Israel’s Chief Rabbis Should Condemn Anti-Christian Vandalism

On New Year’s Day, several tombstones were damaged in a Protestant Jerusalem cemetery, apparently by two kippah-clad Jewish youths. Sporadic acts of this kind are rare when compared to the sort of systematic persecution experienced by Christians living in Palestinian-controlled areas, and Israeli authorities responded in a timely way. Nevertheless, Faydra Shapiro notes something missing from the Israeli response:

We can be proud of the fact that Israel apprehended the pair and takes these crimes seriously.

We can also be proud of the fact that many prominent voices in Israel were raised in criticism of this despicable event, including President Herzog, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Jerusalem district police commander. Dozens of Jewish Israelis made a solidarity visit to Mount Zion. The crime was also condemned by important international figures, including the U.S. government’s anti-Semitism envoy and the chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.

Missing however, are the voices of the chief rabbis of Israel.

Until we begin to expect more from our Israeli rabbis in the service of Israeli democracy, the protection of minorities, and forging a moral path for the Jewish future, some will feel emboldened to translate that religious ambivalence into active hate crimes. This is not only immoral; it sends a dangerous message to our Jewish youth, to the Diaspora, and to Christians around the world.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Israeli Chief Rabbinate, Jewish-Christian relations, Middle East Christianity

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood