Understanding Judaism’s Most Dangerous Accusation

Oct. 20 2020

As passions rose in Brooklyn’s ḥasidic communities over coronavirus lockdowns, a mob attacked the ḥasidic journalist Jacob Kornbluh with shouts of moser, which loosely translates as “informant.” Henry Abramson explains the history of this highly charged epithet:

Moser (also pronounced moyser) literally means “one who hands over,” in the sense of one who informs or turns over a Jew to the secular authorities. The term is laden with portent in Jewish law.

Moses Maimonides wrote in the 12th century that “an informer may be slain anywhere, even at the present time when Jewish courts do not try capital cases. . . . It is a religious duty to slay him; whoever hastens to kill him attains merit.” There should be no misunderstanding here: Maimonides was writing in a particular social context, prevalent for much of the past two millennia, when Jews constituted a tiny diasporic minority subject to the whim of often hostile, capricious, and brutal governments.

Halakhic authorities like Rabbi Hershel Schachter of Yeshiva University have been quick to declare that this law does not apply in modern, democratic societies: reporting criminal behavior to police, or even tax evasion to the IRS, does not make one a hated moser. Maimonides’ ruling is more comprehensible in the context of Nazi Germany, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, or perhaps Stalin’s Russia.

Read more at Jewish Telegraphic Agency

More about: American Jewry, Hasidim, Moses Maimonides

In Prospective Negotiations with Iran, the U.S. Has the Upper Hand. President-Elect Biden Is Determined Not to Use It

In a recent interview with a writer for the New York Times, Joe Biden expressed his willingness to reenter the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran (formally known as the JCPOA) without new preconditions. Noah Rothman comments:

[S]ome observers believe Biden has provided himself with an escape hatch. Biden reiterated his insistence that there could only be a new deal so long as “Iran returns to strict compliance.” [But if] Iranian compliance were a real sticking point, Biden might have dwelled on—or even mentioned in passing—the kind of inspections regime that would verify such a thing. But he did not.

[Under the terms of the deal], Iran provided inspectors access to declared nuclear sites but not military sites where illicit activities were likeliest to occur. A subsequent agreement allowed inspectors to access suspected sites but only with at least 24-days-notice—enough to dispose of the evidence of small-scale work on components related to a bomb. But functionally, that 24-day timeline could be reset by Iran, which could stretch the delays out for weeks—ample time to deceive inspectors.

The JCPOA was never designed to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear-nation status. It was only aimed at dragging that process out while reshuffling the region’s geopolitical deck in Iran’s favor and ultimately providing a patina of legitimacy to Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Any talk about exhuming and reanimating this agreement that glosses over its weak verification regime suggests that the Biden administration, like the Obama administration, will settle for any deal—even a bad one.

Such an approach seems particularly shortsighted when the Islamic Republic has been pushed onto the defensive, reeling from economic woes, the devastating effects of the coronavirus, and a series of assassinations. Rather than press America’s advantage, when “Iran is on the ropes,” writes Rothman, Biden “is committed to negotiating from a position of weakness.”

Read more at Commentary

More about: Iran, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy