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Over the course of more than three decades working for Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Meir Shlomo has represented the Jewish state in India, Denmark, Peru, El Salvador, and Boston. But this globetrotting diplomat says he never saw “such a level of grassroots support” for Israel like what he has witnessed in the Southwest United States. Shlomo, the Consul General of Israel to the Southwest U.S., ends his Houston-based assignment in mid-May and will return home to assume a post as the Israeli foreign ministry’s second-ranking diplomat dealing with North American affairs. His previous role was Head of Mission at the Israeli Consulate in New England. “It’s really almost overwhelming,” Shlomo tells JNS.org, describing support for Israel in the Southwest. He says that the support comes not just from Israel’s usual advocates such as Jews and Evangelical Christians, but also from “the regular Americans” in that region.
University of California, Riverside (UCR) is offering a class cited by 20 watchdog and advocacy organizations as meeting the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism. The UCR Spring 2015 listing of student-initiated courses includes a class called “Palestinian Voices” whose syllabus reveals a different title: “Palestine & Israel: Settler-Colonialism and Apartheid.” The 20 organizations wrote in a letter to UCR Chancellor Kim Wilcox, “The course schedule is filled with egregiously one-sided, anti-Israel readings and films that falsely paint Israel as a settler-colonial and apartheid state, hold Israel to a double standard to which no other democratic country is held, vilify and demonize Israel and Israel’s supporters, and argue for an end to the Jewish state.”
If the anti-Israel thought police on college campuses ran a real police force, the pro-Israel students and academics they didn’t manage to arrest would be driven underground. Consider the case of Andrew Pessin, a philosophy professor at Connecticut College who has been the target of a persecution campaign spearheaded by one of his own students. The Pessin saga shows that it is no longer controversial on campus to portray an affiliation with Zionism and Israel as a thought crime. With this disturbing groupthink in place, pretty much anything that is ideologically unsound can be deemed offensive or hateful, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
When Jewish coach David Blatt was hired by the National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Cavaliers last June, he was not often recognized when he walked the streets of downtown Cleveland. What a difference a year makes. Now, Blatt can go few places without being recognized. For good reason. After early-season struggles, the former Israeli basketball coach has the Cavaliers in the mix to win the city of Cleveland’s first championship in a major sport since 1964. “Everything here is bigger,” Blatt said. “In Israel... I can tell you that scrutiny is great and seemingly everyone in the country knows and follows Maccabi [Tel Aviv]. You don’t see that in most other countries in Europe. But here, just the mere volume of media, whether it be TV or radio or Internet or whatever, the volume is just so great. It’s everywhere, it’s almost overwhelming.”
Two months after the student government at UCLA raised concerns over the Jewish background of Rachel Beyda, a candidate for the school’s student judicial board, an eerily similar incident has emerged at Stanford University, where student senate candidate Molly Horwitz’s Jewish background was called into question by the Students of Color Coalition (SOCC) during an endorsement session for elections. An SOCC member asked Horwitz, “Given your strong Jewish identity, how would you vote on divestment?” Horwitz later said, “I am running for the Stanford Undergraduate Senate in order to help foster an inclusive and welcoming environment at Stanford. I am upset that SOCC, a group which purports to encourage such an inclusive environment, instead engaged in anti-Semitism.”
In the aftermath of the recently reached framework understanding on Iran’s nuclear program, the agreement’s fate on American soil could rest in the hands of just a few U.S. senators. The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which on Tuesday was unanimously passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, would require the Obama administration to submit a final nuclear deal to Congress for review. President Barack Obama previously vowed to veto the bill, but may now approve a modified version. If Obama does exercise his veto power, a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and House of Representatives would be needed to override the president. “[Without Congressional review of a deal], we could face the possibility that the U.N. Security Council... gets to vote on the Iran agreement, but not elected officials from our 50 states. Understandably, that might not go over well at all with the American people,” said American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris.
“I want to be a part of something greater than myself,” says 24-year-old Ron Nahshon, who is preparing to move to Israel this summer with his wife Sara. Nahshon was among the more than 1,200 people who attended the Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN) aliyah agency’s mega event in New York City last month. He says the event—during which the Nahshons visited the booth for Haifa (where they will be living), spoke with shipping companies, and learned how Sara will be able to transfer her nursing license from the U.S. to Israel—turned his vision of aliyah into a reality. Overall, some 2,000 people participated in NBN aliyah events across North America from March 8-15, a 10-percent increase over last year and a 300-percent increase over the past five years. Marc Rosenberg, director of pre-aliyah for NBN, says aliyah is “trending.”
As expected, the Obama administration is having a hard time selling the American public on the feeble understanding—it’s not a “deal,” since nothing was signed—that was recently reached with Iran over its nuclear program. Much of the media commentary lauding Obama’s efforts with Tehran has avoided the actual details of the framework agreement, focusing instead on sanitizing the nature of the totalitarian Iranian regime while demonizing Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
It has been tough sledding for Jewish defenders of the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran. Their effort to sell the deal to American Jews has run smack into a growing right-to-left consensus among Israelis that the deal is a disaster. Among the prominent voices on the Jewish left to oppose the Iran deal are Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog, former prime minister Ehud Barak, Haaretz editor Aluf Benn, Israeli author Ari Shavit, and former Union for Reform Judaism president Rabbi Eric Yoffie.
Leave it to columnist Thomas Friedman to shill shamelessly for President Barack Obama. In a lengthy interview about the Iran nuclear framework, Friedman gives us new insight into the banality of mediocrity—Obama’s as statesman and his as journalist. Seldom before have we seen such a coupling try to spin diplomatic surrender into victory. Unchallenged, Obama reveals his personal hurt about being labeled anti-Israel by segments of the American Jewish community. Once again, Obama reminds Friedman’s readers that he stands behind Israel. But the ever-sycophantic Friedman was incapable of raising the issue that an Iranian nuclear power laboring under the regime of sanctions is better than an Iranian nuclear power that Obama transforms into a regional economic power by lifting sanctions, writes Abraham H. Miller, an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati and a senior fellow with the Haym Salomon Center.
The Iranian nuclear program was never about the civilian use of nuclear energy. It was, and remains, geared towards the production of a nuclear weapon—hence all the lies and deceit practiced by the Iranian regime over more than a decade. The nuclear talks between Iran and world powers have reinforced the perception that the Obama administration will concede on almost anything in order to secure a deal. Obama’s successor, then, will need to contend with the outcome of years of futile and fruitless negotiations, the net result of which has been to leave the international community with less leverage over Iran than ever before. And Obama will have left the Middle East far more insecure than the condition he found it in, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
“We cannot simply pretend that those comments were never made,” White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough recently said regarding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's apparent disavowal of a two-state solution before the Israeli election, comments Netanyahu later clarified as his support for a demilitarized Palestinian state under certain conditions. The remarkable thing about McDonough’s “we cannot pretend” statement is that the Obama administration frequently does indeed pretend that a foreign leader didn’t say something—when a Palestinian leader is the one who said it, writes attorney Stephen M. Flatow, whose daughter Alisa was killed in a Palestinian terror attack in 1995.
A first-of-its-kind conference organized by StandWithUs—entitled “Combating the Boycott Movement Against Israel: Understanding the BDS Movement’s Strategies and Tactics”—was unique in the sense that it enabled pro-Israel experts and advocates from around the U.S. and Israel to put their heads together, compare notes, share their experiences, and discuss the best strategies to fight the BDS scourge, writes conference attendee J.J. Surbeck, executive director of San Diego T.E.A.M. (Training and Education About the Middle East).
“Each man kills the thing he loves,” wrote Oscar Wilde. And President Barack Obama bears him out. Obama’s zeal to create a Palestinian state, and his elevation of that quest to the most important goal of American policy in the Middle East, has been profoundly disquieting for Israel. Not only do Israelis perceive Obama as placing undue pressure and censure upon Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but they also perceive him as an appeaser of the Iranian mullahs and of the Assad regime in Syria. Should the phrase “two-state solution” become a permanent metaphor for a failed policy, Obama’s contribution on that score will have been decisive. But he will choose to blame Israel and Netanyahu instead, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
“The difficult we do immediately, the impossible takes a little longer.” When Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, spoke those words, he could very well have been referring to the scientific breakthroughs that were destined to emerge from the school that would bear his name. What Ben-Gurion may not have envisioned is the emergence of an annual rite in which American journalists see those discoveries for themselves. After 10 years, the Murray Fromson AABGU (American Associates, Ben-Gurion University) Media Mission has brought nearly 100 reporters and editors from across the Atlantic for an up-close look at the cutting-edge research taking place at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. “We want [the journalists] to see that, although it’s so new, only 45 years old, this university was the realization of Ben-Gurion’s vision of a world-class research center in the heart of the desert,” said Ronni Strongin, the AABGU vice president who kickstarted the media trip.
Former secretary of state James Baker, a prominent figure in president George H. W. Bush’s administration and a critic of the Israeli government’s policies, is under fire from conservatives and pro-Israel activists for his decision to speak at the annual conference of the left-wing J Street lobby. But should the pro-Israel community’s concern extend to former Florida governor and presumed presidential candidate Jeb Bush, for whom Baker serves as a foreign policy adviser? “Baker is not a key adviser to Jeb Bush; he has about a dozen policy advisers, all of whom are strong supporters of Israel. ... Jeb disagrees with [Baker] on the U.S.-Israel relationship and the way forward in the Middle East,” said Fred Zeidman, a Houston businessman and Republican fundraiser who is close with the Bush family.
In “Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest,” the classic board game, players imagine empires and vie for world domination. After a defeat, a player must retreat. Bret Stephens’s new book, “America in Retreat, The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder,” reveals a real-life Risk board. In a vacuum of American leadership, modern nations compete for influence and resources, too often at the expense of Free World ideals. Stephens examines America’s present-day hand in a crumbling world order. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist—formerly editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post, currently deputy editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal, and a popular columnist among Jewish and pro-Israel readers—makes a compelling case that the U.S. not in decline, and that a strategy of retreat is both unnecessary and a terrible risk.
Until the Obama administration decided to shift its support away from Israel because of a rather torturous interpretation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign rhetoric, it seemed absurd that a major policy decision against an ally would ever turn on the hyperbole of a political campaign. But President Barack Obama's conflict with Netanyahu is not about Netanyahu—it is about the U.S. administration grabbing a fig leaf to justify a move toward the Palestinians, writes Abraham H. Miller, an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati and a senior fellow with the Haym Salomon Center.
On Monday, nearly 500 college students attending the annual J Street conference in America’s capital gathered outside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for a two-block march to the headquarters of Hillel International to express disappointment that the Jewish campus umbrella’s CEO and president, Eric Fingerhut, cancelled his appearance at the conference. Fingerhut had pulled out of the gathering after learning that chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who has compared Israel to the Islamic State terror group and defended Hamas, was also speaking at the conference.
When the champion of the U.S.-Israel alliance sounds the alarm, something about the steadfast allies’ relationship is more contentious than usual. Last week, the staunchly bipartisan American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)—which does not frequently issue public statements, let alone criticize a sitting American president—urged the Obama administration to “recommit to improving” U.S.-Israel ties. Tension between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama is nothing new, but seems to have escalated to an even higher level. JNS.org reviews five current sources of bitterness in the leaders’ relationship: Iran, the two-state solution, the U.N., Israeli Arabs, and alleged U.S. funding of anti-Netanyahu campaign efforts.