Jews Must Join in the Fight for Religious Freedom

In the past several years, as Christian organizations have found themselves at the forefront of protecting religious freedom in such high-profile cases as that of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado and in a number of low-profile cases as well, many Jews have remained indifferent. To Mitchell Rocklin, Jews ought to realize that the threat to freedom of religion is well on its way to catching up with them, too:

[I]n Europe, [there are already] efforts to ban kosher slaughter, arising from both leftist and rightist circles. Six European countries currently ban kosher and halal slaughter. There have been efforts to ban these rituals in other areas, including Germany and Poland. . . . Until recently, Jews in America have been fortunate enough, most of the time, to be safe from these types of attacks [on their religious freedom]. But recently, the [pre-Yom Kippur] ritual of kapparot, which for many ultra-Orthodox and Persian Jews involves slaughtering chickens, has come under legal attack for the third time in three years. Sometimes, animal-rights organizations have alleged questionable legal compliance or alleged mishandling of animals, and sought to ban the entire practice. . . .

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, meanwhile, has made an all-out attack on kosher slaughter a significant agenda item. . . . Nor will attacks on Jewish religious liberties be confined to how we obtain kosher meat. Circumcision has already faced attacks in Europe and some American local jurisdictions. . . .

It took a courageous attorney named Aryeh Kaufman, along with the University of Houston law professor Josh Blackman and the considerable efforts of the First Liberty Institute—a largely Christian organization that defends the religious liberty of all types of Americans—to defend kapparot in California courts. . . . [More generally], the religious Christians leading this fight against compulsion . . . have not merely focused on Christian problems. Religious-liberty organizations with mainly Christian members defend Jewish civil liberties—not to mention those of Sikhs, Muslims, Native Americans, and others—with equal vigor and determination. Jews ought to take notice, as these issues are already beginning to affect them more than many realize. . . .

Jews ought to understand that, even if they don’t swing chickens around their heads before Yom Kippur, and even if they don’t keep kosher, they should care about their religious freedom as Jews. And in this case, guarding our own freedom necessarily also requires caring about the religious rights of Catholics, Evangelical Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and anyone else whose First Amendment rights to freedom of religion are being threatened.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: American Jewry, Freedom of Religion, Kashrut, Politics & Current Affairs

The Struggle for Iraq, and What It Means for Israel

Oct. 17 2018

Almost immediately after the 2003 invasion, Iraq became a battleground between the U.S. and Iran, as the latter sent troops, money, and arms to foment and support an insurgency. The war on Islamic State, along with the Obama administration’s effort to align itself with the Islamic Republic, led to a temporary truce, but also gave Tehran-backed militias a great deal of power. Iran has also established a major conduit of supplies through Iraq to support its efforts in Syria. Meanwhile, it is hard to say if the recent elections have brought a government to Baghdad that will be pro-American or pro-Iranian. Eldad Shavit and Raz Zimmt comment how these developments might affect Israel:

Although statements by the U.S. administration have addressed Iran’s overall activity in the region, they appear to emphasize the potential for confrontation in Iraq. First and foremost, this [emphasis] stems from the U.S. perception of this arena as posing the greatest danger, in light of the extensive presence of U.S. military and civilian personnel operating throughout the country, and in light of past experience, which saw many American soldiers attacked by Shiite militias under Iranian supervision. The American media have reported that U.S. intelligence possesses information indicating that the Shiite militias and other elements under Iranian auspices intend to carry out attacks against American targets and interests. . . .

In light of Iran’s intensifying confrontation with the United States and its mounting economic crisis, Tehran finds it essential to maintain its influence in Iraq, particularly in the event of a future clash with the United States. The Iranian leadership has striven to send a message of deterrence to the United States regarding the implications of a military clash. . . .

A recently published report also indicates that Iran transferred ballistic missiles to the Shiite militias it supports in Iraq. Although Iran has denied this report, it might indeed attempt to transfer advanced military equipment to the Shiite militias in order to improve their capabilities in the event of a military confrontation between Iran and the United States and/or Israel, or a confrontation between [the militias] and the central government in Baghdad.

From Israel’s perspective, after years when the Iraqi arena received little attention from Israeli decision makers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have mentioned the possibility of Israel’s taking action against Iranian targets in Iraq. In this context, and particularly in light of the possibility that Iraq could become an arena of greater conflict between the United States and Iran, it is critical that there be full coordination between Israel and the United States. This is of particular importance due to [the American estimation of] stability in Iraq as a major element of the the campaign against Islamic State, which, though declared a success, is not yet complete.

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Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Israel & Zionism, U.S. Foreign policy