Two Flawed Attempts to Rethink Zionism

June 24 2016

Two new theoretical works attempt to save Jewish nationalism and the state of Israel from their purported deficiencies and, simultaneously, to defend them against their critics. In Zionism and Judaism: A New Theory, David Novak argues that the only grounds for the rightness of Zionism are religious, and therefore Israel should be “a theistically based polity,” with its legal system undergirded not by halakhah but by the seven Noahide laws. Chaim Gans, in A Political Theory for the Jewish People, contends that the principles justifying Jewish statehood also justify Palestinian statehood, and also the right of Arabs to their own national culture within a Jewish state. Allan Arkush finds both books unsatisfactory (free registration required):

[I]is it an accident, we must ask, that Novak has omitted any mention of idolatry and blasphemy from this Noahide bill of rights? These are, after all, by far the most problematic prohibitions for a modern state. What are Israeli pagans (there are a few) to think of the proposal to outlaw their religion? Much more important, wouldn’t the prohibition of idolatry and blasphemy threaten to curtail the free expression of anti-clerical writers and atheists and even—on Novak’s analysis—cultural Zionists? And wouldn’t Israeli homosexuals (not to speak of consenting adulterers) have good reason to fear that the Noahide law against sexual license would be interpreted in ways that would deprive them of their freedom?

As for Gans, Arkush writes, he is

a consistent thinker whose ultimate grounds for defending the Zionist enterprise require the support of Palestinian national rights, as he defines them. There is, however, good reason to fear the consequences of putting his ideas into practice.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Israel & Zionism, Liberal Zionism, Religious Zionism, Seven Noahide Laws, Two-State Solution, Zionism

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela