Nextbook’s second annual “festival of ideas” will be held Sunday in New York. This year’s theme is “Jews and Power” and it will feature thinkers like J.J. Goldberg and Ruth Wisse. In preparation, Wisse, who recently wrote a book bearing the same name as the conference, penned a piece for The Forward that argues how the world would have changed if the Jews had remained the masters of their own universe.
Had Jews always remained a self-governing people in their land, there would have been no Crusader wars over Jerusalem, no Spanish Inquisition and no Holocaust. Karl Marx would not have concluded that “the bill of exchange is the Jew’s actual god” and Stalin would not have mounted a lethal campaign against Jewish “rootless cosmopolitans.” Host nations would not have wreaked upon Jews some of the most terrible evils in the history of humankind. The Jewish contribution to the welfare of the world would have been all the greater had the Jews managed to secure for themselves their aboriginal land.
She talks about how Jews saw their exile as punishment for poor Torah observance and the challenges of Jewish self-governance in Europe, which usually ended in expulsion, and then concludes:
Today’s Jews rightfully resent the assaults against them, wishing that they could be allowed to live in peace. New generations of Israelis dislike having to soldier; American Jewish students dislike having to defend Israel on campus. But paradoxically, Jews cannot achieve peace for themselves, never mind for the rest of the world, unless they convince their enemies they are unbeatable and home for good. Jews can only help to “repair the world” by insisting that their assailants begin to repair themselves.