The Incoming President Should Take a Stand against Anti-Semitism Wrapped in the Banner of Human Rights

Nov. 19 2020

Reportedly, the State Department is considering a process of designating organizations as anti-Semitic if they engage in extreme anti-Israel rhetoric, using as a standard the parameters laid out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which have been endorsed by various organizations and governments in Europe and elsewhere. Ben Cohen examines the consequences of such a policy:

Quite how far an organization would have to go to earn an anti-Semitism designation is not specified, but it’s probably safe to assume that the kinds of statements and actions undertaken by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam during the 2014 [the Israel-Hamas war]—false accusations of Israeli war crimes, counting Hamas terrorists as “civilian” war deaths, analogizing Gaza’s predicament with the Jewish ghetto in Nazi-occupied Warsaw—would be sufficient.

In practical terms, [however], to announce such a policy during the twilight of the Trump administration is perhaps condemning it to an undeserved fate. Undeserved, because the basic idea underlying the policy is a sound one—that trafficking in anti-Semitic canards should not be permitted to hide behind noble labels such as [human rights].

Can this principle be incorporated into a Democratic administration’s policy on countering anti-Semitism? At some point, it will need such a policy, if only because combating hatred and discrimination against Jews is part of the State Department’s mission, and it is one moreover that has bipartisan support.

In that same bipartisan spirit, the incoming administration should resist the temptation to sweep away everything undertaken by its predecessor. An official designation can be a vital tool in holding to account civic, academic, and humanitarian organizations that receive public funds in the event they spread anti-Semitic canards.

Read more at JNS

More about: Amnesty International, Anti-Semitism, Human Rights Watch, State Department

How Israel and Its Allies Could Have a Positive Influence on the Biden Administration’s Iran Policy

Nov. 25 2020

While the president-elect has expressed his desire to return the U.S. to the 2015 nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic, this should not in itself cause worry in Jerusalem; it has never been the Israeli government’s position that a deal with Tehran is undesirable, only that the flaws of the deal negotiated by the Obama administration outweighed its benefits. Thus Yaakov Amidror, Efraim Inbar, and Eran Lerman urge Israel to approach Joe Biden’s national-security team—whose senior members were announced this week—to urge them to act prudently:

To the greatest extent possible, such approaches should be made jointly, or in very close coordination with, Israel’s new partners in the Gulf. These countries share Israel’s perspectives on the Iranian regional threat and on the need to block Tehran’s path to nuclear weapons.

For Israel, for Iran-deal skeptics in Washington, and for her partners in the region, the first operational priority is to persuade the incoming U.S. national-security team to maintain full leverage on Iran. Sanctions against Iran should not be lifted as a “gesture” without a verified Iranian return to the status quo ante (at the very least) in terms of low-enriched-uranium stockpiles and ongoing enrichment activities.

In parallel, there may emerge a unique opportunity to close ranks with the French (and with Boris Johnson’s government in London) on the Iranian question. On several issues (above all, the struggle for hegemony in the eastern Mediterranean, against Turkey), Jerusalem, Abu Dhabi, and Paris now see eye-to-eye. On Iran, during the negotiations leading to the [deal] in 2015, the position of France was often the most robust. In 2018, President Macron was willing to reach an operational understanding with Secretary of State Pompeo on [key issues regarding the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities].

Last but certainly not least, it should be clear to the incoming U.S. national-security team that any attempt to negotiate must be, can be, and (as far as Israel is concerned) firmly will be backed by a credible military threat.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: France, Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, US-Israel relations