J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami writes, “Unfortunately, some American Jewish leaders choose to define ‘pro-Israel’ not in terms of one’s concern for Israel’s future, but by lockstep adherence to the positions taken by the sitting Israeli government. For years, there have been efforts to silence or delegitimize voices in our politics and our community who speak out about the strategic and moral dangers of the ongoing occupation of the West Bank, its devastating impact on Palestinians and its dangerous implications for the country going forward. Rather than engage in meaningful and substantive debate, some of these voices prefer to simply label those with whom they disagree as “anti-Israel,” or even worse, “anti-Semitic.” As in Ellison’s case, they unearth regrettable or poorly chosen words uttered years ago, take them out of context and use them as a weapon….Recent polling makes clear that Ellison represents the policy views of the significant majority of Democrats and of Jewish Americans. Leaders with similar views and values are going to be the future of the Democratic Party, of our country and of the American Jewish community….Enough is enough. Disagreements over policy should be welcome and encouraged in a healthy democracy. Campaigns grounded in name-calling and character assassination aimed at silencing dissent are unacceptable and need to stop.”
“J Street urges American vocal and urgent opposition not simply to any one piece of legislation, one particular settlement announcement or one particular home demolition but to the entirety of this enterprise that threatens the long-term security, democratic character and Jewish nature of the state of Israel. The majority of Israelis and their friends and family around the world must make clear that these developments must stop if Israel is to have a realistic chance at separating from the Palestinian people into two states. Now, with the settlement movement’s best friends in the United States coming to power in the circles around Donald Trump, the settlers may be on the verge of exerting disproportionate and damaging influence on US and Israeli policy toward the West Bank. We call on friends of Israel in the United States to respond with appropriate alarm not simply to this latest legislative action but to the totality of developments on the West Bank in recent years.”
“Four liberal Jewish groups have joined a drive calling on President-elect Donald Trump to rescind the choice of Mike Flynn as his national security adviser, citing the general’s hostility to Islam and his retweeting an anti-Semitic tweet. ‘He has written that ‘fear of Muslims is rational’ and said that ‘Islam is a political ideology’ and ‘a cancer’ that ‘hides behind being a religion,’ and continuously peddles the nonsensical fear of ‘Shariah law’ spreading in the United States,’ said the letter signed by 53 groups, including J Street, Americans for Peace Now, T’ruah and the National Council of Jewish Women.”
“More than 50 nonprofit organizations are calling on President-elect Donald Trump to drop retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as his national security adviser….The letter was signed by 53 nonprofits, including liberal groups J Street and MoveOn.Org. The group blasted Flynn for his “‘Islamophobic statements” and for peddling “anti-Muslim conspiracy theories.’”
Michelle Goldberg writes, “Ellison is no anti-Zionist. He supports a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine, and opposes the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which is the cutting edge of pro-Palestinian advocacy. His position on Israel is the same as that of J Street, a center-left group that describes itself as the ‘Political Home for Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace Americans’ and maintains close relationships with Israeli progressives. ‘Representative Ellison is a true friend to the Jewish people,’ J Street said in a statement. ‘His support for a two-state solution, opposition to settlement construction and advocacy for US leadership to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are supported by the majority of American Jews.’”
Diplomatic efforts similar to the ones that brought about the Iranian nuclear deal are required to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict, President Obama said on Tuesday evening. In his final major national defense speech as president, Obama told troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, that “diplomatic efforts, no matter how frustrating or difficult they sometimes appear, are going to be required to resolve the conflicts roiling the in Middle East, from Yemen, to Syria, to Israel and Palestine.” “Just think about what we’ve done these last eight years without firing a shot. We’ve rolled back Iran’s nuclear program. That’s not just my assessment, that’s the assessment of Israeli intelligence, even though they were opposed to the deal,” Obama noted.
Peter Beinart writes, “It’s an old story: When people in power fear a debate, they try to criminalize it. It won’t work. If Zionism means permanent control of millions of Palestinians who lack basic rights, Zionists will gradually lose the contest of ideas in the United States. And the American Jewish establishment—which chose silencing Zionism’s opponents over fighting for a Zionism they could honestly defend—will bear some of the blame.”
