News Roundup for July 23, 2018

July 23, 2018

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J Street in the News

Israel’s New Law Inflames the Core Tension in Its Identity, The Atlantic

“Some liberal Jews, especially outside of Israel, are outraged. ‘The damage that will be done by this new nation-state law to the legitimacy of the Zionist vision … is enormous,’ wrote Rick Jacobs, the head of the U.S.-based Union for Reform Judaism, in a press release. J Street, a liberal Zionist organization, called it ‘a sad day for Israel and all who care about its democracy and its future.’”

Israeli parliament passes contentious Jewish nation bill, USA Today

“Jeremy Ben Ami, president of J Street, a Washington liberal pro-Israel group, said the bill’s purpose is ‘to send a message to the Arab community, the LGBT community and other minorities in Israel, that they are not and never will be equal citizens. Strong connection between Israel and Jews worldwide is based on these values that Israel is both a Jewish and democratic state,’ Ben Ami said, adding concerns the bill would ‘weaken the strength of Israel’s democracy.”

J Street Mourns Israeli Soldier Killed By Sniper Fire From Gaza, J Street

“We are deeply saddened to learn of reports that an IDF soldier was killed on Friday evening when Israeli troops came under sniper fire from Gaza. We send our heartfelt condolences to the soldier’s family and the people of Israel. We hope that this current escalation will come to an end quickly.”

Trump looms large in first faceoff between Sen. Kaine and Corey Stewart, Washington Post

“Through a spokeswoman, Cockburn said the claims of anti-Semitism are a baseless attempt to ‘distract from Stewart’s hateful rhetoric’ and noted that she has been endorsed by the liberal Jewish group J Street PAC.”

Between Maria Butina and Sacha Baron Cohen, Conservatives Look Like the World’s Biggest Suckers, Daily Beast

Matt Lewis writes, “[C]onservatives would do well to learn from recent mistakes: in this case, the Maria Butina (accused Russian agent) drama and Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest comedic shtick. Both situations demonstrate how prominent conservative political figures are vulnerable to being duped….[I]n a Washington Post opinion piece, Alan Elsner of J Street suggests that Cohen’s persona as an Israeli military officer made conservatives predisposed to go along with whatever he wanted to do. ‘How Cohen did it says a lot about the reflexive support for Israel that many Americans—particularly many Republicans—now espouse, to the point that they’re willing to switch off their critical faculties when Israel is mentioned,’ Elsner writes.”

Top News and Analysis

Israeli Soldier Killed by Gunfire on the Gaza Border, Haaretz

An Israeli soldier was killed Friday when he was hit by Hamas gunfire along the Gaza border, according to the Israeli army. He was evacuated to Soroka Medical Center in the southern city of Be’er Sheva after he came under sniper fire and was declared dead at the hospital….The soldier is the first to be killed on the Gaza front in active duty since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, an Israeli army spokesman said.

Israel to Reopen Gaza’s Only Commercial Crossing if Calm Persists, Defense Chief Says, Haaretz

“Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Sunday that if the Gaza border remains quiet Israel will reopen Kerem Shalom – Gaza’s only commercial crossing – in the coming days….Haaretz reported Saturday that defense establishment will recommend that the government take measures to make life easier for Gazans and give a chance to understandings reached between Egypt and Hamas over the weekend….Lieberman noted that Saturday ‘was the calmest day perhaps since March 30.’ He said responsibility for maintaining the calm rests with Gaza residents and the pressure they exert on the Hamas leadership.”

Israel Aids Evacuation of Hundreds of ‘White Helmets’ and Families in Syria, The New York Times

“Israel has facilitated the evacuation of hundreds of rescue workers, known as the White Helmets, and their families from an embattled pocket of southern Syria, helping them to travel through Israeli-held territory to reach Jordan, Israeli and Jordanian officials said on Sunday. The move in a part of Syria where pro-government forces are advancing followed a push by Western countries including the United States to protect members of the White Helmets, volunteer emergency workers who rush to the scene of airstrikes in civilian areas.”

Mass Tel Aviv Rally Caps Day of Nation-wide Protests Against anti-LGBT Discrimination, Haaretz

Some 60,000 people attended a rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Sunday evening, according to police estimates, capping a day of demonstrations and a partial strike around the country in support of equal rights for Israel’s LGBT population. The strike call and demonstrations were sparked by the amendment to the surrogacy law and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s actions — saying Monday that he supports surrogacy for single fathers, but voting Wednesday against an amendment that would have done that. But the wave of protest, gained momentum over the past few days, appears to go far beyond opposition to a specific law, relating more generally to what the protesters say is a deprivation of the rights of LGBT individuals in many aspects of life.


Jordan complains after hundreds of Jews visit the Temple Mount for Tisha B’Av, JTA

A record 1,440 Jews visited the Temple Mount on Sunday to commemorate the Fast of Tisha B’Av. The total was provided by the Yeraeh organization, which facilitates Jewish visits to the Temple Mount. Last year nearly 1,300 visited the site. Some 400 visited in 2016 and 300 in 2015, the Jerusalem Post reported. At least 15 visitors were arrested, most for bowing down or praying at the site, which is prohibited by police for fear of sparking Muslim riots.

Israel fires on Gazans launching flaming balloons, breaking short period of calm, Times of Israel

An Israeli aircraft fired at a group of Palestinians launching incendiary balloons into southern Israel from the northern Gaza Strip, the army said, breaking two days of relative calm along the border. The Hamas-run Gazan health ministry said two people were injured in the strike. It listed the injuries as light to moderate.

Pompeo invokes human rights to defend administration’s Iran policy, Axios

Speaking on Sunday before a partially Iranian American audience at the Reagan Foundation in southern California, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran’s leaders of stealing the country’s resources to spread revolution abroad and oppress Iran’s 80 million people.

Israeli Air-defenses Activated After Syrian Missiles Detected Heading Into Israeli Territory, Haaretz

Israel made its first operational use of the David’s Sling missile defense system Monday morning when it identified the launch of two Syrian surface-to-surface missiles, the military said. The military investigation found that, while airborne, one of the Syrian missiles changed course and was expected to fall in Syrian territory. Therefore, one of the interceptor missiles was ordered to self-destruct. Israel also launched another interceptor missile at the second Syrian rocket, but it was still unclear if it hit its target.

Israeli east Jerusalem plan gets cool Palestinian reaction, Associated Press

A landmark half-billion-dollar Israeli plan to develop Palestinian areas of east Jerusalem and hoist residents out of poverty is getting a cool reception from the very people who are supposed to benefit.

Druze Lawmakers File First Court Challenge to Israel’s Nation-state Law, Haaretz

Three Druze MKs on Sunday joined a number of Druze groups in filing the first High Court of Justice petition against the Nation-State Law, which was passed by the Knesset last week. The petitioners seek annulment of the law, officially known as the Basic Law on Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, or parts of it, and to prevent its publication in the state’s Official Gazette, whereby it officially becomes law. They argue that it violates basic rights such as the right to equality, and deems that non-Jewish minorities have no status in the state.

Syrian rebels begin evacuating Golan frontier, Reuters

Syrian rebels began evacuating the border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Friday, leaving for the rebel-held north in a surrender deal that restores President Bashar al-Assad’s control of the frontier.

Obama’s peace envoy: Israel carrying out ‘reversed Oslo’ in West Bank, Times of Israel

Speaking to The Times of Israel last week, former senior State Department official Frank Lowenstein said that Israel was implementing “Oslo reversed,” in which the Jewish state has been gradually transferring power to Israeli settlers in the West Bank rather than to the Palestinian Authority as originally agreed in the bilateral accords of the 1990s.

Opinion and Analysis

Israel’s ‘Jewish state’ law is the latest assault on its Arab citizens, Los Angeles Times

The LA Times editorial board writes, “In practice, Arabs in Israel have often been treated as second-class citizens. Their schools and healthcare institutions are more poorly funded, their roads aren’t always as well maintained. They’ve faced limitations on where they can live and buy property. Even in a ‘Jewish state,’ it is wrong to privilege some people over others. Of course many Arabs in Israel sympathize with the Palestinian cause or object to the very idea of Israel. But they are citizens, and should be treated as such. Rather than create a two-tiered society, Israel should treat all its citizens fairly, while also working to reinvigorate the peace process. An independent, sovereign Palestinian state is the best hope for reducing tension between these two historically hostile peoples.”

To Maintain Gaza Cease-fire, Hamas Expects More From Israel Than Just Incentives, Haaretz

Amos Harel reports, “If the quiet is maintained, Israel and Hamas will have to overcome the next, higher hurdle. Hamas expects a quick easing of the blockade on the Gaza Strip in return for the cease-fire. The IDF is indeed suggesting that the government grant extensive relief. Lieberman, who visited the Kerem Shalom crossing on Sunday, promised to reopen it to regular traffic on Tuesday if the quiet continues. But the Palestinians are expecting much more than this. They want to see the start of a comprehensive fix of the infrastructure problems in the Gaza Strip, the approval of new economic projects and permits for Gazans to work in the Sinai Peninsula and perhaps even in Israel.”

The Unavoidable Obstacle to LGBT Equality, Religious Pluralism and a Liberal Israel: It’s the Occupation, Stupid, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “It’s the occupation, stupid. Not all of it, but most of it. If not for the occupation, gay men would not have been excluded from Israel’s new surrogacy law, the police would never have arrested a Conservative rabbi for deviating from arcane Halakha law, American Jews could feel at home here, Israelis could decide how and where they get married, the Rabbinate’s monopoly would be broken, women would be equal, yeshiva students would have to reach a reasonable arrangement on their recruitment to the army, the Knesset would stop destroying Israeli democracy and Israel could get back on track to becoming a proudly liberal state. The rising tides of nationalism and incitement would also recede and the resentment of Israeli Arabs subside.”

Palestinians outraged at Jewish nation-state law, Al-Monitor

Daoud Kuttab reports, “The decision has angered the 1.8 million Palestinian citizens of Israel who represent about 20% of the total population. Ayman Odeh, the head of the 13-person parliamentary Joint (Arab) List, told thousands of protesters in Tel Aviv July 14, ‘The nation-state bill won’t make us disappear, but it will massively harm democracy.’….PLO leaders have focused on the word ‘apartheid’ because of its inclusion in the International Criminal Court as a crime against humanity. The state of Palestine has joined the ICC as a full member, which allows it to take legal action against countries violating international norms.”

Tisha B’Av and the mainstreaming of the Temple discourse, +972

Yudith Oppenheimer writes, “Israel is at a dangerous crossroads. Many sectors within it have already chosen, some actively and others passively, the paradigm of the Temple. It has been embedded in the political realm and is now penetrating daily discourse, school curricula and all spheres of Israeli existence. The further Israel moves from a just and sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the more it finds itself in need of the imaginary and symbols of the religious right and the Temple movements while rejecting any other narrative.”