When it comes to Iran’s latest Holocaust cartoon contest, JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen confesses to being more bored than shocked. Such imagery is hardly new, as the contest submissions’ depictions of Jews come straight out of Nazi propaganda. The Islamists who run Iran may be many things, but creators of pathbreaking art they are definitely not. As fashionable as it is in President Barack Obama’s circle to pretend that the Iranian regime is in the throes of dramatic change, with a surging “moderate” wing that wants to engage the West, the cartoon contest demonstrates that the mullahs’ cannot kick their enduring pathology: striking a blow at the global Jewish conspiracy by wiping Israel off the map. Even if we accept for the sake of argument that the regime can be simply bifurcated into “moderates” and “hardliners,” those Iranian leaders identified in the West as “moderates” come out of this latest cartoon scandal looking far shabbier than their “hardline” rivals, writes Cohen.
As support for Israel erodes in many Western countries, especially among liberals and the millennial generation, American-Christian backing for the Jewish state is considered one of the bulwarks against such trends. But not all Christians feel warmly about Israel. During the past several years, a number of leading mainline Protestant churches have considered resolutions supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In May, at the United Methodist Church’s (UMC) general conference, UMC committees rejected four resolutions that called for divestment from companies doing business in Israel. While the UMC’s rejection of BDS and a similar rejection by the Episcopal Church in 2015 mark positive developments for pro-Israel advocates, there remains a broader challenge to win over more support from other mainline Protestant churches. Presbyterian Church USA and the United Church of Christ voted to divest from companies doing business in Israel in 2014 and 2015, respectively. “I think the average Presbyterian in the pews has little understanding of the vote to divest from Caterpillar, HP, or Motorola. In general, Presbyterians are driven by concern for social justice, and the plight of Palestinians certainly appeals to them,” said Michael Gizzi, a professor of criminal justice at Illinois State University who serves as a ruling elder in Presbyterian Church USA.
France is convening an international summit on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but excluding Israeli and Palestinian leaders from the meeting. Egypt is seeking to host a trilateral peace summit with Israel and the Palestinians, following comments by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi that he would like to broker peace between rival Palestinian factions as a precursor to renewed Israeli-Palestinian talks. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prefers the Egyptian track. But which proposed peace initiative is actually in Israel's best interests—France's, Egypt's, both, or neither? JNS.org asks an Israeli Knesset member, a former George W. Bush administration national security official, a former Mideast advisor to multiple U.S. secretaries of state, Israel’s former ambassador to Egypt, and the leader of the umbrella body for 50 American-Jewish organizations.
Slowly and determinedly in 1947, Shmuel Matza carved the following into the wall of Jerusalem's Kishle prison: the emblem of the Irgun paramilitary organization; the Hebrew phrases for “only thus,” which suggested that the Jewish people would use force to achieve freedom in their land, and “long live the Hebrew state;” and his name. A few days later, the British transferred Matza to the Latrun detention camp, from which he was released in April 1948, just ahead of the Israeli War of Independence. Matza went to law school, married, and had children and grandchildren, quietly closing the previous chapter of his life. Yet that chapter was unexpectedly reopened more than 50 years later, when archaeologists discovered Matza’s carvings—still bold, confident, and defiant—on an interior wall of the Kishle. Archaeologists began excavating around the area of the Kishle after Israel’s 1967 Six-Day War, during which the Jewish state reunified Jerusalem following 19 years of Jordanian control in the city’s eastern portion. The capital’s reunification is celebrated by Israelis each year on “Yom Yerushalayim” (Jerusalem Day), which falls on June 5 this year. “I am now 89 years old and I am still excited about the State of Israel,” Matza tells JNS.org.
There are numerous ways that Jewish advocacy groups advise students to counter anti-Israel activity on college campuses, ranging from holding demonstrations to simply ignoring the threats. Promoting a positive connection to Israel is instrumental in countering anti-Zionism, according to The Jewish Agency for Israel, which together with Hillel International created the Israel Fellows program—a network of 75 Israeli young professionals serving as “ambassadors” at more than 100 North American university campuses. The fellows—who come from Ethiopian, Middle Eastern, Indian, European, and central Asian backgrounds—work to demystify Israel for those who have little knowledge about the country. They seek to organize events in which students from different cultures can discover shared values, fostering a climate of mutual respect. While anti-Israel groups “try to separate people,” Israel Fellows “try to bring people together,” said Shachar Levi, an Israel Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel might be garnering the most headlines when it comes to college campuses and the business world, but the Israeli government is taking the battle against BDS to the United Nations. On May 31, Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon is hosting an international conference that seeks to equip and empower more than 1,500 attendees—students, diplomats, academics, legal professionals, and others—to become “ambassadors against BDS.” Israel's Permanent Mission to the U.N. has decided that it “cannot ignore BDS anymore,” Danon told JNS.org. “I believe [the conference] will empower the students and the activists…to fight and win. I think we can win against BDS, but we have to fight back,” he said.
Ever wonder why it is that Congress passes so many strongly pro-Israel bills, yet they never seem to be implemented? For example, a bill was passed to move the Embassy of the United States in Israel to Jerusalem—but the embassy was never moved. Legislation was passed to restrict U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA)—but it was never restricted. Now a bill has been passed to permit families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia—but in fact, it will actually block such lawsuits. What all three of these laws have in common is a deceptive little tactic called a “national security waiver,” explains columnist Stephen M. Flatow.
The cultural differences between Israel and America are substantial, reminding "Aliyah Annotated" columnist Eliana Rudee of a major reason why she moved to Israel 10 months ago. In the U.S., the interpersonal norm is "polite and insincere." In Israel, it's "impolite yet sincere." Yet Rudee writes that she wouldn’t characterize Israelis as "rude" as much as sincere and to the point, just as she wouldn’t characterize Americans as "insincere" as much as polite and friendly. There is a kernel of truth in both the Israeli and American perspectives, she writes.
One-hundred years ago this month, British colonel Sir Tatton Benvenuto Mark Sykes and French diplomat François Marie Denis Georges-Picot divided the Middle East loosely and arbitrarily between Great Britain and France. Following that division, which became known as the Sykes-Picot Agreement, a series of further treaties and conferences resulted in power battles, internal uprisings, coups, and revolts. A century later, the chaotic Middle East is still experiencing the aftershocks of the 1916 Sykes-Picot pact. “Sykes-Picot is the poster agreement for the poisonous legacy of European imperialism in the Middle East,” Richard Drake, a professor of history at the University of Montana, told JNS.org. “My conclusion on Sykes-Picot is that it really is the source of many of the ongoing evils in the Middle East.” James A. Paul—author of the 1991 book “Syria Unmasked”—said, “The drawing and redrawing of borders is not the way to go.”
After enduring an angry mob of 50 anti-Israel activists, Jews at University of California, Irvine were thankful for the protection they received from police, but were left wondering why they were escorted away from the scene while the anti-Israel protesters were allowed to remain there. “They can protest whatever they want, I understand that. But don’t we have the same rights? Don’t the Jewish students have freedom of speech?” said Israeli veteran Eran Izak, who answered the audience's questions about the Israel Defense Forces at the event that drew the protest, a May 18 screening of the film “Beneath the Helmet.”
In an interview earlier this month with The Forward, Dalit Baum, a leading Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement activist, boasted about an increased focus on corporate social responsibility—the idea that companies and investors ought to make decisions based on ethical principles beyond legal requirements and business interests. In reality, however, Baum and anti-Israel BDS campaigners are attempting to manipulate the concept of corporate social responsibility to advance their highly discriminatory anti-Zionist ideology. Baum masks her single-minded agenda against Israel through loose language such as “universal human rights,” which, as seen through her actions, are far from universal, writes NGO Monitor researcher Robin Joshowitz.
Dr. Sara Bedoya was raised in a small Cuban town. She was a member of the town’s only Jewish family. Though she knew of her faith and heritage, she was raised without access to a Jewish education or resources. When her mother passed away 12 years ago from cancer and her family moved to the city of Camaguey, where there are more Jews, she decided to honor her mother by learning more about her religion. Soon, Bedoya began to observe Shabbat and take part in community events. Three years ago, she was elected president of the Camaguey Jewish community. Last week, she and nine other Cuban-Jewish women visited Israel for their first time on a trip sponsored by the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project and Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs. “I have so much love for this country. It was so perfect,” Bedoya told JNS.org regarding Israel on the final day of her nine-day trip.
Earlier this month, Ben Rhodes, a national security official in the Obama administration, admitted in a New York Times profile that he used non-governmental groups to create an “echo chamber” to garner cover for the nuclear deal with Iran. Rhodes stated that his efforts to manipulate media coverage of the deal were made easier by the youth and ignorance of journalists who cover foreign policy. But Journalists are not the only people who were implicated as a result of Rhodes’s stunning admission. Christian churches and para-church organizations were an important part of the echo chamber that Rhodes created. By behaving in such a manner, these institutions did harm to the civil society in which they operate and to their own reputations, writes Dexter Van Zile, a Christian media analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).
Since the end of the latest Israel-Hamas war in 2014, both Israel and the international community have taken steps to rebuild Gaza in order to ease the humanitarian situation there and prevent another conflict. But chaos in the rest of the Middle East has put the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the back burner of regional priorities. An April 2016 World Bank report revealed that leading Muslim nations have failed to live up to their pledged donations to Gaza. At a 2014 conference in Cairo, the international community pledged roughly $3.5 billion for Gaza, but so far only $1.4 billion has been delivered compared to the scheduled $2.7 billion. Qatar, which promised $1 billion, has donated $152 million. Saudi Arabia has delivered 10 percent of its promise of $500 million, and the United Arab Emirates has sent 15 percent of its $200 million pledge. By contrast, the U.S. has sent all of its pledged $277 million and in May announced a new $50 million aid package for Gaza. Arab states’ support for the Palestinians “has often been generous but unpredictable,” said Ghaith al-Omari, a senior fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former Palestinian Authority official.
Nobody has given Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump an incentive to disavow, explicitly and unreservedly, the semi-literate Klan-like rabble that is riding his coattails. That incentive can, realistically, only be provided by Trump’s Jewish supporters, since he never listens to his adversaries. If these Jews are going to give him legitimacy, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen, then their voices need to be heard on the following developments that have further marred Trump’s appeal to Jewish voters: anti-Semitic harassment of Jewish critics, “as a Jew” apologetics, and the rise of the “alternative right.”