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December 29, 2014 / 7 Tevet, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Switzerland’

Jewish Medals At TEFAF

Friday, April 6th, 2012

The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) March 16-25, 2012 (25 year anniversary) Maastricht, Netherlands http://www.tefaf.com/

It’s virtually impossible to ignore the financial aspects of TEFAF Maastricht, the annual arts and antiques fair in the historic city about two hours south of Amsterdam. More than 250 dealers from nearly 20 countries sell their wares—which span from Greek and Roman antiquities to contemporary sculptures—in the halls of the Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre, whose corridors are adorned by nearly 65,000 tulips.

Some of the most fascinating displays of wealth at TEFAF were small change, so to speak—or at least they used to be. Tucked away in display cases at booths are a trove of coins (used for currency) and medals (non-legal tender), that although less dazzling than the wall-dominating medieval paintings and life-sized contemporary sculptures, are no less worthy of close examination. In fact, four medals at two vendors (Nomos in Switzerland, and Tradart in Belgium and Switzerland) are of particular interest to those who are passionate about Jewish art.

A silver medal representing Tsar Alexander I of Russia (1801-1825), labeled “The Emancipation of Russian Jews,” shows Alexander on the front (obverse), wearing the eight-pointed star of the Order of St. Andrew, Russia’s patron saint. The tsar, identified by the inscription “Alexandro,” is shown in profile dressed in armor. On the reverse side of the medal, the Jewish community is personified by a bearded (and perhaps helmeted) man looking heavenward with his hands clasped in prayer—or, as the vendor, Tradart, describes it, “as a token of gratitude to the tsar for the laws of 1804 granting Jews relative emancipation.” A Latin inscription declares, “He freed the Jews from burden, February 9, 1805.”

In front of the figure, who is dressed in biblical rather than contemporary garb, is an altar of sorts, with laurel wreaths and a flame. According to Tradart, the medal is thought to have been struck outside of Russia, with a golden copy presented personally to Alexander I. “In that case, it would precede by many years any other issuance by the Jewish community of Russia,” according to the gallery. “Knowing that engraver, Paul Merker, came from Brunswick, it could substantiate the claim that it was commissioned by the Jews of Berlin.”

Another medal at Tradart’s booth is a rectangular bronze plate commemorating the inauguration of Frankfort’s synagogue. The Hebrew inscription, “house of prayer of the upright” (depending on how one translates the word Yeshurun), appears above a sun setting (or rising) over the Frankfurt synagogue. Some of the floral details adorning the arch over the Hebrew inscription and along the sides of the plate resemble the shape of the Hebrew letter Shin, the first letter of one of the divine names and, therefore, many mezuzah cases and other Judaica objects. And beneath the synagogue representation, another Hebrew inscription offers the Hebrew date of the inauguration.

The composition of the commemorative plate evokes the title page of Soncino’s editions of the Talmud (among other secular publishing designs). Three steps (which could symbolize any number of Jewish things) lead up the synagogue, which is circumscribed by an arch and two columns. The synagogue is represented in remarkable detail, but the artist has devoted equal—if not more—attention to the borders of the piece and the inscriptions. It’s worth noting, though, that some of the inscriptions seem to be confused, as some letters are slightly more elongated than they should be, and others are imprecisely formed.

A silver medal offered by Nomos also contains Hebrew inscriptions, but doesn’t necessarily have much to do with the Jewish community. The king appears in profile, wearing what might be the Order of the Golden Fleece (it’s tough to make out, but the interlocking shapes in the chain appear to be the iconic Burgundian ‘B’). Henry VIII was hardly a friend of the Jews (there were taxes and pogroms, among other oppressions), although by some accounts, Henry VIII enlisted Jewish scholars and their biblical expertise to justify his controversial divorce from Catherine of Aragon and subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn.

On the reverse side of the silver medal, inscriptions in Hebrew and Greek declare Henry VIII not only king, but “supreme head of the Church of England and Ireland,” according to Nomos. The Hebrew and Greek inscriptions, as the other two biblical languages besides Latin (which appears on the front of the medal), “affirm the legitimacy of Henry’s appointment,” according to the website of the British Museum, which owns one of two gold versions of the medal.

But a close inspection of the Hebrew inscription yields a different text. The word Messiah appears prominently, and although one can make out the term “community of England,” Ireland doesn’t appear. One term that is unaccounted for in the translation is Kush, and another 10-letter word doesn’t seem to be transcribed properly. More work can certainly be done on the inscription of this medal, although Richard Bishop’s Hebraica Veritas essay on the medal is very informative, particularly in its tracing of the humanism of the time and growing interests in Greek and Hebrew. A Hebrew font was developed in Venice by Teobaldo Mannucci in the very late 15th century, according to Bishop, and study of biblical Hebrew allowed scholars to understand the bible ad fontem (“at the source”)—although through a Christian lens, of course.

From Five Kinds Of Hamburger To Mini Merguez

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Armed with a clever name, an award-winning chef, and a remarkable menu, Meat Me is poised to take the world of Kosher cuisine by storm.

Meat Me opened its doors half a year ago on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, and it has slowly been gaining a reputation among high class kosher diners as an excellent place for a lunch, dinner, or party. The restaurant is not very large and the décor provides a cozy and comfortable setting without being cramped. The walls are covered with large works of art and hanging tapestries and the atmosphere is relaxing as the veteran staff makes the experience of eating there a pleasure – and that allows one to focus on the best part of Meat Me, the fantastic food.

Meat Me is the latest project of culinary master Chef Serge Gorge. Born in Luxemburg, raised in Eilat, and trained in Switzerland, Chef Gorge has been the executive chef at restaurants around the world, and he has seamlessly blended together the various flavors of his international experience to craft Meat Me’s unique and exciting menu. The menu features some exquisite French dishes, like the Vole au vent de riz a la Parisienne appetizer ($19), but also keeps everyone at the table happy with its distinctly American hamburger options (the restaurant offers five types of burgers – including bison [$21]). “The hamburgers have been one of the most popular dishes,” says Gorge, “but people have been trying everything on the menu.”

My favorite menu offering is the appetizer sampler plate (for two people, $29), which contains tasters of five of the restaurant’s fantastic appetizers including mini peking duck and mini merguez (a spicy lamb based sausage), accompanied by three delicious dipping sauces.

Meat Me’s Peking duck

For the main course, my wife and I ordered two of the restaurants several steak options, and although we like our steaks prepared very differently, we were both extremely pleased with our dishes. The pepper encrusted rib-eye filet with brandy flambé peppercorn ($35) is served in a peppercorn sauce that is so rich and creamy it’s hard to believe it’s not dairy. For dessert we tried the molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, a kosher restaurant mainstay that Meat Me has successfully mastered.

The front of the restaurant is comprised of a traditional bar as well as a sushi bar and a full array of sushi is available. Offering sushi on the menu is no longer enough of a novelty to be impressive on its own, but the sushi at Meat Me – while clearly not the focus of the restaurant – is made with extremely fresh ingredients and adds another appealing option for diners.

The restaurant is co-owned and operated by Gorge’s wife Yardena, and the two make quite the team. “She is really the boss,” says Chef Gorge, “she leaves me free to be in the kitchen and prepare my dishes.”

One of the advantages of Meat Me’s location is their ability to serve meals on Shabbos and Pesach. The restaurant offers diners the ability to prepay and then join them for a Friday night meal. They are also becoming kosher for Pesach, and in addition to being open on Chol HaMoed they are ambitiously offering Seder meals.

Meat Me is a restaurant that should be on everyone’s radar when looking for a place for a fine meal in New York City.

Visit www.meatmeny.com to see full menus, make reservations, and learn more about Shabbos and Pesach meals.

Hamas Official to Speak at Human Rights Council

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

The Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported today that senior Hamas official Ismail al-Ashqar is set to speak before the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday.

Al-Ashqar arrived in Switzerland on Sunday, ahead of a talk which will address the issue of Hamas members being held in Israeli jails.

Economic Volatility, Hyper Consumption And The ‘Wealth Of Nations’

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Adam Smith published his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations in 1776. A revolutionary book, Wealth did not aim to support the interests of any one particular class, but rather the overall well being of an entire nation. He sought, as every American high school student learns, “an invisible hand,” whereby “the private interests and passions of men” will lead to “that which is most agreeable to the interest of a whole society.”

Still, this system of “perfect liberty,” as he called it, could never be based upon encouragements of needless consumption. Instead, argued Smith, the laws of the market, driven by competition and a consequent “self-regulation,” actually demanded explicit disdain for any gratuitous or vanity-driven consumption.

What does this all mean for better understanding of the current economic dislocations and volatility? Above all, it suggests that modern commentators and pundits often speak in blithe disregard for Smith’s true beliefs, ignoring that his primary concern for consumption was always tempered and bounded by a genuine hatred for “conspicuous consumption” (a phrase to be used more pointedly by Thorsten Veblen in a later century).

For Adam Smith, it was only proper that the market regulate both the price and quantity of goods according to the final arbiter of public demand, yet, he continued, this market ought never to be manipulated by any avaricious interferers. In fact, Smith plainly excoriated all those who would artificially create or encourage any such contrived demand as mischievously vain meddlers of “mean rapacity.”

Today, of course, where engineered demand and hyper consumption are permanent and allegedly purposeful features of the market, especially here in the United States, we have lost all sight of Smith’s “natural liberty.” As a result, we try, foolishly and interminably, to build our economic recovery and vitality upon sand. Below the surface, we still fail to recognize, lurks a core problem that is not at all economic, fiscal or financial. Rather, as Adam Smith would have understood, it is a starkly psychological and deeply human dilemma.

Wall Street’s persisting fragility is largely a mirror image of Main Street’s insatiable drive toward hyper consumption. This manipulated drive, so utterly execrable to Adam Smith, has already become so overwhelming that many learned economists warn us sternly against saving too much.
If only we could all buy just a little more, they argue, life in America would be better. Retail sales are the authentic barometer of the “good life.”

Collectively, our national economic effort is always oriented, breathlessly, toward buying more. Many of our country’s troubling and troubled economic policies are a more-or-less direct consequence of this sorely misdirected effort. Until we can get an effective reversal of the frenetic public need for more and more things, any recovery will remain transient and partial.

Not from the start has contrived demand been a basic driving force of our economy. Obviously, before television and before our newer surrenders to an avalanche of high-tech gadgets, such demand would not have had any such compelling power. Nonetheless, for the foreseeable future, it will take herculean efforts to detach healthy patterns of consumption from a distressingly ceaseless barrage of advertisement.

At the recently played Super Bowl, millions of viewers watched the proceedings not for the gridiron activity, but for the commercials. In a society that has now come to loathe any genuine hint of intellect or serious thought, even in universities, television commercials are hailed unashamedly as a discrete and clever genre.

What kind of an economy must rely on engineered consumption for both its buoyancy and its survival? Writing during the middle of the nineteenth century, the American Transcendentalist philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, spoke presciently of “self-reliance.” Foolish “reliance upon property,” Emerson had understood, is the unwanted result of “a want of self‑reliance.”

Today, still living apprehensively amid urgings of imitation and a delirious collectivism (“rugged individualism” is a plainly silly myth still dutifully recorded in primary school textbooks), the always-fearful American wants more or less desperately to project a “successful” image. This projection, in turn, remains founded upon material acquisition, upon a cornucopia that is recognizably laden with “all the right things.”

The relentless conformist call of American mass society insidiously undermines our core economy. This deafening cry, one that would have scandalized Adam Smith, is proclaimed throughout the land as gospel truth. Everywhere, it reigns triumphal.

To create a robust economy and a stable stock market, we Americans will first have to reorient our society from its corrupted ambience of mass taste. Surely, there is still great beauty in the world, but it is best for us not to search for it exclusively on television, at the movies or on Facebook.
In that large part of America that knows very little of Wall Street, there is often great fragility, restless anxiety and palpable unhappiness. Taught again and again that respect and success will lie comfortingly in high salaries, and in corollary patterns of high consumption, the dutiful American mass now celebrates fitting in. At the same time, it generally abhors real literature, serious learning and any tilt toward “self reliance.”

Ritualistically, in yet another stupefying pretense of democracy, we Americans will turn again and again to elections. Stubbornly patriotic, these transient diversions will certainly offer us a more or less pleasing amalgam of searing anger, hackneyed gossip and reassuring clichés. But as a convenient activity that serves to obscure an otherwise-evident plutocracy, these cheerfully prescribed excursions into politics will have little meaningful or enduring effect upon the sustainability of our economic markets.

As with hyper-consumption and engineered demand, no politics can ever rescue our economy. Adam Smith would have agreed.

 

LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), and is Professor of International Law at Purdue University. The author of ten major books and several hundred scholarly articles on world affairs, his columns appear in many major American and European newspapers and magazines. Professor Beres was born in Zürich, Switzerland, on August 31, 1945.

When Children Fall Through The Cracks (Conclusion)

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

For several weeks now I have been running a series on the plight of parents whose children who have “fallen through the cracks” and the painful ramifications both suffer.

I hope to conclude the discussion with this column.

Last week I wrote of the concerns of parents who have children of marriageable age and fear they will not be able to make shidduchim for them because of that one troubled child. This week, as promised, I will focus on the apprehensions of parents who agonize about the potential negative effects of such a child on their siblings.

My own children grew up in a totally secular neighborhood. They were the only ones who were shomer Shabbos and went to yeshiva. My boys were the only ones who wore yarmulkes and my girls the only ones to wear tzniusdik (modest) clothing.

And yet they were friends with the children in the neighborhood, who even joined us at our Shabbos table. Instead of those children influencing our sons and daughters, our children knew they had to influence them. As a matter of fact, just recently I spoke at an Orthodox synagogue in which one of those boys is very active and an officer of the board. Baruch Hashem, he is totally shomer Shabbos, as are his children, who are all yeshiva students. And it all started because of his friendship with my son.

Nowadays, however, such a situation would be a rarity. Today’s observant parents would be fearful if their children were to befriend those who are not religious lest their secular peers influence them and lead them astray.

So how did I do it?

From a very tender age, I charged my boys and girls with a mission. They had to do whatever they could to be m’karev – to reach out to – their secular counterparts. My son was four years old when he befriended the four-year-old son of our neighbor. They played together regularly. One day, my son approached me and said, “Ima, could you teach ____’s housekeeper how to bentsh licht for Shabbos [kindle the Sabbath candles]? His mommy doesn’t want to do it.”

When I explained why that couldn’t work, my little boy did not give up. Next thing I knew, his friend put on a yarmulke and then he went on to join him in yeshiva. How did that happen? As mentioned above, I had fortified my children with a sense of mission that I didn’t allow them to forget. When guests joined us at our Shabbos table, my children knew they had to be on their best behavior lest these people form the wrong impression of those who are Torah observant.

Frankly, I have difficulty understanding how it is that in families where there is one son or daughter who “fell through the cracks,” parents do not charge their other children with reaching out and influencing the rebellious sibling.

Oh, I am well aware of the arguments people put forth – “It’s easier to follow the bad than the good”; “It’s easier to fall through the cracks than to stand up straight and walk on the path of Torah”; “It wouldn’t work, my son/daughter is too far gone – he/she just won’t listen”; “If they try, they will just end up in a nasty fight”; “Rebbetzin, you don’t begin to understand what goes on in our house – my son comes home at crazy hours and don’t know where he was or what he is up to, he drinks, he smokes….”; “You can’t imagine how he/she dresses. It’s an embarrassment!”

I know all that, yet I will tell you the power of love is the only thing that can reach them. Yes, the power of unconditional love and kindness goes a long, long way – and I speak from real experience rather than from some abstract theory. And this holds true for yeshivas as well. When rebellious children are ousted and cast into a jungle, they can only fall further. When their classmates shun them and make them feel like lowlifes, they can only deteriorate and become that which they have been told they are.

I always wonder why these same classmates cannot be spoken to and told of Hashem’s sorrow when a Yiddishe neshamah is lost – when one of His children, so to speak, dies? I always wonder why these classmates cannot be told it is in their hands to try to bring this lost neshamah back to Hashem. Instead of calling this child a “bum,” why can’t we call him a “teire kind” – a precious child – embrace him with a hug and tell him, “You belong to Mamlechet Kohanim – a Priestly Kingdom; your people need you and Hashem loves you, yearns for you, and never gives up on you. You can do it!”

I know some of you may think I am living in a dream world, oblivious to reality. A gadol, a great sage, once said, “I may be dreaming, but I’m not sleeping.” Growing up under the guidance of my saintly parents, I actually saw this dream become reality.

I remember many moons ago, following my family’s internment in Bergen Belsen, we were sent to a DP camp in Switzerland. One day, a group of Polish boys, ranging in age from 17-20, was brought to our camp from Auschwitz. They had seen their parents tortured and cast into the gas chambers and crematoria. They themselves had felt the sting of the whip and had experienced starvation and torture beyond description.

They were all very angry and bitter. They threw away their yarmulkes, didn’t want to know about Torah or mitzvos, and didn’t want to hear the word “Hashem.” They were quartered in a dormitory and every night, my father, the holy sage HaRav HaGaon Avraham Halevi Jungreis, zt”l, would visit them. He never admonished or chastised them. Instead, he went from bed to bed, covered them, kissed them, said the “Shema” with them, and whispered “Schluff gezunte heit mein teire kind” – “Sleep well my precious child.” And my mother volunteered for the kitchen and always managed to find something extra for them.

Many years later, I was speaking in a community in Florida when an elderly gentleman approached me. “Esther, you remember me?” he asked. Since he called me “Esther,” I surmised that our connection must go all the way back to my youth, but I didn’t have the foggiest notion of whom he could be.

“Remind me, ” I said.

“I am one of the Polish boys from Auschwitz who joined you at the DP camp in Switzerland. And these are my grandchildren.”

Before me stood seven sweet children. “They all go to yeshiva,” the man continued, “and it’s all due to your parents of blessed memory. I will never forget them!”

You might argue that this was different, that those young people went through the Holocaust. Every case is different, but there is one common denominator that applies in every generation – LOVE.

It is with this approach that I established Hineni and have reached out to our people. This teaching that my holy parents engraved upon my heart has guided me throughout my life. I have often thought how different our Jewish world would be if, instead of anger and disdain, we would learn to follow this path and envelop our children in love and kindness. If, instead of throwing out a child, we would call him aside after class, speak to him softly, embrace him, give him a berachah and tell him he has great potential, that he is a heilige Yiddishe neshamah, he would look at himself differently and not feel he is a bum.

There is yet another option for troubled children – enrollment in a “special school” where they meet other rebellious students. The down side to this is that, lacking positive role models, they very often feed off each other and fall even further.

Not long ago, a young man from a good family was brought to our office by his friend. He was involved with a gentile girl, and everything else that accompanies such a scenario. I invited him to come to my classes. Instead of admonishing him and berating him, I told him how much he was needed by our people, and how Hashem yearned for him to come home. I showed him the beauty of the Torah life he had so irresponsibly rejected.

Slowly but surely, he changed. I tried to convince him to return home. He told me he would never be accepted. I called his father, who was shocked by my call – and, I think, somewhat resentful and uncomfortable that I had become privy to this tragedy in his family. I understood where he was coming from and told him that in these turbulent, pre-messianic times, many of our families are splintered and suffer greatly. Slowly, I convinced him his son was on the mend.

To be sure, it has not all been smooth sailing, but he is on the path. Slowly the wounds are healing – another Jewish child has come home, and a family has become united.

I have dealt with many teenagers who have been cast out of their homes and schools, and once again I must emphasize that the most potent way to reach them is with berachos and love. I am not saying this is easy. It is a terrible nisayon for all concerned. I understand it is easy to be overcome by rage and lose it, but then we have to bear in mind the consequences and ask ourselves what will be accomplished if I yell and scream and call him derogatory names. On the other hand, if I hold my temper, respond calmly and show him I am sad rather than mad, I have a shot at reaching him. Not in vain did our sages teach us, “Who is wise? – He who foresees the future.”

Obviously, our sages were not referring to prophecy, but to foreseeing the consequences of our actions.

I believe there is yet one more issue that needs to be addressed. Some of our children who have “fallen through the cracks” have done so simply because they are not “learners.” They cannot keep up with the demands of the schools, so to call attention to themselves they become “clowns” and are eventually ousted.

My beloved husband, HaRav Meshulem Halevi Jungreis, zt”l, received semicha while still in Hungary and he often told me that in his yeshiva, there was one big beis hamedrash where everyone learned and the weaker students were helped by the stronger ones. One day, a well-known rabbi from Israel came to our community to raise money for his institution. My husband recalled that in his youth this rabbi had studied in his yeshiva and had difficulty grasping the Gemara, but there was always some other student who would assume the responsibility of reviewing the teaching and working with him. As a result, today he is a big talmid chacham – a highly respected scholar and rabbi with a vast knowledge of Torah.

Just recently, I was on my way to speak in Palm Beach, Florida. On the same flight was a distinguished looking man with a white beard, black hat and coat. I noticed there was some foreign object stuck to his coat. I debated in my mind whether I should approach him to make him aware of it or just remain silent. Knowing that a talmid chacham must be careful about his appearance, I decided to go over to him. I said in Yiddish, “Forgive me…” and pointed to the object.

He quickly removed it and thanked me profusely.

“Aren’t you Rebbetzin Jungreis?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Are you an ainekle of the great Czengerer Tzaddik?”

“Yes,” I said. (My great-great grandfather, the Czengerer Rebbe, was renowned throughout Hungary for the miraculous cures he was able to bring to our people.)

He went on to tell me that one of his very good friends had been afflicted with terminal cancer. The doctors did not give him long to live. Someone told him to go to Czenger and pray at the gravesite of the tzaddik. “Today, ten years later,” he continued, “he is well and enjoying his beautiful mishpacha.”

He paused before continuing. “I will tell you another story, and this one is about me. I give you permission to repeat it because I think it will help many families, but please do not use my name. As a young boy studying in cheder in Hungary, I had much difficulty. I simply couldn’t get it. No matter how hard I tried, the teachings could not penetrate my head.

“My father, of blessed memory, just didn’t know what to do with me. He was full of anguish over it, and my rebbe was very frustrated with me but he always encouraged me and told me to keep trying. He told me to daven that Hashem should help. But still I couldn’t get it. The other boys were advancing and I was nowhere. Then, one day, when no one was around, I went to the Aron HaKodesh and I cried bitterly. I begged Hashem to please help me and pleaded with Him to open my mind and my eyes so that I might understand His holy words – and miraculously, it worked!

“But I couldn’t have done it,” he added, “if not for the support and encouragement of my rebbe.”

I have often thought how different things would be today if we would learn to adopt some of the ways that came so naturally to our zeides and rebbes of yesterday.

Israel’s Nuclear Ambiguity: Opportunity Or Liability? (Part III)

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

“For By Wise Counsel, Thou Shalt Make Thy War”

Proverbs 24,6

Only a selective end to its nuclear ambiguity would allow Israel to exploit the potentially considerable benefits of a Samson Option. Should Israel choose to keep its Bomb in the “basement,” therefore, it could not make any use of the Samson Option.

Irrespective of its preferred level of ambiguity, Israel’s nuclear strategy is correctly oriented toward deterrence, not war-fighting. The Samson Option refers to a policy that would be based in part upon a more-or-less implicit threat of massive nuclear retaliation for certain specific enemy aggressions. Such a policy could be invoked credibly only in cases where such aggressions would threaten Israel’s very existence, and would involve far more destructive and high-yield nuclear weapons than what might otherwise be thought “usable.” This means that a Samson Option could make sense only in presumably “last-resort,” or “near last-resort,” circumstances.

It also means that where Samson is involved, an end to deliberate ambiguity would help Israel by emphasizing that portion of its nuclear arsenal that is less usable. This ironic fact is not a contradiction of my prior argument that Israel will need to take the Bomb out of the “basement” to enhance its deterrent credibility. Rather, it indicates that the persuasiveness of Israel’s nuclear deterrent will require prospective enemy perceptions of retaliatory destructiveness at both the low and high ends of the nuclear yield spectrum. Ending nuclear ambiguity at the proper time would best permit Israel to foster such perceptions.

The main objective of any Samson Option would not be to communicate the availability of any graduated Israeli nuclear deterrent. Instead, it would intend to signal the more-or-less unstated “promise” of a counter-city (“counter-value” in military parlance) reprisal. Made plausible by an end to absolute nuclear ambiguity, the Samson Option would be unlikely to deter any aggressions short of “high end” nuclear and/or (certain) biological first strikes upon the Jewish state.

Samson would “say” the following to all potential nuclear attackers: “We (Israel) may have to “die,” but (this time) we won’t die alone.” The Samson Option, made possible only after a calculated end to Israeli nuclear ambiguity, could serve Israel as an adjunct to deterrence, and to certain preemption options, but not as a core nuclear strategy.

The Samson Option should never be confused with Israel’s overriding security objective: to seek stable deterrence at the lowest possible levels of possible military conflict.

In broad outline, “Samson” could support Israel’s nuclear deterrence by demonstrating an Israeli willingness to take strategic risks, including even existential risks. Earlier, Moshe Dayan had understood and embraced this particular form of logic: “Israel must be like a mad dog, said Dayan, too dangerous to bother.”

In our often counter-intuitive strategic world, it can sometimes be rational to pretend irrationality. Always, the nuclear deterrence benefits of pretended irrationality would depend in part upon an enemy state’s awareness of Israel’s disclosed counter-value targeting posture. In the final analysis, there are specific and valuable critical security benefits that would likely accrue to Israel as the result of a purposefully selective and incremental end to its policy of deliberate nuclear ambiguity.

The time to begin such an “end” has not yet arrived. But at the precise moment that Iran verifiably crosses the nuclear threshold, Israel should begin immediately to remove the Bomb from its “basement.” When this critical moment arrives, Israel should already have configured (1) its planned reallocation of nuclear assets; and (2) the extent to which this particular configuration should now be disclosed. This would importantly enhance the credibility of its nuclear deterrence posture.

To optimize Israel’s selective easing of nuclear ambiguity, Jerusalem/Tel-Aviv would need to deploy, inter alia, a fully recognizable second-strike nuclear force. Such a robust strategic force – hardened, multiplied and dispersed – would necessarily be fashioned to inflict a decisive retaliatory blow against major enemy cities. Iran, it follows, so long as it is led by rational decision-makers, should be made to understand that the actual costs of any planned aggressions against Israel would always exceed any conceivable gains.

The deterrence benefits of any Israeli modifications of deliberate ambiguity would be altogether limited to rational adversaries. If, after all, enemy decision-makers might sometime value certain national or religious preferences more highly than their own country’s physical survival, they would not be deterred by any enhanced forms of Israeli nuclear deterrence, including even a nuanced and purposeful removal of Israel’s bomb from the “basement.”

To comprehensively protect itself against potentially irrational nuclear adversaries, Israel would now have no viable alternative to implementing a still more-or-less problematic conventional preemption option. Operationally, at this very late date, there could be no reasonable assurances of success. Jurisprudentially, however, especially in view of Iran’s expressly genocidal threats to Israel, such a preemption option could represent a distinctly permissible expression of anticipatory self-defense under international law.

Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) was Chair of Project Daniel. Professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue, he is the author of many major books and articles on nuclear strategy and nuclear war, including publications in International Security (Harvard); World Politics (Princeton); The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; Nativ (Israel); The Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs; Parameters: The Professional Journal of the US Army War College; Special Warfare (DoD); Studies in Conflict and Terrorism; Strategic Review; Contemporary Security Policy; Armed Forces and Society; Israel Affairs; Comparative Strategy; and The International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. Professor Beres’ monographs on nuclear strategy and nuclear war have been published by The Ariel Center for Policy Research (Israel); The Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies (University of Notre Dame); The Graduate Institute of International Studies (Geneva); and the Monograph Series on World Affairs (University of Denver). His frequent opinion columns have appeared in The New York Times; Christian Science Monitor; Chicago Tribune; Washington Post; Washington Times; Boston Globe; USA Today; The Jerusalem Post; Ha’aretz (Israel); Neue Zuricher Zeitung (Switzerland); and U.S. News & World Report.

Dr. Louis René Beres was born in Zürich, Switzerland, on August 31, 1945. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

Israel’s Nuclear Ambiguity: Opportunity Or Liability? (Part II)

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

“For By Wise Counsel, Thou Shalt Make Thy War”

                                                                                    Proverbs  24,6

 

            The Israeli policy of an undeclared nuclear capacity will not work indefinitely.  Left unrevised, this policy will fail. The most obvious locus of failure would be Iran.

 

            To be deterred, a newly nuclear Iran would need convincing assurance that Israel’s atomic weapons were both invulnerable and penetration-capable. Any Iranian judgments about Israel’s capability and willingness to retaliate with nuclear weapons would depend largely upon some prior Iranian knowledge of these weapons, including their degree of protection from surprise attack and their capacity to “punch-through” Iranian active and passive defenses.

 

             Ironically, the appearance of Israeli nuclear weapons as uniformly “too large” and “powerful” could weaken Israel’s nuclear posture. For example, Iranian perceptions of exclusively mega-destructive Israeli nuclear weapons could effectively undermine the credibility of Israel’s indispensable nuclear deterrent. Here, Israel’s credibility would vary inversely with the perceived destructiveness of its nuclear arms. 

 

            In the world of nuclear strategy, some essential truths are counterintuitive. Coexisting with an already-nuclear Iran, Israel would benefit not from any increased nuclear secrecy (the orthodox and ordinary expectation), but rather from certain forms of expanded nuclear disclosure.  In essence, this would mean a full or partial end to Israel’s bomb in the basement.

 

            However regrettable and once preventable, a fully nuclear Iran now appears to be a fait accompli. Neither the “international community” in general, nor Israel in particular, has displayed a sufficient willingness to support needed preemptions. Such preemptions could have been consistent with the criteria of anticipatory self-defense under international law. Needless to say, the so-called “sanctions” sequentially leveled at Tehran represent little more than a fly on the elephant’s back.

 

            A nuclear Iran might decide to share some of its nuclear components and materials with Hezbollah, or with another kindred terrorist group.To prevent this, Jerusalem would need to convince Iran, inter alia, that Israel possesses a rangeof distinctly usable nuclear options.  Israeli nuclear ambiguity could be loosened by releasing certain general information regarding the availability of appropriately low-yield weapons. A policy of continued nuclear ambiguity, on the other hand, might not be sufficiently persuasive.

 

             In Jerusalem (and in Tel-Aviv’s Ministry of Defense, of course), the following will soon need to be calculated vis-à-vis a nuclear Iran:  the exact extent of subtlety with which Israel should now communicate key portions of its nuclear positions, intentions and capabilities. To ensure that its nuclear forces appear sufficiently usable, invulnerable, and penetration-capable to all prospective attackers, Israel may soon benefit from selectively releasing certain broad outlines of strategic information. This disclosed information would concern, among other things, the hardening, dispersion, multiplication,basing, and yields of selected nuclear forces.

 

             Once it is faced with a nuclear adversary in Tehran, Israel would need to convince its Iranian enemy that it possessed both the will and the capacity to make any intended Iranian nuclear aggression more costly than gainful. No Israeli move from ambiguity to disclosure would help in the case of an irrational nuclear enemy. For dealing with irrational enemies – those enemies who would not value their own continued national survival more highly than any other preference or combination of preferences – even preemption could now be too late.

 

            To the extent that an Iranian leadership might subscribe to certain end-times visions of a Shiite apocalypse, Iran could surely cast aside all rational behavior. Were this to happen, Iran could effectively become a nuclear suicide-bomber in macrocosm. Such a destabilizing prospect is certainly improbable, but it is not inconceivable. A similarly serious prospect exists in already-nuclear and coup-vulnerable Pakistan.

 

            To protect itself against military strikes from rational enemies, particularly those attacks that could carry existential costs, Israel will need to better exploit every aspect and function of its nuclear arsenal and doctrine. The success of Israel’s efforts here would depend not only upon its selected targeting doctrine (enemy cities and/or military forces), but also upon the extent to which this choice is made known in advance.  Before any rational enemies can be deterred from launching first strikes against Israel, and before they can be deterred from launching retaliatory attacks following any Israeli non-nuclear preemption, it will not be enough for them to know that Israel has The Bomb. These enemies would also need to recognize that usable Israeli nuclear weapons are sufficiently invulnerable to enemy attacks, and that at least a determinable number are capable of penetrating high-value population targets.

 

            Removing the bomb from Israel’s basement could enhance Israel’s strategic deterrence to the extent that it would heighten rational enemy perceptions of both secure and capable Israeli nuclear forces. Such a calculated end to deliberate ambiguity could also underscore Israel’s willingness to use these nuclear forces in reprisal for certain enemy first-strike and retaliatory attacks. This brings to mind the so-called Samson Option, which would allow various enemy decision-makers to note and underscore that Israel is prepared to do whatever is needed to survive.

 


Louis René Beres  (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) was Chair of Project Daniel.  Professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue, he is the author of many major books and articles on nuclear strategy and nuclear war, including publications in International Security (Harvard); World Politics (Princeton); The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; Nativ (Israel); The Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs; Parameters: The Professional Journal of the US Army War College; Special Warfare (DoD); Studies in Conflict and Terrorism; Strategic Review; Contemporary Security Policy; Armed Forces and Society; Israel Affairs; Comparative Strategy; and The International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. Professor Beres’ monographs on nuclear strategy and nuclear war have been published by The Ariel Center for Policy Research (Israel); The Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies (University of Notre Dame); The Graduate Institute of International Studies (Geneva); and the Monograph Series on World Affairs (University of Denver). His frequent opinion columns have appeared in The New York Times; Christian Science Monitor; Chicago Tribune; Washington Post; Washington Times; Boston Globe; USA Today; The Jerusalem Post;  Ha’aretz (Israel); Neue Zuricher Zeitung (Switzerland); and U.S. News & World Report.

Dr. Louis René Beres was born in Zürich, Switzerland, on August 31, 1945. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/israels-nuclear-ambiguity-opportunity-or-liability-part-ii/2010/10/14/

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