News Roundup for May 16, 2018

May 16, 2018

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J Street in the News

Trump Has Freed Progressive Democratic Senators To Finally Criticize Israel, Forward

Peter Beinart reports, “The Forward has learned that on Friday night, thirteen Democratic Senators—including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren—sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging the Trump administration ‘to do more to alleviate the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.’ That may not sound particularly audacious. But according to J Street’s Vice President of Communications, Jessica Rosenblum, it’s the first letter signed by multiple senators challenging Israel’s blockade of Gaza since the 2006 elections that led to Hamas taking control in the Strip. And it constitutes yet more evidence that while journalists focus on the alliance between the Trump and Netanyahu administrations, that alliance is sparking far-reaching changes inside the Democratic Party. The inhibitions that have long prevented Washington Democrats from speaking about Palestinian human rights are beginning to fade.”

As Trump Base Celebrates Embassy Move, Horrified U.S. Jews Mourn Gaza Deaths, Haaretz

“J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami harshly criticized the timing of the ceremony, saying the decision to hold it to “coincide with both the anniversary of Israeli independence and the Palestinian ‘Naqba’ [sic]” has ‘thrown more fuel on an already raging fire.’ Ben-Ami was referring to the Palestinian term for the establishment of the State of Israel, which means “Catastrophe” in Arabic and is marked yearly on May 15. Ben-Ami added that ‘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 millenia. However, the manner and timing of this move were designed to advance the agenda of right-wing political leaders in the US and Israel, rather than the interest of Americans, Israelis and Palestinians in resolving the conflict.’”

Bernie Sanders emerges as Washington’s leading voice against Gaza violence, Mic

“In both February 2017 and April 2018 Sanders gave speeches to the liberal Jewish anti-occupation group J Street, where he condemned Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump, Netanyahu and a Day of Dangerous Fictions at the New US Embassy in Jerusalem, New Yorker

Bernard Avishai writes, “Friedman, Jared Kushner, and Trump insist that the Embassy’s move does not mean an end to the peace process. Their vaunted, still secret plan has yet to be released. One would like to believe that proximity to Jerusalem’s Arab residents may force Friedman to face realities that can no more be conjured away than Monday’s deaths in Gaza. Friedman says that all the Embassy move has done is deny Palestinians ‘a veto over the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.’ It remains to be seen whether the Trump Administration has any intention of challenging Israel’s veto over whether Palestine is even to be. Today, at least, Netanyahu, Kushner, and Trump, enveloped in fiction, did not seem particularly troubled by the prospect.”

Nothing says ‘peace’ like 58 dead Palestinians, Washington Post

Dana Milbank writes, “A poll last year by the American Jewish Committee found that American Jews, only 21 percent of whom view Trump favorably, were overwhelmingly (68 percent) opposed to an immediate move of the embassy. Perhaps American Jews recognize that Trump, and the messianic Christians driving his policy, are leading Israel away from democracy and security. And perhaps they don’t trust claims of “peace” when their own eyes see the opposite.”

A ‘Catastrophe’ That Defines Palestinian Identity, The Atlantic

Hussein Ibish writes, “The trauma of the nakba cannot be addressed until the rest of the world, and particularly Israel, recognizes its validity and importance. The event does not compare to the Holocaust—very little else does. But Jews and Palestinians are two peoples both marked by definitive historical traumas that define their worldviews. The difference is that the Jewish and Israeli narratives continue to an epiphany of redemption in the founding and flourishing of the state of Israel, while for Palestinians, permanently dispossessed and living in exile or under occupation, the trauma is enduring and still unfolding.”


EU tells Iran it will try to protect firms from US sanctions, Guardian

Tehran is being given assurances that European governments will seek to protect companies doing business in Iran from renewed US sanctions, as foreign ministers prepare to meet in Brussels to salvage the nuclear deal. Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, met Federica Mogherini, the EU external affairs chief, on Tuesday morning and will meet the foreign ministers of France, Germany and the UK – the three European signatories to the deal – in the evening.

Haley to UN: ‘No country would act with more restraint than Israel’, Times of Charlottesville

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Tuesday Israel had acted with exceptional “restraint” in clashes on the Gaza border a day earlier in which over 60 Palestinians were killed.

Abbas Recalls Palestinian Envoy in Washington Over Jerusalem Embassy Move, Haaretz

President Mahmoud Abbas recalled the Palestinian envoy in Washington, a senior Palestinian official told Reuters.  Husam Zomlot, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s chief representative in Washington, was already on his way back to the Palestinian Territories, Saeb Erekat, senior Palestinian negotiator, said. A foreign ministry statement carried by the official Wafa news agency said the decision “follows the moving of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

IDF says it thwarted 8 Hamas gunmen attempting to breach fence Monday, Times of Israel

Israeli troops fended off an attempted incursion into Israeli territory by a cell of eight armed Hamas operatives in the northern Gaza Strip during Monday’s border clashes, the army said Tuesday. All eight suspected terrorists were killed in the gun battle with soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces’ elite Maglan Unit, the military said.

Israel Expels Turkey Envoy After Ankara Ousts Israeli Ambassador Over Gaza Deaths, Haaretz

Israel expelled the Turkish consul in Jerusalem hours after the Israeli ambassador to Turkey was expelled on Tuesday over Monday’s violent demonstrations which claimed the lives of 60 Palestinians by Israeli gunfire in protests along the Gaza border. Israel’s official statement to Turkey on the expulsion of the Turkish consul, Husnu Gurcan Turkoglu, was identical to an earlier statement sent by Turkey to Israel to oust ambassador Eitan Naeh.

Britain says U.S. needs to show better understanding of issues behind Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Reuters

The United States needs to show more understanding about the causes of Israeli-Palestinian conflict after the opening of the U.S. embassy to Israel in Jerusalem triggered violence in Gaza, Britain’s junior foreign office minister Alistair Burt said.

Women of the Wall Leaders Banned From Kotel After Refusing to Pray Behind Barricades, Haaretz

Leaders of the feminist prayer group Women of the Wall have been banned from the Western Wall next month after praying in an “unauthorized area” of the women’s section on Tuesday. The group insists its members can pray wherever they wish in the women’s section.

State Department says it didn’t invite contentious pastor to US embassy opening, Times of Israel

The US State Department on Tuesday distanced itself from a decision to invite a controversial Evangelical pastor to speak at the opening of its embassy in Jerusalem, saying the choice was made by US Ambassador David Friedman, who hosted the ceremony.

Opinions and Analysis

Hamas Trying to Use Deadly Gaza Clashes to Secure Humanitarian Relief, Israel Believes, Haaretz

Amos Harel reports, “Israeli intelligence assessments are that Hamas is not headed for a war. The reasonable assumption is that its leadership seeks to achieve two goals by means of the violent wave of demonstrations: to restore the narrative of popular Palestinian resistance to Israel, and to force Israel, by means of the violence and killings at the fence, to agree to easing restrictions on the economy and on freedom of movement in Gaza, which may in term help halt the deterioration of living conditions there.”

Israel’s Choice To Shoot Palestinians Should Horrify — But Not Surprise Us, Forward

Peter Beinart writes, “Long before Israeli soldiers decided whether to shoot at protesters, Israeli leaders decided to bar farmers in Gaza from exporting spinach, potatoes and beans. They decided to bar fisherman in Gaza from fishing beyond six nautical miles. They decided to bar students in Gaza from leaving the Strip to study, to bar spouses from leaving to legally join their husbands or wives in the West Bank, to bar grandchildren from leaving to attend their grandparents’ funerals. They decided to bar people in Gaza from importing the spare parts necessary to rebuild the Strip’s electricity grid. These were not split-second decisions made by young, frightened soldiers. They were policies formulated by politicians in air-conditioned offices.”

Iran, Saudi Arabia and Modern Hatreds, The New York Times

Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel write, “Sectarianization has taken on a life of its own. It needs to be reversed, not exacerbated. But by buying into Saudi Arabia’s sectarian narrative and by backing its war in Yemen, the Trump administration is helping to perpetuate sectarianism. The desectarianization of the region’s politics will take time, possibly generations. De-escalating the Saudi-Iranian rivalry is essential to this process. Debunking the myth that these conflicts are eternal and immutable is a critical first step.”

“We’re Paying a Heavy Price”: Senator Ben Cardin Take’s On Trump’s ‘Sledgehammer’ Foreign Policy, Vanity Fair

Abigail Tracy interviews Senator Ben Cardin.

Friends all over the pro/anti-Israel spectrum, we need to talk about May 14, J Weekly

Molly Freeman writes, “How was May 14 different from all other days? It laid bare the stark choices we have as Jews to live in terms of our values and faith in the power of compassion, to ‘not do unto others as we would not have them do unto us.’”

Where Have You Been Until Now?, J Street Blog

Bar Heffetz of Kibbutz Nirim in the western Negev has been pleading for months that someone should pay attention to what is happening in Gaza. “As clouds of smoke cover the sky, distant echoes of gunfire are joined by the hum of drones and helicopters. When online news reports describe the steep rise in casualties in Gaza — while celebrations and the preparations for a victory party take place simultaneously in Jerusalem — you realize that something is very, very wrong here.”

These Jewish groups are fighting — even physically, according to some — behind the scenes, JTA

Ron Kampeas reports, “Last year, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations updated its secret rules to ban ‘insults, ad hominem attacks, and name-calling’ among member organizations and instituted a special committee to consider complaints in strictest confidence. On May 2, the committee met, in strictest confidence, to hear three complaints. The session, all parties agree, soon devolved into insults, ad hominem attacks and name-calling — and without a decision or definitive plans for what happens next. Three Jewish organizations — the National Council of Jewish Women, the Anti-Defamation League and HIAS — accused the Zionist Organization of America of inappropriately criticizing them; in turn, the ZOA filed complaints against member groups that have yet to be scheduled for hearings.”