How Louis Brandeis’s Uncle May Have Saved Zionism

Oct. 19 2017

When the British cabinet was debating the adoption of the Balfour Declaration, Edwin Monatagu—secretary of state for India, a sympathizer with Indian nationalism, and a member of one of England’s most distinguished Jewish families—emerged as Zionism’s fiercest opponent, arguing that acknowledging Jews as a nation would expose them to charges of disloyalty “in their native lands.” This position was not very different from that originally held by Louis Brandeis, but by 1916 he had changed his mind and become one of Zionism’s most passionate advocates in America. The shift in his opinion, writes Meir Soloveichik, was due to the Zionism of his uncle, Lewis Dembitz, a successful lawyer and pious Jew admired by Jews and Christians alike:

The irony—or perhaps the providential nature—of this moment is difficult to miss. One of the most important Jews in England had done all he could to deny Jewish peoplehood, only to be foiled by one of the most important Jews in America, who had only just ceased to think about his own Jewishness in the exact same way.

Montagu died in 1924, at the age of forty-five, never achieving the apex of political power, and with his assault on Zionism a failure. Yet Montagu’s legacy lives on in many Jews today who seem concerned for the nationalist aspirations of all other peoples except their own, and who similarly raise the specter of dual loyalty. In this, Montagu brings to mind the criticism of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, who once wrote that the “emancipated modern Jew has been trying, for a long time, to do away with this twofold responsibility, . . . the universal and the covenantal, which, in his opinion, are mutually exclusive.” This was true in the age of Edwin Montagu, and, alas, it remains true today.

Meanwhile, Dembitz may be as unknown as Montagu, if not more so. But one can rightly say that millions of Jews enjoy the fruits of his labor and his life, every day, in a vibrant and miraculous Jewish state. It is important that his legacy inspire Jewish Americans, that we be known for our dedication to this country and simultaneously for exercising our freedoms in defense of Jews, and in dedicated observance of the faith of our fathers.

Read more at Commentary

More about: American Jewry, Balfour Declaration, History & Ideas, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Louis Brandeis, Zionism


Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship