The Virtues of Empire

 

For the first time since the Ottoman Empire fell, Muslims in the Middle East are free to pursue the same dream that inspired Europe’s nationalists. Next: widespread ethnic cleansing?

Read more at First Things

More about: Ethnic Cleansing, Europe, Genocide, Islamism, Middle East, Nationalism, Ottoman Empire, Syrian civil war, Woodrow Wilson

 

Of All the Countries in the World, Why Is the President Angry at Israel?

 

The Obama administration is once again incensed at Israel, this time ostensibly because Benjamin Netanyahu accepted an invitation to speak to Congress. The real roots of its frustration, writes William Kristol, lie elsewhere:

The Obama White House usually prides itself on not getting angry. Its self-image is that it’s cool, calm, and collected. And it doesn’t get angry at, for example, the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Obama White House understands and appreciates the complexities of the Islamic Republic’s politics and history. It is only with respect to the Jewish state that the Obama White House is impatient, peremptory, and angry.

Why has Obama been lashing out? Because he had a dream. He was to be the American president who would preside at, and take credit for, the founding of a Palestinian state. Obama would be to Palestine what Harry Truman was to Israel. Now it’s clear that’s not going to happen during his presidency. Obama’s frustrated that it’s not going to happen. So he lashes out.

But Obama is still pursuing another dream: to be the American president who goes to Tehran, who achieves with Iran what Richard Nixon achieved with China. And he thinks Israel, and Israel’s friends in the United States, stand in the way of achieving that dream. So he has another reason to be angry.

Of course, it’s not Israel but reality that stands in the way of Obama’s dreams. His [rhetoric and policies] have crashed on the shoals of reality.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Richard Nixon, US-Israel relations

Islamic State Makes Headway in Gaza and the West Bank

 

Two-hundred protesters marched through the streets of Gaza City waving Islamic State (IS) flags in protest of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons. In the West Bank, meanwhile, Israeli security forces arrest members of an IS cell in Hebron. Yet neither Hamas nor Fatah, both of which are threatened by IS, is willing to admit its presence on their territory. Khaled Abu Toameh explains:

Hamas’s biggest fear is that scenes of Islamic State supporters marching in the heart of Gaza City will scare international donors and dissuade them from providing badly needed funds for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. Hamas is also afraid that Western officials working with the United Nations and relief agencies will stop visiting the Gaza Strip after watching the footage of Islamic State supporters. . . .

As for the West Bank:

According to Israeli security sources, dozens of Hamas and Islamic Jihad members in the West Bank have defected to Islamic State in recent months. Their main goal, the sources said, is to topple the PA and launch terror attacks on Israel. . . .

Still, [Mahmoud] Abbas . . . fears that if he admits Islamic State is already operating in the West Bank, this could dissuade many Western countries from supporting his effort to persuade the world to support the creation of an independent Palestinian state. Like Hamas, Abbas also fears that Westerners would stop visiting Ramallah and other West Bank Palestinian cities once they learn about Islamic State’s presence in these areas.

Read more at Gatestone

More about: Hamas, ISIS, Israel & ZIonism, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, West Bank

Saudi Arabia’s New King and His History of Supporting Jihad

 

The newly-crowned King Salman is being heralded in the press as a reformer and a moderate. What about his numerous ties to extremist groups, including al-Qaeda? David A. Weinberg writes:

Salman was the regime’s lead fundraiser for mujahideen, or Islamic holy warriors, in Afghanistan in the 1980s, as well as for Bosnian Muslims during the Balkan struggles of the 1990s. In essence, he served as Saudi Arabia’s financial point man for bolstering fundamentalist proxies in war zones abroad. . . .

Salman was appointed by his full brother and close political ally King Fahd to direct the Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia and Herzegovina (SHC) upon its founding in 1992. . . . By 2001, the organization had collected around $600 million. . . .

And what kind of supervision did Salman exercise over this . . . commission? In 2001, NATO forces raided the SHC’s Sarajevo offices, discovering a treasure trove of terrorist materials: before-and-after photographs of al-Qaeda attacks, instructions on how to fake U.S. State Department badges, and maps marked to highlight government buildings across Washington.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Afghanistan, Bosnia, Jihad, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia, Terrorism

Henry VIII’s Wives, the Talmud, and Westminster Abbey

 

According to Deuteronomy, if a married man dies childless, his brother is obligated to marry the widow—in a union otherwise forbidden. This practice, known as levirate marriage, is the subject of the talmudic tractate Yevamot. (Deuteronomy also prescribes a ritual that can relieve the brother of the obligation.)

Skip forward to 16th-century England. Anxious to obtain a divorce from Catherine of Aragon, previously married to his brother, so that he could marry Ann Boleyn, Henry VIII sought help in an appeal to the finer points of talmudic law. To this end, he ordered a copy of the Bomberg Talmud, the first-ever printed edition, hoping scholars could find an applicable loophole. That was his mistake, as Jeremy Brown writes:

Henry argued that his marriage to Catherine should be dissolved since it was biblically forbidden for a man to marry his sister-in-law. But as we [learn] from tractate Yevamot, the Bible commands a man to marry his widowed sister-in-law if his brother died without children. Since [his brother] Arthur died childless, it could be argued that Henry was now fulfilling the biblical requirement of levirate marriage. . . . If that was the case, the marriage was kosher and could not be dissolved. . . .

[I]t’s a little bit more complicated than that. Behind the scenes were Christian scholars who struggled to reconcile the injunction against a man marrying his sister-in-law, found in one part of the Bible, with the command to do so under specific circumstances, found in another. In fact, the legality of Henry’s marriage [to Catherine] had been in doubt for many years, which is why Henry had obtained the Pope’s special permission to marry.

The bishop of London eventually concocted an argument for nullifying the marriage to Catherine that involved not an appeal to the Talmud but a rejection of papal authority, setting into motion the English Reformation. And now skip forward to the 1950s, when a copy of the Bomberg Talmud was discovered in Westminster Abbey; whether it was the one ordered by Henry VIII remains a subject of debate.

Read more at Seforim

More about: Deuteronomy, Halakhah, Henry VIII, Levirate marriage, Religion & Holidays, Talmud

Natan Sharansky on Jewish Identity and European Anti-Semitism

 

The famed writer and former Soviet dissident, who now chairs the Jewish Agency for Israel, talks about the importance of Jewish nationalism in an allegedly post-nationalist world, Jewish immigration from Western Europe to Israel, the relationship between the new and the old anti-Semitism, and related topics.

Read more at Tikvah Fund

More about: Anti-Semitism, European Jewry, France, Israel & ZIonism, Natan Sharansky, Nationalism