premise is contradicted by anything we know…. Certain it is that Spinoza cannot legitimately deny the possibility of revelation. But to grant that revelation is possible means to grant that the philosophical account and the philosophical way of life are not necessarily, not evidently, the true account and the right way of life: philosophy, the quest for evident and necessary knowledge, rests itself on an evident decision, on an act of the will, just as faith does.  Hence the antagonism between Spinoza and Judaism, between unbelief and belief, is ultimately not theoretical but moral. (My emphasis, in bold.)     

Jack Abromowitz starts the volume off with an essay that frames Strauss’s approach to Judaism in terms of dichotomies we find in Plato’s famous dialogue, the Meno, about knowledge and belief. Do Orthodox Jews think in terms of this distinction or not?

Abromowitz suggests that Strauss is explaining orthodoxy to non-orthodox people and for this reason, he uses a dichotomy that they are familiar with (between knowledge and belief).   Citing Strauss, he demonstrates that his argument is based on the claim that Jews believe in God’s existence, the Creation, etc. If they claim to know it, argues Strauss, Spinoza will win the argument (based on knowledge, which deals with certainty, verifiability, etc.).  

But this argument is off, argues Abromowitz, citing Maimonides. Judaism is a kind of religion in which the goal is ultimately to know God (as the psalms say, “in all His ways”). Belief and knowledge, in other words, are a part of the same continuum. It isn’t an either/or situation.   Faith is commitment, a relationship. It is not about belief. As one contributor to the volume, Simi Peters puts it, one does not believe in one’s wife or husband, one is committed to them.   This is a primary metaphor for the relationship of God with his people.

Shalom Carmy’s essay, “An Argument for Businessmen,” builds on this idea when it argues that proofs of God’s existence (that God “may” exist) “will yield a conception of God limited by those premises.”  “What is left out” by Strauss, argues Carmy, “is precisely the vitality and personal sovereignty of God.  When real people seek God, their starting point may well be such initial insights and yearnings and concerns; yet when we encounter Him, we will always be confronted: we will be pushed and provoked to transcend those premises.”  

 Belief and knowledge, in other words, are a part of the same continuum. It isn’t an either/or situation.   Faith is commitment, a relationship. It is not about belief.

Carmy points out that Strauss makes fun of what he calls “businessmen,” who don’t understand such arguments about Jerusalem and Athens. Strauss, argues Carmy, thinks that they are more driven to God by passion: “If, by contrast, the ‘businessman” refers to the kind of person who is more hungry for truth than attempting to prove beyond refutation abstract and unprovable theories, it may not be the worst way to pursue one’s life.” Carmy is interested in the personal God, which he thinks is missing from Strauss’s account of Orthodoxy: “If God is personal, as Orthodoxy believes, and if what is most valuable in human existence is personal, as seems the case to potential religious believers…then Strauss’ way of thinking is more an obstacle than a way to the truth that is worth struggling for and living in.”

Paul Franks, in his essay “Reason, Faith, and the Overcoming of Shame,” also sees proofs of God’s existence (that God “may” exist) as secondary to the I-Thou relationship with the personal God. He focuses in on the commandment: “The primary concept (of Orthodox Judaism) is that of the mitzvah or commandment…. Only insofar as it is first commanded by Moses on behalf of God, the ‘lover of the people’ addressed in the sconed person in the preceding verse – only insofar as it is a commandment grounded beyond the human yet in love for the human – is the Torah a heritage or a commandment.”

Citing Franz Rosenzweig, Franks argues that “as commandment, the Torah is part and parcel of a covenantal I-Thou relationship between God and the people of Israel, and between God and each Jew.” Franks adds that the overcoming of shame – namely, of the moment in the Torah of discovering nakedness after eating of the tree of Good and Evil – is made possible through this I-thou relationship which is epitomized by Torah Study between two people, of passing the tradition on to the children, the next generation. A living tradition – based on an I-Thou relationship – epitomizes Orthodoxy. According to Franks, this account is missing from Strauss’ description of Orthodoxy.

Alec Goldstein’s essay, “The Validity of Religious Experience in a Post-Kantian World,” also turns to the difference between the religious experience of God and the argument for God’s existence. Goldstein goes through several Jewish sources such as The Kuzari by Yehuda Levi, which turn to experience as the basis of faith: “For the Kuzari, the foundation of Jewish faith is not philosophy, but prophesy.  It is prophecy, tradition, and the religious experience, which offer a far greater level of certainty than philosophy.”   

Goldstein sees faith in terms of a kind of mystical experience with God. He turns to modern sources to argue that the sciences, which look for “verification,” don’t understand faith since “mystical encounters, by their very form, cannot live up to this standard of verification, they are not replicable. These are intensely personal experiences, unique to the individual, and cannot be corroborated by another distinct person. In other words, the method of verification that empiricism demands cannot be applied in these cases.”

Goldstein ends his essay with a description of the sensations he has (or fails to have) when he prays. This sensation nourishes and challenges his faith. But this seems to confirm what Strauss says about the difference between belief and knowledge. The two seem to be divided; one is based on experience, the other on the observable and verifiable. Faith can’t be verified or measured. Be that as it may, this essay and others see the I-Thou experience as missing in Strauss’s account of Orthodoxy and faith. Belief, they wish to show, is rooted in experience rather than a lack of knowledge or an assertion about God, Revelation, and Miracles.

In “Leo Strauss and the Lure of Orthodoxy, or, How to ‘Awaken a Prejudice,’” Mark Gottleib takes an in-depth look into Strauss’s reading of Orthodoxy and his use of it to challenge not just the Enlightenment but also Jewish thinkers who were influenced by it (from Mendelssohn to Herman Cohen): “By claiming he is trying to ‘awaken prejudice in favor (of this view of Maimonides)…and even more, to arouse suspicion against the powerful opposing prejudice,’ Strauss is signaling that all philosophical eras and periods, including the Enlightenment, ultimately reflect their own intellectual prejudices…Strauss’ deconstruction of the claims of universal rationality implied in the Enlightenment project evens the playing field when competing worldviews and rival conceptual schemes square off against each other, rendering Orthodoxy as philosophically plausible as Enlightenment skepticism if not decisive proof can be offered in either direction – which is exactly what Strauss claims is the case.”

Gottleib correctly points out how Strauss saw the “return” of Rosenzweig, Buber, and Cohen to the sources was ultimately based on the influence of Enlightenment thinking that emerges out of historicism: “While culturally attractive advocates of ‘new thinking’ wanted to free themselves from the grip of Enlightenment rationality, their own arguments against traditional Orthodoxy often brought them back into the bosom of that Jewishly-alien system of European thought that they claimed to be relinquishing.”  

For this reason, he rightly points out that Strauss sees the return to a pre-modern Orthodoxy (epitomized in the work of Maimonides) as the best way to challenge the Enlightenment. This return consists of a return to the relationship of revelation and law (which Strauss) sees as integral to pre-modern Orthodoxy: “For Strauss, the linchpin of the entire medieval project is foregrounded on the concept of law. Thus, Maimonidies’ defense of divine law, and not the question of religious belief and knowledge as it was traditionally understood.” He adds, “the superiority of the medieval synthesis over its modern successors rests precisely in the prioritization of law over truth and community – or state-forming over the profession of belief…. For Strauss, the way forward was back.” This formation hits directly at the counter-enlightenment aspect of Strauss’s work and also shows us how law and the polity figure in Stauss’s distinctions.

Simi Peter’s essay, “Why Should a Jew Choose Belief,” is also an important contribution to this collection because it situates God in history, much like Emil Fackenheim sought to do. The historical revelation of Godliness, a collective revelation, is the basis for faith, and the basis for the commitment to the covenant. God must be encountered in history, not simply in this or that private experience. The covenantal relation, the relationship with the law, which is a mediation between God and the Jewish people, is a public experience.

What we find in this collection on Strauss, Spinoza, and Sinaitic faith is thought-provoking. As Strauss would argue, Jerusalem is much different from Athens. Nonetheless, the two must be thought together. The question is how? This volume suggests different answers to that question, but it also suggests that religion in general (but Judaism in particular) still matters in a world that seems to have abandoned it. Orthodox Judaism has a role to play here.

This suggests that, in the postmodern era we are living through, any relationship with God most likely doesn’t follow from reasoning and proofs of God’s existence. It emerges out of a passionate relationship with God, the Torah, and the law that has been handed down – as Maimonides notes – from one link of tradition to another.   

Ultimately, relationships, what Levinas calls the face-to-face, are the basis of faith and trust.  We are, as Levinas says, “elected by the other.”  When Abraham – the father of three monotheistic religions – says Hi’neni (Here I am) in the Torah, in response to God’s calling, Levinas says that this means that I am here, ready to serve the Other (with a big O and a little o).  This Hi’neni is something that is not arrived at through thinking; it is arrived at by simply being in the presence of the other. It is – regardless of how much we resist it and proffer a sense of individuality – inevitable. Response-ability, in other words, is built into Judaism and basically all experience. It is particular and universal. 

Using such ideas, Levinas tries to revitalize Judaism in our time – like Franz Rosenzweig did before him, via his writings and the founding of the Lehrhaus – by situating it in this relationship with the other. We need to – as Leora Batzniksy has attempted in her book, Leo Strauss and Emmanuel Levinas: Philosophy and the Politics of Revelation –  think about Strauss, and his interest in law and revelation, in terms of an interlocutor like Levinas who sees the face-to-face experience as fundamental. We see this possibility lingering in this volume. All we need is, as I mentioned above, to study it and connect the dots (or as Strauss says of Maimonides Guide to the Perplexed, read for the connection between one chapter heading and another).

This matters today because, as these essays show, the good life is something that we can only think about when we think about what brings us face-to-face with each other. Religion brings us face-to-face, and so does politics and the law.  

If we lose the divine basis of law and see Judaism and philosophy as colonialist, racist, or marginalizing gender, etc., how can we carry on the trust that the law invests in us and in all human beings to be just? Living a good life is not just about living a life according to reason or faith; it is about deciding on what is the best life for all of us. It is situated between the two. If one is negated, if return is negated, if not just Jerusalem but also Athens is negated, what is the basis for trust? What is the basis for good and evil if the past and all foundations are deemed to be racist?   

We need the counter-enlightenment suggested by Strauss and by this collection because we need to take these questions seriously instead of seeing ourselves as beyond good and evil while, at the same time, blindly and hypocritically declaring that both Jerusalem and Athens must be canceled if we are to live a good life. If we don’t live in their tension, besides power and its redistribution, what are we living for and how can this kind of life be called good? That kind of life is more akin to Hobbes’s war of all against all, and as he once famously said, it is nasty and brutish. It’s really not what one would call a good life.  Perhaps it’s time to return so that progress – redefined by those who see the past and the foundations of the West as a curse – doesn’t end up putting us into a Hobbesian nightmare where power is the law and might is right.


Sunshine

Pitch Darkness.
Instantly turned to
A majestic sun-shine.
I just had to,
Open my eyes.

The Silent Time

…In the dark I see shining toward me
faces of epitaphs
wailing their song.
Graves of the whole
vanished Jewish world
blossom in my one-man tent.
And I pray:
Be a father, a mother to me,
a sister, a brother,
my own children, body-kin
real as pain,
from my own blood and skin
be my own dead,
let me grasp and take in
these destroyed millions…
Who else, like me, has
his own nighttime death-garden?

Memorial Poem, Jacob Glatstein

One day there will be no more remaining Holocaust survivors. The world knew this logically; very soon, it will know it experientially. 

I once heard a Holocaust survivor speak about this concept. One day, he said, the Holocaust would pass from living memory, from numbers on the arms of living men and women, stories told in auditoriums and around coffee tables in New York, Paris, Moscow, and Jerusalem, into the shadowy realm of history, to take its place alongside the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Khmelnitsky uprising. To dwell in dusty books and on the screens of televisions, images flickering for a moment while the viewer searches for the remote.

Unknown members of the Gottesman family, Munkacs, c. 1920

Since the moment they were liberated, many of the survivors bore within them a constant awareness that, like it or not, they were witnesses to one of the most monumental horrors in human history. That they bore a responsibility to, and were forever bound in a covenant with, those who had gone to their deaths. From the time Holocaust memorialization came into vogue in the 1960s, there was a creeping awareness that those wishing to make a record of memory were racing against time; that one day the sun would rise on a world that had within it no living witness of those days of horror. In the 1990s, the push became more urgent, with millions of dollars spent on projects to make recordings of oral history, to collect documents and artifacts from the ever-diminishing population of survivors.

Since the moment they were liberated, many of the survivors bore within them a constant awareness that, like it or not, they were witnesses to one of the most monumental horrors in human history.

We have been hearing for generations about the day of which he spoke. My interlocutor’s insight was nothing novel. But he gave the time after it a name I had never heard before. He called it the “Silent Time.”

The last survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising was either Simcha Rotem, who died in 2018, or Leon Kopelman, who died in 2021. The last survivor of the Sobibor uprising, Semion Rosenfeld, died in 2019. 

In 2021, my last surviving grandparent died. She had been fourteen years old when she arrived at Auschwitz, lied about her age to Josef Mengele, and was directed to the line that led away from the gas chambers and the crematoria. She was ninety-one on the day she died. Not many of the alumni of the camps could have been younger than she. How many, now, could be left?

In the spring of 2022, I read that the March of the Living, on hiatus during the Covid pandemic, would resume. It would be the last year that living survivors would participate; the organizers were unable to find enough who were sufficiently healthy to make the trek.

There is more Holocaust education in American and European schools than ever before, more ready access to comprehensive information than at any time in history. Yet the number of people who have never heard of Auschwitz, who have only the dimmest inkling, or no inkling at all, of the unprecedented ghastliness of those years, grows at a steady pace.

The Silent Time hasn’t yet come. But it is no longer part of a dimly foreseen future, lazily drifting in our general direction. It is imminent. 


There is a box in which I keep my family’s prewar photos. I see the faces in those pictures sometimes in my dreams, sepia-toned and fading. The beards and modest clothing of the more devout, shaven cheeks and lower necklines of those exploring the boundaries of modernity. Some grave, aloof, some haunted by tragedy and loss. A few with a hint of mirth. Families gathered at tables and in yards, at study in schools or at play in forests and riversides. Images of a world unknowingly plunging toward a destruction unparalleled in human history. Pictures from a civilization about to be destroyed. The few such artifacts that survived the war, hidden away by neighbors in attics and cupboards on the off chance that any survivors would return from the death camps.

The Silent Time hasn’t yet come. But it is no longer part of a future, lazily drifting in our general direction. It is imminent.

Most of our family’s prewar photos have found their way to me. It fell to me to collect, catalogue, identify, and scan them for a posterity that shows, at best, a lukewarm interest. 

What were they like, the people in those photos? What books did they read? What thoughts did they think? What music stirred their souls? What loves and hates, regrets and dreams lay behind the eyes that stare at me from those antique scraps of paper? I obsess over these questions that no longer have accessible answers. Most of the people in those pre-war photos are only names, leaves on a family tree. For some I know a birth date, a death date. For a few, I might know a few paltry details—for very few, I might have an anecdote passed down orally, yet to be written in any permanent form. Too many of them exist only as photos, without even a name remembered by anyone still living, swallowed up by the relentless pace of time and the fading of living memory.


“Really?” my cousin asks, incredulous. “You never had that nightmare?”

My wife looks at him as if he has three heads. Her family left the shtetls of Galitzia and Volhynia in the 19th and early 20th centuries. She is third generation American in the branches of her family most recently arrived on these shores. Fifth or sixth generation in some of her other branches. No one in her family bore a number on their arm. None of her kin were pushed into mass graves or vanished as smoke into the sky on a spring day.

I am silent. I know exactly what my cousin is talking about. I have tossed and turned to the nightmare of being trapped in a Nazi death camp many times—less often as I’ve aged, but it’s never entirely left me. My cousins and I all know that dream. We have dreamed it all our lives, from the time we were children. 

Three of my grandparents were from Munkacs, the “Jerusalem of the Carpathians.” When the Nazis occupied Hungary in 1944, the Jews of Munkacs, the majority of the town’s population, were confined to a ghetto of a few city blocks. Between May 15 and June 7, 1944, daily transports carried 144,000 Jews from Munkacs and the surrounding cities to Auschwitz, where the vast majority, including most of my family, were murdered on arrival. The fourth grandparent, my mother’s father, came from a farm near Piestany in Slovakia. He joined the partisans, but we know almost nothing of his experiences. By the time the war was over, his parents and seven of his eleven siblings had been murdered.

My cousins and I were the first generation of our family born in America; born less than a decade removed from the Munkacs our parents left in the early 1970s. Growing up, nearly everyone we knew over the age of 50 was an alumnus of Auschwitz and a dozen other camps scattered across Eastern Europe. Some of them had lost wives, children, whole families whose identities I wouldn’t discover till years later, if ever. All of them did things to survive that we, in our modern security and prosperity, can only describe, and never truly imagine. The children of my family grew up surrounded by survivors, listening to their conversations and their songs, in the rustic Hungarian of Carpathian Ruthenia. They were remarkable people, by and large, who had put the horrors of their past behind them and had striven to become productive citizens. They had built new lives and had families, and did their best to live without bitterness. They were our grandparents and great-uncles and great-aunts, loving and generous, but they could not help passing on some tiny measure of their trauma to us.  Not enough to truly understand what they had gone through. But enough, perhaps, to get the gist of it, to have a speck of their terror and pain imprinted in our souls.

My wife tells me of new research, that trauma can be passed down through DNA. It sounds like Lamarckian voodoo to me. And yet there is no denying that my cousins and I have an experience alien to her, and the others like her whose families had lived in America before the war. My wife never had “the” nightmare. She couldn’t understand the panic I felt when I realized, in the midst of the Covid pandemic, that our children’s passports were about to expire. The idea of possibly needing those passports, of having to flee, was never even a passing shadow in her upbringing. She looks on with detached amusement as I hide away a small hoard of easily transportable valuables, “just in case.” 

“The American cousins are different,” my grandmother once said. “Not worse or better, just different.”


We are at Yad Vashem, my 13-year-old daughter and I. We stand before a photo of a woman, hunched with age, leading some children by a fence in Auschwitz. I know the photo. Without reading the caption I know it is from the infamous Auschwitz Album taken by an SS photographer. I know that this unknown woman, photographed from behind so her face is obscured, is from Munkacs. She and the children are on their way to their deaths. Perhaps she arrived on the same train as my family. Perhaps she was with my great-grandparents during their brief and fatal visit to the gas chambers, just after their arrival.

“Why didn’t they leave before it got to this point?” my daughter asks. How can I explain it to her? How can she understand? She did not grow up with the memory of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, of Gross-Rosen and Buchenwald. She is not ignorant of Jewish history, but the war years are as remote to her as any other of the myriad persecutions she knows, intellectually, that her people have suffered in history. She has grown up in a time of prosperity and freedom that would have been incomprehensible to her ancestors of a few generations past. She knows that even in the worst-case scenario, Israel is always open to her as a refuge, but she can’t really conceive of ever having to flee her homeland, the trauma of uprooting herself from everything she has known.

I explain that many of the people whose images she sees didn’t have the resources to leave, and that, even if they did, no country would take them while it was still possible to get out. As we leave, our conversation turns to the importance of remembrance, the duty to carry the legacy of the murdered millions into the future. I speak to my daughter about the coming of the Silent Time. Like my wife, she is aware of its approach, but the full meaning of it, the warp and weft of it, is beyond her understanding. It is not her fault. She did not grow up surrounded by the legacy of the camps, did not consume it with every spoonful of my grandmother’s chicken soup. She is one generation too far removed to feel it in her bones. 

The American children are different too.


A painting hung in my grandparents’ house for my entire life. My father doesn’t remember when they acquired it; it may have belonged to their family before the war. It depicts a man in baroque clothing and surroundings, idling in his study with a well-worn volume open before him. 

The painting, nameless as far as I know, was one of the “Roccoco Series” by interwar period Czechoslovakian-Jewish painter Beregi Sandor (also known as Sámuel Welber, 1876-1943/4). Beregi, a native of Munkacs, was best known for his sensitive portraits of the Jewish community of Munkacs and of the non-Jewish Carpathian peasantry. In a diary entry, Beregi’s contemporary, Adalbert Erdeli, wrote that Beregi was “a man with a big heart, a man-artist, devoted to beauty. He is witty, unable to offend anybody in a company. He was a straightforward person, very kind. Life forced him to paint portraits of dead grandparents…. To judge his creativity, considering just his remarkable witty caricatures and female portraits, would be wrong. Sámuel was a magic artist.”

Nobody knows for certain how Beregi died. Was he beaten to death by Hungarian fascists in Budapest in 1943, as some eyewitnesses insist? Was he herded onto the cattle car bound for Auschwitz in May of 1944, as others reported? He exists now only as a name, and in the paintings he created in life. As far as I know, there is no surviving photograph of him. In some ways Beregi is more mysterious and less remembered than the nameless faces in my family album, who at least have an image to survive them.

My family’s Beregi painting is hardly a masterpiece. It’s not remotely his best work. “Roccoco Series” was a nod to a passing fad, paintings he could dash off to pay the bills, allowing him to wander the streets in search of subjects that spoke more profoundly to him as an artist. The painting came into my possession when my grandmother died in 2021. I spent days studying it, noting the tiny flakes, the pinholes worn into the canvas. I called Yad Vashem, offered it to the museum’s collection if only its art restorers would do what they could to preserve it. The discussions went on for months, intermittently interrupted by the pandemic and its disruptions, staff turnover and allocation of resources elsewhere. I persisted. Finally, the day came. Carefully, reverently, I wrapped the painting, frame and all, in bubble wrap, slid it into its box, carefully sealed it in against the elements. Then the courier was at my door, and the painting was gone, too quickly for a proper farewell. 

Later that afternoon I gazed up at the sky, imagining I could see the contrails of the plane carrying the Beregi heavenward. A small vestige of a lost civilization, on its way to join its fellow-relics in its new home in Jerusalem. There, to serve as receptacles of memory to weather the Silent Time.

Because the Silent Time is almost upon us. Next year, the year after, perhaps five years from now—we, and all who come after us, will live in the Silent Time forever.

Eternal Wisdom

As young men in high school many decades ago, my best friend and I would often engage in discussions more of a philosophical nature than those focused on topics such as girls, drinking, and rock and roll. Which isn’t to say those topics held no interest for us; rather, if we talked about girls, for example, our perspective would be to consider the questions of relationship dynamics instead of perhaps the physical types we each found most appealing. At least most of the time. We were a curious pair, and almost anything would set us off on some conversational vector with the intent to arrive at the “why” of a particular subject. Curiosity, certainly a precursor to wisdom, is the province of youth… and all the more for those raised on a steady diet of Rod Serling monologues.

In my best friend’s basement—which is where we spent many afternoons and weekends in conversation—there was a painting on the wall: Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth. Understand that it was a time pre-Internet, so researching information out of casual interest was an involved process of finding an expert to talk to or going to a library. We did the next best thing, which was to engage our imaginations and lay out plausibilities. Why was the woman sitting out on the grass like that? What was the significance of the cut inner circle of grass and the longer grass where she was? We spent a lot of time asking questions and positing answers, and somewhere in there we began to understand it was the process of scaffolding answers into an interpretation that was the important thing. What we couldn’t articulate then was that being able to interpret stacked knowledge was one of the first paths to wisdom. We began, in earnest, to examine circumstances around us and how they affected the thoughts and feelings we held inside. As Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

The fat man in the cave

So we started examining life. Imagine this: two teenage boys living in the suburban mid-Atlantic region of the Unites States with precious little actual life experience decide to examine life. In that context, what does it even mean to “examine life”? In the best tradition of Captain Kirk seeking out new life, we decided to define our strange new worlds by setting up fictional thought experiments and discuss our way through to understanding concepts, including right versus wrong, good versus evil. We named one such thought experiment “The Fat Man in the Cave,” and it went something like this:

You’re in a cave, with only one way in or out. A fat man (remember, we grew up in the pre-woke, pre-PC era) somehow gets his butt stuck in the cave entrance so that there is no way out. There is no hope of rescue for either you or the fat man before you suffocate. Your only option for survival is to kill the fat man to escape. Are you morally justified in killing the fat man to save yourself? In other words, is murder justified to save your life? To change the moral calculus, let’s suppose further that your family, spouse and children, are in the cave with you. Does that make killing the fat man an easier choice?

Imagine this: two teenage boys living in the suburban mid-Atlantic region of the Unites States with precious little actual life experience decide to examine life.

Many discussions flowed from that and other moral dilemma scenarios, and at one point we considered writing a book, which we never got around to. We did, however, read a number of authors, one of whom was Will Durant who said this in The Story of Philosophy:

“And last are the few whose delight is in meditation and understanding; who yearn not for goods, nor for victory, but for knowledge; who leave both market and battlefield to lose themselves in the quiet clarity of secluded thought; whose will is a light rather than a fire, whose haven is not power but truth: these are the men of wisdom, who stand aside unused by the world.”

We continued our experiments and discussions, seeking truth in our way, sometimes with interspersed ruminations of girls, drinking, and rock and roll. Looking back, it was during that time that I began to see the value of dialogue as a road along the way to wisdom—not the whole path, but a major segment of the journey. The cultivation of wisdom requires dialogue. That can be dialogue between self and others. Or it can be dialogue between present self and past self. And that requires a bit of time travel and self-awareness. As Aristotle observed, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Let’s consider what that time travel and self-awareness look like.

The cultivation of wisdom requires dialogue. That can be dialogue between self and others. Or it can be dialogue between present self and past self. And that requires a bit of time travel and self-awareness.

The accessibility of wisdom

At any given point in life, a person has thoughts and opinions that have been formed on basis of experience and information. The very act of living, interacting with people, consuming media, and participating in society provides additional experience and information during subsequent life points that (hopefully) contribute to growth and transformation. The elegance of wisdom is that a person does not need to know the source to reap the benefits. Nor does the particular source for a person need to be the original source of the wise epiphany or guidance. For example, is there much difference between Aristotle sharing with me his thoughts on the beginning of all wisdom and reading about it from the Internet… or a fortune cookie, for that matter? While the sources of wisdom may be obscured or lost in time, pearls of wisdom are able to multiply and spread through a great variety of means, far and wide.

From a Biblical perspective, the source of wisdom is God. Proverbs 2:1-6 reads:

My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding—
indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

The elegance of wisdom is that a person does not need to know the source to reap the benefits.

The words of God’s wisdom are not limited to the Bible (nor is the wisdom from other religious texts so constrained). The wisdom of religious texts thousands of years old have spilled liberally into modern civilization. While Uncle Ben may have told Peter Parker that “with great power comes great responsibility,” many will recognize the source to be scriptural: “To whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48).

Because of the way people share ideas that are important and meaningful to them, wisdom constantly travels around and across a plane of collective consciousness. The same messages fall on different sets of eyes and ears in the ways that are most accessible to different people, if they are open to receiving the messages. Christina’s World, for whatever insight it provided to two boys in a basement in a Maryland home in the 1970s, was in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey as well as acted out in a scene of Forrest Gump; when Forrest’s friend and love Jenny returns home, she throws herself on the ground in a mirror image of the pose of the woman in the painting.

Wisdom is passed from generation to generation through the writers and artists and poets of the age, and even now as filmmakers, bloggers, social media influencers, and TikTok personalities. This is one way that the wisdom of the ages remains eternally in our consciousness. How else to comprehend Shakespeare’s admonition in the year 1600: “Neither a borrower, nor a lender be. For loan oft loses both itself and friend” showing up on an episode of Gilligan’s Island in the 1960s? It’s a simple matter to survey popular media today to see how much the truths of eternal wisdom have been infused into the fabric of society in grand tapestry of the world’s civilizations throughout time.

Among many other topics there is wise guidance all around us on the satisfaction of raising children, the humility in caring for those in need, the value of being a good friend, the importance of generosity, the healing qualities of forgiveness, the happiness in feeding your inner child, the joy of loving and being loved well, and the way to live and die having had a fulfilled life. Science Fiction author Robert Heinlein, himself often a conduit of eternal wisdom, gave his perspective on what it takes to be a fulfilled person:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

The embedded wisdom here is not so much that accomplishing these tasks makes for a wise person, but it is more in the realization that attempting these things prepares a person to be open to the accessible wisdom that surrounds us, and that is available to us all until the very moment we die.

The wisdom of the death bed 

One of the slivers of wisdom I have learned is that there are things worse than death. Having such a perspective surely touches the way a person lives life; it provides comfort in the understanding that there can be great value in sacrificing your life for a cause or for other people. In his 1842 collection of narrative poems, Lays of Ancient Rome, Thomas Babington Macaulay writes in the first verse of “Horatius”*:

Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
“To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his Gods.

How we die is as important as how we live, and what matters to us when we come to that moment of passing is what should have mattered during all the years that came before. If you want to know what’s important in life, look at what a person talks about on their death bed. When my father passed away 20 years ago, his family (my mother and two sisters) were there bedside him as he recollected the high points of his life to the doctor and nurses in attendance. Although his life story is filled with accomplishment and material success, he would only talk about us, his wife and his children, and that all the joy and happiness he experienced with us over the years was still his joy and happiness even as he lay dying. Perhaps for me, this is the one piece of wisdom I hold closest to my heart: your greatest treasure in life should be the people that you love and not the things that you have accomplished.

How we die is as important as how we live, and what matters to us when we come to that moment of passing is what should have mattered during all the years that came before.

The irony of wisdom

Wisdom, sadly, is not a key to eternal happiness or a universal talisman against the heart-rending agonies of life. The irony of Wisdom is that not only does it not save a person from suffering, it transforms the suffering into something almost impossible to bear. But it gives meaning and affords understanding to those wounds that otherwise would have mysteriously appeared leaving the person simply with the plaintive question “why?” As Alexandre Dumas said, ”There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.” That’s a terrifying balance if you think about it, but it’s one that I welcome as part of my journey. And who is to say where it will end for any of us?

One way to look at it is through the words of Rainer Maria Rilke in the poem “Go to the Limits of Your Longing”:

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.

As we seek wisdom, it is important for us to keep going, because it is true that no feeling is final, even the terror that presses down on your heart. Especially the terror. The optimist in me looks for happy endings, and in that, I resolve Rilke’s poem through the lens of Sophocles (which, interestingly, I first heard from Richard Nixon as he was interviewed by David Frost):

“One must wait until the evening to see how splendid the day has been.”


*A few lines from the first verse of the poem “Horatius” were recited by Tom Cruise in the movie Oblivion. It’s worth mentioning that the painting Christina’s World was also in the movie.

Time to De-Normalize ‘Palestinianism’

Last year, there were nearly 3,000 anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S., an increase of 34 percent over 2020. In New York City, attacks increased by 409 percent. This mirrors daily incidents on campus of blatantly anti-Israel professors, speakers, and resolutions, as well as Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s introduction of a “Nakba” resolution, essentially stating that Israel’s creation was a “catastrophe.”

Anti-Semitism’s dramatic surge has been unimpeded in part because it has been hitched to the tidal wave of woke causes in the potent form of “Palestinianism.” This new shape represents lies about the land of Israel combined with a complete erasure of Jews’ Judean identity. While it builds on age-old anti-Semitic themes of world manipulation and dominance, Palestinianism has seamlessly melded into the ascendent ideas of the moment. And even though it is every bit as violent, deceitful, and dangerous as older forms of Jew-hatred, it is going shockingly unchallenged.

This is the only way to explain how, with so muted a backlash, on June 2, an interactive map came online of 483 Jewish and other institutions in Massachusetts, including a Jewish high school, a Jewish disabilities group, and a synagogue. Innocuously called the Mapping Project, the website unabashedly states: “Our goal in pursuing this collective mapping was to reveal the local entities and networks that enact devastation, so we can dismantle them. Every entity has an address, every network can be disrupted.”

While it builds on age-old anti-Semitic themes of world manipulation and dominance, Palestinianism has seamlessly melded into the ascendent ideas of the moment. And even though it is every bit as violent, deceitful, and dangerous as older forms of Jew-hatred, it is going shockingly unchallenged.

Tapping into millennia-old anti-Semitic tropes about Jewish control and political string-pulling, the map is essentially a 21st century version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the 1903 fabrication purporting to describe a Jewish plan for global domination, which helped to inspire brutal Russian pogroms and the Holocaust.

Jews, according to the Mapping Project, are responsible for everything bad in the world, and have manipulated other groups into following their nefarious plans.

The map is a natural next step for the international campaign of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) to “de-normalize” Israel and end its existence. Published by an anonymous group of BDS supporters, the map identifies a “web of connections,” including the names of leaders and addresses. The project seeks to demonstrate that “institutional support for the colonization of Palestine is structurally tied to policing and systemic white supremacy here where we live, and to US imperialist projects in other countries.” The map is “a resource for gathering intelligence on the aspects of oppression,” including “medical apartheid” and “land theft.”

Shouldn’t a map pointing out where all the Jews are and targeting them as the oppressing enemy to be “dismantled” be immediately decried and shut down? Palestinianism thus far has prevailed.

The BDS National Committee made an unconvincing and inconsequential push back against the site, which still operates and is still being promoted by BDS Boston. In a June 20 letter, General Coordinator Mahmoud Nawajaa ordered BDS Boston to take down the map or “remove the BDS acronym from your name.” Nawajaa wrote that the National Committee has “deep concerns” over the project because it “unstrategically targets and provides names and ‘physical addresses’ of institutions and individuals and promotes messaging that includes phrases such as ‘resistance in all its forms.’”

Shouldn’t a map pointing out where all the Jews are and targeting them as the oppressing enemy to be “dismantled” be immediately decried and shut down? Palestinianism thus far has prevailed.

Sadly, this letter is deceptive because similar Palestinianism undergirds the entire thrust of the BDS movement, whose end game is to ostracize and eventually “dismantle” Israel. Nerdeen Kiswani of Within Our Lifetime recently claimed that Jewish community organizations “are Zionist organizations hiding behind Judaism. So every single organization on that list is a legitimate target.” Zahra Billoo, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations San Francisco Chapter, said, “We need to pay attention to the Zionist synagogues. They are your enemies.” The New York group Decolonize This Place was even more explicit, posting online: “Find targets nearby, find where these Zionist fools live, and where there [sic] offices are, and act!”

Indeed, the BDS campaign has used intersectionality to great effect. BDS Boston tweeted: “Imperialism, racism, militarism & Zionism are systemically connected in our communities.” The mappers call them “highly militarized forces that share resources and information to enforce the intersecting systems of white supremacy and capitalism.”

Now that anti-Zionism has been thoroughly unmasked as blatant anti-Semitism, will this mark a turning point in the endless battle to “de-normalize” Israel? Sadly no. The map is still up, and most national media haven’t even bothered to cover it.

The FBI is reportedly monitoring the project, although they have yet to find “any direct threats of violence” stemming from the map. Also to unclear effect, on June 21st, a bipartisan group of 37 House members urged federal law enforcement agencies to investigate the potential use of the project, which it called “dangerous incitement,” by extremist groups.

Now that anti-Zionism has been thoroughly unmasked as blatant anti-Semitism, will this mark a turning point in the endless battle to “de-normalize” Israel? Sadly no. The map is still up, and most national media haven’t even bothered to cover it.

But clearly the Mapping Project is just the latest—if especially ballsy—manifestation of a stream of virulent ideas that is connected to the staggering rise in actual anti-Semitic attacks. What needs to happen is a de-normalization of “Palestinianism.”

Honest journalists, professors, and politicians need to begin pointing out: there never was a country called “Palestine.” Israel is not a “settler, colonial” state occupied by “white Europeans.” Jews hail from Judea and are indigenous to the land of Israel. Despite centuries of persecution, we have remained a people, a nation, an ethnicity—which is not “white,” European, or “privileged.”

In fact, before 1948, the term “Palestinian” referred to Jews. In the 2nd century, the Romans crushed a Jewish revolt, conquered Jerusalem and Judea, and renamed Judea “Syria-Palaestina (a name probably taken from the Philistines, an Aegean people historically unconnected with Arabia). Because of a continual Jewish presence and connection to the land, up until the State of Israel’s rebirth, the Jews living in the region were still called Palestinians. Until, in the 1950s, the KGB and the Egyptian Yasser Arafat fabricated a “Palestinian” Arab people in order to decimate Israel. It was “academically” formalized by Columbia University professor Edward Said in the 1970s.

Honest journalists, professors, and politicians need to begin pointing out: there never was a country called “Palestine.” Israel is not a “settler, colonial” state occupied by “white Europeans.” Jews hail from Judea and are indigenous to the land of Israel. Despite centuries of persecution, we have remained a people, a nation, an ethnicity—which is not “white,” European, or “privileged.”

And now finally, disastrously, this “Palestinianism” has perhaps reached its pinnacle through woke ideology.

Jews have no desire to compete in the woke victimization Olympics. But our identity will no longer be erased. At White Rose Magazine, we have created the Judean Ethnicity Project to reclaim Judean identity as well as our indigenous ties to the land of Israel. Will this end the hatred and persecution that Palestinianism has fomented? Sadly no. But it will give every Judean more of a reason to fight for our land and our people.


Is Fusion between Conservatism and Classical Liberalism still Viable?

In Yoram Hazony’s new book, Conservatism: A Rediscovery (Regnery Gateway), he calls for renegotiating the relationship between the core ideas of the conservative tradition and the libertarian elements that it has been in partnership with, by returning the former to a pre-eminent position.

Yoram Hazony has written yet another foundational text of highly readable and relevant political thought. Following up on his last two bestsellers, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture (Cambridge University Press, 2012) and The Virtue of Nationalism (Basic Books, 2018), Hazony’s main goal in Conservatism: A Rediscovery is to clearly distinguish between liberalism in all its forms on the one hand, and the authentic Anglo-American conservative tradition, on the other. In doing so, he attempts to rediscover the principles that, he argues, must be embraced in order to face the dire ideological challenge posed by the current version of Marxism, which today masquerades as “progressivism,” “anti-racism,” or “woke.” 

Hazony’s contention is that when the conservative movement bases itself primarily on liberal principles of individual rights and free markets, while relegating ideas of tradition, family, honor, and God to the sidelines (when these elements are regarded as optional), it proves ultimately incapable of standing up to the encroachments and societal destruction brought on by Marxist ideas. Indeed, in some ways, contemporary progressivism is itself an outgrowth of liberalism’s emphasis on decontextualized individual rights taken to its logical extreme. America’s only hope, he argues, is for conservatives to re-arrange the relationship between the core ideas of the conservative tradition and the libertarian elements that it has been in partnership with, by returning the former to a pre-eminent position. 

To lay this out, Hazony first takes us back to the origins of the Anglo-American conservative tradition, tying them to English-speaking religious thinkers including John Fortescue, Richard Hooker, and John Selden, whom he identifies as the forgers of the tradition that Edmund Burke later sought to conserve. Looking across the Atlantic, he asserts that it is this same tradition upon which the American Constitution was founded, which was then crystallized by the National Conservatives of the early decades after independence, such as Washington, Adams, and Hamilton, and Chief Justices such as John Marshall—as opposed to Locke, Paine, and Jefferson, who are identified as belonging to the liberal and rationalist stream. Hazony follows up this historical survey with an original restatement of what he sees as the core principles of a conservative theory of politics built on loyalty, obligation, honor, community and nation, God and scripture; and he discusses what kind of government arises from such a foundation. In the third, and perhaps most important section, he addresses the major liberal and conservative thinkers of the past century and delineates what he believes they are missing and how they differ from the brand of conservatism that he is proposing, referencing liberals Friedrich Hayek and Leo Strauss as well as Russell Kirk, William Buckley, and Frank Meyer. Hazony then presents the current Marxist threat and demonstrates how his proposal of “Conservative Democracy” can meet it in a way that the idea of “Liberal Democracy” cannot. Finally, in an intimately personal and courageous fashion, Hazony reflects on how he came to embrace and understand conservatism in his own life.

What Hazony primarily is doing is not arguing against the importance of liberty, but rather attempting to shift the bedrock upon which our support for liberty is based.

While Hazony is convincing in his main premise that core conservative principles must be recognized as having primary status, this reviewer (and I presume other conservative readers who hold a healthy concern over granting too many powers to any kind of government) came away wondering where exactly Hazony proposes to draw the limits to government involvement in society. He proposes a greater role for government in relation to religion, intervening in international trade, and more. While much depends on the specifics, and some role may be justified, one may wonder: what is the limiting principle? How are we to ensure that the “carve outs” for Jews and secular liberals within the publicly Christian society are respected? If government intervention is allowed in the name of protecting American businesses from foreign competitors, what principle is to prevent it from taking other steps to “strengthen” the private sector or from coercing medical interventions on individuals, all “for the good of the nation”? To be sure, Hazony addresses some of these concerns in Chapter 8 in which he outlines Conservative Democracy, and the idea of limited government certainly appears among the core principles on the list. However, the precise limits in the proposed new arrangement may need further fleshing out in order to bring conservatives who also see value in libertarian principles fully on board.

A potentially fruitful avenue to begin fleshing this out can be found within the pages of the very first chapter. Most striking is Hazony’s presentation of Sir John Fortescue, who argues in his In Praise of the Laws of England that what is deserving of praise is precisely that the “English had succeeded in creating a form of government more conducive to human freedom and flourishing than any other known to man.” This early source makes clear that this tradition, including Hazony’s call for obligation toward community and nation, is indeed connected at its umbilical cord to the value of human freedom. Reading his presentation of John Selden, it becomes clearer that what Hazony primarily is doing is not arguing against the importance of liberty, but rather attempting to shift the bedrock upon which our support for liberty is based; taking it off of a bedrock of enlightenment rationalism based on axiomatic declarations of rights and instead placing it on an English and Biblical bedrock of support for God-given rights against government, granted by the only source which can truly stand above the Leviathan of the modern state. I believe that Conservatism: A Rediscovery will be recognized as a new milestone in conservative thought, alongside works such as Russel Kirk’s The Conservative Mind, and Roger Scruton’s The Meaning of Conservatism. However, to Kirk Hazony adds an unambiguous rejection of the political thinkers whose conservative leanings led them to justify chattel slavery in the 19th century American South. And whereas the late great Roger Scruton related to God and religion as something that was nice-to-have, Hazony emphasizes the Biblical origins of Anglo-American conservatism and the necessity of a widespread belief in the God of the Bible for its perpetuation. Hazony has reached back to the roots of this political tradition, and shown why they are truly worthy of praise, how they have evolved to animate generations of the strongest and most moral societies of the centuries since, and how they can continue to provide a path forward, if we can decide to not only applaud conservative ideas but to rise to the challenge of living a conservative life.


To Life: Dispelling the Myths, Part I

Roe v. Wade was just overturned, which means the power to decide its legality goes back to the states. The framing of Roe v. Wade, its origins, and the speed at which it was pushed through in 1972/73 were all things that even the late pro-choice Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg did not approve. Among the many issues Ginsburg had with Roe, was that the fact that it had nothing to do with the woman and everything to do with the physicians’ right to practice. Her most famous quote on the subject: “Doctrinal limbs too swiftly shaped, experience teaches, may prove unstable.”

Those words are resurfacing now, as some pro-abortionists are angry with Ginsburg for not having retired while former President Barack Obama was in office, so he could appoint a more pro-Roe justice. Ginsburg died in 2020 at 87 years old, during former President Donald Trump’s presidency, leaving Trump to appoint now justice Amy Coney Barrett, a pivotal figure in overturning the weak and rushed Roe v. Wade.

No abortion is “safe.” It is a very risky operation that can cause irreparable damage to a woman’s body.

In light of all of this, there has been much lamenting, pandemonium, and fear-mongering among those who view abortion as a human right. From that, old arguments from the pro-abortion side have recurred; arguments that have been long since refuted, but somehow continue to rear their heads. Over the next few articles, I will list some of the biggest arguments made by pro-choicers, and how they are simply not true. Here is where we begin:

“Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, we’re going to see a dramatic increase in deaths caused by illegal abortions. Get ready for the coat-hangers.”

This lie is based on a few layers of lies told over decades. First, the claim is based on the even more false claim that 5,000 to 10,000 women died from illegal abortions before Roe v. Wade was passed in 1973. This false claim was made by an abortionist and industry insider named Bernard Nathanson, who later admitted that he had fabricated the numbers. And what a fabrication it was, because from 1930 to 1972, deaths from illegal abortion drastically decreased, from 2,700 deaths in 1930, to 267 deaths in 1957, to less than 60 in 1972.

According to all the history we have before us, making abortions illegal will not cause more women to die from obtaining them illegally.

Here are the statistics from the CDC found on the Live Action site:

1970 – By 1970, the CDC reported that in just a six-month period (July to December), out of 16 reported abortions in New York City, eight women — HALF — had died from legal (not illegal) procedures. In total, the 1970 report states that 25 women died in New York City (where abortion had been liberalized), and eleven of those were from illegal abortions. The report also noted that Black and Puerto Rican women suffered higher legal abortion mortality rates.

According to that CDC document, “although there was substitution of legal for illegal abortion deaths, no significant decrease in total abortion mortality occurred following institution of the new law.”

Image

CDC Abortion Surveillance 1970

1972, year prior to Roe – In 1972, the year prior to national legalization, CDC reports revealed that deaths from illegal abortion were nothing close to the elusive 5,000 figure.

At the time the initial Abortion Surveillance report was published, CDC reported 51 deaths related to legal, illegal, and spontaneous abortions in 1973, and 71 in 1972. However, those reports were later updated, and the updated numbers can be found in this table from the CDC report (shown below):

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Abortion deaths prior to Roe CDC

Deaths from illegal abortion:

Deaths from legal abortion:

Below is an image of the updated CDC abortion death table for years prior to Roe:

Image

1975 – A 1975 report by National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, entitled, “Legalized Abortion and the Public Health: Report of a Study,” further dispels the lie that hundreds of thousands of women died from illegal abortion, writing in part, (emphasis added):

“It is difficult to find credible estimates of the number of deaths associated with illegal abortion. One estimate, which has been frequently quoted, is between 5,000 and 10,000 deaths per year. That is hardly plausible, considering that the total number of deaths of women aged 15-44 from all causes in the United States is approximately 50,000 annually, and the total number of deaths due to abortion reported by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) has been below 500 since 1958 and below 100 since 1971.”

It is also very important to note that in addition to the significantly smaller number of deaths than was originally reported, more than half of those illegal abortions were performed by licensed physicians: “white knights” who felt it was their responsibility to provide this procedure to women in places where it wasn’t legal. No back alley-coat-hanger-DIY abortions there. The majority of them were performed by certified doctors, and women still died. And from the charts, we see that a few more women died from legal abortions than illegal the previous year.

All of this previously mentioned evidence would suggest that women are not dying because of the legality of abortions, but because of abortions themselves. This also dispels the notion that there is such a thing as a “safe abortion.” No abortion is “safe.” It is a very risky operation that can cause irreparable damage to a woman’s body, from incapability of having any more children to many other complications documented in this book

So according to all the history we have before us, making abortions illegal will not cause more women to die from obtaining them illegally. And of course abortion will not be illegal in every state. The decision is simply going back to the states. There is a growing number of companies and celebrities who are willing to provide financial support for women who want to travel to a state where abortion is legalized.
But to keep the focus on the main point of this segment, there have been, and will continue to be, doctors willing to perform abortions. The truth is that abortions themselves are statistically not safe, and so women will continue to die and have other complications from getting them, no matter the legality. An honest person would engage in a discussion about that alone. But sadly, we do not live in an honest time.

Israel, Iran, Istanbul, and lethal beekeeping

“Israelis should not visit Istanbul, [Israeli] Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Monday as the National Security Council raised the threat level for such trips following the publication of reports that Israel and Turkey thwarted an Iranian terrorist attack in the city last month,” The Jerusalem Post reported.

And to think, we were due to visit Istanbul soon for a major upcoming international beekeepers convention (“Apimondia”–and, at that, after it was switched from a previous venue in Russia due to the war on Ukraine): 

“After canceling the Congress scheduled in Ufa, we needed to select a new venue for the 47th Congress that could be carried out with minimal risks and proven logistical support; Istanbul, Turkey met these requirements. Istanbul is a vibrant, safe, and central location in Europe.” More on that further down.

In any case, apparently, it’s far less “vibrant” or “safe” for Israeli Jews like wife Miri and me, due to hot intel of plots by Iranian hit/kidnap teams fanning out across Istanbul with the express goal of taking Yids as souk hostage souvenirs–or just simply killing us off at our hotels.

“The attempted attack on Israeli tourists was one of several by Iran in recent weeks, he said, adding that Israeli security organizations, the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office are trying to save Israeli lives.” Including, apparently, those of yours truly and wife.

Israeli and Turkish security agencies have reportedly made some arrests, but meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s National Security Council Counter-Terrorism Bureau on Monday raised the travel warning for Istanbul to “Level 4–the highest level,” which is equivalent to travel to Iran or Afghanistan–assuming any sane Israeli would ever consider those final destinations, despite the known propensity of many post-IDF Israeli young adults to head out for excitement and even Xtreme (i.e.; “dangerous”) travel venues.

In any case, apparently, it’s far less “vibrant” or “safe” for Israeli Jews like wife Miri and me, due to hot intel of plots by Iranian hit/kidnap teams fanning out across Istanbul with the express goal of taking Yids as souk hostage souvenirs–or just simply killing us off at our hotels.

“’These terrorist attacks are aimed at Israelis who went on vacation,’ Lapid said at a Yesh Atid faction meeting in the Knesset. ‘They are intentionally choosing Israeli citizens to abduct or murder. It could happen to anyone. It’s a real and immediate danger,’ he told colleagues.

“’We call on Israelis not to fly to Istanbul, and if it is not necessary, do not fly to Turkey,’ he added. ‘If you are already in Istanbul, return to Israel as soon as possible… If you planned a flight to Istanbul, cancel [it]… No vacation is worth your life,’” the foreign minister warned.

When the Apimondia organizers initially announced the second venue a few weeks ago, as much as I wanted to attend both as a beekeeper (Turkey has a legendarily fascinating history with beekeeping and fantastic honeys) and as a photographer (totally ridiculously amazing landscape and urban sites, faces, and places to shoot), I felt a deep twinge of concern:

One, for Turkey’s warm/cold official attitudes towards Israelis {Presidential Herzog’s recent visit to Ankara and such to the side). And two (and far more importantly), my reporter’s tingling “Spidey-sense” connecting it to Iran’s overt and subtle threats to strike Israeli soft targets soon after a string of lethal, alleged Israeli hits, against both human and material clandestine weapons and nuke targets in Iran, and their Hezbollah precise weapons officials, transporting materiel and plans via Syria to southern Lebanon.

That particular roiling, weapons-studded border is about a cozy 15-mile (28km) drive from where I’m typing these words in our (hopefully) rocket-resistant, steel-doored “safe room” at our cottage in our rural village, near the Sea of Galilee. 

Miri wasn’t happy about canceling our plans, but neither was I despite my concerns.

Good thing, in the end though, considering the deadly alternatives.

But it’s a damnable situation where we, as Israeli Jews, walk around international tourist sites with a target painted on our backs, and most of the world is either indifferent towards our possible horrific fate or supportive of those actively and daily seeking and planning our demise:

Headline: “‘Terrifying phone call in Istanbul: They’re waiting to kill you at the hotel’

“Israeli tourists called by intelligence official to tell them an Iranian squad is waiting for them at their hotel, and they must go to the airport,” Israeli Channel 13 News reported Monday evening.

It’s a damnable situation where we, as Israeli Jews, walk around international tourist sites with a target painted on our backs, and most of the world is either indifferent towards our possible horrific fate or supportive of those actively and daily seeking and planning our demise.

“On Friday afternoon, [the Israeli tourist] was asked to stay exactly where she was, in the market area, and in no uncertain terms not to return to the hotel. An armored vehicle arrived with ten Israeli security guards who accompanied them and traveled with them to the airport. They got on the flight, while all their luggage and belongings stayed at the hotel.”

That could’ve been us.

“When they landed in Israel they were taken straight to interrogation and asked who they had spoken to and where they had been. A real serious interrogation,” the friend told reporters.

 “And when they tried to figure out what had happened, it was explained to them that [the assassins] were just waiting for them at the hotel. She is in shock and unable to speak.”

“Two weeks ago, Channel 12 reported that Israeli security officials called and directly warned more than 100 Israeli citizens in Turkey that they were in Iran’s crosshairs, asking them to return home,” the Times of Israel reported.

“If we will want to respond to Israel’s activities, our answer will be given in its place and not in a third country,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said, according to the report. His statement was a possible bid to ally Turkish concerns they’d be linked to a potentially deadly live-version episode of the gripping Israeli spy series Tehran, but in this case, playing for keeps and firing real ammo in their hottest summer tourist destinations.

For now though, Israel’s formidable Mossad and Shin Bet security services aren’t taking any chances with the safety of their nationals visiting abroad–including a pair of otherwise sedate grandparent beekeepers. 

This is not the first time that Miri and I, our children, and neighbors have come under direct, personal attack by Iranian weapons and proxies. Thwarting Iranian attempts to reconnoiter and try to kill Israelis is not a new phenomena:

In a Facebook post in mid-February 2022, I noted that my wife and I came under Hezbollah surveillance at our village, while working our beehives one tense Friday morning. A drone evaded a pair of Iron Dome rockets (which, missing their target, self-detonated not far to the east–about 2-3 miles away from where I stood, I’d guess, going by the concussive force of the explosions).

This is not the first time that Miri and I, our children, and neighbors have come under direct, personal attack by Iranian weapons and proxies.

The IDF said the surveillance drone successfully reentered Lebanese territory.

However, one of my daughters happened to be working at the nearby Korazim National Park when the drone passed over our adjacent areas, just as we were checking our beehives. I heard double explosions, followed by jets and helos racing directly overhead, no doubt seeking out both the wily drone as well as the remains of the Iron Dome Tamir interceptors. She was shaken up by the dual blasts somewhere in the vicinity, but physically unharmed.

In a similar incident in February 2018, the IDF shot down a booby-trapped Iranian attack drone sent from Syria over the area just south of the Kinneret Sea of Galilee–this time, southeast of our otherwise pastoral community.

I noted (in an all-too-personal update to a Facebook post after that hostile UAV infiltration) that the Tehran regime was now officially at war with me, “since two of my triplet children were explicitly within the area being surveilled.”

So please understand why Israelis (despite a few notable exceptions) are deeply opposed to the so-called JCPOA “Iran deal.” It allows openly Jew-hating tyrants in Tehran and their proxies to the north and south of Israel, in Turkey and elsewhere, to continue to attempt to kill us, just “conventionally,” as if that ever made a damned bit of difference.

Thoughts and Prayers

Part of connecting on a human level is understanding the idea of offering condolences in times of tragedy. Offering condolences does not preclude any other action or activity, but it does say to those affected that you are caring for them in the moment, just as one person to another.

Many people in the world offer condolences by saying that their thoughts and prayers are with others. This is a common and very human expression of sympathy for those who have and are suffering, especially from the loss of a loved one—no matter the cause of the loss.

It is evident, for example, that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was able to draw much strength from his devotional prayers in driving change during the civil rights movements.

For nearly a decade now, there has been a growing pushback, especially among partisans from the left, against the utterance of the phrase “thoughts and prayers.” According to these voices, thoughts and prayers do not constitute appropriate action nor drive effective change. Depending on your views regarding the purpose and practicality of prayer, this may be a valid criticism. Whether or not this is true, the broadness and level of intensity of the criticism is based on a mistaken (or disingenuous) notion that offering thoughts and prayers precludes any further or additional action… or has no effect on the person offering the prayer.

Quite the contrary: it is often the catalyst for reflection and subsequent deeper commitment and effort to effect change. It is evident, for example, that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was able to draw much strength from his devotional prayers in driving change during the civil rights movements. Vanderbilt University professor Lewis Baldwin observed:

“Prayer was King’s secret weapon in the civil rights movement… Dr. King taught us about the importance of prayer, not only as a part of our own personal devotional life but… also prayer must be a part of any movement for social action.”

It is difficult to credibly argue with Dr. King’s impact on policy despite his emphasis on prayer. In such context, memes such as this fall a little flat:

Profound Ukraine Memes For 2022

Policy is one consideration, but something prayer accomplishes is that it consoles suffering people in the moments of great suffering. No one offers condolences to someone stricken with grief by saying they are working on policy change. (Try consoling the weeping mother at the funeral of a child killed by a drunk driver by telling her, “I’m working on policy change!” and see what kind of looks you get.) The two activities are not mutually exclusive, and it is possible for people to be involved in both. But prayer is one of the first things that allows people to believe that they can have a hand in change for positive good.

C.S. Lewis refers to Pascal’s statement that “God instituted prayer in order to lend to His creatures the dignity of causality,” when he says:

“But not only prayer; whenever we act at all He lends us that dignity. It is not really stranger, nor less strange, that my prayers should affect the course of events than that my other actions should do so. They have not advised or changed God’s mind—that is, His over-all purpose. But that purpose will be realized in different ways according to the actions, including the prayers, of His creatures.”

Sadly, it would appear that the people criticizing others for offering thoughts and prayers in a very human expression of sympathy have some other darker issue going on. Not only is their criticism of thoughts and prayers likewise not policy change, it is an expression of pettiness and misdirection of anger. Who makes more proclamations condemning well-wishers than they do condemning the perpetrator of the act that actually caused the tragedy? Count how many times you see someone post that thoughts and prayers are useless (or even harmful), and compare that to the number of times you see posts condemning the Uvalde shooter, for example.

This phenomenon comes from the leftist tendency to politicize even the most basic of human interactions. The common refrain used as a justification for this denial of thoughts and prayers represents the stance that the attack is on politicians that hide behind the statement rather than take legislative action.

As general pushback against this sentiment, I recently posted a statement on my personal Facebook page, and the first response I received was from a leftist which was illustrative.

My post: Yes, “thoughts & prayers” aren’t “policy change.” But they’re what humans offer each other in times of tragedy. Get over it.

Leftist response: Good advice – much like Trump dancing on stage at the NRA convention, right after reading the names of the dead Uvalde students. He “got over it” pretty quickly, it seems. Thoughts and prayers!

It doesn’t require an overly detailed read of my post to determine I was speaking broadly in terms of “human” reaction to tragedy. Yet the leftist response focused in on the NRA and Donald Trump (neither of which I mentioned), as though all the sympathy that Americans might feel for each other in the Uvalde aftermath is meaningless when held up against the holy crusade against guns… and of course Donald Trump. How do the actions of particular political figures or organizations negate the desire and courtesy of private individuals to offer condolences? 

Deep down, leftists have difficulty acknowledging that there can be some authority other than the State that frames people’s interactions with each other.

This is not an outlier type of response in the public square. A quick survey on Facebook and Twitter will reveal how widespread this well-wisher shaming extends. In fact, I first came across a variation of the meme posted on LinkedIn (ostensibly a social network for professionals about work and careers). Does this fit LinkedIn’s mission? Why, of course it does, as long as you’re wearing your “everything-is-political glasses” through which you view all human interaction.

Deep down, leftists have difficulty acknowledging that there can be some authority other than the State that frames people’s interactions with each other. Therein lies one of the underlying causes of their dismissal of “thoughts and prayers”; if one is going to entreat an authority to address an issue, it had better be the State you’re talking about, and the action better be legislation. And it had better be legislation in favor of their particular viewpoint, otherwise you’re a bigot, ‘phobe, or extremist. That, however, is a line of thinking best addressed in another article (or three). The takeaway from the anti-thoughts-and-prayers conversation is simply this: if you ever find yourself in a group (either real of virtual) of people (friends or strangers) and you know that some of those people have suffered great loss, please do not hesitate to offer them your condolences of thoughts and prayers… regardless of whether you plan to provide additional supportive action or not. I know that in that moment, I would greatly appreciate the kindness of your words, and the fact that people are willing to connect with me in a very decent and ancient human way.


SJP: Lies and Toxic Radicalism

Since its founding in 1993, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) has a long history of bringing vitriolic anti-Israel speakers to campuses, sponsoring Israeli Apartheid Weeks, building mock “apartheid walls,” and sending mock eviction notices to students in their dorms to help them “empathize with Palestinians.” SJP members wish to live in a world where only their predetermined virtues and worldview prevail, and feel quite strongly that, in the case of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the answers are black and white, there is a moral side and an immoral side, and that anyone who does not, or cannot, see things as clearly and unambiguously as these enlightened students is a racist, an oppressor, or a supporter of an illegal, apartheid regime trampling the human rights of the blameless, hapless Palestinians.

Because they have been relentless in promulgating activism that attacks the Jewish state and anyone who supports it, SJP often finds itself defending its rhetoric and tactics from understandable criticism it receives from pro-Israel individuals and groups—invariably with SJP claiming to be victimized by “Islamophobic” Zionists who, SJP contends, are trying to silence “criticism of Israel.” In yet another revealing example of its hypocrisy and obtuseness when assessing the consequences of its own behavior, the University of Chicago’s SJP chapter is currently whining about being victimized by ideological opponents who exposed the true nature of this toxic group.

What was SJP’s complaint this time? In a letter to the editor in the university’s newspaper, The Chicago Maroon, SJP expressed its displeasure with the fact that on May 23, “the David Horowitz Freedom Center plastered more than 5,000 leaflets on and around campus demonizing Palestinian and pro-Palestinian students.”

Employing its tired tactic of whining that any effort by SJP’s critics is motivated by a desire to shut down any support of Palestinian self-determination, the letter preposterously suggested that the leaflets were posted on campus solely “in order to muzzle and disparage pro-Palestinian activism.”

More absurdly, SJP claimed that the Horowitz Center’s “work aims to censor and misrepresent our academic production and to create an environment of surveillance and fear surrounding scholarship about Palestine.”

One could make many claims about its role on the 200 or so campuses where SJP has chapters, but few would ever suggest that the toxic radicalism of the group—and the resulting effect it has on their respective campuses—amounts to “scholarship” or “academic production.” Perhaps SJP believes that by bringing perennially anti-Semitic radicals like Rashid Khalidi to speak on the Chicago campus, one of the events included in the leaflet, they are promoting scholarship, but that is not the case.

When guest speakers accuse Israel of being the new incarnation of the Third Reich and when they malign and slander the Jewish state with accusations lacking any basis in fact or history, this is not, despite SJP’s contention, an example of “scholarship about Palestine”; rather, it is hatred disguised as debate about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

According to the Horowitz leaflet, when Khalidi spoke in December 2020, he “demonized Israel, accusing the Jewish state of ‘settler colonialism’ and ‘occupation,’ and claiming falsely that Israel attempts to terrify the Palestinians to achieve dominance rather than to ensure the nation’s safety: ‘I don’t think it’s security [for Israel that] fully describes accurately what is at stake here. What is at stake is actually dominance and hegemony when Israeli soldiers are kicking down doors and scaring children in the night.’”

What is most revealing in SJP’s letter to the editor is its inability to see how its complaint about the corrosive effect of the leaflet on the university’s community mirrors exactly the effect SJP has had for a decade or more on the campuses that have experienced the hostility and aggression of their pro-Palestinian activism. The leaflets, SJP suggested in its letter, “go so far as to incite hostility and hate against and within our community. They inhibit our capacity to work and study, to commune, to feel safe.”

It is not clear what SJP means when they refer to “our community,” but that community clearly does not include the University of Chicago’s Jewish students, who, like Jewish students and other supporters of Israel at other campuses around the country, have been ideologically assaulted by SJP in an unrelenting campaign of lies, slanders, and distortions of history and fact; boycott resolutions; and accusations against Israel of racism and apartheid as part of SJP’s campaign to malign and destroy the Jewish state. The group clearly could not care less whether Jewish students have a “capacity to work and study, to commune, to feel safe.”

In fact, as has been documented by the AMCHA Initiative and others who track anti-Semitism on campuses, BDS activity on a campus—and especially when orchestrated by SJP or other anti-Israel groups—frequently creates a hostile climate for Jewish students and often manifests itself as raw anti-Semitism. As one AMCHA report noted, “the consideration of anti-Israel divestment resolutions in student government or by the student body was strongly linked to a surge in anti-Semitic activity,” and campuses that have an SJP chapter have witnessed a higher incidence of anti-Semitic speech and expression as a direct result of its radicalism and activism.

In November 2021, for example, as the leaflet outlined, “SJP at U. Chicago published an art zine titled ‘Cheers to Intifada.’ The zine promoted terrorism against Israel and contained violent imagery including a graphic of two lit Molotov cocktails raised in a toast . . .The zine was also rife with anti-Semitism including an image of a pig wearing a policeman’s hat with a Jewish star on it. Poems in the publication promoted ancient blood libel tropes against Jews such as one describing a Jewish teenager who held Palestinians captive and had ‘animalistic lust yearning to rape bodies.’

SJP may consider this type of perverse, anti-Semitic, and genocidal propaganda to be “academic production” and “scholarship about Palestine,” but in a sane world, it represents a poisonous and hateful ideology in which fellow Jewish students are the enemies of good, are racists, support an apartheid state, and deserve to be victims of an intifada, which has as its objective the murder of Jews wherever they are in the name of Palestinian self-determination. On no university campus, and certainly not at an institution with the reputation and quality as the University of Chicago, would this type of banal radicalism pass for scholarship, let alone acceptable academic discourse.

As they have on other campuses, SJP Chicago has also worked aggressively to promote BDS resolutions and to push a statement of solidarity for the Palestinian cause through its student government. “In June 2021,” the leaflet noted, “SJP published a lengthy statement calling on the College Council to ‘vote “NO” on the resolution to retract [the University Student Government’s] statement of solidarity and support for Palestine.’ SJP’s statement promoted Jew hatred and demonized Israel, calling campus supporters of the Jewish state ‘student body apartheid apologists,’ and denying Israel’s self-determination by calling for the ‘abolition of a violent political state [of Israel].’”

On no university campus, and certainly not at an institution with the reputation and quality as the University of Chicago, would this type of banal radicalism pass for scholarship, let alone acceptable academic discourse.

In April, at the behest of SJP, The Chicago Maroon, retracted an op-ed written by two students, “We Must Condemn the SJP’s Online Anti-Semitism,” who questioned SJP’s tactics and ideology.  

On January 26, as the op-ed by Melody Dias and Benjamin ZeBrack noted, SJP had posted on its Instagram page the shocking admonition, “DON’T TAKE SH*TTY ZIONIST CLASSES.” Students were asked to “Support the Palestinian movement for liberation by boycotting classes on Israel or those taught by Israeli fellows.” According to the SJP post, any students who enrolled in these classes would be “participating in a propaganda campaign that creates complicity in the continuation of Israel’s occupation of Palestine” and that, in its view, “Israeli-centered classes are designed to obscure Palestinian perspectives.”

Characteristic of their reaction to anyone who answers back to their corrosive activism, SJP was incensed that anyone had the gall to question their tactics and motives. Another post on the SJP Instagram account in response to the Dias-ZeBrack op-ed expressed the defective view often held by anti-Semites that “To frame this call as ‘anti-Jewish’ not only perpetuates the dangerous (and wholly false) conflation of Jewishness and Zionism, but also deliberately diverts attention from the ongoing ethnic cleansing that the israeli [sic] colony has been inflicting on Palestinian lands and peoples from its inception to the present.”

Characteristic of their reaction to anyone who answers back to their corrosive activism, SJP was incensed that anyone had the gall to question their tactics and motives.

The widely adopted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism, as many know, stipulates that, in many instances, attacks on Zionism can be considered anti-Semitic, particularly when those attacks are attempts to deny Jewish self-determination or when Zionism is classified as a racist, oppressive endeavor, so despite SJP’s assertion that the claim is both dangerous and wholly false, experts in these matters—and not biased, anti-Semitic ideologues—have determined that there is support for Dias and LeBrack’s views.

Nevertheless, SJP demanded of the Maroon’s editors, “in response to these offenses,” the “Immediate deletion of the article,” a “public apology issued by the Maroon to SJP UChicago and to Palestinian students for the dissemination of misinformation and the disregard of journalistic integrity and factual reporting,” and, most ominously, “a public recommitment to ensuring that all columns and articles abide by expected standards of accuracy and truth, particularly those written by Zionist authors or on behalf of Zionist organizations.” [Emphasis added.] In other words, SJP requested a separate standard of exclusionary journalistic ethics and practice when Israel, Zionism, and Jews are involved.

Astoundingly, in response to SJP’s absurd demands, two feckless editors, Kelly Hui and Elizabeth Winkler, not only deleted the offending op-ed but published a craven, apologetic editorial of their own in which they dissected the op-ed for its perceived factual inaccuracies and justified their decision by claiming that it was the op-ed written by the pro-Israel supporters that could be the source of campus enmity, not the original action of SJP in calling for a boycott of courses about Israel.

 SJP requested a separate standard of exclusionary journalistic ethics and practice when Israel, Zionism, and Jews are involved.

“We condemn the pitting of Jewish and Palestinian students against one another,” they wrote, “and we deeply regret the extent to which the op-ed’s factual inaccuracies—which we should not have published—perpetuated such a harmful dynamic.” Of course, in addition to the editors’ outrageously inappropriate action in removing an opinion piece from The Chicago Maroon, written as a response to a campaign of demonization and delegitimization of Israel and Zionism by the chronically toxic activists of SJP, they compounded the offense by suggesting that sections of the op-ed contribute to “pitting of Jewish and Palestinian students against one another.” No, actually, it was SJP’s poisonous attacks on anything Zionist on campus and its initial call for “shitty” Zionist courses to be boycotted that pit pro-Israel students against pro-Palestinians, not op-eds that correct misinformation or defend Israel.

Only on university campuses where perceived victims can attack their alleged oppressors with any calumny, untruth, slander, and allegation they choose—without repercussions—could a group like Students for Justice in Palestine continue to operate with impunity, attacking Jewish students and other supporters of Israel and creating a hostile campus climate.

But SJP at Chicago clearly does not fully understand the notion of academic free speech: that the same opportunity they have to spout their hateful rhetoric and promote their toxic ideology is also enjoyed by the group’s ideological opponents. 

When pro-Israel students, guest speakers, events, courses, or even leaflets distributed around campus seek to expose SJP’s true nature—with facts and examples as opposed to lies and narratives—SJP may be inconvenienced by having to finally defend its views in a robust and equitable marketplace of ideas, not its own echo chamber where its lies are never challenged and its toxic anti-Semitism is never named for what it is.

On Reading Thomas Kearney’s Memoir of His Travels Through the New World

Many, content within their cozy cells

Of soft and safe familiarity,

Will scorn or fear the daring that compels

The youth to chase horizons, make them flee

Until the understanding spans the whole

Continuum of all humanity.

To tread the planet’s breadth from pole to pole,

To slumber under foreign stars, and share

Warmth with strangers through bonds of common soul

Spawns enlightenment critical and rare.

The epic journey jointly undertaken

Toughens the sinews of a brotherhood;

Experience’s dawn shall broadly waken

A latent sympathetic hardihood.

The road’s confusion and discovery,

Its joy and danger, thrill and dullness should

Ever embrace, like lovers’ ecstasy,

To make the vistas and the grandeur sweet,

All the mobile conviviality

Richer in slogging through the cold and heat.

For who – but few! – have bathed in every ocean,

Or breathed the air of half the biosphere’s

Teeming diversities through global motion,

Or plunged into the reservoir of tears

And sweat and blood exuded by the most

Of Adam’s race, which evermore coheres

Into a sea that never laps a coast?

The restless, brave, and curious alone

Make trek to tangiate the fragile ghost

Of solidarity’s prevailing groan.

Oh, what prodigious treasure of fulfillment

Accumulated in the greed for road,

When sandaled feet have pressed for full distillment

The liquor to the traveler bestowed!

Oh, one like me remains ashamed to die

(Too lazy to exceed my own abode)

And longs, one day, with fortitude to try

Some great adventure and romantic test

Of worth in journey, and as boldly fly

As Thomas stepped the Earth in ardent quest.



This poem is based on the book: Thumbs Up: A Hitchhiking Irishman and 25,000 Kilometres from Patagonia to the Arctic

The Endemic Jew Hatred of Political Islam

On the surface, the recent hostage crisis in a Texas synagogue by Malik Faisal Akram, a British citizen, initially seemed like a fairly run-of-the mill terrorist attack. The suspect entered the synagogue, held four people hostage, and demanded the release of his “sister” Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani national who is serving an 86-year sentence in a federal prison for two attempted murders, among other crimes. Convicted on terrorism charges, she was once considered the world’s most wanted woman. 

Contrary to stereotypes, Siddiqui was not a poor illiterate provincial but a U.S.-educated academic with a PhD. The advocates for her release at the time ranged from the Islamic State/ISIS to CAIR, a U.S.-based Muslim Brotherhood front organization. CAIR dubs itself as a Muslim civil rights organization, despite being an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing trials. All claimed that she had been unjustly maligned.

Over the years, Lady Al Qaeda’s case faded from public attention, as did the campaigns for her release. For that reason, Akram’s focus on this particular case at first glance appeared puzzling, once it became obvious that Siddiqui was not actually a relative of Akram but was using the Islamist equivalent of “comrade,” referencing spiritual kinship. The FBI initially stated that although a synagogue was attacked, the case had nothing to do with anti-Semitism. That raised ire in Jewish communities around the U.S., and as more information came out, it became obvious that the FBI’s seeming attempt to divest from the implication of anti-Semitism was even more misguided than it appeared to be. 

Siddiqui herself was an anti-Semite, who blamed her capture on Israel and objected to having “Zionist Jews” in the jury for her trial. Moreover, Akram indicated that the taking of a synagogue in a tiny Texas town as opposed to the church across the street was in line with his view that Jews controlled U.S. policy and that therefore the authorities would listen if he took over a Jewish target. 

But Akram’s personal biases are only a part of the picture. Months before the incident, CAIR renewed its efforts to liberate “Lady Al Qaeda” from federal custody, starting the Free Aafia Siddiqui movement. The campaign was allegedly prompted by an incident in August 2021 when Siddiqui was attacked by another inmate. CAIR ended up doing multiple events pushing for Siddiqui’s release over the span of a few months, raising questions about the organization’s priorities. Styling itself as a defender of civil rights for Muslim American communities, the organization is seen spending an inordinate amount of time defending one terrorist. Furthermore, throughout the campaign, which culminated in the hostage taking, CAIR lent support to one of its leaders, Zahra Billoo, who claimed that “Zionists synagogues” are behind Islamophobia, police brutality, and border control. CAIR clearly offers institutional support for the public expression of Jew hatred, which at the very least could have inspired Akram and others like him.

Akram himself comes from a Deobandi background, from a school of thought called Tablighi Jamaat, which is prevalent in Afghanistan and Pakistan and banned in Saudi Arabia, where it is seen as extremist and an “entry point to terrorism.” While CAIR is inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood, founded by Egypt’s Hassan El Banna, political Islamist movements have more in common in terms of roots and political orientation than in cultural influences. 

CAIR, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), and other such organizations have consistently underscored their aversion to Jewish communities, not just the political issue of the State of Israel.

Divisive exclusionary views of non-followers and rejection of the history of cooperation between Jews and Muslims going back to the early days of Islam in Arabia is one unifying motif. In the words of one follower: “Al-Houthi, ISIS, the Tablighi group, Ibn Baz, Al-Fawzan, Shiites, Sufis, and all the Muslims of the world, before and after, firmly believe in cursing the Jews.” This attempt to hijack the perspective that the “cursing of the Jews” refers specifically to the Jews who have strayed from the “derech” and who were cursed not by the Muslims but by the warnings of their own prophets is the common denominator to various Islamist movements. The corrosive effect such line of thought has had on the Muslim world is evident after watching decades of propaganda in the media and education in countries where such movements have held sway, destroying and dividing even those societies where Jews are negligible in number and whose presence is not felt. Still the Islamist who made the comment was correct in underscoring that all Islamist movements (rather than all Muslims) do indeed share this view, and for that reason, despite their differences and struggle for power and resources, manage to cooperate and build alliances among themselves. The Zaidi Shia Houthis, influenced by Khomeinist extremism, share the same aversion to Jews, the U.S. Constitution, classical liberal values, Israel, women, minorities, and individual rights as do Muslim Brotherhood followers who originate from Sunni backgrounds.

Indeed, the Muslim Brotherhood, which entrenched itself in the U.S. in the 1950s and also spread across Europe, supported the Islamic Revolution in Iran; for his part, Khomeini popularized Sayyid Qutb’s writings, which became the foundational texts of Brotherhood ideology, in Farsi. Revolutionary zeal could have been as divisive as it was unifying. The Brotherhood imagined an undefined Caliphate, whereas Khomeini pursued a strange mixture of a Persian neo-Imperialism governed by his doctrinal adaptations and distortions of Shi’a Islam. 

But finding the common enemy in Jews and various others who have strayed from the tenets of their ideologies brought the two otherwise conflicting movements together. CAIR, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), and other such organizations have consistently underscored their aversion to Jewish communities, not just the political issue of the State of Israel. ISNA was once part of Jewish organizational outreach efforts, but eventually left these attempts. In no cases of dialogue between Islamist groups in the US and Jewish organizations did the issue of community antisemitism and Islamist doctrinal view of the Jews ever shift, as is obvious from all public records of rhetoric by the Islamist organizations and activists.

Worse, following the Texas synagogue hostage-taking, CAIR and others raised the alarm about the possibility of Islamophobia rising as a result of an Islamist gaining the limelight, and thus perpetuated a victimhood narrative rather than joining in with other communities to condemn anti-Semitism. CAIR and other Islamist organizations will once in a while join group efforts to “fight anti-Semitism,” but only if Islamophobia is brought up simultaneously, rejecting the particularism and unique nature of rising anti-Semitism in the U.S. Victim Olympics naturally strike many as insincere and self-serving, but the situation may be more sinister. While it is certainly possible that Akram was merely inspired by CAIR’s campaign to free Siddiqui, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Akram had some organized help at various stages of his plan.

Perhaps this incident will finally start raising awareness in the Jewish community of the threat of political Islam to Jews specifically. While the onus of the woke ideologues is on the poorly named “white nationalism” (a term that makes no sense), anti-Semitism endemic to Islamist movements evades scrutiny.

It is also clear that his target was not randomly selected, as a recording of his phone call recently revealed. Akram cursed the U.S., attacked Jews, and also boasted of having hundreds of ammunition rounds for a firearm he had illegally procured. The released details raise more questions than they answer. Where did Akram get the money to purchase the weapon? How did he, with his radical affiliation, evade U.S. security scrutiny? How did Akram get the funding to travel? Who were his contacts in the U.S.? Why did he call a female Reform rabbi in NYC—twice? Why were authorities not alerted when Akram was turned away from a local mosque in Texas after being refused a place to stay?

But the elephant in the room has thus far not been addressed: was Akram merely inspired by CAIR’s campaign or was there some level of coordination between CAIR and their more violent fellow travelers across the pond? After dodging the Holy Land Foundation indictments, CAIR took measures to restore its image by changing its board, but its co-founder and national executive director Nihad Awad remained. Furthermore, CAIR’s coordination of political causes with other Muslim Brotherhood front organizations and with NIAC, the unregistered Iran lobby group co-founded by Trita Parsi, which became best known for its defense of the JCPOA, indicate that CAIR’s ideological proclivities have not changed. It has certainly not gone out of its way to condemn Hamas. A recent sting operation revealed that CAIR has not in fact cut ties with Hamas. Hamas is another Muslim Brotherhood byproduct, designated as a terrorist organization in the U.S., and viewed as such throughout the Middle East. If CAIR is still in cahoots with Hamas, what is stopping it from working with other extremist groups such as the Tablighi group?

Political Islam groups have made a cozy alliance with Democratic party operatives, through a combination of generous political donations and influence campaigns.

Perhaps this incident will finally start raising awareness in the Jewish community of the threat of political Islam to Jews specifically. While the onus of the woke ideologues is on the poorly named “white nationalism” (a term that makes no sense), anti-Semitism endemic to Islamist movements evades scrutiny by all but a few conservative-leaning groups. Alas, even the classical liberals and conservatives have overall been at best nonchalant about the threat of political Islam to democratic institutions, liberal values, and law and order. On the one hand, there is a significant ignorance of political Islam ideologies that makes many reluctant to call out its dogma for fear of inadvertently offending Muslims. On the other, the overall political context makes the problem of political Islam a low priority for most people, Jewish communities and classical liberals included.

The political apathy is explainable by several factors. First, political Islam groups have made a cozy alliance with Democratic party operatives, through a combination of generous political donations and influence campaigns, and by outright disinformation, presenting themselves as the mainstream of Muslim American communities and as the authoritative voices on Muslim civil rights issues. In reality, these groups are a fringe minority recycling and cross-pollinating members from charity to charity, who nevertheless go to great lengths to suppress alternative voices. CAIR and others receive the sort of support that nascent community organizations do not; they portray themselves as pan-Islamic organizations ignoring the fact that Muslim American communities are culturally and religious diverse. 

They have also gained legitimacy by being the only game in town and forming partnerships with political training groups, intelligence agencies and law enforcement, and soft power institutions. Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood is dying throughout the Arab world, and its leadership in Europe has splintered between Turkey and London. Faced with corruption, internal power struggles, mismanagement, and conflicting priorities, the movement seems to be propped up more by leftist fellow travelers and the media than by the natural following it once enjoyed. Perhaps the repeated corruption, ethical violations, and mismanagement by Islamists in power have done more damage to the image of political Islam movements than any counterpropaganda could. In the U.S., however, the trend is going in the opposite direction, at least in the levers of power if not objective recruitment numbers. 

The more conservative-leaning population in the United States may not be sympathetic to Islamists but does not prioritize their threat either, choosing to focus on either violent terrorist organizations or on state actors such as Iran, China, or Russia. The threat of ideological infiltration and subversion of U.S. educational, political, and media institutions is seen to be more a result of “woke” ideology than Islamism. However, Islamist movements are typically flexible in their partnerships, which results in sometimes surprising alliances of woke ideologues and conservative Islamists. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib’s support for radical/woke leftist causes at home while pulling the support for conservative Old Guard and regimes in Muslim majority states is just one absurd example of this apparent double standard. Conservative-leaning audiences are not primed for fighting ideological threats. Political leaders (with few exceptions) either generalize and project Islamism on Muslims, incurring a backlash, or otherwise rank the threat of political penetration as low on the radar if not outright paranoid. Others do acknowledge the threat but still see state actors as the immediate danger. Unlike state actors, political Islam movements are hard to define and quantify—and they change names and identities to avoid detection and designation.

There is also a category of political leaders who are fully aware of the Islamist threat but intentionally refuse to confront it; while even corruption cannot force them to go outright against the party line on such organizations, they can be convinced to keep silent, avoid raising awareness, or downplay the priority. At the end of the day, only a handful of effective political leaders understand the full scope of Islamist activity and the danger it presents but fighting in isolation generally does not lead to successful legislative or executive outcomes. So far no Republican administration has moved to crack down on Islamist financing. 

The Lady Al Qaeda campaign may be an early effort by Islamists to promote and whitewash anti-Semitic terrorists, but it is not the only one.

To change the status quo, it is not enough to propose bills outlawing the Muslim Brotherhood or designating it as a terrorist organization, particularly since no administration is likely to move on such an effort. The reasons for that include the different legal definitions of terrorism in the U.S. from that of other countries that have already done so; effective political lobbying by Muslim Brotherhood front organizations and their partners in U.S. government institutions; a general lack of interest and consensus; and a lack of awareness among voters. Educational outreach, public hearings on transparency and ideology of these organizations, and mobilization by soft power institutions such as think tanks are necessary to make this cause a priority. Furthermore, viewing Islamists as an organized crime structure rather than as terrorists might be an easier track to pursue legally, given that terrorism is only one aspect of the Islamist threat, propaganda and political operations, such as lobbying and potentially bribery, being far more prevalent and successful in the United States.  Likewise, pro-Islamist institutions are funded far better than their opponents. 

Those who are concerned about Islamism and Islamist anti-Semitism should push for the creation of viable educational and investigative initiatives and mechanisms. Jewish and pro-Israel groups should not rest on the laurels of fighting popular causes du jour such as white nationalism but be at the vanguard of addressing emerging and growing threats before they gain political leverage. The Lady Al Qaeda campaign may be an early effort by Islamists to promote and whitewash anti-Semitic terrorists, but it is not the only one. DAWN MENA, a Washington-based organization claiming to fight for human rights and democracy in the Middle East and North Africa, has formed a partnership with the U.S. State Department to address the killers of Jamal Khashoggi, another Muslim Brotherhood activist and anti-Semite. But upon closer examination, this seemingly humanitarian effort has focused on getting Israeli cybersecurity companies such as NSO banned in the United States, while their social media accounts in Arabic call for BDS and spread blood libels claiming that Israel is an apartheid state.

The Jewish community and the United States in general can no longer afford the luxury of willful blindness and complacency when it comes to the danger of political Islam and its role in governance. Bigotry against Muslims needs to be fought, but the foundation for response to biases lies in the US Constitution, Jewish value of human lives, and independent thinking, not in concepts promoted by ideologues and developed with the sole purpose of chilling debate of religion’s role in society. Finally, the greatest danger of political Islam is to other Muslims.  Muslim communities in the US recognize the danger of divisive religious and political efforts; the Jewish organizations should embrace and support individuals who understand the common threat Muslim Brotherhood fronts present to Muslims and Jews by promoting hatred, exclusivity, and fanaticism.

The Big Lie Comes to Colleyville: Fairy Tale vs. Storied Truth

Big Picture

I won’t be adding anything new to the accounts of the recent hostage-taking in Colleyville, Texas, an incident that offers a paradigmatic example of today’s anti-Semitism in action (there’s brief summary at the end). An 11-hour synagogue stand-off, international terror connections, crazy recorded rants, a brave rabbi, a hostage escape, a SWAT raid: movie-of-the-week material, at least, if not an action blockbuster. But it was largely ignored or downplayed as it was taking place, got shrugged off by the media afterward, and has already disappeared from the news cycle and general awareness. 

I also won’t be trying to convince anyone that what’s happening is really happening: that there is a worldwide increase in anti-Semitism; that the new variant of “the longest hatred” (Robert Wistrich) is anti-Israelism – from bad faith “criticism of Israel” and vicious anti-Zionism to terror and all-out war; and that the gravest threats come from Islamic supremacists, abetted by a self-deluding anti-Western political Left with growing mainstream dominance, followed by old-fashioned Christian and white supremacist Jew-hatred. Nor will I give other examples of blindness to anti-Semitism when the perpetrator isn’t politically useful, or of the worldwide acceptance of easily disproven lies. 

In 1892, in an essay discussing the wide circulation of blood libels, Ehad Ha-am wrote that one of the common responses to Jewish denial was an incredulous: “Do you want me to believe that the whole world is wrong and the Jews are right?” In 2002, in response to Israelis denying that they had massacred 500 Palestinians in Jenin, Kofi Anan, then Secretary General of the UN said, “Are you trying to tell me that the whole world is wrong, and the Israelis are right?” [Richard Landes]

We are in a unique position today, however dire. We can see the thing for what it is: a 2,000-year-old scam, one big pathetic lie.

To put it brutally: if you don’t feel in your bones the pounding echoes of previous anti-Jewish mobs, from medieval Europe to the Muslim Middle East, from Imperial and Soviet Russia to the Shoah, then I’m probably not addressing you—unless such a global pogrom, however implausible it may seem at first, is so horrifying that you feel compelled to consider and investigate the possibility. 

Like my previous essay about anti-Semitism for White Rose Magazine, “Looking Left, Looking Right,” this is for anyone who would oppose it wherever it’s exposed, not for those who prefer to appease or hide behind it. But we are in a unique position today, however dire. We can see the thing for what it is: a 2,000-year-old scam, one big pathetic lie. Incident after incident, spin after spin, it’s the same move over and over. Armed with the long view, we have a lever with which to shift the world. And though no weapon guarantees success, true knowledge does truly empower. 

Big Lie

A delusional anti-Jewish obsession has haunted the West since Christianity’s emergence, the Middle East since that of Islam, and even the modern world’s secular “progressivism.” And there are few areas of contemporary political culture that remain untouched, insofar as they’re influenced by these Christian, Islamic, and secular “progressive” forces; indeed, politics is often given over entirely to it. 

This extraordinary fact, however, is totally counter to mainstream perception, where merely pointing out anti-Semitism often results in an instant and unrelenting barrage of denials and counter-charges. It is routinely dismissed (“That’s not anti-Semitic”), mocked (“LOL! You Jews are always whining about being the victims”), accused of bad faith (“You’re only saying that to distract from Israeli crimes”), condescendingly scolded (“Why don’t you learn from your own past suffering?”), and heartlessly attacked (“You Jews are the real Nazis today!”). This is epitomized in anti-Zionism, a structure of thinking that 

… elaborates a whole system of political references (I dare not say political analysis, nor even political reflection) in which double standards and inverted terms are constant features. Should Israel be as much as mentioned, a machinery for the projection of obsessive hallucinations comes into play. The anti-Zionist thinks, or pretends to think, in black and white. [Jacques Givet]

The anti-Semite thinks in black and white, or pretends to think in black and white, or simply pretends to think. Why the pretense, though? Because adults know we’re meant to think. When we do come together, we know it’s best if we’ve arrived at an agreement, each of us following our own path to get there. So the anti-Semites must at least make a show of it, or we might reject them as mere childish bullies. Unfortunately, none of us is really grown up. Pretense can convince us, if we’re not ready to see through the smile to the dead eyes, if can’t discern the sick fear behind the self-righteous rage.

Fairy Tales 

In his essay “Fairy Tale or Myth?” David L. Miller contrasts the one-sided stereotypes of fairy tales with the moral ambiguity of mythic figures: 

In myth, for example, we see Aphrodite, who has a beautiful loving side as well as a bitchy jealous side. In fairy tale, on the other hand, the mother is not given a name. She is called simply and unambiguously the Beautiful Queen. If a bitchy side needs representation in the story another character is invented, for example, the Wicked Stepmother. … [T]he fairy tale’s wish is that variety … may all be one. The frog is a prince. The prince becomes king. The girl becomes a woman. And the two become one. Thus it is that the fairy tale fantasy takes hold of us not by any particular content, but by the strategy of its genre. 

The mythic complexity Miller refers to is more realistic—provides a truer model of real life—than the fairy tale world, which we leave behind as we become adults. Fairy tales, he suggests, may even represent “remnants of rites of passage in which a youth attains an adult identity.”

Denuded of its elaborate pretenses, the anti-Semitic mind can only answer the question “Why do Jews do these evil things you claim?” with “Because they’re Jews.”

Rite to Remain a Child

One needn’t personally “hate Jews” (as conventional anti-racism presumes) to perpetuate anti-Semitism; one has only to accede to the mentality that ends up demonizing them. Thus anti-Zionism, with its cartoonish visions of Jewish violence and rapaciousness, can’t even imagine the most basic human reasons for Israeli actions—no natural desire for self-defense, no understandable drive for self-determination, not even the traumatized response to repeated and near-genocidal persecution. 

Denuded of its elaborate pretenses, the anti-Semitic mind can only answer the question “Why do Jews do these evil things you claim?” with “Because they’re Jews.” Why does the Wicked Stepmother act wickedly? Because that’s who she is, what she is, all she is. But no real person is defined by a single trait, no real-world actions are without authentic motivation, no real evil is without its evil sense—and no collective, no people, is composed of anything other than people. Unlike a child, who simply thinks childishly, an adult must cling to unconsciousness to demonize successfully. Anti-Semitic convictions are not simply mistakes. The double-standard for Jewish actions, more than mere repetition, has an aim, a function: to ritualistically invert reality, turn us away from the facts, distract from the real aggressors, present the opposite of truth, lock us into the lie of fairy tale thinking. Pretend thinking.

Power Plays

One could analyze the incident at Colleyville and trace the outlines of the fairy tale leading to the monstrosity: the hostage-taker’s background in an Islamic world saturated with fantasies of global Jewish power; his connections with a network of Islamists bent on their own fantasy of global power; the incident as such, in a setting unrelated to Islamist goals except by the fantasy of Jewish power; and the bizarre cover-up of the real, anti-Semitic power-players by our own representatives of public power and by those with the power to inform our self-understanding. 

Falsehood feeds uncreatively on truth, and thereby becomes its unwitting, unwilling carrier.

One might recognize, through all of this, a clear and singular drive, even on the part of ostensibly opposed sides: “to remove … fundamental ambiguity,” as Miller says of fairy tale thinking, “to make the life-story one-dimensional, replacing the ambivalence of the concrete images of daily experience with abstract ideas.” And one might see, in this commitment to childish fantasy, the pursuit of reality-shaping power, indeed the longing for total control – like a child!

None of this has gone previously unremarked. Others have dissected the immaturity, projection, paranoia, and power-lust of anti-Semitic thinking. And “demonization” is already part of our regular vocabulary to describe it. I wonder, though, if we recognize the truth shining through the lie. Falsehood feeds uncreatively on truth, and thereby becomes its unwitting, unwilling carrier. 

Storied Truth

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker’s aim was true when he managed to hit the terrorist with a chair, giving the remaining hostages a chance to escape. In that moment, the whole of this story was given another twist—not just the Congregation Beth Israel story, but the ancient one that begins with “the Jewish people …” There are many others, but this story—a true story, about truth—does end up speaking to everyone. The Christians believed they took it over, then Islam thought it got the last word, and even rationalism, though lacking a deity, follows the same basic form: with its (1) singular truth, each variation (2) addresses humanity universally, (3) cutting across tribes, ethnicities, and cultures, and ideally forming (4) collectivity by (5) each individual’s acceptance of this truth—though it never quite works out that way, because (6) truth, in reality, always divides us. 

One might say there’s a fairy tale notion of truth that unites us all happily ever after, and an adult version that moves through the real world in real time, with allies who stand by it and enemies who attack it. And though the war causes flesh-and-blood casualties, its theatre of battle is really thought. (Even “post-truth” is just another twist in the plot, a new foe come to test truth’s mettle. Like all of them, it’s ultimately futile: to defeat truth’s claim, it can only claim to be … truer!)

Truth is, not only did those Jewish people survive in Colleyville, not only do Jewish people survive despite Nazism’s attempted genocide, but the Jewish people survive. Yet history shows every aspect of this peoplehood targeted in turn: the religious dimension (“Christ-killers”), the geographic (exile and diaspora), the communal (ghettoization), the genetic (“racially inferior”), the cultural (“Degenerate Art”), the political (“Israel is illegitimate”). Taken together, what do these amount to but personhood itself? Thus each onslaught has been meaningful. We are each spiritual, biological, geographical, civil, social, creative beings—persons. (One needn’t share all the aspects to belong to “the Jewish people,” as there are genetically Jewish atheists and genetically diverse converts, any more than being a person requires embodying every dimension of humanity—there are apolitical hermits.)

The fight to defend the truth of the Jewish people is the fight for the possibility of truth itself. And the fight for truth is, in the end, always the defense of reality against those who would attempt to deny and overpower it.

Realism

The Big Truth is that the Big Lie—whether wielded by Judeophobic Christians, Nazis, Islamists, “progressives,” anyone—consistently generates not only specific lies, but the very opposite of truth. The Big Lie points nowhere else, because without truth it’s not only powerless and empty, but non-existent. This is clearer now than ever before, because we can take the long view: we can hold the whole story at once; we can spot the Jewish people’s enemies repeating the same old scam; we can see through it, as the accusers project their childish wishes and nightmarish acts onto innocents; we can identify personhood in all its complex reality, that they would replace with Demons and Demon-Fighters; and we can recognize their power-lust for what it is: a terrified and terrorizing immaturity. 

A singular truth (what it means to be a person, to be people) addresses humanity universally (the patterns of anti-Semitism are objectively evident and revelatory), cutting across tribes, ethnicities, and cultures (all the “righteous among the nations” can see it), ideally forming collectivity (the anti-Nazi Resistance united people from all backgrounds and every walk of life) by each individual’s acceptance of this truth (one person at a time, there’s no other way). And being real, this truth divides: it is “us” versus “them.” But anyone can grow up. 

The fight to defend the truth of the Jewish people—which, like the truth of Colleyville, exposes itself in every attempted cover-up and shines through every tell-tale dissimulation—is the fight for the possibility of truth itself. And the fight for truth is, in the end, always the defense of reality against those who would attempt to deny and overpower it. Fight back, throw the chair, wield the Big Truth and flip every little lie (they’re nothing but truth, inverted). The truth of reality is on your side, where the Jewish people placed themselves at the start of the story.

Footnote

Summarized by the blog FirstOne Through: “A British Muslim flew thousands of miles to take Jewish hostages in Texas in an attempt to secure the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a noted anti-Semite serving time for trying to kill American soldiers and plot a mass casualty attack in New York City. The hijacker, Malik Faisal Akram, yelled at the people praying on a Sabbath morning in synagogue, ‘Jews control the world, Jews control the media, Jews control the banks,’ and said that the Jews ‘can call President Trump and he will do it [release Siddiqui] because Jews control everything.’” The rabbi and hostages escaped after 10 hours, and the hostage-taker was killed when the FBI stormed the building. Stephen Pollard in The Jewish Chronicle captured, in one particular example, the common media and political reaction, which has left the Jewish community aghast: “I don’t think I have ever seen a more grotesquely skewed report of a major terrorist incident than last night’s BBC report, which could only have happened if all involved went through a series of intellectual contortions to avoid mentioning antisemitism.”

SOURCES 

  1. FirstOne Through (blog), “New York Times Mum on Muslim Anti-Semitism
  2. Givet, Jacques. The Anti-Zionist Complex (Englewood, NJ: SBS Publishing, Inc., 1982)
  3. Richard Landes, “Western Appetite for Lethal Narratives about Israel
  4. Miller, David L. “Fairy Tale or Myth?” in Spring: An Annual of Archetypal Psychology and Jungian Thought (New York, NY: Spring Publications, 1976)
  5. Stephen Pollard, “The BBC has a serious issue with Jews

Hannah

I can feel my body weakening
The weariness accompanying every step
The stubbornness of my frozen joints
My body is failing me
And my mind is starting to give in as well
It’s hard to remember that there were times
When I wasn’t so frail
When I was young and happy
Before this mess the monsters created.

The hunger, the starvation
Carves a black hole of emptiness
In my stomach
It grows, it widens
It seeks to destroy my body
It knows it has already taken my mind

My children will never be ones
To so loosely claim
In a fit of anger and annoyance
“Mother, I am starving”
They know what it is to starve
My grandchildren will never say
“Father, I am hungry”
Because they will not have known
What it meant

I can’t sit up anymore
My back and hips constantly hurt
And I can barely move them
Even when I’m lying down
I feel like a puppet
Whose strings have been cut
A forgotten child’s toy
Tossed aside
Abandoned for the newer
Shinier model

The cold is a constant torture
The wind bites and stings
Cracking my hands and lips
Until they bleed.

More people fall ill
Corpses pile up
Rations are cut

Death is all around us
Inside us
Is us
Some of us look like sunken imitations
Of the reaper himself
The cold is as unrelenting as always
Ornery in its refusal
To loosen its tight hold against our necks.

I stop eating
There is no point
I know I am to die
I am glad to give more food
To my loved ones
So I accept my unavoidable death
I have but two regrets
That my children will watch me die
And that the meager but helpful
Rations of a fourth person
Will be cut upon my last breath

The people I am with
My family
My husband and children
Seem to float silently around me
Ghostly incarnations
Of the man and children they once were
I mourn the death of their innocence
Never again will they play in a sandbox
Without thinking of the dry earth
Our weak bodies shoveled
To make room
For more crops
And more graves
Life and death
Occupying the land together
So that we may benefit
From the decaying bodies
Of our fellow humans

My vision turns misty
I feel trapped in a clouded painting
My surroundings familiar yet mysterious
Beautiful yet haunting
Trapped in a clouded painting
Knowing that someday soon
I too will disappear into the fog

Hannah Tenzer Engel was born in Poland in 1900 and died in Uzbekistan in 1943. She is Nili Ivan’s great-great-grandmother.

THE HOLOCAUST: ON MEMORY AND WITNESS

In our time, it is more important to be hard and relentless than genteel and unobtrusive lest history repeat itself.

Today, January 27th, is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops in 1945. For this reason, this date was chosen as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Several years ago, the World Jewish Congress launched the #WeRemember campaign in the face of studies that have shown that half of young people in the West today have not heard of the Holocaust. Think of it. Half.

The litmus test of mankind’s civility is not how we treat those who are many, or agreeable, or privileged, or quiescent, but how we treat those who are few, and different, and alienated, and stubborn. The world is still failing that test.

Curiously, and sadly, it took the United Nations sixty years to give recognition to this most seminal and apocalyptic event in human history. The organization at whose entrance are carved the words of the prophet Isaiah—”Swords shall be beaten into plowshares and nation shall not make war against nation anymore”—got around to commemorating Holocaust remembrance only in 2005. We are not only still waiting for Isaiah’s prophecy to be realized but also for that day when those other prophetic words “Justice shall roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream” have life breathed into them.

Our lesson from this duty of remembrance is clear. The litmus test of mankind’s civility is not how we treat those who are many, or agreeable, or privileged, or quiescent, but how we treat those who are few, and different, and alienated, and stubborn. The world is still failing that test.

Ungracious consumerism and a suffocating self-absorption filled with false pieties act as excuses for inaction and leave little resolve to remedy the malignancies of hate, jealousy, and greed with the compass of compassionate conscience.

In our time, we are not only haunted by the mounds of ashes that once were 12 million citizens of a “civilized” Europe—six million of them Jews—but also by the bloated bodies floating in the Yangtze of Mao’s China; the corpses frozen in the wastes of Stalin’s Gulag; the betrayals of the free peoples of Hungary and Czechoslovakia; the deaths of Freedom Riders in the American South; the killing fields of Vietnam and Cambodia; the bodies rotting in the jungles of Rwanda and in the fetid marshes of the Balkans; the millions slaughtered in Darfur.

As we face today’s dire challenges, we must be ready to assume individual responsibility. Each of us drawing strength from the sure knowledge that one person can make a difference.

I mention these other catastrophes not to draw parallels to the Shoah—a singular historical tragedy because though not all victims were Jews, all Jews were victims—but because one would have thought that mankind would have learned the lessons of vigilance from that horrible era. It has not. Yet despite our failures we cannot give up. If Holocaust Remembrance is to have living meaning—if the souls of the martyrs are to be given proper tribute—it is only our memory and witness that will move us at all times and in every generation to manifest testaments of courage.

As we face today’s dire challenges, we must be ready to assume individual responsibility. Each of us drawing strength from the sure knowledge that one person can make a difference. That we have a duty to follow Gandhi’s counsel and act quickly to arrest, “the evil that staggers drunkenly from wrong to wrong in order to preserve its own immortality.”

The survivors of that horrible time understand this too well. On this day, 77 years ago, they may have been freed from the hellish bondage of Auschwitz but then they had to set out into the world and try to make some sense—or some peace—with a world that had sunk to the lowest circumstance of devastation and degradation. Imagine their feelings of despair, filled with all the futility of a silent cry. The searing pain in one’s heart, the weight of the rock of Camus’ Sisyphus as he fell from the mountaintop once again.

We must never cease speaking these truths clearly and candidly. We must never cease creating portraits of remembrance.

It has always been a source of awe that the survivors re-engaged in the world. They built new families and new hopes but also never forgot to bear witness. As they returned to their home towns and discovered trenches holding the butchered remains of tens of thousands who had been their friends and families, they did not just mourn. They acted. They raised memorials to the victims of the horror in order to say “We are here! The butchers have not won because we remember!” And indeed they also questioned, “Why did I survive?” and “What can I believe?” But they strove forward.

We must never cease speaking these truths clearly and candidly. We must never cease creating portraits of remembrance. No matter how harsh. It is important to tell it straight. For in our time, it is more important to be hard and relentless than genteel and unobtrusive.

Lest history repeat itself.


Lucy

I am from Poland
From the town of Przemyśl
Where my family has lived
For generations

But I am also from Uzbekistan
From rice warehouses
And starvation
And cold metal guns
And Communism

I am also from Israel
From the promised land
And a country of refugees
Returning to their true homeland

I am also from America
From New York, and Massachusetts, and Florida
From old age homes
And apartments
And shacks
And holes in the ground
And all the other places
Where I slept at night

I am from bread
From rising yeast
And kneading dough
Both in the palaces
Of Polish royalty
And later in bakeries
Owned by the USSR

I am from my family
From the Engel name
And the sons of
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

I am from the dough
Wrapped around my waist
In an attempt
At thievery
So I could feed
My little brother
I am from the lies
I told the guard that day
About my husband in the war
And my four children

I am from the black market
From rice and flour
And rifles and middlemen

I am from survival
From instinct and hunger
And fear
That kept me alive

I am from cleaning
Communist houses
And working until
My hands bled
But still going to sleep
With a rumbling stomach
I am from my teeth falling out
Declaring my mouth an unfit place to live
Even in a body so young
As fourteen years old

I am from happiness
From Joe, Simcha
From night shifts
And stolen kisses
And a wedding so simple
It was decorated with our love

I am from the gulags
And the camps
From cold winters and hot summers
From tuberculosis
And malnutrition

I am from the diseases that
So thoroughly wrecked
The continent of Europe
The pandemics of evil
That took 85 million lives
In 85 million different ways
Nazism and Communism

I am from the roots I grew
In two different lands
And the knowledge
I learned too late
That no amount of
Milk and honey
Replaces memories.
No amount
Of friends
Replaces family
No amount of
Freedom
Replaces
The bitter taste
Of captivity
No amount of
“After”
Changes the
“Before”

I am from the little mental souvenirs
Gifted to me by the
Nazis and the Red Army

I am from my mother’s dying breath
And the first cries of my sons
And with my children,
The second generation
Of survivors,
I start to heal.
Heal in the way,
That wearing long-sleeves,
Can trick your mind into
Believing your scars aren’t there.
I heal in the fact
That I have become
The missing piece of
My own puzzle
That I can be for my sons
What I had for so little time
A mother

With the third generation
I heal some more
And I accept the
Eternal scars and bruises
But never talk of them.
So I become a grandma
An apple-pie making
Hugs and kisses dispensing
Grandma
And it is strange to think
That these hands
That roll out the dough
And slice the apples
Are the same hands that
Suffered as they baked bread
For Stalin’s armies
The same hands
That held my mother’s
Still-warm body
As all the warmth left

Many of us
Do not live to see
The fourth generation
But I am one of the lucky ones
I have always been
One of the lucky ones
To the fourth generation
I become a little old lady
With wispy, bleached hair
Always sitting in her armchair
In that corner of her living room
Feet propped up
Watching a game show
I am quiet
Perhaps a little frail
But only in the way
That being in my 90s
Makes me fragile
They do not know
How a mountain of strength
Can lie in the smallest of hills

My great-grandchildren
Are told my story
But they have trouble believing it
They cannot comprehend
The systematic murder
They cannot fathom
The starvation and the death
They cannot realize
That the truth is the hardest
Pill to swallow
My great-grandchildren
Take it with glasses of water
And spoonfuls of sugar
But they can never understand
However hard they try
And they do try

But they learn their lesson too late
And I have already gone

So that is why there will be
Poems and stories
And songs and quotes
And conversations and paragraphs
Because we remember
And we miss you
We miss the parts of you we knew
And the ones that we were told
But matter just as much
And never again
Will we take the time
We have with someone for granted
Because after all,
Yesterday is history,
Tomorrow is a mystery,
But today is a gift,
And that’s why we call it the present.


Lucy Engel was born in Przemyśl, Poland, and fled to Uzbekistan at the age of 14 to escape the Nazis. Her mother, Hannah, died there. Lucy, her father, and brother survived. In Uzbekistan, she met her husband, Yosef Goldwasser. After the war, she and Yosef returned to their hometowns in Poland looking for family. They found no one. Later they found out that all but two had been murdered. In 1950, they moved to Israel, and ten years later immigrated to America with their two sons. Lucy passed away in Florida in 2018, and lived to know all five of her great-grandchildren, including the eldest, Nili.

I Went To Synagogue Today

I went to synagogue today.

A couple of weeks ago, a terrorist, let his name be erased, traveled all the way from Britain to Texas with a ‘plan’ to free another terrorist from prison. He bought a gun from a street criminal and drove to the town of Colleyville, fifteen miles from Fort Worth. After taking tea with the rabbi of a local synagogue, the terrorist took him and three other Jews hostage at Shabbat services. After eleven hours of threats and anti-Semitic ravings, the rabbi threw a chair, the hostages ran, and the FBI opened fire, neutralizing the terrorist. 

Depressed about how quickly America forgot, I heard a call to worship. I decided to go to shul to vote with my feet and my heart.

Speaking of erasure, it took days for government and law enforcement to recognize the assault as a terrorist act and anti-Semitic hate crime

Depressed about how quickly America forgot, I heard a call to worship. I decided to go to shul to vote with my feet and my heart. 

I am not much of a virtual worshipper. I think of ‘virtual’ as almost—or not—real. Just because an experience is easy to have, does not mean that it is real. I believe in G-d. I do not believe in hiding from terrorists or COVID-19. 

On Saturday morning I put on a Ralph Lauren gray suit, Oxford shirt, yellow tie, and black shoes. I clipped my orange and black Princeton Center for Jewish Life kippah to the back of my head. 

The security process reminded me uneasily of 2002, when I went to a synagogue on the Ku’Damm in Berlin.

There is a big steel door at the outside entrance to our temple, with anti-vehicle bollards on the other side. When I reached the door, I handed my tallis bag to the temple’s two armed guards. They patted it down to ensure there was no weapon inside. Although one is not supposed to carry money on Shabbat, I took my wallet, so I could show my vaccine card as well. 

The process reminded me uneasily of 2002, when I went to a synagogue on the Ku’Damm in Berlin. There was an ammoed vehicle parked in front. At the door a German policeman with a submachine gun stood. When I entered, a bored, tattooed woman with a punk haircut was operating a smaller version of a TSA airport security conveyer. The device also operated as a kind of “Shabbat violator detector” for people carrying phones, money, or car keys. 

I do not remember much of the service as I don’t speak German. I do remember sitting next to a French Jew, who said he was from Strasbourg. After the service we went our separate ways. I looked back and saw a flash of white on his head. Even then, I feared for him. I turned around, ran back, and said in my worst high school French, “Monsieur! Monsieur! Votre kippah!” He turned, nodded, and carefully put his head covering in his jacket pocket.

Twenty years ago, Jews from different continents praying together in the former heart of Nazism was an affirmation. I never thought such fear and darkness would sweep over America.

Fast forward to January 2022. I put my mask on and kept it on for the whole service, even for singing and chanting. There was a good crowd of perhaps one hundred and twenty people to hear and celebrate with the well-prepared bar mitzvah boy. But before COVID we would have been in the larger chapel with five hundred people. I saw just a few people I knew.

But I did get to put on my tallis and pray with a minyan. We read the portion where Moses brings the Ten Commandments to the Jewish people. One commandment is “Thou shalt not murder.” It is not “Thou shalt not kill.” For any who might mourn this or future terrorists, the Talmud says “if someone comes planning to kill you, you should hurry to kill him first.” 

As the service closed, we said kaddish, the memorial prayer. (Not for the terrorist.) An older man I knew stood up to pray by himself. As is our temple’s custom, I went to say kaddish with him. I spontaneously patted him on the arm, even in this time of no human contact.

Ironically, fear of COVID kept dozens of Jews from harm’s way on that Shabbat in Texas.

You could say the big crowd was making a defiant return to the synagogue. But I felt a sense of loss as well. Jews have lost so many souls. We are a remnant of a people long oppressed and massacred. 

Was the terrorist at Beth Israel in Colleyville disappointed to find just four Jews to hold hostage or harm? Perhaps he was glad to find so few adhering to a religion he found so threatening. He reaped the publicity he sought, as his hostages were joined by an Internet minyan, swelled by thousands of voyeurs to Jewish suffering, until Facebook and the FBI cut off the feed.

Ironically, fear of COVID kept dozens of Jews from harm’s way on that Shabbat in Texas. For two years before the latest anti-Semitic assault, fear has kept Jews from synagogue. Fear about being victims of a disease that has killed 900,000 Americans. Fear of catching COVID in a now nearly-empty temple. 

After two years of the coronavirus, how many of us still will not eat in restaurants, go to a movie, get on a plane, shop in a store? You can watch synagogue services on the Web in your underwear, no need to leave home. 

With the modern version of “synagogue for shut-ins” you can hear prayers between texts and tweets, washed down with coffee and Danish. No one will ask if you have a kippah, offer you a tallit or prayer book, or surprise you with an aliyah to the Torah. 

You won’t be a target sitting on your comfortable couch. But Jews have died sanctifying the Holy Name for more than two thousand years. For so many to hide from a virus with a low mortality rate seems an abandonment. 

Even the government seems to be trying to drive us from our synagogues. To “protect” us from the coronavirus, California Governor Gavin Newsom closed all houses of worship in 2020. The First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” California lost 5 cases in the U.S. Supreme Court for this violation of religious freedom. 

Still, the fear factor has made worship mostly virtual for non-Orthodox synagogues, like the four-person ‘minyan’ in Colleyville. We have lost so many during COVID, not just our dead, but those who have drifted away. And many suffering from COVID’s economic devastation are unwilling to pay temple dues to watch services on the internet. 

You can watch non-Orthodox streams of Judaism stream services on Shabbat. But you can’t shake hands, nod, or sing prayers and blessings with the crowd. You certainly cannot taste the Shabbat kiddush, another casualty of COVID in many synagogues. 

The unaffiliated and the unchurched are another potential loss. How will people find us if our doors are closed and locked? For those interested in Judaism or thinking about conversion, this is another stumbling bloc. While ever-growing security is necessary, it becomes just another barrier for the convert to climb over.

Perhaps the latest terrorist will wake Jews up not just to fears for our lives, but to fears for our souls. 

On my way out, the guards printed up an ID badge and gave it to me. It showed my “fully vaccinated” status and membership. Better yet, it made me younger, using a fifteen-year-old picture from the database. I do not mind wearing the badge to synagogue identifying me as a Jew, because that is what I am.

I went to synagogue today.

Reality Competition TV: The Real America

My wife and I really like reality competition TV. I use the term to differentiate from other types of reality TV that turn a camera on some businesses like Pawn Stars or Property Brothers. Those can be interesting, but I can take them or leave them. Other reality shows like Keeping up with The Kardashians or The Real Housewives of wherever are just ways for people to make themselves feel better about their lives by watching rich or famous or rich famous people squabble. I have enough people squabbling in my life to need to watch it on TV.

We like the competition shows like America’s Got Talent, Survivor, American Ninja Warrior, Dancing With the Stars, and Shark Tank. Each contestant has some story of overcoming obstacles. My wife and I tease each other that we simply haven’t overcome enough obstacles to compete, let alone win, any of these shows..

I know that the producers of these shows manipulate our emotions to root for the contestants. And some of the obstacles seem manufactured, especially those contestants who “overcame childhood bullying”. I mean, really? If that were a significant obstacle to overcome, my wife and I would both qualify. Wasn’t everyone our age the subject of bullying? Except for the bullies, I suppose. We just dealt with it and learned to get over it.

The thing we love most about watching these shows, is that in the end, the winner is the person who… well, who actually won because of their skills and talents. OK, our favorite doesn’t always win. Sometimes someone wins by accident or by popularity—no competition is perfect. But the person who does win is usually, though not always, one of the contestants who worked the hardest and did things right. In other words, they represent the American dream.

While the mainstream media is reporting on race riots, affirmative action, critical race theory, Black Lives Matter and white supremacy (and at the same time white fragility), the people on these reality competition shows represent the entire spectrum of races, economic situations, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and whatever other categories the progressives are trying to divide us by. These people shake each other’s hands, wish each other well, hug each other, root for each other, cry when they lose and even sometimes cry when their competitor loses. All of which doesn’t stop them from competing hard and often performing amazing feats of strength, intelligence, endurance, or creativity. Isn’t having this opportunity the definition of the American Dream? We don’t always win, but we know we have a shot at it like everyone else.

My wife and I often cry in sadness for the losers who tried so hard but didn’t quite make it, hoping that they will eventually reap some reward, like an investment or a successful career by some other means. Like dancing violinist Lindsey Stirling who, after losing America’s Got Talent went on to become a worldwide sensation. We also often cry in happiness for the person who spent a lifetime crafting a skill that no one recognized until they won a competition, like singing ventriloquist Terry Fador, who, after winning America’s Got Talent, is now one of the biggest attractions in Las Vegas after years of performing at kids’ birthday parties and nearly empty venues.

The diversity of these winners, based on talent alone rather than “equity programs,” may be best represented by Eugene Landau Murphy Jr, the car washer who had just lost all of his belongings when he was robbed the day before auditioning for America’s Got Talent. He had never sung in front of an audience. A silly, gum-chewing guy in jeans and dreadlocks who opened his mouth to smoothly sing the best Sinatra songs since… well, since Sinatra. He was an anti-stereotype. He won and now has a successful singing career. And like all the winners, he gives back to the community to help others reach their dreams, based on their talents not their identity.

Unfortunately, these shows sometimes go off the rails because the producers decide they need to influence the criteria to be “more fair,” “more woke,” or to “provide equity.” As in the broader society, these efforts fail and undermine the whole concept of competition and fairness. Several years ago, Survivor divided teams by race. From that biased starting point imposed by the producers, the competitors ended up competing and ignoring racial classifications. As they should. This season, the producers picked a particularly “diverse” set of contestants, meaning hardly any white people except those who identified as some “nonbinary gender.” Plus, they decided to be so woke as to modify the game whenever any contestant was offended. So, host Jeff Probst’s signature call to “come on in, guys” was replaced by “come on in,” simply because one contestant, who after a day of thinking about it, decided “guys” was inappropriate. Like corporate America and mainstream media, one tiny minority of easily offended people dictated the rules for everyone else. Survivor had become a microcosm of the worst of America. We couldn’t watch past that first episode.

With that one unfortunate exception, these competition reality shows give me hope. They seem to be real melting pots where someone’s skills and talents outweigh their skin color, their chosen identity, or their ancestral grievances. I truly believe that the majority of Americans want a color blind society. We believe in competition as well as good sportsmanship. We admire the desire to get ahead based on abilities and nothing else. We know that people of all kinds can compete and get along whether they win or not. And we encourage people who lose to try again.

In summary, I believe the America presented by progressive politicians and woke news media is fake, but reality competition TV represents the real America. At least, I need to believe that to believe that America and its principles are alive and well and will endure.

An Ode To Woman

One could exist, just breathe and live,
Do what needs to be done.
Or one could live a splendid life,
That adds an awe, a stun.

One could only do as much,
That’s required to get through.
Well, that is how I would be,
But that is just not you.

You never let anything be,
A piece of trifling.
You live life as a piece of art
With a splash of zeal and zing.

You are not a one-strain melody,
One tune would not suffice.
You are here to inspire and elevate,
Captivate and entice.

A music for passive listening,
No, that is not your role.
You enrich, nurture and nourish
And grip the mind and soul.

You are an exquisite symphony
The finest of all arts,
A startling device that balances
A thousand moving parts.

Music can survive and just exist,
And lie there straight or curled.
With you around, even a wonted piece,
Yearns to sound out of the world.

You jazz it up, you spice it all,
You make it bloom and thrive.
A thousand strains, rich, poignant,
Make all life come alive.

No instrument wants to sound off-key,
In this surreal composition.
No instrument dare be out of tune,
In this unmatched precision.

Each instrument that is fortunate,
To be part of this splendour.
Strives to be at its best,
Display its full grandeur.

They ensure they are well prepared,
They ensure there’s no glitch.
They ensure they are in perfect tune,
And strike at perfect pitch.

You don’t just exist, you make this life,
A beautiful expression.
By just being there, by just being you,
You inspire perfection.

The Misogyny of Woke Porn

You could have knocked me down with a snowflake when Billie Eilish slammed pornography on the Howard Stern Show last December. It is a strange paradox of Generation Woke, to whom Eilish is an idol, that while everything from brunch (the actor Alan Cummings said it reminded him of “white privilege”) to Brum (the mischievous TV toy car “who may reflect the language and attitudes of the 1990s” as the BBC warned us) is deemed offensive, truly offensive things such as under-privileged women earning a living by being used as sexual meat puppets for the entertainment of men is now being framed as a perfectly wholesome pursuit. (Unless it’s your own daughter or mother, of course—they’re Special.)

It’s no mistake that this latest offensive in the war against women has risen alongside Woke culture, which while masquerading as revolutionary is actually reactionary.

But Eilish said: “As a woman, I think porn is a disgrace… I think it really destroyed my brain and I feel incredibly devastated that I was exposed to so much… The first few times I had sex, I was not saying no to things that were not good. It was because I thought that’s what I was supposed to be attracted to… I’m so angry that porn is so loved, and I’m so angry at myself for thinking that it was okay.”

Still only 19, Eilish is a product of a society so porn-sick that Teen Vogue published a guide to anal sex and one Sunday Times journalist suggested that “entry-level pornography” should be produced for schoolchildren.

Is it surprising that girls are increasingly reacting to being treated as sexual objects by binding their breasts and begging to become boys?

It’s no mistake that this latest offensive in the war against women has risen alongside Woke culture, which (as I explain in my book, Welcome to the Woke Trials) while masquerading as revolutionary is actually reactionary. It believes that racial segregation is desirable, that the working classes are white trash/gammons, and that the sexual perversions of men override the rights of women.

When a proud mom or dad presents their child with what we call a “smartphone” at the age of 11—as with Billie Eilish, when she and far too many children first see hard-core pornography—they are basically handing their child’s brain over to the sex industry. It’s ironic that this is a generation of parents who will insist that every morsel of food that passes their little darling’s lips must be pure in origin while effectively presenting that child the key to a chamber of horrors disguised as a gadget. And has such openness served to make this generation have a happier and healthier attitude to sex? Sexual attacks by boys on girls now regularly occur even in elementary schools. Meanwhile the endless hysterical demand for no single-sex toilets in schools has, according to teachers and parents, led to a number of girls no longer using school toilets, thus harming their health. Is it surprising that girls are increasingly reacting to being treated as sexual objects by binding their breasts and begging to become boys?

But in the long run, it’s not just females who suffer from the normalization of pornography. Around a third of young men (and they’re just the ones owning up to it) now experience erectile dysfunction; young women talk frequently of how they prefer vibrators to men. Pornography, not a third person, is increasingly cited in divorce cases. Older women seek artificial insemination rather than tie themselves to a man who may become a porn-addled zombie; younger women cling to their virginity far longer than their mothers did, and repulsion at pornography is probably partly responsible. In Japan—a society that has long sanctioned extreme pornography while oppressing women—the government has forecast an “imminent national catastrophe” as nearly half of young women are “not interested in, or despise, sexual contact” leading to a whopping one third plunge in the country’s population by 2060.

And yet not a peep about the pernicious effect pornography—I refuse to use the jolly-sounding “porn”—has on society by the Woke Bros, probably because we all know what they’re using their free hand for when they abuse “Terfs” on social media. The slyness of the sex industry in seeing through the pure-hearted pronouncements about human dignity, which cover the age-old desire of many men to view and/or use women as masturbation objects, produced an amusing situation when during the Black Lives Matter riots, Pornhub declared their support for BLM while having over-looked such choice items on their menu as “Black Slave Punished By White Master” and “White Cops Bang Black Chick.” No sooner had this been put right than Pornhub agreed under pressure from credit card companies to remove all unverified content, which might feature underage and/or trafficked females and non-consensual sex—thus reportedly losing 80 percent of their material in one fell swoop.

One study found that men who habitually use pornography are more likely to be desensitized to sexual violence and more lenient toward rape.

Some deluded males have made themselves believe that women in pornography enjoy it and that it’s empowering as they get paid more than their male co-workers—making it somewhat of a mystery why so many of these women die young. Maybe they’re expiring from pure pleasure overload?

The lame old excuses—”Porn prevents rape!”—have been made a mockery of what Dame Vera Baird recently called “the decriminalization of rape” due to the lowest recorded conviction rate. One study found that men who habitually use pornography are more likely to be desensitized to sexual violence and more lenient toward rape, their porn-addled minds having come to believe that all women secretly crave violent sex with strangers.

We’ve been fed the narrative for so long that only killjoy or ugly women are against pornography. “Take an interest in your boyfriend’s hobbies” now involves pretending to enjoy being choked during sex until the blood vessels in one’s eyes burst. This is what it takes to be The Cool Girl. And this is why it’s so vivifying that Eilish—the coolest of Cool Girls—has broken rank and pointed out that girls are now being actively groomed to enjoy their own torture.

How fascinating to think that the dream of stigma-free free love may end up ruined not by the Puritans—but by the sex industry.

Being a sexagenarian, I’ve had my fun. But I do want young people to know how brilliant sex can be, and not see boys made impotent and girls made disgusted by the purely-for-profit sex industry. Despite her use of blue hair dye, Eilish may well turn out to be the JK Rowling of her generation, pointing out the poisonousness of a Woke Culture, which while instructing women to “BE KIND” seeks to reduce us to a permanent underclass of violated semi-humans.

Maybe her generation will see how they’re being played by the billionaire pimps of the Internet; increasingly, I’ve noticed that young women use the words “I don’t date men who use pornography” on their social media profiles. Or maybe not, and the sexes will become ever more alienated, with men preferring women they will never touch and women preferring plastic penises that don’t demand rough sex.

How fascinating to think that the dream of stigma-free free love may end up ruined not by the Puritans—but by the sex industry.



Republished with permission from The Spectator. Julie Burchill’s latest book is Welcome To The Woke Trials (Academica Press).

The Terrorist’s Daughter Funds Sex Slavery

“When I was in Iran, I used to wish I was a Palestinian woman. I would have been so much luckier because Westerners would have actually paid attention to me.”

These women were born into the hijab, and, depending on how long the regime maintains its brutal power, most may very well die with the hijab.

These were the words of *Sahar, a young Iranian woman whom I recently met who had escaped the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2015 and is currently pursuing graduate studies in the United States. When I asked for clarification, Sahar added, “If an Iranian woman suffers at the hands of her own government, nothing can be done for her; if a Palestinian woman suffers at the hands of Palestinian leaders, Westerners can blame Israel and she can become a social media hero.”

For many Westerners, Iranian women who remain in Iran, as opposed to the hundreds of thousands in exile in the United States, Canada, and Europe, are often portrayed in the media as helpless victims of the regime’s misogyny. Those who were born after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, which turned Iran into a fanatic Shi’ite theocracy, were tragically born into the mandatory hijab, (forced Islamic head covering), regardless of their Islamic observance level or even their faith. These women were born into the hijab, and, depending on how long the regime maintains its brutal power, most may very well die with the hijab

But like all women in the Middle East, Iranian women are complex. For the most part, they are passionate powerhouses — educated, frustrated, and insatiably ambitious souls who balance their self-potential against the reality of living under a regime that sentences a woman to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes for advocating against compulsory hijab. That woman is Nasrin Sotoudeh, a former Iranian human rights attorney and recipient of the European Union’s Sakharov Prize, who was arrested in 2019 for defending women who had defied hijab laws. She was charged with “encouraging corruption and prostitution” as well as insulting Iran’s supreme leader.

Western-made documentaries and news segments about Iran often portray a sea of women in headscarves and many at mosques, whether in Tehran, Shiraz, or Isfahan. Are most Iranian women tolerant practitioners of government-mandated Islamic laws or, like Sotoudeh, are they courageous dissidents who face decades-long prison terms? The answer lies somewhere in between. There is, however, another category of Iranian women who, shockingly, are setting the cause of women’s rights in Iran back to the brutality of the seventh century. Few outside of Iran know much about them or even their names, but they are religiously conservative harbingers of women’s suffering in their own country and beyond, and their story is encapsulated in the one woman whose existence is virtually unknown to all Westerners: Zeinab Soleimani.

Zeinab, who was born in 1991, is the youngest daughter of Qassem Soleimani, the former head of the country’s dreaded Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), also known as the Quds Force. “Quds” is Arabic for Jerusalem; why an Iranian paramilitary force is named after a non-Iranian city seems odd, until one considers post-revolutionary Iran’s genocidal hatred of Israel and Zionists, and its vow to “liberate” Jerusalem and the land of Israel of all Jews. 

Zeinab’s notorious father was killed by a precision airstrike ordered by then-president Donald Trump in January 2020 at Baghdad International Airport. In April 2019, Trump had designated the Quds Force a foreign terrorist organization, and with good reason: Soleimani was a mass murderer. Since 2003, Iranian proxies under his watchful ultimate command have killed more than 600 American personnel in Iraq, and that’s saying nothing of the thousands of Iranian civilians the IRGC has killed over the past four decades. Until his death, Soleimani remained in the company of terrorists with blood on their hands. Several of them, including Mahdi Muhandis, an Iraqi who headed the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah group, also were killed in the targeted airstrike against the IRGC leader. 

The rotten apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Zeinab, Soleimani’s youngest daughter, is married to a leader of Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shi’ite terrorist organization that has massacred thousands of people, including hundreds of Americans, and which was founded, trained, and armed by Iran in the early 1980s. Zeinab’s Lebanese husband, Riza Safi al-Din, is the son of Hassan Nasrallah’s cousin (Nasrallah is the leader of Hezbollah). Al-Din is considered second-in-command of Hezbollah and is expected to take the terrorist group’s bloody reins if Nasrallah steps down or is killed. 

After her father’s assassination, Zeinab entreated Nasrallah, Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Yemeni Houthi rebel leader Abdalmalek Houthi, whom she has called her “uncles,” to avenge her father’s death. In a Twitter video, Zeinab met with Nasrallah and warned, “The spider nests of America and Zionists will collapse.”

In another one-minute video, Zeinab spoke in fluent Arabic. In an address to the Arab world, she declared, “As for the Great Satan of the United States and Israel, you will know that my father left behind a thousand Qassem Soleimanis because you have made him victorious and his blood will lead us to the road to pray in Jerusalem.” It is no wonder that in a 2020 Op-Ed in Israel Today, Dr. Edy Cohen, a researcher at Israel’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA), called Zeinab “Islam’s female avenger.” 

As the daughter of the man who was once regarded as Iran’s No. 2., Zeinab has amassed some wealth, but Iranians were not privy to the extent of her finances until 2021, when she donated $2 million as part of a “gift program” to motivate young women to enter into “temporary marriages” with Hezbollah terrorists. For reference, Iran’s GDP per capita is merely 3,000 USD.

It is believed that the Prophet Muhammed himself recommended temporary marriage to those around him, including his soldiers, as a legalized way to satisfy their sexual desires.

The “Twelver” sect of Shi’a Islam, whose followers, including all Iranian leaders, believe in twelve divinely ordained imams, includes the brutal practice of temporary marriage, called “sigheh” in Persian and “mu’tah” in Arabic. During “sigheh,” a young woman (or even a girl) is temporarily “married” to a Muslim man for one night, a few days, or even a few hours, so that he may have intimate relations with her. The “marriage” is then dissolved, and the man is permitted to leave the women without consequences. Zeinab’s benevolent donation designates $1,000 for the first temporary marriage and $400 “for cases of a second marriage.” The $2 million was sent to Hezbollah’s social services program.

In Iran today, there is no limit to the numbers of temporary wives a married man may acquire (he can also have up to four permanent wives).

It is believed that the Prophet Muhammed himself recommended temporary marriage to those around him, including his soldiers, as a legalized way to satisfy their sexual desires. The practice is banned in Sunni Islam, but in Iran, the largest Shi’a state in the world, temporary marriages were especially prevalent, even expected, during Shi’ite pilgrimages to shrine cities, where pilgrims needed a legal way to obtain pleasure. Currently, sigheh is still wildly popular in holy cities such as Mashhad, which receives roughly 25 million visitors from Iran and abroad each year. A man who arrives in Mashhad may “choose” a temporary wife from a number of websites that “match” them together, even during the current pandemic.

In Iran today, there is no limit to the numbers of temporary wives a married man may acquire (he can also have up to four permanent wives). The husband may also break the marriage contract at any time, whereas women are afforded virtually zero protection or rights in a divorce, whether one that ends a temporary or permanent marriage.

Girls as young as 10 and 12 years old have been known to serve as temporary wives for insatiable men.

In a 1990 sermon, then-president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani warned Iranians not to be “promiscuous like the Westerners.” The hypocrisy was not lost on those who oppose the practice; the clerical leaders of the regime engage in as many temporary marriages as they like, while also criminalizing adultery and prostitution.

Men who engage in temporary marriage regard it as a God-given solution to their sexual urges. The women who enter such “unions,” however, are almost always disregarded. This includes women who are already in permanent marriages, but who nevertheless constitute an estimated 50 percent of Iranian sex workers. Girls as young as 10 and 12 years old have been known to serve as temporary wives for insatiable men.  

Not surprisingly, millions of Iranians were enraged upon hearing news of Zeinab Soleimani’s demonical donation via social media; they remain well aware that the regime spends billions of dollars to support terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah abroad, rather than saving its own starving, thirsty, and impoverished people. The notion of an Iranian woman who acquired wealth through her bloodthirsty father and who now is funding temporary marriages in another country was wholly repulsive to many Iranians.

Why did Zeinab give $2 million for Hezbollah terrorists to copulate, rather than to her own suffering people, who were hit particularly hard by the deadly effects of COVID-19? Perhaps her Hezbollah-leader husband pressured her. Perhaps her late father poisoned her mind beyond repair. Or perhaps she believed she was engaging in an act of kindness by paying young women for something they were previously forced to do without pay. But for millions of Iranians, the more important question is why Zeinab is in possession of millions of dollars in a country wholly ravaged by drought, natural disasters, an inflation rate of nearly 40 percent, and Western-led sanctions.  

Is there a word in the modern feminist glossary for a woman who pays for subjugated girls and young women to, in effect, ruin their lives to satisfy the pleasure of a man?

In early January, on the two-year anniversary of her father’s death in 2022, Zeinab was photographed holding an iPhone 13, which costs more than ten times the monthly salary of the average Iranian worker. Ironically, the photograph was leaked on the same day that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, a self-described enemy of the United States, urged Iranians not to buy American smartphones (it would take most young Iranians years to amass enough funds to buy a new iPhone, anyway). Once the photo surfaced on social media, Iranians of all persuasions, from anti-regime voices to regime cronies and hardliners, expressed outrage at such hypocrisy. Naturally, Zeinab denied that the iPhone belonged to her. 

Is Zeinab an outlier among Iranian women? Yes, but she joins thousands of other fanaticized young women in Iran who actively work to maintain the brutal theocratic system that effectively relegates women to second-class citizens. Is there a word in the modern feminist glossary for a woman who pays for subjugated girls and young women to, in effect, ruin their lives to satisfy the pleasure of a man? Zeinab’s deplorable story highlights how women’s advocacy in Iran is not solely restricted to the noble and often self-sacrificing efforts of those who peacefully protest against the regime. Some Iranian women participate in mass civil disobedience; others simple remove their white headscarf, and waive it to and fro, in what has now become an iconic image from post-revolutionary Iran. And in the case of Zeinab, some advocate for a cruel and barbaric form of legalized prostitution. 

Women’s rights organizations across the Middle East, from Jordan and Lebanon to Iraq and Egypt, have mostly stayed mum on Zeinab’s support of temporary marriages. In the West, the deafening silence of self-described feminists and women’s rights advocates on the issue of sigheh has also proved hopelessly disappointing. 

Western media have often succumbed to romanticizing temporary marriages, if not outright praising this practice. In a 2000 story titled, “Love Finds a Way in Iran: ‘Temporary Marriage,’” The New York Times quoted an Iranian woman named Shahla Sherkat, editor of the self-described feminist monthly Zanan. Sherkat argued in favor of sigheh: ”First, relations between young men and women will become a little bit freer,” she said. “Second, they can satisfy their sexual needs. Third, sex will become depoliticized. Fourth, they will use up some of the energy they are putting into street demonstrations. Finally, our society’s obsession with virginity will disappear.” 

One of the sole voices of dissent from Arab media is that of exiled Lebanese journalist Maria Maalouf, a Christian-Maronite and vocal opponent of Hezbollah who once even called for Israel to assassinate Nasrallah. Maalouf is also a publisher, writer, and broadcaster who hosts her own program, Al-Rouwad Web TV, on YouTube. On Twitter, Maalouf published the official contract between Soleimani and Hezbollah regarding temporary marriages and stated, “The people of Iran are dying from hunger and the noble sheikha Zeinab, daughter of Qassem Soleimani, donates 2 million dollars to promote the Muta’h marriage in Lebanon.” In 2017, Maalouf sued Nasrallah on kidnap, rape, and murder charges for his crimes against Lebanese. There are also many vocal Iranian human rights activists, including self-exiled journalist and television anchor Masih Alinejad, who was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for organizing the largest women’s civil disobedience campaign in the history of Iran. Activists such as Alinejad are sounding the alarm against Iran’s abuses via social media on a daily basis. Moderate Muslims, particularly Muslim women worldwide, must unambiguously condemn the practice of temporary marriage and highlight the cruel and destructive work of women such as Zeinab Soleimani. But, in the words of the Iranian graduate student mentioned at the beginning of this essay, human rights activists worldwide continue to ignore women’s suffering in Iran and Arab countries, reserving their obsessive focus for Israel alone. That is an unforgivable blunder that harms all women in the greater Middle East. 

Life is About Balance

Life is about balance. Nature is about balance. And so our civil society also requires balance. That balance is found and grounded between men and women and the roles they play intuitively and biologically. 

What men contribute to the world as protectors, teachers, fathers, guides, and providers is not only under-appreciated, it is also often maligned, dismissed, and denigrated.

What has today’s feminism done for women? In many ways, it has made life harder. It has given men the easy out from traditional and essential roles. It has relieved them of serious requirements of chivalry, gentlemanly conduct, family responsibility, ambition, and commitment. 

Growing up, I wasn’t very aware of “feminism” as such. There were girls in my high school who were on the bandwagon and were very vocal and outspoken about being feminists. I never really got it. There was an underlying hostility to it that always turned me off, a denigration of the boys that seemed wrong.

Sadly, what I see today from feminism is outright hatred of men and of masculinity. I’m not sure that early feminism meant for this to be the outcome. 

How fortunate are we that we live in a time when nothing holds a woman back from achieving anything she wants to accomplish in her life?

Early feminism stemmed from legitimate desires for equality, including the ability to vote, and for a woman to have access to the same economic and social opportunities as a man. Women demanded an equal place in society for themselves and their daughters, and a respectful rather than condescending and dismissive regard for their sex, their innate abilities, their intelligence and talents. And to the benefit of society, feminism has allowed for female contributions to further enrich and add depth to all areas of our world, from medicine to business, and everything in between. 

Today, there is nothing a man can do and nowhere a man can go that a woman legally and culturally cannot.  How fortunate are we that we live in a time when nothing holds a woman back from achieving anything she wants to accomplish in her life? I don’t think many women appreciate this. They are trapped in the mindset that women are still somehow restricted, even as they themselves continue to achieve, accomplish, innovate and rise to new heights in their own lives.

But feminism has not stopped with achieving equal access and rights. Having achieved much of its original purpose, it has been warped into something unnatural and destructive. Modern feminism has become an ideology that pushes and berates men into feeling that they have no place in society or the family, and that they are not welcome nor are their contributions appreciated. “Women can do what men can do” has mutated into “women should do everything men do, and everything women do, too. And men should step aside.” 

It is possible to advocate for and celebrate who you are without dismantling the other side.

Predictably, this attitude has not resulted in empowerment. It comes from a vindictive, non-cooperative place, and nothing good can come from that.  What I see happening, is that women have paid a price for it in their daily lives. Women are paying a price for the lengths that feminism has gone to, to disempower men while trying to empower women.

It is possible to advocate for and celebrate who you are without dismantling the other side.  There should be appreciation and acknowledgement for the things men do that are positive. It’s done by recognizing the good that the other side brings, and then saying, “and here is what we bring that is also good and valuable.”  This provides cooperation and support. In life, it’s always better to add support than to take away praise. 

But this isn’t what is happening. What I see is women sending the message that “female empowerment” doesn’t have room for men.  So some women take on very masculine energy, masculine roles, while at the same time making everything that is truly masculine into something toxic and dismissible.  

It has been the neglect and dismissal of our natural roles in the family and in society that has perpetuated and fueled this imbalance. Stated very simply, as far back as “caveman” times, women and men had their biologically assigned roles. Generally, men protected the family from outside threats, went out to hunt for food and furs, and taught the next generation of males their tasks; women cared for offspring, gathered additional foodstuffs and created useful materials from what was hunted and gathered. Together the men and women were a unit, working together, each responsible for what their natural strengths allowed them to do for the well-being and survival of the group. Male and female brains were wired uniquely to most effectively attend to those natural roles. We are still wired according to those original and ancestral roles, no matter how much society has evolved. Studies show that boys are still generally drawn to occupations that deal with machines and “things,” such as construction, trades, and engineering, and women continue to be overwhelmingly drawn to careers that deal with nurturing, such as nursing, teaching, and therapy.

Modern feminism has dismissed the importance of each role in the family, the mother with the children, the father as the protector and teacher. With that dismissal has come a heavy cost to women, because while feminism and rhetoric might dismiss it, babies and children don’t fall in line with that. 

Today, women can achieve great heights in the workplace, but their duties and importance at home remain. Children still need their mothers, and most mothers still want to be there for their children. As a result, we have an epidemic of exhausted and overwhelmed women who work all day, and still have to juggle the demands of children and household. Yes, there are wonderful men out there who share the childrearing and household duties, without question, but there are just as many who abandon their families, or who leave the woman to be responsible for both financial support and household management. That’s because feminism has told men that they aren’t needed; that they are accessory appendages and that women can do everything they can do. So, they step back and let us. 

When you tell someone often enough that they are not needed, that everything about them is “toxic,” what do you think they’ll eventually do?

And I haven’t even addressed the damage that the feminist sexual revolution caused, further demeaning both women and men, eliminating any sense of respect or awe for the monogamous, committed relationship. When all sense of responsibility or meaning is eliminated from sexual and romantic encounters, what reason is there for any man to commit and embody his masculine role? This has led to an overwhelming surge in men who aren’t interested in anything more than one-night stands or casual dating that leads nowhere, that requires no emotional investment or commitment from them and sends them merrily on their way to the next conquest. 

When you tell someone often enough that they are not needed, that everything about them is “toxic,” what do you think they’ll eventually do? They’ll turn around and leave you to deal with it all.

Feminism has never really tried to understand men. Instead, it has tried to either make men more like women or just push them out of the way, whichever is most expedient. This shows a great ignorance and disdain for the role that men play in the natural balance of families, raising children, and relationships and in the way society works.

We don’t have to have big corporate careers to be validated as women, and often in chasing after those goals, women leave behind everything  that nature has intended: young women delay starting families, they neglect themselves, they stop creating and focus instead on “producing.”

For that matter, modern feminism also ignores the true nature of women. Feminine power and essence aren’t centred around what we “do,” rather feminine power and energy rests in our “being.” Men “do;” women “be.” Our value lies in who we are, not in how much money we can make or how high on the corporate ladder we can climb, or how much we kill ourselves running to do everything for everyone. Imposing masculine expectations onto women ignores and negates our natural purpose. Women are wired to nurture, create, and care for others. The fact that more women gravitate to professions of service such as nursing, teaching, or social work is a testament to the intrinsic nature of the feminine.

We don’t have to have big corporate careers to be validated as women, and often in chasing after those goals, women leave behind everything  that nature has intended: young women delay starting families, they neglect themselves, they stop creating and focus instead on “producing.”

It’s time to recognize where a woman’s worth lies and stop trying to impose masculine standards on women. And at the same time, it’s time for us to value our men for who they are. It’s time to encourage them to embrace their masculinity, to tell them they are needed and wanted in our world, and to celebrate them for who they are. The more we do that, and the more find ways to work together, in symbiosis and balance, the more women will benefit and the more the world will benefit.

Life is about balance. You can’t have light without dark. You can’t have women without men. When we welcome men back into their natural roles within our families and society with appreciation, we will see healthy masculinity, and we will see a naturally healthier society.

I am Woman: Reclaiming Feminism for the 21st Century

we are stars wrapped in skin
the light you are seeking has always been within
Rumi

A century after women attained the right to be educated, to work outside the home, and to vote, regression to anti-feminism has been nearly achieved. 

Girls are encouraged to compete for male attention by showing as much skin as possible, both on social media and off. 
“Believe all women”—because women are helpless and lack the capacity to lie.
Women must adhere to the leftist orthodoxy because we have no ability to think on our own. 
Elect any fully woke woman no matter her qualifications because women aren’t smart enough to be judged by anything other than Instaporn selfies. 
What’s wrong with women twerking on national TV or selling our bodies to strangers? 
What’s wrong with biological males playing on women’s sports teams? 
What’s wrong with biological males sharing a bathroom or shower with women? 
Just shut up and take it.

The “patriarchy,” for all of its flaws, was based on power, not degradation and misogyny. Leftism, hip hop culture, and millennial narcissism have created a misogynistic world where girls and women humiliate themselves on an hourly basis. The resulting spike in female depression, self-harm, and suicide is unconscionable. Yet it rarely gets mentioned.

In fact, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez cheers it all on with selfies that would make Betty Friedan cringe. She is the icon of today’s anti-feminism: unwilling to learn history or facts; eager to make her looks and provocative poses the most important aspect of her being; blissfully unaware of her glaring lack of qualifications. 

It’s well past time to reclaim the feminism that our great-grandmothers fought to achieve. That feminism meant freedom—but it also entailed personal responsibility and self-respect. That feminism envisioned strong, dignified women—whether they stayed home to raise their children or ran for president. But before we can reclaim that feminism, we need to fully understand what went wrong in the past fifty years.

The fallacies of anti-feminism

The worst setbacks began with Second and Third Wave feminism in the 1970s and ‘80s, which promulgated six fallacies: 

Second and Third Wave feminists actually restricted women’s freedom by adding onto feminism a set of doctrinaire politics, a list of acceptable behaviors, even fashion choices. 

And then it got worse. Today’s Fourth Wave feminism—intersectional, leftist feminism—promotes the absurd notion that biology itself is a social construct. The result: the “patriarchy,” which does in fact still exist in countries leftist feminists never talk about, has given way to an increasingly repressive Gender Industrial Complex.

The meaning of the word “gender” has morphed beyond its traditional use in grammar to become a politically constructed term weaponized against women. This notion of gender, no longer the same as being biologically female or male, privileges an emotional state over physical reality. The Gender Industrial Complex tells those who “identify” as female: who to like, who to hate, which ideas to regurgitate, what colors to wear, which pronouns to use, which films not to see—and most important: how to shut down anyone who disagrees with you.

Under the GIC, biology is not only an illusion but it can be easily morphed to suit one’s political needs. The most substantial effect: girls and women are being forced to live in a misogynistic hip hop song—and no one sees this as anti-feminist. Since females have no special hormones or body parts, we can be objectified to suit the reigning political dogma. Oversexualization, mass degradation, trans rape—all are things we must simply accept.

Feminism means freedom. That’s it. The right of each woman to be herself: unique, complex, imperfect.

The trans co-optation of everything female—the complete erasure of women—was merely the final nail in the coffin of feminism. As Christine Rosen put it in Commentary: “The claim that anyone can be a woman is a denigration of all women.” 

Feminism means freedom

So let’s start over. Feminism means freedom. That’s it. The right of each woman to be herself: unique, complex, imperfect. “We intend simply to be ourselves,” declared Marie Jenney Howe in the early 20th century. “Not just our little female selves, but our whole big human selves.” Howe was the founder of Heterodoxy, a Greenwich Village group that demanded only that its female members think for themselves—as individuals.

In its zeal to abolish women’s “little” femaleness, the women’s movement ended up trapping women in a massive collective identity—with ever-consuming multitudes of “gender” rules, terms, and regulations. Women’s ability “simply to be ourselves” was thoroughly undermined in the process.

Feminism is not about following a set of rules or politics imposed by the woke group du jour.

Feminism is not about voting for a woman just because she’s a woman.
Feminism is not about legislating equal numbers of judges or CEOs. 

Feminism is not about exploiting your sexuality when it’s useful.
Feminism is not about destroying a man’s career because of a compliment.
Feminism never demanded that women ditch our babies three months after giving birth. 

Feminism is not about empowering women through victimhood—or shutting down all voices of disagreement.

When I was a writer and editor at The New Republic in my 20s, real feminism spoke to me. Having left a somewhat sheltered suburban home in Philadelphia, my focus was on discovering who exactly I was—even if that meant annoying some of the more proper ladies of D.C. with my miniskirts and fishnet stockings. As well, I wanted to prove my intellectual equality in a very male-dominated office.

What is feminism? The freedom for women to become the unique individuals that we are; the spaces to allow that freedom; the removal of societal demands to enslave us.

But then along came the idea of “pantsuit nation,” and I was like: wait, what? Why do I have to dress or act like a guy? No, I did not want to sleep with every guy I met. No, I didn’t like being told what to think or how to act. And perhaps worst of all: the relentless emphasis on the political—and the complete lack of emphasis on self-strengthening—failed to prepare me for toxic people and situations, which became all-pervasive as leftism took control of the country.

What is feminism? The freedom for women to become the unique individuals that we are; the spaces to allow that freedom; the removal of societal demands to enslave us.

Individualism vs. identity

At the core of classical feminism—just like at the core of classical liberalism—is individualism. Women are individuals. Yes, we share the identity of being women, but we don’t all think or feel or act alike. 

It’s not always easy to be yourself. In fact, in times like these when conformity is trending, it can be very difficult. But instead of maintaining a focus on individualism, feminism came to mean “sisterhood,” which soon came to mean conforming to every aspect of the leftist orthodoxy.

The one part of a shared identity that leftist activists should have focused on was our shared biology. Not only are there biological differences between the sexes, but female hormones like estrogen create many of the thoughts and feelings that are geared to ensure the survival of humanity. The 1848 Seneca Falls Declaration, written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, stated unequivocally that women were different from men but no less equal. 

Through the decades, Christine Rosen writes, “Despite considerable disagreement, no one before had denied women the reality of their own biological existence.” Until now. 

Every parent is aware of biological differences; those who deny them are outright lying. One day at a New York City playground when my son was around four, there was a great deal of construction on the other side of the fence. Nearly all the boys ran to stand on the benches so they could check out the action. Not one girl did so.

This is not to say that some girls aren’t interested in construction or other typically male interests. Social scientists use bell curves—the peak represents the majority of men or women—to show our biologically based pursuits. Natural female hormones explain maternal instincts and thus why women, in general, tend to be more compassionate, empathetic, and nurturing, as well as less aggressive, combative, and competitive. The bell curves for most attributes look very different for males and females—but there will always be some women who are, for example, naturally more aggressive than some men.

Because of hormone levels—biology—most women probably shouldn’t play professional football; some women probably shouldn’t run large companies; and yes: some women probably shouldn’t be mothers. The larger point: biological differences are not socially constructed. They stem from evolution and are passed along genetically.

What bell curves don’t mean is that we exist along a “gender spectrum.” I am a female; I have two X chromosomes. Males have one X and one Y. The weaponization of “gender” for political purposes cannot change these biological facts. Dress however you want; have sex with whomever you want; call yourself whatever you want. But don’t impose your highly specified identity on the rest of us, especially when it leads to injustice (males replacing females in sports) and unsafe spaces (males showering with females). 

Women were lied to for centuries. The Gender Industrial Complex represents yet another form of the bigotry of low expectations. Sorry, but we’re not dumb; we know you’re lying.

With rights come responsibilities

After individualism, the most important component of both liberalism and feminism is personal responsibility. A woman’s foremost responsibility is to herself. This means self-respect, but it also means women shouldn’t act or be treated like children or perennial victims.

The notion of personal responsibility began to disappear when the phrase “the personal is political” was introduced in the 1970s. Initially this meant that laws regarding rape and domestic violence needed to be strengthened—and they did. But the focus was soon extended to include all facets of life, from flirting to miniskirts.

Just as with classical liberalism, you can’t have freedom without responsibility. Why? Well, who else should take responsibility for our lives? The government? Our husbands? Our dates?

By hyper-focusing on the “political,” which came to mean the “patriarchy” and then all of society, women were essentially told to not even look at the personal. As a result, developing our inner strength—a key component of true feminism—was completely lost. Inner strength builds self-respect, and self-respect sets a high bar for how you treat yourself and how you allow others to treat you.

The effect of all of this has been largely unreported. Women stay in abusive relationships; allow men to cheat on them; indulge in daily Instaporn; succumb to hook-up culture, which is essentially a form of self-harm. As well, the obsessive focus on the “political” seems to have occluded basic common sense. Women should know not to go to the hotel room of a well-known philanderer; not to dress provocatively for a business meeting; not to expose their bodies on social media. And yet far too many do.

Right now, any woman can destroy a man within seconds—by merely describing or fabricating an awkward pass. Is this empowerment—or is it the same passive-aggressiveness we’ve spent a half-century trying to overcome?

The #MeToo movement made everything worse. The underlying premise of many of the non-assault #MeToo cases is actually quite unfeminist: it is based on the false notion that all women become helpless in difficult situations. Sadly, many women do. But that’s not the fault of “the patriarchy.” It is largely the fault of the feminist establishment for, essentially, teaching victimhood rather than strength.

Denying that harassment, even workplace harassment, is complex, that women have responsibility for our own behavior—that life isn’t perfect—doesn’t serve anyone’s interests. 

Right now, any woman can destroy a man within seconds—by merely describing or fabricating an awkward pass. Is this empowerment—or is it the same passive-aggressiveness we’ve spent a half-century trying to overcome?

For feminist leaders in the past three decades, personal responsibility were dirty words. Why? Because focusing on a woman’s responsibility, they said, would take the focus off “the patriarchy.”

We don’t live in a patriarchy. 

Anyone who seriously thinks we still live in a patriarchy—where men control and oppress us—needs to visit countries like Iran or Pakistan. Indeed, this is another great irony of today’s feminist leaders: they have entirely ignored Muslim women, who must endure everything from the compulsory hijab and forced, child marriage to female genital mutilation and honor killings. This should be at the top of Western feminists’ priority list. Instead, it never gets mentioned.  

The obsessive focus on “gender identity” has also trumped the very real political problems women still face: rape, domestic violence, trafficking, single motherhood. Indeed, the Gender Industrial Complex has enforced a systemic erasure of women’s real political problems.

Strong femininity empowers

Second and early Third Wave feminists attempted to make women feel ashamed of our femininity and sexuality—to neuter women. Leaving aside the fact that real feminism had no interest in neutering women, a neutered woman is by definition a less empowered woman. Being at one with our femininity and sexuality is an integral aspect of our strength and self-esteem. 

The 1960s sexual revolution gave women permission to finally take ownership of our sexuality. And by taking ownership—by feeling it and knowing that it doesn’t undermine our ability to run companies or fly planes—women were made whole in a way that we hadn’t been since hunter-gatherer times.

But. It needs to be a responsible sexuality. It’s not about sleeping our way to the top; going to a man’s hotel room and then claiming victimhood; wearing scanty clothes at inappropriate times.
Sexuality, true sexuality, comes from within—from self-respect and confidence.

Femininity empowers through restraint: just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.

Sexuality is part of a strong femininity—where women are in control of not just our sexuality but also our emotions. Pre-feminism, women had no choice but to succumb to a weak femininity, where their emotions often consumed them. 

Second Wave feminists believed that femininity distracts from our minds, but the opposite is actually true. Femininity empowers through restraint: just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. 

And such strong femininity can’t just be bought or tied on your head. It needs to be developed, through hard work. Which is why the complete disregard of women’s personal growth in the past forty years has been so appalling.

Leftists have also promoted an anti-feminist disdain for motherhood and child rearing. Democratic activist Elizabeth Spiers now famously called her son in the New York Times an “alien” and the natural hormones that beautifully flood a mother’s brain: “biological brainwashing.” AOC calls childbirth “forced birth.” As I said, some women shouldn’t be mothers.

Women’s sexuality is a key to our strength—but only if we’re in control of it. Everyone except women now control our sexuality.

Sexuality is sacred

I recently dropped my son, now 12, off at a fancy Saturday evening party. I think it’s safe to say that the young girls were wearing two band-aids—one around their chests; another around their hips. Both band-aids refused to stay in place, so they spent most of their time pulling them up or down to cover what could be covered.

Who owned their burgeoning sexuality—the girls themselves or every person who stared at them?

To be clear: women’s sexuality is a key to our strength—but only if we’re in control of it. I still wear miniskirts. When I feel sexy, I feel strong. But that’s because I’m in control. A woman could feel equally sexy in more modest clothing: the key is the self-respect that comes from being in control. 

Today, hook-up culture, hyper-sexualized selfies, the faux “sex positive” agenda, and the GIC have again removed women’s control over our own sexuality. Everyone except women now control our sexuality.

Hip hop culture merely offers a slightly more extreme version of today’s sexual subjugation. Women are referred to as bitches and ‘hos; slapped around; told to shut up and take it. Then women destroy any remaining shred of dignity by twerking an inch in front of a camera.

One of the many disastrous fallouts of the “no biological differences” insanity was that women were told that they must act like men in the romantic and sexual realms. In denying our evolutionary feminine wiring, women were forced to view sex as just another activity—to deactivate natural feelings of needing to connect sex with love.

Thus began the hook-up culture of the past three decades, which not surprisingly has had disastrous effects on women’s self-esteem, to the point where some women actually use sex as a form of self-harm. 

Without this cultural brainwashing, it should be assumed that women think about sex differently from men. This doesn’t mean that women don’t think about sex. This doesn’t mean that women don’t love sex as much as men do. What it means is that women are evolutionarily built to connect our emotions to sex. 

So while some women have no problem with today’s hook-up culture—where sex is typically expected upon a first meeting—many other women, as hard as they try, can’t do it without feeling lousy afterward. Instead of seeing this as a special aspect of being a woman, leftists today blame this lousy feeling on men—either on a particular man or again on “the patriarchy.” 

Truly owning your sexuality also means not broadcasting it to the world or imposing it on others. Today, I see women on social media who are the furthest from owning their sexuality—the guys who are “hearting” their boob and crotch shots own it. Incessant external validation erodes any shred of self-respect. 

In another linguistic perversion, “sex positivity” has come to mean embracing polyamory, BDSM, porn for kids, “sex work”—anything and everything that makes sex violent, ugly, and soulless. It should really be called sex negativity because all of it degrades and humiliates women. 

As Phyllis Chesler writes: prostitution is “the most extreme form of violence against women.” But sexual slavery and trafficking never gets mentioned by “sex-positive” activists.

What is real sex positivity? Understanding that our sexuality is sacred. That owning it—feeling at one with it—is fundamental to a woman’s self-confidence. That it is such an integral part of our identities, it should be treasured and kept private. 

Sensuality is an essential part of nature—but you don’t immediately see it. That is the essence of sacred sexuality.

The most empowered thing a young woman can say to any guy hitting on her: You like me? Court me.

Courtship + chivalry

Masculinity is not inherently toxic, just as femininity is not inherently toxic. But it can turn toxic. Raising a boy has shown me the role parents, coaches, and teachers play in restraining aggression and impulsiveness.

Parents need to teach their sons to be proud of their strengths and abilities—but to always have manners and respect. It’s not easy but it’s doable; again, it lies in the element of restraint. But non-toxic masculinity also requires bringing back two concepts that leftists have trashed: chivalry and courtship.

The most empowered thing a young woman can say to any guy hitting on her: You like me? Court me.

According to anthropologist Helen Fisher, courtship has historically served as a perseverance test, allowing women to figure out if men are strong and assertive enough to commit to a long-term relationship, pass on good genes, provide for offspring, and ward off danger. Basic aspects of courtship—males wooing females with gifts of food—turn up throughout the animal world as well.

Today, of course, women no longer need men to acquire resources or protect us. But our brains are still hard-wired to focus on self-preservation— to want a man who shows sustained interest. Courtship also forces women to keep our own feelings in check.

Chivalry doesn’t reinforce “inferiority.” It’s good manners. Both courtship and chivalry train men to act like gentlemen. A man can see a woman as his equal yet still treat her differently—there’s nothing sexist about that. In fact, it shows respect.

Don’t men have any responsibility here? Of course. Just because we no longer live in a patriarchy doesn’t mean that men, as individuals, don’t have a lot of work to do. I’m wary when I read conservatives talk about returning to the ‘50s and the Era of the Gentleman. Sure, many men in the ‘50s had good manners in public, but we are all too aware of what often went on inside the home or inside the office. 

We want men to treat women with respect—not just to keep up appearances. We want men to treat women with respect because it’s the right thing to do. 

But here’s the thing: we don’t need to dump masculinity to make this happen. Masculinity is not toxic. Uncivilized masculinity is toxic. Civilized masculinity ends wars. Civilized masculinity moves mountains. Civilized masculinity is, well, sexy. 

Beauty is not a myth

One of the many inane theories promulgated in the ‘90s was that men’s desire for beauty is “culturally constructed.” Anyone with even a passing knowledge of evolution knows that men are attracted to certain features—clear skin, shiny hair—because they signify youth and health and thus fertility. By promulgating the “beauty myth,” activists like Naomi Wolf did women a tremendous disservice, setting them up for gratuitously painful rejections and not accepting that this is a part of life.

When social media arrived and women began to post iPhone-filtered images of themselves, young women were caught completely off guard, believing these faux, cartoonishly unrealistic images equaled reality. Because Fourth Wave feminists were too busy constructing identities, no one was there to help. Depression, self-harm, and suicide ensued. 

Beauty is not a myth; it’s not a cultural construct. Beauty is an evolutionary fact—a harsh reality that only gets harsher with age. And not all women are born with a high level of evolutionary beauty; that too is a fact. Women need to accept these realities—but also understand that what they’re doing today by incessantly posting filtered selfies is making the problem significantly worse.

Because here is the good news: there are three elements that can be more powerful than evolutionary beauty: feeling at one with your sexuality; elegance—the way you carry yourself in the world; and beauty of the soul. 

It’s well past time to reteach women that we are fully in control of our bodies and our destinies—that no one, no matter how they mask their misogyny, has the right to re-shackle us.

Liberalism rests on the principles of nature, in this case the seasons of life. Leaves become more beautiful before they die. Why? Their appearance becomes a mirror to their resilience and their souls.

The 21st century woman

The goal of feminism was to unshackle women—to allow us to engage in the world as strong, responsible adults. It’s well past time to reteach women that we are fully in control of our bodies and our destinies—that no one, no matter how they mask their misogyny, has the right to re-shackle us. 

And so I propose the beginning of a new, Fifth Wave of feminism. We can call it rational feminism or independent feminism or non-conformist feminism. Or we can just call it feminism because it would finally bring feminism back to its original meaning.

The key components are freedom, personal responsibility, and individualism, with a strong emphasis on personal growth—building the inner strength that leads to self-respect, resilience, and dignity.

No one has the right to encourage girls to degrade themselves through Instaporn, hook-up culture, or prostitution. No one has the right to tell women that they can’t prioritize motherhood and family. No one has the right to tell women that they must use the same bathroom or shower as—or compete against—a biological male.

But ultimately it is up to each woman to take responsibility for our choices and our lives. With rights come responsibilities; just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. Taking responsibility for our lives ensures our freedom: that is the essence of both classical liberalism and feminism.

The 21st century woman is strong, free, unique, and responsible. She knows she’s imperfect. But that’s OK; so is nature. At her best, she embodies an unshackled dignity and a soul of beauty.


On Being a Gentleman

I never like having a conversation about language in which I come up on the wrong side of C.S. Lewis. This is going to be one of those times: 

In his book Mere Christianity, Lewis writes

The word gentleman originally meant something recognisable; one who had a coat of arms and some landed property. When you called someone ‘a gentleman’ you were not paying him a compliment, but merely stating a fact. If you said he was not ‘a gentleman’ you were not insulting him, but giving information.

Of course, I’m not at all disputing how Lewis characterizes the word as a container of information rather than a bestower of value. It is true and important to understand, though, that through popular usage over time, the word gentleman has gone from a statement of fact to a compliment… but then back again to a statement of fact. Interestingly, being called a gentleman is only complimentary now to those who would use the word, and for others, the concept as it is understood today is being driven out of existence.

As Lewis described the improper usage of the word, gentleman was a label for someone who exhibited good behavior in some fashion. If you held the door open for others, you were called a gentleman. If you dressed well in social settings, you were called a gentleman. If you refrained from using coarse language in broader social settings, you were called a gentleman. Basically, the term was applied as a way of noting approval—or disapproval—for the way in which a man conducted himself. Referring to someone as a gentleman, then, was indeed complimentary.

This was much the context in which my parents used the word while raising me. My father especially would speak the phrase “gentlemanly behavior” when praising or admonishing my conduct. Often my use of slang terms elicited the response, “that’s not something a gentleman would say,” and I would rephase whatever it was I originally said in more formal English. Gentlemen were polite and courteous, quick to volunteer their assistance, considerate of another’s needs, and respectful in tone and bearing.

My parents wanted the label of gentleman to convey real information about me. It became a part of my identity, however imperfectly I practiced gentlemanly acts.

But there was something more to it reflected both by my parents’ usage as well as how the definition was morphing in the vernacular through the 1960s and 1970s. It was no longer that calling a man a gentleman was a response to the behaviors he exhibited, but it was that a gentleman conducted himself in certain specific ways (ultimately, particularly in his interactions with women). Calling someone a gentleman was no longer merely a compliment in response to observing these behaviors (courtesy, helpfulness, consideration, and respect). It had become a fact of character: a man was not identified as a gentleman on the occasion of behaving as such. A gentleman was a man consistently of this character, regardless of time or place. My parents wanted the label of gentleman to convey real information about me. It became a part of my identity, however imperfectly I practiced gentlemanly acts.

Much has been written about what gentlemanly acts actually are. Mark Jessen lists these 100 ways to be a gentleman, which includes the gems, “stay open minded but firm in your belief and morals,” “be willing to help others,” and “never kiss and tell.” Providing 51 ways to be a modern gentleman, Khio Nguyen writes, “speak your mind, but know when to keep quiet,” “know when to take action and do it without being asked,” and “offer your seat to women and the elderly.” One observation I find particularly meaningful is this from General Robert E. Lee:

The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly—the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light.

Denials from the progressive left notwithstanding, men and women are distinctive and different. Men have been given many kinds of abilities with which to affect the lives of others.  A gentleman recognizes this and acts accordingly.

A common theme found in writings on being a gentleman often focuses on what it means to have power and how that power is exercised. When examined in the context of relationships and communications between men and women, the appropriate exercise of male power is identified as chivalry; that is, polite, kind, and unselfish behavior that men would exhibit toward women, children, and the elderly especially. (It is important to understand that the exercise of chivalrous behavior does not imply that women are powerless.) 

While power dynamics in relationships can be complicated to dissect, a principle for the modern-day gentleman to keep in mind is that when he has something that would benefit another person, and it is not something the other person already has or might easily acquire, he should generously share freely of it, be it time, treasure, or the power to leverage these resources. We find this wisdom in the New Testament, Luke 12:48 – “ From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Denials from the progressive left notwithstanding, men and women are distinctive and different. Men have been given many kinds of abilities with which to affect the lives of others.  A gentleman recognizes this and acts accordingly.

Sarah Mackenzie writes the following about the interplay between chivalry and feminism:

I therefore feel somewhat qualified to say there is, without a doubt, nothing more charming or alluring than a truly kind gentlemanly soul amidst a sea of increasingly horrible male specimen.

It’s not as though I appreciate a door being opened for me because I am far too weak or submissive to do it myself. I also don’t appreciate boys being overly presumptuous merely because I am a prude or don’t want the same things.

But, I value and appreciate true gentlemen because it subtly reveals a more caring, sensitive and genuine side that most males are not willing to broadcast or expose.

It’s charming, chivalrous, and rightfully mirrors the longstanding cultural and societal norms that females are still expected to uphold.

And, to be honest, I don’t have the time, patience or a sufficient enough lack of self-integrity to pursue any guy unable to exercise those rare, gentlemanly qualities.

It would seem, then, that the responsible exercise of gentlemanly power is a subtle thing; it is in placing the “gentle” inside the “man” and letting that temper and permeate his maleness. It is the very opposite of the idea of “toxic masculinity,” its antidote as it were.

 What is the relationship between toxic masculinity and gentlemanly character? A very simple analysis would be to divide the two categorizations by the manner in which men choose to exercise the power they have in particular social contexts—whether responsibly or not. 

In January of 2019, Gillette (owned by Proctor & Gamble) repurposed their “the best a man can be” slogan as a piece of a marketing campaign to challenge toxic masculinity and join the #metoo movement with the message that, when it comes to the treatment of women in society, men must change before there can be any progress or forward movement. The campaign featured a 108-second “short film” that, to many, seemed to be an indictment of all men (and boys) for having created and perpetuated the environment of toxicity toward women endemic throughout society.

One might even argue that it is a form of toxic feminism that has decoupled the upbringing of boys from the behavioral ideals of gentlemen, and that in turn has removed any moderating influence on the baser attributes of masculinity.

Predictably, the short film and campaign polarized those who watched it into two camps: those who saw it as admirably calling out the culture of toxic masculinity running rampant throughout society, and those who saw it as over-the-top virtue signaling as part of a broader war on men. I found myself in the second camp, but with the idea that Gillette wasn’t participating in a war on men—rather, the company seemed to be opportunistically jumping on board the #metoo bandwagon (which to me is confirmed by a lack of any appreciable follow-through or commitment to being an actual societal change agent).

What those who would identify episodes of toxic masculinity in society, Gillette included, neglect to consider is the role that raising boys to be gentlemen plays in both softening the socialization process and strengthening the societal bonds between girls and boys, women and men. Watch the Gillette short film. The message seems to be that masculinity itself is to blame, and that the vast majority of boys will grow into men who will carry on in their toxic ways, because they have never been given an alternative.

There is an alternative. It has been offered to boys for a couple of centuries; and it only has fallen out of favor during the past few decades in reaction to the progressive left’s interpretation of feminism. One might even argue that it is a form of toxic feminism that has decoupled the upbringing of boys from the behavioral ideals of gentlemen, and that in turn has removed any moderating influence on the baser attributes of masculinity. Whatever the cause, we can be sure that we aren’t on the right track for solutions as long as we complain about the lyrics of songs from decades past such as the suggestive yet ambiguous “Baby It’s Cold Outside” while we aren’t bothered by the audaciously explicit misogyny of this generation’s “Everywhere I Go.” I can imagine the shock, disgust, and finally the disappointment of my father, had I listened to music like the latter.

His words are still very clear in my memory. That’s not something a gentleman would say.


A Texas Jew Looks On

I didn’t know about the hostage seizure at the Colleyville, Texas, synagogue until Saturday late afternoon, hours after it started. The news that an attacker had seized the rabbi and three congregants—as part of a plan to free a woman serving an 86-year sentence in a Texas prison for attacking U.S. military officers in Afghanistan—brought back memories of past attacks on Jewish houses of worship, including the Chabad House in Mumbai, India, in 2008 (six dead); the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh (11 dead); Passover 2019 in Poway, California (one dead); and Hanukkah 2019 in Monsey, New York (one dead). This time, the crisis ended with a SWAT attack that killed the attacker before he could harm any of his four hostages at Congregation Beth Israel (CBI).

An attack on one Jew is an attack on all of us; distinctions between religious practices and political leanings only deepen energy-sapping divisions.

The CBI terrorism has special resonance because I grew up in Texas as part of a family that has been in Texas since just after the Civil War. While I left Texas and have been living in the Northeast for more than 40 years, I still embrace an identity as a Texas Jew. My great-great-grandfather, Chayim Schwarz, was the first ordained rabbi in the state, when he moved there from Germany in 1873. My parents were married there at Temple Emanuel in McAllen, where I drop by for services when I’m in the Rio Grande Valley for my high school reunion.

At times like these, differences between Texas and New York or liberal or conservative or Zionist or secular or religious don’t matter. While I’ve read at least one article knocking CBI Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker’s positions in Jewish politics, that has absolutely no meaning for me. An attack on one Jew is an attack on all of us; distinctions between religious practices and political leanings only deepen energy-sapping divisions. Terrorists don’t distinguish between Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox, and neither should we make fine distinctions in taking action in solidarity with Jews in danger. For evidence of the negative impact, remember that enmity among Jews contributed to the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70 CE (Common Era, otherwise AD). In the words supposedly spoken by Benjamin Franklin at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, “We must all hang together, or . . . we shall all hang separately.”

The CBI attack and the successful outcome will long be studied. Were the security procedures sufficient, and how did the law enforcement agencies respond? Where did U.S. border controls break down to enable a foreign national with a criminal record to enter the country? What planning and financing supported the attack?

My own views on responses reflect my experiences with Jewish sites in Israel and elsewhere, as well as what I’ve seen from attacks on places of worship in Texas. My action bias is going to show here, no doubt reflecting my youth spent absorbing stories of the Alamo, the War for Texas Independence, and the rough life on the frontier—the Texas history taught in schools when I was growing up in Mission, Texas, in the 1960s and 1970s. Such episodes inspired the same sort of fervor, I imagine, as when Hebrew schools relate stories of Masada, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and the miracle of the Six-Day War of 1967. 

I’ve seen the armed security forces in Israel, and they’re not for show. In Amsterdam, a security officer questioned me before I could attend services at the Portuguese Synagogue. In the 1980s, I passed machine gun-toting guards outside the Great Synagogue of Florence. U.S. synagogues now show far more security during the High Holidays. That includes my synagogue, Chabad of Bedford, N.Y.; Chabad is an Orthodox movement based in Brooklyn also called Chabad-Lubavitch. One of the men held hostage at CBI has already called for more active shooter training.

My own thinking is aligned with that, and I’m fine with the notion of armed, properly trained synagogue members. Concealed carry may be impractical, illegal, or wildly unpopular in blue-state synagogues, but I could see that as part of the security mix. If a potential attacker knows his lifespan could shrink to 10 seconds if he starts threatening and shooting at a school or synagogue, he may reconsider his plans. Numerous examples show effective armed response, such as the almost-instant killing of a shooter at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, in 2019. He had killed two parishioners who drew on him, but others responded. 

 I’ve taken responsibility for my safety. That involved a 10-week course in Krav Maga, the self-defense system developed for the Israel Defense Forces. It focused on responding to a threat and getting away, not finding your calm meditative center. In other words: take action.

Would this approach work at synagogues? I don’t know. That’s each organization’s call. But I’m not opposed to it. CBI took a different approach, and it worked. I’m all in favor of diverse approaches, and if an institution opts for the West Freeway Church strategy, I’d say go for it. That’s the Texan in me. 

The need for urgent actions takes my memory back to the 2008 Mumbai massacre at the Chabad House. In its aftermath, I attended a memorial service in Connecticut organized by Chabad. While grieving, speakers stressed the need to take spiritual action in the face of the bloodshed (more good deeds, charity, and study of religious texts, for example). It reminded me of the slogan adapted from the last words of labor activist Joe Hill, “Don’t mourn, organize!” I liked that approach.

How’d that play out? I’ve taken responsibility for my safety. That involved a 10-week course in Krav Maga, the self-defense system developed for the Israel Defense Forces. It focused on responding to a threat and getting away, not finding your calm meditative center. In other words: take action. Its workouts exhausted me; at one point a sparring pad I held got kicked so hard it hit me in the face and knocked the lenses out of my glasses. I also joined the Community Emergency Response team (CERT) when I lived in Westport, Connecticut. The training included a sobering session on active-shooter responses; a policeman explained the evolution in law-enforcement tactics since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. 

recent history shows any place can feel safe until the seconds when it is not safe at all.

This basic awareness of personal defense and community protection makes sense on a larger scale. Be your own bodyguard, take responsibility for your safety. Stories coming out of Colleyville indicate that active-shooter training paid off, and I assume those lessons will inform safety approaches at any vulnerable institution. I imagine we’ll talk about security measure at my synagogue in the wake of the CBI episode, frankly addressing vulnerabilities and procedures. The Westchester suburbs feel safe for me—but recent history shows any place can feel safe until the seconds when it is not safe at all.

Rewarded with Paradise?

On Saturday, January 15th, a man entered a synagogue in Texas and took four Jewish people hostage. His name was Malik Faisal Akram. He was a British Muslim from a town in England called Blackburn. Akram held the rabbi at gunpoint and tried to demand the release of a famous female terrorist named Aafia Siddiqui, who is being held in a Texas federal prison. During the hostage crisis, Akram held Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker at gunpoint for eleven hours, demanding the release of Siddiqui. In other words, Akram was acting as a terrorist to demand the release of other terrorists. He intentionally chose Jewish people as hostages to hold in ransom for his demand. In the end, Akram was killed by the police in a shootout and the hostages escaped. 

After Akram’s death was announced, the Blackburn Muslim Community Facebook page posted an announcement expressing the hope that: “May the Almighty forgive all his sins and bless him with the highest ranks of Paradise.”

After Akram’s death was announced, the Blackburn Muslim Community Facebook page posted an announcement expressing the hope that: “May the Almighty forgive all his sins and bless him with the highest ranks of Paradise.” Keep in mind, Akram came from their community. He wasn’t just a terrorist to them; they knew him personally. He was friends with people in this town. The post continued by expressing sympathy for his family, “May Allah give strength and patience to his loved ones in dealing with their loss.” 

When I saw the post, I sent the Blackburn Muslim Community Facebook page the following question: “Does the Blackburn Muslim Community believe that Faisal Akram should be rewarded with ‘Paradise’ for taking an American rabbi hostage at gunpoint?” In response, they sent me this message, “A generic post was used for a death announcement of a local individual before we learnt of the exact nature of the incident which had taken place abroad. This post has since been removed.” However, the post has not been removed, the post is still up on their page, with a slight modification, which announces the date of a service in his name. 

I have never been to Blackburn, England. The town has a population of 120,000 people, which is roughly the same size as my own hometown. In my hometown, most of the Jewish people in the community know each other. I imagine, most of the Muslim community in Blackburn know each other as well. I know that it is perfunctory for a religious community to send out an announcement when a member of the community dies. I also assume that the same language is generally repeated and it is normal to express sympathy for the family. That being said, Fasial busted into a synagogue and held Jews at gunpoint.

I used to work as a cashier in a used furniture store. One time, I was robbed at gunpoint. I was working in the middle of the day by myself when a slender man came into the store and asked if we sold big-screen TVs. I told him that we didn’t, but he might be able to get a TV at a pawn shop down the street. He responded by saying that pawn shops were overpriced and he was hoping to find a good deal. Our entire conversation was completely routine. He started to walk toward the door and even said, “Thank you.” When he got to the door, he suddenly screamed out: “F*ck!” Then he spun around and pulled out a silver pistol and pointed it at my face. Then he yelled, “Bitch, give me all the money! I want all the money!” 

In the movies, there are always scenes when the bad guy pulls out a gun on the hero, and the hero always says something witty about how he is not afraid. That’s not what it is like, I promise. If you think you are brave, then wait until you really believe that someone is going to shoot you in the face. It reduces you to a sniveling pile of rubbish.

Do these words mean that Akram should be rewarded with paradise for taking part in jihad against Americans? For kidnapping Jews?

Akram pulled out a gun on a group of Jewish people while they were worshipping. He pulled out a gun hoping to kidnap Jews and trade them for a terrorist. This raises the question: Is there any reason that a person can find to defend his actions? If you are a moral person, then the answer is no. Which brings me back to the post by the Blackburn Muslim Community Facebook page. After it was announced that Akram was killed while in the process of kidnapping Jews, they wrote a post saying that he should be rewarded with “the highest ranks of Paradise.” 

It should be noted that, the next day, they finally released a bland post condemning Faisal’s actions. But they still have a statement on their Facebook page saying that he should be rewarded with “paradise.” Rewarded for what? How are non-Muslims supposed to interpret these words? Do these words mean that Akram should be rewarded with paradise for taking part in jihad against Americans? For kidnapping Jews? Or can these words really be seen as a perfunctory statement released for the death of a member of the community? Are these words merely the standard comments wishing that every Muslim be rewarded with heaven? 

I understand that it would be very strange to wish that a member of your community be sent to hell, so it does make sense that they would wish for him to be sent to heaven. That being said, it is also understandable that these words would be viewed as problematic by the victims of his crimes. Even more thorny, do these words allude to a bigger problem of anti-Semitism in the British Muslim community? However these questions are answered, it certainly seems inappropriate to write a post calling for Akram to be rewarded with paradise immediately after kidnapping Jews.


Label CAIR a Hate Group

Malik Faisal Akram, on January 15th, 2022, held a number of hostages in a Texas synagogue. He demanded that his “sister, Aafia,” be released from jail and that he be allowed to speak with her. Aafia is currently serving an 86-year prison sentence at the Carswell Federal Medical Center after attempting to kill U.S. military personnel. Unsurprisingly, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is lobbying for her to be released from prison. In fact, enthusiastic anti-Semite Linda Sarsour is one of those leading the charge. Now, of course, CAIR is claiming to “stand in solidarity” with the Jewish community–as they do every time it is politically expedient for them to do so.

All of this comes after Zahra Billoo, San Francisco Bay’s Executive Area Director of CAIR, marked synagogues and Jewish organizations as targets for boycotts and harassment, claiming that “Allah has promised us victory.” This kind of conspiracy theory-riddled talk has no place in the public sphere, especially for a self-proclaimed “advocacy, anti-hate group.” This chilling language sounds no different than the radicalized Christian white supremacists who have targeted mosques and synagogues in recent years. The time has come for the United States to do as the United Arab Emirates did years ago: label CAIR as an organization with ties to terrorism.

CAIR has for years been spreading radicalization through the country through its ties to the Muslim Brotherhood–including Hamas. Several of its employees and higher-ranking officials have been linked to terrorism or brutal dictatorships, such as that of Muammar Gaddafi. It has ignored complaints over gender discrimination within the organization, as well as sexual harassment claims. This may be, in part, due to the near monopoly on the group of Saudi Wahhabist religious viewpoints. The organization also supported and advocated for Rasmea Odeh, a convicted terrorist, up until her deportation to Jordan.

The same way that the Jewish Defense League (JDL), Westboro Baptist Church, and other such organizations have been labeled as terror groups or ostracized as bigoted organizations, so, too, should CAIR. There are far better and more tolerant advocacy groups for Muslim Americans that deserve to be uplifted more than this one. If American values include interfaith coexistence, then CAIR cannot possibly adhere to such values based on both its actions and its words.


Hirelings in Shepherd’s Clothing

How Corrupt Leaders and Failed Reporters Are Fueling the Mass Psychosis

Lockdowns, arbitrary mandates, and nonsensical prohibitions (like no meals on domestic flights) will never stop until we do something about it. This is not about keeping us safe from a virus, and the proof is below.

Brazen Hypocrisy

World leaders, including ours in the United States, routinely break their own COVID-19 orders by going to parties, concerts, and public indoor gatherings unmasked. When caught, they either give half apologies, or double down and justify themselves. This has been consistent behavior since March of 2020. These leaders played the “correlation equals causation” game with us, asserting that people were dying because not enough of us were wearing masks and staying indoors.

If what they have been constantly trying to shove down our throats all of 2020 and 2021 were true, every single public official who was caught violating their own orders should have been impeached for attempted if not actual murder. Just think about it. We were told we were killing our grandmothers if we didn’t comply with all of the mandates, which many officials themselves never followed. Some were so blatant about their hypocrisy, it seemed almost a joke—as in 2020 when Austin, Texas Mayor Steve Adler made a video from his timeshare in Mexico telling Americans to “stay home.” What wasn’t mentioned was that Mayor Adler traveled to his timeshare in a private jet with eight other people. 

Another prime example is Chicago, Illinois Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who was caught at a barbershop getting her hair done after enacting one of the strictest lockdowns in the US. Mayor Lightfoot imposed a lockdown that has resulted in the permanent closure of many small and medium businesses, including Chicago hair salons, yet she decided her hair was more important than “flattening the curve.”  When caught, Lightfoot defended herself, saying:

“I’m the public face of this city. I’m on national media and I’m out in the public eye. I think what really people want to talk about is, we’re talking about people dying here. We’re talking about significant health disparities. I think that’s what people care most about.”

Consider the example of California Governor Gavin Newsom being caught mask-less at an indoor birthday party in Napa County at the height of the California lockdowns that he mandated in 2020. When caught, he offered an apology, saying he made a “bad mistake.” Perhaps that explanation would have been slightly more acceptable had he not lied before the pictures surfaced, claiming it was an “outdoor event.” Not only was it an indoor event, it was at an extremely exclusive venue called French Laundry; a venue where Mayor London Breed of San Francisco attended an indoor birthday party the day after Newsom.

Mayor London Breed as well ignored her own mandates in September of 2020, when she, maskless, attended a concert in San Francisco. As can be seeing in the pictures and videos that surfaced, she did not wear a mask even when she wasn’t eating or drinking. When confronted about this, her response was this:

“Don’t feel as though you have to be micromanaged about mask wearing. Like, we don’t need the fun police to come in and try and micromanage and tell us what we should or shouldn’t be doing. We know what we need to do to protect ourselves. I was eating and I was drinking and I was sitting with my friends and everyone who came in there was vaccinated. No, I’m not going to sip and put my mask on, sip and put my mask on, sip and put my mask on, eat and put my mask on. While I’m eating and I’m drinking, I’m going to keep my mask off.”

The major and blindingly obvious problem with what Mayor Breed said is that, like Newsom, she was lying. One of the videos that surfaced showed Mayor Breed not eating or drinking, but standing, dancing, and singing to the R&B group Tony! Toni! Toné! After she enacted a mandate telling San Franciscans that masks were mandatory for indoor gatherings regardless of vaccination status, she herself violated that very mandate, and justified it by citing everyone’s vaccination status. 

Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan oversaw one of the strictest lockdowns in 2020; so strict in fact, that outdoor activities like fishing and gardening were banned. It was the most controversial lockdown in the US. Whitmer was caught planning a boat trip with her husband for Memorial Day weekend; a violation of the bans she enacted. Her husband, Marc Mallory, name dropped her when speaking to the marina about renting a boat after being told a boat would not be provided to them. When confronted by the local media, she first lied and said it was misinformation. When pressed, she said:

“Knowing it wouldn’t make a difference, [Mallory] jokingly asked if being married to me might move him up. He regrets it. I wish it wouldn’t have happened. And that’s really all we have to say about it.”

Recently, President Joe Biden was caught without a mask in a store where masks were required. Yes, President Biden, the one whose administration is currently fighting to tighten mandates on the American workplace, was caught again in one of those workplaces unmasked.

It is difficult to keep up with all of the hypocrisy as Mayor London Breed has been caught on camera for a second time at a concert, maskless, dancing on the dance floor. Footage was captured and may be viewed here.

Austrian government leaders, including the President and Minister of Health, celebrated at the ORF fundraising gala just days after announcing a full COVID-19 lockdown and compulsory vaccination.

The list could go on and on.

These past two years would be more comedic if lives weren’t being destroyed in the process. Families that were living from paycheck to paycheck and that lost their homes right at the beginning of the lockdowns in 2020 are still homeless. People whose depression intensified due to the long-term isolation have committed suicide. People who were made deathly afraid by the constant barrage of fear-mongering from politicians and mainstream news are still afraid to step out of their homes.

Some of us called attention to all of this hypocrisy, some of us got upset, a lot of us made excuses for them, and most of us have submitted.

The problem is that what has happened will continue to happen at the highest levels until we collectively respond with more than apathy. 

Dr. Fauci and Vaccines

This has been one big episode of mass psychosis, and further proof can be seen in the messaging around the vaccines. When the vaccines were first introduced to us, we were told that life would be normal again. We were told that the vaccine would put an end to all of this, everything could open back up, and we could put 2020 behind us. Then we were told the vaccines really only prevent hospitalization. Then we were told that even after being vaccinated, we should still wear masks, even two masks, and practice social distancing. And we were told all of these things by a man who was recently exposed for lying about funding gain-of-function research in Wuhan, China about the very virus that has consumed so many of our over lives the past two years. We were told all of this by Dr. Anthony Fauci; a man who flip flops so much, a Twitter thread was created by writer and commentator Drew Holden called “Fauci vs. Fauci.

This alone should help any rational person to understand why forty-one percent of Americans do not want the vaccine. It isn’t a deep conspiracy, though some believe so. For many of us, it is quite simple. No one, not the CDC, WHO, Dr. Fauci, our elected officials, nor media reporters, have been consistent in their messaging to us. We’ve seen too many opinions “change,” and too many headlines with the words “we’ve learned…” which some people are beginning to believe means “we lied and got caught,” or “we reported lazily and got caught.” Their numbers  supposedly tell us how much better off vaccinated people are than unvaccinated people, but we also remember learning that the Covid death rate included people who did not die from the virus, but from other diseases with Covid simply being present.

We see and remember these things, and we are skeptical when the same people who have been lying to us all this time now want us to trust them to inject something into our bodies.

We were told the Delta Variant is more resistant to the vaccines, and now we are being told Omicron is as well, yet there is still a worldwide aggressive push for everyone to be vaccinated with the very vaccines they tell us are largely ineffective against the new variants. 

China

We remember how the Chinese Communist Party, in 2020, was unbearably oppressive in its lockdowns. Yet, the U.S., and many other countries, took their cues from China. We did this to such a degree that American mainstream news outlets like the Washington Post, CNN, and the Wall Street Journal praised China for their handling of the virus, though it was revealed later that China lied about its numbers. The initial veneration of China by American mainstream news was  as though China had these outlets in its pocket. Researchers stated that it was virtually impossible for China to have dropped their Covid numbers so drastically after two months of lockdowns, but not before the virus spread to the rest of the world at the same time. A reporter with integrity would have sought these researchers out first before reporting on the communist country’s self-proclaimed victory.

Journalists from China who tried to report on these things were detained, and even killed, by the CCP. Christian pastors in China who preached against the CCP were also imprisoned and killed, both for speaking out against the Chinese government, and for having faith in something other than Xi Jinping and his comrades. 

Yet, this is the same China whose spell seemed to have captured world leaders. This is the same China that major news outlets  scolded America to be more like. This is the same China, by the way, that Governor Gavin Newsom struck a billion dollar deal with in 2020 for California’s mask supply.

Who Should Be Asking the Questions?

Why does it seem as though many of our leaders and media are turning a blind eye to China’s flagrant human rights abuses and authoritarian  government? It is is a question that reporters everywhere should be thoroughly investigating, instead of publishing puff piece editorials, as though China is the starship Enterprise and Xi Jinping is Captain James T. Kirk.

It has become painfully obvious that, by and large, our media runs cover for tyrants and despots. If this weren’t true, the lockdowns would have indeed stopped after two weeks, because honest, investigative reporting would have uncovered all the corruption among our leaders and elected officials. The thousands of doctors around the world who have challenged the narrative  would not have been minimized or ridiculed, but tested against the developing situation. The virologists, surgeons, and front-line doctors who continue to speak out against the prevailing narrative would have had the chance to be heard as much as the doctors we have been currently hearing from the most. There is a video entitled 8 Prominent Doctors & Scientists Engage in a Remarkable Exchange, wherein a panel of eight medical experts  discuss their experiences with Covid as immunologists, front-line workers, and biologists, andthe major issues they have with mask mandates, vaccine mandates, and mandates for children. The video was on YouTube for a few weeks, then YouTube took it down. 

Africa

Yet another set of questions the media is not asking surrounds the recent travel ban the Biden administration has placed on African countries, particularly South Africa. In terms of timeline, this happened just after South Africa told Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer to stop sending vaccines due to the plunging demand. One question that definitely needs to be asked is this: is the new variant really a danger, or is it a pretense to punish Africa for not buying more from the US government?  Reported cases from South Africa have suddenly jumped from less than two hundredper day to two thousand per day, and all coincidentally after the ban. The timeline is:

News sites like Microsoft News are attempting to make things appear as though South Africa is now trying to replicate the Moderna vaccine, implying there is not an excess, but a shortage. There is a story posted by MSN dated November 28, 2021 that describes just that. What is misleading about it is the story is that the vaccine replication process dates back to over a month ago, as evidenced by many sources, including this one.

South Africa has more than enough vaccines, and Africa is a vast continent made up of 54 countries; some of which have experienced shortages. This is an important detail because detractors of the truth will attempt to muddy the waters by pushing out seemingly conflicting information to distract from their activities. 

The South African people have spoken many times over; the vast majority of them do not want the vaccine. South Africa’s Covid recovery rate has remained at 97%, Africans in general have been through much more deadly viruses, for which the rest of the world cared very little, and most of the African people would like to be left alone. They should not be punished because of that; especially considering the fact that African countries were not the only places the new variant was found, yet they seem to be the only places where the people are banned from traveling to the US.

Something ominous is coming to the West particularly; in fact, it is already here. But when the evidence of it has reached its peak, know that it will not be the corruption of our leaders or the mangling of the truth by our media who led us to the dark place.

It will be the compliance of us, the people.

Thanksgiving

On November 24, 1977, I stood with my husband, my two-year-old daughter, and seven other extended family members in front of the gated entrance to the American Embassy in Moscow. We were there to receive our exit visas so we could leave the confinements of the totalitarian regime of the Soviet Union in search of freedom. 

 The military guard said the Embassy was closed for the next four days. My heart sunk. “Why?” someone asked.

“Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday the Americans celebrate each year,” he said.

It was the first time I heard the word Thanksgiving. Bewildered, I thought, what kind of holiday is it if the government allows its people to celebrate it on Thursday? It must be pretty significant to the Americans. How great it must be to be off from work for four consecutive days! 

With the stroke of a KGB agent’s pen, in a matter of seconds, we became nobodies.

The USSR did not have a holiday that lasted four days, and most celebrations in a country of not enough happened on the weekend when people were already off from work.

It took us months to get permission from the Communist government to leave based on religious discrimination. We were Jews who lived in a country that did not want us. This country did not allow us to practice Judaism. This country took away our identities and listed the religion of our forefathers as our nationality on every official document, turning us into the scapegoats of the socialist society and targets for persecution. Anti-Semitism flourished under the auspices of the brutal totalitarian regime. 

When the Soviets agreed to let people emigrate, most of Jews left the USSR for Israel, but many for the United States as well. I had a hard time understanding the immigration process. Once the Soviet government had accepted our family’s request for asylum status, it had no longer considered us its citizens. With the stroke of a KGB agent’s pen, in a matter of seconds, we became nobodies. Our family had to give up our apartment and quit our jobs, and with that, lost our financial security and the roof over our heads. We became solely dependent on the kindness of relatives and strangers. The Communists had no use for us anymore, and they did not care how we would survive. Decades later, I still cannot get over the cruelty of the socialist government in the treatment of its Jews. They could discard you like a pile of trash when you were no longer needed to achieve their grandiose, but unattainable ideas. 

The totalitarian regime granted our family permission to immigrate to the United States, but still, for it to happen, it was the American government in charge of issuing our exit visas. Nothing made sense. 

If this is how bureaucracy works in America, I could deal with it.

After pleading with the military guard, he checked our documents and opened the gate for our family to enter the hallowed grounds of the American Embassy. My spirit filled with hope.

We walked inside the building, full of anxiety. A secretary greeted and ushered us into an office where a person in charge of visas asked us to sign some documents and handed us the permits to leave.  It all happened too fast, and for me, this was the shortest encounter with bureaucracy I had ever witnessed. It seemed like a blur because, in a matter of minutes, we were ready to go. 

Bureaucracy is tedious everywhere, but the USSR tops them all when it comes to it. While I lived there, I could never enter an office to get my request granted on the spot and had to return a few more times. When I dealt with the bureaucrats in the Soviet Union, they almost always needed another piece of paper to attach to my file before granting my request, no matter how insignificant that request might’ve been. 

Inside the office, I already felt hopeful about my new country. If this is how bureaucracy works in America, I could deal with it. With visas in our hands, we left the American Embassy jubilant.

 The following day, my mother-in-law purchased our tickets to Rome. Two days later, we took a taxi to Sheremetyevo, and boarded an Aeroflot flight that flew us out of the country of not enough. 

On November 24, 1977, anti-Semitism and I had signed our divorce papers. At long last, I shook the shackles of oppression and spread my wings.

We stayed in Italy for three months, awaiting permission to enter the United States of America, and on March 7, 1978, we took a Pan Am flight to New York and landed at JFK. Since then, I’ve never looked back. 

That Thanksgiving Day in 1977 at the American Embassy was the day that forever changed me. I stopped living in fear. I no longer looked over my shoulder or spoke in a hushed tone, afraid of someone overhearing my conversation as I walked the streets of Moscow. On November 24, 1977, anti-Semitism and I had signed our divorce papers. At long last, I shook the shackles of oppression and spread my wings.  

Landing on the shores of the United States of America made me grateful and appreciative of a country that allowed me to become enough. Ever since, Thanksgiving Day had become my favorite holiday to honor. As a proud American, I celebrate it each year together with the rest of the country as a national holiday. For me, the day of Thanksgiving holds extra special meaning. It is a day I give thanks to America, my beloved country that sheltered and taught me to appreciate the freedoms I experience daily. But there is more to my appreciation of Thanksgiving Day.

Fourteen years ago, in 2007, a day before the official holiday began, I was diagnosed with a basal skull meningioma. At fifty-three, I went from being a healthy person to someone who was, within days, given a death sentence. Even though the growth was benign, my situation was dire.

“You have a non-malignant tumor in a malignant place,” Dr. Robinson said inside his office. He explained that the culprit of my illness grew in the wrong part of my body (as if there ever is a proper spot to grow those things), and it was about to kill me. The meningioma at the base of my skull was the size of a chicken egg when they discovered it. It pressed against my trachea and made me stop breathing each night I fell asleep. 

“You needed surgery yesterday, and I will leave now to schedule an appointment for you at Tampa General the day after Thanksgiving so you can get help from the best there is in the field of neurosurgery. Meantime, I am putting you on the highest dosage of steroids to save your life,” he said.

Dr. Robinson did save my life, and not only because of the medication but also by sending me to the best place at the right time. 

I left his office to get another MRI before I headed towards my house. It was the night before Thanksgiving, and I could not stop thinking about the holiday. Should I cancel it? To be honest, I was not in the right spirit to celebrate, but the more I thought about it, the more inclined I became in favor of a large gathering. Weeks earlier, I had invited a big crowd, and now sitting inside my car I could not find it in my heart to withdraw the invitation at the last moment. Plus, I could not call anyone that evening. It was approaching ten o’clock when I pulled into the driveway.

 

Freedom is never free. As I bend the dough, I think about the fallen heroes’ ultimate sacrifices, and I thank them each time I prepare this delicacy.

Inside the house, I shared the sad news with my husband. His mood had instantly changed, and the atmosphere around us filled with dread of the upcoming operation. But in the morning, I continued with Thanksgiving Day’s preparations. Being busy distracted me from the inner thoughts as I baked sweet potato and apple pies, and my husband took care of the turkey.

That day I made my traditional delicacy that I invented. I serve it to my guests every year on Thanksgiving Day. The filling is fresh pumpkin and cranberries mixed with sugar and infused with cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg flavors. 

To wrap the yummy filling in, I use phyllo dough. Every time I do the individual pieces, I fold the dough into a triangle the same way a person folds the American flag to commemorate the soldiers who lost their lives to protect the freedoms of the United States. Freedom is never free. As I bend the dough, I think about the fallen heroes’ ultimate sacrifices, and I thank them each time I prepare this delicacy. 

On November 22, 2007, despite the grim diagnosis, I found reasons to be thankful. I was grateful to live in the United States of America, where I was about to receive the best medical care during my craniotomy. Tampa General is a world-known facility for performing brain surgeries, and I considered myself lucky to go there. I did not feel afraid. I had faith and trust in people who would help me get through this enormous challenge. 

American Thanksgiving is a day that is forever connected to the two most important events of my life. Forty-four years ago, back in the USSR, inside the American Embassy, I was granted freedom to leave the godforsaken country of not enough. Fourteen years ago, at Tampa General, the neurosurgeon gave me another chance at life. I am so grateful to America! It truly is the best country in the world. Happy Thanksgiving!


To Life

Of all of the pro-abortion talking points, only one seems to be the most honest to their cause, and that is the argument of personhood; is the fetus a human being, does it have value, and is it worth protecting? These are the questions to which pro-abortion advocates tend to resoundingly answer “no.”

This is not a debate about controlling women’s bodies, or being “only pro-birth,” this is a very sober fight for the life of our next generation; and the fight surrounds the question of intrinsic value. Do our children have intrinsic value? That’s the question to which pro-life advocates emphatically answer “yes.”

Pro-abortion advocates tend to use arguments like these:

“If you’re so pro-life, what about kids in foster care? Don’t they deserve to be loved? Would you adopt them, or do you only care about them being born?”

“If you’re so pro-life, what about kids born into poverty? Are you prepared to support the babies you advocate for?”

“If you’re so pro-life, do you support forced vasectomies? Men are involved too!”

“Halacha says that a woman can have an abortion if the baby is threatening the life of the mother. You wouldn’t want the mother to die, would you?”

Let us address these points.

Firstly, Christian pro-life advocates make up the largest majority of adoptions. 5% of practicing Christians in the United States have adopted, which is more than twice the number of all adults who have adopted. Secondly, in regards to donations to charities, “Some studies…have estimated that faith motivates as much as 75 percent of all charity in the United States.” Lastly, forced vasectomies do not kill anyone, unlike abortions. Those facts should be enough to quell petty arguments, right? Wrong. These arguments do not matter in the macro. They do not matter because at the crux of the pro-abortion argument is that a woman should be able to terminate her pregnancy for any reason she wants to, because “it’s her body”. So, any response to the pro-abortion argument regarding the life or viability of the fetus does not matter. If they did, the statistics previously linked would turn everyone pro-life.

No, it doesn’t matter if every single pro-life advocate adopted 25 children each and effectively ended the foster care industry. It doesn’t matter that there are almost zero cases where the mother quite literally has to choose between her life and the baby’s life, and even in those scenarios, the doctors perform an emergency C-section, where the baby still has a chance of surviving. 

Former abortionist, Dr. Anthony Levantino states here:

“I was faculty at the hospital for nine years, and I saw hundreds of cases of really severe pregnancy complications — cancers, heart disease, intractable diabetes out of control, toxemia of pregnancy out of control. And I saved — in those nine years — I saved hundreds of women from life-threatening pregnancies. And I did that by delivering them — by ending their pregnancy by delivery, either induction of labor or caesarean section. Delivering the baby. And I always tell people: in all those years, the number of babies that I had to — that I was obligated to deliberately kill in the process — was zero. None.”

(The full context of Dr. Levantino’s quote can be found here.)

Pro-choice activists don’t care that, in those scenarios, doctors still do whatever they can to save both the mother and the baby’s life. The mother choosing her own life doesn’t mean her physician must kill the baby; it means that saving the mother’s life is top priority while attempting to save the baby’s life as well. But again, none of this matters, because the pro-choice/pro-abortion argument would either shift to another red herring, or simply argue that “she can do whatever she wants with her body”. That’s the crux of the argument, and that is where focus of the rebuttal should be. 

The root of this debate is simply determining whether or not a fetus is a human being, so let’s talk about that.

The definition of an embryo is an unborn or unhatched offspring in the process of development, in particular a human offspring during the period from approximately the second to the eighth week after fertilization (after which it is usually termed a fetus).

A two-day old embryo has zero probability of turning into anything else except a human being. There is no chance it could turn into a watermelon, or a rock, or a piece of string, or anything else other than a baby human.

And according to Encyclopedia Britannica, an embryo is “…the early developmental stage of an animal while it is in the egg or within the uterus of the mother. In humans the term is applied to the unborn child.”

The definition of a fetus is “the unborn young of any vertebrate animal, particularly of a mammal, after it has attained the basic form and structure typical of its kind” 

In those definitions, the aspects that get focused on the most are the time periods; the pro-abortion argument says what is in the womb is technically only a fetus after about 8 weeks, therefore, before that, it’s nothing but a ‘clump of cells.’ That argument is dangerous, evil, and plain wrong. A two-day old embryo has zero probability of turning into anything else except a human being. There is no chance it could turn into a watermelon, or a rock, or a piece of string, or anything else other than a baby human. The only thing that can happen to it other than developing into a human is not fully developing at all, and that is called a miscarriage, which unfortunately happens to about 10%–15% of expectant mothers. In other words, at what stage the fetus is in when it is killed is irrelevant to the discussion of whether or not they should be terminated. Those fetuses have an 85% chance of coming to full term, and a 100% chance of coming to full term as human beings. Abortion is not simply getting rid of ‘a clump of cells’, it is eradicating a baby by stripping it from its mother’s womb and dismantling it limb from limb. Former abortionist provider, Dr. Anthony Levatino, attested to this very truth before a house judiciary committee in 2019. The entire transcript of his address to the Kansas Senate Health and Human Services Committee can be found here.

The argument that abortions are fine because the fetus is not a human being is a slippery slope at best. That statement is not a prophecy; one can simply look at the policies being pushed today to see that. Politicians and community leaders have been openly pushing for late term abortions, termination far past the stages at which fetuses can survive after birth, since 2019. The linked Atlantic article states:

By defending more expansive abortion rights even in the face of these facts, Democrats are exposing an uncomfortable reality that they would rather not acknowledge: They embrace abortion as a woman’s right to end the life of her fetus at any stage—not the right to end her pregnancy.

At 24 weeks, and now even as early as 21 weeks, newborn infants have survived outside the womb with the help of neonatal intensive care. In Cuomo’s New York—and possibly someday soon in Northam’s Virginia—healthy, viable fetuses even after 24 weeks could easily be killed in the womb rather than delivered.

This is why the abortion-rights movement has long relied upon euphemisms to obscure the unpleasant truth about the right they advocate. Phrases like women’s rights, the right to choose, and reproductive freedom dominate their advocacy, along with dismissive jargon like clumps of cells.

But in defending bills that expand the right to abort viable fetuses, Democrats are giving away the game. Most people, even those who favor some abortion access, instinctively recoil from what they see. These late-term abortion bills do more than reveal Democratic radicalism. They draw back the veil of euphemism to expose abortion for what it is: At every stage of pregnancy, it is the taking of a human life. For the anti-abortion movement, it is a pivotal moment to insist upon that truth.

Again, the argument has been made that late term abortions are only needed in cases where the baby threatens the life of the mother. And again, the twofold problem with that argument is:

  1. To save the life of the mother, the baby does not have to be killed.
  2. The crux of the pro-abortion position is “my body, my choice.”

If the trajectory of the pro-choice/pro-abortion evolving policy over the past few decades is any indication, we will be right back at the debate stages discussing whether or not a woman has a right to kill her baby at any stage of her pregnancy for any reason. And those on the side of life will continue to lose those debates. 

This is what is evil about the pro-abortion stance. It purports to care about the mother and child, but cares about neither. As soon as there is a foothold to be had, they do the bait-and-switch. First the slogan was that abortions were to be “safe legal and rare,” then it became “my body, my choice,” then “late term abortions are only for the rarest of circumstances,” and now we’re back at the “stop controlling a woman’s body” phase. 

The child conceived is not at fault. Even in cases of rape or incest, which make up a fraction of 1% of pregnancies, though tragic, and traumatic, the baby is still not at fault.

If protecting a baby’s life is seen as controlling a woman’s body, the “safe, legal and rare” argument is obsolete. If life in the womb is not really life, or at least not life worth protecting, then who is to say abortions can’t be plentiful? Who cares whether or not it’s rare? Who cares if black American women particularly, even though they are 14% of the childbearing population, account for 37% of the nation’s abortions? It doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of the pro-abortion argument. 

The truth however, is that it does matter. Having sex has potential consequences, and sometimes the consequence is getting pregnant. The child conceived is not at fault. Even in cases of rape or incest, which make up a fraction of 1% of pregnancies, though tragic, and traumatic, the baby is still not at fault. As stated in the beginning of this article, there are countless programs to give mothers the support they need in taking care of their baby. Killing the baby should never even be a topic of discussion. The person at fault in those scenarios are the rapists, who should face life in prison at best.

One other argument often made on the pro-abortion side is “don’t you believe the man should be held accountable for the baby as well?” My, and virtually all of the pro-life community, answer is a resounding ‘yes!’ My personal position is that absent and bad fathers are to blame for many societal ills including abortion, but this article isn’t about fathers; this one is. I am very passionate about fathers standing in their rightful place as priests over their homes and the redemptive effect it will have on the world. But I have to stress again: the pro-abortionists do not actually care about preventing abortions, so they do not really care about men being good fathers. One should not waste their time and energy making such involved arguments to those who will not even agree that a baby, the most innocent of the entire human species, is a life worthy of saving. We must start there, and stay there, until all human life is cherished, valued, and protected.

To life~



Examining the ‘Israeli Century’

It seems undeniable that the Jewish world’s center of gravity has shifted decisively in favor of Israel. The Jewish state now contains the majority of the world’s Jews, or is about to. It has become the place where Jewish history is being made, for good or ill. Many Diaspora communities remain vital, but they are shrinking in both numbers and influence — especially in the United States.

Israel, in other words, is swiftly becoming hegemonic.

This change and its repercussions are the subject of Yossi Shain’s fascinating new book, “The Israeli Century: How the Zionist Revolution Changed History and Reinvented Judaism.” As the title suggests, Shain believes that, in the current century, it is Israel that will define Jewish life. The Diaspora will continue to exist, he says, and this is not a bad thing; but the prevailing zeitgeist will be Israeli.

To make his case, Shain sweeps through Jewish history both ancient and modern. He sketches the development of Jewish sovereignty, its relationship to the Diaspora that has existed since the Babylonian exile, and the constant push-pull between them. This relationship, Shain posits, has always been complex and fraught. It was, after all, the Babylonian Diaspora that formulated what we think of today as Judaism, and brought it back with them to the Land of Israel when they returned from exile. At the same time, however, the ancient Jewish states — there were several — remained the center of Jewish life, culture, religion, and historical development.

With the destruction of the Temple and the genocide that followed the Bar Kochba revolt, however, the Jewish people had to rethink the idea of sovereignty. Judea was scorched earth, but leaders like the rabbis of Yavne managed to save the Jewish people by creating a kind of sovereignty of the imagination, in which the Land of Israel and Jewish statehood became pure memory, to be restored in the messianic era.

Shain notes that Judaism did not — as some believe — fully divorce itself from politics, but it became a politics that was either internal to the semi-autonomous Diaspora communities or one of negotiation and compromise with the Jews’ gentile overlords, undertaken to head off the disastrous expulsions and pogroms that regularly struck the Jewish people.

With the coming of modernity, Shain posits, this began to change, and it did so rather quickly. In effect, two strains of thought developed. One was the rejection of sovereignty formulated by the assimilated German Jewish communities, codified in the theology of Reform Judaism. This, he says, “meant embracing a broad, scientific education, fluency in German as a substitute for the Yiddish of the shtetls, Protestant ethics, a refined manner, and rules of conduct that reflected their enlightenment, judiciousness, and membership of a flourishing and modern bourgeoisie.”

Abraham Geiger, the founder of Reform Judaism, turned this ambition into a theological imperative. He wanted, Shain notes, for the Jews to change “from being a ‘compact nationality’ into ‘a diaspora in which Jews lived among the nations whom they were destined to instruct.’” Shain adds, “In the new Reform doctrine, Prophetic Judaism was depicted as hostile to the idea of sovereignty.”

Sovereignty, the reformers believed, would corrupt the essence of Judaism, which was to bear witness to and educate the world in the prophetic message. To engage in the world of earthly politics, let alone modern power politics, was something like heresy. Shain describes Reform as formulating “a doctrine based on denying that the Jews were an ethno-national tribe and framing their Jewish revival as a ‘universal church’ that would promote social justice.”

It was these German reformers who established the first relatively large Jewish communities in the United States, and they brought their theological beliefs with them. Shain notes, “The descendants of German Jewish immigrants, who affiliated with the Reform Movement, wanted to put an end once and for all to the incessant questions about their national loyalty. In 1885, they adopted the Pittsburgh Platform, which declared that the Jews were ‘no longer a nation, but a religious community.’”

At the same time, ironically, the Reform vision was failing in Europe. The massive rise in a new, modern antisemitism prompted a rejection of that vision in the form of Zionism. Shain quotes Zionist founding father Moses Hess describing his Zionist awakening: “It dawned upon me for the first time, in the midst of my socialistic activities, that I belong to my unfortunate, slandered, despised and dispersed people. And already, then, though I was greatly estranged from Judaism, I wanted to express my Jewish patriotic sentiment in a cry of anguish.”

Shain also cites the great scholar of the Kabbalah Gershom Scholem, who said of the assimilationist Jews who surrounded him in his German youth that they “lacked discrimination in all matters affecting themselves, yet in all other matters they mustered that faculty for reasoning, criticism, and vision,” which Scholem called a form of “self-deception.” And the great Zionist poet Haim Nahman Bialik, Shain notes, condemned the reformers’ worldview by simply noting, “They stood not firm on the day of wrath.”

In the end, the Zionists won the argument, though in the most tragic way possible. The reformers stayed in Europe, and they died; the Zionists went to Palestine, and they survived. The Holocaust annihilated the assimilationist vision, and the Reform attempt to educate the gentiles in the prophetic vision was incinerated in the ovens of Auschwitz. With the successful establishment of a Jewish state, the Zionists believed that the debate was over. Assimilation and reform didn’t work, the Jewish state did, and that was the end of it.

For myself, who was born an American Jew in a Reform context and eventually rejected it and made aliyah, the most interesting part of Shain’s book is his description of the aftermath: the Zionists may have triumphed on the world stage, but the debate that they felt was settled has continued in the United States. There, the Reform movement remains the dominant strain of Judaism, and has always displayed a measured ambivalence toward the idea of sovereignty. Indeed, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many Reform leaders and public figures violently rejected Zionism, until the Holocaust finally marginalized them.

While the Reform movement today accepts Zionism, it continues to display a cautious ambivalence toward it. As Shain notes:

It was in this context that the Reform Movement adopted the new Pittsburgh Platform in 1999, which embraced Zionism and affirmed the “unique qualities of living in … the land of Israel,” but also called for cultural and religious pluralism in the country. The progressive movement hoped to reinforce its legitimacy and institutional standing in the United States by deepening its involvement in Israel.

The Reform movement, in other words, wants to have it both ways: to accept Jewish sovereignty without giving up the theology first articulated by Geiger — the Jews as a universal people dedicated to education of the gentiles in the prophetic vision through the advocacy of social justice.

Shain believes this was codified when “the Reform Movement officially adopted tikkun olam in its doctrine in 1997, and it quickly became synonymous with progressive politics. Ruth Messinger, the former Manhattan borough president and head of the American Jewish World Service … argued that tikkun olam would ‘deter antisemitism by demonstrating that Jews work to provide social justice and dignity for all people regardless of race, religion, and ethnicity.’”

In Shain’s view, this push-pull between Israel and the Diaspora, Reform and Zionism, the particular and the universal, ensuring Jewish sovereignty and educating the gentiles, is the essential issue to be debated and resolved in the “Israeli Century.” He concludes:

At exactly the time of a deep moral crisis among liberal American Jews, who search for a new Jewish, moral, universal foothold in the face of assimilation, the disintegration of communities, and the increasing alienation from Israel, the Israeli Century will require, more than anything else, Jewish creativity that is both rooted and cosmopolitan, which will find a new balance among the threats, both from within and without, facing Jews in Israel and across the Diaspora.

Shain’s is an insightful and, for the most part, accurate assessment of the current state of Israel-Diaspora relations. However, Shain is not an American, and as an Israeli, he is at least somewhat foreign to the intricacies of American Jewish life. This leads him, I think, to miss something quite important: in America, it is probable that the old debate between Reform and Zionism will not be decided by “Jewish creativity.” It is much more likely to be resolved by history itself; and the Zionist argument appears to be winning again.

Indeed, given recent events, especially over the past year, Messinger’s statement seems somewhat farcical. In particular, there is no indication whatsoever that “tikkun olam” is deterring antisemitism in any way. Over the last 20 years, the progressive movement that the slogan symbolizes has become increasingly antisemitic, and while the far-right has committed horrific acts of antisemitic violence, there has also been a wave of attacks on Jews committed almost entirely by leftists, Muslims, and people of color — constituencies that are generally represented by and an active part of the progressive movement. And as shown when the Congressional Black Caucus blocked a censure of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) following her antisemitic statements, to advocate “social justice and dignity for all people regardless of race, religion, and ethnicity” has accomplished very little, even within mainstream politics. Put simply, the tikkunists “stood not firm on the day of wrath.”

As such, Shain is likely wrong that the Israeli Century will “require, more than anything else, Jewish creativity that is both rooted and cosmopolitan.” It seems more likely that the American Jewish upper class — which has always dominated Reform Judaism — will mostly disappear, whether through demographic or ideological collapse. Those who remain will give up on rootedness entirely, and embrace radical progressivism — whatever its real-world impact on the Jewish people.

Faced with this, the question becomes what the Jewish middle and under-classes — who still make up the majority of Reform Jewish congregations in America — will do in response. It seems to me that the imperative of the moment is not to try to work out a balance via “Jewish creativity,” but to attempt to formulate a form of Zionism that can be reconciled with life in the Diaspora.

Most American Jews are very unlikely to make aliyah, and ironically, a total identification with the State of Israel as it currently exists may be counterproductive. What is open to American Jews, however, is something Shain seems to suggest with his idea of the Israeli Century itself: a kind of “Zionism of the spirit,” in which the essential principles of Zionism are given a Diaspora context. These include things like Jewish solidarity, empowerment, self-defense, cultural development, identity, and pride; as well as such basics as the Hebrew language, knowledge of Jewish history and thought, and insistence on a strident protection of the Jewish body. Zionism, above all, teaches that the Jews have a right to be for themselves as much as for others; and this idea is as important and powerful in the Diaspora as it is in Israel.

Shain’s thesis of an Israeli Century is, in fact, something of a way forward in this regard. If he is right that Israel is now the dominating force in Jewish history — and he is unquestionably right — then its task should be to foster and support this Zionism of the spirit in the Diaspora. This will be difficult, but if it succeeds, it could well provide what he calls the “new Jewish, moral, universal foothold” the Diaspora needs, especially in the United States.

This is very much in the interests of Israel in the Israeli Century — however daunting challenges like “assimilation, the disintegration of communities, and the increasing alienation from Israel” may appear to be at the moment. For myself, as one who was and no longer is an American Jew, I can only embrace the words of Chaim Weizmann, quoted by Shain himself: “They can give up on us, but we cannot give up on them.”


Reprinted with permission from The Algemeiner

Benjamin Kerstein is a columnist and the Israel Correspondent for The Algemeiner. His website can be viewed here and his books purchased at Amazon.com.

Star Trek’s Soul on Display at Los Angeles Exhibit

Does Star Trek have a Jewish soul—or at least a humanistic one? Seekers may find confirmation in a new museum show, Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds, at a Jewish institution, the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. The show will run through February 20, 2022. While you will have to bring your own interpretation to the stories, costumes, sets, weapons, and props on display, you may never look at Star Trek quite the same way again.

Star Trek, which broke ground a half century ago (featuring television’s first interracial kiss) remains relevant today, including its current incarnations. The Star Trek universe got a brief flurry of publicity in 2021 when William Shatner, the Captain Kirk of the original series, flew into space. After the 90-year-old Shatner blasted on Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket, he was officially recognized as an astronaut. He was also recognized as the oldest person—and certainly the oldest Jew—ever in space.

To some, Kirk and Spock, as played by Shatner and Nimoy, represent different Jewish archetypes.

But it is a photo of the other Jewish star of Star Trek, the late Leonard Nimoy, in character as Mr. Spock, who greets visitors to Exploring New Worlds. 

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry invited actors to infuse elements of their personal identities into their characters. So Nimoy developed the splayed finger “live long and prosper” Vulcan salute from the birkat kohanim “blessing of the Kohanim.” As a child in Boston, he watched in awe as rabbis descended from the high priest Aaron put their hands into a shape that resembles the letter shin to bless congregants. Nimoy transferred the gesture conferring peace and blessing to the alien (yet oddly familiar) Vulcan culture invented by Star Trek.

To some, Kirk and Spock, as played by Shatner and Nimoy, represent different Jewish archetypes. Spock is the traditional Torah scholar, the product of a learned civilization, the possessor of rabbinical wisdom. But Kirk, as played by Shatner, is a new kind of Jew, a bold leader, two-fisted, an assimilated American or an Israeli commando (the Six Day War took place after the first season.)

She looked up to see Martin Luther King telling her how much he enjoyed Star Trek, the only show he allowed his children to stay up to watch.

Developed by Gene Roddenberry, a secular humanist and World War II veteran, Star Trek has a history of inspiring people. Star Trek has driven interest in science and space, certainly, but also captured imaginations with its vision of a more tolerant, united society. 

Mae Jemison, the first Black woman in space, was among a new generation of astronauts recruited for NASA by Nichelle Nichols, the show’s iconic Uhura. Jemison says, “I appreciate and love the character Uhura, but I like many characters on Star Trek.” The show “told a lot about a hopeful future where we were able to get past our differences.”

Nichols herself had once been ready to leave the show to follow her Broadway dream. After she gave Roddenberry her resignation letter, she attended an awards show. An organizer interrupted her dinner, asking her to meet a “famous fan.” She looked up to see Martin Luther King telling her how much he enjoyed Star Trek, the only show he allowed his children to stay up to watch. 

But when Nichols mentioned her impending departure, King told her, “You cannot. Don’t you see what this man [Roddenberry] is doing, who has written this? This is the future. He has established us as we should be seen. Three hundred years from now, we are here. We are marching. And this is the first step. When we see you, we see ourselves, and we see ourselves as intelligent and beautiful and proud.” Nichols went back to work on the following Monday. She told Roddenberry, as a tear rolled down his cheek, “Gene, if you want me to stay, I will stay. There’s nothing I can do but stay.”

While representation and tolerance were important themes, Star Trek was meant to be enjoyed as entertainment. At Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds, costumes, props, and relics holy to Trekkers and casual fans alike are on display. They range from a restored navigation console from the original series to communicators, tricorders, phasers, and filming models of the USS Enterprise. There’s a captain’s chair to sit in and a transporter simulator to “beam up.” 

Costume fans will enjoy Spock’s tunic as worn by Leonard Nimoy, Lt. Uhura’s dress as worn by Nichelle Nichols, and of course the open-chest tunic worn by Ricardo Montalbán in The Wrath of Khan. Other outfits include Captain Picard’s uniform worn by Patrick Stewart, a Borg costume, and the rubber suit inhabited by the brutal alien Gorn, whose life was nonetheless spared by Captain Kirk.

Ironically, the show’s founder, Gene Roddenberry was a lapsed Baptist turned secular humanist who rejected overt display of religion. So why has Star Trek landed in Los Angeles at a museum “deeply rooted in Jewish heritage and inspired by its values?” 

Certainly, Los Angeles is the perfect place for the exhibition. As the Red Hot Chili Peppers sang in Californication, “Space may be the final frontier, but it’s made in a Hollywood basement.” But why a Jewish cultural institution?

The original show had major contributions from Jewish actors like Leonard Nimoy, (Spock), Walter Koenig (Chekov), and Shatner. Jewish writers were well-represented, like Robert Bloch, Shimon Wincelberg, Don Mankiewicz, Harlan Ellison, Jerry Sohl, and David Gerrold, as were producers and musicians. 

But the values of Star Trek, such as inclusion, integration, and discovery are equally important. The show broke barriers with a Japanese American, an African-American, and a number of Jewish stars on the bridge. 

Star Trek also aligns with Jewish values including seeking learning, pursuing justice, honoring memory, and showing kindness while rebuilding the world (tikkun olam). 

In addition to Jewish references, Star Trek also has Holocaust parallels. In “Patterns of Force,” Nimoy and Shatner disguise themselves as Nazis to infiltrate the planet Ekos.

“For 55 years, Star Trek has portrayed a future in which diverse crews of humans and interplanetary species work together toward a common goal, strengthened by their members’ different cultures, abilities, and perspectives,” says Sheri Bernstein, Skirball Museum Director. There is a close connection between this optimistic, inclusive vision and our Skirball mission, which is guided by Jewish traditions of welcoming the stranger, fostering community, promoting justice, and celebrating hope and discovery.”

In “Dagger of the Mind,” an episode of the original show, a character refers to the famous formulation of Rabbi Hillel, who was once asked to summarize the Torah while standing on one foot. “Don’t do to others what is hateful to you.” The episode was written by S. Bar-David, a pseudonym for well-known TV writer Shimon Wincelberg, a Jewish refugee from Hitler’s Germany. 

In addition to Jewish references, Star Trek also has Holocaust parallels. In “Patterns of Force,” Nimoy and Shatner disguise themselves as Nazis to infiltrate the planet Ekos. The planet’s rulers have adopted National Socialism and are attempting a Final Solution to eliminate the neighboring Zeons. Kirk and Spock derail the impending genocide, but not before the Jewish Nimoy remarks to the Jewish Shatner, “You should make a very convincing Nazi.”

Although an atheist, Roddenberry believed in tolerance while condemning false prophets.” He said, “Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms.” 

Not everyone bought into Roddenberry’s worldview, however. Irritated at how the dialog for his script “The City on the Edge of Forever” was rewritten, the caustic Jewish writer Harlan Ellison said it now featured “precisely the kind of dopey Utopian bullshit that Roddenberry loved.”

“The best of Star Trek is when the metaphors and allegories are subtle,” says Scott Mantz, an entertainment reporter and co-consultant of programming for Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds.

“People often ask if Judaism was part of Star Trek,” Nimoy said in a 2008 speech to a Jewish audience in Montreal. “The answer is definitely yes. Education is a Jewish value, and all of the members of the Starship Enterprise were highly educated. So are individual dignity and social justice, which were a big deal in Star Trek. As a Jew I had a strong sense of comfort with the series. I felt at home.” 

Nimoy was a supporter of Jewish institutions, including a childhood center at Temple Israel of Hollywood and the Susan and Leonard Nimoy Career Center at Beit T’Shuvah, a Jewish recovery center. He was also a Hollywood mensch; as a producer of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, he helped 70-year-old DeForest Kelley get a million-dollar payday for his final film. 

“The best of Star Trek is when the metaphors and allegories are subtle,” says Scott Mantz, an entertainment reporter and co-consultant of programming for Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds

Mantz says Jewish-themed episodes include shows about Genesis, the Garden of Eden and false idols like those Abraham smashed. “In the episode ‘The Apple,’ the people the Enterprise encounter live in a garden of Eden but live only to take care of a machine.”

“One thing about Judaism is about honoring memory,” Mantz adds. “In the film The Wrath of Khan, McCoy says to Admiral Kirk when Spock dies, ‘He’s really not dead as long as we remember him.’ At the end, the crew on the bridge is sitting shiva for Spock, honoring his memory.”

“When I think of what it means to be Jewish, I think of diversity and hope and acceptance and tolerance,” Mantz says. Star Trek, which aired just twenty years after the Holocaust, “is about tolerance–after the greatest display of intolerance of the last thousand years.”

Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds

Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049

310-440-4500; skirball.org


The Rebel’s Rage

Look quickly now the goal’s in sight,
We need just dare and take the fight;
Never weary of the weight,
Don’t ever falter from the fate.

Leave the world behind that can’t be borne,
Not one more day of servant-thorn;
The load of human-wretch has none,
That could with force to have me done.

And though alone am I to ease my load,
The earth’s a fool to think it’s bold;
Since only God’s and angels’ eyes,
Can ever see my tears and cries.

Who can mend the times when bad,
Or change the face of some so sad?
Only those who know the age,
That revels in the rebel’s rage.


Virtue and Vice

The Self-Abnegation of the New Prohibitionists

“Change in a trice
The lilies and languors of virtue
For the raptures and roses of vice.”

Algernon Swinburne

Today’s political elite can truly be called the new prohibitionists. To paraphrase writer Anne Hingston, they “Restrict first, discuss never.”

Recent history, from the time of Prohibition in 1920s’ America, has demonstrated that attempts by the state to engage in social engineering are doomed to failure. People will always get what they want. And in so doing strengthen the so-called criminal elements among us. The only proper role for the state is to protect citizens from violence and from threats of, or incitement to, violence.

To those who would argue that the health costs of indulgence in tobacco, alcohol, and drugs are a strain on the health-care system, we would remind them that citizens who indulge in hedonistic pleasures pay enormous consumption taxes on the products they buy—eight times greater on average than “virtuous” citizens—most of which go to support the health-care system and environmental agencies. They also tend to die younger thereby being less of a burden on the chronic-care system. That is their choice. And the freedom to choose—even badly—is a foundational principle of a free society as Justice Louis Brandeis reminded us all. 

When Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau said in 1968 that government has no place in the bedrooms of the nation—just before removing homosexuality from his nation’s Criminal Code—he meant that it had no role regulating actions of consenting adults. Not everything is going to be perfect in life. Not every problem can be solved by legislation. No politician should pretend it can and be allowed to put into force straight-jacket law that seeks to micro-manage every aspect of our lives. 

What the new prohibitionists share is an anti-liberal sentiment in that they seek to curtail the basic liberties of natural law that is the patrimony of every human being. They get away with it because too many of us have surrendered to the sovereignty of self-abnegation.

Those who try should be exposed for what they truly are. Unimaginative and cowardly functionaries staggering from election to election who—fearful of tackling the vested interests on the really important issues necessary to protect the public good—hope that creating some body of fear will provide just enough fodder for some publicity come election time. As Tacitus wrote, “When the state is most impotent, the laws are most multiplied.”

Some governments make noises about decriminalizing marijuana, but at the same time propose to give police unlimited powers to stop drivers for random drug checks in their cars. Others, in an effort to placate women’s rights groups, legislate laws permitting workers to sue employers for the novel tort of “psychological harassment.” A politician’s friend dies in an inline-skating accident so everyone is quickly forced to wear a helmet if they take a bicycle or scooter. His colleague wants teens to stay in school so he orders them not to drop out till age 18, no matter how little they want to be in class and no matter what their parents think. A big city mayor authorizes police cameras at street level in his city’s university quarter ostensibly to curtail drug sales, but that in fact violate the privacy of all citizens by indiscriminately capturing images of the activities of all passersby.

Government’s role must be one of persuasion and education, not compulsion and coercion… The role of the state is to protect us from each other, not from ourselves.

What the new prohibitionists share is an anti-liberal sentiment in that they seek to curtail the basic liberties of natural law that is the patrimony of every human being. They get away with it because too many of us have surrendered to the sovereignty of self-abnegation. We have become a people plagued by a self-doubt driven by a jealousy of others’ self-belief. And in the process have created a self-imposed tyranny that mutes individual integrity and conscience and trades them for the false security demanded by state-sponsored bureaucratic consensus.

Modigliani’s painting, Dylan Thomas’ poetry, Hemingway’s novels, and even Tom Paine’s polemics would be lost to the ages if they had to survive on alfalfa sprouts and vitamins and succumb to political correctness and temperance. Our lives would be the worse for it, devoid of passion or purpose.

Government’s role must be one of persuasion and education, not compulsion and coercion, no matter how odious a citizen’s personal habit may be. The dark side of our governors is that they engage in unbridled intervention in matters of private domain to punish the governed into virtuous conduct. But legislators don’t know what’s right for us. They barely know what’s right for themselves. The role of the state is to protect us from each other, not from ourselves.

As Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “Those who would trade permanent liberty for temporary security shall, in the end, have neither liberty nor security.”


Image credit: From “The Libertine,” Johnny Depp as John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, a licentious poet in the court of King Charles II of England.

Hallmarks of Tyranny (2)

Part 2: Brainwashing

The ultimate goal of totalitarianism, Arendt says, is to dominate people from within. To keep them in a constant state of anxiety, with a moving narrative.

A section of the UK population, and in other liberal democracies, experience other citizens as unreachable when trying to open a discussion about Covid-19 policy. They get blanked, or attacked, for even posing questions. For sharing information on immunity, I have been called an anti-vaxxer, a conspiracy theorist and a Trump supporter!

What has happened to people’s critical thinking? Why is it, since March 2020, in order to belong to society, you now have to hold specific beliefs:

  1. Lockdowns control the behavior of viruses 
  2. Cloth masks stop viral transmission
  3. Immunity only comes via a vaccine. Naturally acquired immunity no longer exists.
  4. The rights of the individual are subordinate to the greater good. 
  5. Anyone not in step with the above is a bad person, a danger to society, an ‘anti-vaxxer’. 

How on earth did so many people accept government Covid policy, when never before in history have healthy people been locked down en masse. Surely, it is legitimate to question this, and examine evidence to support such a radical departure from the normal practice of isolating the sick, whilst protecting the vulnerable.

However, nearly two years down the line, questioning the government narrative is still met with derision, aggression and often name calling from a significant percentage of the population.

Science and democracy traditionally move forward, through civilized debate of opposing views. Not so since March 2020. It is not just members of the public who are pounced on and ostracized for having the audacity to ask questions.

Many eminent scientists have also been ridiculed and censored from the public arena for advocating different measures, such as the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration (1). Evidence has just been released to show that, in their case, the smear campaign came from the top, from Fauci, the Director of NIH, and the man in charge of America’s response to Covid-19 (2).

Articulated concern for civil liberties, closed businesses, children’s education, soaring mental health problems, including suicides, and three quarters of a million missed cancer diagnoses, get met with blank stares, or condescending replies:

‘It’s for our protection’, ‘It’s to protect the NHS’.

Why are people who fight for minority rights, now so energetically othering anyone who challenges the government line? People will champion ‘my body, my choice’  for women’s rights, and in the next breath damn anyone making an informed choice not to take an experimental vaccine. They no longer view bodily autonomy, as the given it previously was, and an essential ingredient of democracy.

People have even been told what to call anyone questioning the government Covid narrative. Illogically, they are all called anti-vaxxers, even if they support vaccines, but not mandates.

In September 2021, the Mercian-Webster dictionary changed their definition of anti-vaxxer, to include people who oppose mandates (3). It is a ploy of tyranny to change language in order to alter the truth.

Are we looking at a phenomenon similar to that described by Hannah Arendt (The Origins of Totalitarianism Hannah Arendt (1966) Penguin Books.), when she speaks of the totalitarian masses? “…the fanaticised members can be reached by neither experience nor argument; identification with the movement and total conformism seem to have destroyed the very capacity for experience…”

How did it happen that so many have fixed beliefs that are unreachable by reason or data? And, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, anyone outside this belief system is classed a sinner. It is like mass conversion to a cult through brainwashing.

Are we actually looking at something like brainwashing?

Brainwashing was studied by an American sociologist, Albert Biderman, in 1957 (Biderman, A. D. (1957). Communist attempts to elicit false confessions from Air Force prisoners of war. Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 33(9), 616-625 ncbi.nlm.nih.govarchive.org). He looked at the conditions that had led American prisoners of war to return home with a new set of beliefs, after the Korean War. Chinese and Korean captors used specific methods to indoctrinate the soldiers in Chinese ideology. These servicemen had to undergo re-education before they were able to return to American society.

These conditions happen to exactly map onto those used by governments, since March 2020. Known as Biderman’s Principles, they are listed in the chart below. Eight chronological methods of treatment, Biderman found, lead to an individual becoming brainwashed.

Biderman’s Chart of Coercion (6)

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Examining the conditions listed in the left-hand column, it’s clear that these have operated since March 2020 in the UK, as well as globally. People were isolated in their homes, through lockdown, and subjected to a single narrative by the mainstream media, broadcasting an unchallenged government line. This tactic encourages people to bond with the government. With a fear generating narrative, people follow government measures which relieve their anxiety.

The people, in my experience, who appear to be in a deep Covid cult are those who were able to fully lockdown and work from home, as opposed to frontline workers like postmen, bin men and delivery staff who couldn’t.

Alleged non compliance, such as the two friends drinking coffee on a walk in Derbyshire (7), were humiliated through disproportionate media coverage.

On New Year’s Eve, 2021, in Glasgow, a pub was raided by six van loads of police, and older customers were tackled to the ground. Apparently, because three people were dancing (8).

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The pub’s license was threatened and the state, through the police, shows its omnipotence and the futility of noncompliance.

Uncertainty about making plans has caused exhaustion and anxiety:

“Will we have Christmas?” “Will I be able to visit my dying relative?” “Will the children be in school?” “Yes, you can go on holiday,” offers relief and reward, but then the rules change continuously, and people are made to obey rules that either make no sense, or seem trivial demands. In a Dorset church, where the Vicar is mask exempt, some members are trying to get him sacked, because he spontaneously sang without a mask, forgetting for a split second that this was against regulations (9).

We have, in fact, been subjected to a political hokey kokey. The government puts one policy in, then takes it out, in, out, in, out, then they shake it all about, with details that have no logical sense. Measures are hinted at, and then threatened: “We’re not going to introduce…. We may have to introduce this…… we may unless you do this…. for example, “take boosters to save Christmas.”

The conditions we have lived under since March 2020, are not supported by scientific data (10). Is it coincidental that they follow Biderman’s principles? These methods have been known to tyrants at least since the Korean War.

We know that there was deliberate foul play by the CCP at the beginning of 2020. Information came from China that was designed to over scare the world about the virus. Our media broadcast people dropping dead in the streets of Wuhan and details of a hospital built by China in three days. These have been shown to be lies, as is clearly evidenced by Michael Senger’s seminal article in the Tablet magazine (10).

Again, it was through China’s influence that the WHO recommended lockdowns (10). This was on the say so of the CCP, and not data.

Yet the government and media, rather than address the influence of the CCP, continue to obsess with a narrow focus on the virus, counting and reporting the number of Sarscov2 infections. The Covid narrative is kept center stage, and moving. The numbers of people with colds from the mild omicron variant were continually reported through the Christmas holidays of December 2021, without much emphasis on the good news data from South Africa (11).

If we have been influenced into measures. still unsubstantiated by data, that have destroyed infrastructure, where is the national debate? And where is the national debate on the origin of the virus, which is now seen as most likely coming from the Wuhan lab of virology. How can trickery from a super power not be of utmost national interest? And we ignore at our peril the greatest transfer of wealth from nation states to global corporations, and from the citizens to the richest 1% (12) which governmental Covid policies has brought about.

Mass brainwashing is what Dr Matthias Desmet, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Ghent University, Belgium (13) calls “crowd or mass formation”. He points out that when you have mass formation, which he says is the same as mass hypnosis, people get a new sense of connectedness that is unifying. The rituals of masks and lockdowns give people a sense of solidarity.

Once people accept the starting point of a logic, all that follows on from this is accepted. To ‘save the NHS’, they will believe anything is necessary; for example, accepting that old people should die alone, women should give birth in masks and children should sit with their faces covered for eight hours a day. Previously accepted ethics are thrown out the window.

“Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.”

Primo Levi.

Desmet believes that for mass formation to occur, people needed to feel disconnected and have no meaning in their lives prior to the crisis. Many I observe in deep Covid cult are socially well connected, and part of strong meaningful communities. It’s my belief that the measures imposed since March 2020, coupled with a ratcheting up of fear, have themselves been sufficient to create the brainwashing.

Desmet says about 30% of the population are in deep mass hypnosis. These are the people who believe in removing the civil liberties of the outliers. He suggests 50% are not in deep hypnosis, but will not speak out against the status quo. The remaining 20% are not hypnotized and represent those prepared to speak against the accepted public narrative.

What can be done about mass brainwashing ?

Many find they hit a brick wall, or an attacking wolf, when they try to open a conversation about the COVID-19 narrative. In Psychology of the Crowds (1895), however, Gustave Le Bon says that it is imperative to keep speaking out, because it stops the mass hypnosis from getting deeper. Mass formation can lead to atrocities, because people believe they are doing their duty to maintain public safety. Dissonant voices need to remain in public spaces to prevent a possible progression to unspeakable acts against the outliers.

Desmet, as do I, recommends speaking out with a voice of reason and compassion. I suggest concentrating on the 50%. On occasion it is difficult not to feel angry with people who fail to see the threat of increasing authoritarianism. However, it’s important to remember that it is those in, or with social power, who have created this global situation, not them.

It is alarming to have a society running on neither reason nor science (15), like a return to pre-enlightenment thinking, or an era of post truth, as Mark Pickles says so well (16). My experience of those in the cult grip tells me it is a robust phenomenon. I do believe, however, that human behavior is multi-layered. The hypnotized can be brought back by the click of a hypnotist’s fingers. What will be the factors that trigger people out of mass hypnosis, even if, it’s on a one-by-one basis?

We had an example of this from Carole Malone, a regular guest on the Dan Wooton Show on GBNews. After having a cold from omicron, her mindset switched completely, from that of an authoritarian Covid cultist to a wise medicine woman. You could witness that her previous anxiety about ’the killer virus’ had drained from her face.

Take heart in the belief that speaking out is the right thing to do. Let us hope enough see the destruction that these social measures are causing in the UK, and elsewhere, and that the world’s liberal democracies can reclaim the way of life that their name implies.


The Clouds Gather

For decades, the clouds of socialism have been hovering over the United States of America, gathering together to unleash their destructive force upon millions of freedom-loving Americans.

In nature, when clouds gather, it takes a perfect combination of conditions for a devastating storm to occur. First, a low-pressure warm air system has to come from one direction. Then, a high-pressure, cool and dry air system must come from another direction. When these two systems collide, a storm of immense proportions develops and unleashes its power upon the earth. With thunder, lighting, and wind, it wipes out everything that stands in its way; dams break, rivers overflow, flooding occurs, and many lives are lost.

The only equal redistribution that most people of the Soviet Union experienced was the equal redistribution of misery.

Socialism is no different. It takes its time to build followers. When the number of supporters become significant enough to strike, it releases its power upon the rest of the population and takes control of the minds and lives of all citizens.

Socialism is an economic and social theory that advocates for social ownership, government control of the means of production, and elimination of private ownership of property. The state is strongly involved in the redistribution of goods and wealth. Everything is controlled and owned by the state. The totalitarian regime is in charge of natural resources and manufacturing is directed strictly for necessities alone. Private enterprise is forbidden. Socialism’s emphasis is on equality of outcomes instead of personal achievement.

In theory, socialism sounds like a grand idea, but it does not work in real life. The concept of equal redistribution of wealth is not actualized in a socialist society. The only equal redistribution that most people of the Soviet Union experienced was the equal redistribution of misery. 

Even though, in theory, socialism promotes equal rights for all, those rights did not exist in the Soviet Union. The minorities hurt. The socialist government tried to eliminate minorities.

Socialism is a corrupt system. The USSR, the country in which I grew up, was the first victim of socialism. Under the pretense of being concerned about its citizens’ well-being, the members of the Communist Party manipulated them and filled its own pockets with incredible wealth.

In my twenty-four years of living in the USSR, it was perpetually a country of not enough, with endless shortages of food and other necessities of life. No economic system can survive without private enterprise. Without healthy competition, the quality and quantity of production under socialism suffered. The long queues served as a testament to that.

Even though, in theory, socialism promotes equal rights for all, those rights did not exist in the Soviet Union. The minorities hurt. The socialist government tried to eliminate minorities. It discouraged the use of indigenous language and suppressed their culture. In 1944, during World War Two, Stalin deported entire nationalities in cattle trains, including 250,000 Tatars, Chechens, and Ingushi, to work camps in inhospitable regions. 

During and after the death of Stalin, all national minorities underwent intense “Russification.” They were forced or “encouraged” to give up their language in favor of Russian. Use of minority languages was made illegal and writers were forbidden from publishing in any language other than Russian.  The Livonians, a Finno-Ugric people, were one of many indigenous groups who saw their language, their culture, and their way of life eliminated by these edicts.

 Soviet Jews were forbidden from practicing Judaism, because any religion was anathema to communism. I call them “Jews-by-default” because they were stripped of any practices or beliefs that maintained their religious qualities. In order to make them a target of persecution, the authoritarian government came up with a clever plan. They transformed the religion of their ancestors into their nationalities. The fifth question on any official document was always the same; it asked the petitioner to list nationality. For the Jews, their place of birth did not matter. I was born in Kazakhstan, but my nationality was listed as Jewish on my birth certificate. This is how all Soviet Jews were identified as the scapegoats of society and cause for discrimination. 

The infiltration of socialism into America began shortly after the Cold War started, which was initially about the arms race, but later turned into a political conflict between the two ideologies of socialism and capitalism. The USSR and the United States, both participated in the Vietnam and Korean Wars to spread their influence. The Soviets sought to install socialism in these countries. The Cuban Missile Crisis was centered on Cuba’s determination to remain socialist. Many other countries have fallen under the spell of socialism, namely Venezuela most recently. 

In America, those who drive this ideology do it under a different name. They call themselves neo-socialists, progressives, or democratic socialists. The last one just kills me. There was no democracy in the socialist country where I lived. The totalitarian regime of the Communist Party controlled the country, forcing people to live in fear. The “big brother” watched, and the government encouraged neighbors to spy on each other. Neighbors disappeared, and no one saw them again. Envy and jealousy motivated the spying.

I am appalled by … those who refuse to think for themselves and accept everything shoved down their throats by the opinion-makers as pure truth.

During the most challenging times, when food in the USSR became scarce, people went through neighbors’ garbage to see what was there, and if they found onion skins or other discarded scraps of food, they went to the police to report them.

Still, many Americans are enamored by socialism. The sad reality is that most of those people are highly educated, innovative, and intelligent individuals.  I see the clever tactics the media, social media, and institutions of higher learning use to brainwash Americans and convince them to favor socialism, even the highly educated ones. 

The clouds of socialism gather, and the perfect storm is nearby.

Day by day, I observe the warning signs. I am appalled by the stagnated minds of those who refuse to think for themselves and accept everything shoved down their throats by the opinion-makers as pure truth. Every civilized society has destroyed itself from within, and the United States is next in line.

Those who admire socialism call themselves progressives. What a joke! The idea of a democratic socialistic society that they promote is outdated and, moreover, claims to its success has been disproven. It did not work in the USSR, a country of stoic, patriotic people who fought the Germans on the battlefield and bravely laid down their lives in the name of Mother Russia. It did not work in Hungary or Poland and it does not work in Cuba or Venezuela.  

I often wonder when people will learn from history. Why do we continue to repeat the same mistakes made by generations before us?  We are supposed to grow beyond greed, envy, lust for power, and manipulation of minds. What makes the admirers of socialism think such a form of government would work in the United States? It boggles my mind even to entertain this idea. 

I cannot envision America without capitalism, which makes the economy grow and brings advantages and opportunities to everyone. I cannot imagine the American people subjugated by an autocratic, totalitarian regime. It will be the end of the United States and the freedoms this wonderful country protects and preserves for everyone. 

But the longer I live here, the more I see the clouds of socialism gather, and that the perfect storm is nearby.


Woke Terrorism

Jews around the world can all count their Hebrew blessings that an attack on a Texas synagogue on Shabbat, in an 11-hour standoff with a maniacal Muslim gunman on January 15, did not result in the kind of gruesome catastrophe Jewish people have grown accustomed to for well 2,000 years. Maybe the Lone Star State is lucky for those who wear the Star of David. 

This hostage crisis targeting Jews, miraculously, did not escalate into a bloodbath. Indeed, the four worshippers, which included the rabbi, resourcefully fled the sanctuary shortly before the FBI stormed the shul and shot the terrorist.

It should lead to a reckoning among Americans that no matter how many Black Lives Matter marches one joins, there will always be far more hate crimes committed against Jews than any other ethnic or racial group—by a wide margin. But expect no such reckoning.

It goes without saying that other planned attacks—in an astounding number of different nations—have not gone so well. The law of averages when it comes to Jews confronted with those who wish them harm, generally, results in more harrowing crime scenes. Hostages rarely escape. 

It was true of the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics; and a wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer, killed and tossed overboard on the Achille Lauro cruise ship in 1985; two elderly women in Paris, Mireille Knoll stabbed and then torched in her apartment in 2018, and Sarah Halimi, thrown from her balcony in 2017; also in Paris, the slaughter of four Jews in a kosher market in 2015; and in 2006, the torture and murder of Ilan Halimi by an Islamist group properly named the Gang of Barbarians; the murder of a rabbi and three children at a Jewish day school in Toulouse in 2012; the bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires in 1994 leaving 300 wounded and 85 dead; and, of course, closer to home, the murder of 11 at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018, and, a year later, the killing of one woman and serious injuries to three others in a synagogue in Poway, California.

That’s how it usually ends up, and that’s only a partial list of Jewish targets and death tolls. In each case, except for the attacks in the synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, the assailants were Islamists and Palestinian terrorists.

That raises some interesting questions about the way in which this most recent incident of terrorism—against Jews worshipping in Colleyville, Texas, in their Beth Israel Synagogue—has been regarded and reported. And it should lead to a reckoning among Americans that no matter how many Black Lives Matter marches one joins, there will always be far more hate crimes committed against Jews than any other ethnic or racial group—by a wide margin.

But expect no such reckoning.

And it should lead to a reckoning among Jews that they are not so safe in America, after all, and that Orthodox Jews are especially vulnerable to outside animus, among the Jew haters, and inside indifference, among non-practicing and Reform Jews.

President Joe Biden was predictably fuzzy when he speculated that while this was an act of terror, it’s not clear why the gunman spouting anti-Semitic and anti-Israel comments would select a synagogue as his pulpit.

Expect to see no such reckoning, either. 

Among other reasons, the memory of the hostage crisis at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, is already fading. This story with its feel-good ending has already lost momentum in keeping pace with the ever-evolving news cycle. And worse, its Jewish bona fides as a hate crime specifically targeting Jews, and as an act of terrorism against the very people who are most often terrorism’s main target, somehow got lost in translation. 

The FBI’s initial investigation reported that there was no reason to conclude that this was a bias crime at all, nothing “specifically related to the Jewish community.” President Joe Biden was predictably fuzzy when he speculated that while this was an act of terror, it’s not clear why the gunman spouting anti-Semitic and anti-Israel comments would select a synagogue as his pulpit. The president was equally mystified by why an avowed Islamist would threaten to kill Jews unless his demands were met to release an imprisoned female al-Qaeda operative who blamed her conviction on the Jewish hold on America.

You can see how the connecting of these dots required genius levels of deductive reasoning. 

It’s perhaps unfair to blame President Biden for failing to make the necessary linkage between an Islamist assailant and his Jewish victims. When he was Vice-President in the Obama administration, he probably remembered how President Barack Obama described the 2015 kosher market murders in Paris as a “bunch of folks” who were “randomly” shot by a “zealot.”  

When it comes to Jews, apparently, it’s nearly impossible to draw the right conclusions about why so many of them end up dead.

