Seth Rich was shot and killed early Sunday in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Northwest Washington. Photo from Democratic National Committee

Fox News removes stories on WikiLeaks link to slain Jewish DNC staffer Seth Rich


The Fox News Channel removed stories based on unfounded allegations that Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer slain last year, was targeted because he was leaking information to WikiLeaks.

“On May 16, a story was posted on the Fox News website on the investigation into the 2016 murder of DNC Staffer Seth Rich,” Fox said Tuesday on its website.

“The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting. Upon appropriate review, the article was found not to meet those standards and has since been removed. We will continue to investigate this story and will provide updates as warranted.”

The Daily Caller, a conservative news site, removed a similar site; the story now redirects to a not found page. Breitbart, a conservative news site that had picked up the Fox story, still has its story online.

Last week, Rich’s family had called on Fox to retract the stories and threatened legal action.

Rich, 27, a Jewish Nebraska native, was shot dead while walking home before dawn on July 10, 2016. Police have speculated that he was the victim of a robbery gone awry. Rich’s body was found about a block from his home with his wallet, watch and cellphone still in his possession.

His death sparked several conspiracy theories, including that he was a source for WikiLeaks.

Several days after Rich’s death, WikiLeaks released a collection of Democratic National Committee emails that U.S. intelligence officials now say was related to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Fox’s Washington affiliate in its original story linked Rich’s death and the email dump, citing statements from Rod Wheeler, a private investigator who said he is working with the Rich family. Wheeler said, among conflicting comments, that there is evidence of emails between Rich and WikiLeaks.

The report also cited an unnamed federal agent, though Rich’s family told BuzzFeed that no federal agency is working on the case. Wheeler has since backed off his claims.

In August, WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 award for information leading to the conviction of Rich’s killer. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in an interview on Netherlands TV suggested that Rich may have been a source for the leaks clearinghouse, reigniting conspiracy theories. Assange refused to substantiate his implication.

It was not clear whether Fox pulling the story from the website will stop some of its commentators from trying to advance the story. Fox personalities, including Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich and Geraldo Rivera, in recent days have fervently embraced the conspiracy theories.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Republican Jews, Jewish Republicans differ on DNC race


The race for the new Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair is highlighting a split among Jews who support the Republican Party. In many instances, the differences stem from a matter of two identities and whether ‘Republican’ or ‘Jewish’ is the adjective or noun.

[This story originally appeared on jewishinsider.com]

For Jewish Republicans, who are more likely to actively support the Republican National Committee over bipartisan groups like AIPAC, the idea of Rep. Keith Ellison, a candidate who has attracted controversy over past remarks, winning Saturday’s election to become the face of the Democratic Party is a welcome one.

“To my friends at the DNC please please elect this man [Ellison] Chair,” RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks tweeted on Thursday, in reaction to comments Ellison made on Wednesday night defending his Israel record.

However, given Ellison’s record and controversial past comments, some Republican Jews worry that his election would allow more extreme views and policy positions into the mainstream, in a way that could be harmful to any remaining bipartisan consensus on the U.S. – Israel relationship.

“Politically, Republicans love the idea of Ellison at DNC; Jews, however, should be frightened over the further mainstreaming of a hater,” Jeff Ballabon, a Conservative-Republican activist, wrote on Twitter.

“I do not prefer to see Ellison elected,” Tevi Troy, former Jewish Liaison for President George W. Bush, told Jewish Insider. ” I think that both Israel and America are better off if we operate under the bipartisan consensus in favor of strong ties between the U.S. and Israel.”

At the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], Jewish attendees had divergent opinions. Yitchok (Ian) Cummings, 24, a first-time CPAC attendee from Linwood, NJ, told Jewish Insider that as a Republican Jew his partisanship doesn’t seep through when it comes to hoping Ellison wins the DNC Chairmanship. “I do think Keith Ellison’s anti-Israel views are dangerous. I think the fact that he’s such a powerful frontrunner for the DNC, is just indicative of the fact that the Democratic Party has moved to the far left and shifted on Israel,” Cummings said. “So even as a partisan, while there’s some advantage to see Ellison leading the Democrats, it makes me sad as a Jew that we may not have a loyal opposition that we respect and can work with.”

Eric Golub, a Trump supporter from LA, favored a more partisan approach. “Obviously as a Jew, I don’t want to see a Jew-hater get anywhere near the levers of power. As a Republican, I want the Democrats to have a complete whack job running their party,” Golub, a conservative comedian, explained while waiting for Vice President Mike Pence to take the stage at the annual gathering. “Now, my Judaism always comes first but here is why I am going to make an exception in this case: the heads of the parties are not significant. It’s not like he’s the presidential or vice presidential candidate. The DNC and RNC chairs are symbolic figureheads. So if the Democrats want to have the worst of all worlds for them, that’s a win-win situation for Republicans.”

During a televised debate on Wednesday, Ellison addressed the past comments and views that have caused many establishment Jewish Democrats to oppose his candidacy. “These are smears and we’re fighting back every day, he said. Adding, “I believe that the U.S.-Israel relationship is special and important. I’ve stood for that principle my whole service and my whole career. And you can trust when I’m the DNC chair that that relationship will continue. We will maintain the bipartisan consensus of U.S. support for Israel if I’m the DNC chair.”

The race between leading candidates Ellison and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, an establishment favorite, remains tight, according to media reports and internal pollingamong the 447 electors. Regardless of who wins the DNC race on Saturday, Tevi Troy says he is worried “about the direction of the Democratic party on the Israel issue.”

Rep. Keith Ellison speaking at a news conference in front of the Capitol, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Keith Ellison, in run-up to DNC chair election, calls for party to fight anti-Semitism


Rep. Keith Ellison called for Democrats to speak out against anti-Semitism and reject hatred of refugees during a debate for candidates to head the Democratic Party.

The Minnesota Democrat also made clear during the CNN debate Wednesday evening that he supports Israel and has strong backing from the Jewish community. He is vying with seven others to chair the Democratic National Committee; Ellison is considered among the front-runners with Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez.

Ellison noted his “long, strong history of interfaith dialogue, interfaith communication.” He called suggestions that he is anti-Semitic – based on his involvement with Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam while he was in college – “smears.”

“I just want to say, it is critical that we speak up against this anti-Semitism because right now, you have Jewish cemeteries being defaced and desecrated,” he said. “Right now, you have Jewish institutions getting bomb threats. We have to stand with the Jewish community right here, right now, four square, and that’s what the Democratic Party is all about.”

Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, added that he spoke at a HIAS event last week to support the right of refugees to enter the United States.

“They’re saying, we were once refugees, and they stood out in New York and demanded that we have respect for refugees now,” he said of the Jewish organization that assists refugees.

Ellison was asked about aid to Israel, noting that at a private 2010 fundraiser, he said that American foreign policy is seen through the eyes of the 7 million citizens of Israel. He responded that he believes the U.S.-Israel relationship is “special and important,” and noted that he has “voted for $27 billion in bilateral aid to Israel over the course of about six or seven votes. I have been to the region many times and sat down with members of the Knesset and worked with them.”

Some 447 electors made up mostly of  state party officials and officials in state government, among others, will vote for DNC chair on Saturday in Atlanta.

Israel and the Middle East likely will not figure highly in their considerations. The electors are concerned much more with rebuilding a party devastated by its across-the-board losses in November’s elections, including for president.

The ADL director and the war against hate in Trump’s America


When Jonathan Greenblatt took the top job at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in July 2015, Donald Trump was an outside candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and a favorite punch line of TV pundits.

Today, Trump is weeks away from the world’s most powerful office, and the ADL’s frequent criticism of the reality-TV-star-turned-leader-of-the-free-world has become arguably the defining aspect of Greenblatt’s freshman year.

Even in a more normal year, Greenblatt, a nontraditional choice for the job, would have had his hands full stepping in for Abraham Foxman, his predecessor as ADL national director.

“I’m learning as I go,” Greenblatt told the Journal in a phone interview last month. “I don’t have the long history that my predecessor had. He worked in this organization for 50 years. Many of my peers, if you look at counterpart organizations, have also worked there for decades. Not me.”

Greenblatt’s early days at the helm of the 103-year-old civil rights watchdog have not been easy ones. The unexpected twists of the recent election season turned the young leader’s first year into a test not only for him, but also for the ADL and the Jewish establishment more broadly.


EVENT: Hear Jonathan Greenblatt speak Dec. 13 at the Journal’s
Crucial Conversation, “The New Reality: Jews in Trump’s America.” RSVP here.


The ADL’s selection of Greenblatt in late 2014 was seen as a broadening of its reach, enabling it to connect with young people who grew up in a world where anti-Semitism seemed a less pressing problem than other forms of ethnic and racial hatred. Unlike Foxman, Greenblatt wasn’t a longtime operator in the Jewish world.

The 46-year-old was born and raised in New England and earned his master’s in business administration at Northwestern University before moving to Los Angeles. There, in 2001, he married Marjan Keypour, then associate director of the ADL for the Pacific Southwest Region. The next year, he co-founded Ethos Water, a bottled water line that donates part of its profits to clean water programs in the developing world. Ethos pioneered a model later followed by brands such as Toms Shoes and Warby Parker, linking consumption to a cause. In 2005, Starbucks purchased Ethos for $8 million.

Greenblatt and Keypour put began to put down roots in Los Angeles, preparing to raise their children there.

“I felt pretty blessed to be there, my kids were happy,” he said.

Then, in 2011, President Barack Obama selected him to be the director the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, and he took the opportunity.

“The president basically said to me, ‘I’ve got this office, it’s too much like a think tank. I want somebody who’s run businesses to run it,’ ” he recalled.

Greenblatt’s background made him an unusual choice for ADL director; his ties to the White House have been used to paint him as a partisan actor, a charge he dismisses. Though he attends a Conservative synagogue and keeps a kosher home on Long Island, and served on the board of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, he didn’t have the long resume in the Jewish establishment many expected of a potential ADL chief.

In any case, he certainly wasn’t another Foxman, a Polish-born Holocaust survivor long seen as a top authority on Jew hatred in media and politics.

“They were looking for a guy who would energize young Jews broadly against hatred and for many of the causes that [Greenblatt] endorsed earlier,” said Jonathan Sarna, a history professor at Brandeis University who studies the American Jewish community. “And then, irony of ironies, anti-Semitism seems to be roaring back and his role has shifted.”

The truism that Donald Trump’s election changed everything about American politics is more apt for Greenblatt than most people.

If he had hoped for a honeymoon period of waiting and watching in his new role, those hopes were dashed when Trump descended the gilded escalator in Trump Tower and kicked off his run for the presidency by pronouncing that rapists and criminals were pouring over the border with Mexico.

“It is time for Trump to stop spreading misinformation and hatred against immigrants, legal and undocumented,” Foxman said in a statement shortly after Trump’s presidential announcement, and just weeks before handing the reins over to Greenblatt.

Foxman’s statement set the tone for the coming election. But as Trump moved from an outside candidate to Republican nominee, Greenblatt doubled down.

Soon, under Greenblatt’s leadership, the ADL became the loudest of the nonpartisan Jewish organizations criticizing Trump. When Jewish journalists faced harassment by Twitter trolls using Nazi imagery, the ADL was among the only Jewish organizations to point out that these trolls seemed energized by and aligned with Trump. Within a week of the election, it slammed the Trump campaign for a television ad it said evoked anti-Semitic imagery.

Greenblatt’s outspokenness put him in something of an awkward position in a community where, after all, almost a third of Jews who voted cast a ballot for Trump. After Trump clinched an Electoral College victory on Nov. 8, Greenblatt’s position became even more prickly.

Although that day was a sobering one for many in the Jewish community, it can be seen as a turning point for Greenblatt and the ADL.

“They’re certainly not going to be at the very top of the list of people to be invited to the White House,” said Alvin H. Rosenfeld, a professor of Jewish studies at Indiana University and a widely recognized expert on historical anti-Semitism. “On the other hand, politics tends to work pragmatically after a certain point.”

It remains to be seen whether the ADL’s relationship with the Trump White House is permanently soured. But in any case, it now must balance criticism of the next president with its commitment to working with government agencies at all levels (nationally, it trains more police officers in reacting to hate crimes than any other organization).

Greenblatt has made it clear that he won’t refrain from criticizing Trump now that he’s won the election. Less than a week after Election Day, he released a statement opposing the appointment of Steve Bannon, formerly the CEO of Breitbart News, as White House chief strategist and senior adviser, citing Breitbart as “the premier website of the alt-right, a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists.”

The blowback was immediate. Morton A. Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, who’d clashed publicly with Greenblatt in August, released a statement urging the ADL to “withdraw and apologize for their inappropriate character assassination of Mr. Bannon.”

Some professional observers of the organized Jewish community wondered if Greenblatt had jumped the gun. Sarna said he was surprised the ADL chose to criticize Bannon without first seeking a meeting with him. Still, he saw it is an understandable choice.

“You’re afraid that you’re going to lose your brand unless you speak out at a certain moment,” Sarna said. “But the risk is there’s a penalty for speaking out too early and without all the information.”

Rosenfeld was less ambivalent: “To denounce [Trump] and his people right from the get-go is not in the interest of the American Jewish community,” he said. “Following Abe Foxman is bound to be difficult, but [Greenblatt] needs to take his time and think carefully about what he’s saying.”

Rosenfeld said he looks to David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), as a model of how to combat anti-Semitism without overextending political capital.

Harris, in an interview with the Jewish Broadcasting Service shortly after the election, urged patience in the wake of Trump’s upset victory, saying “Let’s take a deep breath.”

As for Bannon’s appointment, Harris said, “There may be many issues to worry about or to wonder about. This is not near the top of my list.”

By Greenblatt’s telling, his decision to come out against Bannon was a natural one.

“I don’t make my decisions based on ‘Hmm, let’s make a tradeoff here. What works and doesn’t work?’ ” he said. “I focus on not what feels good but rather, when we see hate, how do we deal with it? And we know under Steve Bannon’s leadership, it was his stated attempt and then his successful goal to position Breitbart as the platform for the alt-right.”

Nonetheless, he said, the ADL is already in touch with Trump’s transition team to see how they can work together.

“We’re engaging with them,” he said.

He declined to provide specifics or elaborate further. But he maintained the ADL can work with the administration while acting as a watchdog when its rhetoric veers into intolerance or bigotry.

He pointed to immigration, for instance, as a place where the ADL could prove a nuanced and responsible partner for Trump.

“There’s good reason to be very careful and to use very rigorous screening to make sure that, in particular, refugees fleeing the catastrophe that is Syria, the Syrian civil war, [are] very carefully vetted,” he said. “We are not naïve about that. It’s really important, extremely important. It’s urgent. But at the same time, we think there are opportunities to be as humane as we always have been, as the Statue of Liberty required of us as Americans.”

The question remains whether the seemingly thin-skinned Trump will consent to work with his loudest critic within the Jewish mainstream establishment.

“There is a price to be paid for too many attacks on the president of the United States,” said Steven M. Cohen, a professor of Jewish social policy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York.

“There hasn’t been a time in American history where liberal values were seemingly as challenged as they are right now in 20th-century history,” he went on. “It’s not that the ADL’s actions are unprecedented. It’s that the context is unprecedented.”

Sarna agreed that the ADL’s actions during the election constitute a historical watershed that future generations of Jewish leaders will look back on for insight. He framed the choice facing Greenblatt during the election as “silence, outrage, instruction or obstruction.”

“Those are always your choices,” he said. “The ADL elected to go with outrage. Some other organizations, I think, decided that maybe silence was the right way to go. … The problem with outrage is that you can’t be outraged all the time. You only have a certain capital of outrage.

“It’s hard being a Jewish leader,” he added. “I don’t envy Mr. Greenblatt.”

Greenblatt said he never saw much of a choice in the way he approached the situation, but he doesn’t blame other Jewish organizations, like the AJC, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and The Jewish Federations of North America for taking a less confrontational approach: “I just don’t think that way,” he said.

“I said what I said and we did what we did because it was consistent with ADL’s historic role,” he told the Journal. “As I said, for us it was a matter of our mission. Others need to do what they need to do. I don’t begrudge them.”

But there are Jewish leaders and organizations that have felt the need to question Greenblatt’s leadership.

“It seems to me at critical times [in the] course of this campaign, a pattern emerged that the ADL put their thumb on the scale in a way that hadn’t been done by Greenblatt’s predecessor,” Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), told reporters on a conference call the day after the election.

By attacking Trump, Brooks said, “The ADL has put itself in a potentially compromising position going forward.”

Greenblatt rejects the criticism that the ADL singled out Trump.

“We did not call out the Trump campaign per se,” he said. “What we did was call out particular ideas when we found them to be problematic.”

He pointed out that the ADL criticized Republican candidates Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders when they made comments that were untoward or inflammatory. When Trump was criticized for making comments to the RJC in December 2015 that some perceived as anti-Semitic (“I’m a negotiator like you folks,” the candidate said), Greenblatt came to his defense: “We do not believe that it was Donald Trump’s intention to evoke anti-Semitic stereotypes,” Greenblatt said in a statement at the time.

In the weeks since the election, Greenblatt proved once again that he’s willing to go after Democrats and to change his position when new information arises.

Early in Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison’s bid to become chair of the Democratic National Committee, Greenblatt released a statement where he raised concerns about his record on Israel, but also described him as “a man of good character” and “an important ally in the fight against anti-Semitism.” Yet after a recording came to light of Ellison questioning the United States’ relationship with Israel, Greenblatt changed course in a Dec. 1 statement, calling the remarks “both deeply disturbing and disqualifying.”

To the idea that he singled out Trump for censure, Greenblatt told the Journal, “It doesn’t map to the facts.” Instead, he said, the ADL spoke up each time somebody in the national spotlight ran afoul of its core values of equality, pluralism and tolerance.

“We speak out, not because someone is of a particular political persuasion, but because when ideas are in violation of those core American values, that’s when we think — that’s when the ADL has a role to play,” he said.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which combats hate and anti-Semitism, found himself in a similar position to Greenblatt during the election, and he echoed the need to pick moments and battles carefully.

“This is not going to be an easy road to go down,” Cooper said. “We have to engage with the people with the keys to the car.”

Greenblatt said his organization wants to collaborate positively with the new administration whenever possible, without yielding any ground on ADL’s commitment to its core mission.

“We’re going to hold them relentlessly accountable to the issues we care about,” he said, “and do what we can to make sure we continue to be a fierce advocate.”

Ellison would be a ‘disaster’ as DNC’s leader, Saban says


Haim Saban, a major Democratic Party funder, said Rep. Keith Ellison’s election as chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) would be a “disaster” for the relationship between Jews and the party, signaling a looming crisis between the party’s progressives and the centrist pro-Israel community.

The scathing broadside delivered Dec. 2 by the Israeli-American entertainment mogul from the floor of the annual Saban Forum, an event he funds bringing together U.S. and Israeli leaders and influencers, underscores the degree to which the Minnesota congressman’s campaign for DNC chief could erode relations between establishment Jewish groups and the party.

Additionally, the release Friday of the full transcript of remarks Ellison delivered in 2010 at a fundraiser organized by Muslim backers, in which he derides Israel as seeing the United States as an ATM, was likely to exacerbate establishment Jewish concerns about Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress.

“If you listen to Keith Ellison today, and you see his statements, he’s more of a Zionist than Herzl and Ben-Gurion and Begin combined,” Saban said during the gala dinner for the event, which is organized by the Brookings Institution. “It’s amazing, it’s a beautiful thing. If you go back to his positions, his statements, his speeches, the ways he voted, he’s clearly an anti-Semite and anti-Israel individual.”

Saban seemed eager to get his thoughts on Ellison off his chest. He was given the courtesy of posing the first question to the evening’s speaker, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, but instead delivered his statement lambasting Ellison.

“Words matter, actions matter more,” Saban said, a baffled Lieberman looking on. “Keith Ellison would be a disaster for the relationship between the Jewish community and the Democratic Party. Now I’ve said what I’ve had to say.”

Saban’s broadside — further reaching, in calling him an “anti-Semite,” than even some of Ellison’s conservative critics — is significant because of the mogul’s relationship to the DNC.

Saban is better known as a leading backer of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee defeated last month by Donald Trump, but he also has been a major donor to the party. In 2002, he paid $7 million toward the building of the then-new DNC headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Ellison, who is Black, has rallied progressive groups to his defense, including within the Jewish community.

“It is time to retire the playbook that aims to silence any American official seeking high office who has dared to criticize certain Israeli government policies,” said a statement Friday from J Street, which noted it was not endorsing Ellison for the DNC spot.

The liberal Jewish Middle East policy group’s statement came out before Saban’s outcry.

Even before the results are known, the DNC contest is fraying ties between the Jewish organizational establishment and the party that were thinned already by last year’s contentious battle between the Israeli and American governments over the Iran deal and years of tensions under President Barack Obama over Israel’s settlement policies. Ellison said this weekend that he may leave Congress if he wins, a key demand of some of the grass-roots officials who vote for the chairman, and a sign of how serious his bid is.

Ellison has come under fire in part because of his youth, which was spent as an activist with the Nation of Islam, and defending some Black nationalists who had hostile relationships with the Jewish community.

Running for Congress in 2006, he wrote a letter apologizing for those associations to the Minneapolis Jewish community. He has since enjoyed friendly relations with his state’s Jews.

Ellison went further Friday in an op-ed for The Washington Post in berating his younger self for those ties.

“These men organize by sowing hatred and division, including anti-Semitism, homophobia and a chauvinistic model of manhood,” he said. “I should have listened more and talked less.”

Since his election to Congress, however, he also has become a sharp critic of some Israeli actions that have earned him alliances among liberal Jewish groups such as J Street, but the wariness of mainstream pro-Israel groups. He spearheaded a letter in 2009 urging the Obama administration to press Israel to loosen restrictions on the Gaza Strip, where the Hamas terrorist group governs.

Ellison led an effort to have Congress consider parts of the U.N. Goldstone Report, which said Israel may have committed war crimes in the 2009 Gaza War. Much of Congress, as well as the centrist and right-wing pro-Israel community, said the report was biased beyond redemption.

In 2014, he was one of just eight Congress members who refused to vote for additional funding for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system during that summer’s Gaza War, saying he preferred to agitate for a cease-fire.

Ellison also has led efforts to promote recognition of Israel and rejection of Holocaust denial among Muslims, and is eager to take into account all points of view on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has reliably supported defense assistance for Israel.

In 2009, Ellison traveled with a colleague to review postwar destruction in Gaza. Unlike the colleague, Ellison made the complicated travel arrangements necessary to review the destruction on Israel’s side as well. Last month, in a statement to JTA, he explicitly rejected the boycott Israel movement.

Right-wing groups such as the Zionist Organization of America and the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) have said since Ellison announced his candidacy that he is unfit. The RJC has even fundraised off the matter: A Dec. 1 email pitched with the subject line “An anti-Semite running the Democrat Party?” listed Ellison’s youthful associations without noting his multiple disavowals of them.

But his complex record also has meant that centrist Jewish groups have agonized over just how to treat his candidacy. The Anti-Defamation League at first said his past raised questions that needed answering. Then, in the past week, a snippet from the 2010 fundraiser was released by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, in which Ellison said, “United States foreign policy in the Middle East is governed by what is good or bad through a country of 7 million people.” The ADL said that disqualified him.

The National Jewish Democratic Council said in a statement Friday — before Saban’s comments — that “the accusations that [Ellison] is somehow anti-Semitic are false, reprehensible and shameful.” It also said his record on Israel was “mixed,” notable for a group with a mission of lauding Democratic incumbents, and said it “strongly disagreed” with his 2014 vote on Iron Dome.

Ellison countered that his 2010 remark had been taken out of context and noted that the Investigative Project’s founder is Steven Emerson, who was featured in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s recently released guide to anti-Muslim extremists.

Ellison displayed in his talk to the fundraisers a degree of nuance in his views on Israel and the Jewish community. He held up Jewish lobbying for Israel as a model that Muslims should emulate and admonished his audience when it apparently recoiled after Ellison said he had met with activists at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference.

The lawmaker said he has a “moral and legal” obligation to meet with all his constituents.

“I want to hear what everybody has to say. Right?” he told the group. “And I want you to know that the level of organization that they display is considerable.” Ellison also said that “this is not to say that I don’t want the U.S. to be friends with Israel.”

But he also indulged tropes about Israel and Jews that would likely irk many in the pro-Israel community and has not raised in his meetings with Jews. In the recorded remarks, he said Israel treats the United States as a cash machine, demanding funding without being responsive to American needs.

“We’re Americans, right? We can’t allow another country to treat us like we’re their ATM. Right? And so we ought to stand up as Americans,” Ellison said.

He also depicted Jews as uncritical, saying that Israel “has mobilized its Diaspora in America to do its bidding.” Ellison depicted himself as putting Israel supporters who questioned Obama’s anti-settlement policies on the spot.

“That is the policy of my president,” he said, “and I want to know if you’re with the president.”

A letter to Keith Ellison: How Jews will love you


Dear Mr. Ellison,

I share many of the concerns expressed by your critics who are opposed to your candidacy to head the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Among other things, your past associations with some nasty anti-Semitic forces, such as the Nation of Islam, and your vote against special Iron Dome funding for Israel, were a major turnoff. 

Even the liberal-leaning head of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, came out against you last week after the release of a 2010 audio clip, in which you go on about how a tiny country like Israel can have such an inordinate influence on American foreign policy. Greenblatt called your words “deeply disturbing and disqualifying.”

So, when I put on my pro-Israel hat, my view is that the Democrats can do better. After all, we want Israel to be a bipartisan issue in Congress, so why pick someone with a controversial record on that very issue? Why not have someone who might help us heal the growing rift between the two parties on the hot potato subject of Israel?

But let’s assume, for now, that you will win. What happens then? Can you become an ally in the fight against anti-Semitism? Can you bridge the gaps between the two parties on Israel? 

If the past is any guide, the politics will intrude. My comrades on the right will use your victory as further evidence that the Democrats are moving away from their support of Israel, while my friends on the left will get defensive and accuse the right of trying to make Israel a partisan issue. We’ve seen that movie before.

The movie we don’t often see is when the Jewish community puts politics aside for the sake of unity and the common good.

This is where you come in. You can help change the dynamics. You have huge credibility with the people we most need to reach — the multicultural new generation that has been unfairly poisoned on Israel. You can tell them what’s in your heart and what’s in your mind, such as what you said last month:

“I support Israel. And I have long supported a two-state solution and a democratic and secure state for the Jewish people, with a democratic and viable Palestinian state side-by-side in peace and dignity.”

You can also tell them that you are opposed to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, which only aims to delegitimize the Jewish state.

But if you want to really endear yourself to the whole community, there’s something else you can do, something more proactive.

In that 2010 audio clip, you seemed to express a grudging admiration and respect for what the Jews and Israel have accomplished. It’s as if you were saying: “Yes, the Jews are powerful, the Jews are successful, the Jews have accomplished a lot, but instead of complaining about it, why don’t we learn from them?”

Am I right in noticing that?

Because if I am, this could be a compelling new trope that would be good for everyone. Some of my Jewish friends may be uncomfortable with that trope, because anything that smacks of stereotypes brings back dark memories. But the way I see it, I’d rather people learn from the Jews and engage with them rather than hate them or boycott them.

It’s the same principle with regard to Israel. You can tell your followers that demonizing and boycotting Israel won’t bring peace, and that the best way to oppose Israel’s policies is to do what the Jews in America have done so well — engage, engage, engage. Work with the system. Get creative, not destructive.

You can also remind your followers of the Jewish people’s indigenous connection to the land of Israel, and that Arab citizens of Israel have more rights and freedoms in the Jewish state than in any Arab country in the Middle East. And if you’re up to it, you can invite the Palestinian leadership to put a peace offer on the table, so we can see how serious they are about making a deal.

Fight anti-Semitism, fight BDS, encourage your followers to engage rather than boycott Israel, and many (if not all) Jews will love you. 


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Rep. Keith Ellison: A history of anti-Israel actions


The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is urging that Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) not be appointed to head the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Ellison’s dangerous positions, involvements and anti-Israel congressional initiatives have included the following:

• This past summer, Ellison (aka Keith X. Ellison, aka Keith Hakim, aka Keith Ellison Muhammed) worked to insert anti-Israel positions and language into the 2016 Democratic national platform and to keep pro-Israel planks out. Ellison complained in a “DemocracyNow!” interview that the Israeli “occupation” was to blame for a “humanitarian crisis” and lack of sewage processing in Gaza, while ignoring that Israel withdrew from every inch of Gaza and that Hamas diverts the electricity needed to operate Gaza’s sewage treatment plant to energize its terror tunnels and operations.

• Also in 2016, Ellison tweeted a sign falsely accusing Israel of expropriation and “apartheid.” And in September, Ellison defended the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) on the House floor. ISNA is an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation case, involved in funneling money to Hamas.

[Opposing view: Ellison is a humanitarian leader]

• In 2015, Ellison spearheaded and co-authored a letter (and obtained the signatures of 23 Democratic members of Congress) demanding that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress about the Iran deal be delayed until after the sanctions deadline — when the visit would have been useless.

• In 2014, Ellison was one of only eight members of Congress who voted against the bipartisan bill to provide $225 million to Israel’s Iron Dome missile system.

• In 2012, Ellison traveled from Minnesota to raise funds and speak at mosques in New Jersey, urging and helping Arab-American residents of the state to defeat pro-Israel, Democratic, Jewish Congressman Steve Rothman.

• In 2010, Ellison convinced 53 other Democratic members of Congress to sign his infamous “Gaza 54” letter to President Barack Obama, which falsely accused Israel of humiliating and wreaking “collective punishment” on Gaza residents, and demanded that Obama pressure Israel to lift the Gaza blockade, thereby enabling Hamas to obtain more weapons to kill and terrorize innocent Israeli civilians.

• In a 2010 “DemocracyNow!” interview, Ellison argued that the United States not kill a leading terrorist located in Yemen, who was responsible for numerous deaths of Americans and was continuing to foment some of the worst additional attacks, on the grounds that the terrorist would consider his own death to be a “reward.”

Ellison also received substantial campaign contributions from groups tied to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood is the “parent” organization of Hamas, al-Qaida and other terrorist entities. Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait all have designated the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist organization.

Ellison also spoke at Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) dinners and defended CAIR on the House floor. Materials handed out at CAIR’s 2008 dinner (where Ellison spoke) referred to America as a terrorist organization and called for the destruction of Israel and the United States. CAIR also is an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation case, involved in funneling money to Hamas.

In addition, the House of Representatives’ Ethics Committee has opened an investigation into Ellison’s failure to disclose that the Muslim American Society — a group founded by Muslim Brotherhood members to be the “overt arm … in the U.S.” of that extremist organization — paid $13,350 for Ellison to go on hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in 2008. 

• In 2007, Ellison analogized President George W. Bush’s prosecution of the war on terror after 9/11 to Hitler’s rise to power and activities after the Reichstag German parliament building fire.

• From approximately 1989 until at least 1998, Ellison was an active leader in Louis Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic Nation of Islam. Ellison raised funds and led anti-police chants to support cop killers; co-sponsored a vicious anti-Semitic speech by Kwame Ture (formerly known as Stokely Carmichael) titled “Zionism: Imperialism, White Supremacy or Both?” and ignored Jewish law students’ pleas not to sponsor the program; and spoke at a public hearing on behalf of the Nation of Islam in support of a woman alleged to have said, “Jews are among the most racist white people I know.” In 1995, Ellison organized a rally featuring Khalid Abdul Muhammad saying, “If words were swords, the chests of Jews, gays and whites would be pierced.”

Keith Ellison’s record is one of overwhelming anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activities. The ZOA urges you to join us in speaking out against appointing Ellison to the extraordinarily powerful position of DNC chair. 


MORTON A. KLEIN is the president of the Zionist Organization of America.

Family of slain Jewish DNC staffer appeals for an end to conspiracy theories


The family of a Jewish Democratic National Committee staffer killed last month asked for an end to “unproven and harmful theories” about their son’s death.

The family of Seth Rich came out with a statement on Thursday, two days after WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 award for information leading to the conviction of his killer. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in an interview on Netherlands TV suggested that Rich, 27, may have been a source for the leaks clearinghouse, reigniting conspiracy theories.

“The family welcomes any and all information that could lead to the identification of the individuals responsible, and certainly welcomes contributions that could lead to new avenues of investigation,” said the statement from Brad Bauman, a Rich family spokesman, provided Wednesday to Business Insider.

“That said, some are attempting to politicize this horrible tragedy, and in their attempts to do so are actually causing more harm than good and impeding on the ability for law enforcement to properly do their job.

“For the sake of finding Seth’s killer, and for the sake of giving the family the space they need at this terrible time, they are asking for the public to refrain from pushing unproven and harmful theories about Seth’s murder,” the statement said.

WikiLeaks has been harshly critical of Hillary Clinton’s presidential run and last month posted hacked DNC emails that led to the resignation of top party staffers. Its reward and Assange’s suggestions appeared linked to conspiracy theories circulating on the internet, unbacked by evidence, that Rich was set to expose misdoings by Clinton and/or the Democratic Party to the FBI.

One of the chief purveyors of the theories is Roger Stone, a provocateur who until last year was an adviser to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Stone said in a speech Monday that he was in touch with Assange about releasing documents that could damage the Clinton campaign.

Police have said that Rich, a Nebraska native who was killed in Washington, D.C., while walking home before dawn on July 10, was possibly the victim of a robbery gone awry.

On her big night, Hillary Clinton stresses Israel’s security, not the quest for peace


It was Hillary Clinton’s night, but the Rev. William Barber II was the sleeper star.

The self-described “theologically conservative, liberal, evangelical biblicist” drew repeated, enthusiastic applause –including when he described Jesus as a brown-skinned Palestinian Jew and declared that “when we love the Jewish child and the Palestinian child … we are reviving the heart of our democracy.”

With his focus on commonality instead of grievances (terrorism, occupation), Barber seemed to hit the sweet spot that could excite everyone in the arena, from Bernie supporters to old-school pro-Israel Democrats. The Clinton and Sanders camps took a similar approach to the Israel section of the party platform — focusing primarily on the mutual benefits of a two-state solution.

So it was striking later in the night when Clinton got to her Israel line: “I’m proud that we put a lid on Iran’s nuclear program without firing a single shot – now we have to enforce it, and keep supporting Israel’s security.”

No talk of a two-state solution or kick-starting Israeli-Palestinian issues. Nothing about Israeli settlements. Just Israeli security.

The applause was mild (at least in the part of the arena where I was standing, on the floor, in front of the California delegation).

This isn’t the first time during the campaign that Clinton has stuck to the Israel security message. There was her fairly red meat speech to the annual AIPAC conference in March. And then her debate exchange with Sanders a few weeks later over said speech. “You barely mentioned the Palestinians,” Sanders complained, before suggesting she was unwilling to confront Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Clinton reiterated her support for a two-state solution and said she worked to make progress as secretary of state. But, with the New York primary just days away, she seemed quite comfortable putting Israel’s security first. “I can tell you right now, I have been there with Israeli officials going back more than 25 years that they do not seek this kind of attacks,” she said. “They do not invite the rockets raining down on their towns and villages.”

Since then, on certain issues (trade, college tuition), Clinton has displayed a willingness to embrace Sanders’ positions as part of her effort to win over those feeling the Bern. In her convention speech, she told Bernie backers that when it comes to economic and social justice issues, “I want you to know, I’ve heard you. Your cause is our cause.”

In talking about Israel, not so much.

Bloomberg unleashes on Trump, calls him ‘risky choice’


Former Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg unleashed a string of attacks at Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, calling his a “dangerous demagogue” and “a risky, reckless, and radical choice’ in the November election. 

“There are times when I disagree with Hillary. But whatever our disagreements may be, I’ve come here to say: We must put them aside for the good of our country,” Bloomberg said in a primetime speech at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday. “And we must unite around the candidate who can defeat a dangerous demagogue. I believe it’s the duty of all American citizens to make our voices heard by voting in this election. And, if you’re not yet registered to vote, go online and do it now! It’s just too important to sit out.”

Using a term once used by Senator Marco Rubio in the Republican primary, Bloomberg pointed to Trump’s past in the businesses sector to warn the American people of promises made by a con artist. “I’m a New Yorker. And New Yorkers know a con when we see one,” said Bloomberg. “Truth be told, the richest thing about Donald Trump is his hypocrisy.” 

“I understand the appeal of a businessman president. But Trump’s business plan is a disaster in the making,” he asserted. “He would make it harder for small businesses to compete, do great damage to our economy, threaten the retirement savings of millions of Americans, lead to greater debt and more unemployment, erode our influence in the world, and make our communities less safe. The bottom line is: Trump is a risky, reckless, and radical choice. And we can’t afford to make that choice.” 

Bloomberg went on to make the case for Hillary Clinton. “I know Hillary Clinton is not flawless. No candidate is. But she is the right choice – and the responsible choice – in this election,” the former Republican mayor stressed. “No matter what you may think about her politics or her record, Hillary Clinton understands that this is not reality television. This is reality.”

Rep. Engel: Russia trying to influence election


Russia was trying to interfere in the U.S. presidential elections by allegedly hacking the DNC email system and releasing it on the week of the Democratic National Convention, the ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs suggested on Wednesday. 

“It makes you wonder of the Russians are trying to influence our political system on [electing a new] president,” Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) said during a panel on defining America’s role in global affairs hosted by the American Jewish Committee in Philadelphia. “It wouldn’t surprise me if they were; it wouldn’t surprise me if more things come out.” 

Donald Trump gave credence to that claim during a live press conference in Florida on Wednesday. “If they hacked, they probably have her 33,000 emails. I hope they do,” Trump said, encouraging the Russians to release them. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” the Republican presidential nominee said. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” 

Later on, when asked if he was really urging a foreign country to hack into Clinton’s private email server to meddle in the presidential election, Trump told the reporter to “be quiet.” Adding, “That’s up to the president. Let the president talk to them.”

The Clinton campaign immediately accused Trump of actively encouraging a foreign power to conduct espionage against his opponent. “That’s not hyperbole, those are just the facts,” Clinton’s senior advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”

“For someone running for the presidency, frankly, to ask the Russians to do something like that is absolutely disgraceful,” Rep. Engel said. 

Following the press conference, the Trump campaign released a statement by vice presidential candidate Mike Pence warning the Russians that they could face “serious consequences” if they are behind the hacking and interfering in the elections. 

But Pence went on toe accuse the Democrats of “singularly focusing on who might be behind it and not addressing the basic fact that they’ve been exposed as a party who not only rigs the government, but rigs elections while literally accepting cash for federal appointments,” which is, in his words, outrageous.


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Protesters burn Israeli flag outside Democratic convention


An Israeli flag was set alight as protesters chanted “Long live the intifada” outside the venue of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Protesters also burned pro-Bernie Sanders posters and some American flags on Tuesday night as Hillary Clinton was being nominated the party’s official presidential candidate. Palestinian flags also were waved both inside the convention and outside the Wells Fargo Center in downtown Philadelphia.

Photos of the flag burning were posted on social media.

The Israeli flag was burned by a woman who concealed her face with a black bandana as people around her reportedly cheered.

The National Jewish Democratic Council in a tweet called the flag burning “Disgusting and totally reprehensible” and the protesters “anti-progressive.”

How Sarah Silverman delivered the Democratic convention’s defining one-liner


Corey Booker delivered an uplifting message. The first lady invoked the future of America’s children. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton’s once-bitter rival, endorsed her with vigor.

But it was a raunchy comedian, Sarah Silverman, who summed up the night’s implicit message in nine ad-libbed words.

“To the ‘Bernie or Bust’ people,” she said from the podium at the Wells Fargo Center here in Philadelphia, “you’re being ridiculous.”

That’s what most of the other speakers at the Democratic National Convention were trying to say. In fact, it’s what many Clinton supporters have been saying since she wrapped up the nomination in early June.

Sanders himself put it this way:

“If you don’t believe this election is important, if you think you can sit it out, take a moment to think about the Supreme Court justices that Donald Trump would nominate and what that would mean to civil liberties, equal rights and the future of our country.”

The idea: If you support Sanders’ unapologetic progressivism, Clinton’s moderated version is far closer to what you want than Donald Trump’s platform, which is based in a mix of conservative positions.

The message took on added urgency on Monday after Sanders delegates voiced outrage over leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee that showed favoritism toward Clinton during the primary race. The emails led to the resignation of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Sanders delegates vowed to protest on the convention floor.

A few speakers tried to send the unity message in friendly terms, quelling the boos and chants of “Bernie, Bernie” by explaining the importance of getting out the vote. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, a former and sometimes current comedian, reassured parents that an “8-year-old kid can teach a 4-year-old kid how to use a microwave oven” — reason enough for parents to neglect their kids and canvass for Clinton.

Silverman — who put her stamp on the 2008 election by urging fellow Jews to convince their Florida grandparents to vote for Obama — also has oodles of sympathy for Bernie. She supported his campaign and said Monday that she was proud of what he had achieved. But her blunt sentence shut the protesters up, at least for a minute, making them reflect on their pledge to sit this election out or vote for a third party.

And months after this convention ends, that one sentence may be the one we still remember from Monday night — when a comedian did what the politicians could not.

Bernie Sanders urges unity behind Hillary Clinton, thanks supporters


Sen. Bernie Sanders urged his supporters to vote for Hillary Clinton on a night at the Democratic National Convention centered on restoring unity in the party.

Sanders spoke Monday on the opening night of the convention in Philadelphia following two days of discord in the party. His supporters have voiced anger at Clinton for choosing Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, a centrist, as a running mate, and are upset with the Democratic National Committee over leaked emails that show the body favored Clinton during the primary race.

But Sanders urged his followers, despite their disappointment, to coalesce behind Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee. He said, to loud applause, that electing Clinton is the only way to ensure the defeat of Republican nominee Donald Trump and to push the enactment of a progressive agenda.

“We need leadership which brings our people together and makes us stronger – not leadership which insults Latinos and Mexicans, insults Muslims, women, African-Americans and veterans – and seeks to divide us up,” he said. “By these measures, any objective observer will conclude that based on her ideas and her leadership, Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States.”

Sanders, the first Jewish candidate to win major party primaries, outlined a series of domestic issues — from climate change to income inequality to health care to college tuition — on which he said Clinton would be far superior to Trump. He called on his supporters not to abstain from voting in particular because the next president may appoint several Supreme Court justices. His message echoed several other speakers that night who pushed party unity and get-out-the-vote efforts.

“If you don’t believe this election is important, if you think you can sit it out, take a moment to think about the Supreme Court justices that Donald Trump would nominate and what that would mean to civil liberties, equal rights and the future of our country,”  he said.

Before he took the stage, a modified version of a popular Sanders campaign ad played on screen featuring the song “America” by Simon and Garfunkel. (Paul Simon performed at the convention earlier Monday night.)

Sanders began the speech by thanking supporters and showing the impact of his campaign through a list of statistics — from the 13 million people who voted for him to the 8 million individual campaign contributions he received. He also hailed the passing of what he called “by far the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party.”

“I think it’s fair to say that no one is more disappointed than I am,” he said regarding the primary result. “But to all of our supporters – here and around the country – I hope you take enormous pride in the historical accomplishments we have achieved. Together, my friends, we have begun a political revolution to transform America and that revolution – our revolution – continues.”

Some Sanders delegates continued to chant for him from the crowd, while others cried as he spoke. But there were no widespread protests during his or any other speech.

Earlier Monday night, a range of other Jewish public figures, including Simon and comedian Sarah Silverman, appeared on stage. Minnesota Sen. Al Franken addressed the crowd with a mixture of his trademark humor and seriousness. He focused his speech on criticizing Trump as a dishonest businessman while also sneaking in a jab at disgraced Jewish fraudster Bernie Madoff.

“Did you know that Trump University’s School of Ripping People Off is ranked second in the nation?” Franken joked. “Right behind Bernie Madoff University? That’s no mean feat.”

Bernie Sanders wants his delegates to back Clinton. They’re not listening.


Bernie Sanders’ delegates are going to raise hell on the floor of the Democratic National Convention, his own wishes be damned.

“Change that’s worth a damn always comes from the bottom up, not from the top,” said Norman Solomon, coordinator of the Bernie Delegates Network, an unofficial group, at a news conference Monday morning. “He’s not running the show. He’s not running the social movement.”

That’s the message a coalition of Sanders delegates has sent on the first day of the convention, which began here Monday afternoon.

When presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton takes the podium on Thursday, unless things change, she can expect cheers from most of the crowd, but stonewalling from a vocal minority.

Sanders delegates say they feel lied to by the party. Leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee showing favoritism to Clinton, they say, show that the party was fighting Sanders all along. And they’re irked that instead of acknowledging their voices by choosing a more progressive running mate, Clinton tacked to the center and chose Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine.

Solomon told reporters Sunday and Monday that his network is planning at least three separate actions at the convention this week. It’s going to protest the speeches by Kaine and Clinton either by having delegates walk out, turn their backs or simply remain silent. And on Wednesday, the group is planning to protest the Kaine nomination by officially submitting an alternative candidate for vice president.

Solomon is aware that the vice presidential fight is symbolic.

“We understand Tim Kaine will be the vice president,” he said. But on Sunday, he told reporters that Sanders delegates would have preferred Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a progressive firebrand, or Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Sanders, for his part, has encouraged his supporters to throw their weight behind Clinton. He has criticized Kaine in the days since his selection Friday, saying “his politics are not my politics,” but in a speech Monday to delegates, he earned boos by telling them to vote for Clinton and Kaine in order to defeat Donald Trump, the Republican nominee.

“Immediately, right now, we have got to defeat Donald Trump,” he said. “And we have got to elect Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. Brothers and sisters, brothers and sisters, this is the real world that we live in. Trump is a bully and a demagogue. Trump has made bigotry and hatred the cornerstone of his campaign.”

But as much as it’s a protest against what Solomon has called the “corporate” Democratic establishment, the Bernie Delegates Network’s plans are an explicit rebuke to the idea that delegates need to line up behind whatever their candidate says. The message of Sanders’ campaign, say some delegates, is that citizens and activists should fight for the causes they believe in, and that the grass roots should determine the direction of movements, not leaders.

At the convention, many Sanders delegates wore shirts reading “Bernie for president” more than a month after he dropped out — a sight not seen at the Republican National Convention among backers of Sen. Ted Cruz, that party’s runner-up. Several Sanders supporters wore green felt pointed hats, meant to show that Sanders was the Robin Hood of the United States.

“My job is to make sure the wishes of my delegates are heard and that their opinions are heard,” said California delegate Karen Bernal. “They have never been a group to take marching orders. They’re extremely independently minded.”

Sanders delegates in their objection to the Kaine selection say he pulls Clinton further from their positions due to his support for free trade and a stance on unions they deem unfriendly. Warren or Brown, by contrast, could have been seen as a validation of Sanders’ platform.

And Sanders supporters in particular take umbrage at the leaked emails, which describe strategies to throw off Sanders’ candidacy. One email chain suggests that Sanders avoided acknowledging his Judaism and that perhaps the DNC could hurt his campaign by stressing that he doesn’t believe in God (he does).

“They have no clue about what Judaism means,” said Kansas delegate Andy Sandler, who is Jewish. “We’re not a monolithic bloc. They’re copying riffs from the Republicans. They love subterfuge.”

That’s why some Sanders delegates plan to vote against Clinton in November, whatever the consequences. Solomon, a Californian who will not vote for Clinton, said that Sanders supporters in solidly “blue” states that will almost certainly vote Democrat don’t need to worry about closing ranks around Clinton.

“This political process wasn’t impartial from the beginning,” said North Carolina delegate Vonnie Brown, 27. “The president box will be left unchecked come November.”

But other delegates oppose protests on the convention floor and say a vote for Clinton is necessary, either out of party loyalty or because the specter of Trump is so unthinkable to them. While Sanders will not be on the ballot, they believe that his principles and the movement he created will continue after this election.

“The Democrats, we have to come together,” said Connecticut delegate Beverley Brakeman. “People who are Bernie people who may not like Hillary need to figure it out. To me, [Trump] is a far scarier option.”

There are also concerns that protests on the floor will make the Democratic convention look like the Republican confab in Cleveland last week, where fissures showed throughout the week. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz spoke from the podium but did not endorse Trump, drawing boos. Cruz delegates also mounted an abortive protest from the convention floor to change the party rules so Trump would not be nominated.

“I think we should look better than the Republicans at their convention,” said delegate Denise Gladue, also from Connecticut. “We should respect Bernie’s decision to step down. He told us to vote for Hillary. We should vote for Hillary.”

Memphis Jewish congressman: DNC staffers behind Sanders emails should be fired


A Jewish congressman from Tennessee said the Democratic National Committee staffers whose leaked emails questioned Bernie Sanders’ religiosity should be fired.

“For a party to question his religion, or lack thereof, as a way to defeat that person, those people should resign and if they don’t resign they should be fired,” Rep. Steve Cohen, a Memphis Democrat, told his state’s delegation at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Tuesday, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

“Some people will think, ‘Oh well, politically we shouldn’t do it and those people have done X, Y and Z for the party,’” he added. “But they crossed the Rubicon. They crossed the line.”

At issue is a May 5 email leaked Friday by WikiLeaks in which Brad Marshall, the DNC’s chief financial officer, suggested that the party should “get someone to ask” about “his” religious beliefs, meaning Sen. Bernie Sanders, who was waging a surprisingly strong challenge in the Democratic presidential primaries against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“It might [make] no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief,” the message says, presumably referring to Kentucky and West Virginia. “Does he believe in a God? He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.”

The email was sent to several top DNC officials — CEO Amy Dacey, communications director Luis Miranda and deputy communications director Mark Paustenbach.

DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who like Cohen and Sanders is a Jewish member of Congress, resigned Monday from the party post as a result of the leaks.

Interviewed by The Tennessean, Cohen said the email about Sanders’ alleged atheism “really turned my stomach and I don’t want that type of mentality.”

“I find that politics despicable, and I say it as an American but also as a politician who has had race and religion used against me,” he added.

Cohen, who is white, has represented Tennessee’s predominantly African-American 9th District since 2007. He served in the Tennessee Senate for 24 years, where he was the first Jewish member since 1958, according to the New Republic.

Despite his concerns about the DNC’s treatment of Sanders, Cohen, a superdelegate, called on Sanders supporters to back Clinton as the party’s nominee.

Democrats seek unity on Israel, but cracks begin to show


The Democratic Party has spent the first couple days of its convention projecting unity on issues from fighting racism to fair trade.

But fissures are showing here on one issue that Democrats have long been united on: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Their party, which has long commanded the vast majority of Jewish votes, like the Republican side has defined itself as pro-Israel — ensuring military aid to Israel and defending it on the world stage. But some Democratic delegates believe that should change.

Delegates for Bernie Sanders, many of them young, would like to see America’s sympathies shift from robust support of Israel to outspoken opposition to the oppression of Palestinians. These delegates see opposing Israel’s occupation of the West Bank as of a piece with other human rights issues they champion.

“Absolutely we need to take a stand on the occupation of Palestinians,” said Jennifer Merecki, a Sanders delegate from Montana. “The U.S. should stop funding Israel. They use that money for the oppression of Palestinian people.”

The change in U.S. policy that Sanders delegates are demanding tracks with a generational divide in the Democratic Party. While more older Democrats want the United States to favor Israel over the Palestinians, among Democrats ages 18 to 29, support is equally divided between Israel and the Palestinians, according to a late 2014 Washington Post poll.

In May, the Pew Research Center found that more liberal Democrats, and more Sanders supporters, sided with the Palestinians over Israel, some 40 percent to 33 percent. Seventy-one percent of millennials voted for Sanders, as opposed to 28 percent for Clinton. Republicans favor Israel over the Palestinians by wide margins.

Several delegates, for both Sanders and presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton, suggested that the United States take measures it has already long taken. Some called for the U.S. to convene negotiations between the two sides, which Democratic and Republican administrations have attempted every few years. Others said the U.S. should oppose settlements, which it has since Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War.

But all who said they want U.S. policy to shift emphasized that they want the government to take a more vocal stand in defense of Palestinian rights.

“We feel Palestinians deserve their own nation and that they deserve human rights,” said Elacido Salazar, 71, a Sanders delegate from Northern California whose wife, Bobbie, wore a pin that said “I support Palestinian human rights.”

“We should have discussions with the Israeli government to stop the settlements. [Palestinians] are defending their right to exist,” he said.

Clinton delegates supported the views of their candidate, which are largely in lockstep with traditional Democratic support of Israel. They advocated a two-state solution but firmly defended Israel.

“I am a supporter of Israel,” said Maria Luna, vice chair of the New York State Democratic Party and a Clinton supporter. “We need to come to agreement between the two sides, otherwise the struggle will continue for dozens of years.”

Palestinians, she said, should gain American support “if they change their way of behaving toward Israel.”

Some Sanders delegates called for a significant change on U.S. policy toward Israel, with a few saying America should stop providing its annual $3 billion assistance package. Dwight Bullard, a Florida state senator who went on a May trip to the West Bank and Israel focused on Palestinian rights, said Israel should extend citizenship to Palestinians living in the territories.

“You have people who lived in the region prior to the establishment of Israel,” said Bullard, 39, who wore a kaffiyeh, or Palestinian headscarf, around his neck Tuesday to signal support for Palestinian rights. “As an African-American, it’s hard for me to buy into the notion of segregation whether in the U.S. or abroad. Someone born in Jerusalem [should have] the rights of a citizen.”

Florida State Sen. Dwight Bullard, wearing a Palestinian kaffiyeh, or headscarf, said Palestinians should have the right to citizenship in Israel. He visited the West Bank and Israel in May as part of a delegation from the Black Lives Matter movement. Photo by Ben Sales

Sanders advocated for increased recognition of Palestinian rights throughout his campaign. In a speech he gave concurrent with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee national conference in March, the Vermont senator supported Israel but called for friendship toward Palestinians.

“But to be successful, we have also got to be a friend not only to Israel but to the Palestinian people, where in Gaza unemployment today is 44 percent and we have there a poverty rate which is almost as high,” Sanders said. “So when we talk about Israel and Palestinian areas, it is important to understand that today there is a whole lot of suffering among Palestinians and that cannot be ignored.”

When the Democratic Party platform was drafted in June, representatives of Sanders voters, including philosopher and civil rights activist Cornel West, pushed for the word “occupation” to be inserted into the section on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While the Democratic Party has long condemned Israel’s control of the West Bank, the wording change proved too controversial.

In the end, the platform echoed traditional bipartisan positions backing Israel: support for Israel’s security, a two-state solution to the conflict, the establishment of a Palestinian state and for Jerusalem to remain the capital of Israel. Sanders’ appointees were disappointed that the platform didn’t recognize Israel’s “occupation” nor refer to “settlement activity.”

“We got defeated,” West acknowledged Monday in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. “But we’ll bounce back, though.”

The Republican Party also saw changes to its Israel policy in this year’s platform, tacking to the right. The party abandoned the longstanding bipartisan commitment to the two-state solution and opposed “any measures intended to impose an agreement or to dictate borders or other terms.”

For some pro-Israel activists, even reliable friends like Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s choice for running mate, represent a softening of Democratic support for Israel. Kaine has been a vocal supporter of U.S. security assistance to Israel, but like most Democrats bucked the pro-Israel lobby and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in supporting the Iran nuclear deal.

During the fight over the deal, Kaine absented himself from Netanyahu’s speech to Congress opposing the deal, but subsequently worked to smooth the waters between the prime minister and Senate Democrats.

Tellingly, Kaine has worked closely with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, despite their disagreements over the Iran deal, while at the same time earning the approval of J Street, the liberal Jewish group that seeks a more assertive U.S. policy in promoting the two-state solution. He rarely talks about the two-state solution without reminding the Palestinians of their obligations to honor past commitments and affirm Israel’s right to exist.

Sanders delegates, too, even as they called for significant changes in how the United States relates to Israel, said they opposed any infringement on Jews’ safety and rights in Israel. Israel, some said, should remain a Jewish homeland because of the atrocities committed against Jews in the Holocaust.

“As far as what happened to Jewish people in the Holocaust, they deserve a home,” said Alex Storer, 20, a delegate from Florida. “They have more in common with our society than other countries in the region.”

DNC video on Hillary Clinton as secretary of state highlights Gaza cease-fire, Iran sanctions


A video that will be screened at the Democratic National Convention on Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state highlights her roles in achieving a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, and in passing sanctions on Iran.

The five-minute video released Tuesday is titled “67,” as Clinton was the 67th secretary of state, serving from 2009 to 2013. In addition to Iran and Gaza, the video looks at her role in addressing climate change and advocating for women’s rights.

Early on the video shows explosions in Gaza, presumably from Hamas’ 2012 conflict with Israel, before Shimon Peres, then Israel’s president, says “She understands that peace calls for patience.”

The video shows Clinton in the region conducting indirect negotiations, with Egypt, to achieve a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel. The cease-fire followed eight days of conflict between the two sides — the second and shortest of three conflicts between Hamas and Israel between 2008 and 2014.

“The secretary really had steel in her spine, and stood up, and the conflict stopped, and a wider war was averted,” Jake Sullivan, former director of policy planning for the State Department, says in the video.

The third segment of the video says that Clinton, now the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, was instrumental in convincing global powers to enact sanctions on Iran in opposition to its nuclear program. The video says the sanctions were crucial in getting Iran to negotiate the international agreement on its nuclear program signed last year.

The agreement, which Clinton supports, was strenuously opposed by the Israeli government and American Jewish groups. Clinton has vowed to enforce the agreement and ensure Iran does not violate it.

Democrats scramble for a unique message that appeals to Jewish millennials


Amanda Renteria, the national political director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, was running through the campaign’s messages for minorities and women: immigration for Hispanics, land use for Native Americans, various policies for defending children and women.

She didn’t mention Jews in her briefing Tuesday morning for specialty media, and there’s a reason for that: There wasn’t a Clinton issue that was unique to the Jews.

When I asked her to mention some, Renteria looked to Sarah Bard, who directs Jewish outreach for the campaign. Bard acknowledged that targeted messaging was a challenge for Jewish voters, particularly young Jewish voters.

“The Jewish millennial community is tremendously diverse,” Bard said.

Whereas older Jewish Democrats once coalesced around Israel as an issue, that’s a harder sell for younger Jewish Democrats, who increasingly question the actions of its hawkish government.

Hence the Democratic Jewish message relies on Jewish terms for familiar vague themes – Bard cited “kehilla,” or the Hebrew word for community.

“One of the strongest Jewish values is the value of kehilla,” she said before acknowledging “We do have work to do with millennials.”

Bard also spoke to the power of personalities.

“We had Sarah Silverman on the stage last night,” she said, referring to the headline-making moment when the Jewish comedian told staunch Bernie Sanders backers who were disrupting the Democratic National Convention, “You’re being ridiculous.”

Sanders and the following he has acquired among younger Democrats is emblematic of the challenge facing Bard and the Democrats among younger Jews.

Shabbos Kestenbaum, a 17-year-old student at the liberal Orthodox SAR Academy in Riverdale, New York, sported a “Jewish Americans for Bernie” button on Tuesday.

“In light of the recent Debbie Wasserman Schultz scandal, the model for Jewish Democrats should be Bernie Sanders, for transparency and integrity,” he said.

Wasserman Schultz, a Florida congresswoman, was ousted this week from her post as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee after hacked DNC emails revealed animus by her and her staff to the Sanders campaign.

Kestenbaum was attending a breakfast for the Virginia delegation to the convention to hear about the rollout of a new political action committee, Jews for Progress. Virginia is one of six or seven swing states that Democrats plan to target, where Jewish turnout could make the difference.

By contrast, Brianne Nadeau, 35, a member of the Washington, D.C., municipal council and a Clinton delegate, said Jewish women like herself had looked to Wasserman Schultz for inspiration. She was wary of Sanders-driven talk of dismantling existing structures.

“As a member of the next generation, I want to challenge people who came before me as well as respect them,” Nadeau said.

The Clinton campaign recognizes the challenge. Xochitl Hinojosa, who handles minorities media, noted the campaign’s first major hire from Sanders’ winding-down campaign is Kunoor Ojha, who will be handling campus outreach.

The Jewish campaign also will include a campus component, Bard said, with a staffer headed to Ohio next week to work campuses there.

She and Renteria, the political director, described an intensely active Jewish campaign, with phone banks for rabbis and community leaders who call one another for support and ideas, and then report back to the campaign on successes and setbacks. There are Jewish house parties for Hillary and meetings of Jewish women. Debra Messing, the “Will and Grace” star who was scheduled to speak to the convention Tuesday night, has appeared at campaign sessions with Jewish women.

Going forward, there would be appeals asking Jews in “safe” states to campaign in swing states, including Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado.

But the elusiveness of a single unifying message was evident Tuesday afternoon at a Jewish Round Table organized by Bard. Speakers focused on “tikkun olam,” repairing the world, a phrase that has become a catch-all for the Democratic social justice agenda.

“Donald Trump is not a tikkun olam kind of guy,” said Pennsylvania State Sen. Daylin Leach. “He’s more a destroy olam kind of guy.”

In Bard’s opening remarks, it was clear that Israel, a unifying factor for Jews in earlier elections, was not going to cut it anymore.

“We have no greater ally in keeping the world safe than Israel,” she said, using a one-time surefire applause line that this time was met with silence.

Much of the session focused on the threat posed by Trump’s broadsides against minorities and its recent echoes for Jews.

“This is a scary election cycle,” said Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo. “We have a candidate nominated by a major party who retweets quotes from neo-Nazis from Aryan Nation, who uses divisive quotes our people have heard throughout histories.”

Speaking earlier at a J Street session, journalist Peter Beinart, who has written extensively about the drift away from Israel among millennials, said Jewish leaders needed to retool. He said the ethos of facing down threats that motivated earlier generations no longer inspire a generation of Jews distant from the Holocaust and born after Israel’s defining wars of defense.

He lauded J Street, the liberal Middle East lobby, and American Jewish World Service, which fights global poverty and defends LGBTQ rights abroad, for tailoring their missions along lines that could appeal to younger Jews. Their approach, Beinart said, recalls the threats Jews once faced and makes them relevant to a generation that has grown up in relative safety and affluence, and with Israel viewed as a regional power.

“They say to young American Jews, ‘You have been given power and privilege because of what your parents sacrificed. Are you going to use that ethically?’” he said.

Email leak forces DNC chair to step down


Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Sunday resisted calls to immediately step down as chairwoman and give up her role in presiding over the party’s convention this week after leaked emails proved the DNC was in tank for Hillary Clinton during the Democratic presidential primary.

Earlier Sunday, CNN reported Wasserman Schultz would not speak or preside at the convention after a cache of more than 19,000 emails leaked on Friday by WikiLeaks revealed DNC officials explored ways to undermine Sanders’ insurgent presidential campaign, including raising questions about whether Sanders, who is Jewish, was really an atheist.

Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday morning, Sanders said the release of the DNC emails underscores the position he’s held for months that Wasserman Schultz needs to go. “I don’t think she is qualified to be the chair of the DNC, not only for these awful emails, which revealed the prejudice of the DNC, but also because we need a party that reaches out to working people and young people, and I don’t think her leadership style is doing that,” Sanders told Jake Tapper.

But despite the pressure mounted on her to step down. Wasserman Schultz insisted that she would go ahead and address delegates at the convention kicking off on Monday. “The best way for me to accomplish those goals is to step down as Party Chair at the end of this convention,” the DNC chairwoman said in a statement on Sunday. “As Party Chair, this week I will open and close the Convention and I will address our delegates about the stakes involved in this election not only for Democrats, but for all Americans.”

In a statement following the announcement, Hillary Clinton praised Wasserman Schultz for taking the fight to the Republicans, totally ignoring the email controversy. 

“I am glad that she has agreed to serve as honorary chair of my campaign’s 50-state program to gain ground and elect Democrats in every part of the country, and will continue to serve as a surrogate for my campaign nationally, in Florida, and in other key states, Clinton said. “I look forward to campaigning with Debbie in Florida and helping her in her re-election bid–because as President, I will need fighters like Debbie in Congress who are ready on day one to get to work for the American people.”

CNN reported that co-chair Donna Brazile will take over as interim head of the DNC.

Jewish Democratic leaders expressed their gratitude to Wasserman Schultz for her using her influential role as leader of the DNC for the benefit of the Jewish community. 

Greg Rosenbaum, Chair of the NJDC Board of Directors, said in a statement: “Before I became involved with NJDC in any capacity, Debbie told me how she had, early on in her career, been a staffer for the organization. She spoke with such enthusiasm about the organization that I decided, then and there, to volunteer my time and support for NJDC. Some time after that, on the day that she was elected party chair, she sought me out at a reception in her honor to ask if I would get involved with Jewish American Heritage Month. The legislation authorizing JAHM had been the first bill she sponsored when she joined the House and she thought JAHM could use some business experience on its board. Out of a lot of well-qualified people to take on that role, she chose me. For my involvement in both NJDC and JAHM, among the most rewarding times of my life, I will forever be in Debbie’s debt. Though this chapter of her public life may be closing, I have no doubt that Debbie will continue to have a very influential role in the American Jewish community.”

Marc Stanley, immediate past chair of NJDC, added, “I am personally sad that she is resigning, but am very grateful for her service and looking forward to honoring her for her years of service Monday ,when we pay tribute to the history of Jewish women in the Democratic Party from Bella Abzug to Debbie Wasserman Schultz and again Thursday, when we honor all current and former Jewish members of Congress and give special recognition to Debbie for all of her years with the party. ”

Read the DNC statement in full below:

Statement From DNC Chair On Presiding Convention and Concluding Tenure

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz issued the following statement:

“I have been privileged to serve as the DNC Chair for five and a half years helping to re-elect President Obama and Vice President Biden, strengthening our State Party Partnership in all 50 states, leading a vigorous primary election this past year while preparing for the general election and representing millions of Democrats across the country. I couldn’t be more excited that Democrats are nominating our first woman presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, a friend I have always believed in and know will be a great President.

“We arrived here in Philadelphia with the most inclusive and progressive platform the party has ever proposed and a unified recommendation from the Rules Committee on our path forward as Democrats. I am proud of my role in leading these efforts.

“My first priority has always been serving the people of the 23rd district of Florida and I look forward to continuing to do that as their member of Congress for years to come. As the mother of my three amazing children and the Representative of Florida’s 23rd congressional district, I know that electing Hillary Clinton as our next president is critical for America’s future. I look forward to serving as a surrogate for her campaign in Florida and across the country to ensure her victory.

“Going forward, the best way for me to accomplish those goals is to step down as Party Chair at the end of this convention. As Party Chair, this week I will open and close the Convention and I will address our delegates about the stakes involved in this election not only for Democrats, but for all Americans. We have planned a great and unified Convention this week and I hope and expect that the DNC team that has worked so hard to get us to this point will have the strong support of all Democrats in making sure this is the best convention we have ever had.

“I’ve been proud to serve as the first woman nominated by a sitting president as Chair of the Democratic National Committee and I am confident that the strong team in place will lead our party effectively through this election to elect Hillary Clinton as our 45th president.”

During her historic five and a half year tenure, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz:

– Reinvested in the State Party Partnerships that were the hallmark of the 50 State Strategy begun by one of her predecessors.
– Successfully paid off the 2012 election debt entirely.
– Increased investments in the state parties by 50% over the previous baseline, while investing in national infrastructure like our voter file, communications, digital and research support for state parties that’s making a difference nationwide.
– Has been a fierce advocate and tireless fighter for progressive ideals and the safety and security of hardworking American families.
– The DNC has stood up the coordinated campaigns our Party needs to win up and down the ballot in November.
– The Party has recruited, trained, and mobilized top talent in everything from research, to communications, to social media and voter targeting. That means that in addition to the data and analytics advantage our Party has leveraged in the last two presidential elections, we now have a field and outreach edge in battleground states.
– Advanced the most progressive platform in Party history, bringing the broad spectrum of our party together and integrating the best ideas of our campaigns.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has served her constituents in South Florida for nearly 25 years after having been the youngest woman elected to the Florida state legislature – at 26 – and the first Jewish woman elected to the U.S. Congress from the state of Florida.

She’s used her voice and her vote to support a $15 minimum wage, was a champion for the Affordable Care Act, and is the lead sponsor in Congress to fully fund the Zika virus crisis which is a major health concern in her home state of Florida and across the country.

How Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the ‘Jewish mother’ of Congress, rose and fell


When Debbie Wasserman Schultz spoke Monday morning to the Florida delegation as the national Democratic convention got underway, some delegates cheered.

Other delegates booed.

The chaos at the Marriott Hotel here demonstrated the degree to which the Florida congresswoman, perhaps the party’s most prominent Jewish leader, had become a divisive figure since she emerged a decade ago as the tyro no one in the party could praise enough.

Wasserman Schultz, 49, was forced over the weekend to step down as the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, a post she has held since 2011, after leaked emails revealed that she and other DNC insiders had little love lost for Clinton’s primary campaign challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Wasserman Schultz appeared game at the breakfast, overcoming the noise to say she appreciated “a little bit of interest” in her presence.

“We know that the voices in this room that are standing up and being disruptive, the Florida we know is united” in backing Clinton, she said over cries of “Shame!”

It couldn’t have been easy for Wasserman Schultz: The political leader most out front with her Jewishness must now contend with the fact that the most significant setback in her career came in part because an aide had questioned whether Sanders, the first Jewish candidate to win major nominating contests, was Jewish enough.

The chaos Monday was a radically different scene from the first day of her second term in Congress, in January 2007, when Wasserman Schultz commandeered one of the larger rooms on the ground floor of the Cannon U.S. House of Representatives Office building for her reelection party.

Snagging the room was a bold move for a sophomore just turned 40 in a congressional pecking order that at times seems like high school in perpetuity, but she could get away with it: She was the third top fundraiser among Democrats that election year, pulling in $15 million, trailing only Reps. Nancy Pelosi of California, the first female speaker in House history, and Rahm Emanuel of Illinois.

Pelosi rewarded Wasserman Schultz with a spot on the powerful Appropriations Committee, rare for a sophomore, and with the title of deputy whip.

But the theme of the party in Cannon was unmistakably Jewish. Staff approached guests to reassure them that the pastrami, imported from a deli in Wasserman Schultz’s South Florida district, was kosher. And the walls were lined with headlines touting a triumph that meant more to her than all the titles Pelosi could confer: Wasserman Schultz, in her freshman term, had passed a law – itself extraordinary — establishing Jewish American Heritage Month.

During her spectacular rise, Wasserman Schultz has made her Jewish identity abundantly clear. A typical refrain for her was that she considered her policies not merely as a lawmaker but as a “Jewish mother.” She took time out to attend Jewish events, appearing in 2011 at a roast for Ira Forman, who had retired as the director of the National Jewish Democratic Council – where she had one of her first political jobs in the early 1990s as a gofer.

At the 2012 convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, she spent an inordinate amount of time working with Jewish Democrats to push back against the inroads that Republicans were making among Florida Jews. The efforts paid off: Those gains showing up in internal polls were rolled back by November, helping President Barack Obama win the key state.

The organized Jewish community sometimes appreciated her attentions and sometimes was wary of them. National Jewish leaders learned to expect her scorching dressing-downs if she did not deem them sufficiently responsive to perceived Republican sins against the Jews.

Still, for Democrats, and Jewish Democrats particularly, she could do little wrong. Wasserman Schultz kept hidden her battle with breast cancer, but starting in 2009, spoke about it with eloquence and force. She said the health plan she had as a member of Congress was critical to her care – and one she wanted to extend to all Americans through Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act.

In 2011, when her close friend Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Jewish Democrat from Arizona, was shot, she joined with New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in maintaining a bedside vigil. In their media appearances, Wasserman Schultz and Gillibrand became the best friends everyone wanted during that drama – fierce, loving and protective.

Soon thereafter, Wasserman Schultz achieved a new pinnacle, chairing the DNC. She brought to the job her prodigious fundraising skills and what had been a talent for balancing effective attacks against Republicans with a sympathetic (to her allies, anyway) presence.

Turns out, maintaining that balance was harder than it seemed. Republicans pounced and Democrats and feminists winced in 2014 when she likened Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to a wife beater while criticizing his policies. She later said she regretted the analogy.

Her fundraising lagged. This election cycle, the DNC has raised just short of $130 million to the Republican National Committee’s $180 million, according to Open Secrets.

Democrats have been all too eager over recent years to leak details of her alleged excesses, which included demanding that the party pay for her wardrobe for special occasions and naming unskilled loyalists to inside jobs (she denied the allegations).

These pressures mounted as differences between Obama and the pro-Israel community sharpened, especially during the debate over the Iran nuclear deal. She became one of the most-watched Democrats as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Obama’s surrogates took opposite sides over a Republican bid to kill the deal. When Wasserman Schultz finally announced in favor of the deal, appearing on CNN just days before the vote, she again said she was doing so “as a Jewish mother” and wept.

The deal out of the way, Wasserman Schultz set about contending with an election season in which the conventional wisdom was that Clinton would be the inevitable nominee.

Sanders proved a more formidable candidate than anyone – Sanders included – had anticipated, and there soon arose tensions. The senator accused Wasserman Schultz of tilting the scales against him with a debate schedule he said favored Clinton, as well as a reluctance to deliver the assistance that parties must evenly distribute to all candidates.

Wasserman Schultz vigorously denied the accusations – until last week’s dump by WikiLeaks of emails believed to have been hacked by Russians. There was no smoking gun showing an actual attempt to sabotage Sanders, but there were proposals to do so – the most damaging by Brad Marshall, the campaign’s finance boss, who suggested depicting Sanders as an atheist alienated from his Jewish heritage. (Sanders says he believes in God, and he celebrates his Jewish background.)

Wasserman Schultz is down but not yet out of the ’16 campaign. Negotiating her exit from the DNC, she secured a senior surrogate spot on the Clinton campaign, and she insisted in sticking out the week. She also said she wanted to speak at the convention, despite the Clinton campaign seeming none too enthusiastic about the prospect, before opting to stay away from the stage just two hours before she was set to open the gathering.

“I have decided that in the interest of making sure that we can start the Democratic convention on a high note that I am not going to gavel in the convention,” Wasserman Schultz told her hometown newspaper, the Broward County edition of the Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Wasserman Schultz faces a Sanders backer, Tim Canova, a law professor, in her district in the primary next month. Canova, spurred by Sanders’ enthusiastic endorsement, has raised more money.

Ron Klein has known Wasserman Schultz since they were both elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1992, when Wasserman Schultz was 26. He is now consulting with Democrats, and said he expected her to triumph, in part because she remains a hyperactive campaigner who is still beloved in her district.

“First thing’s first,” he told JTA. “She has to fight hard and win this next election.”

And don’t count out the return of Wasserman Schultz to a leadership role, Klein said.

“Maybe she will go forward and try to run within the House leadership down the road,” he said.

5 things to expect from Bernie Sanders’ speech at the Democratic convention


It’s been perhaps the second-most surprising presidential campaign this year.

When Sen. Bernie Sanders, the 74-year-old Jewish democratic socialist from Vermont, began his campaign last year, no one expected him to take a strong insurgency all the way through the primary season. Now he’ll take his message of economic reform to a packed arena at the Democratic National Convention, where he’ll be a headline speaker on Monday’s opening night.

Sanders will be walking into a divided convention hall. Clinton supporters are urging the party to coalesce around the presumptive nominee. But Sanders’ delegates are angry. They’re upset that Clinton tacked to the political center in selecting Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate. And they’re fuming about leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee that showed favoritism toward Clinton.

Here are five things to expect from Sanders’ speech — and his supporters.

1. He’ll call for party unity.

Bernie Sanders, to put it lightly, has issues with the Democratic Party. He has criticized the primary system. He accused the Democratic National Committee of favoring Clinton. He called for a “political revolution” to change the party and bring in new voices. And he has issues with Clinton, from her links to Wall Street to her hawkish foreign policy.

But when it comes down to it, he’ll support Hillary Clinton and call on his followers to do the same. Sanders has made clear throughout the campaign that a Democratic president — even Clinton — is far preferable to Donald Trump. He has stayed on that message even after news came of the leaked DNC emails. Expect him to play down his criticism and encourage supporters to close ranks.

2. He’ll call for economic equality — and a more dovish foreign policy.

The core of Sanders’ message has always been about fighting for a fair economy that isn’t dominated by the very rich. Expect him to press that message again — from breaking up large banks to raising taxes on the wealthy to raising the minimum wage and making college tuition free. This is one of Sanders’ best chances to attack the “rigged economy” he says needs to change.

But Sanders’ dissent from the political mainstream extends to foreign policy. One of his main critiques of Clinton is about her perceived willingness to use military force abroad — from her vote for the Iraq War in 2002 to her support for airstrikes in Libya in 2011 as secretary of state. Sanders is less of an interventionist and has called for increasing diplomacy — even normalizing relations with Iran.

Sanders’ foreign policy agenda extends to Israel, where he’s taken a more pro-Palestinian tack than his one-time opponent. While Clinton is viewed as a traditional Democratic supporter of Israel, Sanders has been much more critical. He has admonished Israel for its actions in the 2014 Gaza War, called for Israel to dismantle settlements and spoken about Palestinian suffering. While he many not mention Israel in his speech, expect him to demand a change in how the U.S. engages with the world.

3. His supporters will protest.

Just because Sanders asks his supporters to back Clinton doesn’t mean they will listen. Sanders delegates have emphasized, especially following the email leaks, that they plan to protest on the convention floor — during vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine’s speech as well as Clinton’s.

There will likely be more cheers than indignation from Sanders delegates during his speech, but some anger will probably bubble over. Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, Sanders delegates made clear that their candidate can’t order them around. “He’s not running the show,” said Norman Solomon, chairman of the Bernie Delegates Network, an unofficial organization. Expect the party’s cracks to bare themselves tonight.

4. He’ll bash Donald Trump.

Sanders is supporting Clinton to deny Donald Trump the White House. He said that in his speech endorsing Clinton, and he’ll say that tonight. While he will offer praise for his former Senate colleague from New York, the bulk of his words will take aim at Trump’s rhetoric against minorities and immigrants, as well as against the Republican nominee’s economic policies. While Sanders shares some of Trump’s skepticism over trade deals, he is also a champion of government programs that benefit the lower and middle classes and sufficient taxes to pay for them.

The first night of the Republican National Convention last week saw an unending stream of vitriol against Clinton, including multiple speakers — bolstered by a chanting crowd — saying she should go to prison. And while Sanders probably won’t say Trump should be behind bars, expect him to go negative.

5. He’ll call himself an outsider — but may not mention his Judaism.

Sanders has often spoken of himself as an outsider, but hasn’t always painted that outsider status in Jewish terms. He has said he is “very proud to be Jewish” and has invoked the Holocaust in advocating social justice. But he has also described himself as the “son of a Polish immigrant” and attributed his difference more to economic qualities than his religious heritage.

Sanders will own his outsider status in his speech, demanding that the Democratic Party give voice to the issues he and his supporters have raised. And it’s possible that because one of the leaked emails questioned his Jewish identity, he will reaffirm his pride in his heritage. But Sanders has never explicitly placed his Judaism at the center of his message. Don’t expect him to now.

Under pressure after email leaks, Wasserman Schultz to quit as party head


Under fire for emails showing rancor between the Democratic National Committee and the Bernie Sanders campaign, Debbie Wasserman Schultz is stepping down as party chairwoman, but will join Hillary Clinton’s campaign in a senior role.

Wasserman Schultz announced Sunday afternoon that she would step down at the end of the week, when the Democratic convention concludes in Philadelphia.

Republican nominee Donald Trump and backers of Sanders, Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nod until several weeks ago, cast her resignation as a result of hacked DNC emails that showed tensions between Wasserman Schultz and the Sanders campaign.

Pro-Sanders delegates in Philadelphia were reported to have cheered with the release of the news, and Trump, in a tweet, said she was “overrated.”

Statements from Wasserman Schultz, from Clinton and from President Barack Obama did not indicate she was forced into leaving earlier than she planned, although an insider said she had hoped to stick it out through the November election.

Wasserman Schultz, in a statement, said she wanted to focus on her congressional seat in South Florida, where she is facing a robust primary challenge by a Sanders backer, law professor Tim Canova. “My first priority has always been serving the people of the 23rd district of Florida and I look forward to continuing to do that as their member of Congress for years to come,” she said.

Wasserman Schultz stepping down from the top job would remove a potential source of friction just as the convention is set to start. Sanders is set to speak Monday night with a call to his supporters to back Clinton and defeat Donald Trump.

There could yet be tension; earlier Sunday, CNN had reported that Wasserman Schultz would disappear from the convention; in her statement, Wasserman Schultz said she would retain a convention leadership role and speak. Additionally, Clinton, in a statement, said Wasserman Schultz would join her campaign as a senior surrogate, and would chair the campaign’s efforts to get Democrats elected down-ticket.

However, Jeff Weaver, the Sanders campaign chairman whom Wasserman Schultz had called an “ass” in one of the emails, told MSNBC that the resignation was a smart move, signaling that Sanders supporters were set to end the tensions.

Wasserman Schultz, first elected to Congress in 2004 and party chairwoman since 2011, has made her Jewish identity central to her political career. In her first term, she drafted and led passage of the 2006 law creating Jewish American Heritage Month, has led legislation to provide assistance to Holocaust survivors, and was considered must-co-opt by both sides in last year’s debate over the Iran nuclear deal precisely because of her prominence in the Jewish community. (Breaking into tears during a TV interview, she backed the plan.) In past years, Wasserman Schultz has proved an effective surrogate for presidential candidates both to the Jewish community and on women’s issues. A mother of three, she is a breast cancer survivor.

Sanders has called for her to step down for months, and did so again Sunday in the wake of the email leaks. He believed that she rigged the primary process against him, in part by how she set the original debate schedule, with just five debates, many of them broadcast on nights with poor viewership. The reasoning then was that Clinton was a poor debater.

Clinton, however, performed well in the debates, and soon more were added to the schedule. Additionally, Wasserman Schultz slotted five Sanders loyalists on the platform drafting committee, a key Sanders demand.

Nonetheless, Sanders, who also blamed Wasserman Schultz for favoring closed primaries – much of his support came from non-Democrats – continued to call for her to step down. The Democratic establishment ignored the calls until Friday, when Wikileaks released thousands of DNC emails believed to have been hacked by Russians.

The emails clearly show that the DNC staff favored Clinton, recording several proposals to undermine Sanders, although there is evidence that some of these were rejected, and no evidence that others were carried through. One of the abortive proposals included a suggestion by the DNC finance chief, Brad Marshall, that surrogates depict Sanders as an atheist who strayed from his Jewish roots. Sanders is not an atheist and still embraces his Jewish heritage. Marshall apologized over the weekend.

Obama, who named her to the post in 2011, lavished praise on her on Sunday.

“Her fundraising and organizing skills were matched only by her passion, her commitment and her warmth,” he said. “And no one works harder for her constituents in Congress than Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Michelle and I are grateful for her efforts, we know she will continue to serve our country as a member of Congress from Florida and she will always be our dear friend.”

Wasserman Schultz: Trump’s no anti-Semite, but he sanctions anti-Semitism


Debbie Wasserman Schultz wants you to know: Donald Trump has enabled anti-Semitism, sanctioned it, tainted his party with it – but is not an anti-Semite.

I spoke with the Florida congresswoman and the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee on Thursday, a day after she told reporters in a conference call that the “anti-Semitism that is threaded throughout the Republican Party of late goes straight to the feet of Donald Trump.”

On Thursday, she tweaked her message: ““I am not calling Donald Trump an anti-Semite,” she told me, instead arguing that his flirtation with anti-Semites and other extremists has unleashed a strain of the affliction.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chief, dismissed the charge when I put it to him Thursday morning. “We’ve got rabbis, we’ve got bishops here,” he said. What about the white supremacists and anti-Semites I and my colleague Ben Sales have encountered? “I don’t control who’s in the protests on the streets,” he said.

Democrats are in Cleveland, where the Republican convention concludes tonight, to make their case. (Republicans will return the favor in Philadelphia next week.) The overarching theme is the intolerance they say has been unleashed by Trump’s campaign, and by the candidate’s broadsides against Muslims, Hispanics and women.

Just prior to our interview, Wasserman Schultz had appeared at a press conference with Sens. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., where they joked about kasha (Wasserman Schultz makes it, Franken was raised on it, and Booker has more recently embraced it at Franken’s behest). But they also took aim at the at times heated rhetoric here, where there are buttons using epithets to describe Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and where there have been calls for her imprisonment and even her execution.

“No one is condemning this in the Republican Party,” Booker said. “No one is coming out and saying ‘that’s not what America is.’”

I challenged Wasserman Schultz specifically on the anti-Semitism charge: One could indeed pin down statements where Trump has generalized, in a negative way, about Latinos, Muslims and women. But did she believe the Republican nominee himself was an anti-Semite? Could she identify anti-Semitic remarks he made?

Was she accusing the entire party of anti-Semitism?

“Donald J. Trump has certainly made anti-Semitic statements and posted anti-Semitic tweets,” said Wasserman Schultz, who is Jewish and has made that a hallmark of her political identity. She had a list on an iPad Mini, and began with his remarks last year to the Republican Jewish Coalition, when he praised the room’s collective negotiating skill and predicted they would not favor him because he did not want their money.

I pointed out to Wasserman Schultz that Jonathan Greenblatt, the Anti-Defamation League director and a former Obama administration official, gave Trump a pass for those remarks, arguing that they were not atypical for a businessman addressing a room full of businessmen – that they did not necessarily carry an anti-Jewish taint.

She moved on to the infamous star tweet. (Trump posted a tweet accusing Clinton of corruption, with an image of her head atop a wad of cash and alongside a six-pointed star. His staff changed the star to a circle when it was pointed out that the image originated on the alt-right, a redoubt of anti-Semitism, and that it looked like a star of David. Trump later said he regretted the change and would have preferred to defend the image.)

“Through that tweet and, again, his pattern of denying things that are obvious, he’s demonstrated an utter lack of sensitivity and understanding about messages and communication that is hurtful to the Jewish people,” she said. The other actions she cited included his slow, reluctant disavowal of the support of David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader. “In the Jewish community, we want to make sure that anti-Semitism doesn’t rear its ugly head any longer because we know what it has led to in the past,” she said.

What about tainting all Republicans as anti-Semitic? Did that extend to her congressional colleagues? I pointed out that Wasserman Schultz has co-sponsored legislation with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., to assist elderly Holocaust survivors.

She seemed taken aback that her remarks would be taken that way, and made clear she thought her Republican colleagues for the most part were “wonderful supporters of Israel and have good relationships with their Jewish communities.”

She clarified that she was referring to what was happening to the party since Trump effectively became its leader, noting the proliferation of anti-Semitism in his support on social media. Earlier this week, the former Hawaii governor, Linda Lingle, spoke at the convention urging Jewish support for Trump; the convention YouTube livestream was shut down after it became flooded with anti-Semitic abuse by self-described Trump supporters.

As she was about to leave, she turned around and told me: “I am not calling Donald Trump an anti-Semite,” she said. “He has sanctioned anti-Semitism, made anti-Semitic remarks and given permission to an anti-Semitic thread running through his campaign that leads to his feet.”

Notably, between Wednesday and Thursday, the path of the thread she described had changed from the entire Republican party, and was now confined to Trump’s campaign.

Leaked Democratic email indicates potential effort to smear Sanders as atheist


A top Democratic National Committee official reportedly suggested in May that “someone” should draw attention to Bernie Sanders’ atheist beliefs.

In an email leaked Friday by Wikileaks Brad Marshall, the DNC’s chief financial officer suggested that the party should “get someone to ask” about “his” religious beliefs, The Intercept reported.

“It might [make] no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief,” the message says, presumably referring to Kentucky and West Virginia. “Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.”

The email does not mention Sanders, who was running against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, by name. However, he was the only Jewish candidate from either major party at the time and has repeatedly skirted questions about whether or not he believes in God.

Responding to a request for comment, Marshall said in an email to The Intercept, “I do not recall this. I can say it would not have been Sanders. It would probably be about a surrogate.”

The email was sent to DNC Communications Director Luis Miranda and Deputy Communications Director Mark Paustenbach.

It is not clear why a DNC staffer would be seeking to draw attention to a Democratic candidate’s quality that voters might find off-putting, particularly since the group is supposed to remain neutral until a candidate has been nominated.

Sanders, the first Jewish candidate to win a major-party presidential primary, officially dropped out of the race and endorsed Clinton earlier this month.

Democrats say Trump to blame for growing ‘anti-Semitism’ in Republican Party


Democrats blamed Republican nominee Donald Trump for what they depicted as burgeoning anti-Semitism in his party.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, on Wednesday said the Republican convention had brought to the fore an “anti-Semitic environment that Donald Trump embraces.”

“The anti-Semitism that is threaded throughout the Republican Party of late goes straight to the feet of Donald Trump,” she said.

Wasserman Schultz’s blunt assessment was a clear sign that Democrats intend to include anti-Jewish bias among the offenses they say Trump has made more prominent. On a conference call on the third day of the Republican convention in Cleveland, Wasserman Schultz, who is Jewish, joined Reps. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., and Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, who is black, in listing a litany of their grievances.

Wasserman Schultz included the controversy over Trump’s use of an image that juxtaposed presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton with wads of cash, corruption charges and a red six-pointed star resembling a Star of David. She also referred to his reluctant disavowal of the support of David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader, and the Republican convention’s shutdown of comments on its YouTube livestream of the convention after anti-Semites flooded it with epithets when Linda Lingle, the Jewish former Hawaiian governor, addressed the hall.

“He shared anti-Semitic images on Twitter,” she said. “There is so much anti-Semitism in the Republican Party that on Monday night while Linda Lingle, the former gov of Hawaii who is Jewish was speaking, they shut down their live chat.”

Trump and his allies have forcefully rejected any charges of anti-Semitism, noting his closeness to his daughter Ivanka, who converted to Orthodox Judaism, and her husband, Jared Kushner, a close campaign adviser.

But Democrats are not ready to let go of Trump’s interactions with anti-Semites on social media.

Tuesday night, Clinton’s campaign chided Paul Ryan, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, for standing by Trump after repudiating the reality star turned Republican presidential nominee for using the Star of David imagery.

The tweet from the Clinton campaign’s opposition research account, The Briefing, quoted Ryan, R-Wis., earlier this month decrying Trump’s use of the image.

“Look, anti-Semitic images, they’ve got no place in a presidential campaign,” The Briefing quoted Ryan as saying. “Candidates should know that.”

Trump posted the image, which had originated on the extreme right, on his Twitter account and a staffer scrubbed the image within hours, but Trump later said he regretted that action and would have preferred to defend the image – a quote The Briefing juxtaposed next to Ryan’s.

“I said, ‘Too bad, you should’ve left it up,” Trump said in the quote reposted by The Briefing.

“But @SpeakerRyan still endorses Donald Trump for president anyway,” The Briefing said, ending with the official hashtag for this week’s republican convention, #RNCinCLE.

The Briefing tweet went out in the evening, timed just before Ryan’s speech at the convention, on the day he steered the process for formally nominating Trump.

Ryan has endorsed Trump tepidly after wavering for months on his support. He has expressed reservations about Trump’s broadsides against minorities, his chafing rhetorical style and his foreign policy. Like many other speakers this week, Ryan focused his remarks more on what he depicted as the failures of President Barack Obama and Clinton, Obama’s first term secretary of state.

Ryan’s office did not reply to a request for comment.

But @SpeakerRyan still endorses Donald Trump for president anyway. #RNCinCLEpic.twitter.com/Gun1FF38hZ

— The Briefing (@TheBriefing2016) July 20, 2016

DNC chair: Democrats adopted ‘strongest pro-Israel’ platform


The Democratic Party has adopted the strongest pro-Israel platform in the party’s history ahead of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia next week, DNC chairwoman and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz told Jewish Insider on Thursday.

“In this campaign, when it comes to which party and which candidate will make sure that we can remain solidly behind the U.S.-Israel relationship, it’s the Democratic Party, which has adopted the strongest pro-Israel plank, including adding anti-BDS language to our platform, in our party’s history,” Wasserman Schultz said during a press conference in Cleveland, Ohio.

Earlier this month, the Democratic Party’s platform committee “>contains strong pro-Israel language, albeit it dropped any reference to the party’s longstanding support for the two-state solution. “We reject the false notion that Israel is an occupier,” the platform’s language on Israel reads. “Support for Israel is an expression of Americanism, and it is the responsibility of our government to advance policies that reflect Americans’ strong desire for a relationship with no daylight between America and Israel.”

Marc Zell, the co-chair of Republicans Overseas Israel chapter, “>approved the new Israel language. “The straw that broke this camel’s back was this past week,” Zell said in an interview. “This is the most pro-Israel plank of any party in the history of the State of Israel, and who helped us write that and approved it? Donald Trump.”

Zell also blasted AIPAC for lobbying against the proposed amendment. “I have a lot of respect for AIPAC, but they were wrong about this,” he said. “They wanted to preserve the two-party consensus on all issues at any cost, and that’s not right. The Democrats are about to go over the cliff on Israel. It was only by a small miracle that they preserved the AIPAC plank, but there are people on that committee, as you know, who are basically anti-Semites and would have abandoned Israel in a second.”

But Rep. Wasserman Schultz questioned the GOP’s commitment to preserve the U.S.-Israel relationship given that the party’s standard-bearer in this election is Donald Trump. Referring to Chris Christie’s Tuesday attacks on Hillary Clinton, the DNC chair remarked, “Chris Christie should really be asking his good friend Donald Trump why it is that he said that if he were president he would be neutral when it came to the U.S.-Israel relationship; why it is that he said that he would actually support reducing our foreign aid to Israel because ‘they are doing just fine.’

Bernie Sanders picked as a headlining speaker at Democratic convention


Bernie Sanders will be a headlining speaker at the Democratic convention.

Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont and the first Jewish candidate to win major party nominating contests, will speak the first night, July 25, as will Michelle Obama, the first lady.

Last week, Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton, who won the Democrats’ presidential nomination. A prime speaking slot was one of his conditions for the endorsement, as well as the inclusion in the platform of some of his campaign planks, including a $15 minimum wage, Wall Street regulatory reforms and an overhaul of campaign finance.

Also speaking, according to the convention press office, are President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton. Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of the presumptive and former president, will speak on July 28, the last night of the convention, prior to Hillary Clinton.

Clinton supporters defeat ‘occupation’ language at platform committee meeting


Supporters of Hillary Clinton on the Democratic Party’s platform committee on Saturday rejected several proposals that would have undermined the party’s longstanding support for Israel.

Last week, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) released a ” target=”_blank”> approved by the drafting committee in St. Louis a week earlier. “We will continue to work toward a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiated directly by the parties that guarantees Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state with recognized borders and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity,” the draft reads. “Israelis deserve security, recognition, and a normal life free from terror and incitement. Palestinians should be free to govern themselves in their own viable state, in peace and dignity.”

On the second day of the platform drafting committee’s two-day meeting in Orlando, Florida, supporters of Bernie Sanders proposed an amendment that would add “an end to occupation and illegal settlements so they may live in” to the original language. The proposal was voted down 95-73.

The rejection led to loud boos and one man was escorted out by an officer in the room after he shouted out that Democrats had “sold out to AIPAC,” according to CNN.

Before the vote, Dr. Cornel West urged the passage of the amendment, to roaring applause and a standing ovation from Sanders supporters.

“This is a moral issue. This is an issue of our time. It has spiritual and moral implications,” West said. “This is not just about politics, not just about the next election. Democratic Party, you’ve been in denial for too long. Palestinians ought to be free.”

The committee also rejected an amendment to “rebuild Gaza which the UN warns could be uninhabitable by 2020, and where poverty and hopelessness undermine peace and security for both Palestinians and Israelis” (95 vs. 72). Another amendment to remove the military option from the Iran non-compliance language failed 67-98.

Jewish DNC staffer, 27, killed near his home


A young Jewish staffer for the Democratic National Committee was shot dead in an apparent robbery near his home in Washington, D.C.

Seth Conrad Rich, 27, was shot early Sunday morning in the Bloomingdale neighborhood, near the Capitol, about a block from his home.

Police in announcing the killing did not ascribe a motive, but his father, Joel, told the Washington Post that the police believe his son may have been the victim of a botched robbery.

“He wanted to make a difference,” Joel Rich told the newspaper.

Seth Rich, the voter expansion data director for the DNC, worked on databases to help voters identify polling stations, the Washington Post reported. Colleagues told JTA that he was also engaged in Jewish outreach.

“Our hearts are broken with the loss of one of our DNC family members over the weekend,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., the DNC chairwoman, said in a statement. “Seth Rich was a dedicated, selfless public servant who worked tirelessly to protect the most sacred right we share as Americans – the right to vote. He saw the great potential of our nation and believed that, together, we can make the world a better place.”

Rich, a native of Omaha, Nebraska, was the boating education director and staff programming director at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin in 2011, according to his LinkedIn profile.

“Seth communicated proactively to facilitate the success of the campers with special needs who were in his class and went above and beyond to provide opportunities for all of my campers to participate successfully in the boating program,” said a reference on the LinkedIn site from the camp’s special needs head, Talia Kravitz.

A colleague and friend, speaking anonymously, said Rich was proud of his Jewish upbringing in Omaha.