October 18, 2018

Sunday Reads: What America stood for, A last chance for Turkish democracy, The current state of Russia’s Jews


Tom Malinowski laments how, to the rest of the world, America no longer stands for the values it used stand for:

The global club of autocrats has been crowing about Trump. Sudan’s dictator Omar al Bashir praised him for focusing “on the interests of the American citizen, as opposed to those who talk about democracy, human rights, and transparency.” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei thanked him for showing “America’s true face” by trying to ban Muslim immigration. The Cambodian government justified attacks on journalists by saying Trump, too, recognizes that “news published by [international] media institutions does not reflect the real situation.”

Lee Smith tries to figure how America can beat ISIS:

Secretary Tillerson is right that defeating ISIS should be an American priority and would signal the return of American leadership. However, the battle against the Islamic State is part of a larger regional picture. As Israel’s airstrikes showed, our key Middle East ally is defending against the same forces that the Trump administration may be tempted to think are useful partners in the anti-ISIS campaign… The anti-ISIS campaign cannot succeed without vigilance against Iran and its allies. The Obama administration’s realignment with Iran was wrong and dangerous and also deliberate. With equal deliberation, the Trump White House needs to set a new course.


Major-General (res.) Amos Yadlin believes Israel should start reconsidering its Syria policy:

the trends taking shape in Syria right now require an update of the Israeli policy. The most significant variable is the Russian military presence and dominance in Syria, alongside Iran’s support, which helped the Syrian regime recover and rebuild its self-confidence. In this context, Israel should clarify its strategic targets again and continuously and thoroughly review the benefit of its moves versus the risk of unwanted escalation. The basic component is establishing and reinforcing the deterrence, and Israel must also make it clear both to Lebanon and to Syria that putting their territory and infrastructure at the disposal of Iran and Hezbollah’s terror infrastructure means serious future damage to the army, regime and national infrastructure of these countries.

Israeli diplomat Ron Prossor praises Britain’s decision to take action against Israel-bashing at the UN:

The UK did vote for two of the five resolutions against Israel and abstained on two more, which is not ideal. But whether prompted by the FCO or by Downing Street, it decided there must be limits to the Council’s hypocrisy, duplicity and dishonesty.

Britain broke ranks with the other European members and voted against a resolution regarding Israel and the Golan Heights. “We cannot accept the perverse message sent out by a Syria Golan resolution that singles out Israel, as Assad continues to slaughter the Syrian people,” said Braithwaite.

Middle East

Dexter Filkins writes about the last chance for Turkish democracy:

What the referendum amounts to, essentially, is an attempt to overturn Turkish democracy, and to rubber-stamp the authoritarian powers that Erdoğan has been pursuing for the past decade. (You won’t hear any criticism of Erdoğan from Europe, by the way. Erdoğan, having agreed last year to hold back the tide of refugees from the Middle East, has the continent’s political leaders over a barrel.)

Bruce Riedel discusses the Saudis’ enthusiasm for Trump:

The US-Saudi partnership dates to 1943 when King Ibn Saud sent his son Prince Faisal to Washington to meet President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the Oval Office, and two years later the king and FDR met face to face in Egypt. The entente has always enjoyed bipartisan support. Democrats and Republicans have been backers of strong ties to the kingdom. Riyadh would be wise to steer clear of becoming identified with either party in the United States as it navigates the most polarized politics in modern US history.

Jewish World

Mosaic’s monthly essay and the responses to it offers a curious discussion of the current state of the Jews of Russia (the last instalment is by Dovid Margolin):

Almost folklore: in Russia today, there’s an official story, which is heartening and positive, adhered to by the regime and by many Jewish community leaders and activists. And then there’s what might be thought of as a coded story, whispered by some, or perhaps many, of the Jews still remaining in the community’s diminishing population base, and whispered back into their ears by history and by memory.

David Schraub argues that the Israeli kid who placed the bomb threats was an anti-Semite:

If he did this “for the lulz,” he is an anti-Semite.

If he did this because he thought American Jews were soft, liberal, beholden to leftist ideology and insufficiently “pro-Israel,” he is an anti-Semite.

If he did this because he wanted to discredit Donald Trump and the American political right, he is an anti-Semite who also did a grave injustice to President Trump and his supporters.