Saturday, 1 November 2014
Sacrificing for a Dignified Life on Earth: Israel, Justice and Human Redemption
Seeing requires distance. For Jihadist fighters - ISIS, Hamas, it makes little actual difference - terrorism represents a thoroughly sacred form of sacrifice. By their unhidden calculations, the ultimate purpose of such predatory Islamist murder is plain. It is to slake the compelling blood-lust of certain presumptively divine expectations, and to nurture each "martyr's" voracious hunger for immortality with the profaned blood of "unbelievers."
We must look at such perplexing issues at their “molecular” level. At its core, Jihadi terror represents maximally faithful "submission" to doctrinally mandated cruelty. "Do not consider those who are slain in the cause of Allah as dead," instructs the Koran, "for they are living by their Lord." Relentlessly, Jihadi terror serves to clear a determinedly barbarous but holy path to both personal survival and collective redemption.
In all world politics, there is no greater power, than power over death. It is precisely such unmatchable power that is promised to the Jihadist faithful, especially for their willfully diligent applications of wanton terror. While the Jihadi terrorist claims to "love death," exactly the opposite is actually true.
It is rather his, or her, exceptional terror of death that leads directly to sacrificial suicide terror.
By such conspicuously murderous "suicides," Jihadis hope to attain an eternal life in Paradise. The dualistic nature of terror/suicide - the sacrifice of the "unbeliever," and the reciprocal sacrifice of the "martyr" - is plainly codified in the Charter of Hamas: "The Palestinian problem is a religious one, to be dealt with on this premise...."I swear by that (sic) who holds in His hands, the Soul of Muhammad! I indeed wish to go to war for the sake of Allah! I will assault and kill, assault and kill, assault and kill."
For Hamas, which US President Barack Obama insistently differentiates from ISIS (because he still welcomes a Hamas/Fatah Palestinian state), it is by killing Jews, and subsequently being killed by Jews, that true freedom from personal death can be achieved. This same crudely medieval mantra holds substantial sway with more "moderate" Fatah.
For our Jihadist enemies - ISIS, Hamas, Fatah, it makes little difference - the ritualistically violent sacrifice of certain subordinated "others," and religious blessedness, are one and the same.
Interestingly, this starkly polarizing Islamist view of the world, one fully redolent of disharmony, disintegration, and homicide, represents the conceptual opposite of classic Jewish tradition. According to certain ancient Jewish narratives, soul-searching perspectives that many Talmudists trace back to the time of Isaiah, the world rests upon thirty-six just men - the Lamed-Vov. For these "chosen" individuals, Jews who must forever remain unknown, even to themselves, the immutably grotesque spectacle of the visible world is utterly unbearable. Indeed, inconsolable in the face of vast oceans of suffering, and simultaneously immobilized by a seemingly limitless range of human woe, the Lamed-Vov can never expect even a solitary moment of joy or tranquility.
So, at least, goes this singularly prophetic Hasidic tale.
There is more. God is merciful, it continues. From time to time, in an expansively sympathetic gesture designed to open their souls to Paradise, He sets forward the clock of the Last Judgment.
Always, always...by exactly one minute.
There are several discernible meanings to this relevant Jewish tradition of mercy, all of which stand in conspicuously stark contrast to Islamist/Jihadist concepts of sacrifice. One of these Jewish meanings may even offer some authentically redemptive hope in relieving the world's increasing nearness to irremediable global catastrophe. Soon, we may require a whole world of just men (and women). Soon, we could have to create the special conditions under which each and every one of us is able to feel the excruciating anguish and dreadful portents experienced by the Lamed-Vov.
Then, and perhaps only then, would we be able to take the necessary steps back toward survival, from enduring lascivious terrorist defilements of human life and dignity, to far-reaching courage and sanctification.
Yet, tragically, the remedy itself would be unsustainable. How, we must unavoidably inquire, could we ever hope to endure, both as individuals and as nations, if we were also to feel, with the very same palpable pain and sorrow we direct toward our families and close friends, the distress of all others?
Jewish tradition sometimes identifies expansive empathy with all others as a sanctified way to redemption. Arguably, a meaningfully empathic redemption is the core expectation of most dignified societies here on earth. The Swiss psychologist, Carl G. Jung, once even remarked that “Society is the sum total of individual souls seeking redemption."
In Jewish tradition, there exist certain injunctions to warn against taking on too much of the suffering of others. Although Jews are doctrinally obligated to feel some such suffering - to learn from, and also be elevated by, such torment (Toras Avraham) - they must also guard against too much empathy; that is, against taking on those too-strong feelings of caring that could occasion their own personal destruction.
We may still learn, therefore, from the legend of the Lamed-Vov, not only that empathy is essential, but also that too much empathy can be beyond human endurance.
It is a troubling lesson.
