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The Iran nuclear deal has dominated the foreign policy debate in the U.S. this summer, with Congress in the midst of a 60-day period to review the agreement. But America is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to the accord reached in July between Iran and the P5+1 world powers. JNS.org examines how the Iran deal is being considered within the Western European nations that participated in the nuclear negotiations. Compared to the robust American debate about the deal, the lighter discourse in Western Europe—along with the eagerness of governments and businesses there to reignite relations with Iran—indicate “fatigue and mass cowardice about confronting terrorism and rogue regimes,” said Berlin-based scholar Benjamin Weinthal.
First coined by historian Ronald Radosh, an alternative interpretation of the BDS acronym— the "Bibi Derangement Syndrome"—has risen up again among leading figures in the Jewish establishment in the context of the debate over the Iran nuclear deal. Viewing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu as a cross between a Bond villain and a diva, these leaders need to ask themselves whether their distaste for the Israeli leader has clouded their collective judgment, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
In Lviv, a Ukrainian city near the Polish border, perhaps the most emblematic symbol of a forgotten Jewish past is the Golden Rose synagogue. In 1941, during the destruction of Lviv’s Jewish population by the Nazis, the structure somehow escaped total obliteration. Now, the ruins sit in a rapidly gentrifying portion of the downtown area, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Nearly 80 years after the 16th-century synagogue was plundered, a battle over its masonry remains is now being fought in the Ukrainian courts and within the local Jewish community.
Germany is known for a strong state-level commitment to atoning for its Holocaust past, manifested through formal ceremonies, museums, and monuments. At the same time, in a seemingly growing trend, the extremist anti-Israel analogy of the Israeli government to the Nazi regime can often outweigh Germans’ Holocaust guilt. This pattern has been illustrated by the “Stolpersteine”—plaques naming Holocaust victims that are also known as “stumbling block” memorials. Some representatives of the memorial initiative have expressed harsh anti-Israel sentiments. “For people who need national identification as a source for personal wellbeing and pride, and on a collective level for the ‘nation’ while pursuing its interests, being confronted with [that nation’s own] crimes is always a moral threat,” said Peter Ullrich, a sociologist at Technical University of Berlin.
The mask of anti-Zionism is falling before our eyes. BDS movement patron Jeremy Corbyn, who has called the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups “our friends,” is the current front-runner in the battle for the leadership of the U.K.'s Labour Party and is leading the charge against the British presence of the Israeli soccer team. The American-Jewish singer Matisyahu was disinvited from a reggae festival in Spain because he refused to condemn Israel. We need to send a wake-up call to anti-Zionists that substituting the word “Zionist” for “Jew” is a shabby trick, and we are smarter than that, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
In the early hours of Aug. 17, 1915, a 31-year-old man took his last breath as the table beneath him was kicked out and the short rope hung from an oak branch snapped his neck. The man hanging from that tree was an American Jew by the name of Leo Frank. Although Frank was the only Jew in the history of America lynched by a mob, his death had a profound and lasting impact on American Jewry. A century later, America needs to remember Leo Frank, remember all of our lynchings and similar atrocities, and learn from them. America needs to rise above this past, write Menachem Z. Rosensaft and David Meluskey, general counsel and executive assistant to the CEO, respectively, of the World Jewish Congress.
The Iran deal has been accompanied by a large amount of crystal ball gazing as to how the legitimization of Tehran’s nuclear capacity will impact its behavior. It is tempting to err on the side of caution by not forecasting earth-shattering future developments. At the same time, caution closes off our willingness to imagine radical, unexpected potential outcomes—which is what happened with the demise of the Soviet Union. But the problem is that the Iranians are, in some ways, ahead of where the Soviets were during the Cold War. We have launched a policy of detente after their invasions. We have no control over how they spend their sanctions relief windfall. From this vantage point, it seems fanciful to believe that Iran will be a dramatically different state 15 years from now, when the “sunset clause” in the nuclear deal sets in, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
The Christian Zionist organization Proclaiming Justice to the Nations (PJTN) convened a special session at the United Nations in New York City on Aug. 11 to help Christians learn more about the impact of genocidal anti-Semitism. “Our goal for the program was to reach ambassadors of predominately Christian nations and to help them understand anti-Semitism and how to deal with it,” Laurie Cardoza-Moore, president of PJTN, told JNS.org. The session was attended by diplomats from 13 countries: Germany, Finland, France, Italy, Spain, Panama, Cyprus, Israel, Canada, Palau, Poland, Japan, and the Holy See.
In Europe, Jewish communities are still licking the wounds from a miserable 12 months that saw deadly jihadist violence erupt against them in Paris, Brussels, and Copenhagen, along with a growing acceptance of anti-Semitic discourse masquerading as fevered criticism of alleged Israeli crimes. JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen fears the Iran nuclear deal will exacerbate this trend. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have both been busy downplaying the significance of Iran’s state policy of anti-Semitism. They say it matters what Iran does, not what it says. Yet the division between speaking and acting isn’t quite as strict as some believe, Cohen writes.
The Soviet Union may have dissolved in 1991, but many Jewish families are still struggling to emerge from the regime’s seven decades of antipathy towards their heritage. For some, their Jewish identity amounts to little more than a Jewish name and the bigotry that it attracts. World ORT’s network of Jewish schools in the former Soviet Union is addressing that issue—with the support of funding from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. “Since 1880, it has been our organization’s mission to enable Jewish people to lift themselves out of poverty and dependency and into a brighter, self-sufficient existence,” said World ORT Director General and CEO Shmuel Sisso. “For most of those 135 years the kind of generosity that has been extended to us by the Christian community would have been unimaginable. This friendship is a beacon of hope at a time when our people need it so much.”
“Start worrying. Details to follow.” It’s not just the irreverent punch line of a joke about the content of a Jewish telegram. It is also the only way Etta Gross Zimmerman can describe the situation in Ukraine, a country suffering from violent conflict, wide-ranging economic collapse, and a humanitarian crisis of untold proportions. Zimmerman experienced a taste of this crisis during her most recent trip to the beleaguered Eastern European nation together with a group of Jewish leaders, and reflects on the journey in an op-ed for JNS.org.
Beyond the recently reached nuclear deal’s implications for Iran’s nuclear program itself, much of the fear about the agreement centers on how the substantial sanctions relief (as much as $150 billion) it provides to the Islamic Republic might open the floodgates to increased Iranian exporting of terrorism. “It is clear to me that the sanctions will be thoroughly gutted,” Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury and vice president for research at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies think tank, told JNS.org. “There will be little way of financial pressure that the U.S. and its allies will have after the implementation of the deal.”
World powers’ surrender in Vienna on the newly announced nuclear deal with Iran reverberates most immediately in Syria. President Bashar al-Assad’s most powerful backers are now Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, assisted by the notorious Qods Force and various intelligence agencies. Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’a terrorist group, is also engaged in combat on behalf of Assad. Even Shi’a militias from Iraq, like the Kata’ib Hezbollah, have been imported into Syria by the Iranians. Imagine what they can do—and will do—when billions of dollars of sanctions relief make their way into Tehran’s coffers after the signing of this nuclear deal, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
Back in 2003, noted European history expert Tony Judt wrote, “Israel, in short, is an anachronism.” In 2015, it is far too early to say whether Greece will reverse the course of European history by reviving the ugly political traditions that the European Union thought had been vanquished after World War II. But with the collapse of the European idea there, along with the severe disillusionment in other EU states, there is every reason to worry that both the far left and the far right will reap the rewards that will flow from Europe’s shattered consensus. In such conditions, anti-Semitism flourishes, as the “blame the Jews” chorus that invariably accompanies financial meltdown will grow louder. Yet if Europe has proved anything, it’s not that Israel is an “anachronism.” It is, rather, a necessity, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
After more than a decade of intermittent negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, the P5+1 nations missed a June 30 deadline to reach a final deal with Iran and have a new deadline of July 7. But with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejecting several key components agreed to under a framework reached in April, such as access by inspectors to military sites, many observers fear that negotiators might agree to a weak deal with Iran or no deal at all. Against that backdrop, JNS.org examines the positions of each of the P5+1 countries as they approach of the deadline.
“The great powers had photographs of the railway routes that the trains took to… Auschwitz,” Pope Francis remarked this week. “Tell me, why didn’t they bomb them?” The pontiff’s question is not merely a matter of historical curiosity. It raises issues of morality, diplomacy, and American foreign policy with profound implications for our own times, writes historian Rafael Medoff.
A political upheaval is seemingly underway in Turkey, as the Islamist AKP party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed to win a parliamentary majority in the country’s June 7 election. Does the setback for Erdogan, who has been known for his anti-Israel foreign policy and anti-Semitic rhetoric, mean an impending shift in Turkey’s future as well as its relationship with Israel?