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Why Are Jews Liberals?by Norman Podhoretz
Synopses & Reviews
THE WITNESS DOCTRINE
The reason the story of how the Jews became liberals is so long is that it begins very far back--all the way back to the birth of Christianity out of the womb of Judaism about two thousand years ago. The earliest Christians (not yet known by that name) were a dissident sect within Judaism. They did not, to begin with, see themselves as belonging to a new religion: they were, rather, Jews who continued observing the laws of Judaism but who differed from most of their fellow Jews in their belief that the Messiah (or the Christ) had come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. It was only with the conversion of Saint Paul some thirty-five years after the crucifixion of Jesus that the break with Judaism was initiated.
Paul (ne Saul) was himself a Jew (I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin), and he sometimes denied that God had now rejected the people He had formerly chosen (They are beloved for the sake of their forefathers). But he interpreted the coming of Jesus as signifying, and indeed requiring, the abrogation of The old Law given by God at Mount Sinai to His chosen people, the Jews, and under which they had always lived (But now, he tells his fellow Jews, we are delivered from the law).
In the years following Paul's death, a great debate broke out over the relationship between Christianity and Judaism, with the radical theologian Marcion (ca. 85-160) holding that the Hebrew Bible, the Bible of the Jews, the Old Testament, was not the word of God but the work of the Devil and must therefore be entirely shunned and repudiated. But this idea was declared heretical, and it was Paul's view--namely, that the Old Testament had been valid up until the coming of Jesus and remained valid as the prelude to, and the prophetic foreteller of, a New Testament--that ultimately prevailed. It followed that the Jews, having refused to accept Jesus as the Messiah sent to them by God for their deliverance from death, had now been superseded as His chosen people by the Christian community (or Church).
But if the Jews were no longer the chosen people, what were they then? Paul asked: Hath God cast away His people? and to his own question he answered, God forbid. . . . God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew.4 Yet there were also passages in the Letters of Paul that could, and would, be taken as a warrant for regarding those who continued to live by the Law of Judaism as carnally minded rather than spiritually minded, and that this made them enemies of God (because the carnal mind is enmity against God).
Ominous as this idea was, however, what proved to be even worse for the Jews was the charge made against them in other parts of the New Testament, especially the Gospels of Matthew and John. For there are passages in these books that hold the Jewish people responsible for the crucifixion of the son of God--and not only the Jews living at the time of Jesus's sojourn on earth, but even their descendants unto all the generations that followed (Then answered all the people and said, His blood be on us, and on our children). Hence the Jewish people as a whole are condemned as the spawn of the Devil (Ye are of your father the Devil and your will is to do your father's desire).
In a fascinating speculative comment on the ambivalence of the New Testament's conception of the Jews, R. J. Zwi Werblowski, who was for ma
Evaluating the democratic tendencies of Jewish Americans, the Presidential Medal of Freedom-holding author of World War IV evaluates anti-Semitism in the west and the events of the Six Day War of 1967 to offer insight into Jewish perspectives about liberalism.
From the bestselling author of World War IV, a brilliant investigation of a central question in American politics and culture.
During his career as a neoconservativethinker, Norman Podhoretz has been asked no question more often than Why are so many Jews liberals? In this provocative book he sets out to solve this puzzle. He first offers a fascinating account ofanti-Semitism in the West to show the historical roots of Jewish mistrust of the right. But, Podhoretz argues, since the Six Day War of 1967 Jewish allegiance to the left no longer makes sense, and yet most Jews continuesupporting the Democratic Party and the liberal agenda. Reviewing the history of Jewish political attitudes and examining the available evidence, Podhoretz argues against the conventional explanations for Jewishliberalism--finally proposing his own.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
\NORMAN PODHORETZ, who was the editor in chief of Commentary for thirty-five years, is now an adjunct fellow of the Hudson Institute and the author of numerous bestselling books, including Making It, Breaking Ranks, Ex-Friends, My Love Affair with America, The Prophets, and World War IV. He holds the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
Table of Contents
How the Jews became liberals. The "witness" doctrine ; Ghettos ; Poets and exegetes ; Emancipation : phase one ; The enlightenment puzzle ; Haskalah ; Emancipation : phase two ; The second great puzzle ; The golden land ; Jews from Germany ; Anti-Semitism, patrician style ; Jews without money ; Emancipation : the backlash ; "Defilers" of the culture ; Enter FDR ; In Roosevelt's wake : Truman ; From 1852-1968 — Why the Jews are still liberals. The golden age of Jewish security ; Something new under the Jewish sun ; Nixon and Israel ; Carter : "joining the jackals" ; The 1980 election ; Reagan and Israel ; Anti-"Zionism" ; The case of The nation ; The case of National review ; George H.W. Bush and Israel ; The case of Pat Buchanan ; Clinton, the Religious Right, and the Jews ; George W. Bush and Israel ; 2008 ; As liberal as ever? ; The wrong answers ; The "Torah" of liberalism.
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