Yes We Can

November 22

A strike on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would be a risky and complicated military operation, but Israeli ingenuity and determination could lead to a great success.

Read more at Begin-Sadat Center

More about: Iran, Israel, Nuclear Bomb


The New Sunni Alliance and What It Means for Israel


Saudi Arabia and Egypt have put together a coalition of Sunni Arab states to stop the takeover of Yemen by the Iranian-backed Houthis. This effort, write Gallia Lindenstrauss and Yoel Guzansky, is part of a larger attempt to create an alliance that will counter expanding Iranian influence. But the coalition’s newest prospective partner is Turkey, a problematic supporter of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood:

Saudi Arabia has outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood, but reports indicate that the new king is considering a more open approach to Hamas, a derivative of the Brotherhood—with the objective of bringing it into the anti-Iranian alliance in formation. The possible softening of Saudi Arabia’s position vis-à-vis the Muslim Brotherhood is a good basis for improving relations between Turkey and the kingdom. However, it is too early to see any change in [the Egyptian governments’] hostility to the Brotherhood. . . .

An improved relationship between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, even if it is intended to curb Iran’s strengthening position in the region, is not necessarily a positive development for Israel. In light of the crisis between Israel and Turkey, Ankara’s entry into the Saudi-led Sunni coalition can increase the points of friction between the coalition and Israel. The pragmatic relationship that aligned Israel with the moderate Sunni states can be harmed, unless Israel and Saudi Arabia understand how to maintain the delicate channel of quiet coordination between them.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Hamas, Israel-Arab relations, Muslim Brotherhood, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Yemen

If America Abandons Israel, It Does So at Its Own Peril


Hillel Fradkin considers the U.S. government’s increasing hostility toward the Jewish state in light of Joshua Muravchik’s recent book Making David into Goliath: How the World Turned against Israel. Fradkin concludes:

Obviously [the current trend in U.S.-Israel relations] presents a danger to Israel, but as one sees from Muravchik’s book, it also presents a danger to the United States—a danger to its principles and therewith to its political, moral, and intellectual health, a danger to which the European West has already succumbed.

What has saved America from this disease? As Muravchik observes, the United States held firm against the moral and political direction of Europe not primarily because of a “Jewish lobby” or an “Evangelical lobby,” though those were not unimportant. It held firm largely because most Americans recognized and respected what Israel truly is: a liberal democracy similar to their own and like all liberal democracies threatened by forces hostile to such regimes. . . .

That [America’s] material security would be at risk were Israel were to be destroyed is relatively clear. In the Middle East, America has no other liberal democratic ally, and Israel wields significant power. Yet even more harmful to our health would be the betrayal of our principles and its political and moral consequences. Joining the jackals, as Europe has now frequently done, may yield short-term gains. But as Muravchik ably shows, in the long term the U.S. bears the risk of actually becoming a jackal.

Read more at American Interest

More about: Barack Obama, Europe and Israel, Israel & Zionism, Joshua Muravchik, US-Israel relations


Wherever You Go, the Same Jewish Peddlers


In the 19th century many Jews left places like Germany, where their ancestors had lived for generations, to sell their wares in such far-flung places as Minnesota and Australia. In a recent book, the historian Hasia Diner tells the story of these peddlers with, Shari Rabin writes, much detail and perhaps a splash of romanticism:

While the United States was the most common and desirable destination for peddlers who left traditional areas of Jewish settlement, Diner argues that they pursued a similar occupation, with similar consequences, in numerous “New World” locations. . . . The pull of peddling and its promise of financial success, she argues, motivated these migrations much more than the push of anti-Semitism. Many Jews had experience peddling in the old world, but even if they did not, it proved a smooth path to stability because overhead was inexpensive and because they could usually rely on the assistance of coreligionist peddlers, merchants, and wholesalers. Peddling, though a humble profession, nonetheless contributed to national economic expansion and simultaneously greased the wheels of Jewish integration, shaping the trajectories of modern Jewish life.

The picture that emerges is notably celebratory, likely because so many of Diner’s sources are memoirs and local histories. . . . . [P]eddlers are portrayed almost as social workers who treated everyone humanely and blessed marginalized peoples with the transformative powers of consumer goods. Diner acknowledges that some of her sources “may have sounded a bit too positive,” but nonetheless insists that “empirical data, life histories, and communal biographies all tell the same story, regardless of time or place.” This “same story” included integration, patriotism, and economic success, toward which Diner’s stance is largely summarized as: “without peddling it might never have happened.” And yet surely Jewish integration took place in other kinds of occupations and settings as well.

Read more at Marginalia

More about: American Jewish History, Australia, German Jewry, History & Ideas, Immigration

Meet Javid Zarif, the Smiling Face of the Iranian Mullahs


Iran’s American-educated foreign minister has led its nuclear negotiations with the U.S., and makes himself readily available to journalists. Since his tenure as ambassador to the UN (2002 – 2007), he has presented himself as a moderate, charming, Westernized representative of the Islamic Republic. In fact Zarif is no more moderate than the rest of the regime he serves, but his act has brought him much success. Eli Lake writes:

[Zarif] has for more than a decade cultivated Washington policy elites the way an aspiring presidential candidate works over local party activists in Iowa and New Hampshire. . . .

[I]n 2006, Zarif . . . tried to persuade journalists to write about a peace offer Iran had supposedly offered the George W. Bush administration after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Yet according to senior Bush administration officials, that 2003 offer was not a serious piece of diplomacy, and was not made through the channels by which the Bush administration communicated with Iran. Nonetheless, the narrative stuck that the Bush team blew a chance at a breakthrough in 2003. On the eve of the current negotiations in 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry repeated Zarif’s talking point about the 2003 offer in an interview with ABC’s This Week. . . .

It should be noted that when Zarif was cultivating these relationships out of the UN, the FBI was investigating him for his alleged role in controlling a charity called the Alavi foundation. The Justice Department claimed that the group—with several hundred million dollars in assets—was secretly run on behalf of the Iranian government to fund university programs and launder money to evade U.S. sanctions.

Read more at Bloomberg

More about: George W. Bush, Iran, Iranian nuclear program, John Kerry, Politics & Current Affairs

Which Is Scarier: An All-Powerful Deity or A Jewish Mother?


Most people, writes Rick Paulas, are familiar with the emotion of guilt, but certain religions—most notably Judaism and Catholicism—are associated in the popular imagination with specific kinds of guilt. After an informal survey, Paulas concludes that Jewish and Catholic guilt are fundamentally different:

The Catholic version of guilt comes from a more ethereal “on-high” place: a judgmental and all-seeing Higher Power. The penalty for not following the instructions of this being? Only eternal damnation. That’s high-pressure stuff, but [this] shouldn’t imply that Jewish guilt is somehow weaker. [The latter] comes from a more tangible place, from your friends and family, from your community. The penalty for not following those instructions? Being ostracized.

The weight of both are tremendous. The unanswerable question—unanswerable, seeing as Jews can’t pretend to be Catholics, and vice-versa—is which is more threatening: an all-powerful deity or your mom? How about if you happen to be one of those lucky few who get to experience . . . both?

“The Jewish side is, ‘You could do better,’ and the Catholic side is, ‘You’re a lost cause,’” says Katherine Spiers, who is ethnically Jewish but was raised Catholic. “I just always feel like I’m [messing] up absolutely everything.”

Read more at Pacific Standard

More about: Catholicism, Family, Judaism, Original Sin, Religion & Holidays