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Rising anti-Semitism and the issue of Palestinian statehood will be among the factors in the equation for Jewish voters when the United Kingdom heads to the polls on May 7 to determine the country’s next ruling political party and prime minister. The election’s two major contenders are the Conservative Party, led by current Prime Minister David Cameron, and the left-leaning Labour Party, led by Member of Parliament (MP) Ed Miliband. Though Miliband is Jewish himself, he has been heavily criticized by his own religious community due to Labour’s stances on Israel, particularly the party’s support for a unilaterally established Palestinian state. But British pro-Israel activist Fiona Sharpe told JNS.org that “what is of greater concern and a much more immediate concern [for Jews in the U.K.] is the issue of anti-Semitism.”
The fact that 40 percent of the world’s oil ships pass through the Bab-el-Mandeb strait gives some idea of the global impact the current conflict in Yemen could have. It is tempting to regard Saudi intervention in Yemen as welcome, insofar as it targets Iran. But we should be wary of any arrangement that gives Arab states a regional policing role. Like other Arab states, Saudi Arabia has responded to Iran’s nuclear ambitions with similar ambitions of its own. In the long run, Saudi military empowerment could be just as negative for Western and Israeli security as an Iranian nuclear bomb, not the least because of the Saudi kingdom’s historic role as an incubator of radical Sunni Islamism, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
As Iran and P5+1 nations reached an agreement on a preliminary nuclear deal on April 2, the Islamic Republic is forging ahead with its quest for dominance in the Middle East region. How will the result of the negotiations affect Iran’s regional ambitions, and what is the current extent of the Islamic Republic’s power play? JNS.org spoke with experts for a snapshot of Iran’s influence in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Gaza.
Last month, the 59th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the United Nations’ top women’s rights body, passed just one political resolution—one that accuses Israel of mistreating Palestinian women. The goal of the CSW is to “promote gender equality and the empowerment of women” through actionable dialogue. But this singling out of Israel as the aggressor of women’s rights proves the CSW’s is just another arm of the U.N. that uses U.S. taxpayer funds to delegitimize the Jewish State, writes Eliana Rudee, a fellow with the Salomon Center.
The Iranian nuclear program was never about the civilian use of nuclear energy. It was, and remains, geared towards the production of a nuclear weapon—hence all the lies and deceit practiced by the Iranian regime over more than a decade. The nuclear talks between Iran and world powers have reinforced the perception that the Obama administration will concede on almost anything in order to secure a deal. Obama’s successor, then, will need to contend with the outcome of years of futile and fruitless negotiations, the net result of which has been to leave the international community with less leverage over Iran than ever before. And Obama will have left the Middle East far more insecure than the condition he found it in, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
As Ukraine continues to unravel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) will try to help that country’s Jews celebrate as normal of a Passover holiday as possible in chaotic times. As a tenuous cease-fire holds, aid organizations are working to provide relief to civilians caught in the crossfire. Among them, JDC is currently assisting more than 4,600 Jews displaced by the conflict or stranded in separatist-controlled regions. Despite the upheaval, JDC-run Hesed social welfare centers and JDC-supported Jewish community centers will hold a variety of Passover events—including seders, matzah baking, and cooking workshops—for thousands of Ukrainian Jews. “Now there is an atmosphere of insecurity in Ukraine,” said Oksana Galkevich, JDC’s Ukraine director of external affairs. “An absolutely safe place does not exist.”
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 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.”