Shalom Life | October 03, 2014

5774: The Year in News

As Rosh Hashanah approaches and the Jewish calendar turns to 5775, we take a look at the biggest Jewish news stories from the past year

By: Alina Dain Sharon, JNS.org

Published: September 24th, 2014 in News » World

5774: The Year in News

Photo Caption: IDF soldiers near the Gaza border in late July

Photo Credit: Haaretz


As Rosh Hashanah approaches and the Jewish calendar turns to 5775, we take a look at the biggest Jewish news stories from the past year.

The Israel-Hamas war

The 50-day war between Israel and Hamas dominated headlines around the world throughout this summer. The events leading up to the conflict began with Hamas’s June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers—Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Frenkel—followed by the apparent revenge killing of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir, which triggered an escalation of Palestinian violence against Israel.

Israelis spent the summer running to bomb shelters due to rocket barrages launched by Hamas from Gaza. Many of the Palestinian rockets proved to have wider reach than ever before, striking central Israel and even as far north as Haifa. Following a rocket’s landing near Ben Gurion Airport, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implemented a controversial ban on flights to and from Israel that lasted 36 hours.

Israel initially responded to the Hamas rockets with airstrikes but eventually launched a ground invasion dubbed Operation Protective Edge, which destroyed more than 30 Hamas terror tunnels that ran underneath the Israel-Gaza border. During the conflict, Israel accepted 11 cease-fire proposals that were all violated by Hamas, until the 12th and final cease-fire was reached on Aug. 26.

Palestinian unity and failed peace talks

Without an agreement in place to extend the U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace talks beyond their initial March 28 deadline for a resolution, Israel decided against proceeding with its fourth scheduled release of 26 Palestinian terrorist prisoners. The Palestinian Authority (PA) responded by beginning the process of joining 15 international conventions, violating the peace talks’ ban on such unilateral actions.

In April, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party agreed to form a unity government with Hamas. Thus, Fatah’s pact with an organization whose charter vows the destruction of Israel caused the Israeli government to officially pull out of the peace talks.

Anti-Semitism in Europe

In May, four people, including an Israeli couple, were killed in a shooting at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels. Mehdi Nemmouche, a French national suspected of having tortured hostages held by the Islamic State in Syria, was arrested over the shooting and charged with murder.

European anti-Semitism rose sharply during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. Compared to the same month in 2013, this July saw a 400-percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the United Kingdom, according to the Community Security Trust. Anti-Israel Muslim rioters attacked two Paris synagogues, chanting “Death to Jews” and “Hitler was right,” while French Jews continued to make aliyah in record numbers.

The rise of Islamic State

The Islamic State terrorist group came to the forefront of Western media attention after seizing control of Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, in June. Since then, the group has gained notoriety for its brutal persecution of Mideast religious minorities such as Christians and Yazidis. Islamic State also executed American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, as well as British aid worker David Haines.

After Sotloff’s execution, Israel’s Foreign Ministry revealed that he was an Israeli citizen. Sotloff made aliyah in 2008. To protect him while he was held captive in Syria, a network of more than 150 of his friends and acquaintances raced to delete information from the Internet that discussed his Jewish and Israeli identity.

Iran nuclear program

In November 2013, the U.S. and the other P5+1 powers reached a six-month interim deal with Iran on its nuclear program despite opposition from Israel, Jewish groups, the U.S. Congress, and Saudi Arabia. In exchange for sanctions relief, Iran promised to dilute its 20-percent-enriched (high grade) uranium stockpiles to 5 percent and was allowed to continue production of uranium enriched up to 3.5 percent while the agreement was in effect. The P5+1 in July agreed to extend the Iran nuclear talks to November 2014.

Israel on campus

The boundary between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism on American college campuses became increasingly blurred this year, particularly in relation to the actions of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). During an orientation event at Temple University in August, a Jewish student was punched in the face by an SJP member and called slurs such as “kike” and “baby killer.”

SJP was also behind the growing trend of mock eviction notices placed in student dormitories across the country, including at New York University in April. While the anti-Israel group claims the notices are strictly meant to protest the Israeli “occupation,” pro-Israel experts have said the notices cross the line into anti-Semitism through their intimidation of students and delegitimization of the Jewish people’s indigenous right to self-determination in their homeland. At Northeastern University, the eviction notices resulted in the suspension of the school’s SJP chapter, but the group was later reinstated.

On the faculty side, the membership of the American Studies Association last December voted to endorse a boycott of Israel, while the Modern Language Association (MLA) delegate committee passed a resolution in January condemning Israel for denying the entry of U.S. academics into the West Bank. The resolution, however, was defeated in June in a vote among MLA members.

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