News Roundup for November 21, 2016

November 21, 2016

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J Street in the News

Open Letter to President-elect Donald J. Trump from Jewish American Organizations, J Street Blog

“Based on our community’s experience, we begin by strongly condemning the many instances of anti-Semitism – both subtle and overt – that appeared around your Presidential campaign. We have been deeply concerned by words and actions during the campaign that attacked and offended Americans on the basis of their gender, race, religion, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation. Expressions of xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism, misogyny and other forms of prejudice, in and around your campaign, threatened to undermine our nation’s core values and to erode our people’s shared sense of what it means to be an American. As President, we expect that you will make it absolutely clear that you emphatically reject anti-Semitism in all forms, and that you are committed to ensuring the religious freedom that is at the heart of America’s identity. Further, we call on you to forcefully and consistently reiterate our nation’s commitment to respect the rights of all citizens and to fight discrimination in all of its ugly and un-American forms. All American citizens have the right to expect no less from our nation’s highest elected leader.”

My Visit to Susya, J Street Blog

J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami writes, “The first thing that struck me about the Palestinian village of Susya was how small it is. I visited it yesterday with 15 J Street leaders – including a rabbi, chapter chairs and committed activists. The word ‘village’ doesn’t quite capture the feel of the place – on a hill just north of the Green Line in the south Hebron hills. In reality, it’s a camp of a few tarp-covered, minimal structures surrounding a well with no connection to the electric grid or the water system. Susya lives under imminent threat of demolition by the Israeli Defense Forces, but in reality there’s relatively little to knock down….They told us how much it means to have people from the other side of the world drawing attention to their village and their plight. They’d seen our demonstrations of solidarity – in particular the work of J Street U on campuses to draw attention to their plight – and they were deeply touched….We remind the international community that Susya exists and needs our help. And this brings the people of Susya hope that their fight for basic rights and dignity is being heard around the world. The Susya Village Council presented our delegation with a plaque that reads: ‘Thank you J Street! We wish to express our great thanks and appreciation for their friendship and support for Susya, Palestine.’”

Anti-Semitic Mud Thrown at Rep. Keith Ellison to Counter Attacks on Steve Bannon, Haaretz

“A J Street statement released on Wednesday defended Ellison against the recent “hateful attacks” on him. The group said it was “deeply disturbed” that Ellison’s critics “have spent the last few days digging through tired claims about his past to sow tension between him and the American Jewish community. These attacks are false and unacceptable.” J Street added that “comparisons between Representative Ellison and the Trump administration are particularly odious” noting that Trump “appointed Stephen Bannon, who promotes white supremacist, anti-Semitic views, as his right-hand-man in the White House. “The racism that Trump has enabled against Muslims, immigrants and other vulnerable groups is a direct attack on American Jewish values. We applaud the Members of Congress – like Representative Ellison – who oppose these troubling trends.” J Street CEO Jeremy Ben-Ami told Haaretz that on his trips to Israel with Ellison they’d discussed matters “deeply and personally” and that he’d found him to be “genuinely open-minded” with an appreciation of Jewish history. He claimed  the current “efforts to smear Ellison and de-legitimize him personally, is so typical of what’s happening on the right – both in the U.S. and in Israel, when it comes to political discourse.” “The fact that it has become impossible to have an actual disagreement about opinion and fact without turning to smears and delegitimization is undercutting democracy in both countries. It is unhealthy and will not lead to a good place.”

Right-wing critics take aim at Keith Elllison’s Israel record, Jewish left-wingers rally to his defense, JTA

J Street in its Nov. 16 statement called the attacks on Ellison, who was backed by J Street’s affiliated political action committee in the last election ‘hateful.’ ‘His support for a two-state solution, opposition to settlement construction and advocacy for U.S. leadership to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are supported by the majority of American Jews,’ it said.”

Will Trump Denounce Hateful Acts? Ten Million People Want to Know, Rewire

“Progressive groups on Friday gathered together to call for President-elect Donald Trump to go beyond paying lip service in denouncing the escalating incidents of hateful intimidation and harassment across the country….The letter’s signatories include the Human Rights Campaign, AFL-CIO, the National Organization for Women, the National Education Association (NEA), J Street, MomsRising, the Bully Project, and a range of other organizations….J Street, a progressive pro-Israel group, opposed Trump’s candidacy because of his foreign policy positions and his attitude toward Muslims and other vulnerable U.S. communities, said Logan Bayroff, associate director of communications. The organization is now looking to support communities threatened by Trump and by his extreme cabinet appointments. ‘It’s extremely important for us to stand by those communities and oppose discrimination and hate,’ Bayroff told Rewire. ‘Over 70 percent of American Jews did not vote for Trump and our community does not share his values.’”

Lt. General Michael Flynn is Wrong for the Job, Dangerous for America, J Street Blog

J Street opposes the President-elect’s appointment of Lt. General (Ret.) Michael Flynn to the position of National Security Advisor. Flynn has a deeply troubling history of bigoted and false statements and murky ties to foreign governments that make clear he is a completely inappropriate choice to serve in the most senior national security position in the White House….Since his election, Donald Trump has quickly developed a pattern of backing up his hateful campaign rhetoric with the appointments of bigoted and extreme individuals far outside the mainstream of responsible leadership and policy-making. Flynn’s repugnant statements about Muslims, ties to authoritarian governments and preference for radical military aggression would obviously disqualify him in the eyes of any normal and responsible presidential administration. His appointment is cause for serious alarm for all those who respect the rights and dignity of Muslim -Americans and who care about the future of American leadership and foreign policy. We call on all responsible leaders in both parties to denounce it and for the president-elect to rescind it immediately.”

An open letter to AIPAC from a fed up millennial, Medium

Joelle Lieb, co-president of Claremont Hillel, writes, “I stood with AIPAC despite it all. Until now. This past week, AIPAC has proven that it is more willing to compromise its values and favor an administration built on racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, and anti-Semitism than maintain its integrity. Unlike other prominent Jewish organizations including the ADL, AIPAC has not yet denounced Trump’s appointment of Steve Bannon as Chief Strategist and likely never will because, according to one AIPAC staffer, it is against the organization’s policy….This year, Republicans removed language favoring a two-state solution from their platform and Trump’s Israel advisors have already voiced their support for a one-state solution that would eliminate hope for a Palestinian state. Rather than boldly assert its support for two states in light of the advisors’ comments, AIPAC remained silent. Silent to the point that J Street could not find language supporting a two-state solution on AIPAC’s website until AIPAC explicitly stated where this information was located, buried at the very end of its mission statement. Yesterday I became a member of J Street. As a progressive millennial, I am sick of defending an organization that only pretends to have my interests in mind so it can call itself bipartisan. Therefore in good conscious I cannot lend my energy and support to an organization that can easily disregard its values to please a man who has exhibited anti-Semitic behavior.”

Top News and Analysis

Despite U.S. Objections, Netanyahu Mulls Moving Settlers to Abandoned Palestinian Lands, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he still seeks a solution to prevent the evacuation of the illegal Amona outpost that was built on private Palestinian land. Netanyahu told ministers from his Likud party that he was considering moving the settlers’ homes to land believed to have belonged to Palestinians who fled during and after the 1967 war – land that was claimed by Israel as “abandoned and unclaimed” land. The Foreign Ministry has already warned against such a move, fearing it would breach international law and hurt Israel diplomatically. The US administration has also voiced objections to this solution, though Donald Trump’s win in the US presidential election might have encouraged  Netanyahu to ignore the warning.

Obama Seeks to Fortify Iran Nuclear Deal, Wall Street Journal

“The Obama administration is considering new measures in its final months in office to strengthen the landmark nuclear agreement with Iran, senior US officials said, with President-elect Donald Trump’s first appointments foreshadowing an increasingly rocky road for the controversial deal.”

Iran deal foe Schumer not ready to scrap it, Politico

“Chuck Schumer is putting Donald Trump on notice: Just because the incoming Senate Minority Leader opposed President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran doesn’t mean he’ll work with Trump to dismantle it. Schumer, who infuriated liberal groups by opposing the Iran pact last year, told POLITICO on Friday that while he remains “skeptical” of the agreement, “it would be wrong to repeal it now.” His warning comes as other detractors of the deal also urge Trump to keep the deal intact, despite the president-elect’s campaign vow to scrap it. ‘I’m willing to try. I think the jury’s still out, and I’m willing to wait another year or two,’ Schumer said in an interview in his Capitol Hill office, two days after the New Yorker officially took the helm of Democrats’ 48-member caucus for the next Congress.”

Did 500 Jewish Protesters Scare Steve Bannon Away From a pro-Israel Gala?, Haaretz

“Did several hundred Jewish protestors thwart Steve Bannon’s attendance at the annual gala of the Zionist Organization of America? The controversial former chairman of Breitbart News and recent Donald Trump appointee as chief strategist and senior counsel was expected at the ZOA dinner in New York Sunday night. He had even told someone close to the ZOA that President-elect Trump might also come, ZOA President Morton Klein told Haaretz. But in the end both Bannon and Trump were no-shows, leading Klein to speculate that it was the protesters who led Bannon to stay away. Roughly 500 to 600 people came to protest the fact that Bannon, who oversaw an online publication replete with misogyny, racism and, some say, anti-Semitism, now has one of the most powerful positions in the country.”


Possible Trump Pick for Defense Post Sees Israel Turning Into Apartheid State, Haaretz

A former Marine General seen as one of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s leading candidates for Defense Secretary has said West Bank settlements are turning Israel into an apartheid state. Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, who was known as “Mad Dog,” also has said that the United States pays a price for its support of Israel, the Times of Israel reported. “I paid a military security price every day as the commander of CentCom because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel, and that moderates all the moderate Arabs who want to be with us, because they can’t come out publicly in support of people who don’t show respect for the Arab Palestinians,” Mattis said in 2013 at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. At the same forum he criticized Israel for settlement building, saying that the settlements “are going to make it impossible to maintain the two-state option.” He said the settlements would undermine Israel as both a Jewish and Democratic state, and said the settlements would lead to apartheid.

Suspended Due to U.S. Pressure, East Jerusalem Construction Plan May Be Revived, Haaretz

Jerusalem’s zoning board is set to discuss a plan on Wednesday to build 500 homes in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish neighborhood located over the Green Line in East Jerusalem. The plan was approved two years ago by the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee, but was later suspended due to pressure from the U.S. In anticipation of the inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S. president in January, city officials have begun to “thaw” building projects in the capital that had been “frozen.”

Hundreds rally in NY park where swastikas and ‘Go Trump’ were daubed, Times of Israel

At least 300 people, including Beastie Boys singer Adam Horovitz, protested in New York on Sunday against what they said were hate crimes inspired by the election of Donald Trump, after swastikas appeared in a Brooklyn park.

Israeli police detain 5 Israelis attempting to pray at Al-Aqsa compound, Ma’an

Dozens of Israelis raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon, according to the Islamic Endowment (Waqf), the organization in charge of managing the compound. Rami al-Khatib, a spokesperson for the Waqf, said that 64 ultra-Orthodox Israelis entered the Muslim holy site and attempted to perform Jewish prayers. Al-Khatib added that Israeli forces evacuated five Israelis who attempted to pray at the compound.

Minister backs Bannon, thanks him for ‘friendship with Israel’, Times of Israel

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel has written a letter of support for Stephen Bannon, the recently appointed White House strategist who has been accused of harboring anti-Semitic views, thanking him for his “friendship with Israel.”

Opinion and Analysis

Trump Says He’s A Friend Of Israel. Do Those Around Him Feel The Same?, NPR

Donald Trump promises to be the most aggressively pro-Israel president ever. His embrace of an adviser whose media enterprise is tainted by anti-Semitism allegations has some Jewish leaders concerned.

Jerusalem mayor plays with fire in threat to Palestinian homes, Al-Monitor

Shlomi Eldar reports, “‘Your Amona will bring back the intifada,’ a Palestinian security source told Al-Monitor. ‘How come you can’t see that?’ He was referring to the Israeli right wing’s effort to prevent the court-ordered evacuation of the unauthorized settlement of Amona. According to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, extensive joint Palestinian-Israeli efforts in recent months to restore calm and prevent Palestinians from carrying out terror attacks in Israel could go down the drain, just for the sake of appeasing a few settler families in an unauthorized West Bank outpost built on privately owned Palestinian land. ‘This time we won’t be able to stop the violence, because popular sentiment will have changed,’ he warned.”

Is Netanyahu-Liberman power couple making comeback?, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem observes, “Netanyahu is more isolated now than he has been throughout most of his political career. His relationship with his coalition partner Bennett has deteriorated to sheer loathing and physical revulsion. With Liberman, however, he has found a familiar ally in the Cabinet and government. The fact that these two men are drawing closer has enormous significance as far as Netanyahu is concerned. This is particularly true when it comes to Bennett’s ability/inability to cause him harm within his right-wing electorate. After all, the prime minister may have ranted and raged against the Regularization law, but Bennett was still able to pass it. In the dynamics of the battle for votes from the right, Netanyahu suffered a resounding blow. He is regarded as someone who opposed the authorization of illegal outposts due to his concerns about the response of the international community. Nevertheless, the fact that Liberman is at his side, and that no one suspects Liberman of being weak or leaning left, could help the prime minister get past this hurdle, too.”

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