Jewish Ethics

Stefan Molyneaux on Israel and the Nature of Judaism

A while ago Mondoweiss banned comments implying that Israel’s bad behavior had anything to do with the nature of Judaism. So it’s a safe bet that Stefan Molyneaux would be banned from the site. As a libertarian with a knowledge of history, Molyneaux finds the root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the natural outgrowth of trends within Judaism going back hundreds of years—a view that is quite compatible with a biological perspective.

The essential plot line is as follows. Drawing on Israel Shahak (e.g., Jewish History, Jewish Religion and Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel), he paints a picture of historical Judaism in Eastern Europe as communities ruled by autocratic rabbis who had absolute control over life and death of their subjects. These were communities in which free speech and tolerance of dissent were ruthlessly suppressed, with ne’er-do-wells sometimes murdered. Then came the Enlightenment which is the origin of all the trends libertarians hold dear. Rabbis began to lose control of their congregations, and there was the rise of secular Judaism in Western societies.

Fearful of loss of power and the specter of assimilation, rabbis needed a new idea to retain control (13:33). They therefore welcomed Zionism because it prevented assimilation and would provide a new opportunity to create closed communities under strong rabbinical control. This is something of an oversimplification of the forces within the Jewish community favoring Zionism and their motives. For example, fear of assimilation and intermarriage also motivated the racial Zionists, many of whom were not religious, who were very prominent in early Zionism (see here, p. 157ff). In the words of Jewish racial Zionist Elias Auerbach, Zionism would return Jews “back into the position they enjoyed before the nineteenth century—politically autonomous, culturally whole, and racially pure” (John Efron, Defenders of the Race: Jewish Doctors and Race Science in Fin-de-Siècle Europe, 1994, 136). Read more

Is Immigration Really A “Jewish Value”?

 Also posted at VDARE.com

GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s ominous squishiness in the face of the Amnesty/ Immigration Surge drive, which has provoked a primary challenge from Economics professor Dave Brat, may be due to personal greed, but Jewish organizations clearly think he can be motivated by ethnic appeals. A friend recently forwarded me this email (links in original except where noted):

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, March 24, 2014

CONTACT: Emma Stieglitz, emmaS@berlinrosen.com, (646) 200-5307

BEND THE ARC MARSHALS JEWISH VOTERS TO PRESSURE ERIC CANTOR ON IMMIGRATION REFORM

Jewish voters are ratcheting up the pressure on Majority Leader Eric Cantor to move comprehensive immigration reform [VDARE.com note: a.k.a. amnesty/ Immigration Surgethrough the House. On Monday, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice launched a petition calling on Rep. Cantor to bring immigration reform to a vote. The effort, spearheaded by Bend the Arc, is a collaboration of many of the nation’s leading Jewish organizations.

The petition (at www.entrydenied.org) makes clear that immigration reform is a priority issue for the Jewish community:

“As American Jews, we believe in a nation that grants today’s immigrants access to the same basic freedoms and opportunities that drew our ancestors and yours.”

Jewish organizations are unanimous in support of the Amnesty/ Immigration Surge drive. This support for liberal immigration laws has a long history—the granddaddy of them all being the 40-year campaign to enact the 1965 immigration law that opened the doorto heavy immigration of all the peoples of the world.

But what is striking is that Jewish immigration enthusiasts have portrayed themselves as motivated entirely by a set of ethical values that are unique and central to Judaism. Thus Bend the Arc proclaims:

We are building a national movement that pursues justice as a core expression of Jewish tradition….Jewish tradition is about liberation and love for humankind. We believe in the dignity and inherent right of all people to live in a just, fair and compassionate society. As Jews immigrated to America, this belief was stowed in their luggage. Throughout American history, courageous Jews have worked with others to hold the nation to its promise, whether in the abolitionist movement, the anti-sweatshop movement, the movement against child labor, the modern labor movement, the civil rights movement or the movement for LGBT inclusion (just to name a few).

And it boasts:

Over the past year, Bend the Arc has organized around the issue of immigration, arranging meetings between Jewish leaders and congressional staff, hosting immigration-themed Shabbats, organizing petitions and participating in marches, vigils and town halls to deliver the message that immigration reform is a top priority for Jewish voters. In October, Bend the Arc’s rabbi-in-residence was arrested at a national demonstration for immigration reform alongside members of Congress during an act of civil disobedience on the National Mall. Read more

Two Ingroup Morality Items

infiltration_pesach_400As noted ad nauseum at TOO, while Diaspora Jews in the West continue to promote immigration and multiculturalism as intrinsic goods and unquestioned moral ideals, in Israel the whole point of public policy is to retain its Jewish character. The most recent example is shipping to Sweden dozens of African refugees living in Israel. Patrick Cleburne’s account at VDARE says it all:

  • The similar size and ethnic diversity of the two countries means that the only rationale for sending Africans to Sweden is that Sweden cares nothing about retaining a Swedish identity, whereas Israel cares deeply about remaining a Jewish state;
  • While the U.S. government policy on immigration and multiculturalism remains at odds with the interests of the traditional people of the West, especially the working class (so, as Cleburne notes, we can expect many of these African refugees to end up in the U.S.), the Israeli government sticks up for their own people: Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar said he was “not very impressed with all the crying and complaining” by business owners whose employees were on strike. “With all due respect to the restaurant and café owners in crisis, or those whose cleaning staff didn’t show up, this will not determine Israel’s national policy. On the contrary, let’s think about those Israelis who have lost their jobs [to migrant workers].”

Given that immigration and multiculturalism are presented as moral imperatives in the West, this results in a double moral standard—one morality for the ingroup and a quite different morality toward the outgroup; the theme of Jewish moral particularism. Unlike the addiction of the West to moral universalism, Jewish groups behave as a foreign policy realist (or evolutionary psychologist) expects states to behave. They simply pursue their interests with the aim of surviving and prospering.

And that means pursuing radically different strategies depending on whether Jews are a demographic majority or a tiny minority. In the West, the organized Jewish community avidly pursues displacement-level immigration and multiculturalism as tools to render the traditional majorities relatively powerless and incapable of mounting attacks on Jews. In Israel, the goal is to retain Jewish identity and minimize the presence and the influence of non-Jews—goals that are enthusiastically supported by Diaspora Jews and Jewish organizations.

Read more

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Ethics: Gaming the System

At TOO we have had several articles on the culture of corruption that pervades many traditional Jewish communities. Edmund Connelly’s “The Culture of Deceit” presents examples going back to the 18th century, citing Wilhelm von Dohm, a Prussian official that Jewish communities were engaged in “the breaking of the laws of the state restricting trade, the import and export of prohibited wares, the forgery of money and precious metals.”

In short, von Dohm describes traditional Jewish communities as far more resembling a mafia-like group engaged in organized crime than what we think of as a religion. Alexander Solzhenitsyn describes how Jews invented elaborate ways to get around laws on selling liquor and to avoid the military draft; they also sold shoddy goods to the Russian military with all that that implies  (see “The Mesira Mentality: Laws are Made to be Broken“). Read more

Traditional Jewish Ethics

A recurrent theme here is the contrast between the moral universalism of the West versus Jewish moral particularism. Moral universalism is a corrollary of individualism: Groups have no moral standing. Stealing doesn’t become right depending on what group the victim belongs to.

But Jewish ethics is based fundamentally on the group status of perpetrator and victim. It’s okay if the victim is from a different group. And within the group, ethics is structured so that the group as a whole benefits: What’s good for the Jews.

Dennis Praeger has a nice column on traditional Jewish moral particularism (“Can Halachah ever be wrong?“).

Suppose you ordered an electric shaver from a store owned by non-Jews, and by accident the store sent you two shavers. Would you return the second shaver?

Nine said they would not. One said he would.

What is critical to understand is why they answered the way they did. The nine who would not return the second shaver were not crooks. They explained that halachah (Jewish law) forbade them from returning the other shaver. According to halachah, as they had been taught it, a Jew is forbidden to return a lost item to a non-Jew. The only exception is if the non-Jew knows a Jew found the item and not returning it would cause anti-Semitism or a Khilul Hashem (desecration of God’s name). The one who said he would return it gave that very reason — that it would be a Khilul Hashem if he didn’t return it and could be a Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s name) if he did. But he, too, did not believe he was halachically bound to return the shaver.

The nine were not wrong, and they were not taught wrong. That is the halachah. Rambam (Maimonides) ruled that a Jew is permitted to profit from a non-Jew’s business error.

Traditional Jewish law had different penalties for a variety of crimes—theft, taking advantage of business errors, rape, and murder (reviewed in Ch. 6 of A People That Shall Dwell Alone, p. 148ff). Even proselytes who had converted to Judaism had a lower moral standing than other Jews—a fact that has doubtless weighed heavily with prospective converts. Read more