News Roundup for March 2, 2017

March 2, 2017

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J Street in the News

40,000 Sign Petition Against Trump’s Israel Envoy Pick David Friedman, Haaretz

“In their bid to block the nomination of David Friedman as the American ambassador to Israel, progressive Jewish organizations have presented members of the U.S. Senate with a petition signed by 40,000 people opposed to the appointment. More than 600 members of J Street, the pro-Israel anti-occupation group that is spearheading the anti-Friedman campaign, fanned out over Capitol Hill on Tuesday where they hand-delivered the petition to Senate offices and held more than 150 meetings…..The signatures on the petition were gathered in recent weeks in collaboration with the New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel and Ameinu. The petition describes Friedman as ‘a threat to longstanding U.S. policies in the Middle East that have been supported by Democratic and Republican presidents alike.’ As part of their campaign, the progressive Jewish organizations have also been urging their supporters to call the offices of their senators to express their opposition to Friedman’s appointment. According to J Street, this appeal generated thousands of phone calls.”

J Street Calls on White House Not to Eliminate Vital Anti-Semitism Monitor Position, J Street

“J Street calls on the White House not to eliminate the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism position in the US State Department. It was reported earlier this week that the move could come as part of President Trump’s first budget, amidst massive proposed cuts to State Department funding….In this disturbing time of rising anti-Semitism in the United States – following the desecration of Jewish cemeteries and another wave of bomb threats targeting Jewish schools and institutions – American Jews need reassurance from the Trump administration that it is seriously committed to fighting bigotry against Jews and other minority groups both in our country and abroad. Eliminating the Special Envoy position, no matter the justification, would send the opposite message.”

Top News and Analysis

Attorney general won’t defend contentious outpost law in court, Times of Israel

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Wednesday officially notified the High Court of Justice that he will not defend challenges to a newly passed law that legalizes Israeli West Bank settlements built on private Palestinian land. The legality of the highly contentious Regulation Law is being challenged in the High Court by the Silwad Municipality, along with several other local Palestinian authorities.

U.S. seeks end to U.N. rights council’s ‘obsession’ with Israel, Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is reviewing its participation in the U.N. Human Rights Council, seeking reform of its agenda and an end to its “obsession with Israel”, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday. Washington has long argued that the Geneva forum unfairly focuses on Israel’s alleged violations of human rights, including war crimes against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. The United States “remains deeply troubled by the Council’s consistent unfair and unbalanced focus on one democratic country, Israel”, Erin Barclay, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, told the U.N. Human Rights Council.

News

West Bank Home of Israeli Lawmaker Who Championed Land-grab Law Built Illegally, Haaretz

The house in which MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) lives in the West Bank settlement of Kedumim was built illegally and might be on private Palestinian land, Haaretz has learned. Smotrich spearheaded legislation to legalize settlement homes built illegally on private Palestinian land.

Rocket fired from Gaza explodes on Ashkelon beach, JTA

A rocket fired from Gaza exploded on the beach in Ashkelon in southern Israel. The rocket fired late Wednesday night is the at least fifth in the last month and the second this week, including several claimed by an ISIS-backed group operating in the Sinai Peninsula.

Trump Surrogate Walks Back ‘False Flag’ Tweet On JCC Threat, Forward

Anthony Scaramucci, wealthy financier and friend of President Trump, walked back comments on Wednesday that insinuated Democrats might have been responsible for threats phoned into dozens of Jewish community centers around the country. “I’m not suggesting the Democrats were behind it. What I was really suggesting in that tweet is that we actually don’t know who’s behind it,” he said in a tense interview with CNN’s Alyse Camarota, as she confronted him over his tweets.

Netanyahu Says He Urged White House to Pull U.S. From UN Rights Council, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he suggested to the White House that the U.S. cut its ties with the United Nations Human Rights Council, according to a recording of a meeting he held with Israeli lawmakers. The administration, it was reported Wednesday, is reviewing its participation in the human rights body over the forum’s “obsession with Israel”, a senior U.S. official said.

Army Intelligence Chief Says Hezbollah and Hamas Don’t Seek Clash With Israel, but Warns Gaza on Verge of Crisis, Haaretz

Hezbollah and Hamas do not seek a military confrontation with Israel in the near future, Military Intelligence chief Herzl Halevi told Knesset members Wednesday, while noting that the economically ailing Gaza is nearing a crisis under Hamas’ leadership.

Gunshot Fired Through Window Of Indiana Synagogue, Forward

A gunshot was fired through the window of an Indiana synagogue. The bullet hole was discovered late Monday in the window of a Sunday School classroom at Adath B’Nai Israel Temple in Evansville. The apparent attack was reported to police on Tuesday morning, according to reports.

Israeli TV Host Denounces Treatment Of Palestinians: ‘Apartheid Has Been Here For Ages’, Huffington Post

An Israeli television host used the final episode of his late-night show to sharply criticize the country’s treatment of Palestinians, comparing settlement efforts in Gaza and the West Bank to South Africa’s apartheid era. Assaf Harel, the host of the nighttime comedy show “Good Night With Assaf Harel,” used his final monologue to condemn Israelis for their “amazing ability to ignore what’s happening mere kilometers away.”

Keith Ellison Demands Hate Crime Probe Of Cemetery Desecrations, Forward

Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging him to investigate the recent desecration of a Jewish cemetery as a hate crime. Ellison, D-Minn., called on Sessions to designate the attack on the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, in which more than 150 headstones were overturned and damaged, as a hate crime. Less than a week later, about 100 headstones were toppled at the Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia.

Opinion and Analysis

Bernie Sanders Signals Liberal Push To End Israel’s Occupation — With Two States Or One, Forward

Peter Beinart argues, “At the J Street Conference on February 27, Bernie Sanders delivered one of the most intriguing Israel-related speeches an American politician has given in years. Read it carefully, and you can grasp Donald Trump’s radicalizing impact on the America-Israel debate. The more Trump and his advisers question long-standing taboos by shifting right, the more Democrats will do the same by shifting left.”

Israel has no Gaza policy, Al-Monitor

Ben Caspit writes, “Netanyahu has yet to come up with a policy on how to handle Gaza and Hamas. He has not yet decided whether he wants the Hamas regime to continue ruling Gaza in the long term. There is no serious Israeli effort to improve living conditions in the Gaza Strip. Yes, there is a lot of talk, such as remarks by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who said that if Hamas stops digging its tunnels and dealing in terrorism against Israel, Israel will agree to the construction of a seaport for Gaza, the gradual lifting of the closure and maybe even allowing laborers from Gaza to enter Israel for work. But there is very little activity.”

Volatile and dangerous: a look at the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Ynet

Elior Levy observes, “Though the last few days in Israel have been all about the comptroller’s report on the Security Cabinet’s actions and decision during Operation Protective Edge, the current humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip got no more than a side note in the body of the report. The situation at present is dire as it is, but it’s even more concerning due to past experience with Hamas: when faced with public unrest, Hamas has repeatedly chosen to deflect any criticism off itself by instigating a confrontation with Israel.”

An Open Letter to Jerry Silverman, EJewishPhilanthropy

Russel Neiss writes to the head of the Jewish Federations of North America. “As you’re no doubt aware, the head of your board, Richard (who I wrote to a couple months ago), was reported to have recently said that a man who has called other Jews, ‘worse than kapos’ would be a ‘good representative’ to serve as US ambassador to Israel. These statements were allegedly made during a Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting which Richard was presumably attending as a representative of JFNA/UIA as JFNA Board Chair….Does the JFNA professional staff or board believe that it’s ok for its representatives or representatives of its local affiliates to express a personal view, based upon one’s analysis of a situation in order to encourage discussion on any topic? Put another way, if Richard were to have voiced support for BDS initiatives to end Israel’s military presence in the areas of Judea & Samaria that are currently not annexed, would that have also been ok?”

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