September 24, 2018

Jewish Groups Call for Disciplinary Action Against Michigan Professor

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Myriad Jewish groups are calling for University of Michigan Professor John Cheney-Lippold to be disciplined for refusing to write a letter of recommendation for a student to study abroad in Israel.

In a Friday letter organized by the AMCHA Initiative, 58 Jewish groups, including World Jewish Congress, The Lawfare Project and the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, said that recent statements from University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel and the university were insufficient.

“Impeding a student’s ability to participate in a university-approved educational program in order to carry out political activism is reprehensible. Individual faculty members have the right to express public support for an academic boycott of Israel,” the letter states. “But when faculty like Prof. Cheney-Lippold go as far as implementing the boycott’s guidelines by taking action to suppress students’ ability to travel to or study about Israel, they have abrogated the most basic professorial responsibility of promoting the academic welfare of their students.

“Such discriminatory behavior that impedes the rights of students must be sanctioned to the fullest extent of university policy.”

The letter added that the Wednesday statement from the university, saying they were “disappointed” in Cheney-Lippold, but didn’t actually condemn Cheney-Lippold’s actions and gave credence to the various opinions held by professors at the university.

“Both your omission and inclusion give the impression that individual U-M professors will be permitted by your administration to discriminate against students wanting to study about and in Israel,” the letter states. “This is deeply alarming, given that there are at least two dozen U-M faculty members in a number of departments who have expressed public support for the academic boycott of Israel, including seven faculty members currently serving as chairs and directors of U-M academic departments and programs. Left unaddressed, this isolated incident could lead to unchecked discrimination, and the denial to students of their fundamental rights.”

Additionally,  in a Friday press release, the Simon Wiesenthal Center called for the Department of Education to investigate the matter, as well as for the university to discipline in the professor.

“This goes well beyond criticizing Israel, disagreeing with Israeli policy or even a personal boycott of Israel, which is despicable but a protected right,” Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper said. “Jewish students are being punished for their affinity with Israel. In denying the letter of recommendation purely on his dislike of Israel and using a double standard to justify it, Cheney-Lippold has egregiously violated this young woman’s civil rights.”

Cooper asked if Cheney-Lippold would ever refuse to write a letter of recommendation for a student to study abroad in China or Pakistan, calling it “a gross hypocrisy.”

“Jewish students need protection from the likes of Cheney-Lippold and the academic bigotry he practices,” Cooper said. “University of Michigan and other great universities must hold anti-Semitic civil rights violators accountable for undermining the academy’s core mission.”

StandWithUs and Alums for Campus Fairness also sent a letter to Schlissel arguing that Cheney-Lippold should be disciplined based on the university’s policies.

“Mr. Cheney-Lippold’s email discriminates against Jewish students based on their religion, Israeli students based on their national origin and others at the University of Michigan who wish to study in Israel,” the letter states. “Furthermore, his refusal to write a letter of recommendation based on his support of a discriminatory academic boycott adversely affected a student’s education at the university. As you know, studying abroad is an enriching educational opportunity and a vital service offered to University of Michigan students. Mr. Cheney-Lippold is creating an ‘intimidating, hostile, [and] offensive’ education environment for this student, which unreasonably interferes with her’“participation in a University activity,’ in violation of university policy.”

Texas High School Curriculum Blames Arab World for Israel-Palestinian Conflict

Photo from PxHere.

The Texas State Board of Education voted on several changes on Friday to the high school curriculum in the state, including teaching students that the Arab world is to blame for the ongoing Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The Dallas Morning News reports that “Arab rejection of the State of Israel has led to ongoing conflict” has be re-inserted into the Texas high school curriculum; students will have to explain why the “Arab rejection of the State of Israel” is to blame for the current Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Additionally, Texas high school students will be taught that Moses was an influential figure on the American founding, as were Judeo-Christian principles.

Hillary Clinton and Helen Keller were among the notable figures who were taken out of Texas curriculum.

The vote is preliminary; a final vote will be held in November.

The Jerusalem Post notes that Texas “leads the textbook industry in approving content, curriculum standards and supplemental materials for public schools.”

According to Jewish Virtual Library, the Arabs rejected the Peel Commission’s 1937 proposal to establish a Jewish state and an Arab state and rejected the United Nations partition plan to establish two states. In 2014, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that the Palestinians “will never recognize the Jewishness of the state of Israel.”

Using the Bully Pulpit on High Holy Days

Editor’s note: Over Rosh Hashanah, local rabbis spoke on a variety of topics, but three in particular took aim at the policies of President Donald Trump’s administration. Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels of Beth Shir Shalom in Santa Monica made national and international headlines when he excoriated his former congregant, Stephen Miller, now Trump’s senior adviser. IKAR Senior Rabbi Sharon Brous received a thunderous standing ovation after her 30-minute sermon pointing out how unwell our country is but that it’s not too late to build a new America. And Rabbi Steven Leder of Wilshire Boulevard Temple spoke about the “daily cocktail of anxiety” we see in the news and how the Unetane Tokef prayer can help guide us in these troubled times. Below are edited excerpts from their Rosh Hashanah sermons.   

Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels: An Open Letter to Stephen Miller
I was once your rabbi. When you were about 9 or 10 years old, your family belonged to Beth Shir Shalom in Santa Monica. You attended our religious school.

The actions that you now encourage President Trump to take make it obvious to me that you didn’t get my/our Jewish message. I understand that you were a major contributor to the zero-tolerance policy Attorney General Jeff Sessions initiated to punish and deter desperate families from coming to the United States by separating children from their parents at the border. That notion is completely antithetical to everything I know about Judaism, Jewish law and Jewish values.

Mr. Miller, the policy that you helped to conceive and put into practice is cruel. What you would have learned from me is that ours is a spiritual path that is focused on one task: bringing the shattered pieces of the vessel in which the universe was born back together in both a literal and spiritual repair — a healing of transcendent influence and impact. Mr. Miller, Judaism is a way of responding to the mundane and the unexpected, always seeking the response that is at once the most just and the most merciful. We Jews have chosen our history to be our mandate. We choose to recall and emphasize our most ancient ancestor, Abraham, as a “wandering Aramean,” i.e., a refugee, an immigrant. We choose to remember and underscore that the quintessential experience of the Jewish people is both the slavery in and the exodus from ancient Egypt. We are all refugees, Mr. Miller.  

Honestly, Mr. Miller, you’ve set back the Jewish contribution to making the world spiritually whole through your arbitrary division of these desperate families at our southern border. It’s not that we can’t reverse what you’ve done. We can, we are, and we will. 

We’re not going away, Mr. Miller, and whether you identify now as Jew is not really my concern. What is troublesome is that some of my colleagues and others are concerned about what I might have taught you when you were a member of our community. I can assure you, as I can assure them, that what I taught is a Judaism that cherishes wisdom, values honed over four millennia, wide horizons and an even wider embrace. 

Is there still time, is there still a chance that you might change your attitude? That’s up to you, Mr. Miller. I will never give up hope that you can open your heart.

In the meantime, I will act in accordance with the values that our tradition conveys, values that go beyond the superficial and time-limited expediencies of your allegiance to party and a temporal leader, and I will engage against you in a machloket l’shem shamayim, a struggle for the sake of all that is righteous, not merely what you may deem as right.

Know this: Regardless of whether the Trump administration decides to be accountable, we are choosing to be accountable. We believe, as Abraham Joshua Heschel taught us so precisely, “In a free society, some are guilty, all are responsible.” Because we want this society to remain free, we will continue to act. Someone needs to clean up this mess and, in concert with many others, it will be your long-suffering, uncomfortable Jewish people.

Do you know the Yiddish word mensch, Mr. Miller? In Yiddish, a mensch is a fully-constituted, human and humane being. In Hebrew it parallels to the word ish. Hillel the Elder taught us: “B’makom she-ein anashim, hishtadeil l’hiyot ish”. (Avot 2:5) In other words, “In a place where no one is acting like a mensch, be one!” That’s what we will be doing, Mr. Miller, because that’s who we are. We can only hope you will decide to join us.

Read more of his sermon’s here. 

Rabbi Sharon Brous: Building A New America
We are not well when racist dog whistles today sound more like bullhorns, when Black athletes are scorned and penalized for engaging in nonviolent protests against police violence. When the Justice Department actively works to roll back civil rights achievements of previous administrations

Yes, it’s a victory that only a dozen pathetic Nazis showed up to march in [Washington,] D.C. on the anniversary of Charlottesville, but friends — they’ve moved from the streets to the ballots! There are now several avowed white nationalists, Holocaust deniers and Nazis on the ballot in state and federal races this fall. Organizations that monitor hate groups say it’s clear that white nationalists feel emboldened when the president himself advances their agenda every time he discharges an insult about Muslims, Mexicans, African Americans. No, we are not well.

We are not well when there are one or two shooting incidents in American schools every single week. When middle schoolers report being afraid to return to the classroom because they’re scared they might get shot. And when the Secretary of Education toys with the idea of allowing states to siphon federal funding intended for the arts and music, mental health and technology programs instead to the purchase of guns for teachers. We are not well.

“Oh, keep your politics off the pulpit!” they say. 

As if our Torah is not an inherently political document. As if the story of slaves rising up before the most powerful ruler of the ancient world to demand freedom and dignity is not a political message. 

This I know: Our Torah did not survive thousands of years only to be muted precisely the moment its eternal message matters most. We make a mockery of our tradition when we suggest that the way we live in human society, the way we treat one another, the way we care for — or neglect to care for — the least among us is outside the scope of religion.

What we need is not to return to a time of mythical greatness. We need to build America anew, equipped to hold us in all our diversity and complexity. 

Yes, we are unwell, but we can — and we must — build a new America.

And it’s already happening. This year, we witnessed the beginning of a nonviolent revolution, as a million students walked out of their classrooms and took to the streets. This army is led by 16-year-olds who, while hiding under desks and behind file cabinets, saw their friends shot. Who saw the sickening inaction, the hypocrisy and complacency of our elected officials, and stood up to insist that if the grown-ups wouldn’t do it, they would bend the arc of history themselves.

Our children are in the streets shouting, Pasul! Pasul! It’s not kosher! This is old America, the America of greed, corruption and hatred, of systems built to protect and sustain white supremacy, to entrench power in the hands of the few and keep guns in the hands of the many. It is foul and corrupted. And unlike us, the grown-ups, these kids won’t even consider that change is impossible.

It is their passion that will lead the way to a new America. It’s their moral clarity. Their fidelity to the truth. Their chemical allergy to hypocrisy. They are leading, and we need to stand behind them now, with the full force of our political, spiritual, intellectual and material resources. To do anything less would be a gross abdication of moral responsibility.

There may be a time when it really is too late to redeem America. Thank God, we are not there yet. 

The new America won’t come easily; we’re going to have to fight for it. 

We will rebuild this nation with love. There is a new America being born, and it is fierce, gorgeous and fair. It is built on justice and mercy, and it makes room for everyone. 

To usher this new America into the world, we — every one of us — will need to be brave, brave, brave. 

Read, listen or watch the full sermon here.

Rabbi Steven Z. Leder: Double Down on Your Relationships
I suffer from anxiety. It is very real and sometimes very frightening. It can ruin parts of days, weeks, months and years. As a rabbi, I see so much dysfunction, so much hurtful gossip, so much cancer and death that it is hard not to feel like I’m next.

And, of course, there is the news. That daily toxic cocktail of mind-boggling instability, criminality and drama in Washington, tweeting and testing the very fabric of democracy itself — wildfires, Putin, Assad, Iran, North Korea, global warming, Mueller, racism, corruption, sex scandals, immigration cruelty, floods, homelessness — over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. And tonight we’re supposed to wish each other a shanah tovah? Really? Yes. Really.  

Our ancestors put celebrating on Rosh Hashanah ahead of the past remorse we face on Yom Kippur. First comes hope in the future, then the muck of our past. And believe me, the sages knew a lot more about anxiety than we do. Consider the Unetane Tokef prayer we say on Rosh Hashanah. The one that asks, “Who by water? Who by fire? Who will be troubled? Who will be needy? Who shall live and who shall die?” That prayer was written at least 13 centuries ago.  

Life 13 centuries ago was nothing but anxiety. Rape, murder, muggings, death by fire or flood or plague or starvation or war were regular, daily occurrences. But our ancestors had a different, more powerful prescription for managing their anxiety and fear. I try to use it every day. Remember how that prayer ends; what comes after that long list of terrible things to worry about in the coming year? It ends with three simple things that can get us all through. “But teshuvah (repentance), tefilah (prayer) and tzedakah (generosity),” says that wise prayer, “Ma-a-virin et roah ha-gezarah (will make whatever comes next year easier to live with and through).” 

This was the ancient rabbis’ simple, three-part formula for surviving in their time, and it can be ours, too. First, teshuvah — repentance. And what is repentance really, other than trying to make things right with others? Our ancestors lived in small villages, where the key to survival was the quality of relationships with a handful of people who really mattered. Are we any different? Do any of us have more than a small handful of people in our lives who really matter?    

So double down, says the Unetane Tokef. When you are in pain, when you are lost, when you are afraid — double down on your relationships. Cherish them. Nurture them. Whoever you came here with tonight or called to wish a shanah tovah, that person by your side right now, he loves you, she loves you, he will shelter you when the rain falls, she will hold you when the darkness is too dark to see. No one endures suffering better alone. Tend to your relationships with teshuvah. Do not let the centrifuge of life’s stresses whirl your family and your friendships apart.

Double down. Make things right with the people you love. For only love can lift us from our suffering and our fear. Click here to read the entire sermon. 

App for Fighting Anti-Semitism Gets Foundation Grant, a smartphone app that urges its users to take action against online anti-Semitic content, has received a $190,000 grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles. will receive the money “over three years to mobilize, train, empower and engage hundreds of teens and young adults in the L.A. Jewish community to effectively advocate for Israel across social media platforms,” the Foundation said in a press release. CEO Yarden Ben Yosef told the Journal in a phone interview that the grant money would be used to open two media rooms in L.A. — one in the Israeli American Council’s Shepher Community Center in Woodland Hills and the other at a location yet to be decided.

“We’re trying to be a platform for different organizations and different people who choose to be part of this powerful community, and basically to be the answer for the anti-Semitism and anti-Israel initiatives in the L.A. area,” Ben Yosef said.

He added that UCLA’s recent decision to allow Students for Justice in Palestine to hold its national conference on the university’s campus in November shows the necessity “to bring the knowhow and method to the L.A. community.”, a joint project of the Israeli American Council (IAC), the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) and the Maccabee Task Force, is a social media app that notifies users of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel content online, provides them opportunities to fight back, and awards them points for completing “missions.”

Ben Yosef claims has a 95 percent success rate at forcing the removal of anti-Semitic content online, saying it has played a role in getting “dozens” of posts taken down on a weekly basis from platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. He said a video posted on Instagram titled “How to Kill an Israeli” was taken down after nearly 300 users urged Instagram to remove it.

“This is why a lot of people from the community chose to send us content,” Ben Yosef said. “They know that we are their tool to remove this content from online.”

Earlier this year, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan praised when he announced he was launching “an international effort to unite Israel’s supporters around the globe and provide them with a platform that strengthens their activities, with tools that will help all of us fight hatred together, and with resources to spread the truth.”

“Ben Yosef claims has a 95 percent success rate at forcing the removal of anti-Semitic content online, saying it has played a role in getting “dozens” of posts taken down on a weekly basis.

“Along with civil society initiatives such as the application developed by the Israeli-American Council and IDC students, we believe that this will be a game-changer in defending Israel online and around the world,” Erdan said in February.

The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement also has taken note of the app’s success, and anti-Israel websites such as Electronic Intifada have attempted to discredit it.

“They say that we’re not a real grass-roots movement, it’s [an Israeli] government initiative or whatever,” Ben Yosef said. “The truth is we’re not getting any support from the government. It’s only a people initiative — grass-roots.”

Ben Yosef added, “When you see the founders, IAC and the IDC, both are nongovernment organizations, and you realize how ridiculous it is to think that is a government organization.”’s various media rooms — some of which are located in Boston and New Jersey — are in partnerships with and received funding from local organizations. The media rooms are staffed by volunteers and are given leeway to determine the specific online content to go after.

The app has a 4.5-out-of-5-star rating in Apple’s App Store.

“This is the story of,” Ben Yosef said, “to do a ripple effect of different communities and, in the end, to create a huge crowdsourcing of online activism for the Jewish people and Israel.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan Professor Rescinds Offer to Write Recommendation for Student to Study in Israel

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A professor at the University of Michigan is rescinding an offer he made to write a letter of recommendation for a student because she’s studying abroad in Israel.

Club Z, a Zionist Youth Organization, first posted a screenshot of an email from John Cheney-Lippold, who teaches cultural studies and Internet studies at the University of Michigan, to a student identified as Abigail Ingber. In the email, Cheney-Lippold tells Ingber that “many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel,” which “includes writing letters of recommendation for students.”

“I should have let you know earlier, and for that I apologize,” Cheney-Lippold wrote. “But for reasons of these politics, I must rescind my offer to write your letter.”

The professor concluded his email by stating that he would be “happy” to write other letters of recommendation for Abigail.

An unbelievable email from a University of Michigan professor, who has refused to write a letter of recommendation for a…

Posted by Club Z on Sunday, September 16, 2018

Cheney-Lippold told the Michigan Daily that he refused to write the letter because he believes “the idea that people who are being discriminated against or people who need help … I feel compelled to help them.”

“I was following a call by representatives of Palestinian civil society to boycott Israel in a very similar tactical frame as South Africa,” Cheney-Lippold said. “The idea is that I support communities who organize themselves and ask for international support to achieve equal rights, freedom and to prevent violations of international law.”

Ingber told the Algemeiner in a note that Cheney-Lippold’s email “is very disturbing, as he is allowing his personal beliefs (and apparently those of ‘many university departments’) to interfere with my dreams of studying abroad.”

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted that the professor’s actions were “unacceptable” and that “the University needs to publicly clarify it opposes the academic boycott of Israel.”

The University of Michigan said in a statement that they are opposed to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and that “no academic department or any other unit at the University of Michigan has taken a position that departs from this long-held university position” against an academic boycott.

“The academic goals of our students are of paramount importance. It is the university’s position to take all steps necessary to make sure our students are supported,” the statement read. “It is disappointing that a faculty member would allow their personal political beliefs to limit the support they are willing to otherwise provide for our students.”

“We will engage our faculty colleagues in deep discussions to clarify how the expression of our shared values plays out in support of all students.”

Tilly Shames, the executive director of University of Michigan Hillel, said in a statement sent to the Journal:

“University of Michigan Hillel has been actively engaged with leadership of the University to address concerns regarding a University professor’s refusal to offer a letter of recommendation to a student applying to an Israeli university. The professor’s decision is antithetical to the academic values of the university, as it denies the student their right to the education they choose. A professor’s political views should not factor into any student’s access to academic opportunities, including studying in Israel.

We appreciate the University’s serious attention to this matter. University of Michigan Hillel will continue to actively work with the Provost’s Office and University administration as they address this matter. We are engaging with our student leaders on how best to advocate and educate on this issue among our campus community.”

Attorney Alexandra Leichter wrote in a letter to the university and obtained by the Journal that it’s “appalling that the University of Michigan, which clearly voted down the abhorrent and racist BDS proposal, now issues such a mild response to Prof. Cheney-Lippold’s misdeed that it is ‘disappointed’ in Mr. Cheney’s Lippold’s action.”

“Prof. Cheney-Lippold’s conduct should be thoroughly investigated, his file should contain documentation showing this reprehensible conduct, and if his belief systems continue to prevent him from appropriately executing his duties as a Professor, he should be dismissed,” Leichter wrote. “It is a fraud on the student body to continue to accept Prof. Cheney-Lippold’s presence and similar conduct, knowing that he vets his Recommendations not on the basis of the student’s academic credentials but on the basis of the student’s belief system differing from those of the professor.”

Masha Merkulova, the executive director and founder of Club Z, told the Journal in a phone interview that the Department of Education should investigate the matter.

“[The] Department of Education has adopted [the] State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism, which includes demonizing Israel and holding Israel to a double-standard,” Merkulova said. “This is a school that receives federal funding, so I think the Department of Education should take note of this.”

Cheney-Lippold has not responded to the Journal’s request for comment.

Bolton Threatens Sanctions Against ICC

National Security Adviser John Bolton discusses "Protecting American Constitutionalism and Sovereignty from International Threats," at a forum hosted by the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies in Washington, U.S. September 10, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

John Bolton, President Trump’s National Security Adviser, threatened sanctions against the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday in response to the entity’s potential investigation into the United States for alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

At a Federalist Society luncheon, Bolton declared that the court has no jurisdiction over the United States and its allies and called the ICC “illegitimate.”

The International Criminal Court unacceptably threatens American sovereignty and U.S. national security interests,” Bolton said.

Bolton added, “If the court comes after us, Israel or other U.S. allies, we will not sit quietly.”

The ICC called Bolton’s statement “shocking” and said they would be “undeterred” by it.

I think what the U.S. is promoting is a sense of the ‘righteousness’ and being above the law,” ICC representative Amal Nasser told the Chicago Tribune in an email.

Israel recently protested against the ICC for launching an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israel against the Palestinians; the Palestinian Authority is a member of the ICC despite not being an official state. The United States U.S and Israel are among the countries that do not recognize the ICC as a legitimate body.

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

REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti 2018 Rosh Hashanah interview [full transcript]

Eric Garcetti.

Last month, I interviewed L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti in his office at L.A. City Hall. An edited version of the interview ran in this week’s Rosh Hashanah issue. This is a full version of the interview.

RYAN TOROK: This is a very cool office, by the way.

ERIC GARCETTI: This has been the mayor’s office since the building opened in the ‘20s, late ‘20s, ’28.

RT: How much of this [furniture and artwork] is reflective of your own taste, a lot of it?

EG: I lost the pictures. I had pictures before. There was the formal desk here, a bunch of nondescript furniture, and a weird mural on the wall that was like a Greetings from L.A. postcard, with the Observatory. This, obviously, I kept [he said, pointing to a sign on his office wall] but I wanted it to say “L.A.” and I wanted it to be brighter. It was really dark in here, with massive drapes. So, I lightened it up. I took some art from MOCA and LACMA, so these are both from classic California modernists, and this is Ed Moses, who just passed. All the furniture is designed by a famous California designer and architect. I got rid of my desk; just that meeting table, because that’s what you mostly need for collaboration, some formal place to sit.

RT: Where do you stay when you’re sitting at a computer?

EG: There’s a little, small office back there and a computer. I’ll be on my laptop. I don’t spend much time on the computer at all, so I do most of my email on my phone, if I do any at all. But I take meetings in here. Sometimes here, and then our press conference room if we have a crowd bigger than ten. I can do meetings of up to 40 or 50 people in there. But I’m usually out in the city. I would say I’m in the office less than half the time, for sure, maybe a third of the time, a quarter of the time.

RT: You said somewhere that you typically work an 18-hour work day, is that right?

EG: Probably all in, yeah. We subtract a couple of hours for some family time somewhere in there, hopefully, but the bookends of the day are probably 16, sometimes as long as 18 hours. I basically wake up here, check what happened last night, talk to the police chief or texting somebody back. In the night, I might be talking to a supervisor at 10 o’clock at night about homelessness or something. You’re never not on the job. I would say being mayor is pretty much—because something could happen at any time. You can be working for the city, a different city, and you spend five hours, essentially here because you’re on the phone with folks and doing stuff; what’s going on, if a power outage has happened. I was on a rare, personal family vacation, but I was texting people in long streams, trying to figure out when the power would be on for their house and getting better information for them. Don’t run for mayor if you don’t want to basically be working all the time. But I am good at trying to carve out family time.

RT: How difficult is that balance, that work/life balance?

EG: It’s tough. I mean, that’s one thing I won’t sacrifice. I’ve watched some people involved really burn themselves out, or they’re at a different point in their life where their kids are off to college or something, so they’ll go to three or four events a night. I don’t do many of those events. I might do one, maybe two, and I don’t do them every night because even though I’ll be working at home, I tuck my daughter into bed. If I’m not there for dinner or for tuck-in time, I don’t think the Chamber of Commerce will remember if I went to three or six of their galas, but Maya [his daughter] will remember if Dad was home. So, my priority is pretty straight there.

RT: Are there particular organizations that are non-profits, maybe specifically, Jewish non-profits, that you think are doing great work that you lend your name and voice to?

EG: Absolutely. And one of the things if I can’t go to a lot of their events is I’ll do a recorded video for them, same speech, essentially, that I do in person. Yeah, there’s a ton of organizations. Let’s see. JVS, obviously, which is linked to the oldest non-profit in the city, the Hebrew Benevolent Society. It does a lot of great work, whether it’s job training, community strengthening. There’s a lot of Jewish-led organizations, obviously, when you think about people like Stephanie Klasky-Gamer, who has L.A. Family Housing, which used to be—anyway, it’s L.A. Family Housing now, which I think is the premier homelessness organization, or anti-homelessness organization. On a personal level, I get from the Federation all sorts of stuff. I think the Zimmer Museum is doing great work and looking to grow. I’m a subscriber to PJ Books…

RT: Are you?

EG: … although we’ve got to get some more women-focused books there. I was very involved at the time with the Progressive Jewish Alliance, which is now Bend the Arc. They’re part of a coalition of folks, individual rabbis, that are doing great stuff as well. Temple Judea on the issue of homelessness, an advisory group of faith leaders that includes some great rabbis, like my own rabbi, Sharon Brous. L.A. is filled with organizations. Some of them are so small. There might be a school on Fairfax that happens to be doing something quietly on the side, or the folks that do emergency response folks, like backup…

RT: Hatzalah?

EG: Hatzalah. Thank you, guys. Had a brain fart there. Hatzalah. There’s people who step up and fill voids all the time from the community, and I think a lot of big organizations in town have very strong Jewish leadership, whether it’s Jerry Neuman, who’s the incoming Chair of the Chamber of Commerce, or Eli and Edie Broad. I think they follow a long tradition, which my family is part of, too.

RT: You’re Jewish on your mother’s side, and you became more serious about your Judaism in college, is that correct?

EG: Probably when I went to Oxford, actually. A little bit in college at Columbia, but it was when I was studying graduate studies at Oxford. It was interesting. I have people [I met at Oxford] that now are all over the news, from Rabbi Shmuley [Boteach], a pretty conservative voice, to Peter Beinart, he was in my Rhodes class, who got arrested—not arrested—detained at the [Israeli] airport.

RT: One was detained in Israel. The other [Boteach] was defending Roseanne.

EG: Exactly. But we are a big tent of Jews. I think we’re the original big tent, quite literally. We put the big tents in the desert, so a lot of people use that as a political term. I think we invented it. But, yeah, that’s when I got more serious about exploring—I mean, the two peaks were probably Gindling Hilltop Camp between sixth and seventh grade, and then a new chapter began where I just felt more faith and connected. But I had been pretty uneducated in terms of a Jewish religious upbringing because I come from a pretty secular tradition in my mom’s family, but always felt a strong sense of identity, but not as much religious practice. So now, that’s something that I’ve come more to.

RT: Is that largely because of [IKAR Rabbi] Sharon Brous?

EG: No, no, parallel to Sharon. There’s all sorts of things. I think Sharon and I participated in something that I can pinpoint, which is Reboot. I did that, and I think that was part of thinking about this more like how can you integrate practice into your daily life, and that was a part of it. It was a space that Jews who had not necessarily been hard-core Jews to figure out what Judaism means to them and what’s the role of Judaism in the world. But we also had some practice involved in that. And then Sharon started IKAR, and when I showed up there, it was the first feeling I had of oh, this is what a shul is supposed to be. I went to high school with that person. I recalled that person. We were in Student Council. We’d been activists together. It felt like the family writ large, which is what I think a congregation either becomes or should be. Other times, I went to my cousin’s shul growing up or went to camp, and felt like I belonged, but felt like a little bit of an outsider because it wasn’t my congregation, because I didn’t have one. And now, since that camp, because I’m a member of it at Wilshire Boulevard, those places feel like home.

RT: You must really connect to Wilshire Boulevard from the standpoint that they’re really prioritizing art and architecture and creating these kinds of spaces.

EG: It’s a gorgeous space. It connects me with the history of Judaism in Los Angeles, but it also connects me with the future, because they took a pretty bold investment. The Judaism story in L.A. is the story of westward expansion, right?

RT: Right.

EG: And eastward abandonment, in some cases. And even Wilshire Boulevard started to have as equal, if not bigger, pull on the West Side until they decided they were going to redo the campus. Erika Glazer stepped up. They built a school where they had an engagement with the Mid-Wilshire/Koreatown area…

RT: Sure.

EG: …and the human services aspect with the center they opened up.

RT: The Karsh.

EG: Yeah, the Karsh Family Center, which was built. The Karshes made a huge bet, too. So, to me, it connects with me on both sides: the beauty of Judaism in both senses; aesthetic beauty and the moral beauty of it.

RT: Do you consider yourself any particular denomination?

EG: No. I go to conservative shul at IKAR, so I guess that would make me more conservative in practice. And I love that, but there’s something about the strands of the social justice that permeates Reform Judaism that appeals to me, too. IKAR is a conservative practice that brings in the urgency of social and political reflection.

RT: There’s actually been a debate recently in the pages of The Jewish Journal about whether or not Tikkun Olam and social justice are legitimate Jewish values. As someone who’s also spent time studying Torah and Talmud with Rabbi Brous, what do you say to something like that?

EG: There is a lot of reflexive Judaism, whether that comes from Orthodoxy or from more liberal Jews, where it’s easy to simplify Judaism, and I think Judaism is just inherently complex. The complexity of it is its beauty, so if you’re a politician who only says Tikkun Olam, you’re not very deep into the practice of what Judaism is. If you think that that is the central tenet, it can be for you a guiding principle, but Judaism evokes so much richness and vice versa. For Orthodoxy to say this is only about practice, if the Orthodox become the Catholics and the Reform folks become the Protestants, and one is in a personal relationship with a sense of justice, and the others fulfill the practice and fulfill the covenant, I don’t think either one of those caricatures would capture the fullness of what Judaism is. It does demand, I think both scriptural adherence and practice, but it also has taught us to be thinkers and to evolve, and as we think, to pull from the world history of Jews, who have gone through so much. So, to me, Judaism without either, loses its soul a little bit. In other words, you can’t just cloister yourself off and wait for the Messiah to come, and you can’t just say, hey, my Judaism is just about activism. Great, and I’m glad that Judaism has that influence, but I think that there are things that you miss if you also are not reflecting on why practice has evolved and why the Book of Judaism is so tenacious.

RT: What are some of the issues that are most important to you these days?

EG: I think, for me, the biggest issue is poverty in general, poverty in this time of plenty. It’s reflected in homelessness. It’s reflected in educational gaps. It’s reflected in racial disparities. Poverty, really, to me, is the defining issue of our age. I think the second is kindness and decency. The Trump era has called everyone’s bluff about do you want to be yellers and fighter and screamers even if you think you’re more just than the other side, or do we have a space for peaceful dissent and for listening…It’s a very specific thing, but in material terms, devoting our lives to ending poverty and providing equal starting lines for people is what keeps me awake. Second, is whether or not we’ll ever get there if we don’t have some kind of kindness and decency and focus on actual work rather than fighting.

RT: When you talk about poverty, are you speaking about homelessness, or are you also speaking about people who are housed but just don’t have enough to get by?

EG: Both. I think it’s the whole thing. Homelessness is the deepest manifestation of poverty in many ways, but not the only one. I think connected to poverty is the trauma of poverty. It’s not just a material thing; it’s a psychological thing that we have no mental health system in this country. The manifestation of homelessness is poverty of a different sort. I think if you frame so much of these national debates on how can we have universal healthcare, decent education and jobs, build more housing. Those are all really reflections of the same basic powerlessness that people feel that the trauma of poverty brings to people who are directly living in poverty. Now, it has been brought to all of us if we’re lucky enough not to be living in poverty, but we still feel it, we see it walking like zombies on our streets. We can sense it in a school where children haven’t been exposed to as many words or networks of opportunities. Those things, to me, define this moment. It would be perhaps more understandable if this wasn’t, in every other way, a moment of such plenty and of such growth. So, the positive side of what I love is this is a moment of creativity, a blossoming of creativity, a concentration of innovation and investment, a building out of a new physical infrastructure. In every other way, I feel like Los Angeles is soaring. This nation should be soaring, and even this world, which is reducing a lot of material suffering and has less war, as tragic as certain wars are, this should be a great moment. Yet, I think there’s a fragility to it all that we’re recognizing and an unfair distribution of it.

