The Terrible Jewish Irony at the Heart of “Chariots of Fire”

The film Chariots of Fire, released 40 years ago this month, tells the story of two real-life British athletes, Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, with Olympic aspirations. Abrahams—a Jew—faces often subtle but ever-present anti-Semitism, while Liddell—a devout Protestant—faces disapproval for his ultimate decision not to run on the Christian Sabbath. Meir Soloveichik comments on the movie, and the story behind it:

In the film, Abrahams’s response to anti-Semitism is not Jewish pride but assimilation. . . . When he is confronted at Cambridge by anti-Semitic dons who accuse him of interest only in his own glory, Abrahams indignantly insists: “I am a Cambridge man first and last, I am an Englishman first and last; what I have achieved, and what I intend to achieve, is for my family, for my university, and for my country.”

All this accords with the real life of Harold Abrahams. . . . In the 1920s, the precise moment in which the film is set, Abrahams wrote an article in an Anglo-Jewish publication encouraging English Jews to ignore Jewish Sabbath restrictions in order to compete.

Though Abrahams ultimately took in two Jewish refugee children during the war, he is remembered today as one of the most prominent British voices against a boycott of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Despite pleas in Anglo-Jewry, Abrahams, whose concern was whether it was “ultimately in the best interest of world sport” to withdraw, served as a British broadcaster at Hitler’s games.

Here, then, is a terrible irony. Chariots of Fire . . . is a tale not only of one Jewish runner but of Jews throughout our age who ran away from who they were. . . . Jews watching the film today must draw spiritual inspiration from the Christian Liddell rather than Harold Abrahams.

Read more at Commentary

More about: 1936 Olympics, Anti-Semitism, British Jewry, Film, Sabbath

Why Hizballah Is Threatening Cyprus

In a speech last Wednesday, Hizballah’s secretary general Hassan Nasrallah not only declared that “nowhere will be safe” in Israel in the event of an all-out war, but also that his forces would attack the island nation of Cyprus. Hanin Ghaddar, Farzin Nadimi, and David Schenker observe that this is no idle threat, but one the Iran-backed terrorist group has “a range of options” for carrying out. They explain: 

Nasrallah’s threat to Cyprus was not random—the republic has long maintained close ties with Israel, much to Hizballah’s irritation. In recent years, the island has hosted multiple joint air-defense drills and annual special-forces exercises with Israel focused on potential threats from Hizballah and Iran.

Nasrallah’s threat should also be viewed in the context of wartime statements by Iran and its proxies about disrupting vital shipping lanes to Israel through the East Mediterranean.

This scenario should be particularly troubling to Washington given the large allied military presence in Cyprus, which includes a few thousand British troops, more than a hundred U.S. Air Force personnel, and a detachment of U-2 surveillance aircraft from the 1st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.

Yoni Ben Menachem suggests there is an additional aspect to Nasrallah’s designs on Cyprus, involving a plan

to neutralize the Israeli air force through two primary actions: a surprise attack with precision missiles and UAVs on Israeli air-force bases and against radar and air-defense facilities, including paralyzing Ben-Gurion Airport.

Nasrallah’s goal is to ground Israeli aircraft to prevent them from conducting missions in Lebanon against mid- and long-range missile launchers. Nasrallah fears that Israel might preempt his planned attack by deploying its air force to Cypriot bases, a scenario the Israeli air force practiced with Cyprus during military exercises over the past year.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Cyprus, Hizballah, U.S. Security