Religion, Power—and Jonathan Sacks

While praising Jonathan Sacks’s “brilliant” and “eloquent” Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence, Shlomo Riskin nevertheless faults the author for arguing that “Abrahamic monotheism should be understood . . . as a profound social and theological critique of the politicization of religion.” Such a view, writes Riskin, goes too far, ignoring an important element of the biblical message and threatening to undercut the religious case for Zionism (free registration required):

As careful readers of the Hebrew Bible as different as the early-modern Protestant thinkers described by Eric Nelson in The Hebrew Republic and the [19th-century] head of famed Volozhin yeshiva, Naftali Zvi Yehudah Berlin, have argued, there is a biblical ideal of a constitutional nation-state which is integrally related to the Abrahamic vision. Indeed, only such a political enterprise can fulfill that vision of a monotheistic community devoted to compassionate righteousness and moral justice. It is the kingship of God that underwrites human freedom and justice, but these values must be enforced and defended by human beings. In short, Sacks seems uncomfortable with an Israel that actually succeeds in its Abrahamic mission of convincing the families of the earth to accept the moral and spiritual truths of monotheism. . . .

Religion may be able to survive without power, but it will be unable to redeem without power. Power may corrupt, and absolute power may corrupt absolutely, but powerlessness corrupts, too, for it necessitates accommodation with, and sometimes even surrender to, evil.

We [Jews] will never be able to fulfill our Abrahamic mandate to redeem the world if we remain powerless. This was the original mission of Israel, and the purpose for which we returned to Zion.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Hebrew Bible, Jonathan Sacks, Monotheism, Religion & Holidays, Religion & Politics, Zionism

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy