Paris: Where Whistle-Blowing Is a Crime


Did the IDF deliberately murder a defenseless Palestinian child in 2000? A French media analyst has been convicted of defamation for maintaining that French television staged the video.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: France, France 2, IDF, Israel, Palestinians, Philippe Karsenty, Second Intifada


A Nuclear Deal with Iran Will Not Strengthen Its Supposed Moderates


Citing as a model Richard Nixon’s negotiations with China, which allegedly helped secure the triumph of Deng Xiaoping over hardcore Maoists, supporters of détente with Tehran have argued that the proposed June 30 deal will encourage friendly forces within that regime. Michael Rubin points out the flaws in this argument:

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have predicated outreach to Iran on the idea that rapprochement will strengthen the hand of the moderates against Iran’s implacable ideologues. In a sense, the White House believes it has found a Deng Xiaoping moment in which support for pragmatists can marginalize hardliners permanently and enhance security and cooperation between former adversaries.

Their logic is wrong on three counts. First, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani is no moderate. . . . Second, even if a deal bolsters Rouhani’s popularity, he remains marginal on questions relating to Iranian nuclear policy today. In the Islamic Republic, the president is about style, the supreme leader about substance. . . . And, third, the China model may not be all that it’s cracked up to be. China never joined the West or embraced global peace and tolerance, but rather used its newfound wealth to build a first-world military and bully not only its neighbors but also the United States. Enriching and empowering enemies never works unless, of course, the goal is to lessen the relative power and position of the United States.

Read more at Fox News

More about: China, Hassan Rouhani, Iran nuclear program, John Kerry, Politics & Current Affairs, Richard Nixon


How Israel’s Withdrawal from Lebanon Gave Rise to Today’s Middle East


Fifteen years ago last Sunday, Israel announced its unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon, ending an eighteen-year war. The move emboldened Israel’s enemy, Hizballah, and provided a model for terrorists throughout the region, writes Mitch Ginsburg:

At the time [of the withdrawal] there seemed to be a problem—that the war was killing more Israelis than it was saving, roughly two-dozen soldiers per year on average—and it seemed that the problem could be solved by retreating. . . .

Yossi Kuperwasser . . . was, in May 2000, the chief intelligence officer of the IDF central command. Hizballah’s ability to oust Israel from Lebanon, he said, was “wind in the sails” of the Palestinian militant groups in the West Bank, which, four months later, launched the bloody second intifada.

Palestinians, he said, would tell him often that two-dozen dead soldiers a year for several years in a row was an attainable goal for the Palestinian groups if it proved sufficient to pry Israel off certain parcels of land. He said he would always tell his Palestinian peers that there was a big difference between the West Bank—the land of the Bible, . . . in which Israel had built civilian settlements—and Lebanon, which was neither settled nor part of the promised land.

Today Hizballah is considered by many to be the strongest non-state actor in the world. It has upward of 100,000 rockets in its possession and veto power in Lebanon’s national government. Would it have reached this position without an Israeli withdrawal? Would the second Lebanon war [in 2006] have been necessary?

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: First Lebanon War, Hamas, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Second Intifada, Second Lebanon War

Has Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Declared War on Modern Orthodoxy?


Shlomo Riskin, a leading figure in Modern Orthodoxy, has held the position of rabbi of Efrat for over 30 years. The Israeli chief rabbinate is now trying to force him from his post, as David M. Weinberg writes:

[The chief rabbinate] is taking advantage of a never-before-used loophole to “review” Rabbi Riskin’s tenure at seventy-five, and threatening to deny him the automatic five-year extension as city rabbi that he richly deserves.

It’s true that Riskin is a maverick religious leader, who has been willing to push the envelope of accepted public policy beyond conventional thinking within Orthodox circles. He has been a critic of the chief rabbinate and the rabbinical courts on various issues, including its policies on marriage, divorce, and conversion. More than that, he has established independent conversion courts and appointed women to formal positions as spiritual advisers.

Yet Riskin’s approach always has been one of pleasantness. He moves cautiously and civilly, always watchful to respect his senior colleagues and careful to anchor his moves within valid halakhic boundaries. Even those who disagree with him have no cause or right to strike at him so brutally. At most, they should continue to debate and challenge him. . . .

Crushing him will be considered open warfare against Modern Orthodoxy and religious Zionism—and I expect that those communities will fight back. They will fight back by doing the one thing they have debated and debated and so not wanted to do, and until now have tried to avoid: support the dismantling of the state rabbinate. But a nasty and radical rabbinate that humiliates Rabbi Riskin will have lost its legitimacy.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Haredim, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Chief Rabbinate, Modern Orthodoxy, Religious Zionism


Léon Blum: The Jewish Prime Minister of France Who Wanted to Fight Hitler


The socialist (and anti-Soviet) politician Léon Blum was France’s first Jewish prime minister from 1936 to 1938. After Paris fell to the Nazis in 1940, Blum was one of a small group of parliamentarians who wanted France to keep fighting. He was promptly imprisoned by the Vichy regime. In April 1943, he was deported to Buchenwald and from there to Dachau, but survived the war and briefly returned to French politics. Herewith, an excerpt from a new biography by Pierre Birnbaum:

In a way, Vichy represented the nationalist right’s revenge for the Dreyfus affair. Only 34 years separated the end of the affair from the birth of Vichy, and any number of frustrated anti-Semites from the Dreyfus years . . . were still active. They had not changed one bit. They still called for Jews to be expelled from government and the public arena, as well as excluded from most professions and stripped of civil rights. All Jews [employed by the government]—be they deputies or senators, state councilors, judges, prefects, military officers, or teachers—were dismissed from public service. Vichy answered the prayers of the most zealous anti-Dreyfusards: the Jewish statute of October 4, 1940, one of the very first measures taken by Vichy, made the government of France judenrein.

Blum and many of his closest friends from the [French parliament], such as Paul Grunebaum-Ballin, were affected. A small number protested vehemently, insisting that their families had been French for generations, that their parents had made sacrifices in France’s wars, that they themselves had been decorated in World War I and had always served France loyally. They wrote to Marshal Pétain, [the ruler of Vichy], whom many had met in the course of their careers, asking that he intervene to prevent the Jewish statute from being applied to them and later asking him to block their deportation—all in vain. Blum, certain of his rights and his legitimacy and unafraid of reprisals, refrained from protesting his arrest or requesting special treatment. He courageously defended his actions as prime minister as well as his Jewish identity, which he never tried to hide.

Read more at Tablet

More about: French Jewry, History & Ideas, Leon Blum, Socialism, Vichy France, World War II

Lady Stanhope, the British Eccentric Who Brought Archaeology to the Land of Israel


Hester Stanhope (1776-1806), who came from a wealthy, aristocratic British family, served early in her life as a chief-of-staff of sorts to Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger. She then left England for the Middle East, where she was the first to convince the Ottoman rulers to allow archaeological excavation in the land of Israel. Shirly Seidler writes (free registration required):

Stanhope was an adventurer who often scandalized people, but always got her way. In the early 19th century, she did everything women weren’t supposed to do: roamed the Middle East by herself, wore male clothing, rode astride rather than sidesaddle, and smoked pipes with sheikhs. She was called the queen of the desert. And even though she didn’t find the treasure she sought, she was an archaeological pioneer. . . .

[Stanhope] reached Lebanon . . . in 1812. There, she visited the Mar Elias monastery near Sidon, where the monks showed her an Italian scroll that told of a great treasure buried in Ashkelon in Palestine. Stanhope promptly decided to hunt for the treasure.

When she asked . . . for a permit to dig in Ashkelon, [the Ottoman authorities] initially refused, because that was an era when Western archaeologists routinely stole antiquities for Western museums. But after Stanhope promised to give them the treasure if she found it, the Ottoman authorities grew enthusiastic and ordered the governors of Damascus, Acre, and Jaffa to assist her.

“You have to understand that there was no archaeology in the land of Israel until the 1920s,” explains [the historian Gad] Sobol. “But suddenly, along comes a woman dressed like a man, riding a horse, who enters Damascus and gets what she wants. . . . After Lady Stanhope, the Ottomans no longer feared archaeologists.”

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Archaeology, Britain, History & Ideas, Land of Israel, Ottoman Empire