Three Weeks of Healing

 

The rabbis cited mutual hatred among Jews as the sin responsible for the Second Temple’s destruction. Have Jews learned the lesson?

Read more at Hartman Institute

More about: Mourning, Second Temple, Talmud, Three Weeks

 

The Culture Wars Return to Israeli Politics

 
February 26

As Israel’s major political parties have grown closer on the key issues of security and the economy, other divides are surfacing. These divides, according to Haviv Rettig Gur, hark back to the decades when the left dominated Israel’s government, culture, and society, while the right spoke for the poor, the religious, Mizraḥim, and other non-elite groups. The current electoral campaign suggests that these old cleavages have not disappeared:

[S]upport for the political center-left is concentrated in “large cities,” . . . precisely where Israeli conventional wisdom suggests, while the right is stronger in the geographic and social peripheries, just as it was in [Menachem] Begin’s day. Much has changed over the past five decades, but some of the most basic patterns of Israeli political identity have remained intact.

So when the Likud campaign declares the race to be between “us” and “them,” between patriots and “anti-Zionists,” the explicit personal attack against Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni is only half the story. There is a larger “them” in the right’s political imagination, nebulous, shifting, but undeniably there. Despite ruling Israel for thirteen of the past nineteen years, with Netanyahu himself serving as premier for nine of those, Likud leaders still appeal to the not-yet-forgotten memory of exclusion by that adversary.

Similarly, when the [religious-Zionist] Jewish Home party bases its entire election campaign on the slogan “We don’t apologize anymore,” it too is speaking to this older culture war, the sense that the religious right’s narrative has been shunted aside for too long by the disenfranchising elitism of the left.

These identity politics are less helpful to the left. The party perhaps most clearly identified with socialist politics and a robust welfare state is Meretz, yet Meretz is also the party with arguably the least appeal to the very poor and disenfranchised who loom so large in its ideological narrative. . . . Rightly or wrongly, the party is widely perceived as too secular, too centered on Tel Aviv’s northern suburbs, [and] too Ashkenazi.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics, Likud, Menachem Begin, Meretz, Mizrahi Jewry

 

What a U.S. Court Ruling Means for the Palestinian Authority

 
February 26

On Monday, a federal court ordered the Palestinian Authority and the PLO to pay $655.5 million to ten American families whose relatives were killed in terror attacks in Israel during the second intifada. Grant Rumley writes that the landmark ruling will have a major impact on the PA, and not only because it is already facing financial problems:

[T]his ruling . . . threatens the Palestinians’ convictions that their best weapon against Israel is the international community and specifically the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The PA is itching to get in the court and respond to this early loss by filing suits against Israeli leaders. The recent rhetoric out of Ramallah has focused heavily on blaming Israeli officials for possible war crimes committed this past summer in the Gaza war.

But now that the PA has been found culpable for the actions of even its most loosely-affiliated foot soldiers, questions may arise over whether the PA has the stomach for its ICC strategy. PA President Mahmoud Abbas signed a political agreement with Hamas in April, and a few weeks later the two sides formed a consensus government that was ostensibly charged with governing Gaza shortly before the outbreak of the war. Can Abbas and other PA officials now be held responsible at the ICC for rockets fired by Hamas?

Read more at Business Insider

More about: ICC, Israel & Zionism, Lawfare, Palestinian Authority, PLO, Terrorism

A Flawed Defense of Israel in the Face of the BDS Movement

 
February 26

The Case against Academic Boycotts of Israel is a collection of essays by university scholars pointing out the absurdity of the BDS movement. Avi Woolf notes that, despite the book’s worthy arguments and noble goal, it contains an underlying weakness:

The book’s contributors come almost exclusively from the left and far left, they swear allegiance to liberal and progressive principles, and their points of reference are almost exclusively within that ideological sphere. . . . Eminent scholar Martha Nussbaum’s [mention] of Margaret Thatcher [alongside] Nazi-sympathizer Martin Heidegger as figures worthy of protest or denial of awards is particularly disturbing and indicative of how many left-wingers see all rightists as nothing but a bunch of Nazis.

This ideological blind spot is even more apparent when it comes to treatment of Israel itself. Author after author insists that, contrary to stereotype, Israelis are not a bunch of right-wing or conservative folk. They harp on the liberal atmosphere on [Israeli] university campuses and even talk of the creation of “transnational” or other forms of identity which aren’t—perish the thought—ethnocentric or nationalistic.

The implicit assumption that being conservative or nationalist is inherently bad is not just deeply insulting but also profoundly counterproductive. It makes this protest sound less like a fight for a genuine free marketplace of ideas and more of a cry of “shun them, not us—we’re the good guys!”—a protest that rings hollow and has a whiff of hypocrisy.

Read more at Mida

More about: Academia, BDS, Israel & Zionism, Margaret Thatcher, Martha Nussbaum

Mark Rothko: Jewish Yale Dropout

 
February 26

The modernist painter Mark Rothko, born Marcus Rothkowitz, came with his family from Russia to Portland, Oregon as a child. Academic success in high school won him a scholarship to Yale, where, in the early 1920s, he and other Jewish students confronted anti-Semitism and social exclusion. Unhappy, he left after two years, but during his time there he founded a journal that mocked the pretensions of Yale’s blue-blooded elite. Annie Cohen-Solal writes:

[Rothko] stressed the fact that Yale students worshiped an idol they had themselves built and that dictated their behavior, diverting them from essential values (work, truth, and friendship). “False gods! Idols of clay!” he exclaimed. “There is only one way to smash them, and that is a revolution in mind and spirit in the student body at Yale University. Let us doubt. Let us think. . . .” Describing this adoration of the golden calf, Rothko blacklisted five deceitful “false gods”: athletics, extracurricular activities, social success (by way of the fraternities), the opinion of the majority, and grades. He also criticized the superficial and fake behaviors—flattery and hero worship—that all too often ruled campus relationships. But he reserved his most vehement criticism for fraternities, athletes, pompous academics, and the submissive majority.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Anti-Semitism, Art, Arts & Culture, Mark Rothko, Yale

Radical Islam Is Not Solely Responsible for Contemporary European Anti-Semitism

 
February 26

Although the murders of Jews in recent attacks in Paris and Copenhagen were clearly motivated by jihadist ideology, they were abetted, writes Emanuele Ottolenghi, by a deep-seated, European culture of Israel-related anti-Semitism:

Fanned by an obsessive and irrational hatred for Israel, a significant part of the progressive press and commentariat in Western Europe has laid the blame for unrest in the Middle East squarely at Israel’s door, often choosing to downplay, ignore, and effectively excuse Palestinian atrocities. Their near-monopoly over the press and airwaves has pushed the dial of public opinion accordingly.

[Europeans’] obsession with Israel has often led them to explain away physical and verbal abuse, or even murder, of their own Jewish citizens as a lamentable but understandable byproduct of Muslim and Arab rage at “Israeli policies.” Never mind that European Jews have no say in Israeli policies; never mind that no one would ever justify anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment on account of what Arab governments or Islamic movements perpetrate, daily, across Arab lands and the Islamic world; and never mind that Israeli policies are often milder, by comparison, than what Western governments do in similar circumstances.

Read more at Standpoint

More about: Anti-Semitism, Charlie Hebdo, European Islam, Jewish world, Radical Islam