September 22, 2019

Trump Announces Sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank

U.S. President Donald Trump and Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison wave to guests at the end of an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S. September 20, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

President Donald Trump announced new sanctions on Iran’s national bank on Sept. 20, touting them as the “highest sanctions ever imposed on a country.”

Speaking to reporters in the White House, Trump said the sanctions were in response to Iran’s support of terror throughout the Middle East. He added that Iran is “broke” and that he’ll use military action against Iran if necessary.

“Iran knows if they misbehave, they’re on borrowed time,” Trump said.

Treasury Department Secretary Steve Mnuchin condemned Iran’s Sept. 14 attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities as “unacceptable” in a Sept. 20 statement.

“Treasury’s action targets a crucial funding mechanism that the Iranian regime uses to support its terrorist network, including the Quds Force, Hezbollah and other militants that spread terror and destabilize the region,” Mnuchin said.

A Sept. 13 Fox News report stated that Iran’s pension funds are on the “brink of collapse” as a result of the Trump administration’s sanctions, noting that 17 of the country’s 18 pension funds are at a negative balance.

Israel’s New York Consul General Dani Dayan told Yahoo! Finance on Sept. 18 that the Israeli government supports the Trump administration’s policy of ramping up sanctions against Iran.

“Iran has less recourse to give to the proxy terrorists they support, to promote terrorism all over the world, to promote instability all over the world, to supply arms to Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations,” Dayan said.

Roy Cohn Documentary Reveals the Rise of President Trump

Roy Cohn; Photo by James Meehan, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Unlike the many biographical documentaries that celebrate notable individuals’ monumental achievements and contributions to culture or society, “Where’s My Roy Cohn?” has a liar, a cheat and an all-around despicable human being as the subject.

Cohn was a brilliant, ruthless lawyer who began his career witch-hunting Communists — many of them Jews like himself — as Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s chief counsel. He pushed for and obtained the death penalty for spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, despite lack of evidence. He crusaded against gays in government in the Army-McCarthy hearings, although he was a closeted homosexual — something he denied until the day he died of AIDS in 1986.

He conspired to get Ronald Reagan into office and keep Geraldine Ferraro out of it. He defended mafiosos including John Gotti and Carmine Galante, and defrauded clients, for which he eventually was disbarred. But most significantly, according to filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer, “Roy Cohn is the creator of Donald Trump.”

As the documentary depicts, Cohn met the young real estate developer in 1973 and became his adviser and mentor, teaching Trump how to hide evidence, destroy paper trails and always strike back with vehemence. Trump took those tenets all the way to the White House. Three decades after Cohn’s death, Cohn has left an indelible mark on U.S. politics. The film’s title is taken from an actual Trump quote.

In 2016, during the presidential election, Tyrnauer was making “54,” his documentary about the infamous New York disco Studio 54, at which Cohn frequently was photographed. Researching further, he was intrigued by the idea of the Cohn-Trump relationship, but never thought Trump would win the election. When it came to pass, he knew he had to tell the story.

 “Cohn did something no one has 

ever done, which is create a president from beyond the grave.”  — Matt Tyrnauer

 

“Cohn goes from being a very significant footnote in American history to being the Machiavelli of our time,” Tyrnauer told the Journal. “He was not afraid to transgress; break the law in the name of winning at all costs. When it came time to face whatever consequences caught up with him, he was willing to double down and hit back a hundred times harder, create diversions and rat out other people if necessary. He passed his philosophy on to Trump and gave him the methodology. Every day, you see Trump doing something that Cohn might have said or done 50 or 60 years ago. Cohn did something no one has ever done, which is create a president from beyond the grave.”

Tyrnauer knew he needed to make the movie quickly in order for a release during the 2020 election campaign process. “I believe that producing this film is a public service,” he said. “It’s not a movie about Donald Trump. But in another sense, every moment of it is about Donald Trump.” That said, he also wanted to explore other aspects of Cohn’s life and career, and emphasize the reach of Cohn’s influence “as the connector between the legitimate and illegitimate power structures of the United States — a less well-known story, but urgent to tell.”

Tyrnauer sought out rare archival footage, including obscure talk-show interviews featuring Cohn, and conducted interviews with journalists, historians and Cohn’s cousins. (Trump declined to talk.) He delves into Cohn’s family and upbringing to discover why an insecure, gay Jewish boy became so ashamed of his religion and sexual orientation that he targeted others like him. In the film, Cohn’s cousin calls Cohn “the definition of the self-hating Jew.”

Senator Joseph McCarthy covers the microphones with his hands while having a whispered discussion with his chief counsel Roy Cohn during a committee hearing, in Washington. Photo by Sony Pictures Classics; AP/REX/Shutterstock

“At the time, Judaism and Bolshevism were interchangeable, certainly in anti-Semitic circles,” Tyrnauer said. “Certain members of the Jewish community would compensate and say, ‘Not me. I’m not like those other Jews. I’ll show you how anti-Communist I am.’ Certainly, his role in the Rosenberg case raises a lot of questions. He denied the very essence of who he was, and it was not a victimless crime. He was a dangerous hypocrite, and the film does everything it can to call that out.”

Tyrnauer was raised in Los Angeles in a non-observant family of Ashkenazic Jews but considers himself an atheist. “My stepfather, who wasn’t Jewish and who I was very close with, was an atheist. I took after him,” he said. He also followed his stepfather, a producer of TV shows including “Columbo” and “The Virginian,” into the film world. 

Aside from “54,” Tyrnauer’s previous documentaries include “Valentino: The Last Emperor,” “Citizen Jane: Battle for the City” and “Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood.” Also a journalist, he was on the masthead for 25 years at Vanity Fair, where he wrote an article headlined “Once Upon a Time in Beverly Hills,” which he’s now adapting for a scripted feature with Amazon. He’s also working on a narrative adaptation of “Citizen Jane” and “Home,” an architecture-themed docuseries for Apple+ TV.

As for his current documentary, Tyrnauer imagines his subject would be flattered. “I think he might like it because in his playbook, there was no such thing as bad publicity,” he said. He hopes audiences see Cohn for what he was. “This film debunks anything positive about Cohn that a casual observer might have concluded or misconstrued. I also want audiences to understand what a demagogue is, and how very vulnerable our society is to a clever, sociopathic narcissist who achieves the position of extraordinary power. We all have to be vigilant, educated, aware and ready to act. I hope this film serves as a primer to the public and awakens the fires of recognition in as many people as possible.”

“Where’s My Roy Cohn?” opens Sept. 20 in theaters. 

Trump and Democrats Have Stake in ‘Bibi Primary’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media at the Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel December 4, 2018. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Long before the Iowa and New Hampshire voters go to the polls next year, the first primary of the 2020 presidential campaign is already upon us.

Call it the Bibi primary.

Given the internal divisions within their party over Israel and the Middle East, most of the Democratic primary candidates have decided that the best way to straddle the divide between traditional pro-Israel Democrats and the party’s newer wave of more confrontational anti-Zionists is to soft-pedal more substantive questions on settlements, Gaza and other security matters and to escalate the vitriol in their personal rhetoric against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself. Almost all of them go to great lengths to explain that their dissatisfaction with Netanyahu does not necessarily make them opponents of Israel, and that they would be eager to work with a more reasonable Israeli leader.

All of which is just fine unless Bibi is no longer Israel’s prime minister. If Netanyahu does not remain in power after the upcoming election, he is almost certain to be replaced by a like-minded successor on many of the issues that agitate Democratic activists. “Bibi-ism without Bibi” would leave the current policy disagreements between American liberals and Israeli conservatives firmly in place.

There might be a short-term window in which the Democratic candidates praise the new prime minister and express hope for what they consider a more productive working relationship. But the strong similarities between Netanyahu’s agenda and that of his successor will quickly close that window of goodwill, which will make it much harder for the candidates to continue to pacify their party’s base by demonizing yet another Israeli leader without either shifting leftward on substantive matters or risking the wrath of angry primary voters. Before too long, they will realize that the best political outcome for them would have been for Bibi remain in office so they can continue to vilify him personally while still proclaiming their support for a more accommodating — but hypothetical — alternative.

If Netanyahu does not remain in power, he is almost certain to be replaced by a like-minded successor.

On the other side of the aisle, it looks as though President Donald Trump is beginning to hedge his bets.

As recently as late August, there was fevered speculation in both countries about what type of last-minute surprise Trump would unveil to help his friend secure re-election. Perhaps Trump would endorse annexation of the West Bank, participate in a three-way security summit with Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin, or even return Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard to Israel.  But in stark contrast to his high-profile moves before the April vote designed to shore up Netanyahu’s support, Trump has been much more circumspect heading into the new elections.

The most notable interaction between Netanyahu and Trump recently has been the absence of interaction. It was widely reported that the Israeli prime minister was not even able to get Trump on the phone to try to convince him not to pursue a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly meeting. After Trump’s rebuff, Netanyahu appears to be resigned to have wistfully conceded that such a meeting would not be as bad as all that.

So Trump could still attempt to put his thumb — if not his fist — on the scale for Netanyahu. He could announce an enhanced security agreement or even an 11th-hour visit to Israel. But he seems less likely to invest as much of his own political capital in his old friend. Maybe he feels like he’s already done all he can to incrementally increase his own Jewish support and that other issues will be as valuable for motivating his religious conservative base. Or maybe Trump thinks he’s already won the Bibi primary — and that there’s nothing else in it for him to stand with his embattled ally.


Dan Schnur is a professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies and Pepperdine University. 

Bolton Fired from Trump Administration

FILE PHOTO: National Security Advisor John Bolton adjusts his glasses as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks while meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 2, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

White House National Security Adviser John Bolton was fired from his position on Sept. 9. President Donald Trump made the announcement in a couple of Sept 10 tweets.

Trump’s tweets read, “I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore…. I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week.”

Bolton contradicted Trump in a tweet that read, “I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow.’”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters in a Sept. 10 press conference, “When the president of the United States makes a decision like this, he’s well within his rights to do so.” He added that “Bolton and I had different views about how we should proceed” on various aspects of foreign policy.

Prior to working for the Trump administration, Bolton served as ambassador to the United Nations from 2005-6 as a recess appointment under President George W. Bush.

Congressman Tells IfNotNow the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Isn’t Black-And-White

Photo from Flickr.

An IfNotNow video posted on Aug. 26 shows Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) telling a couple of constituents during a Aug. 22 town hall that “everything is in shades of grey” when it comes to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

In the video, a constituent identified as Jonathan asked Schneider if he thinks “the occupation in the West Bank and Gaza is a human rights crisis.”

Schneider replied, “We’ll start with Gaza. Ariel Sharon pulled out of Gaza exactly 14 years ago, August of 2005.”

Jonathan then interjected that he “was just asking a yes or no question,” prompting Schneider to reply, “There is no yes or no here. Everything’s in shades of grey.”

The video later cuts to another constituent identified as Nathan asking Schneider how his position on United States-Israel relations differs from President Trump, given that Schneider praised Trump’s decision to move U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, his exit from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

“If you would talk to Israelis, if they think the U.S. should move its capital to Jerusalem, they would say ‘yes’,” Schneider said, “and not just the U.S., every country should move their embassy to the capital.”

“You represent American Jews, not Israelis,” Nathan replied.

“No, I represent the United States,” Schneider responded.

Israeli writer Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll tweeted, “Thank you @RepSchneider
for your integrity & refusal to be bullied by people who try to force others to respond to simplistic questions on a conflict affecting millions of people thousands of miles away. Well done.”

Others weighed in:

IfNotNow has encouraged boycotts of the Birthright trip to Israel because they don’t think it balanced enough toward the Palestinians. Canary Mission, a watchdog against anti-Semitism, published a July report stating that IfNotNow has been partnering with Americans for Muslims in Palestine, which Canary Mission says is “rife with anti-Semitism and terror support.”

Trump Doesn’t Understand American Jews’ Political Views

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the AMVETS (American Veterans) National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. U.S., August 21, 2019. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

Did President Donald Trump actually refer to American Jews as “a basket of deplorables”? Not quite. But as a reminder, it was approximately three years ago that Hillary Clinton used that phrase to disparage Trump supporters, arguing that many voters preparing to cast a ballot for her opponent were motivated by racism and sexism, introducing that phrase to the political lexicon.

When Trump recently castigated Jewish voters for their failure to reward him with their support, he used different language with which to level his criticism. Instead of calling Jews “deplorable,” he said that widespread Jewish backing of Democratic candidates demonstrated “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

Slightly more than 70% of American Jews voted for Clinton in the 2016 election. Using that number (and a thesaurus), Trump appears to believe more than two-thirds of Jewish voters in this country either are stupid or treasonous.

Specific word choice notwithstanding, that sounds pretty deplorable.

We’ve learned over the past few years that Trump divides the world into two groups: his loyal friends and his sworn enemies. He believes the phrase “a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty” applies to anyone who would stand in the way of his reelection. His thinking has less to do with anti-Semitism than an extraordinarily tribalist view of Earth’s population.

Trump divides people not just between allies and opponents, but heroes and villains. The result is a mindset that sees political campaigns as cataclysmic battles between the forces of good and evil. This mentality now dominates the thinking of both political parties (and means Joe Biden is either the last sane person in American politics or a hopelessly naïve relic of a bygone era).

Clinton’s insults in 2016 caused her tremendous political damage. Throughout her campaign, she had struggled to attract support from the white working-class voters who had been a critical part of the coalition that elected her husband and most other modern Democratic presidential candidates. The backlash to her remarks permanently put out of reach the large majority of those voters.

Trump’s challenge is a different one. Most of the American-Jewish community was permanently out of his reach even before his recent exercise in name-calling. But the frustration that led him to lash out is a familiar one. It reflects decades of erroneous Republican thinking when it comes to the political motivations of Jewish voters. For the better part of a generation, GOP politicians and strategists have believed their party’s strong record on issues relating to Israel and the Middle East would (or should) lead to increased levels of support from Jewish voters.

“For the better part of a generation, GOP politicians and strategists have believed their party’s strong record on issues relating to Israel and the Middle East would (or should) lead to increased levels of support from Jewish voters.”

But public-opinion polling over that time consistently has shown that most American Jews prioritize candidates’ domestic social and cultural policy agenda over their views on Israel. Trump made the same mistake Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and countless other Republican leaders have made in the past —just louder and more confrontationally.

The original targets of Trump’s attacks — Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) —– demonstrate the potential limits of that issue hierarchy with Jewish voters. Most American Jews prefer Democratic politicians, but not those who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement or who harbor the type of anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic sentiments Omar and Tlaib regularly express. Trump has devoted huge amounts of time and energy to highlighting the roles of these two women in the Democratic Party and attempting to force their colleagues into either standing with them or disavowing them. It’s a fairly standard campaign tactic — the same strategy Republicans have used, linking Nancy Pelosi with Democratic candidates in contested congressional races, and which Democrats employ in those same districts by invoking Trump.

The difference is that Trump didn’t just insult his political opponents. Just as Clinton did during her presidential campaign, he expanded his attacks to the voters themselves, which is much more dangerous.

Just as the majority of Trump’s supporters are neither racist nor sexist, most American Jews possess abundant amounts of both knowledge and loyalty. In both cases, suggesting otherwise is downright deplorable.


Dan Schnur is a professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies and Pepperdine University.

Rep. Nadler Calls Out Trump Over Disloyalty Remarks, Omar and Tlaib Over ‘Vile’ Cartoon

FILE PHOTO: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) holds a news conference to discuss the Committee's oversight agenda following the Mueller Hearing in Washington, U.S. July 26, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) condemned President Donald Trump’s “disloyalty” remarks as well as Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) for sharing a “vile” cartoon.

The Aug. 22 tweet reads, “The growing anti-Semitism in our political dialogue is repugnant. @realdonaldtrump’s comments about disloyalty are a vicious and dangerous anti-Semitic trope. And the Carlos Latuff cartoon forwarded by @RepRashida and @Ilhan can surely be read for its vile underlying message.”

Nadler received praise from both sides of the political aisle:

Trump accused Jews who vote for the Democratic Party of being “disloyal” to Israel on Aug. 20 and 21; Tlaib and Omar both shared a cartoon on their Aug. 16 Instagram stories showing Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu putting their hands over Omar and Tlaib’s mouths, respectively. The author of the cartoon, Carlos Latuff, placed in second in Iran’s 2006 International Holocaust Cartoon Contest. Both have received condemnation from myriad Jewish groups.

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.

The Truth About Israel and the Democrats

U.S. Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) react as they discuss travel restrictions to Palestine and Israel during a news conference at the Minnesota State Capitol Building in St Paul, Minnesota, August 19, 2019. REUTERS/Caroline Yang

In the past week, I found myself in a minority. Well, I can’t be certain that this was really a minority, because that depends on the question of a minority among whom — Israelis? Columnists? Experts? No matter, for a few days, it surely felt like a minority. News organizations, including the Journal, published articles denouncing Israel for not letting two U.S. congresswomen enter the country. And I thought: Way to go, Israel. 

Of course, being on the receiving end of denunciation is never pleasant. And yet, Israel made the right, if belated, choice. It should have said at the outset that Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) are not welcome. It should have presented at the outset the Democratic Party with a dilemma: Do you support Omar and Tlaib — or Israel? 

To me, this seems like an easy one, but in today’s world, and today’s America, maybe it’s not. Israel has a problem with the Democratic Party. This is not a new problem. Party voters are moving left. The move to the left is manifested in many ways, including less support for Israel. Obviously, an incident like the one with Omar and Tlaib will make it easier for the party’s left-wing to hammer Israel a little more, putting its centrist wing in a defensive position. Obviously, the incident will further erode Israel’s ability to communicate with voters, and perhaps with some elected officials, in the Democratic Party. 

On the other hand, there should be no illusion: Had the visit taken place, it would not necessarily improve Israel’s situation. Omar and Tlaib are a cunning duo, and their visit’s aim was to further erode support for Israel. It’s not inconceivable to imagine scenarios that would make the visit even more harmful than the ban.

“Democratic Party leaders can’t argue that Israel alone is responsible for souring the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Why is the Democratic Party upset with Israel? It is customary to blame Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for recent erosion in the party’s stance. And indeed, he bears some of the blame. But the attempts to claim that he is the sole culprit are ridiculous. When Ehud Olmert was Israel’s prime minister — the Olmert of concessions and peace negotiations — the Democrats also weren’t always happy. You know why? Because of his close relationship with a Republican president. Here is an April 2007 quote from veteran reporter Nathan Gutman: “Democrats are still angry about what they see as Olmert’s desperate attempts to align himself with President [George W.] Bush even if it means wading into American political controversies.” Sound familiar? It is familiar. Democratic leaders are never happy when an Israeli prime minister befriends a Republican president. 

One of Netanyahu’s problems is the optics of what he does. For eight years, he had adversarial relations with a Democratic president. So Democratic voters must think: Gee, this guy only gets along with Republicans. But the truth is much more boring. Netanyahu had little choice but to oppose President Barack Obama. He opposed him for the same reason former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, not quite a Netanyahu ally, called Obama’s secretary of state, John Kerry, “messianic and obsessive.” He opposed him for the same reason Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, not a great Netanyahu supporter, worried that “in the past, the United States has seen Israel as a strategic asset in the Middle East beyond moral commitment. It is currently unclear what the White House’s position is.” 

Enter Trump. A president who moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and recognized Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights. Obviously, there is a considerable gap between Israel’s cool attitude toward Obama and the warm and sympathetic attitude toward Trump. This is not because one is a Republican and one is a Democrat, but because Israel prefers sympathetic presidents.

The ban on Omar and Tlaib does not have to damage Israel’s relations with the Democratic Party. In fact, what happens next is for Democratic leaders to decide. They can choose to understand that Israel made a reasonable choice. They can choose to disagree with Israel and move on. They also can choose to further damage the relationship. What they can’t do is argue that Israel alone is responsible for souring the relationship.


Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain at jewishjournal.com/rosnersdomain.

Poem: Oath of Disloyalty

I am a disloyal Jew.

I am not loyal to a political party.
Nor will I be loyal to dictators and mad kings.
I am not loyal to walls or cages.
I am not loyal to taunts or tweets.
I am not loyal to hatred, to Jew-baiting, to the gloating connivings of white supremacy.

I am a disloyal Jew.
I am not loyal to any foreign power.
Nor to abuse of power at home.
I am not loyal to a legacy of conquest, erasure and exploitation
I am not loyal to stories that tell me whom I should hate.

I am a loyal Jew.
I am loyal to the inconveniences of kindness.
I am loyal to the dream of justice.
I am loyal to this suffering Earth
And to all life.
I am not loyal to any founding fathers.
But I am loyal to the children who will come
And to the quality of world we leave them.
I am not loyal to what America has become.
But to what America could be.
I am loyal to Emma Lazarus. To huddled masses.
To freedom and welcome,
Holiness, hope and love.


Reb Irwin Keller lives in Sonoma County California and is a student member of Ohalah, the Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal. Learn more about his website here. 

Trump Defends ‘Disloyalty’ Remarks, Says Jews Who Vote Democrat Are ‘Disloyal’ to Israel

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the AMVETS (American Veterans) National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. U.S., August 21, 2019. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

President Donald Trump doubled down on his “disloyalty” remarks on Aug. 21, telling reporters that he thought that Jews who vote for Democrats are “disloyal” to Israel.

A reporter asked Trump in the White House lawn if he thinks Democrat Jews aren’t loyal to Israel, Trump responded, “Oh I say so, yeah.” The reporter then asked Trump is that was an anti-Semitic sentiment, prompting Trump to reply, “It’s only anti-Semitic in your head.”

He added that Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) “are so bad for Israel. They are so bad for Jewish people. You take a look at the horrible anti-Semitic statements that they made, you take a look at what they want to do Israel, take a look at the fact that they want aid – all of the aid, almost $4 billion – all of the aid cut from Israel… the Democrats, they have to own it.”

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted, “.@POTUS made it clear he thinks Jews have a dual loyalty to Israel. This #antiSemitic trope has been used to persecute Jews for centuries & it’s unacceptable to promote it. He should apologize immediately.”

American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris similarly tweeted, “Dear @POTUS, Please stop. American Jews are [American] citizens, period. Why are you raising issues about loyalties? This is toxic & has a very dark history. Many of us care deeply about Israel’s well-being. But that’s a far cry from suggesting allegiance to another nation.”

Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted out a comment from conservative talk show host Wayne Allyn Root saying that “the Jewish people in Israel love [Trump] like’s the King of Israel.”

Simon Wiesenthal Center Founder and Dean Rabbi Marvin Hier and Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda Rabbi Abraham Cooper said in an Aug. 21 statement, “We believe that since 1948 the overwhelming majority of American Jews, irrespective of party affiliation, unequivocally support the State of Israel. We also affirm that this bipartisan support is absolutely essential to the future well being and security of the Jewish State. To say otherwise, and depend only on one party, particularly in these turbulent times of increased hate and anti-Semitism, only weakens and divides the most important Jewish community in the Diaspora.”

CA Man’s Poem on Trump’s ‘Disloyal Jew’ Comment Picks Up Following

On the morning of Aug. 21, Reb Irwin Keller woke up with poetry in his head.

“I grabbed my phone and started dictating. I then checked online to see what creative responses had emerged, and I didn’t see any,” Keller said to the Journal via email. “So I cleaned up a few lines and just posted it. It barely felt like it came from me; it felt like it came through me, including lines emerging right from my dreams.”

This poem was in direct reference to President Donald Trump saying that Jews who vote for the Democratic Party have “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty” on Aug. 20.

“I felt a strong call to put words to my feelings about the president’s comment,” Keller said. “I know in some ways it is not a good use of time to respond to every affront that issues from him. But this one hit hard. It was an invitation for white nationalists to act on their hatred of Jews. It was a provocation to divide Jews from each other and from our natural allies in the US, which includes the Muslim community. And hearing a presidential invitation to Anti-Semitism, complete with the old trope of Jewish split loyalties was haunting. It chilled my heart.”

In a few short hours, his poem had picked up momentum, being shared throughout online Jewish communities all around the country.

“When it instantly started traveling the internet, I realized I was hitting a nerve, tapping into something Jews were feeling deeply. Something about being manipulated, used, and targeted. A lot of our Jewish justice work has been empathetic – that is, we are protecting the rights of others because it’s our duty and our privilege. But this was such a dirty thing, aimed right at us. I felt people waking up who hadn’t previously had words.”

Read his poem below:

I am a disloyal Jew.

I am not loyal to a political party.
Nor will I be loyal to dictators and mad kings.
I am not loyal to walls or cages.
I am not loyal to taunts or tweets.
I am not loyal to hatred, to Jew-baiting, to the gloating connivings of white supremacy.

I am a disloyal Jew.
I am not loyal to any foreign power.
Nor to abuse of power at home.
I am not loyal to a legacy of conquest, erasure and exploitation
I am not loyal to stories that tell me whom I should hate.

I am a loyal Jew.
I am loyal to the inconveniences of kindness.
I am loyal to the dream of justice.
I am loyal to this suffering Earth
And to all life.
I am not loyal to any founding fathers.
But I am loyal to the children who will come
And to the quality of world we leave them.
I am not loyal to what America has become.
But to what America could be.
I am loyal to Emma Lazarus. To huddled masses.
To freedom and welcome,
Holiness, hope and love.


Reb Irwin Keller lives in Sonoma County California and is a student member of Ohalah, the Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal. Learn more about his website here. 

Israel Was Justified in Barring Omar and Tlaib

U.S. President Donald Trump, U.S. Congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are seen in a combination from file photos. REUTERS/File Photos

Editor’s Note: This is part of a two-opinion analysis on Israel’s decision to ban United States Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). For the other view, click here. 

A great uproar followed Israel’s decision to bar United States Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from entering the country. However, the government made the right decision, as it was following a law adopted by Israel’s democratically elected legislature and because the congresswomen made it clear they were intent on turning their visit into an anti-Israel propaganda show.

It is an American principle that no one is above the law, yet critics expected Israel to ignore its law banning supporters of the anti-Semitic boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement to accommodate the two congresswomen. The U.S. did not look the other way or make exceptions when it barred Irish politician Gerry Adams, U.N. Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim and celebrities such as singer-songwriter Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens) from entering our country. In fact, the Obama administration banned a member of Israel’s Knesset from coming here in 2012.

Had Omar and Tlaib gone to Israel on a fact-finding trip (the purpose of most congressional visits), that would have been in keeping with tradition. However, they made a political statement before they left, drafting an itinerary titled “U.S. Congressional Delegation to Palestine.” There is no state of “Palestine”; there is only the Palestinian Authority. This is coded language used by people who support the Palestinians’ desire to replace Israel with a Palestinian state. It also was inflammatory because Omar and Tlaib planned to visit the Old City of Jerusalem, which is not in “Palestine” — it is the capital of Israel.

The two politicians were not interested in visiting other parts of Israel or speaking to Israeli officials. Omar said, “The goal of our trip was to witness firsthand what is happening on the ground in Palestine.” If they had a genuine desire to learn about Israel from Israelis, both Jewish and Muslim, as well as to visit with Palestinians, they could have joined the record number of Democrats who traveled together on a fact-finding mission just days before.

Even after seeing the itinerary and knowing her support for the terrorist-allied BDS movement, which seeks Israel’s destruction, the government was prepared to let Tlaib enter the country. She sent a letter to Israel’s interior minister, asking to be allowed to visit her 90-year-old grandmother because “this might be my last opportunity to see her,” and agreeing to any Israeli restrictions.

Minister Aryeh Deri granted her request, but Tlaib subsequently changed her mind and turned down the invitation, tweeting, “I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in — fighting against racism, oppression and injustice.”

Talk about hypocrisy. As Deri said, “Apparently, her hate for Israel outweighs her love for her grandmother.” Yet, Israel was pilloried for not welcoming a woman with such utter contempt for the Jewish state, not to mention her history of anti-Semitic remarks, including her accusations that American Jews have dual loyalty — the old, vile canard, perhaps the most trafficked of all anti-Semitic tropes.

It is an American principle that no one is above the law, yet critics expected Israel to ignore its law banning supporters of the anti-Semitic boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement to accommodate the two congresswomen.

Tlaib still can visit her grandmother in the future if she changes her mind. She also could have visited her grandmother before she declared her support for the BDS movement. Why Tlaib did not visit her elderly grandmother over the last decade is none of my business, except as it pertains to how she uses her grandmother as a cudgel with which to browbeat Israel.

After complaining about being persecuted for her beliefs, Tlaib had the chutzpah to call for a boycott of comedian Bill Maher, who, accurately if overly colorfully, called BDS “a bull—- purity test by people who want to appear woke but actually slept through history class.” He observed that BDS supporters seem to believe because “Palestinians are browner” than the mostly white Israelis, “they must be innocent and correct, and the Jews must be wrong.”

He also highlighted the absurdity of their belief that “occupation came right out of the blue, that these completely peaceful people found themselves occupied.” For Tlaib, such objectionable speech should be punished by a boycott. This is a hallmark of BDS supporters: the belief they have freedom of speech but anyone who dares criticize them does not.

In addition to hypocrisy, the congresswomen continue to engage in slander against Israel. Omar accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of instituting a “Muslim ban.” Tlaib and Omar are not the first people, or even the first parliamentarians, to be barred from entering Israel. For example, two French politicians were denied entry because of their support for BDS. Perhaps if Omar had gone to Israel, she could have met with some of the more than 1 million Muslims who are citizens of Israel and enjoy full civil rights, unlike Muslims (and Christians) who live under the dictatorial rule of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Like other BDS supporters, Omar and Tlaib are myopic when it comes to civil rights. Hence, they are silent, for example, after the Palestinian Authority announced this week it was banning members of the Palestinian LGBTQ community from engaging in any activities in the West Bank. This was especially ironic given Tlaib’s tweet the same day about her “allies” in the LGBTQ community.

I also don’t buy the argument that Israel’s decision has divided Democrats and made Israel a partisan issue. Just before this balagan erupted, the House voted 398-17 to approve a resolution opposing BDS; only 16 Democrats opposed it. Also, a record 41 Democrats went on the Israel trip Omar and Tlaib shunned. If anyone turned Israel into a partisan issue, it was President Barack Obama, who twisted the arms of Democrats to vote for his catastrophic Iran nuclear deal that legitimized an abominable government sworn to a second Holocaust and that gave $150 billion to the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism.

This latest incident, along with President Donald Trump’s focus on the four progressive congresswomen known as “the squad,” has put Democrats in the uncomfortable position of feeling the need to defend Omar and Tlaib. They clearly are embarrassed by the congresswomen and have emphasized the politicians are just two votes in a chamber that continues to overwhelmingly support Israel.

In contrast to some of my Jewish friends, I do not believe banning Omar and Tlaib strengthened the BDS movement because BDS received its 15 minutes of fame. People quickly will view this incident in its proper context. Two hate-filled members of Congress with an irrational loathing of the Jewish state were denied entry because they joined a movement that seeks Israel’s destruction. BDS leaders make no secret of this goal. As professor and BDS supporter As’ad AbuKhalil has said, “The real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel.” Who said that Israel is obligated to invite people into the country who seek its annihilation?

Yes, the ban provoked some bad press, but for Israel, it is much more important that BDS supporters be kept out of the country, where they can do far less damage than if they were allowed to attack the legitimacy of Israel from within.

After 2,000 years of anti-Semitism and just 75 years after the Holocaust, it’s time for the Jewish people to stop the slow creep of anti-Semitism from the moment it rears its ugly head. And being a member of Congress does not provide license to hate the Jewish people and seek the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state.


Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the author of 33 books, including “Kosher Sex,” “Kosher Adultery,” and “Lust for Love,” co-authored with Pamela Anderson. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RabbiShmuley.

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.

Three Things to Consider About the Decision to Bar Omar and Tlaib

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) leaves the U.S. Senate chamber and walks back to the House of Representatives side of the Capitol with colleagues after watching the failure of both competing Republican and Democratic proposals to end the partial government shutdown in back to back votes on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 24, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Israel on Aug. 15 denied Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) entry into the country hours after President Donald Trump publicly urged Israel to block their visit.

Consider the following three things as you take a deep breath to ponder Israel’s decision to block the two congresswomen from entering the country.

1. The visit was a well-planned trap: Either Israel allows the congresswomen to enter, exposing itself to a barrage of criticism (live broadcast from Jerusalem!), or it prevents the congresswomen from entering, exposing itself to, well, a barrage of criticism. Because this is lose-lose situation, no decision would make everybody happy.

2. Israel had to consider which of the two bad options is more dangerous. Literally —  dangerous. Having the representatives in Jerusalem could incite violence. In fact, it is not unreasonable to assume that they would seek to create clashes in order to prove a point (Israel is brutal, Israel’s police are violent, etc.).

3. Israel also had to consider the damage if it refused to let in the representatives. Possible answer: The damage wouldn’t be great. Those who already dislike Israel will have even more reasons to dislike it. Others will hopefully understand why the ban was necessary. Many think Tlaib and Omar are provocateurs who want to make trouble.

So here is the basic question for observers of this drama: Is Israel obligated to allow provocation by outsiders on its soil? Reverse the question: Imagine these were two Israeli legislators wanting to stir chaos and violence on American soil, and you might have an answer.

The pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee indicated it opposed the ban.

“We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib’s support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep. Tlaib’s calls for a one-state solution. We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand,” AIPAC tweeted on Aug. 15.

Some critics of the president said his move was part of a strategy to divide the Democratic Party. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the move “deeply disappointing.”

Finding Love in the Era of Hate

I have a friend who hates President Donald Trump. But when he looks at the policies of some Democratic candidates — like open borders, abolishing ICE, Medicare for all, etc. — he says, “I think I hate this even more.”

In other words, he may hate Trump, but he hates leftist policies a little more.

I have another friend who loves Israel, and who would have celebrated the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem had President Barack Obama ordered it. But he hates Trump so much that he came up with reasons to dislike the move.

He loves Israel, but he hates Trump a little more.

I knew people who hated Obama so much they could never give him any credit for anything good he did, even if they knew it was good. The examples go on.

We’re living at a time when we’re being defined not by what we love, but by what we hate. I hear of families and friendships breaking up over someone’s politics. Hey, I love you, but I hate your politics even more. So please stay away.

What has happened to us? How did we allow our hates to trump our loves? And what is it about hate that is so intoxicating? Isn’t love supposed to be humanity’s aphrodisiac? Didn’t the Beatles tell us that “All You Need is Love”?

I suppose we’re wired to fear things we hate more than to seek things we love. That tiger that ran toward our cavemen ancestors took priority over those juicy berries waiting to be picked.

We’re living at a time when we’re being defined not by what we love, but by what we hate.

Today, it’s as if we’re all seeing tigers ready to devour us. And when something wants to devour us, how can we not fear it and hate it? Our love for berries can wait.

This is the condition of modern-day America: We’ve put love on hold. With perceived threats coming at us from all sides, fear and hate have won the day.

“It would not be much of a stretch to say that ‘hate’ is almost always the lead story on the evening news, and the demonization of others who do not share our view of the world is the driving force behind most of the human suffering that we visit upon each other on a daily basis,” wrote professor Frank T. McAndrew in the July 2016 issue of Psychology Today.

A key factor behind this hatefest, according to McAndrew, is “the ease with which we put people into categories.” In this line of thinking, “We see our own group’s moral values as more desirable and as superior to those of others. This proclivity can be amplified and magnified by religious ideologies that convince us that God is on our side.” 

But isn’t God supposed to be on the side of love? That has become a quaint notion. Religious values today are easily interchanged with political values and are used to cut out anyone with whom we disagree. If you don’t share my deeply held values, I want nothing to do with you. I love you, but I hate your values a little more.

We can fight hate pollution by putting more love in the air — not just love for our cherished causes but love for our families, our neighbors, our community, our cranky uncles and, yes, our imperfect country.

The media’s bias for a good fight and the explosion of social media outlets like Twitter have magnified our worst instincts. Because we don’t have to face one another anymore, we can hide in our cozy bunkers as we unleash our digital darts on those we cannot stand.

I get that most of our community abhors Trump, and that we all have a tendency to dislike anyone who doesn’t vote like us. And I get that we are living through uniquely divisive, corrosive and alarming times when emotions like anger and hate are often inevitable. 

But isn’t it still a sad development for society when hate and rage have conquered love? Even when it is justified, hate has no business being more powerful than love. We can’t allow our fear of tigers — imaginary or real — to paralyze us with dread while our hearts burn with rage.

Love needs to make a comeback, even in these crazy times, especially in these crazy times. Our rabbis and leaders can show us the way. We don’t have to love everybody, but we can act more lovingly. We can fight hate pollution by putting more love in the air — not just love for our cherished causes but love for our families, our neighbors, our community, our cranky uncles and, yes, our imperfect country.

Love is more than a feeling, it’s also an attitude, a way of approaching life’s conflicts. A resentful attitude makes everything worse; a loving attitude makes a complicated life worth living.

Regardless of which political side you’re on, let’s put animosity back in its place and a little love back in our hearts.

Report: Iran Hoping Trump Loses in 2020 Election

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

A Switzerland intelligence report revealed that the Iranian regime is hoping President Donald Trump will lose in 2020, citing the Trump administration’s sanctions posed on the regime.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the Switzerland Intelligence Service of the Federation report stated that Iran will stay in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that Trump exited from in May 2018 “and wait for a new administration in Washington.” The report noted that the United States sanctions against Iran have been “strong” because “international companies have virtually no choice but to withdraw from doing business with Iran.”

The report also said that “Iran will continue its efforts to improve the precision of its longer range missiles” and “continue to support anti-Israeli forces in the region, albeit with much less financial commitment.”

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have escalated recently, as in June, Iran seized a couple of oil British oil tankers and shot down a U.S. drone.

Foundation for the Defense of Democracies Senior Fellow John Hannah argued in a May 31 Foreign Policy piece that the downward spiral of Iran’s economy due to U.S. sanctions suggests that the regime might not be able to wait out Trump.

“The Iranian economy was already forecast to shrink by up to 6 percent in 2019, with inflation raging and the currency having lost almost two-thirds of its value,” Hannah wrote. “The U.S. push to end all oil sales now threatens to tip the economy into a death spiral unlike any the regime has experienced before—and all at a time when by many accounts its legitimacy in the eyes of the Iranian people has eroded substantially.”

Hannah added that Iran’s recent aggression is due to the regime attempting the U.S. cease its “maximum pressure campaign” against Iran. If Iran fails in this regard then “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will face an excruciating choice: either revert to a policy of trying to ride out the ever-intensifying U.S. economic tsunami that threatens to damage his regime, perhaps even fatally, or swallow hard, lose some face, and figure out a way to take Trump up on his repeated offers to open negotiations,” Hannah argued.

President Trump and the Meaning of Personal Penitence

President Donald Trump’s reactions to the recent massacre by a white nationalist in El Paso came to mind the other night at my local minyan. Whenever I’m there, I teach a short lesson between minchah (the afternoon service) and ma’ariv (the evening service). We are proceeding, one paragraph at a time, through Maimonides’ Laws of Repentance. Our pace might or might not put us on target to finish around the High Holy Days in October. We are now in the second chapter, which moves from a Temple-oriented conception of atonement to a conception of repentance much more focused on the actions of the individual penitent. The first chapter is built around the notion of sacrifices and atonement — and ultimately the scapegoat that carries off the sins of Israel — though admittedly, the rationalist Maimonides works hard to minimize the almost magical power of the scapegoat and sacrifices, and insinuates personal penitence into the equation. 

In the second chapter, the focus is completely on personal penitence. It begins with a definition of what “complete repentance” is, and moves on to the parts of the process of repentance and the attitude and practice of the penitent. In the third paragraph of the chapter, Maimonides excoriates one who confesses a sin but does not cease committing that sin. He uses a rabbinic analogy to explain the deep problem of confessing a sinful practice that one has no intention of abandoning. Maimonides says it’s like one who bathes in a mikveh / a ritual bath while holding a sheretz / a creature which holds peak impurity. A sheretz and a corpse are equally impure. They are both called the “aboriginal impurity.” One who bathes in a mikveh while still grasping a sheretz is using a practice of purity for its performative value while essentially missing the point. The person is still impure. So too is the “penitent” who performs the confessional act of repentance with no intention of ceasing their bad behavior. That person has performed penitence in the worst way, while not having reformed at all.

As if on cue, the events of the day supplied me with a perfect example of how this would look in real life. After the massacre in El Paso, carried out by a white nationalist whose manifesto echoed much of the rhetoric of the Trump campaign and Trump himself over the last months and years — invasion, infestation, criminals and on and on—Trump made a public statement decrying racism. If one had been asleep for the last two years, one would be excused for thinking that the president was actually denouncing racism and white nationalism. 

However, the sheretz never left his hand. Almost immediately after his on-script performance of the speech in which he denounced the racism and violence he himself has incited—a speech in which he sounded somewhat like a political prisoner reading a list of his imperialist crimes at gunpoint—Trump again equivocated in his condemnation of right wing extremists. He was against all extremists. Those who massacre people and also those who try to stop those who want to massacre people. 

Maimonides cites a verse as a source of his view: “He who covers up his faults will not succeed; He who confesses and gives them up will find mercy.” Proverbs 28:13. The word translated as faults is the Hebrew word pesha, which in modern Hebrew means crimes. Maimonides is reading the second half of this verse as saying that only one who confesses and gives up his bad deeds will find mercy. Trump has obviously not done this. Coincidentally, the first half of the verse seems to be also prophesying about the president. To which we can only add: Speedily and in our days.


Aryeh Cohen is rabbi-in-residence for Bend the Arc: Jewish Action in Southern California and Professor of rabbinic literature at the American Jewish University. 

Horrific Fallout of Destructive Rhetoric

Mourners taking part in a vigil at El Paso High School after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. REUTERS/Jose Luis

First I want to express my condolences to the many families who have experienced great loss this last 24 hours. One minute your family is whole, the next it is torn apart. This is a horrific and sad moment in our history. These many events, far too many over these years since Donald Trump became President, are part of our reality. I find myself continually outraged living through this presidency. Clearly, that lets you know my politics. Yes, I am a Democrat (and proud of it) and will relish the moment Donald Trump leaves the White House, G-d willing in 2021, if not then for sure in 2024, even if they have to literally drag him kicking.

This man, in my estimation, is one of the vilest human beings I have had the unfortunate experience to have to watch and listen to as his narcissistic, attention-getting, and petulant behavior and language smother us from every form of communication – TV, internet, twitter, newspaper, etc. Not only does he seem to suffer from what many psychiatrists would label as a personality disorder, but his continual expression of hate-filled, xenophobic, racist rhetoric, reflecting clearly prejudiced views against people of color, immigrants, those living in poor neighborhoods, women who don’t meet his standards of physical appearance, as well as political leaders and opponents who do not praise him, etc. have a powerful influence on the many already white supremacists who have held such hateful attitudes for a long time. Now they have permission and support to act out on their deep-seeded prejudices.

His most recent rantings against men and women of color, telling them either they govern in vermin-infested communities (such as Chairman Cummings) or that they should return to ‘sh—hole’ countries from where they originate fills the airways with such darkness and creates a climate that is unsettling and unsafe. The man who is a pathological liar and has a history of cheating the many people who have worked for him, believes that his restricted world-view,  the importance of ‘money and power,’ will insulate him from paying any price for his behavior. Like the ‘Emperor’s new clothes,’ he prances around convincing himself and many of those around him (like the cowardly Republicans who never call him out), that he is someone he is not. We see him for who he is – a coward who wants to hide in the America of the past when the Afro-American community was segregated, when women lived to serve their husbands and do the bidding of their bosses, when the Klu Klux Klan ran rampant asserting their White supremacy, and when men like McCarthy, could punish what he considered Anti-American sentiment, impacting Jews, Homosexuals, Communists and Socialists, and particularly the Hollywood community.

The latest shootings are part of the ongoing outrage his followers feel they have the right to act out. The confusion between the right to free speech, right to bare arms and the unconscionable destruction of human lives using army equipment needs attention by our government. They need to act to help limit and set controls to what is a chaotic and destructive reality we all have to live with. Our children go to school in fear and the rest of us have to wonder whether the mall, the theater, the park, or even the street is a safe place anymore. The last time I was in Las Vegas I took note that the long main-street walkway is now lined with large bumper protections I am assuming from hateful drivers running down pedestrians. 

His promise to his followers to drain the swamp is a joke. He has more swamp creatures running various departments, for the most part, people of great wealth who don’t identify with the rest of the country. The irony is he promised to help breath new life and jobs into so many who followed him and basically rewarded those of wealth, even boasting at Mar Lago how rich he made them, at the expense of so many of us who struggle to pay our bills and maintain a middle-class life-style. He has convinced this country that the White House has spread its ‘borders’ as far as Florida so he can frequent Mar Lago and play more golf than any president in history. I can’t even imagine how much of our own tax dollars cover the cost for travel and security for him, and his family, so that he can live the charmed life no other president has ever lived while in office. It is shameful and outrageous, not to mention his deficit spending, which is exactly the opposite of what he promised when he ran for office. As a businessman he was always willing to go into debt, invariably losing properties and casinos. His outrageous spending could deficit the country to the point of bankruptcy, a condition he has comfortably confronted personally numerous times. 

Trump’s Romanoff style of family loyalty and commitment and his desire to be counted as ‘royalty,’ as expressed by his family run business and foisting himself, and his progeny, in England, upon the Queen, is just a reflection of his need to rule as a demagogue believing he is above the law and can do anything he wants. Don’t we all remember when proudly expressed that he could kill someone on Fifth Ave and get away with it. His support of tyrants and dictators, who are known to murder their own–their families, their government employees, as well as dissidents, is both a reflection of his pathetic and sick values as well as his need to stay cozy with those who could pave the way for further business and hotels in far off places such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, etc. once he leaves office. 

I know impeachment is slowly closing in on him, even if McConnell and the Senate will not make it official. I would hope that the Congress would at least ‘censure’ this man for his vile and inhuman rhetoric and leadership leading to the horrific conditions at the border including the death of children. The one thing we learn from reading Torah is that speech has incredible power – it can lead to the creation of good and great and wonderful things and it can also lead to destruction, evil, and horrific impact on people’s lives. 

As Bill Maher said the other night, there is such a ‘fatigue’ so many of us are experiencing from the onslaught and horror of both despicable language and persistent attention-getting from Donald Trump. As much as I would like to just ignore it, my values that leaders should reflect honesty, integrity and compassion weigh heavily upon me and eat away at any sense of equanimity, despite the spiritual practice I engage in. How can we not be affected by the chaos, disruption, destruction, and arousal of fear living in the midst of overflowing hatred, including the anti-Semitism that lurks just around the corner. Black, Brown, Yellow, Muslim, Jewish, Puerto-Rican, Latina, Homosexual – we are all prospective targets in this climate.

What does it take to stand up for human rights? How terrified of maintaining your political position do you have to be to not be willing to stand with Democrats – shoulder to shoulder – and tell the world that what this man says is despicable, unacceptable, and will not be tolerated. How saturated and de-sensitized have we become that we tolerate and/or even ignore the leader of our country as he destroys basic human values, our place in the world and pave the way for murdering innocent people whose color or place of origin is different than ours. It was people who ran away from leaders such as him who came to America to begin a new life and create a new vision for a country that would be called  ‘United’ states of America. United being the operative word. The National Cathedral has now put out a statement on behalf of their clergy calling out his racist rhetoric and asking, “…When will Americans have enough?”

As we enter a period in the Jewish calendar that marks horrific moments in our history, great destruction and suffering going as far back as 2,000 years to our Holy Temple, let us take note of what the rabbis teach in Talmud that one of the reasons this structure was destroyed was due to what is described as ‘baseless hatred’ of one other. We now live in a world where the most important leader both models and teaches ‘baseless hatred.’ Shouldn’t we take the time to not only honor and remember the past but to also learn from our mistakes and use whatever influence we have to teach others that division and hatred only bring disaster upon everyone.

G-d help us. May we find the strength to stand and express our indignation and, as the prophets of old, remind those around us when they are following the wrong path. I know there are more of us than of them, the 1/3 of the country that will follow this man into hell if need be. We must take back the most important position in the nation and pray that it is not too late to bring decency, honesty, safety, and integrity back to this country.

US Shoots Down Iranian Drone

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters while hosting Team USA for the 2019 Special Olympics World Games in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 18, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

A United States Navy ship shot down an Iranian drone over the Strait of Hormuz on July 18, President Donald Trump announced.

Trump told reporters that the drone was as close as around 1,000 yards away from the U.S.S. Boxer, an amphibious assault ship. The drone kept coming closer to the ship despite Boxer personnel warning the drone to stand down, prompting the ship to down the drone.

“This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions against vessels operating in international waters,” Trump said. “The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, facilities, and interests.”

The Pentagon confirmed Trump’s remarks in a statement.

“At approximately 10 a.m. local time, the amphibious ship USS Boxer was in international waters conducting a planned inbound transit of the Strait of Hormuz,” the statement read. “A fixed wing unmanned aerial system (UAS) approached Boxer and closed within a threatening range. The ship took defensive action against the UAS to ensure the safety of the ship and its crew.”

The downing of the Iranian drone is the latest in a series of escalatory incidents between the U.S. and Iran. In June, Iran attacked a couple of oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and shot down an unmanned U.S. drone. Trump imposed further sanctions on Iran in response.

According to The U.K. Guardian, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he is offering the Trump administration a deal in which Iran would allow its nuclear program to be subjected to “enhanced inspections” if the U.S. eases sanctions. The Guardian notes that the Trump administration is likely to reject such a proposal, as they want a deal in which Iran ceases “uranium enrichment and support for proxies and allies in the [Middle East] region.”

You Can’t Fight Anti-Semitism With Racism

President Donald Trump, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar. (Photos by Reuters)

“[Ilhan] Omar has a history of launching vicious, anti-Semitic screeds,” President Trump declared on Wednesday to an audience that chanted, “Send her back! Send her back!” 

In that moment, an accusation of anti-Semitism became a call for racism. The message was clear: A refugee, who had been an American longer than the President’s wife, could be stripped of her citizenship. To the crowd, as a non-white woman, she never truly was American to begin with.

Donald Trump and his mob of followers, most of whom aren’t Jewish, given that less than 25 percent of Jews voted him into office, decided they could justify their hate in our name.

Jewish Americans make up 1.4 percent of the population in the United States. That’s right. You’d never know that, given how much today’s politics bring us up.

The first frenzy was over Rep. Ilhan Omar using anti-Semitic tropes – which she has admitted were insensitive and has apologized for employing; then, chaos surrounded Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for invoking the Holocaust remembrance motto “Never Again” while referring to migrant detention facilities as concentration camps. Next, controversy erupted when Rep. Rashida Tlaib discussed the creation of Israel, expressing her pride for her Palestinian ancestors offering refuge for Holocaust survivors. (Note: They provided war, not sanctuary, but Tlaib didn’t say “the Holocaust gives her a calming feeling,” which is a lie non-Jewish Republicans spread.)

Now, when Donald Trump tweeted out a racist rephrasing of “go back to your country” to congresswomen of color, he made sure to yank us Jews into the crossfire with him by calling his political opponents anti-Semites.

I, like many Jews, feel uncomfortable with the way some Democrats have treated our people. But to the Republicans, that discomfort only seems to be relevant when it can further or shield their racism.

Some on the far left have blind spots when it comes to anti-Semitism, which is shameful, given their platform is about standing against oppression. However, they just might not know how to advocate for us. Racists, misogynists, xenophobes and homophobes paint their victims as subhuman. In contrast, anti-Semitism is a conspiracy theory that Jews are superhuman.

To anti-Semites, Jews are the puppet masters, the oppressors of the white race – and in the case of some figures – people of color.

“Hijacking real concerns about anti-Semitism to promote other prejudices destroy Jewish credibility.”

I can understand that for someone like Ocasio-Cortez, that nuance can make fighting anti-Semitism complicated ‒and avoiding tropes even more so. But it hurts that she hasn’t taken the time or put in the work to advocate for us. It hurts that she didn’t even know enough about anti-Semitism to realize meeting with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn would signal she is okay with the rampant Jew-hatred he’s gaslit.

I get scared when I think about how nearly 40 percent of UK Jews would “seriously consider” leaving their country if Corbyn became Prime Minister. When so many of us have been murdered in our houses of faith, all in all, a Jew is a scary thing to be. In 2019, being the advocacy of progressive leaders feels particularly necessary.

The Trump administration knows this. Recently, Attorney General William Barr eloquently explained the nuanced panic American Jews are in.

“New York City, this past year, has seen a sharp uptick in attacks on Orthodox Jews, particularly in the Crown Heights neighborhood,” Barr said during the Department of Justice’s Summit on Combatting Anti-Semitism. “People are attacking Jews in the streets and vandalizing synagogues … . While the tragic attacks in Pittsburgh and Poway appropriately drew national attention, these attacks and others like them in communities across the country are, sadly, less well-known outside the Jewish community. But they form the daily background of concerns about security and safety that many in the Jewish community feel.”

Well, guess what, Mr. Barr? Your administration has the power to make these issues relevant outside the Jewish community. Surely, if the right is as outraged about anti-Semitism as it claims to be, it relentlessly would attack white-supremacist groups. It would take serious measures to stop the violence against Orthodox Jews. It would allocate funds to repair vandalized Jewish property.

Yet rather than taking effective steps to fight anti-Semitism ‒ particularly violent white nationalists who are shooting up our synagogues ‒ Republicans won’t even disown them.

In fact, Rep. Steve King used a Holocaust memorial group’s money to cuddle up with Unzensuriert, a far-right Austrian group linked to Nazis, and asserted that white supremacy wasn’t even offensive.

Meanwhile, “President Trump makes constant use of the language and logic of the ‘new right,’ a toxic blend of antebellum white supremacy, twentieth-century fascism, European far-right movements of the 1970s, and today’s self-identified ‘alt-right,’ ” noted scholar Bernard E. Harcourt. “His words and deeds have empowered and enabled an upsurge of white nationalists and extremist organizations.” The wave of anti-Semitic hate crimes, which has surged by 99 percent since Trump was elected, backs up Harcourt’s assertions.

Instead of combating anti-Semitism, Republicans only bring it up to spread prejudice against people of color, immigrants and Muslims. To them, the only time Jews are worth protecting is when we can serve as human shields – a convenient cover for their hate.

Donald Trump denying Omar her Americanness did nothing to stop people from using dual loyalty tropes like she did. Afterward, the President spread them himself, referring to Benjamin Netanyahu as “your prime minister” to the Republican Jewish Coalition.

When Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Steve Daines and countless others defend the President’s racist comments about the Justice Democrats by screeching “they’re anti-Semites,” it’s not to protect Jews – it’s to protect themselves.

“We Jews are sheep under the watch of a conservative boy who cries wolf; the world will leave us to be devoured when we tell them the actual beast is coming.”

You can’t fight anti-Semitism with racism. No decent human being can do anything with racism. In addition, hijacking real concerns about anti-Semitism to promote other prejudices destroy Jewish credibility.

We Jews are sheep under the watch of a conservative boy who cries wolf; the world will leave us to be devoured when we tell them the actual beast is coming.

When non-Jewish Republicans use “combatting anti-Semitism” as a cloak for their bigotry, it isolates Jews from allies we need to battle white supremacy, strips us of our agency and associates us with their hate. Left-wing anti-Semitism is contingent on painting Jews as the oppressors, whether that is by profiting off poverty, architecting the slave trade or calculating the mass extermination of Palestinians.

Rather than condemning anti-Semitism in all its forms, the American right is seasoning us up for left-wing Jew haters to roast.

Candidly and conscientiously calling out anti-Semitism is the only way it will be corrected. The best example of this is the case of Rep. Ayanna Pressley, one of the congresswomen Trump so unnecessarily smeared. When Pressley quoted author Alice Walker, her constituents spoke out. In a 2017 poem, Walker spread the seemingly immortal conspiracy theory that Jews want to enslave non-Jews, and wrote of Talmud teachings: “Are three year old (and a day) girls eligible for marriage and intercourse?; “Are young boys fair game for rape?”

“Unfortunately, I was unaware of the author’s past statements,” Pressley tweeted the next week. “I fully condemn and denounce anti-Semitism, prejudice and bigotry in all their forms – and the hateful actions they embolden. I appreciate my friends, including my brothers and sisters in the Jewish community, who brought these statements to my attention.”

After Jews, not a self-serving surrogate, respectfully criticized the move, Pressley swiftly did what Republicans seem unable to – admit she contributed to anti-Semitism and apologized.

ADL, Wiesenthal Center Slam CNN for Giving White Nationalist Leader a Platform

Photo from Good Free Photos.

Staff members of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Simon Wiesenthal Center are among those criticizing CNN for giving avowed white nationalist Richard Spencer a platform on July 16.

CNN’s Sara Sidner asked Spencer for his reaction to President Donald Trump’s July 14 tweets telling four Democratic congresswoman to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.” Spencer said the tweets were “red meat” for white nationalists but he called such tweets “meaningless and cheap.”

ADL Center on Extremism Director Oren Segal tweeted that he was “alarmed” to see that CNN gave Spencer a platform.

ADL Center on Extremism Research Fellow Mark Pitcavage replied to Segal in a tweet that stated, “Giving an extremist a media platform gives them unearned legitimacy. A white supremacist may be racist but that does not mean they are an expert on racism or a suitable person to put on air when issues related to racism arise.”

Similarly, Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal in a statement, “Media’s role with talking head professional racists and bigots is to expose their hate, not provide a platform for their extremist agenda in the mainstream of our political and media culture. What was CNN thinking?”

CNN anchor Jake Tapper explained on Twitter that Sidner “covers racists and white supremacists for us (among other subjects) and does a great job. She did a taped package for cnn about the reaction of white supremacists to the president’s tweets.”

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

The ADL has described Spencer as “the most recognizable public face of the alt right, a loose network of people who promote white identity and reject mainstream conservatism in favor of politics that embrace implicit or explicit racism, anti-Semitism and white supremacy.” Spencer has openly advocated for a white ethno-state.

House Passes Bill Requiring Trump to Get Congressional Approval to Strike Iran

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stands by in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 20, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The House of Representatives passed a bill on July 12 requiring President Donald Trump to obtain congressional approval before launching a strike against Iran.

The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that was passed included an amendment on the matter, stating that the 2001 Authorization for Use Military Force (AUMF) that’s been used to strike Islamic terrorists in the Middle East could not be used to strike Iran. The amendment passed with 251 votes in favor, including more than a dozen Republicans, and 170 against and the NDAA passed with 220 votes in favor and 197 against.

However, NBC News notes that the Senate’s version of the NDAA is different than the House version and that the aforementioned Iran amendment likely won’t make the final version of the bill.

The House bill’s passage comes after Trump nixed a strike against Iran in June after learning that 150 people would die. Iran had shot down a United States drone earlier that week.

The Trump administration has been ramping up sanctions against the Iranian regime as tensions escalate between the two countries, although the administration is reportedly backing off plans to sanction Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

President Donald Trump is the Chemo During These Divisive Times 

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Editor’s Note: This week’s cover story was written in two parts and shares two perspectives on the topic of Donald Trump’s presidency. To read the other perspective click here.


Disruptive? Definitely. Messy? Frequently. Unpleasant? Of course.

President Donald Trump’s personality has injected intemperate and impatient bluster into our national life, and all the critiques and condemnations over how Trump conducts executive leadership are well-known and well understood.

But that’s only half the analysis. Trump also delivers toxic yet necessary measures to save the American body politic. His opponents believe he is killing democracy. His supporters believe he is saving our nation from a steep decline into defeatism.

In the medical field, unlike surgery or targeted radiation, doctors use powerful chemotherapy to attack rapidly dividing cancer cells in the human body. In the process of easing symptoms, controlling the spread of cancer or curing the patient through the elimination of tumors, healthy cells may be harmed along with malignant ones. While there is no guarantee cancer cells won’t return, chemotherapy has been extremely effective in saving lives.

Trumpism is an attempt to put into remission, if not cure, what clearly ails the United States.

A shared complaint of both the political left and right in the U.S. is a fear of bullying and betrayal by the federal government, which ignores whom Trump calls the “forgotten men and women” in favor of self-serving multinational corporations, Silicon Valley “masters of the universe” (as Financial Review terms them), elite business leaders plotting at Davos and K Street lobbyists in “The Swamp” — all who promote agendas beyond the common public interest.

In recent years, leftist activists have organized around Code Pink, Moveon.org, Occupy Wall Street, the Women’s March, Antifa and Black Lives Matter. 

Similarly, rightists seeking to reduce the dominance of Washington, D.C., have championed the Tea Party, the Freedom Caucus on Capitol Hill, the libertarian movement and the call for an Article V Convention of the States.

Both older and younger citizens condemn U.S. political parties for ever-growing federal debt (now $22 trillion). Many Americans are concerned about IRS and FBI/DOJ bias and overreach. Others are anxious about perceived threats to their constitutional rights to religious liberty, freedom of speech, abortion (or fetal) rights, gun possession, and protection from illegal search and seizure (asset forfeiture).

Across the political aisle, too, U.S. workers feel squeezed. The rise of China, India, the Asian tiger countries and the liberated nations of “New Europe” after the 1989 fall of the Soviet Union has sharply increased economic competition. The U.S. share of global GDP has fallen from 50 percent to 25 percent of international output as young workers in developing economies produce goods cheaper than U.S. firms produce.

Globalism, mass immigration and a fear of declining sovereignty are causing Western citizens to rise up and ask, “Do you hear the people sing?” This question has startled government bureaucrats, politicians, media elites, the cosmopolitan cognoscenti and many academics throughout Europe.

By 2016, many GOP voters were looking for a dramatic rejection of then-President Barack Obama’s offenses against the American work ethic and spirit of self-reliance (“You didn’t build it”). They wanted a fighter who would reverse the anemic GDP growth rate under Obama — the worst recorded eight-year period since our national economy arose in the 1790s.

In his campaign, Trump focused on the manufacturing base in the Midwest. While coastal wealth had grown for tech workers in “the new economy,” wages had stagnated for decades in Middle America.

“Trumpism is an attempt to put into remission, if not cure, what clearly ails the United States.”

Therefore, Trump’s candidacy was a challenge to both Democrat and Republican establishments. Eschewing political correctness, Trump opposed illegal immigration and longstanding trade deals favoring foreign governments and globalist corporations.

Trump’s political appeal to Rust Belt workers has remained the biggest focus of his first term. For example, in his 2018 address to the General Assembly of the United Nations, he stated:

“For decades, the United States opened its economy — the largest, by far, on Earth — with few conditions. We allowed foreign goods from all over the world to flow freely across our borders.

“Yet, other countries did not grant us fair and reciprocal access to their markets in return. Even worse, some countries abused their openness to dump their products, subsidize their goods, target our industries, and manipulate their currencies to gain unfair advantage over our country. As a result, our trade deficit ballooned to nearly $800 billion a year.”

Trump’s policies of economic deregulation, opening energy pipelines and making the U.S. corporate tax rate competitive have resulted in stronger economic growth and employment, especially for women and minorities, increased wages for workers, rising family incomes and net worth, new investments in the manufacturing sector, sustained consumer confidence and significant declines in welfare, poverty and the use of food stamps.

The administration’s domestic successes also have included confronting public universities (which receive federal funds) from limiting free speech, promoting and signing into law bipartisan criminal justice reform and securing the Right to Try Act, which allows terminally ill patients access to experimental drug therapies.

Trump increased research for childhood cancer, improved services at the Veterans Administration, reversed Obamacare’s insurance mandates and penalties, and launched a sustained multi-pronged effort to curtail the opioid drug epidemic. The Republican president has produced a successful domestic agenda.

Similarly, in his 2017 U.N. General Assembly speech, Trump confidently outlined his America First vision in trade and security policy, asserting that sovereign nations dedicated to serving the needs and interests of their own citizens first then could unite in alliance for peace and prosperity, stating:

“It is an eternal credit to the American character that even after we and our allies emerged victorious from the bloodiest war in history, we did not seek territorial expansion, or attempt to impose our way of life on others. Instead, we helped build institutions such as this one to defend the sovereignty, security and prosperity for all.”

On sovereignty: Trump withdrew the United States from the misnamed U.N. Human Rights Council, and will provide no support to the International Criminal Court, which he said is “violating all principles of justice, fairness and due process. We will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy.”

On trade: Trump has reworked outdated relationships with Mexico and Canada. With rare bipartisan support, he also is confronting decades of Chinese intellectual property theft, corporate espionage and forced technology transfers. This tough negotiation favors the U.S., as companies value the U.S. market and capital tends to flow to transparent, rule-of-law economies.

On Russia: Trump has strongly confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin by imposing economic sanctions, verbally supporting Ukrainian independence, recommitting to missile defense in Central-Eastern Europe, increasing U.S. military support for Poland, and challenging Russian energy dominance through support of a Baltic pipeline and increased U.S. liquified natural gas exports. By challenging NATO countries to fulfill their own defense obligations, the president has reinvigorated European collective security, which is necessary to deter an aggressive Putin.

In the Middle East: Trump updated the Rules of Engagement for U.S. forces to decisively defeat ISIS, enforced Obama’s red line to confront Syrian use of chemical weapons, reversed the Iran Nuclear deal and reimposed isolating sanctions on the repressive Mullah regime, hampering Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps support for regional terror groups and proxy allies such as Hezbollah.

Trump also moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and defunded U.S. taxpayer support for the corrupt Palestinian leadership. These actions, as well as a resolute defense of Israel at the United Nations, have improved the security posture of Israel and the prospects for peace between the Jewish state and its Arab neighbors, who share concerns over Iranian behavior, intentions and capability.

On security: The president challenged the North Korean regime over its nuclear tests and missile launches, and offered carrots in the form of improved relations and economic support if North Korea moves beyond the misbehavior and threats, which, for decades, have extracted Western concessions.

U.S. military budgets have increased to replenish our modern air, land and sea forces with more planes, tanks and ships. The U.S. finally is taking China’s ambitious plans seriously in the South China Sea. The president also is focused on U.S. leadership in space and cyber security.

Further, Trump helped secure the release of more than a dozen American hostages held abroad, and he authorized raids on MS-13 gangs terrorizing innocents on our streets.

The results of this extraordinary first-term performance are clear. Polls consistently show Trump receives higher ratings for his policy achievements than for his personal approval. 

Democrats realize Trump will be reelected if the 2020 campaign question is: Are you better off now than you were four years ago?

Therefore, the left has focused on attacking the president’s character, blistering his business practices and his bombastic, bullying and unpredictable style. Of course, there is merit to many concerns about the president’s character and behavior, but for Democrats who want to regain the White House, there are problems with this approach.

“For many, Trump is an outsider bravely rejecting a post-nationalist vision in which America declines and U.S. trade and security policies are subservient to international elites.”

Democratic Overreach
At times, the “resistance” to Trump has been screeching, mob-like and violent. Revealing the home addresses of Republicans or disrupting their families in restaurants offends average citizens who increasingly are dismayed at the scenes of aggression from the campus left. From Madonna’s 2017 rallying cry of “I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House” and Robert De Niro’s 2018 “F Trump” Tony Award speech, to the recent public panic over the president’s Fourth of July speech (which was unifying and presidential), incessant left-wing vituperation has proved unappealing.

Capitol Hill Democrats lost the Justice Brett Kavanaugh confirmation battle in part because Sen. Dianne Feinstein played a last-minute trick instead of honorably working through her committee process. The idea that the nominee was assumed guilty of sexual assault, without evidence or corroboration, disturbed many as violative of our sacred assumption of innocence.

The long Russia investigations (FBI, House, Senate, Mueller) revealed as many legitimate concerns about Democratic collusion and misdeeds (the Hillary Clinton campaign-funded dossier, the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorized surveillance on a political opponent, FBI/Department of Justice senior leadership covering for Clinton while plotting against Donald Trump) as from the 2016 Trump campaign.

The president repeatedly has rejected anti-Semitism and white supremacism, although you wouldn’t know it from the sustained meme of Democrats running for office and their cheerleaders in the mainstream media suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome.

The facts don’t bear out former Vice President Joe Biden’s opening campaign claim that Trump said there are good Nazis. Trump said there were good people on both sides of the debate over removing Civil War-era statues. As liberal public intellectual Sam Harris has soberly counseled, retelling this smear over and over doesn’t make it true. With so much to critique about Trump’s tweets (there now is a Museum of Tweets), why assert rebuttable fake claims?

Radicalism
Democrats are radicalizing at the policy level in response to their inflamed base, with proposals on the following:

On immigration: open borders, sanctuary cities, decriminalization of illegal entry, advocacy of increased health care entitlements, voting rights and driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, and non-cooperation with or the elimination of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

On race: national calls for reparations (payments to those who were not slaves from those who were not slaveholders).

On economics: higher income taxes, a value added tax, new net-worth taxes, free college tuition and cancellation of student debt, “Medicare for All” to replace employer-based and private insurance policies, and a radical Green New Deal agenda that would transform our society altogether (with the goal of eliminating air travel).

Other radical proposals include voting rights for violent felons, the abolition of the Electoral College and the packing of the Supreme Court; government unregulated late-term abortion; a neutral posture between Israel and Hamas; and less than full-throated opposition to the socialist, anti-American Nicolas Maduro regime in Venezuela, which has imposed misery on that nation.

All this does not make for a winning policy agenda.

Statism
The ever-increasing size and role of a bureaucratic, nanny state government means many citizens fear more for their future from congressional legislation, administrative regulations and judicial court rulings than they are concerned about the public rhetoric or reversible executive orders of a president whose term(s) in office is limited.

CHARACTER: The question of character itself is far more nuanced than is broadcast.

The left asserts Trump’s style and tone inflicts damage to our democracy by calling for a travel ban on unvetted Muslim migrants from war-torn nations (approved by the Supreme Court); by calling out “deep state” U.S. intelligence or law enforcement leadership as partisan; by labeling some members of the media as “the enemy of the people”; and by jawboning the Federal Reserve. But all these institutions will outlast this president’s coarse and undiplomatic language.

Criticisms of Trump’s bravado are valid but long ago were discounted. Yes, he is disruptive to the establishment. Everyone knows this. But the country was in crisis. For many, Trump is an outsider bravely rejecting a post-nationalist vision in which America declines and U.S. trade and security policies are subservient to international elites.

The more Democrats hate on Trump, the more many Americans will rally to a president they believe is fighting for them and showing success. He seems unnaturally indestructible.

The obsessive case against Trump as a thief who stole the 2016 election as a Russian puppet or, alternatively, as a white nationalist endangering civil society, has been analogized by author Victor Davis Hanson to the Democrats’ search for the Great White Whale:

“The Democratic establishment has become something like novelist Herman Melville’s phobic Captain Ahab, who became fatally absorbed with chasing his nemesis, the albino whale Moby-Dick. … Even if the quest to destroy Trump eclipses every other consideration and entails the destruction of the modern Democratic Party, it seems not to matter to these modern Ahabs.”

Name Calling
Smearing conservatives, Republicans and working-class white voters as racists, “bitter-clingers” to their guns and religion, or “deplorables,” doesn’t seem to be working. The problem with character attacks is that those who throw mud usually get dirty in the process.

Our nation’s first president, George Washington, the general who led the successful American Revolution and the indispensable advocate for the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, deeply cared about his personal character, believing it mattered to our national destiny that he be seen as honorable and thoroughly decent in his treatment of others.

Unfortunately, many citizens today seem not to note the part of Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address that stated: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

In fact, Democrats set the standard of measuring the character of our presidents not by their personal morality, but merely by their policy achievements.

Examples include Thomas Jefferson, who had slaves, and Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson, who were quite retrograde on race. Franklin Roosevelt interned Japanese Americans, promoted quotas on Jews at Harvard, serially turned away Holocaust refugees from Europe and opposed the establishment of the State of Israel in collusion with the Saudi king. Fellow Democrats John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Bill Clinton were disloyal spouses.

Republican Donald Trump joins a long list of presidents whom history likely will judge more for his public accomplishments and agenda for the people than for his widely critiqued character and personal flaws.

Yes, the chemotherapy Trump applies often has been ugly, unsavory and divisive. George Washington would not be pleased. But many Americans have learned to tolerate the failure of private virtue from mortal politicians. Instead, they judge political effectiveness in reviving American economic vitality and national pride, and the sense that America can, indeed, be great again.


Larry Greenfield is a fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship & Political Philosophy.

President Donald Trump is the Cancer During These Divisive Times

U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he arrives at Akron-Canton airport in Canton, Ohio, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Editor’s Note: This week’s cover story was written in two parts and shares two perspectives on the topic of Donald Trump’s presidency. To read the other perspective click here.


As someone who lost a 53-year-old parent to cancer, likening President Donald Trump to a cancer is not a metaphor I take lightly. I have experienced, firsthand, cancer’s devastation, and pray others are spared the pain and suffering of this horrific disease. It is with this experience in mind — and because of my deep commitment to Jewish values — that I believe Trump is a cancer afflicting our society. People judge nations by the way those nations treat children and the most vulnerable, and one need look no further than the humanitarian crisis on our southern border to see the state of American values under Trump.

While many had hoped Trumpism would be a relatively benign phenomenon, the hatred, divisiveness and indecency of our current president has proven malignant and metastatic, and the Jewish community has been one of many victims. Some have translated anti-Semitism from Trump’s campaign rhetoric and symbolism into violence, which is why nearly three-quarters of American Jews feel less safe today than before he became president. Whether Trumpism becomes a terminal condition is up to each of us in the next election. We need new leadership to restore to government what truly makes America great: our values and moral leadership.

Early Signs
Like with most diseases, the dangers did not appear overnight. Many saw early signs of Trumpism. For decades, Trump’s employees knew he harbored racist views and trafficked in anti-Semitic stereotypes. A 2016 New York Times investigation revealed a history of racial bias at Trump properties going back to the late 1960s. But the rise of social media and the first African-American U.S. president presented an opportunity for Trump to channel those biases into politics. In the lead-up to the 2012 election, he joined the ranks of racist conspiracy theorists questioning the legitimacy of the Obama presidency and demanding Obama release his birth certificate, passport records and college transcripts. In the ensuing years, Trump became the most prominent promoter of the birther movement. If the movement had not existed, he likely wouldn’t have made it to the point of becoming the Republican nominee for president.

From the moment Trump announced his candidacy for president in 2015, he publicly espoused xenophobic and racists views, starting with an accusation that Mexico was sending rapists across the border. Trump’s first remarks as a presidential candidate also indicated his proclivity for lying. He started the speech by mentioning the “thousands” of supporters in Trump Tower, when reporting indicated there were “dozens” of people in the halls, some of whom were paid actors. At the outset of his political career, it was clear Trump was willing to exploit hatred and lies to rise to the top of the Republican field and eventually, the presidency.

Republicans were not blind to the moral corrosion of the Trump presidential candidacy, and some publicly spoke about the early signs. The chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) absolutely was right when he wrote in a March 2016 op-ed that Donald Trump is “a bigot. A misogynist. A fraud. A bully.” He went on to say that Trump “is not to be trusted to lead our nation’s military in times of peace or war” and “any man who declines to renounce the affections of the KKK and David Duke should not be trusted to lead America. Ever.” This was a prophetic and an accurate diagnosis, and it remains so to this day.

Unfortunately, too few Republicans expressed opposition to Trump, and those who publicly did so were berated and politically ostracized. Decency and tolerance should not be viewed through a partisan lens, but the 2016 election revealed that for some, political expedience took precedence. This was painfully evident as Republicans knowingly overlooked the fact their candidate for president had become the standard bearer for far-right extremists.

In 2016, candidate Trump drew praise and endorsements from white supremacists, including the head of the American Nazi Party, former KKK leaders and more than a dozen individuals affiliated with known hate groups. The alt-right embraced Trump; its propagandist leader, Steve Bannon, served as Trump’s campaign CEO and Trump amplified the movement’s hateful messages online. In July 2016, Trump tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton’s face superimposed on a backdrop of American dollars with a red Star of David. This image originated on a white supremacist website neo-Nazis use to encourage violence against Jews. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) denounced Trump’s closing campaign ad, which featured images of prominent Jews and Hillary Clinton, for its use of a dangerous anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

On Election Day, Dana Milbank, a leading columnist for The Washington Post, concluded that anti-Semitism was no longer the undertone of Trump’s campaign — it was the melody. Still, there was some denial of the pervasive danger Trumpism posed, which one can attribute to three factors: widespread disbelief, even among Republicans, that Trump actually would win the election; hope that the hatred Trump conveyed was more of a publicity stunt than a reflection of Trump’s true beliefs; and the notion that Jews and other minorities would be inoculated in a Trump presidency by his Jewish daughter and son-in-law.

There is a word for all three of these ideas: denial. No one wanted to face the reality of the disease, but a tumor had been revealed and Jews, especially, recognized it was anything but benign.

“While many had hoped Trumpism would be a relatively benign phenomenon, the hatred, divisiveness and indecency of our current president has proven malignant and metastatic, and the Jewish community has been one of many victims.”

Revealing the Malignancy and Metastasis
Since becoming president, Trump has fueled the flames of hatred, resulting in a shocking rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes and proliferation of hate groups. He uses rhetoric that supports xenophobic and racist ideologies, thus giving a green light to those who engage in these behaviors. He has emboldened and aligned with bigots through his selective use of anti-Semitic dog whistles, conspiracy theories and tropes. He has self-identified as a “nationalist,” a term associated with Nazism and white supremacy.

In his inaugural address, Trump presented a warped image of our country by referring to an alternate reality of “American carnage.” To American Jews, this was no more than bizarre hyperbole — until we experienced actual carnage in October 2018, when an armed white supremacist killed 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the deadliest attack on American Jews in history. This horror was repeated exactly six months later at the Chabad of Poway. In addition to using the same kind of assault weapon, the attackers of these two synagogues had something else in common — both echoed Trump’s xenophobia and targeted Jews because of their support of migrants and refugees. 

The killers in Pittsburgh and Poway despised Jews for our core value of welcoming the stranger. This is the very value Trump campaigned against and later betrayed with his Muslim ban, failure to protect DREAMers, actions to rip apart migrant families, and inhumane detention of migrant children. Despite these repugnant policies, the two synagogue shooters did not believe Trump went far enough in instituting xenophobic policies, and they blamed Jews for influencing his views. The motivating ideology behind these horrific and unprecedented attacks on our places of worship was eerily similar to that which neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017, espoused and who chanted, “Jews will not replace us [with immigrants].”

Trump’s pathetic response to the events in Charlottesville — equating neo-Nazis with those peacefully protesting them — solidified the malignancy of his presidency. And lest there be any doubt of the intent of his remarks after the tragic killing of a protestor in Charlottesville, Trump defended his description of white supremacists as “very fine people” less than 24 hours before the shooting in Poway.

In the Age of Trump, American Jews now are conducting active shooter drills during synagogue services and adding security guards to protect against anti-Semitic hate crimes, which dramatically have risen on Trump’s watch. According to the Anti-Defamation League, American Jews experienced near-historic levels of anti-Semitism in 2018, constituting a 48 percent increase in the number of incidents from 2016, and a 99 percent increase from 2015. The number of anti-Semitic assaults increased 105 percent last year.

To put a finer point on it, despite Trump’s well-known anti-Muslim bigotry and public denial of white nationalism as a rising global threat, right-wing extremists were responsible for all the physical anti-Semitic attacks extremists perpetrated in 2018, and Muslim extremists were responsible for none of them. One can debate whether Trump himself is a racist or an anti-Semite, but there is little doubt that racists, anti-Semites, neo-Nazis and other right-wing extremists believe he is both those things and see him as their ally.

Jews aren’t the only victims of this metastatic wave of hate, and its impact has not been limited to the United States. According to the FBI, 58 percent of religiously motivated hate crimes in the U.S. targeted Jews in 2017. Nearly 19 percent of such crimes targeted Muslims, which represented a historical high, despite under-reporting in the Muslim-American community of such crimes. Additionally, as the horrific massacre at two mosques in New Zealand demonstrated, Trump has inspired perpetrators of violence outside the United States. Moreover, nationalist movements are growing globally, and Trump has embraced warmly anti-Semitic nationalist leaders such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Polish President Andrzej Duda in recent weeks. This sends a clear message to other world leaders that there is no price to pay for condoning or encouraging anti-Semitism, and normalizes such behavior worldwide.

Response of the Jewish Community
The Jewish community overwhelmingly rejected Trump in the 2016 election, with less than one-quarter of Jewish voters supporting him, according to exit polling. This is because Trump’s position on nearly every issue is antithetical to Jewish values and misaligned with the policy priorities of the Jewish electorate, who deeply care about providing access to affordable health care, enacting sensible gun safety reforms, protecting the environment, defending reproductive rights, implementing humane immigration reform, and combatting discrimination and intolerance. On every single one of these issues, Trump has embraced policies that contradict the values and views of an overwhelming majority within the Jewish community.

Contrary to Trump’s recent false claims of Jews leaving the Democratic Party, according to the Pew Research Center, Jewish support for Republicans decreased even further in the 2018 midterms to just 17 percent, which was halved since the 2014 midterms, when 33 percent of Jews supported Republicans. This downward trend in Jewish support for the GOP is a result of the fact that the Republican Party under Trump is completely out of step with American Jews, and largely has been silent in the face of rising anti-Semitism.

A recent poll Greenberg Research conducted of 1,000 Jewish voters shows that in addition to a wide range of domestic policy issues, Jews now are voting on their own perceived insecurity, and 73 percent of Jews feel less safe today than they did two years ago. This poll also revealed that nearly 60 percent of Jewish voters believe Trump has at least some responsibility for the shootings at the synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, and 71 percent of Jewish voters disapprove of Trump’s handling of anti-Semitism. Trump’s “encouraging ultra-right extremists committing violent acts” ranked as the highest concern of Jewish voters related to security, and the leading response when asked how to improve the security of Jews, was to elect candidates with “the right values.”

Still, a small minority within the Jewish community has checked its original rejection of Trump at the door of the Oval Office. This includes the chair of the RJC, who, despite his previous denunciation of Trump, recently embraced Trump by reciting his own rendition of “dayenu” in an expression of gratitude for all the president allegedly has done for Israel. This willful blindness of Trump’s record on anti-Semitism — predicated on the misconception that he has been good for Israel — is misguided for two reasons.

First, Republicans and Democrats (including me) strongly — and repeatedly — denounced anti-Semitic tropes and generalizations when invoked earlier this year by two freshman Democratic congresswomen, Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), yet Republicans have responded with a deafening silence when Trump himself used similar rhetoric on more than one occasion, including the past two times he spoke to the RJC.

As with so many issues, Trump threatens to undermine the long-term trajectory of the U.S.-Israel relationship by making it all about him and what he deems good politics.”

Second, the misconception that Trump has been good for Israel is fundamentally flawed because it overlooks the recklessness of his foreign policy and disregards his lack of results and strategy.

Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem is no substitute for the hard work required to ensure Israel’s security, including preserving prospects for a two-state solution. But the GOP removed references to a two-state solution from its 2016 platform, rejecting decades of bipartisan pro-Israel consensus shortly before Trump came to office. More recently, the Trump administration chose not to include any reference to two states in its nascent “peace” plan. This has elicited sharp criticism from unwavering Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who recently said there’s no viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the absence of a two-state solution and who threatened not to provide assistance to any plan that results in one state.

As with so many issues, Trump threatens to undermine the long-term trajectory of the U.S.-Israel relationship by making it all about him and what he deems good politics. Never before has a relationship between a U.S. president and Israeli prime minister been as politicized as that which we’ve seen between Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu. Never before has a U.S. president intervened in Israel’s democracy in the unprecedented way Trump meddled in the recent Israeli election and coalition-building process. Leaders and political parties in power will come and go in both countries, and this critically important relationship must supersede politics to stand the test of time. 

As our closest ally in the region, Israel is strongest when America is strong. Trump has isolated the U.S. from our allies, withdrawn from international agreements and aligned with adversaries, thereby weakening our shared national security interests. Trump’s erratic foreign policy has led to increased regional instability, which he most recently demonstrated in his near-stumble into war with Iran. He also has taken action that directly contradicts Israel’s national security interest, including sharing Israeli intelligence with Russia in 2017. Trump also deeply concerned the Israeli security establishment with his shocking announcement — via a tweet — of a precipitous withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Syria in 2018, which would have left Iran with a land bridge from Tehran to the Mediterranean and no security buffer on Israel’s northern border with Syria.

Moreover, Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal has pushed us further from reaching the primary objective of ensuring Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon. The nuclear deal was not a perfect deal, but the complete absence of an agreement — and Trump’s utter lack of a strategy for reaching one — is even more flawed and dangerous. As recent Iranian provocations have demonstrated, Trump’s foreign policy has emboldened Iranian hardliners and isolated the United States.

Our Future, Our Choice
As we approach the 2020 election, we have a choice to make. To those in the Jewish community who believe Trump’s misguided policies on Israel constitute justification for overlooking his bigotry: Stop with the “dayenu” and recognize that it’s actually a pejorative “enough.” Trump has been a danger to our community and our country, and no political calculation is worth accepting the moral compromise required to stand by Donald Trump.

Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, those of us who cherish American and Jewish values, including a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, must resist Trump’s reckless policies and insidious politics. Americans must hold Trump responsible for the hatred and division he has sown, and we all have an obligation to combat this dangerous disease by rejecting Trump in 2020 and electing a president who represents our values.

Our future, and that of future generations, depends on it.


Halie Soifer is the executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America. Previously, she served as a national security adviser in the Senate and in the Obama administration.

Palestinians Protest Bahrain Summit

A demonstrator throws a tire into a burning garbage bin during a protest against Bahrain's conference about U.S. President Donald Trump's vision for Mideast peace plan, in Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, near Sidon, South Lebanon June 25, 2019. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho

Thousands of Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip have been protesting the two-day economic development conference in Bahrain since June 24, the Jerusalem Post reports.

The Bahrain conference is featuring delegations from the United States, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf Arab states to discuss on how to foster economic development in the Palestinian territories. The U.S. proposal urges $50 billion in investment to go toward the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt.

According to the Post, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) injured 12 Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip, where incendiary balloons were launched toward southern Israel, igniting several fires. Palestinians protesting in Judea and Samaria, held up signs that read, “Palestine is ours and can’t be bought or sold” and “No to the occupation.”

Some Palestinian protesters near the Beit El settlement outside of Ramallah threw rocks and burning tires at IDF soldiers, prompting the soldiers to fire tear gas at them.

Both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have made it clear that they are not interested in any proposed deals that come out of the conference.

White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, who is also Trump’s son-in-law, said at the summit that the $50 billion in investment could result in “a bustling commercial and tourist center in Gaza and the West Bank, where international businesses come together and thrive.” However, he acknowledged that such an economic solution goes hand-in-hand with a political solution that satisfies both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

“My direct message to the Palestinian people is that despite what those who have let you down in the past say, President Trump and America have not given up on you,” Kushner said.

Trump Threatens Iran with ‘Obliteration’ After Iran President Calls Trump ‘Mentally Retarded’

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks prior to signing an executive order establishing a White House Council on "Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing" in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 25, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Tensions between the United States and Iran continue to escalate as President Donald Trump threatened the regime with “obliteration” after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Trump was “mentally retarded.”

The Trump administration announced new sanctions on June 24 targeting Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his office and that sanctions later in the week would be placed on Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Rouhani said in a June 25 speech that the sanctions against Khamenei wouldn’t be effective because the Iranian supreme leader doesn’t have any global assets, although there is evidence to the contrary. He also argued that the Trump administration is undermining efforts to negotiate through their pending sanctions on Zarif.

“The White House actions mean it is mentally retarded,” Rouhani said.

Trump tweeted in response, “Iran’s very ignorant and insulting statement, put out today, only shows that they do not understand reality. Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration. No more John Kerry & [Barack] Obama!”

Trump told reporters later in the day that he will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, but he said he’d still be willing to enter negotiations with the Iranian regime.

“When they’re ready, they have to let us know,” Trump said. “Whatever they want to do, I’m ready.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi tweeted that the latest round of sanctions ended any chance of negotiations.

“The useless sanctioning of Islamic Revolution Supreme Leader and the commander of Iranian diplomacy means closing the doors of diplomacy by the U.S.′ desperate administration,” Mousavi wrote. “Trump’s government is annihilating all the established international mechanisms for keeping peace and security in the world.”

Also on June 25, the national security advisers for the U.S., Israel and Russia all met in Jerusalem to discuss Iran. U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton called out Iran’s support for terrorism and accused the regime of continuing to develop nuclear weapons; however, he said that the door is still open for negotiations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the summit as “unprecedented” and reiterated his declaration that Israel will ensure that Iran never obtains nuclear weapons.

Russian National Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, on the other hand, said that while Russia takes note of Israel’s security concerns, Iran fights terrorists in Syria. He also defended Iran’s claim that the downed U.S. drone on June 20 was flying over Iranian airspace; the U.S. has argued that the drone was flying in international airspace.

Trump Imposes New Sanctions on Iran

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks before signing an executive order aimed at requiring hospitals to be more transparent about prices before charging patients for healthcare services, at the White House in Washington, U.S. June 24, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott

President Donald Trump announced new sanctions on Iran on June 24 targeting Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Khamenei’s office.

According to a White House statement, the sanctions will also single out anyone Khamenei appointed to the Iranian as well as anyone who does business with Khamenei or his office.

“We call on the regime to abandon its nuclear ambitions, change its destructive behavior, respect the rights of its people, and return in good faith to the negotiating table,” Trump said in a statement.

Trump told reporters on June 24 that the sanctions were in response to “a series of aggressive behaviors by the Iranian regime in recent weeks, including shooting down of U.S. drones. The supreme leader of Iran is one who ultimately is responsible of the hostile conduct of the regime. He’s respected within his country. His office oversees the regime’s most brutal instruments including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said that later in the week the Trump administration will impose sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

Additionally, the Treasure Department announced eight Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders would be sanctioned:

Zarif responded to the new round of sanctions in a tweet accusing the Trump administration of having a “thirst for war.”

Foundation for Defense of Democracies Chief Executive Mark Dubowitz praised Trump for “targeting the massive corruption of [Khamenei].”

On June 21, Trump announced that he had called off a strike against Iran retaliating for the downed drone, saying that he didn’t like the fact that 150 people would have been killed.

Trump Called Off Iran Strikes

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stands by in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 20, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

President Donald Trump announced in a series of tweets on June 21 that he called off strikes against Iran at the last second because he wanted to avoid collateral damage.

Trump explained in the tweets that the Pentagon was “cocked and loaded” to strike Iran, but he decided to back off when he was told that the strikes would result in 150 dead. Trump added that he was “in no hurry” to take military action against Iran since his administration’s sanctions against Iran are crippling the regime.

Trump told NBC’s Chuck Todd that his generals didn’t immediately have the details on collateral damage from the strikes available when he asked for it.

A Trump administration official told Reuters that the strikes would have targeted Iranian radars and missile batteries, among others. The official also said that the administration urged the Iranians in a message through Oman to come to the negotiating table or else face strikes.

Tensions have been escalating between the United States and Iran, as highlighted by the recent attacks against oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and Iran shooting down an unmanned U.S. drone on Thursday. A senior Republican source on Capitol Hill told CNN, “Historically we have seen what happens when the US issues red lines and then fails to enforce them. Failing to take action could be far more dangerous in the long run.”

Bloomberg national security columnist Eli Lake noted in a June 20 Op-ed that among the U.S.’s options include authorizing strikes against Iranian commanders throughout the Middle East or against Iran’s naval facilities; the U.S. could also engage in cyberwarfare against Iran as a method of deterrence.

American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael Rubin argued that the Iranian regime could be on its last legs given the country’s languishing economy under the sanctions and the regime leaders getting older. The regime is unpopular inside Iran, but Rubin warned that the country’s civilians are “fiercely nationalistic,” which the Trump administration should keep in mind going forward.

“It is essential to maintain the pressure on Iran without playing into the hands of a regime that may want conflict,” Rubin wrote. “Let’s hope President Donald Trump is wise enough to allow his ‘maximum pressure campaign’ to work without giving authorities in Tehran either a diplomatic out or resorting to military force that will backfire in the long-term.”

Iran Shoots Down U.S. Drone

FILE PHOTO: An undated U.S. Air Force handout photo of a RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned (drone) aircraft. U.S. Air Force/Bobbi Zapka/Handout/Files via REUTERS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.

Iran downed a United States military drone on Thursday, adding fuel to the fire of escalating tensions between the two countries.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has claimed that they shot down the unarmed RQ-4A Global Hawk drone in Iranian airspace, while the U.S. is claiming that the drone was shot down in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz, an important waterway for oil trade.

President Donald Trump told reporters on Thursday that “Iran made a very bad mistake,” but added that he thought it was “hard to believe it was intentional. It could have been someone who was loose and stupid who did it.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif tweeted that the “drone took off from UAE in stealth mode & violated Iranian airspace.” Zarif then wrote that Iran “retrieved sections of the US military drone in OUR territorial waters where it was shot down.”

The White House will be meeting with congressional leaders from both parties later in the day to brief them on the situation with Iran.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his support for the U.S. in a statement.

In the last 24 hours, Iran has intensified its aggression against the United States and against all of us,” Netanyahu said. “I repeat my call for all peace-loving countries to stand by the United States in its effort to stop Iranians’ aggression. Israel stands by the United States on this.”

According to the Times of Israel, senior Israeli defense officials believe that Iran’s recent belligerence stems from them thinking that Trump is averse to military conflict, and that the U.S. needs a strong military to deter Iran’s behavior.