Devious ideologues hate light because light exposes their loathsome tricks. So it is not surprising that Letty Cottin Pogrebin and her cohort, incisively critiqued by Dr. Kenneth Levin in a recent Jewish Press front-page essay (“The Empty Rage of Jewish ‘Progressives,’” April 20), hate seeing the word “progressives” in quotation marks.
Professor Alvin Rosenfeld used such quotation marks in his recent monograph (“‘Progressive’ Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism,” published last December by the American Jewish Committee). He should keep them there whenever he writes about Pogrebin and her ilk, to signal that they are “progressives” only in the ludicrous sense that lemmings marching in lockstep toward a cliff are “progressing.”
In the April issue of Moment magazine, Pogrebin used her regularly-appearing column to censure Professor Rosenfeld for “lumping” members of her cohort “with rabid anti-Zionists and execrable anti-Semites.”
They may or may not be “execrable anti-Semites,” but they are beyond question “rabid anti-Zionists.” Their own fulminations leave no room for debate. Professor Rosenfeld’s monograph, and Dr. Levin’s article, merely quote them at length.
But that’s precisely what infuriates them, because it leaves them no dark corner in which to hide.
Pogrebin attributes to Professor Rosenfeld the following absurd position, which, of course, he has never taken: “If you’re a Jew who has ever said or written anything critical of Israel, then you may be contributing to an ‘intellectual and political climate that helps to foster’ hostility toward the Jewish state and exacerbates hatred against Jews.”
Is Pogrebin really vapid enough to believe that Professor Rosenfeld does not know the difference between “anything” and something that’s little more than an ideological rant? Or does she merely hope her readers will be naïve enough to believe he doesn’t know the difference?
Is she really vapid enough to believe that people like Tony Judt (“Israel today … is bad for the Jews”), Adrienne Rich (Zionism “needs to dissolve before twenty-first century realities”), Richard Cohen (“Israel itself is a mistake”), and Tony Kushner (“I have a problem with the idea of a Jewish state”) are, in her words, “respected cultural figures,” rather than figures respected principally by those who share their ideology? Or does she merely hope her readers are uninformed enough to believe it?
In an obscene effort to bond rabbinic Judaism to her rant, Pogrebin noted, toward the end of her column: “The Talmud records that Rabbis Hillel and Shammai had more than 300 differences of opinion.”
They certainly did have differences of opinion. But which of those differences concern the idea that God had given the Land of Israel, in perpetuity, to the Jewish people? Which of them debate whether or not the Jewish people were entitled to exist in the Land of Israel? Which of them entertain the notion that God had sanctified the land for any other people?
Which of the opinions express any doubt that the Land of Israel was the only home God had sanctified for the Jewish people? Which of them could possibly be interpreted as denying that “progressives” who befoul the Jewish people and their sanctified home commit not merely a crime but a sin against the Covenant between God and His people?
In a closing flourish, Pogrebin quoted the published work of a professor who, she wrote, “highlights the rabbinic obligation ‘to rebuke or reprove one’s neighbor…’ and emphasizes that this ‘refers to one’s fellow Israelite.’”
The professor is correct. But in what was probably a telling slip of Pogrebin’s “progressive” mind, she neglected to mention two facts: that only the transgression of commandments imposed on Jews by God are to be rebuked, not the “commandments” of liberal enlightenment; and that only Jews who fear God and revere His commandments may issue the rebukes, not “progressives” for whom both God and His commandments are the fantasies of benighted ancients.
So the professor’s observation is correct. Jews who besmirch God’s chosen people, and the homeland He has sanctified for them, should be rebuked – but by Jews who believe in God and His commandments, not by clever ideologues who would consign to the dustbin of history the Covenant that alone has sustained the Jewish people through millennia.
Pogrebin and her fellow “progressives” do not deserve the courtesy of rational discourse that Professor Rosenfeld’s monograph, and Dr. Levin’s article, accorded them. They deserve exposure, scorn and shame.