Friday, April 30, 2010

The Napoleonic Sanhedrin Theory of Equal Rights (Part II)

(Part I)

What does it mean to be a citizen? To put it simply it is the obligation to obey the law and the promise to not use the instruments of government to advance any private interests. A Jew who becomes a citizen of his host country agrees to place the interests of this country and his loyalty to it above the interests of Jews in other countries. In the most extreme case, if the United States were to go to war against Canada, the American government could draft me and put me in the front lines. If I see a Jewish soldier, with a beard and side-locks, charging at my unit, I am obligated to kill this Jew in order to save the life of my Christian comrades. Keep in mind that my American Christian comrades are being asked to make the same decision regarding Canadian Christians. If I refuse to do my duty I have every reason to assume that my Christian comrades will in turn refuse to do their duty. They could easily decide to join forces with their Christian brothers to the north of the border to kill me in the cause of creating the United Christian States of North America. By agreeing to pull the trigger I am protecting my life and the lives of all Jews back home. It is certainly unlikely that this Canadian scenario would ever happen, but that is not the point. This system of tolerance relies on the implicit assumption of my willingness to carry through with all my obligations even to the point of killing. (It should be pointed out that American Muslim soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are actually in this situation. Their loyalty is under question and their willingness to fulfill their duty, even to the point of killing fellow Muslims, will affect how Muslims in this country will be treated.)

Having never killed another Jew in defense of this country, my fellow non-Jewish Americans are going to judge me based on more prosaic issues. It is here that Napoleon's questions become relevant and force some difficult answers. Take, for example, the issue of intermarriage. After saving my Christian comrade, he decides that I am the perfect good American for his sister to marry. What is he to make of the fact that I would not even consider the possibility, but would consider the sister of the Jew I killed? It should be noted that Orthodox Judaism's taboo against intermarriage goes way beyond what even conservative Christians have in place. We are telling American non-Jews that we are willing to kill other Jews in their defense, but we are not willing to marry their sisters. And they are supposed to believe us?

I am not suggesting that Jews should accept intermarriage. The forcefulness of the taboo, though, requires some rethinking. I can manage, with a straight face, to tell American non-Jews that I am willing to kill, even other Jews, for them, because Judaism accepts the concept of war. Just as Christianity allows Christians to be loyal citizens of the earthly State, serve in its military and even kill other Christians, Jewish law allows me to kill other Jews in war. No Jew during World War I was refused entrance in a synagogue for shooting at other Jews. I wish to have a Jewish home and raise my children as Jews. The best way to do that is to marry someone is Jewish, not that there is anything wrong with non-Jews. This is a far cry from "intermarriage is treason to the Jewish people, if you intermarry we will consider you a dead person and not let you set foot in a synagogue." To use Catholic terminology, intermarriage must be viewed as a venial, but not a mortal sin.

What do Jews believe about non-Jews? If I believe that my Christian neighbors are satanic enemies of God, doomed to everlasting hellfire if they do not recognize my one true faith then I could hardly expect citizenship. "You Christians are evil sinners, hateful to God, but trust me to be on your side." On the contrary, I have to believe that Christians are moral God-fearing people, whom I may have certain minor theological disagreements with. This would mean that the doctrine of eternal damnation, in all its forms, is out. This also strengthens the limitations to objecting to intermarriage. Again, if Christians are so wonderful that I would want to join with them in citizenship then why should I object to marrying them or of having any of my fellow Jews doing so. I would also add here the issue of conversion. If there is nothing really so bad about Christianity why should I object if one of my children wishes to become one? Would I disinherit my child for voting for Obama to be president? Why should I object if my child votes for Jesus as his personal savior?

I was once told by a Haredi young man that he believed, and was taught by his teachers, that non-Jews were not truly of the same species to such an extent that you cannot rely on the medical studies done on non-Jews for making medical decisions about Jews. Forget about the scientific absurdity of this; let us consider the political implications. This Haredi is basically saying: "you goyim are a bunch of animals, who are not even human, but I view you as my equals and have your best interests at heart." You non-Jews believe him? He is making a mockery of you. There is no reason for you to tolerate him. Strip him of his citizenship or even throw him out of the country. If you were to go so far as to stick him into a gas chamber, I would have no grounds to object or complain.


Clarissa said...

I think this is the best post by you I have read so far. The logic behind it is ironclad, and the passion that drives the writing is impressive.

Good job!

Larry Lennhoff said...

We are telling American non-Jews that we are willing to kill other Jews in their defense, but we are not willing to marry their sisters. And they are supposed to believe us?
Well yes. My grandfather fought for the Kaiser in WWI and there were Jews on the other side of the line. And he wouldn't have intermarried with a German Christian. There are too many real world examples for an objective observer to dispute this.

The attitude of the Tanya (and to a lesser extent, Yehuda HaLevi) towards non-Jews is wrong enough that I personally will not treat it as within elu v'elu. It is a theologically mistaken doctrine which for our sins has deceived a noticeable percentage of the Jewish people.

OTOH, your hyperbole about standing by quietly when someone is being thrown into a gas chamber is reprehensible. If a Muslim were to say to me that according to Muslim doctrine he is obligated to spread Islam by the sword, I would not raise a hand(*) against him until I had evidence he was putting his words into action.

(*)a mouth yes - I would certainly oppose his speech with my own.

Larry Lennhoff said...

The Enlightenment attitude towards the role of the Jewish religion and the Jewish people was summarized by the saying "For the Jews as a people, nothing. For the Jews as individuals, everything". The heterodox have fully assimilated this doctrine. The further right into Orthodoxy you go the less willing people are to live by it.

Izgad said...

Once a person is no longer the legal citizen of any country, from a strictly legal perspective, his life becomes hefker. To use a halachic analogy it would be like killing a traifa. Obviously I would ask for clemency for our Haredi, that he should simply be stripped of his citizenship and possibly thrown out of the country. That being said I would not question the legal right of our government to eliminate such a person.

As for our Muslim, I am not about to risk my life and the life of my family on the possibility that he is not serious. This is different from law where it is innocent until proven guilty. In a pre-legal situation it is me doing whatever I feel will keep my family and I safe. This is the groundwork of creating a government, which is a covenant between citizens.

Larry Lennhoff said...

Are you talking about a pre-government state of nature or contemporary society? There are treaties concerning stateless persons. While the majority of their text concerns trying to get a state to accept them, it is clear that a stateless person is not completely without rights.

Izgad said...

I understand the state of nature not as something that existed in some historical time and place, but something that exists, in potential, all around us. Just as Judaism teaches that God recreates the world every day by maintaining its existence, every day I make a decision whether to maintain the covenant of citizenship and reject the path of waging Hobbesian warfare on my neighbors. Someone who rejects the covenant of citizenship puts himself into a state of nature. Such a person has given no guarantees not to cause physical harm. Therefore I have no choice but to assume that he means me harm and as such must get him before he potentially gets me. Someone living in a halachic “state of nature,” a Ben Noach, can be killed for minor offenses such as stealing because he is outside of the protection of the Law.

If someone “sins” against me and steals my wallet out of an inability to control his desires, I can still recognize him as a part of the covenant and therefore allow him to simply go to jail. If he steals from me because he rejects the covenant then I am justified in killing him.

Larry Lennhoff said...

So in your view there are no inalienable rights? Recognition of reciprocity is required in order for a person to enjoy any rights at all? Halacha seems to require due process except in the face of immediate danger. Theft from a mechallel shabbat b'faresia is still theft.

Izgad said...

In theory we have inalienable rights, but the only way these inalienable rights mean something is by creating governments to protect them. Of course the very act of creating a government means selling off a good portion of our inalienable rights. The government has the right to tax me, take my property, draft me into the army and even execute me as long as it can argue that these actions serve to protect the inalienable rights of the public at large. One of the reasons why I am a libertarian is precisely because I recognize how frighteningly powerful governments are. So I want the government out of anything that I can imagine the government not doing and still be a government. I want the government to have an army, a police, a justice system and the political system itself to protect me against direct physical harm caused by other people without my consent, nothing more. (Yes pollution counts as physical harm so the government can put in environmental regulations.)