News Roundup for May 18, 2021

May 18, 2021

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J Street in the News

Jeremy Ben-Ami Interview on All In with Chris Hayes, MSNBC
“It’s not enough to say you support the idea of a ceasefire… It’s time to insist on an end to this conflict now before more innocent people on both sides are killed.”

Jeremy Ben-Ami Interview on the Mehdi Hasan Show, MSNBC
“I’m proud to be part of the ‘disproportionate’ part of the American Jewish community that is very critical of the policies of the gov’t of Israel when it comes to its treatment of Palestinians who live in the territory that Israel is occupying.”

Democrats, Growing More Skeptical of Israel, Pressure Biden, New York Times
“President Biden’s carefully worded statement on Monday supporting a cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians came amid growing pressure within his own party for the United States to take a more skeptical stance toward one of its closest allies. […] Reflexive support for Israel’s right to defend itself or calls for Israel and Palestinian authorities to return to the negotiating table are now viewed by many on the left as ‘the linguistic equivalent of “our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the latest mass shooting,”‘ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel advocacy group that has worked for years to shift the debate as a counterweight to AIPAC. ‘That’s no longer good enough,’ he said in an interview. ‘What the United States is doing essentially amounts to international immunity to Israel.’”

Kushner’s Absurd Peace Plan Has Failed, New York Times
Michelle Goldberg writes, “…the explosion of fighting in Israel and Palestine in recent days makes clear something that never should have been in doubt: justice for the Palestinians is a precondition for peace. And one reason there has been so little justice for the Palestinians is because of the foreign policy of the United States. ‘I don’t think that there’s any way that this occupation and creeping annexation process could have gotten where it is today if the United States had said no,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of the liberal Zionist group J-Street.”

Where Biden Is (and Isn’t) Turning Back Trump’s Israel Policies, New York Times
“Mr. Trump also dispatched his Israel ambassador to visit Ariel, a settlement in the West Bank, breaking with longstanding tradition not to legitimize the sites. J Street, a left-leaning Jewish lobbying group, criticized the move at the time as stepping over ‘a major, longstanding red line of bipartisan U.S. policy.’”

Under pressure, Biden works for ceasefire in Israel-Gaza violence, Reuters
“President Joe Biden and aides worked behind the scenes on Monday pressing for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas amid what one source said was frustration over Israel’s bombing of a Gaza building that housed some news organizations. […] Supporters of the Biden administration demanded quicker action. ‘We’re really frustrated that the administration is not moving with more urgency,’ said Logan Bayroff, spokesman for J Street, a liberal pro-Israel lobbying group.”

Biden tries to navigate shifting Democratic politics on Israel, NBC News
“President Joe Biden is facing down pressure from progressives to take a heavier hand with Israel amid its latest hostilities with the Palestinians. […] ‘There is a desire for a more even-handed approach,’ said Logan Bayroff, vice president of communications for J-Street, a progressive group that wants the U.S. government to call for an immediate cease-fire and to place new regulations on the nearly $4 billion in aid the U.S. sends each year to Israel. ‘The Biden administration, at this point in time, does not seem to have gotten that message.’”

Biden expresses support for Israel, Gaza cease-fire amid pressure from own party, USA Today
“In a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, President Joe Biden ‘expressed his support for a cease-fire,’ according to a White House readout of the conversation. […] ‘The movement for a more balanced U.S. policy that is pro-Israel, pro-peace, anti-occupation … has grown significantly over the past few years, and it’s become a major force in the Democratic Party,’ said Logan Bayroff, communications director for J Street, a left-leaning Jewish advocacy group. […] Bayroff said J Street wants the White House to ensure none of the U.S. security assistance to Israel is used to fund equipment or other items that Israel deploys for settlement expansion, home demolitions or other activities ‘that are entrenching occupation and making this conflict worse.’”

J Street calls on Biden to ‘change course,’ call for immediate ceasefire, Times of Israel
“The dovish Middle East lobby J Street issues a statement calling on the Biden administration to ‘change course’ and demand an ‘immediate’ ceasefire between Israel and terror groups in Gaza. ‘To date, the Biden administration has simply not done enough to demand, broker and achieve an immediate end to the violence and destruction,’ the group claims.”

Biden backs Israel but criticism rises in US, AFP
“As it has for decades, Israel has counted on the United States as a diplomatic shield in its latest crisis. But once unwavering US support is looking increasingly precarious as calls grow on the left to advance Palestinian rights. […] ‘You’re seeing much more willingness across a wide spectrum of the Democratic Party to criticize not just Hamas rockets — and Hamas is involved in this — but also Israeli government policy,’ said Bayroff, the group’s vice president of communications. ‘That forms a pretty strong contrast with how the Biden administration unfortunately seems to be on a different page in a way that frankly has not been adequate to the severity of the crisis,’ he said. The Biden administration has not explicitly called for a ceasefire and has so far blocked a statement at the UN Security Council three times in a week, saying it could be counterproductive.”

Top Democrat looking to delay $735 million sale of precision missiles to Israel, Times of Israel
“US House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Gregory Meeks is considering sending the Biden administration a letter in the coming days requesting that it delay a $735 million sale of precision-guided missiles to Israel. […] Last month, prominent progressive senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren both used their addresses at the J Street lobby’s national conference to call for regulating US aid to Israel, asserting that such assistance should not be allowed to bankroll Israeli policies that damage prospects for a two-state solution.”

Biden Administration Must Change Course, Take Stronger Action to Secure Immediate Ceasefire and Address Root Causes of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, J Street
“It is now over a week since incendiary efforts to dispossess Palestinian families in East Jerusalem and aggressive Israeli police actions on the Temple Mount helped spark an explosive escalation in violence between Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups. As of this moment, this horror shows few signs that it is about to end.”

Top News and Analysis

The Toll of Eight Days of Conflict in Gaza and Israel (interactive), New York Times
A week of fighting has left more than 200 people dead in Israel and the occupied territories, the vast majority of them Palestinians killed by Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip. The violence has intensified over the past eight days as diplomatic efforts have stalled and Israel has scaled up its bombing campaign against Hamas.

Israel-Hamas conflict hurtles into its second week as cease-fire talks struggle, Washington Post
Israel and Hamas battled into a second week Monday, as mounting aerial assaults drove the reported death toll in Gaza past 200 and, diplomats said, hamstrung international efforts to secure a cease-fire. Diplomats said hopes for progress over the weekend were dashed by large attacks by both sides, including Israeli bombardment on Sunday that killed at least 42 people and Hamas rocket fire at Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities.

Hundreds of thousands in Gaza face shortages of clean water and medicine., New York Times
Sewage systems have been destroyed, sending fetid wastewater into the streets of Gaza City. A critical desalination plant that helped provide fresh water to 250,000 people is offline, and water pipes serving at least 800,000 people have been damaged. Landfills are closed, with trash piling up. And dozens of schools have been either damaged or ordered to close, forcing some 600,000 students to miss classes on Monday. The nine-day battle between Hamas militants and the Israeli military has created a humanitarian catastrophe that is touching nearly every civilian living in Gaza, a coastal territory of about two million people.


An Israeli airstrike damaged Gaza’s only lab for processing Covid tests, officials said., New York Times
Since the coronavirus first emerged in the blockaded Gaza Strip, a shortage of medical supplies has allowed authorities to administer only a relatively tiny number of Covid-19 tests. Now, the sole laboratory in Gaza that processes test results has become temporarily inoperable after an Israeli airstrike nearby on Monday, officials in Gaza said. The strike, which targeted a separate building in Gaza City, sent shrapnel and debris flying across the street, damaging the lab and the administrative offices of the Hamas-run Health Ministry, said Dr. Majdi Dhair, director of the ministry’s preventive medicine department.

Are Israel, Hamas committing war crimes in Gaza?, AP
More than a week into their fourth war, Israel and the Hamas militant group already face allegations of possible war crimes in Gaza. Israel says Hamas is using Palestinian civilians as human shields, while critics say Israel is using disproportionate force. Who’s right? It’s hard to say, especially in the fog of battle. The firing of hundreds of imprecise rockets into Israel by Hamas and other Palestinian groups is fairly clear-cut. International law prohibits targeting civilians or using indiscriminate force in civilian areas. Rockets slamming into Tel Aviv apartment blocks is a clear violation. But in Gaza, where 2 million people are packed into a narrow coastal strip, the situation is far murkier.

In Gaza, grief, destruction and ‘all the anger of the universe’, Washington Post
Gazans, raised amid generations of trauma, are dealing with a cascade of calamities. The territory was still rebuilding after the devastation of 2014 before this new phase of Israeli strikes once again damaged major roads and toppled high-rises. My colleague Erin Cunningham reported last week that the hostilities endangered Gaza’s already hamstrung efforts to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Then, on Sunday, it emerged that Ayman Abu al-Ouf, one of the territory’s lead medical officials on its coronavirus response team, was killed by an Israeli airstrike along with members of his family.

Israeli-Palestinian fight spills over into social media, Axios
As outrage about the conflict in Gaza and misinformation about clashes between Palestinians and Israelis snowball online, social media companies face yet another test of their capacity to manage their platforms. Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians haven’t been this high since the last round of combat in Gaza in 2014, and social media has become a much larger part of our everyday lives and media diets since then.

Blinken hasn’t seen any evidence on AP Gaza building strike, AP
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday he hasn’t yet seen any evidence supporting Israel’s claim that Hamas operated in a Gaza building housing The Associated Press and other media outlets that was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike. Blinken said he has pressed Israel for justification.

‘I’m troubled by it’: Dems trash Biden’s handling of Israeli strikes in Gaza, Politico
Democrats are ratcheting up pressure on President Joe Biden to do more to stop the ongoing bloodshed in Gaza — even if it means going against Israel. The White House’s refusal to publicly call for a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas has put the president at odds with key members of his own party as casualties continue to rise in both Gaza and Israel.

Israel and Palestinians brace for day of protests after first night without Gaza rocket fire in a week, CNN
Israel and the Palestinian territories were bracing for a potentially tense day of protests and strikes Tuesday, as both sides prepare to bury the victims of the deadliest violence the region has seen in years. Several people will be laid to rest in Gaza, while a Jewish man, who succumbed to his injuries after being badly wounded during mob violence in the central Israeli city of Lod last week, will also be buried. A number of Palestinian groups, including Hamas militants in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank, called for mass strikes and protests, but it’s unclear if those efforts will gain steam. Palestinian factions have made similar calls in the past, only to see demonstration plans fizzle out.

Opinion and Analysis

I’m a Trauma Surgeon in Israel. In My Hospital, We Are in This Together., New York Times
Dr. Adam Lee Goldstein writes, “Wolfson Medical Center is not the biggest hospital in Israel. It lacks funds, and its exterior probably has not been painted for 40 years. But to me it represents everything that is beautiful and possible with this place. Before, during and after this current disaster we are the hospital for one of the most diverse, elderly and neglected populations in Israel. We train residents from all over the world (especially Africa and Latin America), and Palestinian residents from the West Bank and Gaza. The concepts of free, accessible medicine — socialized medicine — and of serving a needy community with the highest standard of care, are as essential to this place as its concrete walls.”

Netanyahu didn’t start this Gaza crisis. But it could help keep him in power., Washington Post
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “Netanyahu didn’t invent the Israel-Gaza conflict. That began long before he was born, and he inherited the Gaza blockade from his predecessor. But as Israel’s leader, now for a total of 15 years, he has purposely squandered years of relative calm and prosperity, Israel’s best opportunities for making progress toward to a solution, for his self-serving politics. Whenever his long time in office will come to an end, his legacy will remain the deep entrenchment of the siege mentality and us-against-them mind-set of Israel’s Jews (this was literally Likud’s campaign slogan in the 2020 election) and the inflammation of sectarian hatreds. That may help Netanyahu in the short term, but it’ll only lead to more suffering for everyone here in the long run.”

US should step up pressure over Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Financial Times
The Financial Times editorial board writes, “In their public statements on Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, US government officials have repeatedly emphasised that Israel has a right to defend itself. So it does, as do the Palestinians. But, as the Biden administration knows all too well, there is much more to the current fighting than that. The broader context for the crisis is the complete failure to achieve a just and lasting peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians and an end to the Jewish state’s occupation of Palestinian territory. Sooner or later, that failure was bound to spark conflict.”

How Biden Can Be a Leader in an Israeli-Palestinian Conflict That Has None, Politico
Daniel Kurtzer and Aaron David Miller write, “Governing is about choosing and the administration would be wise to choose a course of more proactive and robust diplomacy, the kind of democracy that will mitigate the risk of more conflict. Otherwise, if not attended to, the conflict will be certain to recur.”

A Jewish case for Palestinian refugee return, The Guardian
Peter Beinart writes, “The longer the Nakba continues, the deeper this Jewish moral exile becomes. By facing it squarely and beginning a process of repair, Jews and Palestinians, in different ways, can start to come home.”