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


Why the U.S. And Israel Should Back the Creation of an Autonomous Druze Region


Israeli Druze have been petitioning the government to help their coreligionists in Syria, who are caught between Islamic State (IS) and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front. Yoram Hazony and Ofir Haivry argue that both the U.S. and Israel should indeed help the Druze, on strategic as well as moral grounds:

As the majority population along large stretches of the Syrian frontier with both Jordan and Israel, the Druze, like the Kurds in the north, have something significant to offer in exchange for Western assistance in attaining self-government and the capacity to defend their people. Neither Israel nor Jordan has tolerable options at the moment with respect to the future disposition of their northern border. Whether it is Iran and Hizballah or a Salafist Sunni regime dominated by al-Qaeda or IS that ultimately consolidates control over this frontier, it is clear that these pro-Western governments will eventually face a formidable and determined terrorist enemy to their north.

At the moment, the only realistic alternative to these outcomes would appear to be the creation of an autonomous and perhaps ultimately independent Druze region: one that will have the resources to defend itself, to absorb persecuted Druze from [areas of northern Syria currently occupied by Nusra Front], and, in collaboration with other elements in the region, to serve as a forward defensive line for Jordan and Israel, and for the West more generally. The Druze appear to have both the potential and the motivation to field a force several times larger than the few thousand fighters that the West has been dreaming about for southern Syria, so far without success. But Western leaders have for the most part maintained a thunderous silence. As yet another minority people in Syria and Iraq faces destruction, the ball is again in our court.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Druze, Hizballah, ISIS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Nusra Front, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy

Declining Support for Israel among Democrats? Not to Worry


The pollster Frank Luntz recently published his findings that the Democratic party’s “opinion elites” have markedly less positive attitudes toward Israel than their Republican counterparts. However, argues William Jacobson, they do not represent the party as a whole:

If there were a sea change [in American attitudes toward Israel], one would expect to see a change in broad-based national surveys such as [those] by Gallup, which has been asking the same questions for decades.

What Gallup shows is that support for Israel among the U.S. population is near all-time highs. In polling released in February 2015, after the effects of the 2014 Gaza conflict would have been factored into public opinion and when the Obama-Netanyahu dispute was blossoming, Gallup polling showed overwhelming support for Israel.

Gallup showed that there had been a drop in Democratic support for Israel versus the Palestinians from the prior year, but that support for Israel merely dropped back to historical levels of support seen in the 2006-2010 time period. Moreover, support for Israel versus the Palestinians was substantially higher than in the 1990s. . . . So Gallup surveying does not reflect any broad national turn against Israel, and at worst a return by Democrats to levels seen just a couple of years earlier. . . .

If Israel were losing support among Democrats, we also would expect it to show up in the political process. But among Democratic lawmakers, there is no visible drop in support for Israel, even if there was consternation over Netanyahu’s visit to Congress.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Democrats, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, US-Israel relations


What Alberto Nisman’s Wiretaps Reveal about Backdoor Dealings between Iran and Argentina


In the course of his investigation of Hizballah’s 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, the Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who died in mysterious circumstances in January, obtained extensive copies of wiretapped phone calls. Eamonn MacDonagh writes that the recordings present damning evidence of individuals with close ties to the Argentinian and Iranian governments discussing ways the former could cover up the role of the latter in the attack:

In both political and legal terms, the government’s response to the release of the recordings . . . has been both simple and successful. The government claims that the conversations are just the ramblings of political nobodies, people with no influence or role at the highest levels of the state, and that the very idea of them conducting back-channel negotiations with Iran is absurd.

This defense, successful though it has been, includes a rather obvious weakness: if one wanted to set up a back-channel negotiation with a foreign power, then who better to do so than [those who were recorded]? They provide the resource most coveted by governments everywhere that get involved in illicit activities—deniability.

Had even the most basic steps to investigate Nisman’s complaint been taken, it would have been easy to find [more conclusive information]. . . . But nothing like that is going to happen now, at least while the current Argentine government remains in power and even afterward, until its loyalists placed in the legal system have been removed or they resign. With Nisman dead, the driving force behind the investigation into the AMIA attack and the cover-up that followed has been removed from the scene. . . .

There is unlikely to be any justice for the AMIA dead, or for Nisman, either, until their cases are internationalized. . . . The least that could be done . . . is to make it impossible for Argentina’s next president and future ministers to have normal relations with democratic nations without the AMIA issue and the death of Nisman being raised at every opportunity. This would at least have the effect of keeping up the morale of those inside Argentina who continue to struggle for justice, while waiting for the political circumstances that will allow justice to be done.

Read more at Tower

More about: Alberto Nisman, AMIA bombing, Argentina, Hizballah, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs

To Combat Anti-Semitism, Universities Must First Define It


As anti-Semitism on college campuses rises, the perpetrators often hide behind the claim that they are merely criticizing Israeli policies. Thus, argues Kenneth Marcus, if universities wish to oppose anti-Semitism, they must be able to identify it:

Definitions are especially important for contemporary anti-Semitism, because confusion surrounds the relationship between the hatred of Jews and animosity toward Israel. . . . Good definitions not only educate us about how quickly discourse can slip, even unwittingly, into dark corners, but they also foster legitimate intellectual exchanges by increasing awareness about where lines are drawn. This serves the academic interest in robust debate that is central to a university’s mission.

The State Department provides useful examples to understand when conduct is anti-Semitic. The Department uses the . . . “3D test” [coined by Natan Sharansky]. Actions may generally be identified as anti-Semitic when they demonize Israel, delegitimize Israel, or subject Israel to double standards. . . .

As with any standard, the State Department definition should be used judiciously. . . . To say that an incident is hateful is not necessarily to conclude that it must be banned. In some cases, the First Amendment requires public universities to permit bigoted speech. Even then, however, it is important to recognize this speech for what it is.

Read more at JNS

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, Jewish world, Natan Sharansky, State Department, University

How Richard Nixon Brought Church Services to the White House


After his election to the presidency, Richard Nixon made the unprecedented move of holding formal church services in the White House. Kevin Kruse describes them:

The semi-regular services took place in the East Room, a showcase space noted for its sparkling chandeliers and gold silk tapestries. Instead of pews, oak dining-room chairs with seats of yellow brocade were arranged in rows of twenty. A piano and an electric organ, donated to the White House by a friendly merchant, were positioned at the north end of the room, with space to the side for a rotating cast of choirs to perform. Between them stood a mahogany podium where the president and the “pastor-of-the-day” would make remarks.

Not surprisingly, the new practice had its critics, including one of the country’s most prominent theologians:

Reinhold Niebuhr . . . penned a scathing critique titled “The King’s Chapel and the King’s Court.” The Founding Fathers expressly prohibited establishment of a national religion, he wrote, because they knew from experience that “a combination of religious sanctity and political power represents a heady mixture for status-quo conservatism.” In creating a “kind of sanctuary” in the East Room, Nixon committed the very sin the Founders had sought to avoid. “By a curious combination of innocence and guile, he has circumvented the Bill of Rights’ first article,” Niebuhr charged. . . . “It is wonderful what a simple White House invitation will do to dull the critical faculties, thereby confirming the fears of the Founding Fathers.”

Read more at Religion and Politics

More about: First Amendment, History & Ideas, Reinhold Niebuhr, Religion and politics, Richard Nixon