There is no denying the great cultural achievements of western civilization, its technological brilliance. Virtually all modern innovation, and most of contemporary science comes from Europe and North America- a handful of countries representing a small fraction of the world’s population. Not coincidentally, these are the regions of the world where democracy and economic freedom have flourished. The German-American Jewish anthropologist Franz Boas (1858-1942) put it this way:
“The poorer in cultural achievements, the greater the number of ingrained rules and proscriptions which work to determine every action.”
Limits and Freedom
Every culture imposes limits on its members. Incest (however defined) or murder are pretty much universal. In many societies, the social structure tells people their obligations, rather than some authority figures. There is “cultural freedom” to do as you please within the bounds of acceptable behavior. A free person is in harmony with his culture.
There is also a concept of moral freedom, which is action in accord with the supreme reason (human, not godly reason) which governs the universe. It’s expressed in the general will of the members of a society.
“It’s to the general will that the individual must address himself to know how far he ought to be a man, a citizen, a subject, a father, a child, and when it is suitable to live or die.”
The philosopher Diderot explained that the general will was truth discovered through the power of reason. Once that truth had been discovered, whoever refused to accept it was “either insane or wicked and morally evil,” an enemy of humanity.
Cultural and moral freedom are not the same. The former changes over time. It responds to undirected shifts in circumstance, be they technological, economic or social. Moral freedom on the other hand presupposes a universal, timeless truth which transcends, or rather over-rides the individual’s ability to choose.
The Cultural Achievements of Political Correctness
Here we have the ideological basis for political correctness, for the moral fascism sweeping contemporary Western societies, condemning their cultural achievements, their science, their progress. The supreme reason governing the universe does not allow for deviance. In socialist countries, this reason is embodied in the State. In democratic nations, the intellectual elite, considering itself trained in advanced reason, considers itself as the personification of that supreme truth. The elite considers itself the West’s greatest cultural achievement.
In the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early part of the twentieth century, the primary concern of Western democratic governments was the
protection of individual rights. In the twenty-first century progressives encourage the state to embody the supreme reason which they have discerned. The concern of liberal governments is collective, rather than individual choice. Conformity to universal reason is necessary for the sake of humanity. Dissent can get you fired, or, as some would wish it, jailed. Language must use contrived jargon reflecting the reasoning of those who express the proper moral order of the universe. Violence becomes a political right in promoting the general will.
The Cultural Achievements of the Reign of Terror
It’s the same ideological foundation as failed Marxist totalitarianism. It’s the same foundation as the Reign of Terror which followed the French Revolution. To disagree with unfettered tolerance of aberrant behavior, abortion on demand, social housing, race / gender quotas or even gender-restricted washrooms, is to sin against reason, against morality.
The Cultural Achievements of Twenty-One Thousand Rules
During his years in office, President Obama’s administration imposed twenty-one thousand new rules and regulations upon American consumers and businesses. The progressives who supported him were just as industrious, attempting to regulate behavior, language, thought, and religion. The urge to regulate has been pervasive in Western democracies.
Western civilization has a great record of cultural achievement, technological and scientific innovation. If our societies continue to increase “the number of ingrained rules and proscriptions which work to determine every action,” this record of achievements will be ended, to the detriment of all humanity. This indeed goes against morality, against reason.
The Prophets of the Bible (Jeremiah, Isaiah et al) rebuked Israel, saying we suffer for our sins. It was Israel’s misbehavior (rather than Nebuchadnezzer’s), that caused the destruction of the holy Temple in Jerusalem, the icon of God’s presence in the world. Our sins were so egregious that even King Josiah’s repentance (about 2,500 years ago) was not enough to avert the decree. It would be sacrilegious to say otherwise.
On September 11th we remember the destruction of an iconic building of our time, the World Trade Center. And like the prophets of the past, many blame this on our sins: Western colonialism, expansionism, interference in the Middle East, racism, militarism… In this view 9/11 was deserved payback.
Same with San Bernardino, Chattanooga, Paris, Brussels, Madrid, etc. The attacks were revenge for Western oppression. The terrorism committed by European-born North-African Muslims is a direct consequence of our sins of European oppression of North Africa.
North African oppression of Europeans preceded European colonialism. Barbary coast (North African) slavers attacked the European coasts as far north as Ireland from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries, taking as many as one and a quarter million white European captives, according to some estimates. Unlike black Africans shipped to the Americas, these slaves did not live long enough to reproduce, have families, and eventually find freedom.
The enslavement of Europeans doesn’t fit the general theme of European world conquest and colonialism that is central to scholarship on the early modern era, he said. Many of the countries that were victims of slavery, such as France and Spain, would later conquer and colonize the areas of North Africa where their citizens were once held as slaves. Maybe because of this history, Western scholars have thought of the Europeans primarily as “evil colonialists” and not as the victims they sometimes were, Davis said.
It would be sacrilegious for any progressive to dare declare that Islam is the problem with Islamic terrorism. They will jump through any hoop to blame terror on its victims. Disposing of Saddam Hussein, the savage despot of Iraq, supporting Israel, failure to accommodate Shariah law… Every historical grudge fantasy is dredged up to illustrate our sins.
But just as King Josiah’s ancient repentance was insufficient, only complete submission to Islam’s prophet can atone for past resistance to his bloody demands. We’re moving fast down the road to compliance, to surrender. And like Josiah’s repentance, it won’t help.
“How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity.”
― Winston S. Churchill, The River War
Sympathy for the
After the Islamic terror attack in Nice, politicians around the world expressed their sympathy with the people of France, sending warm thoughts and prayers. Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada said “Our sympathy is with the victims.” Leung Chun-ying of Hong Kong expressed his “deepest sympathies” with the French people. Hillary Clinton’s “thoughts and prayers” were with the families of the killed and injured. Julie Bishop, the Foreign Minister of Australia’s “thoughts and sympathies” were with the victims and their families.”
In the meantime, security services were investigating the massacre, trying to figure out the motive and connections of a killer yelling “allah achbar.” Same thing in Orlando, in Paris, and at many terror attacks. Why did they do it, asked the investigators. Were the terrorists acting alone? Does this mean war? Can’t be!
Let me save the investigators some time and money. In each case the killer(s) did it for the cause of Allah. They weren’t acting alone. They were part of a network of 1.6 billion Muslims, whose religion demands that they subdue and dominate the world. Even though the Orlando shooter and the Nice truck driver may have planned and carried out their killing by themselves, they were motivated by the entity known as “Islam.”
It’s a fragmented outfit, with members killing each other more than they attack outsiders. Some of its adherents are the most vile, violent people on earth, but there are also sects such as the Sufi and Ahmadiyya who oppose any aggressive activities. Nonetheless, there have been close to thirteen hundred Islamic attacks so far in 2016, leaving twelve thousand dead, and fourteen thousand injured (with most of the victims being members of opposing Muslim sects).
This Means War
Islam’s record of violence is not a modern phenomenon, nor is the barbarity of ISIS. Historians estimate that eighty million people died in the Islamic conquest of the Indian sub-continent. Over a hundred and ten million black Africans were killed as a consequence of the Muslim slave trade. Islam was not spread throughout the world by peaceful missionaries, convincing disbelievers of the beauty of their faith. This means war.
There used to be resistance. Much of India was under the thumb of Islam for over eight hundred years, but the population held on to its own beliefs, often under great duress. When Islam conquered much of the Middle East, destroying Christian holy places, the Church, the European monarchs decided this means war, and the Crusades were organized to take them back. They failed. Islam moved on to conquer large swaths of Europe. At the siege of Vienna in 1683, it appeared ready to over-run the continent.
“…throughout the camp that every man who has infidel prisoners was to put them to death, and whoever neglected to do so should himself be executed and his property given to the informer. When this order became known to the ghazis of Islam, they drew their swords and put their prisoners to death. 100,000 infidels, impious idolaters, were on that day slain. Maulana Nasir-ud-din Umar, a counselor and a man of learning, who, in all his life had never killed a sparrow, now, in execution of my order, slew with his sword fifteen idolatrous Hindus, who were his captives“.
That war hasn’t ended. Only the resistance has wound down. Large swaths of territory in France, Belgium, Sweden, and Germany, are “no-go” zones, no longer under control of their respective governments. In other areas with significant Muslim populations, crime rates are soaring, as new-comers feel no obligation to respect the laws of the land. Women and Jews are especially vulnerable targets. The uber-wealthy pushing to increase immigration have walls around their compounds to protect themselves. For the rest, the sense of security enjoyed by Europe, and even America, has dissipated.
An Invasion of Values
It’s not an invasion by an army. It’s rather a set of values that has marched through the Gates of Vienna, this time unopposed by any armies, uncontested by a society that feels values are relative, there is no truth, and that the bad guy is the civilization that has brought untold progress and prosperity to much of the world. Post modernism, moral relativism, keeps them from understanding what is happening, from realizing that this means war.
Is the fight over? Is Western civilization about to crumble, to be overtaken by a misogynist, murderous intolerant ideology? Yes, if Western civilization refuses to recognize that it’s at war, a very old war. Yes, if Western civilization refuses to resist the attackers.
One can only hope that as Islam presses its attacks, in places such as Paris, Cologne, Sweden, San Bernadino, Fort Hood, Orlando, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, it will be impossible to deny that we are under attack. Sure, many officials deny that the terrorism has anything to do with an Islamic war on the West. It’s isolated incidents, criminals, mentally disturbed loners. If there’s no army, no organization or terror network the officials can point to, there is nothing they are able to see. Hopefully, these officials will be voted out of office by people who don’t have walls, don’t have armed security to protect the lives of their loved ones. People who see the repeated attacks on their way of life, and understand that this means war.
Is Islam so different from the other two Abrahamic religions? Judea was once a warlike, marauding state, fighting in God’s name. That was well over two thousand years ago. Christianity has a bloody history, especially in its record with South American natives. Though intertwined, the monarch and the Christian faith were distinct entities. And the bloody violence ended hundreds of years ago. Of the Abrahamic religions, only Islam is in a state of perpetual war. Maybe they’ll evolve out of it, as did the others. But can we afford to wait?
Here’s a suggested strategy for Western civilization:
- Identify the enemy: when a terrorist shouts “allah achbar,” believe that he’s doing it for the cause of Allah.
- Identify immediately all acts of terrorism, rather than conceal or minimize them, whether in the US, Europe, and especially Israel (which has been the canary in the mine-shaft).
- Close all schools and mosques in the West which are funded by Saudi Arabia. The current wave of Islamic aggression has its roots in Saudi Arabia’s ultra-conservative Wahabi movement
- Demand that the Saudi government, and especially Saudi clerics clearly and vehemently denounce and issue fatwas forbidding acts of terror against non-Muslims.
- Expropriate, or if necessary confiscate all critical infrastructure or entities owned by radical Islamic nations or individuals.
- Shut down Islamic propaganda organizations in the West, such as Al Jazeera, and CAIR, and the Nation of Islam.
- Deport any non-citizen who endorses terror against the West.
- Establish that support of terror is treason, with all the consequences that incurs.
- Governments must pacify their no-go zones, establishing government authority and control.
- Enact strict controls over all immigrants, including refugees entering the country. In wartime, it is not discrimination to keep out potential enemy forces.
- Teach the real history of Islam in schools and universities; its death count over the centuries, its role in creating the African slave trade, its taking of European slaves. Teach that America’s first war was against marauding North African Arabs. Explain the role of women, the fate of homosexuals, the intolerance towards non-believers.
- Fight an all-out war against terror organizations on their home turf, whether Iraq, Afghanistan or Qatar.
- Above all, have the will to defeat a ruthless enemy that has been coming for you for fifteen hundred years.
I look forward to the day when the imams, the muftis, sheikhs, princes and presidents loudly denounce all terrorism, when they encourage their followers to live peacefully with other peoples. When they say to the infidels “our way is not your way, but you are free to live as you wish.” Many, many Muslims already feel this way, but are being drowned out by the Jihadists. Unless they speak louder, this means war.
Holding the Victim to Blame
Whenever there is a terror attack against Israel, the world media finds some way to make Israel the accused, whether for provocation or retaliation, for people dying or failing to die, for killing the terrorists, or failing to kill them.
This is not a new phenomenon. Two thousand years ago, a significant Jew was murdered by non-Jews, and for two thousand years the Jews have been persecuted for his death. In the current era, Jews are being blamed by anti-Semites for provoking the holocaust. They have been blamed for its horrible death toll, with their accusers putting the blame on Jewish passivity, and failure to resist. It is this latter blame that my father Yehuda Elberg addressed in a lecture approximately forty years ago. He was a holocaust survivor, a member of the Jewish Underground in Poland, and part of the Ghetto uprising. Immediately following the war he worked on smuggling Jewish survivors to Israel (then known as Palestine). Below are excerpts from his lecture We, the Accused.
On the 35th anniversary of the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto, a great deal was written about this in Jewish newspapers the world over, especially in Israel. The influential Maariv carried an article by Chaim Baltsan entitled: “Yom Ha-Shoah 1978: Is it Different from Previous Years?” Among other things, Baltsan wrote: “Much has already been written and said about the heroism — and under the circumstances it was extraordinary — the heroism displayed by the Ghetto rebels and the organizers of the uprisings in the camps. We are proud of that heroism, we will always be proud of it. But not so with the Shoah, that dark and bitter phenomenon in which it is impossible to find even the tiniest spark of light. Yet we are compelled to couple it with the heroism and to utter words in the same breath. We have linked the Holocaust with the heroic uprising in order to conceal the unacceptability of the pain, more accurately the shame; when we recall how millions were led like sheep to the slaughter…”
In brief, they are ashamed of us, they are ashamed of the survivors as well as the fallen. We are guilty of having put on the yellow badge. Better we had all died than let ourselves be so degraded. We are guilty because we did not revolt against being locked up in ghettos; proud people do not allow themselves to be locked into cages like animals in a zoo. We are guilty because we let ourselves be herded into cattle-cars and did not counter-attack the Germans with our fists…
I want to tell you about the individuals and let the Chaim Baltsans be ashamed of their own ignorance, their own narrow mindedness, their own heartlessness, their owned blindness to the heroism of the Ghetto even when that the heroism was not as spectacular as in the Hollywood film.
An episode from 1940:
The Germans had given the Jews out of a shtetl in that part of Poland which had been annexed to the Reich. They packed in Jews into trucks. One young woman with a baby in her arms was having difficulty climbing up into the truck. A German soldier politely took the child from her and helped her into the vehicle. When she stretched other arms to take the child, he throw it to the ground. The woman jumped from the truck. The German pointed his rifle at her. She didn’t budge. He raved and raged and threaten to shoot her and the child. She still didn’t budge. He then raised the muzzle of his gun and threatened to shoot all the Jews in the truck. The woman dragged herself back into the truck. When they arrived in Warsaw, she was out of her mind.
Who can evaluate the greatness of that sacrifice? Who can measure the boundless love for her fellow Jews, that gave her the strength to make such a decision and incredible courage to carry it out? The knowledge of what was going to happen to her baby burned so fiercely in her brain that consumed it. Her nerves were strung so tautly that they snapped. Yet she still managed to weigh and measure. Her hands — a scale of destiny. In one hand the compulsive desire to remain with the child; in the other the lives of the few score Jews. She made her decision and even succeeded in carrying it out before her unbearable anguish destroyed her brain.
Hunger, fear and pain weaken a human being physically, and diminishes his mental strength. There’s no need here to recount what the Jews went through from the beginning of 1940 until the summer of 1942. In the proceedings of the Nuremberg trials you can find the testimony of one Herman Graebe, a German who was present during the slaughter of the Jews at Dubno. A group of naked Jews stood at the edge of a ditch. Behind them we Germans were loading their rifles. Among the Jews stood a woman with a child in her arms. The woman tickled the child, and began singing to it, so the child was laughing merrily when the German bullets cut down the mother and baby, and they both fell into the pit.
Psychologists tell us that when a person stands face to face with death all the emotions are paralyzed. Terror, hope, anger, love, hate, all disappear at the moment when one looks death in the eye. Emotionally he is already on the other side of the fight.
Our martyrs, however, demonstrated that it is not necessarily so. Maybe fear has vanished, maybe all hope has died, maybe anger and hatred have been extinguished. But one thing in this woman continued to live—love. The emotion of love remained awake, strong, self-sacrificing. I do not know any poem more lofty. I’ve never heard any song more beautiful, never seen any deed more holy than the singing of that mother to her child in Dubno. The chuckle of her infant, on the edge of the grave, sent out into the world’s void a resounding testimony of Jewish love and self-sacrifice. The giggle of that child is the most exalted ode ever sung to the Jewish mother…
I come back to the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto and I must begin with a prefatory observation.
Some years ago there was a fire in the movie theater where everyone pushed for the exits. People stepped on each other. More people died from the panic than from the fire. Similarly, on a sinking ship, everyone tries to get to the lifeboats. People grab the rope ladders out of each other’s hands. The result: nobody gets to the boats.
The Warsaw Ghetto was a flaming inferno, a sinking ship. But what happened with the people there?
On the day before the uprising began it was like Yom Kippur Eve in a pious Jewish household. People spoke quietly, walk softly. A kind of reverential air spread over the Ghetto streets, a trembling, but not out of fear. Out of exultation. A decision had been made, responsibility assumed. But it did not weigh onerously on the people. It hovered over their heads like an aura. A whole community of Jews went forth to meet the inevitable with the purposefulness, with a sense of mission, and one could feel the presence of the wings of history, the duty to future generations. Some sixty thousand Jews marched forth into greatness within the almost festive tread…
We, the Accused
It burns me when I hear someone say that the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto saved the honor and dignity of the Jewish people. No! Jewish honor stood high even when Jews were expiring with a quiet, unspectacular death. It was the honor of the entire humanity that was in mortal peril. And it was the greatness of the Jews in the ghettos, with their sanctified life and their heroic death that saved the honor of the human species, and gave flesh-end-blood mortals back their image of God.
I said that Jewish heroism did not begin with the uprising; it also did not end with the uprising. I need not describe the terror, the anguish, the scientific dehumanization system in the concentration camps. According to all experience in history, according to all the laws of psychology, the survivors should have emerged from the camps embittered destroyers, venomous killers and incendiaries, filled with hatred for a world that had led to all this and then permitted it to go on. Their physical health was destroyed. Their homes were destroyed. But the image of God within them was not.
Overnight, upon the liberation of the camps, a social life was created, with culture, with ideologies. The skeletal fingers did not yet have the strength to hold a pencil steadily, but they were already writing books, issuing newspapers.
I could tell you a great deal about the wonders and the miracles performed by the brands barely plucked out of the fire. Instead, let me quote from a letter by Professor Zelig Brodestski, the then head of Britain’s Jewish community, written to the survivors in Bergen- Belsen after he attended one at their congresses, immediately after the war.
“It was difficult for me to accept the task of coming here to you. I did not know what to expect, how beaten or wretched you would look But you presented me with e picture of a proud Jewish life, a picture which I shall use in order to instill more pride and more life into the Jews in England. I had thought that perhaps you had fallen in your own esteem. But I have never experienced a more dignified congress. I had thought you would look with anger upon the Jews from abroad, who were able to do so little to save you from the Nazi murderers: but you welcomed me with love and warmth, and you spoke to me candidly and earnestly. I was afraid you would only weep and lament but you combined your tears with the smile of the eternal Jew. I had feared your disillusionment and hopelessness, but you displayed a faith and a resolution which all the .Jews in the world would do well to learn from you.”
There is an old legend about the lack of Jewish faith and determination which has hoisted over the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after the victory of the Maccabees. Two hundred and thirty five years later, when the Romans set fire to the Temple and the flames reached the mast, a whirlwind lifted the flag, the legend tells us, and carried it off to a faraway place to keep it safe for a future generation of Jews will redeem the Maccabean flag with their faith and determination.
To live and see this flag redeemed was my most ardent prayer and cherished dream since my childhood. My dream came true in a strange and traumatic way. It was decades ago, the Warsaw Ghetto rose to fight a formidable enemy, and I was there when the blue-white flag was hoisted over the tallest building in the Ghetto. It seemed to me that I had seen this flag before. The dreamy blue and stark white flag was soon consumed by red flames together with the fighters. It was then that I recognized the flag of my dreams.
Four years later in the Gulf of Lion, in the the harbor of Sete, over five thousand holocaust survivors boarded an old ship to fight the British blockade of the shore of Palestine, a ship later to be known as Exodus 1947. Again I was there, watching the lineups of boarding passengers. When I noticed the rolled-up banner under the arm of one of them, I immediately knew that this was the flag of my dreams.
I was not in the lines of battle during the Israeli War of Liberation and the subsequent wars of defense, but I knew that the Maccabean flag was there. The legendary heroism, the devotion and self-sacrifice of the fighters are proof positive that the flag of faith and resolution inspired them.
We shall often be the accused. But it no longer matters. The flag that was over the Temple, over the Warsaw Ghetto, over Sete, is over Israel: it’s a flag that shall not fall again.
- Q: Was it morally wrong for the United States and Canada to imprison their citizens of Japanese ancestry during World War II, and confiscate their
- A: It was a horrible illegal act, discriminating against people solely because they looked different. Italians and Germans, whose ancestral homelands were also the enemy, were not locked up.
Let’s break that question into three:
- Q1: Would it be morally wrong for a country to lock up a population, many of whom were supportive of an enemy?
- A1: No.
- Q2: Was a significant portion of the Japanese population of Canada and the United States supportive of a Japanese victory during World War II?
- A2: No.
- Q3: If the Americans and Canadians of Japanese ancestry had been supportive of the enemy during the war, would it have been proper to put them in internment camps?
- A3: Yes.
By asking the right question we can see that it’s not internment in principle that was a mistake. It was mis-characterizing Japanese Canadians and Americans as enemy sympathizers.
Let’s try another one
- Q: Was it morally wrong for the United States and Canada to keep out Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis?
- A: Yes
Let’s also break that question into three:
- Q1: Is it wrong for a country to keep out a class of people, a great many of whom want to take over that country?
- A1: No.
- Q2: Did the Jews of Europe want to violently (if at all) take over Europe, the United States, or Canada?
- A2: No.
- Q3: If the Jews had wanted to violently take over Europe, the United States, or Canada, would it have been wrong to keep them out?
- A3: No.
This shows that we haven’t been asking the right question. We shudder at the idea of treating a particular group of people differently than anyone else. Given the horrible consequences of turning away refugees during the Holocaust, we want to welcome everyone today. But the mistake of the past wasn’t turning the enemy away from our shores. It’s not wrong to guard against enemies working from the inside. The mistake was considering the Jews and Japanese as the enemy, looking to take over or destroy the nations they wanted to be part of.
Bringing it all into the present, the right question is:
- Q4: If ________ want to violently take over Europe, the United States, or Canada, would it be wrong to keep them out?
- A4: No.
To fill in the blank, let’s look at the core belief of a particular group, as described by one of their leading scholars:
“Islam is not a religion like the other religions of the world, and Muslim nations are not like other nations. Muslim nations are very special because they have a command from Allah to rule the entire world and to be over every nation in the world. Islam is a revolutionary, totalitarian ideology that comes to destroy any government made by man. The goal of Islam is to rule the entire world and submit all of mankind to the ideology of Islam. Any nation or power that gets in the way of that goal, Islam will fight and destroy. In order to fulfill that goal, Islam can use every power available every way it can be used to bring worldwide revolution. This is Jihad.“
With the blank filled in, answer the following question: would it be wrong to keep them out? Clearly not.
This may contradict the accepted liberal “…values of liberty, and openness, and the respect of all people.” That’s not the right question. The primary value of any country must be the security of its citizens, rather than the security of an ideology.
Lemmings are known for their mass suicide: jumping off cliffs, to die in the sea. Americans are not known for mass or individual suicide.
An Israeli man who was stabbed in the neck has been criticized by Yariv Oppenheimer, head of the Peace Now organization for fighting back and killing his attacker. Given that the alternative for the victim was to let himself be killed, Oppenheimer was effectively advocating a form of assisted suicide. A similar view was held by another great peace advocate. Gandhi said the Jews should have committed national suicide during the holocaust, and simply let themselves be killed.
The lemming mass suicides were dramatic, stirring the hearts of television viewers just twelve years after Gandhi counseled the Jews to follow the same path. Audiences would have been glued to the screen to watch people with yellow stars sewn to their clothes, commit national suicide by willingly stampeding to their deaths.
Suicide at Masada
There is actually a story of mass suicide by Jews at the fortress Masada, but it took place before the advent of transportable recording equipment, approximately two thousand years ago. The best we can do is to re-imagine the story from archaeological remains, and the historical account of Josephus. The television series were reconstructions (in 1981, 2002 and 2015), rather than actual recordings of events, allowing for greater artistic and political license. The heroic story of a thousand men, women and children who committed national suicide rather than surrender to the Romans gripped the imagination of the world, and of the nascent independent Jewish nation.
Stories abound as well about Jewish communities during the Crusades who committed mass suicide rather than submit to the crueler predations of the Crusaders. While the rabbis who permitted this were praised in some quarters, they were roundly criticized in others.
Do such suicides set a precedent? Is the leader of Peace Now following Jewish tradition when he says a victim of terrorism should refrain from fighting back?
The Masada story has been seriously called into question. Yigal Yadin, the lead archaeologist who promoted the heroic tale of national suicide has been accused sacrificing truth for the sake of myth. There are too many questions about interpretation of artifacts, too many archaeological remains that don’t fit the story. While there may have been suicides, they likely did not take the shape or scale of the heroic account promoted by Josephus and Yadin.
Suicide is often a response to stress or depression. But it’s not a Jewish response, especially to life-threatening situations. Josephus, a Romanized Jew, gave a Roman cultural inflection to the story of Masada. The silence of the Sages of the Talmud on an alleged act of national suicide speaks volumes; either they disapproved, or it didn’t take place.
Contemporary Individual Suicide
There are many ways for individual suicide, using a knife, a gun, or a noose. A person can instruct his doctor to give him a lethal dose of medicine, or provoke a policeman into shooting him (“death by cop”). He can climb into a poisonous snake pit, or bring the snakes into his home.
Contemporary National Suicide
There are many ways to commit national suicide. If you weaken the forces that protect a country from its foes, then it’s easier for them to stab its citizens in the neck, whether literally or metaphorically. When the police are prosecuted for protecting citizens, the level of protection will naturally drop. When laws prevent people from defending themselves, the foes of the nation, whether foreigners or citizens, have a free hand. The country becomes the poisonous snake pit.
When a nation is told by its leaders that it is sinful, that it is a source strife around the world, that nation will turn upon itself. The Biblical exhortations of Isaiah are happy children’s stories, compared to the evils impugned by “progressives” on America and the Western world. When the President’s Church Minister says “God Damn America,” you have to wonder if the leader of the free world answered “Amen,” and took upon himself the responsibility of making it happen.
Citizens of America, Canada and the Western world are being told by people such as Yariv Oppenheimer that it’s wrong to defend yourself against someone trying to kill you. The citizens of Cologne, Germany, were told that rape doesn’t matter; better not to offend the perpetrators. Sexual trafficking of children is kept out of the news. And governments, to the chagrin of their populace, bring in more and more “refugees,” whose ethnic or religious group is responsible for most of this crime.
It seems that America, Canada and the Western world are rushing headlong over a cliff, like the lemmings. But it’s not as simple as it seems. The lemmings didn’t willingly jump to their deaths. They were pushed by film crews anxious for a good story.
Americans aren’t metaphorically jumping off cliffs either, clamoring for wholesale immigration of people who want to change the nature of the country. Witness the wild popularity of Donald Trump, Geert Wilders or Marine Le Pen. They’ve tapped into national revulsion to filling your home with snakes, many of which are poisonous. Trump et al are considered pariahs or clowns by intellectuals and pundits. Like the lemming film-makers before them, these myth-bearers are also anxious for a good story, or rather a feel-good narrative, and they are willing to push their country off a cliff in order to get it. It’s the same story in many European countries.
Suicide is unnatural, and a bad way to greet the future, and so people are resisting having their nation run off the edge of a cliff. It may not make for a pretty story, but the alternative, killing the character of your country, is much uglier.
I’ve spent a lot of time living and working with Indigenous people. I spent a winter in the boreal forest with Indians, five hundred kilometers from the nearest road or telephone. My wife and I spent a winter in an Eskimo village. I’ve eaten raw walrus, raw beluga whale (while it was still alive), beaver, rabbit, caribou, and other stuff you don’t begin to want to know about.
The world recently marked Holocaust Remembrance Day, paying tribute to the six million victims. Well, Prime Minister Trudeau payed tribute to the victims, but refused to identify them as Jews. There have in fact been other holocausts, whether of Jews (think Chmielniki pogroms) or other peoples. Think American Indians.
Rabbi José Faur of Netanya, Israel writes of the Spanish American holocaust:
Not a single soul of the native population of Jamaica, Bermuda, St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, Panama, Cuba, etc., survived. …in the course of only fifty years, the Iberian conquerors managed to reduce the population of native Americans from eighty million to ten million. By the year 1600, the population of Mexico was reduced from twenty five million to one million. This is the greatest genocide in recorded history.
Things weren’t as bad in Canada. In South and Central America the natives were a disposable labor force, enslaved to extract precious metals. Canada existed because of trade with independent natives, who trapped furs and exchanged them for guns and other implements which in turn, made their lives so much better. There were wars on or between native groups, sometimes exploited by colonialists and traders, but the slaughter was limited.
In the United States, the land the Indians lived on was often considered more valuable than the lives of the Indians themselves. Various military forces slaughtered whole communities, from infants to elders. At Wounded Knee the men were separated from the women, then ordered to hand over their guns. First the men were shot, and then the soldiers turned on the rest of the villagers. Such predations were so common that the Sioux population was reduced to dangerously low levels. The Lakota People had lost nearly 80% of their people. To keep their tribes and clans going, they raided settlers traveling cross-country, adopting their children into the tribe.
Jews were sent on death marches during the Nazi Holocaust. The Navajo were sent on the Long March. The Cherokee were exiled on The Trail of Tears.
But it’s not just a history of suffering that Jews as indigenous people share with Indians. In fact, when the first colonialists came to North America, many were convinced that they had found indigenous Jews, the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, because of the many Hebrew-seeming practices. The Navajo and Eskimo for example, are very strict, on the issue of “Tumas Ohel,” contamination of a building by death. If a person dies in a Navajo Hogan or Eskimo igloo, the building is forever abandoned. The Eskimo will cut an opening in the wall of an Igloo to let the dead person’s spirit escape, similar to many Jews opening the window in the room of the dead.
Many Indians have a variation on the laws of “Nidda,” menstrual separation. They don’t send bloodied handkerchiefs to a rabbi for inspection, but have their own stringencies.
The Yucatan Indians practiced circumcision, the Incas had a ceremony that resembled Passover, and others had a form of “Yibbum,” where a widow had to marry her closest male relative. To the fifteenth and sixteenth century European mind considered the savages as indigenous Jews, joined together by practice and belief, if not by blood.
There were differences, though. The Jews clung tenaciously to their religion, whereas many South American natives were willing to accept Church teachings. Christopher Columbus was allegedly instructed:
In order that the Indians should love our religion, they should be treated lovingly, and should be given some merchandise and gifts.
Rabbi Faur continues:
Consider the common practice of snatching children from their mother’s arms and throwing them to be devoured alive by dogs, or smashing them against the rocks and throwing them to die in the mountains. The usual way to kill native leaders was in groups of thirteen, in honor of Jesus and the twelve apostles!
So much for loving treatment. The Spaniards were careful though to make sure that no one with Jewish blood, not even Conversos came to their colonies, lest they hinder the loving conversion of the natives.
Rabbi Faur explains the difference between the Jewish and Christian approach to Indians:
A determining factor in the Jewish attitude towards Native Americans is the Jewish view of the “other.” In Hebrew tradition, the “other” is not a “deformed” being, but only a different expression of the “image of God,” common to the children of Adam, the father of all humanity. The Hebrew term kamokha, “as yourself;” connotes a horizontal perspective. The biblical commandment to “love the other as yourself (kamokha)” excludes a vertical perception of the “other,” with all the monstrous consequences that this commandment had in Christian tradition.
Ultimately, the colonialists concluded that the Indians were not the descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes. They knew that their own religion came out of Judaism. To link the savages to the Jews, was to link the savages to Christianity, was to link the savages to themselves. Indigenous Jews was not a feasible paradigm.
When I was in an Inuit village for a winter, my being Jewish was of little import. One woman remarked that I was lucky, because it meant I would go straight to Heaven when I die. A Pentecostal Eskimo explained his fervent beliefs to me, but never tried to impose them. A friend of mine who spent a year working in Baffin Island told me he never encountered any antisemitism from the Inuit, only from the white support workers stationed there.
There are actually many Native American indigenous Jews. A friend’s Shawnee Indian name means “Walking Knife.” He made Aliyah, moved to Israel about
five years ago. Another friend of mine, a brilliant Lakota Sioux Jewish woman, is a warrior: a Vietnam Veteran, who also served in the first Iraq war. Her mother had moved from the reservation to city on the west coast. She found herself taking an interest in Judaism, eventually deciding to study for an Orthodox conversion. From her studies the mother finally came to understand the old parchment that had belonged to her mother’s mother’s mother. It was a Ketubah, a Jewish marriage contract. The rabbi overseeing her study told her she was a returned person, the taken away who finally comes home. My friend’s mother was drawn to Judaism because she was already Jewish, a descendant of a child taken on an Indian raid; adopted into the Lakota people, but somehow never removed from her birth tribe. And although very different peoples, the indigenous Jews and the indigenous Lakota share a core value: a person is defined by his obligations and relations.
The kidnapped child, adopted into his captor’s tribe is a common theme in literature. The 1970 film Little Big Man (starring Dustin Hoffman) tells the story of a white child raised by the Cheyenne. The movie title was the name of an actual Oglala Lakota warrior who fought at the battle of Little Big Horn. The recent British television series The Last Kingdom tells the story of an English nobleman captured as a child by the Vikings, and raised as a Dane. In the novel Quantum Cannibals, Osnat is adopted by a cannibal shaman, and learns the ways of her captors.
It’s true that many Native Americans are attracted to popular leftist causes, such as the Palestinians. In some areas, Muslims are marrying into tribes, and trying to gain control Indian reservations. In New Mexico, they are grabbing at the Native Art business.
Some natives are unabashed Zionists. I will close with the words of a non-Jewish Indian friend, a Metis named Ryan Bellerose, one of the strongest voices in contemporary Israel advocacy. He starts from the position that Jews and Indians are both indigenous peoples: the former from Israel, the latter from their lands in the Americas:
You want to be Jewish? Learn what that means. It’s not just about wearing a kipah and doing Shabbat once in a while; it’s not saying a few prayers sometimes; it’s a way of being, a totality of belief, action and life. You are not white Europeans, you have to stop thinking like them let alone acting like them. You even have a blueprint for it: it’s called the Torah.
…you just need to start being Jewish. The longer I am in Israel the more I am seeing the effects of resisting assimilation on your people. The more I see how important UNDERSTANDING what being indigenous really is.
I believe that indigenous people need to stand up for each other, that we all have something to learn from each other and that it’s a two way street. I have learned a lot from my Jewish friends and I hope they have learned a few things from me as well. So take it from a Real Indian, the Real Jews are the ones who remember who they are and the ones who have no problem telling you who they are. I believe that indigenous people need to stand up for each other, that we all have something to learn from each other and that it’s a two way street. I have learned a lot from my Jewish friends and I hope they have learned a few things from me as well. So take it from a Real Indian, the Real Jews are the ones who remember who they are and the ones who have no problem telling you who they are.
Indigenous Jews and indigenous Native Americans are related through customs and through the oppression we have endured. We are tied together as indigenous peoples, and as warriors. We can learn from each other.
(This essay was presented as the Sabbath sermon at the author’s synagogue)
What Islam says, Expert Voices:
That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace
–former President George W. Bush (Christian)
Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not “Islamic”
Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance
– President Barack Hussein Obama (Christian- though some argue that his attendance at an Indonesian Madrasa indicates that he is Muslim)
It has nothing to do with being a Muslim or following the Islamic faith
–Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, commenting on a man who said he was motivated by Islam to shoot a policeman. (Christian)
“I spend a lot of time running from the Bangladeshi to the Pakistani to the Maghrebian to the Sunnah Wahabi mosque.”
–Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Christian)
–Chancellor Angela Merkel (Christian)
Muslims are the first victims of fanaticism
–President François Hollande (Christian)
The Muslim community contributes to cultural, economic, and spiritual diversity of our city
–Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges (Christian)
Islam is a peaceful religion of compassion
– Prime Minister Charles Michel (Belgium) (Christian)
– Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales (Head of the Church of England)
Nobody should fall in the gross deception that jihadism represents Islam… or the fallacy which says that there is an Islamic war against the West
– Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (Christian)
For authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Quran are opposed to every form of violence
– Pope Francis (Head of the Roman Catholic Church)
The sayings of Muhammad are a treasure of wisdom not only for Muslims but for all of mankind.
– Mahatma Gandhi (Hindu)
What Islam Says, Dissenting Voices:
We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women.
– Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the Islamic State’s chief spokesman (Muslim)
The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic… the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.
– Graeme Wood, contributing editor at The Atlantic (religious identity unknown)
Islam is the religion of war
– Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, BA, MA, and PhD in Islamic studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad; Caliph of ISIS (Muslim)
There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that’s it
– Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey (Muslim)
We will export our revolution throughout the world because it is an Islamic revolution
– Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founding father of Iran’s Islamic Republic (Muslim)
…with thunderous applause”
I’m a sci-fi enthusiast. I love The Time Machine, the many volumes of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, Asimov’s Robot and Foundation series, and more. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen Star Trek (TV and film), and Star Wars. When my kids were young, I ran Star Trek role-playing games at my synagogue. We had the toys, the costumes, the books, the video tapes, and then the DVDs. I gave religious talks based on sci-fi themes. I was a serious enthusiast. The scene in Star Wars- Revenge of the Sith, where Padme observes “this is how liberty dies…” is to my mind a critical political observation.
So I’m trying to understand why I’m not in a hurry to see The Force Awakens, the new Star Wars movie. It’s not because I’m getting old. It’s not because I’m afraid that Disney ruined the franchise, or that the Jedi have turned into Bambi. I trust the Director, J.J. Abrams. He makes good films. Nor am I concerned that The Force Awakens will only have a short run in theaters.
The reviews are great. My children and grandchildren loved it. The merchandising is ubiquitous. But I don’t care.
This is how liberty dies
In Aldous Huxley’s 1932 dystopian sci-fi novel Brave New World, the public is distracted from important issues by non-stop drugs and sex. In 1958, Huxley revisited Brave New World, examining contemporary western culture and finding that his dystopia had been realized. He concluded, to his dismay, that
what in fact has happened, above all in our Western capitalist democracies — the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant… non-stop distractions of the most fascinating nature… are deliberately used as instruments of policy, for the purpose of preventing people from paying too much attention to the realities of the social and political situation.
The Force Awakens is a distraction of the most fascinating nature. A new threat arises, thirty years after the fall of the evil Galactic Empire. We had a terrestrial equivalent to the Galactic Empire, and its end was sealed thirty years ago, with the appointment of the reformer Mikhail Gorbachev as leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The USSR was a utopian nightmare, whose goal was to spread its own brand of socialism across the entire world. Gorbachev dismantled its brutal system of central control, freeing the economy and allowing the people, and ultimately its subject nations the freedom to make their own decisions. Socialist oppression is for most of the world a bitter memory, its tens of millions of victims long buried. The few holdout states such as Cuba, North Korea, China and Vietnam are more concerned with nationalist issues than global ideological conquest.
We don’t have a new threat. We have the resurgence of a very old one. But it is just as dangerous as the unrealized Communist hegemony, and oh so much more depraved. While the Communist leaders had the ability to start World War III, they knew enough to back off, when actually facing it. Destruction of the planet was not an acceptable outcome.
Islamic militants look forward to the apocalypse, the end of the world, to usher in an Islamic utopia. From Indonesia to England they have attacked tourists, schoolchildren, concert-goers, shoppers, transit users— anybody at the target location. There is no concern of avoiding collateral damage, when the intent is to wreak terror in a population you want to subdue.
Except in Israel, most western citizens will not be personally touched by terror. After all, there is a statistically higher chance of choking to death. Governments and media pundits respond to terror attacks by saying that terrorists don’t represent Muslims; I believe them. American political leaders claim that the Islamic State, ISIS, is not Islamic , and so there’s no need to worry about Islam’s growing reach, about increasing the Muslim population in the Europe and North America.
The leader of ISIS, its Caliph, has a PhD in Islamic Studies, and probably knows more than President Obama about what is and what isn’t “Islamic.” Nonetheless, many Americans, Canadians and Europeans will accept Obama’s assurances that ISIS is contained. There’s nothing to worry about, even as the number and scale of terrorist attacks escalates. People can pay attention to their foes on the football field, or the big screen. But this is how liberty dies… with thunderous applause. The unreal, the irrelevant distracts people from the actual threats in their neighborhoods, in their cities, countries, on their planet. They pay attention to the menace in a galaxy far, far away.
So I don’t care about the new Star Wars movie, at least not enough to rush out to see it. There is more important, more gripping drama taking place in my own galaxy, on my own planet; it deserves my attention. And it’s not something where I am a passive viewer, unable to affect the outcome. I can write letters to the editor, I can express myself on Facebook. I can donate to organizations such as CYCI— The Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq. I can support the politicians who recognize the seriousness of the threat, and have a strategy to deal with it. With Star Wars- The Force Awakens, all I can do is decide how much money to spend on tickets and merchandise.
This is how liberty dies… with thunderous applause and deafening ignorance.
A Fool’s Paradise Is a Wise Man’s Hell
The twentieth and twenty-first centuries have seen incredible progress in science, technology, art, philosophy, morality, and more. Not only that, but we can
access all that knowledge and wisdom from a device we carry around in our pockets. We have even transcended modernity according to many progressive thinkers, and moved into the “post-modern” era. There is no need for a religious messiah; we have carried ourselves into paradise, albeit a fool’s paradise. Truly these are enlightened times; the realization of humanity’s universal values.
These enlightened values are a force in themselves. John Kerry, the American Secretary of State reacted to Russia’s invasion of the Crimea by telling Russia “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped-up pretext.” The times, according to Kerry, dictate behavior. In a similar fashion, the new Prime Minister of Canada, when asked why a fifty percent female cabinet was important to him said, “Because it’s 2015.” President Obama, reacting to the Islamic terror attacks in Paris stated that “this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.”
It seems those values aren’t so universal.
Muslims make up over twenty percent of the earth’s population. While we can assume that most don’t support violence on the scale of the Paris attacks, if we look around at the world’s Muslim-controlled regions, we can see that they operate with different values than the ones adhered to by Secretary Kerry, Prime Minister Trudeau, or President Obama.
But it would be wrong to assume that the problem is simply Islam. Christianity, followed by Islam, developed the concept of the religious enemy (in contradistinction to the political enemy). All non-believers are sub-humans, and bereft of rights. In early Spanish South America, for example there was a
“…common practice of snatching [native] children from their mother’s arms and throwing them to be devoured alive by dogs, or smashing them against the rocks and throwing them to die in the mountains. The usual way to kill native leaders was in groups of thirteen, in honor of Jesus and the twelve apostles!”
The rape, torture and mutilation of native women by the Spaniards differed little from ISIS’ contemporary treatment of Yazidi and Christians. This contrasts with the Biblical rules of war for dealing with captive women, where such women were given a month to mourn for their captivity, and could not be sold or enslaved. And even the idea of
capturing a woman was considered evil. It seems that a set of morals accepted over three thousand years ago is more enlightened than the values of a large part of humanity today.
Morality is not linear and progressive, especially if we are charting the behavior of mankind. It is a jagged line, soaring to phenomenal heights and astonishing depravity. We cannot expect the passage of time to elevate people’s behavior. There are no universal values that we all share, whether in the realm of political autonomy or the human right to life. It’s a fool’s paradise to think otherwise. Ask Vladimir Putin about the Crimea. Ask ISIS about the rights of captives. Ask a Muslim imam for an unqualified condemnation of the Paris terror attacks. To use “universal values,” the “twenty first century” or the year being 2015 to formulate strategy is to walk from a fool’s paradise straight into the hell of Paris, Madrid, New York, Washington, or Buenos Aires… A wise man understands we are already there.
Your comments are welcome