RT: It sounds like a Brous High Holy Day sermon.

EG: There you go. Let’s do it. I’m ready. I’ll tell her she can take a day off.

RT: Are you going to IKAR this year for the holidays?

EG: Yeah.

RT: Where else will you be going?

EG: I don’t know yet for sure. I think it’s going to be—I was just looking. I’m going to be at Wilshire also, I think for Kol Nidre. I’m going to be, not at Judea, but I’m going to be at—what’s the other one in Northridge—Temple Aliyah, I think. And I think we’re going to try to get to an Orthodox—B’nai…

RT: B’nai David-Judea?

EG: I think it’s B’nai-David Judea, yes, yes, Pico Robertson. And maybe, if I have time, go to the Project.

RT: Pico Union [Project]?

EG: Pico Union, yeah.

RT: Do you know Craig Taubman?

EG: Yeah, very well. I haven’t gone over for High Holidays. I’ve been there for a lot of other stuff.

RT: That’s another example, I would think, of a Jewish community on the East Side trying to bring people back over in that part of town.

EG: Oh, it’s great, it’s awesome. Makes me feel at home in a Latino neighborhood with Jewish practice and the strands woven in from the surrounding areas. I was just looking through my hour-long dives every quarter into and was looking up a bunch of addresses. Some things came up on censuses where my grandparents and great-grandparents lived in Boyle Heights. I realized that my great-grandfather lived literally across the street from the Breed Street Shul, and it was closed. There’s three other homes in Boyle Heights that different parts of the family lived in, but it was cool to see how close they literally were.

RT: Do you know Steve Sass, the guy who’s been [leading the renovation of the Breed Street Shul]…

EG: Yeah, yeah, it’s amazing to see what’s going on.

RT: Have you been following at all what’s going on in Boyle Heights with this gentrification?

EG: Yeah, mostly in the paper. It’s a funny thing for me because both sides of my family grew up in Boyle Heights, the Jews and the Mexicans. So, they didn’t know each other. My parents met here downtown. By then, my mom’s family lived in West L.A.; my dad’s in South L.A., which is where he grew up, but their parents and grandparents were all from Boyle Heights. Gentrification is always—it’s a loaded word. Everybody wants the positives of improvements: less crime, of fewer empty storefronts, of more activity on the street, but people don’t like—and I prefer this word: displacement—and I feel strongly about that as well. There’s too much displacement. Look, there’s a natural part of that. Echo Park used to—if Jews were coming into Echo Park today, I don’t know if you can say that was gentrified. Elysian Park had the first Jewish cemetery. You see these waves of people, and sometimes it’s not just “ethnic” gentrifiers, which is what gets a lot of the attention. It’s more class. You may have middle class, professional Latinos who replace working-class Latinos, so it’s not necessarily racial, but it’s just tougher and tougher to find places near the center to live if you don’t have means, if you’re working for minimum wage or working two or three jobs. I’m very sympathetic with that. I don’t think that’s the fault of an art gallery. I think that’s the fault of a housing crisis, which is everywhere, and the price of homes in Riverside affects that as much as a gallery next door or a coffee house. In Silver Lake, when I was a Council member from 2000 to 2010, there was a lot of talk about gentrification. The censuses those two years showed per capita income had gone up, adjusting for inflation, $100. It was essentially the same level of poverty for middle class or working-class folks. The price of coffee had gone up from probably $2 to $10 if you wanted it. There’s that kind of coffee measure. I don’t know if it’s called gentrification of the coffee cup, but it was a more difficult place to come into, and it’s also more complicated if you fault the family three generations lived in Boyle Heights wanted to sell their home and have some savings to retire someplace with a decent quality of life. Even knowing that you bought for $50,000 can be sold for $850,000, what’s the impact for everybody else around there? But, to me, all this comes down to the way you fight displacement, the way you fight the negative parts of gentrification, is build more housing, preserve more affordable housing. But that can’t all be mandated. It has to partially be done by everybody stepping up and saying yes to the construction of more stuff in the neighborhood, building really densely around our heavy investments in public transportation, and recognizing that we still have a lot of land and space and we’ve got to be willing to, even as we preserve some single-family homes, build up, because most people aren’t going to be able to afford a single-family home for the next generation.

RT: Do you believe that one of the ways to solve the affordable housing crisis is to mandate that developers have to allocate some certain units to low-income families?

EG: Yeah. I’ve believed it for 15 years—not units. The flip side is if you don’t, you have to pay us so we can build those units, so that’s what we passed last year with the linkage fee. You can’t get around paying us cash if you want to build your own site, but one way or the other now, if you do market-related housing in Los Angeles, you have to. But I also believe the City should make it easier for developers to build, so we passed something called Transit-Oriented Communities, which we implemented just this past year, and over 5,000 units. This increases height and density near transit stops, and the more that you, on your own dime, build low-income units, and the more affordable those are to the very lowest-income people, the higher and denser you can go. The results have been astounding. Five thousand units, and more than 1,000 of them, on their own dime, are subsidized for lower-income and sometimes extremely low-income Angelenos, without a single tax-payer dollar. So, they get something out of it: they can build more than they would have, so they can put some of that profitability back into subsidizing units for folks that otherwise might be displaced.

RT: Do you believe that when the Metro is completed, for instance, the line that they’re building on Wilshire, particularly people from the West Side are actually going to use that?

EG: Yes, absolutely. I think the subway for sure. The Expo Line, I know a lot of people use it. It’s way over our estimates, but it’s still kind of slow going. It stops for intersections and people say it’s not that much quicker. I like it because I get to read a book or something, but it’s not faster. That subway will be faster than a car, even when there’s no traffic, so absolutely people will…and for the Olympics it’ll be amazing because Olympic Village will be in UCLA and a lot of events right here.

RT: By the time the Olympics happen, you might be President, right?

EG: Or just a happily retired Angeleno, or a house dad raising Maya before she goes off to college.

RT: If you do decide to run [for president] as a Democrat who has been pretty clear about his support for Israel, how do you feel about the wing of the Democratic party that is anti-Israel?

EG: I don’t think it’s mutually exclusive to be for human rights and to be for Israel. I think there’s this false dichotomy that’s out there. You’ve seen it with some folks who don’t really—I would encourage people to spend time in Israel to actually learn. I think on one hand there’s propaganda you get from one side that oh, my God, Israel is evil and must be defeated and it’s only an occupation, there’s no other side, and Israelis are all bad. On the flip side, sometimes we overeducate when people come to Israel. Okay, we’ll take you to the West Bank, but let me give you all the pro-Israel propaganda. I trust human beings to be smart, and I think if they see on the ground what an amazing nation Israel is and what an amazing country is, and how complicated a lot of the things are there, they’ll understand the security needs people have and also be able to engage in hopefully creating a lasting peace. My worry these days is that people are just like American politics are friends to the extremes in Israel and in Palestine, and then accordingly they’re friends one way or the other. There’s a huge middle that always defined us is quickly receding. Here in the Democratic party, I think that the overwhelming majority of Jews are Democrats. I think they’re progressive Democrats who understand that sometimes the overly conservative politics of Israel don’t represent them but is a core part of who we are that Israel should be defended and she should be uplifted and our loyalty should be about improving her, not about abandoning her.

RT: When did you go for the first time?

EG: I went to Israel the first time in, I think 1987 [he was a junior at Harvard at the time]. I was 16-years-old and I had spent time on a relief mission with the North American Conference of Ethiopian Jewry in Ethiopia. I was between the two airlifts, Solomon and David, or David and Solomon. So, the folks that had been left behind after the first airlift were the ones who couldn’t walk to the Sudan, so we were in these Jewish villages where it was like elderly mothers with their children, but not their husbands, and we brought in, under the guise of tourism, suitcases full with medical equipment, brought some doctors, [we were] just a bunch of guerilla Jews going in there to help those folks. Then we went from there to Israel to see where the Jews who had left were being resettled and integration into Israel of Ethiopian Jews.

RT: Do you see any parallels when you went back to the Jews at that time versus the asylum seekers like people from Eritrea today?

EG: Absolutely, absolutely. Here or in Israel?

RT: I was speaking specifically Israel, but if you want to talk about people seeking asylum here as well.

EG: It’s very easy in both nations to see the power of closing the gates, of walling up the nation and of pointing fingers. That’s not, to me, what Judaism has ever been about or who we are. I think we’re at our greatest when we’ve been able to integrate in Israel and here, Soviet Jewry, Ethiopian Jewry, North African Jewry. That’s when we are at our best, not just as Jews, but as human beings when we’re extending our arms to brothers and sisters and cousins and others, whether it’s in an ethnic way like Jews, or in a civic way like we have in America. There’s too few examples of that in the States these days.

RT: Where is the city today and where are you today with the fight with the Federal government over grant money versus L.A. operating as a sanctuary city?

EG: It’s more of a distraction than a reality, but an important one to fight against. I think it’s a dog whistle that President Trump and his allies blow because it mobilizes votes for them. We know more about protecting our streets than he does. I’m never going to stop listening to police over politicians when it comes to the safety of my own family, my own city. We know it works. It came from an ultra-conservative police Chief, Darryl Gates. This isn’t some weird lefty thing. This is like cops knowing how to win trust of communities, and we protect immigrants because immigrants protect us. So, Washington will play politics with our safety and our lives, but we’re just going to do what works. So, there’s been some dollars pulled back. I find it ironic that this President who has some sort of obsession with MS-13 and hasn’t even lived around them, is taking money away from a police department that’s the finest fighting force against MS-13 in the world. So, he literally took funding away from cops’ grants that we use for our anti-gang efforts, which goes to fighting, among others, MS-13. So, here’s the guy who who’s going to protect us from MS-13, taking dollars away from hardworking cops in L.A. who go after MS-13? How’s that for some irony?

RT: I wonder how he even learned about MS-13.

EG: I think, like most things, he has an idea in his head. That’s what the problem with Washington is today. There’s much of what this President says that I find so personally abhorrent and anti-American. It’s not who we are. But there are some things that he says that are correct questions. I just don’t trust that he has any answers. We want the American work force to be treated fairly. We need to renegotiate some trade rules. But then he’s so off on certain things. I think he just hasn’t spent time with immigrants in immigrant communities. Has he ever sat down and listened? I think the one time he did, with Dreamers, it actually did move his heart, because what human being couldn’t be moved. He said, “Don’t worry. We’ll take care of them,” and he hasn’t been able to. It’s not so much always that he’s always a bad person. No one human being is. I just think he’s also ineffective about the good things he wants to do, and I’d rather have somebody effective. I’d rather have a country that is kinder. So, the work of Washington won’t slow us down here. It would be really nice to have a partner, but they can’t stop us on our work to create 100 percent renewable energy; they can’t stop us to combat climate change; they can’t stop us to patrol our streets with the values that are America’s and Los Angeles’s; they can’t stop us from investing in infrastructure; they can’t stop us. There’s a power in this country that doesn’t come from Washington to us. It’s vice versa, always has been. If anything, they’ve unified us, not between these divisions which are between red and blue and urban and coastal heartland. There’s Washington and the rest of us, and if this week didn’t point this out, the culture of corruption, of ineffectiveness and of division, are such a contrast to the world we live in here. And we don’t sugarcoat our problems. This is the homeless capital of America. We’ve got the worst traffic in America. We’ve got too much poverty. But on the other hand, we’re in the trenches actually doing stuff, and they’re nowhere to be found.

RT: If I may, I saw a video of you singing Lean on Me at IKAR last year. Are you going to be singing something this year?

EG: I do whatever my rabbi asks of me. That was a last-minute change, and since it was the High Holidays, I couldn’t look up the lyrics, so I was there—I was supposed to sing This Land is Your Land, which I’d done the last two years for the prayer for our nation. She was like, What about Lean on Me? We had ten minutes’ notice. With a couple bad notes, I think we pulled it off.

RT: You’re an accomplished pianist, too, right?

EG: Yeah, I’ve been playing since I was a little kid. I have a piano in my office. My chops are a little rusty, but I play as often as I can.

RT: Mr. Mayor, thank you so much.

EG: Absolutely.

RT: I really appreciate your time.

EG: Happy Hoidays for the New Year to come.

RT: You, too.

One Palestinian Dead, 94 Wounded in Latest Gaza Riots

Screenshot from Twitter.

Another round of riots at the Israel-Gaza border occurred on Sept. 7, resulting one Palestinian dead and 94 injured, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

There were around 7,000 rioters along the border; the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) tweeted that the rioters were throwing Molotov cocktails, rocks, and burning tires at Israeli soldiers, as well as launching incendiary kites and balloons toward the Israeli side of the border. In response, the IDF struck two Hamas outposts.

The kites and balloons ignited two fires on the Israeli border, one of which stemmed from a kite tied to a burning tire landing on a Keren Shalom antennae.

Around 30 of the injured Palestinians were from Israeli soldiers’ gunfire when they attempted to breach the fence. Some Palestinian social media posts have claimed that there were some successful breaches of the fence, although this has yet to be confirmed. The one Palestinian that died was a 17-year-old.

The riots also featured Palestinians hanging and lighting fire to effigies of Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Trump Touts Jerusalem Embassy, Nixing Iran Deal in Rosh Hashanah Call

REUTERS/Leah Millis

President Trump addressed American Jewish leaders in a Rosh Hashanah conference call on Thursday, where he touted his decision to move the United States embassy to Jerusalem as well as to exit from the Iran nuclear deal.

According to a transcript of the call provided by the Times of Israel, Trump said that he has a “personal” connection to the Jewish faith.

“I am the very proud father of a Jewish daughter, Ivanka, and my son-in-law, who I’m very proud of also — I will say that very loudly — Jared [Kushner], and my several Jewish grandchildren, namely three beautiful Jewish grandchildren that I love,” Trump said.

Trump then rattled off moves his administration has made as accomplishments: the Jerusalem embassy, leaving the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and deporting a former Nazi concentration camp guard.

“We’re also deeply honored to be joined by several Holocaust survivors. It is a true privilege to be graced by your presence,” Trump said. “And it marks the 5,779th in the Jewish calendar, so we renew our pledge to confront anti-Semitism and hatred in all of its forms.”

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman then provided a brief update on the Jerusalem embassy, highlighting that the second phase of construction would be completed by June 2019 and that the embassy has already become “a major tourist site.”

“I’m there almost every day, and people just pull up their cars to the front of the embassy, they get out, they take pictures,” Friedman said. “I’ve seen some people praying there. I’ve actually seen many people crying there. Many Cabinet members have come to visit. Many members of Congress have come to visit. I urge all of you to please come to visit.”

Legal scholar Alan Dershowitz then asked Trump if he was “optimistic” about forging a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Trump said he was, pointing out that the embassy move has now been taken off the table and that zeroing out funding to Palestinian leaders has given the U.S. leverage in a deal.

“I really do believe we’re going to make a deal, Alan,” Trump said. “I hope so. It would be a great thing to do.”

Former Sen. Norm Coleman then asked the president on what the next steps are in regards to Iran after exiting the nuclear deal. Trump responded by saying that exiting the deal has “had a tremendously positive impact”:

I will tell you that if you look at Iran now, when I — if you go a day before I took over — I don’t want to say the same day — the day before I took over as President, Iran — it was not a question of how big and how strong they were; it was a question of when will they take over the entire Middle East. And that probably includes Israel, in the mind of a lot of people.

And if you look at them today, they’re not looking at the Mediterranean any longer. They’re not looking at places that they were going to routinely take over. And I think Israel feels a lot safer than they’ve felt in many, many years.

Iran is fighting for their own survival. They’ve got demonstrations in every city. This is far worse than it was years ago when President Obama could’ve maybe crushed Iran if all they needed was a positive statement — the people that were demonstrating. Well, these demonstrations are larger, but they’re more widespread. They’re all over the country.

So Iran is no longer the same country. I would imagine that they’ll be calling in the not-too-distant future to try and make a deal. If we can make a real deal, we’ll do it. If they don’t call, that’s okay too. Eventually, they’re going to have no choice. But we’ll see what happens.

Read the full transcript of the call here.

Sarsour: American Muslims Shouldn’t ‘Humanize’ Israelis

Screenshot from Twitter.

Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour said over the weekend that Muslims shouldn’t be humanizing Israelis, referring to Israel as the “oppressor.”

As reported by The Investigative Project for Terrorism and the Algemeiner, during the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)’s conference, Sarsour declared that American Muslims “are complicit in the occupation of Palestinians, in the murder of Palestinian protesters” if they’re not actively promoting the Palestinian cause.

“If you’re on the side of the oppressor, or you’re defending the oppressor, or you’re actually trying to humanize the oppressor, then that’s a problem,” Sarsour said.

Sarsour added that Muslims who didn’t speak out were not patriotic:

“When I stand up here and I’m fighting for your rights and the rights of all people in these United States of America, I am a true patriot. And those of you who have fear in your hearts and don’t have the courage to stand up for your deen (religion), for your communities, for your religious institutions, for your children, that is not just a question of your patriotism. It is a question of your iman (faith).”

Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal in a phone interview that Sarsour’s comments about humanizing the oppressor are what “you would associate… with Hamas.”

“You wouldn’t automatically associate such language on the part of someone who is touted as an elite spokesperson for women’s rights, equal rights in the United States,” Cooper said.

Cooper added that Sarsour’s comments likely stem from “desperation” due to recent global developments of Gulf Arabs having “unprecedented normal contact” with Israelis.

“This has nothing to do with making America a more inclusive and welcoming society,” Cooper said. “This is about recasting the values of our nation to fit her mindset and we can only hope that there will be more and more voices within the progressive leadership that denounce her.”

Sarsour has previously called Zionism “creepy” and that someone cannot be both a Zionist and a feminist, telling The Nation, “You either stand up for the rights of all women, including Palestinians, or none.” She also doesn’t believe in a two-state solution, as Sarsour is an advocate for a single Palestinian state.

Sarsour also made headlines recently for being arrested for disrupting Supreme Court nominee’s Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday.

‘Israel Is a Racist Endeavour’ Signs Seen on London Bus Stops

Screenshot from Twitter.

Several signs stating that “Israel is a racist endeavour” were spotted throughout various London bus stops on Wednesday.

Here are some pictures of the signs, which appeared in Bloomsbury, Elephant and Castle, Waterloo Bridge and Westminster:

American Jewish Committee (AJC) Assistant Executive Director Avi Mayer weighed in:

According to Jewish News, London Palestine Action took responsibility for the signs.

“Israel, as a Jewish majority state, could not have been established without the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians,” London Palestine Action wrote on their Facebook page. “Those Palestinians and their descendants, that were forced to leave in 1947/48, have not been allowed to return to their homes and land because they are not Jewish.  Over 60 Israeli laws already exist that restrict the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, and Israel has recently enacted the ‘Nation-State law’ declaring that only Jews have the right to self-determination in the country, and has stripped Arabic as an official language, entrenching the Apartheid that exists on the land.”

“Israel is a racist endeavor.”

Transport for London (TfL) said in a statement that the signs were not authorized for that advertising space and they were working to take them down.

“These adverts are absolutely not authorized by TfL or our advertising partner JCDecaux,” a TfL spokesperson said. “It is flyposting and therefore an act of vandalism which we take extremely seriously. We have instructed our contractors to remove any of these posters found on our network immediately.”

As the Jewish News noted, the signs came the day after Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn attempted to add a statement to the Labour Party’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism describing “Israel, its policies or the circumstances around its foundation as racist.” Corbyn’s attempt was rejected.

The Jewish Chronicle’s Daniel Sugarman noted that calling Israel “a racist endeavor” references an IHRA example as to criticism of Israel that amounts to anti-Semitism.

“I see it as clear evidence that Labour’s inability/unwillingness to deal with anti-Semitism gives credibility to these views,” Saul Schneider, who saw one of the signs in Bloomsbury, told Sugarman. “So worrying that people just walk by and take it in.”

Complaint Filed Against UK Charity Over Ties to Terrorism

Screenshot from Facebook.

The Lawfare Project and UK Lawyers for Israel filed a complaint on Wednesday against a British charity over its ties to terrorism and its anti-Israel activism.

The complaint states that the charity, War on Want, bills itself as a social justice organization that works to ameliorate poverty and inequality and fight for human rights, yet it has ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which has been designated as a terror group by various Western countries.

The War on Want partners with various NGOs that have ties to the PFLP, such as Addameer, which has many various PFLP members. The War on Want has worked with Addameer in boycotting G4S, which has provided goods and services to Israeli prisons; they have also promoted a campaign advocated for the release of terrorists from Israeli prisons.

Additionally, the War on Want names Al Haq, which says it has been “Defending Human rights in Palestine since 1979,” as a partner of the organization in a booklet; Al Haq’s general director, Shawan Jabarin, is a part of PFLP leadership. Al Haq also champions the Palestinian Authority’s “pay-to-slay” policy of paying terrorists and their families to murder Israelis.

The War on Want also partners with the Palestinian BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] Committee, an umbrella organization for various entities with ties to a myriad of a Palestinian terror groups, including Hamas, the PFLP and Islamic Jihad.

The complaint also argues that War on Want’s frequent activism against Israel through its promotion of the BDS movement – such as its campaign for Israeli Apartheid Week at British universities – is political activism with no connection to its stated charitable goals, noting that poverty in Gaza and the West Bank has improved “since Israel imposed various controls following Gaza’s takeover by the Hamas terrorist organization.”

The last point mentioned in the complaint is that the War on Want disseminates “misleading” information on the Israel/Palestinian complaint, including false statements about Israeli prisons being mired in “poor conditions” and referring to Palestinian terrorists as “political prisoners.”

“War on Want produces and disseminates false propaganda against Israel that misleads donors and other members of the public, stokes hatred of Israel and Jews, and encourages anti-Semitism, contrary to the public benefit,” the complaint concludes.

According to NGO Monitor, the War on Want faced a complaint from Jewish Human Rights Watch in 2016 due to its ties to terror and anti-Israel activism “that has no bearings on the object of charity.” The War on Want has frequently accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and “war crimes” and advocates for Britain to cease arm sales to Israel.

Israeli NGO Accuses Hamas of War Crimes

Screenshot from Twitter.

The Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center, on behalf of Israeli farmers and tens of thousands of individuals worldwide, filed a war crimes complaint against Hamas over the terror group’s use of incendiary kites and rockets against Israelis.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the complaint argues that the International Criminal Court (ICC) should launch a probe into the extensive damage to agricultural land caused by the fiery kites that Hamas has launched into Israel.

“Hamas transported civilians to the border for the purpose of burning 10,000 tires and throwing gasoline bombs, as well as openly issued propaganda videos advising civilians that the purpose of burning tires was to mask the movements of its armed militants, who had been directed to murder Israeli civilians,” the complaint argues.

The complaint specifically names Hamas leaders Khaled Mashal, Saleh al-Nouri and Zaher Jabarin as people who should be charged with war crimes, pointing out that they are Jordanian citizens, and Jordan is one of the countries represented on the ICC. They also argued that property damage and intent to murder civilians follows ICC precedent.

“For many months, Israeli farmers have endured thousands of destructive arson attacks and rocket fire from Gaza, while the world stood by in silence,” Shurat Hadin director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said. “Amazingly, Hamas, which has orchestrated this campaign of terror… accuses Israel and the IDF of utilizing excessive force. We are demanding the ICC put an end to this hypocrisy and diligently investigate these Palestinian war crimes. “

Michael Uziyahi, an Israeli mother in the Eshkol region, said at an August 19 event at Stephen S. Wise Temple that over the past few months, balloons that were once the “symbol of hope and childhood and celebration and happiness, became the symbol of hell, the symbol of fear.” Another Israeli mother, Yedidya Harush from the Halutza region, told attendees that her daughter has come to fear balloons, stating when she saw a man selling balloons, “Balloon is bad, balloon explodes, balloon can kill us.”

“It is not easy for us,” Harush said. “We have been going through a rough time, but we are strong. Our spirit is so strong that even when we cry, even we go through tough times, we know we are going to stay and grow.”

In June, the United Nations rejected the United States’ effort to condemn Hamas for violence at the Israel-Gaza border.

Lana Del Rey Cancels Performance in Israel

Has Lana Del Rey bowed to pressure from BDS supporters?

After defending her decision to perform at Israel’s three-day Meteor Festival in a tweet on Aug. 19, the singer has reversed her decision. In a new tweet posted on Friday, she wrote: “It’s important to me to perform in both Palestine and Israel and treat all my fans equally. Unfortunately it hasn’t been possible to line up both visits with such short notice and therefore, I’m postponing my appearance at the Meteor Festival until a time when I can schedule visits for both my Israeli and Palestinian fans as well as hopefully other countries in the region.”

Del Rey was to be the headline act at the festival on Sept. 7 and had already been paid $700,00 for the performance, which will be reimbursed, according to Variety. But the organizers are not pleased about her cancellation. They wrote in a post on the Meteor website,

“Just got the word that Lana will be a no-show at Meteor. We do appreciate her for choosing meteor to help her score some press attention.”

It was to be her first time performing in Israel. She had cancelled a concert before, in 2014.

180 Palestinians Reportedly Injured in Latest Gaza Border Riots

REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Another round of riots at the Israel-Gaza border occurred on August 31, resulting in 180 Palestinians wounded, the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry is claiming.

The Times of Israel reported that around 5,000 Palestinians rioted at the border; the rioters threw rocks and burning tires at the border as well as incendiary kites. An incendiary balloon was flown into southern Israel and ignited a fire at the Be’eri Forest, but Israeli firefighters were able to extinguish the fire before it spread.

A grenade was also thrown at an Israeli soldier, although no injuries to Israeli soldiers have been reported.

The rioters are proclaiming that they were able to strike down an Israeli drone that was firing tear gas grenades to control the riot, however the IDF is claiming that the drone simply malfunctioned from a technical error.

“The marches will not end until all goals are achieved,” Deputy Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya declared at the riot. “As long as the occupation continues, our people have the right to resist in all ways.”

The Hamas-led riots at the border have been occurring since March to protest in favor of the Palestinian Right of Return and attempt to penetrate the Gaza border fence. Israel and Hamas are currently in talks for a long-term truce.

Report: Terror Attacks Against Israelis Increased by 15% in July

A new report from the Israel Security Service (Shin Bet) has concluded that terror attacks against Israelis increased by 15 percent in July.

According to Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), the number of terror attacks increased from 220 in June to 255 in July. The vast majority of the documented terror attacks featured firebombs.

One of the fatalities from the terror attacks was 21-year-old Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldier Aviv Levi, who was murdered by a Palestinian sniper who used an Iranian-rifle that featured bullets that could penetrate armor. The other fatality was 31-year-old Yotam Ovadia, who was stabbed to death by a 17-year-old Palestinian terrorist in the Adam (Geva Benyamin) community close to the West Bank.

The 255 figure is still a decline from 365 in May, the highest instance of terror attacks against Israelis since October 2015, when 620 terror attacks against Israelis occurred.

The Complexity of Israeli Reality

Photo from Wikipedia.

I’ve never met Rabbi Sharon Brous. The spiritual leader of Los Angeles’ IKAR community thinks she knows me, though.

I am the “other side,” Rabbi Brous. Nice to meet you.

In a recent column in the Los Angeles Times, Brous writes about a trip she took with members of her family to the Jewish settlement of Hebron, a tiny, heavily fortified enclave abutting a large Palestinian city. Jewish tradition sees it as a holy city, where our Patriarchs and Matriarchs are buried. In 1929, 67 unarmed Jews, including women and children, were butchered by rioting Arabs. Today it is the epicenter of what most Americans associate with the most extreme West Bank settlers.

“Trust me, Ima,” her daughter told her. “I love Israel. I need to see the other side with my own eyes.”

What she saw included the hardships that many Palestinians face there, as well as the frankly extremist views of some Jewish residents. One of them expressed support for the notorious murderer Baruch Goldstein, the physician and Hebron resident who, in February 1994, opened fire on a hall full of Muslim worshipers, killing 29. The resident called Goldstein’s victims “animals.”

Brous then goes on to extrapolate from Hebron to everything that bothers her about the Israeli government—the oversimplifications of pro-Israel messaging, the alienation of American Jews from Israel, and so on. When you see the most extreme counter-reality, she seems to be saying, you know that the government is encouraging a line that no American Jew with a conscience can abide.

It is a moving piece, in part because she prefaces it with the genuine love she shows for Israel—a love that includes not just reading the news, but taking her kids to Israel and making sure they’re in constant touch with family in Tel Aviv.

The visit to Hebron, she writes, was meant to teach them the “complexities” of Israel.

Here’s the thing. I’m a well-read, socially liberal, fairly secular, free-market, geopolitical hawk. I opposed the surrogacy law and support the Nation-State Law. I oppose Occupation, but am realistic about the impediments to a deal right now and the risks of unilateralism, and the need to learn lessons from the Oslo disaster. I’m likely to vote center-right, but I’m in nobody’s pocket.

I’m representative, in other words, of the actual Israeli “other side,” the kind of Israeli that Likud, Yesh Atid, Kulanu, Kadima, Israel Beiteinu and Jewish Home are dying to reach. We are the silent majority of Israel, the answer to liberal American Jews’ endless bafflement at why Bibi keeps winning elections when everybody they know hates him.

Israel’s “other side” has virtually nothing to do with the people in Hebron—or at least, nothing that can be learned from a brief tour of it. If I want to show my kids the “other side” of America, I’m not taking them to a KKK rally.

And I sure wouldn’t have taken them to Hebron with Breaking the Silence—an organization whose credibility has been repeatedly called into question, and whose spokesperson, Dean Issacharoff, was caught fabricating his own purported beating of a Palestinian prisoner.

If you want your kids to understand the complexity of Israeli reality, challenge them for real.

Why do Israelis consistently vote for right-wing parties, when they clearly don’t share the views of the settlers of Hebron? Because the Left, very simply, failed them. Golda Meir failed them in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and in the disastrous economic policies of the 1970s. Rabin and Peres failed them in the calamitous Oslo accords in 1993, which led to none of the peace they promised and a lot of dead Israeli friends. Ehud Barak, Labor’s last Prime Minister, failed them with his flailing impotence to stop the Second Intifada.

Nothing like losing a loved one in a terror attack or a war to focus the mind on the consequences of your vote on election day.

Like it or not, the leadership of the Right has led to a prolonged period of relative economic and physical security. Israelis—both Jews and Arabs alike—feel safer, and have an easier time paying their bills, than ever before. They do not have the luxury of risking that in exchange for leaders who sound nice, who say the things Jews in America want to hear.

Brous is obviously right when she says that “to love a place… does not necessarily mean to love its government.” There’s plenty to love in Israel’s diverse, eclectic and resilient society. But real love is not an abstract thing. It’s about listening to the other—really listening. Hearing uncomfortable opinions, serious opinions, presented as compellingly as possible.

With the new generation of American Jews, it means challenging them to think. It means exposing them to Israel’s many flaws and mistakes, yes, but also to the most reasonable version of opinions and views they disagree with. It means exposing them to the full complexity of Israeli reality.

I don’t know you, Rabbi Brous, and I do not question your love for Israel. But if you want to hear more about the real Israeli “other side,” call me on your next trip.

David Hazony is an author and Executive Director of The Israel Innovation Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting Israeli culture in the world.

Painting a Fuller Picture on Hebron

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Less than a year ago, I decided it was high time for me to visit Hebron. After all, Hebron is the world’s oldest Jewish city, is frequently at the center of controversy, and I had never been there.

I went to Jewish day school as a child. In my studies I learned that Hebron, which is mentioned 87 times in the Torah, was the place where Abraham bought land to bury his beloved wife Sarah, and where he was also eventually buried. According to Genesis and traditional Jewish understanding, Isaac and Jacob are also buried there, along with Rebecca and Leah. Many believe that Adam and Eve are buried there, as well.

The real estate arrangement between Abraham and the Hittites of Hebron, wherein Abraham paid 400 shekels of silver for the property, is recorded in one of oldest documents available, the Torah (Genesis 23:16). Scholars believe the Old Testament was written more than 2,500 years ago.

Hebron is also important in Islam because it shares a legacy with Judaism going back to Abraham. I was very much looking forward to seeing and experiencing Hebron, while at the same time, my group felt a sense of anxiety from the beginning of our trip until the end.  We rented a bulletproof bus and had two armed guards with us for the day.

