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Adam Sandler and the Price of Jewish Cool

Nov. 24 2015

The Jewish comedian Adam Sandler recently performed an updated version of his 1994 “Hanukkah Song.” For Andrew Silow-Carroll, the song epitomizes the current American environment, in which being Jewish has a certain cachet (as long as one doesn’t express strong support for Israel). But being cool isn’t always a good thing:

[The] “Hanukkah Song” . . . is essentially a list of Jewish celebrities, from Dinah Shore and William Shatner to Goldie Hawn and Henry Winkler. The song is an unabashed expression of Jewish pride, going so far as to “out” celebrities who tended not to have advertised their Jewishness. It makes Jewish ethnicity “cool” by identifying it with secular cultural heroes. . . . It rejects the idea that Judaism is a stigma, or a burden, or the very thing that separates you from the mainstream.

At the same time, I worry that the song speaks for generations for whom Judaism may not be a stigma nor a burden but may not be very distinctive, either. Sandler’s celebrities are cool because they happen to be Jewish, not because they represent a particular Jewish way of being in the world. . . .

[I]n some ways the “Hanukkah Song” is the Hanukkah of songs. Hanukkah’s integrity as a Jewish holy period has been overshadowed by its role as a consolation prize to Jews left out of the Christmas hoopla. Hanukkah kitsch affirms Jewishness in the mainstream—see the blue and silver decorations right next to the green and red ones!—without conveying much sense of what we’re celebrating or why. Pride is a wonderful thing—but pride without meaning or responsibility is a hollow sort of cool.

Read more at New Jersey Jewish News

More about: American Jewry, Celebrity, Comedy, Hanukkah, Religion & Holidays

How Lebanon—and Hizballah—Conned and Humiliated Rex Tillerson

Feb. 21 2018

Last Thursday, the American secretary of state arrived in Beirut to express Washington’s continued support for the country’s government, which is now entirely aligned with Hizballah. His visit came shortly after Israel’s showdown with Hizballah’s Iranian protectors in Syria and amid repeated warnings from Jerusalem about the terrorist organization’s growing threat to Israeli security. To Tony Badran, Tillerson’s pronouncements regarding Lebanon have demonstrated the incoherence of the Trump administration’s policy:

[In Beirut], Tillerson was made to sit alone in a room with no American flag in sight and wait—as photographers took pictures and video—before Hizballah’s chief allies in Lebanon’s government, President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law the foreign minister, finally came out to greet him. Images of the U.S. secretary of state fidgeting in front of an empty chair were then broadcast across the Middle East to symbolize American impotence at a fateful moment for the region. . . .

Prior to heading to Beirut, Tillerson gave an interview to the American Arabic-language station al-Hurra, in which he emphasized that Hizballah was a terrorist organization, and that the United States expected cooperation from the “Lebanon government to deal very clearly and firmly with those activities undertaken by Lebanese Hizballah that are unacceptable to the rest of the world.” . . . But then, while in Jordan, Tillerson undermined any potential hints of firmness by reading from an entirely different script—one that encapsulates the confused nonsense that is U.S. Lebanon policy. Hizballah is “influenced by Iran,” Tillerson said. But, he added, “We also have to acknowledge the reality that they also are part of the political process in Lebanon”—which apparently makes being “influenced by Iran” and being a terrorist group OK. . . .

The reality on the ground in Lebanon, [however], is [that] Hizballah is not only a part of the Lebanese government, it controls it—along with all of the country’s illustrious “institutions,” including the Lebanese Armed Forces. . . .

[Meanwhile], Israel’s tactical Syria-focused approach to the growing threat on its borders has kept the peace so far, but it has come at a cost. For one thing, it does not address the broader strategic factor of Iran’s growing position in Syria, and it leaves Iran’s other regional headquarters in Lebanon untouched. Also, it sets a pace that is more suitable to Iran’s interests. The Iranians can absorb tactical strikes so long as they are able to consolidate their strategic position in Syria and Lebanon. Not only have the Iranians been able to fly a drone into Israel but also their allies and assets have made gains on the ground near the northern Golan and in Mount Hermon. As Iran’s position strengthens, and as Israel’s military and political hand weakens, the Israelis will soon be left with little choice other than to launch a devastating war.

To avoid that outcome, the United States needs to adjust its policy—and fast. Rather than leaving Israel to navigate around the Russians and go after Iran’s assets in Syria and Lebanon on its own, it should endorse Israel’s red lines regarding Iran in Syria, and amplify its campaign against Iranian assets. In addition, it should revise its Lebanon policy and end its investment in the Hizballah-controlled order there.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, Rex Tillerson, U.S. Foreign policy