September 20, 2019

CA Dems Party Arab American Caucus Chair Accuses Schumer of Allegiance to ‘Fascist Israel Lobby’

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks to the media ahead of a possible partial government shut down in Washington, U.S., December 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Iyad Afalqa, the chairman of the Arab American Caucus of the California Democratic Party, accused Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) of having allegiance to the “fascist Israel lobby.”

On March 27, Afalqa posted a link on his Facebook page to an article titled “Senate Democratic Leader Schumer Compares Ilhan Omar to Trump in AIPAC Speech.” Schumer said during his March 26 speech, “When someone says that being Jewish and supporting Israel means you’re not loyal to America, we must call it out. When someone looks at a neo-Nazi rally and sees some ‘very fine people’ among its company, we must call it out.”

Afalqa wrote in his post, “Shmuck Schumer the traitor whose allegiance is for Fascist Israel lobby who called himself the Guardian of Israel in Congress is attacking Rep Omar who hinted at the big elephant in the room: treason of the Fascist Israel lobby that Schumer belongs to.”

Afalqa went onto state that the “highest amount” of money from the “pro-Israel lobby” in the 2015-16 election cycle went to Schumer.

The Progressive Zionists of the California Democratic Party (PZCDP) said in a statement sent to the Journal via email, “Progressive Zionists of the California Democratic Party is concerned about the most recent statements made by Iyad Afalqa on his personal Facebook page and in the CADEMs unofficial delegate group. This is unfortunately not the first time he has used such inflammatory rhetoric, and is especially disappointing considering he co-sponsored a resolution condemning anti-Semitism.”

“Utilizing the tropes of dual loyalties, Jewish conspiracy, and power to criticize AIPAC is disturbing in a moment where highly charged rhetoric like this increasingly endangers the Southern California Jewish community — which has experienced many recent anti-Semitic incidents, with perpetrators espousing frighteningly similar rhetoric to Alfalqa’s,” the PZDCP said.

In February, Afalqa shared a link to an Al Jazeera op-ed stating that “Zionism has always been a white supremacist, settler colonialist, anti-democratic, right-wing ideology, which has demanded a loyalty based on nationalist racism” that has “collaborated with anti-Semitic forces towards a mutual goal of global apartheid.”

The PZDCP responded to Afalqa’s sharing of the aforementioned op-ed by writing in a Facebook post at the time, “This is clear and unbridled anti-Semitism found in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a famously false and hateful pamphlet alleging international conspiracy by racist, global Zionists. By itself, this trope has been responsible for the deaths of literally millions of Jews. This is the language we see being normalized in the article you shared.”

Additionally, in October 2017, Afalqa asked in Facebook when the Democratic National Committee (DNC) would be moving its headquarters “to Tel Aviv”:

Afalqa and the California Democratic Party did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment.

This article has been updated.

Former N.Y. Assemblyman Calls on Fellow Dems to Condemn Rep. Tlaib

Screenshot from Twitter.

Former New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind is calling on his fellow Democrats to condemn Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) for her anti-Semitism.

In a Wednesday video posted to Twitter, Hikind highlighted how within her first few days in Congress, Tlaib accused “the Jewish people of dual loyalty here in America, something that the enemies of the Jewish people going back to Nazi Germany and all over the world have used against the Jewish people.”

Hikind was referencing a tweet where Tlaib accused supporters of an anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) bill in Congress of forgetting “what country they represent.” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt called Tlaib’s tweet “deeply problematic.”

Hikind then pointed to the photo floating on Twitter of Tlaib with Abbas Hamideh, “a supporter of Hezbollah, a supporter of Hamas.” Hikind proceeded to highlight some of Hamideh’s tweets, including one that read, “Long live the courageous Arab-Muslim lion, [Hezbollah] Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah!”

“Let us remember that Hezbollah has been involved in [an] attack upon American soldiers,” Hikind said. “This is a terrorist organization, as defined not just by the Trump administration, the Obama administration before. And this is who our new member of Congress associates with? On her first day, she associates with those who want to murder and maim and destroy the Jewish people and destroy the state of Israel.”

Hikind then asked if Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have “the guts” to condemn Tlaib.

“Is it only when it’s a Republican that Democrats speak out?” Hikind asked. “Or is it only when it’s President Trump that the Democratic Party is united to condemn any kind of racism or hatred? What about the Democratic Party?”

Tlaib seemed to make reference to the Hamideh photo with a Tuesday tweet stating, “Right wing media targeting me again.”

“Yes, I am Muslim and Palestinian,” Tlaib wrote. “Get over it.”

Pelosi and Schumer’s offices did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment as of publication time.

Sanders, Feinstein Urge Opposition to Anti-BDS Bill

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) walks before a series of votes on legislation ending U.S. military support for the war in Yemen on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to not include the Israel Anti-Boycott Act into an upcoming spending bill.

Sanders and Feinstein argued in a letter that they are against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, but the Israel Anti-Boycott Act is at odds with the First Amendment.

“Federal district courts in Kansas and Arizona have similarly considered state laws that target political boycotts of Israel and found them to violate the First Amendment,” Sanders and Feinstein wrote. “For example, in Jordahl vs. Brnovich, the court held in granting a preliminary injunction, ‘The type of collective action targeted by the [law] specifically implicates the rights of assembly that Americans and Arizonans use ‘to bring about political, social, and economic charge.’”

The senators also criticized the bill for cracking down on “certain constitutionally-protected political activity aimed solely at Israeli settlements in the West Bank.”

“At a time when the [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu government is pursuing policies clearly aimed at foreclosing the two-state solution, it is deeply disappointing that Congress would consider penalizing criticism of those policies,” Sanders and Feinstein wrote.

Brooke Goldstein, executive director of the Lawfare Project, told the Journal in an emailed statement that Sanders and Feinstein are “mistaken” about the bill violating the First Amendment.

“Unlike criticism of Israeli policy, which is political speech that is protected under the First Amendment, this anti-BDS legislation applies to commercial speech, which is not afforded the same degree of constitutional protection,” Goldstein said. “Additionally, the Kansas and Arizona laws referenced by Sanders and Feinstein in their opposition are utterly dissimilar in form and function to the IABA, other than that they relate to BDS. That those states’ anti-BDS laws may raise First Amendment issues has no bearing whatsoever on the federal anti-BDS measure in question.”

Eugene Kontorovich, a law professor at George Mason University, told the Journal in an email that the Israel Anti-Boycott Act “is completely consistent with decades of bipartisan law and policy.”

“Existing law prohibits companies from participating in boycotts of Israel (and the territories) promoted by foreign countries,” Kontorovich said. “The new bill merely extends this to boycotts fostered by international organizations like the U.N. The existing anti-boycott provisions have never been controversial, and have been upheld by the courts.”

Kontorovich added that the bill does not penalize protests of Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria, it simply “restricts participating in U.N. boycotts” and does not touch “individuals or consumer boycotts.”

“The senators’ letter claims to oppose BDS, but in fact it sides with the famously anti-Semitic U.N. Human Rights Council in its effort to bar economic activity with Jews, and not with any other people,” Kontorovich said.

In his 2017 op-ed in The Washington Post, Kontorovich noted that the Israel Anti-Boycott Act updates a 1977 law that prevents American entities from participating in the Arab League’s boycott of Israel to including boycotts of Israel launched by United Nations agency.

The bill is supported by the Jewish Democratic Council of America and the Anti-Defamation League and opposed by J Street and the New Israel Fund.

Pelosi, Schumer at IAC Stress Need for Bipartisan Israel Support

Screenshot from Facebook.

Speaker of the House-Elect Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) expressed the need for bipartisan support of Israel during the 2018 Israeli-American Council conference in Florida on Dec. 2.

Pelosi and Schumer were part of a discussion with key IAC supporter and philanthropist Haim Saban, where Pelosi said it was “important keep it [Israel] bipartisan.”

“I’m very pleased that our caucus has overwhelmingly been supportive of Israel,” Pelosi said, adding that “70 percent of Jewish people in our country voted Democrat” in the 2018 midterm elections.

Schumer reinforced Pelosi by pointing out that there was “very close to unanimous” support among Senate Democrats for the Taylor Force Act, a law that prevents the Palestinian Authority (PA) from receiving money unless it ends its policy of paying terrorists to kill Israeli Jews. He also pointed to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) being the reason why the U.S.-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act has stalled in the Senate.

“If you support the security of America, you have to believe in the security of Israel,” Schumer said.

When Saban asked why there seems to be eroding support for Israel among younger Democrats, Schumer argued that there is a decline in support for Israel among the youth in general.

“The young people have seen Israel as strong, because in their lifetimes that’s what it is,” Schumer said, because young people didn’t live through the Six-Day War, when there was uncertainty surrounding the survival of the Jewish state.

Schumer added that Israel supporters need to get the younger generation to understand that Israel’s existence is still “precarious,” and added he thinks young people could be kept apprised online.

On anti-Semitism, Schumer said that any form of anti-Semitism must be “exposed to sunlight” or else it will “fester,” especially European anti-Semitism.

Pelosi, speaking about Trump’s pending Israel-Palestinian peace plan, said that she and other Democrats hope that it embraces “a two-state solution,” prompting some audience members to shout “No way!”

“We have to strike a balance,” Pelosi argued, but added that the Palestinians have to prove themselves as “responsible negotiators and we haven’t seen a lot of that thus far.”

Schumer to Propose Resolution Renaming Senate Building After McCain

Photo from Flickr.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) has announced that he will propose re-naming the Senate building after the recently deceased Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

McCain died at the age of 81 on August 25 after a yearlong battle with brain cancer. In a statement following McCain’s death, Schumer called McCain one of the “few truly great people” in life.

“His dedication to his country and the military were unsurpassed, and maybe most of all, he was a truth teller – never afraid to speak truth to power in an era where that has become all too rare,” Schumer said. “The Senate, the United States, and the world are lesser places without John McCain.”

Schumer added, “Nothing will overcome the loss of Senator McCain, but so that generations remember him I will be introducing a resolution to rename the Russell building after him.”

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) has publicly stated his desire to be the first Republican to co-sponsor the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters that a committee of Republican senators would be established to determine the best way to honor McCain. McConnell suggested a portrait or renaming the Armed Services Committee office after McCain.

The current name of the Senate building, the Russell Senate Office Building, is named after the late Richard Russell, a staunch segregationist who served in the Senate for 38 years as a Democrat from Georgia.

Sen. Schumer: Don’t return trove of Jewish artifacts to Iraq

Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer exhorted the State Department not to send back to Iraq a trove of artifacts that belonged to its now exiled Jewish community.

