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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.
As reports of the savage terrorist attack in central London March 22 emerged, it was clear that British authorities were dealing with an incident straight from the Islamist terror manual. Such terror, of course, is nothing new. In the Middle East, Hezbollah and Hamas have been in the Islamist terror business since the 1980s. But somehow, these two bloodstained organizations are never regarded by the West in quite the same way as Islamic State. Amid Hamas’s attempt to convince the world of its newfound political moderation, JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen writes that the Palestinian group’s makeover attempt is likely to dissolve without a trace, yet the security threat it poses remains intact.
JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen recently heard a leading Israeli security expert opine that Jerusalem’s strategic interest lies in maintaining Turkey as a counterweight to Iran, despite the torrid experience of dealing with the country’s dictatorial leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, during the last decade. That should not mean, however, that Turkey can be regarded as a reliable friend of Israel or the West. What starts with Erdoğan’s April 16 national referendum—which, if passed, would massively concentrate political power in the president’s office—won’t end with it, writes Cohen.
The prospect of all-out conflict between the U.S. and North Korea has loomed large over the last fortnight, as a consequence of the latest round of provocations from Pyongyang. It’s always a competition between the world’s rogue states as to which one poses the greatest threat to global peace and order at any given moment. How America deals now with an angry, nuclear-enabled North Korean regime, and whether the U.S. can avoid a perilous confrontation with it, will be decisive when it comes to facing similar flashes of belligerence from Iran or Syria, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
French President François Hollande is disturbed that President Donald Trump criticized a U.S. ally, describing the terrorism that has plagued France in recent years as the product of an open border policy. Yet it is Hollande who should self-reflect on his own criticism of the French ally of Israel, writes Zionist Organization of America President Morton A. Klein.
The United Nations wasn’t featured as a topic in President Donald Trump’s address to Congress Feb. 28, but his new U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, has made clear her distaste for the world body’s systemic bias against Israel. In that vein, the Trump administration is reconsidering its participation in the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC). If confronting blatant discrimination against Israel is to be a marker of the Trump administration’s approach to the U.N., then it’s important to realize that the battle is much wider than simply the UNHRC. The deeper rot that needs to be addressed set in more than 40 years ago with the “Zionism with racism” U.N. resolution of 1975, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
Fresh off his first official visit with President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has again shifted his focus towards bolstering Israel’s alliances beyond the North American continent. Netanyahu took a historic trip to Australia this week in a bid to refresh Israel’s relations with an important and longtime ally. Yet the prime minister’s visit also came at a time of questions—including within Australia’s political opposition—over the future of the two-state solution and Israel’s settlement policy. “The biggest danger for Israel is losing the bipartisan support, like we have seen over the last week or two inside the Labor Party,” said Shahar Burla, an Israeli-born journalist based in Sydney, referring to that Australian party's push for Palestinian statehood recognition.
Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American activist in the anti-Israel BDS movement, helped raised more than $100,000 to repair the desecrated Chesed Shel Emet cemetery in St. Louis, earning plaudits from nearly every mainstream media outlet. But can the enemies of Israel be, at the same time, the friends of Jewish communities outside the Jewish state? Conversely, do friends of Israel get a pass when they play down or outright deny the presence of anti-Semites among their political allies? Why should Sarsour be acceptable to the Jewish community, but not Richard Spencer, the pudgy racist at the helm of the so-called National Policy Institute? Are we that easily taken in? JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen fears the answer is yes.
Officials from the Turkish and Israeli foreign ministries met for the first time in more than six years earlier this month, striving to draft a roadmap to promote cooperation in areas such as energy and commerce. As Turkey and Israel ease into a new era in their relationship, collaboration on more sensitive issues like security has been slower to emerge. Israeli Consul General in Istanbul Shai Cohen said that the normalization of Turkish-Israeli ties is “starting step by step, mainly on ‘soft powers’ like trade, culture, academic ties and tourism, issues that are ready to be enhanced in the short-term.”
President Donald Trump recently stated that persecuted Christians in the Middle East would be given priority as refugees. If Iraqi Kurdistan were to aid in the rebuilding of the Assyrian national homeland, it would represent a goodwill gesture that would reverberate to Washington and send a powerful message that the genocide of Middle East Christians will not be tolerated. A new U.S.-backed alliance between Kurdistan, Assyria and Israel that enshrines Western principles of freedom and democracy would create an oasis of peace and prosperity in an area of the world that desperately needs it, writes columnist Bradley Martin.
President Donald Trump’s administration issued new sanctions against Iran’s ballistic missile program Friday, marking a major step toward realigning U.S. policy in the Middle East away from the Obama administration’s rapprochement with the Iranian-Shi’a axis and back toward supporting the interests of America’s traditional Sunni regional allies as well as Israel. Former President Barack Obama had pursued warmer U.S. ties with Iran by making concessions to reach the 2015 nuclear deal and by not responding to aggressive Iranian actions. Trump’s shift in approach comes as Iran’s regional ambitions continue to spread deeper into Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon. “What we see with Trump is simply a return to the normal bipartisan position that ties U.S. relations with Iran to its regional behavior,” said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official and an expert on Iran.
It might sound perverse to say it, but Iran's recent ballistic missile test was welcome in one important sense, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen. Away from the fervid rhetoric and intellectually insulting spin on all sides that has accompanied President Donald Trump's first steps into the world of governing, Iran represents a marked contrast when it comes to the clarity of the challenge it poses. By any standard, Iran's regime stands out as a clear and present threat to the Western world. And even as we agonize over what is to become of that world, we need to recognize that the primary goal is to save it. After years of denying the true nature of the Iranian threat, the American public is again in a position to understand its potency, writes Cohen.
He came to Canada as a 16-year-old refugee from Somalia. He’s highly regarded across the Canadian political spectrum. He was just appointed as immigration minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In these polarized, fragmented times, Ahmed Hussen is exactly the kind of public figure we need when it comes to clarifying the wider debate about immigration and Islamism, human rights and national security. Hussen's record suggests that he recognizes the clear difference between practical support for the victims of extreme cruelty on the one hand, and sinking into nebulous cultural relativism or knuckle-headed bigotry on the other. Partisans of both left and right would do well to consider that, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
Israel’s relations with Russia remain friendly and pragmatic, yet full of tension, in the early days of America’s Trump era. Following President Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric on seeking rapprochement with Russia, his administration signaled its willingness to cooperate with Russia in the fight against Islamic State in Syria. A measuring stick for shifting American-Russian ties could be the positive working relationship between Israel and Russia, despite the disagreements in the latter relationship over Moscow’s support for Israeli enemies like Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. Yuri Teper, an expert on Russia and a postdoctoral fellow at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said that Israel's relations with Russia “it seems, for the most part, are handled with mutual understanding of each other’s interests.” But Anna Borshchevskaya, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said, “While [Russian President Vladimir] Putin did bring Russia closer to Israel over the years, it was always for purely pragmatic reasons.”
While the annual marking of International Holocaust Remembrance Day Jan. 27 gives voice to the stories of victims of the Nazis’ atrocities, what can Germans know about perpetrators from their own family? That was precisely Maya Levy’s question when she contacted the German government agency Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt) to investigative the Nazi past of her paternal grandfather. The WASt eventually informed her of her grandfather’s army ID and tank unit, named after Gestapo founder Hermann Goering. “He never spoke about the war when he came back, like everyone else, and nobody asked,” Levy said. The WASt helps descendants of Nazi soldiers learn more about the sensitive subject of their father or grandfather’s service. “For a long period of time, it was like a taboo,” said Hans-Hermann Söchtig, the WASt’s director. “The [wartime] generation didn’t talk about this era. It was a gray zone.”
About a month after JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen wrote about a group of British animal rights activists who employed Nazi imagery in a campaign against a kosher slaughterhouse, there have been three more significant episodes involving the Holocaust and the Nazi era, leading Cohen to believe he underestimated the scale of the problem. If the Holocaust is now primarily a political instrument, rather than a central historical memory with a direct bearing upon both politics and ethics, we can expect further manipulation of the past to serve the imperatives of the present. From the "Hitler" chatter on social media all the way up to the new guardians of Holocaust memory, the politicization of the Holocaust is a distinct challenge facing the current Jewish generation, Cohen writes.
While the change of presidential administration in Washington may strengthen Israel's diplomatic position for the immediate period, and while the Palestinians will have to get to the back of the line in terms of international priorities, the Palestinian question itself will not disappear. We can assume that if President-elect Donald Trump does a 180-degree turn on President Barack Obama's approach to the Israelis, the narrative of the Palestinians—ignored by America, facing 50 years of "occupation" under Israel—will become emblematic of public resistance to the foreign policies of the Trump administration, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.