A Society Can’t Survive Without a Common Moral Code

Last Friday, the archbishop of Canterbury delivered a speech to the House of Lords on “the shared values underpinning our national life and their role in shaping public-policy priorities.” Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the UK and a member of the House of Lords, contributed the following thoughts to the ensuing discussion:

[Over the past few decades], most people have come to believe that we are entitled to do whatever we like so long as it is within the law, and that the law itself should be limited to the prevention of harm to others.

But what harms others is not always immediately obvious. The breakdown of marriage and stable families has caused immense harm to several generations of children, psychologically, socially, and economically. The breakdown of codes of honor and responsibility have led to appalling behavior on the part of at least some senior figures in business and the financial sector, who have served themselves while those they were supposed to have served have borne the cost. There has been a palpable collapse of trust in one institution after another—an inevitable consequence of our failure to teach the concepts of duty, obligation, altruism, and the common good.

We have begun a journey down the road to moral relativism and individualism, which no society in history has survived for long. It was the road taken in Greece in the 3rd pre-Christian century and in Rome in the 1st century CE: two great civilizations that shortly thereafter declined and died. Britain has begun along the same trajectory, and it is bad news for our children, and for our grandchildren worse still.

Some elements of morality are universal: justice-as-fairness and the avoidance of inflicting harm. But others are particular. They are what give a country and culture its color, its distinctive handwriting in the book of life. The Britain I grew up in had extraordinary values and virtues. It honored tradition but was open to innovation. It valued family and community but also left space for eccentricity and individuality.

Read more at Rabbi Sacks

More about: Family, History & Ideas, Jonathan Sacks, Morality, Politics

Planning for the Day after the War in the Gaza Strip

At the center of much political debate in Israel during the past week, as well as, reportedly, of disagreement between Jerusalem and Washington, is the problem of how Gaza should be governed if not by Hamas. Thus far, the IDF has only held on to small parts of the Strip from which it has cleared out the terrorists. Michael Oren lays out the parameters of this debate over what he has previous called Israel’s unsolvable problem, and sets forth ten principles that any plan should adhere to. Herewith, the first five:

  1. Israel retains total security control in Gaza, including control of all borders and crossings, until Hamas is demonstrably defeated. Operations continue in Rafah and elsewhere following effective civilian evacuations. Military and diplomatic efforts to secure the hostages’ release continue unabated.
  2. Civil affairs, including health services and aid distribution, are administered by Gazans unaffiliated with Hamas. The model will be Area B of Judea and Samaria, where Israel is in charge of security and Palestinians are responsible for the civil administration.
  3. The civil administration is supervised by the Palestinian Authority once it is “revitalized.” The PA first meets benchmarks for ending corruption and establishing transparent institutions. The designation and fulfillment of the benchmarks is carried out in coordination with Israel.
  4. The United States sends a greatly expanded and improved version of the Dayton Mission that trained PA police forces in Gaza after Israel’s disengagement.
  5. Abraham Accords countries launch a major inter-Arab initiative to rebuild and modernize Gaza.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security, U.S.-Israel relationship