Podhoretz, Norman Why Are Jews Liberals?

ISBN 13: 9780385529198

Why Are Jews Liberals?

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9780385529198: Why Are Jews Liberals?
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From the bestselling author of World War IV, a brilliant and provocative examination of a central question in American politics and culture that is sure to generate tremendous controversy.

Norman Podhoretz says he has never in his entire life been asked any question on any subject as often as “Why are so many Jews liberals?”-or in its more specifically political form, “Why do most Jews always vote for the Democrats?” Podhoretz proposes to solve this puzzle. He first offers a fascinating account of anti-Semitism in the West to show why, for most of that time, Jews quite sensibly concluded that they had much more to fear from the right than the left. But since the Six Day War of 1967, he argues, this position has no longer made sense, and yet most Jews go on supporting the Democratic Party and the liberal agenda. Reviewing the history of Jewish political attitudes and thoroughly examining the available evidence, he then demonstrates that all the usual explanations-such as a passion for justice allegedly deriving from the prophets of the Hebrew Bible-are either inadequate or flat-out false. Finally he proposes his own answer to the great puzzle of why most Jews remain as committed to liberalism as ever.

There is no more vigorous thinker or skilled polemicist in American intellectual life than Norman Podhoretz. In Why Are Jews Liberals? he sums up his thinking on the political inclinations of his fellow Jews-in the process confounding conventional wisdom and changing the way we view American politics.

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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.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1
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 many years the Martin Buber Professor of Comparative Religion at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, writes:
Had the Jews disappeared from the stage of history, it would have been possible [for Christianity] to relate to them more positively as a preparatory phase in the coming of God's kingdom. Had the Church severed its ties to its Israelite antecedents and completely rejected the "Old Testament" and the "Jewish God" (as demanded by Marcion) . . . , then Christianity would have been a hostile but essentially separate religion. The Church, however, insistently maintained that it was the direct continuation of that divine action in history of which the election of Israel was a major part. Yet the Jews continued to exist.
Because the Jews refused to disappear, what started as ambivalence developed into outright hostility. Marcion may have been excommunicated and his doctrine declared a heresy, but with a little help from the accusations I have just cited from the Gospels of Matthew and John, a version of the Marcionite heresy smuggled its way into the writing and preaching of other early Fathers of the Church like Gregory of Nyssa and John Chrysostom.  The eminent historian Cecil Roth warns against exaggerating how bad conditions were for the Jews in the "Dark Ages," and we do well to take his caution into account. Nevertheless it is beyond dispute that much mob violence against the Jews was triggered in the coming centuries--and, as we shall see, not only in the medieval world--by the anti-Jewish ideas scattered throughout the New Testament, and spread far and wide by the sermons of prelates and priests. There is nothing surprising about this. What may, however, seem surprising, at least at first sight, is how long it took for the image of the Jew as a "Christ-killer" and as the "_anti-Christ" to trickle down into the popular mind. As late as the fourth century C.E., John Chrysostom complained that Christians who knew no better were living on an equal footing with their Jewish neighbors, who, true to the Pauline characterization of them as "carnally minded," were marked by extravagance, gluttony, and dissolute living, and who, true to the Gospel accounts of their role in the crucifixion of Jesus, were guilty of deicide.
Evidently this vexatious problem of good relations between ordinary Christians and Jews refused to go away, so that it was still eliciting complaints from princes of the Church at the time of Charlemagne (ninth century). "Things have reached a stage," declared Agobard, the Archbishop of Lyon,
where ignorant Christians claim that the Jews preach better than our priests. . . . Some Christians even celebrate the Sabbath with the Jews and violate the holy repose of Sunday. . . . Men of the people, peasants, allow themselves to be plunged into such a sea of errors that they regard the Jews as the only people of God, and consider that they combine the observance of a pure religion and a truer faith than ours.
But what may seem even more surprising than these friendly relations between Jews and Christians in the early Middle Ages is the reversal of roles between "men of the people" and the princes of the Church that later took place. For there came a time when Jews were often protected from mob violence by the very Catholic authorities whose ideas were the source of it. During the First Crusade (1095-96), when there were horrible massacres in France and Germany of Jewish communities unlucky enough to be living in the path of the Crusaders on their way to the Holy Land, the Bishop of Speyer and the Archbishop of Cologne both used force to stop the killings. The Bishop of Speyer even went so far as to hang the ringleaders. The Archbishop of Mainz also tried to intervene, but he failed and narrowly escaped being slaughtered himself. Then, in the twelfth century, the Cistercian monk Bernard of Clairvaux, though he himself had been instrumental in launching the Second Crusade, helped to head off a new wave of massacres by warning that they would bring Divine retribution.
I can well imagine that these courageous men--and courageous they certainly were--thought they were acting as good Christians. But if so, it was not necessarily in the spirit of Christian love. (Even Bernard, the best of them from the Jewish point of view, referred to Jews with such epithets as "venomous," "coarse," and "wicked.")12 For around the end of the fourth century, no less an authority than Saint Augustine, the greatest of all the early Christian theologians, had promulgated the doctrine that it was the will of God for the Jews to be dispersed and kept in a state of abject misery. He further decreed, however--and it was out of obedience to this codicil that princes of the Church like the Bishop of Speyer sometimes protected Jews from murderous assaults--that they were not to be killed and that they must also be permitted to practice their religion. In this way the wretched condition they had brought upon themselves by rejecting and crucifying Jesus, and continuing to reject him, would serve as a "witness" to the truth of Christianity.
In a similar vein, the greatest Christian theologian of the High Middle Ages, Saint Thomas Aquinas, declared in the thirteenth century that
in consequence of their sin Jews were destined to perpetual servitude . . . save for the sole proviso that [sovereigns] do not deprive them of all that is necessary to sustain life.
Adding his own, more detailed, exposition of the same point, Pope Innocent III declared in 1205:
The Lord made Cain a wanderer and a fugitive over the earth, but set a mark on him, . . . lest any finding him should slay him. Thus the Jews, against whom the blood of Jesus Christ calls out, although they ought not to be killed, lest the Christian people forget the Divine Law, yet as wanderers ought they to remain upon the earth, until their countenance be filled with shame and they seek the name of Jesus Christ, the Lord. That is why blasphemers of the Christian name ought . . . to be forced into the servitude of which they made themselves deserving when they raised sacrilegious hands against Him Who had come to confer true liberty upon them, thus calling down His blood upon themselves and upon their children.
In addition to mandating a degree of physical protection against murderous attacks, the "witness" doctrine sometimes compelled efforts by the ecclesiastical authorities to deny the false charges that often triggered such attacks. Thus, Innocent III's successor, Innocent IV, wrote in 1247 that
Christians charge falsely . . . that [the Jews] hold a communion rite . . . with the heart of a murdered child; and should the cadaver of a dead man...

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