December 15, 2018

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.

U.S. Aiming for Second Trump-Kim Summit

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un shake hands after signing documents during a summit at the Capella Hotel on the resort island of Sentosa, Singapore, June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

The United States is working toward a second summit between President Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, although the parameters are still in the process of being established.

Reuters reports Kim Jong Un had expressed his desire for a second summit with Trump after a three-day with South Korea President Moon Jae-In. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News in a Sept. 21 interview that “there’s still a little bit of work to do left to make sure the conditions are right and that the two leaders are put in a position where we can make substantial progress.”

Pompeo also told NBC News, “I’m hopeful that I’ll get a chance to travel again to Pyongyang to continue to negotiate before too long. And then before too long – and in relatively short order – I hope the two leaders get together again to continue to make progress on this incredible, important issue for the entire world.”

The two sides are planning on discussing denuclearization and an official end to the Korean War, which concluded with an armistice in 1953. However, both the United States and South Korea are concerned that an official end to the war would result in calls from Russia, China and possibly North Korea to have the United Nations Command (UNC) leave South Korea. The UNC is headed by the United States and stationed in South Korea to uphold the current armistice agreement.

Kim has been reportedly willing to dismantle North Korea’s major nuclear facility in Yongbyon in front of inspectors as well as allow inspectors into Punggye-ri, where inspectors were previously not allowed to see the dismantling of the nuclear site.

Pompeo has said that sanctions on North Korea would be upheld until “final denuclearization” takes place.

Does Israel Need Bipartisan Support?

Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

It is not easy to ditch orthodoxies — and not always advisable. This is as true for the political arena as it is for religion. Consider, as one example, the orthodoxy of the two-state solution. It is an orthodoxy that many, if not most, Israelis are willing to let go. On the other hand, what is the alternative? What happens when the two-state orthodoxy is gone? 

Enter Donald Trump. He is, of course, a prime example of the unorthodox. 

Trump destroyed many orthodoxies of presidential decorum. He might have destroyed some orthodoxies of diplomacy. He painted a question mark above the orthodoxy of the two-state solution. And one must wonder whether his unorthodox manner is about to end another orthodoxy: “Bipartisan support for Israel.” 

Rabbi Eric Yoffie seems to think he is. But he doesn’t blame Trump. It is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who, Yoffie said, “allowed Israel to get caught up in the hyperpartisanship that now divides Republicans from Democrats in America.” And Yoffie is not alone in that view. An institute I work for, The Jewish People Policy Institute, warned in its annual assessment “that Israel was becoming increasingly politicized in the United States.” A Jerusalem Post editorial reminded its readers that “Israel cannot count on one president and one party.”  

The list goes on, but the point is well taken: Bipartisan support for Israel is better than partisan support. Duh. This is like a company saying that having people of all ages buy its product is better than having just young people buy its product. Countries, much like companies selling product, prefer the many over the few. A dilemma begins when having it all becomes impossible or very pricey. As in, if you get the old buyers, many youngsters will abandon the product; and if you sell to everyone, you must sell cheap and lose profitability. 

These are the questions one must consider as one deals with the orthodoxy on bipartisan support. First, is it possible to keep this orthodoxy alive, or is it just an empty allusion to a more politically benign past? And, what is the benefit for Israel, and what is the price Israel must pay for bipartisanship? 

“What if Israel actually believes that the U.S. cut of Palestinian aid is a positive move?”

Observers who assume these questions are easy to answer usually overlook a key side of an argument. For example, in his article, Yoffie asks: “Why in heaven’s name is Bibi applauding” the American decision to “drastically cut social and economic aid to Palestinians?” When Israel applauds such moves, he argues — and I agree — it leads to a loss of bipartisan support.

So where is the problem with Yoffie’s argument? He sees only downsides. He detects no dilemma. 

Yoffie (for whom I have great respect) assumes that the U.S. decision “will likely lead to a third intifada, a Hamas takeover of the Palestinian Authority, or a massive humanitarian crisis for which Israel will ultimately be responsible.” If that’s the case, Israel looks quite dumb. It will get an intifada and erode bipartisanship. Indeed, it is not clear why anyone would choose this course of action.

But what if Israel actually believes that the U.S. cut of Palestinian aid is a positive move? What if it believes that it can tame Palestinian irrational expectations or make Palestinian leaders reconsider their positions? You see the dilemma. It is not a choice between “do the dumb thing and lose bipartisanship” and “do the right thing and win bipartisanship.” That’s no dilemma. It is between “do the right thing and lose bipartisanship” and “do the wrong thing and win bipartisanship.”   

So what should Israel do when such dilemmas occur? Make sure to weigh the real costs (of losing bipartisanship) against the real benefits (of the specific move under consideration). In other words: Beware orthodoxy. 

For a Reform rabbi such as Yoffie, this should be easy to accept. 

Pompeo Calls Kerry’s Meetings With Iran Official ‘Unseemly and Unprecedented’

FILE PHOTO: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 25, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized former Secretary of State John Kerry for meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif multiple times during Donald Trump’s presidency as being “unseemly and unprecedented.”

Pompeo told reporters on Friday, “This is a former secretary of state engaged with the world’s largest state sponsor of terror and according to him, he was talking to them, he was telling them to wait out this administration. You can’t find precedent for this in US history and the secretary ought not engage in this kind of behavior. It’s beyond inappropriate.”

Matt Summers, a spokesman for Kerry, told CNN in a statement, “Like America’s closest allies, Kerry believes it is important that the commitments Iran made under the nuclear agreement, which took the world years to negotiate, remain effective. He was advocating for what was wholly consistent with US policy at the time. There’s nothing unusual, let alone unseemly or inappropriate, about former diplomats meeting with foreign counterparts.”

Kerry told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday that he has met with Zarif “three or four times” during the Trump presidency, although Kerry denied that he was coaching Zarif on how to preserve the Iran deal. Kerry also didn’t deny telling Zarif to simply wait until 2020, when Trump could be voted out office.

John Kerry Admits to Meeting Iran Leaders During Trump Presidency

Screenshot from Twitter.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who is promoting his new memoir, admitted on Wednesday that he has met with the Iranians multiple times during Donald Trump’s presidency, although he denied that he was doing so to save the Iran nuclear deal.

In May, prior to Trump’s decision to leave the Iran deal, the Journal reported that Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and other foreign leaders to salvage the deal. Kerry told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday that he met with Zarif a few times.

“I met with him [Zarif] at a conference in Norway,” Kerry said. “I think I saw him in a conference in Munich at the World Economic Forum. So I’ve probably seen him three or four times.”

Hewitt followed up by asking Kerry if he was coaching Zarif on preserving the Iran deal, which Kerry denied.

“You know, that’s not how it works,” Kerry said. “What I have done is tried to elicit from him what Iran might be willing to do in order to change the dynamic in the Middle East for the better. You know, how does one resolve Yemen? What do you do to try to get peace in Syria? I mean, those are the things that really are preoccupying, because those are the impediments to people, to Iran’s ability to convince people that it’s ready to embrace something different.”

Kerry added, “I’ve been very blunt to Foreign Minister Zarif, and told him look, you guys need to recognize that the world does not appreciate what’s happening with missiles, what’s happening with Hezbollah, what’s happening with Yemen. You’re supporting you know, an ongoing struggle there. They say they’re prepared to negotiate and to resolve these issues. But the administration’s taken a very different tack.”

Kerry also said that he thought Trump should have stayed in the Iran deal, arguing that under the deal “you have China, Russia, these other countries with you in the effort to leverage this different behavior from Iran rather than unilaterally pulling out and isolating yourself and making it much more difficult to sit down with any Iranian.”

Later in the day, Kerry was asked by Fox News’ Dana Perino if he told the Iranians to simply hold out until 2020, when Trump could be voted out of office. Kerry replied with a chuckle, “I think everybody in the world is sitting around talking about waiting out President Trump,” but he said that was in regard to other matters, not the Iran deal.

“When I met with the Iranians, the policies of the United States was still to be in the Iran deal because the president had not decided and not pulled out,” Kerry said. “Secondly, every former secretary of state continues to meet with foreign leaders, goes to security conferences, goes around the world. We all do that, and we have conversations with people about the state of affairs in the world in order to understand them. We don’t negotiate. We are not involved in interfering with policy.”

According to the Jerusalem Post, Kerry allegedly told Hussein Agha, who is described as a “close associate” to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, that Abbas should not make any concessions to Trump in a peace agreement until 2020, as Kerry argued that Trump would be out of office by then. Kerry also said he was “seriously considering running for president in 2020,” per the Jerusalem Post report. When CBS News asked Kerry if he was going to run for president in 2020, he didn’t rule it out.

Eric Trump Accuses Woodward of Trying to ‘Make Three Extra Shekels’

Screenshot from YouTube.

Eric Trump, President Trump’s second-oldest son, accused veteran journalist Bob Woodward of trying to “make three extra shekels” with his latest book.

In a Wednesday interview on Fox and Friends, Eric Trump was asked by co-host Steve Doocy about critics of the president who say that the Trump administration “is in chaos” based on the information presented in Woodward’s book and the anonymous New York Times op-ed.

Eric Trump dismissed the “chaos” perception presented by Woodward’s book and the op-ed.

“You can write a sensational nonsense book – CNN will definitely have you on there because they love to trash the president,” Eric Trump said. “It’ll mean you sell three extra books, make three extra shekels at the behest of the American people, at the behest of our country and a president that’s doing a phenomenal job by every quantifiable metric.”

Eric Trump’s remarks were condemned by various people on Twitter:

Jewish Telegraphic Agency noted:

The modern Israeli currency is named after currency referenced in the Bible. Shekels is also an American and Irish term slang for money, showing up in old potboilers like Mickey Spillane’s “I, The Jury”: “Generally a runner made plenty for himself, taking a chance that the dough he clipped wasn’t on the number that pulled in the shekels.”

But on some anti-Semitic corners of the web, like the anti-Semitic site The Daily Stormer, it is often used sarcastically to refer to Jewish greed or influence.

 Woodward’s book, titled “Fear: Trump in the White House,” claims that some Trump officials hide documents from Trump and that Trump frequently belittled members of his administration and vice versa. Trump and officials named in the book have pushed back on Woodward’s book as being inaccurate.

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

REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump Honors Flight 93: ‘A Piece of America’s Heart Is Buried on These Grounds’

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Trump honored the memory of the 40 United Airlines Flight 93 passengers and crew at the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, Pa., on the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Trump began the speech by praising the courage of the passengers and crew in standing up to the four terrorists who hijacked their plane “and changed the course of history.”

“Today we mourn their loss, we share their story and we commemorate their incredible valor,” Trump said.

The president also told the families who lost their loved ones on Flight 93 that America is here to help comfort them in their “great, great sorrow.”

“Your tears are not shed alone, for they are shared grief with an entire nation,” Trump said. “We grieve together for every mother and father, sister and brother, son and daughter, who was stolen from us at the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and here in this Pennsylvania field. We honor their sacrifice by never flinching in the face of evil and do whatever it takes to keep America safe.”

Trump then explained how the passengers decided to charge the cockpit with boiling hot water, forcing the plane to crash in Pennsylvania instead of reaching the terrorists’ intended target, which is believed to have been the White House.

“Through their sacrifice, the 40 saved the lives of countless Americans and they saved our capital from a devastating strike,” Trump said.

Trump added, “A piece of America’s heart is buried on these grounds, but in its place has grown a new resolve to live our lives with the same grace and courage as the heroes of Flight 93.”

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti 2018 Rosh Hashanah interview [full transcript]

Eric Garcetti.

Last month, I interviewed L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti in his office at L.A. City Hall. An edited version of the interview ran in this week’s Rosh Hashanah issue. This is a full version of the interview.

RYAN TOROK: This is a very cool office, by the way.

ERIC GARCETTI: This has been the mayor’s office since the building opened in the ‘20s, late ‘20s, ’28.

RT: How much of this [furniture and artwork] is reflective of your own taste, a lot of it?

EG: I lost the pictures. I had pictures before. There was the formal desk here, a bunch of nondescript furniture, and a weird mural on the wall that was like a Greetings from L.A. postcard, with the Observatory. This, obviously, I kept [he said, pointing to a sign on his office wall] but I wanted it to say “L.A.” and I wanted it to be brighter. It was really dark in here, with massive drapes. So, I lightened it up. I took some art from MOCA and LACMA, so these are both from classic California modernists, and this is Ed Moses, who just passed. All the furniture is designed by a famous California designer and architect. I got rid of my desk; just that meeting table, because that’s what you mostly need for collaboration, some formal place to sit.

RT: Where do you stay when you’re sitting at a computer?

EG: There’s a little, small office back there and a computer. I’ll be on my laptop. I don’t spend much time on the computer at all, so I do most of my email on my phone, if I do any at all. But I take meetings in here. Sometimes here, and then our press conference room if we have a crowd bigger than ten. I can do meetings of up to 40 or 50 people in there. But I’m usually out in the city. I would say I’m in the office less than half the time, for sure, maybe a third of the time, a quarter of the time.

RT: You said somewhere that you typically work an 18-hour work day, is that right?

EG: Probably all in, yeah. We subtract a couple of hours for some family time somewhere in there, hopefully, but the bookends of the day are probably 16, sometimes as long as 18 hours. I basically wake up here, check what happened last night, talk to the police chief or texting somebody back. In the night, I might be talking to a supervisor at 10 o’clock at night about homelessness or something. You’re never not on the job. I would say being mayor is pretty much—because something could happen at any time. You can be working for the city, a different city, and you spend five hours, essentially here because you’re on the phone with folks and doing stuff; what’s going on, if a power outage has happened. I was on a rare, personal family vacation, but I was texting people in long streams, trying to figure out when the power would be on for their house and getting better information for them. Don’t run for mayor if you don’t want to basically be working all the time. But I am good at trying to carve out family time.

RT: How difficult is that balance, that work/life balance?

EG: It’s tough. I mean, that’s one thing I won’t sacrifice. I’ve watched some people involved really burn themselves out, or they’re at a different point in their life where their kids are off to college or something, so they’ll go to three or four events a night. I don’t do many of those events. I might do one, maybe two, and I don’t do them every night because even though I’ll be working at home, I tuck my daughter into bed. If I’m not there for dinner or for tuck-in time, I don’t think the Chamber of Commerce will remember if I went to three or six of their galas, but Maya [his daughter] will remember if Dad was home. So, my priority is pretty straight there.

RT: Are there particular organizations that are non-profits, maybe specifically, Jewish non-profits, that you think are doing great work that you lend your name and voice to?

EG: Absolutely. And one of the things if I can’t go to a lot of their events is I’ll do a recorded video for them, same speech, essentially, that I do in person. Yeah, there’s a ton of organizations. Let’s see. JVS, obviously, which is linked to the oldest non-profit in the city, the Hebrew Benevolent Society. It does a lot of great work, whether it’s job training, community strengthening. There’s a lot of Jewish-led organizations, obviously, when you think about people like Stephanie Klasky-Gamer, who has L.A. Family Housing, which used to be—anyway, it’s L.A. Family Housing now, which I think is the premier homelessness organization, or anti-homelessness organization. On a personal level, I get from the Federation all sorts of stuff. I think the Zimmer Museum is doing great work and looking to grow. I’m a subscriber to PJ Books…

RT: Are you?

EG: … although we’ve got to get some more women-focused books there. I was very involved at the time with the Progressive Jewish Alliance, which is now Bend the Arc. They’re part of a coalition of folks, individual rabbis, that are doing great stuff as well. Temple Judea on the issue of homelessness, an advisory group of faith leaders that includes some great rabbis, like my own rabbi, Sharon Brous. L.A. is filled with organizations. Some of them are so small. There might be a school on Fairfax that happens to be doing something quietly on the side, or the folks that do emergency response folks, like backup…

RT: Hatzalah?

EG: Hatzalah. Thank you, guys. Had a brain fart there. Hatzalah. There’s people who step up and fill voids all the time from the community, and I think a lot of big organizations in town have very strong Jewish leadership, whether it’s Jerry Neuman, who’s the incoming Chair of the Chamber of Commerce, or Eli and Edie Broad. I think they follow a long tradition, which my family is part of, too.

RT: You’re Jewish on your mother’s side, and you became more serious about your Judaism in college, is that correct?

EG: Probably when I went to Oxford, actually. A little bit in college at Columbia, but it was when I was studying graduate studies at Oxford. It was interesting. I have people [I met at Oxford] that now are all over the news, from Rabbi Shmuley [Boteach], a pretty conservative voice, to Peter Beinart, he was in my Rhodes class, who got arrested—not arrested—detained at the [Israeli] airport.

RT: One was detained in Israel. The other [Boteach] was defending Roseanne.

EG: Exactly. But we are a big tent of Jews. I think we’re the original big tent, quite literally. We put the big tents in the desert, so a lot of people use that as a political term. I think we invented it. But, yeah, that’s when I got more serious about exploring—I mean, the two peaks were probably Gindling Hilltop Camp between sixth and seventh grade, and then a new chapter began where I just felt more faith and connected. But I had been pretty uneducated in terms of a Jewish religious upbringing because I come from a pretty secular tradition in my mom’s family, but always felt a strong sense of identity, but not as much religious practice. So now, that’s something that I’ve come more to.

RT: Is that largely because of [IKAR Rabbi] Sharon Brous?

EG: No, no, parallel to Sharon. There’s all sorts of things. I think Sharon and I participated in something that I can pinpoint, which is Reboot. I did that, and I think that was part of thinking about this more like how can you integrate practice into your daily life, and that was a part of it. It was a space that Jews who had not necessarily been hard-core Jews to figure out what Judaism means to them and what’s the role of Judaism in the world. But we also had some practice involved in that. And then Sharon started IKAR, and when I showed up there, it was the first feeling I had of oh, this is what a shul is supposed to be. I went to high school with that person. I recalled that person. We were in Student Council. We’d been activists together. It felt like the family writ large, which is what I think a congregation either becomes or should be. Other times, I went to my cousin’s shul growing up or went to camp, and felt like I belonged, but felt like a little bit of an outsider because it wasn’t my congregation, because I didn’t have one. And now, since that camp, because I’m a member of it at Wilshire Boulevard, those places feel like home.

RT: You must really connect to Wilshire Boulevard from the standpoint that they’re really prioritizing art and architecture and creating these kinds of spaces.

EG: It’s a gorgeous space. It connects me with the history of Judaism in Los Angeles, but it also connects me with the future, because they took a pretty bold investment. The Judaism story in L.A. is the story of westward expansion, right?

RT: Right.

EG: And eastward abandonment, in some cases. And even Wilshire Boulevard started to have as equal, if not bigger, pull on the West Side until they decided they were going to redo the campus. Erika Glazer stepped up. They built a school where they had an engagement with the Mid-Wilshire/Koreatown area…

RT: Sure.

EG: …and the human services aspect with the center they opened up.

RT: The Karsh.

EG: Yeah, the Karsh Family Center, which was built. The Karshes made a huge bet, too. So, to me, it connects with me on both sides: the beauty of Judaism in both senses; aesthetic beauty and the moral beauty of it.

RT: Do you consider yourself any particular denomination?

EG: No. I go to conservative shul at IKAR, so I guess that would make me more conservative in practice. And I love that, but there’s something about the strands of the social justice that permeates Reform Judaism that appeals to me, too. IKAR is a conservative practice that brings in the urgency of social and political reflection.

RT: There’s actually been a debate recently in the pages of The Jewish Journal about whether or not Tikkun Olam and social justice are legitimate Jewish values. As someone who’s also spent time studying Torah and Talmud with Rabbi Brous, what do you say to something like that?

EG: There is a lot of reflexive Judaism, whether that comes from Orthodoxy or from more liberal Jews, where it’s easy to simplify Judaism, and I think Judaism is just inherently complex. The complexity of it is its beauty, so if you’re a politician who only says Tikkun Olam, you’re not very deep into the practice of what Judaism is. If you think that that is the central tenet, it can be for you a guiding principle, but Judaism evokes so much richness and vice versa. For Orthodoxy to say this is only about practice, if the Orthodox become the Catholics and the Reform folks become the Protestants, and one is in a personal relationship with a sense of justice, and the others fulfill the practice and fulfill the covenant, I don’t think either one of those caricatures would capture the fullness of what Judaism is. It does demand, I think both scriptural adherence and practice, but it also has taught us to be thinkers and to evolve, and as we think, to pull from the world history of Jews, who have gone through so much. So, to me, Judaism without either, loses its soul a little bit. In other words, you can’t just cloister yourself off and wait for the Messiah to come, and you can’t just say, hey, my Judaism is just about activism. Great, and I’m glad that Judaism has that influence, but I think that there are things that you miss if you also are not reflecting on why practice has evolved and why the Book of Judaism is so tenacious.

RT: What are some of the issues that are most important to you these days?

EG: I think, for me, the biggest issue is poverty in general, poverty in this time of plenty. It’s reflected in homelessness. It’s reflected in educational gaps. It’s reflected in racial disparities. Poverty, really, to me, is the defining issue of our age. I think the second is kindness and decency. The Trump era has called everyone’s bluff about do you want to be yellers and fighter and screamers even if you think you’re more just than the other side, or do we have a space for peaceful dissent and for listening…It’s a very specific thing, but in material terms, devoting our lives to ending poverty and providing equal starting lines for people is what keeps me awake. Second, is whether or not we’ll ever get there if we don’t have some kind of kindness and decency and focus on actual work rather than fighting.

RT: When you talk about poverty, are you speaking about homelessness, or are you also speaking about people who are housed but just don’t have enough to get by?

EG: Both. I think it’s the whole thing. Homelessness is the deepest manifestation of poverty in many ways, but not the only one. I think connected to poverty is the trauma of poverty. It’s not just a material thing; it’s a psychological thing that we have no mental health system in this country. The manifestation of homelessness is poverty of a different sort. I think if you frame so much of these national debates on how can we have universal healthcare, decent education and jobs, build more housing. Those are all really reflections of the same basic powerlessness that people feel that the trauma of poverty brings to people who are directly living in poverty. Now, it has been brought to all of us if we’re lucky enough not to be living in poverty, but we still feel it, we see it walking like zombies on our streets. We can sense it in a school where children haven’t been exposed to as many words or networks of opportunities. Those things, to me, define this moment. It would be perhaps more understandable if this wasn’t, in every other way, a moment of such plenty and of such growth. So, the positive side of what I love is this is a moment of creativity, a blossoming of creativity, a concentration of innovation and investment, a building out of a new physical infrastructure. In every other way, I feel like Los Angeles is soaring. This nation should be soaring, and even this world, which is reducing a lot of material suffering and has less war, as tragic as certain wars are, this should be a great moment. Yet, I think there’s a fragility to it all that we’re recognizing and an unfair distribution of it.

RT: It sounds like a Brous High Holy Day sermon.

EG: There you go. Let’s do it. I’m ready. I’ll tell her she can take a day off.

RT: Are you going to IKAR this year for the holidays?

EG: Yeah.

RT: Where else will you be going?

EG: I don’t know yet for sure. I think it’s going to be—I was just looking. I’m going to be at Wilshire also, I think for Kol Nidre. I’m going to be, not at Judea, but I’m going to be at—what’s the other one in Northridge—Temple Aliyah, I think. And I think we’re going to try to get to an Orthodox—B’nai…

RT: B’nai David-Judea?

EG: I think it’s B’nai-David Judea, yes, yes, Pico Robertson. And maybe, if I have time, go to the Project.

RT: Pico Union [Project]?

EG: Pico Union, yeah.

RT: Do you know Craig Taubman?

EG: Yeah, very well. I haven’t gone over for High Holidays. I’ve been there for a lot of other stuff.

RT: That’s another example, I would think, of a Jewish community on the East Side trying to bring people back over in that part of town.

EG: Oh, it’s great, it’s awesome. Makes me feel at home in a Latino neighborhood with Jewish practice and the strands woven in from the surrounding areas. I was just looking through my hour-long dives every quarter into ancestry.com and was looking up a bunch of addresses. Some things came up on censuses where my grandparents and great-grandparents lived in Boyle Heights. I realized that my great-grandfather lived literally across the street from the Breed Street Shul, and it was closed. There’s three other homes in Boyle Heights that different parts of the family lived in, but it was cool to see how close they literally were.

RT: Do you know Steve Sass, the guy who’s been [leading the renovation of the Breed Street Shul]…

EG: Yeah, yeah, it’s amazing to see what’s going on.

RT: Have you been following at all what’s going on in Boyle Heights with this gentrification?

