Professor Paul Eidelberg
July 15, 2009
More than forty years have elapsed since I wrote “The Crisis of Our Times,” which was printed in the Congressional Record (U.S. Senate, July 31, 1968, pp. E.7150-E.7157).
The article revealed that the doctrine of moral relativism permeates all levels of education in America and even influences decisions of its Supreme Court. I warned that moral relativism was undermining America’s political heritage and that it would lead to America’s demise. Enter Barack Obama, the first moral relativist in the White House. Before continuing, I had better define relativism.
Moral relativism (like cultural relativism) denies the validity of any standards by which to determine what is good or bad, right or wrong, just or unjust. Hence there are no rational or objective standards by which to determine whether the way of life of one individual, group, or nation is intrinsically superior to that of another.
Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton quotes Obama as saying: “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” “This answer,” says Bolton “proves precisely the opposite of what Obama is ostensibly saying. If every country is exceptional, none is”—yes, but Obama’s answer reveals he is a cultural relativist.
Relativism undermines a nation’s conviction in the justice of its cause. It diminishes a nation’s ability to persevere in a protracted conflict—as was evident to students of mine returning from Vietnam in 1975. I therefore deemed it my duty to write books and articles to combat the subversive influence of relativism. This I did prior to immigrating to Israel in 1976.
Unsurprisingly, relativism was also thriving in Israel’s secular universities. This boded ill for a nation surrounded by fanatical religious regimes. Israel’s decision-makers and opinion-makers consisted primarily of secular Jews, and not a few were tainted by relativism, for example, the late professor Y. Harkabi. When I met Harkabi in 1976, he was head of Israel Military Intelligence as well as the mentor of Shimon Peres—and he was a leading advocate of a Palestinian state. Harkabi had also served as head of Israel’s Command and Staff College—two of whose graduates, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Barak, influenced by relativism, eventually succumbed to the anti-Jewish idea of a Palestinian state. Alas, the government lacked the stamina to uphold Israel’s territorial integrity and national honor. And if this were not enough, Israel’s system of multiparty cabinet government was dysfunctional.
So I proceeded to write books and articles to interface the Torah with the political wisdom of America’s Founding Fathers. It was obvious that only the Torah could unite the Jewish people as a people. Less obvious was that multiparty cabinet government fragmented the people and magnified political egotism. Urgently needed was a unitary executive or presidential system as the Torah itself enjoins.
Unfortunately, moral relativism and the egotism built into multiparty cabinet government were too deeply entrenched to be overcome by philosophical criticism and conventional politics. The country’s ruling elites lacked national pride and political fortitude. They succumbed to a policy of Jewish self-abasement via territorial self-denial. They were bent on undoing the miracle of Israel’s victory in the Six-Day war and Jewish repossession of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. By squandering Israel’s victory, they undermined Israel’s national reputation, for who would respect a nation whose Government was willing to renounce the Jewish people’s sacred birthright for “peace” with an organization led by a thug like PLO chief Yasser Arafat?
Once the Government negotiated with the PLO, there inevitably followed an erosion of Jewish national pride—and note well that Jewish weakness magnifies overt anti-Semitism. This two-fold phenomenon became conspicuous after the Oslo or Israel-PLO Agreement of September 1993. To Israel’s disgrace, Oslo allowed Arafat to set up an armed camp on Jewish land.
Contempt for Israel and anti-Semitism reached obscene proportions under the Likud Government of Ariel Sharon, which reacted intermittently to Arab terrorism. Sharon shamefully retreated from Gaza, expelled its Jewish residents, destroyed their synagogues, and openly supported a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria, the heartland of the Jewish people. It was under Sharon’s premiership that a French diplomat compared Israel to feces—and without a word of rebuke!
Israel’s humiliation continues unabated under Netanyahu, whose reputation as a “right-winger” is laughable. French President Nicolas Sarkozy displayed his disdain for Israel when he advised Netanyahu to replace Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman with Tzipi Livni! No reproach from this spineless prime minister—not a word to uphold his country’s honor. Such is the contempt for Israel that the Obama administration issued an ultimatum: no more Jews beyond Israel’s pre-1967 borders? The Obama government has thus adopted—for starters—the negotiating position of the Arabs! But what else should we expect when Israeli governments have abandoned the only solid justification for Jewish statehood—the Torah.
Now let us consider Israel’s humiliation from a secular Zionist perspective. Secular Zionism has not restored Jewish dignity, and Israel has not won the respect of nations, by removing the Torah from the domain of statecraft and from the lofty pursuits of national life. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch writes:
you will not win respect, real and lasting respect … so long as you cultivate art and science and the literature of all peoples … but disdain and despise your own proper knowledge and wisdom, the spirit of your own literature which alone gives you a place among the great nations of history and the cultivation of which alone enables you to command respect….
Do not deceive yourselves. For your artistic talents, for your scientific achievements, for your learning, for your philanthropy … [P]eople … respect in you only that which you follow on the steps of non-Jewish thinkers and great men. But with all this you win no honour for yourselves, for the Jew in the Jew, for Judaism in the Jew, for your own proper nature.
Because you do not ... revive your own spiritual inheritance, because the Torah has long ceased to be for you the holy fire of enlightenment and spiritual life, because you do not develop and perfect your culture on your own soil … Therefore it is that that with all your art and science and learning and participation in public life the Jewish spirit is not displayed in a way that would make it a force and win for it respect. Therefore your estrangement from the Torah does not secure for you the one object [the respect] for which you estrange yourselves from the Torah.
Rabbi Hirsch’s Torah perspective is far more meaningful and important than the most perceptive political analyses of Israel’s current malaise.
Note well that Israel’s malaise has become more ominous under the Netanyahu government—more so since it coincides with the election of Barack Obama.
Of the many factors that contributed to Obama’s election, none is more significant than the abysmal ignorance of the American people about their own political heritage. This ignorance is to be attributed primarily to Progressivism on the one hand, and the related doctrine of historical relativism on the other. Progressivism emphasizes Change as the paramount principle of political life. Historical relativism reinforces Change by denying the existence of permanent or trans-historical truths concerning how man should live.
Unbeknownst to most Americans, their country has undergone a fundamental revolution. This revolution antedates the ascendancy of Barack Obama. Obama was weaned by anti-American internationalists—academics who rejected the Judeo-Christian tradition embodied in America’s Declaration of Independence. This document, and the Constitution that followed, affirmed truths that transcend historical Change, truths concerning Individual Liberty on the one hand, and Limited government on the other.
Obama’s anti-American internationalism is analogous to the anti-Zionist internationalism of Shimon Peres, the architect of Oslo. Oslo—which Netanyahu never dared abrogate despite countless violations by the PLO. Oslo—which has led step by step to Netanyahu’s betrayal of Israel’s heritage at the religious Bar-Ilan University. Oslo—where he desecrated God’s Name by supporting a Palestinian state—and with hardly a protest from Israel’s religious parties. No wonder: they too have been complicit in Oslo.
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Having worshipped the sacred cow of peace, Israel will have to go to war on its own terms of it is to survive—and now it is confronted by a Washington-Islamic axis of evil. No Israeli politician appears equal to this challenge. And none will arise or succeed unless Israel is galvanized by the Torah.
© 2009 Paul Eidelberg - All Rights Reserved
Internationally known political scientist, author and lecturer, Eidelberg is the founder and president of The Foundation for Constitutional Democracy with offices in Jerusalem.
Prof. Eidelberg served in the United States Air Force where he held the rank of first lieutenant. He received his doctoral degree at the University of Chicago. He designed the electronic equipment for the first brain scanner at the Argonne Cancer Research Hospital.
Before immigrating to Israel in 1976, Prof. Eidelberg wrote a trilogy on America’s founding fathers: The Philosophy of the American Constitution, On the Silence of the Declaration of Independence, and a Discourse on Statesmanship.
In 1976 he joined the faculty of Bar-Ilan University in Israel. He has written several books on the Arab-Israel conflict and on Judaism. Demophrenia: Israel and the Malaise of Democracy analyses the mentality of Israel’s ruling elites. Jewish Statesmanship: Lest Israel Fall, which has been translated into Hebrew and Russian, reveals the flaws inherent in Israel’s system of governance and how they may be remedied. A Jewish Philosophy of History investigates the world-historical events leading to the rebirth of Israel in 1948.
His latest publication, The Myth of Israeli Democracy, provides an abbreviated version of a Constitution which shows how to make Israel a genuine democracy based on a Jewish conception of freedom and equality.
is on the Advisory Council of the Ariel Center for Policy Research,
which has published many of his policy papers. In addition to writing
more than 1,000 articles for newspapers and scholarly journals in the
U.S. and Israel, he has a weekly program on Israel
Prof. Eidelberg has been lecturing throughout Israel and the United States. He conducts seminars on constitutions, diverse parliamentary electoral systems, Jewish law, and related topics at the Jerusalem center of the Foundation for Constitutional Democracy.
Web site: Foundation for Constitutional Democracy