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


Is Israel Moving to the Right?


Not at all, argues Evelyn Gordon. Despite constant declarations to the contrary, and the evidence of poorly-interpreted polling data, the only political shift Israel is undergoing is leftward. Similarly, and again despite hysterical pronouncements to the contrary, Israel’s Arab population is becoming better integrated into society and suffering from less discrimination than ever before. Gordon explains:

[W]hy do many people nevertheless think that Israel has moved to the right? Presumably due to one seemingly anomalous fact: a change in how Israelis identify themselves. According to the Peace Index, a regular poll begun in 1994, only 12 percent of Israeli Jews self-identified as being on the left this past August, while 62 percent self-identified as being on the right—a dramatic change from the roughly even split of twenty years ago. This change was reflected in the last two Knesset elections, which gave a majority of seats to parties that self-identify as rightist or religious.

But this is misleading; because of the leftward shift of the past twenty years, the term “right” no longer means what it used to. Once, the right opposed any territorial concessions. Today, the right’s acknowledged leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, publicly supports a Palestinian state. Many Israelis, therefore, now see no contradiction between supporting a two-state solution and self-identifying as “right” or voting for a self-identified center-right party such as Likud. . . .

To many Israelis, [however,] the left increasingly looks delusional, because it’s propounding a conclusion that, in their view, contradicts the accumulated experience of the past twenty years. And since most people don’t want to identify themselves as delusional, Israelis are increasingly saying they’re on the right. This, coupled with their desire not to repeat the disastrous territorial pullouts of the past two decades, has also led many to shun parties that explicitly place themselves on the left.

But that doesn’t change the fact that Israelis still overwhelmingly support a two-state solution. Today’s “right-wing” Israel is a country where the majority hold political positions found only among Hadash, the Arab–Jewish Communist party, two decades ago.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli left, Israeli politics, Likud, Two-State Solution

The Grim Fate of Christians under Palestinian Rule


Last year, as part of its effort to seek recognition from international bodies, the Palestinian Authority signed two UN “covenants” that include a commitment to protecting freedom of religion. Nevertheless, as Jessica Owen Payne writes, the PA continues to persecute its Christians,:

[R]esidents of the West Bank are subject to hard labor for life for selling land to an “enemy state or one of its subjects.” . . . Most Palestinians take this to mean that they are forbidden to sell property to any non-Muslim. . . . Palestinian marriages are invalid if they are made between a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man; in the West Bank, that invalidity extends to marriages between a Muslim man and a Jewish or Christian woman. In addition, mothers are able to gain custody of their children if, and only if, they are not apostates from Islam. . . .

Muslims—or converts [to Islam]—in the [Palestinian] territories have full rights to citizenship, but the same cannot be said of those who choose to leave Islam. Although the letter of Palestinian law allows for the adoption or rejection of Islam, converts to another religion end up losing all social and religious protection and can face the loss of property, the nullification of marriage, and, ultimately, . . . the death penalty. In addition, those who identify as secular or atheistic often hide their non-belief under a religious façade to avoid arrest.

Read more at Philos Project

More about: Freedom of Religion, Israel & Zionism, Middle East Christianity, Muslim-Christian relations, Palestinian Authority, West Bank

On Iran, the White House Should Respond Seriously to Netanyahu


Contrary to what critics have claimed, war is not the only alternative to the deal with Iran currently being considered by Washington. Now, Alan Dershowitz argues, the Obama administration is obliged to answer the Israeli prime minister’s proposals for a better deal:

The decision to accept or reject a deal with Iran over its nuclear-weapons program may be the most important foreign-policy issue of the 21st century. Many members of Congress, perhaps most, agree with the prime minister of Israel rather than with the president of the United States on this issue. . . . Perhaps the president can persuade Congress to support this deal, but [his administration] must engage with, rather than ignore, our duly elected representatives of the people. . . .

The administration must now answer one fundamental question: Why would you allow the Iranian regime to develop nuclear weapons in ten years, if at that time they were still exporting terrorism, bullying their Arab neighbors, and threatening to exterminate Israel? Why not, at the very least, condition any “sunset” provision on a change in the actions of this criminal regime? The answer may be that we can’t get them to agree to this condition. If that is the case, then this is indeed a bad deal that is worse than no deal. It would be far better to increase economic sanctions and other pressures than to end them in exchange for a mere postponement of Iran’s obtaining a nuclear arsenal.

There may be better answers, but the ball is now in Obama’s court to provide them, rather than to avoid answering Netanyahu’s reasonable questions with irrelevant answers about “protocol” and personal attacks on the messenger.

Read more at Gatestone

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

How American Schools Teach Moral Relativism


The philosopher Justin P. McBrayer was astounded to learn that his son, currently in the second grade, was being taught a distinction between “facts” and “opinions” that left no room for moral absolutes. Such instruction seems to be endemic to primary and secondary education, and it has corrosive effects:

[S]tudents are taught that claims are either facts or opinions. They are given quizzes in which they must sort claims into one camp or the other but not both. But if a fact is something that is true and an opinion is something that is believed, then many claims will obviously be both. . . .

How does the dichotomy between fact and opinion relate to morality? I learned the answer to this question only after I investigated my son’s homework (and other examples of assignments online). Kids are asked to sort facts from opinions and, without fail, every value claim is labeled as an opinion. . . . The punch-line: there are no moral facts. And if there are no moral facts, then there are no moral truths. . . .

It should not be a surprise [in this light] that there is rampant cheating on college campuses. If we’ve taught our students for twelve years that there is no fact of the matter as to whether cheating is wrong, we can’t very well blame them for doing so later on.

Indeed, in the world beyond grade school, where adults must exercise their moral knowledge and reasoning to conduct themselves in society, the stakes are greater. There, consistency demands that we acknowledge the existence of moral facts. If it’s not true that it’s wrong to murder a cartoonist with whom one disagrees, then how can we be outraged? If there are no truths about what is good or valuable or right, how can we prosecute people for crimes against humanity? If it’s not true that all humans are created equal, then why vote for any political system that doesn’t benefit you over others?

Read more at New York Times

More about: Education, History & Ideas, Morality, Philosophy, Relativism

Lions & Hippos & Bears! Oh My!


A new museum in Israel strives to spread knowledge about the wildlife that once existed in the land and is discussed in the Bible. Orit Arfa writes:

One of the goals of the new museum is to bring Jews back in touch with biblical wildlife, a subject ignored by the people of Israel as they were exiled from the land. . . . But the land of Israel, located at the nexus of Europe, Asia, and Africa, actually occupies a very special place from a zoogeographic perspective. . . .

“It’s our connection to historical Israel,” [says the museum’s director, Natan] Slifkin. “Every nation, every culture, has animals that are part of that culture—animals that appear in its cultural texts and traditions. . . . For the native Americans, it’s the buffalo and wolf. For the aboriginals of Australia, it’s the kangaroo and emu. . . . The people of Israel have lions, leopards, bears, vultures, crocodiles, and hippos. These are not animals from the shtetls of Europe.”

But the animals that figure prominently in the Torah have largely been exiled or killed off, mostly due to deforestation and Roman-era hunting. The last bear in Israel was seen in Nahal Ammud, in the Galilee region, in 1917. Crocodiles lived in a place called Nahal Taninim (Crocodile Creek) until the early 20th century. Today, exactly four leopards walk the Negev desert.

Read more at JNS

More about: Ancient Israel, Animals, Bible, Land of Israel, Religion & Holidays