Latest News on Israel and the Jewish World

JNS.org freelance reporters and staff editors strive to provide high quality news coverage of the latest news from Israel and the Jewish world. In this section JNS.org offers analytical reports and commentaries on politics and international affairs, culture and lifestyle features, arts and sports content, and religious news. For the latest news on Israel, we also include exclusively syndicated content from Israel Hayom, a major daily newspaper in Israel. If you are interested in a specific topic, please browse through the content “categories” in our navigation bar or search our site.

Latest News

The election of the first Jewish director-general of the United Nations cultural body UNESCO, French politician Audrey Azoulay, is raising hope that with her background and political experience, she could return the organization to its original mission. UNESCO in recent weeks has seen announcements from the U.S. and Israel of their plans to withdraw from the agency over its anti-Israel bias. Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of the American Jewish Committee’s European offices, said Azoulay “is generally regarded as a true professional and expert in the field of culture and was a very respected [government] minister.”

Iran is unlikely to halt its drive towards nuclear weapons following President Donald Trump’s refusal to recertify the Islamic Republic’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, experts say. “Iran just keeps threatening to do what it’s already been doing—continuing its path to nuclear weapons,” said Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies. “The most it changes is the pace of progress and that’s precisely the problem with the [nuclear deal]: it doesn’t stop Iran.”

Recognizing it is easier to influence those who are prone to be natural supporters of the Jewish state than it is to sway journalists who cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a perceived anti-Israel bias, the Israeli government this week offered Christian media professionals from around the world a crash course in advocacy and diplomacy during a first-of-its-kind summit. Brian Schrauger, a Christian journalist for the USA Radio Network, said Israel “is doing something very, very smart. It’s catering to a group of journalists that don’t often get attention, and it’s educating them. And these are by-and-large friendly journalists that generally support Israel.”

The Gaza-controlling Hamas terror group’s recent decision to sign a unity deal with the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) ruling Fatah party may have been motivated by more than just a desire to reconcile after years of bitter rivalry. A cunning plan to pave the way for senior Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to win the PA presidency could be the true aim of the terrorist organization’s willingness to compromise, Israel Hayom reports.

The Stanford Israel Association—a student group at the California-based university that claims it “aims to engage Stanford students with all that the Jewish State has to offer, through culture, politics, and identity”—pulled its support for a program highlighting the stories of Israel’s minority populations.

Under the new unity deal brokered last week between the Gaza-controlling Palestinian terror group Hamas and the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah party, Hamas reportedly agreed to cease all terror attacks against Israelis. Yet Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum think tank, told JNS.org, “Hamas emerged 30 years ago o represent a more Islamist and harder-line approach against Israel, which it has since consistently sustained. For it to give up its tactics and adopt those of Fatah-Palestinian Authority at this late date strikes me as highly unlikely.”

In fulfilling a key campaign pledge, President Donald Trump announced in a White House speech Friday he decertified the Iran nuclear deal as part of a new and tougher approach towards the Islamic Republic. The move brings a new level of challenges and uncertainty in handling one of the most complex international agreements in recent years. While the decertification stops short of pulling out of the agreement, the move sends a decision to Congress regarding whether to reimpose sanctions lifted in 2016.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), in pop culture and science fiction, suffers from an image of being a technology posing a threat to humanity. But in the real world, AI's many benefits are just beginning to come to light. AI is revolutionizing the ways in which Israel defends itself, providing recommendations to military commanders in ways that no human adviser could.

Jewish leaders are denouncing plans by a New York University (NYU)-affiliated theater to host a play that portrays Palestinian terrorists as heroes. From Oct. 12-22, the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts will host “The Siege,” which focuses on the Palestinian terrorists who seized Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity in 2002 and occupied it for 39 days. “Having witnessed firsthand the ‘siege,’ a blatant terrorist outrage, I am especially outraged at this presentation,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “Diminishing the true nature of this brutal attack serves to whitewash terrorism at a time when this scourge is taking so many lives and threatening so many more.”

Two Republican state lawmakers in Wisconsin last week introduced legislation to prohibit businesses from engaging in boycotts of Israel as a condition of any state contract.In recent years, more than 20 U.S. states have passed legislation condemning BDS or prohibiting government business with entities that boycott Israel, with additional states—including Wisconsin—expected to follow before the end of the year.

In the predominantly Muslim Middle East, the sure way to rally opposition to any concept is to tie it to Israel. Regional players such as Turkey, Iran and the Iranian terror proxy Hezbollah have done just that with Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, saying the recent Kurdish independence vote was part of a U.S.-Israel plot to divide the region. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also alleged that the fact that Israeli flags were waved during celebrations for the “yes” vote for independence proved Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency was involved.

Israeli officials and the leaders of major Jewish organizations united in condemnation of Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, in which at least 58 people were killed and more than 500 were wounded. “On this terrible day, the people of Israel stand shoulder to shoulder with the American people in mourning and sorrow,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Following the rise of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in the country’s recent election, Jewish leaders’ immediate reaction was to express concern about AfD’s views. But what are the broader implications of the party’s electoral showing for German Jews and for Israel? AfD—founded in 2013, largely to protest the issue of bailouts for financially struggling EU member states—has adopted an increasingly hard line against NATO, the EU and the U.S., as well as against immigration and Islamic terrorism. Konstanty Gebert, an expert from the European Council on Foreign Relations, said German Jews “must tread a fine line between legitimate security concerns and [living in a] country that might become more xenophobic.”

The recent terror attack that killed three Israelis in Har Adar is a reminder of the fragile security situation across Israel, Judea and Samaria (the territories), and Gaza. Most of the time, the situation looks calm. But hidden from view is the titanic struggle raging 24 hours a day between Israel’s security forces and Palestinian terrorists. In July and August alone, the Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency and the IDF thwarted more than 70 terror cells in the territories.

Jewish college students returning after their summer break are encountering a wave of swastika daubings and anti-Israel activity on campuses across the country—and there are signs the hostility may intensify in the weeks ahead. The latest incidents coincide with a new campaign by pro-Palestinian activists to portray Israel as a “white supremacist country,” linking the Jewish state to accusations about white supremacist activity in the U.S.

In the absence of peace negotiations, the Palestinian Authority has sought unilateral recognition of statehood from different entities in recent years. Marking the latest diplomatic setback for Israel on that front, the police agency Interpol—the world’s second-largest international organization after the United Nations—this week voted to accept Palestinian membership. The development “will only solidify [the Palestinians’] goal of seeking the trappings of statehood without negotiations and concessions,” said Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, head of the international law department at the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem.

In what turned out to be a timely announcement, dozens of bereaved families Sept. 26 unveiled a new organization that seeks to fight and deter terrorism in the Jewish state. On the same day, a Palestinian terrorist killed three Israelis in the community of Har Adar near Jerusalem. The nascent nonprofit organization, Choosing Life, brings together more than 40 families who have lost relatives in the ongoing Palestinian terror wave that began in September 2015. 

After the terror group Hamas and the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority announced a decision to form a unity government, it remains to be seen whether the Palestinian factions’ latest attempt at rapprochement will succeed in the long run. “I think the stakes are higher and there is new leadership in Hamas, and that might mean that the two are able to keep up the appearances of reconciliation longer…but ultimately the two sides have too much bad blood and divergent ideologies to coexist meaningfully,” said Grant Rumley, an expert on Palestinian politics and a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Three Israeli security officers were killed and a fourth was severely wounded by a Palestinian terrorist early Tuesday morning in the community of Har Adar near Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attributed the attack to “systematic incitement by the Palestinian Authority, and other elements.” 

Amidst Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration that the U.S.-Israel alliance has “never been stronger,” the two countries recently made history by opening of the first permanent American military base on Israeli soil, writes JNS.org Contributor Yaakov Lappin.