There’s Nothing Jewish about the Welfare State

Many assume that traditional Jewish notions of charity lead naturally to support for the modern welfare state. Hillel Gershuni begs to differ:

The rationale behind the modern welfare state is often explained in terms of “redistributing the wealth.” This [justification for charity] is absent from [traditional Jewish texts] and even contrary to their purpose. . . . [The biblical passages concerning charity] speak of basic compassion between people. There is a commandment to help the poor out of human concern for your brother—but certainly not [a commandment] to redistribute wealth. . . .

Our ancient texts understood a basic concept that many modern thinkers seem to slip up on: economics is not a zero-sum game, in which the poor must lose so that the rich may gain. To the contrary—the existence of rich people is what allows poorer people to live more comfortably than they would without them. Halakhah expressly prohibits one from giving away too much of his property, ruling that . . . a man may not give more than a fifth of his wealth to charity, lest he himself sink into poverty. Here, too, the understanding is that even the voluntary distribution of wealth is not always a welcome thing, and it needs to be done in measured doses.

Read more at Mida

More about: Judaism, Religion & Holidays, Social Justice, Tzedakah, Welfare

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy