August 23, 2019

Sunday Reads: Between Islam & Palestinian rejectionism, Remember Iran?, JPPI’s annual assessment


Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has some tough words for America’s Arab allies in his interview with Jeffrey Goldberg:

“If you look at where the Iranians are able to wield influence, they are in the game, on the ground,” Carter said, referring to Iranian military activities in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen. “We don’t like it that they’re in the game on the ground, but they are in the game. There is a sense that some of the Gulf states are up there at 30,000 feet,” more interested in acquiring advanced fighter jets than in building—and deploying—special-operations forces.

Robert Satloff is disappointed that the Iran debate has gone off the public radar when so many policy decisions are still being made:

Remember the Iran nuclear agreement? Two months ago, it was the talk of the town. Then, like the national obsession with the Chandra Levy murder that faded away the moment al-Qaeda crashed airplanes into the Twin Towers, it vanished virtually overnight—no more headlines, no more op-eds, no more talk shows. The big difference is that the open questions surrounding the Iran deal remain matters of strategic importance.


Former Labour Minister Haim Ramon believes that several Palestinian villages need to be removed from the Jerusalem municipality:

Politicians from most Zionist parties swear nearly every day that “Jerusalem is united. The city joined together will never be divided.”

In their foolishness, ignorance and political fear, they are ignoring – knowingly or unknowingly – the known truth: The vast majority of what are called today “the East Jerusalem neighborhoods” were never part of the city in any historical era, so there is no justification for them being part of Israel's capital today.

Colbert King writes about the link between Black lives matter and the Palestinian struggle:

A Pew Research Center poll this year showed that with regard to the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, 72 percent of whites had “a lot” or “some” sympathy for Israel. That number fell to 50 percent among African American respondents. What’s more, 20 percent of blacks had “a lot” of sympathy for Palestinians, but only 10 percent of white respondents reported they felt that way.

The linkage of the Black Lives Matter movement with groups that share the goal of isolating and crippling Israel through the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is the latest manifestation of this reality.

The Middle East

Historian Benny Morris has some curious remarks on the relation between Islam and Palestinian rejectionism:

The truth is the Zionist movement did define itself as a Western movement, with Western ideals of democracy and development. The Arabs who saw us come here in the 1880s, 1890s, and early 1900s, regarded us as an extension of the West. So it’s not just us, it’s them as well—we all see Israel as a part of the West and unfortunately we are at the forefront of this battle line of the clash of civilisations. There are other places where East meets West. Northern Nigeria, Northern Kenya bordering on Somalia, the Philippines, Thailand—these are the border lands between Islam and the West. And we’re one of them, unfortunately.

Frederic C. Hof discusses a Syria-first plan to defeating ISIS:

Yet one thing is certain, at least about Syria: The country’s destructive, destabilizing dismemberment cannot be contained—much less solved—with civilians in Assad’s bullseye and ISIS in business. The beginning of the end for ISIS may well take place in Syria. But it will take strategic focus, diplomatic discipline, and operational excellence. For the Obama administration, the question is less “can we do it” than “will we even try?”

The Jewish World

A Kindle version of JPPI’s Annual Assessment of the Situation and Dynamics of the Jewish People is now out:

It also notes that for the first time in memory the majority of adult children of intermarried couples between the ages of 18-30 identify as Jewish. The Assessment also notes that despite this overall growth, the Jewish “middle” (non-Orthodox Jews who have strong Jewish identities and strong commitment to the Jewish people) is shrinking. This is due not only to an increase in intermarriage, but also to a growing number of late marriages and generally small families (the 2013 Pew study finds an average of 1.9 children, while 2.1 is necessary to just stay stable).

Past domain guest Rabbi Yehudah Mirsky writes an interesting piece about the different meanings of Jewish belonging in our time:

Moving to our day, Jewishness simultaneously affirms the global and the local, the universal and the particular, while lodging a permanent protest against the idea that any one particular identity, and any one — even universalist — ideology is the one-size-fits-all God-like answer to the human condition in all its diversity.

Jewish global responsibility in our time, then, means preserving and protecting Jewish collective and individual flourishing (physical and cultural) alongside a commitment to human flourishing overall, with humility, and the recognition that we are ultimately serving ends larger than ourselves. Crucially, it means finding some way to manage and, ideally, benefit from, inevitable and deeply felt disagreements within the Jewish world.