The New Gaza Blockade


Since the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian military has been shutting down the tunnels between Egypt and Gaza—to universal indifference in the international community.

Read more at Via Meadia

More about: Egypt, Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Mohamed Morsi, Palestinians


Why Listen to Netanyahu?


There are several reasons, write Michael Doran and Mike Rogers, among them:

Netanyahu’s speech is the act of a true and courageous friend. All of America’s traditional allies in the Middle East are deeply distrustful of Obama’s outreach to Iran. Allies in Europe and Asia are similarly fearful regarding what they consider to be flagging American resolve in the face of threats from Russia and China. Few allied leaders, however, will express their concerns to the president plainly—even in private—for fear of retribution. When they see the White House treating Netanyahu to a level of hostility usually reserved for adversaries, their trepidation only increases. . . .

[Furthermore, Netanyahu’s] views are reasonable, if not judicious. His opinions about the proposed Iran deal are not idiosyncratic; they are not exclusively Israeli; nor are they extreme. American observers with substantial reputations and with no ax to grind have themselves begun to express similar doubts about the proposed deal. Citing Henry Kissinger and others, the Washington Post editorial board recently wrote that “a process that began with the goal of eliminating Iran’s potential to produce nuclear weapons has evolved into a plan to tolerate and temporarily restrict that capability.”

If the president follows through with such a plan without first subjecting its terms to a rigorous debate in Congress, he will be concluding an agreement that is entirely personal in nature. The legitimacy of such a deal would be hotly contested, rendering it inherently unstable, if not dangerous. By helping to force a more thorough examination of the matter, Netanyahu is therefore performing a service to us all. When a president turns a deaf ear to a good friend bearing an inconvenient message, he works against his own interests, whether he realizes it or not.

Read more at Politico

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Congress, Iranian nuclear program, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy, US-Israel relations

Is It Safe to Be Jewish in Argentina?


The death or likely murder of Alberto Nisman, lead investigator of the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center, is a product of Argentina’s dysfunctional political culture and its ongoing effort to develop closer relations with Iran. But, writes Eamonn MacDonagh, straightforward anti-Semitism also comes into the mix—notwithstanding the fact that foreign minister Héctor Timerman, a driving force behind rapprochement with Iran, is himself Jewish:

Timerman frequently mentions his Jewishness and regards himself as an example of how good things are for Jews in Argentina. In many ways, he’s right about that. He is foreign minister, after all. . . . President [Cristina] Fernández de Kirchner. . . appears to believe that Jewish people are possessed of quasi-magical qualities, making it a good idea to have some of them around. In her initial reaction to Nisman’s death, she asked how anyone could believe that Timerman, who “professes the Jewish faith and is Jewish”—to use her bizarre construction—could possibly have done anything illegal during the negotiations with Iran. Timerman too has never been slow to bring up his Jewish origins whenever the government’s relations with Iran have been questioned. . . .

Nisman was also Jewish, but made no particular fuss about that fact. His enemies, however, never forgot it, and the unceasing flow of death threats he received rarely failed to include a cataract of anti-Semitic abuse. When he went public with grave allegations that the Argentine government had broken the law in order to exculpate the murderers of dozens of its citizens, and had done so through a pact with [Iran,] one of the most anti-Semitic regimes on earth, it didn’t take long for a bullet to end his life.

Read more at Tower

More about: AMIA bombing, Anti-Semitism, Argentina, Cristina Kirchner, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs

Irving Kristol as Jewish Theologian


Irving Kristol, the so-called godfather of neoconservatism, is best known today for his political thought; but he was also deeply preoccupied with questions of religion. Reviewing Kristol’s writings on Jews and Judaism, Tom Wilson notes the underlying connection between the two realms:

[A] great religious obsession spun into all of Kristol’s political writing: the belief that secular liberalism breeds a valueless individualism that necessarily progresses toward moral disorder and even nihilism. Kristol feared that without religion, society would witness a growing discontent with what democratic capitalism can realistically provide. Stripped of any belief in the kind of higher consolation that makes sense of life’s inevitable injustices and humdrum frustrations, the demands that people place on the political system “become as infinite as the infinity they have lost.” Eventually the democratic regime is no longer able to justify or defend itself against the expectations of a citizenry that experiences no spiritual nourishment. Indeed, those expectations become unappeasable in the limitless material improvement that they insist government must provide and that capitalism promises. Without a religious culture, the slide into statism, if not authoritarianism, seems to become irresistible.

Read more at First Things

More about: Democracy, Irving Kristol, Judaism, Mosaic Books, Religion & Holidays, Religion and politics

Israeli National Identity: A Work in Progress


Ran Baratz, founding editor of the conservative Israeli website Mida, speaks about the Iran threat, the condition of Israel’s Arab minority, and Israel’s evolving national character. Criticizing the lingering tendency of his countrymen to identify themselves politically and socially by ideology, degree of religious observance, and other such markers, he is hopeful that these boundaries are eroding. (Interview by Yishai Fleisher; audio, 25 minutes.)

Most Israelis are traditionalists; they love Judaism. . . . Those who have separated themselves from the Israeli nation, and just want to live in a small village with people who are exactly as they are—they will find themselves to be uninfluential. They will just be left behind culturally.

Read more at Voice of Israel

More about: Iranian nuclear program, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli politics, Israeli society, Judaism in Israel

Must Hebrew Shed Its Sanctity to Become a Modern Language?


Yes, argued Hayyim N. Bialik, one of the great poets of the early 20th century. He wanted to “reprogram” Hebrew for mundane use by stripping it of the layers of sacred connotation it had acquired over the centuries. Gershom Scholem, the great scholar of Jewish mysticism, held that to do so was impossible, but he also believed that Hebrew was “fraught with danger” because repressed religious meanings could resurface in unexpected ways. According to Jeffrey Saks, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist S. Y. Agnon showed through his works that Hebrew’s sacred reverberations could be channeled without being discarded:

S.Y. Agnon neither feared Hebrew nor considered that it could be neutralized of its embedded values. Agnon’s magisterial use of the language is a distillation of the dialects of [traditional Torah study] throughout the millennia, . . . [replete with] word plays and allusions to the entirety of the Jewish bookshelf. But that is merely on the aesthetic plane. If contemporary linguistic theory . . . is correct that language is not the reflection of a universal human hard-wiring, but far more culturally specific and determined, . . . anyone committed to the role of Jewish learning in Jewish life ought to re-explore and recommit himself to the pursuit of mastering the Holy Tongue.

Read more at Web Yeshiva

More about: Arts & Culture, Bialik, Gershom Scholem, Language, Modern Hebrew, Modern Hebrew literature, S. Y. Agnon