"Democracy for the Middle East"

A recent addition to my blogroll is the site Democracy for the Middle East, which promotes just that. It's also a great resource for information on neoconservative thought, and has some great articles and links on Leo Strauss. DFME also has an introduction to Leo Strauss here.

One of the main points brought up by DFME (and by Strauss) is that the United States and Europe have fundamentally different interpretations of liberalism; and in an interesting parallel, the US and Israel have different interpretations of Zionism.

A recent post quoting Rabbi Shmuley Boteach contains the following remarkable statement:
In Israel, one can sense and feel God's holy presence. Thanks largely to evangelical Christians, the same is true today of the United States.

Many religious Jews would consider such a comparison heretical, but not Rabbi Boteach. It is this same reconciliation of the particularizing and universalizing trends in Judaism (and, even more so, in Zionism) that appears to have informed Strauss's political philosophy.

From what I have read of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, I believe Rav Kook's outlook was similar. One of my most important teachers, Rabbi Baruch Melman, expressed a similar idea when he expounded on the symbolism of Sinai and Jerusalem, which represent the universalistic and particularistic aspects of the Jewish worldview. Once the semester ends (finals are next week) I hope to get some serious reading done and post some more on the subject.

As I've argued previously on Dreams Into Lightning, I think one reason the old order finds Judaism (and in particular its political expression, Zionism) so threatening is that, properly understood, it calls for a renunciation of the aggressor/victim paradigm. It calls on us to transcend a basic aspect of human nature - our elemental response to a sense of grievance - and insists that we place the ideal of justice ahead of simple retribution. It asks us to participate in the moral struggle and deal with the challenges of power and freedom. This is the challenge before us - it is our "great work".

Meanwhile, go read Democracy for the Middle East.