Refinement

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel--and a man without a theory. (Has he forgotten his earlier protest against empty reciprocity with the PA?) A secular man cannot understand the real Jewish theory--the Torah. Is he being a little too (Vichy) French for his country's safety? Maybe not. He took a stand against illegal immigration recently.
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A statesman must possess not only political wisdom and moral courage; he must also have “class” or “refinement.” Unfortunately, these qualities are not conspicuous among Israeli politicians who hobnob with Arab leaders such as Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

These acts show lack of refinement

What kind of person would consort with a villain responsible for the murder of hundreds of Jewish men, women, and children, a villain who even used Arab children as human bombs to kill Jews?

While asking this question, ask another: What kind of person would engage in the ceaseless mendacity of the Oslo “peace process,” which officially began on September 13, 1993, when an Israeli Prime Minister signed a “peace” agreement with the world’s most notorious terrorist, Yasser Arafat?

That a former Israeli prime minister is now casting mud on the political courage of another Israeli prime minister (one that has consorted with the PA more than any other), is symptomatic of the crudity to which this besieged country has succumbed, a country whose life-enhancing accomplishments in high-tech do not translate, unfortunately, into political wisdom, let alone refinement.

The political behavior of many Israeli politicians may not be as crude as Donald Trump’s; but when judging character, a savvy and properly educated person does not make comparisons with what is mediocre or base but with what is outstanding or noble.

Israeli politicians are in need of a Dale Carnegie, supplemented by Henry Taylor’s The Statesman. They should also contemplate the high-toned thoughts of Demosthenes and Cicero, who were studied assiduously by America’s Founding Fathers. But more important than these paragons, especially for Jewish statesmen, is the Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot), which can be found in many Jewish prayer books.

Ethics and refinement

Ethics and refinement are inseparable, or perhaps I should say ethics is the foundation of refinement. Neither flourishes in hedonistic democracies where moral relativism and atheism permeate higher education, most importantly in political science. In this academic discipline, which educates many statesmen and diplomats, and which focuses on the relationship between rulers and ruled, economics trumps moral values and religion.

Present day political science has produced the unscientific doctrine of “conflict resolution” This doctrine renders the conflict between Jews and Muslims comparable to the conflict between Democrats and Republicans in the American Congress. Ignored is the fact that members of both parties can be friends despite their differences because what they have in common is more important than their differences. This is where moral values enter and sometimes trump politics.

What many Democrats and Republicans may have in common, in addition to religious tolerance, is civility. Civility is the moral cement of a pluralistic society. It is translated into the political arena, where refined politicians avoid back-biting and pejorative class labels, examine the pros and cons of a policy, and thus elevate political discourse and debate.

Refinement distinguishes the civilized from the savage

The authors and signers of the Declaration of Independence understood refinement on a personal level.

The Second Continental Congress observes the first Independence Day by signing the Declaration of Independence. Credit: John Trumbull.

Just as refinement distinguishes a child from an adult, so, too, a civilized person is distinguished from a savage or barbarian. That countless Arabs succumb to savagery or barbarism – as noted by consult ibn Khaldun – is largely the result of an Islamic theology (and education), that echoes, surprisingly, in the skepticism and atheism of David Hume’s Treatise on Human Nature. This most important book has taught generations of American academics that Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions. America’s Founding Fathers explicitly rejected this pernicious dictum, which cannot but undermine refinement and civilized society.

The Founders understood that there is a type of elemental creature that appears to be a human being but is very resistant to civilized society. This is why the American Declaration of Independence could refer to “the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.”

Today’s Taliban compete with such creatures, even in the placards distributed by their religious police: “Throw reason to the dogs, it stinks of corruption.” Like ISIS, these Muslims are ready to engage in murder everywhere.

Yet, such is the character of U.S. President Barack Obama that he has no moral compunctions about dealing with their ideological cousins, the Mullahs of Iran, Their malediction, “Death to America,” is below the threshold of Obama’s moral indignation.

Obama’s lack of any universalistic ethics not only underlies his inability to unequivocally denounce Islamic terrorism, but also his lack of refinement, as was evident in his malignant treatment of Netanyahu in the White House. On the other hand, perhaps that treatment of Netanyahu was the unrecognized consequence of Netanyahu’s benign treatment of Mahmoud Abbas? ☼

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