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Amid recent tensions between Germany and Israel, it is time to recognize the Jewish state’s place as part of the solution—not the obstacle—to creating a stable, prosperous Middle East. A reset of German assumptions about relations with Israel is urgently overdue, writes Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Berlin office.
Jewish ritual observance has come under attack in Belgium and Norway. While there is nothing suggesting the moves against ritual slaughter in Belgium and ritual circumcision in Norway were coordinated, both speak to a tendency in Europe to dismiss these core requirements for Jews as no more and no less than cruelty of a particularly Jewish sort. American Jews are fortunate to live with a constitution clearly demarcating religion and state, but European Jews don’t enjoy the same protection, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
An open letter to FIFA by 174 Palestinian sports clubs called on world soccer’s governing body to “immediately suspend” the Israel Football Association’s membership “over its inclusion of seven football teams based in illegal Israeli settlements.” Some might downplay this development, saying it’s “only sports.” But the context of this anti-Israel campaign shows why it matters. What’s surprising and significant is not the Palestinian sports clubs’ request itself, but that they posted their open letter on the official website of the BDS movement, which has the façade of a human rights movement, writes columnist Jack Saltzberg.
Should Israel be surprised Sweden was the only European Union country to vote for a UNESCO resolution denying Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem? Svante Cornell, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, said it was “somewhat surprising, since it has not been Swedish diplomatic tradition to break the EU consensus.” But Magnus Norell, a Swedish scholar with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, explained the rationale behind Sweden’s longtime support for the Palestinian cause. “Sweden always saw herself as being a ‘moral superpower,’ taking the side of the oppressed,” he said. “And Israel, being supported by the U.S., was seen as being on the side of the oppressor, lording it over the Palestinians.”
Following UNESCO’s vote to deny Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem, the Jewish state has taken immediate steps to counter the latest anti-Israel move at the United Nations by censuring Sweden’s ambassador to Israel and announcing a cut in funding to the world body. “Hard to believe Sweden is the only European country which voted against Israel at UNESCO today! Nothing short of shameful,” tweeted Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon.
As Israel celebrated its Independence Day, the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO voted May 2 to deny the Jewish state’s sovereignty over Jerusalem. Yet the measure also reaffirms “the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions,” language Israeli officials view as an improvement from two UNESCO resolutions passed in October 2016 that ignore all Jewish and Christian connections to Jerusalem’s holy sites and refer to the Temple Mount exclusively by its Islamic name.
A bitter debate has raged over the character of Sebastian Gorka, the deputy adviser to President Donald Trump who reportedly will be moved to a new role within the administration. 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.