News Roundup for November 1, 2018

November 1, 2018

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J Street in the News

Israel defends Trump amid synagogue shooting criticism, Washington Post
“Nancy Bernstein, co-chair of J Street Pittsburgh, a liberal American Jewish group, said that many American Jews accuse Trump of contributing to the polarized atmosphere that led to the [attack on the Tree of Life synagogue] and were unhappy about Israeli leaders being so close with the president. She took particular aim at [Israeli minister for diaspora affairs Naftali Bennett], who has been a visible presence in Pittsburgh after the shooting attack. ‘He has a history of inciting against refugees in Israel, and this was the very reason that 11 people were murdered in our synagogue here,’ she said, referring to the alleged shooter’s anger toward a Jewish group that assists immigrants in the U.S.”

In Pittsburgh, Naftali Bennett’s Presence Highlights the Debate Between Netanyahu’s Government and American Jews, New Yorker

“Within hours of the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Naftali Bennett, Israel’s education minister—and also, since 2013, its self-styled minister of diaspora affairs—announced that he would travel there to meet with the local Jewish community and to participate in the funerals of those killed….Nancy Bernstein, the co-chair of J Street Pittsburgh and a member of a nearby synagogue in Squirrel Hill, who attended the gathering on Sunday evening, told me that, in her personal opinion, Bennett’s appearance was a ‘blight’ on otherwise moving proceedings.”

How the Pittsburgh massacre is driving American Jews apart, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

“J Street’s Jessica Rosenblum, a senior vice president for the liberal Middle East policy group, said the attack was inherently political and deserved a political response. The bigotries embraced by the killer “were countenanced at the top echelons of government.’ ‘Now is the time to make a solid plan within our movement and with our friends and allies to make a concerted effort to push back against this with all our might,’ she said.”

How the Pittsburgh shooting is affecting next week’s elections, Jewish Telegraphic Agency
“In the Jewish community, the liberal groups Bend the Arc and J Street have cited Pittsburgh in issuing calls to followers to turn out Tuesday to vote. ‘It’s clear that this kind of anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic thought has been spread not only by far-right groups, but by President Trump and some of his allies in the Republican party,’ J Street said in an email with the subject line “Activate Against Hate. ‘In the lead up to next week’s pivotal midterm elections, we have seen a transparent effort by Trump and some Republican candidates to turn bigotry and fear into a political weapon.’

Trump, Netanyahu use synagogue shooting to cement alliance, Al-Monitor

“Israel’s full-throttled defense of Trump has angered many American Jews, a constituency that overwhelmingly votes Democratic. ‘It’s extremely disturbing how they appear to be totally ignoring the views and concerns of a large majority of American Jews who oppose President Trump and are concerned by his ideology,’ said Logan Bayroff, the communications director for the liberal group J Street, which lobbies on Israel issues. ‘Instead they’re working overtime to provide cover for the president and for his Republican allies.’….In an email to supporters on Monday, J Street noted that Trump and other Republicans have dabbled in similar anti-Semitic conspiracy theories ahead of the midterm elections by erroneously suggesting that Jewish billionaire George Soros is funding a caravan of migrants from Central America, who are seeking asylum in the United States….’The Netanyahu government and the right wing in Israel have embraced similar ideology and tactics which we’ve seen from President Trump in describing their opponents as traitors, attacking political dissent and the media and fear mongering about immigrants and refugees and minorities,’ Bayroff told Al-Monitor.”

Note From a Political Frontline, J Street Blog

J Street’s Alan Elsner writes, “I’m spending the week volunteering to help elect Jared Golden, a Democrat endorsed by J Street fighting to win Maine’s Second Congressional District from Republican incumbent Bruce Poliquin….Polls have shown that the race between Golden, a Marine Corps veteran and state legislator, and the Republican incumbent is very close. I spoke to Golden in his Bangor campaign office and found him to be modest and soft-spoken, definitely a man of the people but extremely well-informed and very determined. The Bangor office, located in a modest storefront next to a tattoo parlor, is second home to an eclectic group of volunteers and campaign workers — some barely out of college and others who are proud grandparents — all united by a fierce desire to make a difference. This is a huge congressional district. It encompasses 27,000 square miles — 80 percent of the state’s total land area, making it the largest district east of the Mississippi. It was held by the Democrats from 1994 to 2014, when the current incumbent flipped it to the Republicans. In 2016, Trump carried the district by 10 points.”

Top News and Analysis

Pittsburgh Killing Aftermath Bares Jewish Rifts in Israel and America, The New York Times

David M. Halbfinger writes, “The slaughter of 11 Jews in Pittsburgh elicited responses in Israel that echoed the reactions to anti-Semitic killings in Paris, Toulouse and Brussels: expressions of sympathy, reminders that hatred of Jews is as rampant as ever, reaffirmations of the need for a strong Israel. But Saturday’s massacre also brought to the surface painful political and theological disagreements tearing at the fabric of Israeli society and driving a wedge between Israelis and American Jews. Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi took pains to avoid the word ‘synagogue’ to describe the scene of the crime — because it is not Orthodox, but Conservative, one of the liberal branches of Judaism that, despite their numerous adherents in the United States, are rejected by the religious authorities who determine the Jewish state’s definitions of Jewishness. And the attacker’s anti-refugee, anti-Muslim fulminations on social media prompted some on the Israeli left — like many American Jewish liberals — to draw angry comparisons to views espoused by the increasingly nationalistic leaders who now hold sway in their governments.”

Trump shocks with racist new ad days before midterms, CNN

Stephen Collinson reports, “In the most racially charged national political ad in 30 years, President Donald Trump and the Republican Party accuse Democrats of plotting to help people they depict as Central American invaders overrun the nation with cop killers. The new web video, tweeted by the President five days before the midterm elections, is the most extreme step yet in the most inflammatory closing argument of any campaign in recent memory. The Trump campaign ad is the latest example of the President’s willingness to lie and fear-monger in order to tear at racial and societal divides; to embrace demagoguery to bolster his own political power and the cause of the Republican midterm campaign….The ad recalls the notorious ‘Willie Horton’ campaign ad financed by supporters of the George H.W. Bush campaign in the 1988 presidential election. Horton was a convicted murderer who committed rape while furloughed under a program in Massachusetts where Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis was governor. The ad has since come to be seen as one of the most racially problematic in modern political history since it played into white fear and African-American stereotypes. It was regarded at the time as devastating to the Dukakis campaign. Trump’s web video, while just as shocking as the Horton spot, carries added weight since, unlike its 1988 predecessor, it bears the official endorsement of the leader of the Republican Party — Trump — and is not an outside effort. Given that Trump distributed it from his Twitter account, It also comes with all the symbolic significance of the presidency itself.”


Synagogue suspect indicted on 44 counts, Associated Press

The suspect in the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

The indictment, which was expected, was announced Wednesday. It charges Robert Bowers with 44 counts, including hate crimes.

Trump calls Pittsburgh protest reports ‘Fake News,’ says he was ‘treated so warmly’, Hill

President Trump on Wednesday said he was “treated so warmly” in Pittsburgh and aired his grievances against media coverage of his visit to the site of the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

Police clear kindergarten in south after suspected Gaza balloon bomb found, Times of Israel

A kindergarten in southern Israel was evacuated Thursday morning after a teacher spotted a suspicious object in the playground that was later found to be an explosive device, apparently flown into Israel from the nearby Gaza Strip, officials said.

Liberman to build new apartment block in Hebron to ‘strengthen Jewish community’, i24NEWS

Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced on Thursday his intentions to construct a new building in the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron where abandoned Palestinian market stalls are currently situated.

Trump aide Greenblatt lauds ‘warmer’ ties between Israel and Gulf, Times of Israel

US President Donald Trump’s top assistant for international affairs Jason Greenblatt said Wednesday that he will be back in Israel later this week and noted approvingly that ties between the Jewish state and some Arab nations in the region were warming up, following a series of high profile visits by Israeli ministers to Gulf cities.

Opinion and Analysis

Donald Trump, Meet America’s Jews. They Are Protesting Your Hate, Forward

Batya Ungar-Sargon writes, “American Jews by and large are liberals — pro-immigrant, pro-LGBTQ, pro-choice. It’s the twisted reason that Robert Bowers gave for murdering them. As Alex Kane movingly put it, Bowers and his white supremacist brethren are actually right about one thing: ‘Most American Jews stand in support of American Muslims, opposed the Trump administration’s cruel Muslim travel ban, and welcome in refugees from Muslim-majority countries.’ Despite the extreme distaste the majority of American Jews have for their president, non-Jewish Americans would be forgiven for missing it. Trump surrounds himself with sycophantic Jews anxious to do his every bidding, including his own son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Stephen Miller, the architect of the disastrous family separation policy, to say nothing of Netanyahu, whose fawning over Trump is by now legendary. But the truth is that Trump has replaced a relationship with the Jewish community with a relationship with Israel — a displacement that his visit to Pittsburgh put on display.”

I wish we could mourn Pittsburgh as one Jewish people — but we can’t, +972 Magazine

Simone Zimmerman writes, “I want to mourn with my people. I want to mourn with all of my beloved Jewish people in Pittsburgh and around the world who are reeling from the sight of 11 Jews gunned down during Shabbat morning services. Eleven Jews who were beloved grandparents, friends, siblings, community members. The ones who always showed up to synagogue on time, and who lost their lives for it. I want to mourn with my beloved Jewish people who feel terror and are wondering if anyone else sees our pain. Who feel the echoes of the violence our people have faced for thousands of years in our bones. I want to mourn with all of my beloved Jewish people, but as the Israeli Right exploits this tragedy for their political gain, aided by their apologists in the American Jewish establishment, it is clear that even in our mourning, we are divided.”

Anti-Semitism is Dead in America–Jew Hatred is Not, Times of Israel

Larry Gellman writes, “As we all tragically learned last week, Jew hatred and hatred of all flavors are very much alive.  We need to be vigilant and proactive in discrediting and destroying the people who are committing acts of hatred, the politicians who cater to them, and American citizens–including too many wealthy Jews–who enable them. But the Pittsburgh slaughter notwithstanding, Jews are not the primary victims of those acts of hatred. At each and every vigil this week, words were spoken about the need to bring about change.  But very little was said about the needs to demonize and discredit those who are behind these horrific changes–beginning with President Trump but certainly not ending with him.”