September 26, 2018

Trump Speaks to U.N., Slams Iran for Creating ‘Chaos, Death and Disruption’

U.S. President Donald Trump sips Diet Coke from his wine glass after a toast as he sits beside Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during a luncheon for world leaders at the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 25, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

President Trump slammed the Iranian regime for creating “chaos, death and disruption” in his Tuesday speech before the United Nations General Assembly.

Trump began the speech by stating that his “administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” prompting laughter from the assembly.

“I did not expect that reaction,” Trump responded. “That is OK.”

Trump proceeded to tout his administration’s efforts to stand up “for America and the American people, and we are also standing up for the world”:

We are also standing up for our citizens and for peace- loving people everywhere. We believe that when nations respect the rights of their neighbors and defend the interests of their people, they can better work together to secure the blessings of safety, prosperity, and peace. Each of us here today is the emissary of a distinct culture, a rich history, and a people bound together by ties of memory, tradition, and the values that make our homelands like nowhere else on Earth.

That is why America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, and I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live, work, or worship. We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return.

On North Korea, Trump highlighted the dismantling of facilities, releasing of hostages and return of the deceased soldiers as progress, but added that sanctions on North Korea would remain until full denuclearization occurs.

Trump eventually turned to Iran:

Iran’s leaders sew chaos, death and disruption. They do not respect their neighbors, borders, or the sovereign rights of nations. Instead, they plunder the nation’s resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond. The Iranian people are rightly outraged that their leaders have embezzled billions of dollars from the treasury, seized valuable portions and looted the religious endowments to line their own pockets and to send their proxies to wage war. Iran’s neighbors have paid a heavy toll for the agenda of aggression and expansion.

Trump added that this was why he decided to exit from the Iran nuclear deal and re-impose sanctions on Iran.

We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet’s most dangerous weapons. We cannot allow a regime that chants “Death to America” and threatens Israel with annihilation,” Trumps said. “They cannot possess the means to deliver a nuclear warhead to any city on Earth, we just cannot do it. We ask all nations to isolate Iran’s regime as long as its aggression continues and we ask all nations to support Iran’s people as they struggle to reclaim their religious and righteous destiny.”

Trump also touted the Jerusalem embassy move and leaving the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

“I spoke before this body last year and warned that the UN’s Human Rights Council had become a grave embarrassment to this institution,” Trump said. “Shielding egregious human rights abusers while bashing America and its many friends.”

Trump added that the UNHRC had made no effort to reform itself, prompting the United States’ exit from the council until reform occurs.

The president also said that the United States would be holding the U.N. accountable by refusing to “pay more than 25 percent of the U.N. peacekeeping budget.”

Read the full transcript of the speech here.

Iran Blames U.S., Israel for Attack on Military Parade

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani departs after speaking at the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit during the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 24, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

The Iranian regime is blaming the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia for an attack on a military parade over the weekend.

On Saturday, four gunmen opened fire on a military parade in Ahvaz, a city in southwest Iran, killing 25 people. At least eight of the deceased were members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, others included a disabled war veteran and a 4-year-old girl, according to the BBC.

Iran’s intelligence ministry announced on Monday that 22 people were arrested in connection to Saturday’s attack; Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday that the attack was levied by a group supported by a Gulf Arab state that is allied with the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

“The small puppet countries in the region are backed by America, and the U.S. is provoking them and giving them the necessary capabilities,” Rouhani said.

Gen. Hossein Salami, the acting commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, said at the funeral for the deceased that the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia “will face the repercussions.”

We warn all of those behind the story, we will take revenge,” Salami said.

The United States has denied that they were behind the attack.

He [Rouhani] can blame us all he wants,” United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said on CNN. “The thing he’s got to do is look in the mirror.”

Two groups have claimed responsibility for the attack: ISIS and the Ahvaz National Resistance, an anti-government organization that is aiming for Iran’s Khuzestan province to be its own state.

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

REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Greene: How One or Two Words Can Change Your Life

One of the world’s leading experts on public speaking, Richard Greene, explains why people fear public speaking more than death, and discusses the abuse of language in the era of Trump. Visit his website.

Follow David Suissa on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Check out this episode!

Howard Rosenman: Award-Winning Producer Opens Up

What’s it like to be a gay Israel lover in Hollywood? To act with Sean Penn? To be on top of your game at 74? Hollywood wunderkind Howard Rosenman shares his life’s scoops.

Follow David Suissa on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Check out this episode!

Rob Long: Hollywood Writer Talks Trump

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

Follow Rob and Ricochet on Twitter 

Check out this episode!

Lawfare Project Threatens to File Lawsuit Against Irish BDS Bill If It Becomes Law

Photo from Flickr.

The Lawfare Project has threatened to file lawsuit against the Irish government if they a recently passed Senate Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) bill becomes law.

On July 11, the Irish Senate passed a bill that would criminalize the importation and sale of goods from Israeli settlements by a margin of 25 lawmakers in favor, 20 against and 14 abstaining. Those in violation would have to pay a fine or serve up to five years in prison.

The Lawfare Project explained in a press release that such a law would have detrimental ramifications on several American businesses in Ireland – Apple being among them – and would therefore violate American boycott laws.

“We are determined to expose the illegality of the Irish boycott bill under European law, as well as the unnecessary damage that it will inflict on U.S. companies operating in Ireland,” Lawfare Project Executive Director Brooke Goldstein said. “Commercial discrimination on the basis of nationality is shameful in any form, but it is particularly frightening when it emanates from the halls of government—from the same lawmakers who were elected to protect the legal rights of their constituents. We will do everything in our power to prevent this unprecedented state-sanctioned discrimination from becoming law in Ireland.”

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has also issued a statement slamming the bill.

“The absurdity in the course of the Irish Senate is that the boycott will harm the livelihood of many Palestinians working in the Israeli industrial zones affected by the boycott, and Israel will consider its steps in accordance with the developments in this legislation,” the statement read.

Strikeout Over Syria?

The U.S. Navy guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey fires a Tomahawk land attack missile April 14, 2018. U.S. Navy/Lt. j.g Matthew Daniels/Handout via REUTERS.

The United States, Great Britain and France on April 13 launched a coordinated military strike targeting three chemical weapons facilities in Syria, in response to the reported use of such weapons by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad the previous week in Douma. The Western intervention — the most significant during the seven-year Syrian civil war, with some 100 missiles having been fired — received mixed reviews in Washington, London and Paris, with some praising the resolve of leaders to uphold the longstanding international norm of preventing the use of nonconventional weapons, whereas others maintained that Assad got off too easy or altogether denounced the West’s interjection of itself into another war abroad.

Where the Middle East is concerned, much of the public, as well as some governments, are perennially weary of any Western involvement in regional conflicts, especially in the wake of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and the 2011 NATO operation that removed from power longtime Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi. Given that coalition forces did not uncover stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Libya (in fact, there is evidence that Saddam Hussein transferred them to Syria), and taking into account that Tripoli had voluntarily ended its nuclear program in exchange for better relations with the West, many are skeptical that the latest attack was, in fact, geared toward preventing Assad’s use of chemical arms rather than advancing Western interests.

There is a divide largely along political and religious lines, with Shiite-ruled countries aligned with Iran, Assad’s main backer along with Russia, having denounced the attack. For instance, the defense minister of Lebanon — controlled by Tehran’s Hezbollah proxy, which itself is heavily involved in the fighting in Syria — described the mission as “a flagrant violation of international law.” Iraq, which is increasingly being pulled into the Islamic Republic’s orbit, warned that such action “threatens the security and stability of the region and gives terrorism another opportunity to expand.”

By contrast, Sunni Muslim states, led by Saudi Arabia, expressed support for the Western strikes, with the Arab League having called for an international probe into the “criminal” use of chemical weapons. Nonetheless, some analysts deemed the reaction relatively muted, perhaps a reflection of the concern on the part of Persian Gulf states that the U.S. could use the mission as a pretext to pull American troops out of Syria.

The destroyed Scientific Research Centre is seen in Damascus, Syria April 14, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

“[The Western attack on Syria] was very limited, as it was designed to show Assad that there will be consequences any time he uses chemical weapons against his people, but at the same time not to make the Russians mad.” — Gad Shimron

Sulaiman Al-Akeily, a Saudi political analyst, said that, given its limited scope, the attack did not achieve its intended effect — a position shared by many in Riyadh, which may explain why King Salman made no mention of it during a high-profile summit the next day.

“The strikes served only to give Assad legitimacy because [they] did not reduce his military power and his position on the ground was not weakened,” Al-Akeil said. “Moreover, the operation did not cover enough locations in Syria, especially strategic military bases, which are the most important things to be destroyed. It also did not target any Iranian assets.”

Instead, Al-Akeily contended that the West’s motivation was “to wash away the guilt” of having done relatively little to prevent Assad’s massacres. But even this, he explained, was largely a show, given that “the Syrian regime was threatened for a whole week, which gave it time to transfer chemical weapons to Russian warehouses.”

Eran Singer, an Israeli political analyst specializing in the Arab world, agreed that the Western assault had little effect on the overall dynamics of the war, an assessment reinforced by former Mossad agent Gad Shimron. “It achieved the goal of putting restrictions on Assad’s regime,” Singer said. “The Syrian government is still winning many battles around the country, and this will not change.”

Shimron, while describing the strikes as moderately successful, stressed that the operation should have been broader in scope: “It was very limited, as it was designed to show Assad that there will be consequences any time he uses chemical weapons against his people, but at the same time not to make the Russians mad.”

Hanna Issa, a Palestinian law professor, slammed the Western “aggression,” which he argued contravened international law. “It is totally unacceptable for three countries that are members of the [United Nations] Security Council to behave like that,” he said. Furthermore, he noted that the attack occurred before international inspectors arrived in Douma to investigate whether chemical weapons had indeed been used.

Despite the criticism, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley asserted that the strikes were “justified, legitimate and proportionate,” adding that U.S. military forces remained “locked and loaded” in the event Assad were to use nonconventional arms in the future.

We Need a New U.N.

Photo from Flickr.

Another week, another Israel bashing session at the United Nations.

Following the Hamas-led riots at the Israel-Gaza border on Friday that resulted in at least 16 dead, the U.N. Security Council responded by drafting a resolution calling for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to be investigated for the various Palestinian deaths. The resolution was vetoed by the United States, but the fact that the U.N. yet again put the blame on Israel instead of on the terror group Hamas, who are using civilians as human shields in an attempt to wage a war with Israel, is disgraceful.

This is par for the course for the Israel-hating U.N. On March 23, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed a resolution calling for an arms embargo against Israel due to the Jewish state’s so-called “occupation” of East Jerusalem. The UNHRC has a bad habit of denouncing Israel at least once a week, the same UNHRC that consists of countries like Venezuela, China and Cuba, which aren’t exactly halcyons of human rights.

Then there are the reported anti-Semitic Facebook posts from United Nations Refugee and Works Agency (UNRWA) teachers, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declaring the Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem and Hebron as belonging to the Palestinians… the list goes on and on.

The statistics prove it too: CNN’s Jake Tapper pointed out in December that the U.N. General Assembly adopted 97 resolutions that singled out a specific country from 2012-15. The number that singled out Israel: 83.

“Considering the genocide of the Rohingya people in Myanmar, the lack of basic human rights in North Korea, the children starving in the streets of Venezuela, the citizens of Syria targeted for murder by their own leader using the most grotesque and painful weapons, you have to ask, is Israel deserving of 86% of the world’s condemnation?” Tapper said.

I would go a bit further: what does the U.N. do well, exactly?

It certainly doesn’t do well addressing actual human rights abuses, like the ones Tapper cited. Former U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has admitted that the international body “could have done much more” to stop the Rwanda genocide.

What about Russian and Chinese aggression? The U.N. tribunal’s 2016 ruling that China has no sovereign claim over the entirety of the South China sea has done nothing to stop Beijing from ramping up military exercises in the area. Similarly, the U.N. has done little to curb Vladimir Putin’s intervention into the Crimea.

Reminder: Russia and China wield veto power on the U.N. Security Council, preventing any real action to be taken on Syria, North Korea and Iran.

What about global poverty? A 2012 study conducted by New York University’s William Easterly and Mississippi State University’s Claudia Williamson concluded that the U.N.’s aid practices are toward the bottom among aid agencies worldwide. And as Chelsea Follett of HumanProgress noted, the U.N. is touting top-down, centralized government programs as the source for the decline in global poverty when in actuality it is economic freedom that has caused the dramatic decline in poverty.

The environment? A 2017 New York Times article detailed how the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund was established to help impoverished countries deal with climate changes, yet the money raised by the fund have gone toward questionable private sector projects instead of those countries. And the U.N.’s prized Paris Climate Accords’ impact on the climate would be negligible while harming the U.S. economy.

Peacekeeping? How can the U.N. be trusted in this area when their peacekeepers have been accused of sexually abusing women and girls in various countries and have been cited as the cause of the 2010 cholera outbreak in Haiti?

With all this mind, is the U.N. really worth the nearly $8 billion that the U.S. allocates toward the international body?

The unfortunate truth is that the U.N. is a far cry from the bastion of freedom that the Allied powers intended when they first formed the international body in 1942 to fight the Axis powers. Freedom-loving countries like the U.S. and Israel are the minority in the U.N.; so long as that is the case, no reforms will solve the structurally flawed nature of the incompetent and immoral U.N.

 

This is what I’d love to see on the Global to-do list: Creating a new world body that will do justice to the ideals of the United Nations, an organization that has dishonored its very mission.

PA Continuing Payments to Terrorists Despite Taylor Force Act

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas looks on during a reception ceremony for Bulgarian President Rumen Radev in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is reportedly continuing their practice of funneling money to terrorists and their families despite the recent passage of the Taylor Force Act, which states that the United States will cut off funding to the PA if they continue to pay terrorists.

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reported that shortly after the Taylor Force Act’s passage, a PA spokesman declared that they would be defying the law, stating, “In the eyes of our people, our nation, and our cause, the martyrs and prisoners are sacred symbols of freedom, struggle, protecting human dignity, and resistance to submission and humiliation. They constitute a right that is guaranteed to all people, and they cannot be bought and sold for all the money in the world.”

Furthermore, according to PMW, almost 8% of the PA’s 2018 budget uses money toward their fund to pay terrorists and their families.

Legislators in Israel and the United States are irate that the PA’s policy is still ongoing, with Knesset Member Oren Forer telling the Washington Free Beacon that any peace deal reached between Israel and the PA should ensure that such payments end.

“It is impossible that our so-called peace partners are paying and incentivizing murder, while pretending to talk peace,” Forer said.

The Taylor Force Act was signed into law on Mar. 23 as part of an omnibus spending bill. It was named after a U.S. veteran who was murdered at the hands of a Palestinian terrorist in March 2016. The terrorist, 22-year-old Bashar Masalha, is being paid $400 a month by the PA.

The PA paid Palestinian terrorists and their families $347 million overall in 2017. The PA received $357 million from the U.S. in 2016.

Report: Trump Admin Bans Polish President, Prime Minister from WH Over Holocaust Law

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven in the White House East Room in Washington, U.S. March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

A report from a Polish media outlet is claiming that the Trump administration will not meet with Poland’s president or prime minister unless the recently passed Holocaust law is rescinded.

The Onet website is reporting that a memo from U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell to the Polish government condemned the law and stated that “no high-level bilateral contacts between countries” would occur unless the law is repealed. Mitchell also gave Poland an ultimatum that Congress would zero out funding to joint military projects in Poland if the law remains intact and the U.S. would severely retaliate if any American faces criminal punishment under the law.

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Bartosz Cichocki told the Associated Press that the report was not true, although he admitted that the White House was not pleased with the law.

The Polish Foreign Ministry told The Hill in a statement, “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs received signals that the American administration is concerned about the implementation of the amendment to the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance. However, since then, Polish diplomats have conducted a series of meetings, in which it was thoroughly explained to our partners, not only American, the scope of the proposed changes in Polish law and the essence of the legislative process in Poland.”

Under the law, those who claim that Poland was complicit in the Nazis’ atrocities toward Jews during the Holocaust face a maximum of three years in prison.

The law has caused a rift between Israel and Poland. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has excoriated Poland for the law, stating, “There is a problem here of an inability to understand history and a lack of sensitivity to the tragedy of our people.”

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is attempting to ease the tension between the countries.

“Amid the rising wave of antisemitism in Europe, our country is again the safe haven for the Jewish community – as it was throughout the eight centuries before World War II,” Morawiecki wrote in a letter to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. “I would like to assure you that I will do my best to improve our relations and put importance on our common history of living and, unfortunately, enormous suffering, on Polish soil. Both Poland and Israel have the moral obligation to be the guardians of the truth of Holocaust because of their history.”

DOJ Announces Indictments of Israeli-American Over Alleged Bomb Threats of Jewish Organizations

Screenshot from YouTube.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Feb. 28 that 19-year-old dual Israeli-American citizen Michael Ron David Kadar has been hit with multiple indictments for allegedly issuing bomb threats toward various Jewish organizations.

The indictments charge Kadar of sending bomb threats to both the Israeli embassy and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in Washington, D.C. Kadar also faces up to 32 counts of issuing 245 bomb and shooting threats numerous Jewish organizations in Florida, including numerous Jewish Community Centers, Chabads, schools and even Orlando International Airport. The third indictment charges Kadar of providing false information to the police about a hostage situation in Georgia.

Kadar’s alleged threats resulted in “resulted in the temporary closure and evacuation or lockdown of the targeted facilities, and required law enforcement and emergency personnel to respond to and clear the area,” according to the DOJ. Additionally, the threats “caused fighter jets to scramble, planes to dump fuel and make emergency landings, large numbers of schools to evacuate, and numerous other chaotic consequences,” per the Times of Israel.

“When individuals target victims of their crimes based on who they are, what they believe, or how they worship, they target the bedrock principles on which our nation was founded,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “These alleged threats of violence instilled fear in the Jewish community and other communities across the country, and it is the Justice Department’s duty to make sure all Americans can live their lives without this type of fear.”

Kadar’s threats toward Jewish organizations are being treated as a hate crime and could face up to 20 years in prison for each one. He also faces up to 10 years in prison for each bomb threat and five years for the false information he provided to police in Georgia.

“Make no mistake, these threats were acts of anti-Semitism and deserve to be treated as a hate crime,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “They targeted Jewish institutions in order to stoke fear and anxiety, and put the entire Jewish community on high alert.”

In August 2017, an FBI affidavit reportedly accused Kadar using a platform called AlphaBay where he sold his services of issuing bomb threats.

“I email bomb threats to schools on your requests,” Kadar allegedly wrote on the site. “If you feel you need someone to do this job for you then this service is for you.”

His price ranged anywhere from $30 to $500, per the affidavit.

Kadar is currently being held in custody in Israel, where he faces 1,000 counts of various charges from a Tel Aviv District Court. His attorney has argued that Kadar was dealing with “a brain tumor” at the time he made the alleged threats and that he “is on the autistic spectrum,” per the Times of Israel.

Haley: We ‘Need to Take Action on our Own’ on Iran

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley looks on after arriving to watch a training of the COBRAS, Honduras National Police Special Forces, at their base in Tegucigalpa, Honduras February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called out Russia for vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have condemned Iran for arming the Houthi rebels in Yemen and suggested that the U.S. could put matters into its own hands.

“If Russia is going to continue to cover for Iran then the US and our partners need to take action on our own,” Haley said. “If we’re not going to get action on the council then we have to take our own actions.”

According to Reuters and Algemeiner, the drafted resolution first stated that Iran violated an embargo on supplying weapons to the Houthis based on a report from U.N. experts but was later watered down to only express “particular concern” about Iran’s violations to appease Russia. And yet, Russia still vetoed the condemnation, as they were reportedly skeptical of the experts’ conclusions.

Haley’s statement comes as the Trump administration is considering nixing the Iran nuclear deal unless substantial changes are made, and Haley said that the Security Council “doesn’t help” proponents of the deal.

“That just validated a lot of what we already thought, which is Iran gets a pass for its dangerous and illegal behavior,” Haley said.

Iran claimed that the U.S. and Britain were simply scapegoating them for the carnage in Yemen. Tehran has denied accusations that they are arming the Houthis, although their denials are belied by various reports to the contrary. It’s unsurprising that Russia would provide cover to Iran given the two countries have been allies for years due to their shared hatred toward the West.

As the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) points out, Iran and the Houthis share differing beliefs in Shia Islam but they are aligned by geopolitics since “Iran seeks to challenge Saudi and U.S. dominance of the region, and the Houthis are the primary opposition to [interim President Abed Rabbo Mansour al-] Hadi’s Saudi- and U.S.-backed government in Sana’a.”

The Houthis ignited the three-year civil war in Yemen when they wrestled power from Hadi, prompting Saudi Arabia to intervene in the conflict and fight the Houthis in an attempt to curb Iran’s influence in the region and reinstate Hadi’s power. The U.S. is backing the Saudis in the conflict.

The civil war has been devastating on the civilians, as thousands have been killed and millions more are in dire need of aid.

CNN Anchor Hammers U.N. for Anti-Israel Bias

Photo from Flickr/nrkbeta.

CNN anchor Jake Tapper criticized the United Nations for being biased against Israel in a segment on Thursday, as he blasted various countries for criticizing Israel despite having “questionable records.”

Tapper began his segment by summarizing the U.N.’s vote to condemn the Trump administration’s Jerusalem move by a margin of 128 votes in favor of the condemnation, nine against and 35 abstentions. The anchor proceeded to review the records of some of the countries who voted to condemn the move, starting with Venezuela.

“The U.S. imperils global peace, says the representative of Venezuela, a country in a humanitarian disaster,” said Tapper, “with violence in the streets, an economy in complete collapse, citizens malnourished, dying children being turned away from hospitals, starving families joining street gangs to scrounge for food.”

“On what moral platform does the government of Venezuela stand today?” asked Tapper.

Tapper also noted the irony of Syria and Yemen condemning the U.S. despite the fact that their citizens have been ravished by the civil wars plaguing each country, as well as other countries like Myanmar, North Korea and China condemning the move despite their heinous human rights abuses.

The anchor proceeded to highlight some statistics from U.N. Watch reflecting the U.N.’s bias against Israel.

“The United Nations General Assembly from 2012-2015 has adopted 97 resolutions specifically criticizing an individual country, and of those 97, 83 of them have focused on Israel,” said Tapper. “That is 86%.”

Tapper added, “Certainly Israel is not above criticism, but considering the genocide of the Rohingya people in Myanmar, the lack of basic human rights in North Korea, the children starving in the streets of Venezuela, the citizens of Syria targeted for murder by their own leader using the most grotesque and painful weapons, you have to ask, is Israel is deserving of 86% of the world’s condemnation?”

“Or possibly is something else afoot at the United Nations? Something that allows the representative of the Assad government lecture the United States for moving its embassy.”

The full segment can be seen below:

The Jerusalem Embassy Minefield

The US Embassy building in Tel Aviv, (Photo: JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Trump ponders his moves—moving the US embassy, recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital—or neither

United States President Donald Trump will decide Monday whether to sign a waiver to delay relocating the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. While Candidate Trump pledged to make the move during the 2016 election campaign, reports suggest that he might put off doing so for the moment—to not torpedo his prospective peace plan—and instead this week formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

In either eventuality, however, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has threatened to derail any negotiating process with Israel. A PA delegation in Washington, including former chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, reportedly told Jared Kushner—Trump’s point man on the conflict—that any such steps would “kill any potential” for talks and effectively end America’s longstanding role as “honest broker.” A close associate of PA President Mahmoud Abbas further warned that “the world will pay the price” for any changes to Jerusalem’s status.

“Jerusalem does not exclusively belong to Israel,” Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Legislative Council (PLC), asserted to The Media Line. “This is very provocative, not only to Palestinians but to all Arab nations. There is no international recognition of Jerusalem as part of Israel.”

She warned that moving the US embassy would threaten the security of the region by fostering violence and extremism. “I hope the American administration is not so irresponsible as to drag the region into severe circumstances,” Ashrawi said.

Abbas launched a diplomatic campaign over the weekend, calling leaders in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt, Tunisia and France to lobby them to block any prospective change in the status of Jerusalem, the eastern part of which is claimed by Palestinians as the capital of a future state.

The Jordanian Embassy in Washington issued a statement likewise warning that “relocating the US embassy at this particular stage will [have] repercussions [among] Palestinians [and] Arab and Islamic [countries] and would jeopardize the two-state solution.” The statement stressed that any transfer of the embassy would allow terrorist organizations to spread anger and violence and should thus only happen in the context of a comprehensive peace deal leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.

Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir also weighed in, saying “the solution to the conflict cannot be envisioned without the establishment of two states living side by side.”

A 1995 US law calls for the American embassy to be relocated to what Israel considers its undivided capital unless the president deems doing so a threat to national security. Trump’s three predecessors—Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama—all repeatedly postponed the move.

Abdallah Abdallah, Chairman of the PLC’s Political Committee told The Media Line that relocating the embassy would constitute a major shift in the US’ policy since Israel’s establishment in 1948. “This act would [break] the international consensus relating to the special status of Jerusalem. Israel has no sovereignty over Jerusalem,” he contended.

By contrast, a number of Palestinians privately told The Media Line that they do not object to the initiative so long as it does not prevent the eventual formation of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital.

But Abdallah stressed that this could only potentially be tolerated by the Palestinian leadership if Washington at the same time recognized east Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. “They can’t partially solve the issue of Jerusalem,” he added, “as there is no way we would accept that the whole of [the city] is solely for Israel.”

Many Palestinians are concerned that an impulsive decision by Trump on such an emotionally charged issue could lead to an impasse in the peace process, which, in turn, could cause the U.S. president to lose interest in achieving “the ultimate deal.”

After so many decades of on-again off-again negotiations, many Palestinians are wary of American involvement in the long-stalled peace process. This position is influenced by two converging realities; namely, the strength of the US-Israeli strategic relationship and Washington’s past failed attempts to viable solutions for both sides of the conflict.

This article was originally published at The Media Line.

North Korea Fires Another Missile

FILE PHOTO: North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un inspects artillery launchers ahead of a military drill marking the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People's Army (KPA) on April 25, 2017. KCNA/File Photo via REUTERS

North Korea has fired yet another missile, indicating that the hermit kingdom’s pause in missile provocation has now ended.

The missile was fired from Sain Ni at around 3:17 am local time and stayed in the air for around 50 minutes and traveled 620 miles before landing in water that Japan claims exclusive economic rights.

The missile that North Korea fired is believed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and reportedly went as high as 2,800 miles, 10 times higher than the NASA international space station. It’s reportedly capable of striking any location in the United States.

South Korea responded to the missile launch with their own “precision missile strike drill,” where they launched a missile that traveled the same distance as North Korea’s ICBM.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe responded to the launch by calling in his national security council for a meeting.

“We strongly urge North Korea to change their policy as there will be no bright future for North Korea unless they resolve such issues as the abductions, nuclear program and missiles,” said Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary.

President Trump simply said in a press conference, “We will take care of it. It is a situation we will handle.” Defense Secretary James Mattis called North Korea’s actions as a danger to “world peace, regional peace and certainly the United States.”

Tuesday’s missile launch was the seventh time this year North Korea has conducted such tests, with the previous test occurring in September. The United States believes that North Korea could develop a missile capable of holding a nuclear warhead by 2018, and South Korea is warning that the hermit kingdom is “developing its nuclear weapons at a faster-than-expected pace.”

“We cannot rule out the possibility that North Korea could announce its completion of a clear force within one year,” said South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon.

Hamas reaffirms goal to destroy Israel

Hamas militants take part in a military parade in Gaza. Suhaib Salem/ Reuters

Hamas is rejecting the notion that they need to recognize Israel’s right to exist and disarm their military as they’re in the process of potentially forming a Palestinian unity government.

Israel and the United States have demanded that Hamas renounce violence and respect Israel’s existence if they do form a unity government with the Palestinian Authority. Hamas leader Yehia Sinwar has rejected such demands, declaring in Gaza: “The time in which Hamas discusses the issue of recognizing Israel is over. The discussion now is about ‘when to wipe out Israel.”

Sinwar also scoffed at the request for Hamas to disarm its 25,000-member military.

“Nobody in the world can take away our weapons,” said Sinwar. “Not one minute in the day or night passes without our forces accumulating them. We are freedom fighters and revolutionaries for the sake of our people’s freedom.”

Sinwar was responding to Jason Greenblatt, the White House Middle East peace envoy, who announced in a statement on Thursday, “Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognize the State of Israel, accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties – including to disarm terrorists – and commit to peaceful negotiations. If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian government, it must accept these basic requirements.”

Israel has issued a list of preconditions that Hamas would have to agree to in order for the Jewish state to negotiate with a Palestinian unity government, including ending their ties with Iran and returning dead Israelis to Israel.

Hamas and Fatah, two rival Palestinian factions, recently reached a reconciliation agreement in Cairo and will begin negotiations to form a unity government in November. The Palestinian Authority responded to Israel’s set of demands by stating that they will continue “to move forward with the reconciliation efforts.”

Hamas’ charter explicitly calls for the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews. They have attacked Israel repeatedly and were accused by Amnesty International of abducting, torturing and executing Palestinians during the 2014 Hamas-Israel conflict.

Can the U.S. Congress Still Influence Israeli Policy?

Photo by Gali Tibbon/Reuters

Last week, a group of U.S. senators sent a stern letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The letter was signed by seven U.S. senators, among them Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

“We fear actions like the conversion bill and the suspension of the Kotel agreement will strain the unique relationship between our two nations,” the senators warned, “particularly if the majority of American Jews see the movements to which they are committed denied equal rights in Israel.”

What was Netanyahu’s reaction? He politely ignored it. The conversion bill was shelved by Netanyahu months ago, and the Kotel agreement is unlikely to materialize.

How times have changed.

Seven years ago, in 2010, U.S. senators seemed to have more leverage over Israel. Back then, another piece of Israeli legislation — the conversion bill initiated by Knesset member David Rotem — irked Jewish Americans. They pressured the government and then used their ultimate weapon: members of Congress. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) drafted a letter to Netanyahu. Fellow Democratic Sens. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Carl Levin of Michigan joined him. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) phoned the prime minister. The impact of their actions was clear: Netanyahu shelved the bill, never to be resurrected.

But now there is silence. Strange silence. The letters are similar; the argument similar; the prime minister is the same prime minister; all the U.S. legislators involved, still, are Jewish; and all are Democrats. And yet, we see no sign that Israel is about to change its policy. We see no sign that Netanyahu is feeling pressured by the letter.

Why? There are many reasons, but I’d like to address the reasons on the U.S. side. And they begin with the fact that the Democratic Party is not the same party it used to be. Senators such as Al Franken of Minnesota, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Brian Schatz of Hawaii do not carry the weight of a Lautenberg and a Levin. The current government of Israel does not see them as pillars of U.S.-Israel relations. It does not see how ignoring their letter is going to hurt Israel. What will they do? an Israeli senior official (who actually favors the Kotel agreement) asked me, sarcastically, “Will they vote for the Iran deal?”

The Jews of America might not realize it yet, but their tools for swaying Israel are not as compelling as they used to be. The recent senators’ letter, once the biggest stick over Israel’s head, only exposed that reality and made it public. Highly liberal Democratic senators, such as the ones who signed the letter, will not do the trick. The Democratic Party in general — being out of power and moving leftward — is less of a tool of pressure. And most Jews do not have allies other than liberal Jewish senators on these Israeli state-religion issues.

But something more significant has changed between 2010 and today. It is the U.S. — the great ally, the most important friend — that has lost some of its leverage over Israel. This should not come as a surprise. A U.S. that is less interested in world leadership; less involved in Middle East affairs; less dependable as a defender of Israel’s interests and security; more willing to let others, such as the Russians, call the shots; that was governed by a lead-from-behind President Barack Obama; and is now governed by a lead-by-Twitter President Donald Trump; will inescapably lose some of its leverage over Israel.

Usually, when we think about U.S. leverage over Israel, we think about the peace process (and how Obama failed to force concessions on Netanyahu), or about Iran (how Obama failed to deter Netanyahu from speaking before Congress, yet deterred him from attacking Iran). But U.S. leverage is also about the ability of U.S. Jews to make Israel accept their priorities and accommodate their wishes. It is about the usefulness of letters from senators concerning matters of lesser importance, such as the Kotel agreement.

In 2010, a letter proved to be useful. In 2017, another letter proved to be meaningless.

Mitchell Flint, American pilot who fought for Israel’s independence, dies at 94

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with pilot Mitchell Flint in 2008. Photo from Wikipedia

Mitchell Flint, a fighter pilot who flew combat missions for the United States in World War II and for Israel in its War of Independence in 1948, died of natural causes Sept. 17 at his Los Angeles home. He was 94.

Born in Kansas City, Mo., Flint enlisted in the U.S. Navy at 18, following in the footsteps of his father, who served as a combat pilot in World War I. The son trained as a fighter pilot and saw action in the Pacific in numerous dogfights and dive-bombing missions. He was awarded three Air Medals and eight Navy Unit Commendations.

Flint attended UC Berkeley, but with full-scale war between Israel and five Arab nations breaking out in 1948, he clandestinely became one of the first Americans to join Israel’s legendary 101 Squadron.

He explained his motivation in a 2012 Journal interview, saying, “I’m Jewish, Israel desperately needed trained fighter pilots, so I thought I could perhaps do something to sustain the state.”

After surviving 50 missions and two crashes, Flint flew above the 1949 Independence Day parade in one of 12 aircraft that made up Israel’s entire force of fighter planes. He was the last survivor among the dozen pilots.

Flint is believed to be the only wartime combat pilot to have flown the four greatest fighter planes of that era — Corsair, P-51 Mustang, Germanys ME 109 Messerschmitt and Britains Supermarine Spitfire. Israel used a version of the 109, bought from Czechoslovakia.

Back in the U.S., Flint earned his law degree at UCLA and established a family practice, from which he retired after 50 years.

A recent  book, “Angels in the Sky,” by Bob Gandt, details the exploits of Flint and his fellow foreign volunteers during Israel’s War of Independence.

Flint is survived by his wife of 59 years, Joyce, and sons Michael and Guy.

The family requests that any memorial donations be directed to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces at fidf.org.

A memorial service honoring Mitchell Flint’s life will be held at 12 noon Tuesday, Sept. 19, at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood.

US opens first military base on Israeli soil

Zvika Haimovich. Photo by Amir Cohen

The United States opened its first official military base on Israeli soil.

The base started operating Monday following a ceremony at the end of last week to inaugurate the facility that included Israeli and American military personnel. It will operate independently from within an Israeli military base in southern Israel that houses an air defense school, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Several dozen American soldiers will be stationed at the base.

“For the first time the flag of the United States, our most important ally, will be raised in an IDF base,” Brigadier Gen. Zvika Haimovich, the IDF’s head of Air Defense, said in a statement. “This expresses more than anything the long-standing partnership and the strategic commitment between the countries and the armies.”

The opening of the base comes a week after a new Iron Dome anti-missile battery became operational.

“There is no coincidence between the two events,” Haimovich said. “They add another layer to the defense of the State of Israel against the high-trajectory threats that surround us from near and far.”

Planning for the U.S. base began two years ago.

The untold story of DACA’s Israeli recipients

Picture in your mind a “Dreamer,” an immigrant brought to the United States as a child and now living without documentation in this country. Chances are you’re not picturing an Israeli. But here in Los Angeles, young undocumented Jews from Israel are among those facing the looming threat of deportation.

President Donald Trump’s administration recently rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, with a six-month delay to provide time for Congress to plan a path for DACA recipients to gain permanent legal status. Whether that pronouncement sticks remains unclear. 

After a meeting with Democratic leaders and a swirl of messages out of the White House, some of them contradictory, Trump said on Sept. 14 he supports legislation to protect the Dreamers, and further consideration of a wall on the southern border would be done separately.

The policy was created during President Barack Obama’s administration in 2012 as a temporary reprieve to shield young undocumented immigrants from deportation. Trump’s Sept. 5 announcement has been roundly criticized by Democrats, many Republicans and Conservative, Reform and unaffiliated Jewish organizations.

There are an estimated 800,000 DACA recipients, the vast majority of them Latino, with 79 percent coming from Mexico. More than a quarter of the total live in California. At a Sept. 10 rally, hundreds of pro-immigration demonstrators gathered in Los Angeles’ MacArthur Park, many holding signs written in Spanish and waving Mexican flags.

Israel isn’t among the two dozen countries where most DACA recipients originate. But for various reasons — often having to do with fraudulent legal advice given to their parents — these young Jews are caught in a legal limbo, unable to receive federal student aid or travel outside the country.

While their status is identical to that of other Dreamers, they are different in subtle ways, as their individual stories suggest. For example, because the number of Latinos facing deportation is so much larger, they tend to feel more comfortable sharing their concerns and anxieties with one another.

Not so for Jewish Dreamers. For many, their status is an embarrassing stigma, something they would just as soon hide from even their closest friends. 

On the other hand, because Jews are often lighter-skinned than Latinos, they tend not to be subjected to the stares and derision from citizens who support the administration’s decision to eliminate DACA protections.

Furthermore, Jewish Dreamers tend to be better off financially than those from other countries, a distinction that provides securities — even if temporary — that others might not have.

In the end, however, all Dreamers are equal in the eyes of a government policy that would remove them unless a change is forthcoming from a Congress that is deeply divided on immigration issues.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), one of more than a dozen Jewish House members, is among those who favor continuing protections for all Dreamers, including those from Israel.

“The history of the Jewish people is characterized by migration in search of safety and a better future, and I believe our own experience teaches us to empathize with the Dreamers, although relatively few are Jewish or came here from places like Israel,” he said in an email to the Journal. “The administration would treat these young people as unwanted guests in the only country they know. But I view Dreamers as part of the fabric of our nation and believe Congress must act to ensure these young people can continue to live and work in the United States without fear.”

Below are stories of a few undocumented Israeli immigrants. They agreed to share details of their lives with the Journal under the condition that their last names not be used, and in some cases, that their first names be changed to protect their identities. Although the specifics of their cases differ, they share a feeling of being Americans first and foremost, and face an uncertain future.

‘I don’t even remember what Israel looks like’

Bar, a 16-year-old high school junior in the San Fernando Valley, has known for her entire life that she was undocumented.

“It did suck not to be able to go to Israel and visit when all my friends would go,” she said. “All my family is in Israel.”

A resident of Sherman Oaks, her parents arrived on a tourist visa in 2001, when she was 6 months old. Their visas expired a year after they arrived.

“We were hoping we could fix everything before becoming illegal. We had other people giving us suggestions and it was wrong … bad advice, and we didn’t have the money at that point to fix it,” her father, Ron, said.

Ron ran a clothing factory in downtown Los Angeles and insisted on manufacturing in the U.S. but had to shutter the facility because of the high cost of labor.

“We’re paying all the debts that society is asking to pay, and we’re getting zero benefit out of it,” he said.

“I’m from L.A. This is where I’ve lived my whole life. I don’t even remember what Israel looks like.” — Bar

Undocumented immigrants pay taxes but can’t collect benefits. He now runs a printing and packaging company that outsources to Mexico and China.

Bar’s mother, Karen, works for a catering business, serving and cooking food for weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, and other big events.

Bar joined the DACA program late last year. Some of her friends know she’s undocumented and hope one day she’ll be able to join them on trips to Israel and Mexico. She took a driver education course and hopes to get a license soon but might need to apply for an AB 60 license, available for California residents regardless of immigration status, if her DACA status expires.

She’s been a member of the Tzofim movement (Israel’s scouts program) since seventh grade. Her younger sister and brother are scouts, too. They were born in the U.S. and are citizens.

Bar counsels younger kids in Tzofim. “They all tell me before summer starts, ‘We’re going to Israel,’ and I ask them how is that. Even the youngest kids tell me about their experiences in Israel and their family. I’m very excited to be able to go,” she said.

Bar works for a birthday party business where she paints little kids’ faces, dances with them and dresses up as characters from the popular Israeli children‘s show “Yuval Hamebulbal,” a dinosaur and a fire-fighting dog. After she graduates from high school, she expects to go to community college and transfer to a four-year university to study business and fashion design.

If the DACA program is canceled, putting her at risk of deportation, she said it would be “really, really upsetting.”

“I’m from L.A. This is where I’ve lived my whole life. I don’t even remember what Israel looks like,” she said.

‘This affects kids who are pretty much American in every way’

Eli grew up in Beverly Hills and describes himself as “a typical Persian-Jewish kid” in all ways but one: He’s in the country illegally. He was born in Tel Aviv and came here in 1991, when he was 8 years old. His parents overstayed their visa when their green card application was denied.

He earned a degree from UCLA, paying his tuition out of his own pocket, and hoped to go to law school but knew he wouldn’t be allowed to practice. He struggled for years with low-paying jobs.

“A soon as I got my DACA [status] in December 2013, three months later I got hired by a Fortune 500 company,” he said. “I knew I had the ability all along but I couldn’t prove it, because I didn’t have access to a real job.”

Now in his mid-30s, he owns his own business, offering “professional services” to corporate clients.

Outside of a small group of friends and his girlfriend, nobody knows about his status.

“I don’t want to jeopardize my business or do anything that can cause harm to that. In the Persian-Jewish community people talk, and I don’t want that information out,” he said.

Eli is a fitness enthusiast, spending hours a day at the gym training in Brazilian jiu jitsu. He considers himself a hard worker, a self-made entrepreneur, and can’t understand why people wouldn’t want him to be a citizen. After all, he said, he had no say in his parents’ decision to come to the U.S. and overstay their visa.

“You can’t blame somebody who didn’t commit the crime,” he said. “If you pull somebody over and their grandson is in the backseat, you don’t give the grandson in the backseat a ticket.”

He knows plenty of Iranian-American Jews who support Trump, and he doesn’t fault them for it.

