Did the Sinn Féin Influence an Israeli Chief Rabbi’s Vision of Jewish Politics?

The advent of modern Zionism and, even more so, the creation of an actual Jewish state, raised questions for rabbinic thought that had for centuries been purely hypothetical, if acknowledged at all. Foremost among those who advocated for the creation of a state based on halakhah was Israel’s first Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Isaac Halevy Herzog. In The Invention of Jewish Theocracy, Alexander Kaye argues for the importance of Herzog’s ideas in shaping religious Zionist thought. Shalom Carmy writes in his review:

Where [Kaye] tries to break new theoretical ground is in raising the entire question of “Jewish theocracy,” meaning whether a Jewish state should indeed be governed by the corpus of halakhah. His view is that theocracy was not the only live option for religious Zionists. The prevalent sense that theocracy, as a goal, is taken for granted by religious Zionism, he implies, owes much to Herzog’s prominence and to his awareness of contemporary legal systems, not least to the Irish constitution, about which he was consulted during his tenure [from 1919 to 1936] as chief rabbi of Ireland and as a friend of the Irish leader Eamon de Valera.

While Carmy finds Kaye’s argument “intriguing and attractive,” he argues that Kaye overstates Herzog’s importance:

[B]elief that the way of life upheld by halakhah is the way of life ordained by God for the Jewish people entails that the Jewish people should adopt it in their commonwealth. Whoever advocates an alternative, in which halakhah shares sovereignty, or is subservient to a secular jurisprudence, must justify that alternative.

Such alternatives can be justified in a variety of ways [from within the framework of Orthodoxy].

But whether a mixed system of religious and secular law is inherently desirable from the religious perspective or whether it is the best that can be attained at certain historical junctures, it is the mixed system that requires justification. That is why it seems to me that anyone in Herzog’s position would start from the “theocratic” halakhah-centered default position. He might have to settle for a mixed pluralistic system under the force of circumstances, as indeed happened in the state of Israel, or he might have allowed for a large measure of secular autonomy. . . . But these moves would require argument; they cannot be assumed.

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Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Ireland, Jewish political tradition, Judaism in Israel, Religious Zionism

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela