Saturday, June 17, 2006

How Cromwell gave us Joan Collins and other luminaries

Charles Moore in the Telegraph has a number of interesting reflections in his commentary commemorating the 350th anniversary of the return of the Jews to England... they were expelled by Edward I in 1290 and readmitted by Oliver Cromwell in 1656.

Here are a few excerpts:

"Exactly 350 years ago, we began to be a multi-racial society. 1656 marked the return of Jews to England. They had been driven out by an edict of Edward I in 1290. In the intervening centuries - known as the Middle Period - Jews quite often came to this country on business, but they were not permitted to reside here or practise their religion. Their status, in fact, was that of Christians (and Jews) in Saudi Arabia today. In 1656, Cromwell let 300 of them return, and Jews have been here ever since. {...}

Anyone who has ever studied at a university, needed good doctors, shopped at Marks & Spencer or Tesco, benefited from scientific invention, listened to classical music, sought accountants or lawyers, watched a film, bought a book or needed his head examined, has gained from Cromwell's decision. The Jewish contribution is so great that it pervades almost all aspects of British society.....

I have named individual Jews deliberately because, though it is always dangerous to generalise, even favourably, about race, it does seem to my gentile eyes that there is more prodigious ability and energy per Jew than per the rest of us. The community here has never been enormous - at present, it is somewhere between 250,000 and 400,000 - but it has achievements out of proportion to its size...

But the interesting thing for British society today is to ask why such a people have been able to overcome prejudices that at first excluded them absolutely and later accepted them only on qualified terms (Jews could not sit in Parliament until the mid-19th century, for example). The answer could be useful for everyone.

The key, perhaps, is to be found in one of the earliest reports of Jews in England after their return. On October 14, 1663, Samuel Pepys found a way of visiting a synagogue in London (something very unusual for a Gentile at that time). In his diary, he described the service which he witnessed. He did not like it ("I never… could have imagined there had been any religion in the whole world so absurdly performed as this"), but he also noted that the Jews said a special prayer for the King. In other words, they accepted the civil power.....

No believing Jew will obey a civil law that forces him to disobey his religious law - eat pork, for example. But if there is no conflict, his religion teaches him that he must obey the law of the land. In the Talmud, the question arises of whether you should pay taxes to a secular king. Yes, comes the answer, because "The law of the kingdom is the law".

But because of this basic agreement among Jews about the status of the secular law, the effect of these quarrels on the wider society is minimal. It is significant that virtually no one reading this article will have heard of Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu. He is the chief justice of the Beth Din, the Chief Rabbi's court which adjudicates on the endless delicate points of Jewish law, often relating to diet or Sabbath observance, which come up within the community.

If Judaism were an aggressive religion, seeking to lay down its law for all mankind, then this supremely learned old gentleman could acquire menacing power. Like the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran after 1979, Dayan Ehrentreu could tell people to kill in the name of God. Instead, his effect is the opposite. By policing so meticulously the difference between the precise duties of Jews and the duty to society at large, this scholar helps define the space necessary for people with beliefs quite at variance with those of the majority to live harmoniously among them. In this sense, people can be "fundamentalist" and yet perfectly at home in a society which is not. For 2,000 years, Jews have developed a subtle understanding of the difference between the ideal society that would exist if God's laws prevailed everywhere and the world as it is.

Without this understanding, people do indeed "swallow one another alive" and - one might add in the era of suicide bombings - swallow themselves in the process.
In the past half-century, Muslims have come where the Jews came earlier, and in much larger numbers. Like such Jews, they have sometimes experienced the unhappiness that comes when one's religion is misunderstood or derided. Unlike the Jews, too many of their leaders tend to teach them that such slights must be avenged, that existence as a minority is just a temporary misfortune, not a state to be lived with, and that the law of England is virtually no law at all. If that attitude continues, society is reduced to a conflict about who will swallow whom alive. To avoid that is a huge and urgent task. "

Now as for me, I'm shocked, shocked that a member of the British press would indulge in tilting at such sacred cows as multiculturism and moral relevance.

And since he has obviously insulted Islam, I am sure that we can shortly expect a fatwa issued by the adherants of the Religion of Peace.

Sarcasm aside, it is an astute observation on Moore's part that many members of Britain's Muslim community do not feel obligated to be British or to abide by its laws. That is because the first loyalty of many Muslims is not to the country which has treated them so generously but to the Muslim umma, or worldwide Islamic community.

What is fascinating is that many Britons continue to excuse this, out of sheer ignorance. Or perhaps, unlike Mr. Moore, they see the idea of Jews in Britain as a deteriment, and feel that Britain has much more to gain by demonizing Jews and Israel and appeasing Muslims. That can definitely be said to be true of a large chunk of the Labour Party.

They don't realize that Britain, like the US belongs to the part of the world Muslims refer to as `dar Harb' (literally `the place of war') and as such is subject to conquest, either by conversion (dawa) and/or jihad.

Conquerors do not respect the laws or institutions of the conquered or soon to be conquered. Particularly when that conquest is felt to be a religious mandate.

Some MUTUAL tolerance is no doubt called for. Those requesting it should be prepared to extend it...and subordinate their religious imperative towards conquest in exchange for the benefits of living in a free society. If that's impossible, perhaps they should relocate to parts of the Islamic world where their prejudices and intolerance are more in tune with their ideas on how to live.

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