Iran’s Pivot to Africa


Despite amateurish diplomacy, Iran has successfully enlisted the help of several African countries to acquire uranium, right under the nose of the West.

Read more at Tower

More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Niger, Nuclear Bomb, Robert Mugabe, Tanzania, United States, Zimbabwe


Who Won the Gaza War? Will There be Another One?


Examining last summer’s war between Israel and Hamas, Efraim Inbar concludes that “it is clear that Hamas lost.” About whether the terror group was sufficiently deterred from launching future wars, he is less certain:

The government of Israel demonstrated caution in avoiding the use of massive force, which is commendable in a democracy that cares for the wellbeing of its citizens and soldiers. . . . However, it remains to be seen whether such conduct eroded Israeli deterrence by delivering a message of weakness and hesitancy, as the readiness to fight, determination, and uncompromising courage are the building stones of deterrence. . . .

Restrictions placed on the IDF for fear of international public reaction, such as avoidance of extensive targeting of multi-story buildings and mosques that served as Hamas strategic facilities and launching pads, may be read as weakness and impair deterrence. Perhaps escalation should have begun earlier in the war. On the other hand, Israel’s ability to target the heads of Hamas’s military branch, the severe level of destruction in parts of Gaza, and the IDF’s capacity to collect real-time intelligence and attack swiftly, may contribute to deterrence. But leaving Hamas in control of Gaza conflicts with the aim of creating long-term deterrence. In light of all this, the contribution of the 2014 offensive to Israeli deterrence is inconclusive.

Read more at Middle East Quarterly

More about: Hamas, IDF, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Protective Edge, Strategy

Britain’s Left vs. Britain’s Jews


The current leadership of the Labor party, headed by Edward Miliband, is making life increasingly uncomfortable for many liberal British Jews who would otherwise support it. Josh Glancy writes:

There was a time in Britain when Jews overwhelmingly voted for the Labor party, much as [American Jews] do for the Democrats. In the old East End of London, Jewish support for Labor was as high as 80 percent. . . . The postwar British left has for generations contained the overlapping circles of the Labor-party faithful, much of the media, and assorted anti-colonial protest movements. Today, rightly or wrongly, many liberal Jews are now connecting the dots between the rhetoric of groups like the [anti-Israel, pro-BDS] Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and the current leadership of the Labor party. They identify the left not just with criticism of specific Israeli policies or politicians but also with a visceral loathing of the state’s existence. . . .

Last week Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary and a leading Labor figure, tweeted his concern over Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection. Nothing wrong with that in principle—except looking back over his Twitter [account], that tweet was the only time he mentioned a foreign-policy issue in 2015. He hasn’t mentioned Islamic State, or Ukraine, or Syria, or Iran, or death on the streets of Paris and Copenhagen. Only the election of Netanyahu roused him into looking beyond Britain.

There are good electoral reasons for the Labor party’s focus on real or imagined Israeli crimes. Edward Miliband’s Labor party is deploying a “core vote” strategy for the upcoming general election in May, which involves trying to nail down the 35 percent of the vote they need to win. This means appealing to the party’s base, which includes the trade unions, groups like the PSC, and Britain’s growing Muslim vote. Railing against the iniquities of Israel is a good way of garnering support in these constituencies. The sense of a disproportionate, unfair focus on Israel has left many Jews who might typically have voted for the Labor in the past feeling adrift.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Anti-Semitism, British Jewry, Ed Miliband, Jewish world, Leftism, United Kingdom

Is Genuine Peace Possible with Mahmoud Abbas?


No, argues Yossi Kuperwasser. The president of the Palestinian Authority has made it clear that his basic principles won’t allow any agreement that Israel can seriously consider (free registration required):

Abbas rejected the formula developed by the Americans a year ago as the basis for continued negotiations, since in practice it included recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. . . . [He believes] that the Palestinians continue to prefer not to establish a state if it involves recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, which would mean concessions on the commitment to a Palestinian state in all of Palestine, including Israel itself.

The ongoing incitement of the Palestinian public has been designed to buttress these fundamental principles. In recent years, I have focused on following the issue and unfortunately have seen thousands of examples of incitement on the part of the Palestinian Authority and its leaders. Under such circumstances, it is impossible to establish genuine peace, and as we have seen in Gaza, every concession will be irreversible and will serve as a basis for expanding the effort at achievement of the ultimate goal.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Israel & Zionism, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood, Peace Process

Does the Concept of Hell Originate in the Ancient Greek Oppression of the Jews?


The idea of hell as a place where the wicked suffer in death for their sins in life is a staple of Christian thought. Although the concept does not appear explicitly in the Hebrew Bible, Candida Moss posits that its origins lie in the interaction between post-biblical Jewish theology and Hellenistic culture:

In Judaism, the idea of post-mortem judgment, reward, and punishment seems to have gathered strength in the second century BCE. During this period Israel was again a conquered land, ruled by a succession of oppressive Greek empires. Along with high taxation and cultural colonialism, Alexander the Great and his successors brought the ideas of post-mortem punishment in the underworld to the Holy Land. . . .

For beleaguered and oppressed Jews, the idea that the injustices levied on them in the present would be rectified in the afterlife held a lot of appeal. And that kind of justice involved punishing their tormentors as well as rewarding the righteous.

Punishing the wicked required some real estate. So pits of torment, restraint, and interim punishment start to appear in ancient otherworldly topographies. Usually hell is a region beneath the earth, but it is sometimes a remote and far-flung place at the ends of the earth. . . . . A whole host of names and regions—Gehenna, Hades, the Lake of Fire, and the Valley of Fire—are used to describe these places of pain and confinement.

Read more at Daily Beast

More about: Afterlife, ancient Judaism, Christianity, Hellenism, Religion & Holidays, Theology

The Mock Haggadah of Bosnian Jewish Partisans


For decades after World War II, many Jews in Sarajevo who had fought the Nazis as partisans concluded their Passover seders with a vulgar parody of the Haggadah that described their wartime experiences. Ilan Ben Zion explains its origins:

Told in a blend of Ladino and Serbo-Croatian corresponding with [Hebrew and] Aramaic lines from the Passover seder, the Partisan Haggadah provides a glimpse of the brutal reality of guerrilla warfare against the Nazis. . . . . Sephardi Jews for centuries had a rich tradition of parody—typically playing off the familiar material found in the Haggadah. The Partisan Haggadah is just one piece of a larger mosaic of Ladino parodies that date back at least to 1789, and were popular among Sephardim from Suriname to Istanbul.

Before World War II, Sarajevo was 20-percent Jewish, home to eight synagogues and overwhelmingly Sephardi. The city fell to the fascist [Croatian] Ustaše regime in 1941. . . . Over the course of the war, 10,000 of the country’s 14,000 Bosnian Jews were killed.

Many Yugoslav Jews fled to the Italian-controlled sectors along the coast, where Italian authorities interned them in concentration camps, but didn’t engage in systemic mass murder. . . . Šalom “Šani” Altarac was one of the several thousand Jews who were interned at the Rab concentration camp off the coast of modern-day Croatia. With Italy’s surrender in August 1943, Altarac and 244 other young, untrained Jewish men and women formed a Jewish [partisan] battalion. . . .

Altarac became an education officer and the following spring performed a sort of stand-up routine for the Jewish partisan troops hiding in the thickly wooded mountains of the Yugoslavian hinterland. It was a parody of the familiar Passover Haggadah, sung to a traditional Sephardic tune and accompanied by guitar, and it reframed Holocaust life in the mold of an ageless story of redemption.

Read more at Jewish Exponent

More about: Bosnia, Haggadah, Holocaust, Religion & Holidays, Sarajevo, Sephardim, World War II