News Roundup for February 16, 2021

February 16, 2021

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J Street works to promote an open, honest and rigorous conversation about Israel. The opinions reflected in articles posted in the News Roundup do not necessarily reflect J Street’s positions, and their posting does not constitute an endorsement from J Street.

J Street in the News

The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism derails our fight against it on campus, Times of Israel
J Street U’s Moriah Richman writes, “Now, at this time of heightened anti-Semitic threats — from neo-Nazis storming the Capitol to QAnon supporters in Congress spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories — is the moment to create a united front against anti-Semitism. We need to fight acts of hate from a place of unity and solidarity in our communities and with our allies. And that is why codifying a politicized, divisive definition of anti-Semitism into US law would be the wrong move […] Establishment Jewish organizations who have called for the codification of the IHRA may do so in good faith, but it’s vital to understand the twisted political motivations of those on the right and how they intend to misuse the definition and its examples. It has everything to do with protecting their vision of an Israel free from criticism and human rights obligations, and little to do with combatting the very real threat of anti-Semitism. As students, we’ve seen this first-hand on our campuses, and we’re warning our leaders not to make this same mistake.”

J Street’s Nadav Tamir: Israel must reconnect with liberal American Jews (Podcast), Al-Monitor
Ben Caspit speaks this week with ambassador Nadav Tamir, the executive director of J Street Israel. Tamir argues that J Street is very much in sync with the new administration, so if Israel wants to have a good relation with it, then good relations with J Street must be part of that. He also says that “In order for Israel to be the homeland of the Jewish people, it must be able to connect with liberal and progressive Jews — a big majority of the most important Jewish diaspora in north America.”

Jewish constituents put renewed focus on Sen. Gillibrand. She welcomes it, The Forward
“Gillibrand is more in sync with the positions of J Street, a pro-peace and liberal Jewish advocacy group. Logan Bayroff, director of communications for J Street, described Gillibrand as ‘a consistent supporter of strong diplomacy whose views on foreign policy are consistent with those of the vast majority of American Jews.’”

Top News and Analysis

Nearly 3 in 10 Republicans believe central tenet of QAnon conspiracy, survey finds, JTA
According to the survey by the American Enterprise Institute, 29% of Republicans believe the baseless claim that former President “Donald Trump has been secretly fighting a group of child sex traffickers that include prominent Democrats and Hollywood elites.” That’s the idea at the center of the false QAnon conspiracy theory, which has gained millions of supporters across the United States and was praised repeatedly by Trump.

Poll signals slight drop in support for Netanyahu’s Likud, continued deadlock, Times of Israel
The poll aired by Channel 13 news predicted Likud would be the largest party if elections were held today, picking up 28 seats. That tally was down from the 36 seats the party has in the outgoing Knesset and the 30 seats it received in a poll released by the same network last week.


JNF Plan to Expand Settlements Could ‘Endanger Its Existence,’ Jewish Groups Warn, Haaretz
Mercaz Olami, the Zionist organization of the Conservative-Masorti movement, said in a sharply worded statement “opposing the move” that it “could irreversibly endanger KKL and our homeland.”

Republican official deletes comment suggesting Trump’s trial was less fair than Nazi show trials, JTA
A member of the Republican National Committee from Virginia has deleted a Facebook comment apparently suggesting that Nazi show trials were fairer than the recent Senate trial of former President Donald Trump.

Israel to open stores, gyms and culture Sunday in major move toward normalcy, Times of Israel
Cabinet ministers on Monday approved the reopening of stores, gyms, hotels, and other venues from Sunday, in a major easing of sweeping lockdown measures meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Palestinians accuse Israel of preventing COVID-19 vaccine transfer to Gaza, Reuters
A Palestinian official told Reuters that the PA tried to send 2,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine from the occupied West Bank to Gaza on Monday, but that Israel stopped the shipment at a West Bank checkpoint “and informed the Palestinians there was no approval to continue to Gaza.”

Netanyahu says Ben Gvir will be in coalition, but ‘not fit’ to be a minister, Times of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that he wants Itamar Ben Gvir, the leader of the extreme-right Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party, to be a part of his coalition after the March 23 election, but said he “is not fit” to be a member of his cabinet.

Women need male guardian to travel, says Hamas court in Gaza Strip, The Guardian
A Hamas-run Islamic court in the Gaza Strip has ruled that women require the permission of a male guardian to travel, further restricting movement in and out of the territory that has been blockaded by Israel and Egypt since the militant group seized power.

Gantz launches civil marriage bid as poll shows him failing to enter Knesset, Times of Israel
Defense Minister Benny Gantz launched a bid to approve civil marriage in Israel on Monday, five weeks before national elections, as a poll showed his Blue and White party failing to enter the Knesset and a rival centrist party called on him to quit the race.

Opinion and Analysis

To Revive the Two-State Solution, Europe Must Recognize Palestine, Project Syndicate
Daoud Kuttab writes, “If Europe truly wants to drive progress toward peace, it must show courage and conviction. That means recognizing the state of Palestine along pre-1967 borders, thereby helping to balance the scales in negotiations and clarifying the framework for peace. Israel will object, but, as Sweden’s experience suggests, bilateral relations will not ultimately suffer when a country has the courage to recognize Palestine. And even if they do, that is a poor reason to sabotage all hope of a genuine, lasting peace in Europe’s immediate neighborhood.”

Diplomacy builds the bridges — so let’s put our money where our mouth is, Responsible Statecraft
Vahe Mirikian writes, “Simultaneously advocating for an end to endless wars and increasing the military tool kit is equivalent to putting out a fire with a bucket of kerosene. And it’s the wrong approach to China and Russia. Genuine investments into foreign aid — focused on good governance and rule of law, conflict prevention, peace-building, mitigation and response, and reintegration and reconciliation programs — must be grounded in community-based solutions that address root causes of insecurity and include all key actors at the local level. This requires boosting funding for USAID and the Department of State.”

No Phone Call From Biden Is a Wake-up Call, Haaretz
The Editorial Board writes, “The White House said Biden would be calling Netanyahu soon. But even after that happens, Israel will need a lot of time to repair the damage he did to the ties with the Democratic Party.”

The best way to avoid an ICC probe: Don’t commit war crimes, +972 Mag
Avner Gvaryahu writes, “With every settlement and military operation, Israel has been paving its own road to The Hague. Military operation after military operation, Israel has ignored the black flag — a warning sign of immoral orders which ought to be defied — that flies over the rules of engagement dictated by its government cabinet and the IDF’s top brass. We have occupied land, built settlements, and whitewashed outposts as if there were no tomorrow, no Palestinians, and no world watching. In short, we ended up in The Hague because it was precisely where we have been heading for a very long time.”

Bari Weiss and Ben Shapiro’s Strange Defense of Antisemitism, Haaretz
Noah Berlatsky writes, “How warriors against ‘cancel culture’, Bari Weiss and Ben Shapiro, give conservatives like Gina Carano a free pass on the same antisemitism they condemn so fiercely when it comes from the ‘woke’ left.”

Dismantling the ‘sanctions wall’ myth, Responsible Statecraft
Shervin Ghaffari writes, “Known as the ‘sanctions wall,’ architects of the Trump administration’s Iran policy targeted entities subject to nuclear-related sanctions relief under the Obama administration with duplicative terrorism designations. They said this double layer could create a ‘sanctions wall of political and market deterrence’ to undermine a future administration’s ability to ease or lift sanctions. But on closer examination, their efforts created less a ‘wall’ than a transparent edifice built on political calculations.”