When Roger Scruton Taught Yeshiva Students

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.

Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Philo-Semitism, Philosophy, Yeshiva

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security