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In “Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest,” the classic board game, players imagine empires and vie for world domination. After a defeat, a player must retreat. Bret Stephens’s new book, “America in Retreat, The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder,” reveals a real-life Risk board. In a vacuum of American leadership, modern nations compete for influence and resources, too often at the expense of Free World ideals. Stephens examines America’s present-day hand in a crumbling world order. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist—formerly editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post, currently deputy editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal, and a wildly popular columnist among Jewish and pro-Israel readers—makes a compelling case that the U.S. not in decline, and that a strategy of retreat is both unnecessary and a terrible risk.
Historically, Jerusalem and its holy sites have played the role of coveted possessions in the geopolitical calculations of many regional and global powers. The latest installment in this long-drawn drama involves Armenia and Iran. The Armenian leadership’s cancellation of a planned visit to Jerusalem in February 2010 by then-prime minister Tigran Sargsyan provided a cause for concern and puzzlement for the Israeli government that persists to this day. Until recently, the Armenian government had not sent a single delegation to Israel since the cancellation of Sargsyan’s visit. In what was reportedly a bit of damage control, on March 5, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan arrived in Israel for what was described as a “private visit.” What really caused the mysterious cancellation of Sargsyan's visit to Israel? Alexander Murinson, a researcher for the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, writes that Sargsyan caught the "Iranian flu."
Organizations representing religious minorities in the Middle East have submitted a memorandum to the United Nations in New York City, asking that U.N. missions from various countries call on the U.N. Security Council to issue a resolution against the Islamic State terror group’s persecution of minorities and to take tangible steps to save those vulnerable groups. “We are hearing from thousands across the globe who either want to fight on behalf of religious minorities in Iraq and Syria... Because we believe in the rule of law and the dignity of humankind towards one another, we cannot but hope that the U.N. listens to the world’s peoples and acts on our call for action,” David William Lazar, chairman of the American Mesopotamian Organization, told JNS.org.
Last month, members of the student government at South Africa’s Durban University of Technology (DUT) called for the expulsion of all Jewish students from their campus. The very next day, halfway around the world, the student government at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) engaged in a similar display of anti-Jewish bigotry, nearly denying a highly qualified young woman a position on the student judiciary board after four student representatives brazenly argued that her Jewishness should make her ineligible for the position. Both the DUT and UCLA student governments also previously voted to embrace the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. This is not a coincidence, but rather further evidence of the well-documented relationship between BDS and anti-Semitism, writes Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz and cofounder of the AMCHA Initiative non-profit.
A potentially ugly row is brewing in the United Kingdom over an academic conference, due to be held at the University of Southampton in April, which carries the title, “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism.” Given its lineup of speakers, a more appropriate title for the conference would be, “Does the State of Israel Have a Legal Right to Exist? No, Of Course it Doesn’t.” The danger of the conference, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen, lies in its effort to promote a norm among students of the Middle East that Israel—by definition—shouldn’t be in the region in the first place.
After January’s Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris, the Obama administration pledged to assist the French authorities in every way possible. Now it has a chance to make good on that promise. The French government recently issued arrest warrants for three Palestinian terrorists involved in a 1982 attack on a Jewish restaurant in Paris—and one of them is being sheltered by the Palestinian Authority (PA). If PA President Mahmoud Abbas is not prepared to hand that terrorist over to France, the U.S. should issue its own warrant for his arrest because two Americans were among those murdered, writes attorney Stephen M. Flatow, whose daughter Alisa was killed in a Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.
For nations such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, which all have Sunni Muslim-majority populations, Iran—which is a Shi’a Muslim and ethnically Persian country—has long been viewed as a regional rival. Now, the emerging nuclear deal between Iran and world powers has given Israel and those Arab states a shared concern. Recent media reports said that Saudi diplomats expressed their willingness to lend Saudi Arabia’s airspace to Israel for a possible attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities. “Although those reports have been officially denied by both Riyadh and Jerusalem, this kind of cooperation makes strategic sense,” Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council think tank, told JNS.org. “Saudi Arabia and Israel both feel betrayed by the current negotiations underway with Iran, and both feel they need to make alternative plans to cope with what both view as an existential threat to its existence.”
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a picture of an individual with as high a profile as Pope Francis is probably worth more than a thousand. In that sense, a Texas-based photo exhibit of the pope’s visit to Israel last year should generate abundant discussion. More than nine months after Pope Francis visited Israel, the disputed Palestinian territories, and Jordan from May 24-26, 2014, a collection of 35 photos from the Israel portion of his Mideast trip is on display through March 16 at the Ragsdale Center of St. Edward’s University (SEU), a Roman Catholic university in Austin, Texas. “You see [the pope] with the different Christian denominations and with the Muslims, and this shows that Israel is an open society in which everyone can worship what they want openly. This is the major thing that we want to show [through the photo exhibit],” says Daniel Agranov, Consul at the Houston-based Consulate General of Israel to the Southwest United States.
“There was nothing new in it.” With those six words, President Barack Obama tried to dismiss the significance of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress on March 3. But there was, in fact, something very new and very important in the speech—something that Obama wants to keep out of the spotlight. The forgotten issue in the negotiations with Iran is now back, front and center, thanks to the Israeli prime minister: Iran’s role as—in Netanyahu’s words—“the foremost sponsor of global terrorism.” The Obama administration has kept the terrorism issue off the table throughout its talks with the Iranian regime. That is a terrible mistake, writes attorney Stephen M. Flatow, whose interest in Iran and terrorism is personal because Iran sponsored the Palestinian jihadists who carried out the 1995 bombing in which his daughter Alisa was murdered.
The number of Assyrian Christians captured by the Islamic State terror group in northeastern Syria continues to rise, marking the latest brutal campaign waged by Islamic State against Christians and other minority groups in Syria and Iraq. “We are absolutely appalled, but not surprised, by the actions of the Islamic State,” Jeff Gardner, a spokesman for Restore Nineveh Now Initiative, a group promoting protection and relief for Assyrian Christians, told JNS.org. “They (Islamic State) continue to do what they do—terrorize, murder, and pillage.”
Love, as the song goes, is in the air. If the latest media reports are accurate, the United States and the Iranian regime are rapidly closing in on a deal over the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions. JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen presents the conditions for his “dream deal” with Iran, but fears that once we excitedly unwrap the gift box, we’ll find that it’s empty.
When members of the pro-Israel community think of populations in need of relief, Syrian refugees are probably not one of the first groups coming to mind. After all, the Syrian civil war is a conflict between two enemies of Israel: Iran-supported President Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah on one side, and jihadists linked with al-Qaeda and Islamic State among the Assad regime’s opponents. But an interfaith group of more than 35 organizations is raising funds and awareness for the victims of the conflict, rather than focusing on its combatants. While the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees in Jordan makes a case for putting politics aside and addressing a humanitarian crisis, some of the alliance’s organizers also note the effort’s possible boon for Israel, including through the fostering of stability in Jordan and creating a new perception of Israel among the Syrian people.
Mark Gurvis, executive vice president of The Jewish Federations of North America, reflects on a recent two-day trip to Paris with Jewish leaders. Gurvis cannot help but be struck by the rapid change in the global Jewish agenda. Last year, communal efforts centered around how to strengthen Jewish life and connection globally. Now, the community is increasingly focused on protecting Jewish lives and securing Jewish institutions, most notably in Paris, the site of a recent series of Islamist terror attacks. The external threat of that terrorism and the internal challenges of meaningfully engaging the next generation offer global Jewry opportunities to connect, learn from one another, strengthen one another, and inspire one another, writes Gurvis.
Canadian author Jerry Amernic met renowned Holocaust historian Sir Martin Gilbert on three occasions, the first time at the university in London. Gilbert said that he lived in two Londons—London, England, and London, Ontario, where he was a guest lecturer. Amernic says that Gilbert's epic work, “The Holocaust—A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War,” was what finally moved him from the research phase into actually writing his own book, the new Holocaust-related novel “The Last Witness.”
William Schabas, a frequent and intemperate critic of Israel who was heading the United Nations Human Rights Council probe into last summer’s war in Gaza, is gone. But bias against Israel long precedes Schabas at the U.N., which gave us a “Zionism is racism” resolution and the Goldstone Report. JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen writes that the U.N. has no moral authority to put Israel on trial, and calls for an undertaking that ensures there will be no further U.N. probes of Israel for as long as discriminatory mechanisms against the Jewish state remain in existence at the world body.
Five-hundred years after thousands of Jews were burned at the stake or forcefully converted, and many others expelled due to the Inquisition, the Portuguese Cabinet has decided to grant citizenship to the descendants of those Jews as reparation for that persecution. Against the backdrop of anti-Semitic attitudes and an economic crisis, did Portugal make the Jewish citizenship gesture with pure intentions, or were there ulterior motives?
The United Nations held a special meeting on the subject of rising anti-Semitism with anti-Semites not just in attendance, but making speeches as well. The Saudi envoy to the U.N. said that the Israeli “occupation” and the “persecution of the Palestinian people” are examples of anti-Semitism. If a future meeting about anti-Semitism at the U.N. does not drive home the point that anti-Zionism—the denial of the right of national self-determination to the Jewish people—is the principal pillar upon which today’s anti-Semitism rests, then it’s probably not worth holding the meeting to begin with, writes JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen.
The death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah on Thursday shouldn’t change how the Gulf nation treats its relations with Iran and Israel, experts say. Saudi Arabia remains determined in its opposition to the Iranian nuclear program, and while that gives them at least one shared interest with Israel, a Saudi ambassador’s anti-Israel remarks at the United Nations on the same day as Abdullah’s death served as a reminder that the Saudi-Israeli relationship isn’t exactly friendly. “Saudi Arabia doesn’t believe it shares common interests with Israel. Some Israelis may believe there are common interests, [but] the Saudis see that as a fantasy,” said Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank.
As the world continues to grapple with a new wave of Islamic extremism, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has emerged as an unlikely Middle East leader willing to confront terrorism both militarily and ideologically. In a recent speech at Egypt’s historic Al-Azhar University, El-Sisi declared an ambitious plan for a “revolution” in Islam, in order to reform the faith that he believes has made the Muslim world a source of “destruction” that is “making enemies of the whole world.” El-Sisi should be commended for delivering his remarks “at the center of Egypt’s religious establishment” and going “right into the belly of the beast,” said Oren Kessler, deputy director of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
When it comes to the situation European Jews faced during the 1930s and the challenges Jews on that continent face today, the differences far outweigh the similarities. At the same time, it’s getting harder to ignore that Europe’s political foundations are coming apart, with grave repercussions for societies that have not directly experienced prolonged armed conflict since the middle of the last century—and European Jews are closely associated with their continent’s endangered political class, writes JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen.