News Roundup for October 6, 2020

October 6, 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

Pro-Israel groups launch video ads in swing states, JTA
“J Street, a liberal Jewish Middle East policy group that is not affiliated with either party, is spending $65,000 to target young voters in Pennsylvania. The ad highlights the threat of white supremacist violence and culminates by directing viewers to Pennsylvania’s voter information website. The J Street ad, launched on Monday, is nonpartisan, but its theme echoes messaging from the Biden campaign, which has made allegations that President Donald Trump is stoking racial division and encouraging white nationalists a centerpiece. ‘White nationalists marched in Charlottesville and murdered Jews in Pittsburgh, peaceful protesters were attacked in Washington and Portland,’ the ad says against footage from the confrontations. ‘Hate and intolerance are on the march but young Americans can change that. Every vote matters.’”

If Biden Wins, Adelson and Evangelicals Are Out, AIPAC’s Back and J Street’s in With a Bang, Haaretz
“Not only has J Street cornered the market of Israel-supporting Democratic moderates who detest Netanyahu and his policies, but AIPAC will also have to work hard to regain the trust and favor of more mainstream centrist Democrats, as well as top foreign policy officials in a future Biden administration. They still show the scars from the bitter 2015 battle over the Iran nuclear deal and still bear its grudges […] Many of the new Democratic lawmakers that came to Congress in 2018, and those that might join them in 2020, don’t know and probably couldn’t care less that AIPAC was the only game in town way before J Street was born in 2007. AIPAC is still the bigger, wealthier and more experienced of the two groups, but J Street has diligently cultivated a growing legion of up-and-coming Democrats who are more connected to the current zeitgeist of the party, if not a Biden White House.”

Pro-Israel groups audition Dems seeking top congressional foreign policy seat, JTA
“Reps. Brad Sherman of California, Gregory Meeks of New York and Joaquin Castro of Texas have or will soon have Zoom meetings with the Democratic Majority for Israel, a group that embraces pro-Israel policies close to the establishment pro-Israel community, as well as with J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group […] Meeks met privately with J Street last week, and meetings with Castro and Sherman are scheduled for this week. J Street has said it favors pressuring Israel to keep it from annexing territory […] Meeks met privately with J Street last week, and meetings with Castro and Sherman are scheduled for this week. J Street has said it favors pressuring Israel to keep it from annexing territory.”

Trump is using Israel for political gain, Sun Sentinel
Rabbi Bruce Warshal writes, “They are not peace treaties but rather “Memoranda of Understanding,” as I labelled them in a recent column. Or as Jeremy Ben-Ami, head of J Street, wrote, ‘a business deal’ […] The deal was choreographed by two politicians, Trump and Netanyahu, both masters of deception, both in trouble, one facing a criminal trial and the other facing a November election.”

Top News and Analysis

Israel’s Coronavirus Lockdown Fuels Protests, Violence and Confusion, New York Times
Fractured by internal political conflicts, confusing instructions and a lack of public trust in the government, Israel seems to be fraying further under a second national lockdown as the country struggles to cope with a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths that, relative to the size of the population, are among the worst in the world.

Pompeo accused of mixing politics and diplomacy as election nears, Washington Post
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s pre-election speeches in battleground states are drawing increased scrutiny from Democratic lawmakers, who say his remarks cross a line that has traditionally separated foreign policy from domestic politics.

Ambassador Friedman, here’s the deal on Biden, Times of Israel
Heather A. Stone, chair of Democrats Abroad Israel writes, “Iran is far closer to a nuclear ‘break out’ today than it was when Trump took office. Iran is more aggressive around the region as well. The US is more isolated, unable to get other countries to extend the UN arms embargo against Iran or support the snapback of sanctions. Trump left the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with no strategy, and the result is a more dangerous Iran, an ineffectual United States, and a more unstable and unsafe Middle East. Joe Biden will restore credibility to US diplomacy and look for an opportunity to reach a new arrangement that will ensure Iran cannot acquire nuclear weapons, as well as address the other malign actions that Iran takes in the region and around the world, particularly as they affect Israel.”


Israel to advance plans for 4,400 new settlement homes, mostly outside blocs, Times of Israel
After nearly eight months without meetings, the Defense Ministry body responsible for authorizing settlement construction is slated to advance plans for over 4,400 Israeli homes in the West Bank next week.

Soros Conspiracy Theories Prominent in Antisemitic Attacks Against U.S. Politicians, Report Finds, Haaretz
Financier George Soros often appears in a central role in the “alarming” number of antisemitic tweets directed at Jewish politicians, according to the findings of a new study conducted by the Anti-Defamation League’s Center for Technology.

Cuomo, pointing finger at Orthodox community, will shut down schools in virus hotspots, The Forward
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a striking challenge to leaders in the Orthodox Jewish community on Monday, demanding that they comply with state rules capping attendance at religious gatherings and enforce mask wearing in order to avoid a total shutdown of religious institutions.

Orthodox Jews bristle at NYC’s selective response to virus surge, AP
Amid a new surge of COVID-19 in New York’s Orthodox Jewish communities, many members are reviving health measures that some had abandoned over the summer — social distancing, wearing masks. For many, there’s also a return of anger: They feel the city is singling them out for criticism.

Lauren Witzke, Delaware’s GOP Senate candidate, appears on site with ties to white supremacists, JTA
Lauren Witzke, who is running against incumbent Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat, calls for a drastic reduction in immigration to the United States. In a recent interview, she aired those views on VDARE, an anti-immigrant site that the Anti-Defamation League says is a “xenophobic website” that “regularly publishes articles from white supremacists and anti-Semites.”

Top Israeli, UAE diplomats meeting in Berlin for talks, AP
The foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Israel are meeting in Berlin on Tuesday for talks that Germany hopes will strengthen nascent ties between the two nations and bolster broader Middle East peace efforts.

Thousands of mourners attend Hasidic rabbi’s funeral in Israel, leading to clashes with police, JTA
A funeral that had gotten special permission to include hundreds of people instead drew thousands to the Israeli city of Ashdod, resulting in clashes between mourners and police who attempted to disperse them.

Opinion and Analysis

Jewish leaders are running out of time to stand up to Donald Trump, The Forward
David A. Lehrer and Janice Kamenir Reznik write, “In early 2017 and 2018, some of us warned about the clear-for-all-to-see dangers of President Donald Trump to the values and norms that keep Jews and other minorities safe in this nation. We asked other Jewish leaders to speak out on behalf of their organizations and the community about what was happening to our democracy. We were publicly criticized, even condemned, by some. Nearly four years later, Trump has proven to be uniquely dangerous, uncaring and immoral. Nearly four years later, Trump has proven to be uniquely dangerous, uncaring and immoral.”

Seeking to Extend Lockdown, Netanyahu to Face Harsh Public Opposition, Haaretz
Amos Harel writes, “Monday’s meeting of the coronavirus cabinet didn’t produce any dramatic decisions. The next decision point will be October 14, when the current lockdown ends. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would clearly like to extend it, but he is expected to face growing opposition from the public and parts of the business community, which fears the economic ramifications.”

American Jews are more politically engaged than ever, The Forward
Samuel J. Abrams writes, “When it comes to some political behaviors, American Jews were much more active, appreciably more vocal and politically involved than most in the nation. When respondents were asked if they had contacted an elected official, about a quarter of Americans (23%) answered yes. But a considerably higher percentage of American Jews have done so — 36% to be exact. Using social media to publicly express support for a political campaign is also appreciably higher among Jews in the United States. 42% of Jews had used Facebook, Twitter, or another platform to express a political view, a much higher percentage compared to both the national average (33%) as well as other white, well-educated Americans, 34% of whom had used social media to express political views.”

Embarrassed and pummeled by outside criticism, Haredim despair of virus fight, Times of Israel
Haviv Rettig Gur writes, “Expressions of resentment at Haredi behavior are widespread among non-Haredim, as might be expected. Even those who strive to sympathetically explain the cultural gaps that drive the community’s resistance to social distancing — the centrality of communal prayer and ritual, the large families crowding in small apartments in that impoverished population, the religious education system based on traditional forms of one-on-one textual study — are left stunned at the rampant violations.”

Promising Change or Clinging to Power? Behind the Palestinian Leaders’ Vow to Hold Elections, Haaretz
Amira Hass writes, “Building up expectations for an imminent election, 16 years after the last one, is a way to preserve the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority’s political elite and civil service.”

Why 2021 Would Be Inauspicious For a New Iran Deal, Bloomberg
Karen Young writes, “The president and his challenger have both committed to prioritize U.S. dealings with the Islamic Republic. Biden is interested in a return to the 2015 nuclear deal, with some caveats. Trump wants a tougher new deal that covers issues like Iran’s regional intervention and missile programs. In both scenarios, the first likely incentive to Iran will be a relaxation of U.S. sanctions on its oil exports. But there’s an inconvenient fact neither has acknowledged: global oil markets, and especially Gulf Arab oil producers, are not ready to welcome a return of Iranian oil.”