Remembering Ruth Gavison, a Great Zionist Thinker

Aug. 21 2020

Ruth Gavison, one of Israel’s foremost jurists and political theorists, died last week at the age of seventy-five. Allan Arkush remembers her not only for her intellectual accomplishments, passionate commitment to Zionism, and her deep moral sense, but also for her “approachability” and other personal qualities:

Ruth was effortlessly eloquent, in English no less than in Hebrew, but she didn’t rely solely on her words. What she did with her hands was simply incredible. I won’t even try to describe it. Go to YouTube, watch one of the dozens of her lectures that have been posted there. You’ll see that it’s possible to gesticulate mellifluously.

Watching Ruth in action, I felt like I was watching a colorized version of an old newsreel of a Zionist Congress. I half-expected that any minute Chaim Weizmann would show up and give me a glimpse of his own inimitable magic. Ruth embodied the bottomless and tireless devotion to the cause that made the state of Israel possible and that sustains it to this day.

[But] I don’t want to leave the impression that Ruth was single-mindedly focused on Jewish questions. She was deeply rooted, but she was also very cosmopolitan. When she came to the United States, she met with many and diverse friends, Jewish and non-Jewish, including prominent political theorists and legal scholars who had no particular interest in Israel. In [an] email [to me] last month, . . . she added that she was playing the piano and reading a lot about early 20th-century personalities and events. She singled out Stefan Zweig, and Muhammad Asad and The Road to Mecca, and “assimilationist Jews facing the challenges of Eastern and Western Europe. Fascinating. Something altogether different from Zionism.” Knowing that this might surprise me, she added a last word: “N’daber” (We’ll talk). I wish we still could.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Jewish political tradition, Political philosophy, Ruth Gavison, Zionism

Why the Recent Uptick of Israeli Activity in Syria?

Sept. 23 2022

On September 16 and 17, the IDF carried out airstrikes in the vicinity of Damascus, reportedly aimed at Iranian logistical centers there. These follow on an increase in the frequency of such attacks in recent weeks, which have included strikes on the Aleppo airport on August 31 and September 6. Jonathan Spyer comments:

The specific targeting of the Aleppo airport is almost certainly related to recent indications that Iran is relying increasingly on its “air bridge” to Syria and Lebanon, because of Israel’s successful and systematic targeting of efforts to move weaponry and equipment by land [via Iraq]. But the increased tempo of activity is not solely related to the specific issue of greater use of air transport by Teheran. Rather, it is part of a broader picture of increasing regional tension. There are a number of factors that contribute to this emergent picture.

Firstly, Russia appears to be pulling back in Syria. . . . There are no prospects for a complete Russian withdrawal. The air base at Khmeimim and the naval facilities at Tartus and Latakia are hard strategic assets which will be maintained. The maintenance of Assad’s rule is also a clear objective for Moscow. But beyond this, the Russians are busy now with a flailing, faltering military campaign in Ukraine. Moscow lacks the capacity for two close strategic engagements at once.

Secondly, assuming that some last-minute twist does not occur, it now looks like a return to the [2015 nuclear deal] is not imminent. In the absence of any diplomatic process related to the Iranian nuclear program, and given Israeli determination to roll back Iran’s regional ambitions, confrontation becomes more likely.

Lastly, it is important to note that the uptick in Israeli activity is clearly not related to Syria alone. Rather, it is part of a more general broadening and deepening by Israel in recent months of its assertive posture toward the full gamut of Iranian activity in the region. . . . The increasing scope and boldness of Israeli air activity in Syria reflects this changing of the season.

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Read more at Jonathan Spyer

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria, War in Ukraine