A Jewish teenager with dual Israeli and American citizenship living in the Israeli city of Ashkelon was arrested Thursday in connection to the wave of more than 100 bomb threats against JCCs and other Jewish institutions across North America since the beginning of 2017. The unnamed suspect, 19, was arrested by Israel’s Lahav 433 police unit in the wake of a months-long investigation by Israeli authorities, who worked alongside the FBI and other international law enforcement agencies.
Ever since Michael Kagan, 60, was a boy growing up in the U.K., each detail of his father’s escape from a Nazi labor camp has ricocheted through his mind and heart. Now, in his new documentary “Tunnel of Hope,” the son is sharing his father’s story with the world. It’s a story that Jack Kagan had fought to keep alive, recording not only the escape, but the murders of the vast majority of the Jews of Novogrudok—a city in Belarus—who were dead long before that fateful night. “He was driven, determined to get it out there,” says Michael Kagan.
As reports of the savage terrorist attack in central London March 22 emerged, it was clear that British authorities were dealing with an incident straight from the Islamist terror manual. Such terror, of course, is nothing new. In the Middle East, Hezbollah and Hamas have been in the Islamist terror business since the 1980s. But somehow, these two bloodstained organizations are never regarded by the West in quite the same way as Islamic State. Amid Hamas’s attempt to convince the world of its newfound political moderation, JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen writes that the Palestinian group’s makeover attempt is likely to dissolve without a trace, yet the security threat it poses remains intact.
What steps can the West take to defeat Islamic State? The U.S. and Israel should work to push the Syrian Kurds away from the Iran-Shi’a axis and Russia, and toward an alliance with the Americans and the Israelis, leading experts on Syria and the Kurds told JNS.org.
Beyond the scent of potent cannabis drifting about the venue, there was an extra buzz in the air this year at Israel’s third annual CannaTech medical marijuana innovation conference. Earlier in March, the Israeli Knesset passed a new law essentially decriminalizing recreational marijuana use nationwide. Given that development, it was high time for this week’s CannaTech conference. But amid the attention-grabbing legislation on recreational marijuana, CannaTech continued its traditional focus on showcasing the ingenuity of Israel’s medical marijuana practitioners. This year’s conference was “double the size” of last year’s summit, said Saul Kaye, CEO of the iCAN: Israel-Cannabis organization, which runs the annual gathering.
If you have eaten at a high-end kosher restaurant sometime during the last decade, chances are that someone working for that restaurant was a student, or a student’s student, of Chef Avram Wiseman. The chef instructor welcomes the first cohort of students May 1 for the Brooklyn-based Kosher Culinary Center, which calls itself “the only kosher culinary school outside of Israel to offer professional training in the culinary and pastry arts.” But until now, Wiseman’s far-reaching industry footprint has flown under the radar. “Avram Wiseman is like a walking iPhone 7—fully charged, on steroids, with every app already downloaded, full of knowledge and fun,” said David Kolotkin, the former executive chef at New York’s Prime Grill kosher steakhouse.
Israel critic Peter Beinart has announced that when his children “near adulthood, I’ll encourage them to visit the West Bank.” Why? “So they can see for themselves what it means to hold millions of people…without free movement or due process,” he wrote in his column for The Forward. The Beinart children are in for quite a surprise. In his various articles and media appearances, Papa Beinart regularly accuses Israel of occupying and oppressing the Palestinians. But when the young Beinarts arrive in Judea and Samaria, they will discover that dear old dad wasn’t telling them the whole story, writes columnist Stephen M. Flatow.
When columnists J.J. Goldberg and Jonathan Tobin first planned a post-election debate tour, their focus was on discussing divergent views of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Goldberg, a liberal Zionist, thinks the conflict is ready to be solved by just a little more effort. Tobin, a conservative, thinks the Palestinians show no signs of being willing to give up their war on the legitimacy of any Jewish state. What they’ve discovered while journeying throughout North America is that the 2016 U.S. election worsened the divisions within the Jewish community and American society. Yet they’ve encountered audiences hungry for something different than the usual invective served up on cable news networks. Jews and Americans need to relearn how to listen to each other, writes Tobin.
An official peace treaty and deepening economic ties seem to indicate that all is well between neighbors Israel and Jordan. Yet Jordan’s recent treatment of the cases of anti-Israel terrorists may reveal seething tension. Two incidents—the early release of Ahmed Daqamseh, a Jordanian soldier who murdered seven Israeli schoolgirls, and Jordan’s refusal to honor a U.S. extradition request for Palestinian terrorist Ahlam Tamimi—have brought the strength of Israeli-Jordanian relations into question. “It is shocking that [Jordanian leader] King Abdullah would permit this unrepentant and unrehabilitated killer to be released from prison….It’s an indication that Jordan is drifting further and further away from the democratic West and into the camp of the Middle East extremists that are overwhelming the regime,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of the Shurat HaDin - Israel Law Center civil rights group.
Who did the most damage to Israel’s security during the “knife intifada” that began in the fall of 2015? About 40 Israelis were murdered in the wave of stabbing, car-ramming and shooting attacks, yet the most successful terrorist did not kill any of them. The terrorist who inflicted the most damage did so while lying passively on the ground, and has far less name recognition than the soldier who shot him, writes the Israel Democracy Institute’s Prof. Yedidia Stern.
After Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman reiterated his plan for population swaps in a future peace deal, some Mideast experts and Israeli politicians have deemed the concept unrealistic and potentially harmful for security. Lieberman suggested including Israeli Arabs in a Palestinian state, saying, “It cannot be that a hegemonic Palestinian state will be established, without a single Jew…and Israel will be a bi-national state with 22 percent Palestinians.” Yet the proposal may narrow Israel’s land and cause the Jewish state to lose some ability to deploy security forces near the 1949 armistice line. “Legally, [Lieberman’s] option might be realized only as part of an agreement between both sides, but it is not reasonable to do such a thing without the will of the people themselves,” said Kobi Michael, a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
A cornerstone of Jewish community relations work is building bridges to other religious and ethnic communities. The principle behind these efforts is sound. But as the Jews who have made Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour into a heroine of the “resistance” against President Donald Trump have shown, interfaith dialogue is not an end unto itself. If the end result is to legitimize those who work to undermine the rights of the Jews, then we are witnessing a self-destructive act, writes JNS.org Opinion Editor Jonathan Tobin.
When it comes to Israel, Hezbollah is usually associated with its vast arsenal of rockets pointed at the Jewish state. But the Lebanese Shi’a terror group is also involved in more covert efforts to strike Israel—using the internet to systematically recruit operatives from the West Bank, Gaza and Israel’s Arab sector. Yoram Schweitzer, head of the Program on Terrorism and Low Intensity Conflict at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, told JNS.org that Hezbollah strives “to take advantage of Arab Israelis...both as collectors of intelligence for Hezbollah purposes, as facilitators and from time to time, also as perpetrators [of terror attacks].”
As the Islamic State terror group faces setbacks in Syria and Iraq, its affiliate in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has turned its sights on the region’s Coptic Christian minority as part of its ongoing insurgency against the Egyptian government. More than 350 Christian families have recently fled from the Sinai city of El Arish, near the Egyptian border with Gaza and Israel. The mass displacement of Coptic Christians from the Sinai was prompted by a string of murders and threats by Islamic State terrorists in that region since late January. “The Islamic State is losing in Iraq and Syria, and has decided to lash out through its affiliates in places like the Sinai Peninsula,” said Robert Nicholson, director of the Philos Project, an organization that promotes “positive Christian engagement in the Middle East.”
JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen recently heard a leading Israeli security expert opine that Jerusalem’s strategic interest lies in maintaining Turkey as a counterweight to Iran, despite the torrid experience of dealing with the country’s dictatorial leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, during the last decade. That should not mean, however, that Turkey can be regarded as a reliable friend of Israel or the West. What starts with Erdoğan’s April 16 national referendum—which, if passed, would massively concentrate political power in the president’s office—won’t end with it, writes Cohen.