Members of the first UN monitoring team in Syria visit Homs together with members of the Syrian Free Army, April 21, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)
While Syria burns
Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post takes aim at Barack Obama over the lack of American intervention in Syria.
Yes, we’ve imposed economic sanctions. But as with Iran, the economic squeeze has not altered the regime’s behavior. Monday’s announced travel and financial restrictions on those who use social media to track down dissidents is a pinprick. No Disney World trips for the chiefs of the Iranian and Syrian security agencies. And they might now have to park their money in Dubai instead of New York. That’ll stop ’em.
Liberal Zionists speak out
The Huffington Post presents a series of pieces with contributors including Ruth Gavison, Kenneth Bob, and Rabbi Eric Yoffie. I don’t agree with the content of many of the articles; some are much better than others, and at times the ongoing debate over the meaning of Zionism can become tiring and start to feel like a youth movement discussion. But - there are many thoughtful articles in this series that are worthy of a read.
Some notable examples:
Can the Jewish people survive without a Jewish and democratic state in the Land of Israel? For a while, perhaps. But as my definition suggests, creative Jewish survival needs such a state to strengthen Jewish identity, foster Jewish unity, boost Jewish morale, and offer a meaningful Jewish response to the boredom and emptiness of modern life. That is why I am a proud Zionist and why I urge others to be Zionists as well.
I accept Gideon Shimoni’s analysis according to which Zionism presupposed some answers, all contested, to the important questions facing Jews in modern times:
Jews are a people. A group with an ethnic-cultural identity, not only a religion;
Living exclusively as a minority among other nations is bad for both Jews and Judaism; Jews need to enjoy effective self-determination;
Jews should strive to create a political community where they are a majority, and can enjoy some control over their political fate, physical safety as individuals and as a collective, and over their sustaining culture(s);
Jews are as entitled to such self-determination as much as other peoples;
The place where this effort should be conducted, and where political independence should be revived, is Zion, that is Eretz Yisrael.
I believe that all and only people who adhere to all these statements can be called Zionists. I will not here elaborate further what they mean and why they are justified. The establishment of Israel and the present realities mean that today the last tenet can no longer be contested. Being a Zionist today means that one believes that these statements are still true for the Jewish people, so that the struggle to secure the continuation of the availability of political independence for Jews who want it, in Israel or abroad, is still important and required.
Zionism offers solutions to some of sovereignty’s problems. For my “simple” Zionism, the essential Zionism, came in its mainstream expression with rich amendments, amendments that spoke not merely to statehood per se but to the nature of that statehood. Many of those amendments are contained and others implied in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, still others in the ample documentary history of Zionism. All these speak, and eloquently, to the two commitments of the Jewish people—a commitment to the particular structure and interests of the Jews and a commitment to the universalist ideology of the Jews. These days, the insistent motto of the State is “Never Again.” But “never again” tells us only what to avoid; it does not tell us what to embrace. Zionism—humane, liberal, pragmatic Zionism—does. So my battered Zionism remains intact. As against those who want to move beyond Zionism, I believe that to recite Kaddish for Zionism is politically premature and morally spineless. I am a Zionist because Israel is the most important project of the Jewish people in my lifetime, and I will do what I can to help make it work, no matter the odds. And what seems to me needed to make it work is a revival of Zionism’s earlier aspirations.
The Global Power Shift from West to East
Christopher Layne of the National Interest explores America’s loss of its position as the world’s superpower and the best ways it can counter this.
These profound developments raise big questions about where the world is headed and America’s role in the transition and beyond. Managing the transition will be the paramount strategic challenge for the United States over the next two decades. In thinking about where we might be headed, it is helpful to take a look backward—not just over the past seventy years but far back into the past. That is because the transition in progress represents more than just the end of the post-1945 era of American global dominance. It also represents the end of the era of Western dominance over world events that began roughly five hundred years ago.
Persian Prospects and Pretensions
Iran’s push for nuclear weapons will extend its regional influence, but also make it more vulnerable, writes George H. Wittman in the American Spectator.
The Iranian leadership of today is not unmindful of the fact that the Saudis and Turks will quickly move to duplicate Tehran’s nuclear weaponry as soon as any such project is operational. That’s been a given in regional and global defense scenarios for years. Similarly accepted by Iranian defense strategists is that a future nuclear-armed Saudi Arabia is as dangerous potentially as Israel in that the Saudis have always feared Iran’s ambitions in the Persian Gulf—and are not inhibited by distance. Whether or not the fear is realistic matters less than the fact that it exists.
The Greatest Challenge Facing The American Orthodox Jewish Community
Writing in the Huffington Post, Rabbi Ben Greenberg offers a solution to the prohibitive cost of providing a Jewish education in the United States.
The Orthodox Jewish community has a lot to be thankful for. It is a thriving and beautiful community of young and old, marrieds and singles, working professionals and retirees and people from all walks of life and backgrounds. In 2010 I wrote about the success of the Orthodox Community for the magazine First Things and much of what I wrote there still holds true two years later. Yet, there is one issue that threatens to undermine the entire system. This is the issue of the affordability of the day school system.