Why Trump Can Do No Wrong In Netanyahu’s Eyes

“This is bonkers. Israel’s government says don’t overreact to neo-Nazis in the US because it could hurt relations with Trump. Totally insane.”

So said Dr. Brian Klaas, a Fellow in Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics on Twitter. Klaas has frequently tweeted his criticisms of U.S. President Donald Trump, but has only occasionally commented on Israel, though he clearly has a background in the subject.

Klaas was moved to tweet this comment by the words of Israeli Minister of Communications, Ayoub Kara. Kara told the Jerusalem Post that “We need to condemn antisemitism and any trace of Nazism, and I will do what I can as a minister to stop its spread. But Trump is the best U.S. leader Israel has ever had. His relations with the prime minister of Israel are wonderful, and after enduring the terrible years of Obama, Trump is the unquestioned leader of the free world, and we must not accept anyone harming him.”

Kara added that Trump has “a proven track record in opposing antisemitism and religious extremism.”

Kara is not a marginal figure, even though very few Americans have ever heard of him. Although he is Druze, not Jewish, he is among the most right wing of Likud politicians and is a staunch supporter of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His position as Minister of Communications, and his very close relationship to Netanyahu, reflect the fact that he is often speaking Netanyahu’s mind, and can usually be counted on to say nothing the Prime Minister would not agree with.

Kara was an outspoken critic of Barack Obama, and his strong support here for Trump should come as no surprise. But just as Trump has refused to credibly condemn the extreme right wing, so has Netanyahu refused to make anything but the most minimal comment on the incidents of public anti-Semitism. And Kara is surely speaking for Netanyahu as to why.

It’s important to note here that even Israeli leaders who have spoken out about the white supremacist demonstrations in the United States have, with few exceptions, either avoided mentioning Trump’s response or only barely alluded to it. But Netanyahu made the weakest statement of all, when his position demands the opposite.

The obvious reasons for this are the ones that Kara listed. Trump has largely ignored the Israel-Palestine conflict, with his envoys having a few meetings and the president himself making an occasional comment. Netanyahu has been mindful not to draw attention to Israeli actions recently, but there is no sign that he is at all concerned about having to negotiate in any substantive way with the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the strangulation of Gaza continues, settlements keep expanding, the occupation becomes more entrenched, and no one Netanyahu cares about is saying very much.

Israel’s Concerns Ignored

The cynical use of anti-Semitism by the Israeli right is, by now, such an old story it is almost passé. But there’s a very interesting contrast between Trump and Obama that is even more telling than Netanyahu’s lack of response to growing anti-Semitism in the United States.

In early July, Trump had one of his few successes when he and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to a ceasefire zone in southern Syria. Israel’s dissatisfaction with the arrangement was well known, even before the agreement was finalized. Netanyahu worked the phones with both Trump and Putin, making it clear he did not consider having Iran’s ally, Russia, as the guarantor of Israeli concerns in southern Syria satisfactory. These concerns were heard and summarily ignored by both Russia and the United States.

Some may see in this a parallel to the Iran nuclear deal, where President Obama heard Netanyahu’s opposition but proceeded with the deal regardless. But there is a crucial difference.

Obama believed, and stated numerous times, that the Iran deal was not only in the best interests of the United States, but also Israel. While that was not a universal opinion, it was, crucially, shared by Israel’s military and intelligence communities, who continue to support the deal to this day. Indeed, it was Netanyahu who, ignoring the advice of his own military and intelligence experts, was endangering Israel’s security for political gains. Now he has a political ally in the White House, rather than someone who shows legitimate concern for Israel’s security.

Trump stated, in response to Netanyahu’s objections, that Israel’s concerns would be addressed. But he didn’t elaborate on that statement, and no aspect of the ceasefire agreement has changed. In contrast to the Iran deal, Israel’s military and intelligence communities are deeply concerned about the potential for Iran to establish a long-term presence in southern Syria. A report last week indicated that the effort to alter the cease fire agreement was much wider than the Prime Minister’s office, and included the military and intelligence leadership. Ongoing Israeli engagement on the issue with the Trump administration by these leaders is not yielding results.

The support of Israeli defense and intelligence leaders was a crucial part of Obama’s ability to sell the Iran nuclear deal. Had these leaders been opposed to the deal, it is quite possible the talks would have failed, not least because Obama himself might have been less committed to them. Despite the actions Netanyahu took to undermine Obama (actions which long preceded the Iran deal) and the often insulting attitude he displayed, Obama never wavered in his commitment to Israel’s security. This was so much the case, even Netanyahu had to repeatedly admit that security cooperation and coordination with the United States reached all-time highs during Obama’s presidency.

Yet when Trump abandons Israeli security, it’s still not enough to get Netanyahu to criticize the President’s tacit support for white supremacists. Instead, Kara, certainly speaking the mind of Netanyahu, praises Trump for opposing what he clearly has not opposed.


It is understandable that Netanyahu would enjoy having a man like Trump in the White House. In many ways, the two are kindred spirits. But more importantly, Trump has essentially given Netanyahu a free hand. He rarely mentions settlements, only occasionally alludes to reviving a peace process, and has a team of right wing American Jews leading what little diplomatic effort there is.

But that does not sufficiently explain Netanyahu’s willingness to ignore both Trump’s tacit support of white supremacists and his total disregard of Israeli security concerns.

What does explain it is much subtler. It is a growing normalcy.

Today, Turkey and Jordan issued a joint statement urging the resumption of peace talks according to international resolutions and with a “precise timetable.” It is unlikely that this call will even merit a comment, let alone any support or action, from any corner. The situation as it stands today is one where Israel has essentially segregated the Arab parts of East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank and maintains its siege on Gaza. Those conditions have held for years now, and have become the new normal. Only the efforts of the Obama administration prevented their normalization previously.

For Netanyahu, there are both short and long term benefits to this that are very significant. In the short term, the only defense he is likely to have against the corruption charges being readied against him is the claim of his purported popularity, which will certainly be bolstered by an extended period during which Israel is not being attacked on a large scale either physically or politically.

Already, Israelis have seen months go by without any pressure to engage the Palestinians. Meanwhile, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is seeing legislation being passed in many US states to marginalize it and criminalize support for it, while in Congress, a bill to do the same has faced significant opposition, but could still pass. In Europe and in the Arab world, the Israel-Palestine conflict continues to drop lower on the agenda, all the more so as concerns (or, in some cases, perceived opportunities) over Trump’s policies or lack thereof occupy more and more space.

So, Netanyahu can credibly claim to have not only achieved the greatest calm Israel has seen in its history, but to be continuing to build on and entrench it. He has shown in the past that he can make such claims without sacrificing his demagogic ability to frighten the populace when he needs to.

Of course, Netanyahu also knows that he is merely holding a lid on a pressure cooker. Gaza cannot long survive in the condition it is in. The West Bank will only remain sedate for so long, as Israel strangles its economy and smothers the rights of the Palestinians living there. The hopelessness and frustration of another generation that has grown up without human or civil rights, without freedom, and without any reason to believe things will get better will eventually lead to another round of violence. But when that does happen, Netanyahu will have established a new status quo, with settlements being seen as parts of Israel and Gaza cut off, that the international community will help Israel get back to, even as they press for final status talks again.

That’s the prize that Netanyahu sees. He has, for years, worked to shift Israel’s American support to a farther right wing base, so he has minimized the damage his silence on Charlottesville caused. And he knows too that, apart from a major regional war, Israel is quite capable of dealing with any threat Hezbollah or Iran might pose in Syria without the help of the United States. He can feel secure that Trump, and very likely his successors, will back any action Israel takes against an Iranian-backed militia.

In exchange for his acquiescence on these matters, Netanyahu believes he will reach an endgame with the Palestinians. He believes he can explode the notion that endless occupation is unsustainable. Obama would never let him test that idea. Neither would George W. Bush, his previous “best-ever president for Israel.” But Trump will. That’s why Netanyahu loves him so much that he is willing to overlook anything.

Israel and Russia: A Crisis Brews for Trump

On March 16, Israeli planes struck several targets in Syria. Israel said that it had targeted shipments of “advanced weapons” meant for Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia allied with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

These strikes occur from time to time, and there is usually little but fist-waving and statements from Syria in response. This time was different. Assad’s forces launched several missiles at the Israeli jets, none of which found their mark. More importantly, the next day, the new Israeli Ambassador to Russia was summoned by the Russian government for clarification of the incident.

This is significant beyond just the current state of affairs. As Michael Koplow aptly describes over at his blog, this incident is a symptom of an underlying clash of policy between Israel and Russia and there are likely to be more incidents of this nature in the future.

One thing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has proven to be adept at is balancing Israel on a thin line with other countries. Israel’s relationship with Russia is a good one, and has proven to be generally useful for both sides, but there are built-in tensions and disagreements. One of the biggest of these is their respective attitudes toward Iran, and this difference is bound to play out amidst Russia’s partnership with Iran and the Islamic Republic’s allies, Assad and Hezbollah.

As Koplow puts it, “No matter how good the coordination mechanism between the two sides, the fundamental conflict at the heart of Israeli-Russian views on Syria is that Israel’s redline is the establishment of a permanent Iranian presence in Syria and Russia’s redline is the elimination of a permanent Iranian presence in Syria.”

Yet it is precisely that tension that makes it imperative that Russia and Israel coordinate closely. Israel is willing to let the Syrian conflict play out for now, but they will not allow Hezbollah free rein to upgrade their armaments. Russia, for its part, will not help Israel in this endeavor, but they are willing to turn a blind eye when Israel acts on intelligence it mines, so long as the strikes are limited to the specific convoys.

That uneasy agreement is strained now. Israel is convinced, with good reason, that Iran intends to establish a permanent presence in Syria. That was why Netanyahu broached the subject of the United States recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights last month during his meeting with Donald Trump in Washington.

For Israel, a permanent Iranian role in Syria changes the parameters of the game. They will see this as Iran expanding its presence on Israel’s borders from Southern Lebanon (through Hezbollah) well into Syria. But for Russia, nothing has changed. Vladimir Putin is, as he has always been, intent on maintaining Russia’s regional foothold in Syria. For that, he probably needs Assad and certainly needs Iran.

As analyst Geoffrey Aronson points out, “If until now Putin has been able to contain the contradictions of a policy that accommodates Israel as well as its enemies, in the next phase of the battle this balancing act may not be so easy.”

From both Russia’s and Iran’s points of view, keeping Assad in some degree of power in Syria after the war ends is vital. Israel would probably be willing to see a weakened Assad remain, but not if a permanent Iranian presence is what is needed to prop him up. This creates a brittle situation that would test any leader.

The biggest unknown factor has now become the United States. Part of the Obama Administration’s strategy in its dealing with Iran on the issue of Iranian nuclear capabilities was to open a channel of communication with Tehran. Obama and John Kerry succeeded at that, but the Trump Administration has slammed that door, with the eager help of Congress.

For Trump, Syria is all about the Islamic State (ISIS or IS). He has been quietly escalating US involvement in Syria in a number of places, as Senator Chris Murphy detailed over the weekend. There seems to be no overarching goal to Trump’s actions in Syria other than the pursuits of the moment. That has unpleasant echoes of our early involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, as Murphy explains. But there may be other complications.

Helping in the fight against ISIS puts US forces squarely alongside those of Russia, Syria, and Iran. That’s consistent with some early statements from Trump about his desire to work with Russia in Syria. If Trump is sincere in his desire to improve relations with Russia—or, on the other hand, if he is as deeply in bed with Putin as many of his detractors believe—this could be a functional strategy. As much as people in the United States despise Assad and Iran, they are more afraid of ISIS than of anyone else. He can survive that politically.

But what happens when this fundamental policy disagreement between Russia and Israel comes to the fore? Given Trump’s early performance in office, it is hard to imagine that he has thought this issue through to that extent. Still, his UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, launched an early volley on this front, saying, “This is very much about a political solution now … and that basically means that Syria can no longer be a safe haven for terrorists. We’ve got to make sure we get Iran and their proxies out. We’ve got to make sure that, as we move forward, we’re securing the borders for our allies as well.”

This will be an issue on which Israel must get clarity. Netanyahu is thus far surviving the worst political storms of his tenure in office, but he will not risk having to defend himself against charges that he allowed Iran to establish a permanent foothold on Israel’s very doorstep. Right now, he has no commitment at this stage from the Trump Administration that it would be willing to oppose Russian efforts to keep an Iranian presence in Syria, or, if it would oppose such a presence, how far it would be willing to go to block it.

The seeds for this problem are not only there, they are already growing. The Israel-Russia relationship remains intact, but the summoning of the Israeli ambassador by Russia suggests that tensions are growing. The United States will not be able to stay out of this, even if Trump weren’t deepening our involvement in Syria.

Worse, Trump’s own ambiguity and opaqueness about his policy regarding Israel and where the U.S. stands on the regional issues that surround the Jewish State only adds to the instability.  Netanyahu cannot be sure how far Trump has his back in dealing with Putin. That, in turn, could lead to Netanyahu pushing the decision on Washington through his own actions, a dangerous gamble for everyone concerned.

Trump’s blustering style certainly cannot fill anyone with confidence, not even Netanyahu. Nonetheless, the job is his. There is room to find an accommodation here; Putin does not prioritize Israel’s needs as highly as Washington does, but he still values Israel’s friendship and seems to at least understand Israeli concerns. He will likely be willing to try to find some way for Iran to ensure Assad’s ability to govern at least part of Syria going forward while avoiding a confrontation with Israel.

But the United States will need to help broker this deal and it will be delicate work. Putin might negotiate, but he will not back off his bottom line of maintaining a solid Russian presence in Syria, his primary interest from the start of the upheavals there. Netanyahu, for his part, will need to be convinced that Iranian influence on Israel’s borders is being mitigated by Moscow’s restraint. Trump will need to work to satisfy these competing interests while also working to show he can take on ISIS.

A delicate and difficult task indeed, and neither delicate nor difficult has proven to be Trump’s forte.

How to Save Ukraine: Why Russia Is Not the Real Problem

Dear readers,

This is not something I do very often. The discourse, everywhere I look, surrounding Ukraine is so remarkably one-sided and shallow. I see this among supporters of current US/EU policy and critics. So, when I find an article that is reasonably sensible and useful, I feel a need to spread the word.

This piece, surprisingly enough, was in Foreign Affairs. It comes from an approach I don’t share, and the recommendations and point of view of it do not entirely reflect mine, though I agree with a good chunk of it. But understanding that a lot of what is happening in Ukraine is, in the last analysis, Ukrainian is a point that is routinely lost in the media, among policymakers and among both supporters and critics of US/EU/NATO or Russian policy. Thus I am sharing a link to the article, by Keith Darden. You needn’t agree with his worldview or conclusions to learn a lot from it. Please check it out.

UPDATE: The New York Times kindly demonstrates precisely what I’m talking about with this atrocious piece of drivel passing for “coverage” of today’s events in Eastern Ukraine. No consciousness whatsoever that there is a real split among Ukrainians, a country that has always had serious nationalist divides. No, it’s all about Russian meddling, which, though certainly real, has been balanced all along by meddling from NATO, the EU and US. In both cases, however, the outside meddling is far from the whole story, or even the root cause. That is native Ukrainian.

Perhaps the most pathetic part of the Times’ blatant propagandizing is this: “(The Ukrainian army) faced not only the civilians, but behind them a force of well-armed men in unmarked green uniforms who Western governments said are either Russian soldiers or Russian-equipped militants. These soldiers were well-armed. They carried radios and ammunition pouches. Some had rocket-propelled grenade launchers slung over their soldiers.” (emphasis mine)

Leaving aside how poorly written that paragraph is, the propagandizing here is just so shameless. Radios? Ammunition pouches? This is supposed to be the hi-tech equipment that proves the militants are Russian-backed? Hell, would we even want to think about how many grenade launchers are in private hands in the more remote areas of Montana or Texas? Please.

I wonder if this is what it was like to read about Russian issues in the 1950s. McCarthy would surely have been pleased in any case.

The Syria Strike Debate: A Political Scorecard

It’s too early to tell yet whether Russia’s initiative has removed the threat of a U.S. strike on Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons. While the signs are as good as could be hoped for at this point, a lot can happen in the upcoming weeks. And, whatever the final disposition of a U.S. strike on Syria, the plight of the Syrian people, which has played almost no substantive part in this debate and has largely been reduced to a propaganda tool for whomever is making their case today, isn’t going to be affected much one way or the other.

But we have already seen enough to determine some winners and losers in this political drama:

AIPAC: Loser The major pro-Israel lobbying organization made a serious mistake by taking their advocacy for a strike on Syria to such a public forum. It would have been easy enough for them to quietly bring their lobbyists to the Hill and advocate their position. The decision to do so as loudly as they did is puzzling to say the least. It seems pretty clear that the Obama administration actually recruited AIPAC to try to drum up support for their position. The extremely powerful lobbying group had followed Israel’s lead and stayed generally silent on Syria until Obama’s announcement of a strike, then suddenly dove in with both feet.

It didn’t work. Based on reports, it seems clear that the lobbyists were less than enthusiastic and their efforts didn’t sway lawmakers. AIPAC’s attempts to keep Israel out of it also failed. They were scrupulous about not mentioning Israel’s security in their talking points, but the very presence of a lobbying group whose raison d’être is protecting Israel’s interests overwhelmed that attempt. AIPAC thought it could separate itself, in the public eye and on this one issue, from Israel, but that was a fool’s game. It doesn’t help that it was untrue that this was not about Israel. While Israel would surely prefer that Syria not have any chemical or biological weapons, whatever the outcome of the civil war, it’s not that high a priority for them.

But Iran is. Part of the case for a Syria strike has been the notion that backing off would show weakness and embolden Iran in its alleged quest for nuclear weapons. Israel, therefore, backed Obama’s decision, but this wasn’t a compelling reason for it to get publicly involved in the domestic quarrel over the strike. Indeed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was said to have made a few phone calls to allies on the Hill, but it was clear from the outset that he had learned well the lessons from the 2012 election about being seen as meddling too much in domestic US politics. He cannot be happy with AIPAC’s strategy here of doing this so loudly and publicly.

Between the bad strategy and the ineffectiveness of their lobbying, at least for now, AIPAC takes a hit here. It’s by no means a crippling one, but it is significant. When the issue can be framed in terms of Israeli security, there is little doubt AIPAC will have as much sway as always, and when the issue is not one that the U.S. public feels strongly about, their ability to move campaign contributions will have the same impact it has had before. But every time AIPAC is seen to be advocating policy for the U.S. based on Israeli interests, the lobby takes a hit. Enough of those over time will erode its dominance.

John Kerry: loser If Kerry was still an elected official, this might be a different score. But he is a diplomat now and his standing on the world stage was clearly diminished by his actions in this drama. He gets the benefit of it being better to be lucky than good, as his now-famous gaffe ended up being exactly the plan Russia put forth for averting a U.S. strike. But few, aside from fawning Obama boosters, are buying that this was a plan. If it were, the State Department wouldn’t have immediately walked back the statement; it would have waited to see if Russia would “take the bait.” Kerry has come off in all of this as looking all too similar to his predecessors in the Bush administration, talking of conclusive proof while U.S. military and intelligence officials said that his evidence was far from a “slam-dunk.” Kerry is now trumpeting the upcoming UN report that is expected to conclusively state that chemical weapons were used. But everyone, with the exception of a marginal few, believes that already. The question is whether the Assad regime carried out the attack under Assad’s authority. That is far less clear, and the UN does not appear to be stating that conclusion. The evidence thus far suggests that, while Assad having ordered the chemical attack remains a distinct possibility, it is at least as possible that the attack was perpetrated by a rogue commander who had access to the weapons, and against Assad’s wishes.

In any case, Kerry’s eagerness for this attack, and his disregard for international law and process, contrasts starkly with the Obama administration’s stated preference to act differently from its predecessor. Kerry’s standing in the U.S. can easily recover from this, but in the international arena, which is where he works, it is going to be much tougher.

Barack Obama: loser Obama has been in a tough position regarding Syria. He surely does not want to get involved there; such action stands in stark contrast to his desired “pivot to Asia,” as well as his promise to “end wars, not to start them.” And he is as aware as anyone else that the U.S. has little national security interest in Syria. Moreover, despite his opposition to Assad, the U.S. is less than enamored over the prospects of a Syria after Assad, which is likely to be the scene of further battles for supremacy that are very likely to lead to regimes we are not any more in sync with than we are with Assad, quite possibly a good deal less.

But his “red line” boxed him in. It was his credibility, more than the United States’ that was at stake here, and it takes a hit. While it is highly unlikely that anyone in Tehran is changing their view of the U.S. and their own strategic position because of this, it is true that this will shake the confidence of Israel, Saudi Arabia, the al-Sisi government in Egypt and other U.S. allies in the region. That might be good in the long run, but in the short term, it will harm Obama’s maneuverability in the region.

Domestically, Obama reinforced his image as a weak and indecisive leader on foreign policy; his appeal to Congress pleased some of his supporters, but few others were impressed. He has been blundering around the Middle East for five years now, and he doesn’t seem to be getting any better at it, which is discouraging, to say the least.

Vladimir Putin: winner Putin comes out of this in a great position. He really doesn’t care if Assad stays or goes as long as Syria (or what’s left of it) remains in the Russian camp. Acting to forestall or possibly even prevent a U.S. strike on another Arab country will score him points in the region, although after Russia’s actions in Chechnya, he’ll never be terribly popular in the Muslim world. Still, capitalizing on the even deeper mistrust of the United States can get him a long way, and this episode is going to help a lot in the long run. More immediately, it helps Putin set up a diplomatic process that includes elements of the Assad regime, something he has been after for a long time but the rebels have staunchly opposed. With the U.S. now on the diplomatic defensive, he might be able to get it done, especially as war-weariness in Syria grows.

Israel: winner Israel has stayed out of the debate to a large degree. Their rebuke of AIPAC and their public silence on the U.S. debate has helped erase the memory of Netanyahu’s clumsy interference on behalf of his friend, Mitt Romney a year ago. Israel is in no hurry to see the civil war in Syria end, as the outcome is unlikely to be in its favor whichever side wins. And, while all eyes are on Syria no one is paying attention to Palestinian complaints about the failing peace talks. That makes it even easier for Israel to comply with U.S. wishes and keep silent about the talks, planting seeds for blaming the Palestinians for the talks’ inevitable failure. Unlike Obama, Netanyahu seems to be learning from his mistakes, which is not a pleasant prospect for the Palestinians.

Iran: winner While it’s true that the Syria controversy will have little impact on the U.S.-Iran standoff, the show of intense reluctance to stretch the U.S. military arm out again can’t help but please Tehran. It doesn’t hurt either that when, a few days ago, the U.S. tried to appease Israel by mumbling about some “troublesome” things regarding the Iranian nuclear problem, no one took it very seriously and hopes remain high that President Hassan Rouhani will change the course of the standoff. Russia’s maneuvers to keep Syria within its sphere of influence bode well for Iran as well.

The Syrian people: slight winners A U.S. strike would have almost certainly caused an escalation in the Assad regime’s conventional warfare in Syria. Ninety-nine percent of the deaths and refugees have been caused by conventional weapons — that was a good reason for the U.S. not to do it. But increased momentum behind the Russian push is also likely to ensure the war goes on for some time and this increases chances that remnants of the current regime will remain in place at the end of it, even if Assad himself is ousted. Now that the U.S. is determined to arm the rebels to a greater degree, an increasing war of attrition is more likely and that bodes very ill for the people caught in the middle. Considering that some one-third of the population is now either internally displaced or seeking refuge in other countries and a death toll of over 110,000, one must consider avoiding an escalation a victory for these beleaguered people. But outside intervention to stop the killing seems as remote as ever, and the hopes for an international conference to try to settle the conflict are advanced by this episode a bit, but are still uncertain at best.

Putin and the Jews

There is a movement afoot, with some big stars lending their names, to move the 2014 Winter Olympics from Sochi in Russia, or to boycott those games over the increasing volume of hate against LGBT folk in Russia. Not a few are drawing the entirely accurate comparison to the passage in Nazi Germany of discriminatory laws. It was not only that such laws led to where we all know it led, but even in the short term, it gave license to those jack-booted thugs to carry out violence, most often against Jews, but also against others. It permitted the police and other authorities to look the other way. And that’s why the comparison to Russia, where a similar dynamic is underway regarding LGBT folk, is perfectly apt. But, of course, there are always those who consider any comparison to the Holocaust off limits, unless it has the imprimatur of the “official” Jewish community. I explore all this in my latest piece for Souciant.