News Roundup for October 16, 2020

October 8, 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

‘First Jewish president’ Trump not feeling the love despite strong pro-Israel record, Washington Times
“‘When it comes to the president’s Israel policies, most of our community recognizes that they have only exacerbated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and made a peaceful two-state solution harder to achieve,’ J Street Communications Director Logan Bayroff said […] Mr. Trump’s critics also have accused him of supporting ‘white nationalism’ and white supremacy, which he denies, but his ‘attacks on democratic norms and his belligerent, reckless foreign policy are all abhorrent and alarming to Jewish voters,’ said Mr. Bayroff.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump refuses to disavow QAnon conspiracy theory during town hall, The Guardian
Donald Trump refused to denounce QAnon – a rightwing conspiracy theory that the FBI believes is a potential domestic terror threat – during an NBC town hall on Thursday night. Asked by the NBC host Savannah Guthrie if he would denounce the theory and “just say it’s crazy and not true”, Trump responded: “I don’t know about QAnon.” Guthrie suggested to Trump that he did actually know about the conspiracy theory, which has been widely covered in the press and has found support among many of Trump’s supporters. “What I do hear about it, they are very strongly against pedophilia,” Trump said. QAnon adherents believe that a cabal of Satan-worshipping Democrats, Hollywood celebrities and billionaires runs the world while engaging in pedophilia, human trafficking and the harvesting of a supposedly life-extending chemical from the blood of abused children. The conspiracy theory has roots in antisemitic tropes.

Israel OKs more than 3,000 West Bank settlement homes, AP
Israel on Thursday pressed forward on plans for more than 3,000 West Bank settlement homes, making 2020 one of the most prolific years for settlement building, according to a settlement watchdog group. Thursday’s approvals, along with more than 2,000 new homes approved a day earlier, are part of a building boom that has gained steam during the presidency of Donald Trump. It also comes months after Israel promised to put on hold plans to annex parts of the West Bank in exchange for a U.S.-brokered normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates. The latest approvals raised the number of settlement homes to be advanced this year to more than 12,150, according to Peace Now, the settlement watchdog group. It is by far the highest number of approvals since Trump took office in early 2017 and the highest since Peace Now began recording the figures in 2012.

The March of Folly in the Settlements Continues, Haaretz
Shaul Arieli writes, “Clearly this move – after having suspended planning of construction in Judea and Samaria this past February so as not to damage the agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – is a political payment aimed at his survival. However, this is yet another step in the march of folly of the continued construction in the West Bank settlements. This is a tremendous waste of resources at the expense of Israeli society and deepens the illusion that it will be possible to dictate to the Palestinians a peace agreement and cessation of the conflict along with annexing all the settlements to Israel.”


UN again urges Israel to halt all settlement activities, Anadolu Agency
The UN’s special coordinator for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict again called on Tel Aviv to halt all settlement activities in the occupied West Bank after Israel announced thousands of new settlement units. Nickolay Mladenov said Israel advanced plans Wednesday and Thursday for almost 5,000 new units on Palestinian land, with the vast majority “deep inside” the territory. All settlement construction is illegal under international law and the UN maintains it is a significant barrier to the establishment of peace. “This significant number and location of advancements is of great concern to all those who remain committed to advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace,” he said in a statement. “Such moves undermine the prospect of achieving a viable two-State solution by systematically eroding the possibility of establishing a contiguous and independent Palestinian State living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel.”

Israel eases some lockdown measures as virus cases decline, AP
Israel decided on Thursday to relax some of the restrictions imposed during a monthlong nationwide lockdown that was meant to drive down a raging coronavirus outbreak.

Israel denies visas to UN human rights staff after settlement blacklist, The Jerusalem Post
Israel has declined to renew the visas of most of the international workers of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the months after its publication of a blacklist of companies doing business in Judea and Samaria.

Israel to construct 4,948 settlement units in West Bank, Anadolu Agency
“The Higher Planning Council [HPC] of the Civil Administration approved 4,948 settlement units in a couple dozen plans on 14 and 15 October 2020,” Israeli Peace Now, a rights group that advocates for peace, said in a statement.

Israel’s AG says he won’t probe Netanyahu, cousin share deal, AP
Israel’s attorney general announced Thursday he was not launching a criminal investigation into a murky company share deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cousin that netted the Israeli leader an exorbitant return on investments.

Opinion and Analysis

Rather than condemn the QAnon conspiracy theory, Trump elevates its dangerous central assertion, Washington Post
Philip Bump writes, “Trump expresses ignorance about the bounds of the QAnon theory. That the president of the United States should assert that he’s unfamiliar with a bizarre theory that has tens or hundreds of thousands of adherents, that has been described as dangerous by federal law enforcement and that centers on his administration suggests either that he’s stunningly uninformed or simply not telling the truth. Guthrie’s summary of the theory is fair and common; it’s impossible to think Trump’s never been presented with it before.”

The Jewish Doctor, a Dead Bear and the Surprisingly Competitive Alaska Senate Race, Haaretz
Chemi Shalev writes, “Al Gross, hunter, fisherman and orthopedic surgeon, is giving GOP incumbent Dan Sullivan a run for his money while raising Democratic hopes for a Senate majority.”

Trump thinks ‘maximum pressure’ will change Iran. History says he’s wrong, Washington Post
Philip H. Gordon and Ariane M. Tabatabai write, “If maximum pressure were likely to work, it would make sense to pursue it: An Iranian government that respected the human rights of its citizens; abandoned its nuclear ambitions; stopped fomenting violence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen; and that was ready to cooperate politically, economically and diplomatically with the United States would be an unequivocally good thing. But Trump’s approach is based on fantasies about the capacity of economic sanctions or limited force to oust hostile regimes, and a misunderstanding of the history and politics of Iran. History shows that Trump’s approach is more likely to lead to confrontation and chaos than it is to regime change or fundamental shift in Iran’s stance.”

If you want to help Haredim fight COVID-19, help — don’t hector, The Forward
Moshe Krakowski writes, “The sheer number of think-pieces devoted to lambasting and lamenting New York’s Haredim, a highly visible and poorly understood cultural minority, has been extraordinary. Far more ink has been spilled on Haredim than on any other subset of the region’s population, even though they are hardly the only New Yorkers, or Americans, to resist government lockdown measures. Who exactly are these pieces speaking to? Do Haredi Jews read The Forward or New York Magazine? Will the major Haredi rebbes and roshei yeshivas who instruct their supporters ever see your missives? Will anyone in the Haredi world who does see them be persuaded?”

How a Biden Victory Could Save Netanyahu, Haaretz
Jonathan S. Tobin writes, “As much as Netanyahu would much prefer Trump’s re-election, a reversion to the situation that existed from 2009 to 2016, in which an administration hostile to Israel’s government was in charge in Washington, will actually work to his political advantage. “

I thought Trump was for me. Now I’m organizing against him, The Forward
David Weissman writes, “In 2018, I ended my support for Trump after a series of conversations with Sarah Silverman on Twitter. She was thoughtful and respectful and, as we spoke, my views began to shift. Eventually, I realized that this American Trumpism was wrong for America. I began to see how hateful MAGA was and I looked at myself, acknowledged my own hate, and understood this had to change. I saw how destructive Trump is for our country and understood that this was not the right way to lead America.”

Too Hard to Swallow: Palestinian Hunger Striker Is Dying, and the Whole System Is Complicit, Haaretz
Ilana Hammerman writes, “I attended the lengthy hearing and in the vast, imposing courtroom my ears strained to take in all the erudite details about the precise legal standing of a person whose days are numbered if he is not immediately released. I have a copy of the protocol and reading it confirmed for me yet again what I already knew when I sat down there: There was no justice here, only a distortion of justice.”

Why the ‘Pallywood’ myth endures, +972 Mag
Natasha Roth-Rowland writes, “A legion of armchair forensic and behavioral psychology experts has sprung up to deconstruct videos of Israeli-on-Palestinian violence. The goal is to debunk what has been captured on film, and thus to undermine the entire Palestinian narrative of the occupation, one bullet at a time.”