Book Review: David Solway's 'Crossing The Jordan: On Judaism, Islam And The West'

David Solway

When the history of the 21st century is written, if indeed, history is ever written again, it may reflect that a hallmark of this era was that masses of people found common ground, not in shared values, faith, or culture. Rather, future historians may note that people aligned themselves according to their objects of hate. One might try to exempt the trans movement from this position until one admits that the movement itself is based on a hatred of women while simultaneously managing to take aim at the "patriarchy."

Of course, hatred of the Jews has been a black mark on the world since time immemorial. It has transcended not only time but also people and groups. And it has only grown in intensity and prevalence since the events of October 7. It is worth asking why antisemitism has such staying power and why so many in the West have embraced it with such renewed fervor. These are questions that David Solway addresses in his latest book, "Crossing the Jordan: On Judaism, Islam, and the West."

The book is a series of essays, some of which have appeared in different outlets. But the attack by Hamas terrorists on unsuspecting, innocent Israelis and the eruption of bald-faced antisemitism across the world breathe new life into the essays. This is not merely unfortunate but should be regarded as terrifying by civilized people.

Solway does more than examine the historical aspects of the nation of Israel and antisemitic thought. He also charts the extent to which antisemitism has spread and investigates its root causes. Along with the anti-Israel mindset within Islam, he casts an eye toward immigration policies, birth rates, literature, politics, academia, comedy, and even Jews who are at war with their own identity and who take anti-Israel positions.

There are multiple takeaways from the book. But what is striking is how so many factors have come together to create the present problem, which has been simmering for years since the Holocaust. Like the demons that plagued the Gerasene demoniac, the causes are legion. Solway manages to touch on many of them, and as a Jew, he even tackles the problem of antisemitism among Jews themselves. Some of them, argues Solway, lean to the Left in an effort to assimilate with the intellectual and cultural elites. Others, he posits, hope that by renouncing or distancing themselves from their heritage, they may be spared the ravages of hatred.

Ironically, one such component is the concept of tikkun olam. This idea, says Solway, has its origins in the Kabbalah and is, roughly translated, a mandate to "heal the world." Such a mandate is in perfect keeping with popular mindsets of the current day, although it is arguable that it has been bastardized in the 21st century. Solway wonders why so many Jews would support the very people who would like to see Holocaust 2.0 become a reality.

It is because the idea of healing the world is so popular that people are willing to embrace it for social credit and a degree of safety, even when their pursuit of perfection drives them to violence and hatred. With that in mind, Solway does not lay the blame solely at the feet of the Jews. And, when considering tikkun olam, the problem extends not just to rampaging college students but to many people in the West. In the name of saving the world, many people, especially the young, have been willing to rush headlong into supporting movements or ideologies that trumpet lofty ideas that mask a destructive socialist agenda. Such examples include CRT, DEI, BDS, and the environmental and trans movements. Identities are formed based on what one rejects more often than on what one creates. Anger and hatred become the foundations of society. And such concepts are very popular. The results of a recent Harvard-Harris Poll would seem to bear this out.

The Harvard Center for Political Studies and Harris released a shocking poll about Israel that's too gruesome to be believed. And yet, it's there in black and white.

The poll found 51% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 said they believed the longterm answer to the Israel-Palestinian conflict was for “Israel to be ended and given to Hamas and the Palestinians.”

On a lighter note, If nothing else, read the book for Chapter 20: "An Editorial from the Philistine Times." Solway offers a version of the David and Goliath story from the Philistines' point of view. The "editorial" is written in the same alarmist, propagandist style that would have been used had The New York Times, CNN, or any of the current legacy media outlets existed in the Bronze Age:

Need we remind our readers that the Israelitic response, as in all such instances, was entirely disproportionate? The use of a slingshot violates all the norms of standard warfare and is in obvious contravention of tacit international agreements adopted by all civilized peoples. We call upon the community of nations to raise a collective voice against the vicious perpetration of the underhanded assault we saw on the field of Shocoth.

For the purpose of this belligerent and expansionist tribe is evident to all: to attack peace-loving Philistia, crush the conciliatory Moabites, exterminate Amnon and Cush, both renowned for their tranquility and repeated diplomatic initiatives, trample the placid and amiable shepherds of Canaan into the dust, and ultimately to wipe the neighborly kingdom of Assyria off the face of the earth.

Such an editorial could have been lifted from a lecture at Harvard, albeit with some minor updates. It is a reminder of the positions into which our self-appointed "information guardians" will contort themselves to ensure that only the approved messages reach our eyes and ears.

Although much of the book's content was previously published, "Crossing the Jordan: On Judaism, Islam, and the West" is a sobering read during this present darkness. But it offers cogent insights into the elements of antisemitism and how that strain of mind virus has infected the West in various incarnations. It is an important book for understanding how we arrived at where we are. And such understanding is a key to repairing or at least addressing the damage. Provided that that time has not passed.