Syrian opposition figures share their vision with Israelis, deflect Arab protesters

“You are living in a paradise in comparison to the Syrian people. Shame on you. We are being killed,” said Issam Zeitoun, who lives in the Syrian portion of the Golan Heights, in response to Arab-Israeli students who accused him of being a traitor because he was speaking in Israel. Zeitoun was one of two Syrian opposition figures who addressed Israelis Jan. 17 at Hebrew University's Truman Institute. The event featured Sirwan Kajjo, a Syrian-Kurdish author from the city of Qamishily, and Zeitoun, who lives minutes from the border with Israel in the village of Bet Jan. Asked about his views on Israel's best course of action in the bloody Syrian arena, Kajjo said the Jewish state should “make more friends in Syria,” calling that approach “the right thing to do in this chaotic environment.”

Posted on January 20, 2017 and filed under Israel, News.

Confronting the politicization of the Holocaust

About a month after JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen wrote about a group of British animal rights activists who employed Nazi imagery in a campaign against a kosher slaughterhouse, there have been three more significant episodes involving the Holocaust and the Nazi era, leading Cohen to believe he underestimated the scale of the problem. If the Holocaust is now primarily a political instrument, rather than a central historical memory with a direct bearing upon both politics and ethics, we can expect further manipulation of the past to serve the imperatives of the present. From the "Hitler" chatter on social media all the way up to the new guardians of Holocaust memory, the politicization of the Holocaust is a distinct challenge facing the current Jewish generation, Cohen writes.

Posted on January 19, 2017 and filed under Opinion, Holocaust, World.

‘Hostile’ Israeli media quick to indict Netanyahu in corruption probes, experts say

Two separate investigations into the conduct of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have dominated headlines in the Israeli media during the past several weeks. While Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has yet to announce whether any indictments are forthcoming and many details of the cases remain unknown, many Israeli journalists and members of the political opposition are piecing together initial details to reach what experts are warning could be prematurely negative conclusions on the prime minister’s conduct. Dr. Jonathan Spyer, director of the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs at Israel’s Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya university, said it should come as no surprise that many journalists are “hostile” to Netanyahu. “For those that think this is an obituary for Netanyahu, that obituary has been written many times,” said Mitchell Barak, an Israeli pollster and public opinion expert.

Posted on January 19, 2017 and filed under Israel, News.

10 ‘humiliating’ minutes at an Israeli checkpoint

Hearing complaints about Israeli checkpoints that supposedly restrict the movement of Arabs in Judea and Samaria, filmmaker Ami Horowitz of Fox News decided to see for himself. He hired a Palestinian driver and experienced what it’s like for Palestinians crossing at the checkpoints that separate Israel from Palestinian Authority-controlled areas for the purpose of preventing weapons smuggling. Horowitz asked three different Palestinians at the Kalandia checkpoint how long it takes them to get through on a typical day, and all three said, “10 minutes.” Therein lies the trade-off when it comes to Israeli checkpoints, writes JNS.org columnist Stephen M. Flatow: a 10-minute delay for Palestinians versus hundreds of possible terror attacks against Israel each year.

Posted on January 18, 2017 and filed under Israel, Opinion.

Trump Cabinet brings mix of assurances and mysteries on pro-Israel credentials

After raising some pro-Israel concerns early in his campaign by saying that he would remain “neutral” in navigating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, President Donald Trump has increasingly taken positions that mirror the Israeli government’s views, including his vows to dismantle the Iran nuclear deal and move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But upon his Jan. 20 inauguration, Trump’s emerging Cabinet contains a mix of assurances and mysteries when it comes to the officers’ pro-Israel credentials. JNS.org examines the Israel-relevant records of six Trump Cabinet nominees and one appointee with Cabinet-level status.

Posted on January 18, 2017 and filed under Israel, News, U.S..

Why the Palestinian question won’t disappear

While the change of presidential administration in Washington may strengthen Israel's diplomatic position for the immediate period, and while the Palestinians will have to get to the back of the line in terms of international priorities, the Palestinian question itself will not disappear. We can assume that if President-elect Donald Trump does a 180-degree turn on President Barack Obama's approach to the Israelis, the narrative of the Palestinians—ignored by America, facing 50 years of "occupation" under Israel—will become emblematic of public resistance to the foreign policies of the Trump administration, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.

Posted on January 13, 2017 and filed under Israel, Opinion, U.S., World.

Terror victims applaud Tillerson’s criticism of Palestinian leaders, urge concrete steps

American victims of Palestinian terrorism are applauding Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson’s criticism of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and are urging him to press the PA to take specific anti-terror steps. During his Senate confirmation hearing, Tillerson said that while the PA has renounced terrorism, "it's one thing to renounce it and another thing to take serious actions to prevent it." He also said Palestinian leaders have to do "something to at least interrupt or prevent [terrorism]" before there can be "any productive discussion around settlements.” Sarri Singer, who was seriously wounded in a June 2003 Jerusalem bus bombing, said she is “encouraged” by Tillerson’s comments and urged Tillerson to press the PA to honor the 36 requests Israel has submitted for the extradition of Palestinian terrorists. Arnold Roth, whose teenage daughter Malka was killed in the 2001 Sbarro pizzeria bombing in Jerusalem, said he hopes the incoming Donald Trump administration will “actively pressure” the PA to reform its educational system.

Posted on January 13, 2017 and filed under Israel, News, U.S..

10 things you should know about Israel’s tourism sector

Some 2.9 million people visited Israel last year, a 3.6-percent rise over 2015. Earlier this week, Israel’s Ministry of Tourism released a report summarizing international travel to Israel in 2016, with the largest influx of visitors coming in the last quarter of the year. Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin attributed the increased travel to the government’s significant investment in targeted marketing initiatives and outreach to “new markets.” JNS.org presents 10 noteworthy facts contained in Israel’s tourism report.

Posted on January 13, 2017 and filed under Features, Israel, World.

Can Israel move toward the ‘one-state solution’ in the Trump era?

In the aftermath of the Obama administration’s refusal to veto the U.N. resolution against Israel's settlement policy, Israeli political figures are increasingly mulling the idea of annexing the West Bank and implementing a “one-state solution” during the incoming Donald Trump era. “The U.N. resolution destroyed any residual chance there might have been to achieve peace with the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization),” said Caroline Glick, an influential Israeli-American columnist and author of the book “The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East.” Eli Hazan—director of communications and international relations for Israel’s ruling Likud party—said that despite how Trump’s victory is “raising hopes and expectations on the right regarding government policy in Judea and Samaria,” he believes “the status quo will continue despite all the talk.”

Posted on January 12, 2017 and filed under Israel, News, U.S..

In Beit Shemesh, American-Israeli baseball fans will get their field of dreams

On an unseasonably warm Friday, the tune of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” drew more than a hundred baseball fans to an empty lot in Beit Shemesh, a small town nestled in the hills outside Jerusalem. In a country where Little League Baseball is unheard of and Cracker Jack snacks are nonexistent, this was no typical weekend in the Jewish state. Jan. 6 marked the groundbreaking for the new Beit Shemesh Baseball Complex, which will be Israel’s fourth major baseball field. The excitement was palpable for an event attended by 10 current and former American-Jewish Major League Baseball players who will represent Team Israel at the March 2017 World Baseball Classic. Many in the crowd recently immigrated to Israel. Jewish National Fund (JNF) spreads awareness for the sport in Israel through its Project Baseball initiative, a relevant endeavor for American immigrants. “This initiative gives children who have made aliyah a taste of home and an opportunity to get close to their Israeli peers,” said Eric Michaelson, JNF’s chief Israel officer.

Posted on January 12, 2017 and filed under Features, Israel, Sports, U.S..

What will Trump mean for US ties with Israel’s peaceful Arab neighbors?

The incoming Donald Trump presidency likely means a sharp break from President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. For Egypt and Jordan, the only two Arab countries that have peace treaties with Israel and two of the most reliable U.S. allies in the Middle East, the Trump administration will provide new opportunities and challenges going forward on issues such as Islamic extremism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the status of Jerusalem. JNS.org interviews Mideast experts about prospects for the region's future dynamics during the Trump era, including how American policy might affect relations between Israel and Arab states.

Posted on January 11, 2017 and filed under Israel, News, U.S., World.

Fatah and Hamas agree on something

Fatah, the largest faction of the PLO, is chaired by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and is often perceived in the West as “moderate.” Hamas is the Islamic fundamentalist Palestinian terror group that rules Gaza. The two factions don’t always get along, but they’ve found at least one thing they agree on. Jan. 5 was the 21st anniversary of the death of infamous Hamas bomb-maker Yahya Ayyash. Hamas honored Ayyash with a photo essay on its website, complete with images of the bodies of some of his hundreds of Israeli and American victims. But the “moderate” Fatah admires Ayyash just as much as the “extremist” Hamas, celebrating Ayyash’s atrocities with a glowing feature about him on its website. This really tells us all we need to know about the Palestinian cause, writes columnist Stephen M. Flatow.

Posted on January 11, 2017 and filed under Israel, Opinion.

Liberal Jews treat Rabbi Hier’s Trump inauguration blessing as a curse

Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center will be giving a benediction at Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration ceremony Jan. 20. Liberal Jews are petitioning Hier to decline the honor. In how many nation-states outside of Israel would a rabbi be asked to give the benediction at the swearing-in of a national leader? Perhaps if Jewish liberals began with this question, they might understand the sheer obscenity of what they are demanding. Fortunately, Hier understands the historical and political significance of the honor bestowed not just upon him, but also upon Judaism as a religion, writes columnist Abraham H. Miller.

Posted on January 10, 2017 and filed under Opinion, U.S..

Birthright fosters optimism following harrowing UN Security Council vote

Two days into her first Taglit-Birthright Israel trip, during which she led a group of 40 Americans around Israel, columnist Eliana Rudee heard the news of the Obama administration’s unprecedented refusal to veto a U.N. resolution condemning Israel's settlement policies. In the most meaningful moment of the trip, the group of Americans stood with Israeli soldiers atop the Masada fortress as they recalled the ancient story of their ancestors choosing self-agency—even if it meant taking their own lives. Despite Israel's U.N. setback, Rudee writes that the change she witnessed in the Birthright participants during their 10-day journey kept her optimistic.

Posted on January 10, 2017 and filed under Israel, Opinion.

10 failed State Department plans for Mideast peace

A former State Department official’s new plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace is the latest in a long series of Foggy Bottom proposals for a Mideast solution that went nowhere. Writing on the op-ed page of The New York Times Jan. 5, former Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk argued that dividing control of Jerusalem between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is the key to “moving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward.” JNS.org's Rafael Medoff recounts 10 major State Department proposals for Israeli-Arab peace.

Posted on January 9, 2017 and filed under Israel, News, U.S..