Norman Podhoretz and the American Jewish Cause

Oct. 28 2019

In two weeks, the Jewish Leadership Conference will award its Herzl Prize to the neoconservative thinker, literary critic, and longtime editor of Commentary. Reflecting on Norman Podhoretz’s legacy, Rick Richman compares his trajectory with that of the Supreme Court justice and American Zionist leader Louis Brandeis, and also that of the Hollywood screenwriter Ben Hecht, who advocated relentlessly for European Jewry during World War II and for the Jews of a nascent Israel thereafter:

[Podhoretz] grew up in a poor section of Brooklyn, in a family of immigrants. He was the son of a milkman, speaking Yiddish at home. . . . In his first years at Commentary, he focused on literature. He was responsible for publishing Philip Roth’s first short story in a national magazine, and wrote piercing reviews on Saul Bellow’s work. Soon, he was combining literary criticism with geopolitical insights, addressing the intellectual issues of the cold war.

He became increasingly troubled by the anti-Americanism infecting the left, and he eventually broke with it, becoming one of the founders of the neoconservative movement. It was not, to put it mildly, a popular thing to do. [Ultimately, he] turned Commentary from a left-wing critic of America into a defender of America and Israel, with exceptional analysis and argument, in essay after essay for 35 years.

After he retired in 1995 at age sixty-five, . . . he wrote five of his twelve books as well as many of his most powerful essays, [including] The Prophets: Who They Were and What They Are, which offered new interpretations of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and others, arguing that their messages were the imperatives of rejecting the idolatry of self-worship, which, in modern times, took the form of the disastrous belief that using ideology and coercion, humans could create a perfect society. That idolatry created a 20th century in which 100 million people were murdered by totalitarian states seeking the perfect race or class.

Podhoretz concluded that “Now, as [in ancient times], the battle will have to be fought first and foremost within ourselves and then in the world of ideas around us. . . . Because unless we all commit ourselves to the struggle for our own civilization, it will, like Jerusalem in the days of Jeremiah 2,500 years ago, wind up being sapped from within . . . and it will then become vulnerable to sacking from without.”

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 Jewish Journal

More about: Ben Hecht, Louis Brandeis, Neoconservatism, Norman Podhoretz, Prophets

 

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.

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 Tablet

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