News Roundup for November 19, 2020

November 19, 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

Trump appoints speechwriter fired for attending conference with white nationalists to commission that preserves Holocaust memorials, Yahoo
“A former speechwriter fired from the White House in 2018 for attending a conference at which white supremacists were also present has been appointed to a commission tasked with preserving Holocaust-related sites across Europe […] Jewish groups expressed dismay at news of Beattie’s appointment. ‘It’s appalling that someone who was considered too close to xenophobic white nationalists to continue working in the Trump White House would now be appointed to a U.S. government body focused largely on the preservation of sites dedicated to the memory of Holocaust victims,’ said Logan Bayroff, communications director for J Street, a progressive Jewish lobbying organization. ’It should be obvious that those who traffic in hatred of immigrants and refugees are the last people on earth who should be entrusted with honoring the victims of Nazis,’ Bayroff went on to say.”

Top News and Analysis

Progressive Democrats call on Pompeo to condemn Israeli demolition of Beduin village, The Hill
Progressive House Democrats on Tuesday called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to condemn Israel’s demolition of a rural Beduin community, a move that displaced dozens of people, including children, in the Jordan Valley of the West Bank.   In a letter to the secretary, 40 House Democrats called on Pompeo to push the Israeli government to halt any further demolitions and accused Israel of “creeping annexation,” violating international law and a grave humanitarian issue.   “Creeping annexation cannot be a policy that the U.S. government supports if we wish to see peace in the region,” the letter, which was led by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), read. 

Seeking Restart With Biden, Palestinians Eye End to Prisoner Payments, New York Times
In a bold move to refurbish their sullied image in Washington, the Palestinians are laying the groundwork for an overhaul to one of their most cherished but controversial practices, officials say: compensating those who serve time in Israeli prisons, including for violent attacks.

During Pompeo’s Visit to Israeli Settlement, U.S. Announces New Policy on Labeling Goods, Haaretz
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday became the first top U.S. diplomat to visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, as the State Department announced that products from the settlements can be labeled “Made in Israel” in a major policy shift.


Netanyahu said to ask US for okay to advance East Jerusalem building plans, Times of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will reportedly ask the Trump administration for a green light to advance construction plans in an area of East Jerusalem.

Senators urge Trump to label goods from West Bank settlements “Made in Israel”, Axios
A group of Republican senators led by Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) sent a letter to President Trump this week urging him to issue an executive order allowing goods produced in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank to be labeled “Made in Israel.” Axios obtained a copy of the letter. While the rest of the world views the settlements as illegal under international law and not part of Israel, the Trump administration has taken several steps intended to legitimize them and blur the differentiation between Israel and the West Bank.

‘It’s a cancer’: Pompeo says US will brand BDS ‘anti-Semitic,’ crack down on it, Times of Israel
The United States government will formally designate the anti-Israel boycott movement “anti-Semitic” and immediately start cracking down on groups affiliated with it, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Thursday during a visit to Israel, calling BDS a “cancer.”

Trump’s White House is throwing an in-person Hanukkah party despite COVID concerns, JTA
President Donald Trump has come under fire for holding a number of crowded events at the White House, including several that are believed to have spread the coronavirus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease specialist, called the reception for recently confirmed Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett a “superspreader event.”

Palestinians Are Concerned as West Bank and Gaza Hit COVID-19 Records, Haaretz
A total of 1,068 new coronavirus cases were diagnosed on Tuesday, 486 of which in the West Bank and 582 in the Gaza Strip – the highest daily figure in the two Palestinian territories since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Pompeo visits Israeli settlement in occupied West Bank, in parting gift to Netanyahu, Reuters
Mike Pompeo on Thursday paid the first visit by a U.S. secretary of state to an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, in a parting show of solidarity with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by the outgoing Trump administration.

Israel Impounds Palestinian’s Cows Grazing on Nature Reserve, Ignores Settlers’ Cows, Haaretz
Inspectors from Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank impounded cows belonging to a Palestinian resident of the northern Jordan Valley earlier this month on the grounds that he had been grazing them in a nature reserve. However, the same Umm Zuka nature reserve has been used for grazing hundreds of cows by the residents of an unauthorized settlement outpost in the same area.

Israeli settlers in the West Bank confront the Biden reality and dig in for a fight, Washington Post
After four years of a sympathetic Trump administration, Israeli settlers are sobering up to a new reality and digging in for a fight ahead of a new U.S. president expected to revive traditional criticisms of their enterprise. Settler leaders across the West Bank and East Jerusalem predict a return to the old cat-and-mouse game in which they push to expand their communities until the White House pushes back.

Israeli Ministers Threaten Pushback Against Controversial Yad Vashem Chairman Nomination, Haaretz
Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party, a key partner in the governing coalition, is threatening to block, at least temporarily, the contentious appointment of Effi Eitam, a former far-right politician and military commander, to the position of chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

Opinion and Analysis

How Trump and Netanyahu made American antisemitism come alive, +972 Mag
Libby Lenkinski writes, “For four years, Netanyahu has equated Jews with the Israeli government, while Trump has made common cause with white nationalists. I wish more Israelis understood why this was so terrifying.”

US or Israeli attack on Iran unlikely — but not impossible, Responsible Statecraft
Joe Cirincione writes, “The general consensus is that such a strike is unlikely. But analysts are chastened by Trump’s history; just because a course of action is strategically senseless doesn’t mean that Trump won’t do it.”

Will Trump’s major foreign policy legacy be Israel and Palestine?, The Guardian
Oliver Holmes writes, “From ‘peace’ deals to gutting aid, the US president has had a major impact on the region.”