EG: Yeah, mostly in the paper. It’s a funny thing for me because both sides of my family grew up in Boyle Heights, the Jews and the Mexicans. So, they didn’t know each other. My parents met here downtown. By then, my mom’s family lived in West L.A.; my dad’s in South L.A., which is where he grew up, but their parents and grandparents were all from Boyle Heights. Gentrification is always—it’s a loaded word. Everybody wants the positives of improvements: less crime, of fewer empty storefronts, of more activity on the street, but people don’t like—and I prefer this word: displacement—and I feel strongly about that as well. There’s too much displacement. Look, there’s a natural part of that. Echo Park used to—if Jews were coming into Echo Park today, I don’t know if you can say that was gentrified. Elysian Park had the first Jewish cemetery. You see these waves of people, and sometimes it’s not just “ethnic” gentrifiers, which is what gets a lot of the attention. It’s more class. You may have middle class, professional Latinos who replace working-class Latinos, so it’s not necessarily racial, but it’s just tougher and tougher to find places near the center to live if you don’t have means, if you’re working for minimum wage or working two or three jobs. I’m very sympathetic with that. I don’t think that’s the fault of an art gallery. I think that’s the fault of a housing crisis, which is everywhere, and the price of homes in Riverside affects that as much as a gallery next door or a coffee house. In Silver Lake, when I was a Council member from 2000 to 2010, there was a lot of talk about gentrification. The censuses those two years showed per capita income had gone up, adjusting for inflation, $100. It was essentially the same level of poverty for middle class or working-class folks. The price of coffee had gone up from probably $2 to $10 if you wanted it. There’s that kind of coffee measure. I don’t know if it’s called gentrification of the coffee cup, but it was a more difficult place to come into, and it’s also more complicated if you fault the family three generations lived in Boyle Heights wanted to sell their home and have some savings to retire someplace with a decent quality of life. Even knowing that you bought for $50,000 can be sold for $850,000, what’s the impact for everybody else around there? But, to me, all this comes down to the way you fight displacement, the way you fight the negative parts of gentrification, is build more housing, preserve more affordable housing. But that can’t all be mandated. It has to partially be done by everybody stepping up and saying yes to the construction of more stuff in the neighborhood, building really densely around our heavy investments in public transportation, and recognizing that we still have a lot of land and space and we’ve got to be willing to, even as we preserve some single-family homes, build up, because most people aren’t going to be able to afford a single-family home for the next generation.

RT: Do you believe that one of the ways to solve the affordable housing crisis is to mandate that developers have to allocate some certain units to low-income families?

EG: Yeah. I’ve believed it for 15 years—not units. The flip side is if you don’t, you have to pay us so we can build those units, so that’s what we passed last year with the linkage fee. You can’t get around paying us cash if you want to build your own site, but one way or the other now, if you do market-related housing in Los Angeles, you have to. But I also believe the City should make it easier for developers to build, so we passed something called Transit-Oriented Communities, which we implemented just this past year, and over 5,000 units. This increases height and density near transit stops, and the more that you, on your own dime, build low-income units, and the more affordable those are to the very lowest-income people, the higher and denser you can go. The results have been astounding. Five thousand units, and more than 1,000 of them, on their own dime, are subsidized for lower-income and sometimes extremely low-income Angelenos, without a single tax-payer dollar. So, they get something out of it: they can build more than they would have, so they can put some of that profitability back into subsidizing units for folks that otherwise might be displaced.

RT: Do you believe that when the Metro is completed, for instance, the line that they’re building on Wilshire, particularly people from the West Side are actually going to use that?

EG: Yes, absolutely. I think the subway for sure. The Expo Line, I know a lot of people use it. It’s way over our estimates, but it’s still kind of slow going. It stops for intersections and people say it’s not that much quicker. I like it because I get to read a book or something, but it’s not faster. That subway will be faster than a car, even when there’s no traffic, so absolutely people will…and for the Olympics it’ll be amazing because Olympic Village will be in UCLA and a lot of events right here.

RT: By the time the Olympics happen, you might be President, right?

EG: Or just a happily retired Angeleno, or a house dad raising Maya before she goes off to college.

RT: If you do decide to run [for president] as a Democrat who has been pretty clear about his support for Israel, how do you feel about the wing of the Democratic party that is anti-Israel?

EG: I don’t think it’s mutually exclusive to be for human rights and to be for Israel. I think there’s this false dichotomy that’s out there. You’ve seen it with some folks who don’t really—I would encourage people to spend time in Israel to actually learn. I think on one hand there’s propaganda you get from one side that oh, my God, Israel is evil and must be defeated and it’s only an occupation, there’s no other side, and Israelis are all bad. On the flip side, sometimes we overeducate when people come to Israel. Okay, we’ll take you to the West Bank, but let me give you all the pro-Israel propaganda. I trust human beings to be smart, and I think if they see on the ground what an amazing nation Israel is and what an amazing country is, and how complicated a lot of the things are there, they’ll understand the security needs people have and also be able to engage in hopefully creating a lasting peace. My worry these days is that people are just like American politics are friends to the extremes in Israel and in Palestine, and then accordingly they’re friends one way or the other. There’s a huge middle that always defined us is quickly receding. Here in the Democratic party, I think that the overwhelming majority of Jews are Democrats. I think they’re progressive Democrats who understand that sometimes the overly conservative politics of Israel don’t represent them but is a core part of who we are that Israel should be defended and she should be uplifted and our loyalty should be about improving her, not about abandoning her.

RT: When did you go for the first time?

EG: I went to Israel the first time in, I think 1987 [he was a junior at Harvard at the time]. I was 16-years-old and I had spent time on a relief mission with the North American Conference of Ethiopian Jewry in Ethiopia. I was between the two airlifts, Solomon and David, or David and Solomon. So, the folks that had been left behind after the first airlift were the ones who couldn’t walk to the Sudan, so we were in these Jewish villages where it was like elderly mothers with their children, but not their husbands, and we brought in, under the guise of tourism, suitcases full with medical equipment, brought some doctors, [we were] just a bunch of guerilla Jews going in there to help those folks. Then we went from there to Israel to see where the Jews who had left were being resettled and integration into Israel of Ethiopian Jews.

RT: Do you see any parallels when you went back to the Jews at that time versus the asylum seekers like people from Eritrea today?

EG: Absolutely, absolutely. Here or in Israel?

RT: I was speaking specifically Israel, but if you want to talk about people seeking asylum here as well.

EG: It’s very easy in both nations to see the power of closing the gates, of walling up the nation and of pointing fingers. That’s not, to me, what Judaism has ever been about or who we are. I think we’re at our greatest when we’ve been able to integrate in Israel and here, Soviet Jewry, Ethiopian Jewry, North African Jewry. That’s when we are at our best, not just as Jews, but as human beings when we’re extending our arms to brothers and sisters and cousins and others, whether it’s in an ethnic way like Jews, or in a civic way like we have in America. There’s too few examples of that in the States these days.

RT: Where is the city today and where are you today with the fight with the Federal government over grant money versus L.A. operating as a sanctuary city?

EG: It’s more of a distraction than a reality, but an important one to fight against. I think it’s a dog whistle that President Trump and his allies blow because it mobilizes votes for them. We know more about protecting our streets than he does. I’m never going to stop listening to police over politicians when it comes to the safety of my own family, my own city. We know it works. It came from an ultra-conservative police Chief, Darryl Gates. This isn’t some weird lefty thing. This is like cops knowing how to win trust of communities, and we protect immigrants because immigrants protect us. So, Washington will play politics with our safety and our lives, but we’re just going to do what works. So, there’s been some dollars pulled back. I find it ironic that this President who has some sort of obsession with MS-13 and hasn’t even lived around them, is taking money away from a police department that’s the finest fighting force against MS-13 in the world. So, he literally took funding away from cops’ grants that we use for our anti-gang efforts, which goes to fighting, among others, MS-13. So, here’s the guy who who’s going to protect us from MS-13, taking dollars away from hardworking cops in L.A. who go after MS-13? How’s that for some irony?

RT: I wonder how he even learned about MS-13.

EG: I think, like most things, he has an idea in his head. That’s what the problem with Washington is today. There’s much of what this President says that I find so personally abhorrent and anti-American. It’s not who we are. But there are some things that he says that are correct questions. I just don’t trust that he has any answers. We want the American work force to be treated fairly. We need to renegotiate some trade rules. But then he’s so off on certain things. I think he just hasn’t spent time with immigrants in immigrant communities. Has he ever sat down and listened? I think the one time he did, with Dreamers, it actually did move his heart, because what human being couldn’t be moved. He said, “Don’t worry. We’ll take care of them,” and he hasn’t been able to. It’s not so much always that he’s always a bad person. No one human being is. I just think he’s also ineffective about the good things he wants to do, and I’d rather have somebody effective. I’d rather have a country that is kinder. So, the work of Washington won’t slow us down here. It would be really nice to have a partner, but they can’t stop us on our work to create 100 percent renewable energy; they can’t stop us to combat climate change; they can’t stop us to patrol our streets with the values that are America’s and Los Angeles’s; they can’t stop us from investing in infrastructure; they can’t stop us. There’s a power in this country that doesn’t come from Washington to us. It’s vice versa, always has been. If anything, they’ve unified us, not between these divisions which are between red and blue and urban and coastal heartland. There’s Washington and the rest of us, and if this week didn’t point this out, the culture of corruption, of ineffectiveness and of division, are such a contrast to the world we live in here. And we don’t sugarcoat our problems. This is the homeless capital of America. We’ve got the worst traffic in America. We’ve got too much poverty. But on the other hand, we’re in the trenches actually doing stuff, and they’re nowhere to be found.

RT: If I may, I saw a video of you singing Lean on Me at IKAR last year. Are you going to be singing something this year?

EG: I do whatever my rabbi asks of me. That was a last-minute change, and since it was the High Holidays, I couldn’t look up the lyrics, so I was there—I was supposed to sing This Land is Your Land, which I’d done the last two years for the prayer for our nation. She was like, What about Lean on Me? We had ten minutes’ notice. With a couple bad notes, I think we pulled it off.

RT: You’re an accomplished pianist, too, right?

EG: Yeah, I’ve been playing since I was a little kid. I have a piano in my office. My chops are a little rusty, but I play as often as I can.

RT: Mr. Mayor, thank you so much.

EG: Absolutely.

RT: I really appreciate your time.

EG: Happy Hoidays for the New Year to come.

RT: You, too.

Trump Touts Jerusalem Embassy, Nixing Iran Deal in Rosh Hashanah Call

REUTERS/Leah Millis

President Trump addressed American Jewish leaders in a Rosh Hashanah conference call on Thursday, where he touted his decision to move the United States embassy to Jerusalem as well as to exit from the Iran nuclear deal.

According to a transcript of the call provided by the Times of Israel, Trump said that he has a “personal” connection to the Jewish faith.

“I am the very proud father of a Jewish daughter, Ivanka, and my son-in-law, who I’m very proud of also — I will say that very loudly — Jared [Kushner], and my several Jewish grandchildren, namely three beautiful Jewish grandchildren that I love,” Trump said.

Trump then rattled off moves his administration has made as accomplishments: the Jerusalem embassy, leaving the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and deporting a former Nazi concentration camp guard.

“We’re also deeply honored to be joined by several Holocaust survivors. It is a true privilege to be graced by your presence,” Trump said. “And it marks the 5,779th in the Jewish calendar, so we renew our pledge to confront anti-Semitism and hatred in all of its forms.”

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman then provided a brief update on the Jerusalem embassy, highlighting that the second phase of construction would be completed by June 2019 and that the embassy has already become “a major tourist site.”

“I’m there almost every day, and people just pull up their cars to the front of the embassy, they get out, they take pictures,” Friedman said. “I’ve seen some people praying there. I’ve actually seen many people crying there. Many Cabinet members have come to visit. Many members of Congress have come to visit. I urge all of you to please come to visit.”

Legal scholar Alan Dershowitz then asked Trump if he was “optimistic” about forging a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Trump said he was, pointing out that the embassy move has now been taken off the table and that zeroing out funding to Palestinian leaders has given the U.S. leverage in a deal.

“I really do believe we’re going to make a deal, Alan,” Trump said. “I hope so. It would be a great thing to do.”

Former Sen. Norm Coleman then asked the president on what the next steps are in regards to Iran after exiting the nuclear deal. Trump responded by saying that exiting the deal has “had a tremendously positive impact”:

I will tell you that if you look at Iran now, when I — if you go a day before I took over — I don’t want to say the same day — the day before I took over as President, Iran — it was not a question of how big and how strong they were; it was a question of when will they take over the entire Middle East. And that probably includes Israel, in the mind of a lot of people.

And if you look at them today, they’re not looking at the Mediterranean any longer. They’re not looking at places that they were going to routinely take over. And I think Israel feels a lot safer than they’ve felt in many, many years.

Iran is fighting for their own survival. They’ve got demonstrations in every city. This is far worse than it was years ago when President Obama could’ve maybe crushed Iran if all they needed was a positive statement — the people that were demonstrating. Well, these demonstrations are larger, but they’re more widespread. They’re all over the country.

So Iran is no longer the same country. I would imagine that they’ll be calling in the not-too-distant future to try and make a deal. If we can make a real deal, we’ll do it. If they don’t call, that’s okay too. Eventually, they’re going to have no choice. But we’ll see what happens.

Read the full transcript of the call here.

Trump Official Claims to Be ‘Resisting’ In NYT Op-Ed

REUTERS/Leah Millis

A senior official in the Trump White House wrote in an anonymous New York Times op-ed that he is part of the “resistance” to President Trump in the White House.

The unnamed official clarified that this “resistance” inside the White House isn’t “the popular ‘resistance’ of the left”; it’s a resistance against Trump’s worst impulses.

“In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the ‘enemy of the people,’ President Trump’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic,” the official wrote.

The official added that Trump frequently changes his mind and makes decisions and statements on whim, causing his aides to have to frequently contain his errant nature.

“It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room,” the official wrote. “We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.”

The official noted that this is why Trump’s statements don’t necessarily translate to policy.

“In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations,” the official wrote. “Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track, one where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly, and where allies around the world are engaged as peers rather than ridiculed as rivals.”

For instance, the expulsion of Russian spies and sanctions on Russia have been occurred despite Trump’s protestations.

“Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president,” the official wrote. “But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.”

Trump responded by calling the op-ed “gutless”:

The op-ed comes as the White House has been dealing with claims from veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s upcoming book that various top members of the Trump administration think that the president is an “idiot.”

U.S. to End UNRWA Funding, Reduce Refugee Status of Palestinians

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The Trump administration plans on ending all funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and advocating for the number of Palestinians designated as refugees substantially, according to The Washington Post.

Within the next few weeks, the administration will officially make the aforementioned announcement and state they are ceasing funding to UNRWA until the agency is reformed. The U.S. had been providing about a third of UNRWA’s $1.1 billion budget.

United States Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley explained at an August 28 Foundation for Defense Democracies (FDD) event that the Palestinian Authority (PA) teaches “anti-Israeli and anti-American things in their textbook,” which was a factor in the Trump administration’s decision to cut UNRWA’s funding from $130 million to $65 million earlier in the year.

“UNRWA had them [the Palestinians] protest in the streets that we didn’t give more,” Haley said.

Haley added that Arab countries need to step up their funding to UNRWA instead.

The Trump administration will call for the number of Palestinians designated as refugees to decline from 5.3 million to less than 500,000, limiting the refugee status to those who were alive at the time the agency was established in 1949.

Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), accused the U.S. of “violating international law” by ending funding to UNRWA.

“There is an international obligation to assist and support it until all the problems of the Palestinian refugees are solved,” Erekat said.

Germany is reportedly preparing to increase their funding to UNRWA in light of the reported U.S. decision to end such funding, according to Haaretz.

Those that support UNRWA argue that it’s necessary to provide aid to displaced Palestinians and help prevent further violence; critics argue that the agency is nothing more than a welfare program for terrorism.