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.
As reports of the savage terrorist attack in central London March 22 emerged, it was clear that British authorities were dealing with an incident straight from the Islamist terror manual. Such terror, of course, is nothing new. In the Middle East, Hezbollah and Hamas have been in the Islamist terror business since the 1980s. But somehow, these two bloodstained organizations are never regarded by the West in quite the same way as Islamic State. Amid Hamas’s attempt to convince the world of its newfound political moderation, JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen writes that the Palestinian group’s makeover attempt is likely to dissolve without a trace, yet the security threat it poses remains intact.
Israel critic Peter Beinart has announced that when his children “near adulthood, I’ll encourage them to visit the West Bank.” Why? “So they can see for themselves what it means to hold millions of people…without free movement or due process,” he wrote in his column for The Forward. The Beinart children are in for quite a surprise. In his various articles and media appearances, Papa Beinart regularly accuses Israel of occupying and oppressing the Palestinians. But when the young Beinarts arrive in Judea and Samaria, they will discover that dear old dad wasn’t telling them the whole story, writes columnist Stephen M. Flatow.
When columnists J.J. Goldberg and Jonathan Tobin first planned a post-election debate tour, their focus was on discussing divergent views of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Goldberg, a liberal Zionist, thinks the conflict is ready to be solved by just a little more effort. Tobin, a conservative, thinks the Palestinians show no signs of being willing to give up their war on the legitimacy of any Jewish state. What they’ve discovered while journeying throughout North America is that the 2016 U.S. election worsened the divisions within the Jewish community and American society. Yet they’ve encountered audiences hungry for something different than the usual invective served up on cable news networks. Jews and Americans need to relearn how to listen to each other, writes Tobin.
Who did the most damage to Israel’s security during the “knife intifada” that began in the fall of 2015? About 40 Israelis were murdered in the wave of stabbing, car-ramming and shooting attacks, yet the most successful terrorist did not kill any of them. The terrorist who inflicted the most damage did so while lying passively on the ground, and has far less name recognition than the soldier who shot him, writes the Israel Democracy Institute’s Prof. Yedidia Stern.
A cornerstone of Jewish community relations work is building bridges to other religious and ethnic communities. The principle behind these efforts is sound. But as the Jews who have made Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour into a heroine of the “resistance” against President Donald Trump have shown, interfaith dialogue is not an end unto itself. If the end result is to legitimize those who work to undermine the rights of the Jews, then we are witnessing a self-destructive act, writes JNS.org Opinion Editor Jonathan Tobin.
JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen recently heard a leading Israeli security expert opine that Jerusalem’s strategic interest lies in maintaining Turkey as a counterweight to Iran, despite the torrid experience of dealing with the country’s dictatorial leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, during the last decade. That should not mean, however, that Turkey can be regarded as a reliable friend of Israel or the West. What starts with Erdoğan’s April 16 national referendum—which, if passed, would massively concentrate political power in the president’s office—won’t end with it, writes Cohen.
Diplomats never pretend to be experts on acting, yet for some reason actors constantly present themselves as experts on international affairs. Hollywood award ceremonies are now dominated by awardees delivering pretentious political diatribes. The latest presumed fount of wisdom is Richard Gere, who visited Israel last week to promote a film in which he plays a character modeled on the American Jewish businessman from whom Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accepted large bribes. When you’re “impossibly good-looking,” you can get away with pro-Palestinian hypocrisy, writes columnist Stephen M. Flatow.
The surprising success of Israel’s World Baseball Classic team, which is made up of American Jews, has nothing to do with American immigration to Israel. Some of the team’s members are not even considered Jewish under stringent standards of Jewish law, meaning many religious and political institutions in Israel would not accept them. Instead, this team tells the story of America at its best: a patriotic nation, but not one that requires its citizens to pledge exclusive loyalty to the state or to any god. As an added bonus, due to Team Israel’s achievements on the global stage, the world finally knows that Jews are good at baseball, writes columnist Ronen Dorfan.
At a time when much of American Jewry is opposed to President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, it was probably inevitable that a growing number of synagogues would declare themselves “sanctuaries” where “undocumented” immigrants can find both shelter and help in evading the authorities. These institutions and their supporters say their decision is grounded in justice, history and even Jewish liturgy. Yet the real motivation for the growth in support for this idea is a desire to join the “resistance” against Trump rather than a serious belief that religious institutions have the right to designate their buildings as a place where the law may not be enforced, writes JNS Opinion Editor Jonathan S. Tobin.
The prospect of all-out conflict between the U.S. and North Korea has loomed large over the last fortnight, as a consequence of the latest round of provocations from Pyongyang. It’s always a competition between the world’s rogue states as to which one poses the greatest threat to global peace and order at any given moment. How America deals now with an angry, nuclear-enabled North Korean regime, and whether the U.S. can avoid a perilous confrontation with it, will be decisive when it comes to facing similar flashes of belligerence from Iran or Syria, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
For the past 15 years, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has been promoting the so-called “Saudi Initiative,” a plan which he says proves that Saudi Arabia sincerely wants peace with Israel. But this week, a senior Palestinian leader revealed that at the very moment the Saudis were launching that plan, they were financing a major wave of terrorism against Israel. It’s time for Friedman to publicly admit he was wrong and apologize for the harm he caused to Israel, writes JNS.org columnist Stephen M. Flatow.
French President François Hollande is disturbed that President Donald Trump criticized a U.S. ally, describing the terrorism that has plagued France in recent years as the product of an open border policy. Yet it is Hollande who should self-reflect on his own criticism of the French ally of Israel, writes Zionist Organization of America President Morton A. Klein.
The reason the mainstream media and many Democrats are now shouting about anti-Semitism—while they often downplay it when it comes from far left, Islamic or Palestinian sources—is that they believe it can now be blamed on President Donald Trump. Attempting to pin anti-Semitism on one politician or party, especially the one that has become a lockstep supporter of Israel, will do nothing to deal with the most potent threats to Jewry, writes JNS.org Opinion Editor Jonathan S. Tobin.
An extremist Arab Knesset member who endorses violence and has been condemned by the Likud and Labor parties alike was cheered at the recent J Street national conference. For an organization that supposedly promotes peaceful coexistence, they sure have some strange bedfellows, writes JNS.org columnist Stephen M. Flatow.
The United Nations wasn’t featured as a topic in President Donald Trump’s address to Congress Feb. 28, but his new U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, has made clear her distaste for the world body’s systemic bias against Israel. In that vein, the Trump administration is reconsidering its participation in the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC). If confronting blatant discrimination against Israel is to be a marker of the Trump administration’s approach to the U.N., then it’s important to realize that the battle is much wider than simply the UNHRC. The deeper rot that needs to be addressed set in more than 40 years ago with the “Zionism with racism” U.N. resolution of 1975, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
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.