News Roundup for October 30, 2018

October 30, 2018

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J Street in the News

Pittsburgh synagogue shootings deepen divide in Jewish community over Trump, Washington Post
“The killing rampage at a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday deepened sharply divided views in the American Jewish community about President Trump, inflaming a debate about whether he has fostered an atmosphere that allows hate and anti-Semitism to flourish….Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal Jewish group J Street, said Trump ‘has stoked populist anger and fear against traditional scapegoats for political gain.’”

Pittsburgh did not Happen in a Vacuum, J Street Blog

J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami writes, “This is a time for grief and for healing — and also for honesty, openness and action. The Tree of Life community was attacked in part because it represents so much of what is good and righteous about our tradition: compassion for others, welcoming the stranger. Those who despise those principles, who hate and fear all those who are ‘different,’ will always be a danger to the Jewish people — especially when they are emboldened by some of the most powerful people in our country. But the millions of Americans who share our values will stand alongside us, just as we stand alongside them. Speaking truth to power, working together as a community and with our allies, we can confront and defeat bigotry and violence. We can help create the better future that our people, our country and our world deserve.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump Shut Programs to Counter Violent Extremism, Atlantic

Peter Beinart writes, “Set aside the question of whether President Donald Trump’s rhetorical flirtations with white nationalism enabled Saturday’s mass shooting in Pittsburgh. What’s undeniable is that his administration has hobbled the infrastructure designed to prevent such murders. In the waning days of Barack Obama’s administration, the Department of Homeland Security awarded a set of grants to organizations working to counter violent extremism, including among white supremacists. One of the grantees was Life After Hate, which The Hill has called ‘one of the only programs in the U.S. devoted to helping people leave neo-Nazi and other white supremacy groups.’ Another grant went to researchers at the University of North Carolina who were helping young people develop media campaigns aimed at preventing their peers from embracing white supremacy and other violent ideologies. But soon after Trump took office, his administration canceled both of these grants. In its first budget, it requested no funding for any grants in this field.”

Pittsburgh Massacre: Netanyahu’s Diplomats Add Insult to Injury by Defending Trump and Implicating the Left, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “Israeli government representatives, from Benjamin Netanyahu on down, have expressed Israel’s heartfelt condolences in the wake of Saturday’s massacre of 11 elderly Jews at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. Unfortunately, their message of sympathy is being undermined by the shameful effort of Israel’s top diplomats in the U.S. to absolve Donald Trump of any responsibility for fomenting an atmosphere of right-wing hate and, even more outrageously, to implicate anti-Semitism on the left instead. For many American Jews, Trump’s cardinal sin is the false equivalence he created between neo-Nazis and leftist demonstrators in the wake of the August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, in which Heather Heyer was killed. There are “fine people” on both sides, Trump said, infuriating Americans in general and American Jews in particular. This did not deter Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer and New York Consul General Dani Dayan, however, from using the same odious analogy. Rather than focus on the neo-Nazi credentials of Pittsburgh perpetrator Robert Bowers or on Florida’s serial pipe-bomber Cesar Sayoc’s endless admiration for Trump, Dermer and Dayan opted to muddy the waters. The two senior diplomats emulated the U.S. president by obfuscating the clear-cut white supremacist backdrop of the Pittsburgh atrocity and, in Dermer’s case, by commending Trump’s statement after the attack.”


‘He is not welcome here’: Thousands support Pittsburgh Jewish leaders calling on Trump to ‘denounce white nationalism’, Washington Post

More than 30,000 people have signed an open letter to President Trump from the leaders of a Pittsburgh-based Jewish group who say the president will not be welcome in the city unless he denounces white nationalism and stops “targeting” minorities after a mass shooting Saturday at a local synagogue left 11 dead.

Muslim Groups Raise Thousands for Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Victims, The New York Times

Two Muslim organizations have raised more than $130,000 to help victims and their families following the shooting massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Grief-stricken Pittsburgh readies itself for funerals, Trump visit after synagogue shooting, Washington Post

Residents in grief-stricken Pittsburgh are preparing for the first of many funerals Tuesday, as well as a visit from President Trump, who plans to meet with members of the Jewish community here despite the mayor’s request that he postpone the trip until after families bury those killed in Saturday’s synagogue shooting.

Palestinian Authority condemns deadly attack at Pittsburgh synagogue, Times of Israel

The Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry on Sunday condemned the deadly shooting attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, calling it “a terrorist act.”

Ambassador Dermer: After Pittsburgh, U.S. Must Follow Israel’s Lead and Monitor Social Networks, Haaretz

Israeli Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer said Tuesday that just as Israel monitors extremist groups on the social networks, America must do so as well – even if it means bypassing certain constitutional limitations.

Israeli Army Opens Criminal Investigation Into Killing of Gaza Medic, Haaretz

The Israel Defense Forces has ordered a criminal probe into the killing of Razan al-Najjar, a Palestinian medic who was killed at the end of May during protests on the Gaza border.

Israeli forces kill Palestinian man during Gaza protests: medics, Reuters

Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian man and wounded 25 including two medics on Monday during protests along the Gaza Strip’s beachfront border with Israel, the Gaza Health Ministry said.

Palestinians revive calls to end security ties with Israel, Associated Press

The Palestine Liberation Organization’s mini-parliament has called for ending security coordination with Israeli forces in the West Bank, but says implementation is up to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Netanyahu ally seeks Jerusalem mayor seat in Israeli local polls, i24NEWS

Israelis voted in local elections Tuesday that include an ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vying for Jerusalem mayor and controversial first-time polls in part of the northern Golan Heights.

Druze on Golan Heights protest against Israeli municipal election, Reuters

Hundreds of Druze Arabs, some carrying Syrian flags, gathered outside the gates of a polling station on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Tuesday, trying to block their townspeople from voting in municipal elections.

Opinion and Analysis

Donald Trump’s rhetoric has stoked anti-Semitism and hatred, experts warn, Guardian

David Smith reports, “Donald Trump has fueled a climate of hatred in general and antisemitism in particular, with the Republican party acting as his enabler, experts warned on Monday. The US president’s tone has been under renewed scrutiny after Saturday’s massacre of 11 worshipers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, believed to be the deadliest attack on Jewish people in American history. ‘He has dramatically elevated the level of rhetorical tension in ways that do not discourage people from acting out their terrifying views,’ said David N Myers, a professor of Jewish history at the University of California, Los Angeles….As the president again tried to shift blame to the media on Monday, arguing that ‘fraudulent’ reporting was contributing to anger in the country and declaring that the press was the ‘true Enemy of the People’, criticism of his corrosive rhetoric and fears over its consequences were growing. A survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found a majority (54%) of Americans feel Trump’s decisions and behavior have encouraged white supremacist groups, compared with 39% who say they had had no effect and 5% who say he has discouraged these groups.”

‘Hateful Speech Almost Always Leads to Hateful Action’, Foreign Policy

Robbie Gramer interviews Mark Hetfield, President and CEO of HIAS.