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Covenant

Why They Fight: Hamas’ Too Little-Known Fascist Charter by Jeffrey Herf.

Given all the ink spilled about the current Gaza war, and the innumerable tragic photos, it’s strange that the Western press hasn’t inquired into why one of the parties is fighting. That would be Hamas, of course; the turgid psychologizing about Israel’s motives is quite familiar. But what about its Islamist enemy, penned up in a barren territory from which it launches rockets and digs tunnels under Israeli kibbutzim and kindergartens? For what was all that concrete poured, into the ground as part of the offensive, instead of above ground as the foundation of schools, factories, and homes?

It’s not exactly hard to find out. Hamas published a “Covenant” of 36 articles on August 18, 1988, that details its aims and ideology precisely. Its philosophy is rooted in the totalitarianism and radical anti-Semitism that has undergirded Islamism since its rise in the 1930s and 1940s. Far from moderating its core ideology, Hamas’ seizure of power in 2007 gave it the opportunity to make policy based on its guiding goal—namely, the destruction the state of Israel.1 But even though the Covenant is the declaration of intent of a group now governing millions of people, it goes unnoticed by reporters, editors, and pundits who race to comment on Hamas’ war with Israel.

There is no reason for this ignorance. The briefest Google search brings one to an English translation of the Covenant, provided by the Avalon Project of the Yale Law School over a decade ago. Hamas has not revised or modified its Covenant in all that time. The public statements of its leaders and its continued terror offensive against Israel are clear evidence that Hamas in 2014 remains inspired by the ideas expressed in founding text. This should be every policy maker’s, and every journalist’s, first stop in their efforts to understand Hamas. And it is of utmost importance that they read the text itself, as any student of literature will tell you. There is no substitute; to understand a person one must read him in his own words, noting everything from the cadence and syntax to the allusions to key figures of his ideological tradition. The Gaza war will be incomprehensible to anyone who refuses to take Hamas at its word—these words.

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Believers

The Believers by Stephen T. Asma.

Post-9/11, scholars scolded the religious. Now they overintellectualize them.

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Burke

Burke’s Enduring Brilliance by David Womersley.

Of all the great British political thinkers, only Burke has any present currency. Hobbes and Locke both possessed arguably more penetrating minds, and Mill wrote on issues that are more germane to our current preoccupations. Yet, for all their superiority of intellectual equipment or apparent relevance, these writers are not living presences in our political culture in the way that Burke, however tenuously, still seems to be. Modern politicians still reflect on Burke, and the more literate among them (such as Jesse Norman) even still write about him. By contrast, Hobbes and Locke are firmly imprisoned in the Schools. Academics love to pore over their subtleties, so vividly practical as they were in the 17th century, so utterly estranged as they now are from any present urgency. Backroom policy aides are occasionally interested in Mill, but I have never met a practising politician who was. And fascinating political thinkers such as Harrington, Selden, Bolingbroke, Hume, Coleridge and Arnold are today all but forgotten even by academics. Why should it be that Burke alone still has the power to engage, even if only infrequently, the current political class? And what does that enduring power tell us about the nature and scope of Burke’s achievement?

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Incompetence

Malice or Incompetence? by Adam Garfinkle.

John Kerry’s ceasefire proposal for Gaza has probably destroyed what remained of the United States’ influence in the Middle East, at least for the duration of this administration’s tenure.

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Tulip

Who Invented the TULIP? by Timothy Paul Jones. See here.

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Passion

Love & Lust by Virginia Rutter.

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die? We can’t quite bring ourselves to believe that passion can thrive on modern love—because our sexual imagination is stuck in the past.

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Edict

Legalization by Edict by Yuval Levin.

Many people in Washington seem to be talking about the prospect of the president unilaterally legalizing the status of several million people who entered the country illegally as though it were just another political question. But if reports about the nature of the executive action he is contemplating are right, it would be by far the most blatant and explosive provocation in the administration’s assault on the separation of powers, and could well be the most extreme act of executive overreach ever attempted by an American president in peacetime.

More at NRO.

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Irrelevant?

The Peaceful Are Not Irrelevant by Alicja A. Gescinska.

Brigitte Gabriel recently argued that, while the majority of Muslims in the world are peaceful, these peaceful Muslims don’t matter. History, Gabriel maintained, tells us that the peaceful majority is always irrelevant. Violent people set the agenda and determine the course of things. In twentieth-century Germany, Russia, China, and Japan, the majority was peaceful, and yet millions and millions of people died at the hands of a minority of brutal murderers. The peaceful majority proved to be thoroughly incompetent at stopping the most dreadful events of the twentieth century from happening: incompetent and thus irrelevant.

But this is a misinterpretation of history.

More at PD.

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30 Years

The New Thirty Years’ War by Richard N. Haass.

It is a region wracked by religious struggle between competing traditions of the faith. But the conflict is also between militants and moderates, fueled by neighboring rulers seeking to defend their interests and increase their influence. Conflicts take place within and between states; civil wars and proxy wars become impossible to distinguish. Governments often forfeit control to smaller groups – militias and the like – operating within and across borders. The loss of life is devastating, and millions are rendered homeless.

That could be a description of today’s Middle East. In fact, it describes Europe in the first half of the seventeenth century.

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Libya

As Libya Implodes, “Smart Diplomacy” Becoming a Punch Line by Walter Russell Mead.

The United States is pulling embassy staff out of Tripoli, and has issued a travel advisory that nicely outlines what a nightmare Libya has become. If Obama were a Republican, the press coverage of this stinking corpse of a policy flub would be quite different.

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Vodka

How Vodka Conquered America by Neal Dewing.

An interview with author Vic Matus about vodka’s rise to become America’s top-selling spirit.

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Gas

Gas Heat by Jon Entine.

A small foundation uses focused academic, media, and activist grants to redirect a policy debate.

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Vaccinations

Why Anti-Vaccination Movements Can Never Be Tamed by Elizabeth Yale.

In Victorian England, nearly a century after the physician Edward Jenner had shown that exposure to the cowpox virus, or vaccinia, conferred immunity to smallpox, vaccination against smallpox was both a life-saving public health measure and a source of immense controversy. Vaccination was compulsory; parents were required to have their children immunized by three months of age or face fines that escalated as long as they refused to do so. Parents organized against the requirement, forming anti-vaccinationist societies, the largest of which was the National Anti-Compulsory Vaccination League, to promote their cause. They founded their own newspapers, circulating tales of sickened and disfigured children injured by vaccination, complete with shocking photographs, through the national media. Protestors organized mass demonstrations and challenged the law in the courts, banding together to pay the fines and court costs of parents who could not afford them. Without such helps, a family’s goods could be auctioned off and parents jailed until debts were paid—the consequences of opposition were not minor.

In many ways, the history of compulsory smallpox vaccination echoes present-day vaccination controversies. Then, as now, the vaccination debate raised vital questions: what are the limits to the claims a state, acting in the name of the public good, can make on an individual and his or her body? When are individuals justified in resisting these claims, and what intellectual, spiritual, and moral resources can a person draw on in support of his or her resistance? What, ultimately, should be the role of science and medicine in a free society?

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Traditional

What Is ‘Traditional Christianity,’ Anyway? by Rod Dreher.

It seems to me that “traditional Christian” is political code for “Christians who adhere to traditional teaching about sex and sexuality.” After all, it is possible to be a traditional Christian and a socialist on economics. It is possible to be an archtraditionalist on liturgy and sacred music, but an archliberal on morals and politics — and vice versa. It is much more difficult to say that traditional Christians can believe in a Reformation ecclesiology or a Catholic/Orthodox ecclesiology, and both be paid-up traditionalists. But we certainly do. In fact, one of the core issues involving “traditional Christianity” is the source and nature of religious authority — does it reside in the Church, guided by Tradition and Scripture? Scripture alone? In the individual conscience? — but that concept never really comes up in our generally accepted use of the term. When I deploy the phrase “traditional Christians” in my writing, I’m not thinking about ecclesiology, sacramental theology, or any other thing that separates Protestantism, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy.

What I’m thinking about — what we are all thinking about — is this: what separates “traditional Christians” from “modern Christians” (or “progressive Christians”) in our common discourse is their beliefs about sex. Nothing else, or at least nothing else meaningful. Think about it — for purposes of general discussion these days, what would you say separates those you would call “traditional Christians” from other kinds of Christians? Take sex out of the picture, and what do you have? If we’re not talking about sex, what are we talking about?

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Origins

George Leef reviews The Evangelical Origins of the Living Constitution by John Compton.

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Campaign

Iraq’s Waterless Christians: The Campaign to Expel a Religion by Jason Motlagh.

Qaraqosh is one of the last refuges in northern Iraq for Christians fleeing persecution by the militants of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, who swept into the region in June. A historic Christian city of 50,000 about 19 miles southeast of Mosul, Qaraqosh is under the formidable protection of the well-armed Peshmerga—the Kurdish fighters whose autonomous region disputes the area with both ISIL and the Iraqi central government based in Baghdad. Now, in a further effort to oust Christians from land they have inhabited for two millennia, the Islamic militants have begun turning off a precious utility: water.

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Hardwired?

Atheists Hardwired For Faith? Nope by Jeremy E. Sherman.

Is God dead? New psychological research counters: Is atheism dead? Studies suggest that even people who claim to be committed atheists tacitly hold religious beliefs, such as in the existence of “immortal souls,” and “higher powers,” evidence that suggests to some that “religion is hardwired into our genes.”

As an atheist, I’ll argue that rumors of our death are greatly exaggerated. And yet we atheists aren’t on as firm ground as we claim. Most atheists think that evolutionary theory as its popularly understood yields a complete explanation for life. But they’re wrong.

More at PT.

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Fabricated

The Many Fabricated Enemies of Feminists by Daniel Payne.

Today’s feminists are adroit at manufacturing a successive series of mystical antagonists in order to advance their causes.

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Orange

The Stereotypical Christians of ‘Orange Is the New Black’ by Laura Leonard.

The series’ groundbreaking diversity disappoints in the realm of religion.

More at CT.

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Gambit

The Seven Gambit by Richard Fernandez.

Just as soon as Israel accepted an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire Hamas fired 47 rockets killing one Israeli citizen. Anyone who has followed the conflict could have predicted this with certainty; the point of a ceasefire — for a terrorist organization — is to break it for exactly the same reason it purposely attacks women and children.

Dr. Anna Geifman tried to explain that the reason why innocents are selected as terror targets is because “children are the last consecrated absolute”. That is just why they must be killed in the cruelest way possible. For “militant nihilism strives to ruin first and foremost what their contemporaries hold sacred”.

Nihilism isn’t the absence of a belief. It is something subtly different: it is the belief in nothing. The most powerful weapon of terrorism is therefore the unyielding No. “No I will not give up. No I will not tell the truth. No I will not play fair. No I will not spare children. No I will not stop even if you surrender to me; I will not cease even if you give me everything you have, up to and including your children’s lives. Nothing short of destroying me absolutely can make me stop. And therefore I will defeat you even if you kill me. Because I will make you pay the price in guilt for annihilating me.”

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(via Maverick Philosopher.)