News Roundup for April 26, 2017

April 26, 2017

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J Street in the News

Trump’s Strong Words on the Holocaust Must Be Backed Up With Action, J Street

“The president appropriately recalled the six million Jewish victims of the Nazis during World War II and vowed never to forget their suffering. He promised to combat anti-Semitism today and in the future in all its forms and to fight against attempts by neo-Nazis and anti-Semites to erase the Holocaust from history. Though the president’s words were a welcome and necessary corrective, they alone are not enough. We have no wish to politicize a somber event of this kind – but the issues raised by the presence in senior White House positions of two individuals with extensive links to extremist groups and ideas cannot be ignored. A speech by President Trump, no matter how well-crafted, moving and appropriate, does not make them go away….President Trump cannot have it both ways. He cannot speak movingly about preserving Holocaust memory and fighting anti-Semitism while tolerating and embracing individuals like Bannon and Gorka at the heart of his administration, nor while enabling the agendas they promote. If he wants his words to carry conviction, the president should fire both men immediately.”

Word on the Street: It’s Working, J Street

“By misrepresenting the goals and accomplishments of the JCPOA, the Trump administration may be laying the groundwork to reimpose sanctions that would violate and end the agreement. That would be the reckless and counterproductive action of leaders who value hawkish bluster over serious strategy, and posturing over results. It’s possible that all this is simply talk — and that the President intends to keep the deal in place. But this rhetoric still risks empowering hardliners in Iran. It also provides an impetus to legislation now pending in the Senate that, as currently written, includes measures that could violate the US’ commitment to the nuclear agreement….We support efforts to sanction and stop Iran’s dangerous regional activities while keeping the restraints on its nuclear program firmly in place. We’re going to keep fighting for a foreign policy that can confront complex threats like Iran without foolishly rejecting the accomplishments of diplomacy.”

S.F. federation donor funds shouldn’t abet extremism, J Weekly

J Street U leader Zoe Goldblum writes, “On April 13, J Street U students from the Bay Area held a public forum with Danny Grossman, the CEO of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation. We focused on our communal and political responsibility here at home and also in Israel, and specifically the Federation’s guidelines regarding who can receive its funding….As part of a campaign pursuing transparency within Jewish Federations across the United States, we discovered that the S.F.-based Federation allows funding, through Donor Advised Funds (DAF) and/or Supporting Foundation Grants (SFG), to several organizations that support extremism and bigotry in the United States and Israel…. In response, the Federation has committed to revising its funding guidelines, with our recommendations in mind. The Federation also committed to considering J Street U students as key stakeholders in the review process. In doing so, Mr. Grossman demonstrated leadership that ought to be celebrated. However, substantive changes must follow this conversation.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump Takes Forceful Tone at Holocaust Remembrance: ‘Never Again’, The New York Times

President Trump sent a powerful message to those who doubt his will to fight anti-Semitism — and to his own supporters in the white nationalist movement — during an annual Holocaust remembrance ceremony at the Capitol on Tuesday. The president, who was slow to denounce campaign endorsements by racists including David Duke, made an unequivocal statement of support for Israel and pledged to “confront anti-Semitism” in a speech attended by lawmakers and survivors of Hitler’s war on European Jewry.

Netanyahu Cancels Meeting After German FM Refuses to Snub Israeli Leftist NGOs, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled his meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Tuesday after the latter refused Netanyahu’s demand that he not meet with two leftwing NGOs, Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem. According to Der Spiegel, the meeting was canceled by Netanyahu because the German minister wanted “to meet with critics of the Israeli government.” Sources within the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that the meeting, set for 5 P.M., will not take place. The prime minister’s bureau issued a statement regarding Netanyahu’s refusal to meet with Gabriel.

Netanyahu’s War on Whistleblowers Damns the IDF and the Occupation, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is exploiting this situation and exacerbating it 10 times over. He is waging open war against organizations such as Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem, in order to blame them and absolve himself of responsibility for international condemnation of the occupation, and in order to incite against leftists – as is his wont….The bottom line is that, far more than the nongovernmental organizations he attacks or the reports about IDF misconduct that he condemns, it is Netanyahu himself who is sullying the name of the army, testifying about the evils of the occupation and corroborating the worst claims of the international boycott movement.”

Abbas may cut off cash to Gaza, marking break with West Bank, Times of Israel

Avi Issacharoff reports, “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is set to issue a dramatic ultimatum to the Gaza Strip’s terrorist Hamas rulers, demanding that they either hand over governance of the area or face a funding freeze, sources close to the Palestinian leader said. Should the PA stop all payments to the Gaza Strip it would mark a complete break between the West Bank, which Abbas controls, and the coastal enclave, which is ruled by Hamas. Needless to say, such an ultimatum would significantly ramp up tensions between Abbas’s Fatah party and Hamas.”


Palestinian Shot After Attempting Stabbing Attack in West Bank, Haaretz

A Palestinian tried to stab Israelis near Nablus on Tuesday and was shot, according to the Israel Defense Forces. No Israeli casualties were reported. The incident took place near an IDF base close to Huwara Junction in the West Bank. The Palestinian was taken to a hospital in the central Israeli city of Petah Tikva.

Ya’alon: Israel’s political culture of ‘hatred’ a greater threat than terrorism, Times of Israel

Israel’s hawkish former defense minister is attacking the government as corrupt and extreme — pledging to challenge it in the next election. Moshe Ya’alon tells foreign reporters that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government “didn’t demonstrate its responsibility” and had undermined the country’s democratic values. Ya’alon, who now heads a new political movement, says the extremist culture of “generating hatred for short-term political benefits” posed a greater challenge to Israel than Islamic militants.

British government rejects Palestinian request to apologize for Balfour Declaration, JTA

The British government has rejected a Palestinian request to apologize for the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which led in part to the creation of Israel. The British government sent a letter to the Foreign Ministry of the Palestinian Authority saying it would not apologize for the statement, as called for by P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas in an address to the General Assembly in September, Reuters reported. The news agency cited Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian ambassador to Britain, who told the Voice of Palestine Radio of the refusal in an interview Tuesday. Britain will recognize the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration with celebrations in November together with Israeli officials.

IDF officer warns Gaza fuel shortage could lead to war, Times of Israel

A senior Israeli army officer warned on Tuesday that an impending power outage in the Gaza Strip could lead to a conflict between Hamas and Israel. The coastal enclave is on track to completely run out of fuel for its power plant due to a spat over taxes between Hamas, which rules the Strip, and the Mahmoud Abbas-led Palestinian Authority.

9 days on, several imprisoned Palestinian hunger strikers hospitalized, Ma’an

The Israel Prison Service (IPS) has transferred a number of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners to hospitals and prison clinics, after their health deteriorated seriously, the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs said on Tuesday, the ninth day of the large-scale “Freedom and Dignity” hunger strike.

Palestinian vehicle torched in suspected hate attack, Times of Israel

Israeli police on Wednesday morning launched an investigation into the burning of a car in the Palestinian village of Hawara overnight, with reports saying they suspect a hate attack by far-right Israelis. Authorities arrived at the scene early Wednesday morning to find the burnt vehicle, which was believed to have been intentionally set aflame.

Opinions and Analysis

Hamas loses out as Palestinian hunger strike benefits Fatah, Al-Monitor

Daoud Kuttab reports, “The Palestinian hunger strike, which began with 1,500 prisoners refusing to accept any food since April 17, has escalated, with more members joining the strikers. Twenty-three Jordanian prisoners in Israeli jails joined the hunger strike April 23 as protests outside the jail have also increased. It is unclear whether the prisoner strike will still be on when Abbas heads to Washington for an important meeting with President Donald Trump and his foreign policy team. Regardless of what happens by then, the fact that Hamas is not involved and is losing political support, as well as possibly losing control of Gaza, will certainly improve the standing of Abbas as he meets with Trump.”

Abbas-Hamas Power Struggle Ahead of Trump Meeting Pushes Gazans to the Brink, Haaretz

Amos Harel reports, “The escalating conflict between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas over the manner of control of the Gaza Strip is ostensibly mostly an internal Palestinian matter. But this tension is already directly affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of Gaza residents – and thus is also drawing Israel’s attention. Under extreme circumstances, the worsening living conditions in Gaza could adversely affect the security situation for Israel.”

The Stain of Anti-Semitism at the White House Isn’t Going Away, AlterNet

Stosh Cotler and Simon Greer write, “Let’s put aside the president’s trademark bluster and take him at his word – he loves his daughter, and he has a handful of individual Jews in his life that he cares about. But the issue isn’t what Trump believes in his heart of hearts. What really counts are his actions and the company he keeps – including once fringe figures like Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka. In that sense, tragically, he has been a godsend to anti-Semitic movements and ideologies once relegated to the margins of society….When all is said and done, what matters most is not what’s in the president’s heart. He has placed individuals with ties to anti-Semitism into high public office – shattering a hard-won taboo against flagrant anti-Semitism in government. He has invigorated a white nationalist world-view that demonizes Jews, Muslims, and immigrants. He has, intentionally or not, energized white nationalists, neo-Nazis and a legion of alt-right internet trolls. His campaign and early presidency have been marred by anti-Semitic vandalism and threats. President Trump has downplayed these acts while ignoring the pattern he has set in motion. These are not mere coincidences.”

By Giving Ultimatum to German FM, Netanyahu Raises Leftist NGOs to His Status, Haaretz

Ravit Hecht observes, “Netanyahu, who’s widely thought to be bent on staying in power, is also an ideologue. The choice that the world and above all Israelis have to make is simple. It’s between maintaining control of the territories, probably through an apartheid regime, or accepting an Israel in its 1967 borders. The first option is the prime minister’s vision, which via falsehoods in his 2009 Bar-Ilan speech supporting a two-state solution simply moved opposition to the occupation beyond the pale even if it didn’t put it beyond the law. The second option is opposition to the occupation, part of a vision of a faction including not only intellectuals but also military experts, advocates of the rule of law and many people beyond the settlement lobby….Consciously or not, Netanyahu is pushing toward a decisive outcome. Gabriel has already made his choice. Why aren’t others being required, without beating around the bush, to make a decision?”

Germany’s foreign minister calls Netanyahu’s bluff — and rightly so, +972

Dalia Scheindlin writes, “Given an ultimatum of meeting with Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem or meeting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel very simply made the right choice to forego Netanyahu….He was right simply because what would he have actually learned from Netanyahu? Those organizations will give Gabriel concrete information: B’Tselem will update him on developments regarding the 50-year-old occupation and its most current manifestations, in the form of data, documentation and analysis. Breaking the Silence will give him human experiences of occupation, and tell the truth about growing attempts to intimidate and suppress the group for daring to oppose Israeli policies….Netanyahu might have paid tight-lipped service to a two-state solution, while he and his government take all possible measures on the ground to abort a Palestinian state.”

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