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.
It’s increasingly clear that the mood among the world’s democracies on the Palestinian statehood issue is shifting. The view that Israel must be cajoled and bullied into giving Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas what he wants at the U.N. is spreading, and that could turn out to be just as dangerous as a Hamas missile campaign from the Gaza Strip, writes JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen.
In stark contrast to its Holocaust past, Poland now experiences far less anti-Semitism than the typical European country and is home to a burgeoning Jewish community. At the same time, young non-Jewish Poles are increasingly curious about Jews and Judaism. Recognizing that this environment was fertile ground for a museum highlighting the history of Polish Jewry, a group of Warsaw-based organizers invited scholars and cultural activists in New York to help promote the museum concept and identify funding sources for what two decades later became the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which opens its core exhibition Oct. 28. “We place the Holocaust within the 1,000-year history of Polish Jews, not a 1,000-year history of anti-Semitism,” says Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, the core exhibition's program director.
After nearly a year of protests, the Obama administration has finally agreed to permit a rug connected to the Armenian genocide to be publicly displayed. While many believe the gesture marks the end of the long ordeal of the Armenian Orphan Rug, November's showcasing of the rug for six days in an exhibit about gifts to the White House is no victory. On the contrary, it is a defeat for everyone who cares about historical truth and everyone who seeks to learn the lessons of the past so that they will not be repeated, writes historian Rafael Medoff.
A clash between anti-boycott activists and a group of Jewish studies professors, which has recently become the subject of much debate in the American Jewish community, is actually just the latest of many boycott-related controversies that have divided U.S. Jewry over the years, writes historian Rafael Medoff.
The Obama administration’s reluctance to support pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong revives a familiar clash between human rights and diplomatic relations—a conflict that has repeatedly bedeviled past U.S. administrations, including during the Nazi era, writes Rafael Medoff, director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.
The holiest day on the Jewish calendar isn’t among the 10 holiest days on the United Nations calendar. But Israel and many other countries hope that changes by the time next year’s Day of Atonement arrives. In July, U.N. ambassadors from 32 countries wrote a letter to a U.N. General Assembly committee that urged the recognition of Yom Kippur as an official U.N. holiday. The committee begins deliberating on the Yom Kippur issue this month, with a possible decision coming by December. “[The recognition of Yom Kippur] can be an issue that bridges divisions and speaks to the universal values we all hold closely, including reconciliation, forgiveness, and tolerance,” Yotam Goren, a diplomat who works for Israel’s U.N. mission, told JNS.org.
As nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 powers approach a Nov. 24 deadline for a final deal, more than 80 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives signed an Oct. 1 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing concern over Iran’s “refusal to fully cooperate” with inquiries from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N.-affiliated nuclear watchdog.
As world leaders converged on New York City for the 69th United Nations General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to remind them that the threats Israel faces today could be their own problems tomorrow. “Israel is fighting a fanaticism today that your countries might be facing tomorrow,” said Netanyahu, who described all Muslim extremists—from Islamic State to Nigeria’s Boko Haram to Hamas to Iran—as branches of the same “poisonous tree.”
Who are we at war with in the Middle East? Do we look sideways at Iran’s nuclear program for the sake of a successful campaign against Islamic State? Do we continue ignoring Qatari and Turkish backing for Hamas for the same reason? There is a real prospect that Iran will weaponize its nuclear program, thereby inaugurating an era of danger that will make the current one look like a picnic. Should that happen, the war against Islamic State will seem like a footnote in a broader story of western defeat in the Middle East, rather than the opening gambit of a strategy to confront and defeat the enemies of freedom across the region, writes JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen.
Nationalisms are formed in response to the surrounding conditions that nurture them. For the Jews of Europe, Zionism was a means to ensure survival in the physical sense of that word. For the Jews of Israel, Zionism reinforces the sense of a common destiny, of flourishing as an independent society even as too many of their neighbors question their right to be there in the first place. But no one has ever challenged the existence of a country called Scotland, and the Scots have never experienced the sheer barbarism of a modern-day genocide. That is the difference between Scottish nationalism and Zionism, and part of the reason why the defeat of the Scottish independence effort makes sense, writes JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen.
Since the declaration of a final cease-fire between Israel and Hamas last month, there has been very little movement to resolve the situation in Gaza. With the Middle East preoccupied by the threat of Islamic extremism as well as the growing rivalries between Arab states over how to handle these threats, there appears to be little appetite in the Arab world to deal with the Palestinian issue. “It is striking to me that even during [this summer’s] Gaza war, you were seeing widespread demonstrations in Europe, but not in the Arab world,” Elliott Abrams, who served as deputy national security advisor for President George W. Bush, told JNS.org.
The war against Islamic State is a war against the philosophy of jihad. As with any war involving multiple parties fighting on the same side, an overarching political vision is nearly impossible to achieve. During the Second World War, the U.S. and Britain had few illusions about the Soviet Union, even as they allied with it. Similar cynicism is warranted now when it comes to Turkey—specifically regarding its contradiction of membership in a democratic alliance like NATO and support for jihadist organizations like Hamas, writes JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the Jewish state, has called for the creation of an independent Kurdish state. But some experts question the viability of the idea, citing the Islamic State terror group’s initial ability to overwhelm the Kurdish Peshmerga forces. “It showed the limitation of what the Kurds can do without American support and without the consent and support of the two big neighbors, Iran and Turkey,” said Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
In 2005, Elaine Berke—a board member of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC)—stood in the warm glow of a small group of eager Jewish students in Khabarovsk, a remote Siberian town on the border with China, and asked how many of them had a bar or bat mitzvah. Two raised their hands. While many said they would have liked to have celebrated that Jewish rite of passage, they felt too old to do so. Yet three weeks ago on Shabbat—nine years later—Berke stood in awe as more than 70 Jews from across this vast region of Russia recited prayers, read Torah, and learned about Judaism at a hotel in Novosibirsk, the unofficial capital of Siberia.
There have been many opportunities to prosecute British parliamentarian George Galloway—for unfiled paperwork relating to his charities, for handing thousands of dollars to Hamas leaders, and for baiting British Jews with his violently anti-Zionist rhetoric. Had any of these episodes been properly investigated, Galloway might now be sitting in a jail cell. For anyone who cares about democracy, seeing him behind bars would be a far more satisfactory outcome than the nasty beating he recently suffered in London, writes JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen.
The Islamic State terrorist group, experts say, has managed to brilliantly leverage its acquisitions—including land grabs, hostages, and oil—in a style that is part mafia, part bureaucratic. The group continues to be well-armed, flush with cash, and in possession of American and European captives. “[Islamic State’s] criminal activities—robbery, extortion, and trafficking—have helped the organization become the best-funded terrorist group in history,” U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Marco Rubio wrote in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry. “This wealth has helped expand their operational capacity and incentivized both local and foreign fighters to join them.”
For most third graders, the school year began this week with the hustle and bustle of new teachers, fresh notebooks, and crisply ironed uniforms. But the third grader in Gaza whose photo appeared in the New York Times on Aug. 30 wore a different kind of uniform: a headband with “jihad” slogans and military-style camouflage pants, while carrying a Kalashnikov rifle and marching alongside adult members of the Islamic Jihad terrorist group. The macabre practice of educating children to hate and kill, honed to deadly perfection in Nazi Germany, is alive and well 70 years after the end of the Third Reich. The practice is now found in a different part of the world, but the targets are still Jews, writes historian Rafael Medoff.
Now that the latest Israel-Hamas conflict has come to a close, the battlefield moves from Gaza to the court of public opinion. How should a scrupulous application of international law treat Israel’s Operation Protective Edge and Hamas’s actions in the conflict? That is no small question, because the outcome of a U.N. investigation into the conflict will be the commonly accepted verdict on the matter. The meticulous documentation by the IDF and the media of the facts on the ground leaves the three-person commission conducting the probe with an opportunity to steer the U.N. on a road to regaining credibility, writes attorney Eli Wishnivetski.
With old alliances being frayed and new threats emerging, making sense of the rapidly changing Middle East is increasingly difficult for even seasoned observers and analysts. Disgruntled by President Barack Obama’s foreign policy in the region, some long-time American allies such as Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia have begun openly criticizing the U.S. approach to issues like the Gaza conflict, with some even pivoting towards Russia. At the same time, civil wars in Syria and Libya as well as instability in Iraq have proven to be fertile breeding ground for new and more brutal terrorist organizations, forcing regional and international actors into new alliances to meet this common threat.