The Struggle for Jewish Rights Has Come to an End, but the War on Jews Has Taken New Forms

Feb. 10 2021

Three centuries ago, Jews from Baghdad to Bordeaux were subject to various rules and regulations—restricting everything from what they could wear, where they could reside, and even when they could marry—imposed by the regimes under which they lived. The gradual repeal and elimination of their special legal status is a central phenomenon of the modern Jewish experience, and the subject of David Sorkin’s recent book Jewish Emancipation. In his review, Andrew N. Koss praises Sorkin’s comprehensive and thorough treatment of his subject, while contesting his central argument that emancipation is “ambiguous and interminable” and, thus, that “Jews everywhere continue to live in the age of emancipation.”

[A]re Jews anywhere in danger of being deprived of their rights? In lieu of presenting any concrete evidence that this is so, Sorkin simply tells us that emancipation will never be complete so long as Jews everywhere haven’t taken on his own political preferences.

It would be wrong to say that, in 2020, Jews in either Israel or the Diaspora are without flaws or face no risks. But, even if the nightmare of a Corbyn victory in the UK’s most recent election had come about, it’s hard to imagine Jews would have been restricted from holding office, or been confined to particular neighborhoods, or have to pay special taxes. (Tellingly, Sorkin never mentions the rise of Corbyn in Britain or other similar phenomena.) Nor could France’s National Front, in the unlikely case that it won an electoral victory, be expected to go so far. Nor have the far-right governments that have come to power in Central and Eastern Europe made any such steps.

Likewise, the physical and rhetorical assaults on American Jews, whether on college campuses or in the streets of Crown Heights and Jersey City or the synagogues of Pittsburgh and Poway, haven’t been coupled with proposals to restrict Jews’ civil rights. By comparison, the Hep-Hep riots, which swept through Germany in 1819, were a pointed response to emancipation. Today, the status of Jews as citizens seems entirely irrelevant to all but the craziest fringe of anti-Semites. This is not to say that it is preferable to be murdered in a synagogue than to have to listen to a debate about whether Jews should be allowed to purchase real estate, only that the battle over legal emancipation has ended, and the war against the Jews has taken on new forms.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Anti-Semitism, Emancipation, Jewish history

When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount