News Roundup for March 22, 2017

March 22, 2017

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J Street in the News

The entry law bars too many Zionists, Times of Israel

J Street U national board member Rikki Baker Keusch writes, “I am leading a pro-Israel trip with the purpose of producing future pro-Israel political world leaders, but if not for my ability to enter on an Israeli passport, Israel might try to keep me out of the country entirely. All because of my anti-settlement views….The bill equates being pro-Israel with being pro-settlements, and implies that critics who understand that settlements put Israelis in serious danger are not welcome. We’ve seen the Israeli left threatened and slandered for trying to preserve Israel’s Jewish and democratic character, all while settlement expansion continues to threaten the only Jewish state. This bill continues the trend. I am bringing 50 future world leaders to Israel in a week, and I don’t know what I’m supposed to tell them about the state of Israel’s democracy. I want the students to love Israel like I do, but I can’t hide that the current government values settlements over peace, or lie about my fear that Israel will one day declare I’m too left-wing to be an Israeli.”

Top News and Analysis

American Billionaires Are Pouring Money Into an Emerging Jewish Battleground, Bloomberg

Jonathan Ferziger reports, “The truth is that even over the past eight years, as U.S. policy frowned on settlement construction, money kept flowing to Beit El from billionaires abroad.”

Bibi the Invincible: Netanyahu Is Acting Irrationally but Political Arithmetic Is in His Favor, Haaretz

Anshel Pfeffer argues, “Netanyahu truly believes he is omnipotent….Netanyahu doesn’t see any rival on the horizon who can both win the top spot in an election and form their own coalition without him, as long as he has the right-wing and the ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, parties in the bag – and he does. Let them call his bluff. He will win an early election: The public doesn’t like him but can’t see an alternative to his leadership either. This is just how he likes his coalition. With Kahlon fighting the Likud ministers. With Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman squaring off over firing big-mouthed rabbis. With the Likudniks squabbling among themselves and Netanyahu’s old Haredi allies quietly controlling the purse strings through the Knesset Finance Committee. Meanwhile, the opposition is in even greater disarray, split between the autocratic Yesh Atid and disorganized Labor.”

The Denationalization of American Muslims, The Atlantic

Peter Beinart writes, “For a decade and a half, [Frank] Gaffney, a former Reagan administration Pentagon official who heads a small Washington think tank called the Center for Security Policy, has been making two interrelated arguments. First, that the Muslim Brotherhood—which he claims seeks to replace the United States Constitution with a Caliphate based upon Sharia law—secretly controls most American mosques and Muslim organizations. Second, that Islam is not actually a religion. It is a totalitarian political ideology. Thus, its adherents should be treated not like Christians or Jews, but like American Nazis during World War II….In crucial ways, what Gaffney believes about American Muslims is not new. His theory resembles conspiracy theories about vulnerable minority groups in the past….[R]educing Muslim immigration is only one part of the Trump administration’s effort to counter supposed Muslim subversion of the United States. Stigmatizing Muslims already in the country is the other.”


Netanyahu Disputes Claims: Russia’s Policy on Israeli Strikes in Syria Hasn’t Changed, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed Tuesday that Russia’s policy regarding Israeli airstrikes on Hezbollah weapon convoys in Syria hasn’t changed. Netanyahu, who is in China, made the remarks at a press briefing in the wake of claims by senior Syrian figures that Russia has made it clear that it will no longer allow Israel to operate freely in Syria’s airspace.

An Anti-Muslim Leader Says She’s Going To The White House, Buzzfeed

Brigitte Gabriel, one of the most influential anti-Muslim leaders currently in America, said Monday evening she has a meeting at the White House. Gabriel — who once said “every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim” — founded the group ACT for America in 2007. The White House said that it did not have any information regarding a meeting with Gabriel.

Ex-Mossad Chief Says Occupation Is Israel’s Only Existential Threat, Haaretz

Former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo asserted on Tuesday that the Israeli occupation and the conflict with the Palestinians are the only existential threat facing Israel. “Israel has chosen not to choose, hoping the conflict will resolve itself – perhaps the Arabs will disappear, maybe some cosmic miracle will happen,” Pardo told a conference at the Netanya Academic College. “One day we will become a binational state because it will be impossible to untie the Gordian knot between the two peoples. That is not the way to decide.” Pardo stated: “Israel has one existential threat. It is a ticking time bomb. We chose to stick our head in the sand, creating a variety of external threats. An almost identical number of Jews and Muslims reside between the sea and the Jordan. The non-Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria live under occupation. This is Israel’s definition, not mine. The law in this territory is as we have made it, a military justice system that is subject to the authority of the Israel Defense Forces.”

Ohio State Hillel Expels LGBTQ Group Over Refugees Fundraiser, Forward

Following its decision to co-sponsor a fundraiser for queer refugees with Jewish Voice for Peace, Ohio State University’s gay Jewish group has been stripped of its organizational status and funding by the campus Hillel.

2,000 reservists train for war in Gaza with surprise drill, Times of Israel

Some 2,000 reserve soldiers were called up this week to simulate war in the Gaza Strip, as part of the military’s largest planned exercise of 2017, the army said. The surprise drill began on Sunday. It was conducted by the Sinai Division, the Southern Command’s reserve division. The exercise included four reserve brigades — two infantry and two armored brigades.

Opinion and Analysis

AIPAC 2017 preview: Seeking a bipartisan spirit in an extremely polarized capital, JTA

Ron Kampeas writes, “Maintaining Iran sanctions, crushing BDS and ensuring aid to Israel are high on the agenda, of course. But the overarching message at this year’s conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is, if you want a break from polarization, come join us….That might seem a stretch following two tense years in which AIPAC faced off against the Obama administration – and by extension much of the Democratic congressional delegation – over the Iran nuclear deal. But check out the roster of conference speakers and you can see the lobby is trying hard…Notably absent from the agenda is any item that robustly declares support for a two-state outcome. AIPAC officials say the longtime U.S. policy remains very much on their agenda, but the lobby’s apparent soft pedaling of the issue is notable at a time when other mainstream groups, including the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, have been assertive in urging the U.S. and Israeli governments to preserve it.”

Trump’s White House Welcomes 5 New Far-Right Figures, Forward

Sam Kestenbaum reports, “The far-right is getting closer to President Donald Trump’s White House. While Stephen Bannon, former editor of “alt-right” platform Breitbart News, is one of Trump’s closest advisors, a new flock of far-right figures is also making inroads to the highest office in the nation. A handful of new White House hires have ties to Breitbart and a similar far-right website World Net Daily. And two actual internet trolls with “alt-right” followings are now reporting from the White House pressroom.”

Trump-jolted Settlers Have a Doomsday Weapon vs. a Peace Plan: White Evangelicals, Haaretz

Bradley Burston observes, “Analysts have given Trump little chance of succeeding where his predecessors have failed. But that is cold comfort to the settlement movement. Where Trump is concerned, the collective failures of analysts have proven to be spectacular. It should also be noted that with all of the settlement movement’s successes on the ground, for all that it has fueled and enshrined occupation for a half century, polls consistently show that it has yet to persuade the majority of Israelis to abandon the two-state solution, nor to hold the movement in anywhere near the esteem the movement lavishes on itself.  The settlers also know that their commanding position in the Netanyahu government is a function of how fragile the prime minister’s rule may be.”

For Jewish Federations: Left-wing on Israel Bad, anti-Muslim Radical Right Good?, Haaretz

Russel Neiss argues, “For the past several months, local federation lay leaders, Jewish professionals, and young Jewish activists throughout the country, have all urged the Jewish Federations of North America to take a stronger stance against the policies and appointees of the Trump administration that many see as dangerous to the Jewish community, our values, our allies, and our communal priorities….But while JFNA claims to support a policy of neutrality and consensus building on politically sensitive topics, the truth is they and their affiliates often have no problem aligning themselves with radical right-wing views, speakers and organizations, while simultaneously diminishing voices on the left under the guise of ‘communal consensus.’”

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