Last week’s column dealing with the teaching of Rav Avraham Pam, zt”l, concerning the United Nations has resonated with many readers, both here and abroad. Now, several of readers have brought to my attention two essays dealing with the scholarship of Bernard-Henri Lévy of France — one, a review of his new book, “The Genius of Judaism,” and the other an essay by Lévy, “Israel, Obama and the United Nations,” featured last week on the Algemeiner website.
In his review, Dr. Neil Rogachevsky, distinguished Tikvah postdoctoral fellow at the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at my alma mater, Yeshiva University, discusses Lévy’s Jewish scholarship:
“Lévy freely admits that he is not the greatest knower of Jewish things. He barely knows Hebrew, though he offers a few fairly interesting readings of classic texts in the book. But he displays no knowledge of the Judaism of everyday life. His preference for a universalistic Judaism is obviously not related to his ignorance, and indeed lack of curiosity, about the ritual life and practices that are observed by Jews and no others.
“He thus gives no further thought to how the participation in such practices might prepare the way for a certain kind of ‘universal though still Jewish’ reflection of which he might approve. While Maimonides, whom Lévy cites, sought to turn his intelligent readers to universalistic thoughts, he tried to do so through the cultivation of particular practices proper to the Jews. Lévy knows nothing of this Maimonides.”
With this point so noted, we come to Lévy’s recent essay on events at the U.N. that have left a searing impression upon many of us these past few weeks. Lévy shares his frustrations and anger over the rude and crude manner in which the Security Council dealt with the state of Israel.
Consider Lévy’s points regarding Resolution 2334 which, in Lévy’s words, “called upon Israel to ‘immediately … cease’ what some view as the colonization of the occupied Palestinian territories.”
Point one: “There was the source, of course: the U.N., an organization that for decades has not ceased to condemn, vilify, and ostracize Israel, becoming in the process one of the last places on earth where one could expect to encounter, on this question as on many others, a balanced or courageous stance.”
Point two: “Then there was the spectacle of those fifteen raised hands, the same hands that were so pointedly NOT raised a few days before to stop the massacre in Aleppo. How could they dare to portray little Israel as the great barrier to peace? How could they imagine that by doing so they might recover in the applause of those in attendance a share of their lost honor? And what is one to make of the splintered and anemic international community trying to repair itself on the back of the Jewish state? All of this was as pathetic as it was ghoulish.”
Point three: “There was the poor wording of the text of the resolution, which, despite the phrase condemning ‘all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror’, assigned responsibility for blocking the peace process primarily, if not solely, to Israel. What about Palestinian obstinacy? What about the double-speak of the Ramallah government? What about the Christmas trees on which, in some quarters of Arab Jerusalem, people hung, in place of garlands, photos of ‘martyrs’ killed in ‘combat’ — killed, that is, while trying to stab Israeli civilians? None of that, for the drafters of the resolution or for those those who voted for and celebrated it, apparently was an ‘obstacle to peace.’ Nothing was equal in perfidy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy of expanding the settlements.”
I skip to Lévy’s final point:
Point five: “And finally there was, for the first time in forty years, the surprise abstention of the United States delivered by Ambassador Samantha Power, followed a few days later by Secretary of State John Kerry’s long speech in support. People can say what they will about this. But to see this administration, which has conceded so much to Iran, offered so little resistance to Russia, and invented, in Syria, the doctrine of a red line that turned out to be red only with the blood of Syrians sacrificed on the altar of a renunciation of power and of law; to see that same administration trying to compensate for all this by speaking up at the last minute against the planet’s black sheep, the scruffy prime minister of Israel — what could be more abject?”
These are tough words coming from a French philosopher and distinguished filmmaker. But, for a man who claims to be a proud Jew, despite certain theological limitations, these words would well serve both his intellectual acumen and his integrity.
Now, if only others, who claim to be our friends but who did not raise their hands and voices in support, would have only done so, then all who truly believe in honest governance would definitely have cherished the climate of both peace and sanity. But, alas, that did not happen. True peace and the cause of honest governance will have to wait for another day.