These Honored Dead

 

The battle at Gettysburg took place 150 years ago: a blink of an eye in the millennia since Sinai. Such uncanny intimacy with the far past is what Jewish culture brings to American history.

Read more at Forward

More about: American Civil War, American Jewish Heritage Month, American Jewish History, Gettysburg, July 4

 

The Racism of Anti-Zionism

 
November 21

Left-wing politicians, academics, and the mainstream media have responded to the recent wave of terrorist attacks in Israel by attempting to justify or excuse them. In doing so, they reveal a fundamentally racist view of Arabs, writes Alan Johnson:

At the heart of [anti-Zionist] ideology is a deeply buried, often unconscious assumption about the dichotomous natures of Israelis and Palestinians that warps our understanding of the conflict. Here it is: Palestinians (and Arabs in general) do not have agency and choice, and so cannot be held accountable and responsible. Israelis do and can—always, and exclusively. Palestinians are understood as a driven people, dominated by circumstance and emotion, lacking choice, below the age of responsibility, never to be held accountable. Israelis are the opposite: masters of all circumstances, rational and calculating, the root cause of everything, responsible for everything.

It is, palpably, an Orientalist view of the Palestinians as the Other, except this time they are affirmed as noble savages. It’s a bit racist, to be honest.

Read more at Telegraph

More about: Anti-Zionism, Palestinians, Racism

Hacking the Ayatollahs

 
November 21

In 2010, computer security experts started detecting the Stuxnet virus spreading rapidly across the Internet. Mysteriously, its complex code seemed to do nothing but further distribute the virus—until it encountered software used by the Iranian nuclear-weapons program, where it proceeded to interfere with the operation of centrifuges. Kim Zetter’s book reconstructing the story of Stuxnet, and examining its implications, is reviewed by Gabriel Schoenfeld:

Zetter marshals evidence suggesting that these high jinks slowed down Iran’s nuclear effort. It is not a criticism of her book to note that this assessment, like many of its observations and conclusions, is at best well-informed conjecture. [The covert operation that created Stuxnet] remains shrouded in secrecy. The interviews and public sources upon which Zetter draws yield no definitive information. Perhaps only the Iranians themselves know for certain what happened, and they are not telling.

Whatever Stuxnet did or did not accomplish, [Zetter’s book] has the virtue of putting the attack into a broader context. The epoch of cyber warfare inaugurated by Stuxnet promises to be no less unnerving than the nuclear-weapons age that began in 1945. The problem is familiar: What goes around comes around. We may hope that the virus damaged the ayatollahs’ nuclear program, but given the degree to which Internet connectivity has expanded into every corner of American life, we ourselves are susceptible to attack by the same kind of stealth weapon.

Read more at Hudson Institute

More about: Cyberwarfare, Iranian nuclear program, Mossad, Stuxnet

The U.S. Should Be Helping Egypt Fight Terror, Not Punishing It

 
November 21

The U.S. has withheld military aid from Egypt this year, in part as a response to repressive measures taken against terrorist groups in the Sinai. While the U.S. is right to be concerned about human rights in Egypt, argue David Schenker and Eric Trager, American interests would be best served by helping and not hindering Egypt in its war on terror:

[S]ecurity—not democracy—is the top priority for a critical mass of Egyptians, who view their military’s Sinai campaign as vital for defeating domestic terrorism and avoiding the chaotic regional trend. Given the deadly nature of the threats Egyptians face, Western condemnation of the military’s tactics in Sinai will invariably be interpreted as hostile. For this reason, if the U.S. wants Egypt to fight terrorists in Sinai with greater consideration for human rights—and, more importantly, with greater effectiveness—Washington should act as a partner, rather than a sideline player.

At a minimum, a real partnership would necessitate the administration taking steps to ensure that counterterrorism-related military materiel is provided to Egypt without undue delay. The interminable postponement this year of the delivery of 10 Apache helicopters not only frustrated Cairo and stressed the bilateral relationship; it undermined the Sinai counterterrorism campaign. Withholding this type of critical equipment serves neither Egyptian nor Israeli nor U.S. regional interests. Beyond the timely supply of weapons systems and ammunition, the U.S. could provide the Egyptian military with technical assistance—and perhaps disclose operational intelligence for targeting—to help minimize collateral damage in the Sinai.

Read more at Washington Institute

More about: Egypt, Gaza, Muslim Brotherhood, Sinai Peninsula, U.S. Foreign policy, War on Terror

 

Understanding the Torah’s Take on Eating Meat and Sacrifice

 
November 21

The biblical commandments concerning ritual sacrifice mandate close contact between the one bringing the sacrifice and the animal being sacrificed; the ritual is usually followed by the ceremonial eating of the animal. In our society, however, such close contact between eater and eaten is very rare. Yet, to appreciate the Torah’s teachings, Barry Kornblau argues, we must understand this presupposition of intimacy:

A korban shlamim (a “perfected peace offering”) . . . represents the Torah’s ideal of meat consumption: public for all to see; during the day when all can see; holy place, holy priests; fostering an immediate eater/animal connection at the time of slaughter; great attention to the animal’s blood life-force; sharing the meal with God. . . . Reflecting the natural human familiarity with animals of a bygone era, . . . the Torah assumes our ability to look our meal in the eye, slaughter it fully aware of the gravity of taking an animal life, and then eat it. It prefers, indeed, that such slaughter take place in broad daylight, in public, with the owner’s hands on his meal as he utters praises of God, and in as sanctified a manner possible.

Although such a method is not, alas, presently required of us in the absence of the Temple, I nonetheless believe that . . . Jews who eat meat “amidst wealth and plenty” and enjoy high educational levels have a special obligation to look past the Styrofoam and plastic in which we buy meat and eggs.

Read more at Torah Musings

More about: Judaism, Leviticus, Sacrifice, Vegetarianism

Christians Try to Get Their Sabbath Back

 
November 21

Due to economic and technological changes, Sundays are ceasing to be the day of rest they once were for most Americans, regardless of religious affiliation. In response, there has been renewed interest among Christian thinkers in reviving and restoring Sabbath observance—something Jews never lost. Benjamin J. Dueholm writes:

Foreshadowed in the creation story, God’s command to rest sets Israel apart from the Exodus onward. It is a costly command. The people, their foreign residents, and even the animals must rest. The land must rest. The widow must be released from her debt—at least for the length of a night’s sleep—and from the incessant demand to work in repaying it. Isaiah rails against the abuse of the Sabbath to gain competitive advantage, which undermines the ability of anyone to enjoy rest. This mandated idleness—15 percent of life—was so costly that it had to be general and it had to be enforced with fierce penalties. But these costs all underscore the drastic, unyielding, world-shaking claim that life—even the life of an ox—is in some sense its own end and not an instrument. Idleness is sacred in the Bible because it identifies the world with a living God whose greatest gift is rest and who rescued the people from slavery in a land where no rest was allowed. . . .

“The Sabbath,” writes Abraham Joshua Heschel, “is a day for the sake of life.” And this tradition—Heschel calls it a “palace in time”—that Judaism fought so hard to preserve set up outposts in the rest of life. These outposts are what the war on leisure is dismantling. And churches—by hoping, urging, or demanding that the faithful cut back on their commitment to travel hockey leagues—risk becoming mere bystanders. The ethos of the Sabbath goes much deeper than an individual commitment to prioritize worship. It includes all of those sacred practices, both affirmations and prohibitions, that have been kept alive in Judaism and are being fitfully recovered by Christians.

Read more at Christian Century

More about: Abraham Joshua Heschel, Christianity, Judaism, Shabbat