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Harbin: a Russian-Jewish Outpost in Manchuria

March 30 2016

Reviewing Michael Meyer’s recent book on the history of Manchuria, Susan Blumberg-Kason notes the attention paid to the city of Harbin and its once-thriving Jewish community:

Harbin is probably the best known city in Manchuria and was once home to 30,000 Jews who either moved to China from Russia for economic reasons or [came to escape persecution]. Most were stateless, no longer citizens of Russia but also not of China. According to Meyer, in the heyday of Jewish Harbin, the city boasted two synagogues and twenty Jewish periodicals, including something called the Siberia-Palestine Weekly.

It was this community where the grandfather of the former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert lived. Olmert’s grandfather is buried in the Jewish cemetery there. A century later, the Chinese government has restored one of the two former synagogues in Harbin and has turned it into a Jewish-history research center. Meyer writes that the last Jew left Harbin as late as 1985, a solid decade after the end of the Cultural Revolution. Just a few years ago the Chinese government announced that it would restore the other synagogue, which had been used as a hostel.

Read more at Asian Jewish Life

More about: China, Ehud Olmert, Harbin, History & Ideas, Russia, Russian Jewry

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen