News Roundup for December 12, 2018

December 12, 2018

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J Street in the News

Israel strengthens its ties with the West’s far right, Washington Post

“Under Netanyahu’s watch, Israel has amassed a conspicuous crop of illiberal allies. Some, like Salvini and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, represent political movements with histories of neofascism and anti-Semitism….The strident ideology behind Netanyahu’s agenda alarms more-liberal supporters of Israel in the United States. ‘It’s extremely disturbing that Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli government are embracing right-wing leaders with xenophobic ideologies and authoritarian leanings — and providing cover for those leaders’ anti-Semitic dogwhistles and affiliations,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the left-leaning Jewish American group J Street…. ‘In their zeal to maintain the occupation and reject all criticism of its policies towards the Palestinians, the Israeli Right clearly feels kinship with other ultranationalist leaders who are demonizing ethnic minorities, civil society groups and democratic institutions,’ Ben-Ami continued. ‘By standing with the likes of Orban and Salvini, the Israeli government is ignoring the deep concerns of European Jewish leaders, and forgetting the historical lesson that any government which targets minorities and undermines liberal democracy is ultimately a threat to the Jewish people.’”

Sharp Decline in Number of American Jews on Birthright Trips, Haaretz

“Recent studies have shown that Jewish millennials, who are largely progressive, feel less connected to Israel than their parents and grandparents because they perceive the country’s policies as antithetical to their values. In particular, they cite Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and of asylum seekers. Last week, for instance, a petition signed by 1,500 Jewish students – demanding that Birthright include in its itinerary Palestinian speakers able to address the realities of occupation – was delivered to Hillel directors at over 30 campuses across the United States. The petition was organized by J Street U, the campus affiliate of the pro-Israel, anti-occupation advocacy group. Hillel, the largest Jewish student organization in the world, is a major recruiter for Birthright. ‘The exclusion of voices of Palestinians and Palestinian citizens of Israel from Birthright runs counter to our core values,’ the petition said. ‘On a trip to Israel, we should experience the country’s history and culture, but we should also learn about the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and hear the voices of Palestinians living under occupation.’”

Top News and Analysis

In Jerusalem Meeting, Netanyahu Hails Italy’s Salvini as a ‘Great Friend of Israel’, Haaretz

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini met on Wednesday at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. Netanyahu welcomed Salvini, calling him ‘a great friend of Israel.’ Salvini, Netanyahu said, had a chance to see for himself the Hezbollah attack tunnels in the north….A close political ally of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Salvini is rapidly establishing himself as Italy’s most influential politician and as de facto leader of Europe’s populist anti-immigration camp in the run-up to European Parliament elections in 2019. Salvini’s League successfully ran on a nationalist anti-immigration platform promising to put ‘Italians first,’ which critics called Islamophobic and xenophobic.”


Australia to recognize Jerusalem as Israeli capital, delay embassy move – report, Times of Israel

The Australian government is reportedly set to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Wednesday, but will likely delay moving its embassy there from Tel Aviv due to cost concerns. Senior government sources told The Australian newspaper that Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s cabinet approved the policy change at a national security meeting Tuesday night following extensive discussions on the matter.

New Footage Strengthens Palestinian Claims That Israeli Soldiers Killed Palestinian Who Wasn’t Protesting, Haaretz

New videos published on Tuesday by Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem strengthen Palestinian claims that Mohammad Khossam Khabali, who was shot to death in Tulkarm last week, was fired at despite the fact that he did not attend a protest or a riot in the area. The Israeli military claimed that the 23-year-old Khabali was shot after dozens of Palestinians hurled rocks towards Israeli troops in Tul Karm.

Congress backs bill targeting Hamas and Hezbollah for using human shields, JTA

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that would target for sanctions Hezbollah and Hamas for using civilians as human shields, guaranteeing that it will become law. The bill calls Hezbollah, the terrorist Lebanese militia, and Hamas, the terrorist group controlling the Gaza Strip, as “repeated” practitioners of an action that violates international law. It notes reports that Hezbollah is concealing missiles in villages in Lebanon and that Hamas routinely launches missiles at Israel from densely populated areas.

U.S. Rejects Israel’s Request for Sanctions on Lebanon Over Hezbollah Tunnels, Haaretz

The United States has rebuffed Israel’s request to impose sanctions on Lebanon and the Lebanese army so they would take responsibility for Hezbollah digging tunnels into Israel and violating UN Resolution 1701.

Opinion and Analysis

Imminent Departure From UNESCO Will Be Israel’s Loss, Says Ex-consultant, Haaretz

“Daniel Bar-Eli, who until early 2012 was secretary general of the Israel National Commission for UNESCO, laments Israel’s decision to quit the international organization…Membership in UNESCO has showed Israel what it means to be part of the family of nations – ‘and now we are giving it up at our own initiative. If you’re not there, you have no voice,’ added Bar-Eli.”

Americans Are Increasingly Critical of Israel, Foreign Policy

Shibley Telhami writes, “[I]n a polarized America with deep political antagonism, it’s hardly surprising that Americans would have sharply divided views on Israelis and Palestinians. What many read as a rising anti-Israeli sentiment among Democrats is mischaracterized; it reflects anger toward Israeli policies—and increasingly, with the values projected by the current Israeli government….It’s hardly surprising that Democrats are unhappy with the current Israeli government, which is seen to have tied itself to the Republican Party, to have intervened in Congress against a Democratic president on the critical issue of Iran, and with many of its members publicly opposing the stated aim of negotiations with the Palestinians, a two-state solution to the conflict.”

Storm in Haifa over Israeli-Arab council member, Al-Monitor

Shlomi Eldar reports, “Zaatry, an Arab citizen of Israel and head of the pro-Communist Arab-Jewish Hadash Party branch in Haifa, made headlines in recent days after politicians on the right accused him of supporting terrorism. Deri is trying to prevent Zaatry from taking office by virtue of his authority as minister of interior, and Knesset coalition whip David Amsalem tabled a proposed bill to thwart the appointment. Within two days, over 7,100 people had signed an online petition calling to revoke Zaatry’s appointment. Haifa’s newly elected mayor, Einat Kalisch-Rotem, has not given in to pressure to rescind the appointment, pressure that included a call from Netanyahu trying to dissuade her from going ahead with the controversial move. She will now have to contend with Deri’s attempts to depose her putative (future) deputy, which include hints of budget cutbacks and pay cuts to the unwanted deputy.”

The Pro-Israel Push to Purge US Campus Critics, The New York Review of Books

Katherine Franke writes, “All of these incidents are part of a larger effort by both the US and Israeli governments and their supporters to undermine the university’s civic role as a crucial forum of democratic engagement. The First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech as well as fundamental principles of academic freedom are violated when governments that profess to be democratic declare certain topics off-limits. The capacity to critically evaluate the way in which state power is exercised—in the US, in Israel, and in other places around the world where human rights are under threat—is vital to responsible citizenship and is central to our mission as educators. The American and Israeli governments alike should stand up for, rather than stand in the way of, open and vibrant academic debate on Israel–Palestine, just as they should for debate about any contentious subject essential to democracy.”

Here’s why the arrest of a Chinese tech mogul matters for Iran — and Israel, JTA

“Simmering beneath the barbs traded on all sides is another issue fraught with disagreement across the globe: confronting Iran. The crux of the U.S. warrant for Meng’s arrest is that she lied about whether her company was doing business with that country.”