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For Turkish Jewry, the End Might Be in Sight

Jews have lived in what is now Turkey since ancient times, and the Ottoman empire was once home to one of the world’s largest and most important Jewish communities. Now, writes Michael Rubin, that long history may be coming to a finale:

Turkish officials and their proxies argue . . . that Turkey remains both tolerant and democratic. . . . The Turkish Heritage Organization, for example, argued that “Turkey has been a safe haven for Jews, Arabs, Kurds, Yazidis, and Muslim nations for generations.” That may have once been true for minorities besides Armenians and Kurds but, increasingly, it’s no longer the case for Yazidis, Christians, and Jews. . . .

The Erdogan years have been scary ones for Turkey’s Jews, with wild anti-Semitic conspiracy theories becoming increasingly commonplace. Many Jews have nonetheless remained hopeful that the repression and intolerance would pass. There were reasons for hope: Turkey was never a perfect democracy, but, even after setbacks, its developmental trajectory was toward greater tolerance.

No longer. In many societies, Jews have been the canary in the coal mine. When a country loses its Jews, it is a sign that its democratic evolution has halted. Four years ago, some Turkish Jews began to leave. That trickle appears to be turning into a flood. . . . [D]escendants of many of the Jews who fled Spain for the safety of the Ottoman Empire more than 500 years ago now seek to return to Spain or Portugal.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Anti-Semitism, Jewish World, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey, Turkish Jewry

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