“None of them go to KKK or neo-Nazi rallies or anti-immigration rallies. They’re pro-Trump mostly because of his pro-Israel stance, and they make good money and want tax breaks,” he said.

But he said he thinks a lot of them do have a racial bias.

“They look down on Mexican immigrants as low-skilled labor. They mow their lawn and garden their backyard and take care of their kids. … A lot of them probably think we should send them back to Mexico. They don’t understand this affects kids who are pretty much American in every way other than the fact that they don’t have their citizenship here, don’t have their green card.”

‘I’ll take my American education and I’ll go somewhere else’

Rebecca’s parents came to the U.S. when she was 12 years old. They planned to return to Israel after their B-2 tourist visa expired.

“When we got here, we started to feel like we wanted to stay here,” she said. They hired a lawyer who “ended up being a crook,” and their visa expired, she said.

Now 23, Rebecca has spent roughly half her life in the United States.

“My heart is in two different places. It’s hard every day to make the choice to be here. And it’s still a choice, despite all the inconveniences of being undocumented,” she said.

When she gained DACA status in 2012, “everything really changed.” The California Dream Act enabled her to receive state financial aid at UCLA, where she graduated with a double major in anthropology and Arabic.

While at UCLA, she participated in UndocuBruins, a research grant program for undocumented students and received funding to work with a South L.A. nonprofit that trains previously incarcerated people to work on urban farms in “food deserts.”

After she “decided that urban farming is really cool,” Rebecca completed a three-month fellowship at a Jewish community farm in Berkeley called Urban Adamah. Much like a kibbutz, the fellows live and farm together. This summer she worked as a garden educator at a Jewish summer camp in northern California and is now working with other UCLA grads at a startup nonprofit called COMPASS for Youth, which provides counseling for at-risk and homeless youth in Los Angeles.

Her undocumented status has inspired her to help others.

“I feel really blessed for that, because it’s opened my eyes and made me empathetic toward the stories of so many people that I wouldn’t have been able to empathize with beforehand,” she said.

“A lot of doors have been closed on me, and I had to push through a lot of doors. I got a lot of help [and] a lot of community support. … I’m grateful.”— Rebecca

While at UCLA, she was active at Hillel and in the Jewish community, but she had to navigate her place among the mostly Latino undocumented students and the feeling of guilt that accompanies a recognition of privilege.

“Ironically, my dad is also a construction worker, just like the dads of many of the undocumented folks that I know … [but] my dad’s been able to be more successful because he has resources, and he’s not Mexican, so he’s not looked at in a particular way. I look like a white person, so I don’t experience the sort of racist reality that comes with being undocumented in America.”

Rebecca’s mother is a self-published writer of poetry in Hebrew and English.

“A lot of [the poems] are about being away from home and being separated from her family. Her dad passed away while we were here, a few years into being here. So she wasn’t able to see him for the few last years of his life, and then not at his death, not at his funeral, and not now, many years later,” she said.

Rebecca was afraid of deportation, but becoming a DACA recipient “has given me breathing room,” she said. She’d rather move to Israel on her own terms than be deported, but hopes to stay here. She’s trying to make the world a better place in her own way.

“If America doesn’t want that, too bad,” she said. “I’ll take my American education and I’ll go somewhere else.”

Despite the fear that comes with being undocumented, “the immigrant experience is the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” she said.

“I was totally uprooted and I had to cope, and assimilated to something that was 100 percent foreign to me. And that was really hard,” she added. “A lot of doors have been closed on me, and I had to push through a lot of doors. I got a lot of help [and] a lot of community support. … I’m grateful.”

‘The dreams come true here’

In the heart of affluent Beverly Hills, 17-year-old Jason harbors a secret. His family came from Israel when he was 5, and someone posing as a lawyer botched their citizenship applications and disappeared. Their work permits expired, and now Jason, his parents, and his younger brother live in the shadows.

His friends don’t know. Neither did his girlfriend, whom he considered marrying in order to gain a path to legal status. His parents actually pressured him to propose even though he knew “she would freak out, like, big time” if she found out he was undocumented.

Jason became a DACA recipient in 2015.

“I had no idea what it was,” he said. In fact, until that point, his parents hadn’t told him or his younger brother about their immigration status.

“They didn’t know we were illegal because we didn’t want them to talk to their friends,” his father, Avi, said. “Only when the DACA program came out, after talking to Neil [Sheff, their immigration lawyer], only then we told the kids.”

Jason plays guitar and plans to enroll in a music program after graduating from Beverly Hills High School. But his immigration status has complicated his plans.

“I do want to travel at some point, and if I’m not documented I can’t do that,” he said.

Returning to Israel is not an option, his parents say.

“I have nothing to do in Israel,” his mother, Ravital, said. “It’s hard to live there. Here, it’s an easier life. The dreams come true here.”

Daniel, their 13-year-old son, wants to be an actor. Because he’s too young to gain DACA status, he can’t get a work permit and audition for roles.

“Now that [Trump] canceled it, it’s a lot harder. It’s impossible, unless I get married to an American girl,” Daniel said with a laugh.

Ravital owns a skin care company, and Avi works in software development. “We do everything by the book, and we find a way to pay taxes on time,” Ravital said.

“We probably pay more taxes than Trump,” Avi added.

Many of their Israeli and Orthodox Jewish friends are Trump supporters, and they fear social alienation if their immigration status is discovered. “Before you called, we closed all the windows around the house,” Avi admitted. “The stigma of people who are illegal here is very bad.”

‘Remember the stranger and the foreigner in your land’

There’s a disconnect between Jews and undocumented immigrants, says Beverly Hills immigration attorney Neil Sheff, who speaks Hebrew and Spanish fluently. About half of his clients are Israeli, and he hears a lot of rhetoric against immigration reform from his fellow Jews, even those born in other countries.

“Their responses are usually, ‘We came here the legal way.’ When many of the Jewish immigrants came here, the immigration laws were so relaxed and the process was so much easier, everyone could come here the legal way,” he said.

“Their plight isn’t really acknowledged by the greater Jewish community, especially the Orthodox Jewish community.” – Neil Sheff

Sheff believes there are many Israelis living in L.A. without documentation, as well as Jews from South Africa, Russia and an increasing number from France, looking to escape their country’s rising tide of anti-Semitism.

“Their plight isn’t really acknowledged by the greater Jewish community, especially the Orthodox Jewish community,” which supports Trump because they consider him to be pro-Israel, Sheff said.

The Torah extolls Jews 36 times to treat strangers well, “for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21).

“It’s part and parcel of who we are as Jews to remember the stranger and the foreigner in your land,” Sheff said. “That should translate immediately to empathy for the immigrants here, whether they are immigrants who have been here for generations or just arrived.”

A Jewish ‘Dreamer’ is scared, but refuses to despair

Elias Rosenfeld, a sophomore at Brandeis University, speaking at a rally at Boston’s Faneuil Hall hours after President Trump announced he was rescinding DACA protections for some 800,000 young people on Sept. 5. Photo by Jeremy Burton/JCRC of Greater Boston

At 15, Elias Rosenfeld became a “Dreamer.”

At the time, the Venezuela native was attending Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School in Miami, where he had lived since he was 6 years old, when his Jewish family moved to South Florida from Caracas. His mother was a media executive and they traveled to the United States on an L1 visa, which allows specialized, managerial employees to work for the U.S. office of a parent company.

But tragedy struck the family: When Rosenfeld was in the fifth grade, his mother was diagnosed with kidney cancer. She died two years later.

In high school, Rosenfeld applied for a driver’s permit, only to find out that he lacked the required legal papers. He discovered that his mother’s death  voided her visa. He and his older sister were undocumented.

“It was an embarrassing moment for me,” Rosenfeld recalled more than five years later.

Within five months, in June 2012, President Barack Obama signed an executive order, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, granting temporary, renewable legal status to young unauthorized immigrants who had been brought to America by their parents as children.

Known as DACA, the order opened up a world of opportunities for some 800,000 young people who were now able to apply for driver’s licenses, temporary work permits and college. “Dreamers” refers to a bipartisan bill, known as the Dream Act, that would have offered them a path to legal residency.

“It was the power of one order that can so directly change one’s life,” Rosenfeld said. “That launched me. I became an advocate.”

He launched United Student Immigrants, a nonprofit to assist undocumented students that has been credited with raising tens of thousands of dollars for help with scholarships and applications.

Rosenfeld, now a 20-year-old sophomore at Brandeis University on a full scholarship, spoke with JTA at a rally Tuesday outside of this city’s Faneuil Hall, just hours after President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced they would rescind DACA. The president gave Congress a six-month window to preserve the program through legislation. Or not.

The Boston protest was organized by the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, where Rosenfeld is an intern. He shared his story with several hundred people at the quickly organized rally.

He explained that DACA enabled him to drive, buy his first car, and apply for internships, jobs and scholarships.

“Today’s news was cruel and devastating. Now is not the time of despair, however, but to put our energy towards effective action,” he said, urging the crowd to work for protective legislation at the federal and state levels. There are some 8,000 DACA residents in Massachusetts.

Several Jewish communal leaders attended the rally, including Jeremy Burton, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, and Jerry Rubin, president of Jewish Vocational Services. Representatives from the New England Jewish Labor Committee, which helped spread the word of the rally, held signs in the crowd.

Another Dreamer, Filipe Zamborlini, who came to the U.S. from Brazil when he was 12 and now works as a career coach at Jewish Vocational Services, also spoke.

“We’re going to mourn today,” Zamborlini, 28, told the assembly.

The New England Jewish Labor Committee helped spread the word about a rally in Boston in support of DACA, Sept. 5, 2017. (Marion Davis/Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition)

Rosenfeld said the Trump administration’s decision was disturbing and unsettling.

“There’s a high level of fear and anxiety in DACA communities,” he told JTA.

Rosenfeld recalls too well the sting and uncertainty of being undocumented.

“It means you can’t do everything your peers and your friends are doing. You feel American, but you are suffering these consequences from choices you didn’t make,” he said.

But he also sounded a note of optimism, pointing out that Trump called on Congress to act.

“We hope Congress follows their president’s word now and does the job of passing one of the many pieces of legislation” before them, Rosenfeld said.

He readily admits to feeling scared and anxious.

“But I’m also feeling empowered and motivated from seeing the outpouring of support,” locally and across the country, he said.

To DACA opponents, including Jewish supporters of Trump, Rosenfeld asks them to look at the facts and the stories of people like himself.

“I don’t think it aligns with our values, with Jewish values and the Jewish community,” he said of a policy that would essentially strip a generation of people raised here of official recognition.

Rosenfeld cited the activism of a group called Torah Trumps Hate, which opposes policies that it considers anathema to values contained in Jewish teachings.

Growing up, his family attended synagogue often and celebrated Shabbat and Jewish holidays.

Despite the hardships he faced following his mother’s death, Rosenfeld excelled in high school. He completed 13 Advanced Placement courses and ranked among the top 10 percent of his graduating class, according to a Miami-Dade County school bulletin. Rosenfeld was widely recognized as a student leader, receiving several awards and honors. During the presidential campaign, he volunteered for the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Many students who were undocumented live in constant fear, even after receiving temporary legal status under DACA, Rosenfeld said.

“There is fear behind the shadows,” he said. “We are always behind the shadows.”

Earlier in the day, before the president’s announcement, Brandeis President Ron Liebowitz sent a letter to Trump urging him not to undo DACA.

“Here at Brandeis University, we value our DACA students, who enrich our campus in many ways and are integral to our community,” the letter said. “Reversing DACA inflicts harsh punishment on the innocent. As a nation founded by immigrants, we can, should, and must do better.”

Rosenfeld was attracted to Brandeis both for its academics and its commitment to social justice. He is studying political science, sociology and law, with plans to continue his advocacy work on behalf of immigrants. He hopes one day to attend law school and work in politics or practice law.

With a full schedule of courses and volunteer work, Rosenfeld gets by without much sleep, he acknowledged with an easy laugh.

The Brandeis administration has been supportive, he said, and there is a meeting later this week on campus to discuss school policy on the issue.

Asked what America means to him, Rosenfeld does not hesitate.

“It means my country. It’s my home. There’s a connection. I want to contribute,” he said. “I just don’t think it’s valuable to want to kick out people that want to contribute to this country.”

What’s a bigger threat to Jews, left or right?

White supremacists clash with counter protesters at a rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Who’s worse, the fanatics who want to kill us now or the extremists who want to kill us later? That was the question Jews locked onto this week, like two dogs playing tug of war with a sock. It’s entertaining until one of them loses a tooth.

The fight began after President Donald Trump equivocated in his condemnation of neo-Nazis and placed the blame for the violence at the Aug. 12 white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., on both the alt-right and the people who came to protest them.

Trump’s insistence that there was blame on “many sides” and there were “good people on both sides” drew justifiable denunciation from a broad swath of the Jewish world. The nonpartisan Anti-Defamation League (yes, it’s nonpartisan), of course, condemned the president’s remarks. But so did Haskel Lookstein, the Orthodox rabbi who officiated at Ivanka Trump’s conversion, as well as the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

If there’s one thing most Jews can still manage to agree on, it’s that Nazis are bad.

But then came social media, and that’s where the fights broke out.

Yes, what Trump did was terrible, but the real danger to American Jews is the left, some people argued. It’s the antifa people, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and Black Lives Matter with its anti-Zionist platform who intimidate Jewish students on college campuses, shut down free speech for pro-Israel speakers, and in the case of BDS, work toward a world where Israel and the Palestinians can bloody each other in a Lebanon-circa-1982-style civil war. At this year’s Chicago SlutWalk, the leftist organizers refused to let Jews march under a banner showing the Star of David, a Jewish symbol that long predates the State of Israel. 

Yeah, the leftists shot back, but what about … Nazis? It’s the alt-right members who carry guns, threaten synagogues as they did in Charlottesville, chant “Jews will not replace us,” and far and away commit more violent attacks. To paraphrase Sally Field, they hate us, they really hate us.

This is how the arguments play out on Facebook, Instagram and, occasionally, as they say on Twitter, IRL — in real life.

Some debaters go straight to history, or at least to something they remember from the History Channel. The left gave us Stalin and Mao. The fascists gave us Hitler. The left aligned with Palestinian terrorists. The right gave us … Hitler.

The right says that a few pathetic men carrying swastikas can’t compare to an international movement like BDS. The left points out that a few pathetic men carrying swastikas is an exact description of the Nazi Party in 1921.

The right claims there’s something called the alt-left that is dangerously anti-Semitic. The left points out that Fox News host Sean Hannity invented the term “alt-left” to stoke fear, whereas a neo-Nazi created the word “alt-right” to rebrand his loathsome movement.

“There is no comparable side on the left to the alt-right,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said on MSNBC this week.  “White supremacists amass with …  a nationalist agenda that pushes out minorities based on how you pray, who you love or where you’re from. So, it’s really not comparable.”

I’ve read the platforms of antifa groups online, and they all state they oppose all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. That’s not a claim you find on DailyStormer.com. Having said that, I wouldn’t be shocked one day to find anti-fascists showing up to intimidate marchers at a pro-Israel rally. Leftist politicians in England like Jeremy Corbyn side with terrorists against Israel, and their sickness is infectious.

The bottom line is, after our initial almost-unity in condemning Trump’s remarks, we quickly split on which extreme should concern us more. Astonishingly, the Democrats in the debate tend to “objectively” consider the neo-Nazis a far worse threat, while the Republicans “objectively” conclude that the antifas and BDS-ers are the clear and present danger. People come in with their biases and leave with them intact. No minds are changed in the making of this debate.

Here’s what I think: We need to sleep with one eye open, sometimes the right one, sometimes the left one.

The far right and far left always circle back to meet each other under the same DSM entry for paranoia, conspiracy theories, violence and Jew hatred. The far left disguises anti-Semitism as anti-Zionism. The far right disguises nothing: They hate Jews and the “Zios.”

These days, the far right has gotten a big blast of wind in its sails from our president (thanks for that) and the limp response from fellow Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan, who failed to stand up to him. Not to mention the Jews who serve or sometimes live with Trump. They only make things worse.

But winds shift. That means next time someone tries to convince you that all the danger blows from one direction, remind them that it doesn’t. The Jewish left needs to mind the left, and the Jewish right the right. Let’s work together to fight the fanatics and their enablers wherever, and whoever, they are.


ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email
him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism
and @RobEshman.

Trump’s target: Immigrants like us

President Donald Trump in Phoenix, Ariz., on Aug. 22. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

While reporting on the current generation of immigrants, I’ve been struck by how they resemble Jews who, like them, left the old country for a risky journey to the United States.

We forget family roots as the years pass. Only determined genealogists have the curiosity to trace families back to the towns of the Ashkenaz and Sefarad. 

But there is no better time than now to think about roots.

Who would think that the top news of the day would be American Nazis running wild, rampaging with their swastikas and anti-Semitic chants? They are evocative of the vicious young men who stormed through Russian cities and villages during pogroms, in Jewish quarters in the Middle East, in European cities when Hitler reigned.

Then, to make matters worse, President Donald Trump sank to the level of Hitler apologists when he said of the clashes in Charlottesville, Va., “You … had some very fine people on both sides.” 

The United States has been a welcoming land for Jews. But the Nazi sympathizers and Trump’s comments ought to remind us of a certain precariousness in our lives. Paranoid perhaps, but that gloomy thought is with me as I cover the immigration issue for the website Truthdig.

When Trump took office with his pledge to sharply limit immigration and to deport those here without documentation — numbering about 11 million — Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer, son of an immigrant mother, said he thought immigration was one of the most important stories of our time and that we were in the middle of it in Southern California.  I thought so, too.

Take Boyle Heights, for example.

I began exploring Boyle Heights, Los Angeles’ traditional immigrant center, for the Los Angeles Times in 1970.

Much has changed since then. Brooklyn Avenue, the Boyle Heights’ main street of some of our readers’ youth, is now Cesar Chavez Avenue, and the Jews who made it their community long ago migrated westward. But some of the heritage of the old Boyle Heights — then a multiethnic, working-class neighborhood with a tradition of activist politics — remains.

That activism was apparent to me during a recent community workshop organized by Truthdig Managing Editor Eric Ortiz. The event was designed to show young people how to get news out in this era of internet journalism.

The concerns of these young journalists , who contribute to Boyle Heights Beat, a bilingual community newspaper and website, ranged from fighting the gentrification of Boyle Heights to reporting on the wave of fear in the Latino community over the rapidly increasing arrests of undocumented immigrants.

One story in a recent edition was about Los Angeles’ first all-solar-powered arts and music festival in Mariachi Plaza. Another was a moving account by a Boyle Heights Beat reporter about what happened when her father, here on a green card, was deported. What distinguishes the stories is that they give full pictures of life in Boyle Heights, rather than limiting themselves to the usual media accounts of undocumented immigrants being hauled away by authorities. 

My former Los Angeles Times colleague Hector Tobar wrote of these usual accounts in a New York Times op-ed, calling such stories “kind of immigration porn,” designed to titillate readers and viewers. “You are many times more likely to see a deportee on the TV news than a Latino doctor or teacher,” he wrote. “My objection is not to the coverage of deportations. … But the humiliated and hunted people you see in coverage of the deported are not the whole person. Tenacity and stubbornness are the defining qualities of undocumented America.”

These were the qualities of our Jewish immigrant forebears. They had the tenacity, stubbornness and courage to leave the old country for a faraway land whose language they frequently could not read or speak. They were impoverished before they left and often more so when they arrived. Grit and, often, family members pulled them up — sometimes way up.

These qualities are not recognized in the cruelly restrictive immigration measure proposed by Trump that would cut the number of immigrants to this country by half and, among other provisions, require English language skills. It would also eliminate some family sponsorship of immigrants, the route most immigrants follow to get into the United States. The provision would devastate Latino and Muslim families.

One of the provision’s authors was Trump aide Stephen Miller. As Jewish Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman wrote, Miller is the descendent of immigrants who benefited from American openness and generosity.

If you can, visit immigrant communities, go to meetings, explore the schools and watch people fight deportation in immigration court. Look carefully. You’ll see in their faces the faces of your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents.

Today, Latinos and Muslims are under threat from the Trump administration. As inconceivable as it sounds, one day it could be us.


BILL BOYARSKY is a columnist for the Jewish Journal, Truthdig and L.A. Observed, and the author of “Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times” (Angel City Press).

Why more Israelis are moving to the US

Children waving Israeli and American flags at the Celebrate Israel parade in New York City on June 4. Photo by Perry Bindelglass

Six years ago, the Israeli government released a series of controversial ads to show its expatriates that they would never feel at home in the United States.

But last year, Israeli Cabinet members lined up to address a Washington, D.C., conference celebrating Israeli-American identity.

The ad campaign, which was pulled following a backlash from Israelis and Jews abroad, represented Israel’s traditional attitude toward citizens who left its borders. Emphasizing its image as the Jewish national homeland — and ever concerned about its Jewish-Arab demographic balance — Israel’s government has long encouraged Jews not only to move to Israel but to stay there. In 2014, then-Finance Minister Yair Lapid called Israelis who moved to Berlin “anti-Zionists.”

