The Pagan Impulses behind the “Right-to-Die” Movement

The much-publicized case of Charlie Gard—an infant afflicted by a rare fatal disorder whose parents were prevented by a British court from taking him to the U.S. for experimental treatment—and the rapid expansion of euthanasia in the Low Countries, where it is routinely administered to the mentally ill, point to the risks of legalizing “physician-assisted suicide.” Assessing the attitudes underlying the “right-to-die” movement, and the inroads these attitudes have already made in the American medical system, Mitchell Rocklin argues that Jews should refrain from joining in:

Having worked as members of the clergy at healthcare facilities for years, my colleagues and I have witnessed a genuine “culture of death,” wherein too many of those who ought to be healers instead become agents of death. Some are well-meaning, seeking to help patients avoid what they believe to be needless suffering. Others may be motivated by financial considerations, such as saving medical facilities money. Whatever the rationale, too many of us have witnessed premature hospice visits and recommendations to withhold treatments. . . .

Pagans, including ancient Mesopotamians, Greeks, and Romans, all believed death with honor—usually typified by death in battle—to be far superior to ordinary death. How people died was far more important than how they lived. Not so for Judaism, which emphasized that the content of life is what matters, and that even martyrdom is characterized by sacrificial dedication rather than glory. . .

This difference of opinion had major ramifications. For instance, while Romans commonly glorified suicide, Jews vehemently opposed shortening a life. . . . The “death-with-dignity” movement seeks to fulfill an age-old pagan impulse: to control the circumstances of death to give it meaning. This is, however, an attempt to escape what Judaism teaches us: that there can be no death with dignity, only life with dignity. . . . To argue otherwise is a fatal conceit for true human dignity, resulting in undervaluing the importance of living every moment of life to its fullest.

This is not to minimize the existence of heartrending cases involving pain and suffering. But attempts to end pain do not justify creating a legal regime to enlist the help of healers in support of those who resort to extreme measures.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Euthanasia, Judaism, Medicine, Paganism, Religion & Holidays

If Iran Goes Nuclear, the U.S. Will Be Forced Out of the Middle East

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in May that Iran has, or is close to having, enough highly enriched uranium to build multiple atomic bombs, while, according to other sources, it is taking steps toward acquiring the technology to assemble such weapons. Considering the effects on Israel, the Middle East, and American foreign policy of a nuclear-armed Iran, Eli Diamond writes:

The basic picture is that the Middle East would become inhospitable to the U.S. and its allies when Iran goes nuclear. Israel would find itself isolated, with fewer options for deterring Iran or confronting its proxies. The Saudis and Emiratis would be forced into uncomfortable compromises.

Any course reversal has to start by recognizing that the United States has entered the early stages of a global conflict in which the Middle East is set to be a main attraction, not a sideshow.

Directly or not, the U.S. is engaged in this conflict and has a significant stake in its outcome. In Europe, American and Western arms are the only things standing between Ukraine and its defeat at the hands of Russia. In the Middle East, American arms remain indispensable to Israel’s survival as it wages a defensive, multifront war against Iran and its proxies Hamas and Hizballah. In the Indo-Pacific, China has embarked on the greatest military buildup since World War II, its eyes set on Taiwan but ultimately U.S. primacy.

While Iran is the smallest of these three powers, China and Russia rely on it greatly for oil and weapons, respectively. Both rely on it as a tool to degrade America’s position in the region. Constraining Iran and preventing its nuclear breakout would keep waterways open for Western shipping and undermine a key node in the supply chain for China and Russia.

Diamond offers a series of concrete suggestions for how the U.S. could push back hard against Iran, among them expanding the Abraham Accords into a military and diplomatic alliance that would include Saudi Arabia. But such a plan depends on Washington recognizing that its interests in Eastern Europe, in the Pacific, and in the Middle East are all connected.

Read more at National Review

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy