The Biblical Spirit of the American Founding

In honor of the Fourth of July, Wilfred McClay reviews Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land, an anthology documenting how the language and spirit of the Hebrew Bible permeated the documents, orations, and essays that shaped American history:

As scholars have long understood, but many Americans have forgotten, Puritans identified themselves with ancient Israel. . . . Puritanism would have its day, but it had already begun to weaken by the end of the 17th century and had faded away considerably by the time of the American Revolution. But, amazingly, the Hebraic template upon which Puritanism rested became an enduring feature of American life. Indeed, the title that editors Stuart Halpern, Matthew Holbreich, Jonathan Silver, and Meir Soloveichik have chosen for their volume, Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land, is the phrase famously inscribed on the Liberty Bell, which invokes the biblical manumission of all slaves in the Jubilee year (Leviticus 25:10).

Does this Hebraic element in the texture of American life continue even unto the present, seemingly secular day? That is hard to say. The anthology closes with the end of the American Civil War, and the editors hint in their postscript that one might have to look very hard to find the same pattern persisting through the 19th century and on into the 20th. They do, however, offer a postscript on the relationship of the Hebrew Bible to the post-World War II civil-rights movement, and particularly to the rhetoric of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. King’s speeches were not only deeply imbued with the language of the biblical prophets; they were effective precisely because they spoke in the most ancient language of American moral legitimation.

Yet King lived in a time—and in a region, the American South—in which biblical knowledge was still strong. It is not so today, hence the great value of Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land. Will the moral sentiments and characteristic habits of the heart that have been sustained in America in the past continue to flourish without the biblical account of man to support and uphold them?

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: American founding, American Religion, Hebrew Bible, Leviticus, Martin Luther King

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy