The Scourge of Jewish Self-Division, or The 'Court Jews' Are Busy at Work

AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo

I have seen these people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people. (Exodus 32:9).

Brother against brother, prophets against a backsliding people, idolatrous kings and priests against these very prophets, and even nation against nation form an indelible part of the Jewish chronicle. The history of the Two Kingdoms provides a continuingly relevant object lesson. After the death of King Solomon, the Israelite communality broke apart into the two warring monarchies of Israel and Judah. The shedding of kinship blood critically weakened the two kingdoms, leading to the conquest of Israel by the Assyrians and the reduction of Judah first by the Chaldeans, then by the Egyptians, and finally by the Babylonians.


The Jewish epic across the wilderness of history may be described as divide and be conquered. Surah 59:14 of the Koran tells us something very true about us Jews: “There is much hostility between them: their hearts are divided…” It seems that the wise counsel of Judaism’s great sage Maimonides in the Mishneh Torah has no resonance for the backsliders: “All of Israel and those who are joined to it are to each other like brothers. If brother shows no compassion to brother, who will show compassion to him?”

Who, indeed? We see the sorry spectacle of division acting itself out today in the violent civil protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to reform a hard-core, self-appointing, Leftist Supreme Court, which regularly thwarts the will of legitimate right-wing governments. It was on this platform that Netanyahu was elected by a massive majority of the vote. But the Left is good at civil disruption. There have been resignations and firings of dissident members of the government and raging animosity against the prime minister for his perceived temerity in trying to overhaul the judicial system and redress a long-festering political sore. The Left is having none of it. Netanyahu’s critics argue that the plan is pushing Israel down a path to autocracy, a path they themselves appear to be treading.


Related: Can Israel Survive?

Similarly, Melanie Phillips remarks that Netanyahu is reacting against the anti-democratic rule of an interventionist judicial activism, a system in which “judges have substituted politics and ideology for law,” superseding duly elected parliaments. Seen from a larger perspective, the demonstrations and irruptions express the principle of “liberal universalism that…would prefer rule by judges” who promulgate universal laws determined by the globalist Left over rule by an elected government administering the laws of the nation. Military and security professional Ben Kerido aptly comments in The Western Standard that “Israeli protests against Netanyahu resemble the American radical Left.” What we are observing, in my estimation, is another manifestation of the Court Jews at work.

The fault line in the Jewish sensibility — however grand in its accomplishments and its many gifts to Western civilization eloquently recounted by Thomas Cahill in The Gifts of the Jews — is tectonic in its dimensions. Perhaps the single most resonant case study in self-division involves the institutional founder of the Christian faith. The story of St. Paul is too well known to require much in the way of comment, yet it is richly instructive. A rabid persecutor of the followers of Jesus, Saul of Tarsus experienced a blinding conversion to the new faith and was shortly thereafter called by the name of Paul (Acts 13:9). He then became the Apostle to the Gentiles, considering his Jewish identity a mere rehearsal for a larger identity and at times expressing strong disapproval of Jews who held to their traditional beliefs and identity. His quarrel with the Desposyni, the “servants of the Lord,” led by James the brother of Jesus, who wished to preserve the purity and exclusivity of the original faith, is a matter of scriptural record.


This history of self-estrangement, political strife, and cultural rupture has been played out from the biblical era through the centuries of religious factionalism and reciprocal ex-communication culminating in our own epoch. The legacy of the celebrated Jewish philosopher Martin Buber and the equally acclaimed Jewish political writer Hannah Arendt, who could never forget their German patrimony and were corrosively suspicious of the Zionist project, has been broadly and unambiguously noxious. In the present moment we observe their offspring, that is, left-wing “peace activists,” liberal rabbis, “post-Zionist” intellectuals, power nabobs, social ingratiators — in other words, Court Jews — who strive to erode the Jewish character of the state of Israel and so deprive it of its legitimacy. The Jewish Left, as it dances around the golden calf of a utopian project, represents perhaps the gravest danger to the survival of the country.

Thus, its adherents pursue their fugitive merit, ignoring the rain clouds until they are drenched and catch pneumonia, as the 19th-century Jewish philosopher Max Nordau put it.

These are the “degraded” Jews whom the great Jewish patriot Vladimir Jabotinsky denounced. They are reminiscent of the spies that Moses sent out to reconnoiter enemy territory, ten of whom on returning compared themselves to frail grasshoppers before the fearsome Anakim and recoiled from their destiny (Numbers 13: 33). They do not understand, in the words of Nurit Greenger, that “Israel is the last station in the Jews’ Via Dolorosa” and that “beyond this station is the Jews’ final crucifixion,” nor do they realize how profoundly they themselves are at risk. They have forgotten that the Jewish sense of security is always a false sense of security, that over the past 2,000 years, as Melvin Konner points out in Unsettled: An Anthropology of the Jews, Jews have been expelled from 94 countries. They do not think to ask themselves why the future should be any different.


Jews do not have the privilege enjoyed by all other peoples in the world, that is, the luxury of hating one another or, for that matter, of hating themselves. Other groups can get away with intramural conflict, the Islamic umma being the chief example of a community that can inflict enormous damage on itself, sundered between Sunni and Shia, nationalists and pan-Arabists, despotic regimes and the equally tyrannical Muslim Brotherhood. Due to its numbers, its domination of the United Nations, its vast oil reserves, and its energy stranglehold on the rest of the planet, it survives robustly and continues to exercise global power. Jews have no such exemption.

Such Jews have given hostages to fortune and rendered their own prosperity and well-being, let alone survival, hypothetical. The universal human prerogative of hating one’s fellow man, whether members of one’s race, ethnicity, or nation, should be anathema to Jews since they of all peoples can least afford it. No less than Cain hated Abel or Jeroboam hated Rehoboam or Paul hated Saul, or the Left hates the Right, or the radical progressivists hate Benjamin Netanyahu, the pathology continues to work its harm or, at the very least, to produce an etiology of dislocation in the self. One thinks of Israeli author Gilad Atzmon asserting in The Wandering Who? his “contempt for the Jew in me.”


I fear that in our ceaseless squabbles and conflicts with one another, we may one day bring about our own demise. It is as if there is something in the Jewish soul that, despite its love of life, paradoxically hungers for its own extinction, as if the very quick of life, of practical wisdom, ethnic solidarity, love of the better part of heritage, faith in the political miracle known as Israel, and the stubborn desire to persist, will often lie dormant.

Under these circumstances, it is hard not to sympathize with the pungent and despairing remark of the Przysucha Hassidic Rebbe, Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, who said of his quarrelsome people, “I could revive the dead, but I have more difficulty reviving the living.”


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