So Long as Jews Keep Discussing Their Purpose as a People, the World Will Be Better Off

Jan. 19 2021

The idea that the Jews have a special role in God’s plan for the universe is one that goes back to the Bible itself, and looms large in the thinking of the major medieval Jewish philosophers. But it is also one that has persisted into the modern era, capturing the imaginations of the theologians of Reform Judaism, of secular Zionists such as Theodor Herzl and David Ben-Gurion, and many others. It is the modern thinkers that are the main concern of Adam Sutcliffe’s recent book, What Are Jews For?, along with the non-Jewish writers and intellectuals who tackled the same question. Allan Arkush writes in his review:

Sutcliffe himself remains somewhat distant from the ideological fray—almost above it. . . . [B]ut he does hope that Jews will continue to discuss the purpose of their own existence, which means, first of all, that they must remain Jews. As long as they do so, they can continue to ruminate about the purpose of their peoplehood in a way that can be of benefit not only to themselves but to the world as a whole. For the ideal of a lofty ethical peoplehood to which some of them give voice is one that can direct everyone “toward the possibility of a future in which we, as part of whatever collectivity we might feel we belong to, might be something more than we are in the present, and part of bringing about a different and better world.”

While Adam Sutcliffe’s intellectual history may alienate some of those intellectuals at whom he here seems to be gently shaking his finger, others—including many who disagree with each other about almost everything else—may nod in agreement with his conclusions. It is refreshing to see a well-informed and thoughtful author survey our current internecine altercations and place them in a broad historical perspective, without attempting to scold his adversaries and win the day. One hopes that Sutcliffe is correct when he asserts, at the very end of his book, that “the Jewish purpose question still spurs us to think beyond our differences, and always to carry on hoping.”

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: David Ben-Gurion, Jewish people, Judaism, Theodor Herzl

 

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism