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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.

Read more at Times of Israel

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

Putting Aside the Pious Lies about the Israel-Palestinian Conflict

Jan. 23 2018

In light of recent developments, including Mahmoud Abbas’s unusually frank speech to the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s leadership, Moshe Arens advocates jettisoning some frequently mouthed but clearly false assumptions about Israel’s situation, beginning with the idea that the U.S. should act as a neutral party in negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah. (Free registration may be required.)

The United States cannot be, and has never been, neutral in mediating the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It is the leader of the world’s democratic community of nations and cannot assume a neutral position between democratic Israel and the Palestinians, whether represented by an autocratic leadership that glorifies acts of terror or by Islamic fundamentalists who carry out acts of terror. . . .

In recent years the tectonic shifts in the Arab world, the lower price of oil, and the decreased importance attached to the Palestinian issue in much of the region, have essentially removed the main incentive the United States had in past years to stay involved in the conflict. . . .

Despite the conventional wisdom that the core issues—such as Jerusalem or the fate of Israeli settlements beyond the 1949 armistice lines—are the major stumbling blocks to an agreement, the issue for which there seems to be no solution in sight at the moment is making sure that any Israeli military withdrawal will not result in rockets being launched against Israel’s population centers from areas that are turned over to the Palestinians. . . .

Does that mean that Israel is left with a choice between a state with a Palestinian majority or an apartheid state, as claimed by Israel’s left? This imaginary dilemma is based on a deterministic theory of history, which disregards all other possible alternatives in the years to come, and on questionable demographic predictions. What the left is really saying is this: better rockets on Tel Aviv than a continuation of Israeli military control over Judea and Samaria. There is little support in Israel for that view.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Mahmoud Abbas, Peace Process, US-Israel relations