The Outlandish Tale of the Man Who Briefly Duped a Tightknit Jewish Community—and His Wife—into Believing He Was One of Their Own

For the past few weeks, the American Orthodox media has been abuzz with the story of a young man who had been raised in a secular Shiite family in Tyre. Armin Rosen recounts his interview with its protagonist:

I had just arrived to meet Eliyah Hawila, whose legal name is Ali Hassan Hawila, at his fifth-floor chain-hotel room, a pocket of anonymous nonreality off a dismal highway near a demoralized city in upstate New York. Just days earlier, the Lebanese-born Hawila had been kicked out of Brooklyn’s famously tightknit Syrian Jewish community when it was discovered he had been lying about his Jewish heritage, a fib that smoothed the way to his recent marriage, conducted exactly one month earlier under the auspices of a respected Orthodox rabbi.

Upon discovery of Hawila’s true name and origins, which were radically different from what his bride and her family and nearly all of his Jewish and non-Jewish acquaintances over the previous three years had been led to believe, rabbis and family members prohibited his wife from living with him in the basement apartment they shared, which belonged to the grandson of the rabbi who had written their k’tubah [marriage contract]. Hawila was given around $1,500 and told to leave town.

The likely sincerity of Hawila’s need for and belief in Judaism doesn’t make his story any less unsettling. The allegation [that he was a Hizballah deep-cover operative] even began to look like a deliberate evasion of the saga’s recognizable human dimensions, which should discomfit anyone who takes belief and community seriously. Hawila ruined people’s lives, including possibly his own, in a quest for happiness and meaning. He isn’t a terrorist sleeper agent, but an embodiment of the destructive potential contained within any spiritual yearning.

Or so he seemed. “I had been warned by numerous people from more than one era in Hawila’s convoluted life,” Rosen writes, “not to trust a single thing he told me.”

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Conversion, Judaism, Lebanon, Syrian Jewry

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism