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Three to five years from now, the twin absences of the Hamas military threat and President Barack Obama’s bungling diplomacy may propel genuinely meaningful Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. In large part, that will depend on who is in the White House. For now, though, Israel’s first priority is its national security, and that is how it should be, writes JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen.
Israel has been taking its licks in the international arena since it launched Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza on July 8. But criticism of the Jewish state was actually worse during its last battle with Hamas in 2012 and the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, experts say. Israel appears to have learned from past hasbara (public diplomacy) mistakes and has improved the way it delivers its message to the media and the public, both in the United States and internationally.
Hamas discourages Palestinian civilians from heeding Israeli warnings to leave areas that the Israel Defense Forces will strike. According to the New York Times, if Hamas doesn’t quite force those civilians to stay, it isn’t technically using “human shields.” But actually, utilizing the presence of a civilian or other protected person to render certain points, areas, or military forces immune from military operations constitutes a war crime—whether or not civilians are forced to stay, writes attorney Debra Feuer.
#JewsAndArabsRefuseToBeEnemies. To some, it’s just a hashtag. To others, it’s a way of life. When Israeli Abraham Gutman and Syrian Dania Darwish, students at Hunter College in New York, recently posted a photo of themselves holding signs with the above hashtag on Facebook, they didn’t know it would create a worldwide sensation. “We know a hashtag won’t solve this long conflict, but we wanted to be part of the solution and not part of the problem,” Gutman said. Since the hashtag campaign started, dozens of others have posted similar photos to demonstrate that people of different backgrounds, religions, and countries can be friends, lovers, and even spouses.
It has been six years since the economy crashed in 2008, and while finding employment has been a challenge, the tide may be taking a turn for the better—particularly in the non-profit sector. But where do Jewish non-profits fall within the current landscape, from the perspective of both job-seekers and employers?
Founded in New York City in 1914, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has taken a leading role in providing relief to Jews and non-Jews alike in regions devastated by war, environmental disasters, famine, and political repression. Amid the celebration of its centennial, the organization’s work is embodied by four words—“I Live: Send Help.” That is the title of JDC’s ongoing exhibit at the New York Historical Society, which runs through Sept. 21. The display’s interactive elements and artifacts such as letters, pictures, radio recordings, and newsreel footage demonstrate the complexity of the humanitarian organization’s work, and transport visitors back in time.
Amid the current unrest in Israel and Gaza, Jews around the world have been targeted for attack. Meanwhile, in the U.S. right now, school is out and students are safe. But there is little doubt that when the academic year commences, Jewish students on American college and university campuses will be targeted for harassment, intimidation, bullying, and worse, solely because of their actual or perceived identification with the Jewish state, writes Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz and co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative non-profit.
The oil-rich Gulf state of Qatar’s influence has been widely felt during the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. While traditionally closely aligned with Iran, Hamas has pivoted to Sunni powers like Qatar and Turkey in recent years for economic and political support. Keen to expand its regional and international influence, Qatar’s ties to the Palestinian terrorist group have drawn increasing criticism from Israel, the United States, and even fellow Arab states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who accuse Qatar of undermining regional stability by supporting Hamas.
Late on Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lifted its ban on flights by U.S. carriers in and out of Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) had accused the Obama administration of an “economic boycott on Israel” through politically motivating the FAA ban, which came just as Secretary of State Kerry traveled to the Middle East to try to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
Before a July 20 deadline, negotiators taking part in the P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran agreed to extend the deadline for another four months after what the parties described as tangible successes. But the extension ignited a fresh round of skepticism about the prospects for the negotiations. “It’s kind of naive to think they’ll have an agreement, when the sustained way in which Iran is going about building its nuclear program hasn’t changed at all,” Michael Adler, public policy scholar with the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, told JNS.org.
With the conflict in Israel in their hearts and on their minds, thousands of evangelical Christians converged on Washington, DC, from July 21-22 to flex their collective muscles for the Jewish state as part of the annual Christians United for Israel (CUFI) summit. “Our joy is consistently interrupted by news from Israel. But it is good to be together with loved ones at a sad time. I see the energy more than ever, that we have to speak out and be a voice for Israel,” David Brog, executive director of CUFI, told JNS.org.
A new Pew Research Center poll showing Republicans as more sympathetic to Israel than Democrats has left Jewish Democratic leaders searching for an explanation of the partisan gap. In the survey—conducted from July 8-14, the week Israel began its air operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip but before its ground invasion—73 percent of Republican respondents said they sympathize with Israel in the conflict, compared to 44 percent of Democrats.
Since taking over as president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) after Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004, Mahmoud Abbas—whose PA term actually expired in 2009—has been continually touted by world leaders as someone Israel can rely on to make peace. But the third Israel-Gaza war since Hamas’s takeover of the coastal enclave from Abbas’s PA in 2007 has proven that Hamas—despite its political isolation, financial troubles, and conflicts with the Israeli military—is still the preeminent voice of the Palestinians, rather than Abbas.
At the turn of the century, a young Jewish immigrant arrived in New York. So begins the history of many American Jewish families. It is Albert Allaham's story, too, with a few unusual twists. He arrived in the U.S. almost 100 years after the massive waves of European Jewish immigration. Rather than coming from some small town along the Danube, Albert's shtetl was Damascus. His first American business was not a pushcart on the Lower East Side, but rather a family-run butcher shop in Brooklyn. “Allaham” means “butcher” in Arabic, making it an appropriate name for a family with more than 200 years of experience in the meat business. Now, Albert is making his mark in the world of fine kosher dining at Reserve Cut, the elegant restaurant he opened in lower Manhattan in 2013.
Hours after the IDF began a ground operation in Gaza, U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) spoke on the Senate floor to express their support of Israel and its operation, while denouncing the Palestinian Authority’s unity government and the moral equivalency drawn by those critical of Israel’s actions. “[The Israelis have] done everything they could to de-escalate this, but Hamas is a terrorist organization who has fired thousands of rockets and they could care less where they land. Eventually you have to do this. You can only do so much from the air, you’ve got to go take ground back from the enemy,” Graham told JNS.org.
Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the NBA superstar who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. Coming off guiding Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv franchise to its 6th Euroleague basketball title, Blatt landed the Cavaliers job in June, before James’s recent announcement that he would leave the Miami Heat for Cleveland. “The lessons of Judaism are life lessons to begin with,” Blatt tells JNS.org. “Without question, the values, the morals, and the ethics that I’ve taken from my Jewish upbringing have greatly influenced me in every walk of my life.”
With Israel and Hamas mired in their latest conflict, United States officials have been mulling their limited options to broker a cease-fire, finding that America has few dependable friends in the region and less credibility to help it play its traditional role as peace broker. Most experts believe that the U.S. no longer possesses the influence and trust in the Middle East it once did, largely due to the recently failed peace talks it sponsored between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, inaction in Syria, and the recent turmoil in Iraq.
Facing a constant barrage of rockets from Hamas terrorists in Gaza, Israel’s economy is proving just as dependable during the current crisis as the much-acclaimed Iron Dome missile defense system, helped in part by capital investments made internationally through the work of organizations like Israel Bonds. Long a financial boon for the Jewish state’s economy, Israel Bonds is increasingly seen by both individuals and institutions as a sound investment, not just a charitable gift.
Readers of Hillary Clinton’s new memoir, “Hard Choices,” will leave with the same impression with which they entered. Despite Clinton’s much-reported distancing of herself from the Obama administration, her attitude and policy remain nearly indistinguishable from those of the current president. Those hoping for a change in U.S. foreign policy toward Israel may be disappointed to discover that “Hard Choices” offers the same choices, writes Dmitriy Shapiro.