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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.


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.


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.”


  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


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.


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.


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
The bitter taste
Of captivity
No amount of
Changes the

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
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

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. 


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. 


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.


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)


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).


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.

The Lies of ‘Ethnic Studies’ Demand New Leadership

The Jews of Massachusetts are facing a storm of institutionalized enmity as anti-Israel curricula are spreading to public schools statewide. On February 1, 2022, I published an article describing how state-wide guidelines on teaching the Middle East had been changed in 2018 to tilt heavily against Israel. Massachusetts public school teachers were told to instruct their students about “Palestinian loss of land and the creation of refugees by Israeli military action” and that there had been a “diverse mix of cultures (e.g. Jews, Palestinians, and Arabs of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Druze backgrounds) in the region in the late 20th and early 21st centuries,” among other things. 

In their opposition to a case I filed to take anti-Israel bias out of the curricula in Newton, MA, lawyers for the Massachusetts Teachers Union argued that these lessons were taught pursuant to the state’s standards and that they are required by law. If indeed the standards are followed, they will ensure that children across the state are indoctrinated to believe that indigenous Palestinians were driven out of their homes by the Israeli army, and that Israel is continuing this “ethnic cleansing” today. It was disconcerting to learn that when asked about how to fix these standards, Jewish leaders in Boston said they were not aware of the anti-Israel changes.    

Yet it was pursuant to this state-sanctioned, agenda-driven version of history, that children in a Newton high school were shown the film Ismail on the school’s “Middle East Day.” The film’s opening scene depicts Nazi-like Israeli soldiers in 1948 force-marching Palestinians, with only the belongings they could carry, to refugee camps all the while ordering them, imitating the Nazi “macht schnell,” to move faster, mocking them, and striking them with the butts of their rifles.  Newton students have been taught that Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine and Tel Aviv the capital of Israel, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is definitively not a clash of civilizations or religions, but merely a border dispute (heavily hinting that it could easily be settled by risk-free Israeli concessions), and that the Palestinians—and not the Jews—are the true indigenous people of Israel. The Jews’ ancient, historical connection to the land has been obscured, and Palestinian terrorism, as well as their leaders’ repeated rejection of the Jewish state, has been obfuscated. These false and deceitful lessons are the new standard. 

It was disconcerting to learn that when asked about how to fix these standards, Jewish leaders in Boston said they were not aware of the anti-Israel changes.   

On January 17, 2022, I wrote to Massachusetts Jewish leaders—the ADL, Federation, AJC, and the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC)—pleading with them to take action against this hateful indoctrination being taught under the guise of education, but they have not responded. They have, however, communicated with other members of the Jewish community who were alarmed by my article thanking them for “sharing their concerns,” assuring them that they “consider any and all allegations of anti-Semitism in Massachusetts’ curricular content with the utmost of gravity,” and that they are “actively investigating.” Follow-up letters to these organizations asking about what they are doing to investigate and exactly what they advise the community to do, however, have been ignored. It is important to note that the revised anti-Israel standards that I discovered can be verified with a click of a mouse on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s website, and going to page 158; any common citizen can easily “investigate.”

The Jews’ ancient, historical connection to the land has been obscured, and Palestinian terrorism, as well as their leaders’ repeated rejection of the Jewish state, has been obfuscated. These false and deceitful lessons are the new standard.

In 2021, in order to put a halt to the rising incidents of anti-Semitism in Massachusetts and the anti-Semitic lessons being taught in Massachusetts schools, Representative Steven Howitt introduced an amendment to the budget, “Condemnation and Definition of Anti-Semitism,” which would have adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. Espousal of this definition would prohibit 1) comparing Jews to Nazis and 2) denying the Jewish right to self-determination. Claiming that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavor and ahistorical and propagandistic lessons would also have been blocked, but both the ADL and the JCRC refused to support the amendment. Jewish Voice for Peace, the Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine, and the Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East, among others, organized to oppose the bill.  The amendment was subsequently removed.

As if this were not enough, Massachusetts Jews are now facing yet another educational onslaught in the proposed ethnic studies bill, entitled “An Act Relative to Anti-Racism, Equity and Justice in Education.” The preamble to the bill states that, 

Whereas the events of 2020…including…the murder of George Floyd have elucidated the emergent nature of the social, economic and health disparities caused by racial inequity, including but not limited to: police brutality, profiling and murders of Black and brown people, anti-Asian violence…[T]he insurrection of January 6, 2021 revealed the imminent danger posed by rampant disinformation and white supremacy to the safety and integrity of our nation… [W]hite-centric history ha[s] fostered lies, systemic inequality and outright violence, it is in the best interest of the Commonwealth that education in dismantling racism be taught to all students…, that truth and reconciliation regarding slavery, genocide, land theft and systemic racism is centered, that students of color and students from immigrant and indigenous communities may find their rightful place reflected in the history they learn…. 

This type of legislation was just passed in California with very negative consequences for Jews. The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) has alerted the community to the dangers this legislation presents. CAMERA’s analysis shows how an ethnic studies curriculum in Massachusetts will likely have the same anti-Israel and anti-Semitic content as the California one, and how this will put a target on the back of every Jewish child. As we have all come to expect with woke-inspired efforts, anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish violence are not mentioned in the bill’s preamble. The woke movement that has captured academia has already evoked far more anti-Semitism than is actually being reported by the media. 

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Boston (JCRC), instead of fighting back, seems eager to align the Jewish community with an ideology that is inimical to Jewish interests. Relieved to have the only Jewish seat at the table of the Commission for Anti-Racism in the proposed bill, the JCRC—in testimony submitted to the Joint Committee on Education—glowingly endorsed identity pedagogy, and did not comment on the problem that this approach creates for the Jewish community. They wrote only that they are “aware that research has shown that students are empowered when they see themselves and their history reflected in their school curriculum, leading to better grades and higher graduation rates.” (The only study on the effects of an ethnically oriented curriculum that I am aware of evaluated a pilot program in San Francisco, which improved attendance rates and grades for at-risk Hispanic students and boys.) The JCRC did make general procedural complaints to the Committee, writing that there are no members from the legislature or the administration on the proposed board, that the definitions in the goals section are vague, and that the board’s fiscal power has no oversight. The American Jewish Committee voiced the same mild definitional concerns. It seems their strategy is to bless the general concept of teaching identity politics, while at the same time hoping their weak and ineffective protests will demonstrate their efforts to challenge those behind the identity politics. It is an approach that maintains the JCRC’s embrace of its left-wing “allies,” even as this same strategy, adopted for the same reasons by Jewish leaders in California, is failing to protect the community from the spread of anti-Jewish “lessons” in the public schools. Jewish leaders in Boston have neither explained nor discussed this approach with the community, and have not told the community of the same strategy’s defeat in California. 

The woke movement that has captured academia has already evoked far more anti-Semitism than is actually being reported by the media.

The obvious peril for Jews in such a mandated ethnic studies curriculum rests in how Jews will be portrayed. In California, the original model for ethnic studies cited examples of “successful” social movements fighting for change. Included in the model is the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions) movement, with a link to its website, which claims that the movement aims “to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.” Analysts of the BDS movement explain that its real aim is the destruction of Israel. As they seem to be doing in Boston, Jewish leaders in California tried to have it both ways: endorse the general concepts of teaching about identities and “white oppressors”—to stay on the good side of their progressive allies—but eliminate the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic elements. Here’s the catch: although they were successful in getting the final version approved by Californian authorities to omit teaching about BDS, California teachers are in fact free to use whatever model they choose because individual school districts are autonomous, just as they are in Massachusetts. Indeed, CAIR and the San Francisco-based Arab Resource and Organizing Center are brazenly promoting the original version, not the one approved by an education board, whom they characterize as people “more concerned with listening to the whispers of lobbyists and the voices of the oppressors than the cries of the oppressed.” Indeed, authors of that version, which incorporates critical race theory, are avidly promoting its use to school districts. In that original version, which will very likely be taught in many California schools, Israel will be defamed as a settler, colonialist, apartheid empire, which violates international law and should be dismantled. 

If any version of the ethnic studies bill gets the nod in Massachusetts, even one that deletes the worst anti-Israel materials, radical and leftist teachers will presumably follow their California comrades. Notably, Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales, the California organizer responsible for producing the first version of the California bill, as well as Samia Shoman, the author responsible for the most anti-Semitic lessons in that version, are both consulting for the Ethnic Studies Now! Organizing Committee of the Boston Teachers Union, and the version currently being taught in a pilot program in Boston schools looks almost identical to the original California one. It is even possible that the same anti-Semitic ethnic studies curriculum that is being pushed in California, and is already being piloted in Boston schools, may become sanctioned in Massachusetts, even though Massachusetts regulations require that teachers review all educational materials for simplistic and demeaning generalizations, lacking intellectual merit based on race, religion, or national origin, among others, and provide balance and context for any such stereotypes depicted in such materials. 

In that original version, which will very likely be taught in many California schools, Israel will be defamed as a settler, colonialist, apartheid empire, which violates international law and should be dismantled.

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.  A school superintendent there justified his district’s use of this controversial curriculum by explaining that the group has been working with his district for some time “and most of them have been working with them in some capacity in our region.” This development should alarm Jews in Massachusetts. Already, some curriculum in Massachusetts is being subcontracted out to Primary Source, an organization whose curriculum on the Middle East is sponsored by Qatar Foundation International, an arm of the Qatari government, and has a distinctly anti-Israel point of view. Moreover, since Primary Source already has contracts with more than 50 Massachusetts school districts, if an ethnic studies bill passes here, Primary Source will likely peddle its already prepared curriculum to schools who must teach ethnic studies.

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.

Finally, as one has come to expect, there is no provision in the proposed bill on ethnic studies for the inclusion of any Jewish topics, any mention of the many Jewish men and women who contributed to American history from 1654 onward, and no mention of their being oppressed in all lands they lived in, expelled from many. And no study of the remarkable achievements of Jews in spite of these impediments. The creators of this identity ideology would explain that this is because Jews, who have been persecuted for millennia, have become white oppressors—in spite of the almost daily attacks against them.

Jewish leaders, even those with progressive agendas, should be protecting the Jewish community, and contesting proposed anti-Semitic educational standards instead of being surprised by them and “investigating” long after the fact. Massachusetts Jewish organizations are trying to have their cake and eat it too: embracing a left that has now turned on Jews as a whole, while begging to be spared. They have not informed the community that this is their strategy, nor have they responded to proof of its failure elsewhere. Instead, huddled in their private offices, they deflect questions and concerns from those they are meant to serve – and while they are hiding, the Ethnic Studies campaign marches on, unopposed:  recently, on March 31, 2022, the Committee on Education to which the proposed ethnic studies bill was referred for study, reported it out of committee favorably, along with fourteen other “anti-racism” bills, all of which were also recommended to pass. The other bills called for legislation to develop “alternative” processes for granting educator licensure to achieve educator diversity, for DESE to implement standards and objectives on cultural studies, to establish a permanent commission on anti-racist education to develop anti-racist curriculum, and similar.

Jewish leaders, even those with progressive agendas, should be protecting the Jewish community, and contesting proposed anti-Semitic educational standards instead of being surprised by them and “investigating” long after the fact.

Soon, if “Ethnic Studies” is not exposed as viciously divisive and stopped, a large proportion of the state’s school children will be “learning” that the Jewish state is inherently racist and cruel, and that the Jewish students sitting in their classroom support such evils.

Given the behavior of local Jewish leadership—their aversion to conflict, their unrequited embrace of an increasingly radicalized left, and their preference to operate behind closed doors and out of sight of the community—it is only by publicizing these dangers urgently and broadly that we might get our “leaders” to stand up and fight for us.

JCPA “Wokeness” Breeds Division

Almost every American Jewish community of a certain size has a Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) whose mandate it is to build bridges and foster warm relations with other communal, ethnic, and racial groups. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) is the national umbrella organization of these local JCRCs. Few understand that rather than reflect the values and policies of the national collective, the JCPA has come to dictate policies for every locale, policies whose ideology explains how and why everyone’s JCRC seems to have become so radically left. It’s time Jews knew how their JCRCs function.

The JCRCs are either part of or affiliated with their local Jewish Federations. Sixteen other national Jewish organizations are also listed as JCPA members.

The JCPA says it represents the four main branches of American Judaism and has stylized itself as a “consensus builder” so as to navigate politically non-homogeneous Jewish communities, and at the same time claim to represent a “unified front.” 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.

Founded in 1944 by the Council of Jewish Federations, the JCPA was to serve as a venue for Jewish communities and Federations to discuss and organize their interests, which at one time included extensive work in the civil rights movement. And like many of the infant communal Jewish organizations, the JCPA’s formation was conceived in the ashes of the Holocaust.

In reality, JCPA has become just another woke progressive organization whose political activism is abetted by the self-selected members of the local JCRCs.

Recognizing the value of working in common cause with other minority communities, in 1950 the JCPA and the NAACP cofounded the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights as a clearinghouse and coordinating body for all civil rights lobbying. According to its website, the Leadership Conference today “remains the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition.”

Since then, the JCPA, which remains part of the Leadership Conference, has expanded its social justice policy platform. Virtually every political matter under discussion in America including climate change, criminal justice reform, immigration, voting rights, and LGBTQI+, can be found in the JCPA’s Policy Compendium. These policies are derived through a resolutions process and are intended to be the positions parroted by the JCRCs.

The resolutions adoption process begins with the annual plenum and is finalized by the Delegates Assembly which is attended by one lay representative and one professional representative from each JCRC. This group is considered “the highest deliberative body on public policy matters for the community relations network. Like the plenum, its purpose is to oversee and set new public positions and priorities for the community relations field through a resolutions process.”

As part of the JCPA’s network, the local JCRCs are asked to endorse JCPA resolutions and to use them to focus their local grassroots and lobbying activities even if they do not reflect the broader community’s priorities, opinions, or religious values.

JCPA resolutions forwarded last year to local JCRCs for endorsement included a resolution on “voter suppression,” the language of which effectively endorses the Democrats’ voter legislation H.R. 1, which weakens voter identification requirements. The federal elections takeover bill, widely known to be a top priority for Democrats in Congress (dubbed by some as the “Keep Democrats in Power Forever Act”), deliberately guts the extensive work of the bipartisan Jimmy Carter—James Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform, whose report specifically recommended increased voter ID requirements and other election integrity measures. Keeping Democrats in power is so important to the JCPA that their version of voter suppression has been retained as a 2022 federal policy priority.

As intended, this year Nashville’s JCRC staff director used her platform while speaking to a local rotary club to inappropriately cite the rise in anti-Semitism and the Holocaust as reasons to support H.R. 1.

Keeping Democrats in power is so important to the JCPA that their version of voter suppression has been retained as a 2022 federal policy priority.

The resolution on climate change—a vast array of policy changes—failed to account for the economic, societal, or national security ramifications of this profound transformation, while the resolution to address “systemic disparities and discrimination across all aspects of our society” by “strengthening Jewish communal relations with Black communities” was designed to conceal the hard facts about BLM’s founders and leadership’s very real animus toward Israel and support for the BDS campaign.

The resolutions handed down to local JCRCs are overwhelmingly aligned with the agenda of the Democratic Party, assigning Jewish and Israeli interests to secondary status. JCPA’s leftward orientation is additionally demonstrated by its membership in a number of leftist groups including Census Counts 2020Declaration for American Democracy, and the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable. It should be noted that the leadership team of this last group is driven by the committed leftist Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism and pro-BDS groups T’ruah and Bend the Arc. These alliances among others leave little doubt that JCPA has chosen a self-serving interpretation of “Jewish values of fairness and justice” to justify shaping the Jewish community relations field into a partisan instrument of the left while excluding a significant portion of the Jewish community.

The JCPA also pushes for legal and political action directly through established channels, such as direct lobbying for legislation and legal action in the form of filing amicus briefs with the courts, and offers its members best practices to implement programs and issue-based advocacy toolkits. The “JCRC Playbook” and a database that includes “marketing materials,” is reserved for paid JCRC staff and lay leaders.

Similar to virtually every Jewish communal organization, the JCPA’s mission statement includes a specific reference to Israel, and over the years, the JCPA has addressed the BDS movement. To this end, the JCPA in conjunction with the Jewish Federations established the “Israel Action Network” to fight BDS and claims that “working closely with local JCRCs has helped defeat BDS at the state and municipal level and on college campuses across the nation.”

It’s reasonable then to ask why JCPA featured Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) at the April 2021 annual conference after he had co-signed the 2019 National Council of Churches letter. That letter is noted for being replete with anti-Israel propaganda and statements taken from the BDS playbook with references such as,  the”need to preserve the option of utilizing economic pressure as a means of bringing recalcitrant dominant forces to the negotiating table,” Palestinian “right of return,” and “compar[ing] Israel to ‘oppressive regimes’ like ‘apartheid South Africa.’”

The incredibly tone-deaf JCPA invitation to Warnock would be laughable were it not for its hypocrisy: Warnock joined Amy Spitalnick as a speaker in a session titled “Racism, Antisemitism & Fighting Hate.” That’s the same Amy Spitalnick who was making the rounds with her talk “Fighting White Supremacy: From Charlottesville to Capitol Hill” and characterizing the problem as endemic to the mainstream right.

Not surprisingly, the JCPA endorsed Kristen Clarke, President Biden’s nominee for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights while conveniently ignoring Clarke’s public support for Tamika Mallory, who accused Jews of “uphold[ing] white supremacy” and defended her relationship with super-anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan. If you aren’t convinced by JCPA’s defense of Clarke, check out mainstream-Republicans-are-white-supremacists Amy Spitalnick’s endorsement of Clarke’s appointment.

JCRC membership in the JCPA is not mandatory and not all Federations or JCRCS are members. Those that have wisely chosen to not throw local Jewish communal organizations directly into a partisan political fray should feel vindicated in this choice by observations made by JCPA’s former president and CEO, David Bernstein.

After leading JCPA for five years, Bernstein, a self-described liberal, left the JCPA in mid 2021, amid the organization’s increasingly extreme political advocacy. He watched as liberal and leftist Jewish voices and organizations including the JCPA, ignored all the warning signs of the “woke cancel culture” and the “dangers this raises for Jews is the way it twists how some on the left talk about anti-Semitism.”

Generally, the JCRCs are comprised of at least one paid staff member and self-selected lay volunteers, a design that has proven unable to represent politically diverse Jewish communities. If the local JCRCs are to be authentic communal organizations, welcoming and respectful of diversity of opinion, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, religious observance, and political affiliation, then the membership of the JCRCs and involvement with the JCPA  and its political objectives, should be discontinued. JCRCs would benefit from a deliberate effort to balance the political diversity of its lay volunteers and depoliticize paid staff. JCRCs should reflect the interests and issues of its Jewish community members.

JCPA directorship of the JCRCs alienates a portion of the Jewish community in which the JCRC operates—which Jewish communities can ill afford given the efforts of a progressive movement working to elect more Ilhan Omars and Rashida Tlaibs to Congress. If the JCPA intends to be a credible leader of politically diverse Jewish communities, it needs to undergo a serious self-assessment—and re-establish Israel and Jewish interests as the first order of business.

Thus Satan Said

Thus Satan said:
This besieged one – how can I overcome him?
He has courage, talent
And the implements of war and resourcefulness.
And he said: I will not take away his power
And I shall not curb him with bit and bridle
And I will not bring him to cowardice,
And I shall not weaken his hands as in days of yore.
Only this shall I do: I will dull his mind
And cause him to forget
The justice of his cause.

Where are Today’s Maccabees?

Where are the Maccabees when we need them? And do they work overseas?

Those are serious questions, because aside from the amusing paradox of the American Jewish Mafia, those clever ruffians who saw no contradiction between Bar Mitzvahs and Murder Incorporated—Dutch Schultz, Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Mickey Cohen and the more recent Russian variety from Brighton Beach, Brooklyn—Jewish muscle in America, and assertive leadership, in general, shies away from calling attention to itself. Defending the tribe is a tough sell, even among those who self-identify as proudly Jewish.

Indeed, the fight instinct within American Jewry has been perpetually repressed. So, too, in Europe. Conflict is usually resolved with conciliatory gestures if not outright capitulation. Explain it away. Call it an aberration. Dismiss its severity. Pretend it didn’t happen.

Worse still, American Jewish leaders, such as they are, often extend greater efforts crusading on behalf of other communities rather than their own. Being liked by the “Gentiles” remains a singular preoccupation. After all, one can’t be expected to win elections by getting out the Jewish vote alone. Other constituencies and alliances must be built. Favoritism should always be held in reserve.

American Jewish leaders, such as they are, often extend greater efforts crusading on behalf of other communities rather than their own.

Jews born in the Middle East, however, are a rougher lot and made of sturdier stock. The reprisal reflex is always at the ready. When the smoke clears from the Iron Dome, the Israeli fist soon follows. It was once true with the Maccabees, and it’s even more true now with the IDF. 

The Diaspora traveled earnestly and compliantly with Torah and Talmud. But the cult of heroic hardness—the Sabra’s creed—was left behind in the deserts and mountaintops of biblical Judea. 

No wonder that in today’s America, Jewish leadership is imperceptible—even though its absence is widely felt. Fisticuffs are not essential, although the Jewish Defense League enlivened New York City in the gritty 1970s with the sight of Jewish boys carrying baseball bats who had no interest in hitting balls. But what is needed, now more than ever, is a full-throated defense of the Jewish people—right here in the United States.

Surely there is one American David with a slingshot somewhere. 

Certainly there’s no shortage of Jewish elected officials—in both Houses of Congress, governors’ mansions, and city halls. Many self-identify as Jews, observe holidays, and attend synagogues. But when it comes to speaking out as a Jew, for Jews, on matters of Jewish concern—especially when it comes to the defense of Israel—their Jewish voice loses its accent (all except Bernie Sanders, who retained the accent but abandoned everything else), and their ethnic origins take on Protestant refinements. The refrain seems to be: Being Jewish should not guide one’s politics. 

Surely there is one American David with a slingshot somewhere.

Jewish leadership these days seems to reside mostly in charitable works—raising money, outfitting local synagogues with stained glass windows, establishing a wing at a hospital, endowing a chair at a university, or renovating a campus Hillel. The Jewish community long ago graduated from tzedakah boxes and planting trees in Israel to more formidable gift-giving.

But such worthy acts are, nonetheless, charitable in nature. They have little to do with the exercise of moral or political leadership, which is an entirely different level of involvement. Not quiet, behind-the-scenes negotiations, but unabashed rallying on behalf of Jews and the Jewish state. 

This kind of leadership is rare these days, whether from elected officials, private citizens, rabbis or legacy organizations. Jews simply won’t make much noise as Jews. The grogger that is so grating on Purim is reserved, one night, for Haman, but never for Hamas. Jewish outrage is tempered; Jewish leadership has all the visibility of Elijah the Prophet.

In November and December 2019, Hasidic Jews were being assaulted, mostly by African-Americans, in Brooklyn and Jersey City; one was killed in Monsey, New York. Law enforcement, shockingly, at first wasn’t entirely sure whether these acts qualified as anti-Semitic hate crimes—even though some were committed on Hanukkah. Hardly any Jewish elected public officials rallied his or her colleagues to put an end to the violence, conducted press conferences on the steps of City Halls, shouted from the rooftops (or even whispered), made it their own personal crusade to defend the defenseless members of the Hasidic community. 

The grogger that is so grating on Purim is reserved, one night, for Haman, but never for Hamas.

Similarly, in May 2021, after thousands of rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel and the Israelis were forced, once again, to do something about it, Jews were beaten and assaulted on the streets of Los Angeles, New York, and Miami, mostly by Islamists. Aside from quietly signing letters or standing beside other equally taciturn, cowering Jews, who among the Jewish leaders stepped out from the anonymous crowd, condemned the attacks, and demanded the protection of Jews from marauding Muslims? Who had the clout or charisma to galvanize Jews and non-Jews, alike?

More recently, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused Israel of placing Palestinian children in cages in the “West Bank.” Jew haters apparently know there are no costs to repackaging age-old anti-Semitic libels, even when the falsity of the accusation is easily proved.

Abraham Foxman, the longtime National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, used to be front and center in situations like these. But his old job has been redefined, and retitled, as that of a CEO. Other Jewish legacy organizations have adopted the same models that have more in common with faceless corporations than town criers who have something to truly cry about. Jewish advocacy has gone corporate, answerable to a Board of Directors, fearful of fickle consumers, and obsessed with product placement. Calling attention to African-Americans or Muslims assaulting Jews will lead to accusations of racism or Islamophobia. And that would be bad for their brand.

Jew haters apparently know there are no costs to repackaging age-old anti-Semitic libels.

Ironically, due to their knack for social and economic advancement, Jewish Americans have never wielded more cultural clout. But they are far too timid, and obsessed with corporate titles and prominent positions as university trustees, to leverage that power into anything that resembles unapologetic political leadership.

All throughout the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt—which coincided with the beginning and end of the Holocaust—Rabbi Stephen S. Wise was the most significant Jewish political figure in the United States. He was president of both the American Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Congress.

What’s more, Rabbi Wise had the ear of President Roosevelt. He was a frequent guest of the White House. (Even his daughter and her husband once dined there.) His access to the seat of American power was extraordinary and, for a Jew in the 20th century, unprecedented, even by today’s standards.

Calling attention to African-Americans or Muslims assaulting Jews will lead to accusations of racism or Islamophobia. And that would be bad for their brand.

Yet, none of his visits to the Oval Office resulted in the United States bombing the railroad tracks leading to Auschwitz. Indeed, when the first reports of Nazi atrocities committed against European Jewry surfaced, Wise dismissed them as propaganda. It didn’t take long for Wise to glean that Roosevelt had no interest in rescuing Europe’s Jews. When Wise was finally convinced that a Holocaust was truly underway, he politely raised his concerns with the president, but to no avail. 

The Maccabees were never polite in dispatching the Greeks.

Yet, Wise adamantly opposed other Jews protesting America’s inaction. He knew that calling out the president’s failure would upset Roosevelt.

For more than 12 years as an informal advisor to President Roosevelt, Wise served as a quiet Jewish diplomat who didn’t wish to press and thereby alienate the president. A similar complaint could be made against then Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, whose friendship with Roosevelt dated longer and who, after all, served in the president’s Cabinet. Other Jews in Roosevelt’s inner circle—Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, Sam Rosenman, and Ben Cohen—were all equally to blame. 

You might call them Court Jews. Throughout the Diaspora, many Jews served in rarefied advisory roles that enabled them to skip the line and improve their social standing. Even in biblical times, Joseph in Egypt and Mordecai in Persia functioned in this capacity. But the American variety, historically, demonstrates what a colossal failure these advancements have proven to be for Jews. Henry Kissinger may be America’s best example of a Jewish public official who attained great political power but who gave his fellow Jews, especially Soviet Jewry—and, to a lesser extent, the Jewish state—little thought. 

Perhaps staying in the good graces of the king requires repressing one’s Jewish commitments. It’s nice getting invited to the Ball. Just think of the new dances. Why let tribal loyalties get in the way of a good time?

Of course, there are Jews who happily turn down invitations to Court. Peter Bergson is virtually unknown today, but was widely admired when silence dominated all discussions concerning the fate of European Jewry under the Nazis. He was unique as a genuine Jewish leader—a model that simply has not been duplicated, surely not in America in the nearly 80 years since he created what became known as the Bergson Group. 

Perhaps staying in the good graces of the king requires repressing one’s Jewish commitments. It’s nice getting invited to the Ball. Just think of the new dances. Why let tribal loyalties get in the way of a good time?

Bergson had a very different response to the unfolding Holocaust. The Bergson Group staged mass rallies, purchased full-page ads in major newspapers, and even recruited Hollywood and Broadway celebrities to participate in a pageant, We Will Never Die. Written by Kurt Weill and Ben Hecht, it was showcased twice in Madison Square Garden before taking to the road for performances in other major cities. The storyline and music focused entirely on saving Europe’s Jews. 

When the show was presented in Washington, D.C., in attendance were many congressmen, along with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Apparently, the First Lady was so taken with the performance, she devoted one of her syndicated columns to this crusading production.

Her husband was none too pleased. He wanted the show to bomb. 

The efforts of the Bergson Group did not stop there. They pulled off an even more dramatic stunt, one the president could hardly miss because it happened outside his Oval Office. At the gates to the White House, 400 Orthodox rabbis petitioned the president to rescue Europe’s Jews. As Orthodox Jews, many of them dressed in the manner of their European counterparts—long beards and coats, sidelocks and tefillin. No one was concealing their identity. No one feared they would attract the attention of anti-Semites; nor were they troubled that their actions might get them disinvited from lavishly unkosher Beltway parties.

Not surprisingly, the activities of the Bergson Group enraged Rabbi Wise and other Jewish “leaders.” He feared a backlash against Jews by other Americans, or repercussions from the president himself. But perhaps what angered Wise most was the damage being done to his reputation: The most powerful Jew in the country, a rock star of a rabbi, was outplayed by Bergson’s street theatrics, and upstaged by a bunch of Hollywood stars.

More recently was the case of Nobelist and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, a personal friend, who was slight of build and soft-spoken, but yet responded to anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, and the desecration of Holocaust memory like a fearless Goliath. 

Three times he personally offended a president of the United States—twice in person! At a ceremony where he received the Congressional Gold Medal, Wiesel chastised President Ronald Reagan for planning to visit a cemetery in Bitburg, Germany, where some Nazi officials were buried. He embarrassed President Bill Clinton at the opening of the Holocaust Memorial Museum when he pleaded that America should stop the genocide in Bosnia. He was in attendance in the Capitol when Republican leaders invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to warn Congress about the impending Iran Deal, which was President Barack Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement. 

This is what moral courage looks like. Leadership without exercising moral courage, without undertaking risks and performing selfless acts, is not leadership. Influence peddling is not leadership; neither is resume padding and calling cards. 

Like Rabbi Wise, most Jewish leaders today have similar trepidations about antagonizing important constituencies, appearing to be “too Jewish,” accused of “dual loyalty,” or wrongly engaged in “special pleading” for Jews who already occupy the upper wrung of “white privilege.”

Leadership without exercising moral courage, without undertaking risks and performing selfless acts, is not leadership. Influence peddling is not leadership; neither is resume padding and calling cards.

If you believed that American Jews had long abandoned the “sha stil” ethos of “not in front of the Gentiles,” think again. 

Yet, Jewish leaders will knock each other over to get to the head of the line for any Black Lives Matter protest. They’ll jockey for a seat on “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committees,” even though these committees, in their deliberations, exclude and discount Jewish concerns—at their core, they hate Jews. Is it any wonder that Rabbi Wise was also a co-founder of the NAACP?

The term Jewish leadership might actually be an oxymoron. Once ascending to a position of elected or appointed office, moral courage and tribal loyalties disappear, spinelessness sets in, and the impulse to appear neutral in all things predominates. Denouncing Israel becomes a form of Jewish virtue-signaling, the shameless flashing of moral narcissism. For others, Israel is such a divisive issue, best to simply dodge the topic altogether and recite the meaningless words, “two-state solution.” 

Speaking of meaningless words, there are two in Hebrew, tikkun olam, that could stand to be discarded. Overused and misapplied, “repairing the world” is a nice impulse, but it doesn’t mean that God has directed the Chosen People to express their Judaism solely by doing good deeds for others. 

There is one Jewish leader dominating the news cycle at this very moment, but he lives and governs in Ukraine. Volodymyr Zelensky is winning well-earned plaudits for leading and rallying his people against the invading Russians. Fighting on his front lines, however, is an extremist right-wing paramilitary force, the Azov Battalion, wearing uniforms bearing insignia similar to the Nazis.

Perhaps one day we’ll learn whether Zelensky will stand as aggressively, and valiantly, in defense of Jews.

The City of Slaughter

This poem was written in tribute to the victims of the Kishinev pogrom.

Arise and go now to the city of slaughter;
Into its courtyard wind thy way;
There with thine own hand touch, and with the eyes of thine head,
Behold on tree, on stone, on fence, on mural clay,
The spattered blood and dried brains of the dead.
Proceed thence to the ruins, the split walls reach,
Where wider grows the hollow, and greater grows the breach;
Pass over the shattered hearth, attain the broken wall
Those burnt and barren brick, whose charred stones reveal
The open mouths of such wounds, that no mending
Shall ever mend, nor healing ever heal.
There will thy feet in feathers sink, and stumble
On wreckage doubly wrecked, scroll heaped on manuscript.
Fragments again fragmented

Pause not upon this havoc; go thy way
Unto the attic mount, upon thy feet and hands;
Behold the shadow of death among the shadows stands.
Crushed in their shame, they saw it all;
They did not pluck their eyes out; they
Beat not their brains against the wall!
Perhaps, perhaps, each watcher bad it in his heart to pray:
A miracle, O Lord, and spare my skin this day!

Come, now, and I will bring thee to their lairs
The privies, jakes and pigpens where the heirs
Of Hasmoneans lay, with trembling knees,
Concealed and cowering -the sons of the Maccabees!
The seed of saints, the scions of the lions!
Who, crammed by scores in all the sanctuaries of their shame
So sanctified My name!
It was the flight of mice they fled,
The scurrying of roaches was their flight;
They died like dogs, and they were dead!
And on the next morn, after the terrible night
The son who was not murdered found
The spurned cadaver of his father on the ground.
Now wherefore dost thou weep, O son of Man?
Brief-weary and forespent, a dark Shekinah
Runs to each nook and cannot find its rest;
Wishes to weep, but weeping does not come;
Would roar; is dumb.
Its head beneath its wing, its wing outspread
Over the shadows of the martyr’d dead,
Its tears in dimness and in silence shed.

And thou, too, son of man, close now the gate behind thee;
Be closed in darkness now, now thine that charnel space;
So tarrying there thou wilt be one with pain and anguish
And wilt fill up with sorrow thine heart for all its days.
Then on the day of thine own desolation
A refuge will it seem,
Lying in thee like a curse, a demon’s ambush,
The haunting of an evil dream,
O, carrying it in thy heart, across the world’s expanse
Thou wouldst proclaim it, speak it out,
But thy lips shall not find its utterance.
Beyond the suburbs go, and reach the burial ground.
Let no man see thy going; attain that place alone,
A place of sainted graves and martyr-stone.
Stand on the fresh-turned soil.
There in the dismal corner, there in the shadowy nook,
Multitudinous eyes will look
Upon thee from the sombre silence
The spirits of the martyrs are these souls,
Gathered together, at long last,
Beneath these rafters and in these ignoble holes.
The hatchet found them here, and hither do they come
To seal with a last look, as with their final breath,
The agony of their lives, the terror of their death.
Question the spider in his lair!
His eyes beheld these things; and with his web he can
A tale unfold horrific to the ear of man:
A tale of cloven belly, feather-filled;
Of nostrils nailed, of skull-bones bashed and spilled;
Of murdered men who from the beams were hung,
And of a babe beside its mother flung,
Its mother speared, the poor chick finding rest
Upon its mother’s cold and milkless breast;
Of how a dagger halved an infant’s word,
Its ma was heard, its mama never heard.

Then wilt thou bid thy spirit – Hold, enough!
Stifle the wrath that mounts within thy throat,
Bury these things accursed,
Within the depth of thy heart, before thy heart will burst!
Then wilt thou leave that place, and go thy way
And lo-
The earth is as it was, the sun still shines:
It is a day like any other day.

Descend then, to the cellars of the town,
There where the virginal daughters of thy folk were fouled,
Where seven heathen flung a woman down,
The daughter in the presence of her mother,
The mother in the presence of her daughter,
Before slaughter, during slaughter and after slaughter!
Note also, do not fail to note,
In that dark corner, and behind that cask
Crouched husbands, bridegrooms, brothers, peering from the cracks,
Watching the sacred bodies struggling underneath
The bestial breath,
Stifled in filth, and swallowing their blood!
Such silence will take hold of thee, thy heart will fail
With pain and shame, yet I
Will let no tear fall from thine eye.
Though thou wilt long to bellow like the driven ox
That bellows, and before the Altar balks,
I will make hard thy heart, yea, I
Will not permit a sigh.
See, see, the slaughtered calves, so smitten and so laid;
Is there a price for their death? How shall that price be paid?
Forgive, ye shamed of the earth, yours is a pauper-Lord!
Poor was He during your life, and poorer still of late.
When to my door you come to ask for your reward,
I’ll open wide: See, I am fallen from My high estate.
I grieve for you, my children. My heart is sad for you.
Your dead were vainly dead; and neither I nor you
Know why you died or wherefore, for whom, nor by what laws;
Your deaths are without reason; your lives are without cause.

Turn, then, thy gaze from the dead, and I will lead
Thee from the graveyard to thy living brothers,
And thou wilt come, with those of thine own breed,
Into the synagogue, and on a day of fasting,
To hear the cry of their agony,
Their weeping everlasting.
Thy skin will grow cold, the hair on thy skin stand up,
And thou wilt be by fear and trembling tossed;
Thus groans a people which is lost.
Look in their hearts – behold a dreary waste,
Where even vengeance can revive no growth,
And yet upon their lips no mighty malediction
Rises, no blasphemous oath.
Speak to them, bid them rage!
Let them against me raise the outraged hand,
Let them demand!
Demand the retribution for the shamed
Of all the centuries and every age!
Let fists be flung like stone
Against the heavens and the heavenly Throne!

And thou, too, pity them not, nor touch their wound;
Within their cup no further measure pour.
Wherever thou wilt touch, a bruise is found,
Their flesh is wholly sore.
For since they have met pain with resignation
And have made peace with shame,
What shall avail thy consolation?
They are too wretched to evoke thy scorn.
They are too lost thy pity to evoke.
So let them go, then, men to sorrow born,
Mournful and slinking, crushed beneath their yoke.
So to their homes, and to their hearth depart
Rot in the bones, corruption in the heart.
And go upon the highway,
Thou shalt then meet these men destroyed by sorrow,
Sighing and groaning, at the doors of the wealthy
Proclaiming their sores, like so much peddler’s wares,
The one his battered head, t’other limbs unhealthy,
One shows a wounded arm, and one a fracture bares.
And all have eyes that are the eyes of slaves,
Slaves flogged before their masters;
And each one begs, and each one craves:
Reward me, Master, for that my skull is broken.
Reward me for my father who was martyred!

And so their sympathy implore.
For you are now as you have been of yore
As you stretched your hand
So will you stretch it,
And as you have been wretched

So are you wretched!
What is thy business here, o son of man?
Rise, to the desert flee!
The cup of affliction thither bear with thee!
Take thou they soul, rend it in many a shred!
With impotent rage, thy heart deform!
Thy tear upon the barren boulders shed
And send they bitter cry into the storm.

Moral Narcissism + The Psychology of Failure

Currently, Western elites are enamored of a discourse best described as “utopian universalism,” a vision of a peaceful world, rid of oppression and discrimination; a world with no borders and with freedom and human rights for all. Certain dominant memes carry the message: “violence never solved anything”… “war is not the answer”… “who are we to judge?”… “all cultures are equal”…  along with their despised opposites: tribalism, racism, nationalism, us/them thinking, any kind of phobia – homo- trans- xeno- Islamo-…. 

These sentiments have trapped many Jews, and especially most of their leaders, in a rhetorical cage with few venues for escape because defending specifically Jewish interests now is, by definition, parochial and anti-universalist. Trying to square the circle of defending Jews and their traditions, yet being in synch with the wider, now anti-traditionalist society, is nearly impossible.

This universalist utopianism has been around for a long time, with its first powerful assertions during the Enlightenment and the creation of democracies. Since the mid-20th century, the outlook has become institutionalized in global systems—the United Nations, Geneva Conventions, Universal Human Rights—that were increasingly demanding, even as the real world proved recalcitrant. In the 21st century, a utopian discourse that deconstructs power and prejudice and detects their workings everywhere, has spread from radical pockets of academia to become the coin of the realm. Many share the vision of “bending the arc of history toward justice.” Anyone who contests this high moral discourse is stigmatized with this epoch’s most loathsome epithet: “racist.”

In the 21st century, a utopian discourse that deconstructs power and prejudice and detects their workings everywhere, has spread from radical pockets of academia to become the coin of the realm.

Jews are particularly susceptible to accusations of failing to live up to messianic expectations. In its religious form, this utopianism lies behind the messianic dreams from the prophets to the present; in its secular forms, it inspires world-perfecting movements from communism to globalism to critical (race) theory. Currently its most passionate Jewish adherents, both religious and secular, invoke tikkun olam—“repairing the world”—as a messianic vocation. For Jews, especially in diaspora, signaling to the dominant gentile culture that Jews accept and are eager to contribute to the larger society has often been a key strategy to survival. In modern times, when the surrounding culture has adopted many (originally) Jewish utopian ideals in the process of forging democratic, civil societies, Jewish leaders have tended to publicly promote these utopian ideals as proof of their good will.

For most people, being seen as virtuous has a social and psycho-social motivation. It is almost a necessary life skill to encourage others to think one is a person of principle. The problem arises when one’s own, or one’s people’s values differ from the larger collective, and one faces a choice between signaling one’s virtue according to the consensus while betraying actual values on the one hand, or staying faithful to one’s values and enduring the disapproval, even rejection that such defiance inevitably brings on, on the other.

Some observers have characterized the choice of public “honor” over private integrity as a form of “moral narcissism,” namely, adopting what are seen by most as moral positions because they make you look good, and feel good about yourself, regardless of the consequences for others. For moral narcissists, signaling virtue trumps acting virtuously. (At their most noxious, they become “luxury beliefs” by which people signal their high status by embracing ideas that aspire to help but actually hinder the objects of their “concern” – defund police, open borders, gender fluidity.)

For moral narcissists, signaling virtue trumps acting virtuously.

The Oslo Syndrome and the Crisis of Jewish Leadership

Jewish leaders, including official heads of Jewish organizations dedicated to protecting the Jewish communities they serve, and prominent spiritual and academic figures, faced a dilemma at the beginning of the new century. In 2000 and 2001, global events occurred that put Western moral narcissists in a position to do terrible harm to the very democracies that made their pleasant utopian dreams seem so close to realization.  

The 1990s were, in the eyes of many hopefuls, the “happy years,” when one could, with some justification, look forward to an end of history, even to a global civil society, a realization of Kant’s enlightenment dream of “perpetual peace.” This was particularly true of Jews and Israelis because the “Oslo Peace Process” promised an end to that long, terrible war of survival that Israel had been fighting since birth. Finally, we could come to a positive-sum outcome for Israelis and Palestinians, Land for Peace. And it all depended on a somewhat utopian projection, that the Palestinians were ready to leave behind their sworn desire for vengeance and join global civil society. So powerful had this dream gripped Jews around the world that when Yasser Arafat made it clear, in Arabic, that this was Land for War, even the Israeli intelligence community ignored the evidence and forged forward with the pleasant dream. 

Israeli and Jewish leaders, enthralled by the prospects of peace, accused any who pointed out the problems of projecting a liberal psychology and culture on the Palestinians as suffering from “a post-Holocaust syndrome,” an inability to let go of the fears of the past. In a fine illustration of the role of a malignant moral narcissism, they considered that “resistance to the Oslo process constituted a greater offense than Palestinian violations of the Accord.” In other words, those Jews who expressed concern got in the way of Peace. Psychiatrist Ken Levin called this mindset “the Oslo Syndrome.” 

This aggressively hopeful posture had particular appeal for Jewish leaders, who had pursued and were deeply committed to the positive-sum values of the civil societies in which they lived. Organizations like the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League carried on extensive activities with other minorities, defending their “human rights,” protecting them from prejudice, helping strengthen their communities, extending the hand of friendship. It was at once a great “optic” and, as these leaders assured anyone who wondered why so much effort went into making friends rather than helping the Jewish community: when the time came that Jews needed support, their friends would reciprocate. Win-win.

Then, in late 2000, Arafat let the soldiers out of the Trojan Horse he had long touted as his Oslo strategy, and a bloody suicide-terror Jihad ensued in which more than 1,000 Israelis (the U.S. equivalent of 50,000), mostly civilians, were killed and many more maimed by bombs carefully assembled with ball bearings, to spread the damage as far and wide as possible. Astonishingly, the “good people,” the progressives, the “post-Zionists,” the post-colonialists, sided with the Palestinians and blamed Israel, the stronger party, for not doing, for not giving enough for peace. Since nothing in the utopian worldview could allow evidence that the gamble over the Palestinians intentions had failed—it would be “racist” to say the Palestinian leadership wanted war—it could only be that Israel was responsible. As French President Jacques Chirac said to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak: “You will never convince anyone that the Palestinians are the aggressors.”

As a result, quite the contrary to what the Jewish leadership’s 20th century strategy anticipated, in a massive shift of the “Overton Window” the Palestinian cause became a litmus test of liberal credentials. No matter how badly Palestinians behaved, with their unprecedented war of suicide terror and genocidal hate speech, Jewish leaders looked to their allies for a defense that never came. On the contrary, as Paul Berman put it: “Palestinian terror” had become “the measure of Israeli guilt.” Rather than get help from its liberal and minority friends so carefully cultivated during the “happy ‘90s,” Jewish leadership got the cold shoulder and worse. Many expected allies joined the campaign against Israel and told the Jews that the murderous hatred of the Palestinians had nothing to do with anti-Semitism, and that any Jewish objections were just abusing accusations of anti-Semitism in order to silence “any criticism of Israel.”  

Faced with the evidence that their effort to make peace had failed and that those with “Holocaust-syndrome” who had warned of malevolent Palestinian intentions were correct, many of these good folks doubled down: “We were so close; if only Israel had given more, then Arafat would have said yes.” Jews were tempted to believe that after the Holocaust, in the West and now even in “Palestine,” the siege was over, and refused to look at counter-evidence. Indeed, what had been a risky gamble in the ‘90s—Palestinians are ready for peace and deserve a state of their own—became dogma in the ‘00s precisely as the gamble failed spectacularly. Anyone opposed was a heartless racist.

September 11th recapitulated this dynamic and made things even worse. Here was a declaration of war on the West every bit as vicious as the Intifada—suicidal jihadis targeting civilians—but now on a global scale, outside Dar al Islam. Many thought-leaders—academics, journalists, pundits, politicians—found themselves, just like the Israeli and Jewish “peace camp,” in an impossible situation. According to democratic principles, American Muslims could and should enjoy the religious freedoms (basic civil rights) that everyone else in a democracy did, and accordingly there was great concern over the rights of “ordinary Muslims” who are not part of this apocalyptic Jihad waged by a Saudi from the caves of Afghanistan. By democratic standards, any move to constrain Muslims qua Muslims was out of the question. It also was an extremely bad optic: in order to live up to our liberal and progressive standards, some reasoned, we must not even “appear to take sides.” The West, by its own utopian virtues, rhetorically and unilaterally disarmed. 

But when confronted with the evidence that some Muslims, enjoying the rights of democratic citizens (which they did not have in Muslim-majority countries) found Jiahdi goals attractive—imposing Shari’a in Dar al Harb, death penalty for apostates and blasphemers, supporting terrorist groups, calling for the overthrow of the democratic governments, preaching paranoid conspiracy theories and exterminationist anti-Semitism, protecting shame-murders—the tolerant response did not waver. On the contrary, our presidents assure us that “Islam is a religion of peace,” and “99.9 percent of Muslims reject this medieval religious war.” 

Anyone who tried to point out the problem—that there was indeed a civilizational culture that promoted jihadi values—was accused of Islamophobia. In a parody of the Oslo Syndrome, Western progressives considered criticism of Muslims and Islam a greater offense than the behavior of those fighting for a global Caliphate with terror. Progressives literally “fetishized the Muslim ‘Other’,” making their embrace a sign of moral rectitude, and any resistance to such a suicidal alliance an indicator of xenophobia, Islamophobia, or “right-wing” fascism. The “utopians” insisted on a politically-correct set of beliefs and imposed them on everyone else:

In a parody of the Oslo Syndrome, Western progressives considered criticism of Muslims and Islam a greater offense than the behavior of those fighting for a global Caliphate with terror.

Jewish Leadership in the 21st century 

For Jewish leaders, the problem of how to deal with radical Muslims was particularly difficult since one of the most distinctive elements the radical’s Global Jihadi wing was a virulent anti-Semitism at least as bad as the Nazis (at least German priests and ministers didn’t preach genocide from the pulpit). This exterminationist Judeophobia permeates the Muslim world both in Muslim-majority countries and among diaspora Muslims. The overwhelming support of progressives for the politically correct “narrative,” including its obscuring of the genocidal anti-Semitism, made Muslim hatred of Israel somehow legitimate. Progressives who had no problem “oppos[ing] Jewish ethno-nationalism without being a bigot,” banned from the public sphere those who opposed triumphalist Muslim terror-imperialism as deplorable Islamophobes. Jewish leaders had to choose between looking good to their fellow progressives or defending Jews from a sudden and growing “new anti-Semitism,” and thereby alienating their “allies.”

Given the choice between public honor (virtuous progressives) and private guilt (abandoning their constituency), and public shame (stigmatized as Islamophobic) and private integrity (doing their job), they chose the former. In so doing they joined their fellow progressives in standing down before Islamic triumphalist aggression. And like their colleagues, they expressed outrage when critics called their judgment into question. It became a parody of “human rights” and “anti-racism” that enabled those who would destroy those values to prevail. 

Jewish leaders had to choose between looking good to their fellow progressives or defending Jews from a sudden and growing “new anti-Semitism,” and thereby alienating their “allies.”

But moral narcissism is not mere hypocrisy. Hypocrites know that they are insincere; moral narcissists believe in their virtue. They fervently insist to themselves and anyone who will listen on their sincerity (the cheapest of virtues). They are filled with passionate intensity. They think of themselves as the avatars of the biblical prophets, proudly and indignantly denouncing the sins of their own people. They see themselves as “good Jews,” moral paragons. They soar high above the deplorables whose primitive values they disdain. And the larger the gap between pretense and reality, between hypocrisy and integrity, the more vehement their protestations.

This insistence on their sincerity is nowhere more evident than in the moral narcissist’s response to opposition. Rather than engage in a dialogue with those Jews, equally concerned for the fate of their people, bringing relevant observations to the discussion of “what to do,” they responded with indignation and anger. Having been warned repeatedly by Charles Jacobs that the massive mosque being built in Roxbury, Massachusetts, was in fact a Muslim Brotherhood, Wahhabi-funded initiative with profound anti-Semitic and anti-democratic tendencies, the Jewish leadership persisted in its warm support. 

But moral narcissism is not mere hypocrisy. Hypocrites know that they are insincere; moral narcissists believe in their virtue.

When all “private means” had been exhausted, Jacobs named one of the culprits in an op-ed in the Jewish Advocate. The response, signed by 70 rabbis and rabbinical students who were “shocked and appalled,” excoriated Jacobs for his “vicious personal attack… his destructive campaign against Boston’s Muslim community based on innuendo, half-truths, and unproven conspiracy theories.” And then they proclaimed their virtue:

During these difficult times, Rabbi Gurvis, along with other courageous religious leaders are attempting to foster a different kind of politics. We support his commitment to interfaith dialogue and cooperation. We stand together in our commitment to a community in which neighbors seek to know one another and join together for the common good. 

All of this occurred three years before Muslims, products of the Jihadi ideology propounded at that mosque and its affiliate in Cambridge, carried out the bombing of the Boston Marathon in April 2013. Had these rabbis heeded rather than censured these warnings, had they been as self-critical as they were ready to criticize their own people, many people, Jewish and gentile, might have been spared much suffering.

The tale of this process and its consequences is long and painful, filled with catastrophic errors peppered occasionally with the signs of a backbone, of a commitment to why Jewish leaders exist—to protect their communities. Overall, however, the last two decades have witnessed catastrophes for Jews around the world:

The disastrous course of the first decades of the 21st century—the spread of BDS and its lethal narratives, the increasing hostility toward and marginalization of Jewish students on campus, the growing demonization of Israel by Congressional Democrats, the increasing street violence against Jews—weighs heavily on the shoulders of Jewish leaders if not for enabling and inciting it, then in failing to oppose it. They could afford to atone next Yom Kippur for:

The defense of the Jewish people and their only state in the 21st century is, ironically, also the defense of a global civil society in which people can live free, prosperous, and at peace with their neighbors. In betraying their own people, they have let down democracies and progressive values the world over.

The Left’s Betrayal of Liberalism: Saqib Ali

This is the first of what will be a series of brief, weekly White Rose pieces centered around the betrayal of liberalism as a foundational political concept, by those who claim to be liberal. The “progressive left” is not liberal, and the Democratic Party is in the process of shredding its sense of liberalism.

“Saqib Ali introduces CAIR attorney Carolyn Homar, right, to his mother Samina Ali, following a press conference, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, in Catonsville, Md., announcing a legal challenge to Maryland’s anti-BDS Executive Order. Maryland’s ban on contracting with businesses that boycott Israel tramples on the First Amendment rights of the software engineer who advocates for Palestinians, a Muslim civil rights group claims in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.”

(Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

Democratic candidate for the Maryland legislature, Saqib Ali, is a politician once hailed by the Washington Post as a “bright newcomer.”  He is a handsome fellow, born in Chicago, a graduate of the University of Maryland with a Master’s in Computer Science and a significant background in Maryland politics. Ali is on the ballot this July for the state legislature.

He also is, sadly, an anti-Semitic anti-Zionist.

In many ways – leaving the anti-Semitic anti-Zionism aside – Saqib Ali is not so different from me. We are both Americans of Middle Eastern heritage. We both grew up more or less middle-class toward the end of the twentieth century. We both came from families who immigrated to the U.S. in relatively recent years. We both saw the American left as natural friends and allies and were long-time Democrats.

He is a dedicated Muslim, a Democrat of Pakistani and Asian-Indian descent, and a former coordinator for the Howard Dean presidential campaign in the early 2000s. He is also a co-founder of Freedom2Boycott in Maryland, an organization dedicated to BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions: the movement promoting boycotts, divestments, and economic sanctions against the state of Israel). I am a former Democrat, a PhD in American History, and a proud Independent from New York of Judean descent, who worked the phones for the Obama presidential campaign in San Francisco during 2007.

Ali is a progressive-left Democrat who favors AOC’s Green New Deal.  I was briefly a member of the Green Party USA as a graduate student in American History at Penn State University. The problem is that Ali, whatever his commitment to “social justice,” is calling for genocide. Ali insists that the sole Jewish state is “apartheid.” This is important for friends of Israel and the  Jewish people in Maryland to know before they hit the ballot box in the July local elections.

I became curious about Ali upon crossing his trail on Facebook where he, as a Democratic Party politician, referred to Israel in terms designed to create hatred toward Jews. I asked him in an email message whether he stood by his “apartheid” claim but, not surprisingly, he has not responded. I asked him if “apartheid Israel” should be dismantled as the national home of the Jewish people, just as apartheid South Africa was dismantled, but he has not responded to that question either.

His lack of response might very well be because he knows that Montgomery County has a significant Jewish population, and if they knew he despised Israel it might hurt his electoral chances and chances for power within that state. Or maybe not. It could be that Ali knows his district well enough to know that they do not care.

Ali led a campaign, with financial and legal assistance from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), in support of BDS: 

“The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ federal lawsuit seeks to block the state from enforcing an executive order that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed in October 2017.

The order requires contractors to certify in writing that they don’t boycott Israel…

CAIR sued Hogan and state Attorney General Brian Frosh on behalf of software engineer Syed Saqib Ali, a former state legislator. Ali’s lawsuit says the order bars him from bidding for government software program contracts because he supports boycotts of businesses and organizations that ‘contribute to the oppression of Palestinians.’”

The BDS movement was co-founded by Omar Barghouti who opposes the existence of Israel because it is the home of the Jewish people. This is something akin to opposing the existence Japan because it is the national homeland of the Japanese people. It is something akin to opposing France because it is the nation-state of the French. Along with American progressive politicians like Saqib Ali (D-MD), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), BDS seeks to undermine Jewish autonomy on the very land that has been indigenous to the Jewish people for over 3,000 years. 

Barghouti states very specifically that no local Arab will ever accept a Jewish state in “Palestine”:

“A Jewish state in Palestine in any shape or form cannot but contravene the basic rights of the indigenous Palestinian population and perpetuate a system of racial discrimination that ought to be opposed categorically…. Definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.”

Saqib Ali is a minnow in American politics. If he wins office he will, at least for the moment, make do with influencing Maryland state government rather than national policy. However, he needs to understand that liberalism is a trend derived from the English Political Enlightenment that has spread power more evenly throughout Western political culture throughout the course of centuries. Part of that trend includes respect for indigenous peoples, both in the Americas and the Middle East, in their efforts toward self-determination.

Saqib Ali castigates Israel as apartheid, which conjures images of apartheid South Africa with the implication that it must either be destroyed or reformed in his ideological image. Ali’s imagining of Israel is neither liberal nor accurate because, in fact, Israel is demonstrably the least apartheid and most justice-oriented country throughout theMiddle East. Further, its social system has nothing in common with apartheid South Africa, which Ali uses as a political club with which to attack Israel.

In apartheid South Africa, the indigenous population had no access to the ballot. In Israel, the children of Arab conquerors reside in the Knesset.

In apartheid South Africa, black and white people were not served in the same restaurants or hotels or even hospitals. In Israel, Muslims and Jews sit cheek-by-jowl in the same restaurants and hotels and hospitals. In fact, Israel is the only country in the history of the world to sponsor the immigration of Africans, not for the purposes of slavery or exploitation, but to save them from theocratically inspired hatred.

So, when Saqib Ali promotes BDS, or when he by implication slanders the Jewish people as supporting an apartheid country, he is spitting poison at a population still overcoming the most brutal genocide in world history.

And there is nothing the least bit liberal about it.

Transitional Thoughts on Trans-

… the phenomenological way: take a thing for what it is and let it talk.

James Hillman, Inter Views

Any body

I’m writing, not from a certain identity position some readers might demand, but from nothing other my own essentially random position, stand or fall. And I’m nobody—not trans, no kind of academic or expert, not even a journalist. Just someone with a particular mix of traits and experiences, observing things and thinking about them. The contingency of my starting point is important: who has the right to address this issue? I’d say, anyone. Any old nobody. 

First, because the drive is inbuilt: we all wonder, we all read the signs for orientation wherever we happen to find ourselves. (We can suppress the questioning, but denial has its price. And we might choose to read only familiar signs, but it risks getting us even more lost.) Second, because we’re all in the midst of upheavals that go to the heart of human being: matters of sex and gender implicate us all because the body itself—anybody’s, everybody’s—is the ground of contention. 

The prefix trans- points us toward a topic where our corporeal fears and techno-dreams run riot, where primeval past and potential futures battle over the very real present. Few terms seem more emblematic of our situation: “Where are we?” In transition … 

If the word “nonbinary” has assumed a sudden cultural importance, whether as a mere trend or a significant indication of future developments, it has the undeniable function of creating a new binary.

Binary choices

Decisions take us in one direction or another, this way or that. Each closes off certain possibilities and enables others. If the word “nonbinary” has assumed a sudden cultural importance, whether as a mere trend or a significant indication of future developments, it has the undeniable function of creating a new binary. Whether we like it or not, we can’t step out of our time and situation to avoid the decision the word itself demands of us (ironically enough). We will inevitably find ourselves on this side or that of every cultural challenge. 

We may find ourselves opposed along obvious lines (“traditionalists vs. radicals”), we may remain trapped in completely understandable confusion, or we may make new alliances across political, social, and spiritual lines we’d once thought were clear-cut. If we are indeed facing a “brave new world,” old identities (not just “gender identities,” though they’re all the rage) might be worth reconsidering, while “old” values may yet be renewed, reimagined. 

But if our familiar determinations don’t always guarantee truly meaningful resemblances, how will we find our allies; how will we recognize those who share our convictions? 

“… let it talk”

A reaction isn’t only my reaction; it belongs to a situation. If it’s deep enough… it isn’t just subjective personal opinion. It’s giving voice to something. (James Hillman, “A Psychologist Talks About…”)

The notion of “my truth” does have its place: as a corrective. When someone references it, what they’re talking about is the reality of their life: “It is true that I experienced this.” And they are asking that their experience be recognized as part of the general understanding of some situation. They are speaking for something denied or discounted by such collective recognition. 

Everything that constitutes the trans phenomenon (people, organizations, ideas, dreams, technologies) moves around a center of gravity, a “black hole” of a question that addresses us collectively and personally: what is “human”?

Any one person’s experience is, however, wholly inadequate for grasping the larger truths of which our own represent but partial aspects. Similarly, “my position”—my opinion, my political or moral stance—can’t do justice to the complexity of a real-world phenomenon. One may advocate for pro-trans activism, trans-critical feminism, or traditional male/female roles; one may dream of free choice in every area or warn about commodified faux-freedom. These are various possibilities the phenomenon holds out, and we gravitate toward whichever is most accessible or appealing to us for whatever reasons (upbringing, community, personal factors). Underneath the diversity of responses, though, there has been a shift in our shared reality itself, a change in our collective coordinates. 

Our situation has created a new “we” out of all of us. Everything that constitutes the trans phenomenon (people, organizations, ideas, dreams, technologies) moves around a center of gravity, a “black hole” of a question that addresses us collectively and personally: what is “human”? Whether or not biological sex and social gender roles can or should be transcended, whether or not, as the most ambitious trans visionaries would have it, we are indeed moving into the “trans-human,” our self-understanding is in transition. We are all implicated. 

It appears … 

The word “phenomenon” comes from the Greek “to appear” and the root “to shine.”  Today, the trans phenomenon “shines,” demanding our attention whether we want to look or not. No matter our distinct viewpoints, it might also help us determine where we all are, if we can look together at the face of what faces us. But it encompasses a mind-boggling array of dimensions, each shot through with its own contradictions in addition to the contradictions between them. 

To some, the creative side is most immediately obvious: the contributions of trans and gender-bending artists, the new vistas opening up for creative exploration; the joys of self-discovery and self-expression; the advances in medical technology associated with some research; greater social acceptance of gender nonconformity and other forms of diversity. 

This was where my own background and experience has led me, initially. The issue of gender never troubled me personally, but blurred gender never felt terribly threatening. I grew up with the variations of androgyny from Bowie to Radical Faeries at Pride gatherings, with science fiction novels that predicted sex-change at a whim, with knowledge of pioneers like Wendy (née Walter) Carlos and Jan (née James) Morris, with underground cultural icons like Wayne/Jayne County and Genesis P-Orridge. Many people in my circle, from collaborators and co-workers to dear friends, bent gender into the most astonishing shapes—including the person I call “the third great unrequited love of my life” (there’d been one each in elementary and junior high) who in high school revealed to me that he’d always felt he had—or was—“a woman inside.” He was expressing something very difficult, then; today, she is much happier. There are countless examples of people unequivocal about the value of having “transitioned,” whatever its trials.

The trans rise to prominence has occurred with astonishing speed in every sector—social, political, medical, legal, academic, athletic, commercial. This alone demands explanation.

Meanwhile, the other side to this positive reality has been in the news: natal (biological) males competing in women’s sports, with predictable results; vicious battles over the meaning of words, justified by complex academic theorizing; the growing power of trans lobbyists to effect policy without public input; the rise in diagnoses of “gender dysphoria,” especially among young women, and the inevitable accompanying regret among some who choose to “de-transition”; the dangerous presence of trans-identified males in women’s spaces and in sex-segregated facilities like prisons and shelters; the vilification and violence directed toward critics of trans ideology. 

The trans rise to prominence has occurred with astonishing speed in every sector—social, political, medical, legal, academic, athletic, commercial. This alone demands explanation. And it turns out that there are “grassroots” movements being funded by the most powerful biotech and pharmaceutical companies, censorship and social control advanced under the banner of the most “progressive” ideals, tolerance for hateful bullying legitimized by “human rights” organizations.

Although each position has its flaws and limitations, there are not only serious arguments being made for most of them, but many caring, intelligent people making them. So, by what criteria can we judge? Is compromise possible? Is it even desirable? 


The “trans phenomenon” is about the human body. The body unites us as a species, but it has always embroiled us in dramas of opposition, too, often to the death. It has pitted us against one another in contest for physical resources (war), in the trials of intimacy and mating (“the war of the sexes”), and in all manner of exploitation, control, and domination (the “race war”). 

It also divides us against ourselves, psychologically. The body is, after all, where “the soul” landed, and this human subject—ego, consciousness, every avatar of “me”—is at once at home and a stranger in the material domain. The body is the primordial contested territory because it’s where every “I” comes to be—the site of our self-definition, where we make our selves. 

But “constructed” clearly needn’t mean “false.” After all, humans “made” language and continually refashion it—for better or worse is the question.

The distinction between nature (from natus “born”) and technology (from the root, teks- “to fabricate,” “fashion,” “make”) plays out here: that which comes into being of itself versus what we produce through our own agency. “Nature or nurture?” is thus a question concerning technology: how much do we in fact shape what we normally take as given? How much is ultimately in our hands, and therefore our responsibility? 

The postmodern threat to cultural norms has been unavoidable because, as far it goes (but only that far), the theory of social constructivism is right: even before our birth, our “nature” and ideas of “natural” are being fashioned for us. As we go on to form what (and who) comes after. 

But “constructed” clearly needn’t mean “false.” After all, humans “made” language and continually refashion it—for better or worse is the question. Words are completely “artificial.” But they open up shareable worlds—and build exclusionary ones. They create realities—and destroy them. They allow human cultural life to blossom—and they limit it. 


I said that our time is “in transition.” But really, we have always been in transition, only the periods of relative stability used to be much longer. We lived in oral, ritual cultures for seventy-thousand years or so—how easy all that “pre-history” is to forget, when we look back at our official “history” of a few measly millennia! 

But real truth, real-world truth, asks us to decide, in the words of the classic union song by Florence Reece, “Which side are you on?”

So, yes, “we” is now anybody and everybody—each individual living at this time, in this rocking world. Yet change has been accelerating steadily since the dawn of modernity, revolution following furiously upon revolution—scientific, industrial, political, artistic, sexual, digital. And our positions inevitably vie for dominance, face off in mortal combat. Our binary choices about that uncanny phenomenon that faces us all—even the decision whether or not to speak of anyone as “nonbinary”—will divide us. 

Because, unfortunately for utopian fantasies, truth divides. It divides despite referring to “collective recognition,” despite its definition as “the objectively shared” in contrast to “the subjectively private.” Unanimity only belongs in Utopia, that is, nowhere—in a Heaven where truth is always already known, no communication necessary. But real truth, real-world truth, asks us to decide, in the words of the classic union song by Florence Reece, “Which side are you on?” 

I myself can’t be “against” the trans movement. But neither can I support those aggressive and influential trans forces that are making life miserable for anyone who doesn’t bow to their demands. I can rejoice in human creativity, but also expose its risks and its exploitation. This, finally, brings me to the fragile point around which we might still come together. 

We can argue, draw our own lines, make our own determinations, stick with “our people”—as long as we find ourselves, in the end, resisting the totalitarians together.

In Berlin, there’s a German Resistance Memorial Center. The rooms are dedicated respectively to various demographics that made up the anti-Nazi resistance: workers, business leaders, artists, intellectuals, students, soldiers, Christians, Jews, Roma, and so on. Despite the differences between them, some indeed irreconcilable, they allied to fight a common danger. I’m not equating the trans movement with Nazism, as I hope the preceding makes very clear. I also hope, however, that I’ve suggested some of the real dangers the movement poses, a sense of its totalitarian potential that makes even such a perilous, extreme comparison resonant. 

We—male, female, trans; religious, secular; conservative, liberal; academic, artist, trucker—can unite precisely against those forces that would divide by mere demographic categories. And our resistance must divide us from whoever—male, female, trans; religious, secular; conservative, liberal; academic, artist, trucker—would dominate us all, whoever would rob us of our individuality and diminish our uniqueness. We can argue, draw our own lines, make our own determinations, stick with “our people”—as long as we find ourselves, in the end, resisting the totalitarians together. 

There are real struggles to be waged over real-world actions impacting real human lives. The idea of “facing” the phenomenon isn’t to provide answers, but only to help us identify where we are. If it removes us from the field of battle, it also allows us to return better informed, with a stronger sense of the forces in play and of the humanity of the players. How to respond remains in our hands, determining the quality of our social “constructions”; it remains in our feet, determining which direction we let them take us. So these thoughts can’t be anything but transitional—but that’s all thoughts have ever been. And if that doesn’t sound too impressive—well, it shouldn’t.

Song of the Dark Virgin: The Case for Restraint

“As a Black woman, you have to be careful because you’re at the bottom of the totem pole in society. You must make sure that you are respected in your professional and personal relationships.” 

I was left speechless as I heard these words. I felt  vexed as to why I was being singled out as a Black woman. I had never thought of myself as being at the bottom of a societal totem pole. I had been working with children since high school. I am intelligent. I am cultured. I am attractive and stylish. Also, I am Christian. Not just in theory. I mean that I am a parochial school, mission trip, “my virginity is awesome until/if I get married,” Christian. 

Black women have been sexualized and fetishized since the days of slavery in this society.

However, the woman was not speaking of how I lived but how I would be perceived in society. Her comment hurt my pride. My image was important to me because I “practiced what I preached”.  I didn’t sleep around. I always valued sex as love that is shared between husband and wife. 

“Why was she telling me this?” I pondered and meditated on her statement for weeks. Months.

To be honest, it haunted me for years.

I had a comfortable middle-class upbringing. My father was a former decorated Combat Marine and career diesel mechanic. My mother was an early childhood specialist and business owner. We were given many opportunities. My three siblings and I enjoyed a childhood full of church services, sports, Girl and Boy Scouts, choir, ballet, family gatherings, and Nintendo battles.  My father taught me how important it was to respect my body and my sexuality. His early affirmations and his affection towards me helped to establish my self-worth. I was smart. I was worthy. I knew I was talented and cherished before I even reached kindergarten. Forty years later you’d suffer in trying to find me living or thinking otherwise. Today, I love myself. 

So, I’m black. I’m a virgin. And I’m happy.

Black women have been sexualized and fetishized since the days of slavery in this society. During slavery, our power was stripped away from us. Now, however, the power to shape our own identities lies in our hands. 

Black men and women deserve to be taught to respect their bodies as the precious temples that they are.

“Sexual power is not reclaimed with promiscuous behavior,” I was taught. The power is actually in restraint, as you take back your power by selectivity, judiciousness, and abstinence. Until you are married, your body belongs to you and God. I’m of the belief that every endeavor has a spiritual implication. We don’t have the luxury of living sexually promiscuous lifestyles without incurring powerful ramifications including prurient scrutiny and disrespect. It is neither healthy nor righteous for anyone to live in a sexually promiscuous manner or to be used this way. However,  black women are deeply scrutinized and dismissed for this type of behavior while others are not. To me, it appears that women of other groups are not criticized as intensely for sexual promiscuity.

And then I see the “W.A.P.” (Wet Ass Pussy) performance at the Grammys. My compassion tells me that these are two young women expressing and asserting themselves artistically, as Madonna did in the early 90s. However, my intuition tells me that it’s actually an agenda.

Ms. Lauryn Hill was all but blackballed in this same music industry over twenty years ago. Hill spoke truth to power, the type of comprehensive feminism that loved men and couldn’t live without them but also told us girls that “respect was just the minimum”. Why was a message that was pro-men and pro-women shut down, but tunes like “W.A.P.” while the Black artists willing to sing them have been pushed ever since? Could it be a mass scale act of grooming? I believe so. I’ve always thought that teaching faith-based abstinence in the Black community would eradicate many, if not all, of our persisting issues. Black men and women deserve to be taught abstinence and celibacy early. Black men and women deserve to be taught to respect their bodies as the precious temples that they are.

There is power in restraint.

There is love in restraint.

How Feminists in the West Lost the Plot on Freedom

“Freedom to me means having the option to choose your own path” – said Madina Hamidi, an Afghan-Belgian model, refugee, and human rights activist, speaking on a panel about women’s rights in Afghanistan after the Taliban’s return. Hamidi’s father had been killed by the Taliban, and the family fled to Europe. The hope was that in the West, the children would have the possibility of choosing their own paths. Today, Hamidi speaks out on the plight of women, minorities, and anyone else who is at risk of the Taliban’s anti-pluralistic backlash. She is not alone.

“I can’t believe it – twenty years later and the situation is exactly the same.”

Joining her on the panel were Manel Msalmi, the Tunisia-born Middle East policy adviser for EU parliament, as well as a political and human rights activist, and Lailuma Sadid, a Brussels-based Afghan journalist and an activist on refugee issues. Before the Taliban’s fall, Sadid dedicated her efforts to educating girls who had been shut out of going to school due to the Taliban’s draconian policies. However, after being caught and whipped twice by the regime enforcers, she was threatened with death if she were to continue engaging in her educational efforts.  

After moving abroad, Lailuma continued covering events in Afghanistan and redoubled her efforts with the return of Taliban to power in August 2021. “I can’t believe it – twenty years later and the situation is exactly the same” – she said. Manel Msalmi organized an event in Brussels to  highlight the plight of Afghan women. But the reaction of the international community to the plight of women under the Taliban has remained muted and relegated largely to verbal expressions of concern.  There have been a few State Department pronouncements. But, there has been no observable outrage in the feminist community about the worst sort of suppression of female freedom.  

Each new imposed restriction on women–from the imposition of separate educational systems to the return to guardianship system to escalation in unjust detentions to cynical restrictions on driving rights–has been met with silence. No major lobbies have come forward to demand pressure on the Taliban, no protests have been mobilized on campuses around the US, Europe, and other Western states, and most of the media coverage and activism on issue has come from Afghan expatriates and diasporas. That’s not to say feminism is completely absent from the international scene.

Ironically, the voices that should be supporting the most vulnerable women in the most critical situations rather tend to focus on small groups of activists in Muslim majority states that are already undergoing reforms with regards to women’s rights.  Usually there is no vetting or deep engagement involved; assistance  goes to propaganda campaigns and unconstructive attacks in response to perceived grievances. By contrast, very little feminist fervor is devoted to more mundane issues that affect larger segments of population, such as humanitarian concerns which overwhelmingly impact women and children in conflict zones, or in areas where women’s work and educational options are limited.

Feminism rose as a movement to ensure women’s equal rights under the law. It once rested on a pillar of freedom undergirding  women’s role in society.  Today’s feminism has lost the plot. It has ceased being relevant on the essential issue of freedom, demand the ability of female human beings to choose their own destiny.  That  positive outcomes of feminism  can transform a society for the better, in ways that  benefit men as well as women, seems lost. Women’s rights are no longer understood to be human rights — leading to strange backlashes in places. The image of “feminism” is tarnished to the point the concept is no longer taken seriously and corrupted by  activists who know little history and less of the underlying laws and ethics.

Several factors explain why Western feminism is barely recognizable, and why it has turned to having an arguably destructive effect at home and abroad. One issue is the detrimental effect of intersectionality. In practice, rather than enhancing the ability of feminists to focus on the plight of groups most vulnerable to multiple forms of discrimination, as the academic theory holds, it created a domestic victimhood Olympics and took away the focus from minority women in patriarchal societies, who are most likely to suffer from combined forms of oppression. Academic pressures to focus on  ever growing grievances  diluted focus  on wider and more urgent problems out in the broader world.

“Woke” politics in the 21st century essentially erased a feminist sense of identity, replacing a problem-solving approach in tackling problems facing women with emotionalism, virtue signaling, and an advance of increasingly misogynist approaches such as the denial of biological sex and gender identities and displacement of women’s rights with transgender rights. The more feminists were drawn in into increasingly granular domestic battles, the less room remained for the focus on the meat-and-potato issues such as combating domestic violence or promoting skill building in underserved communities.

 These changes reflect  cultural shifts thanks to the pressures of  theoretical academic exports in extreme settings, by the dynamics of an increasingly digitized world, in which  active positive role modeling and cooperation in a community setting has been displaced by politicized and increasingly ideological echo chambers manipulated by the algorithms of digital spaces. Algorithms are a poor substitute for the ideological checks normally forced by real life  and the humanizing effect of personal interactions. The isolation of COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns which forced single individuals and people in general into increasingly confined personal spaces and into online world only accelerated that effect.

Solipsistic culture distorts priorities. And, as encouragement of personal grievances are elevated over compassion and a culture of service, so too, active accomplishments have been devalued by the overinflation of self-promotion and the dependence on public recognition for funding and validation. These developments have changed the dynamics of activism from private, result-oriented, campaigning (even in public contexts) to a trend-oriented “influencer” strategy. Receiving public adulation and attacking and destroying perceived enemies to elevate oneself in the hierarchy of zealotry displaced the focus on assisting others. For that reason, real but far away targets for assistance are of little interest and stories and issues that are more likely to result in public acclaim – such as “smashing” whatever passes for “patriarchy” – is more likely to resonate with contemporary feminists than tasks of consistent activism and commitment on behalf of less glamorous, less publicized concerns.

For that reason, “politically incorrect” second-wave feminists like the psychologist Phyllis Chesler who had lived in Afghanistan and whose experiences with conservative & Islamist cultures are now taboo in “polite society” are largely exiled if not outright persecuted in contemporary Western feminist circles.  The feminist movement has lost its soul as academia and society in general, swept by postmodernist fads increasingly fall in line with denying objective reality. This crisis of identity for women’s rights defenders in liberal democratic countries is ruthlessly exploited by domestic ideologues, foreign propagandists and psy-ops experts. It is to the advantage of those who wish to control “the masses” to shape the messaging and to guide the direction of a movement. It is certainly to the advantage of the adversaries of Western values, Enlightenment reasoning, and Constitutional or other protections for individual rights that strengthen Western states against imposition of tyranny, to erase these tenets which bolster their accomplishments.

 By polarizing and increasing infighting among various groups, these propagandists – operating these days as much through social media campaigns as through other forms of infiltration and manipulation – get to take down their enemies from within. The feminist movement, by embracing a mission creep, became vulnerable to manipulation by those with assorted agendas, but also increasingly attracted participants more focused on identity politics and methods of convenience than to measurable results beneficial to all of society. As Madina Hamidi expressed in the panel discussion, the victims of gender role politics by the Taliban in Afghanistan are men just as much as women. They too are forced into restricted roles, such as having to wear beards to the Islamist specifications, being separated from women colleagues, and being beaten or killed for failing to adhere to stringent social codes. By allowing women to be increasingly excluded from communal roles and erased from public participation, the Taliban was also forcing the other half of the population to bear the costs.

The lessons of entrenched social codes from the experience of the Afghanistan should be a warning for the feminists in the West.  Authoritarian conformity can make a movement spread faster , but it also imprisons even those who are part of enforcing it.   In a way, the woke movement has had  a similar effect, particularly in the United States, but from a different angle. Where the Talban imposed religious mandates and brutally punishes the perceived violators, mostly on an arbitrary basis and with no due process, the woke movement, by imposing identity politics, that allegedly were supposed to free the society from religious, ethnic, racial, and gender/sex prejudices, in fact, brought back the obsession with all these ssues, leadng to incriminations and witch hunts, including by the very people who were supposed to guard against such manifestations.  Indeed these witchhunts too, frequently result in social and professional penaltiies for the violators, allegedly for the greater good  but in practice, with no rhyme or reason. As in any authoritarian society, the  zealouts  find increasingly minute reasons for accusations, and as a result, no one is innocent, no one is spared from the thought crimes and eventual ostracisms. But  academic cross cultural studies have been bogged down in political correctness and the jargon of nearly incomprehensible social science theories, whereas the feminist activists have been kept far and away from seeing the results of particular real life actions by virtue of the bubble effect of the human rights sphere. 

When asked how many feminists have interacted with refugees from Islamist or socially conservative countries on a regular basis, few would admit to that, aside from “preapproved and preselected” activists participating in social events in structured and organized settings. Most do not have the exposure, the cultural knowledge, or even the interest to understand the issue facing Afghan women whether in the United States or abroad. Only 20% of Americans have passports, and  a smaller number  travel beyond Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.  So the number of self-identifying feminists having direct experiences of immersion in other cultures is negligible; contemporary feminist paradigms are largely constructed on the basis of US-centric experience.

These are just some of the factors behind the confusion, disaffection, and preoccupation with increasingly trivial navel-gazing issues among feminists. When a movement changes focus from empowering and strengthening participants and communities to achieve both individually beneficial results and to improve society as a whole to embracing a victimhood narrative which rests on destroying others and generating attention on the basis of past grievances and injustices, the result is a loss in agency that makes it difficult to empathize and assist others in times of need.

The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.

 Narcissism evolves from a sense of perpetual victimhood and the need to generate attention to one’s own plight. For that reason, narcissists present themselves as self-absorbed people lacking in compassion and constantly needing to insert themselves in any scenario where another might get attention or empathy. We see the same with the feminists today; they are not able to identify with victims or survivors of injustice elsewhere or to assess and evaluate greater problems because of innate insecurity at the core of the movement today.  – Refocusing on providing assistance to those in greater need would mean having to recognize or admit that one’s own situations or needs are not as dire.  

The result of this psychological dissonance between the mission to preserve and defend rights and a quest for personal self-aggrandizement is the schism between the emotional psychosocial chase for validation and the investment into a sense of something greater than oneself, like, say, the defense of freedom. Returning to Madina Hamidi’s words, in a world where there is nothing greater than oneself, where only the ephemeral instantaneous gratification of the ego is the standard by which all success is measured, the idea of pursuit of different options and opportunities and defining one’s own destiny becomes inconceivable and incomprehensible.

Contemporary feminism – or what remains of it – has not only become divorced from the concept of freedom, from liberating an individual and society from the shackles of preconceptions but has come to be in direct opposition to it. Albert Camus once wrote: “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”  Women fighting for education under slave-like conditions in Afghanistan are doing exactly that. Lailuma Sadid’s daring to challenge the educational bans imposed by a militant group of Islamists on the entire society at high cost to herself was illustrative of how real feminism  would empower individuals to fight for something greater than themselves, elevating them through freedom, above their oppressive conditions, and encouraging even small gestures that would be seen as quest for freedom itself.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

But in a topsy-turvy society when freedom of choices and of conscience is no longer the ideal but something to be feared, when self-preservation of one’s ego is preferable to risk-taking for a cause, where fear and judgment, not love, courage, and empathy define one’s actions, and where forgiveness and reform are not impossible, where an act of contrition is taken only as an admission of guilt and subject to a perpetual punishment, the Lailuma Sadids and the Madina Hamidis are not the heroines of the story but the villains. The goal of the original feminist movement was not to degrade those who were standing in the way of freedom, not to punish, destroy, or to demean them, but to convert them to the cause, liberate them from the cultural limitations,  show them a better way, and to turn them into allies. Feminism even at the peak of trying to “smash the patriarchy” was about destroying oppressive social constructs, not the human beings victimized by the self-imposed limitations, errors in judgment, and misunderstandings. It was liberating, not punitive, and as such, carried  a possibility of grace, evolution, and growth.

The Afghan women journalists and activists on the panel were not bitter, hateful, or vengeful. They continue to fight for a better society in whatever capacity they can. They know they have a long hard road ahead with no certainty or clarity for the time being. But the essence of their activity is constructive, growth and reform oriented, and focused on freedom — not on being stuck on grievances or drowning in pain and resentment – despite having many perfectly understandable reasons for being both resentful and disillusioned. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said. Unless contemporary Western feminism regains its handle on the value of human life, on the inherent human need for freedom, cooperation, companionship, the reality principle, and the ability to make choices with grace, dignity, and forgiveness for past mistakes, it will destroy itself.

The Liberal International Order is Over

The post-1991 era of Western, democratic hegemony has come to an end. It was a long time coming, from every political party in the U.S. and every major Western Power in the world.

The “new world order” President Bush Sr. declared in 1991, with the Gulf War and collapse of the Soviet Union, is now over.

It’s finished. The “new world order” President Bush Sr. declared in 1991, with the Gulf War and collapse of the Soviet Union, is now over. It all started with Russian tanks and troops crossing into Ukraine from territories it has occupied—jointly with proxies—since 2014. They also crossed into from Belarus, a close Russia ally. At the same time, at the United Nations headquarters, one of those unforgettable historical moments played out, underscoring the collapse of post-Cold War norms. Ukraine’s Representative to the U.N., Sergiy Kyslytsya, questioned how Russia was able to be a member of the United Nations and any of its various councils. In a humiliating blow for the international body, he repeated many requirements for membership, and reiterated that none of these are followed by the regime of Vladimir Putin. Furthermore,  during the session that called for more endless rounds of talks and diplomacy, news broke that Russia had invaded Ukraine. Kyslytsa pointedly remarked that it was “too late” to be discussing de-escalation. 

Many have long known that the U.N. has been impotent—indeed, it is often referred to as “Useless Nations” or other such nicknames.

Many have long known that the U.N. has been impotent—indeed, it is often referred to as “Useless Nations” or other such nicknames. The organization has stood by and allowed genocide to occur in Darfur, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, and the Near East (against Kurds and Yezidis). It has done nothing to stop the wars, terrorism, and human rights violations it claims to stand against. Indeed, many of the perpetrators of such atrocities lead or take active part in its councils for “standing up for human rights.” 

What is remarkable about Kyslytsa’s remarks is that it mirrors the downfall of the Wilsonian World Order nearly 90 years ago. Imperial Japan, unhappy with being condemned by China at the League of Nations, simply walked away and withdrew in March 1933. The Japanese knew that the League of Nations did little more than talk and that Tokyo would suffer no consequences for its actions. This opinion was confirmed when the Italian Empire invaded and occupied Ethiopia just a short while later. A devastating World War took place shortly after, and the League of Nations never recovered. The United Nations took its place after the war and seemed to work for a few short years. Now we are witnessing the aftershock, several decades later. 

To be fair, it isn’t just the U.N. that is incapable of maintaining the “liberal international order.” It is the entire democratic Western camp of countries.

To be fair, it isn’t just the U.N. that is incapable of maintaining the “liberal international order,” as analysts like Thomas Friedman call it. It is the entire democratic Western camp of countries. The European Union has been too divided amongst itself and weak for many years to do anything of consequence. Brussels has simultaneously angered China, Russia, and the United States, along with smaller powers like Israel, Iran, Turkey, and the Arab World, while also bizarrely trying to appease everyone. It never truly respected the voices of poorer countries in the southeast of the continent, and abandoned them for years to financial ruin and migration crises. The E.U.’s response to the coronavirus pandemic was very poor, to say the least, as was its response to the global economic crisis before that. Its predominant military (and for a while, economic) power, Great Britain, read the tea leaves and left the body. The E.U. put all of its cards in the hands of former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who empowered extremist far-right elements all across the continent by bringing in millions of foreigners (including many jihadists) without the consent of her own people, or Europeans in general. Merkel also divided the West—she pleaded for sanctions and a tough line against Russia in light of 2014 events in Ukraine, but still committed to buying Russian gas and expanding trade with Moscow. 

This left the U.S. and many European countries looking foolish and isolated—as, of course, did Berlin. At the same time, the E.U. condemned the U.S. invasion of Iraq, by and large. However, in 2011 it goaded former U.S. President Barack Obama into toppling the Libyan dictatorship of Muammar Qaddafi. The result was a failed state, with hundreds of thousands of migrants crossing the Mediterranean into the E.U.’s poorest countries. Furthermore, Russia has gained influence over the civil war in Libya, where terrorism and a slave trade have taken root. The E.U.’s attempt to end conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, and the Palestinian Territories have resulted in failure or being sidelined even more. Even more embarrassingly, the E.U. has tried to become “independent” of the U.S., only for it to be displayed for the whole world  that this just isn’t possible. The Europeans are far too dependent on the American dollar and American military protection, at least for the foreseeable future.

The U.S. may be the epicenter of the decline of the very liberal international order that it founded.

The United States isn’t exempt from blame either. In fact, the U.S. may be the epicenter of the decline of the very liberal international order that it founded. The two major political parties in the country—Democratic and Republican—have become hollow shells of themselves. They both campaign on being as different as possible from the other, without saying much about what their respective values are. Otherwise, they reminisce about bygone eras, such as those of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Their proposed solutions to many problems are often as vague and silly as school prayer or taxing billionaires. Congress doesn’t function—indeed, how many times has the government shut down over the past twelve years? The nation’s economy never fully recovered from the Great Recession of 2008, and the coronavirus pandemic and inflation have recently hit it harder. 

Political leaders domestically … worry more about non-binary bathrooms and renaming schools than they do about U.S. credibility abroad.

Political leaders domestically have engaged in endless conspiracy theories and racial tropes, as well as endless self-deprecation. They worry more about non-binary bathrooms and renaming schools than they do about U.S. credibility abroad and repairing the water system in Flint, Michigan. QAnon conspiracy theories and “woke” political correctness campaigns have completely destroyed both the Democrats and the “Grand Old Party.” Enormous amounts of American voters now identify as Independents, and even more are not participating in our political process. And why should they, when they see so little progress and so much endless vitriol and hypocrisy?

The GOP went after Bill Clinton for his sexual affairs, and badly mishandled Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War, leading us into a devastating economic crisis. Meanwhile, Barack Obama’s “leadership from behind” destroyed Libya and did nothing in Syria. He empowered autocrats diplomatically (Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority) and financially (the Iranian regime), while abandoning US allies to their fate (Egypt), condemning them (Israel), and letting them be slaughtered (Iran’s Green Protest). His successor, Donald Trump befriended Putin and the North Korean regime, while caving to dictatorships like Turkey when they slaughtered the Kurds of Syria. While Trump did stand up for Israel and its Arab partners in the region—and often rightfully castigated the weak fecklessness of the European Union—his handling of Iranian and Chinese aggression was clumsy. The current president, Joe Biden, has done little more to rectify this situation. He clumsily abandoned Afghanistan to Taliban rule and has no answer to rising inflation in America. His handling of the pandemic inspired little confidence, to say the least. Deploying his vice president, Kamala Harris, to the border has only highlighted the rifts and inexperience in his administration. While Biden has tried to focus on domestic issues that concern voters, he faces a divided Democratic Party: traditional moderates and woke socialists with a penchant for double-standards and befriending dictators

The world has witnessed this incoherence from the U.S. and Europe and only acted accordingly.

The world has witnessed this incoherence from the U.S. and Europe and only acted accordingly. Iran has continued to violate sanctions, fire rockets at the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, and launch terror attacks against Gulf states with relative impunity. President Biden and the Europeans quickly ditched their desire for a “longer and stronger” Iran nuclear accord for a “shorter and weaker” one. Biden removed a terror designation on the Iran-backed Houthis of Yemen, who responded with more terrorism. North Korea has conducted endless ballistic missile tests as Iran advances its nuclear program. China continues to violate the territorial sovereignty of its neighbors, crack down on Hong Kong and the Uighurs, and lie about the coronavirus. And now, Russia has invaded Ukraine. 

When people ask how we got here, they may want to consider the hard facts that this can’t just be blamed on Trump and Republicans; on Biden and Democrats; on only the E.U. and U.N., or only on the U.S. All of the Western institutions, supranational bodies, political parties and great powers share the blame. All of them have become morally bankrupt and hypocritical, weak and spineless, and unable to stand up for “values” that their capitals can’t even clearly define. The endless rounds of talks and negotiations, condemnations and calls for de-escalation will continue as usual. But, as has long been the case, that is as far as it’ll go.


I suppose
That most people
Have nothing to do
With the death of their family members
They die of natural causes
Or things beyond the grasp or control
Of human beings

I am not most people

I have to live
Every day with the fact
That most of my family was murdered
Because I failed to save them
Because I couldn’t convince them
To flee Poland
Before the Nazi armies came

I have to live
With the fact
That my argument wasn’t strong enough
For them
So I learned to be strong enough
For myself

In the end
I did leave
And that is why I am here
That is why I am alive
I am the lucky one

I left Lodz
The only home I had known
All my life
I left my nine siblings
My brothers and sisters
I left my father
And the family business
I left my mother
The one who gave me life

I tried to escape to Palestine
To avoid the growing
Disasters in Europe
But it was not my time
To go there yet
I was arrested by Germans
And somehow got away
But I was once again captured
This time by Russians
And was accused of being a British spy
So they sent me to a gulag

Most people have heard
About the German death camps
Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, and Ravensbruck
But there were different kinds of camps
Slave camps that slowed death
By work and malnutrition
And Siberian cold

After Germany attacked Russia
I was freed
And joined the Free Polish Army
Headed to fight in North Africa
Days before our ship was set to sail the Caspian Sea
I fell from a crane and was injured
And missed the boat

Once again I was a free man
By the age of 22
I had already learned
The numerous, complicated
Meanings of the word

I made my way to Uzbekistan
And a stranger, a Muslim took me in
Until I had recovered from
The Typhoid that had caused me
To collapse on the side of the road

When I grew passably healthy once again
I found a job as a guard at a bakery
And met Oscar, one of the bakers
I also met Lucy, the baker’s daughter
The love of my life

From that day my life changed
I saw the beauty of the world again
In Lucy’s smile
Or her freshly baked bread
I fell in love
With her sweetness and her strength
And for me,
The earth bloomed with flowers again

I married her there
With nothing more to promise
Than my heart
And hope for a future

But amid all the bliss and happiness
I never forgot the family I left behind
Of which only two members survived
My sister, Gertrude and nephew, Joseph

But life goes on
I tucked the memories away
In a sacred, secret little corner of my heart
To be remembered

And in those memories,
I would sometimes reach in
And pull out a thought
Or an image, or an emotion
Like the steady, low voice of my father
Leaning over a book or scroll
As I absorbed his knowledge
Like a sponge absorbs water
Or the laughter of my siblings
Ten of us, giggling
Or my mother’s smile
Lovely and generous

But most often
My memories are of bread
Of Challah on Friday nights
My mother’s hands sweetening the dough
More than flour or yeast ever could
Or of Lucy
Leaning over a creaking wooden table
In a government-run bakery in Uzbekistan
Kneading dough with her thin, bony fingers
And that is when I look over to the kitchen
And see her there
Mixing, tasting, baking
And I thank God
For these simple, extraordinary blessings

Yoseph Simcha Goldwasser (z”l) was born in Lodz, Poland, in 1920. He survived a Soviet gulag, and found shelter during WWII in Uzbekistan. He died in Florida in 2007. He is Nili Ivan’s great grandfather.

Why Russia’s Days as a Great Power are Numbered

Faced with a declining and aging population, enormous economic punishment, a failed military, and a host of internal challenges, Putin has only hastened the Russian “Century of Humiliation.”

When I think of Vladimir Putin, I think of a particular exchange of words in the popular HBO series, Game of Thrones. Tywin Lannister—the most powerful man in the fictional continent of Westeros—is accused by his daughter, Cersei, of not trusting her more due to sexism. Tywin has a good reply: “I don’t distrust you because you’re a woman; I distrust you because you’re not as smart as you think you are.” This aptly applies to Vladimir Putin, who—much like Cersei—has his council full of sycophants and “yes men.” Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was in part encouraged by the “Horseshoe Theory” crew in the West—in addition to “liberal democratic” politicians. But he is also a poor historian, which has doomed his country to what will probably amount to at least two centuries of ruin and failure. 

One of the biggest mistakes modern analysts make is believing that Putin wants to “resurrect the Soviet Empire.” He does not. Putin loathes communism and has regularly blamed communist leaders for the humiliation and ruin of Russia. He and his closest allies have gotten rich off of crony capitalism. Indeed, Putin blamed Lenin and other Soviet leaders for Ukraine gaining autonomy. Putin sees himself as the heir to the Russian Monarchy. He longs for the days of the Russian Empire, roughly 110 years ago. As usual, the officials in the White House, Foggy Bottom, Brussels, and elsewhere have ignored pre-World War II history—and thus failed to read Putin’s motives.  

 Putin sees himself as the heir to the Russian Monarchy. He longs for the days of the Russian Empire.

The Kremlin has insisted that Ukrainians and Russians are one people, and therefore Ukraine doesn’t have the right to be an independent state. His statements that Ukraine is led by drug-addicted neo-Nazis—when Kyiv is governed by a Jewish president and a Jewish prime minister—are ludicrous. And so far, thousands of Russian protestors and troops have also believed this, setting down their arms and surrendering or being arrested for protesting this foolish war. 

So why did Putin invade? How was this “genius” who was described by Western media (and not just by former President Trump) as a “master strategist” able to miscalculate so much in this war? It is simple. For one, he is an amateur historian. Secondly, he has surrounded himself by “yes men” and sycophants who are too terrified to give him the real facts. Just look at how Putin humiliated his own spy chief when he dared to question him. And finally, Putin has forgotten that while Russia’s governments have been able to suppress dissent, the Russian people have a history of bloodily “dealing with” leaders who do not provide for them, or who outlive their usefulness for the good of the nation. 

Not only is Putin sending waves of young Russians to die for nothing—he is singlehandedly destroying his country’s economy, international image, and military industrial complex.

Putin’s economy and demographics were already suffering heavily. Due to human rights abuses and its occupation of Crimea and Donbass, Russia was already dealing with a variety of sanctions that added to its existing economic regime of corruption, cronyism, and incompetence. The coronavirus pandemic has further decimated the Russian economy, as has a shrinking workforce. Russia has one of the world’s lowest birthrates and highest abortion rates. Its population faces rapid aging and a declining lifespan. Both the war and the pandemic have killed more than a million Russians, further endangering its political, economic, and military might. And the country has failed—to put it lightly—to attract new immigrants to offset this, given the emergence of extreme far-right nationalist movements that are unwelcoming to foreigners. By sending many of his youngest military members to a futile Ukrainian war, Putin is sacrificing yet even more of his shrinking workforce, military, and the Russian future as a whole. Not only is Putin sending waves of young Russians to die for nothing—he is singlehandedly destroying his country’s economy, international image, and military industrial complex. 

The Russo-Ukrainian War of 2022 has led to enormous and unprecedented Western support for Kyiv on a scale perhaps previously unimaginable. Indeed, the West has long been seen as impotent and Chamberlainian in its appeasement of tyranny since the 2000s. Yet Germany boosting its defense spending as well as key Western allies sending huge shipments of military aid to Ukraine speaks volumes to the fact that the West, perhaps finally, has woken up. The advanced Western weaponry has so far destroyed columns of the newest Russian tanks and armored vehicles. What’s more, these defenses have laid waste to Russian aircraft and knocked Russian missiles and rockets out of the air. Russia has taken enormous casualties in part because its long-respected military modernization campaign has been exposed as impotent. While the Western media and “analysts” have long trembled before Russia’s militarization campaign of the last two decades, they shouldn’t have. Russia’s 2008 Georgian invasion might have resulted in victory in the end, but it also displayed that Russia had severe logistical and technological setbacks. This is why Moscow has used proxies and mercenaries in its wars in Libya and Syria ever since, let alone in South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Crimea, Donbass, and Transnistria. 

Russia has taken enormous casualties in part because its long-respected military modernization campaign has been exposed as impotent.

Russian arms have proven incompetent in Syria in defending against Israeli drones and jets, and Russian-made military equipment in Armenia was easily wiped out by Israeli and Turkish military equipment. Making these points isn’t to brag—it is to point out that Russia’s military won’t be able to make the same sales to other countries that it once would. Moscow has lost an important source of revenue in a time of devastating sanctions because its military equipment has proven impotent. Even worse for Putin is that many of its former clients will likely purchase weapons from NATO and Israeli sources—Putin’s rivals—instead, due to their better quality on the battlefield. Russia has spent money it simply doesn’t have on a failing war, all the while racking up sanctions. 

All of this has led to a restive and rebellious Russian population internally, which could lead to Putin holding back some forces from the invasion to quash protests and riots. Putin may also be forced to call back forces from Armenia, Libya, and Syria and bring them home or to Ukraine. This would effectively surrender to Egyptian-Gulf-French-Israeli-Greek interests in Libya, and to Israeli-Turkish-Western designs on Syria. By being bogged down in Ukraine, Russia could also see its allies in Transnistria, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia being invaded and defeated by Moldovan and Georgian military forces, which would undoubtedly receive Western support. Putin would be further diplomatically isolated and humiliated. 

China has a history of border clashes with imperialist Russia and sees a revamped Russia as a threat to its desired future as a superpower.

The Chinese government has also not come to Putin’s aid as expected. They have called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, called for an “end to Cold War mentality,” and asked for Ukraine’s sovereignty to be respected. No doubt Beijing—already seeing an aging population and low birth rate—doesn’t want to suffer the economic penalties that being affiliated with Russia entails. Furthermore, Beijing is already diplomatically isolated due to the Xinjiang issue, Hong Kong crackdowns, and violations of Taiwanese airspace. The coronavirus pandemic and human rights violations in general have already cast China in a poor light and led to businesses fleeing back home, or to rival countries such as India and Vietnam. Having seen the West’s furious and quick response to the Ukraine invasion, China is no doubt second-guessing military action in Taiwan. Furthermore, the Chinese may have blamed NATO for Ukraine, but they have an interest in a weakened Russia. China has a history of border clashes with imperialist Russia and sees a revamped Russia as a threat to its desired future as a superpower. A distracted, impoverished, and militarily destitute Russia focused on its western border serves its interests. China won’t come to Russia’s rescue, either. Its own economy is slowing, and it will be better placed to bargain down the price of Russian gas and oil. At best, this will help Russia cover the costs of the war itself, but not offset the prices of Western sanctions. Speculation that China and Russia can overcome SWIFT are hypothetical and not totally proven, similar to Europe’s mechanism to bypass U.S. sanctions on Tehran, which quickly failed. Even if it could succeed, it would take many years to create, by which time the damage would already be done. 

In short, Putin has done more than NATO, terrorism, the EU, or the U.S. to destroy his country’s future as a great power—the very thing he wished to restore. His population is restive and largely disagrees with the war—they will not stand for a nuclear war, for destructive sanctions, injured family members coming home from Kyiv, or for their sons returning in body bags. The oligarchs will not be content to see their wealth waste away just for one little man’s misguided political career. His country has already seen enough economic and human loss through the pandemic and proxy wars. Now he is wasting away what little is left of his economy through an expensive war and sanctions. Putin also is sending the few generations of young Russians to die in Ukraine. His country is being delegitimized and isolated from international cultural competitions and events, which Russian youth and oligarchs enjoy. Vladimir Putin has indeed brought about a Soviet-era system to his country—one of poverty, instability, isolation, and bread lines. He has also—like the Japanese Empire 80 years ago—awakened a Sleeping Giant.

Aafia Siddiqui: Jihadi or Martyr?

On the morning of Saturday, January 15, 2022, 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram stuck a gun in the face of Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker in Colleyville, Texas. Akram entered Reform synagogue Congregation Beth Israel, took four hostages, and demanded the release of, as he said, “my sister,” Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani Jihadist held in federal prison in Fort Worth.

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The Toxic Denial of Womanhood

One of the self-contradictory agendas of the non-liberal progressive-left is in insisting upon women’s rights while simultaneously throwing the very notion of “women” and “men” entirely to the winds. How does a person stand for women’s rights if that person (a Supreme Court nominee, no less) is not sure what a woman is?

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Putin Brings Out the Horseshoe Theory

Conspiracy theories in American politics are nothing new. However, the manner in which the QAnon far-right and Tlaib-ist far-left make excuses for Vladimir Putin and fall for his conspiracy theories is truly disturbing. 

Conspiracy theories are not unique to the American political psyche. Whether people claim the moon landing was faked, that 9/11 was done by the Bush Administration, or whether the War on Terror was executed in the name of natural resources, there has always been a segment of American skeptics who cling to conspiracy theories to explain what is often seen as the utter incompetence or dishonesty of the U.S. Government. 

However, around the beginning of the 2016 presidential campaign and certainly ever since, conspiracy theories have become more widely accepted in the United States—including among leftists who loathe the 45th president. The Russian dictator, Vladimir Putin, has spread lies and conspiracies that were then parroted by President Donald Trump and other GOP figures to their political base. And it wasn’t just Trump—Green Party leader Jill Stein, who frequented RT, the Russian state-controlled TV network, was another source of free advertising for the Kremlin’s spin campaign. Similarly, Tulsi Gabbard assisted in legitimizing Putin and his worldview on the national stage. While Trump has recently condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, his past is checkered with statements that seem to sympathize with Putin’s views on Kiev.  

It seems that Putin and his reprehensible invasion has put on display the Horseshoe Theory for all to see. The Horseshoe Theory posits that the two political extremes (far-right and far-left) are much closer in ideology to each other than they are to their mainstream moderate political wings (center-right and center-left). The centrist moderates create The Bend (as Dr. Brandy Shufutinsky loves to call it) in the horseshoe, the largest piece and most physically distant from the two poles, which are barely far apart. We have long seen the similarities in views of each side. The far-left and far-right are both responsible for horrific anti-Semitic incitement, often featuring a religious element (Islamism or Christian extremism) or an admiration for anti-Semitic dictators (Stalin and Hitler). Both sides, for example, blame Israel for 9/11 and the subsequent War on Terror, and accuse Israel of “stealing” American taxpayer dollars. While Rand Paul advocates a cut on military aid to Israel (and, to be fair, most other countries too), the far-left promotes Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) for the Jewish state. This, however, is not where the similarities end. In the 2016 campaign, for example, both the Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump campaigns made a big deal over Hillary Clinton’s “warmongering ways,” claimed she was an “establishment moderate,” and held her responsible for the failures of the Obama Administration she once was a part of. Bernie was often quoted by Trump in the general election when it came to attacks and attack ads on the Clinton Campaign. Meanwhile, some of the Bernie Bros (such as HA Goodman of The Huffington Post) even backed up many of Trump’s anti-Hillary tirades, despite not caring for him either. Pointing this out isn’t to endorse any of these candidates—it is to display how often they cooperate for the sake of achieving a common goal. 

The Horseshoe Theory posits that the two political extremes (far-right and far-left) are much closer in ideology to each other than they are to their mainstream moderate political wings (center-right and center-left).

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, both the extremist, alt-right wing and the far-left of Squad fandom have blamed the United States and NATO for “aggression” and the war, while being very soft on the Russian dictatorship. The Democratic Socialists of America—seemingly a rising star within the Democratic Party’s base—has stated that it is American and Western imperialism that led Russia to war. Similarly, Tucker Carlson of the right-wing Fox News sounds just like the leftists he claims to despise. Like The Squad, Carlson ignores Putin’s neo-imperialist ambitions (which have extended to Moldova, Georgia, Libya, and Syria) and blames everything on the United States. Lara Logan, a conservative news commentator, claims that Charles Dawin’s Theory of Evolution is a Jewish-funded hoax. The QAnon Movement—bizarre and disturbing in its own right—has now bought into the Kremlin’s propaganda regarding American bio-weapon labs in Ukraine. (QAnon is the conspiracy-theory-turned-cult that alleges Trump has been targeted by a Satanic, global cabal of cannibalistic pedophiles.) They blame the Jews and hint that these labs could be where the coronavirus originated. Jewish Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is now being called a “globalist” threat to Ukraine, who should “surrender to Russia for the sake of his own people.” This extremist right-wing sentiment sounds awfully similar to leftist arguments that if the West doesn’t arm Ukraine, Putin will be appeased and violence will stop. Furthermore, Putin and his alt-right fans in the West insist that Ukraine must be “denazified,” despite the president’s Jewish background and the Jewish background of many in his government.   This echoes the leftist, pro-BDS trope that Israel is a “successor state to the Nazis” and is “White Supremacist.” The minimalizing of the Holocaust and how white supremacy—whether KKK or Nazis—always target Jews fails to register with both the far-left and the far-right. Perhaps it isn’t a coincidence that these two conspiracies converge: these leftists are merely relying on old Soviet anti-Zionist rhetoric, which Putin has weaponized for modern purposes of his own.  The origins of both racist theories come from the same source.  

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, both the extremist, alt-right wing and the far-left of Squad fandom have blamed the United States and NATO for “aggression” and the war, while being very soft on the Russian dictatorship.

Another disturbing trend employed by the far-left and far-right is the pushing of Western-centric labels (or problems specific to American society) on foreign conflicts. For example, extreme leftists claim that Israel is a European settler-colony engaging in apartheid. They say that Israel is engaged in “global white supremacy.” This totally ignores, of course, that Jews are native to Israel, that most of Israel’s Jewish population immigrated from non-European countries, and that Jews are the foremost victims of white supremacy. But furthermore, it ignores the fact that terms like “white” or “people of color” are not used widely in Israel, or the Near East more generally. Identities here are much older than the American (or Western) concept of race and are much more affiliated with tribes or religion. 

On the other side of the spectrum, the alt-right views Putin’s Russia as a “Great White Savior” of Christendom. This is despite the fact that Western European powers historically saw Slavic peoples as inferior and almost non-white; the fact that most Russians are still overwhelmingly secular as a result of Soviet communism; and that the country’s birth rate is incredibly low while its abortion rate is astronomical. Putin has also aligned himself with Muslim strongmen, such as Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, and the Iranian mullahs. The strange idea of Russia being almost “Nordic” in modern White Supremacist, evangelical mythology simply doesn’t apply, as Russia is outside of the Western racial-religious psyche. 

Traditional liberal mores and modern Western values cannot survive if our political systems are allowed to be so easily infiltrated and hijacked by foreign and false ideologies. The Russo-Ukrainian War is providing just such an opportunity to end the madness—and for people to see it for what it is.

With QAnon rising in prominence among the GOP as well as the “woke” ideology of the far-left (which invokes several conspiracies) spreading to the education system, now is the time to cut off and isolate the two ends of the horseshoe. Traditional liberal mores and modern Western values cannot survive if our political systems are allowed to be so easily infiltrated and hijacked by foreign and false ideologies. The Russo-Ukrainian War is providing just such an opportunity to end the madness—and for people to see it for what it is. Some elements of the far-right and far-left have been isolated and shamed into silence for parroting Putin—or at the very least, making excuses for his undemocratic and illegal behavior. The moderate center seems to have woken up (at least in this case) to the fact that appeasement will not work, and that freedom must be defended. The Democratic Party must speak out louder against the woke Squad and the DSA as long as they continue to parrot falsehoods and the Kremlin’s tropes. Similarly, the Republican Party must marginalize Marjorie Taylor Greene and the QAnon “movement” if it wishes to return to the bygone era of great GOP leaders, such as Teddy Roosevelt or Dwight D. Eisenhower. American trust in the government might be restored if its moderate majority has leadership it can believe in again—not weak leadership that cedes ground to thoroughly un-American ideology and behavior. We must seize the moment in reminding ourselves as a society what we believe in and stand for, while defunding and delegitimizing organizations that work to divide us on behalf of paranoid tyrants.

How Did We Get Here?

When I ran alumni programming for Birthright Israel participants in New York years ago, Michael Steinhardt and I lamented that the best way to capture the attention of American Jews might be to hire gangs of thugs around the country to break some windows and yell anti-Semitic slurs. Anti-Semitism has a way of reaching out to even the most disengaged Jew. We didn’t have to spend a dime, of course, because the anti-Semites already had their plans. The recent spate of anti-Semitic incidents across the country has had the effect we imagined. 

Lots of Jews seem to be paying attention to Jewish life in America in a new way now. Rashida Tlaib, “Apartheid Week” on college campuses, social media influencers, Colleyville, and much more have come together in critical mass and shoved these “twice-a-year Jews” into the figurative Jewish communal room, many for the first time. They are stumbling around, wondering how we got here and what to do next. “I can’t believe this is happening here, in the United States,” they say in disbelief. 

But, actually, it isn’t at all hard to believe. After all, “this” has been happening here for a while. “This” has also happened in almost every Diaspora Jewish community throughout history. If by “this” they mean the scapegoating of Jews during turbulent times, and the subsequent increase in anti-Semitic activity, then “this” is neither new nor surprising. In fact, it is perfectly predictable.  

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. BDS, the Squad, attacks on Hassidic Jews in the streets, BLM’s charter, Pinkwashing, Deadly Exchange, leadership at the Women’s March, biased mainstream media coverage of Israel, anti-Semitic professors at elite private high schools, Islamist apologists: it has all felt like a sudden landslide. But, in fact, it has been more like a slow, creeping mudslide that they seem to have entirely missed, until it appeared as a daily feature on their social media feeds. Why do American Jews seem so caught off guard?

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.

One explanation is historical ignorance. It’s usually a bad blind spot. If you didn’t study Soviet Jewry, perhaps it is difficult to understand that political collectivism is bad for the Jews. If you didn’t learn about the implications of group “identity politics” in 19th and 20th century Europe, you might not appreciate that the contemporary American manifestation of it is a threat to the Jewish community and Israel. If you don’t know that the image of the money-hungry, usurious Jew is an anti-Semitic slur hundreds of years old, then when Ilhan Omar says, “it’s all about the Benjamins” you might think the comment was an offensive, one-off remark you can overlook. These trends have been building for some time, but if you didn’t have historical sensitivity to them, you wouldn’t guess that the politics you support are also hurting Jews. Then, when your favorite ice cream brand suddenly decides to boycott Israel, it comes as a shock.

Another explanation is a failure of leadership. American Jewish leaders certainly should know our history and concern themselves with helping us not to repeat it. They should be sensitive to signs that portend trouble and should sound the communal alarm-bell well in advance of a crisis. Why didn’t more of them do exactly that before we started racking up assaults on city streets, hostile Humanities Departments at major American universities, and members of Congress accusing the Jewish State of putting Palestinian kids in cages?

Some did, but too often they were sidelined and dismissed. Many heads of establishment Jewish organizations had long-standing relationships with members of Congress, directors of think tanks, and editors at the New York Times, which in the past had proven helpful when defending Jewish interests. They didn’t want loud voices pointing out illiberal trends in liberal circles that might compromise the delicate balance of an important relationship. Political and social realities in America had changed, but these leaders and their organizations didn’t. They confused their historical access with continuing influence and even as the latter waned, they held firmly to the former. So, they either ignored or explained away what the alarm bell ringers were warning us about.

Others were themselves committed to the political left and understood that their constituency, the majority of American Jews, were similarly committed. As Jewish organizational affiliation waned, its leadership reasoned that a Jewish world that mirrored liberal Jewish values might attract more members. But “liberal values” rapidly devolved into “leftist ideology,” and Jewish leaders who had committed to “the left” were now reinterpreting Judaism to keep up with it. They gave progressive buzzwords like diversity and inclusion, social action, and allyship a Jewish name: tikkun olam. They made intersectionality a Jewish communal priority and suggested mutual benefit would result from Jewish investment in “the other.” Many openly used their Jewish organizations to advocate for partisan policy initiatives, claiming that advocacy was the natural outgrowth of authentic Jewish values. Jewish leaders brought Jewish organizational life into such close ideological alignment with the American political left, that a break between the two could not be tolerated.

“Liberal values” rapidly devolved into “leftist ideology,” and Jewish leaders who had committed to “the left” were now reinterpreting Judaism to keep up with it.

The orthodoxy around this approach took hold quickly and few challenged it. It was hard to find a Jewish communal conference that didn’t feature progressive outreach programs or social action initiatives on behalf of the environment. Jewish foundations couldn’t fund them fast enough. At one of these conferences, I recall a courageous representative from a Christian, pro-Israel organization who stood up and cautioned the room that in its pursuit of partisan intersectional interests under the tikkun olam banner, the organized Jewish communal world might be marginalizing allies whose American political outlook may not always align, but whose Judeo-Christian values did. The prioritization of the one over the other seemed not to be in the interest of the Jewish community in the long term, he pointed out. His message wasn’t well received.

Even as the left continued to break away from classical liberalism and demonstrated an increasing tolerance for anti-Semitism in its ranks, Jewish leaders resisted changing course. They claimed the problem was relatively small and not representative. The way to beat it back was with more intersectional fervor and more support for partisan political issues in the name of the Jewish community. We needed more Jewish voices at immigration rallies, they claimed, to demonstrate the unbreakable alliance with the left that our leadership promised was still strong. Jewish leaders religiously pursued those who increasingly rejected them and downplayed that rejection to American Jews. 

But the overwhelming reality of what has been happening on the left eventually overwhelmed our leadership’s ability to manage the problem. Social media told a very different story than the one mainstream Jewish leaders had been telling. The size and scope of it reached an unsuspecting American Jewish population who felt they hadn’t been prepared. Jews seem to have awakened one morning to a world they didn’t recognize. In it, anti-Semitism isn’t new at all, and it is being perpetrated by the very people and ideas our leaders told us were our natural allies. 

Jewish kids on campus who were taught “diversity and inclusion” as Torah in their temples back home weren’t prepared when they were accused of “colonialist, white privilege” support for the Jewish State in philosophy class.  No one explained that identity politics is not at all a Jewish concept, but, rather, a poisonous ideology that feeds anti-Semitism against Jews of all colors. That it got their “Rabbi of Color” profiled on NPR seemed so meaningful before, but it suddenly revealed itself to be part of the problem. It was stunning to realize that “inclusion” doesn’t always include the Jews.

Maybe this is just how markets work: buyer beware. There are synagogues and organizations to choose from if yours isn’t serving you well. It would end there if these institutions didn’t pretend to speak on behalf of all “American Jewry” or a large proportion of it. But many do.

Jewish kids on campus who were taught “diversity and inclusion” as Torah in their temples back home weren’t prepared when they were accused of “colonialist, white privilege” support for the Jewish State in philosophy class.

Several years ago I was in a meeting with the leadership of the Union of Reform Judaism. One of the senior executives in the room proudly declared that the Reform movement represents the great majority of Jews in America. But really, it doesn’t. Most American Jews may in fact call themselves “Reform” (or “Reformed” as some of my friends mistakenly say). But most of my Reform Jewish friends can’t name URJ President, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, or list three principles of Reform religious philosophy. When they say they are Reform Jews they usually mean, “not Orthodox,” or that they pay dues at a Reform Temple they hardly frequent. They show up on Pew study pie charts as “Reform Jews,” but they don’t feel “represented” by the central office or its pronouncements, if they even know what they are. 

The Anti-Defamation League is the media go-to when anti-Semitism bursts through the doors of an American institution. On whose behalf do they speak? Do politically conservative Jews see the organization as their representative when it issues statements on criminal justice reform or Supreme Court nominees? Do the majority of liberal Jews in America agree with the ADL’s recent assertion that racism is an offense only perpetrated by white people? The ADL does have a following, but it is not “American Jewry.” It is a particular slice of it, along with some donors from Google.

Whether or not American Jews realize it, Jewish institutions are not only responsive to the interests of non-Jewish audiences, but they are speaking on the entire Jewish community’s behalf to the rest of the world: to the media, to politicians, and to foreign leaders. This has consequences. Legislation is passed, funding is allocated, and narratives are built based on what these institutions say are American Jewish priorities. If left-wing anti-Semitism in America wasn’t in the top three of those priorities over the past 20 years (and it wasn’t), then why would most American Jews have seen any of this coming? 

By definition we have to say that leadership has failed when it hasn’t led. But it is also true that those who can’t believe how we got “here” may share some of the blame for their own confusion. American Jews are largely disconnected from their history and ignorant of their religion. Many don’t participate in the very Jewish communal organizations whose leadership is questioned in this article. They don’t read Jewish books or follow news about Israel. They don’t speak Hebrew or know what Shavuot is. They have so abandoned their particularistic identities that their organizational leaders’ penchant for universalism doesn’t strike them as odd. They have so conflated their political outlooks with their Jewish identities that they can’t see the connection between Jewish organizational partisanship and the worsening of the anti-Semitism problem. They may be attracting the leaders they deserve.

What would specifically Jewish leadership even look like to most American Jews today? Put another way, if most American Jews were asked to conjure up the perfect Jewish leader, would they be able to make a top ten list of character traits and priorities to fill out a job description that would be distinguishable from the requirements to lead, say, Habitat for Humanity? What other kind of Jewish leadership would such a fractured, unmoored Jewish community produce than the one we’ve had?  

Michael Steinhardt once spoke to a group of roughly sixty Birthright alumni at an event I was hosting. He asked them a simple question: who are your Jewish heroes? There was no reply, not from a single person in the room. Then, slowly, a smattering of celebrity names was offered up: Jerry Seinfeld, Steven Spielberg, You?!  

Michael was shocked. He began prompting the group by describing a certain Russian refusenik who spent years in the Gulag and later became a member of the Israeli Knesset—and waited for someone to fill in the blank. Still nothing. “Ever heard of Natan Sharansky?” he asked, his eyebrows raised in disbelief. “I think I have heard that name,” said one young man in the front row. A few others nodded. 

The truth is, most young Jews don’t have Jewish heroes. That matters because heroes model the kinds of traits and behaviors that we should be looking for in our leaders. You have to know that particularism defined Revisionist Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s bold vision for a proud, unapologetic Jewish State if you want a proud, unapologetic defender of Israel to speak on your behalf today. You have to recognize that a great love of being Jewish and for every Jew inspired the Lubavitcher Rebbe to build an international movement of Jewish revitalization. You have to remember that Abraham Joshua Heschel stood alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., not to beg his pardon for having marginally greater “privilege” in America but to promote their shared love of the Judeo-Christian values they were proud to say made America possible. You have to know that Hannah Senesh was a warrior and Moses was a humble man. Whomever they are, your Jewish heroes are likely to help you identify Jewish leaders who can serve you well. If you don’t have the former, it will be harder to locate the latter.

The truth is, most young Jews don’t have Jewish heroes. That matters because heroes model the kinds of traits and behaviors that we should be looking for in our leaders.

Most American Jews will only recognize Moses on my list, and that is a big part of the problem. We are going to continue to get the leaders we deserve, and the shock of our lives when we realize they aren’t leading us that well, so long as anti-Semitism remains the most reliable Jewish engagement tool in American Jewish life and intersectionality is our strategy for staving it off. 

Judaism itself is at the core of Jewish survival and understanding that should be bullet-point number one on every Jewish leader’s job description. It is the thing worth defending when the anti-Semites come and the thing that endures when American political parties and their values change. Jewish leaders who attach themselves and their organizations too much to partisan political interests either miss or dismiss the reality they cannot or will not see, and put all Jews in a dangerous position. 

There is no political “forever home” for American Jews. Did we really need BLM to see that? Maybe we did.

The Fall of Modern Civilization

When I was in high school and studying ancient history, I often wondered how great ancient civilizations fell. Not only did they fall, but what followed was often hundreds of years of dark ages. How did their accumulated knowledge get lost? The Egyptians had their vast wealth, accumulated over centuries. The Greeks had their beautiful art. The Romans had their powerful military. 

Photo Illustration by Carrie Zeidman

I knew that many civilizations were destroyed by barbarians with inferior weapons but greater numbers and greater ferocity. But how was all that knowledge lost? Beautiful buildings were destroyed but also the mathematical and architectural knowledge needed to rebuild them. Ancient civilizations knew how to build arches and columns, but Medieval Europeans needed flying buttresses, jury-rigged scaffolding, to keep their buildings from collapsing. The Greeks knew about human skeletons and musculature to sculpt emotionally powerful statues. They understood perspective to paint complex landscapes. Yet Medieval sculptures were flat, often out of proportion, and without detail. Medieval paintings were two dimensional, simplistic.

As a young man up until the 1980s, I feared nuclear war from outside enemies. Now I fear destruction from within.

Could this ever happen to modern civilization? I grew up in North Philly with a middle class but fairly intellectual group of kids. We played the normal games: wrestling, tag, hide-and-seek, and the now politically incorrect cops-and-robbers and cowboys-and-Indians. But after we were worn out, we would gather on the concrete steps of the front porches of our identical row houses, each identifiable only by the address numbers and an occasional awning or tree. We would discuss politics, history, religion, and other topics that our parents generally avoided. Where would we be in the year 2000? Would the ozone layer be depleted, requiring us to wear hazmat suits? Would we finally have flying cars? Spaceships to other planets? And the overarching question was, would civilization survive? If it ended, it would most certainly be from nuclear war—we could imagine no other reason. Certainly our American values were strong and universally held by all American citizens. And our world-class education system and our advanced technology would prevent us from losing our knowledge of math, science, and art.

Years later, I discovered that many of these great ancient civilizations crumbled from within. Or the fall  was at least accelerated by serious internal problems. Rome, for example, had huge financial deficits, high unemployment, and oppressive taxation leading to soaring inflation. Crime was also destructive in the form of bands of pirates. Government corruption and political instability further sped up the collapse.

As a young man up until the 1980s, I feared nuclear war from outside enemies. Now I fear destruction from within. Contrary to what my childhood friends had always assumed about the future, our advanced technology is now used by Big Tech oligarchs to censor information and suppress debate rather than spread information and encourage debate. Our education system teaches anti-science and anti-math where right answers matter less than who is performing the calculation. Our society has created a caste system based on skin color, ethnic background, and sexual activity. Being in a particular group gives you a preferences over others. Gives you opportunities over more qualified employees.

Even the study of history has been distorted and corrupted to support today’s woke agenda. They teach that America was not founded on freedom, justice, and opportunity but rather as a means for enforcing the opposite values of slavery, injustice, and repression. As during the Dark Ages, our younger generations are losing the information they need to improve on society, to build upon it, to make it better. This is exactly how knowledge gets lost for generations—teachers indoctrinate the young with misinformation, oligarchs suppress debate, idealogues ostracize nonbelievers, governments punish nonconformists. The words of the ancient Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero in the novel A Pillar of Iron by Taylor Caldwell, come to mind: “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself.”

I no longer wonder how great civilizations collapse and how important knowledge is lost for centuries. I’m afraid I’m seeing it happen right before my eyes.

The Jewish Community Cannot Survive Perfidy by its Leadership

“What physicians say about consumptive illnesses is applicable here: that at the beginning, such an illness is easy to cure but difficult to diagnose; but as time passes, not having been recognized or treated at the outset, it becomes easy to diagnose but difficult to cure.”
​Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

This is not the country we grew up in. The Jewish community is under siege. According to the FBI, Jews are the primary targets of hate crimes in America. An analysis of their reports reveals that a Jew is twice as likely to be a victim of a hate crime as a black person or a Muslim, ten times more likely than an Asian or a Latino, and twenty times more likely than a non-Hispanic white.

Jews are being beaten in the streets of New York City, murdered in Pittsburgh, San Diego, and Jersey City, stabbed in Boston, taken hostage in Texas, and harassed and bullied on college campuses across the country. In more than a few places, Jews live with rising anxiety. Most Jewish community buildings require security. Israel, the Jewish state, is defamed and demonized by the mainstream media, and maligned in both the U.S. Congress and the United Nations, as anti-Zionism becomes the new anti-Semitism. 

Hostility toward American Jews continues to grow. In February 2022, police in New York reported that anti-Semitic hate crimes in the city were up 409 percent. A recent American Jewish Committee (AJC) poll found that four in ten Jews avoid making themselves identifiable as Jews, avoid going to Jewish events, or refrain from posting Jewish-related content online. Ninety percent of Jews think anti-Semitism is a problem in America.  

In what seems like a perfect storm, Jews face assaults simultaneously from four major ideological camps. Lethal white nationalists attack them in the name of white supremacy, blaming them for supporting multiculturalism and rising Third World immigration. Radical black nationalists—including Farrakhan-following celebrities, academics, and politicians—attack Jews in the name of black liberation and “equity.” Radical progressives and segments of the Democratic Party promote the genocidal BDS movement and anti-Jewish critical race theory, inciting an ideological assault on Israel and Jews in the name of “social justice” and Palestinian nationalism. This new assault is a kind of “virtuous Jew-hatred,” socially acceptable and even fashionable, not easily countered by facts, logic, or reason.

In what seems like a perfect storm, Jews face assaults simultaneously from four major ideological camps.

Finally, radical Muslims, many from anti-Semitic cultures, embody an ancient religious hatred (the Jews rejected Muhammad) and are further inflamed by their tribal support of Palestinians. Islamic anti-Israel movements are funded by petro-dollars mostly from Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Dozens of imams in American mosques can be seen in videos preaching incitement and hatred of Jews. Muslims have attacked Jews on America’s streets.

The ongoing demonization of Jews in the media, on college campuses, in Congress, and most recently in K-12 education is ominous. History does not offer many examples where rising anti-Semitism resolved itself peacefully. The Holocaust, Rabbi Heschel famously said, “did not begin with the construction of the crematoria, but with the defamation of the Jews.” 

The animus behind these tribal, theological, and ideological assaults did not suddenly appear, but has been openly building over decades. The resulting crescendo of hate was predictable, but the “red flags” were mostly rationalized away, minimized, or ignored by most mainstream Jewish leaders. Based on their actions and priorities, Jewish leaders seem to prefer to devote precious Jewish resources to virtue-signaling activities for all but Jewish causes.  Within the establishment Jewish leadership, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has been the lone, unfaltering exception.  

The abolitionist leader Fredrick Douglass understood the consequences of failed leadership. He wrote: “Find out what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact… measure of the injustice and wrong… which will be imposed upon them.”

There are many reasons for the current Jewish predicament. Many are not within our control, but one thing truly ought to be: Jewish leadership. 

The abolitionist leader Fredrick Douglass understood the consequences of failed leadership. He wrote: “Find out what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact… measure of the injustice and wrong… which will be imposed upon them.”

The simple truth is that those Jewish establishment organizations whose mission is the defense and well-being of the community—the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the Federations, and the networks of Jewish Community Relations Councils (JCRCs)—are failing to protect American Jewry. The leadership seems both ideologically conflicted and conflict-averse. Most significantly, our leaders and their major donors are not being held accountable for these failures. After decades of Jewish success in American society, Jewish leaders have grown complacent—or perhaps corrupted by our good fortune. Today, most of our Jewish leaders and their major donors are part of the economic elite and are not directly affected by the rising hatred and violence. Self-indulgent, sometimes arrogant, they suppress dissenting voices and diverse opinions. They often seem more preoccupied by their social standing than demonstrating real concern for the Jewish community predicament.

In a nutshell, Jewish establishment leaders are stuck in a comfortable older strategic paradigm. For decades, they promoted policies that allied Jews with blacks, and then with other disadvantaged minorities, in their struggles for civil and equal rights. They justified these policies, and the resulting outlay of precious Jewish resources, not only as consistent with Jewish values but also as protective of the community. The assumption was that our compassion and magnanimity toward others would reveal our goodness to all, and thus engender reciprocity and solidarity from these groups. Ignoring tribal self-interest and projecting their Jewish values onto their “allies,” they pursued a naïve and simplistic strategy: “We will help them and they will support us.” Predictably, they were wrong. 

Not surprisingly, there was no reciprocity and no solidarity. With very few exceptions, physical and ideological attacks on Jews did not elicit the expected condemnations of anti-Semitism from their alleged “allies.” Our leaders seem to have missed the dramatic shift in America’s cultural and political landscape, which has taken place over the last several decades. The liberalism of the past that made long-standing Jewish policies sensible has been replaced by a radical and insidious ideology, one that resembles a theology. “Post-modernism” and “progressivism,” whose adherents are called “woke,” label Jews as “privileged white oppressors.” This ideology has captured and energized the progressive left. It has also infected too many Jews seeking acceptance and an escape from the burden of being Jewish.

Not only do Jewish leaders seem willfully blind to this mass cultural change, they seem oblivious to the damage they cause by their stubborn refusal to be “mugged by reality.” One shameful consequence: they fail to react with passion against attacks on Jews from their imagined ideological partners.  Like “generals fighting the last war,” they cling to a more comfortable misunderstanding of the threat by focusing mainly on the extremist right, the small gangs of violent thugs who have minimal support compared to the vast influence of major media, college campuses, Islamists, and “progressive” politicians. So they simply look for Nazis everywhere. They have painted themselves, and us, into a corner. Even more ominous in the long term is the failure of Jewish leaders to stop the drift of Jewish youth, educators, and even our rabbis away from Judaism into progressive ideologies, which are most often anti-Zionist.  Young Jews are not educated to understand Jewish peoplehood, and that being Jewish is more than being observant. It’s being part of the long history of the Judean people with a unique and amazing culture.

When challenged about this new reality—in which the reigning ideology of their “allies” divides America into oppressors and oppressed and consigns Jews to the former class—Jewish leaders often seem to be in outright denial. Some will grudgingly acknowledge the problem, but we have seen none who shows a willingness to consider the need for a serious re-think, a new strategy. Mostly they are doubling down on their failed policies or going through the motions of “rethinking” by organizing taskforces and committees. Most important, there is little evidence that our leaders or donors are being held accountable for their massive negligence and failure.

Even more ominous in the long term is the failure of Jewish leaders to stop the drift of Jewish youth, educators, and even our rabbis away from Judaism into progressive ideologies, which are most often anti-Zionist.

Several strategic leadership failures have severe long-term consequences for the community. These must be addressed immediately.

Failing to stop demonization of Jews in the media when the problem was limited.

This failure to address the demonization of Israel in the media, which now extends to most of the mainstream media, meant that Jewish leaders, especially the ADL—the “Jewish Defense Department”—failed to understand that the ideological assault on the Jewish state was the “new anti-Semitism.” Anti-Zionism made Jew-hatred culturally and socially acceptable under the guise of human rights and free speech. Every major Jewish legacy organization, except for the Zionist Organization of America, failed to see the long-term consequences, and thus refused to expose and combat it. 

In 1989, as The Boston Globe was bashing the Jewish state on practically a daily basis, Andrea Levin and Charles Jacobs contemplated forming a media watchdog group that would expose and combat media bias against Israel. As they were forming the Boston branch of CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, they were asked by New England’s ADL representative, Lenny Zakim (of blessed memory), and by the former leader of AIPAC, Steve Grossman, to let the ADL do this task instead. Zakim and Grossman argued that since the ADL spoke with the voice of the Jewish people, if Abe Foxman, the ADL’s legendary head at the time, explained to the public that the media was lying about the Jewish people it would be more powerful than if a new start-up did. But Foxman declined without any explanation. What was lost on him and the Jewish establishment was the strategic significance of how the media and other key public and cultural institutions influence our political leaders and the general public. This was a historic blunder.

Failing to stop demonization, harassment, intimidation, and exclusion of Jews on campus when the problem was limited.

In 2003, we were asked by Jewish students at Columbia University to help them deal with anti-Israel professors who were harassing and intimidating pro-Israel Jewish students. Nobody in leadership positions in New York City, the most populous Jewish city in the world, would help the students: not the Jewish professors, not Hillel, not the ADL, not the Federation, not the AJC.

Our documentary, Columbia Unbecoming (2004), recorded the abuse of Jewish students and the failure of the university to stop the abuse. The documentary received major press coverage, including TV news reports. For the first time, many in the Jewish community learned about the hostility faced by Jewish students. Sadly, the events at Columbia failed to get the Jewish establishment mobilized. They told us the problem was not so bad, and that bringing attention to it would only make it worse. They preferred to handle the situation quietly, with the university administration behind closed doors. They told us to go away, and let them handle the matter, implying that we were intruding on their turf. David Harris told us that his American Jewish Committee only does diplomacy and would not get involved on campus. Now, twenty years later, many of the diplomats the AJC faces have been “Palestinianized” on campus. The vacuum created by failed Jewish leadership resulted in grassroots efforts to support Jewish students, including The David Project, ZOA, StandWithUs, CAMERA on Campus, Aish ha-Torah, Students Supporting Israel, and others. 

We hoped that Columbia Unbecoming would awaken Jewish leadership and the public to anti-Semitism masked as anti-Zionism. It mostly failed to accomplish this goal. Only in 2021 did the ADL finally acknowledge the campus problem. Failing to deal effectively with Columbia University’s egregious behavior emboldened the Jew-hating radicals. There are now dozens of “unbecoming,” i.e., hostile universities. As with an untreated infection the poison spread aggressively.

Lack of action by Jewish leadership has contributed to the fact that 50 percent of Jews on campus now feel that “they must hide who they are out of fear,” according to a recent AJC poll. This failure to address the hostility on campus has allowed the metastasis of a malignant academic culture that has led to the takeover of departments of Middle East Studies by radical anti-Semites, the growth of Students for Justice in Palestine promoting the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, the infiltration and corruption of Jewish Studies programs, and the exclusion of Jewish students from fully participating in campus activities.

Lack of action by Jewish leadership has contributed to the fact that 50 percent of Jews on campus now feel that “they must hide who they are out of fear.”

Failing to stop anti-Israel education in high schools now exploding across the nation via ethnic studies curricula and critical race theory.

Leveraging their campus successes, anti-Zionists then extended their efforts to K-12 education with funding from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and progressive think tanks. In 2011, informed by parents, we discovered that a Saudi-funded text—The Arab World Studies Notebook—was being used as a history text in high schools in Newton, Massachusetts. The Notebook was part of a curriculum taught to teachers across America by an anti-Israel Arab organization. Newton teachers were trained at an event sponsored by the anti-Israel Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies. The Center’s director, Paul Beran, an anti- Israel activist for several years, was an organizer of BDS campaigns against Israel. One “lesson” used the Hamas Charter as a primary source, but the Newton version of the Charter was doctored. It erased the original language that called for the murder of every Jew on the planet, by substituting the word “Zionists” for Jews. The teacher’s guide explained that the unit’s purpose was to show the conflict as a resolvable land and border dispute and not a complicated religious conflict. A grassroots effort to find out what else was being taught in the schools was stymied when school administrators rejected transparency and refused to make their teaching materials public. None of the established Jewish organizations in Boston would help us. In fact, they supported the school committee, claiming that we were exaggerating. To date, the curriculum is still not transparent. More recently with the introduction of California’s “ethnic studies” curriculum, the assault on Jews and Israel has become “turbo-charged.” Most of Boston’s establishment Jewish leaders are being co-opted with vague promises of phantom “guardrails” to prevent anti-Jewish or anti-Israel indoctrination. Again, we are witnessing gullible or delusional Jewish leadership failing to protect the community as the next generation of Americans is being groomed to be hostile to the Jewish community. This situation is being made far worse with the widespread introduction of critical race theory and “ethnic studies,” which reject merit in favor of tribal quotas and identity politics. Historically, Jewish success was based on merit while Jewish exclusion was based on quotas. Many Jewish leaders feel trapped by the conflict between their universalist and utopian impulses and their fiduciary responsibility to the Jewish community.

Failing to recognize the long-term threat of the growing radicalization of the American Muslim community.

Jewish leaders enamored of and relieved by simplistic feel-good solutions to complex social problems preached the gospel of interfaith dialogue as the magic formula for resolving tribal conflicts. In 2003, The Boston Herald reported that Islamist radicals tied to terrorism were planning to build a mega-mosque in the Boston suburb of Roxbury. Included on the mosque’s board was the “spiritual leader” of the Muslim Brotherhood (a radical Islamist, terror-approving group) Yusef al-Qaradhawi, whose preaching—easily accessed online—calls for the murder of Jews and gays worldwide. Based on documents we obtained, it was clear that the goal of the mosque owners was to radicalize the historically moderate Boston Muslim community, as well as proselytize in Boston’s black community where the mosque was to be located. Concerned with these developments, we organized a meeting of Boston Jewish leaders including executives of Boston’s Federation (Combined Jewish Philanthropies, or CJP), the ADL, the AJC, and the JCRC. We presented evidence regarding the ownership and control of the mosque, their hateful ideology, and their connections to terror groups. The Jewish leaders, displaying a significant deficit of imagination and courage, believed that the only proper response was to engage more intensely in interfaith dialogue. “What else can we do?” they asked. They refused to consider educating the Jews and the public about the threat posed by radical Islam. We urged them to share what they knew about the funders and officials of the mosque with Boston’s well-intentioned but naïve mayor, or with Massachusetts’ governor. They refused. They were reluctant to use their political capital on this matter. By 2015, more than a dozen congregants of the Islamic Society of Boston’s mosques were in jail, deported, on the run, or dead from their connections to terrorism. This includes the Boston Marathon bombers, who were part-time congregants.

The Jewish leaders were not influenced by hard evidence, such as copies of checks from terror groups to the mosques or from the mosques to the terror groups. We showed them anti-Semitic writings, sermons, and videos of anti-Semitic harangues. We showed them instructions on the mosque’s website on how husbands, displeased by their wives’ conduct, should beat them. Nothing, it seemed, would cause them to deviate from their comforting dogmatic beliefs that “mutual understanding” and dialogue would mitigate any threat. They also refused to learn the lessons of Muslim migration to Europe and its resulting violence against Jews. They were more concerned with offending a “vulnerable minority” than the long-term safety of their own community. Their mantra was “If we are nice to them, they will be nice to us.” Facts be damned.

What is to be done?

Most mainstream Jewish leaders are promoting universalist fantasies—but to bring “kumbaya” to the arena of identity politics is to unilaterally disarm.

On these matters, our leaders prefer not to “follow the evolutionary science,” which teaches that tribes are more likely to seek dominance than equality. Tribes are formed to provide protection to their members, and are dependent on strong leaders for survival. Tribes are not guided by global moral principles and ethics, such as compassion or reciprocity. Instead, they are motivated by concrete tribal interests. Our Jewish leaders have projected their own values and ethics onto other groups, ignoring the reality that politics and warfare have always been about tribal power conflict. Many European Jews hoped that the “international community” would save them from the Nazis. Today, many American Jewish leaders place their bets on “allies” whom they mistake for partners. They failed to learn the clearest lesson of history: no one will fight to protect the Jews but the Jews. 

Most mainstream Jewish leaders are promoting universalist fantasies—but to bring “kumbaya” to the arena of identity politics is to unilaterally disarm.

For decades, we have been fighting our external enemies—the biased media, the professoriate, the weak-kneed college administrators, leftist anti-Zionists, high schools with poisoned “lesson plans,” radical Muslim anti-Semites, and followers of Farrakhan. We have finally concluded that the Jewish community cannot prevail against this organized rolling tsunami of hatred with the existing misguided establishment leaders who lack courage and imagination and are beholden to a progressive ideology that limits their range of effective actions. 

It’s well known that Jewish leaders are not elected but are anointed by wealthy donors, who are often part of the country’s ruling elites. They are conflicted between their fiduciary responsibilities to the community, their progressive ideology, and how their actions may negatively impact their social standing. They are often forced to rationalize why their efforts to maintain the status quo and their personal power are actually good faith attempts to live up to their responsibilities to fellow Jews.

It’s irrational to continue with the current policies and leaders and to expect different results. For the benefit of the community, Jewish leaders must acknowledge their failure—and not just privately. Many Jewish leaders, however morally confused, delusional, utopian, or in denial of the painful realities, believe they are well-intentioned people. Given the recent upsurge in anti-Semitism, however, and the rebranding of Jews as adjacent white oppressors, one can only hope they are (internally at least) going through a reassessment of the root causes of their failures, without which new strategies cannot be developed. Forming committees is not the answer. Leadership is about having a vision as well as the ability to inspire people to act on that vision. It is possible but unlikely that the same leaders who got us into this crisis are capable of getting us out of it.  

Jewish leaders need fresh ideas. The Jewish community needs to engage in open discussions, by encouraging broad community participation about the crisis we face.

To help promote this process we are forming a national network of Jewish community activists, many of whom have been generally ignored, canceled, or suppressed by the Jewish establishment. These activists are interested in promoting creative new strategies for their communities by challenging local Jewish leadership: their rabbis, local Federations, the ADL, AJC, and the JCRCs to break out of their failed ideological strait jackets and explore new thinking. To help organize such an effort, we have created a new initiative: THE JEWISH LEADERSHIP PROJECT (www.jewishleadershipproject.org)

Given today’s realities, we urge Jewish leadership to immediately take the following steps:

Not for the first time in Jewish history, are we at a watershed moment. But we are an accomplished community, with very talented individuals. We can and must find proud, brave, and competent leadership to secure a better Jewish future.

Jews are from Judea: Stop Whitewashing Jewish Identity

For well over a year, a debate has raged over the treatment of Jews in drafts for a California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC). The California legislature has required the drafting and ensuing instruction of this curriculum across the largest high school system in America. The first two drafts were rightly sent back to the drawing board because they were riddled with anti-Semitic content, often to the point of open expression of Jew-hatred. While the third iteration and the final approved version of this “model” curriculum excised most of the more flagrant anti-Semitic segments, there is still significant reason to believe that its interpretation and implementation by various school boards and districts will reflect the notion that–among all ethnic minorities in the United States–Jewish Americans are unique beneficiaries of “white privilege.”                                                         

The flawed rationale for this application of “privilege” to one of the most per capita discriminated against, persecuted, and smallest ethnic minorities in history can be attributed, in large part, to the application of the concept of “intersectionality.” Intersectionality is defined as the study of the overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination. Since the creators of intersectionality are primarily academics on the political left, this effectively has placed Jews outside of the “intersection.” The drafters of the ESMC curriculum (one of whom recently characterized the ADL as a “white supremacist organization”) effectively continue the efforts by many on the far-left to whitewash Ashkenazi Jewry and also to try to erase Mizrahi Jews and Jews of Color from the collective Jewish experience and peoplehood. And they do this all while concurrently championing efforts to destroy the nation-state of the Jewish people (for example, through the BDS movement) under the guise of either being a uniquely American or universalist pursuit of human rights.

This intersectional movement, wherein perceived whiteness epitomizes unearned privilege, also mischaracterizes Ashkenazic Jewry (the historical whipping boy of Europe), and thereby positions these Jews as somehow being the ultimate bearers of privilege and consequently, somehow, one of the ultimate oppressors.

Highlighted in the ESMC model curriculum as a champion of this inverted version of racial liberation is Linda Sarsour: the outspoken anti-Israel Arab American and purveyor of Jew-hatred. It is both ironic and revealing that this admittedly white-presenting person is held up as the paragon of protest against white-supremacism. Yet, when black men and women filled the streets in protest of the murder of George Floyd, the libel that Jews are uniquely responsible for the racial injustices that cleave American society animated the (anti-Semitic) rhetoric and violence amongst many flag holders of the far-left. This sought to effectively exclude most Jews from the multiethnic alliance of men and women across America to join in solidarity with African-Americans. 

The Jewish community, however, is a distinct ethnoreligious group with diverse membership (like other Middle Eastern/North African-MENA communities), which is regularly targeted by extremists for both their religious and perceived racial differences. There is an undeniable double standard with a movement that contends Linda Sarsour is representative of an oppressed person of color, while at the same time collectively identifying Jews, or at least Ashkenazic Jews, as “white” and even more incredibly, as bastions of whiteness. This position is not only regressive; it ignores thousands of years of Jewish history, denies the experiences of the Jewish people as a nation, and it aids the campaign of those who ultimately seek the delegitimization of Hebrew or Judean self-determination. Setting aside for the moment that “race” itself is an ideological construct, this regressive characterization of Ashkenazic Jews ignores that every Middle Eastern and North African ethnicity (Arab, Amazigh, Copt, Jewish, Assyrian, etc.), as well as most Latino communities, is composed of members who, based on appearance alone, could “pass” for any number of races in the American racial identity chart. 

Historically, it was a practice for many Arab and Jewish-Americans, when arriving in the U.S. to actively pursue, whenever possible, identification with “whiteness” as a method of integration. This was despite the fact that they both faced legal and physical barriers for being perceived as a non-white or racial “others.” Armenian-Americans themselves used the U.S. government’s granting Ashkenazic Jews residency and citizenship as a means of acquiring citizenship too (as until 1952 whiteness was a factor or criteria for naturalization decisions). The presiding judge in the 1909 case of In Re Halladjian ruled that, “[i]f the aboriginal people of Asia are excluded it is hard to find a loophole for the admission of Hebrews.” This judge’s candid statement that Jews represent an Asiatic presence in American society demonstrates how widespread and uncontroversial this belief was in America at the turn of the 20th Century. It would defy credulity for one to believe that this view played no role in the anti-Semitic policies discriminating against Jewish homeownership and against Jewish access to higher education; polices that persisted in the U.S. until the 1970s. Discriminatory policies targeting Jews in the U.S. also often greeted newly arriving refugees from the most recent white supremacy inspired slaughter in Europe: the Holocaust; and one can only imagine the lasting impression that seeing a hotel advertisement stating “No Hebrews or tubercular guests received” had on a Jewish refugee from the latest Cossack attempt to slaughter Jews in Russia. 

The existence of Jews of Color (JOC), or Jews (Ashkenazic, Sephardic, or otherwise) whose physical appearance and/or heritage is combined with that of other ethnic groups not stereotypically associated with American Jews is also regularly utilized to collectively whitewash (or Europeanize) the Ashkenazic component of American-Jewish identity. Ignoring the ubiquitous presence of Middle Eastern-presenting Ashkenazic Jews (as demonstrated by how an Ashkenazic Jew, Sacha Baron Cohen, recently received a Golden Globe nomination for his role as Eli Cohen, the Mizrahi Jewish spy who infiltrated the Syrian defense establishment at the highest levels for almost 5 years) as well as European-presenting Mizrahi Jews, the unique struggles and experiences of African, Latino, Asian, and Mizrahi Jews are weaponized to deny the Middle Eastern heritage and identity of Ashkenazim in America, and thereby globally undermine Jewish peoplehood. While Jews of Color may be uniquely positioned in the fight against colorism and racism, and for equality in America, as well as against Jew-hatred, this must be done with the same level of sensitivity to the complexities of the Ashkenazic identity and experience as is demanded from others with regards to Jewish identity and experience. 

The issue of Jewish “whiteness” (Ashkenormativity) as well as race in America must be tackled with the intention to strengthen the American-Jewish community as an inseparable part of the Jewish people and history. Any attempt to whitewash Jewishness as merely a religion or a cute culture (or to characterize Ashkenazic Jews as being “Europeans with a Jewish religion”) rather than as the vessel of an enduring ancient civilization with an unbroken chain of language, culture, and spirituality is an attempt to uproot the “people of Israel” (Am Yisrael) from their ancestral inheritance and their rights as a nation. As it says in the name, “Am Yisrael,” the Jews are a people, not happenstance coreligionists. 

So who are American Jews?

Jewish identity is complex in the context of contemporary identity politics only because many remain adamant on defining Jewishness within the prism of America’s relatively short history. Jews, however, are an ancient people. Jews comprise the only nation in history to have experienced multiple exiles, genocides, and enslavements, yet maintained for millennia a Diaspora of communities that preserved most of their culture, language, and religion. It is this assortment of symbols, idiosyncrasies, customs, words, stories, and beliefs that have come to be described as Judaism. Although religion can certainly appropriately describe and explain the origin of much of these customs and beliefs, the Jewish experience and peoplehood is based on far more than religion or faith.

Ashkenazic culture, embodied by the Yiddish language, expresses a direct link to the first Jews to be taken to Southern Europe as slaves. Yiddish (developed as a means of internal communication) employed later Jewish Aramaic terms over the ancient Hebrew vocabulary it replaced (after the Babylonian exile). Its use of Latin and Greek vocabulary, in addition to Hebrew, for objects of cultural import as well as key features of expression and idiom in a mostly Germanic language, all demonstrate that the Ashkenazic Jews inherited the unbroken chain of Hebrew civilization brought to Europe (and North Africa) in chains. In fact, the impact of this ancient Levantine culture was so felt in Ashkenazic life that as late as the 13th century there existed commentary describing a contemporary shift from the Levantine pronunciation of Hebrew to what became the Ashkenazic standard.

Jewish identity is based on over 3,300 years of history. It is not defined by the American experience. It was during the Jewish people’s first millennia when the common features of Jewish peoplehood, which all Jews share with all other Jews, were developed (regardless of where their ancestors spent time in the Diaspora). This peoplehood developed in the Jewish people’s indigenous homeland in the land of Israel, in Judea. This is where the Jewish people’s national language (Hebrew) and tribal faith (Judaism) developed. This is where the principle aspects of the Jewish people’s tribal culture, which all revolve – as they do for all indigenous tribal people – around celebrating holidays, sacred events, and sites that are uniquely situated in, and only in, the land of Israel, developed. 

After the Jewish people developed their unique tribal faith and peoplehood in the land of Israel, their millennia long “scattering among the nations,” the Diaspora, began – as a result of the forces of Roman imperialism in the year 70 CE. A large part of the Jewish population was then either massacred, enslaved or exiled. In Judea, approximately 25% of the Jewish population was exterminated and 10% enslaved. Many Jews were also taken to Rome and to other parts of the Roman empire in Europe as slaves, and many others fled from the Roman massacres and enslavement to Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq), and others fled to lands all around the Mediterranean (in what is today southeastern Spain, southern France, southern Italy, Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey). Over the decades and centuries that followed, Jews began to head north (to what is today northern France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Bosnia) and to northern Africa (what is today Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco). By around 300 AD, approximately three million Jews were living in most parts of the Roman Empire, except in what is today Britain. A million lived west of Greece with the majority settling throughout Asia Minor and east to the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf. By then, a sizable number of Jews were living throughout what centuries later would become Germany. 

A common feature of the next 1600 years, when Jews were always stateless (and therefore, as a community, defenseless) was migration. Because Jews were regularly attacked, banished, and/or forced to submit to discriminatory and oppressive laws, the “wandering Jew,” became a necessary feature of the Jewish Diaspora. And from at least the early 8th century in Baghdad, when Jews were first ordered to wear a yellow badge of shame by Umayyad Caliph Umar II (expressly to separate and distinguish Jews in Baghdad from the Arab Muslim majority), to the infamous Venetian ghetto in the 16th Century, through the era of the Nazi-created ghettos in Poland, being “otherized” and subject to cyclical, and often intense persecution, was the ominous cloud that regularly hovered over the Jewish Diaspora. 

In Europe, Jewish and Roma (a non-European ethnic group of South Asian origins) ethnic “otherness” ultimately became a universal object of white-supremacist xenophobia and prejudice; and as peoples in Diaspora, both groups invariably were influenced (by force and by choice) from their surroundings. This influence is common to all Diaspora communities. Similarly to the way in which Ashkenazic Jews are targeted today by many self-described progressives because many of them are able to “pass” for their host population, European racial anti-Semitism, developed a specific racialized hatred for Jews in Europe on an inverse basis. What began in the Spanish Inquisition, with its description of Jewish forced-converts to Catholicism having “impure blood,” reached its zenith in Nazi ideology. Regardless of their appearance, Ashkenazic Jews were defined as mongrel Israelites and therefore the greatest threat to the so-called white race. In other words, because Jews in Europe (Ashkenazic or Sephardic) were composed of individuals who could present as “white,” “Asiatic,” or “black” according to their stereotypes, they were collectively branded as a shape-shifting black contamination.


[“The Jew is a bastard” Nazi chart depicting the mixed Asiatic and African ancestry of Ashkenazic Jewry. Credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum]

White-supremacists have always used and perverted diversity of appearance within Ashkenazic Jewry specifically as a means to collectively associate Jews with blackness and the supposed race-mixing that white-supremacists hate, as well as to expose Jews to the social wrath it may incur. Ironically, many on the opposite end of the political spectrum today pervert this same diversity of appearance as a means to associate Ashkenazic Jewry with whiteness and expose them to the social wrath it may incur in far-left circles. Both of these approaches are steeped in anti-Semitic paternalism and conspiracy-theorizing. They seek to rob Jews of personal agency to self-determine, while simultaneously associating all Jewish efforts for self-determination (either as returned Levantines, sovereign in their Middle Eastern homeland, or in the U.S. as Middle Eastern Americans) with allegations of being duplicitous, and with conspiracies to dominate and control others. 

Through most of the 20th Century, all Jews, regardless of appearance were often restricted from where they could buy houses or where they could go to school based on being “members of the Hebrew race.” That does not change the fact that African and Caribbean American Jews were also forced to endure discrimination on account of belonging to both the “Hebrew” and “Negro” races. This dichotomy of experience navigating American racism between Jews and Black Americans collectively, and within the Jewish community itself, is a fact of Jewish communal existence. It presents Jews with an interesting question. Should Jews double down, become entrenched in traumas, and allow the shadow of whiteness and blackness further divide the Jewish people? 

No. Racial justice must address every community according to the complexities of its experiences. As Jews, with a literal mandate from the Torah to pursue justice, and given the history of discrimination and persecution in the U.S., there is an obligation to take into account those experiences and certainly to acknowledge, address, and redress the plainly different experiences of oppression and racism that African-Americans, Caribbean Americans, Native Americans, and other communities experienced in North America. Jews can do this, and should do this, while affording themselves the same sensitivities we must provide to others. Jews should also demand the same treatment from others, in particular those who strive to care about racial justice–to approach the Jewish people according to the complexities of their experiences, not only in America, but for millennia in Arab-controlled and European-controlled lands, where being a Jew almost always marked the person as second-class citizen and often marked them for death.

A Unified Identity Matters. And it’s Judean.  

The path forward should be clear. Rather than allowing either the Tiki-torch carriers on the far-right or those on the far-left who use and abuse anti-racism as guise for their own anti-Semitism, to define the Jewish experience of some or all members of the Jewish community, it is the Jewish responsibility to reclaim this discourse as those who will reap the consequences of its outcome. Jews should de-colonize and re-indigenize both their rhetoric and minds. They should understand that identity matters; and that how they identify themselves matters. 

Jews must take pride in identity. That pride, however, requires an understanding that irrespective of whether they are African, Ashkenazic, Mizrahi, Sephardic, etc. as Jews, their history has been inexorably linked to each other. These links come from a common heritage, culture, and faith across literally thousands of years of perseverance under persecution by the various empires of the world. This is all part of their collective history and collective bond. Jews need to reject the idea that because of their diversity–itself a product of their Diaspora–there are “white” (meaning, European) Jews in America.

The reality is that there isn’t a non-European originating ethnic minority in America that doesn’t have members who can present or pass as white. The reality is also that in a highly racialized America there were numerous ethnic minorities who could and did benefit from being more closely associated with “whiteness.” That is why there were nearly a dozen cases in the first half of the 20th Century where Arabs in America sued to be considered “white.” But none of that means that Jews should accept the idea of being defined by others, or of being the only MENA ethnic minority that is characterized in 21st-century America as “white.”

The bottom line is that the idea of a “white race” is a fiction created by the same category of people who took advantage of this idea to oppress and persecute Jews for centuries. This alone is reason for Jews in America to reject this characterization of their identity. How some European racists decided a few hundred years ago to label people should have no bearing on Jewish identity–an identity that pre-dates any European pseudo-science (falsely dividing people based on the color of their skin) by approximately three millennia. 

Natan Sharansky once said: “[t]here is no power in the world that can stand against us [Jews] when we feel a part of our history, part of our people and part of this historic struggle.” And the late, great Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (ZT”L) once said of Pesach (Passover) that it is “the festival of Jewish identity. It is the night on which we tell our children who they are.” If Jews stand united in the fact that their identity is based on 3,300 years of history, as well as on the shared story of deliverance from Egyptian bondage and the formation of an understanding of their national identity at Mount Sinai, then Jews will, as Sharansky implores, also understand the importance of not being defined in any way, shape, or form by the same identities as those who historically oppressed Jews for millennia, be they European or Arab.

As for many other ethnic groups, the history of America for Jews has been a mixed bag. America meant an escape from egregious persecution in 18th-20th century Europe and later from Iran and many Arab dictatorships. Particularly in the 19th Century, however, it was a refuge that included its own litany of limitations and violent threats that continue to spill Jewish blood to this day. Like other non-African-American and non-Native-American ethnic minorities in the U.S., Jews are not unfamiliar with being positioned as a buffer community, of receiving certain relative privileges in return for scapegoating when things go awry.  

For the U.S. to live up to its founding principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, Jews and all other people of good conscience should come together to strengthen and uplift the most disadvantaged communities in this nation. However, this must be done without capitulating to Jew-hatred and anti-Semitic tropes; regardless of whether that anti-Semitism is based on white-supremacy, black supremacy (of the Nation of Islam variety) or any other form of, or justification for, Jew-hatred (e.g., anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Zionism). Jews in America must be allowed a seat at the table of racial justice without having to negate or degrade their authentic Jewish-selves, and that includes their identity as a Middle Eastern (specifically Levantine Hebrew) tribal people from Judea, and as a diverse ethnic group with members also belonging to the African, Latin, Native, and Asian American communities.

The next time purportedly progressive thinkers create a curriculum with the stated purpose of fostering a better understanding of ethnicity, race, or bigotry, or how these things influence the lives of ethnic minorities in the U.S., they need to recognize that Jews collectively trace their origins to the Middle East and that the Jewish relationship to whiteness and white supremacy is comparable to that of other Middle Eastern Americans. No Jews, be they Ashkenazim, Sephardim or Mizrahim, should be uniquely–among all ethnic minorities in America–stigmatized as privileged “white people” or Europeans. After all, those aware of progressive politics in the 21st century know that in the context of American history and politics, “white” is synonymous with “European,” which is synonymous with over 500 years of European colonialism and oppression. And anyone familiar with Jewish history knows precisely the price Jews paid in Europe, for not being “white.”  

Malcolm X famously said about the African-American experience in America, “We did not land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us.” Jews, be they Ashkenazim or Sephardim, did not just land in Europe, Europe landed on the Jews. Over and over and over again. From the time Jews were brought to Rome in chains, through millennia of blood libels, the Spanish Inquisition, countless pogroms, and the Holocaust (where six million, mostly Ashkenazic Jews, were slaughtered in less than 5 years), Europe and Europeans, made it crystal clear to the Jewish people that they were never European; never “white.” And certainly never the beneficiaries of 500 years of colonialism and conquest. To treat Jews as such is anti-Semitic because it erases Jewish collective experience and history. It erases the Jewish people’s very identity. No truly progressive person should engage in or tolerate such erasure. And no proud Jew should stand for it. Not for a second.

Micha Danzig served in the Israeli Army and is a former police officer with the NYPD. He is currently an attorney and is active with numerous Jewish and pro-Israel organizations. He is the local Advisory Board Chairperson for Stand With Us San Diego and is a National Board Member for Herut North America. Jeremy Danzig is an activist for Jewish and indigenous rights. He is a leader in the Youth Cabinet of the Herut Movement in the World Zionist Organization and the former Outreach Coordinator for StandWithUs San Diego. He served as a squad commander in a counterterrorism unit of the Israeli Border Police. He has a B.A. in Political Science, Homeland Security, and Public Diplomacy from IDC Herzliya.

The Oxymoron of Progressive Zionists

Many Jews are what I call progressive Zionists: they believe in progressive principles, and they support a Jewish nation as a sanctuary for Jews from millennia of persecution. Yet they are continually surprised and upset by anti-Semitic attacks on the State of Israel by progressive Democrat members of Congress.

When Israel is attacked and defends itself using military force, like it recently did in Gaza, progressive Zionists twist themselves into knots to explain to their fellow progressives why Israel has the right to self-defense. They explain how Israel must protect its citizens, just like any other nation. They explain that while they too believe that underdeveloped, indigenous, oppressed societies and its peoples are justified in violent protest against occupying forces and imperialist nations, Hamas’ tactic of attacking or hiding behind innocent civilians cannot be justified. These progressive Zionists get perplexed and frustrated and angry. Why is the concept of supporting Israel, which is so obvious to them, so obscure to their comrades? Progressive Zionists are drawn  to the Left out of their devotion to the concepts of “fairness” and “social justice” but support Israel out of the practicality of knowing that it is the Jewish people’s only hope in a world that, for millennia, has sought to destroy them. But progressivism and Zionism are, in fact, contradictory beliefs that cannot actually coexist if they are considered rationally. 

Judaism teaches self-reliance. Judaism teaches respect of an all-powerful protector. Progressivism teaches the belief that each individual is the center of their universe, and to see oneself as the victim of an all-powerful oppressor.

Judaism teaches one to obey a formal set of laws. Progressivism teaches that the ends justify the means and that laws were made to be broken.

Judaism teaches that God created all people in his divine image, all people are equal, and all are deserving of love, respect, and opportunity.

Judaism teaches that it is better to educate a man to fish than to give him a fish. Progressivism teaches that if you don’t have a fish, then someone must have taken the one intended for you. Progressivism teaches that people without fish must harass those with fish to obtain one.

Judaism teaches that God created all people in his divine image, all people are equal, and all are deserving of love, respect, and opportunity. Progressivism teaches that people deserve more or less depending on their identity, whether that is race, sex, gender identity, religion, or any other characterization that can be attributed to victimhood.

Jews came to America to succeed and did so due to the opportunities presented by the principles, values, and laws of America. Progressives believe that the success of Jews proves their innate “white privilege,” ignoring millennia of oppression including anti-Semitism here in America.

Progressive members of the Democratic Party increasingly express their hatred of Israel. These people also increasingly express their hatred for Jews. Progressives hate those who have succeeded due to their own hard work, whether that success is financial, cultural, or political. This is the core of socialism.

Socialism never helped Jews, whether it was the oppressive socialism of the Soviet Union or the benign socialism of Israel that was eventually abandoned. In the communist/socialist Soviet Union, Jews were imprisoned for practicing their religion and ostracized for wanting to emigrate to Israel. In the early days of the modern state of Israel, Jews created a near-perfect socialist society that led to unbearable inflation, economic and industrial stagnation, and a mass exodus of citizens until it was replaced by a capitalist system envied by the world, even by its Arab neighbors. 

Now progressive Jews complain because they stood up for LQBTQ+ rights, they stood up for black lives and the BLM movement, they stood up for Latinos and Asian Americans and for indigenous people and for BIPOC, they supported the Democratic Socialists, and yet those same groups refuse to stand up for Israel, the Jewish homeland, the one Jewish state, the world refuge from anti-Semitism of murderous intent.

 The Left wants to encourage victimization, but Jews refuse to be victims. The Left wants to punish success. But Judaism encourages success.

The progressive Zionists I know see the conflict between progressivism and Zionism as a paradox. They plead with their comrades to see the importance of Israel to the Jewish people. They protest that they, too, abhor Benjamin Netanyahu and are happy to see him out. They explain about the Holocaust as if their friends might be unaware of the largest organized genocide in human history. They don’t understand the Left’s unique dismissal of this one persecuted minority, the Jew.

It shouldn’t be so incomprehensible to them. The Left’s ideology is to divide people, but Jews want to be a strong people within a society, not apart from it. Especially liberal Jews who are desperate to assimilate. The Left wants to encourage victimization, but Jews refuse to be victims. The Left wants to punish success. But Judaism encourages success. The Left hates those who have achieved success, but Jews have been incredibly successful since the mass emigrations to the United States in the 20th century.

Progressivism’s values are opposed to Jewish values, but progressive Zionists are blind to this fact except when it affects them directly. 

Progressive Zionists would do well to read the novel Davita’s Harp by Chaim Potok. It tells the story of a group of leftist Jews in the 1930s who knew that communism would bring equality to the masses. It was only when their beloved prophet Josef Stalin made a pact with Adolph Hitler that they disbanded their group. They didn’t recognize the foolishness of their beliefs. They didn’t renounce their beliefs. They just stopped thinking about them. They put their passion and efforts into other causes because it was too hard to recognize that their deeply held beliefs could be not just wrong but seriously harmful.

I don’t expect that many progressive Zionists will recognize the destructiveness of their ideology, but I hope that a few, like the misguided socialist characters in Potok’s novel, will focus their energies and actions elsewhere.

Bob Zeidman is the creator of the field of software forensics and founder of several high-tech Silicon Valley firms, including Zeidman Consulting and Software Analysis and Forensic Engineering. His latest venture is Good Beat Poker. He is the author of textbooks on engineering and intellectual property as well as screenplays and novels. His latest novel is the political satire Good Intentions.

Reclaiming Judean Identity: A Decolonization Plan

“Palestinianism” — the complete erasure of Judean identity—has now centered itself in the woke regime. Examples run from teachers’ unions boycotting the one Jewish state to the firing of a black Jewish diversity officer because she dared to condemn anti-Semitism. Want to watch the U.S. and Israeli flags burn simultaneously? Skip a trip to Tehran and head straight to the Chicago Dyke March.

Anti-Zionist activists pretending to be professors and journalists were just waiting for the right set of people to glom onto. Unthinking leftists were a perfect fit.

One could spend years analyzing how this happened so quickly—weren’t we just talking about “anti-racism” a second ago—but does it really matter? What began with a Soviet-funded Egyptian named Yasser Arafat in the late 1950s and was “academically” formalized by the anti-Western Columbia University professor Edward Said in the 1970s has finally reached its pinnacle. Anti-Zionist activists pretending to be professors and journalists were just waiting for the right set of people to glom onto. Unthinking leftists were a perfect fit. 

With the silence of many real liberals (today’s Good Germans), the fact that a raging millennial would seamlessly go from calling for reparations to shouting about “Palestine”—without having a clue about either one—is not terribly shocking.

The only question now is how bad will it get before it gets worse. It’s quite apparent which U.S. party has willingly been used to create incitement against American Jews and which one has begun to fight this. The difference couldn’t be more stark. As well, we have learned that we need to watch for a normalization of anti-Semitism in our systemically woke educational venues. 

But the recent attacks on Jews in New York City and Los Angeles during the latest Hamas assault—and the non-response from every group that demands Continual Victimization Status—did lead to questions. How could other communities understand that this is part of a millennia of injustice if so many Jews didn’t understand it? And if so many Jews didn’t want to understand it?

Could this be a divine push to shed 3,000 years of colonization and finally reclaim Judean identity?

From a Biblical perspective, one could see this as God’s final showdown. Enough with the Hellenistic Reform Movement. Enough with the ‘As a Jew’ masks that allow Jews with platforms to defame Israel—or as Natan Sharansky and Gil Troy call them: the un-Jews. Enough with the false idol of assimilation. 

Could this be a divine push to shed 3,000 years of colonization and finally reclaim Judean identity?

Whether a sign or not, it is certainly long overdue. I understand why the first and second generations after the Holocaust were focused on creating, as my Dad would put it, “the good life” for their children. As a result, I was told that our family was “from Russia.” That’s it, end of story. 

But of course Russia was just the middle of the story for many Jews, as Spain, Iraq, or Germany were for others. As I only began to learn later in life, Judaism is not just a religion. Jews are a people, an ethnicity, a nation: Judea, otherwise known as Israel. As Micha Mitch Danzig and Yirmiyahu Danzig well detail, Judeans were thrown out of our homeland multiple times and then persecuted in every country we ended up in. Even in the United States.

Soviet Jews learned the hard way that Judaism was more than a religion. While they were robbed of their temples and freedom to worship, their Soviet-issued passports read “Jew” under Nationality.

But despite violent foreign occupations, Judeans maintained a continuous presence in the land of Israel. Nearly a dozen studies published in the past decade show that all Jews are more biologically related to one another than they are to their local populations—and that we share a common Middle Eastern ancestry.

I do not tell my son, 11, that he came from Russia. I tell him that our people hail from Judea, the land of the Maccabees, and that we are Judean. I tell him that Judeans, in part because of the persecution, come in every hue, but our own olive skin should be treasured: it represents a constant reminder of who we are and where we came from. 

I teach him that no matter what anyone says about us or about Israel, we should be proud—so proud to be part of a people who, no matter what the world does to us, continues to create light.

Zionism hoped to re-create the tough Maccabean Judean, and in Israel it succeeded. But it’s now time for Diasporan Jews to follow suit.

One day at his school during the recent Gaza conflict, both students and teachers were misrepresenting the facts in a current events discussion. He raised his hand, stood up, corrected the record, and sat down. Knowing how vociferously he can argue about bedtime, I wasn’t surprised to hear that no one even tried to refute him.

Zionism hoped to re-create the tough Maccabean Judean, and in Israel it succeeded. But it’s now time for Diasporan Jews to follow suit—to turn the dangerous inanity of leftism into a positive. So much of our identity has been imposed upon us: fully embracing our true identity is empowering, both personally and as a people.

What we don’t need is to create new symbols. We have the Star of David, the flag of Israel, Hatikvah. Here’s the start of a decolonization plan:

  1. First, learn. Learn your personal history; learn our people’s history. Ask your synagogue to develop materials on our history. It’s well past time for synagogues to teach our children the truth.
  2. Begin to call yourself Judean. Write that into the Ethnicity box on forms. 
  3. Wear something visibly Judean. With pride. Despite everything going on in NYC, I wear my great-grandmother’s Star of David every day. No one can take away from me what that star represents.
  4. Learn conversational Hebrew. Make sure your synagogue is teaching it to your kids.
  5. Acknowledge our persecution, but never play the victim. We have the chance to show other persecuted minorities precisely what that means.Maccabean identity requires bravery: silence is simply not an option. But be strategic, not reactive. Arguments on Twitter are useless. Create videos, songs, art about our past. A song like Westside Gravy’s “Diaspora” is so powerful in its fearless embrace of the truth.
  6. Understand that the Torah is the most “social justice” document you will ever need. B’tzelem Elokim—we are all created in God’s image—is central to Judaism. Rather than trying to erase Judaism, leftists should start learning from it.
  7. Embracing Judean ethnicity doesn’t mean we lose our individuality. We are a tribe of true diversity, not a cult. We’re going to differ politically and religiously, but what we must never do is harm the heart and soul of Judaism: Israel. 
  8. Feel at peace, with yourself, with the universe. As Rabbi Rachel Cowan wrote: “I am blessed to be a voyager on an ancient pathway.” 

We are now redirecting that pathway. It’s a big job. But we were blessed with the opportunity to do it. And with 5,000 years of surviving and thriving behind us, we can.

What is Truth?

There was a time in America, not so long ago, when speaking the truth was admirable and knowing the truth essential. Children were raised to tell the truth, with truth as the moral of every story. Liars suffered all manner of shame, even an enlarged nose. As legend had it, America’s Founding Father, George Washington, as a boy, took responsibility for a fallen cherry tree rather than lie.

There was a time in America, not so long ago, when speaking the truth was admirable and knowing the truth essential.

How’s that for a revealing origin’s story.

Over the ensuing 250 years, Americans knew to be on guard for cynical and sleazy embellishers and spin doctors. Liars, of course, have always been among us. But like free speech, the grandeur of truth evolved as a national ethos.

Not so much anymore. Lying is not quite the character flaw it once was. And knowing the truth has lost its moral urgency. 

It wasn’t that Americans suddenly couldn’t “handle the truth!” –that nifty bit of dialogue from the play and movie, A Few Good Men. The story involved a military court martial concerning a Code Red, an “off-the-book” form of discipline that resulted in the death of a weak solider.

Human beings can actually process (“handle”) truth quite well. It’s the lies that seem to always present the most problems. What happens when we can’t tell the difference?

We are facing an altogether different kind of Code Red these days. Truth itself is under siege. The attack comes mostly from domestic enemies who profit from mass confusion, have learned how to weaponize words and distort their meanings, know how to manipulate social cues (especially on social media), and threaten those who care about veracity.

The Woke Left is waging guerilla warfare on truth. They have remade truth as more personal than universal, more malleable than objective.

The Woke Left, and the strangling police state they have imposed on the rest of us (the only form of police, by the way, they will happily fund), along with mainstream media, Big Tech behemoths, and the faculty lounges of woke universities—with capitulating corporations added for good measure—is waging guerilla warfare on truth. They have remade truth as more personal than universal, more malleable than objective. This is truth, au couture, specialized even if unverified. One’s own truth can be automatically adopted as facts on demand.

The days when unbearable truths were more endurable than not knowing the truth at all are gone. The moral universe once demanded that truths be acknowledged, confirmed, and memorialized. It required a general consensus around agreed-upon truths. Truths were knowable and necessary, tantamount to a human right. We were entitled to them—whether we can “handle” them or not. 

This was especially the case with lies, which were looked upon as poison. The Ancient Greeks learned this lesson from Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, where the moral foundations of a city, along with its actual columns and pillars, would rot and crumble under the weight of a hidden truth and its corresponding lie. The King of Thebes realized that a truth must be uncovered, even if it led to his downfall. No matter—it’s what a righteous leader must do.

When Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s landmark book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, was first published in Germany in 1996, there were reports of thousands of younger Germans reading the book, and then clamoring to hear him speak during his book tour. Why the overwhelming interest? After all, German students had been learning about the Holocaust for decades.

What made this book so special is that it focused not on the guilt of Nazis, but the complicity and criminal behavior of ordinary Germans. Young Germans finally wanted to know the truth about their grandparents and parents. They had been reassured that none of their family members were card-carrying Nazis. (At some point, in Germany and France, it seemed as though no one’s father ever met a Nazi or linked arms with Vichy, respectively.) Goldhagen’s book was the first to make the case that even ordinary Germans—those without formal Nazi affiliations—had also committed atrocities. Many older Germans wanted Goldhagen out of their country and his book burned. Millions of younger Germans wouldn’t let him go.

That’s how important truth ultimately is to a society. There is great fortitude in the human spirit not to succumb to amnesia and forgetting. Truthful revelations lift old burdens and impose new obligations. Accepting truths is a sign of humanity. Indeed, without the closure and reckoning of truths, all claims to civilization are false, the land is lost, and other nations will, or at least should, turn away. (See Turkey and its falsifications over its Armenian genocide.)

Today, however, it is not unreasonable to ask: What is Truth? Are there actual truths we must know, that can be known, that we should care about knowing? Not colliding opinions where the last one standing has his or her truth validated—even if it is an outright lie. Just the simple truth, simply put, scrappily asserting itself amid so many lies. 

Our governmental leaders, the media’s analysts and columnists, academics, and scientists, have all been slippery about the truth…

Hardly likely when the entire concept of truth has been corrupted. We have lost confidence in our capacity to recognize one. Time and again, we have shown misplaced trust in the arbiters of truth. What has remained is a deep cynicism over whether anyone has something truthful to say.

For instance, our governmental leaders, the media’s analysts and columnists, academics, and scientists, have all been slippery about the truth—dodgier than perhaps ever before. Should the coronavirus be called the Wuhan Virus? Do we still need to wear masks? Is there an actual “crisis” on our southern border, or is the surge, predicted to surpass 2 million by the end of the year, just an ordinary reimaging of Ellis Island, with huddled masses now replaced by migrants wading through the Rio Grande? Was Hunter Biden a legitimate businessman in China and Ukraine, or was he, and his father, trading on his family name in one of those quid pro quo arrangements—ironically, the very thing that was the subject of President Donald Trump’s first Senate impeachment trial. 

Speaking of Trump, was the Mueller Report a gigantic waste of taxpayers’ dollars, or did President Trump actually bless Russia’s meddling in our presidential election? In another story, it now appears, based on a report from the Department of Interior, that protestors in Lafayette Square on June 1, 2021 were not forcibly removed so that President Trump could have a photo-op holding a Bible outside of a church. Yet that’s the story everyone heard. Correcting the record seems to be a low priority.

The “Big Lie” itself is not true—on either side of the political spectrum. President Trump didn’t win in a landslide; an election victory wasn’t stolen. Nonetheless, there was much about the election that was questionable—both under the Constitution and common sense. Election rules were modified by courts and state election officials, and not by state legislatures, as provided for under the Constitution. Voting regulations were inconsistent, statewide—also problematic under the Constitution. There were many observed irregularities and statistical discrepancies. Many ballots with defects must have been counted. In a different year, they would have been disqualified. Of the hundreds of election workers, in sworn affidavits, alleged to have witnessed some malfeasance, do we believe all were lying?

There is nothing “systematic” about lingering racism. The system is not responsible for it.

“Systemic” or “structural racism” is another talking point that benefits from the appearance of truth but just isn’t true—no matter how many times it gets repeated. Yes, prejudicial attitudes still persist in the United States. The redlining of Black neighborhoods has surely suppressed the value of Black-owned real estate and, for others, denied the chance of ownership. We haven’t properly acknowledged the overall impact of slavery and Jim Crow on generations of African Americans. And perhaps a meaningful gesture toward reparations is long overdue.

But there is nothing “systematic” about lingering racism. The system is not responsible for it. The Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, not to mention federal and state laws ending racial discrimination in public accommodations, housing, hiring and placement in schools, were all promulgated precisely to end systemic racism. 

The media has only made things worse, contributing to the “fake news” phenomenon rather than distancing itself from it. In 2016, Eastern European websites concocted fake headlines to generate traffic and advertising revenue on social media. The real press found common cause, realizing that anything with Trump in the title would sell news. The more outlandish or exaggerated the story the better, especially since he was already hopelessly despised. Eventually Trump himself latched onto the phrase and turned “fake news” into a MAGA mascot. 

And he wasn’t entirely wrong in doing so.

Unflattering reportage on the president was fair game, of course. But he was also calling attention to slanted news coverage, stories not properly sourced—rushing to judgment with the worst possible spin. Red state voters took notice, which caused the audience share at Fox News and Newsmax TV to jump, while CNN, which Trump targeted as ground zero for fake news, lost nearly 70% of its viewers in the key demographic. One doesn’t have to behave as un-presidential as Donald Trump to see when reporters have taken sides against the present occupant of the Oval Office. Just ask George W. Bush.

What has become obvious in this new era of truth decay is that the press is more interested in shaping stories than telling truths. News stories are now simply “narratives,” in which readers and viewers are directed what to think. Best practices now include moralizing. The distinction between news and editorial is now forever blurred.  

In the aftermath of the recent war in Gaza between longtime combatants Hamas and Israel, 450 journalists who work for major media outlets signed a letter stating that they will no longer provide balanced, impartial reporting when it comes to their coverage of Israel, which they deem to be an apartheid state that commits crimes against humanity. From now on, that’s the only story they are planning to tell.

Who knew they had a choice?

Israel is not an apartheid state. The ruling coalition includes an Islamist political party. Arab Israelis serve on the Supreme Court. An Ethiopian Israeli was crowned Miss Israel. Jews and Arabs eat in the same restaurants and ride the same public transit. Moreover, no country that has faced tens of thousands of rockets over the past 15 years, aimed at their civilian population, can fairly be accused of crimes against humanity while retaliating in self-defense. The war crime that is surely being committed is Hamas using their own children as human shields.

Newspaper slogans such as “All the news that’s fit to print” and “Democracy Dies in Darkness” are now laughable—catchy but disingenuous given what’s deemed newsworthy in the New York Times and Washington Post, respectively.

Yet, there are now 450 journalists from such august houses of journalism as the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, who have made it known that Israel’s side of the story will not be included in their coverage. The defense of Israel’s homeland is no truth they wish to tell, and therefore, is no truth at all. 

Newspaper slogans such as “All the news that’s fit to print” and “Democracy Dies in Darkness” are now laughable—catchy but disingenuous given what’s deemed newsworthy in the New York Times and Washington Post, respectively. How is “fitness” determined, and why are so many stories consigned to “darkness”? Is the flavor of President Joe Biden’s ice cream fetishes more fit to print than the apparent ethics violations of his son? 

How did we get here? When did “truth” become a presumptive lie?

The legal system didn’t help. Cynicism over how justice is dispensed has been compounded by the realization that, under the law, facts and truth are different things. In a courtroom, the jury is the fact-finder. They determine the facts of the case while the judge applies the law. It is not the jury’s job, however, to investigate whether any of those facts, once found, are actually true. They are not permitted to consider anything other than what was presented in court—the evidence at trial. Lawyers can transform an unconvincing, unrebutted piece of evidence into a finding of fact. Jury deliberations are confined to those courtroom antics alone. Whether facts bear any relationship to what actually happened outside the courtroom is a different matter altogether.

When someone declares, “There’s no justice,” they’re also saying, “Truth doesn’t matter under the law.” And they would be correct. 

Truth under the law can’t amount to very much if there is no consequence to lying.

The #MeToo movement has introduced an altogether new twist on whether truths can be proven. It’s all in the slogan: “Believe Survivors.” If that’s what they insist juries hear, or internally believe, at the outset, then what good is the presumption of innocence? Believing victims without hesitation means that the accused can’t be telling the truth. Why then have a trial at all? Simply dispense with the Confrontation Clause of the 6th Amendment altogether.

Truth under the law can’t amount to very much if there is no consequence to lying. Committing perjury under oath, “swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God,” makes for a nice dramatic moment, but witnesses lie on the stand all the time—without any consequence. Perjury is the least prosecuted crime in America. Prosecutors neither have time for it, nor care very much about it. 

The tragic twist is that liars may accidentally end up as truth-tellers in a system that doesn’t care either way. A society that was once known for dumbing down is now doubling down by simply turning the truth off.

We shouldn’t have expected better. Not with universities overrun with theories of deconstruction and post-structuralism, where truth is regarded as untrustworthy and reality itself, and the language that describes it, is not to be believed. Post- and anti-colonialism cares little for truth, elided by the fixed worldview of unequal power structures. A new brand of imperialism somehow survived the abolishment of colonies and continues to impose its will, under the banner of White Supremacy, over people of color. 

But where are these powerful white supremacists? Do they run Fortune 500 companies? Are they the mayors of Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles? Why then would they allow for white poverty? “White privilege” doesn’t seem to exist in Appalachia where poverty is abundant. Moreover, the reemergence of colonialist attitudes and impediments to minority success hasn’t seemed to hold back Asian-, Indian- and Jewish-Americans, or, for that matter, Black achievement. 

How did Barack Obama get elected president of a white supremacist nation, doing so with the support of a majority of white voters? And for two terms!

The Frankfurt School of rehashed Marxism, with its sexy cultural and literary bent, hasn’t helped uphold the truth. The distortions of capitalism means that nothing ever said by someone wearing a suit should ever be believed. But isn’t it possible to drive a nice car and be truthful? Herbert Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man, so hip among the radical hippies of the 1960s, may have, ironically, served as the playbook for African-American law professors who concocted Critical Race Theory. The target now, however, is no longer “class,” but “whiteness”—with sides drawn according to identity. 

Critical race theorists, and their intersectional bedfellows, have no time or tolerance for truth. They’re too busy admonishing the politically incorrect. Similarly, the cause for human rights has been shattered by the subjectivity of moral relativism. Human rights abuses are re-characterized as cultural norms. The beheading of women and torching of homosexuals is not barbarism. It’s simply the idiosyncratic ways of a different culture. Who are we to tell them what to do?

How can truth possibly survive such asphyxiations? Everyone has become a self-appointed expert—on everything. No one possesses the absolute truth, because everyone has their own—the story they cling to, the identity that shaped it, the “narrative” that belongs, privately, to them alone—even if the story is no more truthful than a fairytale. Worse still, that story can never be corrected or misappropriated by others. It’s true because the teller says so. Nothing need be verified. 

The once playfully pagan holiday of Halloween is now, in this harsh atmosphere of identity politics, nakedly racist. Dressing up as someone else for the night? Assuming the identity of another? The audacity of such revelers. A costume can’t be used to unmask what may already be false.

No point letting the truths of others interfere with the only truth that matters.

Truth Is

Truth is the Foundation, the Bedrock
The Seminal Seed
It is the Pathway, the Direction
Paved by footsteps of the Freed

Truth is The Harmony, Melody
Every note of Song
It is Unity, Community
That which we Belong

Truth is the Wisdom, the Knowing
The unspoken Within
It is Inspiration, First Cause,
From which all must Begin

Truth is Light, Unfiltered
Unreflected and Pure
It is the Disease, the Pain
As well as the Cure

Truth is Justice, The Judge
Its proponents and Pursuit
It is a Good Deed, it’s Thought
The enemy of the Mute

Truth is Fire, the Illuminance
The kindling and the Stone
It is dangerous yet Healing
Will sear from its Throne

Truth is unyielding, Unbending
All knowing and Fixed
It is the exposure of Bias
From which all lies are Mixed

Truth is Sacred, Holy
Eternal and Clean
It is Accepting yet Unforgiving
All comers will it Redeem

Truth is unambiguous in its Distance
Between Self-Doubt and Potential
One word, the “Emet”
But unmistakably Reverential

Truth is Kindness, Unselfish 
An all encompassing Love
Acknowledge and Acquiesce
Thus be Blessed from Above

Truth Is

Light Midnight Sky

it’s like one of those nights
when it never gets dark
and you don’t really know why.

could be city lights,
or tomorrow’s rain clouds
filling up the whole sky

you look out the window at one AM
when it’s always dark as can be
but tonight there is light
shining pretty true bright
as far as the eye can see.

with maybe some purple,
mixed in with the blue
still light for some reason
unknown to you

it’s amazing to see
what the dark night can be
every once in a light midnight sky.

Disinformation is Power

Jonathan Rauch

Disinformation is an old enemy with new weapons and powerful friends

In Book II of The Republic, Plato launches social philosophy’s foundational inquiry by posing social philosophy’s foundational question. Imagine discovering a ring which made you invisible so that you could behave with complete impunity. The person in possession of such a device “might with impunity take what he wished even from the marketplace, and enter houses and be with whom he pleased, and slay and loose from bonds whomsoever he would, and in all other things conduct himself among mankind as the equal of a god.” Why, Plato wonders, should a person facing no accountability or sanction ever behave justly or morally? Behind that moral question stood a political one: how, if at all, can a society be constructed to withstand the force of sociopathy?

The American founders, like Plato, predate modern psychological jargon, but they possessed deep psychological insight, and they recognized that the problem of sociopathic behavior challenges every social order. America’s founding generation feared sociopathic demagoguery as much as they did anarchy, and they understood that the two abet each other. In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton warned of the dangers posed by men with “talents for low intrigue and the little arts of popularity”—men who commence as demagogues and end as tyrants. Later, in a letter to President Washington, Hamilton warned that the “only path to a subversion of the republican system of the country” is by way of the ruthless demagogue who uses fear and flattery to “throw things into confusion [so] that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’ ”

Trolls and Shitlords

In 2017 the Huffington Post unearthed a style manual for The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist website. The guide advised using “naughty humor” to draw in curious readers, and then hammering them with a few repeated points “over and over and over and over again.” The guide’s author, Andrew Anglin, added, “The unindoctrinated should not be able to tell if we are joking or not. . . . This is obviously a ploy and I actually do want to gas kikes. But that’s neither here nor there.”

Trolls, despite their pose as online Jokers, seemed to grasp classic propaganda methods and had a knack for adapting them to the online world. Outrage and humor, they understood, were viral and addictive and could be weaponized to seize attention and occupy people’s brains. They understood psychology. “Remember the main law: EMOTION IS THE HOOK, FACTS ARE THE SIDE DISH,” propounded the trolls’ style manual. They understood insurgent tactics and asymmetrical warfare. “We have the advantage of being an anonymous swarm with a singular goal,” said the manual. “We don’t have to play fair. We can say and spread whatever we want.”

Today, so-called cancel culture—the use of social coercion to silence or isolate targets—is primarily the province of the left, while disinformation is primarily the province of the right.

Firehose of Falsehood

The study of propaganda and disinformation has a long and distinguished history. Propaganda is a campaign to influence public opinion without regard for truth, often (but not always) conducted by a state actor seeking some political outcome. Although the means vary widely, the end is this: to organize or manipulate the social and media environment to demoralize, deplatform, isolate, or intimidate an adversary.

Propaganda is a tool, not an ideology. Today, so-called cancel culture—the use of social coercion to silence or isolate targets—is primarily the province of the left, while disinformation is primarily the province of the right; but it might just as easily be the other way around, and someday no doubt will be. Disinformation attacks not just individual people or facts but the whole information space. In a famous remark to the journalist Michael Lewis in 2018, Steve Bannon, the Breitbart News chairman, said this: “…The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.” Flood the zone with shit: although the formulation is crude, there could be no more concise and accurate summation of what modern information warfare is all about. All communities, and especially the reality-based community, rely on networks of trust to decide what is and is not true. Every aspect of trust and credibility is degraded when the zone is flooded with shit. 

The firehose of falsehood aims not to persuade but to confuse: to induce uncertainty, disorientation, and attendant cynicism.

For a disinformation operative, the goal is to subvert truth’s compulsion. That is difficult to do by changing people’s minds but making people confused and mistrustful is easier. As [Hannah] Arendt famously wrote in The Origins of Totalitarianism, “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.”

The firehose of falsehood aims not to persuade but to confuse: to induce uncertainty, disorientation, and attendant cynicism. 

Epistemic helplessness—the inability to know where to turn for truth—was the desideratum of the firehose of falsehood. “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda,” the Russian dissident Gary Kasparov observed in a December 2016 tweet. “It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.” The goal was demoralization. In a chillingly candid interview in 1983, Yuri Bezmenov, a Russian intelligence defector who had specialized in propaganda and ideological subversion, explained: “A person who is demoralized is unable to assess true information. The facts tell nothing to him. Even if I shower him with information, with authentic proof, with documents, with pictures.”

(Dis)information Is Power

But why spend many millions of dollars and build national bureaucracies and international networks in order to demoralize people? As always with politics, the purpose was power. 

If you flood the zone with distractions and deceptions and just plain garbage, people’s attention would be diverted and exhausted and overwhelmed.

“It’s to make people passive and not want to fight,” the British journalist and disinformation expert Peter Pomerantsev told me. Whereas Communism had tried to convince people it was forging a great socialist future, the newer model focused on sowing confusion and disseminating conspiracy theories. Pomerantsev thought it resembled an “unserious version of postmodernism.” He noticed that as the Kremlin consolidated its control over media, it drove messages which were aimed not at motivating people to support the government but at demotivating them in order to make them feel helpless. “When you’re surrounded by conspiracy theories, you feel you can’t change anything, and there’s nothing to guide you,” he said. “The metanarrative is that there is no alternative to Putin.” 

In this way, troll epistemology could achieve something rather like censorship, only perhaps better, and certainly easier. Suppose, instead of banning unwelcome ideas, you swamp and swarm them? In a landmark 2017 paper called “Is the First Amendment Obsolete?” the legal scholar Tim Wu argued that traditional censorship assumed that information and access to audiences were scarce and could be blockaded or bottlenecked. In the digital era, however, information (good and bad) is abundant; attention is what is scarce. So instead of blockading information, why not blockade attention? If you flood the zone with distractions and deceptions and just plain garbage, people’s attention would be diverted and exhausted and overwhelmed. 

To demoralization, disorientation, and de facto censorship, one might add a further virtue of disinformation, from the point of view of the authoritarian or kleptocrat. Recall conformity bias: we conform our beliefs to the beliefs of others in our social environment. By swarming social media platforms and using software to impersonate masses of people, trolls can spoof our consensus detectors to create the impression that some marginal belief held by practically no one is broadly shared. 

The point is not that the public is gullible and always falls for spoofing, trolling, and disinformation. The point is that by fouling and defrauding the information environment, troll epistemology could make it difficult to distinguish fact from fiction, to distinguish experts from imposters, to know the provenance of information, to assess what others do and do not believe, to know whom (or what) one is interacting with, and to orient yourself within the information environment. 

Thus, when they succeed, trolls and their sponsors achieve something like the powers of Plato’s invisibility ring, lying with impunity, mocking and marauding and harassing at will. 

Reality Pushes Back

Cause for alarm, yes. Cause for fatalism—no. There are many reasons not to assume that troll epistemology will prevail, and many reasons to hope it will fail. The reality-based community has its share of vulnerabilities, but troll epistemology has vulnerabilities of its own. It is, again, entirely parasitic and destructive; its inability to do anything constructive limits its sustainability and appeal. It relies on the information networks it targets to spread and amplify falsehoods, but those networks tend to wise up. It can coordinate its attacks but has little control over the demons it lets loose. It is not good at building durable institutions, because its norms are sociopathic. It is not good at maintaining its own situational awareness, because, as Thomas Rid notes, propagandists tend to become enmeshed in their own lies and half-truths.

Reprinted with permission from The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth by Jonathan Rauch published by Brookings Institution Press, © 2021 by Jonathan Rauch.

Literature for Humanity

“Based on our small group discussion last week,” I heard a colleague say once, “I started to think a lot about the black student I have in my fifth period. He probably has been so miserable. We haven’t read any black authors in the last quarter. And probably,” she continued, shaking her head, gripped by genuine guilt, “he has just been sitting at his desk feeling totally removed and unwelcome.” In the school where I worked before coming to grad school, and in many other wealthy, well-intentioned, private high schools in the area, comments like this are frequently heard. Progressive education has created such an extreme position that it no longer detects the absurdity—the offense—in a statement like the one made by my colleague. At this point, there is nothing new in what she said, nor anything new in what I have to say about it, yet both will seem radical to those who feel the opposite.  

When I began to write this for a presentation I gave at the Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs, I worried that it may be too obvious. So I ran it by a few friends. “What’s your topic?” another English teacher asked me. “The tendency in progressive education to think that students in the English classroom can only really, truly relate to authors of their own race, and the idea that such thinking is reductive to both the students and the author,” I told her. “Wait… do people actually think that?” She looked at me, disbelieving. “I mean I’m sure there are educators saying it’s important for students to see themselves reflected in the writers they read, but to really think there is a one-to-one correspondence about meaningful reading between race of student and race of author? Who is arguing that?” Okay, I thought. Maybe it is worth discussing.

We have lost sight of that middle ground of a deeply woven and textured integration.

Do people actually think that students, both minority and majority, can only relate personally when the author shares their skin color? Yes, some people do. Some of them are teachers, department heads, or directors of diversity programming. I heard this very sentiment expressed and worried over so many times during my work in a small private high school in D.C. I heard it from my colleague when she fretted, so upset with herself, that she hadn’t matched up author race to student race in the last month in her class; I watched nine or ten adults in the group nod along with her. I heard it when a faculty member voiced her utter disdain that people still thought Holden Caulfield, the catcher in the rye himself—that dated, privileged, little white boy—had anything worthwhile to offer anyone in these enlightened times, and certainly to anyone non-white and non-middle class. Such, according to the truly progressive, are the highly limited parameters of meaningful communication from Holden these days. 

But there are many more examples of this kind of reductive perspective that haunt the most forward-thinking of halls, and not only halls of English departments, but halls, as we know, of all kinds and levels of academia everywhere. I was a college counselor for a few years after I was an English teacher, and the extremity of focus on race in those halls, without any ability to step back for a moment and question itself, is perhaps worse there than anywhere else. “Let’s have a separate ​orientation day for students of color,” many colleges (and some high schools) have suggested, and some have implemented. And most commonly heard while perusing stacks of applications: “Well, she’s just a middle-class white girl. What can she really bring?” This is something people really say and really mean; this is something educated adults will give you that sideways look for and even roll their eyes, if you stop to point out that it may be—may ​be—a bit of a preemptive way to judge a person’s life.  

None of this is to say that race cannot be tied to other factors and experiences in a person’s life. It is one part of who we all are. But it is often human nature to swing from one extreme to the other, and we are currently mired in the other extreme. The opposite of externally imposed separation, it seems, is self-imposed separation. We have lost sight of that middle ground of a deeply woven and textured integration. In our well-meaning attempts to find common ground, we have lost it and our way to it. If we are really being honest with ourselves, we have actually moved into an ever-widening quest for separated spaces. We (in the wealthy, private, liberal high schools) are inadvertently teaching our students to make assumptions about everyone based on what they see. “Ok, I know,” I’ve heard students say about each other in between classes, “she’s black and she’s probably had a really hard life.” How heinously demeaning. I don’t need to explain the flagrant blindness in a statement like that, but this is the lesson that students are learning from our best efforts at teaching compassion. They are learning separation. 

If we must assume something prior to knowing a person, why not assume our shared humanity?

If we are going to do “the work”—as I often hear diversity programming called–why not try to teach ourselves to make the safest assumption possible in meeting someone new and thinking first of all: “This person might have so many things in common with me.” Better still: “I know nothing about this person—nothing—until I know them.” But if this is beyond our grasp, let us immediately assume that we share many important commonalities until proven otherwise. This may sound naive, though I’m not sure why. In diversity work, there is much exhortation toward the checking of premises and checking of privilege. Perhaps better would be to actively work our thoughts away from imagined barriers and toward imagined common ground. If we must assume something prior to knowing a person, why not assume our shared humanity? 

In my third year of teaching, I worked at a very small high school in Washington, D.C., with a disproportionately large number of international students. Out of about 50 students in the high school, about 10 were from countries outside the U.S., and almost all of those were in my Introduction to Literature class that year. This included two boys from Tajikistan and two girls and a boy from Vietnam—all five of whom had very recently come to the U.S. and were, at that point, barely speaking English. They were taking an ESL (English as a Second Language) class in conjunction with my Intro to Lit. The rest of the class was a racially diverse group of American students, including black and Hispanic, some from D.C. with parents from D.C., some first-generation students with parents from Eritrea. The global influence of places far and wide in that tiny room was astonishing. We read Romeo and Juliet​ and parts of The Odyssey​​, which the kids took in stride (and even asked if there was a toy pig somewhere, for use in their performance of the latter). But when we arrived at Catcher in the Rye​, there was absolute magic.

 Something timeless cannot be dated.

I have never seen a room of high school students so transfixed every day by the alchemy taking place in the pages. You could almost see their hearts on their faces. They had never read a book quite like this—of course no one will ever read a book quite like this—that spoke to their very own experience of the world in that moment in such a personal way. (And to those who would say Catcher​ is dated—I would suggest another good, hard look past the slang and into the miracles of relationship, symbols, and salvation that Salinger is pulling off. Something timeless cannot be dated.) Every day, these students came in with stunning insights and sincere concern for Holden, ready to digest what was a very difficult English text for some of them at that point, and to make something beautiful together out of it. I was the fortunate witness of a masterful literary resonance at work on these readers, even when they did not yet understand its mechanisms of operation. 

The insights abounded. One student, black and at the school on financial aid (as far away as possible from the white privilege of Holden, some would have us believe) found a deep connection with the book. He said thoughtfully that Holden could have fared better if he had some form of art to carry him through adolescence. This student was a break dancer, and it was dancing, he said, that was carrying him and at least one kind of innocence intact from childhood to adulthood. On another day, the boy from Vietnam wrote a letter to Holden, offering to be the kind of friend for the protagonist that Holden had been for him. And when we reached Salinger’s poignantly ironic closing, warning to never “tell anybody anything; if you do, you’ll start missing everybody,” the boy from Tajikistan, an immediately popular student and a devout Muslim, walked into class and threw his book on the desk. “Ms. Rozenman,” he said, in a still thick accent, “I need your help. I started crying when I read the last sentence, but I don’t know why. It made me cry and I need you to explain me why.”  That has to be my favorite reaction to a piece of literature, ever.

It was incredibly moving to be with that class and watch firsthand the power of literature do what it is meant to do, transforming all kinds of boundaries, breaking down all kinds of imagined walls. At the end of the year, one of the girls from Vietnam asked me if there were any other books anywhere “like Catcher in the Rye​​?” That question led me to create the Coming of Age Lit class I taught the next year, because that’s what they were really asking for: books about the excruciating, exquisite movement of growing up, as human beings tend to do. 

A similar thing happened the next year, in a World Lit course at the same school. This time the class was nine girls: one white and eight black. About half were from D.C.; the other half from or with parents from Ethiopia or Eritrea. We read many works in that class, including Siddhartha, Things Fall Apart​​, Cry, the Beloved Country​​, short stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and a too-brief unit on Daoism. But something strange happened. Of all the stories we read that year, their collective favorite by far was All Quiet on the Western Front​​. Yes, the World War I novel written from the perspective of a young German soldier. My favorite memory from that class was Destinee literally bouncing in each day, eager to talk about Paul. “I’m worried about Paul,” she’d sometimes say on her way out, thinking about the homework ahead. “I don’t know what’s coming, and I’m not sure he can handle it!” There was, again, something in that delicate and still fresh writing that allowed them to trade worlds with each other. As the girls discussed Paul every day like a friend, they poured themselves into themes of adolescence enjoyed and lost, the horrors of war, the bonds of and gulfs between family and friends. They asked me to interview my grandfather, a World War II vet, over winter break and bring back stories.

Let me be clear: none of the gratification in this was because the students were black and the protagonist (and author) were white. The fact did not occur to me then. Any teacher who felt the level of personal engagement with a text that Destinee was bringing to that class every day would have been thrilled. It was only later, after hearing the increasingly radical progressive—and separatist—theories in the humanities that these experiences began to replay themselves in my mind in this light. 

This is what literature is; this is exactly what literature is for. To speak to all of us humans, across time, across place, across race, across poverty and wealth, across religion.

Many more such examples come to mind. In my first year of teaching at a large public school in Fairfax County, my predominantly white tenth-grade class read many works, from Shakespeare to Dickens. But they were awed by Achebe. Things Fall Apart​ proved a quietly compelling, a moving and unsettling experience for them. Felix, a white, actively Christian student who had the privilege of homeschooling before coming to the school to play baseball, sat hushed at the end of Things Fall Apart​. “What else did Achebe write?” He asked me. “I mean you don’t… you don’t write this”—waving his book up and down in a gesture that said “HOW DID THE PIECES OF THIS DO THIS TO ME”—“you don’t write Things Fall Apart​ and then not write anything else, right?” His enchantment proved a love with staying power. His comparisons the rest of the year came back against the measure of Achebe’s masterpiece. When we arrived at Merchant ofVenice​, Felix nodded appreciatively but allowed only: “I mean, it’s no Things Fall Apart​​.”  

It still seems strange that I would need to use any of these as examples to prove something. It would be strange if any of these moments were not the case. This is what literature is; this is exactly what literature is for. To speak to all of us humans, across time, across place, across race, across poverty and wealth, across religion. There is nothing earth-shattering in what I am saying. But I wish I could say this to my colleague who did a disservice to her student in thinking he could not relate to white authors, to non-minority authors. I wish I could say it to the Multicultural Coordinator at that school, who required that discussion in the first place. I wish I could say it without the obvious caveat: this is not to say, of course, that authors of all races don’t need to be represented in curriculum—they do—and that their representation can be meaningful both for minority and majority students. It is quite simply a reminder against extremes, and one particular extreme that is doing much more damage than healing. I was one of a handful of Jewish students in my two thousand-student public high school. I never once felt put out or unwelcome by, or even ever paused to think about, the near total lack of Jewish authors in our curriculum. 

Why should I? Why even consider that, when every human story we read was so good? In fact, I much preferred Toni Morrison to Saul Bellow (sorry, Mr. Bellow). And I would have been horrified if someone had suggested a “separate orientation day for Jews.” It is a favorite slogan of diversity work to “speak your truth,” as we should all do, and we may be, as George Orwell put it, “sunk to such a depth that restatement of the obvious is our first duty.” I hope that what I leave you with is a deeply felt, and not naive, call to first and always look to find our shared, foundational experiences and past our differences, real or imagined; an invitation to discuss and ponder further; and a love letter to the ways that literature helps us do all of this, to the way it makes even difficult things joyful in their shared experience. If we call it literature, then it is for human beings—every single one of us.

Jordi Rozenman recently earned a master’s degree from St. John’s College in their Great Books curriculum, and is currently looking forward to receiving her yoga teacher certification. She is deeply grateful to the students and texts that informed this essay, which was first presented at the national conference of the Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs. Find more of her work at Reach and Reason.

Living in an Endless Mirage

In 1925, the Eiffel Tower was a great topic of conversation among the Parisians. The structure was falling into disrepair, and the city found it excessively expensive to maintain. The newspapers published endless columns about this, mobilizing public opinion to the idea that the city needed to dispense of it. Amidst the debate, the government decided to sell the structure as scrap, and assigned the Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs, Victor Lustig, the task of selecting the dealer to whom to transfer the ownership of the Tower. 

Lustig invited a small group of scrap metal dealers who had the reputation of being the most honest businessmen in the city to a confidential meeting. He conveyed that the upkeep of the Tower was a huge burden to the City Exchequer, and the government wished to sell it as scrap. The businessmen felt a bit uneasy about a city landmark going down so unceremoniously, but they were satisfied by the assurance that the Eiffel Tower, howsoever popular, wasn’t as artistically iconic as the city’s other great monuments, such as the Gothic Cathedrals and the Arc de Triomphe. 

How could you ever know if a story about world affairs is Truth, Half-Truth, or a plain Lie?

Finally, an ambitious businessman, Andre Poisson, who had shown the keenest interest in purchasing the monument, was shortlisted for the final deal. M. Poisson, amidst feelings of acute “post-purchase dissonance”–the jittery feeling we experience while making a big purchase—walked into Lustig’s office to sign the final deal. As the closing meeting began, the Deputy Director General spoke of the hardships in his life as a government servant and the challenges he had to undergo to make ends meet. Poisson was too familiar with such conversations. His years of doing business with the government alerted him that Lustig was hinting at a bribe. 

Not one to miss out on this opportunity, he greased Lustig’s palms sufficiently and walked away with the deal in his pocket. Such was the state of corruption in the French government in the early 20th century. 

So, what happened to the Eiffel Tower? The story recounted here is not about corruption in the French government. Lustig was not the Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs. Victor Lustig is considered the biggest conman in history, and he has the unique distinction of having sold the Eiffel Tower, not once, but twice! 

This story is no different than typical stories we read in newspapers, magazines, or journals. We do not always read with suspicion. We do not verify the truth of everything we read. We are not always expecting deception nor are we guarding against it. How many of your beliefs, philosophies, ideologies, and world views are unwittingly shaped by unsuspecting lies and half-truths? 

With the truth of Lustig’s story known, it is now possible to determine which events in the story transpired naturally, and which of them he engineered. In the narration of the whole event, there isn’t any lie regarding the events that transpired. However, the narration does have untold truths about Lustig’s intentions. For example, Victor Lustig “posed” as Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs to the group of scrap-dealers in his “confidential” meeting, but the meeting itself actually happened. 

That the Government wished to sell away the structure was a similar instance of manipulation, but that’s exactly what Lustig communicated to the invited group. 

As a matter of fact, that these businessmen were short-listed for their “honest” background was the biggest of the lies Lustig told them–a familiar maneuver of using “flattery” so that individuals drop their defenses. 

What tops it all is how Lustig acted like a “corrupt government official.” As Poisson got jittery about the expenses involved, with no way to validate the veracity of the deal, his anxiety caused him to doubt Lustig’s credentials and the authenticity of the deal. Lustig, the best conman in the world, sensed it instantly. An “ordinary” conman would have tried convincing Poisson about the authenticity of the deal and produced evidence. Not him. He was the master craftsman of his art. The best in the world. He spoke about the difficulties of his life as a government servant, leading Poisson to conclude that he was just a corrupt government official hinting at an underhand deal. 

Identifying Lustig as a corrupt official also melted away Poisson’s doubts about the authenticity of the deal, and he signed the contract instantly. Retrospection is wise, but … with the right context in place, it is easier to read through a story and unearth the truths and the lies. 

We dwell in a world where it is impossible to distinguish between the real and the illusory, the authentic and the fake, the Truth and the Lie.

Realizing the relative ease with which deception might enter into our experiences, we find ourselves confronted with a number of insistent questions: What could you do when you do not have such context available? How could you prevent yourself from being influenced? How could you ever know if a story about world affairs is Truth, Half-Truth, or a plain Lie? How could you ever know if a story was written to inform you, entertain you, or simply manipulate you? In how many areas of your life are you the unsuspecting scrap dealers of Paris or a self-congratulatory Poisson, being led, manipulated, and maneuvered by a Victor Lustig all the way to his dangerous, lethal trap? How could you figure all that out? 

In the world of mythologies, “Evil” had been ascribed powers of creating magical illusions. From golden deer to stunningly pretty damsels who could seduce kings at the snap of their fingers only to display their claws and fangs at the most opportune moments, the world of demons and monsters was full of mirages. Everything that was too beautiful was likely an illusion created to ensnare, trap, and destroy. How would life in that reality be? How would it be to go about living with an eternal anxiety about whether one is engaging with something real or a magically created prop? 

We do not need to look that far to experience it. We are living in such a world right now. We dwell in a world where it is impossible to distinguish between the real and the illusory, the authentic and the fake, the Truth and the Lie. In this illusory world, Truth and Lies co-exist like identical twins, having identical faces, wearing identical costumes and accessories, looking absolutely inseparable and indistinguishable. In fact, the Lies are often dressed up to look more attractive than the Truth, and generate more affection, attention, and acceptance than the Truth. This is the hideous, dark world of Propaganda. 

Propaganda begins when the lines between the Truth and the Lies are blurred.

No conman walks around with his intentions written all over his face. The more successful a conman is, the more he knows the art of being perceived as the “Chosen” one. The lesser-known artists of deception use the crude means of coaxing, convincing, persuading, etc. as their tools of manipulation. The fine artists of deception function differently. They morph into figures and shapes that are stunningly authentic and real. They fit amongst us with ease, and hide behind humanitarian, kind, and compassionate faces. It’s only in Bollywood movies or Shakespearean dramas that the villain looks ugly, weird, and scary, and proudly proclaims–“I am a Bad Man.” In the real world, the villain is the most virtuous, most noble, and most humane, and it’s no surprise he is able to fool others so easily. 

All propaganda is designed to sneak through our radar. It is deliberately and masterfully crafted to be non-recognizable from the Truth. That’s what makes this world such a dangerous place. Propaganda begins when the lines between the Truth and the Lies are blurred. 

Propaganda may take a variety of shapes and forms: An appeal to higher, nobler human emotions, stimulation to deep intellectual thought, or the need for entertainment, humour, art, and creativity. A lot of propaganda is based on appeals to our sense of equality, liberty, humanity, kindness, compassion, non-discrimination, etc. A master propagandist could get an entire nation and the entire globe to discuss, debate, and argue humanitarian issues, cleverly planted as red herrings. While the world is busy debating which lives matter and which do not, those orchestrating the show conveniently fill themselves up with multiple helpings of deception. 

Jokes are another effective tool of propaganda. Humor melts away all defense and unites us with those who make us laugh. It’s difficult to laugh together and think differently. It starts with finding it harmless to laugh at a joke, even one that is purported to be offensive. “After all, it’s only a joke.” As we keep encountering such jokes, the barriers to laugh at them keep dropping, until the day we find ourselves speaking the language of the joke. 

It’s nearly impossible to figure out whether an appeal to higher values, an emotional touch, an intellectual analysis, or a hilarious joke is a natural, authentic expression or a plant designed to manipulate us into believing, saying, and doing what the propagandists want us to believe, say, and do. How do we identify propaganda? How can we stop being sold out to propaganda? 

What’s the way out for surviving in a world where Truth and Lies are inseparable?

If, on Wikipedia or aother handy reference, you read the story of Victor Lustig selling the Eiffel Tower and compare that with the opening story and context in this article, you would know first-hand the difference between the structure of Truth and a Lie-Masquerading-As-Truth. The narration here is a perfect example of how well-crafted Lies sneak into our world, silently and subtly, manipulating us into believing and accepting them. Many of our thoughts, ideas, emotions, opinions, ideologies, and world views of which we are most proud have been subtly and silently implanted by master propagandists.

Propaganda might be easier to deal with if it were loud and explicit. It being subtle, silent, and sly makes it unassailably dangerous. In a world that is increasingly “woke,” being “awake” is not merely an option, but a clarion call to protect our existence. 

Here we have identified the world in which we live as a grand illusion, where it is nearly impossible to distinguish between Truths, Half-Truths, and Lies. By its very nature, Propaganda is designed to make a Lie look, sound, and feel identical to the Truth, appear more authentic than authenticity, and more real than reality. Like the Eiffel Tower story, we rarely get to know if we are looking at a Truth or a Lie-Masquerading-As-Truth. To defeat this deception, we must cultivate the skills to distinguish Truth from Lies and go a step further by exposing the Lies for all to see. This begs a question that must be considered: What’s the way out for surviving in a world where Truth and Lies are inseparable? 

Navin Sinha is a Computer Science researcher. His work in Algorithms and Artificial Intelligence coupled with his exploration of Indian Spirituality provided first-hand experience into the ways humans function, from the cognitive to meta-cognitive level. His company, ReInvent, examines how people think, learn, and solve problems. Deeply passionate about the world and how it is being shaped through propaganda and ignorance rather than through truth and wisdom, Navin has endeavored to explore and share the ways our minds respond to what we perceive. His blog series “Behind Pretty Masks” has been widely acknowledged for covering topics with candor and a commitment to truth.

Wisdom in the Age of Chaos

The Unbroken Thread: Discovering the Wisdom of Tradition in an Age of Chaos
by Sohrab Ahmari 

The question “What is truth?” could certainly be considered a question of our modern age. Never in human history has information been more readily available, literally at our fingertips, on any topic imaginable. All the collected knowledge of humanity can be held in the palms of our hands, viewed with a swipe of a finger. However, while information can be accessed from any place in the world at any time of day, every day, it is becoming more and more evident that truth is what eludes us, and in fact, we are unable to agree on what truth is.

In his new book The Unbroken Thread: Discovering the Wisdom of Tradition in an Age of Chaos (Convergent Books, 2021), Sohrab Ahmari considers truth through the lens of tradition, and he holds it up as a counterpoint to truth as defined and understood in today’s cultural context. Ahmari writes:

In the realm of tradition, truth is something that precedes individual human beings, something we inherit and must hand down, in turn. We can discover truth and reason about it, to be sure, but we can’t change it. In the realm of progress, however, truth is what individuals or groups can articulate or build on their own, through scientific inquiry and their acts in history. Truth thus becomes an ongoing project, a malleable thing. In our realm of progress, tradition is viewed as not only antiquated and inefficient, but as an impediment to achievement. (p. 19)

Ahmari approaches this examination between truth that produces tradition and progress that creates truth as a challenge to the modern world view. “But what if that confidence of the modern world is an illusion?” Ahmari asks. Have the truths that we moderns designed and discerned addressed any of the “fundamental human dilemmas” as he identifies in his book, that humans have encountered through the ages and that we still experience today?

The Unbroken Thread is Ahmari’s effort to examine this question, both broadly and deeply, and he makes a consistently compelling and often extraordinarily moving case in providing his commentary and observations. There are answers that the reader may understand from the stories within the pages, but as Ahmari admits, it is not his intent to provide answers so much as it is to “explore the possibility that our contemporary philosophy might be wrong in crucial respects—that we may have too hastily thrown away the insights of traditional thought and too eagerly encouraged the desire for total human mastery” (p. 21).

philosophers and theologians have examined these questions for hundreds of years, yet the modern culture has thrown away their answers and all of the thinking behind them.

It is this exploration that is Ahmari’s gift to the reader, and it does not require getting far into the book to see that the treasures of antiquity are not the artifacts recovered in an Indiana Jones-style adventure. Rather, they are the stories that people pass down from one generation to the next; stories of kindness and compassion so transcendent that they can only have come from a source before us and greater than us. It may be that we can only hope to maintain and replicate the behaviors and actions from these stories through tradition, while the chaos of the modern age obscures and distracts from that realization.

The structural framework of the book provides a narrative of how some of our important traditions originated or came to us. While Ahmari is a practicing Catholic, he doesn’t limit his discussion of traditions to those stemming from Catholicism; he includes the stories from Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Confucians, and feminists in order to touch upon the fullness of humanity. The book is divided into two main sections: “Part I: The Things of God” and “Part II: The Things of Humankind.” In each section Ahmari asks six enduring questions (divided as chapters) that he feels modern culture should be able to answer, if its method of building or divining truth is sufficient and effective. The questions are about “the nature and scope of reason; our responsibility to the past and the future; how and what we worship; and how we relate to each other, to our bodies, and to suffering and death” (p. 20). One of the key points that Ahmari makes in his introduction is that philosophers and theologians have examined these questions for hundreds of years, yet the modern culture has thrown away their answers and all of the thinking behind them because we have “outgrown or become too sophisticated” for that kind of thinking, as though the value of the fruits of the mind and spirit are subject to an expiration date.

The questions themselves are thought-provoking, and I realized upon reading the table of contents that I have had both internal and external debates about every one of these questions over the course of my life. Such is the relevance of the content. Some of the questions are, “Is God Reasonable?” “Can You Be Spiritual without Being Religious?” and “What is Freedom For?” One can easily imagine chewing over these topics in a variety of social or academic contexts, and even during times of private meditation. For some people in certain situations deliberating over them can have a profound impact, and that is enough to justify the investment of time in reading.

Every question-as-chapter is structured similarly. Ahmari will begin with a short personal anecdote about his life or current situation, for example talking about his childhood in Iran or an interesting interaction with his son, Max. (Readers, by the way, owe a debt of gratitude to Ahmari’s son, as Max was largely the impetus behind the writing of the book.) Next, Ahmari will tell the deeper story that provides insight into the role of tradition as it pertains to the central question of the chapter. The story itself revolves around a historical figure (ancient or recent), and a significantly defining time in that person’s life. Some of the people whose stories Ahmari recounts are C.S. Lewis, Thomas Aquinas, Victor and Edith Turner, Qui Kong (Confucius), and Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

The delight of Ahmari’s prose is that it is both sharply analytical in a way that both reveals underlying foundations and subtly insightful in a way that yields satisfyingly epiphanous moments of clarity. Throughout, Ahmari calls upon Christian scripture or the seminal texts from non-Christian cultures to demonstrate or exemplify the unbroken thread of a modern lesson, practice, or pearl of wisdom that ties back to some long-held yet possibly forgotten, unappreciated, or now-abandoned tradition. Not unexpectedly, Ahmari’s book covers a fair amount of ground from a historical perspective, and that contributes to the understanding of how time and tradition are intertwined, and how modernity does not negate tradition simply on the basis of its chronological position on the timeline. New thinking does not guarantee the best thinking when it comes to the deeper philosophical and theological questions.

In many ways, The Unbroken Thread is a book of paradoxes, with the central paradox being that the traditions of structure and restraint are the very keys to freedom and growth for the human experience in both body and spirit. In his introduction, Ahmari writes of Maximilian Kolbe, a Catholic Priest from Poland. In laying the foundation for Kolbe’s story, Ahmari presents some of the paradoxes in accepting tradition:

The message of tradition runs counter to “the fundamental credo of a utilitarian society.” Why? Because, Soloveitchik taught, traditional belief “speaks of defeat instead of success, of accepting a higher will instead of commanding, of giving instead of conquering, of retreating instead of advancing.” The whole of the Psalms can be summed up as finding joyous liberation in binding oneself to the Mosaic law, which the psalmist treasures as a guide to the inner structure of the cosmos. Jesus’s entire teaching, meanwhile, might be encapsulated in his Gethsemane prayer, recorded in all three of the Synoptics: “Not what I will, but what you will.” (p. 17)

Kolbe’s story illustrates perhaps the most dramatic paradox, and one that clearly lies beyond the realm of human experience and understanding without acknowledging something greater than ourselves. Maximillian Kolbe was alive during World War II, and he was staunchly and outspokenly anti-Nazi—publishing and broadcasting anti-Nazi literature and radio messages. He took further action by sheltering between 1,500 and 2,000 Jews in the monastery until the Gestapo arrested him. They sent him to Auschwitz, where Kolbe was to finish out his life.

However, once in Auschwitz, Kolbe did not cease his life’s work. He continued ministering to the prisoners at the camp, urging them not to give into hatred. He even gave alms to the poor—those poor being the other prisoners and those alms coming from his own rations. Kolbe’s story comes to an end with a prison escape in which he did not participate.

Karl Fritzsch, the deputy commandant at Auschwitz, would carry out the punishment for the prisoner who escaped, which was to select 10 men to die of starvation. When the men were selected, one of the condemned cried out that he had a wife and children. Kolbe volunteered to take the other man’s place, and Fritzsch accepted the exchange.

After two weeks with no food or water, six of the 10 men were dead, three were unconscious, and only Kolbe remained awake and alert. He said a prayer and offered his arm as the camp guard administered the injection to complete the execution.

Here is where Ahmari writes with great awe at the paradox of Kolbe’s sacrifice:

What gripped me the most, what I couldn’t get out of my head once I learned about Kolbe, was how his sacrifice represented a strange yet perfect form of freedom. An ordinary man, once Fritzsch had passed over him in the line, might be stunned by his luck and gobble up the night’s rations all the more eagerly, knowing how close he had come to death. Kolbe, however, climbed the very summit of human freedom. He climbed it—and this is the key to his story, I think—by binding himself to the Cross, by denying and overcoming, with intense spiritual resolve, his natural instinct to survive. His apparent surrender became his triumph. And nailed to the Cross, he told his captors, in effect: I’m freer than you. In that time and place of radical evil, in that pitch-black void of inhumanity, Kolbe asserted his moral freedom and radiated what it means to be fully human.

This form of freedom is at odds with the account of freedom that prevails in the West today. Plenty of people still carry out great acts of sacrifice, to be sure. Witness the heroism of physicians, nurses, and other front-line health workers in response to the novel-coronavirus pandemic. But the animating logic of the contemporary West, the intellectual thrust of our age, if taken to its logical end, renders the actions of a Kolbe insensible. (pp. 7-8)

Refining his thoughts inspired by the story of Kolbe’s sacrifice, Ahmari touches upon a way of thinking that cannot make sense (“renders the actions of a Kolbe insensible”) to a people or a culture that does not accept the existence of a power or authority greater than ourselves, responsible for our existence and inviting us to understand and accept that death is not the greatest thing to be feared and the end of all stories. Ahmari observes, “If sacrificial love and freedom persist today, they do so in spite of, and no thanks to, our reigning worldview. We have abandoned Kolbe’s brand of freedom—freedom rooted in self-surrender, sustained by the authority of tradition and religion—in favor of one that glories in the individual will.”

Admittedly, this is not an easy message to hear and truly comprehend. Modern culture plays lip service to concepts such as sacrifice and freedom, but in discarding tradition so easily (and in some cases so completely), it is difficult to comprehend how a few decades or maybe a century or so of free-spirited self-exploration can supplant millennia of deep thought, supplication, and experience shared over generations.At the end of the book, Ahmari closes with a brief letter to his son, Maximilian. He offers up advice for his son, and he closes with the sentence, “Saint Maximilian will be there for you, too.”

After reading Ahmari’s book, I am able to take comfort in the fact that Saint Maximilian is here for me, too, as I maintain my own unbroken thread to the traditions of those who came before.

Stop the Hate


Harmony of the Soul

Harmony is not merely auditory. It can take many forms: harmony within your soul, harmony of nature, and even the harmony of a relationship. 

“The Corner Stone” by Bob Marley (1974) was inspired by his only attempt to meet his father, which was refused. That could have devastated Marley, but he looked deep within himself and found inspiration in Psalm 118. “The Corner Stone” was the result.

Marley believed he was that Cornerstone. We all are. We will all be rejected, dejected, and cast aside at some point. These moments of vulnerability often sway even the most faithful among us.  But when you realize your worth is bestowed upon you by God and put your faith into practice through commitment or song, that creates harmony of the soul. 

Leonard Cohen’s “Come Healing” (2012) accentuates the desire for balance and harmony of the mind, body, and spirit through penitence. Jewish commentaries also declare one must ask for forgiveness before praying to God. The first step is to “come” forward, to move closer to God. First you must ask; only then will the healing and harmony begin. 

Marley and Cohen’s songs describe concepts through which spiritual harmony can be achieved. Both concepts begin with an action, which leads to harmonious results. Marley, through overcoming a personal struggle and bonding with his self and his faith; Cohen, through penitence and a strengthening of his relationship with God. Both men expressed their process through song, knowing that prayers will be accepted and answered—the most profound harmony of all.

I Have a Dream

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King delivered this Iconic speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28th, 1963, as part of the March on Washington. Largely as a result, the Civil Rights Act was signed into law in 1964.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. 

One hundred years later the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. 

When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men – yes, black men as well as white men – would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds.

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.

We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.

Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.

There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.

And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, when will you be satisfied? We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.

We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: for whites only. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.

No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our Northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. 

I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning: My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims’ pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that, let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. 

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.

Equity, Equality, & MLK: Interview with Glenn Loury

Glenn C. Loury is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the Merton P. Stoltz Professor of Economics at Brown University. He has been an outspoken neo-liberal intellectual for decades, defending free speech and academic freedom. 

Cancel culture is about a lot of things, but it is substantially about race.

Lisa Schiffren: Let’s jump right in. How are race and cancel culture related?

Glenn Loury: They’re joined at the hip, in my opinion, but it’s not only race. Cancel culture is also the MeToo movement. Cancel culture is if you like the Founding Fathers or Mount Rushmore, you’re in trouble. If you thought Columbus Day should have been Columbus Day instead of Indigenous People’s Day, you’re in trouble. Cancel culture is about a lot of things, but it is substantially about race. 

We have events [Ed. the death of George Floyd] that become the focus of movements. And now they’ve become the stage on which people perform rituals of expiation. The president of Princeton University talked about how racist his institution is. Now, in 2021. It’s madness. All the affirmative action, all of the black studies, all of the recognition of the legitimacy of the claim of African Americans against slavery and Jim Crow. We’ve been doing this for a half century and still presidents of Ivy League institutions have to “fess up” to systemic racism. And everybody knows it’s a fraud. 

LS: Everybody knows that?

Prof. Loury: The professor of physics, the professor of organic chemistry, the person who actually knows something about the French Revolution, because he or she reads French and studied the texts from the 18th and early 19th century. The computer scientist…. No, of course, everybody doesn’t know it’s a fraud. But I’m saying it is a fraud and it doesn’t go down very deeply in the real root of the academy. It would be the tail wagging the dog to have these institutions defined and organized around the petulance and sophomoric tantrum-throwing of all of these kids. It’s the tail wagging the dog. 

I think there’s substance in the university. I think that the great traditions of learning that we’ve inherited, they’re Western traditions, not exclusively, but substantially so, are real things. They’re the achievements of human civilization. I think they will weather the storm, although I don’t exactly see the end of the storm.

LS: What about all those departments of race, or sexual studies, or identity?

What we did in the late 1960s and early 1970s was to lock in an institutional framework in the universities, such that identity in politics ended up driving that process. That was a mistake.

Prof. Loury: These departments are here to stay. I’m sorry to report that. I think it was a mistake, but they’re here to stay. Let me try to defend the position that it was a mistake. The year is 1969, ‘70, ‘71, black power, and the kids are taking over the administration building, and they demand black studies.

So, you create black studies departments. Now, it’s not like there’s nothing to study, there’s a legitimate set of questions. But we all knew, and we always have known that the history department was where history was done, the political science department was where the study of government took place, the economics department stood on the shoulders of generations of reflection about economics. The university has traditions and the canon. The study of Afro-related affairs should have been vetted through the normal channels. Identity in politics should not drive that process. Sadly, what we did in the late 1960s and early 1970s was to lock in an institutional framework in the universities, such that identity in politics ended up driving that process. That was a mistake. 

The Discipline of the Disciplines 

LS: And Critical Race Theory?

Prof. Loury: That’s a slightly different subject. I’m not sure I understand it, but I will speculate. It’s not inconsistent with what I was saying because the discipline of the academic disciplines is what I was trying to drive toward when discussing black studies. You have to submit yourself to the discipline of the disciplines, and you also have to submit yourself to the discipline of your peers in terms of evaluation. The gates get narrower as you ascend the pyramid of human excellence. And when we start talking about MIT and Caltech, we’re talking about the top tier. The narrower the gate, the more each one of us who seeks to pass through knows and is aware of the fact that we’re being judged.

The point of a university education is to expose students to the whole vista of what is available to know about life.

And not everybody is going to be found fit. That’s the nature of the thing – it’s elite. Why is the “identitarian” attraction so powerful? For many, it’s a way of evading the existential angst of confronting one’s own failure in the face of severe competition as you enter into elite venues when nobody knows if they are really on sure footing. 

The point of a university education is to expose students to the whole vista of what is available to know about life. Students don’t know what they’re going to be after they’ve encountered that vista. So rather than doubling down on what they bring to us at 18 years old, to form their identities, we should be encouraging them to shed that and to open themselves to all these possibilities. And we’re not doing that. Affirmative action exacerbates this. 

Summer 2020

LS: Last summer the Black Lives Matter explosion along with the claims of structural racism and white privilege, went from zero to Kamala Harris for president. What happened?

America will be a long time recovering from the summer of 2020 in terms of race relations.

Prof. Loury: God, I’m befuddled by what happened in the summer of 2020, but I’m also chastened by it because this is a deep thing about our country. I mean, there are small points. Where’s Tom Wolf when we need him? George Floyd was buried in a gold casket. There was a caisson. It was a state funeral. George Floyd – I don’t mean to disparage him, but this wasn’t Emmett Till, lynched. 

So, what’s going on? This is theater. “America needs to get its knee off the neck of black people.” Come on, this is preposterous. It’s an absurdity. The Black Lives Matter movement, those riots. America will be a long time recovering from the summer of 2020 in terms of race relations. 

I was deeply disquieted by what happened in the summer. This will bear bitter fruit, in my opinion. 

Mainstream institutions let us down. This is why I objected when the president of my university wrote one of these silly letters mouthing the Black Lives Matter platitudes. I thought, “My God, we’re a university, and we’ve surrendered our reason and our capacity to reflect about subtle moral issues to this… We’ve now joined that movement?” It’s insulting to the intelligence and since these are precious institutions… I speak about universities, but I could be speaking about newsrooms mouthing that riots were “mostly peaceful protests.”

LS: Where did the mobs come from?

They think they’re winning, the racial radicals, the “critical race theory” people. They’re not winning.

Prof. Loury: Opportunity presented itself. I remember the book by Edward C. Banfield, The Unheavenly City. He had a chapter called, “Rioting for Fun and Profit.” He pointed out it’s an opportunity if you’re 18 years old, sitting around talking to your friends and have nothing else to do. I don’t know whether there was something more systematic, I certainly can’t rule it out. It gets into conspiracy theory territory, but I don’t think you could rule it out. But I think real damage was done on the race question. 

There will be a backlash. They think they’re winning, the racial radicals, the “critical race theory” people. They’re not winning. It’s a big country. There are 330 million people. There is a lot that’s going on. It’s fast moving. We’re a nation of immigrants. The Asians and Latinos, everything is changing. 

The Black Middle Class

LS: There’s a very large black middle class, and we don’t hear about them. How are they doing? They seemed to be doing better under Trump, economically. The black middle class cannot possibly support looting and rioting?

The United States has an extremely prosperous, extremely accomplished, large population of people of African descent.

Prof. Loury: Oh, don’t be so sure. That would be a little bit like saying an American Jew couldn’t possibly support the Iran nuclear deal. It seems like it shouldn’t be so, but believe me, it can happen. African Americans are the richest and most powerful people of African descent on the planet. Thirty or 40 million people – billionaires, industry-defining moguls, entertainers, and athletes who set global styles. There are artists and writers. Doctors and lawyers and Indian chiefs. A lot of people who are setting up businesses and so on. The United States has an extremely prosperous, extremely accomplished, large population of people of African descent.

There are problems and there are issues, and some of what affects the lower classes of the Black community creeps across the line. But on the whole, I think, there’s much to celebrate. When Gunnar Myrdal, the Swedish economist came to the U.S. in the middle of the 20th century to write about the American Negro, the typical occupation for a black man was a laborer in manufacturing or on the farm. Most black women who were working were domestic servants of one sort or another. It was a completely different world.

Now there is a tremendous demand for the services of the educated African American middle class. This is the social revolution that gave us Barack and Michelle Obama. And it’s a part of the remarkable story. When you think about it in broader terms, African Americans emerged from slavery just 150 years ago. And this population has become integrated fully, not socially integrated in terms of intermarriage, but still… And of course, there are the issues that everyone talks about in terms of disparities, but come on, we’re citizens of this Republic, we are a part of the warp and woof of America at its center. And in fact, perhaps overrepresented to some degree at its center because gatekeepers and cultural barons want to compensate for the history of exclusion.

So, the African American middle class is profoundly significant in indicating what’s possible to accomplish here in America, notwithstanding the disparities and the gaps. But the politics of it – as far as I can tell, they’re 80 percent behind the woke narratives.

Equity, Equality, + MLK

The weight, the center of gravity, has shifted away from the colorblind ideal – which is a great mistake, it is a historic wrong turn.

LS: When we were younger, it looked like our society was heading toward that Martin Luther King ideal of colorblindness: individual character and action, not race. And then that all seemed to go south.

Prof. Loury: The weight, the center of gravity, has shifted away from the colorblind ideal – which is a great mistake, it is a historic wrong turn. But the turn has been made. I don’t know how we go back. 

What happened was that “equal opportunity” was not enough. The challenge of getting people equipped to actually compete and perform wasn’t met. Equal opportunity was not enough to bring a parity of performance about, quickly enough. And so, the latest version of this is, they play with language. We need George Orwell to protect us from these people. They don’t want to talk about equality anymore, they want to talk about equity. And you know what they’re talking about? They’re talking about covering up the fact that outcomes will not be proportionate because performance is not equal. But we’re not going to judge based on performance, we’re going to judge based on outcomes, and we’re going to jigger such that we get a parity of outcome notwithstanding the fact that we don’t have parity of performance.

The reality of the development question was too daunting. If you go color blind, you have to live with the consequences, like a law firm with a class of new partners that didn’t have any blacks in it. You’d have to live with schools like Stuyvesant [Ed. competitive high school in Manhattan] which, when they admitted a thousand kids, had 15 black kids in it. People don’t want to live with that. They prefer a security blanket of mandated “equity.” And again, I say they’re wrong. 

They think they’ve got a trump card in identity, but it is as if they say, “I can’t compete. I’m not going to be able to cut it on the basis of performance. I demand because of slavery. I demand because of Jim Crow, redlining, micro-aggressions, cultural appropriation. I demand.” This is what goes on in a big newspaper, talking about what’s going to be on the editorial page. People are throwing tantrums and they’re throwing fits. This is a department in a university insisting that they don’t have enough people on the faculty who are this, or that – not based on the books that they’ve written or work they’ve done. They think they’ve got a trump card, but at the end of the day everybody knows it’s a shell game and people are being tolerated, patronized, placated, condescended to. 

The Family + a New Black Movement

LS: When you talk about the development that didn’t occur, I presume you’re talking about the family.

Prof. Loury: I am talking in part about the family because that’s where human development is anchored, and about out of wedlock births and single parent families and multiple paternity. I’m not a sociologist, but there’s just a lot of child abuse, there’s a lot of domestic violence, there’s woundedness and brokenness and it affects kids. Schools can’t do everything. This is a part of it. It’s not the only thing, but it’s a part of it. And transfers of money will not solve all of these problems. Not that I’m necessarily against trying to help people who are poor, but it’s not a panacea. And policy is limited to the extent that you respect privacy and autonomy, and there are places you don’t want the state to enter, to try and govern people’s lives.

We could talk about what you can do about helping people be better parents – about supplementing the experience of early childhood with one kind of intervention or another, about various environmental, nutritional stopgaps. I don’t have a policy agenda, but yes, I would put my finger on child-rearing, on parenting, on the family, on the stability of the environment in early life. And I think the issues for the African American family are significant. 

LS: Is it fixable?

Prof. Loury: It may not be. These are very large forces at work. It’s not necessarily something that can be fixed by us, meaning the entire national community. It may require a movement of us, within the black community, a mobilization that would have to be cultural and would have to be driven by an inspirational articulation of a sense of black identity. This cuts against colorblindness, so it starts to get complicated. Call it “cultural reform,” which entails changing bedrock patterns, expectations, habits, and customs within a community, such as “How do you behave inside the context of marriage?” or “Do you enter into it?” Changing that single childbearing practice and interactions between men and women.

These are very intimate things. And to mobilize on that perhaps might draw on positive black identity. I’d say, “Our ancestors didn’t bring us this far in order for us to let them down by…” This kind of talk. And that’s very sectarian. It’s very thick with groupness. And so, on the one hand, from the civic point of view, I want the nation to be a nation of laws in which people are getting the equal protection irrespective of their identity. But if I have a cultural impediment and I want to do something about it, I need to mobilize people and to draw them into the church basement. I want to write the sermon. 

Look at hip hop, which is often musical genius, but it’s also not a part of the restoring the black family program…

I want a movement for this, so that I think about my identity differently. I want a movement where people start saying how they want to live, and then start imposing those expectations on their peers. “You are not in good standing within our community if…” And this would have to have its effects in Hollywood, in popular culture; it would have to have its effect in the academy.

Myron Magnet first made this argument in The Dream and the Nightmare. He wrote something like, “America caught a cold in the ‘60s with sex, drugs, and rock and roll, throwing over everything. And the poor, the blacks at the bottom, they got pneumonia.” Because once you threw away all these guardrails and people didn’t have any resources, it was going to be a nightmare – and it has been a nightmare. That’s certainly a part of the problem, I think, that the larger culture has become so libertine. Black identity, all you have to do is look at hip hop, which is often musical genius, but it’s also not a part of the restoring the black family program that I was giving voice to a moment ago. 

LS: What comes next? Give me something optimistic, or is there nothing?

Prof. Loury: The last thing I put up in my newsletter was that I’m in complete despair. And I feel like I’m just tilting at windmills and it makes me think, “This is not what you want to do if you’ve only got a limited amount of time. Try to find some pragmatic way.” 

So, I am thinking concretely about prison reform. And I am teaching a class, with 20 very eager Brown undergraduates, who are furious at how stifling things are. We are reading Plato and John Stuart Mill, and we are all trying to think about the big questions. 

Lisa Schiffren is political editor of White Rose Magazine.

Why Martin Luther King Jr Stood With Israel

In Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. King used the analogy of Hitler’s persecution of the Jewish people to explain his willingness to disobey unjust laws. In his analogy, he also revealed his empathy for the Jewish people and his assurance that he would have tended to their plight.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.

It was not only the Holocaust but the historic persecution of the Jewish people around the world that dictated the need for a sovereign Jewish State. Dr. King knew this as well as anyone. His statement, “we must stand with all of our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity,” spoke to an active role in Israel’s safety. From where did this brothers-in-arms mentality come? I submit it was a quintessential blending of Christian Zionism and social activism. Just as Dr. King applauded Rabbi Heschel for “refusing to remain silent behind the safe security of stained glass windows,” so was he unwilling to remain silent while Israel and the Jewish people were being physically attacked, politically isolated, and morally vilified.  

So significant and effective was Dr. King’s support of Israel, that Israel’s enemies took note and lamented it. In 1993, Edward Said, Palestinian American Professor and anti-Israel activist, stated: 

With the emergence of the civil rights movement in the middle ’60s – and particularly in ’66-’67 – I was very soon turned off by Martin Luther King, who revealed himself to be a tremendous Zionist, and who always used to speak very warmly in support of Israel, particularly in ’67, after the war.

In my research, I came across an article written by history professor and author Gil Troy. In the piece, Professor Troy mentioned Bayard Rustin and an organization called BASIC (Black Americans to Support Israel Committee). Bayard Rustin was a civil rights warrior and a close friend and colleague of Dr. King. Mr. Rustin was also Dr. King’s coach in non-violent protests inspired by Gandhi. Continuing Dr. King’s pro-Israel, pro-peace legacy after his death, his associates, Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph, formed BASIC to galvanize Black American solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people. 

Until reading Gil Troy’s article, I had never heard of BASIC. The discovery was a very emotional experience for me. I was personally relieved to learn that amid the exploitation of the Black struggle for justice and the international condemnation of Israel, many Black Americans defended their heritage and stood by their Jewish brothers. They refused to forget the shared legacy of oppression and the need to band together when attacked. Though I was heartened to learn of post-Dr. King efforts like BASIC, I was also disappointed that this information was not common knowledge, especially with the global rise of antisemitism disguised as justice

Dr. King was a doctor of biblical theology and pastor of a Baptist church. He honed his great oratory skill within the Black Church framework, he loved gospel music and his favorite singer was the incomparable Mahalia Jackson. Born and raised in the southern, Black Baptist ethic, Dr. King understood the spiritual significance of Israel, the Jewish people, and biblical Zionism. Yet, we have no record of him making a public case for biblical Zionism or arguing the validity of the State of Israel based on biblical history.  

One can only surmise his reasons. Perhaps Dr. King was too wise to argue spiritual matters with those who did not share a Christian worldview. Perhaps he saw no need to preach Israel’s biblical rights to the Land when a non-religious case could be made just as effectively. Perhaps an Israel solidarity built on a Christian biblical and spiritual tradition of the Black Church had morphed into an intellectually articulated case for the Jewish State. Whatever his reasons for not quoting the Bible in his defense of Israel’s right to exist, his model is once again prophetically instructive, for there are two entirely different, yet related arguments that the Church must make for Israel—the biblical and the moral. 

Israel has the right to live in peace with its Arab neighbors. Likewise, the Arab Palestinian people have the right to live free of oppression and dictatorial rule. Legitimate criticism of any government is the sign of a healthy democracy—if it is a democracy. Israel is a democracy. Gaza and the Palestinian Authority (also known as the West Bank) are ruled by leaders responsible for consistent human rights violations. Honor killings, torture, suicide bomber training for children, and religious persecution all exist in the Palestinian territories. On May 8, 2014, the Los Angeles Times published a piece entitled, Human rights complaints rise in Palestinian Territories

Complaints of torture and other mistreatment rose by 50% last year in areas governed by the Palestinian Authority, according to a report by the Ramallah-based Independent Commission for Human Rights.  

The report notes, “a remarkable increase in the number of complaints received on alleged cases of torture and violations involving the right to physical safety in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”  

It says that 497 allegations of torture and ill treatment were received by the commission in 2013, compared with 294 cases in 2012. Most of the cases, 347, were in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. 

The Palestinian watchdog group established by the president of the Palestinian Authority 20 years ago said it had also registered a “noticeable increase” in arbitrary detentions in the West Bank and Gaza. It attributed the rise “to the political variables and the continuation of the internal political division” between the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority and Hamas, the Islamist movement that has ruled Gaza since 2007.

Dr. King spoke out in favor of the well-being of Jews and Arabs as well as Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Applying his example, the Black Church should be concerned with peace for all people in the Middle East.

Like the current leaders of the Palestinian people, former PLO head, Yasser Arafat, ruled with an iron fist. He spoke about human rights but was no humanitarian. Dr. King spoke out in favor of the well-being of Jews and Arabs as well as Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Applying his example, the Black Church should be concerned with peace for all people in the Middle East. This would include strongly condemning the human rights abuses perpetrated on the Arab Palestinian people by their leaders. 

The moral case for the state of Israel, therefore, includes a genuine concern for the plight of the Arab Palestinians. Israel is the only viable democracy in the Middle East. While Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza do not enjoy political, economic, or religious freedom, their condition would be even worse without Israel to help care for the oppressed. Israel has a governmental and judicial system that includes Arabs, Muslims, Christians, Jews, women, and other diverse members of society. Israel is a multiethnic, inclusive country, with a government that serves and protects its people from its many enemies. 

Israeli compassion means that medical and emergency services are available to both Israelis and Palestinians. The wife of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was treated at Assuta Medical Center in Ramat Hachayal, near Tel Aviv. In 2013, Hamas Party leader Ismail Haniyeh took his granddaughter to Israeli doctors at Schneider Medical Center in Petah Tikva.

Shortly after the hospital visit for his granddaughter, Haniyeh was filmed at a rally calling for Israel’s destruction. Afterward, Haniyeh also took his mother-in-law to Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem for cancer treatment. These events occurred within seven months of each other.  

Israel’s compassion and care, even for its enemies, is the type of compassion worthy of Dr. King’s faith and advocacy. For years, Israel has provided medical assistance to its enemy to the north, Syria. Engulfed in a bloody civil war since 2011, over half a million people have died— both fighters and civilians. Israel has tended to the wounded without question or discrimination. Many of the Syrians that Israeli doctors have aided would not hesitate to kill them if given the opportunity. 

Israel is the nation that Dr. King described as an “oasis of brotherhood and democracy.” A light in the midst of darkness. Hope in a sea of despair.

When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Hamas and Fatah began fighting and killing each other to establish who would rule. The war was brutal and featured soldiers shooting their enemy in the knee caps and leaving them alive as a form of humiliation. Hamas won the fight and now rules Gaza. Fatah soldiers fled into the West Bank, and the wounded were treated in a state-of-the-art Israeli facility. They received prostheses that cost $45,000 per limb and rehabbed with Israeli physical therapists. “A person is a person. A soldier is a soldier. It doesn’t matter where he comes from,” said Dr. Tzaki Siev Ner, head of Orthopedic Rehabilitation at Tel Hashomer Hospital in Tel Aviv.

Israel is the nation that Dr. King described as an “oasis of brotherhood and democracy.” A light in the midst of darkness. Hope in a sea of despair. 

Many scriptures attest to God’s eternal covenant with the Jewish people and their right to the land of Israel. There is not one scripture that transferred the title of the land of Israel to the Palestinians or any other people. However, many scriptures teach us to care for the broken and defend the weak. 

Isaiah 1.17 
Learn to do good, seek justice, strengthen the robbed, perform justice for the orphan, plead the case of the widow. 
 יז  לִמְ֥ד֥וּ הֵיֵ֛טֵ֛ב דִּרְ֥שׁ֥וּ מִשְָׁ֖צָּ֖ט אַשְּׁ֣ר֣וּ חָ֑מ֑בֿץ שִׁפְ֣ט֣וּ יָ֔ת֔בֿם ִ֖רִ֖יבוּ אַלְמָָֽנָֽה:
(The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary, Isaiah 1.17) 

Zechariah 7.10 
Do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the stranger, or the poor man. Neither shall any of you think evil against his brother in your heart. 
 י  וְאַלְמָָ֧נָ֧ה וְיָ֛ת֛בֿם ֵ֥גֵּ֥ר וְעִָ֖נִ֖י אַֽל־וַֹֽעֲֹ֑שֹׁ֑קוּ וְרָעַ֙ת֙ ִ֣אִ֣ישׁ אִָ֔חִ֔יו אַל־וַֹחְשְׁ֖ב֖וּ בִּלְבַבְֶֽכֶֽם:
(The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary, Zechariah 7.10) 

Dr. King stood with Israel and sought to relieve the suffering of the Arabs. Support of the Jewish State is not a lack of concern for the Arab Palestinians. It acknowledges that the best hope for peace in the region is a strong, prosperous, secure state of Israel.

The Black Church tradition is defined by concern for the broken, relief for the oppressed. Dr. King embodied these principles. Because of Israel’s outstanding humanitarian work around the world, support of the Jewish State means helping those in need—including the Palestinians. Unfairly criticizing Israel does nothing to defend Palestinian human rights. On the contrary, it only hinders the Palestinians’ best hope for real democracy and lasting peace.  

As a Christian Zionist and one truly concerned for humanity, Dr. King stood with Israel and sought to relieve the suffering of the Arabs. Support of the Jewish State is not a lack of concern for the Arab Palestinians. It acknowledges that the best hope for peace in the region is a strong, prosperous, secure state of Israel.   

Psalm 125.4–5 

  1. Be good, O Lord, to the good and to the upright in their hearts. 
  2. And those who turn their crooked ways-may the Lord lead them away with the workers of iniquity, [and may there be] peace on Israel. 

  ד  הֵיטִ֣יָבָה י֖הְָֹוָה לַטּבִֿ֑בִ֑ים וְלִֽישִָׁ֥רִ֥ים בְִּלִבּבָֽֿתָֽם: ה  וְהַמִַּ֚טִּ֚ים | עֲקַלְקַלּבָֿ֗תָ֗ם יֽבֿלִיֵ֣כֵ֣ם י֖הְָֹוָה אֶת־צֹּֽעֲֵ֣לֵ֣י הָאֶָ֑וֶן שָׁ֜֗ל֗בֿם עַל־יִשְׂרֵָֽאֵֽל:

(The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary, Psalm 125.4-5) 

Dr. King’s close friend and attorney, Dr. Clarence Jones, stated on February 28, 2014: 

Anybody can stand with you in the warm summer sunlight of an August summer. But only a winter soldier stands with you at midnight in the alpine chill of winter. 

It is said that the Jewish people never forget a friend, and Israel remembers Dr. King’s steadfastness to this day.

From the standpoint of someone who has represented the great legacy of this extraordinary man, Martin Luther King Jr . . . I say to my African American brothers and sisters . . . the time is now for every African American person, every person of stature in the African American community, to come forward and stand with Israel in the alpine chill of winter, to show that we are wintertime soldiers.

It is said that the Jewish people never forget a friend, and Israel remembers Dr. King’s steadfastness to this day. The only street in the entire Middle East named after the civil rights legend is in one of the best areas of Jerusalem, near the Prime Minister’s residence and Liberty Bell Park.

Coretta Scott King acknowledged Israel’s efforts to commemorate her late husband. 

On April 3, 1968, just before he was killed, Martin delivered his last public address. In it he spoke of the visit he and I made to Israel. 

Moreover, he spoke to us about his vision of the Promised Land, a land of justice and equality, brotherhood and peace. Martin dedicated his life to the goals of peace and unity among all peoples, and perhaps nowhere in the world is there a greater appreciation of the desirability and necessity of peace than in Israel.

Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people who were without one for nearly 2,000 years. This is the essence of Zionism—reclaiming the Jewish homeland, and it has inspired Black leaders for decades.

Mrs. King remained a faithful supporter of Israel and advocated for peace in the region until her passing in 2006. In 2007, the Israelis planted a forest in her honor in the Galilee region of Northern Israel. My first trip to the Holy Land was part of the African American Pastors Tour with Christians United for Israel (CUFI) in 2012. Our tour leader, Dr. Michael Stevens, took us to the Coretta Scott King Forest. 

An accurate account of history is the most effective defense against the bondage of disinformation and false narratives. As Jesus said, “the truth will make you free.” Black American leaders were historically targeted with anti-Zionist messaging by Israel’s enemies. It is still happening today. One goal of this deception is to drive a wedge between Blacks and Jews and between Africa and Israel. In so doing, Israel’s enemies seek to paint Israel as an oppressive, imperialist regime determined to rule the world. In reality, Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people who were without one for nearly 2,000 years. This is the essence of Zionism—reclaiming the Jewish homeland, and it has inspired Black leaders for decades.   

Civil rights legends like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bayard Rustin stood in solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people. They also advocated for the just treatment of the Arab Palestinian people, which included speaking truth to Palestinian leadership—not irresponsibly blaming Israel. This is the type of Zionism that has always been the mark of knowledgeable leaders in the Black community. This is the legacy of Black support for the nation of Israel, for the Jewish people, and for a strong Africa-Israel alliance. This is the truth that must be taught to young Black and African men and women. This is restoration. 

Excerpted from Zionism and the Black Church: Why Standing with Israel will be a Defining Issue for Christians of Color in the 21st Century (Umndenipress, 2021). Dumisani Washington is founder and board president of the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel.

Critical Race Theory: An Overview

“Unlike traditional approaches to civil rights, which favor incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory calls into question the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and the neutral principles of constitutional law.” 
Critical Race Theory: An Introduction 

Critical Race Theorists describe Critical Race Theory as a movement (which is strange for a theory of society) designed to reinvent the relationships between race, racism, and power in society. To do this, they begin with the assumption that race is socially constructed and racism is systemic. That race is “socially constructed” means that Critical Race Theorists view racial categories as social and political fictions that have been imposed by white people on people of color, especially blacks. That racism is “systemic” means that, for Critical Race Theorists, the “system” upon which all of society operates on every level unjustly produces “racist” outcomes that favor whites (and minority races that adhere to “whiteness”) at the expense of people of color, especially Latinos and, even more especially, blacks. Because racism is a property of the system—which includes everything from policy to behavioral norms to manners of speech to what we consider true—racism is said to persist even if no individual or institution acts in a racist way or holds any racist beliefs. It is the way society operates that is racist, as can be determined by the fact that there are statistical differences in average outcomes by racial category.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) proceeds upon a number of dubious assumptions and by means of a variety of questionable methods, including:

CRT holds that the philosophy of liberalism is, in fact, a racist system.

Critical Race Theorists believe it is their obligation to rewrite history to tell it from the perspective of CRT.

For example, Asian-Americans of most ethnic backgrounds are, given their high rate of attainment and success in American society, often labeled as “white-adjacent,” while Latinos are judged vigorously according to how much whiteness they uphold (often based at least partially upon the fairness or brownness of their skin). Most troublingly, Jews tend to be classified as white rather than as ethnically Jewish. This goes so far as to reproduce the basic pattern of anti-Semitism by claiming that Jews (as whites) are the beneficiaries and even cultural trendsetters of “whiteness,” thus as having tremendous societal privilege that they often refuse to recognize by identifying instead as Jewish.

James Lindsay is the author of six books, including most recently How to Have Impossible Conversations and Cynical Theories. He is also the founder and president of New Discourses, from which this piece is excerpted.

Liberalism 101: Censorship

Today’s left demands complete and total conformity to their preconceived, unchallengeable notions and brooks no dissent to their package of ideas and values. You either buy in 100 percent on every agenda item, or you are cast out as a virtual heretic.

During a well-known scene in the 1989 film Field of Dreams, Amy Madigan’s character takes righteous umbrage at a proposal by her daughter’s school library to ban the books of a certain author. She references the spirit of her 1960s youth; she declares herself to be willing to stand up against the opponents of liberalism who seek to ban books such as L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl.

The former was banned by public libraries in Chicago and Detroit in the 1920s and 1950s, respectively, as well as being the target of a more contemporary attempt in Tennessee in 1986. The latter has been the subject of multiple banning attempts both before and after the film, including most recently a 2010 court case in Culpeper County, Virginia. The 1960s spirit she references in that scene was the influence of the Free Speech Movement, which originated at the University of California in Berkeley in 1964, and coalesced around certain leaders of the emerging New Left of that time. Their politics focused on concepts such as free speech and academic freedom, two key classical liberal values that, sadly, are nearly impossible to imagine any current leftist movement galvanizing around. Today’s left demands complete and total conformity to their preconceived, unchallengeable notions and brooks no dissent to their package of ideas and values. You either buy in 100 percent on every agenda item, or you are cast out as a virtual heretic.

Classical liberals respect and encourage this individualistic process, allowing people to come to their own conclusions.

Books are ideas put into words and onto pages that are then bound up in nice and neat packages for distribution. Today, it can be difficult to distinguish the stodgy old illiberal “them,” who banned books, from leftists who are unfortunately, and often erroneously, referred to as “liberals.” Seeking to ban books is no different than seeking to similarly expel from society ideas and ways of thinking themselves, whether wrapped in covers or not. A prominent example of a book where these two sides of censorship frequently collide can be found with To Kill a Mockingbird, where calls are made to ban the book both for its historically accurate language and content (which admittedly can shock some by today’s standards), as well as for the ultimate lesson it taught. This was a truly anti-racist book (published in 1960, no less) in the literal sense of that similarly abused phrase, yet it is also one that can draw equally outraged opposition from groups who would otherwise be diametrically opposed to each other politically.

The book, like all groundbreaking literature, was intended to shake people out of their comfort zones and make them reevaluate their ways of thought. Classical liberals respect and encourage this individualistic process, allowing people to come to their own conclusions, while leftists prefer to preach and demand deference without precisely explaining why people should think the way that they’re told.

The current craze of “cancel culture” is certainly not anything new or innovative. Socrates was executed for expressing inconvenient ideas. Numerous religious scholars throughout history were banished or worse for their theories, opinions, and ponderings. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated for eliminating the evil institution of slavery in the United States, while a little over a century later Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered for his success at working toward ending the disgusting practices of discrimination and segregation against African Americans that followed.

Right now, the stakes are obviously (with some exceptions) not the same as the more prominent examples that have been mentioned above, but “canceling” follows the same practice of intolerance, which if we tolerate it, leads down a very slippery and dangerous slope. We began to see a clear turn toward illiberalism and against the liberal values of free speech and free thought on the left with Salman Rushdie’s experience. In 1988, the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses ultimately led Iran’s then-leader, Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, to a call for Rushdie’s murder. Just a bit more than 25 years later, two terrorists shot up the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, murdering 12 and injuring 11 others, all because of a cartoon that the magazine had published.

Free speech is the absolute key to classical liberalism and all the values we hold dear.

After that tragedy, a clear distinction became evident between classical liberals who oppose censorship and leftists posing as liberals who consider It acceptable to murder cartoonists and secretaries as long as one can provide an ideologically appropriate justification. Just five years later we now have illiberal leftists celebrating the firing of literary agents such as Colleen Oefelein simply for having an account on the social media site Parler, which is “known” to be conservative (hello, shades of Bizarro McCarthyism).

Free speech is the absolute key to classical liberalism and all the values we hold dear. It is the underlying value without which no one is truly free. This is liberalism 101.

The United States, now near the 250th anniversary of the establishment of the greatest and longest-running experiment in classical liberalism in world history, based upon such documents as the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights, and texts such as Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, finds itself in a troubling situation where radicals currently seek to undermine the foundations of society. Tragically, these radical individuals are not regarded now as mere mischievous malcontents spoiled by generational privilege, but rather are often considered to be serious people representing a serious movement by the current American government, as well as by institutions such as the media, universities, and even major corporations.

It is now vital for those who value the opportunities provided to succeed in the United States, and who hope to pass along this place to their children and grandchildren and further generations down the line, to stand strong against this current challenge. The same applies to those in other democracies and republics throughout the world which were based upon classical liberal values that are also being similarly challenged by illiberal, destructive forces that today are masquerading as the opposite.

Jason D. Paluch is a Contributing Writer for White Rose Magazine.

unset the sun

unset the sun,
unset the sun,
as if the night had not begun. 

unset the sun,
and rise it hon,
as if this weren’t over, done.

the night brings forth another day,
i fear for us it’s not the same

our sunset will never reverse, 
it seems our orbit has been cursed. 

yet try again,
unset the sun,
as if this weren’t over, done,

as if the night had not begun.

I see you

I see you
Your hopes and dreams

I see the fears you hold
The worries that keep sleep away

You for all the ways
That you are truly uniquely you

You are not a sum of arbitrary things
Details to be checked off a list somewhere

You are you
Unique from all others

Much like a snowflake
One of many yet unlike all others

I see you and understand
Why it can seem easy to be part of a crowd

Lost in it
To feel less lost

Yet it’s that very erasure of yourself
That fuels the unrest that rises within

I see you amidst the crowd
For who you are and who you want to be

Losing that is injustice to yourself
And to those denied getting to know you

I see you not for any aspect of appearance
But for the very content of your character

It is in that dream
That so clearly I can see you

California, The Racist State

With the California Senate and Governor Gavin Newsom almost certain to approve California Assembly Bill 101, California will soon become the official center for the promotion of racism within the United States. No longer known as the Golden State, home to the dreamers of Hollywood, the tech geniuses of Silicon Valley, the rough-and-tumble Cowboys of the prairies, or the hard-working farmers of the Central Valley, or even the tanned surfers and beachcombers of the coast or the Hippies of Haight Ashbury. From now on, California’s legacy will be a caste of social classes determined by your skin color, ethnic origin, and sexual activities, with each group fighting to be recognized as the most “marginalized” or victimized or disempowered in order to gain status over the others.

From now on, California’s legacy will be a caste of social classes determined by your skin color, ethnic origin, and sexual activities…

After nearly two years of controversy and debate, California finally approved in March its “model curriculum” for ethnic studies to be taught at public and charter schools throughout the state. Following more than 80,000 public comments, the document went through a compromise, with various groups arguing that they were, in fact, more oppressed, more marginalized, more victimized, less powerful than others. Ironically, the “least powerful” identity groups wield the most power in California, and their agendas won.

The original proposal was slightly worse than the current version, if there can actually be a way to rank two horrific doctrines, but Jewish groups in particular pressed to have changes such as including a history of anti-Semitism and toning down the anti-Israel rhetoric. But this effort was like watering down Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book or the Ku Klux Klan’s Kloran or The Protocols of the Elders of Zion or Hitler’s Mein Kampf. You can’t lessen the impact of something that is, at its core, evil.

Although the curriculum is not mandatory, several major school districts are actually adopting the original plan rather than the revised one, advised by the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Institute, which not surprisingly sounds like an organization created by the Soviet Politburo or the North Korean Central Committee. But regardless of which plan a school district adopts, that only means that the details of the lessons may differ. In every case, schools will be teaching California children that white people are inherently bad. That black people are victims. That illegal immigrants need our acceptance. That capitalism is bad. That hard work is “white.” That Jews and Asians and Indians are actually “white” because of their success in America and are to be despised. That the American constitutional republic was created to support slavery and must be dismantled.

What’s happening now happened in China, and in only three decades led to the murder of millions of people and nearly destroyed one of the oldest civilizations on the planet.

These evil ideologies are being integrated into all of our children’s subjects, even math and science. This is the Cultural Revolution; make no mistake. The proponents of CRT will not only cancel those with whom they disagree, they will kill if necessary, as some state openly, and as Antifa and BLM attempt in Democrat-controlled “progressive” cities. The adherents to CRT truly believe that those who are not on their side are evil. Just like Nazis believed it. Just like Soviet Communists believed it. Just like the Chinese Red Guard who used the same exact rhetoric to purge remnants of capitalism and traditional elements from Chinese society by murdering industrialists, the wealthy, the highly educated, professionals, and anyone else who represented those supposedly responsible for the evils of society. The irony is that like all of these groups, it is the CRT proponents who are dividing society into classes while destroying our culture and our values. Ask anyone from the former Soviet Union and they will tell you this new woke culture with its roots in California and support within the Democrat-controlled government is exactly the same as the Communist Party they grew up with. And escaped. Ask anyone from mainland China who grew up during the Cultural Revolution. Or better yet, read a personal account in the book Really Enough by my friend Margaret Zhao for a personal perspective of how what’s happening now happened in China, and in only three decades led to the murder of millions of people and nearly destroyed one of the oldest civilizations on the planet.

Of all the left-wing developments of the past decade or two, and especially in the last year, none has been as troubling as this one. None has been a more significant sign that evil has spread throughout our communities in America and now pervades the systems of power: politics, business, entertainment, and our educational system. Parents have the ability to stop this. They need to take their children out of public schools, whatever the cost, to stop this systematic brainwashing. Voters need to elect politicians who will defund the teachers’ unions, not the police. Consumers must stop spending money on products from companies that promote critical race theory. We must stop idolizing and supporting athletes and entertainers who promote these evil ideologies. We must elect leaders who will ban the teaching of this anti-American ideology in public schools, government offices, and especially in our military.

The time for action is now. This ideological virus, much worse than COVID, has invaded our cultural body and is destroying it from within. It has infiltrated our government, our entertainment, our industries, our colleges, and now our elementary schools. It is entirely opposed to American values. We must stop it now. At all costs. If it is not already too late.

Bob Zeidman is the creator of the field of software forensics and the founder of several successful high-tech Silicon Valley firms, including Zeidman Consulting and Software Analysis and Forensic Engineering. His latest venture is Good Beat Poker. He is the author of textbooks on engineering and intellectual property as well as screenplays and novels. His latest novel is the political satire Good Intentions.

The New American Rebel Seeks the Truth

What is today’s truth? Well, that depends. The truth today can be whatever one wants it to be as long as it does not offend. Let me rephrase that: as long as it doesn’t offend the Woke. Let me add: as long as it acquiesces to the Woke.  

Facts that counter the narrative mobilize the Woke mob into attack mode, and the weak respond.  They kneel, acquiesce, and assuage the mob–they empower the mob.

The real truth–the actual truth–is offensive because it counters the Woke narrative. The truth stands in defiance to disinformation–to false narratives. The truth is buttressed with facts–the strongest enemy of lies and the Woke. 

Facts that counter the narrative mobilize the Woke mob into attack mode, and the weak respond.  They kneel, acquiesce, and assuage the mob–they empower the mob.  The weak take positions favorable to the Woke mob in hopes of insulating themselves from their attack.  

Acquiescence to the Woke signals weakness, but that is not enough. The mob demands sacrifice: sacrifice of job, position, status, money—sacrifice of pride and self-respect. It’s time to fight back. It’s time to fight back with questions and facts.

Questioning authority, critical thinking, and pushback against draconian government policies are default American positions. We push back against narratives meant to divide and control us: it’s who we are.  

An alliance is forming in response to vicious Woke cancel culture, and while these allies may disagree with each other’s policies, they don’t want their opponents’ positions silenced or canceled–they want them challenged with debate and facts out in the open in order to change minds. To change minds, not coerce under threat of cancellation.

Classical debate and constitutionally defended defiance are casualties of this new environment of caving to the Woke. Classical liberals, middle of the road Americans, and conservatives are ready to ally and push back. They need champions to lead the way. 

The enemies of today’s “truth” are filter-less and fearless facts, even if they offend emotional mobs.  Those willing to push back must not stand alone. The mob is extremely powerful;  powerful enough to get Big Tech, the mainstream media, and spineless politicians to acquiesce and give a stage to the idiocy of the unchallenged narrative.  But the mob has an exposed Achilles heel: baseless and divisive lies.  Their narrative is a house of cards.

