What Israel Can Teach the U.S. about Religious Pluralism and Tolerance

To many Americans, the fact that Israel defines itself as a Jewish state, like its maintenance of a separate school system for its Arab citizens, seems foreign, if not downright unsettling. But, argues Megan McArdle after a recent visit, it gives the country’s minorities something hard to find in other Western countries:

I spoke to Shadi Khalloul, a Maronite Christian activist in the Galilee who is working to revive Aramaic as the daily language of his community. He doesn’t want his community’s children to attend a separate school system for Arabs, true, but that’s because he wants a separate school system for their own identity.

Many governments that constitute themselves along ethno-religious lines oppress minorities, of course. But if a country protects the civil rights of minority citizens, as Israel generally does, it can offer the one thing that an aggressively secular liberal state can’t: easy preservation of the minorities’ own particularist identities, which tend to be lost in aggressively secular liberal nations as the minorities are more or less forcibly assimilated. . . . Israel is able to accommodate [such minorities] more tolerantly not despite its particularist self-definition but because of it. . . .

[T]he United States, a country that espouses tolerance as a prime virtue, has recently been struggling with how far to accommodate ancient and obdurately illiberal faiths—as when we catapulted almost immediately from “legalize gay weddings” to “force Christian bakers to make [gay couples’] wedding cakes.”

Thinking about the unrepentant ethno-religious identity of Israel, and of many Israeli minorities, and indeed of our own traditionalists, forces us to explore the limits of our self-proclaimed tolerance for dissenters. Which is why we need to grapple with that very different way of looking at faith.

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Read more at Washington Post

More about: Freedom of Religion, Israeli Arabs, Israeli Christians, Israeli democracy, Tolerance

Lessons for Israel from Iran’s Response to the Killing of Qassem Suleimani

Feb. 19 2020

On January 8, just five days after the U.S. killed the high-ranking Iranian general Qassem Suleimani in a retaliatory airstrike, Tehran responded by firing ballistic missiles at two American bases in Iraq. At first it seemed possible that the Islamic Republic deliberately aimed its rockets so as not harm U.S. soldiers, but, Uzi Rubin concludes, information made public since then strongly suggests that the lack of American deaths was “a matter of sheer luck.” Iran, which generally prefers to operate through proxies or in such a way as to maintain plausible deniability, not only took credit for the attack but boasted about its success.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy