Kurdistan’s Jewish Revival

Kurdistan was once home to an ancient and vibrant Jewish community with its own unique dialect of Aramaic. But in the 20th century, forced conversion on the one hand and emigration to Israel on the other caused the community to shrink dramatically. Now the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Iraqi Kurds’ quasi-autonomous entity, is trying to encourage a Jewish revival. In April, the KRG even sponsored a Yom Hashoah event. Julie Lenarz writes:

The Jewish Remembrance Day for Victims of the Holocaust in Kurdistan was organized by the Office of the Jewish Representative, a special department within the Kurdistan Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs, as part of a wider push by the KRG to foster a climate of peaceful coexistence among people of different religious backgrounds. . . . Last year, the government . . . appointed official representatives for all [its] religious communities, . . . including Jews, Mandaeans, Baha’is, Kaka’is, Shiite Muslims, and Zoroastrians. . . . This is an unprecedented initiative by a Muslim-majority government in the modern Middle East, where minorities are often systematically persecuted or worse. . . .

Sherzad Omar Mamsani, the KRG’s first Jewish representative, has been tasked with a monumental challenge—the revival of Kurdistan’s ancient Jewish history and culture, which was suppressed 70 years ago. . . .

Mamsani is more than a token appointment. . . . “Unlike [Iran], we see Israel and Kurdistan as the two countries in the Middle East where people of all religions and identities can come together and coexist peacefully,” Mamsani told me. “Religious freedom in the region is severely restricted, and nowhere in the Islamic world do religious minorities enjoy the same rights they enjoy in Israel and Kurdistan.”

Read more at Tower

More about: Holocaust Remembrance Day, Iraq, Iraqi Jewry, Jewish World, Kurds

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