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Winston Churchill’s Hanukkah Speech to Britain

Jan. 26 2018

On May 19, 1940—as depicted in the recent film Darkest Hour—a newly elected Winston Churchill addressed Britons by radio about the dire situation facing Europe and their own country, and the need to fight the Nazis. He concluded his remarks thus:

Centuries ago words were written to be a call and a spur to the faithful servants of Truth and Justice: “Arm yourselves, and be ye men of valor, and be in readiness for the conflict; for it is better for us to perish in battle than to look upon the outrage of our nation and our altar. As the will of God is in Heaven, even so let it be.”

As Meir Soloveichik notes, the quotation was taken from the first book of Maccabees, which appears in the Apocrypha section of the King James Bible but in Hebrew scripture not at all. Soloveichik comments:

[Although] a rare rhetorical choice for [Churchill], the scriptural conclusion was a stunning success, stiffening the British spine and capturing the English imagination. . . . Why would Churchill select this verse with which to conclude his first address as prime minister? Like traditional Judaism, Churchill’s own Anglican church did not include the book of Maccabees in its canon, although there are any number of biblical instances, from Moses to Joshua to David, of eloquent exhortations in war.

The answer possibly lies in the fact that the Hanukkah story, [which is told in the book of Maccabees], is one of the few instances of a biblical battle waged against overwhelming odds. It is a tale, as the Jewish liturgy puts it, . . . of “the many falling into the hands of the few.” As the film depicts, Churchill’s own cabinet contained those who, like Lord Halifax, were so frightened by the British plight as to urge negotiation and capitulation. Churchill’s choice of quotation from Maccabees is thus understood in the context of the verses earlier in the same chapter, where Judah Maccabee’s own compatriots confess themselves daunted by their situation. . . .

It is a fascinating footnote in the life of a man who had written these words in 1920: “Some people like Jews and some do not, but no thoughtful man can doubt the fact that they are beyond all question the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has ever appeared in the world.”

Read more at Commentary

More about: Bible, History & Ideas, Maccabees, Winston Churchill

 

The Trump Administration Has Said the Right Things about Syria, but Words Are Not Enough

Jan. 30 2018

While praising the White House for recognizing that Iran poses a major threat to American interests in Syria, Jennifer Cafarella argues that Washington still needs a strategy for countering the Islamic Republic and its allies:

The Trump White House identifies Iran as a primary threat. It has verbally committed to the departure from power of Bashar al-Assad. It claims to prioritize repairing relations with Turkey, seeks to destroy al-Qaeda, and wants to refocus the U.S. on Syria’s humanitarian catastrophe. These are the correct goals toward which American policy should strive. . . . The problem is that the strategy Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has outlined [in a January 17 speech] will not accomplish these goals. . . .

American policy in Syria, regardless of any tough administration statements, is to accept Assad and his regime de-facto. . . . The “de-escalation” agreement that President Trump signed in November 2017 with Russia is a surrender not only to Russia, but also to Iran. It heavily favors Assad. In that deal, Russia promised to compel Iran to withdraw its forces from southern Syria. It never happened. Pro-regime forces violate the de-escalation zone with impunity. . . .

Tillerson uses vague terms like “deny their dreams” to describe our strategy against Iran in Syria. He identifies no clear goal against which the U.S. can measure success. He states that the U.S. must deliver an “enduring defeat” to al-Qaeda—and we certainly must. Yet the U.S. Defense Department has offered no vision of how to do that. The strategy Tillerson outlines—and that the U.S. is pursuing—amounts to outsourcing the problem to Turkey, which is actually working with al-Qaeda in Syria. . . .

Two administrations have sought to substitute rhetoric for action and to outsource American interests to local partners. The U.S. must abandon this approach and recognize Syria’s importance to American security.

Read more at Fox News

More about: Al Qaeda, Donald Trump, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Rex Tillerson, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy