In the year 2000, some 170 Jewish scholars produced a statement, published in the Christian magazine First Things, that articulated the supposed shared principles of Judaism and Christianity and was meant to serve as the basis for further interfaith dialogue. The statement served in part as a Jewish response to Nostra Aetate, the Vatican’s seminal 1965 reassessment of its attitude toward religious tolerance, which removed many anti-Jewish teachings from Catholic doctrine. In an essay in Commentary, Jon Levenson sharply criticized the Jewish statement, warning that its emphasis on the commonalities of Jewish and Christian belief threatened to elide or suppress the differences, and thus undermine the very reasons for retaining those things that make Judaism unique. He revisits these arguments in conversation with Alan Rubenstein. (Audio, 30 minutes. Options for download and streaming are available at the link below.)
The Danger and Opportunity of Jewish-Christian Dialogue
Mahmoud Abbas Comes to the UN to Walk away from the Negotiating Table
On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, addressed the United Nations Security Council during one of its regular discussions of the “Palestine question.” He used the opportunity to elaborate on the Palestinians’ “5,000-year history” in the land of Israel, after which he moved on to demand—among other things—that the U.S. reverse its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The editors of the Weekly Standard comment:
It’s convenient for Abbas to suggest a condition to which he knows the United States won’t accede. It allows him to do what he does best—walk away from the table. Which is what he did on Tuesday, literally. After his speech, Abbas and his coterie of bureaucrats walked out of the council chamber, snubbing the next two speakers, the Israeli ambassador Danny Danon and the U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley, . . . [in order to have his] photograph taken with the Belgian foreign minister.
Abbas has neither the power nor the will to make peace. It’s the perennial problem afflicting Palestinian leadership. If he compromises on the alleged “right of return”—the chimerical idea that Palestinians can re-occupy the lands from which they [or their ancestors] fled, in effect obliterating the Israeli state—he will be deposed by political adversaries. Thus his contradictory strategy: to prolong his pageantry in international forums such as the UN, and to fashion himself a “moderate” even as he finances and incites terror. He seems to believe time is on his side. But it’s not. He’s eighty-two. While he continues his performative intransigence, he further immiserates the people he claims to represent.
In a sense, it was entirely appropriate that Abbas walked out. In that sullen act, he [exemplified] his own approach to peacemaking: when difficulties arise, vacate the premises and seek out photographers.