News Roundup for May 15, 2018

May 15, 2018

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J Street in the News

A Grotesque Spectacle in Jerusalem, The New York Times

Michelle Goldberg writes, “The more Trumpism and Israel are intertwined, the more left-leaning Americans will grow alienated from Zionism. Even before Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu helped open a partisan divide on Israel in American politics, where previously there had been stultifying unanimity. ‘Until these past few years, you’d never heard the word ‘occupation’ or ‘settlements’ or talk about Gaza,’ Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal pro-Israel group J Street, said of American politicians. But Ben-Ami told me that since 2015, when Netanyahu tried to undercut President Barack Obama with a controversial address to Congress opposing the Iran deal, Democrats have felt more emboldened. ‘That changed the calculus forever,’ he told me.”

Washington praises Jerusalem embassy opening despite Palestinian death toll, Guardian

“Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, the Washington-based liberal Jewish advocacy group, argued that the move was a political decision calculated to feed Trump’s base. ‘The whole day needs to be viewed through the lens of American domestic politics. From the narrow view of the 40% of the country that Trump represents, this was a political win; the other 60% would not see it that way. It’s a loss for all of us who really care about the long-term peace and security situation of both peoples.’”

Celebration in Jerusalem, Bloodshed in Gaza, The Atlantic

“Even as the mood was celebratory at the embassy opening, with guests eagerly chatting over festive march music, it took place amid chaos and controversy. Left-wing American Jewish groups like J Street object to the embassy move, predicting in December that it would ‘anger key Arab allies, foment regional instability and undermine nascent U.S. diplomatic efforts to resolve the larger conflict.’”

US Military Dispatched to Protect Middle East Embassies After Trump’s Jerusalem Embassy Move, Newsweek

“‘The opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and official American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital should be a moment of celebration for all of us who feel deeply connected to Jerusalem and recognize its importance to the Jewish people over the millennia. However, the manner and timing of this move were designed to advance the agenda of right-wing political leaders in the U.S. and Israel, rather than the interest of Americans, Israelis and Palestinians in resolving the conflict,’ Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the advocacy group J Street, said Monday. ‘Israel’s capital is in Jerusalem and it should be internationally recognized as such in the context of an agreed two-state solution that also establishes a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. In the absence of that final agreement between the parties on the city’s status, blanket recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is premature and divisive,’ Ben-Ami added.”

BBC World Service

Jeremy Ben-Ami discusses the right-wing influences that impacted the president’s Jerusalem decision.

President Trump celebrates the opening of U.S. embassy in Jerusalem from afar amid violent protests sending Jared and Ivanka and Steve Mnuchin instead, Daily Mail

“J Street, a liberal advocacy group pursuing Middle East peace, said the Trump administration had hurt the prospects of a deal with the embassy relocation in a scathing Monday statement called it a ‘victory for the far-right agenda of President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu – but not for the long-term interests of Israelis, Palestinians or the United States.’ ‘This move has only undermined the prospects for peace, exacerbated tensions and undercut US standing as an effective mediator,’ J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami said. ‘This isn’t policy – it’s pandering to a narrow political base.’”

Statement on Today’s Events in Jerusalem and Gaza, J Street

“Today — as Israel marks the 70th anniversary of its independence and Palestinians mark their “Naqba” (catastrophe) — events both in Jerusalem and Gaza demonstrate how far the sides are from resolving their conflict. They underscore the fact that there are too many on both sides seeking to inflame rather than reduce tensions in order to serve their own political purposes. The losers today are people of good will on both sides who seek nothing more than the peace and security that can only come from achieving a two-state solution to the conflict. Today’s events in Israel are also a stark reminder of the disastrous consequences of the policies of President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu for the interests of the US and for the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.”

Bernie wants his “revolution” to upend U.S. foreign policy, Vice News

“In April, Sanders gave a speech at the national conference for J Street, an advocacy groups focused on peace between Israel and the Arab world, where he said Israel had ‘massively overreacted’ to the recent Gaza protests that have left dozens of Palestinians dead. This week, Sanders delivered an immediate rebuttal to Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement in a Facebook Live that attracted 1.3 million views.”

Top News and Analysis

Israel Kills Dozens at Gaza Border as U.S. Embassy Opens in Jerusalem, The New York Times

“A mass attempt by Palestinians to cross the border fence separating Israel from Gaza turned violent, as Israeli soldiers responded with rifle fire. Monday became the bloodiest day since the campaign of demonstrations began seven weeks ago to protest Israel’s economic blockade of Gaza. Tens of thousands of Palestinians took part in the Gaza protests. Protests also took place on the West Bank, where the focus was the embassy move. By late in the evening, 58 Palestinians, including several teenagers, had been killed and more than 1,350 wounded by gun fire, the Health Ministry said. Israeli soldiers and snipers used barrages of tear gas as well as live gunfire to keep protesters from entering Israeli territory. The Israeli military said that some in the crowds were planting or hurling explosives, and that many were flying flaming kites into Israel; at least one kite outside the Nahal Oz kibbutz, near Gaza City, ignited a wildfire…. Emergency workers with stretchers carried off a stream of injured protesters, many with leg wounds but some having been shot in the abdomen. A number were teenagers.”

Jerusalem welcomes the new U.S. Embassy as Palestinians decry ‘hostile’ move, Washington Post

“An American delegation including White House officials and major GOP donors officially opened the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, handing Israel a long-sought victory but touching off fresh clashes from outraged Palestinians. The ceremony — attended by President Trump’s daughter Ivanka — capped Trump’s pledge to shift the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to offer diplomatic recognition to Israel’s claim of Jerusalem as its capital. The backdrop underscored the repercussions unleashed by the decision. European allies offered more denunciations of the move as a serious blow to peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians, who also view part of Jerusalem as capital for a possible future state.”

Messianic U.S.-Israel Axis Showcased at Jerusalem Embassy Ceremony Is Gut-punch for Most American Jews, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “Whether one accepts the Palestinian narrative of hungry masses demonstrating for dignity, or the Israeli version of a cynical exploitation of human lives as cover for homicidal intent, there is no doubt that the scores of dead and many hundreds of wounded on the Gaza border spoiled Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump’s extravaganza. The more the casualties in Gaza mounted, the more those assembled at the site of the new American embassy in Jerusalem seemed arrogant, detached and mainly devoid of compassion. As more and more reports and tweets came in about the mounting casualties in Gaza’s day of bloodshed, the worst since the 2014 Protective Edge operation, the more the claim that the embassy move could actually help achieve peace seemed both cynical and ridiculous.”

By ending the Iran deal, Trump has put America on the path to war, Guardian

Senator Bernie Sanders writes, “President Trump’s bellicose speech last week clearly seemed to shift American policy toward the same goal of regime change that underlay the Iraq war. Real American leadership, and real American power, is not shown by our ability to blow things up, but by our ability to bring parties together, to forge international consensus around shared problems, and then to mobilize that consensus to address those problems. That is what the JCPOA did. Unfortunately, President Trump has now chosen to put us on a very different, more dangerous path.”


Palestinian protests at Gaza border delayed as funerals take place for at least 58 dead, JTA

Palestinians delayed protesting at the Gaza border fence on Tuesday afternoon as funerals for the at least 58 victims of the previous date’s violence took place.

Abbas pans new US Embassy as a ‘settlement outpost’ in Jerusalem, Times of Israel

Hours after the United States moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem on Monday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas slammed the new mission as a “settlement outpost.” Abbas vowed that the Palestinians will not engage in peace talks mediated by the US “in any way, shape or form.”

U.S. Blocks Security Council Statement Calling for Investigation Into Gaza Violence, Haaretz

The Trump administration on Monday blocked a UN Security Council statement that was intended to call for an investigation of the events on the Israel-Gaza border. The statement, circulated by Kuwait, was supposed to include an expression of rage and sorrow on behalf of the Security Council over the deaths of more than 50 Palestinians, who were shot dead by the IDF during protests near the border fence. However, the U.S. blocked it from being adopted and published.

Jared Kushner Blames Palestinians Killed In Protests For Causing Unrest, Forward

In his address at the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, Jared Kushner blamed Palestinian protestors, dozens of whom were killed by Israeli security, for causing unrest. “Those provoking problems like we see today in Gaza are part of the problem and not part of the solution,” Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and top Middle East advisor, said at the commencement ceremony.

Reform leader ‘alarmed, concerned and profoundly saddened’ by Gaza deaths, JTA

Reform Jewish leader Rabbi Rick Jacobs said he was “alarmed, concerned and profoundly saddened” by the deaths of more than 50 Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border. “That Israel has the right, and even the obligation, to defend herself and her borders is beyond dispute,” Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said in a statement Monday afternoon. “But we are alarmed, concerned, and profoundly saddened by the growing number of Gazan dead and wounded. It does not have to be this way.”

South Africa recalls envoy to Israel over ‘violent aggression’ on Gaza border, Times of Israel

South Africa on Monday recalled its ambassador to Israel “until further notice,” in protest of the deaths of at least 55 Palestinians in violent clashes with Israeli troops on the Gaza border earlier in the day. “The South African government condemns in the strongest terms possible the latest act of violent aggression carried out by Israeli armed forces along the Gaza border‚ which has led to the deaths of over 40 civilians‚” a statement from the country’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation said.

Opinions and Analysis

A look at Robert Jeffress, the controversial figure giving the prayer at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem today, Washington Post

“One of President Trump’s closest evangelical advisers gave the prayer Monday at the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. But Robert Jeffress’s past comments about other faiths, including Judaism, followed him to the event….Long before Jeffress began defending Trump on cable news, he made headlines for attacking other Americans whose faith is different from his own — something former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney noted Sunday on Twitter.”

How Racism Marred The Jerusalem Embassy Celebration, Forward

Peter Beinart writes, “These are salad days for the Israeli and American Jewish right. The Trump and Netanyahu administrations don’t have to pretend they support a Palestinian state. And they can surround themselves with people who proudly declare their bigotry towards Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims. Hubris, however, rarely ends well. And, somewhere, the other America is watching.”

The Zionist Founders of the Human Rights Movement, The New York Times

James Loeffler writes, “To those of us who follow the history of Zionism and the history of human rights, it is both strange and tragic to consider the current state of affairs. What the modern left has forgotten is the fact that Zionism and the modern human rights movement share a braided history. And 2018 — 70 years since Israel’s founding, but also 70 years since the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights — is the perfect moment to reconsider the notion that the two ideas are intrinsically in conflict….The shared anniversary of Israel and the human rights project places in stark relief the double amnesia that ails the world today. The cost of that forgetting is the perpetuation of a false dichotomy between particularism and universalism. By recalling this twinned history, we can help the human-rights movement recalibrate its moral compass and expose the real dangers imperiling the Jewish people.”

I Helped Start the Gaza Protests. I Don’t Regret It., The New York Times

Ahmed Abu Ratima writes, “despite the response from Israeli snipers, I continue to be committed to nonviolence, as are all of the other people “coordinating” this march. I use quotation marks because when a movement becomes this large — attracting what we estimate to be as many as 200,000 people on Fridays — it cannot be completely controlled. We discouraged the burning of Israeli flags and the attachment of Molotov cocktails to kites. We want peaceful, equal coexistence to be our message. We have also tried to discourage protesters from attempting to cross into Israel. However, we can’t stop them. It is the action of an imprisoned people yearning for freedom, one of the strongest motivations in human nature. Likewise, the people won’t go away on May 15. We are intent on continuing our struggle until Israel recognizes our right to return to our homes and land from which we were expelled.”

Trump Administration’s Next Iran Battle: Enforcing Sanctions on India, China and Europe, Haaretz

Amir Tibon reports, “The United States is expecting Europe to fall in line with its decision to reimpose harsh sanctions on Iran and disengage from Iran’s economy, after President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the nuclear deal last week. But experts tell Haaretz the administration’s biggest challenge will lie not on the Continent but with countries like India and China.”

Israel at 70: Looking back and looking forward, St. Louis Jewish Light

Andrew Rehfeld writes, “The 70th Anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel is an ideal time to reflect on the remarkable nature of Israel’s birth and what it means for the Jewish People in the years ahead….I believe we need to develop a deep appreciation for why a Jewish state is necessary, to remain strong and vibrant supporters of the values upon which Israel was formed, and have the courage to address the challenges and opportunities of the future that are continuing to divide our Jewish communities today.”