Jews Have a Special Obligation to Speak Up on Behalf of Persecuted Chinese Muslims

In the special prayer recited on Hanukkah, the liturgy recalls that the Syrian Greeks sought “to cause the Jews to forget Your Torah and to prevent them from keeping the precepts of Your will.” With that experience in mind, Ephraim Mirvis, the chief rabbi of Great Britain, calls on Jews and Gentiles in the West to take up the cause of the Uighurs—the Muslim ethnic group that populates northwestern China—who are facing Beijing’s attempt to do the same to their own faith and customs:

Can it be true that, in our modern, sophisticated world, men and women are still beaten if they refuse to renounce their faith? That women are forced to abort their unborn children and are then sterilized to prevent them from becoming pregnant again? That forced imprisonment, the separation of children from their parents and a culture of intimidation and fear have become the norm? Sadly, the weight of evidence of this persecution of the Uighur Muslim minority in China is overwhelming.

“Impossible” is a word I often heard while growing up in apartheid South Africa in the 60s and 70s. My father, a rabbi, would make pastoral visits to political prisoners held on Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. My mother was the principal of the only training college for black nursery-school teachers in the country. For so long, any notion of positive change was rendered impossible by the impregnable power and ruthless determination of the apartheid authorities. And, yet, change did eventually come.

“Impossible” was the sad conclusion when, during my tenure as chief rabbi of Ireland in the 1980s, my wife and I were actively involved in the global campaign for Soviet Jewry. The oppression of so many Jews and others by the mighty Soviet Union seemed an insurmountable injustice. It appeared impossible that protesters around the world could change the fortunes of innocent men and women who were sent to labor camps for the sin of living as Jews. But change did eventually come.

The freedoms we enjoy, coupled with a perception that nothing we do will help, often create a culture of apathy. Time and again, history has taught us that it is precisely such apathy that permits hatred to flourish. The Talmud teaches that: “We are not expected to complete the task, but neither are we free to desist from it.”

Read more at Guardian

More about: China, Ephraim Mirvis, Freedom of Religion, Hanukkah

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security