News Roundup for August 16, 2017

August 16, 2017

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J Street in the News

Jewish Groups, Politicians Furious Over Trump’s Far-right Pandering, Haaretz

Amir Tibon writes, “President Trump’s comments on Tuesday in defense of the far-right demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, drew a barrage of angry reactions from leading Jewish American organizations and political figures, who denounced the President for stating that there were ‘fine people’ among the racist and anti-Semitic demonstrators, and for insisting that there were ‘two sides’ to the story….The left-wing Jewish group J Street issued a statement saying that ‘President Trump today made unequivocally clear that he lacks the basic decency and moral understanding that should be required of any public official, let alone the President of the United States. There are simply no excuses for his comments and his conduct in this matter.’”

No Excuses for President Trump’s Horrifying Defense of Neo-Nazis, J Street

“J Street is outraged and horrified by President Trump’s press conference today, which marked an appalling and astounding new low for his tenure and, in some ways, for the history of the American presidency. Speaking about last weekend’s events in Charlottesville, VA, the president unconscionably, for the second time, drew false equivalence between violent neo-Nazis chanting anti-Semitic and other bigoted slogans and the counter-protesters who rallied to resist their message and acts of hate, stating that “I think there’s blame on both sides.” He disgracefully described some of the white supremacist, neo-Nazi marchers as “very fine people.” Just two days after the brave young woman Heather Heyer was murdered by a neo-Nazi, the president demonstrated zero understanding of or concern for the terrible threat posed by far-right extremism and violence. President Trump today made unequivocally clear that he lacks the basic decency and moral understanding that should be required of any public official, let alone the President of the United States. There are simply no excuses for his comments and his conduct in this matter.”

Charlottesville, USA, J Street

J Street’s Alan Elsner writes, “Charlottesville should be a clarifying moment for all Americans. No longer can there be any excuses for this president, any attempts to parse his words or reinterpret or explain them away. We are past the time for political spin. The bottom line is this: President Trump tolerates, welcomes and encourages the support of extreme right forces, including racists and neo-Nazis. Far from binding our wounds, this president sows division, spreads falsehoods and encourages hatred….I’m glad today to be a part of an organization, J Street, that has long made clear our concerns about President Trump’s repugnant rhetoric and policies. I’m glad to be part of an organization and a broader community of organizations working today and every day to defend our democracy.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump Gives White Supremacists an Unequivocal Boost, The New York Times

“President Trump buoyed the white nationalist movement on Tuesday as no president has done in generations — equating activists protesting racism with the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who rampaged in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend. Never has he gone as far in defending their actions as he did during a wild, street-corner shouting match of a news conference in the gilded lobby of Trump Tower, angrily asserting that so-called alt-left activists were just as responsible for the bloody confrontation as marchers brandishing swastikas, Confederate battle flags, anti-Semitic banners and ‘Trump/Pence’ signs. ‘Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth,’ David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, wrote in a Twitter post shortly after Mr. Trump spoke.”

This Cannot Stand, Forward

JJ Goldberg writes, “America was shamed on Tuesday as we have never been shamed before. We were debased as a nation by the words of a president who stood before the world and defended the honor of Nazis. He reduced himself in an instant from alarming buffoon to dangerous villain. We who elected him stand disgraced, humiliated….Last week we could explain away Donald Trump’s gaffes as misunderstandings, ignorance, clumsiness. No longer. Now we know for a certainty, from the mouth of the president himself at a moment of unbridled candor, that he is unable to tell right from wrong. To distinguish Nazis and Klansmen from their opponents. To understand the moral chasm dividing George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, authors of this nation and its evolving freedoms, from Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, traitors who tried to destroy this nation in order to maintain the enslavement of millions. To understand that a mob marching under a forest of Nazi and Confederate flags, chanting ‘blood and soil’ and ‘Jews will not replace us,’ is not a mixture of ‘very bad’ and ‘very fine’ people.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: Quitting Iran nuclear deal would undermine North Korea diplomacy, USA Today

Sen. Feinstein writes, “Diplomacy is the only path to stop Kim Jong Un from obtaining a nuclear weapon capable of striking the United States. Unfortunately, as President Trump grapples with the North Korean threat, he seems to have forgotten that same lesson we learned with Iran. After pursuing an atomic bomb for decades, the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran was finally blocked when the world’s major powers secured the historic P5+1 agreement with Tehran two years ago. Trump is now attempting to unravel it….Undermining the nuclear agreement directly weakens Rouhani by giving Iran’s hardliners an easy line of attack: the United States cannot be trusted and Rouhani is foolish to deal with them. Rather than playing into the hardliners’ hands, we should work to empower the more moderate Iranians who wish to reform their own government. While we cannot turn a blind eye toward many of Iran’s policies, especially its support for Hezbollah, it would be foolish to unilaterally abandon a diplomatic agreement that prevents Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. That’s especially true as we pursue similar diplomacy with North Korea toward a similar goal.”


After 3 days, PM condemns Charlottesville in vague statement, Times of Israel

Prime Minister Netanyahu on Wednesday afternoon condemned the neo-Nazi rally three days after it took place in Charlottesville, Virginia. ‘Outraged by expressions of anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and racism. Everyone should oppose this hatred,’ the prime minister posted on his Twitter account, without specifically referring to the actual incident.

Netanyahu’s Son: Neo-Nazi Scum Belong to the Past, Far-left Thugs Getting Stronger, Haaretz

Yair Netanyahu, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 26-year-old son, posted on Facebook that he is more concerned with far-left ‘thugs’ rather than neo-Nazi ‘scum,’ arguing that ‘the latter belong to the past.’ ‘I’m a Jew, I’m an Israeli, the neo nazis scums in Virginia hate me and my country. But they belong to the past. Their breed is dying out,’ Netanyahu wrote on his personal, private Facebook page. ‘However, the thugs of Antifa and BLM who hate my country (and America too in my view) just as much are getting stronger and stronger and becoming super dominant in American universities and public life.’”

Abbas: If Hamas refuses PA terms of reconciliation, Gaza will face further cuts, Ma’an

President Abbas reiterated threats against the Hamas movement, the de facto ruling party in the besieged Gaza Strip, on Tuesday, threatening further repressive measures should Hamas not unconditionally abide by the PA’s demands to resolve the decade-long intra-Palestinian conflict. The PA has demanded that Hamas accept its terms for any possible reconciliation: ending the Hamas-run administrative committee in Gaza, relinquishing control of the besieged coastal territory to the PA, and holding presidential and legislative elections.

Another Democratic Congressman Drops Support for Controversial anti-BDS Bill, Haaretz

Another Democratic member of Congress announced over the weekend that he would withdraw his support from the controversial “Israel Anti-Boycott Act” over concerns that it could harm free speech by potentially imposing penalties on American citizens for supporting boycotts of Israel and the settlements in the West Bank. Speaking at a town hall meeting, Rep. Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington, said that he intends to withdraw his support because the bill is “more complicated” than how it was originally presented to him.

Iran Threatens to Restart Nuclear Program ‘Within Hours’ Should Trump Impose Sanctions, Haaretz

Iran could abandon its nuclear agreement with world powers “within hours” if the United States imposes any more new sanctions, Iranian President Hassan Rohani said on Tuesday. “If America wants to go back to the experience (of imposing sanctions), Iran would certainly return in a short time — not a week or a month but within hours — to conditions more advanced than before the start of negotiations,” Rouhani told a session of parliament broadcast live on state television.

Opinions and Analysis

Controversial Trump Aide Katharine Gorka Helped End Funding For Group That Fights White Supremacy, HuffPost

“Weeks before a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, led to three deaths and 19 injuries, the Trump administration revoked a grant to Life After Hate, a group that works to de-radicalize neo-Nazis. The Department of Homeland Security had awarded the group $400,000 as part of its Countering Violent Extremism program in January, just days before former President Barack Obama left office. It was the only group selected for a grant that focused exclusively on fighting white supremacy. But the grant money was not immediately disbursed. Trump aides, including Katharine Gorka, a controversial national security analyst known for her anti-Muslim rhetoric, were already working toward eliminating Life After Hate’s grant and to direct all funding toward fighting what the president has described as ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’”

Netanyahu’s Revenge: Silence and Sidestep on Nazis in Charlottesville, Haaretz

Bradley Burston writes, “[F]or three solid days, Netanyahu, who has something to say about just about everything, had nothing whatsoever to say about Charlottesville….And when, at long last, he decided to post something about Charlottesville, he and his staff managed to compose a tweet so mealy-mouthed, that it far surpassed Trump’s outrageous original statement for sheer opacity and intentional lack of focus….This is the message of Netanyahu’s silence regarding Charlottesville: I am not the prime minister of the Jewish people. I am the prime minister of all of the Jewish people who are right-wing, pro-settlement, anti-Palestinian, pro-Me.”

Who’s Who: White Nationalist Enablers in the White House, J Street Blog

J Street’s Benjy Cannon writes, “The horrific events in Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend have spurred a renewed debate on the Trump administration’s disgraceful tolerance — and even embrace — of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and their sympathizers. President Trump’s reluctance to unequivocally condemn racist and anti-Semitic extremism may have had something to do with the fact that numerous members of his senior staff have well-established links to white nationalist groups and figures. Here’s what you should know about some of the worst and most prominent offenders.”

Has US sacrificed Israel for Syria deal?, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit reports, “Senior Israeli Cabinet ministers refer to the US-Russia deal on Syria as a strategic failure of the highest level….Israel’s disappointment over US policy is increasing. Before the formulation of the cease-fire agreement in southern Syria, three-way meetings were held between Israel and the United States and Russia. Israel transmitted all its demands and worries, backed up by intelligence materials. But at the end of the day, the actual agreement being drawn up does not at all deal with Iranian involvement or penetration….As of now, the Trump administration is indifferent to the Iranian issue; its main focus is to achieve a prestigious success for the president: victory over IS. ‘To achieve that,’ said a senior Israeli source on condition of anonymity, ‘They are willing to allow Iran to reach Israel’s front lines. As far as we are concerned, this is simply a disaster.’”

Jason Greenblatt’s Challenge, Haaretz

Shaul Arieli writes, “To succeed where others have failed, it would behoove Greenblatt to establish a clear framework and parameters for a final-status agreement and to work out a package deal that will include deterring ‘sticks’ and encouraging ‘carrots,’ and to create an international atmosphere that will allow the civil society on both sides to influence the definition of their respective interests and national positions.”

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