September 22, 2019

State Board of Education President Says Ethnic Studies Curriculum Needs to Be Delayed a Year

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

State Board of Education (SBE) President Linda Darling-Hammond announced in a Sept. 20 op-ed that the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) should be delayed for a year.

Writing in EdSource, a nonprofit education news site, Darling-Hammond wrote that the initial ESMC “wades unnecessarily into a global debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a way that feels unbalanced. It has drawn legitimate criticism over word choice and content omissions.”

She added that “there is considerable work to do” in order for the ESMC to be palatable for SBE, which is why she is endorsing Assembly 114, a bill that would push back the deadline for the SBE to approve the ESMC to 2021. The current deadline is March 31.

“With extra time, the California Department of Education can consider how to integrate what has been learned from more than 21,000 comments received on the draft, and to conduct focus groups with teachers and students to gather feedback on what they’d like to see in the curriculum,” Darling-Hammond wrote. The bill is currently awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) signature.

Earlier in the day, the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC), the SBE advisory board in charge of developing the ESMC, held a hearing on the matter. Four StandWithUs high school interns spoke out against the initial ESMC during the meeting.

“My family’s experiences as Jewish immigrants from the Middle East are nowhere to be found in this curriculum,” Palisades Charter High School student Kian Mirshokri said. “I’m urging the IQC to make changes, so public high school students like me are represented and understood by our peers.”

Another StandWithUs intern, Lowell High School student Michael Peralta, said that the initial ESMC “actively marginalizes me with anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric.”

The IQC decided to push their ESMC review process back a year, according to StandWithUs.

On Sept. 16, Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) said at a American Jewish Committee San Francisco event that a few of authors of the initial ESMC were supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement who held an “anti-Israel, anti-Jewish bias.” He added that he didn’t think “that any of those folks are going to be part of the process moving forward.”

CA Assemblyman Criticizes ‘Anti-Jewish Bias’ Among Authors of Ethnic Studies Curriculum

Photo from Wikipedia.

California Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) criticized the “anti-Jewish bias” among the authors of the initial Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) draft and suggested that different people will be writing the next draft.

The Jewish News of Northern California (J.) reports that Berman, who was speaking at an American Jewish Committee San Francisco event at the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco on Sept. 16, said that some of the authors of the ESMC draft are “outspoken BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] supporters,” suggesting that “there was a strong, kind of anti-Israel, anti-Jewish bias among some of the writers, among some of the advisory board members.” He added that the Department of Education’s “vetting wasn’t as tight as it needed to be.”

Berman added that there were three writers that mainly developed the ESMC – although their names have not been made public – from February to April. The California Legislative Jewish Caucus, which Berman is a member of, didn’t see the draft until June.

A lot of us immediately thought, wait wait wait, there’s a lot in here that’s wrong,” Berman said. “It practically eliminated the Jewish Californian experience.”

On Aug. 12, the State Board of Education announced that the ESMC will undergo significant revisions in response to backlash over the initial draft.

According to the J.,Berman assured members of the Bay Area Jewish community that there will be a different group of authors involved in the ESMC’s revision, saying, “We don’t expect that any of those folks are going to be part of the process moving forward.” He added that Jewish Caucus Chair Ben Allen (D-Los Angeles) has joined the Instructional Quality Commission, which oversees the ESMC, and the next round of authors will be more heavily scrutinized.

Myriad Jewish groups have condemned the ESMC for being too one-sided in favor of the BDS movement. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) told the J. in August that the current ESMC “will never see the light of day.” CA State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond has similarly called for the ESMC to be revised to include Jews since “acts of hate are happening against the Jewish people.” 

Beverly Hills City Councilman Julian Gold called for a recall campaign against the authors of the ESMC. A bill requiring ethnic studies to be taught in state high schools has been delayed for another year until the ESMC has been revised.

Revisions for the ESMC will be considered at a state Department of Education meeting on Sept. 20. The deadline for the ESMC to be approved is March 31.

Report: BDS Anti-Semitism Skyrockets While Classic Anti-Semitism Declines on College Campuses

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A new report from the AMCHA Initiative found that anti-Semitism stemming from the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement has skyrocketed on college campuses across the country while instances of classic anti-Semitism declined in 2018.

The report, released on Sept. 17, states that there was a 70 percent increase in “Israel-related harassment” from 2017 to 2018 but a 42 percent decline in classic anti-Semitism harassment – defined as “anti-Jewish messages, or through actions targeting identifiably Jewish individuals (e.g. a student wearing a kippah) or objects” – over the same timeframe. Among the former, expressions “demonizing and delegitimizing Israel” saw a 32 percent increase and expressions “promoting or condoning terrorism against Israel” saw an increase by 67 percent.

The report goes onto note that “academic BDS-compliant behavior was linked to 86 percent of Israel-related acts of anti-Semitic harassment.”

“Academic BDS’s mandate to boycott or suppress programs, collaborations, events, or expression that promote ‘the normalization of Israel in the global academy,’ as well as the academic BDS-compliant “common sense” mandate to criticize, protest and boycott individuals who are deemed complicit with or supportive of Israel’s alleged crimes, appear to greatly encourage anti-Semitic behavior,” the report states. “At the same time, the significant increase in Israel-related anti-Semitic expression and its very strong association with the increase in academic BDS activity, along with the presence of such anti-Semitic rhetoric in almost every instance of academic BDS promotion, suggest that expression portraying Israel as a ‘pariah state’ worthy of harm and elimination may be critically important for justifying academic BDS activity on campus.”

The report recommends that campuses ensure that academics keep their decisions “educational and professional, not political” and that pro-Israel students are protected from harassment.

Academic BDS is more dangerous than people realize,” AMCHA Initiative Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin said. “Not only does implementation curtail students’ educational rights and opportunities, its promotion on campus, particularly by faculty who give it academic legitimacy, is inciting an alarming increase in harassment against Israel’s presumed supporters, first and foremost Jewish students. Administrators must take the necessary steps now to stop these unacceptable acts of intolerance.”

Questions for Omar After She Tweeted My Article

FILE PHOTO: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) holds a news conference to discuss legislation creating "a federal grant program to help local governments invest in waste reduction initiatives", at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., July 25, 2019. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert/File Photo

I was notified last week that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) had tweeted an article of mine, which credited the freshman congresswoman for my newfound comfort in covering my hair with a headscarf rather than a wig, to her million-plus followers. 

The reactions I encountered from friends and family were twofold. The first, overall incredulousness for the publicity of it all (thousands of comments and retweets!). The second was sorrow and shame. One family member likened the article to complimenting Hitler for having a backbone. A rabbi cautioned that I should consider doing teshuvah (repentance) for writing the piece, which portrayed a positive aspect of Omar, whose statements and tweets have been anti-Semitic. Only my mother, a complex amalgam of PETA-supporting, bleeding-heart Republican, called it tikkun olam, and noted that in the midst of the hateful rhetoric going back and forth, I had said something friendly and human and true.

As for my personal reaction, I felt that I had been used. In her tweet, Omar sliced my sentence, cutting the portion that declared my discomfort with her views and exhibiting instead the part that showcased her coolness. In addition, my title had been changed, whether to become more readable or clickable I’m not sure, but I definitely wouldn’t have credited her with being an “inspiration.”

It’s not hard to admire Omar for her boldness, whether with regard to headgear or to forging forward despite death threats and controversy. It’s harder to draw inspiration from her, though, when her support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement seems more about “banishing those damn Semites” than caringly and constructively finding solutions that meet both Israeli and Palestinian needs.

As an organizer for Better Angels, a political depolarization group, I’ve learned to enter fraught conversations only after setting firm ground rules: respectful language, using “I” statements, and an agreement to stay curious and connecting, instead of attacking and condemning. Were I to have the opportunity to converse with Omar in person, I would add one more ground rule: Can you sign on to the statement that I have a right to safety and security just as much as you have a right to safety and security? Because without that commitment, any conversation, and any potential inspiration I can draw from you, becomes a nonstarter.

“Rep. Omar, I’m not yet convinced we’re on the same page.”

And my ability to feel safe is drawn up with the safety of Israel. I have too much family there, too strong an emotional and spiritual connection, and too much familiarity with Jewish persecution across the globe to feel at ease if Israel is threatened. And checkpoints and settlements, which Omar has denounced and publicly hoped to visit during her aborted trip to Israel, are all safety measures to avoid terror attacks and losing wars of elimination. They emerged out of bloody necessity, not out of colonization or a power grab, as she has claimed.

Omar’s statements about Jews and Israel have many in the Orthodox Jewish community panicking, partly for their content, but more so for the ease with which she appears able to utter them, given her platform as a member of Congress. My original article title, “Silver Lining to Omar in Congress,” was meant to cheekily reference that sentiment.

But while Omar has backpedaled on several of her statements, citing ignorance or saying they were taken out of context, she’s still a supporter of the BDS movement, which promotes, among other things, the rights for 5 million descendants of Palestinian refugees to return to homes and residences in Israel. That essentially would mean a Palestinian majority in the State of Israel, planting Hamas eerily in control and, voila, curtains for Israel and all the Jews in it.

So that’s why, Rep. Omar, I’m not yet convinced we’re on the same page. I first need to know if we can agree to this basic foundation: I want you and your family to live and thrive safely, as long as you want me and my family to live and thrive safely. Are you with me? If so, then let’s talk.


Rachel Wizenfeld is a Los Angeles-based writer, a school psychology graduate student and an organizer for Better Angels, a national political depolarization group.

Bipartisan Congressional Caucus Seeks Common Ground

At the podium, Rep. Josh Gottheimer with members of the Problem Solvers Caucus. Photo courtesy of the office of Rep. Josh Gottheimer.

With the partisanship in Congress these days, it often seems as though the two parties can’t agree on anything. However, there is a bipartisan group of Congress members called the Problem Solvers Caucus. The caucus seeks common ground, and the members work together to find solutions to many of the issues facing this country.

I spoke with several Jewish members of the caucus regarding Problem Solvers and their roles in it.

The caucus’ Democratic co-chair, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), said that one reason he decided to run for election in 2016 was because “I felt that the division was too great and members of Congress in general were spending too much time screaming and shouting versus governing and getting things done. And as someone who came from the private sector, one of the things that had really frustrated me [was] there wasn’t enough time spent on actually looking for places where you could find common ground.”

Gottheimer said his experience in the private sector taught him that “you’re not always going to get what you want but the key was getting most of what you want and moving forward. So when I got to Congress, I knew about this group called the Problem Solvers. It had existed in a different form at the time. And then a group of us got together and I got to know [N.Y. Rep.] Tom Reed, who is now the Republican co-chair. … we sat down together with other members and said, ‘Why don’t we try to do this differently?’ Why don’t we make this more formal, and we’ll get together every week and, say, when we get to 75 percent agreement on something, we’ll all try to stand together … .”

The group tries to be politically balanced. To that end, the ratio of Republicans to Democrats is as balanced as possible. “We agreed not to campaign against each other,” Gottheimer said. “We agreed that we would meet every week, and that we would try to work on the toughest issues and try to solve problems and find solutions that we could agree on.” 

Gottheimer is proud of the caucus’ accomplishments, and hopes to get more issues on the congressional floor for a vote, such as the United States, Mexico and Canada Agreement. “We ended up getting a lot done our first two years — more than any of us thought we’d get done,” he said. “We took on issues like health care and immigration reform, and criminal justice reform, which we got passed, and the opioid crisis [on which] we got legislation passed. And we got legislation passed on school safety and guns. Ultimately, in this Congress, we agreed to only support a speaker who would be willing to help change the rules to allow for more bipartisan governing, and we got that through.”

“It can take 50 or a hundred hours of working together, but the bottom line is we don’t just walk away.”
— Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.)

One major procedural change the caucus pushed was the “Break the Gridlock” rules package that passed the House in January. “The most significant rule so far has been the 290 rule, or the consensus calendar: When you get to 290 Democrats and Republicans co-sponsoring legislation, you’re guaranteed a debate and vote on the House floor,” Gottheimer explained. “What most people — and I didn’t know this before I got to Congress either — don’t realize was that you could have legislation with 300 co-sponsors. In fact, last Congress, there were more than 33 bills with 300 co-sponsors out of 435, and you couldn’t get it to the floor for a debate or vote. It could get stuck in the committee or someone was able to hold it up.”

Some of the debates and votes the new rules package has paved the way for include eliminating the Cadillac tax, an anti-BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) bill, a 9/11 victims compensation fund and stopping animal cruelty.

Gottheimer stressed that each Problem Solver Caucus member puts in serious time and effort to accomplish the group’s goals. “It can take 50 or a hundred hours of working together, but the bottom line is we don’t just walk away. We stay at the table and try to find that common ground. We meet late at night, often from 9 o’clock ’til 1 o’clock in the morning. We put white boards up and we work, because that’s what the American people expect us to do, and what I’d expect from my member of Congress, and what I always expected from my member of Congress, growing up.”

While there may be defined party lines, Gottheimer said the members trust one another and have formed relationships. “We disagree on plenty. We’re proud Democrats. We’re proud Republicans,” he said, “but at the end of the day, our goal is the same, which is to put the country first and define those places where we can agree.”

Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) also spoke about how she became involved with the caucus and her role in it. “One of the things that was important to me coming into Congress was that I really wanted to make sure I established relationships across the aisle. And in addition to a summer camp friend who happens to be in Congress with me (who’s a Republican), I wanted to really be able to find a way to work on a lot of nonpartisan issues, things that we could get done. And that was just really important to the Problem Solvers as the leading caucus that’s doing that,” Luria said.

Luria spoke about the role of the caucus in combating BDS, including its role in passing a resolution condemning the movement. “That is another piece of legislation that we achieved a sufficient number of co-sponsors,” Luria said in reference to H.R. 246, a resolution opposing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the global BDS movement. “We endorsed that, as a caucus, as something that we wanted to support in a bipartisan way. As you know, that came to a vote and passed with an overwhelming majority, so we’re very strongly behind a strong relationship with Israel, and standing up against the BDS movement is one of the things that we’ve prioritized as a caucus.”

Within the caucus, Luria and Gottheimer have worked closely to address concerns about rising anti-Semitism. “A lot of us are very dismayed to see the rising anti-Semitism, and some of the comments that have been made, even by some of our own fellow members of Congress. We’ve stood up against anti-Semitism, and I never thought personally that the first time I would speak on the floor of the House as a new member of Congress would be to stand up against anti-Semitism, specifically about the allegations of dual loyalty,” Luria said.

“Myself and Josh Gottheimer, who’s one of the co-chairs of Problem Solvers, have combined efforts to stand up in many different ways, including writing a letter to the speaker requesting an apology for some of those comments, which had been responded to. I think we’ve been a very strong voice in a bipartisan way to stand up against anti-Semitism,” Luria explained.

For Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), the Problem Solvers Caucus spoke to his personal beliefs. “When I first made the decision to run for Congress, I scanned some of the caucuses in both parties and immediately upon discovering the Problem Solvers Caucus’ work, I was compelled, because it’s so aligned with my personal ethos, which is getting things done through collaboration, not through segregation,” Phillips said.

He noted that the caucus “eases polarization among members of Congress as individuals. I would say that that story isn’t being well disseminated. Very few in the country are aware of how much collegiality there is, how much cooperation, how much mutual interest in focusing on process and regular order that exists. And I do think we’re making a difference.”

“We resolved to try our very best to come up with solutions, because we recognized that if the country is to wait for one party or the other — which might be in power at any given time − to achieve results, we’d be waiting forever.” —  Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.)

Regarding the issue of immigration, Phillips said, “In my district, I was able to achieve a wonderful result for members of our Liberian community here on the DED program, which is Deferred Enforced Departure, and through connections in the Problem Solvers. And ultimately, with the White House, we were able to inspire the president to sign a one-year extension on a program that affords them legal status here in the country.”

Phillips recently led a delegation of 16 Democratic and Republican members from the Problem Solvers Caucus to the border. He said that what he saw was “shocking and horrifying, and I resolved to do whatever I could to provide humanitarian aid that I thought was necessary and most importantly, inspire others to join me. …”

He added, “In Washington, I think the best way to open up people’s minds is to first open up their hearts. And seeing what we saw in McAllen, Texas, I think was a step in that direction. And we resolved to try our very best to come up with solutions, because we recognized that if the country is to wait for one party or the other — which might be in power at any given time — to achieve results, we’d be waiting forever.”

“I never thought personally that the first time I would speak on the floor of the House as a new member of Congress would be to stand up against anti-Semitism, specifically about the allegations of dual loyalty.”
— Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.)

Phillips noted there is going to be an Immigration Working Group within the caucus to focus on these issues. “We just returned from McAllen right before the recess started, and it is there that we resolved to do something, so we’re forming that task force right now and creating a construct for how we proceed, and intend to have our first meeting upon our return to Washington the week of Sept. 9.”

Among the issues he plans to discuss are how the United States allocates its foreign-assistance resources, the asylum adjudication process, ports-of-entry infrastructure, the facilities in which detainees are being held, immigrants affected by the Deferred Action  for Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA), and the current estimated number of 10 to 12 million “undocumented people” living in the U.S.

Gottheimer noted that the Problem Solvers Caucus has been able to achieve a lot by members of Congress working together. “It’s a phenomenal group of members, I think, that are really committed to getting things done, ” he said. “And I think if we spent less time screaming and more time being productive and governing, we’d be able to accomplish everything from fixing our infrastructure to lowering fixed drug costs and helping grow our economy. That’s what I hear at home, and what this country wants, and certainly what my constituents want.”


Zachary Leshin is a writer and former congressional staffer based in Washington, D.C.

CA Bill Requiring Ethnic Studies in High School Delayed for Another Year

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A bill in the California state legislature making the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) a requirement to graduate high school has been delayed for at least another year, the Jewish News of Northern California (J.) reports.

Assemblymember Jose Medina (D-Riverside), who is part of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus but isn’t Jewish, said in a statement on his website that his bill, AB 331, will become “a two-year bill,” meaning that he “will continue to advocate for this bill over the course of the next year,” according to his website.

“The curriculum development and feedback process has shown how much consensus there is in support of Ethnic Studies,” Medina said. “It is not a question of whether the subject itself is necessary but rather, how do we ensure the curriculum is comprehensive, rigorous, and inclusive enough. This underscores the importance of taking the time necessary to ensure we get the curriculum right.”

Medina’s statement comes amidst criticism of the current ESMC draft for its favorable portrayal of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and failure to highlight the issue of anti-Semitism.

Medina had similar criticisms in an interview with the J., saying, “There were many things about it that seemed to be anti-Semitic. I think the omission of the Jewish experience in the United States is glaring. I don’t really think BDS should be included. And I also have an issue with the fact that anti-Semitism is not addressed.”

AB 331 passed the Assembly in May as well as the Senate Education Committee in June, according to the J.

On August 12, the State Board of Education announced that the current ESMC will “be substantially redesigned” before its approval; State Superintendent Tony Thurmond has similarly called for the ESMC to be revised to include Jews and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has vowed that the current ESMC draft “will never see the light of day.”

The Beverly Hills City Council unanimously passed a resolution condemning the ESMC in its current form and called for the SBE to investigate the “anti-Jewish bias” within the government body.

For [the Instructional Quality Commission] to come up with this sort of divisive, racist propaganda and promote this as curriculum in the state is beyond disgusting,” City Councilmember Julian Gold said during the meeting. “It’s malpractice. It’s malfeasance. They deserve to go, all of them. And if the governor doesn’t do it, then he deserves to go too.”

Sen. Booker: Trump’s Statement about Jewish Disloyalty is ‘Outrageous Stuff Offending All Americans’

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and U.S. Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Cory Booker in Los Angeles on Thursday. Photo by Ryan Torok

Speaking to reporters on Aug. 22 during a visit to Los Angeles, 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) denounced President Donald Trump’s Aug. 20 statement that Jews who vote Democrat lack knowledge or are disloyal.

“I’m running for president to unify this country,” he said. “We are a nation of many religions, many ethnicities, and we are a nation of one purpose, one destiny, one love, and it’s about time we get back to having leaders that show the best of who we are and unite us — not like this guy who is saying outrageous stuff that is offending all Americans.”

Booker made his remarks following a panel on gun violence with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at at the Crenshaw-area co-working space Vector90. Garcetti also denounced Trump’s comments.

“I think all American Jews are great Americans, even the quarter that votes Republican, unlike me,” said Garcetti, who is of Mexican, Russian Jewish and Italian heritage, and also a Democrat. “I think this is a moment for us to see racism when you hear it, whether it’s starting a campaign calling my other half, Mexican Americans, ‘rapists and murderers,’ or whether it’s now saying Jews who don’t vote for this guy are somehow disloyal. It’s fundamentally wrong, it’s un-Jewish and more importantly, it’s un-American.”

Booker, who isn’t Jewish, even cited the Torah in his remarks, saying, “I have studied Judaism. Jews have a very powerful belief about tikkun olam, healing the world, not dividing it as Donald Trump does. There is a beautiful song sung during the High Holidays that has the line in it, ‘Ki beiti beit tefillah l’chol ha-‘amim,’ ‘May my house be a house of prayer for many nations.’ It’s a very Jewish idea. It’s about bringing people together …in a pluralistic way and showing that strength, justice, kindness and decency comes as a result of that.

Trump, Booker said, “is trying to divide us against ourselves. He is playing into literally what the Russians are trying to do, which is to pit Americans against Americans and have us crumble and fall from within because they know that a house divided cannot stand.”

While many Jewish organizations have denounced Trump’s ‘disloyalty’ remarks, the Republican Jewish Coalition supported the president’s comments.

However, according to the Pew Research Center, Jews have continued to remain largely supportive of Democrats during the course of the Trump presidency, with nearly 80% voting for Democrats in the 2018 mid-term elections.

Dershowitz Makes the Case in Defense of Israel

Alan Dershowitz is a familiar name in media coverage and public conversation on an astounding variety of topics, but the subtitle of his latest book, “Defending Israel: The Story of My Relationship With My Most Challenging Client” (All Points Books), reveals what matters most to him.

Although the book was written before the president of the United States urged the prime minister of Israel to exclude two congresswomen from a congressional delegation to Israel, Dershowitz acknowledges that support for Israel — once a rare point of consensus in American politics — can no longer be taken for granted. Indeed, the whole point of his book is to make the case for Israel, which is exactly why Dershowitz refers to the Jewish state as his “client.”

While Dershowitz is careful to acknowledge that he has “no actual lawyer/client relationship with Israel,” he also embraces the moniker that has been bestowed on him by the pundits: “I have been called ‘Israel’s single most visible defender’ and ‘the Jewish state’s lead attorney in the court of public opinion.’ ” He insists that “I am free to criticize its policies when I disagree with them.” But he accepts the mantle of Israel’s public defender, and his new book can be seen as a kind of trial brief.

“If the drift away from bipartisan support for Israel is not reversed, it will pose real dangers to Israel’s security,” Dershowitz warns. “It is a goal of this book to try to influence, in a positive direction, this discernable drift away from bipartisan support for the Middle East’s only democracy and America’s most reliable ally. It is a daunting task, but a crucial one to help secure Israel’s future.”

“If the drift away from bipartisan support for Israel is not reversed, it will pose real dangers to Israel’s security. It is a goal of this book to try to influence, in a positive direction, this discernable drift away from bipartisan support for the Middle East’s only democracy and America’s most reliable ally.” — Alan Dershowitz

At the same time, “Defending Israel” is a memoir, both sentimental and poignant. Dershowitz was raised in a Jewish family in Brooklyn that “saw no conflict between their religious orthodoxy and their political liberalism, or between their Zionism and their progressive values.” At the age of 10, he challenged some of the rabbis in his Orthodox elementary school who believed that Jewish sovereignty must await the coming of the Messiah. Later, he attended a summer camp where his counselors included a 20-year-old Noam Chomsky, who “supported, in theory, a binational secular state” but “was not opposed in practice to the state declared by [David] Ben-Gurion.” (A couple of decades later, Dershowitz would publicly debate his former camp counselor over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.)

Dershowitz is quick to point out the ironies that suffuse the current debate over Israel. The two-state solution, he reminds us, was explicit in the United Nations resolution that partitioned the British mandate over a territory called Palestine into “independent Arab and Jewish states.” The word “Palestine” itself was actually coined by the Roman conquerors of ancient Judea and referred to place, not a people. When Frank Sinatra sang at a fundraising concert in support of Jewish statehood at the Hollywood Bowl, the event was dubbed the “Action for Palestine” rally. “Had the new nation-state of the Jewish people called itself ‘Jewish Palestine,’ instead of Israel, the optics would be quite different,” Dershowitz quips.

Another irony is that Israel was far more popular in the early years of statehood, when it was seen as “weak, both militarily and economically, and it posed no danger to anyone.” Only after the Six-Day War in 1967 — and, a decade later, the electoral success of Menachem Begin and the Likud party — did the ground shift under Israel’s feet in world public opinion. “The election of Begin created some cognitive dissonance for many American Jews like myself and many of my friends and colleagues, who are both liberals and Zionists,” he writes. “We have had to confront this conflict over many years, and it may well continue into the foreseeable future.”

Significantly, Dershowitz was among the Jewish voices who spoke out in 1979 against the building of settlements on the West Bank. “We honestly believed, and I still believe, that building civilian settlements on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip was harmful to Israel’s moral standing and did not contribute to its security,” he declares. Later, he joined in supporting “the Israeli equivalent of the ACLU” in challenging Israeli policies on civil liberties. And, only last year, he published the book “The Case Against BDS: Why Singling Out Israel for Boycott Is Anti-Semitic and Anti-Peace.” 

“My position on Israel guaranteed me enemies on both the right and the left,” he explains. “The center, where I had located myself (center left in my case) was shrinking, and that movement toward extremes made reasoned, nuance discourse more difficult.”

Throughout his new book, Dershowitz enlivens his account with lively anecdotes that also remind us of the author’s friends in high places. When he told Arthur Goldberg that he was traveling to Israel to interview Prime Minster Golda Meir for a PBS broadcast in 1970, the former Supreme Court justice asked Dershowitz to do him a favor: “You have to bring Goldie a carton of Lucky Strikes unfiltered cigarettes as a gift from me and Dorothy,” Goldberg told Dershowitz. “She loves them, but her security people won’t let her have them.” When he sat down for a talk with Ariel Sharon, he was frustrated that Sharon spoke “as if reading from a scripted briefing.” 

“ ‘Can we get down to tachlis?’ I asked, using a Yiddish term that roughly suggests, ‘Cut the B.S. and let’s get to the point,’ ” Dershowitz recalls. “He laughed and replied, ‘Good, I like tachlis.’ ”

Dershowitz has written more than 40 books and we can be sure he will continue to participate in what he calls “the communications war.” But there is a certain solemnity and gravity to his latest book, which serves as a charge to his fellow Americans and his fellow Jews. “We must determine our destiny, write our future history, and assure the survival of the Jewish people and their nation-state forever,” he concludes.

By “Defending Israel: The Story of my Relationship With My Most Challenging Client” on Amazon here.


Jonathan Kirsch, author and publishing attorney, is the book editor of the Jewish Journal.

Rep. Tlaib Calls for Boycott of Bill Maher

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) called for a boycott of Bill Maher and his HBO show on Aug. 17 after the comedian called the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement “a bull—- purity test.”

Maher made his remarks on “Real Time With Bill Maher,” on Aug. 16, saying that BDS supporters “want to appear woke but actually slept through history class. It’s predicated on this notion — I think it’s very shallow thinking — that the Jews in Israel are mostly white and the Palestinians are brown, so they must be innocent and correct and the Jews must be wrong.” 

He added that BDS supporters believe “the [Israeli] occupation came right out of the blue” and ignore “the Intifadas and the suicide bombings and the rockets,” pointing out that BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti said in 2013, “No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.”

“Somehow this side never gets presented in the America media,” Maher said. “It’s very odd.”

Tlaib responded to Maher’s comments in a tweet saying, “Maybe folks should boycott his show. I am tired of folks discrediting a form of speech that is centered on equality and freedom. This is exactly how they tried to discredit & stop the boycott to stand up against the apartheid in [South] Africa. It didn’t work then and it won’t now.”

Simon Wiesenthal Center founder and dean Rabbi Marvin Hier told the Journal that Maher is being “lambasted for speaking the truth” and that Tlaib would prefer to tell her constituents to “watch Bill Maher if he participated in telling the lies that have unfortunately been told about the State of Israel.”

“BDS is predicated on this notion that the Jews in Israel are mostly white and the Palestinians are brown, so they must be innocent and correct and the Jews must be wrong.” — Bill Maher

He added that what he found particularly unbelievable about Tlaib was that she said in May that her Palestinian ancestors allowed the Jews to take refuge in mandated Palestine during the Holocaust, “but she has the nerve of ignoring the fact that the head of the Palestinians was a principal collaborator with Adolf Hitler in murdering the Jews,” Hier said. “She never says anything about the Grand Mufti [Muhammad Haj Amin al-Husseini], never says anything about the fact that the Grand Mufti came to Hitler’s side in 1941… where he conducted radio programs urging Hitler to exterminate the Jews.”

The World Jewish Congress (WJC) condemned Tlaib’s tweet as “deeply disturbing” in an Aug. 19 press release, with WJC President Ronald Lauder saying, “It is outrageous that Tlaib, who has repeatedly deployed anti-Semitic tropes, would promote the boycott of the only democracy in the Middle East and the one nation that fully respects human rights and guarantees freedom for Muslims, Christian and Jews.” 

Lauder added that “Adolf Hitler infamously boycotted Jewish-owned businesses” and censored his entertainment and media critics. “We Jews know what boycotts can lead to,” Lauder said. “We find it concerning that a member of the U.S. Congress would lobby for BDS and so easily suggest that Maher’s show should be boycotted simply because he expressed an opinion with which she disagrees.”

StandWithUs CEO and co-founder Roz Rothstein similarly tweeted, “Rashida Tlaib is very upset with Bill Maher because he ridiculed the BDS movement for wanting to destroy #Israel. Now, she calls for a boycott of @billmaher. Maybe she should listen to Bill, and rethink her own racism against Jews and Israel.”

Tlaib And Omar: What Would JFK Do?

From Left: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) holds a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, July 25 REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert; Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) addresses her constituents during a Town Hall style meeting in Michigan Aug. 15, 2019. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook. Photo created by Jewish Journal

“The purpose of foreign policy is not to provide an outlet for our own sentiments of hope or indignation; it is to shape real events in a real world.”
-John F. Kennedy, Sept. 26, 1963

 

 

In September 1963, less than two months before his fateful trip to Dallas, President John F. Kennedy felt compelled to defend America’s continuing postwar commitment to NATO. Addressing the rising tide of skeptics who sought to return to the country’s pre-war isolationist stance, the president reminded Americans that foreign policy demands serious engagement with those with whom we disagree. “If we were to withdraw our assistance from all governments who are run differently than our own,” he explained, “we would relinquish half the world immediately to our adversary.”

Kennedy’s clear-eyed focus on achieving desired foreign policy objectives is in stark contrast to the carnival-like atmosphere surrounding last week’s aborted trip to Israel of Reps. (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn). As everyone now knows, Israel barred entry to the two congresswomen after being urged to do so by President Donald Trump. Both have declared support for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, and a controversial 2017 Israeli law entitles the state to deny entry to BDS supporters. At least three reasons have been cited in support of the decision:

 

1) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cited the lawmakers’ purported itinerary, which he said “reveals that the sole purpose of their visit is to harm Israel and increase incitement against it.”
2) The pair rejected an invitation to join a Democratic congressional delegation earlier this month with 41 other representatives, sponsored by an organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). That delegation met with both Israeli and Palestinian officials and activists, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
3) The organizer of Tlaib and Omar’s planned trip was a group called Miftah. The group supports BDS, has praised Palestinian suicide bombers, and previously published an anti-Semitic blood libel accusation in gruesome, defamatory detail.

 

No question about it — these concerns, and perhaps others, are justified. It is abundantly clear that Tlaib and Omar intended to meet solely with people who are critical of Israel, and sympathetic to the Palestinian struggle. They would likely admit that they intentionally skipped the AIPAC-sponsored event precisely because it included pro-Israel participants. And — there is simply no other word for it—the Miftah organization is reprehensible.

The question left to both Israel and the Trump administration, then, was clear: what to do about it? How best to blunt the impact of their intended action? Ignore it, and let them proceed with the trip? Or ban it, and give exponentially more attention to their goals, their mission, and their image of Israel — all while painting themselves as victims?

Stunningly, Israel chose the latter.

Netanyahu and Trump had obvious personal motivations for their coordinated action. Trump is attempting to raise the profile of Reps. Tlaib, Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) as the faces of the Democratic Party heading into 2020. Trump is popular in Israel; with another Israeli election on the horizon, Netanyahu needs to placate the president.

But for American Jews who care about Israel? How could they possibly believe that, in the real world, support for this ban somehow helps the Jews? For decades, Israel and American leaders have hewed close to a carefully tended bipartisan policy of support for the Jewish state. Administrations come and go, Democrats and Republicans trade large swaths of power. AIPAC’s grand strategy since its inception has been to safeguard that bipartisan support because the only way to ensure consistent American support for Israel through the shifting American political winds is to stay above American political partisanship — particularly in Congress. This ban has seriously challenged that strategy, which is why AIPAC opposed it.

Supporting the ban of these congressional representatives — regardless of how reprehensible their views are — in no way serves to “shape real events in a real world.” Will it discourage others from believing as Tlaib and Omar do? Of course not. Will it stop or slow anti-Israel agitation? No. Does it somehow demonstrate Israel’s sovereign right to control its borders? Of course not — every country has that right. Does it stand for any principle whatsoever, other than the notion that the ideas that undergird the Zionist project are now so weak and worn that they can no longer stand up to the opposition of two American congressional critics? Nope.

Instead, they should have been given full access to their entire planned itinerary. Every minute of it. Israel wins if she is strong enough to allow them access to every place they intended to tour, and every person with whom they intended to meet. Freedom to share their perspective about how evil the Jewish state is, even as it grants them courtesies they would never receive in a place of overwhelming oppression. The BDS skirmish, at least at this level, is a war of symbolism, not substance. Barring access shows cowardice, and gives the other side unearned talking points.

The last thing that American Jews should hope for is any exacerbation of waning support for Israel within the Democratic Party. Bipartisan support for Israel should be at the strategic forefront of every person who loves Israel. Don’t get caught up in the petty election year interests of two politicians seeking to ensure their political survival. Stick with AIPAC, which has been around Washington long enough to know how to keep its eye on the strategic ball. American Jewish reaction to those who seek to harm the Jewish state should not serve to provide an outlet for our own sentiments of hope or indignation; they should seek to shape real events in a real world.


Stuart D. Tochner is a shareholder with Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart in Los Angeles.

Why Bibi Should Have Followed AIPAC

U.S. Reps Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) hold a news conference after Democrats in the U.S. Congress moved to formally condemn President Donald Trump's attacks on four minority congresswomen on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 15, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo

There are many angles to the still-burning controversy of Israel refusing to allow entry to U.S. Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.

First, there are the merits of the case. Israel passed a law in 2017 prohibiting entry to anyone who supports the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. Tlaib and Omar have well-documented anti-Israel and pro-BDS credentials. Their published itinerary for the visit didn’t even pretend to see both sides of the conflict. It reeked of a propaganda media circus to embarrass their Israeli hosts.

Further, the trip was sponsored by a Palestinian group, Miftah, that NRO’s David French wrote is “a vile, vicious anti-Semitic group that spread blood libel, printed neo-Nazi propaganda, and celebrates terrorists who kill children.”

So, yes, Israel had every right to prevent a visit that had all the makings of an Israel hatefest and could have incited violence in a region already on edge.

From the minute Trump’s tweet came out, it transformed the dynamics of the story… The story was no longer about the anti-Zionism of two Congresswomen; it was about the U.S.—Israel relationship.

But let’s go beyond the merits and think strategically. As I wrote online after the decision, “Regardless of where you sit politically, it’s bad optics for a country that bills itself as ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ to act as if it has something to hide.”

And while there was a strong case for refusing entry, doing so made Israel appear anti-Democratic and turned Tlaib and Omar into heroes and victims. It also strengthened the voices of those who libel Israel as an Apartheid, anti-Democratic state.

This was clearly, then, a lose-lose situation for Israel.

Until something happened that changed everything— the nakedly partisan tweet from President Donald Trump:

“It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!”

From the minute Trump’s tweet came out, it transformed the dynamics of the story. Even if Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu had already decided to bar Tlaib and Omar from entering (as he ended up doing), it didn’t matter– it would be seen as if he bowed to Trump’s pressure and played along with his political war against Democrats.

And if he allowed them in, he’d be seen as going against a president who has been hugely supportive of Bibi and his government.

By introducing partisan politics, Trump significantly raised the stakes. The story was no longer about the anti-Zionism of two Congresswomen; it was about the U.S.—Israel relationship.

Bibi was in a tight spot. He was pressured from both sides. What he might have missed is that Trump’s public pressure actually presented a unique opportunity. Had he refused to go along with Trump’s partisan games, Bibi could have made this dramatic statement to the U.S. Congress:

“Bipartisan support for the state of Israel, as well as our enormous respect for the U.S. Congress, are rock-solid values for my country. That is why we will welcome Rep. Tlaib and Rep. Omar to Israel, despite our serious concerns about their anti-Israel activity, and despite partisan pressure from some of our friends.”

In other words, going against Trump, which would have taken cojones, was precisely the leverage point Bibi needed to solidify Israel’s most vital strategic asset: Bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress.

Allowing two anti-Zionists to flack their propaganda for a few days in the Palestinian territories seems like a reasonable price to pay for that strategic benefit, especially considering that barring them has exacted its own price.

Would Israel have paid a price from a vindictive Trump whose “order” was not followed? One never knows with our impulsive president, but he must be aware that “punishing” Israel would surely not help him retain the White House in 2020.

Bibi was in a tight spot. He was pressured from both sides. What he might have missed is that Trump’s public pressure actually presented a unique opportunity.

As it stands now, instead of Israel getting a boost in Congressional support, Bibi’s decision to bar the Congresswomen has undermined that support, forcing Democrats to defend Tlaib and Omar and further fraying Israel’s bipartisanship relationship with its most important ally.

One can argue that Congressional Democrats should have aimed their sights on Tlaib and Omar for planning a one-sided trip with intentions to humiliate an ally. Maybe, had the Congresswomen been allowed in, pro-Israel Democrats would have had more ammunition. We don’t know.

What we know is that Bibi could have used a comeback with Democrats. His love affair with a president that virtually all Democrats abhor hasn’t helped Israel’s image. I’m sure Bibi knows this. I’m sure he also realizes that his latest move will likely reinforce the resentments and partisan divisions.

He had a chance to reverse this pattern by following the wise ways of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a group that understands and nourishes bipartisan support for Israel better than anyone. In a rare move, AIPAC went against Bibi’s decision, tweeting that “every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.” They knew what they were doing.

The “entrygate” controversy may blow over in a few news cycles, or it may linger and leave a scar. Either way, it’s a shame that Israel couldn’t seize the moment to strengthen its position in the world’s most powerful legislature. That’s the one angle to this story I find most compelling.

Why Were Omar and Tlaib Afraid to Meet Israelis?

U.S. Reps Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) hold a news conference after Democrats in the U.S. Congress moved to formally condemn President Donald Trump's attacks on four minority congresswomen on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 15, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo

Israel’s decision to bar Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering the country is being criticized from across the political spectrum— and I can see why.

Regardless of where you sit politically, it’s bad optics for a country that bills itself as “the only democracy in the Middle East” to act as if it has something to hide. I know that Israeli law gives Israel the right to block entry to those who support BDS, and that Omar and Tlaib gave them plenty of ammunition. As Bari Weiss wrote in a New York Times column criticizing Israel’s decision,

“I have strong feelings about the noxious views of Ms. Omar and Ms. Tlaib. I believe that the B.D.S. movement, which both women support and which, crucially, is not about ending the occupation but about denying Jews the right to self-determination anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, is anti-Semitism in hip, new clothes.”

From Israel’s standpoint, though, the problem is that this animosity toward the Jewish state is not the major story. It’s the decision to bar Omar and Tlaib that has sucked up most of the media attention and turned the Congresswomen into victims.

Hardly anyone is talking about the unfairness and irresponsibility of two U.S. Representatives visiting a major American ally and completely ignoring that ally.

As Alan Dershowitz tweeted, “Allowing them in [would] expose their hypocrisy in boycotting Israel, while themselves demanding that they not be boycotted by Israel.”

More importantly, the other story that has gotten lost is Omar and Tlaib’s published itinerary, which dismissed Israel and focused on the Palestinian agenda. Hardly anyone is talking about the unfairness and irresponsibility of two U.S. Representatives visiting a major American ally and virtually ignoring that ally.

Had they gone on the trip, that dereliction of duty would have been glaring. They would have been the offenders, not the victims.

I might even have written a column asking the Congresswomen: “Why are you afraid to meet Israelis?” In particular, I would have suggested they visit the New Israel Fund (NIF), an organization committed to improving Israel’s democracy.

In a part of the world where despots, dictators and theocrats are used to hiding any bad news, Israel should have flaunted its messy democracy.

I’ve written before that the NIF is a dramatic demonstration of Israel’s democracy in action. While most Jews on the right abhor the NIF because it supports groups that constantly bash Israel and focus on its faults, for me, this freedom to bash, this freedom to confront and protest any perceived injustice is a test of a true democracy.

Because they were barred from entering this democracy, Tlaib and Omar are now turning the tables and ridiculing Israel’s very claims of being a democracy and a free society. A visit to the NIF would have disrupted their narrative. Had they refused to visit the NIF or any other Israeli group fighting for social justice, their anti-Israel animus would have been in full view.

Transparency is the essence of democracy. In a part of the world where despots, dictators and theocrats are used to hiding any bad news, Israel should have flaunted its messy democracy. In that scenario, the bad optics would have been on U.S. politicians hiding from Israel on their visit to Israel.

Netanyahu Cites Pro-BDS Sponsor As Reason to Bar Omar, Tlaib

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) (C) take selfies with other female members of the House of Representatives as Rep. Adam Schiff (R) looks on as they await the start of U.S. President Donald Trump's second State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained that a factor in his Aug. 15 decision to bar Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) from entering Israel was one of their sponsors being a supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Netanyahu’s office sent out a series of tweets explaining the prime minister’s decision, including one that stated, “The organization that is funding their trip is MIFTAH [Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy], which is an avid supporter of BDS, and among whose members are those who have expressed support for terrorism against Israel.”

MIFTAH issued a statement on their website that read, “As a sponsor of this trip, MIFTAH worked hard to organize a well-rounded visit for Congresswomen Tlaib, Omar, and Palskett, in order to facilitate their engagement with Palestinian civil society and to provide them with an opportunity to see the reality of occupation for themselves.” They added that “like all prolific human rights abusers, Israel wants to impose a blackout on the reality in occupied Palestine.”

Attorney and author Ari Hoffman wrote in an Aug. 15 op-ed in the Forward that “Miftah regularly decries ‘Judaization’ and accuses Israel of ‘summary executions’” and their Arabic version promulgated the “blood libel” that “the Jews used the blood of Christians in the Jewish Passover,” which MIFTAH apologized for. Hoffman also noted that the founder of MIFTAH, Hanan Ashrawi, said in 2001 that Israel is committing “ethnic cleansing” against the Palestinians and “state terrorism.”

Ashrawi currently serves as the chair of MIFTAH and is a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee; in a 2017 interview with Deutsche Welle, she said that Palestinian terror attacks “are seen by the people as resistance” and that “to somehow adopt the language of either the international community or the occupier by describing anybody who resists as terrorist” is “unfair.” When Deutsche Well pressed her further Palestinian officials inciting violence against Israelis, Ashrawi denied that the Palestinian leadership calls for violence and said that the Israeli leadership needs to be held accountable for their rhetoric.

Additionally, MIFTAH sponsored a 2016 trip to the West Bank consisting of five members of Congress meeting Shawn Jabarin, who heads the pro-BDS NGO Al-Haq and has been repeatedly flagged by Israel for having alleged ties to the Popular Front Liberation of Palestine terror group, according to the Foundation for Defense Democracies think-tank. In 2016, MIFTAH “sponsored a women’s unity conference, at which women representing Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah discussed how to implement the slogan, ‘One Country, One People, One Flag’” and has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Arab League-affiliated Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, according to Jewish News Syndicate.

MIFTAH, Omar’s office and Tlaib’s office did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment.

Michigan City Commission Unanimously Votes Against Anti-Israel Resolution

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The Ann Arbor Human Rights Commission unanimously voted against taking up a resolution calling for the federal government to end military aid to Israel on Aug. 14, MLive reports.

The commission’s vote came after City Attorney Stephen Postema told the commission that foreign policy matters do not fall under the purview of the commission, although the City Council could still vote on the topic.

Anti-Israel protesters proceeded to scream at commission members; one of them, identified as Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, shouted, “This is a commission of killers!” before being escorted out of the room.

At a July 1 Ann Arbor City Council meeting, Savabieasfahani told city council members, “If I cannot appeal to your sense of humanity, that it’s treacherous to live the life of a Palestinian in the West Bank and Gaza, I’m appealing to your sense of money. You’re paying for this slaughter.” Two members of the city council, Jeff Hayner and Ali Ramlawi, agreed with Savabieasfahani and the other anti-Israel protesters that the commission should look into presenting a resolution on the matter to the city council.

According to a petition against the resolution, the anti-Israel protesters at the July 1 meeting “spewed violently anti-Semitic language. One called Israel ‘a terrorist state funded fully by the United States of America, bombing its way wherever it pleases.’ Another accused the City Council of being an ‘accomplice to murder against the Palestinian people’ if they did not vote for the boycott.”

The Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor wrote in a Aug. 15 Facebook post, “Last night, the Ann Arbor Human Rights Commission unanimously voted not to take up foreign civil/human rights issues, as it is not in their purview. Thank you to the members of our community that were involved as advisors, we are grateful for your participation.”

Jewish Groups React to Israel Barring Omar and Tlaib

U.S. Reps Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) hold a news conference after Democrats in the U.S. Congress moved to formally condemn President Donald Trump's attacks on four minority congresswomen on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 15, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo

Jewish groups across the United States shared varying opinions on Israel’s Aug. 15 decision to bar Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) from visiting the Jewish state.

After Israeli Ambassador to United States Ron Dermer initially said in July that Israel will allow the congresswomen to enter the country, Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri announced in a statement, “The state of Israel respects the US Congress as part of the close alliance between the two countries. But it is inconceivable that Israel would be expected to let into the country those who wish to hurt it, including by means of the visit itself.”

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted, “A good-faith visit to Israel is the best way to be exposed to its democracy, complexities, and range of views. And so while we absolutely disagree with the pro-BDS positions of Reps. @IlhanMN & @RashidaTlaib, keeping them out is counterproductive.”

American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris similarly tweeted that while Omar and Tlaib didn’t want to meet with “any Israeli leaders or mainstream voices,” Israel “should’ve taken the high road & let these Members of Congress in, no matter how vile their views.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal in a phone interview that Israel should have allowed Omar and Tlaib in, pointing out that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) both supported Israel’s initial decision to let Omar and Tlaib into the country.

“Israel could have withstood whatever antics would have played out,” Cooper said, adding that “when you flip flop at that level… it’s going to leave a big question mark and an opportunity for knockers of Israel to criticize her.”

However, he acknowledged that it’s “a damned if you, damned if you don’t” scenario for Israel and argued that had Omar and Tlaib gone with the delegation of 41 Democratic members of the House of Representatives, there wouldn’t have been any controversy.

AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] also criticized the move, tweeting that “every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.”

Zioness accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of appeasing President Donald Trump, who tweeted earlier in the day that Israel would be demonstrating “great weakness” in letting in Omar and Tlaib, and argued the move would drive a wedge in U.S.-Israel relations.

“One does not have to agree with anything U.S. Representatives Tlaib and Omar say or do to comprehend just how cynical this game is that Trump is playing,” Zioness’ statement read. “Who wins at this game? Donald Trump, BDS activists, and frankly, those attempting to push the American left to adopt anti-Israel and anti-Semitic positions. Who loses at this game? International Jewry, democratic norms, and pluralism.”

Others thought that Israel’s decision was justified.

“On her first day in office, Rep. Tlaib placed a sticky [note] on a map of the Middle East, replacing Israel with ‘Palestine,’” The Israel Group Founder and President Jack Saltzberg said in a statement to the Journal. “Rep. Omar has continued to double down on her anti-Semitic rhetoric and tropes. And both women use their positions in congress to promote the BDS movement, which is dedicated to a one-state solution: a Muslim majority Palestine. Israel, like any nation, must keep out all people who are dedicated to the annihilation of its country, even those in congress.”

American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen similarly argued in a statement, “Had [Omar and Tlaib] shown a true desire to commit to open and honest dialogue, they could have better understood the true character of the Israeli people and the reality in which they live on a daily basis. But sadly, this is not the case and the Israeli government’s decision is the right one.”

Omar released a statement saying, “Trump’s Muslim ban is what Israel is implementing.”

Netanyahu defended his government’s decision, saying in a statement that a copy of Omar and Tlaib’s itinerary to Israel showed their visit’s “sole purpose was to support boycotts and deny Israel’s legitimacy. For example, they called their destination ‘Palestine’ and not ‘Israel,’ and unlike all Democratic and Republican members of Congress before them, they did not seek any meeting with any Israeli official, whether government or opposition.”

Netanyahu added that “the law in Israel that prohibits entry to people calling and advocating for boycotting the country, just like in other democracies that bar entry to those who they believe will do harm to their nation.”

Don’t Take a Victory Lap Just Yet, Anti-BDS Bill is Merely the Tip of the Iceberg

Last month, the United States House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed bipartisan legislation (House Resolution 246) to condemn and oppose the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which both directly and indirectly targets Israel by falsely labeling it as an apartheid state, by seeking to damage its economic, cultural and academic standing and actively by seeking ways to destroy the two-state solution; the only resolve for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

HR 246 states that the BDS movement is one that “promotes principles of collective guilt, mass punishment and group isolation, which are destructive of prospects for progress towards peace.” 

The bipartisan resolution went through with a 398-to-17 vote, and with five members voting present. Sixteen out of the seventeen congressmen and women who voted against HR 246 were Democrats and one was a Republican, Rep. Tom Massi (R-KY). All five who voted to abstain from voting were Democrats, except for Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI).

This lopsided vote demonstrated what Speaker Nany Pelosi (D-CA) has consistently pointed out: that Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) — otherwise dubbed the “Squad” – are in the minority of the increasingly left-wing Democratic Party.  

There has been a debate, albeit a war, between AOC and her “Squad” versus Pelosi, Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and the more mainstream leadership of the Democratic Party. But Pelosi is right: The “Squad” don’t have many votes because if they did, they would have so many more Democrats who would have defected and gone in for their pro-BDS legislation. 

The passage of HR 246 was largely in response to Omar’s non-binding House Resolution 496, a pro-BDS resolution which, while it doesn’t mention Israel by name, compares a boycott of the Jewish state today to boycotts of Nazi Germany – a nation that carried out the mass murder of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust.

And not only is the text of Omar’s resolution which compares the boycotts of Israel to boycotts of Nazi-Germany and the Soviet Union egregious, but they are a way to justify discrimination against Jews based on the fact that some of them feel a close relationship to Israel; an anti-Semitic trope of “dual loyalty” she has referenced in the past.

As I’ve stated before, “Omar’s pro-BDS resolution isn’t about fee speech – it’s about hating Israel and the Jews.”

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), who is Jewish, told the Jerusalem Post, “I can’t imagine that any committee is going to mark up or take seriously any pro-BDS resolution.” 

Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), also Jewish and facing a primary challenge backed by the Justice Democrats, the group that helped boost AOC to victory, criticized the BDS movement as a “cancer” but didn’t mention Omar by name.

Similarly, Omar’s BDS resolution doesn’t mention Israel by name, but the truth is clear as day.

The “Squad” has demonstrated once again that they are fringe. And with the overwhelming majority of both Democrats and Republicans taking a stand against the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel BDS movement, last week’s vote serves as a rebuke to the “popular” narrative that the media and the “Squad” keeps pushing over social media.

It should come as no surprise then that “The Squad” is also supported by the Justice Democrats, which have connections to Qatar; a stalwart supporter of Hamas and home to the Muslim Brotherhood’s de-factor spiritual leader Yusuf al Qaradawi.

That said, there were very few people in the Democratic Party who were willing to come out and vocally condemn BDS.

Some outlets have written that Omar has support from “many leading Democrats and progressive American Jewish groups, like Jewish Voice For Peace.” These groups are themselves the premiere platforms from which anti-Semitism gains its footing. 

To this day, the fear that BDS is making significant inroads in the Democratic Party, while warranted, is not yet to the point that American Jews will need to exit the United States like the Jews of France, Germany, Belgium and England have increasingly been forced to do. However, if more isn’t done to address this troubling narrative, history will repeat itself.

The progressive far out lefties who are BDS supporters pretend they are mainstream and more popular than the BDS movement actually is. And even with the Democratic Party’s move significantly further left over the past few years, there is still a healthy amount of opposition to BDS. Despite this, it is not time to take a victory lap.

Plainly and simply, BDS is a declaration of economic and ideological warfare against Israel.

Five year ago, under the Obama administration the scenario would have been vastly different. And in another five years from now it will be even more so. President Donald Trump is the most pro-Israel and pro-Jewish commander-in-chief in America’s history. But in another two to six years, he will be out of office. 

What comes next?

This is not to say that vigilance is not a necessity. The situation in England with virulent anti-Semite and U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn should serve as a warning to the United States about the dangers of brushing fringe elements under the rug. That said, the jubilant triumph the BDS movement tends to march forth with doesn’t correspond to reality.

Europe has long warned the United States about the dangers of not taking the threat of anti-Semitism, especially from the far-left, seriously. I recall my work as far back as a decade ago with the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based think tank focusing on global issues during which I spoke with many Britons who saw the writing on the wall but chose to remain silent. 

Their silence got them the Labour Party’s Jeremy Corbyn.

To quote Ecclesiastes, in the Torah (also known as the Old Testament), “There is a time for everything under the sun.”

It’s time to put aside the victim mentality. It’s time to stop playing defense. It’s time to go on the offensive. Before it’s too late again.

Actor Declines Netflix Audition Because of Israeli Producing Affiliation

Photo from Flickr.

Actor David Clennon wrote in an Aug. 7 piece for the social justice news site Truthout that he declined an audition for a Netflix show because of the series’ connections to Israel.

Clennon, who has starred in “Gone Girl” and “The Thing,” wrote that he was preparing for a September audition for the upcoming series “Sycamore/Hit and Run” when he noticed that the series “will be a co-production of U.S. and Israeli companies” and that “two of the creative executive producers of the new series, Avi Issacharoff and Lior Raz, are also the creator-producers of the Israeli Netflix series ‘Fauda.’”

Clennon then criticized “Fauda” for not providing “the historical context of the conquest of Palestine” and portraying the Palestinians as “cowardly beasts.” He also argued that “the Israeli government will benefit from the prestige of creative partnerships with Hollywood. These show business relationships matter, politically. The Israeli Foreign Ministry runs the ‘Brand Israel’ campaign to use culture, entertainment and technology to counter Israel’s negative image in the world as a racist state that systematically violates human rights.”

The actor proceeded to endorse the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa.

“I believe the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel is of special importance, and I admire the professors and artists who have refused to lecture or to perform in Israel,” Clennon wrote. “Through their refusal, they have denied Israel the legitimacy and the prestige it seeks in the world community. I have been encouraged by intellectuals and artists like Stephen Hawking and Lorde, who have honored the boycott.”

He concluded that he couldn’t “participate in the whitewashing of Israel’s image” despite not being “employed for a year and a half.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper said in a statement to the Journal, “Has this actor turned downed a role because of Syria? China? Venezuela? Cuba? Turkey? Russia?” He argued that Clennon singled out “Israel, [the] lone democracy in Middle East, 20 percent of whose citizens are Arabs and struggles each day against Palestinian terrorism.”

Cooper added that the “only hope for” peace is “if both sides engage each other with respect. This actor’s decision reinforces delusional Palestinian Authority’s official policy of no normalization of human contact with Israelis. Disgrace.”

The Israel Group Founder and President Jack Saltzberg similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “David Clennon is a D-list actor that virtually nobody knows outside of a few Hollywood casting offices. Unfortunately, he is getting more publicity from boycotting Israel than his entire career has brought him. After searching the Internet, I still could not find when Clennon publicly condemned any Palestinian terrorist attacks in Israel that have taken the lives of thousands of innocent men, women, and children, or when he called out Saudi Arabia for their treatment of women and homosexuals, or Syria for murdering hundreds of thousands their own people. This is clear anti-Semitism, front and center.”

Politicized Curriculum Threatens California Jewish and Non-Jewish Communities

Photo from PxHere

California’s Jewish population does not exist, a new state-mandated ethnic studies curriculum for high school students implies.

The draft curriculum being considered by the California Department of Education ignores Jews as a minority group. The glossary defines a wide range of terms including Islamophobia, homophobia, xenophobia, dehumanization, microaggression and the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement — and yet, astonishingly, omits anti-Semitism.

The draft was prepared by a committee of 18 teachers, academics and administrators that includes three individuals openly involved with the BDS movement. The committee members were appointed by the California State Board of Education in January 2019. The curriculum portrays BDS as a legitimate social justice movement without presenting details about the history and true intent of BDS — namely, to single out Israel for punishment.

Connecting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to American social justice movements, the curriculum includes subtopics such as “Direct Action Front for Palestine and Black Lives Matter”; “Call to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Israel”; and “Comparative Border Studies: Palestine and Mexico.” BDS is included on a “List of Potential Social Movements” recommended for students to research.  

The Jewish community isn’t the only group marginalized in the proposed ethnic studies curriculum. Other major California diaspora groups including Indians, Hindus, Armenians, Greeks and Koreans also are omitted.

Certain minority narratives, notably Egyptian Coptic Christians, are erased from the Arab American Studies Course Outline.  

The draft was prepared by a committee of 18 teachers, academics and administrators that includes three individuals openly involved with the BDS movement.

In discussing the Ottoman Empire, the curriculum highlights the Young Turks’ brutal administration in the Mount Lebanon area but fails to mention the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian genocides, which were carried out by the Young Turks during and after World War I. 

To be effective in preventing this political and narrow-minded curriculum from being approved, we must work in partnership with other communities to elevate our voices. Over the past century, the Jewish community has made enormous strides in interfaith and interethnic coalitions to address injustices. These alliances are a pillar of the American civil society that engages policymakers on critical issues. The effort to prepare an ethnic studies curriculum demands our collective attention. 

California high school students deserve an opportunity to learn the role of ethnicity, race and religion in the life of all of its citizens, including especially those previously ignored. But the proposed curriculum would never achieve this admirable goal. It lacks cultural competency and nuance. It advances a narrow political agenda and doesn’t reflect California’s diverse population. 

More broadly, the intellectual framework of this proposal doesn’t belong in public schools. It isn’t about the study of ethnic groups, but a political statement masquerading as education. It is about advancing the interests of some ethnic groups over others. Students should be given the tools to think analytically about a number of ideologies instead of learning selectively about history through the narrow lens of only one creed.  

Communities featured in the current draft should be recognized, but not at the expense of other ethnicities and faiths. 

To get it right, the curriculum should educate students about the history of California’s Armenian, Greek and Assyrian communities, which were shaped by genocide during and after World War I. 

The courses should include demographically significant communities across California, including Koreans, Indians, Hindus, Israelis and others overlooked in the first draft.  

The courses discussing the Middle East should include how, in the mid-20th century, several Arab nations violently expelled close to 1 million Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews. Most of these Jews had nowhere to go, so they sought refuge in Israel.  As the descendants of these Jews today form the majority of Israel’s Jewish population, it is patently false to portray Israel as a white “privileged” state, as the curriculum currently does. 

Presently, the problematic California curriculum, though not yet approved, is being considered a model in other states across the country. And a similar effort is being pushed at the California State University system, which has two dozen campuses and about a half million students. 

The California Department of Education should move expeditiously to set aside the current draft and oversee the complete redrafting of the curriculum, which will have an indelible impact on a generation of young minds in the largest state in the United States.


Siamak Kordestani is the assistant director of the American Jewish Committee’s Los Angeles Regional Office.

Lionel Richie Blocks Pro-BDS Group Following Pressure to Cancel Tel Aviv Concert

Photo from Flickr.

World-renowned musician Lionel Richie blocked a pro-boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) group on Twitter after it urged him to cancel his Sept. 12 concert in Tel Aviv.

The anti-war NGO Code Pink tweeted on July 31, “BREAKING: Simply because we started a campaign urging him to stand up for Palestinian human rights and cancel his upcoming show in Apartheid Israel, @LionelRichie blocked us!#LionelDontGo.”

Code Pink then tweeted a link to its petition calling on Richie to cancel the show.

“Palestinian citizens of Israel — 20% of the Israeli population — face over 50 laws that systematically discriminate against them because of their religion and ethnicity. From Gaza to Israel, to the West Bank, it is apartheid,” the petition states. “If you choose to follow through with your performance in Tel Aviv, it will act as an endorsement of Israel’s brutal systems of military occupation and apartheid.”

Various pro-Israel Twitter accounts praised Richie:

BDS activists also attempted to pressure Bon Jovi and Jennifer Lopez to cancel their Tel Aviv concerts on July 25 and August 1 respectively, to no avail.

Richie’s Tel Aviv concert is part of his 2019 “Hello” world tour.

H/T: Jewish News Syndicate

J-Lo Visits Western Wall After Tel-Aviv Show

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Jenny from the block, or Jenny from the shuk?

On Friday, global superstar Jennifer Lopez visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem, following a hyped, albeit controversial, Thursday night concert in Tel Aviv. The 50-year-old singer performed in Tel Aviv on Aug. 1 despite pressure by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to cancel her performance.

Lopez is not the first major artist to face pressure from the BDS movement to cancel a scheduled concert in the Jewish State. Bon Jovi, Radiohead and Lorde all recently garnered criticism for performances planned in Israel. In the face of pressure from anti-Israel activists, however, Bon Jovi and Radiohead went on with their shows, while Lorde capitulated and cancelled.

Now that J-Lo has visited the Western Wall, the “I’m Real” singer has to record, “Is-Real.”

 

JLo’s Manager: ‘There Was Nothing That Was Gonna Stop Us from Being in Israel’

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Benny Medina, manager for actress and singer Jennifer Lopez, told Israel’s Channel 12 that “nothing was going to stop” them from performing in Israel.

Lopez is scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv on Aug. 1 as part of her “It’s My Party” tour. Activists in the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement had been attempting to dissuade Lopez from performing in the Jewish State, calling it their “J.Lo Don’t Go” campaign.

A reporter from Channel 12 asked Medina, “The BDS movement didn’t try to stop the show?” Medina replied, “There was nothing that was gonna stop us from being in Israel.”

He added, “It’s really simple: Tel Aviv and Israel deserve Jennifer Lopez, and Jennifer Lopez deserves Israel.”

According to The Jerusalem Post, a pro-BDS group called “”Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS call from within” sent Lopez a letter on July 5 urging the singer to boycott Israel, arguing that “Tel Aviv, where you are about to perform, is used as a tool for marketing the State of Israel as a ‘cool’ and ‘cultured’ democracy, while hiding a brutal history of colonization, even that of the city itself.”

Lopez and her fiancé, former baseball star Alex Rodriguez, arrived in Israel on July 31; both Lopez and Rodriguez expressed excitement about being in Israel on Instagram.

On July 25, world-renowned rock band Bon Jovi also performed in Tel Aviv despite BDS pressure. Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan told the Post, “We don’t get into politics. Rock ‘n’ roll goes everywhere and helps people forget about the world and have a good time. It doesn’t divide, and that’s what we’re talking about – unification, not dividing.”

Musicians like former Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters frequently pressure artists to not perform in Israel and boycott the Jewish state. David Draiman, frontman for the heavy metal band Disturbed, said in a May 30 Facebook video on Disturbed fan page, “The very notion that Waters and the rest of his Nazi comrades decide that this is the way to go ahead and foster change is absolute lunacy and idiocy. It makes no sense whatsoever. It’s only based on hatred of a culture and of a people in a society that has been demonized unjustifiably since the beginning of time.”

Progressive Zionists Say in Second Letter to Warren Campaign IfNotNow Co-Founder Should ‘Step Down’ from Campaign

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks during the first night of the second 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential debate in Detroit, Michigan, July 30, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The Progressive Zionists of California (PZC) wrote a second letter to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) presidential campaign on July 30 calling on the campaign to ask IfNotNow co-founder Max Berger “to step down” from his position on the campaign.

PZC co-founders Susan George and Paul Kujawsky wrote in a July 15 letter that they were concerned about Berger being hired as the Warren campaign’s Director of Progressive Partnerships in June, citing his tweets expressing support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and calling Israel’s Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in 2014 a “pogrom.” In the July 30 letter, PZC Steering Committee Members Andrea Beth Damsky and Matthew Finkelstein highlighted Berger’s expressed support BDS again.

“He has positioned himself firmly against even the most progressive Zionism, the liberation movement that helps to ensure a safe and secure homeland for the Jewish people while also standing for Palestinian sovereignty and self-determination,” Damsky and Finkelstein wrote. “We must stress that Berger is not merely criticizing Israel’s policies he deems unfair or unjust–progressive and liberal Zionists do that regularly—Berger is opposing the very existence of Israel as a Jewish state.”

They pointed out the House of Representatives’ passage of an anti-BDS resolution shows that the Democratic Party is firmly against the BDS movement, prompting Damsky and Finkelstein to ask the Warren campaign, “Why would your campaign enable such an extreme position by keeping Berger in an influential, leadership role as Director of Progressive Partnerships?”

Damsky and Finkelstein added that “personnel is policy,” noting that the BDS movement has frequently pushed out progressive Zionists from progressive spaces.

“We are concerned that having Max in this role would lead to a similar dynamic within your campaign and administration,” Damsky and Finkelstein wrote. “Director of Progressive Partnerships will focus very much on the left side of the political spectrum. It is the progressive left–particularly new and younger voters–that are most susceptible to a demonizing, one-sided anti-Israel framing of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.”

The Warren campaign did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

On July 8, a group of IfNotNow activists told Warren at a campaign event in New Hampshire that she should “push the Israeli government to end the occupation,” prompting Warren to respond, “Yes, yes. So I’m there.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal at the time, “In combination with this guy [Max] Berger and this throwaway line that [Warren] put out ending the occupation, she owes her supporters and the rest of the American Jewish community and the rest of Americans a specific definition and context on what her Middle East policy will be.”

Bon Jovi Performs in Tel Aviv Despite BDS Pressure

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

World-renowned rock band Bon Jovi performed in front of a crowd of around 50,000 people in Tel Aviv on July 25 despite pressure from the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement not to perform in Israel.

According to the Jerusalem Post, lead singer Jon Bon Jovi received more than 5,000 letters from BDS activists urging the band to cancel the show but Bon Jovi reportedly told Bluestone Entertainment concert promoter Guy Beser, “I chose Israel and I’m coming, no one will cancel my show.” Beser also told the Post that the singer enjoyed performing in Israel in 2015 and had been yearning to come back.

Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan similarly told the Post regarding BDS, “We don’t get into politics. Rock ‘n’ roll goes everywhere and helps people forget about the world and have a good time. It doesn’t divide, and that’s what we’re talking about – unification, not dividing.”

Comedian Benji Lovitt wrote in the Times of Israel that the Bon Jovi concert “exceeded my expectations,” praising the band’s setlist and Jon Bon Jovi’s chemistry with the crowd.

“Jon may have struggled to hit the same high notes he sang 30 years ago, but I can’t imagine that anyone cared,” Lovitt wrote. “He gave us his all and when the night ended, the final show on this leg of the tour, he looked totally exhausted yet utterly fulfilled. The band members high-fived each other and hugged, bringing their travels to a close. And the word ‘LEGEND’ on the back of Jon’s jacket said it all.”

Lovitt also noted that Jon Bon Jovi reminded “the crowd that he dedicated ‘We Don’t Run’ to the people of Israel in 2015.”

Earlier in the month, the metal band Disturbed performed in Tel Aviv, where lead singer David Draiman sang the Israeli national anthem “Hatikvah.” Draiman said in a May 30 interview with Disturbed fan page on Facebok that BDS is “based on hatred of a culture and of a people in a society that has been demonized unjustifiably since the beginning of time.”

Israeli-Founded Burger Chain’s Opening in Michigan Delayed Following Threats

Photo from Max Pixel.

The opening of a burger chain in Dearborn, Mich.,  founded in Israel, was delayed after the owner received threats following calls to boycott the restaurant.

The Detroit Free Press reports that University of Detroit Mercy Adjunct Law Professor Amer Zahr called for a boycott after hearing that the chain —  Burgerim — was founded in Tel Aviv in 2011.

“Building their company on stolen Palestinian land is how they established themselves,” Zahr, a supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, told the Free Press. “Whether they ended up moving (headquarters) … it doesn’t really matter. The genesis of the company was in Israel.”

Lebanese-American Sam Zahr, who is not related to Amer, planned to open Burgerim in Dearborn at the beginning of August but the opening has now been indefinitely postponed  “after his kids were bullied and he received threatening messages from those opposed to the burger chain founded in Israel,” according to the Free Press.

“I’ve received very hurtful comments,” Sam Zahr told local news station WDIV. “You support Israel, you don’t support the Palestinian cause.”

One message read: “You have Palestinian and Lebanese blood on your hand if you open up that joint,” according to the Free Press.

Additionally, in April, Zahr set up a tent at the Royal Park location featuring free burgers for Ramadan, only to find the following morning that the tent had been vandalized.

Amer Zahr told the Free Press that Burgerim’s Israeli roots were “offensive to many members of the [Dearborn] community,” adding that “everyone for the most part in Dearborn is very supportive of Palestinian rights and our struggle.”

He did acknowledge  to WDIV “no one should be bullied” over the matter.

Sam Zahr put $180,000 into Burgerim’s Dearborn location and had signed a five-year lease.  He told the Free Press “he has lost everything” as a result and said it was all “for no reason.”

“A burger is not gonna make a difference,” Sam Zaher told WDIV. “I don’t care where it comes from, we’re in America.”

He added that he didn’t “want a burger to divide people. That’s why I walked away from this.” Sam Zahr will still be opening two Burgerim locations in Oak Park and Redford Township later this month.

Jewish groups came to Sam Zahr’s defense.

“What are we talking about here, burgers?” Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal, noting that boycotting Burgerim “doesn’t help a single Palestinian, and frankly it’s a bit depressing.”

“It is a travesty when an Arab-American businessman is intimidated by extremists simply for trying to open a restaurant with roots in Israel,” StandWithUs Midwest Executive Director Peggy Shapiro said. “People, communities and businesses should come together to build a better future, instead of allowing hatred to tear them apart.”

The Israel Group Founder and President Jack Saltzberg similarly said in a statement, “As is generally the case, the hatred of Israel far outweighs facts, truth or logic. The Burgerim franchised restaurants in the U.S. are not legally or financially connected in any way to the restaurants in Israel. So, really what we have are groups of anti-Semites boycotting a Lebanese-American who is simply trying to make a living in the United States. Even if the restaurants here were connected to Israel, the anti-Israel boycott would be shameful on its own, but now they have revealed their ignorance and anti-Semitism even further.”

“Burgerim” is Hebrew for “many burgers.” Its first U.S. location opened in West Hollywood in 2013. The company’s headquarters are currently located in Encino.

Congress to Vote On Anti-BDS Resolution

The House of Representatives will hold a vote this week on a resolution to combat the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. The resolution, H.R.246, unanimously passed the House Committee on Foreign Affairs by voice vote on July 18 as part of an en bloc package with several other pieces of legislation. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) was present during the markup hearing and stated she will not support the en bloc package the resolution was a part of, and left the committee room before the vote was held.

The resolution states that the House of Representatives opposes the BDS movement; affirms that the BDS movement undermines the possibility for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; urges Israelis and Palestinians to return to direct negotiations; supports the full implementation of the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014; and reaffirms support for the two-state solution.

 The resolution has been formally endorsed by the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan caucus co-chaired by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Rep. Tom Reid (R-N.Y.).

“BDS is anti-Israel, anti-peace and harmful to America’s interests,” Gottheimer said. “I’m proud that all members of the Problem Solvers Caucus are committed to opposing BDS and standing up for the U.S.-Israel relationship because these should not be partisan political issues. Thanks to the leadership of Congressmen Brad Schneider and Steve Watkins, this bipartisan resolution has even more momentum for a vote on the House floor.” 

“Israel is an unwavering ally of the United States and one of our most important strategic partners around the globe,” Reid said. “I am proud of our Problem Solvers Caucus members who have to stood up to ensure Jewish people are treated fairly and spoken out to show we care about this great nation.”

Schneider is an Illinois Democrat and Watkins is a Kansas Republican.

Other members of the Problem Solvers Caucus spoke about their support for the resolution as well. “This resolution makes clear that Congress continues to support preserving a path to a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with two peoples living side by side in peace, security and prosperity,” said Schneider, who introduced the resolution. “Towards that end, we also oppose the global BDS movement, which seeks to delegitimize the state of Israel by denying the Jewish people’s claim to a homeland. I appreciate the support of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus for this resolution and stand with my colleagues against efforts to push further out of reach a two-state solution and peace for both Israel and the Palestinians.” 

“Republicans and Democrats can both agree that any efforts to delegitimize the state of Israel must be condemned, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) said. “I am proud to join members of the Problem Solvers Caucus in strongly supporting this resolution to express our shared support for Israel and opposition to the deeply misguided BDS movement.” 

Israel Will Allow Omar, Tlaib Into Country

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) (C) take selfies with other female members of the House of Representatives as Rep. Adam Schiff (R) looks on as they await the start of U.S. President Donald Trump's second State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer announced on Friday that Israel will allow all U.S. congressional members to enter the country, including Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).

Dermer said in a statement, “Out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel.”

Omar said on July 17 that she and Tlaib will be visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories sometime in the next few weeks. Omar and Tlaib are both avowed supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement; the Israeli government has a policy of barring entry to those who support BDS.

Omar introduced a resolution on July 16 that celebrated American boycotts like the Boston Tea Party and the boycott of German goods during World War II; she said that the resolution was put forward to support the BDS movement. The BDS movement praised Omar’s resolution:

Progressive Zionists ‘Very Concerned’ Warren Campaign Hired IfNotNow Co-founder

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The Progressive Zionists of California (PZC) said in a July 15 open letter they were “very concerned” that Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) presidential campaign hired IfNotNow co-founder Max Berger in June.

PZC founding members Susan George and Paul Kujawsky argued that Berger, who was hired as the Warren campaign’s Director of Progressive Partnerships, is “unworthy of any position in [Warren’s] campaign,” citing a tweet from July 2014 when he called Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip a “pogrom.”

“This year included, Hamas has launched tens of thousands of rockets at Israel, causing deaths and injuries, extensive property damage and widespread terror,” George and Kujawsky wrote. “Israel, when it is forced to take military action to stop the rockets, takes considerable care not to harm civilians. It is not always successful, because Hamas stores its weaponry in apartments, schools and hospitals.”

They added that “calling Israeli self-defense a ‘pogrom’ is false and deeply offensive.”

George and Kujawsky also highlighted a 2017 tweet where Berger said he agreed with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and acknowledged that it’s a “largely anti-Zionist” movement and that “it’s an existential question” for Zionists.

“The BDS movement, directed from Ramallah, is the latest iteration of the Arab Boycott and its attempt to strangle the Jewish state economically,” George and Kujawsky wrote. “But the BDS movement goes further: It seeks, in addition to economic sanctions, to isolate Israel academically and culturally; to fundamentally delegitimize Israel—to make it a pariah, ‘the Jew of nations.’”

Berger’s tweet suggests that he understands this about BDS, they argued.

“If your staff includes someone who openly wishes Israel to disappear, you will lose the trust of many of your supporters and your pro-Israel bona fides will disappear,” George and Kujawsky wrote.

The Warren campaign did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

On July 8, a group of IfNotNow activists told Warren during a campaign event in New Hampshire that they want her to “push the Israeli government to end the occupation,” prompting Warren to respond, “Yes, yes. So I’m there.”

IfNotNow released a statement afterwards saying, “In the past, Warren has regularly spoken of Israel as a strong ally in a tough neighborhood and has appeared at AIPAC events and used right-wing talking points. But as her career has gone on, her views on the issue have grown to be farther in line with her progressive values: She was one of the 60 Democrats to boycott [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s [2015] speech in Congress, she supported the Iran Deal, spoke out against the [Jerusalem] embassy move, and opposes efforts to criminalize the BDS movement.”

Reut Report: How Intersectionality Poses A Threat to the Organized American Jewish Community

A Palestinian boy looks on near a graffiti boycotting Israel in Bethlehem, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank November 3, 2018. Picture taken on November 3, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Farrell/File Photo

A new report by a Tel Aviv-based strategy and leadership group outlines how intersectionality is posing a threat to the organized American Jewish community. 

Published in June by the Reut Group, the report, titled “Navigating Intersectional Landscapes: Rules for Jewish Community Professionals,” argues that the American Jewish community is divided over many viewpoints on Israel and tensions are being exacerbated by those who are using intersectionality to promote anti-Israel agendas.

The 42-page report was produced with the support of the Los Angeles-based Julis Foundation for Multi-Disciplinary Thinking following a yearlong partnership between the Reut Group and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), which is made up of 125 Jewish Community Relations Councils (JCRCs) and 17 national Jewish agencies, including the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee. 

According to the report, the goal of the Reut/JCPA partnership is to “bolster the community relations field’s response to contemporary challenges within the Jewish community and anti-Israel campaigns. During this partnership, we identified the potential threat of intersectional movements to the Jewish community.”

What is Intersectionality?

In a 1989 paper for the University of Chicago Legal Forum, Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor at Columbia University and UCLA, developed a theory that African American women face a unique form of oppression that is not sufficiently explained by racism or sexism.

Crenshaw coined her theory “intersectionality,”  which the Reut report argues “holds that different forms of oppression and discrimination overlap and are experienced in a unique manner by individuals that fall within several biological, cultural and social categories, such as race, gender, religion, ability, sexual orientation, age and class.”

Today, the report states, the term intersectionality embraces more than Crenshaw’s original definition, and social justice coalitions understand it as a call to support other disenfranchised groups, even if their causes do not seem connected. 

In a Feb. 8, 2019, op-ed, “The Progressive Assault on Israel,” New York Times columnist Bret Stephens defined intersectionality as “the idea that the oppression of one group is the oppression of all others.” 

“Under intersectional umbrellas,” the report states, “members of Black, Latino and LGBTQ communities regularly stand in solidarity with anti-Israel and BDS-promoting groups.” 

In 2014, demonstrators in Ferguson, Mo., protested the death of 18-year-old African American Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a white police officer. That demonstration coincided with Israel’s Operation Protective Edge battle in Gaza. The report states that among those calling out police shootings of African Americans were pro-BDS protesters promoting “the #PALESTINE2FERGUSON campaign in an attempt to draw a parallel between the Palestinian struggle and the issue of police brutality against African Americans.” 

According to the report, this was a turning point in how Israel was viewed through the lens of intersectionality.

“In the recent years since Ferguson, we can see how anti-Israeli activity is seen as a right social cause and support for BDS as a legitimate solidarity cause,” Reut Group CEO Eran Shayshon told the Journal from Israel in a phone interview.

The report also links the rise of intersectionality to events including the 2017 Women’s March, led by leaders Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory, who have been accused of being anti-Semitic, and the 2017 Chicago Dyke March, during which three women were told they could not march in the event because they were carrying flags with Stars of David, a “Zionist symbol.” 

All the while, support for Palestinians in the context of its conflict with Israel has become an increasing presence in intersectional coalitions, the report states, noting, “the Palestinian cause has been widely adopted as a core and prominent threshold for solidarity by many marginalized groups.” 

Where Do American Jews Fit In? 

According to the report, American Jews are often omitted from intersectional spaces, despite a history of standing with African Americans during the civil rights era, because contemporary American Jews are not seen today as marginalized but as privileged. 

“Jewish identity in America is mutating from a self-perception of being a marginalized and disempowered community to one increasingly being seen by outsiders as a privileged social group,” the report states. “As a result, Jews are often excluded from intersectional coalitions of solidarity formed among members of oppressed groups.”

Shayshon said this exclusion of Jews from intersectional spaces is anti-Semitic.

“Intersectionality in its current form mainstreams subtle anti-Semitism because it combines conspiratorial things like the disproportionate power and influence of Jews and asks Jews to renounce their privilege and claims of prejudice, and makes the Jewish cause to defend the Jewish state illegitimate,” he said. “Anti-Zionism has become a litmus test for progressive communities to make.”

Shayshon added it was incumbent on his organization to understand how intersectionality is affecting the American Jewish community because “the challenges facing the Jewish community are critical to the resilience of the Jewish people and also to Israel, and Israel has been inserted into the conversation of intersectionality.” 

Breaking Down the Report 

The report classifies the American-Jewish community’s perspectives about Israel into four categories, or tribes:  

1. Aligners, or those who “consider Israel to be an integral part of their Jewish identity and generally support the State of Israel.” 

2. Moderate Critics, who, “while pro-Israel, tend to oppose the Jewish Establishment’s traditional, unconditional support for Israel.” 

3. Harsh Critics, who “hold highly critical views of Israel’s policies, most often with regards to Israel’s continued control of the Palestinians.” 

4. Radicals, “anti-Zionists who denounce Israel.”

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn leads his colleagues to the unveiling of the statue of suffragist Millicent Fawcett on Parliament Square, in London, Britain, April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

In the  “new anti-Semitism” that is anti-Zionism, the report states, the United States is seeing “the ‘Corbynization’ of progressive politics,” a reference to British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is, according to the report, “mainstreaming new anti-Semitism” into the ideologies of his political party.

If London is at the center of much of the anti-Israel activity in Europe, the center of anti-Zionism in North America is San Francisco, Shayshon said. “We’ve studied the dynamic of anti-Israeli groups and clearly the geographical hubs in the U.S. are metropolitan areas. In the San Francisco Bay area, there is a concentration of anti-Israeli groups, which serve as a hub for a long list of anti-Israeli groups all over North America. Clearly [UC] Berkeley is such a hub. SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine), their hub is at Berkeley.” 

Stating that “we know that the anti-Israeli movements flourish in progressive hubs,” Shayshon added, “Israel has been losing its progressive credibility.”

The report states that increasing criticism of Israel among far-left members of the Democratic Party poses a “threat to the future of traditional U.S. bipartisan support for Israel.”

Among the incidents the report cites backing these claims is a 2003 episode involving a San Francisco-based rape crisis center, San Francisco Women Against Rape, that defined itself as anti-Zionist and asked potential interns and volunteers if they would be willing to take a stance against Zionism, even though the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was unrelated to its mission.  

Another article the report references was published on Oct. 8, 2018, in the Forward, highlighting how Tucson Jews for Justice, while protesting President Donald Trump’s policies on child separations and the Muslim travel ban, faced bullying from far-left groups for not condemning Israel. This was part of “a national trend of harsh treatment of Jews in progressive spaces,” according to the Forward.

The report also discusses recent events involving Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), whose remarks on Twitter about Israel and the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) were widely deemed anti-Semitic, and Mallory, the Women’s March leader, who refused to condemn what many deemed anti-Semitic remarks made by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) leaves the U.S. Senate chamber and walks back to the House of Representatives in Washington, U.S., Jan. 24, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Shayshon went further, saying, “Many Israelis believe the relationship between Israel and the U.S. has never been stronger because of the Trump-[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu relationship and many talk about the possible blowback when a Democratic administration succeeds it.”

Shayshon said he was more concerned about anti-Semitism on the political left than he was with anti-Semitism from the right. “On the right, it is much more about a challenge of physical insecurity, like what happened in Pittsburgh, but anti-Semitism on the left is more threatening in the sense that it is polarizing the Jewish community. It drives a wedge between Jewish communal organizations and many young Jews and as a result loses its vitality.”

The report goes on to state that intersectionality not only is driving a wedge between members of the American Jewish community but also is threatening “Israel’s status within the U.S. Jewish community from a unifying issue into a divisive one.” 

The report also highlights how the younger generation of American Jews is distancing itself from Israel and has a distrust of Jewish communal organizations. 

Shayshon said anti-Israel movements like BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) are popular among young people who are susceptible to viewpoints masking as tikkun olam. 

“I have no doubt that most people who support BDS are not motivated by an anti-Israel view or anti-Zionism,” he said. “Many times their position is a submission to the anti-Israeli spirit of the times, which [the intersectionality] ideology aims to create.”

How to Fight Back

The report encourages Jewish groups to engage with Israel’s critics, stating, “Jewish communal broad-tent engagement efforts should specifically focus on engaging Harsh Critics who may give Israel the benefit of the doubt, maintain a meaningful connection to Israel and disapprove of the BDS movement.” 

The report goes on to say that while Jewish organizations may have a tendency to lessen its emphasis on Israel to remain relevant among young people, the better response is doubling down on Israel engagement.

In combating the growing antagonism toward Israel, the report recommends that the Jewish community broaden its tolerance for “legitimate discourse on Israel” and avoid blacklisting organizations that hold differing viewpoints on issues like the boycotting of West Bank products, stating, “There is a low likelihood of a divided Jewish community reaching common ground on several eminent issues.” 

The report also advises Jewish organization to find new allies, including Jews of color, to demonstrate that the pro-Israel movement also has diverse, intersectional support. Among some of the smaller, niche organizations the report cites that can help play a role include Moishe House, which provides subsidized living for young adult Jews who commit to holding Jewish programming in their homes, and OneTable, which provides millennials with tools and resources to hold Shabbat dinners. They too, according to the report, can be bridges between Israel’s critics, Jewish communal life and Israeli society. 

Photo by Odemirense

Moving Forward

Shayshon said the report’s focus on how intersectionality presents new challenges for the American Jewish community stems from his group’s belief that the American Jewish community relations field is the “most potent platform of the Jewish community to fight anti-Israeli movements.”

However, he added, “We don’t see the sense of urgency in the Jewish community regarding intersectionality. One of the main threats of intersectionality in its current format is it mainstreams anti-Semitism and we see how the Jewish community is unable to coalesce around fighting these issues.”

Shayshon said he hoped the publication and dissemination of the report leads to change in how the community interacts with the intersectionality question. “We are not just a think tank that publishes papers and hopes the words will take effect,” he said. “This is part of a long couple of years’ effort to strengthen the community relations field with our strategic partner for the U.S., JCPA.”

“We hope research can trickle down and become pillars of operations for the JCRC network,” he said. “That’s our plan.”

WATCH: Disturbed Sings ‘Hatikvah’ During First Israel Concert

Photo from Flickr.

David Draiman, lead singer of the heavy metal band Disturbed, sang the Israeli national anthem during the band’s first concert in Israel on July 2.

The below video shows Draiman leading the more than 10,000 people in singing the anthem in unity, before transitioning to the song “Inside the Fire.”

According to the Jerusalem Post, Draiman spoke Hebrew at various points throughout the concert, which lasted more than two hours. He also wore a shirt honoring the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). During the show, Disturbed performed the song “Never Again” for the first time since 2011, a song discussing the horrors of the Holocaust.

Draiman, who is the descendant of Holocaust survivors and has family in Israel, slammed former Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters in an interview with the Met Al Metal radio show before the concert.

“The man is a very sick man,” Draiman said, recalling how Waters claimed to have been booed during a concert in Israel calling for peace, even though video evidence showed otherwise.

“I don’t know what he did, drug-wise, during his life, but whatever he did fried a bunch of brain cells,” Draiman said. “The guy is not operating on all cylinders anymore.”

Draiman has criticized Waters in the past for his vehement support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

“The very notion that Waters and the rest of his Nazi comrades decide that this is the way to go ahead and foster change is absolute lunacy and idiocy,” Draiman said in a May 30 interview with a Disturbed Facebook fan page. “It makes no sense whatsoever. It’s only based on hatred of a culture and of a people in a society that has been demonized unjustifiably since the beginning of time.”

Draiman also said that the BDS movement singles out Israel because “there’s a special hatred that exists for the Jewish people in this world and it unfortunately can’t be explained. It’s something that has lasted and has been deep-seated for centuries and that’s part of our burden as a people, unfortunately.”

German Students Pass Anti-BDS Resolution

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

German student groups passed a resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on June 16 at the German-Israel student conference, the Jerusalem Post reports.

The resolution stated that the student groups supporting the resolution would not engage in any sort of cooperation with BDS supporters, calling BDS “a particularly aggressive expression of Israeli anti-Semitism, for which there can be no room at German universities.” Among the student groups supporting the resolution included “the Christian Democratic students, Young Socialists student groups, Liberal student groups and Green Party student associations,” per the Post.

Jewish Student Union Executive Board Member Ruben Gerczikow tweeted, “What remains is the call for more Israel solidarity & against all anti-Semitism!”

The American Jewish Committee tweeted, “We are pleased to see such consensus on rejecting this hate-driven movement.”

StandWithUs tweeted thanks to the students involved in the resolution’s passage.

The German parliament passed a resolution denouncing the BDS movement in May as anti-Semitic, urging the government not to conduct business with any entities that boycott Israel. On June 3, 240 Jewish and Israeli scholars signed a letter advocating for the German government to reject the resolution. The government has not rendered a decision on the matter.