Monday, November 01, 2010
Political Liberalism as a Pseudo-Religion
from the very liberal Jewish Week:
Liberalism Is Not Our Religion
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Special To The Jewish Week
I believe in equality for all. I support civil rights, women's rights,
gay rights, universal health care, feeding the poor, social justice,
separation of church and state, access to education, diversity, the
arts, animal rights (I have not eaten meat or poultry in 33 years),
and more. I marched against the war in Vietnam, protested the bombing
in Cambodia, and advocated for affirmative action.
In terms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I met with the
Palestinian leadership, including Yasir Arafat, as part of my peace
activism. I believed, up to a point, in Oslo, and maintain that while
a failure, it was not a mistake. I am hopeful that the two sides will
keep talking until there is a deal.
Still, I have not elevated liberalism to the status of religion. I do
not blindly follow the liberal agenda and my convictions take a
backseat to my commitment to the well-being of Israel and the Jewish
people. Unfortunately, this is not the case for the majority of U.S.
Jews, who have substituted liberalism for Judaism and whose actions
are often governed by misguided priorities. In lieu of traditional
Jewish belief or value systems, many American Jews have adopted what
is essentially a theology of universalism and tikkun olam, or social
justice. In doing so, much of American Jewry has essentially become
When the lives of my family, my friends, and my people are in jeopardy
because we are Jewish, when there are very real threats to the
continued existence of the State of Israel and by extension the Jewish
people, when our enemies have declared that their intention is to
annihilate us and are acquiring tools to this end with the world
standing by, then my pro-humanist beliefs give way to my commitment to
the sanctity and security of Israel and the Jewish people.
American Jewry's loyalty to the liberal political dogma is disturbing
when things are going well for the Jews. But when things are not going
well, this behavior is self-destructive and helps our enemies.
The future of Israel is at stake. Not only is Israel threatened by the
soon-to-be nuclear Iran and its satellites, but its right to exist is
being questioned by a virulent, global delegitimization campaign that
is being led and energized by the academic left and supported by the
elements of the liberal wing. In not speaking out, many Jews are, in
effect, endangering Israel and abdicating their responsibility as
Many American Jews have become distanced from Judaism's larger core
values and are uncomfortable making moral judgements concerning the
distinction between good and evil, which is an inherent part of our
heritage. In addition, many are uncomfortable with the notion of the
exceptionalism of Israel, and even with the exceptionalism of the U.S.
Historically, the vulnerability of diaspora Jews led many to make a
habit of ingratiating themselves to their non-Jewish hosts. For some
Jews, this knee-jerk accommodation, while no longer a survival
technique, seems to have become integrated into the genetic code —
hence, the quintessential galut (diaspora) Jew. History has shown us
over and over again that this approach is ultimately unsuccessful.
Witness the tragic outcomes of previous golden ages of Jewry in Spain,
France, and Germany. We must not allow these genes to express
themselves; we must show strength and become proactive.
When our ancestors were permitted to exit the ghetto, they gravitated
towards those expressing universalist ideas, which were most often
part of the ideology of the left. It was from the universalists that
they experienced the first indications of tolerance. It's therefore
not surprising that they proceeded to derive intellectual sustenance
and a modicum of physical security from the left, hence our historic
loyalty. But today it is the American right that has evolved to the
point where it is much more philo-Semitic and more pro-Israel than the
left. The hawks and the evangelicals among them are the most fervent
supporters of the State of Israel. From the perspective of our own
survival, we must gravitate to, and work with, those who wish us well
and support our standing in the world.
Despite the pacifist attitude espoused by many children of Holocaust
survivors, despite the anti-war rhetoric spouted by many of the Jewish
baby boomers, and despite what for many of us is an innate opposition
to war, ultimately it is only the strength of Israel that earns us the
respect of our enemies. It is not our intellect, not our Nobel prizes,
not our supposed financial acumen. As the Italian-Jewish intellectual
Alain Elkann noted, the only antidote to Auschwitz is Israel — and its
military might. As such, Israel is fighting not only for itself, but
for all Jews. I would argue that by extension, it is fighting for the
well-being of the Western world and its values.
Liberal Jews should be making the case for Israel as a bastion of
liberal values. Israel is the only country in the Middle East with a
free press. It is the only true democracy in the Middle East, with
equal rights for women and, in practice, a refuge for gay Arab men
from neighboring countries. In Israel there are no honor killings, no
stonings, no capital punishment, no cutting off of the hands of
Throughout our history there have been Jews who have opted out, and
this is an acceptable reality. What is not acceptable is that today,
entire legions of Jews, in the name of liberalism, are in effect
working against the survival of the Jewish people, whether out of
ignorance, different priorities, or a lack of understanding of the
Confronted with both old and new enemies seeking to destroy us, and
vilified by anti-Zionism — anti-Semitism in new clothes — the majority
of American Jewry needs to look in the mirror, re-examine its
convictions and make a shift.
Abiding by one's political philosophy, values and convictions is a
noble way of living — but not when they are coming to chop your head
off. At that point, and I believe we are there now, one's moral and
political compass needs to revert to survival mode.
Aryeh Rubin is the managing director of The Maot Group, an investment
boutique in Miami, and president of the Targum Shlishi Foundation.
2. This is an interesting blog: http://shomroncentral.blogspot.com/
3. The Pseudo-Rabbis of the Rabbis (sic) for Human Rights