News Roundup for April 30, 2018

April 30, 2018

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J Street in the News

How ‘controversial’ J Street U keeps liberal Jewish students in the fold, Times of Israel

“J Street U is the campus branch of J Street, a self-described ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace’ liberal Washington, DC-based lobby organization which advocates for a two-state solution. There are currently 60 J Street U campus chapters nationwide and over 1,000 student activists attended J Street’s national conference in the nation’s capital in mid-April….Not always accepted at the grown-ups’ pro-Israel table, J Street U has positioned itself as a home for progressive pro-Israel students on campuses across the US. And as a bridge in today’s increasingly polarized climate, the presence of the left-leaning organization may only become more crucial…According to Israel Policy Forum’s Halperin, progressive, pro-Israel students such as the ones J Street U attracts can be the most effective in combating anti-Israel activity….As Ben Gellman, a senior at Johns Hopkins University and vice president of J Street U’s Southeast region, put it, ‘More traditional forms of Israel activism never really worked and definitely are not working now. People our age — they know about the Occupation, they know about the human rights abuses, they know about the West Bank and what a horrific situation it is in Gaza right now — and they aren’t satisfied with talking about how Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and has all of these gay clubs in Tel Aviv’ he said.”

Word on the Street: Gaza, J Street

“With violence and suffering in Gaza continuing unabated, many of us in the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement feel a sickening sense of frustration and deja vu. For the entirety of our ten years and through countless rounds of violence in Gaza, J Street has articulated the steps that can and should be taken to break the deadly cycle. And now, we can’t help but be angry at the leaders here and in the region who have failed to address the underlying causes of this crisis….Recognizing that there’s more than enough blame to go around for the present situation also means acknowledging that this isn’t all on Hamas and the PA. There is action that can be taken by Israel and by the United States to break the cycle of violence, protect human life and help those who are suffering….We must make clear that complex political and humanitarian crises cannot be resolved by military force, and that only bold, responsible leadership to address the underlying causes can finally break this disastrous, deteriorating status quo. Our Jewish values and our deep concern for both Israelis and Palestinians compel us to speak out and insist: A better future is possible.”

Top News and Analysis

Israeli forces kill three Gaza border protesters, wound 600: medics, Reuters

“Israeli troops shot dead three protesters along the Gaza border on Friday, Gaza medics said, hours after the United Nations human rights chief criticized Israel for using ‘excessive force’ against demonstrators…..Gaza medical officials said two protesters who were struck by bullets were in critical condition in hospital and 600 others were wounded. The Israeli military said 12,000-14,000 Gazans were participating in what it described as ‘riots,’ and that some had tried to breach the border into Israel. It said troops ‘had operated in accordance with the rules of engagement’ to stop people crossing the border. The Gaza health ministry said 200 were wounded by gun fire, including a Palestinian journalist who was hit in the foot by a bullet….After dark, the Israeli military said in a statement that its fighter jets had struck six targets belonging to Hamas’ naval force ‘in response to the terror activity and mass attempt to infiltrate into Israeli territory earlier today.’”

Blasted Limbs, Broken Dreams: Israeli gunfire is taking a severe toll on the lower limbs of Palestinian protesters, Washington Post

Erin Cunningham and Hazem Balousha report, “During the past month of demonstrations along the border between Gaza and Israel, at least 17 Palestinians have suffered gunshot wounds that ultimately cost them their legs, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza. In at least three of the cases, Israeli authorities rejected the transfer of wounded Gazans to the West Bank, where they could receive medical care that might have saved their limbs, according to lawyers and one of the patients’ families….Since the protests began, Israeli troops have killed 43 Palestinians and wounded more than 3,500 with live ammunition, rubber bullets or shrapnel, the Health Ministry said. Of those, about 2,200 have suffered injuries to the legs….Doctors in Gaza are often unable to deal with such traumatic injuries, medical groups say, because hospitals there are overwhelmed and understaffed.”

Pompeo After Meeting Netanyahu: If Iran Nuclear Deal Can’t Be Fixed, It Will Be Nixed, Haaretz

“US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said following a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday that the United States will cancel the Iran nuclear deal if it is not fixed. Speaking to reporters following the meeting, which took place at the Israeli military’s headquarters in Tel Aviv, Pompeo said the U.S. stands with Israel against Iran. ‘We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s dangerous escalation of threats toward Israel and the region,’ Pompeo said, adding that the U.S. supports Israel’s right to defend itself.”

Pompeo and Palestinians Have ‘Nothing to Discuss’ Amid Gaza Crisis, The New York Times

Gardiner Harris and Isabel Kershner report, “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came to Israel Sunday in the midst of the worst crisis in relations between Israelis and Palestinians in years, but he did not meet a single Palestinian representative and mentioned them publicly once. For decades, American diplomats saw themselves as brokers between the two sides, and secretaries of state typically met Palestinian representatives on regional tours like this one. When relations between the two sides deteriorated, the United States sought to bridge the divide. No more.”


Syria Missile Strikes Reportedly Kill at Least 16, The New York Times

“Missile strikes in Syria hit military bases used by Iran and its proxy militias fighting in the civil war there, killing at least 16 people, a conflict monitoring group and one of Iran’s regional allies said on Monday….An official for the regional alliance that includes Iran, Syria and the militant group Hezbollah said that most of the dead were Iranian. There was no claim of responsibility for the strikes, but suspicion fell on Israel, which has repeatedly bombed what are believed to be Iranian convoys in Syria transporting weapons to its regional allies.”

U.S. House Democrats Ask Israel, Gaza Protesters to Show Restraint, Haaretz

“A group of Democratic members of Congress released a statement Thursday calling on Israel and Palestinian protesters in Gaza to show restraint amid the violence on the Gaza border and ahead of the massive protests expected on May 15. ‘We are deeply concerned by the violence and the tragic loss of life along the border of Gaza,’ the 10 Democrats wrote. ‘As strong supporters of Israel and advocates for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we respect Israel’s right to defend itself. However, short of a threat to human life, we call on the Israeli Defense Forces to immediately stop using deadly force against unarmed protestors.’ They added that ‘likewise, we respect the Palestinians who are advocating for change through peaceful means. However, we call on the Palestinian demonstrators to renounce the violence and inflammatory rhetoric expressed by Hamas.’”

Israeli says 3 Palestinian infiltrators from Gaza killed, Washington Post

Israeli troops fatally shot two Palestinians who infiltrated the country from Gaza and attacked soldiers with explosives Sunday night, and in a separate incident killed another Palestinian who tried to breach the border, the military said. Another Palestinian was detained in the latter incident, and two more were caught trying to cross the border in a third case, the military said.

Israel Scrambles After Trump Says He May Still Attend Jerusalem Embassy Opening, Forward

Israeli officials told local media they were surprised to learn that President Trump may still travel to Israel for the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

Saudi Crown Prince: Palestinians should take what the U.S. offers, Axios

In a closed-door meeting with heads of Jewish organizations in New York on March 27th, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) gave harsh criticism of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), according to an Israeli foreign ministry cable sent by a diplomat from the Israeli consulate in New York, as well three sources — Israeli and American — who were briefed about the meeting.

Israeli Army Refuses to Disclose Open-fire Policy for Gaza Border Protests, Haaretz

The Israeli army refused to disclose the rules of engagement applying to the protests at the Gaza border, in response to a petition submitted to the High Court of Justice on April 15 by four human rights organizations. In a statement, the state said the rules of engagement in the area are classified, adding that if asked by the court to present them it would do so only in closed session and without the presence of the plaintiffs. The High Court is scheduled to hear the petition Monday.

Palestinians vote this week on PLO’s aging leaders, as Abbas tightens grip, Times of Israel

The top-tier leadership group of the PLO — average age 70 — is up for election for the first time in over two decades, when hundreds of delegates attend a West Bank convention this week.

Opinions and Analysis

Trump May Already Be Violating the Iran Deal, The Atlantic

Peter Beinart writes, “The Trump administration has never fully complied with the nuclear deal, and likely never will. The real question isn’t whether Trump violates it, but how.”

Why I March in Gaza, The New York Times

Fadi Abu Shammalah writes, “I fully believe in the march’s tactics of unarmed, direct, civilian-led mass action. I have also been inspired by how the action has unified the Palestinian people in the politically fractured Gaza Strip. And the march is an effective way to highlight the unbearable living conditions facing residents of the Gaza Strip: four hours of electricity a day, the indignity of having our economy and borders under siege, the fear of having our homes shelled. But the core reason I am participating is that years from now, I want to be able to look Ali, Karam and Adam in the eye and tell them, ‘Your father was part of this historic, nonviolent struggle for our homeland.’”

In First Meeting, Pompeo Thrills Netanyahu With Hawkish Talk on Iran – and What He Doesn’t Say About Palestinians, Haaretz

Allison Kaplan Sommer observes, “Finally, Netanyahu can feel confident that the voices whispering in the president’s ear are those of hawkish foreign policy aides who see the world as he does (including the new national security adviser, John Bolton)….If Pompeo’s tough talk on Iran wasn’t enough to lift Netanyahu’s spirits, the fact the focus of his remarks was almost entirely on Tehran and not the Palestinians surely would. Pompeo reportedly didn’t even try to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas or other Palestinian officials during his visit – though Palestinian officials said that even if such a meeting had been sought, they would have refused.”

The Torah and migrants, Jerusalem Post

Alan Elsner writes, “This week’s Torah portion, Kedoshim, includes the famous commandment to love the stranger which has been much discussed in our American-Jewish community in light of President Trump’s moves to restrict our acceptance of refugees, deport undocumented immigrants and remove legal protections from ‘dreamers,’ as well as Israel’s efforts to deport some 38,000 African migrants.”

Russia acting as buffer between Israel, Iran, Al-Monitor

Maxim Suchkov writes, “Russia is indeed having a hard time in its role as a go-between for such die-hard negotiators as the Israelis and Iranians. For now, however, both Iran and Israel need Russia as an “airbag” between one another. Such a status may not — and probably will not — last too long, but so far it has been providing Moscow with the time necessary to elaborate a status quo of moderation: Iran has to restrain Hezbollah’s provocative actions, and Israel needs to restrain its assertive responses and pre-emptive air raids.”