Haredim and the IDF: Learning a Lesson from the Tsars

In Israeli domestic politics, issues surrounding the Haredim and their relationship with the state are again at the forefront. Recent legislation regarding the enlistment of yeshiva students—a longstanding point of contention that, given the current demands the war is placing on reservists, has become a greater than ever source of resentment—came close to toppling the government last week. Then followed a dust-up in the Knesset concerning the appointment of local rabbis, the details of which are too arcane to explain here, which also highlighted the tensions between Haredim and non-Haredim.

Brian Horowitz suggests looking to tsarist Russia’s nine decades of efforts to conscript Jews to think about solutions to the problem of haredi enlistment. During the reign of Tsar Nicholas I (1825–1855), Russian Jews had good reason to see army service as cruel, dangerous, and likely to destroy conscripts’ connection to Judaism. Their attempts to resist conscription ended up having terrible effects on Jewish communal life. Yet the Russian government had more success when it adopted more liberal policies:

In the case of haredi conscription in Israel, it might be possible to put in shorter service terms for members who receive secular education and training for jobs outside yeshiva study halls. However, if haredi recruitment is imposed like in Nicholas’s time with the power of selection in the hands of the rabbinic elite, a similar situation will likely arise in which some boys will go to the military because they lack prowess as scholars, while others will be victims of corruption. This picture will not be pretty.

Some people will continue to strive to change haredi attitudes toward the state. I don’t think that we should expect change in the short run. . . . Today’s stratification of military service in Israel cannot stand, but the proposals for haredi service must include incentives as well as demands.

While Horowitz looks at the problem as an outsider, it’s worth noting that the haredi journalist (and yeshiva student) Moshe Shafer takes a similar approach, arguing that Israeli Haredim have based their approach to the Israeli government on strategies of premodern Jewish representatives “pleading before the classic Polish aristocrat.” He believes it’s time for a change, calling on his fellow Haredim, who have already accepted the rights of citizenship, to accept the responsibilities as well.

Read more at Fathom

More about: Haredim, IDF, Israeli society, Jews in the military, Russian Jewry

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security