News Roundup for August 17, 2017

August 17, 2017

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J Street in the News

Trump blasted by Jewish groups, politicians on both side of the aisle, Ynet

“Liberal, nonprofit advocacy group J Street also issued a harsh condemnation of Trump’s press conference, saying, “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.”

Top News and Analysis

Jewish Critics of Trump Can Finally Appreciate Israeli Opponents of Netanyahu, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “[T]he next time American Jews hear Jewish right wingers attack Israelis who criticize Netanyahu or the occupation or the decline of Israeli democracy, all they have to do is ask themselves how they would feel if someone challenged their own right to lambaste Trump or to portray his destructive influence on American morals and mores. And the next time anyone claims that critics of Israel or of the occupation or of Israeli society are unpatriotic or disloyal or stabbing their country in the back, American Jews should be ready, willing and able to reply that, no, actually, it’s the other way round. Those who are willing to condone hate and incitement are the true traitors. But those who urge their country to change course, who speak out against intolerance and injustice, who refuse to go quietly into the night – they are the true patriots. Israeli or American, refusing to support leaders and policies you feel are wrong and unjust is the only right thing to do.”

Democrats Mount an Effort to Censure Donald Trump, The Atlantic

Conor Friedersdrof writes, “Wednesday, a group of House Democrats produced a censure resolution against President Trump….An overwhelming vote by the House to censure Trump would help to mitigate his inadequate leadership by sending the message he failed to send to white supremacists: that the people are overwhelmingly opposed to their bigotry; that even the most populist branch of government is so adamantly anti-KKK and anti-Nazi that members will censure a president of their own party for delivering anything short of moral clarity. The country would benefit greatly.”

Rally around controversy, Times of Israel

“President Donald Trump has managed, with his choice of words while discussing the violence that erupted at a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, to strike a nerve not only in his own country but also thousands of miles across the Atlantic, as Israel’s center-to-left-leaning newspapers outdo each other in condemnations of the leader of the free world….’Disgrace,’ reads Yedioth Aharonoth’s main headline, plastered in yellow above a photograph of Trump. ‘They marched with torches, cried out against Jews, and ran over and killed a demonstrator,’ the paper says of the far-right protesters in Charlottesville. ‘But the president of the United States chose to condemn both sides.’….Trump is not the only target of Yedioth’s rage. The paper’s writers are heavily critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing him of ignoring the controversy in the US for cheap political reasons, and of jeopardizing Israel’s relations with Jews in America.”


High Court freezes controversial outpost legalization law, Times of Israel

The High Court of Justice on Thursday postponed for two months the implementation of a controversial law that legalizes wildcat West Bank outposts constructed on private Palestinian land in certain restricted cases. The legality of the highly contentious Regulation Law was challenged in the High Court by the Silwad municipality, along with several other local Palestinian authorities.

Jewish Trump Officials Silent on President’s Defense of Anti-Semitic Protesters, The New York Times

“Jewish members of President Trump’s administration remained largely silent Wednesday after Mr. Trump came to the defense of nationalist and right-wing protesters in Charlottesville, Va., who had chanted anti-Semitic slogans and demeaned the president’s Jewish son-in-law. Gary D. Cohn, the director of the president’s National Economic Council, who is Jewish, was described by several people close to him as ‘disgusted’ and ‘deeply upset’ by the president’s remarks. But Mr. Cohn has not publicly expressed those views. Steven Mnuchin, the secretary of the Treasury and also Jewish, stood silently behind Mr. Trump on Tuesday as the president said there were ‘very fine people on both sides’ at the Virginia incident. Mr. Mnuchin has not said anything since about the president’s remarks. And Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, who is also Jewish, has been silent about Mr. Trump’s comments.”

Former PM Barak: Neo-Nazi Rally in Charlottesville Reminiscent of Events in Israel, Haaretz

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday that the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville last Saturday was reminiscent of recent events in Israel. Barak cited demonstrations held by the anti-assimilationist group Lehava and the rants against IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot over the Sgt. Elor Azaria manslaughter trial. Speaking on Facebook, Barak also blasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s feeble, belated response to recent anti-Semitic events in the United States. “You can’t say you don’t see things here that have a similar smell or bear a certain similarity ‒ when you look at the Lehava demonstrations or the La Familia activity, or the ranting against the chief of staff or journalists and the threat to the lives of journalists covering Netanyahu’s investigations, or to their family members,” Barak said. “All these displays are what I have called budding fascism and should be stopped with a firm hand,” he continued. [We need] a democracy that believes in its way. A Jewish state must struggle for its way; an active, not a passive struggle. Such things must not be allowed to pass.”

Orthodox rabbinical group condemns Trump for ‘failing of moral leadership’ on Charlottesville, JTA

The Rabbinical Council of America criticized President Donald Trump for blaming left-wing counterprotesters along with white supremacists for the violence that erupted at a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. “There is no moral comparison,” the president of the centrist Orthodox group, Rabbi Elazar Muskin, wrote in the statement Wednesday. “Failure to unequivocally reject hatred and bias is a failing of moral leadership and fans the flames of intolerance and chauvinism.” Leaders of the RCA, which is affiliated with the Orthodox Union, noted in the statement that their group usually stays out of politics. But the RCA’s executive vice president, Rabbi Mark Dratch, said the organization was joining Americans of different political leanings and backgrounds, as well as politicians, in “calling on President Trump to understand the critical consequences of his words.”

Foreign Ministry Warned Moves Against Al Jazeera Will Damage Israel’s Image, Haaretz

Imposing sanctions on the Al Jazeera television network would damage Israel’s image overseas, senior Foreign Ministry officials warned at a National Security Council meeting a few weeks ago. Sources briefed on the details of the meeting, who asked to remain anonymous, told Haaretz that before it took place, the NSC asked the ministry to prepare an assessment of possible international responses to Israeli sanctions on the Qatari TV station. The ministry’s assessment, one source said, was that “there’s no doubt that any infringement on activities by Al Jazeera and its reporters in Israel would cause public relations damage to Israel overseas.”

Even though Al Jazeera’s editorial policy is harshly anti-Israel, the ministry warned, any moves against it would spark international criticism and give ammunition to people and organizations worldwide seeking to paint Israel as a country that undermines the fundamental democratic principles of freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

Jewish GOP congressman defends Trump’s response to Charlottesville, Times of Israel

A Jewish Republican congressman defended on Wednesday US President Donald Trump’s response to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which the president said “both sides were to blame” for the deadly violence that unfolded.

Israel Struck Arms Convoys on Several Enemy Fronts Nearly 100 Times in Past Five Years, Top General Says, Haaretz

Israel has attacked convoys bringing arms to Hezbollah and groups on several Israeli fronts dozens of times over the last five years, a top Israeli military commander has confirmed for the first time. The number of Israeli attacks on such convoys since 2012 is approaching triple digits, said Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, the outgoing commander of the Israel Air Force.

IDF bans laptops, food, toiletries for Palestinians leaving Gaza, +972

The Israeli military has instituted a travel ban on food, toiletries and most electronic devices for Palestinians exiting the Gaza Strip. The army sent the new directive to Gisha, an Israeli NGO that promotes freedom of movement for Palestinians, a day before it went into effect earlier this month.

Labor Party Leader Gabbay, Former Israeli Defense Minister Agree to Work Together, Haaretz

Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay and Likud Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon have decided to work together after meeting recently. Ya’alon quit the Likud party last year when Prime Minister Netanyahu removed him as defense minister. While the Ya’alon and Gabbay have agreed to work together in some capacity, the Labor Party leader has not guaranteed Ya’alon a slot on the party’s Knesset slate whenever elections are next held.

Netanyahu Appoints Former Justice Minister to Review Israel’s Conversion Policy, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday appointed Moshe Nissim, a retired Likud politician and former justice minister, to draft recommendations on conversion in Israel. The appointment was one of several steps agreed upon by the coalition parties in an effort to resolve the crisis in Israel-Diaspora relations sparked by the ministerial approval of the controversial conversion bill in June.

Opinions and Analysis

Journalists fear for safety as Netanyahu ups war on media, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit observes, “Many pin responsibility for the current atmosphere on Netanyahu. The collision-course relationship between Netanyahu and large segments of the Israeli media is nothing new, but in recent years, primarily since his 2015 electoral victory, the situation has steadily worsened….Of course, one must keep things in perspective. The chances are quite low that Israel will be subjected to the attacks on the media like those ongoing in Turkey (at least in the near future). Journalists in Israel are not arrested due to their opinions, though there are some who have been fired due to their political stances or forced to fight for their livelihood because they have been critical of Netanyahu. Israel is a real democracy, and its immune system is still functioning, despite intense attempts by the government to weaken it. Nevertheless, the status and position of journalists has been deteriorating. Large swathes of the population have begun to brand them as subversive elements at best or ‘enemies of the nation’ at worst. It is becoming dangerous to be a journalist at a political gathering of the right.”

Why the Charlottesville Marchers Were Obsessed With Jews, The Atlantic

Emma Green writes, “For these demonstrators….the connection between African Americans and Jews is clear. In the minds of white supremacists like David Duke, there is a straight line from anti-blackness to anti-Judaism. That logic is powerful and important. The durability of anti-Semitic tropes, and the ease with which they slide into all displays of bigotry, is a chilling reminder that the hatreds of our time rhyme with history and are easily channeled through timeless anti-Semitic canards….Of course there are neo-Nazis in our time. There are those who hate Jews in every time. It’s a hatred that easily flickers between the universal and the particular, melding with the similarly particular hatreds of blacks and immigrants and other minority groups.”

Israel pushes security ties while Cairo, Amman embassies sit empty, Al-Monitor

Akiva Eldar writes, “This week, Al-Monitor heard the views of two former Israeli ambassadors on the paralysis of Israel’s two diplomatic offices in Arab states. Shimon Shamir, who served as ambassador in both Egypt and Jordan, was unambiguous, stating, ‘If the peace is important, the embassies are important.’ Shamir added that a big question mark hangs over ties between countries that do not exchange ambassadors. ‘This is a symbolic manifestation, but also a practical sign that the peace is not stable and is at risk,’ he said. The senior Middle East scholar noted that embassy staff ‘are deployed at the front, facing a hostile media and reacting to conspiracy theories and evil accusations that endanger the peace.’”

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