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.
“We should be helping people in all countries, because the overall goal is to defund terrorism,” Daniel Miller, who survived a 1997 Hamas terror attack on Jerusalem’s busy Ben Yehuda Street, tells JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen. “I’m a civilized person, I’m not going to go and blow up an Iranian target, so the only path left to me is to go after their money. If another country experiences the kind of horrific terrorism I experienced in Israel, as Argentina did, then the more we need them as a partner.” Cohen writes that he can’t express the importance of responding to terror any more clearly than victims of terror themselves have done. But it’s significant, he writes, that the victims have a strategy for response—particularly in this time of declining American leadership.
Examining America’s response to the Holocaust can help us avoid repeating the mistakes of that era, so applying the lessons of the Nazi years to contemporary concerns—including the plight of the Syrian refugees—certainly is appropriate. But those who are invoking the memory of the Jewish refugees are choosing the wrong analogy for today’s Syrian refugees. The analogy distorts the nature of what happened—and what is happening now—to the victims, writes historian Rafael Medoff.
In a time of tension between major world religions, an enlightened experience on Nov. 19 at the New York Museum of Modern Art brought together distinguished members of different faiths, who convened to honor King of Morocco Mohammed VI for his effort to preserve Jewish burial places in the overwhelmingly Muslim nation.
This month, Jews around the world commemorate Kristallnacht—the night of broken glass. We do this to remember what happened on the fateful nights that marked the beginning of what would become the Holocaust. In Hebrew, the word for “remember” is “zachor.” But zachor doesn’t just mean recalling the events of the past. Zachor means learning the lessons of the past and putting those lessons into practice. Kristallnacht symbolized then, and now, how anti-Jewish legislation and anti-Semitic rhetoric lead to violence. It reminds us that the Holocaust began not with gas chambers, but with words, writes Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon.
In a scene from the 2010 British film “Four Lions,” four jihadis are silent and pensive, listening to a somber recording of chanted verses from the Qu’ran. But as dawn breaks on the outskirts of London, they swap out the Qu’ran for the irrepressibly joyful song “Dancing in the Moonlight.” JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen still laughs out loud when he watches that scene, although after the recent atrocities in Paris, he’s finding it slightly harder to appreciate the humor. The idea of a sovereign individual living harmoniously with other citizens who share common norms and social codes, and tolerate differences of opinion, is the greatest contribution that Western civilization has made. It is that idea that was attacked in Paris and that idea which we must now defend. And it’s why a song like “Dancing in the Moonlight,” which in normal times sounds pretty mundane, now comes across as a call to arms, writes Cohen.
“My main purpose is to explain beyond any reasonable doubt why a 12 and 13-year-old, instead of going on a bike ride…they go bring knives, kitchen knives, from their mother’s kitchen, and go try to stab Jews,” says Hussein Aboubakr Mansour. “This is not because they have any grievances against Israeli occupation. They are just 12. What kind of grievances could you build when you’re 12 years old?” Mansour’s words have more gravitas than those of many others commenting on radical Islam. A 26-year-old political refugee born and raised in a traditional, middle class Arab-Muslim family in Egypt’s capital of Cairo, he took some time during a two-week national U.S. speaking tour—sponsored by pro-Israel education group StandWithUs—for an interview with JNS.org on the persecution he suffered under Egyptian regimes, his survival of Arab Spring chaos, and his current educational efforts. Now an assistant professor of Hebrew Studies at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., Mansour’s stated goal on the tour was to “educate people about anti-Semitism in the Arab world.”
With evidence that one of the Islamist suicide bombers hid among Syrian migrants to France, the Paris terror attacks have raised concern among many American leaders that allowing Syrian refugees into the country would pose a security risk, while simultaneously igniting a debate on whether refugees’ religion should factor into their suitability for admittance. While more than half of the governors of U.S. states have said they will ban Syrian refugees from entering, Republican presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and former Florida governor Jeb Bush recently called on America to give priority to Middle Eastern Christian refugees because they do not pose a terrorism risk. “[Iraqi and Syrian Christians] are being persecuted and their case for asylum should stand. It will be very important to recognize Christians alongside Yazidis among the victims of genocide committed by ISIS, with the apparent charge of genocide leveled at ISIS in the works,” Joop Koopman, communications manager for the U.K.-based Catholic charity group Aid to the Church in Need, told JNS.org.
The Islamic State terror group took credit for the coordinated attacks that killed at least 129 people in Paris last Friday, but the Mahmoud Abbas-led Palestinian factions as well as the Swedish government found a different scapegoat: Israel. While Israel has long been accustomed to Palestinian media incitement and conspiracy theories, the Jewish state was particularly jarred by Monday’s rhetoric from Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, who in a televised interview linked the Paris attacks to Palestinian grievances.
When French President Francois Hollande calls the terrorism in Paris an “act of war,” nobody disagrees with him. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Palestinian Islamic terrorists have carried out “acts of war,” he is accused by the Obama administration and others of exaggerating the threat. France’s leaders have belatedly awakened to the fact that the civilized world is at war with the forces of Islamic terrorism. Israel is one front in that war. France is another. If the Obama administration does not wake up and fight, then America will soon become the next front, writes columnist Stephen M. Flatow, whose daughter Alisa was killed in a Palestinian terror attack in 1995.
“This is an act of war,” French President François Hollande proclaimed after convening his security cabinet following coordinated Islamist terror attacks that killed at least 129 people in Paris. Indeed, France is at war. The overriding fear is that this isn’t over. There isn’t a dearth of terrorists in France. The jihadists returning from Syria are potential ticking time bombs. The problem is that this is no longer about potential. The terror is already here. France is at war, and not just any war. It's a religious war: the most dangerous and fanatical kind, writes Israeli columnist Boaz Bismuth.
At a time when thousands of Jews are fleeing rampant anti-Semitism in France, the United Kingdom, and other European countries, there is one country where “it’s becoming attractive even for some people to come back” from Israel and other countries to which they had previously emigrated. According to Rabbi Shneor Segal, the Israeli-born rabbi of The Jewish Community of European Jews in Baku, that country is Azerbaijan. Located on the western shore of the Caspian Sea and bordered by Iran, Armenia, Georgia, and Russia, Azerbaijan’s Jewish community can trace its roots back some 2,000 years. Throughout that period, Azerbaijan has prided itself on its tradition of tolerance and acceptance of minorities. Among the country’s population of 9 million, 95 percent are Muslim and about 12,000 residents are Jews. Peter Rothholz reports from his participation in a recent delegation to Azerbaijan from Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.
“It’s fantastic to see that cutting-edge technology, such as Cycle Safety Shield developed by Mobileye in Israel, is being utilized to help make London’s roads safer,” said London Mayor Boris Johnson during his trade mission to Israel this week. Johnson arrived in Israel with an official trade delegation, mainly to promote bilateral trade in technology between the cities of London and Tel Aviv. His mission was to promote the British capital’s high-tech sector, in a bid to get more Israeli companies to expand to London and make IPOs (initial public offerings) on its stock markets. Johnson also went public with criticism of the movement to boycott Israel.
The European Leadership Network (ELNET)—founded by European, Israeli, and American leaders in 2007—works to improve strategic relations between Israel and European Union countries. With current activity and presence primarily in Germany, France, Spain, and Poland, ELNET has hosted more than 50 European delegations of parliament members, top government officials, and other European policy leaders to Israel. ELNET has engaged more than 500 participants in its effort to enhance European-Israeli understanding and cooperation on a wide variety of fields. JNS.org interviews ELNET’s co-founder, Raanan Eliaz, and the U.S.-based national executive director of Friends of the European Leadership Network, Lee Rosenblum. "It’s interesting to note that 80-85 percent of [U.S. Congress members have] been to Israel, but if you go to France or Germany or Poland, I think on average of maybe 10-13 percent of their parliament [members], or senior policy makers and leaders, have been to Israel. That’s one of the things that we provide for them in the form of delegations [to Israel]," says Rosenblum.
It's time for a reality check. Iran’s drive to achieve nuclear weapons is very far from being the final chapter in the history of its nuclear deceits. We have not reached the point where we can say with certainty that the nuclear deal “brought about”—as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid claimed this week—a situation where Iran can no longer weaponize its nuclear program. Rather, Iran’s nuclear goals are still very much a part of the dangerous present in which we live, and to say that these same goals are now firmly in the past is a complacent falsehood that gives the nuclear deal far more credit than it is due, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
“We have to keep Judaism alive and sparkling. The younger generation is moving away from religion and becoming more secular. So we need some sparks, energy, and enthusiasm,” says Sami Azar, a volunteer with the Turkish Chief Rabbinate Foundation - the Jewish Community of Turkey, otherwise known as the Turkish Jewish Community Center or T.J.C. Azar, who lives in Izmir, runs a smaller JCC program about a 45-minute plane ride from Istanbul, where two larger JCCs are established. In his town of nearly 4 million people, only about 1,700 are Jewish. Azar attended the JCC Global 2015 World Conference from Nov. 3-6 in Jerusalem. Somewhat in a Muslim-majority country where Jews are forced to keep a low profile, Azar says the conference helps her to “feel more motivated.…It is very good for us.”
Forty years after the passage of U.N. Resolution 3379, which declared that Zionism is "racism," JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen dares to hope that a diplomat with sufficient courage and vision will launch a campaign to complete the task of its rescinding, by abolishing propaganda bodies and replacing them with competent agencies dedicated to fostering cooperation between Israel and the Arab world. That would be both a real contribution to the cause of peace and confirmation of a deeper truth—that anti-Zionism is racism, Cohen writes.
As a Moroccan Jew who left Morocco for Israel 50 years ago at age 17, Yehuda Lancry—the former ambassador of Israel to France and the United Nations—says he is privileged to belong to an illustrious legacy that poses Morocco as a permanent and beloved horizon. The Moroccan government and the presence of the Arab country's Jewish Museum present a model for coexistence, he writes in an op-ed for JNS.org.
A few years ago, the British anti-Semitism scholar David Hirsh remarked that while Israel was the ostensible target of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, first in the firing line were diaspora Jews. This shouldn’t be surprising—Jewish organizations are typically called on by the media to defend Israel, particularly during times of conflict, and many individual Jews have faced ostracism within their own professional communities for speaking in support of Israel and against the boycott. When JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen learned the recent news that the highest appeals court in France had upheld fines imposed on anti-Israel activists for “inciting hate or discrimination” during a demonstration promoting the boycott, he was reminded immediately of Hirsh’s insight. For what the French court decision demonstrates, writes Cohen, is that BDS is essentially a domestic form of anti-Semitism that attacks local Jews through the demonizing of the Jewish state.
For nine years under Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative party, Canada has become one of Israel’s most outspoken allies amid growing anti-Semitism and Islamic extremism worldwide. But Canada has elected a new prime minister, Liberal party leader Justin Trudeau, who has promised Canadians a return to “sunny ways.” Will Canadian-Israeli relations fall under the umbrella of that promised bright future, or are darker days ahead? Trudeau “is such a new phenomenon that it is really difficult to say,” said Canadian journalist Terry Glavin.
In the first-ever official visit by an Indian head of state to Israel, President Pranab Mukherjee arrived in Jerusalem this week to discuss a wide range of issues including the negotiation of an extensive free-trade agreement, bilateral cooperation in agricultural and other technologies, and expanded counter-terrorism coordination. “India attaches high importance to its relationship with Israel, a relationship which has taken great strides in the last few years,” said Mukherjee.