Richard Pipes on God, the Jews, and Survival

Reminiscing about his friendship with the eminent historian of Russia Richard Pipes—who died last week at the age of ninety-four—Paul Kengor notes some of Pipes’s theological reflections:

Richard Pipes was born in Poland on July 11, 1923. As a sixteen-year-old Jew at the time of Hitler’s invasion, Pipes mercifully escaped, thanks to a clever and shrewd father. He credited not only his father but also providential intervention. That experience, and those that followed, taught Pipes several life lessons. In his memoir, Vixi: Memoirs of a Non-Belonger, he wrote: “The main effect of the Holocaust on my psyche was to make me delight in every day of life that has been granted to me, for I was saved from certain death.” Pipes observed: “I felt and feel to this day that I have been spared not to waste my life on self-indulgence or self-aggrandizement but to spread a moral message by showing, using examples from history, how evil ideas lead to evil consequences. Since scholars have written enough on the Holocaust, I thought it my mission to demonstrate this truth using the example of Communism.” . . .

Pipes [also] wrote: “Many Jews—my father among them—lost their religious beliefs because of the Holocaust. Mine, if anything, were strengthened. The mass murder (including those that occurred simultaneously in the Soviet Union) demonstrated what happens when people renounce faith in God, deny that human beings were created in His image, and reduce them to soulless and therefore expendable material objects.”

As noted, surviving the Holocaust made Pipes delight in every day that God had given him. . . . Above all, he would spend the remainder of his long and scholarly life exposing godless ideologies and the totalitarian tyrants who deny that human beings are made in God’s image. Few human beings in the academy did that as nobly and expertly as Richard Pipes.

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More about: History & Ideas, Holocaust, Judaism, Totalitarianism

For Israelis, Anti-Zionism Kills

Dec. 14 2018

This week alone, anti-Zionists have killed multiple Israelis in a series of attacks; these follow the revelations that Hizballah succeeded in digging multiple attack tunnels from Lebanon into northern Israel. Simultaneously, some recent news stories in the U.S. have occasioned pious reminders that anti-Zionism should not be conflated with anti-Semitism. Bret Stephens notes that it is anti-Zionists, not defenders of Israel, who do the most to blur that distinction:

Israelis experience anti-Zionism in a different way from, say, readers of the New York Review of Books: not as a bold sally in the world of ideas, but as a looming menace to their earthly existence, held at bay only through force of arms. . . . Anti-Zionism might have been a respectable point of view before 1948, when the question of Israel’s existence was in the future and up for debate. Today, anti-Zionism is a call for the elimination of a state—details to follow regarding the fate befalling those who currently live in it. . . .

Anti-Zionism is ideologically unique in insisting that one state, and one state only, doesn’t just have to change. It has to go. By a coincidence that its adherents insist is entirely innocent, this happens to be the Jewish state, making anti-Zionists either the most disingenuous of ideologues or the most obtuse. When then-CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill called last month for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea” and later claimed to be ignorant of what the slogan really meant, it was hard to tell in which category he fell.

Does this make someone with Hill’s views an anti-Semite? It’s like asking whether a person who believes in [the principle of] separate-but-equal must necessarily be a racist. In theory, no. In reality, another story. The typical aim of the anti-Semite is legal or social discrimination against some set of Jews. The explicit aim of the anti-Zionist is political or physical dispossession.

What’s worse: to be denied membership in a country club because you’re Jewish, or driven from your ancestral homeland and sovereign state for the same reason? If anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are meaningfully distinct (I think they are not), the human consequences of the latter are direr.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian terror