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.

Read more at Jewish Journal

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


Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University