Robert Oppenheimer’s Embrace of Israel

Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan’s film about the career of the titular physicist, won seven Oscars Sunday night, bringing the man who played a leading role in the Manhattan Project back into the public conversation. Born to a Jewish family in New York City in 1904, J. Robert Oppenheimer had little in the way of religious education and through his life expressed little sense of Jewish identity. Yet Meyer Weisgal, a longtime aide to Chaim Weizmann and later the president of Israel’s prestigious Weizmann Institute of Science, stated in 1967 that the recently deceased Oppenheimer would have been put in charge of the institution were it not for his unexpected death that same year.

Martin Kramer tries to verify this claim, and reports on two trips Oppenheimer made to Israel in 1958 and 1965. I won’t spoil Kramer’s conclusion, but I will share this quote from a speech the physicist gave during his first visit:

I can say that the whole world sees in Israel a symbol, and not just a symbol of courage, and not just a symbol of dedication, but of faith and confidence in man’s reason, and a confidence in man’s future, and in the confidence in man, and of hope. These are all now largely and sadly missing in those vast parts of the world which not so long ago were their very cradle.

Oppenheimer, Kramer explains, expressed his admiration for the Jewish state on other occasions as well:

Israeli society, he told his New York audience a few months later, was “forced by danger, by hardship, by hostile neighbors, to an intense, continued common effort.” As a result, “one finds a health of spirit, a human health, now grown rare in the great lands of Europe and America, which will serve not only to bring dedicated men and dedication to Israel, but to lead us to refresh and renew the ancient sources of our own strength and health.”

Read more at Sandbox

More about: Israeli history, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Science

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy