News Roundup for November 17, 2020

November 17, 2020

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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

Givat Hamatos Construction Announcement Signals ‘Lame Duck’ Frenzy of de Facto Annexation, J Street
“Construction in Givat Hamatos is part of a deliberate settlement movement strategy to cut off Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem from the West Bank Palestinian city of Bethlehem, in order to further undermine the prospects for a contiguous Palestinian state alongside Israel. The announcement follows a number of other recent measures to step up creeping annexation and erase the distinction between Israel and the territory it occupies beyond the Green Line. These include major home demolitions in the Palestinian Bedouin community of Homsa al-Baqia; thousands of new construction permits issued for settlements throughout the West Bank; a public announcement that US funds for scientific research would now be allowed to flow to institutions in the settlements; and Secretary Pompeo’s planned trip this week to a winery in Psagot — the first ever official visit by a sitting Secretary of State to a settlement in occupied territory.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump Sought Options for Attacking Iran to Stop Its Growing Nuclear Program, New York Times
President Trump asked senior advisers in an Oval Office meeting on Thursday whether he had options to take action against Iran’s main nuclear site in the coming weeks. The meeting occurred a day after international inspectors reported a significant increase in the country’s stockpile of nuclear material, four current and former U.S. officials said on Monday. A range of senior advisers dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike. The advisers — including Vice President Mike Pence; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Christopher C. Miller, the acting defense secretary; and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — warned that a strike against Iran’s facilities could easily escalate into a broader conflict in the last weeks of Mr. Trump’s presidency.

Republicans sound alarm on Georgia Senate runoffs as they privately weigh Trump’s influence, Washington Post
Republican leaders are increasingly alarmed about the party’s ability to stave off Democratic challengers in Georgia’s two Senate runoff elections — and they privately described President Trump on a recent conference call as a political burden who despite his false claims of victory was the likely loser of the 2020 election. Those blunt assessments, which capture a Republican Party in turmoil as Trump refuses to concede to President-elect Joe Biden, were made on a Nov. 10 call with donors hosted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. It featured Georgia’s embattled GOP incumbents, Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, and Karl Rove, a veteran strategist who is coordinating fundraising for the Jan. 5 runoffs.

‘More People May Die’: Biden Chides Trump For Blocking Presidential Transition, NPR
President-elect Joe Biden on Monday outlined his plan for rehabilitating the U.S. economy, emphasizing the importance of getting control of the coronavirus pandemic. As Biden spoke, the shadow of President Trump’s refusal to concede was apparent, with the president-elect making clear that he was being kept from information that would be vital to taking over the presidency early next year. “More people may die if we don’t coordinate,” Biden said on plans for vaccine distribution.


Anti-Semitic hate crimes in the US rose by 14% in 2019, FBI report says, Times of Israel
The number of anti-Semitic hate crimes in the United States increased significantly in 2019, according to the FBI, in a year that saw three lethal attacks against Jews in the country.

Noam Chomsky: ‘White Supremacy Is a Deep Principle in U.S. Society – and Jews Are Familiar With That’, Haaretz
“Trump has managed to tap into poisonous currents that are right below the surface in American life, culture and history – to simply extract and magnify the poison. And that’s what he has been running on. White supremacy is a deep principle in American society and culture. And Jews are familiar with that. I’m old enough to remember overt antisemitism in the streets. But the anti-Black racism is much more extreme,” he opines.

Madison Cawthorn has tried to convert Jews to Christianity, JTA
Madison Cawthorn, the newly elected congressman from North Carolina who was criticized for selfies he took at Hitler’s vacation retreat in Germany, is a zealous Christian. And the 25-year-old firebrand conservative and part-time preacher is trying to convert Jews and Muslims.

Gantz: If Netanyahu doesn’t get a grip, Knesset will disband for new elections, Times of Israel
Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned Monday that if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t “get a grip” and allow the government to make policy decisions, the Knesset will disband and new elections will be called, in what would be the fourth round of voting within two years.

Yair Netanyahu compares Israeli kibbutz movement to Nazi Germany, JTA
“Kibbutzim are something that doesn’t exist outside of North Korea,” Yair Netanyahu said during a recent radio interview. “We always know how ideas for utopian societies end. In the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, there was a desire to create exemplary societies and utopian societies. It never ends well, the desire to engineer human society.”

Facing steep opposition, Netanyahu scraps plan for nationwide curfew, Times of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday evening dropped the idea of imposing a countrywide nighttime curfew after facing opposition from the national coronavirus czar and the Israel Police, among others.

B’Tselem Director in European Parliament: Europe must move from words to action, B’Tselem
At a hearing in the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights this afternoon, B’Tselem’s Executive Director, Hagai El-Ad, spoke about the urgent need for determined European action, which would clarify to Israel that violating the rights of Palestinians will carry consequences.

Top Pentagon adviser has said ‘Israeli lobby’ funds government officials who want war, JTA
Douglas Macgregor, a top adviser to President Donald Trump’s new acting defense secretary, routinely blames “the Israeli lobby” and “neocons” for pushing the United States into wars.

Gaza: Coronavirus pandemic ruins youth’s hopes for a way out, Deutsche Welle
The 2014 war between Hamas and Israel compounded the drive to escape the violence and stifling political and economic conditions. Egypt’s limited opening of the Rafah border crossing in 2018 acted like a siphon, drawing a stronger flow of Gazans out with the promise of a chance for something better. Clashes with Israel’s military in March that year during demonstrations intensified the push to emigrate.

Opinion and Analysis

Biden Can Stop Netanyahu From ‘Doing a Trump’ on Israeli Democracy, Haaretz
Chemi Shalev writes, “Even if he delays engaging with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for tactical reasons, Biden would do well to remind Israelis that without an equitable solution, Israel is doomed to become either un-democratic or un-Jewish, as he’s often said before. He should explain to Israelis, as he said in his sermon-like victory speech in Delaware last week, that the ‘battle for the soul of America’ – and by inference for the soul of Israel as well – is also a battle ‘to restore decency and defend democracy,’ values and terms that have all but disappeared from the Israeli discourse in recent years.”

The global right is threat to US Jews — but a natural home for Israelis, +972 Mag
Yair Wallach writes, “Much has been written on the growing gap between American Jews and Israel in terms of values and Jewish identity. In particular, the entrenchment of the occupation and the growing authoritarianism of the Benjamin Netanyahu regime has provoked growing disillusionment with Israel, especially among young Jewish progressives in North America. On the one hand is Israel’s unmistakable shift to the nationalist right; on the other, American Jews’ commitment to liberal, pluralistic, and progressive ideals, exemplified by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”

Attacking Israel’s Judges Is Attacking Its Democracy, Haaretz
Vernon Bogdanor writes, “The task of the judges is not to second guess political decisions, but to ensure that political and electoral processes remain fair and that the rights of minorities are respected. This benefits all of us, not just minorities.”

It’s Time to Mitigate the American Electoral College System, Times of Israel
Rabbi John Rosove writes, “The current system of electing an American president in which the Electoral College awards all delegates from each state to one candidate that wins the popular vote in that state distorts our politics, encourages campaigns to focus on a few unrepresentative states, and can defy the popular will of the nation to the interests of a few smaller states. The Electoral College determines who becomes President of the United States and does not function as a democratic institution. It’s time either to eliminate it entirely or to mitigate its deleterious effects on our democracy.”

New human rights order risks restricting criticism of Israel, The Conversation
Reem Bahdi writes, “The IHRA approach to antisemitism is hotly debated within the Jewish community. Independent Jewish Voices and well-known personalities like Michele Landsberg and Avi Lewis oppose the IHRA approach. Even the original author of the IHRA’s definition, Kenneth Stern, says that it has been weaponized to suppress criticism of Israel.”

No one wants Jon Ossoff to win more than TikTok, The Forward
Irene Katz Connelly writes, “Ossoff doesn’t seem like an obvious candidate for stardom on TikTok, an explosively popular app that first gained traction with teenagers and is now swallowing hours of time across generations. A Wild-West landscape of viral dances and increasingly baroque challenges, the app may be most notable for reminding millennials, long accustomed to dunking on their Twitter-illiterate parents, of their own mortality. (I, for one, have never felt more aware of my own age than while struggling to locate the search function on this app.)”