On the way to Hebron, I was thinking about all kinds of tragic things. I thought about the massacre of the Hebron Jewish community in 1929 because of the incitement to murder Jews at the time, led by Haj Amin al-Husseini, who later collaborated with Hitler. I thought about how Jordanian and other rulers of the past had denied Jews the right to pray in the Tomb of the Patriarchs. I thought of Baruch Goldstein’s horrific massacre of 29 Muslims who were praying there, amid a series of attacks by extremists from both sides in the 1990s. I remembered Shalhevet Pass, a 10-month-old baby who was murdered in her stroller by a Palestinian sniper in Hebron in 2001.

The murder of Shalhevet was part of the reason a few lay leaders, including my husband, Jerry Rothstein, Esther Renzer and I, were compelled to begin StandWithUs three months after this tragedy. And I recalled the murder of 13-year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel, barbarically stabbed while she was sleeping in her bed in June of 2016.

“Bringing peace to Hebron will require wrestling with and unwinding all of this history, religious connection and general complexity.”

Today there are approximately 900 Jews living in Hebron, along with a nearby community of 7,000 Jews in Kiryat Arba. The Palestinian population in the city has grown to more than 200,000.

The Jews who live there have made it their mission to maintain a Jewish presence in Hebron, which houses the tombs of the matriarchs and patriarchs of the Jewish people. They believe they are the living defenders of the tombs and of the city itself. I imagine they feel that they are hated by their Palestinian neighbors and fear them, because of all the murders and attempted attacks they have faced. Fear and hate go together, and are tragically a constant presence in this holy city.

Hebron is one of the most tense places in the world. You can feel it in the air. The Israel Defense Forces is there all the time, tasked with preventing violence between two communities in conflict and with keeping visitors safe.

The military’s presence in the city has been a source of tension and controversy in the region and elsewhere, but continues because no one has found a better way to ensure freedom of worship for Muslims and Jews there. Indeed, a few days after our trip to Hebron, the army prevented a stabbing against tourists who were stepping off a bus just like ours.

Bringing peace to Hebron will require wrestling with and unwinding all of this history, religious connection and general complexity.

It’s common among critics of Israel to show a deeply one-sided portrayal of Hebron; to rail against a Jewish extremist, for example, but ignore that the city is known as a stronghold of support for Hamas; to speak of the hardships Palestinians face because of Israeli restrictions, but ignore the horrific violence (and constant threat of violence) that has led to those restrictions in the first place.

When we teach our children and friends about Hebron, we shouldn’t settle for the one-sided takes of Israel’s critics. We owe them a fuller picture.

Roz Rothstein is the CEO and co-founder of StandWithUs.

Corbyn in 2010: Israel Gave British MPs ‘A Pre-Prepared Script’

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn has found himself in yet another controversy, as the UK Daily Mail has unearthed a video of him in 2010 stating that it seemed like the pro-Israel British members of parliament were given “a pre-prepared script” from Israel.

The Daily Mail quoted Corbyn as saying that the MPs came “with a prepared script” over the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident and that he was “sure our friend [Israeli Ambassador] Ron Prosor wrote it.”

“It was rather like reading a European document looking for buzz-words,” Corbyn said, “and the buzz-words were, ‘Israel’s need for security.’ And then ‘the extremism of the people on one ship.’ And ‘the existence of Turkish militants on the vessel.’”

However, the Daily Mail was unable to find any examples of these “buzz-words” in transcripts of that parliamentary debate.

Gideon Falter, who heads the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, told the Daily Mail that “Jeremy Corbyn seems to have visions of the Jewish state literally putting words into many of our politicians’ mouths.”

“Jeremy Corbyn seems to have visions of the Jewish state literally putting words into many of our politicians’ mouths,” Falter said.

This is the latest in a series of anti-Semitic scandals for Corbyn, as he has also come under fire saying in 2013 that Zionists didn’t understand “English irony” as well as laying a wreath in a 2014 ceremony commemorating the 1972 Munich terrorists.

Former British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks lambasted Corbyn in an interview with the New Statesman, calling Corbyn’s recent “English irony” comments “the language of classic pre-war European anti-Semitism.”

And yet, the polling data suggests that Corbyn has a good chance at becoming the next prime minister of England in 2022.

Columbia Professor Says It’s Anti-Semitic to Call Israel ‘the Jewish State’

Screenshot from Twitter.

Columbia Professor Joseph Massad, who has a history of criticizing Israel, wrote on an anti-Zionist website that it’s anti-Semitic to refer to Israel as “the Jewish state.”

In an August 24 Electronic Intifada piece titled “Anti-Semitism vs. anti-colonialism,” Massad argued that the ongoing anti-Semitic controversies involving Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party was predicated on Zionists equating criticisms of the Israeli government to anti-Semitism.

“In naming its state ‘the Jewish people,’ the Zionist movement conflated and conflates its colonial project with all Jews, even when the majority of world Jewry did not support the movement and continues to refuse to live in, and become citizens of, Israel,” Massad wrote. “Therefore, it is imperative to emphasize that it is Israel and its supporters who conflate Israel with all Jews, and then claim that condemning Israel, its laws, policies, actions and ideology amounts to condemning the Jewish people.”

Massad added that Palestinians are simply resisting Israel’s “racist and colonial nature.”

“If there should be a definition of anti-Semitism to be adopted by the Labour Party (or any other political party or institution) in Britain today, it should include the condemnation of anti-Semitic and colonial expressions such as: ‘Israel is the Jewish state,’ or ‘Israel is the state of the Jewish people’ or Israel ‘speaks for Jews,’ or colonizing the land of the Palestinians is a ‘Jewish value,’” Massad wrote.

Massad has written similar statements in the past, such as in 2003, when he wrote that Israel has turned “the Jew into the anti-Semite, and the Palestinian into the Jew.”

Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal in a phone interview that Massad is “a denier of reality.”

“This professor at Columbia University is going to teach us who is a Jew, what is anti-Semitism, and he has to come up with a construct that makes him feel comfortable,” Cooper said, “and along the way, by constructing it his way, he gets to blame the victim.”

Cooper added that the “blame the victim” tactic has been used by anti-Semites for years, stating that it goes as far back as “the church in the Middle Ages,” when they said that bad things happened to the Jews because they wouldn’t convert to Christianity.

“Now, it’s real simple: ‘Oh, if only the Jews would walk away from the largest Jewish community in the world, there would be no more anti-Semitism,’” Cooper said. “It’s an old tactic dressed up in the most fancy, post-modern lexicon, but it still comes down to old-fashioned Jew hatred.”

According to the Canary Mission website, Massad has previously stated that “the Jewish state is a racist state that does not have the right to exist” and that Zionists were allied with the Nazis.

A student who took Massad’s class on Palestinian and Israeli Politics wrote in an August 2017 post on an anonymous student review site of Columbia professors:

He really blurs the line between facts and opinions, which gets on everyone’s nerves. 
Massad treats a lot of his course like a media appearance advocating for one side and berating the other. I can’t say he is as intense as some of his fans in the course who think everyone criticizing him is just trying to paint him as an anti-Semite, but Massad can be frustrating to work with. 

He brings a lot of analysis to the course but much of that is skewed, something that wasn’t obvious to classmates of mine who were less familiar with the course material than I was.

H/T: Columbia University Monitor

Abbas Calls for Demilitarized Palestinian State

REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas stated on Tuesday his desire for a demilitarized Palestinian state as the Trump administration forges a peace plan to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

According to the Times of Israel (TOI), Abbas told Israeli academics in Ramallah, “I support a state along the 1967 borders without an army. I want unarmed police forces with batons, not guns. Instead of warplanes and tanks, I prefer to build schools and hospitals and allocate funds and resources to social institutions.”

The TOI report goes onto note that Abbas has previously called a demilitarized Palestinian state in 2013 and 2014, which the report calls “a key Israeli demand in any peace deal.” Arutz Sheva cited an unconfirmed report from an Arabic newspaper stating that a demilitarized Palestinian state would be part of the Trump administration’s peace proposal.

However, Purdue University Professor Louis René Beres argued in 2016 that promises of a demilitarized would be nothing more than an “illusion.”

“Even now, the Palestinians remain as divided as ever; it remains unclear, therefore, who can speak with real authority for any still-plausible Palestinian state,” Beres wrote. “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is in the eleventh year of his four-year term; should he agree to anything substantive, others could later legitimately claim, long after land may have been irreversibly ‘exchanged,’ that he had no legal authority to make a decision, and they would be right.”

Beres also pointed out that Palestinian factions consider the entirety of Israel to be “occupied” rather than simply the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Former Chief Rabbi of Britain Calls Out Corbyn on ‘Anti-Semitic’ Remarks

Photo from Flickr.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of Britain, spoke out against Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn’s recently unearthed comments on Zionists not understanding “English irony” as “the language of classic pre-war European anti-Semitism” in an interview with the New Statesman.

In the interview published on Tuesday, Sacks decried Corbyn’s comments as “the most offensive statement made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech.”

“It was divisive, hateful and like Powell’s speech it undermines the existence of an entire group of British citizens by depicting them as essentially alien,” Sacks said.

Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech involved then-Defense Minister Powell railing against massive immigration into Britain.

Sacks added that Corbyn “has given support to racists, terrorists and dealers of hate who want to kill Jews and remove from Israel from the map.”

“When he implies that, however long they have lived here, Jews are not fully British, he is using the language of classic pre-war European anti-Semitism,” Sacks said. “When challenged with such facts, the evidence for which is before our eyes, first he denies, then he equivocates, then he obfuscates. This is low, dishonest and dangerous. He has legitimized the public expression of hate, and where he leads, others will follow.”

The Labour Party is claiming that Corbyn was only talking about “a particular group of pro-Israel activists as Zionists,” but Corbyn’s remarks seem to have been a breaking point for some British Jews. The London Times’ Josh Glancy wrote in a Monday New York Times op-ed:

The video was a watershed for many. Daniel Finkelstein, a Tory peer and columnist for The Times of London, called the revelation “qualitatively different from anything that has come before.” Ben Judah, a Labour-voting author, said that “the nasty comment from Mr. Corbyn on ‘Zionists’ not getting ‘English irony’ has finally snapped the benefit of the doubt extended by many Jewish progressives.” 

A writer for The Guardian, Simon Hattenstone, who has repeatedly defended Jeremy Corbyn against charges of anti-Semitism, called his speech “unquestionably anti-Semitic.” And it wasn’t just the Jews. George Monbiot, a giant of the British left, described the comments as “anti-Semitic and unacceptable.”

And from Mr. Corbyn’s most vehement defenders, such as the Guardian columnist Owen Jones or the Novara Media columnist Ash Sarkar? Crickets.

“This was classic anti-Semitism,” Glancy wrote. “Here were a group of Jews with whom Mr. Corbyn has a political disagreement. And he smeared them not on the basis of that disagreement but on the basis of their ethnicity. He accused them of failing to assimilate English values, of not fitting in, of still being a bit foreign. Had they been Christian Zionists, he could not have insulted them in this way.”

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, a British watchdog group, has called on Corbyn to step down from the Labour Party.

“We had hoped that the Labour Party might at some point rise to the defense of British Jews by removing Jeremy Corbyn or by demanding his resignation, but the institutions of the once proudly anti-racist Labour Party are now corrupted and will not act,” the watchdog organization said. “Instead, they merely persecute those members who stand up to anti-Semitism.”

N.Y. State Senate Candidate Faces Questions Over Claims of Jewish Ancestry

Photo from Twitter.

Julia Salazar, a member of Democratic Socialists of America who is running for the New York state senate and supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, faces questions over her claims that she is Jewish.

According to Tablet, Salazar has claimed that her father is of Sephardic Jewish descent and has frequently invoked her claim of Jewish heritage in her comments about Israel, such as stating in Mondoweiss in 2014: “Like most American Jews, I was raised with the delusion that Israel was a safe haven for me, perhaps even the only safe place for Jews.”

Salazar has also argued that the BDS movement is not inherently anti-Semitic, telling Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA): “The goal of BDS is to have some measurable effect in order to force the more powerful actor — the state [Israel] — to change course.”

Additionally, Salazar, under the name Julia Carmel, wrote in Mondoweiss that she was blocked from the Allendy border in Israel in 2014; she was also among the nine IfNotNow activists arrested in 2014 for engaging in civil disobedience protests against what Salazar deemed as the “assault on Gaza,” Operation Protective Edge.

However, the Tablet piece produced evidence calling Salazar’s Jewish ancestry into question, citing quotes from family members stating that no one in their family was Jewish:

“A 2009 funeral notice for her father, a former commercial airline pilot named Luis Hernan Salazar, indicates that the service was held at the Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Ormond Beach, Florida. When reached by phone, Alex Salazar, the candidate’s older brother and the operator of a number of Florida mango farms, said that one of their father’s brothers was a Jesuit priest. (He also seemed to know very little about her campaign and seemed surprised when I told him she stood a good chance of winning.) ‘There was nobody in our immediate family who was Jewish … my father was not Jewish, we were not raised Jewish,’ he said. Their mother, Christine Salazar, indicated in a public September 2012 Facebook post that she planned on attending services at the Brooklyn Tabernacle, a nondenominational evangelical church in downtown Brooklyn.”

The Tablet article also notes that in college Salazar was active in Christians United for Israel and has past tweets referencing Christianity, such as a 2012 tweet stating, “Follow #Christ for his own sake, if you plan to follow Him at all.”

Salazar lashed out at Tablet in response, tweeting, “I virtually never speak publicly about my religion unless media explicitly ask me about it. And that’s largely because I don’t enjoy subjecting myself to Tablet-esque race science, as a person from a mixed background.”

Salazar also told JTA she took a conversion class at Columbia-Barnard Hillel in 2012, where she “learned how to read Torah and had the option of going through a b’nai mitzvah ceremony (along with two other women who studied with me) but declined to do it.”

However, JTA noted that “Halachah, or Jewish law, however, considers someone Jewish if their mother was Jewish, if they converted under rabbinical authority or, in the Reform movement, if their only Jewish parent was their father.”

Salazar has also come under scrutiny for claiming on the campaign trail that she is a Colombian immigrant, however she has since admitted that she was born in Miami.

Salazar has been endorsed by New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Linda Sarsour.

British PM Frontrunner: Zionists Have ‘No Sense of English Irony’

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has found himself in yet another anti-Semitic controversy, as a video clip from 2013 shows him stating that Zionists have “no sense of English irony.”

Corbyn was speaking at a London conference that was promoted by Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ propaganda arm, that featured “a range of anti-Semites, homophobes and conspiracy theorists,” according to the UK Daily Mail. Corbyn said that British Zionists “don’t want to study history, and secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony either.”

Other speakers at the conference included Daud Abdullah, who called for attacks against the Royal Navy and led a boycott against Holocaust Memorial Day.

Corbyn has been heavily criticized for these unearthed remarks. For instance, the UK Guardian’s Simon Hattenstone wrote on Friday that while he has been defending Corbyn in a string of recent controversies, the “no sense of English irony” comment is “unquestionably anti-Semitic.”

“To generalize about any race or religion is discriminatory,” Hattenstone wrote. “And if there were ever a clear example of somebody conflating Zionist with Jews, this appears to be it. Let’s play the traditional ‘swap the minority’ game. Instead of ‘Zionists’ let’s make it, say, Muslims or African-Caribbeans or Asians or Irish needing lessons in history or irony. Not nice, eh?”

Corbyn has also come under fire for laying a wreath at the graves of the Munich 1972 terrorists.

State Department Announces More Than $200 Million in Cuts to Palestinians

REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

The State Department announced on August 24 that there are going to be more than $200 million in cuts from Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The announcement states that the department reviewed the aid they are giving to Palestinians at the behest of President Trump and concluded that the millions of dollars will instead go to “high-priority projects elsewhere.”

“This decision takes into account the challenges the international community faces in providing assistance in Gaza, where Hamas control endangers the lives of Gaza’s citizens and degrades an already dire humanitarian and economic situation,” the statement reads.

The Trump administration had initially planned to provide $251 million in funding to the Palestinians in 2018. According to the Washington Free Beacon, the decision to make the cuts came from the administration’s desire to “no longer enable the Palestinian Authority and those in the Hamas terrorist government to use aid dollars in their war against Israel.”

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s executive committee, called the cuts “cheap political blackmail.”

“There is no glory in constantly bullying and punishing a people under occupation,” Ashrawi said. “The U.S. administration has already demonstrated meanness of spirit in its collusion with the Israeli occupation and its theft of land and resources; now it is exercising economic meanness by punishing the Palestinian victims of this occupation.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), “The PLO was responsible for scores of acts of terrorism from its creation, resulting in the deaths of thousands of civilians.”

Saudi Minister Applauds Israel for Allowing Muslims to Perform Hajj

Screenshot from Twitter.

Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs Abdullatif Bin Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh praised Israel on August 23 for allowing Muslims to go on their Hajj pilgrimage, stating that it makes the Jewish state better than other Muslim countries.

In a Saudi television clip, Al-Sheikh says, “What has surprised us is that the state of Israel has, from what we know of it, has not banned Muslim pilgrims from coming to the [Saudi] Kingdom to take part in their religious obligation, however, one of the countries, as we know or have been told, has banned pilgrims from visiting the House of Allah.”

“This is a catastrophic fail for anyone who has done this, for no one can be banned from Hajj and no one can be banned for worshipping Allah,” Al-Sheikh continued.

In July 2017, Israel sought to establish direct flights for Israeli Muslims to take from Israel to Saudi Arabia in order to help them with their Hajj pilgrimage, as otherwise they would have had to take a bus for 1,000 miles to make the pilgrimage.

Iran, an enemy of both Saudi Arabia and Israel, is one Muslim country that bans its Muslim citizens of making Hajj. Qatar has reportedly banned Muslims from making Hajj recently, however Qatar disputes that report, claiming that Saudi Arabia is preventing Qataris from the making the pilgrimage. The Saudis responded by accusing Qatar of politicizing the Hajj.

The Hajj is a pilgrimage to Mecca, a religious obligation for Muslims to make at least once in their lives.

New York Times Publishes a Rejection of Yossi Klein Halevi’s Plea for Reconciliation

If you want to better understand why peace between Israel and the Palestinians is a hopeless illusion, read Raja Shehadeh’s response in The New York Times this week to Yossi Klein Halevi’s soulful and conciliatory “Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor.”

Instead of responding in kind, Shehadeh falls back on the tired trope of chronic victimhood that has served only to perpetuate Palestinian misery. In this narrow view, every Palestinian woe is Israel’s fault; and Palestinians are a weak people with no agency just waiting for big, bad Israel to “withdraw from the territories it has occupied and leave us to go on with our lives.”

Shehadeh, who’s an author and an intellectual, knows better than to simplify such a bedeviling conflict whose complexity Halevi tried to honor. He knows, for example, that on the very day the IDF would abandon the territories, terror groups like Hamas and ISIS would jump to try to fill the vacuum and massacre Palestinians, just like Hamas did in Gaza.

But such complexity plays no role in Shehadeh’s takedown of Halevi’s offer to embark “on a journey of listening to each other.”

Shehadeh acknowledges that Halevi recognizes the importance of a Palestinian “counterstory,” one of “invasion, occupation and expulsion,” a history of “dislocation” and “humiliating defeats.” But how does he respond to such humility and contrition? By blasting Halevi for being “condescending” and for focusing so much of his book on trying to help Palestinians understand the Zionist story that is ingrained in Halevi’s soul.

Shehadeh also knows better than to casually dismiss Israeli offers of peace rejected by Palestinians as “old and discredited narratives.” He can’t even bring himself to admit that Palestinians are partly responsible for the absence of peace. The furthest he will go is to say, “I was involved in the Oslo negotiations and I can tell you that Israel shares plenty of responsibility for their failure.”

Everything else in his piece is a hodgepodge of polite aggression disguised as sophisticated lamentations. He claims that, “To make peace possible the Palestinians are not required to become Zionists,” as if Halevi ever asked for that. Betraying his intent to undermine Halevi’s book, he twists a plea to “understand us” into a demand to “become Zionist.”

Perhaps the deepest sign of his bad faith is when he admits to having zero interest in Israelis understanding his narrative: “Unlike you,” he writes triumphantly, “I will not demand that you see the Nakba, the catastrophe that Israel’s founding caused for my people, in the same way as I see it.”

Why? Because “You couldn’t.” Shehadeh is so drenched in smug victimhood that he can’t possibly imagine a Jewish neighbor being able to understand his narrative—not even a neighbor who has already made a genuine effort to do precisely that.

What he wants is that Israel recognizes its responsibility and “put a recognition of that culpability on the agenda for negotiations when the time comes for arriving at a settlement between us.”

But that time will never come if the Shehadehs of the Palestinian world continue to treat Palestinians as hopeless victims who are too weak to ever understand the authentic longings of their Jewish neighbors.

Palestinian Gunman Targeting Israeli Soldiers May Have Worked for Doctors Without Borders

Photo from Flickr.

After conducting an investigation into a Palestinian gunman who was shot and killed at the Gaza border after he was targeting Israeli soldiers, Israel is saying that the gunman worked for Doctors Without Borders.

Reuters reports that the gunman, identified as 28-year-old Hani Majdalawi, shot at Israeli soldiers and tossed a grenade at them. A spokesman for Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) told Reuters that they would be reaching out to Doctors Without Borders for an explanation.

No Palestinian terror groups have claimed that Majdalawi was one of their members. Majdalawi’s brother said on Facebook that Majdalwai was acting on his own and praised him as a “martyr.”

NGO Monitor researcher Yona Schiffmiller has argued that Doctors Without Borders is biased against Israel, citing their past support for Ahed Tamimi, the Palestinian girl who has thrown rocks at Israeli soldiers and even slapped one of them. Tamimi was recently praised by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah; she praised him in return.