At the Heart of the 20th-Century’s Most Influential Progressive Theory Lies a Rejection of Jews and Judaism

In his 1972 book A Theory of Justice, the political philosopher John Rawls argued that any social or economic disparities are ipso facto unjust, as they stem from a distribution of goods and status based on luck alone. In his recent book The Theology of Liberalism, Eric Nelson traces the roots of Rawls’s thinking to ancient Christian debates regarding free will and predestination, noting that in his early works on theology the philosopher firmly took the side of the “anti-Pelagians,” who believe salvation is unearned. Reviewing Nelson’s book, Tal Fortgang notes how strongly Rawlsian thought is echoed in the discussion of privilege by today’s progressives, and explains how Judaism fits in to Nelson’s understanding of Rawls:

Nelson lays bare more than just the weakness of progressive redistributionism. He also shows how its anti-liberal underpinnings actually invited the contemporary secular form of the old specter of Jew-hatred. Preceding Rawls in anti-merit analysis was Karl Marx, whose call for the abolition both of Jews and of capitalism hinged on an argument against merit itself. Marx’s criticism of liberalism’s tendency to estrange individuals from each other was for Marx, in Nelson’s words, “a manifestation of [liberalism’s] essential ‘Jewishness.’”

These anti-Jewish currents in Marxism flow neatly into Rawls’s anti-Pelagianism. . . . “The bargain scheme of redemption,” wrote Rawls of the notion that man can make claims on God’s justice, “manifests itself in the barrier of legalism in religion [Judaism] and in contract theories in politics.” Legalism, to the young Rawls, is the Judaized form of Pelagianism. It encourages man to accumulate merit through freely chosen adherence to the law and performance of commandments, and to present it to God as evidence of one’s desert.

This view of justice was rejected by the apostle Paul and deemed worthy of abolition by Marx, and it speaks to the corruption of Judaism, according to Rawls. “The best efforts in Judaism were so corrupted—not the worst, but the best,” Rawls wrote, for Judaism is mired in delusion about merit and God’s justice. Marxist and Rawlsian redistributionism, we must conclude, opposes not just the Jews but Judaism, rejecting the nature of man and God that the Hebrew Bible offers. Nelson’s sobering, rigorous, and difficult analysis reveals that Jews have every reason to find the logic of redistributionism troubling at its core, because at its core it is a rejection of Judaism itself.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Judaism, Karl Marx, Political philosophy, Predestination, Social Justice, Theology


An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security