American Jews Should Join Christians in Defending Religious Liberty

Dec. 27 2017

Responding to a recent essay accusing Orthodox organizations of “embracing Christian values” by supporting the rights of employers to decline to pay for abortion and contraception, Aylana Meisel and Mitchell Rocklin write:

[A]s progressive ideas have become more mainstream, . . . many progressives have chosen to demonize . . . those with religious and cultural positions that are now in the minority. . . . In this climate, it’s not surprising that traditionalists of various faiths are solidifying alliances among themselves and with others who care deeply about individual liberty more generally, since increasingly both religious and secular progressives seem to be indifferent or even hostile to religious freedom. . . .

The sad truth of the progressive argument is that it has abandoned liberalism—claiming the mantle of promoting liberty while in fact trampling individual rights. Liberals once believed that a good society is a free society that fiercely guards individual liberties from dictatorial majorities. As members of a persecuted people, and as true believers in the justice of this position, Jews joined this fight wholeheartedly. At the time of the Constitution’s ratification, Jews and Baptists (the latter a group that then faced much intolerance) were some of the most enthusiastic opponents of established religion. . . .

The defense of religious freedom adopted by many Orthodox Jews today is consistent with this honorable legacy. It also conforms both to the Founders’ vision for America and to our need as Jews to safeguard our own rights. . . . It’s high time that all Jews realize that the freedom of other religious communities to follow the dictates of their respective faiths and maintain their unique identities is the same freedom that Jews enjoy as well. We must fight together to preserve something distinct for each of us, and we stand or fall together.

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More about: Christians, Freedom of Religion, Jewish-Christian relations, Orthodoxy, Religion & Holidays, U.S. Politics

The Impossibility of Unilateral Withdrawal from the West Bank

Feb. 19 2019

Since throwing his hat into the ring for the Israeli premiership, the former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz has been reticent about his policy plans. Nonetheless, he has made clear his openness to unilateral disengagement from the West Bank along the lines of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, stating the necessity of finding “a way in which we’re not controlling other people.” Gershon Hacohen argues that any such plan would be ill-advised:

The political and strategic precepts underlying the Oslo “peace” process, which Gantz echoes, vanished long ago. The PLO has unequivocally revealed its true colors: its total lack of interest in peace, unyielding rejection of the idea of Jewish statehood, and incessant propensity for violence and terrorism. . . . Tehran is rapidly emerging as regional hegemon, with its tentacles spreading from Yemen and Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea and its dogged quest for nuclear weapons continuing apace under the international radar. Even the terror groups Hizballah and Hamas pose a far greater threat to Israel’s national security than they did a decade ago. Under these circumstances, Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank’s Area C, [the only part still under direct Israeli control], would constitute nothing short of an existential threat.

Nor does Israel need to find a way to stop “controlling other people,” as Gantz put it, for the simple reason that its control of the Palestinians ended some two decades ago. In May 1994 the IDF withdrew from all Palestinian population centers in the Gaza Strip. In January 1996 it vacated the West Bank’s populated areas (the Oslo Accords’ Areas A and B), comprising over 90 percent of the West Bank’s Palestinian residents, and handed control of that population to the Palestinian Authority (PA). . . .

This in turn means that the real dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as within Israel itself, no longer revolves around the end of “occupation” but around the future of eastern Jerusalem and Area C. And since Area C (which is home to only 100,000 Palestinians) includes all the Jewish West Bank localities, IDF bases, transportation arteries, vital topographic sites, and habitable empty spaces between the Jordan Valley and the Jerusalem metropolis, its continued retention by Israel is a vital national interest. Why? Because its surrender to a potentially hostile Palestinian state would make the defense of the Israeli hinterland virtually impossible—and because these highly strategic and sparsely populated lands are of immense economic, infrastructural, communal, ecological, and cultural importance, not to mention their historical significance as the bedrock of the Jewish ancestral homeland

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More about: Benny Gantz, Israel & Zionism, Two-State Solution, West Bank