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Spengler

Common Traits Bind Jews and Chinese

January 11th, 2014 - 5:21 pm

The Jews are not an ethnicity but a people defined by a partnership with the Creator God, in which they are obligated to recognize God’s presence in the details of their daily lives, and empowered to help in the work of creation. Individuals of all races can be adopted into this nation by accepting its responsibilities; in today’s State of Israel one sees hundreds of thousands of black African Jews from Ethiopia, as well as Jews of all ethnicities.

The Jews are not an ethnic nation but a multi-racial family. The Jews were the first people to apply the same laws to the foreigner as to the home-born. Indeed, they are commanded to love the stranger in the same way that they love themselves, because they were strangers in Egypt. It is a particular nation–indeed, a “nation apart”–that nonetheless has a universal purpose for all of humanity. The Jews are “the paragon and exemplar of a nation,” the German-Jewish theologian Franz Rosenzweig wrote a century ago.

The proof that Jewish nationhood has a universal mission is the founding of the United States of America–the most successful nation in history–by radical Protestants who sought to walk in the footsteps of ancient Israel and drew inspiration from the Jewish Bible and later Jewish commentators.

What the Jews have in common with the Chinese, therefore, is a sense of loyalty to an ancient tradition that defines the obligations of each member of society and puts the family at the center of social life, as opposed to a mere tribal and ethnic loyalties. These are parallel ways of rising above tribalism.

There is an enormous distinction, to be sure: the Jews believe that they were summoned into national existence by the one God, the Maker of Heaven, for whom the universe is like a suit of clothes which he will replace when it wears out (Psalm 92). For that reason they are obligated to bring the presence of God into everyday life, through laws of diet and family purity, prayer, and Sabbath observance.

The religious life of ancient Israel was centered in the Temple at Jerusalem. It was an institution revered in the ancient world. As Dore Gold writes:

The Temple service reflected the universalistic role envisioned for Jerusalem. In dedicating the Temple, King Solomon said that prayers would be offered there by “a foreigner who is not of your people Israel, but rather comes from a distant land.” In Isaiah, God described the Temple as “a house of prayer for all peoples” … sacrifices were regularly offered to promote peace for the entire world. … According to biblical law, non-Jews were in fact permitted to offer sacrifices at the Temple, a practice that became particularly widespread during the Second Temple period (512 BCE to 70 CE ). … It was also common for non-Jewish leaders to send gifts to the Temple throughout the Second Temple period. Darius, King of Persia, and even Augustus Caesar both did this. Undoubtedly because of the Temple, [the Roman historian] Pliny the Elder wrote that Jerusalem was the most famous city in the East.

Christianity resituated the holiness and authority of the Temple in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. As Pope Benedict XVI explained, Jesus claimed for himself the qualities of the Temple (Matthew 12:5). After the Romans destroyed the Temple at Jerusalem in 70 CE, the Christian variant of the Jewish idea gained support, and ultimately was adopted as the state religion of the Roman Empire.

But it was the standing of Judaism and its universal appeal in the ancient world that made Christianity possible in the first place. That explains why it is more difficult for Christianity to take hold in China today than in the ancient Mediterranean; without the living memory of the Temple at Jerusalem and the unique role of ancient Israel, Christianity becomes an abstraction rather than an extension of Israel’s living presence.

By replacing the Temple with the person of Jesus of Nazareth, Christianity spiritualized Jewish practice. In place of the sacrifices of the Temple, belief in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and his subsequent resurrection became the center of Western religion. Christianity appealed to the tribes of Europe by offering them a place in a “new Israel” of the spirit, while retaining their ethnic identity in the flesh. The tragedy of Western Christianity is that the flesh overcame the spirit, and the tribalism of the European peoples ultimately destroyed the universal ties of Christian culture.

It is instructive to contrast today’s Europe with today’s China. Europe has achieved a limited degree of unification without, however, overcoming national resistance to a unified government. China by contrast contains fifty-five distinct ethnic minorities and numerous spoken languages within a single political system. Despite the occasional eruption of separatist tendencies, China is in little danger of reverting to a loose confederation of ethnicities.

For all its great accomplishments, the European project of the past thousand years has failed. The greatest achievement of the West is the creation of the United States of America, which selected immigrants from all nations in a new, non-ethnic polity defined by a Constitution inspired to a great extent by ancient Israel.

When Christianity failed to overcome the residual tribalism of the West, its universalizing message was replaced by relativism. The reigning dogma in the secular West now states that every ethnicity is entitled to its own “narrative” and that all cultures are equally valid in their own terms. Relativism refuses to consider the obvious fact that some cultures succeed while others fail miserably; it insists on the absolute right of self-definition and self-termination for every tribe.

This post-Christian ideology motivates many attacks on China in the West, and justifies Western support for breakaway movements in Tibet, Xinjiang, and other Chinese provinces. The same ideology justifies attacks on the State of Israel. Liberal relativists argue that Palestinian Arabs have the right to their own self-defining narrative, which regards the State of Israel as an alien intrusion in the Middle East-despite the thousands of years of Jewish history and the unbroken Jewish presence in the country over those thousands of years. The relativists demand that Israel abandon its character as a Jewish State, or at least give up so much land as to become indefensible.

The State of Israel was founded in one of the many population exchanges that occurred after World War II: about 700,000 Jews were expelled from Arab countries, including the ancient community of Iraq that predated the Arabs, and about 700,000 Arab refugees left the State of Israel. Israel integrated the expelled Jews but the Arab countries refused to integrate the expelled Arabs, maintaining them instead as a permanent “refugee” population in token of their refusal to accept the historical rights of the Jewish people.

The Arab countries began three wars of aggression against Israel-in 1947, 1967, and 1973–but failed each time. In 1967, Israel retook the eastern half of its capital Jerusalem, the site of the ancient Temple. Jerusalem has had a Jewish majority since the middle of the 19th century, and a continuous Jewish presence–with brief interruptions after expulsions by Roman and Christian conquerors–for more than 3,000 years.

The same perverse logic that denies Israel the right to live in its ancient homeland in secure borders with its ancient capital city is used to condemn China’s sovereignty over Xinjiang and Tibet, among other places. The supposed right of self-determination for “Uyghur culture” or “Tibetan culture” is opposed to China’s historic sovereignty over those territories. If this argument were extended to its logical conclusion, the great accomplishment of Chinese civilization–its genius for integrating many ethnicities into a unifying culture–is a wicked form of imperial impression.

This begs the question: why are Western liberals so obsessed with the putative right of the Palestinian Arabs to their own “narrative”? The answer, I believe, is that the Palestinian issue is the thin end of the wedge. In the West, Israel represents the ideal of a civilization that rises above ethnicity. The historic continuity of the Jewish people is the foundation for Christianity, which has faded as a universalizing civilization in Europe.

If Israel’s historic rights to its ancient homeland are compromised, and if Israel can be portrayed as an imperial aggressor that violates the self-definition of ethnic minorities, relativism will triumph over the principle of unifying civilization. Israel has enormous symbolic importance for the West.

Founded just 65 years ago, the modern Jewish state has become a pocket superpower in technology, business and the arts, as well as the strongest and most stable state in the Middle East. It is also the only industrial country with a fertility rate far above replacement. Not just in the abstract, but in its concrete manifestation in the modern State of Israel, Jewish nationhood remains “a paragon and exemplar of a nation.”

The ambitions of liberal relativism extend far beyond the Middle East. It is much easier to drive the thin end of the wedge into Israel, a nation of just 8 million people, than into China, a world power of 1.4 billion people. Precisely the same reasoning that proposes to carve up the State of Israel justifies ethnic separatism in China.

It is important to emphasize that this has nothing to do with the question of democracy in China. The Western liberals who support Tibetan separatism, for example, do not argue that Tibetans should have the right to vote in Chinese elections: they argue that Tibetans should have the right to restore the extremely undemocratic feudal system that prevailed before Tibet was integrated into China.

The instinctive affinity that Chinese feel for the Jewish people, therefore, is not a matter of happenstance. Nor is the fact that Chinese civilization and Jewish civilization have longer continuity than any other modes of human existence. Despite their great differences, they share a common purpose, to transcend tribalism through a unifying civilization. It should be no surprise that they have enemies in common.

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Re:
"China by contrast contains fifty-five distinct ethnic minorities and numerous spoken languages within a single political system. Despite the occasional [ ....which of course has been going on for countless centuries.....] eruption of separatist tendencies, China is in little danger of reverting to a loose confederation of ethnicities.".....because of the very direct and very firm repressive policies of the solidly entrenched communist Establishment. [Engels and Marx and, I guess Lenin also, surely must be wrinkling their noses at the "communal" aspects of the Chinese economy of today.]

Goldman here is surprisingly flippant in this paean to the Chinese.....he's ignoring completely the savagery and the brutality of that infamous "Cultural Revolution"....'cultural', indeed; throughout History the Chinese have left female fetuses in the rice paddies. This continues to this day. An adjunct to this callousness is the infamous Mao inspired "one child" family policy that its advocates claim is a step towards stabilizing that Malthusian population of 1.4 billion. Where are the vasectomy figures? They're [the Chinese] world leaders in the technique, aren't they?

All in all, a very strange article by Mr Goldman.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Perhaps, yet the admiration of Jewish accomplishment which should be universal might well be contrasted with American people valuing Israel over their own government.

Could an Israeli fishing vessel wander into the high seas today and cross Chinese seizure of an invisible line? A Filipino boat cannot.

Could a Jewish traitor teach a fraudulent Chinese history to schoolchildren like a Zinn, a Chomsky, ...and be given awards and tenure?

In a Holocaust of epic proportions against Jews, would Chines give their ultimate sacrifice to save Jewish victims?

If the Chinese to Government were to favor enemies of Israel, would the people of that nation stand firmly against their own government...voting overwhelmingly in favor of Israel?

Could a Jewish man run for the Presidency or Vice Presidency of China or Jewish man or woman sit on the equivalency of their Supreme Court. Could a Jewish woman sit on such a powerful ruling court and insult their founding document?

If the UN libeled Jews and Israel repeatedly, would China come to their defense?

America has its Jew haters as evidenced by some comments here and by Pat Buchanan, Ron Paul, some goof named Unz in California...but they are in the vast minority. America is not Obama and his cabal. It is not Hagel or Kerry or Brennan or James Baker.

Israel does not need China as a friend, but America could use a friend to help them today.

China would not shed a single tear nor lift a single finger if Israel was attacked by one of China's allies.

Neither would Hagel, Buchanan, Ron Paul or some of the above commenters.

Obama, Kerry and Clinton would pay lip service and find a way to slow walk the faux response.

But the American people would rush into the fire. Believe that with all your heart.

We need a friend now with our government turned against Israel...and...against its own people.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Chinese: "we Chinese have a culture of 3000 years."
Jew: "we Jews have a culture of 4000 years."
Chinese: "Impossible! What did you people eat for 1000 years?!"
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (102)
All Comments   (102)
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hallucinant

when I thought that not loosing the face was more important for the Chinese people

oh and about Europe, so sorry that we don't all speak english and to not apply the neo-liberal policies wanted by the WS financers

but we have the same unifying culture like boudhism shaped the Chinese minset, it's christianity, evident when it comes to integration, any european is easier to integrate into another european country than a Muslim from ME and or Maghreb is
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
another thing, the chinese favor the group to individual, it's why cutting some heads hadn't that importance by them than it had by our cultures, included Jewish's, we think as individuals first, them as a nation
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Mr. Goldman,

Are you off your meds? I expect sober analysis from you, not loopy nonsense like this. Do you really think that Tibetans deserved the genocide they experienced and the oppression they continue to experience? I can see the rough comparison between Chinese and Jews, but do you really want to compare the states of China and Israel? Such is greatly to the latter's detriment.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
The "logic" of this fantasy would point to Red Chinese support of Israel vs. the Arabs, Turkey and Iran. Is there really any sign of that whatsoever?
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Like Menachem’s comment, and Linus/Bill’s before that, this is a very interesting, thought provoking, and unexpected article. I am glad to hear there is an affinity for Israel and the Jews among the Chinese people. Like the affinity for Israel and the Jews among many American people however, that clearly does not always translate to a government affinity.

As much as I admire Mr Goldman, and I learn a great deal with every article I read, this is a splendid attempt at hopeful thinking. With the American government abandoning Israel, where else can Israel find friends? These are frightening times, especially for those with the gift of strategic vision. That can cause a search for hope in unlikely places, and I submit that China is an unlikely cause for hope for Israel, and frankly is a cause for concern for many other countries.

A country which does not value its own citizens cannot at all be expected to value the citizens of other countries. It would defy all logic and reason to conclude otherwise. Consider: China’s closest ally is North Korea. Are they better off for China’s support?
So where should Israel find support? To my knowledge, the only times that Israel/Judah ever had “rest on every side” was when they refused to depend upon alliances with other kingdoms and instead relied upon G_d. Every kingdom that ever allied with Israel/Judah eventually turned upon it. Every kingdom which Israel/Judah spared when they were in a powerful position, returned the favor later by attacking it.
My reading of what my faith calls the Old Testament leaves me with two broad conclusions. Israel/Judah suffered primarily when two things happened: (1) They turned to worship of foreign gods; OR (2) They relied on external alliances rather than the L_RD G_d of Hosts.

This is not to absolve America of what I consider to be her moral obligation. It is only to say that America, and every other nation in the world, cannot be trusted. For those who would like to take their support of Israel beyond the level of internet cheerleading: ramp up to petitions, legal advocacy and financial donations of same at this link http://aclj.org/israel I know there are other places as well, I am simply pointing out the venue that I use. This organization also has the benefit of simultaneously promoting/supporting U.S. Constitutional rights and Judeo-Christian religious freedom, which is actually its primary focus, but also allies with affiliate organizations worldwide.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is not a hopeful article, it's a statement of the blatantly obvious: culturally speaking, there is a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things. There are markers and identifying characteristics that label a people and a civilisation as either successful, or not. You don't have to engage in rhetorical engineering or carefully chew everybody's pap for them to lay this argument out. Look at what identifies the successful peoples and tat up the characteristics, a simple spreadsheet exercise.......
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
As a side note: Jewish Identity in China: A Chinese View

http://www.covenant.idc.ac.il/en/vol3/issue1/Jewish_Identity_in_China.html
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't see why China's neighbours conclude that the Beijing Politburo, at best, only pays lip service to their best interests. In other words, where are the efforts by Beijing to balance their best interests with those of their neighbours?

What I would like to know is this: How will Beijing view http://carolineglick.com/israel-and-the-death-of-pan-arabism/
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have no indication that China's leaders have thought through the implications of the situation that my friend Caroline Glick reports so vividly. China never asserted itself as a power in the Middle East and does not want to now, but it also cannot be indifferent to prospective chaos.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
A very interesting article indeed. There are however some points that need clarification-
Judaism is not based upon faith. It is based upon experience. Sinai, the encounter between Man and G-d, was experienced by an entire nation. That encounter is what has changed the world.
One may not become a Jew simply by living as a Jew or practicing Judaism. A spiritual rebirth through specific ritual is required. Once done, the newly created Jews is considered as , " one who was at Sinai and heard the Lords voice." This ceremony has far deeper consequence than can be discussed here however no true parallel exists. It's Holiness is unequalled.
The paramount act of the Jew is not prayer but lovingkindness. Judaism does not consider cutting oneself off from the community to engage in nothing but prayer as the path to righteousness. Prayer, charitable acts and true repentance from sin are the keys to a Holy life.
G-d is not Love. G-d does not command love. The most natural love the human knows , the love for a parent. is not commanded. It cannot be. The Commandment is to, " Honor thy father and thy mother ". Love is many things to many people people. It is felt differently in each heart. Honor however reflects appropriate action. How one treats a parent even if one has good reason not to love them. Many people suffer in their ives and blame G-d for their suffering. It would be hard for them not to. However one continues to honor G-d by living within His laws and not abandoning them.
The rebirth of sovereignty of the Jews in Eretz Yisroel defies logic and reason. It cannot simply be ascribed to any earthly power or series of events. It comes at a time in history that is crucial to the worlds continued existence. The facade of morality that the nations of the world hid behind has been stripped away. The treatment of Israel on the world stage and by the nations of the world is despicable.
G-d is not love. G-d is Justice and Truth. And G-d keeps His promises.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes: I referred to the mitzvot ("laws of diet and family purity, prayer, and Sabbath observance"). One does not have time to explain Judaism in passing in every essay. As Hazal said, the world is founded on Torah, Avodah (now expressed in prayer) and Gemilut Chasadim (acts of lovingkindness). Surely Justice is an Attribute of God, as is mercy; love is what God "is" but what he does, but with kina (passion, or "jealousy"). God does not command love of everyone but he does command it of Jews (the Shma Deut. 6:5) which is why wrapping tefillin includes a kind of marriage ceremony (Hosea 2:19-20). One might also say that conversion requires a rebirth in the flesh: Michael Wyschogrod writes that a convert by a miracle becomes a physical descendant of Abraham.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is true that Israel and China have characteristics in common, but not the ones Goldman thinks. Both countries were founded in a tradition of compassion but then were sidetracked by the siren song of corporate greed.

Chairman Mao built a compassionate society upon the wreckage of American and Japanese imperialism that cared for all of its people. However, they were plagued by a CIA insurgency that attempted to overthrow her like they did so many others who could provide a good example for American workers to emulate. That's why the much-maligned "cultural revolution" was necessary to rid the country of CIA elements. Desperate for a solution, Mao was beguiled by the serpent "Tricky Dick" Nixon who agreed to end the CIA insurgency in exchange for opening the door of the hitherto compassionate land of China to the foot of corporate greed. Now the once proud, free Chinese have been enslaved and pauperized by the American corporate plutocracy. Repression in China comes directly from corporate influence. The desire to protect KFC, Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart was the reason for the Tienanmen Square massacre and the repression of Tibetans and Uyghurs who might not bow down to the American corpoarchy.

Israel was the land of Kibbutzim. Israel was founded by victims of corporate genocide who understood and had compassion. However, since 1967 she has been bamboozled by the greedy war merchants at Lockheed and General Dynamics into believing that corporatism and the genocide that inevitably accompanies it is the best way to get things done. If the Israelis renounced corporatism and militarism and embraced the values of the Kibbutzim, Israelis and Palestinians would live together in peace.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
How can you murder 40 to 70 million and build a compassionate society? Mao was a thug and a tyrant.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think this was meant ironically. I never argued that Chinese civilization was famous for compassion.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Re:
"China by contrast contains fifty-five distinct ethnic minorities and numerous spoken languages within a single political system. Despite the occasional [ ....which of course has been going on for countless centuries.....] eruption of separatist tendencies, China is in little danger of reverting to a loose confederation of ethnicities.".....because of the very direct and very firm repressive policies of the solidly entrenched communist Establishment. [Engels and Marx and, I guess Lenin also, surely must be wrinkling their noses at the "communal" aspects of the Chinese economy of today.]

Goldman here is surprisingly flippant in this paean to the Chinese.....he's ignoring completely the savagery and the brutality of that infamous "Cultural Revolution"....'cultural', indeed; throughout History the Chinese have left female fetuses in the rice paddies. This continues to this day. An adjunct to this callousness is the infamous Mao inspired "one child" family policy that its advocates claim is a step towards stabilizing that Malthusian population of 1.4 billion. Where are the vasectomy figures? They're [the Chinese] world leaders in the technique, aren't they?

All in all, a very strange article by Mr Goldman.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
There are many things about today's China I find repugnant as well as many things about China's past. The question, though, is why Chinese civilization has survived so long and why it is so successful today: China has risen from chaos and poverty to become prosperous, powerful and self-confident. My idea of the world's most successful nation--as I wrote--is America, not China. I don't have to fill in the blanks on every occasion. Nonetheless China's longevity and success are remarkable. Many Americans assume that China will collapse of it own weight sometime soon; that, I think, is a delusion born of narcissism.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Chairman Mao built a compassionate society upon the wreckage of American and Japanese imperialism that cared for all of its people."
Good lord, I suppose there are leftists that believe this garbage. I suppose the millions that Mao murdered were the fault of the CIA as well.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
What about British Imperialism? Anyone, for starters, ever heard of the Opium Wars?

Much, much later I was an Ameddican [sic] expat in Kowloon Tong during the 1960's and still remember the great influx of refugees from the Communist Mainland, a great number of them squatting in a vacant area very near where I lived on Oxford Road. Chinese escapees were literally swimming in hazardous waters to get away. Landslides across the Harbor during the rainy season also killed great numbers of refugee-squatters.

The Mainland Refugee Problem in Hong Kong was very nearly out of control.

[..again, a strange article by Goldman]
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Just read a piece on Bloomberg that the Spanish were taking textile industry jobs at 700 Euros a month and competing with Chinese manufacturers. That's what industrial workers make in China with a bit of overtime. It seems that Chinese living standards are converging with Europe's at the margin! That's a lot of progress since the 1960s.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
The rules for success as a culture seem pretty simple at base. Respect for knowledge and willingness to innovate, even playfully. This infused with courage and grit into some "hard yakka" (meaning work for those not in the know) and a large degree of unification with a good splash of diversity. China lacks the degree of diversity and ideological playfulness which has served Anglo and Jewish cultures so well, can you imagine a version of Seinfeld springing out of Beijing? Or a quantum physics? They like their neighbors are largely engineering from the petri dish that is America:-) and largely keeping at bay some of its more rancid fungi like rampant meth addiction and crack cocaine among many. Poor American youth! Over diversification of America will ultimately...oh there I go again, making it all about me-sorry:-(
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
America was not an ethnic splitaway, like the abortive Scots rising of the 1740s.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
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