Jewish Journal

Sunday Reads: The Saudi purges, Trump in the age of the strongman, America’s first Hasidic town

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman looks on as he meets with French President Emmanuel Macron in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 9, 2017. Picture taken November 9, 2017. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo


James Hitchcock examines the results of a RealClearPolitics poll on military interventions, conducted among military veterans and the general U.S. public:

A greater share of military/veterans (61 percent) are weary of American intervention abroad than the general population (50 percent). However, respondents are more evenly split when prompted with the possibility of further intervention in the future, with civilians and service members differing slightly in their responses. Forty percent of the latter group think that further intervention would make America more safe, while 34 percent say less safe (and 18 percent report neither). Only 27 percent of the general population surveyed think interventions make us more safe, while a larger proportion, 41 percent, say less (with 18 percent again saying neither).

Bret Stephens is worried by President Trump’s reaction to the surge of tyrannical strongmen across the globe:

American presidents of both parties, including Roosevelt and Reagan, have long known how to maintain productive relationships with regimes whose judicial and political standards fall short of our own. Previous administrations have also used prudent diplomatic silence in the face of domestic upheavals abroad.

But Trump’s rhetorical effusions on behalf of a repressive Communist dictator and a Saudi political crackdown are something else: An American presidency in the service of un-American values. Conservatives were once enraged when Jimmy Carter lavished praise on Romanian despot Nicolae Ceausescu. What do they have to say for the president now?


Aviad Kleinberg is concerned about the results of a new survey by the Israel Democracy Institute on Israeli-Arab relations:

Fifty eight percent of the Jewish respondents believe the state must revoke the citizenship of people who refuse to declare that Israel is the Jewish people’s nation state. Considering the fact that most Arab respondents (67 percent) believed the State of Israel has no right to define itself as the Jewish people’s nation state (as opposed to a state of all its citizens, which they do acknowledge)—the explosive potential is clear.

Martin Kramer writes a curious Mosaic Magazine piece about Stalin’s role in the founding of Israel:

Michael J. Cohen, in his earlier book on Truman and Israel, states that in 1947 and 1948, “Truman arguably played the decisive diplomatic role in the birth of the new state of Israel.” Michael Oren, in Power, Faith, and Fantasy, his bestseller on America in the Middle East, asserts that Truman’s comparison of himself with the Persian ruler Cyrus “was not entirely bluster.”

The problem here is simple: everything said about the contribution of Truman could be said about that of Joseph Stalin.

Middle East

Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky take a look at the dramatic purges taking place in Saudi Arabia and at their possible effect on the future of the region:

But the purges conducted in the Saudi style (the reported use of the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh as a venue for house arrests is one of the lighter aspects of the affair) should not mask its deadly seriousness. A young thirtysomething with limited experience in governance is making an unprecedented bid for control. And if he succeeds, which is impossible to know at this point, the impact could very well change Saudi Arabia and its regional role for years to come. Still, the United States would be wise not to attach itself to MBS like a barnacle to the side of a boat lest its own Middle East policy goes down with the ship.

Ali Hashem reports on how the Saudi situation looks like from Teheran:

In a country where dozens of stances are given on a daily basis by politicians, military commanders and officials, it was strange that only a few commented on this crisis. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded firmly during the Cabinet meeting on Nov. 8 to Prince Mohammed’s threats: “You know the might and position of the Islamic Republic. People more powerful than you have been unable to do anything against the Iranian people.” Iran is clearly taking the Saudi threats seriously, yet not independent from the US and Israeli threats.

Jewish Journal

David N.Myers tells the story of the independence struggle of Kiryas Joel, an American town populated solely by Satmar Hasidic Jews:

On the face of it, this seems like a bold new phase in the political history of Haredi Jews in America. Long deemed to be averse to the glare of public attention, the Satmar Hasidim of Kiryas Joel have used their formidable power to create a town of their own, the first new one in the state of New York in 35 years. By all accounts, this town will grow at an astonishing pace, with estimates suggesting that its population will rise from the current number of 22,000 or so to nearly 75,000 by 2035.

Phyllis Chessler laments the sad fate of Sabina Spielrein, who was molested by Carl Jung, robbed of her intellectual legacy and killed by the Nazis:

Apparently, Jung had a “thing” for Jewish girls. In 1910, Spielrein writes in her diary that “he [Jung] would love a black-complexioned Jewish girl,” and that as much as he wished to remain “close to his religion and culture,” he desired “liberation from his paternal responsibilities in an unbelieving Jewess.”

As Spielrein suspected and as Jung admitted to Freud, “The Jewess [has] popped up in another form, in the shape of my patient [Spielrein].” According to Sells, Jung had had a previous relationship with another Jewish woman. Spielrein intuited that she may be Jung’s “psycho-sexual replacement.”