Ah, Richard Cohen. One of my favorite liberal columnists. While I usually disagree with him on political and philosophical grounds, every now and again he comes up with something right. No, not right as in conservative; but as in correct, even though it grates to admit it.
In his column today he reminds us that anti-Semitism is not a club to be used on any and everyone who criticizes Israel. As Cohen has done, on several occasions. But, for writing the following, all is forgiven:
At times, I [Cohen] have written coldly and provocatively about Israel, maybe once or twice in anger. This, in turn, has angered some readers who knew what I was thinking but not what I was feeling — that, at bottom, I had a strong emotional attachment to Israel. It is a country whose survival is not only important for the Jewish people but for the rest of mankind as well. I can enumerate many reasons why I support Israel — it’s a legitimate state, a real democracy, etc. But it is also where Jews went to escape the killers; to ignore that is to extinguish the twin lights of morality and memory and leave the world even darker than it now is.
Anyone who opens a bible, whether a Tanach or a Christian bible, can read the story of how the Jews were chosen to keep God in the world. One may choose to believe, or not, the stories, and the history of the Jews. But there can be no mistaking that the moral grounding for our society is to be found in the pages that also tell the history of the Jews. And, that Israel today is the home for the remnant of Israel. The remnant that the rest of the world did not destroy.
Two things might be argued. First, other religions have come up with very similar rules for moral conduct. “Thou shalt not murder” comes to mind. Second, many Christians throughout history were taught by their priests and pastors that Christianity had superceded Judaism, that the Jews were no longer God’s chosen people.
Neither of these things changes the essential truth that annoys many anti-Semites: for better or for worse, Western society uses the specific morality given to the Jews by God and recorded in scripture. That morality is tempered, for believing Christians, by God’s son who died for all of our sins. As for those who confess neither Judaism nor Christianity, we Christians would like to invite them in. Whether they join us or not, the truth remains the truth — it is not conditioned on time, place, or culture.
Jesus, when he walked among us, reminded us that until all passes away, until, that is, the end of the world, God’s law remains in force (Matthew 5:18). And that is the law given to, and preserved by, the Jews.