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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

What U.S. Success in Syria Should Look Like

April 26 2018

Surveying the history of the Syrian civil war, Jack Keane and Danielle Pletka explain that Bashar al-Assad’s brutal rule and vicious tactics have led to the presence in his country of both Shiite terrorists, led by Hizballah and backed by Iran and Russia, and Sunni jihadist groups like Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda. Any American strategy, they argue, must bear this in mind:

The best option is a Syria without Assad, committed to a future without Iranian or Russian influence. This is not a Pollyanna-like prescription; there are substantial obstacles in the way, not least those we have encountered in Iraq. . . . [But] only such a Syria can guarantee an end to Iranian interference, to the transshipment of weapons for Hizballah, and to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction of the kind we saw used at Douma. (Iran has been instrumental in Syria’s chemical-weapons program for many years.) And, most importantly, only such a Syria can disenfranchise the al-Qaeda and IS affiliates that have found a foothold by exploiting the Syrian people’s desperation.

How do we get there? The United States must first consolidate and strengthen its position in eastern Syria from the Euphrates river to the eastern Syrian border. This involves clearing out the remnants of Islamic State, some several thousand, and ultimately eliminating pockets controlled by the Assad regime and Iranian forces in northeastern Syria. This would enable the creation of a control zone in the eastern part of the country as a base from which to build a credible and capable partner that is not subordinate to the Kurdish chain of command, while effectively shutting down Iran’s strategic land bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean. A regional Arab force, reportedly suggested by President Trump’s new national-security adviser, would be a welcome addition. But we should seriously doubt [the Arabs] will participate without American ground leadership and air support.

In western Syria, the United States should rebuild a Syrian opposition force with advisers, weapons, and air power while upping the pressure on Assad and his cronies to select a pathway to a negotiated peace. Pursuing a settlement in Geneva without such leverage over the Assad regime is pure fantasy. Finally, the United States and other Western powers must impede Iran’s and Russia’s ability to be resupplied. Syria’s airfields must be destroyed, and Syria’s airspace must remain clear.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Hizballah, Iran, ISIS, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy