Jonathan Sacks Saw Guilt as the Antidote to Cancel Culture and Public Shaming

Feb. 28 2022

In the 1940s, the anthropologist Ruth Benedict posited a distinction between “guilt” and “shame” cultures, which has since become standard in the social sciences. Put simply, guilt cultures tend to focus on the inward response to transgression, while shame cultures emphasize society’s reaction to the individual transgressor. The late rabbi Jonathan Sacks frequently employed this distinction in his writings, seeing Judaism as an exemplar of the merits of a guilt culture. Marc Eichenbaum explains how Sacks’s ideas on the subject have particular relevance today:

Although Rabbi Sacks discussed the differences between guilt and shame cultures as early as 2001, it is noteworthy that he began to discuss [the subject] much more frequently in the later years of his life. Perhaps Sacks did so because he saw a disturbing trend in which contemporary society began increasingly to transition into more of a shame culture. On several occasions, Rabbi Sacks decried the influence of social media in such terms: “The return of public shaming and vigilante justice, of viral videos and tendentious tweets, is not a move forward to a brave new world but a regression to a very old one; that of pre-Christian Rome and the pre-Socratic Greeks.”

People increasingly view sin as a permanent stain on the sinner and thus regard forgiveness as archaic. The fear of being forever canceled and shamed is more apparent than the fear of betraying oneself. “What counts today is public image—hence the replacement of prophets by public-relations practitioners, and the Ten Commandments by three new rules: thou shalt not be found out, thou shalt not admit, thou shalt not apologize,” mused Rabbi Sacks. People are called out for their mistakes instead of being called in to reconsider them, ostracized for nonconformity instead of being appreciated for their diversity of thought.

Rabbi Sacks urged the world to return to the ethics of the Bible and reclaim the beauty of a guilt culture. He saw the values of responsibility, repentance, forgiveness, and individuality at risk.

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Cancel culture, Deir Yassin, Judaism, Social media

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