News Roundup for October 19, 2016

October 19, 2016

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J Street in the News

Jews, Palestinians working together to bring peace to the Middle East, Seattle Times

J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami and PLO ambassador to the US Maen Rashid Areikat write, “We hope to demonstrate that we can work together further to promote the cause of peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. In this endeavor, we are partners. While we do not underestimate the challenges created by the differences in our backgrounds and affiliations, we strongly believe that our objective is worthy of the support of the largest segment of the American people — regardless of ethnicity or religion. We understand that these conversations are difficult and controversial for many. Mistrust and animosity between Israelis and Palestinians, and their aligned communities in the U.S. and around the world, have festered for decades. In our public conversations, we want to avoid the perennial game of assigning blame and scoring political points. We fully understand that the historical narratives of both sides are embedded in the psyche and culture of the conflict. But telling the stories of our own struggles, grievances and concerns should not, and must not, negate and nullify the other side.”

Congressional Republicans want to talk Tehran, not Trump, Reuters

“There is more election advertising opposing the Iran deal than supporting it, but there is some backing for it. J Street, a smaller liberal pro-Israel group, spent $500,000 on advertising attacking Republican Senators Patrick Toomey and Ron Johnson, in tight re-election races in Democratic-leaning Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, for opposing the Iran pact.”

Liberal Jews Should Condemn Denial of Jewish Ties to Temple Mount, Haaretz

“To its credit, J Street declared itself ‘profoundly disappointed’ by the resolution’s ‘contempt for factual history and for the Jewish people’s sacred bond to its holiest site.’ Its British liberal Zionist counterpart, Yachad, called the resolution an ‘inflammatory denial of Jewish history.’ These statements are important because they expose as a lie the oft-repeated claim that progressive Jewish groups never criticize Palestinians. They’re important because they show that groups like J Street don’t exist merely to criticize Israel. They exist to affirm the principles in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which pledges ‘equality of social and political rights … irrespective of religion, race or sex,’ and, ‘freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.’ AIPAC praises Israel and criticizes the Palestinians irrespective of their fidelity to these principles. J Street, at its best, uses them as a moral standard against which to judge both sides.”

Israel may gain advantage as UN rewrites history, Chicago Tribune

“Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, insisted that UNESCO’s omission of the Jewish people’s connection to Jerusalem constitutes a “war on Jewish history.” Although Hoenlein and Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street rarely see eye to eye, last week, they did. J Street, the progressive pro-Israel lobbying group, said the resolution “outrageously seeks to rewrite history.”

Campaign Spotlight: Senate Challengers in Nevada and Pennsylvania, J Street Blog

This week’s J Street spotlight on the elections highlights two big Senate races.

Top News and Analysis

B’Tselem Head: Why I Spoke Against the Occupation at the UN, Haaretz

Hagai El-Ad writes, “I spoke at the United Nations against the occupation because I am striving to be a human being. And human beings, when they take responsibility for an injustice against other human beings, have a moral obligation to take action. I spoke at the United Nations against the occupation because I am an Israeli. I have no other country. I have no other citizenship and no other future. I grew up here and will be buried here. I care about the fate of this place, the fate of its people and its political fate, which is my fate, too. And in light of all these ties, the occupation is a disaster.”

U.S. Defends Israeli Anti-occupation Group, Says ‘Freedom of Expression’ Must Be Protected, Haaretz

The US criticized Prime Minister Netanyahu’s verbal assault on anti-occupation and human rights groups B’Tselem and Americans for Peace Now over their participation in a UN Security Council session on the settlements Friday. State Department spokesman John Kirby told Haaretz on Monday that the administration values the information published by the two nonprofits about the situation in the West Bank and stressed that governments should defend freedom of speech. “I am not going to comment on everything that has been said,” Kirby said. “In general, we believe that a free and unfettered civil society is a critical component of democracy. As we have said many times, we believe it is important that governments protect the freedoms of expression, and create an atmosphere where all voices can be heard. “We are troubled by instances anywhere in the world where these principles are threatened,” he added.

Why the Fight Over Israeli Settlements Is Reaching a Boiling Point, Forward

JJ Goldberg observes, “Arguably the most significant new action by settlement supporters, though, was one of the least noticed: the decision by the Cabinet on October 9 to renew the authority of the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization as the primary agent building and outfitting West Bank settlements….As a nongovernmental organization, the Division has been free from oversight and freedom of information rules of government agencies. At the same time, because it’s a separate, government-funded body, Diaspora leaders within the WZO — including such groups as B’nai B’rith International, the Reform and Conservative movements and the labor Zionist group Ameinu — can and do argue that it’s the government, not them, that’s responsible for the settlement activity carried out in their names….It remains to be seen whether the Diaspora organizations that make up the bulk of the WZO will resume their silent acquiescence in the use of their names and fiduciary authority to cover a policy that helps turn Israel — and, increasingly, Diaspora Jews as well — into international pariahs. Based on past experience, it’s a safe bet that they will.”

UNESCO board formally approves resolution denying Jewish holy sites, JTA

The executive board of the United Nations cultural agency voted to adopt a controversial resolution that denies a Jewish connection to the Old City of Jerusalem. The board reportedly formally approved the resolution on Tuesday morning in the final day of its meeting in Paris.


U.S. Tells UN Security Council: Israeli Activities in West Bank Creating One-state Reality, Haaretz

Israeli policies in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, and particularly continued settlement construction were severely criticized in a special UN Security Council session on Friday. The US representative to the session said that the US is “deeply concerned and strongly opposes settlements which are corrosive to peace.” He said that Israeli activities in the West Bank, primarily settlement construction, “creates a one state reality on the ground.” Deputy US Ambassador to the UN David Pressman noted that there is dramatic rise in the demolition of Palestinian homes, primarily in Area C of the West Bank. The US calls on both sides to adopt policies and take immediate steps toward “implementing the two-state solution,” he said.

Palestinian Woman Shot Dead After Attempting to Stab Israeli Troops, Police Say, Haaretz

A Palestinian woman was shot dead after trying to stab Border Police officers in the West Bank on Wednesday, Israeli security forces said.

Mexico fires Jewish ambassador who protested UNESCO vote, but will now abstain, JTA

Mexico has fired its ambassador to UNESCO, Andre Roemer, who is Jewish, for protesting against his country’s decision to vote for a resolution denying Jewish ties to Jerusalem. However, the Latin American country announced it will now change its vote from “in favor” to abstain on the proposal concerning the preservation of cultural heritage and religion in eastern Jerusalem.

American-funded anti-Netanyahu Group Acted Legally, Israel’s Watchdog Rules, Haaretz

Israel’s state watchdog ruled Tuesday that V15, an American-funded organization dedicated to replacing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during Israel’s last election, acted legally, despite claims to the contrary by members of Israel’s government. In a report, the state comptroller ruled that “there was no evidence clearly indicating an organizational relationship between these groups and a political party.”

Palestinian rapper’s Haifa performance stirs discord, Times of Israel

Despite objections from Culture Minister Miri Regev, the Haifa municipality confirmed that Palestinian rapper Tamer Nafar will perform Tuesday on the opening night of the Neve Yosef Community Center festival, which runs alongside the Haifa International Film Festival.

On anniversary of prisoner exchange, Palestinian groups vow to kidnap more Israeli soldiers, Ma’an

At a rally organized in Gaza City on Monday commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal, a number of activists and former prisoners vowed that Palestinian resistance movements would kidnap more Israeli soldiers until all Palestinian political prisoners were freed from Israeli custody. Monday’s rally, organized by the Hamas movement, was held in front of the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and was attended by officials of various political movements along with former prisoners who were freed in the deal.

Deputy FM pulls support for Hebrew University human rights center over NGO ties, Times of Israel

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely on Monday pulled support for Hebrew University’s Minerva Center for Human Rights over its support for what she termed “anti-Israel organizations.” Hotovely accused the institute of collaborating with “a group of anti-Israel organizations,” that “have a track record of ignoring Jewish human rights,” according to Channel 2.

Opinion and Analysis

Hillary Clinton For President, NY Jewish Week

“This newspaper has not endorsed political candidates in the past. But this election is an exception. It’s not just about politics. It’s about character, competence and compassion. It’s about values that are American, and rooted in the Bible: Seeing all men and women as created in the image of God, having empathy for ‘the other’ among us, recognizing the power of community, building bridges rather than walls. We endorse Hillary Clinton not only because Donald Trump presents a danger to this country but because we believe she shares that biblical vision and strives for those goals. For the past year we have seen a Trump who believes his own lies, whose campaign is based on instilling fear in Americans, doubling down on divisions among us, describing virtually every aspect of society as broken, corrupt, defeated. He is too self-centered to listen to others, see beyond his own interests, or appreciate the need for self-reflection.”

It’s time to acknowledge reality: Donald Trump talks like an anti-Semite, Vox

Yochi Dreazen observes, “There’s no more doubting it, no more excusing it, no more defending it, no more trying to explain it away. We’re past the time when having a Jewish son-in-law makes it okay to spew paranoia and conspiracy theories. A line has finally been crossed, and we need to acknowledge a cold and very scary truth: Donald Trump is openly trafficking in the types of anti-Semitic slurs that have been used to justify the hatred of Jews for decades.”

Why did Israeli Foreign Ministry director quit?, Al-Monitor

Mazal Mualem writes, “[C]ontrary to all expectations, and a mere 18 months after that promising Foreign Ministry appointment, Gold announced Oct. 13 that he was stepping down. The surprising resignation appears likely to further weaken the Foreign Ministry, which Netanyahu had already crippled in recent years. In fact, Netanyahu’s mistrust of the Foreign Ministry during his current term has deepened, and Gold was probably unable to provide him with the reassurance he sought that he could “control” the ministry’s officials.”

Gaza’s women are being besieged on all sides, +972

Reem Amer and Tanya Rubinstein write, “Women living under occupation and siege suffer from specific crises, as opposed the rest of the population. They suffer from both the Israeli army’s violence as well as the violence of their own society. They suffer from restrictions to health care, hygiene, and basic necessities, along with difficulties in areas of employment….Due to inheritance laws and the restrictions of a conservative society, women control only three percent of assets in Gaza and six percent of agricultural land. And still, many women are employed in the agricultural sector, where they are marginalized and receive poor wages. Attempts at providing support for women to establish their own small businesses failed due to a lack of raw materials and the difficulty of exporting goods due to the siege. Thus women are left dependent on their families and the men in their lives for their livelihood — a situation common in traditional societies, which worsen in situations of siege and economic crisis.”

Adelson’s Newspapers on Trump: Everything is Fine, LobeBlog

Eli Clifton reports that “Trump’s biggest donor, Sheldon Adelson, is moving full-steam ahead, writing big checks and mobilizing newspapers owned by his family to support Trump, even as the candidate careens toward a massive electoral defeat.”

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