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The Halakhic and Moral Challenges of Gene Editing

Jan. 16 2018

In recent years, scientists have developed a technology known as CRISPR, which allows for the manipulation of an organism’s genetic code. Medical researchers have already experimented with using CRISPR to treat diseases, and it promises to yield many breakthroughs in the coming years. If applied to what are known as germ cells, this technology could also be used to halt the transmission of heritable diseases, create “designer babies,” or even engineer children of abnormal height, strength, and so forth. J. David Bleich, a rabbi and halakhic authority, Edwards Burns, the dean of Einstein Medical School, and Neville Sanjana, a cancer researcher, discuss the ethical implications of gene editing, touching on such questions as whether Judaism has a conception of natural law and if there is, indeed, anything immoral about playing God. (Audio, 75 minutes.)


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More about: Bioethics, Genetics, Halakhah, Medicine, Religion & Holidays

 

Germany’s Bid to Keep Israel off the UN Security Council

March 21 2018

The Jewish state has never held a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council. For the first 50 years of its existence, it was denied membership in any of the UN’s regional groups, which control candidacies for these rotating seats. Then it was finally admitted to the Western European and Others Group, which promptly agreed to wait another twenty years before approving Jerusalem for a Security Council candidacy. Now, Benny Avni notes, Germany is poised to block action:

As a good-faith gesture, the Western European and Others Group promised Israel that it and Belgium would run uncontested for the two open 2019-20 [Security Council] seats. Then, in 2016, Germany announced it would also run—even though it already served as a council member [multiple times, including] as recently as 2011-12. . . . [U]nless Belgium yields, Israel’s hopes for UN respect seem doomed for now—and maybe for the foreseeable future.

Why? Diplomats have been telling me Israel violates too many Security Council resolutions to be a member—as in the one passed during the last weeks of Barack Obama’s presidency, which marked Jewish holy sites as occupied Palestinian territory. But is building a porch in [the West Bank town of] Ma’ale Adumim really such a huge threat to world peace?

How about, then, a report released last week by UN experts on the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions? It found Germany violated a council ban on sparkling wines, exporting $151,840 worth of bubbly and other luxury goods to Kim Jong Un’s cronies. Or how about, as the Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Weinthal reports, German companies exporting to Iran banned materials that were later used in chemical attacks in Syria?

Never mind. Germany (and Belgium) will surely benefit from the UN’s habit of magnifying Israel’s violations beyond all proportion. Thus, Israel’s petition to join the most prestigious UN club will likely be rejected, thanks to a late entry by a shameless [and] cynical German power play against the Jewish state.

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More about: Germany, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-German relations, United Nations