What is the narrative?  It’s that statement or position you read or hear that makes one wonder whether you are being told the truth, being condescended to, being told what to think, or being told how to live.  It’s the narrative that wants to cancel that playground battle cry, “It’s a free country! I can say and do anything I want!” Not anymore, and that’s un-American.

We long for the truth-seekers of Greenwich Village and Haight Asbury, the classical liberals and radicals that questioned the media narrative…

The narrative has many authoritative avenues. The government puts it out, the media parrots it, and Big Tech censors push back and spotlight the attacks on those few rebel critical-thinkers in hopes of shaming them into submission.  

This pro-narrative trifecta attacks critical thinking by labeling it conspiracy theorizing and worse: racist. This grouping and their lemmings then use “whataboutisms” and phrases meant to shut down debate like, “That’s been debunked as a conspiracy theory!” When in actuality, the ammo they cite as debunking the rebel default position is actually “confirmation bias”—information that only supports the position one is defending, often lacking facts. The debunker is more often a likeminded “fact-checker” and aligned with the narrative position.   

We long for the truth-seekers of Greenwich Village and Haight Asbury, the classical liberals and radicals that questioned the media narrative, who asked for and presented facts to counter what they believed to be disinformation. Whether they were right or wrong, those American rebels would never hold up a New York Times opinion piece and shout, “See, that’s been debunked!”

We are close to making “debunked” and “conspiracy theory” as weak as “my mommy said so.”  All we have to do in this emerging alliance–one still in search of leadership–is say, “weak, not good enough.  Give me some facts.”  In our rebel counter-attack, the first person to use a slur or grab a crutch loses the argument, loses the debate. If one cannot defend the narrative with facts–the narrative is exposed as a lie.  

The narrative activates the rebellious “What the F*– Over?” response.  It’s the statement repeated by the masses that prompts you to ask, “Is this real? Am I alone in thinking the way I do?” You are not; there really is a giant that is waking up to cancel the Woke.

The purveyors of false narratives have unintentionally invited questions–they don’t allow questions, because those questions, if answered, reveal the lie.  

The new American rebel doesn’t carry a flag or align with a party. The new American rebel is the American that is witnessing the erosion of freedoms and is demanding elected officials adhere to the constitution to stop it.  The American rebel is asking questions, the American rebel is pushing back, the American rebel is doing this against the concerted effort of being silenced, attacked, and targeted for cancellation by the Woke mob and their allies in Big Tech, government, and the media.  We need to ask questions and demand fact-based answers. We need to debate the issues and discredit those that view facts as the stubborn obstacles they are to their lie.

The new American rebel is looking for the truth and is armed with facts.  Facts, though they may challenge and sometimes offend, are the truth.  Facts expose false narratives and they offend the Woke, and that’s a good thing.

Michael Pregent is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. He is a senior Middle East analyst, a former adjunct lecturer for the College of International Security Affairs, and a visiting fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University.

Truth in the World of Sophistry

Repetition of words creates merely the illusion of truth.

Since, as Andrew Sullivan aptly puts it, we all live on campus now, many Americans–who have not experienced or learned about critical theory, post-colonialism, queer theory, intersectionality, etc.–are hard-pressed to learn about how academic scholarship has become activism and how truth has been eviscerated.  In this new era, we need to learn how to distinguish truth (not the word, “truth,” which has been repeated over and over in association with this or that thing or identity) from falsehood.  

To do that, we not only need to learn more about how things have changed over the last few decades vis-à-vis the shift from teaching in academia to activism and the shift that has occurred in the meaning of language and its relationship to truth. But we also need to know how Theory (with a capital T, since it is, as John McWhorter says, a religion of sorts) displaced the textual openness and play introduced into academia by deconstruction. Through an authoritarian policing of language and identity on social media, academia, and the traditional media, the focus on language has shifted from one of openness to one that is very narrow and essentialist.  Today, just because words like “Critical Race Theory,” “systemic racism,” “intersectionality,” and so on are repeated over and over doesn’t mean that they are true or speak a truth. Repetition of words creates merely the illusion of truth.  

Truth has fallen to the wayside, and the only truth that we see or hear about is associated with whatever words this or that affinity group of activists in the traditional media, academia, politics, and social media deem important.  These terms are loaded with false alternatives and other fallacies, and we need to unpack them and learn how to, once again, make the knowledge of truth and the deciphering of truth our main priority if truth is to matter in the public sphere. 

To do that, we need to understand what is at stake.

In our age of post-truth, millions of Americans are realizing that they are being lied to on a regular basis. Fake news has been normalized. And instead of thinking for oneself or even knowing how to think, most of us turn to this or that opinion (doxa in Greek) for truth.  But, more often than not, this or that opinion falls apart and we are left wanting to know what is true. As a result, we become cynical and lose trust in political institutions, the media, academia, etc.  

Digging Deeper

Whether that truth is personal or philosophical, the desire for the knowledge of truth is essential to becoming human.

Who doesn’t want to know the truth?    

Whether that truth is personal or philosophical, the desire for the knowledge of truth is essential to becoming human. Aristotle called it our greatest desire and argued that it was built into human nature.    

When we know something is true, we experience a sense of pleasure, meaning, and purpose. According to Aristotle, the Greek dramatists called it anagnorisis.  Aristotle defined anagnorisis as “a change from ignorance to knowledge, producing love or hate between the persons destined by the poet for good or bad fortune” (1452a, Poetics). Plato called it anamnesis (memory), since you learn what you have always known about the ideas (eidos), but unconsciously.  

The process of coming to that knowledge–whether personal (anagnorisis) or philosophical (anamnesis)–is the stuff of the greatest stories, novels, movies, and philosophical allegories.  

It all starts here, with me and you. I’d like to give a brief accounting (logos = account in Greek) of my own search for truth to illustrate and then turn back to the general search for truth.  

My Personal Search for Truth and Yours

Through my own personal experience of growing up in America, I always believed that American dreams are dreams of transformation. My family came to America from Europe and transformed their lives. Their truth was the life they made for themselves. What was my truth?  Could I find it in America in the 1980s and ‘90s?

When I left high school in my small Adirondack town (which was named after the main profession—making gloves, Gloversville), I traveled across America in search of my truth and for the knowledge of truth reading books, dancing, writing, playing music, tenting out, and making friends. I wanted to have a uniquely American epiphany, an experience of truth that would alter my world, and this was my journey to find that truth.

Language, as Heidegger said, is the “house of being.” All meaning, all truth, is in language.

During this time, I went off to university, to the Berkeley of the East Coast: SUNY (State University of New York) at Binghamton. I became a philosophy major and took classes on Plato and Aristotle, Existentialism and Literature, Descartes, Hume, Kant, and more.  I wanted to know if truth existed and if there was a way of life that one could live that would be guided by knowledge of the truth. 

My passion for literature and philosophy was fostered by a professor who became my mentor.   As an undergrad, I took graduate seminars in Heidegger, art, and language.  I went on to pursue my PhD in Comparative Literature and Philosophy in the lauded PLC (Philosophy, Literature and Theory of Criticism) Program at SUNY Binghamton. What really touched me most in my doctoral work was the bread and butter of our program: a close reading of language. Language was the key to deeper meaning, to truth. Literature and philosophy share the same mission: anagnorisis.

Language, as Heidegger said, is the “house of being.” All meaning, all truth, is in language.

Nuanced readings of text sought to bring one into a state associated with what Roland Barthes called “the neutral,” a state of bliss. The opposite to this state of reading bliss was ossified language or what Barthes called “mythology.” Mythology is linguistic essentialism, sheer propaganda, and what Jean Franciois Lyotard called metaphysics (for him the use of language for power).

After I received my PhD and taught for 13 years in University, I learned, from within the academy, about the major turn to post-Marxist language by critical theory. The move to politicizing language and creating new words for political purposes, turning scholarship into activism, destroyed all the lessons from Derrida, deMan, Bloom, and the deconstructionist crowd and gave Marx the lead in formulating post-Colonialist discourse (vis-à-vis Edward Said), Queer Studies, etc., which used a similar framework to Marxism but with different terms (oppressor/oppressed, colonizer/colonized).   

Language has been turned into a tool for the acquisition and distribution of power.

Deconstructionism is considered to be at the origins of post-modernist theory. Derrida, for instance, wrote specters of Marx well into his work on Deconstruction. Marcuse and the Frankfurt School were key to Critical Theory which was on a different trajectory. 

Power and language going hand in hand are the core of what was to be deconstructed. This move had more to do with Michel Foucault’s interest in power, and to a major extent, his work on power relations and discourse displaced Derrida and the Yale schools’ interest in language and deconstruction.  The mission of the deconstructionist was to deconstruct essentialism and participate in the proliferation of meaning and language.  One celebrated the opaque and what George Bataille and Maurice Blanchot called powerlessness. That started to change with Foucault and Said; today, the tables have totally turned.  

Language has been turned into a tool for the acquisition and distribution of power.

Heidegger’s whole critique of the work centered on moving away from seeing language as a tool. To see language as language was the ultimate challenge to power and metaphysics.

Rhetoric, the Sophists, and Us 

Rhetoric is the key to politics. It creates a mythology based on language games.   

As Socrates once pointed out, sophists love to play word games and act as if they know things when it isn’t knowledge or wisdom that they have. It’s fake news. It’s an illusion.

The sophists were not a school (they didn’t have one, like Plato and Aristotle). They were a group of wandering thinkers (sophos means “wise” or “skilled”) from around 400-300 BCE who would travel from city to city to teach people public speaking and rhetoric for a fee. Their main claim was that they could teach arete (virtue) to anyone. This consisted of a set of competencies in speech that would enable people to be successful speakers and powerful people (good oration was valued by the Greeks). These competencies were informed by a knowledge of general culture and public ways of speaking, and, most importantly, a passion for debate.  

In the post-truth world we live in, the sophists rule.  As they love to demonstrate, some words, if repeated enough by an elite group of experts, magically become truths.

As Plato points out in many dialogues, sophists were more interested in winning arguments than in finding the truth. This contrasted with Socrates who was in search of truth and knowledge as opposed to making a weak argument into a seemingly strong one. 

Socrates believed the sophists were misleading people, and in many dialogues Plato depicts Socrates as winning this or that sophist over to philosophy. He helps them to come to the realization (anagoresis) that the sophists had duped them into thinking that they were not only knowledgeable but also virtuous. The good (virtuous) life, for Socrates, was lived in the light of truth and dialogue (in logos), not in the life of words espoused by the Sophists.

In the post-truth world we live in, the sophists rule.  As they love to demonstrate, some words, if repeated enough by an elite group of experts, magically become truths. Today the authority of these words is based not simply on what is being said but on who is saying it.

Aristotle’s rules of logic were part of a major effort, which started with Plato, to challenge the sophists and their fallacious way of reasoning. Sophists believed, as Protagoras once stated, that “man is the measure of all things,” that there is no objective measure. The measure (truth) is relative to what will appeal to different audiences, it is what I say it is or it is what the person who wins the admiration of his or her listeners says it is.    

When there is no objectivity or objective truth, the Will to Power, as Nietzsche would say, determines what things mean or “are.” Data and statistics, well-reasoned arguments, are judged not on the basis of whether one has a strong or reasonable argument; they are determined by those who are most popular—the influencers, as it were, have the last word on truth.  

The false sophia (wisdom) of the sophist has to do with making rhetorical flourishes into truth by way of gaining consensus that this or that term is the “measure of all things.” Truth, according to the sophists, is something that can be revised. It is, as Harold Bloom would say, the subject of revisionism and power, which overthrows what came before. There is an element of time and temporality since what is true “now”—in the moment of this articulation—is better than what was. It has more power.

Jean Francois Lyotard, who went a long way to discuss the meaning of postmodernism, notes in his book, The Inhuman, that the new metaphysics will be based on the creation of new words, what he calls “third terms.” These words and their meanings control what we can say, what we can mean, and who we are. Our words and our very selves have meaning or no meaning whatsoever based on these terms.

From Judith Butler to Ibram X. Kendi

The trick is to create a new term that forces people to pick sides.

Judith Butler, who is considered a major voice for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) and the Palestinians, was hired by Berkeley to teach rhetoric—not philosophy and not gender studies.  But she has invented terms that have, as Nietzsche would say, inverted hierarchies. Heteronormativity, one of many terms she has coined, makes heterosexuality into a dominant discourse that marginalizes homosexuality. The same goes for “gender ambiguity” and “gender performativity.” With these third terms, all people who think their gender is either male or female, in accord with their biological sex, are oppressing those who change their sex or perform or identify as non-binary, etc. The trick is to create a new term that forces people to pick sides. The binaries are built into this new essentialism.  

Either you are heteronormative and oppressive, or you are against heteronormativity. Either you affirm gender ambiguity, or you deny it and are a gender fascist.  

This is a taste of the metaphysics at work in academia, which gets translated into activism on social media and on the streets. Its main goal, in the spirit of post-Marxism, is to divide and conquer. Power accrues through the use of language. Man is the measure of all things translates into the third term is the measure of all things. Rhetoric backed by power and the veneer of wisdom is the new measure, the new metaphysics. All arguments are won rhetorically, not through data, facts, or truth. Truth is relative to what I say it is.  And what I say it is, is something you either are or are not. It is about whether you conform to my definition of what is or is not.

We see it at work in the work of Ibrim X. Kendi and those who support him. In a recent article addressing his critics, he did away with their criticisms in one fell swoop. Instead of addressing any of their claims, he argued that they didn’t understand him and are really talking to their own image of him. While it is abundantly clear to anyone who is logical that Kendi–with his word, anti-racism–divides the world into racists and anti-racists, creating, in effect, a “false dichotomy,” he is using a gnostic kind of Manichean rhetorical scheme. He says it in his book and on camera, endlessly. The denial of racism makes you a racist and admitting to it makes you a racist (unless you are a Person of Color). Who you are by virtue of the color of your skin defines you within a system over which you have no control. You were born into it. One can only choose to accept it or reject it by being an “ally” and fighting to create policy that is anti-racist so that all institutions can be regulated and transformed. The current system must be destroyed.  

If you disagree with that position, you must be talking to yourself and your racism and not Kendi.  

The sophistry here is clear. If you do not believe that power defines what is true and instead believe that all men are created equal and that not everyone is racist in America, you are on the wrong side of history. Truth, we hear, is a Eurocentric notion. Power is more universal, in a post-Marxist sense. Kendi is clear about this. He wants power redistributed. To do that, he must silence all his critics and claim that all who argue against him must be racist. 

There is truth. It does exist, but it is not about who has power. It’s not about who you are or what you are, it’s about what you think.

But that’s not logical. It’s rhetorical. The counter-enlightenment argument that progress doesn’t exist when, in fact, it is measurable and documented with ample data, demonstrates what we are up against. Kendi denies reality and argues that this progress doesn’t exist just like he argues that his critics don’t have any real arguments or that Critical Race Theory isn’t understood by anybody who criticizes it. It has to do with changing inequities in the legal system and has nothing to do with a movement to divide America into racists, anti-racists, and allies. But we know better. The sophists use words to create realities. It isn’t about sharing wisdom. It’s about dividing and conquering through third terms.

Not all things American are racist or anti-racist. America is much more complex than this sophistic formula purports. We need to learn how to think again and take up Socrates’ challenge to the sophists. There is truth. It does exist, but it is not about who has power. It’s not about who you are or what you are, it’s about what you think.   

Don’t let the sophists tell you otherwise. You’re not talking to yourself when you criticize Kendi.  You are speaking truth to power. Truth is the measure of all things, not man, not “anti-racism,” and not the people who are aligned with that term.

When once trusted institutions—from academia to the media and our own government—dwell in lies and sophistry, where do we turn? Like Socrates (a white man who is Eurocentric and not worth listening to according to the woke), we must wake up and realize that our anagnorisis must come from ourselves and through a language that is open rather than a language that is policed by ideologues and demagogues in academia and the media. We aren’t discovering a word within ourselves called racism, we are discovering a truth that transcends “anti-racism.”   

And… who doesn’t want to know the truth?

Dr. Menachem Feuer is a member of the Jewish Studies Faculty at the University of Waterloo. He was previously a member of the Center for Jewish Studies at York University. Feuer has written numerous articles, essays, and book reviews on philosophy, postmodern literature, and post-Holocaust philosophy and literature. He has published in Shofar, Modern Fiction Studies, MELUS, International Studies in Philosophy and the Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy, and in numerous book collections. He was a Senior Editor at the popular literature, art, and culture website Berfrois (https://www.berfrois.com/tag/menachem-feuer/). He is the author of the highly acclaimed blog, Schlemiel Theory (www.schlemielintheory.com).


Andrew Pessin

Nevergreen is an academic satire that examines campus cancel culture and the ideological excesses that generate it. It has a subtle but deep Jewish angle in particular, as Jews are increasingly the target of campus cancel campaigns. This excerpt occurs as the cancel campaign against J., a middle-aged physician who has been invited to Nevergreen College to give a lecture, is just getting underway. No one actually showed up for his talk, but that doesn’t stop it from becoming the center of a firestorm of controversy, with potentially fatal consequences.

“Ah,” Robert exclaimed. “I thought I might find you here.”

“Did you have to jab me so hard?” J. rubbed his back.

“I did. You were pretty lost in thought there.”

“Ah! It was the strangest thing. That man. There was a—”

“Tell me while we walk,” Robert interrupted. 

J. followed him through the corridors as Robert began walking. “What’s the matter? Did something happen?”

“Have you seen the student newspaper today, by any chance?”

 “No,” J. worked to keep pace as they left the Depository onto the main campus. They came to a broad path (the one the female students had been dragging their mattresses along earlier) that ran between a pair of prominent signs. The sign on the right bore the words Walk of Fame; the one on the left, Walk of Shame. J. pointed as they crossed over the path. “What are those about?”

 “This path connects the two largest lodges in the Hex.” Robert indicated the oblong buildings at the opposite ends of the path. “One and six, if you’re taking notes. The students here are like bunnies on bennies. Get shook up with a hook up, they like to say. Before they abolished sports the jocks used to say bump, hump, and pump. Oh, and dump. I think it’s something in the pomo. It perks them right up.”

J. felt slightly repelled. “And the signs?”

“The walk you do the next morning. Fame or shame, depending on your perspective. They installed extra security cameras in the guidestones there too, for good measure. See something, say something, you know. Ah, excuse me, please.” Robert maneuvered them past and through several tourists clustered around a red smelly pile of droppings, snapping photos. “Bonanza! They got to see some pig shit.”

Have I missed another ferry? J. wondered, momentarily overcome by the stench. He would text Brenda again as soon as he could. “So,” he said, out of breath attempting to keep pace, “what is the story with that Freinz fellow I just met? The librarian?”

“A real character. Allegedly descends from a long line of librarians. More likely from a long line of inmates at the asylum.”

“He seemed to think I was in danger.”

Robert stopped walking for a moment. “He’s a good librarian. And he seems to always know what’s going on around campus. But he’s a little—he’s a character. You’ll probably be fine.”

“Probably fine? What does that mean?”

“Come, we’ll discuss it at Aaliyah’s office. We’re almost there. Hexant 4, if you’re taking notes. Just around the Maze here.” Robert quickened his step as J. struggled to do the same.

“Who,” he breathed, “is Aaliyah?”

“The Vice President. If we still used that title. Now we just call her ‘friend Aaliyah.’ Here we are. The Center for Community Priorities.” Robert gestured upwards as they arrived at the base of the tallest Pacman building. “Administrative building, also known as the Castle, the Hive, and of course—” he gestured upward again, “the Big Dick. Bottom three floors home to the President and Vice President, the Provost, the Vice Provost, the Deputy Vice Provosts. The Deans of Student Life, Student Affairs, Student Concerns, Student Wishes, Student Fancies, the Vice Deans, the Dean of Deans. If we still used any of those titles.”

“And all the upper floors?” J. asked. The building had had additional floors added some years back, J. would eventually learn when he read the rest of the Information Desk literature stuffed in his jacket pocket. 

“Department of Community Values. See?” Carved in bold block letters in the stone arch over the main doors were some of the community’s most fundamental values: Benevolence, Charity, Lovingkindness. “Quick, let’s catch that elevator.”

They went through the doors, caught the open elevator waiting for them.

“But why,” J. asked as they waited for the elevator doors to close, “am I going to see your—” He stopped, unable to think of what to call the administrator.

“Patience, grasshopper,” Robert said.

“And what about the student newspaper?” J. remembered after a long moment of silence as he began pressing the elevator’s “close door” button.

“That button doesn’t do anything, grasshopper,” Robert ignored him, putting his hand on J.’s. “Just there to give you the illusion of individual liberty.”

“This is the slowest elevator I have ever experienced,” J. observed moments later as they finally made their slow ascent.

“To remind you of your lack of liberty. Ah, we’re here.”

They walked out into a waiting area. A young woman wearing a bright yellow sari and sporting flesh tunnel earrings big enough to squeeze a thumb through lazily looked up, indicated they could take a seat on the low plush sofa along the wall, then returned to expertly manipulating her phone despite her multicolored fingernails being at least an inch and a half long.

“How does she do that?” J. whispered to Robert.

“No idea. But I think it’s a ‘he.’ I had him in my topology class last year. Brilliant kid, despite the fashion philosophy.”

“Robert,” J. said again, “why am I here?”

“It’s nothing, grasshopper.”

“Stop calling me that! And what’s nothing?”

“It’s probably nothing. Just precautionary.”

“What are you, the librarian now? Speaking in opaque parables?”

Robert straightened his bowtie. “Look, there was this thing in the student newspaper. It’s not a big deal but Aal asked me to bring you in, just to be safe. Here, I’ll show you.”

But as Robert pulled out his phone, the person in the sari called out in a sleepy deep voice, “Friend Aaliyah will see you now.”

They were led into a roomy office distinguished by the many colorful cushions scattered on the enormous colorful Persian rug and the absence of any conventional furniture. The scent of incense filled the space. A woman in a billowy multicolored gown seated on a cushion put her hands together on her chest, palm to palm, bowed gently in greeting, and said, “As-salāmu ʿalaykum. Please, my dears, sit where you like.”

“Thank you,” J. took a cushion. 

“Welcome to New Ghana, J.,” Robert took another. “Friend J., meet friend Aaliyah, your new long-lost pal.”

“Please,” the Vice President said warmly to J., “You can call me Aal. And I’ll kindly ask you, friend Robert, to stop referring to this office as ‘New Ghana.’”

“Free speech! Viewpoint diversity!” Robert protested. “Budget cuts across the college, but the admin comrades import their office furniture from across the globe. You know how Persian rugs are supposed to have a flaw, because only the alleged Comrade in the Sky is flawless? I have it on good authority that this rug’s flaw is that it is actually flawless. Comrade knows what they paid for it.”

“Friend Robert enjoys his tenure,” Aal said cheerfully, then turned to indicate a lanky student with a goatee seated in the corner of the room, laptop atop lap. “And please meet Shawn. He’s my student shadow this week, from Undergraduate Social Support Resources. Now, may I offer you something to drink, my dear?” 

“Would there be—just straight coffee?” J. asked hopefully.

Aal chortled. “Good one, friend! I can offer you pomo, of course. Or have you had the opportunity to try poco?”

“And what is poco?” J. asked hopefully again.

“I believe it’s a blend of pomo and cola. It’s officially served only above,” she pointed upward, “but we sometimes can squirrel some away for ourselves. On occasion faculty are permitted a drop as well. When they behave.” Friend Aal winked at Robert as she said this.

 “They got rid of coffee on campus a couple years ago,” Robert explained. “The Student Capitalists revolted against the Fair Trade policy the student government had adopted against Big Coffee, in fact they occupied these very offices specifically demanding Unfair Trade coffee. The eventual compromise was to boycott all coffee from campus. As for the poco,” he added, “some people love it but all I can say is it’s nasty. Drink down a bottle and you’re ready to kill. I’m not sure if that’s a plus or a minus. But there is one thing the grown-ups all agree on.”

“And that is?” J. asked.

“We keep it out of the hands of students. Am I right, Shawn? Does Bossy Boss Bacharo let his shadowlings at the poco?”

They looked at the shadow, whose only reaction was to begin typing on his laptop. 

“Perhaps, then,” J. turned back to the group, “we can just—get started?” 

“Of course, of course,” Aal said. “So let me just begin by saying immediately that I see nothing to discipline you for, my dear.”

“That’s a relief,” J. responded with relief, until he realized from her glance at Shawn that there was something which she could, conceivably, consider disciplining him for.

“Aal,” Robert said, “he hasn’t seen the Howler yet.”

“Ah, I see. Well, then, shall we rectify that?”

The Vice President pulled over her laptop, hit a few keys, then swiveled it around so that J. could see the homepage of the newspaper. There was a large headline consisting merely of the word “THIS,” followed by a colon and a web address.

“Oh, apologies,” Aal said and clicked on the link, which took them to another site on which was posted an opinion piece addressed to “The Community of Nevergreen College.” It began:  

We are enraged, and numb. There are dangerous forces there, right there in your home, in your heart, on your sacred ground. If you do not stamp out the hate within, then you become that hate. You must resist that hate.

You must hate that hate.

And you must hate it now.

The byline was someone or something called The Resistance.

“That’s odd,” J. said, noticing the two angry face emojis at the bottom and thinking that enraged and numb seemed mutually exclusive. “What is the Resistance? And what does this article have to do with me?”

“Do you—” the administrator began, then scrolled down some paragraphs to the bottom of the article, “Did you have some interaction with this young woman? Some altercation, perhaps?”

On the screen was a photo of the young woman with severe eyes at the Student Clubs Expo that morning.

“Altercation? What? No. I—met her. But why are you calling me in about this article? What does this have to do with me?” 

Aal glanced over at Shawn. “Well, it isn’t so much the article, I’m afraid. It’s the complaint that was filed above a short while ago. The violation.”


“Of the Virtue Code, my dear. An Offensiveness Complaint.”

 “But again. What does that have to do with me.”

“I am sorry for being unclear. The complaint has been filed against you.”

“I don’t understand.”

“The Virtue Code spells out a procedure for individuals—” Robert began.

“No,” J. interrupted. “I mean, what did I do?”

“I am afraid,” Aal answered, “I cannot give you that information.”

“I don’t understand. I’m charged with something and you can’t even tell me what?”

“It’s confidential. To protect the plaintiffs, my dear.”

“Plaintiffs? Was there—more than one?”

“I’m sorry, I cannot give you that information.”

“I don’t understand—Aal. Was it something I said?”

“Possibly. Not necessarily.”

J. couldn’t think. Who had he spoken to on campus? The students in front of the library? That woman at the Clubs Expo, who apparently wrote the opinion piece or maybe just represented The Resistance? She had glared at him but what had he said to her? Nothing, nothing at all. He was distressed at the thought that he may have offended somebody; but even more distressed at the thought that—he hadn’t.

His talk last night?

There had been no one there to hear it.

“What,” he asked tentatively, “are the possible consequences of an Offensiveness Complaint?”

Aal sighed. “I don’t actually know, my dear. The Virtue Code addresses complaints between students and against professors by students. Apparently we lack rules governing complaints from outside organizations against visitors. I understand that Bob has already petitioned the good people on the Virtue Committee above to work on rectifying that.” 


“Comrade in Chief,” Robert said. “The President.”

“If we still used that title,” Aal glanced at Shawn.

“You said outside organization,” J. said, his mind racing.

Aal grimaced, glanced at Shawn. “Ah, I wasn’t supposed to reveal that. An honest mistake, I assure you. I trust we can keep that amongst ourselves?” At least she hadn’t revealed, she thought, that they weren’t entirely certain the organization was an outside one. 

“So what happens next?” J. asked, unconcerned with Aal’s concern.

“Well, I hope you will stay on campus until this works itself out.”

“Do I have a choice? I’ve been unable, so far, to figure out how to get off campus.” He still hadn’t heard back from Brenda and had no information about the ferry schedule. Maybe he should just head down to the dock and wait— 

“Of course you have a choice, my dear. You are a free agent. You may freely accept our firm insistence that you remain on campus. We just hope you are as committed to virtue as we are here and will choose to remain among us until the wheels of virtue have had a chance to turn.”

So what, leaving would mean he was somehow opposed to virtue? Maybe he should call his wife. No. The thing was absurd. You can handle this on your own, she would say.“Fine,” J. lifted his hands, in surrender.

“Wonderful, thank you,” Aal said with a warm toothy smile that revealed (J. thought) a perhaps early case of periodontitis. “As there is a process that is automatically triggered whenever an OC is filed. The first step is that the offended party may present its perspective, its preferences, its wishes directly to the offending party, if they choose. And in this case, the plaintiffs have demanded you meet with their representatives. Have a conversation. I am delighted to inform you that they have selected some of our finest students to represent them in this capacity. A real testament to the quality and integrity of our community.”

“They just get to demand this? Don’t the grown-ups around here,” J. said, unable to think of a better word, “have some say in the process?” He noticed that Shawn began typing furiously when he said this. 

“We are all equal here, my dear. Everybody belongs to everybody. If that is what they want, then we want it as well.”

“And that would resolve the complaint?”

“Possibly. Not necessarily. But it’s a start, my dear.”

“I really don’t understand, Aal.”

“The ways of virtue,” the administrator said, flashing the V signal for virtue, “can be mysterious. But surely there is no harm in a little conversation with their representatives, is there, my dear?”

“Yes,” Robert chimed in, “good things always come from a little ‘conversation’ with the Politburo.”

“Or perhaps,” Aal rebuked him, “we can all learn a little something from our students, friend Robert?”

“She’s referring,” Robert turned to J., “to my opposition, a few years back, to the proposal that students assume teaching responsibilities for some of the classes here. Nonsense dressed up as sense, I said, and pushed the radical line that, generally speaking, professors are better prepared to serve as professors while the students are better prepared to serve as, you know. Students. I lost. Isn’t that right, Shawn?”

J. saw that the shadow’s fingers were flying over his laptop keys.

“Come now, my dear,” Aal said to J. “It’s almost twelve. I believe the students are waiting for you upstairs.”

Excerpted with permission of the author.

Andrew Pessin is a philosophy professor, campus bureau editor at the Algemeiner, and author of three novels. You may order Nevergreen here.

Arguing with Idiots

I’m right and you’re stupid.  

These days, it’s very difficult to have a conversation with someone on a controversial topic.  We have become very polarized. We have lost civility. Have you noticed how often “discussions” on social media end with personal insults?  And no one learns anything. 

Our society has lost touch with the classical liberal values of freedom of expression and opinion. The great innovation of Liberalism was the ability to speak one’s mind without fear.

This problem has become amplified with the main news story of the last two years: COVID-19. To mask or not to mask? To vaccinate or not to vax? Can I force you to get a shot?  

In theory, a classical liberal discussion would be between well-meaning people, using their opinions derived from well-reasoned principles and using well-sourced facts.  Today, we just don’t see that happening often.  

What went wrong? We used to be able to talk about things and not lose friends. Our society has lost touch with the classical liberal values of freedom of expression and opinion. The great innovation of Liberalism was the ability to speak one’s mind without fear. The word “liberal” itself can be traced back to the Latin word liber meaning “free” (not to be confused with “free stuff”) It is also the root of the word liberty.

So how do we talk about Covid? To start, we must assume the other person is not evil and just has different opinions. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said, “There are some very good people who promote some very bad ideas. We should attack the bad ideas with better ideas.”

At the heart of an opinion is a well-reasoned principle, a misunderstanding, or a fear. That misunderstanding may be from relying on the opinion of others or just bad facts. Find it.

We can attack the bad ideas without insulting the person. But first, we have to establish a rapport with the person. Let them know that you don’t think badly of them, but you just don’t understand their point of view. Ask to be educated. To many, this is very disarming. If they were ready to do battle with a bad person, their opinion of you may start to change and it may be possible to talk. 

Let them start. At the heart of an opinion is a well-reasoned principle, a misunderstanding, or a fear. That misunderstanding may be from relying on the opinion of others or just bad facts. Find it. Don’t criticize the person for having the opinion, and don’t ask why they think that way. Save that for later. Don’t make it personal. Talk about the opinion. 

Examples of questions are:

“I don’t understand how that’s true, but if it is, what are you afraid will happen?”

“That’s interesting! I’ve never heard that. Where did you hear it?”  

Try not to laugh when they quote a network or newspaper you know is biased.  Ask if they remember who said it so you can research it and find out more. Don’t ridicule the media source of their information. They may take that as a personal insult. 

There are those who are offended by anyone who disagrees with them. While it may take longer to find, there is still probably someone in there you can reason with.

When it’s your turn to explain your opinion, start with the well-reasoned principle or the fear, and then apply it to the topic of conversation. Let’s take mandatory vaccinations, for example. One might say, “I believe that my body is my most precious possession and no one, not the government, not even my doctor, has the right to put something in my body that I don’t approve of. If I lose control of my body, I am no longer free. If you will allow others to control your body, that’s your choice. That’s the only disagreement we have.”

In this example, there is no name calling, no accusations, no dueling studies or any facts at all. There is nothing here that should “offend” the person you are talking to. 

There are those who are offended by anyone who disagrees with them. While it may take longer to find, there is still probably someone in there you can reason with. 

A few years ago, NPR published a story about Daryl Davis, a Black man who for 30 years has spent time befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan. He says that two hundred Klansmen have given up their robes after talking with him.

“If you spend five minutes with your worst enemy — it doesn’t have to be about race, it could be about anything…you will find that you both have something in common. As you build upon those commonalities, you’re forming a relationship and as you build about that relationship, you’re forming a friendship. That’s what would happen. I didn’t convert anybody. They saw the light and converted themselves.”

The full, fascinating article can be found here.

There is a difference between a conversation and a debate.  You don’t have to do much preparation for a conversation. And please don’t agree to a debate until you are ready with your principles, definitions, and facts. 

Civility is the key to a true conversation for the classical liberal.

[To hear this article in the author’s own voice, please click here.]

Eric L. Bolves is an attorney at law and the managing real estate broker with Engel & Voelkers Orlando, Florida. His practice areas include Elder Law, Bankruptcy and Disability.  He is frequently appointed by Judges as an Attorney Adlitem in foreclosure cases to represent the interests of heirs and members of the military.

Go Find Alice

What keeps me up at night is a haunting suspicion that we have reached the end of reason. A confusion emerges, akin to what Alice must have felt when she fell through the rabbit hole, and what once made sense now borders on the edge of an unacceptable reason. 

No longer am I asked to “know my blood,” as I am told that what my blood is doing doesn’t matter, but rather, whether a Walgreen’s employee has stuck a needle in my arm.

Having COVID-19, indeed, feels like spinning in teacups. In 2020, before vaccinations were available, I contracted the virus, twice, 11 months apart. And both times, I experienced the confusion of cognitive dissonance–what was happening to my body? My toes, my eyes, my tongue, my nose, my lungs, my hair, my reproductive organs, my blood? My body betrayed me with such force that the first time, before Covid was thought to be present in the US, I entered my doctor’s office and asked, “Do I have an autoimmune disease or cancer, because something is dreadfully wrong with me.” However, the delirium of a 103.7° fever lingered beyond recovery. Not because of any long-term physical condition, but because of mental cognitive dissonance.  

Living in a post-Covid body with a pre-Covid sensibility is a strange state of being. All who have survived might consider themselves in studies of one. In my own post-Covid journey, I seek to understand its long-term impact on my body, and, alongside the benefit of my (twice vaccinated) physician husband, I have taken to reading the science to best navigate through healing. However, it seems that peer-reviewed science has lost relevance. No longer am I asked to “know my blood,” as I am told that what my blood is doing doesn’t matter, but rather, whether a Walgreen’s employee has stuck a needle in my arm. It seems more relevant to others to know whether said technician has penetrated my arm with said needle rather than knowing the impact of what the serum inside the vial has accomplished or not. And regardless of whether or not my blood has responded in a positive way to said serum, showing a card or documentation of this moment of penetration is what is required to secure my freedom in what I am told is a free society whether my blood has responded. Never mind that I survived the virus twice and have immunity markers “the same as someone who was vaccinated twice” as written by my physician. 

We are being asked to ignore the instinct of our blood and bones. In exchange for this indiscretion, and with proof of “documentation,” we are being awarded with travel, concerts, restaurants, and access. As a Covid survivor, there are many tests–PCR tests, antibody serology tests, visits to specialists each with a test of their own as new symptoms arise. But the greatest test of all has been the test of reason. 

During my nightly visit to “Survivor Corp,” a website and Facebook group that was recently featured in the New Yorker, a chat thread featured a post of someone’s serology test. The results revealed a high positive presence of Covid antibodies. Curiously, the group admin responded with this post: 

“Admin here. Regardless of antibodies, please click to our website to learn more about the vaccines. They are safe and effective. Talk to your doctors and get vaccinated!” A link to the vaccine site followed. Intrigued that such a blanket statement should exist, I posted an article from Science Magazine, introducing it with a description from Wikipedia;

Science, also widely referred to as Science Magazine,[1] is the peer-reviewed academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science[AAAS 2][2] (AAAS) and one of the world’s top academic journals.[3] It was first published in 1880, is currently circulated weekly and has a subscriber base of around 130,000.” 

I then posted an article from Science entitled, “Having SARS-CoV-2 once confers much greater immunity than a vaccine—but vaccination remains vital” and added:

“It seems that someone or something is asking the admin to say, ‘get vaccinated regardless of your blood immunity.’ I am curious to learn more. Is this a forum for discussion or is there some kind of overarching agenda corralling people to get vaccinated? What is the objective of Survivor Corp? I am pro-vaccination, I just want clarity. The science supports blood immunity. The U.S. policy supports vaccination. What is the role of Survivor Corp in this free expression platform? Please clarify. Thank you.”

Greater even than the loss of lives through Covid Times is the loss of freedom for the generations that follow. Were freedom to extinguish, then the souls lost have died in vain.

I proceeded to post a second article, this time from the journal Nature about serology tests, but my post froze red, and I was instructed to click. Here is an image of message I received:


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How appropriate, I thought to myself, that the Victoria and Albert Museum recently opened a new exhibit featuring art around “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” What a fitting counterpoint for a world gone mad. 

Greater even than the loss of lives through Covid Times is the loss of freedom for the generations that follow. Were freedom to extinguish, then the souls lost have died in vain. We are li