Jewish Political Studies Review Abstracts - Volume 13, Numbers 1-2 (Spring 5761/2001)
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

Jewish Political Studies Review Abstracts

Volume 13, Numbers 1-2 (Spring 5761/2001)

Manfred Gerstenfeld

In the past decades environmentalism has emerged as one of Western society's major ideologies. It groups previously existing and new environment-related concerns within a single area of interest. This has also led to the rapid development of the new academic field of environmental studies. The interaction and meeting points of Judaism and environmental issues are dispersed over a vast, largely uncharted area. One salient aspect of this is that there are tens of thousands of references in Tanakh, Mishna, Talmud, and Midrash literature to what we now call "environmental" motifs.

Jewish environmental studies could encompass disciplines such as Jewish environmental history, Jewish environmental law, the environment in the Hebrew Bible and later classical Jewish texts, Jewish environmental thought, Jewish environmental ethics, the sociology of Jewish environmental activism, the analysis of external perspectives, and several others. The potential for research in these disciplines seems almost unlimited. At this early stage, one of the greatest challenges for scholars in the emerging field of Jewish environmental studies will be to organize the abundant source material in an accessible manner. However, the main key to the development of the field seems to be the availability of financial resources for those institutions interested in the subject.

Alek D. Epstein

This essay focuses on a comparative analysis of the contribution of Jerusalem's academic community to the emergence of a civil society during the formative years of Israeli state-building. Although many of the prominent scholars were not only active participants in the Zionist movement, but after their emigration to Palestine became personally dependent on the political success of the Zionist project, their loyalty to the political leadership of the Yishuv and the state was limited by their sense of truth and justice. In what was, at the time, a very etatist society, Israeli scholars maintained the principles of political freedom, and contributed a great deal to the advancement of the ideals of civil rights (especially with respect to recognition of the personal and collective rights of the Arab minority), and to the development of a critically-oriented public discussion on the central issues of state-building.

Eliezer Schweid

Spinoza was the first philosopher to classify Judaism as nationalism according to the modern secular understanding of the term, and not as religion. He showed that the original laws of the Torah of Moses were as a state constitution directed exclusively toward down-to-earth objectives. God was the king, but the world was not theocratic because the kingdom of God was not established as a church; that is, Moses did not consider himself, nor did he appoint beneath him, a leader that presumed to personify the authority of God, who acts and supervises directly (or through the laws of nature).

Therefore, according to this understanding, the original constitution of Moses was the constitution of a democratic state, although incomplete. Because of the basic problem it contained (the lack of an institution for the overall sovereign authority), it led twice to the destruction of the state of the Jews, and afterwards to the development of a theocracy by diaspora rabbinic leaders, on the one hand, and by the Christian Church, on the other hand. Spinoza fought against the theocratic rule of the rabbis of his era in the Amsterdam community and against the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, he expressed his opinion that when proper democratic states would arise in Europe, the Jews would be able to return to their land and prepare for their third state.

This essay explores Spinoza's views on Judaism and his influence as a source preceding the rise of secular Zionism. It points to two aspects of influence in this direction: the aspect of thought that pointed out the positive social foundations that existed, according to Spinoza, in the laws of Moses and the words of the prophets (Moses Hess); and the aspect of thought that expressed the criticism directed at rabbinic diaspora Judaism (thinkers of the secular, radical Enlightenment in Eastern Europe). These two directions of influence came together in Ben-Gurion's statement that Spinoza was the first prophet of secular Zionism.

Dore Gold

The July 2000 Camp David Summit was clearly a diplomatic failure, that resulted largely, though not exclusively, from the insurmountable gap between Israel and the PLO over the issue of Jerusalem. The Palestinian violence imposed on Israel by the PLO, in the summit's aftermath, not only undermined the future of any meaningful peace negotiations, but also threatened the stability of the entire Middle East region. The Camp David breakdown, in short, was not cost-free.

Israel suffered from a more fundamental diplomatic failure of its own, beyond its misreading of the Palestinian position on Jerusalem. The structure of the peace process, whereby Israel has focused all its energies on an abstract, albeit worthy, goal of peace, while the Palestinians' diplomatic energies were concentrated on a concrete goal of achieving a Palestinian state with a capital in Jerusalem, inevitably led the negotiations in the direction of the party with the more articulated objective -- namely, the Palestinian goal of sovereignty in Jerusalem.

Yet, a careful reading of the historical record of the Jewish presence in Jerusalem and an understanding of the international legal rights of the Jewish people to their historical capital might have led negotiators to take a stronger stand on behalf of Israel's rights in the city.

Taking a longer view, the Jewish political tradition has witnessed a tension, over much of the last century, between Jewish particularism and Jewish universalism; the issue of Jerusalem is where these two political instincts meet, for by protecting the particular rights of Israel and the Jewish people to Jerusalem, Israeli diplomacy will best assure the rights of all faiths to gain access to the Holy City. Only under the sovereignty of democratic Israel has Jerusalem been open to all religions.

This study was conceived with the purpose of providing both a more realistic understanding of the actual positions of the principal parties to the Jerusalem question and a deeper appreciation of the rights Israel possesses in Jerusalem for any future negotiations.

Jonathan Fox

Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilizations" thesis, if nothing else, has sparked a debate over the nature of conflict in the post-Cold War era. Huntington predicts that future conflict, including conflict in the Middle East, will be mostly between civilizations. However, many disagree and variously predict that conflict in general will decline or that it will continue to be fought along more traditional lines. Two traditional bases for ethnic conflict that are particularly relevant to the Middle East are religion and nationalism. Accordingly, this study assesses the comparative impact of civilization, religion, and nationalism on ethnic rebellion in the Middle East. The results show that both conflict in general and civilizational conflict in particular in the Middle East dropped significantly after the end of the Cold War, thus contradicting Huntington's theory. Also it is shown that the most violent rebellions in the Middle East tend to be national conflicts rather than religious ones.

Robert O. Freedman

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, its main successor state, Russia, emerged in a greatly weakened geopolitical position. Complicating Russia's problems was a politically weak and often physically sick President Boris Yeltsin. Concerned about its "soft underbelly" in Transcaucasia and Central Asia, regions that were threatened by radical Islam, Moscow focused its Middle East efforts on Turkey and Iran, both of which had a considerable amount of influence in the two regions. Moscow sold nuclear reactors and sophisticated military equipment to Iran, as the two countries developed a tactical alliance. Russia had a more mixed relationship with Turkey, alternating between confrontation and cooperation. Russia also sought to get the sanctions lifted against Iraq, a development that would strengthen the greatly troubled Russian economy as well as help Russia politically. In the case of Israel, Moscow developed very close cultural, economic, and military ties, although there were a number of ups and downs in diplomatic relations. Under Putin, there was a more centralized control over Russian foreign policy as the new Russian leader sought to have a more assertive foreign policy for his country, and became much more active than Yeltsin had been in promoting Russian interests in the Middle East.