News Roundup for May 24, 2021

May 24, 2021

Receive the roundup in your inbox every morning!

J Street in the News

Netanyahu has more than the left to worry about, Washington Post
EJ Dionne Jr. writes, “To cast the Democratic debate over Israel as a two-sided struggle between supporters and critics is to miss the growing frustration across the party’s factions with the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. […] This shift is reflected in the rising influence among Democrats of J Street, a peace-minded pro-Israel group often at odds with the current Israeli government — relative to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which almost never challenges Israeli authorities.”

Bloody bombing of Gaza puts Biden at odds with progressives in generational divide, The Guardian
“Cracks open in Democratic support for Israel as old guard in the party is challenged […] Logan Bayroff, a spokesperson for J Street, a liberal Jewish American lobby group, said: ‘There are shifts and you see it on the left side of the spectrum with vocal and unapologetic Palestinian rights advocacy from the likes of AOC [Ocasio-Cortez] and others but you also see it reflected across a large swath of the party. What is notable is that we’re still not seeing that reflected in terms of policy or rhetoric from the Biden administration. I think this is less one half the party versus the other and it’s more Congress pushing in one direction and the administration not following as of yet.’”

Young American Jews Have Reached a Tipping Point With Israel, Rolling Stone
“Over the past 15 years, the an anti-occupation Jewish left in America has been growing, with organizations like IfNotNow and JStreet leading the charge. But because the conflict has so often been boiled down to a binary — you either support Israel or you support its destruction — for many of us it felt like a betrayal to even consider the other side. ”

Have Democrats Reached a Turning Point on Israel?, The New Republic
“The voices working now to reconceptualize that relationship include not only figures like Tlaib, who comfortably place themselves on the Democratic Party’s left wing, but organizations like J Street, whose advocates are angling to replace Israel hawks in the political mainstream. […] ‘Those are small steps that could be taken,’ Logan Bayroff, J Street’s VP for Communications says. ‘But we’ve also said it’s not enough to just reset to an Obama era status quo. And I think part of that involves frankly centering much more of the concept of the rights of both peoples on a day-to-day basis and the reality of the occupation—the fact that this is not just a conflict between two armed groups but that there’s a systemic, ongoing injustice that’s part of the root cause of the overall conflict.’

Democrats Have Veered to the Left on Israel Policy. Why Hasn’t Joe Biden Caught Up?, Mother Jones
“Foreign policy was never a major component of the 2020 Democratic campaign, but underneath the surface there were simmering tensions between Biden and the more progressive wing of his party. […] ‘Of course there is a place for quiet, private diplomacy,’ Logan Bayroff, vice president of communications at J Street, told me, but ‘this hasn’t borne fruit.’ […] J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said on MSNBC that ‘The United States is not doing everything that it possibly can to stop this.’”

US welcomes Israel-Palestine ceasefire, but Democratic divisions remain, New Statesman
“This shift in the Democratic Party on Israel has been under way for years. Consider, for example, the Obama era. There were the famously bad relations between Barack Obama and Netanyahu, who even used a speech to Congress in 2015 to rebuke the then US president. There was the fact that, despite warnings that Democrats would lose American Jewish voters because Obama pursued the Iran nuclear deal, the party did not (the majority of American Jews supported the agreement). There was the advent in 2007 of J Street, a ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace’ group that serves as a kind of mainstream critical alternative to the more hawkish American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and, in 2014, of IfNotNow, a group of young progressive Jews that was set up after the last Gaza war. ”

Israel, Gaza, and the Biden Doctrine, Washington Monthly
“The shifting ground on Israel extends to the grassroots. […] What’s more, the left-wing pro-Israel advocacy group J Street criticized the Biden administration for not doing enough to end the violence and now calls for ‘a fundamental reset of U.S. policy towards the conflict.’”

Top News and Analysis

Blinken off to Mideast to push peace talks after Gaza truce, AP
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is heading to the Middle East to press the Israelis, Palestinians and regional players to build on last week’s Gaza cease-fire by laying the groundwork for an eventual resumption in long-stalled peace talks. President Joe Biden announced Blinken would depart on Monday for a short visit to Israel, the West Bank, Jordan and Egypt for what will be the Biden administration’s highest-level in-person meetings on the crisis that erupted earlier this month.

Life Under Occupation: The Misery at the Heart of the Conflict, New York Times
Even in supposedly quiet periods, when the world is not paying attention, Palestinians from all walks of life routinely experience exasperating impossibilities and petty humiliations, bureaucratic controls that force agonizing choices, and the fragility and cruelty of life under military rule, now in its second half-century.

11 days, 8 calls and a ceasefire: Inside Biden’s response to the Gaza crisis, Axios
Before 11 days of fighting in the Gaza Strip ended in a ceasefire, President Biden held six phone calls with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and one with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. To get the inside story of those phone calls, President Biden’s strategy, and the path to a ceasefire, Axios spoke to three U.S. and Israeli sources who were deeply involved in the diplomacy. They requested anonymity to speak freely.


After the Cease-Fire, Gaza Wakes to a Sea of Rubble, New York Times
The skies above Gaza and Israel were silent for the first time in 10 days on Friday night, after a truce between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that runs Gaza, took effect early Friday. But while Israel could quickly rebound, with the authorities reopening roads around Gaza that had been closed during the conflict, the scale of the destruction in Gaza will not allow a return to normality for some time.

Who will rebuild the Gaza Strip? And what obstacles stand in the way?, Washington Post
Gaza Strip residents took to the streets in celebration Friday — or to let out a sigh of relief — as a cease-fire with Israel brought an end to 11 days of bombardment. In Israel, too, there was hope the truce would stick and end rocket barrages from Gaza. But the task ahead for Gaza is far more daunting. Thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed in the latest conflict with Israel. Also damaged: Gaza’s water and power infrastructure.

As bombs fall silent over Gaza and Israel, ‘whole generation’ of children face long term trauma, NBC News
The airstrikes may have ended, but the trauma lives on. As the cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas holds in the short-term, parents like Randa Yousef are afraid about the long-term effects the latest round of violence will have on their children. Her daughter Kinda, 5, “used to play and laugh” at their home in Gaza City, but now “she cries and screams and calls for me,” Yousef told NBC News by phone last week.

New Solidarity Among Palestinians Creates Fresh Challenge for Israel, Wall Street Journal
Muna el-Kurd’s campaign against Israeli plans to evict her family and neighbors from east Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood has turned the 23-year-old into a social-media star, with more than a million Instagram followers. Triggered in part by this neighborhood standoff, the latest round of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict raged for 11 days across Gaza, Israel and the West Bank. Ms. Kurd and fellow activists call it a new kind of Palestinian uprising. While Friday’s cease-fire between Israel and the militant group Hamas stopped the airstrikes and rockets, protests go on across the Palestinian territories and among Israel’s Arab citizens.

Before Rage Flared, a Push to Make Israel’s Mixed Towns More Jewish, New York Times
Years before the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Lod erupted in mob violence, a demographic shift had begun to take root: Hundreds of young Jews who support a religious, nationalist movement started to move into a mostly Arab neighborhood with the express aim of strengthening the Israeli city’s Jewish identity.

Biden committed to two-state solution between Israel and Palestinians, Blinken says, NBC News
President Joe Biden is still committed to a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday, adding that repairing the structural damage in Gaza and dealing with the humanitarian crisis stemming from the recent outbreak of violence is most important to the administration. In an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Blinken said Biden “has been very clear that he remains committed to a two-state solution.”

Root causes of Israel-Palestine conflict must be addressed: UNRWA, Al Jazeera
The United Nations agency for Palestine refugees has urged the international community to look at the root causes of the Israel-Palestine conflict, in order to avoid future bloodshed. Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner-general of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), said on Sunday “the layers of hardship in Gaza keep getting thicker” because the very basis of the conflict has not been addressed.

“I Did Have Some Trouble Reporting the Truth”, Slate
Some journalists covering Israel and Palestine say an “illusive concept of impartiality” led them to face persistent doubts and skewed editing for years. Is that changing now?

Multiple antisemitic incidents reported over the weekend across US, JTA
At least four cases of intimidation or assault against Jews have been reported in the United States since Thursday, in a continuation of what many fear is one of the country’s worst spate in years of antisemitic violence.

Opinion and Analysis

Democrats Have Not Changed Their Position on Israel, New York Times
Rep. Jerry Nadler writes, “Extreme positions on all sides of the political spectrum will always receive more coverage. But the vast majority of Democrats are thoughtful and considerate, and recognize nuance in a conflict shaded by centuries of complexity, suffering and pain, and this has always been the case. We know that the only solution is one where both Jewish and Palestinian people have the right to self-determination and security. We support the humanity of both parties in the conflict as well as small-d democratic values. And we stand resolutely against attacks on Israel’s right to exist. Really, this moment reflects a coming out of the silent majority of American Jews whose values are both liberal and supportive of Israel, as a recent Pew study indicates.”

Palestinian citizens of Israel like me are facing terrifying new attacks, Washington Post
Eva Najjar writes, “The brutality evident there is connected to the mentality that permitted 11 days of bombarding civilians in Gaza. I am beyond relieved that Israel and Hamas implemented a cease-fire on Friday. Yet this month, a new, terrifying threshold of dehumanization has emerged, directed at Palestinians throughout the occupied territories and at Palestinian citizens of Israel, including where I live with my husband and two children in Haifa.”

Why the Gaza Cease-Fire Won’t Mean Peace, Foreign Policy
Rebecca Collard writes, “Even as many cheered the end of hostilities, Israeli security forces stormed the al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem, clashing with Palestinians, the very action that provoked Hamas to send rockets into Israel 11 days ago. The eviction of several Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem—the Israeli move that sparked the original unrest—is still looming, with the court decision only postponed until next month.”

Conflict Strengthens Netanyahu, but the Price Is High, New York Times
Roger Cohen writes, “Before the latest violence erupted, leaving more than 230 Palestinians dead and over a dozen people in Israel, Mr. Netanyahu’s situation appeared precarious. It seemed less so after the 11-day battle with Hamas that ended with a cease-fire early Friday. This is the prime minister’s long-established mode of operation: exploit crisis to assert his centrality and inflict just enough pain on Hamas to deter another eruption for a few years, but not enough pain to change fundamentally a status quo that leaves the Palestinians divided between Gaza and the West Bank, steadily weaker, and stateless.”

A changed Democratic Party continues to influence the Biden presidency, Washington Post
Dan Balz writes, “At home and abroad, President Biden is confronting what it means to lead a changing Democratic Party. […] They were evident throughout the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. Biden and his advisers had to weigh traditional U.S. support for Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas-launched rocket attacks with rising concerns — particularly but not exclusively among those on the Democratic left — over the number of casualties as well as the widespread destruction in Gaza by the Israeli military.”

To End the Chaos in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, Establish a Palestinian State, Haaretz
Carolina Landsmann writes, “Any way you look at it, whether the focus is on Gaza, the West Bank or the internal tension vis-à-vis Israel’s Arab citizens, the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the same: two states for two peoples.”

The cease-fire may hold. But Israel’s treatment of Palestinians won’t change., Washington Post
Rula Jebreal writes, “We Palestinians in Israel are never permitted to forget what we are: second-class citizens. Israel’s political establishment regularly reminds 2 million of us that our legally enforced inferior status is based solely on ethnicity.”