When Roger Scruton Taught Yeshiva Students

Feb. 10 2020

Roger Scruton, the influential British philosopher, music and architecture critic, and essayist, died last month at the age of seventy-five. Mark Gottlieb reminisces about coming to know Scruton, whom he hired five years ago to teach a seminar to a group of Orthodox yeshiva students. By and large, the students did not possess advanced university degrees but did possess advanced training in Jewish law:

From the first hour, a deep mutual admiration developed between teacher and students. For the yeshiva men, it was hard not to be impressed by Sir Roger’s sweeping intellect, his masterful reign over fields as disparate as aesthetics, sociology, political philosophy, philosophy of science, oenology, and theology. For Sir Roger, these nimble young rabbinic scholars could parry and thrust with the best of his university students. He seemed at once bemused and impressed by the students’ energy and fierce, no holds-barred intelligence.

During the seminar, special attention was paid to the singular contributions of Judaism to Western culture, not as a form of flattery to his audience but as a sober recognition that the Jewish people have always been the canary in the coal mine of Western culture, the intellectual dissidents in a sometimes decadent or barren intellectual world.

Last year, Scruton was subject to an all-too-familiar brand of character assassination, which resulted in his removal from a government commission under baseless and scurrilous accusations of anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry. All were subsequently retracted and apologized for. Gottlieb wrote to Scruton during his ordeal to offer moral support, and quotes here from the philosopher’s reply:

I do believe that these trials come to us also from God, and that we are schooled by them to re-examine our life, and to acknowledge the ways in which, and the extent to which, we have misused our love. I have been greatly encouraged to discover the extent of the friendship that has been offered to me as a result of this trial, and it has taught me to look with gratitude on the gifts that I have received.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Philo-Semitism, Philosophy, Yeshiva

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