Jews Need Not Fear Religious Freedom

Aug. 29 2022

In two recent rulings—one involving a college football coach who wished to pray on the field, the other involving the directing of state funding to religious schools—the Supreme Court decided in favor of an expansive definition of freedom of religion and against the argument that any sign of government favor toward religious practices or institutions should be seen as a violation of the First Amendment’s prohibition on establishing an official state religion. Two prominent mainstream Jewish groups, the Antidefamation League (ADL) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC), condemned these decisions. To Jonathan Tobin, their position reflects the understandable but misguided attitude of many American Jews:

As a religious minority in a country that was overwhelmingly Christian and because of their experiences elsewhere, Jews have always tended to view the public expression of faith as inherently dangerous. Jews had thrived in America in a way that was unmatched in the long history of the Diaspora, and at the core of the safety and acceptance that they found here was the fact that no faith was “established” as the official state religion. Judaism has always been on an equal basis with Christian denominations, whose adherents made up the overwhelming majority of the population. But to many Jews, fear of faith in the public square has led them to see the Constitution’s sensible balance between non-establishment and defense of free exercise as worrisome.

In the 20th century, politically liberal Jews who saw the issue solely through the prism of past fears were part of a movement that sought to rid the public domain of religion. Yet that hasn’t made them any safer or freer. While liberal Jewish groups remain obsessed with a non-existent threat to Jewish rights from religious Christians, who are now more likely to be philo-Semitic than hostile to Jews, they are blind to other more pertinent dangers.

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Read more at JNS

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

 

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy