The Orthodoxies of the University Are Far More Dogmatic Than Those of the Faithful

Oct. 26 2017

Growing up in an Orthodox Jewish community, Celeste Marcus thought she knew something about dogmatism. Then she went to college:

College students, whether they are secular or religious, . . . have dogmas, cults, temples, scriptures, prooftexts, prophets, and methods of excommunication. Their loyalty to the group and its doctrine is often about the reward of belonging to a culture and a community. But inside their institutions of faith and ritual, they pursue the good life that their gods prescribe. . . .

I was raised in an Orthodox community, and so I recognized the religiosity and the piety. But I must note a significant difference. My denomination of Judaism, which calls itself Modern Orthodoxy, allowed for students to ask why we think what we think and why we do what we do. We were permitted to speak skeptically and express doubt. . . . (Granted, we still had to keep performing the practices, despite the overwhelming stream of underwhelming answers). The spiritual leaders—the good ones, anyway—are trained in a dialectical tradition, and they must show that they have mastered the vast and quarrelsome literature of the rabbis before they can claim, and are given, authority. They are trained to hold long, complicated conversations about hard questions.

So it was surprising for me to discover secular orthodoxies that are even more insular and disciplined than religious ones. The secular faiths that I see on campus demand certainty about questions that are too complex and too broad for certainty to be possible. They do not allow for questioning.

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Read more at Daily Pennsylvanian

More about: American politics, Modern Orthodoxy, Religion & Holidays, University

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