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.”

Read more at Jewish Journal

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


Saudi Arabia Should Open Its Doors to Israeli—and Palestinian—Pilgrims

On the evening of June 26 the annual period of the Hajj begins, during which Muslims from all over the world visit Mecca and perform prescribed religious rituals. Because of the de-jure state of war between Saudi Arabia and the Jewish state, Israeli Muslim pilgrims—who usually number about 6,000—must take a circuitous (and often costly) route via a third country. The same is true for Palestinians. Mark Dubowitz and Tzvi Kahn, writing in the Saudi paper Arab News, urge Riyadh to reconsider its policy:

[I]f the kingdom now withholds consent for direct flights from Israel to Saudi Arabia, it would be a setback for those normalization efforts, not merely a continuation of the status quo. It is hard to see what the Saudis would gain from that.

One way to support the arrangement would be to include Palestinians in the deal. Israel might also consider earmarking its southern Ramon Airport for the flights. After all, Ramon is significantly closer to the kingdom than Ben-Gurion Airport, making for cheaper routes. Its seclusion from Israeli population centers would also help Israeli efforts to monitor outgoing passengers and incoming flights for security purposes.

A pilot program that ran between August and October proved promising, with dozens of Palestinians from the West Bank traveling back and forth from Ramon to Cyprus and Turkey. This program proceeded over the objections of the Palestinian Authority, which fears being sidelined by such accommodations. Jordan, too, has reason to be concerned about the loss of Palestinian passenger dinars at Amman’s airports.

But Palestinians deserve easier travel. Since Israel is willing to be magnanimous in this regard, Saudi Arabia can certainly follow suit by allowing Ramon to be the springboard for direct Hajj flights for Palestinian and Israeli Muslims alike. And that would be a net positive for efforts to normalize ties between [Jerusalem] and Riyadh.

Read more at Arab News

More about: Israel-Arab relations, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia