Will Egypt Implode?


The struggle in Cairo is not about the future of Egyptian democracy; it is the desperate flailing of a revolutionary movement with no agenda beyond rage and dissatisfaction.

Read more at Via Meadia

More about: Democracy, Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, Revolution


The Folly of Applying Cold-War Lessons to Nuclear Talks with Iran


Pursuing a changed relationship with the United States, Mikhail Gorbachev eventually made the major concession of allowing inspectors into Soviet nuclear facilities. Iran, Michael Mandelbaum writes, is quite a different case:

As the result of Gorbachev’s policies, the Soviet-American rivalry was ebbing. Because the Soviet government sought better relations with the United States, it cooperated with the inspectors. The Iranian government cannot be counted on to adopt a similar attitude: while it is seeking relief from internationally-imposed economic sanctions, unlike Gorbachev it does not want to improve its relationship to the United States. Unlike Gorbachev, it shows no sign of reconsidering, let alone discontinuing, the policies that have put it at odds with America.

During the cold war, American arms-control policy was linked to Soviet foreign policy. When that policy waxed aggressive, it became politically impossible to gain the necessary political support in the United States for an arms-control accord. . . . The Obama approach to the Iranian nuclear program has had, if anything, the opposite effect. As the negotiations have proceeded, the Iranian regime has expanded rather than pulled back from the initiatives that threaten the security of countries aligned with the United States. . . . Iran also continues to proclaim its intention to destroy Israel, a project that an Iranian nuclear arsenal would make horrifically feasible. By the terms of the agreement that have been revealed thus far, Iran will get relief from economic sanctions without having to modify any of these policies. . . .

Even if the talks do produce an accord that all parties sign, with the resulting removal of economic sanctions and with the theoretical option to re-impose them being almost certainly unworkable in practice, the mullahs will have no incentive other than the threat of bombardment to exercise nuclear restraint. . . . Asserting [as many do] that the United States should not stop the Iranian program by force because that will only buy time is like saying that medical care is pointless because everyone ultimately dies.

Read more at American Interest

More about: Iran nuclear program, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nuclear proliferation, Politics & Current Affairs, Soviet Union, U.S. Foreign policy


Cristina Kirchner’s Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theory


In a recent article, complemented by a series of tweets, Argentinian president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner laid out the theory that the state prosecutor Alberto Nisman, tasked with investigating the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center, was murdered by a Jewish conspiracy aligned against her. Her theory involves an American Jewish investor engaged in a longstanding dispute with Argentina over unpaid debts, a Washington think tank, and Argentina’s central Jewish communal organization. Ben Cohen writes:

In common with many of today’s anti-Semitic rants, Kirchner didn’t mention the word “Jew” in either her article or in a bizarre series of tweets. . . . But the underlying meaning was crystal clear.

Given the flimsy connections [that tie together Kirchner’s theory]—grounded not on concrete evidence but on the anti-Semitic assumption that Jews who involve themselves in international affairs do so with a hidden agenda—it is hardly surprising that Nisman’s case against the Argentine government has been summarily dismissed in the wake of his death. Yesterday, the pro-Kirchner prosecutor Javier de Luca announced that he would not be pursuing Nisman’s complaint against the government. For good measure, de Luca added that German Moldes, another prosecutor who argued that Nisman’s complaint merited a federal investigation, was a “gangster.”

Read more at Tower

More about: Alberto Nisman, AMIA bombing, Anti-Semitism, Argentina, Cristina Kirchner, Politics & Current Affairs

M.H. Abrams: A Pioneering Jewish Professor of English Literature


M. H. Abrams, who passed away on Wednesday, was the last surviving member of a “pioneering generation” of American Jewish literary scholars whose university careers began when the academic field of English literature was still largely off-limits to Jews. Adam Kirsch writes (2012):

Meyer Howard Abrams was born in 1912 in Long Branch, N.J., the son of immigrants from Eastern Europe. Until he started school at age five . . . he spoke only Yiddish, though his knowledge of the language has faded. His father, a house painter, was an Orthodox Jew, while his mother only “played along” at religious observance. While he and his younger brother . . . went to Hebrew school, Abrams recalled, his father “never pressed his sons to follow” his religious path. As a result, Abrams now believes, he “never got to resent religion, and could look at it with a neutral gaze”—a kind of sympathetic interest that is key to the insights of [his book] Natural Supernaturalism, which shows how much of modern literature is a recasting of age-old biblical tropes. . . .

[W]hile Abrams recalled that he experienced no overt anti-Semitism (though “if I looked for it, I would have found it,” he said wryly), he was given a “downright warning” by his faculty adviser that the “profession was not open to Jews.” . . .

In writing about [the influence of religious ideas on romantic literature], Abrams delves deeply into the Christian theological tradition. . . . Only occasionally, however, does he pursue what he calls “the redemptive imagination” back to its ultimate origin in the Hebrew Bible and in Judaism. The farthest he goes in this direction is a brief discussion of kabbalistic ideas of fall and redemption, and the Jewish component of the story of Natural Supernaturalism is left for others to tell.

Still, Abrams told me, his ability to see the Christian and post-Christian tradition in such novel ways might be attributable to his position outside that tradition. His own “freshness of outlook” he credited to the fact that he “didn’t take these [Christian] ideas for granted.” “Jews,” he pointed out, “had an outsider’s eye on a lot of Western tradition,” which may have helped them to see it in unexpected ways.

Read more at Tablet

More about: American Jewish History, Arts & Culture, Lionel Trilling, Literature, Religion, Romanticism

When Israel Helped Yemen’s Shiites


The Yemenite Houthi rebels, the Iran-backed Shiite sect that captured the capital city of Sanaa in January, include “Death to Israel! A curse on the Jews!” in their slogan and predictably blame Israel for the current Saudi-led campaign against them. But 50 years ago, in a different Yemenite civil war (1962-70), Israel supported the country’s erstwhile monarch—who belonged to the same sect. Oren Kessler explains:

At the time, the Jewish state’s chief antagonist was not, as today, the Shiite theocracy of Iran but its own neighbor—and the Arab world’s largest state—Egypt. In one of the oddities of the cold war . . . [Egyptian president Gamal Abdel] Nasser had sent 70,000 troops—a third of his army—to Yemen to fight to a blood-drenched stalemate that historians have dubbed “Egypt’s Vietnam.” . . .

Two years into the war, a disillusioned Egyptian pilot defected to Israel and told his interrogators that his fellow Egyptians were using chemical weapons in Yemen. Then-foreign minister Golda Meir feared Israel would be next, and hoped that bogging down the Egyptians in a faraway country would keep them too busy to threaten her own.

British intelligence had for months sought Israeli support for the royalists, and soon found a willing partner. On the night of May 26, 1964, [the Yemenite king] Imam Badr called a strategy session of tribal leaders who were backing the monarchy, including one Sheikh Hassan al-Houthi, the patriarch of the Houthi tribe that today leads the fight against Yemen’s internationally recognized government. Around midnight, the assembled dignitaries heard a plane hum overhead and saw fourteen parachutes drop, prompting one elder to marvel, “Look! Even God is helping the imam.” The plane—carrying military materiel, medical supplies, and money—was flown by Israeli pilots.

Read more at Politico

More about: Egypt, Israel & Zionism, Israeli history, Shiites, Yemen

What’s New in Biblical Archaeology


Hershel Shanks discusses the place of the Bible in biblical archaeology, destruction and looting of artifacts as a result of the Syrian civil war, the most recent archaeological discoveries in Israel, and the newest evidence about the early days of the Israelite monarchy. (Interview by Gordon Govier; audio, about 25 minutes).

Listen to part one of the interview here and part two here.

Read more at The Bible and the Spade

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Bible, Davidic monarchy, History & Ideas