News Roundup for January 14, 2021

January 14, 2021

Receive the roundup in your inbox every morning!

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

Biden names former UN ambassador Samantha Power to top foreign aid post, JTA
“President-elect Joe Biden named Samantha Power, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to a top foreign aid post on Wednesday. Power — notable during her U.N. tenure in part because of her role in allowing through an anti-settlements resolution at the tail end of the Obama administration — was tapped as the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development […] Praising the pick was Liz Schrayer, the president of the US Global Leadership Coalition, a foreign aid advocacy group that has close ties with the Israel lobby AIPAC, as well as J Street, a liberal Jewish Middle East policy group, Dan Shapiro, Obama’s last ambassador to Israel, and Halie Soifer, a onetime policy adviser to Power who now leads the Jewish Democratic Council of America.”

Progressive Jewish groups oppose codification of IHRA antisemitism definition, The Jerusalem Post
“A group of left-wing organizations have publicly opposed the codification into law of the Working Definition of Antisemitism authored by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), saying that doing so would stifle free speech and criticism of Israel. The Progressive Israel Network which issued the statement include Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, Habonim Dror North America, Hashomer Hatzair World Movement, Jewish Labor Committee, J Street, New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel, Reconstructing Judaism and T’ruah. The organizations said they were committed to fighting antisemitism but that legal adoption of the IHRA definition could suppress the free expression of political opinion, including critiquing ‘the legitimacy of Israel’s founding” and its laws and government, discussion of which, it said, should not be “banished by anti-democratic laws or penalties.’”

Nancy Pelosi quoted a famous Israeli poem in her speech calling on Republicans to support the 25th Amendment, JTA
“The speaker of the US House of Representatives turned to a poem that has become a cornerstone of Israeli verse: ‘I Have No Other Country,’ written by poet Ehud Manor and recorded in the 1980s as a popular song. ‘Especially during this sad time, I recall the words of the great Israeli poet, Ehud Manor, and that’s what he said when he said, ‘I can’t keep silent in light of how my country has changed her face, won’t quit trying to remind her. In her ears, I’ll sing my cries until she opens her eyes,’’ Pelosi said on Tuesday. This is at least the second time that Pelosi has quoted the poem. She also did so in a speech to the liberal Israel lobby J Street in 2019.”

J Street Applauds Nomination of Ambassador Samantha Power to Head USAID, J Street
“Throughout her distinguished career, Ambassador Power has proven herself to be a strong advocate for diplomacy, human rights and international law. She will help to revitalize US assistance programs around the world, repairing the damage caused by an administration that hollowed out our diplomatic efforts, violated important agreements and exacerbated humanitarian crises by slashing US aid to countries and peoples in desperate need of it […] We look forward to working with Ambassador Power and lawmakers on the critical tasks of restoring robust humanitarian aid programs benefiting the Palestinian people — programs that were vindictively, unilaterally cut by the Trump administration, thereby harming Palestinians while undermining regional stability and Israeli security.”

Top News and Analysis

House hands Trump a second impeachment, this time with GOP support, Washington Post
The House made history Wednesday by impeaching a president for a second time, indicting President Trump a week before he leaves office for inciting a riot with false claims of a stolen election that led to the storming of the Capitol and five deaths. Unlike Trump’s first impeachment, which proceeded with almost no GOP support, Wednesday’s effort attracted 10 Republicans, including Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 party leader in the House. The Senate now appears likely to hold a trial after Trump’s departure, an unprecedented scenario that could end with lawmakers barring him from holding the presidency again. The final vote was 232 to 197.

Israel’s Vaccination Drive Is Going Great. But We’re Being Sidelined, New York Times
Mustafa Barghouthi writes, “Israel’s plans to inoculate its population against Covid-19 are proceeding briskly. The country has vaccinated a larger share of its population than any other country, and its drive is being praised as an example of an effective vaccination program. But there is a darker side to this success story: Some five million Palestinians under its control are being sidelined […] While Israel is now struggling to curtail a new wave of infections, it is on track to vaccinate 25 percent of its population by the end of January and every Israeli by the end of March. This includes about 600,000 settlers, who, according to international law, are illegally living in the West Bank, but who hold Israeli passports. They will receive the vaccine in the coming days while about three million Palestinians living in the same area will not. Israel has also ordered that vaccines be provided for prison guards, but not for the thousands of Palestinian prisoners.”

Israel to push Biden to take it easy on Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt, Axios
Israel plans to lobby the incoming Biden administration to avoid confrontations over human rights and other contentious issues with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, senior Israeli defense officials tell me. President-elect Biden has promised to put human rights and democracy at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy, and he skipped over all three when placing phone calls to the leaders of 17 countries after his election victory. He was particularly critical of Saudi Arabia during the campaign over the war in Yemen and human rights issues.


‘It pierces the heart’: Jewish leaders alarmed over anti-Semitism in Capitol mob, AP
As a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol last week clamoring to overturn the result of November’s presidential election, photographs captured a man in the crowd wearing a shirt emblazoned with “Camp Auschwitz,” a reference to the Nazi concentration camp.

A Republican Lawmaker for Whom the Spectacle Is the Point, New York Times
Rep. Lauren Boebert represents an increasingly clamorous faction of the party that carries Mr. Trump’s anti-establishment message and is ready to break all norms in doing so.

Israeli Human Rights Group Says The Country Pursues Nondemocratic ‘Apartheid Regime’, NPR
B’Tselem’s director Hagai El-Ad, who is Jewish, said he hoped the report would inform the analysis of the incoming Biden administration as it considers how to steer U.S. policy, after the Trump administration sided with Israel and against Palestinian positions on the most sensitive aspects of the long-running conflict between the two peoples. “I expect this will be part of a new chapter for fighting for justice in this place,” El-Ad said.

The Fate of Adelson’s Political Empire Lies in the Hands of His Israeli Widow Miriam, Haaretz
The death of Sheldon Adelson on Monday at age 87 is undeniably the end of an era. The question now is whether the passing of the casino mogul, political megadonor and major force in the world of Jewish philanthropy marks the end of the Adelson era altogether or merely signals the beginning of a new chapter.

Israel’s benefactor Adelson leaves controversial legacy, AP
Adelson, who died on Tuesday at 87, was a prolific donor to causes that aligned with his hawkish vision of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He had a robust alliance with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and spent tens of millions of dollars supporting President Donald Trump’s election campaigns.

Likud minister warns Israel could attack Iran nuclear program if US rejoins deal, Times of Israel
Likud ministers on Wednesday refrained from confirming whether Israel was behind a raid in Syria overnight, but said the incoming US administration must not “appease” Iran, and warned Tehran the Jewish state will not tolerate its military presence in Syria or its development of nuclear weapons.

Jewish Agency ‘Outraged’ by Israeli Minister’s Plan to Distribute COVID Vaccines to Holocaust Survivors Worldwide, Haaretz
A “diplomatically disastrous” initiative by Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich to offer free COVID-19 vaccines to Holocaust survivors worldwide, using an international corps of young Jewish volunteers, has taken the Jewish Agency – one of the co-owners of the corps – utterly by surprise.

Wooing Arab votes, Netanyahu claims 2015 ‘voting in droves’ remark was twisted, Times of Israel
“They twisted my words,” said Netanyahu, claiming that “My intention was not to protest against the fact of Arab citizens voting in elections,” but rather “to protest against their voting for the [Arab-majority] Joint List party.”

Courting Arab Voters, Netanyahu Heralds ‘Opportunity to Start a New Era’, Haaretz
In his third visit to an Arab city in two weeks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in Nazareth that “Arab citizens should fully be a part of Israeli society,” heralding an “opportinuty to start a new era.”

Opinion and Analysis

How Facebook Incubated the Insurrection, New York Times
Stuart A. Thompson and Charlie Warzel write, “Facebook’s algorithms have coaxed many Americans into sharing more extreme views on the platform — rewarding them with likes and shares for posts on subjects like election fraud conspiracies, Covid-19 denialism and anti-vaccination rhetoric. We reviewed the public post histories for dozens of active Facebook users in these spaces. Many, transformed seemingly overnight. A decade ago, their online personas looked nothing like their presences today. A journey through their feeds offers a glimpse of how Facebook rewards exaggerations and lies. But the rewards are trivial compared with the costs: The influencers amass followers, enhance their reputations, solicit occasional donations and maybe sell a few T-shirts. The rest of us are left with democracy buckling under the weight of citizens living an alternate reality.”

The hottest commodity on the political market: Israeli Arabs, Times of Israel
Yoseph Haddad writes, “In three elections in the past two years, not a single party list has had the intuition nor the foresight to appeal to the Arab sector. Aside from the fact that not a single party made an effort to ensure it had an Arab member on its list, Meretz even downgraded Issawi Frej, who easily brought in a mandate and a half from the Arab sector, to an inconsequential place.”

Why B’Tselem is calling Israel an apartheid regime, from the river to the sea, +972 Mag
Orly Noy writes, “When the forces we face use their enormous power to distort and disguise this reality, our mission of recognizing it — of calling it by its name — becomes ever more necessary. This is precisely what B’Tselem, one of Israel’s oldest human rights organizations, is doing today: the NGO is declaring its position that, between the river and the sea, there exists a single, Israeli, apartheid regime that strives to entrench, deepen, and make irreversible Jewish supremacy in every corner of the land.”

The Only Way to Wean America’s Orthodox Jews Off Trumpism, Haaretz
Hannah Lbovits writes, “The Capitol siege has, finally, triggered calls for soul-searching within an Orthodox community in lockstep with Trump. It will be hard work.”

Sheldon Adelson’s far right alliance will serve Israel long after his death, +972 Mag
Alex Kane writes, “The Evangelical-Jewish union that the late billionaire bankrolled for years will continue to empower right-wing agendas in Israel and the U.S.”

Divided and dismissed despite historic gains, Arab parties now bleeding support, Times of Israel
Aaron Boxerman writes, “Internally divided and the target of ire within the Arab community, with little to show for the past year’s work, the Joint List now appears on the verge of disintegration. Recent polls show the Joint List shedding as many as one-third of its seats, and internal rifts may weaken it even further, potentially sending some of its constituent factions tumbling below the election threshold.”