In the fashion of his thoughtful Swiss colleague, Carl G. Jung, Sigmund Freud spoke frequently of “souls." However “unscientific,” he also understood that a well-placed mystery of eternity hovers meaningfully above and beyond the temporal world. The very deepest reality of human love and empathy, he already knew, can never be explained through science alone.
Empathy and justice can sometime bring forth a vast healing; moreover, such feeling, commented Rabbi Avraham Kook, who was not a part of the classical stream of Jewish philosophy, must "flow directly from the holy depth of the wisdom of the Divine soul." Rabbi Kook's thinking does not stand in any stark or self-conscious opposition to rational and scientific investigation, nor does it intend to oppose pure feeling to raw intellect. It identifies instead a usefully creative tension, one between a too-abstract and too-formal intellectualism, and a promising practical form of reason. Influenced and informed by Buddhism, Rabbi Kook envisioned humankind as possessing a natural evolutionary inclination toward advancement and self-perfection. The course of this expansive human evolution, he had surmised, must be directed toward a progressively increased spirituality. In the final analysis, he understood the Torah as a concrete manifestation of Divine Will here on earth.
At some point, at least according to Kook, the people and State of Israel must willingly play a cosmic and redemptive role in saving us all. To be sure, this ambitious expectation stands far outside the more “normal” boundaries of justice, law, and power politics.
Significantly, however, this unifying view represents the precise opposite of what we hear daily from ISIS, Hamas, and every other Jihadi group. Sadly, it is also a view that remains starkly alien to the current president of the United States.
Although still unrecognized by President Barack Obama, for Jihadist enemies of human civilization, terror-violence is an expressed form of religious sacrifice, sacred and necessary. Always.
For Israel and the Jewish People, terror-violence represents an expression of primal criminality, behavior that must be anticipated, and then resolutely opposed. Looking ahead, with this idea in mind, Jihadist terror, if left insufficiently challenged, could ultimately escalate to critical levels involving chemical, biological, or (ultimately) even nuclear weapons. In this connection, President Obama and his successor should understand that it makes no real sense to oppose Jihadist terrorism that is launched by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and at the same time intervene on behalf of what would quickly become another murderous Jihadist government in "Palestine."
Originally published in the Jerusalem Post.
Posted on 11/01/2014 6:28 AM by Louis René Beres
Saturday, 1 November 2014
The Left has Lost its Grip on Toronto
There is much to celebrate in this week’s Toronto mayoral election. The total voter turnout was just under 1-million, an unheard of number for a municipal election in Canada. The turnout rate was 60%, the highest in a great many years. An able candidate, John Tory has been elected. He will spare the city and the whole country the notoriety that the outgoing mayor attracted, as he became the world’s most famous Canadian. Yet the Ford era came to an (at least temporary) end in a dignified manner that demonstrated it was not an aberration or a phenomenon with no roots of popular support. Everyone will wish the mayor well with his medical problems and hope that he is able to take his seat on the City Council, to which he was easily re-elected as a representative of Ward 2 (in Etobicoke). His brother Doug, running in his place for mayor, took 34% of the vote (331,000 votes), just 6.5% and 64,000 votes behind John Tory, and 104,000 votes and 11 percentage points ahead of the candidate of the left, Olivia Chow.
At the nadir of Mayor Ford’s problems, when the Toronto Star ran a campaign threatening city notables with exposure and public mockery if they did not join in the newspaper’s drive to require the mayor to retire in mid-term because of his indiscretions (although he was not charged with any criminal misconduct), it was widely believed that Ford Nation represented no more than 15% of the residents of the city, and those the deadbeats, drug addicts, and knuckle-dragging misogynists, lager louts, and detritus of Toronto’s riff-raff. But now it is clear that much of the Ford message resonated well with hundreds of thousands of perfectly respectable voters. They appreciated his responsiveness (the mayor always answered every phone message personally), avoidance of extravagance (even the Star conceded that he cut $638-million over four years from the City’s expenses), and a jovial, if sometimes laddish demeanor.
Some of the mayor’s antics, especially his crack-house visits, were outrageous; and the solemn assertions of matters that proved after a few days to be untrue, strained the patience even of his supporters. But hundreds of thousands of people believed that much of the criticism was just malice, hypocrisy and the hoity-toity condescension of the effete. They voted accordingly (and they were partially correct in their suspicions).
This was John Tory’s victory, of course, but for the Fords to take 34% of the vote after the public relations bloodbath they have endured, and to run 11 points ahead of the de-facto NDP candidate, a respected person and the beneficiary of the lingering popularity of her late husband, Jack Layton, is an astonishing feat.
