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JNS.org offers opinion and commentary on a variety of news and lifestyle topics. Shillman Analyst for JNS.org Ben Cohen is a regular contributor. To select another topic, choose from the other content “categories” in our navigation bar.

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Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American activist in the anti-Israel BDS movement, helped raised more than $100,000 to repair the desecrated Chesed Shel Emet cemetery in St. Louis, earning plaudits from nearly every mainstream media outlet. But can the enemies of Israel be, at the same time, the friends of Jewish communities outside the Jewish state? Conversely, do friends of Israel get a pass when they play down or outright deny the presence of anti-Semites among their political allies? Why should Sarsour be acceptable to the Jewish community, but not Richard Spencer, the pudgy racist at the helm of the so-called National Policy Institute? Are we that easily taken in? JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen fears the answer is yes.

A Palestinian terrorist who murdered two Hebrew University of Jerusalem students has found a new ally, the far-left Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) group. How mainstream Jewish liberal groups respond to JVP’s hosting of Rasmea Odeh at its national conference in March will be telling, writes JNS.org columnist Stephen M. Flatow.

What if you got fired for observing Passover? “Not possible in 21st-century America,” you confidently reply. What if you sued, and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as well as the local Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) kept a studied silence during your entire legal fight? “Again, not possible,” you insist. Guess again. Because that’s exactly what happened to Susan Abeles. The ADL and JCRC can move quickly when they want to, even on major issues. But at least in this instance, they have refused to advocate for the rights of a Jewish victim of discrimination, writes columnist Joshua Sharf.

The morning after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's first official meeting with President Donald Trump, multiple headlines proclaimed Feb. 16 that the two-state solution was fast approaching death's door. JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen suggests that those who interpret the outcome of the Trump-Bibi meeting in that manner should dig a little deeper. There is something of a revolution in thinking going on, and what's being overturned is what you might call the "Palestine First" strategy of regional peacemaking. But that doesn't have to mean that a solution involving Palestinian sovereignty has been extinguished, writes Cohen.

David Friedman, President Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to Israel, has managed to anger Jewish Voice for Peace, J Street, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and the Union for Reform Judaism. It’s a safe bet that every Jewish leftist who ever cut a check to the New Israel Fund is enduring sleepless nights. The response to Friedman’s nomination is indicative of a growing chasm in the American Jewish community between liberal Jews who are incapable of separating their Jewishness from allegiance to the Democratic Party, and the growing number who are rejecting the party of former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry, write columnists Abraham H. Miller and Paul Miller.

Israel’s critics are all abuzz over the news that the U.S. ambassador-designate to Israel is connected to the financing of a handful of apartments in a Jewish settlement. Yet many of those same critics are fully aware of the fact that a previous U.S. ambassador apparently was directly involved in giving money to a settlement. Nobody ever said a word out loud about the previous ambassador’s action—either at the time, or since then. Columnist Stephen M. Flatow asks: Why the double standard?

The Jewish-run refugee aid agency HIAS is suing the Trump administration over its travel ban. But it’s time for HIAS—formerly the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, before it dropped the “Hebrew”—to rediscover its roots. If HIAS is concerned about rescuing the most victimized of people, it should begin with the Jews of Europe who are eager to escape the anti-Semitism of Islam and for whom there is no help in the West, since those Jews will not qualify for refugee status as the U.S. currently defines it. When that is done, HIAS is more than welcome to lecture the public about American and Jewish values, writes columnist Abraham H. Miller.

"For through cognition of the truth," wrote the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, "enmity and hatred are removed and the inflicting of harm by people on one another is abolished." While we might embrace some policies of the Trump administration, such as its tougher line on Iran and its warmth toward Israel, we shouldn't be under illusions about the worldview underlying it—namely, no longer distinguishing between democracies and tyrannies. In an anarchic world, casually tossing aside your most precious values in full view of those who already disdain them is a sign of weakness, not strength, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.

President Donald Trump recently stated that persecuted Christians in the Middle East would be given priority as refugees. If Iraqi Kurdistan were to aid in the rebuilding of the Assyrian national homeland, it would represent a goodwill gesture that would reverberate to Washington and send a powerful message that the genocide of Middle East Christians will not be tolerated. A new U.S.-backed alliance between Kurdistan, Assyria and Israel that enshrines Western principles of freedom and democracy would create an oasis of peace and prosperity in an area of the world that desperately needs it, writes columnist Bradley Martin.

To hear the news media tell it, Israel’s Knesset has approved extreme right-wing legislation that will steal Palestinian land by legalizing illegal outposts and thereby demolish the last hopes for Middle East peace. The truth, of course, is very different. The Israeli government has not authorized the establishment of a new Jewish community in Judea and Samaria since 1992. But the 1993 Oslo Accords did not resolve the status of empty land in the disputed territories. The outposts in question have not displaced any Palestinians and were set up on empty hilltops, writes JNS.org columnist Stephen M. Flatow.

To say the implementation of President Donald Trump’s travel ban was clumsy would be an understatement. To say, however, that the principles involved were totally without constitutional justification would be unwarranted. There is abundant legal precedent for both religious and nationality discrimination, because immigration is about absorbing people from other nations about whom we make judgments, writes columnist Abraham H. Miller.

The reason given for the U.S. refusal to rescue Jewish refugees during the Holocaust was to protect the country. The expressed fear was that the Germans could turn Jewish refugees into spies, by holding their families hostage back in Germany. Yet not one case of such espionage was ever documented. Holocaust historian Prof. Deborah Lipstadt concluded that the Jews were denied entry due to the State Department’s wartime paranoia and outright bigotry. Sound familiar? The State Department stated that the Jewish immigrants presented a national security risk. Sound familiar? These are the exact reasons why the U.S. has now decided to refuse entry of any of the 1 million Syrian refugees who have fled their country seeking safety from the devastating ravages of a civil war, and in effect, like the Jews, are now told to seek asylum elsewhere. Then and now, a flawed rationale has been used to turn refugees, writes columnist Albert L. Kramer, the former presiding judge of the Quincy District Court in Massachusetts.

Did you know that the transformation of Tu B’Shvat from an obscure Kabbalistic holiday to its current incarnation can trace its origins to a Christian-oriented, proto-environmentalist activity in 19th-century Nebraska? Hizky Shoham, a research fellow at the Jerusalem-based Shalom Hartman Institute, recounts the story behind a little-known quirk of timing and history surrounding the “Jewish Arbor Day,” which falls on Feb. 11 this year.

Like schoolchildren everywhere, Palestinian Arab children occasionally are assigned by their teachers to write poems. But the poetry they produce is not like that of children in the U.S. or elsewhere in the free world. Palestinian Media Watch reports that twice in the past month, a children’s program on official Palestinian Authority Television featured children reciting their poems. Among the most common terms they used: “blood,” “slaughter” and “revolution.” Palestinian society, sadly, is a place where children are raised to be murderers. There’s no point pretending otherwise, writes JNS.org columnist Stephen M. Flatow.

It might sound perverse to say it, but Iran's recent ballistic missile test was welcome in one important sense, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen. Away from the fervid rhetoric and intellectually insulting spin on all sides that has accompanied President Donald Trump's first steps into the world of governing, Iran represents a marked contrast when it comes to the clarity of the challenge it poses. By any standard, Iran's regime stands out as a clear and present threat to the Western world. And even as we agonize over what is to become of that world, we need to recognize that the primary goal is to save it. After years of denying the true nature of the Iranian threat, the American public is again in a position to understand its potency, writes Cohen.

Hours before leaving office, former President Barack Obama quietly released $221 million to the Palestinian Authority (PA), thereby encouraging Palestinian terrorism against Israel by actually funding it. Additionally, Obama’s State Department forced Iraqi Christian militias to join the Popular Mobilization Force militia, an Iranian proxy, in order to qualify for American support in their fight for survival against the Islamic State terror group. Through his final act of betrayal on PA funding, Obama solidified his legacy as having nothing but contempt for the state of Israel and for Mideast Christians who are victims of genocide, writes columnist Bradley Martin.

He came to Canada as a 16-year-old refugee from Somalia. He’s highly regarded across the Canadian political spectrum. He was just appointed as immigration minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In these polarized, fragmented times, Ahmed Hussen is exactly the kind of public figure we need when it comes to clarifying the wider debate about immigration and Islamism, human rights and national security. Hussen's record suggests that he recognizes the clear difference between practical support for the victims of extreme cruelty on the one hand, and sinking into nebulous cultural relativism or knuckle-headed bigotry on the other. Partisans of both left and right would do well to consider that, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.

Someday, perhaps, a team of sociologists and psychologists will examine the curious question of why Jewish ex-State Department officials are obsessed with Israel. Until that day comes, the rest of us will be stuck listening to those officials’ relentless harassment of Israel and promotion of the Palestinian cause. With the issue of moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on the front burner, the New York Times trotted out two former State Department hands—Aaron Miller and David Makovsky—to pour cold water on the embassy relocation idea. The irony is that pretty much any taxi driver in Tel Aviv understands the Israeli-Palestinian situation far better than the State Department alumni who now enjoy well-heeled positions at think tanks, writes columnist Stephen M. Flatow.

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.

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.