Clergy and Community Unite for Separated Migrant Children


Waving banners proclaiming everything from ‘Jesus Was a Brown Skinned Refugee’ to ‘Rulers Tearing Babies Away From Parents is ‘Biblical?’ around 200 people participated in an early morning interfaith protest at the Downtown Los Angeles Federal Building on June 21.

Billed “a non-violent, interfaith protest against the violence against children and their parents taking place along America’s southern border,” the vigil was co-sponsored by several religious organizations including Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), T’ruah – the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, Bend the Arc, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and Sacred resistance.

The protest was organized before President Donald Trump signed an executive order on June 20 stating that the government would no longer separate children from their parents at the border. However, the vigil went ahead as planned, with speakers and attendees protesting the shortcomings of Trump’s order, including no reunification plan for the 2,300 children that have already been separated from their parents; lack of resources to detain entire families; and that families are being detained at all.

During the event CLUE Rabbi Aryeh Cohen blew the shofar, Reverend Susan Russell of Pasadena’s All Saint’s Church led a Christian call to worship, and Salam Al-Marayati from the Muslim Public Affairs Council translated verses from the Koran, which read, in part, “People are at a loss. They are losing time. They are losing their spirit. Except, God says, those who are committed to faith and who will do the work of justice.”

Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels of Temple Beth Shir Shalom in Santa Monica and Reverend Jaime Edwards-Acton of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Hollywood, brought out their guitars and led the crowd in singing, ‘Somebody’s hurting my brother and it’s gone on far too long, yes it’s gone on far too long, and we won’t stay silent anymore.’ Janice Mautner Markham from the band Mostly Kosher accompanied them on the violin.

Reverend Tera Klein and Samantha Gupta of the Throop Unitarian Universalist Church lit a candle inside a chalice and declared, “This chalice and its flame were born out of another time and place where families were being separated, detained, tortured and made less than human: the Nazi occupation.”

Throughout their speech, the two women had the crowd shout out, “Families belong together!”

Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky of B’nai David Judea in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood, decried not just the current administration’s zero tolerance policy, but the hate and division that he said has become a hallmark of Trump’s presidency.

“We are living in a time and place in which it is possible to say that Mexicans are rapists and drug runners, and be elected to the highest office in the land,” Kanefsky said.  “We are living in a time when it is possible to say that all Muslims are suspect and need to be banned from our country.”

He added America has a deep cultural problem “in which we are dehumanizing one another. It is possible to rip children from the arms of their parents only when you don’t regard those parents as full human beings.”

In a call to action, Kanefsky said that everyone is a human being and must be treated that way. “The moment that our sense of shared humanity returns is the moment when the sun shines again on the United States of America.”

Rabbi Susan Goldberg of Wilshire Boulevard Temple said, “I am a mother and I am a rabbi. And at this moment, as a mother, how can your heart not leave your body when you think of these children who are torn from their parents?”

The hour-long protest ended with participants singing ‘We shall overcome.’ However, many attendees immediately made their way around the corner for yet another rally in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) detention center.

Organized by the Latino Caucus and Children Over Politics, many speakers shared their immigrant stories. Among them was 18-year-old Yamilex Rustrian who escaped Guatemala with her sister when she was just 7, after their father was shot and killed by gang members.

Rustrian told the Journal she came to speak because it was important that communities come together and know that the president’s executive order “didn’t actually change anything. Our families are still being separated and our families are still struggling at the border and also in the detention centers. We are going to  [keep] bringing awareness and keep holding politicians accountable.”

Nicole Levi is a senior at Palisades High School and a Jewish Journal summer intern.

Simon Wiesenthal Center SMACKS Child Separation Policy Critics for Invoking Holocaust Comparison


Screenshot from Twitter.

The issue of separating children from their parents at the border has sparked an intense, emotional debate throughout the country over the past few days, even causing some to compare the policy to Nazi Germany. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has had enough of those comparisons.

Among those who have made the Nazi comparison include former CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden and former CNN host Soledad O’Brien:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) also seemed to invoke the comparison on June 19, telling MSNBC’s Chris Hayes: “This is the United States of America. It isn’t Nazi Germany, and there’s a difference. And we don’t take children from their parents until now and I think it’s such a sad day.”

Additionally, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough ranted on June 15 that the children at the border “are being marched away to showers,” adding that “the Nazis had said that they were taking people to the showers and then they never came back.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper condemned such comparisons in a June 19 statement, saying that while the child separation policy is “unacceptable,” comparisons to the Holocaust are “sickening.”

“All they achieve is to demean the memory of 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis and confuse young people who know little or nothing about history,” Hier and Cooper said. “Our border guards and Homeland Security personnel are the opposite of Nazis. Critics should stop slandering them. We live in the world’s greatest democracy. Our elected officials have the tools to fix what’s broken and our national debate shouldn’t be tainted by Holocaust revisionism and misappropriation.”

On June 20, President Trump announced that he would be signing an executive order to end the policy. His action is expected to be challenged in the courts, as it contradicts a 9th Circuit Court decision. The administration is hoping that Congress can change the law.

The Cries of a Child


In 2015, the picture of a 3-year-old, Aylan Kurdi, wearing a bright red shirt, blue pants and sneakers, lying face down in the surf near Bodrum, Turkey, focused the world’s attention for a minute on the Syrian refugee crisis. The sight of this helpless, dead, innocent child was needed for people to be able to also see the hundreds of thousands of other Syrians killed in the civil war, and to humanize those who attempted to flee that hell to refuge elsewhere.

John Moore’s picture of a Honduran 2-year-old, wearing clothes in a similar color combination to Aylan’s (red shirt, blue pants, sneakers), her dark hair matted across her face, standing, crying, next to her mother as they were taken into custody near the Mexico-U.S. border, might define the current immigration crisis. It has grabbed people’s attention for this week.

The Donald Trump administration’s so-called zero-tolerance policy toward undocumented immigration, in which children are separated from their parents, has generated wall-to-wall criticism. In the Jewish world, social justice and human rights organizations (Bend the Arc, T’ruah, Jews for Racial & Economic Justice) condemned the move, but so did everybody else, including all the denominational organizations — even the Orthodox Union, which days before had given Attorney General Jeff Sessions an award.

It is hard to find anyone who is defending the unholy trinity of Trump, Sessions and Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller. Even members of Miller’s family are condemning the policy.

Aside from Trump’s blatantly false assertions that these are policies the Democrats put into place and he cannot do anything about it, Sessions’ and Miller’s defense of their policies (they didn’t get the memo that they were Democratic policies) is that they are all about the United States as a nation of laws.

We must hear the cries of the children and their parents. We must stop this criminal behavior masquerading as law. Call your senators, call your representatives. Do not rest until this has been stopped.

Miller is quoted in The New York Times as saying, “It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero-tolerance policy for illegal entry, period. The message is that no one is exempt from immigration law.”

Sessions, meanwhile, said in a speech on June 14, “Having children does not give you immunity from arrest and prosecution.” He proceeded to back this up with a biblical citation: “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government … because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”

In addition to the fact that the vast majority of Christian clergy oppose this policy, including Trump’s favorite evangelical, Franklin Graham, this verse has a rather checkered history on these shores.

In an interview in The Washington Post, John Fea, a professor of American history at Messiah College in Pennsylvania said, “There are two dominant places in American history when Romans 13 is invoked. … One is during the American Revolution [when] it was invoked by Loyalists, those who opposed the American Revolution.” The other, Fea said, “is in the 1840s and 1850s, when Romans 13 is invoked by defenders of the South or defenders of slavery to ward off abolitionists who believed that slavery is wrong. I mean, this is the same argument that Southern slaveholders and the advocates of a Southern way of life made.”

Aside from the tendentiousness of the claim of the zero-tolerance policy (that people who cross the border to seek asylum are breaking the law, since the United States is obligated under international law to grant asylum), does our tradition have anything to say about the conflict between laws and values? Should an asylum seeker be able to cross the border illegally in order to be able to make a legal claim of asylum?

Before we answer this question, we have to state clearly that there is no justification for causing lasting harm to children in order to intimidate their parents. The president’s explicit and implicit statements in which he says that the separation of children is a bargaining chip in order to get the border wall funded, or in order to deter future refugees from seeking asylum, has no moral foundation.

Jewish tradition is very clear that pikuach nefesh, or the saving a life, overrides or sets aside all other commandments (except idolatry, illicit sexual relations and murder). Therefore, one is obligated (not merely permitted) to violate the Shabbat to save a life. However, this is not the only time that the rabbis valorize going against the halachah in service to a greater good.

The Talmud (Babylonian Talmud Baba Metzia 82b-83a) establishes very detailed laws and regulations for the responsibilities of a worker who is hired as a porter. The porter, in most cases, is responsible for the well-being of the objects that were assigned to him to carry. At the end of this discussion, however, the story is told of two porters who were hired by a sage to carry barrels of wine. The barrels broke in a manner that would have obligated them to pay. However, when the rabbi who hired them brought them to judgment before Rav, the latter found that the porters should not have to pay the damages and, furthermore, the employer should pay them their wages as they were hungry and had no money for food. Rav’s rationale was not a learned excursus that undermined the previous legal discussion. Rather, the justification was a verse from Proverbs (2:20): “So follow the way of the good, and keep to the paths of the just.” The admonition to do justice set aside the specifics of the case so that the workers would not go hungry. And this case is not a lone instance of moral imperative overriding legal obligation. (The so-called takanat hashavim relieves a thief of the obligation of returning a specific object in favor of paying back its value. A father refuses to allow his son to be assessed for damages as a slave as it would degrade the son, and the Sages approve. And on and on.)

These instances of conflicts between the law and moral obligations, however, would not come into play since refugees who are seeking asylum are fleeing life-threatening situations. However, rather than recognize the right to asylum of people who fear for their lives, in flat legalese the attorney general has limited the number of refugees who might find sanctuary at our borders. In addition to separating children from parents, directing that immigration proceedings were criminal and not civil, he also has excluded victims of domestic abuse and gang violence from applying for asylum. “Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by nongovernmental actors will not qualify for asylum,” Sessions writes. Then he adds in a footnote: “Accordingly, few such claims would satisfy the legal standard to determine whether an alien has a credible fear of persecution.” A “credible fear of persecution” is the legal basis for a grant of asylum.

It is obvious now, if it wasn’t earlier, that while the separation of children from their families is the latest and most egregious action of this administration, its ultimate objective is to radically reduce immigration. Period. To this end, Trump started his campaign by labeling refugees coming over the southern border as rapists, and now he calls them “murderers and thieves.” The separation of children from their parents, which will traumatize these kids for years and which is a violation of international law, is only a bargaining chip for the president. He is holding these children (and their parents) hostage for funding for his border wall (which Mexico was going to pay for).

So, what can we do?

• Encourage members of Congress to speak out against family separation and hold the administration accountable through statements, letters and social media.

• Urge them to decrease the funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that enables the administration’s family separation practices.

We must hear the cries of the children and their parents. We must stop this criminal behavior masquerading as law. Call your senators, call your representatives. Do not rest until this has been stopped.


Rabbi Aryeh Cohen is the rabbi-in-residence in Southern California for Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice.

Trump, Kim Jong Un Sign Symbolic Agreement


KCNA via REUTERS

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed an agreement on the evening of June 11 in Singapore that commit the two countries to further negotiations.

The agreement featured four main points: establishing relations between the two countries, creating “a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korea Peninsula,” North Korea committing to denuclearization in exchange for the U.S. providing security guarantees to North Korea, and repatriation between the two countries on prisoners of war from the Korean War.

Additionally, the Associated Press (AP) is reporting that a “step-by-step denuclearization process” has been agreed to:

“I think our whole relationship with North Korea and the Korean Peninsula is going to be a very much different situation than it has in the past,” Trump said.

Trump also called Kim “a very talented man.”

Kim said through a translator, “Many people in the world will think of this as a form of fantasy…from a science fiction movie.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Trump for the summit with Kim.

“I congratulate US President Donald Trump for the historic summit in Singapore,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “It is an important step in the effort to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.”

The full text of the agreement can be read here.

North Koreans Also Have Human Rights


For almost three decades, U.S. administrations have tiptoed around the egregious human rights violations perpetrated by the Kim regimes in North Korea. But U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo already has changed the equation, by succeeding in securing the release of American detainees Kim Dong-chul, Kim (Tony) Sang-duk, and Kim Hak-song. A reminder to us and the world that the United States still has the clout to move the needle on human rights.

On the eve of the Singapore summit on denuclearization, we urge President Donald Trump to put the release of Japanese, other foreign and South Korean abductees, the reunion of separated Korean families, and the complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of the North Korean political prison camps, as the bill the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must foot to become a normal and responsible member of the international community.

Three generations of the Kim family regime have continued to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles at the expense of the human security of North Koreans, and to egregiously violate the human rights of its citizens. In order to tackle North Korean threats, the Trump administration has applied three of the four fundamental elements of national power (diplomatic, information, military, economic power — DIME): economic power through the strengthening of the international sanctions regime; military power through the deployment of assets to the region and the reaffirming of U.S. commitment to our Korean and Japanese allies; and diplomatic power, employing for the first time summit diplomacy, made possible by the maximum economic and military pressure and the resuscitation of inter-Korean dialogue, starting with the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Kim Jong-un wants security guarantees, but history has taught time and again that liberal democracies shouldn’t try to guarantee the survival of a regime that runs political prison camps and commits crimes against humanity. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his key advisers represent a generation of progressive intellectuals who helped democratize their nation. Their lasting legacy however, will be ultimately defined by their stance on North Korean human rights. Will they appease tyranny and lead the Republic of Korea (South Korea) down the path of catastrophic compromise? Or will they become the heroes who brought freedom and human rights to both Koreas, thus decisively opening the path of unification under a truly democratic and prosperous Republic of Korea?

Time will tell. But early signs are not encouraging. The recent ban on leaflet balloon launches and loudspeaker broadcasting into North Korea is one reason for concern. North Korean escapees in South Korea give voice to silenced millions. At this critical crossroads in history, the South Korean administration must protect these heroes and ensure their voices are heard, not muffled.

All this puts the spotlight on the United States’ summit diplomacy. Will it be a historic achievement for President Trump or just another déjà vu North Korean scam?

Under any conceivable outcome, in order to achieve ultimate peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia — a fundamental U.S. security interest — the nature of the Kim regime and its horrific human rights abuses must remain in focus.

Human rights cannot be treated as a sidebar issue, possibly sacrificed for a wink and a nod and photo-op with Kim. Human rights must not be abandoned to appease the Kim regime.

Human rights cannot be postponed until an ever-elusive future scenario in which the Kim regime miraculously agrees to protect the rights of its citizens. Despots do not give away human rights out of the goodness of their hearts. Human rights always are achieved and protected through struggle.

Can the U.S. remove a nuclear threat and guarantee human rights and dignity simultaneously?

President Trump, please take note: America already did it and with a much more dangerous foe. During the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan and then-Secretary of State George Shultz used the issue of freedom for Soviet Jewry as the litmus test for Soviet intentions on nuclear disarmament. Eventually, human rights prevailed and the communist system dissolved without a shot being fired.

The U.S. should counter Kim’s cycle of “charm offensives” not through appeasement but through verifiable changes in North Korea. It is important to witness the blowing up of one nuclear test site. Of equal importance will be the dismantling of Kim’s gulag. When that occurs — and only then — can the world be assured that the two estranged Koreas are on the path to a peaceful reunification and a hopeful future for all.


Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean and director of the Global Social Action Agenda of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Greg Scarlatoiu is executive director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).

Morgan Freeman: Good Man, Bad Flirt


I think Morgan is a pervy old man who innocently flirted with women. Based on the news we are hearing, I simply do not think he should be taken down the path of being a man who has sexually assaulted women. By comparison, I think Donald Trump is a sexual predator who has no boundaries. I mean no disrespect to any woman who has been assaulted, belittled, manipulated, intimidated, raped, or had her career damaged by men who abuse power, but we are walking on a tightrope and damage is done with one accusation, so we must be clear on not only what we are saying, but how we say it. These are sensitive times.

There is a difference between being a man who does not know how to flirt, and a man who knows what he is saying and doing is wrong, but does it anyway. In watching interviews with Mr. Freeman where he is accused of harassment, I just don’t see it. I don’t see how anyone would see it as anything other than an old man flirting. I’m not saying he should be excused because he is old, but there is something charming about what he said and the way he said it. At the end of the day he is rich and famous, but he is also just an 80-year-old man and the CNN reporter has made ridiculous accusations.

Sexual harassment is not what Mr. Freeman did, and CNN is trying to spin nothing into something, but the something is nothing. I hope this story goes away and Mr. Freeman is not adversely affected by this desperation. I welcome Mr. Freeman to flirt with me and would happily flirt back. Only difference is that I would be good at it. Bless him. Important to note I am in no way trying to dissuade women from coming forward, or questioning a woman’s truth. I am simply saying that for this particular man, and this particular instance, there is nothing to see here folks. I stand with women and also stand with Morgan Freeman.

We live in a time when people are encouraged to be brave and come forward with their experiences. It has been a long time coming and for someone who dealt with this 30 years ago, I am in awe of these changes. Thirty years ago I was the victim of a violent sexual assault and the experience of going to the police, pressing charges, and going through two trials was ultimately more difficult that the actual assault. I marvel at the strides we have taken, but know we have a long way to go. I am a woman of prayer so I will pray for those who come forward, pray for those falsely accused, and pray we continue to move forward while keeping the faith.

 

Jerusalem Celebrates, Gaza Burns


FILE PHOTO: A worker on a crane hangs a U.S. flag next to an Israeli flag, next to the entrance to the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo

On the night of May 14, the leading headline of The Washington Post said, “More than 50 killed in Gaza protests as U.S. opens its new embassy in Jerusalem.” Headlines of other newspapers were not much different.

There is no doubt the headlines were factually accurate. But so would a headline saying, “More than 50 killed in Gaza as the moon was a waning crescent,” or “More than 50 killed in Gaza as Arambulo named co-anchor of NBC4’s ‘Today in LA.’ ” Were they unbiased? Not quite. They suggested a causation: The U.S. opens an embassy and hence people get killed. But the causation is faulty: Gazans were killed last week, when the United States had not yet opened its embassy. Gazans were killed for a simple reason: Ignoring warnings, thousands of them decided to get too close to the Israeli border.

There are arguments one could make against President Donald Trump’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem. People in Gaza getting killed is not one of them. A country such as the United States, a country such as Israel, cannot curb strategic decisions because of inconveniences such as demonstrations. Small things can be postponed to prevent anger. Small decisions can be altered to avoid violent incidents. But not important, historic moves.

At the end of this week, no matter the final tally of Gazans getting hurt, only one event will be counted as “historic.” The opening of a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem is a historic decision of great symbolic significance. Lives lost for no good reason in Gaza — as saddening as it is — is routine. Eleven years ago, on  May 16, 2007, I wrote this about Gaza: “The Gaza Strip is burning, drifting into chaos, turning into hell — and nobody seems to have a way out of this mess. Dozens of people were killed in Gaza in the last couple of weeks, the victims of lawlessness and power struggles between clans and families, gangsters and militias.” Sounds familiar? I assume it does. This is what routine looks like. This is what disregard for human life feels like. And that was 11 years to the week before a U.S. embassy was moved to Jerusalem.

A legitimate country is allowed to defend its border. A legitimate country is allowed to choose its capital.

Why were so many lives lost in Gaza? To give a straight answer, one must begin with the obvious: The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has no interest in having more Gazans killed, yet its mission is not to save Gazans’ lives. Its mission — remember, the IDF is a military serving a country — is to defeat an enemy. And in the case of Gaza this past week, the meaning of this was preventing unauthorized, possibly dangerous people from crossing the fence separating Israel from the Gaza Strip.

As this column was written, the afternoon of May 15, the IDF had achieved its objective: No one was able to cross the border into Israel. The price was high. It was high for the Palestinians. Israel will get its unfair share of criticism from people who have nothing to offer but words of condemnation. This was also to be expected. And also to be ignored. Again, not because criticism means nothing, but rather because there are things of higher importance to worry about. Such as not letting unauthorized hostile people cross into Israel.

Of course, any bloodshed is regretful. Yet to achieve its objectives, the IDF had to use lethal force. Circumstances on the ground dictate using such measures. The winds made tear gas ineffective. The proximity of the border made it essential to stop Gazan demonstrators from getting too close, lest thousands of them flood the fence, thus forcing the IDF to use even more lethal means. Leaflets warned them not to go near the fence. Media outlets were used to clarify that consequences could be dire. Hence, an unbiased, sincere newspaper headline should have said, “More than 50 killed in Gaza while Hamas leaders ignored warnings.”

So, yes, Jerusalem celebrated while Gaza burned. Not because Gaza burned. And, yes, the U.S. moved its embassy while Gaza burned. But this is not what made Gaza burn.

It all comes down to legitimacy. Having embassies move to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, is about legitimacy. Letting Israel keep the integrity of its borders is about legitimacy. President Donald Trump gained the respect and appreciation of Israelis because of his no-nonsense acceptance of a reality, and because of his no-nonsense rejection of delegitimization masqueraded as policy differences. A legitimate country is allowed to defend its border. A legitimate country is allowed to choose its capital.

Why Democrats Missed the Boat in Jerusalem


Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks at the Milken Institute 21st Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

On May 14, the Donald Trump administration officially opened the United States Embassy in Jerusalem. It was a moment to cherish: an acknowledgment by the most powerful nation on the planet that Jerusalem was indeed Jewish, that it is the eternal capital of Israel, and that neither revisionist history nor sheer anti-Semitic malice can separate Jerusalem from her people.

Naturally, zero elected Democrats showed up.

On the surface, this decision makes little sense. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) signaled his excitement over the Trump administration’s decision: “In a long overdue move, we have moved our embassy to Jerusalem. Every nation should have the right to choose its capital. I sponsored legislation to do this two decades ago, and I applaud President Trump for doing it.” Back in 1995, Congress passed a law mandating the embassy move with bipartisan support; in the Senate, the bill passed 93-5. In June 2017, a bill reaffirming the principles of the 1995 vote passed 90-0 in the Senate.

Yet no Congressional Democrats showed up to the Jerusalem event. By contrast, a bevy of elected Republicans, showed up in Jerusalem to celebrate.

According to Israeli reporter Ariel Kahana, every member of Congress was invited to attend, but “people involved in the process blame the Democratic leadership of Congress.”

So, why didn’t the Democrats show up?

Antipathy for Trump is no answer — this was a foreign policy ceremony intended to cement relations with America’s key ally in the region. Trump’s warm welcome in Israel should not have put off Democrats from doing honor to a nation that a Democratic president, Harry Truman, had a strong hand in founding.

Democrats didn’t want to attend the opening of the embassy because they were afraid of their own base.

No, more likely, Democrats didn’t want to attend because they were afraid of their own base. Unfortunately, the Democratic base has moved in a significantly anti-Israel direction over the past two decades — as of January 2018, while 79 percent of Republicans sympathized with Israel, just 27 percent of Democrats did. Again, this makes little sense considering that Israel is the only democracy in the region, the only LGBT-friendly country in the region, and the only country in the region that allows serious religious diversity. But for Democrats, considerations of governmental liberalism take a back seat to intersectionality.

Intersectionality posits that Western civilization has victimized particular groups, and that those groups therefore must have the leading role in discussing politics. Thus, Israel’s success has actually cut against Democratic support: By becoming more prosperous and powerful, Israel now becomes a perpetuator of the “system” intersectionality wishes to attack. Thus, gay Jews waving rainbow flags with stars of David have been barred from Dyke Marches in Chicago on behalf of Palestinian sympathizers, even though rainbow flags likely end with beatings under Palestinian rule. Thus, Linda Sarsour, an openly anti-Semitic fellow traveler of Louis Farrakhan, continues to maintain her popularity with the Women’s March, even as she tweets hatred about Israel.

Israel has become too successful to maintain its appeal to the coalition of victimhood promulgated and celebrated by the intersectional left. And so Israel must be denied legitimacy.

The problem for Democrats is that in order to deny Israel legitimacy — especially at a time when Palestinians are ruled by terrorist groups Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and Islamic jihad — Israel’s historical ties to the land of Israel must be soft-pedaled. These terrorist governments have no moral claims to the land, not when they are busily pursuing murder and repression and impoverishment of their own people. So they must make historical claims that deny the Jewish connection with Israel. This they do with alacrity.

Never has there been less of a case for Democrats to split with Republicans on Israel — not in the face of Iran’s genocidal aspirations, Syria’s horrors and the rise of terrorist groups on all of Israel’s borders. Yet the split grows wider, not narrower. Until Democrats throw aside victimhood ideology in favor of the morality that used to govern their party, it will continue to widen.


Ben Shapiro is a best-selling author.

U.S. Embassy Officially Opens in Jerusalem


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

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

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

Trump also tweeted:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Nixing Iran Nuclear Deal, Trump Opens a New Chapter in Volatile Mideast


FILE PHOTO: A general view of the Bushehr main nuclear reactor, 1,200 km (746 miles) south of Tehran, August 21, 2010. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/File photo

With European powers either unable, or unwilling, to meet his demand to “fix” the Iran nuclear deal, President Donald Trump on May 8 followed through on his threat to “nix” the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as it is formally known, and re-impose “the highest level of” economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“At the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction — that a murderous regime desired only a peaceful nuclear energy program,” Trump asserted. “We will not allow a regime that chants ‘Death to America’ to gain access to the most deadly weapons on Earth.”

The president in January warned that he would scrap the accord unless its “disastrous flaws” were addressed, and, to this end, had for months been lobbying France, Great Britain and Germany to formulate a side agreement to eliminate the JCPOA’s so-called “sunset clauses” — which remove limitations on Iran’s ability to enrich uranium in just over a decade — as well as curb the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile program and involvement in fomenting unrest in the Middle East.

The question now is: What comes next? While Tehran threatened to take measures “stronger than [Trump] imagines” now that the United States has backed away from the deal — including “vigorously” jump-starting its uranium enrichment program — the Iranian regime is believed to have contingency plans for the continuation of the accord without American participation. In fact, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani  kept this door open, saying on May 7 that “what [Tehran wants] for the deal is that it’s preserved and guaranteed by the non-Americans.”

While Trump vowed to continue working with allies to find a “real, comprehensive and lasting solution to the Iranian nuclear threat,” most analysts agree that it is exceedingly unlikely that Tehran will abide by any such process. In fact, Iran’s foreign ministry issued a statement describing the White House’s move as “illegal and illegitimate.”

By contrast, initial contacts by The Media Line with opposition sources in Tehran suggest that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s critics were energized by Trump’s words, which included a direct address to the “long-suffering people of Iran … [with whom] America stands.”

The president in January warned that he would scrap the accord unless its “disastrous flaws” were addressed.

For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared on national television just moments after Trump’s speech in order to reaffirm his support for the “brave decision.” This, while no doubt cognizant of the fact that Washington’s move raises the heat on Iran, whose rulers may conclude that they have little to lose by unleashing their proxies on Israel.

Efraim Kam, a former colonel in the research division of Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence and currently a senior fellow at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies, said that “it is more likely than unlikely that the Iranians will respond,” although he does “not think there will be a major war, but instead a [tit-for-tat] exchange.”

Indeed, the Israeli army is on high alert in the north, where municipalities were ordered on the day of Trump’s announcement to unlock public bomb shelters over what the military called “unusual Iranian forces” in Syria. The Iranian mullahs may even determine that opening a front against Israel is in their best interest, using the conflagration as justification to restart their atomic program, if not make a full-out dash for a nuclear bomb.

Uzi Rubin, the former head of Israel’s Arrow defense program, developed jointly with the U.S. to neutralize the threat posed by longer-range ballistic missiles, concurs that “there is a very high potential for an intensification. Iran has spoken of a reprisal [against Israel] but the question is how it will be expressed. The Iranians are good chess players and will do something that will give them the maximum benefit with minimum damage.”

By ditching the JCPOA, then, Trump effectively opened Pandora’s box in the Middle East tinderbox. Many world leaders have warned that such action could lead to a large-scale military confrontation, not only involving the Jewish state and Sunni Arab countries, but also potentially the United States and Russia, which has re-emerged as a force in the region.
In the past, historians have described such conflicts — those involving multiple players and pitting global powers against one another — as world wars.

Finally, Iran Meets Resistance: Four Comments On Trump’s Decision


U.S. President Donald Trump announces his intention to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement during a statement in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington, U.S. May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

1. The Middle East suddenly looks different.

Note both the US and its controversial decision to pull out of the Iran deal – and Syria and the repetitive military blows that Iran absorbed in recent months.

Note these two developments and realize that something important has changed: Iran, after a long period of relative calm and easy choices, faces tough opposition from the US and Israel. Iran has to reconsider the benefit and the possible cost of its actions. On Tuesday – Trump drew a diplomatic red line. The status quo is over, and the ball is now in Iran’s court.

On Tuesday night, hours after Trump made his announcements, sites near Damascus were bombed again. Another red line was reemphasized: Israel would not permit a significant Iranian presence in Syria. The sites bombed were reportedly the sites from which Iran was ready to launch an attack on Israel. So the status quo of Iranian presence in Syria is also challenged.

Trump presented Iran with a choice: Resist and bear possibly grim consequences, or renegotiate a deal which the US is ready to accept.

Syria’s limited skirmishes present Iran with a choice: Insist and bear possibly grim consequences, or give up on your Syrian dream.

2. In February 2015, when Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel was about to speak about Iran before Congress, I pleaded with him to reconsider his speech. “Speaking up next month before the United States Congress”, I wrote, “would not serve Israel’s interests. Instead of being an opportunity to seriously address the risks of Iran’s nuclear program, such a speech would scuttle the discussion.”

Is now the time to say that he was right and I was wrong? I am not yet sure about that, but I think it is time to consider the possibility that he, indeed, was right. Yes, his speech was enraging to the administration. But at that point in time, Netanyahu correctly assessed that Obama and Kerry had crossed a point of no return concerning the agreement. They were going to sign it no matter what. Yes – Netanyahu also enraged Democratic legislators. It is still a problem for Israel that the Iran deal is perceived in the US (much less so in Israel) as a partisan issue. But at that point in time Netanyahu was ready to pay a political price with the Democratic Party to scuttle a deal he perceived as highly dangerous for Israel.

Did he achieve what he wanted? At the time of the speech he did not. A deal was signed. Israel was ignored. Netanyahu was ridiculed for his speech. Yet a seed was planted. His speech did establish Israel’s uncompromising position. And it did serve for many American politicians as an opportunity to state their own position on the Iran deal. Netanyahu can make a solid case that what we see today is at least partially the result of what he did three years ago. An honest observer must consider this case – and with it, his previous position.

3. Donald Trump made up his mind a long time ago that the deal was not an achievement but rather an embarrassment. He made up his mind a long time ago that what he wants is to ditch the deal. He should get credit even from rivals for being a man of his word – this is what we all want from our politicians, don’t we?

Well, that depends. We all like to commend the leaders who make good on promises they’ve made during election season. That is, unless we dislike these promises. If we dislike these promises, what we’d say is as follows: A good leader is a leader who can see the difference between promises given during election time, and the realities of having to govern.

In other words: Trump will be praised for doing as he said he’d do by those wanting him to do just that. He will be condemned by all others, and will not even get credit for, yet again, doing what he said he was going to do.

4. Trump deserves credit, but only if ditching the nuclear deal is a first step of many to follow. In fact, this is the most important fact we all need to understand as we assess the meaning of today’s news: These news items are just nuggets. They are but one step in a long process. Judging the wisdom and predicting the outcome of Trump’s action is something we all do, without noticing that for the time being, as we hear the sound of bombs going off near Damascus, and as Trump’s words still echo, our judgments and predictions mean little.

Think of it this way– a car beginning its journey to a faraway city. Is it going in the right direction? Maybe it did for the first ten miles– but if after ten miles it takes the wrong turn, or breaks down, or has no fuel, the car will never get where it needs to go. And, of course, the same is true if you believe that the car began its journey headed the wrong way. A sober driver can still recalculate and turn around. A wise driver might still take another way that is less crowded.

Is Trump’s car headed in the right direction? I think it is, but this doesn’t mean it will get to its final destination. You might think that it’s headed in the wrong direction, but this also doesn’t mean that Trump’s car is lost. One thing both supporters and opponents of Trump’s decision can agree on: It is a new day in the Middle East, a new day for Iran, and a day of reckoning.

Report: Qatar Attempting to Buy Stake in Conservative News Outlet


Screenshot from Facebook.

A new report is suggesting that Qatar is trying to buy a stake in Newsmax, a conservative news outlet.

According to Politico, there have been numerous meetings in 2018 between Newsmax representatives and Qatari cabinet members, all of which have been headed by Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who is the brother of Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The Qataris are aiming for a $90 million investment into Newsmax for political reasons.

It is not yet known if the meetings have resulted into anything substantial, although the Politico report noted that Newsmax’s coverage of Qatar has become more positive of late.

Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy, who is an ally of President Trump, denied that the talks had ever taken place.

“This is all false,” Ruddy told Politico.

If the report is accurate, it would reflect Qatar’s increasing desperation to regain standing internationally, as it has become increasingly isolated in the region thanks to its funding of terrorism and growing ties to Iran. They had previously been trying to woo over influential figures in the pro-Israel crowd, such as attorney Alan Dershowitz.

The Qatari-funded Al Jazeera reportedly spied on pro-Israel organizations in an effort to supposedly expose Jewish influence on America’s government.

Netanyahu Praises Trump For Exiting ‘Disastrous’ Iran Deal


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

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

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

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

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

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

The full video can be seen below:

Simon Wiesenthal Center Praises Trump for Leaving Iran Deal


U.S. President Donald Trump displays a presidential memorandum after announcing his intent to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The Simon Wiesenthal Center praised President Trump for announcing the United States’ exit from the Iran nuclear deal on May 8.

In a statement sent to the Journal, Rabbis Marvin Hier and Jonathan Cooper, the founder and associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center respectively, denounced the regime in Tehran for denying the Holocaust and its repeated lies to the international community.

“Lying is the national anthem and magna carta of the Ayatollah’s regime,” Hier and Cooper said. “Proof of the Ayatollah’s perfidy about its drive to nuclear development was uncovered by Israeli intelligence and is proof positive that Tehran can not be trusted on life and death issues impacting the region and the world.”

Hier and Cooper added, “Leaving the status quo with Iran awash with billions of US taxpayer’s cash, would only ensure a growing circle of violence and terrorism in the region and ultimately could help pave the way for a nuclear arsenal that could reach our shores.”

In his announcement, Trump explained that the U.S. would be leaving from the deal because it enriched the world’s “leading state sponsor terror” and the paved way for them to acquire a nuclear bomb while failing to address its ballistic missile program as well as its militant actions in the Middle East. The U.S. will also be re-imposing sanctions on Iran.

“America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail,” Trump said. “We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction. We will not allow a regime that chants death to America to obtain the most dangerous weapons on earth.”

Trump then issued a warning to the regime.

“If the regime continues its nuclear aspirations, it will have bigger problems than it has ever had before,” Trump said.

He also told the Iranian people that “America stands with you.”

“The future of Iran belongs to its people,” Trump said.

The Golden Calf of Leftism


Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Last week, the Nation of Islam called the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) a “racist spy agency.” “Sisters” Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour bullied Starbucks into dropping the ADL from co-leading its diversity training. Students with Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine were arrested at an Israeli Independence Day celebration in New York City for setting an Israeli flag on fire and assaulting another student. And Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut called Muslim reformer Zuhdi Jasser “anti-Muslim.”

No one on the left had anything to say about any of this. Indeed, it was just another week in the descent of the left into tribal, anti-feminist, anti-Semitic illiberalism. Or more simply: #woke.
But it was not another week entirely. At the White House Correspondents Dinner on April 28, comedian Michelle Wolf’s venom-filled monologue was so egregious that a handful of “names” from the left, including two New York Times reporters, tweeted afterward their horror and embarrassment. Wolf had crossed a line, creating a crack in the status-obsessed leftist orthodoxy.

Will it shatter from this? Doubtful. The left still hasn’t processed the fact that President Donald Trump didn’t cause the left to go off the deep end into this intolerant groupthink. Trump is a result of the left having already gone off this cliff. The most glaring example: the disallowance of any criticism of former President Barack Obama, no matter how respectfully it was voiced.

Yes, of course, the right has its own version of this. The right’s thought police won’t allow you to criticize Trump’s vulgar, dehumanizing language. It won’t allow you to say that many Americans who own guns are obsessed with them in a disturbing way. That building a wall on the United States’ southern border is not the most rational idea.

But I don’t think it’s going out on a limb here to say that the number of extremists on the right are far fewer than those on the left, that most people who still consider themselves proud members of the Democratic Party have bought into this leftist orthodoxy to some extent.

Today’s golden calf is the anti-Semitic, illiberal propaganda. 

Otherwise, how to explain the fact that Mallory and Sarsour remain unscathed — even after showing the world their bigoted, illiberal agendas? That criticizing them — as the ADL did — will just get you thrown to the ground and stomped on by every virtue signaler needing a status boost? That thousands of professors have remained silent while their universities have turned into propaganda machines, where freedom of speech is considered fascist?

The genius of classical liberalism is that it can instantaneously call the bluff of hypocrites on both the left and the right. It’s like a mirror to your political soul.

If you truly are a racist, classical liberalism will out you in a second. But it will also out you if you don’t believe in freedom of speech or if you think journalists or professors should be biased. And it will most especially out you if your compassion is merely a show for status. Maybe this is why classical liberalism is so hated by many on the left today, where protecting one’s status is far more important than standing up for liberal principles.

I have come to think of the election of Trump as an act of God, a Biblical act meant to teach all of us a lesson. Kind of like Moses throwing the Ten Commandments to the ground after descending from Mount Sinai and seeing the golden calf.

Throughout history, each and every time the left has gotten off the classical liberal path and descended into illiberal orthodoxy — communism, socialism and now, Islamist-led leftism — disaster has been the result.

You might think Trump is a disaster. And you have every right to do so. But if you haven’t yet considered the possibility that the way the left worshipped Obama — “utter only sanctimonious praise or I will publicly scream racist at you till you disappear” — led to Trump, or the way the left is now handling Trump — when they go low, we go lower — then we are still a long way from learning something from this saga.

Today’s golden calf is the anti-Semitic, illiberal propaganda — victimhood! identity politics! intersectionality! — emanating from self-proclaimed activists whose real agenda is so diabolical that only the most impetuous (Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Sarsour) dare speak its name.

And so the question remains: Who is going to burn today’s golden calf?

Karen Lehrman Bloch is an author and cultural critic.

Why Tyrants Must Hate Trump


If you’re a Never Trumper, you probably don’t see many redeeming features in our brash and rude tweeter in chief. But hang with me for a minute as we consider how that brashness and rudeness may be just what the doctor ordered for a certain brand of foreign leaders.

In a brave essay on the NBC News website, veteran White House reporter Keith Koffler laments that we live in “a dangerous world, dominated by outsized personalities who act aggressively on behalf of their nations, including not hesitating to threaten — and even engage in — war.”

But then he adds: “Fortunately, one is President Donald Trump.”

Koffler’s claim is that Trump’s flaws — “self-indulgent, megalomaniacal, a bit paranoid, driven by self-interest and implacably domineering” — make him uniquely suited to deal with the other great tyrants of the age.

These tyrants, Koffler adds, are driven more by raw power and ambition than ideology.

“Not too long ago,” he writes, “the struggles among great nations were defined by ideology, as democracy and communism competed for allegiance around the world. During that age, a relatively non-ideological, nonintellectual man like Trump might have had trouble understanding the thinking animating Russian and Chinese communists, hampering his ability to confront them.”

Some useful things can come out of a deeply flawed president, just as bad ones can come out of a decent president.

Today, by contrast, “the president will have no problem understanding the motivations of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and the other tyrants he faces, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, newly anointed Chinese President-for-life Xi Jinping and Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.”

Koffler concludes that Trump “has the outsized strength of personality to combat them.” In other words, it takes one to fight one.

When I read the essay, it reminded me of a game I used to play with my Never Trumper friends during the presidential election. I would ask them: “If you had to choose one person to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran, who would you pick, Barack Obama or Donald Trump?” Invariably — and grudgingly — they would pick Trump.

When I asked why, they would concede that “Trump wouldn’t be afraid to walk away,” or, simply, “He’d make them sweat and get a better deal.”

Recently, I played another game. I know Trump haters who love Israel but who criticized Trump for “hurting the peace process” when he announced the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. When I asked them if they would have had the same reaction had President Obama made the decision, they admitted that, no, they probably would not. That’s how deep the contempt for Trump can go.

Indeed, it’s a difficult task to separate emotions from outcomes. If you hate a president, it’s hard to love anything he does, no matter how worthy that thing is. I have sympathy for those who have trouble seeing past Trump’s character flaws. After all, if having a decent character is essential in our own lives, how much more so for the leader of the free world?

And yet, we must recognize the reality that some useful things can come out of a deeply flawed president, just as bad ones can come out of a decent president.

Koffler’s claim is that Trump’s flaws — “self-indulgent, megalomaniacal, a bit paranoid, driven by self-interest and implacably domineering” — make him uniquely suited to deal with the other great tyrants of the age.

When Obama first ran for president, I remember being seduced by his classy demeanor and decency. But I wondered: Would he be tough enough for our dangerous world? I rationalized away that concern by assuming (hoping) that Obama had a silent killer instinct that would earn him the respect of the bullies he’d have to deal with. In retrospect, this was wishful thinking. No dictator ever feared Obama. They saw right through him. Obama was a gentleman who could never call a tyrant’s bluff.

Trump seems energized by tyrants. He must identify with their passion for power. It’s a brutal, primal game he knows well.

As Maureen Dowd wrote last week in The New York Times, “President Trump’s peculiar form of diplomacy — a combination of belligerence, bluster, name-calling and ignorance of history — has somehow produced a possible breakthrough in North Korea that eluded his predecessors.”

Koffler doesn’t deny that Trump’s indignities are the “crass work of an uncouth man.” But he thinks voters in the last election “eschewed elegance because, they calculated, a blunt and even predatory individual is what the country needed at this moment. A man who, Kim, Xi, Khamenei and Putin will all suspect, might just be brutal and dark enough to stand his ground against them and counter their own ruthless agendas.”

As much as I value decency, I also know that, for 16 years, America got burned by two very decent presidents — first by George W. Bush’s trillion-dollar fiasco in Iraq, and then by Obama’s naive deal with Iran that empowered the world’s biggest sponsor of terror.

I doubt that our brash and rude president would have been suckered into those deals. How much is that “outcome” worth? We’ll find out soon enough.

Trump Warns That Iran ‘Will Pay a Price’ If They Threaten the U.S.


U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during his joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

President Trump issued an ultimatum to the Iranian regime on April 24: they “will pay a price” if threaten the United States.

Trump gave the warning in a joint press conference he held with French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron, where the two discussed the Iran nuclear deal. Trump was asked on if he will exit from the deal on the May 12 deadline, prompting him to respond: “We’ll see.”

“It was a terrible deal,” Trump said. “It should have never ever been made.”

After Macron suggested that it was important to “contain” Iran, Trump remarked that Iran is the source of a lot of the problems in the Middle East, pointing to Syria and Yemen as examples. He also brushed off the suggestion from a reporter that nixing the Iran deal would re-ignite its nuclear program.

“They’re not going to be restarting anything,” Trump said. “If they restart it, they’re going to have big problems, bigger than they ever had before.”

Trump added, “If Iran threatens us in any way they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid.”

European leaders, such as Macron, have been urging Trump to stay in the deal, arguing that even a flawed deal is better none at all. Trump, however, has been adamant about nixing the deal unless specific changes are implemented.

In an April 23 interview with the National Interest, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif actually claimed that Trump had been violating the Iran deal just by criticizing it.

“Every statement that President Trump has made since coming to office—before coming to office, he was a candidate, but since coming to office he’s become the president of the United States, head of the executive branch, and there are specific provisions that prohibit senior members of the executive branch of the United States from making statements against the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], from trying to undermine the provisions of the JCPOA, from talking to foreign leaders and foreign businesses to dissuade them from investing in Iran, and from other activity that would impede normal trade with Iran by others—not by the United States, by others,” Zarif said.

Bloomberg Columnist Eli Lake noted that the Iranian regime is in greater danger of losing its grip on power than people realize. While the Iran protests have fallen out of the media’s purview, they have been ongoing for five months and the regime has had difficulty in trying to stop them.

“The majority of Iranians want change,” Alireza Nader, the RAND corporation’s former Iran specialist, told Lake. “They no longer believe in the game of moderates versus hardliners. Right now is the perfect time for the U.S. government to establish an official connection with the Democratic opposition.”

5 Things to Know About the Comey Memos


A combination of file photos show U.S. President Donald Trump in the White House in Washington, DC, U.S. April 9, 2018 and former FBI Director James Comey on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria, Jonathan Ernst/File Photos

Former FBI Director James Comey had a series of memos containing notes from conversations he had with President Trump and certain members of his staff. On April 19, the Department of Justice released them all – 15 total – to congressional leaders and they are all now public, albeit with certain words redacted. Here are five things you need to know from them.

1. Comey admits to briefing Trump about the infamous Steele dossier due to media pressure. The memos detail how Comey told Trump that news organizations like CNN had the dossier in their possession but hadn’t published them yet because they “were looking for a news hook.” Comey added that it was necessary to tell Trump about the dossier in order to prevent the media from writing about how “the FBI has the material” and “that we were keeping it close-hold.” A few days later, CNN broke the news about the dossier with the hook that Comey had briefed Trump about it. The dossier contained wildly graphic and lurid allegations that Trump was being blackmailed by the Kremlin with footage of him with Russian prostitutes. These allegations have yet to be verified.

2. Was there a FISA court order against Mike Flynn? In Comey’s recollection of a conversation he had with then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Priebus asked him point-blank if there was a FISA order against Flynn. Comey’s answer was redacted.

3. Did Comey ever do anything about the leakers? Trump was furious that phone conversations he had with the leaders of Mexico and Australia were leaked the media. Comey agreed that the leaks were “terrible” and he was “eager to find leakers and would like to nail one to the door as a message.” Trump later brought up the leaks again and Comey “said something about the value of putting a head on a pike as a message.” Trump then said that reporters should be jailed over the leaks.

“They spend a couple days in jail, make a new friend and they’re ready talk,” Trump said, prompting Comey to laugh.

Given Comey’s repeated insistence he wanted to find the leakers, it’s worth asking Comey if he ever actually found them and did anything about them.

4. Trump repeatedly asked Comey about then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, and each time Comey defended him. Trump was concerned that McCabe held a vendetta against him for Trump criticizing him over McCabe’s wife taking money from a PAC aligned with then-Virigina Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), a longtime ally of the Clintons. Comey insisted that McCabe didn’t hold a grudge over the criticism and that McCabe was “an honorable person.” McCabe is currently facing a criminal referral over unauthorized leaks to the media and allegedly lying about it.

5. The memos provide a little more context on Trump asking Comey to let Flynn go. Trump did rail against Flynn for failing to tell him that Russian President Vladimir Putin was the first leader to call him after he won the election, which resulted in Trump toasting British Prime Minister Theresa May to being the first foreign leader to call and Flynn had to correct him. Trump added that he had “other concerns” about Flynn and felt like he had to fire him after Flynn purportedly misled Vice President Mike Pence over a phone call he had with the Russians during the transition phase. However, Trump claimed that Flynn hadn’t done anything in his phone call with the Russians and he hoped that Comey would let Flynn go since Flynn had “been through a lot.”

Trump and congressional Republicans did a victory lap over the released memos:

Trump critics like David Frum argued that the Comey memos validated Comey’s beef with Trump.

The memos can be read in full here.

The ‘Reality’ of the Jewish State


We all live with dichotomies, but possibly none is more powerful than our differing views about the idea of nationhood. In the 19th century, the emancipated Jew emerges with a profound belief in the power of modernity and the capacity to dream about and act upon the idea of forming a national homeland for the Jewish people. For the first time in 2,000 years Jews would be able to affirm their national pride and gain their own political identity.

Indeed, the unfolding events of the 20th century would embolden the Jewish people, both as Zionists reclaiming their dream of statehood and as political actors operating within the modern world. The Zionist case was built in part around the illusion that once the Jewish people obtained their homeland, anti-Semitism would dissipate, as Jews would no longer be treated as a marginalized community. To the contrary, as Jews were claiming their political legitimacy, the forces that have historically haunted our people, the enemies of our community and the emerging opponents of the Jewish state, were reinventing their case against Judaism and Zionism. The seeds of modern anti-Semitism would be established.

At each turn of this experiment in nation-building, there would exist “the idea,” with its various proponents offering definitions of the perfect Jewish national model; and then there would be the haunting realities of constructing and defending a new state amid an array of political and religious threats.

Just as the saga of Jewish nation-building culminated with the establishment of the State of Israel 70 years ago, the very political powers that endorsed the creation of Israel began to move beyond their own historic commitment to the nation-state system. In the post-World War II era, governments began constructing military, political and economic alliances, in part leaving Israel in an isolated and vulnerable position, bereft of any immediate partners. Jews had been given a state, absent any assurances that it could be sustained as a viable enterprise.

At the same moment, Jews would come to terms with their uneasy historic encounter with Christianity, as the Roman Catholic Church charted a new pathway forward in advancing Christian-Jewish understanding. These extraordinary events would be offset by the rise of radical Islam with its commitment to the destruction of Israel and the marginalization of the Jewish people. If Christianity defined much of Western Jewish history, Islam would emerge as the significant religious player in these times.

Over the course of its history, Israel’s relationship with its Jewish world partners has undergone a series of transitions. Against the backdrop of the Holocaust during the middle years of the 20th century, we would be reminded that Israel’s “survivability” would be seen as critical to the welfare of the Jewish enterprise. “One people, one destiny” would be the dominant motif during the first 20 years of statehood. In that era, Israel would enjoy a broad degree of Diaspora support.

“Sustainability” would be the defining element for the next quarter of a century. Here, the nature of the Jewish partnership, symbolized by the United Jewish Appeal campaign theme of the time, “We are One,” would rest on garnering and maintaining the political, economic and military support vital to Israel’s standing. This period would profoundly change Israel’s partners as much as it transformed the State of Israel.

As a result of the Six-Day War of 1967, we all became Israelis, as our pride and confidence soared. This transformative moment fundamentally changed a particular generation from being identified as “Jewish Americans” to becoming “American Jews,” as we no longer defined ourselves only through our religious standing but now saw our Jewishness as core to our identity.

Jews had been given a state, absent any assurances that it could be sustained as a viable enterprise.

Jews would be reborn as a new class of people, empowered to reconstruct its identity as well as the image of what Israel represented. For those of us who recall the extraordinary week of June 6, 1967, it would be transformative to our Jewish consciousness. There existed a unique sense of awe at what had happened and what it would mean. Over time, we romanticized these events, creating new images of the war while allowing its memories to forever shape our lives. That moment, however, also represented a distortion of the coming realities.

That time frame would also lay the foundation for the fundamental divisions over Israel’s definition of its character. It would generate the seeds defining the great political divide. Again, the idea of Jewish nationalism would be set against its core realities. The divisive issues of settlements, Palestinian rights, the divisions between religion and state, and a conversation around the character and substance of what it may mean to be a “democratic, Jewish state” would emerge over the succeeding decades.

Over these past 25 years, Israel would move away from those themes that reflected its earlier vulnerable position to one that might be seen as “symbolic” or even as an exemplar of political and social ingenuity as the Jewish state emerged as a technologically accomplished “startup” nation with a sophisticated economy and an advanced military. In this third phase, Israel transformed itself from its dependency role to being the dominant player in global Jewish matters. But this moment in time also created a fundamental disruption in its historic partnership with its Diaspora as a widening divide unfolded.

One can find deep divisions today between the liberal-orientated attitudes of a majority of American Jews and the center-right views of the government in Jerusalem and its supporters over such complex issues as settlements and human rights. More particularly, some Jewish Americans are uncomfortable with recent Israeli initiatives and proposals that seek to curb the free speech rights of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement supporters and legislation denying admission into the Jewish state of individuals associated with specific anti-Israel movements. Just as American-Jewish liberals defended the Obama administration’s record on Israel, supporters of President Donald Trump embrace his policies in connection with the Jewish state, creating a significant political conflict among Israel’s historic partners.

Israel defenders have argued on what basis should Diaspora communities have the right to publicly critique Israel over its policies and actions? Ought that “right” be left to the citizens of the Jewish nation? Responders from the Diaspora push back, challenging that assumption, noting that Israel was created as the collective expression of the Jewish people, and as such, all Jews not only have the right to express their views but have an obligation to assert their ideas. Once again, the idea of Israel would come up against the realities of its politics.

Beyond these internecine battles, the question of how the international community ought to engage Iran or the issue of what constitutes anti-Semitic behavior in connection with dissent around Israel remind us of other elements contributing to this deep crevice that today defines these conversations.

In place of creative dialogue, one finds only disagreement and discord. Some American-Jewish critics’ arguments are framed in moral terms, suggesting that Israel “ought” to be held to a higher standard. In their minds, Israel is failing at this point to live up to the Jewish values that have informed and shaped the state’s Zionist heritage. For Jewish Americans who express their disappointment or despair over Israel’s move to the political right, the state has lost their trust. Israel’s political establishment is seen as either politically corrupt or operating around a set of deeply flawed assumptions. Adding to these divisions, as demonstrated by the most recent population studies, the declining levels of Jewish engagement with Israel, especially on the part of younger Jews, present another challenge to Israeli authorities and to American-Jewish leaders. The image of a perfect Jewish society is yet again challenged by its political realities.

As these debates unfold, the Jewish opponents of Israel’s politics are dismissed as misguided or worse, undermining the Jewish state by their betrayal to defend and protect this historic experiment in nation-building. Each side offers descriptions of the other seeking to minimize the political standing of their opponents, while reasserting their own definition of the state’s meaning. To advance our various perspectives, we have introduced terms such as naïve, foolish, destructive and disingenuous, which we employ to define the “other.”

Israelis and American Jews have their respective visions or images of the Jewish state. Some of these fixed notions today have become labels that we place on one another. Israel’s “romantics” are identified as individuals still holding onto an earlier image of the state’s Zionist origins. Others might be described as “political realists” because they focus on the multiple military and security threats that have defined the state’s history and remain its core challenges. Possibly, a third constituency could be defined as “bound by history,” in which specific events, such as the Oslo Accord and its promise of peace, resonate as the pivotal moment in Israel’s diplomatic journey. For this cohort, particular personalities or events have ultimately defined their vision of how the state ought to act and what it must become.

Upon reflection, with its enthusiastic endorsement of Donald Trump, Israel symbolically might serve as an ideal “red state” base for this president; contrastingly, many American Jews might metaphorically represent a “blue state” constituency, with their overriding opposition to this White House along with their current discomfort, even disillusionment, with Israeli policies. Again, labels and images are employed to establish our credentials as “realists” or “idealists” in constructing our expectations for Israel.

The internal disagreements among Israelis represent a different type of contest over the Jewish state’s political destiny. Inside the land, these wars around national perspectives take on a geopolitical battleground engaging “the state of Tel Aviv,” with its secular, liberal orientation, against “the state of Jerusalem,” with its traditional religious, politically conservative orientation.

With the rise of the “intersectionality” debate in this nation, many American Jews are being forced to choose between their social justice priorities and their Zionist passions. Maybe for the first time in American history, Jews are engaging with allies on specific issues of discrimination and victimhood where they find common ground, yet knowing that these “friends” espouse views that may be perceived as anti-Israel because this movement seeks to incorporate Israel as a purveyor of racism.

On this anniversary of Israeli statehood, how can we find common ground as our various images and expectations of Israel come up against its political realities? We are dramatically reminded that this experiment in state-building is a relatively new venture in the annals of Jewish history, hardly a significant period of time to develop a mature, sophisticated understanding of how a nation, its citizens or its Diaspora partners “ought” to behave and operate. Jewish history readily informs us that where our people remain in discord between our historic expectations and the realities of nation-building, the political outcomes have been unsettling and even problematic.


Steven Windmueller is the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Studies at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. Windmueller’s writings can be found on thewindreport.com. A version of this article originally appeared on eJewishphilanthropy.com.

U.S. Exit Strategy for Syria Involves Establishing an Arab Force


People ride a horse along a damaged street at the city of Douma in Damascus, Syria April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho

Despite launching airstrikes against Syria over the weekend, the Trump administration is looking for a clean exit out of the country. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that their plan involves establishing an Arab force to fill the vacuum left by the United States’ exit.

The Trump administration has asked the Arab Gulf nations to provide troops and financial support to help Syria recover after the U.S. finishes off the remnants of ISIS. The Arab force would serve as a buffer against the Iran and Russia from controlling the region and help prevent ISIS from mounting a comeback.

However, skeptics of the plan note that it may be difficult to get key Arab nations to participate in the U.S.’s plan, as Egypt is currently preoccupied with exterminating ISIS nearby the Sinai Peninsula while Saudi Arabia and the UAE are tangled in Yemen’s civil war.

“There is just no precedent or established basis for this shaping into a successful strategy,” Middle East Institute Senior Fellow Charles Lister told the Journal.

Those who support the plan, such as Conservative Review’s Jordan Schachtel, acknowledge that while establishing such a force is “a stern challenge,” it is “a shot worth taking.”

“During president Trump’s short tenure thus far, the White House already demonstrated that it has been able to move the Arab world toward dramatic reform and prioritizing counter-terrorism,” Schachtel wrote. “Will President Trump succeed in rallying the Arab world around the cause of countering the Iranian regime’s malignant expansion in Syria?”

The U.S. currently has 2,000 troops in Syria; it is believed that around 5,000-12,000 ISIS terrorists remain in the country.

Prior to the airstrikes, President Trump had announced that the U.S. would be withdrawing troops from Syria. The April 13 airstrikes hit three chemical weapons facilities in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reportedly using weapons against his own people.

For Now, Trump Won’t Impose Russian Sanctions


U.S. President Donald Trump gestures during a roundtable on tax cuts for Florida small businesses in Hialeah, Florida, U.S., April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced on April 15 that the U.S. would be implementing a new batch of sanctions against Russia for propping up Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad as he uses chemical weapons against his own people. However, The Washington Post is reporting that President Trump has not approved of such sanctions.

The Post report states that the sanctions are under “serious consideration” but Trump is reluctant to sign off on them unless Russia gives him “another triggering event” to do so. The White House is officially calling Haley’s statement on sanctions a mistake, however although others said it was strange that Haley would make such a mistake given that how “disciplined” she is in ensuring that her statements are in line with Trump’s thinking.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement, “We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future.”

According to CNN, the targets of such Russian sanctions would include “banks and equipment suppliers” as well as “Russian companies that sell helicopters and helicopter parts to Syria.”

Haley had said on CBS’ Face the Nation, “You will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down. Secretary Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday, if he hasn’t already.”

The sanctions matter comes after the U.S. led a coalition that launched airstrikes against Syria, targeting three chemical weapons facilities. Trump reportedly followed Defense Secretary James Mattis’ advice and made the strikes smaller than they potentially could have been in order to show restraint.

Haley Announces New Sanctions on Russia, Warns That More Airstrikes Against Syria Could Come


United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during the United Nations Security Council meeting on Syria at the U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., April 13, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley made the rounds on the Sunday morning show circuit and announced two pieces of news: the U.S. will be imposing new sanctions on Russia and more airstrikes could be coming Syria’s way.

On Fox News Sunday, Haley stated that the Russian sanctions would occur on Monday.

“If you look at what Russia is doing, they continue to be involved with all the wrong actors, whether their involvement in Ukraine, whether you look at how they are supporting Venezuela, whether you look in Syria and their way of propping up Assad and working with Iran, that continues to be a problem,” Haley said.

Haley was also asked by Fox News’ Chris Wallace on what the Trump administration would do if Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad continued to use chemical weapons, noting that President Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis gave seemingly contradictory statements on the matter.

“What I can tell you is the president has made it very clear that when it comes to weapons of mass destruction, we have no tolerance for it,” Haley said. “We are going to watch out for the best interests of the American people. He made a point and hopefully Assad gets it. If Assad doesn’t get it, it’s going to hurt.”

Haley declined to say if military action in Syria is a possibility.

On Friday, a U.S.-led coalition launched airstrikes against Syria in response to Assad using chemical weapons against his own people. Three chemical weapons facilities in Syria were struck, although other chemical weapon facilities were left untouched. Trump has hailed the strikes as a blow against Assad, but the Syrian dictator is reportedly in “positive spirits” after the strikes because he doesn’t think his grip on power is being threatened.

Military Strikes on Syria: U.S. Faces Critical Considerations


A man is washed following alleged chemical weapons attack, in what is said to be Douma, Syria in this still image from video obtained by Reuters on April 8, 2018. White Helmets/Reuters TV via REUTERS

In response to the latest reported use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, which killed dozens of civilians in the town of Douma on April 7, President Donald Trump tweeted that there would be a “Big price to pay.”

Trump subsequently told a cabinet meeting on April 9, “We cannot allow atrocities like that. Cannot allow it. … Nothing’s off the table.” He then warned that regardless of whether Russia, the Assad regime or Iran was responsible, the United States’ response would be “very tough,” repeating that everybody involved would “pay a price.”

If the U.S. opts to act militarily, its policy should be guided by several considerations.

First, Washington should seek to divide Assad’s coalition with Iran and Russia. This means eschewing actions that could drive them together at a time when their interests may diverge (e.g., Moscow might be annoyed that Assad overreached by using chemical weapons, since such acts could drag the United States back into the war at a time when it seemed to be disengaging). Washington should also eschew actions that increase the potential for escalation. Its goal should be to de-escalate the situation by restoring deterrence vis-a-vis the Assad regime.

Specifically, any U.S. strikes should focus on regime assets while avoiding targets with higher risk of Russian casualties. Washington should also support Israel’s ongoing strikes against Iranian targets in Syria (establishing an informal division of labor there), to impose costs on Tehran for its policies. And the administration should continue to reserve the right to take action of its own against Iranian assets in Syria when they threaten U.S. personnel or interests.

Second, this problem will not end with a single set of strikes. Deterrence has a limited shelf life, and Assad likely will continue defying the international community and challenging the chemical-weapon red line. Additional strikes may be necessary to deter him from doing so.

Third, while U.S. strikes should target chemical weapons infrastructure when collateral damage can be minimized, they should be focused primarily on the regime’s conventional military capabilities. This would hinder the regime’s war effort much more than strikes focusing solely on chemical weapon capabilities.

Washington should also support Israel’s ongoing strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, to impose costs on Tehran for its policies.

The main “weapons of mass destruction” in Syria have been barrel bombs, artillery and small arms. Chemical weapons may have killed several thousand, but conventional arms have killed more than 100,000 civilians. Thus, focusing solely on chemical weapons capabilities would limit the damage to dispensable assets. The U.S. should also target forces that have been essential to Assad’s victories, namely, ground units such as the 4th Armored Division, the Republican Guard and the Tiger Force, along with air units that deliver barrel bombs and chemical weapons.

This targeting strategy would have the added benefit of affecting the regime’s patrons. Russia and Iran have ensured the sustainability of their expeditionary activities in Syria by offloading risk and burdens on others, particularly Hezbollah and other foreign Shia militias. If U.S. strikes diminish Assad’s key ground and air units, the load would increase on Russia, Iran and Iran’s “Shia foreign legion,” raising the costs of their intervention.

To achieve that goal, U.S. forces would need to target major headquarters and destroy key capabilities and the people who enable them. Although Russia and Iran can replace the Assad regime’s equipment, they cannot replace its manpower, and manpower is what it lacks most. Moreover, by hitting the headquarters of the above-named ground units — which are manned by Alawites connected to the regime via family ties — the United States would strike a heavy blow and magnify the deterrent effect compared with hitting less important units or chemical weapon infrastructure alone.

The administration also should consider striking symbolic targets such as the presidential palace on Qasioun Mountain overlooking Damascus, whose destruction could have a significant psychological effect on the regime and the Syrian people.

Fourth, U.S. military actions should be guided by lessons learned in past efforts at deterrence and coercive diplomacy in the Middle East.

The United States should not set additional red lines unless it is willing to enforce them, and it should be prepared to answer any further attempts to test U.S. limits, since failure to respond would only invite more challenges.

Because disproportionate responses are prohibited by the Law of Armed Conflict, Washington should respond to Syrian challenges asymmetrically. It should hit not only the source of the provocation, but also assets that the regime truly values. Striking only disposable assets would enable Assad to sustain his defiance, calibrate risk and more safely test U.S. limits. Responding asymmetrically would introduce uncertainty into his cost-benefit calculus about future U.S. responses, thereby strengthening the deterrent effect of U.S. strikes.

The administration should make clear that its strikes will not be a one-off operation by employing constructive ambiguity about the possibility of future strikes. Otherwise, Assad may believe that he can outlast the United States.

Finally, Washington should use the threat of a strike to test the potential for multilateral diplomacy. This threat might help drive a wedge between Damascus and Moscow, and perhaps create new opportunities for pressing Syria to eliminate its undeclared chemical weapon stockpiles and observe its ceasefires with various rebel forces around the country — though experience does not provide reasons for optimism.


Michael Eisenstadt is the Kahn Fellow and director of the Military and Security Studies Program at The Washington Institute.

Report: Iran Could Resume Nuclear Program in ‘Days’


FILE PHOTO: A video projection is seen on the face of Iran's President Hassan Rouhani as he arrives for a news conference during the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, U.S. September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith/File Photo

The Iranian regime is threatening to resume their nuclear enrichment program soon – possibly days.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, the leader of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, told Iran’s media that it could only take a few days for Iran to reach the 20% enrichment level.

“If senior Islamic Republic officials issue an order to resume the 20% enrichment, we can do it in [the] Fordo [nuclear facility] within 4 days,” Salehi said.

Interestingly, Salehi made similar comments back in August.

“If we make the determination, we are able to resume 20 per cent-enrichment in at most five days,” Salehi said at the time.

President Hassan Rouhani also said at the time, “In an hour and a day, Iran could return to a more advanced level than at the beginning of the negotiations.”

Clearly, Iran thinks that such threats will cause President Trump to stay in the Iran nuclear deal.

Nuclear expert Mark Dubowitz told the Free Beacon that Salehi’s comments suggest that the Iran deal merely allows for Iran to bide time “to develop technologies that it hadn’t perfected such as advanced centrifuges and missiles.”

“His threats reveal what many deal skeptics have long argued: unless the JCPOA is fixed, Iran has pathways to dozens of nuclear-tipped missiles capable of striking U.S. forces, U.S. allies, and eventually the U.S. homeland,” Dubowitz said.

Last week, a report from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies highlighted how the Iran deal was vaguely worded enough to allow Iran to advance its nuclear weapons program under the deal. Salehi’s remarks seemingly confirm that report.

Trump has been threatening to leave the Iran nuclear deal by the May 12 deadline if specific fixes aren’t made to it, including amending the deal so it targets Iran’s ballistic missile program. The Europeans, who support the deal in part because of trade, are reportedly becoming increasingly pessimistic that the deal will remain intact after the deadline passes.

Israel Allegedly Launched Airstrikes Against Syria After Assad Launches Chemical Attack Against His Own People


Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visit the Hmeymim air base in Latakia Province, Syria December 11, 2017. Picture taken December 11, 2017. To match Special Report RUSSIA-FLIGHTS/ Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/ via REUTERS/File Photo ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.

UPDATE: Iran is claiming that seven Iranian military personnel died in the airstrikes. Israel is now reportedly bracing itself for a counterattack by Iran’s proxy terror group Hezbollah.

ORIGINAL:

Israel allegedly launched airstrikes in Syria after Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people over the weekend.

Russia and Syria claimed the strikes came from two Israeli F-15 planes, which resulted in 14 dead, including four Iranian military advisers in addition to multiple officers in the Syrian Army. Israel has not directly confirmed that they were the ones who launched the strikes, but their foreign ministry issued a statement condemning Assad for his chemical weapons attack.

“The attack shows clearly that Syria continues to possess lethal chemical weapons capabilities and even to manufacture new ones,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said. “In so doing Syria is grossly violating its obligations and the decisions of the international community in this matter.”

Assad’s chemical weapons attack in Douma, a town that is close to Damascus and was held by the Syrian rebels, resulted in at least 40 people dead. According to The Times of Israel, “victims showed signs of gas poisoning including pupil dilation and foaming at the mouth” and there was also the scent of chlorine in the air.

Additionally, the Syrian American Medical Society has claimed that over “500 cases — the majority of whom are women and children — were brought to local medical centers with symptoms indicative of exposure to a chemical agent.”

A local activist told NBC News, “Whole families, mothers and little children and babies, they were all dead. They tried to escape death, but here in Douma, there is death is everywhere.”

Assad and the Russian government have denied the attack, but President Trump isn’t buying their denial.

“To me there’s not much of a doubt,” Trump told reporters on April 9. “If they’re innocent why aren’t they allowing people to go in and prove [it].”

Trump is expected to announce if the U.S. is going to take any retaliatory measures against Syria for the chemical attack. Defense Secretary James Mattis wouldn’t rule out airstrikes against Syria.

According to Syrian media, Syrian and Iranian forces are already on the move out of fear of possible U.S. airstrikes.

Israel has launched numerous airstrikes against Syria over the years, mainly against Hezbollah. There is evidence to suggest that Israel’s alleged airstrikes were in part aimed at curbing Iran’s grip in Syria in addition to being a retaliation against Assad’s chemical attack.

Report: Nuclear Deal Allowed Iran to Advance Its Nuclear Weapons Program


Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani in Ankara, Turkey April 4, 2018. Tolga Bozoglu/Pool via Reuters

A recent report from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies exposes the aspects of the Iran nuclear deal that have enabled Tehran into advancing their nuclear weapons program.

Jacob Nagel, who is a professor at the Israel Institute of Technology and served in various Israeli defense positions, argues that the key flaws in the Iran deal stem from Annex I, Section T of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which is vaguely worded and doesn’t come close to addressing the issues with Iran’s nuclear program highlighted by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s 2011 report on the matter.

“While preventing Iran from engaging in the activities enumerated in Section T could prevent Iran from closing some of the technological gaps remaining for the completion of its weaponization aspirations, the lack of detail in this section undermines the ability of the IAEA to effectively monitor the terms,” Nagel writes. “For example, does the use of high explosive lenses instead of multipoint explosive detonation systems violate the limitations?”

Consequently, under the deal Iran can begin looking into developing centrifuges that can “enrich uranium 15-20 times faster than” their current centrifuges; Iran can then build those more advanced centrifuges “in less than a decade.” The deal also gives Iran the opportunity to build more heavy water reactors after 15 years and to continue their current use of the Arak heavy water reactor. The deal does compel Iran to modify the reactor so they can’t establish plutonium weaponry, however the Arak reactor “may allow Iranian scientists to get their hands on technology relevant to developing a plutonium-based nuclear bomb” due to a prior agreement between the Iranians and the Chinese.

Additionally, Nagel argues that the nuclear deal completely ignored Iran’s arsenal of ballistic missiles, enabling Iran into launching 23 missile tests from July 2015-January 2018. The deal also allows Iran to test explosives that don’t fall under the deal’s purview of a bomb, thus providing Iran with a loophole to test weaponry.

To solve these issues with the deal, Nagel suggests implementing “anytime, anywhere” IAEA inspections on Iranian civilian and military sites where weaponization activities have taken place and better restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program.

“The termination of restrictions on Iranian nuclear activity is fast approaching,” Nagel writes. “Washington and its allies must fix the fatal flaws of the nuclear deal and prevent Iran from becoming a threshold nuclear state.”

The changes that Nagel recommends are similar to the fixes that President Trump wants in the deal; if those changes aren’t implemented then Trump has signaled that he will cause the United States to exit from the deal altogether.

Read the full report here.

H/T: Washington Free Beacon

Letters to the Editor: Trump and Anti-Semitism, UCLA Professor and Gaza Border Clash


Trump and Anti-Semitism

The Anti-Defamation League reports that global anti-Semitism is increasing. I believe that President Donald Trump is the cause. I believe Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury” indicates that Sheldon Adelson paid Trump a huge sum of money to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. It was just another payoff to Trump’s financial contributors. They pay Trump for government jobs and influence to increase their wealth, regardless of how it harms the public. In my opinion, global anti-Semitism will be mitigated only when Israel unilaterally creates a Palestinian state.

Martin J. Weisman, Westlake Village


A Seat at Yamit’s Table

I love Yamit Behar Wood’s recipes and the stories about her family in Bulgaria.

Her fish (“The Sephardic Answer to Gefilte Fish,” Feb. 9) is very similar to the Friday night one my grandmother used to make, but we hardly knew about salmon in Morocco! She made it with white fish, “alosa” or seabream, a very delicate Mediterranean fish that goes particularly well with that sauce (sorry I don’t know the English name for “alosa,” which sadly has a lot of bones but is so tasty).

As for her leek and beef patties (“Passover Meal Prep: Leek and Beef Patties,” March 16), steaming would allow the vegetable to keep its taste better, rather than the boiling method.

Keep up the good work and happy Passover!

Danielle Abitbol via email


UCLA Professor Ousted

After punishment by a formal agreement with the UCLA administration, professor Gabriel Piterberg resumed his legitimate tenured position only to be hounded off the campus by a mob and a cowardly administration (“ULCA Ousts Professor Over Harrasment Claims,” March 23). I would think the Journal would be against mobs.

Wayne Johnson, Santa Monica


The Councilman and the Rothschilds

Bravo to Democrat Trayon White for his apology in blaming a recent snowstorm on the Jews (“D.C. Councilman Apologizes for Blaming Snowstorm on Jews,” March 23).

But who voted for this man who blamed the Rothschilds for creating “natural disasters”? We need to be discerning who we elect. While intellect does not necessarily make one a good person, it sure helps in making a good leader.

Judith N. Cohen, Valley Village


He Doesn’t Miss the ’60s

Having come of age in the ’60s and been a willing participant in the protests of the anti-war movement while at a university, I realize as a senior citizen today that the era should not be thought of as “romantic” in the least.

In her column “Why I Miss the ’60s” (March 30), Dahlia Scheindlin refers to the era as one of solidarity. That was hardly the case. The reality was it was a terribly divisive time in our nation’s history. I marvel at the fact that a “movement” comprising of the likes of pacifists like David Dellinger, loonies like Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman, those sworn to violence like the Black Panthers, and draft evader David Harris, who persuaded others to go to federal prisons for five years for burning their draft cards, could be termed a movement at all.

Rather, the leaders of said “movement” merely chewed up and spit out those of us who were naive enough to ride along so they could further their own egotistical adventures. In the end, they didn’t give a hoot about the rest of us. Better to have gone to Vietnam.

Marc Yablonka via email


Friendship Circle

Kudos to the high school student who wrote “Ethan and Me” (March 16). Her fresh perspective on volunteering for Friendship Circle was delightful and engaging. May other high school students read her column and may it resonate with them to do the same and contact Friendship Circle. This is coming from an adult who has cerebral palsy. Boy, I wish they had Friendship Circle during my youth. The impact must be tremendous for both recipients and givers.

May this fine organization go from strength to strength.

Susan Cohn, Redding


The Back Story of Israeli-Palestinian conflict

In her column “Our Better Angels” (March 30), Danielle Berrin blames both sides equally in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which ignores facts and history. This may make her feel open-minded and fair, but it’s not true and hurts Israel.

Both sides don’t teach their children to commit murder and pay successful terrorists; only the Palestinians do. When the world offered partition plans in 1937 and ’47, the Israelis accepted both; the Arabs rejected both. Israel has made a number of good-faith offers; the Palestinians have rejected them all. Finally, Israel made peace with Jordan and Egypt, painfully uprooting Sinai settlements, while the Palestinians have made peace with no one, not even one another.

Israel isn’t perfect, but failure to make peace is clearly more the Palestinians’ fault.

Rueben Gordon, Encino 


The Value of Genetic Testing

In a story about Dr. Beth Karlan and her most recent efforts focused on hereditary cancer in the Ashkenazi-Jewish community, she emphasized that knowledge is power (“Genetic Testing Could Be Life-Saving for Ashkenazi Jews,” March 23). The BRCA Founder OutReach (BFOR) study shows us that knowledge can save lives and be a helpful tool in preventing BRCA-related cancers in our families and communities.

This is an exciting step forward that empowers us to own our health. Karlan reminded us of the importance of exploring our medical family history and participating in groundbreaking medical research, not only as individuals but also for our communities. It is through the awareness and education of building a family tree and interviewing older generations that we can obtain information to make important life decisions.

This is a cause that GeneTestNow has been focused on for years; as such, we fully support Karlan’s efforts. Determining your carrier status can prevent cancer and save lives. We endorse screening for recessive conditions in individuals of all ethnic backgrounds. Recessive conditions generally do not affect the health of an individual but give information about risk for disease in his or her children.

In that spirit, we also endorse testing for BRCA mutations as this information before marriage, pre-conception, or at any point in life can provide the gift of information and options to create a healthy family, for both parents and children.

Sharon Glaser, Jerry Factor Co-founders, GeneTestNow.com


Driving in Rainy Los Angeles

The Donald Trump-esque temper tantrum of a column by Ilana Angel was an unsightly blemish on an otherwise wonderful issue of the Journal (“Rainy Los Angeles,” March 30).
To equate yourself with a New York City cab driver implies that you are a rude and aggressive driver. To say you are “fearless and able to handle all kinds of weather” is another clue that contrary to what the writer believes, she is most likely not a good, courteous driver, either.

Most drivers in Los Angeles are not natives, anyway. Most of us come from different states and countries. Yes, many drivers here are bad, but we deal with it and soldier on. If that is too much for you, please do us a favor and move back to Canada.

Chris Reiff, Ventura


Gaza Border Clash

The U.N.’s uproar about Israeli forces killing at least 16 Gazan Arabs trying to violently force their way into Israel is disingenuous. Ten terrorists were identified so far among the dead. When combatants hide among civilians, it’s worse than using human shields; it amounts to using bait for the international news media to heap wrath on the Jews.

Action Group for Palestinians of Syria reports that 23 Palestinians were killed in that country’s civil war during March 2018 alone. Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, the body count for Arab Palestinians is 3,685. Nobody complains to the U.N. about these killings or the massacre by Syrian government forces and their allies, such as Hezbollah and Iran, of hundreds of thousands of Arabs.

It seems that the only time people care about dead Arabs is when they are killed while trying to murder Jews or overrun the Jewish state. Author Ayn Rand once said, “In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit.” She was right.

Desmond Tuck via email


and FROM FACEBOOK:

‘Parkland Students Share Their Stories,’ March 30:

Stop confusing regulation and removal … they are two different things. Also, be aware that no security officer has ever prevented a shooting at a school when a kid is driven to lash out against one or more peers. Also, instead of pouring money into arming staff at schools, return all the funding that has been slashed for preventive programs including counseling and psych services, community outreach, parenting supports, etc. Those reduce the number of shootings.

Michelle Skigen

‘A Haggadah for Every Taste,’ March 30:

As a non-Jew, I just learned something quite new. I was aware of the Passover storytelling of the haggadah but always thought it was standard and unaltered or unalterable as in holy writ. I had no idea of the room available for telling the same story in differing ways. Very interesting!

Keith Harrison

‘Why I Miss the ’60s,’ March 30:

The real and present danger in school is from bullying. According to the CDC, 4,400 students commit suicide each year due to bullying.

Leonard Holtz

March for Our Lives could perhaps better be looked at as a watershed moment, a catalytic event preceding the many changes we need, promoted by our future leaders.

Terry Godfrey

‘In a Secular Passover, Jews Are Nothing Special,’ March 30:

Jews are here to accomplish big things and little everyday things to improve the world. I’m dismayed that you don’t know this.

Bob Manosky

Passover is about faith. No faith — no meaning.

Joseph Crews

Ben Shapiro’s opinion on how secular Jews should mark Passover is worth as much as mine on how religious Jews should do it. Nothing.

Eugene Kalinsky

‘The Seder of Repairing Ourselves,” March 30:

Very akin to “Be the change you wish to see …” This is so very important because this feeds the collective consciousness of the world.

Barbara Jordan Wampler

America Needs Progressives to Shun Farrakhan And Conservatives to Take on Bannon


Photo from Flickr/Public.Resource.Org.

19th Century English scientist Francis Galton invented the dog whistle to message canines at high decibel levels and great distances. In 2018, it seems political dog whistles are manipulating humans with ugly messages.

When President Trump praised departing Chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn, but also described him as a “globalist,” the president was accused of using an anti-Semitic dog whistle. That was nonsense, but it resonates when applied to a tweetstorm by Ann Coulter smearing every high profile Jew, right and left, as insufficiently patriotic “globalists.” Racking up thousands of “likes,” including from Neo-Nazis, Coulter lit up right-wing web sites, 4Chan and on Gab.ai, a micro-blogging service that does not censor hate speech.

If the extreme right developed hyper-acute canine hearing, the political left, is deaf and dumb. A case in point is their reaction to perennial anti-Semite, Reverend Louis Farrakhan. Born in 1933, the year Hitler came to power, he’s still going strong in his eighties spewing hatred of Jews and Israel.

Farrakhan’s favorite “Black Muslim” theological riff -inherited from NOI’s founder Elijah Muhammad, is the fantastic notion that “the evil white race” was invented by the Mecca-born mad scientist “Yakub” (Jacob) on the Aegean island of “Pelan”. Farrakhan keeps pushing the odious fantasy, even though Elijah Muhammad’s own son long ago repudiated it.

Farrakhan’s allure extends to many elites. Veteran Chicago pol, Congressman Danny Davis, declared: “I personally know [Farrakhan], I’ve been to his home, done meetings, participated in events with him. I don’t regard Louis Farrakhan as an aberration or anything, I regard him as an outstanding human being.” Asked specifically about Farrakhan’s history of anti-Semitic statements, “Davis was dismissive and said that many people in politics have a history of inflammatory comments.” But then Congressman Davis backtracked, stating that he would like to know what Farrakhan has said about Jews “recently.” Now, Davis has belatedly criticized Farrakhan.

Davis’ waffling is not surprising since he represents inner city Chicago neighborhoods, long Nation of Islam strongholds. But what about Farrakhan’s intergenerational political romance with Tamika Mallory, co-chair of January 2017’s Women’s March against the incoming Trump Administration? Mallory, an avowed Farrakhan admirer attended his recent annual Saviour’s Day Address and had her photo taken with him. Rather than apologize, she doubled down, comparing Farrakhan to Jesus and proudly shared her attendance on Instagram.

The left/right divide over Farrakhan came to a head on The View. “It’s not just that she attended,” co-host Meghan McCain stated. “She posted a photo to Instagram calling Farrakhan G.O.A.T. which means greatest of all time.”

When Valerie Jarrett jumped in to say that leaders sometimes have to work with people they disagree with, citing the Koch brothers and Rupert Murdoch, McCain rejected the comparisons … “There’s a difference between meeting with someone who was a hate leader…He(Farrakhan) is in the same vein, to me, as David Duke. If you are so hateful and you think Hitler was a great man, I don’t think you deserve a platform.”

In 2018, there are obvious ideological differences between Farrakhan and White racist anti-Semites who marched in Charlottesville. Yet Nation of Islam and American Nazis like George Lincoln Rockwell started informally collaborating in the early 1960s, as did Holocaust Denier Willis Carto in the 1980s. Today, white racist Charlottesville organizer Richard Spencer wants to meet with Farrakhan to work together toward “the sort of self-determination we and the broader Alt-Right support.”

At his recent Saviour’s Day Address, Farrakhan escalated his attacks declaring the “powerful Jews…are my enemy… “Farrakhan has pulled the cover off the eyes of the Satanic Jew and I’m here to say your time is up, your world is through. You good Jews better separate because the satanic ones will take you to hell with them because that’s where they are headed.” At the Academy Awards “time is up” means one thing. To Farrakhan it represents his everlasting threat against the Jewish people.

All this is happening as extreme right European nationalists are using variations on Holocaust Denial to rewrite their nations’ history, seeking to whitewash the crimes of collaborators during the Nazi Holocaust. Across the continent from France to Poland, far-rightists are mainstream power players. A few days ago, exiled While House political adviser Steve Bannon, seeking to become the dog whisperer of the far right on both sides of the Atlantic, lauded these movements in a speech before Marine Le Pen’s Nationalist Front in Paris.

To stop the hate from poisoning America, Conservatives must lead the way in repudiating the vile anti-Semitic dog whistle. Progressives must also finally denounce Farrakhan’s Jew-hatred.


Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action for the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Dr. Harold Brackman, a historian is a consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Trump Names John Bolton As His New National Security Adviser


FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Oxon Hill, Maryland, U.S. February 24, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

President Trump announced on Twitter on Mar. 22 that former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton would be his new national security adviser.

Trump tweeted that Bolton would be instated on April 9:

 

 

The New York Times originally broke the news, reporting that Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and Trump had been discussing him leaving the job for awhile now but the timing was accelerated to end the speculation and to ensure that Trump had the security team he wanted before he meets with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

McMaster and Trump have been clashing for quite some time.

“General McMaster’s serious, somber style and preference for order made him an uncomfortable fit with a president whose style is looser, and who has little patience for the detail and nuance of complex national security issues,” the Times reported. “They had differed on policy, with General McMaster cautioning against ripping up the nuclear deal with Iran without a strategy for what would come next, and tangling with Mr. Trump over the strategy for American forces in Afghanistan.”

McMaster also seemed to be less of a friend to Israel and softer on radical Islam than Trump, as McMaster had reportedly viewed Israel as “an occupying power” and screamed at the Israelis for their concerns over Hezbollah.

Bolton, on the other hand, is as pro-Israel as it gets. In November, he wrote an op-ed for Fox News calling for the American embassy to be moved to Jerusalem as soon as possible and in May, Bolton told the Jerusalem Post, “I don’t think the two-state solution is viable anymore.” Bolton argued that Judea and Samaria should be divided between Israel and Jordan and the Gaza Strip should be given to Egypt. When Bolton was assistant secretary of state from 1989-1993, “he coordinated the effort to rescind the United Nations resolution from the 1970s that equated Zionism with racism,” according to Hank Berrien of the Daily Wire.

The former U.N. ambassador has also detailed a lengthy exit strategy for leaving the Iran nuclear deal, suggesting that there is an increased likelihood that Trump will pull out from the deal altogether. Bolton has also been a staunch critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed in February titled “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.”

Letters to the Editor: Nikki Haley, Seeds of Hate and Trump Derangement Syndrome


Nikki Haley Speaks for Many

How refreshing is it to finally have someone like Nikki Haley speak the truth about the anti-Semitic policies of the United Nations (“Haley Rips U.N. at AIPAC for ‘Bullying’ of Israel,” March 6). The United Nations truly acted as a “bully” toward Israel while former President Barack Obama’s administration did nothing but pass more anti-Israel resolutions. Haley’s voice for Israel and demands for changes in the U.N. are finally being heard. What we need is more people like Haley who are not afraid to speak the truth and recognize the U.N. for what it is.

Alexander Kahan via email

I enjoyed reading the brief on Haley’s appearance at AIPAC. Although I did not attend the most recent AIPAC in Washington, D.C., I did enjoy reading some of the speeches, especially Haley’s. As we all know, Israel has been the punching bag in the U.N. for many years and, regardless of which country is being bullied, the idea of fairness in order to bring unity among the nations should be top priority for the U.N., no matter which country it is.

Ariel Hakim, Los Angeles


The Seeds of Hate

As much as I am in favor of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, I don’t believe that getting them together will help (“Seeking Peace From the Ground Up,” March 2). Yes, you were allowed to feel hate when the 13-year-old boy was brutally murdered. That is what everyone’s initial reaction should be. I don’t see how you can forget that feeling and move on. I agree that you can’t solve the conflict, but I don’t agree that you can prevent racism. As nice as that sounds, I don’t believe that is realistic.

David Raviv via email

I have mixed emotions about the Roots summer camp. It is true that anger is a horrible sin, however, it is best to keep people who commit acts of terror as far away as possible. It has been proven that we cannot appease the Arabs, and I think it is time that we stopped trying. Shaul Judelman is correct in that we should not let adults’ conflict cloud our children’s minds, but this is a different situation. The best thing we can do now is to stand our ground and keep far away from hateful people.

Yosef Khorramian, Los Angeles

I really agree with the points reporter Deborah Danan makes in this story when she talks about making peace with the Palestinians instead of getting angry and causing conflicts, because if we just fight and argue with them, peace will not be achieved. I also agree with creating the Roots program because I think that having young Israelis and Palestinians work together at a young age will bring more respect to both sides.

Borna Haghighat, Rancho Palos Verdes

I applaud the effort by Shaul Judelman. I think it is great that he is attempting to end racism between Palestinians and Jews. However, one must look at the bigger picture. Ultimately, I do not believe that his effort will make much of a difference. The Palestinians raise their children from Day One to hate Jews. This summer camp does not really change that. However, his actions are still having a positive effect on the people around him.

Aryeh Hirt, Los Angeles


Security Tactics to Protect Our Students

Israeli security expert Oded Raz is correct in stating many tactics can make our schools safer (“Israeli Security Expert Talks About Tactics to Protect Our Schools,” Feb. 23).

When asked, “How can America make high school campuses safer?” Raz mentioned four things: concept, procedures, technology and manpower. I agree with every idea.

Also, when asked, “What is the most critical skill for security guards?” Raz said that searching for suspicious people around the school is the most critical skill. If everything is clear, you can let the students and teachers go inside. I also agree with this.

Moshe Gamaty via email


When Ashkenazi Met Sephardic

I agree with David Suissa that we live in a time when Israel is divided by Sephardim and Ashkenazim (“Living in Ashkefardic Times,” March 9). We put this boundary in between us that divides us. I agree with him that we need to combine our cultures. It was very nice that his shul did it. The shul decided to combine the two sides and make it one community. We live in a society today where everyone classifies themselves as Sephardic and Ashkenazi, not a Jew, and that needs to change.

Saul Barnes, Beverly Hills


Trump Derangement Syndrome

Unlike the magnanimous David Suissa, I have little patience for Donald Trump derangement (“Why We Can’t Talk About Trump,” March 16). Former President Barack Obama, cool and stylish, began his term by praising the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, ignoring their vicious Jew-hatred, then refused to visit Israel while there, and snubbed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife throughout his term. By normalizing and promoting Israel-bashing Muslim groups, he facilitated the growth of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and turned the Democratic Party against Israel. He sabotaged Israel in the U.N., but worst of all, he surrendered control of Syria to Vladimir Putin and sent tens of billions of dollars to Iran, which now threatens Israel’s existence.

Trump, by contrast, condemned Palestinian leaders for paying Arabs to kill Jews, condemned U.N. Relief and Works Agency for abetting Hamas terrorism, and cut off U.S. funds for both. He then overruled the State Department to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Even though Indian-American Gov. Nikki Haley didn’t support Trump’s campaign, he still appointed her to the U.N., where she shamed the world’s tyrants and Jew-haters for ganging up on Israel, and decreed that Israel’s enemies no longer receive U.S. aid.  Simply put, Donald Trump, though outrageous and crude, is the best friend Israel’s had since Harry Truman.

Rueben Gordon via email

I believe that President Donald Trump is only the symptom of Trump Derangement Syndrome — he is not the disease.

I admit I am increasingly deranged as I witness the escalating erosion of decency, the normalization and acceptance of deception, the brazen, unchallenged corruption and disregard for law and ethics.

Trump’s tactics are textbook projection. He disowns his venality and blames others for his sins. We are his goats of Azazel, commanded to carry his sins out of sight.

I am baffled that anyone who claims to be an Israelite (one who wrestles) can be assuaged by his antics. He represents Amalek, the anti-Jew who mocks our commandments. Amalek represents our dark, destructive impulses, literally our inner “dweller in the vale,” our Yetzer Hara.  Amalek has many descendants and Trump and his co-conspirators are the most recent, and in my experience, the most frightening eruptions of our individual and national shadows that I have known in my lifetime.

Harriet Rossetto, Los Angeles


The Dating World

Illana Angel’s column should be congratulated for her dating approach as a divorced woman, which is to lead (her son) by example and date only Jewish men (“The Foibles of Dating Nice Jewish Men,” March 2). We know from the Pew report that 90 percent of the children of intermarried couples look at the intermarrying example set by their Jewish parent and do the same thing, resulting in the total assimilation of those Jews. I hope she finds a Jewish husband soon. Even better, I hope her son follows his mother’s example and some day finds a nice Jewish woman to marry.

Jason Kay via email

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