“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” says the tragic protagonist of A Streetcar Named Desire. This declaration could just as well sum up the history of Jews in the Diaspora. Jews have always depended, and continue to depend, on the good will of their host communities. Today, Jews outside of Israel bank their expectations on liberal democratic societies that, hopefully, will support the rights of the minority they always are.
But democratic values, such as the rule of law, the primacy of human dignity and freedom of religion are under attack throughout the Western world.
- Israel Folau, an Australian rugby champion, has been banned from professional sports because of a Twitter exchange. Folau, an indigenous Tongan, is a traditional Christian who interprets the Bible literally. Asked what God’s plans for homosexuals is, he responded that, like all sinners, they are doomed to hell unless they repent. Although Folau consistently supported gay rugby players, he opposed same-sex marriage. Given a choice between renouncing his beliefs and continuing his career, he chose his religion. The union banned him for life.
- Washington recently became the first state to legalize human composting. No quotation marks there; the procedure is the same as for processing rotting kitchen scraps. The end product, perhaps enhanced by manure, can be used by “loved ones” to plant a vegetable garden, thus sparing the deceased from taking up valuable real estate in burial or polluting the environment with ashes from cremation. Although some form of respect is accorded the bodies of the dead in virtually all cultures, such attitudes are now considered by the most liberal to be irrational nonsense.
- The banning of shechita, Jewish ritual slaughter, is back on the agenda in some of the most progressive European countries. This effort is not new. A classic harbinger of anti-Semitic regimes, proponents have long held that the rights of animals supersede those of Jews. “But we’re not anti-Semitic, we are banning Muslim slaughter too!” they claim. Even if this were so, the movement insists that the rights of animals are at least equal to the right to practice religion. Moreover, advocates of the ban insist that they are legitimate judges of the feelings of both animals and humans. Without any scientific validation they claim that approved methods of slaughter are less painful than shechita. In addition, the bans seek to paint the religious as cruel, and portray nonbelievers as morally superior.
In congratulating the West for its liberalism we forget how brief a rational, tolerant West has been. Even in good times, when violence was not the fate of the accused, people were shamed, shunned and barred from making a living without due process of law.
Most disturbing of all, the further left the elites lean, the further right the populists press. This has been a lethal seesaw throughout Jewish history. Let’s pray it doesn’t repeat itself.