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Has American Culture Lost Touch with the Hebraic Political Tradition?

March 20 2017

In the unusual prologue to his film The Ten Commandments, Cecil B. DeMille tells the audience directly that the “theme of this picture is whether men ought to be ruled by God’s law or whether they are to be ruled by the whims of a dictator like Rameses. Are men the property of the state, or are they free souls under God?” Meir Soloveichik laments the absence today of similar references to the roots of the American political tradition in the Hebrew Bible:

Sixty years ago, the Hebraic foundation of the American idea was taken for granted by the culture. I live two blocks from a theater where Manhattan’s Orthodox Jews once went to see The Ten Commandments, but there is no picture like this that I can take my children to see in our time. This points to a larger problem facing those dedicated to political conservatism. The conservative movement has spent decades producing extraordinary institutions dedicated to policy and ideas, but it has done little to help produce a culture that reflects conservative ideas, values, and morals. . . .

The Ten Commandments was DeMille’s second bite at the Exodus apple. In 1923, he made a silent version. Among his extras, DeMille hired 250 Orthodox immigrants. These extras did not need to act. As one witness recounted, when filming the Exodus scene, “the Jews streamed out of the great gates with tears running down their cheeks, and then without prompting or rehearsal, they began singing in Hebrew the old chants of their race, which have been sung in synagogues for thousands of years.” . . .

Sixty-one years after The Ten Commandments was released and went on to become the sixth most successful movie ever made, I wonder whether we can ever again experience a culture where the American dream and my own heritage can converge—where the script that was known to Jewish hearts for 3,000 years can be an important part of our culture again. The future of our republic may rest on the answer.

Read more at Commentary

More about: American founding, American Jewry, Arts & Culture, Film, Hebrew Bible

Palestinian Unification Brings No Benefits to Israel Unless It Involves Disarmament

Oct. 17 2017

On Thursday, Hamas—which governs the Gaza Strip—and Fatah—which governs parts of the West Bank through the auspices of the Palestinian Authority (PA)—signed an agreement ending over a decade of conflict. The agreement will allow Hamas to share the governance of Gaza with the Fatah-controlled PA; crucially, the PA will again supply Gaza with fuel, electricity, and medical supplies. But Hamas will maintain control over its military and terrorist operations, and thus, writes Alan Baker, the agreement brings peace no closer:

The Hamas-Fatah unity agreement could, in principle, be seen to be a positive development in the general framework of the Middle East peace process . . . [were it] to enable a responsible and unified Palestinian leadership, speaking with one voice and duly empowered to further peace negotiations. . . .

[But in order for such an agreement to have this effect, its] basic tenet . . . must be the open reaffirmation of the already existing and valid Palestinian commitments vis-à-vis Israel and the international community, signatories as witnesses to the Oslo Accords. Such commitments, set out in detail in the accords, include ending terror, incitement, boycott, and international attempts to bypass the negotiating process. Above all, they require dismantling all terror groups and infrastructures. They necessitate a return to economic and security cooperation and a positive negotiating mode. . . .

The Palestinian Authority also has its own obligation to cease supporting terrorists and their families with salaries and welfare payments. Since the present unification does not fulfill [this requirement], it cannot be acceptable either to the international community or to Israel.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Fatah, Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians