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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.”
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.
“Today no one talks about Israel in synagogue, because the Jewish leadership doesn’t want to approach a point of conflict,” Shoham Nicolet, CEO of the Israeli-American Council (IAC), says with regret. The IAC, which Nicolet founded with other Israelis a decade ago, describes itself as the fastest-growing Jewish organization in the U.S. It is active in 27 states and serves more than 250,000 Israeli Americans. Nicolet argues he and his team are in a unique position to make Israel a natural part of Jewish life in the U.S. because they are an integral part of the community, but at the same time they represent Israeliness outside Israel in the fullest meaning of the term.
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.
European countries are not exactly known for their love of Israel. Yet recent actions taken by the governments of Norway and Belgium suggest that, in at least one important respect, those two nations have gone much further than the U.S. in confronting the problem of Palestinian incitement against Israel, writes JNS.org columnist Stephen M. Flatow.
In an article about Harvey Weinstein for the Jewish magazine Tablet, Mark Oppenheimer argued that the disgraced Hollywood producer’s unwanted sexual advances upon women were indicative of a “specifically Jewy perviness.” While Oppenheimer issued an apology for floating this nasty caricature, his piece remains online and serves as an arch-example of why ill-informed chatter steers us towards prejudice instead of reason, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
President Donald Trump’s decision to throw out the ObamaCare contraception mandate as well as to largely exempt religious groups from non-discrimination statutes has drawn criticism from most liberal Jewish groups. But Trump is standing up for a principle that Jews should be defending. Religious liberty for me but not thee is the sort of hypocrisy we shouldn’t accept from those who purport to represent a Jewish community that knows only too well the importance of defending our first constitutional right, writes JNS.org Opinion Editor Jonathan S. Tobin.
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.
Stephen Walt, co-author of “The Israel Lobby,” claims “history proved us right” in his book’s smears of the pro-Israel community. Pointing to the growing anti-Israel sentiment on the left, Walt thinks his stand is somehow vindicated. Yet those who want to besmirch Israel’s supporters as undermining U.S. interests without being rightly labeled as anti-Semites are fooling no one, writes JNS.org Opinion Editor Jonathan S. Tobin.
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.
By highlighting that the amount of land on which Jewish homes and buildings sit in the territories is barely 2 percent of all of Judea and Samaria, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman conveyed a powerful and relevant fact. It’s an important reminder that the settlements are not the obstacle to peace, and that the critics of the settlements engage in wild exaggerations and demonization for political purposes. They proved that again this week with their absurdly unfair and disingenuous response to Friedman, writes JNS.org columnist Stephen M. Flatow.
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.
Most Jews look on the fragment of our community that hates Israel and Zionism with a mixture of disdain, irritation and puzzlement. Now, that fragment has decided to attack Birthright for offering free trips to Israel to young Jewish adults. It would be a good time finally to get serious about a response, writes columnist Rabbi Jonathan Greenberg.
The appointment of the new top lay leader at the Jewish National Fund (JNF), the nonprofit known for its initiatives to develop the land of Israel and enhance quality of life for Israelis, marks a historic event for the organized Jewish community. JNF says Dr. Sol Lizerbram of San Diego is not only the group’s first national president from the West Coast, but also one of the first national presidents from that part of the country for any major Jewish organization. “I think it’ll help in some respects to build some new opportunities for leadership on the West Coast,” Lizerbram tells JNS.org. “I think other organizations might follow [this] lead in the future.”
What can the hunt for Josef Mengele teach us about the challenges facing Jews today? With a debate stirring about whether left-wing or right-wing Jew-haters pose the greater threat, a new account of the decisions made by Israel’s leaders regarding the evil doctor of Auschwitz should give us some food for thought, writes JNS.org Opinion Editor Jonathan S. Tobin.
When Jews confront the present and prepare for the future, they are always mindful of the past. Anti-Semitism has proven its durability as the world’s oldest hate. That reality puts even greater responsibility on the shoulders of leaders: they have to be unequivocal in their rejection of the ideology, its transmitters and fellow travelers. American Jews are finding their voices, and we must speak up even more after the recent events in Charlottesville, writes Rabbi Noam E. Marans, the American Jewish Committee’s director of interreligious and intergroup relations.