November 20, 2018

Sunday Reads: 100 years to the Balfour declaration, Iran’s relationship with al-Qaeda, Making America small again


Following John Kelly’s recent Civil War remarks, Anne Applebaum points out that totalitarian ideologies never die, not even in America:

For a long time, Americans thought they were immune to this sort of thing. But are we really? In the United States of my childhood, there seemed no more settled question than the Civil War. In school I was taught that slavery had been defeated, that Lincoln was a hero and that the remaining wrongs were at least partly righted by the civil rights movement. Even the Old South/“Gone With the Wind” nostalgia had faded and shrunk to a small group of battlefield-visiting enthusiasts… But it never faded away altogether — and now it’s back.

According to Josef Joffe, Trump’s foreign policy is making America “small again” in global affairs: 

So as Trump is putting the axe to the U.S.-made global order, he will make America small again. China just loves Trumpism, which allows this expansionist to posture as guardian of global goodness. Trump has killed the Pacific Trade Partnership. So China offers a home in its Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Putin smiles when Trump alienates his European allies, which increases his opportunities. Moscow and Beijing are the two most egotistical players on the world stage. Yet with the United States slinking off, America’s rivals will shape a post-American world. As old alliances succumb, new ones will arise that exclude the United States.


Maj. Gen. (Res.) Shlomo ‘Sami’ Turjeman analyzes Israel’s recent demolition of a Palestinian terror tunnel:

Operation Protective Edge brought Israeli deterrence in Gaza to an all-time high, resulting in a long period of relative calm. Israel has used this hiatus wisely, developing new technology of the sort that proved its effectiveness this week.

At the same time, this Israeli success could push Palestinian terrorist organizations into a corner and spur them to escalate — despite the post-2014 deterrence, despite Gaza’s growing internal crises, and despite the sensitive Palestinian reconciliation process. Yet one way or another, Operation Protective Edge served Israel’s interests by giving it the time needed to take initiative in defending its southern border.

Lawrence Haas thinks that the 100 year anniversary of the Balfour declaration is a good time to celebrate Israel:

Most importantly, the Balfour Declaration has never stood in the way of Palestinian statehood, neither in its language nor in the global community’s response to it. “[N]othing,” it states, “shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” – and, arguably, nothing has been.

(Gil Troy and Bernard Avishai have different takes on the matter)

Middle East

Eli Lake writes about what new declassified documents show about the Iran-al Qaeda “frenemy” relationship: 

In the coming days and weeks, outside analysts and experts will be able to see for themselves the extent of Iran’s cooperation with al-Qaeda. What’s already emerging though is a more complex relationship than ideologues on either side of this issue would care to admit. Al-Qaeda and Iran were not exactly allies. They were not enemies either.

The Economist has some interesting stats in its piece about secularization in the Arab world:

According to Arab Barometer, a pollster, much of the region is growing less religious. Voters who backed Islamists after the upheaval of the Arab spring in 2011 have grown disillusioned with their performance and changed their minds. In Egypt support for imposing sharia (Islamic law) fell from 84% in 2011 to 34% in 2016. Egyptians are praying less, too (see chart). In places such as Lebanon and Morocco only half as many Muslims listen to recitals of the Koran today, compared with 2011. Gender equality in education and the workplace, long hindered by Muslim tradition, is widely accepted. “Society is driving change,” says Michael Robbins, an American who heads Barometer.

Jewish World

Larry Cohler Esses profiles the Jewish Holocaust activist who has been warning Poland about Jews:

In Poland these days, the head of the country’s highest-profile Holocaust remembrance group is warning Poles that attacks on their country are coming from the “leftist Jewish media.”

He says that the stories of Poles who actually helped Jews during World War II were not told until he arrived, despite decades of work in this field by institutions as significant as Yad VaShem in Jerusalem.

Dr. Harry Freedman examines Martin Luther’s anti-Semitism and his unacknowledged debt to the Jews:

It was this need to detach himself from the Jewish understanding of the Bible which led Luther to the virulent antisemitism for which Jews remember him today, an antisemitism which, it has been argued, foreshadowed the Shoah. Unable to acknowledge any element of truth in Judaism, he turned against the religion with a viciousness of language that has rarely been recorded, even in the utterings of the most unpleasant antisemites.

Hebrew was one of several essential ingredients of the reformation. Sadly, in using the language for his own ends, Martin Luther was unwilling to acknowledge his debt to the Jews.