The worst thing done to Judaism is redefining it in terms of rights: the right to life (pikuah nefesh), Jeffersonian freedom and democracy, and even privacy (homosexuality). Judaism has no rights, but only obligations.
Our biblical obligations toward other humans are very limited: they should not be murdered or robbed, and that’s it generally. We have a few more obligations toward fellow Jews. At any rate there is no right to statehood, work, or migration. Palestinians are no more justified in claiming statehood than are the Native American Indians, Chechens, or Eskimo. Palestinians have no stronger right to travel to Israel for work than do the Mexicans to the United States.
Liberal political theories are formulated in terms of protecting rights to avoid the government’s infringement. In Judaism, there can be no infringement: Jews, whether they want it or not, are the people of God and must do his bidding. We have no sphere which would be private and protected from God. We have an obligation to serve him, and consequentially a particular obligation to observe his commandments. People of Judaism are not free, but constitute a divine property; sometimes a divine hammer, other times divine hay, to be scattered.
In fact, all people have predominantly obligations: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” In the seventeenth century, legislators became concerned with putting a limit on government’s encroachment on the liberties of its subjects; the notion of rights has since then appeared in modern discourse. That development was not historically unique, as enlightened rulers periodically ordered a halt to abuses. Cyrus is one example. The rights were essentially a series of government capitulations and self-imposed restrictions.
In the eighteenth century, political philosophers sophistically redefined the notion of rights: they became “human,” natural, inherently valuable. The difference may appear subtle, as with many sophistic redefinitions of terms, but it was actually a watershed event. Compare this: do we refrain from tormenting a cat because it has inalienable rights, or because it doesn’t suit our moral purposes? The early theory of rights as state capitulations presumed the latter answer: states were created for a purpose, and unreasonable encroachment violated that founding purpose. The liberal doctrine opted for the first answer, and with catastrophic consequences.
Once a cat has rights, how can we keep it forcibly at home or, in case of lions, at a zoo? How can be animals subjected to medical experiments? How dare we exterminate malaria mosquitoes, which are living beings created by God?
Similarly, when natural rights are applied to humans, it becomes immoral to kill one’s enemies, clear territory for one’s state, or even treat people unequally. If the rights are natural, then all people are naturally equal—and the civilized world submits to oil racket of Arab barbarians who happened to roam the oilfields with their camels. If there is a human right to privacy, then sexual abominations become permissible.
Rights as capitulations stemmed the expansion of state powers. Natural rights expanded. The right to privacy was originally understood as privacy of one’s home. When the squall of pornography struck the United States, the right was expanded to the privacy of consensual gatherings (smut movie theaters), and then, astonishingly, reversed to the privacy of its opponents. Whereas the most liberal interpretation of this right in the 1960s allowed selling pornography in environments shielded from the general public, the current interpretation requires partial covers on the obscene productions sold in public places.
The privacy of smut consumers evolved into an intrusion on the right to privacy for its opponents, and even that eroded to only partial covers on magazines and lewd signs on porn shops. The opponents are derided: pornophiles are labeled “adult” and “mature” audience, implying that the people of decent morality are childish and immature, and will eventually rise up to the liberal standards of fornication. Children who grow up in neighborhoods plastered with the flashy signs of the “adult” establishments surely regard them as a coveted matter of adult life.
As a result, the perversions became commonly encountered and therefore normal. Though the perverts were originally shielded by the privacy doctrine—the right to expound moral evil in a private environment—they now enjoy normalcy (homosexual parades in Jerusalem), affirmative action, and forceful dissemination of their deviations (school lessons on homosexuality).
Human rights are especially dangerous when coupled with formal justice. Unwilling to apply the standard of common sense, the US Supreme Court struggled for two decades to define obscenity in order to regulate pornography. Obviously, it all boiled down to individual tastes, and the court practically abandoned any attempt to regulate obscenity. In doing so, they subjected the unwilling majority to the perverts’ taste, or rather lack thereof.
When the early advocates of human rights struggled with state encroachment, they could easily defend their position with the “Why should?” question. Why should a government be able to punish an individual without due process? Modern rights advocates operate completely differently, on a “Why shouldn’t” premise. Why shouldn’t a person be allowed to have same-gender sex? Why shouldn’t he be allowed to marry a same-sex person? That is a brutish logical fallacy: in natural science, only positive propositions (“why should”) can be proved; negative cannot. In order to prove a hypothesis, scientists establish that no observable fact contradicts it. There is no formal, mathematical-quality proof that the Earth is round: perhaps all the scientists conspired to present the public with wrong facts. But so far, as such a conspiracy has not been revealed, scientists ascertain the lack of refutations for the proposition that Earth is round, and take that hypothesis for a working theory. Negatives, on the other hand, can never be proven. How do you know that there was no conspiracy to measure the Earth or assassinate JFK? “Why not allow homosexual marriage” and “”Why didn’t the Bushes blow up the WTC on 9/11” are of the same logical stock: both propositions are irrefutable and therefore fallacious.
Human aversion to expanding state powers is an evolutionary trait, built-in by now. Egyptian peasants probably opposed conscription for pyramid construction just like middle-class Americans try to cheat on taxes. There is no similar mental protection for expanding human rights, and it seems natural to expand them. Humans have a strong interest in opposing the state’s encroachment, but not vice versa: a state hardly cares about curtailing the expansion of human rights. Human rights are therefore expanding unimpeded by the collective interest.
Nor are the human rights human. It’s not the only issue that “human rights” are allotted even to lab mice. More importantly, they are the individual’s rights rather than those of the group. Society, a group, has a significant interest in many activities which run contrary to individual human rights: war-making, avoiding taxes at others’ expense, encouraging strong families and proliferation, shared values and common morality. Individual human rights run against all of them.
Human rights emphasize the abrogation of the state’s encroachment on individuals. The more expanded are the rights, the more curtailed are the state’s powers. Rights, therefore, evolve into nihilism, rejection of state powers and societal values over those of the individual. Human rights erode values, including the common values that are society’s moral basis and reason for existence. If I have no common values with my neighbor, what makes us close? Our mere proximity doesn’t—I wouldn’t feel particularly attached to a factory next door.
I’m not into going after every nihilist adherent of human rights. They are welcome to live as they wish in closed communities. They can even differentiate nihilism, each community defining obscenity differently. Maybe they can enjoy their desired freedom in Saudi Arabia. But my country, I won’t let them destroy.