JNS.org offers the latest Jewish news and commentary from around the world. To select another topic, choose from the other content “categories” in our navigation bar.
A bitter debate has raged over the character of Sebastian Gorka, a deputy adviser to President Donald Trump. There is very little evidence justifying the accusation that Gorka is anti-Semitic. Yet when it comes to Gorka’s involvement with Vitezi Rend, an ultranationalist organization founded by Miklos Horthy, the Trump adviser’s defenders should not downplay the former Hungarian dictator’s murderous and anti-Semitic record, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
An Israeli-German spat has provided a prominent platform for research that documents the European Union’s funding of BDS and terrorism. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled an April 25 meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, due to the latter’s insistence on meeting with nonprofit organizations that campaign against the IDF and alleged Israeli human rights violations. The Israeli-German disagreement comes after the April 20 publication of a report detailing European governments’ funding of Palestinian civic organizations with ties to terrorism. “In his actions, Prime Minister Netanyahu is seeking to put this irresponsible NGO funding by Europe on the agenda, and to trigger long-overdue changes,” said NGO Monitor President Gerald Steinberg.
Throughout the seven decades since it declared independence, Israel has waged a struggle for legitimacy, navigating the global arena to find its place among the nations. While many factors went into Israeli independence, the U.N. Partition Plan of 1947 and subsequent Resolution 181 laid the foundation. For Israel’s 69th Independence Day, JNS.org looks at how four countries actively involved in the historic 1947 vote not only shaped Israeli history, but have robust current relationships with the Jewish state and might play key roles in the country’s future.
Jewish leaders inside and outside France expressed alarm after far-right populist Marine Le Pen’s strong showing in the first round of France’s presidential election Sunday. Le Pen, leader of the National Front party, has previously called on French Jews to give up wearing yarmulkes as part of her initiative to ban religious symbols in public and fight radical Islam in France. She has also stated that if elected, she would bar dual citizenship with non-European Union countries, distressing many French Jews who hold Israeli citizenship.
For Holocaust survivors’ grandchildren like Beckah Restivo, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum works to anchor family stories in a historical context. Much of the museum’s resources come from the International Tracing Service, an archive of Holocaust records established by the Allies after the war. The archive boasts millions of pages of documentation. “Everything I know about my family history, besides my grandfather’s and great-uncle’s actual firsthand accounts, has been driven by the resources at the museum, and I’m so grateful,” says Restivo.
As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan assumed near-dictatorial powers following his dubious victory in a constitutional referendum April 16, Andrew Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina, was marking his sixth month in a Turkish prison over an unsubstantiated charge. What makes Brunson’s case particularly outrageous, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen, is that his imprisonment comes in Turkey—traditionally an ally of the U.S., a member of NATO and widely regarded in the years prior to Erdoğan’s rise as the ideal model for a secular state with a Muslim majority.
At an antiques flea market in Berlin, one of several stands proudly displays two Hanukkah menorahs for sale. The husky, white-haired seller explains how one of them probably came from Königsberg, a former German city in modern Russia. The other is easy to identify: a plaque indicates it was gifted by an Israeli organization to a German-Jewish benefactor in 1992. While Jewish victims and their organizational representatives have, over the years, processed claims for real estate, businesses and works of art seized by the Nazis, Jews’ more mundane Holocaust-era property may still be circulating in antique shops and households, unbeknownst to the current buyers or owners. “How do you establish what ordinary household goods belonged to a family that was murdered?” asks Dr. Christoph Kreutzmüller, a curator at Berlin’s Jewish Museum.
Iran is scheduled to hold its next presidential election May 19, with incumbent President Hassan Rouhani seeking a second four-year term. Though he handily won the presidency in a landslide in 2013 and forged Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, Rouhani faces stiff challenges from several other candidates this time around as many Iranians have become dismayed with the country's slumping economy.
A report from Palestinian Media Watch swiftly disabused JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen of the notion that one can discuss Passover in largely religious terms and avoid the political resonance flowing from the haggadah. Quite commonly in the Islamic world, there exists a level of hatred far beyond the objections to political Zionism that Palestinian leaders disingenuously claim lies at the root of their conflict with Israel. When confronting hateful beliefs and regimes, Cohen writes that a short, Passover-appropriate line suffices as a response: “Next year in Jerusalem.”
Wanana Abrams, a 28-year-old Israeli of Ethiopian origin, calls herself “just one of countless examples—along with thousands of other religious and ethnic minorities—of why the term ‘apartheid’ does not apply to the liberal democratic Jewish state.” Fittingly, then, Abrams was one of two representatives from Israel’s Interdisciplinary Center research university to travel to the South African city of Cape Town in March for the purpose of countering attempts to promote anti-Zionist activists’ “apartheid” smear about Israel. “I traveled to South Africa to tell my story, and to show the world the true face of my home country,” Abrams told JNS.org.
President Donald Trump’s missile strike against Syria inaugurates a new chapter in the long and controversial history of American responses—and sometimes non-responses—to mass murder around the world. Historian Rafael Medoff recounts the U.S. approach to episodes including Islamic State, Libya, Darfur, Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, the Holocaust and Armenia.
The anti-Semitism scandal surrounding the British Labour Party returned this week when the party announced it is merely renewing the suspension of former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, rather than expelling him outright for the vile falsehoods he promoted when he claimed Hitler had supported Zionism before he “went mad” and launched the Holocaust. Labour’s disturbing behavior is reflected not just in the party’s response to anti-Semitism at home, but in its adoption of a similar stance towards human rights abuses abroad. Livingstone has been an enabler of evil, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
Despite owing part of its existence to the United Nations, Israel has experienced decades of bias from an institution whose stated mission includes trying to ensure international goodwill and world peace. Yet the nascent Trump administration, under the leadership of Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, is trying to chart a new course for the world body’s culture on Israel. The Israeli government claims it is already witnessing Haley’s positive influence in the international arena. “Ambassador Haley and the Trump administration have changed the rules of the game at the U.N., and the results have reverberated throughout the organization,” Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon told JNS.org.
Just a single day had passed since Gary Koren, Israel’s new ambassador to Russia, presented his credentials to President Vladimir Putin before the Israeli diplomat was called in by the Russian government for a “clarification” meeting. The unusual diplomatic event occurred after the Israeli Air Force struck a target deep in northern Syria—likely a target involving weapons destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Such is the high-stakes game of chess being played between Israel, Russia and Syria. “This is a diplomatic battle, and Israel is not compromising,” Zvi Magen, the former Israeli ambassador to Russia, told JNS.org. “Under the table, it is possible that messages are being exchanged about where each side’s red lines are. Russia is trying to be the central mediator, working with the Iranians, with the Israelis and with other regional powers.”
Iranian officials often boast about their military technology advancements and call for the destruction of Israel, yet these claims might ring hollow. Iran’s military is in much worse shape than is commonly believed and is overextended in Syria, meaning that an American or Israeli attack against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear and military sites would not be very difficult to execute, experts told JNS.org. Iran is “potentially a paper tiger” and it is “our job to encourage regime change—and we can,” said former U.S. Defense Department official Dr. Harold Rhode.
If National Front party leader and presidential contender Marine Le Pen follows through on her campaign rhetoric by denying French Jews the right to hold dual Israeli citizenship, France’s perennial “Jewish question” will likely find itself in the national spotlight once more. That is why JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen warns, to Jews and others in America who are convinced that Le Pen will be a faithful partner in the anti-globalist crusade, be careful what you wish for.
The mayor of the second-largest city in the Netherlands is refusing to block a conference by a pro-Hamas group. The Palestinian Return Centre, which is regarded by the Israeli and German governments as a support group of the Hamas terrorist organization, plans to hold its annual “Palestinians in Europe” conference April 15 in Rotterdam. Netherlands Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs said he is “very concerned” that the conference “will incite anti-Semitism or pro-terrorist sentiment,” particularly among the country’s rapidly growing community of ethnic Turks.
While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced turmoil within his governing coalition back at home, the Israeli leader embarked on a groundbreaking visit to China, which has the world’s second-largest economy. Netanyahu’s trip was part of an effort to grow the Jewish state’s relations with non-traditional allies, particularly in East Asia. “The economic aspect plays the most important role in the present-day Sino-Israeli relationship, proved by the large business delegation that accompanied Netanyahu during this visit,” said Shu Meng, a research fellow at Shanghai University’s Middle East Studies Institute. “China is promoting its ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy and Israel is located along the road. The strategy may bring new vigor and new chances to bilateral economic cooperation.”
America’s strong pushback on the recent United Nations report accusing Israel of apartheid and, even more remarkably, the U.N. secretary-general’s disavowal of the report sent a surprisingly strong message to the Palestinians. With the world getting sick of Palestinian intransigence, and the U.S. determined to stick by its sole democratic ally in the Middle East, Israel can afford to wait for real peace rather than surrendering its rights for a deal that will give them neither peace nor security, writes JNS.org Opinion Editor Jonathan S. Tobin.
Ever since Michael Kagan, 60, was a boy growing up in the U.K., each detail of his father’s escape from a Nazi labor camp has ricocheted through his mind and heart. Now, in his new documentary “Tunnel of Hope,” the son is sharing his father’s story with the world. It’s a story that Jack Kagan had fought to keep alive, recording not only the escape, but the murders of the vast majority of the Jews of Novogrudok—a city in Belarus—who were dead long before that fateful night. “He was driven, determined to get it out there,” says Michael Kagan.