November 15, 2018

University of Toronto Professor Refuses to Advise Pro-Israel Student

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A University of Toronto professor reportedly refused to provide career advice to a graduate student because the student is a supporter of Israel.

Ari Blaff, who is aiming to get his master’s degree in global affairs, wrote in Quillette that in December he asked Jens Hanssen, who teaches Middle Eastern and Mediterranean History at the university, in an email if he could pick his brain about “Middle Eastern history and academia” since he was looking into getting a doctorate degree in Middle Eastern studies.

Hanssen replied that he would not provide any advice to Blaff because of his involvement with Hasbara Fellowships.

“As far as I know, Hasbara fellows are Israeli advocacy activists sent to North American campuses on behalf of the World Union of Jewish Students, now under the auspices of the new Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy, which earlier this year has called for a ‘new offensive against Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ activists,” Hanssen wrote.

Hanssen proceeded to accuse Blaff of “slandering” people in an article he had written on Hasbara’s blog and that he’s being “instructed to conflate Judaism and Zionism and are encouraged to give the impression that such criticism constitute anti-Semitism.”

Therefore, Hanssen argued that Blaff poses a “grave threat” to “academic freedom” and consequently, he would not engage with Blaff in any way, shape or form.

Blaff responded by saying he still wanted to his perspective on how to succeed in the world of Middle East academia even if they had differences of opinion; Hanssen never responded.

“The more I reflected upon my exchange with Hanssen, the more irritated I became,” Blaff said. “A young student seeking career advice had approached a professor in good faith and received a broadside indicting his political views, nationality, and loyalty. This was not some off-the-cuff remark—it was a 300-word message which Hanssen had typed and stamped with his own name.”

After winter break, Blaff filed a complaint to the university against Hanssen; in August, the university told him that they found Hanssen’s response to Blaff to be overly harsh, which Hanssen acknowledged, but only after initially accusing Blaff of using his email as a way to “entrap” him.

However, the university concluded that Hanssen’s response was not “discriminatory on the grounds of religion or nationality.” Blaff has yet to receive a formal apology from the university or Hanssen on the matter.

“My story suggests that concerns like mine are subject to a double-standard,” Blaff wrote. “Had an Afro-Canadian or LGBTQ student faced similar treatment, I believe the university’s administration would not have tolerated a professor’s excuses, notwithstanding his belated contrition. But nearly a decade on Ontario campuses has taught me that this is par for the course.”

A university spokesperson told Canadian Jewish News (CJN) that the university “is committed to eliminating anti-Semitism, racism and faith-based discrimination in all its forms.”

“We are also committed to the fundamental principles of free expression and open discourse in our community, provided that it remains respectful and complies with the laws and policies that protect members of our community from discrimination,” the spokesperson added.

Robert Walker, the director of Hasbara Fellowship in Canada, told CJN that Hasbara is privately funded, as it was started by Aish HaTorah in 2001.

“Our mandate is to empower pro-Israel students so they may tell the truth about Israel on campus and combat the senseless misinformation peddled by BDS activists,” Walker told the Toronto Sun.

Michael Mostyn, the president of B’nai Brith, told the Sun that Hanssen’s response “is proof of the corrosive and anti-Semitic impact that the BDS movement is having on university campuses.”

“Devotees of the movement have regressed from boycotting the Jewish State to boycotting Jewish institutions and now to boycotting individual Jewish students,” Mostyn said.

University of Toronto Professor Jordan Peterson told the Journal in an email, “Welcome to the new world of compassionate leftist anti-Semitism.”

According to Canary Mission, Hanssen signed a petition in 2014 calling for Middle East scholars “not to collaborate on projects and events involving Israeli academic institutions, not to teach at or to attend conferences and other events at such institutions, and not to publish in academic journals based in Israel.” He also moderated an event in 2010 that featured Omar Barghouti, the founder of BDS.

Both the university and Hanssen have not responded to the Journal’s requests for comment at publication time.

Newly Elected Minnesota Rep. Omar’s Campaign Says She Supports BDS

Screenshot from Twitter.

Newly elected congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) has now come out in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, despite her stated opposition to it in the primary.

At an August forum, Omar said that BDS isn’t “helpful in getting that two-state solution.”

“I think the particular purpose for [BDS] is to make sure that there is pressure, and I think that pressure really is counteractive,” Omar said. “Because in order for us to have a process of getting to a two-state solution, people have to be willing to come to the table and have a conversation about how that is going to be possible and I think that stops the dialogue.”

However, Omar’s campaign told the Muslim Girl on Nov. 12 that Omar actually does support BDS.

Ilhan believes in and supports the BDS movement, and has fought to make sure people’s right to support it isn’t criminalized,” the campaign said. “She does however, have reservations on the effectiveness of the movement in accomplishing a lasting solution.”

When TC Jewfolk pressed Omar on her apparent flip-flop, Omar replied that while she supports BDS, she has “reservations” about the long-term effects of BDS in finding a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. She added that this is what she said at the forum.

As the Journal has previously reported, Omar tweeted in 2012 during Hamas’ rockets attacks against Israel, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evils of Israel.” Omar has since claimed that the tweet wasn’t anti-Semitic, tweeting, “Drawing attention to the apartheid Israeli regime is far from hating Jews.” She later tweeted:

As a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, Omar voted against an anti-BDS bill because she didn’t want to abrogate “the ability of people to fight toward that justice and peace.”

Additionally, in January. 2016, Omar reportedly called for the University of Minnesota to divest from Israeli bonds.

Omar, along with newly congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who supports a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, will become the first two Muslim women to be elected to Congress.

Defense Minister Out: Israel on Road to New Election Over Gaza

Updated: If you already read this, jump to the last comment – more information following the first post-resignation polls.

Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned from his post. His reason, or excuse: “we buy short term quiet but in the long term we hurt Israel’s security.” The ceasefire in Gaza is his reason. His marginalization as Defense Minister – Netanyahu calling the shots – is his reason. Is Israel going to new election? That’s almost a certainty. Without Lieberman, the coalition is becoming smaller – too small to pass legislation or have a coherent policy. Without Lieberman, all other partners have to play tough so as not to be seen as weaker than Lieberman on security and terrorism.

Here are a few comments on the resignation and the coming election.




Going to a new election over Gaza is not necessarily a bad idea. Political calculations aside – the positioning of parties, the amalgamation of camps – there is a debate worth having on the policy towards Gaza. By choosing to accept a cease fire and let Israel suffer an image setback Netanyahu made his position clear. By resigning from his coveted position Lieberman made his opposite position clear. Now the people will have a choice. Which of our leaders do they trust? Which of the two positions (restrain, attack) do they favor? In a few months, not many, we will get the answer.




Lieberman made a solid political calculation. As Defense Minister, he is criticized for any inaction, and does not get the credit for restraint (this goes to Netanyahu). His resignation turns him into a hero of those wanting to see a bolder, tougher, less compromising Israel. Israelis who believe that accepting a ceasefire was a show of indecisive weakness might give him their votes. His main rival will be Naftali Bennet of The Jewish Home – another contender for a tougher Israel.




This makes Netanyahu the centrist, adult candidate. Yes – the centrist.




All polls still predict a right-religious victory in the next election, that is, the same coalition or a similar coalition for yet another term. But there are complications:


The ultra-Orthodox camp is in disarray, as Jerusalem’s elections demonstrated yesterday (there was a divide in the Haredi vote in Jerusalem).


We do not yet know if the investigation against Netanyahu will produce more headlines before Election Day.


New candidates are going to enter the fray and might change the political landscape.


Netanyahu just hurt his own image by his decision not to expand the IDF operation in Gaza.




Beware of conspiracy theories, although some of them are quite appealing. Such as: This is a Netanyahu-Lieberman coordinated move. Netanyahu wanted an election and needed an excuse to get one. Lieberman needed a cause around which to rally his voters (and to steal some from Bennet).


A likely scenario: These two will have to reunite following the next election. A likely scenario: Lieberman will once again become Defense Minister.




Was he a good Defense Minister? Lieberman was right to argue in his press conference that his term was quiet, that he handled the job with dignity. And yet, with Gaza in the background he has a problem.




Netanyahu, speaking an hour or so before Lieberman announced his resignation, defended his decision to keep the calm in Gaza. He will get a lot of credit for this position – but not from rightwing voters. Left-wingers will give him credit for Gaza, and vote for someone else. Netanyahu needs to solidify his base amid this decision. If Hamas makes noise again, political calculations will force the PM’s hands.


8. Update


New elections can always provide surprises, but don’t hold your breath. The polls from the last 24 hours show a somewhat weakened Likud Party and yet a clear advantage for the current coalition over all other possible coalitions. In fact, some of these polls even show the potential for a larger right-of-center coalition that could get as many as 73 seats (the numbers from a Ch. 2 News poll).



Israel, Hamas Reportedly Agree to Truce

Residents of southern Israel protest against their government’s decision to hold fire in Gaza in response to a similar decision by Palestinian militants, in Sderot, Israel November 13, 2018, REUTERS/ Amir Cohen

Israel and Hamas have reportedly agreed to an Egyptian-mediated truce after Hamas launched hundreds of rockets toward southern Israel on Nov. 12.

According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Hamas and Islamic Jihad launched more than 460 rockets into southern Israel, resulting in at least 108 Israelis wounded. Israel with 160 airstrikes against Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The Times of Israel (TOI) reports that Egypt led the ceasefire talks; Qatar, Norway and the United Nations also contributed.

“Israel maintains its right to act,” a senior Israeli official told TOI. “Requests from Hamas for a ceasefire came through four different mediators. Israel responded that the events on the ground will decide [if a ceasefire will go into effect].”

Hamas hailed the ceasefire as a bulwark against “Zionist aggression.”

“Our rockets have pounded Israel and sent a clear message: Bomb for bomb, blood for blood,” Hamas official Ismail declared. “If you attack Gaza and our people, Hamas rockets will find you everywhere, in Haifa, Jaffa, Ashkelon and Ashdod.”

The ceasefire has been roundly criticized by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, as well as the Zionist Union and Yesh Atid parties.

Residents of southern Israel communities are protesting the ceasefire, arguing that the repeated use of ceasefire agreements enable Hamas to continue to launch rockets into their communities.

Indiana University Student President Vetoes Resolution Condemning Pro-BDS Speaker

Photo from Wikipedia.

Alex Wisniewsi, student government president at Indiana University, vetoed a resolution that would have condemned a pro-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) speaker on campus.

The speaker was Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberty Union’s (ACLU) human rights program, who said on Wednesday that Palestinians are “second class citizens” in Israel, according to the Indiana Daily Student (IDS). He argued that this was because Palestinians villages aren’t being recognized in Israel.

Dakwar also objected that his critiques of Israel were rooted in anti-Semitism.

“I should not be labeled anti-Semitic just because I am defending my right to exist,” Dakwar said.

However, Rachel Aranyi, who sponsored the resolution, told IDS there was too much “complexity and nuance” in the issue for it to be presented in a personal opinion lecture format.

She also argued that Dakwar’s support of BDS “crosses the line into discrimination that targets a specific group and denies rights of a people to have self-determination – that’s when there’s issues.”

Ultimately, Wisniewsi decided to veto the resolution because he didn’t think the student government should “condemn academic discussions that promote free speech, encourage the voice of underrepresented students and allow for opportunities to learn about a different world view.”

Dakwar once tweeted in 2017, “Israeli leaders exploit horrible acts of anti-Semitism to encourage Jews to move to Israel” and added, “Anti-Zionism ≠ Anti-Semitism.” However, Jewish leaders such Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, have argued that “anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.”

In 2015, the Indiana University’s student government passed a resolution stating, “The Indiana University Student Association recognizes that the Jewish people, like all peoples, have a collective right to self-determination, and considers attempts to undermine these rights, including the global BDS Movement against Israel, to be a form of bigotry.”

UC Berkeley SJP to Host Vigil Equating Pittsburgh Shooting to Israel’s Actions in Gaza

Photo from Flickr.

UC Berkeley’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter will be hosting a vigil with Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) that equates the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh to Israel’s actions in Gaza, according to Berkeley SJP’s Facebook page.

The vigil was initially scheduled for Thursday; Berkeley SJP’s post described it as an event to honor “the lives of those lost to violence and hate at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and the Palestinians killed in Gaza by settlers and Israeli state violence in the month of October.”

“Eleven people were killed after a gunman opened fire on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Saturday, October 27th,” the event page read. “That same weekend, three children in Gaza were murdered in an Israeli airstrike of the thirty-one Palestinians killed by the Israeli military in the month of October alone. From Pittsburgh to Gaza, we condemn violence in the name of white supremacy.”

Tikvah, a pro-Israel student organization at UC Berkeley, posted on Facebook in response that they were “disgusted and appalled” by the vigil.

We are utterly disgusted and appalled by the audacity of SJP to hold their vigil tomorrow night. Students for Justice in…

Posted by Tikvah: Students for Israel on Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Tikvah also promoted an event on their Facebook page scheduled for Nov. 22 to stand up to anti-Semitism.

Nathan Bentolila, the president of Tikvah and a third-year bioengineering student at UC Berkeley, told the Journal in a phone interview SJP never once reached out to them or any other Jewish organizations regarding Sunday’s vigil and they did not represent themselves at the vigil.

“They’re not doing it for the victims, because if they were, they would have participated in our vigil, they’re doing this to promote a political agenda, and frankly it’s really disgusting they’re doing this, and it’s anti-Semitism” Bentolila said. “There’s no other way to characterize it.”

Berkeley’s SJP’s event page for the vigil was deleted; their page now shows the vigil being held on Nov. 22 instead with the accompanying statement from JVP:

We deleted the original event page out of concern for attendees’ safety and the threat of online harassment. We will be rescheduling promptly at a later date. 

Our intention for this event is for our communities, Progressive Jews and Palestinians, to come together to grieve during these difficult times. Just as we organize in solidarity, we mourn in solidarity. We reject any attempts to politicize our communities coming together to mourn.

Rooted in Jewish values of social justice, Jewish Voice for Peace believes that safety comes through solidarity with marginalized communities rather than militarization. Together we heal, united we fight.

Bentolila said that the university should address the matter by issuing a public statement condemning the vigil and look into sensitivity training regarding anti-Semitism.

“Clearly there is a lack of sensitivity on campus toward Jewish students,” Bentolila said, pointing out that SJP once protested a mural celebrating Jewish life in Israel.

Bentolila added that he didn’t think the university was doing enough to address anti-Semitism on campus in general.

“Jewish students have felt this way and have experienced these sort of problems for many years, so clearly something isn’t being done,” Bentolila said.

UC Berkeley’s SJP, JVP and the university did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment as of publication time.

Oy, Wow, and Other Comments on the Midterms, the Jews and Israel

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Macon, Ga. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

1. A historical perspective might interfere with election hype, damaging the ratings. A historical perspective is the enemy of headline-hunters, champions of drama. Still, it is worth remembering that in the first midterm elections of Barack Obama, the Democratic Party lost 63 seats in the House. In the first midterm elections of Bill Clinton, 54. Ronald Reagan’s Republican Party lost 26. Carter 15. Ford 48. Nixon 12. Johnson 47. Eisenhower 18. Truman 54. Almost every party of every president loses seats in the midterm elections. Exceptions occur amid events such as 9/11, or a colossal economic meltdown, or the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The mid-term failures of Truman and Reagan did not prevent them from becoming two of the most important presidents in American history. Clinton and Obama survived the bitter midterm defeats, and were elected to a second term. Yes, Trump was on the ballot in this cycle. Yes, the public voted against him. In 1946 the public voted against Harry Truman in much greater numbers. It was hardly the final verdict on his presidency.

2. Winners and losers? You don’t need me for that. You see it, you feel it: A Democratic victory is not convincing enough to feel like real victory.

3. Twelve years ago, when a new record of Jewish congressional representation was set, I wrote an article under the headline: “First Thought on Most Jewish Congress Ever: Wow. Second Thought: Oy.” The argument was as follows: “Isn’t it too much? Just 2 percent of the population and 13 senators out of 100? Two percent of the population and 30 congressmen? Aren’t they going to draw the attention of all the anti-Semites, conspiracy theorists, Walt and Mersheimers of the world? Maybe a lower profile would have been preferable?”

Maybe what we need today is an article with the reverse headline: “First Thought on Most Jewish Congress Ever: Oy. Second Thought: Wow.”

4. I’ll explain, but first 2 needed caveats:

  1. There is no new record of representatives this time (this was expected).
  2. Generally speaking, more Democrats in Congress means more Jews in Congress. So we should not get overexcited about the increase in Jewish presence on Capitol Hill.

5. Now explanation.

We begin with an Oy, because of all the talk, some valid, some hysterical, about anti-Semitic undertones in these past election. Remember the days when Joe Lieberman was running for vice president, and everybody was talking about how much this is a non-issue? These days – Oy indeed! – are over. Whether because of non-Jews using anti-Semitic images to smear their opponents – or because of Jews making anti-Semitism a political tool with which to sway the voters in their direction.

In short, anti-Semitism is no longer a non-issue.

6. Still, my proposed reverse headline ends with a Wow. Because of a record number of Jewish candidates that were running this time. Democratic and Republican, female and male, highly engaged Jewishly, barely engaged Jewishly, radical and centrist, pleasers and provocateurs, gays and straight, businessman and Navy commanders, Jews and half Jews, and spouses of Jews who raise Jewish children.

As Ben Sales reports, five Jewish Democrats are “set to chair key House committees.””. Jerrold Nadler, the Judiciary Committee; Eliot Engel, Foreign Affairs; and Nita Lowey, Appropriations. Adam Schiff of California will head the Intelligence Committee and John Yarmuth of Kentucky will lead the Budget Committee.

How can we say Oy when Jews feel secured enough, liked enough, involved enough, to run and win in elections?

7. Israelis are as self centered as everybody else and hence consider only one question: Will the next Congress be supportive of Israel? will it be supportive of President  Trump’s support for Israel? And if such questions annoy most American Jews, well, that’s an old story. A story whose beginning can be traced as back as the story of the U.S.-Israel relations.

Asking the question this way essentially gives an answer to what Israel wanted. It wanted a Congress supportive of what it sees as Trump’s support for Israel. Only one party could guarantee such an outcome — and it’s not the Democratic Party. So yes, Israel lost tonight. But since the wave is not a big wave – Israel’s is not a big loss.

8. Israel also gained an opportunity to re-engage with the party whose voters – and some of its leaders – presents it with a complicated challenge. Simply put, it is this challenge: Can Israel have the support of both political camps in this era of partisanship?

To answer this question, consider all other issues on the American agenda: China, Climate Change, Immigration, Taxes, Health Care, Tariffs, Supreme Court, Media, Transgender Rights, Religion and State. Consider these, and all other issues and then repose the question: Can anyone or anything have the support of both political camps in this era of partisanship? And what are the needed steps to gain such unique and out-of-fashion status?

9. The Jewish vote: Nothing new (CNN Exit poll: 79% voted for House Democrats). So there is no need for over-interpretation (yes, if anyone had doubts, they do not vote for the House based on Netanyhau’s priorities).

Documents Show Qatar Likely Hacked Boteach, Others Due to Ties With Adelson

Screenshot from Twitter.

A series of messages reviewed by the Jewish Journal show that the nation of Qatar likely targeted Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in a hacking scheme due to his ties with major GOP donor and Israel supporter Sheldon Adelson.

The Journal reviewed a series of WhatsApp messages between Nick Muzin, the former deputy chief of staff for Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Tex.) presidential campaign, and Joey Allaham, former owner of New York kosher restaurants. The two were reportedly contracted to conduct lobbying efforts on behalf of the Qatari government.

On Jan. 26, Allaham messaged Muzin, “This Vegas thing is bothering me,” referencing that Allaham and Muzin were not going to be welcomed at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s (RJC) leadership retreat in April. A Republican source told the Journal that this was in part due to their ties to the Qatari government.

“It’s really shocking,” Muzin replied. “Someone very influential there is out to get me. It must be Sheldon [Adelson].”

Muzin added, “I think Shmuley [Boteach] stirred him up.”

Boteach and Adelson have close ties, as Adelson donated $500,000 to Boteach’s 2012 congressional campaign as well as an additional $500,000 to a PAC supporting Boteach’s candidacy. Adelson has also been a supporter of Boteach’s The World Values Network.

The rest of the messages show Muzin and Allaham monitoring media coverage on Broidy by sharing various links with each other and, in certain instances, talking about their desire to “go after” him in the media.

Qatar has been diplomatically isolated of late due to Doha’s growing warmth with Iran and its reported funding of Islamic militant groups like Hamas. Consequently, Qatar has attempted to woo over prominent members of the pro-Israel community to procure influence in the Trump administration.

Former Republican National Committee Deputy Chairman Elliott Broidy has claimed in a lawsuit that Qatar hacked his emails, as well as his wife’s emails, to leak information about him in an attempt to damage his reputation and discredit his advocacy against the Qatari government. Broidy’s lawyers have alleged Broidy was one of more than 1,000 email accounts that have been targeted by Qatar, including Boteach’s and a number of other American citizens.

Muzin has previously denied being involved in the hacking of Broidy’s emails; Allaham has previously stated that he wasn’t taking sides in the Broidy lawsuit. Both claimed to have ended their working relationship with Qatar in June.

The Qatari embassy has previously called Broidy’s lawsuit “weak” and filled with “conjecture.”

A federal judge previously dismissed the lawsuit against Qatar and Muzin over jurisdictional reasons.

“This ruling by the court in California was not a ruling on the merits or likelihood of success in the case,” Lee Wolosky, one of Broidy’s attorneys, said in a statement, adding that they “will pursue those claims aggressively on the East Coast where they will not have the venue defense they asserted in California.”

As of publication time, Muzin has not responded to the Journal’s request for comment.

Meet the Israelis Who Expose Our Country’s True Face

Courtesy of StandWithUs

This is the 11th year of one of my personal favorite projects to battle bigotry and modern-day anti-Semitism – the “Israeli Soldiers Tour. ”This project is one of the most significant counter-attacks of the notorious “Israeli Apartheid Week,” where false information about Israel is being spread by haters across North America college campuses.

In this tour, organized by the pro-Israeli nonprofit organization, StandWithUs, 14 reserve duty Israeli soldier-students travel the United States and speak on campuses, high schools, synagogues, churches, etc. They recount their personal experiences of serving in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) upholding its strict moral code while fighting an enemy that hides behind its civilians.

They also present their backgrounds, life in Israel and answer questions. “Israeli Soldiers Tour,” puts a human face to the IDF uniform, and by doing so, trying to combat the demonization of Israel and Israelis led by anti-Israeli movements, such as the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions.)  Their in-front-of-the-lines-and-behind-the-headlines stories, which have never been heard before, try to depict the more accurate, more balanced, reality in Israel.

Two of the participants of this year’s tour, Chen and Omri, agreed to let us in this emotional, exciting, life-changing experience, and answer some questions:

Chen, 24, was born and raised in Jerusalem to a family of longtime Jerusalemites.  Her family fled anti-Semitism, one side in the 15th century during the Spanish Inquisition, and the other from Yemen.

After high school, Chen participated in a pre-military program where she volunteered with at-risk youth in Sderot, a city along the Gaza border. During Operation Pillar of Defense, Chen decided to stay under the threat of rocket fire to help the youth both mentally and physically.  She served as a Navigation Instructor in the IDF, responsible for teaching soldiers to read maps and navigate in the field. Today, Chen studies Political Science and Israel Studies at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

Omri is 28 years old. His mother is of Eastern European descent and his father’s family is from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Omri grew up in central Israel in the town of Rishon LeZion. He now lives in Beer Sheva and studies Computer Engineering at Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

At 18, Omri began a 6-year stint in the Israeli Air Force as a pilot cadet, and he later transferred to “Yahalom” a special combat engineering unit, as a bomb technician. While in the IDF he participated and commanded missions in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and on the northern border, defusing missiles, explosive belts, and booby traps.

Following his military service he enrolled at the Ein-Prat Beit Midrash, an intensive Jewish learning programs for secular and religious Israelis in their twenties. After completing his studies Omri traveled around Central and South America.

Q:  What is Israel to you, and how do you pass this message to students abroad?

Chen: Despite of all its inner conflicts, at the end of the day, it’s the most united place for me.  Israel is the only place in the world that I can truly call home.

I grew up in a house with Israel deeply embedded in our roots because my family lived here for many generations before the country was even established.

It was important to me that audiences understand that deep connection, and the relations among the people and what brings us all together as a nation.

Omri: Israel is the most normal-crazy place on earth.

On the one hand, we live our daily lives just like the American people: studying, working and focusing on having fun.   On the other, we put our life on hold for 3 years after high school in order to protect our borders by enlisting in the army.

I think I’m passing this message by just being me. I’m trying to show that Israel is not just a headline you see in the media.  It’s a real place with real people and real stories. When students see that I dress like them, watch Netflix like them, but I served in the army and dealt with bombs and some dangerous stuff. they get the message.

Q:  Walk us through the Israeli Soldiers Tour – how do you prepare? What does the tour look like?

Omri: The SWU (StandWithUs) Israel crew helped us develop our speeches, explained how to respond to friendly and hostile questions and how to properly approach Americans – they’re a bit different from Israelis, you know.

Our daily routine was 2-3 events a day in different locations. We told our stories about Israel and IDF to whoever wants to listen – Jews, Christians, Muslims, high schools, colleges, universities, local communities, synagogues and churches.  In our spare time we get acquainted with American culture. We travel the cities, eat American junk food and watch football.

I was very excited about the tour. The opportunity to meet a lot of new people and influence them seemed magical to me.

Courtesy of StandWithUs

I was happy to visit USA for the first time and explore a lot of new cities and culture that till now I’ve only saw at the movies.

My expectations from the tour partly matched the tour itself. In the good scenario, I thought we are going to talk to people who never heard about Israel and in the bad case, heard  lies about it.

I was surprised to see that we have a lot of events with only a Jewish crowd. After several conversations, I understood the relevance of those events. Jews who aren’t living in Israel experience life way differently than we do – it’s much harder to keep your Jewish identity abroad.

When we tell them about Israel, they sometime envy us and really start thinking about “Aliya” – it always comes up.

Israelis tend to take things for granted. The support of the Jewish people around the world, and the USA in particular, must not take for granted. The support we get from American Jews is vital for Israel thriving, from all aspects. There are also a lot of amazing programs in Israel that are being funded by our friends abroad.

To sum up, I understood the importance of that connection and I was glad that I could make it stronger.

Q: Share one of the most memorable moments from your recent tour.

Chen: We were protested at Oregon State University (OSU) by members of the BDS campaign. They entered the classroom with signs saying things such as, ‘End the Occupation’ and ‘Israel is committing genocide.’  They stood in front of the screen, blocking our PowerPoint presentations.

Courtesy of StandWithUs

At first, we tried to talk to them, but they refused to move; eventually we decided to continue anyway.  They heard our stories, and at the end, asked us all their questions. We really created a dialogue. The amazing thing was that it felt like they were actually listening, and although they objected to some of our answers, there were some things they were truly surprised to hear.

We could tell that they began to realize that there may be more to this than they believe and some things they didn’t know.  It was really a memorable moment because it felt like we really made a difference, that we tried and succeeded in creating a dialogue and breaking many of the misconceptions they held.

Also, the rest of the audience thanked us for that dialogue and said they learned a lot.  Jewish students relayed that after hearing us, they feel better equipped on how to deal with these campus groups.

Stanford University’s Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) protesters weren’t there to listen.  They completely disrespected us and were only there to call us liars and murderers. They laughed at us and kept interfering when we tried to answer their questions.

I think that everyone has the right to have their own opinion, but these people don’t know the first thing about the Israeli reality. As someone who grew up around Jerusalem and the West Bank, and lived next to the Gaza border for a year under threat of rockets, it’s absurd when JVP members try to tell me what my reality is.

They have no idea what Israel sometimes has to deal with, and the terrible terror that sometimes affects our life…and, they don’t even care.  They see only one side and completely disregard the other, and that’s wrong.


Omri: Shabbat dinner. Friday night. Beit Chabad. Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Maya and I just told our experience in the army in a very intimate event – about 10 Jewish students from the local university.

We share about the Israeli-Palestine conflict from a personal point of view. We end by wishing for peace between the two people.

Right after we conclude, the Rabbi started singing…quietly…alone..

עוד יבוא שלום עלינו, עוד יבוא  שלום עלינו, עוד יבוא שלום עלינו ועל כולם…

(One day, peace will come to us and to everyone)

Then, he raised his voice a bit, and the whole group joined in while banging on the table.

סאלאם, עלינו ועל כל העולם, סאלאם, סאלאם..

(Salam (peace in Arabic) upon us and for all of the world.)

The rhythm of that classic song shook my soul, it felt more relevant now than ever. Our message for peace was successfully delivered.

Q: Who are you aiming for? Who is the target audience you want to reach?

Omri: As I mentioned, I am aiming for anyone who wants to listen.  I am aiming for people who want to challenge their thoughts – those who aren’t rigid in their ideas and want to hear a different opinions and different point of views.

Chen: It’s about reaching anyone who will listen.  It doesn’t matter if they are Jews or not, if they are pro-or-anti-Israel, in between or just didn’t care that much.

It is important that they know that the media doesn’t necessarily provide all the information, or sometimes not even the truth, and that there is so much more to Israel than they may know.

Courtesy of StandWithUs

Q:  What are people still missing when looking at Israel from the outside?

Chen: One of the most important things is that Israel is more than just what they see or read regarding the conflict.  It has such great culture, people, views, economy and so much more.  Sometimes, people forget to look at it as any other modern country such as their own.  Sadly, sometimes Israel must deal with a difficult reality – but that’s only part of what it is.

At the end of the day, I think that most people don’t necessarily know Israel’s reality in the conflict – they look at it from only one angle without realizing that there are always two sides to a story.  Also, people tend to regard things as “black or white,” and the Israeli story has so many different layers.  It’s much more complex than people sometimes think – one story or one fact can never really encapsulate everything.

Omri: They’re probably missing the whole picture.

It’s easy to choose a side and stick to it, especially when the press reporting from the borders twists the reality and fake news fill the social media like a swirling, out-of-control hurricane.

An outsider viewing Israel likely thinks that it is a war zone.  But, they’re missing the fun parts – our beautiful beaches, amazing ancient cities and history, delicious food and incredible people!

Q: How can we contribute to the battle against modern antisemitism and Israel’s delegitimization?

Chen: We can battle against delegitimization through education.  Once individuals have more knowledge, society will be better.  Knowledge is power.  Once people explore different sources of information than just what they see in the news, they will begin to see the other side and the complexity of the issues.

Omri: The first thing that you already did is to read this blog! Half way to go!

The most important thing is to be actively involved. Stand up and defend Israel, don’t let issues pass right you by.

Personally, I believe in education. Spread the truth about Israel, show the good and bad – we’re not perfect, but nor is anyone else. Deliver our realty as it is without any propaganda.  When people know more and are less misinformed, they will fight antisemitism and delegitimization of Israel on their own.

And, you can always ask the StandWithUs team for programs and activities in the USA, Israel, Canada, the UK and Latin America. There’s a lot of good people there that deal with these issues on a daily base.

Q: How can you tell a tour was successful? What are your indicators?

Chen: Having so many people from different places and different ages – teens, collage students or community members – asking questions and being involved and interested in Israel. At the conclusions part of our talks, hearing their reactions and their thoughts about Israel, made me feel as if we really managed to reach them and that our stories touched them.

Omri: My main indicator is the people. After each event, we’re being approached by many people who want to thank us and ask us many personal questions. You can really feel the you’ve affected someone and that’s a wonderful feeling.

Q: This is now the 11th tour. Looking at the past 10 years, do you think the attempts to delegitimize Israel and the wave of modern-day antisemitism is decreasing? 

Omri: This is my first tour, and my first encounter with the American people in America. So it’s hard for me to feel the difference.

That being said, I can feel the wind of change after each and every talk. I can feel the young students, that might never have spoken to an Israeli or even a Jewish person, enlightened  by our meeting.

In my opinion, the roots of modern-day antisemitism is ignorance. There is no place for that in the 21th century.  It’s a process, it might take time, but in the end, knowledge will overcome it.

Michael Dickson, Executive Director StandWithUs- Israel:

“There is no silver bullet for Antisemitism – we expect it to continue. What is important is that we are constantly aware of how the threat metamorphoses. The attempts to delegitimize the world’s only Jewish country remain and they morph into anti-Semitism. 

The ‘Israeli Soldiers Tour’ was created years ago by students in our Fellowship program incensed by the lies being told about the IDF and asked us to confront it.  It continues to grow and the impact the multitude of speaking engagements and interactions these Israeli young adults have – in addition to their online following – is at its peak.  One of the best antidotes to BDS is for people to interact with Israelis – in many cases it is the first time they ever met one – and realize they are just like them.”

UCLA Sends Cease-and-Desist Letter to NSJP Over Conference Logo

Photo from Flickr.

UCLA has sent a cease-and-desist letter to National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) over their logo for the upcoming NSJP conference on Nov. 16-18.

As the Journal reported on Wednesday, the logo features the UCLA Bruin Bear playing with a Palestinian kite. The Journal has obtained a copy of UCLA’s cease-and-desist letter to NSJP, which was signed by Administrative Vice Chancellor Michael Beck and dated Oct. 31.

The letter begins by noting that the logo has “the unauthorized use” of UCLA’s name and Bruin icon.

“Taken as a whole, these uses claim, suggest, or imply an affiliation with or an endorsement by UCLA of NSJP and/or its annual conference, which is simply incorrect,” Beck wrote.

Beck then demanded that NSJP re-work the UCLA name in the logo to make it clear that UCLA is simply the location for the conference and not in any way an affiliate or endorser of the conference. He also demanded that the UCLA name and Bruin Bear be removed from artwork “associated with a Palestinian kite which some may interpret as an intention to endorse violence against Israel.”

“UCLA did not grant permission for this use nor would it permit use of its name in a manner that could imply endorsement of violence,” Beck added.

Beck told NSJP that they had until Nov. 5 to submit in writing that they have complied with the demands of the letter.

“The University hereby reserves its right to pursue whatever additional remedies or claims it may have, including cancellation of the event, if NSJP fails to fully comply with the terms of this directive,” Beck concluded.

Among the criticism of the logo included the following statement from Judea Pearl, chancellor professor of computer science at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member and Daniel Pearl Foundation president, to the Journal:

I have served on the faculty of UCLA for 49 years and I have never thought I would see the day when the symbol of my university would turn into a Hamas recruitment poster. The NSJP Conference reminds us that hate did not stop at Pittsburgh. U.S. campuses, emboldened by our blindness and inaction are now offering racist groups a fertile ground to spawn their venom, test out intimidating tactics, and gain academic legitimacy. The stench of hatred and sounds of incitement to hostilities that will emerge from the NSJP Conference will damage UCLA’s reputation irreparably.

NSJP did not immediately respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

The full letter can be seen below:

Record Number of Women Elected in Israeli Municipal Elections

Analysts argue that female representation in local politics remains quite low, despite promising results

Female politicians made history this week in Israel with a record of at least 11 women chosen to head cities and local councils across the country, five more than in the previous municipal elections. In addition, a 12th woman could potentially be confirmed as mayor of Katzrin, a northern city where only 46 votes currently separate the two leading candidates and where a few-hundred votes still need to be counted.

Six additional female candidates will contest run-off votes in other councils and towns, where no candidate managed to reach the 40 percent threshold.

Elections were held in 251 authorities, among them 54 regional councils, 122 local councils and 75 municipalities across Israel. The number of women running for mayor and municipal council seats increased significantly: 72 women ran in total, compared to 41 five years earlier.

Many are attributing the increase to legislation passed in 2014 that encourages greater female representation. Co-sponsored by parliamentarians Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), Yifat Kariv (Yesh Atid) and Haneen Zoabi (Balad), the law rewards municipal parties whose elected representatives are at least one-third female with an additional 15 percent in government funding.

“We saw a much greater female presence these elections in the candidate lists of those running for mayor and also in local councils,” Lavie conveyed to The Media Line. “It’s clear that this law helped; we’ve said for a while that 2018 would be the beginning of the revolution.

“We knew that if wanted to see a change soon, we needed to penalize those who don’t encourage women’s advancement,” the parliamentarian continued. “It’s absurd that at the national level in parliament, we have one-third female representation and that this number is so much lower at the municipal level.”

Though the full effects of the law have yet to be determined, Lavie believes the initiative caused a major spike in the number of women who ran across the board. “The fact that these women put themselves out there as candidates is revolutionary in itself and paves the way for others to follow in the future,” she asserted.

Out of roughly 6.6 million eligible voters, more than 60% cast a ballot—a 10% increase in turnout over 2013—a development some ascribe to another new law that gave workers the day off to vote.

Despite the boost in female representation and the record number elected, only about 10% of the total candidates were women. While 57 vied for mayoral offices, 665 men did the same; in local councils, 14 women ran versus 119 men; and as regards the more numerous municipal seats, 3,975 women ran as opposed to 13,478 men.

Labor Party candidate Dr. Einat Kalisch Rotem made history by winning in the northern city of Haifa, becoming the city’s first female mayor as well as the first-ever Israeli woman to lead a major metropolitan area.

Another huge upset took place in Beit Shemesh, where religious-Zionist candidate Dr. Aliza Bloch was victorious by just a few hundred votes over incumbent Moshe Abutbul. Located close to Jerusalem, the result was surprising given the city’s large ultra-Orthodox population that has made headlines in recent years over attempts to enforce modesty rules and gender-segregated seating on public buses.

Female candidates also made strides in other places, with Tal Ohana becoming the first woman to lead the southern city of Yeruham. Meanwhile, Miriam Feirberg-Ikar, who has held office for the past 20 years in Netanya, was re-elected for a fifth term despite facing an ongoing graft probe.

Aida Touma-Sliman, a member of the Israeli parliament for the Joint Arab List who is also chair of the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, believes the results point to a significant change in public perception of women in local politics.

“I believe women have had a shift in consciousness and see that they can shatter the glass ceiling,” she asserted to The Media Line, noting that Arab women were beginning to step up to the plate as well. “In these elections, there was a significant improvement in [Arab] women’s participation.”

The lawmaker—who also founded the Women Against Violence Association, which aims to advance the status of women in Israel’s Arab sector—nevertheless conceded that conservative socio-cultural norms in Arab towns and villages mean that political opportunities for women remain relatively limited.

“In the Arab sector, people are often elected based on their families or other kinds of tribal connections,” Touma-Sliman affirmed. “But I think women in general wishing to enter [local politics] also face financial challenges. They are not encouraged to get involved at the municipal level.”

Though Lavie and Touma-Sliman agree that the election results are encouraging for women, Dr. Ofer Kenig, a Research Fellow in the Political Reform Program at the Israel Democracy Institute, contends that there is much room for improvement.

“This number still [represents] a very, very small share of the 251 local authorities in Israel,” he stressed to The Media Line. “We’re talking about 5 [percent]  or 6 percent of all mayors who are female. It may be a good sign, but it’s only the start of a long process and hopefully, the success of [these] women could pave the way for more to enter the scene.

“If we look at local politics, in particular, the perception is that it is kind of a jungle, aggressive and masculine,” Kenig concluded.

Beyond the local level, female politicians achieved two other milestones. The Israeli parliament will soon have a record 36 female lawmakers (out of 120), when Osnat Mark (Likud) replaces Jackie Levy (Likud), who was elected as mayor of Beit She’an.

Finally, Amira Oron was named ambassador to Egypt, the first woman to hold the position since the two countries established full diplomatic relations in 1979. Oron will be the second woman to serve as an Israeli envoy to an Arab country, following Einat Schlein’s appointment as ambassador to Jordan in 2015.

Israeli Organizations Step Up to Help Pittsburgh Community Recover From Shooting

Mourners visit a makeshift memorial outside the Tree of Life synagogue, a day after 11 Jewish worshippers were shot dead in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

Israeli organizations are stepping up to provide aid to the Squirrel Hill community of Pittsburgh in the aftermath of Saturday’s shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue that killed 11 people.

Israel’s United Hatzalah’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit is already on its way to Pittsburgh to provide emotional support to community members and family members who lost loved ones in the shooting.

“We will be utilizing techniques and tools that we have developed here in Israel and have proven to be highly successful in assisting those who have suffered from similar incidents here,” Miriam Ballin, director of United Hatzalah’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit, told the Jerusalem Post.

Additionally, the Israeli ZAKA International Unit is helping procure human remains from the scene of the shooting in order to provide them with a proper burial.

“We grieve together with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh and pray for the full and speedy recovery of the wounded,” ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav told Israel 21C. “Our volunteers will also work with the community to offer assistance in all matters related to this tragic and horrific attack.”

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett had told his ministry to provide to the Squirrel Hill community in any way possible and is flying to the community itself, according to the Post.

“We stand together with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh, we stand together with the American people in the face of this horrendous anti-Semitic brutality and we all pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video message.

Swarthmore SJP Calls for University to Join BDS

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Swarthmore’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter is calling on the university to divest from companies that do business with the Israel.

The Phoenix, Swarthmore’s student newspaper, reports that SJP held a rally on Oct. 9 calling on the school to divest from seven specific companies – a list that included Boeing, Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, Hyundai and Hewlett-Packard – that “are complicit in Israeli settlement of disputed land.”

“I think the goal is more broadly is several things: get Israel to end the blockade on Gaza, get Israel to end its military occupation of the West Bank, and allow Palestinians the right of return, which they are guaranteed under international law,” SJP member Fouad Dakwar said at the rally.

Swarthmore Students for Israel wrote in an Oct. 10 statement on Facebook that they “vehemently condemn” SJP’s latest announcement:

Israel is an issue that supersedes religious and political lines and we firmly stand with the Pro-Israel community, both Jewish and non-Jewish alike. As such we recognize the variety of opinions within the pro-Israel spectrum but come together with the soul binding belief that Israel has the right to exist and that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination. Furthermore, Swarthmore College prides itself on critical thinking, open dialogue, and respect for each other’s humanity and right to existence. The BDS movement has proven time and time again that it strictly opposes every single one of these values.

At this time we are unaware how SJP plans to initiate this campaign or how it will manifest, but our student and alumni community can rest assured that we will do our utmost to combat it in all forms as it reveals itself. When the time comes, we hope our allies will reach out and help us defeat this.

The reality stands that pro-Israel and Jewish students are harassed and/or assaulted, both on the national level and within the Swarthmore community. It is unacceptable. The support is here. The community is here. We are here.

Swarthmore Students for Israel’s co-president, Rebekah Katz, wrote an op-ed in The Phoenix titled “BDS is a Denial of My Existence” arguing that while she is a progressive who is critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and supportive of a two-state solution, SJP seeks to destroy Israel altogether:

In my experience, however, advocates of Students for Justice in Palestine don’t necessarily see my viewpoint. They often make the claim Zionism is defined as white supremacy and colonialism, and advocate for BDS as a solution to that erroneous definition, and fail to recognize the spectrum of opinions within the pro-Israel community. If they’re going to draw these conclusions, than they also need to understand how the organizations and movements they support reflect terribly on the cause they claim to be fighting for. When I see Students for Justice in Palestine, I see their co-founder Hatem Bazian perpetuating blatant antisemitism on Twitter by retweeting memes of a foolishly depicted Hassidic men with the overlay “Mom, look! I is chosen! And now I rape, smuggle or steal the land of the Palestinians! #Ashke #Nazi;” I see aggressive and intimidating protest exhibited at UCLA’s Indigenous Peoples Unite panel discussion; I see major activists tweeting (and deleting) things like “‘I would have killed all the jews in the world, But I kept some to show the world why I killed them’ -Hitler- #PrayForGaza #PrayForPalestina.” I see support for indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza landing in civilian homes filled with mothers and children and stabbing attacks and shootings, and blatant conflations of anti-Zionism and antisemitism perpetuated by their own advocates despite my hearing their own constant assertions that they are not the same thing.

Katz added that the SJP-BDS crowd tends to view Israel as simply being a safe haven of “white European and American” Jews, yet ignore the fact that Israel is a place of refuge for “Jews of color in the Yemeni, Mizrachi, North Africa, Sephardic, and Arab communities.”

“To advocate for the disintegration of the Jewish state via BDS is to advocate for the displacement of these very people,” Katz wrote. “And so how do I disregard the reality that the Jewish people are still in danger to this day, that six million of my people were massacred no more than 80 years ago and the constantly impending fear that there’s no telling when a massacre may happen again? How am I supposed to throw away the level of protection that Israel provides by supporting its disintegration? How am I supposed to ignore the millennia of pain my own people have faced? And so, how could I possibly support a movement that, at its core, threatens to take that away?”

Swarthmore Vice President of Finance and Administration Greg Brown told The Phoenix that the university does not divest from companies based on political purposes.

“The investment guidelines of the Board of Managers clearly state that endowment investment decisions are made without regard to social issues,” Brown said.

SJP’s prior activity on Swarthmore’s campus includes protesting a Swarthmore Students for Israel and CAMERA event on campus and calling for the school to boycott Sabra hummus. The university responded to the hummus protest by offering an alternate brand of hummus in addition to Sabra hummus.

Alison Mayersohn Retires From ADL

Alison Mayersohn with her grandchildren Orly and Avi. Photo courtesy of Alison Mayersohn.

If you’re a Los Angeles Jewish community professional or you work in any major media organization that writes about issues of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment, chances are you not only have heard of, but also have worked with, Alison Rudolph Mayersohn — the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Los Angeles deputy regional director. 

Born in Westwood, Mayersohn has spent the past 15 years working at the ADL, but the 65-year-old officially hung up her hat on Oct. 19, after giving four months’ notice to her boss, Regional Director Amanda Susskind. 

“That’s just like [Mayersohn],” Susskind told the Journal via telephone. “She said, when she gave her notice in July, ‘I’ll stay through your wedding.’ ” (Susskind married earlier this month.)

Susskind called Mayersohn, “The ‘A’ Team. I’ll miss her sunny disposition, her sense of humor. She often breaks into song in the office — not particularly in tune, but we love her for it.”

On a more serious note, Susskind said Mayersohn “runs the office better than I do when I’m not there. She can keep a lot of balls in the air.” 

Asked to highlight one incident that summed up Mayersohn’s 15-year tenure, Susskind paused before stating, “The ADL’s Sherwood Prize for law enforcement officers who go above and beyond the call of duty to combat hate. [Mayersohn] is personally responsible for taking that to a great level of media awareness.”

In a separate interview with the Journal, Mayersohn also noted this as a highlight of her career. 

Mayersohn receiving Senn Award at ADL Los Angeles Gala, Beverly Hilton Hotel, 2010. Photo Courtesy ADL

Jewish Journal: How did you make the decision to retire? 

Alison Mayersohn: I’d been thinking about it and full disclosure, I’m almost 66. I knew at some point I would retire and I kind of waited until it felt right. 

I felt I had had a really good run both in the totality of my career and in my 15 years at ADL. I was ready to spend more time away from work. I hadn’t been ready when I turned 65. I really do want to spend more time exercising and what I would call body maintenance, and I hope that the last phase of my life is as healthy as possible. And I want to travel more. We have a total of six grandchildren around the country. I’d like to spend more time with them as they grow up. 

JJ: What drew you to work at the ADL? 

AM: I was at the Jewish Federation of Orange County for nine years, the last eight as director of marketing. I wanted to come back to Los Angeles. I wanted to use all of my media experience, because that’s definitely a skill set. I had done a lot of community organizing and [the ADL position] included that and I was particularly interested in issues relating to anti-Semitism and Israel.

JJ: Where did that interest come from?

AM: I grew up in a secular home and I became interested as a teenager in Judaism and then I went and minored in Jewish studies at UCLA, and a lot of my career was in the Jewish communal field. I had sought out involvement in the Jewish community for that feeling of community and sort of found a home in being a Jewish communal professional. It made me feel even more part of the community and I felt I was doing something valuable. 

JJ: Were there any experiences in your ADL tenure that you found pleasantly surprising and conversely, anything that was shocking or overwhelming?

AM: When I [first] came here one of my colleagues said, “Many of us who come to work here are used to being the smartest person in the room. You will never be the smartest person in the room.” That was really, really good advice and it was true. You’re working with incredibly smart people who are working on the cutting edge issues of the day. 

On the other side, I had an understanding about anti-Semitism when I got the job. I had experienced it a little as a young person. Certainly from working at various Jewish federations, I understood it. As a history major at UCLA I certainly understood the history of anti-Semitism, but when you are in a position that day after day you’re seeing photos and images and hearing stories from people, I think that there’s nothing that anyone can do to prepare for what that’s like to do for 15 years.

JJ: How do you deal with that and not become overwhelmed?

AM: You try not to get jaded. You want to still be reactive and get upset but at the same time you can’t spend 24 hours a day getting upset. You hope that what you’re doing is helping in some large and small ways. 

In a large way you’re hoping to reduce anti-Semitism, although we’ve certainly seen an increase in anti-Semitism in the last couple of years. But on the other hand, you can help the individual. They come to you and they’ve never heard the epithet “dirty Jew” and as someone with a lot of experience talking to a lot of people I hope that I’m able to help calm them and help them put it in perspective. 

“I don’t feel in terms of anti-Semitism or anti-Israel sentiment or diversity — any of those things that [the ADL] stands for and worked so hard for — that the current climate is better now.”
— Alison Mayersohn

JJ: What are some of the changes you’ve seen at the ADL during your tenure?

AM: Campus issues have become more and more of an issue. Also, we have gotten calls from the time I started here to this year where people call and are astonished that somebody left them a voicemail saying, “I think you should go back to the ovens,” or some other horrible thing like that. Those things happened when I came here in 2003 and they’re still happening in 2018.  It’s horrible.

And since 2016, there’s been less and less civility and people are more willing to say these things. And people are also more willing to call us and tell us about them. I think the whole issue of lack of civility in the public square has been way more front and center in the last couple of years.

The other thing I have seen, especially before Charlottesville, [Va.], people would say, “You work at the ADL. That must be interesting but how much anti-Semitism is there really here?” Now, nobody says that to me. What they say is, “Oh my God, you must really have your work cut out for you.”

JJ: What are you most proud of at your time with the ADL? 

AM: I think it would have to be the really, really good press coverage that I have gotten for the unsung heroes of law enforcement who have won the ADL Sherwood Prize. That’s been extremely gratifying to me. And also I think being able to mentor the next generation of Jewish community professionals has been very gratifying. 

JJ: In 2010 you won the ADL’s Senn/Greenberg Award for professional excellence. What was that experience like? 

AM: It was a great honor and presented to me at our annual gala. It was very nice to be recognized like that.

JJ: Is there something you wish you could have done in your 15 years but didn’t get to do?

AM: I didn’t get to eradicate anti-Semitism. I think it’s tough to feel that 15 years later things are worse than they were when I started. I don’t feel in terms of anti-Semitism or anti-Israel sentiment or diversity — any of those things that we stand for and worked so hard for — that the current climate is better now.

How Israel Is Helping the Worldwide Water Shortage

A still from the film “Sustainable Nation”

More than a decade before David Ben-Gurion declared Israeli independence from the confines of a Tel Aviv bomb shelter, he and other luminaries who envisioned a developed, progressive Jewish state knew that water, as much as war, would determine Israel’s survival and viability. 

In 1937, well before they had their ancestral homeland, before they had war on their hands, Jews in the region had Mekorot, a national water authority. Tasked with diverting water from sources such as the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River in the wetter north to the more barren south, Mekorot executed plans during Israel’s infancy to lay the groundwork for quenching the future nation’s thirst.

Underscoring the importance Israel has always placed on its water sector is its prioritization over other key infrastructure sectors. Water has been piped from north to south for agriculture, energy and drinking since the 1960s; whereas Israeli drivers got their first true nation-length expressway only 10 years ago. 

Prioritizing water is one thing. Succeeding in the water sector amid unfavorable elements is another. Nearly two-thirds of Israel is bone-dry desert, long thought unsuitable for bountiful agricultural yields. Rainfall is scarce and devastating droughts are commonplace. The stakes have always been understood: If Israelis were to thrive, they’d have to evolve, fight the elements and provide water security to a people cornered in one of the most arid strips of land on Earth.

The conditions haven’t gotten any easier. As a result of climate change, Israel’s rainfall has been cut in half since 1948, while its population has increased tenfold. 

“No one should die of thirst,” Yaari says almost pleadingly in the film. “It’s not just.” 

Still, Israel’s story represents a drop in the bucket of the world’s cataclysmic water crisis, a global issue reaching apocalyptic proportions, even in the developed world. This past summer, Cape Town, one of South Africa’s most popular tourist destinations, came within weeks of its self-imposed Day Zero — a day when all of the city’s taps would be shut off and emergency rations would be imposed nationwide.

The crisis was averted, thanks to urgent regulations on water use for baths, flushing toilets and washing clothes. Timely rainfall also helped restore reservoir levels by 20 percent. The South African tourist board now estimates that Cape Town’s Day Zero concerns can be pushed into 2019. Regardless, the situation remains dire.  

Cape Town’s actions will soon be the new normal. According to the World Health Organization, half of the global population will be facing water scarcity by 2025.

As a result, Israel increasingly finds itself in a unique situation. 

By the 1980s, Israel had largely conquered most of its water problems. Its water sector progressed through transformational conservation methods, reuse of wastewater (Israel reuses more than 90 percent of its water; next in the world is Spain at 20 percent), and the pioneering of such methods as drip irrigation. Israel made its desert bloom into a fruitful agricultural powerhouse. More recently, it added desalination of the Mediterranean to the mix to shore up supplies of urban drinking water. By 2014, the same year California declared a state of emergency while reckoning with its region’s worst drought in 1,200 years, Israel became a water-surplus nation, able to export water to neighboring Jordan and Palestinian territories. 

“I think in order to solve the crisis, the people of the world need to work together, and a country like Israel needs to be brought into that discussion more and more because of Israel’s vast experience,” Micah Smith, director of “Sustainable Nation,” a new Israeli documentary that follows three Israelis who are bringing sustainable water solutions to an increasingly thirsty planet using solutions developed in Israel, said in an interview. 

“‘Sustainable Nation’ follows some of the change-makers exporting Israeli water ingenuity to the rest of the world.”

As showcased at a United Nations conference for International Water Day this past March, Israeli water sector entrepreneurs are integral participants in the global water conversation. The conference highlighted how Israeli-developed water technology services were being used in more than 100 countries worldwide. A noticeable absentee from that list was South Africa, due to its frayed diplomatic relations with Israel, which were marred by Pretoria leveling apartheid charges at Jerusalem. 

“South Africa is the negative example in all this,” Smith said, referencing the country’s refusals to accept Israeli aid in the face of its water crisis. A 2016 Johannesburg conference aimed at dealing with the water crisis in South Africa was scrapped because of boycott, divestment and sanctions-backed pressure and other criticism concerning Israel’s inclusion. “It’s tragic to see that people are putting lives at risk rather than bringing people together to solve the world’s water problems,” Smith said.

Smith said he made “Sustainable Nation” to tell Israel’s water story, one that people the world over can learn from. That story, as Clive Lipchin, a South African-born Middle East drought expert puts it in the film, is one of “a people unwilling to accept the status quo.” 

“Sustainable Nation” follows some of the change-makers exporting Israeli water ingenuity to the rest of the world. Produced by Jerusalem U, the nonprofit creative team behind “Beneath the Helmet,” the 2014 documentary about Israel Defense Forces soldiers, Smith’s film intimately portrays several Israeli water-sector innovators attempting to bring their expertise to water-starved or water-challenged parts of the world such as South Asia and Africa. 

Sivan Yaari, CEO of Innovation: Africa, an Israeli NGO, is one of them. Her organization has brought solar-powered water pumps to hundreds of rural African villages. 

“No one should die of thirst,” Yaari says almost pleadingly in the film. “It’s not just.” 

In rural Uganda, where “Sustainable Nation” follows Yaari, matriarchs are responsible for the family unit’s water needs. Mothers often trek at least two or three miles round trip with 20-liter jerry cans for filling about four times a day. A sequence in the film depicts a mother performing the feat with a baby held in a sarong on her back. 

Yaari’s organization surveys villages for water sources, often finding clean water deep in aquifers, then builds towers and installs water tanks equipped with solar pumps. By way of gravity, water flows to taps throughout a village. Local women then become managers and operators of the system, learning accounting techniques, opening bank accounts, and being responsible for maintenance and upkeep with Innovate: Africa personnel monitoring and guiding them remotely from Israel. 

Of her work, Yaari says in the film, “it’s still so small compared to the need.”

Eli Cohen, also profiled in the film, is a prolific aquatic farmer trying to bring his revolutionary natural filtration methods to India. There, tens of millions living along the Ganges River and its tributaries deal with agricultural, domestic and industrial sewage polluting the water supply. Sewage water from murky, archaic “nalas” or drains, runs directly into homes and communal water depots. Despite plenty of rainfall and billions of dollars invested into energy-intensive water treatment methods, India’s water supply remains mired in pollution problems. 

A farmer who ditched working in high-tech to enjoy the serenity of nature in Zippori, Israel, Cohen hopes to bring aquatic planting on a massive scale to India. Applying an energy-free filtration method, plants add oxygen to sewage water, absorb toxins and even heavy metals, and incorporate them into biomass. L’Oreal Israel, the large beauty products manufacturer, pipes its chemical wastewater into Cohen’s majestically designed aquatic plant ponds to meet Israel’s strict wastewater regulations.

In the film, Cohen presents a proposal for treating a portion of the Najafgarh River, a major tributary of the Ganges that 8 million people live on, which is infested with thick, raw sewage. The proposal calls for a series of ponds and parks with floating aquatic plants naturally treating the water. 

“The solutions are so simple,” Cohen says at one point with a hint of exasperation. 

Cohen’s and Yaari’s stories in the film (Cohen’s, an uphill bureaucratic battle with hints of promise; and Yaari’s seemingly a success) hint at a cumbersome truth: We possess the tools to address the world’s water crisis but do we all care enough to act? 

The 38-year-old Smith, who lives in a Jerusalem suburb with his wife and two children, said he finds hope in his kids, who, like many of their Israeli peers, are obsessed with water conservation. 

“I have trouble getting my kids to flush the toilet sometimes because they think it’s a waste of water,” he said. “While this generation might not be able to shift the global consciousness, really, if we want to save the world, so to speak, we have to focus on the next generation.”

After his film’s anticipated festival run next year, about which Smith did not disclose many details, he plans to supplement its availability on streaming platforms with educational screenings at schools. One thing the film outlines is how water conservation has seeped into the consciousness of Israeli society through a series of practical in-home innovations and effective widespread outreach efforts. 

“In the film, Cohen presents a proposal for treating a portion of the Najafgarh River, a major tributary of the Ganges that 8 million people live on, which is infested with thick, raw sewage.

That has meant, among other things, dual flush toilets and decades-old media campaigns that included humorous television commercials encouraging people to shower together, guilt-inducing public service announcements, and even children’s programming (“Sustainable Nation” features a short clip of a “Sesame Street”-like show in which humans reprimand water-wasting puppets). 

A cultural overhaul toward conservationism took place in the 1980s, coinciding with Israel’s water-sector technology boon. The collective response to water shortages by the public makes Israel unlike most places on Earth — certainly, Smith believes, his birthplace of Los Angeles.  

“I experienced serious culture shock in Israel when it came to water,” said Smith, who made aliyah in his early 20s. Born in Westwood, Smith attended, as he put it, “every Jewish day school in the city.” He can’t remember any attention being paid to water conservation during that time.  

“The relationship to water in [Israel] is so drastically different than back in the States,” he said. “Everyone is taught conservation from a young age. It’s absolutely cultural. The movie is also a way to show places like California that culture can be shifted as well.”

“Sustainable Nation” will have a private screening in Los Angeles on Nov. 12.

Read More: Can California Embrace Israeli Water Technology?

Jordan Cancels ‘Island of Peace’ Lease Agreement With Israel

Bending to domestic pressure, including a protest on Oct. 19 that saw Jordanians take to the streets of Amman, Jordan’s King Abdullah II announced the end of a special arrangement that allowed Israel to lease two parcels of land inside the kingdom along the southern border with Israel.

Israel leased the two enclaves — al-Baqoura and al-Immor, also known as the “Island of Peace” in the southern Arava desert — as part of the 1994 Wadi Araba agreement between the two countries.

In a gesture of goodwill following the 1994 Israel – Jordan peace treaty, Jordan allowed Israeli farmers who settled there to continue cultivating the land.

But in recent days, Jordanian rhetoric has shifted. During the Oct. 19 rally, demonstrators, including politicians and trade union representatives, called on the government to “reassert Jordanian sovereignty” over the lands.

According to the 1994 treaty, Jordan agreed to place the two parcels of land under a “special regime.” Israel pledged to recognize Jordanian sovereignty over the land while leasing it for 25 years. Each party, however, reserved the right to terminate the agreement.

King Abdullah said on Oct. 21 that Israel was informed of the decision, stressing that the lands “would remain Jordanian, and Jordan will exercise full sovereignty over them.”

Yehya al-Soud, a Jordanian parliamentarian, told The Media Line that the monarch “responded to his people’s wish and desire,” explaining that the Jordanian constitution allows “the king to decide on either the conclusion or cancellation of agreements” with other states.

In another special arrangement between the two countries, Jordan is responsible for the Waqf — the Jordanian Islamic trust. The Waqf grants the Hashemite kingdom the right to administer and provide funding for Jerusalem’s Muslim sites of worship.

Al-Soud explained that Jordanians are frustrated with the Waqf agreement, which they believe Israel violates on a daily basis.

“Every day Israeli settlers illegally break into Al-Aqsa Mosque, accompanied by high-ranking Israeli security officers,” he contended.

He stressed that the U.S. administration is fully biased toward Israel, and disregards the views of the international community. “It’s time for the whole world to side with the international community,” al-Soud added.

Oraib Rintawi, a Jordanian political analyst, conveyed to The Media Line that “Jordan, in canceling the lease, has completely complied with the terms and mechanisms of the agreement.

 “The Jordanian move could strain Israel-Jordan relations, and it might affect other agreements between the two countries.” — Moeen al-Taher

“Jordan is a country that respects the law and works within it,” he continued, explaining that Amman is not obligated to renew the lease, which ends in late October next year.

“Jordanians are angry with Israel about a range of issues—about how they treat the Palestinians, violate agreements surrounding al-Aqsa Mosque and dealt with the Israeli Embassy incident in Amman,” Rintawi said.

Last year, Israel and Jordan sparred over a confrontation at the Israeli Embassy in Amman in which Ziv Moyal, an Israeli security guard, killed two Jordanians who had allegedly attacked him.

“Logically, Israel has to accept Jordan’s decision [on the lease]. However, knowing the Israeli arrogant mentality, Israel won’t be logical in its response,” Rintawi asserted.

If Israel refuses to abide by Jordan’s decision, he added, “this would show the world that Israel does not have any intention of returning the leased lands.

“It has used the same policy against the Palestinians, occupying their lands in order to create sovereignty. This time they are dealing with us, and Jordan is an independent state with sovereignty and strong international ties.”

Moeen al-Taher, a Jordanian political analyst, told The Media Line that based on its officials statements, Israel could pressure Amman in different ways to come up with a new formula for extending the lease.

“The Jordanian move could strain Israel-Jordan relations, and it might affect other agreements between the two countries. The Jordanian people could put more pressure on the government to cancel other agreements with Israel in the future,” al-Taher said.

Gad Shemron, an Israeli political analyst, told The Media Line that Amman’s decision has nothing to do with how Jordanians feel about Israelis. Instead, it relates to how “King Abdullah II is facing a very poor domestic economy,” he said.

Shemron added that Jordan is also trying to pressure Israel into building a pipeline to transfer water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. “It’s pure business,” he concluded. 

Can a “Talk” Save American Jews?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared via satellite at the JFNA General Assembly. Courtesy of JFNA/Jeffrey Lamont Brown.

A large group of community leaders from the US Jewish community came to Israel this week to hold the convention known as the GA. These leaders have a problem: their slogan for the event was “We Need to Talk,” but it’s hard to talk to Israelis in English. They tend to prefer Hebrew. And another problem: it is not clear what they need to talk about. In midweek I had a meeting with one of the visiting leaders, and he explained that some of the talking ought to be about Israel’s treatment of its foreign workers. In fact, he sent a warning: Israel must absorb the workers and not expel them. That’s none of your business, I provoked him. Get them to come to America, I teased him. He believes that Israel’s policy is immoral. Fine. If that’s what he wants to talk about, he will not find attention here.

The American leadership came to Israel against the backdrop of what feels like a crisis in Israeli-American relations. It came here feeling that the crisis is because of Israel and its bad behavior. It came here to be reinforced by Israelis who think the same. Most of these Israelis simply dislike the Israeli government and therefore are willing to accept any claim of guilt against it on any matter.

The truth of the matter is that this crisis is nothing more than a smokescreen, a distraction – instead of talking about what really matters, we keep talking about small politics of small things. American Jews struggle with profound challenges. The youth are detached from Jewish institutions, distance themselves from the Jewish tribe, and renounce the observance of Jewish tradition. On the way to disengagement, some of them also beat up on Israel. It’s a convenient way to clean the conscience – our challenges are not because of us, they are because of you. Because of Israel. I am sorry to report that Israelis are generally indifferent to these claims, because they don’t face similar challenges. Their identity is stable. Their Judaism is anchored in everyday life.

One can talk from today until next year about all the matters that American Jewish leaders want to talk about. One can look again for a solution for the Western Wall, one can improve Israel’s conversion format, one can offer more candy, more attention, more sympathy. It is impossible for Israel to accept American advice on major matters – security, occupation, immigration. Such “talk” will only make matters worse as it will alienate Israelis and make them turn a deaf ear. Either way, no “talk” can solve Israel’s problems. No “talk” can solve the problems of the American community. All this, as I said, is a distraction from the real challenges of this era.

What is the main challenge? The incoming chairman of the Jewish Agency, Yitzhak Herzog, hinted at a large project he was aiming at – teaching Hebrew to the masses of Jews in the Diaspora. This is a wonderful idea, with limited chances of success. As soon as his proposal was published, American-Jewish intellectuals began to groan. They are not sure if this is really needed, and what Hebrew, biblical or modern, and whether learning Hebrew is a problematic political statement, and whether learning Hebrew will even strengthen Jewish identity. Bottom Line: There was little enthusiasm. Ask why? Maybe because learning Hebrew is difficult. Most of the heads of Jewish organizations who came here this week do not speak Hebrew. They will never speak Hebrew. Learning a language is a demanding task, and Jews in America face a challenge, among other things, because their youngers aren’t interested in demanding commitments.

There is something tempting about the thought that Israel can save American Jews, with some creative project, or a sudden financial investment, or if it changes its foreign policy. I wish Israel were so powerful and influential. I wish the fate of American Jewry depended on Israel’s policies. But the truth is that it is not. Not if we “talk” and not if we remain silent, not if we study Hebrew, and not if we have a new platform at the Western Wall, not if we absorb foreign workers, and not if we dismantle the Chief Rabbinate. Of course, Israel might need to do some, or all, of these. And Israel can make an effort to assist US Jews in overcoming their challenges. But we should all keep our expectations in check. Israel can “talk,” but most of the doing must happen on the other side.


Israel Supreme Court Allows American Student to Study At Hebrew University

Screenshot from Twitter.

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled on Oct. 18 that American student Lara Alqasem, 22, should be allowed into Israel and study at Hebrew University. 

Alqasem had been detained at Ben-Gurion Airport for two weeks because the Israeli government believes that she is a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement due to her past membership in University of Florida’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter.

The court, however, concluded that there was no evidence that Alqasem had been involved in BDS activity since April 2017 and that her desire to study in Israel is anathema to the BDS movement.

“The inevitable impression is that invalidating the visa given to her was due to the political opinions she holds,” the ruling states. “If this is truly the case, then we are talking about an extreme and dangerous step, which could lead to the crumbling of the pillars upon which democracy in Israel stands.”

However, the court warned that Alqasem could be expelled if she reverted back to BDS activism.

Alqasem told Haaretz in a statement, “I’m relieved at the court’s decision and incredibly grateful for the work of my amazing and tireless lawyers Yotam Ben Hillel and Leora Bechor as well as the support of my family and friends. I will be happy to say more when I’ve had a chance to rest and process.”

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan called the court’s ruling a “big victory for BDS”:

“The court minimized the extremist and anti-Semitic nature of SJP, the organization of which Alqasem served as president,” Erdan charged in his statement. “Furthermore, the justices essentially ignored the fact that she erased her social media networks to hide her activities before arriving in Israel.

“Their ruling opens the door for BDS activists to enter the country simply by enrolling in an academic program and declaring that they do not support boycotts at the present moment,” warned Erdan, who is also public security minister.

Erdan indicated that he would support legislation that prevents BDS activists from taking advantage of the court’s ruling.

Palestinian Terrorist Indicted for Murdering Ari Fuld

Khalil Jabarin, 17, was indicted on Oct. 21  at a West Bank military court for murdering Israeli-American Ari Fuld.

The Times of Israel reports that Jabarin was officially charged with intentionally causing death, as well as other charges. Jabarin has been in custody since Fuld’s murder.

Video footage shows Jabarin stabbing Fuld in the back multiple times outside of a West Bank shopping mall before charging toward a falafel waitress with his knife. Fuld pursued Jabarin and shot at him before collapsing.

Fuld, 45, was known for his pro-Israel activism and left behind his wife and four children. The Journal’s video interview with Fuld can be seen here.

Israel… A Wedding Destination Close to My Heart

I often get inquiries from my clients to recommend a venue in Israel where they can get married. Many are observant Jews who want to book their wedding close to one of the Jewish Holidays so they can celebrate both during one trip. This requires a venue that is Shabbat “friendly”.  Meaning for instance, that there is no key needed to enter the hotel room during Shabbat.

I asked Sharon of  Valerie Wilson Travel to provide me with a venue that will cover all the relevant requirements and she recommended the fabulous Ritz Carlton just outside of Tel Aviv. This venue is perfect for couples who don’t want to be in the middle of the hustle of Tel Aviv, but still close enough to enjoy the fun and able to explore the rich history, holy sites and culture of Jerusalem.

Nestled right above the marina, The Ritz-Carlton, Herzliya is the perfect spot for guests to fully immerse themselves in everything that makes this region so incredibly compelling. Herzliya is known as “the Palm Beach of Israel”, and is just 15 minutes away from the energy of Tel Aviv. The hotel is less than an hour’s drive from the holy city of Jerusalem, where visitors are enveloped in the uncompromising awe of an ancient land. Whether you choose to venture out and explore the area’s many attractions and points of interest or relax on the pristine Herzliya beach and let the sun warm your spirit, you are sure to return home with memories and pictures that will last a lifetime.

If you are into exploring, there are many activities to choose from, such as a one day drive to Caesarea, where the past and the future come together. There are live music concerts in the famous roman theater along with spectacular 18-hole golf course.

Then there is the Dead Sea – the lowest point on earth and known as the ultimate natural healing spa for an unforgettable experience of pampering and rejuvenation.

You could also stroll around the great walls and between the beautiful colorful quarters of Jerusalem. Embrace the spirit feeling of this unforgettable ancient holy city, which is sacred to many religions. Visit the iconic and spiritual Wailing Wall which reveals thousands years of history.

Masada is a UNESCO heritage site overlooking the desert and the Dead Sea. One of the most exciting tour sites in Israel combining a story of historical battles with Archeological pieces.

Israel is not just an interesting and stunningly beautiful country to visit, the Ritz Carlton is one of the top venues should you choose to celebrate your wedding there. They will celebrate each couple’s unique story. You can have your wedding in either their indoor or outdoor areas and their menu will delight the most discerning palate! They have experts on site at your disposal who understand that planning is simply the first step to bringing your vision to life. Imagine the stunning wedding pictures!

Contact Sharon for more information. She will ensure that all your needs are meticulously taken care of!

Sharon Bame Associate Advisor                                                                   | O 650.485.4545 | D  415.215.1079

Thank you for spending this time with me! More info on weddings and event planning, wine and food pairings and much more coming up on this blog.



Report: Iran Ramping Up Missile Shipments to Hezbollah

FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani listens during a news conference at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 26, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid/File Photo

Iran is ramping up its shipment of missiles to its Shia terror proxy, Hezbollah, according to a new report from Fox News.

The report states that a recent flight from Tehran to Beirut is believed to have provided Hezbollah with a stash of weapons, including a GPS device that converts rockets into precision-guided missiles.

The shipment was provided at one of Hezbollah’s secret sites in Beirut, an issue that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touched upon in his recent United Nations speech. Netanyahu highlighted Hezbollah’s secret weapon caches as evidence that the Shia terror proxy is using Beirut’s civilians as human shields.

Israel has conducted more than 200 strikes in Syria since 2017 targeting Iran’s shipments to Hezbollah, the report states.

Israel intelligence has been worrying that Hezbollah’s growing arsenal of weaponry could lead to a conflict between the two that would be bloodier than the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war.

Rep. Sherman Condemns SJP Conference in Letter to UCLA

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) condemned the upcoming National Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) conference, scheduled for Nov. 16-18 at UCLA, in a letter to the school’s chancellor, Gene Block, arguing that the conference promotes anti-Semitism.

The Oct. 11 letter begins by noting that SJP members “have posted violent anti-Semitic rhetoric on social media, ranging from calling for the annihilation of the Jewish people, to admiration of Adolf Hitler.” Sherman added that National SJP’s website would fall under the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism that was recently adopted by the State Department, such as comparing Israel to the Nazis.

Sherman also stated his concern that only those who have been “verified and vouched for” by SJP or another pro-Palestinian group on campus would be allowed to attend, meaning that most Jewish students wouldn’t be allowed to attend the conference.

“Even if SJP can point to a handful of Jewish students allowed to attend, the exclusion of the vast majority of Jewish students raises issues under Title VI,” Sherman wrote. “A public university should not allow any to implement a litmus test for event participation on their campus based on an applicant’s beliefs, religion, or national origin.”

Sherman added that if UCLA’s SJP chapter ­– a co-sponsor of the event – is funded by mandatory student fees, then the conference would be in violation of the University of California’s policies for excluding large numbers of students from attending.

“I am sure you support Title VI of the Civil Rights Act like I do, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in federally assisted programs or activities,” Sherman wrote. “This includes protecting students from anti-Semitism and preventing discrimination against most Jews in admissions to a conference held on campus.”

Sherman’s letter concluded, “While I recognize UCLA’s responsibility to allow freedom of speech, our campuses should never become an environment where Jewish students are harassed, bullied, or prohibited from learning.”

Posted by Adam Milstein on Thursday, October 18, 2018

Chancellor Block responded to Sherman in a letter obtained by the Journal. Block’s response states that while UCLA “unequivocally condemns anti-Semitism” and is against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, the First Amendment requires them to allow the conference to proceed on campus.

Additionally, Block noted that SJP has told UCLA that they will not be using mandatory student fees to fund the conference.

“Since they are not using these university funds for the event, there is no mandate that the conference be open to all University members,” Block wrote.

Block added that UC policy does however prevent student groups on campus from discriminating membership based on viewpoint and that the university will ensure that students will be safe on campus.

“We will continue to stress that our students should approach controversial topics thoughtfully and respectfully, without resorting to insult or ethnic bias,” Block wrote.

Report: PA Arrests Palestinian American for Selling Property to Jewish Organization

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during Fatah Central Committee meeting in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank October 6, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

The Palestinian Authority arrested a Palestinian-American for selling an East Jerusalem house to a Jewish organization, the Jerusalem Post reports.

The Post’s report states that the Palestinian-American is a 55-year-old man who “is being interrogated” by the PA for being a “solicitor” in the sale, receiving $25,000 in commission for doing so.

There is a currently a fatwa in place that prohibits Palestinians from selling property to Israelis; in 2010, a PA court ruled that any such transaction would result in the death penalty.

The State Department told the Post that they are aware of the arrest and are concerned as to how the PA will treat the man. The PA declined to comment to the Post.

Lahav Harkov, an editor for the Post, tweeted:

Halie Soifer: Getting Out the Young, Jewish Vote for Democrats

Halie Soifer

Most people aren’t in the business of swinging presidential elections at the ripe old age of 30 but Halie Soifer isn’t most people. 

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Soifer helped swing Florida in favor of an upstart Illinois senator by playing a key role in securing a crucial electorate: the state’s Jewish vote. After heading Jewish outreach in Florida for the 2008 Barack Obama presidential campaign, Soifer’s journey has included stops in the national security realm and as a behind-the-scenes political operative. 

Soifer, 39, previously served as an adviser to Obama’s United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power, then performed the same role on the staff of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif). Now she heads up the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), a progressive political organization founded in 2016 that supports Democrats running for office. At the helm of JDCA, she has her sights set on influencing another critical election. 

With November’s midterms fast approaching, Soifer spoke to the Journal about her organization, President Donald Trump, the Democratic Party’s U.S.-Israel stance and why she’s confident Jewish voter turnout can help the Democrats win back the House. 

Jewish Journal: What drew you to a burgeoning organization like JDCA? 

Halie Soifer: Once President Trump took office, I decided it was time to leave government and help change the composition of the Congress and Senate as opposed to working for one member. JDCA was a natural fit. It’s advocacy in terms of issues I care about as a Jew, such as fighting against unjust immigrant policies, the Muslim ban and standing up for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship in a way that feels particularly pressing in this moment in our history. 

JJ: You said previously JDCA was created “to fill a vacuum and in response to this administration.” Can you elaborate? 

HS: In the aftermath of Charlottesville, [Va., violence] I think all Jews throughout the country were shocked to see Nazis marching in the streets and Jewish Democrats, in particular, didn’t have one organization to represent their voice in that moment. It was really out of that sense of urgency that JDCA was born: to serve as the voice of Jewish Democrats, whether it was responding to the rise of anti-Semitism in the country or other troubling trends we’ve seen in regard to the Trump administration. It’s also focusing on advocating in the affirmative agenda, which we’re doing in this upcoming election. That means helping to get Democrats who share our values elected to Congress. 

“We’ve seen no less than nine neo-Nazi, white supremacist, Holocaust deniers running for office in this election cycle. They now feel legitimate in the Trump era to the point of running for Congress.”

JJ: What’s JDCA looking at specifically when figuring out which candidates to support?   

HS: We’re looking at close races where either there’s a strong Democratic challenger to a Republican incumbent, or a vacancy, or a Democratic incumbent who needs our help; but only where the race is predicted to come down to a margin that’s smaller than the Jewish community. Our assessment comes down to this: Can the Jewish community make the difference?  

JJ: You recently wrote an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post titled “Record Number of Jewish Voters Will Reject Trump in November.” What’s fueling your optimism about the midterms? 

HS: It’s the issues superseding politics that are antithetical to Jewish values, such as zero-tolerance immigration, and separating children from their parents at our border. I’ve been traveling to organize events for Jewish Democrats. Last week, we started our midterm volunteer program. We’re readying canvassing for Sean Casten in Chicago, Jennifer Wexton in Virginia. I hear it everywhere I go. And it’s not even a partisan issue. These are deep-seated concerns about the direction of our country, and I’m confident the November results will reflect that. 

JJ: The U.S.-Israel relationship has become an increasingly partisan issue. Are changing views or shifting party lines a threat to Jews continuing to loyally vote Democratic? 

HS: I don’t believe that views on Israel have changed among Democrats. If you look at voting patterns in Congress, there’s no change for support for a two-state solution, no change in U.S. military assistance to Israel and no change in supporting Israel’s right to self-defense. I believe that while some Republicans would like to create a narrative that there’s been a change in the Democratic Party on its Israel stance, the reality is that there has not been a marked shift.  

JJ: What do you say to critics who argue that a different anti-Semitism, one mired in anti-Israel views, that exists in far-right circles, is permeating parts of the Democratic Party, even gaining momentum among younger Democrats? Is that legitimate? 

HS: I certainly would not equate the two. On the right, we’ve seen no less than nine neo-Nazi, white supremacist, Holocaust deniers running for office in this election cycle. That’s astounding. It’s not that these people and these movements didn’t exist previously, but they now feel legitimate in the Trump era to the point of running for Congress. That’s a problem the Republican Party has to grapple with. 

JJ: How does your organization speak out against these people? 

HS: On the left, there have been three candidates for Congress who have expressed views with regard to Israel that we, as an organization, have disagreed with publicly. We’ve not referred to them as anti-Semites, because, again, we don’t equate the two. 

JJ: Who are those candidates? 

HS: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. 

JJ: Those three names, especially Ocasio-Cortez, appear to represent the future of the Democratic Party. 

HS: In the case of someone like Ocasio-Cortez, we share her views on many, in fact, most other issues. For those three candidates, we’ve made it clear, while we don’t share that view, we’re interested in engaging. I think when these three candidates arrive in Washington, they’ll soon see that the Democratic Party supports a strong bipartisan relationship between the U.S. and Israel, which includes full military funding for Israel. We don’t expect that to change with these three being elected to Congress.

A correction has been made on Oct. 22. An earlier version of this story mistakenly reported that the volunteer program canvassed for Peter Roskam. It did not.

Israel’s Intermarriage Paradox

Lucy Aharish and Tzachi Halevi pose for a photo at their wedding party in Hadera, Israel, on Oct. 11. Photo by Meggie Vilensky/Reuters

Two Israelis get married. An everyday occurrence but in this case, both Israelis are celebrities; one a TV journalist and personality, the other, an actor. So the wedding is national news. Also, one, Lucy Aharish, is a Muslim — the other, Tzachi Halevi of TV’s “Fauda” fame, is Jewish. 

Intermarriage in Israel: The fewer you have them, the more noise you have. A Jew and a Muslim cannot legally marry each other in Israel. But Israelis long ago found ways to circumvent laws they dislike, especially laws that attempt to impose rabbinic dictates on them. A Jew and a Muslim rarely marry each other in Israel. 

After the celebrated wedding, a Member of Knesset from the Likud Party released an ugly comment, denigrating the couple. A pushback was quick and harsh. Aharish is a charming and beloved public figure. She is sharp-tongued, patriotic, pretty and honest. It is easy to understand how an Israeli-Jewish actor fell in love with her. Still, a debate ensued about the issue of intermarriage, revealing a wide array of views. And at the heart of this issue, a paradox.

Here is it: 

The sector that most opposes intermarriage — the religious right — is also the sector that most opposes separation from the Palestinians in the West Bank. In fact, the sector opposes intermarriage but also opposes creating the conditions that reduce the incidence of intermarriage. 

On the other end of the political spectrum, the people least concerned about intermarriage are those most inclined to separate from the Palestinians, hence reducing the interaction of Jews and non-Jews between the Jordan Valley and the Mediterranean.

Interesting, isn’t it? If you are concerned about intermarriage — or better understand that although marriage is a complicated, personal decision, but that for Jews, a high number of intermarriages is a problem — wouldn’t you strive to have a clear Jewish majority in a well-defined territory? The inconsistency of the religious-right position is noteworthy. And even more noteworthy is the reason for it.

In fact, there are two reasons. The first is that the religious right doesn’t understand the society in which they live. The second is that objection to “intermarriage” in Israel is more about nationality than it is about religion. 

“Objection to ‘intermarriage’ in Israel is more about nationality than it is about religion.

Beginning with the first undercurrent that creates the paradox, members of the religious right do not understand that for many centrist, leftist and mostly secular Israelis, intermarriage is hardly a demon. Consider this: Self-defined “totally secular” Jewish Israelis prefer that their relative will marry a non-Jew over him or her marrying a Charedi Jew. 

Consider this: A clear majority of Israelis support the idea of establishing civil marriage in Israel knowing full well (at least, most know) that this creates a legal path to intermarriage. In other words, one of the reasons why the religious right doesn’t see the contradiction between greater Israel and objection to intermarriage is its assumption that most Israelis will behave like a member of the religious right, that is, refrain from intermarriage even in a highly diverse society. This is a false assumption. Jewish Israelis, given the opportunity, will intermarry in high numbers.    

The second undercurrent makes the religious right’s assumption seem somewhat more rational. Consider this: According to a recent survey by Jewish People Policy Institute, Jews in Israel have a much higher objection to a “close relative” marrying an Arab than to a “close relative” marrying a non-Jew that is not Arab. The difference is stark — not merely a few percentage points. The percentage of Jewish Israelis who would be “shocked” if a relative married an Arab is double the percentage of Israeli Jews who would be “shocked” if their relative marries a non-Arab gentile. In other words, objection to intermarriage — common among most sectors of Jewish Israelis — is much more about national identity that it is about religious norms. 

With these numbers in mind, the religious right’s position seems less contradictory. It is not worried about intermarriage in a greater Israel — in which many Muslim Palestinians reside — because it knows that Jewish Israelis object to marriage with Arabs, not for religious reasons, but for national reasons. Alas, such objection depends on specific circumstances. It depends on circumstances of ongoing national conflict. In other words: for the religious-right position to have merit, the conflict with the Palestinians must never be resolved. 

Or else. 

Intermarriage in inevitable. Some leftist-secular Israelis might not care to have such an outcome, but religious-right Israelis do care. Hence, an unresolved paradox. 

Why Trump Is Good for Israel

I know the risk I take when I say anything positive about President Donald Trump in today’s climate of self-congratulatory partisan idiocy. My friends in Washington, D.C., who dared weigh things on their merits, who wrote things like “regardless of what you think about him in general, on this one issue he may be right,” have been assaulted like a bad implant swarmed by antibodies. 

As an Israeli, I will be forgiven for caring less about newly minted Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, dog whistles, white supremacists and what happens at the U.S.-Mexico border than I do about foreign policy and, especially, Israel policy. 

And in that arena, Trump, in his brash style, his flouting of norms, his calling allies to order and enemies by name, his willingness to use power unpredictably to advance clearly defined interests, his intuitive and accurate grasp of regional and global power maps, and his rebuilding of American military might and sovereign will — he has not made America weak, and certainly has not made Israel weak. 

Very much the opposite.

When I was in high school in Boston in the 1980s, I was surrounded by teachers and friends who were convinced that Ronald Reagan was the worst president in American history, and that words and actions toward the mighty Soviet Union were “crazy” and going to result in “everybody dying in a thermonuclear war.” 

Nothing drove them more nuts than American victory in the Cold War. To this day, they scramble to attribute the fall of the Soviet Union to anything other than Reagan.

So write it on the balloons at your next gala dinner: Donald Trump is, so far at least, very good for Israel.

What does Israel really need? 

Well, what does any small country need when it’s trying to succeed in a volatile neighborhood? It needs geostrategic tailwinds from powerful allies. It needs enemies and friends alike to think the country should not be messed with. It needs help carving out a strategic “safe space” so it can navigate complicated and changing power constellations, and the room to let its economy grow. 

Yes, advanced weapons and money help. But more important is the clarity: the consistent, unambiguous public backing, in words and deeds, from the most powerful country on Earth. 

“What does Israel really need? Yes, advanced weapons and money help. But more important is the clarity: the consistent, unambiguous public backing, in words and deeds, from the most powerful country on Earth. In this, Trump is helping Israel more than his predecessor did.”

In this, Trump is helping Israel more than his predecessor did, and maybe even more than the ones before did. 

Former President Barack Obama was, at best, an unreliable ally. He never failed to remind Israelis that he kept up the aid money. But he knew and we knew that the actual importance of that $4 billion has shrunk dramatically when seen as a percentage of Israel’s budget or its GDP (now around 3 percent and 1 percent, respectively). Today the money is the least important component of the United States’ strategic support. The U.S. could cut it off tomorrow without much of a blip on Israel’s balance sheet, much less the instant holocaust that American Jews usually assume would follow.

Yet on the things that counted, Obama worked against Israel’s strategic needs. He cut a deal with Israel’s most dangerous enemy, Iran, that delayed its nuclear program (which it didn’t really need), but gave the regime instead what it desperately did need — billions of dollars and a U.S. commitment to turn them into a “very successful regional power” (Obama’s words). Obama waffled on Syria, fueling its instability and expanding Iran’s reach. And let’s not forget his unprecedented slam-the-door-behind-you abstention on the anti-Israel U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334 in December 2016, after the moving vans had arrived on the White House lawn. These were not the acts of a friend. 

Trump’s support has, by contrast, been unambiguous where it counts: The words and actions that tell everybody which way the winds are blowing. 

This is why moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem was so valuable, as were closing the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington, restoring sanctions on Iran, and main-taining intolerance for U.N. hostility and Palestinian pay-to-slay policies. Taken together, these actions have sent a clear signal to the world, one that makes my children safer. 

And we have seen the results. Did anybody notice how Russia entered into an uncomfortable alliance with Iran to prop up Syrian President Bashar Assad, and yet has been forced by the new reality to tolerate Israeli air strikes against Iranian military assets across the country? Did anybody notice that these airstrikes ramped up immediately after Trump’s cancellation of the Iran deal? I’d love to be in that room where the Russians are trying to explain to the Iranians why they keep letting Israel do that. 

That’s why I’m a lot less worried about a Trump peace plan than I was about the Oslo Accords and the other very bad ideas American diplomats have tried in the past. 

Things have changed. The Palestinians, whose cause went global in the 1960s because the Arab states and the Soviet Union needed a propaganda weapon against the West, now have lost both of their backers: The Soviets are gone, while Egypt and the Gulf States have understood the power of the Israel-U.S. alliance. For them, the Palestinian cause has outlived its usefulness.

Yes, you still have hordes of hung-over students shouting, “Apartheid!” and cheering on while Hamas sends fire balloons across the border. But in terms of real power, the Palestinians are today isolated, flat-footed, flailing for money, internally torn, rudderless, with leaders who do nothing to advance either their economic or national aspirations, who only perpetuate their misery. 

In such a context, we can imagine the impasse being broken. For in most conflicts, peace happens only when one side loses, or senses it’s about to. Most peace deals are little more than a resignation to prevent the indignity of a checkmate. It’s not likely in this case, but it’s far from impossible.

So, as much as you want to incorporate Israel into your narrative about how horrible Trump is for everything, in the case of Israel, it just sounds like a silly, desperate talking point. And it surely doesn’t help the prospects of peace.


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

Why Trump Is Bad for Israel

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

There are few policy arenas in which President Donald Trump has been more successful in his misdirection of the nation’s attention than the Middle East. For many in the Jewish community — including many in its leadership — there is a reticence to speak up about the outrages of the Trump administration, in large measure because of the president’s perceived “support” for Israel.

After all, he recognized Jerusalem as the nation’s capital, he moved the American embassy to Jerusalem, he has been a staunch advocate for Israel in international bodies, and he embraces Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while making virtually no demands on him. It looks so appealing.

But the reality is that much of what Trump has done vis-a-vis Israel is, in fact, a superficial performance — rhetorically, diplomatically and symbolically — that is at odds with the very policies that will help the Jewish state in the long term. In fact, his policies put the nation, and what exists of an international order striving for calm, in greater peril than it has been in many years.

Community Advocates, in partnership with Jews United for Democracy and Justice (“JUDJ”), four major synagogues (Valley Beth Shalom, Temple Israel of Hollywood, Stephen Wise Temple, Leo Baeck Temple), and the Jewish Center for Justice recently hosted an event at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino featuring Dennis Ross, former Middle East envoy and special adviser for Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia in several administrations.

Ross is among the most knowledgeable experts in the world on the diplomacy of the Middle East. He has served as the point man in negotiations between the Arab states, Israel and the United States in every administration since President George H.W. Bush (under Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama). He facilitated the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty; he brokered the 1995 Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the 1997 Hebron accord, and intensively worked to bring together Israel and Syria in a peace deal. He is also the author of several authoritative books on the region and the peace process.

If one wants a thoughtful, fact-based, nonpartisan analysis of what is transpiring in the Middle East, what the future portends and what the real-world implications of policy decisions are, there is no one who knows more and has more experience in the region than Dennis Ross. He is the best of the Middle East mavens.

In describing Trump administration policies toward the region’s issues, Ross spoke of a “crisis of values” and “a real Russia problem.” Trump has made the situation far worse than it has been in decades.

“Trump’s world view — much like his domestic agenda — in its simplicity and absence of grounding in facts is dangerous to everyone involved. “

For example, Russian President Vladimir Putin recently announced plans to provide Syria with S300 surface-to-air missiles as well as sophisticated electronic counter measures, which the Trump administration has not objected to. Those moves, combined with “malign Iranian activities,” has put Israel in a nearly impossible, precarious and potentially existentially dangerous position. Ross observed that until now, “the Russians have given the Israelis a free hand to carry out operations (in Syria) and they (the Israelis) have carried out more than 200 operations in Syria against Iranian and Shia militia targets. They no longer have a free hand and the Iranians have been given a free hand. … The Israelis won’t allow themselves to be put in a position where they are threatened in almost an existential way by what the Iranians are introducing into Lebanon and Syria. … so far, they have had to manage the Russians entirely on their own. Do you think it’s an accident that Prime Minister Netanyahu has made nine visits to Moscow to see Putin?” (emphasis added)

Ross made clear how the Trump response to Russia’s actions in Syria, to essentially absent himself from the conflict, differs from his predecessors and places Israel in peril. “Historically, there was a relationship that we had where we kind of said to the Israelis ‘OK, you are responsible for dealing with the threats in the region, we will provide the material support, but when it comes to the Soviets and others outside the region that might threaten or inhibit you, that’s on us.’ That was the historic posture of Republican and Democratic presidents alike — and I know that since I served in most of those administrations. That has not been the case now.” (emphasis added)

Ross laid out the steps that the administration should take to counter Russia, Iran and the Shia militias — none of which is happening. Rather, Trump has offered a vague pledge, “‘I’ll call Putin at some point.’” Ross sarcastically observed, “well, that’s reassuring.” The way to deal with Putin, Ross advised, is not to follow the Trump playbook. “He (Putin) is a transactionalist … you have to speak his language, you don’t tout him with incredible offers.”

Trump’s missteps aren’t just related to Russia and the Middle East:

We have walked away from a ‘rules-based international order. … [Trump sees] no value in multilateral institutions. … the essence of what Trump said to the U.N. is that national sovereignty trumps everything else. Well, we’ve seen what that means — that means that governments can do whatever they want to their own people and national sovereignty precludes anyone from the outside being able to intervene and do anything about it.

The whole import of ‘Never Again’ was that it wasn’t supposed to be a slogan, it was supposed to be a principle. But when the principle is national sovereignty, you can forget ‘Never Again.’ ”

Ross couldn’t have been clearer. He sees Trump as a huge threat to whatever equilibrium might exist in the Middle East by his inexplicable inaction vis-a-vis Russia. That failure of will increases the likelihood of escalation as the Israelis defend their interests against the Iranians, the Shia militias and the Syrians; all without the United States neutralizing the Russians.

In its simplicity and absence of grounding in facts, Trump’s world view — much like his domestic agenda — is dangerous to everyone involved. As Ross observed, “what we are contending with now is really an assault on our values; by the way, it’s not just an assault on our democratic values, it’s an assault on our Jewish values.”

Last week saw further confirmation of the Trump administration’s denigration of the values that are intrinsic to the survival of the Jewish state: American moral leadership.

In his dismissal of taking action against the Saudis in the Oct. 2 disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump betrayed a disdain for America’s leadership role in the world if it might exact a price on our economy — “they’re [the Saudis] are spending $110 billion purchasing military equipment … that doesn’t help us” — he responded when asked about Khashoggi.

A far cry from President Harry Truman recognizing Israel in 1948 despite threats of retaliation from the Arab states, or President Richard Nixon sending arms to Israel in 1973 notwithstanding the Saudis’ imposing a painful and costly oil embargo on us. 

President John Kennedy once urged Americans “to bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” Trump is brazenly rewriting our 60-year-old American creed.

Symbolic gestures, such as moving the embassy to Jerusalem, might bring momentary satisfaction, but too much is at stake to think in such short-sighted terms. Looking at the big picture, as Ross so eloquently stated, leads to the inevitable conclusion that Trump’s failure of will with the Russians isn’t good for Israel, for the international order, or for the prospects for a moderately peaceful world.


David A. Lehrer is the president of Community Advocates, Inc. Janice Kamenir-Reznik is a longtime community leader in Los Angeles.

Dark Truths About Israel’s Neighborhood

People pray at the Western Wall on Jan. 12. Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

This week, the government of Saudi Arabia came under heavy, justified fire for its apparent murder of a Saudi citizen living in the United States, Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi was a critic of the current Saudi regime; he went to the Saudi consulate in Turkey in order to receive paperwork for a marriage license. He never emerged, according to the Turkish government. Allegedly, a Saudi team killed him, chopped him up and spirited his body out of the embassy.

Meanwhile, Turkey, the country dumping the information about Saudi Arabia, finally released an American pastor after two years in custody. The current Turkish regime is led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a fervent Islamist close to the mullahs in Iran. In recent years, Erdogan has dismissed, detained, or suspended nearly 200,000 government workers suspected of not being loyal to him. His thugs beat up protesters on American soil last year, and Erdogan has long sought to arrest and jail dissident cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the United States.

Just to Turkey’s south, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad continues his longstanding destruction of the Syrian people, with the help of both the Iranian and Russian regimes. Hundreds of thousands of dead Syrians, the complete destruction of large cities, the targeting of civilians with weapons of mass destruction — Assad has all of that and more on his hands.

Moving east from Syria, we enter Iraq — a country which, in the aftermath of the U.S. defeat of ISIS, has actually been moving toward progress. The truth is that thanks to American patronage, Iraq has begun to stabilize. Still, the country contains deep sectarian divides between Sunni, Shia and Kurds. Iraq is a story of progress, and progress is tentative.

“It takes a unique level of moral perversity to equate Israel’s government and principles to those of its neighbors.”

Moving west from Syria, the situation becomes far more grim. Lebanon is now in the middle of a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with the Shiite terror group Hezbollah battling it out with both Christian and Sunni parties. Hezbollah currently has the upper hand, and has been rearmed in the south of the country with Iranian weaponry. 

Iran continues to spread its regional sway in the aftermath of former President Barack Obama’s attempts to rectify relations with the mullahs. Iran’s growing power continues to manifest from Afghanistan to Lebanon, and now Iran is in the midst of a brutal and bloody proxy war with Saudi Arabia in Yemen as well. Iran’s economy continues to stagnate, leading to serious and extended protests throughout the country, but the Islamic theocracy continues to stifle the freedom of its citizens.

Iran continues its support of the Palestinian government, which is dominated by terror groups ranging from the Palestinian Authority to Hamas to Islamic Jihad. There have been no serious efforts toward moderation or peace by the Palestinian government, and terror continues to blossom in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas and Islamic Jihad mobilize tens of thousands of people at the border, creating havoc necessary to provide cover for terrorists to storm the fence with Israel.

These are Israel’s neighbors. It’s important to note that simple fact when reading the outsized outrage often focused at Israel in the world press, which routinely declares Israel the great human rights violator in the region, and the instigator of violence in the world. Israel isn’t perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. But it takes a unique level of moral perversity to equate Israel’s government and principles to those of its neighbors — or to forget that the area in which Israel operates remains one of the most backward places on the planet.

Ben Shapiro is editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire, host of the podcast “The Ben Shapiro Show” and author of The New York Times best-seller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear Silences Americans.”

Poll: On Non-Israel Issues, American Jews Overwhelmingly Disapprove of Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump holds an umbrella as he departs to tour hurricane damage in Florida from the White House in Washington, U.S., October 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

A new poll conducted by the Mellman Group on behalf of the Jewish Electorate Institute (JEI) found that American Jews overwhelmingly disapprove of President Trump, 75 percent to 25 percent.

The poll, which the Journal has obtained, shows that while American Jews narrowly approve of Trump’s handling of United States-Israel relations by a margin of 51 percent to 49 percent, they largely disapprove of Trump’s handling of domestic issues, such as immigration, health care, the Supreme Court and gun control.

American Jews also disapprove of Trump’s handling of United States-Palestinian relations, the Jerusalem embassy move and the Iran nuclear deal.

Ninety-two percent of Jews consider themselves pro-Israel, but only 32 percent said they support the Israeli government’s policies. Fifty-nine percent of American Jews said they were pro-Israel but disagreed with some or many of the Israeli government’s policies.

Additionally, 74 percent of American Jews said they would vote for a generic Democratic presidential candidate over Trump, while 26 percent said they would vote for Trump. American Jews also said they would support a Democratic congressional candidate over a Republican congressional candidate in the 2018 midterm elections by the same margin.

Overall, 68 percent of American Jews identify as Democrats, 25 percent identify as Republicans and 7 percent identify as independents.

The poll was conducted from Oct. 2-11 among 800 Jewish voters.

Rocket Fired at Be’er-Sheva: Is War in Gaza Imminent?

Palestinians celebrate after Hamas said it reached a deal with Palestinian rival Fatah, in Gaza City October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem


Gaza is, again, on the verge of war. Israel has no desire to have such war, but when rockets are fired at Beer Sheva and towards Gush Dan – the urban center of Israel – it might have no choice other than to act. Hamas’ calculations are more complicated. War is dangerous for Hamas, but apparently its leaders concluded that they can no longer sustain the current, miserable economic situation. Egypt is trying to mediate, but a war in Gaza is faraway – a headache, not a crisis. The Palestinian Authority seems to want war. If Gaza burns it puts the Palestinian issue back on the table, it gives the PA a little hope that a Hamas defeat would make it – the PA – the alternative. And of course, a war in Gaza would provide the PA with an opportunity to attack Israel in international forums.

A war in Gaza is a small victory for the Palestinian Authority.


Many critics of the above-mentioned players complain that they have no strategy for Gaza. This is true – because no one wants to have a strategy for Gaza that comes with responsibility for Gaza.

Israel pulled out and wants to have nothing to do with Gaza.

Egypt is wise enough to never take over this mess again.

The PA wants to rule Gaza – but not to pay the price of having to fight for Gaza.

For Hamas, Gaza is merely a launch pad for greater enterprises.

So it’s true: everybody uses tactics, some tactics of delay, some tactics of inflammation. The players have no long-term plan. The critics have no long-term plan. And even in case they have a plan, there is no one to implement a plan.


What Gaza needs is what used to be called – in the good old days – nation building. But we all remember how difficult, unsuccessful, costly, demanding, violent and deadly nation building can be.

Any takers? I didn’t think so. Israel will definitely not be a nation builder in Gaza. If that’s the strategy proposed by outsiders – Israel is likely to stick to tactics. Contain, deter, delay – and from time to time have war.