Jewish Organizations Shouldn’t Be Fighting against Religious Liberty

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a convent that wishes for the state of Pennsylvania to exempt it from providing employees with health-insurance plans that cover abortifacients, sterilizations, and contraceptives. (The nuns had proposed a workaround that would ensure employees had access to such treatments if so desired.) Among the signatories to an amicus brief filed in favor of Pennsylvania were several Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Union of Reform Judaism, and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. Howard Slugh and Mitchell Rocklin write:

According to the ADL, [whose lawyers were among the brief’s main authors], the burden of religious liberty cannot be imposed on the public. Nonbelievers cannot be forced to “underwrite objector’s religious choices,” the brief states. “When nonbeneficiaries would be detrimentally affected, religious exemptions are forbidden.”

It’s a problematic argument for the simple fact that if . . . taken seriously, it would invalidate most religious accommodations. When an accommodation benefits one party, it almost always burdens someone else. Take, for example, kosher food, which can cost prisons or the military in excess of three times the cost of non-kosher meals. [N]o one would argue that Jewish prisoners or military personnel should not have their religious liberties protected by having kosher food provided to them.

The ADL’s position would turn this proud tradition on its head and declare that America only protects religious liberty when it is easy and inconsequential to do so.

Furthermore, the brief’s position would significantly harm American Jews. To support its view that the Supreme Court rule against accommodating the Sisters’ religious liberty, the brief cites a 1985 Supreme Court case striking down a Connecticut law that required employers to accommodate people who observe the Sabbath, . . . on the grounds that the Constitution does not give anyone the right to force nonbelievers to conform to their needs. But for the Supreme Court to consider expanding this precedent would undermine the work of Jewish groups, which have long sought more robust protections for Jewish employees who wish to observe the Sabbath.

Read more at Forward

More about: ADL, American Jewry, American law, Freedom of Religion, Supreme Court

Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority