By Oren Rawls

Published July 04, 2003, issue of July 04, 2003.
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Separate But Not Equal: “Judaism,” David Gelernter announces in the July-August issue of Commentary, “is the most important intellectual development in human history.”

To wit: The Cold War set the Christian and “post-Christian modernist” West against the Marxist East. “The one thing Christianity and Marxism had in common,” he observes, “was that they were both Jewish inventions.”

But wait, writes Gelernter, a computer science professor at Yale University, there’s more: The current clash of civilizations pits the Christian and secular, postmodern West against Islam. “Judaism is again deeply implicated,” he charges, “in the creation both of Islam and of postmodernism.”

An antisemitic tract blaming Jews for the calamities that have befallen humanity in modern times? Not quite. Gelernter’s Commentary commentary is nothing less than a call to Jewish arms.

In a poetically tinged piece — the fifth and final installment of his study of Judaism for the journal — Gelernter sets out to prove why Judaism is a light unto the nations.

“The Jewish nation is the senior nation of the Western world, by rights the spiritual leader; but where does it lead?” he asks. “From the broadest to the timeliest, most concrete terms, Judaism’s mission has never been plainer or more pressing or less well understood.”

That mission, as Gelernter understands it, begins with a communal sense of separation — from nature, from other nations, from God. “Jews convert the mere physical act of separation into a moral proclamation,” he posits. “By relentlessly making separations they say: we do not surrender; we choose freedom.”

Gelernter’s freedom, it turns out, also entails a Jewish separation from its homosexual population. “To attempt to make the two sexes interchangeable, to short out the battery that operates civilization, to wire its two poles together, is an act of nihilist hatred directed against beauty, humanity, and God,” he moralizes.

The Jewish mission à la Gelernter also implies a separation from the already downtrodden Israeli peaceniks, whose dovishness the Yale professor takes to task with a biblical invocation. “Of course Judaism believes what Isaiah taught, that in the end of days nation will not lift up sword against nation,” he writes. “But in the meantime, ever-increasing moral maturity means more and not less fighting, more and not fewer wars. In Judaism, pacifism is immoral; it is the unindicted co-conspirator of wickedness.”

* * *

Continental Drift: “On paper, sub-Saharan Africa has what it takes to become a breeding ground for international terrorism,” The Economist editorializes in its June 26 issue. “The continent has a lot of oppressive governments, a sprinkling of chaotic ‘failed states’ and millions of Muslims, many of whom resent the West’s military, economic and cultural hegemony. But can you name a single black African terrorist?”

That is not for want of extremists’ efforts, notes the British magazine of record. Saudi money has flowed into the forgotten continent to set up radical Islamic schools, and Somali warlords have often had a cozy relationship with the Al Qaeda network.

The editorialist attributes the terrorists’ heretofore failed recruiting effort to the moderation with which African Muslims tend to practice their faith. Despite being plagued by seemingly never-ending civil wars, few on the continent resort to violence out of religious motives.

So why, The Economist asks, “if extremism has so weak a grip on Africa, have so many of Al Qaeda’s atrocities and attempted atrocities taken place on sub-Saharan soil?”

“Because Africa is a soft target,” proposes the editorialist. The security fallout from the September 11 terrorist attacks led many militants to seek greener pastures in the center of the continent, away from the newly vigilant Western security services and the belt-cracking Arab governments of North Africa.

The lax border controls and poorly run police forces south of the great desert, the editorialist writes, demand a concerted effort by Western security forces to cooperate with their African counterparts, including training and intelligence sharing.

“With vigilance, many, perhaps most, future plots may be foiled,” The Economist concludes. “But not all. Africa is a big place, and there are many holes for terrorists to hide in.”

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