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Anti-Zionists are targeting South Africa, but hold tight and wait to see what happens, South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein tells JNS.org regarding reports of an impending dual citizenship crisis that may affect his country’s Jewish community. Discussing an early-September call by a deputy cabinet minister and senior official in the ruling African National Congress party that the government should look at changing current laws to ban South Africa’s citizens from holding dual citizenship—which would prevent them from fighting for the Israel Defense Forces—Goldstein says that South African Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba “called a press conference and said the government is not really considering changing the law…so I think now is not really the time to scream from the rooftop—at least not yet.”
In his United Nations speech Wednesday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas outlined his nightmare vision. Many Palestinians resent his corrupt rule. As Abbas weakens in the West Bank, the Hamas terror group gains strength. Terrorist organizations in the wider region are salivating at the prospect of the West Bank turning into Afghanistan. Iran now exercises supreme control in Syria and Iraq. Abbas and his regime may not like Israel’s presence, but how many Palestinians would swap places with their brethren in Syria currently facing President Bashar al-Assad’s barrel bombs? By reneging on his agreements with Israel, Abbas has brought this regional nightmare one step closer to the territory whose interests he claims to represent, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
Syrian opposition activists are urging world leaders to pay heed to the favored weapon of the dictator Bashar al-Assad’s fighter planes and helicopters. It’s called a “barrel bomb —a crude, deadly, and unguided barrel casing, often made of metal and filled with chemicals and explosives to cause maximum harm. In the second week of September alone, Assad’s killing machine dropped 346 barrel bombs across Syria. What Syria represents is nothing less than the fault line between civilization and barbarism. How we halt the flow of this river of blood, and how we bring about the peaceful return of Syrian refugees to their homes, is the fundamental test of our values, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
An Austrian Jewish historian and journalist named Stephan Templ is scheduled to soon begin serving a year in government prison. Officially, he is accused of misrepresenting information in his family’s application for restitution as victims of Nazism. But there are grounds to fear that he is being punished for exposing Austria’s failure to return seized property to its Jewish owners, writes historian Rafael Medoff.
When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited him to be Israel’s ambassador to China in 2012, Matan Vilnai’s decorated career had included time as a cabinet minister, military general, and Knesset member. But there was one hole in his resumé. “I knew nothing at all about China,” Amb. Vilnai tells JNS.org in an exclusive interview from his Beijing office. Vilnai describes a current Israeli-Chinese relationship that is robust and “always improving,” particularly on the economic and academic fronts, but is not yet as rosy on the diplomatic front.
The bloody Syrian civil war has taken a new twist, with reports emerging that Russia has started to significantly beef up its military presence to help its longtime ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, continue his fight against rebel groups and terrorist organizations like Islamic State. At the same time, Israel has grown increasingly wary of the continued destabilization of Syria and Russia’s possible exacerbation of that situation. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow this week, with the trip highlighting “Israel’s serious concern about the possibility of advanced weapons reaching Hezbollah, as well as concern that Israel will accidentally clash with the Russian military,” said Anna Borshchevskaya, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank.
Azerbaijan Ambassador to the U.S. Elin Suleymanov recently visited Israel representing a Muslim-majority country that sits on the border of Georgia and Russia to the north, Iran to the south, and Armenia to the southwest and west, with a small part bordering Turkey to the northwest. In an interview over dinner with JNS.org, Suleymanov revealed the complexities of Azerbaijan's calculus on the Iran nuclear deal. The ambassador welcomed certain aspects of the agreement, including "the lowering of tensions" between Iran and America, but would have liked to see the Obama administration consult Azerbaijan about negotiations pertaining to the latter's own neighborhood.
Media coverage of the Iran nuclear deal occasionally refers to Hezbollah as Tehran’s anti-Israel proxy. But the influence of the Lebanese terror group is broader than that. U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) has argued, “We cannot take our eyes off another region where violent extremists are wreaking havoc: Africa.” If Iran does receive $150 billion in sanctions relief from its nuclear deal with world powers and uses those funds to provide additional support for terrorist proxies such as Hezbollah in Africa, our eyes may very well turn back to that continent—and news media may finally get around to covering Hezbollah there, writes Sean Durns, media assistant for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.
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.