What Natan Sharansky Knows That Bernie Sanders Doesn’t

While Senator Bernie Sanders’s chances of winning the Democratic presidential nomination look increasingly slim, his candidacy has sparked a newfound enthusiasm for socialism in America—to which Jews have not been immune. Meir Soloveichik contrasts this wave of socialist sentiment with the experience of Natan Sharansky, who survived the horrors of seeing Karl Marx’s ideas put into practice:

At the age of five, Natan (then Anatoly) Sharansky experienced his first miracle. Joseph Stalin, busily fanning the flames of the “Jewish doctors’ plot” conspiracy and planning a mass deportation of Soviet Jews, was suddenly [felled] by a stroke, and died days later. Young Anatoly’s father, a journalist who knew much that Soviet state propaganda would never reveal, secretly informed his son of the significance of what had occurred. . . . The stroke occurred on the holiday of Purim in the year 1953, and just as in the book of Esther, the anti-Semitic intentions of a modern-day Haman were suddenly undone.

[A]t the same time, . . . a very different Jewish reaction took place elsewhere. In Israel, kibbutzim associated with the militantly secular and ardently socialist Hashomer Hatsa’ir movement mourned Stalin openly and sincerely. “Joseph Vissarianovich Stalin is no more,” wailed the headline of the daily socialist Hebrew paper Hamishmar. The contrast could not be more striking: a future refusenik, destined to be the most prominent prisoner of Zion, lives in an evil empire and in his heart celebrates the death of a moral monster. Meanwhile, days after Purim, Jews in the first free state of Israel in two millennia mourned one of history’s greatest tyrants.

[I]t is difficult not to see Sanders and Sharansky as embodiments of two philosophical and political paths paved in the 20th century. Both men are prominent activists on the world stage; both seem to speak in the name of justice and human dignity. Yet they are mirror images of each other. Sanders spent time in Israel during its infancy, in a socialist kibbutz. He speaks fondly and proudly of that experience and utilizes it to criticize the Israel of the present day, and for its purported bigotry. One senses that he, like others of his ilk, resents the fact that the Jewish state is not the secular workers’ wonderland that some hoped it would be.

Sharansky walked a different path. Originally a Zionist activist without a devout connection to Hebrew scripture, he describes in his 1988 memoir Fear No Evil how his time in the Gulag inspired him to bond with the biblical God, and how this faith inspired him in his resistance to the very tyrannical society that Sanders spoke so kindly about. . . . In this, Sharansky’s own evolution parallels what Israel itself became over time—not only less socialist and more Western, but also more religious, more biblically connected. More, one might say, Jewish.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Bernie Sanders, Communism, Joseph Stalin, Judaism, Labor Zionism, Natan Sharansky, Soviet Union


Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy