What Made Western Civilization Great Can Also Save It

July 14 2016

Surveying the current state of affairs in American and British politics, as well as the problems facing the West more generally, Daniel Johnson diagnoses a civilizational crisis, of which anti-Semitism is a symptom and neglect of the moral principles of the Hebrew Bible is a cause:

[Currently], neither the right nor the left is doing a good job of defending, representing, or embodying the values of our civilization. Those values come into play if, for example, the state treats human beings merely as a means rather than an end, or if executive authority is elevated above the law, or if the rights of conscience are subordinated to the sensibilities of groups or the imperatives of society. . . .

Our politics would still be recognizable to citizens of the Greco-Roman polis; we have not improved on the Enlightenment’s injunction to be ready to make the supreme sacrifice for the sake of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, just as we still divine the moral law encoded in our hearts and enshrined in the Hebrew Bible. The story of the West is the exegesis of that incomparable, inexhaustible diamond mine of the intellect. . . .

Only those who know what it is to live in exile, under the yoke of servitude, can teach others what tyranny is and what is needed to overcome it. May the leaders of the West, whether they hail from right or left, reach deep into our collective memory, resurrecting and drawing on the bitter experience of an exiled nation. In Psalm 137, perhaps the most memorable of all, the Psalmist sings: . . . “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem: let my right hand forget her cunning.” If we were to forget the origins of the West in [the] great city of God, our right hands, too, would forget their cunning—the conservative cause would be lost and the machinery of capitalism would grind to a halt. Our harps, too, would fall silent, as the cultural achievements of the centuries lose their meaning. If the Bible is the testament of the human race, the Jewish people are the living embodiment of that collective memory. The West’s commitment to Israel’s existence is, or should be, a matter of self-interested survival: we stand or fall together.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Standpoint

More about: Anti-Semitism, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas, U.S. Presidential election, United Kingdom, Western civilization

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship