Yom Ha-Atsma’ut Is Not Just about Israeli Independence, but about Jewish Liberation

Israel’s Independence Day, which began Wednesday evening and ended yesterday, is celebrated by countless Jews in the Diaspora with school events, special synagogue services, and the mere recognition of the date’s significance. While the creation of the state of Israel is surely sufficient cause for joy in itself, writes Michael Koplow, it also has additional meaning for Jews living outside its borders:

Jewish liberation and self-determination extend past Israel as the Jewish state, even as I would argue that Jewish sovereignty in the Jewish homeland is a necessary component of that liberation and self-determination. Jewish independence and liberation are also about our right to define ourselves, our right to live free of anti-Semitism, and our right to express our Jewishness as we see fit.

In the past couple of weeks alone, there are disturbing signs that these aspects of Jewish independence and liberation—ones that we have taken for granted—are under erosion. Much has been made of the editorial board of the Harvard Crimson endorsing BDS, [the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel], and rejecting its past stance opposing it, but the BDS endorsement itself is not what should worry American Jews. . . . What should worry us is that the same editorial unambiguously asserted that nothing about the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee’s “Wall of Resistance”—including the first panel that read “Zionism is racism, settler colonialism, white supremacy, apartheid”—was deserving of the “delegitimizing label” of anti-Semitism.

Note that the Wall of Resistance did not accuse Israel, the Israeli government, or Israeli policies and actions of white supremacy, but rather labeled the idea of Jewish self-determination as white supremacy.

Most [American Jews] are Zionists and some of us are not, and Jews ourselves vigorously debate whether anti-Zionism is inherently or automatically anti-Semitic, but we get to decide whether Zionism is a legitimate or necessary component of Judaism rather than having someone else tell us.

That too, Koplow argues, is part of what Jewish liberation entails.

Read more at Israel Policy Forum

More about: Anti-Semitism, BDS, Israel and the Diaspora, Israeli Independence Day

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

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