Latest News on Israel and the Jewish World

JNS.org freelance reporters and staff editors strive to provide high quality news coverage of the latest news from Israel and the Jewish world. In this section JNS.org offers analytical reports and commentaries on politics and international affairs, culture and lifestyle features, arts and sports content, and religious news. For the latest news on Israel, we also include exclusively syndicated content from Israel Hayom, a major daily newspaper in Israel. If you are interested in a specific topic, please browse through the content “categories” in our navigation bar or search our site.

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The Anti-Defamation League’s decision to count an Israeli-Jewish teenager’s alleged bomb hoaxes as “anti-Semitic incidents” is prompting criticism from some Jewish community officials. The ADL’s Aryeh Tuchman said the teenager’s purported actions were categorized as anti-Semitic because “when an incident has a major terrorizing effect on Jewish communities, we can’t ignore it.” Yet Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told JNS.org, “Now that it’s clear that this was a mentally unstable individual, I would not categorize these as anti-Semitic hate crimes.” Kenneth L. Marcus, president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center, said it “seems highly unlikely” that the threats “were motivated by anti-Semitic animus.”

An Israeli-German spat has provided a prominent platform for research that documents the European Union’s funding of BDS and terrorism. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled an April 25 meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, due to the latter’s insistence on meeting with nonprofit organizations that campaign against the IDF and alleged Israeli human rights violations. The Israeli-German disagreement comes after the April 20 publication of a report detailing European governments’ funding of Palestinian civic organizations with ties to terrorism. “In his actions, Prime Minister Netanyahu is seeking to put this irresponsible NGO funding by Europe on the agenda, and to trigger long-overdue changes,” said NGO Monitor President Gerald Steinberg.

Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon recently announced a series of tax reforms aimed at assisting the middle class, taking advantage of a surplus of tax revenue. While Kahlon’s “Net Plan” may provide relief for some Israelis having difficulty coping with the country’s high cost of living, the plan raises questions about whether the finance minister was motivated by scoring political points. Amid ongoing rumors of early elections in Israel, Kahlon may have sought to take maximum credit for the populist reforms without sharing spotlight with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “My impression is that this is perceived as a bold act on the part of Kahlon,” said Gilad Brand, a researcher at the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel. 

Jewish leaders inside and outside France expressed alarm after far-right populist Marine Le Pen’s strong showing in the first round of France’s presidential election Sunday. Le Pen, leader of the National Front party, has previously called on French Jews to give up wearing yarmulkes as part of her initiative to ban religious symbols in public and fight radical Islam in France. She has also stated that if elected, she would bar dual citizenship with non-European Union countries, distressing many French Jews who hold Israeli citizenship.

For Israelis, this year’s Yom HaShoah commemorations marked a balancing act between caring for the Holocaust survivors who remain alive and planning for the education of future generations. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke Sunday of the need to “ensure quality of life and respectable existence for the Holocaust survivors in their remaining years.” Israel’s Ghetto Fighters’ House museum, meanwhile, inaugurates a new Holocaust education program that “will look at the role of the Holocaust in the collective minds one generation to two generations from now,” said Dr. Arye Carmon, board chairman of the museum.

Despite warnings from Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau to avoid Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, a hardcore of resolute Israeli tourists proceeded with plans to head to scenic beach resorts during the recent Passover holiday. In response, Israeli authorities—disturbed by intelligence of concrete Islamic State plots to target tourists in the Sinai—took the unprecedented step of shutting the Taba border crossing, thereby preventing travel to Egypt by land. Israel reopened the Taba crossing Friday, but reiterated that “the threat to Israelis in Sinai is still severe.” How did the Sinai’s current instability come to be? JNS.org correspondent Yaakov Lappin recounts a history of unheeded warnings and the emergence of Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate.

At the 2017 Evangelical Press Association (EPA) convention, the quest for “inspiration, instruction and interaction” could not escape the specter of dissension and controversy that has haunted the evangelical Christian media since President Donald Trump’s election. Political discourse aside, the conference lived up to its intended purpose of fostering unity by enabling media professionals to build relationships with representatives from Israel and the Jewish community. “I would say the majority of those who are a part of the EPA really have a commitment and a strong feeling toward Israel, in terms of supporting Israel,” said Jill Daly, Midwest director for Israel’s Ministry of Tourism, which was an EPA conference sponsor.

Recent admissions by The New York Times and The Washington Post of errors in their coverage of Israel are rare exceptions to the “culture” of anti-Israel bias that permeates both newspapers, experts say. “If errors tend to consistently skew in one direction—and the anti-Israel skew of each of these major corrections is not a coincidence, but a trend—then newspapers need to look into a culture that seems especially indulgent with outlandish anti-Israel accusations,” said Gilead Ini, a senior research analyst for the CAMERA media watchdog group.

A day after convicted Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti wrote a New York Times op-ed that omitted his crimes and terrorist organization membership and sparked scathing rebuke from the international community, the newspaper added a brief editor’s note acknowledging the murder and terror-related convictions that led to his imprisonment.

Iran is scheduled to hold its next presidential election May 19, with incumbent President Hassan Rouhani seeking a second four-year term. Though he handily won the presidency in a landslide in 2013 and forged Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, Rouhani faces stiff challenges from several other candidates this time around as many Iranians have become dismayed with the country's slumping economy. 

When Mark Rosenblatt touched down at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv April 5 and powered on his cell phone, he got the surprise of his mobile technology life. Rosenblatt received a text message from his cell phone carrier, Verizon, reading, “Welcome to Palestine.” Attempting to explain the situation, Verizon spokesman Scott Charlston told JNS.org that Ben Gurion Airport “is close to the Israeli border [with the West Bank] and there are cell sites and wireless signals from different providers on both sides. In general, customers living in or visiting border areas occasionally receive a wireless signal from a cross-border provider.” Experts dismissed Verizon’s response on the grounds that no state of “Palestine” exists under international law.

While U.S.-Israel military ties have long been known for intelligence-sharing and jointly developed missile defense technology, veterans affairs could be a major new frontier in that relationship. Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan recently met with Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, in a first-of-its-kind meeting between American and Israeli policy officials responsible for the care of injured and released soldiers. “The level of anticipated cooperation brings what has long been a productive relationship [on military affairs], in terms of the purchasing of technology and sharing of information, to a whole new level,” Idit Druyan, an adviser to Ben-Dahan, told JNS.org.

Wanana Abrams, a 28-year-old Israeli of Ethiopian origin, calls herself “just one of countless examples—along with thousands of other religious and ethnic minorities—of why the term ‘apartheid’ does not apply to the liberal democratic Jewish state.” Fittingly, then, Abrams was one of two representatives from Israel’s Interdisciplinary Center research university to travel to the South African city of Cape Town in March for the purpose of countering attempts to promote anti-Zionist activists’ “apartheid” smear about Israel. “I traveled to South Africa to tell my story, and to show the world the true face of my home country,” Abrams told JNS.org.

While the international community hangs on to visions of a two-state solution, Israeli public opinion is unified in asserting that the establishment of a Palestinian state is unrealistic and undesirable. Only 12 percent of Jewish Israelis believe a West Bank withdrawal would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a survey published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs at the end of March. The survey also found that 79 percent of Jewish Israelis believe it is important to retain a unified Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. “The Palestinian insistence on having their capital in Jerusalem is the true obstacle to peace,” Prof. Efraim Inbar of Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies told JNS.org.

President Donald Trump’s missile strike against Syria inaugurates a new chapter in the long and controversial history of American responses—and sometimes non-responses—to mass murder around the world. Historian Rafael Medoff recounts the U.S. approach to episodes including Islamic State, Libya, Darfur, Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, the Holocaust and Armenia.

Israeli leaders welcomed President Donald Trump’s surprise military action late Thursday to strike the airbase where Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was believed to have launched a chemical attack resulting in the deaths of at least 86 Syrians, including 27 children. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel “fully supports” Trump’s decision and the message it sends. Israel said it had been notified ahead of the U.S. strike, with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman calling the advance notice “further proof of the strength of the relationship and depth of the connection between Israel and its largest ally, the United States.”

Despite owing part of its existence to the United Nations, Israel has experienced decades of bias from an institution whose stated mission includes trying to ensure international goodwill and world peace. Yet the nascent Trump administration, under the leadership of Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, is trying to chart a new course for the world body’s culture on Israel. The Israeli government claims it is already witnessing Haley’s positive influence in the international arena. “Ambassador Haley and the Trump administration have changed the rules of the game at the U.N., and the results have reverberated throughout the organization,” Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon told JNS.org.

Anti-Israel activists gathered Sunday inside the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago to hear a discussion featuring convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmeah Odeh. Unbeknownst to Odeh and the attendees of the Jewish Voice for Peace conference, while she was receiving a standing ovation, a memorial service for her victims was in progress just a few floors above.

Just a single day had passed since Gary Koren, Israel’s new ambassador to Russia, presented his credentials to President Vladimir Putin before the Israeli diplomat was called in by the Russian government for a “clarification” meeting. The unusual diplomatic event occurred after the Israeli Air Force struck a target deep in northern Syria—likely a target involving weapons destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Such is the high-stakes game of chess being played between Israel, Russia and Syria. “This is a diplomatic battle, and Israel is not compromising,” Zvi Magen, the former Israeli ambassador to Russia, told JNS.org. “Under the table, it is possible that messages are being exchanged about where each side’s red lines are. Russia is trying to be the central mediator, working with the Iranians, with the Israelis and with other regional powers.”

Israel’s David’s Sling anti-missile system became operational Sunday, marking the completion of the Jewish state’s multilayered air defense arsenal. David’s Sling joins the Iron Dome and Arrow systems, with all three missile interceptors jointly developed and funded by the U.S. and Israel. The missile defense trio’s middle tier comes online amid heightened tensions on Israel’s multiple fronts, including its northern borders with Lebanon and Syria as well as southern borders with Gaza and the Egyptian Sinai.