February 18, 2019

Rep. Omar to CNN Reporter: ‘Are You Serious?’

Photo from Flickr.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) lashed out at CNN reporter Manu Raju on Feb. 13 when he asked her questions about her recent controversies, saying to him, “Are you serious?”

According to Raju, he asked Omar to comment on President Trump calling on her to resign after she tweeted that AIPAC [American Public Affairs Committee] buys off politicians to support Israel, and she declined to comment. When Raju was about to ask her again later on, Omar said, “Are you serious? What’s wrong with you?”

Omar eventually said, “Yes I tweeted, and there’s a response. You can run that.”

Omar was likely referencing her tweet from earlier in the morning, when she said to Trump, “You have trafficked in hate your whole life—against Jews, Muslims, Indigenous, immigrants, black people and more. I learned from people impacted by my words. When will you?”

On Feb. 11, Omar was asked by reporters if she had learned anything from her controversial tweets and if she regretted them; Omar referred them to her statement addressing the matter. Omar also said she was “always surprised” by the criticism and she was “absolutely not” worried about losing her seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee:

Comey Discusses Trump, Mueller and Life After the FBI

Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Taking center stage before 1,600 people at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills on Feb. 10, former FBI Director James Comey broke the ice by commenting on what he believed everyone in the audience was thinking about: his height. 

“It’s a freak show, it really is,” said the 6-foot, 8-inch Comey. “In my head, I’m about 5 feet, 11 inches.”

Comey, who served as deputy attorney general under President George W. Bush, was appointed FBI director in 2013 by then-President Barack Obama. As most people are aware, he was fired on May 9, 2017, by President Donald Trump.

Recalling that fateful day, Comey spoke of how he had been addressing a room of FBI employees in Los Angeles when a headline flashed on the television screen that he had been fired. “I was numbed, honestly, and stunned, and felt like I’d been pushed out of a bullet train,” he said.

Trying to figure out how to move on, Comey said he followed the example of his wife, Patrice, who had coped with the death of their infant son from a preventable infection by working to spare other mothers from that pain. 

Comey spent most of the next year writing a book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” which was published in April 2018. The idea, he said, was to write about leadership and disguise the book as a memoir. 

Comey told the audience at the Saban that he did not want to focus on his feud with Trump, rather, he wanted to discuss the qualities of ethical, effective leadership. An effective leader, he said, should combine kindness with toughness and confidence with humility. He noted that Obama had these abilities, adding, “I was stunned by how good Barack Obama was as a listener.” 

“We should all, wherever we are on the political spectrum, just root for Mueller to finish his work and let the facts be found that illuminate the truth, whatever that is.” — James Comey

Comey also touted having a sense of humor as an essential tool for any good leader. He praised both former President George W. Bush and Obama for having the ability to be funny. He noted that he could only recall one instance when President Trump had laughed. 

Following his 50-minute address to the audience, Comey participated in a 30-minute question-and-answer session moderated by attorney Kevin James. 

Comey was asked how he felt about being hated by both Republicans and Democrats over his decision to announce the reopening of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails 11 days before the November 2016 presidential election. Comey replied that announcing the investigation or keeping it from the public was a choice between a bad decision and a catastrophic one. He said he chose the bad decision. 

People who are still upset with how he handled the Clinton investigation are viewing the incident through partisan lenses, Comey said. In its decision to reopen the investigation, he added, the FBI was attempting to rise above partisanship. 

When James asked Comey if he believed Trump’s legal troubles were
mounting, Comey took the opportunity to speak about his own views on the Mueller investigation. 

“I don’t know what [Mueller] is going to come up with,” Comey said. “I hope people don’t root for a particular result. We should all, wherever we are on the political spectrum, just root for Mueller to finish his work and let the facts be found that illuminate the truth, whatever that is.” 

Following the event, attorney William Bloch, who had read Comey’s book, told the Journal he was impressed that Comey made the evening about more than his bitterness toward the president. “I thought he was very thoughtful and philosophical in his approach,” Bloch said. “He took it up a notch from being about who is right and who is wrong.”

Julie and Charles Shamash attended with their son, Griffin, a junior at Milken Community Schools. Julie said she was opposed to Trump, while Charles said he supported the president. 

“America is not L.A. and New York,” Charles said. “We live in a bubble here. … There are people who think differently.”

Julie retorted, “When you ask someone who supports Trump, ‘Why do you like Trump?’ they can’t give you one reason.”

Why I’m Angry About Trump’s Speech

President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young

The president of the United States laced this year’s State of the Union with references to anti-Semitism. He invited a Holocaust survivor of Dachau and an American World War II veteran who liberated the camp to the address. He acknowledged last year’s horrific massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue, honoring a survivor and a first responder who was injured terribly in the attack. Good, right? Then why are so many Jews so very, very angry?

Because, in the context of this speech, to think about the Holocaust is to think about the St. Louis, the ship transporting hundreds of Jewish refugees in 1939, turned away from the United States and sent back to Europe, where many passengers eventually died in the Holocaust. It is to remember that Jewish refugees were slandered as invaders and cultural polluters by the politicians whose slogan was “America First.”

So when President Donald Trump pairs invocations of the Holocaust with calls to militarize our southern border against refugees who are fleeing horrendous violence in their own countries — the social breakdown of which is attributable directly to the lingering effects of American intervention on behalf of brutal dictatorships — Jews get angry. Because the same calumnies that Trump is aiming at immigrants of color were aimed at us.

Because, to honor the courage of Judah Samet, who survived the Holocaust and the Tree of Life massacre is to remember why that massacre was perpetrated. The suspected killer of 11 Jews in Pittsburgh made it clear in writing that he was especially incensed at HIAS, the Jewish agency that assists them, writing, “It’s the filthy EVIL Jews. Bringing the (sic) Filthy EVIL Muslims into the country!! Stop the kikes then Worry About the Muslims!” Yes, this killer was angry at Trump for not being racist enough — but woven throughout his rants are tropes derived from Trump.

As Pittsburgh’s Bend the Arc Moral Minyan put it, “We will not let you use the Holocaust, our most painful history, to distract us from the real dangers at hand — the dangers you yourself have nurtured with your racism and xenophobia …. There are refugees seeking safety in America today, just as our Jewish parents and grandparents did during the Holocaust, yet once again America is calling them dangerous .… There are internment camps at our southern border and thousands of children separated from their parents by your administration.”

Trump’s pre-emptive deployment of outrages visited on the Jewish people only served, for many of us, to bring into sharp focus the great danger that his movement represents. We have seen what happens when demagogues whose actual policies favor corporate wealth and lead to an ever-greater gap between rich and poor evoke the “working class” in order to divert the anger of struggling workers away from the wealthiest and aim it at the most vulnerable: at a racial and religious other.

As Stacey Abrams observed genuinely working class-friendly policies not only address such issues as health care, student loan debt and wages that don’t rise with the cost of living (not a mention in the president’s speech), they also speak to the different histories and cultures within the working class. They address embedded and systemic racial and gendered and religious inequality. They certainly do not seek to pit one group of workers against another.

In response to the SOTU, Abrams addressed the precariousness of all working people’s lives in the United States today and managed to do that while honoring the particular struggles of people who have to persevere against additional obstacles because of who they are. The contrast between those speeches and Trump’s performance demonstrates why “populism” is such a useless descriptor.

Trump has indulged in a coy flirtation with neo-fascism throughout his presidency. This is the person who was able to discern “fine people on both sides” of a clash between neo-Nazis and their opponents; who did not use the State of the Union address to issue a firm denunciation of white nationalism. Bend the Arc is right. Keep our people out of your mouth.


Rabbi Robin Podolsky teaches at Cal State Long Beach, writes for Shondaland. She serves as a Jewish Community Engagement Fellow at J Street. 

Greenberg’s Cartoon: Political Coffee Run

Deeply Divided Jews Desperately Need to Find Common Ground

Over the course of its history, Israel’s relationship with its Jewish world partners has undergone a series of transitions.

Against the backdrop of the Holocaust during the middle of the 20th century, Israel’s “survivability” was seen as critical to the welfare of the Jewish enterprise. “One people, one destiny” was the dominant motif during the first 20 years of statehood, when Israel enjoyed broad Diaspora support.

“Sustainability” was the defining element for the next quarter century. Here, the nature of the Jewish partnership, symbolized by the United Jewish Appeal campaign of the time, “We Are One,” would rest on garnering and maintaining political, economic and military support vital to Israel’s standing. Over these past 25 years, Israel moved away from themes reflecting its earlier vulnerable position and promoted an image of an exemplar of political and social ingenuity based on its emergence as a technologically accomplished nation-state with a sophisticated economy and an advanced military. In this third phase, Israel has become the dominant player in global Jewish matters, but it has also experienced a fundamental disruption in its historic partnership with its Diaspora as a widening divide has developed with some of its former partners.

On a host of policy matters today, one can find deep divisions between the liberal-orientated attitudes of a majority of American Jews, who differ with the center-right views of the government in Jerusalem over such policy questions as settlements and human rights. More particularly, some Jewish Americans are uncomfortable with Israeli initiatives to remove African asylum seekers and proposals that seek to curb the free-speech rights of boycott, divestment and sanctions supporters or deny admission into the Jewish State of individuals associated with specific anti-Israel movements. Just as Jewish American liberals defended the Obama administration’s record on Israel, President Donald Trump’s supporters embrace his policies in connection with the Jewish State, creating in the wake of these disagreements significant gaps among Israel’s historic partners.

“Engaging in effective communication and dialogue will require a shared base of knowledge, a level of open reflection, and a culture of civility.”

Israel’s defenders argue that Diaspora communities do not have the right to publicly critique Israel over its policies and actions — only citizens of the Jewish nation do. Members of the Diaspora challenge that argument, noting that Israel was created as the collective expression of the Jewish people, and as such all Jews not only have the right to express their views but have an obligation to assert their ideas.

Beyond these internecine battles, debates over how the international community should engage Iran or whether dissent of Israel’s actions constitutes anti-Semitism have opened deep crevices between Israel’s traditional Jewish supporters.

Instead of creative dialogue, one finds disagreement and discord. Some Jewish Americans frame their criticisms in moral terms, suggesting that Israel ought to hold itself to a higher standard consistent with the Jewish values that shaped its Zionist heritage. They have lost trust in an Israeli government that has moved to the political right, become mired in political corruption scandals, and continued to operate around what they consider to be a set of deeply flawed assumptions. As a result, Jewish Americans’ engagement with Israel has been declining, especially among younger Jews, which presents another challenge to Israeli authorities and Jewish-American leaders.

As these debates unfold, critics of Israel’s politics are dismissed as misguided or as undermining the Jewish State by their refusal to defend and protect this historic experiment in nation building.

Indeed, both Israelis and Jewish Americans have their respective visions or images of the Jewish State, some of which are based on romantic perceptions of Israel’s Zionist origins. Others might be described as political realists, as they focus on the multiple military and security threats that have defined Israel’s history and remain its core challenges. A third constituency could be defined as “bound by history,” for whom specific events, such as the Oslo Accord and its promise of peace, resonate as the pivotal moment in Israel’s diplomatic journey. For this cohort, particular personalities or events have ultimately defined their vision of how Israel ought to act.

With its enthusiastic endorsement of President Donald Trump, Israel could be seen symbolically as an ideal “red state” base for his administration; while many Jewish Americans might metaphorically represent a “blue state” constituency, with their overriding opposition to this White House and current Israeli policies.

With the issue of intersectionality, American Jews are often forced to choose between their social justice priorities and their Zionist passions. Maybe for the first time in American history Jews are engaging with allies on specific issues where they find common ground, yet knowing that these “friends” espouse views that may be perceived as anti-Israel.

Political tensions are also prevalent within Israel, as evidenced by a host of domestic policy conflicts. These internal disagreements among Israeli citizens resemble a geopolitical war between “the state of Tel Aviv” with its secular, liberal orientation and “the state of Jerusalem” with its traditional religious and politically conservative perspective.

While many Jewish Americans are experiencing great discomfort about the current political theater in the United States, Israelis on the political left are expressing concerns about the status of their democracy as scandal and corruption appear to be on the increase. Even as the issues that animate these communities’ angst appear to be vastly different, there exists an impasse, even a state of gridlock, common to these two political systems. Both nations appear unable to rely on politicians or institutional elites to be able to change the status quo.

So, the question here is how can we find common ground — not only between Israelis and Americans but also within our respective, deeply divided societies? Engaging in effective communication and dialogue will require a shared base of knowledge, a level of open reflection, and a culture of civility.

“Jewish history readily informs us that where our people remain in discord, the political outcomes have been profoundly problematic.”

We are dramatically reminded that this experiment in state building is a relatively new venture — hardly a significant period of time to develop a mature, sophisticated understanding of how a nation, its citizens or its Diaspora partners ought to behave and operate. Jewish history readily informs us that where our people remain in discord, the political outcomes have been profoundly problematic.

The political divide speaks to a larger set of issues outlined by these key questions: 

Does the liberal Jewish mainstream share any common political ground with its more politically conservative co-religionists? How might we find ways to open such conversations?

The political divide around Israel is a central element in the battle over the Jewish future. As Jewish Americans, what should be our relationship with the Jewish State?

Politically conservative Jewish American are embracing closer ties between the Trump administration and Israel’s political establishment, as they seek to advance Israel’s security. Liberal Jewish Americans are seeking to halt the expansion of settlements, promote a Palestinian-Jewish dialogue and advance a human-rights agenda as a way to ensure Israel’s long-term security. What, if any, are the common threads here for a shared discussion?

Who is permitted to critique Israel? The political right argues that the prerogative of criticism belongs only to the citizens of the Jewish State. Its counterpart, the Jewish progressive community, contends that Jews across the world are partners in the task of building and defending the State of Israel, and as such ought to be able to participate in a conversation concerning the nature and character of the Jewish political enterprise.

How do we negotiate the Jewish religious divide? One of the core issues to this division is centered on Jerusalem and the question of the “Kotel.” Will Jews find a way to negotiate shared accommodations in response to their different religious inclinations

Finally, what does it mean to be Jewish in a 21st-century environment where the scourge of anti-Semitism, racism and ethnic hatred has re-emerged? Will Jews find common ground in order to unite in this battle? (Enemies of the Jewish people do not distinguish between the Jewish left and the Jewish right.)

Can Jewish Americans even be defined at this point as a community, with shared values and common goals? Is there anything that can align our divergent factions so that the Jewish people can achieve our long-term interests?

As battle lines have intensified around Israeli and American politics and policies, friendships have ended over political disagreements, and organizations have been pressured to take positions. Sadly, even dinner-guest lists are being screened to ensure that those invited share political viewpoints in concert with the host. Civility and consensus have given way to name-calling and political separation.

Is this the first time in Jewish history where our community seemed fractured? No! In fact, the pathways of Jewish history would suggest that Jews have been constantly in contention with one another. Some have argued that this has been an asset, as contentious debate and controversy has stimulated creative responses, great literature and thoughtful commentaries, as well as significant Jewish heroes and leaders. Others have viewed these divisions with grave concern, judging our historic infighting as being destructive over the centuries to our people’s well-being.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks gives special attention to this corrosive issue, when he writes:

“Recent history — the Holocaust and the sense of involvement that most Jews throughout the world feel in the fate of Israel — has convinced us that the Jewish destiny is indivisible. We are implicated in the fate of one another. That is the substantive content of our current sense of unity. But it is a unity imposed, as it were, from outside. Neither anti-Semitism nor anti-Zionism, we believe, makes distinctions between Jews. Hence our collective vigilance, activity and concern. But from within, in terms of its own self-understanding, the Jewish people evinces no answering solidarity. External crisis unites Jews; internal belief divides.”

Over the past decade, in particular, Jewish groups have begun to address the civility issue. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs in 2010 created a “Civility Statement.” Based on the civility initiatives developed by the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco, this national statement was developed:

“As a community, we must commit ourselves and ask others to open their hearts and minds to healthy, respectful dialogue based on our love for our neighbors and our people. We therefore agree to treat others with decency and honor and to set ourselves as models for civil discourse, even when we disagree with each other. We commit ourselves to this course to preserve an essential element of a community — the ability to meet and talk as brothers and sisters.”

In light of the difficult and contentious conversations and programs around Israel on college campuses, Hillel, among other agencies, has developed guidelines for such discussions. And the Resetting the Table organization is collaborating with partner organizations, as it says, “to build important communication across political silos in American life. Our work ranges from one-off forums to intensive year-long programs for institutional and community transformation that replace long-standing distrust or avoidance with a culture of healthy dialogue and deliberation.”

Jews have worked across party lines and with those with whom we may have had political disagreements in the past, in order to achieve what is best for this nation. We will do so again. Let the conversation begin!


Steven Windmueller is the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Portions of this article were previously published on eJewishphilanthropy.com.  

Shoah Survivor Who Escaped Pittsburgh Shooting Among SOTU Guests

Screenshot from Twitter.

A Holocaust survivor who also survived the October Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh will be among President Trump’s guests at the State of the Union.

Judah Samet, 81, was among those that were supposed to be sent to Auschwitz in 1944, but  damaged railway lines prompted Samet and his family to be sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp instead, where he spent 10 months before the camp was liberated.

On Oct. 27, Samet was four minutes late to Shabbat morning services at the Tree of Life synagogue because he was conversing with his housekeeper; when Samet arrived in the parking lot, a man informed him that a shooting was occurring.

Samet remained in his car until the shooting ended.

“I was very lucky,” Samet told USA Today. “Four minutes saved my life.”

Samet will be one of the White House’s 13 guests at the Feb. 5 State of the Union address, which includes SWAT team officer Thomas Matson, 41, who was shot multiple times at the Tree of Life shooting.

Samet told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he will “say a Jewish blessing that you say only when you meet a head of state” when he meets with Trump at noon.

“I like him very much,” Samet said. “He is strongly pro-Israel. That a man would go outright for Israel and declare for Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel … that was something new.”

The State of the Union will begin at 6 p.m. PT.

I’m Not Making Unsupported Claims; You Are!

In the Letters to the Editor section of the Jan. 31 Jewish Journal issue is a letter titled, “Don’t Print Speculation.” The letter’s author complains about a column by Dan Schnur which, he says, contains an “unfounded supposition” about Donald Trump. He then goes on to broadly accuse “Never Trumpers,” saying, “Without any facts to support their position, they rely on conjecture, speculation and innuendo.”

I completely agree that unfounded accusations about people are far too common, especially in social media, so I wanted to see for myself what this letter was referring to. Assuming this author is writing about Schnur’s Jan. 16 column, the letter writer seems to have missed the second paragraph, in which Schnur lays out a series of facts as evidence in regard to Trump’s connections with Russia.

One may or may not agree on what to make of those facts, but at least they are there. On top of that, I read the message of the column as warning us against jumping to conclusions and urging us to wait until Special Counsel Robert Mueller publishes his findings of Trump and Russia.

So, right off the bat, this appears to be a case of the letter writer falsely accusing Dan Schnur of coming to an “unfounded supposition.” It gets worse from there.

He accuses BuzzFeed of publishing an “unverified dossier” even though BuzzFeed at the time provided appropriate context for it, and much of the dossier has since been verified. He also takes BuzzFeed to task for the story in which it claimed Michael Cohen was instructed by Donald Trump to lie to Congress.

In other words, the letter writer does exactly what he accuses “Never Trumpers” of doing. He accuses them of relying on “conjecture, speculation and innuendo” without any facts, and then as an example, he uses two examples from a single media outlet, with the first example being that apparently he just didn’t like the facts the outlet published (the existence of the dossier is a fact and what it contains is a fact, whether or not all of those contents have yet been verified), and the second example being a case in which facts as BuzzFeed understood them were supplied, although the accuracy of some of those facts are currently in dispute. It’s true that some may believe the letter writer’s complaints may reflect poorly on BuzzFeed, but they are not examples of speculation without facts, and they hardly support his broad claim about “Never Trumpers.”

I do not place the whole blame for this on the letter writer. Although we can’t control what is being said on social media, responsible media outlets like the Jewish Journal can, and I believe should, refrain from contributing to the degradation of intelligent public discourse by printing columns, blogs, letters to the editor, or anything else which contain patently false or obviously misleading information, nor should it print ad hominem attacks or broad claims that are unsupported by facts. The Jewish Journal cannot solve the problem, but it can refrain from contributing to it.

What Happened to America? How We Became a Divided Nation and How We Can Move Forward

We Americans are furious. We are fed up. We are enraged and outraged. We vent our wrath on Facebook and Twitter against those who have the nerve to disagree with us, and we avoid even the most casual of social encounters with people who voted for the other candidate.

But we also know that underneath almost every angry person is a frightened person. If we move past the anger to instead consider the frightened American voter and where their fears come from, we can move closer to addressing the unhappiness and divisiveness that has roiled our politics, our public discourse and even our personal relationships.

Politics does not exist in a vacuum. It is a reflection — and often an exaggeration — of society. Shrewd campaign strategists in both major parties have watched us for years as we have become more wary and more suspicious of each other. They have learned how to exploit our tribal instincts and to leverage our alienation for their partisan advantage. But in 2016, the politics of fear broke through to a new level.

The Politics of Fear
In the last presidential election, two unusual candidates — Donald Trump from the right and Bernie Sanders from the left — decided that they could benefit from stoking the fears of voters rather than calming them. Both understood something that more traditional candidates like Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton did not: A significant number of Americans no longer trusted the reassurances politicians had always offered. Instead, many of us wanted our leaders to indulge our passions and help us identify scapegoats who we could then blame for our problems.

“What’s wrong with America? Nothing that less fearmongering and more confidence and courage can’t solve.”

Trump and Sanders both obliged, targeting their messages at two different groups of frightened voters. But both men recognized the same source of these fears: a society that was struggling with the most dramatic economic and technological upheaval since the Industrial Revolution. Just as the transition from agriculture to industry in the early 20th century roiled the American psyche at that time, the current transformation from an economy heavily reliant on manufacturing to one dependent on rapidly changing technology was having a similar impact. Both shifts were profoundly disruptive to a workforce that had been trained to succeed under the former system but was left deeply disoriented by changes for which it was unprepared. Both shifts exposed the worst fears of workers who felt left behind.

Working-Class White Men
Trump focused his efforts on an older generation of blue-collar workers. Many female and minority voters were put off by Trump’s messaging on social and cultural matters, but white working-class men made up the core of his support base from the first days of his candidacy. These men were told many years ago that they did not need a college education to achieve professional success and economic stability. They learned that working on an assembly line or a factory floor or a construction site might not allow them to get rich, but they could certainly purchase their own home, provide for their children and save enough for a comfortable retirement.

Millions of working-class Americans did everything they thought they were supposed to do to hold up their end of the bargain. They went to work each day, became active in their communities, and provided the structure and support for their children’s future achievements. What they did not foresee was how the world’s economy was preparing to abandon them. 

One hundred years earlier, workers whose livelihoods had depended on agriculture understood how to navigate the Industrial Revolution. They moved from their family farms to cities where they could get jobs in factories. It might have been a difficult transition but at least it was a straightforward one. In 2019, however, laid-off factory workers know they are not going to move to Silicon Valley and acquire venture-fund financing for a social-networking startup. The very best they can hope for is a short-term job-training program that teaches the most rudimentary skills of computer repair or data entry. The worst is represented by growing rates of opioid dependency, homelessness and suicide in the nation’s Rust Belt. Not surprisingly, workers are frightened by a future that doesn’t seem to have room for them — a fear Trump masterfully exploited.

Disaffected Millennials
On the other end of the political spectrum, Sanders reached out to another, equally frightened voter group — disaffected young people.

Like working-class white men, young people of the millennial generation have been struggling to do everything asked of them. In the 21st century, getting into increasingly expensive colleges doesn’t just require good high-school grades and strong test scores, but an array of extracurricular and volunteer activities, as well. As they rise through the educational system, the pressure intensifies. Most successful college students know that succeeding academically is no longer sufficient to guarantee them a well-paying job, so they pursue internships, externships and fellowships with preternatural focus and determination. 

Unfortunately, they happened to graduate from college during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, or during its uneven and unsatisfying aftermath.

Sanders appealed to their fears with tremendous effectiveness, convincing these young people that he was the one candidate who was willing to pay attention to them. Most of his young supporters understood that his promise of free college was unlikely to happen, just as most of the working-class Trump voters knew that his pledge to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border would never be fulfilled. But unlike the establishment politicians of both parties, at least these two men were responding to their fears and worries. 

The unemployed 50-something factory worker and the underemployed 20-something barista may have expressed their fears in different ways, but both felt cheated by an economic system that shortchanged them and a political system that ignored them. Both groups felt like they were being denied their piece of the American dream and didn’t understand why no one seemed to care. Trump and Sanders not only validated their fears but provided handy targets to blame. Demonizing someone — whether immigrants or bankers — was cathartic and energizing for them. And it was good politics for the two candidates.

Fear on the World Stage
Just as children and voters run away from things that frighten them, countries also retreat from scary things. America’s current retreat into isolationism is in line with a century of historical trends. After both World Wars and the wars in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq, our exhausted and depleted nation turned inward. After every significant economic downturn, American voters decided to prioritize domestic concerns over foreign engagements. It should be no surprise that after more than a decade in Afghanistan and in the years since the economic meltdown of 2008, Americans simply want the rest of the world to leave us alone for a while. We never seem to learn the consequences of that disengagement, a lesson that is again becoming painfully apparent.

For many years, the Republican and Democratic parties’ attitudes toward international disengagement have manifested themselves in markedly different ways. Republicans expressed their concerns through a reluctance to promote a more welcoming immigration policy, while the Democrats’ wariness could be seen in their antipathy toward expanded free trade. Trump demonstrated his political savvy by being the first major political figure in recent history to strenuously oppose this country’s bridge-building efforts on both policy fronts rather than one or the other. Regardless of the outcome of his current debate with Congress over border security, he became our nation’s Wallbuilder in Chief long ago.

The fears that motivated such nationalism and isolationism are not unique to this country. The recent “Yellow Vest” protests in France, the rise of reactionary populist movements throughout Europe and the ongoing debate over Brexit in Great Britain provide ample evidence of the global nature of this challenge. But for the last several decades, the United States has played a unique role in maintaining and strengthening the international architecture on which the varying interests of individual countries could be balanced. 

For more than 40 years after the end of World War II, the world’s security, economic and diplomatic landscape was shaped by a bipolar leadership structure headed by the United States and the Soviet Union. After the end of the Cold War, the United States stood as the unchallenged organizer of an international infrastructure. But the current multipolar setup, with a growing number of aggressive global players, is an arrangement that has historically led to precarious provocations, chaos or widespread violence. Concerns of increasingly tense Middle East discord, of a resurgent Russia and an increasingly aggressive China continue to fester. Fears of international economic, military or environmental catastrophe will not be diminished without a more assertive and consistent U.S. presence on the world stage. But taking on such scary international demands requires that we as a nation present a more unified front to a global audience. Which means we must first confront our fears here at home. 

How Fear Spreads
Fear is contagious. Over the last two years, the ranks of frightened Americans have continued to grow. The two specific demographic groups that animated the 2016 campaign have been joined by much larger numbers of voters on both sides of the aisle. On one side are those who fear that — because of their gender, race, ethnicity or immigration status — they are being deprived of their rightful opportunity to share in the American dream. On the other side are those, just as frightened, who worry that they are having their share of that same American dream taken from them as the nation’s economy and culture change in ways they do not understand. The resulting animosity between those who hate Trump and those who hate those who hate Trump causes the surface anger and the fear underneath it to cascade. 

The challenge for our country’s political leaders is to explain to both groups of frightened people that the American dream is not a zero-sum game, that when some among us realize that dream, they do not prevent others from that same achievement. Rather, they increase its likelihood for all. But bringing people to understand such a reality requires a unifying message that is more challenging and complicated to communicate than it is to create bogeymen and stoke fears of the unknown.

“The percentage of Americans who would refuse to marry someone of a different race or religion is at an all-time low. On the other hand, the percentage of Americans who would refuse to date someone of the opposing political party is at an all-time high.”

How Fear Stops
Throughout history, our best leaders have made that extra effort. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously outlined the “Four Freedoms” to which we are all entitled: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. Unstated but implied in his speech was that each of those freedoms is most secure when we rally together to protect them on behalf of others who are the most vulnerable to losing them. Such a view puts an added obligation on those of us who are most able: We must stand with those who are most fearful.

What frightened people fear most are people different than them. Our society has made tremendous progress on this front, as public-opinion research has shown that the percentage of Americans who would refuse to marry someone of a different race or religion is at an all-time low. On the other hand, the percentage of Americans who would refuse to date someone of the opposing political party is at an all-time high.

Certainly, we have a long way to go. We’re getting better at overcoming our fears of people who don’t look like us or talk like us, but we’re becoming much less accepting of people who don’t think like us or vote like us. We are trading one form of intolerance — and fear — for another.

Looking Harder for Common Ground
Ronald Reagan preached the value of cooperation by saying, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally.” The next step forward from Reagan’s quote would be to consider that someone who disagrees with you 80 percent of the time is still someone you can work with 20 percent of the time. But it requires a lot more work to find that 20 percent. It’s much easier to simply vilify them for those matters on which you disagree and add to the animosity and anger.

Tribalization is tempting, but rising above it is often worth the trouble. The time and effort expended in finding common ground not only may lead to substantive agreement and forward progress, but it may make the other person a little less frightening. Recognizing the humanity of someone who wants the same things for their children that you want for yours — even if they disagree with you on which political party is better equipped to deliver those things — is a small step toward tolerance and away from fear. Maybe we can remember that the person with whom we disagree isn’t someone to be hated, but rather someone with whom we can try to find even some small agreement.

The most important part of communication, of course, is listening. As a first step, exposing ourselves to the writing and thinking of smart people on the other side of the divide can help us understand that not everyone with whom we disagree is stupid or evil. Our goal should be to find intelligent thinkers who have different ideas than ours about how to take on our community’s most pressing challenges, listen to them rather than lecture them, and ask them questions rather than hurl insults at them.

And no fair seeking out the screamers and the polemicists on the other side. Pretending to engage with an avowed hate-monger is just an excuse to reinforce our own beliefs, congratulate ourselves for being so much more enlightened that our adversaries, and build the ideological and partisan walls even higher. There are smart people who come to different conclusions than we do. We owe it to ourselves to find them — and to hear them. Then after we have listened to them, the most productive response is to ask questions rather than hurl insults.

(Be warned: This approach requires a high level of intellectual courage, as well as plenty of self-confidence to defend our ideas and entertain the possibility that others might have good ideas, too. It’s also good to have ample quantities of humility.)

On the last day of every semester in the college classes I teach, I give my students one final assignment. Although I cannot grade it, I tell them the assignment will be the most important they receive over the entire course. I ask every conservative in the class to watch Rachel Maddow once a week and I encourage every liberal to read George Will or Bret Stephens with the same frequency. The goal isn’t to change anyone’s mind, just to open it.

“Maybe we can remember that the person with whom we disagree isn’t someone to be hated, but rather someone with whom we can try to find even some small agreement.”

What’s Right With America
In his first inaugural address, Bill Clinton offered a thought that can still help us with this current challenge. “There is nothing wrong with America,” he said, “that cannot be cured with what is right in America.” 

What’s right with America has always been collaboration and cooperation and the extra effort needed to overcome disagreements to work toward common goals. What’s right with America are Americans who understand that fearing those who are different just gets in the way of recognizing that the diversity of those differences is what has always allowed our country to succeed.

What’s right with America is building bridges, but the whole point of a bridge is to connect things that otherwise would be separated. This type of construction requires reaching out across obvious demographic and ideological dividing lines to overcome fears and work toward achievable, admirable goals. 

What’s wrong with America? Nothing that less fearmongering and more confidence and courage can’t solve. The question is whether we sit around waiting and hoping for the politicians to make that transformation, or whether we take the lead and show them that while fear may be an effective short-term political strategy for them, it is going to get in our way as we work toward putting our country back on track.

Talking to those with whom we disagree — and listening to them — may seem like an outdated concept. Certainly, advances in communications technology make it easier than ever to avoid them. But maybe it’s worth the effort, if only to replace fear with trust.


Dan Schnur teaches political communications and leadership at USC, UC Berkeley and Pepperdine. He is the founder of the USC-L.A. Times statewide political survey and a board member of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.

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

Screenshot from Twitter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rep. Tlaib on Trump: ‘Impeach The Motherf–––er!’

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) dropped an expletive when she called for President Trump to be impeached in a speech on Thursday night.

Tlaib told her supporters at a MoveOn.org event that her son said to her, “Momma, look you won. Bullies don’t win.”

“And I said, ‘Baby, they don’t,’ ” Tlaib said. “Because we’re going to go in there and impeach the motherf—er.”

Tlaib defended her comments in a tweet:

However, she refused to answer reporters’ questions on the matter:

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) deflected when asked about Tlaib’s comments:

Trump told reporters during a press briefing in the Rose Garden on Friday that he thought Tlaib’s comments were “disgraceful.”

“I think she dishonored herself, and I think she dishonored her family,” Trump said. “Using language like that in front of her son, and whoever else was there, I thought that was a great dishonor to her and to her family. I thought it was highly disrespectful to the United States of America.”

Tlaib, the first elected Palestinian-American congresswoman, has called for a one-state solution and has expressed support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. A map in her Washington D.C. congressional office featured a sticky note emblazoned with the word “Palestine” over Israel.

Trump Announces Withdrawal From Syria

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a roundtable discussion of the Federal Commission on School Safety Report at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 18, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Young

The Trump administration is reportedly withdrawing American troops from Syria, a move that is resulting in blowback from Trump’s fellow Republicans.

The move has been reported in several news outlets, such as The Wall Street Journal and CNN, and seemingly supported by Trump’s morning tweet: “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.”

The move comes after a recent phone call Trump had with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan:

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) were among the Republicans who stated their opposition to the move:

 

U.S. forces had been partnered with the armed Kurdish forces in Syria in fighting against ISIS; Erdogan stated his desire to attack those Kurdish forces on Dec. 12.

There had been 2,000 American troops in Syria.

To Beat Trump, Dems Need New Strategy

“Hey, let’s talk to people who were always going to vote for us anyway!” That seems to be the sum total of the Democratic Party’s strategy to beat President Donald Trump’s Republicans in recent elections. 

Political parties are brands as much as Coca-Cola and Apple are. Like them, parties can squeeze only a minimal amount of growth from existing fans.  

To thrive, Dems must persuade those who aren’t current supporters. Whether indifferent, lapsed party loyalists or those actively voting against them, Democrats’ brand is in poor shape with these segments. 

Fortunately, there’s a simple — if not easy or quick — way to fix this. Israeli psychologist Daniel Kahneman, the first psychologist to win the Nobel Prize in economics, has provided the blueprint.

Kahneman delineates two modes of thinking: System 1 decisions, driven by instinct, memories and engrained learning, yields instantaneous decisions. System 2 decisions, based on deliberation and logic, need more time to form. Although we like to believe our choices are rational, System 1 biases and intuition often pull the levers.

The ultimate goal for any brand is to be selected without the decision-maker doing much thinking at all. Democrats would love to be the no-brainer choice. But those gut-level voting decisions can happen only if Dems start capitalizing on System 1 brain processing and stop preaching to their existing fans. 

That means three things: Stop throwing valuable resources into campaigning to the already-convinced. Plow that money into persuading those who aren’t. Finally, cast off naïve ideas about the influence of facts and figures. 

This doesn’t mean going all-in on emotional marketing. All emotional responses originate in System 1, but not all System 1 thinking is emotional. 

“The left is not a monolith, despite what many conservatives imagine. Most Americans aren’t invested in politics. They’re intensely practical people.”

Brushing your teeth doesn’t require strategic thinking. “Auto-pilot” and muscle memory are nothing but System 1 — not emotion — at work. You also probably don’t deliberate much before buying your usual newspaper. Your brain knows better than to perform a critical audit of all your options for that one. It’s a System 1 decision devoid of emotion. 

Likewise, Democrats can’t win elections with “We’re not the evil GOP” as their brand identity. Leveraging what people used to love about their party would be more strategic. 

For example, alienated voters might be swayed by seeing Democrats embrace the notion that the white working class, especially males, deserve a shot at the American dream. But liberal extremists won’t go there — even though it helped Dems win elections for decades. 

The left is not a monolith, despite what many conservatives imagine. Most Americans aren’t invested in politics. They’re intensely practical people, focused on their families, local communities and minding their own business. If the Democrats can find what resonates with those individuals, they can become a party that such people believe people like them vote for. This would take Dems one step closer to becoming the no-brainer election choice.

This doesn’t mean abandoning fact-based overtures. In consumer marketing, purchase of pricier items or those with lengthier consideration periods is often triggered by System 1 beliefs layered with System 2 data. If you’ve always loved Nikes and need new cross-trainers, information about the brand’s political activism can give you permission to buy what you wanted all along.

But factual details about a brand can go only so far. If individuals simply don’t think of Democrats as candidates for “people like me,” they won’t vote for a certain candidate just because she has impressive degrees or experience.

This makes it all the more imperative for Democrats to build a brand that can poach voters from Trump’s base and beyond.


Jackie Danicki is a business consultant and media contributor. 

Haley: Trump Wanted to Cut Funding to Those That Voted Down UN Hamas Resolution

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump talks to the media on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington before his departure for the annual Army-Navy college football game in Philadelphia, U.S., December 8, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said in a Dec. 6 speech that President Donald Trump wanted to cut funding to countries that voted against a United Nations that condemned Hamas as a terror group.

The resolution received 87 votes in favor, 57 against and 33 abstentions on Dec. 6, falling short of the two-thirds threshold needed for it to pass.

According to the Times of Israel, Haley said at the Israel U.N. mission’s menorah lighting that Trump called her after the vote and said, “Who do we need to get upset at? Who do you want me to yell at? Who do we take their money away?”

“I’m not gonna tell you what I told him,” Haley added.

Haley praised the 87 countries that voted for the resolution as a sign of “a new day at the UN.”

According to the Gatestone Institute’s Bassam Tawil, the fact that Hamas viewed the resolution’s failure as an indicator that “the resistance is a legitimate right guaranteed by all international laws and conventions,” including the use of “armed struggle,” shows that Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups have been emboldened by the failed resolution.

“What Hamas is telling the UN and the rest of the world is: ‘Now that you have refused to brand us terrorists, we have the right to launch all forms of terrorist attacks and kill as many Jews as possible,’” Tawil wrote. “Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders are, in fact, threatening not only to continue, but also to step up, their terrorist attacks on Israel.”

Dermer Praises Trump at IAC for Leaving Iran Deal

Photo by Perry Bindelglass.

Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer praised President Trump at the Israeli-American Council (IAC) conference in Florida for leaving the Iran nuclear deal.

Dermer, who was being interviewed onstage by Channel 10’s Alon Ben David, praised Trump’s decision to exit the deal as “the most important decision an American president has made” to keep Israel secure.

“He had every world leader except for Israel and the Arab states… telling him not to do it,” Dermer said, adding that it took serious “courage” to “stand up to all that pressure and do the right thing.”

Dermer argued that the agreement “didn’t do what it said it was going to do which is block Iran from developing nuclear weapons,” pointing out that Iran had been advancing their nuclear program under the deal.

He added that the $150 billion in sanctions relief under the deal was a “signing bonus” for Iran, since Iran could have raked in $100 billion a year under the deal due to oil exports.

“Iran needs to understand that they have to change their behavior,” Dermer said.

By re-imposing sanctions on Iran, Trump is using “the U.S. economy to affect change” and make it tougher for Iran to fund their “war machine,” Dermer added.

“This deal is an unmitigated disaster for Israel and I’m so grateful that the president of the United States made the courageous decision to walk away,” Dermer said.

Killing Another Linkage

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a joint press conference REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/Pool

You might not remember the debate about whether the road to Middle East peace ran through Jerusalem or Baghdad. In the early 1990s, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker believed that peace between Israel and Palestine was the key to solving the main problems of the Middle East. During the second Bush administration, a reverse suggestion was made — and debated: that solving the problem of Baghad would hasten a peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Time proved both theories wrong, or at least premature. Peace was not achieved, and the Middle East still has problems. Very few people still believe in a so-called “linkage.” 

Of course, peace with the Palestinians has merit, but avoiding the linkage between achieving that goal and pursuing other Middle East advances removes some of the pressures on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. The Palestinians cannot hold all other Middle East advances hostage until their issue is resolved. The world no longer lives under the illusion that Israel-Palestine peace is the first priority (more important than, say, Iranian nuclear advances). Israel is no longer blamed — at least not by serious people — for causing trouble in other areas in the region. 

With that linkage basically put aside, Israel is now aiming for the jugular of the second linkage: whether it can be legitimized in the Arab Muslim world when its conflict with the Palestinians is still an open wound.

“Israel is now aiming for the jugular of the second linkage: whether it can be legitimized in the Arab Muslim world when its conflict with the Palestinians is still an open wound.”

Egypt was the first country to erode this linkage when it signed a peace agreement with Israel (with provisions aimed at advancing a solution for the Palestinians). Jordan likewise signed a peace agreement with Israel in the early 1990s, when Israel and the Palestinians seemed for a while as if they were moving toward resolution. 

The situation today is much changed. It is clear that Israelis and Palestinians are not moving toward peace. It is also clear that when Arab Muslim countries get closer to Israel that they are not doing it because of the Palestinian issue but rather in spite of it. They are doing it because they have other priorities — concerns about Iran; economic or technological needs Israel can satisfy; or political needs that can be addressed through Israel’s ties in Washington. 

Relations with Persian Gulf countries have improved. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently visited Oman, and there is now talk about an upcoming visit to Bahrain. Relations with Saudi Arabia are of great importance to both countries. And then there is Africa, where Israel is slowly edging toward renewing relations with more countries. 

On Nov. 25, the president of Chad, Idriss Déby, visited Israel. Chad is a poor, corrupt country in the middle of Africa that is plagued by political violence and ranked very high on the failed-state index. Déby has dealt with rebellions and coups d’état attempts since he first became president in 1990. Chad has little to contribute to Israel — except on the issue of linkage. It has a small Muslim majority, and in the early 1970s, it severed ties with Israel under pressure from Saudi Arabia, Libya and other Arab countries in an attempt by the Arab world to keep Israel illegitimate. (President Déby was highly influenced by former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.)

Now that the second linkage seems to be dying, or maybe is dead, the Palestinians are no doubt following this process with apprehension. It takes away one of the key tools they used in their battle with Israel: the power of the Arab Muslim world to put pressure on the Jewish State. For Israel, it’s a triumph. It carries the hope that the Palestinians will finally realize that time is not necessarily on their side. It also carries a certain risk: Israel might be tempted to forget the Palestinians. But while Chad is far away, the Palestinians, with or without the support of Arab Muslim countries, still live in Israel.


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

Man Shouts ‘Heil Hitler!’ During ‘Fiddler’ Performance

A man shouted, “Heil Hitler!” and threw up a Nazi salute during the intermission of a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” on Wednesday night.

Rich Scherr, who was in the audience when the incident occurred at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre, tweeted that the man also issued “pro-Trump statements,” which reportedly included “Heil Trump” and “MAGA” [Make America Great Again].

Scherr told the Baltimore Sun that “people started running” when they heard the man.

I’ll be honest, I was waiting to hear a gunshot,” Scherr said. “I thought, ‘Here we go.’”

Another audience member, Samit Verma, told the Sun that “some people were in tears.”

Connor Drew, who was in the lobby at the time of the incident, told The New York Times, “I wasn’t afraid of violence. I was just more afraid of the situation in general and seeing how people were shaken by it.”

The man was eventually escorted out of the theater by security, but at that point Scherr said he wasn’t able to “pay attention” to the rest of the performance after that.

The man has reportedly been identified as 58-year-old Anthony Derlunas; according to the Times, Derlunas was inebriated at the time and is claiming what he shouted was out of his hatred for President Trump.

Derlunas received a stop ticket from police over the matter, which does not have any sort of penalty attached to it.

The theater apologized to its attendees:

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonthan Greenblatt tweeted:

BREAKING: Sessions Resigns From AG Position

Jeff Sessions announced his resignation from attorney general in a letter to President Trump on Wednesday.

Sessions began the letter by noting that he is resigning “at your request.”

“In my time as Attorney General we have restored and upheld the rule of law–a glorious tradition that each of us has a responsibility to safeguard,” Sessions wrote. “We have operated with integrity and have lawfully and aggressively advanced the policy agenda of this administration.”

Trump tweeted that Sessions’ chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, would take over as interim attorney general until Trump nominates a permanent replacement:

Trump had previously been critical of Sessions recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Now explanation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jewish Democrats Celebrate Midterm Wins

Democrats regained control of the House and won crucial gubernatorial races, with strong support from Jewish Democrats Tuesday night.

The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), endorsed 58 candidates including, Michigan’s Haley Stevens, Dianne Feinstein, and Max Rose, and invested more than six-figures in the midterm elections. They applauded Democrats on their historic and monumental election win Tuesday night.

“The 2018 midterm elections were a clear referendum on President Trump, and a rejection of his hateful policies and rhetoric. Jewish voters overwhelmingly and decisively rejected Republicans because they have enabled an agenda that is a betrayal of Jewish and American values,” Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) Executive Director Halie Soifer said in a statement obtained by the Journal.

Soifer also said that the Jewish voter turnout made the difference in securing Democrat victories in close races that proved essential to flipping control of Congress.

JDCA’s efforts to get out the Jewish vote included a comprehensive digital and print ad campaign aimed at reaching more than half a million Jewish voters across the country.

The organization organized hundreds of volunteers for canvassing and phone banking. Many of the 58 candidates JDCA endorsed in the midterm election won tight races for the House, Senate and Governor’s mansions. More than half of JDCA endorsees have won their races, including many seats that were flipped from red to blue (with results still coming in). Democrats’ election victory gives relief to many especially to Jewish Americans

“After the horrific attack in Pittsburgh, the Jewish vote – which has historically been in support of Democrats – was only solidified. Jews turned out in record numbers, and voted in record numbers for Dems,”  JDCA chairman Ron Klein said. “Tonight’s verdict is a resounding rejection of Trump’s politics of hate, division, and violence.”

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

Screenshot from Twitter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lethal Power of Words

At one fleeting moment in the coverage of the killings at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, a young Jewish couple on a TV news broadcast were describing what they saw as law enforcement officers swarmed through their neighborhood to confront the shooter. As the interview ended and the correspondent edged them out of the shot, the wife managed to utter one last word before she disappeared from the screen.

“Vote!” she implored.

At that moment, the release of the latest book by Jason Stanley, “How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them,” seemed particularly well-timed.

Stanley is the Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy at Yale University. His previous books include “How Propaganda Works,” and he is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and The Washington Post. He may be a credentialed philosopher, but he has a sure grasp of both history and politics. Above all, he understands how history penetrates and distorts politics — a phenomenon taking place before our very eyes.

When Stanley’s parents arrived in the United States in 1939 as refugees from Nazi Germany, for example, “America First” was the phrase on the lips of the isolationists who were perfectly comfortable letting Adolf Hitler do whatever he wanted with both the Jewish citizens of Germany and the democracies that were Germany’s neighbors. When the same phrase is adopted as a mantra by our current president, Stanley argues, it carries the same hateful associations. That’s why, as he points out, Steve Bannon told the Hollywood Reporter in 2016 that the Donald Trump era “will be as exciting as the 1930s,” that is, “the era when the United had its most sympathy for fascism.”

“Fascism” is a fighting word, of course, but Stanley is careful to define his terms. “I have chosen the label ‘fascism’ for ultranationalism of some variety (ethnic, religious, cultural), with the nation represented in the person of an authoritarian leader who speaks on its behalf,” he explains. “As Donald Trump declared in his Republican National Convention speech in July 2016, ‘I am your voice.’” When we hear Trump proudly and defiantly call himself a nationalist, Stanley’s dissection of fascist politics puts us on notice: “Nationalism is at the core of fascism,” he writes. “The fascist leader employs a sense of collective victimhood to create a sense of group identity that is by its nature opposed to the cosmopolitan ethos and individualism of liberal democracy.”

Helpfully, Stanley compiles a list of 10 elements that characterize fascism regardless of the name by which it is called. All of them are worth pondering when viewing the American landscape on the eve of the Nov. 6 midterm elections. One element is “creating a mythic past to support their vision for the present,” which readily brings to mind the cherished slogan of Trumpism, “Make America Great Again.” Another element is “law and order” of a very specific coloring, that is, contrasting “the pure values and traditions of the nation” with “the hordes of minorities who live there, emboldened by liberal tolerance.” A third is a cynical disregard for the truth, whether it is the “Big Lie” that Hitler forced down the throats of his followers or the more recent lies that have been told about the size of the crowd at Trump’s presidential inauguration or the concessions to nuclear disarmament that were supposedly made in a secret meeting between the American president and the dictator of North Korea. “In order to honestly debate what our country should do, what policies it should adopt, we need a common basis of reality,” Stanley warns.

But Stanley also boils down the ugly brew of fascism to its essential message. “The most telling symptom of fascist politics is division,” Stanley writes. “It aims to separate a population into an ‘us’ and a ‘them.’” For Trump, by way of example, “them” is a grab-bag category that includes Muslims, Mexicans, the Democratic “mob,” environmental scientists, and transgender soldiers and sailors, among many others. And the next step in the deadly logic of fascism is a conspiracy theory that blames “them” for the exercise of secret and uncontrollable power over the majority. “Conspiracy theories are tools to attack those who would ignore their existence; by not covering them, the media is made to appear biased and ultimately part of the very conspiracy they refuse to cover,” Stanley observes. 

Stanley is not a panic-maker, and he acknowledges that we need to be cautious in applying the label of fascism to our political adversaries. “Fascism today might not look exactly as it did in the 1930s, but refugees are once again on the road everywhere,” he observes, reminding us that history appears to be repeating itself. By calling to mind the failure of German democracy in 1933 — and the cowardice of Great Britain and France in 1938 — he reminds that we must be vigilant and courageous in defending our American democracy.

“Some may complain about overreacting in the arguments I make, or object that the contemporary examples are not sufficiently extreme to juxtapose against the crimes of history,” he concedes. But he warns against the “normalization of extreme politics” that Trump represents; after all, Trump has said so many vile things that were once unspeakable in American politics that some people have lost the capacity to be surprised or outraged. “What normalization does is transform the morally extraordinary into the ordinary,” he writes. “It makes us able to tolerate what was once intolerable by making it seem as if this is the way things have always been.”

“How Fascism Works” could not be more timely or more crucial. The mail-bomber who targeted the Democrats on Trump’s enemies list, and the shooter who killed 11 Jews at the Pittsburgh synagogue because they were Jews, are examples of what can happen when haters are encouraged by our political celebrities to crawl out from under the rocks that once concealed them. As Jews in America, we ignore threats to democracy at our deadly peril. And, as Jews in America, “How Fascism Works” underscores the plea of the young woman in Squirrel Hill: “Vote!”


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

Nearly 1,000 People Protest Trump’s Visit to Pittsburgh

A woman holds a sign with a picture from preschool television show Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood during a march in memory of the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 30, 2018. Fred Rogers grew up in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood where the shootings occurred and broadcast his popular children’s show from Pittsburgh. REUTERS/Jessica Resnick-Ault

President Trump is visiting Pittsburgh in the aftermath of the Oct. 27 shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill; approximately 1,000 people reportedly protested his visit because of his rhetoric.

The protesters were on a street close to the Tree of Life synagogue, where Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner were visiting. Among the signs at the protests were “Words Matter,” “President Hate is not welcome in our state” and “President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you stop targeting and endangering minorities.”

Protesters also chanted, “No more hate!” and turned their backs on the presidential motorcade.

Prior to the protests, Bend the Arc, a progressive Jewish organization, told Trump in a letter that they don’t’ want him in Pittsburgh unless he denounces white nationalism.

“Our Jewish community is not the only group you have targeted,” the letter stated. “You have also deliberately undermined the safety of people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities. Yesterday’s massacre is not the first act of terror you incited against a minority group in our country.”

However, Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers told CNN, “The president of the United States is always welcome. I am a citizen. He is my president. He is certainly welcome.”

At the Tree of Life synagogue, Trump and his family lit candles for each of the deceased in the shooting and placed stones and roses at Star of David memorials for each of the victims.

“I’m just going to pay my respects,” Trump told Fox News. “I’m also going to the hospital to see the officers and some of the people that were so badly hurt. So — and I really look forward to going — I would have done it even sooner, but I didn’t want to disrupt anymore.”

Iran Engaged in Fake News Campaign on Facebook

Photo from Max Pixel.

Facebook has announced that they have removed several pages, accounts and groups connected to Iran that they say promulgated disinformation of United States politics leading up to the upcoming midterm elections.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, stated that Facebook has taken down 82 pages, accounts and groups that engaged in “inauthentic behavior,” which included posts “about politically charged topics such as race relations, opposition to the President, and immigration.”

Examples of such posts included a fake Time magazine cover of President Trump that stated, “The worst, most hated president in American history!” as well as a photo of UK Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn attributing the following quote to him: “The idea that somehow or other you can deal with all the problems in the world by banning a religious group from entering the U.S.A. is offensive and absurd.”

While Gleicher said they could tie some of the removed accounts, groups and pages to Iran’s state media, they could not establish a concrete connection between them and the Iranian government.

“Free and fair elections are the heart of every democracy and we’re committed to doing everything we can to prevent misuse of Facebook at this critical time for our country,” Gleicher said.

Ben Nimmo of The Atlantic Research Council’s Digital Lab said that the propaganda disseminated from the Iranian accounts resembled “left-leaning Americans to amplify divisions over politically charged issues in the U.S.” and they followed a similar playbook that the Russians used in the 2016 elections, according to USA Today.

Facebook also removed accounts for spreading Iranian disinformation in August. There was some overlap between those accounts and the ones removed in October.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ambassador Nikki Haley to Resign From UN

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has announced her intention to resign at the end of the year.

Appearing Tuesday morning in the Oval Office alongside U.S. President Donald Trump, Haley said her accomplishments included combating anti-Israel bias in the United Nations.

According to media reports, her announcement has shocked White House staffers.

She told reporters she does not plan to run for president in 2020 and will support Trump’s reelection campaign.

Trump said he hopes to name a successor in two to three weeks.

Trump’s nominee to succeed Haley will require confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

Haley was beloved in the pro-Israel community, including at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which she addressed during its annual policy conference this year.

“We appreciate the strong leadership of @nikkihaley @USUN,” AIPAC tweeted, following Haley’s announcement. “Thank you for consistently standing up for America’s interest and our democratic ally Israel.”

In response to Haley’s announcement, American Jewish Committee also tweeted, “We will miss her fearless voice.”

In a phone interview, David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said Haley’s rhetoric about the U.N. holding Israel to a double standard, coupled with her star quality, will make her difficult to replace in the eyes of Israel’s supporters.

“When someone like that leaves it clearly is something that is going to be a blow,” he said.

He said that her “articulate yet plain spoken [style]…became her signature approach, and I think she was consistent in the way she delivered that message and that drew many followers and she will be missed.”

Prior to her appointment to the U.N on Jan. 27, 2017, Haley, 46, served as the governor of South Carolina.

In a joint statement, Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), and Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of SWC, said, “We will miss this passionate and fearless foe of tyrants and friend of Israel.”

“As an accredited NGO at the United Nations we witnessed first-hand as Nikki Haley showed time and again – in word and deed – to be a passionate, fearless, and unflinching foe of tyrants like Iran’s Ayatollah and terrorists like Hamas and Hezbollah,” they said.

What Haley will do next is anybody’s guess, Makovsky said.

“My sense is she wants to earn some money in the private sector,” he said.

Updated 12:20 p.m. on Oct. 9.

Bolton Tells Reporter That ‘Palestine’ Isn’t A State

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton answers a question from a reporter about how he refers to Palestine during a news conference in the White House briefing room in Washington, U.S., October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

John Bolton, President Trump’s national security adviser, declared that “Palestine” is not a state in an exchange with a reporter on Wednesday.

The reporter asked Bolton during a press briefing if it was “productive” for him to refer to “Palestine” as a “so-called state.” Bolton interjected that it was “accurate” to call it that.

“It’s not a state now,” Bolton said. “It does not meet the customary international law test of statehood. It doesn’t control defined boundaries. It doesn’t fulfill the normal functions of government.”

Bolton added, “It could become a state, as the president said, but that requires diplomatic negotiations with Israel and others. So calling it the ‘so-called State of Palestine’ defines exactly what it has been, a position the United States government has pursued uniformly since 1988 when the Palestinian Authority declared itself as the State of Palestine.”

Bolton also noted that both Republican and Democrat administrations have been against the United Nations recognizing “Palestine” as a state.

Additionally, Bolton stated that Iran has “pursued a policy of hostility toward the United States:

Trump OK With One- or Two-State Solution in Israel

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a news conference on the sidelines of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 26, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

After announcing his support for a two-state solution in the Israel-Palestinian conflict in a Wednesday press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Trump reiterated his support for a two-state solution in a subsequent press conference but added that he could be persuaded toward a one-state solution.

Trump stated that he was an optimistic that a deal could be forged on the matter. He noted that a two-state solution could be difficult — “it’s a real-estate deal,” but a two-state solution would allow for “people governing themselves.”

“By saying that, I put it out there,” Trump said. “If you ask most of the people in Israel, they agree with that. But nobody wanted to say it. It’s a very big thing to put it out.”

However, Trump added a caveat that he would be fine with a one-state solution if both sides were agreed to it.

“If the Israelis and the Palestinians want one state, that’s OK with me. If they want two states, that’s OK with me,” Trump said. “I’m happy if they’re happy. I’m a facilitator. I want to see if I can get a deal done so that people don’t get killed anymore.”

Trump later added, “If they’re both happy, I’m OK with either. I think the two-state is more likely.”

Doing the Right Thing Is Still a Good Choice

Not long ago, I caused a bit of consternation in my modest social media world when I suggested that there might be another way to look at Stormy Daniels, aka Stephanie Clifford, other than as a strong and brave feminist icon. I pointed out that she had an adulterous affair with a married man whose wife had just given birth and Daniels hadn’t done a damn thing about it until circumstances created an opportunity for her to leverage a little blackmail gelt. In doing so, and by keeping the money and failing to go public about the payoff in real time, she became uniquely complicit in the corruption of a U.S. presidential election. She didn’t appear to me to be doing the right thing.  

More recently, at the U.S. Open, Serena Williams demanded the head of an umpire who had the temerity to enforce the rules. First, the umpire warned her (for receiving coaching), then he docked her a point (for racket abuse) and, finally, he penalized her a game after her verbal outburst toward him became abusive (she called him “a thief,” among other things). She went on to lose the U.S. Open match, a Grand Slam final — 6-2, 6-4 — and received minor fines for each infraction.  

Williams immediately made this a “feminist” cause celebre, arguing that no male player would be treated the same way. She said the umpire’s taking a game away for her calling him “a thief” was “sexist.” Tennis icon Billie Jean King jumped to Williams’ defense, tweeting: “When a woman is emotional, she’s [considered] ‘hysterical’ and she’s penalized for it. When a man does the same, he’s ‘outspoken’ & and there are no repercussions.”

After the tennis match, Williams’ coach admitted he had been “coaching on every point” by signaling to her from his seat in the stands, even though coaching is strictly prohibited in Grand Slam events. “Everyone does it,” he said. However, after having been thumped in the first set by her opponent, 20-year-old Naomi Osaka, and even after the first warning, Williams was leading, 3-1, and in control of the second set — but apparently not of herself. So, it was the 37-year-old, 23-time Grand Slam victor who melted down and cost herself the match, and it was first-time champion Osaka who had her moment in the sun stolen by the player she idolized, a player who also went on to tell the umpire, “You will never, ever, be on a court of mine as long as you live.” Interestingly, in the age of the #MeToo movement, that kind of threat should sound ironically familiar here in Los Angeles, where it almost always comes from men of power, directed at women of less power.  

It would seem, then, that perhaps it’s power, not gender, that rules our emotions. And when we lose control of ourselves, even the best of us will say and do the worst things.

Williams is probably the greatest women’s tennis player of all time, and those of us who are huge sports fans have applauded her exploits for two decades. Just the fact that she was out there in a Grand Slam final at the age of 37 — not to mention a year after giving birth and after multiple surgeries for blood clots — testifies to her fortitude and skill.

“Wouldn’t it be better if everyone just abided by the rules and the rules were uniformly enforced?”

But she screwed up. She didn’t become “hysterical,” just as in all the years John McEnroe berated officials did I hear anyone refer to him as “outspoken.” He was a “brat” and a “jerk” and, by the way, he defaulted his way out of the 1990 Australian Open, a Grand Slam event, for an escalating variety of abuse toward an umpire. And it’s not Williams’ first time violating the abuse rules. In her 2009 semifinal match at the U.S. Open, she lost on a penalty point after berating a lineswoman.

In the cases involving Daniels and Williams, people will continue to debate who did the right thing. Was it Daniels for standing up to Donald Trump after the election, or should she have told what she knew when it might have made a difference in whom would govern the land? Was it Williams for standing up for herself, or the umpire for upholding the rules and not allowing himself to be abused?

Daniels broke no laws. She sued Donald Trump to get out from under a nondisclosure agreement she believed was negotiated in bad faith; just because the target of her actions is Trump doesn’t make it right. For Williams, she broke the rules and then doubled down and made her violations worse. There’s a rule against coaching during Grand Slam events. Is “everybody does it” a reasonable defense? Did it work with your mom and dad when you were 12? Probably not. Wouldn’t it be better if everyone just abided by the rules and the rules were uniformly enforced? Heck, in golf, an official walks the course with every group, and if he misses something, the players call the penalties on themselves.  

We just concluded observing Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. On the former we say it is written, and on the latter it is sealed. We think about the life we lived in the previous year, the decisions we made, how we treated people, what kind of success we prioritized, and to what extent we lived up not to our own expectations but the expectations of halachic-based rules — objective standards set for us, not by us. We ask not to be judged according to what other people did or did not do but by what we did or did not do in the eyes of God, and we promise to try to do better in the next year.

Those are tough rules, and the best of us fall short every year — which doesn’t make the aspiration any less valuable or the rules any less important.


Mitch Paradise is a writer-producer and teacher in Los Angeles.  

Trump Backs Two-State Solution in Press Conference With Netanyahu

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 26, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

President Trump voiced his support for a two-state solution in the Israel-Palestinian conflict in a Wednesday press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations General Assembly.

Trump was asked by a reporter if his peace plan would involve a two-state solution, prompting Trump to respond, “I like two-state solution.”

“That’s what I think works best,” Trump said. “I don’t even have to speak to anybody, that’s my feeling. Now, you may have a different feeling — I don’t think so — but I think two-state solution works best.”

Trump later added that his peace plan would be presented in two-to-four months and that he hoped to accomplish a deal between the two sides before the end of his first term as president.

The president also said during the press conference that he was confident that the Palestinians would come back to the negotiating table, pointing out that the United States has leverage by zeroing out funding to the Palestinians and that the biggest roadblock to a deal, Jerusalem, has now been taken off the table.

“By taking off the table the embassy moving to Jerusalem, that was always the primary ingredient as to why deals couldn’t get done,” Trump said. “I spoke to many of the negotiating teams, and they said they could never get past the embassy moving into Jerusalem and all of what that meant, which you know what that meant. That meant everything. And now, that’s off the table.”

Netanyahu later told reporters that any deal would allow Israel to maintain its “security control from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea,” according to the Times of Israel.

“Make no mistake: Israel will not give up on security control west of the Jordan as long as I am prime minister,” Netanyahu said. “I think the Americans accept that principle.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump eventually turned to Iran:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full transcript of the speech here.