By Vic Rosenthal
The history of the Jewish people in exile tended to repeat itself, following a pattern first described in the Torah, in the book called shemot [Exodus].
The people of Israel find themselves in a place where they are tolerated, perhaps a place where the ruler is friendly or finds them useful. They do well, multiply, accumulate wealth and prestige. Many of them take on customs of the people among whom they live, and some even forget who they are.
But the local population doesn’t forget. They become jealous of the success of the children of Israel (later called Jews). And something happens — perhaps the friendly ruler dies and is replaced by one who “did not know Joseph.” Laws and customs change, rights and privileges are taken away, and suddenly the Israelites have the stark choice between leaving their homes, perhaps the only ones they’ve known, finding another place where they can start over, or being wiped out.
It happened in Egypt, and it’s been happening everywhere since then, in the Christian and Muslim worlds, in the Europe of the Middle ages and after the Enlightenment. It happened in 20th Century Germany, where Jews lived as privileged an existence as anywhere in the world.
Hitler’s defeat and the worldwide revulsion against Nazi ideology were expected to end the cycle in Europe, but today Jews are more and more beginning to realize yet again that they do not have a future there.
There are only two places today where significant Jewish populations live without fear of being thrown out: the US and Israel. The US, because of its unprecedented tradition — developed as a result of the interplay between the heterogeneous Christian sects that founded it, and the multiplicity of peoples that comprise it — in which tolerance is the highest value. And Israel because it is a Jewish state.
Unfortunately new Pharaohs — both a man and an ideology — have arisen who “did not know Joseph.” And they threaten the Jewish people in both of these safe havens.
The ideological Pharaoh is an anti-rational postmodernism, in which all truth is political, combined with a naive leftist politics in which the West is always wrong and any group defined as ‘oppressed’ is always right — and is permitted anything. Although it sees itself as tolerant, it is only tolerant of certain kinds of differences.
This ideology is taught in our great American universities, and more and more it is becoming the dominant one among our intellectual and political elites.
The old American ideology would have allowed Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren to speak his piece at UC Irvine, because freedom of speech is one of its highest priorities. The new ideology defines ‘freedom’ as the right to shut down discussion that is politically unacceptable.
On many US campuses, Jewish students are afraid. Although they are attacked for being pro-Israel, they are attacked in antisemitic terms. It is the primacy of politics over tolerance which makes this possible.
This ideology bears the seeds of a new and dangerous antisemitism, the kind that America has almost never known.
In order to understand how Jews in Israel are threatened, we need to shift our point of view from the Jewish people within a particular state to the Jewish state in the world. We need to move from the Jew to the Jew among nations.
The parallels are clear. The Jewish state came into being as a third-world nation. She struggled through wars and privation, absorbed millions of penniless immigrants, built the structure of a modern state from almost nothing.
Her neighbors weren’t happy. They were jealous of the success of the Jew among nations, and they blamed their problems on her. They made up myths about how she had taken what was rightfully theirs. They wanted to destroy her and take what she had built.
But Pharaoh protected her, or, more correctly, permitted her to protect herself. American Pharaohs came and went, some more and some less friendly to the Jew among nations. Nevertheless, none were openly hostile to her.
But now a new Pharaoh has arisen, our first postmodern President, Barack Obama. And he did not know Joseph.
A product of the New Left, Obama personifies the new ideology — thus his sympathy for the Palestinian Arabs, the paradigm case of the oppressed third-world peoples (despite the fact that they live better than 90% of the world’s population).
And this new Pharaoh has spoken: he’s taken away the understandings that Israel had depended on — the provision of secure and recognized borders agreed on between the parties of UNSC resolution 242, the promises of prior presidents regarding borders and the unacceptability of a right of return for Arab refugees.
He’s demanded that Israel shrink herself to a degree that no American president has ever done. And he’s demanding it now, when her neighbors are more dangerous than ever. And those neighbors are slavering with anticipation, thinking that they are going to receive their heart’s desire, after 63 years, on a silver platter.
He is demanding that Israel give away every one of its bargaining points, in return for words. These words, whether from the Arabs or a US President, have been shown to be worthless more than once.
The new Pharaoh is a product of the New Left, but he’s also a product of another tradition, that of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. He’s not stupid enough to get caught verbalizing his attitude, but his cold hatred came through like a searchlight when he spoke to the representative of the Jew among nations, Binyamin Netanyahu.
American Jews have a problem, which can only be solved if it is recognized for what it is — a destructive ideology. Unfortunately, too many of them, smug in what they think is the protective bosom of American tolerance, are flirting with it themselves instead of opposing it.
Israel’s problem is more immediate. Its solution depends on her ability to hold off her neighbors, who are bent on raping her while Obama, the UN, the Europeans, etc. hold her down.
Now we get to the point that the analogy breaks down. Diaspora Jews were powerless. They had to depend on the good will of the ruler. Faced with a vicious one, they had no choice but to flee or die. But the Jew among nations has a world-class military capability, which can defeat the forces lined up against her.
The success of this effort will depend on a lot of things, but from a psychological point of view, the most important is the understanding that there will be no help from Pharaoh. For planning purposes, Barack Obama must be placed in the ‘enemy’ column.
We can only hope that very soon, a new king will arise in America.