In 1980, Art Eggleton ran as a fusion candidate of Liberal and Conservative organizations against John Sewell, a member of the left-wing of the NDP, and won by only about 1% of the vote total (which, in pre-amalgamation Toronto, was under 200,000). In 2003, New Democrat David Miller was supported by urbanologist Jane Jacobs and all the left from Margaret Atwood, David Crombie, Jack Diamond, June Callwood, eventually Bob Rae, and Michael Ondaatje, to Michele Landsberg, Judy Rebick, and even Robert F. Kennedy Jr., (as if it were any business of his). Tory was, rather as Eggleton had been, a Conservative-Liberal coalition candidate, and Miller won 43% (299,000 votes), to Tory’s 38% (263,000 votes), to New Democrat incumbent Barbara Hall’s 9% (64,000) and Liberal John Nunziata’s 5% (36,000). In 2006, Miller, still a paid-up member of the NDP, was re-elected by 57% (333,000 votes) to 32% (189,000) for Jane Pitfield, an ostensible Red Tory and John Tory canvasser, though with Liberal connections through in-laws.
That was only eight years ago. Four years later, Miller’s popularity was below 20%, and he withdrew, proverbially, “to spend more time with [his] family.” In Monty Pythonese terms, Toronto voted for something “completely different,” with populist conservative Rob Ford defeating Liberal George Smitherman and New Democrat Joe Pantalone by 47% (384,000), to 36% (290,000), to 12% (95,000). Of course, there are no formal party affiliations in municipal elections and the totals do not correspond exactly to party support, but in general, the NDP versus Liberal-Conservative percentages went from 52-43 (Miller-Hall vs Tory-Nunziata) in 2003, to 57-32 (Miller-Pitfield), to the post-Miller debacle of the left in 2010, with Pantalone winning a mere 12%.
The real take-away messages from the election are that while the NDP has struggled back to 23%, the Conservative-Liberal coalition has gone back to 40%, not far off where it was in Miller’s era and the first elections of Sewell and Eggleton. But the Fords, running against the former leader of the provincial Conservatives and the widow of the former federal leader of the NDP, have carved out a populist bloc of one third of the vote, and appear to have taken in about equal numbers from both groups. Doug Ford doesn’t have as much appeal as his brother, but doesn’t carry as much baggage either, and while the Fords’ claims to being the Kennedys of Canada are almost unimaginable piffle (and the only election the Kennedys ever won that wasn’t virtually a pocket borough — JFK and Teddy in the Senate from Massachusetts and Bobby in New York in 1964 — was the presidency in 1960, and they probably stole that from Richard Nixon). Not even the most ardent Ford supporter is going to try to inflict any bunk about Camelot on us in reference to the last four years of municipal government in Toronto.
While it was a slightly raucous election campaign in places, it was like an over-refereed big-gloves boxing match at the YMCA compared to the obscene farce in the U.S. mid-term elections as the sun sets on the failing presidency of Barack Obama. Voters are cranking up to deliver the Senate to the Republicans and banish Harry Reid as majority leader, a puppet of Nevada’s casino unions and the unworthy occupant of a post held in living memory by such notables as Alben W. Barkley, Robert A. Taft, Lyndon B. Johnson, Howard H. Baker and Robert Dole.
In this campaign, Mark Udall, Democratric Senate candidate in Colorado, has harped so incessantly on the supposed Republican “war on women” because his opponent is for non-prescription sale of contraceptives rather than free distribution of them, that he is generally referred to in the state as “Mark Uterus.” Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has attracted the opprobrium of almost everyone by implying that the Republican governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, is an abuser of women, on no pretence of evidence. (Walker is already facing a “John Doe” investigation from the Democratic U.S. attorney in Milwaukee — where a grand jury conducts an ex parte, in camera investigation to see if a crime has been committed and then, when prompted by the prosecutor, decides whom to indict). This may be the crassest, most absurdly expensive, and lowest election campaign in modern American history, an unseemly sign-off for an administration in which such hopes were invested.
In Toronto, it would not have been appropriate to re-elect the Fords and it is good to see the perseverance of a man of John Tory’s decency and competence rewarded. This is why we have elections, to confirm or change governments in a civilized process, and attempted extra-legal putsches by the media are not acceptable.
This brings me to the charming and talented Jian Ghomeshi. The CBC’s dismissal of him on the basis of denunciations sought and magnified by the same Toronto Star that tried to purge the mayor is unjust. Obviously, I know nothing of Jian Ghomeshi’s sexual conduct, but it hasn’t been the subject even of a complaint to the police, much less a charge or conviction, and the only two identified complainants refer to alleged incidents from a decade ago.
The pious insipidity of CBC management is notorious and I, too, have experienced it, (and this is not a complaint about their on-air personnel, nor an attack on public broadcasting, a concept I support). In politics as in employment generally, a society where careers are ruined by unsubstantiated denunciations is not civilized, and the authors of such acts are apt to be less fit to retain their jobs than their targeted victims.
First published in the National Post.
Posted on 11/01/2014 6:16 AM by Conrad Black