U.K.’s historic ‘Brexit’ vote leaves Israel pondering policy and trade implications

In a historic referendum on Friday, the United Kingdom voted to leave the 28-nation European Union (EU), sending shockwaves throughout Europe and the international community. The results of the so-called “Brexit” vote—52 percent in favor of exiting the EU and 48 percent opposed—call into question the identity and strength of the EU while leaving many nations, including Israel, wondering how the vote will affect policy and trade in the years ahead. “There is no doubt that Israel will be left to follow the agreements that will be made between the United Kingdom and the European Union, and to adjust its economic and trade relations with Britain accordingly,” Dr. Oded Eran, the former Israeli ambassador to the EU, told JNS.org

Posted on June 24, 2016 and filed under Israel, News, World.

With $1 million Genesis Prize, violinist Itzhak Perlman eyes a more inclusive world

In his book, “To Heal a Fractured World,” Rabbi Jonathan Sacks recalls how renowned Israeli-American violinist Itzhak Perlman came onto the stage at Lincoln Center in New York City to play a violin concerto—presumably something he had done many times before. But as Perlman sat down to play this time in 1995, one of the strings on his violin broke. The audience assumed that Perlman would have to find another violin or another string. Instead, Perlman waited a moment, closed his eyes, and signaled the conductor to begin. He played the entire concerto on just three strings. Afterwards, Perlman said, “Sometimes it is the artist's task to find out how much music you can still make with what remains.” On June 23, Perlman received the 2016 Genesis Prize, an award that honors individuals who have attained excellence in their professional fields, have made a significant contribution to humanity, and inspire others through their dedication to Jewish values and the State of Israel. The prize carries a $1 million reward, which Perlman will use to primarily to invest in projects that foster greater integration of people with disabilities into Israeli and North American societies.

Posted on June 24, 2016 and filed under Features, Israel.

‘Poisoning’ accusations are a Palestinian tradition

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas must be surprised at the international outcry over his accusation this week that Israeli rabbis are plotting to poison Arab wells. After all, Abbas and his colleagues have been making similar allegations for more than 30 years, yet the international community has hardly said a word, writes historian Rafael Medoff.

Posted on June 24, 2016 and filed under Analysis, Features, Israel.

North American studios look to Israel for next animation hit

In 2008, Yoram Honig was a producer and director living in Jerusalem, fresh off his first international hit, when the Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA) came to him with a challenge: build a film industry from scratch in Israel’s capital. “When we started here, was nothing in Jerusalem,” he told JNS.org. Now, the Jerusalem Film and Television Fund, which Honig heads as an arm of the JDA, pumps 9 million shekels ($2.36 million) a year into the local cinema industry and shells out millions more to international companies filming there, and his office is decorated with posters of films produced and shot on his watch in Jerusalem. This week, the fund announced the opening of its newest frontier. Beginning this year, it will connect Israeli content creators with three major North American animation studios to turn local intellectual property into globally marketed television series.

Posted on June 23, 2016 and filed under Arts, Features, Israel, U.S..

2 decades before Cleveland’s first NBA title, LeBron James walked onto a JCC court

The seed for the city of Cleveland’s first professional championship in a major sport in 52 years may have been planted at the Shaw Jewish Community Center on White Pond Drive in Akron, Ohio, nearly 20 years ago. That’s when a tall, lanky kid from Akron named LeBron James walked onto the hardwood court and changed the game of basketball forever. Coach Keith Dambrot, now the head basketball coach at the University of Akron, conducted those sessions that attracted between 50 and 100 players. “Little Dru [Joyce] brought him because Little Dru used to work out with me,” Dambrot said about the Sunday night sessions. “That’s where I first met [James]. Just a guy that wanted to be taught, wanted to be coached, wanted to please you—sponge-like.” Dambrot, who coached James in high school, texted the superstar after the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA Finals on June 19. “I always try to keep it brief with him. You could see the jubilation,” said Dambrot.

Posted on June 23, 2016 and filed under Sports, Features, U.S..

Filmmaker calls for UNRWA ‘self-introspection’ over Palestinian classroom incitement

A newly released 10-minute online video produced by the Center for Near East Policy Research says that many of the Palestinians who have murdered Israelis during the so-called “stabbing intifada” were educated in schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Among other footage, the video reveals a military-themed school play held at the UNRWA Nuseirat School in Gaza, in which students hold an Israeli hostage at gunpoint and emerge from a tunnel in order to carry out an attack against Israelis. Documentary filmmaker David Bedein, director of the Center of Near East Policy Research, says that the U.N. member states who are the funders of UNRWA schools should be held accountable for the agency’s hate education. At the top of that list is the United States—UNRWA’s largest donor, providing $400 million of the organization’s annual $1.2 billion budget. For UNRWA, says Bedein, the film “should be cause...to carry out a self-introspection.”

Posted on June 22, 2016 and filed under Israel, News.

Netanyahu’s Russian realism

In geopolitical terms, Russia trades on fear of its hard power in places like Eastern Europe and the Middle East. But fear is not the only factor; national leaders looking for fresh opportunities in the face of American isolationism and retreat are looking more and more to Russian President Vladimir Putin for support. In that regard, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has met with Putin four times over the last year and with President Barack Obama only once, exemplifies this new trend. If we are to prevent the “Russification” of Israel and, indeed, our other allies—meaning a general disdain for classically liberal values, mute acceptance of Russian aggression toward its neighbors, and a resigned attitude to the dilution of American global power—then the solution lies in Washington. Absent that political will, the Putin-Netanyahu bromance will continue to flower, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.

Posted on June 22, 2016 and filed under Israel, World, Opinion.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch is ‘re-victimizing’ me

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says the Obama administration has deleted references to Islamic State from the transcript of the Orlando killer’s 911 calls. She says that mentioning the group would “re-victimize” the families of those whom he murdered. But columnist Stephen M. Flatow has some news for the attorney general. As the father of a victim of radical Islamic terrorism, it’s not the mention of the terrorist group that re-victimizes Flatow and his family. It’s the ongoing refusal of the Obama administration to name the group to which his daughter’s killers belong—Palestinian Islamic Jihad—that causes the family fresh pain every single day, he writes.

Posted on June 22, 2016 and filed under Israel, Opinion, U.S..

Tension over missile defense funding further complicates Obama’s legacy on Israel

Since taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama’s relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been fraught with tension. Even within the framework of that tension, strong American military aid for Israel has been a constant during the Obama years. But during the last few weeks, that support has been called into question by the White House’s expression of opposition to additional funding for Israel’s highly touted missile defense systems. “It seems like this whole [defense funding] issue is being manipulated by both sides for political interests internally and externally,” Arik Puder, president of the New York City-based public relations firm Puder PR and a former senior media consultant for Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, told JNS.org. “A lot of it has to do with egos and tensions between the two leaders. It is no secret that the relationship between them isn’t the best.”

Posted on June 21, 2016 and filed under Israel, News, U.S..

Orlando and Tel Aviv shootings highlight American-Israeli dichotomy on guns

In a span of less than a week, deadly shooting sprees at the hands of gunmen affiliated with Islamic terror movements rocked Orlando and Tel Aviv. In America, the mass killing of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub has strengthened calls for stricter gun control laws. Yet in Israel, where many civilians carry firearms, questions on how the Tel Aviv terrorists acquired their weapons did not spark national debate. “Random gun violence is low here because people are more serious,” Avi Dobular, master shooting instructor at the Magnum 88 Range in Jerusalem, told JNS.org. “Israelis grow up in a gun culture. They see people carrying guns from a young age. They serve in the army, where they are taught discipline and responsibility.”

Posted on June 20, 2016 and filed under Israel, News, U.S..

The sentencing of a 94-year-old former Nazi: What good is a label?

A German court recently sentenced 94-year-old Reinhold Hanning, a former Nazi, to five years in prison for being an accessory to the murder of 170,000 Jews between January 1942 and June 1944, when he served as an SS guard at the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. Both of Nathan Moskowitz's parents survived Auschwitz during Hanning’s “service” and assisted prosecutor Thomas Walther with Hanning’s trial. In the aftermath of the Hanning sentencing, Moskowitz—the author of “Kuzmino Cronicles: Memoirs of Teenage Holocaust Survival”—reflects on the significance of labeling the evils of the past and the present.

Posted on June 20, 2016 and filed under Opinion, Holocaust, World.

At Israeli confab, searching for ‘silver-bullet solutions’ to Europe’s migrant crisis

The influx of migrants and refugees into Europe has presented that continent’s leaders and policymakers with some of their greatest current challenges. Those challenges “defy silver-bullet solutions,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken at the 2016 Herzliya Conference. During the June 14-16 conference in Jerusalem and Herzliya, the topic of migration reappeared in many of the dozens of speeches and panel discussions throughout the three-day Israeli event. The migrant crisis has been accompanied by an uptick in European nationalism and support for nationalist political parties, as well as amplified concerns about employment and Islamic terrorism. “[Europeans] fear the new cheap labor endangers their jobs. Others have fury because they have been searching for cheap housing for a long time. They think the politicians have no money for them—only for the refugees,” said Prof. Jurgen Ruttgers, former prime minister of the North Rhine-Westphalia state in Germany.

Posted on June 17, 2016 and filed under Israel, News, World.

Shared support for Israeli youth village fosters growing Jewish-Christian bonds

Dr. Tim Shepherd raised his son Adam, a pre-law student at the University of North Texas, to become a devoted supporter of Israel. The Shepherds not only support Israel from their vantage point as Christian Zionists, but they also prioritize connecting fellow Christians to the Jewish community in order to foster deep, lasting friendships. “We need to be best friends,” Tim Shepherd told JNS.org, detailing how he and his Jewish friends attend each other’s birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, weddings, and funerals. Tim and Adam Shepherd are both supporters of the Bnai Zion Foundation, a century-old Jewish organization that funds Israeli humanitarian projects. Last month, Adam was among the Christian honorees at Bnai Zion’s Texas Region Spring Reception in Dallas. The event—a night to honor Jewish and Christian donors who have helped raise money to support the Ahava Village for Children and Youth in northern Israel, a Bnai Zion beneficiary—embodied an interfaith community of generosity and special kinship.

Posted on June 16, 2016 and filed under Christian, Israel, Features, U.S..

Conflicted Jewish voters contemplate Clinton and Trump

The prospect of Democrat Hillary Clinton competing against Republican Donald Trump in November's presidential election is all but assured. Yet a recent poll conducted by NBC News via SurveyMonkey showed that roughly six out of 10 Americans dislike both candidates to some degree. Some Jewish voters do not have a specific partisan affiliation, and even for some of those who do register with a particular party, the choice between Clinton and Trump may not fall along those partisan lines. Will on-the-fence Jewish voters choose Clinton or Trump? Is not voting an option? JNS.org surveys the landscape of the “conflicted” Jewish electorate.

Posted on June 16, 2016 and filed under News, U.S..

Palestinian mom goes off script

Palestinian mom Suhair Halabi is proud of her son, Muhannad. She is so proud that she recently visited the site where Muhannad became famous. We know about her visit because she posted, on Facebook, a photo of herself at the site, flashing “V” for “Victory” signs with both hands. But Muhannad’s “accomplishment” was carrying out a deadly terrorist attack. If Mrs. Halabi were a little more sophisticated in the realm of public relations, she would have stuck to the script that her son was motivated by personal problems rather than ideology, and that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians just want peace. But she went off script. She was honest. She wanted the world to know how she really feels. Columnist Stephen M. Flatow asks: When will the world start paying attention?

Posted on June 16, 2016 and filed under Opinion, Israel.