News Roundup for May 30, 2023

May 30, 2023

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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

President Biden is Taking the Right Approach to Confront Antisemitism, J Street
J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami shares his reflections on the White House’s new National Strategy for Combating Antisemitism.

Biden Unveils a National Plan to Fight an Ancient Hatred, The New York Times
“The Biden administration released the country’s first national strategy for combating antisemitism Thursday, calling on government, law enforcement and schools to crack down on discrimination and stanch the spread of online hate….’The breadth of it is really striking,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel advocacy group. ‘The approach of the whole working group was to look at bigotry and hatred broadly, in the context of that rise in nationalism.’”

The High-Stakes Debate over How the US Defines “Antisemitism”, Vox
“Groups that take more progressive stances on Israel, like J Street, Peace Now, and the New Israel Fund, have come out against the [IHRA] definition. The National Council of Jewish Women calls the definition a good ‘education tool’ but cautions, ‘We do not recommend this be codified into law or used to prohibit freedom of speech in any way.’ Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups, American civil liberties organizations, and the American Bar Association have also rejected it.”

Opposing U.S. Jewish Orgs Claim Victory on Definition Inside Biden’s Landmark Antisemitism Strategy, Haaretz
“J Street also echoed this point, remarking that ‘the strategy avoids exclusively codifying anyone specific, sweeping definition of antisemitism as the sole standard for use in enforcing domestic law and policy, recognizing that such an approach could do more harm than good…While some voices have pushed the White House to give the full force of U.S. law to the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism and its accompanying examples, the Biden Administration rightly cites this definition as just one of a range of illustrative and useful tools in understanding and combating antisemitism.’”

Who Won the Debate over Defining ‘Antisemitism’ in New White House Report?, The Forward
“Then there was the take of Jeremy Ben-Ami, who heads J Street, which calls itself ‘the political home of pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy Americans’ and often stands to the left of the ADL. ‘We’re glad that the White House recognized that codifying any one specific, sweeping definition of antisemitism as the sole standard for use in enforcing domestic law and policy could do more harm than good,’ Ben-Ami wrote. The Progressive Israel Network issued a similar statement, expressing gratitude that ‘the administration did not focus its strategy solely on the problematic International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, and did not seek to formally codify this definition into US law.’”

In Sweeping Antisemitism Strategy, White House Calls Mainstream IHRA Definition ‘Most Prominent’ But ‘Welcomes’ Progressive Alternative, Jewish Insider
“But the praise for the Nexus Document and references to other definitions provided progressive groups, which had lobbied against the sole inclusion of IHRA, the opportunity to claim victory as well. ‘Importantly, the strategy avoids exclusively codifying any one specific, sweeping definition of antisemitism as the sole standard for use in enforcing domestic law and policy, recognizing that such an approach could do more harm than good,’ J Street said in a statement, adding that the administration ‘rightly cites [the IHRA] definition as just one of a range of illustrative and useful tools.’”

Top News and Analysis

US, EU Slam Construction of New Yeshiva Building in Illegal Homesh Outpost, The Times of Israel
The US State Department on Monday slammed Israel for allowing the construction of a new yeshiva building overnight in the illegal West Bank outpost of Homesh. A spokesperson for the State Department reiterated that the US is “deeply troubled” by the move, “which is inconsistent with both former prime minister Sharon’s written commitment to the Bush administration in 2004 and the current Israeli government’s commitments to the Biden administration.”

Palestinian Officer Killed by Israeli Army Fire in West Bank City of Jenin, Haaretz
A Palestinian intelligence officer was killed Monday morning by Israeli army gunfire in the West Bank city of Jenin, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The IDF reportedly entered the city overnight in order to conduct arrests, when a firefight erupted. The Israeli forces reportedly arrested six individuals. According to the health ministry’s statement, the officer who was killed with 37-year-old Ashraf Ibrahim.

Settler Attacks on Palestinians in West Bank Leave Man in Critical Condition and Draw US Condemnation, CNN
Israeli settler attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank Friday left a man in critical condition and drew international condemnation, including from the US. Settlers on Friday attacked local farmers and set cars and farms alight near the villages of Turmosayia and Al Mughayyer north of Ramallah, eyewitnesses told CNN and local journalists. One man remains in critical condition in the hospital on Saturday, having been shot in the head, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Eight others were injured.

Israeli Agents Conducted Raid against Militants in Civilian Area, Killing a Child, The Washington Post
A exclusive investigative report by The Washington Post shows increasingly deadly tactics by Israeli officers during a raid Jenin, which left a 14-year-old child dead.


Israelis in NYC to Protest Coalition Lawmakers in Town for Celebrate Israel Parade, The Times of Israel
An Israeli protest group in New York announced on Sunday that it plans to rally against coalition lawmakers who are visiting the city this week for the annual Celebrate Israel Parade. The protesters, part of a network of Israeli activists called UnXeptable, oppose the government’s judicial overhaul plans and have been holding regular rallies in and around New York City since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government announced the proposals earlier this year.

Mass Protests against Israeli Government’s Plans to Change Legal System Enter 21st Week, ABC News
Tens of thousands of Israelis gathered on Saturday for the relentless weekly protests against their government’s plans to overhaul the legal system. The mass protests entered their 21st week. This week’s rallies come days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition of ultra-Orthodox and ultranationalist parties passed a new two-year budget.

Deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia Is ‘Absolutely Possible,’ Says Ex-Mossad Chief, The Times of Israel
Against a backdrop of measured optimism from Jerusalem over the chances of a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen said Sunday that such an agreement was “absolutely possible.” Speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies, Cohen – Israel’s top spy from 2016-2021 – said, “in my opinion – and here I am leaning on personal knowledge on the topic – it is absolutely possible.”

Israel’s Herzog to Visit Azerbaijan, Key Ally Bordering on Iran, The Jerusalem Post
Israeli President Isaac Herzog will travel to Azerbaijan on Tuesday, on a visit meant to strengthen the strategic ties between Israel and the Shia Muslim country bordering on Iran. During the two-day visit, Herzog plans to meet with his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev and to take part in a special event marking the 75th anniversary of Israeli independence.

Opinion and Analysis

Why America’s Dangerous Right-wing Demagogues Are Welcome in Israel, Haaretz
Etan Nechin argues, “The embrace of the dangerous ideas imported from America is a recipe for violence, corruption, and destruction of the last remnants of Israel as a democracy. Those trying to convince Israelis that these ideas are homegrown should be exposed for these concepts really are: rotten and without place in this land.”

Israel Is Failing to Protect Its Arab Citizens, The Forward
Abe Silberstein writes, “As the Biden administration and American Jews watch the Israeli government’s assault on the judiciary with profound anxiety, they should also carefully monitor developments in the country’s Palestinian society. The future of Israeli democracy is not only contingent upon the preservation of judicial checks and balances, but also on the state’s equitable treatment of its largest national minority.”

Unmasking Israel’s Deceptive Tactics Regarding Homesh, Haaretz
Noa Landau writes, “While Israel was placating the international community with this impudent argument (we’re not returning to the entire evacuated area, only to some of it), the excavator arrived, with the approval of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and the other minister in his office, Bezalel Smotrich. Call it a ‘yeshiva’ or call it ‘state land,’ it’s all sophistry. The fact is that Israel has started to formally withdraw from the disengagement plan – all the rest is gaslighting. Now comes the great test for the international community, particularly for the United States. Will they buy this deception, or will they insist that Israel abide by its commitments? If they don’t stop this move now, they shouldn’t be surprised to find that ‘first Homesh’ is not just a slogan.”