Moses Maimonides, Democratic Zionist

The great Hebrew essayist Ahad Ha’am, who understood probably better than any other early Zionist thinker the tensions between the movement’s aspirations and the Jewish tradition, wrote that the medieval theologian Moses Maimonides “did not recognize any value to the principle of nationhood.” Examining Maimonides’ speculations about the messianic era in his legal magnum opus, known as the Mishneh Torah, James A. Diamond concludes that Ahad Ha’am was “flatly wrong.”

Maimonides’ messianic vision [should] resonate deeply across the spectrum of Zionist ideologies. [It] is purely political: “There will be no distinction between the messianic period and the present except for a relief from foreign subjugation.” History will not end, and it will not be fundamentally transformed. Neither will nature. . . . Maimonidean messianism did not depend on supernatural intervention any more than secular Zionism did. Indeed, Maimonides had already rejected what would become the main traditionalist argument against modern Zionism: it was a blasphemous affront against God for not relying on Him alone to effect a return to Zion.

And what of Maimonides’ call for a monarchy that appears closer in form to the one he served under Sultan Saladin than to a modern liberal democracy? Even here, a careful reading of Maimonides’ construct of the messianic king really amounts to an ideal non-king. According to Maimonides, what motivates rabbinic messianic longing is the unfettered freedom “to pursue Torah and its wisdom.” It is decidedly not driven by a desire “to rule the entire world, and not so that they would subjugate the nations, and not so that the nations would exalt them.”

[Moreover], the kind of God that Maimonides’ messianism contemplates as eventually consuming the thinking of all human beings is precisely the God who is revealed, incrementally, and daily, in modern Israel. Israel’s profound advances in all the disciplines required for understanding the creation across the spectrum of both the sciences and the humanities is Zionism’s realization of Maimonides’ messianic dream. Only the practical end of exilic existence enabled the astonishing scope of this intellectual explosion, for, as Maimonides asserted in his Guide of the Perplexed, the misery of living under the domination of foreign powers squelches Jewish potential.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Aḥad Ha’am, Democracy, Messianism, Moses Maimonides, Zionism

The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy