Wednesday, August 09, 2006

One Day at the UN

The Israeli Ambassador at the U.N. began, "Ladies and gentlemen before I commence with my speech, I want to relay an old Passover story to all of you ...

"When Moses was leading the Jews out of Egypt toward the Promised Land, he had to go through the nearly endless Sinai desert. The people became thirsty and needed water. So Moses struck the side of a mountain with his staff and a pond appeared with crystal clean, cool water. The people rejoiced and drank to their hearts' content.

"Moses wished to cleanse his whole body, so he went over to the other side of the pond, took all of his clothes off and dove into the cool waters. Only when Moses came out of the water, he discovered that all his clothes had been stolen. 'And,' he said, 'I have reasons to believe that the Palestinians stole my clothes.'"

The Palestinian delegate, hearing this accusation, jumps from his seat and screams out, "This is a travesty. It is widely known that there were no Palestinians there at that time!"

"And with that in mind," said the Israeli Ambassador, "let me now begin my speech."


mister said...

. . . anti-Juditism is hostility traceable to the Jews' unique sense of themselves: the sense which arose, and to a large extent still arises from that of being chosen. Aside from the unity of God, chosen-ness is the Jews' fundamental claim: they are those who have the covenant. Chosen-ness is also fundamental to their extraordinary survival as a people with an unbroken, coherent culture: without it, such a survival is inexplicable.

An isolated culture can survive by transmitting its ways to the next generation with relatively little effort; but in proximity, cultures compete, and survival requires significant effort, which, in turn, can be motivated only by a correspondingly significant sense of self; a culture that does not think much of itself will not make much of an effort to propagate itself.

Ordinarily, most peoples make a substantial effort to survive, but nonetheless eventually fade away. Without geographic roots, this occurs after a few generations. Even when rooted, peoples conquer or are conquered, and their cultures combine and assimilate. We see that virtually every society is a patchwork of smaller peoples in various stages of integration and dissolution. Thus a normal sense of self eventually leads to loss of self; only the Jews' extraordinary sense of self could inspire the extraordinary efforts that have saved them from that fate.

. . . Whereas Anti-Semitism exerts an external pressure of rejection on individual Jews that tends to drive them together, thereby increasing group identity and adhesion, anti-Juditism acts from within as well as without, and corrodes that which binds them together. One can destroy people, but the other can destroy the people.
Intrigued? You know what to do.

I understand the impulse to universalism and the discomfort with particularism (given some of its uglier manifestations). But universalism can produce the same kind of ugliness when it tries to destroy the particularism of family and religion in favor of an ideal - Stalinism and Pol Pot-ism come to mind here, as well as Wahabism - just ask the Bosnian Muslims. And particularism does not inexorably lead to aggression against those who are different. In fact, kindness to and acceptance of strangers is one of the most emphasized commandments in Jewish law.

The George Soros' and Tony Judts of the world are uncomfortable with any preference for one group over another, for any reason. At the same time they decry "globalization": bland global commercialism and the disappearance of languages and customs and local control. But to keep a culture going (especially in the midst of strong pressure to give it up) you have to have a critical mass of people who consistently and repeatedly prefer it to another. If the anti-globos were logical, they would be gathering around the Jewish community asking us how we do it, instead of calling us "racist" when we do what they admire and promote for other ethnic groups.

This post on patriotism examines many of the same ideas. (It does not link them to any kind of ethnic identification; however, others have explored the similarities between the Jewish and American "experiments.") It is no accident that those Jews who are the most uncomfortable with religious particularism tend to be equally uncomfortable with national particularism. After all, Judaism is a nationality (with religious elements). In a later essay, Armed Liberal quotes from John Schaar:
To be a patriot is to have a patrimony; or, perhaps more accurately, the patriot is one who is grateful for a legacy and recognizes that the legacy makes him a debtor. There is a whole way of being in the world, captured best by the word reverence, which defines life by its debts; one is what one owes, what one acknowledges as a rightful debt or obligation. The patriot moves within that mentality.
I think this is a good description of the kind of Jew who values the Jewish "experiment," as Remler quotes Maurice Samuel:
What, then, is the Jewish people? It is a continuous association of individuals, now some thirty five hundred or four thousand years old, working out an experiment in the relationship to God.
This description encapsulates nearly everything important: the past continuity, the continuous working out, the experimental nature of the enterprise, and the relationship to God, the last being (pace atheists) no more than the traditional name for the central mystery of existence - Why is there anything rather than nothing at all? The Jewish people are an experiment that seeks the best way to focus human attention on that most important question, and the best way to have it inform the conduct of life.
One could say the same about Americans, Tibetans, Bosnians, Bretons, Navajos, or any other self-identified group (and most fo us do have multiple group identities which overlap each other). Then one can ask the question: does my group identity demand that I disrespect others without a compelling reason, or does it include a tradition of goodwill to strangers, and what conditions have to obtain for that tradition to be put aside? At that point - when one has made that distinction - one can condemn aggression based on a group identity.

John Sobieski said...

That'll be a cold day in hell. The UN and us will be long gone before that day.

IndCoup said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
European Kafir said...

I real like that one!!!!