November 14, 2018

U Mich President Apologizes to Jewish Students Over Recent Controversies

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Mark Schlissel, the president of the University of Michigan, apologized to Jewish students in a letter sent out to the university community over the recent controversies on campus.

Schlissel first addressed the two instructors, professor John Cheney-Lippold and graduate student instructor Lucy Peterson, who refused to write letters of recommendations to students who wanted to study abroad in Israel.

Refusing to write letters of recommendation for political reasons violates university policy, Schlissel stated.

“U-M strongly opposes a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, and no school, college, department or unit at our university endorses such a boycott,” Schlissel said. “Our view is that educators at a public university have an obligation to support students’ academic growth, and we expect anyone with instructional responsibilities to honor this fundamental university value. Our students deserve to be afforded all of the opportunities they have earned through their academic merit.”

Schlissel added that the university has established “a panel of distinguished faculty members to examine the intersection between political thought/ideology and faculty members’ responsibilities to students.”

The university is also apologized to the two Jewish students who were denied letters and is helping the two students gather everything they need to complete their applications to study abroad in Israel.

On the matter of the required lecture that featured a slide comparing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler, Schlissel noted that the speaker, former Black Panther member Emory Douglas, was invited to campus to discuss his artwork.

“Israel was not singled out here as imagery critical of many other political leaders was also a part of the talk,” Schlissel said. “This was the point of the talk itself – that imagery can be a powerful component of movements aimed at social justice.”

However, Schlissel acknowledged that it was understandable why students would be offended at the Netanyahu-Hitler analogy.

“We are sorry students were hurt by this experience,” Schlissel said.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) praised Schlissel’s statement in a tweet:

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, director of the AMCHA Initiative, also praised Schlissel’s statement as well as the university’s decision to discipline Cheney-Lippold in an email to the Journal: 

“We commend President Schlissel for his strong statement and the welcomed disciplinary measures taken against Cheney-Lippold. We are pleased that U-M has recognized the serious harm that an academic boycott’s implementation causes its own students. U-M has shown leadership in curbing this discriminatory behavior and stood up for all of its students’ civil and academic rights with this precedent. While the public discussion started with one student sharing her misguided professor’s actions, there are more than two dozen U-M professors who have expressed public support for the academic boycott. The problem is bigger than just John Cheney-Lippold, as further evidenced by recent reports of a second, nearly identical incident that harmed another student. We fully commend U-M for the steps taken thus far to discipline Cheney-Lippold, and for establishing a panel that we hope will lead to a clear and comprehensive policy on professors who attempt to use their professional positions to push a personal, political agenda.  Hundreds of faculty serving on U.S. campuses have endorsed an academic boycott of Israel.  We hope other university presidents will follow President Schlissel’s leadership.”  

UMich Students Call for School to Adopt IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism

Alexa Smith, the University of Michigan Art & Design student who revealed in a Facebook post that a speaker at the school had a slide comparing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler, announced that she and other students are pushing for the school to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.

Smith and other students had met with Gunalan Nadarajan, the dean of University of Michigan’s Stamp School of Art and Design, and Dr. Robert Sellers, the university’s chief diversity officer, earlier in the day to discuss the matter. This was a response to former Black Panther Emory Douglas’ lecture on campus, where he had the Netanyahu-Hitler slide, as well as a slide that depicted missiles adorned in Israeli flags striking the word “peace.”

“In order for anti-Semitism on this campus to be tackled head on, it must first be defined. Example 10 of the IHRA definition states that ‘drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of Nazis’ is an example of anti-Semitism,” Smith said in a Monday Facebook post. “We could have avoided this mess if the University had a policy of teaching this definition to all professors and faculty. In the future, the University will have a guideline to draw a clear line between ‘provocative’ and ‘hate speech.’”

Smith added that the IHRA demand was “well-received” and they are “cautiously optimistic” that it will come to fruition.

“Thank you to everyone who shared my post, made phone calls, and put pressure on the University,” Smith wrote. “It gives us, Jewish students, strength to see that hatred against us will not go unnoticed.”

In a YouTube video, Emory Douglas, the former “revolutionary artist” and minister of culture for the San Francisco Black Panther Party, is seen showing a slide juxtaposing Netanyahu and Hitler with the words “Guilty of Genocide” emblazoned across their heads during his Oct. 4 campus lecture. Another slide depicted the word “peace” being attacked by missiles adorned with American and Israeli flags.

Douglas’ lecture was a part of the Stamps School of Art & Design’s Penny Stamps Speakers Series. Art students are required to attend 11 of  14  lectures; Douglas’ lecture was part of the series.

The university’s public affairs office released a statement that Douglas “covered a wide array of subject matter within the overarching context of his work” and that the Israeli leader’s image was “a single slide among nearly 200 other slides not related to Israel that were presented over the course of an hour.” It added that Douglas’ work is “critical of a wide range of world leaders, including several U.S. presidents.”

Rick Fitzgerald, the assistant vice president for public affairs at the University of Michigan, told the Journal in an email that he could confirm Smith and other students had a “productive meeting” with Nadarajan and Sellers.

“The matter remains under review,” Fitzgerald said.

This latest controversy comes on the heels of reports that two University of Michigan instructors refused to write letters of recommendations for students to study in Israel. On Sept. 5, professor John Cheney-Lippold told Literature, Science and Arts (LSA) junior Abigail Ingber that he couldn’t write the letter because “many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel.” On Oct. 9, the Washington Post reported that economics junior Jake Secker asked teaching assistant Lucy Peterson to write him a letter of recommendation. Peterson initially agreed to write the letter, only to decline when she learned that Secker wanted to study in Israel.

“Along with numerous other academics in the U.S. and elsewhere, I have pledged myself to a boycott of Israeli institutions as a way of showing solidarity with Palestine,” Peterson wrote. “… I would be happy to write a recommendation for you if you end up applying to other programs.”

Secker met with LSA Associate Social Sciences Dean Rosario Ceballo on Oct. 5, where she offered to write him the letter of recommendation and pledged that “some sort of change” would come.

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told the Journal in an email, “ADL understands that not all speech critical of Israel is anti-Semitic. However, discourse and symbols used with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can become anti-Semitic and once it crosses that line, it must be dealt with quickly and correctly. We would support universities taking the IHRA definition into account as part of its consideration in examining allegations of anti-Semitism on campus.”

This story has been updated.

U Mich Speaker Compares Netanyahu to Hitler in Required Lecture

Screenshot from Facebook.

The University of Michigan brought a speaker to campus as part of a required course for students who compared Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler as part of his lecture.

Alexa Smith, a student at the university, wrote in a Friday Facebook post that she was mandated to watch Emory Douglas, who is a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movements and a former Black Panther, give “an overtly anti-Semitic lecture.” She shared a photo of a slide from Douglas’ lecture that juxtaposed Netanyahu and Hitler with the words “Guilty of Genocide” emblazoned across their heads.

Accompanying the slide was the definition of genocide: “The deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.”

“In what world is it OK for a mandatory course to host a speaker who compares Adolf Hitler to the Prime Minister of Israel?” Smith wrote.

She added, “As a Wolverine, I sat through this lecture horrified at the hatred and intolerance being spewed on our campus. As a Jew who is proud of my people and my homeland, I sat through this lecture feeling targeted and smeared to be as evil as the man who perpetuated the Holocaust and systematically murdered six million Jews.”

Smith noted that she sat through a required lecture a couple years ago in which the speaker called Israel a terror state and that Israeli soldiers were not human.

“This time I will no longer sit quietly and allow others to dehumanize my people and my community,” Smith wrote. “The administration is repeatedly failing to forcefully respond to antisemitism, and so it comes back worse and worse each time. A line needs to be drawn and it needs to be drawn now.”

Yesterday I was forced to sit through an overtly antisemitic lecture as part of the Penny Stamps Speaker Series, which…

Posted by Alexa Smith on Friday, October 5, 2018

The event was hosted by the Stamps School of Art & Design for their “Penny Stamps Speakers Series Presentation.” Art students are required to watch 11 specific lectures; one of those lectures was Douglas’ lecture.

The University of Michigan told The Daily Wire in a statement:

“The menu of speakers is diverse and dynamic and we do not control or censor what they say. You may find that you discover even more about yourself and the world around you from that which you debate or those with whom you find conflict in view. Discovering what you do not agree with will help you find your voice as much or more perhaps than the things you find resonance with.”

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted that the Netanyahu-Hitler analogy was anti-Semitic:

In a statement sent to the Journal via email, Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper called the required lecture “beyond an outrage.”

“In the name of free speech, a public university invites a speaker who equates in word and visually Netanyahu and Hitler with the term genocide,” Cooper said. “Students are required to sit through a propaganda presentation based on an insidious lie. If Hitler was ultimate evil and Bibi = Hitler what’s the message to fellow students about Jews/Zionists on campus? Beyond an outrage.”

“Will the University apologize or take action or make a comment beyond protecting free speech of bigot?”

Amanda Berman, the co-founder and president of the Zioness movement, praised Smith on Facebook.

“I am so proud of this amazing Zioness Alexa Smith for standing up for herself amid an increasingly hostile environment for Jewish students at the University of Michigan,” Berman wrote. “Everyone should read this and be aware of what is going on — just two weeks after a professor refused to write a letter of recommendation for a student wishing to study abroad in Tel Aviv. This is anti-Semitism and we must all fight it together.”

Another Israeli-Palestinian Peace Plan Ready to Clash With Reality

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, might hold the world record in reaching agreements with the wrong people at the wrong time. In the mid-1990s, he drafted an agreement for Israeli-Palestinian peace. His counterpart was Israeli Minister Yossi Beilin.

Alas, Abbas was then still under the boot of his boss, Yasser Arafat. He had no power to deliver. As for Beilin: Half a year after the pact’s draft was ready, Beilin and the labour government of which he was a member was ousted and replaced by the first government headed by the Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu. The Beilin-Abu-Mazen agreement remained on the shelf. 

More than 10 years later, Abbas came close to reaching an agreement with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. But two reasons prevented the agreement from materializing: First, Abbas never said yes (recently, Olmert attempted to paint this negative response in a more positive light by insisting that Abbas “never said no”). And second, by the time these two reached something close to an understanding, Olmert was no longer relevant. He was a weak prime minister, on his way out. He had no chance of getting the agreement he wanted passed in the Knesset. So, again, what the parties had agreed on remained on the shelf.

At times, Abbas seems to misread the political headwinds. An understanding with Beilin was no more than an intellectual exercise. An understanding with Olmert was no more than an illusion. Last week, on his way to making his annual speech at the United Nations, Abbas had more great meaningless meetings. He met Olmert, now a convicted felon with no political future, in London. He then met with opposition leader Tzipi Livni in New York. And yes, Livni is still a player in Israel’s political arena but is unlikely to have the power to make crucial decisions for Israel under any foreseeable political scenario. 

The two men he must talk to — Netanyahu, and President Donald Trump — did not get the honor. Both signaled that they are ready to sit down and talk. Trump even mentioned a possible “two-state solution.” Netanyahu was smart enough to respond positively to Trump’s unclear message, by reminding observers that a “state” can mean many things. “Everyone defines the term ‘state’ differently,” he said. “I am willing for the Palestinians to have the authority to rule themselves without the authority to harm us,” Netanyahu said on Sept. 26 after meeting with Trump in New York. So he did not rule out the option that such self-rule will be called a state.

What was Abbas’ response to these messages of a relative conciliatory tone? He said that the Palestinians now see the United States “with new eyes.” They don’t consider the U.S. to be a fair mediator for peace. “This administration has reneged on all previous U.S. commitments and undermined the two-state solution,” Abbas said. For Netanyahu’s Israel, Abbas reserved even harsher words, not the words of a leader preparing its people for negotiation and reconciliation.

Twenty-five years after the Oslo Accords — a plan for peace that Israelis and Palestinians drafted on their own in the early 1990s — there is now another plan for peace, one drafted by Americans. Since the beginning of the peace process, whenever the parties seemed to lose their footing and get off track, Americans felt the need to come to the rescue. Plans were drawn during the Bill Clinton years, the George W. Bush years and the Barack Obama years. To the presidents’ credit, their intentions were always good and their plans got neither better nor worse results than the initial plan drafted by Israelis and Palestinians —  that being no results. All sides seem to be much better at planning for peace than at making peace. 

Much like the Palestinians, Israel wants peace on its terms. It wants peace along with Jerusalem. It wants peace without refugees. It wants peace as a Jewish state.

And now there is another plan authored by a team of Americans that Trump assembled to write the “ultimate deal.” And don’t worry: While he still thinks that Israel and Palestine peace is a “real-estate deal”; while he one day preaches for a two-state solution and the next says a one state is also a possibility; while he still believes that “we’re going to make a deal” — his team knows better than all that. The plan is nuanced, it is coherent and it is basically ready to be released. Ready for failure.

It could lead to a Palestinian state. And yet, Netanyahu seems confident that the plan is compatible with the concept of “letting them rule themselves without the ability to harm Israel.” In other words: Ask not will they have a “state” — ask what you mean by a “state.” Call it a “state,” call it a “giraffe” or a “tiara,” Israel does not much care as long as it preserves its ability to defend the border and prevent it from becoming another Palestinian enclave of terrorism such as Gaza. The Palestinians want a flag? They can have a flag. They can have a government, a border, a president, they can make decisions, develop their towns, grow their economy, maintain internal security. They can have a lot more than they have now. All this is in the plan, but for a price the Palestinians don’t seem willing to pay.  

The plan is still under wraps because there are currently no credible buyers. The three-pronged maneuver by Trump’s administration was met with tough resistance. What were Trump’s tools? Using the Arab world to make the deal of the century a regional deal rather than an Israeli-Palestinian deal; using economic sanctions and enticements to make the Palestinians cooperate; shatter some of the orthodoxies that became an obstacle to any progress in all previous peace processes. 

Arab leaders were asked by the Trump administration — senior adviser Jared Kushner, adviser on Israel Jason Greenblatt and their team — to get on board and guarantee support for the plan. They were informed of some of the principles, and some of them responded somewhat positively. But a commitment was not granted. Trump was hoping to pressure the Palestinians, assisted by the Egyptians and Saudis. But these hopes met the reality of a Middle East where commitments are rare, and their fulfilment even rarer. 

The Palestinians were hit in the pocketbook by the administration and then told that they can get a lot more than they lost if only they’d accept certain terms and go back to the negotiating table. 

And of course, the boldest and most visible acts were those aiming to kill a few unrealistic dreams once and for all: Jerusalem was recognized as Israel’s capital, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees was cut off from funds whose ultimate objective is to perpetuate and exacerbate the problem of Palestinian refugees. 

Abbas responded to all three moves with one powerful sentence: “Jerusalem is not for sale and the Palestinian people’s rights are not up for bargaining.” “Jerusalem” is the battle cry that can deter Arab leaders from jumping on the Trump bandwagon. “For sale” is to clarify that the Palestinians will not let economic hardships or economic incentives divert them from their ultimate goal. “Rights” is to signal that Trump was wrong to boast that Jerusalem and the refugees are now off the table. It might be off Trump’s table, and off Netanyahu’s — but that’s exactly why Abbas sees no point in negotiating with these leaders. That’s exactly why he called for “the convening of an international peace conference based on the relevant U.N. resolutions and the internationally endorsed terms of reference and parameters.” He called for the conference, to hint that, for him, the Trump plan is off the table.

 

All sides seem to be much better at planning for peace than at making peace. 

Not that Israel is in any rush to sign an accord with the Palestinians. It is not. Much like the Palestinians, Israel wants peace on its terms. It wants peace along with Jerusalem. It wants peace without refugees. It wants peace as a Jewish state. It wants peace that the other side is not willing to grant. 

Yes, Netanyahu knows that one day, somehow, the Palestinian issue will need a remedy. But he does not see this problem as urgent. Not when the neighborhood is preoccupied with Iranian aggressiveness, Russian interventionism, Syrian bloodshed, Islamic radicalism. 

Netanyahu is quite confident about the Trump plan. But he is not overly confident because of two reasons: the erratic nature of the president, and the dynamics of negotiation, if these ever materialize. Trump dislikes failure, and by declaring a deal between Israel and Palestine to be his goal — a goal he still says is likely to be achieved — he put himself in the hands of Abbas and Netanyahu. They can make him fail. They can make him seem like a loser. 

The prime minister is aware of the danger that Trump, because of this commitment that he had made, might fall in love with the idea of peacemaking, and that such emotion proved problematic in past rounds of negotiations (former Secretary of State John Kerry and the Iran deal is recent example). The prime minister also knows that negotiation is something that could lead to many unexpected results: What if his coalition crumbles? What if his only choice is reliance on opposition parties who want him to be more accommodating toward the Palestinians? What if the public suddenly begins to pressure him to give more? What if Israel is diplomatically outmaneuvered? 

Of course, there is no danger of any of this happening as long as Abbas prefers to make deals with imaginary leaders of imaginary states, rather than real leaders of real states. If Abbas’ game is a waiting game — forget about Trump and wait for a more sympathetic U.S. president in 2020; forget about Netanyahu and wait for his legal troubles to take him down — the Israeli prime minister is also in no rush. As his U.N. speech on Sept. 27 showed, the Palestinians are relatively low on his agenda. They are a nuisance, not an existential threat. They are a diversion, not the real Middle East game of power. In fact, a main worry for Israel is the risk that the U.S. will get diverted from these important topics onto playing the game of a futile peace process. 

Netanyahu’s and Abbas’ speeches on Sept. 27 at the U.N. were merely a preseason practice. As is always true in this arena, the next couple of months could be dramatic. Abbas is slated to speak within a few weeks to the leaders of the PLO — his home crowd. This will be his more important speech, where he will present his strategy for the future. If he has a plan featuring truly bold moves, this will when he announces it. 

What can he do? He can go as far as dismantling the Palestinian Authority (PA). That is, cutting off his own nose to punish Israel. In such a case, the burden of having to take care of the Palestinian population in the West Bank will fall on Israel’s shoulders. But Israel’s main worry is not such a move. It’s a much likelier move of cutting all Palestinian Authority funds to Gaza. 

Most observers of the Abbas U.N. speech — not many Americans were watching, as most viewers were riveted by the Christine Blasey Ford-Brett Kavanaugh hearing on Capitol Hill — focused on his denunciation of Trump, his denigration of Israel’s nation-state law (a law that Netanyahu brilliantly defended), his insistence on the need to reverse the U.S. policy on Jerusalem. The Palestinians themselves focused no less attention on Abbas’ impatient message to the leaders of Hamas. 

“We made a deal,” Abbas said at the U.N. “The Palestinian government assumes its responsibilities in Gaza as it has in the West Bank. Then we build our state on the basis of one law, one authority, one system and one legitimate weapon. We do not accept a state of militias.”

The deal — unfortunately — has one unresolved problem. Hamas, in the words of Abbas, “did not agree to implement it.” In other words: Hamas would not let Abbas control Gaza. In fact, as part of the ongoing strife between these two Palestinian factions, Hamas parliamentarians convened in Gaza two weeks ago and declared that Abbas’ presidency is unlawful.

Gaza is a bomb to which Abbas holds one safety latch. Almost every day, thousands of Gazans engage in violent demonstrations near the Erez crossing to Israel. The economic situation has again reached a low, stoking rage among the residents of the strip — rage against Israel, against Hamas, against the PA. Abbas can turn this rage into a weapon by deciding to cut $96 million that the PA sends to Gaza each month. He can turn this rage into a weapon that is most likely to fire the opening shot in another Israel-Gaza war.

Twenty-five years after the Oslo Accords — the anniversary was just two weeks ago — it is not easy to remember that Gaza is where it all started. I was there the day Arafat crossed the border to take over the territory — and then when he moved to Jericho, his second stop. 

In Gaza, the history of the peace process easily can be condensed. Step one: euphoria and the beginning of a Palestinian rule. Step two: violence and terror. Step three: an Israeli pullout. Step four: Hamas take over. Step five: continuous eruptions of violence. All this, in twenty-five years. All this, with only a fraction of time when the situation looked hopeful.

The Palestinians got their first chance at making Gaza a better place and ruined it in an Intifada. They then got a second chance, when Israel left, and turned to internal violence. Then Hamas got a chance. It had the territory all to itself, and decided to use it as a launching pad for war against Israel. And now Abbas wants it back.

The likely result: another war. We seem to always be ready for that.


Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain.

Iran Launches Missiles Against ISIS in Syria While Threatening U.S. and Israel

FILE PHOTO: Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Foreign Ministers Council in Istanbul, Turkey, December 13, 2017. REUTERS/Arif Hudaverdi Yaman/Pool/File Photo

Iran launched six medium-range ballistic missiles into Syria on Oct. 1 at ISIS targets in what it said was retaliation for their role in a recent attack at a military parade last month in Iran. The missile attack reportedly killed and wounded several militants.

Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who heads the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division, told an Iranian news agency, “Terrorists used bullets in Ahvaz. We answered them with missiles.”

The United States said that no members of the U.S.-backed coalition in Syria was harmed in the missile strikes. The missiles were emblazoned with the slogans “Down with USA,” “Down with Israel,” and “Down with House of Saud [Saudi Arabia].”

On Sept. 22, four gunmen opened fire on an Iranian military parade in Ahvaz, resulted in at least 25 dead, eight of whom were members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Both ISIS and the Ahvaz National Resistance, an anti-government militia, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Iran blamed the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia for the military parade attack. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the Oct. 1 missile strikes showed that it was “ridiculous” for Iran to think that Israel was behind the attack.

“The fact that ‘Death to Israel’ was written on the missiles launched at Syria proves everything,” Netanyahu said.

Israel Says IAEA Failed to Act After Being Notified of Iranian Nuclear Site

FILE PHOTO: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano waits for the start of a board of governors meeting at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo

A senior Israeli official told Israel’s Channel 10 that Israel told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about the Iranian nuclear site that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed at the United Nations on Thursday, but the agency failed to act.

The official added that the IAEA had no idea what was going on at the site, and when they didn’t take any action, the Israeli government decided the best course of action was to reveal the site to the public in Netanyahu’s U.N. speech.

“We wanted to wake up the world and pressure the IAEA to act against the suspected facilities in Iran,” the official said.

Israel also told the United States about the nuclear site. The United States joined Israel in calling for the IAEA to investigate the site, although a U.S. intelligence official told Reuters that it was “somewhat misleading” to call it a nuclear site.

“We have known about this facility for some time, and it’s full of file cabinets and paper, not aluminum tubes for centrifuges, and second, so far as anyone knows, there is nothing in it that would allow Iran to break out of the JCPOA [the Iran nuclear deal] any faster than it otherwise could,” the official said.

A different U.S. official said that the facility stored records of Iran’s nuclear program.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told an Iranian news agency on Friday that Netanyahu is a “liar who would not stop lying.”

The IAEA has yet to react to Netanyahu’s speech.

In U.N. Speech, Netanyahu Reveals Second Iranian Nuclear Site

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 27, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

In his Thursday speech before the United Nations General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed another secret Iran nuclear facility as well as proof that Hezbollah’s been using civilians as human shields.

The second site, which Netanyahu provided photographic evidence of, is located in Tehran. The Israeli prime minister stated that since Israel exposed one nuclear site in Tehran in May, Iran has been scrambling to cover-up the existence of the second site:

Now, countries with satellite capabilities may notice some increased activity on Maher Alley in the days and weeks ahead. The people they’ll see scurrying back and forth are Iranian officials desperately trying to finish the job of cleaning up that site. Because, you see, since we raided the atomic archive, they’ve been busy cleaning out the atomic warehouse.

Just last month, they removed 15 kilograms of radioactive material. You know what they did with it? They had 15 kilograms of radioactive material, they had to get it out of the site, so they took it out and they spread it around Tehran in an effort to hide the evidence. The endangered residents of Tehran may want to know that they can get a Geiger counter on Amazon for only $29.99. As of today that’s just 4 million Iranian rials, but we’ll get to that later. I’ll talk about the Iranian economy in a minute. They took this radioactive material and spread it around Tehran.

Now, the Iranian officials cleaning out that site still have a lot of work to do because they’ve had at least, at least 15 ship containers, they’re gigantic, 15 ship containers full of nuclear related equipment and material stored there. Now, since each of those containers can hold 20 tons of material, this means that this site contains as much as 300 tons, 300 tons of nuclear related equipment and material.

Netanyahu added, “The reason Iran didn’t destroy its atomic archive and its atomic warehouse is because it hasn’t abandoned its goal to develop nuclear weapons. In fact, it planned to use both of these sites in a few years when the time would be right to break out to the atom bomb.”

Netanyahu called Yukiya Amano, who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to investigate the site. Netanyahu proceeded to issue a warning to the regime in Tehran:

Israel knows what you’re doing, and Israel knows where you’re doing it. Israel will never let a regime that calls for our destruction to develop nuclear weapons. Not now, not in 10 years, not ever.

And Israel will do whatever it must do to defend itself against Iran’s aggression. We will continue to act against you in Syria. We will act against you in Lebanon. We will act against you in Iraq. We will act against you whenever and wherever we must act to defend our state and defend our people.

Later in the speech, Netanyahu provided photographic evidence of Hezbollah, Iran’s terror proxy, placing three missile sites nearby the international airport in Beirut, evidence they are “deliberately using the innocent people of Beirut as human shields.”

“I also have a message for Hezbollah today: Israel knows, Israel also knows what you’re doing,” Netanyahu said. “Israel knows where you’re doing it. And Israel will not let you get away with it.”

Additionally, Netanyahu criticized the United Nations for accusing Israel of “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing” of the Palestinians.

“It’s the same old anti-Semitism with a brand-new face. That’s all it is,” Netanyahu said. ”Once, it was the Jewish people that were slandered and held to a different standard. Today, it’s the Jewish state that is slandered and held to a different standard.”

Netanyahu concluded his speech with a defense of the Jewish state as the sole “vibrant democracy” in a sea of tyranny in the Middle East.

“In Israel, whether you are a Jew or an Arab, a Christian or a Muslim, a Druze or a Bedouin, or anything else, your individual rights are exactly the same, and they will always remain the same,” Netanyahu said. “…In the Middle East, where women are often treated as property, minorities are persecuted, gays are hanged, Israel stands out as a shining example of freedom and progress.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, I could not be more proud to represent my country Israel.”

Read the full transcript of Netanyahu’s speech here.

Israel to Boycott UNESCO Anti-Semitism Event

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 26, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in a Wednesday statement that he would be declining UNESCO [United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization]’s invitation to attend an event on anti-Semitism, criticizing the entity’s “persistent and egregious bias against Israel.”.

Netanyahu pointed out that UNESCO has passed 71 resolutions condemning Israel since 2009, with only two other resolutions condemning other countries.

“The mark of anti-Semitism was once singling out the Jewish people for slander and condemnation,” Netanyahu said. “The mark of anti-Semitism today is singling out the Jewish state for slander and condemnation.”

Netanyahu added that UNESCO needs to stop denying Israel’s historical ties to the Western Wall and the Cave of the Patriarchs.

“If and when UNESCO ends its bias against Israel, stops denying history and starts standing up for the truth, Israel will be honored to rejoin,” Netanyahu said. “Until then, Israel will fight anti-Semitism at UNESCO and everywhere else.”

Both the United States and Israel exited from UNESCO in 2017; at the time, the State Department stated that it was due to UNESCO’s bias against Israel and that they kept Syria on the human rights committee despite the ongoing civil war in the country.

Trump Backs Two-State Solution in Press Conference With Netanyahu

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 26, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

President Trump voiced his support for a two-state solution in the Israel-Palestinian conflict in a Wednesday press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations General Assembly.

Trump was asked by a reporter if his peace plan would involve a two-state solution, prompting Trump to respond, “I like two-state solution.”

“That’s what I think works best,” Trump said. “I don’t even have to speak to anybody, that’s my feeling. Now, you may have a different feeling — I don’t think so — but I think two-state solution works best.”

Trump later added that his peace plan would be presented in two-to-four months and that he hoped to accomplish a deal between the two sides before the end of his first term as president.

The president also said during the press conference that he was confident that the Palestinians would come back to the negotiating table, pointing out that the United States has leverage by zeroing out funding to the Palestinians and that the biggest roadblock to a deal, Jerusalem, has now been taken off the table.

“By taking off the table the embassy moving to Jerusalem, that was always the primary ingredient as to why deals couldn’t get done,” Trump said. “I spoke to many of the negotiating teams, and they said they could never get past the embassy moving into Jerusalem and all of what that meant, which you know what that meant. That meant everything. And now, that’s off the table.”

Netanyahu later told reporters that any deal would allow Israel to maintain its “security control from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea,” according to the Times of Israel.

“Make no mistake: Israel will not give up on security control west of the Jordan as long as I am prime minister,” Netanyahu said. “I think the Americans accept that principle.”

J.K. Rowling’s New Book to Feature Anti-Semite As Villain

Photo from Wikipedia.

J.K. Rowling, author of the world famous Harry Potter series, will feature an anti-Semite as the villain in her upcoming book.

According to Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), the book, titled “Lethal White,” describes the antagonist, Jimmy Knight, as becoming an anti-Semite due to his hatred for Israel:

“I wouldn’t trust him if it was anything to do with Jews,” Knight’s ex-wife tells a detective. “He doesn’t like them. Israel’s the root of all evil, according to Jimmy. Zionism: I got sick of the bloody sound of the word. You’d think they’d suffered enough,” she says of Jews.

“Lethal White” is the fourth book in the Galbraith mystery series, where Rowling, under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, writes about the adventures of detectives Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott.

Rowling was one of 150 British artists in 2015 to sign a letter protesting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the Jerusalem Post notes. Rowling explained in 2015 why she felt that that the BDS movement was unfair even though she is opposed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies:

“I have deplored most of Mr Netanyahu’s actions in office. However, I do not believe that a cultural boycott will force Mr Netanyahu from power, nor have I ever heard of a cultural boycott ending a bloody and prolonged conflict.

“If any effects are felt from the proposed boycott, it will be by ordinary Israelis, many of whom did not vote for Mr Netanyahu. Those Israelis will be right to ask why cultural boycotts are not also being proposed against – to take random examples – North Korea and Zimbabwe, whose leaders are not generally considered paragons by the international community.”

She has also called out anti-Zionists and anti-Semites on Twitter. She has also confirmed that one of the characters in Harry Potter, Anthony Goldstein, is in fact Jewish.

However, Rowling has stated that she views Harry Potter as “a Palestinian child fighting against the hardships and evil around him,” according to the Post.

Netanyahu Warns Hezbollah Will Receive a ‘Crushing Blow’ If They Confront Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks out a train window as he participates in a test-run of the new high-speed train between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, near Lod, Israel September 20, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah that Israel will crush the terror group if they dare use their missiles against the Jewish state.

Nasrallah said in a Wednesday speech that Israel’s airstrikes in Syria to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining missiles had failed, as the terror group “possesses precision missiles and non-precision and weapons capabilities.”

“If Israel imposes a war on Lebanon, Israel will face a destiny and reality it didn’t expect any day,” Nasrallah said.

Netanyahu responded to Nasrallah on Thursday that those words are “coming from the same man who, after 2006, said that if he knew what the Israeli response would have been to the kidnapping of three of our soldiers, he would have thought twice whether to do it.”

“Today I recommend he think not twice, but 20 times,” Netanyahu said. “Because if he confronts us, he will receive a crushing blow he can’t even imagine.”

Hezbollah’s current missile arsenal is at approximately 130,000, a marked increase from the 15,000 they had during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war.

The Iranian terror proxy has also been increasing its cooperation with Lebanon’s military, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), which receives funds from the United States.

Does Israel Need Bipartisan Support?

Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

It is not easy to ditch orthodoxies — and not always advisable. This is as true for the political arena as it is for religion. Consider, as one example, the orthodoxy of the two-state solution. It is an orthodoxy that many, if not most, Israelis are willing to let go. On the other hand, what is the alternative? What happens when the two-state orthodoxy is gone? 

Enter Donald Trump. He is, of course, a prime example of the unorthodox. 

Trump destroyed many orthodoxies of presidential decorum. He might have destroyed some orthodoxies of diplomacy. He painted a question mark above the orthodoxy of the two-state solution. And one must wonder whether his unorthodox manner is about to end another orthodoxy: “Bipartisan support for Israel.” 

Rabbi Eric Yoffie seems to think he is. But he doesn’t blame Trump. It is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who, Yoffie said, “allowed Israel to get caught up in the hyperpartisanship that now divides Republicans from Democrats in America.” And Yoffie is not alone in that view. An institute I work for, The Jewish People Policy Institute, warned in its annual assessment “that Israel was becoming increasingly politicized in the United States.” A Jerusalem Post editorial reminded its readers that “Israel cannot count on one president and one party.”  

The list goes on, but the point is well taken: Bipartisan support for Israel is better than partisan support. Duh. This is like a company saying that having people of all ages buy its product is better than having just young people buy its product. Countries, much like companies selling product, prefer the many over the few. A dilemma begins when having it all becomes impossible or very pricey. As in, if you get the old buyers, many youngsters will abandon the product; and if you sell to everyone, you must sell cheap and lose profitability. 

These are the questions one must consider as one deals with the orthodoxy on bipartisan support. First, is it possible to keep this orthodoxy alive, or is it just an empty allusion to a more politically benign past? And, what is the benefit for Israel, and what is the price Israel must pay for bipartisanship? 

“What if Israel actually believes that the U.S. cut of Palestinian aid is a positive move?”

Observers who assume these questions are easy to answer usually overlook a key side of an argument. For example, in his article, Yoffie asks: “Why in heaven’s name is Bibi applauding” the American decision to “drastically cut social and economic aid to Palestinians?” When Israel applauds such moves, he argues — and I agree — it leads to a loss of bipartisan support.

So where is the problem with Yoffie’s argument? He sees only downsides. He detects no dilemma. 

Yoffie (for whom I have great respect) assumes that the U.S. decision “will likely lead to a third intifada, a Hamas takeover of the Palestinian Authority, or a massive humanitarian crisis for which Israel will ultimately be responsible.” If that’s the case, Israel looks quite dumb. It will get an intifada and erode bipartisanship. Indeed, it is not clear why anyone would choose this course of action.

But what if Israel actually believes that the U.S. cut of Palestinian aid is a positive move? What if it believes that it can tame Palestinian irrational expectations or make Palestinian leaders reconsider their positions? You see the dilemma. It is not a choice between “do the dumb thing and lose bipartisanship” and “do the right thing and win bipartisanship.” That’s no dilemma. It is between “do the right thing and lose bipartisanship” and “do the wrong thing and win bipartisanship.”   

So what should Israel do when such dilemmas occur? Make sure to weigh the real costs (of losing bipartisanship) against the real benefits (of the specific move under consideration). In other words: Beware orthodoxy. 

For a Reform rabbi such as Yoffie, this should be easy to accept. 

Netanyahu Spokesman to Take Time Off In Response to Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Screenshot from Twitter.

David Keyes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s foreign media spokesperson, is taking some time off in response to allegations of sexual misconduct, the Times of Israel reports.

As the Journal has reported, New York state senate Democratic candidate Julia Salazar accused Keyes of sexually assaulting her in 2013, an allegation Keyes denied. But the Times of Israel found 11 other women who accused Keyes of inappropriate conduct:

Besides Salazar, one other woman who spoke to The Times of Israel accused Keyes of “physically aggressive” behavior that could be considered sexual assault. According to this woman’s account, he kissed her against her will and tried to undress her, and she had to use force to extricate herself from his embrace.

The other women described encounters they found either aggressive, offensive, overly flirtatious or otherwise inappropriate.

Additionally, Wall Street Journal reporter Shayndi Raice tweeted that Keyes is a “predator”:

Keyes has denied the allegations, but announced in a statement on Thursday that he was taking some time away from his position.

“In light of the false and misleading accusations against me and in order not to distract from the important work of the prime minister, I have asked to take time off to clear my name,” Keyes said. “I am fully confident that the truth will come out.”

N.Y. State Senate Candidate Accuses Netanyahu Spokesman of Sexual Assault

Screenshot from Twitter.

Julia Salazar, the democratic socialist New York state senate candidate who has faced questions over her claims of Jewish ancestry, is claiming that David Keyes, the foreign media spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, sexually assaulted her.

In a statement, Salazar said that the media was about to out her for her sexual assault claim:

Keyes has denied the allegations.

“This false accusation is made by someone who has proven to be repeatedly dishonest about her own life,” Keyes said in a statement. “This is yet another example of her dishonesty.”

The Daily Caller has reported that Salazar fits the description of a woman accusing Keyes of sexual assault in 2016 and that she deleted Facebook posts accusing Keyes of sexually assaulting her. The Daily Caller report also notes that “two journalists from The Intercept and one who currently works at The Atlantic” looked into Salazar’s allegations, but ended the investigation because “Salazar would not cooperate.”

As the Journal has reported, Salazar has claimed that her father is Jewish, a claim that was contradicted by her brother. Salazar then said that she took a conversion class, but never had a b’nai mitzvah. She is now claiming that she underwent the full conversion process.

Additionally, Salazar has said that she is an immigrant from Colombia, which she later backtracked on when members of her family said otherwise. Salazar’s family members have also contradicted her statements that she grew-up in a working class household.

Citizens Union, a good-government organization, rescinded their endorsement on Tuesday when they discovered that Salazar gave them inaccurate information on her academic resume. Salazar recently admitted to The New York Times that she did not graduate from Columbia University despite information from her campaign suggesting otherwise.

United States to Shut Down PLO’s D.C. Office

REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

The Trump administration announced on Tuesday that they would be shutting down the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s office in Washington, D.C., the latest in a series of steps taken by the administration to crack down on the Palestinian Authority.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said they were making this move because “ the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.”

“To the contrary, PLO leadership has condemned a US peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the US government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise,” Nauert said. “As such, and reflecting congressional concerns, the administration has decided that the PLO office in Washington will close at this point.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu applauded the move in a statement.

“Israel supports these actions that are meant to make it clear to the Palestinians that refusing to negotiate and attacking Israel in international forums will not bring about peace,” Netanyahu said.

According to the Times of Israel, Abbas is furious with the decision and will say “some very undiplomatic things” against Trump at the United Nations General Assembly.

Palestinian Authority officials told Israel’s Channel 10 that Trump is “an enemy of the Palestinian people and an enemy of peace.”

“The American president is encouraging terror and extremism with his policies that could lead to violence in the region, which will explode in the faces of Israel and the US,” the officials said.

According to Jewish Virtual Library, the PLO was initially formed in 1964 with the stated goal of the destruction of Israel and Zionism through violent means. The group has committed numerous acts of terror, including the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship in 1985. The terrorists murdered a Jewish man, Leon Klinghoffer, who was confined to a wheelchair during the hijacking.

Even though the PLO renounced terrorism in 1993, former PLO chairman Yasser Arafat incited intifadas against Israelis, as has Abbas, Arafat’s successor.

MP Corbyn Attended 2014 Ceremony Honoring Munich Terrorists

Screenshot from Twitter.

After pictures emerged over the weekend of Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn attending a wreath-laying ceremony honoring the Palestinian terrorists behind the 1972 Munich massacre at the Summer Olympics, Corbyn admitted on August 13 that he attended due to his desire to end terrorism.

Here are the pictures from the 2014 ceremony in Tunisia that were unearthed by the UK Daily Mail:

Initially, the Labour Party denied that Corbyn had taken part in the ceremony, claiming instead that he was at a memorial honoring 47 Palestinians that died in a 1985 airstrike in Tunisia. However:

But Corbyn is now admitting he attended the memorial for the 1972 Munich terrorists, although he’s claiming that he “was actually involved in” in the laying of the wreath.

“I was there because I wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who has died in every terrorist incident everywhere, because we have to end it,” Corbyn told Sky News. “You cannot pursue peace by a cycle of violence. The only way you pursue peace is by a cycle of dialogue.”

Corbyn’s explanation was not enough for Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, whose husbands died in the massacre, as they pointed out to Jewish News that Corbyn has yet to visit “the graves of our murdered fathers, sons and husbands.”

“For Mr Corbyn to honour these terrorists is the ultimate act of maliciousness, cruelty and stupidity,” Spitzer and Romano said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke out against Corbyn for attending the 2014 ceremony:

Corbyn responded:

Netanyahu’s reference of Corbyn’s Israel-Nazi comparison appears to be in regards to a clip of Corbyn in 2013 stating at the Palestinian Return Centre that the Israeli “occupation” in the West Bank is equivalent to the “many people in Europe who suffered occupation during the Second World War, with the endless road blocks, imprisonment, irrational behavior by the military and the police.”

According to Jewish Virtual Library, 11 Palestinian terrorists who were part of the “Black September” faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) committed the 1972 massacre. Five of the terrorists initially took nine of the Israeli Olympic athletes hostage, demanding that Israel release 200 Arab prisoners in exchange for the hostages.

The plan was for the Germans to have hidden gunmen to kill the Palestinian terrorists when they came to release the Israelis at a NATO airbase, but there was just one problem – the Germans had been anticipating five Palestinian terrorists, but eight had shown up. The Germans still attempted to kill the Palestinian terrorists, but in the midst of the fight the terrorists murdered all nine of the Israeli hostages.

H/T: UK Independent

Knesset Passes Bill Proclaiming Israel As Jewish Nation-State

Photo from Flickr.

The Knesset passed a bill on July 18 that declares Israel as a Jewish nation-state, which has resulted in blowback from some Jewish groups.

The bill, passed by a margin of 62-55 with two abstentions, recognizes Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people,” Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and establishes the Hebrew calendar as the country’s official calendar.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the bill as a victory for Israel and Zionism.

“Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, that respects the individual rights of all its citizens,” Netanyahu said. “This is our state — the Jewish state. In recent years there have been some who have attempted to put this in doubt, to undercut the core of our being. Today we made it law: This is our nation, language and flag.”

Some Jewish groups have argued that the bill undercuts Zionism, alleging that the bill will ruin relations with Arabs.

“The measure downgrades Arabic from its longstanding status as one of Israel’s official languages to one that has ‘special status,’” the American Jewish Committee (AJC) said in a statement. “This not only directly affects the 21 percent of Israel’s citizens who comprise the country’s largest minority, but it also would appear to work against the government’s ongoing efforts to encourage the use of Arabic, given Israel’s location in the Middle East.”

The AJC added that the law could result in “Jewish-only communities” in Israel.

“We respectfully ask the Government of Israel to clarify these and other questionable elements of the bill, and to reaffirm the core principles and values that make up the very foundation of Israel’s vibrant and admired democracy,” the AJC said.

Rob Long: Hollywood Writer Talks Trump

Award-winning Hollywood showrunner Rob Long talks about happiness, craziness and, of course, Donald Trump.

Follow Rob and Ricochet on Twitter 

Check out this episode!

Housing Law Is Counter to Israel’s Spirit

REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Update: On July 18, the Knesset passed the Basic Law.

Fifty years ago, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was enacted. Commonly known as the Fair Housing Act, it prohibited various forms of discrimination “in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin,” according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Since then, HUD has been monitoring trends in racial and ethnic discrimination in rental and sales markets. According to the most recent survey, conducted in 2013, while housing discrimination is illegal, in practice, it unfortunately exists: “(w)hite homeseekers are more likely to be favored than minorities. Most important, minority homeseekers are told about and shown fewer homes and apartments than whites.”

A case in point happened in 1973, when the Justice Department sued a management corporation and its president, Donald Trump, for alleged racial discrimination against Blacks who wished to rent apartments in the New York city boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. When Trump started making noises about a potential presidential run in 2012, rapper Snoop Dogg quipped: “Why not? It wouldn’t be the first time he pushed a Black family out of their home.”

Seriously, in the United States housing discrimination is prohibited by law and generally condemned by public opinion. In Israel, on the other hand, housing discrimination might not only become a practice, but officially allowed by law.

If all goes well for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, then next week the Knesset will pass the Basic Law: Israel as the state of the Jewish people, which he had designated as one of his priorities. That Israel doesn’t need such law is besides the point. The world knows that Israel is a Jewish state, and whoever doesn’t recognize it will not be impressed by this law or another. The main problem with this law is that it shatters the already fragile Israeli democracy.

At the crux of this controversial bill lies article 7b., which says “the state can allow a community composed of people of the same faith or nationality to maintain an exclusive community.” That this idea has already been dismissed by the Israeli Supreme Court two decades ago didn’t deter the initiators of this bill. In 2000, Chief Justice Aharon Barak ruled on the case of the Ka’adans, an Israeli-Arab couple who had been refused permission to buy a plot or home in Katzir, a Jewish cooperative settlement in northern Israel. “We do not accept the conception that the values of the state of Israel as a Jewish state justify discrimination by the state between citizens on the basis of religion or nationality,” wrote Barak in his landmark ruling.

Likkud Minister Yariv Levin called the Ka’dan ruling a “disgrace” and “the destruction of Zionism.” Now, as one of the initiators of the new Nation-State Law, he serves his revenge. And if the Supreme Court insists on holding such discrimination illegal and unconstitutional? No worries, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is already advancing the “overriding clause,” which will enable the Knesset to override Supreme Court decisions.

As always, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin stepped forward to save Israel’s soul. In an impassioned letter he sent on July 10 to the joint Knesset and Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, he implored members of the Knesset (MKs) to re-examine the repercussions of the specific article: “I also ask for us to look inward, into the depths of the Israeli society: are we willing in the name of the Zionist vision to lend a hand to discrimination and exclusion of a man or a woman based on their origin?”

President Rivlin, who always knew how to reconcile his ardent Zionism with his liberal view, went on to warn the MKs that discrimination will not be limited to Arabs: “The bill before you allows any group, in the broadest of terms and without any monitoring, to establish a community with no Mizrahi Jews, Haredim, Druze and members of the LGBT community.”

What Israel needs in order to strengthen its Jewish character is more Jews who would seek to make the Jewish state their home. The way to accomplish that is by aspiring to become what the prophet Isaiah called “light unto the nations,” not by passing discriminating laws, which only undermine Israel’s democracy and tarnish its name.

Uri Dromi is the director general of the Jerusalem Press Club. From 1992-96, he was a spokesman for the Israeli government.

Episode 94 – Bibi: The Man Behind the Myth

Photo: World Economic Forum

Few figures in Israeli politics, or in global politics for that matter, arouse such extreme levels of both antagonism and diehard support as the man the world has come to know as Bibi. Benjamin Netanyahu was the inheritor of a long dormant dynasty known as the Revisionist movement which eventually developed into the Likud, Israel’s current ruling political party.

Every human who rises to such levels of fame and infamy, becomes to a certain degree, mythological. But not too many people know the story of the man behind the myth. Today, by many, Bibi is seen as the inexorable protector of Zion, the ultimate diplomat, the only man fit to lead the Jewish people. By many others, he’s forgone all ethical and moral boundaries and is destined to doom our nation. But before Benjamin Netanyahu was all these things, before he was Prime Minister of Israel, he was a kid, enchanted by his older brother Yoni, he was a furniture salesman, a two time divorcee, he was Ben Nitay studying architecture at MIT.

Today, embroiled in corruption allegations and staving off a world of condemnations, it’s hard to see Bibi as much else than transcendent good or evil. But that won’t stop us from trying.

Anshel Pfeffer has been a journalist for the Israeli Daily, Haaretz, since 2014 and has recently published his biography titled “Bibi: the turbulent life and times of Benjamin Netanyahu”

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We’re very excited to be joined today by Anshel Pfeffer to discuss the man, the legend, Bibi.

Anshel’s book on Amazon and his Twitter

Netanyahu to Headline AJC Forum

REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/Pool

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be among the leaders headlining the American Jewish Committee (AJC)’s Global Forum on June 10-13 in Jerusalem.

According to a press release, the AJC forum will be celebrating the 70th anniversary of the state of Israel, the first AJC forum to be held outside of the United States. Netanyahu will be the forum’s keynote speaker. Other speakers will include Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Affairs Ministry Legal Adviser Tal Becker.

The forum will also feature discussions on a one-state solution versus a two-state solution on the Israel/Palestine conflict, Iran and relations between Israel and the Diaspora as well as honor past world leaders such as former President Harry Truman and former prime minister of Greece Costantinos Mitsotakis.

The AJC will be handing out two Moral Courage Awards to Sandra Samuel, who saved the life of a two-year-old during the 2008 Mumbai bombing and the Galilee Medical Center’s leadership for providing treatment to Syrians caught in the crossfire of the country’s civil war.

“We enthusiastically are coming to Israel, to the capital city of Jerusalem, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Israel’s rebirth, and to demonstrate by our presence our deep solidarity with, and enduring support, for Israel,” AJC CEO David Harris said in the press release. “The 2,100-plus attendance is way beyond our most optimistic projection, underscoring the strong ties between Israel and the AJC global community.”

Netanyahu Hammers Iranian Regime for Inhibiting Country’s Silicon Valley Potential

Heidi Levine/Pool via REUTERS

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a new video on May 31 criticizing the Iranian regime for inhibiting the country’s Silicon Valley-esque potential.

Netanyahu began his video by declaring that the Iranian people are “among the most gifted and successful people in the world.”

“In Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs of Iranian heritage are among the founders and CEOs of Uber, Ebay, Dropbox, and many other outstanding companies,” Netanyahu said.

And yet, Iran is an impoverished nation thanks to the regime in Tehran.

“Iran’s dictators plunder the country’s wealth. Isn’t it a shame that Iran doesn’t invest in its people?” Netanyahu said. “Instead, they divert tens of billions of dollars to their nuclear program, to the spread of terror around the world, to their aggression throughout the Middle East. Meanwhile, the Iranian people are the ones that suffer.”

Netanyahu concluded the video by stating that hopes that the day will come where the Iranian people “don’t need to go there to build the most successful companies in the world.”

“Imagine Iranian and Israeli entrepreneurs working together, in Iran and Israel, for the betterment of all humanity,” Netanyahu said. “That’s my hope. That is my vision. And that can be our future.”

The full video can be seen below:

H/T: Times of Israel

What’s Happening in Jewish L.A. May 25-31: Paul Simon, Iftar and More

FRI MAY 25
“RECONSTRUCTIONIST TOUR OF ISRAEL”

Arkady and Ella Serebryannik andMark Bregman discuss “What We Learned on Our Reconstructionist Study Tour of Israel” with University Synagogue Rabbi Arnold Rachlis. The Orange County residents met with Israeli leaders, gained insights into the state of the government as Israel turned 70 years old and observed the secular-religious divide in Israel. Interview and Shabbat services 7–8:30 p.m. University Synagogue, 3400 Michelson Drive, Irvine. (949) 553-3535. universitysynagogue.org.

“A JEWISH-MUSLIM PARTNERSHIP FOR SHABBAT AND IFTAR”

Temple Judea congregants, their Muslim guests from the Pacific Institute and Claremont School of Theology professor Philip Clayton celebrate Shabbat and iftar, the meal that breaks the fast during Ramadan. The celebration continues on Saturday morning with a conversation on how to improve the world through understanding and knowledge. 7:30 p.m. Friday, 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Friday night, adults $20, with accompanying children free. Saturday morning free. RSVP required for both sessions. Temple Judea, 5429 Lindley Ave., Tarzana. (818) 758-3800. templejudea.com.

“THE LAST SCHWARTZ”

“The Last Schwartz.”

Judaism appears to be all that the dysfunctional Schwartz family members have in common in this play, but it isn’t clear whether it will unite or further divide them. Herb Schwartz and his wife, Bonnie, remain childless after five miscarriages while Gene’s girlfriend is planning an abortion. Norma’s husband has not spoken to her since she called the cops on their son for smoking pot. Their father has died, nobody is in charge and the Schwartz family appears to be foundering. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Through July 1. $40. $35 for groups of 10 or more. $25 for students and teachers. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica. (310) 392-0815. wcjt.org.

“THE CHOSEN”

This acclaimed stage adaptation celebrates the 50th anniversary of Chaim Potok’s classic 1967 novel, “The Chosen.” Set in Brooklyn in 1944, this coming-of-age story follows two observant Jewish boys who come from very different homes. When Reuven is injured by Danny during a heated baseball game, a unique friendship is born. As the boys grow to manhood, they are forced to learn important lessons about each other, their fathers and themselves. The resolution is highly emotional. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. $40. $30 for seniors. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 663-1525. fountaintheatre.com.

SAT MAY 26
“NETANYAHU: A POLITICAL LIFE”

Rabbi Tal Sessler.

In the fifth and final presentation in Sephardic Temple Rabbi Tal Sessler’s monthly series, “Shabbat Lunch and Learn: Great Israeli Lives,” his subject is “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: A Political Life in Progress.” Previously, Sessler spoke on “David Ben-Gurion: Statesman, Founding Father, Universal Genius,” “Menachem Begin: Survivor, Fighter Hawkish Peacemaker,” “Yitzhak Rabin: Soldier, Peacemaker, Political Martyr” and “Shimon Peres: Poet, Worldly Statesman, Pragmatic Dreamer.” After 8:30 a.m. Shabbat morning services. Free. Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel, 10500 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 475-7000. sephardictemple.org.

SUN MAY 27
HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR TALK

Henry Slucki.

Holocaust survivor Henry Slucki, a native of Paris who came to the United States by himself as a boy, recounts the frightening experiences he and his family suffered while moving around to elude the Nazis. When the Slucki family reached Barcelona, Spain, his Polish-Jewish parents made the painful decision to send him by himself to America as part of first lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s initiative to save refugee children. After the war, Slucki moved to Los Angeles, where he grew up to be a professor of behavioral science. A Q-and-A follows
the discussion. A docent-led tour kicks off the day at 2 p.m. Discussion 3 p.m. Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, 100 S. The Grove Drive, Los Angeles. (323) 651-3704. lamoth.org.

“ISRAELI MUSIC, THEN AND NOW”

Declaring that changes in Israeli musical tastes the past 70 years reflect the transforming nature of Israeli society, Mark Kligman, the Mickey Katz Endowed Chair in Jewish Music at UCLA, traces the evolution of the Israeli music since statehood was won in 1948. Kligman, who is also a professor of ethnomusicology at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, enhances his talk with audio and visual samples intended to accent Israel’s shifting musical preferences. Dinner, 6 p.m., program, 6:45 p.m. $15. Temple Ramat Zion, 17655 Devonshire St., Northridge. (818) 360-1881. trz.org.

TUE MAY 29
“THE MIRACLE-WORKING EARLY PROPHETS AND THE JEWISH
SOCIAL CONSCIENCE”

Join Rabbi Rachel Adler at Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC) for a deep dive into the Elijah and Elisha narratives in the two books of Kings to examine questions of charisma, characterization and social ethics. Participants look at the role gender plays in these narratives and why women are often the recipients of miracles. Adler is the Ellenson Professor of Modern
Jewish Thought at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Part of a series. Adler’s notes will be posted on the BCC website. 7–9 p.m. Free. Beth Chayim Chadashim, 6090 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 931-7023. bcc-la-org.

WED MAY 30
“BENNY GOODMAN: AHEAD OF HIS TIME”

Legendary bandleader Benny Goodman’s music comes back to life thanks to acclaimed clarinet soloist Ken Peplowski. The member of Goodman’s final ensemble performs music from Goodman’s famous 1938 Carnegie Hall concert, which elevated jazz and sparked serious conversations about race, politics and music. The UCLA Jazz Orchestra and an alumni ensemble from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz accompany Peplowski in this celebration of a musical revolutionary and the King of Swing. A pre-concert panel discussion begins at 6 p.m. Concert 7–10 p.m. Free. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.  (310) 825-4761. RSVP at schoolofmusic.ucla.edu.

THU MAY 31
NEWGROUND IFTAR

Join NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change for the organization’s annual iftar, the meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan. NewGround describes this evening as one of the largest gatherings of Muslims and Jews in the United States. The night celebrates, supports and amplifies the work of NewGround’s 2017-18 Professional Fellows, a group of approximately 20 Jews and Muslims who have spent the past several months discussing anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Dinner is Halal certified. Kosher meals available upon request. Food will not be served until after 8 p.m., as this is an event that celebrates the month of Ramadan. Plan accordingly. Program begins at 7 p.m. $40. Wilshire Boulevard Temple, 3663 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. newground.nationbuilder.com.

“HARVEY MILK” BOOK AUTHOR

Harvey Milk.

To commemorate the American Library Association’s LGBT Book Month, and in conjunction with National Gay Pride Month, the Burbank Public Library welcomes Lillian Faderman to talk about her new book, “Harvey Milk: His Lives and Death.” The book explores how the progressive politician and gay icon’s activism connected to his family history and Jewish identity. 7 p.m. Free; book available for purchase and signing. Buena Vista Branch Library, 300 N. Buena Vista St., Burbank. (818) 238-5620. burbank.lib.ca.us.

“WHITE ELEPHANT ARCHIVE, SETTING NO. 3”

Award-winning multimedia artist Eduard Freudmann presents a personal, one-man production focusing on the legacy of the Holocaust from the perspective of a third-generation descendant living in Austria. In an effort to understand his family members’ silence about their Holocaust experiences, Freudmann turns to his family archive, which includes poems written by his grandfather while imprisoned in concentration camps. Freudmann’s performance conveys the impact of trauma across generations. A Q-and-A follows the performance, which is made possible by the Austrian Consulate General Los Angeles, the Future Fund of the Republic of Austria and the Federal Chancellery of Austria. 7 p.m. $15, members and full-time students, $20 general. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. skirball.org.

“ISRAEL AT 70: LOOKING BACK AND LOOKING AHEAD”

Professor Dan Ben-David, president and founder of the Shoresh Institution and senior faculty member of the Department of Public Policy at Tel Aviv University, discusses Israel’s history and future. In 2010, Israeli newspaper Haaretz included Ben-David on a list of the country’s 100 most influential people. 7 p.m. registration, 7:30 p.m. lecture. Free; donations accepted. Seating limited; RSVPs urged at info@beverlyhillsjc.org. Beverly Hills Hotel, 9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 276-4246. beverlyhillsjc.org.

HAVE A DATE WITH A JEW AND A MUSLIM

Enjoy iftar, the meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan, and conversation between Rabbi Adam Kligfeld and Haroon Moghul. Kligfeld is senior rabbi at Temple Beth Am. Moghul is the Fellow in Jewish-Muslim relations at Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. 7:15 p.m., break the fast at 7:55 p.m. RSVP by May 28 at tbala.org/iftar. Presented by the Rembaum Institute and the Shalom Hartman Institute. $15. Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 652-7353. tbala.org.

Letters to the Editor: Reviving Judaism, Middle East and Diaspora

Reviving Judaism

For 30-plus years, the Conservative movement has not seriously addressed why younger Jews have left this branch and its philosophy.

As writer Steven Windmueller assesses the situation, one of his ways is to build from the bottom (“Reinventing Liberal Judaism,” May 11). I did this in the Philadelphia area 30 years ago, but the elders did not support it.

In less than nine months, we grew a 30-ish crowd from 10 to 60, including their families.

This is the only way to introduce Judaism to those who resist and to listen to the younger population so that the institution provides for their needs.

Baby boomers must give way to the needs of the millennials or Conservative Judaism will not be viable in the near future (10 years).

Warren J. Potash, Moorpark


Insight Into Torah Portion

I would like to thank the Journal for publishing Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ Table for Five commentary in the Journal’s May 11 issue. It provides deep insight into the parsha. However, the rabbi goes much further, enunciating simply and clearly God’s role and rights as the creator of the universe and in consequence, linking core principles of Judaism to these rights. It is, for me, an unforgettable “teaching moment,” beautiful in its simplicity, clarity and importance.

Hopefully, the Journal will provide more of Sacks’ commentaries and insights in the future. Table for Five is one avenue to accomplish this, but I am sure the Journal has others. We need them.

Edward Gomperts, Glendale


Complex Issues in the Mideast

I read the May 4 edition of the Jewish Journal with great interest. As a non-Jew, I was happy to read the Leon Wieseltier view that “the merit of a view owes nothing to the biography of the individual who holds it” (“Should American Jews Criticize Israel?”).

So here goes. I read in Rick Richman’s story (“The Second and Third Israeli Miracles”) that the Palestinian Arabs have rejected six offers of a state. My question is: How many of these offers would have stopped settlement in the West Bank and dismantled the settlements and removed the settlers?

And the other question: Suppose California were occupied by, say, Mexicans. How many Californians would have supported the “offer of a state” that would leave more than half a million Mexican settlers in hilltop strongholds and withheld a slew of powers over the economy, security and policing?

Christopher Ward via email

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed Iranian duplicity with respect to Iran’s nuclear program, he was preaching to the converted. This is much ado about nothing, since the P5+1 took Iranian mendacity into strict account when fashioning the inspection regime that is part of the Iran nuclear deal.

The nuclear agreement with Iran that slows its development of atomic weapons is a bad accord for many reasons. President Donald Trump is right to force the issue now. He does not need a primer on Iran and its penchant for lying. The president has decided it is better to scrap the agreement altogether and re-impose sanctions, or try to amend the agreement as our allies prefer.

Brian J. Goldenfeld, Woodland Hills

I would strongly encourage journalists to emulate the unflinchingly centrist style of Michael Berenbaum’s recent column (“Pity Mahmoud Abbas,” May 11). Most who criticize the Israeli government’s approach to the conflict with Palestinians tend to forget or ignore just how awful and intransigently anti-Semitic the leadership is on the other side. And most who decry the wrongs of Abbas or other Palestinian leaders tend to forget or ignore the suffering of the very people they lead.

If only we could stop being so one-sided in our rhetoric and attitudes, we might lessen the number of people so brainwashed by the “left” that they forsake the need to defend Israel from her truest enemies, or so brainwashed by the “right” that they forsake the need to prevent Israel from emulating said enemies.

Michael Feldman, Los Angeles

I am very confused. It feels like if I support Israel’s existence, then I am supposed to be pro-current administration (i.e., President Donald Trump), which I definitely am not! But if I support peace and freedom for everyone in the Middle East, I am supposed to do that by opposing the “occupation” of the West Bank and by supporting activities and groups that all lead to Hamas — a group defined as working to destroy the Jewish state.

All my left-wing friends support “anti-Zionism,” which translates to pro-Hamas, but they insist that they like Jews and will defend the rights of Jews. My right-wing friends (yes, I have some) support the idea of a Jewish homeland but they support many other things that I find odious.

Strange bedfellows, no? I want to find a place in the middle. I think maybe we should move the homeland to Antarctica but someone will surely accuse us of oppressing the penguins.

Lynne Bronstein, Van Nuys

Notwithstanding his fighting words in a recent mosque sermon that Tel Aviv and Haifa will be totally destroyed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami should sit down and shut up. Israel’s air force did serious damage to Iranian military installations in Syria last week in retaliation for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard assault, seemingly launched against the advice of Russia and their Syrian hosts, when it fired 20 rockets at Israel.

Sadly, the murderous threats emanating from imams in mosques all over the world, that Israel/America/Jews must be destroyed, have a “blowback” effect in making Muslims who are innocent of such hatred look like extremists. One might hope that the moderates would be able to suppress those imams who preach hatred from their pulpits.

Maybe they’re too afraid, or worse, maybe they don’t want to. It’s difficult to know which, but also easy to feel compelled to defend against vile religious leaders who can’t seem to be shut down by those who wail about Islamophobia.

Desmond Tuck, San Mateo


Less Shouting, More Listening

I read on the Journal website “Pro-Palestinian Protesters Attempt to Shut Down Israeli Speakers and Fail” by Aaron Bandler, and I agree totally with the reporter. I believe that the Palestinians’ chanting was unacceptable. I think it was great of UC Irvine’s Students Supporting Israel to point out that they would show their perspective and not keep silent. Also, they said that they will continue to make the voices of the pro-Israeli students heard. That shows peace, not hate, which is what the world needs.

Eliyaou Eshaghian, Tarzana


Israelis in the Diaspora

This is another in a long line of letters disputing wild, unsourced journalistic estimates of Israelis living in the Diaspora, which Danielle Berrin has repeated as “more than 1 million” (“Wandering Israelis,”  April 13).

The most trusted demographic estimate done by Pew Research in 2010 was 230,000 Jewish emigrants from Israel living in other countries, with the most, 110,000 in the U.S. This aligns with my 1982 published estimates for Israeli emigrants in the U.S. and about my estimate of 25,000 living in and around Los Angeles.

Fun fact: Using Berrin’s source data from the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics of about 2.2 million flying abroad in a six-month period, and the U.S. nonimmigrant Israeli entry estimates for roughly the same period, fewer than 1 in 10 Israeli tourist flyers eventually landed in the U.S. As we are all learning, visiting or immigrating to the U.S. is a pain.

While the Los Angeles Israeli community has become much more organized, now raising tens of millions of dollars yearly through the Israeli-American Council (IAC), in the 36 years since a realistic estimate of numbers has been published, I have not found any evidence that the number of Israelis has changed substantially from being about 1/20th of the Los Angeles Jewish community.

Pini Herman, Beverly Grove

(This letter originally appeared in the April 20 edition.)

Berrin responds: Pini Herman asserts that my column includes “wild, unsourced journalistic estimates” regarding the number of Israelis living in the Diaspora. This is untrue. While it is difficult to estimate the exact number of Israelis living in the Diaspora for a variety of reasons, the upward trend is clear. Estimates from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, the prime minister’s office and a Pew Study suggest the number could be as low 300,000 and as high as 1 million. Just last week, Newsweek reported that from 2006 to 2016, more than 87,000 Israelis became U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, according to data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This is up from 66,000 from the previous decade. For a long time now, rumors of a so-called Israeli “brain drain” have permeated public discourse. In 2011, Foreign Policy ran a story headlined “The Million Missing Israelis.” Last August, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency wondered, “Can Israel bring home its million U.S. expats?” Many of these articles examine the ways the Israeli government has tried to stanch the brain drain by enticing the best and brightest Israelis back home, sometimes through ad campaigns or initiatives like the 2011 I-CORE program, a $360 million initiative to lure Israeli scholars back to Israeli universities. According to Newsweek, “Results were so underwhelming that the program was ended after three years.”

None of these facts is wild or unsourced; we ought to pay attention to the trend suggested by even inexact statistics.


CORRECTIONS

A story about the death of Rabbi Aaron Panken (“Remembering Rabbi Aaron Panken,” May 11) mistakenly reported the date of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion New York ordination ceremony as May 7, two days after Panken’s death. The ceremony was held May 6, one day after his death.

An item in the May 11 edition of Movers & Shakers incorrectly identified Tanya Waldman as the co-director of Witness Theater: Voices of History. Her name is Talya Waldman. Also, a photo caption accompanying the May 1 Israel Bonds luncheon mistakenly identified Marlene Kreitenberg as Ruth Low.

A headline on a Q-and-A with Rabba Sara Hurwitz failed to include her honorific (“An Orthodox Woman in the Time of #Metoo,” May 11). The Journal regrets the oversight.

U.S. Embassy Officially Opens in Jerusalem

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claps his hands during the dedication ceremony of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, Israel May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

After years of politicians pledging to move the United States embassy to Jerusalem, the move officially happened on May 14.

In a video message, President Trump told attendees of the ceremony celebrating the Jerusalem move, “Exactly 70 years ago the United States under Harry Truman became the first nation to recognize the State of Israel. Today, we officially open the United States embassy in Jerusalem. Congratulations. It’s been a long time coming.”

Trump also tweeted:

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, praised the president for following through on a campaign promise.

“While presidents before him have backed down from their pledge to move the American Embassy once in office, this president delivered,” Kushner said. “Because when President Trump makes a promise, he keeps it.”

Kushner later added, “Jerusalem must remain a city that brings people of all faiths together.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that the opening of the embassy made for “a glorious day.”

“President Trump, by recognizing history, you have made history,” Netanyahu said.

“In Jerusalem, King David established Jerusalem as a capital 3,000 years ago,” Netanyahu said. “King Solomon later built the Temple, and over 2,000 years later, we got to hear the sentence ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands.’ We are here in Jerusalem, and we are here to stay.”

Netanyahu proceeded to thank Trump “for making the bond between us stronger than ever” and proclaimed that the Jerusalem move brings the prospect of peace closer to reality.

“You can only build peace upon truth, and the truth is that Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years,” Netanyahu said. “May the opening of this embassy spread the truth far and wide.”

Among those in attendance included Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Lindsey Graham, Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Letters to the Editor: Iran Deal, North Korea and Natalie Portman

U.S. Scraps Iran Nuclear Agreement

Let’s start with the proposition that Iran is a very bad actor. Let us also agree that without vigorous monitoring, Iran will not strictly adhere to any agreement. That being said, it is a terrible mistake for President Donald Trump not to recertify the Iran nuclear accord.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent dog-and-pony show was long on accusations but short on specific evidence. The binders and computer discs onstage with him aren’t proof that Iran is failing to honor its responsibilities under the nuclear deal. What Netanyahu and the various authors of the commentaries and articles that support scrapping the accord conveniently overlook is that there is a large element in the Israeli intelligence/military establishment that while acknowledging it’s not a perfect accord, it is working and is good for Israel.

It is also interesting to note the other signatories to the Iran nuclear accord say Iran is honoring its obligations. The only naysayers are Netanyahu and Trump.

Andrew C. Sigal, Valley Village

Kudos to the Jewish Journal for exposing the secrets and lies of the Iranian nuclear deal. The cover story would be enough to tell it all (“What Happens Now?” May 4). Dayenu. Beyond that, the articles describe in detail the lies that were foisted on Americans that were particularly painful for American Jews.

David Suissa gave some Trump haters and, in particular, Jewish Trump haters something to think about (“Why Tyrants Must Hate Trump,” May 4). Admittedly, Trump is brash and a rude tweeter. When it comes to foreign tyrants, as Suissa stated, Trump is just what the doctor ordered. As much as we all value decency, for 16 years the United States got burned by two very decent presidents — first by George W. Bush’s trillion-dollar fiasco in Iraq, and then by Barack Obama’s naïve deal with Iran that empowered the world’s biggest sponsor of terror.

We need somebody like Trump to stare them down and back out of the disastrous Iran deal if Iran does not make further concessions.

Marshall Lerner, Beverly Hills


The North Korean Dilemma

I disagree with David Suissa’s assessment in his column “Why Tyrants Must Hate Trump.” If President Donald Trump’s bluster had worked with North Korea, then it would have stopped testing its long-range ICBMs right away. Instead, despite Trump’s threats, they continued testing until they had proven to themselves that they had a missile that could reach most of the United States. The North Koreans offered to talk only after they had tested enough missiles to prove that their missile program was ready. Listen to the speech that Kim Jong Un delivered to his own country. This was his original intent.

Rabbi Ahud Sela via email


The Natalie Portman Issue

In her column (“Portman’s the Messenger, Not the Problem,” April 27), Danielle Berrin introduces the premise that the effect of Portman’s rejection of the Genesis Prize will lead to increased Jewish disunity on congregational matters, including political problems. Berrin warns that one of the problems is the collapse of peace talks and the promise of a two-state solution.

I have three questions for Berrin.

Does Fatah want a two-state solution?

Does Hamas want a two-state solution?

Does Hezbollah want a two-state solution?

Bernard Schneier, Marina del Rey


How American Jews View Israel

Danielle Berrin claims to rely on, but fundamentally misunderstands, Leon Wieseltier’s advice that the merit of a view “owes nothing to the biography of the individual who holds it” (“Should American Jews Criticize Israel?” May 4).

Wieseltier did not invent this notion. It is his way of restating the classic fallacy of the ad hominem attack: A good argument can’t be refuted because the speaker is bad. Nor can a bad argument be improved because the speaker is good. I have no doubt Berrin has deep love for Israel. But that does not mean her opinion has any merit just because it comes from a good place.

No, what Wieseltier is saying is that an argument — and criticism — must be judged solely on its own merits. What nuanced and insightful advice does Berrin offer for the complex military and diplomatic conundrum Israel is faced with? What is the “truth” that Berrin claims her “holy chutzpah” impels her to tell Israel? I honestly would like to know, but I’ll gladly take the advice of someone who may not love Israel as much as Berrin but has answers to challenges such as: the military land-bridge Iran is constructing through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to threaten Israel; the tens of thousands of Hezbollah missiles aimed at Tel Aviv; the tunnels being burrowed under the desert to snatch Israelis in their sleep; and the diplomatic and propaganda war waged against Israel by the United Nations, the European Union and nearly every American university campus.

Perhaps Berrin’s Israeli friend really meant that Israel does not want for critics but that if you are going to criticize, don’t assume that your love substitutes for sound analysis. Contrary to Berrin’s claim, film critic Pauline Kael was not respected “because everyone knew she loved” movies. Many people love movies. Kael was respected because she was a true expert on movies.

But even Kael wasn’t good at making movies. What Israel really needs, more than well-intended critics, is smart, practical and realistic solutions to massively complicated problems.

What is the role of love in all of this? If Berrin’s love for Israel drove her to develop these kinds of solutions,

I’m sure everyone, especially her Israeli friend, would be very grateful. But love alone, Wieseltier teaches, does not a helpful opinion make.

Ben Orlanski, Beverly Hills


Leftism’s Misguided Values

Karen Lehrman Bloch’s compelling column “The Golden Calf of Leftism” (May 4) exposes a new crisis among American Jews.

We’ve all been shocked by the increase in Israel-bashing and anti-Semitism at Democratic rallies, leading to feminist organizers’ recent praise of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. But many Jewish Democrats still support former President Barack Obama’s white-washing of Palestinian rejectionism, terrorism and contempt for Israel. Some Jewish feminists support Linda Sarsour, despite her anti-Semitism and reported endorsement of Sharia law. Wealthy Jews, many in the Hollywood community, are bankrolling Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions promotion.

It’s a cruel irony that while thousands of French Jews make aliyah to escape rising Muslim terrorism, Jewish “progressives” are abetting the terrorists and condemning Israel, the victims’ only refuge.

Rueben Gordon via email


History Lessons in the Journal

Thank you, Jewish Journal and David Suissa for your excellent publication.

I know a “lot” about Israeli and Jewish history up until about 70 B.C.E. I knew very little after that. Therefore, a few years ago, I decided to learn more about Jews and Israel today. I’d like to be as familiar with you and your culture as I am with my own English-American culture.

Recently, I discovered the Journal: It’s like Christmas, my birthday and Yom HaAtzmaut (a term I learned in the Journal) rolled up into one. Every article I read — even the advertisements — is interesting, informative and educational.

The one major problem I have with the Journal is that I’m not finished reading it before the next issue comes out. Oy vey!

Jerald Brown, Sylmar

Netanyahu Praises Trump For Exiting ‘Disastrous’ Iran Deal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou/Pool

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised President Trump for exiting from the Iran nuclear deal on May 8, denouncing the deal as “disastrous.”

In a video, Netanyahu said that Israel “opposed the nuclear deal from the start.”

“Rather than blocking Iran’s path to the bomb, the deal actually paved Iran’s path to an entire arsenal of nuclear bombs,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu added that the deal increased the chances of war, pointing to Iran’s increased aggression in the Middle East, the ramping up of their ballistic missiles program and the increased attempts to conceal their nuclear weapons program since the implementation of the deal as evidence of this.

“If you leave all of this unchanged, all this combined is a recipe for disaster, a disaster for our region, a disaster for the peace of the world,” Netanyahu said. “This is why Israel thinks that President Trump did a historic move and this is why Israel thanks President Trump for his courageous leadership, his commitment to confront the terrorist regime in Tehran and his commitment to ensure that Iran never gets nuclear weapons, not today, not in a decade, not ever.”

The full video can be seen below:

WHAT HAPPENS NOW: Comments On Netanyahu’s Iran Speech

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 30, 2018. REUTERS/ Amir Cohen

On April 30, less than two weeks before President Donald Trump was to decide whether to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood in front of a huge cache of files, computer discs and a large screen of graphics at a news conference in Tel Aviv, and accused Iran of lying for years about its efforts to build a nuclear weapon.

You must admire the people in charge of gathering information for Israel. You must admire the fact that they can show you thousands of documents from within the Iranian archives. And as you admire these creative, bold and daring intelligence gatherers, you also must consider the fact that they say they have documents that you don’t. They say they have information that no one else could gather. They know Iran well enough to obtain half a ton of copied secret documents from inside Iran and ship them to Tel Aviv. Maybe this also means that their sense of what Iran was doing, where it might be going, what its ambitions are like, are better than yours and mine. If these people tell you that Iran is cheating, if they tell you that the nuclear deal doesn’t work, you ought to listen. Agree or disagree, but listen carefully and humbly. There is very little chance that you know better than they do.

Timing is everything. Netanyahu tried and failed to prevent the Iran nuclear deal by addressing Congress in early 2015. It was a controversial move. Many of the speech’s opponents alleged that the prime minister’s main motive was political, that his true audience was Israelis (the election in Israel was held a few weeks after that speech). In a phone conversation I had with the prime minister not long after that speech, he defended his decision to go to Washington, D.C. This was an important enough issue in Israel for him to utilize all possible means, he said, and if that made then-president of the United States Barack Obama unhappy, then so be it.

The timing was off. Obama had no intention of giving up. Perhaps he thought he had a deal worthy of a second Noble Peace Prize. Then-Secretary of State John Kerry perhaps hoped to earn his first. Netanyahu gave a strong speech, but not strong enough. One could only speculate: Would Netanyahu have be more successful had he showed Congress then what he revealed this week?

What did you think about Netanyahu’s presentation on Iran? Most likely, this depends less on the material shown (shocking intelligence, but no evidence that Iran is violating the current nuclear pact), and more on your established opinion about Netanyahu and the Iran deal.
Search the internet and try to guess in advance what each person, pundit or leader is going to say about the presentation. In most cases, if you are familiar with the views of these pundits and leaders, you can skip the comment or the article. You know what they’re going to say (I assume some readers might say the same about this article).

Would more evidence of Iranian malfeasance make a difference? Sure, if Israel had rock-solid proof of recent Iranian violations (if it has such information, Netanyahu did not reveal it). But even then, people always could argue that there’s no proof the documents are real, that Netanyahu’s word isn’t worth a dime, that Israel — and most other countries — were wrong on Iraq’s WMD.

So did Netanyahu change many minds? He surely achieved two objectives: showing Israel’s intelligence prowess, and making Iran a main topic of conversation, for at least a day or two.

If these people tell you that Iran is cheating, if they tell you that the nuclear deal doesn’t work, you ought to listen.

He also annoyed some leaders, but then, many leaders are easily annoyed by him. Some of them were quick to point out that the information discussed by Netanyahu on April 30 didn’t include anything that wasn’t previously known about Iran. The question is: Known to whom? Netanyahu’s presentation clarified things that experts already knew but that politicians didn’t always know and that the public might not have been aware of.

Reportedly, the files concerned an Iranian nuclear weapons program called Project Amad, launched in 1999 and shelved in 2003.

The question remains: Can you alter the opinions of world leaders by showing them information — whether it is old, new, repackaged or re-explained? Are world leaders capable of admitting an error?

The deal with Iran was a mistake made in haste. But let’s be realistic: Do you think Obama changed his mind this week if he watched Netanyahu’s news conference? Do you think Kerry did? Timing is everything. Information — evidence — is hardly as important. Many Americans blame President Trump for bringing about the age of fake news, yet what Netanyahu showed us earlier this week is proof that the Iran deal was fake news. It was fake news produced by people more sophisticated than Trump, and thus more successful in selling their make-believe diplomatic achievement to a receptive audience.

It will take time to assess the impact of Netanyahu’s dramatic revelation. But some things are clear:

Netanyahu was well coordinated with the Trump administration when he staged his news event. He spoke on the phone with Trump two days before the presentation. He met with the newly confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the day before the presentation. The Trump administration was not taken by surprise. It was well informed, and it was ready to respond — as Trump did half an hour after Netanyahu went off the air.

What was the exact plan? Maybe Trump told him: Give me something to work with; give me something with which to pressure the Europeans. Maybe Trump told him: I can’t convince the Europeans — you try. Maybe Trump told him: I am going to do what’s right; it would be helpful if you can give me some more ammunition.

Can the Europeans, Russians and Chinese, all of which signed the agreement with Iran, be convinced?

I am skeptical and here is why: They knew all along that Iran cannot be trusted. They knew its leaders were lying. They knew it had an earlier, established nuclear weapons program. They were cynical when they hailed the deal, and there’s no reason for me to think that they aren’t cynical now. They decided to compromise with Iran not because they think it is a country of great values and respected leadership. They decided to compromise with Iran because they see economic potential and because they think Iran — and its belligerent behavior — is not really their problem.

I’d like to think that Trump is going to change all this, but this is far from assured. Trump can dump the deal and then lose interest — which isn’t a good outcome. He can maintain the deal — possibly with cosmetic changes to save face — which isn’t a good outcome. He can begin a process of pressuring Iran, and then lose the 2020 election and be replaced by a less vigilant leader — which isn’t a good outcome. The battle against Iran is long, and to win it, the United States or Israel must be persistent and must have a strategy. News conferences, speeches, statements, impressive intelligence achievements — all these have a role in this long battle. But no speech can win this battle.

Do you think Barack Obama changed his mind this week about the Iran deal if he watched Netanyahu’s news conference?

To Israel’s credit — if one believes the unconfirmed reports by the non-Israeli media — it is not merely talking. The same day as Netanyahu’s news conference, suspected Israeli strikes hit Iranian targets in Syria. This was not the first, second or third time Iran was the recipient of a clear message: Its military presence in Syria will not be tolerated.

Israel has made that clear in public statements and to foreign dignitaries including, in recent days, European leaders who were trying to understand why Syria is suddenly becoming such a hot potato. Israel told even the Russians that it is dead serious about not allowing an Iranian presence in Syria. A senior diplomat told his counterpart: We will not let Syria become a second Lebanon. In Lebanon, Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, has thousands of rockets ready for use against Israel. This is hardly convenient, but since the war of 2006, the Israel-Lebanese border has been relatively stable and quiet. Israel has no interest in having to watch a second front to the east, this time not held by Iran’s proxies but rather by Iran.

Again, only time will tell if the Iranians got the message and decided that the benefit does not justify the cost — or maybe it’s the other way around: They got the message and are getting ready to up the ante.

What will Iran do if Trump scraps the deal? What will Israel do in response to Iran’s response?

What Netanyahu revealed was amazing, and also somewhat disappointing.

He told us that Iran is lying.

He proved that the official Iranian position was based on a pile of untruths.

Did we not know?

Netanyahu did not have a smoking gun. It’s disappointing but should be acknowledged. So, if you are still in the business of believing the Iranians — oh, they lied for three decades, they lied up until mid-2015, but now they are telling the truth and nothing but the truth — I would urge you to stay away from banks, insurance companies and flea markets. You are clearly easy prey for con artists. Still, Netanyahu can’t show you evidence that they are lying now. Or maybe he can:

Netanyahu did prove that Iran is still lying about its dishonest past. What he didn’t prove is that it’s lying about the present.

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 30, 2018. REUTERS/ Amir Cohen

What Netanyahu revealed was amazing, and also somewhat disappointing.

If one wants to be suspicious of Netanyahu’s motive, it’s not impossible to do. The speech was made on the first day of the summer session of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Netanyahu stole the show. While other politicians were dealing with petty maneuvers, he presented himself as a man of action, determination and big things.

If he has no choice but to call for early elections — because the coalition can’t compromise on issues such as drafting the ultra-Orthodox, or the conversion bill, or the Supreme Court bill — he now will do it as statesman. If his coalition partners were toying with idea of testing his power, they now will have to reconsider.

These are tense days in Israel. Pundits and politicians rush to the microphones to calm down the public, which of course has the opposite effect. If times were truly calm, there would be no need for such appearances.

Remember Israel Independence Day? It was just a week ago. Remember Passover? Four weeks ago. May is here, and with it a mountain of worries:

Will moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, a positive and welcome decision by Trump, ignite protest and violence?

Is Israel ready for the main show in Gaza on Nakba (Palestinians’ Day of Catastrophe) in mid-May, when thousands likely will again attempt to cross the border?

What will the president decide to do with the Iran deal, and what will be the repercussions of his decision?

How will Tehran and Damascus respond to attacks on sites in Syria? What will Iran do if Trump scraps the deal? What will Israel do in response to Iran’s response?

If you are just an observer, you should fasten a metaphorical seat belt as you prepare to watch a possibly dramatic show. If you live in Israel, fastening a seat belt is less an expression and more a statement of sober fact: Fastening a seat belt is what you do to save lives.

Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain at jewishjournal.com/rosnersdomain.

Lies and More Lies

President Barack Obama tweets his first tweet from the Oval Office, May 18, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

So, the Iranians lied.

So did the Obama administration.

On April 30, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that in a stunning intelligence coup, the Israelis had somehow obtained 100,000 files from Iran’s secret atomic archive in Tehran. The files showed that Iran had ardently pursued nuclear weapons for years, lying about it all the while; that they had then failed to turn over the information showing the extent of their program during negotiations over the Barack Obama administration-pushed Iran deal; and that they had hidden those files in a secret warehouse with the obvious intent of reviving their nuclear program the minute they can get away with it.

According to Netanyahu, Iran “is brazenly lying when it says it never had a nuclear weapons program.” Furthermore, Netanyahu claimed that nuclear development “continued … in a series of organizations over the years, and today, in 2018, this work is carried out by SPND, that’s an organization inside Iran’s Defense Ministry.” The head of Iran’s earlier nuclear program currently heads the SPND.

Advocates for the Obama administration have come forward to contend that there’s nothing new here — that everyone knew Iran had been lying about its nuclear program. But when the deal was signed, Secretary of State John Kerry stated that Iran would have to disclose past military-related nuclear activities: “If there’s going to be a deal, it will be done. … It will be part of a final agreement.”

Other advocates say that Israel’s intelligence would be damaging to the Iran deal — but those nefarious Jews made it up. According to Tommy Vietor, former Obama National Security Council spokesman, “After years of bashing U.S. intelligence agencies for getting Iraq wrong, [Donald] Trump is now cooking up intel with the Israelis to push us closer to a conflict with Iran. A scandal hiding in plain sight.”

The Obama administration played propagandists for the Iranian government.

So, to get this straight, Vietor is claiming that Israel “cooked up” the intelligence information to bluff America into war — as always, it’s the devious Jews. Furthermore, Vietor is claiming that Trump went along with this Israeli manipulation. Also, the Iranians are complying with the terms of the awful deal. This from a key member of the same administration that admitted in print to having deceived the American public about the Iran deal. Former Obama national security guru and professional fiction writer Ben Rhodes bragged openly about lying to Americans regarding the supposedly more “moderate” Iranian leadership seeking a deal.

Here’s the reality: The Obama administration, desperate to cut a deal with the Iranian government, played propagandists for the Iranian government. They fibbed that the Iranians had gone moderate; they lied that the only alternative to their rotten deal was war; they signed a deal that gave Iran enormous quantities of cash to use for terrorism, and that did nothing to rein in Iran’s ballistic missile program. Finally, they looked the other way as Iran lied about its maintenance of secret nuclear information.

And yet we’re supposed to believe their protestations now?

The Iran deal was garbage from the start. It was a way for Obama to declare triumph in the region even as the world’s worst terror sponsor pursued utter carnage from Tehran to Beirut. Whether Trump kills the deal at this point is of secondary import — the Trump administration knows that the deal is dead, and it’s just a question of whether to declare it so. The real question is why the same international community that accepted Iran’s word should be trusted to verify Iran’s compliance.

The simple answer: They shouldn’t. The Iran deal was an outgrowth of motivated thinking, not evidence-based policymaking. The only question now is whether it’s too late to stop the Iranians from finally achieving their dream of placing Israel and Saudi Arabia within the radius of Iranian nukes.

Ben Shapiro is an author, editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire and host of “The Ben Shapiro Show” podcast.

Arms Control Expert: Netanyahu Speech ‘Extremely Important’

Screenshot from Twitter.

Dr. Emily Landau, a senior research fellow and head of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) told reporters in an April 30 conference call that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech was “extremely important.”

Landau stated that while Netanyahu didn’t necessarily provide anything new, it provided “a lot of information and a lot of flesh in regards to Iran’s work in the past on nuclear weapons programs.” For instance, Netanyahu’s speech accentuated the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s “damning” 2015 report about Iran’s ambitions to develop nuclear weapons that the P5+1 nations swept under the rug.

Consequently, the fact that Iran has never had to answer for their nuclear weapons program means that pertinent information on the latest developments of their weapons program is not available. But what Netanyahu revealed on April 30 provides concrete proof that Iran was lying in their repeated denials of developing nuclear weapons.

“People should be standing up and saying no that’s a lie,” Landau said, adding that “breaking that false narrative of nuclear innocence is important.”

Landau then pointed out that the IAEA was never allowed to interview Dr. Mohsen Farkhrizadeh, the scientist who lead Iran’s Project Amad program to develop nuclear scientists continued to lead the regime’s efforts at nuclear development under the guise of “scientific knowhow.” She argued that the fact that Iran kept information on their nuclear weapons “in an orderly program” shows that they were never serious about nixing their program.

Therefore, the goal of Netanyahu’s speech was to show “the extent to which Iran has lied and cheated and deceived the international community in the nuclear realm for decades.”

“To think this deal will cause Iran to back away… like it’s on very, very shaky ground,” Landau said.

Landau also pointed out the speech was an “implicit message that Israel has access to inner workings inside Iran.”

Landau highlighted some of the flaws in the deal, including the “convoluted” provisions of the deal regarding IAEA since they can only go to “declared nuclear facilities.” The deal also didn’t cover Iran’s ballistic missiles program.

Despite the deal’s flaws, Laundau thought that the ideal course of action going forward is to “strengthen” the Iran deal since it would be difficult to negotiate a new deal altogether.

“Iran needs to get the message that American and Europe are not happy with a lot of Iran’s activities,” Landau said.