Tuesday, September 30, 2008
A small meditation for the Jewish New Year
Although I am an atheist, I am acutely aware of the vast influence that the New Testament has had on my thinking. And I regret not one jot or tittle of that. Whenever I follow the teachings of Christ (alas far too seldom) I get a blessing -- sometimes very rapidly.
I also however have great respect for the Old Testament and often read it with pleasure. One book however stands out for its difficulty: The book of Job. However you explain it, the fact of the matter is that the God of Israel placed great burdens and afflictions on a good and holy man.
If I were a Rabbi, I would see that as a metaphor for the relationship between the God of Israel and his people as a whole. The God of the Jews has given his chosen people enormous gifts but in his wisdom he has also given them one enormous handicap: political stupidity. Israel and the Jews have only ONE powerful friend in the world: American evangelical Christians. And yet Jews generally despise them. Through the despicable Abraham Foxman, they do all they can to thwart evangelical Christians and they vote in droves for the antisemitic Democratic Party, the party that also despises evangelical Christians.
Now that seems to me to be a curse from on high but I speak from a particular perspective. What Jews do politically is virtually inexplicable from an Anglo-Saxon viewpoint but to the rest of the world it may not be so at all.
This is not the time or place to spell it out in historical detail, but a large element in Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism is the way they value alliances. When Anglo-Saxons go to war they generally do so as "Allies". They in fact refer to their side of a conflict as "the Allies" or "Allied forces". They have an instinctive appreciation of the importance of friends, banal though that may seem. There is much egotism in the world that causes both people and nations to "go it alone" at times but that is something that seems to be missing in Anglo-Saxon thinking.
And that seeking of alliances even overcomes old wounds. There is only one country that has burnt Washington to the ground and that is Britain -- in 1812. But, despite that bad start, the commonality of attitudes and values has prevailed and the USA and Britain have fought alongside one-another repeatedly since then.
Why cannot Jews do the same? Christians were once a plague upon Jewry but they are not so now. Both fundamentalist Christians and Jews want to see Jews in Zion but very few Jews will grasp the hand of friendship that is held out to them by the Christians. That blindspot does seem to me very much like a curse from on high.
There are of course some Jews who fight the good fight: Charles Krauthammer, Jonah Goldberg, Jeff Jacoby, Dennis Prager etc. But on some accounts 88% of Jews voted for the Islam-loving Democratic party at the 2006 mid-terms -- so the curse is pervasive despite that.
There has always been antisemitism on both sides of politics but at least since Karl Marx it has always had its principal home on the Left. Jews can remember conservative businessmen keeping them out of country clubs but forget that Hitler was a socialist. One should be able to expect better than that from a generally clever people. In the late 19th century, the British Conservative party made a Jew (Disraeli) their Prime Minister. About 50 years later the socialist Hitler incinerated 6 million Jews. Can anybody see a difference there?
In 1939 Germany went to war with a powerful ally on its side: Soviet Russia. The German Panzern that stormed through France were powered by Soviet fuel. Germany later however turned on its ally, with disastrous results for itself. One hopes that Jews will not similarly antagonize THEIR best ally. Abe Foxman, take note.