The Lebanese Prime Minister Came to the U.S. to Do PR for Hizballah

On July 25, Saad Hariri met with Donald Trump at the White House, and the two gave a joint press conference. Tony Badran argues that the trip to Washington was geared toward providing political cover for Hizballah, and convincing the president that Lebanon—whose government and military are under the terrorist group’s sway—is a key partner in fighting Islamic State (IS). Badran deems the plan a success:

No sooner had Hariri wrapped up his visit than the Center for Strategic and International Studies, [a prominent think tank] in Washington, put out a report on why, because of [a] supposed looming battle with IS, the United States should continue, even increase, its support for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). Tying a neat ribbon on the Lebanese information campaign, the report, written by a promoter of a pro-LAF policy who works closely with the LAF command, completed Hariri’s pitch: supporting the LAF is necessary not just because the LAF will soon fight IS, but also because otherwise Hizballah would win the so-called “battle of narratives” with the Lebanese state—which it, in fact, controls. It’s a spectacular con. . . .

The Lebanese are playing up the idea of an LAF-IS showdown to get the Americans to pay [with military aid and funds from postwar reconstruction efforts]. But Lebanon is not only roping us into become complicit in its potential coordination with Bashar al-Assad. It’s a lot worse than that. As the think-tank report advocates, the Lebanese are out to leverage U.S. political and military power, including the presence of U.S. Special Operations personnel in Lebanon—even raising all kinds of propositions, including that the LAF request direct U.S. military involvement on its side. . . .

The Lebanese Big Con obviously also threatens Israel. Eastern Lebanon, [from which the LAF is supporting Hizballah operations in Syria], is the area through which Iran brings in arms to the terrorist group. As Hizballah and Iranian forces have dug in on both sides of the Lebanon-Syria border, turning a lot of the Syrian side into military positions, the area now serves as strategic depth for the group in any future war with Israel—and will most likely be another theater of war.

[In other words], the Lebanese are leveraging U.S. investment in the LAF to constrain Israel in any future conflict: if Israel returns fire, it will be destroying military infrastructure and weapons paid for by the United States. Asking for the United States to increase its own direct deployment in Lebanon turns American servicemen into human shields to deter Israel.

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

The Proper Jewish Response to the Pittsburgh Massacre

Nov. 21 2018

In the Jewish tradition, it is commonplace to add the words zikhronam li-vrakhah (may their memory be for a blessing) after the names of the departed, but when speaking of those who have been murdered because they were Jews, a different phrase is used: Hashem yikom damam—may God avenge their blood. Meir Soloveichik explains:

The saying reflects the fact that when it comes to mass murderers, Jews do not believe that we must love the sinner while hating the sin; in the face of egregious evil, we will not say the words ascribed to Jesus on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We believe that a man who shoots up a synagogue knows well what he does; that a murderer who sheds the blood of helpless elderly men and women knows exactly what he does; that one who brings death to those engaged in celebrating new life knows precisely what he does. To forgive in this context is to absolve; and it is, for Jews, morally unthinkable.

But the mantra for murdered Jews that is Hashem yikom damam bears a deeper message. It is a reminder to us to see the slaughter of eleven Jews in Pennsylvania not only as one terrible, tragic moment in time, but as part of the story of our people, who from the very beginning have had enemies that sought our destruction. There exists an eerie parallel between Amalek, the tribe of desert marauders that assaulted Israel immediately after the Exodus, and the Pittsburgh murderer. The Amalekites are singled out by the Bible from among the enemies of ancient Israel because in their hatred for the chosen people, they attacked the weak, the stragglers, the helpless, those who posed no threat to them in any way.

Similarly, many among the dead in Pittsburgh were elderly or disabled; the murderer smote “all that were enfeebled,” and he “feared not God.” Amalek, for Jewish tradition, embodies evil incarnate in the world; we are commanded to remember Amalek, and the Almighty’s enmity for it, because, as Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik explained, the biblical appellation refers not only to one tribe but also to our enemies throughout the ages who will follow the original Amalek’s example. To say “May God avenge their blood” is to remind all who hear us that there is a war against Amalek from generation to generation—and we believe that, in this war, God is not neutral.

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More about: Amalek, Anti-Semitism, Judaism, Religion & Holidays