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Has New York City Learned Nothing From The Crown Heights Riots?

Daled Amos - Mon, 30/12/2019 - 15:37
A suspect has been arrested in connection with the stabbing of 5 Orthodox Jews in Monsey.

But even though this attack happened in Monsey, it is part of a growing and increasingly alarming pattern inside New York City.

And no one expects these attacks to stop soon.

One reason for the pessimism is the failure by the media, elected officials and social media 'celebrities' to address the fact that, contrary to the accepted media narrative, these attacks on Orthodox Jews are being carried out by Blacks -- not by "White Supremacists."

Elder of Ziyon has posted about the reluctance among leftists to mention this common link among the majority of the attacks on Jews, either out of fear of being labeled racist or accused of inciting violence against the Black community:
Most blacks are not antisemitic, although the percentage is roughly double that of whites (in 2016, 23% compared to 10%.) No one is saying that all blacks should be blamed. But the fear of being labeled a racist is the major reason there has not been any effective outreach to the black community to help solve this problem.But this is not the first time that the fear of addressing Black antisemitism has manifested itself and prevented the media and community leaders from speaking out.

Remember the Crown Heights Riots?

In 2016, Seth Lipsky wrote for The New York Post, 25 years later, we still haven’t learned the lessons of the Crown Heights riot -- and in the 3 years since then, matters have only gotten worse:
Crown Heights erupted after a driver in the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s motorcade lost control and killed a black child, Gavin Cato. For three days, historian Edward Shapiro would write, “bands of young blacks” had “roamed” the neighborhood, assaulting Jews. [Emphasis added]At the time, Yankel Rosenbaum, a Jewish student visiting from the University of Melbourne, was stabbed to death -- and his killer, Lemrick Nelson, was acquitted of murder by a New York jury. Two federal civil rights prosecutions were required before Nelson would be sent to prison, and in the end, he did 10 years on civil rights charges.

What stands out most for Lipsky is that during the Crown Heights Riots, neither the political nor the private leaders in the city could bring themselves to admit that the attacks on Jews were antisemitic.

Ari Goldman, who reported on those riots for The New York Times at the time, later wrote about the experience, noting the insistence by journalists at the time to frame the attacks as a result of a "racial conflict."

In Telling It Like It Wasn't, Goldman quotes AM Rosenthal, a former executive editor at The New York Times who said what others would not:
“The press,” Rosenthal wrote, “treats it all as some kind of cultural clash between a poverty-ridden people fed up with life and a powerful, prosperous and unfortunately peculiar bunch of stuck-up neighbors — very sad of course, but certainly understandable. No — it is an anti-Semitic pogrom and the words should not be left unsaid.” [emphasis added]Indeed, one journalist tweeted about the Monsey attack something similar - and later deleted their tweet:
The situation in NY (and let's be clear we don't know who perpetrated the Monsey attack yet) is *massively complicated* and a growing division among two communities. What we need right now is a way to find solidarity with each other against our shared enemy of white supremacy.Other tweets, in response to steps proposed by Mayor de Blasio last week to increase police protection of the Jewish community, were worse:
This sends a pretty stark message to non-Jews living in these neighborhoods that their safety matters less to @NYCMayor than the safety of their Jewish neighbors. That's really really bad for literally everyone except our common enemies, who benefit when we're divided.and
Worst move. One that many of us have been warning against for many months now. de Blasio has caved to the pressure of racist demagogues like Dov Hikind and now many young black men will be at risk.

This isn't about ending hate, it's transferring the violence to acceptable targets.We are seeing the same blind eye and lack of decisive action now that we saw 28 years ago.

Two years after the riots, in 1993, an exhaustive state investigation into the handly of what happened sharply criticized Mayor Dinkins for his failure to understand and act upon the severity of the crisis.

The Jewish community now is growing increasingly concerned that the current mayor does not understand what is happening any better.
Lipsky concludes his 2016 article pointing to attempts at reconciliation within Crown Heights, yet notes:Liberal elites have made no such progress. They have never lifted a finger for the Orthodox Jews. The animus that erupted as “Heil Hitler” in Crown Heights has broken out on some of our city’s finest campuses, which echo with “Zionists out” and “Long live the Intifada.”

And liberals are unalarmed that Black Lives Matter has begun to make common cause with the BDS movement against Israel. So 25 years after Crown Heights, it’s anyone’s guess where the next attacks will break out against the Jews. [emphasis added]These days, there is no longer any need to guess.

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Categories: Middle East

Is Bernie Sanders Supposed To Be A Symbol of Jewish Pride?

Daled Amos - Mon, 23/12/2019 - 14:52
Last week, Peter Beinart described Bernie Sanders as "the most successful Jewish presidential candidate in American history"

After all, it is a 'thing' now to talk up how 'Jewish' Bernie Sanders is.

I responded to Beinart's tweet:

There were a few responses to what I wrote, but they avoided the question of whether Bernie Sanders actually embraces his being Jewish. Instead, they attacked Lieberman -- totally missing the point.

Or avoiding it.

The fact is that Bernie Sanders, despite the best efforts of Beinart and others, has not registered as a Jew in the minds of voters.

Back in 2016, a Los Angeles Times article reported that Bernie Sanders fares poorly against Hillary Clinton with fellow Jews, polls indicate
Sen. Bernie Sanders has gone further than any other Jewish candidate in a presidential campaign, but he’s not garnering much support from Jewish voters, polls indicate...

Now that the campaign has moved to New York, however, which has the nation’s largest Jewish population, the numbers are in, and they’re not favorable.

That shouldn’t be terribly surprising. Both Hillary Clinton and former president Bill Clinton have long been popular among Jewish voters, and while American Jews tend to be liberal, they’re more often regular Democrats than the sorts of independents most drawn to Sanders.

On the other side, Sanders is not actively engaged in Jewish life. He has also been critical of Israel, although he lived briefly as a young man on a secular, socialist kibbutz. When asked about his faith, his responses have reflected a generalized commitment to liberal concepts of social justice as opposed to any specific link to Jewish ideals of equality. [emphasis added]The article is based on 2 polls: the Sienna College Poll, which found Clinton leading Sanders among Jewish voters by a 60%-38% margin and the NBC/Wall St. Journal/Marist poll,which found Clinton leading among Jews 65%-32%.

Putting aside where he stands on Israel, the fact remains that Sanders is not Jewishly involved and his inspiration is from socialism, not Judaism.

That is not a judgment on Sanders, just a recognition of where he stands.

In a presidential election pitting Sanders and Trump, Sanders would clearly get the majority of the Jewish vote, but that is because most Jews vote Democrat anyway and not because they think of him as a Jew.

Not only does he not embody Jewish pride, Sanders does not have a typical reaction to antisemitism either. At an event at the Apollo Theater in New York in April 2016, Sanders faced an antisemitic question:
“As you know,” opened the questioner, “the Zionist Jews–and I don’t mean to offend anybody–they run the Federal Reserve, they run Wall Street, they run every campaign.” As this unfolded, Sanders began wagging his finger in dissent, and interjected to deem “Zionist Jews” a “bad phrase.” His interlocutor, pressed to articulate a question, concluded by saying, “What is your affiliation to your Jewish community? That’s all I’m asking.”

“No, no, no, that’s not what you’re asking,” Sanders quickly replied, in a nod to the question’s underlying prejudice. “I am proud to be Jewish,” he declared, to cheers from the audience. But then Sanders did something odd. Rather than using the question as a teaching moment to address and rebuke its anti-Semitic underpinnings, Sanders instead immediately pivoted to his stump speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Talking about Zionism and Israel,” he said, “I am a strong defender of Israel, but I also believe that we have got to pay attention to the needs of the Palestinian people.” He never challenged the actual contents of the question, let alone labeled it anti-Semitic. [emphasis added]

It is tempting to compare Sanders' failure to address the clear antisemitism of the questioner with his making Linda Sarsour his surrogate. This is the same Linda Sarsour who in 2015 spoke at a Farrakhan rally. Then again, Sanders has met publicly with antisemite Al Sharpton.

Associations with Farrakhan and Sharpton don't seem to bother Bernie Sanders.

But that Sanders-Sarsour connection really is especially jarring.

And, as Ron Kampeas points out, that alliance of Sanders and Sarsour is self-contradictory as well.

Kampeas notes Sarsour's statement that:
Ask them this, how can you be against white supremacy in America and the idea of being in a state based on race and class, but then you support a state like Israel that is based on supremacy, that is built on the idea that Jews are supreme to everyone else?” [emphasis added]Kampeas then points out that:
[Sanders] notes the time he spent in Israel as a young man and says “It is true that some criticism of Israel can cross the line into antisemitism, especially when it denies the right of self-determination to Jews, or when it plays into conspiracy theories about outsized Jewish power. I will always call out antisemitism when I see it.” [emphasis added]This leads Kampeas to the point:
Is there wiggle room to reconcile Sarsour’s rejection of a “state like Israel that is based on [Jewish] supremacy” and Sanders’ label for those who deny “the right of self-determination to Jews” as antisemites?This is an issue that does not seem to bother Sanders.

So if he does not embrace his being a Jew and not does publicly react to defend his being a Jew -- why is there this attempt to emphasize that Bernie Sanders is a Jew?

It seems there is an attempt to not only redefine what is and is not antisemitism, but even to redefine what it means to be a Jew -- something that no other minority has to put up with.

Maybe it is an attempt to redefine the connection between Jews and Israel, in the way that small radical fringe groups like If Not Now try to do.

But whatever the reason, this attempt to sell Sanders as a symbol of Jewish pride is a symptom of the weakening of Jewish identity in general and the problematic connection of Jews in the US with Israel.

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Categories: Middle East

Black Hebrew Israelites - Jewish Enough To Be Killed By Palestinian Terrorists

Daled Amos - Tue, 17/12/2019 - 03:03
Two Black Hebrew Israelites deliberately attacked a kosher grocery in Jersey City this past Tuesday.

We can leave it to the media to report who the Black Hebrew Israelites are.
There will be articles about just how Jewish they are, about their history and about their community in Israel.

But while they are not considered Jewish by the Israeli government, Black Hebrew Israelites are Jewish enough for Palestinian terrorists.

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune in 2002, Death bridges gap for Black Hebrews:
Under a cool, clear sky and with a large crowd of mourners on hand, 32-year-old Aharon Ben-Yisrael Elis was buried Sunday in a new section of this town's cemetery.

He was the first of the Black Hebrews--a small group of African-Americans, most of whom came to Israel from Chicago more than three decades ago--to be born in Israel. He also was the first of the group to die from the terrorism that has haunted the Jews of Israel for years.Aharon Ben-Yisrael Elis. Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Because the group had their own religion, combining Judaism with other beliefs, the Black Hebrews were not fully accepted into Israeli society and were not granted citizenship.

But those differences were set aside in the face of the terrorist attack:
Yet Elis' passing at the hands of a terrorist provoked an outpouring of Israeli mourners, including Dimona's mayor, a member of the Knesset and the two top rabbis from this town in the northern tip of the Negev desert. Elis was killed Thursday, one of six people slain by a Palestinian gunman who had stormed a banquet hall in a northern town where a bat mitzvah, or a coming-of-age ceremony, for a 12-year-old Israeli girl was under way.

...Dimona officials talked about how the Black Hebrews had found a home in their community and were welcomed. Av Shalom Vilan, a member of the Knesset from the left-of-center Meretz Party, said he hoped that the death of a Black Hebrew as a result of Arab violence would open the hearts and doors of Israel's society for citizenship for the group, which the Black Hebrews have long sought.

Rabbi Shalom Dayan, the chief Sephardic rabbi of Dimona, summed up in a few words what the others said Elis' death meant for the Black Hebrews' long-term quest to win full acceptance into Israeli society.

"You have just sealed one of the most difficult pacts with our Israeli society," Dayan said.More than that, the Israeli government took action too.

Israel destroyed the Palestinian broadcasting center and Israeli tanks came up to Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah. Israeli troops entered Tulkarem, where they searched houses, detained a number of Palestinian Arabs and put the city under curfew.

But that was then.

And it makes this week's tragedy even more bitter.

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Categories: Middle East

Zionism As A Reflection of Jewish History Past and Present

Daled Amos - Tue, 03/12/2019 - 15:50
An interview with Alex Ryvchin, author of "Zionism: The Concise History"
(Originally posted on The Jewish Press)

Q: What do you see as the purpose of your new book, Zionism: The Concise History, and who is it for?

A: The whole concept of Zionism has been politically and strategically trashed by her enemies. The danger is that future generations will only know Zionism as an evil to be fought and the young people, whom we count on as the next advocates to tell the story of Zionism and defend it, today are generally apathetic or ignorant of this story. We hear people saying Zionism has nothing to do with Judaism or being Jewish, but I think Zionism is inextricably linked to Jewish history.

The story of Zionism is the story of the Jewish people. And if Jews don’t know that story and don’t take part in it, we will see greater rates of intermarriage and loss of identity.

For this reason, I’d like to see my book taught in schools and universities.

Q: One of the patterns in Jewish history is making questionable alliances with apparent enemies. You mention Herzl in this regard. Can you give an example, and do you think this is an unavoidable element of Zionism?

Herzl dealt with a lot of ardent antisemites like the Kaiser and the Russian Foreign Minister. He felt a cold synergy between the interests of Zionism and these rabid antisemites. Herzl thought that for the Jews to achieve the return to their ancestral land, these antisemites who are so keen to purge their countries of Jews would be accommodating. And indeed, many of them saw a benefit in a movement that could absorb a large number of Jews.

In any political campaign such as Zionism, there has to be a dose of realpolitik--to think not only about the idealism, but also how to practically achieve your goal. That means creating alliances with those you find unsavory. The danger is when you look at an alignment of interests as temporary and mistake that for good faith or long term alliances. To Herzl’s credit, he quickly realized he was not going to achieve the goals of Zionism through alliances with those who were fundamentally hostile to Jewish rights. That is why he shifted the Zionist movement from the European continent to Great Britain, where he found men who more driven by Christian ideals and a general passion for the idea of the Jews returning to their ancestral land.

Today, Israel has formed alliances with some nations that might really see a short term alignment of interests, but don’t harbor any great feeling of warmth towards the Jewish people. That is dangerous, but it is also the world that we live in. And as long as the Netanyahu government and the successive governments go into this with their eyes open, I think it is something that can and needs to be done. But at the same time, I think that Israel should act morally in this regard and call out antisemitism of far-right leaders around the world with whom they may have diplomatic relations. If those relations are genuine, they will withstand those criticisms.

Q: We know the Balfour Declaration favors the establishment of “a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine and that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” -- but it also says nothing should be done to prejudice “the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” What was that issue?

A: The concern was that Zionism was not the universal position of the Jewish World. There was still discussion in the Jewish World what was best way to alleviate the suffering of the Jews was through assimilation. Not everyone was on the side of Zionism, particularly those who lived in liberal Democratic countries like the UK, Australia and the US. They did not see the need for a national movement to return to Palestine. They favored assimilation.

In order to assuage those concerns, that wording was put in, to say that basically, those Jews who preferred to live outside of the Jewish State would continue to live in the Diaspora with nothing to impede their rights. There was a concern that once the Jewish State was formed, Jews living outside that state would be viewed as alien, foreigners. That language in the Balfour Declaration was to protect them.

I am keen that people should read this book and apply its lessons to contemporary times. I think that is very important.

Bernie Sanders is different from those Jews in the early 20th century who were driven mainly by self-preservation. They were men who, despite being Jewish, soared to the heights of public life in the UK and Australia. They looked at Zionism, dedicated to liberating the Jewish people and alleviating their antisemitism and thought: what do I need this for; it will only have a detrimental effect on my standing!
Sanders is not motivated by that sort of calculus. He is an American Jew, deeply committed to perfecting American society, making it as just and equitable as possible the way he sees it. I think he views Zionism as a foreign project and doesn’t identify with it. Also, he is associated with the hard left who are rabidly anti-Zionist and has to placate them.

Alex Ryvchin, author of Zionism: The Concise History. Source: Screen-cap

Q: Originally, Arab leaders like Hussein ibn Ali and his son Amir Faisal allied with Chaim Weizmann and favored the re-establishment of a Jewish state. Then along came Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti, who incited riots and tried to prevent it. Today, are we seeing a shift back in the other direction?

A: Today the Arab states see the peace treaties between Israel and Egypt and Jordan. They see if you don’t threaten Israel, it won’t harm you back, will be good friends and share technology. Israel can become a dependable strategic ally in the face of much bigger threats like Iran.

But at the same time, one thing that Zionism teaches us is that alliances come and go, they rise and fall, and cannot really be depended on. They need to be used at that point in time. As long as Israel is economically, militarily, and diplomatically strong, that is the most important thing. Let Israel choose alliances at that point in time, but it cannot depend on anyone.

Q: In the last chapter of your book, you discuss anti-Zionism, which started off as Jewish opposition to Zionism. How is that different from today’s anti-Zionism on college campuses and expressed by politicians?

A: Early anti-Zionism is virtually unrecognizable from anti-Zionism today. The anti-Zionist Jews at the time were overwhelming loyal, proud Jews who cared deeply for the future of the Jewish people, but they had a different view on how to solve the problem of antisemitism in the streets. Their solution was the full immersion into the societies in which they lived. It was a legitimate point of view, but ultimately disproven.

The anti-Zionist Jews of today do not care about Jewish rights. Instead, they use their Jewishness to attack their own people. Rather than stand up against their oppressors, they side with them.

But once the state of Israel exists, anti-Zionism becomes not merely a different political position or philosophy, it now becomes the opposition to the existence of the state of Israel--a state that has now existed for over 70 years. Anti-Zionism is no longer a morally tenable position. That is why you will not find in the ranks of anti-Zionist Jews someone who cares about the future of the Jewish people. Instead, overwhelmingly you find selfish people of low character.

Q: You trace Great Britain’s change into an enemy of Zionism to its being a declining imperial power, stretched thin and wearied by Palestine. Some might see that as a description of the US. Do you think there is a danger of Zionist history repeating itself here too?

A: I think so. That description of Great Britain in the 1940s could apply to the US today. There is a growing trend, particularly under the current president, of isolationism and rethinking US foreign policy solely in terms of US interests. It is no longer fashionable to think the US should bring the values of democracy to the darkest places in the world and be a force for good.

There especially a risk with the progressive Democrats who don't have that instinctive warmth for the state of Israel as establishment Democrats have in the past.

Governments and allies come and go. Israel needs to remain strong and independent to preserve its interests. We have seen this already in the course of its existence.

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Categories: Middle East

The Left's Love For Ferocity Is Getting 'Progressively' Worse

Daled Amos - Mon, 07/10/2019 - 17:59
Last week, the controversial group Women's March informed us about a changing of the guard.

Gone were Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour. While Carmen Perez remained, the other three were replaced on the group's board by an assortment of new names and faces:

But one name stood out from the rest: Zahra Billoo.

Billoo's vile tweets were soon plastered all over Twitter, with different people offering their own personal collection of the Worst of the Worst of her attacks on Israel, Zionism and Jews.

Billoo combined unhinged accusations against Israel with whatever conspiracy theories were available:

Nor did Billoo limit herself to Israel, attacking Jewish rights groups that fight antisemitism, such as the Anti-Defamation League:

As a big fan of the terrorist group Hamas, Billoo came up with various analogies to defend the murder of Israeli civilians:

Like this:

And this:

And when her brother, Ahmed ibn Aslam, publicly wished in a fit of pique at Ben Gurion Airport that all Jews in Israel be killed...

...Billoo responded with her support for her brother against the evil Customs and Border Protection:

The uproar on Twitter was so loud and angry that Women's March dropped Billo from the board.

But not everyone was upset by Billoo's assorted vicious attacks.
Some saw Billoo's assault on Israel and Jews very differently.

Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace was ecstatic over Women March's new board and saw them all as a natural continuation of Sarsour, Mallory and Bland:

Somehow, vile and vicious attacks on Israel, Zionism and Jews are all part of being impactful, fierce and even inspiring.

What's going on here?

Last week, writing about the short-lived second wave of accusations against Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Peggy Noonan examined Why They’ll Never Stop Targeting Kavanaugh. More than a specific attempt to delegitimize the Supreme Court in order to head off an anticipated attack on Roe vs. Wade or a fixation on finishing off what Christine Blasey Ford started -- Noonan found a more general and pervasive issue underlying last weeks witch hunt:
the crazier parts of the progressive left increasingly see politics as public theater, with heroes and villains, cheers and hisses from the audience, and costumes, such as outfits from “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Because modern politics is, for the lonely and strange on all sides, entertainment and diversion. And one’s people must be entertained. [emphasis added]Based on the gusto with which the nasty comments were being tweeted and retweeted by the likes of Billo, Sarsour, Tlaib and Omar it was clear that people were reveling in these attacks on twitter -- not just the people carrying out the attacks and perpetuating them, but also the people on Twitter who were merely following on Twitter, and cheering them on in the comments.

It's almost like a sport.

Here is a video from 3 years ago of political commentator Cenk Uyghur talking with John Iadarola in the days leading up to the 2016 Democratic National Convention, discussing picking representatives for drafting the Democratic Platform. Uyghur personifies the sports metaphor for politics taken to its logical conclusion, referring to Sanders' picks as "the aggressive progressives -- the change gang," and calling the choice of Cornel West  "a bold pick." Uyghur refers to them as "a great crew...when you bring these all-stars."

Watch the first 2:30 of the video:

(As an aside, at one point, Uyghur worked for MSNBC, where he replaced Keith Olbermann, who actually switched off between sports broadcasting and news.)

On the progressive left, the value placed on the inspirational value of such attacks makes for the adoption of some unexpected heroes.

During a 2006 teach-in at UC Berkeley about the Israel-Hezbollah war, American philosopher Judith Butler was asked a "bundle" of 4 questions:
1. Since Israel is an imperialist, colonial project, should resistance be based on social movements or the nation-state?

2. What is the power of the Israel Lobby and is questioning it antisemitic?

3. Since the Left hesitates to support Hamas and Hezbollah “just” because of their use of violence, does this hurt Palestinian solidarity?

4. Do Hamas and Hezbollah actually threaten Israel’s existence, as portrayed in some media?She started off by talking about "The Israel Lobby." Butler made no mention of AIPAC at all, but named instead the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League -- the reference to that last organization being a precursor to the attacks to come a few years later by Billoo -- and Sarsour.

Butler's whitewash of Hamas and Hezbollah was just what the audience was looking for:
Yes, understanding Hamas, Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left, is extremely important. That does not stop us from being critical of certain dimensions of both movements. It doesn’t stop those of us who are interested in non-violent politics from raising the question of whether there are other options besides violence. [emphasis added]The terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah do not feel limited to military targets and have deliberately killed civilians.

But according to Butler, these are not terrorist groups.
They are merely not "interested in non-violent politics"
According to the text of her answer, her response was met with applause.

This is not a 21st problem.
It is an enduring one.

In his 1987 book The Closing of the American Mind, Harvard professor Allan Bloom writes:
I have seen young people, and older people too who are good democratic liberals, lovers of peace and gentleness, struck dumb with admiration for individuals threatening or using the most terrible violence for the slightest and tawdriest of reasons. They have a sneaking suspicion that they are face to face with men of real commitment, which they themselves lack. And commitment, not truth, is believed to be what counts. [emphasis added]Bloom is speaking to those like Vilkomerson who are enthralled by the ferocity of these attacks on Twitter, mistaking their attacks as a commitment worthy of emulation and adulation.

From Che Guevara and Yasir Arafat, the progressive left has now settled on Zahran Billoo, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

And Butler is no better, with her twisted excuses for terrorist groups as progressive social movements.

Like Bloom, the late Justice Antonin Scalia recognized the problem as well. In 2010, Scalia offered his advice during the commencement address at Langley High School, in Virginia, where his granddaughter was graduating:
And indeed, to thine ownself be true, depending upon who you think you are. It’s a belief that seems particularly to beset modern society, that believing deeply in something, and following that belief, is the most important thing a person could do. Get out there and picket, or boycott, or electioneer, or whatever. I am here to tell you that it is much less important how committed you are, than what you are committed to. If I had to choose, I would always take the less dynamic, indeed even the lazy person who knows what’s right, than the zealot in the cause of error. He may move slower, but he’s headed in the right direction.

...In short, it is your responsibility, men and women of the class of 2010, not just to be zealous in the pursuit of your ideals, but to be sure that your ideals are the right ones. That is perhaps the hardest part of being a good human being: Good intentions are not enough. Being a good person begins with being a wise person. Then, when you follow your conscience, will you be headed in the right direction. [emphasis added]Social media in general, and perhaps Twitter in particular, is a petri dish of a society where passionate attacks have long replaced any semblance of normal discussion.

And in this age of intersectionalism where a whole gamut of causes are being interwoven and championed with unheard-of ferocity -- Israel, Zionism and Jews are increasingly being targeted, with a reemergence -- and acceptance --  of antisemitism that we thought we would never see again.

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Categories: Middle East

Why Is Bernie Sanders Such a Magnet For Antisemites?

Daled Amos - Mon, 07/10/2019 - 15:04
One thing you can say about Bernie Sanders.
He sure does have some unexpected friends and admirers.
Bernie Sanders and FarrakhanFarrakhan was very clear in 2016 that he was not supporting Bernie Sanders.
You won't find him supporting Sanders for president now either.

And yet in 2016 Farrakhan went out of his way not to attack him as one of those "Satanic Jews".
According to Farrakhan, Bernie Sanders is one of those "decent" Jews:
"I have to say this about Mr. Sanders: he's a Jew, not a so-called Jew. He's trying to be decent..."

Bernie Sanders and Sharpton
'Nuff said.
Bernie Sanders and Ilhan OmarEarlier this year, Omar attacked AIPAC and accused her Jewish fellow Congressmen of dual loyalty:

Bernie Sanders wasted no time. During a conference call hosted by James Zogby, founder of the Arab American Institute, Sanders confirmed that he had talked to Omar that night to give her his support.

Of course, it did not take long for Omar to again accuse Jews of dual loyalty:

But that did not dissuade Sanders. In June, Teen Vogue had a piece on how Bernie Sanders Teamed Up With Ilhan Omar and Pramila Jayapal on a Plan to Cancel All Student Loan Debt

Bernie Sanders and James Zogby
In Lovable Bernie Whacks Israel, Charles Krauthammer wrote in 2016 thattwo of Sanders' appointments to the 15-member platform committee are so stunning. Professor Cornel West not only has called the Israeli prime minister a war criminal, but openly supports the BDS movement (boycott, divestment and sanctions), the most important attempt in the world to ostracize and delegitimize Israel.
West is joined on the committee by the longtime pro-Palestinian activist James Zogby. Together, reported The New York Times, they "vowed to upend what they see as the party's lopsided support of Israel." [emphasis added]Actually, lopsided would an apt description of Zogby's defense of Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorists.

In 2006, Zogby defended Hezbollah's use of human shield's:
Zogby: I've said from the beginning that [Hezbollah's] behavior was reckless and provocative. But Israel bears the responsibility. It's like saying what Mort is saying and what those who want to make that case is saying, the girl who wore the short skirt deserved to get raped--James Taranto commented:
Zogby's claim that Hezbollah bears no responsibility for civilian casualties is outrageous, and his likening of Hezbollah to a rape victim is scandalously so.Elder of Ziyon quotes this example and gives another, one of Zogby defending Yasir Arafat. In an interview with Paula Zahn on CNN:
ZAHN: Mr. Zogby, how much responsibility do you think Yasser Arafat should bear for the ongoing troubles in the Middle East?

ZOGBY: Well, listen, it's -- we live in a kind of an "Alice in Wonderland" world here, where Ariel Sharon is the man of peace and Arafat becomes the obstacle to peace. We've lionized one and demonized the other, and I simply don't think this picture is accurate. The man has flaws...Imagine a world where Ariel Sharon removes every last Israeli from Gaza and gives it, along with the infrastructure intact, to Hamas while Arafat rejects Clinton's attempt to forge a peace deal -- this is the "Wonderland" Zogby inhabits. Arafat did not have flaws -- he was responsible for the deaths of unarmed civilians because they were Jews.

Bernie Sanders and Cornel West
Krauthammer writes about Cornel West:West doesn't even pretend, as do some left-wing "peace" groups, to be opposing Israeli policy in order to save it from itself. He makes the simpler case that occupation is unconscionable oppression and that until Israel abandons it, Israel deserves to be treated like apartheid South Africa -- anathematized, cut off, made to bleed morally and economically.Like Zogby, Cornel West, a BDS proponent, also makes excuses for Palestinian terrorism, writing that  the actions of Hamas “pale in the face of the US-supported Israeli slaughter of innocent civilians.” West once accused President Obama of being “most comfortable with upper middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective in getting what they want.”
Of course, Bernie Sanders is different.
Bernie Sanders and Linda Sarsour

Last weekend, Sanders made Sarsour his surrogate, allowing her to campaign on his behalf, creating a unique situation considering, as The Jerusalem Post put it, "that Sanders is Jewish and Sarsour is known as an anti-Israel, antisemitic activist."

Actually, what does he have to lose?
The Democrats have the Jewish vote anyway.

With Sarsour -- as with Simone Zimmerman before her -- Sanders can tap into the energy of progressives with minimal cost to a Jewish base which sided with Hillary anyway during the last election and is unlikely to flock to him this time around either. A poll in May showed Biden getting 47% of the Jewish vote among registered Democratic voters, compared to 11% for Sanders and Pete Buttigieg is doing better than either of them in terms of Jewish contributions.

Now we find out that 2 months ago, Sarsour -- along with Bob Bland and Tamika Mallory -- left the Woman's March.

This has been misinterpreted by some as a setback for Sarsour, and by extension, for Sanders:

If you check the article at The Hill, all it says is:
Women’s March has cut ties with three board members who were accused of anti-Semitism and has created a new, diverse board of 16 membersIt does not actually say the reason for cutting ties was because of their antisemtism. The article in the Washington Post that The Hill refers to is more expansive on why Bland, Mallory and Sarsour left:
The Women’s March is replacing three inaugural board members who have been dogged by accusations of anti-Semitism, infighting and financial mismanagement.That article also ties the issue of antisemitism not to Sarsour but to Mallory, who is a big supporter of Farrakhan.

Seth Mandel, editor of the Washington Examiner, was more on-target -- both Women's March in general and Sarsour in particular win:

Whether Sanders will benefit by this arrangement is an open question.
But Sarsour definitely has.

Bernie Sanders and Zahra BillooAmong those who will be replacing Sarsour is Zahra Billoo, a civil rights lawyer and the executive director of CAIR-SFBA.

She is also an antisemite.

As indicated by tweet

After tweet:

After tweet:

After tweet:

Check out Petra Marquardt-Bigman and Ryan Saavedra for many more such tweets.

And Billoo's hatred extends beyond just hatred of the state of Israel:
California imam Ahmed Billoo recently called for the mass extermination of Jews. Apparently impatient at the border-security protocols at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, he posted a prayer to Twitter with the hashtag "Zionists": "Oh God, reduce their numbers, exterminate them, and don't leave a single one alive."

Ahmed Billoo's sister is Zahra Billoo, director of the San Francisco branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). She is also an important figure in the Women's March movement, and has appeared alongside her brother at Women's March events.

...[Zahra Billoo] was curiously unwilling to offer any criticism when it came to her brother advocating mass-murder. On the contrary, Zahra Billoo made a heartfelt post to her brother on Facebook a mere few hours after he prayed for the extermination of Jews, apparently in relation to another public stand he had taken: "My brother makes me proud often, but there's a special kind of appreciation I have when he does this - puts his privilege to good use, asserting his rights, speaking out against border harassment, and thereby making it at least somewhat easier for those who are afraid or unable." [emphasis added]
And sure enough, Billoo is also a big fan of -- Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders is a convenient shield for antisemites.

He is Jewish -- but does not advertise that fact.
Sanders rarely talks about it publicly.

He may support Israel, but he adopts the progressive narrative about the extent of Gazan casualties during war between Israel and Hamas, as well as the narrative that makes armed Gazan rioters trying to break through into Israel as nothing more than peaceful protestors.

Sanders is also on-board when it comes to condemning and leveraging aid in order to push Israel (and only Israel) to "make peace".

He boils the conflict down to the simplest terms:
Israel has a right to exist in security, and at the same time the Palestinians have a state of their own.Who could argue with that?

To be fair, journalist Ron Kampeas finds Bernie Sanders to be typical of Jewish Americans:

Maybe Kampeas is right, and Sanders it typical.
But Sanders does come across as shy about his being a Jews and more defensive than most when it comes to Israel.

More to the point, I don't know if we can be so sanguine about this "norm" of Jewish American.
What really is so Jewish about being progressive?

Daniel Gordis writes that
most American Jews, having lost a sense of peoplehood and then a commitment to religion or Torah, have recently assumed an identity that is focused on little but politics. Yet as a form of politics, Judaism has, so far, found little to say that is uniquely Jewish. Gordis concludes the thought rather darkly:
And if we have nothing unique to say, does it really matter if American Jews do not survive?I would suggest that if we Jews in America cannot identify as Jews and feel unique as Jews, then there are those out there who will be only too happy to define our Jewish identity for their own purposes.

And the names of some of those people are on this page.

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Categories: Middle East

It Is Absurd To Blame The West For Muslim "Honor" Crimes

Daled Amos - Wed, 11/09/2019 - 19:00
On Thursday, August 29, Israa Ghrayeb was murdered by her family.

They were angered by a video she posted on social media of herself with the man she was soon to be engaged to. Her brother claimed she dishonored the family by showing the two of them together before they were married. The father called on the brother to beat Israa, and while trying to escape, Israa Ghrayeb fell from the second floor of their home, suffering serious spinal injuries. Then, while she was at the hospital, Ghrayeb was apparently attacked a second time and died.

The family claimed she died of a heart attack.

Another honor killing.
But this one was different.

Ghrayeb's murder has sparked outrage.

The Arab News reported last week on the angry reaction to her death
The death of a young Palestinian woman in the West Bank has sparked widespread outrage across the Middle East amid accusations that it is nothing but another case of so-called honor killing.

The suspicious circumstances of 21-year-old Israa Ghareeb’s death in Bethlehem have also drawn attention to a practice increasingly seen as a stain on the conscience of Middle East societies.

...Soon afterwards, #WeAreAllIsraa began to trend on Arabic Twitter, with more than 50,000 tweets displaying the hashtag.
This anger is not only against the Palestinian government -- it is also against Jordan.

There has never been a sovereign Palestinian state in what is now referred to as the "West Bank". Before Israel recaptured it in the Six Day War of 1967, the area was under Jordanian rule after it claimed it as its own during the 1948 War, the validity of which was recognized only by Great Britain and Pakistan.

The law that allows Palestinian men to kill female members of their family with relative impunity originates from Jordan.

Here is the original text of the Jordanian law, in article 340 of the Jordanian penal code, before being modified in 2001:

According to Article 99, this allows for reducing the sentence (via Google Translate):

Part IV - Responsibility

Chapter II - in mitigating reasons

Mitigating causes

Article 99

If the case is found to be mitigating, the court may order:

1. Instead of execution for life or fifteen to twenty-five years.

2. A- Instead of life imprisonment, the same penalty shall be imposed from fifteen to twenty years.

(B) Instead of 20 years of imprisonment, the same penalty shall be imposed from twelve to fifteen years.

3. It may degrade any other criminal penalty by not more than one third.

4. Except in the case of repetition, it may also reduce any sentence of a minimum of three years to a minimum of one year imprisonment.

5. If the court takes the mitigating reasons, it is not obliged to go down to the minimum penalty.
This is so embedded in Jordanian law, that it was even applied to a Jordanian who murdered his American wife in the US in 1994:
Mohammad Abequa, a U.S. citizen born in Jordan, confessed Wednesday in an Amman courtroom that he strangled his estranged wife in her New Jersey apartment in July. Abequa, 46, said he killed his 40-year-old Turkish-born wife, Nihal, to protect his honor, an argument accepted by Jordanian courts as a reason for a reduced sentence. He is charged with murdering his wife, whose body was found July 4 in the apartment in the community of Parsippany Troy-Hills, as well as kidnapping his children, Lisa, 6, and Sami, 3. Abequa brought the children to Jordan after his wife's death. In what was seen as an effort to get a reduced sentence, Abequa told a crowded courtroom that he lost his temper when his wife told him that the man leaving her house as he arrived was her boyfriend. 'I asked her who the man was, and she told me it was her boyfriend and showed me a new tattoo on her thigh that he gave her,' Abequa said. [emphasis added]At the time, the article contended that though Abequa could face the death penalty in Jordan if he was found guilty of murder, he might be able to avoid execution if he could convince the court that it was an 'honor killing.'
But judicial sources doubted Abequa would receive a reduced sentence because the highly publicized case has been the focus of U.S. interest and personal attention from Jordan's King Hussein.Those sources were wrong.

In 2000, The New York Times reported:
It was troubling enough to the victim's family that Mohammad Abequa, who murdered his wife in New Jersey in 1994 and fled to Jordan with their two young children, was sentenced to only 15 years by a Jordanian court.

But then yesterday came the news that the confessed killer had been pardoned for his crime after serving five years in prison, and had been set free.So how to begin to deal with this tragic injustice embedded in Jordanian law?

Blame France.

In an interview with Reem Abu Hassan, a lawyer and former minister of Social Development in Jordan, we are told that honor killings have nothing at all to do with Islam.
“We discovered that (Jordan) had taken this article from the Syrian penal code, which was taken from the French penal code,” Hassan explained. “So the basis for it was France: French law, not Islamic, nor Arabic.”

She noted: “Of course, France had abolished this article, and honor crimes were never again a problem the French legal system had to face.”

I realized how damaging colonization has been.

I felt a surprising sense of pain — but also hope — at this revelation. It made me realize just how damaging colonization has been for the Middle East.Let's put aside the irony of the long history of the colonization by the Islamic expansionism that itself reached as far as France.

Is there a basis for Jordan blaming France?
Then how to explain how widespread honor killing is within the Arab world?

The Arab News article quoted above provides the following chart

Is the influence of France really that widespread?
Are these honor killings just another manifestation of the kind of abuse found the world over?

That is what Rashida Tlaib would have us believe:

Are honor killings just another form of domestic violence?

Phylis Chesler, an American writer, psychotherapist, and professor emerita of psychology and women's studies at the College of Staten Island, takes a closer look at the distinction between honor killings and domestic violence, noting that
The frequent argument made by Muslim advocacy organizations that honor killings have nothing to do with Islam and that it is discriminatory to differentiate between honor killings and domestic violence is wrong.She demonstrates that there are differences, and that honor killings are in fact to an alarming degree an Islamic phenomenon. One key difference between domestic violence and Islamic honor killings is that unlike honor killers who tend not to be condemned by Muslim society

the batterer-murderer is seen as a criminal; no one defends him as a hero. Such men are often viewed as sociopaths, mentally ill, or evil.Here is a chart from Chesler's 2009 article Are Honor Killings Simply Domestic Violence? outlining the differences:

Honor Killings Domestic Violence Committed mainly by Muslims against Muslim girls/young adult women. Committed by men of all faiths usually against adult women. Committed mainly by fathers against their teenage daughters and daughters in their early twenties. Wives and older-age daughters may also be victims, but to a lesser extent. Committed by an adult male spouse against an adult female spouse or intimate partner. Carefully planned. Death threats are often used as a means of control. The murder is often unplanned and spontaneous. The planning and execution involve multiple family members and can include mothers, sisters, brothers, male cousins, uncles, grandfathers, etc. If the girl escapes, the extended family will continue to search for her to kill her. The murder is carried out by one man with no family complicity. The reason given for the honor killing is that the girl or young woman has "dishonored" the family. The batterer-murderer does not claim any family concept of "honor." The reasons may range from a poorly cooked meal to suspected infidelity to the woman's trying to protect the children from his abuse or turning to the authorities for help. At least half the time, the killings are carried out with barbaric ferocity. The female victim is often raped, burned alive, stoned or beaten to death, cut at the throat, decapitated, stabbed numerous times, suffocated slowly, etc. While some men do beat a spouse to death, they often simply shoot or stab them. The extended family and community valorize the honor killing. They do not condemn the perpetrators in the name of Islam. Mainly, honor killings are seen as normative. The batterer-murderer is seen as a criminal; no one defends him as a hero. Such men are often viewed as sociopaths, mentally ill, or evil. The murderer(s) do not show remorse. Instead, they experience themselves as "victims," defending themselves from the girl's actions and trying to restore their lost family honor. Sometimes, remorse or regret is exhibited. The difference is more than between the Arab world and the West. There is also a distinction between Islam and other religions:
Families that kill for honor will threaten girls and women if they refuse to cover their hair, their faces, or their bodies or act as their family's domestic servant; wear makeup or Western clothing; choose friends from another religion; date; seek to obtain an advanced education; refuse an arranged marriage; seek a divorce from a violent husband; marry against their parents' wishes; or behave in ways that are considered too independent, which might mean anything from driving a car to spending time or living away from home or family. Fundamentalists of many religions may expect their women to meet some but not all of these expectations. But when women refuse to do so, Jews, Christians, and Buddhists are far more likely to shun rather than murder them. Muslims, however, do kill for honor, as do, to a lesser extent, Hindus and Sikhs.A year later, in an article describing a study that she did on Worldwide Trends in Honor Killings, Chesler dug deeper. She did a study of honor killings, analyzing 172 incidents and 230 honor-killing victims where 100 of the victims were murdered in the West and 130 additional victims were murdered in the Muslim world.

Her findings reflected the Arab News graph in how widespread honor killings are in the Muslim world.

The perpetrators and victims lived in 29 countries or territories: Afghanistan, Albania, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Gaza Strip, Germany, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, and the West Bank.

The conclusion:In this study, worldwide, 91 percent of perpetrators were Muslims. In North America, most killers (84 percent) were Muslims, with only a few Sikhs and even fewer Hindus perpetrating honor killings; in Europe, Muslims comprised an even larger majority at 96 percent while Sikhs were a tiny percentage. In Muslim countries, obviously almost all the perpetrators were Muslims. With only two exceptions, the victims were all members of the same religious group as their murderers.You cannot pin this all on France.

Here is the Jordanian law in Article 340 again, this time with revisions made in 2010:

Now the law specifies that the killing has to be done "immediately," apparently to allow for this to be a crime of passion as opposed to being premeditated.

Also, now in the spirit of evenhandedness, the woman is allowed to kill her husband as well, but without mentioning other relatives as is allowed to the man.

But the point of all this is not about nitpicking.

This is about dealing with the problem of honor killing by addressing the problem itself. Treating honor killings as just another manifestation of domestic abuse just avoids the issue and fails to understand this for what it is. That is why these public grassroots protests are an important step towards attacking the problem. There is more to be done than just applying a bandage to the existing law.

Now there are signs that people are beginning to realize that.

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Categories: Middle East

Israel Did Nothing To Create Hezbollah -- But Arafat Did

Daled Amos - Wed, 11/09/2019 - 16:01
With its recent clash with Israel, Hezbollah is again in the news. But for all of the attention Hezbollah gets, there are still elements of its history that remain ignored -- or just misrepresented.

Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies has written extensively about Hezbollah as well as Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Israel. Recently, Iran announced sanctions against the think tank itself.

In his article, The Secret History of Hezbollah, Badran writes that while the Hezbollah mythology claims that the group was founded in 1982, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, as a resistance group to the Israeli invasion that year -- the truth is:
Hezbollah and the Islamic Republic of Iran have been joined at the hip from the very beginning, even before the 1979 Iranian revolution.
Because Hezbollah's origins are directly tied to the origins of Iran's Islamic Revolution, the terrorist group's own beginnings go back to the rivalry between Iranian revolutionary factions that opposed the shah of Iran. The conflicts between these factions played themselves out not only in Iran, but among their followers in Lebanon as well.

Why Lebanon?

In Arafat and the Ayatollahs, Badran traces the relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the PLO back to the late 1960s, when Arafat rose to power. After the shah's crackdown in 1963, Iranian opposition groups adopted guerrilla tactics against the shah and by the end of that decade made contact with the PLO in Qatar, as well as Iraq -- where Khomeini had been living since 1965. Iranian guerrilla organizations looked for training and made their way to PLO camps in Jordan and South Yemen.

But during the early to mid 1970s, Lebanon was especially valuable as a training ground for these groups because of its weak government and lack of control:
Even before Lebanon’s own system collapsed, and the country plunged into civil war, fueled in part by Palestinian weapons and ambitions, the country had become a training ground for revolutionaries from all over the world, and a magnet for cadres of the main Iranian revolutionary factions, from Marxists to theocrats and everything in between.Iranian revolutionary activists gravitated to Lebanon -- not because of any interest in the fact that Lebanon bordered Israel, but because of the weakness of the Lebanese government. At the time, Lebanon was home to the PLO too, which had been kicked out of Jordan in 1970 following 'Black September'. The PLO was free to run their military training camps. Those camps made it possible for the anti-shah groups to get military training and weapons, contact other revolutionary groups, form alliances, and establish networks to support their fight against the Iranian regime.

Another plus for these Iranian factions, was Lebanon’s large Shiite population, which included the influential Iranian cleric Musa al-Sadr, who helped many of the Iranian opposition groups. Down the road, the networks of both Sadr and the PLO would continue to be helpful after the Iranian revolution, during the power struggle between Iran’s revolutionary factions that followed. Also among the Iranian groups operating in Lebanon at the time was the Liberation Movement of Iran (LMI). One of its leading figures was Mostafa Chamran, who together with the LMI worked closely with Sadr.

Sadr relied on the PLO for training his Amal militia -- but again, not for the purpose of fighting Israel. Instead, with the onset of the Lebanese civil war, Sadr wanted to protect his and the Shiite community’s interests from the other Lebanese factions.

In fact, both Sadr and Chamran were ambivalent about the Palestinians and the divide between Sadr and the PLO widened further:
  • In 1976, Sadr supported Syria’s entry into Lebanon, which the PLO opposed
  • At the same time, Palestinian attacks on Israel from the south of Lebanon endangered the Shiite villagers which worried both Sadr and Chamran.
Meanwhile, the other main faction of Iranian revolutionaries operating in Lebanon consisted of the followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. That group maintained close relations with the PLO, while mistrusting Sadr and the LMI. This is the faction would go on to become part of the Islamic Republic party after the Iranian revolution. Many of them also became top commanders in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

According to PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with the Iranian revolutionaries, Khomeini's group fear of a coup following their victory, led to the creation of the IRGC, for which he took personal credit, claiming he was approached specifically to draft the plan to form what became the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime.

According to Badran:
The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. One of those associated with this Khomeinist faction was Hojjatoleslam Ali Akbar Mohtashami, a student of Khomeini who would play a critical role in the emergence of Hezbollah. Another important figure, Mohammad Saleh Hosseini, played a key role in forming Hezbollah and was a founding member of the IRGC. Hosseini and the Khomeini's followers recruited young Shiites who were pro-Khomeini who became the nucleus of Hezbollah. The most famous of these was Imad Mughniyeh, who went on to become the group’s military commander and the mastermind of many of Hezbollah’s most notorious operations, such as the Marine barracks bombing in 1983.

The tensions between the Sadr and Khomeini camps in Lebanon played out back in Iran after the revolution. And then in August 1978, Sadr disappeared during a trip to Libya.

After Sadr’s disappearance, events accelerated. The shah was forced to leave Iran in January 1979, leaving the way open for Khomeini to return to Iran a few weeks later in triumph. Soon after, the Islamic Republic party was formed, bringing together Khomeini’s followers and the founding of the Islamic Republic. They began calling themselves Hezbollah, to distinguish themselves from their rivals, the LMI and allied factions.

By the summer of 1981, the Islamic Republic party finished taking sole control of the government, and called themselves “the Hezbollahi government.”

Mohammad Saleh Hosseini was assassinated in Beirut in April 1981, but by then the assets that he and the top IRGC leadership had been cultivating in Lebanon since the mid-70s were consolidated. Mughniyeh was summoned to Iran to discuss providing training for Hezbollah and in 1982, an Iranian delegation arrived in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.

Badran writes:
In the conventional narrative of Hezbollah’s origins, it is the arrival of this contingent, the work it did there, and the men it trained that is typically said to signal the organization’s birth. However, by the time Dehghan, Mohtashami, and Mughniyeh engineered the October 1983 attack that killed 241 American servicemen, the Khomeinists had already been active in Lebanon for over a decade. [emphasis added]In effect, just as Khomeini and his followers took over control of the revolution in Iran, they did the same thing where it had all began, in Lebanon:
And now it was all coming full circle as Iran’s triumphant Islamic Republicans, Hezbollah, spawned their namesake in Lebanon.Arafat must have been thrilled.

His support for Khomeini and for Hizbollah seemed to bode well for the terrorist's influence with Iran. In fact, when he arrived in Tehran on February 17, 1979, he was the first “foreign leader” to be invited to visit Iran -- just days after the victory of the revolution.

Arafat and Khomeini, 1979
Arafat tried to exploit his new-found friendship, but just like he did in Jordan, Arafat soon made himself unwelcome.
  • Arafat tried to mediate the US Embassy hostage crisis, but his interference angered Khomeini, and made him suspicious.
  • The Iraq-Iran war only made things worse. Arafat could not afford to side with Iran against Iraq and risk losing the support of the Arab world that funded the PLO. He tried to mediate, but Khomeini refused to even see him.
In the end, Arafat's plans backfired:
By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned the Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.And Hamas, at least, seems to have made its peace with that.

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Categories: Middle East

The Levels of Hypocrisy in BDS - And Will You Have Fries With That?

Daled Amos - Mon, 02/09/2019 - 16:06
In a recent post, Elder of Ziyon pointed out an ignored truth about the campaign to boycott Israel: BDS isn't about boycotts. It is about turning Israel into a pariah state.
Even BDSers admit that they choose their targets of boycott for maximum leverage and publicity, even as they use Israeli products themselves. The boycotts are indeed a sideshow to their real aim - to have average people associate Israel with racism and apartheid.

By repeating the lies that Zionism is racism, Israel is an apartheid state, Israel must be boycotted for human rights abuses, and so on - over and over again - it makes an impression on college students and people who don't follow Israel closely.

When an artist boycotts Israel, it makes a huge impression on people who want to identify as supporting social justice.

When an academic group calls to boycott Israel, it puts an aura of respectability on hating Israel.BDS is a tactic, it is not a movement whose goal is to remake Israel as the previous boycott movement was capable of forcing change on the level it did with South Africa.

And the strategy behind that tactic is publicity.

Now more than ever, especially in the age of social media, it is possible to reach people without having to engage the mainstream media, who in the past were the gatekeepers who could to a larger degree control who got access to the public audience.

When small groups like If Not Now want attention, they stand outside and say Kaddish for Hamas terrorists -- not Jews who were murdered by terrorists -- because that is what gets attention, and it is that attention that is the crucial oxygen to breathe life into the membership and create the attention that such movements need.

Recently on Twitter, it was pointed out that both Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar -- vocal supporters for boycotting Israel -- used Israeli technology, Wix, for their website:

But the fact that Tlaib uses Wix for her website was already pointed out back in February. This fact made the rounds back then, and to a lesser degree it has been pointed out now. But the fact that Tlaib has not bothered to redo the website means that other than perhaps metaphorically tweaking her nose, this apparent hypocrisy means nothing to her.

She has not bothered to comment.

But back in November 2015, the Times of Israel reported that when it was pointed out that the Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Denver used Wix for their website -- the students defended their actions and claimed to explain why this was not hypocritical
By combining the power of many around the world, boycotts shine a harsh light on Israeli settler-colonialism. Whereas Israel wishes these networks to remain inconspicuous, the BDS campaign uses the power of an organized consumer boycott to expose them, forcing the recognition of our different forms of connection with oppression and the oppressed. When we participate in an organized boycott of Israeli consumer goods, such as Sabra and Tribe hummus (whose owners financially support Israeli institutions of occupation and dispossession) or SodaStream kitchen appliances (made in illegal settlements under conditions of hyperexploitation), we choose to make visible the connections between Palestinians living directly under Israeli occupation and people living elsewhere. With these organized boycotts, this global economic structure, a largely hidden network of financial pipes and tunnels, acts as unwitting accomplice to members of Palestinian civil society in their call for self-determination. Boycotts therefore form a limited but necessary component of the BDS campaign. For supporters of the Palestinian call for BDS, boycotts serve as a tactic within a wider strategy to pressure Israel to change its policies and end its oppression. [emphasis added]The reference to SodaStream reminds us that this same logic that allows the BDS movement to use Israeli products while boycotting them -- also allows them to put Palestinians out of work for 'the cause' as well.

Putting Palestinians into financial distress through BDS boycotts is only for their own good.

How widespread is this use of Israeli products by members of BDS?
Consider Omar Barghouti, one of the BDS leaders.

He has a degree from Tel Aviv University, a blatant and rather public contradiction for someone supposedly embodying the BDS movement. He has been confronted with this on a number of occasions, and while Barghouti has offered a variety of excuses, he never quit the university -- or burned his degree in public.

But the BDS movement has given Barghouti lots of publicity, and any occasional questions about his hypocrisy have not slowed him down.

He falsely claims that he could not have gotten a degree any other way.
Tlaib could have used any number of other products to make her website.
Neither has confronted the contradiction head-on as the SJP students in Denver - and while that article in Times of Israel reports the students' use of Wix in November 2015, the group's explanation is dated November 2013.

Still, it is not hard to figure out that Wix is an Israeli product.
And it is not as if there are not lots of other products that could make a website just as well.

These days, that SJP site uses WordPress.
Maybe that hypocrisy finally caught up with them.

An article in Haaretz earlier this year addresses the larger hypocrisy in the BDS movement:
When push comes to shove, its activists prefer that others do the boycotting and make the sacrifices. Thus Caterpillar and in the past the security company G4s have been popular targets because, after all, how many ordinary people are going to ever be buying a earthmover or employ a security guard? It’s likewise painless to ask a university’s trustees or a big pension fund to divest Israeli shares from their portfolios because that’s someone else’s money.

The requirement to fight the good fight against Israeli oppression is supposed to be borne by others whether they are big, anonymous institutions or useful idiots who take the boycott call seriously. Meanwhile, a boycott campaign is being managed using Israeli website building tools. In the words of SJP Cornell, “BDS is not abstention, nor an absolute moral principle … it is a tactic.”And again, it is not just that the fight is borne by others, the effects have been borne by the actual people the BDS movement claims to be helping -- as in the case of the Palestinian employees of SodaStream.

These boycotts are not limited to big companies either. Boycotts of performers going to Israel are always guaranteed to draw attention -- and are sometimes successful.

Sometimes the boycotts are local: Dearborn burger franchise founded in Israel delays opening after backlash, threats:
A franchisee has delayed the scheduled opening of his Burgerim restaurant in Dearborn amid backlash from the Arab-American community over the popular burger company’s Israeli roots.

Sam Zahr, a Lebanese-American who lives in Dearborn, said he was too worried to open the restaurant on Greenfield Road after his kids were bullied and he received threatening messages from those opposed to the burger chain founded in Israel.

...A Burgerim location in Royal Oak also owned by Zahr has not experienced as much opposition, he said.
It's not clear if the issue is only boycotting or maybe also a desire to squelch any hint of normalization.

Based on Zahr's success in Royal Oak, maybe an Arab-Israeli business can make it in the US.

Burgerim seems to think so:

BDS can go ahead and make their claim to success.
Israel is opening up new battlefields.

Those SJP students say that BDS is more than a tactic; it sheds a light and sends a message.

Burgerim, an Israeli company, is sending a message too:

Dill pickle

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Categories: Middle East

Is There Anyone From J Street Who ISN'T A Co-Founder of If Not Now?

Daled Amos - Fri, 30/08/2019 - 16:01
Just asking.

It seems there are various former members of J Street, some who served in leadership positions, who are now involved in If Not Now -- and some of them are apparently founding members.

For example:

Max Berger
Yonah Lieberman
Carinne Luck
  • Times of Israel identifies Carinne Luck as a co-founder of If Not Now.
  • Luck's website notes she was a founding staff member and Vice President for Field and Campaigns at J Street.
Simone Zimmerman
  • Simone Zimmerman identifies herself as a co-founder of If Not Now on her Twitter page.
  • In an article for The Forward, Josh Nathan-Kazis writes that Simone Zimmerman was the national president of J Street U’s student board in the 2012-2013 school year
Kara Segal
Emily Mayer
Sarah Beth Alcabes
Canary Mission lists Sarah Beth Alcabes as leading an INN disruption, in partnership with Taher Herzallah of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), and also being an activist with J Street U at the University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley) from 2012-2014.
Times of Israel mentions Elianna Fishman, who was "heavily involved with J Street U Dartmouth" and who confirms "I interned for J Street, and helped set up a chapter on campus” before graduating and joining IfNotNow -- to which the article adds
In fact, many of IfNotNow’s leaders are alumni of J Street U.An article in Haaretz echoes this when it says:
[If Not Now] remains small, attracting several dozen participants, some of whom are leaders of J Street U, the group’s student-organizing arm.But the question remains: why have these, and other members of J Street, made the switch?

According to a Haaretz article from 2014, Gaza War Pushes Some to the Left of J Street. The logic, according to Haaretz, is that over time, J Street, even back in 2014, was becoming larger and more moderate, with the result that there were the beginnings of a limited exodus that benefited smaller more radical groups. One of those groups was If Not Now, described in the article as "an ad hoc group."

Of course, what the Haaretz article claims is a sign of J Street's moderation can also be seen as the failure in the eyes of some of its members, to become increasingly radical.

A similar theme to Haaretz is taken by Nathan-Kazis in the Forward also in an article from 2014, that in contrast to the more "moderate" tone taken by J Street, some members felt J Street was not doing enough:
Former high-ranking J Street staff members were among the organizers of a July 28 protest in New York City against Israel’s invasion of Gaza. They acted under the name #ifnotnow and made no mention of their former J Street affiliations.He writes about another protest just a few days earlier, launched by 4 activists that included high-ranking members Carinne Luck who had left J Street in 2012 and Daniel May, director of J Street U from 2010 to 2013 as well as Max Berger.

Other participants in one or both of those #ifnotnow protests included Isaac Luria, J Street’s vice president of communications and new media from 2008 until 2011 and Tamara Shapiro.

Some of that former J Street staff said they were not opposed to J Street’s long-term strategy -- but felt limited by its tactics. Others, like Luck, said they did not share J Street's "patience" with the "Jewish institutional community."

That is the narrative.
Daniel Greenfield of isn't buying it.

He is cynical of claims that If Not Now was simply born of a break with J Street. In If Not Now, J Street's Latest Anti-Israel Front Group, he writes:
The official narrative is that If Not Now parted ways with J Street because the group was insufficiently opposed to the Jewish State and insufficiently supportive of Hamas. As a practical matter though this is how radical groups have always operated, with a front group that makes efforts to appear moderate while incubating radical organizations within itself that "split off" but still pursue the same agenda.

Despite claims of a split, If Not Now is just pursuing the exact same agenda as J Street U, protesting Jewish charities for supporting Israel, while claiming to be the voice of a new generation.

It's the same scam with a new brand and slightly less of a paper trail.

If Not Now is J Street...

...New organizations are constantly being created and destroyed. But they all share one agenda. The destruction of the Jewish State.If there is indeed an element of dramatic effect at work here, then this alleged break would be no more authentic than the recent break of Jesse Steshenko, who claimed to have been "a very ardent Zionist" who as a result of his recent J Street trip to Israel became "disgusted" with Israel.

Elder of Ziyon revealed that in fact as recently as 2016 as a member of Junior States of America, a mock Congress, he introduced a resolution calling Israel an apartheid state and demanding the recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza as defined by the 1949 Armistice -- effectively depriving Israel of the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem.

Actually, J Street itself has a history of being less than straightforward.
Carinne Luck's involvement in If Not Now is another reason for apprehension.

Here is a 2012 video of Luck explaining J Street's job:

The main takeaway from what Luck says:
  • A sizable percentage of J Street is not Jewish
  • J Street responds to the wishes "the Hill, the (Obama) Administration" which wants J Street to "move Jews"
  • The bulk of J Street resources are dedicated to this
  • There is an uneasiness about those in J Street leadership who are not Jewish who may present themselves as Jews
This idea of misrepresentation that Carinne Luck shares with the group -- without condemning -- is an issue that arises again with If Not Now, both in terms of questions about its connections with J Street but also in terms of its own claims to represent today's young American Jews.

We have seen there is a failure of J Street to live up to what it claims it does.
Should we be surprised that there are doubts about what If Not Now claims as well?
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Categories: Middle East

IfNotNow Plans To "Bird Dog" US Presidential Candidates

Daled Amos - Tue, 27/08/2019 - 16:08
This post originally appeared on Elder of Ziyon on July 10, 2019

With the presidential campaign heating up and Democratic support for Israel apparently ebbing, the radical left-wing group IfNotNow has now reformed itself as a 501(c)(4) and is out raising money.

More importantly, IfNotNow has a new goal:
“Our focus is going to be trying to push the candidates past giving lip-service to a two-state solution,” said IfNotNow co-founder Emily Mayer, “without recognizing the underlying dynamics and explicit moves by the Israel government that are creating a one-state reality where Palestinians are denied basic rights.”

The organization is also taking a page out of the playbook of groups such as Black Lives Matter and the American Civil Liberties Union: It plans to “bird-dog” presidential candidates at public events to create viral moments and prod the Democratic Party leftward on the issue of Israel.In a PDF on how to do bird-dogging, describes it as

a great tactic used to directly engage or confront candidates and MoCs [Members of Congress] on our issues at their public events. It lets them know how important these issues are to everyday constituents. The goal of bird-dogging is to put tough questions to MoCs and force them to answer when they are in front of their constituents, voters, and the media.

Bird-dogging can be used to make sure MoCs can’t escape answering questions about important issues and to ensure that we are setting the terms of the's playbook provides a checklist on how to prepare for bird-dogging.

For example:
Craft your question.

Ask a yes-or-no question, not an open-ended question. Your goal is to get your member of Congress on the record about a critical issue. Here are some example questions:
■ “Do you understand that by voting to take away the Affordable Care Act, you are taking away my health care?”
■ “Can my fellow constituents and I count on you to vigorously oppose any cut to Medicare, including privatization, which would threaten my ability to retire?”These are manipulative questions that are meant more to put the person in a corner and pin them  down

The goal is supposed to be to push the Democratic candidates to take more left-wing positions against Israel, clarify their stands and draw public attention to the changing attitudes of the Democratic Party. In the Politico article, Emily Mayer -- a co-founder of IfNotNow -- considered Biden and Booker out of sync with the Democratic base on Israel.

IfNotNow started off with an easy one.

They caught up with Bernie Sanders while he was campaigning in New Hampshire. Considering the fact that Sanders has called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government “racist,” getting the candidate to back their cause in condemning Israel was not going to be a problem

Not much of a challenge.

Last year in August, Corey Booker got caught doing something similar:

At the time, Booker claimed that he misunderstood the sign and thought it just had to do with Mexico. Since that time, Booker has continued to support Israel.

In Sanders' case, he didn't have to say a word. So the "confrontation" with Sanders was actually nothing more than a photo-op. 
But their next target was Elizabeth Warren.

Here are some snapshot excerpts of the 73-second polished video that went on Twitter, with the headline that
Sen. @eWarren says she’d push Israel to end its occupation of Gaza and the West Bank 

If you do a search online, you'll find there are all kinds of headlines now proclaiming that Warren has promised to end the "Israeli occupation."

But is that really what happened?
They did not pin Warren down with a yes-no question.

All they did was gush all over her and say "We'd really love it if you also pushed the Israeli government to end the occupation"
What they got in return was "Yes. Yes. So I'm there."

Whatever that means.

IfNotNow tried to capitalize on all this with a press release:
In the past, Warren has regularly spoken of Israel as a strong ally in a tough neighborhood and has appeared at AIPAC events and used right-wing talking points. But as her career has gone on, her views on the issue have grown to be farther in line with her progressive values: She was one of the 60 Democrats to boycott Netanyahu’s speech in Congress, she supported the Iran Deal, spoke out against the Embassy move, and opposes efforts to criminalize the BDS movement.Down the road, they may try to pin Warren down to specifics, but it's not clear what she said in the first place. Considering all the billion-dollar plans Warren is going around promising, saying yes to a vague question is not likely to cause her problems down the road.

Did Warren even pay serious attention to what they were saying?
Here is what happened, without the window dressing from the original 16-second video:

Two kids gushed about how much they admired Elizabeth Warren and she shepherded them into a photo op and quickly sent them on their way.

Considering the Democratic presidential field, IfNotNow is not likely to corner anyone who is not more than willing to agree on the issue of occupation.

On the other hand, if they instead ask more pointed questions that address other more controversial issues like the Gaza "protests", then we may see sparks fly.

The candidates are unlikely to be prepared for the simplistic one-sided questions that IfNotNow may soon be throwing at them.

While the media has made a point of not pinning down the candidates on how they plan to pay for the numerous plans they are proposing, the candidates may soon find themselves being held responsible for the stands they claim to take on Israel.

That may not be such a bad thing.

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Categories: Middle East

Its Another Round of Omar-Tlaib vs Trump -- And Jews Are Caught In The Middle

Daled Amos - Mon, 26/08/2019 - 18:06
We've seen that Trump is determined to paint the Democratic party as the party of AOC, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

With the latest blowup over Israel banning Omar and Tlaib from entering the country -- Trump, Omar and Tlaib are at it again, but this time with not only Israel, but also the American Jewish community itself caught in the middle.

Yet some of the themes and some of the accusations being cast back and forth seemed oddly familiar, with a certain double standard being applied.

This is especially apparent on Twitter.

Deflecting Criticism With ImpunityIn the current situation, we see Omar deflecting criticism of her support of BDS and her and Tlaib's reliance on the viciously antisemitic Miftah, by claiming the criticism is really all about her and Tlaib being Muslim:

But oddly enough, we have seen that when there is even a hint that criticism of Israel is being deflected by claiming it is antisemitic -- there is an uproar that this is proof that defenders of Israel are evading the issue.
Do We Want Netanyahu To Have a Good Relationship With The US President?David Hazony points out that not so long ago we were told about the importance of Netanyahu having proper respect for the President of the United States:

That is an idea that Herb Keinon dwells on:
Netanyahu, and by extension Israel, were damned when they had a difficult relationship with the US president, and now Netanyahu, and by extension Israel, is damned for enjoying a good relationship with the US president.At Powerline Blog, Paul Mirengoff expands on this idea:
When Barack Obama was in office, Benjamin Netanyahu had a terrible relationship with the American president. Back then, as Herb Keinon reminds us, liberals and their media pals insisted it was crucial that the Israeli prime minister have a strong relationship with the president of the U.S.

These days, Netanyahu’s relationship with the American president could hardly be stronger. So what’s the liberal/media line now? Netanyahu is too close to President Trump.

Exhibit A is Netanyahu’s decision to cancel a visit to Israel by Reps. Omar and Tlaib — a visit that apparently was going to take place until Trump tweeted that it shouldn’t. But if the relationship between the U.S. president and the Israeli prime minister is so important, why shouldn’t Netanyahu take Trump’s opinion into account when making what probably was a close call?Well, actually, strong relations with the president would be considered a good thing -- even with a Republican president -- but in this case, where Trump has been so thoroughly demonized by the Left and the Media, it really is no surprise to see Netanyahu criticized for having a good working relationship with him. After all, the ban is carefully framed as an example of Netanyahu giving in to Trump and being manipulated by him, which makes matters seem even worse.

Calling Jewish Loyalty Into Question Yet Again
Just when it seemed that the uproar over Israel refusing entry to Omar and Tlaib was beginning to wane, Trump stirred things up again:

Not that we haven't seen other politicians in Washington recently accuse Jews of disloyalty:

If there is a difference, it would be that Omar was accusing Jews of being disloyal to the US and being guilty of dual loyalty.

Trump, on the other hand, in his own sloppy way, seemed to be saying that Jews voting for Democrats were being disloyal to the Jewish community as a whole.

But as far as his opponents were concerned, it was a difference without a distinction and they are playing it up for all it was worth.

Lost in this kerfuffle, was the fact that another Democrat was throwing around accusations of disloyalty as well

Congressman Ted Lieu accused US Ambassador David Friedman of being disloyal to the US by defending Israel's decision to ban Omar and Tlaib.

It was a sharp attack and Lieu later deleted the tweet and gave an unapologetic apology:

But as pointed out on Legal Insurrection, Lieu's excuse in pleading ignorance was not altogether honest.

Just last month, Lieu indicated he understood full well the impact of being accused of having dual loyalties, both in general and to Jews:
The suspicion that immigrants are not to be trusted or are unpatriotic is not just wrong, it is un-American. And dangerous. Yet it has marred America's past, including with the 19th-century "Yellow Peril" hysteria, the internment during World War II of more than 110,000 people who happened to be of Japanese descent and accusations against Jewish Americans of harboring dual loyalties. [emphasis added]Even now, there are reports that as a result of the anger of Democrats, Israel’s ambassador to the US is done in the House, and the US ambassador to Israel may not be far behind.
Lost in all this is that Friedman, as ambassador, represents Trump -- not the American people.

When Cartoons Become Antisemitic Weapons
Remember when the Trump came out with this tweet, which he later deleted:

All that uproar over a star of David being used -- and Trump was again being accused of antisemitism.

But that kind of outrage is very selective.
As much as the media loves to jump at the chance to accuse Trump of antisemitism, that same media takes care to mute their criticism of Omar-Tlaib when they do something similar:

Batya Bungar-Sargon pointed out the problem:Oof. Looks like both Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib shared this awful Carlos Latuff cartoon in Instagram stories yesterday. In 2006, Latuff came in second in Iran's International Holocaust Cartoon Contest, which is a thing that exists, in case you thought the TL couldn't get any worse.Putting aside Latuff's history of antisemitic cartoons and his mocking of the Holocaust, this cartoon -- which Omar and Tlaib eagerly shared -- shows the arms of Trump and Netanyahu forming the stripes of the Israeli flag, with a Jewish star in the middle, implying a conspiratorial connection between Trump and Netanyahu, something we haven't seen in a cartoon since The New York Times graced its pages with this:
Not that The New York Times has learned its lesson and would call out the antisemitism of the Latuff cartoon:
The Times, after publishing an antisemitic cartoon in its international edition a few months ago, editorialized it is a “dangerous mistake“ to dismiss antisemitism as a fringe element in society, but on Miftah, Tlaib, and Omar the paper continues to fall painfully short of “unblinking journalism and the clear editorial expression of its values.” Or its values seem to require a certain amount of blinking.
Jews and/or Israel are accused of
Hiding behind claims of antisemitism to avoid criticism
o  Allowing Trump to dictate Israeli policy
o  Trying to influence US policy
o  Being accused of dual loyalty
o  Trying to control MuslimsAnd through it all, Jews are becoming ever more aware that the hatred of Jews that we read about happening in Europe has reached the US and is getting worse.

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Categories: Middle East

What You Need To Know About J-Street's "Birthright" Style Trip

Daled Amos - Mon, 26/08/2019 - 06:16
This post originally appeared on Elder of Ziyon on July 4, 2019

The Birthright program is often in the news, mainly because of the tremendous work it does to strengthen the Jewish sense of identity of young Jews by creating the opportunity for them to visit Israel for free.

The Birthright trips have expanded over the years and now you can choose your own theme/itinerary:
  • Active: Dive-in to the ultimate outdoor adventure and get ready to hike, bike, and climb your way through Israel
  • Professional: Delve deeper into your professional industry by experiencing the best of Israel through an occupational lens
  • Culinary: Savor the flavor of Mediterranean cuisine and develop your palate and culinary skills alongside some of Israel's finest chefs
  • Spiritual: Embark on a meaningful quest through mystical Israel. Connect with the land, the people and yourself
  • Cultural: Get lost in Israel's thriving city centers and explore music, theatre and award-winning film
  • LGBTQ: Join like-minded peers on a curated tour of Israel's thriving LGBTQ culture
  • Study Abroad: Make the country your classroom and travel Israel for 12-14 days. You will experience all the best parts of our Classic trip and master a topic of your choosing earning 3 credits in the process
The goal of Birthright is

Birthright Israel seeks to ensure the future of the Jewish people by strengthening Jewish identity, Jewish communities, and connection with Israel via a trip to Israel for the majority of Jewish young adults from around the world.

Our hope is that our trips motivate young people to continue to explore their Jewish identity and support for Israel and maintain long-lasting connections with the Israelis they meet on their trip. We encourage our alumni to take active roles in Jewish organizations and to participate in follow-up activities worldwide. But Birthright also gets into the news because of the attempt by left-wing groups to politicize what the program does. These groups offer suggestions -- if not outright demands -- that the Birthright 10-day program includes a 'balanced' introduction to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

J Street is among those left-wing Jewish groups, under J Street U, that want to tinker with the program
The J Street U campaign emphasizes that it is important for American Jewish students to be well-informed and to receive a full and nuanced picture of the challenges facing Israel today, including the threat that the occupation presents to its long-term future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people. The petitions warn against the damaging consequences of excluding and omitting Palestinian voices and narratives from the conversation.So now J Street has started its own alternative to Birthright trips.

Why is this a concern?

Because of J Street's controversial agenda to use the US to impose its politics on Israel.

As J Street puts it:
Israel’s supporters have the right and the obligation to speak out when the policies or the actions of the Israeli government are hurting the long-term interests of Israel and the Jewish people.J Street presents itself as a more liberal alternative to AIPAC. But it is more than that. Unlike AIPAC, which advocates for Israeli policy independent of politics and who leads the Israeli government, J Street actively pushes its own agenda in the US in order to influence the policy in Israel. For example, unlike AIPAC, J Street actively involves itself in US elections and supports only Democratic candidates. Considering how Democratic candidates are moving the left and are less supportive of Israel, that is a major concern that needs to be addressed.

As the J StreetPAC site puts it on their About Us page:

While J Street notes the overwhelming Jewish support for the Democratic party, that does not explain J Street support for anti-Israel Democrats.
All this is consistent with past J Street activities, such as actively supporting the biased Goldstone Report, working for the Iran deal alongside the pro-Iranian group NIAC and bringing "Breaking the Silence" to speak at Princeton in 2017 during Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut.

While J Street U has put together its own "Birthright trip, this is not the first time J Street has tried this.

The blog Mystical Politics has a copy of the original press release from J-Street posted by J Street U director Daniel May on January 25, 2011, announcing a trip in conjunction with Birthright. (The press release has been removed from the J Street site):
J Street U is very happy to announce that we will be leading a free, ten-day Taglit-Birthright trip this summer titled, "Explore Israel: Progressive Zionism and Social Justice."

This trip is an incredible opportunity to connect with the Israel that isn't on the front page or in the guide books. Move beyond the headlines, and see what's really happening on the ground.

If you're Jewish, age 18 - 25, and have yet to take a peer group trip to Israel, we strongly encourage you to sign up and be the first to know when registration opens.

The trip is a chance to appreciate the vibrancy of Israel's history, culture and landscape from a perspective that acknowledges your Jewish and progressive values.

The best way to discover the richness of Israeli society and the full contours of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to travel around Israel and meet people from the diverse groups of the region. There is simply no substitute for seeing the land and connecting with the people.

On the trip, we'll speak with members of Israeli civil society working to advance the goals of democracy and human rights. Our itinerary will provide a cross-section of Israeli opinion.

This trip is a gift of Taglit-Birthright Israel and will be provided by The Israel Experience, Ltd. [emphasis added]The intended focus of the trip was political -- from a 'progressive' perspective, focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and meeting representatives of human rights groups -- as opposed to Jewish identity and connection to Israel. That was, and is, their prerogative. However, the description does not seem like it would mesh with the Birthright goals of identity and connection

And mesh it didn't.

The blog FresnoZionism sounded the alarm: Action alert: Don’t let J Street exploit Birthright:
In other words, the phony ‘pro-Israel’ organization J Street, a group that takes money from people associated with Saudi Arabia, the Arab-American institute, Iranian interests, anti-Israel billionaire George Soros, a mysterious woman associated with the guy who beat the Hong Kong horse-racing track, and the Turkish producer of anti-Israel propaganda films; whose co-founder [Daniel Levy] called the creation of Israel ‘an act that was wrong’; and which facilitated meetings between members of Congress and Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the notorious Goldstone report that accused Israel of deliberately murdering civilians in the Gaza war — this organization has the chutzpah to use funds provided by Taglit-Birthright to sabotage its purpose!He contacted Birthright and encouraged others to as well, and in the end, the Birthright trip was canceled.

Moriel Rothman, President of the J Street U student board, issued a statement which read in part:
J Street U had planned our trip in order to forge an avenue through which liberal-minded college students – who may otherwise not engage – could develop a deep and lasting relationship with the Jewish homeland. The trip was to include the traditional highlights of a Taglit-Birthright experience – visits to Masada, the Kotel, and Yad Va’Shem – as well as opportunities for students to engage with Israeli human rights advocates, journalists, and politicians involved in the struggle to preserve the democratic future of the Jewish homeland.

...Despite their initial approval for a trip that would provide just such an experience, Birthright’s leadership has now decided that it is inappropriate for JStreetU to organize a trip because we are politically oriented. Nonetheless, comparable organizations with different politics than ours participate and help organize trips every year. For instance, AIPAC’s “Capital to Capital” Birthright trip is designed for Jewish political activists who are “significantly involved in the American political process.” Given that other such trips are regularly offered, we were surprised and saddened that our trip was suddenly deemed inappropriate. [emphasis added]Again, there are politics and there are politics. FresnoZionism in the same post makes reference to the politics of Moriel Rothman:
What is J Street U? Its National Board President U is a Middlebury College student named Moriel Rothman. Here is how he explains the controversy around the Sheik Jarrah / Shimon haTzadik neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Pay attention not only to his words, but his tone:
…the Jerusalem municipality has been bending to the will of fanatic Jewish settlers, and producing - based on archaic documents from the Ottoman period and manufactured Israeli law - eviction notices to a number of Palestinian families, and in some cases - such as with three families in Sheikh Jarrah- acting on those eviction notices by force and removing those Palestinian families from their homes. The municipality’s actions are hugely problematic from a moral standpoint: not only are Jews buying up and/or stealing Arab land in East Jerusalem, but Arabs are moreover unable to buy land in the primarily Jewish West Jerusalem… These policies are also hugely problematic from the standpoint of peace, as East Jerusalem must be the capital of the future Palestinian state, and the Clinton Parameters, which state that Palestine will get control of Arab neighborhoods and Israel will control Jewish neighborhoods, are made harder and harder to implement with each infiltration of Jewish settlers into Arab neighborhoods like Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah. [emphasis in the original]This is the example set by a head of J Street U at the time.

In the end, it appeared that the provider J Street U was working with, Israel Experience, did not clear the arrangement with Birthright in advance.

J Street U's statement gave a hint of things to come:
J Street U students are petitioning Birthright CEO Gidi Mark to “provide more Birthright trips that speak to the values of social justice, democracy, and peace that are so important to young, progressive Jews. [emphasis added]An article from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency at the time explained the Birthright position on politically oriented trips and why trips coordinated with AIPAC are different from what J Street proposed:
“We said such a trip, as described in a brief conversation with the Israel Experience, would likely be out of keeping with our longstanding policy of not conducting trips with a political orientation,” Birthright said in a statement.

A spokesperson for Birthright subsequently confirmed that the policy was adopted in 2009, when the organization decided not to partner any longer with groups that are “overtly political.”

Prior to 2009, Birthright trips were run in conjunction with the Zionist Organization of America and the Union for Progressive Zionists, the precursor to J Street U.

Birthright continues to partner with AIPAC, though references to the pro-Israel lobby group were scrubbed recently from the website of the Israel Experience. Birthright said AIPAC did not fall under the 2009 policy change because the organization does not generally seek to influence Israeli policy. [emphasis added]Birthright further explained the
For years, we have run a Capital-to-Capital trip through another trip provider, which focuses on the Israeli political system. The provider has been running this trip, with input from AIPAC, a mainstream Israel advocacy group, long before JStreet was established. It focuses on Israel’s political structure, with an approach similar to a political science class; the trip has never been tilted to one side of the political spectrum. [emphasis added]In the end, J Street went on the trip on their own.

How did it go?

In a J-Street U mailing no longer online, Daniel May, Director, J Street U, wrote on June 21, 201:1
I can tell that these two weeks are making a life-long impact on the participants. And amidst the painful stories of this conflict, that fact is giving me tremendous hope. But I don't want you to hear it from me. I want you to hear it directly from the students...

Simone Zimmerman, Berkeley ‘13 – Read her whole post here.
As aspiring peacebuilders, we have already been given so much to challenge us, and we have barely chipped the surface. I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility already, and a tremendous amount of privilege for being able to participate in this journey with J Street U. I’ve been to Israel many times in many different capacities, but this is my first trip where I am finding that I can, without contradiction, bring together my deep love for this country with my deep commitment to exploring the toughest challenges facing Israel today. [emphasis added]Here is a picture of Simone Zimmerman from during the J Street U trip
From J Street U Facebook Page
Zimmerman has since made a name for herself in expressing that "deep love" and "commitment":

Bernie Sanders staffer fired for anti-Netanyahu rant hired to run B’Tselem USA
After Zimmerman, a former J Street student activist, was hired by the Sanders campaign, it was discovered she previously wrote on Facebook, “Bibi Netanyahu is an arrogant, deceptive, cynical, manipulative asshole,” according to the Washington-based Free Beacon.

She continued: “F-- you, Bibi, for daring to insist that you legitimately represent even a fraction of the Jews in this world, for your consistent fear-mongering, for pushing Israel in word and deed, farther and farther away from the international community, and most importantly, for trying to derail a potentially historic diplomatic deal with Iran and thus trying to distract the world from the fact that you sanctioned the murder of over 2,000 people this summer.”

She edited the post on March 3, 2015, changing asshole to “politician” and the second expletive to “shame on you.” She was dismissed by the Sanders campaign after being its Jewish outreach coordinator for only two days.
Simone Zimmerman. Screengrab from Haaretz video on YouTube
Considering the example of J Street's past activities against Israel, the attitude demonstrated in the past by J Street U leaders like Moriel Rothman and the activities of the products of J Street U leadership such as Simone Zimmerman -- who is one of the founders of the virulently anti-Israel If Not Now -- suspicions of J Street "Birthright-style" trips are natural.

According to the itinerary of the current 9-day J Street trip:
Day 6: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Occupation 101
Morning: Settlement Tour and Palestinian Village
Afternoon: Hebron
Evening: Group conversation
Overnight: Jerusalem

Day 7: Israel and Palestinian Perspectives Over the Green Line
Morning: Ramallah–Palestinian self-rule under occupation.
Afternoon: Conversation with Settlers
Evening: Israeli and Palestinian Peace Activists
Overnight: Ein GediThere is nothing wrong with criticism of Israel.

The issue is not criticism but rather J Street's record of undercutting Israel and its subversion of support for it.

  • We see it reflected in J Street statements
  • We see it reflected in J Street's actions.
  • We see it reflected in J Street's support for anti-Israel Democratic candidates
  • We see it reflected in J Street 'graduates'

J Street is a special interest group with its own agenda.

It is a political agenda that contrasts with AIPAC, just as its politicized idea of an Israel trip contrasts with Birthright trips that encourage Jewish identity and connection with Israel.

Neither AIPAC nor Birthright have a particular agenda that it imposes or politics it is trying to push onto others.

The same is not true of J Street.
The goal of its trip is just one more way for J Street to push its agenda.

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Categories: Middle East

What Do Ordinary Palestinians Think About The Bahrain Economic Vision?

Daled Amos - Tue, 02/07/2019 - 15:48
Inon Dan Kehati leads a group known as The Home, a grassroots organization promoting peace between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs, working on the inside, with the people who are directly and personally affected. They see the problems blocking efforts towards peace created by outside interference of self-appointed peace envoys and promises of money coming from the United States and the European Union -- money that ends up lining the pockets of the Palestinian Authority.

And now they see Jared Kushner's peace plan, or at least the economic part of it: Peace To Prosperity
Kushner claims that the Palestinian Arabs have no reason not to trust Trump.

But is that true?

I asked Kehati about how, from his perspective, the Palestinian Arabs feel about the plan.

Q: what do you make of what is going on in Bahrain, especially the idea of dealing with the economic part and working from the ground up instead of trying to create a state first?

Kehati: I don't think it can bring any momentum or any progress to the (peace) process. Any foreign involvement here, especially western involvement, is just interfering.

Q: Among the people you work with, both Jews and Arabs, do they share a similar pessimism that Trump (and especially Kushner) are getting involved in things that are beyond their ability (and right) to try to control?

Kehati: Most Palestinians that I know, they want prosperity and definitely what Kushner says, that the Palestinian people want prosperity and want better conditions and economic grown and stuff is very true. But the way that it comes from the US -- most likely the PA will make an obstacle so that it will fail eventually. I don't see how it can work.

As long as the PA is there, nothing is going to change. The PA is also playing a double game because they are the Israeli arm regarding managing security in Judea and Samaria -- but it is a dictatorship at the end of the day.

Q: So the Palestinian Arabs actually are siding with Abbas against Kushner's "Peace To Prosperity" plan?

Kehati: Yes, the Palestinians, I am afraid, do agree with Abbas on this issue. Simply to speak about economic prosperity and about money that basically will not go downward to the people is something that does not appeal to Palestinians.

I think that Abbas might take advantage of this conference, and the fact that its basically speaking about economic issues that will definitely not go down to the people -- and abuse it to gain more support from the Palestinians, even though 9 out of 10 Palestinians don't see Abbas as their president or as their leader.

That is the western thinking that does not speak to the emotions and the basic needs of the Palestinian people, but speaks from a western financial perspective about something that is more complex. Again, a total failure to understand the deep motives behind the Palestinians.

The thing is about human rights -- we are not talking about political rights. Freedom of movement, freedom to travel and easing of the military rule: these are the things that speak more to the Palestinians. This is money that basically would go most likely to corrupt leaders or dictators or just corrupt people. This money will not flow downwards.Mordechai Kedar, an Israeli scholar of Arabic culture who works with Kehati and his group, has written about the conference in Bahrain along similar lines.

He addresses the question Why are the Palestinians so opposed to the 'Deal of the Century'?.

On the one hand, whether coming from the nationalistic claims of the Palestinian Authority or the religious perspective espoused by Hamas, neither group will recognize the validity of a Jewish presence in the land. Add to that the actions the Trump administration has taken in recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and removing support for the "Palestinian refugees."

Palestinian resistance to western involvement is more than just a rejection of foreign involvement per se. Echoing Kehati, Kedar also sees a rejection of the western approach to solving these kinds of problems:
PLO spokesmen are up in arms because, in their opinion, dealing with the economic issues before solving all the other problems – Jerusalem, the refugees, borders, Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, water, sovereignty – are a result of the American conception that money, work and economic development can solve everything. [emphasis added]Involving other Arab countries would seem to be the way around that problem. But according to Kedar, there is more to the Palestinian rejection than just opposition to the involvement of the West:
Another serious flaw in the "Deal of the Century" is that it involves additional Arab countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. This is totally unacceptable to Palestinian Arab spokesmen because years ago, Arafat established the rule that "independence is a Palestinian decision," meaning that the Palestinians are the only ones allowed to decide on their own destiny and future. Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki also believes that that Trump administration doesn't get it and that the offer of economic aid is not going to work:
The administration makes a big mistake. It shows lack of understanding of the psyche of the Palestinians when it starts with material benefits as a carrot, so that Palestinians can see what they would be missing if they reject the political part of the plan.

This is something that is likely to create the exact opposite reaction among the Palestinian public that the administration hopes it will elicit.Not every analyst is as pessimistic.

Yoni ben Menachem, an Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, and a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center, thinks that Palestinian opposition to Abbas outweighs their opposition to the Bahrain Conference.

He has been commenting on his Twitter account, where he has expressed his belief that the Palestinian protests opposing the conference have been minimal:

Reporting on the protests have not been so clearcut. According to The Times of Israel, hundreds protested on Monday. On Tuesday several thousand took to the streets in Nablus to protest against the conference, but around Ramallah there were only about 30 who showed up. Similarly, in Bethlehem, the protesters numbered only in the dozens.

Ben Menachem believes that the corruption and incompetence of Abbas have in fact undercut his ability to disrupt the conference and the steps that will follow. In an article about The Palestinian Failure in Bahrain, he notes that Abbas originally called for a general strike, then instead called for 3 days of demonstrations instead, perhaps recognizing how little influence he really has.
The failure of Mahmoud Abbas has become the street talk in the territories, and he may give the Trump government the impetus to begin unilaterally implementing parts of the economic plan discussed at the Bahrain conference. Mahmoud Abbas did not go out of his way to thwart the Bahrain conference and acted as if he understood that the game was over and that he could not stop the gathering. The PA has not formulated a national plan to deal with President Trump's "bargain of the century" and is content to make do with denunciations and threats. [Translated from the Hebrew with Google Translate]Whether this is an overly optimistic view remains to be seen, with various factors in play along with the established traditional Palestinian suspicions outlined above. And as Kehati points out, Abbas and the Palestinian Authority will not make things easy.

Besides, there still remains the Arabs in Gaza, where Hamas -- which is no less corrupt and incompetent than the PA -- rules with a stronger hand.

I corresponded with someone who told me about a friend, a simple Palestinian Arab who doesn't care about Bahrain. The PA and the Ramallah NGOs do not speak for him, and he doesn't know what the Bahrain peace plan is. All he wants is a job and to bring home food for his family. These are the people, not the officials and those who join their protests in the streets, who will ultimately decide the fate of Trump's deal.

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Categories: Middle East

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Doing Her Part For Holocaust Education

Daled Amos - Mon, 24/06/2019 - 15:15
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez certainly isn't the only one jumping at the chance to make absurd comparisons to the Holocaust:

But then again, this is not the first time Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has done this.

Last November, she compared the migrant caravan crossing the border from Mexico with Jewish refugees that the United States turned away before World War II:
“Asking to be considered a refugee & applying for status isn’t a crime,” Ocasio Cortez said Sunday on Twitter after US border agents repelled Central American migrants with tear gas. “It wasn’t for Jewish families fleeing Germany. It wasn’t for targeted families fleeing Rwanda. It wasn’t for communities fleeing war-torn Syria. And it isn’t for those fleeing violence in Central America.”And just 2 months ago in April, AOC used a Holocaust reference in defense of Ilhan Omar:
[AOC] also shared an image of the words of "First they came...," the famous poem by German theologian Martin Niemöller that was inspired by the tragedies of the Holocaust. (The words are mounted on a wall at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.)

The poem reads:

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

"Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

"Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

"Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Ocasio-Cortez's tweet sparked major backlash, with critics accusing her of trivializing the Holocaust and slamming her for doing so in defense of Omar, who has repeatedly fought off claims of anti-Semitism.And now AOC is at it again.

She is trying to create this equivalency in people's minds in order to score political points.

And with the competition between Democrats for the presidential nomination heating up, the comparison may be catching on, as Beto O'Rourke has made the comparison back in April ("2020 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke compares Trump's immigration rhetoric to Nazi Germany")

Republicans have criticized AOC's manipulation of the Holocaust, all along the way -- as have some Jewish organizations.

But this time around -- the third time was not the charm.
Many people defended Cortez and attacked those who criticized her.

But some of her defenders were more cautious. Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar tried to apply Pelosi's defense of Omar in defending AOC -- she just uses words differently.

Bernie Sanders, who could use her support as Elizabeth Warren closes the gap in the polls, nevertheless distanced himself from the comment:
Jewish 2020 presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez’s fellow progressive, distanced himself from her reference to concentration camps in a CNN interview Tuesday evening. “I didn’t use that terminology,” noted Sanders, subsequently repeating twice in the interview that he had “not used that word.”But others who you'd expect to defend Cortez, were more willing to criticize -- like mi
College students weigh in on Ocasio-Cortez’s concentration camp remarks:

“Owes a major apology to the American people”

“A bit extreme”

“A reach”

“Inflammatory…not good for public discourse”

“Embarrassment to Democratic Party”

“A little extreme”

Video via @Cabot_Phillips— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) June 21, 2019
NBC's Chuck Todd criticized not only Ocasia-Cortez -- he lambasted the Democratic Party as a whole:

NBC's Joe Scarborough agreed:

Democratic campaign consultant Doug Schoen came out even more strongly:

#AOC DOUBLING-DOWN on her comparison of U.S. migrant detention centers to concentration camps. Jewish Democrat @DouglasESchoen says it’s an OBSCENITY and she’s being REPREHENSIBLE! #TrishRegan— Trish Regan (@trish_regan) June 20, 2019Not surprisingly, the Wiesenthal Center and Yad VaShem to come out with criticism of what Cortez said -- after all, that is to be expected.

What was not expected is that Poland, which has its own problems with the Holocaust and Poland's place in it, got into the act too:
With this letter, I am formally inviting @AOC to come to Poland,where Adolf Hitler set up the worst chain of concentration camps the world has ever seen, so that she may see that scoring political points with enflamed rhetoric is unacceptable in our contemporary Western societies— TARCZYŃSKI Dominik (@D_Tarczynski) June 20, 2019You couldn't get a larger public discussion of the Holocaust if you tried - and discussion may end up bringing out more information, and more knowledge, of the Holocaust than any enforced book learning.

Bottom line, at a time that ignorance of the Holocaust is growing among millenials, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is not only proving that point -- she is unintentionally helping to draw attention to the problem.

Thank you?

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Categories: Middle East

Sure, Joe Biden Is Friendly, But Is He A Friend of Israel?

Daled Amos - Wed, 29/05/2019 - 16:05
How do we judge if someone -- especially a politician -- is a friend of Israel?

Putting aside the political exclamations, a key component is the actual support for Israel, beyond just words. After all, Nixon -- who is recognized as having been an antisemite -- nevertheless came to Israel's aid during the Yom Kippur War. He is arguably the US president who first articulated the policy of seeing Israel as a key ally in the Middle East, a policy that continues till today.

Nixon wasn't particularly friendly to Jews, but he was a friend of Israel.
Compare him with Donald Trump, whom Democrats accuse of trafficking in antisemitic tropes.

Better yet, compare Nixon to Joe Biden.

Joe Biden. Public Domain
Is there any politician, especially among the Democrats in the running for their party's presidential nomination, who is more highly regarded as a friend of Israel than Joe Biden?

In his list of 5 Jewish things to know about Joe Biden, Ron Kampeas points out:
  • Biden's ties to the Jewish state go back almost 50 years, to his visit to Israel on the eve of the Yom Kippur War
  • Biden has personally known every Prime Minister since Golda Meir
  • Biden talks about his large collection of yarmulkes he has accumulated from attending Jewish functions over the years
  • One of Biden's favorite anecdotes retells his conversation with Golda Meir, where she confided in him "We have a secret weapon in our conflict with the Arabs. You see, we have no place else to go."
  • Biden's friendliness comes in spite of the fact that his state, Delaware, has a Jewish population of only 15,000.
But while he has been friendly with members of the Israeli government, has Biden been supportive of the Israeli government?

From the start, we understand that this is not an issue of backing every decision Israel has made or every action it has taken -- but has Biden consistently supported Israel?

For example, in June 1982, upon his return from the US, Menachem Begin gave a press conference on his experience there. He recounted that when he appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
a young senator rose and delivered a very impassioned speech - I must say that it's been a while since I've heard such a talented speaker - and he actually supported Operation "Peace for the Galilee" [The Lebanon War]. He even went further, and said that if someone from Canada were to infiltrate into the United States, and kill its citizens all of us (and thus he indicated a circle) would demand attacking them, and we wouldn't pay attention as to whether men, women or children were killed. That's what he said. Begin distanced himself on the spot from what were ostensibly supportive remarks, noting that "according to our values, it is forbidden to hurt women and children, even in war...We did not want to hurt civilians under any circumstances...we never approved a plan knowing that civilians would be hurt directly or on purpose. Unintentionally, that can happen. It must not be denied."

We know that "young senator" was Joe Biden because Begin went on to recount the famous clash between the two that immediately followed. After overplaying his hand in what was supposed to be a supportive comment, Biden went beyond criticizing Israel. He not only voiced his opposition to the Israeli settlements (a criticism which Begin did not begrudge him), but went on to suggest that he would propose cutting financial aid to Israel because of them. Begin's rebuke of Biden is famous:
Don't threaten us with slashing aid. Do you think that because the US lends us money it is entitled to impose on us what we must do? We are grateful for the assistance we have received, but we are not to be threatened. I am a proud Jew. Three thousand years of culture are behind me, and you will not frighten me with threats. Take note: we do not want a single soldier of yours to die for us.The account, identifying Biden, was carried both by the New York Times and Time Magazine.

Biden's first comment was an attempt to be 'friendly.'
Biden's second comment, however, was not the type made by a friend.

Kampeas notes that similarly, Biden made 2 different kinds of statements depending on whether speaking to AIPAC or J Street.

During his speech at AIPAC in 2013, Biden stressed that Netanyahu wanted peace, and the Arabs needed to step up. In fact, if you read the actual speech, Biden  -- who once threatened Begin he would cut off aid on account of the settlements -- not only mentions the settlements, but goes so far as to brag:As recently as last year, the only country on the United Nations Human Rights Council to vote against — I think it’s 36 countries, don’t hold me to the exact number — but the only country on the Human Rights Council of the United Nations to vote against the establishment of a fact-finding mission on settlements was the United States of America. [emphasis added]Did Biden change his mind about the settlements?
Not really.

When speaking before a J Street crowd in 2016, the day after the bus bombing that wounded 21 Israelis and following months of stabbing attacks, Biden felt perfectly comfortable telling the crowd that in fact, the settlements prove that Netanyahu is taking Israel in the “wrong direction”:
“I firmly believe that the actions that Israel’s government has taken over the past several years — the steady and systematic expansion of settlements, the legalization of outposts, land seizures — they’re moving us and, more importantly, they’re moving Israel in the wrong direction,” he said.At AIPAC he proudly claimed that the US is the sole defender of Israel's settlement policy, but at J Street Biden turns around and condemns Israel over that very same policy.

There is nothing wrong with Biden criticizing Israel over the settlements.
  • But it was presumptuous of him to publicly threaten the leader of a sovereign country.
  • As a "friend" of Israel, Biden should be consistent in his position and not flip-flop in order to curry favor with the current crowd he is speaking to. US policy has been to refrain from approving of the settlements.
  • Furthermore, Biden - as a friend of Israel - should not be going around exaggerating the "systematic expansion" of the settlements. In 2012, Peace Now noted on their website For the First Time Since 1990 – the Government is to Approve the Establishment of New Settlements. That number of settlements was 3. If Biden wants to criticize Israel, at the very least he should have gotten his facts straight.
During this mutual admiration society meeting with J Street, Biden talked knowingly about Israel and what "they know in their gut"

In the absence of an Israeli leader like Menachem Begin, Biden feels free to openly speak of what Israel must do, ignoring the changing Israeli electorate that even 3 years ago was showing signs of moving to the right and an unwillingness to unilaterally make concessions to a non-existent peace partner.

Yet, during a conference call with members of the Jewish media in 2008, 2 months before the presidential election, Biden sang a different tune, saying it was up to the Israelis to make decisions about war and peace, especially the question of whether to launch a strike aimed at disrupting Iran’s nuclear program.
“This is not a question for us to tell the Israelis what they can and cannot do,” said the Democratic vice presidential candidate. ”I have faith in the democracy of Israel. They will arrive at the right decision that they view as being in their own interests.”That is a far cry from what Biden told that J Street crowd, where he went so far as to claim
We have an overwhelming obligation — notwithstanding our sometimes overwhelming frustration with the Israeli government — we have an obligation to push them as hard as we can toward what they know in their gut is the only solution: a two-state solution.Which of these two stands will Biden adopt during the months leading up to next years election?
More importantly, which of these 2 stands would Biden adopt if he should be elected president?

Gaffes Or Errors of Fact?Some of Biden's statements over the years have been problematic, where he has made a gaffe -- for instance, when Biden confused Prime Minister May and former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

There are statements Biden has made in connection with Israel too which are either gaffes or errors of fact.

Who cares?

Biden once boasted in 2008
I’ve spent 35 years of my career dealing with issues relating to Israel. My support for Israel begins in my stomach, goes to my heart and ends up in my head.”Part of Biden's claim as a "friend of Israel" is that he knows Israel so well, so let's just skip the first 2 parts and see what's there.
Jonathan PollardBack in 2011, Biden took credit for preventing the release of Jonathan Pollard:
President Obama was considering clemency, but I told him, ‘Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time. If it were up to me, he would stay in jail for life. [emphasis added]One question is whether his claim was accurate, or whether Biden was trying to protect Obama from the ire of the rabbis.

But it is not completely clear from what he said if Biden realized that Pollard was in fact sentenced to life and "his time" would never be up. It simply was not "up to Biden" for Pollard to stay in jail for life, since that was, in fact, his sentence, despite the plea deal he had made and the US government had violated.

Giving Obama Credit For Bush's AgreementAnother example of Biden's misstatement of fact is when he told AIPAC in 2013:
President Obama last year requested $3.1 billion in military assistance for Israel — the most in history. According to -- Biden was wrong on 2 counts.

At the time, the actual record was held by the Clinton administration, which in 2000 gave Israel $3.12 billion "which is not only slightly more in nominal dollars but much more in inflation-adjusted dollars"

More to the point, Biden was crediting Obama for something that Bush had done:
Biden is also taking credit for a level of spending that was set by the Bush administration as part of a 10-year, $30 billion agreement reached with Israel in 2007. In requesting $3.1 billion in his fiscal 2013 budget last February, Obama was honoring that agreement.Hamas and HezbollahHere's another double error made by Biden during his 2008 debate with Palin where he was supposed to show his obvious superior knowledge of foreign affairs:
Here's what the president [Bush] said when we said no. He insisted on elections on the West Bank, when I said, and others said, and Barack Obama said, "Big mistake. Hamas will win. You'll legitimize them." What happened? Hamas won.

When we kicked -- along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, "Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don't know -- if you don't, Hezbollah will control it."

Now what's happened? Hezbollah is a legitimate part of the government in the country immediately to the north of Israel.First, as Israel Medad points out in his blog My Right Word -- Biden confused the West Bank and Gaza:
Another absurdly wrong statement from Joe “Foreign Policy Expert” Biden, who very obviously does not know the difference between the Gaza Strip [where Hamas rules] and the West Bank [where the PA rules]But Biden didn't get Hezbollah quite right either --
  • First, the US did not kick Hezbollah out of Lebanon.
  • Second, if Hezbollah was kicked out, how would it be able to fill that vacuum Biden warns about?
DemographicsHere's another one - in 2010, Biden lectured Israel on the demographic realities
The demographic realities make it difficult for Israel to be a Jewish homeland and a democratic country. The status quo is not sustainable.Biden claims that the larger birthrate of the Arabs as opposed to the Jews, is a potent argument for Israel to "make peace" -- i.e., retreat from the "West Bank" as soon as possible.

The problem is that the demographic argument just does not hold water. For example, an op-ed in Haaretz from 2009, the previous year, notes how easy it is to exploit demographics and the fears generated by it to further an agenda and justify or attack policies in Israel.
In 2001, there were around 95,000 Jewish births in Israel and 41,000 Arab births. Just seven years later, in 2008, Jewish births had risen to over 117,000, but Arab births had declined to less than 40,000. In a period that constitutes barely a quarter of a generation, Arab births had fallen from around 30 percent of the total to around 25 percent. This has been a steady trend and, should it continue, it will only be a very short time before Jewish and Arab births each year are broadly proportionate to the overall balance of Jews and Arabs in the population as whole - that is, 4:1, or 80 percent and 20 percent, respectively.But the problem with Joe Biden goes beyond his misstatements and insistence he knows better than Israel what is best for it.

The issue is not that Biden does not support Israeli policy, but rather the kinds of actions Biden has actively taken that are directly against Israeli interests

Does Joe Biden Really Support Putting The Western Wall Under Palestinian Control?Biden took an active part in US support for the UN vote on Resolution 2334, which was passed at the end of Obama's term in office thanks to the US abstention. That resolution did more than just condemn Israeli settlements.

According to Tablet Magazine, Biden was actively involved in pushing the UN vote condemning settlements
A wealth of evidence is now emerging that, far from simply abstaining from a UN vote, which is how the Administration and its press circle at first sought to characterize its actions, the anti-Israel resolution was actively vetted at the highest levels of the U.S. Administration, which then led a pressure campaign—both directly and through Great Britain—to convince other countries to vote in favor of it.

Tablet has confirmed that one tangible consequence of the high-level U.S. campaign was a phone call from Vice President Joseph Biden to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, which succeeded in changing Ukraine’s vote from an expected abstention to a “yes.” According to one U.S. national security source, the Obama Administration needed a 14-0 vote to justify what the source called “the optics” of its own abstention.As Danny Danon, Israel's representative to the UN makes clear:
Among its many “biased and false” clauses, he recalled, the resolution designated Israel’s presence in parts of Jerusalem liberated in 1967 as a flagrant violation under international law. That included Jerusalem’s Old City and Jewish Quarter, as well as the Western Wall, the last remnant of the temple first built by King Solomon some 3,000 years agoA pity that in this case, Biden went along instead of telling Obama "over my dead body." But the question is whether Biden has actually thought through the ramifications of his position on the settlements.

Biden Opposed Sanctions on Iran Even Before Becoming Obama's Running MateOn the issue of Iran, Biden already voted against pressuring them back in 2007, before being nominated as Obama's running mate:
The Senate approved a resolution on Wednesday urging the Bush administration to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, and lawmakers briefly set aside partisan differences to approve a measure calling for stepped-up diplomacy to forge a political solution in Iraq.

Also called for economic sanctions.

Among those voting against it was Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, who said he feared that the administration could use the measure to justify military action against Iran.It would be a good idea to hear Biden articulate just what he would be prepared to do to counteract Iran's support of global terrorism in general and support of Hezbollah and Hamas in particular.
Biden vs. AIPAC?In 2009, Biden spoke out against AIPAC:AIPAC does not speak for the entire American Jewish community. There’s other organizations as strong and as consequential.What other organizations?
Was he referring to J Street -- which had only just been founded the year before?

Biden also claimed that despite any occasional claims to the contrary, AIPAC does not speak for Israel. He did not elaborate on that one.

In any case, Biden and AIPAC patched things up, but it is obvious that it is J Street and not AIPAC that he is listening to.

Biden & SharptonOn the other hand, Biden has apparently had no problems with Al Sharpton, whose anti-Jewish incitement played a role in both the Crown Heights Riots and the Freddie's Fashion Mart Massacre.

Sharpton and Biden. Screengrab from FacebookIt was in part as a result of his many visits to Obama at the White House that Sharpton's image was rehabilitated, and Biden is far from being the only one of the Democratic candidates to seek Sharpton's endorsement.

But this serves as a reminder that Biden's claim to friendship with Israel does not outweigh certain political considerations.

The bottom line is that Biden is a staunch opponent of the Israeli settlements. If elected, he would not be the first president to oppose them. The issue is what policies he might pursue, based on actions he has taken and the statements he has made. Biden was willing to actively support UN Resolution 2334. That raises the question of where he stands on the real-world implications of that stand.

Biden told an appreciative J Street that "we have an obligation to push them as hard as we can toward what they know in their gut is the only solution: a two-state solution." It is not hard to imagine Biden ignoring the implications of Netanyahu's re-election for what Israelis actually do know "in their gut" and instead pushing what he "knows" is the only solution -- with the aid of the same J Street that once bragged about being the "blocking back" for Obama.

That is not to say that none of the other Democratic candidates might try the same thing, but Biden has the reputation of being a "friend" of Israel that would shield him from a lot of the resultant criticism.

It is the fact that so many seem to buy into Biden's "friend of Israel" shtick that can be so disconcerting.

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Categories: Middle East

Who won the weekend mini-war in Gaza?

Daled Amos - Thu, 16/05/2019 - 06:59
When wars -- and even battles -- are over, we naturally ask: who won?
Normally, victory brings with it the acquisition of advantages like increased power and land, while losing brings not only a certain degree of humiliation, but also surrendering land and control.
And stalemates -- those often bring recriminations and political headaches, especially when you are more powerful and are expected to win.

Over the years, wars between Israel and Hamas have brought a series of ceasefires with each side claiming victory:
  • Operation Summer Rains / Operation Autumn Clouds (2006)
  • Operation Cast Lead (2008–2009)
  • Operation Pillar of Defense (2012)
  • Operation Protective Edge (2014)
And now, another clash -- one that wasn't even given a name.

At The Jerusalem Post, Anna Ahronheim describes it as A Deadly Weekend Which Wasn't Even A War. She describes it as a case of terrorism and retribution where "both sides upped the ante to a deadly level not seen since 2014’s Operation Protective Edge." After snipers wounded an IDF officer and a female soldier, Israel responded with an Air Force to strike on a Hamas target in Gaza, killing two terrorists.

But matters did not end there.

Hamas responded with almost 700 rockets, during which 4 Israeli civilians were killed:
Moshe Agadi, the first Israeli civilian killed since 2014, was killed outside his Ashkelon home by shrapnel to his stomach and chest; Moshe Feder, 68, from Kfar Saba, was killed after a Kornet anti-tank guided missile struck a car near the Gaza border between Yad Mordechai and Sderot; Ziad Alhamamda was critically injured in his chest by shrapnel from a direct strike on an Ashkelon factory; and Pinchas Menachem Prezuasman was killed after he suffered severe shrapnel injuries to his chest while running to a shelter in Ashdod.Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad tried new tactics:
  • Overwhelming Iron Dome with massive, simultaneous firings. (They claim they were successful. Israel denies this.)
  • Aiming an explosive-laden drone at an Iron Dome battery.
  • Launching a Kornet anti-tank missile into a civilian van (Hamas tried this last year, but fired on the bus only after IDF troops had gotten off.)
For its part, Israel did something different too. It renewed the practice of targeted assassinations, killing Hamed al-Khoudary, the money man who brought funds from Iran to Gaza. This was the first such assassination since 2014, and it was carried out despite the possibility of leading to all-out war. Instead, Israel warned that the policy would continue -- and another Hamas terrorist was later killed while riding his motorcycle and the IDF also targeted the homes of other senior terrorists.
Apparently, Hamas tried to get a ceasefire early on, and Israel refused, wanting to make sure that this time around the ceasefire would be on Israel's terms.
Even then, Netanyahu made a point of stressing that Israel was not necessarily finished with Hamas:

Netanyahu was under pressure to preserve some semblance of deterrence against Hamas terrorist attacks, if not an outright victory.

Was he successful?

On Twitter, Elijah J. Magnier, who writes for Kuwait's Al Rai Media Group claimed that Hamas was the clear winner:

On the other hand, at Ynet, Ron ben Yishai writes that Israel preserved that deterrence:
Israel stood strong in the face of Hamas pressure, and resisted a ceasefire, under adverse conditions; a lesson Hamas will remember before renewing fire the next time its demands are not immediately metHe contends that Israel accomplished its objectives, and that "Hamas begged for a ceasefire, for a full 24 hours, before Israel agreed to one."

According to Yishai:
  • It was Hamas that needed a ceasefire before Ramadan, more than Israel needed it in order to be able to hold the Eurovision song festival
  • By targeting military targets, even when those were the homes of Hamas and Islamic Jihad commanders, Israel was able to defend the legitimacy of their operations in Gaza
  • Unlike in other operations against Hamas in Gaza, leaks to the media were prevented
A key to Israel's response to the Hamas rocket barrage was preparation, which gave the IDF "the upper hand in dictating events":
In this round of fighting, the IDF came prepared with a list of high-quality targets. It also had a planned schedule of escalation, to respond to the militants' actions, including attacking their cyber capabilities and hitting their attack drones. Some of IDF's actions are still under wraps.This time around, the IDF was not limited to bombing empty buildings and bases.

But Yishai does have a major criticism. Lives could have been saved if Israel had evacuated residents from the border and if more Iron Dome batteries had been deployed.

And of course, the ultimate goal must be to remove Hamas.

Finally, there is retired general Amos Yadlin, who wrote on Twitter that "the balance sheet...with Hamas is mixed" because Israel still follows the strategic goal of "quiet for quiet" instead of actually restoring deterrence.

On the positive side:
  • The IDF was more aggressive
  • The policy of targeted killings was restored
  • Weapons production and storage facilities in Gaza were struck
  • Rocket launching terrorists were hit
  • Key military buildings were brought down
  • The international community blamed Hamas for firing heavily at civilians
  • Criticism of Israel was minimal.
But Yadlin's list of negatives is longer:
  • 4 Israelis were killed and dozens were wounded
  • Daily life was disrupted in a significant portion of Israel
  • Hamas determined the start and -- according to Yadlin -- the end of the fighting, making Israel hostage to Hamas demands
  • Israelis don't know the contents of the previous ceasefire agreement, nor of this one
  • Israel may still have deterrence against all-out war, but not against these sporadic conflicts
  • Israel is still allowing payments to the terrorist groups, while not speaking with more moderate groups of Palestinian Arabs
  • The issue of disarming the Palestinian-controlled territory has apparently been forgotten
  • There seems to be no effort to deal with Hamas' military build up
  • These battles send the message that using terror is more successful than preventing it in achieving goals
Yadlin's conclusion is that the strategy of "quiet for quiet" has outlived its usefulness and instead deterrence must be restored by hitting Hamas hard and sending the message that using terrorism carries with it a heavy price and does not get results.

Most of his negative criticism is not focused on the conduct of the battle, but rather Israel's overall policy towards Hamas. And unlike Yishai, Yadlin does not think deterrence has been restored at all.

Also, Yadlin believes that Hamas in fact, did dictate when the fighting ended.

Just 10 years ago, during Operation Cast Lead, Netanyahu was in the opposition, and clear in his criticism of how the government was conducting the war with Hamas.

Back then Netanyahu insisted:
  • Hamas was controlled by Iran and it should “ultimately be removed”
  • "Hamas is at the service of Iran and militant Islam...Israel cannot tolerate an Iranian base next to its cities."
  • “If Iran has nuclear weapons then a forward base like 'Hamastan’ in Gaza becomes 10 times more dangerous."
  • Toppling Hamas from power should be a long-term goal, and “if the government also decides to adopt this goal, we will back it.”
Yet even then, Netanyahu at the time did not insist that removing Hamas had to be the goal during that particular operation.

And putting aside who would replace them, removing Hamas once and for all will require more than just sending in the airforce and using targeted attacks. It will mean sending in troops -- and incurring loss of life.

Netanyahu has tried that before, in Operation Protective Edge.

Is he willing to do it again?

Yaacov Lozowick wrote in 2014, when he was the state archivist, about bringing Netanyahu a commemorative volume of documents dedicated to Menachem Begin.  Professor Arye Naor, Begin’s Cabinet Secretary, came too and discussed with Netanyahu how Begin managed the war in Lebanon compared with Netanyahu's own methods in Protective Edge.

The discussion turned to Begin’s agony at the deaths of IDF soldiers, and Netanyahu's own difficulties in sending men to die.
It proved harder than he had expected. “I thought a lot about Begin this summer, and I understood him better”

“I spoke to each of the parents [of fallen soldiers]. If there were divorced, I spoke to each of them separately. It was very hard”.

There is a profound difference between hearing about bereaved families, and actually being in one: he knows about that difference, and understands it from personal experience. But to his surprise – this was my impression – sending soldiers to their death turned out also to be hard to a degree that one cannot appreciate in advance.

We had expected to spend ten minutes in his office. The ten minutes became fifteen, then twenty; the twenty minutes became thirty, and the prime minister spoke of the horrible price of war, and of the difficulty in deciding to pay it.

“The soldiers fear death. They try to strengthen each other, and try together to be strong as a group, but they are afraid.” He knows they are afraid, and that some of them will be killed, and he sends them. A ground operation, he knows what awaits them, what preparations the enemy has made: “Some of them will die. It is inevitable.”

“They must be sent only when there is no other choice left. They must be brought back at the very first possible moment, as soon as the immediate goal has been achieved. Later, once they’re out, we’ll see what happens, but first, get them out, out, out.”

“And every night I’d get home in the wee hours, and my wife would be awake, waiting for me. She spent the days visiting the bereaved families. I only spoke to them on the phone, with each and every one of them, but she sat at their side, and at night she would tell me about them. We must send them, and we must bring them back, and I didn’t appreciate how hard it would be. A leader who loses the understanding of how difficult it is, ought to lose his job.”We say that one of the reasons for the existence of Israel is that it serves as a refuge and defense for Jews. We say that if only Israel existed during WWII, Jewish lives would have been saved. The pressure now on Netanyahu must be enormous for him to show that he and IDF are up to their task.

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Categories: Middle East

The ADL Opposes Racism, But Meets With a Racist

Daled Amos - Thu, 02/05/2019 - 16:05
On Sunday, The ADL's Jonathan Greenblatt joined in the furor over The New York Times' antisemitic cartoon -- and Greenblatt didn't hold back.

Greenblatt warned against normalizing vile antisemitism

Greenblatt went further, calling out The New York Times for "a moral failing of major proportions" -- and the need for accountability and action

He concluded with recommendations, including that a review of policy is necessary:

The fact that Greenblatt and the ADL stepped in is important. It shows that at a time when accusations are flying back and forth accusing either the left or the right of being the main cause of the rise of antisemitism in the US, the ADL takes a balanced approach and rises above the fray, addressing the incitement of hate wherever it sees it.

If only Greenblatt could spot racism when he encounters it face to face.

Hat tip: Mark Jacobs

On the one hand, who better to go to for pointers on hate crimes than Al Sharpton - After all, Sharpton has a history of inciting hatred.

Putting aside Sharpton's central role in the Tawana Brawley hoax, Sharpton's history of deliberately inciting hatred against Jews is well established.
In 1991, after a Hasidic Jewish driver in Crown Heights accidentally killed Gavin Cato, a 7-year-old black child, antisemitic riots erupted. At the funeral, Sharpton made a point of inflaming the crowd, blaming the "diamond merchants" (Jews) with "the blood of innocent babies" on their hands. Going further, Sharpton then mobilized hundreds of demonstrators on a march through the Jewish neighborhood, chanting, "No justice, no peace." There, Yankel Rosenbaum, a rabbinical student, was surrounded by a mob shouting "Kill the Jews!" and was stabbed to death.
The Forward quotes comments by Sharpton at the time that could easily be mistaken for the racism spewed by Farrakhan:
The world will tell us [Cato] was killed by accident. Yes, it was a social accident...It’s an accident to allow an apartheid ambulance service in the middle of Crown Heights...Talk about how Oppenheimer in South Africa sends diamonds straight to Tel Aviv and deals with the diamond merchants right here in Crown Heights. The issue is not anti-Semitism; the issue is apartheid...All we want to say is what Jesus said: if you offend one of these little ones, you got to pay for it. No compromise, no meetings, no kaffe klatsch, no skinnin’ and grinnin’. Pay for your deeds...It’s no accident that we know we should not be run over. We are the royal family on the planet. We’re the original man. We gazed into the stars and wrote astrology. We had a conversation and that became philosophy. We are the ones who created mathematics. We’re not anybody to be left to die waiting on an ambulance. We are the alpha and omega of creation itself. [emphasis added]A few years later, in 1995, Sharpton got involved in the protests against Freddy's Fashion Mart and again raised tempers, warning "we will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business." Sharpton's organization, National Action Network, set up picket lines. Customers who entered the store were spat on, cursed and accused of being "traitors" and "Uncle Toms." Some protesters starting shouting, "Burn down the Jew store!" while simulating striking a match and Sharpton's colleague Morris Powell saying "We're going to see that this cracker suffers". On December 8, one of the protestors entered Freddy's, shot 4 of the employees and set the store on fire, killing 7 employees. 
And it's not as if Sharpton has lost his touch. More recently, Sharpton involved himself in the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin. Without verifying the facts, Sharpton publicly made a statement "that racial language was used" -- a claim that an investigation proved false. Sharpton also exacerbated tensions by deliberately referring to Zimmerman as "white," despite the fact that his mother is Peruvian
But during their chummy get-together, Greenblatt doesn't say a word about Sharpton's background. These are just two activists fighting the good fight for human rights.

So despite Greenblatt's lecture to The New York Times on Twitter -
  • Here we have the ADL normalizing the vile antisemitism of Al Sharpton
  • It is the ADL, under Greenblatt's leadership, that demonstrates "a moral failing of major proportions"
  • It is Greenblatt who should "commit to reviewing policies"
The question is how Sharpton gets away with this and has not only reinvented himself but is a figure that politicians come to in order to get his blessing.

Whatever the reason, the impunity Sharpton enjoys has spread to a new generation that includes Sarsour, Mallory (a disciple of Sharpton), Omar and Tlaib. Their immunity to criticism and ability to claim they are instead victims of smears and incitement are all part of a growing trend in the incitement of racism and antisemitism in the US.

And the ADL is no longer the champion it used to be in this fight.

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Categories: Middle East

Bernie Sanders: A Jewish Progressive Without A Lock On Either The Jewish Or The Progressive Vote

Daled Amos - Mon, 18/03/2019 - 22:13
The 2020 Presidential elections are still well over a year away, but the field of candidates on the Democratic side rivals the size of the field of Republican candidates running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

And one of the leading candidates is Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders. (Public Domain)
He has the name recognition.
He has the war chest.
He has the experience that comes from campaigning in 2016.

For our purposes, the question is where does Sanders stand on the issue of Israel?

This question is all the more important in light of the growing strength of the progressive Democrats, especially in light of their support of the antisemitic statements made by Ilhan Omar and the way those statements were defended by the Democratic party -- including by Bernie Sanders himself.

When it comes to his support of Israel, does Sanders face a conflict between his being Jewish and being a progressive?

Can Sanders Get The Jewish Vote?When Joe Lieberman ran as Al Gore's running mate in the 2004 presidential election, it was big news -- and Jews were enthusiastic about Gore's choice for his vice-presidential running mate.

Joe Lieberman. (Public Domain)
That enthusiasm was lacking in 2016.

One reason is that, unlike Lieberman, Judaism is not part of Sanders' public persona:
The Jewish Vermonters who know Sanders say his reluctance to make his Judaism central to his public persona is a function of his preference for the economic over the esoteric, as well as a libertarianism typical both of the state and its Jewish community – one that embraces expressions of faith and the lack of them.That may go towards understanding that while Sanders' first wife was Jewish, his current spouse, Jane O'Meara, is not.

That lack of enthusiasm may explain why, as the LA Times reported in April 2016, Bernie Sanders fares poorly against Hillary Clinton with fellow Jews, polls indicate. It quoted the Sienna College Poll, which found Clinton leading Sanders among Jewish voters by a margin of 60%-38%, while the NBC/Wall St. Journal/Marist poll found an even larger gap, with Clinton leading among Jews by 65%-32%.

The article goes on to suggest some reasons for his failure to capture the Jewish vote:

  • Sanders is not actively engaged in Jewish life.
  • He has also been critical of Israel
  • He appears more committed to liberal concepts of social justice than to any specific Jewish ideals of equality.
The Washington Post offers 2 other possible reasons for Sanders' problem with the Jewish vote:

  • While Sanders has a strong following among young Jews, young Americans are not as reliable in coming to the polls. (That may have been true then; don't expect that to continue.)
  • This is a Clinton-specific problem because Hillary had a history of nurturing close ties with the Jewish community and actively showcasing her support for Israel, in contrast to Sanders
Part of the problem is that just as Sanders does not make his Judaism public, he does not go out of his way to make Israel part of his public persona either.

And he is not comfortable when he is pinned down on either his Judaism or his Zionism.

In a Vox interview in 2015, Sanders was asked about his Zionism:
Ezra Klein: Do you view yourself as a Zionist?
Bernie Sanders: A Zionist? What does that mean? Want to define what the word is? Do I think Israel has the right to exist, yeah, I do. Do I believe that the United States should be playing an even-handed role in terms of its dealings with the Palestinian community in Israel? Absolutely I do.He sidestepped the issue and turned a question on his personal belief into a question on policy. Interestingly, AlterNet claimed in an October 2015 article that Sanders had never appeared at AIPAC, had never appeared at a pro-Israel rally and had not traveled to the Middle East in decades.

There is another occasion, one where Sanders sidestepped a personal question about his Jewishness, again diverting it to a question of Israel policy. At an event at the Apollo Theater in New York in April 2016, Sanders faced an antisemitic question:
“As you know,” opened the questioner, “the Zionist Jews–and I don’t mean to offend anybody–they run the Federal Reserve, they run Wall Street, they run every campaign.” As this unfolded, Sanders began wagging his finger in dissent, and interjected to deem “Zionist Jews” a “bad phrase.” His interlocutor, pressed to articulate a question, concluded by saying, “What is your affiliation to your Jewish community? That’s all I’m asking.”

“No, no, no, that’s not what you’re asking,” Sanders quickly replied, in a nod to the question’s underlying prejudice. “I am proud to be Jewish,” he declared, to cheers from the audience. But then Sanders did something odd. Rather than using the question as a teaching moment to address and rebuke its anti-Semitic underpinnings, Sanders instead immediately pivoted to his stump speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Talking about Zionism and Israel,” he said, “I am a strong defender of Israel, but I also believe that we have got to pay attention to the needs of the Palestinian people.” He never challenged the actual contents of the question, let alone labeled it anti-Semitic. [emphasis added]

There was, however, one particular time that Sanders' feelings about Israel were forced into the spotlight.

In June 2015, he was interviewed by Diane Rehm, a WAMU radio host whose show is heard on NPR. During the interview, Rehm broadsided Sanders with a question of his alleged "dual citizenship":
"Senator, you have dual citizenship with Israel," Rehm began, before Sanders interrupted.

"Well, no I do not have dual citizenship with Israel. I'm an American. I don't know where that question came from. I am an American citizen, and I have visited Israel on a couple of occasions. No, I'm an American citizen, period," Sanders said.

"I understand from a list we have gotten that you were on that list, forgive me if that is..." Rehm said.

As the site Jewish Journal noted, the list Rehm may be referring to seems to be one that has circulated on the Internet for several years concerning U.S. government officials and members of Congress who allegedly hold dual citizenship with Israel.

"That's some of the nonsense that goes on in the Internet. But that is absolutely not true," Sanders said.

Rehm then asked Sanders if there are other members of Congress who do have dual citizenship, or if it is "part of the fable."

Sanders said he did not know but that he was offended by her comment.

"I honestly don't know but I have read that on the Internet. You know, my dad came to this country from Poland at the age of 17 without a nickel in his pocket. He loved this country. I am, you know, I got offended a little bit by that comment, and I know it's been on the Internet. I am obviously an American citizen, and I do not have any dual citizenship," he said.Here is a recording of that part of the interview.

How important was it to deny any impression that Bernie Sanders is a dual citizen?

The website has a page on Sanders and his position on Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. Here is an excerpt:

The idea that someone might think Sanders has dual citizenship was enough of a concern to someone that this page, denying dual citizenship, was created. According to The Wayback Machine, their earliest copy of this page is from August 20, about 2 months after the interview with Rehm on June 10.

From the recording, it is clear that Sanders was upset by the implication of dual citizenship.

Now, fast forward to 2019 and see how Sanders has come out in defense of Ilhan Omar, who now makes the "dual loyalty" accusation against Jews and supporters of Israel. Sanders uses the same tactic as Omar's other defenders, sidestepping the issue of Omar's antisemitism by claiming opponents were trying to stop her from tweeting criticism of Israel: "We must not, however, equate anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of the right-wing, Netanyahu government in Israel."

Does Sanders Have A Progressive Problem?But just as Sanders has a problem in attracting the Jewish vote, he has an even bigger with his progressive base. They have some questions about his overall progressive creds -- but they have many more questions about Sanders progressive creds on Israel, especially after Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

Overall, Sanders' problem with progressives is historically in the area of foreign policy. Vox has a piece on Sanders' "surprisingly mainstream foreign policy"
o In 1999, Sanders voted for a resolution supporting the 1999 US air campaign in Yugoslavia. A Nation editorial asked him to reconsider and a member of his staff, Jeremy Brecher wrote a public resignation letter: "Is there a moral limit to the military violence you are willing to participate in or support? Where does that limit lie?"

o He voted for the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Force in Afghanistan, though he did oppose Obama's 2009 troop surge there.

o Though he opposed both the Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq and had "reservations" about the 2011 war in Libya, Sanders came out in support of drone strikes on suspected terrorists "in a very selective way."Vox summed it up:
On this issue, then, Sanders isn't far off from your average liberal Democrat. He's generally skeptical of the use of force, but willing to endorse it in very narrow and limited cases where he thinks it could save lives or advance American interests. That doesn't make him a warmonger who is "to the right of many liberal Democrats," but it is a notable divergence in his reputation as a champion of the left and challenger of the Washington status quo.Others feel the same way. Already in 2006,, questioned A socialist in the Senate?
Sanders' election to the Senate doesn't represent a radical departure from politics as usual. He may have a portrait of Eugene Debs hanging in his office, but his politics have little in common with that great American socialist.And then we have the progressive pushback on Sanders' stand on Israel  (emphases added):

Washington Post, August 20, 2014: Answering question on Israel, Bernie Sanders tells townhall hecklers to ‘shut up!’
Progressives have wanted Sanders to be more forceful in condemning Israel. Before Congress’ August recess, the Senate passed a resolution unanimously reaffirming its support for Israel. Sanders did not object, but he also did not sign on as a co-sponsor. As the Daily Beast writes, Israel puts left-wing politicians like Sanders in a tough spot because their base can be critical of Israel, but not taking a pro-Israel position is politically risky.
Washington Post, August 4, 2015: Bernie Sanders’s 27 years of Israel answers
Sanders's criticism of Benjamin Netanyahu and his support for the two-state solution and Iran nuclear deal are all firmly in the liberal mainstream. On the left, the discussion has moved on to whether people and institutions should boycott and divest from Israel so long as it occupies Palestinian land.
AlterNet, October 10, 2015: The Backstory on Bernie Sanders and Israel-Palestine: Why Is He So Quiet About the Mideast Tragedy?
Since that town hall [in 2014], questions about Palestine have dogged him...There is some evidence that these criticisms have started to make an impact on Sanders' approach. In the last month, his campaign finally started to roll out foreign policy platforms on his website. The platform repeats much of the same U.S. foreign policy mantras about the need for a two-state solution and Israel's right to defend itself, but also condemns “disproportionate” violence by Israel and killings of civilians by the Israeli army. Most notably, the platform calls for Israel to end its blockade of Gaza, a topic all but forgotten in U.S. discourse.
AlterNet, March 14, 2016: Thousands Call on Bernie Sanders to Reject AIPAC’s Invitation to Speak Alongside Trump and Clinton
“As the main arm of the pro-Israel lobby in the United States, AIPAC has sworn to promote the racist, militaristic, and anti-democratic policies of the most right-wing government in Israel's history,” states a petition, which was created by AlterNet senior editor Max Blumenthal and has garnered 4,000 signatures in just four days. “Its conference this year will feature Islamophobes, anti-immigrant activists, and religious extremists.”
The Nation, April 15, 2016: Bernie Is Speaking the Truth About Israel-Palestine: Why did he suspend his staffer for doing the same?
During last night’s heated Democratic debate in Brooklyn, Senator Bernie Sanders came out firing on Israel. A candidate who initially sought, seemingly at all costs, to avoid foreign policy altogether finally spoke out on the most politically charged issue of global affairs in Washington—the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—and he took it by the horns.

That’s why it was so disappointing that, only a few hours earlier, the Sanders campaign suspended one of its young staffers, Simone Zimmerman, who served only briefly as its Jewish outreach coordinator. Zimmerman’s sin was to call the right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an “a**hole,” adding “F**k you, Bibi,” using his nickname, for good measure, in a Facebook post last winter, when she was all of 24 years old.
Vox, June 18, 2016: Bernie Sanders versus the left: the socialist’s surprisingly mainstream foreign policy
Sanders supports a two-state solution, one for Israelis and another for Palestinians. While he can be critical of Israel, he does not refrain from criticizing Palestinians as well...That's a stark contrast to the socialist left, which generally sees Israel as a racist, colonial aggressor. Increasingly, leftists advocate a one-state solution to the conflict.
The Nation, July 28, 2016: How Bernie Sanders Lost the Platform Fight Over Israel
James Zogby, the head of the Arab American Institute and a longtime party activist, read aloud a proposed amendment in an unmistakably Midwest accent. Zogby wanted to add language that would explicitly mention Israel’s occupation and strip out the platform’s condemnation of the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel (BDS)...Zogby mentioned several times that the proposed changes had come from Bernie Sanders himself. Sanders began his campaign avoiding foreign policy altogether, but eventually became more outspoken on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, taking Netanyahu to task not only for the Israeli settlement project and continued occupation but also for Israel’s conduct of the 2014 war against the besieged Gaza Strip., December 19, 2018: Sanders, Feinstein Oppose Inclusion of Israel Anti-Boycott Act in Appropriations Bill
While we do not support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, we remain resolved to our constitutional oath to defend the right of every American to express their views peacefully without fear of or actual punishment by the government,” the senators continued.
In his memoir "Outsider in The House", Sanders writes about his years as mayor in Burlington, Vermont, “[H]ow many cities of 40,000 have a foreign policy? Well we did...I saw no magic line separating local, state, national and international issues.” But what was a novelty as mayor became expected when Sanders declared his intention to go to Washington. Caught between being pro-Israel and critical, he tries to walk a fine line, being critical of Israel while adopting a pro-Israel stance and standing up for Palestinian Arab rights. That position puts him to the right of his base, which accuses Israel of Apartheid, racism and occupation.

That position does not always go over well. Here is an excerpt from a town hall meeting in August 2014, when Sanders was heckled for supporting Israel.

Once he regains control of the discussion, Sanders sidesteps the issue by changing the topic of the discussion to ISIS, just as he avoids answering the question as to whether he is a Zionist.

In recent years, the argument has become even fiercer as discussion has moved from general questions of Israel's right to exist, to the pointed debate over BDS and the occupation. Again, Sanders takes the middle road -- not supporting the BDS movement outright, but still opposing anti-BDS legislation.

But not surprisingly, his criticism of Israel does become sharper, as AlterNet claimed above in the quote from October 2015.

By the end of 2015, Sanders was in fact saying on his campaign site that Israel was using disproportionate force in Gaza. The page no longer exists, but according to The Wayback Machine, the following appeared on his site as early as November 15, 2015:
The most recent violence in Gaza represented a particularly ugly and violent time in the dispute. Senator Sanders strongly condemned indiscriminate rocket fire by Hamas into Israeli territory, and Hamas’ use of civilian neighborhoods to launch those attacks. However, while recognizing that Israel has the right to defend itself, he also strongly condemned Israeli attacks on Gaza as disproportionate and the widespread killing of civilians as completely unacceptable.In April 2016 Sanders made the claim in an interview on CNN:
"Was Israel's response disproportionate? I think it was," he told CNN's Jake Tapper in an interview that aired Sunday on "State of the Union."The previous month, in March, Sanders gave a talk in Utah where he condemned the Israeli blockade of Gaza:
Peace will also mean ending the economic blockade of Gaza. And it will mean a sustainable and equitable distribution of precious water resources so that Israel and Palestine can both thrive as neighbors.That leads to a question over which Sanders received a lot of criticism. During an interview with the Daily News on April 1, 2016, Sanders appeared to have no idea of how many casualties there were in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge:
Sanders: I think it is fair to say that the level of [Israeli] attacks against civilian areas…and I do know that the Palestinians, some of them, were using civilian areas to launch missiles. Makes it very difficult. But I think most international observers would say that the attacks against Gaza were indiscriminate and that a lot of innocent people were killed who should not have been killed. Look, we are living, for better or worse, in a world of high technology, whether it’s drones out there that could, you know, take your nose off, and Israel has that technology. And I think there is a general belief that, with that technology, they could have been more discriminate in terms of taking out weapons that were threatening them.

I’m just telling you that I happen to believe … anybody help me out here, because I don’t remember the figures, but my recollection is over 10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza. Does that sound right?

Daily News: I think it’s probably high, but we can look at that.

Sanders: I don’t have it in my number…but I think it’s over 10,000. My understanding is that a whole lot of apartment houses were leveled. Hospitals, I think, were bombed. So yeah, I do believe and I don’t think I’m alone in believing that Israel’s force was more indiscriminate than it should have been.10,000 killed is a massive exaggeration, far more than even Hamas terrorists claimed.

But in the interests of accuracy, in the previous month, on March 21, 2016, during that talk in Utah, Sanders got the number right.
Of course, I strongly object to Hamas’ long held position that Israel does not have the right to exist – that is unacceptable. Of course, I strongly condemn indiscriminate rocket fire by Hamas into Israeli territory, and Hamas’ use of civilian neighborhoods to launch those attacks. I condemn the fact that Hamas diverted funds and materials for much-needed construction projects designed to improve the quality of life of the Palestinian people, and instead used those funds to construct a network of tunnels for military purposes.

However, let me also be very clear: I – along with many supporters of Israel – spoke out strongly against the Israeli counter attacks that killed nearly 1,500 civilians and wounded thousands more. I condemned the bombing of hospitals, schools and refugee camps.Here is the video:

According to a later press release on the interview:
The United Nations has estimated that 2,104 were killed, including 1,462 civilians. Understanding that his recollection was about the total number of casualties, not the death toll, the senator immediately accepted that correction and the discussion moved on to other topics.Bernie Sanders is consistent in trying to walk a middle line:

  • He contrasts his pro-Israel position with his criticisms of Israel -- and his support for the Palestinian Arabs
  • He supports a 2 state solution
  • He balances criticism of Israeli attacks on Gaza with mention of Hamas use of populated areas for launching rockets
  • He says up front that he has no "magic" solutions
But by the same token, he accepts the claims of the number killed at face value, despite the fact that it is based on the numbers provided by the Hamas terrorists themselves. He also makes no mention of the measures Israel takes to avoid casualties. And we saw in the quote of his condemnation of the Gaza blockade that Sanders accepts the claim of water inequality.

For that matter, Sanders also accepts at face value the claims that the ongoing Gaza riots are actually peaceful, unarmed protests and that Israel is deliberately shooting unarmed protesters:
"Innocent people are being killed,” said Sanders, after roughly 60 rioters were shot dead on Monday during clashes next to Israel’s security fence on the Gaza border.

"Those are terrible actions," Sanders said. "Instead of applauding Israel for its actions, Israel should be condemned. Israel has a right to security, but shooting unarmed protesters is not what it is about."Again, there is no mention of Israel taking measures to avoid casualties, nor any mention of rioters being anything but peaceful, of their having weapons or of their attempts -- sometimes successful -- of breaking through the barrier into Israel.

Nor is there mention of Hamas terrorists being among the "unarmed protesters."

By May 16, 2018, admissions from Hamas about the riots during the previous 2 days were already coming out: Hamas official: 50 of the 62 Gazans killed in border violence were our members:
“In the last rounds of confrontations, if 62 people were martyred, Fifty of the martyrs were Hamas and 12 from the people. How can Hamas reap the fruits if it pays such an expensive price?” said Hamas official Salah Bardawil in an interview with the Palestinian Baladna news outlet.Not only did the IDF say that 24 of those killed were identified as terrorists,
Years earlier, Sanders suggested applying pressure not only on the Arab countries in the Middle East to make peace with Israel, but to apply that pressure on Israel as well. This was in 1988, when while mayor of Burlington he came out in support of Jesse Jackson's bid for the Democratic nomination for the president. Sanders suggested withholding arms from Israel as well as the Arabs:
We are pouring billions of dollars in arms into Arab countries. We have the clout to demand they and Israel, who we’re also heavily financing, to begin to sit down and work out a sensible solution to the problem which would guarantee the existence of the State of Israel and which would also protect Palestinian rights...“Or else you begin to cut off arms. If I am supplying someone with a significant amount of money, I can then begin to call the tune.”Here is the video:

According to The Vermont Cynic, the University of Vermont's newspaper, Sanders came out even stronger against US arms support for Israel, saying "It is wrong that the United States provides arms to Israel. We are not going to be the arms merchant for Middle Eastern nations."

According to the same article in the Cynic, the Sanders campaign said the paper misquoted Sanders:
"The quote does not support [the assertion that] Sanders wanted to end all military aid to Israel, and doing so is a misinterpretation of old quotes,” Sanders campaign spokesman Michael Briggs said in a Sept. 3 email to the Cynic.

“He didn’t call military aid to Israel wrong,” Briggs said.

“Bernie does not and has not ever supported cutting off arms to Israel and that has never been his position,” he said.The fact remains that the video above does show Sanders suggesting withholding arms, even from Israel, as an option.

So who is advising Sanders on Israel?

In 2006, was furious at Sanders for having advisors associated with AIPAC:
Unsurprisingly, some Sanders staffers have also worked with the American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC)--including David Sirota, now a Democratic Party strategist, and Sanders' former communications director Joel Barkin.Putting aside their error in claiming that AIPAC is a "Political Action Committee" when it is, in fact, a "Political Affairs Committee" and does not directly fund politicians as J Street does -- it's not clear what the fuss was all about. David Sirota was with AIPAC for all of 4 months (from about the end of 1998 to 1999), when he joined Sanders, according to his tweet in December. As for Barkin, according to his LinkedIn profile, he was with Sanders for 3 years, ending in 2005, a year before that post.

But now, Sanders' choice of advisors seems to be going in the other direction, with 2 of his advisors holding distinctly anti-Israel views.

Last week, The Washington Free Beacon reported Sanders Fills Ranks With Anti-Israel Advocates Tied to Anti-Semitism Scandal

Sanders' current foreign policy adviser is Matt Duss and his campaign manager is Faiz Shakir. The Beacon story involves ThinkProgress, an American news website and project of the Center for American Progress [CAP] Action Fund, a progressive public policy research and advocacy organization. In 2012, Matt Duss was CAP's Middle East director and Faiz Shakir served as the editor-in-chief of the group's Think Progress blog:
During their tenure at CAP, Duss and Shakir emerged at the forefront of a scandal involving several Think Progress bloggers who accused pro-Israel Jews and members of Congress of being "Israel firsters," a term implying that those who support the Jewish state have dual loyalties.

The scandal rocked CAP for several months and drew condemnation across the board, including from the Obama administration, which distanced itself from Duss, Shakir, and the rest of Think Progress's former staff.

Shakir—who initially remained silent as controversy swirled around Think Progress's use of anti-Semitic language—later said in a leaked internal email that his employees used "terrible, anti-Semitic language" when invoking the "Israel firster" term.

Duss also stood on the sidelines at the time, declining to condemn the anti-Semitic language. Numerous articles penned by Duss and other CAP Action Fund bloggers were said "to be infected with Jew-hatred and discriminatory policy positions toward Israel," according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which combats anti-Semitism.

...Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, was a vocal critic of both Duss and Shakir during their time at CAP. He told the Free Beacon during a Tuesday interview that Sanders's decision to elevate the two staffers to the top of his political organization is "troubling."These 2 advisors are no improvement over Simone Zimmerman, Sanders' Jewish outreach coordinator, who was let go after a profanity-filled attack on Netanyahu.

But again this calls into question Sanders' support of Ilhan Omar who, like Duss and Shakir during their time with CAP and Think Progress, accused Israel supporters of having dual loyalty.

And now, while finishing up this post, another member of Sanders' staff -- his national deputy press secretary, Belén Sisa -- has raised the issue of Jewish dual loyalty:

A spokeswoman for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign apologized Tuesday after questioning whether the “American-Jewish community has a dual allegiance to the state of Israel” — a comment condemned by Jewish leaders across the political spectrum as having anti-Semitic overtones.What's in store for Bernie Sanders?
It is tempting to look at Sanders' record on Israel and say it is more ambivalent than balanced, and will weaken his draw of the Jewish vote, even without Clinton in the picture. But the Jewish vote is not a matter of logic. Predicting that Sanders will fail to attract the Jewish vote is like predicting that Jews will run from the Democrats and turn to the Republicans because they show more support for Israel and did not join the Democrats in whitewashing antisemitism in the recent House vote.

But Jewish political support is not based on hard facts and political math, and long-term political habits can be hard to break. Of course, just because Jews are likely to continue to vote Democratic, doesn't mean they will vote for Sanders. Jews were enthusiastic for Lieberman, not because he was a religious Jew, but because he was a public Jew and proud Jew.

Sanders, on the other hand, does not seem to come across as a proud Jew in the same way when he deals with public situations that come up. Of course, the onus is still on his opponents to draw the Jewish vote away from him and it does not seem as if any of them have the history and connection that Clinton had with the Jewish community to will enable them to do that.

When it comes to the progressive vote, Sanders may have stronger ties by virtue of a longer history of being very public in his progressive persona. Some may have questioned his overall progressive creds, but the main flashpoint in questioning his progressivism could be Sanders' stand on Israel.

The Democratic left is getting increasingly loud on the issue and is successfully undermining support for Israel in the Democratic party. For decades he has said that he has no magic solution for the conflict, that supports Israel though he supports it and that he supports a Palestinian state though he condemns Hamas terrorist attacks. Till recently, that has been enough. But over the past few years, Sanders himself seems to have moved further to the left, adding accusations of Israel of using "disproportionate" force, that Israel should stop blockading Gaza, and opposing measures to fight BDS, (though he has come out publicly that he does not support it) to his repertoire.

But despite his overall stronger progressive creds, Sanders' opposition consists of younger candidates who arguably are more in tune with the left. The Democrats running for president could mimic Sanders on Israel or choose to move to the left of him to make him appear more establishment. He could be especially vulnerable in this regard if Sarsour, Omar and Tlaib can continue to push the goalposts of what is acceptable discourse when it comes to socialism as well as Israel.

Just wait till the Democratic platform at the convention.

With over a year and a half till the election things are wide open, especially when it comes to increasing visibility of antisemitism --

It is a Jewish issue.
It is also a progressive issue.
And it may play a part in the upcoming election.

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Categories: Middle East

How Arafat Helped Establish Israel As The Major US Ally In The Middle East That It Is Today

Daled Amos - Mon, 18/03/2019 - 20:32
Richard Nixon's antisemitism did not prevent him from coming to Israel's aid in 1973 and resupplying it with the weapons that enabled it to win the war.

But beyond that, Nixon may be responsible for the enduring US foreign policy that sees
  • The value of a strong Israel
  • Israel as solid US ally in Mideast
  • Israel as important for Mideast stability
Richard Nixon. Source: National Archives. Public Domain

In a recent article on The Top Four Reasons Why Rep. Ilhan Omar Is Wrong About AIPAC, Israel and the Palestinians, CAMERA notes that historically, US support for Israel was actually minimal before 1970 -- despite the combined alleged influence of the Jewish vote, Jewish political contributions, and the activities of the pro-Israel lobby. After all, just 3 years earlier, in 1967, Israel's main source of weapons was not the US; it was the British and the French. Yet after 1970, US support for Israel began to grow rapidly.

The turning point was President Richard Nixon -- and Arafat.

As Alex Safian puts it in the article:
The US president in 1970 was Richard Nixon, a Republican who knew very well that overwhelmingly Democratic and left-leaning American Jews had already voted against him in large numbers and would do so again in 1972. What happened in 1970 that convinced Nixon, the arch practitioner of realpolitik, to press for increased support for Israel?Safian quotes the late Harvard professor, Nadav Safran, who in his book  "Israel: The Embattled Ally," notes that the turning point in US/Israel relations was not any kind of Jewish influence. That influence was consistent and yet had failed to improve US-Israel relations. Instead, the turning point was the crisis of Black September, when Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization, with the assistance of invading Syrian tanks, attempted to overthrow and assassinate Jordan’s King Hussein, who was an ally of the US. If successful, they would have posed a threat to western oil supplies.

According to Safran, when the Syrian army captured Irbid, a city in northern Jordan which contained a junction of roads linking Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Israel -- King Hussein appealed for American and British help. The British refused and advised the US to do the same. Other European allies also advised against helping. Nixon had Kissinger work out a plan for a joint American-Israeli intervention. Kissinger and Israeli Ambassador Rabin put together a plan for a combined Israeli air strike and armored assault on the Syrian forces in conjunction with an American airborne descent on Amman airport. If necessary, Israeli armored columns would advance in a pincer movement from the Golan and the Jordan Valley and cut off the Syrian intervention forces and destroy them.

Because of the American and Israeli support, King Hussein was able to commit all his forces to fighting Arafat's forces. The Syrians, on the other hand, wary of that support, and of a flanking attack by columns of Israeli tank columns, withdrew -- saving Jordan, and making direct Israeli intervention unnecessary.

King Hussein. Source: US Government. Public Domain

According to Safran this affair had a profound impact on U.S/Israel relations:
The Jordanian episode had a far-reaching effect on the American attitude toward Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict… [T]he President … was deeply impressed by the determination shown by the Israelis at a time when America’s formal allies had quit on him. He also appreciated the speed, efficiency, discretion and trust with which the Israelis acted through their gifted ambassador, Yitzhak Rabin…

Apart from its effect on Nixon’s personal attitude towards Israel, the Jordanian episode drove home to the President and some of his advisers a crucial point which they previously saw only in the abstract. The crisis and its denouement demonstrated to them in a concrete and dramatic fashion the value for the United States of a strong Israel. At a time when the regional balance among the Arab states, between the United States and the Soviet Union, as well as between Israel and the Arabs states was seen to be imperiled and when the entire American position in the Middle East appeared, as a result, to be jeopardy, the United States was able to retrieve the situation and turn it around only through the effective cooperation of a powerful Israel….

The American action in the Jordanian crisis was therefore seen by Nixon as the first successful attempt to call a halt to the Soviet drive and begin to reverse it by forcing the Soviets to back down in view of their friends, and the key role of Israel in that action was particularly appreciated. (emphasis in the original)It wasn't AIPAC or Jewish influence that brought about this change in support for Israel. Instead, it was the threat, brought about by Arafat's PLO that led Nixon to appreciate the strategic importance of Israel.

Safian concludes:
There is no doubt that AIPAC plays a key role in shaping the debate in Congress and in the details of legislation, military aid packages, etc., but none of these details would matter were it not for the strategic realities of the US-Israel alliance.In an article in the New York Post back in 2001, Israeli journalist Uri Dan wrote about the release of sensitive British government documents which provided the first public confirmation that an Arab country once requested an Israeli military attack on a fellow Arab nation:
British documents, sealed for 30 years, now reveal that Hussein sent “a series of messages” to the British Embassy in Amman “reflecting the extreme anxiety with which he now regarded the situation.”

The report said that Hussein “not only appealed for the moral and diplomatic support of the United Kingdom and the United States, coupled with the threat of international action, but had also asked for an air strike by Israel against Syrian troops." [emphasis added]According to the report, Prime Minister Edward Heath is quoted as doubting whether it was worth “prolonging, possibly only for a short time, [Hussein’s] increasingly precarious regime.”

Donald Neff, in an article "Nixon's Middle East Policy: From Balance to Bias," quotes from Rabin's memoirs where he tells about Kissinger's description of the president's appreciation:
The President will never forget Israel's role in preventing the deterioration in Jordan and in blocking the attempt to overturn the regime there. He said that the United States is fortunate in having an ally like Israel in the Middle East. These events will be taken into account in all future developments.Neff goes on to describe how Israel benefited. While US aid to Israel totaled $93.6 million in 1970, by 1971 it jumped to $634.3 million and then reached $2.6 billion in 1974 after the war in 1973. He concludes: "The Nixon-Kissinger years set a dramatic new benchmark for aid to Israel. Levels continued to climb until 1985 when they settled at $3 billion, where they remain today (1990)."

None of this would have happened if Arafat had not tried to take over Jordan.

He single-handedly created a destabilizing situation that allowed Nixon to see the strategic asset Israel represented in the Middle East. Nixon was developing the Nixon Doctrine, allowing the US to rely on military and economic aid and on allies instead of committing US troops.

And Israel continues to serve as a key ally of the US to this day.

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Categories: Middle East