Memories of Hannah Arendt


“What struck one in reading Eichmann in Jerusalem . . .was the surging contempt with which she treated almost everyone and everything connected with the trial, the supreme assurance of the intellectual looking down upon those coarse Israelis.”

Read more at Dissent

More about: Adolf Eichmann, Gershom Scholem, Hannah Arendt, Holocaust, Israel, Nazism, Norman Podhoretz


What Israeli Intelligence Learned about the Iran Agreement


For the past two years, Israeli intelligence has been able to glean information about the negotiations with Iran. Lately, officials shared with the journalist Ronen Bergman some of what they learned about the talks leading up to this year’s final agreement:

On November 26, 2013, three days after the signing of the interim agreement (JPOA) between the powers and Iran, the Iranian delegation returned home to report to their government. According to information obtained by Israeli intelligence, there was a sense of great satisfaction in Tehran then over the agreement and confidence that ultimately Iran would be able to persuade the West to accede to a final deal favorable to Iran. That final deal, signed in Vienna last week, seems to justify that confidence. . . .

[In Vienna,] the Western delegates gave up on almost every one of the critical issues on which they had themselves resolved not to give in, [including those issues] they had distinctly promised Israel they [considered non-negotiable].

One of the promises made to Israel was that Iran would not be permitted to stockpile uranium. Later it was said that only a small amount would be left in Iran and that anything in excess of that amount would be transferred to Russia for processing that would render it unusable for military purposes. In the final agreement, Iran was permitted to keep 300 kg of enriched uranium; the conversion process would take place in an Iranian plant. Iran would also be responsible for processing or selling the huge amount of enriched uranium that it has stockpiled up until today, some eight tons. . . .

Israeli intelligence [also] points to two plants in Iran’s military industry that are currently engaged in the development of two new types of centrifuge: the Teba and Tesa plants. . . . The new centrifuges will allow the Iranians to set up smaller enrichment facilities that are much more difficult to detect and that shorten the breakout time to a bomb if and when they decide to dump the agreement.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Mossad, Politics & Current Affairs, US-Israel relations

Europe Tries to Restart the “Peace Process”


Frederica Mogherini, the EU’s top diplomat, has just declared the importance of creating “a more positive environment” in which negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority can begin again. Elliott Abrams writes:

What is the European Union’s reaction to [the chaos in the Middle East]? To focus on the single aspect of Middle Eastern affairs that is right now calm, and to intervene in ways likely to reduce the calm and create more turbulence. You’ve probably guessed it: fresh from the great and historic victory in the Iran nuclear deal, they now turn once again to the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

European leaders have been discussing replacing the Quartet, which consists of the UN, Russia, the EU, and the United States, with some new mechanism.

This would be sensible if there were the slightest indication that there has been no progress in the “peace process” due to failures of the Quartet mechanism. Perhaps it works too slowly, or isn’t persuasive enough, or something like that. But that is false, and clearly any new mechanism that includes only the EU but not the United States will have little clout. It also appears that the history of the last decade is unknown to EU leaders. In that decade PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas first said no to then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert’s peace offer after the Annapolis conference, and Abbas then refused to engage in the negotiations with Israel that Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama were trying to arrange.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Europe and Israel, European Union, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians, Peace Process


How and Why the Talmud Made a “Jewish Valentine’s Day”


The minor holiday of Tu b’Av (the fifteenth day of the month of Av) is primarily described in rabbinic sources as a day of consolation, marking the reconciliation between Israel and God after the destruction of the first Temple, commemorated six days earlier on Tisha b’Av. The Talmud also mentions a ritual in which unmarried women would sing and dance to attract potential husbands. The Talmud explains this ritual with reference to another national tragedy, described at the end of the book of Judges: the bloody civil war between Benjamin and the other Israelite tribes, provoked by a woman’s brutal gang rape by Benjaminite thugs. Shraga Bar-On explains:

This is . . . a great example of the manner in which the talmudic sages tried to shape historical consciousness via creative reinterpretation. One might have imagined that upon the conclusion of the civil war with the tribe of Benjamin, Jewish leaders would have established another Tisha b’Av to mourn this terrible civil war. . . . Instead, they took Tu b’Av and established it as a festival of love in which the tribes join together in matrimony. In this way, they turned enemies into lovers. The rabbis described Tu b’Av as an erotic holiday in which the daughters and sons of Israel go out to the vineyards and have a dance party—and then go home, as one people, as a mixed mosaic of tribes, to marry one another.


More about: Book of Judges, Religion & Holidays, Talmud, Tisha b'Av, Tu b'Av

A Rare Roman Coin Tells How the Destruction of Jerusalem Became Part of Imperial Propaganda


Numerous Roman coins have been discovered bearing the words Iudea capta (Judea captured), marking the quashing of the Jewish revolt in the year 70 CE. But now archaeologists have discovered one inscribed with the more accurate phrase Iudea recepta (Judea recaptured). Raphael Poch explains what this discovery reveals about the way Vespasian, emperor of Rome, exploited his victory over the Jews:

The chief archivist of the department of archaeology and numismatics at the Israel Museum, Haim Gitler, explained that “in place of newspaper or Internet, the main form of media to spread propaganda in the time of antiquity was the minting of coins. . . . When it comes to the capta coins, it is simple propaganda. Vespasian wanted to make widely known to his people that it was he who conquered the Jews. Rome printed the coins until the year 81 CE [eleven years after the revolt]. . . . This war—and it was a war as opposed to a mere rebellion—was a particularly tough one for Rome, and one whose victory they wanted to highlight.”

Gitler and other scholars point to the fact that to date, only one of these coins has been found, signifying that there were very few minted. They explain the cause of this as being that Vespasian complied with Roman tradition in printing recepta coins for a province already captured, but regretted his decision due to the toll that the war took on the Romans, as well as the need to promote his own victories following the [period of political upheaval in Rome, which his reign brought to an end].

Read more at Breaking Israel News

More about: Ancient Israel, Ancient Rome, Archaeology, History & Ideas, Judean Revolt

“Huffington Post” Outsources its Arabic Site to the Muslim Brotherhood


This week, Huffington Post launched an Arabic-language website run by two loyal supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the Islamist parent organization of Hamas. Alex Rowell writes:

[P]resumably, few readers . . . will have expected the liberal American media juggernaut to launch a venture headed by two prominent figures of the Middle East’s religious right.

[The site’s editor-in chief, Anas] Fouda, previously an executive producer at Al Jazeera Arabic (AJA), is managing the website in partnership with his old boss, the former AJA director general, Wadah Khanfar. Their profiles may make for interesting perusal for existing Huffington Post readers unfamiliar with the Arabic-language media landscape.

An Egyptian national now living in Turkey, Fouda was arrested in the United Arab Emirates in 2013 on suspicion of affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)—an affiliation which he freely admitted had existed since 1988, though he claimed to have held no formal party role since 1995. A browse of his Twitter timeline shows his politics to be fairly bread-and-butter MB; recommending, for instance, articles praising “His Eminence” Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Holocaust-revisionist cleric who routinely denounces Shiite and Alawite Muslims, to say nothing of Jews. Indeed, Fouda has himself on occasion found less than obliging things to say about his Semitic cousins. . . .

Khanfar, however, is the heavyweight of the pair; the man who made Al Jazeera the titan of Arabic media that it is today. He’s also, according to ex-colleagues, the man who made Al Jazeera the Muslim Brotherhood mouthpiece that it is today.

Read more at NOW

More about: Al Jazeera, Anti-Semitism, Islamism, Media, Muslim Brotherhood, Politics & Current Affairs