Modern Zionism

Modern Zionism, which made its first appearance as an organized political movement at the Zionist Congress at Basel a century ago, was the most significant and successful response to the sustained and repeated collapse of any reasonable expectation that Jews would ever be welcome and feel at home in Europe. Despite the claims of liberal democratic theory and the utopian promises of Socialists and Communists, the nationalisms of the nineteenth century, both West and East, infiltrated all competing political movements and exacerbated and radicalized European anti-Semitism.

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The Anomaly of Israel

Zionism poses the same anomaly to post-modern culture that Judaism posed to pre-modern and modern: a historical case that goes against type, that in some sense defies the "laws" that define human culture and behavior. The Jews themselves represent, of course, one of the great historical anomalies: the only cultural personality of late antiquity to survive, not only in a series of written works cherished also by other cultures, but as a people with a history and an intellectual community driving across millennia.

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Nationalism and the formation of modern nationhood pressured Jews to become citizens like everyone else in the state. Down the centuries, they had shared the cultures and languages of other people. Religion alone made them different and constituted their identity. The source of misfortune was thus assumed to lie in the Jews themselves, and the remedy was to do away with whatever was making them Jewish. Emancipation was not enough. In the outlook of anyone enlightened, assimilation of the Jews was so evidently desirable that there was a hint of compulsion about it: assimilate or else.

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The Double Man

William Sebastian Cohen was born fifty-seven years ago in Bangor, Maine, the first son of a mixed marriage. Cohen's mother, Clara Hartley, was an Irish Protestant from Aroostook County, one of the poor state's poorest rural backwaters, and she was notable both for her beauty and her independence. "She does not care about public opinion," Cohen once told Yankee magazine. "She dismisses it.

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Dual Sovereigns

Since the Progressive era, this magazine has argued for judicial restraint as part of a broader argument for liberal nationalism. Judges should defer to the prerogatives of Congress and the president, the argument goes, so that popular sovereignty can serve as the engine of national unity.

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Less Is Moore

Republicans were very certain about one thing in 1993. “Three hundred billion in new taxes,” Newt Gingrich declared at the time, “is going to shrink the economy, put people out of work, lower tax revenues.” Op-ed after fearful op-ed echoed this party line: higher tax rates would bring in lower revenues. Of course, just the opposite happened—the economy grew fatter, millions more went to work and revenues soared—and supply-siders haven't had an explanation.

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Upon hearing that I was planning to write about the proposed changes in federal housing policy, a press secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development graciously offered me an interview with the secretary, Andrew Cuomo. This was slightly odd. It's usually the reporter's job in these matters to solicit access to the Cabinet secretary and the flack's job to deny it. And I am the sort of reporter who quite properly would be denied; the story I wanted to write, examining public policy, didn't require access to anyone so grand as a member of the Cabinet.

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Think of South Africa as a country that grew drowsy around 1945 and drifted off to sleep. It closed its eyes sure of the world around it, a world in which it played a respected, progressive role.

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I was interviewing Hong Kong tycoon Albert Yeung in his office on a recent afternoon when he suddenly changed the subject to ask whether I knew that his forebears had come from Chiu Chow, a region in south China famous for breeding tough guys. A Chiu Chow is the Chinese equivalent of a Sicilian. I took the bait, and told Yeung that some people had advised me to stay away from him because he was reputed to be a dangerous man. He did not even try to conceal his delight.

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Originalist Sin

A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law by Antonin Scalia (Princeton University Press, 159 pp., $19.95) Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution by Jack N. Rakove (Knopf, 420 pp., $35) We are all originalists now. That is to say, most judges and legal scholars who want to remain within the boundaries of respectable constitutional discourse agree that the original meaning of the Constitution and its amendments has some degree of pertinence to the question of what the Constitution means today.

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