Lessons, and Myths, of the Struggle for Soviet Jewry

According to a widespread myth, writes Elliott Abrams, unprecedented unity among Americans in general and American Jews in particular won Soviet Jews the freedom to emigrate. But this is wrong on both counts: first, U.S. Jewry and the Soviet Jewry movement were deeply divided internally and faced hostility from powerful figures in American politics; second, what achieved results was not rallies on the streets of New York but the prudent application of American economic power.

[H]ow did American Jews leverage their own country’s power to affect the internal affairs of the USSR, a great power itself and an enemy of the United States? . . . It is very clear that demonstrations and speeches in the United States did not move the USSR. What moved it was that persecution of Soviet Jews became very expensive. As Natan Sharansky himself has made clear, it was Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, more than anyone else, who applied the pressure [with the 1975 Jackson-Vanick amendment, which tied trade with the USSR to human-rights issues]. . . .

The Soviets gave ground on banning Jewish emigration when those limitations appeared to cost them more than they were worth. Governments violate human rights because they think it is in their interest to do so. Lecturing them is appropriate, but it will not force change. . . . It is absolutely true that the Soviet Jewry movement was on the side of the angels, and that helps explain its very broad support in the United States. But that isn’t what the Soviet regime was worried about; trade, loans, and money were.

As for the argument of the Nixon administration that the demands of realpolitik and the importance of détente with Moscow trumped concern over the fate of Soviet Jewry, Abrams writes:

[One] problem with realpolitik is that it isn’t very realistic. It excludes the domain of individual, principled, passionate action or sees such actions and movements merely as obstacles to the smooth working of interstate relations. But such relations are a means, not an end. It was never worth sacrificing the freedom of Soviet Jews or the American commitment to human rights to smooth relations with a hostile power. Freedom was more valuable—not only as an abstraction, and not only in its impact on the lives of refuseniks and their families, but in strategic terms. It helped bring about the collapse of the United States’ greatest enemy.

Thus, the Soviet Jewry movement, and later Ronald Reagan’s confrontation with the Soviet Union, proved that a freedom strategy was in the end more realistic as a matter of international politics. The Soviet Jewry movement weakened America’s principal enemy where détente had strengthened it.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Elliott Abrams, Henry Kissinger, Natan Sharansky, Scoop Jackson, Soviet Jewry

Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security