Israel

By Olivia Daniels

Following the attacks on Jews living in European countries, most recently the terror attacks in Copenhagen, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for a mass emigration of Jews from Europe. Netanyahu said, “Jews have been murdered again on soil only because they were Jews,” reiterating, “Of course, Jews deserve protection in every country, but we say to Jews, to our brothers and sisters: Israel is your home”.

This comment left European leaders extremely defensive, French President Francois Hollande telling French Jews, “I will not just let what was said in Israel pass, leading people to believe that Jews no longer have a place in Europe and in France in particular,” while French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said, “A Jew who leaves France is a piece of France that is gone”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also commented, “We are glad and thankful that there is Jewish life in Germany again,” and, “we would like to continue living well together with the Jews who are in Germany today”. Denmark’s Chief Rabbi Jair Melchior told the Associated Press, “People from Denmark move to Israel because they love Israel, because of Zionism, but not because of terrorism,” and insightfully, “if the way we deal with terror is to run somewhere else, we should all run to a desert island.”

The director of the European Jewish Association, Rabbi Menachim Margolin, is using the tragedy in Copenhagen as means for a change in gun licensing laws to allow Jews to carry weapons in Europe. Margolin said, “When I pick up my son at the synagogue I want to make sure that he is there and he is alive…it is a very basic request”. Despite his loss of faith, Margolin also criticized Netanyahu’s call, explaining, “Netanyahu is basically saying ‘we have no way to protect you where you are’”.

europe des island2The problem is not that Netanyahu wants Jews to come to Israel: the state was built on immigration and its survival has always been contingent on Jews coming and staying. The issue is that the prime minister is insinuating that Jews are not safe anywhere but in Israel, which places a stigma on both European countries and European Jews: Jews are not welcome in Europe, and they will not be safe unless they leave. Even Shimon Peres, former Israeli president and prime minister, retorted, telling the Times of Israel, “Don’t come to Israel because of a political position, but because you want to come and live in Israel…Israel must remain a land of hope and not a land of fear”.

According to the Law of Return, any Jewish person can become an Israeli citizen, so long as they pose no threat to the state or the people. In 1970, the law was amended to include citizenship for non-Jewish immediate family members. Thus, it is relatively simple for any Jew with the will and the means to become an Israeli citizen. In the first quarter of 2014, Jewish immigration to Israel increased by 50 percent, 93 percent of which was from Western Europe and Ukraine. In all of 2014, more than 7,000 Jews immigrated to Israel from France, which was twice as many than in 2013. The January attacks in Paris left Israel expecting another increase. Around 8,000 Jews live in Denmark today and despite recent events, they have been asked to stay in their home country with the promise of protection. The Danish-born terrorist that killed two people in Copenhagen was shot and killed by police on Sunday, allowing the Danish people to feel a moment of relief.

Jews should feel safe in today’s world, and they should not have to relocate to Israel for that to become a reality. One cannot ask anyone to stay somewhere they feel threatened, so it is up to those European leaders to uphold their promises of inclusion and protection.

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By Joshua Shinbrot

A Hamas soldier carries a rocket over his shoulder during the 2009 Gaza War. Source: Zoriah

This summer, thousands of Hamas rockets were fired at Israel sending countless Israelis sprinting for the nearest bomb shelters. While Israel’s retaliatory strikes attracted massive criticism from European countries, the Arab world was largely silent. Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, Arab nations that had historically championed the Palestinian cause, watched quietly as Israel worked to deal a devastating blow to Hamas in response to incessant rocket attacks.

It appears that times and attitudes are changing in Egypt. After the ousting of Egyptian President Mohamad Morsi, Egypt’s military began a massive crackdown on Morsi’s political organization, the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas was founded during the First Palestinian Intifada as an extension of the organization that brought Morsi to the Egyptians. Similarly, the Muslim Brotherhood has a presence in Saudi Arabia. The rise to power that the Muslim Brotherhood experienced in Egypt during the Arab Spring demonstrates a potential threat to the stability of the Saudi Arabian monarchy. Consequently, many Arab countries that desire stability see the Muslim Brotherhood as an organization that needs to be eliminated and were not about to criticize Israel for retaliation against it.

The Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots are most certainly not the only problem in the region. ISIL (Islamic State and Iraq and Levant) seeks to establish a caliphate in the Levant region. This territory includes Iraq, Syria, Southern Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinian territories. ISIL has played a major role in the destabilization of the Assad regime in Syria, and has become a household term for its swift territorial gains in Iraq.  A combination of ISIL’s economic resources and its recent capture of territory, poses a direct threat to the established states in the land it hopes to occupy, as well as states in the vicinity. Saudi Arabia, for example shares a border with Iraq and has legitimate concerns over ISIL’s influence in land just north of its border. This concern has been epitomized by Saudi Arabia’s participation in airstrikes against ISIL. It is also worth noting the parallel between US-Saudi cooperation against ISIL today, and US-Saudi cooperation against Iraq when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1991.

Overall, Hamas and ISIL comprise a common threat to Israel and its Arab neighbors. Cooperation, particularly between Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, could prove extremely beneficial to all four nations in confronting this threat. By sharing intelligence and military resources these nations could, with US assistance, counter the threat of ISIL. The cooperation between these nations to confront the threats posed by the Muslim Brotherhood, including Hamas, and ISIL could lead to a greater mutual understanding of each nation’s security concerns. Iran’s continued pursuit of nuclear capability and the threat that poses to dominant Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt is likely to rank highly on the list of common enemies countries in this region face. The destabilizing effect that Iran has had on Syria, and its influence in the region through its proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, also make the list of common enemies of the Israelis, Egyptians, Jordanians, and Saudis alike. Perhaps these shared hazards may even provide sufficient incentive for cooperation, that a new balance of power may emerge in the Middle East.

Hamas and ISIL constitute an immediate, significant, and mutual threat to moderate Arab nations and Israel. The potential benefits of cooperation between these nations far outweigh the very real dangers of extremist victory and should not be ignored.

The benefits of cooperation may provide not only opportunities for peacebuilding between Israel and Arab states with which it has no peace treaty, but also with the Palestinians. Addressing the common threats faced by Israel and its Arab neighbors will necessitate diminishing Hamas and Hezbollah’s capacity for violence. It will not be possible to counter the Iranian threat to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, without diminishing the influence of Hamas and Hezbollah in the region, and consequently the threat they pose to Israel.   What would be the consequences of a disempowered Hamas and Hezbollah? The answer to that depends on which organizations would fill the power vacuum that Hamas’s absence will create. However, at the moment, there are very real threats that former enemies now commonly face. Cooperation, among the actors will produce tangible benefits and a lack thereof will have detrimental consequences. At present, there is an opportunity for cooperation and perhaps even a more peaceful Middle East. Israel and its Arab neighbors should be encouraged to take advantage of it.

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