Whenever I have lunch with my close friend Carl (not his real name), a conservative Republican, a Jew, and a successful businessman, our conversation ranges over a wide spectrum of topics and ideas. Carl is one of the smartest people I know. He’s also a good man, quietly charitable and sincere, and possessed of a grand smile and infectious laugh.
Though Carl is not Orthodox, in my opinion he is deeply religious. He attends the Daf Yomi class at my synagogue — a huge commitment in terms of time and intellectual effort. And I can always count on him to pose questions about halacha (Jewish law) to which I usually have no coherent answer.
Carl and I like to clue each other in to favorite books, blogs, movies, and worthy political groups. When we first met, Carl loaned me a slim but provocative volume entitled Judaism, Law & the Free Market. It’s a challenging and splendid work written by Joseph Isaac Lifshitz, a Torah scholar, and published by the Acton Institute.
An active member of the Acton Institute, Carl frequently attends their workshops that explore liberty and political, economic and theological thought through a Conservative lens. I plan to attend an Acton conference in the future.
We’re all familiar with Acton’s famous quote: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
But Lord Acton also said the following:
“The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern: every class is unfit to govern.”
“And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that.”
“Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right to do what we ought.”
And my personal favorite:
“Socialism means slavery.”
But there was more to Lord Acton than zingy quotes. Carl has taught me a great deal about this great man and the institute that bears his name.
The last time we had lunch, Carl asked me if there was any one book that influenced my conversion from Democrat to Conservative Republican.
I said: The True Believer by the longshoreman-philosopher Eric Hoffer.
Much to my surprise, Carl had never read any of Hoffer’s work.
Here’s a Hoffer quote written in May 1968, after the Six Day War — a time, as we now see, when liberals began their radical leftist campaign against Israel — against the very philosophies that inform Judeo-Christian civilization.
Hoffer’s words are prophetic:
The Jews are a peculiar people: things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews.
Other nations drive out thousands, even millions of people and there is no refugee problem. Russia did it, Poland and Czechoslovakia did it. Turkey drove out a million Greeks and Algeria a million Frenchman. Indonesia threw out heaven knows how many Chinese—and no one says a word about refugees.
But in the case of Israel, the displaced Arabs have become eternal refugees. Everyone insists that Israel must take back every single Arab. Arnold Toynbee calls the displacement of the Arabs an atrocity greater than any committed by the Nazis.
Other nations when victorious on the battlefield dictate peace terms. But when Israel is victorious, it must sue for peace. Everyone expects the Jews to be the only real Christians in this world.
Other nations, when they are defeated, survive and recover, but should Israel be defeated it would be destroyed. Had Nasser triumphed last June , he would have wiped Israel off the map, and no one would have lifted a finger to save the Jews.
No commitment to the Jews by any government, including our own, is worth the paper it is written on. There is a cry of outrage all over the world when people die in Vietnam or when two Negroes are executed in Rhodesia. But when Hitler slaughtered Jews no one remonstrated with him.
The Swedes, who are ready to break off diplomatic relations with America because of what we do in Vietnam, did not let out a peep when Hitler was slaughtering Jews. They sent Hitler choice iron ore and ball bearings, and serviced his troop trains to Norway.
The Jews are alone in the world. If Israel survives it will be solely because of Jewish efforts. And Jewish resources.
Yet at this moment, Israel is our only reliable and unconditional ally. We can rely more on Israel than Israel can rely on us. And one has only to imagine what would have happened last summer had the Arabs and their Russian backers won the war to realize how vital the survival of Israel is to America and the West in general.
I have a premonition that will not leave me; as it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish, the Holocaust will be upon us.