But the parade of Israeli ministers who spoke at the 2016 conference of the Israeli-American Council attested to a shifting reality: Whether the Israeli government likes it or not, the Israeli-American diaspora is real, growing and leaving its mark on the United States.

Here are four things to know about the Israelis who live in the United States.

No one knows how many Israelis live in the United States — but it could be a million.

There’s no real way to know how many Israelis are living in the United States. Any first-generation child of Israelis is considered an Israeli citizen, and Israel can’t force its expatriates to register with their local consulate.

Estimates of Israelis in America vary widely — from about 200,000 to as many as a million. According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, some 250,000 Israelis acquired permanent residence in the United States between 1949 (when 98 Israelis left the infant state) to 2015 (which saw about 4,000 Israelis move stateside). But that number does not chart deaths or Israelis who moved back.

The 2013 Pew Research Forum study on American Jews found a similar number: About 300,000 Jews in America were either born in Israel or born to an Israeli parent. In total, Pew found that first- or second-generation Israelis account for about 5 percent of American Jews.

Even the Israeli government produces two different numbers. Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics reports that a little more than 500,000 Israelis in total moved abroad from 1990 to 2014 — and nearly 230,000 came back. But Israel’s U.S. Embassy told JTA that between 750,000 and 1 million Israelis live in the country. Adam Milstein, chairman of the Israeli-American Council, an umbrella group for Israelis here, told JTA that includes 400,000 children born to an Israeli parent.

In recent years, Israel has lost more people to the United States than it has gained. From 2012 to 2015, according to Homeland Security, 17,770 Israelis took up residence in the United States. During that span, fewer than 13,000 people made the move  from the United States to Israel.

They are centered in New York and Los Angeles.

Israelis tend to go where the Jews are. Milstein estimates that about 250,000 Israelis each live in the Los Angeles and New York City metro areas, which also boast the two largest Jewish communities in the United States. Smaller concentrations of Israelis (and Jews) live in South Florida, Chicago and San Francisco.

Those cities, in turn, have developed a range of services for their Israeli diasporas. Israel’s Immigrant Absorption Ministry maintains Israeli Houses in nine American cities that host cultural events and political activism. The Israeli-American Council has chapters in 15 cities. And communities boast active Facebook groups: “Israelis in New York” includes 18,000 members.

The cities also provide ample opportunities for Israeli culture. Israeli cuisine is a staple of New York’s restaurant scene, from chef Einat Admony’s mini empire of eateries, to Dizengoff, an Israeli restaurant with branches in Philadelphia and New York. Aroma, the iconic Israeli coffee chain, has branches in New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Miami.

And Israeli musicians — from Idan Raichel to Shlomo Artzi to Sarit Hadad — are never hard to find on New York’s concert scene. An adaptation of Israeli novelist David Grossman’s book “To the End of the Land” opened recently at the the annual Lincoln Center Festival.

They come for education and work.

Neither the Israeli Embassy nor the Israeli-American Council tracks why Israelis move to the U.S., but Milstein suspects it’s for professional and academic reasons. Israel’s small size means Israelis with college or advanced degrees often seek to advance their careers in places with more opportunities abroad.

Israelis “don’t have the roots [of] someone whose family lived in Italy for 20 generations, or who lived in America for the last 150 years,” Milstein said. “The Jewish people, the most valuable asset they have is their brain. They can take their brain[s] anywhere.”

Israel, conversely, has begun to worry about its “brain drain” recently. A 2013 study by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies found that for every 100 Israeli scholars who stayed in Israel, 29 left for positions abroad in 2008.

The drain is happening in the tech industry, too: According to the Israeli Executives and Founders Forum, an Israeli tech association, there are nearly 150 Israeli startups in Silicon Valley.

Israel still wants them back.

Israel’s government may have recognized that it can’t bring back all the Israelis from the United States, but it’s still trying. The appeal is both emotional and economic.

The 2011 ad campaign, for example, featured a series of shorts highlighting the Israeli-American cultural divide. In one, a child of Israelis in America, video chatting with Israeli grandparents, talks about the upcoming winter holiday of Christmas, not Hanukkah. In another, an Israeli woman comes home to commemorate Memorial Day in Israel with a candle — her American boyfriend mistakes it for romantic lighting.

More recently, Israel has also laid out financial incentives to draw expatriates back, including a program set to launch later this year called “Returning at 70,” a reference to Israel’s 70th Independence Day in 2018. The Immigrant Absorption Ministry will provide returning Israelis with financial assistance for six months, and will even cover a portion of their salaries in order to ensure they can find work in their old-new home. The government is also offering free professional development courses and consulting.

Israelis who have opened businesses stateside, meanwhile, will receive about $14,000 for the costs of relocating the business. And Israelis who move to the country’s underdeveloped northern and southern regions are eligible for grants as well as loans with low interest rates.

But Milstein says that even with these programs, Israeli officials still understand that it’s better to embrace expatriates than shame them into coming home.

“By trying to raise our guilt feeling, it backfired,” he said. “The State of Israel is getting to the realization that [our] being here, they can’t do too much about it. We can help the State of Israel a lot. They understand we can be their strategic asset.”

Israel and Russia only countries to view Trump more favorably than Obama, poll shows

President Donald Trump in Iowa on June 21. Photo by Scott Morgan/Reuters

Israel and Russia were the only two countries to have a more favorable view of President Donald Trump than his predecessor, Barack Obama, at the end of his time in office, a survey found.

The annual survey by the Pew Research Center on America’s image abroad also found that some 81 percent of Israelis have a positive view of the United States under Trump, compared with a median of 58 percent, according to the results released Tuesday.

Some 40,447 respondents in 37 countries outside the United States answered the survey from Feb. 16 to May 8.

Israel’s favorability rating of the United States has held steady over the past several surveys, including 81 percent in 2015, 84 percent in 2014, and 83 percent in 2013. In 2009, the rating was at 71 percent, the lowest since the survey was started 15 years ago.

In Russia, 41 percent have a favorable view of the United States under Trump, compared with 15 percent under Obama.

Israelis’ confidence in Trump was measured at 56 percent, compared to 49 percent for Obama at the end of his second four-year term. But the median showed 22 percent confidence in Trump and 64 percent in Obama.

The survey also found that 69 percent of Israelis surveyed said they considered Trump to be a strong leader, compared to a median of 55 percent. Some 54 percent of Israelis said Trump is well qualified to serve as president; the median was 26 percent.

Considering the border wall with Mexico, 42 percent of Israelis supported Trump’s idea, compared with 24 percent from all countries surveyed. On Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, 69 percent of Israelis were opposed, comparing to the 71 percent of the other countries surveyed.

“The sharp decline in how much global publics trust the U.S. president on the world stage is especially pronounced among some of America’s closest allies in Europe and Asia, as well as neighboring Mexico and Canada,” according to the survey.

Among close U.S. allies, in Germany, the favorability ranking for the U.S. has dropped to 11 percent under Trump from 86 under Obama; in France, 14 percent from 84 percent, and in Canada, 22 percent from 83 percent. Sweden saw a drop to 10 percent from 93 percent.

Among Middle East countries, the U.S. did not fare particularly well under either president, but again there was more confidence in Obama. Some numbers: Turkey 11 percent for Trump, 45 for Obama; Jordan, 5 percent and 14 percent, and Lebanon, 11 percent and 36 percent.

Many countries that have had poor relations with the U.S. over many years were not among those questioned, such as Syria and Iraq.

Hunk hawks hideous health bill

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)

John Thune is the most handsome man in the U.S. Senate. Square jawed, gleaming smile, cowboy tan, the 6’4” South Dakota Republican’s rugged good looks are antipodal to the mien of majority leader Mitch McConnell, whom Jon Stewart has definitively established is Yertle the Turtle’s doppelgänger. If the human brain’s positive bias toward attractive people didn’t cue me to infer that Thune is a great guy, a real straight shooter, I’d be as outraged by the assault on Americans’ health that Thune and his co-conspirators are currently waging, and by the subversion of American democracy they’re using to ram it through, as I am when its public face is McConnell’s.

Thune is a member of the all-white, all-male “gang of 13” staunchly conservative Republicans whom McConnell tasked two months ago with secretly writing a new GOP health bill in the Senate.

Because a parliamentary tactic will embed this Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal — and alleged replacement — into a budget reconciliation bill, it’s exempt from being filibustered by Democrats. That means the bill will need only 50 of the 52 Republican senators, along with Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote, in order to pass, instead of the 60 votes it takes to shut down a filibuster, which would require at least eight Democrats to defect.

Because the House also must pass the bill with only Republican votes, it needs to be mean enough to win over the House’s far right Freedom Caucus, “mean” being President Donald Trump’s new description of the formerly “beautiful” House health bill he fêted in the Rose Garden in May. That’s why the American Health Care Act (AHCA) that McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan want Trump’s signature on before July 4 likely will deprive 23 million Americans of health insurance; end Obamacare’s minimum benefits, like mental health services and maternity care; deny coverage for pre-existing conditions; permit lifetime benefit caps; cut $800 billion from Medicaid and turn it into block grants to states, effectively killing the program — oh, and give the top 0.1 percent of households an average tax cut of nearly $200,000.

I say “likely,” since the actual content of the bill has been shrouded in secrecy. Because a majority of Americans oppose those changes to a law that a majority of Americans support, McConnell knows that his only chance to pass it before the public catches on and rises up is a total blackout of information as they write the bill, which is what’s happening now, and once they reveal it, a blitzkrieg without committee hearings or time for town halls, hurtling toward a final vote within a matter of hours.

This is not normal. It’s not how a bill affecting one-fifth of our economy is supposed to be considered. McConnell’s plan is to make it seem normal, which is why they’re deploying the credibility of John Thune’s chiseled cheekbones: to sell a coup d’état as if it were a “Schoolhouse Rock!” civics lesson.

The day after a gunman opened fire on a Republican congressional baseball practice, prompting calls to for a return to civil discourse in our politics, Thune was on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” saying we all must do our part to achieve the unity that this moment requires. Speaking of unity, journalist Mike Barnicle piped up, what about the health care bill being written in secret? “Nobody knows what’s in this bill,” Barnicle said. As a starter, he asked, in the spirit of reaching across the aisle, of bipartisanship and openness, “How about … telling us what’s in this bill?”

Thune’s answer made me marvel that a man with such good hair could deceive so baldly.

There’s really no bill to share, he said. What’s going on now is just discussions, just policy options. It will be openly shared when it’s reduced to legislative language, he said, as though that’s just how the lawmaking process works.

It’s not. Drafts of bills are routinely made public long before legislative language is locked in. They’re distributed as outlines, memos, letters, emails, talking points, PowerPoints, lists, charts, conference calls, cut-and-pastes, works in progress, principles, summaries, overviews, abstracts. They’re the basis for innumerable meetings with constituents, stakeholders, interest groups, media, members of both parties, think tanks, analysts and experts. That’s American democracy in action. What’s happening now is not.

Besides, Thune added, there’s been so much discussion of health care over the past decade, “it’s like any of us are unfamiliar with what the issues are.” We’ve already discussed them.

The ACA was the subject of hundreds of committee hearings and markups, hundreds of hours of congressional debate, hundreds of town halls and public forums and two years of news coverage. But that discussion was about expanding Medicaid, not eliminating it; about increasing benefits, not cutting them; about providing health insurance to millions, not giving tax cuts to millionaires. If the media were to give the AHCA’s issues the kind of scrutiny and airtime it gave Obamacare, Republicans would now be running from it like a dumpster fire.

To be sure, John Thune would make one handsome fireman. But I doubt even he could convince his colleagues in Congress to bunk in a burning building.


MARTY KAPLAN is the Norman Lear professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

Joe Lieberman reportedly out of contention as Trump pick to lead FBI

Former Sen. Joseph Lieberman testifying during a hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee on Capitol Hill on Nov. 3, 2015. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Donald Trump reportedly has dropped Joe Lieberman, a one-time Democrat who was the first Jewish candidate on a major party presidential ticket, from his list of contenders to helm the FBI.

Trump had indicated last week that Lieberman, a former U.S. senator from Connecticut and an Independent who has forged strong ties with Republicans and Democrats, was his likeliest pick. Lieberman was seen by Trump’s team as a sop to members of both parties angry with Trump for how he fired James Comey, the previous FBI director.

But Democrats in the Senate, chief among them Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, raised concerns because Lieberman is employed by the legal firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres and Friedman, which represents Trump. CNN reported Wednesday that Trump had retained the firm’s top lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, as personal counsel as scandals besieged Trump’s presidency, and that was likely a factor in Lieberman’s removal from contention for the FBI post.

Comey was helming the investigation into alleged ties between Russia and the Trump campaign when Trump sacked him earlier this month.

The White House delivered an array of sometimes conflicting reasons for the dismissal, saying at first that Comey mishandled last year’s FBI inquiry into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state. Then Trump acknowledged that he was also thinking of the Russia inquiry when he fired Comey.

Comey’s firing and subsequent reporting that Trump had tried to influence Comey’s handling of the Trump campaign-Russia investigation was a watershed in the scandals that have plagued Trump’s young presidency. Republicans in Congress seemed eager for the first time to vigorously pursue their own investigations into the alleged Russia ties, and last week subpoenaed materials related to the Russia investigations.

Lieberman earned a reputation for integrity in the late 1990s when he became the first Senate Democrat to take President Bill Clinton to task for his transgressions related to his affair with a White House intern.

Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2000, made history when he named Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, as his running mate.

Lieberman alienated grassroots Democrats in the next decade when he backed President George W. Bush’s Iraq War, and in 2006 was defeated in the Democratic primary in his home state. He ran and won as an Independent, and backed his close friend, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, over Barack Obama in the 2008 election. He retired from politics in 2012.

Since then, Lieberman has gravitated back toward the Democratic fold, campaigning among Florida’s Jews last year for Clinton. He still maintains ties with Republicans, however, this year testifying on behalf of two Trump nominees in confirmation hearings: Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, and David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, who is the “Friedman” in the legal firm representing Trump.

Meeting with Abbas, Trump calls Manchester attackers ‘evil losers’

President Donald Trump shaking hands with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a joint news conference in Bethlehem, in the West Bank on May 23. Photo by Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, Donald Trump condemned those behind the deadly bombing in Manchester, England, the night before as “evil losers.”

“So many young beautiful innocent people living and enjoying their lives murdered by evil losers in life. I won’t call them monsters because they would like that term,” Trump said in a joint news conference with Abbas on the second day of the U.S. president’s two-day visit to Israel and the West Bank. “They would think that’s a great name. I will call them from now on losers because that’s what they are.”

At least 22 people were killed as they exited a concert by the American pop star Ariana Grande at Manchester Arena. Police said the attack was carried out by a lone suspect who died in the explosion. The Islamic State has taken responsibility.

Abbas also expressed his “warm condolences” to the victims of the attack and to the British people.

Discussing his talks with Abbas, Trump spoke of achieving a peace deal, saying “I am committed to trying to achieve a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and I intend to do everything I can to help them achieve that goal. President Abbas assures me he is ready to work toward that goal in good faith, and Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised the same. I look forward to working with these leaders toward a lasting peace.”

On Monday, Trump met with Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israeli prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem, where he also spoke of possibilities for recharging the peace process.

“There are many things that can happen now that could never have happened before,” Trump said during the visit. “We must seize them together. We must take advantage of the situation.”

In his appearance with Abbas, Trump made what many took as a reference to Palestinian payments to the families of terrorists. The practice of paying “martyrs” and their families dates back decades and survived the Oslo peace process launched in 1993.

“Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded,” Trump said.

He also called for zero tolerance for terror.

“We must be resolute in condemning such acts in a single unified voice,” the U.S. leader said.

In his remarks, Abbas said he has no problem with Judaism. He said the Palestinians’ “fundamental problem is with occupation and settlements and the failure of Israel to recognize the state of Palestine as we recognize it.”

Abbas said the Palestinians “are committed to working with [Trump] to reach a historic peace deal between us and Israel.”

Under Trump, daylight re-emerges in US-Israel relationship

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House on Feb. 15. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Just days before President Donald Trump’s first visit to Israel, the U.S.-Israel relationship is undergoing its first major crisis in the Trump era. ZOA’s Klein: “The President is getting bad advice.”

HOW IT STARTED: During a Sunday morning interview with Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press, Tillerson said that any decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would not be made for some time, adding that it would take consultations with Israel and the Palestinians to see if the move would advance the peace process. “I think it’ll be informed, again, by the parties that are involved in those talks,” Tillerson said. “And most certainly Israel’s view on whether Israel views it as being helpful to a peace initiative or perhaps a distraction.”

[This story originally appeared on jewishinsider.com]

Hours after the interview was broadcast, Netanyahu issued a rare statementresponding to Tillerson’s remarks. “Moving the American embassy to Jerusalem would not harm the peace process,” Netanyahu said. “On the contrary, it would advance it by correcting an historical injustice and by shattering the Palestinian fantasy that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel.” He repeated this statement at the weekly Likud faction meeting in the Knesset on Monday.

DID BIBI ADVISE TRUMP AGAINST MOVING? On Monday, in response to a Fox News report that Netanyahu told Trump not to move the embassy right away, the Prime Minister’s Office released partial transcripts of Netanyahu’s White House meeting as proof that he had urged the President to move the embassy. “The embassy – the PM supports moving it,” a summary of the Oval Office meeting read. During a working lunch at the White House, “the PM was asked about the embassy and explained [that moving it would not lead to bloodshed in the region, as some were trying to intimidate President Trump into believing.”

The Prime Minister’s office also released a transcript of a meeting between Ambassador Ron Dermer and former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn on January 16: “Dermer explained why moving the embassy would help advance peace and not the opposite. This would send the message that we are in Jerusalem to stay. Moving the embassy would force the other side to contend with the lie they’ve constructed – that Israel has no connection to Jerusalem – and will cause them to understand that Israel will be here forever with Jerusalem as its capital.”

Visiting the Wall: According to a report by Israel’s Channel 2, the U.S. advance team rebuffed a request from Netanyahu’s team to accompany Trump while he visits the Western Wall. According to the report, the US team explained that the site is part of disputed territory in the West Bank and not under Israeli sovereignty. An official in Netanyahu’s office expressed“astonishment” over the comment. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israel has contacted the administration to discuss the matter.

REACTIONS: Abe Foxman, former National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), lambasted the White House for its “very serious misunderstandings” on sensitive and important issues to Israel and the Jewish people. “It makes many of us — who are hoping for a change in U.S.-Israel relations — nervous,” Foxman, the current Director of Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, told Jewish Insider. “I cannot believe that the traditionally pro-Palestinian functionaries in the American Consulate in Jerusalem are making the decisions on the Kotel and Jerusalem.”

The current CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, urged the White House to clarify its stance following the report. “The Kotel is 100% part of Israel and holy to Jews around [the] world,” Greenblatt wrote on Twitter.

“When a President or Prime Minister needs to put out record of a private conversation to defend themselves against the other or their domestic opposition, it’s not a good sign,” Aaron David Miller, Vice President for new initiatives and a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, told Jewish Insider. “Remember the agreement between these two [leaders] to manage differences by not going public?”

“Playing with the Jerusalem issue complicates not just the putative peace process, but everyone’s politics,” Miller explained. “If Trump wants to hang a ‘closed for the season’ sign on the peace process before it ever gets started, he should fool around with the Jerusalem issue.”

“The administration has boxed itself in by focusing on Jerusalem and not doing what every other administration (R or D) has done which is to punt the issue,” he added.

Dore Gold, former MFA Director General and current President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, defended Netanyahu’s action, saying the Prime Minister is right to push on Jerusalem as Israel commemorates the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. “Now that the administration is expressing strong determination to reach a final status deal, naturally Israelis are concerned about what happens to Jerusalem,” Gold said in an email. “This is a core value of national identity for Israelis which may not be fully appreciated by the outside world.”

Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, who will be in Israel during Trump’s visit, was reportedly “furious” about Tillerson’s comments on the embassy. Mort Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), said on Monday that he is very disappointed with Trump’s handling of the issue. “I am very disappointed he hasn’t moved the embassy,” Klein told Jewish Insider in a phone interview. “It’s a mistake. This harms President Trump’s credibility and if the Arabs don’t respect his credibility, it is more likely that they would be making impossible demands.”

“The President is getting bad advice from some of his aides,” Klein continued. “All I say to his people is: the embassy hasn’t been moved for the 23 years since Oslo and you haven’t gotten peace. So the problem is obviously not moving the embassy to Jerusalem.” Klein elaborated that in recent meetings at the White House he told Trump aides, Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, that “moving the embassy would make the Palestinians and the Arab world understand that Trump is serious and doing what’s right and that the jig is up.”

Klein said he’s worried about Tillerson citing the current Secretary of State’s relationship with former Secretary of State James Baker. “I am concerned that Tillerson will begin to pressure Israel to take stands that they can’t take,” he said. “I am worried.”

A White House spokesperson told Jewish Insider, “The comments about the Western Wall were not authorized communication and they do not represent the position of the United States and certainly not of the President.”