The Supreme Court’s Jewish Gentile

Feb. 16 2016

“‘When there was no Jewish justice on the Supreme Court,’ Antonin Scalia told me, ‘I considered myself the Jewish justice.’” Thus opens Nathan Lewin’s remembrance of his lifelong friend and sometime legal sparring partner, who died this past Saturday. Not the least striking quality of the great Catholic jurist, Lewin remarks, was his “admiration for Jews and Jewish learning”—a fact that “explains the frequent references in his opinions to the Talmud and other Jewish sources, and the significant number of Orthodox Jewish law clerks he hired.” Lewin concludes:

There is universal agreement that Nino Scalia was brilliant, amazingly articulate, and a real mensch. There is strong disagreement, however, over the side he chose in ideological battles. Scalia is, of course, an Italian name. If one writes it with Hebrew letters, there are two possible—albeit squarely contradictory—ways of writing Scalia. One is to use the letters sin, kaf, lamed, which are also the root of sekhel: Hebrew for “wisdom.” The other is to use the Hebrew letters samekh, kuf, lamed, which are the root sakol, meaning “to stone.”

Some praised Nino’s wisdom; others were ready to stone him. But all must concur that he was a great man, that the United States he loved is greatly diminished by his loss, and that he greatly revered Jews and Jewish tradition.

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More about: American law, History & Ideas, Jewish-Catholic relations, Judaism, Law, Supreme Court

 

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

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More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war