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

Ending the Palestinian “Internationalization” Strategy

March 24 2017

Since Barack Obama (and Benjamin Netanyahu) assumed office in 2009, the Palestinian Authority has refused to negotiate with Israel, demanded the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders with its capital in east Jerusalem, and declined to agree to any concessions in return. To this end it has pursued a strategy of “internationalizing” the conflict by seeking recognition from international bodies and hoping that some sort of consortium of states will impose a solution to its liking on Israel. But with a new president in the White House, and a Middle East in disarray, this strategy seems less promising. Amos Yadlin and Kobi Michael explain why and how Israel and the U.S. can bring an end to it:

The Palestinian internationalization strategy was bolstered by a public-relations effort to [disseminate] the Palestinian narrative of the reasons for the conflict and the “just way of solving it,” and to saddle Israel with responsibility for the political deadlock. This was joined by general efforts to delegitimize Israel. This strategy, which focuses on a persistent, systematic effort to blacken Israel in international institutions, undermine its legitimacy, and deny the historic national connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, has scored several notable achievements in recent years. . . . One of the prominent achievements by the Palestinian national movement was the 2012 UN General Assembly resolution defining Palestine as a “non-member observer state.” . . . [T]he Palestinians [also] succeeded in entrenching within the U.S. administration the belief that Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank was the main obstacle to an agreement. . . .

Making it unmistakably clear to the Palestinians that they must return to the negotiating process and to mutual give-and-take, and also accept transitional and interim arrangements as preferable alternatives to the status quo, will engender greater potential for progress than during the Obama administration. As an initial sign to the Palestinians that the rules of the game have changed, moving the American embassy to Jerusalem is in order. An American retreat from that pledge . . . [in response to] the Palestinian threats aimed at preventing this measure will weaken the American stature and become an incentive for the Palestinians to adhere to a strategy of bypassing Israel and evading direct negotiations. . . .

It is [also] important that the United States clarify that if the Palestinians prefer to continue their effort to isolate Israel in the international theater, instead of returning to direct negotiations, . . . [Washington] will back independent measures by Israel for determining its border in accordance with Israel’s strategic interests, while preserving the possibility of the future implementation of a negotiated two nation-state solution.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Donald Trump, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian Authority, Peace Process, US-Israel relations