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is co-hosting an early Hanukkah party next week at President-elect Donald Trump’s newly opened hotel blocks away from the White House. The choice of venue has angered many in the Jewish community, including some of the organizations that make up the Conference of Presidents. ‘This decision is tone deaf at best, naked sycophancy at worst,’ Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Jacobs, who leads America’s largest Jewish denomination, said that the umbrella organization for Jewish institutions should never have picked Trump’s hotel when Trump himself is still figuring out how to manage conflicts of interest between his business and his presidency. Jacobs recommended ‘one of the approximately 3,000 other possible locations in downtown Washington.’”
Germany urged Israel in unusually strong language on Wednesday to scrap legislation that would legalize Israeli settlement homes built on private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, saying this would break international law.
In Gaza, 2 wounded as Hamas clashes with hardliners, Times of Israel
A police officer and a youth were hospitalized on Tuesday after Hamas forces clashed with hard-line Islamists in the Gaza Strip, a medical source and witnesses said. Both men suffered bullet wounds during an attempt by Gaza security forces to arrest two men from a Salafist group, followers of an ultra-conservative form of Islam, a witness said.
A controversial anti-Semitism bill sailing through Congress has a new critic: The expert who wrote the definition on which the bill is based. Kenneth Stern, formerly the American Jewish Committee’s specialist on anti-Semitism and extremism, says that the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016, which aims to combat campus anti-Semitism, is “both unconstitutional and unwise.”
The liberal Jewish group won’t be attending a Hanukkah party hosted by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, citing the event’s location at Donald Trump’s Washington hotel and its co-sponsorship by the country of Azerbaijan. “As a Jewish organization, we cannot and will not condone ― by agreement or silence ― the Conference’s appalling choices in its partner and the location, both of which contradict the stated themes of religious freedom and diversity,” President Peter Pepper and Executive Director Ann Toback wrote in a letter to Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Presidents Conference. The invitation sent to the Workmen’s Circle advertised the event as a celebration of “religious freedom and diversity.”
Likud’s Begin ousted from top committee for anti-Amona vote, Times of Israel
The chairman of the governing coalition on Tuesday suspended veteran Likud lawmaker Benny Begin from the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee a day after Begin twice voted against a bill that would recognize illegal West Bank settlement outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land. In a letter to Begin — the son of late Likud prime minister Menachem Begin — Bitan, also from Likud, wrote that he had decided to suspend the MK for three weeks for his votes in the Knesset plenum.
Syrian state media confirmed earlier Arab media reports that Israel struck a Damascus military airport overnight on Tuesday.
Israeli authorities denied the entry of a Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) activist into the country at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv on Monday, in what Israeli media reported was “the first time” the country “officially” denied entry to a foreign national who supports the movement for Palestinian rights. Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that activist Isabel Phiri, a Malawi national, landed at the airport on Monday afternoon, but was denied entry as a tourist “on the basis of her activism for the World Council of Churches (WCC) group which supports the BDS movement.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman have approved the delivery of five armored jeeps for the Palestinian Authority security forces. A senior Israeli official said the move was unusual; there has been no decision like it in many years. He said the move comes amid a deteriorating security situation in the West Bank.
“More than 1,000 Israel Police officers are slated to participate in the anticipated evacuation of Amona in a few weeks, and restraining orders are being issued to 200 far-right activists to keep them from entering the West Bank at that time. The police expect far-right protesters to try to thwart the move at the illegal outpost, but not with the same force used during the evacuation of the site in 2006. Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich has approved the orders for the operation and sat in on the three major training sessions that were held in preparation for it. As the security body with primary responsibility for the area in general, the Israel Defense Forces has been tasked with overall command of the evacuation effort. It will provide auxiliary support for the police, and will handle any incidents involving the Palestinian population during the event, due to occur before Dec. 25.”
“A year ago, Sikkuy — a Jewish-Arab civil rights NGO based in Israel — began a wide-scale public campaign to increase the representation of Arab citizens in the Israeli media. In partnership with The Seventh Eye website we began publishing the statistics on the topic in a weekly ‘Representation Index.’ The statistics show that since March 2016, there has been an increase of dozens of percentage points in the ratio of expert Arab interviewees, and in general there has been a significant increase in the presence of Arab interviewees on television and radio, primarily news programs.”
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