Norman Lamm Deserves Better


The outgoing chancellor of Yeshiva University should be celebrated for his immeasurable contributions to the entire Jewish world, not pilloried for a single error of judgment.

Read more at Forward

More about: American Jewry, Modern Orthodoxy, Norman Lamm, Yeshiva University


Why Iran’s Anti-Semitism Must Be Taken Seriously


The Islamic Republic’s anti-Semitism is not peripheral to its ideology, or to the outcome of a nuclear deal, writes Jeffrey Herf

[T]oo many of our policymakers, politicians, and analysts still labor under the mistaken idea that radical anti-Semitism is merely another form of prejudice or, worse, an understandable (and hence excusable?) response to the conflict between Israel . . . and the Palestinians. In fact it is something far more dangerous, and far less compatible with a system of nuclear deterrence, which assumes that all parties place a premium on their own survival. Iran’s radical anti-Semitism is not in the slightest bit rational; it is a paranoid conspiracy theory that proposes to make sense (or rather nonsense) of the world by claiming that the powerful and evil “Jew” is the driving force in global politics. Leaders who attribute enormous evil and power to the 13,000,000 Jews in the world and to a tiny Middle Eastern state with about 8,000,000 citizens have demonstrated that they don’t have a suitable disposition for playing nuclear chess. . . .

No high-ranking member of the Obama administration has admitted that this is the case. . . . The issue has faded into the background, replaced by a preoccupation with technical details about centrifuges, percentages of uranium enrichment, and lengths of “break-out times.” When policymakers fail to consider the core beliefs of the Iranian leadership, they foster the impression that Iran is a smaller, Islamic version of the Soviet Union—that is, a state that would act in its own self-interest if it had nuclear weapons. Yet the Soviet Union was governed by atheists who disdained notions of a life after death and would have laughed at the idea of a “twelfth imam” descending to earth after an apocalyptic disaster. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it would likely be the first such state not to be deterred by the prospect of nuclear retaliation. Yet the irrationality of Iran’s government has received scant attention in the United States government, which seems unable to believe that people could put their faith in a post-apocalyptic messiah. That is both a failure of imagination and a failure of policy.

Read more at American Interest

More about: Anti-Semitism, Iran, Iran nuclear program, Israel, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

How BDS Almost Stopped a Professor from Taking Her Students to Israel


Jill Schneiderman, a professor of earth sciences at Vassar College, recently organized a trip to Israel for her students, where they would learn about environmental issues as they relate to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Due to the American Studies Association’s boycott, her colleagues came close to stopping her. She writes of her experience:

[M]y course and the study trip associated with it . . . became a flashpoint for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) debate on campus. Protesters bearing anti-Israel signs stood chanting outside my classroom; students were pressured by their peers to drop the course. My integrity was attacked in a standing-room-only forum at Vassar’s campus center led by pro-BDS faculty members. . . .

What are the implications for education when students are pressured to avoid unique and difficult educational opportunities? Is it responsible for educators to support an academic boycott—essentially, a boycott of ideas? Isn’t it our mission to teach students to engage with ideas that are different from their own? Vassar’s mission statement asserts that the college “nurtures intellectual curiosity” and “respectful debate.” Is it consistent with this mission to restrict study trips to regions of the world where the political landscape is similar to our own (which many would argue has its own share of overlooked injustices)? We are in dangerous territory if our ability to even travel for study’s sake to a politically charged region can be blocked by political agendas.

Read more at Washington Post

More about: American Studies Association, BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, University


Is It Time for Israel to Annex the Golan?


In light of the collapse of Syria, which controlled the Golan Heights until 1967, Zvi Hauser argues that there is no longer any reason for Israel not to claim full sovereignty over the territory (free registration required):

The validity of the arrangements that defined the borders and the countries in the Middle East after World War I has expired, and the region can now expect many years of instability. In such a situation, Israel must reformulate its geostrategic interests. . . .

Israel can, and must, separate the international discussion about the Golan Heights from the discussion of Judea and Samaria. As opposed to the West Bank, on the Golan there is no [fundamental problem] of ruling another people; the 22,000 Druze who are fortunate enough to live on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights are entitled to full Israeli citizenship. Nor is there a “demographic problem” there: the region has a Jewish majority, with some 25,000 Jewish residents. Above all, there is no alternative to Israeli rule on the Golan, even in the long term.

There should now be a process of “coordinating expectations” with the international community . . . in an overall context of stabilizing the region. Neither Islamic State, nor the jihadists of Nusra Front and al-Qaida, nor a crude foothold of [the] Iran-Hizballah-Assad [axis] . . . will enable the stabilization and rehabilitation of the region. There is no horizon on the Golan Heights other than the Israeli one.

The imminent nuclear agreement with Iran—which is a bad deal—also creates a concrete opportunity to discuss the issue. It is doubtful whether Israel can influence the signing of the agreement, but it can exert real influence in the “discussion on compensation.” . . . The balancing formula in light of the Iranian achievement (and Assad’s murderous behavior) must include a maximum reduction in the danger of Iranian nuclearization, along with containment of Iran’s potential for conventional aggression. This can be done by creating an international agreement to . . . shelve the Shiite-Alawite aspiration to regain control of the Israeli Golan, which constitutes less than 1 percent of the area of what used to be Syria.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Druze, Golan Heights, Hizballah, Iran nuclear program, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war

The New Wave of Jewish Emigration from Russia


The number of Jews leaving Russia rose steeply in 2014; many are making their way to Israel. According to Roman Super and Claire Bigg, they are fleeing an increasingly hostile regime:

Spooked by Russia’s actions in Ukraine and by the increasingly stringent punishments for anyone deemed critical of the Kremlin, Russians of Jewish descent have been fleeing in droves over the past eighteen months. According to Israeli authorities, as many as 4,685 Russian citizens relocated to Israel in 2014—more than double than in any of the previous sixteen years. And the trend seems to be accelerating. . . .

Zeev Khanin, an official at Israel’s Immigrant Absorption Ministry, says the average Russian immigrant has changed dramatically since the last mass exodus of Jews from Russia ebbed in the late 1990s. He says newcomers from Russia are significantly younger, more educated, and, as a rule, hail from Moscow or St. Petersburg. “The average education level is on the rise and the number of people with degrees in humanities has increased massively,” said Khanin. “Today’s repatriates are mostly the creative intelligentsia.”

Read more at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

More about: Aliyah, Israel & Zionism, Russia, Russian Jewry, Vladimir Putin

What Is a 2,000-Year-Old Marble Dolphin Doing in the Negev?


The archaeologists who discovered a statue not far from the Gaza border are themselves unsure how it got there, writes Ilan Ben Zion:

Alexander Fraiberg, head archaeologist [of the team that discovered the dolphin], said he believes the sculpture dates to the Roman era, but was incorporated into a later, Byzantine-era paved floor. . . .

“It’s interesting because the statuette was lying face down, so it was impossible to see its appearance,” he said. Experts believe that the dolphin, standing about sixteen inches high, may have been part of a larger sculpture, possibly a life-size statue of a god or goddess. . . .

“The mystery,” said Fraiberg, “is where the statue came from, who destroyed it, when, and under what circumstances, and who brought the piece with the dolphin to the site.”

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Byzantine Empire, History & Ideas, Negev