News Roundup for May 1, 2017

May 1, 2017

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J Street in the news

Why Are American Jews Giving a Platform to Gorka’s anti-Muslim Hate?, Haaretz

J Street U Georgetown leader Julia Friedmann writes, “I’m proud of my fellow students, Jews and Muslims, who refused to be intimidated by Gorka’s position of power. I’m proud that on Yom HaShoah, of all days, we stood together and refused to normalize his ideology of hate….It should be unacceptable for Gorka to present his hateful, narrow-minded worldview as “pro-Israel.” At these events, he’ll speak alongside senior Israeli ministers and leaders of mainstream American Jewish organizations. Will these officials and leaders of the Jewish community challenge Gorka’s disgraceful beliefs? Will they find a way to stand up and fight back against Islamophobia, against sympathy for fascists and neo-Nazis? Or will they sit back while Gorka uses the guise of ‘strong support for Israel’ to demonize millions of people, and advocates for policies that target and discriminate against them?…We must not allow ingratiating and self-serving declarations of being pro-Israel to provide cover for an agenda of hate.  We know better than that. Virulent attacks on Muslims and Palestinians won’t make Israelis safer – nor will undermining democratic values in Israel or in the U.S. The ideas of Gorka and his allies offer only disaster for the Jewish community and for the world – and we need to say so now, while there’s still time to expose and stop them.”

GOP Lawmakers Team Up With Anti-Islam Activist To Launch Israel Victory Caucus, Huffington Post

“A pair of Republican lawmakers launched a caucus on Thursday aimed at ensuring the ‘victory of Israel in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.’ The legislators seek to replace peace talks with a policy that could be seen as greenlighting Israeli aggression towards Palestinians. “Israel Victory Caucus” co-chairs Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) and Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) are partnering with Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, has described Pipes as an ‘anti-Muslim activist.’….Dylan Williams, the vice president of government affairs at J Street, a left-leaning pro-Israel group, warned against dismissing what he described as a ‘small fringe of the Republican party.’ ‘They are small, but increasingly influential ― and we saw their impact when all mention of two states was removed from the GOP platform last summer,’ Williams said in a statement.”

Anti-Palestinian caucus divides pro-Israel camp on Capitol Hill, Al-Monitor

“‘In the manifesto outlining the group’s approach, Daniel Pipes writes “Palestinians will have to pass through the bitter crucible of defeat, with all its deprivation, destruction and despair’ before the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be resolved,’ J Street wrote in a fundraising email. ‘That’s barbaric thinking. And it’s totally at odds with the views of Israel’s security establishment, which consistently argues Palestinian despair leads to instability, violence and disbelief that Israelis want peace.’”

J Street Concerned by Trump Administration’s Proposed Cuts to State Department Personnel, J Street

“J Street is deeply concerned by reports this week that the Trump administration plans to cut 2300 State Department jobs as part of President Trump’s pledge to reduce government spending. The cuts would reduce the State Department’s workforce by 9 percent. Slashing State Department personnel – especially as tumult continues to engulf the Middle East and much of the world – is reckless and irresponsible. The Trump administration’s pledge to impoverish US diplomacy, while simultaneously building up the military, raises serious doubts about their approach to America’s global leadership. Diplomacy is an indispensable tool in America’s global leadership toolbox. The United States should be seeking opportunities to expand its diplomatic arsenal, not slashing it.”

J Street denied space in CJL for Israeli anti-occupation exhibition, Daily Princetonian

“After the Center for Jewish Life denied J Street U Princeton access to space to host an Israeli anti-occupation exhibition, J Street, a “Pro-Peace, Pro-Israel, and Pro-Palestinian” political group, announced it will host its event at the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding. The event, an exhibition created by Israeli NGO organization Breaking the Silence, will feature photos that ‘highlight the moral and strategic dilemmas that the occupation creates for Israel and for the Israel Defense Forces,’ according to J Street’s Facebook post on Friday, written by J Street U Princeton President Dylan Mittag ‘20. The organization was established by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) veterans who wanted to share testimonials of serving in occupied territories. According to the original post, J Street risked losing its affiliation status with the CJL for ignoring the CJL’s objections. The relationship between the CJL and J Street is complicated by the CJL’s commitment to inclusivity and simultaneous status as a Hillel organization. After meeting with Rabbi Julie Roth, the CJL’s Executive Director, Mittag stated that their ‘relationship is intact. J Street will remain a CJL organization.’”

Top News and Analysis

Sebastian Gorka Reported Ousted From White House, Forward

Sebastian Gorka, President Trump’s chief counter-terrorism advisor, is soon to be shifted from his White House position to another spot somewhere else in the administration, according to a report in the Washington Examiner. Gorka, whose official title is deputy assistant to the president, has been under continued attack from critics for his alleged lack of professional qualifications and past ties to anti-Semitic and racist groups in Hungary.

Clashes at Joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremonies, Haaretz

Right-wing protesters disrupted, heckled and even forced their way into joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremonies held in Tel Aviv and in the north on Sunday night. In Tel Aviv, some 4,000 participated in the event, held to commemorate the lives lost on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and were attacked by members of a counter protest of several dozen right wingers. In Kiryat Tivon, north of Haifa, about 150 people arrived for a similar ceremony in a local bookstore, but about 30 demonstrators, some of them masked, entered the bookstore as the event was due to begin and announced: “This evening won’t take place.”

Fight for the Founders’ Vision of Israel, Haaretz

A Haaretz editorial observes, “Israel, its establishment and its development are one of humanity’s great success stories of the 20th century, and no flaw or consequence can diminish this achievement. This is the achievement of Zionism, a small 19th-century movement that became an enormous driving force. The fullest expression of the Zionist vision that led to Israel’s establishment was the Declaration of Independence. But Israel’s policies, especially under Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, attest to the state’s departure from its fundamental founding principles….The Declaration of Independence adopted the vision of Israel’s prophets — the universal values that put man at the center, the ones through which Judaism made an enormous contribution worldwide. But the nationalist State of Israel, with its fascist tendencies, scorns and derides these values. Israeli society must fight to restore the vision of the Declaration of Independence and make it the state’s vision once more. We cannot and must not accept its abolition.”


President Rivlin: We Must Not Only Prevent the Next War, but All Future Wars, Haaretz

President Reuven Rivlin spoke on Sunday evening of the price in lives that Israel has paid for its independence. “We know there is a price for our existence here for our liberty. There is a price and we, with fear and dread, are prepared to pay it,” he said, speaking at a ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem marking the beginning of Memorial Day. The country must not only ensure the security of Israel’s citizens and the well-being of its soldiers. “We must always busy ourselves not with preventing the next war but preventing the next wars — by every means and channel at our disposal,” the president said.

Palestinians barred from Israeli-Palestinian memorial service, Times of Israel

No Palestinians took part in the Israeli-Palestinian memorial service in Tel Aviv on Sunday night, marking the first time in the service’s 12 years that Palestinians were barred from attending, including during the height of the Second intifada. Some 225 Palestinians were supposed to be in attendance at the ceremony in Tel Aviv’s Shlomo Group Arena, an alternative to the standard Israeli Memorial Day events organized by the groups Combatants for Peace and the Families Forum, but the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of the Government’s Activities in the Territories denied their one-day permits.

Tensions Between Israel and Germany Intensify Over Critical UNESCO Resolution, Haaretz

Israel’s highly tense relations with Germany over Jerusalem’s stance on the Palestinians have deteriorated further, with Foreign Ministry officials saying Germany has not helped foil an anti-Israel resolution in UNESCO’s executive committee. The officials accuse Germany of making every effort to reach a compromise with Arab nations that EU countries would not have to vote against the resolution when the vote takes place on Tuesday.

Slamming the PA, Hamas official warns that Gaza could implode ‘at any moment’, Ma’an

As institutional, political, and infrastructural crises continue to plague the Gaza Strip, high-level Hamas official Ahmad Yousif warned on Saturday that the situation in the besieged Palestinian enclave could implode at any moment, lashing out at the Palestinian Authority (PA) for its role in the deteriorating context. In an interview with Ma’an, Yousif accused the PA, the Fatah-led government in the occupied West Bank, of putting into action a “big plan” aiming to “eliminate the Palestinian cause.”

Liberman: No compensation for Palestinian child firebombed by settlers, Times of Israel

Israel will not pay terror victims’ compensation to a Ahmed Dawabsha, a Palestinian boy whose parents and brother were killed in a 2015 arson attack allegedly carried out on their home by Jewish extremists, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told a Knesset member in an official correspondence on the issue. The current law stipulates that the state must compensate Israeli citizens affected by terrorism, but does not apply to Palestinians “who are not citizens or residents of Israel,” Liberman wrote.

With Eye on Trump’s Peace Efforts, Hamas to Unveil New Charter, Haaretz

Hamas will unveil its new charter Monday evening at a press conference in the Qatari capital of Doha, Hamas officials said Sunday. Though the document’s contents haven’t yet been officially released, Hamas sources have reported its main provisions in recent weeks. These provisions, they say, summarize positions enunciated throughout the years by senior Hamas officials, including the group’s founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. The new charter will accept the idea of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, but without recognizing Israel. According to Hamas sources, it will assail the Zionist enterprise as an aggressive project built on robbing the Palestinians of their rights. But in contrast to the organization’s original 1988 charter, it will call for a battle against Israel rather than a war of extermination against all Jews.

Opinions and Analysis

Did Sheldon Adelson Fire Newspaper Editor For Criticizing Netanyahu?, Forward

“Amos Regev, the founding editor of Sheldon Adelson’s Israel Hayom daily, was fired following growing friction between the publication and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office. The free daily, which is owned by the Las Vegas Republican mega-donor and is known for its flattering coverage of Netanyahu, is Israel’s largest circulating newspaper. According to press reports in Israel, Regev was let go from the helm of the paper after 10 years because he had allowed senior writers in the paper to criticize Netanyahu. In recent months the paper has also scaled down the coverage of Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife.”

Trump’s Mideast plan starts taking shape, Al-Monitor

Uri Savir reports, “A senior Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs official in the know on Israeli-US relations told Al-Monitor that in recent days Israel has been approached by senior officials in the Trump administration about a possible US policy initiative related to the region and to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. Trump’s staff is currently preparing his first official visit to Israel (apparently on May 22), yet these preliminary contacts were exploratory in nature….According to the Israeli source who spoke on condition of anonymity, the US officials did say expressively that in any case Israeli security interests will be taken care of “as never before.” What concerned the senior Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs official was a request to know Israel’s position on a possible qualified acceptance of parts of the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002. In the Israeli source’s view, this request indicates that the Trump administration has been influenced by Arab interlocutors such as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, King Abdullah II of Jordan and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who all expressed in similar terms that the Arab Peace Initiative is the only possible basis for regional progress on the Palestinian issue.”

Could Israel’s Bennett become next leader of the right?, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem observes, “Bennett is caught in a catch-22. The more he advocates for a more liberal, less religious agenda while dissociating himself from groups on the far right, the more likely he is to lose “safe” votes. On the other hand, if he fails to change the party’s character and image, the chances of him increasing its strength so significantly that it offers an alternative to the leadership of the right — and to the state itself — are slim at best. The old-new party chairman will have no choice but to maneuver within this tangled web of constraints from now until the next election. While happenstance brought him to HaBayit HaYehudi and turned him into a rising political star, it is also blocking any path he might have to become the leader of the right. He may control the party, but time and again he learns about the limitations of that party as a launching pad for an eventual run for prime minister.”

If Trump has a strategy on Israeli-Palestinian peace, it’s remaining a secret, Washington Post

Josh Rogin argues, [T]here’s a glaring gap between Trump’s high-flying rhetoric and his still-unexplained strategy. As the Abbas visit approaches, there’s no clarity in sight.”