A Light unto the Gentiles?
The other evening one of my dinner clubs had a meeting. I'm getting addicted to these clubs — I now belong to three of them.
This one is conservative-dissident. By "conservative" I mean skeptical of social change, and especially skeptical of vast social-engineering experiments — the normalization of buggery and bastardy, mass immigration from populations of low civilizational attainment, almost any public-education policy of the past half-century. By "dissident" I mean that no careerist dreaming of a position as a Fox News Analyst, or of ascending to the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, or of taking over from David Brooks or Ross Douthat on the New York Times op-ed page, or of running for office under the aegis of any major political party, would be seen dead in the same room with us.
It's a good crowd: academics, lawyers, small-business types, a schoolteacher, a cop, an artist, a writer … We have an invited speaker, generally someone of our own kidney. We eat a hearty dinner, listen to the speaker, then argue with him and each other while getting gently tipsy on wine or beer. It all makes for a very agreeable evening.
This being New York City, and top-quintile intelligence being a requirement for club membership, a lot of us are Jews. Oh, you didn't know there are conservative Jewish New Yorkers? Let me tell you.
In fact this month's meeting was blessed with the presence of two actual rabbis, one of them an orthodox sailing under full canvas: black frock coat, broad-brimmed black hat, major beard, peyot, the works. This gent was way above the club's IQ requirement: super-duper-smart, with a three-levels-down knowledge of any subject that came up. I tried him on Northern Ireland. He knew all the players and nuances, and we ended up singing the Sash in unison. I really wish I had a video of that: Myself three sheets to the wind and a rabbi in full fig, belting out marching songs of Ulster Protestantism together, club members standing around looking baffled.
Earlier in the evening I'd asked the rabbi something I've been pondering.
My job demands that I spend a couple of hours every day trawling through news stories. Sifting through all that dreck, now and then I turn up a little gold nugget.
Last week's gold nugget was this utterance by a distinguished public official: "Human rights do not prescribe national suicide."
That's an obvious enough thing to say. It's only separated by a few inches from Robert Jackson's observation that "the Constitution is not a suicide pact." What's truly remarkable is that it needs saying; and that, having been said, it struck me with such force. That by itself tells you something about the times we live in.
There are powerful people in positions of great authority all over the Western world who believe that human rights do prescribe national suicide. This is plain from stories that show up wellnigh daily in our newspapers. Here's one from today's press.
So savor that utterance: "Human rights do not prescribe national suicide." It's practically subversive. But who said it?
It was this guy, Israeli Supreme Court Justice Asher Grunis. He was ruling on a challenge to a law passed eight years ago. The law denies Israeli citizenship to Palestinian Arabs who marry Israelis. "Liberalism don't live here any more" keened one left-wing Israeli blogger, not very grammatically. Excellent!
Last week was in fact a bad week for national suicide in that part of the world. Almost as Justice Grunis was speaking for Israel's judiciary, Israel's legislature was passing a law on a different subject: illegal immigration.
A good candidate for the title World's Most Dysfunctional Region is the belt of six sub-Saharan African countries from Somalia through to Chad, total population 163 million. People who live there naturally want to go live somewhere else. They trek north into Egypt and Libya. Those nations were no better than semi-civilized, though, even before the ructions of the past few months. The nearest place the East Africans can get to by land, that is actually a civilized, functioning state with jobs on offer and a decent standard of living, is Israel. They have to go through Egypt and then the Sinai Desert; but what took Moses forty years is a lot easier now.
So they've been coming: 50,000 in the past seven years, is the Israeli government's estimate, most from Sudan and Eritrea. That 163 million figure I quoted is in fact quite close to the total combined population of Mexico and Central America, which is 159 million. The failed states of East Africa are to Israel what our southern neighbors are to us … except of course that the U.S.A. has 310 million citizens, while Israel has less than eight million.
Hence the law passed by the Israeli legislature last week, allowing indefinite imprisonment without trial for illegal aliens and 15-year sentences for those who assist them. The legislature was supported by the executive: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the African illegals "a national scourge." Israel is also building a 150-mile fence to seal the Sinai border.
So the thing I've been pondering, and the thing I asked my rabbi friend, is: Will Israel be a light unto the gentiles? Now that the banner bearing the legend "Human rights do not prescribe national suicide" has been raised in Israel, will it also be taken up in the West, perhaps even by a senior judicial authority?
The rabbi shrugged. "If you don't defend yourself, keep yourself a people, then you will disappear," he said, with the air of having stated something very obvious indeed.
Which of course he had.