In a letter shared with JTA, the New York Democrat on Tuesday urged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to work with Jewish groups and the Iraqi Jewish community in the United States and abroad to find a place for the Iraqi Jewish Archive.

“These items belong to the people who were forced to leave them behind when the Iraqi government chose to exile them from their homes. Since the exile of Jews from Iraq virtually no Jewish life remains in the country – this treasured collection belongs to the Jewish community and should be made available to them,” the Jewish lawmaker said in the letter.

Last month, the State Department told JTA that the archive will be returned to Iraq in September 2018, according to an agreement reached with the Iraqi government.

“Maintaining the archive outside of Iraq is possible,” State Department spokesman Pablo Rodriguez told JTA, “but would require a new agreement between the Government of Iraq and a temporary host institution or government.”

Discovered in the flooded basement of the Iraqi secret service headquarters by U.S. troops in 2003, the items, many of which were looted, include religious materials, books, personal documents and photographs. The U.S. government spent over $3 million to restore and digitalize the archive — which include a Hebrew Bible with commentaries from 1568, a Babylonian Talmud from 1793 and an 1815 version of the Jewish musical text Zohar — and it has been exhibited around the country.

Iraqi jewish Archive

This Passover haggadah from 1902, one of very few Hebrew manuscripts recovered from Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters, was hand-lettered and decorated by an Iraqi youth. (National Archives)

Schumer is among a group of U.S. lawmakers who have joined Jewish groups in lobbying to keep the archive in a location accessible to Iraqi Jews and their descendants, who today live outside Iraq after being driven out amid intense persecution. Iraq and proponents of returning the archive say it can serve as an educational tool for Iraqis about the history of Jews there and that it is part of the country’s patrimony.

“It’s disheartening that parchments of a Torah scroll and prayer books were discovered in such poor condition inside a flooded Baghdad Intelligence Center. After the United States preserved this ancient collection, it makes no sense to return the items to the Iraqi government, where they will no longer be accessible to the Jewish community,” Schumer said Tuesday in a statement released along with the letterFri.

Earlier this month, Rodriguez said the United States “will urge the Iraqi government to take the proper steps necessary to preserve the archive, and to make it available to members of the public to enjoy.”

Major Jewish groups have remained largely silent on the issue following the announcement of the 2018 return date. The Zionist Organization of America released a statement last month urging the State Department not to send back the archive, and Israeli lawmaker Anat Berko told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pressure the U.S. to not send back the artifacts.

The archive is set to be exhibited at the Jewish Museum of Maryland from Oct. 15 to Jan. 15.

Schumer says US should back independent Kurdish state

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaking with the media at the Capitol building, Jan. 31, 2017. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer has called on the Trump administration to recognize the Kurdish bid for independence — a position embraced among nations virtually only by Israel.

“Monday’s historic vote in Iraqi Kurdistan should be recognized and respected by the world, and the Kurdish people of northern Iraq have my utmost support,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement Wednesday, referring to the referendum in which 92 percent of 3 million voters said they favored Kurdish independence. “I believe the Kurds should have an independent state as soon as possible and that the position of the United States government should be to support a political process that addresses the aspirations of the Kurds for an independent state.”

No other power in the region except for Israel favored the referendum, with Iraq’s government threatening military action and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatening to suspend normalization talks with Israel because of its backing.

Kurds for decades have functioned as a U.S. ally in the region and for even longer have had ties — at times open — with Israel, facilitated by the substantial Kurdish Jewish community in Israel. In northern Iraq, Kurds have been semi-autonomous since the late 1990s, when the United States and Britain helped push the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein out of the region. His regime was responsible for the mass murder of Kurds.

The Trump administration opposed the vote, fearing it could damage the regional alliance combating the Islamic State terrorist group.

6 top Senate Dems rap Obama’s refusal to extend anti-BDS protections to settlements

Six top Democratic senators, including the party’s Senate leader and four Jewish lawmakers, urged the Obama administration to abide by new provisions that would protect Israeli West Bank settlements from boycotts.

The Feb. 25 statement addresses Obama’s stated refusal last week to abide by provisions in a new trade bill that extends protections against boycotts to Israeli-controlled territories.

It was issued in the name of Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the minority leader, and Sens. Charles Schumer of New York; Ron Wyden of Oregon; Ben Cardin of Maryland; Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

“While the Obama Administration has reiterated its opposition to boycotts, divestment campaigns, and sanctions targeting the State of Israel, it has mischaracterized the TPA and Customs bill provisions as making a U.S. policy statement about Israeli settlements,” their statement said.

“These provisions are not about Israeli settlements. Rather, consistent with U.S. policy, they are about discouraging politically motivated commercial actions aimed at delegitimizing Israel and pressuring Israel into unilateral concessions outside the bounds of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. We urge the Administration to implement these provisions as enacted and intended.”

“Politically-motivated commercial actions” alludes to European Union regulations established last year that require goods produced in settlements to be labeled separately from those produced in Israel.

Party leaders signing onto statements is unusual. Schumer, Wyden, Cardin and Blumenthal are Jewish; Bennet does not identify as Jewish, but notes that his mother is Jewish.

Republicans also have objected to the policy. Two senators — Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Ted Cruz of Texas, a presidential candidate — are circulating a bill that would override the longstanding U.S. policy of distinguishing goods from Israel with those from the West Bank.

Schumer hits Obama on anti-terror funding cuts

Sen. Charles Schumer broke with President Barack Obama for the second time in a year, criticizing the administration over proposed cuts to homeland security funding.

Speaking at a press conference alongside NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton in New York on Wednesday, Schumer called the proposed 2017 budget — which reduces funding to the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) from $600 million in 2016 to $330 million in 2017 — a “punch in the gut” to local law enforcement on anti-terror missions.

“UASI is the lifeblood of New York’s anti-terror programs and funds the massive terror prevention program for downtown Manhattan and its expansion into Times Square and Midtown,” said Schumer.“The president, in general, has been very good on security, but this is a serious mistake.”

“With ISIS-inspired attacks and terrorism on the rise all across the globe, we must make sure that America has the resources it needs to remain protected,” he stressed. “It makes no sense for the administration to slash critically needed anti-terrorism funding, especially at a time when we are all on high alert.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio joined Schumer in calling on Congress to maintain full funding for the UASI. “As a city and as a nation, we cannot afford to lose this essential funding at a time when we face increased threats. New York’s tireless police force and first responders have done their part – now it’s time for our leaders in Washington to do theirs,” said de Blasio.

Almost immediately, the White House fired back, pointing to Schumer’s voting record on the issue and highlighting his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. “I will just say that at some point, Senator Schumer’s credibility in talking about national security issues — particularly when the facts are as they are when it relates to homeland security — have to be affected by the position that he’s taken on other issues,” White House Press Secretary, Josh Earnest told reporters during a daily press briefing. “Senator Schumer is somebody that came out and opposed the international agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. He was wrong about that position. And most Democrats agreed — disagreed with him in taking that position.”

“And when people look at the facts here when it comes to funding for homeland security, they’ll recognize that he’s wrong this time, too,” he added.

Al Franken backs Iran deal, 5th of 9 Jewish Senate Democrats to do so

Sen. Al Franken endorsed the Iran nuclear deal, becoming the fifth of nine Jewish senators to back the agreement.

“Many have expressed reservations about the deal, and I share some of those reservations,” Franken, D-Minn., wrote in an op-ed published Thursday on CNN’s website.

“It isn’t a perfect agreement,” he said. “But it is a strong one. This agreement is, in my opinion, the most effective, realistic way to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon anytime in the next 15 years.”

Among Jewish Democratic senators, or those who caucus with Democrats, Franken joins Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer of California, Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, and Brian Schatz of Hawaii in supporting the deal. Among the four other Jewish senators, only Charles Schumer of New York has come out in opposition. The others, all Democrats — Ron Wyden of Wyoming; Ben Cardin of Maryland; and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut — have yet to declare.

Overall 18 senators, all caucusing with the Democrats, back the deal. A majority in the Republican-led chamber is likely to favor a bill that would kill the deal. President Barack Obama needs 40 out of 100 senators to block any rejection of the bill from advancing, and 34 to kill any chances of overriding his promised veto of any such measure.

Franken said that the international community should use the next 15 years, after which key aspects of the deal expire, to prepare to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

“We also must begin now to make the case to the world that the danger posed by an Iranian nuclear weapon will not expire in 15 years — and remind Iran that, should it begin to take worrisome steps, such as making highly enriched uranium as that date approaches, we stand ready to intervene,” he wrote.

Others backing the deal are Carl Levin, a former Democratic senator from Michigan who retired last year and was a longtime leader on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and former Sen. John Warner, R-Va., another longtime Armed Services leader. Levin, who is Jewish and whose brother, Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., favors the deal, and Warner argued in a Politico op-ed Thursday that defense hawks should back the deal.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., this week became the first black Democrat to oppose the deal and say he would vote to reject it.

Israel’s ambassador the United States, Ron Dermer, has worked hard to repair relations with the Congressional Black Caucus. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 3 speech to Congress opposing the Iran deal, arranged with the Republican leadership without the knowledge of the Democratic leadership or the White House, drew the angriest responses from black lawmakers.

Ten Democrats in the House have said they will support a bill rejecting the deal. Opponents need at least 44 Democrats to override a veto.

Iran debate devolves with charges of ‘dual loyalty’ and ‘dog whistles’

The dredging up of the dual loyalty charge — that lawmakers who reject the Iran nuclear agreement and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is lobbying against it, are more closely aligned with Israel than the United States — illustrates just how tense the debate over the deal has become.

The charge came to the fore after Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the highest-ranking Jewish Democrat in the Senate, announced last week that he was opposing the deal reached July 14 between Iran and six world powers. A weekly cartoon on Daily Kos, a liberal website, depicted Schumer as a woodchuck, and in the course of a TV interview, the flag in the woodchuck’s office changes from American to Israeli and the moderator, a basset hound, calls Schumer a traitor. The cartoonist, Eric Lewis, has had drawings published in the New Yorker.

The cartoon has drawn outraged responses.

“There is room for a legitimate debate on the Iran deal, however charges” of disloyalty “against Senator Schumer — and any other members who articulate on fact-based but alternative views — are beyond inappropriate,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the new national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told the Times of Israel.

With most Republicans against the deal, Democrats have become the battleground — and Schumer has been under especially intense scrutiny. Congress has until late September to decide whether to reject the agreement.

The Democratic caucus generally defers to those within the party with the biggest stake in an issue, and traditionally has looked to its Jewish caucus, some 27 members, for leadership on Israel-related issues. Six have declared against the deal and 10 have declared for it. But Schumer’s coming out in opposition was seen as a watershed because he is line to succeed Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the party’s leader in the Senate who is retiring next year.

MoveOn, the liberal activist group, immediately launched a drive to defund Schumer, headlining one email to supporters, “Unbelievable. Schumer. War.” In an interview, Ilya Sheyman, MoveOn’s executive director, repudiated anti-Semitism in the debate, but said likening Schumer to those who want war was justified. Sheyman, who is Jewish, said Schumer’s Jewishness was not a factor in the MoveOn campaign.

“Part of the reason you’re seeing this is Chuck Schumer is the first and so far only Senate Democrat to come out against the deal and he is likely to be the next leader,” Sheyman said. (Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., has indicated he will oppose the deal but has yet to formally declare.) “Siding with those who would take us into another war in the Middle East is not a comfortable path to be on.”

AIPAC’s president, Robert Cohen, on Monday in an email to supporters pushed back against what he said were the Obama administration’s misrepresentations of his pro-Israel lobbying group’s policy.

The differences arose last week in an exchange between Lee Rosenberg, an Obama backer and a past AIPAC president, and Obama at a meeting the president convened with Jewish leaders at the White House. At the meeting, attendees said, Obama noted TV ads paid for by an affiliate of AIPAC, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, and appeared to conflate them with other ads that liken Obama to Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister widely seen as having appeased Hitler.

The CNFI ad addresses the substance of the deal and “does not single out the president in any way,” Cohen said in the email.

Online, some Obama critics lost no time in drawing a line between the Daily Kos cartoon and Obama’s rhetoric defending the deal.

“The president’s dog whistles are heard by the president’s dogs,” David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and now a senior editor at The Atlantic, tweeted.

A number of conservative commentators had already said that Obama was insinuating anti-Semitic tropes about dual loyalty in addresses he has delivered defending the deal.

Elliott Abrams, a deputy national security adviser under Bush who is now a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Obama in an Aug. 5 address at American University insinuated that AIPAC and other Jewish groups are counseling war with Iran.

Writing in the conservative Weekly Standard, Abrams quoted Obama from the speech: “Does anyone really doubt that the same voices now raised against this deal will be demanding that whoever is president bomb those nuclear facilities?” Obama asked.

“Who are these people who will be ‘demanding’ war?” Abrams wrote, and then said Obama was referring to AIPAC “and Jewish members of Congress like Chuck Schumer and Eliot Engel and Ted Deutch.”

Obama in his speech at American did say that “many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal.” Yet he also explicitly distinguished opponents whose skepticism for the deal stems from support for Israel from Republican partisans, whom he accused of beating the drums for war, and he expressed sympathy for the pro-Israel outlook.

“I do think it is important to acknowledge another more understandable motivation behind the opposition to this deal, or at least skepticism to this deal,” he said, “and that is a sincere affinity for our friend and ally Israel. An affinity that, as someone who has been a stalwart friend to Israel throughout my career, I deeply share.”

Notably, the distinction between pro-Israel and partisan Republican opposition to the deal came a day after the White House meeting with Jewish leaders. Those attending the meeting said Obama had agreed to make the distinction clear going forward.

Analysis: Chuck Schumer now the most important man in the world

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is one of two dozen Republicans racing for the White House, on Tuesday challenged Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who will become the Senate Democratic leader in 2017, to turn his back on President Barack Obama and help kill the Iran deal.

“Chuck Schumer is supposed to be the guardian of Israel. He goes around everywhere and says, ‘My name is Schumer. It means guardian of Israel,'” Graham said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“Well, if you care about Israel, you will not put her in this box,” Graham said. “If you care about the United States, you will not allow our chief antagonist to become a nuclear threshold nation guaranteed in nature with no restrictions for them to go beyond that.”

An aside: according to Ancestry.com, the roots of the name Schumer are in Middle Low German, a schumer is “good-for-nothing,” “vagabond.” But what’s in a name?

“The Iran drama is only beginning. Assuming that Obama can sell this deal to Congress — Chuck Schumer, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you,” Jeffrey Goldberg wrote Tuesday night. And he’s absolutely right.

Many Democrats in the Senate will be taking their cue from Schumer on the Iran deal. “He will be the canary in the coal mine,” writes Doug Bloomfield. “He will be watched for his dual roles as a party and Jewish leader – he has boasted of being Netanyahu’s best friend on Capitol Hill,” and he has close to 1.8 million Jewish constituents, the vast majority of whom love Israel and loath President Obama.

Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, signed into law by the president, directs the President, within five days after reaching an agreement with Iran regarding Iran’s nuclear program, to transmit to Congress the text of the agreement and all related materials and annexes and affidavits.

It also directs the Secretary of State to prepare a report assessing all the various relevant agencies’ capacity to verify Iran’s compliance with the agreement.

The foreign relations committees then hold hearings and briefings to review the deal for 60 days, ending sometime in the second week of September, 2015.

The Congress disapproves. It’s part of the law, as is the presidential veto that follows, it’s as if those guys were writing a screenplay:

The President may not remove the sanctions for:

12 days after the date of passage by both Houses of Congress of a congressional joint resolution of disapproval, and

10 days after the date of a presidential veto of a congressional joint resolution of disapproval passed by both Houses of Congress.

If Congress passes the resolution of disapproval with a veto-proof, two-thirds majority — then the sanctions cannot be lifted, the deal is dead.

That last part is the most crucial: can Congress beat a presidential veto? Possibly. But only if Chuck Schumer wants it. And for Schumer to want it means that the most prominent act of the next leader of the Senate Democrats would be to defeat a Democrat in the White House.

Not likely.

On the other hand, there are those 1.8 million New York Jews, and AIPAC, and Bibi…

This is what Schumer said in a statement he released on Tuesday:

“Over the coming days, I intend to go through this agreement with a fine-tooth comb, speak with administration officials, and hear from experts on all sides. I supported legislation ensuring that Congress would have time and space to review the deal, and now we must use it well. Supporting or opposing this agreement is not a decision to be made lightly, and I plan to carefully study the agreement before making an informed decision.”

It probably means he’ll take his time, and then take some more time, and then, over the rest of the summer, start leaking hints that this is the best deal we could hope for, and by the time Labor Day comes and goes, he’ll side with the President.

Meanwhile, the Administration will come up with ways to compensate the Israelis, and Schumer will be part of it. They’ll shmear and shmooze and promise and ply and bribe and become friends again. Because you have to.

And then Israel will have to figure out how to bomb the Iranian nuclear bunkers before the price becomes too high.

Jewish Democrats low key, grateful at second inauguration

The inaugural poem included a “shalom,” and three rabbis and a cantor attended the traditional next-day inaugural blessing. But the message that Jewish Democrats were most eager to convey during President Obama’s second inauguration on Jan. 21 was that the long romance between the community and the party was nowhere near over.

There was no big Jewish Obama inaugural ball this year — overall, celebrations were fewer and less ambitious than in 2009 — but in small discreet parties across Washington this week, Jewish Democrats breathed with relief that their candidate was re-elected and had a substantial majority among Jewish voters.

“It’s easy to forget, as it already seems a long time ago, but despite a profoundly negative campaign aimed at the president in our community, he overwhelmingly won the Jewish vote,” David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council, said in an interview.

Obama scored 68 percent to 70 percent of the Jewish vote in November’s presidential contest, according to exit polls, a slight decline from the 74 to 78 percent he won in 2008.

Republicans throughout the Obama presidency have made claims of a drift between the Democrats and what for decades has been a core and generous constituency. They have cited in particular Obama’s tense relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; according to a recent report, Obama has said repeatedly that “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.”

Yet Obama’s Jewish ties seem as deep as ever.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, emceed the inauguration ceremonies at the Capitol. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who has made a mantra of saying that the Democratic Party is the “natural political home for the Jews,” reassumed her position as Democratic National Committee chair on Jan. 22 at the committee’s winter meeting in Washington, D.C. Rabbi Amy Schwartzman of Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, Va., delivered an invocation at the event.

A few blocks away at the National Cathedral, four Jewish clergy participated in the presidential inaugural prayer service: Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the executive vice president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly; Rabbi Sharon Brous, the founder of the IKAR Jewish community in Los Angeles (related story on p. 22); and Cantor Mikhail Manevich of the Washington Hebrew Congregation, a Reform synagogue just blocks from the cathedral.

There were some hiccups: Muslim and Jewish clerics joined their Christian colleagues in a procession headed by ministers bearing aloft a crucifix. Brous substantially changed her prayer reading, which had been drafted by the cathedral, to make it more forthright. A genteel rebuffing of “favoritism” in her prepared text became a rebuke against “biases” in her delivered remarks.

The day before, when Obama fulfilled another time-honored inaugural tradition with a visit to historic St. John’s Church across the street from the White House, Rabbi David Saperstein, who directs the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, and Rabbi Jack Moline, who helms the Conservative Agudas Achim synagogue in Alexandria, Va., delivered readings.

Sixth and I, the historic synagogue in the city’s downtown, drew several hundred to a Shabbat service for government and campaign workers. Wasserman Schultz delivered a sermon, and although she avoided blatant partisanship, she described Democratic policy objectives — among them, access to health care and a reinforced safety net for the poor — as Jewish values.

Otherwise, the Jewish profile was low-key. NJDC, along with J Street, the liberal Jewish group that had made its hallmark the backing of Obama’s Middle East policies, hosted private parties, reflecting the overall subdued festivities. There were only two “official” balls this year, instead of 10, and 800,000 people poured into the capital, a million fewer than four years ago.

A Jewish official said that, similarly, there were fewer Jewish visitors to Washington this year, which likely drove the decision by the major Jewish groups not to repeat the ball at the Capital Hilton. In 2009, hundreds of Jewish Chicagoans were in Washington; this year there was not as much interest.

Instead, many celebrators dedicated themselves to service, in line with a call from the White House for such projects to be timed with Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The District of Columbia Jewish Community Center drew 25 volunteers to help refurbish two apartments for people transitioning from homelessness.

“Volunteering today was meaningful because service is very important to the president, and Martin Luther King is important to him,” said Erica Steen, the director of community engagement for the DCJCC.

J Street brought in 75 activists from across the country to distribute leaflets to passers-by asking them to urge Obama to make Middle East peacemaking a priority.

“Without strong U.S. leadership it won’t be resolved,” said Talia Ben Amy, a 26-year-old assistant editor from New York who was handing out literature near the National Mall.

Eran Sharon, a law graduate from the University of Texas at Austin who is on a fellowship with Jews United for Justice, was helping out at a homeless kitchen after the Sixth and I service. The second inauguration, he said, had brought on more of a sense of relief than exultation.

“It’s a new opportunity to finish the policies Obama has started,” said Sharon, 29. “Hopefully with less bickering with Congress.”

Obama in second inaugural speaks of a united America, U.S. involvement abroad

President Obama in his second inaugural address spoke of U.S. involvement throughout the world and Americans working together at home.

Obama was sworn in publicly for his second term at 11:50 a.m. Monday by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. Some 800,000 people reportedly thronged the area to witness the inauguration.

“America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation,” he said. “We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom.”

In his address, Obama focused on the promise of American democracy and all Americans working for the common good. He spoke of the allegiance to the Constitution and its promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

“Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time,” he said. “For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth.”

The president alluded to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on the day set aside in the United States to commemorate the slain human rights activist.

Obama said the U.S. “must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher.”

He called for a response to the threat of climate change, and praised the men and women who serve in the U.S. armed services. Obama also spoke of equality for women in the workplace and for gays.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the inaugural ceremonies chairman, opened the ceremony and introduced the participants.

Obama was sworn in officially on Sunday, the inauguration day mandated by the Constitution, in a private ceremony.

As the Hagel battle intensifies, Pentagon nominee gets key support from Jewish Dems

Even as critics intensify their efforts to depict him as unfit to protect the U.S.-Israel relationship, Chuck Hagel has convinced several of the most prominent Jewish Democratic lawmakers to endorse his nomination to lead the Pentagon.

Since rumors of his nomination first surfaced in December, opponents have argued to varying degrees that Hagel is anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic. At the center of many of the attacks has been his 2006 comment to an interviewer that the “Jewish lobby” intimidates many people in Washington.

In recent days, Hagel has secured endorsements from three of the most identifiably Jewish and pro-Israel Democratic lawmakers: U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), as well as U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

The endorsements follow several discussions with lawmakers during which Hagel is said to have expressed regret for the “Jewish lobby” comment. In those discussions, he also assured lawmakers that he is committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

“In our conversation, Sen. Hagel made a crystal-clear promise that he would do 'whatever it takes' to stop Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, including the use of military force,” Schumer said in a statement regarding his Monday meeting with Hagel. “He said his 'top priority' as Secretary of Defense would be the planning of military contingencies related to Iran.”

Obama’s formal nomination of Hagel on Jan. 7 only intensified the battle lines over the former Nebraska senator and Vietnam War hero.

That day, one of his most prominent critics, Elliott Abrams, told NPR that Hagel “appears to be” an anti-Semite. Less than a week later, on the Jan. 13 broadcast of “Meet the Press,” one of Hagel’s more prominent defenders, Colin Powell, called such attacks “disgraceful.”

Powell’s rejoinder was all the more extraordinary because he and Abrams were the top shapers of foreign policy in the George W. Bush administration — Powell as secretary of state in the first term and Abrams as the deputy national security adviser who took the lead on Middle East issues.

“When they go over the edge and say because Chuck said Jewish lobby he is anti-Semitic, that’s disgraceful,” Powell said. “We shouldn’t have that kind of language in our dialogue.”

There was little sign that the sharp exchanges would fade ahead of confirmation hearings likely to take place as early as next month. The Emergency Committee for Israel, a group that has consistently opposed Obama’s Israel policies and backed only GOP candidates, ran a full-page ad in The New York Times on Tuesday urging readers to call Schumer and the junior senator from New York, Kirsten Gillibrand, also a Democrat, and tell them not to confirm Hagel.

“Ask them to put country ahead of party,” the ad said.

The Zionist Organization of America and Christians United for Israel continue to advocate against Hagel on Capitol Hill and through social media. On Tuesday they were joined by one of the preeminent political action committees, NORPAC, which asked its activists to tell their senators that they oppose Hagel’s nomination.

Liberal Jewish groups such as Americans for Peace Now, J Street and the Israel Policy Forum have backed Hagel. Centrist groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee at one time seemed poised to fight the choice — but not now.

For example, in letters to Democratic senators before the formal nomination, AJC pressed them to urge Obama not to nominate Hagel. Since the nomination, however, the group has said it is 'concerned' but does not formally oppose the nomination.”

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee has not made any public statement on the matter, and Hill insiders say its officials also have been silent on Hagel in their private encounters. Josh Block, the former AIPAC spokesman who now runs The Israel Project, has been directing reporters to material critical of Hagel, but from his private email account.

Hagel, meanwhile, has barely granted any interviews — a JTA request is pending — but has reached out to top Jewish lawmakers to explain what appear to be past equivocations on Iran policy and to apologize for remarks in which he referred to an “intimidating” Jewish lobby.

Calling the term “Jewish lobby” a “very poor choice of words,” Hagel said in a letter to Boxer that “I used that terminology only once, in an interview. I recognize that this kind of language can be construed as anti-Israel.”

He delivered a similar apology over the phone last week to Wasserman Schultz, a flag bearer for Jewish causes among Democrats — it was her freshman legislation that in 2006 established Jewish Heritage Month.

“He realized some of the things he had said previously were offensive and inappropriate,” Wasserman Schultz told JTA.

Hagel already had the backing of two leading Jewish senators, Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif,), but insiders considered Schumer’s endorsement critical. Schumer has noted repeatedly to Jewish audiences that his name derives from the Hebrew word “shomer,” or guardian, and that he sees Israel’s security as his calling.

Boxer also is a go-to Jewish lawmaker — she was the lead on a bill last year that enhanced the U.S.-Israel security relationship.

“After speaking extensively with Sen. Hagel by phone last week and after receiving a detailed written response to my questions late today, I will support Sen. Hagel’s nomination as Secretary of Defense,” Boxer said in a release late Monday. “First and foremost, he has pledged without reservation to support President Obama’s polices — policies that I believe have made our world safer and our alliances stronger.”

Beyond his remarks regarding a “Jewish lobby,” the issues that had exercised Boxer and Wasserman Schultz — as well as some pro-Israel groups — had to do with Hagel's past skepticism of the efficacy of unilateral sanctions as a means of keeping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, as well as his wariness of a military option in the same case.

In his letter to Boxer, Hagel reiterated his preference for multilateral sanctions, noting his past support, but added that unilateral sanctions in some instances were “necessary.” He did not mention the possibility of a strike.

But Wasserman Schultz said that in her phone call with Hagel, “he said that all options should be on the table, including a military option.”

In both interactions, Hagel also noted his solid Senate record voting to fund defense assistance to Israel.

Wasserman Schultz pressed Hagel to explain why he had not signed a number of letters organized by the pro-Israel and Jewish communities, particularly an American Jewish Committee-backed letter in 1999 asking Russian Jewish President Boris Yeltsin to address the rise of violent anti-Semitism. The letter drew 99 signatories out of 100 senators; Hagel was the only one to pass.

The Florida lawmaker told JTA that she was satisfied with his response — that as a senator he preferred not to write foreign leaders, but over the years wrote Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to express his concern about anti-Semitism overseas.

Nonetheless, his insistence on standing apart apparently gave Wasserman Schultz pause.

“I told him, when it's 99 to 1, everybody can't be wrong,” she said.

Left untreated in Hagel’s interactions with Wasserman Schultz and Boxer was the hostile worldview that critics have said holistically underpin Hagel’s history with Israel and its supporters.

“This is not a mere choice of words,” wrote Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post’s conservative blogger, referring to Hagel’s apology to Boxer for using “Jewish lobby.”

“Hagel said that the Jewish lobby ‘intimidates’ lawmakers,” wrote Rubin, a mainstay of the effort to keep Hagel from the top defense post. “Which lawmakers? Was he intimidated?”

Hagel made the “Jewish lobby” comment in an interview with Aaron David Miller, the author and former U.S. peace negotiator. Hagel also told Miller in the same interview that he was an “American senator,” not an Israeli one.

In her JTA interview, Wasserman Schultz paused before answering whether she agreed with Hagel that the pro-Israel lobby intimidates. She repeated the question and then said, “In our conversation he expressed regret and was apologetic that the reference was hurtful.”

Boxer in a conference call said those who read imputations of disloyalty against pro-Israel groups into Hagel’s remarks “were reading too much.”

“I don't think he thinks people are less loyal,” she said, adding, “I don't agree with what he said; I was concerned with what he said.”

Boxer noted that Hagel's letter to her had arisen out of a conversation she had with Hagel. She thought it was important to get his thoughts in writing, and he agreed.

“He told me, if there's one thing in his life that he could take back, it's that,” the California senator said.

Writing to Boxer, Hagel did not precisely retreat from his impassioned comments in 2006, when he said during Israel’s war with Hezbollah that “extended military action is tearing Lebanon apart, killing innocent civilians, devastating its economy and infrastructure.”

Instead, he said that in that war, “Israel was defending itself” but added, “these attacks were not perpetrated by the Lebanese government, which remains an important partner to the United States.”

Senate amendment penalizing Palestinians for U.N. status does not pass

A U.S. Senate amendment that would have penalized Palestinians for seeking non-member state status at the United Nations was not attached to its intended law.

The National Defense Authorization Act, which was passed late Tuesday, did not include among its amendments one that would cut funding to the Palestinians should they use their upgraded U.N. status to seek charges against Israel in international courts. The amendment also would have shuttered the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington until the Palestinians returned to peace talks with Israel.

It was not clear why the amendment was not approved.

The amendment had been introduced by Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) on Nov. 29, the same day as the vote in the U.N. General Assembly enhancing the Palestinians' statehood status.

J Street, the liberal pro-Israel group, rallied against the amendment, with followers sending nearly 15,000 letters to senators and making close to a thousand calls.

Other amendments favored by pro-Israel groups passed, including one approving additional funding for Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system and one tightening Iran sanctions.

Vast Senate majority urges sanction of Iran’s central bank

Nearly the entire U.S. Senate has signed on to a letter urging the Obama administration to implement sanctions targeting Iran’s central bank.

“As you know, the Iranian regime continues to pursue avenues to circumvent both U.S. and multilateral sanctions,” says the letter to be sent Tuesday and first reported Sunday by The Wall Street Journal. “In the banking sector, the Central Bank of Iran lies at the center of Iran’s circumvention strategy.”

The letter, spearheaded by Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), has garnered signatures from more than 90 of the 100 senators.

Laws passed last year enable Obama to launch such sanctions, which would aim to cut Iran off from any banking sector that deals with U.S. markets.

The Obama administration already is sanctioning smaller banks that allegedly deal with Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.