The long-term demographic decline of British Jewry has ended, but only because one sub-group has burgeoned while the other continues to shrink.
When Israel struck a Hizballah convoy on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights last week, killing several of the terror organization’s senior figures and at least one Iranian general, it was doing more than merely seizing an opportunity, argues Tony Badran:
With the real prospect of a nuclear Iran on the horizon, no Israeli government can afford to have the Iranian Revolutionary Guards set up base in the Golan. Ultimately, this was the point Israel wanted to make—not just to Tehran, but to Washington as well. . . .
Recognizing that [Hizballah secretary-general Hassan] Nasrallah faces severe limits as to what he can do in response, they have called his bluff in a most humiliating manner.
This message is also intended for the White House. The Obama administration’s de- facto embrace of Iran and acceptance of its expanded domain in the Levant has put the U.S. at odds with Israel’s interests. With this strike against senior Iranian officers, Israel also sent a message to President Obama: “Your accommodation with Iran will not come at our expense.”
Israel’s upcoming election, writes Chuck Freilich, may not bring about the “historic” political realignment that some pundits are predicting. But the rhetoric emerging from the various parties does suggest that changes are afoot:
The old division between hawk and dove, left and right, has lost much of its meaning in Israel, both on socio-economic and on foreign-policy issues. . . . The left has come to share much of the right’s skepticism regarding the Palestinians’ willingness to reach an agreement, while the intifada and endless rocket fire have led to far greater appreciation of the right’s emphasis on security needs. On most socio-economic issues the differences between the Israeli left and right have not been great for decades, and voters are tired of the old party system and the government’s ongoing inability to provide answers to their needs. A realignment of Israeli politics has been brewing for years, and indeed began with the previous elections.
Labor had an uninterrupted run of 29 years in power. Likud has enjoyed a longer run, but one that has been repeatedly interrupted with center-left governments. Today, Likud is a spent force, with polls predicting seats in the low 20s, just one of a few mid-sized parties. Labor’s Isaac Herzog united with Tzipi Livni to form a new and fresh-looking party, which is expected to vie with Likud for a similar number of seats and possibly the premiership. Netanyahu will likely still be the premier, because of coalition mechanics, but the gloss is off and he is nearing the end of his tenure. His decision to call new elections after just two years speaks volumes. The next government is unlikely to demonstrate much greater longevity, further feeding the demands for electoral reform.
Vladimir Putin once presented himself as an ally of the West in the war on terror, and Russia has had its own battles with jihadist violence emanating from Chechnya. But Russia’s response to the recent Islamist attacks in Paris, as expressed through its official and quasi-official media outlets, reflects a major shift. As Michael Khodarkovsky explains, Putin, who has reached an uneasy compromise with his nation’s large Muslim minority, considers liberal democracy a more dangerous ideology than jihadism:
On January 10, a protester holding a sign “I am Charlie” was arrested in Moscow and later sentenced to eight days in jail. A few days later, the federal media watchdog ordered the St. Petersburg edition of the Business News Agency to remove the new cover of Charlie Hebdo from its website. The same agency was warned that reprinting the cartoon depicting the prophet Muhammad could be considered a criminal offense, and that it would violate the “ethical and moral norms formed in Russia through the centuries of different peoples and faiths living side by side.” . . .
Behind the purported wish to protect the feelings of the faithful lies a pragmatic attempt to maintain the support of conservative Christian, Muslim, and nationalist groups, and to keep Islamic extremists at bay. . . .
Though the Kremlin was quick to express solidarity with France and condemn terrorism in the aftermath of the Paris attack, the pro-government media placed equal blame at the feet of the Charlie Hebdo journalists for their provocative cartoons, and at the Western liberalism that allows such publications.
Last week, high-ranking Iranian politicians and clergymen eulogized Moshfeq Kashani, who served as court poet to the ayatollahs. As it happens, Kashani’s death fell close to the first anniversary of the death of another poet, Hashem Shaabani, executed for using verse to protest the regime. Amir Taheri contrasts the artistic visions of the two men:
Because the Persian language is extremely musical, even the most amateurish poems could resonate with Iranians. Kashani’s poems are no exception. Using a limited vocabulary, heavily dominated by clichés borrowed from classical poems, things like “your eyebrows resemble the crescent moon” and “Zohreh (Venus) playing the sitar in the sky,” Kashani’s poems sound familiar and thus, to many, somehow reassuring . . . part of the ambient noise of life—something like pumped music in lifts or shopping malls. . . .
Shaabani, on the other hand, is a modernist through and through. He represents the new Iran which wants to be part of the modern world with its gift of nonconformity, diversity, and, yes, risk-taking.
Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani prevented Iranians from remembering Shaabani even with a simple ceremony. However, history will remember him long after they are forgotten.
Marking the 50th anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill, Scott Johnson reflects on the great British leader’s history of sympathy for the Jews:
Among the many qualities that made Churchill a man out of joint with his times was this one: he frequently wrote and spoke favorably of the Jews and in support of the creation of a Jewish homeland. In his book Eminent Churchillians, the prominent historian Andrew Roberts pauses in his chapter on Churchill’s politically incorrect statements on race to observe:
Not all of Churchill’s racial characterizations were negative. . . . He believed the Jews to be “the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has ever appeared in the world.” He felt an instinctive affinity for their genius as well as a historian’s respect for their trials, and he supported Jewish aspirations wherever they did not clash with those of the Empire. He may have inherited his philo-Semitism from his father, but he certainly gave it new luster in his own life.