How the Jewish Experience Can Help America Defend Itself against the War on History

A few days ago, a member of the Illinois legislature attracted national attention by calling to abolish the teaching of history in public schools statewide, until a “suitable alternative” is developed that lives up to current standards of political correctness. This radical suggestion is of a piece with the recent moves to tear down statues and rename buildings, institutions, and even cities named for historic figures deemed by activists worthy of contempt rather than honor, and it is also related to the New York Times’s “1619 Project,” a misguided and error-laden attempt to rewrite American history so that the country’s sins take precedence over all else. Natan Sharansky and Gil Troy argue that Judaism and Jewish history can provide an important antidote to this nihilistic impulse:

Jews are preprogrammed to navigate history, not negate it. We have no choice. Our ancestors often behaved poorly. The Bible’s colorful lineup of flawed heroes challenges us to replicate their virtues and avoid their sins. While seeking to continue their noble missions and eternal values, we also learn from Isaac’s passivity, Jacob’s craftiness, Joseph’s arrogance toward his brothers, Moses’ anger, Miriam’s gossiping, and King David’s heroism and piety, amid epic sins.

Imagine if our enemies were correct and we Jews, “the Elders of Zion,” had the power to dictate history. We could write out of history every Western hero who hated us. But what would Catholic history be without the Crusaders—including Louis IX, an enlightened French king and notorious anti-Semite after whom St. Louis is named? What would Protestantism be without Martin Luther, that pace-setting rebel, reformer—and Jew-hater? And what would Spanish history be without Ferdinand and Isabella, who brought Spain back to Christian Europe, then expelled and persecuted hundreds of thousands of Jews?

When Sharansky was in [Soviet] prison, Voltaire was his honored friend. . . . Voltaire [famously claimed to be] ready “to defend to the death” his opponents’ right to be wrong and still speak. Yet by saying Jews “deserve to be punished” for their “barbarism,” this enlightened liberal helped legitimize “enlightened” liberal anti-Semitism.

Similarly, Fyodor Dostoevsky symbolized the Russian intelligentsia’s resistance to autocracy, one of the soaring souls whose example highlighted the Soviet system’s brutality and vulgarity. When KGB interrogators accused Sharansky of betraying Russian culture as “a Zionist agent,” the answer was obvious: “You want to say Dostoevsky and Tolstoy are on your side? They’re on my side.” Yet Dostoevsky perpetuated deadly Jewish stereotypes, warning that the Jews—the anti-Christ—were money-hungry hucksters, threatening humanity. . . . We don’t forgive our enemies or forget the damage they’ve caused, but we wouldn’t gain from a whitewash.

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Read more at Jewish Journal

More about: Education, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Hebrew Bible, Natan Sharansky, New York Times, U.S. Politics, Voltaire

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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Read more at Lahav’s Newsletter

More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror