Israel Looks East

 

A decade ago, the United States vetoed burgeoning ties between Israel and China. Now Sino-Israeli relations are flourishing again—this time, apparently, with Washington’s blessing.

Read more at Tablet

More about: China, Diplomacy, Israel, United States

 

How Iran Uses the Republic of Georgia to Dodge Sanctions

 

For years, various Iranian businesses have used the small Caucasian republic as a conduit for various sanctions-busting schemes. The Georgian government, at the urging of the U.S. Treasury Department, cracked down on these businesses, and seems to have made a good-faith effort at enforcement, but unplugged holes undoubtedly remain. Emanuele Ottolenghi describes how the sanctions are evaded, and the significance of the problem for a prospective nuclear deal:

It looked as if Treasury’s actions constituted a textbook case in the success of the U.S. sanctions policy. By making a compelling case to a foreign ally through Treasury’s painstaking forensic work, the Obama administration had neutralized an important illicit Iranian operation there and potentially damaged others. Yet in fact the [episode] encapsulates sanctions’ main challenge. Enforcing them requires tedious bookkeeping, painstaking forensic work, and the ability to stay a step ahead of Iranian middlemen with three decades of experience circumventing embargoes. These difficulties, which are painfully obvious on the ground, suggest that President Barack Obama’s faith in “snap-back sanctions” that will penalize Iran if it violates the terms of any nuclear deal take little account of how sanctions actually work on the ground. . . .

Treasury took two years to discover, investigate, corroborate, and finally sanction the people they eventually designated as Iran’s proxies in Georgia. Even so, Treasury targeted only eight of the eighteen businesses mentioned in Georgian court proceedings. It is, of course, entirely possible that only those eight companies engaged in sanctionable activities, while all others were honest businesses. However, the pending Georgian court case against more of their companies, relatives, and business partners suggests a possible alternative explanation. It is also plausible that Treasury could not gather sufficient evidence against those companies or that it failed to identify them. If that were the case, it would expose the constraints of an effective sanctions policy.

Treasury’s actions . . . happened at the height of the sanctions regime, when compliance with U.S. sanctions among financial institutions, global businesses, and foreign governments was at its zenith. It will be much harder in a post-sanctions environment. . . . Iran’s evasive action could then start over again, at even higher stakes. . . . Unless sanctions enforcement is relentless, Western successes rarely translate into Iranian failures; just temporary setbacks.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Georgia, Iran, Iran sanctions, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

What the Federal Anti-Boycott Law Means

 

The Trade Promotion Authority, signed into law by the president on Monday, contains an array of regulations affecting U.S. commerce with Europe, among them a provision aimed at countering boycotts and similar economic measures that might be taken by European governments and corporations against Israel. Eugene Kontorovich explains:

The law will significantly increase the legal and economic risks for the EU, and companies world-wide, should they pass discriminatory sanctions and restrictions against Israel. . . .

More broadly, the law . . . represents a major refutation of the conventional wisdom that boycott pressure on Israel is growing irreversibly and ineluctably. In this account, it is Israel’s policies, rather than the single-minded animosity of its opponents, that fuel boycott efforts, and nothing short of changing those policies will help. In short, in this view, the boycott pressure is at least in part legitimate. This view was championed by the left-wing group J Street, which opposed the [the law’s Israel-related provisions]. They did not manage to convince a single congressman. Despite the efforts of such ostensibly pro-Israel groups, Americans understand that the movement to single out Israel for economic punishment is unreasonable, discriminatory, dangerous to Israel’s security, and contrary to long-standing U.S. policy.

Read more at Washington Post

More about: BDS, Europe and Israel, Israel & Zionism, J Street, U.S. Foreign policy, US-Israel relations

 

Remembering the English Schindler

 

Nicholas Winton was a British stockbroker of Jewish origins who, in December 1938, devised a plan to rescue Jewish children in Prague and bring them to England. He died earlier this week at the age of one-hundred-six:

Nicholas Winton rescued 669 children destined for Nazi concentration camps from Czechoslovakia as the outbreak of World War II loomed. His death . . . came on the same day 76 years ago when the train carrying the largest number of children—241—departed from Prague.

The reluctant hero worked to find British families willing to put up £50 to look after the boys and girls in their homes. His efforts were not publicly known for almost 50 years. More than 370 of the children he saved have never been traced and do not know the full story. . . .

The humanitarian goals of Winton, who was born in the Hampstead district of north London in May 1909, were helped by a 1938 Act of Parliament that permitted the entry to the UK of refugee children under the age of seventeen, as long as money was deposited to pay for their eventual return home.

He set up an office in a hotel in Prague where he was quickly besieged by families desperate to get their children out before Nazi Germany invaded Czechoslovakia. . . . Winton . . . worked with relief organizations to set up the Czech Kindertransport, just one of a number of initiatives attempting to rescue Jewish children from Germany and the Nazi-occupied territories. He organized a total of eight trains from Prague, with some other forms of transport also set up from Vienna.

Read more at BBC

More about: British Jewry, Czechoslovakia, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Kindertransport, UK

From Wall Street Con-Man to Civil-Rights Crusader

 

Harry Golden (né Chaim Goldhirsch) grew up on New York’s Lower East Side and spent three years in prison for swindling investors. Not long after his release, he moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he took on a new name, a new persona, and a new career as a journalist and anti-segregation activist. Edward Kosner writes:

Golden played the maverick—the refugee New Yorker transplanted in the cornpone South, polemic journalist, son of a Hebrew scholar [but] married to a Roman Catholic, champion of the oppressed, union man, cigar-chomping, bourbon-slugging pal of intellectuals and politicians. Actually, he was a Kennedy-era liberal, more committed to civil rights than the Kennedy administration but in sync with Democratic cold-war foreign policy. Indeed, Golden’s prime—the years from the publication of his best-selling Only in America in 1958 to the election of Richard Nixon a decade later—coincides with the postwar Democratic ascendancy that died in the jungles of Vietnam. . . .

Starting in 1944, Golden filled the plain columns of the Carolina Israelite with short essays, editorials, and reminiscences of growing up poor in a pious family on the Lower East Side. Over the years, he repurposed the stuff into a series of books, beginning with Only in America, which stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for more than a year and made him enough money to pay off many of his old debts. More than a dozen other books followed, including an autobiography and studies of Jewish peddlers and the case of Leo Frank, the Jewish factory manager who was accused of murdering a young woman and lynched by a white mob in Marietta, Georgia in 1915. He wrote for important magazines, too, including Life, Esquire, the Nation, and Commentary. All that exposure led to lucrative work on the side as a lecturer and frequent appearances on the Tonight Show couch, with Jack Paar and then Johnny Carson.

Read more at Commentary

More about: American Jewish History, American South, Galicia, History & Ideas, Lower East Side

A 2,000-Year-Old Mikveh, with Significance for Both Jews and Christians

 

In the midst of renovating their home in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem neighborhood, a family discovered an ancient, underground ritual bath. Ilan Ben Zion writes:

Last week the Israel Antiquities Authority finished excavating the subterranean bath, which archaeologist Amit Reem said . . . may have belonged to a private home in a 1st-century CE Jewish village. The ritual bath adheres to halakhic requirements and measures 1.8 meters deep, 3.5 meters long, and 2.4 meters wide.

More intriguingly, it lends some support to a Christian tradition linking Ein Kerem, today a quaint neighborhood clinging to a hill on Jerusalem’s southwestern edge, with the birthplace of John the Baptist. . . .

“[U]ntil now we didn’t have archaeological evidence supporting the notion that there was a Jewish community in Ein Kerem” during that period, [Reem] said, standing next to the gaping maw of the mikveh in the [house’s] living room. . . .

While Reem was reluctant to draw any direct associations between John the Baptist and the ritual bath found in the Shimshoni home, he said its discovery pointed to the presence of religious Jews who were fastidious about matters of ritual purity.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: ancient Judaism, Archaeology, Halakhah, History & Ideas, Jerusalem, Mikveh, New Testament