Tuesday, July 23, 2002
Winds of Change, Joe Katzman's site, continues to be a major source of news for me. This post is mostly an ad for him, but I wanted to comment on two items in his round-up:
* I3 Axis: I know it spoils the symmetry, but you need to add Turkey to the axis - and can we call it something other than an axis? The good guys are always the allies; the bad guys are the axis. In any event, Iran is a natural ally of Israel's for several reasons. First, the Persians hate the Arabs, and always have. Second, the Iranian people hate their government, and are eager to ally with the West, which would make friendship and even alliance with Israel much easier. Moreover, after a generation under the mullahs, the Iranian people will have no interest in shunning Israel in deference to Muslim sensibilities.
Thid, with rare historical exceptions (such as under the current regime), Persians have been good to the Jews. Indeed, Judaism as we know it developed largely under Persian influence, in two periods. First, under Cyrus of Persia, the Jews who had been deported from Israel by the Babylonians were permitted - even encouraged - to return and rebuild their homeland and to fix their law in a standard form. (Since the Persian Empire largely allowed its subject peoples to govern themselves, so long as they paid taxes and didn't treat with foreign powers, it had an interest in making sure that these subject peoples had regular systems of law and administration.) It is thanks to the Persians, then, that the canon of Jewish scripture was fixed, that Jewish sovereignty in Israel was restored, and that the Temple was rebuilt. Nearly 1000 years later, the Talmud was written in Babylonia when that land was part of the Parthian/Sassanid Empire, a tolerant Zoroastrian realm, and the religion of the magi left an important imprint on this seminal document of Jewish religious civilization.
Once the mullahs fall, Iran will join Israel, Turkey and India in a natural pro-Western and anti-Arab alliance. It will then be left to the Arab states (and Pakistan) to choose whether to line up together to fight a losing battle against this American-backed cohort or whether to recognize the correlation of forces against them and ally with the West. I expect Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Jordan to choose wisely, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinians to choose unwisely, Algeria, Pakistan, Yemen and Sudan to try to play both sides or focus on trying to keep their countries from imploding, and Iraq to be an American- Turkish- and Iranian-dominated state without power to choose.
* I've been following the story of the Bnei Menashe with great interest. I hope that these brave souls will be successful in their quest to rejoin the body of their people. But I also hope that for once Israel doesn't make the kinds of mistakes it made in the past. The Bnei Menashe need to be religiously reconnected to the rest of Judaism; in most cases, this will mean conducting "conversions in the case of a doubt." But the powers-that-be in Israel will, if past is precedent, do much more to bruise the spirit of these people. The Lithuanian theocrats will try to divest them of their religious traditions and teach them to wear black hats and eat herring. The Housing Ministry will build dwellings for them in the most dangerous or depressed areas of the country. Everywhere but in the army, they will be isolated from the mainstream of Israeli life. I'm being pessimistic, but this is what happened to the Teimani (Yemenite) Jews and the Ethiopians. A generation later, things will have ameliorated quite a bit, but there's no reason for the damage to be done in the first place.