Should Jews Intervene in Christian Theological Debates Involving Judaism?

Dec. 16 2015

A half-century after the Second Vatican Council released the declaration, known as Nostra Aetate, on the Church’s relations with other religions, David Berger reflects on its effects. Among these is the Catholic hierarchy’s willingness to take into consideration the concerns of Jewish leaders. Berger urges Jews to voice such concerns judiciously:

Jews active in interfaith affairs have not infrequently denounced the Christian belief that the entire world will recognize Jesus as the divine messiah at the end of days. This, in my view, is none of our business, especially in light of the corresponding Jewish belief strikingly expressed in the High Holy Day liturgy and the Aleinu prayer. Many Jews welcome the views of Christian scholars and theologians who maintain that certain anti-Jewish narratives in the Gospels are unhistorical, but we have no right to urge more fundamentalist Christians to reject the accuracy of their scriptures. . . .

The most interesting phenomenon that challenges the convictions of a non-interventionist is Christian missionizing, which brings us back to the covenant. Catholic theologians friendly to the Jews have struggled with the implications of [Nostra Aetate’s doctrine of] the unbroken Abrahamic/Mosaic covenant. This unbroken covenant sits uneasily with the doctrine of the contemporary Church that although those who consciously reject belief in Jesus can under certain circumstances be saved, the vehicle of salvation—even for Jews—is Jesus acting through the Church. In some sense, we are told, there is an implicit belief at work. Moreover, despite the enduring Jewish covenant, Christians are obligated to “witness” to the Jews even though they should not directly proselytize.

It should not be our concern to help resolve these conundrums in Catholic theology, and I am all the more grateful that leading theologians firmly oppose mission to the Jews even though their rationale for this position leaves them with unresolved “mysteries.” However, in relating to Christian groups that do proselytize, it is, I think, legitimate for Jews to make every effort to persuade them to desist despite the fact that this constitutes interference in their internal theology. In this case, the imperative of self-defense is so direct that it overrides countervailing principles.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Catholic Church, Covenant, Interfaith dialogue, Jewish-Catholic relations, Nostra Aetate, Religion & Holidays

To Undermine Russian and Iranian Influence in Syria, the U.S. Must Go on the Offensive

March 22 2018

When Iranian-lead, pro-Assad forces attacked U.S. allies in Syria last month, they found themselves quickly overwhelmed by American firepower. The incident, writes Tony Badran, makes clear that the U.S. has the capability to push back against the Damascus-Tehran-Moscow axis. By taking a more aggressive approach while working closely with Israel, Badran argues, Washington can at once prevent Russia and Iran from cementing their control of Syria and avoid getting drawn into a wider conflict:

Israeli assets can augment U.S. capabilities considerably. A few days after the skirmish in Deir Ezzour in February, Iran flew a drone into Israeli air space. Israel responded by destroying the Iranian command center at the Tiyas military air base near Palmyra, and then proceeded to bomb a large number of Iranian and Assad-regime targets. The episode again underscored the vulnerability of Iran, to say nothing of the brittle Assad regime. Close coordination with Israel to expand this ongoing targeting campaign against Iranian and Hizballah infrastructure, senior cadres, and logistical routes, and amplifying it with U.S. assets in the region, would have a devastating effect on Iran’s position in Syria.

By going on the offensive, the U.S. will also strengthen Israel’s hand with Russia, reducing Jerusalem’s need to petition the Kremlin and thereby diminishing Moscow’s ability to position itself as an arbiter on Israeli security. For instance, instead of haggling with Russia to obtain its commitment to keep Iran five or seven kilometers away from the Israeli border, the U.S. could adopt the Israeli position on Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and assist Israel in enforcing it. Such a posture would have a direct effect on another critical ally, Jordan, whose role is of high importance in southern Syria and in the U.S. zone in the east.

Assad and Iran are the scaffolding on which the Russian position stands. Targeting them, therefore, undercuts Moscow and reduces its leverage. By merely forcing Russia to respect Israeli and Jordanian needs on the border, the U.S. would undermine Russia’s attempt, more generally, to leverage its position in Syria to make headway into the U.S. alliance system. In addition to adopting a more offensive military posture, the U.S. should also intensify the economic chokehold on Assadist Syria.

Read more at Caravan

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy