News Roundup for March 31, 2021

March 31, 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

What has changed this Mimuna?, Times of Israel
J Street’s Nadav Tamir writes, “On the eve of Passover this year, I am most looking forward to the Mimuna holiday — a traditional Jewish Moroccan celebration and feast which immediately follows the end of Passover. The Mimuna is a holiday full of love for others, good neighborliness, hospitality and multiculturalism – the same values ​​that can also be expressed through Israel’s relations with its neighbors.”

Jewish Union Chief Sees Battle to Organize Amazon Workers as Modern-day Passover Story, Haaretz
“In addition to his union role, Appelbaum is active in several U.S.-Jewish organizations, serving as Jewish Labor Committee president and sitting on the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations’ executive committee and the J Street advisory board. He praises the community’s overwhelming support for his organizing efforts…”

Top News and Analysis

In return to pre-Trump norm, State Dep’t report refers to ‘occupied’ territories, Times of Israel
In a partial return to a pre-Trump-era norm, the US State Department’s annual report on human rights violations around the world published on Tuesday referred to the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights as territories “occupied” by Israel. However, the Biden administration did not go as far as to title the specific chapter in the 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices “Israel and the Occupied Territories,” as had been the custom for decades until the Trump administration, led by former US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who pushed to have it altered to say “Israel” followed by a list of the disputed territories.

1 in 4 American Jews has experienced anti-Semitism since 2016, ADL finds, JTA
An annual survey from the Anti-Defamation League found that a quarter of American Jews have personally experienced anti-Semitism in the past five years, and that most American Jews have witnessed anti-Semitic comments targeting others. In that same time period, 9% of Jewish respondents said they have been the victim of an anti-Semitic physical attack.

U.S. struggling to engage with Iran over nuclear deal, Axios
The Biden administration’s efforts to re-engage with Iran over its nuclear program are coming up against three major obstacles: a lack of direct channels of communication, divisions within the leadership in Tehran, and looming Iranian presidential elections, U.S. officials involved in the talks tell me.


Israel president: ‘Unconventional’ unions needed after vote, AP
Israeli election officials Wednesday handed over the results of last week’s vote to President Reuven Rivlin, nudging forward the country’ elusive efforts to break political deadlock, form a government and avoid an unprecedented fifth consecutive round of balloting.

China, With $400 Billion Iran Deal, Could Deepen Influence in Mideast, New York Times
China agreed to invest $400 billion in Iran over 25 years in exchange for a steady supply of oil to fuel its growing economy under a sweeping economic and security agreement signed on Saturday.

Religious Zionism’s Smotrich says he’ll back Netanyahu as PM, Times of Israel
Religious Zionism party leader MK Bezalel Smotrich said Tuesday that his party will back Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form and lead the next government on the basis of an agreement between them that the country will embrace a right-wing agenda.

Likud Blasts President for ‘Meddling’ in Elections as He Mulls Whether to Let Netanyahu Form Government, Haaretz
Members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party accused President Reuven Rivlin of meddling in political matters Wednesday after he called for ‘unconventional connections and cooperation’ in Israel’s next government. Rivlin will choose a candidate to form the next government after he meets with party leaders on Monday.

Lapid said ready to be 2nd in rotation with Bennett but won’t let him form gov’t, Times of Israel
Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid is reportedly willing to allow Yamina chief Naftali Bennett to serve as prime minister first in a potential rotation deal in a new government, but does not trust him to be tasked by President Reuven Rivlin with forming it.

Israeli Right-wing Group Used Forged Documents to Tarnish Leftist Activists, Haaretz
Incriminating documents against two left-wing activists, disseminated by the Ad Kan right-wing group, have been determined to be forged, or suspected as such, by the police and courts.

Barghouti to challenge Abbas in parliament, ahead of possible presidential bid, Times of Israel
Palestinian prisoner Marwan Barghouti, convicted by an Israeli court of several acts of terrorism, has decided to run his own list of candidates in the upcoming election to challenge Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s official Fatah list, Barghouti’s associates said on Tuesday night.

Opinion and Analysis

Biden wants to be Harry Truman but may end up like Lyndon Johnson, Responsible Statecraft
Joe Cirincione writes, “Rather than look to Truman or Roosevelt, the more relevant president is Lyndon Baines Johnson. Underappreciated when he assumed the office, LBJ quickly implemented breathtaking advancements in health care, poverty reduction, and civil rights. He became a popular president, crushing his Republican opponents in presidential and congressional elections. It was all undone by an unnecessary foreign war that Johnson didn’t want to fight but feared that looking weak would undermine his domestic political agenda […] Without a deal restricting the Iranian program, the choices become, as they were in 2013, to watch Iran march closer to the ability to build a bomb or to go to war to stop it. War with Iran would be a massive undertaking, dwarfing the wars with Iraq and Afghanistan, creating global instability and likely dooming the Biden-Harris administration.”

Trump and Netanyahu’s ‘Maximum Pressure’ on Iran Yielded Minimal Results, Haaretz
Alon Pinkas writes, “The 25-year, $400-billion deal between Iran and China is a further sign that Trump and Netanyahu’s strategy toward Tehran was a dismal failure.”

When it comes to race, American Jews must do a better job pursuing justice, The Forward
Tamar Manasseh writes, “Being both Black and Jewish, to grow into a place where I understood I could pursue justice for others — even if I still was so badly in need of it myself — I had to first overcome the helplessness with which this system has saddled us. I am fully aware that I, too, can be killed at a routine traffic stop, or murdered in my bed while I sleep because I am Black. But I am also a Jew. I have to pursue justice for my uncle and all of those who have lost their lives at the hands of those who are sworn to protect us.”

Criticism of Israel and Its Policies Isn’t Antisemitism, Haaretz
Omer Bartov writes, “The Israeli government and its supporters have a keen interest in blurring the distinction between criticism of Israel and antisemitism, in order to paint any substantive, harsh criticism of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians as antisemitic. By these lights, opposing the occupation is considered antisemitic, BDS is antisemitic, criticism of Zionism is antisemitic, and the International Criminal Court in the Hague is of course without a shadow of doubt antisemitic. The Israeli government and its supporters have put tremendous effort into advancing this notion. Just recently, Haaretz published a comprehensive report on the witch hunt taking place in Germany against critics of Israeli government policy.”