Leo Strauss’s Forgotten Letter Defending Israel

Sept. 20 2016

In January 1957, National Review, then less than a year old, published a letter by Leo Strauss denouncing what he saw as the magazine’s anti-Israel stance and arguing that conservatives ought to support the Jewish state. Steven B. Smith extracts some important lessons for dealing with present-day assaults on Israel’s legitimacy:

Revealingly, Strauss never invokes the Holocaust as the reason for Israel’s existence. He refuses to treat causes that either highlight Jewish weakness or appeal to European guilt. If Israel is to stand, it must stand on its own two feet, that is, from sources within its own tradition.

The best reply to the deniers and delegitimizers is a serious engagement with the founding texts of Zionism—Theodor Herzl, Max Nordau, Aḥad Ha’am, Vladimir Jabotinsky. These are to Israel’s lifeblood what the Declaration of Independence and the Federalist Papers are to American self-understanding. Strauss points to the conditions of human dignity that can be attained only by a self-governing people capable of determining their fate while remaining loyal to their heritage. Israelis and, just as important, Americans trying to defend Israel must never shrink from this task.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: Conservatism, History & Ideas, Israel & Zionism, Leo Strauss, 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