Sunday, April 22, 2007
Prof. Yosef ben-Shlomo, who died over the weekend, was one of the most
interesting intellectuals in Israel. In a country where being a professor
is almost synonymous with being a leftist pinhead, Ben-Shlomo was one of
the most interesting and most entertaining of the counter-exceptions.
Born in Krakow, he had been a professor of philosophy at Tel Aviv
University, and after he retired virtually the entire philosophy
department at TAU was taken over by far-leftist anti-Zionists, becoming
politically one of the worst academic departments in all of Israel.
Ben Shlomo, while not religious himself as an adult, was a student of
Gershom Sholem, wrote about Sholem, and also wrote extensively about Rabbi
Kook (the intellectual godfather of religious Zionism)
While Ben-Shlomo had been a leftist before the Six Day War, thereafter he
found himself in the position of arguably the leading anti-Left
intellectual in Israel
(http://www.think-israel.org/benshlomo.transfer.html ). He often appeared
on television and in the rest of the media. Haaretz dubbed him the
"Yishayahu Leibowitz of the Right", referring to the far-Left but
extremely religious anti-Zionist professor of philosophy and chemistry at
the Hebrew University, who died several years ago. While Leibowitz was a
total moonbat politically, denouncing Zionists as "Judeo-Nazis", his
writings about rabbinic sources and the Torah portions are insightful and
deep, and frankly they are part of my regular study tools. Ben-Shlomo,
who was something of a prophet of secularism and was an admirer of
Spinoza, was completely on the mark politically when it came to national
issues. He also was a sharp critic of the emerging emptiness of
secularist culture in Israel. At the same time, he endorsed the
mainly-religious Gush Emunim movement that built settlements. After Oslo,
he emerged as one of the most militant opponents of the "peace process"
(http://www.acpr.org.il/publications/policy-papers/pp054-xs.html ). He
should have won the Israel Prize many times over, but the prize is usually
reserved for far-leftists (like Shulamit Aloni and Yigal Tomarkin).
He insisted that Israeli secularists could be returned to the roots of
Zionism and pioneering, rescued from the post-Zionist Left and cultural
emptiness. He vocally denounced Sharon and Olmert for the abandonment of
Gush Katif and the driving out of the Jewish settlers of the Gaza Strip.
He even endorsed the refusal of soldiers to carry out the evictions of
those settlers. He regularly denounced the leftist hegemony over Israel's
He denounced the self-hatred and defeatism of the Israeli Left.
After A.B. Yehoshua called for an Israel that would be "normal" and like
all other states, Ben-Shlomo denounced him for going to a protest against
the Begin government for the Sabra and Shatilla events. If you want
Israel to be like all other nations, and so refuse to say "You have Chosen
us from All Nations" in prayer, then what were you doing there?, asked Ben
Shlomo. You should act like the British and French would have in a
A typical yet interesting anecdote was reported in the Israeli media just
before he died. Ben-Shlomo was once debating with a leftist about
"Palestinian rights". Palestinians have no rights at all, Ben-Shlomo
told the leftist, because a Palestinian came into the palace in the days
of King David and stole all the jewels there. Nonsense, replied the
leftist, there were not even any Palestinians in existence back then.
Exactly, said Prof. Ben-Shlomo with a mischievous grin.
Last year Tel Aviv University held a day long conference in his honor.
The hall was so jammed that students were hanging on to the windows to
hear him speak (http://www.inn.co.il/Besheva/Article.aspx/6226 ).
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