News Roundup for February 28, 2017

February 28, 2017

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J Street in the News

Bernie Sanders: We Need to End the 50-year-long Israeli Occupation, Haaretz

“Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders said on Monday that Israeli occupation runs against both American and Israeli values and called for its end. ‘We need to end this 50-year-long occupation,’ he said. ‘There is no question that we should be and will be Israel’s very strong friend and partner in years to come,’ the Vermont senator told the 2017 J Street National Conference. ‘But we also need to recognize that the Israeli occupation runs contrary to American values and I believe, Israeli values as well.’ The continued occupation and settlement construction, Sanders said, undermine peace efforts. Sanders applauded the administration of former President Barack Obama for its decision in December to abstain from vetoing United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which censured Israeli settlement construction. ‘Those of us who support Israel, have got to tell the truth about policies that hurt the chances of a peaceful resolution,’ he said.”

Sanders: ‘Entire world is watching’ Trump and Bannon’s reaction to anti-Semitism, Politico

“Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Monday that the ‘entire world is watching’ the reaction of President Donald Trump and his chief strategist Steve Bannon to the waves of anti-Semitic bomb threats and vandalisms across the country…These attacks must be condemned at the highest levels of government,’ Sanders said during his address to J Street, a group promoting the two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He then mentioned the controversy surrounding the absence of a reference to Jews in White House’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day statement, calling it ‘rather extraordinary.’”

Bernie Sanders Electrifies J Street With Emotional Message On Israel — And Trump, Forward

“U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, speaking with affection of his life in Israel decades ago, told a rapturous J Street conference that one could sharply criticize the Israeli government’s policies and be pro-Israel. Sanders, I-Vt., speaking Monday in his first Middle East policy speech since ending his bid last June for the Democratic presidential nomination, also blasted President Donald Trump for retreating from a commitment to a two-state solution and not speaking out forcefully against anti-Semitism and bigotry….He laced his call to urge Israel to adopt more progressive policies with appeals to progressives to embrace Israel as a Jewish homeland….Sanders said that recognizing the ensuing Palestinian suffering should not diminish support for Israel….Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made combating ‘delegitimization’ of Israel a central plank of Israeli diplomacy, and Sanders said opposing Netanyahu did not amount to being anti-Israel. ‘We can oppose the policies of President Trump without being anti-American,’ he said. ‘We can oppose the policies of Netanyahu without being anti-Israel. We can oppose the policies of Islamic extremism without being anti-Muslim.’”

J Street, JCPA launch conferences grappling with Jewish advocacy under Trump, JTA

“J Street, the liberal Middle East policy group, and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the public policy umbrella for Jewish community councils around the country, launched annual conferences in Washington that each focused on challenges to Jewish activism during the Trump administration. J Street’s adversarial relationship to the new administration was explicit in its programming, while the JCPA was not so blunt, but agendas for both conferences, running Sunday through Tuesday, indicated a rough transition from the Obama administration, which was largely friendly to the aims of both groups….Speakers at J Street include some of the Trump administration’s most outspoken critics, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who lost last year’s Democratic primaries to Hillary Clinton; Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., Clinton’s vice presidential pick; Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the minority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives and top Obama administration Middle East officials. Also appearing are Israeli opposition and government figures; and Saeb Erekat, the top Palestinian Authority negotiator. Jeremy Ben Ami, the J Street president, said Trump’s policies necessitated a broader agenda for the group, which had until recently focused more on Middle East issues, advocating for the Obama administration’s peace policies and the Iran nuclear deal. That advocacy often makes the group the target of criticism by larger Jewish organizations, who object to its frequent criticism of Israeli government policies.’ ‘There are some really important fights ahead on foreign policy, on Israel, on the Iran deal, on Palestinians, on Israel at the United Nations,’ Ben-Ami said Sunday at a briefing for reporters. ‘But there are also issues we haven’t related to as J Street, which we will, like refugees, immigration and Islamophobia.’”

In Shadow of Trump and Netanyahu, Liberals in Israel and U.S. Eye New Alliances: ‘We Need Solidarity More Than Ever’, Haaretz

“On the second night of the 2017 J Street conference, four members of the Israeli Knesset spoke at the central session of the day, commenting on the two-state solution, U.S.-Israel ties and Israel’s support for the U.S. Jewish community. One surprising speaker was Member of Knesset Akram Hasoon, from the center-right Kulanu Party, led by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and a member of Netanyahu’s coalition. Hasson said it would be ‘very hard’ to advance the peace process with Netanyahu in power and the right wing government currently leading Israel. He added that he hoped Kahlon would work to advance ‘economic peace’ with the Palestinians by improving the economic situation in the West Bank…. The three other MKs who addressed the conference Monday night – Omer Bar Lev (Zionist Union), Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) and Ayman Odeh (Joint List) – are all from the opposition. Zandberg spoke about the importance of forging cooperation between Israel’s left wing opposition and those in America organizing against the Trump administration. Bar-Lev, hinting at Netanyahu’s corruption investigations, said to roaring applause that ‘Netanyahu will not be the next prime minister of Israel.’ Odeh, the leader of the Joint List – a merger of the socialist Hadash Party and two Israeli Arab parties – talked about the recent and deadly incident in Umm al Hiran.”

Trump ‘Yet to Make Contact With PA,’ Palestinian Diplomat Tells J Street Conference, Haaretz

“The Trump administration is yet to approach the Palestinian Authority directly to establish a working relationship, the Palestinians’ chief representative in the United States said Monday while addressing the J Street 2017 National Conference. ‘They have reached out to Arab diplomats, but not to us,’ said Maen Areikat….Areikat said the Palestinians were interested in working with the new administration as long as the relationship would be based on ‘long-standing U.S. policy’ regarding the settlements and the two-state solution.”

More than 100 generals sign letter warning against budget cuts, CBS News

“Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright declared the proposed cuts will ‘undercut American diplomacy, which is important for national security.’ She made those comments on Monday night on a panel for J Street, a group of liberal pro-Israel Americans.”

‘Particularly Important’ For Progressives to Embrace Zionism, Bernie Sanders Says, Jerusalem Post

“Bernie Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont who enjoys widespread support among liberal Democrats, told a gathering on Monday that progressives should embrace both the founding principles of Zionism as well as the inherent justice of the Palestinian cause. Speaking before a conference held by J Street, a liberal Jewish American organization that primarily lobbies for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians, Sanders said that ‘those of us who support Israel have got to tell the truth about policies that hurt the chances of a peaceful resolution.’”

Bernie Sanders draws parallels between Trump, Netanyahu, calls to end ’50-year occupation’, Times of Israel

Former presidential hopeful and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders called for “an end to [Israel’s] 50-year occupation” during J Street’s annual conference on Monday, stressing that progressives should see the common ground between opposing both the administration of US President Donald Trump as well as the right-wing policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government….Quoting former secretary of state John Kerry, Sanders repeated his admonition that friends should speak hard truths to each other. ‘The hard truth is that the continued occupation and the growth of settlements that the occupation supports undermines the hope for peace.’”

‘We can oppose Trump, Netanyahu without being anti-US or anti-Israeli’: Sanders, i24 News

“Taking on both US President Donald Trump and the Israeli government in his speech at an annual conference by a liberal Jewish lobby, Democratic senator Bernie Sanders on Monday urged to put an end to Israel’s military presence in the West Bank territories. ‘There is no question that we should be and will be Israel’s very strong friend and partner in years to come,’ the runner-up in last year’s Democratic primary stated in a keynote speech at the 2017 J Street National Conference. ‘But we also need to recognize that the Israeli occupation runs contrary to American values and I believe, Israeli values as well.’ ‘Those of us who support Israel, have got to tell the truth about policies that hurt the chances of a peaceful resolution,’ the progressive Vermont senator further added.”

Joint List chair urges solidarity amid ‘growing anti-Semitism and Islamophobia’, i24 News

‘Now is the time when we need solidarity,’ Ayman Odeh, Chairman of the Joint List urged attendees Sunday at the annual conference of the liberal pro-Israel nonprofit J Street in Washington DC. ‘We need solidarity more than ever when anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are growing in the halls of power and in the streets,’ he said to cheers and applause, while delivering the keynote address at the conference this year titled ‘Defending our Values, Fighting for our Future,’ and focusing on the US-Israel relationship under the leadership of US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

J Street’s goal: Isolate Ambassador Friedman, Jewish Journal

‘[L]eaders of J Street and its supporters stressed that the ultimate goal is to challenge the administration on Israeli-Palestinian issues and isolate Friedman from the White House decision making process. ‘I do expect a roughly party-line vote in the committee. I also acknowledge that there’s very little precedent for a nominee being struck down in an actual floor vote,’ Dylan Williams, Vice President of Government Affairs for J Street, told Jewish Insider at the J Street National Conference in Washington, D.C. ‘With that in mind, it’s important to realize that a large part of this fight is about where this administration should take U.S. policy with respect to Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.’ According to Williams, Friedman’s longheld views on the issues are looming over the battle going on between the national security establishment and President Trump’s close advisors over what the administration’s policy should be on the two-state solution. If the outcome of the campaign against Friedman would result in diminishing his influence on policy, Williams declared ‘we would see that as a victory.’”

Top News and Analysis

Bomb threats hit at least 21 JCCs, Jewish day schools across country, JTA

At least 21 Jewish community centers and Jewish day schools across the country received bomb threats on Monday in the latest wave of threats to hit Jewish institutions.

The incidents are the fifth wave of such threats in less than two months, in which 89 bomb threats have been called in to 72 Jewish institutions in 30 U.S. states and one Canadian province, according to the JCC Association of North America. Among the affected JCCS on Monday are Asheville, North Carolina, and Davie, Florida, both of which were evacuated to local churches, as well as JCCs in York and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Indianapolis; Tarrytown and Staten Island, New York; Cherry Hill, New Jersey; Birmingham, Alabama; and Wilmington, Delaware. Jewish day schools in Rockville, Maryland; Fairfax, Virginia; and Davie, outside Miami, were also evacuated after receiving bomb threats. Institutions in Michigan and Rhode Island were also targeted.

Five Israeli Strikes on Gaza After Rocket Attack; Four Wounded, Haaretz

The Israel Air Force struck five military targets in Gaza on Monday afternoon in retaliation for rocket fire. The IDF said the strikes targeted Hamas infrastructure. Four people were reported wounded in the Israeli strike. According to Palestinian reports, the first strikes focused on Hamas positions west of the Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip’s center and east of Rafah, in the Strip’s south.  Soon after, Palestinians reported an attack on a concrete factory north or Rafah. Early on Monday, a rocket fired from Gaza exploded in southern Israel. No one was hurt and no damage was caused as the rocket fell in an open area. Hamas said in response to the strikes that it ‘won’t stand by in the face of continued Israeli aggression against the forces of the resistance and the intentional escalation on Israel’s part.’ Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that while Israel has no intention of launching a military operation in Gaza, it will not ignore rocket fire. ‘I suggest Hamas take responsibility and calm down,’ he said.”

Netanyahu: Israel, Trump at Odds Over Settlements, ‘Things Are Not as Simple as You Think’, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Likud lawmakers on Monday that Israel and the administration of US President Donald Trump are at odds over the construction of West Bank settlements. “Things are not as simple as you think,” he said. “There are no understandings [between Israel and Trump] about construction” in West Bank settlements, Netanyahu told fellow Likud members at a closed meeting. “We will develop a mechanism to try to reach understandings… [but] on this specific issue, there is no agreement.”


Israeli Vigilante Gets 11 Years For Stabbing Jew He Thought Was An Arab, Forward

A man who stabbed a fellow Jewish-Israeli in a suburban Haifa parking lot after mistaking him for an Arab was sentenced to 11 years in prison for his attempted murder conviction.

ADL: Presidential Aide Must Disavow Anti-Semitism of Hungarian Hate Groups, Forward

The Anti-Defamation League has called on Sebastian Gorka, a senior aide to President Donald Trump, to clearly disavow “the message and outlook” of anti-Semitic organizations such as those he worked with while living in Hungary.

At Las Vegas confab, Republican Jews gingerly find reasons to celebrate Trump’s presidency, JTA

Amid giddy celebration of the end of the Obama years and the advent of a new Republican administration, RJC officials and members seemed to make an effort to get excited about Trump, with whom their group has a fraught history. By contrast, Vice President Mike Pence, one of the pro-Israel community’s closest friends, was greeted effusively at the event, where he addressed the crowd.

Israeli soldier lightly wounded in shooting attack near Bethlehem-area settlement, Ma’an

An Israeli soldier was lightly injured in a shooting attack near a settlement in the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem on Monday night, the Israeli army reported.

Palestinian woman shot, injured by Israeli forces at Qalandiya checkpoint, Ma’an

A Palestinian woman was shot and injured by Israeli security guards at the Qalandiya checkpoint between the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem on Monday afternoon, as Israeli police claimed she was carrying a bag in a “suspicious manner.”

Hundreds Barricaded as Israel Evacuates West Bank Settlement Homes, Haaretz

Hundreds of police officers have evacuated three of nine homes slated for demolition the West Bank settlement of Ofra. The High Court had ordered the demolition of the homes, which were built on private Palestinian land.

High Court rejects bid to stop settlement home demolitions, Times of Israel

The High Court of Justice turns down an appeal by the residents of nine buildings in the Ofra settlement in the northern West Bank slated for demolition tomorrow. The appeal asks the court to cancel the demolition, and instead seal up the homes pending some other solution. The court ordered the demolition because the homes are built on privately owned Palestinian land.

Opinion and Analysis

Israeli intelligence minister says Trump created a new path to peace, Washington Post

Ruth Eglash interviews Israeli intelligence minister Israel Katz.

Trump Apologists Diminish anti-Semitism and Distort Reality, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “American Jews, like European Jews before them, aren’t being attacked because they support Israel; in fact, in many cases they are assaulted for representing the complete opposite. They are cosmopolitan, universalist, pro-immigration and overwhelmingly liberal, traits that are antithetical to contemporary Israel and that the hard right, in American and Europe, has always found abhorrent. By the same token, support for Israel, if this is indeed the policy that will emerge from the Trump White House, does not include an automatic exemption from old-fashioned anti-Semitism. The conscious effort to blur the distinctions between anti-Israel and anti-Jewish, whether done deliberately or simply as a result of muddled minds is inappropriate and misleading. It becomes downright malevolent when used as an excuse by Jewish supporters of Trump to excuse his behavior and to refuse to stand in solidarity with their fellow Jews.”

When Trump, Cabinet diverge on foreign policy, Boston Globe

“The problem with the inconsistent approach is that both allies and foes are left uncertain about the Trump administration’s intentions, which can be terrifying to those who depend on the United States for security, while offering room for adversaries to possibly take advantage of the confusion to press their own agendas. One of the more shocking examples came this month, when Trump stood with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu in the White House and seemed to back away from the ‘two-state solution,’ the longtime tenet of US policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that the road to peace includes separate sovereign states for each warring group. Trump said he could go either way on the question and would defer to the two parties. Within 24 hours, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, was in New York articulating the more traditional US policy in language that diplomats are used to hearing.”

How Did Jewish Cemeteries Become Battlegrounds For Bigots — Again?, Forward

Jane Eisner writes, “America needs to search its soul and ask how it has happened that even the resting places of the dead have become the battlegrounds for bigots.”

Keep the drums beating for a two-state solution, J Weekly

Jon Kaufman writes, “All so-called “one-state solutions” are recipes only for further infringement on Palestinian rights, more violence and civil war. While the prospects of a two-state solution may not be bright in the present political climate, we must understand that the alternative one state is unworkable. As American Jews, we must raise our voices to remind our political leaders that the only way to resolve the Middle East conflict is to recognize that both Israelis and Palestinians must have their own countries. U.S. policy must continue to recognize that a two-state solution is a crucial national interest and the only way to resolve the Israeli Palestinian conflict.”

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