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Sunday Reads: A Ukrainian Wake-up Call, an Iranian Wake-up Call & a Haredi Victory

by Shmuel Rosner

March 9, 2014 | 5:03 am

Ultra-Orthodox Jews take part in a mass prayer in Jerusalem March 2, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

The US

Condoleezza Rice believes that President Putin's recent acts of aggression should serve as a wake-up call for the US –

The events in Ukraine should be a wake-up call to those on both sides of the aisle who believe that the United States should eschew the responsibilities of leadership. If it is not heeded, dictators and extremists across the globe will be emboldened. And we will pay a price as our interests and our values are trampled in their wake.   

Zachary Keck argues that realism accounts for most of the US' successful attempts at spreading democracy (and that its bad rep is a result of a grave misunderstanding) –

Indeed, while the American people are more sympathetic to realism than is often believed, there can be little doubt that realism is a dirty word among the political elites in the United States. This hostility derives largely from the belief that realism is morally nihilistic and cares little for things like democracy and freedom.   

Israel

David Weinberg points out that the Shaked plan for the enlistment of Ultra-Orthodox Israelis into the IDF is actually a big victory for the Haredi agenda –

Don't let contrived haredi umbrage fool you. The military conscription legislation being tabled in the Knesset plenum next week by the Shaked committee is a flat-out victory for the haredi community.

The sweet Shaked plan puts an end to the notion of "equalizing the burden." Very, very few haredim will ever have to take up arms to defend the country. The bill completely lifts the threat of military draft at age 18 for haredim. It gives an immediate, lifetime exemption from military service to all haredi men currently 22 years and older; and to all haredi boys currently 18-22, when they hit age 26. That is about 50,000 haredim who never will have to serve national service of any type, courtesy of the Yesh Atid-Habayit Hayehudi alliance.

Oren Kessler tries to figure out whether the current Palestinian leadership is really interested in a Palestinian state at this point in time –

The Palestinians have all the leverage, a former top State Department specialist on the Mideast peace process recently told me over red wine in Tel Aviv. "I'm not sure they'll ever sign on the dotted line." In that moment of candor -- lubricated no doubt by the Golan Heights cabernet -- the ex-bureaucrat admitted something U.S. President Barack Obama's administration would never concede publicly: The Palestinians are under little to no pressure to sign a final peace agreement with Israel.

The Middle East

Aaron David Miller sees Israel's seizure of an Iranian cargo ship filled with weapons as a warning regarding the US' lenient Iran policy–

A few more stunts like this from Iran and Congress will, without a doubt, seek to impose additional sanctions on Iran. For the Obama administration to think otherwise or for Iran to feel as though it can continue to negotiate with the United States while supplying the enemies of its allies is a fantasy in a region where such illusions are already too common. Let's just hope such delusions don't take hold in Washington, too.

Matthew Levitt shares his concerns about how thousands of Middle Eastern extremists have been 'learning the tools of the trade' by participating in the Syrian war –

In Syria, these foreign fighters are learning new and more dangerous tools of the trade in a very hands - on way, and those who do not die on the battlefield will ultimately disperse to all corners of the world better trained and still more radicalized than they were before. DNI Clapper stressed that it is not only foreign fighters who are drawn to Syria today but also “technologies and techniques that pose particular problems to our defenses.”

The Jewish World

Michael Walzer reviews David Neurenberg's wonderful book, 'Anti Judaism' (the subject of a three part exchange we did here not long ago) –

The disagreement with Arendt nicely sums up Nirenberg’s book. His argument is that a certain view of Judaism lies deep in the structure of Western civilization and has helped its intellectuals and polemicists explain Christian heresies, political tyrannies, medieval plagues, capitalist crises, and revolutionary movements. Anti-Judaism is and has long been one of the most powerful theoretical systems “for making sense of the world.” No doubt, Jews sometimes act out the roles that anti-Judaism assigns them—but so do the members of all the other national and religious groups, and in much greater numbers. The theory does not depend on the behavior of “real” Jews.

Simon Yisrael Feurman offers some interesting observations about how the people at Shul are no less important and interesting than the religion and the rituals –

In one shul, the people were miserable to each other. So, I switched to another, a large and wealthy congregation, but it was mainly a place to mix and flirt—a fashion show, nothing holy or pious about it. I tried other shuls, some better, some worse. Ultimately, I settled on one where I prayed with people I didn’t care for and who didn’t care for me, and even with people who didn’t care for God. Why did I put up with this?

The answer relates deeply to my mother and father’s concept of what shul really was. Both my parents came from a generation of Yiddish speakers for whom shul was not exclusively a bastion of belief. Rather, shul was an extension of the family. Yes, God was in the synagogue, but he lay hidden in the seams of human relations.

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