Rather than solve these imponderables, the Colleyville synagogue story quickly became a nonstory, or one that was solely of human interest rather than a crime scene. It surely did not present anti-Semitic urgencies or suggest a crisis in America in its failure to protect Jews. 

Indeed, once the hostages were free, the story itself was taken hostage by a media trained to downplay anti-Semitism altogether. And the Beth Israel nightmare was hijacked further by social justice warriors who are notably meek when it comes to hostility against Jews, unless that story can be spin-doctored to have even a nominal Zionist dimension. In such circumstances, especially if it flagrantly involves Israel, intersectional auxiliary forces are brought in as reinforcements, and a crime against Jews is instantly recharacterized as “they had it comin’.” 

Call it: The Sympathetic Tale of Woke Terrorism. 

A hostage crisis in a synagogue was ripe for distortion and dilution—primarily because the assailant was not a white supremacist, Trump supporter, or budding insurrectionist. Had the Texas gunman been a Proud Boy, a new congressional investigation would have been launched, and the Jewish minority in America would once more be regarded as a legally protected class.

How do I know this to be true? Well, the shooters in Pittsburgh and Poway were anti-immigrant white supremacists—and that’s why those cities are now synonymous with synagogue shootings. Indeed, both Alt-right assailants blamed cosmopolitan Jews for globalizing America and opening the borders to disenfranchise and replace them. We have been warned about Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” and Joe Biden’s “Big Liars.” They are America’s true enemies, a fifth column of trailer trash. It is only when they attack Jews that anti-Semitism is placed on par, provisionally, with racism and Islamophobia. 

But when anti-Semitism is perpetrated by people of color, then calls for solidarity are dismissed as the exaggerated cry of the privileged elite, Jews waving a false flag, demanding special treatment, pretending to be victims rather than white oppressors.

Unlike Pittsburgh and Poway, the murder of Jews in Jersey City, New Jersey, and during Hanukkah in Monsey, New York, in December 2019, by Black Nationalists, received almost no coverage at all by the mainstream press. Similarly, attacks against Jews in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami in May 2021 by pro-Palestinian sympathizers was conveniently excused, ignored, or explained away by both the media and elected officials.  

Apparently, the only story worth reporting on Colleyville was about the rabbi himself, Charlie Cytron-Walker. After all, he had developed a rapport with the terrorist, who he allowed into the synagogue earlier and even made him a glass of tea before realizing he was brandishing a gun. And it was the rabbi who 11 hours later seized an opportunity to toss a chair at their captor, enabling them all to make a break for the exit.

Throughout the day of the ordeal the rabbi was described as an interfaith leader within the greater Colleyville community. This was demonstrated by reports that his wife, and the wife of a local imam, embraced in a church where many of the local religious leaders had gathered. This was a Kodak moment that might have even warmed the heart of Congresswoman and Squad member, Ilhan Omar.

Rabbi Cytron-Walker was hailed as a devout practitioner of tikkun olam (to “repair the world”), which is Reform Judaism parlance for making social justice the centerpiece of one’s Jewish identity and showing far greater concern for the rest of the world than one’s own people. Jews, after all, so over-pampered, are never in need of repair. 

Anti-Semitism is both an inconvenient truth and a shamefully tolerated prejudice.

These are all wonderful images of a rabbi who could very well become the poster boy for the woke left and the spiritual cousin of Bernie Sanders. Ben & Jerry’s is airlifting ice cream to Colleyville as we speak.

Progressives and their intersectional underlings have invested an enormous amount of political capital assigning roles within and creating hierarchies of oppression. And on that list, near the very top, are Jews. Stripped of their historic minority status, Jews, in the political imagination of the hard left, stand among the forever guilty white oppressor class.

It is for this reason that anti-Semitism is both an inconvenient truth and a shamefully tolerated prejudice. Jews cannot be made to look like victims, especially if those who victimize them are grandfathered in as the eternally oppressed, easily recognizable by the color of their skin. Everything about Jews, including the Holocaust, is being whitewashed by the woke’s obsession with skin color. 

One of the victims in the 2019 Monsey, New York, Hanukkah killing was an Orthodox Rabbi, Josef Neumann, stabbed to death five times by an African-American assailant. Don’t be surprised that this is the first time you heard the rabbi’s name, or why attacks against Orthodox Jews, whether in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, or the Fairfax District in Los Angeles, never make the front page.

Rabbi Cytron-Walker from Colleyville, Texas, however, is a different story. Ironically, this local hero and acceptably woke Jew appears to be out of a job. He had already submitted his resignation this past fall after learning that the synagogue’s Board of Directors had decided not to renew his contract. He was not without support within the congregation. Indeed, the full membership never had an opportunity to vote; Cytron-Walker had already stepped down. 

One of Beth Israel’s congregants not sad to see the rabbi go posted on Facebook that Cytron-Walker referred to Israel as an “apartheid state.” Among Reform rabbis, such a comment is, tragically, not unique. 

What is unique is how his departure may come to symbolize the meaning of woke terrorism—where a potential terrorist who had lived in an Islamist “no-go-zone” in the United Kingdom, and who appeared on an MI5 watch list, was welcomed inside a synagogue and given tea. 

It will now become politically incorrect to question the wisdom of that judgment.


After Colleyville: Inconvenient truths

Words fail and analysis becomes trite. Indeed, we must guard against the paralysis of analysis. Colleyville brought back images of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, of Charlie Hebdo, Hypermarché Cacher, Jewish school shootings, and so many other slaughters of the Jew in our era. Thankfully, the worst didn’t happen in Colleyville. But it is necessary to state the truths that are still so sadly true. And they are hard and inconvenient truths because they will give little comfort to those who cry out for understanding, brotherhood, and ask “why?”

Anti-Semitic acts are becoming more frequent and more horrific. The reality is that anti-Semitic acts in the United States and Canada outnumber anti-Islamic acts by a two to one margin.

Malik Akram, the aspiring Jihadi who invaded Beth Israel Synagogue on the Sabbath, had demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist convicted in 2010 of attempting to kill U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan. She is such a bloodthirsty Islamist that her nickname—which she takes pride in—is “Lady Al-Qaeda.” She is imprisoned near Fort Worth, not far from Colleyville. During the hostage-taking, Akram was heard on livestream yelling, “America only cares about Jewish lives.”

Anti-Semitic acts are becoming more frequent and more horrific. With all the politically correct talk against Islamophobia, the reality is that anti-Semitic acts in the United States and Canada outnumber anti-Islamic acts by a two to one margin according to the Anti-Defamation League and the League for Human Rights. Anti-Semitic incidents in the United States rose by nearly 50 percent last year and nearly 30 percent in Canada. Unprecedented spikes in modern times. We will constantly be fighting this scourge. And not just from Jihadi Islamists.

Whenever people look to blame others for their own failed lives, they demonize the Jew. It will always be so. We live in the post-Holocaust era, and we must learn its hard and bitter lessons. The idea of the destruction of the Jewish people reached its zenith in a nation considered the most cultured of its time, with the most integrated and assimilated Jewish population in history. Germany. Mankind will not cross the Jordan. If it happened there, it can truly happen anywhere. And it is.

 The next time you hear Palestinians chanting “Palestine shall be free from the river to the sea,” remember that this is a call for genocide first mouthed by Nasser in 1967 in those words as a promise to “drive the Jews into the sea.”

Let us not politicize Malik’s attempted slaughters. Race hatred will always spark into race murder when the simmering nightcrawlers lurking in the underbelly of society draw validation from a public discourse that is filled with what Martin Luther King, Jr. called words of “nullification and interposition,” meant to sow division and discord between groups and communities for political advantage. That was Malik’s background in Britain. These were the kinds of Islamist invective he was nurtured in and that is flooding the world like locusts.

The Jihadis have allies in their goal of finishing what Hitler started. From the Nazis of Charlottesville to the Louis Farrakhans calling Jews “termites.” The Jihadis have allies. And the next time you hear Palestinians chanting “Palestine shall be free from the river to the sea,” remember that this is a call for genocide first mouthed by Nasser in 1967 in those words as a promise to “drive the Jews into the sea.” These very people who deny the first Holocaust are salivating—and planning—for a second.

Their overwhelming psychological problem is a bloodlust to kill Jews. We don’t have to bend over backward to understand why. We just have to stop them before they do.

We all have a responsibility to fight this. It Is not up to the other guy. And it will not help to turn our streets and institutions into armed camps with armed guards. It is up to us to fight these people ourselves every day and in a thousand little ways whenever we see them rear their ugly heads. We are all soldiers. It is not easy. There is no guarantee of success. But it must be done. Most important, we must not shield our young people—particularly if we are Jewish—from this ugliness but rather inform them that this is the reality of the world, and they too must marshal a resolve to fight. They must have no expectation of “normalcy.” Without this effort, our standing as free people has little meaning.And as you read this, please refrain from the usual hand-wringing that so many—especially far too many Jews—engage in about Akram and others of his ilk having “psychological problems.” Their overwhelming psychological problem is a bloodlust to kill Jews. We don’t have to bend over backward to understand why. We just have to stop them before they do. And by the quickest and most direct means possible. The latter is perhaps the most inconvenient truth of all. But it is the reality of our dystopian times.


Finding Our Fury

Every year at our Seder table when I was growing up, Margo Wolf, an elderly, half-blind Holocaust survivor, was assigned a portion of the Haggadah to read aloud. “Pour your wrath upon the nations that did not know You and upon the kingdoms that did not call upon Your Name. Since they have consumed Ya’akov and laid waste his habitation. Pour out Your fury upon them and the fierceness of Your anger shall reach them. You shall pursue them with anger and eradicate them from under the skies of the Lord.” She read it slowly, in Hebrew, with the kind of cellular-level passion only a woman who had survived the Nazis and joined the French partisans could deliver. She meant every word. Many American Haggadot today have memory-holed this section, favoring a kinder, gentler ending to the holiday dinner. 

I thought of Margo Wolf when I was reading the statements about the Colleyville synagogue attack that began flooding the media this past Saturday. There was little “fury” or “fierceness” in them. Most were milquetoast, formulaic responses expressing sadness, ending with promises that this “will not be tolerated,” even though it always is. They reminded me of something else from my childhood: the Mad Libs booklets my brother and I occupied ourselves with on long car rides. The booklets presented you with a thematic narrative absent key words you were then prompted to fill in with instructions to use a verb, an adjective, or an adverb. I imagine the template for our very American, anti-anti-Semitism statement has the same format and looks something like this:

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the (PROPER NOUN/SOCIAL CATEGORY ex. Jewish  community/Rabbi/Worshippers) who were attacked today in (CITY NAME). We stand  (APPROPRIATE CLICHÉ: ex. shoulder to shoulder or in solidarity with) our (EXPRESSION  OF FRATERNITY ex. brothers and sisters or fellow citizens of the Jewish faith) in  condemning (ADJECTIVE: ex. in the strongest possible terms) (PROPER NOUN: insert all “isms” referring to categories of hate). Together we will (AGGRESSIVE VERB ex. fight, stand against, decry) hate in all its forms. This rising tide of extremism (MEME that conveys determination but suggests no specific action: ex: will not be tolerated).”

Mad Libs always produced absurd stories when read back because the person filling in the blanks didn’t see the narrative to which he or she was contributing until after it was completed. The inserted words made the sentences silly and everyone laughed at the nonsense of the final product. The public anti-anti-Semitism statement today is no less silly when read back. But these blanks are filled in with full disclosure, which make them a lot less funny. 

I tend to be forgiving of public officials who plug these out. They don’t know how to fight anti-Semitism or how to be helpful. But I am acutely aware of the gift that it is to live in a country where government officials feel the need to publicly acknowledge the interests of its Jews, just 2 percent of its population. It isn’t so everywhere on the planet. So, they get a pass.

Jewish institutions who spew the same word salad in moments like these should be ashamed. It is not enough to say we will “continue to call out anti-Semitism,” whatever that means. Infrastructure improvements aren’t a survival plan.

I can even forgive the FBI, which clearly was in possession of last year’s edition of Mad Libs, edited by Ilhan Omar and a DEI commission out of D.C. Once that error was corrected, they were back on script. 

But Jewish institutions who spew the same word salad in moments like these should be ashamed. It is not enough to say we will “continue to call out anti-Semitism,” whatever that means. It isn’t even enough to call for increased Congressional funding for hard security assets at Jewish organizations, though I think it is worth having. Infrastructure improvements aren’t a survival plan. In order to craft one, we must unleash our inner Margo. We have to be bold in both word and deed. 

But do we even remember how to be bold? American Jews have felt so safe in this country for so long, we may have lost the instinct. Not so our Sephardi and Russian-Jewish friends who have first-generation memories of what it is like to pack up in the middle of the night and flee Aleppo or the KGB. But neither their stories nor those of our Israeli family living under perpetual threat seem to have heightened our awareness that the last several decades in the United States have been the Jewish exception and not the rule. I wonder if we even have it in our communal DNA anymore to get angry and to get busy acting on our own behalf. 

The Union for Reform Judaism issued a statement after the Colleyville crisis ended. It was filled with relief and gratitude, but no rage. It served up stale tropes like the claim: “Our diversity makes us strong and can keep us safe.” It can? How exactly? From my reading of the news, what kept the Colleyville hostages safe was a combination of training, guns, and law enforcement. The URJ ended its statement with what nowadays passes for a call to action: “to protect our communities and simultaneously heed God’s call to build a world of safety, equity, and love.”

There would be a literal and figurative “call to arms,” and every Jew in America would be responsible for contributing what he or she could to the message we want every would-be anti-Semite to hear: we aren’t a desirable target because we plan to fight back.

The ADL predictably claimed, “This crisis can serve as an opportunity for dialogue and engagement.” Those words should be printed in bold, all-cap letters on the walls of every Jewish institution in America. When the next Malik with a machete gets by a uniformed security guard at the door and enters one of our buildings (and unfortunately, he will), the congressionally funded security camera on the ceiling will hopefully capture the image of the terrorist with the ADL’s cheery outlook behind him, and remind us that some people don’t want to be “engaged.”

If Margo Wolf were alive today and were employed as the Communications Director of a major American Jewish organization, I think we would be hearing quite a different message. I think she would call on every rabbi in America to make self-defense courses as mandatory as mastery of the Torah portion for any child seeking a Bar or Bat Mitzvah in their synagogues. She would ask those same rabbis to make eight-week firearms training courses as compulsory as pre-marital counseling for any Jewish couple seeking to be married under a chuppah. Memberships in synagogues would come not only with dues, but with obligatory participation in volunteer security and crisis training for everyone over the age of 16. There would be a literal and figurative “call to arms,” and every Jew in America would be responsible for contributing what he or she could to the message we want every would-be anti-Semite to hear: we aren’t a desirable target because we plan to fight back.

No American Jewish leader should be tolerated who is confused about where the line between nuance and nonsense is on this subject.

If this all sounds too militant to you, you need to hear it the most. If you hate the thought of holding a gun in your hand or teaching your 13-year-old how to physically defend herself, do what I tell my kids to do when they have colds and have to take liquid Robitussin: hold your nose and do it anyway. If you remain unprepared, you are vulnerable. And you are even more vulnerable if you think another bubble-gum flavored “hate speech” curriculum at your son’s high school is the answer. It may be more to your taste, but it isn’t very effective. The guy coming to shoot up the next Jewish house of worship may have just entered the country from some place where they don’t teach 10th graders the part about the Jews not killing Jesus, or Israel not being an “apartheid state.”

Margo would insist on an American Jewish campaign to build an iron wall of support for law enforcement in this country. It would become as Jewish as the matzah ball to reject the Defund the Police movement, BLM and Deadly Exchange, and to help unseat any senator, congressman, governor, or district attorney who doesn’t do the same. Jews cowering in kosher supermarkets know what people of color in the inner-city dodging bullets on the way home from church know: these movements are a direct threat to our safety, determined to leave us even more exposed to violence than we already are. No American Jewish leader should be tolerated who is confused about where the line between nuance and nonsense is on this subject. 

We don’t live in the world we want. We live in the one we have. There are people in it who don’t believe in tolerance and mutual respect. When they walk into our shuls to harm us they shouldn’t count on having twelve minutes or twelve hours to do as they please before the authorities burst through the doors.

Margo would ask American Jews to arm themselves not just physically, but with a new mindset. She would tell congregants who heard more about Islamophobia than Islamism from the pulpit this Shabbat to vote with their feet, leaving their misguided rabbis to preach their feckless rhetoric to empty pews. She would insist that Jewish organizations stop using scarce Jewish philanthropic dollars to “fight hate” and to fund more empty anti-Semitism programs that are indistinguishable from “anti-bullying” campaigns. And she would lambast activist rabbis who sign public letters in support of Linda Sarsour’s freedom of speech even as many of the same also sign public letters suggesting Charles Jacobs is an “Islamophobe.” The only kind of Jewish partisan Margo Wolf had any use for was the kind with a home-made rifle in her hands on the French border in 1941. 

Our collective Jewish communal head is not on straight. We still think, after all we have been through, that our best options are security guards, awareness campaigns, interfaith dialogue, and sending out our “thoughts and prayers.” A change in mindset is needed to meet our change in circumstance. Only that will trigger serious action by the only people who can save us—ourselves. The “Pour Out Your Wrath” paragraph needs to be reinserted into every Haggadah in the country, and every Jew should be responsible for reading it aloud every year. In it, we call on God to wipe out our enemies but there is no reason He has to go at it alone. We have to find our fury too, and activate it productively in defense of our own. We don’t live in the world we want. We live in the one we have. There are people in it who don’t believe in tolerance and mutual respect. When they walk into our shuls to harm us they shouldn’t count on having twelve minutes or twelve hours to do as they please before the authorities burst through the doors. Let their anti-Semite friends send around fill-in-the-blank statements of solidarity and issue empty words of inspiration after one of theirs has fallen because he walked through the wrong Jewish door and found angry, empowered, prepared Jews who were ready for him. As for us, we need to tear up our Mad Libs templates and create new ones.


False Ending

I felt confused by the cantor on the Zoom memorial singing at us with her eyes closed, the words on people’s social media, the blogs, the posts, the filler of the awkward silence in the wake of Jews being taken hostage:

“The Rabbi is amazing.”

“Security protocols work!”

“They all came out alive.”

“No they didn’t!” I heard a voice cry from my heart. One man lay dead from the incident—a deranged, pained, expressive, confused soul of a terrorist who traveled all the way from England to a tiny synagogue in suburban Dallas to kill Jews and amplify his cause. Does this not deeply trouble anyone else?

Underneath the soundbites and guitar circles is an idealism that can lead their people to slaughter. This sort of deflection is dangerous and reminds me of German-Jewish nationals in 1938 who were completely in denial of the trouble ahead and already in their midst.

Reading that day backward—from the luminary local “Rab-lebrity” (that’s a Rabbi who acts like a celebrity) in Dallas arriving at the staging area to snap selfies with his interfaith cohort and swat team while awaiting his colleague to “give a hug” (“What are you doing here?” was the freed hostage/Rabbi’s question, revealing the “Eish Tam” or “Simple/Pure Man” he is); to the Facebook live feed from morning services and early rantings of Malik Faisal Akram’s demands—my mind exploded with questions and disbelief. How is it that this is becoming a discussion of the success of synagogue security protocols? Why did so many colleagues summarize the experience as “Rabbi Charlie is amazing”? He was heroic, patient, and watchful. Shouldn’t the word amazing be reserved for theater, performances, entertainment? But for a hostage situation? What chilled my spine most of all was the general exhale I observed my colleagues sighing—all at once waxing prophetically about the need to double down on interfaith work, security protocols, and hope as a new spin emerged: a sound bite opportunity to glorify American Reform Jewish values.

What emerged in the wake of this tragedy resembled a Mysterious PR Machine: the naivete, well-wishes for brother- and sisterhood, and “we’ll take the high road of inclusivity,” only fans the flames of Islamic hatred toward Americans and Jews. Underneath the soundbites and guitar circles is an idealism that can lead their people to slaughter. This sort of deflection is dangerous and reminds me of German-Jewish nationals in 1938 who were completely in denial of the trouble ahead and already in their midst. Instead of “Olam Chessid Yibaneh” (the URJ’s banner song “We will build this world from love,” which was the main programming and set the tone for Monday Night’s Vigil), the German nationals said, “I am an essential part of Germany, they would never do this to me.” Today’s tome is “We will rise above the hatred and profess Love and Brotherhood of all peoples (unless they support Donald Trump).” There are parallels—both carry an elitism; both are in denial. 

It was almost as if the Mysterious PR Machine doubled down on the opportunity to tell us, “Synagogues are safe. Security Protocols are to be invested in. Crazy people do crazy things.”

While Charlie has his own healing process, the very seductive narrative that emerged around him and the event is what I call “illiberal jingoism”—a trope dedicated to elitist and unrealistic concepts of love, brotherhood, and unity. Meanwhile, somewhere the plot continues to form and will continue to terrorize Jews throughout the world. If this were France, England, Tunisia, Israel, or anywhere else, we wouldn’t see this bravado; indeed, we would see a very different narrative emerging as they don’t have the luxury of geographic isolation to immerse themselves in a fabricated reality that deflects the true issue at hand. 

How swiftly Saturday night’s hostage siege was recast: a terrorist situation became a community social media event. The social media rabbinic commentary of the day read like meaning making and history making in real time. We were told with almost immediacy, “this was an isolated incident,” and within 24 hours assured that “Akram had acted alone.” It was almost as if the Mysterious PR Machine doubled down on the opportunity to tell us, “Synagogues are safe. Security Protocols are to be invested in. Crazy people do crazy things. Now go home to your family and come back for your daughter’s Bat Mitzvah.” 

It’s not a time to sit all cozy and reflect on how much work there is to be done amongst the interfaith ideologues. It’s not a time for Kumbaya Judaism.

But like a false ending to a B-movie horror flick, I feel that the entire story is not yet done. Too many pieces of the story don’t make sense. And maybe that is what bothers me most. If, indeed, Akram represents the 1 percent of Muslim society who are sociopaths, then there are 19,999,999 others out there just like him. And no dollar amount can hire the army of security to keep them at bay—just look at Israel.

It’s not a time to sit all cozy and reflect on how much work there is to be done amongst the interfaith ideologues. It’s too early to have a prayer vigil with an acoustic guitar strapped across my torso like a summer camp song session. It’s not a time for Kumbaya Judaism. This siege on a suburban synagogue’s enduring misunderstanding seems to be that our hearts should be filled with compassion and curiosity for the Other; indeed, build bridges and embrace difference and diversity, outside of our echo chambers. Get a good security protocol in place and turn your sanctuary into an Escape Room… people pay to go to those, and they bring their friends. Nay! It’s time to acknowledge that the Halloween horror movie music is starting slowly and softly, and that an inevitable sequel is yet to be produced. 

Scene: Beth Israel Synagogue, Colleyville, Texas. Mid-morning on a cold winter’s Saturday in suburban Texas. Birds chirp. 

Establishing Shot: Synagogue entrance. The front door is open. We see the back of a MYSTERIOUS MAN wearing a well-worn heavy winter coat.

Close up: A man’s snow-stained boot on a stair. The MYSTERIOUS MAN exchanges a few words with a RABBI, who holds the door open to let him in.

FADE TO: Hours later in the Situation Room where Hostage Negotiators and Swat Team stage an insurgence. CHIEF NEGOTIATOR on cellphone hears:

Faisal:  I said, ‘Is this a night shelter?’ and they let me in. And they gave me a cup of tea. So I do feel bad.”

To Be Continued.


Feminism + Justice

Before Alice Sebold became a bestselling, critically acclaimed novelist (the film The Lovely Bones was an adaptation from her first novel of the same name), she signaled her arrival as a writer with an important voice and compelling tale, as evidenced by her memoir entitled, Lucky

The book was a searing and, at times, improbably witty retelling of her freshman year at Syracuse University when in 1981, while she was walking late at night, an assailant with a knife dragged her into a tunnel and raped her. The book details her experience with the hospital that treated her injuries along with her own efforts to heal—unsurprisingly, without much success. Much of the book is devoted to her reliance on law enforcement and the criminal justice system to hold her attacker to account. 

It made for a gut-wrenching read: A woman who served as an eyewitness to a heinous crime committed against herself. 

Sebold ended up identifying the man who assaulted her and testified against him. He was convicted of rape and sentenced to 25 years in prison, serving 16.

Stories of sexual violence against women are inexorably disqualified from happy endings.

At the police station, one of the detectives thought it might be helpful for her to know that the last sexual assault victim on campus was raped and dismembered by her attacker. In this way, he reasoned, Sebold should consider herself “lucky”—hence, the book’s alluring title.

Surely any reader would recognize, without having to actually read the book, the ironic inkling in any attempt to find good fortune in such a gruesome and life-altering event. Justice, in whatever form it takes when not on the set of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” never results in feeling lucky. Even the anticipated sweetness of personal vengeance wears off and soon curdles into the bittersweet. Stories of sexual violence against women are inexorably disqualified from happy endings.

Since its publication in 1999, Lucky has had an enormous influence on rape victims, crime victim advocates, and law enforcement personnel. It is sometimes mentioned as a benchmark in how to gauge the hierarchies, and some of the vagaries, of sexual violence. For instance, are all acts of rape, or accusations of rape, the same? Many victims drew some comfort in thinking, “At least I didn’t experience what happened in Lucky.”

For most women, “no means no,” no matter where it is said—whether in a dark tunnel at knife point, or in a boy’s dorm room after drinking too much at a party. But is there no difference at all between the “luck” that Sebold survived and the misfortune of a tipsy co-ed who wakes up the next morning with cloudy memories that moments later will morph into regret?

Consent is the coin of the realm in the crime of rape. It’s the reason why the sexual histories of women so often became the primary defense strategies in rape trials—that, along with the absence of physical bruises to demonstrate that the woman neither resisted nor fought back. Most women, however, did not resist, which resulted in tragically adverse inferences about whether the accuser was telling the truth.

These are some of the reasons why rape has been so often astoundingly under-prosecuted. Studies show that only 5 out of 1,000 (another source places the figure at 7) committed rapes ever result in a felony conviction. That doesn’t even account for the thousands of acts of sexual violence that never get reported because women do not wish to voluntarily place themselves onto the conveyor belt of the legal system, with its cold machinery, grinding gears, and timeless delays. Who would want to repeatedly relive the experience and expose themselves to intrusive, embarrassing, and re-traumatizing questions that often flip the storyline, making them feel like the accused rather than the other way around?

And there are no assurances of guilty verdicts.

No wonder the #MeToo Movement received such a critical mass of uncritical support. Many women had simply had enough.

Moreover, police departments are notoriously delinquent in gathering evidence of sexual violence. Hundreds of thousands of rape kits go untested, and sometimes are destroyed to free up space in evidence rooms. The police often do not assign an investigator. The investigator often doesn’t interview the victim. The police fail to interview potential witnesses. The case never gets referred to a prosecutor and no criminal charges are ever brought.

No wonder the #MeToo Movement received such a critical mass of uncritical support. Many women had simply had enough. A new arena for judging and punishing sexual offenders materialized–one that led to the public downfall of those who otherwise were seemingly beyond reproach. If the law wasn’t going to do its job, then perhaps human resource departments, cancel culture, and the general public’s purchasing power could be deployed to punish men for rape, sexual violence, and sexual harassment. In some cases, like with Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein, chastened legal systems were politically compelled to take a fresh look at cases they had earlier declined to prosecute: to the fullest extent of the law… or at all, for that matter.

Has #MeToo set feminism back, infantilized women, and obliterated the difference between being “lucky” and being a responsible adult?

So the question must be asked, now that several years has passed since #MeToo so radically changed the social and cultural landscape: Has the movement empowered women, turning them into their own private avengers simply by reciting “Me, too!” which resulted in actions finally taken that had been ignored by legal systems that failed to dispense justice? Or has #MeToo set feminism back, infantilized women, and obliterated the difference between being “lucky” and being a responsible adult?

It surely succeeded in transformative, wholly unexpected ways—especially in the workplace where hundreds of men saw their careers come to an end, relieved of their jobs and, in many cases, replaced by women—Al Franken, Andrew Cuomo, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey, Mark Halperin, Louis C.K., Paul Haggis, Roger Ailes, Leslie Moonves, and Bryan Singer, among many others.

While false accusations are rare, they are not nonexistent, meaning that some men lost their jobs based on uncorroborated, unproven accusations, and at other times, without even knowing the identity of the accuser—the very definition of lacking due process. #MeToo’s alternative legal system played by a very different set of rules. Men have spent nights in jail due to police filings that included no reported incident and no history of violence–just unspecified fears of husbands and boyfriends. 

Consent is, like most things, contextual.

Over the past several years, men have reported being afraid of women, whether in mentoring them at work, giving them an affectionate embrace, or in trying to interpret nonverbal cues on dates, when the evening either comes to an end or proceeds to the more delicate matters of sexual intimacy. Perhaps all of this abundant caution and restraint is a vast improvement over a system that tended to be skeptical of women who didn’t come forward immediately, or who sent mixed messages with friendly notes, relationships maintained, gratitude extended, or acted in such a way that reinforced patriarchal notions that “Oh, please, she wanted it.” 

Consent is, like most things, contextual. Sebold also said “no,” and pleaded for her life, in a very different setting and context than women confronted with abusive spouses and boyfriends, lecherous bosses, or even once promising dates that resulted in awkward, unpleasant sexual encounters. Bari Weiss wrote a column for her former employer, the New York Times, in which, as a feminist, she registered astonishment over an exposé written by a woman who went out on a date with a Hollywood celebrity and referred to it as “the worst night of my life.” What most surprised Weiss was the writer’s lack of personal agency, her apparent female powerlessness in describing a date that perhaps didn’t go as she had hoped but was well short of a crime. Sex that may have, at the time, felt degrading is not the same as criminal, and nor should it become career-ending.

Breaking through the glass ceiling was always seen as a paramount goal of the feminist movement. But lately it seems that pulling the rug out from under men whose actions are more boorish than suave has become a more satisfying accomplishment.

The overall effect of #MeToo on our legal system is not something to be dismissed. It might eventually influence jurors to disregard standards of proof, turning a jury of one’s peers into execution squads. 

“Believe Survivors!” is perhaps the first time in our nation’s history where the presumption of innocence has been called into question, if not wholly eradicated, in the minds of the general public.

The rallying cry of “Believe Women!” has been enough to waylay the careers of Woody Allen, Richard Dreyfuss, Oliver Stone, Dustin Hoffman, and others. These men have largely disappeared, sentenced in the court of public opinion to moral banishment. The jurisdiction of that court is limitless and its sentencing guidelines unmerciful. After all, the chant “Believe Women!” nearly derailed the confirmation of Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

That would have been ironic, since in a court of law, the accused, in our justice system, is always afforded the presumption of innocence. It is a signature entitlement of the accused—innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We have always regarded the punishment of an innocent person to be so unconscionable, we are prepared to acquit the guilty—set them free without the payment of any debt to society—in order to spare even one innocent person the moral outrage of an undeserved punishment.

That has now changed. “Believe Survivors!” is perhaps the first time in our nation’s history where the presumption of innocence has been called into question, if not wholly eradicated, in the minds of the general public. The personal, subjective truth of women (persons of color, as well), are now sacrosanct. Guilt beyond any doubt at all in cases of sexual assault may ultimately hinge entirely on a woman’s word.

To reflexively believe a survivor of an alleged sexual assault is also to conclude that the accused’s professed innocence is a lie. Someone isn’t telling the truth in the quixotic plotline of “He said-She said.” But then why bother with a trial at all? The mere accusation of sexual assault, by itself with nothing more, is tantamount to a finding of guilt. The time-honored presumption of innocence is reversed. In cases of sexual violence and harassment, a new evidentiary standard would govern: The accuser’s truth overrides any exonerating facts. Survivors are unquestioningly believed. No other presentation of evidence is necessary. Indeed, to call a woman a liar becomes its own separate crime.

What good comes from lumping all men together into one gross overgeneralization?

I fail to see the feminism in that, just as I fail to see the justice in how rape victims are presently treated under the law. 

Outside of courtrooms, there is an even greater danger in trivializing the experience of Alice Sebold, and so many others, by conflating acts of contemptible violence with altogether different, less threatening encounters between the sexes. It’s essential to maintain our perspective. Thankfully, as flawed as the male gender may be, most men are not Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein. What good comes from lumping all men together into one gross overgeneralization?

We are seeing a parallel illogic in matters relating to white supremacy and the January 6 insurrection. Racism is far too easily charged, denials ignored, reason abandoned. A racial faux pas is as self-condemning as attendance at a Klan rally. Similarly, merely questioning whether absentee election ballots should be accepted without verified signatures instantly places one inside the Capital on January 6.

If everything is sexual violence against women, then nothing is sexual violence against women. And isn’t that the gravest insult to women who have, indeed, experienced the worst forms of sexual violence? 

Choosing to reserve judgment is not a betrayal of women or a validation of men.

We are moving all too quickly from the lucky to the stupid, where perspective is lost, and moral balance is given no credence at all. Believing women without condition robs men and women of the self-respect that comes from being judged on equal terms. Believing women without thinking means that objective truth is unknowable. Believing women without question suggests that facts cannot speak for themselves, that they must be prejudged, that impartiality is impossible whenever sex is the scene of the crime. Believing women without discernment implies that women have no voice that can be used to distinguish between pleasure and pain. 

Choosing to reserve judgment is not a betrayal of women or a validation of men.

One last thing to consider: Anthony J. Broadwater, the man who served 16 years in prison for raping Alice Sebold and who was released shortly before “Lucky” was published, has recently been exonerated and his conviction vacated. Nearly 40 years after the crime, a state court judge, joined by the district attorney’s office, have concluded that the prosecution was flawed, Sebold’s identification was coached, the DNA evidence discredited, and with such unreliable evidence, Broadwater should have never been sent to jail.

Even the lucky, with the emotional scars to prove it, are sometimes uncertain of the truth.


How Feminists Gave Up on Females 

The Democratic Party’s special relationship with women is an unquestioned part of our political fabric. The size of the gender gap in voting may fluctuate, but the direction never does. Democrats enjoy a solid and sizable lead with female voters, as they do in party affiliation. The lion’s share of elected female officials are also Democrats. Beyond the explicitly political realm, the left dominates the culture that surrounds women. Open any women’s fashion magazine, turn on a daytime talk show, or enter any classroom with a “women’s studies” theme, and you are guaranteed to be steeped in a dogmatic progressive worldview. 

Women may generally favor the Democratic Party, but as that party lurches leftward, it’s increasingly obvious that the Democratic Party isn’t terribly interested in women.  

 Somehow the party that claims to love science has rendered taboo any discussion of the most basic facts of life, including the fact that female mammals have greater physical vulnerabilities–they are weaker, slower, and smaller–and also have the capacity to give birth and breastfeed, which is a tremendous power but also comes with many complications and increased vulnerabilities.

With the advent of intersectionality, women–particularly white and heterosexual women, who still constitute the majority of American women–are viewed by progressives as among the privileged and oppressive class, rather than as a group in need of any particular special attention. Beyond their rote allegiance to abortion rights, progressives have stopped prioritizing protecting biological women against violence. They’ve also stopped promoting women’s success in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics or on athletic fields, and only half-heartedly bother pushing for economic benefits, like paid leave or government daycare, which used to be central to their agenda.  

Instead, they are busy eliminating women as a distinct category to make way for biological men who identify as women. They’ve moved beyond simple tolerance and anti-discrimination protection to attack the logic that there is ever a legitimate reason to separate those born biologically female and those born biologically male. Somehow the party that claims to love science has rendered taboo any discussion of the most basic facts of life, including the fact that female mammals have greater physical vulnerabilities–they are weaker, slower, and smaller–and also have the capacity to give birth and breastfeed, which is a tremendous power but also comes with many complications and increased vulnerabilities.  

The public has seen this most clearly in the sports arena, as women’s athletic competitions are now routinely won by biological males. Female athletes who recognize that they are doomed to lose to these innately physically advantaged athletes are told not to complain or they risk losing their spots on the team, in addition to being publicly smeared as bigots. Girls are expected to tolerate–even welcome–biological males into their changing rooms.  

It receives far less attention even among supposed human rights champions, but female prisons are also loosening their protections for female inmates and allowing biological males who claim to identify as women into their facilities. Some of these biological males are convicted sex offenders who have not undergone any surgery as a part of the transition, which leaves female prisoners vulnerable to rape and other forms of abuse.  Scholars like Abigail Schrier have noted that even accounting for the growth in these incidents will be difficult, if not impossible, since prisons will record forcible rapes as “female-on-female violence.” 

This may seem like a sudden turn with the Left abandoning women in order to elevate the interests of other identity groups now seen as more sympathetic, particularly non-gender conforming communities. Yet the Left always had an awkward relationship with women in that, while it claimed to champion women’s interests, it has always rejected the actual feminine.  

Making Women Act Like Men

Betty Friedan’s seminal book, The Problem With No Name, published in 1963, described a deep dissatisfaction with the limitations women felt in society, particularly in being a housewife. Her words connected with millions of women and contributed to the social revolution that loosened expectations for women’s roles and encouraged a significant uptick in women’s workforce participation. 

Clearly millions of women wanted the chance to participate more fully in all aspects of society beyond childrearing and the domestic sphere. Yet much of the Left mistook this desire for more opportunities with a rejection of motherhood and traditional family life. Feminists promoted the idea that marriage and children were traps and that careers and other public pursuits would give women the fulfillment that they lacked. Much of society joined the chorus.  

They also advanced a policy platform designed to free women from the burdens of childrearing. In addition to abortion rights, which were meant to ensure that no woman ever had to become a mother who didn’t want to, feminists championed universal paid childcare so that mothers could immediately free themselves from needing to care for their children and could get back to paid work. They fought for companies and other institutions to ensure, through official quotas and public pressure, that women are represented in positions of power. Feminist groups championed paid family leave benefits and other regulations meant to make workplaces more accessible for working mothers, and to discourage workplaces from rewarding behaviors—such as working longer hours and taking less time off—which are harder for working parents, and particularly mothers, to do.  

Putting aside the merits of these policies, they are designed to make women follow a life course that traditionally has historically been followed by men so that the sexes would be more interchangeable and more equal in terms of life outcomes. This is most vividly on display with the feminist obsession with the wage gap. Women–not just in the United States, but everywhere–consistently earn less, on average, than men earn. Feminists and politicians frequently cite the wage gap as evidence of workplace discrimination, misleadingly implying that it means that when there are two coworkers, working the same hours, with the same responsibilities, the woman is consistently short-changed. That’s not what these statistics show.  

Since they haven’t been able to cajole women into acting more like men, today they seek to render these distinctions meaningless, even if that means sacrificing women’s interests.

Rather the wage gap statistic reflects the reality that women, even those working full time, tend to make very different decisions about work than men do. Women working full time still log significantly fewer hours than men. Women also choose jobs in industries that pay less but that are safer and more personally rewarding. While stereotypes and social pressure may contribute to some of these decisions, women also clearly make thoughtful choices based on their own preferences, needs, and values. 

It frustrates feminists, but women consistently say they are willing to trade higher pay for more personally fulfilling work and want flexible work opportunities so that they can be hands-on mothers. In fact, women still cite children and family as their greatest source of happiness. Some men are embracing these values too–men are increasingly taking on more parenting responsibilities–but there remain significant differences in behaviors between the two sexes.  

In a different context, we would celebrate women’s wisdom in prioritizing values like community and caregiving rather than chasing material goods and public recognition. Yet feminists and the Left see women as letting down the cause of achieving true equality. Since they haven’t been able to cajole women into acting more like men, today they seek to render these distinctions meaningless, even if that means sacrificing women’s interests.  

Women in the Woke New World 

Women need to recognize how they, and their daughters, are affected by the shifting realities in our increasingly woke world. Women who had embraced the earlier notion of government using its power to ensure that women are fully represented in all halls of power will see that simply being a woman isn’t good enough. Now to show a commitment to equity and inclusivity, each company board needs to check a multitude of boxes—multiracial, gender non-conforming, disabled, and multiple ethnicities. Women, in particular heterosexual and white women, will find that rather than benefiting from this approach they will be losers. Women are an increasingly educated and powerful force in the work and political world; the discounting of merit toward ensuring representation of identity groups will impede their rise into powerful positions. 

Women have benefited from the great American jobs machine and economy, which created a multitude of life-enhancing products and services and plentiful job opportunities that allowed women to find positions that work for their unique situations. As the Left prioritizes equitable distribution of goods, rather than continued economic growth and more standardized job benefits and relationships, women will find their options dwindling. Most centrally, our increasingly sexless world, combined with Woke policies such as defunding the police, will be a much more dangerous world for women.  


Most bizarrely, today it’s the woke Left that seems to be increasingly embracing a retro, cliched view of what being a woman means. Serious, Second Wave feminists lamented women’s interest in beauty and fashion. But now that has become almost the main hallmark of womanhood. Women who aren’t interested in these pursuits are increasingly encouraged to contemplate that they may be mis-sexed and might better transition into men. Men who wish to identify as women pile on the eyeshadow and lipstick (and stilettos). Makeup has literally become the core of womanhood in this view.  Not motherhood. Not the impulse to nurture. Not some notion of a virtuous matriarchal society… But lipstick. Surely this impoverished worldview will not prevail. Surely women who are serious about the lives of real women will take back the Democratic Party. 

Failing that, it is time for women not yet captured by the Woke to put all of their political power behind the reality principle, and to truly stand up for women.


Introduction to White Rose Essays

American Jewry is under siege, ideologically and physically. In the media, on campuses, in the streets of major cities, now in high schools and in Congress, Jews and the Jewish state are smeared, hated, and attacked. This is a new time for Jews in America.

Jews cannot control the forces arrayed against us, but one thing we should be able to do is influence our own leadership. It is clear that the establishment Jewish organizations—ADL, AJC, Federations, the JCRCs, and most rabbis—have failed to respond effectively to these mounting assaults.  

This special issue of White Rose Magazine explores the nature and extent of this failure of American Jewish leaders, including specific examples and an analysis as to why Jewish leaders are failing in their mission to protect the community. 

Criticizing Jewish Leaders

This collection of essays is intended to publicly critique a failing Jewish establishment with the full understanding that many Jews view such action as divisive and that showing strength and unity may be more appropriate at this time. As a vulnerable minority, Jews have usually made public criticism of their leaders a near taboo. In recent decades, criticizing Jewish leaders has been acceptable, even common, when the target is “right wing” Jews. In addition, for many the democratically elected leaders of the Jewish state can be pilloried time and again, while criticizing undemocratically, donor-selected leaders in America, is derided as “breaking Jewish unity.” 

As a vulnerable minority, Jews have usually made public criticism of their leaders a near taboo.

We believe we have a duty to tell the community what we know from experience about the very dangerous consequences of the policies, thinking, and actions of the current establishment Jewish leadership. We know that there are many American Jews who think as we do, and many of them are working hard to make up for the failures of our leaders.

We have spent the last decades fighting our “external enemies,” but we no longer believe that the community can prevail against the surge of anti-Semitism without the full resources of the Jewish community.

This issue of White Rose Magazine will hopefully inspire many others to join us in challenging Jewish leadership, to change course, or encourage new leaders to do what must be done.

ANALYSIS: The first section seeks to describe the current Jewish predicament. We describe today’s state of affairs and shows how we got here. “The liberalism of the past that made long-standing Jewish policies sensible has been replaced by a radical and insidious ideology,” which has trapped most mainstream Jewish leaders, who are too blind, too conflict-averse, or too cowardly to think their way out of this trap. 

Rebecca Sugar, noting how Jewish leaders flee from leftist anti-Semitism, asks if Jews are getting the leaders they deserve. “What most American Jews are really shocked by, but couldn’t see until it became inescapably obvious, is the fast-growing, unabashed anti-Semitism of the American political left, where they themselves reside.”

Jonathan Tobin explains how the ADL, the “Jewish Defense Department,” politicized by its CEO, has utterly failed to protect the community. “Are donors to the Anti-Defamation League,” he asks, “aware of what they are funding? Do they know that the organization created to fight prejudice and attacks against Jews is on the record supporting an ideology that grants a permission slip to anti-Semitism?”

 Thane Rosenbaum writes that cowardice and comfort explain much of the failure. He points out “Leadership without exercising moral courage, without undertaking risks and performing selfless acts, is not leadership. The grogger that is so grating on Purim is reserved, one night, for Haman, but never for Hamas.”

Richard Landes analyzes the historical and psychosocial dynamics of failed leadership highlighting how “universalist utopianism” and a “malignant moral narcissism” have blinded Jewish leadership. For Jewish leaders, the problem of how to deal with radical Muslims was mostly ignored despite the fact that its Global Jihadi wing promoted a genocidal anti-Semitism, in some ways more virulent the Nazis (German priests and ministers didn’t preach genocide from the pulpit).

Leadership without exercising moral courage, without undertaking risks and performing selfless acts, is not leadership.

Richard Kronenfeld shows how our leaders, blinded by feel good altruism and addicted to virtue signaling are siding with minorities whose hostility toward Jews and Israel they ignore or excuse. All done by “invoking a 16th century Kabbalistic concept, tikkun olam, literally “healing/repairing the world,” thereby affording them a convenient way to escape the burden of being a Jew.”

PROOF POINTS: Rabbi Cary Cozberg tells of how he was forced to leave Reform Judaism, as it abandoned its own principles. He notes that today’s Reform leaders have increasingly embraced the values and worldview of contemporary progressivism, the “big tent” that once accommodated diverse beliefs and approaches has metamorphosized into a confining cement bunker of theological and political progressive orthodoxy. That orthodoxy has one objective: the promotion of “social justice,” which no one seems able to define.

William Jacobson and Johanna Markham show how defense-only strategies have lost the campuses. “After taking over as ADL leader in July 2015, Greenblatt doubled down on ADL outreach to the left, while his condemnations of anti-Semitism on- and off-campus have been mostly tepid. Under his stewardship, the organization largely ignored BLM’s anti-Semitism …

By contrast, he has turned the ADL’s ire on Jews and Jewish organizations that work to expose anti-Semitism on campus. During the summer of 2020, Greenblatt’s ADL redefined racism to include only white racism against people of color. Given today’s inclusion of Jews among ‘whites,’ the new definition appeared to deny the existence of anti-Jewish racism.”

Josh Ravitch and Amy Rosenthal showed initiative and courage in the face of JCRC cowardice—and won a fight in North Carolina. The lesson from Durham and Raleigh is clear: Where leadership is lacking, step up and lead. Our “leaders” might actually follow.

Karen Hurvitz reveals how the lame Boston JCRC strategy to shield the community from the K-12 anti-Semitic Critical Race Theory movement is bound to fail. She warns, “In California, the group responsible for the first version of the ethnic studies curriculum has established relationships with many California school districts, and based on this foothold, has managed to persuade schools to use its curriculum instead of the approved one.”

People are frankly less afraid of Jews and Israel than they are of the people who attack them.

Reform Muslim leader Zuhdi Jasser explains how the ADL and other leading Jewish institutions minimize Islamist anti-Semitism and abandon legitimate Muslim reformers. “Groups like the ADL have sat on the sidelines as American Islamist groups born out of the Muslim Brotherhood have radicalized American Muslims and poisoned the discourse against reformist groups like the Muslim Reform Movement.”

Joanne Bregman shows that the national umbrella of the JCRCs undermines the Jewish community by promoting woke theology. In reality, the JCPA has become just another “woke” progressive organization whose political activism is abetted by the self-selected members of the local JCRCs. 
Christian Zionist Dexter Van Zile shows us how Jewish leaders have enabled a hostile environment where “People are frankly less afraid of Jews and Israel than they are of the people who attack them. The hate was so manifestly ugly and virulent that only the most obtuse would say that the hate would be mollified by the dissolution of the Jewish state. This had to do with Jewish existence.”


The ADL Is Undermining the Battle Against Anti-Semitism

Are donors to the Anti-Defamation League aware of what they are funding?

Do they know that the organization created to fight prejudice and attacks against Jews is on the record supporting an ideology that grants a permission slip to anti-Semitism?

Do they know that the group still considered to be the gold standard for monitoring hate crimes is promoting the notion that Jews should be divided along racial lines—an explicit acceptance of radical theories that categorize Jews and the State of Israel as a function of “white privilege”?

Do they know that the organization committed to support Israel has, in recent years, often joined with those sniping at it and hired vicious critics of the Jewish state as staff members, like Tema Smith?

Do they know that a group that prided itself on nonpartisanship and building bipartisan coalitions against anti-Semitism has cast those principles to the winds and become part of America’s political tribal wars?

Do they know that the organization committed to support Israel has, in recent years, often joined with those sniping at it and hired vicious critics of the Jewish state as staff members?

Do they know that the organization that always considered defense of civil liberties essential to its mission has now joined hands with Big Tech companies to promote censorship of ideas and organizations?

Perhaps many of those still pouring money into the ADL’s coffers are aware of all this and are supportive of the sea change in the organization. The abandonment of core principles and its job of defending Jews places the ADL on the same side of those it is pledged to fight. This is one more casualty of the shift in culture that has produced toxic divisions tearing apart the fabric of American society.

Most of the many American Jewish organizations and institutions founded in the early 20th century have long since become obsolete. The Jewish hospitals created to find places for unhired Jewish doctors and the Jewish country clubs established to compete with the exclusionary non-Jewish facilities have long since become secular once those barriers evaporated.

The abandonment of core principles and its job of defending Jews places the ADL on the same side of those it is pledged to fight.

Many national organizations that once were considered essential platforms for speaking up for a beleaguered community are now mere shadows of themselves as they struggle to find a purpose as their constituencies changed or disappeared altogether.

But there is still one national Jewish institution that not only still has a job but arguably is faced with an even more daunting task and bigger responsibilities than it did when it opened its doors: the Anti-Defamation League.

Outraged over the anti-Semitic hate that fueled both the wrongful murder conviction of Atlanta businessman Leo Frank and his subsequent lynching in 1915, the B’nai B’rith organization established the ADL to deal specifically with the plague of anti-Semitism. The daunting challenges of a century ago—in the form of hate sponsored by auto magnate Henry Ford or populist preachers directly invoking age-old stereotypes about Jewish “aliens and power brokers”—have evolved to reach even wider audiences on the Internet. The delegitimization of the Jews and the Jewish state is louder than ever, and now has become a feature of the increasingly influential left-wing of the Democratic Party, which has embraced radical notions like intersectionality and critical race theory, opening the door to anti-Semitism.

That makes the ADL, which has become not only independent of its initial sponsor, but an organizational powerhouse with a massive fundraising machine, more important than ever. Its infrastructure of regional offices and large staff perform the task of monitoring acts of anti-Semitism at a time when attacks on Jews are not only on the rise but essentially mainstreamed under the guise of “criticism” of Israel. As open calls for Israel’s destruction and the stigmatizing of its supporters as racists and oppressors have become commonplace, an effective Jewish defense organization with the clout of the ADL ought to be a vital tool in combating this problem.

But the ADL is failing.

That failure can’t be measured financially since it is raising more money than ever before. Nor is it a communication problem, as the ADL retains its status as a go-to source for comments about Jewish issues as well as the ultimate arbiter in determining what constitutes anti-Semitism.

As open calls for Israel’s destruction and the stigmatizing of its supporters as racists and oppressors have become commonplace, an effective Jewish defense organization with the clout of the ADL ought to be a vital tool in combating this problem.

Yet, its failure is palpable.

Ever since its current CEO Jonathan Greenblatt succeeded longtime head Abe Foxman in 2015, the former Clinton and Obama administration staffer has largely discarded the group’s non-partisan stance.  Greenblatt has effectively turned it into just one more partisan advocacy group supporting Democratic Party talking points on a variety of issues, including those that have little or nothing to do with the defense of Jewish interests. As his grip on the organization solidified, the ADL also became an ally of ideologically driven Big Tech firms seeking to enforce censorship on the Internet. In this way, the ADL has fallen far short of the needs of an increasingly embattled Jewish community.

As worrisome as those actions are, in the past two years the problem has grown even worse. The ADL’s prioritization of its ties with left-wing allies has also led to decisions that not only undermine its core mission, such as the sanctioning of partisan weaponizing of the issue of anti-Semitism, but its willingness to endorse ideas that enable anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of Jews and Israel has, incredibly, placed it in the position of actually aiding and abetting the very forces it was created to oppose. As a result, it is not simply an example of failing Jewish leadership, but it is a group that now must be considered increasingly part of the problem rather than the solution to the dilemmas faced by American Jewry.  

The organization that Greenblatt inherited from Foxman, the ADL’s venerable leader who worked for the group for 50 years and led it for 28, was politically liberal on many issues but still scrupulously non-partisan. Moreover, though it had long since branched out into the business of educating communities on the dangers of all sorts of prejudice, it was still focused on its primary mission of combating anti-Semitism, including that which is directed at the Jewish state.

The ADL’s prioritization of its ties with left-wing allies has led to decisions that not only undermine its core mission, but has, incredibly, placed it in the position of actually aiding and abetting the very forces it was created to oppose.

Greenblatt immediately began re-orienting the organization to be more directly in line with his own partisan instincts. He had previously been a staff member of the Barack Obama White House, which was itself embroiled in a number of disputes with Israel and the Jewish community. President Obama’s determination to pursue a policy of appeasement toward Iran and its nuclear ambitions placed him in conflict with Israel—which viewed Tehran as an existential threat—and put him at odds with American Jews and certain members of Congress, who agreed with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opinion about the disastrous nature of the nuclear deal. In seeking to dismiss those arguments, Obama and his staff—including those who were orchestrating what former national security advisor Ben Rhodes called their media “echo chamber”—were at pains to spin the debate as one between a president pursuing his nation’s interests and a powerful lobby that was buying support in Congress, a trope of traditional anti-Semitism.

But far from seeking to confront his former colleagues, Greenblatt was more interested in using the ADL to critique Netanyahu. He went out of his way in 2016 to publicly oppose Netanyahu’s claim that the Palestinians’ desire to push Jews out of West Bank communities would amount to “ethnic cleansing.” According to Greenblatt, that was a wrongful use of Holocaust terminology. Yet he was guilty himself of using a similar analogy to criticize enforcement of American laws against illegal immigration.

There is, however, more at play here than mere hypocrisy. Though Greenblatt will occasionally criticize a Democrat for an anti-Semitic utterance or inappropriate Holocaust analogy, under his leadership, the ADL became focused on aiding the “resistance” to the administration of President Donald Trump, constantly accusing him of supposedly inciting or inspiring a rise in anti-Semitism on the far right. Indeed, the ADL became a prop for branding Trump a Nazi and/or anti-Semite.

While Trump’s intemperate and vulgar tone, as well as his willingness to attack opponents and critics was unorthodox, Greenblatt’s repeated attempts to connect the dots between his comments and far right extremists was rooted primarily in partisanship, not a defense of the Jews. That was apparent when it came to blaming the president for acts of violence against Jews, such as the attacks on synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, California. But it was also the case with respect to Greenblatt’s willingness to lend the ADL’s prestige to the false claim that Trump had somehow endorsed or expressed moral indifference to the neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 because of a comment that was taken out of  context about “very fine people” being on both sides of the barricades there. Trump said there were such people who disagreed about the need to clear public squares of all memorials to Confederates and those killed in the Civil War, not in the confrontation with neo-Nazis.

In doing so, the ADL aligned itself with the political views of most of its donors. But in addition to committing itself to a misleading partisan narrative about Trump, Greenblatt also pushed the group into a confrontation with the Trump administration over issues that had nothing to do with anti-Semitism. For example, Greenblatt tweeted his opposition to the nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court within seconds of the announcement, signaling that ADL would oppose any conservative.

The ADL condemned former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a man who was not only a friend to the Jewish community during his time in Congress and as director of the CIA but also helped to make historic breakthroughs for pro-Israel policies at the State Department. During his confirmation hearings, the ADL attacked him as a “bigot” for denouncing anti-Semitic Islamist radicals. That could be seen in the same context as Greenblatt’s reversal of Foxman’s opposition to the building of a Muslim community center and mosque in the Ground Zero area of Lower Manhattan where the 9/11 attacks took place. The ADL’s stance promoted the false narrative in which the real victims of the attacks were American Muslims, suffering from a mythical backlash.

The ADL also found itself closely aligned with Big Tech companies that it previously criticized for allowing anti-Semitism on social media. Though some of those firms, like Facebook, initially refused to go along with the ADL’s push for censoring hateful opinions, they soon found that the ADL was a willing partner when it came to justifying Silicon Valley’s shift toward censoring conservative opinions. The ADL’s efforts to steer those who logged onto hate websites to better sources of information actually led to another hate website that was spreading anti-Semitism. And its alliance with PayPal, intended to help weed out alleged radical groups, put it in the position of endorsing censorship more than actually fighting hate.

Despite the group’s claims to the contrary, the ADL’s leftist tilt caused it to be perceived as having shifted its priorities away from strictly Jewish issues. This led to even more dangerous problems than the disintegration of its gold-standard status as the ultimate authority on anti-Semitism. The spread of intersectional ideology—which lumps together all groups and peoples who claim to be oppressed because of their color or indigenous background and similarly views all of their opponents as linked by “white privilege”—has convinced many on the American left that the Palestinian war against Israel is somehow analogous to the struggle for civil rights in the United States.

This has led not only to attacks on Israel as a beneficiary of “white privilege”—the irony that a majority of Israeli Jews trace their origins to the Middle East or North Africa and are therefore “people of color” under the definition accepted by the left is lost on the Jewish state’s critics—but it has also provided fuel for a rising tide of anti-Semitism in which assertions of Israel’s illegitimacy are the primary line of attack. 

This has proved troublesome for the ADL because of the way Greenblatt has helped to steer it into a position where it is an important ally for a party whose left-wing—including its young rock stars of the congressional “Squad”—are not only anti-Israel but in the case of Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), are open supporters of the anti-Semitic BDS movement, which seeks Israel’s elimination. The group’s defense of Omar and Tlaib against criticisms from Trump about their anti-Semitism undermined their credibility in speaking up against the BDS movement while simultaneously earning them brickbats from the left.

Just as important, when the Black Lives Matter movement rose to prominence in the summer of 2020 after the death of George Floyd, the ADL was swept along with the rest of the country’s leftists into supporting its demands. The anti-Semitic connections of the radicals behind BLM and the vicious attacks on Israel in its platform should have placed the ADL first among the movement’s critics. But in the moral panic about race that has infected America’s leftist elites, the ADL felt compelled to endorse the movement, defend it against its critics, and, crucially, take a supportive position about the critical race theory indoctrination that was linked to the protests. 

In the past year, Greenblatt has felt compelled to note that anti-Semitism is a problem on the left as well as the far right, especially once incitement against Israel during the conflict with Hamas terrorists in May 2021 led to an outbreak of violent attacks against Jews in the United States. This incitement was led by left-wing Democrats like Omar, Tlaib, and their popular colleague Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who were appealing to intersectional ideology to justify their stance, libeling Israel and letting Hamas off the hook for firing thousands of rockets and missiles. The ADL was put in an awkward position, and was forced to push back against the delegitimizing smears heard on the floor of Congress, as well as from far-left and Islamist-friendly groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). 

Yet that didn’t cause Greenblatt or his group to rethink their endorsements of CRT. To the contrary, as was revealed after Greenblatt intervened to provide cover for “The View” host Whoopi Goldberg after she spouted racialist nonsense about the Holocaust in which she claimed it was merely a case of whites attacking other whites.

A definition of racism had been posted on the ADL website (in which racism was limited to prejudice against persons “of color”) that actually was similar to the gross comments for which Goldberg had to apologize with Greenblatt’s assistance. After the rise of BLM, the group’s definition was altered from one that stated that “the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another,” and that “a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics.” The new definition held that: “The marginalization and/or oppression of people of color based on a socially constructed racial hierarchy that privileges white people.”

As soon as the Goldberg controversy occurred, the ADL scrubbed the intersectional definition from its website and restored the old entry, although appending to it a lengthy note reportedly by Greenblatt, claiming that the group’s focus on the racism of whites was “true but not the whole truth.”

This Orwellian turn on the part of the ADL is noteworthy. Yet it’s also an element of another controversy in which it has recently become embroiled when it hired activist Tema Smith as its new director of Jewish outreach and partnerships. Smith has a long history as a bitter critic of Israel and left-wing Twitter troll. In an earlier time, it would have been unimaginable for a group that was as solidly pro-Israel and reflexively centrist as ADL to hire such a person, but she was the perfect job candidate for the Greenblatt era. 

The most serious problem with the hire is not what she might have posted on Twitter in the past but her current assignment. While outreach is important for the entire Jewish world in a time of rising assimilation and a Jewish population that is largely disconnected from the community and a sense of Jewish peoplehood, Smith’s brief is focused on “Jews of color.” That Jews who are not white sometimes face discrimination within the community is deplorable and should be condemned. Jews come in all different colors and from many places of origin (something that the non-Jewish Whoopi Goldberg doesn’t seem to understand). The idea of dividing Jews by skin color can never be accepted any more than bias against converts should be tolerated.

In its eagerness to get in on the fashion of racialist rhetoric on the left and in the Democratic Party, the ADL is embracing the cause of “Jews of color.” Yet in doing so, it and others on the left have lumped in a variety of communities including those Jews from Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and North African countries, most of whom do not identify with the term. As such, the ADL is not only undermining a basic concept of Jewish unity, it is also utilizing the same intersectional playbook used by Israel-haters to brand the Jewish state and its supporters as possessing “white privilege.”

In its eagerness to get in on the fashion of racialist rhetoric on the left and in the Democratic Party, the ADL is embracing the cause of “Jews of color.”

Jews should not be defined by skin color; no one should. The point of the civil rights movement was to discard the obsession with race that fueled segregation. America should aspire to a colorblind society, and yet CRT and intersectionality demand that it be treated as the most important element in defining any person. Joining with its left-wing allies to apply this idea to Jews across the board, the ADL is again undermining the cause for which it was founded and providing useful cover to those who are seeking to harm the Jewish people, here and in Israel.

At a time when both the statistics that the ADL compiles about hate and the tenor of the national conversation confirm that anti-Semitism is on the rise, the need for an effective Jewish defense agency focused on anti-Semitism is real.

Jews should not be defined by skin color; no one should.

The ADL now finds itself a rare Jewish organization with a mission that is at least as relevant to Jewish life today as when it was founded 109 years ago. That should make it a group whose continued efforts are not only necessary but deserving of support from the broadest cross-section of Jewish life. 

Far more important is the way the ADL’s embrace of BLM extremists and CRT gives a boost to the very forces on the left, who, because of their influence in Washington and among a younger generation of Democrats, now pose the most important threat to Jewish life in America. That is not merely a setback for ADL. It is an abandonment of the very purpose of its existence.

It is ironic that this is happening at a time when ADL’s influence and financial clout are greater than ever. But it is also a paradigm of how Jewish leadership is failing American Jewry’s best interests all the while claiming to be defending them.


Playing Defense Is Not Working on Campuses

The ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu said, “Security against defeat implies defensive tactics; ability to defeat the enemy means taking the offensive.” In other words, you don’t win a war by playing defense. 

Major Jewish and pro-Israel organizations have reacted to specific campus incidents of anti-Semitism (usually masquerading as anti-Israelism), such as  student government boycott resolutions, but have consistently failed to counter the growing narrative that Israel and Jews are racist colonialists. That false narrative has now been joined by a related one, that Israel and Jews are white, anti-people-of-color oppressors, a narrative often promulgated by anti-Israel activists deeply embedded within “social justice” and Black Lives Matters movements. 

Both narratives have become primary weapons against Israel. Rather than disarming the narratives, establishment groups too often simply deny the former and pledge support for the latter “anti-racism” movement out of a sense of progressive solidarity—solidarity that is not reciprocated. Below we explore the trajectory of these narratives, and how groups like the ADL, which promotes progressive solidarity, have made the problem worse instead of better.

The Problem – Durban Set the Formula for Delegitimizing Israel

After the 2001 Durban anti-racism conference was hijacked into an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hate-fest, campus anti-Israelism soared and became ever more clearly anti-Semitic. The Durban conference “gave birth to the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement and marked the beginning of baseless comparisons of Israel to apartheid South Africa.” The century-old anti-Jewish boycott was repackaged in social justice language to appeal to Western leftists.

The century-old anti-Jewish boycott was repackaged in social justice language to appeal to Western leftists.

Since then, BDS ideology has increasingly pervaded American universities, where anti-Israel activists have pursued a no-holds-barred campaign to delegitimize Israel as a pariah state. Faculty, students, and administrators have treated unfounded smears against Israel as fact, while actively shutting down expression of actual facts and pro-Israel opinions. They also stirred up hostility against Israel supporters and Jews in general, hostility that occasionally erupted into violence:

The Problem Worsens – The Red-Green Alliance

Jewish organizations responded to Durban by working to correct factual inaccuracies about Israel and to expose problems on campus. Unfortunately, the problem got worse instead of better.

Following Israel’s 2008-09 Operation Cast Lead response to rocket attacks from Gaza, anti-Israel campus activists further ratcheted up their activities to stifle pro-Israel voices and advance their agenda. The various branches of the University of California (UC) were particular hot-spots.

After the spate of anti-Israel attacks on American campuses that accompanied and followed Operation Cast Lead, more Jewish organizations jumped into the fray, including both top-down branches of existing organizations and bottom-up organizations founded at the campus level. 

However much good these groups have done, the problem worsened. The year 2014 was a watershed. That summer, in response to Hamas’ kidnapping three Israeli teenagers and firing rockets at Israeli civilians, Israel counter-attacked by invading Gaza. Predictably, the press focused on reporting collateral damage from Israeli attacks rather than Hamas’ war crimes in attacking civilian targets while hiding its personnel and military infrastructure in schools, hospitals, residential neighborhoods, and office buildings occupied by the press.

The same summer, Ferguson police shot and killed Michael Brown, sparking riots by people charging police targeted blacks for violence. Anti-Israel activists were deeply embedded in the riots and turned them into anti-Israel protests. Among other things, anti-Israel activists made anti-Israel invective part of the protests, offering advice to rioters and spuriously claiming that Israel promoted police violence in the United States by offering police training in anti-terrorism techniques. The narrative took hold.

Anti-Semitic attacks spiked after this double-whammy, both on and off campus. At both UCLA and Stanford University during spring 2015, the suitability of Jewish candidates for student government was challenged on the supposed grounds that they might show favoritism to Israel. Prominent figures like the late Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, spoke openly of the return of anti-Semitism. Jews warning about rising anti-Semitism were told Israel and Jews were to blame. 

Sample Anti-Israel and Anti-Semitic Tactics

Israel-haters have actively promoted a narrative casting Israel in the role of villain. Professors like Columbia University’s Joseph Massad have long taught their personal political views of hatred for Israel as though they were facts, and persecuted and shut down Jewish and other students questioning their opinions or expressing different views. In 2018, two University of Michigan educators—associate professor John Cheney-Lippold and graduate student instructor Lucy Peterson—refused reference letters supporting study abroad for the explicit reason that the requesting students sought to study in Israel.

Anti-Israel activists have frequently prevented or shut down speeches by pro-Israel speakers, like Netanyahu’s planned 2002 speech at Concordia, Oren’s 2010 speech at UC Irvine, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat’s 2016 speech at San Francisco State University, and 2016 and 2017 pro-Israel events at UC Irvine featuring, respectively, a film about the Israel Defense Forces and a talk by IDF reservists. The 2016 event at UC Irvine, in particular, featured crowds chasing attendees and putting the latter in fear of their safety.

Since 2005, BDS advocates have organized an annual campus event called “Israel Apartheid Week,” designed to convince college faculty and students that Israel is a racist state that persecutes Arabs the way apartheid South Africa persecuted blacks. From its inception as a series of lectures at the University of Toronto, the hate-fest has grown into an annual event at dozens of universities. It features fact-free activities pushing a message that Israel is a Nazi-like, segregationist, racist, colonial, illegitimate state founded and maintained by oppressing Arabs—basically, that Israel is everything contemporary Americans and Western society loathe. These propaganda exercises have included:

Another tactic is pushing for passage of student BDS resolutions condemning Israel. The point isn’t just to win passage. Rather, it’s to raise the issue and offer opportunities to propagandize. To squelch opposition, anti-Israel advocates purposely try to schedule debates or votes on Jewish holidays, when many pro-Israel students are unavailable. Passover is a particularly popular time to push what is, in effect, a modern spin on medieval blood libels. Examples include:

Anti-Israel activists have also hijacked other movements into vehicles for castigating Israel and its supporters. The entire rationale of today’s BDS movement is to paint the current situation in Israel as a latter-day version of South Africa’s apartheid regime. BDS supporters also tied the Black Lives Matter movement to Israeli anti-terrorism police junkets, and to racism generally. Campus black activists (for example, at Hamilton College and Oberlin College) have tied racial demands to demands for divestment.

Besides these movements, anti-Israel activists have somehow managed to convince many LGBTQ activists that Israel’s positive record on gay rights, in sharp contrast to that of Palestinians and others in the Middle East, is mere “pinkwashing” designed to distract from Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. The pinkwashing charge is essential in enabling BDS activists to finesse the abysmally anti-gay record of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas on college campuses. Incredibly, they have succeeded in convincing gay rights activists—who face prison and death in Arab lands—to oppose Israel (even Israeli and Jewish LGBTQ groups) and support the anti-gay Hamas and Palestinian Authority. 

Ditto with “anti-fascists”: a 2017 anti-fascism rally at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign was converted into an anti-Israel rally, with activists chanting, “No Zionists, no KKK, resisting fascists all the way!” Activists have also tied women’s groups to hatred of Israel. Women’s March leadership has been explicitly tied to anti-Semitism, and the International Women’s Strike platform calls for “decolonization of Palestine”—in other words, the destruction of Israel. Both organizations have been active on campus

Anti-Israel and Anti-Semitic Activists Largely Succeed in Neutralizing ADL

The Anti-Defamation League was a particular target of 2014 activists trying to tie Israel to the BLM narrative. An Ebony article published ten days after Michael Brown was shot already claimed a connection between the anti-terrorism training Israel has offered to American police departments (which activists dubbed the “deadly exchange” program) and the police shooting of Brown. The targeting of the ADL eventually led to a #DropTheADL movement to brand the ADL as racist and unwoke, a pariah with whom no woke person or organization should associate, but the broad outline was already visible back in summer 2014.

A wiser organization might have concluded that the supposed fellow-travelers condemning it were themselves prejudiced and discriminatory, but the ADL seems to have concluded that it needed to redouble its efforts to prove its heart was with the self-identified victims of racial violence. 

Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s longtime leader, had given notice in February 2014 that he would step down in July 2015, and a search for his successor was underway. One of the candidates under consideration was Jonathan Greenblatt, then director of the Obama administration’s Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation in the Domestic Policy Council. As Greenblatt tells it, the ADL reached out to him rather than the reverse. His background was as a tech-savvy social entrepreneur, specializing in civic engagement and impact investing, and he was a professional left-wing partisan.

By November 2014, the ADL had settled on Greenblatt as Foxman’s successor. Why? 

After taking over as ADL leader in July 2015, Greenblatt doubled down on ADL outreach to the left, while his condemnations of anti-Semitism on- and off-campus have been mostly tepid. Under his stewardship, the organization largely ignored BLM’s anti-Semitism; initially ignored Keith Ellison’s anti-Semitism while supporting his campaign to lead the Democratic National Committee; allowed the anti-Semites who ran the Women’s March to elbow the ADL out of participating in a Starbucks employee exercise in anti-discrimination—despite the fact that the ADL had helped put the exercise together and that Greenblatt used to be a Starbucks vice president—because the ADL was allegedly anti-Palestinian and “constantly attacking black and brown people”; ignored the anti-Semitism of Obama administration officials marketing the prior Iran deal; and ignored anti-Semitic comments by Democratic Party Young Turks like Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

By contrast, he has turned the ADL’s ire on Jews and Jewish organizations like Canary Mission, which works to expose anti-Semitism on campus. During the summer of 2020, Greenblatt’s ADL redefined racism to include only white racism against people of color. Given today’s inclusion of Jews among “whites,” the new definition appeared to deny the existence of anti-Jewish racism. (Greenblatt only tweaked the definition after Whoopi Goldberg made headlines by doing what ADL seemed to be doing—denying Jews were victims of racism because “they’re both white.”) Last fall, the ADL hired a new director of outreach (primarily to Jews of color) with a track record of blaming Jews first for black anti-Semitism and Palestinian terrorism. 

At the same time that the ADL has done little to oppose left-wing anti-Semitism, which is what dominates college campuses, while criticizing the Jewish community for standing up to anti-Semitism, Greenblatt has turned the organization into an active political partisan. He actively opposed the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, opposed the right of religious foster agencies to choose parents based on their religion, offered to register as a Muslim for Trump’s non-existent Muslim registry, compared Donald Trump to Hitler, and apologized for opposing the building of a mosque at Ground Zero. Under Greenblatt, the ADL has promoted Critical Race Theory. It has advocated for transgender accommodation for minors, and for keeping late-term abortions legal. Essentially, Greenblatt has transformed the ADL from a non-partisan advocate for Jews confronting anti-Semitism into an advocacy organization for left-wing and culture-war causes.

At the same time that the ADL has done little to oppose left-wing anti-Semitism, which is what dominates college campuses, while criticizing the Jewish community for standing up to anti-Semitism, Greenblatt has turned the organization into an active political partisan.

Only in the summer of 2021 did Greenblatt publicly admit that “the left has an anti-Semitism problem.” Since then, he has mostly continued on his woke course, hiring blame-the-Jews-first outreach staff.

Still, even focusing some attention on left-wing anti-Semitism was a big step for Greenblatt, and he has taken small steps since then to grapple with that reality. In July-August 2021, the ADL teamed up with Hillel to conduct an online survey of Jewish undergraduates about campus anti-Semitism. The survey was published in October 2021. Last fall, the ADL, Hillel, and the Secure Community Network launched an online portal where college students can report anti-Semitic incidents on their campus and receive immediate support. This is in addition to the ADL’s December report about anti-Israelism on campus, which grudgingly allowed the fact that anti-Israel activists “occasionally” espouse anti-Semitic tropes, such as alleging Jewish or Zionist power control media and political affairs.

Essentially, Greenblatt has transformed the ADL from a non-partisan advocate for Jews confronting anti-Semitism into an advocacy organization for left-wing and culture-war causes.

Given that the ADL reached out to Greenblatt, and the coincidence of his hire months after Ferguson and the 2014 Gaza War, it seems likely that he was hired for the explicit purpose of repairing ADL ties with the left. Perhaps we should be marveling that Greenblatt reached his epiphany about left-wing anti-Semitism at all, rather than complaining that he arrived so late and has yet to confront it in a serious way.

Jews Struggle to Address Campus Anti-Israelism and Anti-Semitism 

As the campus atmosphere has grown more and more intolerable, Jewish and other Israel supporters responded by forming new organizations and increasing their own activities. Their tactics have included:

Tragically, some of the ever more rabid anti-Israel voices on campus have been Jewish. Anti-Israel Jewish activists, notably the misnamed Jewish Voice for Peace, have pressured Jewish groups on campus not to oppose anti-Israel activism, and even to support it. That has made it harder for campus Jewish organizations to provide full-throated support for Israel, and to oppose the growing anti-Semitism concomitant with anti-Israel activism.

A Reactive Approach is Not Working 

The problem with pro-Israel Jewish campus organizations is less what they’ve done than what they’ve left undone. The actions they have taken thus far are all commendable and have been helpful in limiting damage. They’re necessary, but they’re not sufficient. 

Currently, Jews are playing defense. By itself, that’s rarely a winning strategy. The false narratives that Israel is a racist colonial enterprise and that Jews are “white” oppressors are rarely addressed head on, because to do so would require taking on the progressive power on campuses.

Contrast this with campus anti-Israel activists. They have been playing offense against Israel, its supporters, and Jewish students generally for many years. Groups like Students for Justice in Palestine have pursued an organized campaign of shutting down debate about Israel, imposing a narrative making outrageous claims against it (such as accusing it of Nazism and apartheid), and hounding Israel’s supporters or presumed supporters into silence. 

Their cause—destroying Israel and persecuting Jews—is unjust, and their tactics harmful to the very nature of the university. Nevertheless, their public relations has been wildly successful. They have controlled the narrative of converting Israel and Jews into pro-apartheid Nazi racists, and their opponents into persecuted underdogs. Jews have responded to attacks and challenged them, but have rarely set the agenda, or tried to reframe the narrative to expose their opponents’ blatant anti-Semitism and goal of annihilating the Jewish State. 

Jews were not always so passive. The Soviet Jewry movement, for instance, gained much of its energy from resourceful and provocative tactics like protestors chaining themselves to the Soviet Embassy fence, releasing black balloons during a candlelit vigil outside the Moscow Circus, picketing the Bolshoi Ballet, or unfurling banners before TV cameras at the Flyers/Soviet exhibition hockey game. These actions may or may not have had direct political impact, but they effectively framed the issue as one of Soviet repression of Jews and kept it in the public consciousness. Activists reached out directly to Soviet Jews, visiting them and supplying them with religious materials and gifts, as well as moral support, and keeping their struggle in the public eye. They also employed more conventional tactics, such as lobbying for passage of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which conditioned trade benefits on increased freedom of emigration from the Soviet Union.

Their cause—destroying Israel and persecuting Jews—is unjust, and their tactics harmful to the very nature of the university. Nevertheless, their public relations has been wildly successful. They have controlled the narrative of converting Israel and Jews into pro-apartheid Nazi racists, and their opponents into persecuted underdogs.

Jews could apply similar initiative to the current campus climate. For example, Jewish student activists could:

The student-founded, grassroots organization Students Supporting Israel has begun to use more offensive tactics. During so-called Apartheid Week 2022, SSI tested out messaging similar to the above suggestions. That’s an excellent sign. Hopefully, where they lead, others will follow.

The day before D-Day, General George S. Patton, Jr., explained his fighting philosophy to his Third Army. The gist (slightly bowdlerized) was this:

We are not holding a damned thing. Let the Germans do that. We are advancing constantly and we are not interested in holding onto anything, except the enemy’s b****.  We are going to twist him and kick the living s***  out of him all of the time.  Our basic plan of operation is to advance and to keep on advancing regardless of whether we have to go over, under, or through the enemy. 

Unfortunately, much of what pro-Israel and Jewish groups are doing today is at best trying to hold ground. The many fine things Jewish and pro-Israel groups have done to counter increasing attacks on Israel and Jews should not be confused with taking the fight to the enemy, so to speak. Pro-Israel and Jewish groups today are still searching for a coherent strategy and appropriate tactics to change the anti-Israel narrative and win the battle for hearts and minds.


Woke in Content, Jewish in Form:
On the Failings of Jewish Education in America

“I know the Zionist perspective,” a chorus of Jewish students at elite Jewish day schools across the nation continuously assure me. “We want to hear the other side. We want to know the Palestinian side.” Indeed, the tagline of one of the most virulent anti-Zionist Jewish youth groups, IfNotNow, is “no one ever told us.” 

It was my latest visit to a prestigious Jewish day school in North America that prompted me to re-evaluate how it is that we got to a place where I question the efficacy of Jewish and Israel education in America. It was at one such lecture that I had given on anti-Zionism and antisemitism that students complained of my bias, presenting me with a plethora of grievances with Israel. In that moment, I decided to switch gears: “You have presented criticisms of Israel, and you claim that you come from Zionist homes and a Zionist school. So you tell me: why should Israel exist as a Jewish country?” 

The Zionist challenge, as I have come to call it, was met with alarming rejoinders. One student proclaimed, “To be completely honest, as I am thinking out loud, I have to say, I would be willing to give up the land if human rights would be restored to the Palestinians.” Her friend further explained: “Yes, because I can pray and practice my Judaism here (America) without ever having to be there (Israel).” Another student stated: “I can’t trust Israeli courts when it comes to settling land disputes because they are majority Jewish and therefore, biased.” And finally, a student settled it all: “I don’t see a reason to call myself a Zionist. Zionism has fulfilled its purpose.”

How did we get here? How do our brightest and most dedicated Jewish students surrender the land, the trust in their people, and history? 

It used to be that within Jewish families in North America, one sensible reason to send kids to Jewish day schools, and/or to Jewish youth programs was to avoid anti-Israel bias in the classroom. This strategy, however, has proven to not only be ineffective, but more alarmingly, produced a generation of anti-Zionist Jews or as Natan Sharansky and Gil Troy call them, The Un-Jews. Likewise, having Israeli parents or joining Israeli youth movements such as tsofim provide little to no real shelter from the dangers of radical leftism, which ushers in anti-Zionism, today’s most potent form of Jew-hatred. 

How did we get here? How do our brightest and most dedicated Jewish students surrender the land, the trust in their people, and history?

A stark example is a graduate of K-12 Jewish day school, Simone Zimmerman, the founder of IfNotNow (INN), a Jewish organization whose goal is to oppose “Israeli occupation.” Zimmerman is but one, although a vivid, example of how Jewish education provides little refuge from an education steeped in Marxist thought. But the phenomenon of Jewish young adults graduating Jewish day schools and joining anti-Israel groups such as J-Street, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), INN, and even Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) has been in the making for decades now. Indeed, Jewish day school graduates are at the helm of anti-Israel and anti-American movements on college campuses. They aren’t just members, they are leaders. How did this happen? 

To help answer this question, I turn to a Soviet policy enshrined during the Stalin years: “socialist in content, national in form.” Having formed a nascent Soviet government in 1918, several ethnic minorities (i.e. Jewish, Ukrainian, Uzkeb, Armenian) found themselves under Soviet rule. Party officials had a problem to solve: how to unite these diverse ethnic minorities under the aegis of a common ideology. 

To help answer this question, I turn to a Soviet policy enshrined during the Stalin years: “socialist in content, national in form.”

What the central committee devised was ingenious: allow ethnic minorities to speak their native language, publish newspapers and books in their native language, and support the arts of the minorities. The only caveat: the content had to promote socialism. Indeed, in the 1920s and even in the 1930s, there was a burgeoning of Yiddish in the Soviet Union. This is why Jews scanning the globe in 1919 declared the Jewish future not in Palestine or America, but in the Soviet Union! How wrong they were is for another time (anti-Semitism returned in greater force in the Soviet Union with the murder of Yiddish poets, artists, and writers during Stalin’s last years in power).  

In a rather twisted turn of historic events that would make Stalin chuckle, Jewish day schools in North America practice “woke in content, Jewish in form.” Indeed, all major Jewish groups that oppose the “Israeli occupation” or promote the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement (BDS) have been started by Jews who either graduated from Jewish day schools or were involved in Jewish youth groups:

  1. Jewish Voice for Peace: Founder Julie Ivny joined Hashomer Hatzair, a Jewish youth group focused on social justice and Judaism, when she was in the third grade: “The older teens in the youth group encouraged their waist-high counterparts to think and talk about the world around them, to not ignore the inequality that persisted in Los Angeles’ neighborhoods and schools.” According to the ADL, JVP is a “radical anti-Israel activist group that advocates for a complete economic, cultural and academic boycott of the state of Israel.”
  2. J Street: Founder Jeremy Ben-Ami completed Hebrew school at Temple Rodeph Sholom in Manhattan, a Reform synagogue in New York. Ben-Ami founded J Street as a reaction to AIPAC, whose goal is to foster a strong relationship between the United States and Israel. According to J Street, the “ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory is a major obstacle to the achievement of Israeli-Palestinian peace, is a systemic injustice violating the rights of the Palestinian people, and poses a severe threat to Israel’s long-term future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.” 
  3. IfNotNow: INN was founded by Simone Zimmerman, a graduate of two Jewish day schools in Los Angeles. Calling themselves a “movement to end Israel’s occupation,” in 2018, INN held a mourner’s kaddish service for Palestinians killed by the Israeli army in a Gaza airstrike. 

Jewish mainstream institutions have abandoned Jewish particularism and gravitated toward universalism.

This is not a coincidence. This is a pattern. And it comes from Jewish educational institutions that focus not on Judaism and anti-Semitism specifically, but rather promoting anti-racist  education, restoring climate justice, gender and racial inequity. Moreover, at the root of it all, is discomfort with Jewish particularism: with a majority Jewish state, with borders and by extension, Jewish nationalism. Jewish mainstream institutions have abandoned Jewish particularism and gravitated toward universalism. Through universalism, we have re-written, so to speak, three major concepts in Judaism:  Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof, Tikkun Olam, and Derech Eretz.

  1. Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof—“Justice, justice shall you pursue…”

This phrase, taken from Deuteronomy 16:18-20, appears in most Jewish schools’ mission statements, at times even emblematized on the front gates of the school. The original text reads: “Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that Adonai your God is giving you.” In its entire context, it is an imperative from God that the Jewish people occupy and settle in Eretz Yisrael by appointing magistrates and officials who will “not judge unfairly.” Willfully forgetting the remainder of the passage, Jewish educators apply these words, “justice, justice shall you pursue,” as an ethical permission slip to embrace social justice causes such as racial and gender inequity, inclusivity, and immigration reform, to name a few. 

  1. Tikkun Olam—“Repair the world” 

While tikkun olam is a signature theme of Jewish tradition in North America, somewhere along the way Jewish educators came to believe that the goal for the Jewish people was to help repair the world through solving world hunger, campaigning against occupations, ending gender wage gaps, and fighting climate change. However, in its original formulation, tikkun olam is achieved through ethical and ritual mitzvot such as keeping the laws of kashrut and observing the Sabbath. Similar to those who invoke tzedek, tzedek tirdof piecemeal, tikkun olam, which comes from the Aleinu, a seminal prayer in Jewish liturgy, appears in a passage that extends hope in “You, Adonai our God… to completely cut off all false gods; to repair the world, Your holy empire.” We make a grave error, therefore, in thinking that tikkun olam means embracing a woman’s right to choose, open immigration, or supporting equity of outcome policies.

  1. Derech Eretz—“Way of the Land”

Although the literal translation is “way of the land,” Jewish educators have applied derech eretz to embrace compassion, kindness, and “common decency.” The problem, however, is that compassion and kindness are universal values and to each person mean different things. I once asked my students to define kindness and received disparate responses. To one, kindness was taking something from oneself in order to benefit another person; to another, it was saying kinds words in order to make someone else feel better. 

Derech eretz appears in several iterations in rabbinical literature. Take, for example, the midrash from Exodus Rabbah  (Shemot Rabbah 35:2), wherein we are instructed to “refrain from using wood from a fruit-bearing tree to build a house and calls that rule a lesson in derech eretz.” Here, derech eretz is not a commentary on kindness, but rather a frame to help people make better economic and ecological choices.  

But as I once heard among a cohort of Jewish senior educators at a conference, practicing derech eretz was finding a way to incorporate LGBTQ awareness into the Jewish middle school curriculum. 

To return to the dictum “socialist in content, national in form,” Soviet officials relied on this policy in order to unite a society around a shared system of values. In its entirety, the slogan, taken from an essay written by Joseph Stalin in 1934 reads: “The development of cultures national in form and socialist in content is necessary for the purpose of their ultimate fusion into one General Culture, socialist as to form and content, and expressed in one general language” (Marxism and the National-colonial Question). This “one General Culture” was emblematized by the “new Soviet man”—novyj Sovetskii chelovek—an archetype of the Leninist-Marxist ideals. Regardless of the chelovek’s ethnic background, he was a highly conscious individual, hyper-aware of his role to oppose private property and the greed of capitalism, and to support the worker against the petty bourgeoisie. The policy to conform was a success. Within five to ten years, ethnic minorities touted the Soviet policy line; and within fifteen to twenty years, as was planned, the “national form” had disappeared. By the 1960s, Jewish homes in the Soviet Union saw a 66 percent decline in spoken Yiddish.

But at least in the Soviet Union, it was done for a cause, granted a rotten one. What is the reason—the cause—for Jewish educators to practice “woke in content, Jewish in form”? Certainly it is not due to external forces, as in the case of the Soviet government that mandated educational policy. In North America, we cannot point to a single leader, a legislative document, or unique event that demonstrates a widespread adoption of these principles. What we can do, instead, is look to the triad—tzedek tzedek tirdof, tikkun olam, and derech eretz—and find a common denominator: the removal of God from each of the Jewish ideas. In each invocation of the triad, God is not present. The consequences of an absent God is that man must step in to restore order. Therein lies the problem: the moral compass is thus defined by individuals and not the institutional codex from which the principles emanate. The lack of explicit theological grounding allows for individuals to sanction ideologies and policies they see fit to promote. 

My recent encounter with young Jews demonstrates that in each of their articulations—from discomfort with a Jewish majority court system to enshrining human rights, and most significantly, finding no reason to be a Zionist since “Zionism fulfilled its purpose”— somewhere along the way, Jewish educators along with the institutions have dropped the ball on Jewish identity. It was most painful to hear a young Jewish student surrender one of the holiest pillars of Jewish identity, the Land of Israel, in order to restore justice and human rights to the Palestinians. And what is most painful is that behind her reasoning is a well-oiled Jewish education system that has taught this young lady that to be a Jew, she must repair the world, seek justice for the persecuted, and jettison her parochial Jewish nationalism. This young lady, therefore, surrenders the Land because she is a Jew, a Jew who has been taught social justice in content, while national in form. 

The consequences of an absent God is that man must step in to restore order. Therein lies the problem: the moral compass is thus defined by individuals and not the institutional codex from which the principles emanate.

What then is the answer? How do we treat this alarming malaise? First and foremost, we address the root cause: discomfort with Jewish nationalism. Next we unpack Jewish nationalism by reminding American Jews that we are first and foremost, a people, and not a religion. We are an indigenous people from the Land of Israel; the reason we have been dispersed around the globe is because we were exiled from our national homeland. 
We need to stop capitulating to the zeitgeist, that is the desire to fit Jewish identity into a woke framework. Yes, Zionism is a movement of justice, yes Zionism sought to restore power to the persecuted Jewish people. But this is partial. We must inspire our Jewish youth in the idea that we are living in the most miraculous moment, a most supreme Zionist moment. Through Zionism, Jews have returned to history: we are not being written about, but rather are the scribes of history. What is Zionism? Zionism is a national Jewish movement: it is about returning the Jewish people to their homeland, with self-determination, with power, and with secure borders.


Jewish Leaders Must Counter Islamist Supremacism

The first question any American Jew may contemplate asking me, an American Muslim activist is, how does this guy have the chutzpah to tell our diverse Jewish communities what we should or should not do vis-à-vis American Muslim communities, Islamism, and especially anti-Semitism? Anyone who has followed all of our public work in this area of expertise knows that we at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and the Muslim Reform Movement are certainly not delusional and are fully aware and engaged with the hard work necessary to begin change toward long overdue reforms within the Muslim consciousness. We know that this road is arduous and may take a generation. But we also would have never guessed that some of our most significant obstacles to fighting against Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood would come from within the Jewish community. 

We know that most, if not all of this work, can only be done by Muslims needing essentially nothing short of revolution after revolution against the Islamist establishments, theocrats, patriarchs, autocrats, and kleptocrats across the planet. However, no one should for a second believe that we can right this ship alone. Our non-Muslim and especially our Jewish community partners play an invaluable role in our success and failures obviously especially when it comes down to countering anti-Semitism. We understand that this condition of endemic bigotry against the Jewish community emanates from centuries old Islamist interpretations of Islam as well as pan-Arab racial supremacism to name a few root-cause afflictions of the majorities of almost a quarter of the world’s population who happen to Muslim. 

The reality, however, is that if the Jewish community’s greatest allies within Muslim and Arab populations are in fact the “modern,” “liberal” reformers who stand up within our own faith and ethnic communities against the anti-Semitic, Islamist, and Arabist demagogues—then they must be supported and augmented, not marginalized. If any of us reformers are going to ever make any headway at all, then the leadership of leading Jewish political and religious organizations must make strategic alliances with—eyes wide open, please. The importance of those alliances cannot be overstated as it provides important legitimacy to American Muslim groups domestically and abroad and also contrarily what can be a very dangerous sense of complacency when it comes to Islamist dissimulation and their facades of reform. I am here to tell you that all too often leading Jewish organizations grossly underestimate the profound impact they have in marginalizing their real allies by lifting up the lowest hanging fruit of our faith community’s current Islamist leadership across mosques and activist Islamist organizations in America. The reason the Muslim Brotherhood and Deobandi legacy groups like the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Muslim American Society (MAS), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) to name a few have such a greater audience and bandwidth is because they have had a two-plus generation head start in the West organizing and also being funded by the worst government actors and terror-sympathizers in the Middle East, bolstered essentially across the greater “neo-caliphate” of today with the 56 nations of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Ff the Jewish community’s greatest allies within Muslim and Arab populations are in fact the “modern,” “liberal” reformers who stand up within our own faith and ethnic communities against the anti-Semitic, Islamist, and Arabist demagogues—then they must be supported and augmented, not marginalized.

My goal here is simple. It is to shed the antiseptic of sunlight upon the relationships that many Jewish organizations make with American Islamists. It is one thing to proclaim that anti-Semitism is pervasive and Jewish leadership must make allies wherever they can. It is, however, quite another thing to fall for the dissimulation of Islamists and refuse to acknowledge their core ideologies as they tell groups like the ADL and AJC what they want to hear. It is not even a zero sum game. In fact, the elevation of Islamists by any leading non-Muslims in the West is just another nail in the coffin of reformers. Don’t be deceived.  

It is important to truly understand the deep layers upon which the horrifically pervasive anti-Semitism of Muslim and Arab majority populations is based. As wise sages have said, the only way to prevent history from repeating itself is to truly understand it and learn from it. As a faithful Muslim, it is my obligation to be transparent about our own history and make sure that Muslims and non-Muslims alike learn from it and prevent the theocratic and ethnic supremacists from staying in power and ever gaining it again. 

In fact, the elevation of Islamists by any leading non-Muslims in the West is just another nail in the coffin of reformers.

First, it is key to understand the history and ideology of Islamism or political Islam. The link between Islamism (also known as Islamist supremacism), and anti-Semitism is fairly simple. It is self-evident that supremacists from within a particular faith community will create and exploit hatred toward another faith community in order to collectively rally their own followers against a common enemy. Much as Jew hatred was a fundamental part of Christianity before the Protestant Revolution and the Enlightenment separated church and state, predominant interpretations of Islam, a much newer religion, promoted anti-Semitic imagery, profiling, and demonization of Jews as a tool for its devoted members’ own ascension into power among Muslim-majority communities and nations, or in Arabic, the Umma. My entire work and our mission at AIFD is founded upon the precept that the primary cancer from which all hate within the Muslim community emanates is the idea of the “Islamic State.” From that theocratic shariah “state” comes obligations to “jihad,” anti-blasphemy laws, and the current oppressive sharia legal system that puts Muslims above all others. 

The primary cancer from which all hate within the Muslim community emanates is the idea of the “Islamic State.”

Understanding this inextricable connection between the demonization of Jews and the advancement of Islamist movements whether violent or not, lawful or not, (distinctions without a difference) is essential in order to break the link and finally give reformers the space to even begin the hard work of reforming various Muslim interpretations of the faith of Islam, as we have seen happen within Christianity. And yet, it breaks my heart to see so many in the Jewish community itself actively hampering and preventing such a positive change from occurring. We can all do better than this. 

If the public goal is to simply fill dining halls with thousands of Muslim supporters and do “photo ops” with what appears to be large Muslim populations, then go ahead, the Islamist dissimulators of moderation are the only way to go and the only Muslim “partners” that can give you that today. They have summarily dismissed anti-Islamist dissenters from the ranks of the Muslim communities they control. But Muslims who may simply, for example, recognize the horrific realities of the Holocaust and condemn Holocaust denial while certainly exemplify a very good step forward, are far from reformational. That was the apparent low bar required by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) with their Islamist partners at ISNA. Sadly, many Islamists cannot even do that, but when they do, all they are doing is dismissing a radical conspiracy theory. It does nothing to treat the primary cancer of political Islam, the religious legitimacy of the Islamic state, and its theological underpinnings across all schools of current day Islamic jurisprudence in both the Sunni and Shia traditions.  I would submit that such a low bar is insulting to those of us with the honesty to address the more deep-seeded fundamentals of Islamism and its anti-Semitic jihad. 

Unlike the other Abrahamic religions, Judaism has always had a strong liberal streak running through it, encouraging questions and varied interpretations. The Talmud makes this fact crystal clear. And this liberalism has carried through into politics, with the majority of Westernized Jews voting Democrat. That liberal history influenced by query, reform, and the politics of immigration has had an impact on the partisanship of various Jewish organizations in America. As such, the tendency toward “politically correct” approaches with sensitive issues of race and identity even when Muslim leadership conflate Islamist ideologies with race and identity in such contrived notions like “Islamophobia” is mind-numbing. The avoidance by leftist Jewish communities of the pervasiveness of such deep-seated ideological threats like Muslim anti-Semitism has been at their own peril.

Instead of tackling the phenomena head on, acknowledging how widespread it is and how increasingly problematic it has become given the recent influx of millions of Arab and Muslim refugees into Western Europe, many leaders in the Jewish community, in line with the media, academia, and the majority of Western governments, have preferred the nebulous and generic concept of “violent extremism” in developing targeted solutions against this domestic and global threat. But programs that only counter violence address the means of those who threaten the Jewish community while wholly ignoring the ideology or the ends that their movements seek. The common ideological thread running through the security threat that comes from Islamist extremism is the inherent supremacism of Islamism or political Islam. As I’ve testified to Congress many times, our programs should be entitled “Countering Islamism.” Full stop. Legitimate partners of Jewish communities should be anti-Islamist at best and non-Islamist at worst. 

The avoidance by leftist Jewish communities of the pervasiveness of such deep-seated ideological threats like Muslim anti-Semitism has been at their own peril.

Anti-Semitism should not be viewed as just another “radical” symptom that arises from the supremacist mentality of Islamism. It is far more than that. It is its foundation. Translations and interpretations of our Holy Qur’an and Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Mohammed) distributed by virtually all Islamist governments are rife with anti-Semitic narratives, including translations and interpretations of some of the most commonly recited verses. Educational materials teach blatant Jew hatred, with children throughout the Muslim world raised to believe that Jews are the enemies of the believers and the descendants of apes and pigs. For example, the most repeated verse in the Qur’an among faithful Muslims in their daily prayers is the short opening “Sura al-Fatiha.” It states, “Guide us in the straight path. The path of those upon whom you have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked your anger or of those who have gone astray.” The only Saudi version approved by its Wahhabist regime footnotes the phrase in that Sura, “or of those who have gone astray” with *not like the Jews and Christians. Modern reformist Muslims interpret those in the “straight path” in an egalitarian way among all believers in God of all faiths. However, Wahhabists, Islamists, and other Muslim supremacists read this as exclusive to Muslims. This small example, repeated many times a day, is but one of thousands of examples of explanatory interpretations that radicalize Muslims away from more moderate interpretations and toward the supremacist Islamist ones. Genuine Muslim-Jewish discourse should demand transparency over apologetics about the grim realities of these interpretations and so many more.

Anti-Semitism should not be viewed as just another “radical” symptom that arises from the supremacist mentality of Islamism. It is far more than that. It is its foundation.

The importance of the underlying role of anti-Semitism and its rot in our communities here cannot be overstated. A Pew poll confirmed that “Anti-Jewish sentiment” is endemic in the Muslim world. If Islamists are a plurality, upwards of 30 to 40 percent of the population as was proven in the Arab-Awakening, pan-Arabist supremacists are another 30 to 40 percent giving many of these nations astronomical rates of anti-Semitism—up to 80 to 90 percent plus when their theological and racial hatred is combined. “In Lebanon, for example, virtually all Muslims and the majority of Arabs say they have a very unfavorable view of Jews. Similarly, 99 percent of Jordanians have a very unfavorable view of Jews. Large majorities of Moroccans, Indonesians, Pakistanis, and six-in-ten Turks also view Jews unfavorably.” As many of these nations slide back and forth from one fascism to the other, from secular fascism to Islamist fascism or theo-political fascism, one has to plainly see how the anti-Semitism long fueled for generations by Arab dictators like Hosni Mubarak, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Saddam Hussein, Bashar Assad, Muammar Qaddafi, or King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz was a harbinger of the type of violent and hate-filled societies they were sowing. These predominantly secular fascists and kleptocratic monarchs effectively used national media to propagate anti-Semitism in an “us versus them” mentality. They also effectively demonized Zionism in order to lift up pan-Arabism as a Machiavellian tool to keep the masses from questioning their authority. Their media propaganda machines made this happen. 

For example, and there are thousands, under Egyptian President Mubarak, Egypt annually aired the virulently anti-Semitic and czarist Russian forgery, Protocols of the Elder of Zion. State media regularly denied the Holocaust while at the same time irrationally labeling Zionism as a new Nazism. Conversely, in April 2001, the government-sponsored newspaper Al-Akhbar published a paragraph extolling praise on Hitler for the Holocaust and complaining that it did not go far enough stating: “Thanks to Hitler, of blessed memory, who on behalf of the Palestinians, revenged in advance, against the most vile criminals on the face of the earth. Although we do have a complaint against him for his revenge on them was not enough.”

That propaganda and threat continues today in state-run media throughout the Middle East including the Al Jazeera media group. During the Obama administration, Qatar state media purchased potential access to more than 40 million American homes through its acquisition of Al Gore’s Current TV for $500 million. Only a few years later that venture, Al Jazeera America, failed miserably and is now defunct unable to get high-level journalists or viewer traction. However, their goal of influencing the American government, media, and academia continues unabated. Their strident Islamist correspondents like Mehdi Hasan are now anchoring leftist news media like MSNBC. When one of the Al Jazeera Arabic journalists posted a horrifically anti-Semitic “news report” in April 2019, rather than deal with the root cause, Al Jazeera Arabic unleashed its lawyers across the planet to threaten anyone who hosted the video, claiming they “fixed the problem by suspending the rogue journalists.” Our American Islamic Forum for Democracy was one of the sources that broke the story and still has its translation online.

The hate created by the Arab secular fascists also tellingly fueled a mass exodus of the Jewish people that began in 1948 at Israel’s founding when there were over 800,000 Jews living in Arab lands. Today, it is believed that there are less than 20,000 remaining. That exodus has carried over to the Christian community where it is believed over two million Christians have fled the Middle Eastern Arab community in the last 20 years. This vacuum of religious diversity only feeds the Islamist supremacist mentality.

The exploitation of Israel among Islamists is also virtually a litmus test for anti-Semitism. Apparent is the use of conspiracy theories by Islamist demagogues to portray a false narrative and fiction against Israel and thus by association all Jews. These conspiracy theories then spread like wildfire and are exploited by fellow global Islamist movements of all stripes in order to broaden the conspiracy against all Muslims and provide more excuses for the failures of Muslim-majority nations. When the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the neo-caliphate umbrella group of 56 Muslim majority nations, met in Malaysia, Prime Minister Mahatir told the crowd, “The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.” Reports were that the crowd responded with a “resounding ovation.” This is consistent with the Pew opinion polls in nations like Malaysia. Nothing short of revolutions will change this entrenched bigotry. Muslims who are anti-caliphism, anti-Islamist, and anti-jihadi should be the only partners that rise to an acceptable level of reform, modernity and respect for their Jewish brothers and sisters to embrace.  

Yet, sadly, apart from the Israeli government, virtually nothing is said to Muslim audiences by the Jewish diaspora about the central need to combat the institutional ideas of anti-Semitism. In fact, far-left progressive Jewish groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNow, and Bend the Arc, have expressed sympathy and made common cause with anti-Semitic Muslim groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) or murderously hateful regimes such as Iran. These groups go so far as to partner with and regularly feature anti-Semitic speakers at their webinars, conferences, or national conventions. Except for notable exceptions due to how rarely they happen, larger groups like the ADL have sat on the sidelines as American Islamist groups born out of the Muslim Brotherhood have radicalized American Muslims and poisoned the discourse against reformist groups like the Muslim Reform Movement. Choosing party over substance when it comes to combating Islamist anti-Semitism, the likes of Keith Ellison (D-MN), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) receive little to no critique while instead their bandwidth is filled with other priorities like attacking the American right. 

Yet, sadly, apart from the Israeli government, virtually nothing is said to Muslim audiences by the Jewish diaspora about the central need to combat the institutional ideas of anti-Semitism.

Nothing epitomizes the damaging nature of their silence more than the response of Democratic Party leadership to Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s (D-Il) deceptive “Combating International Islamophobia Act,” which just a few months ago was a patently obvious Islamist influence operation to put into place a legislative proposal that sought to establish in the Department of State the “Office to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia.” A more appropriate name for this proposed legislation would have been “The American Caliph Act.” They simply wanted to empower a government official with the ability to label criticism of Islam hate speech—basically an anti-blasphemy czar in our own government. The endorsement of this legislation by groups like the ADL and silence from established groups like the AJC says everything one needs to know about how far off the mark so many American Jewish organizations are from identifying what is the best interests of America, modern American Muslims, and dare I say, their own Jewish communities. 

And it was not just about this one act. Since day one, the Biden administration began peppering its rolls with Islamists and their sympathizers in all its corners with Palestinian Islamist sympathizer Reema Dodin at the White House to CAIR fundraiser Khizr Khan at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), and now even an attempt to place the long controversial Rashad Hussain as Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom at the State Department. All of these appointments are flagrantly pro-Islamist and thus by definition facilitating anti-Semitism.

What these groups dominated by universalist and collectivist Jews fail to understand is that to patronize Muslim societies and communities with a different set of human standards than those embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a moral relativism that insults every Muslim and citizen inclined otherwise in those nations. It also expects less of Muslims living in the West who remain silent against the obvious intimations of anti-Semitism that beset so much of the Arabic and Muslim-dominated media. 

Tough love is the highest form of respect. Demanding a minimum standard of nonviolence is by no means enough. 

Moral relativism is exactly what the theocrats of the Muslim Brotherhood want in order to widen rather than close the divide between the ideas of liberty and Islamism.

That the Jewish community does not confront the scourge of Muslim anti-Semitism also makes it more challenging for those few Muslim imams, scholars, or activists with the courage to publicly take on the anti-Semitism of Islamist leaders. When these brave reformers arise, instead of being embraced by their Jewish brothers and sisters, they are either silenced, or not given sufficient attention or support. The examples of Islamist-inspired anti-Semitism leading to terror against Jews are sadly too numerous to list.

Common among Islamist thought of all stripes is the utilization of hatred of Jews to marginalize their antagonists from within and thus avoid substantive debate about their own theological authenticity within Islam. Islamism depends upon conspiracy in order to explain the weakness of the Muslim condition and the need for Muslim collectivism and Islamic statehood and, ultimately, neo-caliphism. 

That the Jewish community does not confront the scourge of Muslim anti-Semitism also makes it more challenging for those few Muslim imams, scholars, or activists with the courage to publicly take on the anti-Semitism of Islamist leaders.

Anti-Semitism has long been a tool utilized by Islamists in order to invoke common sympathy from secular nationalists, who also fostered a hatred for Jews, in order to avoid national introspection. In fact, anti-Semitism is the one ideological litmus test shared by both secular autocrats and Islamists across Muslim-majority nations. At the UN, the radical far Left and the Islamists work hand in hand to turn the world community of nations against Israel and all Western values. When Venezuela, China, and Russia work together with Iran, Syria, and Qatar, this is the global version of the Red-Green Axis. 

And at home, the Red-Green Axis is epitomized by the likes of radical progressive Rep. Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) working together with radical Islamist Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN). They normalize anti-Semitism and its anti-Zionism. Through 2020 and 2021 too many American Jewish organizations stayed silent as the Black Lives Matter movement used the politics of identity and race in order to stifle free speech and destroy the foundations of America, essentially lifting a page right out of Islamist movements across the Arab world. Rewriting history is their goal. Whether it is the Taliban destroying statues of Buddha in Afghanistan or BLM rioters destroying statues of our founding fathers in the U.S., the goals are similar. The affiliation of BLM leaders with deeply anti-Semitic movements like the Nation of Islam and the Blank Panthers is hardly a coincidence. How can we Muslims, ready to combat them within our communities, do so when they are blindly tolerated or even endorsed by essentially everyone on the American Left, including leading Jewish organizations?

And despite all of this, too many American Jews have failed to develop the understanding and conviction to directly confront the anti-Semitism of global Islamist movements and unravel the very fabric and platform through which Islamist leaders spread their ideas. Because where anti-Semitism thrives, so too does the eventual threat against other faith minorities and the very foundations of democracy. Only with bold new partnerships that lift up honest allies and confront the dissimulators will our chances of victory against Islamists be realized. 

where anti-Semitism thrives, so too does the eventual threat against other faith minorities and the very foundations of democracy.

Here are a few obvious things that Jewish leaders who care about the threats to their community (and to America) from Islamist anti-Semitism should do:

  1. Stop participating in the cover-up of instances of Islamist anti-Semitic activity.
  2. Educate the Jewish community about the history, nature, and extent of Islamist Jew-hatred and the specific threats posed by Islamists who seek to radicalize America’s Muslim community. Don’t fall for the absurdity that it is somehow anti-Muslim bigotry (so-called “Islamophobia”) to expose the anti-Semitism and separatism of Islamist leaders. In fact, accepting Islamists as de facto leaders of what are far more ideologically diverse communities is far more anti-Muslim.
  3. Monitor and expose anti-Semitic speeches and sermons of radical Imams across the country, much of which is already available online at Memri.org. 
  4. Ask your local Muslim dialogue partners about what they teach their communities and congregations about who the Jews are. Ask them to show you the materials they use to educate their youth about America, democracy, women, gays, Jews, and Christians.
  5. Ask your local Muslim dialogue partners what they feel about the Declaration of the Muslim Reform Movement and if they would sign on to it. If not, their explanation should be very revealing. Therein are core principles regarding a rejection of the Islamist shariah state and the foundations of the modernity of the West. Do they reject the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights and support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
  6. Ask if they would allow Jews to address their communities about Jews, Judaism, and Israel.

Where Jewish Leadership Went Astray

On Sunday, July 11, 2021, an impressive array of more than 100 Jewish and interfaith organizations concerned about the rising tide of anti-Semitism in America held a rally at the U.S. Capitol. Hoping to match the success of a rally for Soviet Jewry organized by famed Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky that drew more than 250,000 American Jews, the organizers even provided free bus transportation for people to come from Baltimore, Boston, New Jersey, New York, and Philadelphia. Sadly, their good intentions weren’t amply rewarded. Estimates of crowd size ranged from 300 by the ever-hostile media to 3,000 by the organizers, who consoled themselves that it was a hot summer day and millions of viewers watched via Zoom.

How did we reach this point where political ideology outweighs what should be unified Jewish support for Israel?

Other Jewish activists saw it differently, however. Foreign policy analyst Mitchell Bard summarized as follows: “The country’s largest and most active organizations, which are spending millions of dollars to fight anti-Semitism, failed to convince their members it was worth their time to show the American public that Jewish lives matter.” Jonathan S. Tobin, editor-in-chief of the Jewish News Syndicate, noting the difference in support of Israel from the politically and religiously liberal majority of the community versus those who are Orthodox, politically conservative, or pro-Zionist, questioned whether American Jews are really united against anti-Semitism. CUNY Professor Dr. Phyllis Chesler questioned whether rallies have any effect.

Respected commentator Jonathan Rosenblum observed: “The fecklessness of American Jewish leadership was on full display at the recent rally. The organizers felt the need to emphasize that the rally was ‘against all hatred,’ not just anti-Semitism. That message both distorts and trivializes anti-Semitism…. The speakers at the anti-Semitism rally were carefully mooted to exclude any ardent advocates for Israel or anyone who might be charged with Islamophobia… No speakers were called upon to demonstrate the absurdity of claims of Israeli apartheid and genocide or to explain why they are anti-Semitic.” His conclusion: “The failure of the ‘No Fear’ rally represents the failure… of American Jewish leadership.”

How did we reach this point where political ideology outweighs what should be unified Jewish support for Israel? For answers, we can look back at our history. To begin, consider the interpretation of Isaiah 1:10-17, in which the prophet castigates Israel, saying that because of their sinful behavior, God finds the people’s offerings worthless, rejects their prayers, and concludes, “Learn to do good, seek justice, vindicate the victim, render justice to the orphan, take up the grievance of the widow.”

The simple meaning of these verses is to observe both the particularistic ritual commandments between the Jewish people and God and the universalistic commandments for ethical behavior toward people. A deeper meaning can be inferred: the two sets of commandments have equal standing. Thus, when the Enlightenment swept across Europe and many Jews came to regard the ritual commandments as archaic, the ethical commandments, which later came to be known as “social justice,” became the core of their Jewish identity. They justified this substitution by improperly invoking a 16th century Kabbalistic concept, tikkun olam, literally “healing/repairing the world,” thereby affording them a convenient way to escape the burden of being a Jew in Europe without converting to another religion. While Chabad, for example, regards tikkun olam as a basic religious obligation of everyone to bring the world closer to the state of perfection that God wants, the newly secularized Jews began to equate it with socialism, and in 20th century America with New Deal liberalism, so during the Holocaust, they largely kept silent to remain under the radar.

After the Holocaust, even Reform Jews, who had been reluctant to embrace Zionism, initially supported the new State of Israel. As the ideology of progressivism supplanted liberalism, however, and as Israel and its supporters were increasingly slandered with the bogus charge of “oppressing poor, darker-skinned, indigenous [so they falsely claim] Palestinians,” secularized Jews began distancing themselves from Israel. Under the rubric of tikkun olam, they instead embraced progressivism as a universalized view that allowed them to disassociate themselves from mainstream Judaism and Zionism, which they could then disparage as being too parochial as opposed to their wider vision of caring for all of humanity.

This process is discussed in much greater detail by Jonathan Neumann in his book To Heal the World? How the Jewish Left Corrupts Judaism and Endangers Israel. He asserts that the Jewish left has effectively hijacked Judaism and misused tikkun olam, which he categorizes as having no place in Judaism, to conflate the religion with their social justice agenda, which is political, not religious. Charity and good works are not the same as tikkun olam, nor is tikkun olam a commandment. Mr. Neumann further asserts that “Not only has tikkun olam enabled the misappropriation of Scripture, but its stridently universalistic aspirations undermine Jewish Peoplehood and in so doing give sanction to anti-Zionism and assimilation. This state of affairs is not sustainable.” 

Under the rubric of tikkun olam, they instead embraced progressivism as a universalized view that allowed them to disassociate themselves from mainstream Judaism and Zionism, which they could then disparage as being too parochial as opposed to their wider vision of caring for all of humanity.

We can now analyze why, as well as how, established Jewish leadership went astray. As compassionate people with a history of persecution, as well as a Divine injunction to pursue justice, we’re naturally drawn to the cause of civil rights and internationalism, both of which have been pre-empted by the left. Consequently, our leadership sides with minorities and ignores or excuses their anti-Semitism, while concentrating on anti-Semitism from the far right fringe, which, while their propensity for violence makes them a threat, is small in numbers and has little popular support. Adding insult to injury, one man, Arab-American activist James Zogby, outsmarted the entire American Jewish establishment by portraying Palestinians as the victims of Israeli oppression, which enabled him to enlist first college students and then the media to support the Palestinian cause.

As compassionate people with a history of persecution, as well as a Divine injunction to pursue justice, we’re naturally drawn to the cause of civil rights and internationalism, both of which have been pre-empted by the left.

Thus the ADL, the longtime lead Jewish defense organization, convened a summit conference, ostensibly to fight anti-Semitism, featuring radical leftist speakers but no supporters of Israel, which claimed that fighting anti-Semitism requires Jews to confront our own “racism.”

Daniel Greenfield hypothesizes that “the ADL is careful to cultivate an imaginary distinction between good leftist hatred of Israel and bad leftist hatred of Jews so as not to offend its political allies.” The ADL endorsed Black Lives Matter and critical race theory, despite their ideology identifying Jews as having “white privilege” — even Israeli Jews, the majority of whom are people of color from North Africa and the Middle East. It also adopted a definition of racism under which only whites can be racist, namely, “The marginalization and/or oppression of people of color based on a socially constructed racial hierarchy that privileges white people,” which it had to withdraw after a wave of objections, and then hired left-wing activist Tema Smith, who has a long history of criticizing Israel, as its new director of Jewish outreach and partnerships.

The same pattern of siding with the “progressives” predominates at the local level as well. For example, Patti Munter cited her local Rochester, New York, Jewish Federation as consistently inviting anti-Zionist, pro-BDS activists to speak while ignoring Zionists. She observed, “Rochester’s community leadership has become so wedded to the new ‘progressive’ ideology that it forbids community discussions, inquiries, or challenges to it.” Moreover, “[r]adical anti-Zionist activists and their allies are building a new religion inside of Judaism, and it has seeped inside the Jewish community’s mainstream organizations…. An increasing number of us see that Jewish organizations have been enabling and even promoting groups …which are now so visibly our foes.”

More disturbing yet is a developing trend for states, starting with California, to require ethnic studies courses in the public schools that are anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist, with support from the teachers’ unions. Although Governor Newsom vetoed the first version of such a mandate that openly advocated for BDS (Boycott, Disinvestment, Sanctions) against Israel before signing a second version that toned down the anti-Semitism, educational consultants with the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Coalition (LESMC) have made inroads with major California school districts, starting with Castro Valley, to adopt the original version. Even worse, the University of California is considering a mandate that would force every student in the state, even those attending Jewish day schools or other private schools, to take a course using the LESMC curriculum to qualify for admission to the University of California.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) now mandates a curriculum to be used in all public schools whose lesson plans about the Arab-Israeli conflict have been rewritten to exclusively reflect the Palestinian point of view. While there was opposition in California, CAMERA (the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America), reported that “Boston’s ADL, Federation, and JCRC failed to properly vet these materials. They have been informed, and yet we see no evidence they will act. In a previous case in Newton, Massachusetts, they betrayed the community and defended anti-Israel curriculum. Jewish leadership seems conflicted between their progressive “woke” ideology and their fiduciary responsibility to the community. Instead of doing their job, they pretend that their political ideology is consistent with the best interests of the Jewish community.”

To summarize, the American Jewish community is threatened collectively as never before. Last fall, in an interview with The Jewish Press, Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein made an ominous statement: “The only prediction I make, despite my abhorrence of such predictions, is that the noose is tightening around American Jewry.”

Especially frightening is the situation at America’s universities: the more elite the college, the more intense the anti-Semitism. It is chilling to think that these campus bullies will be the next generation of America’s leaders throughout society. A majority of Jewish college students have felt the need to hide their identity, and Jews are increasingly being excluded from student government and other campus activities.

Ironically, officials charged with enforcing “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” are among the worst promoters of anti-Jewish propaganda.

As we have seen, the response of mainstream Jewish organizations has been inadequate. If that continues, they may spawn new, competing defense organizations (which is already happening) and/or a “revolt of the masses.”

Ironically, officials charged with enforcing “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” are among the worst promoters of anti-Jewish propaganda.

Domestic anti-Semitism is linked to international anti-Zionism, which has reached the point where Palestinians gleefully anticipate that their ludicrous charges that Israel is an apartheid state (which grossly insults black South Africans who experienced real apartheid) will succeed in delegitimizing Israel, whereupon the dictators’ club that is the United Nations and its “Human Rights Council,” supported by mendacious reports from Amnesty International and other so-called human rights groups, will call for global BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) and for arresting and trying Israelis for alleged war crimes. While their tactics succeeded with South Africa, as it is said in physics, a good idea works only once.In this trying time, we need to remember being delivered from slavery in Egypt, from Haman’s plans of genocide in Persia, and from the Seleucid Greeks’ plans against Judaism. It is beyond the scope of this essay to discuss possible courses of action for us. Suffice it to say, in the words of the philosopher Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”


The Reform Movement Left Me

Thanks to the man on a blue notebook, I became a rabbi instead of a doctor. 

That blue notebook was called a machberet, and it was given out to students in afternoon Hebrew Schools during the 1950s. On the front was the likeness of Maimonides, the renowned 12th century rabbi. Until I was a freshman in college, my total knowledge of Maimonides was the little I remembered from Hebrew School: he was a famous rabbi, philosopher, and physician who lived in medieval Spain.  

Until I was a freshman in college, I had planned to become a doctor. My high school and college freshman course work included the required math and science courses. But because a high GPA was a requirement for acceptance into medical school, I searched for electives that would help me maintain at least a 3.5 GPA. I heard about a course entitled “The History of the Jews in Spain,” which was reputed to be “an easy A,” requiring only class attendance and a term paper.  

Planning to become a physician, I decided to write my term paper on “Maimonides as Physician.” As I began my research, I discovered an abbreviated translation of his most famous philosophical work, A Guide for the Perplexed. 

It was 1970, and the political and social upheaval occurring in this country at that time was causing a lot of people to be “perplexed.” That perplexity was echoed in a popular song of the time: “There’s somethin’ happenin’ here/What it is ain’t exactly clear.” My biggest concerns at the time were getting good grades, getting through my fraternity’s pledge program, and getting dates for Saturday night. When it came to “perplexing” questions, I was like the son at the Passover seder who doesn’t even know how to ask.

The writings of the man on the blue machberet changed all that. I began to ask questions I had never even considered—questions that people had been wrestling with for millennia, but were a jolting “wake up call” to this 18-year-old kid: Why are we here? Why is there evil? If there is evil, how can God allow it? What exactly is God’s role in this world, and what is ours?” Realizing that what I was reading was offering answers to these questions made them all the more compelling. 

I was raised in home that was a kind of religious “mixed marriage.” My dad’s parents were Orthodox immigrants from Russia; my mother’s family was totally assimilated and she had no Jewish education. The compromise was joining a Conservative synagogue where my dad could pray in Hebrew with his head covered, and there was enough English to keep my mother’s attention. Our Jewish observance was limited to Shabbat candles, a fairly strict Passover observance, and observing two days of Rosh Hashanah and of course Yom Kippur. I looked forward to my Bar Mitzvah but chose not to continue my formal Jewish education after Confirmation. All my friends were Jewish, but the Jewish youth organization we belonged to did not really stress Judaism per se. In short, Judaism to me was more of a somewhat cherished hobby, and not the life commitment that it would eventually become.

With the encouragement of my rabbi, I spent the summer of 1970 at a summer program for college students at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Returning from that summer, I came home more religiously observant and eager to begin pre-rabbinic studies. I changed my major from Biology to Hebrew Studies, with the hope of entering JTS’s rabbinical program after college graduation.

But a funny thing happened on the way to becoming a Conservative rabbi; I became a Reform rabbi.

Back then, JTS expected prospective students to have a minimum of Talmud knowledge before being accepted into its rabbinic program. Those lacking this knowledge had to take an extra year or two of preparatory work. I was prepared to make the commitment, but then a recruiter from the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion came to my campus. Out of curiosity, I met with him. When I told him of my background and journey, he assured me I was the kind of student HUC was looking for. When I asked if my newly acquired level of religious observance might not make me such a “good fit” in a movement that had jettisoned so much of traditional Jewish practice and belief, he assured me that the Reform movement was “re-forming” itself in some significant ways. He pointed out that: 

* The “classical Reform” familiar to many non-Reform Jews (e.g., services reminiscent of church worship, yarmulkes/head coverings and tallesim/prayer shawls discouraged, dietary laws rejected) was becoming less the norm. Yarmulkes were showing up in Reform synagogues, and guitars were being introduced to supplement—or even replace—the Protestant-sounding organ.

 * The Reform movement’s historical ambivalence regarding a Jewish state had significantly changed after Israel’s victory in 1967. Reform rabbis were now preaching full-throated support of Israel, and many were introducing more Hebrew into worship services. 

* Many HUC students were also becoming more religiously observant—covering their heads during prayer, keeping kosher, even putting on t’fillin/phylacteries. Some, he assured me, were even more observant than I was. (Several fellow students eventually joined the Conservative movement; one went through HUC’s five-year rabbinical program while living as an Orthodox Jew. He eventually became a Chabad rabbi.)

Finally, he added: “In order to strengthen their Hebrew skills, our students are now required to spend the first year in Israel. We don’t have a ‘prior knowledge’ requirement to be accepted into our program, but we’ll give you the skills to learn as much Talmud and other traditional texts as you want.”

This was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

To be sure, everything he told me during that conversation was true. During my time at HUC, my level of religious observance never made me feel out of place. Back then, the Reform movement was committed to true religious diversity, and to creating a “big tent” that included different approaches to Judaism, from “radical” to “classical” to “traditional.” This diversity became evident when the new Reform prayerbook Gates of Prayer—with its ten different Erev Shabbat services—replaced the Union Prayerbook

Back then, the Reform movement was committed to true religious diversity, and to creating a “big tent” that included different approaches to Judaism, from “radical” to “classical” to “traditional.”

During my time at HUC, I gravitated to those teachers whose understanding of Reform Judaism was more committed to holding onto traditional Jewish beliefs and practices. They themselves had been raised as Orthodox Jews (some with Orthodox s’micha/ordination), but their exposure to 20th century modernity had led them away from their Orthodox roots.  Nevertheless, unlike advocates of “classical Reform,” their embrace of modernity had not erased their commitment to traditional core beliefs and practices. Acknowledging that “personal autonomy” was the watchword of enlightened Western culture, they sought to create a synthesis of personal autonomy and commitment to the requirements of the Sinai Covenant, as delineated in the teachings of the Torah and the Sages. From them I learned that: 

* An authentic Reform Jew was an informed Jew; 

* While personal autonomy is a positive value, Jewish religious choices are authentically “Jewish” only if they are demonstrably connected to the Covenant our people made with God at Sinai; 

* “God, Torah, and the people of Israel” were still at the heart of Reform Judaism and nothing in Jewish tradition should be a priori foreign to a Reform Jew; 

* Struggling to maintain a dynamic balance between covenantal commitment and personal freedom is the challenge a serious Reform Jew faces daily. 

Throughout my rabbinic career, I believed that these are what defined me as a Reform Jew.  Since my ordination in 1977, I’ve served as a rabbi in both Reform and Conservative congregations, a campus Hillel director, and a health-care chaplain. Although most of my work has not been in Reform congregations, I continued to belong to the Central Conference of American Rabbis (the professional organization of the Reform rabbinate). I always considered myself a Reform rabbi and a Reform Jew.

That is, until a few years ago.  

A few years ago, it became apparent that Reform Judaism—through the efforts of its rabbinic and lay leaders—was moving away from these core Jewish beliefs. Although the words “God, Torah, and the people of Israel” were still invoked, they were now equivocal terms, with meanings very different from the traditional ones.  It was reminiscent of 1885 when Reform Judaism set down its principles in the Pittsburgh Platform. That statement affirmed a decidedly progressive approach to religious belief and observance, one that called for adapting to “the views and habits of modern civilization.”

Once upon a time, that approach encouraged creating a “big tent” in which debate and discussion would help modern Jews better understand what G-d wants from us. 

But as today’s Reform leaders have increasingly embraced the values and worldview of contemporary progressivism, the “big tent” that once accommodated diverse beliefs and approaches has metamorphosized into a confining cement bunker of theological and political progressive orthodoxy. That orthodoxy has one objective: the promotion of “social justice.”

The notion of “social justice” is not an organic Jewish concept, but rather has its beginnings in Catholic theology.  Nevertheless, progressive Jews have “Judaized” it by identifying it (albeit inaccurately) with the rabbinic notion of tikkun olam. Literally meaning “repair of the world” and identified with inaugurating the Kingdom of the Almighty (malkhut Shaddai) here on earth, tikkun olam was understood by the Talmudic Sages to be efforts to make the world more humane, more “menschlikh.” Today, tikkun olam is promoted 1) as a mitzvah given at Sinai that virtually trumps all other mitzvot—including the ones Reform Jews usually ignore; and 2) often without any reference to the Kingdom of the Almighty. Moreover, tikkun olam/social justice is the larger rubric under which other “adjective-added” justices are promoted (environmental justice, transgender justice, restorative justice, etc.). This is at odds with Jewish teachings, because nowhere in Jewish religious texts are adjectives ever used when “justice” is discussed.  

As today’s Reform leaders have increasingly embraced the values and worldview of contemporary progressivism, the “big tent” that once accommodated diverse beliefs and approaches has metamorphosized into a confining cement bunker of theological and political progressive orthodoxy. That orthodoxy has one objective: the promotion of “social justice.”

From my perspective, it is Reform’s singular devotion to this tenet that has caused it to be a movement in which noun and adjective are reversed: whereas Reform Judaism used to be a synonym for “progressive Judaism,” now it is a religion of “Jewish Progressivism.” And that greatly concerns me.  

It greatly concerns me that the age-old, honored rabbinic methodology of discussion and debate to learn and deduce holy behavior is no longer encouraged. Indeed, Reform rabbis who dissent and challenge progressive (“woke”) wisdom discussed in online chats have been admonished, personally attacked, sometimes suspended, and even excommunicated/expelled from the conversations.

Whereas Reform Judaism used to be a synonym for “progressive Judaism,” now it is a religion of “Jewish Progressivism.”

It greatly concerns me that a Reform rabbi would tell an adult Bat Mitzvah student that, despite Hebrew’s use of masculine pronouns when referring to God, she had to remove them from her speech because the synagogue only permitted “gender-neutral” language be used when referring to the Deity.

It greatly concerns me that rather than teaching her students that “nothing in Jewish tradition should be a priori foreign to a Reform Jew,” the teacher of that same class told her students that when it comes to certain commandments/observances, “we Reform Jews don’t do that.”

It greatly concerns me that during an online Shavuot discussion about the meaning of the covenantal obligations originating at Sinai, an HUC faculty member would declare categorically “but we Reform Jews have been given autonomy.”

It greatly concerns me that there are Reform rabbis who discourage brit milah, declaring that circumcision is “barbaric.”

It greatly concerns me that Reform’s commitment to social justice promotes universalism and “inclusivity” over Jewish particularism and the mandate that we Jews remain “a separate people” and focus on caring for our own before caring for others. 

It greatly concerns me that the invited speaker at an HUC rabbinic graduation ceremony would call for an end to endogamy (marrying within one’s own group), with the response of “academic freedom” in response to criticisms of the speaker’s remarks.

It greatly concerns me that the singular focus on “inclusivity” now allows non-Jews to take leadership positions in synagogues and has resulted in some Reform synagogues removing all references to “chosen-ness” from worship services, lest guests and non-Jewish family members be offended.

It greatly concerns me that, rooted in progressive political ideology: 

* Reform clergy—rabbis and cantors—are increasingly becoming “anti-Zionist,” publicly labeling Israel an “apartheid state,” and continuing to engage in actions that help and support Israel’s implacable enemies.

* Rabbis are preaching from their pulpits the doctrine of Critical Race Theory, which includes the nefarious lie that Jews, by virtue of sometimes “passing as white,” are automatically racist.

* The Reform movement’s political lobbying organization, Religious Action Center, invited the well-known and unapologetic anti-Semite Al Sharpton as a keynote speaker.

* A Reform rabbi, choosing to virtue-signal “welcoming the stranger” and throwing caution to the wind, invited a terrorist into his synagogue and almost got himself and his congregants killed.

* A member of URJ’s board expressed on social media his wish for the painful death of a sitting President and was not removed from his Board position, but merely “reprimanded.”

These are specific examples of how Reform Judaism is embracing the values and teachings of political progressivism, while moving away from Jewish values and teachings derived from Jewish texts. They are examples of a massive failure of Jewish moral leadership from spiritual leaders, too many of whom are rarely “spiritual” or “leaders.” Their teachings and actions have weakened our people and our people’s commitment to our unique covenant with God, at a time when we need more, not less, spiritual strength and confidence in that legacy bequeathed to us by our ancestors.

Reform Judaism is embracing the values and teachings of political progressivism, while moving away from Jewish values and teachings derived from Jewish texts.

But what most concerns me is not just how they have moved us away, but how far they will move Reform away before it is no longer recognizably a Jewish movement.   

It’s happened before.

When Jews lived in the Greco-Roman diaspora around the Mediterranean Sea, there were different Judaisms (sic) practiced, many significantly influenced by the cultural Hellenism of the time. Those Judaisms ultimately disappeared on their own or became so inundated by members and influences of the outside culture as to break with the Jewish community and its traditions, evolving into faith systems that sought to eclipse the mother faith. 

Fast forward 2000 years and it is easy to see the circumstances in which history could repeat itself.  Should that happen, God forbid, wherever the man on the blue notebook is—he will be very, very blue indeed.  

As will so many of us.


The Pinch Point is Upon Us

Editors’ Note: Dexter Van Zile, an activist and defender of the Jewish people and Israel, agreed to let us re-publish this article to inform American Jews and the American people in general about the decline of the Jewish condition since he, as a Christian, began working in the pro-Israel field in 2005.

“Things have gotten worse,” Dexter said. “That’s undeniable. The spirit of Haman has gotten stronger over the years and it’s a stain on the honor of the American republic and a threat to our future. We’re at a ‘We know not Joseph’ moment.”

This piece is worth reading closely in its entirety, but there’s one passage that stands out: “People are frankly less afraid of Jews and Israel than they are of the people who attack them. People implicitly know that standing in solidarity with Jews makes them a target for hostility, which helps explain why we see a softening of support for Israel on the part of young Jews in the United States.”

Dexter’s warning is clear. The well-being of the Jewish community in the U.S. is under threat.


I’ve been struggling to understand a troubling phenomenon manifesting itself in American public life. For the life of me (and during my tenure at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis—CAMERA–which I held for more than 15 years), I haven’t been able to understand why many progressive Jews in America express shame over the actions of Israel, while so many young Arabs and Muslims in the United States—who drape themselves in the mantle of progressivism—are so confident and aggressive in their support for the cause of Palestinian statehood, which by most objective measures is one of the more retrograde movements on the global agenda today.

I say that as a pro-Israel Christian who hopes that the Israel-Palestinian conflict will ultimately be ended through the application of a two-state solution.

Israel is by no means a perfect nation, but it treats its own citizens, minorities, dissidents, and even its adversaries who seek its destruction, better than any other country in the Middle East.

I’ve also had a tough time understanding why pro-Palestinian activists have been so much more confident, and frankly aggressive, in their activism over the past few years.

This puzzlement came to an end on Thursday, June 24th, 2021.

This was the date when I was mobbed by a group of anti-Israel protesters at a rally organized and promoted by the University of Massachusetts chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which is part of a network of anti-Israel organizations that have a well-earned reputation for inciting hostility toward the Jewish state and violence toward Jews on college campuses in the United States.

The details are straightforward. Two of my former colleagues and I attended an anti-Israel rally organized by SJP that began on the steps of the Massachusetts State House, then went to the offices of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and then to the offices of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). It was at the ADL offices where I was mobbed.

It was caught on video. After I was singled out by two speakers at the rally, who both proclaimed their rights to free speech, I was the target of repeated chants of “Zionist go home,” to which I responded with two or three iterations of “Am Yisrael Chai.”

In what I’ve called the longest seven minutes of my life, I was shouted at, spit at, had water thrown at me, and was shoved by a rally marshal who was ostensibly supposed to keep order at the event. The hate and hostility with which they targeted me was a profound and life-altering shock.

I was able to keep my cool, stand my ground, and by doing nothing more than carrying a pen and a notebook, elicit a public and undeniable expression of the hate and hostility that has been part of the anti-Israel movement since its founding.

These folks weren’t about peace or justice, but about inciting hostility on the part of their supporters and fear on the part of people who believe in the right of the Jews to have a state of their own. The hate was so manifestly ugly and virulent that only the most obtuse would say that the hate would be mollified by the dissolution of the Jewish state. This had to do with Jewish existence.

To be fair, a few people—heroes actually—stood in solidarity with me and tried to get the mob to settle down. These people called on the crowd to leave me alone. “He’s done nothing wrong.”

The hate was so manifestly ugly and virulent that only the most obtuse would say that the hate would be mollified by the dissolution of the Jewish state. This had to do with Jewish existence.

One Zionist is Not Worth It

Sadly, it wasn’t an appeal to people’s higher angels that was decisive in bringing the mobbing to an end. It was a young kippah-wearing man who warned the crowd, “They will use this against us,” and declared “One Zionist is not worth it,” that was able to get them to move on.

In the months since, colleagues who were with me that day have joked with me, asking, “Sooo, how many Zionists would have made punching you ‘worth it?’ Would three have been enough? Five? How about 10?” It was a parody of Abraham’s argument with God over the number of righteous people in Sodom.

There is one more thing I must report. In response to my two or three chants of “Am Yisrael Chai!,” the rally marshal who shoved me—whose Facebook page indicates he is a member of the Nation of Islam, or in his words, “A soldier of Farrakhan”—told me I had insulted the crowd by merely saying the word “Israel.” Israel has been turned into an epithet.

In the days after the mobbing, I spoke to an Orthodox Jew. I told him about having been pushed, spit at, doused with water and verbally abused. His response was quick and brutal.

“Welcome to Judaism!”

I could only laugh sardonically in response. My spiritual director said about the same thing after I told him what happened, declaring, “It’s good that it happened because you have an inkling of what it’s like to be a Jew.”

But my status as a pariah lasted only seven minutes. I was assailed for my beliefs, which can change, but Jewishness is what Hannah Arendt called an “existential given.” It is not something that can be abandoned, even by those who want to.

This was something Jean Amery understood when he looked at the Nuremburg Laws passed by Germany while sitting at a café in Vienna in 1935. Amery, who lacked the cultural heritage and religious belief that would make him a Jew in his own mind, realized that by passing the Nuremburg Laws, Nazi Germany had, “formally and with all possible clarity […] just made a Jew of me.”

He continues:

Having read the Nuremburg Laws, I was no more Jewish now than I had been half an hour earlier. My features had not become more Mediterranean or Semitic, my range of associates was not suddenly filled with Hebrew references, the Christmas tree had not been transformed in an instant into a menorah. The verdict society had handed down to me, if it had any tangible impact, could only mean that I was henceforth given over to death.

By mobbing me that day in front of the offices of the ADL in Boston, the crowd was sending a message to the Jewish community in the area. “We will suspend the death sentence that has historically been directed at Jews as Jews, but only if you abandon any hope of sovereignty and self-determination. We will tolerate your existence, but don’t expect to exercise any agency or power in our presence. Look what we can do to your friend with impunity.”

But let’s be clear, the animus toward Jewish sovereignty is ultimately about Jewish existence. As Amery wrote in 1969: “Anyone who questions Israel’s right to exist is either too stupid to understand that he is contributing to or is intentionally promoting an über-Auschwitz.”

The Role of Fear

I can’t help but think that some people conclude that I am somehow in the wrong—and that while the crowd did some bad things, the people at the rally can be excused for what they did. I get the impression that some people believe that by attending the rally and introducing myself to one of its participants, I somehow invited the abuse heaped upon me.

People would not arrive at these conclusions out of moral or ethical reasoning, but out of a quick calculation of who represents a greater threat to their well-being: the eccentric looking guy with the pen, notepad, and three-day beard wearing a New England Patriots cap, or the mob of young people in keffiyehs and traffic vests heaping abuse on him.

For people whose lives are governed by such calculations, it’s better to ignore the event altogether and when forced to address the issue, concoct and promote a narrative in which the less threatening party is culpable for the disruption to peace and tranquility. Blame the weaker party because it’s the safer thing to do.

That is how many people analyze the Arab-Israeli conflict and threats to Jews in general — through a lens of fear and a misguided sense of self-preservation. They look at Israel and at Jews and see that the Jewish State and the Jewish people are the more reasonable party, less likely to perpetrate acts of violence against them than their adversaries.

The jihadists who attack Jews in Israel and elsewhere in the world are more likely to engage in acts of violence against people outside the region than Israeli and diaspora Jews. Consequently, it’s easier and safer to lambaste the Jews and their state for the continued existence of the Arab-Israeli conflict than it is to hold the Palestinians accountable for their misdeeds, and condemn them for their decade-long attempt to deprive the Jewish people of their sovereign state. As I have said many times before, make Jews unhappy, they’ll send letters. Offend the sensibilities of Islamists, and you might get killed.

This also explains why we see a lessening of support for Israel on the part of young people in Evangelical Protestantism in the United States. In short, when it comes to changing people’s opinions, violence, intimidation, and the threat of isolation work.

As I have said many times before, make Jews unhappy, they’ll send letters. Offend the sensibilities of Islamists, and you might get killed.

Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann wrote about this process in her book, The Spiral of Silence:fear of isolation is one of the primary drivers of public discourse. When people perceive a threat to their well-being and safety as a result of their political opinions, they will stop expressing those opinions in public. In sum, people are more afraid of being isolated than they are of being wrong. And when they choose safety over truth, they will rely on propagandists to give them the misinformation they need to kid themselves and others into thinking that they are in the right. When people experience isolation and intimidation as a result of their beliefs, they fall silent.

People are more afraid of being isolated than they are of being wrong.

The impact of Noelle-Neumann’s spiral of silence can unfold quickly and dramatically. In 1976, Jean Amery reported:

Only a moment ago, it seemed natural to support the Israelis’ right to their own state. Suddenly one is struck by the fact that this support has become a veritable test of courage. Indeed, tomorrow it might well be considered offensive.

Tell me about it.

In light of the mobbing, I have concluded that the dictum that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” is simply false. The quality of life that we enjoy and the life circumstances enjoyed by the people who live after us is largely a consequence of the purpose, courage, and agency that we show in the face of historical challenges. We don’t have absolute control over our circumstances, but if we behave properly, with prudence and courage, we can expect things to be well for ourselves and our children.

But if we behave in a fearful and unprincipled manner, the quality of life we enjoy, and the quality of life enjoyed by those who come after us will decline. It will deteriorate.

There is no guarantee, providential or otherwise, of human life improving and moving upward in a positive, blessed spiral. The notion that it does is simply a lie, a nice pious lie that contradicts a Biblical truth, “Where leaders lack vision, the people perish.”

Now I Get It

The upshot is that I no longer have any difficulty understanding why many young Jews and Christians in the U.S. are starting to distance themselves from Israel. They have been bullied and intimidated into remaining silent. When that crowd shouted “Zionist go,” they were sending a message to anyone who would dare to speak in defense of the Jewish state in their presence.

But it won’t end with Jews or Israel. Just as lies about Israeli use of force against the Palestinians have been used to portray the Jewish state as an evil country with no right to exist, lies about American history have been used to justify the same message about the United States, with terrible effect.

In response to this dishonest narrative, elected officials have struggled to maintain the monopoly on force in American cities with disastrous results for the people who live in these cities regardless of their skin color. Murder rates have skyrocketed in large cities throughout the country, which has been destabilized in part by attacks on the Jewish people and their institutions.

One week after I was mobbed, I sat in the lobby of a police station in Boston to talk with a detective about what happened. As I waited, I got a text from my wife telling me that a Chabad Rabbi had been stabbed across the street from the Shaloh House in Brighton.

The attack was perpetrated by an Egyptian national who was in the United States on an education visa. This attack generated a huge outcry on the part of the powers that be in the metro-Boston area, which is reassuring.

But this attack, and the many others that have taken place since last June, have driven home a troubling reality: we are confronting a pinch point in American public life.

The Jews are at the center of that pinch point, and the destiny of our republic is right in there with them.

Deadly Exchange – Deadly Silence

It’s difficult enough to fight anti-Semitism. It’s that much more challenging when Jewish leaders work to silence those who want to fight, who favor creative approaches, and who think “outside the box.”

Deadly Exchange” is a campaign of Jew hatred that blames Israeli and American Jews for police assaults on American black people. It promotes the false claims that American police departments that take part in counter-terrorism and leadership training in Israel are actually trained to “terrorize black and brown communities” here in America. Even a cursory glance at the syllabi for these training courses should put these malicious lies to rest. Yet a campaign to push city officials to boycott the Israeli training succeeded in Durham, NC, when on April 16, 2018, the city council voted to ban that city’s police department from participating in the Israeli programs. Durham thereby became the first, and to date only, American city to acquiesce to a Deadly Exchange campaign.

“Deadly Exchange” is an anti-Semitic campaign that blames Israeli and American Jews for police assaults on American black people.

Those who led the “Deadly Exchange” campaign were affiliated with Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), an anti-Israel, pro-BDS organization that has partnered with Jew haters like disgraced former Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour, and convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh. By explicitly promoting anti-Semitism—particularly in black and brown communities—their efforts encouraged other haters to come out en masse, including a member of Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, Fariq Zaidi, who called attention to the “Synagogue of Satan that’s always lingering in the background” and the “inordinate [amount of] control that some Jews have over the political system in this city.”

The people behind the Durham victory were encouraged to bring the campaign to its sister city, Raleigh.

We, co-founders of the Jewish advocacy organization, North Carolina Coalition for Israel (NCCI), were appalled to learn that Raleigh was now being targeted. There had been plenty of opportunity to see the damage done in Durham, both to the Jewish community and to the overall safety and security of the city. We were part of a group that met with two Durham council members to declare our case just days before their vote, and seeing the belated, appeasing response of local Jewish institutions and the damage that resulted inspired us to form the NCCI. Following approval of the “Deadly Exchange” resolution, Durham was inundated with vile anti-Semitism, as posters, fliers, and swastikas popped up all around town. When NCCI board member Deborah Friedman discovered a petition for a “Deadly Exchange” campaign in Raleigh that had more than 700 signatures, NCCI activists felt that our Jewish community had to work together to do everything we could to avoid replicating the Durham fiasco. We reached out to other community members to bring awareness of the motion and to coordinate our efforts.

What we learned was that the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and at least one other local Jewish group were, in fact, aware of the Raleigh petition, but had not shared this information with the community. Several of them had met privately with two of Raleigh’s seven city council members. When asked about the meetings, they told us, “If I had to guess, it’s not going to pass.” However, we knew that city council members in Durham had been dishonest with us when we met, including with some of these same Jewish community leaders, providing reassurances that the council members would not be voting to approve a resolution, then promptly voting very shortly after to approve the measure. We therefore found the guessing part to be less than reassuring.

One key lesson we’ve learned from our experiences with combating anti-Semitism is that no single approach is a surefire solution. If dealing with reasonable people, then quietly listening to and reasoning with them may be effective; at other times, exposing the situation to the glare of the public forum is essential, especially for elected government officials; and sometimes “calling out” and shaming particularly adamant anti-Semites is effective.

One key lesson we’ve learned from our experiences with combating anti-Semitism is that no single approach is a surefire solution.

One of our NCCI members, Kathryn Wolf, was an especially strong advocate for a robust, proactive response to prevent Raleigh from following in Durham’s footsteps. She wanted us to speak at the Raleigh City Council meeting. The NCCI board wholeheartedly agreed. We informed other local Jewish leaders of our plans to speak at the meeting to try and coordinate activities. The pressure to silence us was acute, particularly from the local JCRC and a very small local Jewish education group that has a board member in common with them. There were phone calls and emails almost daily, telling us not to speak, some of them angry and threatening. We were told that if Raleigh were to pass the boycott, the fault would be deliberately and publicly laid on us. We were told that the mayor was angry that NCCI planned to speak. We were told that the JCRC didn’t want us to speak or be involved in any way. We were told that it was none of our business since many of our supporters don’t live in Raleigh. We were told that it shouldn’t look like one fringe group battling against another. We were told we would be giving JVP undeserved press.

This response from local Jewish leaders was especially intense, but otherwise not unusual; they insisted that they were the experts when it came to handling these things. We were seen as impolite loudmouths who should stay out of “their” business. But of course, continue to send those donations!

While we appreciated that several other Jewish institutions were working behind the scenes, we believed that speaking publicly about this issue was critically important. “Why not,” we argued, “get the pro-Israel narrative out first publicly so that we don’t play defense as we did in Durham?” The Raleigh “Deadly Exchange” petitioners were running a stealth campaign, we explained, just as they did in Durham, so why let them control the rules of engagement? As exemplified by James Garfield: “Light itself is a great corrective. A thousand wrongs and abuses that are grown in darkness disappear like owls and bats before the light of day.”

We were seen as impolite loudmouths who should stay out of “their” business. But of course, continue to send those donations!

The pressure on NCCI to be silent continued, from a variety of directions. “If you decide to speak up, all you will be doing is opening up opportunity for JVP to present their case to the media. No one knows about the issue, so why bring it up? I see nothing good that can come out of you coming to speak up. Creating a brouhaha over a non-issue is a mistake.” Another of our critics cited the Torah portion of the week, the story of Korach, who led a rebellion against the leadership of Moses, in an effort to stop us, implying that speaking publicly would divide the community.

There were efforts to demoralize us. Someone with a large distribution list let people know that he had decided to lay low. Therefore, he didn’t think his people would be coming to support the speeches, so NCCI should “not expect a turnout from my list.”

The attacks on NCCI from so many directions were difficult to bear and took a toll. After all, there is no science to fighting defamation. Each case needs to be assessed separately. Surely there are times when not responding turns out to be the wiser path, but we were firmly convinced that in this case, given what we knew about what happened in Durham, we needed to be more proactive and public in our efforts. It also saddened us to realize that if these same people had put as much effort into defending our people in public as they did in attacking us, both Durham and Raleigh would be the better for it.

In the end, we pushed forward. A nice crowd came out to support NCCI at the June 15, 2021, city council meeting. We all had to endure a three-hour session together. Four of us — Amy RosenthalDeborah FriedmanJosh Ravitch, and Kathryn Wolf —passionately and eloquently presented our case to the council. Kathryn ended her talk with George Washington’s famous promise to the Jews: 

“In 1790, a promise was made to us. President George Washington sent a letter to the Hebrew congregation in Rhode Island: ‘May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants and there shall be none to make him afraid.’ You will have a choice. You will uphold Washington’s promise or you will break it. Raleigh will judge you by your decision. America will judge you by your decision, and history will judge you too.”

We were pleasantly surprised to learn that the chair of the JCRC had signed up after realizing that we were not to be deterred, and he too spoke effectively at the council meeting.

In 1790, a promise was made to us. President George Washington sent a letter to the Hebrew congregation in Rhode Island: ‘May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants and there shall be none to make him afraid.

Afterward, one person who had stridently opposed us graciously reached out to congratulate us. Others who had tried to intimidate us calmed down, and we renewed most of our usual relationships. The chair of the JCRC expressed the desire to work with us in the future.

It’s now been more than eight months since NCCI went public with our concerns. The “Deadly Exchange” petition is stagnating online, and no police training boycott has been proposed to the Raleigh City Council. Our hope is that the old guard institutions are learning that today’s formidable challenges demand more varied and vigorous approaches in defense of our Jewish people. Jewish activists across the country must begin to challenge inadequate, misguided, and unimaginative Jewish leaders. The lesson from Durham and Raleigh is clear: Where leadership is lacking, step up and lead. Our “leaders” might actually follow.