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Why should the casual observer care about the seemingly obvious need to prosecute and convict Nazi war criminals, whether it be during the Nuremberg trials of the 1940s or similar proceedings in more recent years? “The Nuremberg trials only convicted the leaders and a relatively small number of people,” retired Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz told JNS.org. “Even for the trials that occurred thereafter, we’re talking about just hundreds of people…and for years they were protected. And there’s no statute of limitations on genocide and war crimes. So it’s very important that everybody in the world who is contemplating committing genocide understand that they will never be able to live out their life without being held legally accountable.” Dershowitz and Irwin Cotler, renowned human rights attorneys and pro-Israel advocates, took center stage in the Polish city of Kraków on March 4 for a symposium held to mark the 80th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws and the 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg trials. While the Nuremberg Laws were a precursor to the Holocaust, the Allied forces’ military trials of 13 prominent Nazi leaders served as a foundation for contemporary international humanitarian law. “We’ve learned that if you do not bring war criminals to justice, what you do is you not only encourage impunity, you embolden the war criminals and you encourage more war crimes,” Cotler told JNS.org.
“Do you remember when Leonard Nimoy said, ‘Live long and prosper?’” Dr. Frederick Krantz asked an audience at the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue of Montreal. Listeners chuckled in approval of his “Star Trek” reference, indicating that a large percentage were familiar with the iconic TV series and had fond memories of the late Canadian-Jewish actor. Krantz continued, “Well, that is very true. Israel is not only a power in the Middle East, but will be a power in space.” The Canadian Institute for Jewish Research last month held its 28th anniversary gala, an event titled “Israel in Space.” It was North America’s largest-ever gathering dedicated to Israel’s space exploration achievements, according to Krantz, the Jewish research institute's director.
By being cast as the ultimate insiders, controlling everything from the global economy to U.S. foreign policy, Jews end up as the ultimate outsiders in the public imagination—too suspect to benefit even from the niceties of the United Kingdom's generally anti-racist political culture, especially once their emotional, familial, or other ties with the State of Israel are brought into play. This is a problem that goes much deeper than just the Labour Party's anti-Zionist leader, Jeremy Corbyn, or the party's newly suspended lawmaker who suggested the “relocation” of Israel, Naz Shah. The problem is also certainly not restricted to the U.K. That’s why George Orwell was absolutely correct when he counseled that “antisemitism should be investigated—and I will not say by antisemites, but at any rate by people who know that they are not immune to that kind of emotion,” writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. But global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, has what one expert called potential “ripple effects” on the Middle East. “If indeed we have a full-fledged war between these two, it is not hard to imagine Turkey involved in some way on the Azerbaijani side,” said Amberin Zaman, a Turkish-born public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “Then I can see Iran helping Armenia. Instability in the Caucuses region is always going to be very destabilizing for the wider region. There would be multiple negative ripple effects.”
For Americans, it has been the Oklahoma City bombing, the 9/11 attacks, the San Bernardino shooting, and school shootings. For Israelis, it’s the daily threat of terrorism. Last month saw massive terror attacks in Istanbul and Brussels. As Sarri Singer puts it, terrorism knows no borders and doesn’t differentiate between race, religion, and geography. “We all share something that bonds us for life. The idea is to work together to not let [terrorism] destroy us, but to move forward by building a future of peace and being productive members of society,” says Singer, the founder and director of Strength to Strength, a non-profit organization that brings bereaved family members and victims of terror from around the world together to heal. From April 5-12, Strength to Strength’s Young Ambassadors Program brought together 25 participants from ages 16-20 who have lost a parent or other immediate family member in a terrorist attack, or were injured themselves. The participants—who came from Argentina, Colombia, France, England, Ireland, Spain, Israel, and the U.S.—spent a week together in New York City.
A proper investigation into Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s death could well lead to a re-examination of the AMIA Jewish center bombing, whose victims have been denied justice for more than 20 years. As the court investigation proceeds in the Nisman case, it’s imperative that Jews outside Argentina understand what is at stake. The AMIA atrocity in Buenos Aires was the worst single anti-Semitic crime since World War II, and Iran was responsible for it. Nothing less than the conviction and sentencing of the perpetrators is acceptable. No more compromises and no more backroom deals, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
There is no chance that Iran is going to perform a 180-degree turnaround in its foreign policy, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry knows it. In Syria, Iran has worked with Russia to stabilize the bloodstained tyrant Bashar al-Assad, while in Yemen and elsewhere in the Gulf, it is systematically baiting the conservative Sunni monarchies quivering in the face of rising Shi’a power. Still, one can only say that Kerry has failed if one believes that the Obama administration’s policy is aimed primarily at curbing Iranian provocations. If you look at the administration’s policy on Iran, it becomes clear that Kerry’s expressed concern about Iran’s behavior was a sop to his Bahraini hosts. When it is remembered that current administration policy is to disengage from the region, thereby empowering Iran, it can be argued that Kerry’s results have actually been a resounding success in the context of that policy, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
The United Nations recently designated the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, made up of musicians from Israel, the Palestinian territories, and other parts of the Middle East, as a Global Advocate for Cultural Understanding. Certainly, artistic collaboration promotes cultural understanding among the participants and serves as a symbol of hope for the public. By seeking to prevent such associations, the cultural BDS campaign against Israel does the entire world a terrible disservice. Boycott proponents claim that cultural exchange whitewashes Israel’s alleged misdeeds. If we denounce this anointment by the U.N. because it serves as a cover-up for a legacy of destruction, are we echoing the boycott argument? When people we perceive to have harmed the world have also done some good, do we cheer or do we jeer? Columnist Lana Melman unpacks the issues at play.
Indonesian officials rebuffed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent call for normalization between the countries. Experts say that Israel has much to gain by establishing diplomatic ties with the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, while continuing its strategic pivot to Asia, but the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process will likely put the brakes on any Israeli-Indonesian breakthrough in the near future. “I believe that there exists a great deal of potential for a formal diplomatic relationship between [Israel and Indonesia, and certainly there is interest on both sides, but we are still a long way off,” said Shira Loewenberg, director of the Asian Pacific Institute for the American Jewish Committee. “There is a lot of groundwork that must be laid, relationships to be built and strengthened, before we get to an official diplomatic relationship between the two.”
Activists and lawmakers say that more needs to be done to promote a positive view of Israel in Latin America, where two archenemies of Israel—the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and Iran—are gaining traction and influence. “The reality is that Latin American support for Israel has been eroding gradually over the years,” said Leopoldo Martinez, the Latin America director of the Israel Allies Foundation, which recently sponsored the Second Annual Latin America Summit on Israel in Miami. “Sympathy has…increased for the Palestinian cause as populations of Arab and Palestinian descent in various Latin American countries have become more nationalistic and radicalized. Growing Iranian influence in Latin America has become a major concern,” Martinez told JNS.org. During the Israel Allies Foundation’s Miami summit, parliamentarians from 13 Latin American and Caribbean nations signed a resolution in support of Israel and against BDS.
It is widely presumed that the Islamic State terror group is responsible for the near-eradication of the entire Assyrian Christian population. But understanding the complexities of how world powers interact with the Middle East reveals surprising reasons for the plight of one of the region’s oldest Christian communities, according to retired lieutenant colonel Sargis Sangari, an expert on the Assyrians and founder of the Near East Center for Strategic Engagement think tank. Sangari is an Assyrian Christian who was born and raised in Urmia, Iran, and immigrated to the United States at age 10. He is a decorated Iraq War veteran who served in the U.S. Army for 20 years, and he currently serves as one of the American advisers to Dwekh Nawsha, the Assyrian Christian militia force in the Middle East. “The Christians come last, and economic benefits to nations and global powers come first,” Sangari told JNS.org.
“Every week there is an attack at the U.N. against Israel,” Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said in an interview at the recent AIPAC conference. In the week that followed the interview, the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed a Canadian legal expert who has expressed anti-Israel views to the post of special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights. The UNHRC also adopted a measure that calls for the creation of a database—or what Danon called a “blacklist”—of businesses “involved in activities” in Judea and Samaria. But what can Israel actually do about its concerns on decades of U.N. bias? Danon told JNS.org that double standards should still be called out for what they are, Israel also needs good cop advocacy at the world body. “When I stepped in, I told my staff we would push a positive agenda,” he said. “That’s what we are doing. Almost every week we have an event at the U.N. It can be an Israeli singer, or it can be a panel about water technology in Israel. We create the atmosphere, and it is working—that Israel is not all about the conflict with the Palestinians, but we have a lot to offer the U.N.”
The Eastern European countryside is haunted by the ghosts of countless shtetls whose surviving residents have long since scattered. For the most part, those landsmen and their descendants tend to remain scattered. But on March 22 at Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, hundreds of Holocaust survivors and their descendants from one particular locale, Drohobych-Boryslav, gathered to connect with their shared history. “The story of this exhibition is our story,” said Daniela Mavor, the gathering’s principal organizer, standing in front of a semicircle of vertical black banners, each displaying a snippet of the town’s Jewish past. In lieu of the town’s annual gathering of survivors and descendants, normally a no-frills event drawing a small number of participants, the exhibition doubled as a chance to reconnect with old friends and trace out long-forgotten branches of family trees.
What the massacres in Brussels this week and in Bosnia two decades ago have in common is the powerful sense of an international leadership that is adrift. War crimes and ethnic cleansing enveloped the Balkans for eight years before Tony Blair and Bill Clinton took military action against the Serbs in Kosovo. The current jihad has lasted much longer, and the fear that no end is in sight is compounded by the knowledge that this enemy is more dangerous, more sophisticated, and more wedded to the hatred of liberal freedoms than the Serb paramilitaries ever were. But just as in Bosnia 20 years ago, there is a terrible reluctance to take ownership of this issue in Europe today. In the Bosnian case, that was in part because no country outside the Balkans was dramatically impacted by the war there. Yet the current Syrian civil war has also become a war on Europe’s streets. Only this time round, America is not going to organize the counterattack, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
Belgium and all of Europe are reeling from the March 22 terror blasts at Brussels’s Zaventem airport and Maelbeek subway station. The latest counts say that 31 people were killed and 270 were injured in the Brussels attacks, for which the Islamic State terror group has claimed responsibility. In Israel—a country long accustomed to dealing with terrorism like rocket attacks from Gaza as well as the current wave of Palestinian stabbing, shooting, and car-ramming attacks—several politicians have harshly criticized Belgian authorities for what they see as insufficient security protocols across Europe and the continent’s lax policy on allowing in Middle Eastern refugees. Dr. Amira Halperin, an expert on radicalization in Europe and researcher for the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told JNS.org that many “legal, political, and policy” reasons have prevented European nations from acting as thoroughly as they could have on terror threats.
The Turkish and Israeli authorities are still investigating the motives and plans of the Islamist terrorist who murdered three Israelis, two of them Israeli-Americans, in Istanbul last week. I can’t help but be reminded of another terrorist attack in Istanbul, 40 years ago this summer, in which Israelis and Americans were murdered. On Aug. 11, 1976, terrorists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (the PFLP) opened fire at the El Al Terminal in the Istanbul airport. They murdered four people and wounded more than 30 others, including two American women. One of the dead was 29-year-old Harold W. Rosenthal. Columnist Stephen M. Flatow hopes that the victims of last week’s attack on Istanbul will not be so quickly forgotten, as Rosenthal and the other victims of the 1976 massacre seem to have been.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose election victory over Stephen Harper ended nearly a decade of Conservative party rule, seemingly put concerns over his Liberal party's Israel policy to rest by supporting a Conservative-led bill that condemned the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. But Trudeau’s foreign minister, Stephane Dion, accused the Conservatives of using the pro-Israel measure as a wedge issue, adding that some BDS supporters are “mistaken in good faith.” Given Trudeau’s willingness to be more experimental than his predecessor in foreign policy, including his removal of Canada from U.S.-led airstrikes against Islamic State, where does that leave Israel? “Although there remains very little difference between the Conservative and Liberal policies on the Israelis and Palestinians, and the Middle East generally, with the Harper Conservatives at least one always knew where one stood,” said Terry Glavin, a columnist for Canada’s Ottawa Citizen newspaper. “Canada was full-throated in its support for Israel and there was no guessing required. The Liberals, in their defense, might be said to merely favor a more nuanced, sophisticated sort of tone. But it does leave people guessing.”
You don’t hear that much these days about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former Iranian president whose penchant for denying the Holocaust at every opportunity became legendary. If conventional wisdom is to be taken at face value, the reason for that is simple: The era of Ahmadinejad came to an end in 2013, when he was replaced by the current incumbent, Hassan Rouhani. Where a semi-literate fanatic once reigned, there is now in his place an avuncular model of good sense. Iran’s main aim presently, it follows, is to reintegrate itself into the international system through trade and renewed foreign investment. It’s this deeply faulty thinking that informs both the nuclear deal with Iran reached last year as well as the lion’s share of media coverage of the recent Iranian parliamentary elections. Iran, we are told, is divided between “hardliners” and “moderates.” The duty of the West is to support the “moderates,” whose electoral triumph is a timely demonstration that the engagement strategy with Tehran is paying off. But you can, and perhaps should, look at this situation entirely differently, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
Ten years later, JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen reflects on the fate of Ilan Halimi, the young French Jew who was kidnapped and murdered by a largely Muslim gang. What the Jewish community should register is that, over the last decade, we have accumulated more than our fair share of what might be called “martyrs.” There is Halimi, and with him the other victims in Paris, Brussels, Toulouse, and even Israel, where random Palestinian attacks on Jewish civilians are inspired by the constant repetition of anti-Semitic motifs in Palestinian media. There is Alberto Nisman, the Argentine prosecutor who was likely murdered while pursuing an investigation into Argentina’s cover-up of Iranian responsibility for the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. “Jewish Lives Matter,” Cohen offers, explaining that the aforementioned cases prove that violence and terror against Jews and their institutions can go unpunished.
To mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day and remember another notorious event that would come nearly 50 years after the Holocaust, the Baku International Center for Multiculturalism and Baku Slavic University recently organized a high-level round table event titled, “The Holocaust and Khojaly Through the Eyes of Contemporaries.” An event dedicated to the study and remembrance of the Holocaust held in Azerbaijan, a Muslim-majority nation? Azerbaijan is located at the crossroads of many cultures and has played a seminal role in many aspects and scenes of history, giving the country the responsibility to ensure that the past is recounted accurately. Hence, in Azerbaijan, past is prologue, writes Arye Gut.