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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.
The 70-year-old, post-Holocaust taboo of expressing anti-Semitic views started to break down over the last several years in Hungary, where 100,000 Jews live among a population of 1 million. Stoked by the rise of the neo-Nazi political party Jobbik, that flame has been fueled to greater heights during the latest conflict between Israel and Hamas. But roughly 100 miles from Budapest, on a 17-acre patch of land between a forest and a lake in rural Hungary, lies a summer camp that for 25 years has given young Jews from central and eastern Europe the strength to be proud of their religion and to shape their communities.
The horrors of northern Iraq have compelled the Obama administration to both quell its isolationist instincts and to delay the much-vaunted policy “pivot” from the Middle East to East Asia. However much we try, the Middle East will not let us go. And yet we still have no grand strategy for the region, no sense of how we want it to evolve, no doctrine to bring stability to its suffering peoples, writes JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen.
The British newspaper The Guardian turned down an advertorial piece penned by famed Harvard Law School professor and pro-Israel advocate Alan Dershowitz. In the ad, whose rejection was first reported by JNS.org on Friday, Dershowitz refutes statements by many media outlets that all of Gaza is densely populated, a claim that has been used to justify the use of human shields by Hamas in its recent conflict with Israel. “The British media is divided,” Dershowitz said. “But The Guardian, which holds itself out to be a purveyor of diverse truth, clearly reflects a bias against Israel on its editorial pages, as well as in its presentation of the news. Now that bias has spread to the advertising pages.”
The British medical journal The Lancet unethically politicized medicine when it published “An open letter for the people in Gaza,” providing scientific veneer to condemnation of Israel and its defensive actions by accusing the Jewish state of carrying out a propaganda campaign that “justifies the creation of an emergency to masquerade a massacre.” The article’s authors have no expertise in military law or tactics, nor any evidentiary basis on which to allege that Israel is motivated by a desire to massacre civilians. The article is demonstrative of the “halo effect,” in which NGOs perceived to promote good principles are shielded from scrutiny, writes Eliana Trink, a research intern for the Jerusalem-based watchdog NGO Monitor.
Although the 2016 presidential election is still a long way off, prospective candidates are already testing the waters for possible presidential bids—primarily candidates considering running in the currently wide-open Republican race. Thus when Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky), one of the most visible potential contenders in 2016, said that he had never proposed to cut foreign aid to Israel, many in the pro-Israel community took notice.
During the current conflict in Gaza a number of celebrities have voiced their opinions in support of either the Israeli or Palestinian positions. But others—be it during Operation Protective Edge or at other times—have gone further than simply supporting the Palestinians by actively supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, making false accusations about the Jewish state, ignoring Israel’s position on the conflict, or justifying the actions of the terrorist group Hamas. JNS.org presents a list of such celebrities and some of the brands they have endorsed.
Founded in New York City in 1914, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has taken a leading role in providing relief to Jews and non-Jews alike in regions devastated by war, environmental disasters, famine, and political repression. Amid the celebration of its centennial, the organization’s work is embodied by four words—“I Live: Send Help.” That is the title of JDC’s ongoing exhibit at the New York Historical Society, which runs through Sept. 21. The display’s interactive elements and artifacts such as letters, pictures, radio recordings, and newsreel footage demonstrate the complexity of the humanitarian organization’s work, and transport visitors back in time.
Amid the current unrest in Israel and Gaza, Jews around the world have been targeted for attack. Meanwhile, in the U.S. right now, school is out and students are safe. But there is little doubt that when the academic year commences, Jewish students on American college and university campuses will be targeted for harassment, intimidation, bullying, and worse, solely because of their actual or perceived identification with the Jewish state, writes Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz and co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative non-profit.
Are we seeing another spike of anti-Semitism and Israel-hatred that will die down once a cease-fire deal is reached in Gaza? Or has global sentiment on Jews and Israel taken a more permanent turn for the worse? Either way, if the Jewish community wants to emerge from this current round of conflict with confidence, it needs to conduct a thorough audit of the impact of Operation Protective Edge inside and outside the Middle East, writes JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen.
Amid rising French anti-Semitism, Simone Rodan-Benzaquen—director of the American Jewish Committee office in Paris—asks herself troubling questions: Does my public expression of Judaism endanger my safety and that of my children? Might showing my support for Israel generate threats? Am I being a responsible parent by raising my children in this country?
Before a July 20 deadline, negotiators taking part in the P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran agreed to extend the deadline for another four months after what the parties described as tangible successes. But the extension ignited a fresh round of skepticism about the prospects for the negotiations. “It’s kind of naive to think they’ll have an agreement, when the sustained way in which Iran is going about building its nuclear program hasn’t changed at all,” Michael Adler, public policy scholar with the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, told JNS.org.