The rabbis cited mutual hatred among Jews as the sin responsible for the Second Temple’s destruction. Have Jews learned the lesson?
The recent string of terror attacks in Egypt suggests that President Sisi’s extended crackdown has had little success, and that the jihadists are growing stronger. Elliott Abrams comments on the implications for Egypt, and for Israel:
The Egyptian army has given no evidence that it knows how to combat the terrorists effectively. [And] the terrorists are getting better at it. Last year they appeared as a ragtag bunch holding Kalashnikovs. . . . Now they have attacked several targets in one day in a well-coordinated movement, they wear uniforms, and they have more advanced equipment such as anti-tank missiles. This is the Islamic State [as] we have come to know [it] in Iraq.
There are [also] connections between the terrorists in Sinai and Hamas in Gaza. There are accusations that Hamas has done some training of these jihadists in Sinai, has provided them with funds, and has given medical treatment to wounded jihadists in Gaza hospitals.
Israelis know that developments in Sinai will present threats to Israel sooner rather than later. One must hope that in addition to protecting their border, the Israelis are giving the Egyptians some advice on counter-terror strategies. President Sisi’s overall strategy is a blunt one: repression. It is not going to work—in Sinai or anywhere in Egypt. This is partly because the targets of repression are not only the terrorists but any critics of the government. The government of Egypt now has about 40,000 political prisoners, and it is crushing all political activity—moderate, secular, liberal, democratic as well as extremist. That’s a formula for instability in the medium and perhaps even short term.
Tuvia Tenenbom, an Israeli-born journalist and playwright who spent much of his adult life living abroad, returned to Israel posing as a German journalist and talking to Palestinian politicians, foreign journalists, left-wing Israeli activists and intellectuals, and European NGOs. The things they said to him are included in his recent book, Catch the Jew! Jonathan Neumann writes in his review:
But it is [Tenenbom’s] encounters with . . . anonymous individuals and [the members of an] an array of non-governmental organizations that are most illuminating. There’s the Holocaust denier from the Israeli human-rights group B’Tselem. There’s the British journalist in the Golan Heights who tries, under the guise of objective reporting, to convince a reluctant Druze to condemn Israel. Staffers from the Arab human-rights organization Adalah and from Rabbis for Human Rights carefully choreograph what they show visitors (they’ll show only what looks like Arab hardship, but do their utmost to prevent a visitor from seeing real Arab life). Officials at the International Committee of the Red Cross and United Nations Relief and Works Agency condemn Israel on the basis of their reading of international law while encouraging Arab aspirations to destroy the Jewish state. . . .
What is perhaps most remarkable is that the book recounts only what these interlocutors are happy to tell journalists, for at all times they know Tenenbom is a journalist and appreciate that everything they say and do is on the record (even if they’re unaware where and how it will be publicized). This tells us how rarely they must meet reporters prepared to scrutinize them. But it also invites the reader to imagine what they are not saying—what they actually believe and hope in their heart of hearts.
Jessamyn Hope’s Safekeeping tells the story of a young man who, trying to escape his troubled life, sets off to live at a kibbutz once inhabited by his grandfather. Writes Liel Leibovitz:
Suicide bombings and peace talks, socialism and its decline, pogroms and the Holocaust—all vibrate beneath the surface, violent reminders of just how fragile and fleeting our time on the planet truly is. People perish, sometimes by their own design, sometimes at the hands of others; the only thing that is indestructible is [an heirloom brooch bequeathed to the main character by his grandfather], an elegant stand-in for all of Jewish history, beautiful and built to last even when the humans who pin it to their chests are not.
Not that the humans aren’t trying. Even in their darkest moments, Hope’s characters still appeal to higher powers, begging for the strength to persevere. Some look to politics, some to family lore, some to dogma. But Judaism being a religion of a thousand stubborn inquiries, a faith shaped by skeptics, the men and women of Hope’s kibbutz all discover that their convictions can only take them so far, and that none, even the steeliest, can survive the jolt we get when we finally overcome our most selfish urges and open up to others. In a climate like ours, with communal conversations too often governed by the censorious and the shrill, we’ll take all the empathy and warmth we can get.
So claims a recent New York Times article, citing data to the effect that since 9/11, the former have killed more Americans than have the latter. Megan McArdle pokes some holes in this accounting:
I find it very hard to understand why [many] cases were included, except to pad out the count of “deadly right-wing attacks.” Presumably we are looking for political terror for a political purpose, not every violent crime by a Muslim or a right-winger. This means the acts must include some amount of premeditation, some intent to pursue an ideology, not a flash shootout precipitated by a completely unrelated event, like beating your wife or getting your utilities shut off. . . .
[O]nce you start throwing in the gray cases on the right-wing side, shouldn’t we be similarly permissive on the Islamic-terror side? In prison, one of the Beltway snipers penned rambling anti-American screeds in which the Baltimore Sun said that “the most recurring theme is that of jihad . . . against America.” The Beltway snipers killed ten people, which all by itself would bring the number of jihadist killings up to 36. Then the story becomes less “right-wing terror is much more dangerous than jihad” and more “Muslim terrorists have killed some people in the United States, and other kinds of ideological murderers have, too.” . . .
The parameters these particular researchers chose might not be the criteria you would use; they are certainly not the ones that I would have chosen. And even if you agree that these are absolutely the right and proper numbers, that still doesn’t tell us that right-wing terror is more dangerous to us, the living, than to the people during the time period they studied. To know that, you would need to know who remains out there, plotting dark things.
For jihadists, the holy month of Ramadan is a particularly propitious time for terrorism—a fact that might explain the recent rash of attacks. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) explains:
The month of Ramadan, a month of fasting, has a special status as a month of religious spirituality and devotion. However, in the Muslim tradition it is also perceived as a month of jihad and martyrdom, a month in which Allah grants military victories to believers. It was during Ramadan that Muslims triumphed in many of their battles, among them the battle of Badr in 624 between supporters of Muhammad and a merchant caravan of the Quraysh tribe; the conquest of Mecca in 630 and of Andalusia in 711; the battle of al-Zallaqa in 1086, in which Spanish Muslims defeated the Castilians near the city of Badajoz on today’s Portuguese border; and the Yom Kippur war.
Given the historic religious and military significance of Ramadan, Islamist and jihadist groups, and sometimes also mainstream Arab organizations and Arab media, escalate incitement to jihad and martyrdom during this month.