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You say you want a revolution? Try the Bible – Religion News Service

Posted By on August 30, 2022

Drive along any main street of an American town. You will pass a building with a sign in front: Read the Bible!

I can guarantee you that building is most likely an evangelical Protestant church. It is certainly not a synagogue.

Here is why. Jews might be a people of the book, but the Bible is not a book that we read.

Jews dont read the Bible. Jews study Torah, and Jews hear sections of the Bible in synagogue.

This assertion surprises many Jews. But, think about it.

As a rule, most Jews do not sit down and read the Hebrew Bible, or Tanakh, cover to cover. I know some very sincere people who tried, but they barely got beyond the first round of begats in Genesis.

When Jews encounter Scripture, it is in synagogue, when they hear the Torah read and interpreted, or in Torah study groups, which have become increasingly popular over the last few decades.

They will also, most likely, hear the haftarah, the sections from the historical and prophetic literature.

On the festivals, they will hear the five scrolls (megillot): Song of Songs on Pesach; Ruth on Shavuot; Lamentations on Tisha BAv; Ecclesiastes on Sukkot, and Esther on Purim.

They will also hear and recognize snippets of the Psalms that appear in the liturgy.

But, thats pretty much it. There are entire books of the Hebrew Bible that never make a formal appearance in synagogue. There are entire books of the prophets that we never hear Nachum, Habakkuk, and Haggai, for example.

As for the later writings, we encounter Proverbs and Job in snippets.

For the vast majority of Jews, the later books of the Hebrew Bible Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and First and Second Chronicles is terra incognita.

Our lack of biblical literacy is a shame, because there is so much treasure there. That is why Edward Felds new book, The Book of Revolutions: The Battles of Priests, Prophets, and Kings That Birthed the Torah, (JPS) is such a spectacular resource so much so, that I confess that I could not put it down.

Sometimes, people will ask me: Who wrote the Bible?

The answer to that question is: Its complicated. Richard Friedman wrote a book with that title, and he has done a great job of putting flesh on a controversial modern scholarly theory the Documentary Hypothesis.

Here goes. The Documentary Hypothesis, invented by a pair of German scholars, posits that the Torah is a patchwork of different sources: J (in which Gods name is YHWH, or, in German, Jehovah); E (in which Gods name is Elohim); P (the work of priestly authors); D (the work of the author of Deuteronomy), and finally R (the final redactor, who put it all together).

Once thought heretical, the Documentary Hypothesis has even found a home in modern Orthodox scholarship. Check out Thetorah.com.

Rabbi Feld goes one step further. He suggests that the each of the Torahs various law codes has a rather unique origin.

Each of these codes the Covenant Code in Exodus, the law code in Deuteronomy, and the Holiness Code in Leviticus is the product of revolutions that took place in biblical times, and this book describes the cultural and political background that defined each of these cataclysmic biblical moments. One of these revolutions was accomplished through a military coup, another was instituted after an assassination and a regency, and the third was a quiet revolution made by outsiders whose ideas proved persuasive.

In other words, move over Game of Thrones. There is far more intrigue here than we had ever imagined.

Rabbi Feld takes us on a whirlwind tour of biblical history. He shows how of these historical moments created a different way of understanding Gods revelation and how to respond to it. That leads to numerous contradictions within the biblical text itself, which many have found frustrating, but which I find to be human and exhilarating.

My favorite material in the book is about the geography of the ancient land of Israel the differences between the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah regional differences that even preceded the spit of the unitary kingdom of Israel into the two kingdoms after the death of Solomon.

First, by which name do we call God? The northerners called God El or Elohim, a derivative of the ancient Canaanite god of the same name, which makes sense, because that territory bordered on the remnants of the ancient Canaanite kingdoms, and was highly susceptible to foreign influences.

The southerners called God YHWH or Adonai. At a certain time, those two gods became merged together which gives new meaning to the Shma Hear, Israel, Adonai is Eloheinu, Adonai is One which I might mischievously translate as: Adonai and Elohim are the same.

Second, who are our heroes? The stories in Genesis about Abraham and Sarah and Isaac and Rebecca take place in the south Hebron, Beer Sheba, etc. Therefore, these were southern figures.

Not so with Jacob, Rachel and Leah; their narratives have a way of occurring in the north. The same is true with Joseph. At a certain point, these stories have to merge together, in order to create a coherent national narrative.

It made me think of the United States, and its geography. As Colin Woodard makes clear in American Nations, the United States of America has never been unified, and has never had a common story. Regional differences are crucial. They create culture. Austin is not Boston, though it probably feels more like Boston now than it ever did.

It turns out that such divisions, and contrasting and competing narratives, were present in biblical times as well.

What Rabbi Feld teaches us is this: The Bible, as we have it, is a mess. A sacred mess. A collection of disagreements and divergences.

This is beautiful:

The Five Books of Moses seems to have triumphed in the Jewish community that survived precisely because it did not resolve contradictions but instead incorporated the theologies of numerous traditions and parties. In holding on to its internal contradictions, it preserved a certain mystery, and a profound understanding that contradictory viewpoints and a variety of beliefs provide insight into truths beyond single-minded formulations.

But, herein lies the challenge. The Torah presents itself as a unified, straight forward law code: This is what you do.

Then, generations later, the Mishnah does the same thing. This is what you do.

Ah, but then come the sages of the Talmud and they re-introduced the multitude of voices and arguments that had always been there. That is basically what the Talmud is a cacophony of voices. It reminds me of the time I took a Georgia politician around Jerusalem and we stopped in at a yeshiva and hear the students studying Talmud.

Rabbi, he said to me, You got yourself a very noisy religion here.

Centuries later, Maimonides and other codifiers quieted down those voices. All those arguments had gotten confusing. He re-introduced that sense of clear, unified, straight forward law. This is what you do.

So. this is amazing. Judaism, as we have it, is the result of a constant tension between a fixed tradition, and complex conversation about those traditions. A unified voice, and many voices.

The cool thing about this? We might be living in a time of the triumph of many voices in which we must be able to say that there are many approaches to living in covenant with God. Which is why Jewish life, even and especially outside the yeshiva world, is so noisy.

And that will even mean that there will be contradictions within each of us, as well. Rabbi Feld writes personally:

There are moments when I understand the performance of a religious act as following a command.at other times I sense that the obligation occurs because of my initial agreement to enter into this Jewish religious life, and because the benefits I now experiencenecessitate that I undertake participation in all its facets, even those whose meaning is not immediately obvious to me at other moments, I perform the same act thinking that it brings me closer to the Divine, that the behavior transforms my life so that I experience myself as entering a holy realm.

One last thing. I resonate with those signs: Read the Bible!

Perhaps we all should.

Especially the parts about economic justice and that thing about everyone being created in the image of God.

Continued here:

You say you want a revolution? Try the Bible - Religion News Service

When was the Old Testament Written? – The Gospel Coalition

Posted By on August 30, 2022

When was the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament (OT) written? The answer is complicated because the OT is not a single bookits a library. In addition, even within that library, the books themselves are not books in the modern sense, but composite texts which themselves weave together both oral and written traditionssometimes gathered together over centuries.

This is not some big secret the Vatican is hiding from you. The Bible itself talks about drawing on earlier documents.

This is not some big secret the Vatican is hiding from you, by the way. The Bible itself talks about drawing on earlier documents. For example, Joshua 10 and 2 Samuel 1 both draw on the Book of Jashar (which is lost to history but preserved in these citations). It is normal for biblical books to weave together different genres, a bit like the way a modern documentary film brings together interviews, archive footage and B-roll to tell its story.

So looking through the library of the OT, what time periods are we talking about? There are three main sections in the OT library, so lets look at each of them in turn.

Parts of the Law or Pentateuch (the first five books, from Genesis to Deuteronomy) are very ancient. Jewish tradition in the Talmud is that Moses himself was the original author, and Ezra published it in the fifth century BC (Ezra 7:6, Neh 8). Personally, I dont think Moses wrote these five books, at least not cover to coverthe bits about him being the most humble man on earth (Numbers 12:3) and about him dying (Deuteronomy 34) would be a bit weird if he did. But I see no reason to dismiss the texts own claim that parts of the tradition it is preserving go back directly to Moses (Exodus 34:27; Deuteronomy 31:19 c.f. John 5:46).

Assuming a late date for the Exodus, that would make these parts thirteenth-century BC material. Some songs, stories, corporate memories and family traditions in Genesis seem to go back even earlier, preserving real memories of the ancestral period and their time as displaced people in Egypt.

The prophets refers to both the big-name prophets who got book deals (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel) but also the Twelve minor prophets (Amos, Joel, Habakkuk, Haggai, etc) and books we might think of as historical (Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings).

Prophets were active in Israel throughout its history, often delivering their messages orally in real time. But the preserving of their messages for future generations in a prophetic book was usually a team sport involving scribes and editors. Sometimes this process happened during the prophets own ministry, but sometimes it continued into later generations too. Again, this is not a secret: we hear about the process behind Jeremiahs prophecy in the book of Jeremiah:

So Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to the scribe Baruch son of Neriah, and as Jeremiah dictated, Baruch wrote on it all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them. (Jeremiah 36:32)

Most of the books associated with the prophets were probably collected in their final form between the fifth and second centuries BCafter the exile and before the Old Greek (Septuagint) and other translations start showing up. For example, the earliest of the prophetic books is probably Amos, who was an eighth-century prophet. His work, however, was bound up together into the Book of the Twelve, a collection which includes post-exilic works like Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. That collection seems to have been edited together in the third or fourth century BC.

Some of the youngest books are found in the final collection called The Writings. The Writings include Psalms, wisdom texts like Proverbs and Job plus the five scrolls traditionally read at festivals including Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Esther, Lamentations. It also includes Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles as these give a post-exilic view on the history of Israel. Surprisingly, Daniel also shows up here too (rather than with the Prophets as in English Bibles).

Depending on your preferred dating for books like Daniel and Ecclesiastes, this collection brings us up to the early second century BC (so yes, the intertestamental period is more like an intertestamental power nap). Bits of all the books in the Writings were found in the caves at Qumran (except Esther, for some reason) so that helps confirm that people thought of these books as Scripture in (roughly) Jesus day.

These are the rough dates for the different parts of the OT. But when did these books come to be accepted as Scripture? This is known as the question of canonwhat belongs in the library of OT Scripture, and what belongs in the fan-fiction category of nice-to-read-but-not-Gods-word.

Writing a canonical list is not about making books authoritative Scripture, its about listing the books that we recognise as already authoritative.

Ive written elsewhere about the different canons or lists of authoritative books in Judaism, Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Protestantism. To recap: writing a canonical list is not about making books authoritative Scripture, its about listing the books that we recognise as already authoritative. While different traditions have different ways of arranging the books, historically the consensus has been pretty clear on what should, and should not, go in there (especially around the core).

The OT canon as a whole seems to have been relatively stable by at least the time of ben Sira (180 BC) because he refers to the prophets by name including Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Twelve (in that order), and even quotes from the book of Malachi. His grandson, when translating this work into Greek a little later, refers to the Law, the Prophets and the other books, which is the earliest mention of the three part canon. By Jesus day people know what you meant by The Bibleits the Law, the Prophets and the Writings.

As for the ages of the manuscripts that have survived, these vary. The earliest textual evidence for the Pentateuch we have is the priestly blessing from Numbers 6:2426, dating to the sixth or seventh century BC. Many of the other early sources we have are actually translations: Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus are Greek translations from the fourth century AD and contain all or nearly all the OT. Then there are other versions including the Old Latin, Samaritan Pentateuch and the Targums (Aramaic).

Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the main Hebrew manuscripts we had to go on were medieval: the complete OT in the Leningrad Codex (AD 1009), plus the large chunks of OT in the Aleppo Codex (AD 925) and Cairo Prophets Codex (AD 896). Thats why the Dead Sea Scrolls were such a huge discoverythey contain manuscripts that date between 275 BC and AD 68.

The similarities and differences between all these manuscripts and translations are interesting (if you are that sort of person), and so scholars will compare between them to work out the likely original text. Sometimes we arent 100% confident which word was original, but even then, the message of the whole gets through. Thats the beauty of communication. Unlike a game of Telephone where the message quickly gets garbled down the line, Israels Scriptures are preserved in thousands of manuscripts, in dozens of languages, by different communities in different parts of the world. God is good at getting his message across.

This is a complex answer to a simple question. But the big picture is that the library of the OT has preserved traditions throughout the history of Israels relationship with God, from the time of Abraham to the time of Jesus. We can be confident that what Jesus meant when he referred to Scripture is what we pick up when we read the OT today.

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When was the Old Testament Written? - The Gospel Coalition

Straus Center Fall 2022 Courses: The Wisdom of Solomon, Rembrandt and AI – Yu News

Posted By on August 30, 2022

For Fall 2022, the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought, in collaboration withYeshiva College(YC) and Stern College for Women, is offeringnumerous coursesforStraus Scholarsand Yeshiva University undergraduate students to study the great texts and traditions of the West and Judaism.

Back by popular demand, Straus Center Clinical Assistant Professor Rabbi Dr. Dov Lerner is teaching The Thought of Rabbi Sacks on the Beren campus, as well as Malbim and Modernity, which focuses on the nineteenth-century exegete. Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Schiffman, clinical assistant professor of Jewish education, will continue his work with the Straus Center with Happiness: Torah and Psychology, while Straus Center Associate Director and Clinical Assistant Professor Dr. Neil Rogachevsky is teaching American Political Thought.

Straus Center Director Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik and Straus Center Resident Scholar Dr. Shaina Trapedo are splitting their time between the Beren and Wilf campuses. On Beren, Rabbi Dr. Soloveichik is teaching Zionist Political Thought and co-teaching Rashi & Rembrandt with Dr. Jacob Wisse. On Wilf, he co-teaches Epistemology of Judaism with Associate Professor of Philosophy Dr. David Johnson. Dr. Trapedo is teaching Jews in Western Literature at Yeshiva College and The Wisdom of Solomon: Love, Learning, Leadership at Stern.

Dr. Rogachevsky is also teaching at Yeshiva College this year, pulling double duty with Modern Political Thought and American Political Thought. Rabbi Dr. Lerners Malbim and Modernity course is also being offered on the Wilf campus this year, and Rabbi Shalom Carmy, assistant professor of Jewish philosophy and Bible, is teaching Repentance and Forgiveness.

Finally, the Straus Center is excited to welcome a number of new affiliated faculty from YC and the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS). Rabbi Dr. Ari Bergmann is teaching his first Straus Center course, titled Schools of Aggadah, while Talmud instructor Rabbi Nathaniel Wiederblank and Rabbi Dr. Mois Albert Navon, a professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, are teaching the cutting-edge new course: Ethics in Artificial Intelligence.

The new course in AI ethics is a unique opportunity for our students to study an important problem with a rare combination of professors, said Dr. Judah Diament, clinical professor and chair of the YC computer science department. Rabbi Wiederblank is not only a maggid shiur at YU, but he is also the author of two very well-received volumes on Jewish thought that have been praised for their rigorous and systematic approach to topics that are often viewed as being fuzzy. Rabbi Dr. Navon brings to bear his professional career, which ranged from NASA to Mobileye, as well as his own knowledge in both Torah and general ethics. Far from being passive learners, the students will be writing full-length papers on a topic in AI ethics, working together on them with these stellar professors.

To learn more about Straus Center courses, click here.

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Originally posted here:

Straus Center Fall 2022 Courses: The Wisdom of Solomon, Rembrandt and AI - Yu News

Maimonides on the Liberty of the People – Brownstone Institute

Posted By on August 30, 2022

There is a curious artistic feature in the US Capitol: above the gallery doors in the House Chamber are 23 relief portraits, the faces of lawgivers from across history. They were identified by scholars, legislators, and the staff of the Library of Congress as sources for the American constitutional tradition, noted for their work in establishing the principles that underlie American law.

Some of them are those youd expect influential English jurists like William Blackstone and Founding Fathers such as George Mason. At least one of the 23, though, may come as a surprise: Moses Maimonides.

While Maimonides is indisputably a major figure in the history of Jewish law, his writings are not generally remembered as containing the seeds of modern liberty and constitutionalism.

Perhaps, though, the link to Maimonides is not so far-fetched.

Aside from codifying the law that all political leaders even monarchs are always subject to the rule of a higher constitutional law (see Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings and their Wars, Chapter 3), Maimonides also included rules that were to govern the prerogative powers available in times of crisis or emergency.

Relying on an earlier fundamental law recorded in the Talmud (great is human dignity, which overrides even a prohibition of the Torah), Maimonides ruled unequivocally that human dignity must be weighted heavily among the factors in any crisis decision, as it overrides even divinely-inspired legislation and decreesand certainly mere positive law.

Looking back today, it is obvious these rulings are important precedents for the principles of the rule of law and limited government that respects human rights.

So how does Maimonides end up in the US Capitol as a source for American constitutional principles?

An important figure in English constitutional history supplies the most likely connection. The 17th-century scholar and parliamentarian John Selden was a constitutional thinker well known to the American Founders. Along with Sir Edward Coke, he was closely involved in producing the 1628 Petition of Right, a milestone in the history of limited, lawful government.

Selden today is usually remembered for his influence on modern international law, in which his view that countries can own part of the ocean largely prevailed over that of his contemporary, the continental scholar Hugo Grotius. A polymath described by the poet and political theorist John Milton as the most learned man in England, Selden spent a tremendous amount of his time studying Jewish legal sources, even though he was not himself Jewish.

The key he used to guide much of his research was Maimonides codification of Jewish law. Selden knew Maimonides well and wrote learned treatises on the relevance of Jewish law to contemporary legal theory, citing it as a major source in his debates with Grotius on the law of nations and as a necessary subject of study to understand natural law.

Selden, though, was not simply a scholarly antiquarian; he also brought his vast learning with him to his work as an active member of Parliament.

There is an ancient legal maxim frequently trotted out whenever a crisis or emergency appears, typically used to justify allegedly necessary government measures that are in fact unlawful. That maxim is salus populi suprema lex esto: the safety of the people is the supreme law (Cicero, De Legibus, Book III, right before his discussion of the Roman dictator).

I have seen other translations of salus populi as the welfare of the people or the well-being of the people or even the health of the people. Leaving aside which translation is most plausible, in our times the words resonate with calls for society-wide lockdowns and biosecurity authoritarianism.

Partisans of crisis government in every age recite salus populi and its vernacular equivalents in order to claim that the seizure and deployment of illegal dictatorial prerogatives is actually the most lawful act of all and always for the peoples own good.

It is noteworthy that during the constitutional crises gripping England in the 17th century, when another member of Parliament cited this maxim to justify the kings power of discretionary imprisonment in emergencies, Selden retorted, Salus populi suprema lex, et libertas popula summa salus populi the safety of the people is the supreme law, and the liberty of the people is the greatest safety of the people.

Selden understood that reducing the people to unfreedom and subjugation to unaccountable political masters deprives them of their dignity. He threw his lot in with the liberty of the people, defining that as the true supreme law in politics.

Maimonides, whose writings guided so much of Seldens studies, had insisted centuries before on both the rule of law and the inherent, divinely-established dignity shared equally by all human beings which was not to be violated, even in emergencies. This may explain his inclusion among the lawgivers in the Capitol.

In these times, when calls for crisis government and more emergency powers for the administrative state seem to grow louder by the day, the legislators in Congress the peoples representatives and trustees ought to pause, look around the Capitol, and consider the long tradition of freedom and dignity that is our inheritance and could still be their legacy.

Originally posted here:

Maimonides on the Liberty of the People - Brownstone Institute

Asking the Clergy: Your faith and recreational marijuana – Newsday

Posted By on August 30, 2022

Sales of recreational marijuana are expected to begin soon on Long Island, another step in the legalization of cannabis in New York for adults 21 and older. This weeks clergy discuss what Scripture says and doesnt say about the drug previously legalized for medicinal prescription.

Rabbi Jack Dermer

Temple Beth Torah, Westbury

The mention in Exodus 30:23 of the aromatic spice kaneh-bosem, which sounds strikingly like cannabis, has led scholars to speculate on the use of the substance during ancient Israelite worship. That historical debate notwithstanding, modern Jews follow the directives of the rabbinic sages on matters of ethics and religious practice. The rabbis in the Talmud remind us that Jews are obligated to observe the laws of the lands we live in. In places where cannabis remains illegal, the majority of rabbis would advise their congregants not to break the law. In states where recreational use is now legal, the question broadens.

If cannabis use makes you tired or lazy, overly self-involved or less likely to contribute to society, then I would urge you to reflect deeply and ask yourself, Is this really worth it? But if cannabis use makes you a more empathetic and thoughtful person, and when used occasionally and safely, it helps you to appreciate all the good that God has given us in this world music, food, loving relationships and nature then I have no issue with Jews using it. Just please, not before service. We dont have enough bagels for everyone to come with the munchies!

Khalid S. Lateef of Deer Park

President and imam emeritus, As Siraataal Mustaqeem Islamic Center, Wyandanch

The highest source for guidance for Muslims is the Holy Quran, which does not mention marijuana, but does address wine as an intoxicant and cautions against getting intoxicated by any means. Quran, Chapter 2, Verse 219, says: They ask thee concerning wine and gambling. Say: In them is great sin, and some profit for men; but the sin is greater than the profit.

Our next source for life guidance is the Sunnah, or sayings and behavior of Prophet Muhammad, in which it is reported that the Messenger of God said: Every intoxicant is khamr (wine) and every intoxicant is haram (unlawful).

The third source of guidance for the Muslims life is the consensus of Muslim scholars. All schools of Islamic jurisprudence unanimously agree that consuming any intoxicant is haram. Finally, the Muslim is encouraged to use logical reasoning. Euphoria is the experience (or effect) of pleasure or excitement and intense feelings of well-being and happiness. This feeling can be achieved through natural means: exercise, music, fasting and religious disciplines. The use of marijuana and other drugs is an unnatural way to feel a sense of euphoria. In short, Islam does not support marijuana use.

The Rev. Earl Y. Thorpe Jr.

Pastor, Church-in-the-Garden, Garden City

While the Bible has many admonishments, codes and teachings regarding personal piety and societal relationships, as with many challenges and questions we face today, there is no specific guidance on recreational marijuana use. However, the Bible always invites us to discernment and deep exploration regarding issues that affect our lived experiences.

The question of recreational marijuana, or any of todays hot-button topics, must be considered holistically and in the context of the Bibles mandate of love and justice. These subjects can never be divorced from their societal relationships and the history of discriminatory laws and enforcement against this countrys poor and minority classes. Too often, we cherry-pick Scriptures to justify our means and desired outcomes on controversial matters. This is terrible and sophomoric theology!

I believe faith is more concerned about justice and the dismantling of power structures that oppress rather than individual questions of does the Bible allow this or that? Therefore, to those considering cannabis use: Please make an informed personal decision. Do not assume that because your faith interpretation condones or prohibits a behavior, that your view should be the law of the land. Instead, allow space for the opinions of others to ensure equity for everyone.

DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS youd like Newsday to ask the clergy? Email them to LILife@newsday.com.

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Asking the Clergy: Your faith and recreational marijuana - Newsday

Bachelet deplores Israel’s failure to grant visas for UN Human Rights staff in the occupied Palestinian territory – OHCHR

Posted By on August 30, 2022

GENEVA (30 August 2022) Israels refusal to issue or renew visas for UN Human Rights staff in the occupied Palestinian territory will not prevent the Office from continuing to monitor and report on the human rights situation on the ground, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said today.

In 2020, the 15 international staff of my Office in Palestine which has been operating in the country for 26 years had no choice but to leave, said Bachelet. Subsequent requests for visas and visa renewals have gone unanswered for two years. During this time, I have tried to find a solution to this situation, but Israel continues to refuse to engage.

As a Member State, Israel must cooperate in good faith with the UN and grant its officials the privileges and immunities necessary for them to independently exercise their functions. This includes an obligation to exempt UN officials from immigration restrictions and to deal with applications for visas for UN officials as speedily as possible.

Israels failure to process visa applications that are necessary for my staffs access is inconsistent with these standards, and I call on the Government to meet its international obligations in this regard, the UN Human Rights chief said.

Bachelet said that barring the UN Human Rights Offices international staff occurred in a context where Israeli authorities are increasingly limiting human rights eyes and ears on the ground. There is a growing roll call of UN staff and mechanisms, non-governmental organisations and others being expelled or refused entry.

Israels treatment of our staff is part of a wider and worrying trend to block human rights access to the occupied Palestinian territory, Bachelet said.

This raises the question of what exactly the Israeli authorities are trying to hide.

Last year, Israeli Forces killed 320 Palestinians, a 10-fold increase on the number killed in 2020, and injured 17,042 people, six times the 2020 figure. The UN recorded the highest number of incidents of settler violence since recording began in 2017, and arrests of Palestinians doubled. So far in 2022, Israeli forces have killed at least 111 more Palestinians.

Despite its international staff being barred, the UN Human Rights Office in Palestine is delivering on its mandated work in monitoring the States compliance with its international human rights obligations and providing technical assistance on human rights.

We publicly report on violations by Israel, but also on violations by the State of Palestine, by Hamas in Gaza and Palestinian armed groups. We also provide the principal support to the Palestinian Government to help it improve its compliance with international human rights obligations, Bachelet said.

We will continue to deliver on our mandate. And we will continue to demand access to the occupied Palestinian territory for our staff, in line with Israels obligations as a UN Member State.

ENDS

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Bachelet deplores Israel's failure to grant visas for UN Human Rights staff in the occupied Palestinian territory - OHCHR

On the bus with an army of pro-Israel TikTok influencers J. – The Jewish News of Northern California

Posted By on August 30, 2022

A group of fired-up 20-somethings crush together in the aisle of the bus, singing at the top of their lungs, WERE GOING ON A FIELD TRIP!, while pouting for the dozen or so iPhones set to selfie mode.

Its 7 a.m. and far too early for this level of pep. But pep is the name of the game in the influencer business, and this group of 16 Israelis have an endless supply to share with their combined following of 32 million social media users around the world.

The bus driver tells the guy with hair the color of cycling shorts to sit down for the tenth time, while the girl with the immaculately applied contouring asks, once again, when the next poop break is. The trip, which took place at the end of June and was paid for by the Jewish National Fund USA, feels more like an end-of-year school outing than a carefully curated excursion aimed at encouraging tourists to Go North that is, to visit the Galilee.

Histrionics aside, these influencers are deeply savvy and know exactly just how hammy to behave when it comes to creating a viral TikTok video for any given scenario. For a trip like this, which aims to showcase the culture, coexistence and culinary scene of Israels north, the content is light and glossy. At one stop, gaggle of tween girls crowds around Eviatar Ozeri, who has garnered close to10 million followerslargely thanks to his hilarious exchanges with his chihuahua Niki (who has more than 1 million followers inher own right), and he happily poses for selfies with each of them.

I like giving my message by making fun of myself and acting stupid people connect to it, said Ozeri, who was hired by former Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennettduring his 2021 election campaignin a bid to draw younger voters (Niki and Bennett featured in a social media reel together).

Ozeri and the rest of the influencers on the bus may very well be Israels most advanced weapon in its war of hasbara, the Hebrew term for public diplomacy, the only battlefield where Israel feels it is losing. Harnessing the enthusiasm and the tremendous reach of these digital warriors is supposed to help deliver a message that official Israel has thus far failed to convey, of a cool, peace-loving nation, eons away from the conflict zone depicted on cable news channels.

A visit to a cross-border tunnel dug by the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group is an excuse for merriment, as the influencers pose for a group reel, flip the bird and yell, F Hezbollah!

During times of actual conflict, they move into high gear. Their daily content is varied and specialized one posts aboutno-makeup makeup, another aboutwater-to-wine chemistry experiments, another aboutgirls with guns but during flare-ups with the Palestinians their messaging is uniform and usually involves some iteration of Israels right to defend itself.

Bella Hadid, Im back and so are my facts, Shiraz Shukrun said in arecent postaddressing the Palestinian-American supermodel. Youre such a busy model and have zero time for research, so its not your fault. Using the hashtags #stopfakenews and #Israelunderattack, Shukran hoped to counter a post by Hadid that blamed Israel for the death of several Palestinian children, an incident Israel says was due to a misfired rocket.

The global value of influencer marketing in 2021 was estimated at $13.8 billion by Influencer Marketing Hub, and American influencers can reportedly command $20,000 or more for a single promo reel. Yet none in this Israeli crew receives a penny from either JNF USA or the MFA for their content promoting Israel. They say they feel compelled to do it anyway.

I started posting [pro-Israel] content out of frustration, said 20-year-old Guy Rabi, whose 3.1 million followers watch his alter ego @coolchemistryguyblow up gummy bearsandmelt various other substances. The lies were pissing me off so I just began reacting to anti-Israel posts.

Rabi paid no small price for his activism. The top city in Rabis following was Tehran; his first story on Israel lost him 20,000 followers in one fell swoop and death threats have slid into his DMs on more than one occasion.

At 33, Idan Matalon is one of the older of the groups digital creators, attested to by the fact that he has the mostfollowers on Facebook the dinosaur of social media platforms. Most of Matalons content is in Spanish, having picked up the language from telenovelas, like manyIsraelis of his generation. He launched his digital career when Instagram was still in its infancy over a decade ago by asking people to say I love Israel in Spanish.

These days, though, its all about TikTok, he said. TikTok is the greatest hasbara tool for the Arab world and all the incitement [against Israel] comes from TikTok. Fighting it is impossible, because there are so few of us and so many of them. Our only strength is that were putting out classier content.

Some American Jewish social media warriors have dedicated their feeds entirely to fighting antisemitism and criticism of Israel. The Israelis tend to take a more integrated approach, weaving pro-Israel messages alongside their existing content.

Dekel, whosequirky skincare routinesand lack of last name are incongruous with her training as a biomedical engineer, maintains that there is no reason that reels onbutt acnecant share the same social media real estate as pro-Zionism posts.

Its who I am, these are my values and I want to portray that, she said.

Dekel, along with the rest of the influencers on the JNF USA trip, are part of a Ministry of Foreign Affairs initiative called the Israeli Influencers Dream Team. According to the ministrys senior director for digital strategy and partnerships Ido Daniel, they wanted to help fight the good fight for Israel and combat fake news and trolling online but didnt know how.

We provide them the platform and the ability to know better and to create content that is Israel-related as they please, Daniel said. We do not ever tell them what to post, we only provide them with information and answer their questions. They are the experts about the actual content.

The relationship is already bearing fruit: When veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed during an IDF raid in Jenin, Dekel turned to Daniels team for help creating a video explaining Israels side of the story.

But its not just crisis management where the influencers are seen as an asset. The program includes training sessions and briefings, matching Israeli influencers with influencers overseas, and tours around the country, such as the trip to Israels north where JNF USAs ultimate goal is to attract 300,000 new residents by creating employment and economic development opportunities, as part of its One Billion Dollar Roadmap for the Next Decade.

The JNF bus arrives in Kiryat Shmona, a working-class city near the Lebanon border, for a tour of Margalit Startup City Galil, venture capitalist Erel Margalits food tech center. The tour provides plenty of Insta fodder, fromgrasshopper-eating competitionstoslurping sessionswithstraws made from straw.

The next stop is Buza, a boutique ice cream chain, which in the past partnered with Margalit-funded InnovoPro to create vegan ice cream from chickpea protein. The trip to Buza (ice cream in Arabic) is also a chance to showcase Israeli coexistence. Founded by an Arab Muslim and a Jew, the Galiliean ice cream company now has six shops all over Israel. According to the stores Christian Arab manager, when riots broke out in mixed Arab-Jewish cities during the Gaza conflict in May 2021, Jews and Arabs alike flocked to the shop in a show of support.

The Dream Team doesnt exactly blend in in Kiryat Shmona, and it isnt long before a group of overexcited Arab schoolchildren swarm them for selfies. At one point, a man with an oversized tattoo on his forearm rolls down his car window to scream with delight at the sight of Orin Julie, an influencer who calls herself theQueen of Gunsand who has more than apassing resemblanceto the iconic Tomb Raider character Lara Croft. His brakes screeching, the man jumps out of his vehicle and hugs an elated Julie.

A former commander in the elite Golani unit, Sharon Tsur tells Julie he has been an avid fan since she began her social media journey, telling the world how she fought to be accepted into a combat unit despite her low medical profile.

I cant believe Im seeing you in real life. Im getting goosebumps like Im hearing Hatikvah, Tsur said, referencing Israels national anthem.

Today, Julie is both an ardent womensrights activist and gun rights activist. Americans love the story of the nice Jewish girl in the army, she said.

For JNF USA, the idea behind the trip is to bring more people to spend time in the north, and not necessarily for day jaunts as tourists. According to the groups Israel-based head of communications, Yael Levontin, while tourism is a big driver for development in Israels north, the region actually loses money if people only stay for a few hours. Convincing people to spend several days, or to consider making a permanent move, yields much more fruit economically.

While the precise return on marketing investment for JNF USA is unclear (it would be a stretch to assume that viral videos are enough to galvanize people to uproot their lives and move to the north), the trip opened the nonprofit to new audiences. The Dream Team uploaded a total of 287 posts over the two-day visit, and according to Levontin, reached thousands of new accounts through their platforms, drawing engagement and new followers to JNF USAs own pages.

At least anecdotally, the exposure benefited Israels image. According to Ozeri, it broke stereotypes about Israel and the conflict. The TikToker dedicated a series of stories to a visit at the home ofSavta Maha, a niqab-clad Druze woman who serves traditional Druze cuisine (thats also kosher) a mashup that he said one Turkish follower deemed very cool.

Were eating stuffed vine leaves and rosewater malabi and suddenly my Muslim followers are saying, Hey, youre eating my food, Ozeri said. Its entirely new for them.

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On the bus with an army of pro-Israel TikTok influencers J. - The Jewish News of Northern California

7 great new films from Israel coming soon to a (big or small) screen near you – Forward

Posted By on August 30, 2022

All I Can Do, by Shiri Nevo Fridental, focuses on the legal aspects of sexual violence. Photo by Shiri Nevo Fridental

By Olga GershensonAugust 30, 2022

The Jerusalem Film Festival has showcased the Israeli film industry for 39 years. The best entries circulate there before they arrive in the U.S. This year I saw several excellent candidates for international distribution.

June Zero, a new Israeli-American film directed by Jake Paltrow (Gwyneth Paltrows brother) takes place in 1961. Adolf Eichmann, a major architect of the Holocaust, has been sentenced to death in Israel. The question is what to do with his body. Burial is not an option, lest his grave turn into a site of Nazi pilgrimage. Though the premise is grim, the film is delightful. The story is told from the point of view of 13-year-old David (the excellent Noam Ovadya). The son of new immigrants from Libya, David works at a factory to help out his family. Mechanically gifted, he becomes instrumental in the creation of a crematorium for Eichmanns body.

Along with Davids fictional story, we get to look under the hood of history. The story of Eichmanns guards is based on real-life events; concerned about vigilante revenge, every staff member who came in touch with the Nazi had to be verified non-Ashkenazi and non-survivor. As a result, the guards were Mizrahi Jews, whose characters allow the film to explore the unusual intersection of the Holocaust and Mizrahi identity. Paltrow denies Eichmann any screen time we never see his face or even his body in full. He is very deliberately not a character. The character of David, though, will stay with you.

The Partisan with the Leica Camera, a documentary directed by Ruth Walk, takes a very different approach to history. Its the story of Mundek Lukawiecki and his wife Hannah Bern, two of the very few Jews who fought in the Armia Krajowa, the Polish underground army killing Nazis and Polish collaborators.

Lukawiecki was assimilated, athletic and good-looking. Bern was from an Orthodox family. Nazi violence brings them together. When Bern, at 16, is raped by the Ukrainian police in the ghetto, her father pays Lukawiecki to take her with him to the forest. Bern undergoes transformation in a partisan camp. Fighting along with some 40 partisans, she faces sexual violence from them, too. She learns to kill. After the war, Lukawiecki and Bern arrive in newly-founded Israel and form a seemingly normal family. But the violence doesnt leave them the neighbors remember his screaming and her crying, a soundtrack of violated life.

We learn this story not only from recollections, but from Lukawieckis photographs he picked up a camera when he was a young man and never put it down, even when documenting underground fighting was potentially deadly. His extraordinary photographs are overlaid with footage of the forest in motion. The characters in the photos gradually dissolve, becoming ghostly presences, and then disappear completely. The images linger in our memory long after.

A number of festival films this year explored social issues such as #MeToo, race relations and police violence. Barren, directed by Orthodox filmmaker Mordechai Vardi, has all the elements of recent Haredi dramas: a childless couple desperate for good news, an overbearing mother, a devout father. And yet, the film veers into unusual territory.

When a young husband travels to Uman, he leaves his wife Feige with his parents. Her in-laws welcome to the house a saintly man, a miracle-worker with a shofar. Things get uncomfortable very soon, when the guest suggests that Feige hold his shofar: Feel it, he orders.

The shofar is enormous, its phallic power obvious and repulsive. When the tikkun doesnt work, the man steals into Feiges bedroom at night to try other means. What unfolds in the aftermath of the assault is a nuanced drama, challenging both the family dynamic and religious institutions. Mili Eshet, as Feige, steals the show: her eyes are luminous; her elfin figure expresses shame, pain, and ultimately, hope.

All I Can Do, by Shiri Nevo Fridental, focuses on the legal aspects of sexual violence. A young woman, Efrat (Sharon Stribman), sues a man who sexually assaulted her when she was a teen. Reut (Ania Bukstein) is a public prosecutor on her case. The case is old and relies solely on testimony and character, a fact exploited by a manipulative defense.

It goes as expected: Efrat is rebellious but unstable. Reut is reserved at first, but then gets emotionally involved, as she discovers her own vulnerabilities and family secrets. Despite being predictable, the film is worth watching. The acting is superb and the court scenes feel authentic not surprising because Fridental was a lawyer before she turned to film.

Concerned Citizen by Idan Haguel contends with gentrification, police brutality and liberal guilt in a way that feels fresh and uncompromising. A gay yuppie couple moves into southern Tel Aviv, a neighborhood of migrant workers and African refugees. Ben (Shlomi Bertonov) tries to do good. He cleans up human feces in his entrance hall, heads the housing committee, and even plants a tree next to his building. But when police responding to Bens call beat an Eritrean migrant to death, Ben fails to act. Instead, he goes on a guilt trip, taking us with him, and ultimately arrives at the place where he can forgive himself but we cant.

The story is told in a series of scenes, many of them darkly funny. But Haguel cuts away from them abruptly before sarcasm turns into comedy. He keeps landing us on a blank screen to remind us that we are watching his film, and that once its over we have to face our own moral choices, not just feel superior to Bens.

While not an issue film, Ofir Raul Graizers America also engages with charged themes of violence and racism. The film opens with Eli (Michael Moshonov) living in the U.S., to which he escaped after his ex-cop father killed his mother. Now the father has died and Eli returns to Israel for the inheritance. The plot springs into action when he meets with his childhood friend Yotam and Yotams fiancee Iris (a revelatory Oshrat Ingedashet), and a freak accident changes the course of their lives.

What follows is a melodrama with a love triangle, entangled histories and unhealed traumas. Without being political, America quietly touches on the difficult realities of life in Israel. Elis story explores toxic militarist masculinity. Iris is an Ethiopian Israeli and the racism she encounters becomes part of her story.

Aside from its stirring plot, this films biggest achievement is its expressive cinematography. Elis lonely life in Chicago is filmed in blue and indigo. The palette changes to grey and brown once he enters the oppressive atmosphere of his fathers house. The screen bursts with colors in the house of Iris and Yotam, awash in yellow and red, and in their flower shop overflowing with green, pink, and purple. With its precise attention to textures and colors, America is a feast for the eyes.

The Soldiers Opinion, by Assaf Banitt, is a documentary about military censorship in Israel. For 50 years, from 1948 to 1998, the IDF maintained a special department tasked with perusing every single letter sent by every single soldier ostensibly, to monitor for military secrets, but in reality, as the censors themselves admit, as a means of mind control.

The censors wrote detailed reports on soldiers opinions, which, at times, influenced policies. More often, these reports provided to higher ups intelligence on private infringements, including homosexuality (which was criminalized), drug abuse, health issues and moral quandaries. What emerges in the reports are doubts about the morality of Israels wars, accounts of plundering, even parallels between the Nazi treatment of Jews and the IDFs treatment of the Palestinians.

The film generously quotes the soldiers letters, on which the reports are based, revealing an honest and painful commentary on Israels wars. In a mere 55 minutes, the film succeeds in bringing together the letters and reports illustrated using rare archival footage, interviews with the censors, talking heads of scholars, and even a reconciliation between a former soldier and a former censor.

Today, even as cell phones put an end to letter writing, the censorship continues. IDF censors monitor soldiers minds and hearts via social media. This eye-opening film, at times moving and at times devastating, is a must-see.

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7 great new films from Israel coming soon to a (big or small) screen near you - Forward

Israel is worried about a possible clash with Washington over the Iran nuclear deal – Middle East Monitor

Posted By on August 30, 2022

As the countdown begins for the signing of a nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, a number of disputes have surfaced between Israel and the US about the deal. There is also criticism within Israel of the government's political and military approach towards the agreement. The occupation state appears to be opposing the whole world, which has more or less united to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions through diplomatic means, while Israel foolishly sticks to the punishment approach.

In a step devoid of political wisdom, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to prevent the signing of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal agreed by the administration of then US President Barack Obama. Netanyahu arrived in Washington on the eve of the signing ceremony and delivered a speech in the US Congress against the deal behind Obama's back. Obama did not hesitate to describe him as ungrateful. In the end, Netanyahu returned empty handed while the agreement was signed.

The strange thing is that current Prime Minister Yair Lapid is now following in Netanyahu's footsteps. His National Security Adviser, Eyal Kholta, has arrived in Washington for talks at the White House during which he will hear the details of the agreement before expressing Israel's opposition. It is true that he will be briefed on the details closely, but he will not get what he wants. US President Joe Biden is determined to give Israel a second chance, which it will be a mistake to miss. Mossad spy chief David Barnea has also criticised the agreement, which is being seen as direct criticism of the Biden administration.

Meanwhile, more Israelis are calling for a different policy on the Iran nuclear issue. Automatic opposition to any agreement, coupled with angry rhetoric and an attack on Iran, may earn Brownie points within certain sections of the Israeli electorate, but it brings Tehran closer to deciding to arm itself with nuclear weapons, because it will be the one to decide whether there will be a renewable agreement with the global powers regarding the nuclear file.

Many Israelis believe the new agreement to be less useful than what was on the table earlier. The fact is that Israel can't expect anything better. Iran has made great progress in the production of centrifuges, and is able to enrich uranium faster than before. Israeli policy has played an important part in reaching this bleak situation. It began with Netanyahu's direct attack on Obama, and he continued to push Trump to withdraw from the agreement which he did in 2018 even though Iran had fulfilled its part of the terms.

READ: Rushdie's stabbing is unlikely to delay the Iran nuclear agreement

Israelis are afraid of reproducing Netanyahu's opposition to the nuclear agreement to the point of starting a crisis with Biden, which could cost Israel a lot. The current agreement, even if Israel sees it as bad, is better than no agreement at all, because Israel's current policy is pushing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. Tel Aviv needs to think seriously about a change of policy.

A nuclear Iran is apparently a serious threat to Israel, because it will open the regional nuclear arms race even wider. This will require an examination of every step that Iran takes when looking at other conflict zones. Israelis recall that the late Mossad chief Meir Dagan said, "Forcefully preventing Iran's bomb cannot be achieved by Israel alone; it requires international preparation."

All of this confirms that Israel is facing a complex situation, which has prompted its military and security leaders to ask the politicians and government to coordinate their activities with other countries, notably the US, as well as with their regional partners. The idea must be to create checks and balances against Iranian interests in various places, and to stop believing blindly that the only solution is Israel's military power. Such a belief means, in short, bringing Iran closer to having nuclear weapons.

Israelis are now talking about the conflicting interests of the US and Israel in the nuclear agreement to be signed. This requires the latter to find a way to act without necessarily causing a clash between Lapid and Biden. Netanyahu clashed with Obama, causing relations to deteriorate dramatically.

Although not much is known about the details of the new nuclear agreement, it is clear that it is already much weaker than the original JCPOA signed by Obama, according to Israeli estimates. If implemented, the deal will limit Iran's ability to enrich uranium even more than the original agreement. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv is still making great efforts to persuade Washington not to sign the agreement, or at least to toughen some of its provisions.

READ: Iran nuclear deal limbo may serve interests of both US and Iran

Four main components have been identified to deal with the consequences of the imminent agreement: careful monitoring by the intelligence services, which will prevent Iran from developing an explosive nuclear device secretly; the means to respond and disrupt production if Iran resumes its nuclear weapons development programme; a joint identifier by Tel Aviv and Washington as when to consider Iran to have achieved a breakthrough towards nuclear weapons; and understandings on the action to be taken by Tel Aviv and Washington together, or separately, if Tehran actually gets a nuclear bomb.

It is clear that there are a number of conflicting interests between the occupying power and the United States. The latter has an interest in lifting sanctions on Iran so that it will be able to produce and export oil and gas with no limits, averaging 3.5 million barrels per day, in the face of the consequences of the Russia-Ukraine war, and to fill the fuel shortage that Russia has created for Europe in the coming winter. The US also wants to save Iran from falling into the arms of China and Russia and thus reduce the strategic and economic negotiating power of the anti-Western camp.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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Israel is worried about a possible clash with Washington over the Iran nuclear deal - Middle East Monitor

Why is America so obsessed with Israel? – Spiked

Posted By on August 30, 2022

Those planning to visit Israel for the first time are often astonished when they realise its small size. Even driving from the northern tip of the country in Metula to its most southerly point in Eilat can be done in less than six hours.

In British terms, the land area of Israel within its internationally recognised borders is about the size of Wales. Or in American terms, it is slightly larger than New Jersey. Even if the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are added to the calculation, they only increase the land area marginally.

But it is not just in relation to geography that Israel is a minnow. In terms of GDP (and despite the success of its high-tech sector) it ranks 28th globally, according to the International Monetary Fund. And its population is only about 9.4million (of whom less than three quarters are Jewish). Even its military although huge relative to the countrys own population and economy is, in absolute terms, less substantial than those of other regional powers, such as Egypt, Iran and Turkey.

Israels relative smallness is surprising given its high profile globally. Matters related to Israel often lead the international news. And debates about Israel and the Palestinians are frequently the most emotionally charged of any topics related to foreign policy and global affairs.

In fact, Israel is probably the most important contemporary example of what Adam Garfinkle, an American historian and political scientist, has called Jewcentricity that is, the tendency to think Jews play a larger role in the world than they actually do. In that respect, it might even make sense to talk about Israel-centricity as a grossly exaggerated view of Israels geopolitical importance.

Anti-Semites are the most obvious example of Jewcentrics. Often, they point to what they see as the immense power of the Jewish lobby in dominating American foreign policy. Their arguments tend to reflect older, conspiratorial tropes about the supposed power of the Jews. And they tend to focus obsessively on Israels shortcomings while ignoring, or at least downplaying, those of many other countries. Indeed, some of the worlds most unsavoury and discriminatory regimes are all too eager to indulge in savage criticism of Israel.

But Jewcentricity is not confined to anti-Semites. Even those who are sympathetic to Israel or to Jews more generally often overestimate its importance. Jews loom larger in their imagination than the cold hard facts suggest is reasonable. That probably helps explain why the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians has been central to the foreign policy of every American president, from George HW Bush to Donald Trump.

The Arc of a Covenant: The United States, Israel and the Fate of the Jewish People, a new book by foreign-affairs professor and Wall Street Journal columnist Walter Russell Mead, examines the unique position attributed to Israel and the Jewish people. As Mead puts it: The state of Israel is a speck on the map of the world; it occupies a continent in the American mind.

The Arc of a Covenant has two related key themes. It is a critique of what Mead calls the Vulcan theory of US-Israel policy the common obsession with the supposed immense power of the Jewish lobby. And it also explores the broader story of Israel and the Jews in American politics, cultural history and even theology, from the colonial era to the present day.

By Vulcanism, Mead is referring to a theory in astronomy popular in the mid-19th century. This held that there was a partially hidden planet Vulcan that explained the apparently erratic orbits of some of the Suns other planets. It was only with the advent of Einsteins theory of relativity in the early 20th century that a better explanation was found.

In Meads view, todays Jewcentrics are like those 19th-century astronomers obsessed with the power of a hidden planet. They selectively pick evidence to support their theory, ignore or downplay contradictory facts and miss the bigger picture. For instance, they overlook the existence of important discontinuities in Americas policy towards Israel. Indeed, the US has not always strongly supported Israel, keeping its distance from the Jewish state from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Jewcentrics also underestimate the differences within the American Jewish community. It was only when the liberal order seemed to be failing Jews notably by refusing to allow free immigration for European Jews desperately trying to flee the Nazis that most American Jews came to support Israel. Before that, it was a minority position. Even today there are big rifts in the American Jewish community over how Jews should relate to the Jewish state.

Mead also gives many examples of Jewcentrics missing the bigger picture. One of the most striking is what he describes as an article of faith namely, the idea that a powerful Jewish lobby engineered the 1947 United Nations vote supporting the creation of a Jewish state. To counter the argument, Mead makes the fair point that if the international Jewish lobby really was so powerful, why did it not stop the rise of Hitler? Or get the worlds countries to oppose Nazi Germany? Or somehow stop the Holocaust?

Mead pays particular attention to American Christians positive attitude towards the Jewish people and Israel. In contrast to the generally more hostile attitude of European Christians towards Jews in Europe, many although by no means all American Protestants came to see Jews in a positive light. The Jewish people were commonly seen as under Gods special covenant and care.

Religious and patriotic support for Israel gained new impetus with the rise of the new American right in the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan. Many evangelical Christians saw the establishment of a Jewish state in the deserts of Palestine as confirming the essential truths of Christianity. This was accompanied by a rise in support for Israel among what Mead calls Jacksonian populists. They tended to be sceptical of attempts to build international institutions, but admired what they saw as Israels strength.

On the left, a key thread from the 19th century onwards was the link between support for the Jewish state and American providential nationalism. Backing Israel was widely seen as in line with Americas own mission to promote national self-determination and self-rule. That was particularly the case when old empires such as the Ottoman Empire and later the British Empire dominated the Middle East. It should be noted that in this context, though, many Americans also supported the emergence of Arab nation states on similar grounds.

The Arc of a Covenant is not flawless. It tends to overlook the fact that, until the 1970s, the right was more critical of Israel, while the left generally backed it. Indeed, it is notable that the civil-rights movement was avidly pro-Israel. But as progressives have moved away from support for national liberation towards a more globalist outlook, they have become increasingly hostile to the Jewish state. Strident criticism of Israel has become an important marker for the left, along with criticism of capitalism and of America itself.

Nevertheless, Mead has performed an important task in identifying some broader themes in relation to American perceptions of Israel. And above all, he has shown that to understand contemporary anti-Semitism, you have to understand the outsized role accorded to both the Jewish people and to Israel.

Daniel Ben-Ami is an author and journalist. He runs the website Radicalism of Fools, which is dedicated to rethinking anti-Semitism. Follow him on Twitter: @danielbenami.

The Arc of a Covenant: The United States, Israel and the Fate of the Jewish People, by Walter Russell Mead, is published by Knopf. (Order it here).

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Why is America so obsessed with Israel? - Spiked


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