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Teens love texting. Cell phones don’t jive with Shabbat. The new "Shabbos App" app seeks to address this uniquely Jewish case of "unstoppable force meets immovable object." The app says it addresses challenges of Jewish law related to texting such as muktzah (the device has no use on Shabbat), mavir (turning the screen on and off may be considered making a fire), and koteiv (writing), among others. But Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews alike say the app is unlikely to catch on, in part because it goes against the "spirit" of Shabbat.
After nearly a year of protests, the Obama administration has finally agreed to permit a rug connected to the Armenian genocide to be publicly displayed. While many believe the gesture marks the end of the long ordeal of the Armenian Orphan Rug, November's showcasing of the rug for six days in an exhibit about gifts to the White House is no victory. On the contrary, it is a defeat for everyone who cares about historical truth and everyone who seeks to learn the lessons of the past so that they will not be repeated, writes historian Rafael Medoff.
A clash between anti-boycott activists and a group of Jewish studies professors, which has recently become the subject of much debate in the American Jewish community, is actually just the latest of many boycott-related controversies that have divided U.S. Jewry over the years, writes historian Rafael Medoff.
JNS.org editor Jacob Kamaras reflects on his family's dedication of a Torah scroll for the United States military on Oct. 12. The new Torah—donated for the 50th yahrzeit of Jacob's grandfather of the same name, who was a U.S. Army veteran—represents the transformation of a legacy from absence to presence, Kamaras writes.
In a wide-ranging interview with Israel Hayom, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon gives his thoughts on the summer war with Hamas, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and U.S.-Israel relations. “We have a lot of shared interests with the U.S., and that outweighs the disputes,” he says. “Certainly there are shared values on which the two countries are founded. The disputes stem from differences in attitudes and worldviews. Their perspective from there is different than our perspective from here. Disputes are allowed.”
When circulated in both houses of the U.S. Congress, letters articulating the pro-Israel narrative on issues such as the Iranian nuclear threat and Hamas terrorism garner broad bipartisan support. Yet that support isn’t unanimous. How are federal legislators from your state weighing in on foreign policy issues prioritized by the Jewish community? JNS.org provides a picture through an analysis of three recent legislative letters.
Ex-presidents seldom take an interest in Jewish affairs, with two notable exceptions: Jimmy Carter, who has repeatedly clashed with the Jewish community, and Herbert Hoover, an unlikely ally of the Jews who passed away 50 years ago this week. As ex-president, Hoover took positions that were favorable to Jewish interests—even when it was not in his political interest to do so, writes historian Rafael Medoff.
What’s the cure for the recent ills of the United States Secret Service? American officials might consider taking some advice from their Israeli counterparts at the Shin Bet security agency. Former Israeli security and intelligence officials note that the Shin Bet, which also protects top dignitaries, has virtually the same tactics and training procedures as its American equivalent—without experiencing the same hiccups, at least in recent years. In 1995, the Shin Bet did experience its own crisis following the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
After initially raising concern on the issue this summer, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is continuing to press the Nike footwear and apparel giant to remedy its promotion of a pre-World Cup animated video whose content has what critics call anti-Semitic overtones. ZOA is asking Nike to publicly apologize for the video, remove it from the public domain, and take other steps that would fall in line with how the company addressed a past episode that offended the Muslim community.
The Obama administration’s reluctance to support pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong revives a familiar clash between human rights and diplomatic relations—a conflict that has repeatedly bedeviled past U.S. administrations, including during the Nazi era, writes Rafael Medoff, director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.
As nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 powers approach a Nov. 24 deadline for a final deal, more than 80 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives signed an Oct. 1 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing concern over Iran’s “refusal to fully cooperate” with inquiries from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N.-affiliated nuclear watchdog.
Following a meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Oct. 1, Netanyahu rejected American criticism of an Israeli construction plan in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamatos. “I think [the Obama administration] should be acquainted with the facts first,” Netanyahu said. “You know? First of all, these are not settlements. These are neighborhoods of Jerusalem. We have Arab neighborhoods and we have Jewish neighborhoods.”
In a historic victory for American victims of terrorist attacks in Israel, a jury in a U.S. federal court recently found the Jordan-based Arab Bank liable for knowingly funding Hamas-affiliated individuals and organizations during the Second Intifada. But more tellingly, the case, which asserted violations by the Arab Bank of the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act, could affect policies by banks worldwide. Terrorists and their funders are now “on notice that the U.S. judicial system will protect the right of the American victims to seek recovery, hold those [terrorists] fully accountable, and gain justice through our American courts,” one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Richard Heideman, told JNS.org.
As world leaders converged on New York City for the 69th United Nations General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to remind them that the threats Israel faces today could be their own problems tomorrow. “Israel is fighting a fanaticism today that your countries might be facing tomorrow,” said Netanyahu, who described all Muslim extremists—from Islamic State to Nigeria’s Boko Haram to Hamas to Iran—as branches of the same “poisonous tree.”
As the Republican party pushes to retake the majority of the U.S. Senate in the upcoming November midterm elections, which would give it control of both houses of Congress, a partisan shift in power may significantly affect a broad range of foreign policy and domestic social issues that are prioritized by American Jews.
Who are we at war with in the Middle East? Do we look sideways at Iran’s nuclear program for the sake of a successful campaign against Islamic State? Do we continue ignoring Qatari and Turkish backing for Hamas for the same reason? There is a real prospect that Iran will weaponize its nuclear program, thereby inaugurating an era of danger that will make the current one look like a picnic. Should that happen, the war against Islamic State will seem like a footnote in a broader story of western defeat in the Middle East, rather than the opening gambit of a strategy to confront and defeat the enemies of freedom across the region, writes JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen.
In the wake of the recent historic verdict by a federal court in Brooklyn that found Jordanian Arab Bank Plc liable for knowingly providing financial services to Hamas, it’s important to remember that the decision can be more than just a message to financial institutions doing business with terrorists. The ruling in favor of 297 plaintiffs affected by 24 different Hamas attacks should also be a reminder of the human impact of terrorism, writes Dr. Zieva Dauber Konvisser, author of the new book “Living Beyond Terrorism: Israeli Stories of Hope and Healing.”
After a contentious debate lasting several years on the presence of anti-Israel texts in the public schools of Newton, Mass., a Boston suburb, an independent third party has issued a comprehensive 152-page report to try to bring some clarity to the situation. The Verity Educate non-profit's new report addresses more than 300 specific points of inaccuracy and inconsistency in the Newton school district’s Mideast curricula. But the school district did not respond to Verity Educate's three attempts to discuss the report before its release. “It actually was an anomaly,” Verity Educate Executive Director Ellen R. Wald told JNS.org regarding the Newton district's non-response. “In other instances, we’ve not only received responses, but have found that school districts were very interested in what we had to say and have responded not just cordially, but in many instances positively.”
A recent in-depth report of think tank financing in the U.S. has raised eyebrows in the pro-Israel community as well as questions about how much influence sponsors of think tanks have over those institutions’ research. The New York Times reported that the Brookings Institution think tank received a $14.8 million donation last year from the government of Qatar—a major sponsor of the Hamas terrorist organization. The Hamas-backing nation's gift to Brookings has spurred allegations of a conflict of interest because earlier this year, the think tank’s vice president and director of research, Martin Indyk, served as America’s special envoy to the Middle East and directed the failed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
The war against Islamic State is a war against the philosophy of jihad. As with any war involving multiple parties fighting on the same side, an overarching political vision is nearly impossible to achieve. During the Second World War, the U.S. and Britain had few illusions about the Soviet Union, even as they allied with it. Similar cynicism is warranted now when it comes to Turkey—specifically regarding its contradiction of membership in a democratic alliance like NATO and support for jihadist organizations like Hamas, writes JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen.