“In a separate statement issued Wednesday, the liberal Mideast policy group J Street said it is ‘outraged and appalled by reports that the Trump administration is considering the construction of tent camps to house thousands of migrant children, some of whom the government forcibly separated from their parents.’ The statement called it ‘stunning to see, in the United States of America, in the 21st century, such hideous echoes of the historical experiences of the Jewish people. Our history and our values have taught us to recognize and despise bigotry, persecution and state-sponsored outrages against vulnerable groups. This history and these values compel us to do all that we can to speak out and fight back against the Trump administration’s deeply cruel and un-American policies.”
Fight Like a Mensch: Integrated Social Change, E Jewish Philanthropy
“What was the program at the J Street National Conference, held in April, that was so pressing that every seat was taken, the floor was filled to overflow and the doors had to be barred to additional participants? To the surprise of the organizers, it was a session titled “Fight Like a Mensch” that promised strategies for maintaining our humanity and decency in the heat of political battles – in this instance, working for a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine, but apt for any number of issues facing Jews in this turbulent, disrupted 21st century.”
Colum Lynch and Robbie Gramer report, “A senior advisor to the State Department appointed just two months ago has been quietly vetting career diplomats and American employees of international institutions to determine whether they are loyal to President Donald Trump and his political agenda, according to nearly a dozen current and former U.S. officials. Mari Stull, a former food and beverage lobbyist-turned-wine blogger under the name ‘Vino Vixen,’ has reviewed the social media pages of State Department staffers for signs of ideological deviation….’She is actively making lists and gathering intel,’ said one of the sources, a senior diplomat.”
“The Ministerial Committee for Legislation is expected to approve a bill on Sunday that seeks to ban documentation and distribution of any reports about confrontations between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians with the intent either to harm national security or to ‘break the spirit of Israeli soldiers and inhabitants.’ The legislation, proposed by Robert Ilatov of Yisrael Beitenu, has won the support of that party’s leader, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the Kulanu party, headed by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.”
Benjamin Netanyahu Could Be Heading for a Fifth Term. Or to Court, Bloomberg Businessweek
Matthew Campbell and Gwen Ackerman write, “With legal threats mounting, Netanyahu has lashed out against the very system he leads, accusing investigators of being unethical, biased, and determined to bring him down regardless of the evidence. His allies in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, have proposed laws that would restrict the powers of police and judges to hold politicians to account. To his critics, this assault risks undermining Israel’s claims to being a vibrant, Western-style democracy—one that shares crucial values with its closest allies. Remove those common principles, and the relationships Israel needs to survive in a dangerous neighborhood could become much harder to maintain.”
Mazal Mualem writes “When Avi Gabbay was elected in July 2017 to head the Labor Party, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid was among his many well-wishers….Less than a year later, the possibility of creating a meaningful center-left bloc to stand up to the right and lead to a change in government has been shattered. The two leaders of the significant opposition parties failed to effectively cooperate in the Knesset to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as they were too busy slinging mud at each other. Netanyahu is reaping the benefits.”
Israel has attacked Iranian-backed Shi’ite Muslim militias in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday, casting such actions as potentially helping to stem a Syrian Sunni Muslim refugee exodus to Europe.
A group identifying as the organizers behind the incendiary kite initiative in the Gaza Strip said they planned to launch 5,000 such kites and balloons carrying flammable materials at Israel on Friday.
IDF said to mull shooting Gazans preparing fire kites, Times of Israel
The IDF is looking into the legality of targeting groups of Palestinians preparing to send incendiary kites and balloons from Gaza into Israel, according to a Thursday report, as the army searches for ways to stop a spate of launches causing fires across the border. The army has recently stepped up firing warning shots at groups it sees preparing kites and helium balloons to send into Israel, but has thus far refrained from shooting at them.
About 50 residents of the northern city of Afula demonstrated on Thursday for the second day in a row against the sale of the house to an Arab family. Signs saying “Fighting for home” and “We will not give the neighborhood to Islam” were put up in front of the house, with protesters holding up Israeli flags.
In first such event, Russia celebrates its national day in Jerusalem, Times of Israel
The Russian Embassy in Israel on Thursday evening for the first time hosted its National Day reception in Jerusalem, a nod to Moscow’s April 2017 recognition of Western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he had been totally vindicated of any suspicions that he acted dishonorably in a corruption investigation case involving the purchase of submarines and boats from a German shipbuilder….Police are reportedly set to recommend indicting five suspects in the case, including Netanyahu’s former adviser and confidant Yitzchak Molcho and the PM’s personal lawyer and cousin David Shimron.
Simon Tisdall writes, “The arbitrary arrest and jailing of Nasrin Sotoudeh, a leading Iranian human rights lawyer, is a crude act of state aggression against a courageous individual, and another heavy blow to the rule of law in Iran. It comes amid an intensifying judicial crackdown on dissent….The crackdown on dissent follows demonstrations across Iran in December that were sparked by economic woes but quickly became anti-regime in nature. It also comes in the context of a losing battle by European countries to maintain lines of communication with Rouhani after Donald Trump reneged on the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran, reimposed sanctions, and implied support for forcible regime change.”
Rabbi Beth Janus writes, “Moses was bold in hearing from constituents who were deeply unhappy and approaching them with a presumably open mind and heart. We too should show humility; trust in the Divine; and listen, debate and engage with those with whom we disagree. When we remember not to emulate Dathan and Abiram in our quest for justice in Israel, then will we take our place alongside Moses, as people who argue “for the sake of heaven.”