The perversion of religious Zionism (AMOTZ ASA-EL, JUNE 7, 2024, Jerusalem Post)

The pair’s endgame is a restoration of Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip, a mad idea by any yardstick – national, international, or military – but a perfectly sound one in terms of their messianic theology, which is to plant Jewish settlements in every reachable corner of the biblical Land of Israel, regardless of who is there and what that entails. While even they understand this cannot happen immediately, they focus on what can happen: Israeli military rule across the Gaza Strip.

A ceasefire is anathema to them because it might generate an Arab regime in Gaza designed by Arab governments at peace with Israel, and also Saudi Arabia. To Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, such a scenario is a nightmare, not militarily or strategically, as they claim, but theologically as they do not openly admit.

RELIGIOUS ZIONISM and ultra-Orthodoxy have been at odds for more than a century. Their controversy was about the Jews’ role in shaping their future. Religious Zionists, like their secular allies, thought the Jews must fight for their freedom or they would be abused indefinitely. Ultra-Orthodoxy thought the Jews’ redemption was God’s task, and the Jews’ task was to pray that God would soon fulfill His task.

The Zionist goal, then, was Jewish liberation through Jewish sovereignty in the Jewish land. The Jews were the aim, and their land was the means. This view was shared by Religious Zionism’s politicians who in 1947 backed wholeheartedly the partition plan that created the Jewish state, and in 1967 backed with equal conviction the idea of land for peace, as did the greatest Modern Orthodox theologian, Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik (1903-1993).

Now the party that calls itself Religious Zionism not only doesn’t think of land for peace, it thinks of land for war. The hostages, in its view, are expendable for the hallucination of Jewish settlements in Gaza. The people, originally the aim, and the land, originally the means, have reversed roles. It’s a biblical tragedy.


The Implications of the Gaza-Israel War for U.S.-Jordanian Ties (Abdulaziz Kilani, June 6, 2024, New Lines Institute)

Prior to the war, Jordan had already been dealing with various challenges, including the smuggling of drugs and weapons over its border with Syria. The kingdom’s economy also continues to struggle, and continued U.S. assistance has played a role in maintaining its stability. Since the war began, those challenges have deepened, with economic impacts on tourism immediately after Oct. 7 and on trade coming from the Red Sea escalations.

The kingdom “has been walking a high wire” with Washington since the Oct. 7 attack, Jawad Anani, former chief of the Royal Hashemite Court, told the author. “Jordan still believes the U.S. has the upper hand in bringing the parties together,” Anani said, adding that diminished U.S. prestige in the region could have consequences for the kingdom. A November 2023 University of Jordan poll showed 99% dissatisfaction among Jordanians with the U.S. stance on the conflict.

The war also has increased Hamas’ popularity in Jordan, leading some to again call on the government to restore ties with the militant group. Such a move is unlikely; it would anger several of Jordan’s partners, including the U.S., and in April, officials and observers in Jordan accused the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas of inciting protests to destabilize the kingdom.

The violence has caused concerns over refugees. Although the focus currently is on Gaza, Amman is also worried that the West Bank might be the next point of escalation, bringing with it a possible new influx of refugees and a host of political, economic, security, and demographic obstacles. In 2020, Abdullah warned of “massive conflict” with Israel if it proceeded with its plans to annex large parts of the West Bank.

Amman has been clear that it will not accept more refugees, seeing the crisis as an Israeli attempt to settle the Palestinian conflict at the expense of Jordan. Washington understands the kingdom’s position, and some U.S. officials have privately acknowledged that countries such as Jordan have valid concerns.

Jordan’s ability to see to the needs of Palestinian refugees was dealt a further blow when the U.S. and several other countries suspended funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) after Israel accused 12 of the agency’s employees in Gaza of participating in the Oct. 7 attack. While some nations eventually reinstated funding, the U.S. has not reversed its decision. The UNRWA took charge of all refugee expenses, including those for education and health care; the suspension leaves Jordan struggling to find alternative means to make up the deficit.

The war has also increased Israeli-Iranian tensions. On April 13, Iran launched more than 300 drones and missiles toward Israel in response to its strike on Tehran’s consulate in Syria earlier in the month. Jordan intercepted missiles and drones that entered its airspace during the attack, a move some social media activists interpreted as defending Israel. However, officials in Jordan insisted the move was in the context of self-defence and protection of the kingdom’s sovereignty. Abdullah made it clear that the kingdom “will not be a battlefield for any party.”

The Kingdom has to liberalize next.


Civilization is from the Jews (Andrew Doran, May 25, 2024, European Conservative)

Most will agree that civilized behavior, at a minimum, consists of abstaining from ritualistic torture, rape, sexual mutilation, human sacrifice, cannibalism, and related conduct. Yet for most of human history such conduct was normative and often sacralized. Habits of ritual violence and scapegoating to satisfy blood lust and communal anxiety were ubiquitous.

Human sacrifice was a near-universal practice in primitive pagan societies, even among sophisticated pagans. Greeks had elaborate religious rituals for killing their pharmokoi (scapegoats). Romans buried sacrificial victims alive in religious rituals to spare Rome from enemies like the Carthaginians, and though human sacrifice was later banned, crucifixion, mass executions, and murderous entertainment continued until banished in the Christian era. The Carthaginians, like their Phoenician and Canaanite ancestors, sacrificed their own children, as did many Mediterranean peoples. Aztec, Maya, Chinese, Japanese, and Indian civilizations all had rituals for human sacrifice.

Ritualistic violence among low pagans was less well documented but often more horrific. Christians from the medieval to modern eras, travelers like Ahmad ibn Fadlan and Samuel de Champlain, and missionaries all personally witnessed ritualized torture, murder, and cannibalism, from North America to Northern Europe and Asia. Celtic and Baltic, Germanic and Angle, Comanche and Guanche—more peoples partook than can be numbered because most have gone extinct. Ritualistic barbarity was universal.

We probably cling to the myth of the noble savage despite the evidence because the truth—that we all descend from inbred cannibals who made a sacred ritual of torture, rape, sexual mutilation, child sacrifice, and murder—is too unpleasant. We have no desire to confront our history, ourselves, or what the world looks like with different gods. The earth beneath us is a vast crime scene, and those of us walking around descend from something far worse than our simian ancestors. Apes are incapable of the tortures humans inflict on one another.

So what brought most of that savagery to an end? And why do we believe in universal moral norms that restrain violent impulse rather than indulge it? Each inquirer is free to examine cause and effect throughout history. But if by progress we mean the spread of universal concepts of human dignity, equality, and morality—rather than, say, democracy or roads or sound architecture or law—then it all began with the Hebrews. It was the Jews who gave us monotheism, universal moral standards, the notion of the human person, and much else besides. Civilizational progress came from the Abrahamic faiths—unevenly, imperfectly, and undeniably.

Sacrificial violence and scapegoating were cathartic. They satisfy blood lust and the innate sense that there is injustice, that something is wrong, and that someone ought to be held to account, hence the sacrificial victim. The Hebrews shifted the violent cathartic urge from man to creature, and Christians shifted it to bread and water.

There are of course examples of civilized conduct among high pagans, though many of these had a threshold for quotidian violence that we conveniently ignore. And there are Abrahamic peoples who, often in the name of God, inflict unspeakable violence—much of it on each other, and the worst of it on the Jews. However, in general, civilized conduct among high pagans requires a deviation from pagan norms, and uncivilized behavior among Abrahamic communities requires a deviation from their own morality. Sorting through the genealogy and authenticity of moral systems today is nearly impossible for many reasons. Suffice it to say, most of us behave very differently from our pagan ancestors—and why we do so has everything to do with Judaism.


For many American Jews protesting for Palestinians, activism is a journey rooted in their Jewish values (Atalia Omer, 5/21/24, Religion News Service)

When I asked Rebekah – a pseudonym for a college student in the American South whom I interviewed for my book – how she understood her Jewishness, she told me: “I have always maintained that the basis for my activism was my Jewish ideals, the radical equality I had absorbed at home.”

For Rebekah and many other American Jews, the cultural memory of the Holocaust, and the common refrain “Never Again,” inspires their activism for Palestinian rights.

“Growing up in Hebrew schools, you grow up with the nightmarish Holocaust films,” she stressed. “The conclusion of this education should have been clear: ‘You can’t do it to another group of people!’”

This lesson is reflected in the cry “Never again to anyone,” heard at demonstrations over the past few months.


Israel Does Not Know How To End the Gaza War: Military and political analysts now say the conflict is unwinnable, but no one has an exit plan (Lisa Goldman, May 21, 2024, New/Lines)

Israel is in a “plonter.” The Hebrew word, which translates as a knot that defies untangling, is often used to describe an intractable situation. It’s a word one hears frequently from Israeli political commentators these days, as the army grinds through its seventh month of war in Gaza without having achieved the two goals stated at the outset of the campaign — the destruction of Hamas’ military capacity and the release of the captives. Now the prevailing opinion of establishment experts — journalists, policy specialists, senior military veterans — is that those goals are unachievable and the war unwinnable.

But neither the political leadership nor the army’s high command has thought of an exit strategy, let alone a plan for the day after — assuming there will be a cease-fire at some point. From the Israeli perspective, all the options are bad. A return to the status quo ante, with Hamas resuming its governance of Gaza, is not on the table. Even if the reinstatement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party as the governing body in Gaza were desirable, the obstacles are practically insurmountable (in 2007 Hamas engineered a violent putsch to oust Fatah’s leadership from Gaza). Among Palestinians, the PA is widely considered to be corrupt and ineffective, with no authority to govern. Israel’s far right wants to reestablish the military bases and settlements that were evacuated in 2005; the army’s senior command has vociferously rejected this idea. But no Israeli leader has offered a practical suggestion that would fill the power vacuum created by the war. Nor has the United States or any other outside body offered a workable, practical solution. And so the world watches as the war drags on and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza grows more acute.

You can’t exterminate Hamas without exterminating the Palestinians, since it is the political party they support. (Abraham Lincoln did not get rid of the Democrats, just the Confederacy.)

The Palestinians, like every other people, are endowed with the right to self-determination. Recognize the nation and let them elect Barghouti president with a Hamas legislature.


Despite warnings of violence at UCLA, police didn’t step in for over 3 hours (Jon Swaine, Hannah Natanson, Joyce Sohyun Lee, Sarah Cahlan and Jonathan Baran, May 11, 2024, Washington Post)

Late on April 30, Sean Tabibian called 911 to say police were needed urgently at the University of California at Los Angeles. “All hell had broken loose,” Tabibian recalled in an interview. Masked agitators were attacking pro-Palestinian protesters on a campus quad, video footage shows, and a team of hired security guards had retreated.

The call at 11:09 p.m. was the first of 11 that Tabibian made to police that night as the violence escalated, according to his cellphone’s call log. Other witnesses called 911 as well, records show.

“They said they were responding,” said Tabibian, a local business executive and UCLA alumnus who was near campus around the time commotion erupted at the encampment, and who said he was concerned that protesters had been discriminating against Jewish students. “They kept saying they’re responding, they’re responding.” […]

It’s not clear why police waited so long to respond. But in the hours before they took action, at least 16 people were visibly injured, the majority of them pro-Palestinian, including two protesters who could be seen with blood streaking across their faces and soaking into their clothes, videos and images show. The counterprotesters ignited at least six fireworks; struck protesters at least 20 times with wooden planks, metal poles and other objects; and punched or kicked at least eight protesters.


Safetyism doesn’t belong on campus: Conservatives have adopted social-justice tactics (Kathleen Stock, MAY 10, 2024, UnHerd)

In short, then, the past week served up ample material for riotous mirth or contemptuous eye rolls. Though many students are sincere and well-intentioned in their objections to what is unfolding in Gaza, watching self-appointed leaders role-playing at Left-wing radicalism in the hope of future glittering career prizes will never not be ludicrous. Equally, approaching a bloody war like a rabidly partisan football fan on matchday, as Taal seemingly does — automatically primed to deny atrocities committed by your favoured side, and to downplay the devastating effects on opponents — is hardly a sign of moral sainthood, albeit that the phenomenon is now near-ubiquitous.

But there are more alarming aspects to this situation other than the presence of narcissistic millennials. Scorn should also be reserved for those supine university bosses who — having spent years positively incentivising an entire generation to think of themselves as pleasingly disruptive social radicals, acting on behalf of a variety of oppressed victim classes — have now swung to the other extreme without missing a beat, and are cracking down excessively on behaviour they used to tolerate or even encourage. At Columbia, university president and member of the House of Lords Minouche Shafik eventually gave up on negotiation and brought in police against protestors, resulting in more than 100 arrests. At the University of Texas in Austin, riot gear and pepper spray were employed against those camping out; the encampment at UCLA was also flattened by law enforcement, with 200 arrested there. There have also been large-scale arrests at Dartmouth, George Washington University, Massachusetts Amherst, Wisconsin-Madison, and other places too.

It is often remarked that the modern liberal quest to free both self and society from traditional cultural norms and boundaries tends to coincide with increased acceptance of state surveillance and authoritarian social control. Even so, it is rare to see institutions openly inciting both liberation and repression at the very same time. Small wonder that susceptible young people are confused. “I thought that this university accepted me because I am an advocate, because I am someone who will fight for what they believe in, no matter what,” mournfully recounted one Vanderbilt alumnus, originally lauded by faculty and administrators for making a stand against perceived oppression, but now expelled for the very same thing. You can laugh with enjoyable schadenfreude at the naivety; but you should probably also be horrified at the unprincipled ease with which Frankenstein has set the dogs upon the pious, guilt-ridden young monster he had a hand in creating.

Equally depressing has been the way that many conservative commentators, normally professional scourges of wokeness, have become apparent fans of safetyism for Jewish students (please note — not safety, but safetyism). Just as the modern Left either tends to cheer or stay silent as Right-coded views are eliminated from the academy either by stealth or by force, many on the supposedly freedom-loving modern Right apparently have little to say about the violation of the basic right to peaceful speech and assembly, when it comes to defending the perceived interests of Palestinians.

Separate out the rest of the nonsense certain students are saying: the call for self-determination is conservative.


Why are we ignoring the slaughter in Sudan?: There is no excuse for indifference when we pay such close attention to other wars (William Fear, 13 April, 2024, The Critic)

Since the war kicked off in April of last year, the RSF’s conduct in Sudan has been nothing short of horrifying. They have subjected the civilian population to countless massacres, rapes and pillages. In one sense, the RSF is fighting a military conflict against the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), but in another, they are enacting a fanatical ethnic cleansing campaign against the Masalit people of Sudan. A UN report estimated that last year in the city of El Geneina alone, between 10,000 and 15,000 people were killed by the RSF, and that the RSF appeared to be specifically targeting people of Masalit ethnicity. According to a report from Conflict Observatory, there is evidence the RSF forced Red Crescent aid workers to dispose of the dead. The piles of bodies are visible from orbit.

To make matters worse, the RSF appears to be on the front foot. Heavy fighting is going on in Khartoum between the RSF and the SAF. Although the capital isn’t yet under full RSF control, the government has evacuated to Port Sudan, on the Red Sea. The British Embassy in Khartoum has long since closed. The RSF has gained a foothold in the south-west of Sudan, and has a particularly strong presence in Darfur.

Of course, the SAF is by no means a morally superior force to the RSF. The SAF are also indicted for war crimes and have been jointly responsible for massacres with the RSF before the conflict began. The key difference, of course, is that the only one side in this conflict is actively and currently enacting an ethnic cleansing campaign in Darfur — and it’s the RSF.

The RSF’s progress on the battlefield has been in part due to their use of imported materiel, such as MANPADS (Man-portable air defence systems) to interrupt the SAF’s air superiority. With ground-to-air attack capability, the RSF can manoeuvre more easily and safely, with diminished fear of attack by air. Last year, the RSF successfully downed a highly prized SAF MIG-29 jet over Khartoum using a MANPADS. It isn’t entirely clear how the RSF is sourcing these weapons, but the US Treasury has issued a statement claiming Wagner Group acted as the supplier. Of course, such weapons may be being procured by multiple routes. Given the credible reports of materiel being provided courtesy of the UAE, it’s possible some of the alleged weaponry being offloaded at Amdjarass are MANPADS.

What does the UAE get in return from the RSF? Here, it’s important to remember the RSF has control of many of Sudan’s gold mines. In exchange for the arms it receives from the UAE, the RSF channels the spoils of its gold mines through the UAE, using various holding companies. […]

Aside from expressions of diplomatic “concern”, the United States’ response to the reports of the UAE funding the RSF — given the RSF’s ethnic cleansing campaign — has been decidedly limp. The reason why is geopolitical. The US maintains a strong relationship with the UAE, which is valued by both parties. The two nations have common regional interests, and cooperate for military and intelligence purposes. The prospect of losing such a strong foreign-policy partner in the Middle East would be a disaster in the eyes of the United States. The fact that a close ally is in league with a genocidal paramilitary group in Sudan is simply an inconvenient fact to the United States. The dead Masalit piled high in El Geneina, it seems, are an unfortunate casualty of diplomacy.


Hamas’s dark calculus: Pressure is mounting among Israel’s allies for a long-term settlement (HAMISH MCDONALD 10 APRIL 2024, Inside Story)

It took Israeli authorities some time realise that the death tallies and horrific video images made up the narrative mostly being seen by the outside world. Israel’s own media, with a few exceptions like the liberal newspaper Haaretz, concentrated on the violence against Israelis in the October attack, showing little of the carnage inside Gaza. After some weeks, Israeli embassies and lobby groups abroad began showing video and other evidence, emphasising child murder and sexual assault, to counter sympathy for the Gazans.

The high death toll and the destruction of more than two-thirds of dwellings in Gaza was meanwhile achieving the objectives stated explicitly by Mashal and other Hamas figures. They had seen the Palestinian cause slipping away, the West Bank being steadily annexed by Jewish settlements with little effective protest by Western powers pledged since 1993 to a two-state solution.

Under Donald Trump, the US embassy had been moved from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem: he was not holding out for a two-state settlement. Trump had also brokered the Abraham accords, which brought Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states closer to Israel: support for Palestinians seemed to be weakening among these Sunni powers.

Hamas set out to shatter this trend.

The Abraham Accords are nothing more than an attempt to normalize the suppression of Muslim self-determination.


Judaism Is a Religion of the Heart (Shai Held, 3/22/24, WSJ)

We have all heard it a thousand times. Christianity is about love, we are told, but Judaism is about…something else, like law or justice. In a similar vein, we often hear that whereas Christianity cares about how you feel and what you believe, Judaism cares only about what you do. Judaism is a religion of action, we’ve been taught, not emotion; a religion of deeds, of rote rituals, not inwardness.

Centuries of Christian anti-Judaic polemics are not the only source of such distortions and misapprehensions; they are also part of a broader phenomenon in American Jewish life. Perhaps because of anxiety about assimilation, American Jews long ago began to define Judaism as whatever they thought Christianity was not. So because Christianity was about love, Judaism was, well, not about love. […]

The Torah issues three dramatic love commands. We are charged to love our neighbor, a fellow member of the covenant between God and Israel; to love the stranger, someone who lives among us despite not being part of our kin group and who is therefore vulnerable to exploitation; and to love God, who created the world, redeemed us from slavery, and gave us the Torah as an act of love and commitment. Later Jewish sources clarify that we have an additional obligation to love all human beings, who were created in the image of God and who are part of the same single human family as we are.