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In the midst of a perfect storm of major Jewish and Israel news stories this week, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked—a 39-year-old rising star in Israeli politics—had no shortage of talking points for both a speaking engagement in Boston and an interview with JNS.org. The topic that was freshest in everyone’s mind Thursday was clearly the Palestinian terrorist attack in Samaria, in which the armed wing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party murdered Israelis Eitam and Na’ama Henkin in a drive-by shooting in front of the couple’s four children. “I think this [attack] is the result of Mahmoud Abbas’s incitement, like what we saw yesterday at the [U.N.] General Assembly,” Shaked told JNS.org. “His speech was full of lies and anti-Semitic statements. It was really sad that he got so much applause in the U.N.”
In the fourth shooting at a U.S. college campus since August, 10 people were killed Oct. 1 when a 26-year-old gunman opened fire in a classroom at Umpqua Community College in southern Oregon. Many would be surprised to learn that part of the solution to the American school shooting epidemic might be found in Israel. School shooters present a challenge to both forensic psychiatry and law enforcement agencies. But new research by Prof. Yair Neuman, a member of the Homeland Security Institute at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), is showing promise. Together with James L. Knoll, a forensic psychiatrist at State University of New York, Neuman says he has developed a personality profiling technique that automates the identification of potential school shooters by analyzing personality traits that appear in their writings.
The heartbreaking murder of Rabbi Eitam Henkin and his wife Naama, gunned down by Palestinian terrorists in front of their children, will generate tear-filled eulogies and anguished recitations of tehillim (Psalms) throughout the Jewish world. As they should. But then what? Columnist Stephen M. Flatow, whose daughter Alisa died in a 1995 Palestinian terrorist attack, suggests some concrete steps Americans can take to respond.
Shot three times by the Nazis in Poland, Bernard Fleischer was down for the count. But just as he was about to be finished off, the German soldier’s gun froze. Assuming he’d die anyway, the soldier left Bernard in a barn. Bernard survived and later joined the Jewish resistance movement. Decades later, his son and grandson are perpetuating his Holocaust legacy in the boxing ring. On Saturday, Sept. 26, junior welterweight Dustin “The White Tiger” Fleischer (4-0, 4 KO) defeated Ira Frank (1-1, 1 KO) with a first-round knockout in Beach Haven, N.J.—with his father, Phil Fleischer, as his lead cornerman for the first time. Dustin says it is his grandfather’s message that gives him strength. Specifically, he wants to be the answer to the trivia question, “Who is the first world champion boxer to be the grandchild of a Holocaust survivor?”
These are Israeli folk songs as you’ve never heard them before. And that’s exactly the point: Los Angeles-based cantor Elisa Waltzman’s debut album seeks to bridge a gap between traditional Hebrew music sung by her grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, and the musical sensibilities of her kids growing up in the United States. Set to a jazz ensemble, it combines verses remembered by children of the Holocaust with a modern sound familiar to Jews in the English-speaking world. But besides spanning generations, “Reinvented: Hebrew Songs for Families” is a family affair.
People do all sorts of things with their leisure time. Some people read mystery novels or watch PBS. Others go to car shows or art museums. Some go to the gym or take their dogs on long walks. Others attend science fiction conventions wearing the costumes of their favorite fictional characters. There’s even a group of retired baby-boomers who travel across the country (and sometimes to Israel) to hear stories of Jews behaving badly. That’s what about 100 Christians, most of them in their late 50s and 60s, did for three days last week at the United Methodist Church in Lexington, Mass., writes Christian media analyst Dexter Van Zile of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.
During the past few days, Arabs in Jerusalem stoned a Jew to death in the Armon HaNetziv neighborhood, wounded three Israeli policemen in the Jabel Mukaber neighborhood, and hurled rocks and firebombs at policemen on the Temple Mount. How did the Obama administration respond? By condemning “all sides.” After Jews fall victim to Palestinian terrorism, White House policymakers want the public to quickly turn the page. And the implications are serious, writes columnist Stephen M. Flatow.
In the weeks since the Obama administration announced the perilous international nuclear deal with Iran, growing attention has been paid to the network of organizations and foundations that have been actively lobbying to normalize relations between the U.S. and the Islamist regime in Tehran. Rightly, that network is being referred to as the “Iran lobby.” The welcome and much-needed scrutiny of its workings and contacts provides a salutary lesson in how to identify enemies who present themselves as friends, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
Azerbaijan Ambassador to the U.S. Elin Suleymanov recently visited Israel representing a Muslim-majority country that sits on the border of Georgia and Russia to the north, Iran to the south, and Armenia to the southwest and west, with a small part bordering Turkey to the northwest. In an interview over dinner with JNS.org, Suleymanov revealed the complexities of Azerbaijan's calculus on the Iran nuclear deal. The ambassador welcomed certain aspects of the agreement, including "the lowering of tensions" between Iran and America, but would have liked to see the Obama administration consult Azerbaijan about negotiations pertaining to the latter's own neighborhood.
The Obama administration announced Sept. 8 that it is putting Mohammed Deif and three other Palestinian terrorists on its “designated terrorists” list. That’s basically a slap on the wrist—for someone who should be subjected to U.S. prosecution, not U.S. name-calling. Deif masterminded bombings in which hundreds of Israelis, as well as a number of Americans, were murdered. Instead of putting him on an American list, the Obama administration should be working to put him in an American prison, writes columnist Stephen M. Flatow, whose daughter was murdered in a Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.
On Sept. 17, the Regents of the 10-school University of California (UC) system will discuss a statement of principles against intolerance. Alarmed by a rash of anti-Semitic incidents on UC campuses, Jewish scholars and activists have urged the Regents to adopt the U.S. State Department’s working definition of anti-Semitism as a step to deal with this grave problem. What the UC Regents are being challenged to do is recognize that anti-Zionism is too often a crude form of bigotry that focuses upon Jews and their aspirations in general. Doubtless, there are many opportunities to use the State Department definition—not just on the UC campuses, but out there in a big wide world where Iran is now leading an openly anti-Semitic campaign against Israel’s existence, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
Activism. Not re-activism. Education. Preparation. These are just a few of the mantras a new pro-Israel organization uses to encourage participation. Fast-growing Students Supporting Israel (SSI) was founded in 2012 at the University of Minnesota. Today, it has 43 chapters across four countries. Last month, SSI held its first-ever national conference. The group’s founder, Ilan Sinelnikov, believes that student-led grassroots efforts are more effective on college campuses than the campus arms of larger Jewish non-profit organizations. “The problems on college campuses must be solved from the inside,” Sinelnikov says. “If we want to change the situation on college campuses, we must be united on our campuses, and the efforts must come from pro-Israel student activists. We are the agents of change; no one else can do it.”
With President Barack Obama securing the 41 Senate votes he needed to prevent a Congressional resolution disapproving of the Iran nuclear deal, the political calculus for the deal’s opponents has been altered. Now, those who have strongly campaigned against the agreement face a choice: continue their vociferous opposition, or call for the strictest possible implementation of the deal. Though the deal is “a disaster that basically is unverifiable and leaves in place the nuclear infrastructure that the president had vowed to eliminate,” it should now be a top priority to “very carefully and closely monitor Iran’s actions to ensure that it lives up to the terms of the agreement,” said Mitchell Bard, head of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise.
During the weekend between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a Methodist church in Lexington, Mass., will host a gathering of well-known anti-Israel commentators including Ilan Pappé, Noam Chomsky, and Stephen Walt. The event is organized by an Arlington, Mass.-based group called the Society for Biblical Studies, which cynically declares that it has invited speakers “representing a range of perspectives” to present at the conference. In fact, the invited speakers all have a history of promoting a hostile interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict that portrays Israel in a singularly harsh light, writes Dexter Van Zile, Christian media analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.
Among the latest batch of Hillary Clinton emails released by the State Department, a close adviser to the former secretary of state claims that the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are shaped by his private agony over his father’s “constant criticism” of him. But between 1996 and 2010, historian Rafael Medoff interviewed Prof. Benzion Netanyahu on numerous occasions—and it was clear that the elder Netanyahu was no critic of his son, Medoff writes.
A deep and permanent rift between Democrats and Israel is inevitable because the Israeli government “has more in common with Dick Cheney than Golda Meir”—or so says J Street leader Jeremy Ben-Ami, in a front-page story in the New York Times of Aug. 29. J Street’s characterization both misrepresents current Israeli leaders and does a grave disservice to the memory of Israel’s first female prime minister, writes Benyamin Korn, chairman of the Philadelphia Religious Zionists.
Seventeen Republican presidential candidates are vying for the support of evangelical Christian voters from the swing states of Ohio and Florida, to the cornfields of Iowa, to the small towns of the Deep South. Within the varied spectrum of 2016 election issues such as the economy, immigration, and health care, do evangelicals highly prioritize candidates’ positions on Israel and the Middle East? “Yes,” say major evangelical leaders in America. “Israel should be top-of-mind when evaluating GOP presidential candidates,” Republican candidate Mike Huckabee told JNS.org.
Two very different ways to respond to terrorism were on display this week. On a train headed to Paris, unarmed American civilians risked their lives to subdue a Muslim terrorist who attempted to machine-gun train passengers. In New York City, the Obama administration successfully intervened in court on behalf of Palestinian terrorists who are trying to avoid paying compensation to their victims. The juxtaposition of these two incidents reminds us of the choice that faces America and the entire civilized world today: the choice between fighting terrorists and appeasing them. Stephen M. Flatow, who undertook the first federal lawsuit against Iran for sponsoring the Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995 in which his daughter Alisa was murdered, has bitter personal experience with U.S. government efforts to interfere in attempts by terror victims to gain restitution.
Decades ago, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein cracked the seemingly cryptic code on relations between Jews and evangelical Christians, arriving at a groundbreaking distinction between “witnessing” and “proselytizing.” Today, Eckstein’s International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has a base of 1.5 million individual Christian donors for whom “witnessing” means blessing the Jewish people and Israel. In 2014, The Fellowship raised $136 million for global Jewish needs such as aliyah, poverty, and security. Amid the release of “The Bridge Builder,” a new biography of Eckstein, the rabbi is mulling what might be his next “Mission: Impossible”—thwarting the widespread persecution of Middle East Christians, most notably at the hands of the merciless Islamic State terror group. Eckstein looks back and ahead on his life’s work in an interview with JNS.org.
As the 10-campus University of California system considers the adoption of the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism, there are critics who seek to discredit the entire definition with three fictions presented as fact. Groups like Palestine Legal and Jewish Voice for Peace have launched an all-out campaign that falsely claims first, that the definition conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, second, that the definition has been discredited, and third, that its adoption is inimical to free speech, writes R. Amy Elman, the Weber Professor of Social Science at Kalamazoo College in Michigan.