The Adventures of Two-Gun Cohen


How a poor Jewish boy from London’s East End became chief of security for Sun Yat-sen, the Chinese nationalist and revolutionary founder of modern China.

Read more at Asian Jewish Life

More about: Chiang Kai-shek, China, Israel, Morris Cohen, Sun Yat-sen, Zionism


Israel’s Joint Arab List Won’t Send a Delegation to the Arab League, and That’s Good News


Mahmoud Abbas recently invited Knesset members from the Joint Arab List (JAL) to address a meeting of the Arab League. Evelyn Gordon explains the reason for, and the significance of, the JAL’s unprecedented decision not to attend:

[P]olls have shown for years that Israeli Arabs would like their MKs to focus on domestic problems like unemployment and crime rather than the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But, until now, Arab MKs have blithely ignored their constituents’ preference, preferring to devote most of their time to condemning Israel’s handling of the conflict. . . .

[I]n contrast to the Palestinian conflict, bread-and-butter issues are ones on which Israel can and should provide reasonable answers to Israeli-Arab demands. Israel can’t withdraw from the West Bank and allow it to become a rocket-launching pad like Gaza, nor can it refuse to fight back when Palestinians attack it, even if war inevitably entails Palestinian civilian casualties. But it can approve master plans for Arab towns so that new housing can be legally built, set up industrial parks to provide employment opportunities in Arab communities, crack down on the rampant illegal weapons that contribute to high crime rates in these communities, and so forth. Indeed, all recent governments have invested heavily in trying to improve Arab educational and employment opportunities, and these efforts have already produced significant gains.

Clearly, much more remains to be done. But because these are issues on which the government can actually make progress toward satisfying its Arab citizens’ demands, they have the potential to draw Jews and Arabs together rather than driving them apart, as the Palestinian conflict does.

Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: Arab League, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli politics, Mahmoud Abbas

In His Confrontation with Israel, the President Has Jewish Help


Since coming to office, President Obama and his advisers have regularly proclaimed their love and concern for the Jewish state while pursuing policies that put Israel at risk and undermine the U.S.-Israel alliance. In this, writes Sohrab Ahmari, the administration has had the witting and unwitting help of Jewish activists:

Founded in 2008, J Street . . . was to be a “home for pro-Israel, pro-peace” Americans who worry that Israel’s failure to extricate itself from the lives of some five million Palestinians will soon threaten its status as either a Jewish or a democratic state. If Israelis on their own lacked the will to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve a two-state solution, then it was up to progressive American Jews to bring peace, by pressing the levers of U.S. power if need be.

To meet this aim without abetting Israel’s enemies would have required immense ideological discipline on the part of the new lobby. J Streeters would have had to take seriously the perils facing the Jewish state, including Iran’s nuclearization, the rise of political Islam, and the campaign in elite quarters to delegitimize Israel. They would have to respect the sovereign decisions of the Israelis, recognizing that it is they—not American Jews with anguished consciences—who would have to pay the price in blood for any ill-conceived land-for-peace schemes. And they would have to retain a sense of perspective about the relative importance of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. . . .

As it soon became clear, however, J Street’s leaders had entirely different notions of what it means to be pro-Israel. J Street has flirted with elements of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement and lobbied against congressional sanctions on Iran. . . . Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami has refused to say whether his organization is Zionist.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Barack Obama, BDS, Hasbara, Israel & Zionism, J Street, US-Israel relations

Voltaire Is Still Worth Listening to—Even by Jews


Voltaire has fallen into disrepute of late: for some, because of skepticism about the Enlightenment project he represents; for others, because of his crude anti-Semitism. However, argues Paul Berman, many of his ideas—especially about tolerance, freedom of speech, and the dangers of religious fundamentalism—are particularly germane today. Even when it comes to Jews, writes Berman, Voltaire’s attitude can’t be reduced to a few nasty comments:

Less-than-friendly discussions of Jewish themes do pop up in those fat compendia [of Voltaire’s writings] and keep on doing so. . . . You could argue that, in harping on these points, Voltaire turned his defense of tolerance into an offense against it. . . . Still another argument gets made: if even the great Voltaire displayed, in regard to the Jews, a dreadful prejudice, shouldn’t we hesitate a moment before endorsing his call for universal tolerance? Shouldn’t we harbor a suspicion that even the most inspiring of calls for tolerance are likely to contain a hidden bigotry, if not for the Jews, then for the Muslims? Isn’t [the argument for tolerance] a fake? This last argument has become a fashion. . . .

Voltaire glares in Jewish directions. . . . Sometimes this is because he thinks modern Jewish bankers are swindlers, but mostly it is because, by painting the Old Testament Hebrews in barbarous colors, he hopes to show that New Testament Christianity stands on shaky foundations. Ultimately the Christian religion is his target. . . . About the Jews he says, “One finds in all the history of this people no trait of generosity, of magnanimity, of beneficence”—and yet, “the rays of universal tolerance always emerge.” It should be remembered that, for Voltaire, tolerance is the highest of virtues. . . . There is more than a touch of admiration for the Jews in this one not-very-affectionate remark.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Anti-Semitism, Enlightenment, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, History & Ideas, Tolerance

The Iranian Foreign Minister’s Appalling Speech Gets an Appalling Reception


Mouthing his government’s talking points in a speech at NYU, Javad Zarif openly threatened the U.S.—yet the American press gave him warm reviews, praising, among other things, his “perfect English.” Matthew Continetti writes:

Perfect English? Is that all it takes to have reporters and diplomats praise your suavity and charisma, chuckle at your jokes, cavil to your every demand? Bibi Netanyahu’s English is perfect, too—but hell will freeze before he sees Zarif’s press. . . .

What made Zarif’s appearance . . . nauseating was his pretense of moral standing. He has none. His lecture to the United States took place as his regime held a container ship it had seized in international waters, and as [fresh] evidence emerged of Iranian violations of UN sanctions. It is the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and its proxies such as Hizballah and the Houthis and other Shiite militias that are fomenting and exploiting sectarian conflict in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. Iran’s human-rights record is abysmal. . . .

Our ability to make moral distinctions, to identify friend and foe, has become so attenuated that not only do liberals fail to recognize Zarif for what he is—a theocratic tool—they laugh at his jokes, identify with him, want to be his friend, [and] applaud him.

Read more at Washington Free Beacon

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Idiocy, Iran, Iran sanctions, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

Two Rabbis and a Friar Talk about Judaism and Christianity


In a colloquy with two American-Israeli rabbis, the Dominican friar Erik Ross discusses the monastic lifestyle, the religious significance for Catholics of the Jews’ return to Israel, and other topics. (Interview by Jeremy Gimpel and Ari Abramowitz; video, 25 minutes):

Read more at Voice of Israel

More about: Israel, Jewish-Catholic relations, Jewish-Christian relations, Monasticism, Religion & Holidays