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Natan Sharansky is a modern-day Jewish hero, no doubt about that. Every Jew should know of his imprisonment by the Soviet Union for his human rights and Zionist activism. Years ago my father gave me a copy of Sharansky’s autobiography, Fear No Evil, to use for a sixth-grade book report.
Not without its faults, Sharansky’s newest book, Defending Identity: Its Indispensible Role in Protecting Democracy is a welcome addition to his previous one, The Case for Democracy, which attracted the attention of President Bush. As in The Case for Democracy, Sharansky again draws political lessons from his struggle with the Soviet Union as well as his experiences as a politician in Israel.
In The Case for Democracy, Sharansky argued that Western nations should idealistically strengthen democracies and weaken dictatorial regimes. He severely criticized the realpolitik school exemplified by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger’s policy of “détente” toward the Soviet Union. With Defending Identity, Sharansky adds a Part II to a general philosophy for Western democracy, once again breaking down the importance of a basic idea that should be understood and accepted by all but unfortunately is not.
Now Sharansky takes on the idea of identity, as in the identification of an individual with a group, be it ethnic, religious, or national.
Sharansky recognizes that democracy has some explicit weaknesses, such as a growth of pacifistic ideologies resulting from the combination of wealth and comfort that have come to define Western nations. Identity, he argues, is the solution for this weakness. Identification with an idea of something greater than oneself gives a person a reason to abandon a life of comfort and make sacrifices. Without identity, however, democracy can be weak and therefore ripe for defeat by Western democracy’s current arch-nemesis, Islamic fundamentalism, which is molded from pure untempered identity.
As an example, Sharansky relates the story of an imprisoned Palestinian terrorist who witnessed his Israeli guard eating bread on Passover. The guard explained that he felt no connection to events that took place thousands of years ago, such as the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. It was then that the terrorist concluded the Palestinians would ultimately triumph over the Jews because “opposing us is a nation that has no connection to its roots, which are no longer of interest to it.”
Sharansky explains that it was his Jewish identity that gave him the strength to resist the KGB and relates that only prisoners who had strong identities of their own could be relied upon.
Describing the leftist post-modern, post-nationalist, post-Zionist assault on identity – Israel’s Jewish identity in particular, Sharansky shows these “post-identity” theories to be closely related to Communism, which preaches a detachment from identity in the name of creating a classless, identity-less, unified society.
Sharansky attacks proponents of post-identity theories for their contradictions and hypocrisies. For example, they criticize Western nationalism yet support the anti-Western nationalism of regimes that violate the human rights of their own citizens. During the Cold War as well as in our own day this double standard has functioned as a political shield for regimes that abuse human rights.
The Soviets, Sharansky recalls, used Western peace activists for their benefit, referring to them as “useful idiots.”
Armed with the argument that democracies must embrace their identities and defend themselves instead of rejecting their own identities in the name of a post-national world without barriers, Sharansky takes on the case of Israel, using his experiences in Israeli politics.
He tells how the municipality of Nazareth sought to renovate the Church of the Annunciation by adding a tourist center. A couple hundred Islamic fundamentalists staged a protest, occupying the church square. They demanded that the church not be allowed to expand; that a mosque be built in its place; and that this new mosque eventually be taller than any other in the Middle East.
The protest was only stopped when moderate Palestinian leaders secretly approached Sharansky and asked that the Israeli government confront the fundamentalists. The government eventually did this on Sharansky’s advice and succeeded.
Sharansky lambastes several famous Israeli political figures. He criticizes David Ben-Gurion for attempting to replace Jewish identity with a new “Sabra” culture. He attacks Israel’s current president, Shimon Peres, a protégé of Ben-Gurion, for his embrace of the anti-Zionistic post-identity viewpoint. In his book The New Middle East, Peres claimed the world had moved past nationalism and was concerned more with commerce than with national security – and that Israel should therefore enter into a regional arrangement for security with other Arab nations.
About the Author: Daniel Tauber is a frequent contributor to various prominent publications, including the Jewish Press, Arutz Sheva, Americanthinker.com, the Jerusalem Post and Ha’aretz. Daniel is also an attorney admitted to practice law in Israel and New York and received his J.D. from Fordham University School of Law. You can follow him on facebook and twitter.
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Why has his death been treated by some as an invitation for an emotional “autopsy”?
SWOT analysis: Assessing resources, internal Strengths&Weaknesses; external Opportunities&Threats.
Strategy? For the longest time Obama couldn’t be bothered to have one against a sworn enemy.
We started The Jewish Press. Arnie was an integral part of the paper.
Fear alone is substantial; without fusing it to beauty, fear doesn’t reach its highest potential.
Fortunate are we to have Rosh Hashanah for repentance, a shofar to awaken heavenly mercy.
Arab leaders who want the US to stop Islamic State are afraid of being dubbed traitors and US agents
National Lawyers Guild:Sworn enemy of Israel & the legal arm of Palestinian terrorism since the ’70s
A little less than 10 percent of eligible Democratic voters came out on primary day, which translates into Mr. Cuomo having received the support of 6.2 percent of registered Democrats.
The reality, though, is that the Israeli “war crimes” scenario will likely be played out among highly partisan UN agencies, NGOs, and perhaps even the International Criminal Court.
Peace or the lack of it between Israel and the Palestinians matters not one whit when it comes to the long-term agenda of ISIS and other Islamists, nor does it affect any of the long-running inter-Arab conflicts and wars.
Rather than serving as a deterrent against terrorist attacks, Israel’s military strength and capabilities are instead looked at as an unfair advantage in the asymmetrical war in which it finds itself.
Congratulations, JStreet, you won before you even started! Perhaps you can save your breath, energy and George Soros’ and god knows who else’s money and go home.
In the version of events provided by Argo, it wasn’t radical Islamists who stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran, but the Iranian people as a whole.
Not exactly what Jewish Home voters thought they would get on election day.
The institution of party primaries in Israel needs to be expanded not shrunk, so that the government will be under the supervision of the people from which it derives power and the moral authority to govern.
Ayalon’s new position on the Palestinian statehood doesn’t quite match his prior criticism of the Palestinian’s bid for statehood at the UN.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/in-defending-jewish-identity-sharansky-falls-short/2008/12/10/
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