Despite amateurish diplomacy, Iran has successfully enlisted the help of several African countries to acquire uranium, right under the nose of the West.
Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, argues that the decline of traditional morality has undermined the West in its war on terror and contributed to the vilification of Israel:
Throughout most of the West, certainly in Europe, Judeo-Christian principles, honesty, family values, respect for the state, honor, and loyalty have all been eroded, often beyond recognition. Negative values, such as the acceptance of betrayal, duplicity, and deceit, have flourished. Defining values including patriotism and religious faith have been undermined. . . .
It is impossible to avoid a connection between the shift in public opinion on Israel and the change in Western morality. . . . War is no longer a matter of the good guy fighting the bad with the good expected to win. Political correctness encourages individuals to say what they think is seen as acceptable and will not offend the majority rather than what they actually believe. . . . The destruction of defining values mean that people will now accept physical acts that would before have been utterly abhorrent to them. . . .
The target is Western values themselves, most often represented by the United States, the most powerful country in the world. But Israel has increasingly become a proxy for the United States.
Emanuele Ottolenghi explains why the Holocaust figures so prominently in the rhetoric of the Iranian government:
For decades, Iranian leaders have accused the world of exaggerating Jewish suffering in order to legitimize Israel’s existence and excuse the Jewish state’s actions, while assiduously promoting the spread of Holocaust denial and acting as a safe haven, sponsor, and sounding board for its advocates. . . . This month, Tehran is hosting the second international Holocaust cartoon contest. Iranian officials present these events, in part, as a response to the West’s satirical attacks on Islam, but the Iranian government’s denial of the Holocaust predates the recent wave of cartoons mocking Muhammad.
Iran’s Holocaust denial, like the regime’s anti-Semitism, follows a Nazi script. . . . After [World War II], Nazi fugitives who fled to South America and the Middle East sought to obfuscate their own part in the 20th century’s worst crime with the hope that Nazism could yet make a comeback. . . . But theirs was not just an effort to rehabilitate Nazism. They were also seeking allies—in the Middle East and elsewhere—who could finish the job. And Arab nationalism, with its resolve to eradicate both Western influence and Israel’s existence from the region, was the perfect candidate. . . .
From there, the wave of Holocaust denial made its way to Iran, where both secular and religious opponents of the Shah embraced themes of modern anti-Semitism, which they had absorbed from radical leftist circles in Europe and from Islamists in the Middle East. . . . And once the revolutionaries gained power, those themes became so integral to the new regime’s worldview that the embarrassment they would later cause—brazen Holocaust denial did not exactly endear Iran to Western audiences—was always treated as an inconvenience to manage, and not a nefarious libel to discard.
A number of commentators have noted that Jews in Western countries are increasingly voting for conservative parties and candidates; American Jews, however, have maintained their overwhelming preference for liberals. Evelyn Gordon argues that this is not because American Jews are different from other Jews, but because America is different from other liberal democracies:
[N]on-Jewish Americans are overwhelmingly pro-Israel. That certainly isn’t the case in Europe. And as an annual BBC poll shows, it isn’t even true in Canada and Australia, whose current conservative governments are staunchly pro-Israel. Consequently, Democratic politicians [in the U.S.] are rarely as anti-Israel as their counterparts overseas, because being anti-Israel is still bad politics in America . . . Nor does the American left’s animus toward Israel spill over into blatant anti-Semitism as often as it does in, say, Europe. So, for now, liberal American Jews still feel as if they can support the left without having to repudiate their Zionism or their Judaism—something that’s increasingly no longer possible overseas.
But even in America, that may not be true for long. . . . Thus, if American Jewish liberals don’t want to go the way of their counterparts overseas, . . . they need to mount an urgent campaign to convince their own political camp that any good liberal should also be pro-Israel. That’s far from an impossible case to make, since it has the advantage of being true. . . . But conservatives can’t do the job for them.
In a recent book entitled The Myth of the Cultural Jew, Roberta Rosenthal Kwall argues that Jewish law throughout the ages has been informed by Jewish culture, and thus the two cannot be seen as wholly distinct. She then tries to demonstrate that those who consider themselves “cultural” Jews are participating in something deeply informed by Jewish law. Jay Lefkowitz dissents:
[If] Kwall is accurate in her conclusion that Jewish law depends on Jewish culture, it does not necessarily follow that the opposite is true—that cultural Jews are “inevitably molded and shaped by the Jewish tradition, which includes Jewish law.” To support [the latter contention], Kwall observes that “a strong concern for social justice is deeply embedded in the text of the Torah.” And she cites, as an example of [cultural Jews’ allegedly] halakhic connection to the concept of tikkun olam (“repairing the world”), the biblical injunction to preserve portions of the harvest and vineyards for strangers, orphans, and widows.
But there is nothing uniquely Jewish about wanting to do good deeds and good works, or to pursue justice and be charitable. Baptists and Methodists and secular humanists and other religious groups pursue these same ideals. And while it is nice that Jews are able to point to a biblical text that endorses such behavior, there is no basis for maintaining that the overwhelming majority of Jews, who do not define their Jewish identity primarily by the practice of religion, are committed to social justice because of Jewish law.
Elli Fischer reviews Yael Ziegler’s recent study of the book of Ruth—traditionally read on the holiday of Shavuot, which begins this Saturday evening:
In Ziegler’s presentation, the book of Ruth is a contrast and corrective to the book of Judges. The opening verse sets the events of Ruth in the era of the Judges . . . and indeed, the book of Ruth is placed immediately after Judges in the Christian canon. Whereas Judges describes an Israelite society plagued by anarchy, godlessness, and self-centeredness, Ruth offers a way out, a recipe for overcoming dissolution and building toward a cohesive and godly society. Ziegler supports this thesis by drawing a series of linguistic and thematic parallels between the book of Ruth and other biblical books, particularly Genesis and Judges.