Sunday Reads: One year to the Iran Agreement, On Zionism and liberalism

April 3, 2016


Elisa Catalano Ewers and Ilan Goldenberg take a look at America's reaction to the Iran deal one year after its signing:

Although Iran’s actions may not have warranted an extreme U.S. response, the narrative of U.S. concession toward Iran is difficult to combat. It complements the oft-repeated refrain that the United States is withdrawing from the region. The perception among partners as well as other observers is that America is less willing to address Iranian aggression for fear it might derail the nuclear deal. One can argue the merits of this perception, but from a policy perspective, it is almost beside the point. Perception creates its own reality, and in the case of the Middle East, perception is fueling tense dynamics. Iranian willingness to test U.S. commitment to respond to Iran’s behaviors during JCPOA implementation will aggravate these tensions.

James Jeffrey and Michael Eisenstadt just released a detailed report examining past US operations in the Middle East:

Even if the United States succeeds in this regard, the baseline conclusion will remain that, in the Middle East, U.S. engagement, sadly oriented first on military force, can only limit the impact of the region’s underlying violence and instability. In contrast to other regions, the relative calm and opportunities for global integration that a U.S. security umbrella provides have not significantly furthered Middle East integration into the global community or helped calm the region’s demons.  Thus, even at its most successful, U.S. security avoids the worst and buys time.


Shlomi Eldar writes about Netanyahu’s decision to stop returning the bodies of Palestinians, against the position of Israel’s security establishment and his Defense Minister:

This is typical behavior for Netanyahu. He refuses to be caught losing to Bennett in their fight over the hearts and minds of HaBayit HaYehudi voters or the right in general. It sometimes seems as if he is willing to pay almost any political or security price as long as he can prevent Bennett or any other right-wing figure, in or out of government, from outflanking him on the right and presenting him as failing to fulfill the interests of the settlers. There is no shortage of examples of such behavior.

Ben Dror Yemini discusses US Senator Patrick Leahey’s demand to investigate Israel for serious violations of human rights:

The entire judicial, military, and political leadership have come out and said that IDF soldiers must maintain their human decency, even in the face of this barbarous, murderous terrorism. Yet somehow, Leahey is requesting an investigation against Israel. Specifically, he accuses Netanyahu, Ya'alon, and Eisenkot. In Israel, these men are attacked from the right, while Leahey is attacking them from the left.

Middle East

Joseph Braude and Aron Lobel examine jihadist media outlets that have been forming new realities throughout the Middle East:

Channels like Al-‘Ahd drive the sectarian polarization that is tearing the Middle East apart and spreading chaos throughout the world. If the United States and its allies do not recognize the danger these channels pose and take proactive steps to address it, the situation is certain to deteriorate further.

Lee Smith wonders at the new respect Bashar Assad has been enjoying in the West:

Johnson's second reason for praising Assad—as the champion of archaeology—is evidence that the West has become undone. The mayor of one of the world's greatest cities—next in line to lead Britain's Tories—praises Vladimir Putin for his “ruthless clarity” in helping Assad's troops rescue antiquities. London, which has given birth to some of the great glories of the English language, now publishes encomia to an Oriental despot who saves stones as he tears men's flesh.

Jewish World

Peter Berkowitz writes an interesting critique of Chaim Gans’ call for a new, more liberal brand of Zionism in a thought provoking piece for Mosaic:

In a state that is both liberal and democratic, it is neither historically anomalous nor theoretically deviant for the majority to imbue political institutions and popular culture with its national spirit. To be sure, the obligation in liberal democracies to protect individual rights sets limits on what majorities may legislate. Authorizing language, calendars, and anthems that reflect a majority’s culture and traditions is compatible with the equal protection of all citizens’ basic individual rights. Infringing the freedom to worship, to speak, to assemble, and to buy and sell property and earn a living is not. Israel, like every other liberal democracy, faces a perennial challenge in striking the proper balance between majority preferences and the rights shared equally by all; its record in this regard, however imperfect, stacks up with the best of them.

Matthias Kuntzel takes a look at how Nazi propoganda effected Israel’s 1948 independence war:

Even though the Arab world rejected the Partition Plan, there was at the same time a general reluctance to go to war, not only among the Arabs in Palestine but also among the governments of major Arab League states such as Egypt. It was the mobilization of the Muslim Brotherhood that caused the Arab League to embrace the Mufti, a Nazi-collaborator and war criminal, as leader of the Palestinian Arabs. By staging destabilizing mass demonstrations and a murderous campaign of intimidation, Hajj Amin el-Husseini and the Muslim Brotherhood dragged Egypt and other Arab states into a full-scale war against the Jews of Mandatory Palestine.

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