The U.S. Must Help Iraq’s Last Jews

The Jews of Iraq—who constitute the Diaspora’s oldest and for many centuries most important Jewish community—now find themselves threatened with massacre by Islamic State and facing discrimination by the central government. Tina Ramirez argues that the U.S. should be trying to protect them, along with Iraq’s other beleaguered religious minorities:

When I met with Sherzad Omar Mamsani, the Jewish representative to the Kurdish government, in December 2015, he proudly wore his kippah in public—an act of bravery and defiance against those who would see him and his people wiped out in Iraq. He told me that, contrary to reports of only a half-dozen Jewish families, there are as many as 430 such families left in the Kurdish region of Iraq. Although most of these Jews have kept a low profile in public, they experienced a renewed sense of hope with Sherzad’s appointment by the Kurdish government. Sherzad is working in the relative safety of the Kurdish zone to rebuild Iraq’s remaining synagogues and Jewish holy sites, and is helping rewrite the Jewish portion of Kurdish school lessons on Iraq’s religious history. . . .

[I]t is now the Kurds who are helping the Jews rebuild in Iraq. Similar support has not been forthcoming from the Baghdad government. Iraq is facing a critical turning point in its history. The last historic Jewish community and countless other minority faiths are at risk of disappearing. The U.S. and United Nations need a robust policy that recognizes the departure of these communities as the result of more than just the existential security challenges from Islamic militants. Iraq’s government must treat Jews—and every minority group within its borders—as full and equal citizens or they will disappear in the Middle East.

Read more at National Review

More about: Iraqi Jewry, ISIS, Jewish World, Kurds, U.S. Foreign policy

Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship