Israeli-Russian researcher Elizabeth Tsurkov, who was kidnapped in Iraq several months ago, is being held by Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Shiite militia in Iraq, Israel’s government confirmed on July 5. A doctoral student at Princeton University, Tsurkov has been held by the insurgent group since March.
Nuclear talks with Iran are resuming. Absent from the table will be the United States, which dropped out of the nuclear deal in 2018.
There are two important, but seemingly contradictory, takeaways from this laundry list of anti-Semitic incidents from May of 2020. First, we are experiencing a resurgence of extreme right anti-Semitic rhetoric in the United States. Second, don’t let anyone tell you that the danger from anti-Semitism in the United States (or most other countries) comes largely from the racist, xenophobic or white supremacist right. This past month the right-wing version of anti-Semitism was most ubiquitous. Next month it may very well be another manifestation of anti-Semitism that dominates the headlines. This disease shapeshifts over time and place, maximizing the damage it can inflict.
But it’s hard to substantiate Pompeo’s claim that Americans are now safer or that the Middle East is more peaceful, and recent events in the region offer facts that argue otherwise. In the two years since the U.S. dropped out of the deal, tensions in the Persian Gulf had reached a boiling point, freedom of passage in the crucial Gulf waters has been jeopardized, fighting spread to Saudi Arabia and endangered critical oil infrastructure, and U.S. and Iran came to the brink of a full out war after the killing of Qasem Soleimani and the retaliatory Iranian attack on an American base in Iraq.
Iran also faces an additional complicating factor in battling the virus’s spread: A comprehensive set of U.S.-led international sanctions, which have crippled Iran’s economy, limited many services in the country, and imposed tough restrictions on the nation’s ties with the world and its ability to trade and import goods.
An attack that lasted less than a minute on Thursday night marked a new phase in America’s standing in the Middle East. What was until that moment a tense standoff between the Trump administration and the Ayatollahs in Tehran turned into a rapidly escalating conflict, which could lead to anything from a cycle of attacks and counter-attacks to an all-out war.
In the roller coaster known as the Trump presidency, nothing lasts forever, and the president’s recent decision to pull American troops out of Syria is seen as a diplomatic and strategic blow to Israel.
Regardless of whether the anti-BDS law gets attached and becomes law, the debate it triggered can serve as a useful map of pro-Israel politics on the Democratic side.